Wednesday, 16 September 2020


There is a little visited area of England called "the Lake District"; just beyond it is the north-western coastline that is even less well known, featuring setlements with names such as Workington, Sellafield, Barrow, Millom and Haverigg.

Haverigg is at the end of a road that goes nowhere except Haverigg: it is the site of a large caravan and chalet park, with many picnic facilitites

But in the mid 19th century it was, to all intents and purposes, nothing. Then, a fabulous deposit of hematite was discovered and in short order it was the largest iron ore mine in the world. This was tricky as its coastal, and a barrier was required to stop the miners drowning. Ultimately two were built, as the first failed - the barrier's cresent is very clear on the map:
No surprises that in the 1960s the mining came to a halt, leaving an odd collection of industrial bits and pieces. And the barrier.
It's a nice coastline, so no surprises that the chalet park sprung up, but it's also an RSPB reserve and actually a jolly place to visit

Co-curate have some useful stuff describing and illustrating the history.

To reach Haverigg, you need to pass through Millom, which only came into existence in the later C19 as a purely industrial (iron and coal) town. In 1883, my Great-great-grandfather Rowland Penny lived as a lodger at the Red Lion in Millom. Walking home one night, he stopped for a rest in The Ship, halfway up the hill. He died in the bar. The Ship is now a short row of cottage: "Old Ship Cottages".

Rowland had an almost contemporay Millom namesake who died in an explosion in a dynamite factory. A different bloke altogether.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

The Isle of Grain

There is a list of things I need to see - is this what people mean by a "bucket list"? The things are spread rather wide and it is serendipity as to whether I can tick a particular one off: Ashton Museum, Hen Llan Chapel at Llandysul, the Freemantle Maritime Museum, Cumbrae Island cathedral - do you get the picture? Bee Ness Jetty has been on this list for some time, so I was pleased to have a spare morning in Eynsford and go to look for it.

This is in part a note of warning. Despite having with me 3 (three) digital devices that were map-enabled, I could not locate it: a schoolboy error in not first procuring an OS map, which others are advised to do. It is concealed on a muddy coastline behind a monster power station, with no obvious footpath of approach.

No matter! The time was well spent in a modest exploration of the Isle with image and informatory highlights as:

  1. The "Isle" is defined by the Yantlet Creek, and the isolated landmass is actually the Hoo peninsula, its name betraying very Saxon origins and history. The Creek is no more but a London Stone can be found - the boundary of London administrative control has its border on the estuary here.
  2. Dickens was a Peninsula regular. It is understood that his opening of Great Expectations was informed by the "lozenge graves" at Cooling St James:
  3. Cooling is blessed with [the remains of] a castle.
    The peninsula was very vulnerable to any invader and the castle was designed to protect all local residents: thus its gatehouse inscription is not in French or Latin, but the English of the time: Knouwyth that beth and schul be That I am mad in help of the cuntre In knowing of whyche thing Thys is chartre and wytnessyng.
  4. Some stupendous 21st Century presences:
    1. Big power stations:
    2. Amazon looming:
    3. Easy views of serious boats:
  5. And in locating facts for the nonsense you now read, I discover that the RSPB reserve is blessed with a Brennan Torpedo Launcher, which time prevented me visiting.
  6. And as if that is not enough, there is an easily seen WW1 U-Boat wreck. Easily seen if you have time, and waders or a dinghy.
  7. And entirely by luck, a smashing GR roundtop:
    (which has caused a puzzle as it does not accord with my records).

So the Jetty remains on my list, and added to it have been the Torpedo Launch station, the London Stone, and UB122. Sigh. Another visit required - I'll bring a bike and a map next time.

Other pictures exist

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Terminalia 2020

In what has become traditional fashion, Terminalia was celebrated in Aberystwyth on 23rd February, feast day of the God Terminus. It was customary to walk the boundary of the town that day, visiting the boundary markers of which Terminus was the custodian, and perform a sacrifice at each. We skipped the sacrificial part of the tradition. It is likely that the more recent tradition of "Beating the bounds" derives from Terminalia.

Celebrations of earlier years have been documented (2017, 2018, 2019), and so details of note are mostly aready known. An addition this year was to note that houses on Chalybeate Street, being built on the wall alignment, are split level. Noting this by going though a small archway into some back yards, the tour members were given A Very Hard Look by a local resident, which translated as "Who the hell are you lot?".

Weather prior to the celebration was shocking, so attendance was somewhat short of the 2018 record; nevertheless 10 souls trod the course of the walls and appeased at least one Roman God.

Archeology Data Service, 2017
While physically absent, its course is easy to follow. It was disappearing over 200 years ago: on the Welsh Tour in 1775, Wyndham wrote:
Part of the old wall of the town is remaining, but all the facing stones have been taken away.

A regular modern ravelin is advanced before the gateway, which was perhaps thrown up in the time of the Protectorship.

It is certainly to be lamented that the antiquities in these and some other parts of the principality are not better preserved. How can the inhabitants be so negligent of their real interests? and why will they destroy the almost only inducement for strangers to visit this miserable coast? This rage for the destruction of Pagan remains is attributed to the zeal of the modern Methodists who abound in these parts. Perhaps this conjecture, ridiculous as it at first appears, may not be totally without foundation. For to what absurd and contemptible lengths has fanaticism been carried in all ages!

Ah, fanaticism ...

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Lion's Holt

I journeyed from Aberystwyth to Lympstone, involving 5 trains - the last leg was the branch line from Exeter Central down to Exmouth. As you will know, Central was the high level station operated by Southern, who also controlled the Exmouth branch, green livery and all. The major Exeter station was St David's, built and operated by IKB's Great Western, in sensible coffee and cream. The link between the Exeter stations was a gradient of 1:37, which I believe remains the steepest mainline stretch on the UK network.

On my lucky day, I encountered a fragment of scheduling worthy of a GCSE pupil that let me leave St David's and alight at St James Park, then 5 minutes later board another train for the journey down the estuary to Lympstone. In all my years of travelling in and around Isca Dumnoniorum I had never before either boarded or alighted at St James: what an opportunity!

Midway between Central and Polsloe Bridge Halt [for Heavitree], it was opened in 1906 as "Lion's Holt", and acquired its proper name in 1946 in recognition of the adjacent St James Park, home of the mighty Grecians. (It is believed a similar name attaches to the ground of a little known northern club). The railings on the steep access ramps are periodically repainted in the Red and White (see below).

The branch was late to open, which is ironic as IKB once had plans before 1850 to run an atmospheric broad gauge line down to Exmouth, another instance of his ambition far exceeding practical realities. The line is now often a victim of its own success as the high-flying Exeter Chiefs play just outside the Digby station. If City are at home, the trains cannot accommodate the sporting fervour, meaning they either stop at St James, or Digby. Never let it be said that the UK rail system is a total fucking shambles.

Anyway, here it is. Below, the view toward Polsloe, with red sandstone bridge and at right, a glimpse of the theatre of dreams.

Monday, 9 September 2019

What's in Ironbridge other than an iron bridge?

A trip to Ironbridge for Gillian's 60th, regrettably coinciding with the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography in Huddersfield which regular readers will know I was part of in 2018. Spookily, many of the others at the Ironbridge gathering were from Huddersfield so they were missing the Congress too.

Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale look as though they were built just last month for a new BBC period drama - nothing is out of place except the people and queues of tourist buses. The evening life is also a little anachronistic, although certainly quite fun.

I psychogeographically compensated for all this by executing my own score for a quasi-derive on Saturday morning: locating all the scarce postboxes in the postcode (categorised as "A" by LBSG).

It was successful in the respect that I saw many bits of TF10 which others didn't, and that were really very jolly. Two boxes evaded me, but here is number 1036648, with its grotty replacement in the foreground.

But in the nature of the exercise, other discoveries took precedence. The highlight was without doubt the Quaker burial ground

wherein is interred Abraham Darby, the man whose name is on the eponymous bridge. The description shows the grave locations, but all headstones (written in true Quaker style) have been moved to the rim. The result is an area that has a tranquility that makes most cemeteries look like Leeds railway station at 5pm on a weekday.

Other highlights included a marvelous telephone exchange building

and a Euro-relic.

I also rather liked a view from the bridge that omitted the bridge.

I believe the birthday party went very well but I find my memory incomplete. And so do many other people. Thanks, Naz.

Other pictures exist.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Impaled on nails of ice, bareback ladies had fish

Regular readers will know of earlier reviews of Mr Robert Fripp's current ensemble: so please take comments therein as read, and I will add an incremental review from the Royal Albert Hall show on 20th June.

For those unaware, the RAH is big, so it was a handy thing that the 3 drummer lineup persists. Together with a modicum of electronics, hearing them was not a problem. Had they played any errant notes we would have noticed and poured ridicule, but this turned out not to be necessary.

In appearance there is not much change: Collins now starts to resemble a retired physics teacher, although I have never met a physics teacher who can play sax like that. Stacey kept his hat on throughout (again), and spent a protracted period with his back to me hunched over a keyboard that was the size of of a small meringue (I think - maybe he was trying to thread a needle?). Mr Fripp remained imperious at the rear. I suspect he had invisible pieces of string attaching his fingers to each member of the band, thereby ensuring good behaviour.

Reviews of earlier concerts in the tour promised a long-overdue outing for Cat Food; indeed Levin's web site had a picture of the setlist confirming this. Well, it seems that on taking the stage, Mr Fripp saw me and my all-too evident enthusiasm for this ditty, so he substituted The Letter. This is, of course, a very jolly song which drew prolonged applause, but I remain unsated. Likewise, LotR remains unexhumed; would it attract negative attenton these days? Hmmmm. Ballads old and new reinforced the fact that there is a half-century of back catalogue to call on, and three hours was not really enough to do this justice. Unsurprisingly, C21SM appears as encore but this as a new arrangement, including a splendid contribution from Stacey, and a couple of bars of Colonel Bogey for good measure.

Shall I see them again one day? It would be hard to resist the temptation, but I'd be pleased if they were to appear closer to Abersywtyth: I understand the Caersws Ice Rink makes a good high-capacity venue.

The succeeding day, I visited the roof garden at 120 Fenchurch Street (free!), of which more anon.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Llanfihangel Genau'r Glyn [Llandre]

In search of Castell Gwallter.

The castle was a text book motte and bailey (lat/long 52.462459, -4.028706), presumably of timber that was built by a Norman invader (Walter de Bec), captured by a Welsh chieftain (Owain Gwynedd), retaken by the French, and abandoned, all between 1100CE and 1200CE. On the ground, the earthworks are very evident still, but hard to capture from ground level through spring foliage.

The Coflein entry has many excellent pictures, some aerial, that make the matter clear.

The castle overshadows the small church of St Michael which is very grand: in its grounds lie a 2000 year old yew and a terrific cemetery on a precipitous incline.

There is a circular walk which takes in the cemetery and skirts the castle site, along which there is a collection of poetry. Most poems are (wrth gwrs) in Welsh, but here is one that mentions the castle.

The excellently maintained Llanfihangel Genau'r Glyn website is full of historical information, including a complete list of the cemetery inscriptions, a Herculean achievement. The area was once central to coastal trade, and the parish of disproportionate local importance, meaning that many of the graves are of great interest and significance.

Dr Beeching did for the railway station, but the line remains, with regular trains to Aberystwyth.