Monday, 21 July 2014

Fleetwood Tram Sunday 2014

Yesterday I stumbled out of bed ever so slightly late, remembering I'd said we would go down to Fleetwood as it was Tram Sunday. This is the day Fleetwood used to fill with old vehicles, buses, coaches, cars and lots of music from live bands, barrel organs and marching bands in a parade.

Today it is pretty similar except that widening of pavements to stop cars parking and the new tram platforms have taken away something like two thirds of the space for old vehicles and narrowed the road too much for a marching parade.

This was pretty much the sum total of tram activity too - a static display down near the Pharos lighthouse. I took the photo from this slightly strange angle because the Powers-that-Be had arranged the ugliest possible arrangement of barriers around the trams and the Victorian tram shelter to stop people from approaching or getting on the trams. I really do wonder at the mentality sometimes... At the top end of Lord Street was one of the new trams. But who wants to look at one of those...?

So let's focus on some of the best bits! Starting with an old 1966 Morris LD box van in the livery of Lakeland Laundries.

Parked neatly up a side street was this 1965 Volkswagen van with roof-mounted flashing light and siren and the legend Freiwillige Feuerwehr Dinkelsbuḧl (Free Willy Fireworks and Dunking Biscuits)

A Triumph Herald from the early 1960s when cars were instantly recognisable from their unique shape. No other car looked like this. No other car, as far as I remember, had a bonnet that opened like this... A catch on each side near ground level behind the front wheel just visible on this photo, released the entire section of bonnet and both wings which tipped forwards to stand vertically from the front of the car where a gust of wind would send it crashing back just as you leaned over the engine to find out why it had stopped...

1950s Austin A35 with sun visor over the windscreen and shielding the headlights in case heavy rain washed them out of their sockets. Note the dinky little front sidelights on top of the wings near the wing mirrors.

1950s Standard Ensign with both exterior and interior shots. The interior is pretty average for the time with painted metal dashboard containing most of the controls, lights, ignition key etc. The indicator switch is on top of the steering column which also has the horn button on the boss and what looks like a cover over an unused opening on the steering column. This is more likely to be for an optional column gear shift than a control stalk, but in this version the gear lever is on the floor and is long - the lever probably feeding straight into the gearbox with no linkages to go wrong! The headlight dip switch will be a toggle button on the floor also as was common through the 50s and 60s. I'm still convinced that's the right place for it - you could dip instantly to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers even if in the middle of turning the steering wheel.

They've been around for 40-50 years, but this probably is nowhere near as old as that. A quick search found that these kiddies' pedal planes are still being made and cost around £360. Dakka-dakka-dakka-dakka...

Sunbeam Talbot. Large, fast and a popular model for police cars in its time. Just imagine jumping out, truncheon at the ready and saying tersely, "Oy you blaggers! The game's up!"

Loved this! A 1950s Ford Prefect with a nice Esso theme - the "Esso blob" characters on the rear window pre-dated the Put a Tiger in your Tank slogan and the tiger tail appearing to come out of the petrol filler was once a common sight!

Then just when you think you've seen it all... A brilliant "hippo bike" complete with costumed rider and swivelling head. A friend on Facebook commented she had seen it in Hull a bit ago - wouldn't fancy riding it across the Pennines myself... I had a mooch around some of the many stalls selling toy cars and buses and came away with a model Burlingham Seagull coach in Yelloways livery.

I used to go to school on one of these from the age of 12 and still remember the joy of having your school cap torn from your head and flung from a window... Despite the model seeming to have no opening windows, the real article had sliding panes at the top of the large window that allowed a bit of fresh air to come in, or articles to fly out. These coaches had a polished metal grab bar on the back of each seat for the benefit of passengers on the seat behind which, for a 12-year-old in an emergency stop situation, was conveniently at tooth height... Ah... those were the days...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Weymouth And A Giant Encounter

Wednesday 25 June 2014. We left Wareham intending to slowly meander back towards Seaton. So well did we meander that we found ourselves in Weymouth...

The last couple of times (the only times) we have been to Weymouth we ended up at the spot where the River Wey gives the town its name. I remember a huge warehouse called Brewer's Quay. Anyway this time we parked and a few minutes of walking brought us to a much more traditional seaside with a lovely sandy beach and even a Punch and Judy stall, though this was closed.

A beach cafe with a curved roof was having the roof washed clean by mops wielded carefully by three chaps in their twenties, at least one of whom did not look too comfortable with standing on the roof...

Apart from this one cafe, we struggled to find a cafe selling food and it did make me reflect a little on how times have changed from the seaside trips of my youth. Seaside towns were filled with cafes in those days of the 1950s through to the 1970s which stayed open to serve evening meals. Now, like any high street you might care to name in England, the cafes close at 4:30 or 5:00pm and if you are not served a meal in your hotel then there is little choice but for a full-blown restaurant (which are rare on high streets anyway) or a pub meal.

I really miss those small cafes with their Pyrex cups and saucers and the steam injectors for making what we used to call "frothy coffee". They filled the gap between fish and chips dining rooms and roast beef/lamb/chicken restaurants. You could have fish or pies from the one or roasts from the other but you could also have any combination of sausage, egg, beans, fish fingers, chips, mash etc. None of that appeared on a special children's menu. Adults were allowed to eat it if they wanted. If you wanted a small portion for a child you asked for it and it was no problem.

And best of all, they had jukeboxes where you could play your favourite record for 3d, three songs for 6d or a giddy five records for a shilling (1¼p, 2½p and 5p respectively)

Thursday 26 June 2014. Hometime, by gad! We have breakfast and say farewell to Seaton, the Bay Tree House B&B and David and Sue, our hosts. I had it in mind to wend our way up through the Cotswolds after a first stop at somewhere I'd wanted to visit for some time.

I'd put on the SatNav to get us to Cerne Abbas. What a roller coaster of a ride that was! Almost as exciting as the bus journey from Beer the other day! At one point I drove through a river by a ford! No... not a Focus, but an actual ford - the road giving way to a few cobbles that made up that part of the river bed whilst the water splashed against the wheels and exhaust. I remembered that old public information film where the Hillman Minx ended up in a ditch after driving through a ford and I dried my brakes as recommended, causing Fran to say anxiously "Is something wrong?" as we slammed to a halt...

Anyway! The Cerne Abbas Giant! First references to it appear to be from the 1690s. As with many of our chalk cut figures, it can't be seen properly unless you fly above it. Makes you wonder a bit when you know it was built when men could only dream of flying above it with hundreds of years to pass before any of them would. Makes you wonder even more with things like the Uffington white horse which can hardly be seen at all from the ground and that is 3,000 years old!

Well, we didn't have an aeroplane handy so ten minutes was time enough. I set the SatNav for Cirencester and of course it took us straight back across to Taunton and the M5... I suggested we head up the A38 instead which should let us get to the Midlands before having to go on the motorway. Unfortunately just before Bristol the A38 was closed by a police car sitting across it, by which I inferred there was a serious accident blocking it somewhere close and after a very long detour we ended up on a very crowded motorway for the rest of the trip home.

Suffice it to say that progress was so slow that we drove onto Charnock Richard services for our tea. Usually those services are only 45 minutes from home. But it had reached 8:00pm and we are both diabetic and were needing to eat. And that is it. Another Burke trip brought to an end. I hope you've enjoyed these few articles - the weather this week was very kind to us and I think the photographs mainly reflect that too. Lovely deep blue skies, brought out by my use of a polarising filter on the camera.

Devon & Dorset 2014 Index

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Wareham and the River Frome

Wednesday 25 June. From Lyme Regis we motored quite a way. Past the huge ramparts of Maiden Castle. Out towards the great natural harbour of Poole. But we stopped a little short of Poole at Wareham.

This ancient village sits on the River Frome which flows down to Poole Harbour. It was probably one of King Alfred's burghs and is one of just a very few walled towns in England where the walls are earthwork rather than stone. King Alfred (he of "the Great" and of the burnt cakes) was desperately trying to keep Saxon England er... Saxon England...

This is a view of Wareham as it would be seen by those trying to stop King Alfred from keeping it Saxon England. The Vikings. Vikings is a bit of a misunderstood term these days. A lot of people think that was the name of the people from Norway, Denmark and all points cold. It wasn't. They were Norsemen. And presumably Norsewomen... Vikings were raiders. It's what they did rather than who they were. But then those who went sailing off for a spot of raping and pillaging and looting without (here's the defining crunch) settling became known as Vikings. It probably started out as a misunderstood answer to the question:

"Hello, nice boat... what do you want?"
"We're viking!"

Anyway, Vikings began to refer to the people. They were eventually followed by Norsemen who wanted to settle. You know... no ice, lots of grass and good farmland, internationally famous benefits system...

The Norsemen also settled in Germany and what would become France where their name Norsemen became shortened to Norman and then they invaded all over again. What goes around comes around...

We were on the river on this little whaler. There actually are not all that many whales splashing up and down the River Frome, so instead of watching them we sat looking at the reeds that line the river. They were harvested for thatched roofing until there was a great fire one year. The decision was made that all rebuilding should be done with tiled roofs so to reduce the risk of fire spreading so quickly again. That had two effects.

The only thatched roofs to be seen now are outside the area devastated in the fire. And two: the reeds started to choke the river which silted up and is now unnavigable to large boats except for a short length. Stops any Vikings in their tracks now...

An old Viking longboat sitting abandoned in the river...

This is the spot from which we got on the boat. It is a lovely spot on a warm sunny day with a couple of pubs and benches. We sat and watched the boat load up again for its last trip of the day. We decided we would have a bit of a wander to look at the church and old part of the town.

We obviously wandered outside the area of the fire! This gorgeous little cottage sits facing the churchyard, with upper storey windows right up in the thatch.

It was immensely hot. We glanced, rather than looked at, the church. We admired the old blocked doorway, designed to ensure you bowed your head humbly before entering the House of God and decided we would head back to the river and find a drink.

Which we did! Cheers!

Devon & Dorset 2014 Index

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Lyme Regis

Wednesday 25 June. We decided that today we would move the car and set out to leave Devon by the back door and ventured into Dorset, the next county along, coming into the town of Lyme Regis.

I remember fondly in the past, you parked your car in a car park and then when ready to leave you paid an attendant who calculated what you had to pay by how long you had been parked. These days no one is willing to employ people to do this when machines can do the job. But unfortunately they don't seem able to do exactly the same job so you have to decide before leaving the car how long you want to stay and pay up front. Most people err on the safe side and car parks get extortionate amounts from people who then find they have exhausted a place of all they want to see and leave before their due time.

We parked in an NCP car park which ended up costing eight pounds for two and a quarter hours. The fee covered a parking duration of between two and four hours so we did not pay for time that we didn't eat into a bit but even so... I'm sure you could park in central London cheaper than that!

Lyme was a Saxon town, mentioned in the Domesday book by the Normans and given its charter by King Edward I in 1284 at which point the word Regis was tagged onto the town's name.

We found this enticing display opposite a typical south coast pebble beach and I wondered about the shop owners' sanity until we found that further along on a corner of beach before the harbour there was a wonderful sandy swathe of beach. Maybe it was imported, maybe it's always been there, I'm not sure.

Buckets and spades were always metal when I was a lad. Spades hurt when you dug one into your toe by mistake...

The Cobb is Lyme's harbour. Famous for being the main lookout for The French Lieutenant's Woman and also mentioned in Jane Austen's novel Persuasion, it is Lyme's most literary spot.

The film with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons was partly filmed in Lyme. That is indeed the Cobb harbour wall that features on the poster.

Looking from our spot closer to the harbour back towards the east we can see the blue cliffs of this bit of the Jurassic Coast in the distance. They are the Blue Lias cliffs, richly deposited with fossils of early dinosaurs and sea creatures with both ammonites, the large spiral shelled icky-looking creature and bits of the pleasingly ferocious-looking ichthyosaur, a sort of reptilian shark being found in seemingly abundance.

The ammonites in particular are so well represented that even numpties like me can find them lying on the beach, though you have to be a bit luckier to find one that hasn't been weathered to mere coloured lines on a stone! The town's lampposts incorporate the ammonite shell structure.

We sat on the corner of the sandy beach on a picnic bench provided outside Jane's Cafe and had a morning coffee. The cruet set made me wonder just how many portions of fish and chips must be eaten by the seaside every day? Answer: none - they are all eaten by people... Sorry - a momentary lapse...

Whilst we sat peacefully listening to the dog on the next table which clearly wanted to rip out the throat of the well-behaved dog at the table opposite, a class of school children walked in a long line to the sandy beach and deposited backpacks on the sand by the low wall. Then at a word from the teacher a mighty cheer split the air and they charged out onto the sand in small groups of friends in a brief frenzy of uncoordinated activity before the drawing boards and pencils came out for a more formal (if just as much fun) lesson.

We blanched a little at the mountain of salt and pepper that was emptied onto a plate of beans on toast at the next table. Yeuch!!! Half the pots emptied! But it wasn't quite to the taste of the perpetrator, for after a single mouthful, she reached for the pots again and emptied the other half... Happy heart attack... Surely the only thing you need to apply to baked beans is heat? Each to their own!

After our coffee and a walk around the Cobb area, we walked back along the seafront to the town. We had a look in the Lyme Fossil Shop. They had some wonderful examples of fossils and crystals with a full ichthyosaur fossil in a display case in a little grotto of a room reached by a short staircase.

This is Lyme Regis's Guildhall. Dating back to Stuart times it is built on the site of the town's lockup. Close to the seafront it can be hired for weddings, holding up to 50 guests according to the Lyme Regis website, 75 guests according to the Dorset For You website. Perhaps the extra 25 have to be capable of sitting on knees?

The theatre sadly had no performances whilst we were there. What do plate spinners, jugglers and ventriloquists do with their time these days, I wonder?

There's a little seating area with a couple of bench seats and an old cannon pointing out to sea on a high viewpoint at the foot of the hill. I had a sit down to watch the comings and goings whilst Fran went into a couple of clothes shops and craft type shops nearby. I'd have only got in the way or knocked something over... Safer to sit and watch the world go by.

Devon & Dorset 2014 Index

Thursday, 3 July 2014

To Seaton On A Bus And Then Out Again On A Tram

Tuesday 24 June 2014. If you've been following the tale of this mini break, you will know that we left off yesterday with a hair-raising (no mean feat with me...) bus ride from Beer to Sidmouth on the South Devon coast. I see one of my readers has commented on a worrying trend - fish guts yesterday, poo the day before that... Well I can reassure my readers that today's substance of note will be nothing worse than clotted cream! Hurray for the good guys!

The bus delivered us safely to Sidmouth, where we got off at Sidmouth Triangle. This is a triangular grassed area formed by the almost-meeting of three roads. It's quite close to the town museum which we shall see in a moment. It was lunchtime and we walked down into the town, finding a spot in a tiny courtyard surrounded by craft shops and florists (and luckily, one cafe)! Miss Franny was fancying a Devon Cream Tea, but I always put the jam on first so we had a Cornish Cream Tea in Devon. No one pulled me up on it...

We walked off our lunch on the seafront and then headed back for the bus to see what time buses went back to Seaton. We stopped off for a look round the museum, with only a slightly hasty departure as masses of school kids came in with a few harrassed teachers and helpers for a trip! It was worth a look round with some mighty mammoth gnashers from real life mammoths. There was a large display of Sidmouth lace, made in the town by the ladies whilst waiting for their men to come back from fishing or sneaking off to the boozer and claiming it was too choppy.

Would you believe it, there was a double-deck bus already standing at the bus stop when we got there, so we jumped on that to go back to Seaton mid afternoon, hoping that there would be a bus stop somewhere near the Seaton Tramway terminus.

And so there was. We got off the bus with only a few yards walk to the tramway ticket office. The narrow guage tramway goes back to 1969/70 when equipment from a line that had operated at Eastbourne was moved here when road building threatened its Eastbourne site. It now has three miles of track from Seaton, through Colyford to Colyton

The route takes it alongside the River Axe with this view of the village of Axmouth. Passing places along the single-track route allow tramcars to pass each other.

Some of the cars are original full sized trams, cut in half lengthwise and then cut down to fit the guage. This down-scaling makes for an interesting time negotiating the staircases to reach the top decks! Even I at my impressive 5 feet 4 inches had to duck down severely and coming down the stairs involves a little limbo dance at the foot of the stairs! As exciting as this sounds, no one seemed to have any great difficulty managing it! The car pictured above was painted pink in support of breast cancer charities.

Others are painted in livery colours long since vanished in the cities and towns they represent. There is even a Blackpool Boat tram amongst the fleet! All of this started in 1949 as the pet project of a tram enthusiast, Claude Lane, whose company made battery-operated milk floats!

The return trip from Seaton to Colyton and back takes about an hour. You cannot stay on the tram as it reverses direction, so as to ensure anyone who has got off to walk into the town of Colyton has a fair chance of getting on a returning tram. You can of course get off and immediately join the queue which may well get you back on the same tram unless it is really busy.

Colyton itself is a 3/4 mile walk from the tram terminus. The town dates from 837 and the Saxons. The church dates from the Normans and, when I visited in 1997, a full list of vicars was displayed inside starting at the year 1258! Also in a glass case was a copy of a book of Erasmus the Dutch cleric dating from the early 1500s. Unfortunately a modern postcard was on top of it, as a label and obscured the binding which was red leather. The book was parchment and about 3 or 4 inches thick.

We didn't bother with the walk to Colyton this time because it was already late afternoon. We had a look in the station shop and then got onto the second tram to follow the one we had arrived on. Back at Seaton we walked towards the outskirts of the town to a pub that had been recommended, but when we arrived we found it didn't open for another hour and rather than wait on a dusty road we walked back into town and sampled the fish and chip restaurant which was excellent!

Then we walked up to a convenience store for some goodies to take back to the room and I noticed the golden lion over this doorway.

I suspect the lion wasn't carved especially for the hospital's League of Friends, it looks more like a pub or hotel mascot. I like the way it appears to be raising its hackles ready to spring!

Armed with magazines, chocolate bars and drinks, we were back in the hotel and sitting in the window reading for a few hours.

Devon & Dorset 2014 Index

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Beer In Devon

Tuesday 24 June 2014. What could be better than a beer in Devon? Right! Beer in Devon. It's a fishing village. The name derives from the Saxon word bearu meaning "grove" and refers to the forest on the hills each side of the village. They do sell the drink here and there in the village though...

The car was parked near the B&B and we had gotten into the last remaining space so we decided to leave it where it was and get a bus from the Promenade a hundred yards walk away.

This dropped us off without incident at Beer Cross which is halfway up a long and at times steep hill that goes down to the beach in one direction and up to an attraction called Pecorama, which has gardens and model trains from toy scales up to ride-on sizes. With reluctance I followed Fran down the hill...

Beer Brook flows through the village in a culvert. Fed by three springs, it originally just flowed sluggishly over the cobbles, but the locals used to sit outside their cottages gutting fish and throwing the guts into the stream. The smell upset the local manor lord's wife who ordered the culvert to be cut and diverted the water into it where it flowed much faster and took the fish guts (and the smell) away.

It is now such an attractive feature of the village that you wish your own town (for almost every town has underground streams that once were open) had done the same. Even better, the locals don't throw fish guts about any more either!

At the end of the street the land drops steeply to the beach, creating headlands on both sides of the beach approach. On the eastern side is a small playground and garden.

Looking across the street from the playground there is a row of cottages, climbing up the hill to the west. Chalk limestone was mined locally, from as early as Roman times and then right through to the 1920s. Beer stone can be found in Exeter Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral, in London, as well as in the Tower of London. It is said that the stone was used in 26 English cathedrals altogether. Many of the local buildings are faced with flint from the cliffs.

On the western side on the edge of the beach with the street is a flagstaff and a small seating area, underneath which is a very well-disguised World War Two pillbox. One machine gun slit is visible from the corner of the beach and road. On the beach there are three snack bars and numerous working fishing boats and boats for hire for your own fishing or for pleasure. I've been fishing in my past and it wasn't a great deal of pleasure to be honest...

The beach is very steep close to the sea. Boats are launched off the beach and are winched back up the pebbles on return. With the electrical winches near the cliff and roadway this means that the beach hides a series of chains that lead down towards the sea. Despite notices we saw one man trip and fall headlong over one of them. To make it easier to walk on the beach, long strips of rubber - re-cycled conveyor belts - have been laid over the pebbles.

Beer Brook, very fast flowing on the final slope to the beach, finally disappears down a grating and I presume is either piped down to a lower level through the pebbles to the sea or diverted for some other use.

We got ice creams from Ducky's beach snack bar and took them onto the seating area over the pillbox to sit and enjoy the view of people falling over winch chains.

Then after another spell of sitting we ventured into the Bay View tea rooms for a strawberry milk shake!

We made our way back up the hill to Beer Cross, intending to get on a bus back to Seaton to spend the afternoon on Seaton's tramway. However a bus bound for Sidmouth turned up and impulsively we jumped onto that. What a great choice! This, a full size single deck bus like the one in the first photo, went via some tiny leafy country lanes, no wider than the bus itself. For much of the journey the hedges were scraping down both sides of the bus at the same time! It was full of ladies who all seemed to know each other and who, when we screeched to a halt on a blind corner because a van was coming the other way, all said to each other "Well! That was close!" in an amused we-expect-one-of-these-every-trip kind of way... At some point the bus made what seemed to be an unscheduled stop next to a pub and all the ladies got off for a booze-up, or possibly lunch, or more likely both...

Will we make it to Sidmouth? Will we ever get to go on the Seaton trams? All will be revealed in the next thrilling instalment!

Devon & Dorset 2014 Index