Archive for November, 2018

A fistful of A4

Posted: November 30, 2018 in Trains

Any regular reader will not be surprised that before very long in my look back to my early days on the blog, I would start waxing lyrical about Gresley A4’s. Well, they are the best steam locomotives ever built! This collection of action shoots was first posted in April 2013. Was it really 5 years ago that all 5 remaining A4’s were together at York? Time flies.

A collection of A4 tweets. Will be wonderful to see 5 together at NRM York later in the year

River Thames at Gravesend

Keith and I were in Gravesend for an RSPB meeting and so we decided to make a day of it by doing a short walk along the riverfront. Gravesend had once been a thriving port, as is witnessed by the multitude of piers that are still present, but apart from a ferry across the river to Tilbury and some pleasure boats, this is no longer the case.

Town Pier

 The tide was falling as we reached the front. our first sighting was on a Common Redshank, feeding on the mud.

Common Redshank

We passed the mooring of Light Vessel 21, part of the National Historic Ships Collection. Built in 1963, it saw service mostly off the Kent coast and was involved in the worst collision to involve a light vessel when on 28th June 1981 LV21 was hit by the ‘Ore Meteor’ which was under tow at the time in rough weather. Observers at the time commented that the tug seemed too small to be handling such a large vessel in open water. In rough seas, the tug and its tow, past too close to LV21 and first the side and then the stern of the Meteor crashed into the bow of the Light Vessel. Thankfully all damage was above deck and the ship remained afloat and was later towed to Southampton for repairs. It was finally decommissioned in 2008. It is now used as an arts performance venue 


Across the river was Tilbury Fort, one of two built to protect the entrance to London along the Thames. Details of its counterpart in Gravesend can be found at

Tilbury Fort

On the exposed river mud a group of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding.

Black-Tailed Godwit

Passing Gravesend Fort we came to Promenade Park, which has a lake and a small reed-bed.

It was very quiet today and apart from some small birds in the bushes there were only Moorhen and Mute Swan present.

It was now time to turn back to the Town centre, but on the river further downstream we could see a group of Common Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mud. As we retraced our steps along the Promenade we found two Common Gulls and a single Ruddy Turnstone feeding on the mud.

Common Gull
Ruddy Turnstone

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

The famous farting lamp of London

Posted: November 28, 2018 in History, London, UK

Following on from my post about Frederick Winsor and the production of Gas in London, I was interested to read this post from Stephen Lidell which presents a whole different method of producing gas to light our streets.

Stephen Liddell

Last week I wrote on The Great Stink of 1868.  By chance todays post is on a related subject.  Many people will be aware that in the Victorian age, much of London was lit with gas lamps and in deed several places still are.   Less well known is that some of these lamps were powered by the gas from human sewage.

The Webb Patent Sewer Gas Lamp was invented in the late 19th century by the Birmingham inventor Joseph Webb. In London the lamps were used for two main reasons; firstly to burn off the smells and germs from London’s sewer system, and secondly as a low cost, low maintenance way to keep London lit up at night.

wp1e8f8dc3_1aPart of the original patent for the sewer lamps.

Methane was collected by a small dome in the roof of the sewer, with the gas then being diverted into the…

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John Franklin was born in Lincolnshire in 1786. He went to sea in a merchantman at the age of 12 and in 1800, his father secured him a position aboard the 64 gun Royal Navy vessel HMS Polyphemus. He saw action at the battle of Copenhagen. Transferring to HMS Investigator he was appointed midshipman and travelled to Australia. He returned to Europe to serve on HMS Beelerophon at the battle of Trafalger. 

In 1819 Franklin was chosen to lead an expedition overland from Hudson Bay charting the coast of Canada. He returned to England in 1823 but was soon back in Canada leading expeditions to chart the Mackenzie River and surrounding areas returning each year to winter at Fort Franklin. In Summer of 1827 he returned to England.

He was knighted in April 1829 for his expeditionary work. He also recieved awards from France and Greece in recognition of his work. In 1836 he was appointed Lieutenant Governer of Van Dieman’s Land (modern day Tasmania) and he served until 1843. In 1845 it was decided to send another expedition to complete the mapping of arctic waters and Franklin was named as the Commander. Two ships and 129 men set off from Greenland and were last seen by a whaler on 26 July.

After 3 years a search party was dispatched. Eventually, they found some evidence of the expedition on Beechey Island where 3 graves were found. Although no evidence of survivors was found, Franklin, in absentia, was promoted to Rear-Admiral. A note found on Beechey Island reported that Franklin had died there in 1847. It was not until 1854 that John Rae, an explorer learnt from Inuit Indians that the two ships had become ice-bound and that the men had tried to escape on foot, but had succumbed to the cold. The wrecks of the two ships were eventually found in 2014 and 2016.


Posted: November 26, 2018 in History, Trains
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Gladstone was built at Brighton works in 1882 and saw service on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway until 1927. It is the last surviving engine of its type with the driving wheels at the front of the locomotive. It was designed to haul express trains on the London to Brighton line. 

When it finished service it was purchased by the Stephenson Locomotive Society and was exhibited at the LNER museum at York. In 1959 it was given to the British Transport Commission as part of the national collection and is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York. 

A mixed up goose family

Posted: November 23, 2018 in Birds, Natural History

I first came across this pair of geese back in the winter of 2013 and they have bred on the Tarn every year since becoming regular sightings on my walks.

This is that first post

This afternoon as it was bright and sunny although still quite cold I went for a walk around the Tarn. Quite a lot of activity and bird numbers are certainly up on the past week. Good numbers of Tufted Ducks and Moorhen and lots of small birdsong, mainly Blue Tits and Great Tits.

The Canada goose x Greylag goose hybrid is still present with its parents



Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser) 5
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis) 4
Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) 1
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos) 18
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 5
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus) 9
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra) 2
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 1
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia) 18
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus) 8
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri) 6
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major) 1
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius) 2
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica) 6
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone) 4
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major) 1
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus) 4
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea) 1
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula) 1

Frederick Winsor was born in 1763 in the German principality of  Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel. In his 30s, he relocated to London to further his interests in technology. In 1807 he started a gas-works and lit one side of Pall Mall with gas lamps. Having been refused a charter for his gas company he relocated to Paris, but he could not repeat the success he had achieved in London. He died in Paris in 1830.

The company Winsor founded, The Gas Light and Coke Company (GLCC), was granted a charter shortly after Winsor left for Paris and continued to operate. It took over many other local gas supply companies during the next 120 years. In 1949 it was nationalised and became a major part of one of the 12 new Regional Gas Boards, which would eventually become British Gas.

A plaque in Pall Mall commemorates that first large-scale use of gas illumination of a road in 1807. Another memorial to him is Winsor Road in Beckton in east London, a road that led to the Beckton Gasworks, the largest such plant in the world for many years, which was opened by the GLCC in 1870. It ceased operation in 1969 when the requirement for manufactured Gas had been replaced by Natural Gas supplies.

Roman Emporers: Gaius Caesar

Posted: November 21, 2018 in History, Roman History

In this case a nearly Emporer. Gaius was the Grandson of Augustus Caesar and the son of Marcus Agrippa and was the nominated heir to the purple. He was both a skilled politician and military leader and was an almost ideal candidate to succeed his grandfather, talented and much loved by the Roman people. He led successful military campaigns in Parthia, Arabia and Armenia.

In 2AD, during the Armenian Campaign, the rebel leader sent a message that he wanted to negotiate a truce. Unfortunately it was a trick and when Gaius showed up, he and his attendants were attacked by the rebels. Gaius was wounded. Initially he seemed to recover and his forces went onto defeat the rebels.

Within a year things took a turn for the worse. Long-term effects of his wound began to take their toil. evetually at the age of twenty-three he resigned his commision and retired to Syria. He sent his grandfather a letter in which he told him he wanted to resign from public life. Augustus, no doubt hoping this was a temporary setback and the Gaius would recover, tried to convince him to return to Italy and the court, but Gaius refused. By February of 4 AD, he was dead.

We are told that the whole Empire was shocked and saddened by the death of this much loved leader. He was granted many posthumous honours ny the Roman state.

Both Tacitus and Cassius Deo writing years later suggest that it was not the wound that killed him but that he was poisoned. The main candidate for this was Livia, Gaius’ step-mother, whose son Tiberius became the heir on the death of Gaius.

Hedgehog Highways

Posted: November 20, 2018 in Birds, Natural History

I was sent this wonderful photograph as part of a campaign to encourage the creation of Hedgehog Highways, routes which enable these important garden mammals to safety negotiate roads and other hazards.

The photograph is of a starling murmuration, an evening coming together before communal roosting, but it does look like a hedgehog. It was taken by Jariath Flynn.

For further details on the Hedgehog Highway campaign and to sign the petition go to

Class 08 064

Posted: November 19, 2018 in History, Trains
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Class 08 locomotives were a common sight on UK railways being the standard shunter engine of their time. They now form the most commonly preserved class of locomotive due to their great functionality as a shunter for moving other stock around yards. They were produced between 1953 and 1962 and in total, almost 1000 engines were produced. It was estimated in 2011, 50 years after the last one was built, that over 100 class 08 engines were still in active service on industrial or national rail sites across the country plus many more on heritage lines.

BR 1037 (D3079;08064) was built at Darlington in 1953 and now forms part of the National Railway Collection at York, alongside its sister locomotive 08911, an example of an engine modified by reducing the height of the bodywork for use on the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Railway in South Wales.