musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Gloucestershire

Curse this war!

Its that time again… Wartime in the Cotswolds with the GWSR (Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway). The theme? The Battle of Britain. So grab your gas mask and tin hat and follow me….

Last year I attended a similar event and it was amazing and I was really hoping for the same on this day. The weather has been changeable this whole week, but there was the promise of sunshine for later in the day with no rain in sight. I headed out early in the morning to grab a bus to Cheltenham and another bus to Cheltenham Race Course station. On the way I spotted Captain Mainwaring on his way to the station too!

I just hope that Private Pike isn’t lurking in the bushes somewhere.

Although the Americans had set up camp outside the station and that can only mean silk stockings and chewing gum for the locals. 

ARP had set up their barricades too and were checking tickets and dishing out ID cards. Naturally they were looking out for Fifth Columnists too. 

Unfortunately our train was the class 117 diesel railcar  that I always seem to end up travelling on. http://www.gwsr.com/planning_your_visit/what_to_see_and_do/DMURailcar_1.html She is not my favourite rail vehicle. I would have preferred a steam engine, but this was wartime after all, we have to make do with what we have.

The train was full, and many of the passengers were dressed in period clothing or military uniforms, it never ceases to amaze me how the British tackle something like this with so much enthusiasm, and I would really like to thank them for paying homage to a bygone age with so much enthusiasm.

And then we were off….  Our destination: Gotherington

The view out of the window was Britain in Spring, it was really beautiful, especially the huge fields of Rapeseed.

Gotherington was like a military camp, and I expect will remain like that until tomorrow when the event finishes.

It is a very quirky place and one day I must really bail out and have a look around. 

The next stop on the line is Winchcombe, I had visited the town in May last year and I was considering doing it again today, although it really depended on train timings and my own energy levels.  At Winchcombe the train to Toddington stops and waits for the train from Toddington. It is single line working between stations and a token system is used to ensure that accidents don’t happen.

It too had been taken over by the military who were cleaning their rifles and doing what soldiers have done since the days of yore.

Curse this war! how much longer must it go on?

As an aside, there was even a military dentist in his own private rolling surgery, just ready to declare you dentally fit in 7 days!

And then we heard a whistle in the distance and the oncoming train appeared around the bend.

The loco in charge was 4270, a  “42xx” class tank locomotive. She was running bunker first to Cheltenham Race Course, and would carry on with her journey once we had departed. 

The next stop was Toddington, which is really the current endpoint of the GWSR, although they do run trains to Laverton halt further up the line, and in a few years time there will be another station on the line as they extend the rail network closer to the mainline all the time.   Toddington is also where the loco shed is and the majority of displays were being held. There were a few that I had my eye on too..

As usual there was a mixed bag of cars, military vehicles, squaddies, GI’s, airmen, sailors and all manner of uniform on display, along with the usual bag of stalls selling militaria or hobby-est items. There was even a tank just in case there was an invasion.

I had seen her last year at the Welland Steam and County Fair, and just in case I need a reminder, she is a M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer.

The jaw dropper however was the reproduction Spitfire that was on display. I am struggling to find a definitive identification of the aircraft, but it appears as if she is based on the aircraft that Johnnie Johnson flew (MKIX EN398). More information on the “Spitfire Experience” may be found on their website. 

And yes, the engine did run while I was there and it was awesome. Unfortunately it did not run at full power, but it was really something to experience.

Meanwhile, back at ground level, I strolled down to the workshops to see whether there was anything there that interested me. Fortunately it was not a wasted trip because there were a number of diesels in the yard.

GWSR has a number of heritage diesels and they are quite handsome beasties, although against a steam engine they are reasonably insignificant.

Class 47376 (D1895), a Brush Type 4.

Class 37 no: 37215

Class 26043 (D5343)

Class 45/1 45149 (D135)

At the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway they too had a train at work, although I did not go for a ride this time around. They were using “Tourska” , a 1957 Chrzanow build with works number 3512.

There was still quite a lot to see so I did the rounds once again, hoping to find a few warships for my collection, but there were lots of distractions.

It was really time to head towards Winchcombe, the train at the platform was headed by the 1950 built 7820 Dinmore Manor, a Manor class light mixed traffic locomotive.

We were supposed to leave at 11.30, but somewhere along the line the timings of the trains went haywire and we sat for an additional 20 minutes. I know there is a war on but….  

Winchcombe was crowded, and our altered timing meant that we had to wait for the train from Cheltenham Spa to arrive before we could leave. 

Fortunately ENSA was at hand to provide some wartime melodies, but I think seeing Laurel and Hardy really made my day.

And then I got suspicious because I spotted Oliver Hardy on the cellphone!  It was another fine mess he got Stanley into.

I had decided to not continue into Winchcombe because the messed up times just didn’t fit in with my plans. Remember, Cheltenham Race Course is not the end of the line for me. I had to get back into Cheltenham, catch a bus to Tewkesbury and then hoof it to where I lived. It was a long stretch ahead of me and I was tired.

Then the air raid siren went off……

and once again I could not help think of what it was like living in wartime Britain. The ever present threat of aerial bombing, rationing of food, the long lists of casualties, propaganda, soldiers, aircraft overhead, overzealous ARP members, children being evacuated, family that never returned home. This was the reality between 1939 and 1945, this small experience that I had was nothing like the real thing, and I am fortunate that I did not experience it. When I see the people dressed in their period uniforms and glad rags I cannot help but think that these were the sort of people that took it on the chin and gave it back 100 times more. I suspect the British enjoy these re-enactment events because they are reminded of what their parents and families went through in those dark hours of war. It is their way of saying: “We have not forgotten, and never will.”

And as the Home Guard peddled along the platform on his way to the NAFI, I felt a tinge of pride because I understood what Churchill meant when he said….

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

And then the train departed for Cheltenham Race Course with me on it.

The War was over, the Battle of Britain won. 

The event was great, although last years was definitely better, there was much more to see and experience than there was this time around. The delayed trains were an irritation because you do not want to be stuck in a place like Winchcombe of Toddington with no way of getting home. And of course my own stamina is not as good as it used to be. I tire very easily nowadays and that’s not a good thing at all. Still, sign me up for next year if I am still around. Now where did I leave my tin hat?  

© DRW 2017. Created 22/04/2017

Updated: 27/04/2017 — 18:07

Return to the UK

On the 6th of April I packed my gear and prepared to go home from South Africa. I still struggle with the idea that South Africa is no longer home, and that I really was doing things the other way around. I was flying Virgin Atlantic again, and would use the Gautrain to get to the airport.

The weather had been typical summery weather (even though it was Autumn), but rain was forecast for the later that week, although by the 6th the rains came.  

Driving in Johannesburg is a challenge, the roads are crowded, potholes are large, idiots abound and law enforcement is usually absent. The highways are really a free-for-all and at times a giant parking lot. After having lunch it was time to go and my friends took me to Marlboro Gautrain station where I caught the airport link to Oliver Tambo International Airport. It started raining just as we left and fortunately we were heading east as opposed to west where the traffic was bumper to bumper. I did attempt photography from the front seat but the combination of rain, vibration and everything else rendered the images useless.

Once at the airport things got really slow as we queued to go through immigration. So much so that by the time I got through it the gates for boarding were open and I was not able to take any images in and around the international departures. The one thing I do recall was the exorbitant price for half a litre of  water (R35), at one vendor and R10 at the duty free.

The flight was scheduled for over 10 hours and we took off at 8.30ish and it wasn’t too awful and there were just over 250 people on board. It always amazes me how some people consider 5 items of luggage as being perfect for carry on luggage.  Service was much better on this return flight than it had been on the departure flight and I didn’t watch too much though. A rewatch of Rogue One was in order and I also took in Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival. Those two were really good watches and I recommend them both. 

I had an aisle seat in the centre aisle and for once I actually remembered to show what food was available on the aircraft and the menu is to the left of the text. I had the Bobotie and the eggs for brekkies and they were not great. 

I managed quite well during the flight and my bladder did not make a nuisance of itself for once, and I did not sleep at all as we headed North with the longest stretch over Africa.

We landed around about 6.30am and after a long queue at immigration I had my baggage and was on my way to the Heathrow Express station to catch my ride to Paddington. I had used the Heathrow Express to get to Heathrow initially, but wanted to use the Heathrow Connect for this trip so that I knew it for the future. The Express does not cut too much time off the trip to Paddington, but is more than double the price of the Connect option. The first time I landed in the UK I had used the Tube to get me to my destination, although that made more sense considering I was heading to South London whereas now I had to get to Paddington Station.

The train is comfortable and got quite crowded as we got closer to Paddington and it appears as if it is used by a number of locals to commute with. The cost for a ticket is £10.30 (or thereabouts)

At Paddington I finally stopped and grabbed a breather. I had almost 3 hours to kill before my next train to Cheltenham Spa was due. It was too short a time to go into London but very long if you have time to spare. If I had not had luggage with me I would have spent the time in reckless abandon in London on what was a really nice Spring day. I had deliberately planned the train time to be able to deal with any eventualities or delays along the way.

Paddington Station is an interesting space, especially when it comes to the roof. And, while there is not a large variety of trains in it you do get unique images if you look for them.

I am quite proud of seeing 4 HST’s under one roof on the same day!

The new shopping area is also open and I found that they had installed a Paddington themed shop in it too. 

I also found a neat Paddington shaped collection box in the shop and was able to donate some of the heavy change that I was accumulating along the way.

Paddington Station can be very full at times, and there is a constant hussle and bustle as trains arrive or depart. My 11.36 train appeared on the board at roughly 11H10, and was listed as “preparing”. 

They put up the platform number roughly 10 minutes before scheduled departure and then there was a mad rush as we all headed to the platform for our train. 

I arrived in Cheltenham Spa close to 13H30 and managed to grab the bus to Clarence Street Bus Station and then a bus to Tewkesbury where I found that there was no real way to get home with my luggage unless I hung around to 15H45 for a taxi or 15H17 for the local bus that goes through the area where I live. It was too far to hoof it with luggage though so once again I waited. 

It was all done and dusted. I had used 8 trains, 2 aircraft and 3 buses on this trip, I had covered a lot of kilometres, and discovered that even though I had last driven 3 years ago, still knew how to drive. Unfortunately my trip was not about pleasure and more about reality, it was not a holiday either, although I did get to renew acquaintances with friends I had last seen in 2014. 

South Africa has changed and is constantly changing as people get more cheesed off with the powers that be. At some point something is going to have to be done. The events of 7 April show that more and more people are getting very unhappy with the status quo. Whatever happens I just hope that it does not involve violence. 

And, to make matters worse it is back to work on Monday.

Random Images.

© DRW 2017. Created 08/04/2017

Updated: 19/04/2017 — 19:35

Photo Essay: Just in Time

I won’t say I am an expert on clocks, but I do appreciate the engineering that goes on inside one. Many years ago I used to work for Transnet in Germiston and I was responsible for the very decrepit station clock; I was not amused. 

This short photo essay really starts out about an old clock in Tewkesbury, and then heads off on a tangent all of its own. 

Situated on the outside of what is now a funeral directors, the clock is mounted on an elaborate bracket that sticks out into high street.

I have seen a number of similar clocks in the towns and cities I have visited in the UK, and way back then a public clock would have been very useful to townsfolk that did not have the convenience of a wrist watch or cell phone with which to tell time. 

Age? in this we are lucky because affixed to the side of the clock is a small sign.

Does it still work? yes it does; because a bit further up high street is the clock above the Town Hall. Although this image was not taken today, the time on the clock above was the same as that below.

A bit higher up in town there is a nice clock on top of the Library. I do not know how many times I have walked past the building and never really noticed it before. 

Clocks elsewhere.

There is a very nice public clock on the House of Fraser in King William Street, London

and a station clock in Victoria Station.

and Waterloo Station.

Somewhere in London, St Paul’s is in the background and I was in the Bank area, so it is somewhere there. 

I photographed this beaut in Birmingham, and as a bonus it has the 3 balls that indicate a pawnbroker.

Now, about those other time pieces:  many towns had clocks in towers, and many are loosely based on Big Ben in London.

Salisbury had one on the outskirts of the town centre in Fisherton Street, and it is a very interesting structure.

On the side of the small structure at the base of the tower were two indicators of what used to stand on that site before. 

At the time I did a double take because that was not the sort of thing you expected to see on a building. However, on the other side of the structure, and half covered by foliage is another sign that explains why the image below was there.

I rest my case. Unfortunately, the placing of this plaque means that unless you are lucky you would never know what secret this part of the town was used for in days gone by. The proximity to the river would have made that gaol a damp and miserable place to be locked into.

There is a really nice clock tower in Worcester, although it is not in the centre of town.

Lichfield also has one of the grand clock towers, and one day I made a quick trip to it to see what it was like up close and personal.

There are two plaques that can date this structure.

The Crucifix Conduit? In St John Street, next to the Library is a water fountain that may provide a clue.

The filenames of the Lichfield images are all marked “Birmingham” and that is where we will head to now; because there is another clock tower of interest in that city.  Called “The Chamberlain Clock”, it was unveiled during Joseph Chamberlain’s lifetime, in January 1904.

This clock ties into South Africa and Joseph Chamberlain, and it is worth reading the article about how Joseph Chamberlain and Alfred Milner  helped to drag South Africa and Great Britain into a long and costly war that devastated the country; and created rifts that would never heal. “Chamberlain visited South Africa between 26 December 1902 and 25 February 1903, seeking to promote Anglo-Afrikaner conciliation and the colonial contribution to the British Empire, and trying to meet people in the newly unified South Africa, including those who had recently been enemies during the Boer War” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Chamberlain#Tour_of_South_Africa)

He is buried in nearby Key HIll Cemetery 

Heading back South again we are suddenly back in Southampton, and another clock tower of interest, although it is more of a monument than a dedicated clock tower. This clock is no longer where it was originally erected,  

The monument was designed by Kelway-Pope and bequeathed to Southampton by the late, Mrs Henrietta Bellenden Sayers, After 45 years in its original location in Above Bar it was then moved to its present site in 1934 when roadworks were being carried out in the city centre. 

There are two plaques on the clock, as well as a small drinking fountain. The first plaque dates from when it was inaugurated,

while the second is above the drinking fountain.

The clock is situated on a triangular island at the east end of Cobden Bridge in Bitterne, between St Deny’s Road and Manor Farm Road (Google Earth  50.924432°,  -1.376106°) . 

Southampton still has a clock tower in its City Hall, but I really prefer the one above.

While living in Southampton I attended a job interview in Surbiton, and it was there where I spotted the Coronation Clock. 

I did not really investigate the structure, but did manage a photograph of the plaque.

More information about the Coronation Clock many be found at http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/art/architecture/johnsonj/4.html

The seaside town of Weymouth has a clock tower too, although again I did not really investigate it as I had limited time available.

Known as the Jubliee Clock, it was erected in commemoration of the reign of Queen Victoria in 1887. Originally positioned on a stone base on Weymouth sands, in the 1920s the Esplanade was built around it to protect the sands from the encroachment of shingle from the eastern end of the beach. The clock is a Grade II listed building.

Bath Abbey has a clock in the Spire that we saw from inside, I seem to recall it faced the municipal offices. 

It really reminded me of those days when I used to fix that clock on Germiston Station, although I am sure that the Abbey clock was less decrepit than the Germiston Station clock. 

And having said all that I shall now head off into the sunset. I am fortunate to have seen these buildings with their clocks and plaques. Generally they are ornate structures, and many are very old and have acquired listed status. Yet, in our modern world they are anacronisms from a different age. We are all so tied up in our plastic devices that can do almost anything, that we miss the beauty right under our noses. 

I am sure as I wade through my images of London I will find more clocks and towers to add to here, after all. I still have to consider the mother of them all…

But that’s another story for another time.

 

© DRW 2013-2017. Created 22/01/2017 

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 18:58

It is only desultory snow

Yes it is true, it “snowed” last night, actually that may not be quite true, if anything we had a desultory fall of white stuff that may have been snow, sleet, or dandruff. It is really hard to say with this stuff. The weather had been stormy in the UK these past few days, and my weather app warned that Thursday would be interesting weatherwise.

By the time I left work last night it was just slightly cold and the roads were wet but there were no snowmen in the offing.

Apparently, early this morning round about 4 am is when it happened. I heard and felt nothing.

The results were apparent when I left for work.

The roads and tarmac were covered in a thin layer of snow, even some of the cars had a dusting

Sadly though this was NOT impressive stuff!

In fact it reminded me a lot of “the winter of ’12” and that only lasted for 5 minutes  

What I found strange was that there was none of this “snow” on the grass, it was only on the tar and pavements. I would have expected that the residual heat from the black tar would have melted what there was reasonably quickly, leaving the greenery covered. Alas that did not happen.

There were scattered patches though:

But not the sort of stuff that would make me ooh and aah, still, it was better than nothing, and the cycle track did look kind of nice.

Although it did look very much different on the 30th of October

That very spectacular bush is now quite limp after its glorious burst of colour.

And that concludes the weather. We now return you to our regular broadcast.

© DRW 2017. Created 13/01/2017

Updated: 18/02/2017 — 12:51

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. 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 except for images of the demolished grain store.
Sadly a lot of the closing of this line was not by the infamous “Beeching Axe” 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.
 
© DRW 2016-2017. Created 27/12/2016, added pic of Ashchurch 13/01/2016, 21/02/2017 
Updated: 11/04/2017 — 19:22

Blundering around Bushley

The winter weather was decidely pleasant when I set out for the village of Bushley in Warwickshire, I had one CWGC grave to photograph so it was worth the walk to get there.  However, this was really a test to see how well I could cope with an extended walk like this. Unfortunately I have been suffering with unspecific hip and back pain and that has really curtailed my meanderings in the countryside. The church of St Peter is just over 3km away via the Mythe Bridge, which is not really far until you factor in the return walk and the gallivanting I had planned for my return trip. 

The route encompasses the magnificent Mythe Bridge that I had photographed last year, 

crossing the River Severn

and then following the signs until you reach the village which is in Warwickshire as opposed to Gloucestershire.

The church is easy to find too, it is the highest point there.

The church of St Peter was rebuilt in 1843 by Canon Dowdeswell and consists of chancel, north and south transepts, nave and west tower and spire, it is a Grade II listed building and was designed by Dr Edward Blore & Sir Gilbert Scott.

The graveyard is in a reasonable condition and I spotted a number of 1700’s graves in it, which means that there was a church here for many years before the current building was erected.

My CWGC grave was easy to find, and I also found one private memorial.

The War Memorial is affixed to the outside wall of the church and covers both world wars.

I am always curious as to what these parish churches look like inside, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the church was unlocked.

The building inside is much smaller than it looks from the outside, but it is a very beautiful church on the inside.

There are a number of wall memorials to members of the Dowdeswell family and a few floor memorials but I could not get a clear image of those.

 The Font may date from the late 12th century, while the organ was erected in 1908.

Time was trickling away and I needed to start making tracks out of here, I paused at the Nativity scene in front of the pulpit. Christmas was upon us, and it is a very special time in any church.

I returned to the churchyard and took more photographs.  

As can be seen the churchyard is higher than the surrounding pavement, which ties into the fact that there are more people buried here than reflect in the 177 memorials in the churchyard with a total of 352 names.

The registers for the church go back to 1538, and the oldest date on a memorial is 1633.

The churchyard does have an extension next to it, although that is nowhere near full.

Then it was time to head back to the Mythe Bridge for my next bit of exploration.

On the right hand side of this image is the sealed off entrance to the tunnel that runs underneath this road. 

It was part of the former Upton-upon-Severn to Tewkesbury line and I had been looking for the other end of the tunnel half heartedly for some time. I now had a better idea of where it was, I just had to find it. There is a footpath that runs along the bank of the Severn and by the looks of it I would be able to reach the general area without doing too much bundu-bashing.

The footpath was muddy and there was not much to see in the bush, hopefully at some point I would at least find a clue as to where the tunnel entrance was. Eventually I reached a crossroad with gates in 3 directions, the bush had thinned a bit but was still quite thick, but after checking the gps I was probably close to where I suspected the tunnel was. I walked around the one gate and voila… there it was.

It was bricked up and the entrance door had no visible hinges or lock so was probably fastened from the inside.

Sadly the local graffiti artists had expounded on his occupation, but I was kind of cheesed off that they had found this spot before I had, To see inside that tunnel I would need a long ladder and that would not fit in my slingbag.

There was an interesting little brick hut next to the tunnel with a pipe leading to the roof, but I have no way of knowing what it was in aid of, although I suspect it may have had something to do with signalling.

Then it was time to leave this remnant of the railways and head off towards town and lunch. I had achieved what I had set out to do and that was great. I could now plot that railway almost to Ashchurch Station, I just had to find one more illusive item. 

I crossed to the bank of the Avon and took a quick pic of the King John’s Bridge which was commissioned by King John in the late 12th century.

and a strange dredger called Canopus. 

and finally a gap in the former railway embankment that leads to the tunnel. 

and then home was in sight. 

It had been a long walk, and I am tired and sore. I am afraid I will have to stop taking these extended walks because recovering from them is long. Fortunately tomorrow is a bank holiday so I can take it easy, but I may just head out to….

DRW 2016-2017. Created 26/12/2016

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 19:17

Brrr. Its chilly out there

The temperature around here has been steadily declining as we head into Winter, and this can produce some really spectacular results from a photographic point of view. The evening of the 29th saw the temperature fall to -5, and the results were really worth seeing. 

This is the cycle track that I use on my way to work every morning.  I was using my phone to take pics with although there was not a lot of light around as the sun was just starting to rise.

Before heading off to work I first stopped by at the local playing field to see what it was like. If I hadn’t known better I would have thought that it had snowed.

I leave earlier in the mornings nowadays so the sun is really still rising, and the pics I took were over a period of about 15 minutes.

The spiders were not having a lot of fun either.

and the leaves were edged with frost

The field next to the cycle track was a mass of white, and looked beautiful.

The teasles had also come to the notice of the frost and they too were covered.

The small stream that feeds into the Carrant Brook runs alongside the cycle path and it was frozen, I photographed it but the image I took the next day was a much better one.

What amazed me was how many cobwebs there were in this field, you don’t normally notice them, but when frost like this arrives they become very visible.

I will not even contemplate how many spiders may be involved in creating those webs, but then nature does find ways to balance this all out. In a few weeks this will all be under water and all the webs will be gone and the spiders washed downstream. 

The next day was not as spectacular though, and it has gradually been warming since then. But, on the 20th January similar conditions existed and I took some pics. I knew more or less what to expect and what to look for and when next the temperature plummets like this you can be rest assured  I will be keeping a beady eye open and my camera handy.

And if that just happens to be on a weekend you can bet I will be heading to the local cemetery to see what I can see. 

I love winter, the cold may be horrible, but the light is spectacular and the effects of the weather make for wonderful photographic opportunities, if you can deal with frozen fingers and snow on your nose. 

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 01/12/2016

Updated: 13/12/2016 — 07:43

United Reformed Church Burial Ground, Tewkesbury

I originally read about this graveyard while researching other possible sites of interest in Tewkesbury, and to be frank I mixed it up with another potential site close by. However, thanks to my sharp work colleague I was able to confirm the location of the graveyard, but was not able to physically get into it to photograph it.

The graveyard is situated behind the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Barton Street, and is not accessible except through the Kingdom Hall front gates. I did try to see whether access was available from the back, but to no avail.

I reconnoitred the surrounding alleys and possible access points, hoping that one day it would be open and I could get behind the building, but that never happened and I then decided that the best thing to do was to go there just before a service and see if I could find somebody who would let me take a quick look.  The Sunday service was at 9.45 so it was do-able and that is why I am writing this post. 

The graveyard is not a large space but it is full, and surrounded by walls that make access impossible. It does not back onto an accessible piece of land, although the area behind it is waste land that is overgrown and unused. Could that have been part of the graveyard? 

It is hard to know how many are buried here, and there is no space for additional graves,  A number of headstones have been laid against the walls of the classroom wing, and I suspect that some may have been wall memorials from when this was a United Reformed Church, but that is speculation on my part only.  The marker below is particularly interesting as it commemorates the wife of the  pastor of the original church. It could be the pastor is also buried here somewhere. Sadly not all the headstones are legible and a number are in a poor condition. 

Overall though the graveyard is in a surprisingly good condition because it is rarely disturbed, the person I spoke to said that they do clean it up and clear any litter or detritus.

The original building dates back to 1820, while the classroom wing was added in 1836 and 1839. It is a grade II listed building

There were a number of low headstones with only initials and a year on them. I have seen these before and usually they were footstones of a grave, but I cannot wonder whether these are not the graves of very young children or babies. A glance at the register may provide an answer, that is assuming a register does exist. In the meantime, who was EH, MAH, LH and JH? Are their ancestors buried here? do descendants still live in Tewkesbury? 

And then it was time to leave as the service was about to start. I did find out that the service ends around about midday and was invited to stop by to have a look at the interior of the church and I may just take them up on that offer. My special thanks to the kind people of the Kingdom Hall for permission to look at the graveyard, 

Update: 04/12/2016

I returned to the Kingdom Hall a week later and shot new images in the glorious sunlight that we had on that day. These images replace the originals here. 

I was also able to see inside the building and it bears no real resemblance to the original, but then it had been altered a number of years ago, although I believe aspects of the original chapel still exist, but it has since been blocked off by the suspended ceiling. 

Once again I was struck by the friendliness and helpfulness of the members of the Kingdom Hall who went out of their way to assist me in my quest. It is such a pity that many of the conventional parish churches that I have been in had not learnt that lesson. Thank you.

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 27/11/2016. Images replaced 04/12/2016

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 19:26

Let there be light

A gazillion years ago; when I was a wee lad, Christmas had a certain appeal because not only was it about goodies but because it was also about spirit. Part of the ritual would have been a trip into Johannesburg city to “look at the lights”. Way back then Johannesburg went over the top with decorating the town and transforming a mad place into something magical for kids such as myself. The OK Bazaars was famous for the display that they erected, it drew vast hordes of people and naturally must have cost a small fortune. But the irony was that after hours trading was not allowed so they could not tap into that captive audience. 

Then they scaled it down and stopped it altogether. 

This year I had a late afternoon appointment in town and because it gets dark really quickly now I would be in town when it was dark and I would be able to see the Christmas lights in Tewkesbury.

night-061

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In the image below you can see the War Memorial, and barely 2 weeks ago we were standing at the memorial Remembering the Fallen. 

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The lights were not very impressive because there was really a lack of colour in them. But! it was better than nothing. 

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 24/11/2016

Updated: 14/12/2016 — 19:55

Found in the bushes at Northway

The other day, while talking with a co-worker he mentioned a monument in the bushes at Northway. When I originally moved to Tewkesbury I lived in Northway, and the one major artefact of interest there is the former house that has been turned into a pub called “The Northway”. A small shopping centre has a branch of co-op and a pharmacy as well as a pet products supplier. (there used to be an atm, but they stole that recently).

The house is not an ugly one, and is not all that large, but is does stand out amongst the plan built houses all around it.  

Unfortunately I have not been able to find a decent history of the house and how it fitted into the local community, or even when it became a pub, but the fate of many of these old buildings is to either become a pub or care home or yuppie pads. From what I can see, Northway House belonged to William Woodward and may have been built by him and it become a hotel by 1955. (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol8/pp172-188)

It is a Grade II listed building and has been descirbed as follows: “Former private house now public house. Dated and initialled. ‘W.W. 1851’ (William Woodward) on limestone shield on right gable end. Blue lias with ashlar quoins. Fishscale ceramic tile roof. Blue lias stacks with ashlar quoins. Wall blue lias with brick piers. Rectangular plan to house with extensions to right of entryway front. 2½ storeys. Symmetrical, 3-windowed facade to primary body with gabled projecting central bay with central round- headed entryway with keystone. Part-glazed double door within porch. Canted oriel window above. Two-light round-headed sash windows to flanking bays within limestone surrounds. Hoodmoulded with console supports over ground floor Windows. Return, left, two bay windows to ground floor with pierced parapet. Two-bay extension to right of entryway front lit by 3-light stone-mullioned casements with glazing bars. Axial and gable end stacks. Wall adjoining right gable end of extension falls away gradually from c4.5 meters to c2m in height to right in a series of concave sweeps. Moulded cappings and ball finials to wall piers. ”  (http://www.sevenspots.co.uk/building/the-northway-and-attached-wall-northway/)

The artefact I was after must have been associated with the house and it’s gardens, and is situated on a small patch of land with numerous large trees on it. If you did not know it was there you would never have thought to have a look.

There was no visible inscription on it, and it was not a temporary structure because it does appear on an 1880 map as a “monument”. A query on facebook suggested that it was part of the formal gardens associated with Northway House.  But, it was mentioned that it may mark the burial spot of those consumed by scarlet fever; in which case it would explain the “monument”tag on the map. 

It is a mystery, and I doubt if we will ever know. The one possible solution is that way back when it was erected somebody said “Let’s erect a random plinth with no context, it will drive them batty 100 years from now.” 

And they were right.

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 22/11/2016

Updated: 14/12/2016 — 19:56
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