Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cheese at Dundonald

So what is the connection between Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire and Wensleydale cheese?

The two came together at the opening of my friend Brian Alderman's latest exhibition, with fellow artist Moira Metcalfe, in the castle's visitor centre until the end of October. Photos of the evening are here.

If you have never visited Dundonald Castle, put it on your 'to do' list. It is spectacular, and the visitor centre, run by an active group, the Friends of Dundonald Castle, has a cafe and museum. And if you have never tasted Wensleydale Blue cheese, Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes now has an online shop!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Blowing in the Wind

Wamphray escaped the heavy rain that accompanied the first big storm of autumn and affected other parts of the country, although it was certainly windy here overnight. The word that there was a tree down near Skip got me out with the camera today. I can confirm that it was blowy!

One of the features of the Parish of Wamphray, and indeed of Annandale, is the number of old trees which line the roads. I've photographed some of them before, see here, and have even talked about the 'hug method' for assessing their age (here)!

It was the beech tree above, on the back road towards Lockerbie, near Girthead, which was the culprit.

It's easy to see what had happened. The inside of the trunk had died and a major bough has broken off the weakened structure. I wonder what will happen to it now.

The Council workmen had been and gone by the time I got there and the road was open again. The residue will no doubt keep a few local stoves burning in due course.

Identifying aging and diseased trees is important and, even in my short time living in Annandale, I have see old, apparently healthy, trees felled on safety grounds. I wonder if roadside trees still get inspected regularly?

It's always good to see replacements growing away, however slowly!

You can probably tell that I have a fondness for these old timers. This one, near Gateside, is a favourite. It has to be 200 years old and watched over this road long before the motor car came along. With the wind blowing strongly, I did not spend any time underneath it today!

At one time someone was keeping track of these trees. Perhaps someone still is. I wonder if beech tree number 02429 is still on a database somewhere.

Another rainbow to add to the collection, albeit somewhat peely-wally. It did show that the sun was trying to get through today!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, September 17, 2012

Steam Sunday 2: Alston Revisited

I visited the South Tynedale Railway twice back in 2010, see here and here, and I promised myself then to return to take a trip along the narrow guage line. This I was able to do recently, on Steam Sunday, part one of which I described here.

No 6, Thomas Edmondson, is a 90 horse power, 0-4-0 tank locomotive, constructed to a standard World War I German Army design, built in 1918 by Henschel & Sohn, of Kassel, Germany. Read all about it here.

The line is pushing towards Slaggyford, and the current end destination is Lintley Halt, see here.

Lintley Halt opened just this season. The railway's coaching stock has a fascinating history, see here. For example, this buffet car spent its early life in Sierra Leone.

 Running round at Lintley.

I was interested to learn that the locomotive is named after the inventor of the railway ticketing system used for some 150 years, see here.

I'm being rounded up by the friendly guard, ready for the return trip.

The line passes through some lovely scenery of the South Tyne valley, seen here through the glass! The route follows part of the Alston branch of the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway which ran from Haltwhistle to Alston, and closed in 1976.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Friday, September 14, 2012

September 31st

It was good to see that, according to the BBC, we will be able to enjoy an extra day this year - September 31st!

At the close of the first day's coverage of the Ricoh British Women's Open 2012 golf at Liverpool, presenter Hazel Irvine trailed the upcoming Ryder Cup, to be held on the last weekend of the month.

I laughed at the mistake - no doubt made by a young member of the BBC staff, who never learned at school,

"Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear,
And twenty-nine in each leap year."

Other versions of this wee rhyme are available.

Then I wondered. Perhaps it is just a dastardly ruse to confuse the Americans?

Screenshot from the BBC iPlayer, here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Finishing Line

In my 30s I wrote out a 'bucket list' of things I would like to achieve during my life. Looking back now at 65, I have achieved most of what I hoped to do back then. In my retirement, I still think occasionally, "I would like to see, or do, that." The other day, looking ahead to this week's Tour of Britain cycling, I thought to myself, "I would love to be there in person when Mark Cavendish won a stage." I've watched a lot of cycling this summer... but on the box. What would it be like to be at the finishing line live to see Cav in full flow?

With Stage 3 of the Tour of Britain finishing at Dumfries today, I set out to support the event and experience some of the sights and sounds at the end of the stage. That's the actual finishing line - really it is - above!

There were blue skies at the Whitesands in Dumfries this morning, with the river in full flow.

Last year I watched the Tour as it came through Newton Wamphray, see here. This time I watched the cyclists pass 'my corner' thanks to the big screen set up on the Whitesands. At least the weather on the Scottish stage was rather better this year than last.

There was opportunity on the Whitesands to see more of what goes on behind the scenes of such a big event. Here the team buses get marshalled into their parking area having come from the start in Jedburgh.

Then it was a case of finding a place at the barriers on the finishing line. The cyclists would pass through Whitesands before doing a further loop and returning for what was likely to be a sprint finish. Would the Manx Missile be first across? Read on.

What I found interesting last year was all the police and marshalls on motorbikes at the head of the race to ensure safe passage. This year was just the same. It's an aspect of cycle road racing which does not come across on the television.

Despite the importance of the job, it was good to see the police entering the spirit of the event, 'high-fiving'  many of the schoolkids lined up along the barriers! Not something you see every day!

On the first pass through Whitesands, there was still a breakaway out front.

But here's Cav in the rainbow jersey, surrounded by his Sky teammates. If I have identified correctly that's Bernhard Eisel in front and Christian Knees behind him.

 And here's my cycling hero, Bradley Wiggins. Out of the saddle, too!

More of the peleton.

You will notice that the blue skies have disappeared. Indeed there were a couple of heavy showers, which did little to dampen the atmosphere in Dumfries, but made it interesting for the riders out on the course. The announcer worked hard to keep up the enthusiasm for a couple of hours as the crowds built up on the Whitesands.

I watched the last 20 kilometres or so on the big screen with my camera stowed away in my bag. The big screen showed the leaders swinging on to the Whitesands with Sky's Luke Rowe (now there's someone to keep an eye on for the future) leading Cavendish out. Textbook stuff and so well executed by the Sky team today.

I looked up, he flashed by. Did Cav win? Of course. I may not actually have seen it - I think I blinked -  but... I WAS THERE! Another magical sporting moment for me in a year when I have watched so much great sport.

Here's the winner, Mark Cavendish, on the podium. See some pro shots of the presentation here.

When you've got to go, you've got to go! The required business of any winner in any elite sport these days.

Back home and it was time to watch the hour's worth of highlights on ITV4. Great scenery. Some interesting pronunciations. I will have to call the Grey Mare's Tail, the 'Grey Marr's Tale', in the future, though it is hard to fault Hugh Porter's enthusiastic commentary on the race! 

As last year, the delights of Wamphray did not feature in the highlights programme (shame!), but the spectacular last kilometres of the sprint finish into Dumfries came over well in the televised coverage, thanks particularly to the helicopter!

I made the compulsory purchase of a Tour mug from the concession tent, and I look forward to using it and watching the rest of the Tour of Britain from the comfort of my living room in the days ahead!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, September 10, 2012

Steam Sunday 1

The Olympics and Paralympics made for a brilliant summer of sport. I watched so much of it, and loved it all. What would I do when it was all over? Yesterday dawned bright and sunny. Too nice to sit indoors - anyway I was pretty confident that David Weir would do the business in the marathon, even without me cheering him on from my couch! (And he did.)

So here I was at Appleby station awaiting the arrival of the Railway Touring Company's Waverley steam excursion, from York to Carlisle over the Carlisle-Settle line. This is a water stop for the steam loco. One problem. The rebuilt water tower is on the other line!

This water tanker was on hand to provide a fill up! I discovered yesterday that the tanker follows the train to Carlisle to provide water for the loco there, although apparently the Appleby tower is used on the return trip.

It was Black 5 No 45305 at the front yesterday. An old friend, see here.

Run the hose from the tanker ...

... and plug it in here!

Time too, to top up the oil level.

And even have an ice cream from the shop operated by the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle line.

The whistle blows, and everyone heads back on board for the run up to Carlisle.

 On its way.

It looked like a full complement of passengers too! And I headed off to my second destination of the day (Part 2 coming up).

Photos © Skip Cottage 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Thumper Sunday in the Eden Valley

Blue skies make such a difference! Last Sunday I was in the north of England at Warcop off the A66 Penrith to Brough road. These fells are part of the MOD's Warcop Training Area.

The flags were out for my first visit to the Eden Valley Railway!

Class 47 47799 Prince Henry is a recent addition to the stock at the railway, and greets arrivals to the site.

 Restored signal box.

Ready for the off. The railway offers a short run alone the restored line towards Appleby. The intention is to complete that link in the future. This was to be my first trip on a 'Thumper'!

Driver Bob stands beside the Class 205 DMU which was providing the transport on the day! Bob took time to show me some of the site and to answer my questions. It was only when I got home that I discovered that 'Bob the Driver' was Bob Sandland, one of the Trustees of the Eden Valley Railway Trust, and managing director of the  Eden Valley Railway Company. Thanks Bob, I enjoyed my visit immensely.

The Eden Valley Railway Trust has the objectives 'To acquire, rebuild and preserve, for the inhabitants of Cumbria and of the nation at large, the trackbed, buildings, structures and associated land of the former Eden Valley Railway between Kirkby Stephen and Penrith in the County of Cumbria, and of the former South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway between Barnard Castle in the County of Durham and Tebay in the County of Cumbria, and the former railway between Barnard Castle and Darlington in the County of Durham.
To extend these railways whenever and wherever it might be for the benefit of the inhabitants of Cumbria and of the nation at large.
To advance the education of the public in all matters related to the aforesaid railways.'

The Trust publishes an informative magazine. The website is here. With its friendly volunteers, the railway is well worth a visit not least for it's well stocked 'emporium'! Sunday September 27 will be the last day of the season to catch a ride on the line.

Photos © Skip Cottage