Lovely Lynmouth

I didn’t think it had been that long since I last visited Lynmouth, as we walked around the town, but checking my photographs (which is always a good indicator of when things happened for me) I realised that the last time we had visited Lynmouth was in 2011. Was it really nine years ago we had driven along the A39 along the coast to this pretty North Devon town? I felt we had been before?

So it was a sunny Sunday in September when we thought it would be nice to visit Lynton and Lynmouth again. Once we were all ready we set off, Waze gave us directions via Tiverton and then up the A361, which in theory, though longer in distance, would be quicker than travelling along the A39. I am not quite sure it was. However I thought I would give this route a chance and it would be different. If we didn’t like it, I would drive back along the A39 past Minehead (which in the end is exactly what we did do). Driving this route I was reminded of our journey home once from the Barnstaple area many years ago where we got delayed by some trucks loaded with the huge blades of a wind turbine. The turbines always look small, but that’s because they are far away. Driving next to one reminds you how big these things are.

It wasn’t too long before we were directed by Waze off the A361 and onto the A399 and we headed towards Lynmouth.

What was nice, was as we passed Woody Bay Station we saw the Lynton & Barnstaple steam train. I had read about how the heritage railway now had a replica of the trains that use to run there in the 1920s before it closed and along with original coaches, looked very much the way it did when it was operating as a commercial railway. I would certainly like to visit there again in the future. Though we hadn’t been to Lynmouth since 2011, we had been to Woody Bay in 2014, but even that doesn’t feel like six years ago!

The road into Lynmouth is quite steep and narrow, but with care we got through the traffic and parked cars. Arriving at around lunchtime it was a little challenging to find somewhere to park, as the car park was not only quite full, but our car is quite big and the spaces didn’t seem big enough. We eventually found a space right at the end of the car park (typical).

You could tell how thing have changed since we last came, as I paid for our parking using an app on the phone! We grabbed our packed lunch and headed to the beach. Continue reading “Lovely Lynmouth”

The Low Lighthouse

It’s been a while since I last went to Burnham-on-Sea. We walked along the seafront before walking on the beach itself towards the Low Lighthouse.

Burnham-on-Sea was busier than I thought it might be, but the weather was lovely for September.

We walked along the seafront, past the short pier, it’s so short!

Having reached the end of the promenade we walked down onto the beach and started walking on the sand. On the beach we could see the Low Lighthouse. The Low Lighthouse is one of three lighthouses in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England and the only one which is still active. It is a Grade II listed building and stands on the foreshore.

First lit in 1832, the Low Lighthouse was run in conjunction with the onshore High Lighthouse for then next 137 years. Following improvements to the High Light, the Low Light was then deactivated in 1969; but it was then re-established in 1993 (when the High Lighthouse lights were permanently discontinued). The Low Lighthouse has long been known as ‘the Lighthouse on Legs’.

It was a lovely walk, in the sun and on the beach. In the end we had to turn around and walk back otherwise we would run out of time on our parking.

Walking along Brean Down

The last time I had been down to Brean was literally the day before lockdown. We had gone for a walk along the beach and were maintaining our distance from people, but from the news it was apparent that this wasn’t the case on Weston beach.

During lockdown, during our government sanctioned exercise we would cycle down to the beach at Weston and we could see Brean Down in the distance. At the end of May I cycled to Brean, passing The Great Bird Screen of Brean, but didn’t cycle as far as Brean Down.

So as it was a sunny, but windy, day we drove down to Brean to walk along Brean Down. We parked the car in the National Trust car park, and did think that at £5 for the day it was a bit expensive, maybe a reason to become a National Trust member again.

We walked up the steps, which was hard work, I should try and get fitter I think.

On the beach someone was doing some art, a star of somekind we thought. You could only really see it from the top of Brean Down.

It was quite busy, even though it was mid-afternoon and the car parks were quite full.

The tide was out and going out.

As we got to the headland we could see the old fort. Brean Down Fort was constructed in the 1860s as one of the Palmerston Forts to provide protection to the ports of the Bristol Channel, and was decommissioned in 1901. During World War II it was rearmed and used for experimental weapons testing.

The walk was really nice.

Château de Pierrefonds

Over the last few months we thought we wouldn’t be going on holiday at all because of Covid-19 and the lockdown. We had thought about going away in the UK, we looked at York but it was proving expensive and things we wanted to do weren’t open. At the end of July we checked a few sites and found that we could book a Eurocamp holiday relatively cheaply, especially compared to the UK holidays we had been looking at. We did wonder about the impact of Covid-19, but the story in France appeared to be less risky than in the UK! So we booked the holiday and five days we were driving down to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel.

Whilst we were staying at the La Croix Du Vieux Pont campsite we drove over to visit Château de Pierrefonds. It was a short drive and there was a free car park close by where we parked.

The Château de Pierrefonds is a castle situated in the commune of Pierrefonds in the Oise département (Picardy) of France.

It is on the southeast edge of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris, between Villers-Cotterêts and Compiègne.

This was a fantastic looking and in some ways fantastical looking castle. We hadn’t booked in advance, so we couldn’t go into the castle, but we did walk around the castle and admired it.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions if we wanted to go in, we had to buy pre-booked timed tickets on the internet. Oh for the days when we could just walk up to a castle or an attraction and walk in.

The Château de Pierrefonds includes most of the characteristics of defensive military architecture from the Middle Ages, though it underwent a major restoration in the 19th century.

In the 12th century, a castle was built on this site. Two centuries later, in 1392, King Charles VI turned the County of Valois (of which Pierrefonds was part) into a Duchy and gave it to his brother Louis, Duke of Orléans. From 1393 to his death in 1407, the latter had the castle rebuilt by the court architect, Jean le Noir.

In March 1617, during the early troubled days of Louis XIII’s reign, the castle, then the property of François-Annibal d’Estrées, who joined the “parti des mécontents” (party of discontent) led by Henri II, Prince of Condé, was besieged and taken by troops sent by Richelieu, the secretary of state for war. Its demolition was started, but not carried through to the end because of the enormity of the task. The exterior works were razed, the roofs destroyed and holes made in the towers and curtain walls.

The castle remained a ruin for more than two centuries. Napoleon I bought it in 1810 for less than 3,000 francs. During the 19th century, with the rediscovery of the architectural heritage of the Middle Ages, it became a “romantic ruin”. 

Napoleon III decided to commission architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc to rebuild it. He applied his architectural designs to create the ideal château, such as would have existed in the Middle Ages.

The Château de Pierrefonds has been classified as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1848.

The castle was used as the setting for Camelot in the BBC series Merlin.

As well as the castle we walked around the village.

Certainly well worth a visit.

Walking along the canal

With all the beautiful weather we decided to take advantage of it and go for a walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal, well part of it anyhow.

The Kennet and Avon Canal is a waterway in southern England with an overall length of 87 miles, made up of two lengths of navigable river linked by a canal. The name is used to refer to the entire length of the navigation rather than solely to the central canal section. From Bristol to Bath the waterway follows the natural course of the River Avon before the canal links it to the River Kennet at Newbury, and from there to Reading on the River Thames. In all, the waterway incorporates 105 locks.

The two river stretches were made navigable in the early 18th century, and the 57-mile (92 km) canal section was constructed between 1794 and 1810. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the canal gradually fell into disuse after the opening of the Great Western Railway. In the latter half of the 20th century the canal was restored in stages, largely by volunteers. After decades of dereliction and much restoration work, it was fully reopened in 1990. The Kennet and Avon Canal has been developed as a popular heritage tourism destination for boating, canoeing, fishing, walking and cycling, and is also important for wildlife conservation.

We decided to do the walk as my eldest had gone on a school trip (as part of curriculum enrichment) in 2015 and had recommended it to us.

We caught the train to Avoncliff Halt.

Seriously this is a halt, and the platform is only big enough for a single carriage, so we had to make sure we were at the front of the train. Originally opened in 1906.

What looks like a road bridge is in fact part of the Avoncliff Aqueduct.

The Avoncliff Aqueduct crosses both the Wessex main line and the River Avon.

It was built between 1797 and 1801

There was this lovely house alongside the canal.

Very peaceful walking along in the shade. Though to be honest there were a fair few cyclists and other walkers as well.

Quite a few boats as well.

This is the Dundas Aqueduct, again built between 1797 and 1801.

The aqueduct is also the junction between the Kennet and Avon Canal and the largely derelict Somerset Coal Canal. The short stretch of the Somerset Coal Canal still in water forms Brassknocker Basin, used for boat moorings, cycle hire and a cafe.

Whilst we were walking along, two military helicopters, probably on their way to RNAS Yeovilton flew past, relatively low. One was a Puma, the other a Merlin.

As we got near the city centre of Bath, we went through two amazing tunnels.

Overall quite a trek, but great weather, lovely scenery and rather peaceful.

Walking along the beach at Sand Bay

We went to Sand Bay for a walk along the beach. Taking advantage of the easing of restrictions we were able to now drive to a place for a walk. To be honest we could probably cycle there from our house.

We parked in the village, mainly as I thought the car parks may still be closed. Though they weren’t, the two car parks we saw on our walk were packed full of cars.

Lots of other people had the same idea we had, but it was nowhere near as busy as other beaches we have seen on the news.

Though it was windy, it was quite a warm wind, and with the sun shining we walked down to Sand Point, though we had decided we wouldn’t walk along Sand Point, but we could see that others had had that idea.

On the way there we passed an old second world war pillbox.

It looks like it has sunk into the sand, I am not sure if it has just sunk, or of it had slipped down the beach over the years.

The car park at Sand Point was full, and with the narrowness of the road leading to the car park and limited turning space, the whole place was one big traffic jam. People unable to park, people unable to leave the car park, as those wanting to park were blocking the narrow road. I was glad we had parked up in the village and walked.

There was an ice cream van, and myself and Jacqui had a ice cream. It was nice to do something “normal” for a change.

We walked back to the car, and though I had seen the world war two pillbox in the sand before, I noticed that there were two more up on the dunes that I hadn’t seen before. Well if I had I hadn’t noticed them before.

I do think it interesting that there are quite a few pillboxes and beach defences at Sand Bay. You wouldn’t have thought that this coastline was under threat of German invasion back in the 1940s. It’s quite a way from the continent and you would need to go around both Devon and Cornwall (going past Plymouth, a major Royal Navy port), as well as South Wales before hitting the beaches at Weston and Sandy Bay.

However doing some research about the pillboxes, I came to realise that the British in 1940 did believe that invasion may come from the South West.

The Taunton Stop Line was a defensive line in south west England. It was designed “to stop an enemy’s advance from the west and in particular a rapid advance supported by tanks which may have broken through the forward defences.

After walking back to our car we went home.

 

 

The Longleat Miniature Railway

Longleat House

On a recent visit to Longleat Wildlife and Safari Park we rode on the Miniature Railway. It reminded me that we, as a family, had done this quite a few times over the years. So when we got home I looked over my photographs and it bought back lots of happy memories.

The 15 inch railway was established in 1965 and expanded in 1976. The track has changed over the years, but currently skirts the lake before heading back to the station through the trees. There is a tunnel and a halt which is used at Christmas.

My first visit to Longleat was in the early 1970s, of which I don’t remember much, and I am not even sure if we went there. What I do remember was going to sleep, having an amazing dream about going to a Safari Park and getting a safari themed Land Rover in the shop.

Corgi Longleat Safari Land RoverWhen I woke up in the morning, I was astounded to find the Land Rover in my room.

It looked a lot like this one.

Was it a dream, was it reality? No idea if I travelled on the railway, it was just a dream…

Myself and my wife visited in 2002, but I don’t think we travelled on the train, as we only did the safari park. Back then the train was an extra cost, as were most of the other non-park attractions.

As a family we took my son to Longleat in 2005 and as well as going around the Safari Park, we also travelled the railway. He was really into trains.

The Longleat Miniature Railway

We were pulled by the Ceawlin, locomotive number five.

the Ceawlin, locomotive number five

In this photograph you can see the Lenka Railcar, the only engine built at Longleat. It was sold to private owner in 2017.

Lenka Railcar

We went again in 2008, but I have no photographs of the train, but I am pretty sure we must have had a ride on the train back then.

Between 2011 and 2017 the railway was known as the Jungle Express, with the station and carriages given additional theming.

Longleat Jungle Express

We visited in 2012 and travelled on the Jungle Express.

Longleat Jungle Express

This time the train was pulled by the Flynn Locomotive.

Flynn, Longleat Jungle Express

I do remember that the station had a model railway shop, but by our visit in 2012, it had stopped selling model trains and now sold toy trains, wooden trains and stuff.

On our most recent visit the Jungle Express theming had gone, as had the shop.

The Longleat Miniature Railway

The railway has fifteen carriages, all built at Longleat between 1976 and 2013 and are now wearing mock British Railways crimson and cream livery The railway also has several permanent way wagons.

Longleat Miniature Railway

This time our train was pulled by the huge John Thynn.

John Thynn

We enjoyed our most recent visit and I expect we might go again some time in the future.

Airport photographs

I started to realise that this week that when I fly I usually post a photograph to instagram of the plane I flew on. But not any old photo, usually I have taken it from a process using the Snapseed app.

This was the photo I took this week in Edinburgh.

Looking from my archives I found these other photographs on my Instagram feed. Continue reading “Airport photographs”

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.