Spurn Point.

A sunny day for a slow drive east towards Spurn Point.  We paused at the village of Paull to look west up the Humber towards Hull.

60. from Paull a

Saltend oil terminal is nearest, Hull is just the soft blur beyond.  The upright clump of white in the middle is a group of wind turbine poles at the new Siemens wind turbine works – a bright employment opportunity in a still depressed city.

63. from Paull d

In the far distance it is possible to see the Humber Bridge – its about 9 miles west of Paull.  Heading east over the flat vale of Holderness we reached Patrington where the elegantly spired church is known as the Queen of Holderness.  The King is many miles to the west, at Howden near Goole and Selby – I just knew you wanted to know.

68. Patrington church 4 (520 x 600)

Soon we had driven as far as the road allowed, found a place to park in a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust car park and set off on foot.  The road is no longer maintained so Spurn becomes an island during particularly high tides.

74. JJ and Marian at end of the road

Marian and Jackie at the end of the road.  North Sea on the left and the Humber Estuary on the right.  You might spot the lighthouse near the end of the point on the horizon to the right.

75. wind farm and groins

On the sea side there are the remains of what must once have been a substantial jetty.  Not just wooden piers but mass blocks of concrete and pipes of clay and plastic.  The distance has a windfarm, one of 2 big ones just off the coast here.  We collected pebbles as we walked.  You get a bigger choice of geology here where glaciers brought material from as far away as Norway, the Lake District and Scotland – some of them made it back to Brighton, by car rather than ice.

80. mirage across the Humber (600 x 371)

After lots of sand-slogging we reached the new sometimes-island but didn’t go as far as the lighthouse, and on turning back we spent more time looking across the mudflats and Lincolnshire.  The shining mud, or perhaps water, created a pleasing mirage effect, causing the distant shore to be reflected beneath itself.

We popped into the old seaside resort of Withernsea on the way home.  There are window displays in Hull’s Whitefriargate saying Withernsea is the Place to Be – believe me, it is not.  Though it does have sandy beaches and we did find a newish micropub.  The gardens of what used to be the Town Council Offices had a rather nice cast iron thing commemorating Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, complete with those scaley fish usually described as dolphins (as in Brighton’s emblem).

83. Victoria memorial at Withernsea


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Going to Hull and more.

We left Brighton about 7am with Marian driving and Jackie navigating – a route we had planned carefully several days earlier, mainly avoiding motorways once north of London and the Dartford crossing.  Arrived on the outskirts of Lincoln about 11am and parked at the bottom of the town so that we would have the big walk up Steep Hill to the cathedral.  Crossing a level crossing and the Fossdyke Navigation (originally a Roman canal) we know we are at the bottom of the natural gap in the north-south limestone ridge on which Lincoln stands.

1. Lincoln sculpturs

A big sculpture of (perhaps) acrobats spans the Fossdyke.  Near the top of Steep Hill we find, or I re-discover the Wig and Pen pub.  Sample all 3 of the beers on offer but Oakham’s Citra is best.  Then to the cathedral, paying to enter, but worthwhile.  Best bit of sculpture though, was on the west front – much of it new.

5. New carving west end Linc Cath

Is that Adam and Eve having their genitals savaged (on the left)?  Savage snakes do figure large for sinners.  But even being rescued by God looks gruesome, with repentant sinners being hauled out of the jaws of Hell whilst God stands on the prone devil.  We were all fundamentalists once, it took centuries to grow free of it.

Inside here is some beautifully bright stained glass, lots of pillars in Purbeck marble (brought all the way from the south coast about 900 years ago) and a great library designed by Christopher Wren and built, replacing the north side of the cloisters, in 1674.

10. nave b

In the middle of the right hand side, walking up the north aisle are Marian and Jackie.  The darker columns supporting the nave arches are Purbeck marble.  Notice how they appear whiter at the base, this is because rising damp has pushed salts out of the stone, discolouring and eroding the previously polished surface.  When they charged us £7 or £8 to enter they did observe that the place costs several thousand a day in upkeep and maintenance.

Down the south aisle, poorly lit, was a display of knitted Lincolnshire churches.  Yes – knitted churches!  Humans – impossible to figure.

21. knitted church a

Then it was time to leave, driving north to the Humber Bridge and Hull where we checked into the delightful largely Georgian Kingston Theatre Hotel and strolled down the old town cobbled High Street for fish and chips and a beer or two at the Lion and Key.  Had to eat early because they stop serving food at 7pm – very Hull.

Next day Jackie and Marian went to the Deep – a sort of aquarium with Earth history museum.  I went for a stroll down memory lane, to the Avenues where I was brung up.

32. westbourne av fountain

Had my tonsils out in the local hospital behind the fountain in the middle of Westbourne Avenue.  There used to be 3 of these cast iron birds and mermaids fountains in the Avenues, but even when I lived there (back in the 1960s) there was never any water involved, no fountaining took place.  Incidentally, Philip Larkin died in this hospital in 1985, there is a plaque on the wall of the staff carpark telling us so, part of the Larkin Trail.

Left Westbourne Avenue and wandered down Victoria Avenue to look at the main house of my youth, number 33, before walking on to the main shopping street, Newlands Avenue, where the last railway to be built in Hull passes over the road.  The walk took less than 30 minutes and crossed almost the entirety of my childhood play and exploration area.  There is clearly some local pride in place hereabouts, note the planting at the foot of the bridge abutments.

43. Newland av planting 2

This last railway was ‘The Hull and Barnsley Railway’, and was completed in 1885, linking west Yorkshire with a new dock on the Humber.  But it never actually got to Barnsley.  It got near, to somewhere called Stairfoot apparently.  ‘Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs’, as my Nan used to say when amazed, puzzled or confused.  They only got permission to build the line if it was done without any level crossings, Hull was covered with them from earlier railway developments, and they were slowing down the growing road traffic.  The solution was to cross urban Hull on a long embankment, and bridge the roads encountered.  Next to the bridge is a little bar called Larkins Bar though it was not there in his day.  Their beer mats quote his lines:

Why should I let the toad work

Squat on my life?

Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork

And drive the brute off?

I has a bottle of Japanese witbier to celebrate effective pitchfork use.




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Three days in an open top car.

Day 1: Horsham to Burley via Hinton Ampner and  Winchester.  South to the A272 – a delightful road on motorbike (I had one once, and 50 mph on a winding but broad road feels great) or in open-top car.  One hour and 42 miles later we arrived at Hinton Ampner, a pleasing house and especially gardens, for – after the obligatory 20 minute queuing – a cup of coffee.

1 Hinton Ampner long walk (600 x 450)

There is a sundial at the far end of the above grassy path, but I have other things to show.  Drove on to Winchester for lunch and a look around the cathedral.  This turned into lunch (at the oldest inn in town – the Royal Oak) and a look at the cathedral.  They wanted £8 each for us to look inside.  Perhaps we should have pretended to be Christians and gone in free to pray, but we turned out to be travellers and walked around it instead.

8 winchester cath odd message (600 x 407)

This bit of cryptic carving sums it up.  Before 1640 there was effectively a public right of way through the cathedral, but the bishop decided to open up an exterior route through the cloisters for travellers, so that only the faithful coming to worship would go into the church.  The hand pointing left is for the faithful, and some clever up and down reading tells them:  ILL AC PRECATOR or ‘over here to pray’.  The hand pointing right (with a big stick) reads: HAC VIATOR AMBULA or ‘by this way traveller walk’.  We did that.  We found pretty precincts, a bubbling chalk spring and a car park where we left the MG.

12 Graham at the wheel (600 x 450)

The sun was still shining as we entered the New Forest, which as we know is neither new nor that much a forest.  We explored some pretty forest routes and found a shop for a bottle of whisky (for after drive nightcaps) before finding Burley and the Burley Inn for a few beers, supper and a few more beers.  After a full English we set out for the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

Look at that word – 8 letters, 6 of them vowels!

The older vehicles pleased me the most, with two Brighton references worthy of note.

15 Nat Motor Museum Magnus Volk (600 x 388)

‘The first practical electric road carriage was built by Magnus Volk of Brighton in 1887’  Sadly the model on show is from the US of A.  Magnus sold one of his electric cars to Abdul Hamid II, Sultan of Turkey, and he went with it to Constantinople to demonstrate it to the Sultan.

17 Isetta car (600 x 539)

The new Isetta Square near Brighton railway station is in commemoration of the works which stood there in the late 50s and early 60s.  Three wheeler Isetta bubble cars were assembled in Brighton.  It was an Italian design, bought by BMW who were desperate to sell vehicles after the war.  In the UK they built a 3 wheel version to attract a lower road tax (as a motor cycle), but in the rest of Europe they had 4 wheels.

I did get to see the remains of Beaulieu Abbey.  Completed in 1246 and demolished after dissolution in 1538 – just 292 years.  It was a big Abbey church- 110 metres from west end entrance to the east end of the presbytery, plus all the other abbey stuff – including hospital, rooms for visitors and all the religious life functions as well as the farming lay-brothers stuff.


The above plan comes from the Historyfish.net website – thank you guys.  Leaving the New Forest after coffee I blundered with the map.  Instead of taking us under the A30 into the northern part of the National Park, I got the wrong minor road and we accessed the A30, all the way to Ringwood.  It was quick anyway.

25 ringwood to BF roads 2 (600 x 475)

Soon back on track for Blandford Forum for lunch.  After 12 miles of minor roads WNW from Ringwood we turned SW on the A354 (above) straight into Blandford – a fine Georgian town it tells the visitor.  And the main church proves it:

26 Blandford Forum Georgian church (552 x 600)

Parking proved a problem, but it was free at the (Georgian) Crown Hotel so long as we ate there – so we did, before continuing direct to Dorchester.  We checked into the Wessex Royale Hotel (Georgian as well) before walking the streets for beer and a venue for dinner.  There is a brew pub in town called Tom Brown’s which had a couple of excellent beers, and a little way west was Goldie’s offering traditional ales as well.  But we did not find anywhere interesting to eat.  So it was the hotel restaurant which offered good things – scallops (with a bottle of white) and bacon and chicken salad (with a bottle of red).  Preceded by G&T and topped off with whisky in our room a good night’s sleep was guaranteed.  After a whole kipper for breakfast we waited a while for the rain to stop before setting out for the Cerne Abbas giant.  I would show you a photograph but the weather was so misty it was barely (and I mean barely) visible.  His head and club being further up the hillside were invisible, his more famous attribute was standing proud, but on its own hardly worth showing you.  We took a rural and high altitude route north and east through low cloud until we descended near Sturminster Newton and made our way across the north side of Blandford Forum and onto the Wimbourne Minster road for Kingston Lacy for culture and coffee.

34 Avenue of trees Kingston lacy estate 1 (600 x 550)

The beech trees above are part of a 700+ avenue planted along a 2.5 mile private toll road built in 1835 for William John Banks across his Kingston Lacy estate as an income generator.  He spent most of his life spending family money on improving and embellishing the Kingston Lacy house – first cladding the brick building in stone.

36 Badbury Rings (600 x 249)

Part way along the beech avenue this Iron Age structure is seen (hiding behind the tree).  It is Badbury Rings, a defensive fort whose site shows evidence of continuous occupation from the earlier Bronze Age through the succeeding Roman occupation (several Roman roads meet here).

37 Kingston Lacy formal garden (600 x 450)

This is a view from inside Kingston Lacy house.  William John Banks spent a few years abroad in his youth and sent all kinds of antiquities home.  In 1841 he was found guilty of sex with a guardsman (such things being illegal then) and escaped jail by going to mainland Europe.  From there he sent home plans and commissioned many expensive items to be installed in the house.  Banks died in Venice in 1855, the National Trust guide does not record what happened to the guardsman.  The NT marks the 50th anniversary of the easing of the law regarding male homosexual sex by flying a Pride flag over the house:

pride flag over KL

After the obligatory 20 minute coffee queue we headed east, finding a back road route across the River Avon 2 miles north of Ringwood, and entering the New Forest for lunch at the Red Shoot, Linwood.  The weather had become murkier but we resisted putting the lid up, relying on air flow of forward movement to lift mist and fine drizzle over our heads.  The plan worked fine at 45 mph and above, less well in traffic in Winchester, and when passing under trees on the A272 where falling drops were too big to be swept aside by the airflow.

41 Still misty, sometimes nearer rain (600 x 410)

Above: leaving the New Forest in moister weather.  But we got back into Sussex where the rain had been and gone, reaching Graham’s Golf Clubhouse for a pint of recently rarely seen but delicious Belgian orange and coriander witbier Hoegaarden.

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Home-grown dinner – in part.

dinner 8July17

The kohlrabi and carrots came from the front garden, the courgette, garlic and broad beans from the allotment.  We bought the potatoes and beetroot.  Yesterday we picked gooseberries and blackcurrants, and loads of courgettes trying to become marrows, plus some chard and kale.  The few peas and loganberries plus one strawberry failed to make it home.

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Garden plants, a compass and nipples.

Nothing rude, honest – just seeking your attention.  There is a big pale green 4 feet tall weed in the back garden.  I was cutting some of it away to give more room for the rose and the sweet smelling Daphne when I thought it would be good to know the name of the beast I was decimating.  Here it is.  No flowers yet, but close examination suggests they will be yellow, like small dandelions.

prickly lettuce 1

The books told me it is prickly lettuce, and it does have many sharp points standing out on the underside of each leaf’s midrib.  It has another name – the compass plant.  This is because the leaves on the north and south side of the plant (when its in full sun) turn to get more sunshine on the top and bottom surfaces.  You can see a north pointing leaf below, and a west facing one below that.  Put that in your Baden-Powell scouting for boys hat.

prickly lettuce N leaf

prickly lettuce west leaf

Now the nipples.  On the other side of the garden was another weed, smaller but with yellow flowers.  At first glance I thought, or hoped: wall lettuce, just for balance you understand.  But it was too hairy, and the leaves to angularly incised.  No, it was nipplewort.  Wall lettuce exudes a milky sap when cut, but nipplewort does not, so no explanation there.  Perhaps the flower buds look nipple-like?




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Whiting – not the fish.

A few weeks ago I noticed that the greenhouse was getting very hot on sunny days and I recalled that my Nan used to mix finely ground limestone with water and paint the mixture on the inside of the glass to reflect heat.  That material was called whiting, and the brand I recall was Blanchards.  Decades later I found myself needing Blanchards whiting again.  This time mixed with hot rabbit skin glue to make a gesso to cover papier-mache structures – like the cardboard shelves in the little cabinet, or the papier-mache pot, or the shield with pigeon emblem (what I call Picasso’s Pigeon – its based on part of his  painting).  I also used gesso to build up a textured surface before painting with acrylic paints (quicker than thick oil paint but real depth still possible), as in the Isle of Wight clifftop painting below.  Take my word for it, its a bit of the IoW.

treasure cabinet

balloon pot

picassos pigeon

IoW clifftop

So I called into Dockerill’s hardware store and asked for a bag of whiting.  Not stocked anymore they said.  I asked if they could get it from Blanchards, they said Blanchards had not traded for over a decade.  They could sell me half a litre of greenhouse glass paint for just over £6.  I declined the offer.

Gesso is an artists product, so I phoned Cass art suppliers in town.  They stock it in their London shop, but not here.  But Lawrences art supply shop in Hove had 4 bags in stock, and said they would hold one for me, but did not expect a sudden rush of whiting buyers.  Half a kilo cost £3, and a tablespoon from the big bag made enough whitewash to paint the south facing end of the greenhouse.  Turns out that the reason we have lots of snails here on the chalk geology, is because snails need it for their shells.  They like whiting better.

snail-eaten whiting (450 x 600)

I’ve got plenty of whiting left, so no real problem, but how do they cross the chalky surface to start eating without leaving a trail, and do they throw themselves off the glass when they’ve had enough?

Last Monday Steve and I went for a walk.  Took a bus out of town and climbed the steep north facing slope of the Chalk Downs before descending 5 miles to the sea at Saltdean down the Balsdean valley.  I know most of the valley, but I had never followed it from top to bottom.  Walking back to town along the undercliff walk I noticed that recent heavy rain had caused accumulations of white mud at the foot of the cliffs.  FREE whiting!!

32. whiting, not fish

Dry white dusty trails of this eroded chalk powder crossed the path and drained into the sea.  As Steve said, its where whiting met whiting.

If you are not familiar with the mineral name whiting it may be because the British Whiting Federation (formed by the combination in 1943 of the Northern Region Whiting Association and the Southern Region Whiting Association) changed its name in 1989 to the British Calcium Carbonates Federation.  Check out the members and their products on the website.

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Two newspaper-inspired pieces

First: The Guardian a couple of weeks ago had a photo of a sheet of Penny Blacks with the heading ‘Black Day for Stanley Gibbons’.  The  item was about the stamp dealer’s sale of itself, and the bad news on its share price when a private equity firm denied any intention to bid for Stanley Gibbons.  Private Equity firms are those groups of millionaires who get together to seek targets for buying, stripping of assets and loading with debt before they move on to another target, having taken all the value.   Generally something they don’t shout about – I mean voracious greed and selfishness is not the way to make friends, but I may be wrong.  This particular Private Equity body calls itself, that is it has decided to be known as, publicly and presumably without shame or guilt: Disruptive Capital.  Wow.

Incidentally does anyone recall the Goodies, or was it early Python, referring to that rarer volume of information for the enthusiast: ‘Stanley Stamps Book of Gibbons’?

Second: Back in 1968 I went to university in Norwich, at the nearly new University of East Anglia.  I spent three years in the delightful ziggurat halls of residence next to the library, with a view across the shallow river valley and reed beds from my window and balcony.  Bloody luxury.  The chair in my study bedroom was a welded wire armchair that was modern and comfortable as well as light and tough.  I am sure they were fairly cheap to buy in bulk.  Today one will set you back over £1220, as this item from a Metro mentions.  We have one on display in Brighton Museum, high on a wall in a display of designer furniture.  Should have stolen one when I had the chance.

UEA chairs may17 (600 x 536)



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