A trip out of lockdown to London

Hardly having being out for months, on Friday, we went to London for an appointment – approved in the lockdown rules don’t you know.

What we experienced on a journey were a series of surprises, which I’ll describe.

We took the train from Woking Station to Waterloo and then to Islington. Arriving at Woking, the car park by the station was almost empty – just a handful of cars. Normally, even at £17.50 for a days parking, it’s full, hardly a space to be had. At the station ticket windows there were three windows open and three members of staff behind the windows. Train travellers from Woking will know that even in rush hour there was often just one ticket window open, resulting in long queues. Not a soul around the ticket windows or booking hall. It was midday, so not the busiest part of the day, even so to see so few people around was a surprise.

While waiting for our train a stopping at all stations train arrived at the opposite platform. I tried to count the number of carriages, and think I got to 13, could’ve been more. How often have the trains from Woking been short on carriages, and packed with passengers as a result.

There were passengers on our train, but when we arrived at Waterloo they soon disappeared into the concourse. With a little time to spare I did what I’ve done often, beginning in 2015, to take a photo of the station platforms converted from the old Eurostar platforms. [See HERE if you’re interested]. Not a passenger in sight, apart from a few station employees. My photo is shown below.

I hadn’t realised how long it’s been not travelling to London by rail. There’s still plenty of new building works on view pretty much everywhere on the journey. Can’t stop progress. Must say I’m not overly impressed with the skyscrapers and density of tower blocks at Nine Elms, maybe it’s better at ground level.

While there are, obviously, people around on London streets, and some traffic, it’s not the bustling, frantic, and buzzy London that we all know. On the way back from our appointment we wandered up a side street before we went to Old Street tube station to begin our journey home. I found the juxtaposition of old and new buildings more surprising than I’d previously considered. Everywhere there were new tower blocks, often in odd shapes, which doesn’t, for me, make them any more attractive. I’m more of a mansion block person, big, but not overpowering, and likely to be a more attractive design in brick or stone. Anyway, I took a photo looking up in Baldwin Street near City Road [see below].

Overall, pleased to see London growing, but would love to see the place back to normal.

Are our bronze-age bowl barrows getting a makeover?

I love it that people comment on my blog posts, or who speak to me about something I’ve written.

One such regular contributor is ‘Speedicus Triplicatum’ who comments on my article Disappointed the bronze-age bowl barrows in Brentmoor Heath are covered with scrub of a few days ago, writing,

Visited Brentmoor yesterday for the first time in quite a while.

It seems that SWT read your Blog Timster – they’ve started clearing the Scrub away from the Tumuli, at the NoticeBoard & Sarsen Stone section to the East ….

That he gives me the moniker Timster, I rather like. Anyway, Speedicus reports that work has begun clearing away the heavy scrub, mostly gorse, from the bowl barrows [Tumuli is the generic term] near the information board.

I’ll not be able to visit the site for a few days, and will report back when I’ve done so. Here’s the area that Speedicus wrote about when I last visited at the end of February. He’s kind enough to suggest my blog post might have contributed to the actions of Surrey Wildlife Trust, I think not, most likely down to coincidence.

Rotten weather, a day on the sofa

Hoping that the day would be clement, not so, so a day watching TV on the sofa. Two pieces of high drama to entertain me, Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence to an investigative committee in Edinburgh, and the Rishi Sunak’s Budget in Parliament.

I listened to chunks of Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence. My conclusion was that she is a skilful communicator, while also skilfully avoiding answering a number of direct questions. For this tough politician to say she was troubled with a sensible course of action about Alec Salmond’s predicament strikes me as poor judgement. The convenor of the committee I thought was poor, and the most incisive, calm, and measured questioner was Jackie Baillie, a Labour MSP. It was good to see and hear the clarity and brevity in her questioning.

My last comment on this Scottish drama is that it’s yet another of Tony Blair’s blunders. The Scottish devolution settlement and Scottish parliament arrangements were not well thought through or enacted. Lots of holes in how the parliament functions.

Budget 2021I then listened intently to the Budget. Rishi Sunak, like Sturgeon, is a skilled communicator. It was more enjoyable listening to him rather than George Osborne rattling through impenetrable Budget numbers. My conclusion, a very good performance, but pain delayed for a year or two. The pain of tax rises will come though. Freezing personal tax allowances will hurt in the longer term. I guess he’ll hope that the economy recovers and business investment will help employment and growth.

Overall conclusion. I’m sated on political and economic drama, thank you. I need the excitement of sport to bring me back to normality and equanimity. Oh, to have a cricket test match series in England to watch – five day test matches are the best diversion known to man.

It might not seem much, but scrub clearance is to me

In an afternoon walk yesterday I discovered two things. Firstly, and most importantly, the scrub clearance in the low lying heathland  around Folly Bog has opened the area for walkers, such as me.

Secondly and oddly, I noticed a series of these marks on the heathland track. I think they are probably related to the oil and gas pipelines buried below the track. Can’t be sure, but it looks probable as the numbers, such as 1.2 and .3 might relate to the depth of the pipelines at the point of the marking.

Anyway, back to the first point. Invasive scrub and trees that had, over the years, spoiled the view over Folly Bog from Hangmoor Hill and the the heathland track, and made access to the bog area exceptionally difficult, if not impossible. Now it’s easier, though still not easy, to walk over the heathland down to the lower path leading to the bog.

I walked over the area, which small bits of exploration made me a happy man. It’s surprising how a few days of dry sunny weather dries out the damper areas of the boggy area. I looked out for emerging plant growth, and found none. Still a bit early methinks. I’m not the first person to venture through the cleared area, as I saw footprints and doggy prints. Pleased that others do what I like to do.

Here are a couple of photos, one looking over the cleared area, and the other the odd markings.

Giving in to temptation – just a little bit

I know I told you, last year, how pleased I was in the autumn when I planted tulips and loads of daffodils.

I’m sorely tempted to post a photo a day at how the lovelies are doing in our front garden. That would be verging on being boastful, and that’s not an attractive thing to be.

However, I’m giving in a little bit to temptation by showing photo of a couple of daffodils that I randomly planted in our back garden as I couldn’t find anymore room in the front garden.

Our front garden will be a delight when the daffodils are ALL in flower, and until then I’ll not post another photo of daffodils, although the temptation is strong. Let’s see how long I can last.

How to increase the general happiness in the country

How to increase the general happiness in the country, well, how can that be done?

I’ll tell you how. Driven by personal experience. I need a haircut and dear wife needs her nails polished. I know, I know, we’ve both got to wait until April 12th.

As the vaccine rollout is going well a small change to the roadmap, bringing forward the date at which “Hairdressers, beauty salons and other “close contact services” can reopen” would lift the spirits of many men and I image even more women

It’s just my idea. My last haircut was rushed before Christmas, and so not enough was cut off. I’ve tried to partly cut my hair, unsuccessfully. It’s a long time to wait until April 12th, and I’m sure not to be in the early customers on Monday 12th, so, I guess later that week, say the 15th would be the likely date of my haircut. That’s FORTY EIGHT days away, almost SEVEN weeks away.

A plaintiff cry.

More on the Hurst Castle wall collapse

My previous article on the sea wall collapse at Hurst Castle was a bit thin on detail.

Thankfully, the Daily Mail have comprehensive details on the wall collapse, including the unfortunate fact that repair work on this wall was about to commence. Strikes me from looking at this photo from Solent News, and other in the Daily Mail article that the whole site needs a bit more protection from the sea. It looks to me like the cost of repair has increased markedly.

Engineers are now assessing the damage to the 573-year-old building near Lymington, Hants

Hurst Castle partial sea wall collapse

This isn’t good news I’m afraid. Hurst Castle, the Henry VIII castle built to defend the western approaches to Portsmouth Naval Harbour, has suffered a major collapse of part of its sea wall. We visited Hurst Castle in 2018. I think the part that has collapsed is on the right hand arm of the castle – see lower photo. The Henry VIII part is the central area, which doesn’t seem to be involved in the sea wall collapse.

Troubling, all the same. Photo credit to James Brooke. More details on the collapse on BBC website.

Disappointed the bronze-age bowl barrows in Brentmoor Heath are covered with scrub

On my last lengthy heathland walk, and feeling that Surrey Wildlife Trust had done some good work cutting back heathland trackside vegetation, I walked to the four bronze-age bowl barrows in Brentmoor Heath.

I was hoping that the bowl barrows had had similar vegetation cut back. No such luck. This scheduled ancient monument in a borough remains unloved. I’ll have to write to the Council and the Trust. That’s a morning’s activity allocated – these things always take me longer than I think. I can’t like some simply knock off a letter. I try hard to add all possible evidence I can to get the result I want.

I’ve added three photos of the bowl barrows as they look currently, ( First photo is approaching the bowl barrows, then being alongside them, and finally at the information board ). Below the photos I’ve copied the text from the Historic England website website entry on them., and below that a photo of what they looked like a few years ago.

I’ve written lots of blog posts on them, which you can read HERE, if you’re interested. This article of mine HERE, offers the best chance to learn more about them.

Here’s part of what Historic England say about them,

Despite partial excavation, the four contiguous bowl barrows on West End Common survive well as an outstanding example of a very rare form nationally as well as being the only example of its kind in Surrey. As one of a clearly defined group which, from the evidence of the single ditch, may have been built in a single phase, the site will contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the social organisation of Bronze Age communities in this area, their economy and the landscape in which they lived.

Spring has sprung for my cacti

Yesterday was warm enough for my collection of cacti, which reside on the windowsills of our conservatory, to have their first outing and watering of the year. Cacti are splendid plants that are tolerant of lack of water. They give lots of pleasure when they decide to flower, the size of which don’t seem to be related to their size. The smaller of our cacti produce enormous flower shoots relative to their size.