11th September 2001

On 11th September 2001 I went to work at Norton Radstock College in my role as Director of the WCC.

I was working in my office, when someone came and said a plane had crashed into a skyscraper in New York.

I went the BBC News website, but it wouldn’t load. I initially put it down to the college network, but of course realised later on that it was excessive demand on their servers which was causing their site to fail to load. I tried a fair few times to get the front page to load, but had no luck.

In the end I went to the canteen where the news was on the TVs in there and there was loads of people, students and staff, just watching the TVs. I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but as the day progressed it became much more apparent what had happened.

I listened to the radio news in my car on the way home, there was a lot more detail about what had happened, but less about the who and the why. We went to the gym and as I cycled away on the cycle machine the news was on the screens in front of me and the devastation and destruction was shown. It was awful. The cycle of news, of the plane crashing, the towers collapsing, the dust and debris cloud was right there in my face and it just added to my shock and disbelief.

Those memories of that day have stayed with me ever since then.

Winterstoke Railway Bridge 

On a recent walk I took a photograph of the Winterstoke Railway Bridge in Weston-super-Mare.

There are plans to replace the bridge due to the decaying nature of the bridge.

There is an interesting story behind the bridge which was built  in the Second World War in 1941 to provide easy access to the military aeroplane factory. Emergency wartime powers were used by the War Office at the time to enable the bridge to be built, as a result the bridge was owned by the War Office, now the Ministry of Defence.

The fact that the bridge was owned by the MoD has created challenged in getting the bridge repaired and now to be replaced.

The new £15m bridge is set to open in 2023.

Bristol from the air in 2005

In July 2005 we went up in the air on a tethered helium balloon in Castle Park in Bristol.




This was before Cabot Circus and the Quakers Friar redevelopment.

Broadmead was less tired than it is now.

Quakers Friar was a car park.

We now have the Castle Bridge crossing the water and much of the old brewery has now been developed.

Though John Lewis had gone to Cribbs, what is now Primark was House of Fraser back in 2005.

Hold on, that’s me…

So there I was digging through some archives across various websites looking mainly old photographs when I came across this photograph of me on the Cambridge News website.

Brunswick Infants School in Cambridge Circus

I had actually been looking for some photographs of my old primary school. There was a gallery of images on the site and I was scrolling down through them. It was a little unexpected and I was a little surprised, but there I was, part of the “The Greatest Show on Earth” well a circus performance from my days at Brunswick Infants School in Cambridge. It was 1974 and I was five years old.

I am the little one sitting between the two scarecrow type characters on the right of the photograph. I don’t think I was playing a part, just sitting around.

Obviously, what was then the Cambridge Evening News had been into the school to take photographs. I have no idea if it was actually published in the paper, I suspect it was, but I don’t know for sure.

I don’t really remember that “performance” but I do remember once being a strongman in a circus performance at school, which probably took place a year or two after this photograph.

Dr Johnson’s House

I was reminded today of this photograph I took of Dr Johnson’s House in London last summer.

Dr Johnson's House

Dr Johnson’s House is a writer’s house museum in London in the former home of the 18th-century English writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson. The house is a Grade I listed building.

It’s very close to our London offices and I sometimes see it when I would go out for a lunchtime walk.

I photographed it again in March of this year as part of my #366photos project this year.

It certainly wasn’t as sunny then as it was back in August.

Back in 2011, Dr Johnson’s House was used as a printer’s workshop.

It’s a lovely piece of London and nestled amongst all the modern office blocks are lovely houses and buildings like this.

Some things change, some things don’t…

I spent five days at Butlins in Minehead in 2016 I was curious then about the history of some of the rides and attractions. One of them was the electric railway in the kiddies fairground. Over the years my children had ridden on the ride, when they were younger even I was “forced” to ride it. It looked like it had been there a while and was consistently revamped as and when required. It had been a Noddy toytown train at one point and then part of Bob the Builder land. In 2016 it was just part of the fairground.

I knew that at one point there had been two full size steam engines at the resort, as Billy Butlin purchased redundant steam engines as a on static display at the camps to provide a novel and relatively cheap attraction.

Butlins in Minehead had the LMS Duchess of Hamilton arrived in 1964 and left in 1975. It is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York where the streamlining has been added back.

Duchess of Hamilton at the National Railway Museum
Duchess of Hamilton at the National Railway Museum
cooldudeandy01 [CC BY 2.0]
There was a smaller engines at the camp as well, an 1880 Brighton Terrier called Knowle 32678.

As well as the big steam engines, Butlins also had a Peter Pan Railway ride Peter Pan Railways were once a common sight at seaside resorts, travelling fairs, holiday camps and amusement parks around the UK. It was this ride that I was curious about. I was quite surprised to find that the electric train ride was over sixty years old.

Butlins Minehead - Peter Pan Railway

They first appeared in the 1950s and were built by the Warwickshire company of Supercar Company Ltd and utilised regular railway technology with 2ft gauge track, 12lb rails and normal flanged wheels. The center rail was energised at 110 volts DC. The trains had a fixed back axle (chain driven) and a short-wheelbase bogie in front and could negotiate some pretty sharp and exciting curves. In later years some of the trains were fitted with new fibreglass bodywork of various different styles.

Though using a much smaller track (and some minor cosmetic changes) they are still running at Minhead Butlins in 2016 and is still there today.

Butlins Minehead - Peter Pan Railway

It’s nice to see that though some things change, some things stay the same.

A vision of the future

I really like this video clip from the BBC Archive on a 1963 view of what 1988 would look like.

It really demonstrates how difficult it is to predict the future. Some stuff you get right, most things you get wrong, and timeframes are really hard to judge.

Look what we found!

Type 22 Pillbox

Close to my house, on an old piece of land, a new petrol station, 24hour supermarket (and not quite yet) Starbucks has been built. No I am not blogging that there’s going to be a new coffee shop…

During clearance work, two Type 22 Pillbox bunkers were uncovered.

I know the area quite well, and have seen a few pillboxes in the area, but having passed this way many times I wasn’t aware that they were even there.

Looking at this old Google Street View image you can see why, this is how it looked before the construction started.

Google Street View of Type 22 Pillbox

Here is how it looks now. Part of the planning permission was that these should be retained and protected.

Type 22 Pillbox

So what we have is a World War Two pillbox defending a Shell petrol station!

The pillboxes were constructed to protect the airfield, RAF Weston-super-Mare, which was a Royal Air Force station on a civilian airfield in Weston-super-Mare. The civilian airfield was taken over by the RAF on the 1st May 1940 and would remain there until 1993.

Nostalgic grocery shopping

St Fagans National Museum of History is an open-air museum in Cardiff chronicling the historical lifestyle, culture, and architecture of the Welsh people.

Gwalia Stores is a retail premises originally built at Ogmore Vale, Glamorgan, in 1880 and relocated to the St Fagans National Museum of History.

The stores closed for business in Ogmore Vale in 1973 and reopened at St Fagans in 1991. Part of the shop is still a retail premises; the rest of the ground floor is set up as it would have been during the 1920s

Photographs taken when we visited in August 2010.