Friday, 13 March 2020
Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Sue and I had the pleasure of attending 60th birthday party on Saturday. It was a joyous occasion, enjoyed by many of the current 150 members and by many ‘old’ members, few of whom we knew as we are recent newcomers to this group.
The group was one of many set up by the YHA after WW2, and unlike many of its contemporaries it has continued to thrive and is currently very active. Curiously, one table was occupied by folk who claimed to have joined the club in 1952, some 63 years ago. This minor ‘discrepancy’ was glossed over, though I noticed a few askew glances from folk wondering whether the party had been hijacked by the inmates of a nearby old people’s home!
It got me thinking about my own youth hostelling experiences. On at least two occasions, at Westerdale and at Glenbrittle, I was arriving with groups but the warden wouldn’t be there. “The key is under the mat – make yourselves at home – if you can make it through the snow.”
In those days there were fewer hostel staff and guests always had to carry out a duty. The header image shows Jim and Howard carrying out their duty at Stockinish Hostel on Harris (NG 135 910). The hostel, open between 1965 and 1998, was an old school. When we visited in September 1968, on my first trip to Scotland, there was no sophisticated sanitation. We pooed into a bucket, which was emptied into Loch Stocanais. I wonder whether the locals still have to do that?
Here’s the hostel.
And here’s Howard (RIP) with the Austin Devon estate car that hauled us around Scotland that September. It managed about 40 miles a day before requiring some sort of TLC. It’s pictured in 1969, on the day it was taken to the knacker’s yard, outside our rented house in Drury Street, Levenshulme, a ‘two up, two down’ with a small kitchen tacked onto the living/dining room. No bathroom or indoor toilet – just a tap in the kitchen and a toilet outside in the yard.
We used to take our showers in the Students Union at UMIST – a wonderful place that also had a great refectory, if you didn’t choose to eat chicken biryani at the Plaza Café on Upper Brook Street.
Many of us travelled by bicycle in those days (some things don’t change), picking up unclaimed bikes from the police when ours were either stolen or ‘died’. I remember a long walk to a bike shop one day when my bike’s front wheel’s spokes decided to call it a day. Buckled wheels from hitting kerbs at speed, usually at night with dubious lights, were a common occurrence.
That’s all for now. I’ve emptied the loft and have a house full of boxes (rubbish, memorabilia, photos, toys, etc etc) to ‘process’.
Tuesday, 5 May 2015
Our Bank Holiday weekend started with a jog in the park for Sue, whilst I marshalled on the first corner. It’s ‘not a race’, but here are Matteo and Richard – regular ‘top ten’ finishers in around 20 minutes for the 5km run. They were clearly not racing (until Richard tripped Matteo on the finishing straight!).
(My dream is to complete just one kilometre in less than 4 minutes!).
Conditions were dry and fast, with Dan leading the pack around the first lap in decisive manner. Second time around, this 15-17 year old faltered slightly, but Gary needed to equal his PB to shade the youngster on the line. Both recorded 18.20, a time outside most of our reaches.
After Sue had regained her breath and I had trotted around one lap with tail runner Anthony, and we’d all sympathised with Paul, who had pulled out after one lap with a sore achilles tendon, coffee was taken in the cafe before Sue and I headed to the fleshpots of Leicester.
Above is a church that maybe used to be in a backwater, but thanks to Richard III is now on the tourist map.
Nearby, a plaque announces ‘Richard III King of England 1483-1485’.
There’s a very informative exhibition that offers everything you need to know about Richard, his life, and his discovery over 500 years later in the spot where a projected light imitates his bones through the glass floor of the exhibition hall. Can you spot the curved spine – he had scoliosis.
Our genial hosts were Sue’s brother and his wife, who put us up in grand style and took us on a short stroll around on Sunday morning. Thanks Paddy and Kate.
The park is set in lovely countryside, and lots of folk were setting off on longer hikes than our 5km amble. We examined the remains of Bradgate House, famous for being the home of Lady Jane Grey in the early 1500s.
Then it was back to Manchester to pick up Jacob from his ‘Grandma Whoosh’. After an active day the four year old was asleep soon after 9pm, but awake from 2.20 to 3.40 and then from 5.27am, according to Sue.
Meanwhile I researched a route for parkrunner Richard. He has to plan a walk for some novices, from Coruisk to Glenbrittle, on Skye. Having looked at the map, and re-read Ralph Storer’s excellent route descriptions in his book – ‘Skye – Walking, Scrambling and Exploring’ – I have decided not to try to plot a route on the map below, for fear it might be held against me a some point in the future.
Would Richard be wiser to take his novices along the easier path from Coruisk to Sligachan, I wonder?
Anyway, we enjoyed a pleasant morning with Jacob, who is learning to slide down the pole in the park.
Leaving Sue to mow the lawns, I enjoyed the afternoon with Jacob and his dad, a couple of cousins, and another grandad, at the stock car racing at Belle Vue.
There were crashes.
The juniors race in well protected minis like this one. Girls seem to be better at it than boys.
Grown ups are sponsored mainly by scrap metal merchants (there’s a message there). Actually the cars are big brutes and very quick around the oval course that’s also used for speedway and for dog racing.
There are also races for saloon cars that have been rescued from scrapyards.
The ‘Formula 1’ (3 litre) and ‘Formula 2’ (1.6 litre) cars all have huge aerofoil wings. It would be interesting to see how they would perform in a clockwise direction around the circuit…
The afternoon was good value, with 18 races, culminating with a caravan race that was effectively a destruction derby. I took a video, but readers may be thankful to learn that I’ve been unable to transfer it from the SD card or wherever the Panasonic camera on which it was taken happens to have mysteriously stored it! (There are some more photos , though.)
Then I did a Jacob impression of a full length dive on the pavement, rushing to collect his stuff from my car. Ouch. It was a quiet evening at home.
(I caught up with my blog reading, but apologise for not making any comments – there just wasn’t time, and I need to try to get organised for the next trip…)
Monday, 11 August 2014
Date: 14 August 1982
Holidaymakers (L to R): Robert, Dot, Kate, Martin, John
My diary records:
Drove down to Middle Mill after work on 13 August, arriving 11.30pm.
After a good night’s sleep on a not so rough blanket (I forgot to bring a sheet), we arose and I walked to Solva and back with Kate on a bright, sunny day with a pleasant breeze.
Left Metro at Abereiddy and we all went to Whitesand Bay to commence a coastal walk. R’s bladder in difficulties as usual, and he was also accompanied by a portable stereo cassette unit with expensive looking headset. Dot performed her ‘lost grockle’ act and confused some Americans.
Bright yellows and reds – mainly from gorse and heather.
Lunch at Carreg-yr-afr (or thereabouts). R absent (doing a Laurie)[Laurie is an old friend who was notorious for random disappearances – he was often abandoned in remote spots, but that’s another story]. Kate hungry – ate sand. Seal seen, but lunchtime was converted to a dolphin observation session.
Continued along very pleasant coastal path (Pembrokeshire Coast Path). Kate slept. Buzzed by black and white bird. Reached Abereiddy for ice cream and coffee and biscuits on nice grassy slope by beach. [This must be where the picture was taken.] Kate cheered up and ate half a ‘mothers’ biscuit [and probably some more sand]. Trundled back in the Metro to find the Renault at Whitesand Bay.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
I passed by this scene of desolation today. It is near Lindow Common in Wilmslow, where an assortment of birds were active on Black Lake, including the diver pictured below. I think it's a Great-crested Grebe hiding its crest, but I stand to be corrected.
Anyway, whilst the small area of Lindow Common has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), nearby Lindow Moss, a much larger area and possibly of greater scientific importance, continues to house a commercial Peat Farm. A matter of some local debate.
It was here that in 1984 some workmen discovered a body that had been preserved in the peat for around 2000 years. This was 'Pete Marsh', whose wounds indicated a ritual killing whereby he was knocked unconscious, then slowly garotted, then had his throat cut. His stomach contained burnt bread and mistletoe, sacred to the Druids. It is possible that after this last sacred meal he suffered the 'threefold death' referred to by the Roman chronicler, Lucan, as a sacrifice to a triad of powerful Celtic gods: Teutates, Esus and Taranis.
Pete's twisted body is now a popular exhibit in the British Museum in London. What other secrets may Lindow Moss hold, I wonder? One murderer confessed to killing his wife when a skull was found in 1983. That skull was later found to be from a woman who had died around 500BC, in the Iron age!
I've gleaned this information from Tony Bowerman's excellent little book - Walks in Mysterious Cheshire and Wirral. This book is no longer available from Amazon, so may soon be difficult to obtain - get it while you can! More information on Lindow Man is available from the British Museum, and from Wikipedia, as well as from this 'Mummy Tombs' website.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Mark (Beating the Bounds) comments:
"Ruskin allegedly said that the view of the Lune valley from the churchyard in Kirkby Lonsdale was the finest in the world, but had he been to Monsal Head?"
I'm afraid he had been to Monsal Head, Mark. And he thought very highly of it. Until the railway came. This is what he said:
"You think it a great triumph to make the sun draw brown landscapes for you. That was also a discovery, and some day may be needful. But the sun had drawn landscapes before for you, not in brown but in green and blue and all imaginable colours, here in England. Not one of you ever looked at them, not one of you cares for the loss of them when you have shut the sun out with smoke so that he can draw nothing more, except brown blots through a hole in a box. There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time as divine as the Vale of Tempe; you might have seen the Gods there morning and evening - Apollo and all the sweet muses of the light - walking in fair procession on the lawns of it, and to and fro among the pinnacles of its crags. You cared neither for Gods nor cash (which you did not know the way to get) you thought you could get it by what the Times calls 'Railway Enterprise'. You enterprised a railroad through the valley - you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone and the Gods with it, and now every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half an hour and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange - you fools everywhere."
I'm glad I photographed that information board! I enjoyed transcribing it. There's food for thought, perhaps, with some present day analogies. It has to be said that time has largely healed the scars of the railroad, apart from the impressive viaduct.
Our next series of postings will be a mixture of 'Blackberries' and remote computer transmissions when we have access to them, so there won't be many images for ten days or so. But there will be a new 'label', and perhaps, temporarily, a few different readers / viewers. So we welcome any newcomers and hope we will be able to transmit on the 'big day' (Monday).
Before we go, we would wish Phil at Doodlecat our very best wishes and hope his imminent traumatic experience will cure his ailment, and we wish all those in the TGO Challenge hat at the weekend every success in being pulled out of that hat. We are also conscious of a number of other people who are currently hampered by health and other issues, and we wish you well. Finally, we trust Gayle and Mick will make it safely to Fort William - well done in anticipation.
Thursday, 25 September 2008
I had occasion to pop in to town today.
Ellis Brigham's shop in Castlefield seemed to have loads of staff and no customers, so I swelled their coffers by £7 by purchasing new tips for my Leki walking poles. The Makalu Classics - abused for over 12 years now - simply refuse to wear out. These are their 4th set of tips.
Next to EB's emporium is this, The North Gate: By the middle of the second century AD the Roman fort of Mamucium was rectangular, with a gateway on each side. This north gate of the fort was on the Roman road that crossed the fort's outer defences and ran into the heart of the civilian settlement.
The reconstruction shows how the defences may have looked around AD200. Whilst this site was excavated in the 1980's, the Roman inscription above the gate is based on fragments found in the 18th century. It commemorates a detachment of Raetians and Noricans, known to have been stationed in Manchester. It also commemorates the Roman Emperor Severus and his sons, who are thought to have commissioned the building of the stone defences.
Here's another view, showing the footprints of some buildings inside the fort. The sheep arrived in 1986, and seem to have worn quite well! My textbook, 'Old England - A Pictorial Museum' (somewhat elderly itself) does not mention the Mamucium fort but it includes the following observation on Roman architecture:
'It is easy to understand how the Roman architecture of Britain should not have been in the best taste. When the island was permanently settled under Roman dominion, the arts had greatly declined in Rome itself. In architecture, especially, the introduction of incongruous members, in combination with the general forms derived from the Greeks, produced a corruption which was rapidly advancing in the third century, and which continued to spread till Roman architecture had lost nearly all its original distinctive characters. The models which the Romans left in Britain, to a people harassed with continual invasion and internal dissension, were no doubt chiefly of this debased character.'
Just around the corner is this, the Beetham Tower, at 171 metres currently the tallest building outside London.
I have no desire to enter it, or really to do anything other than scurry quickly away.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
Whilst in Madeira in November Alan pulled out some of his old maps etc of the island. He collects documents relating to the history of the island. On the back of one of these documents, a copy of the London Illustrated News from April 1844, was a report on the 98th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden. These days I would head to Wikipedia to find out about such events. Here’s a link to the relevant entry (and it has many further links, you could spend hours on this one topic!), from which I’ve borrowed the reproduced painting by David Morier. Wikipedia says that some 50 ‘Hanoverians (English) died in the Battle, with 1250 Jacobites (Highlanders) being killed. It’s odd how over the years the stories of such events can be differently reported. I reproduce below the 1844 version of events, from which you will note that 600 deaths on each side were reported. Though the Wikipedia entry is much more comprehensive, I wonder which version is more accurate.
But after reading this I can only marvel at our modern day ‘free passage’ to Scotland and am saddened by the ongoing conflicts in such potentially wonderful parts of the world as Afghanistan.
THE BATTLE OF CULLODEN
“Drummossie Muir, Drummossie day,
A waeful day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear,
My father dear and brethren three.”
Tuesday last was the 98th anniversary of the celebrated battle fought on the estate of Culloden, about three miles north-east of Inverness, on April 16, 1746, and which is memorable as having put an end to the Rebellion. On the night preceding the Highlanders had intended to surprise the Duke of Cumberland, in his camp, at Nairn; but this scheme having failed, they took up a position on the Moor of Drummossie, their left wing towards the house of Culloden, where the declivity of the hill was soft and marshy, their right slightly protected by a stone wall. The ground was unfavourable, and the Highlanders were weakened by hunger and fatigue, so that it had been judged expedient to withdraw to the hills; but the difficulty of finding subsistence for the men, and the importance of protecting Inverness, determined the Prince Charles Edward, and his councillors, to venture a battle. Drawn up in a line in the position above mentioned, while waiting for the signal to charge, the Highlanders suffered greatly from the English artillery. Exasperated, at last, beyond endurance, the centre rushed forward; and the last charge of the Highlanders, under their patriarchal discipline, and with their peculiar arms, is thus vividly described in Chambers’s “History of the Rebellion” :-
“A lowland gentleman, who was in the line, and who survived till a late period, used always, in relating the events of Culloden, to comment with a feeling of something like awe upon the terrific and more than natural expression of rage which glowed in every face and gleaned in every eye, as he surveyed the extended line at this moment. Notwithstanding that the three files of the front line of English poured forth their incessant fire of musketry; notwithstanding that the cannon, now loaded with grape-shot, swept the field as with a hail-storm; notwithstanding the flank fire of Wolfe’s regiment, onward went the headlong Highlanders, flinging themselves into, rather than rushing upon, the lines of the enemy, which indeed, they did not see for the smoke till involved among their weapons. It was a moment of dreadful, agonising suspense, but only a moment, for the whirlwind does not sweep the forest with greater rapidity than the Highlanders cleared the line. They swept through and over that frail barrier almost as easily and instantaneously as the bounding cavalcade brushes through the morning labours of the gossamer which stretch across its path; not, however, with the same unconsciousness of the events! Almost every man in their front rank, chief and gentleman, fell before the deadly weapons which they had braved; and although the enemy gave way, it was not till every bayonet was bent and bloody with the strife.
“When the first line had been completely swept aside, the assailants continued their impetuous advance till they came near the second, when, being almost annihilated by a profuse and well directed fire, the shattered remnants of what had been, but an hour before, a numerous and confident force, at last submitted to destiny by giving way and flying. Still, a few rushed on, resolved rather to die than thus forfeit their well-acquired and dearly-estimated honour. They rushed on, but not a man ever came in contact with the enemy. The last survivor perished as he reached the points of the bayonets.”
It is said, that in one place, where a very vigorous attack had been made, their bodies were afterwards found in layers three or four deep.
The right wing of the Highlanders, advancing at the same time, was attacked in flank by the English cavalry and broken; the left withdrew almost without sharing in the fight. About 600 men were killed on each side. The battle, however, was decisive; the Prince fled to the mountains, and some days after, gave notice to his partisans to provide for their own safety, declining to continue the contest with 8000 men, who were ready to meet him in Badenoch. This memorable event has given rise to many plaintive popular songs; a verse from one of which, pathetically lamenting the horrors of war, has been quoted above.