Visiting a narrow gauge light railway in the Forest of Dean

We spent our Easter holiday visiting friends at the edge of the Forest of Dean.

On one of our country walks in the Forest we passed by the Lea Bailey Light Railway. The others, in our party, were tolerant of my interest in heritage railways, and so we had a peek at the railway workings. There wasn’t any activity at the railway,

It’s one of the distinctive things about us British that we cherish railways, and heritage railways even more bordering on a passion. Such passion is required in bucket loads to preserve the Lea Bailey Light Railway, as my photo montage below should attest. The Forest of Dean has had coal mines and iron mines going back centuries, all now worked-out or closed. The mine workings for which the Lea Bailey Light Railway were for gold mining. Newsletter 1 on the LBLR website says,

A brief history of the Level might be of interest. It is notorious as the Forest’s ‘gold mine’. It was apparently dug in 1906- 7 by a group of investors operating under the name of the Chastan Syndicate (who also briefly owned the unsuccessful Fairplay Iron Mine) but although gold was found it was in such small quantities as to be not commercially viable. So the Syndicate apparently failed. Then after WW1 the level was dug some 580 yards to the Wigpool Iron Mine gale, but was abandoned after a few years with only 3000 tons of ore removed.

It’s not Eros in Piccadilly Circus. Do you know who it depicts?

Everyone knows that the statue in Piccadilly Circus is the statue of Eros – mostly that’s because it’s the name to which it’s commonly referred.

Well, the truth is that it’s not a depiction of Eros, but Anteros, his twin brother. Londonist explains why our confusion over the name,

Gilbert [the sculptor] spent a long time considering how to celebrate the life of Shaftesbury, a philanthropist and social reformer. Lord Shaftesbury campaigned against many injustices, such as child labour conditions, limiting child employment in factories and mines.

For five years Gilbert considered various ideas to celebrate the charitable life of the Earl. He eventually decided on a fountain, topped with the winged figure of Anteros, the ancient Greek symbol of Selfless Love.

Gilbert described Anteros as portraying “reflective and mature love, as opposed to Eros or Cupid, the frivolous tyrant.”

But the English, with our unhelpfully generic singular word for ‘love’, whether its love for your grandma, your hot new boyfriend or your baby niece, struggled with this idea. The boy with the bow and arrow was Eros, and neither explanations nor re-branding exercises were going to change that.

It was the first sculpture in the world to be cast in aluminium and is set on a bronze fountain.

Diego Delso,, License CC-BY-SA

Gardens to visit in Surrey at Easter

The National Garden Scheme is the biggest garden-based charity fundraiser in England and Wales. With 79 gardens open in Surrey in the year, there’s sure to be a garden to suit your taste.

Over Easter the following gardens are open,

  • Sunday 16th April: Caxton House, 67 West Street, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 9DA. Lovely large spring garden with Arboretum, 2 well stocked ponds, large collection of hellebores and spring flowers.
  • Sunday 16th April: The Chalet, Tupwood Lane, Caterham, Surrey, CR3 6ET. The Chalet sits on top of a steep hill with magnificent views towards the South Downs. Ponds have encouraged a myriad of wildlife, including newts, frogs, grass snakes, ducks and herons.
  • Monday 17th April: Coverwood Lakes, Peaslake Road, Ewhurst, Surrey, GU6 7NT. 14 acre landscaped garden in stunning position high in the Surrey Hills with 4 lakes and bog garden.
  • Monday 17th April: Timber Hill, Chertsey Road, Chobham, Surrey, GU24 8JF. Beautifully kept 15 acre park like garden and woodland with views to N Downs.

Don’t forget to put Sunday 11th June in your diary, it’s the Frimley Green Gardens Open Day. There are 4 gardens to visit, and if memory serves me right, there’s tea and cake in each one. See HERE for more details.

A narrow gauge railway with ambitious plans

Gosh, wasn’t it a lovely sunny weekend. So, so lucky, considering yesterday’s temperature was a good 12 degrees lower. A reminder, if ever one was needed, that while most of the rest of the world has a climate, we have weather.

Enough about the weather. During our Sunday visit to the Kempton Engine House, we noticed families visiting the close-by Hampton and Kempton Waterworks Railway. The sound of a steam engine, and it’s whistle drew us towards the entrance, and to the railway ticket office to find out more about it.

We’d seen the beginnings of the little narrow-gauge railway on our first visit to the Kempton Engine House a few years ago. The enthusiasm and commitment of the railway’s volunteers is to be much admired, for there’s been considerable progress in developing the railway. The Railway is open from 10.30 am to 4.00 pm every Sunday in 2017,  from March 18th to November 20th and some Saturdays. Click on the map to expand. In their brochure they describe their future plans as,

We will start the second phase of the railway where we finished the first, and work towards Upper Sunbury Road, about three miles away.

Thought you might like to see the short video I took of our visit.

Tea and cake inside the Kempton Engine House

Just prior to the A316 becoming the M3 motorway between Sunbury-on-Thames and Hanworth you pass by the Thames Water Kempton Park Water Treatment Works.

Among the works buildings is a large one near the elevated road with two tall chimneys behind it, on which it says Metropolitan Water Board. How many people passing by have wondered what is housed in the building? I did for one, when working nearby in Feltham. The building was in a sorry condition when I passed by in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, all boarded and looking neglected.

The building and contents were given National Monument status and Grade II* listing by English Heritage, and it wasn’t until 1995 that the the Kempton Great Engines Trust was formed to restore the building and contents, and not until 2004 that the building was opened to the public.

What surprises is that the building – now known as the Kempton Steam Museum – houses two huge triple-expansion steam engines. At 62 feet/19 metres in height and weighing over a 1000 tons the engines are colossal. They were installed in the Art Deco building in 1928, and were in constant use until 1980, when the engine house closed.

The building is open every Tuesday and Thursday, though the No 6 engine is in steam only on THESE DAYS. We stopped by for tea and cake last Saturday. Here are my photos of our visit.

Jupiter is impressively bright in the night sky

We’re used to seeing aircraft and helicopter lights in the sky. Looking out at the sky this evening – at 9.0 pm April 8th – there was one bright light I didn’t recognise. I realised that it should be a planet. Not Mars, as I know that is smaller. So what planet.

Turning to ubiquitous internet, I learned that it was the planet Jupiter. I tried to hold my binoculars steadily. Not steadily enough to see the Jovian rings and the red spot. See more about the April night sky at the Guardian.