musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Hampshire

Portsmouth Cemeteries, a retrospective

This morning, while editing my Victoria Cross grave collection, I realised that I had not done a blog post on my visit to Portsmouth Highland Road and Milton Cemeteries, although I had done one on my flying visit to Kingston Cemetery.   This retrospective post is to rectify the matter so that I can carry on with my editing.

Portsmouth is not too far from Southampton, but I never really saw too much of it because I always ended up at the Historical Dockyard,  my first visit happed in April 2013, and it was really a taste of this great naval city and its large chunk of maritime history. My visit to Milton and Highland Road were for a different reason though. There are 9 Mendi Casualties buried in Milton Cemetery, and I really wanted to pay my respects. Fortunately one of the Hamble Valley and Eastleigh Heritage Guides was willing to take me to the cemetery to see the graves. 

I also had a map of the two cemeteries in my camera bag, and it showed the location of the Victoria Cross and George Cross graves in the cemeteries. I wanted to photograph as many of them as I could while I was there.

The day was not too sunny, but only rain would have deterred me in this quest. Our first port of call was Milton Cemetery (Google earth:  50.798967°,  -1.060722°). The cemetery is really closer to Fratton than Portsmouth, and when I had first checked it’s location I had considered it was do-able on foot from Fratton Station. 

Milton Cemetery Chapel

Plaque attached to the chapel

The cemetery  was opened in 1911, and contains 426 graves from both World Wars. The 1914-1918 burials are mainly in Plot 1, while the 1939-1945 War burials are widely spread throughout the cemetery.

8 Mendi casualties are buried in this row

Being a Royal Navy base and manning port, it is inevitable that many of the graves do have a naval connection, although Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery in Gosport contains the majority of naval graves in the area that I am aware of.

To be honest, Milton was not a very interesting cemetery, it was a bit too modern for my tastes, although there were a lot of interesting finds to be made in it. There are two Victoria Cross graves (Sidney James Day VC and John Danagher VC) and one George Cross grave (Reginald Vincent Ellingworth GC) in it. John Danagher VC was serving with Nourse’s Horse (Transvaal) during the first Boer War when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 16 January 1881 at Elandsfontein, near Pretoria.

The Cross of Sacrifice is also present in the cemetery, but I did not photograph any of the military graves apart from ones that interested me. It was really a fleeting visit as I did not want to take up too much of my host’s time. Fortunately he has an interest in cemeteries and is a member of the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery.

Random Images from Milton Cemetery

   
   
   

And then it was time to go and we headed off to Highland Road Cemetery which is about 1,5 km away as the crow flies. (Google Earth:  50.786022°,  -1.067228°).

Those heavy clouds did nothing to make the chapel stick out more, Oddly enough the Google earth image shows a marker in the middle of the graves tagged as “St Margaret C of E Church”. I do not know whether that tag is supposed to relate to the chapel. There is one more building in the cemetery and I suspect it may have once been the Dissenters Chapel or a Mausoleum. The history of the cemetery may be found on the Friends of Highland Road Cemetery website.

Highland Road Cemetery was definitely the nicer of the two cemeteries. It was opened in 1854 and contains war graves from both world wars. The 1914-1918 burials are spread throughout the cemetery while the 1939-1945 War graves are widely scattered.

There are eight Victoria Cross graves in the cemetery and I am pleased to say I found them all. (John Robarts.VCHugh Shaw. VCWilliam Temple. VCHenry James Raby. VC. CBHugh Stewart Cochrane. VCWilliam NW Hewett. VCIsrael Harding. VCWilliam Goate. VC.)

I am however very sorry I did not photograph the grave of Reginald Lee who is buried in the cemetery. He is remembered as being in the crows nest with Fred Fleet, on board the ill fated Titanic when the iceberg was sighted at about 11.40 p.m. on 14 April 1912, although it was Fleet not Lee who shouted the famous “Iceberg Ahead”. (Frederick Fleet is buried in Hollybrook Cemetery in Southampton)  

The Mausoleum above is for members of the Dupree family, 

I would have liked to have revisited this cemetery in better weather, but realistically it would have been a very long walk to get there. As hindsight always says “it is too late now”

Random Images from Highland Road Cemetery 

 
   
   
   

It was time to leave this place and head off home. It had certainly been a productive morning, and I liked those. I would revisit Portsmouth in the future, but I never managed to return to it’s cemeteries. 

© DRW 2013-2017. Retrospectively created 12/05/2017. With special thanks to Geoff Watts and Kevin Brazier. 

Updated: 24/05/2017 — 12:48

Remembering the Mendi 2017

Every year around this time I commemorate the lives lost in the sinking of the troopship Mendi on the 21st of February 1917. This year is no different and each year I know more about it.

Earlier this month I discovered a new Mendi Memorial in the churchyard of St John The Evangelist, Newtimber, Sussex. The memorial is to  “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” who perished on the Mendi.

TQ2713 : Memorial to Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase by Bob Parkes

Naturally I wanted to know more and took a good long look at my Roll of Honour and drew a blank. The big problem with the ROH is that it is really inaccurate, and there are a number of reasons for that. I consulted with the local co-ordinator of the South African War Graves Project and he replied as follows:

“This whole Mendi RoH is troubling, it seems to me that there were initial errors made in some of the names, errors crept in as a result of “tweaking” the facts and a general misunderstanding of the history of the casualties (probably due to the unavailability of any documentary evidence.) Many of these errors are now on memorials and plaques and seem to be copied from one to the next (or sourced from the internet) and how do we address that? We have forwarded copies of the documents at the SANDF Archive  that list the recruitment details of these chaps and I hope that these will eventually be filtered through the system and the graves/memorials amended. Lets see…

Typical documentation for SANLC

Henry Bokleni:   (7587)  His father was Bokleni and he was Henry. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. It seems he was a Chief/Headman at the time.

Richard Ndamase:  (9389)  His father was Ndamase and he was Richard. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Dumezweni so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Mxonywa Bangani:  (9379)  )  His father was Bangani and he was Mxonywa. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Nongotwane so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Isaac Williams Wauchope : (3276) His father was Dyoba (also known as William Wauchope). Isaac was a learned man, holding the posts of a teacher and a clerk/interpreter to the magistrate and married his wife Mina as per Christian rites. He was a minister at a church in Blinkwater when he got sentenced to 3 years in Tokai Prison for forgery. He enlisted in 16 Oct 1916 as a clerk/interpreter and not as a chaplain (it is unlikely he would have got the chaplain post as he had a criminal record) The Chaplain job went to Koni Luhlongwana (9580), who also died on the ship.

 It does not seem that he used his father’s name as surname at all during his lifetime and so the use of “Dyoba” is incorrect. The reasoning behind the attempts to ‘africanise’ his name remain a mystery.

New Memorial to the Mendi :  There is also a problem with the 670 (it was 646, including the crew) who died. We have identified the home provinces of some of the casualties – Transvaal (287), Eastern Cape (139), Natal (87), Northern Cape (27), OFS (26), Basutoland (26), Bechuanaland (8), Western Cape (5), Rhodesia (1) and SWA (1) so not all were from the Eastern Cape.”

The reality is that the memorial contains incorrect information, and it is perpetuated as there is no real way to correct many of the errors. I am relooking my own RoH and correcting it to conform with the data that SAWGP has.  

However, in spite of the errors, the fact remains that people have not forgotten the Mendi, in fact we probably know more about it today than we did way back in 1917. 

This year, apart from the Services of Remembrance being held at Hollybrook and Milton Cemeteries in Hampshire, a South African Warship, SAS Amatola, (a Valour Class Frigate) will lay a wreath at the site of the disaster.  On board her will be some of the relatives of the soldiers who died on board that ill fated troopship.

The Mendi has not been forgotten, it is now prominent in the military history of South Africa, The men who lost their lives have not been forgotten, the sea has claimed them, but their spirit and courage still resonates 100 years after they died. However, we need to broaden our vision and recognise that all of the men of the battalions of the SANLC and NMC who volunteered to serve overseas are remembered too, because the non combatant role that they played was equally important to the ending of the “war to end all wars” 

© DRW 2017. Created 21/02/2017.  Image of Newtimber Memorial © Copyright Bob Parkes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:22

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

Farewell HMS Illustrious

Tonight when I logged onto Facebook I saw the images of HMS Illustrious sailing on her final voyage to the breakers in Turkey. She is the last of her line, there will never be another like her. She is one of a multitude of ships that have come and gone over the years, become firm favourites with crew, family, friends and admirers. They exist for so many years and then one day that make that final voyage. Her sister, HMS Ark Royal made her final voyage on 20 May 2013, and when she sailed it was just a matter of time for Illustrious to follow.

I saw “Lusty” on 28 September 2014 when I was in Gosport and she was being destored prior to being laid up for possible further sale. The hope was that she would become a museum ship, but we all knew that it would never happen. Ships are expensive to preserve, and a ship her size would have really cost a packet. 

 
I was fortunate enough to have seen both Ark Royal and Illustrious, but sadly I never saw them when they were the pride of the fleet, only when they were at the end of the line. 
 Fair weather for your final journey fair maiden, thank you for your courageous service to your country and crew.  You will be missed. 

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 07/12/2016. 

Updated: 14/12/2016 — 19:49

Dry docked.

While rooting around amongst my pics I remembered that I had some interesting ones that I took in Gloucester in August 2015. I was hoping to get back to the city at some point, but then other things intervened and I never did (since rectified).
 
This post is about dry docks and ships, and it is really a series of images that I took way back in the 1980’s when we were in Durban and got the chance to go down into the Prince Edward Graving Dock. There were two vessels in the dock on that day and it was quite a thrill to walk underneath those tons of steel. The ships were Mobil Refiner (top image) and Regina D (lower image)

Mobil Refiner

Mobil Refiner

Regina D

Regina D

For those that are interested in these things, the principal dimensions of the dock are:

Overall docking length 352,04 m Length on keel blocks 327,66 m
Length on bottom 352,04 m Width at entrance top 33,52 m
Width at coping 42,21 m Inner Dock 138,68 m
Outer Dock 206,90 m Depth on Entrance MHWS 12,56 m
Depth on inner sill MHWS 13,17 m    
You really get a sense of scale when you get to see how big ships actually are, and these two were relatively small vessels compared to what is floating around nowadays.
 
Unfortunately my images are not great,  The problem with taking pics down there is that there are patches of deep shadow and patches of bright daylight which really messed with the camera (and operator). Then the conversion process from slide to jpg further degraded the images. But, it is a great memory.

graving02

 

Cape Town has the Sturrock and Robinson Dry dock, and Clinton Hattingh was kind enough to send me these images of the latter showing the keel blocks 

The Robinson Dry dock is the oldest operating dry dock of its kind in the world and dates back to 1882. The foundation stone for the dock was laid by Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria.

Now wind forward to August 2015 and to Gloucester where there were two dry docks, and one was occupied by a sailing ship.
gloucester 548

I don’t think that caisson has been opened in many years, although in 2017 I revisited Gloucester Harbour and that dock was occupied. 

The vessel is the Den Store Bjorn, built n 1902.

Of course there are a number of these drydocks around in the the UK, The most famous one in Southampton is the King George V,  and it was the place where the really big liners were overhauled. Many images exist of the dock with one of the Queens in it but sadly the caissons have been demolished and the dock is now used as a wet dock. What a waste!

Southampton also used to have the Trafalgar dry dock which is close to the Ocean Terminal, it too was used by many of the famous liners, including a number of Union-Castle ships. It has been cut in half and the one half has been filled in while the other is a rectangular pool of water.

These facilities were built for the ship repair industry that the city once had, but that trade has moved offshore to Europe and today these spaces are only really known to those who have an interest in ships of the past.

There are two other dry docks of interest in Portsmouth, both inhabited by famous ships.

The first is the dock where the Monitor M33 is on display.

and the drydock where HMS Victory has been for so many years.

And finally, there are two more dry docks that I would like to mention, both with preserved vessels in them. The first houses the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

and the other houses the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

Both of these provide an interesting glimpse at the underside of ships, as well as the opportunity to marvel at their construction and how large they really are. 

When this post started out originally it was only really about the Durban trip, but it has grown into much more as I have experienced other similar docks, and what a fascinating journey it turned out to be.
 
© DRW 2015-2017. Images migrated 02/05/2016, more images added 04/06/2017
Updated: 30/06/2017 — 12:49

A Rapid Visit to Havant, Fratton and Kingston Cemetery.

On Thursday I had a job interview at Havant, and most people haven’t an idea where Havant is. It is slightly East and North of Portsmouth, and is on the rail line to Brighton and Gatwick airport (in a roundabout way).  Getting there wasn’t too complicated, a direct train to Fareham, and then a change to a train going to Brighton, stopping at Havant. Fortunately my rail woes seemed to be over and I did the train trip reasonably painlessly. 

Havant Station

My interview was close by and I did not bring my camera with (which I regret), in fact I was not really intending to take any pics but just get everything over and done with. Unfortunately my mapping app had been upgraded and was now incomprehensible. I have no idea why these apps need permission for 90% of the things that they do, it is a very worrying scenario, and while I block as much as I can there is still way too many things out there that are a cause for concern. 
My first jolt happened two blocks from the station when I walked slap-bang into the war memorial. Situated on a busy corner it was a very difficult one to photograph given the angle of the sun and railings and traffic.  
St Faith's Church

St Faith’s Church

The memorial is placed in front of St Faith’s Church,which was a really pretty building with an outstanding graveyard and I was beginning to regret not bringing my camera. My phone has quite a good camera on it, but I find it difficult to use in certain light conditions, and in certain orientations. Unlike my camera; landscape or portrait does not matter, social media will display it how I place the image. With the phone social media decides how it will display my image irrespective of how I rotate it. I therefore try to only take landscape orientated shots.
havant066
 
 
My interview went well, and I will be going to a further one on Tuesday, and now that it was over I could look around a bit more. I was tempted to spend some time here, but the return trip to Basingstoke was a bit more complicated. I had to catch a local to Fratton, and from Fratton catch the Portsmouth train to Basingstoke. The timing was a problem though, there were not too many locals. Still, I had to get to the station first.
 
 
 
Actually, parts of it remind me a lot of Salisbury, there were lots of these really old buildings hiding in odd places. 
 
Once at the station my local train came in reasonably quickly. The train was a class 313 Coastways branded local  and it was quite an interesting set, dating back to the mid-70’s.
It was a quick run to Fratton, and I had been past it before, in fact, when I had first done the navigation for the Mendi Graves at Milton Cemetery I had considered going to the cemetery via Fratton, but that had not happened as I had gotten a lift instead.
Fratton is close to two major cemeteries in Portsmouth: Milton and Kingston, and both are in walking distance of the station. I weighed the odds, and decided  that seeing as I had some time to spare I would head off to the closest of the two, which you could see from the train. 
 
It was not a very long walk, the road runs parallel to the railway line, although you do need to make a bit of a detour to get to the road first. The area was residential, lined with a row of terrace houses, curving away into the distance on either side of the street.
  
Fraton had also been a large railway depot, so many years back these houses and area would have been the homes of blue collar workers, and the air pollution would have been formidable. Today the air is probably much cleaner, although now there are cars lining the street. 
 
The cemetery was easily reached, and the entrance I went in has a very nice gate and lodge, and my intention was to photograph those on my way out again. .  
 
Almost immediately I spotted the two chapels, and they were in a wonderful condition. It is always nice to see intact chapels, far too many of them have been demolished over the years.
  
My intention was to photograph as many graves as I could and go as far into the cemetery as was feasible in roughly an hour. I had no idea how many CWGC graves there were, but I was going to try get at least 100 in the short time that I had.  The standard of graves was varied, although a lot in the area where I was had old stones, and many of them were of poor legibility. I was not too interested in photographing headstones though, only the CWGC graves and they were scattered all through the cemetery
The cemetery was laid out reasonably easily in that there were pathways and that made things easier because I could work my way through an area and did not have to remember if I had been there before or not.

 
As I walked the lines I realised that an hour would not even get me close to the 567 CWGC graves in the cem, in fact this was a major expedition type cemetery rather than a quick photography session.  I was taking two shots of each grave just in case my focusing skills were bad, I had found that my camera occasionally struggled to focus on the more rough standard white headstones so I always tried to get two shots of each stone and then choose which was the better image. 
 
And like Southampton, Portsmouth had lost a lot of its property and citizens during the wartime bombing of the city. A memorial commemorates those who lost their lives in the bombing.
  
It is quite sobering to look back on this period in England and the effect that the bombing had on the country. Southampton and Portsmouth were big targets for the Luftwaffe and Portsmouth is home to the Naval Dockyard and it was a major target, unfortunately bombs often ended up hitting civilian targets and that is why memorials such as this exist.
  
The photography was going well, although time was marching and I really needed to start heading back to the station, and this is where it gets difficult. The quandary is that often you may never come this way again, and those remaining graves may never be photographed. Yet realistically the odds of grabbing them all in such a haphazard way was very small. Ideally you need a list and to work your way through the cemetery, ticking off as you go. Private memorials would always be problematic though, and they would need extra time. As it is I did manage to find two pm’s that were not on the list, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many more. Portsmouth was a naval town, and Haslar Military Hospital and Cemetery was not too far away, there were a lot of sailors living in this town. 
 
 
At some point I reached an area where the flowers were blooming in the first throes of spring, and it was very pretty. I spotted two lines of graves and headed towards it, deciding that there would be the last I would take before heading home. I grabbed my pics, said my farewells and headed to the entrance. I was not even halfway through the cemetery, but I had to call it quits. I had a train to catch.

As I walked to the gate I snapped pics, grabbing some interesting memorials to look at later, it was actually quite a pleasant cemetery, and one that I would have liked to see completely, but maybe I shall get to do that if my job interview was successful.

 

It was also getting chilly, and my shoes were in danger of falling apart too. I would have to make a plan in that regard when I got home.

 

When I crossed the street I took one last pic of the gate and headed towards the station. There was a nice looking church in the distance but I did not really have time to go see it.

 
And that is when I realised there was a problem. A warning message was flashing on my screen, complaining about running out of storage. By my reckoning I had taken roughly 200 images, and I had a lot of space on the memory card. I would have to check this when I was on the train.  By default my images are saved to the sd card and not the internal storage of the phone, but there was ample space on the card, even my camera has not been able to fill up the 8GB card it has. Upon investigation it turns out the the camera was disregarding the setting and doing its own thing, filling up the internal storage instead of the external as it was set up to do. This could be disasterous.
 
When I got home I pulled all the images off the phone and discovered that not too many images had been lost, although the last two graves of the row of 20 had not come out and anything after that was missing. I had managed to get over 80 of the graves anyway, which is far short of the 567 in the cemetery. I do not know why the camera had not used the sd card like it was set up to do. Surprisingly enough the images had come out very well, and if it wasn’t for this possibility of loosing the images I would use the phone again, although the camera is easier in the long run.
 
It had been a great visit though, and I am determined that at some point I must try to return to Portsmouth to grab more graves. The city has a lot of casualties listed on memorials, the Naval Memorial at Southsea has 24598 names on it, and there is still the war memorial as well as three cemeteries in the city.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial viewed from the Solent

I have always wanted to explore the city more, but never did, apart from my occasional visits to the dockyard. I had been to MIlton and Highland Road Cemetery too, and the latter was a great experience because it had a lot of very historic headstones in it, that alone makes it an attractive destination.  Maybe one day?
 
© DRW. 2015-2017. Created 14/03/2015. Images migrated 27/04/2016
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:43

Train Trouble

This has been a week of train trouble for me. And it all started on Monday.
 
I had an interview at Meltsham which is on the way to Gatwick Airport. The trip would mean that I had to change trains at Clapham Junction and board a Southern Trains local to East Croydon, and then catch another local to Meltsham. The train times I had selected had enough time built into them for me to find out where to go, and to get there without a last minute dash. Theoretically.
 
Clapham Junction was the easy part, however, I did not have my camera with me, so some images were taken in January.

Clapham Junction passageway

I managed to grab an earlier local for East Croydon and was soon on my way. Unfortunately Southern Trains is having a lot of bad press lately regarding delayed trains.

A typical Southern Trains local

A typical Southern Trains local

 

I had not travelled with them much before so I could not really comment on their punctuality. However, once we reached East Croydon chaos reigned. There was a signalling fault somewhere on the system and trains were delayed, cancelled, missing and all permutations inbetween. To exacerbate matters renovations were being done at the station so information signs were not legible or hard to see. I was directed to platform 5 and when I got there was told that the train would arrive on platform 6! That was difficult because platform 6 was occupied by a train going to Gatwick. The poor platform attendant was having a hard time doing his job and trying to assist with enquiries. It also did not help listening to announcements as they were either too soft, or happened as the train was leaving. By some miracle I caught a train, and it turned out to be the right one, although it was running 45 minutes late and some stops were cancelled. I just hoped that things would be less chaotic on my way home.
 
Later that day, on arrival at Mertsham to catch my train back to East Croydon, I found that it too had been delayed. 
Merstham Station

Merstham Station

In fact 3 trains went past while I was waiting, although had I dashed into the loo you could have bet that the train would have arrived at the most inopportune time.
 
 
The trip back to East Croydon was punctuated by long pauses and the ever diminishing time left to catch my connection. By the time we arrived it was time that my connection would have arrived too, although that was unlikely as we were occupying the space it was supposed to be occupying. The ever unhelpful information boards were not being informative at all, and the poor platform attendant was being harassed by all and sundry. 

 

In the image on the left you can see two trains, in fact there were actually 4, two already occupying the platform on both sides.  I could not make any sense out of this, but by chance heard an announcement that the train to Clapham Junction would now be arriving on Platform 1 and not the one where I was or where it was supposed to be. Thanks for the advance notice! I arrived at Platform 1 as said train left. In fact the “Welcome to East Croydon” sign on the information board  did not help me, or any of the other people who came running down hoping to catch the train we had all missed.  I decided to hang around there because it did seem as if this was where trains to Clapham would leave from, and 10 minutes later one arrived (probably 45 minutes late).
 
Clapham Junction was like paradise after that mess, and it is unlikely I will go through East Croydon ever again, which is maybe a good thing.
  
After the chaos of Monday, I was very tempted to stay in bed on Tuesday, but I still had some graves to find in Reading so I headed there instead. There is a First Great Western local that goes between Basingstoke and Reading, and I had had a bad experience with it early in February when the train had failed and we were stranded for almost 90 minutes at Mortimer. Surely something like that can’t happen again? or could it?

 

The trains currently being used on that line was 150001 and 150002, a pair of 1984 BREL built prototype 3-car Class 150/0 units. 150002 proved to be the worse of the two for reliability. Both sets were  in service with London Midland until 2011. 150001 entered service with First Great Western in January 2012, with 150002 to follow after refurbishment and relivery. 
 
 I had travelled with 150001 and 150002 the previous week when I had been to Bramley, and thought that they were very noisy and uncomfortable compared to the usual 165 or 166 class I had used before. Their interiors were an odd purple colour and reminded me of a kitchen.
 
 
Once I had completed my graves in Reading I headed back to the station, and as I arrived I kept an eye open for any new trains in the station. When we had arrived that morning I had caught a brief glimpse of something other than the usual FGW intercity HST, and I was hoping to see another. I was lucky because there was one at the platform and I quickly grabbed some pics. 
 
It turns out that this was a British Rail Class 180, and reading between the lines these were troublesome beasties.  This particular one was 180 102, and it pulled out just as I headed back up the escalators. 
  
When I got to my platform I saw my train was in so I could get on board and head off home. How wrong I was! A train had broken down at Bramley and we were not going to Basingstoke unless we went via Guildford and Woking. The train just after 14H00 was cancelled, as was the one at 14H30 and the next one may have been leaving at 15H00, although that was unlikely.  150001 joined its sister and neither was going anywhere. 
  
I knew that there was a Cross Country train that used to leave Reading for Basingstoke and then onwards to Weymouth, and it left at 14H45ish, so I decided that it was a preferable option to going to Guildford so headed down the platform to see if there was anything else interesting in the station.  I soon discovered another train that I had not seen before, and it was wearing a Southwest Trains livery.
 
It turns out that these are Class 458’s, and they too were not very successful. I must admit they were not good lookers either, and during my wait I saw 8026 and 8016 in the station. 
 
Heading back to my platform I was unable to get an answer as to whether I would be able to catch the Cross Country train as the platform it normally used was currently occupied by 150002. In fact the customer service person did not know either and she dashed off to find out, just as the Cross Country pulled into Platform 8. 
  
I had never caught one of the Cross Country trains before, although had seen them quite a lot in Southampton. They tended to come and go and generally lead separate lives from the other Southwest Trains all around them. It could be that I now had an opportunity to catch one, assuming I could get to Platform 8 before it left.     
 
We all dashed across to the platform and hurriedly boarded the train, although whether it was going anywhere was another story altogether. Just then another Class 180 pulled in and I was tempted to bail out and go photograph it, but they announced that we were holding for awhile and would leave as soon as the line was clear. Bailing now would mean I would have to hang around till 15H30 for one of the 150’s to leave. 
 
Then we started to move, and I was finally on my way home, and with Cross Country too. They aren’t too bad interior wise, and they definitely were quick, but I was really just glad to finally be on my way home. Two days of train troubles in a row was asking too much.
 
Hopefully I was done with train troubles, or had I?
 
This morning I had to go to Southampton to see the maiden arrival of the Britannia. Would my train timings be correct?  Lo and behold when I got to Basingstoke Station I discovered that the trains coming from London via Clapham Junction were delayed. The Salisbury train was running 19 minutes late, and my Southampton train was running equally late. However there was a Cross Country leaving at 10H10, and it came via Reading and not Clapham Junction so theoretically it would not be delayed so I crossed to platform 1 to catch it (followed by half the people from the platform I had just left).
  
I arrived at Southampton in time, and by co-incidence I caught another Cross Country back home. It was kind of odd because in the two years I had been in the UK I had never been on one of these before, and suddenly in a week I had traveled on three!  Maybe it is my reward for all the other train trouble I had been having this past week? 
 
So that was my week of train trouble. The moral of the story? the rail system in the UK is not perfect, it is subject to delays, and things do go wrong (and there are leaves on the line, the wrong snow and even trampolines to muck it up further). The delay at Clapham Junction was as a result of a woman threatening to jump onto the tracks, thousands of people ended up being delayed as a result. The difference is in how passengers are notified of a problem. The East Croydon mess could have been handled so much better, and I think the Reading delays could have also been dealt with a bit better, but it is really a lot to do with customer service and service levels as a rule. Lets put it like this, in South Africa they would have set fire to the train. 
 
© DRW. 2015-2017. Created 06/03/2015, images migrated 27/04/2016  
 
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:44

Southampton Shipwatch 44: Britannia

On this slightly overcast morning I made my way to Southampton to see the maiden arrival of  P&O’s new ship Britannia. I was hoping that the weather would not turn nasty and that the sun would shine on her arrival. The ship was due at the dockhead at 12H30, and would sail down to the swinging grounds by Mayflower, turn, and then hold her position for a parachute drop, before sailing to the swinging ground at Ocean Terminal and then going in stern first for the first time in Southampton. This would be the 8th maiden arrival that I have witnessed from the city.
 
I arrived early, although fortunately I did plan for an early train as there was an incident at Clapham Junction that delayed trains from the east, most were running roughly 30 minutes late. It did mean I had some time to kill and I mooched around like a lost soul until I saw tugs heading from their berths towards Southampton Water. She was close! 
 
That first glimpse is an important one, because that is where you get to see a ship that may exist for 30 years, and who could become an old friend as you see her regularly. The first thing I spotted were the two big blue funnels
  
P&O have been doing a rebranding exercise, the traditional yellowish funnel being replaced with blue, and hull art being painted on the bows. On a new ship it does make sense, but on a ship like Oriana or Aurora it does not. Those two vessels were built for P&O, and I don’t think rebranding them was a good idea, they are both very British ships (inspite of their registry), and they should not have been touched. 
  
Then they turned on the window washers and from this point onwards the tugs went crazy with their water canon. So much so that a decent pic of the ship was almost impossible. Having seen other images taken at Mayflower and Hythe I should really have gone there instead of Town Quay.
 
I have to admit I do like her, she does bear a resemblance to Royal Princess but does not have that overly top heavy appearance of the Princess ship, and of course the twin funnels really make a difference. 
  
Town Quay was packed, and it was good to see so many people out there to welcome this new ship, although a part of me was unhappy that so many people were getting in each others way and ruining the shots! (We won’t even discuss the worm drowners).  As you can see the water jets were huge and the wind was blowing the spray onto us rubber neckers, so I did get a taste of the harbour water (and it was salty).
 
People now started to dash off to Mayflower to join the hordes that were already there. I chose to remain where I was (probably because I did not feel like going all that way), but I was really hoping to get better images when she returned having been swung.
 
As modern ships go she is not unattractive, she does look slightly bulky in the rear end, and of course that downward sloping stern and ducktail does nothing for me, but I can live with that. The branding on her bow is not too distracting either, in fact it does provide a nice break from all the white.
  
For those that are interested, Svitzer Sarah was the main culprit that was washing windows. 
 
They started to swing the ship and we finally got a chance to see all of her with not too much spray, and I think she probably looks at her best from that angle. She does have reasonably clean lines without all the top hamper and clutter that the two NCL ships (Getaway and Breakaway)  have. 
 
Once she had swung everything stopped while overhead a small aircraft dropped 3 parachutists. I must admit I did find that a bit of an odd thing to do, but then there was probably some publicity reasoning behind it.
 
 
 
The show over, the vessel slowly made her way towards us, although this time around we would all move away from the spray and keep our lenses dry! 
 
  
They then started to swing her once again so that she could go astern into the berth. Usually the ships manage to accomplish this without the use of attendant tugs, but it seems as if nobody was taking any chances today.
 
  
And then it was time for me to make tracks. I had a train to catch, and it was at least 25 minutes walk to the station. I turned my own bows to home and bid the newest addition to the worlds cruising fleet a fond farewell. I hoped to see her again one day, but till that day comes, may she have a long and successful career, unfortunately, she will become the new P&O flagship, taking the title from Oriana.
 
 
On Sunday 10 March, The Queen will officially name the vessel, and she will commence her cruise programme shortly thereafter. 
 
© DRW. 2015-2017. Created 06/03/2015. Images migrated 27/04/2015
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:44

Messing around in Bramley looking for graves

With my time running short in Basingstoke I was hoping to grab as many of the outstanding CWGC graves in some of the churchyards between Basingstoke and Reading. The problem is that they are not easy walks, being out in the countryside and far from the stations. I had intended to grab two separate churches on this day, with a possible third depending on time and energy.
I started my excursion from Bramley Station, which is the first station on the local line between Basingstoke and Reading.  The train that arrived was not the usual one that I had been catching lately, instead it was a different DMU, and I must admit it was also a noisy bugger.

 
 My walk would take me to the village of Sherfield-Upon-Loddon, which was about 3,5 km away and then down the A33 to the church of St Leonards which was a further 1.6 km away, ironically in the direction of Basingstoke. My initial planning had erred somewhat as I had placed the church in the village whereas it was really quite far from the village.  

 

Navigating through the country lanes is always risky and at one point there were roadworks that really messed me around. There is a lot of water in this area too, and I kept on coming across streams and bridges, as well as the village pond. Eventually though I came to the village and had to backtrack a portion to find the church.

 
The one good thing about my detour was the discovery of the village War Memorial, and that in itself made the detour worthwhile. I don’t mind detours if I can discover something on  them, and this memorial was a unexpected bonus.
  
Eventually I reach the A33, which was really like a mad racetrack in parts. And I walked and walked and walked until I started to question where I was going. My mapping app was not helping too much because it kept on trying to take me to the United States! But, I saw a sign ahead, and my destination was listed on it. Finally!
  
The church is called St Leonards and it has four CWGC graves in it’s churchyard. 
 
Like so many of these old churches it is difficult to really date the building, although according to their website the church was extensively restored in the 19th century. Unfortunately as I arrived so did somebody with the keys, but by the time I had found my graves they had left so I was unable to access the building. It is quite a pretty building, with a nicely proportioned spire and quite a large churchyard that has some new burials in it as well as a lot of older ones.  I also discovered that I was going to have a mud problem on this trip. I had noticed large pools of water on my walk to here, and parts of the churchyard were also wet.  
 
There was also a new addition to the church which blended in quite well, although I was not too keen on the front doors of the church, and the sign that informed that all valuables were removed from the church overnight. It is sad that things have come to this. 
 
The dominant grave site was of the Piggot Stainsby Conant Family
 
My CWGC graves were all grouped together which made my life so much easier, and there were no private memorials that I could see in the churchyard.
 

One last look around and I was on my way again. It had been a satisfactory visit, and the goal was achieved. In fact the day was still young and I was ready for number 2 on my list!

Hartley Westpall St Mary was next on my list, it had one solitary CWGC grave in its churchyard.  Distancewise I had to return to Sherfield upon Loddon via the A33, carry on for a distance and then at the  Hartley Westpall sign turn turn right and continue until I found the turning to the church. It was roughly 2,5 km from the Sherfield roundabout. I had considered that I would probably be able to make one more visit after this one depending on how I felt, it really depended a lot on what I found at the end of this stretch. 
  
It was a bit of a dicey walk though because there was quite a lot of traffic, and oddly enough it was always groups of vehicles that came hurtling up behind me. The signs on the road are a bit misleading though because that really is the boundary of the village, and not the village itself. In fact I was not too sure how big this village actually was because there was so little in front of me I even had to check the satellite image to see if there were any likely targets. 
 
Eventually I reached the church, and it was a quite a small one, constructed of flint and wood, it was almost unassuming. 
  
And my war grave was easily spotted amongst the snowdrops. 
  
The church is called St Mary The Virgin and it was being cleaned so I went inside, and the woodwork nearly knocked me over.  The exterior walls may be newish (although that could mean anything), but the heavy wooden beams that hold the roof up could be original and could date from 1330. 
  
Make no mistake about it, those roof beams are of the same standard as I saw on board HMS Victory.  It is a solid structure, rough in its finishing, but amazing to see. You do not get woodwork like this very often.
 
hartley_westpall21The church also has a really nice collection of stained glass windows as well as an outstanding wall memorial which would not seem out of place in a cathedral. Unfortunately the legibility of it is poor, but the artwork is museum quality.
 
There were also a number of wall memorials to past rectors as well as soldiers, and I was very happy to see an original article about the funeral of the soldier who’s grave I had just photographed. It was really a unique memorial and the inclusion of his “Dead Man’s Penny” was an even more poignant touch. 
 
I like finding small memorials like that because they do bring a personal touch to many of the graves that I photograph. Often there is no real history to a grave, it is a name and a number with no real story behind it.  Private Thomas Elliott was an individual, he served his country and he is buried in this really quiet part of Hampshire, and he is remembered in this small ancient church with the wonderful roof.
  
I have to admit I enjoyed this church a lot, it was a really surprising building.  Doing more reading about it, I discovered that there are registers dating from 1558, and considering that in 1558 South Africa had not even been discovered. 
 
It was time to leave this wonderful old place, with its beautiful woodwork and friendly atmosphere.  I had a decision to make soon and had about a 1.5 km to make it in. I had decided to walk back to A33 and either go left for home, or right for Stratfield Saye St Marys. It was still quite early and while I was a bit pooped I felt like it may be worth my while to try for this church which was about 4,5 km from the turning off to Hartley Westpall. The problem was that I was unlikely to make a standalone trip out here again, and I was technically “in the area” so I decided to head in that direction. 
  
At some point I encountered that map above, and I wish I had encountered it much earlier, and had been able to take it with me to where I was going. It really laid out the area much more logically than the small screen image I was using on my phone, and if ever I do return to this area I am going to print this map out. 
  
My biggest problem came when I reached The Wellington Arms. At this intersection the A33 goes off to the right, while another road heads off to the left. Inbetween the two was a path that I was hoping to take to reach my destination. 
 
Unfortunately the path was gated off and was marked “Private Park” which meant I had to make quite a detour to get to the church which was technically on the path that I could not access. It was either go on or go home, and I had come this far already so the road to the left I did take.
It was a long road. It did not have a pavement, but it was not too busy so I did not have to hop into a handy bush each time a car came. 
 
I crossed the River Loddon again, I was getting there. I reached the end of the road and was faced with more road. Where was the church? I changed to satellite view and headed towards what I thought was a cluster of buildings, but before that I saw a sign which said “to the Church”, but I could not see the church, instead I was facing a set of gates which were closed. A small sign read “No entry, access to the church only”. Aha! I was getting somewhere. 
 
Inside was all quiet, there was a largeish house on the right of the road that I was following, but still no church. I kept walking and then saw the lychgate. I had arrived!
  
The church is called Stratfieldsaye St Mary and it has one CWGC grave in its churchyard. 
 
It was not a good looking church, if anything it looked like a modern version of a temple. However, according to what I read it is quite old “1758 possibly designed by John Pitt (Calvin p 639), restoration 1965. Replacing a medieval church in a new site, the building has a Greek Cross plan, with an octagonal tower above the crossing. There is a copper dome (with a finial) and copper roofing of low pitch to the arms” (http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-139116-church-of-st-mary-the-virgin-stratfield-)
 
The church has a very large churchyard, although there were not too many graves that caught my eye. I was more interested in why was this church in this park in the first place. 
 
The churchyard was still in use too, so there must be a congregation here, it is just a pity the building was not open because there were a lot of interesting memorials inside of it.
  
But, it was realistically time to to head off home. I had a very long walk ahead of me and frankly was not looking too forward to it. I had two choices. I could hoof it to Bramley which was 4.3 km away as the crow flies, or I could cut across to Mortimer Station which was 3,5 kms distant. In both cases the crow could cheat and take a short cut, I had no such choice. I checked my phone and Bramley was as much as 2 hours walk away whereas Mortimer was 53 minutes. I decided on the latter and set off on my epic trek across the countryside. It went quite well initially,  I passed Strafield Saye House in the distance and it may be worth looking into how it ties into the church and park I had just come from.
  
But then things began to go pear shaped as the lady in the GPS directed me to turn left onto a footpath that was only 50 metres long and which ended in a muddy field. I eventually took her advise and headed across the field, aiming for a gate in the distance (Why didn’t I take pics of this?), then I waded through a path of mud until I hit a road and that road said “Mortimer Station.—>” and 29 minutes later I was at Mortimer Station. I had stood here for ages after my visit to Strafield St Mary not too long ago, although I was not as tired on that day as I was now. Surprisingly I only waited 6 minutes for a train.
 
And I was home just after 3.15.  
 
Did I mention I was bushed? It had been quite a long journey, all for 6 graves. There are still more graves in that area, but I probably will not get to photograph them, which is a pity because I put a lot of mileage into getting these graves photographed. I had seen three very different churches, and seen one remnant of workmanship that left me amazed. The countryside is very pretty, although it can be wild in parts. Weather had been favourable, and for once I had not run out of battery life on my phone. There are a few lessons here that I need to learn. Preparation, navigation, information and of course proper maps and  more information. Having completed this I could probably redo it in half the time, and walking much less. But that is the old hindsight thing. 
 
Basingstoke is pretty much wound up when it comes to CWGC graves now, although I still have 2 weeks before I leave here, so just maybe I shall try for those last few graves, although I really want to return to Reading Cemetery. 
 
Who knows, maybe next month you may see one more post about this area.
 
© DRW 2015-2017. Created 27/02/2015, images migrated 27/04/206
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:45

Heading to Reading

This fine morning I grabbed my gear and headed out to Reading. My recent trips to that city en-route to elsewhere made me curious about what I could see, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised.  On my list of possible targets was Reading Abbey, the old cemetery, St Giles and St Marys Churches, any war memorials, and of course anything else that caught my eye (or lens).
 
The cemetery has 205 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war and 41 of the 1939-1945 war. in it, so I could have quite a lot of ground to cover. Weatherwise it was sunny when I left Basingstoke, but it got cloudy once I was in Reading, so much so that at one point I thought I was going to be caught in a rain shower.  
My first goal was St Laurence Churchyard, the church is situated next to the Town Hall, and is not too far from the station. I had a rough plan of my route so knew more or less what I was going, and of course I had my phone with in case I got lost. 
The Town Hall

The Town Hall

I have to admit St Laurence was a great exploration. It has a fantastic churchyard with a lot of very interesting graves. Unfortunately though, they were building a road in the middle of the street so some of my access was cut off from the park next door.
 
The park interested me because it bounded on the ruins of Reading Abbey,  and I was hoping that I could pass through the ruins and go around the prison to get to the route I needed to follow to find the cemetery. 
After a slight detour, and an attempt to buy some food at a local supermarket I found myself faced with the Cenotaph (which stands at the entrance to Forbury Park), which was great news because I had not really done much research as to where the main war memorial was in the city.
  
 
The park, Forbury Gardens,  is a pretty one, with a bandstand and lots of trimmed grass and pathways. It is also home to a very special memorial:
 
“This monument records the names and commemorates the valour and devotion of XI (11) officers and CCCXVIII (318) non-commissioned officers and men of the LXVI (66th) Berkshire Regiment who gave their lives for their country at Girishk Maiwand and Kandahar and during the Afghan Campaign MDCCCLXXIX (1879) – MDCCCLXXX (1880).”

“History does not afford any grander or finer instance of gallantry and devotion to Queen and country than that displayed by the LXVI Regiment at the   Battle of Maiwand on the XXVII (27th) July MDCCCLXXX (1880).” (Despatch of General Primrose.) 

Known as the Maiwand Lion, it is a very big memorial, and definitely the largest lion I have ever seen. Unfortunately the sun was behind it so pics just did not work out the way they could have. In fact the sun was to prove problematic for most of the morning as it kept on dancing between the clouds. I returned to Reading on 3 March and was able to obtain a better image of the lion as seen below.

Seeing the Abbey seemed to be problematic as the site was closed on safety grounds, and given that the building dates from around AD1121, I can see that there may be a problem, however, it is very frustrating to be so close to history like that and not being able to access it.

The one part of the Abbey complex that still survives is the Abbey Gate, and it is a very nice structure, but again it faced in an awkward direction.
It was looking to be somewhat of a frustrating morning. I decided to head for the cemetery, passing the very pretty St James Church which is between the park and the prison.

 

The church opened in 1840 and it now serves as a Catholic Church for the multicultural community in Reading. Surprisingly a small corner of the graveyard still exists, although it has been “rationalised” and there is no real way for knowing how big it was before. Unfortunately HMP Reading was not accessible, and the high walls meant the only pic I would get would be of high walls.

The route I was now walking took me along the very busy Kings Road which merged into an intersection with London Road  where the cemetery was located. 

The cemetery was first opened in 1834 and there are 18327 grave spaces covering 4,7 Hectares.  There were originally two chapels but both have been demolished, and at first glance the cemetery seemed like a bit of a hodge-podge mess. However, as I penetrated deeper into it the layout began to make a bit more sense.

Like many of these older cemeteries it does support a wide range of fauna and flora, and I believe there is even a species of deer that lives in it, and I actually saw one on my next visit, but was unable to get a pic. I also saw raptors flying overhead, so there must be food for them in the cemetery.  To maintain the status quo of conservation, the grass is cut 6 times a year. The gatehouse/office is a very pretty building, although it must have been somewhat of a squeeze when it came to navigating through here with a horse drawn hearse.

 

And while my pics show sunlight, that only happened after I had completed photographing most of the graves I was after! The cemetery is actually quite a nice one, with lots of pre 1900 headstones in it. Parts are as wild as some of the wilder ones that I have seen, but generally it was a pleasant place to gravehunt in. I managed to get most of the graves I was after except for 43. I also found some private memorials that I have submitted, and these are equally important as they often contain the only physical grave that there is if a body was not recovered from the battlefield. (I have since been able to add an additional 24 graves from the list to my tally, as well as 8 more private memorials.)

Then it was time to head off to my next destination which was back in the direction I had come from but via London Road.

The "Swimming Bath"

The “Swimming Bath”

 
I had arbitrarily selected suitable places as I saw them mentioned as being worthy of seeing, and naturally everything along the way was a bonus. My first target was St Giles-in-Reading Church, and the second was St Mary-the-Virgin.
St Giles-in-Reading

St Giles-in-Reading

St Mary-the-Virgin

St Mary-the-Virgin

Both were really beautiful buildings with wonderful graveyards that I explored. However, on my way to these buildings I also spotted this beaut which is used by the Polish community.

 
Overall though the area I was walking through had really reverted from a residential area to more of a business area, the grand old houses now occupied by dentists and accountants. The shortage of student accommodation also meant that many properties had been subdivided and now had a new lease on life. 

The Hospital building was magnificent, more reminiscent of a town hall than a hospital.  Like many other buildings from that age it was now probably overwhelmed by the role it had, and it must have been very interesting to see on the inside (although preferably not as a patient).

My meanderings would eventually lead me to the Kennet and Avon Canal which I had first encountered when I visited Bath in 2014, I will admit that the inner workings of the canal did interest me, but I was really lacking the expertise to comment on where I was in the system at the point where I now stood.

Theoretically though, had I followed this portion of the Kennet River I would have come out at the River Thames, and had I followed the Thames would have ended up in London.

The area I was now moving into was where St Mary-the-Virgin was situated, and it was really the last area I wanted to explore before heading home. The church itself was very nice, with a graveyard that seems to be ignored by the public at large who use the path as a thoroughfare, and it is nice to see how these small green spaces have become a part of the community.

The area though is quite busy, with lots of buses and taxis hithering and thithering their collective ways. I paused for lunch and a potty break before taking some last pics and heading for the station (assuming I could find it).

The monument was erected to celebrate Queen Victoria’s 50th year on the throne, and there is a nice statue of her close to the Town Hall.

 

This area of Reading was really nice, the buildings are oldies with a new face, and generally it has much more of a personal feel than the mall close by. Unfortunately for them most malls lack character, and I like character in an area instead of glitz and glamour. Unfortunately though it also means that many older areas become seedy as the inevitable cellphone cover, overpriced fake trainers and junk jewelry businesses move in. But, sometimes I am wrong.

Realistically though, you need to view a lot of these areas as they may have been 100 years ago to fully appreciate a city like Reading, although it would have been tainted by the smog and smoke of industrial progress and transportation. Times have changed, and we are now in a different world and in a different era, but it is nice to see these old survivors of progress still standing next to the chrome and glass of “progress”.

The station awaited, and by 14H40 I was on my way home. 

It had been an interesting morning, I have a better feel for Reading now, and while it is unlikely that I will pass this way again it was nice to be able to look around here. Many years ago when I wanted to move to the UK this town had been the centre where many in IT headed when they arrived here, I don’t know if that is still true, but given its location it is a handy midway point between East and West, and of course access to London. Personally I don’t think I could live here, but I would not mind exploring more of the river system, but somehow that is unlikely to happen.

© DRW 2015-2017. Created  24/02/2015, images migrated 26/04/2016 

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:45
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