Posts Tagged ‘2013’

A very battered relic

October 22, 2015

You have to forgive yourself past mistakes and I certainly made one when repairing an old map with sellotape. I’d have been about 12 at the time so that was over fifty years ago.

I bought the map – probably just about given away – at a jumble sale. It was a map of the railway network of Great Britain and it showed the new grouping.

Before the First World War there had been dozens of privately owned railway companies. My favourite company from that time (always ancient history to me) was the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. I lived roughly in the middle of what had been its area and even though my memories start 30 years after the demise of the old company there were still locos and carriages from that long gone era around.

During World War One the railways were taken over by the government and then, in 1923, they were returned into private ownership. But it was thought that small companies, like my favoured Brighton one, would never have the resources to manage well so all of the dozens of old companies were merged into the ’Big 4’. These were largely regionally based. Again, my favourite was the one in the area I lived and was called the Southern Railway which incorporated the old Brighton company, along with others and it operated trains south of London from Kent to Cornwall.

My map was to show this new grouping of railways. As this took place in 1923 the map must date from about then.

That’s the map cover today showing my awful sellotape damage.

image002 And here’s a little section of the map.


The lines shown in red are those of the Southern Railway whilst the green routes belonged to the Great Western Railway. One line is shown in red and blue dashes. This was a joint line owned by the Southern Railway and the huge London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Each of the counties is shown in colour so here we see parts of Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

Just for interest here’s much the same area 90 years on, in 2013.


There are a lot fewer lines than there used to be!

Dancing Ledge

March 31, 2015

Dancing Ledge is near Swanage. We sometimes go there to enjoy a bit of wilder scenery, although in truth what we head for is a stone quarry. It is quite a steep step down from the car park which, perhaps, makes it not such an attractive destination for some. The high up car park gives a view across Swanage to Ballard Down.


The climb down is rich in all sorts of interest. On this August 2013 visit, the blooming flowers may have been ordinary, but still lovely.


As you work down there is lovely coastal scenery.


The right hand end of the high hill has clearly been terraced for agriculture in the long ago past.

The Dancing Ledge is a large flat area, next to the sea which has been left by quarrying. The quarry also left cliffs which are much loved by rock climbers.


Not for me!


I prefer the flatter areas – the Ledge itself.

What goes down to Dancing Ledge must return back up the hill. There’s plenty of opportunity to rest and enjoy the view.



And always flowers to enjoy – sometimes with insects.




Groombridge again

May 19, 2014

This time Groombridge is a village on the Sussex/Kent border not far from Tunbridge Wells.

In my trainspotting days in the early 1960s, Groombridge was a busy junction and interchange station. Dr Beeching and his political masters decided that a great swathe of east Sussex could cope without railways and lines from Groombridge to Tunbridge Wells, to Lewes and Brighton, to Eastbourne and to East Grinstead all closed although a bit of line continued to pass quite close by between Oxted and Uckfield.

The Spa Valley Railway has re-opened a part of the line and constructed a new Groombridge Station. I was there about a year ago on a Thomas day for a grandson’s birthday.


The station board is new, on old posts.

The loco, complete with face, runs round the train just outside the station.



A pretend old truck is used as a refreshment kiosk – and very welcome too.

The loco has steam to spare.



And finally, a view from the platform where the bakery has got into the heritage spirit.


Any Old Iron?

April 14, 2014

This is about coastal junk – it might be deemed litter on a big scale. Users of the sea and the coastal zone have great belief, or so it seems, in the cleansing power of the oceans. They leave all sorts for the waves to wash over and slowly wear, rot, or rust away.

Some of us find this junk can be strangely attractive and it can provide us with food for thought. Take these girders that are in Bembridge Harbour on the Isle of Wight.


Now these won’t be most people’s idea of ‘pretty’ but they fascinate me. Just why was this collection of steel joists dumped here. Somebody paid a considerable sum of money for them, yet here they are, doing nothing except slowly rusting as the salty water washes over them.

As seaside places go, Bembridge Harbour is very sheltered. It faces more or less east and is almost an inland lake.


There won’t be much in the way of heavy seas to wear away these girders. Perhaps somebody planned a new jetty, got the materials and then never did the job. The harbour is a spot for pleasure boats of all sorts.


But however peculiar it may seem, I find those girders attractive.



February 26, 2014

I live in Wiltshire where the wildlife trust uses the peewit for its logo.


In times past – not so long ago – the peewit, also known as a lapwing or a green plover, was a common site in the village. I can think back to times when I drove to work and fields would be crowded with these beautiful birds. I could just sit and watch the wonderful displays o0f diving and aerobatics as birds tried to impress potential mates. They were perfect as an emblem for my home county.

But now, for me, they are a real rarity – something to get excited about when seen. And seeing them involves leaving Wiltshire.

I think our niece, who we were staying with in Yorkshire last year, was truly surprised at the raptures I went into when I saw peewits up on the moorland, not far from Sheffield.

The scenery was absolutely lovely.


And delightful peewits were on the wing.


It’s a bit random, I find, as to whether you get a decent image of a bird in flight. It is, obviously, a mere instant and the graceful flight can be something a bit odd in that instant.

It’s easier to get a shot of a bird on the ground.


What absolute perfection and what joy and enthusiasm we (my wife and I) were able to pass on to our niece. It must be time we went to stay again!

Another grave issue

January 24, 2014

Finding out about your family in past times is bound to make you interested in graves. It can be very pleasant to roam through a country church yard, on a cheery, summer day and search out relevant graves. The sheer scale of some municipal burial grounds can beggar belief. Hopefully there is a handy warden who can point you in the right direction. War graves have a special poignancy. Somehow the vast size of them really brings home the futility of war. It may be a bit of an old cliché but really there are no winners in wars.

Last summer we were in France in a part much fought over in World War One, but not much occupied by the British army. This area, near Compiègne was fought over by French and German forces. As we are now in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of this war, let’s remind ourselves, here in Britain, that other countries were involved and lost thousands of their own young men for no particular purpose.

It happened that we came across a German First World War cemetery at Nampcel.


A staggering eleven thousand five hundred and twenty four Germans are buried here.


11524 – that is a huge number and they were killed in one little area of France, This is not the Somme, nor Flanders. That number really hit home.

The cemetery, as you might expect, is enormous but seems spaciously laid out.


This is just a small corner. Of a site which occupies some six and a half acres.

Each cross carries the names of four Germans.


Yes, there are two more on the other side.

I lost relatives in World War One – probably virtually all of us did – but that other old cliché about them having died for their country has always seemed hollow to me. How much more hollow it must have seen to the mums, wives and girlfriends of these German men who died so that, in the end their country could be defeated.

A cliché of the time was that this was ‘the war to end all wars’. Well of course it wasn’t. Just 21 years after this war ended we were all at it again but for the Germans there was a difference.

Did you notice in the photo of the graves I put in, one distant grave doesn’t follow the pattern of all the others? Actually, there are quite a few like it in the graveyard. The German buried there did not follow the Christian religion so the cross was not appropriate for him. He was a Jew.


His memorial carries the Star of David as an emblem.

This chap was serving his country as he thought, no doubt, correctly. He died ‘for his country’ and then twenty years later his country turned on his fellows, condemning them to the horrors of the gas chambers. If he had close family survivors one can only wonder how they view the value of his ‘sacrifice’.

OK, I may have alienated half my readers by clearly being anti-war. But of course, most of the people actually fighting were pretty anti-war as well. That famous football match, on Christmas day 1914, shows that the front line men had no grudge against each other. They just had to do what their political masters told them to do and on that one day they dared to be themselves.

I’ll finish with a quote from a favourite song. It’s called Red and Gold and was written by Ralph McTell. I know it as performed by the folk rock band, Fairport Convention. It’s actually about the battle for Cropredy Bridge in the English Civil War in 1644. I think the quote speaks for itself.

Through the hedgerow’s fragile cover I saw brother killing brother And all of this was done in Jesus’ name.

Mallard at Hengistbury

January 14, 2014

It is some time since I have visited anything to do with railways, although Christmas presents, given and received, concern visits to steam railways so I have things to look forward to. But for now, I have had to make do with the best I can find. And recently, on a glorious visit to the Dorset Coast, I did come across a train, albeit not a railway train and not steam hauled. The train in question was the land train that runs from the Hengistbury Head car park and out along the Mudeford spit. It’s not a train I’d use normally, for we are able to walk, but it is an interesting train with a mixed rake of vehicles behind the engine to include open and closed passenger carriages and a goods truck. I enjoy seeing it. This January, I just took a photo of the loco.


As we can see, I was taking this shot into the sun, but I can be amused at the choice of name of this vehicle – Mallard. I have no idea what vehicle this loco is based on, but it has coachwork to make it look a bit like a steam loco, which it is not. But the name is borrowed from the fastest steam engine ever. That was one of Nigel Gresley’s class of streamlined pacifics, built for service between Kings Cross, Newcastle and Edinburgh – the one called Mallard.

This rather cute little train doesn’t look a bit like its namesake.

But it is cute – the whole train looks cute too. This photo, with more open carriages, was taken in January 2013.


As you can see, you get a nice ride on the train and I have used it, when we went there with an elderly aunt. But walking gives us the chance to stop and enjoy the bird life in Christchurch Harbour.

The high spot of 2013

December 31, 2013

One event stands out above all others and that’s the birth of our granddaughter who arrived in September. Both of our children have now made us grandparents and so the new granddaughter joins our three and a bit years older grandson.

And here’s granddaughter, who surely wishes one and all a Happy New Year.



Shepherd (2)

December 16, 2013

Once upon a time I kept sheep. Actually, for twenty years or so I had a small flock. At first I shared them with a neighbour who was reasonably knowledgeable about what needed doing. Later I became sole owner, but still had access to the neighbour if I needed help.

Sheep first appeared in 1977 – and here they are.


Yes, that’s a picture taken on the old Canon Demi camera and shows the first five in-lamb ewes that we bought. They were quite elderly ladies and we hoped to get a good crop of lambs to start our flock – and we did.

Of course we were not good farmers for we tended to name our sheep. One was called Brush and her descendants became ‘Brush types’ which true nerds will recognise was a reference to diesel locos which ran on the railway at that time. Brush was a bit of a loud mouth and one neighbour referred to her as ‘Mouth Almighty’ with a bit of complaint about it. It always seemed to me that if you choose to live in a rural area you might have to expect rural noises from time to time.

We had odd forays into rare breeds. We tried Wiltshire Horn sheep at one time but they proved to be in the Houdini class at escapology. We hand a Manx Loghtan ewe which we called Ellan Vannin which is the Manx name for their island.

We had to do all the tasks – sheering, dipping (compulsory back then) worming and foot paring and the worst of all – dealing with blowfly strike.

And then there was lambing. What a joyous time that was, although there were the inevitable sadnesses as well. We took it in turns to get up in the middle of the night to check the sheep. The prospect was awful, but once out in the field at two or three in the morning, it was a wonderful experience. Never mind the lambs; just being out at that time was magical and delightful. But do I go out at that time now, when I have no sheep? No, of course I don’t.

The end came for us when our daughter left home for university. My wife and I were both teachers and could not take time off work for sheep problems. We realised we could no longer keep sheep so we gifted the flock to the same neighbour. They survived the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak but that really was the end for our flock. They suffered from lack of grass and the inability to bring food in.

But sheep do still grace our field, still belonging to the same person. I have the pleasure of seeing them without any effort. Here’s a little group in the snow of January 2013.



December 11, 2013

I think I have a setting on my computer which objects to the real spelling of the first family cat I knew. It was never really ours but sort of adopted our house. It never had a proper name but was called Pousse – spelt p u s s.

This cat was a big ginger Tom but it had been ‘doctored’ so it didn’t have the rather unpleasant odours associated with proper male cats. I remember him with much affection and he obviously liked us for he moved in and stayed. He got affection and a bit of food – never much and that was obviously enough for this cat. As far as I recall the food he got was Spratts cat food or a saucer of milk.

Of course, our cat was a hunter but perhaps one of his regular resting places was not well thought out by him. We had a bird table – we all liked seeing a variety of bird life. But Pousse decided this was a good sleeping place.


Well clearly no birds were going to turn up there!

But this cat set a trend for I have had cats for most of my life and here is the present feline which goes under the name of Willow (a name he came with).