Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

UCI World Cup London: Day 3

Posted: December 19, 2018 in London, Sport, UK

Sue and I were back at the Lea Valley Velodrome for Day 3 of the UCI World Cup meeting.

The first event was the Men’s Sprint Semifinals

Jack Carlin (UK) preparing to race  Harri Lavreysen (Netherlands) in the semi final
Lavreysen would win 2 races to 1 and go onto win the Gold medal

After that there was the Woman’s Keiran; the Men’s Omnium Elimination race (in which Matt Walls from the UK came second to lead overall) and the Women’s Madison, where Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald, two of the UK’s top riders rode to Gold.

Kenny and Archibald await their medals
Laura Kenny recieves her Gold medal for the Madison

After the final of the men’s sprint, it was the points race in the Men’s Omnium. Matt Walls leading the competition rode superbly to ensure his Gold medal was secure.

Matt Walls with his Gold medal


UCI World Cup London

Posted: December 18, 2018 in London, Sport, UK

One of the things I love about track cycling is there is always plenty to see with all the activity going on in the centre of the track.

Each bike is weighed and checked before a race to ensure it conforms to regulations.

UCI World Cup, London : Day 2

Posted: December 17, 2018 in London, Sport, UK
Lea Valley Velodrome
(Photo by Peter O’Connor -

Sur and I were at the Lea Valley Velodrome for Day 2 of the UCI Cycling World Cup in London.

Waiting for the start of the first race

The Omnium is cycling’s equivalent of the Pentahlon. It comprises 4 races over a single day. Race 3 is the elimination race, where there is a sprint every 2 laps and the last one to cross the line is out. This continues until 2 riders are left and they contest the final sprint.

Riders wait for start of Womens Omnium Elimination Race
Tatics are all about getting in the right position as you approach the line

The next event was the Mens Keiren which is a paced event where the riders are paced by a Derny bike until they reach a certain speed and then its a sprint to the line.

Derny Bike
The contestants start as the Derny passes them
Building up speed

Following this was the Women’s sprint, which although the shortest and quickest race starts off with a lot of tactics on the first lap with the riders sometimes coming to a complete stop as they manoeuvre for position and try to catch out their opponent, before a final 2 lap all out sprint for the finishing line.

Stephanie Morton (Australia) and Emma Hinze (Germany) manoeuvre for prime position on the track in the Women’s Sprint

Then there was the Men’s Madison which s a two-person team race where one rider is active at a time and points are scored by winning sprints or lapping the field. The riders in each team change status by tagging the other. The Silver medal was won by Fred Wright and Matt Walls of UK.

Walls and Wright wait for their medal ceremony
Matt Walls recieves his Silver medal

The final event was the points race in the Womens Omnium. The scoring is like the Maddison with points for winning sprints (every 10 laps) and for lapping the field, but this is an individual race.

Ice-Watch London

Posted: December 13, 2018 in Art, London, Natural History, UK

“Put your hand on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it – and witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing” Olafur Eliasson

An artwork by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing in the City of London. It aims to provide an immediate, tangible testimony to the effects of Climate change. The Greenland ice sheet is losing 200 to 300 billion tonnes of ice every year, raising sea levels around the globe. These large blocks came from a fjord in Greenland, where they had already detached from the ice sheet, just like 10,000 other such blocks which detach from the ice sheet every day.

24 hours later

The blocks will be on display until 21st December or whenever they melt away.

24 hours later

Thanks to Sue for the photographs

This statue of General Gordon is located in the riverside park at Gravesend in Kent, close to Gordon Promenade and Khartoum Square.

Gordon had been born in SE London in 1833, the son of an army officer. Gordon and all of his brothers joined the army when they were old enough. His first commision was to oversee the construction of defences at Milford Haven in Wales. It was whilst stationed here that he became a Christian, although he never aligned himself with any denomination and enjoyed attending services in many different churches. He once remarked to a priest that the church was much like the army ‘one army, but many different regiments’. 

He saw service in Crimea and China before returning to the UK in 1864 and was placed in command of the defences of the River Thames and its estuary. He based himself at Gravesend. His views on the defence of the river were ignored but, under protest, he carried out the plans of the War Office. In Gravesend Gordon is not remembered for his military activities, but for his work with the poor and homeless of the town including teaching at the ‘Ragged School’, feeding and housing homeless boys and the dedication on his statue ranks this work over any of his other achievements. He spent much of his salary on his chariable projects.

He left Gravesend in 1871 to work on the Danube navigation and then as war graves inspector in the Crimea. whilst on this trip he met the Prime Minister of Eygpt and he was attached to Eygptian forces (with the consent of the British Army). He was appointed governor of Equatoria (South Sudan and Northern Uganda). He did much to suppress the slave trade in the area. Eventually he became Governor-General of the Sudan. He worked to abolish torture and public floggings and became well-known for his obstenacy. He once joked that ‘the Gordons and camels are of the same race. let them get an idea into their heads and nothing will take it out’. He did much to maintain peace in the Sudan, including on one occasion riding into the rebel camp armed only with his cane to demand the surrender of the rebel forces.

Exhausted he resigned in 1879 and returned to London. He was in much demand. the King of Belgium offered him the Governorship of the Congo and the Cape Colony approached him to become its military commander. He became private secretary to the Governor-General of India but resigned after a few weeks because he found it boring. Against the wishes of the British Government, he travelled to China to try and broker peace in the tensions between China and Russia. After predicting that the actions of the ruling elite would eventually lead to a revolution of the people he was expelled from Beijing. Under threat of discharge from the army, Gordon returned to London. He set about championing land reform in Ireland, much to the annoyance of William Gladstone, the prime minister. He was soon sent off to command the Royal engineers in Mauritius, building defences against a possible Russian attack. He was posted to the Cape province the following year and in 1882 went to Palestine, where he visited the historic sites of Christianity.

He returned to London in 1883 and he was sent to Sudan to counter the Sudanese revolt led by the Mahdi. The situation worsened and following the defeat of the Egyptian army, Gordon was sent to Khartoum to evacuate the city. However, the Egyptians had other ideas and pressed him to take control and expel the Mahdi and his forces and he soon decided to hold the city against the rebel forces. The siege of Khartoum began in March 1884. The British Government had decided to abandon Sudan, hence the evacuation plan, but Gordon had other ideas and had great public support. In August the British Government bowed to public pressure and issued the orders for a relief force to be sent to Khartoum, but it was not until November that it was ready to leave.

In January 1885, the fort at Omdurman fell to the rebels enabling them to fire with cannon on the city. The relief force defeated a rebel army on 18 January leading the Mahdi to realise that if he was going to capture the city he needed to do so before the relief force arrived. It took only an hour for them to breach the defences and thereafter killed 10000 soldiers and civilians including Gordon. The relief force arrived on 28 January, two days after the city had fallen. Under heavy fire, they turned back from the city.

The failure to rescue Gordon was a major blow to the government’s popularity and Queen Victoria sent a telegram rebuking Gladstone for his lack of action. This was leaked to the press and added to the government’s unpopularity. Stones were thrown at the windows of 10 Downing Street and Gladstone was dubbed ‘Murderer of Gordon’. But they stuck by there decision to abandon Sudan.

The Mahdi, encouraged by the lack of international action established a state which reversed many of the reforms Gordon had introduced. It is estimated that between 1885 and 1898 approx 8 million people died in the lands controlled by the Mahdi. Eventually, in 1898 a force under general Kitchener comprehensively destroyed the rebel army at Omdurman. It was subsequently revealed that the expedition had eventually been sent because the British Government was concerned that the French might try to liberate Sudan and establish control.

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.

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.

This statue of Robert Scott, the famous explorer, can be found in Waterloo Place in London. It was erected by Officers of the fleet to commemorate his achievements and life. It was sculpted by Scott’s widow Kathleen and is one of two identical statues. The other is to be found in Auckland New Zealand.

Previous posts about Robert Scott can be found at: