Sunday, 31 October 2010

Sunlight by the Water

I loved the way the light was shining through the trees and reflecting off the water.

And it seemed appropriate, on a day when so much is focussed on things of darkness, to post photos which remind us that the light is greater by far than the darkness.

John ch 1 v 4-5
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Please would you consider..?

This is an extra for today because

I was wondering


 if you would consider taking a little detour to

which is an extremely interesting blog written by


Saltaire is a World Heritage Site village just north of Bradford in West Yorkshire. 
JennyF posts brilliant photographs and recently submitted some for an award and


She had two photos


They are in the final hundred out of about one thousand entries.


But now it's down to the last shortlist stage and the dreaded public vote!
So, I was wondering if you would take a look and consider voting for her photo.

 It's totally worth it!

Just click on the white link above.
Or this one... 

Thank you


(You rock!)

Habitats and a hide

As part of the construction of Carsington Water, Severn Trent made full provision for the protection and development of wildlife habitats.

According to the Reservoir website, there have been over 215 species of bird recorded visiting the site and 30 species of mammal, including
Harvest Mice, Water Shrew, Water Vole, Red Deer, Whiskered Bat and evidence of visiting Otters.

Bat and bird boxes abound...

and all around the Water, Rangers have developed reed beds, wildflower meadows, hedgerows, ponds, woodlands and other habitits specifically designed to attract and provide homes for British wildlife.

In order to educate and involve visitors in conservation, there are information noticeboards around the paths, identifying native species and the habitats they prefer. There is also a Wildlife Centre constructed of wood and held together entirely by the weight of the turf roof; not a nail or bolt in sight. To supplement this, there are hides for watching birds.

By the time we reached this one, the afternoon was passing by and everywhere had become quiet. We spent a very peaceful half hour watching a selection of ducks, geese, cormorants and lapwings while drinking coffee and munching Jelly Babies.

Normally, the water level is higher and laps almost up to the hide, but the early summer was very dry this year and the Reservoir is still recovering.

The windows open, so we were able to look down the Water and enjoy the changing light.

It was very peaceful.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Spot the sheep

These sheep were grazing in the pastures alongside Carsington Water. I think the breed is a Jacob.

Apart from being uncommonly attractive, Jacob sheep have a number of attributes which make them good livestock. They are hardy, overwintering outside and being resistant to many of the diseases which commonly afflict sheep; they are prolific breeders with a high lamb survival rate and good mothering instincts and they also produce high quality wool which is excellent for spinning and weaving.

Personally, I just want to pick one up and cuddle it!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Carsington Water

Officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1992, Carsington Water, 16 miles north of Derby, is the ninth largest reservoir in Britain with a capacity of 7,800 million gallons. That's enough water to keep one person supplied for 500,000 years. It's deepest point is equivalent to seven double decker busses (31m) and the surface area comparable to the area covered by 700 football pitches. It is possible to walk the perimeter of the Water on paths and tracks; a total distance of around eight miles.

The reservoir was constructed to boost the storage capacity of the East Midlands area of the Severn Trent Water Authority by 10%, and currently supplies water to three million people across three counties. It does this by drawing water from the River Derwent during times of high rainfall and returning water to the river when levels drop. The water for treatment and drinking is actually taken from the Derwent. Carsington acts as a giant regulator.

Thinking back, it seems odd to remember a time when the Reservoir was not here, but it is actually still relatively new. Its advent has made a significant impact on the area, bringing in large numbers of people who would never have come here before the Water was constructed. There is something about a body of water which draws people in.

Unlike some other reservoirs, this construction did not require the moving of any settlements; only the demolition of two farm buildings, a fact which was part of the rational for the choice of site. Oddly enough, some of the land submerged belonged to my uncle and aunt's dairy farm (though the farm itself was above the water line) and I remember helping to pull up yarrow from the pasture in preparation for the cows being moved in to graze. (Yarrow will make a cow's milk taste bitter). I always find it slightly weird to think that I have walked on land which is now submerged in so much water. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Two fords and a ferry

So where did Twyford lane once go?

It forded the river of course :)

Until the Willington Bridge was built in 1839, there was no dry crossing over the river  between Burton-upon-Trent, c8 miles upstream of Twyford, and Swarkestone, c4 miles down. The relatively shallow water at Twyford made it one of few places where it was possible to cross in reasonable safety and the Trent is known to have been forded here since Roman times.

The name Twyford actually means two fords as there are two possible crossings at this point. Nevertheless, standing here looking across the river, I can guarantee that I would not have wanted to try either! 

At some point, the ford was superseded by the ferry.

The boat used was a chain ferry, hand-winched across the river along the course of a chain fixed between two posts. The original posts are still in place on either bank. One can be seen just behind the plough, now being used as a lifebelt stand.

Records do not show the exact date from which a ferry was installed, but it was used in 1790 by John Byng, fifth Viscount Torrington (1743-1813). Torrington was a famous diarist and refers to the ferry in his travel journals, 'The Torrington Diaries' (published post-humously in 1934). There is also an even earlier reference to the existence of a ferry, made by William Woolley in his historical writings of 1712.

As well as travellers, the ferry was used by locals who grazed their cattle in pastures across the river and, slightly more unusually, as a hearse after the self-hanging of a stranger in the village. The body was ferried across the river to be buried because a suicide could not be laid to rest in the consecrated ground of the church graveyard.

The photograph below, shows the ferry in action in 1899.


Then, in 1962 -3 came the coldest winter for 200 years. It brought blizzards, snow drifts, blocks of ice, and temperatures lower than -20 °C, beating the Great Freeze of '47 and becoming the coldest on record since 1740. The months of snow and relentless cold finally ended in March of 1963, beginning with a south westerly breeze which rapidly took temperatures up to 17 degrees celcius. The resulting thaw brought widespread flooding which, amongst many other more significant consequences, washed away the Twyford ferry.

Having been made somewhat redundant by the building of the bridge at Willington (2 miles upstream) and due to the fact that it was not suitable for cars, the ferry was never replaced. 

Now the river is empty and quiet as it rolls by slowly, reflecting the autumn sunshine.

Time to drift over to Jenny Matlock and see what other posts are on offer for Alphabe-Thursday and the letter F.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Six miles south of Derby is the tiny village of Twyford. It's quite close to home but a place I haven't visited for years, the reason being that it's at the end of a lane which goes no-where else - not any longer anyway! (I'll explain tomorrow)

Since 1977, Twyford has been a conservation area and the village is quite a pretty little place, but I did feel a little awkward wandering around; it has a very private feel to it, almost as if it's been forgotten by the rest of the world.

Twyford has a long history. The parish was referred to in the Domesday Book of 1086, although no church was recorded here at that time. In 1563, the joint population for Twyford and Stenson was recorded as 148. Today, Twyford is recorded separately, the 1999 Electoral Roll figures showing it as having 19 households, totalling 101 inhabitants.

The village is served by the church of St Andrew, a medieval build with a Norman chancel arch. The tower shows signs of being built in three stages, the lower part probably dating from the early 13th century and the upper sections from the 15th century. The slightly incongruous looking brick nave is the result of rebuilding in 1735 after the church fell into disrepair. The bricks are the Georgian outer facing of the existing masonry.

Inside the tower are three bells, one of which is dated 1611.

Parish records date back to 1658 and the church is accompanied by a graveyard, which tells stories of its own.

Once, the village also boasted a school and a pub; the Blue Bell. The school was built in 1843, but closed 100 years later because of it's small size; it's children being relocated to nearby Findern. The Pub was earlier, meeting its demise in 1850, when it was demolished by Sir John Harpur Crewe because it was becoming a notorious meeting place for poachers.

Other modern amenities were slow to reach the village. Electricity was only connected up here in 1939 and mains water did not arrive until 1959. To put that into context, that's only two years before Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Just for fun - and an opinion

A trip to Alton Towers would not be complete without a bit of time spent in Katanga Canyon; home to The Runaway Mine Train and Congo River Rapids.

They aren't exactly biiiiiiig scary rides, but they are both great fun, with their courses intertwining and much waving happening between the two.

Of course, one of the attractions of the Rapids is the possibility of getting wet, but unlike the Flume (on which we did get extremely wet!), with the Rapids, it's very much hit and miss. I've been on them in the same boat as people who have come away very damp, whilst I got off bone dry, and vice versa. It all depends on the spin!

My boys and I usually ride the Mine Train after the Rapids in order to blow out some of the dampness. It's a bit like the combination of a washing machine and spin drier.

A few interesting facts

The Mine Train was added to the Park in 1992 as the new themed 'coaster'; though it is in fact a powered ride throughout, the speed being controlled by the ride operator up to a maximum of 22mph. It's a relatively long ride at about 50 seconds per lap with two laps as standard (except in very quiet times, when a little shouted persuasion may extract a third time round). At £3 million, it was a lot cheaper than the big coasters, but had the same designer, John Wardley.

The Rapids have been around much longer, opening for the 1986 season. At the time they were the biggest project the Park had attempted, taking over 12 acres of what had been the car park, requiring the moving of over 40,000 tons of earth and rock. They also needed the installation of their own electricity sub station and the building of a 1.3 million gallon reservoir to store the water used. At 6 minutes, it's one of the longest water rides in the UK with a total channel length of 725 metres.

Good fun :)

NB: Those who value our heritage will be pleased to hear that, during the construction of the Rapids, great care was taken to preserve the mature trees which existed in the area.

PS: I think that my own view on the question from yesterday is sadness at the fallings out of families over inheritance but, once the Towers had fallen into decay, I'd rather see the estate used as a theme park than being flattened for the building of houses! I do, however, wish that Merlin (the current owners of Alton Towers) would see fit to restore at least a section of the building to it's historic richness.

I'm not holding my breath though...

"Too expensive! The paying public would rather the money were spent on a new attraction."

"They are a great attraction in their current state of ruin!" (useful for Hex (ride) and Scarefest (event) )

"We have restored some parts enough for you to walk around them as ruins."

...I can hear the arguments now!

Besides, people who like historic buildings are hardly going to pay Alton Towers prices just to walk round the Towers (which is exactly why coach loads of people no longer arrive to walk round the gardens).

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Towers at Alton - and a question!

These days, Alton Towers is primarily about big rides, but it hasn't always been that way. Once the Park was a family estate belonging to the Earls of Shrewsbury, the first of whom fought alongside Henry V in the 15th Century.

In the early days, the house was called Alton Lodge and was mainly a summer residence, but when Charles became 15th Earl of Shrewsbury, he decided to extend both house and grounds. Work began in 1800 and continued until 1852. It was during this time that the gorge was developed into a wonderful stately home garden, with hand dug lakes and pools, sourced by water diverted in from a spring two miles away. Alongside this went the planting of trees, with 5,000 conifers, and 8,000 deciduous trees being planted around the estate.

The major work on the house began in 1811, comissioned by Charles, but continued after his death by his nephew John. Unfortunately, when John died in 1852, family members began to battle over the right of ownership of the estate and the costs incurred were to prove near fatal, with the eventual winner having to sell off much of the contents of the Towers and then open the grounds to the public in order to pay the bills. incurred

Eventually, in 1924, the Towers were sold to a group of local businessmen. The estate continued to be open to the public and attracted many visitors, but between 1941 and 51, it was requisitioned by the army as a cadet training centre, during which time the house continued to fall into disrepair. When it was eventually returned to its owners, the house was gutted, leaving only the shell.

It was from this foundation that John Broome built the beginnings of the leisure park. Conceived in 1980, developed in stages, and changing hands more than once over the following 30 years, it eventually became the popular theme park it is today.

So, here's my question. Is Alton Towers a wonderful success as a popular theme park, or is it a tragic example of history lost?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The gorge, by air or land

At 800 acres, the Park at Alton Towers covers quite a lot of ground, most of it gently hilly. Moving around the different areas of the Park can include a lot of walking around, but there are some easier options, one of which is the cable car.

Although it doesn't run to all areas of the Park, the Sky Ride (as it is known) gives easy access between the main entrance and some of the big rides and is an enjoyable trip over the gorge.

An alternative, is to walk through the gardens. Though not as extensive as they once were, there is still an area which is attractive.

My earliest memory of Alton Towers was as a teen when Derby Round Table organised a 12 mile sposored walk around this area. Bus loads of us came out here to complete the walk. The 'rides' consisted of the cable car and a Merry go Round and the treat at the end of the day was to pile onto the boating lake and have great fun soaking each other with inter-boat water fights.

In those days, the gardens used to attract bus loads of visitors, whereas now they are definitely a sideshow, but it's nce to see that some things haven't disappeared.

Friday, 22 October 2010


Nemesis: An opponent that cannot be beaten or overcome

Meet Nemesis, Air's alien companion, lying in a lake of blood, contorted in torturous twists of torment... and watching you!

Nemesis is one of my favourite rides at Alton Towers, for the speed, the tight twists and turns, the plunges down into the semi darkness of the pits and for the freedom of having no floor. And the best seat of all is front row, left end (just in case you ever come when it's quiet!).

A few facts about Nemesis...

The ride was unveiled on 19th March 1994, having been cloaked in secrecy up until that point. It's project name was Secret Weapon 3!

Design and manufacture was down to the same partnership who later produced Air, but it came in cheaper at a mere £10 million (though, being eight years earlier...). The track length is 716 metres and the highest drop 13 metres. Top speed reached is 50mph and the maximum G force is 4G. The ride lasts 1 minute 30 seconds including loading; which makes the ride itself a minute at best!

But, what a minute!!

Thursday, 21 October 2010


From its conception, Air was meant to be something a little different from the usual scary coasters; a ride to simulate the feeling of flight. And so, the restraints are designed to be comfortable as the seats tilt by ninety degrees to horizontal, placing the rider in a face down position in order for the 'flight' to begin.

After the initial crawl through the boarding tunnel, the ride emerges onto the climb; the ground slowly dropping further and further away until the top, followed by a dip and twist, launch the ride smoothly into the first speed gathering swoop. Sometimes seeming to barely clear the ground, sometimes soaring into the air or floating upside down, the remainder of the flight brings the rider as close to being a bird as technology will allow.

Technology was certainly a problem in the early days. Originally planned for the 1998 season, the complexity of the design led to it being postponed; its place in the batting order being taken by the much more straightforward build of near-vertical drop Oblivion. Air was finally unveiled on 16th March 2002, constructed during winter rains which reduced the site to a lake of mud!

Air was designed by John Wardley and manufactured by Bollinger & Mabillard for a total cost of £12 million. During the design stages it was known as Secret Weapon 5; the ride's identity hidden to guard against industrial espionage. In the course of its 840m track, it reaches a top speed of 47mph, exerting a maximum G Force of 3.5G. The drop is 20m and the entire ride lasts 1 minute 30 seconds.

Whenever I can, I visit Alton Towers away from the busy school holidays, meaning that queue times are quite reasonable. On a busy day in the height of summer when the secondary schools are enjoying their 'enrichment' activities, queue time for Air can be anything up to one and a half hours. Do I think it's worth it? I'd have to be queuing with somebody pretty interesting!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


First, the slow steep ascent...

rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety (Breathe! Don't forget to breathe!) rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety (Why do I put myself through this?) rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety (I must have a screw loose!) rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety (Oh c**p! What if IT'S got a screw loose!) rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety (Nearly there!!!), rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety,




P  a  u  s  e







Tell you what. While I'm sprinting back round to the 'Oblivion' queue, why don't you nip over to Jenny's to check out the other E posts on Alphabe-Thursday?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


My neighbour has a small line of beech trees. Too close to his house really, they block the light from the windows and he is talking of having them pollarded. I'm pleased that his thoughts are of reduction, rather than destruction, because they are beautiful trees.

'Beautiful' at any time of year, but glorious now as the leaves cycle through pale green to yellow to rich golden brown.

And, meanwhile, my forsythia is rapidly turning towards deep burgundy.

I'm torn. I love to see the changing colours, but I'm missing the long warm days of summer already. Winter does seem like a season of virtually continuous hard slog and autumn is her prelude!

I seem to be in the minority though. Most of the posts and comments I am reading are saying how much people love autumn. What about you?

Monday, 18 October 2010

Nature's fire

Closing statement!
Crowned in glory,
nature's fire precedes winter's

Sunday, 17 October 2010


It looks little more than an alley, but this is Scarthin, one of the main routes into the heart of Cromford village. Up here are the Post Office, the Boat Inn and the famous Scarthin Books, with it's 100,000 volumes. It's quite interesting seeing large vehicles making deliveries up here!

I love the solid looking stone houses with their small square-paned, wood-framed windows and doors opening onto the narrow passage. I also love the late summer sunflower peeping over the wall :)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Market Place Restaurant too

The Cromford Market Place Restaurant has been a family run establishment for twenty years. At £8.99 for 3 courses plus wine (lunchtime offer), it's a place we visit fairly regularly. There has been the odd occasion when the food has been disappointing, but the overwhelming majority of the time, it is beautiful.

There is, however, one food for which I have discovered I have no liking whatsoever. I tried it as an experiment. It sounded different; a new experience; something to be relished. It was disgusting. What was it?


Never again!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Market Place Restaurant

From the outside, this could be one of those nice tea rooms which offers hot drinks and cake, toasted sandwiches and toasted teacakes served on prettily patterned plates. I was going to say 'Very English', but actually, there's one just like it in Criccieth, so I really mean very British!

Until, that is, you read the board! King prawn salad and sweet chile dip, sizzling rump steak, followed by coffee with cream (though I was very tempted by the coffee gateau!) and all accompanied by a glass of sweet, white wine. Delicious!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Diamonds in the world of dreams

With Autumn morning comes the mist; pale grey swirls of dampness, settling into hollows, making the ordinary seem strange and eerie; a muted world of dreams and mystery.

And within the world of dreams are diamonds; woven strings of diamonds, delicate tracery draped in intricate patterns, intertwined and interlinked - Crystalline!

And amongst her woven diamonds, lurks the predator!

Dew laden and deadly,
The attercob's web in the early light.

(ATTERCOB, a spider ; from ATER, blood, and COB, a tyrant. Attercob is also used for a cobweb:
some interpret it the poisonous tyrant, from ATER, virus.)

If you still have the strength, weave your way over to Jenny's to see what other D posts are lying in wait!