Archive for August, 2016

The big baler

August 31, 2016

What a transformation in the last 30 or so years. After the corn harvest by combine harvester, a baler would go round and compress straw into bales of a size a man could lift. That no longer happens in this area. The process is the same but the scale is different. These days the bales are enormous and need power lifting gear.

I took my suburban grandson to see harvest in operation on the edge of Salisbury Plain. The combine seemed to keep away from us but soon the baler arrived and grandson was impressed by the size of it.


I was surprised that the tractor drove along with the huge row of cut corn, as left by the combine, between its wheels.

Soon the first bale was issuing from the back of the baler.


Compared with days of yore this is a high speed process. It’s a big field, but it seemed in no time the combine had finished and there was a spread of bales across the field.

At this time of year farmers make use of time and so the next night, after dark, I could see tractor headlights in this field and I knew the bales were being collected into piles.

Since then a field a bit closer to home has been cropped and baled. This time it was a large round bale machine that was used.

I think harvest around here is now all but over.

Kilbride Bay

August 30, 2016

The Cowal Peninsula, where we recently spent a holiday, is a rather complex mix of land, sea and also islands. The arrow on the map below points at Kames which is where we stayed.


At the southern end of the bit we were on there’s a bay with a big sandy beach. It is about a mile’s walk from a car park which is just about big enough for three cars so it is never going to be crowded. The walk down to the beach gives you a chance to enjoy some delightful flora and fauna and that’s what we’ll look at here.

We’ll start with knapweed which happens to be one of my favourite flowers.


There is ancient and fantastic woodland to pass through.


The bracken is wonderful too but there is a well-made path and you do not need to push your way through it.


Foxgloves, which I also love, grow along the edge of the path.


As you get nearer the beach area it begins to look a bit like Scottish machair scenery. The sandy soil produces other


There are harebells amongst the ragwort and other flowers.

image014Now harebells are another of my favourites.

There is life on the huge beach, but it was a long way from me so my much zoomed in photos aren’t special.


That’s as taken – already on an 18 times optical zoom. So below we’ll do a bit of digital zooming as well.


Aha! It’s a ringed plover. There were quite a lot of them scattered across the beach.

Right. That’s moved us on to the fauna so now we’ll return to the woodland.

image019This was a tiny bird, making use of a bit of man-made scenery. I’m not 100% sure but I think this is a young chiffchaff by colour but its size made me think young goldcrest. Any advice would be gratefully received.

The incubator

August 29, 2016

My paraffin egg incubator was already a museum piece when I acquired it nearly 40 years ago. I used it when I was a poultry keeper but it has been unused for more than 30 years, for much of that time occupying space in my coal shed which is now, rather more a log store.

It has just been brought to the surface and dusted off ready for a starring role in somebody else’s life story. It is a fab bit of kit which solved the problems of egg incubation in a simple but effective way, using a paraffin burner as the warmth source. Let’s see this item outside on a bright sunny day.


So how can a simple paraffin stove maintain a steady temperature of 103o Fahrenheit for hens eggs, be adjusted to 102o for duck eggs or about 99.5o for goose eggs. The answer is simple and all depends on the capsule which is this little chap below.


This item sits on a shelf high up in the incubator the gas in the blob in the middle expands and pushes the metal outwards. A rod rests on the capsule and passes through a tube and out of the top of the incubator.

Here it can push the weighted bar up and down. Adjustments can be made by altering the screw or by moving the weight on that horizontal bar. At the end of that bar a lid hangs over the heater.


If the capsule thinks the incubator is cold the rod is slightly lowered and the lid shuts over the heater which diverts heat and combustion products into the incubator. As it warms, the lid rises and heat just escapes into the air. Amazingly, it works well and it can be checked by reading off the thermometer which hangs in the incubator.


This thermometer – and the whole incubator – was made by the Gloucester Incubator co ltd of Woodchester which is near Stroud.

This particular model is the Gloucester Junior.


And there we see the closures that give access to the inside for turning eggs and filling water trays.


Now as an extra, when we got this incubator we popped into our local Ministry of Agriculture Office to see if there was any information on how to use it. Yes, they had one which included this picture.


It looks remarkably familiar!

Cloud iridescence

August 28, 2016

Odd bits of rainbow in the sky

A few days ago we were driving home from the east which meant that as it was evening, we were heading into the sunshine. Up in the sky there were two blobs of colour in the clouds on each side of the sun – not that close to it but seemingly equidistant from it.

Eventually, after the best had faded rather, I was able to stop and get a photo of one of them.


I recall seeing something similar before – also when driving only that time on the M5 motorway with no chance of stopping.

So what, I wondered, caused these bits of colour. If we believe Wikipedia then this is cloud iridescence.

Apparently tiny ice crystals or water droplets cause this effect. It is noticeable in thin clouds and the droplets, apparently, diffract the light – separating it into colours. This is something similar to what you see with a thin film of oil on a puddle of water.

But whatever the science, it looks lovely and, apparently, is not a common sight.

A railway book with added value

August 27, 2016

I’m not actually much interested in the cash value of items but even so, when I was reading through a Railway Magazine from February 1999 I kind of sat up and took notice when I read that spotters books can ‘fetch extraordinarily high prices at collectors’ auctions – up to £150 for any unmarked good condition Combined Volume published between 1948 and 1957’.

A little later it continues, ‘the scarcest and most valuable of all ABCs is the 1956 Combined Volume depicting a Crosti boilered 9F on the cover’.

Hang on, I thought. I have a copy of that book. I certainly didn’t have it as a train spotter for it is too early for that. I think I bought it for no more than 50p at a sale at some point in the last 20 or so years. Anyway, here it is.


Well, we can see straight away that it is not in top notch condition – but amazingly it is unmarked. There is page after page of pristine numbers.


Would you pay anything like £150 for that? No, nor would I. But of course, virtually all types of loco used on the railways are photographically illustrated – a lot of photos so here’s my favourite Terrier class loco.


Fascinating to know that it could have value. A quick check on Ebay shows one of these books – better condition than mine – with an asking price of £245.

Mine is not for sale.

A U boat

August 26, 2016

On a recent trip to Swanage we parked at Norden and took the steam train down to the seaside town. Our loco was a kind sometimes known as a U Boat. That’s because officially they were class U. She has a 2-6-0 wheel arrangement and locos with that pattern of wheels are all called Moguls.

She faced Norden which makes it hard to get a photo of her at the head of the train at Swanage but we were at Norden in time to see her arrive and get that shot.


This is quite a rare ex Southern Railway engine for me. I never saw her in my train spotting days which were 55 years ago, or more. But I saw and was hauled by her class mates which, of course, look just the same. These were workhorse rather than star engines. They were well suited to rural passenger trains.

But originally this engine had looked quite different and had really been designed for fast main line trains. She was then a big tank engine, carrying her water in tanks next to the boiler. When one of her classmates derailed with dreadful consequences it was suggested that the water in those tanks might have made her unstable. Anyway, the entire class of twenty engines was rebuilt as tender engines as we see her today.

This engine was built in August 1926 so when we travelled in August 2016 she was 90 years old. She was rebuilt into present form in 1928 and served the Southern Railway and then British Railways until January 1964. She became one of the locos that languished, but survived, at Dai Woodham’s yard on Barry Island. She was purchased for preservation in 1976 and entered service on the Mid Hants Railway in 1981.

She moved to Swanage in 2014. And here she is running around her train at Norden at the end of our return journey.



August 25, 2016

There are not so many parts of the UK which I have not visited. Actually, I have not yet made it to Northern Ireland – the 6 counties. But elsewhere I have been most places.

But Sherringham in Norfolk I barely know although I have been there. It features on my railway poster calendar for this month.


Artwork here is by Tom W Armes and the poster was used from 1948 to 1965.

I look at this and wonder how I have come to miss the place. As ever, a railway poster makes a place look very special. When I was there, back in 2005, I took a couple of photos.


Well as you can see, I’m not quite in the place. We went to a National Trust owned area – Sherringham Park.


Sherringham is on the heritage North Norfolk Railway


The railway station in Sherringham featured a modern clock and a pigeon back in 2005.



Mr Punch at Swanage once more

August 24, 2016

On a recent visit to Swanage I took a six year old grandson. I had an excuse to visit and watch the Punch and Judy show.

The show, I feel, has been modernised a bit. Some little bits were quite clearly aimed at the adults. There were some political side swipes (and being Punch and Judy of course the swipes were real ones by Mr Punch and his stick) and also some innuendos which one has to hope were way beyond the little ones but which gained guffaws from the adults.

This year the Punch and Judy man is Professor J Burns. His site is where Punch and Judy shows have always been in Swanage – and they’ve had them for more than 100 years.

The plot was much as usual. Mr Punch was thoroughly bad to baby and was ticked off by a policeman who got sideswiped out of the way. Quite where the sausages came from I Wasn’t sure but they appeared and after some crosstalk and knockabout stuff, the crocodile ate them. At the end, our Professor proved that no real harm had come to anybody.


There’s Mr Punch with Joey the clown.


The shows main protagonists – Punch and Judy.


Punch, the croc and the sausages

I, for one, am delighted the old tradition keeps going. And at a pound a person it really is cheap entertainment these days.

Show preparation

August 23, 2016

Maybe we are mugs but we do enjoy the village produce show which will take place in just a few days time. We enter with no great hope of doing well but just to enter into the fun and friendship of it all. Contrary to what newspapers and TV portray, whilst rivalry is keen it is very friendly. The old established competitors are always ready to help newcomers show their items to best effect.

This August has been hectic in our household, so real show thoughts have only just begun and the only photo I can show just now is of some of my wife’s potential entries.


In the foreground here we have garlic. Now there isn’t a class for garlic but there is ‘any other vegetable’. Could there be an attempt to wow the judge by plaiting the stems? That’s something advice might be sought on and an alternative, in plaited set is available.

Behind, sitting in a box, are various jars of jam, curd and chutney. Now they have been purposely decorated with a cloth top. It isn’t essential and the judge will taste some samples – but there’s no harm doing something to catch the eye.

I believe the white box contains sweets, but as I’m a rival competitor in that class (with two firsts and a second in the last three years) I won’t peep.

One of the things that makes this event really enjoyable is family involvement. It turns this into two shows in one. There’s the open competition and the private, family one, which continues after the show is over and we eat some of the items.

Yes, the show is good, wholesome fun for the family and friends.

The Dunoon Seal

August 22, 2016

We went for a short cruise when in Scotland. It was about two and a half hours and we started at Dunoon.

Whilst queueing for the boat a seal appeared nearby but he (or she) proved tricksy to photograph. This seal maintained a distance and spent much more time under the water than on the surface. But in the nick of time it popped its head up reasonably close to us.


Well, actually, it was just half a head.


He or she zooms up quite well.

Oddly, during our week in this part of Scotland this was our only seal. We saw quite a lot of dolphins – but never got a photo. We saw (or at least I did) an otter but got no photo. This seal was my only water mammal photo. Enjoy!