Month: August 2008

UK Trip August 2008: London

Continuing where we left off….

Having arrived in London safely, we caught a black cab to our hotel which was situated next to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. 

 
I was impressed! although I was not as impressed with the hotel inspite of its location.  Our itinerary was not really tied to anything, although the company had provided us with a voucher to go on the Thames River cruise as well as an open top bus ride. My itinerary really boiled down to HMS Belfast, Southwark and that was it! But, I had to make allowances for my work colleague, so we hopped a boat to take us down to where we needed to get a boat to bring us back to where we started from. 
 
I was also interested in things that float on the Thames, and there are quite a few apart from HMS Belfast. For starters there was the Queen Mary (no longer in London)

 

HMS President

and of course Wellington.

We took a stroll along the embankment too, and I found quite a few interesting memorials along the way, including the RAF and Battle of Britain Monument and the National Submarine War Memorial
 
We also saw Cleopatra’s Needle which was being refurbished. 
 
 
And of course the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
 
 
These were places that I had read about when I was young and now they were slap bang in front of me. It was a very strange feeling indeed. In 2013 I revisited most of these sites and saw them in a whole new light. (I have also used the original images in this blogpost rather than 2013 images).
 
The London Eye was tempting though, and I went to find out how you got a ticket, but there was a queue to get into the queue to buy a ticket so I gave it a miss! 
 
 
This part of the touristy thang completed we made our way back to the hotel. The weather so far had been lousy for photography, but it slowly started to improve once we started threading our way back. We walked along the river and crossed each bridge as we encountered them. It added more miles but gave us a great view along the way. 
  
 
My end destination was Southwark. I really wanted to see the area where my grandmother had grown up and much to my surprise the street still existed, and the address was still current, although the house was long gone. 
 
 
  
We also detoured past Southwark Cathedral, and I regretted not having a better look at it at the time, I did a blogpost about my 2013 visit to the Cathedral though, and saw what I wanted to. 
  
And then I was at HMS Belfast, and a ship I was hell bent on seeing! 
 
 
I did a complete blogpost on her and there are a lot of images taken on board during this trip and on my 2013 visit. By the time I was finished with her I was finished and I headed back to the hotel via Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
 
 
Pausing to have a look at the machinery used to raise the bridge. 
  
 
And while the Tower of London was amazing to see from a historical aspect I think I will always remember it from the Blood Swept lands and Seas of Red display that I saw in Nov 2014.
 
At some point my partner and I also saw a structure that we could not quite identify, but I would solve that in 2013 too.
  
The next day we hit the open bus tour, although I had already been out before breakfast taking a look at St Katherine’s Dock and the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill.
 
We bailed out at Trafalgar Square and walked around admiring this very historic place where so much has happened over the years.
  
 
and of course finding South Africa House was a nice surprise for my companion who had no idea it existed.  
 
 
and we just had to go through Picadilly Circus too
 
 
 and bailed out close by and spent some time browsing a music shop.  
 
Then it was time to return to our hotel and make preparations to get to our next destination which was High Wycombe. 
 
We bid London a sad farewell and I personally knew that I had to return here one day. In fact there were tentative plans for a return in 2012, but the collapse of our jobs flushed those plans down the loo. Fortunately I spent a month in London in 2013, so was able to experience much more of the capital, but that is another story altogether.
 
High Wycombe was tiring, I really wanted to get back to South Africa, and we were situated in an industrial area, away from anything worth seeing. The only thing that I did do is photograph my first cemetery in the UK, and even that one was disappointing. 
 
 
Then it was time for Spinach for breakfast as we boarded “Tinker Belle” for our flight back to South Africa.  
 
It actually felt good to be home, I was bushed. 
 
It had been a fascinating trip, mainly because of the short period in London. As for what I learnt? strangely enough quite a lot, although it was really wasted when the company chose to flush all the knowledge down the toilet. I would return to the UK in 2013, and that is where the majority of the blogposts now originate from.  This was just a very short glimpse at an experience that I never really forgot. Thanks Ryan and Gayle for the opportunity. 
 
Random Images: London and High Wycombe
 
uk725   
   
  uk1246 
  uk1253 
   
   
   
   
   

DRW © 2008-2019. Images recreated 06/03/2016


UK Trip August 2008: Manchester

I was fortunate enough to be sent to the United Kingdom in 2008 for training, and not too many people are as fortunate to be sent for something like this, especially considering how much leeway we were given on our trip. The first week we would be staying in Oldham near Manchester, Then we had a weekend in London and from there would move across to High Wycombe for another course. This post (nearly 7 years later) is more of a way to preserve some of the memories of the trip. 
 
We flew from Johannesburg with Virgin Airlines, and I have never forgiven them that spinach for breakfast! From Heathrow we caught a BMI flight to Manchester.
 
On our final approach to Manchester one of our party spotted a Concorde and immediately we started to hatch plans to get to see her. The aircraft was G-BOAC, and I did a blogpost about her awhile ago.
 

In fact I saw another of my favourite aircraft there, the AVR O146 – AVRO RJX100. I had flown on one of these in 2000 and they are really comfortable (at least I thought they were).

From there it was off to Chadderton where we would be staying at the local Premier Inn. Naturally, my itchy feet were making me want to explore instead of having the obligatory post flight nap. So after a quick meeting we split up and I headed in a direction that seemed like it would take me into town. I had done some reading and knew there was a war memorial not too far away, although I still had no idea where it was in relation to where I was. But, I was hopeful and after quizzing the hotel staff headed towards where the memorial was supposed to be.

This was mill country and there were a few old mills dotted around. You could usually spot them by their chimneys. Unfortunately most were abandoned or in various states of decay.

I do not really remember much about how I got to the memorial, I do recall cutting through a residential area and arriving in town (Oldham)

 

It was dead! Nothing was happening. But, I did not give up hope and vaguely headed in what I hoped was the right direction until I spotted a church spire in the distance and I headed towards that.

 

This was the Oldham Parish of Saint Mary with Saint Peter and it was the first inkling I had of the churches that I see all around me so many years later. It is a Grade II listed building and was built in the reign of William IV, and consecrated in 1830.

 

Back then I was still using a reasonably small digital camera and never considered taking better images of the church, I was more interested in the War Memorial which was nearby.

Having photographed the memorial I decided it was time to head off home, assuming I could find home. Looking at the map today I realised how far I had walked, and how unlikely it was that I would get home if I headed in the direction I assumed home was. I turned back and found a taxi to take me home, although I could not remember which Premier Inn we were staying at. (It turns out that it was on the edge of Chadderton.

I was bushed. And after a quick drink or two I headed off to bed. But somehow the sun refused to go down, and as the hotel was on the edge of a playing field people insisted on playing soccer outside!

 

I seem to recall we had the following day to ourselves, but I decided to refrain from venturing too far as my feet were still sore from the previous days folly. Besides, the breakfast at the hotel was stunning even if they smothered everything with baked beans.

There was a small shopping centre not too far away so I suspect I headed over there and looked around, but rationally there was not too much to see in the area.

 


I also popped up the road to the local Tesco, and bought a pair of socks there that I till use today! 


The next week we were on course, and in the evening we were taken to supper by various staff members and I was even fortunate enough to have the ubiquitous “sausage butty”.

The company we were visiting had their plant in a former mill and I was amazed to see some of the brick and tile work that still existed in the building. The former engine house was fabulous, with its green tiled walls, although I was probably the only person who appreciated those.

We did stop by in Royton one evening and I got a glimpse of a small UK city with those buildings that can sometimes astound.

 

 


and one evening we went into Oldham, but I did not get back to the War Memorial this time around.

 

 

And one evening we headed out to have supper at the Rams Head Inn in Denshaw, this was an interesting expedition as it happened at night and I got to mess around with the camera.

It is very pretty country out here, wild and the sort of place you expect England to look like all over.

 


And, as much as I was enjoying myself it was heading for time to leave, and I had to start considering our next move to London. I had persuaded the company to move us to London by rail and they had agreed. And we left early on the Saturday morning for Manchester Picadilly Station to catch the Pendolino to London.

 

 

The station has a cathedral-like roof and I wish that I had had more time to look at it, but a train was waiting and we boarded it and settled down for a trip on a train that was seemingly light years away from what we had back in South Africa; remember, the Gautrain was not in operation in 2008!

 

Then we were off, passing through Stockport, Stoke-on-Trent, Lichfield Trent Valley, Tamworth, Rugby, Milton Keynes and finally to Euston Station in London. We had arrived and London is in the next part of this blogpost.

Random Images
 

DRW 2008-2019. Images recreated 06/03/2016


The Old Roodepoort Cemetery

There were two reasons to visit the Old Roodepoort Cemetery, the first was to find the CWGC graves, of which there were 7 as well as 1 Rand Revolt grave. I was not looking forward to this cemetery as it is situated in a less than safe area of Roodepoort and has somewhat of a reputation as a hang out of squatters, tramps and other elements. However, my curiosity also kicked in because this is quite an old cemetery too, and probably has a lot of history behind it.

The cemetery is situated at Google Earth co-ordinates  26° 9.971’S  27° 52.427’E

It is difficult to pin down when I made my first visit to the cemetery as I have been there on a number of occasions, but by the looks of it my first visit occurred on 02/08/2008 which is the date  I am tagging this post to.  It would have been a Sunday too as I was not living on the West Rand at the time. 

My first impression was “Trap”.  The cemetery has a well defined set of concrete roads in it, and you enter in one gate and exit out another, but the roads are so narrow that turning around is almost impossible, and once committed to a path you are stuck in it until you exit, or you have to mount the pavement to turn around or reverse the whole way back. It is the perfect place for a car jacking or mugging.

I had a vague idea where the graves were, but they were a mix of standard headstones and CWGC stones. I would photograph what I could and then split as fast as I could and then decide what to do.

Like so many of these small cemeteries it is divided up into distinct areas/religions and has an attached “non-European” area and a separate Muslim cemetery behind it. The DR section being the one closest to the entrance and was the most treed of them all.

It is not an ugly cemetery, but a lack of maintenance and the litter and vandalised headstones and buildings leave it looking somewhat dingy and grubby. The office (or what is left of it) is no longer manned and probably hasn’t been for years.

The “non-European” section is really just a plot of ground with a few headstones. The CWGC one probably being the one in the best condition of all. It is separated from the “European” area by trees. 

Pano created with Autostitch

I recall struggling to find some of the private memorials and as I neared the exit I got more tense as there were a group of squatters in the area of the cemetery where I still had some graves to find, I usually try to keep close to my car too, but given how difficult it is in this cemetery I was even more concerned and decided to bring somebody with me next time around.

The Jewish section is a small block set close to the main gate with a small office dedicated to it. At some point this building got vandalised and when I was last there it had also had a fire and was really just a shell with a collapsing roof.

At some point the cemetery must have been getting full and the “New Roodepoort Cemetery” was opened in what is now Braamfischerville. I had graves in that one to find too and was just as concerned when I visited it for the first time. It was not an ugly cemetery and had some really nice headstones, but the area was dodgy and I was a bit apprehensive about straying too far from the office or my car. I have to admit though, the staff there were very helpful and re-assured me that I would be safe as long as I did not venture too far away.

One of the key features of this cem was a small ABW plot that held the graves and a memorial to members of the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders who lost their lives at Doornkop on 29 may 1900. 

I found the graves I was after quite easily, and the SADF era graves. During a later visit I explored the cemetery a bit further and was able to find 2 more Border War graves. Unfortunately though I did spend most of my time looking behind my back.

On my last visit the cemetery had expanded considerably and graves were encroaching on the SADF and military plot, but it is difficult to know what the situation is now. 

There are a number of small cemeteries out on the West Rand, ranging from Maraisburg Cemetery, to the small cemetery in Florida as well as the small one in Davidsonville, Hamburg, and Horizonview and these two associated with Roodepoort. 

The Muslim Cemetery associated with the Old Roodepoort Cemetery is behind the cemetery, but not accessible through it as a railway line crosses between the two cemeteries.

It is somewhat of a barren place, but still worthy of a quick look. Sadly though the area is also somewhat dangerous and I did not tarry too long.

I do not know why these places have been seemingly abandoned by those tasked with looking after them, technically they are fenced, but the fences mean nothing as long as there are no gates. I do feel for the families of those buried here though; visiting some of these places is downright dangerous, and as the demographics changed so access became much more problematic. Fortunately i was able to photograph the war graves so they have been documented, but a part of me still asks how many more Border War graves are in the New Roodepoort cemetery, I guess I will never know.

DRW, © 2008-2019. Created retrospectively 25/05/2016