Month: December 2016

Looking back on 2016

Many would agree that 2016 was not a good year, the world has become an even more dangerous place, and the political rumblings in many countries is cause for concern. In South Africa the corruption and incompetence gets worse, although local govt elections upturned a lot of apple carts. We also saw the death of a number of old school entertainers, and of course the happenings around Brexit and the new American President. Syria became a battle ground and sabres are being rattled. The biggest problem that we face though, is the proliferation of fake news sites and the gullibility of those who tag, share and like!

Amongst those who passed on in 2016: David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Prince, Debbie Reynolds, Douglas Adams, Ron Glass, Florence Henderson, Robert Vaughan, Arnold Palmer, Gene Wilder, Kenny Baker, Anton Yelchin, Muhammed Ali, Ronnie Corbett, Nancy Reagan, George Kennedy, Harper Lee, Bud Spencer, Shimon Peres, Fidel Castro, and John Glenn. (Complete list for 2016 at wikipedia)

I did not have a busy year, although there was a major spurt of activity in June when I went down to London. These are some of the highlights of my year.  

January:

It was a relatively quiet month, the biggest highlight for me being the rime frost that happened on the 20th. The winter days are quite short so I came and went in darkness which is why these images turned out the way they did. But, it is sad that the weather was the most exciting thing during that month.

February:

I paid a visit to Twyning, it was the first gravehunting expedition of the year and it was a long walk too,  

March:

Bredon was my chosen destination for March, and it too was a long walk away. 

April:

The most memorable event of that month was definitely the Wartime in the Cotswolds weekend held at the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway 

May:

May saw me once again at the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway  where they were holding their Festival of Steam.  Because I was in the area I also paid a fleeting visit to Winchcombe.  I will probably return to the town in 2017 as I will definitely love to do the Wartime Weekend again.

June:

This was my busiest month as I headed down to London to see the final arrival of the RMS St Helena. Subsequently the ship is being retained in service till 2018 so it turns out that this was not the end of the line for her. I also revisited Kensal Green, and did the museum thing at the V&A as well as the Science Museum. I returned to Tewkesbury exhausted. 

July:

In July we attended the Welland Steam and Country Fair, and it was the anniversary of 100 Years of Delville Wood.

August:

This month I attended the Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival and saw some amazing vehicles from the past. Fortunately the weather held out and it was not washed out like the previous year.

September:

I did not venture far from home as I was struggling with hip and back pain, so vegged at home and reminded myself that it was the anniversary of the sinking of the OSV Voortrekker

October:

The weather had started to turn by now as we headed into winter. I had a major nostalgia jag when I photograph a lot of Teddy Bears at the local craft market.

November: 

November is the month when military veterans take out their berets and caps and don their medals and poppies to Remember The Fallen. I also revisited St Nicholas Parish Church in Ashchurch

December:

And, I closed off the year with some Blundering around Bushley to photograph a CWGC grave 

And that was my year. Not a lot of excitement but I am seriously limited to what I can do as a result of the hip issue. The trip to Bushley has left me sore and that makes me very concerned. Given how I have battled this past year with the problem it does not auger well for the future.

If 2017 does not meet up to my expectations I am going to send it back under warranty. I should have done that with 2016, but I thought I would wait and see, but realistically it was not a good year at all.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 31/12/2016


Farewell Princess

A long time ago

In a galaxy close by

our Princess left us for another realm

She has left a large disturbance in the force 

And she will be missed by fans from all over the world

Yesterday the shocking news was announced that Carrie Fisher  had passed away following a cardiac event while en route to California from the United Kingdom.

The news, coming as it did after a year that saw the loss of so many talented people, was a blow to Star Wars buffs all over. We had lost our Princess.

Princess Leia was amongst the first science fiction heroines that “kicked serious ass” in a manner that appealed to male and female. A strong female character like her is not always easy to appreciate, the old MCP mindset says that women cannot be kicking serious ass, while parts of the female mindset says she should leave the ass kicking to the hero. Irrespective, the fact remains she was tough, she took no crap and she killed off Jabba The Hutt while clad in a slave girl outfit. She was a strong role model for girls who finally had somebody who stood up there and battled the bad guys just like the hero. Heck, she was the hero!  

I am an old school Star Wars fan, I grew up with the original 3 movies and they were what defined my outlook towards the canon. She was the one who told us that she would “rather kiss a wookie” and she probably did too. Unfortunately the 3rd movie saw much of her “kick assness” removed and she was a much softer and almost whimpish character. It mattered not though because she would always be our Princess. 

Carrie Fisher will probably always be remembered for her chelsea bun wearing hairstyle, and shooting storm troopers while dashing through the death star. But in real life she was a talented writer, producer, humourist and actress who battled drugs and a bipolar disorder. Once Star Wars was completed her career carried on although she will probably always be best known as Princess Leia.   

In her book, Wishful Drinking, she wrote about her eventual obituary: “I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”  Sadly, it was not her bra that let her down but her heart..

She will be remembered by us all and Star Wars will never quite be the same again. Our Princess has gone, leaving so many shallow,  selfie loving, vapid celebs behind who could not come close to her talent and would not be able to kiss a Wookie even if they could spell it.   . 

Rest in Peace Carrie Fisher (October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016)

*Update*

Debbie Reynolds, mother of Carrie Fisher passed away from a stroke a day after her daughter

© DRW. 2016-2018. Created 28/12/2016. 


Tewkesbury Railway Remnants

This post is really an expansion of the the original post I did called “Up and Down The Avon” which was supposed to deal with a trestle bridge and which has been expanded considerably since then. I have now decided to create a single post dealing with my findings. Some of the images from that original post will re-appear here as a result. 

The whole story behind the railway in Tewkesbury really center’s around the long closed Upton-upon-Severn line, and frankly I am not the expert in this endeavour. There is a wonderful website that explores Malvern’s Lost Railway much better than I can.   

This post will start out at Ashchurch for Tewkesbury, the current station that serves the town although it is nowhere near the town. 

Early morning charter tour train

Ashchurch used to be a major junction at one point, with lines heading in 4 different directions. A period map shows the basics of what was a very complex junction. Unfortunately I cannot put a date to this map

Tewkesbury would be left of the Junction and the line to Cheltenham will go downwards and Worcester upwards.  All that is left is the line to the right that terminates at the MOD Depot although it used to head towards Evesham.

There is also a water tower still to be seen near the station, but that is it.

That is the approach to what is left at Ashchurch, the line on the right curves off to the MOD depot.  

The trackbed of the railway line heading to Tewkesbury is now a cycle path, and I use it regularly. There is one small bridge that goes over the road that still has remnants of the steelwork from the railway

The cycle path with the small bridge heading towards Tewkesbury

The little footbridge on the cycle path from the road beneath. The steel girders are still in place as is the brickwork although the bridge is a jerry built effort.

The cyclepath looking towards the town.

Somewhere along this path the line would have split, one section to the right becoming the Upton-upon-Severn branch and the remaining line headed into town where it would terminate at what is now Station Street. This is now a parking lot and I believe part of the wall dates back to the original station.
Close to the split is what I believe was the former goods yard, its impossible to access because of the vegetation and for some strange reason is fenced off. It is a mass of foliage and this corner is the best image I have of it. Google Earth co-ordinates are:  51.995903°  -2.147396°
The line would continue a bit further bisecting the town and heading towards Healings Mill that straddles the Avon and Severn. 
There is an interesting plaque in town that ties into this line.
 From the station the line ran into Quay Street and onto the mill. 
Quay Street

Quay Street

The Avon is bridged by two bridges at the mill. 

Bridge over the Avon

Bridge over the Avon

This bridge was erected in 1822, and is really two bridges alongside each other. The slight arch of this bridge would have made rail traffic difficult, so a flat bridge spans the river next to this one and this flat bridge would have carried the rail traffic into the mill area.  

That ends this branch line and we now return to where the line splits at the cycle path.

Returning back to the cyclepath, the line takes to an embankment that is completely overgrown, although it is doubtful whether any lines are still on it. There is a small gap at “Gas Lane” but the bridge for it is gone. The embankment continues to where it ends in a buttress at Bredon Road.   

 
 
The image above I took from the embankment and you can see the trestle bridge over the marina in the distance. My neighbour says that originally there was no bridge up to the trestle, the embankment stretched all the way across to it and the road only came afterwards. However, I spotted an image in town that may scupper that theory. The road was always there and was spanned with a bridge. The embankment then continued onwards to where the trestle bridge is today, it then crossed the current marina, went over the viaduct to the tunnel then onwards. 
That is the bridge that spans the road, and the buildings on the left still exist. I doubt that the current trestle bridge over the marina is the original, although the butresses still exist. 

The line then continued onwards to a viaduct that still stands although it has been fenced off

 
Did trains really travel over this viaduct? it is in line with the Mythe tunnel entrance so it is entirely feasible, 
This image I took from the approach to the viaduct, and the Mythe tunnel is where the cars are parked, I do think there must have been some sort of embankment leading to the tunnel though, the distance is quite short and for a steam engine to climb from the tunnel to the viaduct in such a short space would have been difficult as the grade would have been quite steep.  The Mythe tunnel still exists although it is sealed. Unfortunately the door was not accessible as it was fenced off although I was able to zoom into it from the gate. 
  
I discovered the other end in December 2016 and it is bricked closed. The tunnel appears to be roughly 300 metres long. 
That concludes the physical remnants in the Tewkesbury area, however, in Toddington you will find the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway that used to be based in Tewkesbury. They have a number of relics from Tewkesbury that I will explore next time I am there. The 3 images of the signage were taken in their engine shed. 
That more or less concludes my relics for now. I still have exploring to do, but from a railway point of view there is not much left. Sadly a lot of the closing of this line was courtesy of the infamous “Beeching Axe” while some closures pre-dated it. Such is the way of small towns, railways and accountants.  Fortunately many closed lines provided the basis for successful heritage operations, although in the case of Tewkesbury it did not. 
An interesting snippet from the British History website has the following:  
“A branch railway from the main line at Ashchurch was built under an Act of 1837 and opened in 1840. Until 1844, when the branch was extended to the Quay, the carriages were drawn to and from Ashchurch not by steam-engines but by horses.  In the same period Tewkesbury was losing its former coach traffic, and in 1845 the diversion of the London Hereford mail to the route through Gloucester and Ledbury deprived Tewkesbury of its last four-horse coach.  In 1861 the Malvern & Tewkesbury Railway was built  from the Tewkesbury branch through the Mythe, passing by a short tunnel under the Mythe Tute. It crossed the Avon by a cast-iron bridge designed by William Moorsom.  The station on the new line became Tewkesbury’s passenger station, and the branch station became the goods depot. Passenger services were withdrawn from both lines in 1961; the permanent way across the Mythe was removed in 1964, and in the same year goods services between Tewkesbury and Ashchurch were withdrawn.”
 
© DRW 2016-2018. Created 27/12/2016, added pic of Ashchurch 13/01/2016, 21/02/2017