Saturday, 31 December 2011

I Had a Ticket to Ryde on the Bus last Monday

Ryde's long pier with the catamaran dock and rail station out to sea.
"I've got a ticket to Ride" is a famous song by the Beatles, but "I had a ticket to Ryde," a nice little seaside town on the Isle of Wight just a few miles from my hotel in Sandown.  The town has a very long pier, opened in July 1889 and  stretching out to sea for .5 of a mile. A ferry terminal stands at the end and needs to remain in deep water, even when the tide is out.  There is a rail link to the terminal, electrified in 1967, and  the pier provides a good walk,  when it is not raining of course!   Fortunately last Monday it was only "blowing a gale of wind" as a friend of mine from Suffolk used to say, but it was bracing and I felt good.  I eventually reached the cafe at the ferry terminal,  where I sat and watched the world and the catamarans go by. 
The town of Ryde with the remains of an old pier.
The sign on the little pavilion on the pier reads, "No entry, fishing or swimming," sensible advice in view of the rusting remains of old piling from a previous part of the pier.  The railings here were very attractive and probably modern copies of the originals, as I think the pier is a listed monument.  Ryde sits on the seafront with a steep hill behind, I'm glad I went back up on the bus with my bus pass.  Osbourne House, the royal residence designed by Prince Albert for his wife Queen Victoria is just on the other side of the island.  In the Isle of Wight, you are never far from the next town.
A catamaran docks to take on foot passengers.
There is a frequent ferry service to many towns in the Isle of Wight, but foot passengers have the advantage of fast connections, this catamaran must take about half an hour to arrive in Southampton, the car ferry needs 1.5 hours.
Two hovercraft berthed on Ryde beach, with a distant ferry terminal in the background.

Houses near the beach viewed through decorative iron railings.  These modern copies give the pier its old charm.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Twentythree Seagulls, Two Boats and a Catamaran.

Hitching a lift on the car ferry to Southampton
These two sleepy characters hitched a lift on the car ferry from Sandown out towards Southampton, where they suddenly took flight, looking for more food I suppose.  Are these Common gulls?  They are certainly not the Black Headed variety!  I managed with some difficulty to take the photo below of the lone gull as he/she searched for food on Sandown beach.   I kept shouting, "Please keep still while I photograph you," but it didn't seem to understand English, perhaps  I should have tried German gull language instead!  I like his/her little pink feet and the snow white and soft grey plummage.
A seagull on holiday in Sandown.

Twenty Gulls facing up wind.
Quite what was so attractive about this part of the beach I do not know, but the gulls gathered in hundreds here, nibbling in the sand and all facing up wind.   I managed to capture twenty of them in my photo, and I heard a passing gentleman say that they always seemed to gather at this particular spot.  There must be a reason.
The "Roll on, Roll off" car ferry on its way to Sandown.
Here's the car ferry I used for the journey between Southampton and Sandown.  It's a "roll on roll off ferry,"  meaning it has pointy bits (the bows) at both ends of the ship.  I suppose both halves of the ship are identical, the master just changes ends for each trip.  It was very busy coming back, with Christmas holiday families returning to the mainland.  I wandered around the deck in the strong winds and felt refreshed but damp in the fine rain.  I then had a "bad hair day" for the rest of the journey home.
A cruise liner berthed in Southampton Docks.
This was not the QE 2, but an unidentifyable liner,  berthed at one of the docks.  I couldn't see a name on her, but she was not a Cunard ship.  These ships always look very top heavy to me, but I suppose whoever designs them knows what he/she is doing!
The catamaran passenger ferry at Southampton.
Passengers have many options for crossing from the mainland to the Isle of Wight.  Those with cars use the ferries from Southampton and Portsmouth, and foot passengers have the chance to use the many hydrofoils and catamarans that travel very quickly between various harbours on the IOW.  The car ferry took 1.5 hours to do the trip, but the hydrofoils and catamarans must do it in half the time.  Living in GB feels like being on a little island,  living on the IOW must feel doublely so!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Beach Huts in Sandown, showing the traditional British sense of humour!

Beach huts on the promenade walk to distant Shanklin.
I wish I owned ones of these smart huts, right on the seafront and lovely little hideaways for a summer at the sea, (well that is when the sun shines.)  These huts had recently been painted, a year round job I suppose, with the constant battle against the elements.  Winter seas in terrible storms must batter this coastline, hence the mighty sea defences to protect the crumbling rocky coastline. 

Multi coloured doors on the promenade beach huts.
On the blue door above is a notice stating: "Christmas Day Swim. Please meet here at 10.30am for our annual Christmas Day dip in the sea." Hahahaha, not for me, it's much too cold and I hate getting dressed again after a swim, when I cannot get my clothes on easily over damp skin.  The cliff behind these huts is composed of packed sand, held together by plant roots.  Without the sea defences, this cliff would gradually erode into the sea, taking the little village of Lake on top of the cliff with it.

Here are photos of a selection of interestingly named beach huts, all showing a play on the word "hut."  Some are very amusing and I've only shown here five of the most imaginative, out of a total of about 35 huts.  I  like Romeo and Julihut the best.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas in Sandown, Isle of Wight

The High Street Dinosaur eats a man.
During my four days in Sandown on the Isle of Wight over Chistmas, I had hoped to be a beachcomber and  find some pebbles and interesting fossils along the seashore, but I was not prepared to find a complete dinosaur skeleton in the High Street!  A young lady seemed quite content to wander the streets swinging the huge head and swaying tail, and terrifing several children at the same time!  My hotel was just off the seafront, but I could see the sea from my window, and a couple of minutes walk took me to the promenade.  I walked the 1.75 miles to Shanklin and back, and in the other direction towards Culver Cliff and Bembridge.  The morning's high tide meant some rough waves, but in the afternoon I could walk on the wet sand and look for interesting pebbles.  I like the ones with a hole, I can then string them up like a mobile.
The receding tide looking towards Culver Cliffs.
This view above, towards Culver Cliff was lovely in the late winter afternoon.  I walked to the cliffs on the path and beach, touched the clay cliffs that are eroding into the sea (coloured light brown) and then the white chalk of an ancient seabed, now uplifted above sea level.  I returned along the foaming sea edge and frightened a flock of seagulls all merrily minding their own business on the wet sand, and facing up wind.  They can just be seen standing in the receding  water.
Rock pools at Culver Cliff.
It was starting to get dark just as I began searching for crabs left behind by the tide.  It would be easy to become cut off by the tide here, so I walked on behind a family, thinking there was safety in numbers, should the tide decide to return.  I'm always fascinated by the age of these boulders, just lumps of rock we take for granted, but which were formed millions and millions of years ago.   I walked to Shanklin dodging the waves are they crashed over the promenade, all very exciting for me who has not seen the sea for several years.   I lived in Worthing many years ago, and with the seafront almost at my back door,  I tended to take it for granted.  It was nice to be back again.

Rough seas on the walk to Shanklin.

Sunset over Sandown.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Very Happy Christmas to all my Readers!

These three Santas from my collection, wish everyone who reads my blog in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, USA, Russia, Canada, India, Kenya, Poland, Latvia and Slovakia a "Very Happy Christmas."  The weather here is unseasonally mild, which is fortunate as I am going to Sandown on the Isle of Wight over Christmas, and that involves a ferry ride from Southampton to Cowes Harbour.  The sea should be calm, and I can venture out on deck and take some photos of the journey.

Watch this space, particularly:  Janet, Max, Monika, Meggie, Claudia, Veronika, Beate, Herbert, Erika, Sally, Mark, Elizabeth and Jeannie.   "Merry Christmas" and more news and photos when I return on Tuesday 27th December. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Double Arched Prison Bridge on the Bath Road.

Rope wear still visible on the metal post.
Many canal bridges in or near Devizes have two arches, the canal flows under one and an old rail track once passed under the other.  At Caen Hill, the canal rises 237ft in two miles from Lower Foxhangers to Devizes, and the mighty flight of 29 locks required thousands of bricks to build their chambers.  The largest exposure of Gault and lower greensand clay in Wiltshire was discovered during the building of the canal, and the "The Devizes Brick and Tile Company" established a brickworks at the bottom of the hill which was in production until 1961.  Here forty workers  and four kilns produced  2.5 millions bricks per annun, which during the building of the locks, were loaded into wagons and pulled up the hill by horse drawn rail trucks.  Several buildings in Devizes were also built using the same bricks, most notably Roundway Hospital Chapel, the large houses in Pans Lane and Potterne Road and the offices of Ansties' Snuff factory in the Market Place.

The photo above shows Prison bridge, so named because Devizes Prison with 210 cells, a staff of forty and a wretchedly harsh regime for the inmates once stood nearby.   This is bridge 142, and has a metal post still showing rope wear.  Horses passed under this arch pulling barges along the canal, and without the metal guards, the ropes would have eroded the brickwork.    From Reading to Bristol, bridges are numbered 1 to 214, and the locks in reverse, numbers 107 to 1.  Here on the Bath Road, bridge 142 meets lock 47.   The bridge has lost it original brick wall, probably knocked down by passing traffic. White metal railings now serve to stop vehicles driving off the bridge into the lock!
to the left:  Bridge 142 track tunnel, with lock 47 and information post.  The little white bollards are for mooring up boats waiting to use the lock.
These marker posts along the canal give boaters and fishermen information about what is permissable near locks.  This one indicates, "No fishing on the lock landing stage within the arrows" and "Clear up after your dog." 

The view below shows the other side of the two arched bridge.  The metal posts protected the brickwork from rope wear during the 100 years or so that the canal transported goods by barge from Bristol to Reading, and eventually to London on the River Thames.  To the right of the canal arch is a plaque commemorating the canal manager who supervised the building of the Caen Hill flight, the last section of the K & A Canal to open in 1810.   It is a mighty piece of canal engineering by Mr. John Rennie, and is the "Sixth Wonder of the Britishwaterway's Canal Network."
left:  The canal passes under the bridge and to the right, the track tunnel.  Note the white metal railings over the top of the bridge which now replace the original brick wall.  A small part of the wall can still be seen top left.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Handbell Ringing in Studley Chapel and Potterne Church.

Bells in the lower octaves waiting to be rung at the Studley Chapel service.
Sunday was a busy day.  We played some carols in Studley Chapel, with the congregation singing along as best they could.  It is not easy pitching a tune to handbells, but our voices won the day.  Take a close look at the marked up music.  I play three bells, A Bb and B, and each note I must play is ringed with a colour.  I can read music, but it is easy to follow even if you cannot, which means that anyone with a sense of rythmn can ring handbells, you just need to be able to count the beats in a bar.  We have a set of bells that covers four octaves, and at the moment nine of us play.  With at least three bells each, sometimes page turning and juggling the bells induces a mild panic!

More than an octave of middle range bells.
The Victorian Wesleyan chapel, built in 1855 is charming, and remains almost as it was way back the mid 19th century, and that includes an almost total lack of heating. I was very pleased that I'd worn thick socks, boots, gloves and a winter jacket.   During the service, I felt as though I were character from Thomas Hardy's "Under the Greenwood Tree," the enchanting story about the rustics in the Mellstock choir and the group of rural musicians who accompany the singing in Mellstock church.   I was playing and singing in a time warp.
Studley's tiny Wesleyan Chapel dated 1855 with its fine beaded, arched windows.
At 5.30pm we met again in Potterne Church to play a selection of music for the congregation as they arrived for the evening Carol Service.  The photo below shows the higher sounding small bells, so many that each play must play four at a time.  It is quite an art lacing the bells together and ringing each one in a diffent direction to produce the sounds.  I'm a beginner, so I have an easier task with only three bells to ring, but I hope to progress.  Handbell ringing was one of the  activities on my "Must do before I leave the planet" list.  I am so pleased to be a member of this very friendly group of ringers.
The small bells that ring the higher notes, waiting to be played in Potterne Church

Potterne's medieval church up on its hill

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Font in Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral did not have a permanent font in the nave for over 150 years until this one, designed by sculptor William Pye, was installed in 2008.  It is based on the idea of a "Brimming Bowl," a cruciform shape which combines movement and stillness, with the water flowing from its four corners whilst a perfectly still surface is maintained to reflect the building around it.  

The photo above shows one of the lipped corners, where water gently drips into a well in the stone pavement, to be recycled into the font.  It is a fascinating mix of the tranquil and the active.  Its bowl is made of green patinated bronze with a stainless steel water tank, which both stand on a Purbeck Freestone plinth.  It holds 3000 litres of water and weighs 1.8 tonnes in total.  A 17th century alabaster font which was originally here in the nave, was acquired in 1870 by a tiny church in Yankalilla, 50 miles south of Adelaide in South Australia.

The medieval clock below is possibly the oldest working clock in the world and until 1792,  stood it a separate Bell Tower.   It was made around the year 1386, and as was usual at the time, had no face and only struck the hour with a bell.  It was fully restored in 1956 and now stands in the north aisle.  Its gentle, regular tick and movement is fascinating to watch, and a visible sign of the seconds of my life ticking away. Oh dear! We watch time being counted and live through it, but it cannot be grasped or reversed and I'm sure, that from the age of 65 onwards, it passes at twice the speed!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Yet Another Market Day

I suppose I just like my fruit and vegetables, but Devizes market is a great place to take photos.  Christmas is coming and the market is very busy.  These photos were taken last week, this week, because of the weather many stalls had no canopies because of the predicted high winds.  It has been known for the canopies to blow over in inclement weather.  On market day I always meet the "girls" for coffee in the "Black Swan."  Yesterday was no exception, where we drank coffee, talk women's talk and planned our drink and meal next week in this lovely pub with the nice staff.   After coffee I walked to the "Castle Hotel" for Christmas lunch with friends from Chantry Court.  The Christmas lunch was lovely, all well cooked and presented.  I had a wonderful fresh fruit salad for dessert.  I ate, talked, laughed, drank sherry and had a good time.

I spoke to the staff who said that the hotel is fully booked for Christmas and for the Christmas day lunch.  Many pubs are opening on Christmas day hoping to increase their trade in these difficult times.  Cheers!  Lets hope all the pubs in Devizes survive the recession!
Carrots and runner beans by the plastic basketfull

Black, shiny aubergines

Parsnips, a "must have" when roasted for Christmas lunch

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Salisbury Cathedral and Handel's "Messiah."

 On Saturday evening December 10th  Salisbury Musical Society gave a splendid performance of Handel's Messiah in the Cathedral.  I have sung this work more times than I care to remember, and it is so well known as to become almost routine.  However this performance, conducted by David Halls, was really wonderful.  The four soloists, including a countertenor with a tender voice, were excellent, and of course the Cathedral itself added to the occasion.  We all stood for the "Hallelujah Chorus" and the trumpeters who played "The Trumpet shall Sound" made a wonderful noise.

The photo of the orchestra below was taken with some ancient tombstones in the foreground.  These were removed from the original church in Old Sarum and reinterred here.  The foundations of this building were laid in 1220, with the tower being added in 1310-1330.  You can only marvel at the construction of this cathedral, just how it was built without modern construction methods, one can only imagine.  I have a video of the rebuilding of the "Frauenkirche" in Dresden using modern cranes, and in 2006 that was a feat in itself.
Choir and Orchestra.

The Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra tuning up for the second half.

Sitting in our seats, waiting for the concert to begin.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Salisbury Cathedral at Christmas time.

I have just returned from four wonderful days in Salisbury, where fortunately, I have a friend who lives within walking distance of this beautiful medieval cathedral.  On Saturday evening we listened to the "Messiah" sung by Salisbury Musical Society, and a very good performance it was too.  It is such a well know work, and it is easy to give an everyday performance, but this one seemed special.  Maybe it was the venue!  The photo above shows the Christmas tree on Saturday evening.  Since then we have had some very high winds and pouring rain, I do hope it has managed to stay standing.

Below is  the highly decorated West front with its mighty doors and columns of figures of the saints and former clergy.  The lowest photo shows the nave and high altar, with distant choir stalls, some of the tallest in England.  It is a truly wonderful space.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Four Days in Salisbury. (Back on Tuesday 13th December)

These crocuses have nothing to do with Salisbury, I just like the colour and pattern of the petals!  Tonight I am listening to the "Messiah" sung in Salisbury Cathedral, it will be wonderful experience.  I have a friend in the city, who  lives conveniently near the Cathedral, so I will stay with her for a few days, do some shopping and on Monday evening,  listen her son singing in the Christmas carol service, once again in the Cathedral.  I must mention that her husband cooks a really good curry!

You can read about the Cathedral at:  and of course at: - Salisbury Cathedral.  Is is a magnificent medieval structure where John Constable painted a very famous of the view of the building in the 16th cent.   I will be back with more news on Tuesday December 13th 2011.

Friday, 9 December 2011

"The Ginnel" twixt the Market Place and Snuff Street, Devizes

Nick the postman delivers letters in "The Ginnel."
These photos show "The Ginnel," a narrow alleyway containing some lovely little shops.  It must have a history, although at the moment I know nothing of it.  The alley runs from the Market Place to what was originally the rear of the old snuff factory in Snuff Street.  I will add more information when I have discovered some history.

Topiary bushes.

Window shopping for gifts.

The narrow entrance off the Market Place.