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36. A Miscellany of Photos. for 2011.


We are in the process of retiring from playing in order to have more time for other things, such as wandering around taking random photographs, researching old 78 rpm records, studying butterflies and diatoms & things like that. We have actually been doing some of that during 2011, but practically nothing has appeared here until now. It’s probably due to increasing age: one works more slowly as one gets older. One has more spare time as one gradually retires, so there is a tendency to take on tasks that you would not have done before; but they take longer. These two factors, I think, account for the common complaint of the retired person: ‘I have never been so busy in my life before!’ It’s 2nd of November 2011, and the last photos. appeared here on January 3rd. It’s not that we haven’t taken any, far from it. The camera numbers the images of course; last January the serial number was about 4400. Today it’s around 5200. So ~800 images have been taken since January! They can’t all have been ‘duff’ surely? So here is a quick series of odds & ends to sketch in 2011…


Description: dudley1


22nd January 2011. This and the two following shots were taken on the old Lapal canal in between the Hawne Basin (where its navigable part currently ends) and the Gosty Hill Tunnel. It’s an old contour canal, and snakes its way along an escarpment. Thus it has to be protected from the land sliding down the hill. These massive walls must be an Industrial Archaeologist’s delight. There are any number of different building styles and materials in there. They put me in mind of the base of a ziggurat or some other ancient temple.


Description: dudley2


This is a classic Black Country scene. The road sweeps down to the left; a dirt road crosses the canal to the right, giving access to factories; while the canal itself turns serenely to the right, maintaining the contour level.


Description: dudley3


This was taken quite near the Hawne Basin. Again, the monumental nature of the masonry embankment is reminiscent of the walls of an ancient city. Somewhat to the right of this shot, the road called Mucklow Hill runs down (and indeed up, if you’re going that way) this slope, connecting Quinton (at the top of it) with Halesowen, which is at the bottom. Of course, the ‘Hill’ in Mucklow Hill is redundant; ‘Low’ is ‘Hill’ Anglo-Saxon (or another early language once spoken hereabouts – I really should look it up but am anxious to finish this long-overdue page). So Mucklow means dirty, or muddy, hill. Which it would have been, even as recently as 100 years ago, or at least before tarred roads. I live very near here, and have begun, rather ostentatiously, to refer to it simply as ‘Mucklow’. So far nobody has pulled me up about it. I believe that somewhere there is a ‘Tumplow Hill’, which would be a strong contender in the Redundancy Stakes, as Tump, Low, and Hill are simply three words in different languages or perhaps dialects, for the same thing, viz., an eminence of one sort or another.  


Description: hay


23rd February 2011. A view from the Castle at Hay-on Wye. For some strange but commendable reason, Hay-on-Wye, a delightfully remote place, is an important centre of the Antiquarian and second-hand book trade. The lean-to book shelters you see are the open-air ‘trust’ bookshop, where presumably much of the slow-moving stock of the many bookshops can be placed, and left to its own devices. There are only 2 prices: 50p for a paperback and £1 for a hardback. You put the money in a slot in the wall. The River Wye must be the border between Wales and England, or if it isn’t, something is terribly wrong. ‘Wye’ is one of the fundamental ancient names for a river. The ‘Oxford Dictionary of English Pace-names’ simply says that ‘Wye is an ancient pre-English river-name of unknown origin and meaning.’ This is fascinating, because river names are almost invariably of extreme antiquity. There are many Celtic river names still in use, as the ODoEPN freely records – but usually only if it’s sure that it’s a Celtic name. ‘Avon’ is one such. It simply is the old Celtic word for ‘river’; no special sort of river – just a river. It still means ‘river’ in Welsh, which is of course a Celtic language. Therefore the many ‘River Avons’ in England are examples of redundancy, as in ‘low’ and ‘hill’ mentioned above. The point is, that there are also rivers called Wear, Wyre, and Wey – which seem to a simpleton like me at least to have the same root. The ODoEPN admits that some of these may be Celtic in origin; the Wyre in Hereford & Worcester is defined as meaning a winding or meandering river. However, there seems the distinct possibility that Wye might be of pre-Celtic origin. And if so, we probably have a word, meaning river (or some sort of river), from the language spoken by the people who were already here when the Celts began to move in. It’s all getting a bit too deep for me; but if the Celts moved in – or simply had great influence – that might have been several hundred years B.C. Apparently, nothing is known of the language spoken by the people who were already here; it’s totally vanished. Except, perhaps, for a tiny number of river names? Wye might be one of them. And to possibly know even a single word from a language that disappeared 2,500 years ago, a word meaning ‘river’, seems to me to be a really wonderful thing! One last comment. Every river either flows into another one, or else the sea. The River Wear, in the north-east of England, flows into the North Sea; there is a town at this point, and it is called Wearmouth. 380 miles away, on the south coast, the river Wey flows into the English Channel. There is a town at that point called Weymouth. This illustrates, I think, how uniform the language and culture were in those far-off times. Alas, the River Wyre in Lancashire, flows into the Irish Sea via the town of Fleetwood, not Wyremouth; and our very own River Wye flows into the Bristol Channel at Chepstow, still the border between Wales & England. If there ever was a Wyemouth, it has gone. But Wearmouth, Weymouth, Wyremouth and Wyemouth would have made a splendid set of place-names, wouldn’t they? Still, even two of them are great names to have.


Description: fleetsmall


13th February 2011. We are far from Hay-on-Wye now; about 220 miles away at Saltfleet on the east coast of England, which is well known to be largely flat – as is manifest from this shot. We were returning from a gig in Louth, Lincolnshire, but visited the sea because it was not all that far away. Any attempt we might have had in mind to walk across this land to the actual sea itself was squashed by our lack of adequate footwear. Bare feet, I hear you suggest? Well, yes. But the tiny dot in the distance is, I assure you, someone walking along the shore-line. We stood here, or mooched about, for half an hour or so. The walking dot passed out of sight to the north. We were alone. There was nothing. No sound; no sea-birds. There was no wind; it was very mild for February. But eventually we shivered, in spite of experiencing a little section of Reality for a short 30 minutes.


Description: calkesmall


17th February 2011. Just four days later we drove through the grounds of Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, en route to a gig. The house was closed, but we mean to return to it again. Apart from structural repair by the National Trust, to whom it now belongs, the rest of the interior has been deliberately left as it was in the (I think) early 1980s, when the Trust acquired it. Therefore it is er… ‘distressed’ is the term. I have spoken to friends who have visited it, and they all insist it is a fascinating place, and that it is essential to go there.


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26th February 2011. Ten days later, we find ourselves travelling along the Leven Estuary, in the north west of England. The rivers that form it are chiefly those that flow from Coniston Water & Lake Windermere: the English Lake District lies not many miles to the north.


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Again, the weather was very mild. The winter of 2010/11 was very severe by English standards, and so I suppose the Presiding Deities were making it up to us. Being very early, an hour was spent wandering around the beach at Bardsea. This is a view looking back to the village.


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Our destination was Roa Island. We have been there several times, and always wondered what this tower was. It’s obvious really: it was a one of a network of lighthouses erected around the large & treacherous bay you see stretching for miles in front of you. The tide comes in very quickly indeed across it… and presumably recedes just as quickly. A chap called Scammell 23 posted this on a discussion group, and I don’t think he’ll mind if I copy it here: “I found this interesting light house while working nearby. It was built between 1850 and 1870. This unusual tower, known locally as The Needle and is the only survivor of 13 range lights built on the approaches to Rampside and Barrow in the 1850-1870 period. Slated for demolition, it was saved after Rampside residents worked to have it listed as a historic structure. Good on them I say! Located on the shoreline at Rampside, just off the A5087 about 3 mile southeast of Barrow-in-Furness.”


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29th March 2011. Much nearer home this time and just enjoying ourselves. Shugborough Hall. It comes under the aegis of both Staffordshire County Council and The National Trust. I don’t know what bits each look after, but it obviously works extremely well!


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You can take (non-flash) pictures inside these places. I’m not sure what this room is, though. Actually, my current camera, which has served me very well indeed for several years, nevertheless has a number of disadvantages, and we are thinking of upgrading. But this shot isn’t too bad, is it?


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3rd April 2011. Llangollen – again. A hop and a step from my home town of Birmingham, well, 78 miles I think. The railway station is home to a very flourishing preserved railway, and the workshops associated with it are extremely renowned and do work on a wide variety of restoration projects from all over the country. Note that the bridge over the line goes out over the River Dee, but is anchored in place by redoubtable girders, deeply embedded in the stone of the river embankment; so it’s quite safe.


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The river churns beneath the bridge.


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On our way back next day, we stopped at the Wellington Wrekin to try out our 144 MHz (2 metre FM) amateur radio rig from a high location, but the main road up the Wrekin was closed. Better still was this lovely blossom, underlining that Spring was well on the way. I’m hopeless with plants. Is it Buckthorn?


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Talking of plants, this one is in my garden. It came in a packet of seeds bought in Aldi, which claimed to be seeds of ‘Wild Flowers’. There wasn’t much response when I planted a bunch of them in a container in 2010. A couple of cornflowers appeared, but not much else, apart from a tiny frondy sort of thing. It must have been robust though, because it survived the severe winter of 2010/11 in the container. My curiosity aroused, I transplanted it into the top corner of my fairly barren and pebbly garden (it’s all pebbly round Birmingham, or at least this part of it) to see what it might do. It seemed to enjoy this, and grew strongly, as you can see. It’s about 2 feet high in the shot above.



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Here it is, some time later, up as high as the fence. Eventually, it attained the height of about seven feet, and bore umbelliferous florets (that’s what I call them anyway). These were much favoured by hover-flies, so that was OK, as they are declining these days. One of the many reasons they are declining is that they have a persistent tendency to fly into covered areas, but can’t get out again, because, like butterflies, they only ever fly upwards to escape. I once sat outside a pub. near Newbury and counted about 60 hover-flies that had come into a shelter & were trying to get out. Perhaps eventually they get tired and can’t fly up any more, and so can only go sideways and thus escape by accident? I hope so. I also hope that the above plant is not some unwelcome visitor like Giant Hogweed or Japanese Knotweed or Himalayan Balsam – see somewhat below for this last-named pest.


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4th June 2011. Here we are in Usk for 2 gigs. The town is Usk, and the river is the River Usk. What does this mean? Don’t worry: it’s quite a common phenomenon. The river was usually called something else originally. But eventually it got called after some settlement or town that developed on it. It’s called ‘back-formation’. There are many examples. The River Cherwell in Oxfordshire is named after the town of Cherwell; in Staffordshire the little River Penk is named after Penkridge, through which it flows. Likewise here.


Description: river


The River Usk. This is the third time we have come to Wales this year. Though we are now in the extreme south of Wales, Monmouthshire. This was contested territory, and was in England for many centuries. IIRC, it was formally returned to Wales in the early 1950s. A strange thing happened at that time concerning radio amateurs. A radio amateur who lived in Monmouthshire before the transfer would have had an English call-sign. Let us say G3DEF. If he had lived in Wales, it would have been GW3DEF. When Monmouthshire returned to Wales, radio amateurs who lived in the county were actually offered the option of adding, or not adding, the W to their call-signs. All they had to do was to notify (or not notify, I forget which) the GPO, who ran radio at the time. This must have been an unusual thing for foreign amateurs who contacted people in Monmouthshire. They would naturally have thought the G3DEF was in England, and GW3DEG was in Wales. Yet they might both have been in Monmouthshire. Very curious, if now irrelevant…


Description: turret


June 2011. Here we are in the ‘By-ways of Birmingham’. This curious leaning turret is not a mediæval survival, though it is quite old. It belongs to Lifford Hall. This is really in King’s Norton, now a suburb of Birmingham, but originally distant from, and far more important, than Brum. A house probably existed on the site from Saxon times; but a new place was put up in about 1604. The name Lifford is thought to have come from Ireland, when a James Hewitt became Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and was eventually created Viscount Lifford, after a town near Londonderry. He moved here in 1781 and presumably brought the name with him. This turret was a Victorian ‘folly’ – evidently not having very deep foundations, as it seems to be leaning. Or perhaps that is a defect of my photograph? The building is now used as an office block. The rest of the immediate area is not very prepossessing, though not without a charm of its own…


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This derelict road runs nearby, past equally derelict buildings, up to the Stratford-on-Avon canal, which has just branched off the Birmingham & Worcester Canal at Kings Norton Junction. This junction has already appeared further up these shoddy and disreputable pages.


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 This view is across the canal, to the south. The broad road becomes a mere trackway. Doubtless all the main business coming to the canal came from the north – Birmingham – side. There used to be a swing bridge here. Its pivot is plain to see, as is the semi-circular wall round which you pushed the bridge open & closed.


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18th Jun 2011. A complete contrast! The magnificent clock tower at Cliveden, a huge country house with a chequered history, including being burned down twice, if not more. Most of the present building seemingly dates from the mid-19th century, and was ‘knocked up’ in brick, then clad in stone. Whether this applies to the clock tower, we have no idea. Cliveden is located to the west of London, and we called in on the way to a pair of gigs. Cliveden is celebrated for many things, not least as a key venue for part of the ‘Profumo Scandal’ of 1963.


Description: cloister


I rather like this shot, taken from the very end of the long terrace of the house, which is actually a luxury hotel, though the grounds are under the care of the National Trust: hence my presence there. I took many other shots, but they would become tedious. The site was originally a hill in the middle of scrubland, but the very rich chap who bought the land, had the top of the hill removed & the house built on the resulting flat bit – honest!


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The next day, we played a recital in this beautiful church, in Oxfordshire. As almost always in churches, the acoustics were wonderful, and the gig sped by, and hardly seemed like ‘work’ at all.


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We had arrived very early, so before the recital, we took a walk along this path, to an area of communal woodland that the village happily possessed. Walking along this doubtless ancient trackway – nobody else was about – was, as always, a delightful contrast and ‘stress-reliever’ to our trip here along the motorway, where everybody seemed to be doing 80 mph. Half an hours stroll up and down this path was sheer bliss.


Description: bog


11th July 2011. Back home in Brum, and deep in Tolkein territory. This is the edge of the ‘Moseley Bog’ – a depression near the River Cole. Tolkien lived very near here in his youth. It has been suggested that the Moseley Bog was the prototype of the Fangorn Forest in his mighty trilogy ‘Lord of the Rings’. If so, it bore on this bright day, a very cheerful aspect. The ‘boardwalk’ is an excellent facility so that less mobile people can still enjoy this tranquil area, even if they are unfortunately confined to a wheelchair. Much use is made of the Reserve by local schools, nature study groups and other commendable leisure & educational establishments, and at all seasons of the year.


Description: balsam1


Just along the nearby little River Cole (Cole is another pre-English river name of uncertain meaning!) we find abundance of the Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera. It is very pretty, is not it? (I can never help using archaic phrases, sorry! ‘Is not it?’ seems to have become ‘Is it not?’, and is now very old-fashioned; but the older form eventually changed to ‘Isn’t it?’ & is still very much alive and well.) Yet it (the Himalayan Balsam, I mean) has become a horrible pest since it has proliferated recently. It can grow to 6 or 8 feet high, and drives out our normal native plants of damp waterside places.


Description: balsam2


This bank of the River Cole looks all very well, but it is simply a mass of glandulifera, and nothing else stands a chance. It propagates by exploding seed-heads, and these seeds are naturally conducted down the watercourse & so it spreads at an enormous rate. Aiee!


Description: sarehole


12th July 2011. Next day we’re back at the same spot for more Tolkein material. This is Sarehole Mill, which is known to be ‘Ted Sandiman’s Mill’, which caused such distress to the young Tolkein when a steam engine was installed to drive it, hence the chimney stack. There is still a very extensive mill-pond (admittedly, smaller than it used to be); but it is perfectly able to drive the water-wheel which powers the grind-stones. It does so on most days, &c., &c…


Description: dragonfly


19th August 2011. Little had been done about butterflies this year, but we visited the Monkwood butterfly and bird reserve today, late in the season and found this excellent dragonfly – though I don’t know what species it is. A quick google would suggest a female Sympetrum striolatum, the Common Darter, which is one of the most frequently-encountered dragonflies in Europe. Although we associate dragonflies with water, there was precious little present at Monkwood after our amazingly dry summer this year!


Description: blue1


This and the next two shots are out of focus; they are still uploaded as we are very bad at identifying The Blues. There are many blues that this male cannot be. I suppose it might be the Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus? Mid-August would be OK for this species.


Description: blue2


This is the same individual.


Description: blue3


And here we probably have a female icarus? Evidently the females vary a lot in the amount of blue they may carry. Consulting our various books & checking images on-line would indicate that if this is indeed a female icarus, it is from the very brown end of the range and has unusually prominent orange spots on all four wings. Or perhaps it’s quite another species?


Description: comma


No mistaking our old friend the Comma, Polygonia c-album, though…


Description: worcs1


2nd November 2011. After a very busy work period for several weeks, we switched off the computer and went for a short walk along the Worcester & Birmingham canal. The trees are showing bright autumn colours after the dry summer. This is the short section of the canal leading to the southern portal of the Wast Hill Tunnel.


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The start of the cutting as we near the tunnel entrance…


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Then the tunnel itself. It is just over 1.5 miles long. Opened in 1815, it is the twelfth-longest canal tunnel in the country; and just a mile or two towards Worcester we have the Tardebigge flight of locks, 30 in all – the longest flight in the country. There are some images of the Tardebigge flight here.  






Page written 2nd – 8th November 2011.