Monday, 20 August 2018

A lost village and a rediscovered town

It's said that distance lends enchantment, and it's certainly true that since leaving Newhaven as a resident, and returning as a visitor, I see and appreciate aspects of the town I never did before. Having a dog (or two) certainly helps as well.

When I lived in Newhaven, my day to day focus was on the run down town centre (now in fact so run down that it's gradually being converted to residential, while the shopping is largely out of town - although following the demise of the one supermarket left in the town centre, two new convenience stores have sprung up); the dirty ring road and the general air of neglect.

But as a visitor - and dog walker - I now see places I didn't realise existed in twenty-five years of living there, like the sandy east beach revealed at low tide.
And while I had occasionally visited Tidemills. and walked the seafront between Newhaven and Bishopstone, repeated forays start to really develop the sense of place and history.

A tide mill was established here in around 1760. The course of the river Ouse had recently been altered, leaving a creek running parallel to the coastline which formed a ready made mill pond. It filled with each tide, and then the water was released in a controlled way to power the mill. Later, in the nineteenth century, an additional pond was dug, which increased the capacity of the mill and the length of time it could operate on each tide. Flour was taken to London by sea. The C19 mill owners built a village for their workers, which had a population of around seventy. The mill closed in 1893, following storm damage, and was demolished in 1910. People continued to live in the village, however, until 1940, despite the cottages having been condemned as unfit for human habitation in the thirties. In 1940 the village was evacuated and the remaining buildings demolished so that they couldn't provide cover for an invasion.

The Sussex Archaeology Society have been digging and recording the site since 2006.
The best history of the village that I have been able to find online is this one. Click through sections 1 - 6.

In the 1920s, Chailey Heritage 'craft hospital' established an outpost at Tidemills, so that their charges - disabled children - could benefit from the sun, sea and sea air. The concrete foundations of their buildings can also be seen - with the 'new' millpond in the background.
And there is an amazing landscape of maritime flora as well.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Ricky has a new friend

For a while, we've thought it would be nice for Ricky to have another dog to run around with (and hopefully to settle down with as well...).  We're now complete, besotted, converts to sighthounds, so Jim started looking into various lurcher rescues.

And, to cut (appropriately) to the chase, here is Geoffrey.

Geoffrey is a galgo, originally rescued in Spain, and rehomed through Lozza's Lurcher Rescue in Hertfordshire.

There was a big hole in my knowledge where galgos should have been, which I have rapidly made up for - how could we not have heard of them? What I have learnt so for is this - galgos are an ancient breed of hunting dog, originally Celtic and introduced into Spain from France (hence the name, meaning that they're from Gaul). Over the centuries the British greyhound has diverged as its been bred for different purposes and kinds of racing. Looking at Geoffrey, he does have the look about him of something a Medici would have had on a lead, or an Spanish noble in a Velasquez painting.

Indeed, galgos were originally the hunting dogs of the nobility. but not so these days. Like many animals in Spain, they are not treated well, to say the least. They are used for hunting and competitive coursing, bred in vast numbers and all but the best racers abandoned - and even those chosen for competetion kept hungry, cruelly punished if they don't perform well, and abandoned or killed when their coursing career is over at two or three years old. This article from the National Geographic gives a  relatively unsensationalised and unsentimental account.

Geoffrey was very nervous at first but is already settling down. He's very gentle and placid, even a little timid, and Ricky is certainly top dog. Geoffrey isn't even interested in getting on the sofa (yet) and you can see from the state of his elbows that he's been used to lying on a concrete floor. But he does seem to feel able to relax...
He likes going for walks and walks well on the lead. He's very friendly to other dogs, and to most people; just a bit wary of men, and he doesn't like sudden noises. We're hoping that Ricky's example will help Geoffrey to become more chilled.

Galgos differ from greygounds in a number of ways (this is a bit like the Woolwich/Northwich thing). They have much greater stamina for a start, and this is reflected in a different kind and distribution of their muscles. They're a bit stockier, and their hips are higher than their shoulders, and their heads proportionately a bit smaller looking than a greyhound's, giving them that old fashioned painting look. And they have very long thin tails.

Ricky is, at our best estimate, a 'racing whippet' - half whippet, half greyhound. Geoffrey is considerably bigger than him, although still not as big, I don't think, as a big greyhound. We'll have to wait until he meets Buzz to check that out.

Early days yet, but Geoffrey is already starting to feel like part of the family - let's hope he feels that way too.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Harland and Wolff

Apologies for the lack of a witty title. Diamond Geezer set me off this morning. He's visiting points across London, travelling from east to west, along the line of latitude 51.5 degrees north. This is the line of latitude that Greenwich is on, and he doesn't see why its line of longitude (albeit that that's zero) should get all the attention.

Now, I've always had trouble pinning down just where the Woolwich shipyard was, but I reckoned it must be somewhere roughly near that line. And it was while searching online for its co-ordinates (unsuccessfully) I came across a website I hadn't previously seen, dedicated to Harland and Wolff.

It's a bit thin on the Woolwich operation, which does in the scheme of things seem to have been rather small beer - from what I can tell, although they did refurbishments, no massive ships were built here, but largely barges, lighters and of course narrow boats.  The yard was in operation from 1924 - 1972. One interesting suggestion that the site makes is that there are now probably more Harland and Wolff built boats on the English canal system than anywhere else.

The site isn't fantastically written, and its coverage of narrow boats is quite superficial, but the few pictures make it well worth a look. There is a list of boats (although it doesn't distinguish between motors and butties) but the dates on it (assuming they are delivery dates) don't tie up with those provided by Faulkner - for example, it shows Chertsey's birthday as 25th February 1937, whereas I've previously had it as 29th January.

Now, if I could just find those co-ordinates, I could finally track the place down and make a pilgrimage...

Monday, 6 August 2018

And then off to the seaside

This is a bit of a post for Starcross Jim. It has rail routes, refunds, and Herefordshire.

A few weeks ago I agreed to go to Swansea to act an an 'external expert' for the validation of a new Foundation Year. Then as the time got nearer, and I contemplated the five hour train journey and hotel stay, I wished I hadn't.

But then last week I went, and I was glad I did.

I spent most of the journey there immersed in the validation paperwork, coming up with what turned out to be sensible questions about it, and realised that I really am, well, a bit of an expert on the programme design and quality assurance side of Foundation Years (and learning more all the time).

And I discovered something - and discovered something about the National Rail website in the process. I discovered that I didn't have to go via Brimingham and/or Bristol. I discovered that I could go via Stockport. Not only does this avoid New Street station (a boon if ever there was one) but it's cheaper. When I was up and down to my mother's place in Newport, the National Rail website never told me that this route existed, even though the train stops at Newport. It only offered the trains that terminated at Cardiff (where my via Stockport train also stopped).
I've just checked, and it still doesn't show the Milford Haven train that I caught. OK, it takes a bit longer, meandering through Shropshire and Herefordshire, but as I say it's cheaper, and you don't have to worry about whether the races are on at Cheltenham (I've somehow managed to go that way on Gold Cup day twice. Horrendous).

So I had a pleasant journey there and discovered that the University had booked me into a hotel in Mumbles. I used to hate staying in hotels - the strangeness of it - but a very strange thing completely changed my feelings about it. It was Bill Bryson, in one of his travel books, writing that whenever he arrived in a hotel, the first thing he did was run a bath and empty all the individual bottles/sachets etc into it, on the basis that they're all the same. And although I didn't do that (there wasn't a bath, for a start, but I brought the little bottles home), that thought has completely changed the way I view staying in a hotel.

Anyway it was a nice room (although the shower was very feeble - say what you like about south west (or more west now) Sheffield, but, excellent water pressure - and before dinner I went for a brisk stroll along the prom one way, and after dinner I went the other. In between I had an excellent meal and even a glass of wine, which I have yet to learn whether Swansea will pay for.

The next day, after an excellent breakfast (I have also solved the problem of what to do with a hotel buffet breakfast - I make myself a toast bacon sandwich) I was whisked away by taxi to the University - to a building that was surprisingly run down compared to the majority of places I've been to lately in England which are seemingly always in the throes of building and refurbishment. Anyway, I quite liked the grubby paint and worn lino. I then met a splendid young chap called Phil, who is 'passionate about curriculum and assessment design' so we were bound to get on. We bonded over the unsung virtues of QA processes. Then I got to ask my intelligent questions, we had a coffee and a chat about the class politics of Foundation Years, and then it was another cab to the station and a smooth journey back, marred only by the fact that I didn't have a book and my iPad battery had run out.

And talking of trains - as we were - I received a full refund last week from North Western Trains (or whatever the shoddily rebadged London Midland fleet are now called. What happened? I loved London Midland) for my 65 minute delayed train from Rugby to Sheffield via Tamworth. However, they couldn't do it entirely gracefully - I got a shirty email saying that they would grudgingly pay out this time despite the fact that I hadn't defaced my ticket in the photo of it that I sent them. What do they think I'm going to do with a ticket that's only valid on the day of issue anyway? But maybe I shouldn't moan too much as I've just noticed that they've refunded the cost of the entire return ticket even though I made the return journey without a hitch. Or at least they say they have - I haven't checked the bank statement yet.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Both ends but not the middle

There are plenty of canals where I've been to one end but not the other. There are some I haven't been to at all. There are a lot where I've been to both ends and all points between. There may even be one where I've been in the middle but not to either end (although I can't think of one off hand).

But I don't think there's another one where I've seen both ends but not the middle. To be fair, in this case the middle doesn't exist.

Having been moored on one end of the Cromford Canal, at Langley Mill, at the end of May, last week I visited the other end at - surprise! - Cromford, this being just a twenty minute stroll away from our awayday destination of Matlock Bath.

I can report that it is indeed a canal.
And a pretty one to boot.
Sadly I didn't get to see much of it as we had to rish back for our lunch dinner, having spent rather too long at Cromford's other major attraction.
This was Cromford Mill, immortalised in O Level history as the home of Richard Arkwright's water frame - in the late eighteenth century a significant advance in spinning technology which ushered in the age of the large scale factory... but now the home of a range of artisan and antiques shops which captured my attention now just as Hargreaves, Arkwright and Kay did in my schooldays.

And here I bought my own little piece of history
in readiness for when I actually get a nice, wooden, front door, as well as a really nice worn old horse brass for the boat.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Oh I do like to be beside the... riverside

Well, our day trip destination seemed to get both my readers guessing (not Adrian, because he already knew - but I'm sure would have got it if we hadn't already discussed it) - but (ex) Stacross Jim got it in one - we were in Matlock Bath, and what a splendid place it was. Like Stourport, it's a riverside town (or possibly even village) so far from the sea that it became the next best thing for the local populace, and  has taken on some of the attributes and atmosphere of the real thing. 

It was such a gorgeous sunny day that I didn't visit the aquarium (with the town's last remaining petrifying well, 'a source of curiosity and amazement'),
or the lead mining museum (whose website doesn't appear to be working), or any of the many amusement arcades tastefully lining the main parade.

But I did have an ice cream in the 'secret garden' behind Hall's shop,
purchased for one and all in a tradition established in Cleethorpes in 2015, by the Boss, and pie and chips in a very traditional seaside style pie and fish restaurant - you could tell we weren't very far from home though, because there was Hendo's on the table, which was good, because thanks to Adrian and Linda, I do like it on my mushy peas. And after lunch five of us, including the Boss, wnet out on a rowing boat, expertly propelled by our chief administrator, who honed his skills kayaking on the Bridgewater Canal.
We rounded off an all too short day with a stroll back along the Lovers Walk.

In the morning, a colleague and I made a detour to somewhere else entirely to get a canal and tot-shopping fix.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Like Stourport, but even better

No one else understood what I meant, but that was my verdict on this year's works outing destination. Previously we've been to Cleethorpes (twice) and Saltaire, but this beat them both (although Saltaire was good).

We had ice cream in a splendidly opulent ice cream shop, a slap up fish lunch dinner, went boating on the river, walked along the canal, and took in some industrial heritage and antique purchasing (although we did have to stroll into the next town for those). There were plenty of indoor attractions that we might have taken in if the weather hadn't been so brilliant, and outdoor ones that we might have done had we not been too stingy.

A glorious, weird and wonderful place, and only an hour in the charabanc (hardly time to open a second bottle of  brown ale).

I'd go there again.
Like Stourport, only better. What do you think?