Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Derelict London Walk - Silvertown

Sunday 19-July-2015

Another walk from Paul Talling. This time Silvertown from his book on Derelict London.

We started at the Tate+Lyle factory, formerly the Tate factory, and source of wealth for Sir Henry Tate - he of Tate Gallery fame. He also founded the more modest Tate Institute built for his sugar workers.

We then went to look at part of the new Crossrail track. This stretch utilises pre-existing Victorian tunnels and tracks of disused railway lines being given a new lease of life.

Tay Wharf was the manufacturing base of marmalade makers Keiller and Sons from 1880 until 1992. Keiller was from Dundee on the River Tay hence the name.

You can see the disused rail tracks no longer in use but the level crossing warning sign remains. This is our tour group.

Georges Diner "Allegedly serving up the best fry-ups and home-made steak and kidney pies for miles around, and run by Brian (not George), the clientele here was a great mixture of builders, lorry drivers and Canary Wharf suits." http://www.derelictlondon.com/cafes.html

The old Charing Cross Pier formed a floating bar in the defunct London Pleasure Gardens.

"The London Pleasure Gardens fiasco has cost Newham council more than £4 million for the five weeks it was open. [...] It opened at the end of June to take advantage of an expected surge in visitor numbers thanks to the 2012 Olympics. But just a week after the Games themselves opened on July 27, the company operating the site, London Pleasure Gardens Ltd, went into administration after events were cancelled and predicted visitors failed to show up." Read more at BDOnline...

Through the gates we could see a large building, These mills replace the previous flour mills that were the largest in the UK until destroyed by a huge TNT explosion in 1917.

A quick, obligatory look at that marvel of modern engineering that is the Thames Barrier.

Adjacent to the barrier is Waterside Park including a dock that has been filled in and landscaped with hedges trimmed to resemble waves.

In one park donated by the philanthropic Mr Tate we came across the incongruous shipyard gates from Belfast shipbuilders Harland and Wolff who had repair facilities in North Woolwich.

The other half of Tate+Lyle - a sculpture at the entrance to Abram Lyle's golden syrup factory.

More disused rail tracks running alongside North Woolwich Road and close to the UK's first ever flyover - well there had to be a first one and Silvertown was the trailblazer.

Crossing the road and through a short passage took us into another world in Galleons Point Marina. The contrast between the yacht owning apartment blocks and the industrial dereliction could not be more stark.

A mere 4.1 miles at a very leisurely pace but after 21 miles the day before that was fine with us.

Thanks again to Paul Talling for a fascinating glimpse into London's more recent industrial history. http://www.derelictlondon.com/

North Downs Way 03 - Dorking to Oxted

Saturday 18-July-2015

Another weekend, another section of the NDW. A train down to Dorking and a mile walk to pick up where we finished off last time where the NDW crosses the A24.

First highlight: stepping stones across the River Mole.

Classic chalk landscape reminiscent of last weekend on the Isle of Wight.

A bit of industrial archaeology - an old lime kiln chimney.

This folly is the Inglis Memorial was donated to the Borough of Reigate in 1909, by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert William Inglis VC. It was built as a drinking fountain for horses on the original main route over Reigate Hill.

The interior has a lovely starscape zodiac painted on the underside of the roof.

Reigate Fort (NT) and various outbuildings were built in 1898 as part of a 72-mile defence line to protect London whilst a huge ship-building programme was initiated by the British government. The fort held vital tools and ammunition to supply soldiers and artillery at short notice.

Village cricket - it doesn't get more English than that.

Lunch at The Feathers Hotel, Merstham. A healthy salad but only a half of Proper Job otherwise the afternoon stretch would have been a lot harder.

A fair sized fungus; not sure what it is as I couldn't find it in our mushroom books but I wouldn't eat it unless an expert told me it was OK.

As seems to be the case on every stage start and end so far, we had a mile to walk to or from the station. Including the extra mile from NDW to Oxted station the distance just nudged over the 21 miles.

The route involved two motorway crossing (M25, M23) but bridges and overpasses paved the way with nothing more than the drowsy hum of traffic to disturb us.

I just hope the Hadrian's Wall walk is as sunny and delightful in a couple of weeks time.

This leg: 21 miles
Total so far: 47 miles

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Walk on the Isle of Wight

Godshill, IoW. Saturday 11-July-2016

Our friends Tim and Sarah retired to the Isle of Wight and this was the first opportunity to visit them in their new home. They do a lot of walking because they have a black Lab called Django. Since we are trying to fit in as much walking as we can before our charity walk next month it suited everyone to plan for a good long walk.

It is possible to buy a through ticket from home to Ryde Pier Head which includes the ferry and a two minute trip from the end of the pier to dry land. I just love that. We went down Friday afternoon for a boozy meal in.

Saturday morning, only slightly hungover, we went for a walk to Ventnor. As we left the village we passed a much photographed scene. There are many thatched cottages on the Island just like Hampshire across the Solent.

The countryside is much like the North Downs Way that we are part way through walking: rolling chalk hills, mixed farmland and woodland - very lovely.

Lots of sheep grazing meant Django had to go on the leash for these fields lest he decide he wanted to play with the sheep.

Part of the route was along a disused railway line, they make for good level paths.

We came across some Triffids. Turns out they are Echium Pininana, a native of the Canary Islands but we are clearly far enough south here for them to do well.

We hit the coast at Steephill Cove. A lovely little piece of very traditional looking seaside.

Sandy beach, boats, deck chairs, ice-cream and not a Kiss-me-quick hat in sight. Our hosts said it was busy but, for a sunny summer's day, it seemed to me to merely modestly bustling.

Along the coast into Ventnor for a crab sandwich lunch and then the return leg with an additional loop so it was not entirely retracing our footsteps.

Total trip 12.2 miles at a leisurely 2.7 mph in glorious sunshine

Sunday, after an enormous Full English breakfast, we headed off back to "The North Island" as mainland Britain is sometimes whimsically referred to by the islanders.

I love that the Island Line uses old tube trains for its rolling stock; a little flashback to early trips to London. The passengers numbers are such that a two-carriage train suffices.

An excellent weekend away with many thanks to our hosts.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Puglia June 2015: Installing a Pool

Last trip we acquired an above-ground pool but it was missing a part. The Italian distributors did not stock it, the American manufacturers only shipped to US and Canada, the UK distributor only shipped within the UK. That left us only one choice - we had to squeeze in another trip to Italy.

Said part was duly ordered, flights booked and hold luggage allowance paid for (we are talking EasyJet here). Our flight was Thursday evening so I took the part into work and many of my colleagues wondered if I was taking a surfboard with me.

Our local agent had arranged for a bed of sand to be laid down. Concerns about rain washing it away earlier in the week meant that it was laid down at 7am that Friday morning. It isn't actually sand it is more like limestone powder.

The liner looked like it had been previous stored resting on earth, it was pretty grubby with the red, clay-like soil round here. We unrolled it in the courtyard so that Mary could give it a wash. The instructions recommended laying it out in the sun to warm and soften so we killed two birds with one stone.

Next we laid a sheet of plastic as an underlay partly to reduce the risk of sand erosion and partly to provide extra protection for the liner.

Next we laid the liner out and checked all the frame parts were in location.

Opened out the liner and made sure it was correctly lined up with the sand base.

The edge pieces are slotted together and slid into the tube. Then the U-shaped side supports are slotted into the frame.

The tricky bit, which requires at least three people, is raising the frame and attaching the lower end of the U-supports to the stays round the base. That done it suddenly looks like a serious pool of a fair size.

More cleaning while we waited for Giorgio, our water man. Bear in mind that we are not on mains water and even if we were it would take forever to fill the pool from a tap. We have a cistern under the courtyard which requires regular tanker loads - typically three per week at €20 a pop - when we have a full house.

It took eight tanker loads to fill the pool. Fortunately Giorgio lives close by so each round trip doesn't take long. The first trip was only a part load because of the slope of the drive.

For subsequent trips Giorgio brought all his hoses daisy-chained together and discharged from the upper drive. Once the first couple of loads were in we emptied a bucket of "shock" chloride to start the water treatment. Later fine adjustments will be made by the pool guy.

So we had to try the water the next day. It was pretty chilly but it had to be done. It will warm up. Even by the Sunday it was noticeably warmer.

We have already updated the rental websites with photo of the new pool. Many other trulli for rent have a pool and I think we were at a disadvantage without one. It may not be a sophisticated in-ground pool but you can swim in it, cool off it it and splash about in it. I hope this will generate more interest - we will see.

Friday, July 03, 2015

The Lost River Fleet Walk

Sunday 21-June-15

Through our friend Nigel we met Paul Talling who has written a couple of books on London: Derlict London and London's Lost Rivers (also on FB Derelict LondonLost Rivers). He also does guided walks based on the books. They tend to sell out really quickly so we booked a couple pretty smartish when the email hit the inbox, one of each.

First up, the River Fleet, starting where it empties into the Thames just below Blackfriars Bridge. The walk covers a lot of history from Roman times up to Dickensian London.

One of the first stops was St Ann Blackfriars, Ireland Yard dating back to the 16th century and burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.

Further on we took in a bit of derelict London at Smithfield Market, the offal from which used to form a major pollutant in the old River Fleet.

The interior looks like a poor relation of Leadenhall with Victorian cast iron pillars.

I was amused by the concrete blocks with stencilled design to make it look like an apartment block; this block is about 60 cm tall

Later we went to Clerkenwell and there is a clue in it's name:

It is the site of a mediaeval well dating back to at least 1174 which is still there and can be visited by appointment.

The river is all underground in pipes and forms part of the sewer system. It can still be heard. If you put your ear to this grating you can hear the rushing sound of the river - a look out for traffic is recommended!

Mount Pleasant was sarcastically named after a huge rubbish mound and there are a number of Post Office building round there. As a teenager I went on a tour of the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre sorting office built on the location of the former Coldbath Fields Prison that ceased to function in 1885. They have a pretty cool private underground railway for transferring mail between buildings

We passed a plaque salvaged from a previous building on that site that was home to Nell Gwyn, long time mistress of King Charles II.

An early example of social housing near St Pancras

"Dust and Ashes Only" from the days of coal fires and, presumably, smog and London pea-soupers and large numbers of deaths from respiratory problems. Ah, the good old days.

Final stop was St Pancras Old Church featuring the Soane Mausoleum of John Soane designer of the Bank of England.

The dome is the inspiration for that iconic British symbol - the red telephone box.

Also home to the Hardy Tree surround by gravestones relocated there by a young Thomas Hardy.

We then adjourned to a local pub because walking is thirsty work. Many thanks to Paul for an entertaining day full of factoids and trivia about London and its history.