Patience is rewarded

Patience … or, Some things are worth waiting for

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In August of this year we took a boat trip across Poole harbour to Brownsea Island.  We were on holiday in Dorset and thought it would make a nice day trip.  In addition, we were hoping to spot red squirrels which are native to the island.  It was definitely a ‘factor 50’ day, clear blue sky, sunshine and only the lightest breeze – perfect!

There was a tour guide in the church who was more than happy to explain all the features of interest as well as recount the history of the island and its former owners / inhabitants.  We were happy to linger in the church and enjoy the coolness of its interior – a very welcome respite from the heat of the day.

I asked the question, do you see many squirrels?

The answer ‘The last squirrel I saw was about two months ago, it came into the church and ran over my foot’.

‘So will we have a chance of spotting some today do you think?’

‘Today?  oh no, its far too hot and there are too many people about, you won’t see squirrels today’ came the reply from the knowledgeable guide.

We stepped outside, my granddaughter feeling a little disappointed as she, like us, had been looking forward to ‘squirrel hunting’.  A walk around the churchyard followed, a beautiful and peaceful area, perfect for a final resting place.  It was while we were exploring around the church that two photographers were spotted, in full camouflage gear, with huge telephoto lenses and tripods.  My curiosity got the better of me and we moved closer to the clearing where they had set up their gear.  All was quiet and still, a handful of people, like us, waited patiently.

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‘What are we waiting for?’whispered little Alice…  ‘I don’t know – but we’ll wait and see’

Sure enough, we were rewarded, a red squirrel came into the clearing and proceeded to scamper about, darting here and there, I struggled to keep up with it and couldn’t see how i’d be able to capture it on camera.  However, it then discovered a store of food and so the scampering stopped and the photos were taken.  What a wonderful 20 minutes, although it was  shaded area, the bright sunlight shone through the canopy of leaves and highlighted the little fellow’s red colouring.

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I managed to take several photos and when the little fellow was joined by another we were overjoyed.

After the ‘show’ was over, we walked away and continued with our exploring of the grounds.

Acres of woodland, grassed areas for picnics, Brownsea Island is truly an oasis situated in Poole Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the world.  Take advantage of the restaurant and tea room too.  There’s also an interesting exhibition centre which details the history of the island and its occupants as well as an activity table for the youngsters to draw and craft.

As we sat and waited for the boat to take us back to Poole, Alice turned to us and said ‘She was wrong wasn’t she? ‘The lady said we wouldn’t see any squirrels and we saw two, she was wrong wasn’t she Grandma’

Yes Alice, she was wrong.

Patience provided it’s rewards for us that day.  Happy Alice Squirrel Hunter!

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Words and pictures by Lizzy Clark

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Lincolnshire Life – the early years

“Lincolnshire Life – the early years”

memories of a Lincolnshire lad

by

John Bartram Clark – retold by Lizzy Clark

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I was born at ‘The Bungalow’, Mill Lane, Donington, Near Spalding in South Lincolnshire on 17 September 1933, the first child of James Bartram Clark and Gwendoline Martha Clark (nee Sandy).  I had a younger sister and two brothers, all were born at the same bungalow, home births being the norm in those days.  In attendance was the local district nurse/midwife and in all of our cases my maternal Grandmother, Grandma Sandy was also in attendance.

My father was a grocer, working in my Grandfather’s shop ‘Ince Clark’ at the Market Place. The Bungalow was the last on the left hand side going down the lane from the direction of the main road through the village.  It was here that I spent the first seven years of my life.  A spacious home with front, side and back gardens – a haven for a small boy.  At the bottom of the back garden was the chicken hut and pen, and the vegetable patch, then came the trellis fence to separate the rear lawn and flower garden.

To the side of the garden was the detached garage which my father kept the shop’s Morris Van.  It was in this vehicle we would travel to the coast at Chapel St Leonards and holidays in Skegness where we stayed in a boarding house on the Wainfleet Road run by a Mr and Mrs Speakman.  Unfortunately the van trips came to an abrupt end when my grandfather (Ince Clark) crashed the van on a trip to visit his sister at Swayfield.  Had had an accident at Swayfield crossroads and the van was a write off – the actual details of the accident were never made clear!  Following this incident I recall that Grandfather Clark was confined to a bed in the front room of the house in Market Place, I remember visiting on my way home from Sunday School.  It was no chore to visit my Grandparents, as my Grandmother used to make ice cream!  Home made ice cream, from milk supplied daily by Mr Hall, the village milk man, fresh from the farm, and my Grandmother would churn away in the back yard to ensure the shop always had a supply of fresh ice cream.  ‘Clarks’ Fresh Dairy Ice Cream was a speciality of the shop.  Like the holidays in the van, this treat too came to an end – the outbreak of the Second World War and rationing put a stop to my ice cream treats.

The Bungalow was new when my parents took up residence after their marriage.  Although considered ‘modern’ at the time, there was no electricity and no direct mains water supply to the house.  Fresh water had to be pumped  from a well reservoir into a roof space storage tank.  From here it fed the hot water system and the cold water tapes in the kitchen and bathroom.  There was a water closet (WC) which was something of a luxury in the early 1930’s village life.

I enjoyed by early years here as I had plenty of garden space in which to play.  Friends would come to play and I would go to other houses on the lane to join in games.  There were a few village boys of my age and so we were never without playmates.  In the holidays my cousin Doreen would come to stay from Lincoln.  Doreen was much older than I and it was she who taught me to ride my small ‘Hopper’ school bicycle.  After many hours practice, she was eventually able to leave go of the seat and I was away on my own.  It was an idyllic way of life down the lane pre war.

We had some harsh winters in the thirties, and on one occasion the Brick Pits were frozen over.  The ice was so thick that people came from all around to skate on the ice.  It was only a short distance from the bungalow and myself and my friends would go to play on the ice too.  The area was lit with braziers from the local farm.  Even my father came along, he had a pair of ancient skates and joined us on the ice.  PC Thomas and his wife occupied the Police House on Mill Lane, Mrs Thomas was a skater of high standard and showed off her racing skills on the pits.  In the summer the Brick Pits were the a popular haunt for boys and boats.  Henry Shaw, a neighbours son made model boats as a hobby and I watched him sail his large model yacht.  Being much older than me, Henry was conscripted into the Royal Air Force following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 – he wore his full uniform with pride on his first home leave, little did I know that would be the last time we saw him as he was killed in action soon after at the age of 18.

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The war changed our way of life.  Food rationing was introduced and was to last until after the duration of the war.  My father went to Grantham for his military medical but was given the lowest grade due to the fact that he had had a big toe amputated when he was a schoolboy.  His failure of the medical meant my father stayed at home in the village and worked in the family shop.  My friends and I started to play ‘war games’ and we formed our own ‘Dads Army’ with our motley collection of bits of uniform and armaments.  My Hitler would have run for his life if he had seen this band of ‘brigands’!

Some school holidays I would go and stay with my maternal Grandparents.  They lived in a very isolated cottage in the middle of a field at West Rasen, North Lincolnshire.  The cottage was about a mile down a green lane off the main Market Rasen/Gainsborough Road.  There were no public utilities to the cottage.  Oil lamps suspended from the ceiling provided the only lighting, heating was by a coal fire and the only toilet was at the bottom of the garden of the ‘long drop’ variety.  Fresh water was obtained from a pump outside the cottage door.  However, despite these deprivations I spent many a happy holiday there.  Granda Sandy was a tailor and I would sit and watch him at his work.  It was fascinating to see a suit evolve from a roll of material.  His customers were mainly farmers from nearby villages and would make the journey over the fields to the cottage for fittings.  The coal man would deliver the coal in sacks in bulk, all other provisions had to be fetched from Market Rasen which was the nearest market town.  Market days were Tuesdays and Saturdays so it was a regular outing on the weekly market ‘bus on both of these days to shop for milk and groceries.  As I grew older I would take my cycle and ride around the area, I found the countryside much more interesting than the flat landscapes of the fens of south Lincolnshire.IMG_2929

Aside from the war, another big change affected my family.  My Grandmother Clark became ill and died on 13 November 1940.  This meant my Grandfather would be alone in the big house that joined on to the shop.  As a family we moved out of the Bungalow at the beginning of 1941 and moved in with him at the Market Place.  This would be my home until I left the village in 1957.  A new chapter in my life began.

John B Clark

retold by Lizzy Clark

 

Bridge the Gap

Bridging the Gap

Bridges – oh how we need them.  Their purpose?  to connect – to ‘bridge the gap’.  Bridges enable us to do the impossible – cross over water, traverse ravines, travel shorter distances.

Without bridges many would remain isolated – or face a long circuitous route to their destination.  Bridges connect two halves of a city for example.  Many towns and cities have close relationships with bridges: Nottingham – River Trent; London River Thames; York – The Great Ouse; Cambridge – The Cam – and the list could go on.  We have road bridges, rail bridges and foot bridges enabling us to cross to the other side – and yes, there are also ferries but these are slower, and can’t serve so many people at a time.  Ferries or River boats are rooted in our history – take the Thames, many were the boatmen who ferried passengers up and down as well as across the river in Tudor times probably for centuries prior to this time and to this day you can take pleasure cruises along the river or cross on the Woolwich Ferry.

Some bridges are sturdy and functional, some more decorative – most owe their construction to the brilliance of victorian and edwardian engineers – Tower Bridge, Forth Rail Bridge.  More modern constructions are themselves works of art, take the Queen Elizabeth road bridge over the Dartford Crossing – it sweeps across the river and roads below in a wide, elegant arch – a wonder to perceive.  The Humber Bridge, constructed in the 1970s across the Humber Estuary, at the time of its conception it was the longest single span suspension bridge in the world!  I lived in Lincolnshire as a child and I remember vividly seeing the progress of the building of the bridge on regular Sunday afternoon drives.

I can’t write about bridges without mentioning the fabulous iconic Golden Gate bridge over San Francisco harbour, and the ‘double decker’ bridge by which you approach the city of San Fransisco from Oakland – what a spectacle that is, as one crosses the bridge by car or coach, the sight of the sky scrapers of the financial district and the lights of the piers along Fisherman’s Wharf is itself a wonder to behold.

As I write of some of my favourite bridges, lets not forget those of the city of Nottingham, my current home – Trent Bridge – a simple road bridge made famous by the Cricket Ground in its vicinity and the two football stadiums whose floodlights are also visible from the Bridge – Notts County’s ground and the home of Nottingham Forest – all within close proximity to Trent Bridge.  County Hall, the civic centre for Nottinghamshire County Council stands along one bank, an impressive site when viewed from the river – which flows under the heavy iron works of the Lady Bay Bridge, and passes along the Embankment, with a footbridge connecting Wilford Village to the City.

London has a plethora of bridges, Tower Bridge, although now dwarfed by modern office buildings is still an iconic site across the river and the Millenium footbridge which although dogged by design faults in its early days, now provides a stable passage across the river from St Pauls to the site of the Tate Modern Gallery.

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Have a look around your city or town – what do the bridges tell of its history?

Safe crossing!

Heritage – history and engines

Heritage

Heritage is History – historical events or processes that have a  special meaning in memory.

We have national heritage – monuments and buildings; natural heritage – conservation of natural environments specific to a region; cultural heritage – artefacts from specific periods of time or people; industrial heritage – relics from industry and industrial culture.

I’m particularly interested in Industrial Heritage – looking at how things used to be manufactured, transported and used.  I enjoy seeking out places of interest when travelling and here I’ll introduce you to two particular places which I find fascinating.  One in Yorkshire, one in Lancashire.

Elsecar Heritage Railway is found at the Heritage Centre, Barnsley, Yorkshire, UK.  The Heritage centre itself is described as a Living History Centre, as it houses the Newcomen Bean Engine which can be seen working and has been described as the most important piece of industrial heritage in the world.

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The Railway at Elsecar is known as ‘The Coalfield Line’ in recognition of the coal mining heritage of its route and environment. The railway connects the sites of several coal mines, from Elsecar to Cortonwood reflecting a period in time from the creation of Earl Fitzwilliam’s iron and coal empire, through nationalisation of the mining industry, to the demise of local coal mining in the 1980s.

The single-track mineral line Elsecar Branch ran from Elsecar to Elsecar Junction near Wath, via Cortonwood, serving local collieries and ironworks. The line follows the Dearne and Dove Canal from Elsecar Basin to Cortonwood and originally crossed the canal by lifting bridge. In 1864 the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (M,S&LR) took over the South Yorkshire Railway. In 1897, the M,S&LR renamed itself to The Great Central Railway (GCR) which under the Railways Act of 1921 became part of railway grouping of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER).

Earl Fitzwilliam ran private trains from his own covered station at Elsecar (now the Playmania building in the Elsecar Heritage Centre), with the future King Edward VII a regular passenger to Doncaster Races. Earl Fitzwilliam lived at Wentworth Woodhouse in Wentworth village, one mile from Elsecar.  His former home is well worth a visit and I may write of that in a future blog, today is about the railway.  Steam and Deisel engines are run on the line and maintained by a team of dedicated volunteers.  Its a wondrous site to see a railway engine in full steam – the smell, the steam and smoke and the noise evocative of a time not too distant but all but forgotten.  The engine yard is a great place for photographers, with the machinery, signage and even old forgotten engines sitting idle and rusting away.

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My last visit coincided with a steam day and I was welcomed onto the footplate with my camera – if you are so inclined you can even sign up for a one day course to learn how to drive a steam or diesel engine.  I feel a sadness that the great days of steam are now over, and looking at the facts it would seem inevitable that a cleaner, more efficient engine was needed to cope with the demands on the passenger and freight services when the railway was at its peak.  However myself and fellow nostalgia lovers owe a great deal to the volunteers who keep such steam engines and railways alive for our children and grandchildren to see and experience the wonder of steam railway travel.

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A more recent trip to the North West of the country found me looking around Burnley for somewhere to visit and I came upon the Queen Street Mill Textile Museum.

This proved to be a very special find indeed, as the museum is home to the last remaining 19th Century mill steam engine in working order.  If you would like to see it for yourself, you’ll have to hurry – the local area council are planning on closing it citing budget constraints as the reason.  It was due to close on 1 April, but I’m pleased to hear it has a stay of execution until at least September 2016.

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One man alone maintains the steam engine – named ‘Peace’ – the same man has had this role for 28 years and you can tell by the way he speaks of the engine and the work involved that it is a real labour of love.  Until recently he had an apprentice, but when the news of the possible closure reached the ears of those who run the apprenticeship scheme the young lad was withdrawn and moved to another position – and so, if Peace is given a reprieve it can only be for the lifetime of the engineer, he is the only man who knows every nut and bolt, every nuance, who lovingly oils and polishes as he answers visitors questions about the engine.  The engine itself is awarded the highest level of Graded protection which means if the museum closes the engine must always be maintained in working order, secure, the correct environment, one has to ask – who will oversee Peace if not an apprentice?

I was happy to spend a couple of hours at Queen Street Mill, and ponder what life was like for the mill workers, thousands of them, as you drive around the area its not difficult to imagine as the rows and rows of terraced houses and cottages still stand as testament to the industry which provided much of the region with its bread and butter.  An industry which helped build a nation.  A sad thought.