Archive for April, 2017

We were very fortunate to get some great views of Tall Ships while we were crossing the river on the cable car.

Amazing! What is still to be discovered elsewhere in London?

Stephen Liddell

As the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for centuries, Lambeth Palace, which sits on the south bank of the River Thames in London might be expected to have its fair share of graves of prominent people in history.

However, recent building work at the now deconsecrated church of St Mary-at-Lambeth has unearthed some incredible and totally unexpected findings.    Despite every corner of this old church being carefully examined and renovated over the years, builders have just discovered the remains of several Archbishops of Canterbury from the 17th century beneath a medieval parish church in south-west London.

The renovation team were lifting flagstones and exposing the ground in the church when they uncovered what looked like an entry to a tomb.   To search the void, located next to Lambeth Palace, they used a mobile phone camera as their guide.

Incredibly the builders had discovered an ancient crypt that…

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Bluebell Railway 2017

Posted: April 26, 2017 in Sussex, Trains, UK


73082 Camelot approaching East Grinstead

Although the main reason for visiting the Bluebell Railway was to photograph Flying Scotsman, a number of other locomotives were also in steam on that day.

73082 at Horsted Keynes

30541 at Horsted Keynes

647 approaching Horsted Keynes

263 in the loco yard at Sheffield Park

Madame la Guillotine

Posted: April 25, 2017 in History

The execution of Marie Antonette 1793 – Unknown –

In Paris, 225 years ago today, the guillotine claimed its first victim. The guillotine was not the first device of execution of this type. However previous devices,  such as the Scottish Maiden and the Halifax Gibbet usually killed by crushing the neck or just by blunt force trauma.

Scottish Maiden. By David Monniaux – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Joseph-Ignace Guillotin after whom the device was named was not, in fact, it’s designer. Guillotin was a member of the French National Assembly who laid down a motion in 1789 that capital punishment should be by decapitation ‘by means of a simple mechanism’.

The guillotine was designed by a Monsieur Laquite, an officer of the Strasbourg criminal court and was considered more humane than the of its predecessors or the use of an axe or a sword.

Guillotine from the city of Luxembourg. Photo by Christian Ries via Wikimedia Commons

The first person to be executed by guillotine was Nicolas-Jacques Pelletier, who had been found guilty of a brutal attack on another man and sentenced to death. He was taken to the Square outside of the hotel de Ville in Paris. It seems as though this may have been the first time that he realised exactly how he was going to be executed and it is reported that he fainted at least once on seeing the guillotine. He was quickly executed and although the authorities found this an efficient and reliable way of execution, it is reported that an element in the crowd were deeply upset with the lack of spectacle.

The guillotine became synonymous with the French Revolution but in fact, it remained the method of execution in France until capital punishment was abolished in 1981. The last person to be executed was Hamida Djandoubi, a murderer, in September 1977.

On a recent visit to Greenwich for the tall ships Festival, Keith and I decided to take a ride on the emirates cable car.

In the middle of 2010, Transport forLondon announced plans to develop a cable car across the River Thames. It would connect North Greenwich to the Royal Victoria docks. The final design was 1100 m long with a clearance over the River of between 54 m and 87 m.  The following year it was announced that it would be sponsored by Emirates airline and construction began in August of that year. The cable car was opened on 28 June 2012 just in time for the London Olympics, connecting venues in the dockland area with those at the O2 Arena in Greenwich.


The cable car has 34 gondolas, each carrying a maximum of 10 people (although from my experience 110 people would be quite a squash). At its peak, shortly after opening, it carried 42,500 people a week but this is now settled back to an average of 28,000 journeys per week.




Aphrodite with Santa Maria Manuela in the background

Aphrodite is a brig from the Netherlands which when not attending Tall Ships festivals cruises in the North Sea and Baltic carrying up to 16 passengers.



Santa Maria Manuela is a 4-masted Lugger from Portugal. Built in 1937 as a fishing boat, it worked as part of the Portuguese Newfoundland Fleet until 1993. It was then demasted and partially disassembled. It lay unused until 2007 when a new owner embarked on a 3-year restoration programme and since 2010 it has been used as a training and cruise ship.

S. Maria Manuela

S. Maria Manuela

Views of Brixham (3)

Posted: April 20, 2017 in Devon, UK

The Harbourside

Sitting in a valley leading up from the Harbour, the Town of Brixham is colourful and attractive.





One thing I really liked was the small nautically themed gardens that can be seen in the harbour area.


60103 ‘Flying Scotsman’ is probably one of the most famous and iconic heritage steam engines in the UK and this past Bank Holiday weekend it has come south from its home at York to run on the Bluebell Railway in Sussex.


60103 at East Grinstead

Built as LNER4472, an A1 Pacific class locomotive at Doncaster, it entered into service in February 1923. It didn’t receive a name until the following year when it was part of the British Empire exhibition when it was decided to name it after the daily express train from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh ‘The Flying Scotsman’. It 1924 it became the first locomotive to officially be recorded as reaching 100mph and it headed the first non-stop run between London and Edinburgh in May 1928.

Model of 4472 as originally built

In the 1940s the A1 class was rebuilt and remodelled into the new design A3 Pacifics and 4472 underwent this process in 1947 and was renumbered the following year as 60103 following the nationalisation of the railways.

60103 preparing to leave East Grinstead with southbound service.

60103 approaches Horsted Keynes at head of northbound service










It hauled its last passenger train on 14th January 1963 between Kings Cross and Leeds. It was bought by Alan Pegler, who put it to work running charter trains. In 1967 it visited the USA as part of a tour to promote British goods and services and was very successful. However, an attempt to repeat this in 1969, saw the company go into bankruptcy and 60103 was seized by American creditors.

60103 at Sheffield Park

A rescue operation was put together and new owners purchased the engine and it arrived back in the UK in February 1972. It split its time between mainline charters and work on the now growing number of heritage railways. In 1988 it visited Australia and set the record for the longest ever non-stop run for a steam locomotive (Alice Springs to Perth). Returning the opposite way to which it went out it became the first, and possibly the only, Steam locomotive to have circumnavigated the world.

60103 at Sheffield Park

In 1993 it became necessary to restrict its running to heritage lines and two years later it was withdrawn from service. it returned to running in 1999 and continued to run until 2004 when it was bought by the National Railway Museum, who embarked on a 10-year refurbishment programme. 60103 returned to steam in February 2014.

Rainham Marshes

After a trip to IKEA at Lakeside, Sue and I dropped into the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes for a coffee and a quick walk around the woodland area of this large marshland reserve.

The woods were full of song, much of it from newly arrived migrants and Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Blackcap were seen. Sedge and Reed warblers were calling from the nearby reed beds and we came across one very tolerant Reed Bunting which happily posed for pictures. There were also good numbers of butterflies with Orange Tip particularly numerous. A single Swallow was the first sighting of this summer migrant for me this year.



Reed Bunting








Later we stopped for lunch at Bough Beech and were rewarded with sightings of Garganey and Little Ringed Plover both recently arrived from their Winter homes, together with my first House Martin of the year.

Bough Beech

Little Ringed Plover







Garganey (from archive)



Grey Heron

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Garganey (Anas querquedula)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Little Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius dubius)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Greenwich Ecology Park


During our visit to the Tall ships festival, Keith and I took the opportunity to drop into the Greenwich Ecology Park to see if any Common Terns had arrived after migration at this breeding site and also to check whether the first dragonflies had emerged. The reserve was relatively quiet with just a few resident birds present – there were no Terns to be seen and no dragonflies either.

Greenwich Ecology Park

On leaving the reserve we walked towards the O2 dome and we found two Common Terns sitting on a barge in the middle of the river, along with a selection of Gulls.

Common Tern

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Herring Gull

Canada Goose

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)