Archive for April, 2016


April 20, 2016

I am always fascinated by shipping, although less keen on being a traveller by ship. I’m not worried about safety, it is just that long sea voyages can be, for me, dull affairs. I’m not small talk social and have no desire to travel on a ship to do things I wouldn’t want to do on dry land. But watching the ships go past is fun and leads me to wonder where the cargoes are heading and what kind of life the crews have.

A recent sojourn on the Isle of Wight gave me time for ship gazing. This one was, I assume, making its way from the Southampton area along the Solent off Ryde.


Reading the name of the ship defeats the naked eye, but with camera and a bit of zooming it becomes clear.

image003This is the Sunshine Express and judging by its depth in the water and that clear load line, it may be lightly loaded.

With a ship’s name you can look it up on the web and find out about it. She is, almost inevitably, Panamanian registered and she is a 2011 built tanker. She’s some 175 metres long.

What I like, too, is that you can track where they go. A few days after I snapped the photo Sunshine Express was out in the North Atlantic.

image005She looks to be heading for Canada. In fact one of the web sites tells me she left Fawley on the day I saw her and is heading for Everette – wherever that is.

It doesn’t really matter to me, but I like to know.

The Island Line

April 19, 2016

These days there are two short lengths of railway operating in the Isle of Wight. One is the steam railway which is wonderful and has featured here before. The other is called the Island Line and links Ryde with Sandown and Shanklin – the main holiday resorts on the island. Actually, that has had a mention on this blog as well, but here we’ll look in more detail, for we recently had day tickets on the line.

We caught a train at Brading. We hadn’t worried too much with a timetable for we knew two trains an hour ran both ways so we reckoned with no fixed plan we’d have a train along fairly quickly.

In fact the first train was Shanklin bound.


People of my age who used to use the London Underground will straightway recognise that this is an old London tube train. Our very helpful guard/ticket man – Craig by name – told me it was 1938 Northern Line stock. There was a year – about 1969 – when I lived in South East London and my girlfriend lived in Hampstead so I was a regular user of this stock which was deemed life expired back then. And it was. I remember standing by a door which opened itself in a tunnel! But more than forty years on a few cars still run on the Island Line.

They look just like a London Underground train should on the inside as well right down to the adverts and route maps.

image004I tried to take a photo of Bil and Sil.


Craig, the friendly guard photo bombed it but of course, I got another, better shot.


image010We arrived at Shanklin. This is, oh so sadly, now the end of the line.

Trains stopped trundling down to that wonderful terminus at Ventnor some 50 years ago.

Odd bits of history have been given along the line.


The station canopy supports feature a monogram – IWR for Isle of Wight Railway – the company that built the line.

image014They are all nicely maintained.

image016A quick peek at the Driver’s cab.

image018We partook of morning coffee on the sea front at Shanklin and returned to catch a train up to Ryde Esplanade.

We ate a beachside picnic lunch and could watch trains trundling out to Ryde Pier Head.

image020With lunch over we joined one of them. This is the station concourse at the Esplanade.


Our train arrived.

image024The connecting ferry departs for Portsmouth.

image026We returned, deciding afternoon tea should be at Sandown. I took a photo of a nice old sign on the railway works at St John’s Road.

image028What is this platform number at Sandown?


Our final hop was back to Brading, with different IWR motifs in the canopy supports.

image032Brading also features a listed building – the old signal box.

image034Great fun. It is only 25 minutes, end to end so there is plenty of time to enjoy seeing the places as well.







A lost turn in family history

April 18, 2016

Actually, rather than a lost turn, we reached the wrong end of the lane. Back in 2002 we took my wife’s aunt on a jaunt in Cheshire, trying to find Lane Ends Farm where her dad and grandad had lived – grandad and great grandad for my wife. We all believed it was at Gawsworth but studies on detailed maps had not located us a Lane Ends Farm there but we did find one at Sutton nearby. In fact the village is even called Sutton Lane Ends. We went and took a look.

And here was a delightful Lane Ends Farm.


Now it has to be said straight away that our aunt felt sure this was not what she remembered and of course she was right. There is a Lane Ends Farm in Gawsworth which we found later. But there was a plaque at this Lane Ends and it caught my eye.

image004I’m a fan of Tunnicliffe, the bird artist and we have his sketch book of birds.


And there we have a long tailed tit – one of my favourites.

You might note that the year of publication of the book was the year the artist died. Apparently he saw the proofs, but not the completed book.

This picture, of spotted flycatchers was sketched out in Gawsworth in 1944.

image008The mallard sketches were also created in Gawsworth but back in 1935.

image010So Charles T. knew Gawsworth – hardly surprising as it is very close to his Sutton Lane Ends home.

I discovered a home of an artist I admire and ‘our’ Lane Ends Farm was found as well so all ended splendidly.

Gloucester Docks

April 17, 2016

Places quite far inland in this country were once docks for sea going ships. The Manchester Ship Canal once made inland Manchester one of the busiest freight ports in the country.

Gloucester was also well known for docks. The River Severn, of course, is big and wide but not easy to navigate and the docks in Gloucester came into their own when the ship sized canal opened from Sharpness.

Back in 1998 we took a look at Gloucester Docks and this pair of photos are amongst my first with a digital camera.


I love the old warehouse buildings but clearly the docks were no longer in much use for commercial freight traffic. Cruisers and canal narrow boats seem to be the occupants of the dock, along with a tall ship of some kind.

Remnants of dock life exist and here we have a railed steam crane.

image004We can see that the warehouses were taken over for other uses. At one time one of them was occupied by a fantastic packaging museum. I believe that is now in London. There is still a first rate canal museum and also a ‘Soldiers of Gloucestershire’ museum.

It’s worth a visit – particularly if you like your industrial heritage.



Eric Ravilious – April

April 16, 2016

The Sussex Trug

Art calendars are a good idea. Each new month reveals something new to explore and enjoy. The Ravilious calendar for this year is based on his woodcuts. Maybe that’s not a fashionable art form just now, but what fantastic work can be turned out – and being a wood cut, it can be repeatedly printed. Here we have the April photo I have been enjoying for a fortnight or so.


One could say this is an odd choice for April for we appear to be in the season of mellow fruitfulness and indeed this was Eric’s representation of autumn for a literary journal called the Cornhill Magazine. Our artist created this one in 1935.

I rather like the trugs that appear here. Yes they are universal, but some of us think of them as very much Sussex trugs. So here we see our Sussex trug with just a length of raffia in it.

image004This one was made by Thomas Smith of Herstmonceux.

image006 And yes, Herstmonceux, despite the foreign sounding name is in Sussex and is less than ten miles from Eastbourne where Ravilious had been a student. Trugs would surely have been familiar items in the Ravilious world.

The cuckoo doesn’t call here any more

April 15, 2016

In my childhood in Sussex we all knew one bit of folklore. It was that cuckoos were released at Heathfield Fair on 14th April. The experts actually pronounced it as ‘Heffle Fair’ but Heathfield is the name on the map.

I always wanted to go to Heathfield and see the event but that’s not something I’ve done yet. I’m interested to see that the event is still held and cuckoos are released. Sadly, for some years now the cuckoos have not come our way. Last year – 2015 – became the first year in which I didn’t hear a cuckoo at all. The previous year I heard none in my native south but did hear them in Yorkshire.

I’m writing this on April 14th and wondering what cuckoos will I hear this year.

The cuckoo can be seen as a thoroughly nasty bird, dumping eggs in other birds’ nests and letting the host bird do all the parenting. If cuckoos were people we’d call them scroungers and wasters. But the iconic call of the male and the less familiar bubbling tone of the female were so familiar in past years and are really missed now.

On the plus side, my wife and I have both, separately, seen a swallow this year. Maybe we will, again, get a nest in our barn.


This was back in 2004 with a group of young swallows getting ready to leave ‘our’ nest.


Feisty Alice

April 14, 2016

The story below comes from Nick Corble’s book on James Brindley which I featured a couple of days ago. This story is about Alice Bowman (née Stubbs) who was James’ grandmother and my wife’s 8 greats grandmother. Alice lived from 1630 to 1690. The events below took place at the church in Leek in Staffordshire and explain why we refer to Alice as ‘Feisty Alice’. It’s a tale of religious intolerance on two sides which resulted in the death of a child.


The Reverend Rhodes turns to his flock, raises the host and makes to speak. The next voice everyone hears is not his, however, but that of a young woman, dressed all in black, who has risen from the floor in the centre of the church. A hat hides her hair and her plain long skirt scrapes the floor. The Reverend Rhodes casts his face up to the beautifully crafted ceiling of the nave in frustration. His eyes briefly take in the magnificence of its ornately carved wooden roses sitting at the intersection of solid oak beams, which in turn rest on plain white corbels.

The woman’s name is Alice Bowman and she is a known troublemaker. Some know her better as a dissenter. Before that moment few had noticed her, she rarely if ever went to church. The fact that she was there at all should have been enough to signal trouble. Sighs fill the air as she stands and points her finger round the congregation.

‘Reject these mere symbols of faith!’ she proclaims, her voice strong and absent of doubt. ‘Reveal thy inner Christ!’

A few frustrated murmurings echo around the main body of the church. The service is long enough without interruptions, there’s much to be done at home, day of rest or not. The Reverend, shaken out of his reverie, begins to recover, but not fast enough. A few of the congregation start to rise. The Reverend pauses.

‘Reject this finery and ceremony’, Alice continues, gaining yet more confidence despite the gathering menace. ‘Ye have no need of priests and robes!’

This last pronouncement is, it seems, the final straw for the party advancing towards her, although in truth Alice’s fate had probably been sealed the moment she’d stood up. A deep cry goes up, one tinged with anger and venom.

‘Grab her!’

Despite the priest’s half-hearted protestations half a dozen of the larger members of his flock descend upon Alice and lift her from the ground, two on each thrashing leg and one on each arm. A cheer goes up, destroying the atmosphere of peace and due reverence that had pervaded the church less than a minute before.

There is a loud wooden thump as the door is pulled open and crashes on its jamb. Alice continues to declaim her beliefs, but her voice has become more distant. She is pushed face downwards into the soft, drying mud outside. It is only when her infant son, left behind in the melee and stranded on a small knitted rug on the floor, starts to cry that people realise that she had not come alone.

The Bowmans were not exempt from punishment for challenging the prevailing orthodoxy. Three years before Alice’s outburst at St Edward’s her husband Henry had spent a year and seven months in jail for refusing to pay tithes. Quakers believed that no man had a prior call on another. Alice’s ejection cost her a spell in the local House of Correction and it cost her infant son Matthew, still suckling his mother, his life – prison being no place for an infant. No price, it would seem, was too high for her principles.

The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomon’

April 13, 2016

The Bonn1e Banks o’ Loch Lomon’

We have been up alongside Loch Lomond on several occasions. It really isn’t that far from Glasgow and maybe it owes its fame to that closeness – as well, of course, as lovely scenery.

But before taking a look at it, let’s look at one of my 78rpm records.


This record is venerable for it is a single sided disc. The other side has no groove, no sound and no label.

image004Instead it carries the company logo.

You can her Peter Dawson singing by clicking here –  . This recording was made in 1907.

Our first trip to Loch Lomond was back in 1970 when my true love and I arrived at Balloch Pier by train from Glasgow to await a trip up to Tarbet on a lake ship which turned out to be Maid of the Loch. The voice of the lad behind us in the queue sticks in the memory. This excited Glaswegian boy saw Maid of the Loch approaching and told his mother, ‘Maamy. It’s a beg shap’. We were struck by how what we would say as big ship, both with the same vowel sound had been spoken with two different vowel sounds – neither of them the one we’d use. I do hope that the Glaswegian accent has survived and hasn’t been changed by what some folks perceive as correct English.

We were in luck that day. The sun shone and the banks of Loch Lomon’ did indeed look bonnie.

image006Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond from Maid of the Loch.

image008The ‘beg shap’, Maid of the Loch leaves Tarbet.

Since then we have not been so lucky. Well first of all we have taken a car and you can drive very happily up the west side and really find almost nowhere to stop – until Tarbet, that is. We seem to have found Tarbet a place of mist and drizzle but it will, of course, have weather like anywhere else.

So here are a few Loch Lomond photos from the 21st century.


This was Tarbet in 2001 and again in 2004


image014This was Tarbet in 2009 and on our return a bit bonnier near Inveruglas


The Musée d’Orsay

April 12, 2016

When in Paris, people tend to rave about the Louvre. I’ve only been to Paris once. My wife and I went there to celebrate our silver wedding which was quite a time ago now. Actually, the Channel Tunnel had not long opened and our son had become a qualified driver. So he was able to drive us to Salisbury from where we took a train to Waterloo which was then the Eurostar terminal. With just the one change of train it was next stop Paris!

Towns and cities tend to make me feel hedged in. Getting to them on public transport makes them better and so I have to say we had a grand time in Paris with the highlight being the Musée d’Orsay.

There’s more than one reason for this. This venue was once a major railway station.

Photo from the Musée D'Orsay web site

Photo from the Musée d’Orsay web site

It opened in 1900 and was designed to be a work of art for the Paris Exhibition of that year.  By 1939 it had been abandoned as a mainline station. The site was too small for the sleek long trains then used for long distance services. It was only used for suburban trains.

Like many a redundant building it suffered the slings and arrows of a very mixed fortune before finally becoming the art gallery for second half of the nineteenth century art which it is today. It opened its doors to the public in 1986.

But it still has the look and grace of a railway station.


From the top of the building you can peer out through a station clock.


But of course, instead of being filled with smoke and noise of a station, it is filled with fantastic works of art. I’m not good with the old masters and allegorical works. My brain copes on a ‘what you see is what you get’ level so works of the Impressionist era suit me well and of course, Musée D’Orsay is awash with such images. Photography without flash was allowed when I was there – which was in pre-digital days so I’ll just show one picture.


Here we have the unmistakable work of


Claude Monet. It is Dated 1891.

Fab place. For me, it was worth going to Paris for that alone.

James Brindley

April 11, 2016

James Brindley was a millwright and then a canal engineer in the early days of canal building. He, effectively, set the standard for much of the English canal network by making locks about 70 feet long and just 7 feet wide. James was responsible for most of the grand cross – the canal network which linked the Severn, the Mersey, the Trent and, later, the Thames. His canals were built with economy in mind. When he surveyed a route he found a contour level and stuck with it for as long as possible. He’d have been aware that locks used water which somehow had to be replaced in totally man-made waterways. Locks were also more expensive to build than plain canal. So you’ll recognise a Brindley canal as one which meanders around hillsides rather than taking a short, direct and heavily engineered route. Amongst Brindley canals there is the Staffordshire and Worcestershire which we have travelled on more than once and it has featured on this blog – including this image at Bratch.


That’s me with the easy job, on the boat whilst friends work hard pulling a lock gate shut behind the boat.

But James Brindley means just that bit more than a man who built lovely, winding canals. You see, he’s a relative of my wife.

My wife had a great great great great great grandfather called Henry Brindley. James was his elder brother. Henry was a miller and one imagines James might have helped him with technical issues.

James is well known and there are numerous books about him and this is one of them.

image003Of course, most of Nick Corble’s book is about James’ career but there is a chapter on family ties and some of that may make a blog someday.

But for now, just accept that James is a bit special to us – special enough that we had one book about him before we ever entered the world of genealogy and knew he was related. That, of course, makes him more special.