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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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.

Journeys

Journeys

We’ve all set out on a journey at one time or another – indeed you could say that every day is itself a journey.

How do you prepare for a journey?  Do you plan, plot?  Do you countdown to the start of the journey?  Or are you more spontaneous?  To some degree I’d say there has to be some level of planning involved in a journey – however long or short – for a start, how are you travelling?  by foot?  car? public transport?  Once the decision has been made on how to travel, do you plan where your journey will take you?  Often we embark on a journey with a destination in sight, already planned and anticipated.  We know where we are starting out from, we know where we are headed – the journey itself is the adventure.  Some embark on a journey not knowing where they will end up – and that’s a real adventure!

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As a child we often went out as a family for a drive on a Sunday afternoon – no doubt my father had some idea of where we were going – perhaps to visit a relative?  Or perhaps he formed an idea of where to go based upon how long he anticipated being out and how far we would travel.  I always thought of these trips as ‘mystery’ journeys.  I was an avid reader of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven – so as we travelled along roads, through villages, down lanes, I would gaze out of the window imagining we were on some secret mission, or adventure and make up the stories in my mind.  I often would look at the road map and trace with my finger the route we travelled, looking out for road signs or landmarks.  My parents would often drawn my attention to a church or landmark, or village sign so that I could plot where we were.  This served two purposes, it fired my imagination and interest, and it kept my mind from the ever looming travel sickness which afflicted me during my early years.  One whiff of a barley sugar boiled sweet and I’m back in that place, sitting in the back seat behind my father, legs sticking to the pvc seat, no air conditioning, but a gentle breeze from the partially wound down windows of my parents.  No in car entertainment, CDs, MP3s, DVDs, just watching the scenery pass by as I gazed out of my window and followed the coloured squiggles of the roads marked on the map.  I both loved and feared the holiday journeys of childhood.  The ones I can remember being long – we didn’t travel on motorways, as frequent stops were necessary to ease my queasiness, I hated the aftertaste of the travel sickness tablets I had to take before such journeys, they dried the mouth, and so the inevitable boiled sweets and barley sugars were sucked throughout the journey.  We often travelled through the night, I remember once arriving at Brixham, Devon just before 6am and watching the fishing boats in the harbour as we waited until the time we could gain access to our holiday apartment overlooking the bay.

As an adult I’ve taken great pleasure in planning journeys.  I write numerous lists – what to pack in suitcases, essentials needed for the journey and during the time away, jobs to do before going.  Then there is all the preparation, booking accommodation, booking tickets, checking personal paperwork is in order, which cameras to take, notebooks and pens, maps, guidebooks route planner.  Researching the destination for places to visit, ‘must do’ tourist attractions, local cuisine.  One of my favourite parts of the journey is planning the route before we go, looking for interesting stop off points or places to pass through.

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I was in my element with the preparation required for a recent visit to the USA.  One of my favourite journeys and one I’m sure I’ll write about in great detail at a later date.  I still think of it as ‘The Journey’ rather than ‘a journey’.

The Journey

23 days, 8 states, 5000 miles.  Car, Plane, Train, Boat.

During 23 days we flew half way around the world, hired a car, drove 5000 miles through 8 states and during this time took a train ride and travelled on a boat.  The Journey took in desert, city, prairie, forests, lakes, rivers, ocean, island, mountain, beach, sunrises, sunsets, snow, wind, rain, fog, sunshine.

So many memories, some real landmarks too – driving miles and miles on the Interstate highways – we covered many miles on the old route that took the early explorers across the country from east to west – much of it now replaced by a state of the art double lane highway, running parallel to the old route 66 – and we could see deserted gas stations, diners and stores that stood empty and forgotten now, alongside the unused road, discarded for the bright shiny diners and casinos along the Interstate.

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Some days we drove many hundreds of miles, something not possible to do in our home country, indeed in one day we travelled further than the length of Great Britain – when we set off one dark Sunday morning from Amarillo in Texas, I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics ‘When the day is dawning, on a Texas Sunday morning’ – our destination that evening was to be Las Vegas in Nevada – I programmed the hotel address into the Sat Nav of the hire car and the calculated miles to travel was 854 miles – we stopped along the way for fuel and rest stops, met some interesting people who were very friendly and eager to chat to us when they heard our accent.  Even the hire car drew attention as we drove across so many states with Californian plates.  We arrived at our destination, our hotel, on the Strip in Las Vegas at 6.30pm – we’d crossed Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, saw the sun set on the mountains of Nevada and as we rounded the bend before descending into the valley the bright lights of Las Vegas were a sight to behold.

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Our Journey continued to California, where we saw the sun set over the Pacific ocean from the great vantage point of the Griffith Observatory, we walked the sands of Santa Monica beach, took a train up the Coast to San Fransisco and a boat over to Alcatraz.   You can see why I can only think of this time as ‘The Journey’ – so much to write and I will set down more memories, descriptions and details in future blogs.

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Yes, I’ll write about The Journey in great detail – I took thousands (seriously!) of photographs and kept a journal as well as collected leaflets, newspapers, maps so I have the resources to write all about The Journey.

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On journeys these days I’m sometimes the driver, often the navigator.  But still, part of me is that young child who’s mind is full of imaginations and the anticipation of adventure.

I take great pleasure in all journeys – a day trip, a visit to family, or a holiday… the planning, preparation, and anticipation are all part of the journey.  The return home, with a mind full of memories, a camera full of images – to view and relive the experiences.

Where are you going on your next journey?

Enjoy your journey – where will it take you?

Liz Clark

Patterns and Layers – What’s Hidden Beneath?

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Paid a visit to Stawberry Hill recently.  Horace Walpole, son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, created Strawberry Hill in the 18th Century, between 1748 and 1790.  He built and extended what was known as the ‘old small house’ to create the masterpiece of Gothic splendour that opens its doors to visitors today.  The originally ‘old small house’ was known as ‘Chopp’d Straw Hall and was owned by a Mrs Elizabeth Chevenix, a well-known ‘toy woman’ or seller of trinkets.

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Its a remarkable building and well worth a visit.   Timed slots are booked in advance, in order to keep numbers to a manageable level within the rooms.  Almost all the rooms have guides within who are well informed and tell the history of each room.  Each visitor is also presented with a booklet, based upon Walpole’s original publication ‘Description of Strawberry Hill’ which guides the visitor through the house, room by room.  I won’t go into detail here about each room, better to pay a visit to Strawberry Hill yourself – however something in one room caught my interest which I will share with you now.

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Horace Walpole was very particular with the decor and furnishing of his grand summer villa.  Indeed it was originally designed to hold his vast collections amassed when he was on his Grand Tour.  Mr Walpole’s bedchamber was chosen by him due to the view it afforded over the acres of parkland in which the house was then situated.  After Walpole’s death, the house passed through the family via tenuous links until it became under the possession of a Frances Lady Waldegrave in the mid 19th Century.  She redecorated Walpole’s bedroom in 1856 with a rose patterned paper as was popular at the time – she also had built a closet.  During the restoration some of the rose patterned paper was torn and beneath it was clearly visible a blue and bronze coloured flock wallpaper.   The Lady’s rose bedroom had been achieved by papering over Walpole’s original paper.  Sufficient pattern was visible for the restoration team to have reproduced in order to restore Horace Walpole’s Bed Chamber to its original decor.   Flock wallpaper was a hand-made luxury product.  It was made by applying adhesive to a roll of paper formed of joined sheets, using a carved wooden pattern block and shaking over it finely chopped wool fibres.  The printed rolls were then pressed to imbed the fibres to create a velvet-like pattern.  The flock wallpaper was originally hung in Walpole’s room in 1755-56, just over a hundred years later Frances Lady Waldegrave covered it with rose pattern machine print paper, made in France, and a hundred and fifty years or so after the lady had redecorated, the room was restored to its original pattern and colour.

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Patterns and Layers form the natural world – look at plants, flowers – the symmetry and patterns are truly a wonder to behold.  Crystals too have their patterns.   One particular stone I’ve been looking at recently, Obsidian, displays some fascinating patterns.

Obsidian itself is a volcanic glass (SiO2 plus MgO, Fe3O4) – naturally occurring and produced when ‘felsic’ lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth.  Felsic refers to igneous rocks relatively rich in elements that form feldspar and quartz.   Obsidian, although mineral-like, is not a true mineral because as a glass it is not crystalline.  Obsidian is hard and brittle and fractures with very sharp edges, in the past it was used for cutting and piercing tools and has even been used experimentally as surgical scalpel blades.

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Pure obsidian is usually dark (black) in appearance, colouring varies depending on the presence of impurities.  Sheen obsidian contains patterns of gas bubbles remaining from the lava flow – whereas Rainbow Obsidian is so called due to an iridescent, rainbow-like sheen considered to be caused by inclusions of magnetite nano particles.

The pattern of Sheen Obsidian is fascinating to see and enhanced by polishing and shaping the obsidian pieces.

Take a look around, can you see the patterns in your environment, surroundings, look beneath the layers…  What’s hidden beneath?

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Lizzy Clark