Category Archives: Heritage

Nov 16th: London Calling – Part III (Whiz Bang…)

So, after a bit of a break in transmission, there’s the last instalment of the London trip which was rather a whiz bang affair; a whiz bang tour around the traditional sights and then a whiz bang tour around an out-of-tour attraction…

No matter how many times you see them, the iconic sights of London really do send a shiver down your spine; well they do me anyway! The London Eye isn’t exactly old but it’s been there more than a decade now and it’s not showing any signs of losing its attraction as yet. Nor too are the London Dungeons; no chance of a seat or four without booking ahead. Next time maybe?

So then finally to the out-of-town Warner Brothers Studio at Watford which is home to the uber sets created specifically for the filming of the Harry Potter capers. Pretty interesting tour to be honest; we went after dark and that added a certain feel to the place. Well worth a visit – even for someone who hasn’t read a single tittle from the JK Rowling pen…

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Also posted in Travel

Oct 30th: London Calling – Part II (Imperial War Museum, Duxford)…

The storm, St Jude, pretty much closed the rail network in the south west down on Monday 29th Oct. Instead of heading into London we went north instead to The Imperial War Museum at Duxford and what a place it is too!

It had been on my ‘must-visit’ list for yonks – so I was made-up with the switch. For anyone that hasn’t been there’s basically an airfield full of hangers crammed with all kinds of stonking (war) exhibits. In nearly three hours we did three of the nine monster hangers – so I guess it would be best to allow a full day.

AirSpace, the first hanger, is about the story of aviation in Britain and it has more iconic planes and helicopter in that you’d be forgiven for knowing; a Swopworth Camel, a Spitfire, a Mosquito, a Lancaster, a Lightening, Harrier, a Concorde and a bunch of others as well.

The Spitfire, the WWII icon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We skipped the next hangers where restoration work is being done and nipped into Historic Duxford, a small building outlining life on the Duxford airfield through the ages including some great stories about the famous airmen (including Douglas Barder). Anyone with a fancy to slip into a RAF uniform then head straight here – this is the place! Immediately behind HD is Hanger #4 which was used in the World War II. Currently it houses the Battle of Britain exhibits which is crammed with yet more icons including a Hurricane, a Meteor, a Hunter as well as a V1 (Doodlebug) and a Messerschmitt and then a Russian MiG.

The Meteor, Britain’s first jet-engine plane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further up the airfield again is the American Air Museum which is host to a full gambit of American planes ranging from a biplane right through to the stealth Blackbird. What is striking about the American exhibits is the shear size of the ‘modern’ planes. The Blackbird is especially impressive; in size, speed (Mack 3+) and appearance.

The USAF stealth Blackbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, we’d timed-out by this stage so it was the long walk back to the start past a bunch of passenger (prop) planes, the tower and a ‘clipped’ Shackleton standing somewhat forlornly on the tarmac. It’s a heck of a way to spend a few hours – I can’t recommend it enough…

Here’s a gallery of some of the planes in the AirSpace, Battle of Britain and the American Air Museum.

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Also posted in Aviation

Oct 28th: London Calling – Part I (Canons Asby, Camden, Covent Garden and King’s Cross)…

It’s half term so time to spend a few days as a family away from all the usual day to day stuff. Last year we went up to the North York Moors and hung out with the Goths in Whitby, this year we headed down south to London. Far from leaving the camera kit at home it’s a great opportunity to go off-piste and add a few travel, heritage and street photography images to the archive…Travelling down we veered off into the middle of rural Northamptonshire and dropped into Canons Ashby – an Elizabethan manor house in an 18th-century garden. A double quick stroll around the garden was all we got as we arrived bang on closing time – doh! The wall-clad ivy was a stark reminder – if needed – that we were well into autumn.

Autumn at Canons Ashby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our first day proper we hit the City; Camden Lock to be precise. The contrast couldn’t have been more stark! Camden was rammed with everything and everybody. Halloween seemed like the running theme but really it was business as (un)usual with the mass of things to see and of course buy. By complete fluke – and good fortune – we arrived at the food stalls at lunchtime; nice!

Following a quick spin around the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square we were off to Covent Garden for a nose at the street life there which feels a bit like La Ramblas in Barcelona albeit in miniature.

Covent Garden, London’s answer to La Ramblas in Barcelona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, a trip to Platform 93/4 at Kings Cross was demanded by the young ‘uns. The hour-long queue to hang-off the famous shopping trolley was tons of time to snap a few shots of the impressive new roof at Kings Cross …

King’s Cross Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a gallery of shots…

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Also posted in Travel

June 23rd : Trip up North Part 3: Edinburgh and Beyond…

For a trip that was supposed to be all about getting north of the border we didn’t do very well to be honest. Southerners – myself included – tend to forget just how much of Scotland there is and how long it takes to get up there when driving. The game plan was Edinburgh first and then keep going. The weather though had other ideas as it transpired…

We arrived in Edinburgh at the same time as the rain – hmmm. Edinburgh, of course, is famous for a whole number of reasons including the annual Edinburgh Festival, the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) and infamous perhaps for the hostelries and eateries. We had a day – and a thoroughly wet day at that – to cram as much in as possible.

The Scottish Parliament was really quite spectacular, a (thoroughly contemporary) beacon of modernity. I was forced to make a mental note to myself to get a better understanding of the way it works and the way it connects to Westminster. The architecture is really quite different – strikingly so. Parliament was sitting so it was strictly no talking and no photos in the public galleries overlooking the Chamber. It was interesting to see the place working if a little frustrated to be forced to holster my camera. We didn’t check into Holyrood but it looked impressive too. Instead we headed for the Dynamic Earth exhibition and had a really engaging indoor – a.k.a. dry – afternoon.

As we headed out for the evening we happened across Bene’s on Cannongate. It turned out that Bene’s makes one of the best pizza take-out we’ve had for ages if not the best since the pizza van in Cavaillon in the south of France a decade back. Result! Although the post rush-hour streets were virtually disserted they offered plenty of interest.

Leaving Edinburgh we drove north into what is billed as the ‘Landof Giants’ – a.k.a. the Lock Lommond and The Trossachs National Park. This is still very definitely south Scotlandbut it is Scotland nevertheless and rather pretty. We pulled over for the night just north of Callander on the banks of Loch Lubnaig. It was an overcast evening but the location was serine. The midges were out enjoying the evening too so we watched dusk fall from inside the van. The midges had gone in the morning but a wee stroll up the Lochside left me gutted – the shore was strewn with rubbish and litter. An hour or so helping the Ranger fill black bin bags and the place was a lot closer to how nature intended. Sadly, that was the second occasion over the bank holiday weekend that the Ranger had visited to pick litter. Apparently, it’s such a problem that the Park authority is considering closing roadside pull-overs. Not good, but (perhaps) understandable if folks can’t pack-out what they pack-in…

Lochearnhead and Killin just north was as far as we got – beaten by the weather. I guess we’ll have to try harder next time. Still I did get some waterfall shots. I would have gonnen some more mbt bike shots too – had I remembered to take my battery out of the charger! Another invaluable lesson I guess…

 

The stairway to (Scottish) democracyScottish Parliament - apparently a tactile experienceBene's - best take-out pizza north of CavillonStreets of EdinburghNo grey there then...Robert Ferguson I presume?Peace and tranquilityTrees everywhereComing into land

Also posted in Photography, Scenic

June 21st : Trip up North Part 2: Heritage stuff…

I’m no expert but if there’s a single central theme that underpins the UK’s tourism business it must be heritage right? Sure as hell, it ain’t the weather! If you spot two Americans tourists together then chances are that you’re on the heritage trail heading towards the next ‘must see’ destination…

I’m proud to say that I’m a (family) member of the National Trust and that I think they do a cracking job on a whole bunch of different levels. Our recent trip up north was something of a dot-to-dot NT fest. Starting with Fountains Abbey then Lindisfarne on the way up-country and then Cragside on the way back down south. Edinburgh, including the Scottish Parliament, was our Scottish heritage tick – and a very interesting one at that.

Fountains Abbey hits the top of the bill as a World Heritage Site. Alongside Studley Lake and St Mary’s Church, Fountains is one heck of a locale. Fountains Abbey dates from the twelfth century and is Britain’s largest monastic ruin. Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 dealt a bitter blow to Fountains after which the fabric of the abbey suffered. Amazingly the same fate didn’t befall The Cellarium whose vaulted roof is stunning. Equally stunning, though much more decorative, is the nearby St Mary’s Church which, dating from 1870, is a mere spring chicken by comparison. Studley Lake and Studley Royal Water Garden are very pleasant too, as is the Seven Bridges (and seven fords) Trail which leads off into the wild yonder beyond Studley Lake. We zipped around the place on our mtb’s (walking only though through the Royal Water Gardens) in 3-4 hours. In truth, we needed much longer though to do it justice.

Next up on our tour was Lindisfarne Castle out on the far Northumberland coast. My association with Northumberland dates back to the late Seventies when I first climbed in The County and to be honest, I love the place. A former Tudor fort, Lindisfarne was an important cog in the defence of the realm back in the day. Having been converted back to a private dwelling at the start of the last century, Lindisfarne is now one of the NT’s iconic buildings and a very powerful magnet for photogs. The mystic of Lindisfarne is boosted further by the tidal causeway that separates it from the mainland. It’s the second time I’ve cycled over to Lindisfarne and I’ll have to go back again for sure – maybe on foot. Hopefully, next time the weather will be a better too. One day, I might even make it along at dawn or dusk and then I could really dig-in photographically.

Northumberland’s other gemstone is Cragside. I’ve never made it to Cragside before – despite numerous climbing trips to the area – and I have to say I was blown away by Lord Armstrong’s former pad. The number of ‘labour-saving, creature comforts’ created by this Victorian inventor which he lovingly designed and built into the stunning Cragside is amazing; the first house to be lit by hydro-electricity, a lift, a water-driven spit-roaster, a stream-room… the list is (almost) endless. The fireplace deep within the house is just incredible too. Outside Cragside continues to stun visitors with gardens and its Euro-funded refurbished iron bridge. An afternoon disappeared in no time at all – especially when I slipped my leash and managed to get some shots of the house down from the stream using tripod and split density filters. Felt a bit like a proper photog rather than just a grab-man…

Whilst most of the images that follow were snapped on the hoof, some have been part processed by an in-camera function, perspective control, which is a neat addition to the camera. Granted, its not the same as shooting with a tilt and shift lens – they’re on the wants list – but it certainly helps and takes out radically diverging verts – thanks Nikon. Dropped the shot of the vaulted roof at Fountains in B&W too, colour was just a distraction… 

 

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