Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Puzzle

I don't usually post pics of this part of my garden. It's a weedy wooded north-facing slope. I feel I should be doing something with it, yet each year I postpone starting anything major. I think the problem is knowing exactly what to do with it.

It's all been a bit of a puzzle for me, so that should be the clue to what this picture is of!

It's Araucaria araucana, better know as the Monkey-puzzle tree. It is the national tree of Chile, and is native to the south and central regions of that country. After WW2 it was planted frequently, and inappropriately, in suburban gardens in this country. It grows to 40 metres tall with a two metre diameter trunk. I was interested to see today, at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, newly planted examples of the tree.

The plan was to spend an hour or two at the gardens, to see if I could get some inspiration on what I might do with my own wild place. Mind you, it was a bit off-putting at the east gate, where these disinfectant mats had been laid to promote awareness of Sudden Oak Death, a serious plant disease whose spores can be spread on footwear.

The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is a fantastic place, one that I spend too little time at. Cedrus atlantica Glauca is the most spectacular and largest of all the blue leaved conifers and this is a fine specimen at Edinburgh.

Tree photography is something I have to work on! This is Cedrus deodara.

Easier perhaps to concentrate on shrubs. This hydrangea was looking spectacular!

It's a fine place, but today was not one for inside! Did I get inspiration? Not really, but it was a pleasant day out!

This is Britain's largest plant fossil, trunk of a tree (Pitus withami) which was growing some 330 million years ago. It was found at Craigleith quarry not far from the Royal Botanic garden where it is now exhibited!

I can't resist showing these next couple of pics. On my walk back I crossed over the Water of Leith where I spotted what I thought must be an early Festival Fringe installation. A small audience was watching this heron, which was seemingly unaware of us, just looking for its dinner.

Unsuccessfully, during the time we watched. Indeed, a local resident told me that he had often watched the heron, and had yet to see it ever catch a fish.

But we did see it having a scratch!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What do you think of the show so far?

The comedian John Eric Bartholomew was born in Morecambe and took the name of his home town for the stage. He died in 1984, and the statue above was unveiled by the Queen in 1999. The title of this post was one of Eric Morecambe's catch phrases. The standard response from the Morecambe and Wise audience was, of course, "Rubbish!"

Read about Eric Morecambe here.

If you've forgotten 'Boom Oo Yatta-ta-ta' you can listen to the record here, and see the television sketch here. (And if you have time on your hands, search YouTube for 'Morecambe and Wise' and laugh again when they met the Beatles, and Andre Previn, and others!) Brilliant comedy.

In the fifty years since I used to holiday in Morecambe with my parents, I've only been back a couple of times. The town has been through difficult times certainly, but there are definite signs of regeneration and optimism now. This bit of beach has beautiful sand, although the view at one time would have been dominated by the Central Pier, long gone.

The famous Midland Hotel in art deco style, which opened in July 1933, has been completely renovated and it opened again in 2008. I had a look inside yesterday. Very nice!

The old stone jetty has been tarted up. Did you know that the building on the end was an old station, in use 1853-67 in connection with ferry sailings to Northern Ireland and elsewhere?

The jetty had an entertaining busker yesterday, in front of the life boat station.

This is just one example from The TERN Project, a collection of artworks along the renovated promenade.

Unfortunately this cafe/restaurant was not open at the time I was there. I did wonder about the name. The concept of Scottish-Thai cuisine got the juices flowing. I wonder if yam kao tort mars bar (salad of deep fried rice with Mars bar) would be on the menu?

Anyway, "What do you think of the show so far?"

The old Morecambe Promenade station is now an arts centre and pub, and houses the information centre where a very helpful gentleman was able to assist with my questions about the electric trains that used to run between Morecambe and Lancaster (an example here). And he was very polite as I rabbited on with reminiscences of holidays in Morecambe in the 1950s.

A big supermarket stands on the site of all the sidings behind the Promenade station, and has a large photograph on its wall of what it used to be like. The new Morecambe 'bus stop' station, for the ride along to Lancaster, has just three lines.

46233 The Duchess of Sutherland pulled The Railway Touring Company's Cumbrian Mountain Express yesterday, from Liverpool over Shap and back on the Carlisle - Settle line. Here is the locomotive at Carlisle's Citadel Station. I took some moving pictures, and these can be seen here.

Premier dining class. I like the detail - the romatic red rose table decoration!

Pamela, Pamela? Yes, of course you remember. It was in 1967, listen here.

We all got into position on Platform 4 to watch the Duchess pulling away, just as this yellow thing pulled up and stopped on the middle line, blocking our view.

This is Network Rail's 'New Measurement Train', also known as 'The Flying Banana'. This specialised train operates in the UK to assess the condition of track. It is a specially converted High Speed Train, consisting of two Class 43 power cars and rake of Mark 3 coaches. Apparently it can check the condition of all main lines in Great Britain in a fortnight! The train measures the contact between rails, wheels and the overhead electric supply line. Lasers and other instruments are used to make other measurements of the track geometry. The train captures video footage from the front and rear power cars, and video of the pantograph and wheel interfaces. The NMT was launched in 2003, though the vehicles are much older than this.

So the 'New' part of the name is something of a misnomer, and yesterday it looked absolutely filthy, a disgraceful condition for something with such an important function. Ironic really, as it stood beside 46233, from another lifetime, looking pristine by comparison!

Pics © Skip Cottage

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Magic Roundabout

The seed of the idea for yesterday's railway adventure was planted some time ago when I realised that I had never been in Glasgow's Queen Street Lower Level station! It germinated when I discovered that Strathclyde Partnership for Transport had a one-day ticket with flexible travel on rail and underground. I could then even discover exactly where Whifflet was, because, despite spending much of my working life in Glasgow, and seeing this destination on the journey boards whenever I was waiting for my own train home, I had never been there.

And the idea flowered on a rainy day in July (so no conscience that I was missing a day in the garden), and a rest day of the Tour de France into the bargain.

I trained up to Glasgow from Lockerbie (of course), and duly purchased my 'Roundabout' ticket. And for the next eight hours I travelled, not with any particular plan, on a variety of trains and lines in the Greater Glasgow area. It turned out to be great fun.

I got the Queen Street Low Level out of the way first of all, travelling out and back to Dumbarton Central. Dumbarton retains fond memories for me as that was there my aunt and uncle stayed - beside a railway line as it happened - and I visited often.

Then it was on to Motherwell, from the interchange at Partick, and from there to Cumbernauld (above), passing on the way that mysterious place called 'Whifflet'!

It was back to Queen Street (the high Level Station this time) and around the line to Anniesland via Maryhill, this being a new route for me. It passes through Gilshochill, one of these names, like Milngavie, designed to confuse those who are not native to the region, being pronounced 'Gilshyhill'. From Anniesland it was back to Glasgow Central Low Level.

Another line that I have often wondered exactly where it went finishes goes out to Newton. I now know! I returned to Mount Florida in torrential rain, and old stamping grounds on the Cathcart Circle (above).

Now, you really have to be a railway enthusiast (make that 'nerd') if you can answer correctly the question, "Which is the odd one out of Pollokshields East, Pollokshields West, Pollokshaws East and Pollokshaws West?" The answer is of course the last, which is the only one of the four NOT on the Cathcart Circle.

In my schooldays, just as the Cathcart Circle was being electified, friends and I used to leave school and run to Pollokshields East, rather than a nearer station, to get the train all the way round the Circle into Central Station!

And I once made the mistake of arranging to meet a friend at Pollokshields West Station. She failed to show, and I found out later she had been waiting at Pollokshaws East. In the days before mobile phones of course! Short romance that was. But I digress.

The new platforms in the main Central Station (above) are now in operation, where once there used to be car parking. My last ride of the day was along the Paisley Canal line, where my railway travel all began, that line serving Mosspark West (at it once was called, it's now just Mosspark) near where I was brought up.

It was home to Lockerbie after all that. A great day's adventure. How much did it all cost? Well, the Roundabout Ticket was just £5.25. Magic!

Pics © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The garden in July

For those who follow the progress in my garden, I apologise for the lack of updates in the past few weeks. I've been busy with other things. But I have been keeping on top of the maintenance - in other words, weeding - just. It is so easy to let it get away from you, and out of hand. And when the weather is poor, like last year, that's exactly what tends to happen in my plot!

New bark chips on the path have freshened up the bottom area of the garden. The white spires are from a favourite Rogersia which is doing well in this spot which only really gets sun in the mornings.

The pond looks as if it has been there forever, with this large clump of Astrantia in the foreground.

With the dry spell well and truly over, there has been lots of growth, but perhaps not as much colour as I would like. A number of dahlias, overwintered successfully for 3-4 years, did not come through this past very cold winter.

I mentioned before that I would need to do some major work on the middle level. That's now completed, with some new heathers, an azalea and a rhododendron successfully planted.

Here's a look from a different angle. The wlole area will probably be at its best in a couple of years time.

I decided to minimise the money spent on annuals this year, so these containers have been grown on from plugs and small plants. They are just coming to their best with surfinias, geraniums and fuchsias predominating.

I have been growing hostas in tubs for a couple of years now, and have a selection of varieties.

I don't have a big vegetable garden. This year I have lots of potatoes, chard, broccoli, cut and come again salad leaves, and mange tout peas. I failed to net my new strawberry bed, and the birds were well fed!

Pics © Skip Cottage

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Railway Children

It was a case of stepping back in time yesterday, with a trip to the Keighley and Worth Valley heritage railway. This is the station at Keighley.

It's the attention to detail which makes the heritage experience so much fun!

It was diesel transport that took me up the short line via Ingrow West, Damens, Oakworth (which played a role in the 1970 production of The Railway Children), Haworth, to Oxenhope.

At Oxenhope there is a workshop and museum with static displays, including LMS Jubilee Class 5596 Bahamas which was built in 1935 by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow. Bahamas is in line for overhaul, see here.

The exhibits include these wonderful Pullman coaches, and if you look closely you can see volunteers hard at work polishing the interiors!

But this is what I was there for, or course. In steam yesterday was 47279, an LMS Fowler 3F 0-6-0T, the class usually known as 'Jinties'.

Here it runs round at Oxenhope to pull the train back to Keighley.

I stopped off at Ingrow West to visit the Vintage Carriages Trust's Museum of Rail Travel. What an interesting and enjoyable experience that proved to be! The Trust is not part of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, but a day rover ticket does give free entry to this museum.

Travelling third class could not have been very comfortable at the beginning of the twentieth century!

This is inside the first class compartment of the 'Great Northern Railway Lavatory Composite Brake', see here. The five occupants of the compartment had access to their own loo!

Further renovations underway in the workshop.

Then it was back home, on Northern Rail, via the Settle-Carlisle line, definitely one of the great railway journeys in the country!