Ashore for good 2013
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On September 24th we travelled back from Belgium to begin our new life ashore. We were experiencing a glorious Indian summer and the Kentish countryside was looking it's best. We headed first to Canterbury to collect an inflatable mattress and a telephone receiver from the lovely Argos then on to Whitstable for a pensioners lunch of fish and chips at a local pub by the harbour. In the evening we stayed at an hotel near Dudley so we were in good time for our appointment with the letting agent in Wolverhampton to sign the agreement before the 15 mile drive to Bridgnorth where Dave, our new landlord, met us with a welcome bottle of shampoo complete with flowers and a "welcome to your new home" card. Nice touch that.
David showed us around our new home saying that he and his wife Nicky wanted us to be happy here and if there was anything else he could do to help us we were to call him. So we now had a nice house with a caring and helpful landlord, a lovely garden in a delightful town. All we were lacking was furniture plus the myriad of things you need to make it into a real home!
Dave had left us some dining chairs which he could not dispose of due to fire regulations which I remember were a problem for us and said he would get rid of them once we had found our own together with a microwave cooker we did not want but he had left a TV coner unit, mirrors, lamps and some wall decorations. The fitted kitchen was complete as was the main bedroom with the exception of a bed so we pumped up the air bed in the guest bedroom and unloaded the clothes and personal possessions we had managed to bring with us.
Walking through Bridgnorth we found an antique shop having a closing down sale and bought a nice little gate leg table for £100. David popped round with an instruction manual for the central heating boiler and suggested we visit Church Stretton where there is a good antiques market so we did. We found a really attractive Ladies Victorian Writing desk which fitted nicely into the space we had in mind and would make an excellent home for the laptop as you can see on the right. It cost £120 which was a mite expensive but then Sue discovered an Edwardian dining table and six chairs made of Yew wood in fantastic condition which we could not resist and a matching bookcase. After a bit of haggling we managed to get the lot including delivery for £400 and collected a nice little nest of three tables on the way out!
Church Stretton itself has quite a few interesting shops and we discovered Salts, a unique business selling all sorts of gifts and household items but displaying their price along with the price the big boys are selling it for which was always more expensive. We bought a set of Tefal saucepans well under the price I could find them anywhere on the net.
We motored up onto the Long Mynd, a magnificent part of the Shropshire Hills of which we will be exploring fully on foot in the future. I already have the Ordinance Survey maps!
I had pre-ordered BT broadband before leaving Belgium and found the delivery of the router and the installation procedure quite a slick operation which largely went to plan except for the broadband speed which gradually improved as it was supposed to but still slow. The problem turned out to be the wireless connection between the router and computer as when I plugged in an ethernet cable the data came in like the proverbial excrement off a shovel!
Having got the speed up enough to watch the Rugby on the BT Sport channel on the computer, I then turned my attention to getting it on the TV. BT advertises that you can get BT Sport on a Sky box without a Sky subscription but when I called BT I was told that my old Sky box had to be upgraded which would cost as much if not more as a new box from BT so I ordered one. When it came the remote did not work and they then sent me the wrong replacement before I discovered that there was no signal from the aerial on the roof. In came the local aerial man with a new aerial, removed an old FM aerial and festoons of old wires from the outside of the house and told me I had the wrong box from BT. He was not correct and I eventually managed to get everything working.
The BT Vision box connects with the internet so you can view the different TV programmes you might have missed. The good thing is that the adverts are removed on the commercial channels to save bandwidth. You can also purchase full length films and have all the freeview channels plus BT Sport. The box can also record up to 300 hours of programmes either pre programmed or while you are watching another channel. We still have the Sky box but it is nice to see Murdoch getting some competition.
We visited Perry and Phillips antiques market down in the low town but could find nothing that suited, however, there was an antique auction the next day and we liked a Parker Knoll sofa and two wing back easy chairs, not Parker Knoll but in the same style. We also liked an old banana box full of five table lamps. The day of the auction Sue had to stay in to wait for the BT box to be delivered so I went down to the sale room. The furniture came last of course but I was fascinated by the prices that some silver spoons fetched. The record was a Henry VIII spoon which sold for £12,000 but when it came to my first lot I bid £5 for the banana box of lamps and nobody else bid. Then I bid for the wing back chairs and bought them for £25. Unfortunately someone else wanted the Parker Knoll sofa and bid against me but I still bought it for £60. The whole lot was delivered next day for £15. An absolute bargain!
Mobile phones have never been our bag but now that we were settled on dry land we decided it was time to get smartphones. They are really just little computers and though computer literate, changing to a different operating system can be stressfull. I did not enjoy the learning process of the Android system and found it to be unintuitive. Sue's language was atrocious and she almost threw hers down the toilet. Now I know why most of the population are constantly playing with their phone. They are all trying to learn how to phone somebody!
My new smartphone worked in Belgium. Sue's didn't. On our return Talkmobile told me they had to turn on roaming before we could use them abroad and were completely mystified why mine worked?
Lorna Deveraux, an old friend of ours in Somerset passed away recently and we travelled down to South Petherton for the funeral. Although a sad occasion it was nice to meet up with our many friends in the village. I suppose at our time of life such occasions will become more frequent.
We were told of a New Zealand wine deal in Tesco but when we arrived it had finished. I noticed a Rioja reserva I liked on a special for £4.99 so picked up six bottles. At the checkout I was charged £12 a bottle so asked the lady to take them back. She said if they were marked at £4.99 they had to sell them at that price even if the "computer says no" and so they did! Driving out of Yeovil the bottles fell over so I stopped in PC World's car park to make them more secure. As I was there I popped in to the store and discovered a clearance sale of stock moved from another store they had closed down. They had a LG Blu Ray player there for £27 which seemed too good a price to miss so I bought it. Back at the ranch I found Tesco were selling it for over £100 so a good overall result and a bad day for Tesco. I hate the buggers!
On our return we visited the lovely Argos in Kiddleyminster and bought a lawnmower and a Soundbar. Kiddleyminster on a wet Sunday afternoon is not the most pleasant of towns but that was where the kit was! It was no easy job to understand how to wire up the TV, Blu Ray player, BT box and Soundbar and, as the TV only has one HDMI socket I still need a cable and a HDMI splitter or switch to complete the job but we now have a compact HiFi system and good sound from the TV and all our CD's.
Bridgnorth is such an interesting and attractive place, full of history, that I will be writing a separate web page devoted to the town in due course and giving you a sort of Cooks tour.
It seemed to us that antique shops and markets could supply us with most of the items we needed to set up home. Indeed we had furnished our lounge and dining room for a little over £500 whereas buying new would have cost at least three times that and we had quality stuff into the bargain so it was of to Church Stretton again where we bought a wrought iron wine rack, an occasional table, a mirror for the guest room, a Victorian vegetable dish and a couple of candle glasses, all for a pittance. Then it was off around the corner to Salts where we swapped Rugby stories with the lady proprietor who had not only been to New Zealand for the World Cup but had followed the Lions to Australia. She sold us a £50 mini food processor for £35 a set of Salter electronic scales and Sue bought a rolling pin to keep me in order!
Next we drove to Carding Mill Valley nearby (see photo above). This is National Trust country and has the usual gift and tea shop with several car parks for which they charge but we as NT members parked for nothing. The valley was given the name when a carding mill was built to process local fleece in 1812, demolished 100 years later.
The hills here were extensively overgrazed so that native foliage and trees such as the Rowan could not propagate as sheep would eat the saplings. Since large flocks of sheep were slaughtered in 2001 during the foot and mouth disease and after proper management of the existing land, including a reduction of sheep numbers, by the National Trust, it is gradually being restored to how it must have looked before sheep were introduced. We walked up the valley following the Jack Mytton Way to the top of the Long Mynd range at about 500 metres altitude and turned left along the Shropshire Way which has its own web site.
Jack Mytton MP was a Shropshire landowner and horseman who died in 1834. He was a bit of a Jack the Lad and was known as Mad Jack. The Jack Mytton Way is principally a bridleway but also a long distance footpath and mountain bike route over 100 miles long. It circles around and through the Shropshire hills.
The Shropshire Way on the other hand begins in Shrewsbury, the county town, but is a collection of footpaths joined together traversing the whole county so it is not one continuous path you can follow in one expedition but you can follow a series of circular walks in every section. The county council have also put together a series of car free walks utilising local public transport.
This is glorious walking country, firm under foot even though it had been raining hard the previous day. Hoards of school children were paddling in the stream whose screams of unadulterated joy rather spoilt the peace but we did not begrudge them. There were many couples of similar vintage to ourselves, taking advantage of the one day this week forecast to be rain free.
A path down Lightspout Hollow proved difficult to find from the Shropshire Way but we followed a sheep track and eventually found it. Lightspout is a waterfall which tumbles over a rock outcrop which you have to clamber over but steps have been made to assist the descent after which it was an easy walk back to the car. A nice two hour walk to get our bodies back towards walking fitness.
The road back to Bridgnorth runs along the top of Wenlock Edge and we stopped to admire the view down into Ape Dale and back to the Long Mynd we had just left.
The final pieces in the media equipment jigsaw were purchased from the Electrical shop next door. Two HDMI cables and an HDMI switch as our TV only has one port. The only Blu Ray disc we owned to check out if the LG player was OK was a Canadian film entitled "The Battle of Passchendaele". Everything worked as it should and the vision and sound quality was just like being at the pictures. After 110 minutes of blood and guts plus 44 minutes of video describing the making of the film, we were all blu rayed out! I also plugged a disk drive into the USB port on the player. Lo and behold a menu popped up on the TV inviting me to make a choice as to the type of media. I selected movies and all the films on the disc were displayed which played back correctly so it was £27 well spent!
The objective of packing a home cinema system into one corner of our small lounge area has been achieved but the tangle of wires behind the equipment is frightening and we have four remote controls plus a switch to play with to make things work. In this day and age it should all be controlled from one remote and probably can be if you purchase everything from one manufacturer.
Our nest building continues with regular visits to antique shops. In Bridgnorth low town we discovered Malt House Antiques located under the sandstone cliff between St Marys Steps and the bottom cliff railway station. Here we bought a brass standard lamp with a neat double hinge arrangement so the shade is cantilevered a foot out from the stand and the light then shines directly down on the computer/Victorian writing desk (see photo above).
We were taken out into the courtyard beside the shop when one of the old sandstone caves, which were dug during the English civil war for storing Royalist ammunition, had been made into a grotto by the owners with thousands of sea shells.
Ikea delivered our guest bed which was duly erected so we are now ready to receive or repel boarders!
Dudmaston Hall is just a few miles down the road from Bridgnorth towards Kiddleyminster. Having been in the same family for 850 years, it was passed to the National Trust by the last owner Lady Labouchere who inherited it from her uncle and, as was her wish, it remains the family home of her descendants in perpetuity.
Sir George Labouchere was British Ambassador to Spain during the Franco era and retired in 1966 to restore Dudmaston to house their extensive art collection and prepare the estate for handing over to the National Trust.
Lady Labouchere was a gifted botanic artist while her husband collected modern art so there is an eclectic mix on display in the galleries they created inside the house.
The Estate covers 3000 acres and includes extensive woodland and a huge lake. Being half term and Halloween there were lots of witches and wizards wandering around. I don't know why we have adopted this American custom of celebrating Halloween and persist in destroying perfectly good pumpkins which should be eaten. Must be careful here as this could develop into a rant!
We did a circuit of the lake and discovered the remains of a poor fellow who had been devoured by a Kraken. I don't know how Kraken managed to get into an English lake as they are sea dragons which live in the Norwegian Fjords!
The weather forecasters did not quite get it right when they warned of high winds and torrential rain in the Midlands. South East England seems to have experienced particularly bad weather (I blame global warming of course!!!) but apart from it being a bit gusty here we had no gales and little rain.
We treated ourselves to dinner at the Thai Arts Restaurant in St Mary Street. Tempura prawn and chicken satay to start followed by some prawn noodles and crispy duck with a tamarind sauce all washed down with a nice bottle of Alsace Gewurtztraminer. The duck was magnificent with all the fat rendered down and just the crispy skin left. We will be back.
It's Movember and, much to Sue's displeasure, I am growing a Mo! For those who are not familiar with why some men grow moustaches in November each year see here. Now I am not an hairy man so am prepared for some disparaging remarks, but I will photograph the result at the end of the month so you can judge the success or otherwise!
If you would like to make a financial contribution to the cause please click here.
I treated Sue to a night at Sixways, Worcester Warriors' home ground, when Bath Rugby visited for a premiership game. This was preceded by a shopping expedition in the city and another visit to Zizzi, the Italian restaurant chain that has wood fired pizza ovens. Unfortunately they changed their menu since last time. Sue had a skinny pizza which was so "skinny" that I had to give her some of my Diavolo which they had ruined by putting a sweet chilli sauce on it and they charged over six quid for a small glass of Malborough Sauvignon!! We will not be going back.
Just to the South of Bridgnorth on the Worcestershire/Shropshire county border is the Wyre Forest. It is an extensive woodland area, principally of deciduous trees and therefore looking at it's best at this time of the year. It is one of the largest areas of ancient woodland left in Britain.
The Forestry Commission maintains most of it but one corner of it just North of Bewdley is a nature reserve managed by Natural England through which passes the Geopark Way, a long distance path running from Bridgnorth to Gloucester. Having driven down through the forest on our way to Worcester we decided to explore the area on foot.
We parked in the car park just North West of the little village of Buttonoak and followed the forest track for a couple of miles until it meets Dowles Brook which bisects the forest East/West. A railway line used to branch from the Severn Valley line, crossing the River Severn just upstream of Bewdley, following Dowles Brook towards Tenbury. It is now used by walkers and mountain bikers.
We followed the brook to the edge of the reserve then turned North again to emerge from the forest at Buttonoak to follow the road back to the car park. We drove into Bewdley for afternoon tea, as one does, and discovered a local produce market in full swing being unable to resist freshly baked sourdough bread with coffee and walnut cake a close second! Bewdley is an attractive riverside town with some handsome buildings and a station on the Severn Valley Steam Railway.
Eight miles down the road towards Shrewsbury from Bridgnorth is the little town (Pop: 3000) of Much Wenlock. The town is famous as the birthplace of Dr William Penny Brookes who was the inspiration for the modern Olympic Movement and founded the Wenlock Olympic Society who organises its own games every year.
Wenlock Priory dates from 680 and the Guildhall from 1540, built after the dissolution of the priory. The town council still meets there and it was an active courtroom until 1985.
There are various suggestions as to the origins of the towns strange name. MUCH comes from the Middle English word "Muchel" meaning Great. Wenlock is reckoned to be derived from WEN which may come from the Welsh "gwyn" meaning white and LOCK from "loc" meaning monastery or from the English "loca" meaning place. "White Place" could refer to the white limestone of Wenlock Edge and Welsh was the spoken language in the area until the arrival of the Mercians in the seventh century.
There is an excellent Deli here and they were queuing out on the pavement for the butchers when we visited. We also found a shop so full of china and glassware that it was difficult to find a place to walk!
On a lovely sunny Remembrance Sunday we set out to walk along the Severn Way, a long distance walking path which follows the River Severn from it's source at Plylimon in Powys, Wales for 210 miles down to Severn Beach in South Gloucestershire, England. There is a further extension up the River Avon to Bristol. Our objective on this occasion was to walk upstream for a little over two miles before completing a circular route back to Bridgnorth.
The river drains an immense area of England and Wales. The water, in addition to being forced through narrow gorges on the way, reaches the estuary south of Gloucester which has the third largest (15m) tidal rise and fall in the world. When large volumes of fresh water combine with a high tide the result is flooding over a large area. The river therefore has a history of disastrous floods but also is the reason for the Severn Bore which is a surge wave travelling upstream sometimes as far as Tewkesbury. There is a bore throughout the year but the highest waves occur in February and March when surfers compete to ride the wave as far as possible.
The river at this time is swollen from recent heavy rain in Wales. Our walk began down Cartway and where it turns right down to the town bridge there is a viewpoint upstream. As you can see from the photos above, Autumn was now well advanced with the green trees gradually turning colour finally as our Indian Summer had come to an end.
Down at river level we followed the Severn Way first through the school playing fields and then along the fairways of Bridgnorth Golf Club until we met a path which took us away from the river, across the embankment of the now disused Severn Valley Railway, now part of the National Cycleway, to Stanley Lane which led us back into town.
We later visited the war memorial in Castle Park, surrounded by poppy wreaths after the earlier Remembrance Sunday ceremony.
Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the first world war so it is becoming a feature in the media. The Dutch Barge Association will be holding a rally at Diksmuide in Belgium. It is doubtful we will be attending as we have been to Diksmuide a couple of times before with Harmonie and have experienced all the activities the rally participants will undertake but here is a link to the page where we described our visit back in 2009.
In fact we remember all the soldiers who fought in the various conflicts since the first world war on the second Sunday in November. Ceremonies are also held throughout the Commonwealth on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11am which marks the time the WW1 armistice was signed and people wear poppies to show our soldiers are not forgotten, poppies being the flower which bloomed on the Flanders fields where so many died. There is more on this subject on our page when we visited the Somme in 2006.
Poppy day in New Zealand is held on ANZAC day due to the original ship carrying the poppies being late and not arriving by 11th November in 1921. Remembrance Day is not a public holiday in the UK but it is in France and Belgium where at Ypres they play the last post every evening at the Menen Gate memorial. Most countries that were involved in the conflict commemorate this day.
We invited all the neighbours round for drinks and nibbles. It began at 6pm and we chucked the last ones out at 11pm which might be an indication of how well we all got on. I discovered a kindred spirit in Valerie when it came to EU politics but she also posed an interesting question; why are so many of our MP's keeping us in the EU when it is obvious that so many of us want out? My suggestions as to their motives are below:
Movember is proceeding gradually and I thought you might like an update on proceedings. The photo on the right shows the Mogrow germination process as at 12th Movember and I have set up a link for your donations here. It is very easy to do and I do urge your contribution to this worthy cause. A certain person, who shall be nameless, has said that I look like a spiv, in fact, I personally think I do look a bit like that spiv in Dads Army! My daughter thinks I look like my Dad! I am determined to continue until the end of Movember, as is my neighbour when we will have a Moless celebration together!
We purchased a Shropshire BeActive card which provides a 15% discount for activities purchased in Shropshire's Leisure Centres. In addition you qualify for a 40% discount for the Ironbridge museums of which there are ten in total. A 12 month museum pass for those aged 60 plus costs £19 so you can appreciate that the purchase of a BeActive card for £2.50 is well worth it!
Our first museum visit was to the Blist Hill Victorian Town. Like the Black Country Museum at Dudley, Blist Hill was never a real town but was created by moving buildings, machinery and boats from other areas to the site to recreate what a Victorian town might have looked like in this area.
The site was the real home of a Coal Mine, Ironworks, Brick and Tile Works which were served by the Shropshire Canal which in turn was built to connect an earlier system of canals to the River Severn at Coalbrookdale. Little of that canal survives and should not be confused with the Shropshire Union Canal which is still navigable. It was opened in 1790 and involved an ascent and descent of 453 feet by means of three inclined planes. At Blist Hill part of the final section survives including the Hay Incline down to the River Severn which is 350 yards long and drops 207 feet. The canal was closed to navigation in 1944.
The remains of the single shaft coal mine has been restored with a working steam engine. The miners worked 12 hour shifts and on one occasion the engine broke a crankshaft while miners were below. It took several days to effect repairs while the miners were fed and watered by lowering supplies in a bucket down the 600 foot shaft.
The photograph on the right is of a Fielding hot bulb oil engine, built in Gloucester which drives through belts and shafting to a band saw in the sawmill. Various products that are produced in the woodworking shop are offered for sale, in fact throughout the town, most of the shops have things for sale which they would have sold originally including a pub and a Fish and Chip Shop where we indulged in a poke of chips fried in beef fat which were really unhealthy and scrumptious!
Small "Tub Boats" were used to transport the coal down to Coalport where it would be transshipped on to "Severn Trows" for onward passage. Severn Trows had sails but were originally towed by gangs of men upstream, that job eventually taken over by horses. The last surviving trow, the "Spry", lying derelict in Worcester Docks, was transported to Blist Hill and rebuilt. The photo shows the Spry with a tub boat in the foreground.
These trows averaged 18 metres in length and over 5 metres beam, carrying about 30 tons of cargo, however, Spry was built at Chepstow in 1894 to operate on the lower River Severn and is one of the largest trows ever built being 21.8m x 5.6m with deadweight of 36 tons. Looking at how shallow the river is at Bridgnorth, navigation must have been difficult with boats of this depth in dry summers.
It is reckoned the Chinese invented the blast furnace process around the 1st century AD and it was first used in Europe near Namur in what is now Belgium during the 15th century. The fuel used was charcoal which was expensive to produce and increasingly scarce as woodland was devoured. In 1709 Abraham Derby invented the process of smelting iron using coke in Coalbrookdale and Britain's Industrial Revolution took off.
Brunels SS Great Britain was built in Bristol using Derby's Iron as was the first Bridge ever built of Cast Iron in nearby Coalbrookdale. The reason for the concentration of iron making in this area was the ready availability of the raw materials combined with the comparative ease of transportation by river of its final products and for the same reasons bricks and tiles.
I expect our antipodean friends and rellies are desperate to see my comments on Englands performances in the Rugby Union Autumn Internationals but if not then don't click the link below:
Friday 22nd November was the ceremonial switching on of the Christmas lights in Bridgnorth. All the major streets in the high town were decorated and included two big Christmas Trees in the High Street. There was a fun fair at one end, a sound stage next to the town hall in the middle and stalls selling anything and everything from one end to 't'other!
Our Worthing friends, Les and Sally, travelled up for the event and the sun shone the whole weekend though it was bitterly cold.
Cwms Road is an old drove road which went from mid-Wales to Shrewsbury.
The climb to the top of Caer Caradoc was not enough to stop the incessant conversation between Sue and Sal, they just slowed down, rested more often and continued talking!
At the top the views were magnificent. Ahead to the North the Wrekin dominated the skyline and is part of the same volcanic outcrop as the Stretton Hills. To the East, across Ape Dale is Wenlock Edge with Cree Hill beyond and to the South the Malverns. In the valley to the West is Church Stretton with the Long Mynd rising behind it.
After the exertions of the day we deserved the huge portions of food and fine Taylors Landlord bitter that the Old Castle served up while we continued in the same vein the next day with pints of Bathams and Hobsons at the Railwaymans Arms watching the arrival of the first steamer from Kiddlyminster (a half hour late in fine British Rail tradition) followed by a beer paddle in the White Lion. They brew their Hop and Stagger beer on the premises and you can have three beers of your choice on a wooden paddle with a Beamans pie and chips. It's a proper pub is the White Lion and has murals of the regulars seated in a train carriage painted on the bar walls.
It was a weekend of Cricket and Rugby so please don't click on the link below if your are not interested:
Movember is at an end and my Mo has now been removed. The results of the germination process and demoification can be seen in the photos below but the Molink I put on this page for donations did not generate any!! It may have been because when you get to my Mopage it is not very Mofriendly and difficult to make a donation. I collected some cash from friends in Somerset who said that they had tried to donate on the Movember web site but gave up. I have emailed the Movember web site and passed on your complaints.
Cash strapped pensioners Ann and Jeremy Clifford set a fine example by donating a tenner from their house keeping budget but it may have been my inability to cajole cash from others who seemed determined to better each other in donating the smallest amount possible!
Here is my hall of shame:
Declan 'beggarly' Gilroy, the rich London lawyer and recent prostate cancer victim managed a paltry quid and could not be shamed into more! Paul 'tightarse' Carlisle donated a generous 50p, Courtney Solway the miserable Kingsburyite 20p and Chris 'miser' Hockey 10p as he couldn't find a 5p piece! It is not too late to make a proper donation folks.
Certain people who shall be nameless called me Adolph and gave me Nazi salutes but Sue quite liked the Mo, however, it is gone!
Another weekend of Rugby news can be seen by clicking the link below:
A second visit to Somerset in as many weeks was for yet another funeral, this time for Les Port, a good friend for many years. Les and his wife Trish can be seen celebrating at the Harmonie barge warming on the very first page of this web site eight years ago.
Les was a retired Naval officer with 40 years service who rose through the ranks to become the commander of a Fleet Air Arm helicopter squadron and so was afforded a military funeral with a Royal Marine bugler to play the Last Post and Reveille. A packed South Petherton church was standing room only with over 200 people, such was his popularity. Les was one of those given a cocktail of drugs during the Gulf War and developed the so called Gulf War Syndrome, a multi symptom illness which in Les's case was a debilitating brain disease affecting his speech and his ability to walk but had no effect on his ability to sink several pints of Otter every Friday down the Brewers Arms. So it was down in that bar after the funeral that we all congregated to remember him, friends, relations, Captains and Petty Officers all together and we did him proud.
The following Friday was yet another sad occasion with the funeral of Malcom Lay, affectionally known as Malcom Bakehouse, who with his late wife Josie used to run the Bakehouse Restaurant in Petherton. This time the funeral was near Devizes in Wiltshire followed by a gathering in the Ship Inn at Upavon.
Another sad occasion took place in Adelaide where English batsmen cowered in terror against the magnificent bowling of Mitchell Johnson:
Coalbrookdale is a valley which connects with the Severn Valley at Ironbridge Gorge. It is the place where the Quaker and Staffordshire born Bronze Founder Abraham Derby moved to from Bristol in 1708 and leased a derelict blast furnace which had previously been in operation for some 50 years. A dam above the furnace had burst some years earlier causing the furnace below to explode. Derby then rebuilt the dam and the furnace.
Until then all production of iron was produced by the smelting process, heating iron ore using limestone as a flux and charcoal as a fuel to a high temperature by blowing air through the underside of the furnace. The chemical reaction that then takes place releases the iron oxide in the ore which eventually becomes molten and is run out of the furnace into moulds which are called pigs, pig iron being the raw material produced which can then be refined into various iron and steel products.
In Derby's day the pig iron was melted and cast to make cooking pots but there was a shortage of charcoal to keep the blast furnaces supplied. To keep a steady supply, wood had to be coppiced and harvested in rotation, was labour intensive and therefore expensive. Not enough charcoal could be produced to meet demand. In the surrounding area, coal mines were plentiful and coke was becoming a cheap heating fuel but unsuitable for iron making as it was full of impurities which affected the pig iron quality. Derby, perhaps aided by the local coal being low in sulphur content, managed in 1709 to perfect the process using coke as a fuel. Thus a raw material that was required for the building of steam engines and railways could be produced in quantity and very much cheaper so that this little Shropshire valley could really be considered to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution that propelled Britain to become a world power with the then greatest empire in the world.
Typical of the Quaker philosophy towards the people he employed, Derby celebrated his achievement by buying a large consignment of beer for his workers, in fact he later built a brewery in addition to providing houses for them!
Down in the Severn Valley Gorge the worlds first iron bridge was constructed in 1779 from Coalbrookdale cast iron and they also produced steam engine cylinders for Richard Trevithick the Cornish mining engineer who pioneered steam locomotives. At that time the furnace bellows and foundry grindstones were powered by water wheels fed from ponds which continually ran short of water in dry periods so a steam engine driving a pump was constructed to pump water back up into the ponds from the River Severn.
Railways did not arrive in Coalbrookdale until 1850 by which time the narrow valley was full of iron and steel foundries, there being no room for the line so the solution was to build a viaduct over the factories. You can see the problem in the adjacent photo. This section of the line was called the Golden Mile due to the cost of building its supports through and over existing working factories. It is still in use today by freight trains carrying coal to the nearby coal fired power station beside the river.
The company started by Derby is still producing cast iron products and supplying the AGA stove company also located in the valley. We visited the Museum of Iron which tells the story of the iron masters of Coalbrookdale and exhibits many of the products produced there. It has an interesting section devoted to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London where local cast iron products were exhibited, including railings and gates which were subsequently re-erected around Kensington Palace.
Chris and Carol Hockey visited us on the occasion of Carol's and my birthdays. We celebrated with a meal at Pushkars Indian restaurant on Birmingham followed by a Symphony concert by the CBSO. I messed it up by getting the start time wrong so we arrived late and had to spend most of the first half in the radio room! The main event was Tchaikovsky's Pathetique symphony conducted enthusiastically by American conductor Andrew Litton which we all enjoyed, even Chris!
We ended up in the White Lion where we consumed several pints of their excellent Amber Ale and had to retire to bed on our return home before rising to watch the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards on the TV.
Chris was sporting his usual Mo in the Brewers one day when he was given two quid towards Movember by an admirer even though he was not collecting! I therefore managed to persuade him to increase his original contribution of 10p to £5 which I have now donated on his behalf!
The squirrels were scampering about and not hibernating while the ferns have not died back and are still green. We continued along the edge through the woods which look like will become the host to a mass of bluebells in early summer, then turned back through fields to rejoin the path down to the cemetery, situated on the steep hillside which we walked through.
This is a very special place for a group of wild flowers which are very rare both locally and nationally and Bridgnorth Town Council, who maintain the cemetery, only cut the grass between the graves after the flowers have finished blooming and have set seed in July.
Examples include the white flowered Meadow Saxifrage, the Changing Forget-me-not and the Little Mouse Ear.
Each of these small plants are rarely found in the meadows of today, making the area a haven for butterflies and other insects.
There is a plethora of Rugby Union games over the festive season so I will put all the news as it happens at the end of the link below so as not to bore those poor misguided souls who have no interest in the sport:
We completed most of our Christmas food Shopping at Bridgnorth Saturday market but they had a Christmas Eve market for all the things we forgot!
Sue is addicted to Strictly Come Dancing on TV so we were glued to the screen with a bottle of Cava Rosada and a ring burning chilli con carne for the final. Thank goodness our favourite Abby Clancy won it and that slimy news reader Susanna Reid didn't despite her mouthing "thank you-o-o" at the camera every week, a PR guru advising her and putting out false press releases saying she was the bookies favourite, the BBC who I suspect was also behind the media output to create another overpaid superstar presenter to take over from Fiona Bruce when they kick her into touch and the main reason; that she was a clod hopper on the dance floor compared with the opposition! Natalie Gromit was the best dancer but did have previous professional dancing experience so was not a fair competitor which 'yer voting public probably reasoned.
IMO the presenters spend too much time congratulating themselves on how wonderful are all the competitors, the band, the singers and just everything about the programme when most of the earlier participants were excruciatingly awful dancers and it was obvious that Ben Cohen should have won it by a mile!!
The last Rugby of the year is below:
We wish all our friends (relatives included), fellow bargees and those of you who bother to read about our daily life on this web site, the compliments of the season and all the best for a very happy and prosperous new year. Our adventures continue.
There is a page about Bridgnorth HERE.
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