As my older sister was 70 she decided to have a family lunch to celebrate. She chose a pub near Swindon which had a play area for children – Swindon being about the mid-point for everyone except my brother and his family. It is also near where my niece lives.
So who came? Everyone! My sister, Hilary, and her husband, Brian; their daughter, Catherine, her husband Simon and their children Christopher and Isla; their son Andrew, his partner Espe and their children, Sofia and Oscar. Then my brother Malcolm and his wife Brigitte, their daughter Emma with boyfriend Tom; their other children Chantal and Philippe. And me!
Due to traffic on the M4 – it was a Saturday in the school holidays – the Cambridge contingents were a bit late so it was a while before we all arrived and sat down for the meal – as shown above.
The banner was provided by Catherine and family.
As were the flowers.
Did the vegan sit down happily with the meat eaters?
Not sure – I wasn’t at that end of the table! Andy is not usually as serious as these pictures suggest…..
After we had eaten, everyone moved round to talk to other people.
The children also went outside to a play area, I think.
But they came back in at various times. I had brought the family photo album – starting with Hilary as a baby and ending with Chris as a baby. Chris stated looking at that and I was trying to explain who the people were. Others all had a look later, with the photo of Malcolm with long hair proving the most popular with his children!
The cake had the candles lit, happy birthday was sung and the candles blown out.
The cake was also provided by Catherine’s family and was enjoyed by all (I think).
After a while people started to pack up and leave, with the Cambridge car making the first move.
So was it a good day? I think everyone had a good time and my sister said she enjoyed it, which was the main point.
I seem to have been providing transport for cats several times recently – and cats don’t like going in their baskets and more especially in cars (see, for example, “Mog and the V.E.T.” by Judith Kerr).
Izzy – black and white, elderly – was the first one. She had to go to the vet for her annual M.O.T. – or whatever it is that cats have. Her owner has no car so….. As she is getting old, it was not that difficult to catch her and put her in the basket but on the way to the vet she disgraced herself and had to be cleaned up before the vet saw her! I have an old dust sheet that lives in the car which always goes underneath cat baskets and the like. It wasn’t actually needed – I think she just got the mess on herself. Fortunately, on the way back she behaved – apart from the miaows.
The next trip was not actually with a cat – it was to take the potential new owner to see a litter of kittens. (Are they called litters for kittens?) We were told they were 3 females and the breeder was not sure which was going to be my friend’s cat. They are sorrel Abyssinians – if sorrel is the correct name for a sort of orangey colour. At that stage they were too young to leave their mother. A few weeks later, my friend was told that one was actually male and as she had wanted a male that was hers.
So, a few weeks later we went to pick up Flamstone Sorrel Splendour – his registered name! But he is Rufus for everyday use.
He was put in the basket, which he was not sure about when the door was shut and it was picked up. Then into the car and we started off. You never heard such loud miaows from so small a cat! And he kept it up all the way to his new home! Not at all happy.
I left the new owner to take him in and release him – and he does seem to have settled down.
He has had quite a lot of visitors and (apparently) likes to play.
So? I prefer dogs to cats.
I put this on the end of my Industrial Heritage of Shropshire so as to make it a week away. I wasn’t intending to do that much walking, but I did do more than several other people – who went out in their cars or stayed at the hotel, by the swimming pool!
The first day I walked down to Church Stretton – mostly to get stamps, post the cards I had written and see if I could get more postcards. I also had a look round and found a series of boards giving a brief history of the town – including when it almost totally burnt down. Having done all the tasks I needed to do – and had a cup of coffee – I walked back to the hotel. That hill is steep……
I picked up my rucksack and lunch and the route card and set off for the Carding Mill Valley. This was not a long way – less than 2 miles. I had lunch looking across the valley.
I then walked up it, past the National Trust café and futher up to the reservoir.
There were actually people swimming in it. I considered going on to the waterfall further up the valley, but it was too hot and there was no shade so went back down to the café.
I had a drink at the café to help cool off and then followed a different route back to the hotel and was in time for the cream tea as it was “arrival day” for this holiday. Then back to my room to write postcards and for a shower and change ready for dinner.
The next day I took a train to Shrewsbury but found that the holders for maps were empty – so had to guess which way to go – up hill! As I was in the town I found a couple of “ambassadors” and one of them gave me a map so I could find the tourist information office – which was actually not very good. There was a café there so I had an iced coffee and looked at the map. Just outside was the old market hall.
I then walked down The Mardol, which was an old street I had heard of, possibly from the Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters. This had a lot of shops etc. from different ages.
This led almost directly to the Welsh Bridge over the Severn.
A friend had recommended the river boat trip from near the bridge, but I found that the next 2 trips were full so I decided to walk along by the river instead, on a path which the ambassador had recommended. It was a very pleasant walk and mostly in the shade, the only disadvantage being a rather noisy food festival going on in “The Quarry” beside part of it. I had also been recommended to find “The Dingle” which is a garden laid out by Percy Thrower, I think. I sat there for a while and then continued along the river path. It was rather odd to see cows on the other side of the river so close to the town.
After I had been most of the way along the path I headed back towards the town – accidentally finding the town walls on the way!
I was going to look at more of the town, but by then I was too hot (it was that sort of day) and tired so I went back to The Dingle and ate my lunch there.
After lunch I looked at the rest of the garden.
I then decided I had seen as much as I could cope with and made my way back to the station, passing the castle on the way.
Shrewsbury seemed a very pleasant town and I would quite like to explore it further on a day when it is less hot and doesn’t have a food festival on. I got the train back to Church Stretton and then had the climb back up the hill to the hotel to rest and read and change for dinner.
The next day, being Sunday, I decided to go to church in the town. As the service wasn’t until 11.05 I had plenty of time to potter round and read before I went down the hill to the church. The service was labelled informal – so jeans were OK. Seems they were in an interregnum, but they had a speaker from the Bible Society and the whole service was quite good, even though I didn’t know most of the songs/hymns. A regular from the church even came and sat next to me so it felt friendly. I would give the whole experience a good score!
After the service I went for a coffee in a local coffee shop before going back up the hill for my rucksack and lunch – and then down the hill again to sit on one of the picnic tables at the bottom to eat my lunch. I then had a slow wander through Rectory Wood which has a nice stream or two, a pool and is nice and sheltered and cool. The birds sing and there are very few people around. I took the route that eventually led me back to the hotel where I organised my packing, spent some time reading and then showered and changed for dinner.
Was it a good holiday? Yes, a good addition to the Industrial Heritage where I could take things slowly and at my own pace. The walks I did were very gentle and Shrewsbury was interesting – but needs more time and a less hot day to explore it properly. I suppose we were fortunate with the weather, too. I think a short “self-guided” break might be a good addition to future holidays.
The third day of the holiday was spent on the Severn Valley Railway. We had two extra people on this day – one who just loved steam trains and the other who had fallen when walking the previous day and hurt her knee and didn’t think that she would be able to do a walk, so trains seemed a good option. We started at Bridgnorth and first took a train to the end of the line at Kidderminster.
We even had booklets to tell us what to look for out of the windows.
When we got to Kidderminster we had quite a bit of time to look round. Everything is set out as in “the age of steam”.
There was also a small museum at Kidderminster, with all sorts of train memorabilia. My favourite bit was the signal box area where they had the levers and one could try pulling them for two possible “trains” – the “up” train and the “down” train. It was quite complicated – and that was just for a simple two way track!
We then got the same train, but going in the opposite direction.
We got into a compartment carriage this time. I do like the way they used to have pictures of places to visit on the walls.
There were also the old leather straps to pull the windows up and down – never an easy task!
Instead of going all the way back to Bridgnorth we got off at Bewdley. Some people walked into the town, but I decided it was too hot, so found the station buffet (in an old carriage) and had a drink and then looked round the station.
I do like the small touches they have on the platforms, like the old porters trolleys with appropriate suitcases.
Also the advertisements on most of the stations.
From Bewdley we got a different train – which was the point of getting off and waiting. I believe this was called a “pannier tank engine”.
We went on from here to Highley, where there is “The Engine House”, which – guess what – contains lots of engines!
I especially liked the engine where one could go onto the footplate and there were labels to show what all the knobs and levers were.
Also the Royal Mail train, with the sorting office on board.
There were lots of engines to look at – one that had “played” Edward or was it Gordon? This one had played its part as Thomas, several times – but is the wrong colour at the moment!
We had time for a cup of tea there and then got a train – a diesel, so not worth noting – back to Bridgnorth. We were then shown a copy of Trevithick’s “Catch me who can”, which they keep there. (See “Frederica” by Geogette Heyer!)
Apparently Trevithick’s engines were very good (for the time!) but his rails were not strong enough, so broke. Not good enough iron?!
We went back to the hotel from there for dinner and then afterwards there was a “concert” – well, it was a sing-a-long really from “The Shropshire Strummers”, a ukulele band. They had song books so we could all join in and had songs that were mostly appropriate to our age group(!!) and we could choose some of those we wanted. A very enjoyable evening.
So was it a good day and holiday? I always like steam trains! The noises, and the smells of coal and hot oil and steam and then there is all the nostalgia of course! No, I don’t think they were “the good old days” but it is fun to sometimes remember – and steam trains were always “going on holiday” when we were young. So yes – a good day.
Also a good holiday. Lots of interesting things to see and new things to learn and a generally good group of people.
The second day of the holiday was spent in Ironbridge. We started with a quick visit to the museum of the Gorge, where there was an interesting model of how the gorge had been, with ironworks, mines, inclined planes, barges and roadways (with horses and carts – which in the model had no drivers!!). It was a good overview of what had been there – with the River Severn as the main transport link. We then went to look at The Iron Bridge – the first bridge made of iron in the world.
We had a short time to go onto it or walk across it if we wanted.
We the went on to The Museum of Iron and the blast furnace Abraham Darby used when he first made pig iron using coke not charcoal.
Before we went into the museum we went to look at the (remains of the) furnace that Derby used. It was rented, having previously been used by someone else who had used charcoal.
Derby used a waterwheel to work the bellows to heat the furnace hot enough to produce the pig iron using coke. Coal cannot be used because of the impurities.
The iron came out into sand.
Derby’s casting process meant the iron could be used for pots etc which were much thinner than those produced previously. He was also able to produce much larger quantities than had been possible using charcoal. His son and grandson – Abraham Derby II and III (!) improved the process so that large amounts of cast and wrought iron could be produced that was strong enough for things like steam engines and railway lines – and of course bridges! This was the start of the Industrial Revolution.
Having looked at the furnace we had time in the museum – but not enough to look at everything and take it in. There was so much that I didn’t know where to start and didn’t take in that much – so have had to look up things later. I didn’t think I was really interested in iron, but our leader and seeing these things has made me want to find out more!
We had lunch outside the Museum of Iron and then went on to the Blists Hill Victorian town. This has a few features that were there originally like the mine shaft, inclined plane, remains of blast furnaces and brick and tile works.
The winding wheel was worked by steam.
Most of the rest of the village has either been brought from somewhere else or is a copy of a building from somewhere else. There was a forge, a sweet shop, a chemist (with dentist chair and drill!), a haberdashers, the doctor’s surgery, a couple of pubs, a bank and almost everything else one would have in a small town.
We could go into some of the houses (as well as all the shops) and this room was one I liked.
I also liked the school – and the very stern school mistress keeping the (visiting) pupils in order! My favourite bit was the fairground.
Especially the carousel, which I had to have a ride on!
Just before we left we found a steam engine made by Richard Trevithick – not sure if it was a real one or a model.
It was suggested to us that his engines were not made to be ridden on but to walk alongside as one would a horse, so the platforms were added afterwards.
There was actually loads to look at and we could have spent the day there – even though the purists would say it was “fake” and a theme park not “real history”. We went back to the hotel from there, for next day’s briefing and dinner.
Was it another good day? Yes, even the things I didn’t think would be very interesting were good and provided new things to learn and I really liked Blists Hill – especially my ride on the carousel!
I had been looking at this holiday for about 3 years and managed to book it this year. I think it was actually “Industrial Heritage of Shropshire” and was based at Church Stretton, Shropshire.
On the evening of our arrival there was an introductory talk from the person leading the tour, but it was quite general as it was for everyone – walkers and photographers too, if they were interested.
The first day we started by looking at mining. We were going up to Titterstone Clee and stopped on the way to see the probable site of “bell mines”. We were told that gorse bushes grew on the places where the “bell pits” had been.
There was also a place where they might have dug into the hillside.
There was a viewing point above this but we had no view as it was very misty! We then went on to Titterstone Clee – where it was definitely foggy – we had in fact gone upwards and into the cloud. This was another mining area but they had discovered that the Dhu Stone there was more valuable than anything they were mining as it was/is used for the stone for roads. There is apparently a large chunk out of the hillside where the stone has been dug out – but we couldn’t even see the hill, it was so foggy. Most of us got out of the minibus to look at the remains of the crushing works, where the stone had been broken down.
We were told that the rocks were crushed by gravity – i.e. dropped.
The crushed rocks were then taken down the hill on an inclined plane. There were apparently the remains of this, but again it was too foggy to see it. I think it was just the remains of a railway line, but they used the full trucks going down to pull up the empty trucks.
As there was no point in staying there long, we went on to Stourport where the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal meets the River Severn. The river and canals were the main form of transport for goods before the railways, of course. The boats coming up the Severn were too big to go along the canals so there were locks which allowed these boats into the canal basin.
The boats were then unloaded, so the goods could be transferred to canal barges.
As the wide lock uses a lot of water there is also a narrow boat lock which uses rather less. We were very fortunate that a narrow boat was just leaving the Severn and using the lock as we got there – especially as one of our party had never seen a boat going through a lock!
We ate our lunch at Stourport and then went on to Daniel’s mill near Bridgnorth. This is a working watermill and was open especially for us. Milling has apparently been carried on here for about 900 years although the present mill is Victorian. It is a 38 ft “backshot” wheel, which is one of the designs of waterwheel.
In fact they have only used the top input for the wheel once, for a short time, as they are not sure the wheel is strong enough any more. Mostly they use an input about half way down.
The waterwheel uses cogs and so gearing to turn another axle.
Inside the axle is linked by cogs to the axle that turns the millstone.
I do like these cog wheels and the gearing that means the millstone turns much faster than the waterwheel. Like the windmill we went to before, the cogs are wooden to prevent sparks (and fires), because they break easily in case of a problem and are easily replaced. There is in fact the possibility of working two millstones.
And we had a chance to actually see the mill working. It does sell the ground flour to a biscuit maker, I think.
We had tea and cake in the café at the mill and then it was back to the hotel to change before a briefing for the next day and dinner.
So was it a good day? Yes, very interesting, with the waterwheel being the highlight for me.
On bank holiday Monday, I met up with my niece, her husband and my great-niece and we went to visit Crofton Beam Engines and Wilton Windmill. This was my idea as I wanted to go and thought they might like to come as well. Both attractions are about half way between our respective homes so we had similar driving times to get there.
We started at the Beam Engines as they have a car park and other facilities and it was a “steaming day”. The beam engines were/are used to pump water for the highest point of that part of the Kennet and Avon canal and one is apparently the oldest working beam engine still in its original place. (They pump the water using an electric pump when the beam engines are not steaming.)
Boilers are fired by coal.
They need a person to shovel the coal – just like the fireman in a steam train.
The boilers heat the water to produce steam which then moves the piston in the cylinder.
The piston then works the beam which is pivoted so the other side goes down the well to pull up the water.
There are, of course various knobs and levers which have to be watched to keep the pressure and other parts working smoothly.
After we had a good look round, seen both of the beam engines working and looked at the displays outside we went through the tunnel under the railway line to the canal. We spent some time watching the boats going through the locks and helping a bit.
We then walked up to the Swan Inn at Wilton for lunch, passing Wilton Water on the way.
We enjoyed our lunch at the pub (well, I did so I hope the others did too!) and we then walked on to Wilton Windmill.
We had a tour of this – several steep wooden staircases to go up too reach the top! The windmill is the only working windmill in Wessex (or so they say) but in fact it hadn’t worked since March as it needs 15mph winds and they hadn’t been that strong. The top part rotates so that the sails will face the wind.
The sails are attached to a large cog wheel……
….which interlocks with a smaller cog wheel to turn the vertical shaft to turn the mill stone.
The cogs are actually wooden so they don’t create sparks which could cause a fire and because they are then easily replaced. Going down a floor we saw the hopper where the grain is poured.
Going down another floor we saw where it comes out and is fed to the stones.
The stones were not working, of course, as it was too dangerous with lots of people around.
There were several gadgets – bits of string and strips of material for example – to make the miller’s life easier so he didn’t have to keep going up and down the steps. It was also necessary to make sure the grain was ground finely enough, but not too fine – especially as it can easily catch fire if it is very fine. We went out onto the balcony running round the windmill to see the sails and how they are opened and close to catch the wind.
It was then time to walk back the way we had come and go home.
On the way back my great-niece saw and showed us where there was a wild bees nest and we could see all the bees coming out. That was an added bonus!
So? I had a good day out. Lots of “industrial heritage” with lots to see and learn and the addition of good company to share it with and a good meal. I hope the others enjoyed it too!
I must have complained too much about putting together the IKEA furniture because a few weeks later I was told there ware presents as a thank you for doing it.
First I was given a special apron for doing the chest of drawers.
And a few weeks later, a special T-shirt for helping with the bookcase (which was too easy and didn’t take long so didn’t really deserve a present).
This one shows (the detection of) particles in an accelerator!
So? I think “we” have found a “physics presents” website or something – especially as I was earlier given these as a birthday present.
However, it was nice to be thanked and the presents did amuse me!
This one was a bit of a challenge – it took several weeks.
There were some days when I seemed to take out as many pieces as I put in.
So? Keep going until it is done!
Our church put on an evening talk and discussion – “One Small Step” – considering what we could do to protect the environment.
There was coffee and tea and biscuits on arrival, if one wanted them; chairs were set out and on each chair there was a card from Tear Fund and an envelope labelled “Feed the Birds” and two luggage labels – one large and one smaller.
A woman from Tear Fund – Sarah Wiggins – gave a talk, sort of setting out the Biblical reasons why we should try to protect/conserve the environment and giving some suggestions as to what we might do ourselves. It was OK but she was not especially inspiring or passionate, nor did she make any suggestions that were different, which was a little disappointing.
The other side of the card had suggestions for ways to reduce our use of fossil fuels. We were then asked to get into small groups and come up with some things that we might do ourselves and write our “pledges” on the large luggage label to hang on a “tree” and write them on the small label to take home as a reminder.
The card from Tear Fund also had a tear off part to send to the World Bank asking them to spend money for off grid renewable energy supplies in developing countries, which are more appropriate for small communities, not build fossil fuel power stations. We could fill that in too.
The feed back from the discussion tended to focus on moving to a vegetarian or vegan diet as that was something that some people there were passionate about.
We then had some time to look at the displays – pictures in the Foyer (where the talk was held) and stalls in the church. The pictures were quite interesting (to me) as many of them were of the Marsabit area of Kenya, which I have visited and where my friend Rob was Bishop. The area is very dry normally but there was a failure of the rains for several years and this was shown as an example of climate change. In the church there were more suggestions for caring for the environment, an RSPB stall (hence “Feed the Birds”) and a stall giving out these cards about considering changing one’s electricity supplier to one that only uses renewables.
I think there were a few others too, but I didn’t look that closely as I had spent too long looking at the pictures of Marsabit. One might have been about the idea of reducing/eliminating our use of palm oil, as rain forests are being cut down to plant palm plantations, which have much less biodiversity.
After a while we all returned to the foyer, so that we could mark “Earth Hour” – when at 8.30 local time on the 30th March people turn off their lights as some sort of pledge to help protect the environment. We did just that: turned off the lights and looked out at all the other light outside.
Having done that we all went home!
So was it a good/worthwhile evening? Probably not. There wasn’t much to inspire or encourage or anything most people didn’t know. To be honest, I am not sure who it was aimed at: anyone who came probably was interested enough to know what was said and had probably done all they could/intended to. Those who were not interested or didn’t know weren’t there.