Archive for January, 2016

The main road through my village

January 31, 2016

I live in a village which was once a market town. It is still a larger than normal village and with better shops and facilities than might be expected, but markets ceased 150 or so years ago.

The main reason for the decline in status (although not in beauty and interest) was transport links.

By the time the market ceased, my village had missed out on both the canal age and the railway age. Transport was on the unsatisfactory roads of the era going no faster than the speed of a horse.

This is the main north south road through the village.


The old road to Salisbury continued over the crossroads and up and across Salisbury Plain. We can see part of that in the background. The road was always too narrow for a main route and even back in the early 19th century ways had been found to make things one way, at any rate on market days.

But then, in the early years of the 20th century the military took over Salisbury Plain as a live firing range. The road was closed and having missed out on canal and rail, the village then lost its main road.

It is hard, now, to imagine past life, but in times past there were at least six pubs, a department store, several grocers, a gas works – in fact shops of all descriptions. And of course there were also tradespeople of all kinds. Imagine, if you can, an agricultural engineer who manufactured portable steam engines for use in farming and exported them world-wide whilst inventing new types of farm machinery at the same time. Yes, that went on here.

We still have several shops and, on a day to day basis you can get your needs here.

It’s a great place to live with a lovely community spirit.

Oh! We did get a railway at the start of the 20th century. The station was closed in the 1960s but trains between London and Exeter still rush through.

Croughton Dovecote

January 30, 2016

Croughton is a village, just in Northamptonshire, close to the border with Oxfordshire and not far from Buckinghamshire.

We were there, the other day, visiting friends and we took a stroll on a wonderfully bright but chilly January day.

As we approached Manor Farm I was taken by a building which caught my eye. Our friends, Croughton residents, were able to confirm my guess that it was a dovecote.


This appears to be completely unsung. The web references I can find to it concern use of an image of the building on special edition wine bottles. I find one picture on the lovely Geograph web site which only labels it Manor Farm in Croughton.

However, A E Cooke in his on line book on British Dovecotes has a section at another Northamptonshire location known as Newton in the Willows. The designs of this one and the one at Croughton are certainly similar, albeit the Newton one is twice the size.

image003This is the Newton dovecote as seen at .

The Croughton one is on private land so we couldn’t see if the interior was lined with pigeon nesting boxes.

But I took a straight into the sun picture to see the other side of it.


As ever, I’d like to know more like when it was built. Also, where was Croughton Manor?

But even without information and even with that spoiling addition on the back, I reckon it is a lovely little building.



Faroese Sheep

January 29, 2016

Father in Law spent time in the Faroe Islands towards the end of World War 2. He was a radio operator in the RAF and was able to help have knowledge of what was going on in the North Atlantic – a vital zone for preventing supplies reaching Germany.

He took quite a lot of photos – a sort of snapshot of Faroese life just over 70 years ago.

It is now more than ten years since we were there at times tracing his footsteps.

Doug (Father in Law) took a photo of Faroese sheep.


He captioned his photos and here we have two captions for this one.



We were not there in spring so I can’t match his cute lamb. But sheep still scratch a living on the hillsides of the islands and here’s my photo.

image008What a gorgeous beast. The owner has had to trim the horns. Sometimes a curly horn can point straight into the face of the animal and keep growing. Trimming the horn is not a problem. These sheep aren’t particularly tame. Getting close can be a problem.

Our visit to the Faroe Islands was interesting. Much had changed since Doug’s time, but much still remained the same.

The news – 60 years ago

January 28, 2016

60 years ago! Where does the time go!

This is local news and concerns my then home village of Ifield and a children’s party in 1956.


I don’t recognise me in the photo but I dare say I was amongst the 92 children present.

The event was organised by Ifield Association and my dad was heavily involved with that. Ifield had been a small village community but it had become a part of Crawley New Town and my dad was keen to get the new arrivals involved in community life. This was obviously a part of that process.

Little Deerswood School, where the tea was held, had been the village school, but with the influx of new arrivals it wasn’t big enough and new schools were built. Little Deerswood became a special school and is now a nursing home.

We youngsters were already well integrated at school. My friends were a mixed bunch and some lived in old Ifield but most were incomers. I had many good friends who were Londoners but I recall a lad from Birmingham and a Scottish lad from Arbroath who were good mates of mine.

I suppose it was inevitable that many old Ifield people resented the arrival of the new, with houses (not to mention shops, schools and even churches) built on the formerly open land. For me, though, the New Town provided opportunities in both friendship and education. During my student days there was never a shortage of holiday work so by and large it served me well.

Having said that, I much prefer the rural area I now live in in Wiltshire.

The Lawn Ranger

January 27, 2016

I like a good pun. Yes, I know, some say they are the lowest form of wit and people regard them as groan worthy. But I’m used to being in a minority so I don’t mind feeling differently from others. My dad and I used to have ad hoc punning matches. A theme would just arise and we try to outdo each other with excruciating puns. My wife and I still do it. I think my daughter’s in laws might like puns as well for they gave me this mug for Christmas and I just love the pun.


For those, and I bet there are some, who don’t get it, this is based on a popular TV cowboy show of 50 or more years ago called The Lone Ranger. And how appropriate, for lawn mowing is, by and large, a solitary activity.

So I’ll say a big thankyou to Gordon and Jan for this one. It really does amuse me.

Carn Brea

January 26, 2016

Carn Brea is a hill just outside Redruth in Cornwall. My wife’s grandparents were Redruth dwellers as children and both of them could see this hill from their childhood homes. These grandparents spent much of their adult life in Cheshire – just about the edge of Manchester. They named their house there Carn Brea in memory of their childhood.

Back in the spring of 2003 we were in the area in Cornwall around the real Carn Brea.

This was the view of Carn Brea from Granny’s home in Redruth.

image002The monument on top is the Bassett Memorial. I believe (but please put me right) that the building to the left of it was Carn Brea Castle and is now in use as a restaurant.

From closer to we preferred the more natural rock piles.


This Features my wife for a splash of red and for family connections.

There is, of course, a view back down over Redruth.

image006Granny’s house is more or less in the centre of that photo. Grandfather’s would be at the extreme left.


The end of the line

January 25, 2016

My title is a much used phrase, but in this photo it looks to be the total truth.


I seem to have the sun precisely behind me. That’s my shadow pointing at the end of a railway line, in the middle of nowhere.

This was on April 4th 2007 and it was in Normandy in France. We were staying in a bed and breakfast place at Miquetot not far from Fécamp and this railway was within a mile of our bed and breakfast spot. We were on our way to Le Havre with the intention of visiting the wonderful Malraux gallery there, but my eyes were drawn to an attractive little valley.


We went for a wander and came across this railway which actually, had been covered for a short distance only to make life easier for wheeled traffic needing to cross it. At the time I wrote that the line was heading for Fécamp.

As a person brought up in the south of England, I have a liking for the gentle rounded scenery of that area and, indeed, of the north of France. The presence of a closed railway line was something of an added bonus.

Fécamp, by the Way still has a train station and good service, but obviously not on this line.

Wantage Tramway

January 24, 2016

A look through old photos can find forgotten items – not just the photo forgotten but also much about the time and place when it was taken. I recently came upon a photo I took in the year 2000.


This building clearly had something to do with the Wantage Tramway Co Ltd and dates from 1904.

I remember going to Wantage but had completely forgotten this building. Having ‘discovered’ the photo I thought I ought to find out something about the Wantage Tramway.

It seems the nearest main line station was a couple of miles away and known as Wantage Road. The tramway was built to link the centre of town with the railway. It opened in 1875. The original motive power was four legged – the horse.

The little line prospered and went over to steam traction in the late 1870s.

Lives and habits change and by 1925 the passenger service was no longer making money and it was shut down although a freight service continued until 1945 when it was decided to close the tramway entirely, rather than spend what was needed to renovate the track.

My photo shows the company headquarters which were built during the time of plenty for the line. It survives in situ. One of the line’s steam locos has escaped the cutter’s torch and can usually be seen at Didcot which is not so far away.

Another calendar

January 23, 2016

Another calendar

Well, well! A third calendar for 2016 which I can feel is worthy of a comment. This one is actually about a garden and was given to my wife. But it also has a railway context for this one features posters of Kew Gardens, encouraging people to get there by Underground.

You can just think of it as lovely poster art and here is the January image.

image002This is a 1939 poster with artwork by Edward Bawden.

For added nerdiness it even tells you which trolleybuses can get you there.

I like poster art. It has no hidden symbolism designed to allow experts to spout on about it. It may attempt to glamorise the absolute truth but it does give an idea of reality. If you go to Kew these days you can still see cacti as shown in this poster.


This was on a 2014 visit.

And of course, the huge glasshouses are still there too.




The Auctioneer

January 22, 2016

I think of myself as a fairly quiet and retiring sort of chap, but sometimes you discover unexpected things about yourself. One thing I discovered was that I was quite happy to make a complete ass of myself, in public, by being an auctioneer. I have no training in this and wouldn’t want to do it at a ‘real’ auction with valuable lots. But one that crops up on a yearly basis is the ‘after the flower show’ auction when unwanted produce is left to help raise funds for the organisation.

I have been doing this, at one show or another, for about 30 years now and people still expect me to do it and folks seem to enjoy it, so I suppose I do OK.

This photo dates back to 1987.


This was the Ifield Flower Show. Ifield had been my home village as a youngster but by 1987 I had been a Wiltshireman for 17 years. The Ifield show was still a marquee affair and that was to prove its downfall. Hiring the marquee just proved to be too expensive. This auction was really the last ever action at an Ifield Flower Show for this was its final year.

I’m the chap standing on the ‘rostrum’ to give me height. I have a good range of flowers to auction, but at the time I seem to be showing the bidders a plate. Maybe it had blackberries, or perhaps some fudge on it

Almost inevitably, for I was no longer a local, I don’t know who the bidders were.  I had (and still have) family in the area and the flower show was always a good gathering of the clans. But I don’t see them there.

I ought to tell you my worst howler at a charity auction I was taking. One of the objects I had to auction was a loo seat and I was finding it hard to get a starting bid. I’d worked down to what I thought was an absurdly low starting figure and still had no takers so in desperation I asked, ‘Come on! Who’ll put me in?’ There was a pause and then a room full of people started laughing. Well it was a toilet seat I’d invited people to put me in. Needless to say it got quite a good price after that.