Posts Tagged ‘2008’

Uncle Bill and railway track

March 16, 2014

Uncle Bill is too fresh in the memory to actually appear in this blog – but I think of him often and I still have one habit, pointless since he died. I take photos for him from time to time. Mind you, I still take photos for my dad and it approaches twenty years since he died.

Uncle Bill was a railway engineer. His area of expertise was track. Trains were of very secondary concern to him. It was track that mattered. I think Bill enjoyed my visits because I had some understanding of that favourite topic of conversation of his – railway track. Nerdiness clearly runs in the family!

Back in 2008 – Bill was still with us then – we were in the south of France and we stopped for a breather on a bit of a journey. There was a railway line near us and I snapped a couple of photos for Bill.



I thought (and quite rightly) that Bill would be interested in the chairs and, in particular the fishplates which held rails together.

Now, lest anybody thinks that a bit of old railway track near Lapradelle was a strange thing to take an interest in whilst on holiday in the south of France, I’d better include some other photos from this brief roadside stop to stretch legs and partake of a mug of coffee.


The scenery was delightful with the glorious colours of a mid-April morning.


The road side flora was special as well.


I’m no expert but I think this is a lady orchid.

Not bad for a random roadside stop!

Mudeford Spit

December 1, 2013

I don’t know the proper name for the spit of land that reaches north from Hengistbury Head near Christchurch. I call it the Mudeford Spit, yet if you wanted to walk to Mudeford you’d have a long, long walk right round Christchurch Harbour.

Christchurch Harbour is a natural (ish) inland flooded area. The Hampshire River Avon flows down from Salisbury and out to the open sea via Christchurch Harbour. It is not a harbour in the sense of big ships.

The spit, about half a kilometre long, almost closes the harbour off from the sea, but a narrow exit for the river remains and separates the spit from Mudeford. This spit, facing the sea one way and the more peaceful waters of the harbour the other way, is the venue for beach huts.

Now by all the way I was brought up I should despise and dislike this spit. These beach huts are expensive items at about £100000 pounds to purchase. They are clearly the playthings of the rich. And the owners gather en masse. Not for them the quiet and introverted life of the marine biologist. This is a place for parties and fun. I should dislike it, but I don’t. I find it a fascinating place. Well actually, there is wild life a plenty to see but of course it is also a good place for people watching as well.


This is a February 2012 view from the slope up to Hengistbury Head. Christchurch Harbour is on the left and a bit of sea can be seen on the right. The spit reaches out ahead of us with its lines of beach huts. Beach huts give people the chance to use jolly paints. A seaside blue often dominates.


And why not have a punning name on the hut.


But in amongst the huts there is a wealth of wildlife – some of it well accustomed to humans and more than willing to beg for a share of the picnic food.


Yes, a starling and aren’t they just beautiful. That was in November 2008.


Of course, there are all sorts of gulls – here’s a line up on the harbour side.


Nearby there were oystercatchers.


There’s nothing uncommon there – but that doesn’t matter hugely to me. Wildlife that I see as beautiful is beautiful whether it is common or not.

But the views are wonderful too – particularly if you climb up onto Hengistbury Head. Footpaths and stairways make this easy.


Across the water there is the western end of the Isle of Wight.


Yes, there are ‘The Needles’ and the funny squat light house. The coloured sands of Alum Bay are in the shade.

It’s probably time for another visit to that area.

West Somerset Railway

November 29, 2013

Back in 2008 we camped on Exmoor and took the opportunity to take a trip on the West Somerset Railway.

At nearly 23 miles, this is a long heritage line. There’s a need for several trains in the summer. On our visit there were three different steam hauled trains and a diesel.

We boarded at Dunster where we could park easily and enjoy a cup of tea made by the man in the ticket office.

One of the disappointments of heritage lines is that tender engines have to run tender first in one direction. To enable them to run right way round hugely expensive turntables would be needed at each end of the line. So our train, when it arrived (which was spot on time) was to be a large GWR goods engine running backwards.


The milepost shows we were 186 and a quarter miles from London.

At Blue Anchor we passed the diesel train.


I’m not in any way an expert on these diesel trains but it looks like a suburban set that might, in the early 1960s, have been used in and out of Paddington.

At Williton we passed one of the other steam trains.


Now for me that looks like a Western Region train of the 50s or early 60s. Wonderful! The engine is a 1927 design, but like most GWR engines its lineage can easily be traced back to the early 1900s.

We passed the third steamer AT Crowcombe Heathfield. This one, running tender first, failed to get up the hill without a rest first. It’s another heavy freight engine, but this one was used on the Somerset and Dorset railway.

We arrived at Bishops Lydeard where our loco could run round the train for the return. Now it was facing the right way.


This photo was taken from the train as the loco worked hard up the hill and around the curves.


We alighted at Watchet where we saw the place and the old Somerset and Dorset loco heading for Bishops Lydeard.


Our onward journey was with the lovely tank engine.


We took another break at Washford and then caught the diesel train through to Minehead. The great thing about these heritage diesel trains is that you could see out of the front of them.


We had one more leg of the journey – back to Dunster and we got it right so we were pulled by the fourth engine, seen here running round the coaches.


WSR – West Somerset Railway – was a very good experience.

The Woody Bay Railway

November 15, 2013

The Woody Bay Railway is a short section (or was in 2008) of preserved/reconstructed railway in North Devon.

Let’s have a bit of history. The Lynton and Barnstaple Railway opened in 1898. It was a narrow gauge line but built to quite exacting standards. It was hoped it would open up the area it served and, indeed, it did. But it did so at the expense of the shareholders and in 1935 the then owners, The Southern Railway, closed the line.

The line had generated much affection with its handsome steam locos and neat little carriages but all were swept away – lost and gone forever.

Or maybe not forever. The preservation era dawned and eventually, in 2006, about a mile of track was laid from Woody Bay Station. We visited in August 2008.


Station sign and gradient post look to date from the Southern Railway era.



The little loco and carriages are actually nearly brand new.

The train in Woody Bay Station


Old photos of the line look very similar to this view.


The works plate on the loco – built in 2005.


Works plate on an old Lynton and Barnstaple truck.

It’s a lovely little line and plans are to extend it. Should you plan to visit the bay that the station is named for, it is well worth it, but it is more than a mile and a half from the station and the station is about 1000 feet above sea level.

By the River Blyth

November 2, 2013

Blythburgh, in Suffolk, is one of the places my long ago ancestors came from. My great great grandmother, Mary Ann Cullingford Smith was born there in 1817. The apparent double barrelled surname comes from her father who was born, at Blythburgh, out of wedlock and carried his father’s name (Cullingford) as a first name as well as a real surname of Smith which was his mother’s name. I do not really know if he was a Cullingford or a Smith officially,

Just downstream from Blythburgh, where the Blyth enters the sea, is the village of Walberswick. I probably had relatives who lived there. Here’s a grave of Martha Cullingford, wife of Robert in the churchyard AT Walberswick.


They have the right surname but as yet I have not fitted them into my family. This photo was taken in April 2004.

The Blyth Valley is low lying and marshy. It needs draining and pumps have been used for centuries to keep the land usable. This postcard, which has no family connections, shows such a pump at Blythburgh.


Interestingly, the card calls the view Walberswick water mill yet very clearly it has the sweeps of a wind mill. They are what might be called plain sails. The canvas that could cover the sweeps is in place, but rolled up along one edge.

Now I suspect this was actually a water pump, driven by wind, but it does appear to have a water wheel, which may actually have been to lift water from one place to another.

The slight blob on the horizon is a small wind driven pump.


On another trip to the area, in 2008, I took this photo near Walberswick. It isn’t the same structure but was a wind driven pump.


It stands on the edge of the Blyth.

Some people find the flat lands a bit dull. They don’t have the obvious splendour of mountains, but I reckon they make for a lovely scene – even if it was a little ethereal with mist as in 2008.

Llama Spotting

October 8, 2013

I like llamas. I confuse them with alpacas and tend to call all of them llamas. They are such cute looking animals, albeit well known for an ability to be bad tempered and to spit. Actually, I have never known that to happen, but it maybe as well not to take chances.

Here’s one that I saw a few days ago. It lives, with a friend, close to where I live.



This pair also lives locally. It is believed that if you keep a llama or two with a flock of sheep then foxes will stay away.  That’s very useful at lambing time for a fox can take a new born lamb.

Although these animals have a South American origin, you can see them throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles. These are in Cornwall.


They live on a farm near the delightfully named Beeny.


That’s me grabbing a photo back in February 2009.


This one is sheltered by a little cottage in the north of the island of Lewis. That’s some 550 miles in a straight line from Beeny – a huge distance in UK terms. We visited on our summer holiday in August 2010.



These were at another location on the west coast of the island.

Somewhere in the middle, between Beeny and Lewis, is Wincle in Cheshire – a place where my wife’s ancestors once lived. When we visited, we found llama/alpaca.


That was in February 2007.

What delightful extras to the beautiful British countryside.

French Bed and Breakfast

September 24, 2013

My wife is a pretty good French speaker and likes the chance to use her language. So, from time to time we abandon the tent and use a bed and breakfast in France. We have a now elderly Gite de France bed and breakfast book. It is huge, has thousands of potential B and Bs but is in French. When we get to an area we might stay, we open the book and try to find a suitable place. Our priorities are a cheap price and the presence of a kitchen for guests to use. That way we can cook our own evening meal and avoid the expense of eating out. Our food will be French, purchased locally in a supermarket or hypermarket.

Back in 2008 we were heading south in early April, with every intention of getting the tent up at some point. But we looked for a B and B and found one which seemed to fit the bill. My wife phoned and it seemed confused – particularly with regard to cooking facilities but, assured we could cook, we booked in.

It was in a chateau at St. Martin Sepert.


On arrival, we needed the loo – but no chance of that. We had to do a tour of the grounds – in particular to see the beehives.

Then we had to do a tour of the chateau which had all sorts of oddities.

This was said to be Marie Antoinette’s slipper, which fell off her foot as she walked to the guillotine.


An electrical fitting caught my eye.


We finally got shown our room which was fine.

And we understood the cooking problem. They had had a kitchen for guests, but it had burned down. But we could use Madame’s kitchen. This was not the kitchen on the scale of that at Hampton Court which we had seen on our tour, but a modern, smaller one. We cooked and enjoyed our simple meal before walking the village and then enjoying a sunset.


Britain’s most easterly point

September 4, 2013

I notice my last two blogs have been about a place in West Cornwall and another on the North coast of Scotland. Let’s go to Britain’s most easterly point today, and for real pleasure let’s go by train. We were staying in Darsham in Suffolk and this was the train for the hop to Lowestoft.



Like many of the more rural lines, a marketing name has been dreamed up and those serving Lowestoft are the Wherry Lines.

We have arrived and our train awaits its next duty at Lowestoft.


It’s no surprise that the station is s terminus for it is Britain’s most easterly station. It’s the North Sea from here on.


I rather like the station and think the early British Railways enamel sign is a gem.


Lowestoft itself is bustling and busy – or was in 2008 when this trip was made. Drilling rigs were under construction and the dock area seemed to be thriving and lively.


We made our way to the Easterly point which we had visited before in 1995.


The 1995 picture shows family members slithering over the slimy breakwater to be as far east as possible.

By 2008 signs acknowledged the status of this place.


We liked some of the places which got a mention here.



Well there’s another couple of places we have visited.

Tarr Steps

June 17, 2013

Every now and again I feature a bridge on this blog. I love bridges. They are obviously designed to be functional – to get people across a gap or a river, but I also think they can be structures of enormous beauty.

I’m not sure that Tarr Steps is truly beautiful, but it is in origin and style a truly ancient structure and somehow age lends added interest for we can think of the vision, skill and sheer strength of the people who designed and built it. Tarr Steps can be found in Exmoor, Somerset about four miles from Withypool


It’s of the style known as a clapper bridge. Large flat stones are laid across simple stone pillars. It crosses the River Barle.

Being low and reliant on gravity to keep it in place, the bridge can be damaged quite severely by floods. The last occasion was as recently as December 2012 when half of it was washed away. These days, the bridge authorities are able to identify every stone and the requisite slabs were recovered and replaced very quickly.

It will come as no surprise that Tarr Steps is a grade 1 listed monument. It is a fantastic structure. And it could well be 1000 years old.

Interestingly, footpaths that lead to the bridge have been paved too. This one is alongside the River Barle.


These photos were taken in the summer of 2008.

Sir Nigel pays a visit.

April 26, 2013

Yes, it is time for another steam train here. This is one of the steam specials which come through on my most local railway line every now and again. In fact this one was back on 3rd July 2008.

Sir Nigel Gresley was a very famous locomotive engineer. Before 1923 he designed engines for the Great Northern Railway but when the government decided that the dozens of companies should be merged into four, Nigel got the job designing the stock for the whole London and North Eastern Railway which served all of Eastern England and up into Scotland as well.

Amongst Sir Nigel’s very famous engines there is Flying Scotsman. This name was also used for a train running between London and Edinburgh but that loco still exists and has done main line tours locally.

Another one of Sir Nigel’s engines is Mallard. I always think of this as a strange name. Mallards are lovely waddly ducks. Mallard is the fastest steam engine ever. Ducks and engine seem poles apart. Mallard was one of a class of engines known as A4 pacifics. We train spotters often called them streaks. The streaks were Gresley’s streamlined engines for pulling prestige expresses. At some point one of them was named after him and it is this one that visited my local area.

Actually, I must have sneaked out of work for a short while, for this was taken at Pewsey.


There are things that pretty well give away that this is a heritage train rather than an old picture. The track is continuous welded rail laid on concrete sleepers for one thing and the engine sports a headlamp for another. But there we have a Mallard look-alike heading west.

Later in the day Sir Nigel returned and this time I was able to snap the loco on my most local embankment.


The engine was just coasting at the time but the fact that the photo was taken into the bright evening sky would have masked any steam.

Now a confession. These well-known locos are not by any means favourites of mine!