Wednesday 30 September 2015

Bollards, Signs, Trees, Stones, Sundials, Stations.


These bronze piles of books are to be found outside the Cambridge University library and serve as bollards to prevent people parking in front of the building. One would have thought a sign would have sufficed, after all most visitors to the library are a fairly civilised bunch and can presumably read. These works of art are also interactive in that you can spin the books around if the urge comes upon you. Great fun.

But not according to Germaine Greer who wrote in The Guardian newspaper that they make the Library into "a beacon of naffness". Even more fun!

Just for Germaine here's another photo of them!

More Traffic Calming Measures

In the village of Whaddon the residents can not only read but seem to have a sense of humour too.

Introducing Dawn Redwood

Dawn Redwood - it would be a fine name for a Hollywood actress, but it's actually a tree and one with true star quality. She made an exciting comeback after not being seen in the UK for a long time - about five million years! And she hadn't changed at all!

The tree was thought to be extinct and only known from fossil records. But in 1946 a Chinese botanist discovered a small stand of them in his country. Seeds were sent to the USA and to Britain and were found to germinate freely. The one in the photo above is the oldest in this country and has grown rapidly. It was planted near the lake in the University Botanic Gardens, as in its native China it grows in wet conditions. However it seem to survive in other environments, even in the streets of London.

Although the trees are protected in China, such has been the demand for seed that the cones have been collected to such an extent that it's unlikely that they will propagate naturally in the wild.

Not A Bollard

Following on from the pile-of-books bollards it would be tempting to say that this is a bollard outside a mushroom farm - but it's not. Although they are now often used as bollards outside farm gates to prevent vehicles driving on the grass verges, they have a much older purpose. Those of you who have been paying minute attention to everything I say on this blog may remember that they are called "staddle stones". They were used to support the floors of farm granaries which were raised up off of the ground to prevent mice and rats entering the buildings.

Telling The Time

This beautiful but rather complex sundial can be found in Selwyn College in Cambridge. The golden lines show the hours since sunrise while the silver lines show the hours since the last sunset (Are you with me so far?). The shadow of the disc will lie on the vertical line at midday (or at 1 pm when the clocks change to Summer Time). It rests on the horizontal line at the equinoxes. If you want to calculate the clock time all you have to do is add the hours since sunset to the hours since sunrise and divide by two (not forgetting to adjust by one hour during the summer months). 

If that's too complicated then turn around and you'll find there's a clock on the Hall behind you!

In The Station

I have lamented in the past about the neglect of the architecture of some of our smaller railway stations. Some are no longer in use while others are ruined by unsympathetic modernisation. But if you take the time to look you can still find pretty buildings like this wonderful Victorian station at Stowmarket.

Take care.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Beds Steam

There, that's got your attention!

"Beds Steam" or The Bedfordshire Steam And Country Fayre, held in historic Old Warden Park, is one of the biggest gatherings of steam-driven traction engines and their enthusiasts in the country. I didn't even realise that there were so many of these smoke-breathing monsters still around.

As well as traction-engines of all sizes there was all manner of other farm machinery, steam-rollers and steam-driven vehicles of all sorts, fairground organs and fairground rides - powered by steam of course - as well as heavy horses, country crafts, sheep-shearing demonstrations, a beer tent, fish and chips......Much impressed by all this John took more photographs than he really knows what to do with, so here's another...

The event runs for three days and by getting there reasonably early you can see the amount of delicate tinkering and vigorous polishing required to keep these great beasts looking good.

This is not a static museum display so, while you can wander around and get up close and personal with the machines, you can also see them in action, moving slowly and carefully through the crowds or going through their paces in the big arena (or "playpen" as they refer to it!)

Understandably with so many steam fans present there is much to discuss and they are only too willing to answer questions, often with longer and more detailed information than you expected!

Everything is so well loved and spruced up that it's unusual to find something like this...

A fine old rusty steam-roller, presumably found in a shed somewhere, and as yet unrestored. Somehow the power and strength is even more apparent when seen in this state. It was a magnet for the many photographers present, in fact it was difficult to get this clear view of it. 

Lets look at some more of these fine vehicles...

I'll be back in the next few days with candid portraits of some of the characters there...

....and quite possibly some of the interesting and colourful details....              

There might even be a video too if I can whittle down an hour or so of footage into something more digestible. And as I mentioned the heavy horses I'd better show you at least one picture of those in case a certain person should read this post.

Take care.

Sunday 20 September 2015

PerKelt On The Streets.

You never know what styles of music you'll find on the streets of Cambridge; acoustic guitarists, jazz saxophonists, string quartets, a man on the musical saw....I've seen them all.

But recently I encountered the music of Pavlína Bastlová playing recorders and Štěpán Honc on guitar. As you might guess from their names they're not from round these parts but hail from the Czech Republic and describe their music as "Medieval Celtic speed folk".

I couldn't help but interrupt my shopping to listen, stare and after a while record a little video for you all. I really can't understand how other people were able to hurry past without noticing.

So here they are playing a rather spectacular instrumental....

Quite possibly the best Medieval Celtic speed folk band ever to come out of the Czech Republic!

Take care.

Thursday 17 September 2015

In No Particular Order, For No Particular Reason

  Some photos that have never before seen the light of day,
in no particular order.

Queen Anne's Lace
(Daucus carota)
a favourite wild plant of mine
but here pushed into a new form.
Queen Anne's Brocade perhaps?

If you wait on as many railway stations as I do
then it won't be long before you try a shot like this.
One of Mr Branson's express trains hurtles through.

Bikes and railings hung with posters;
it's got to be Cambridge.

Mr Heron patiently awaits dinner
at Fowlmere RSPB

A modern shopping arcade
in Cambridge.
Angles, shadows, lights, reflections;
the whole works.

Something fishy stirred up the mud in the shallows
leaving these little scraps of vegetation 
floating like ornate hieroglyphics,
whose meaning is yet to be deciphered.

Torn poster.
For no particular reason.

Take care.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Shadow Play

Nothing's perfect in this world, least of all the light when you're taking photographs. Either it's dull and dreary or else the light is smashing fiercely down giving burnt out highlights and inky-black shadows. Black shadows? Well, why not?

And a self-portrait to finish off....

Take care.

Sunday 13 September 2015

A Rattling Good Time

We've seen a lot of Morris Dancing and Molly Dancing on "By Stargoose And Hanglands" over the past couple of years, but there is another tradition which often slips under the radar of the casual visitor and even many folk enthusiasts. Step dancing didn't require the formality of organised sides or dressing up in funny costumes; all that was needed was a pair of workboots, a stone floor and someone who could knock out a rhythmic tune (or indeed sing one). 

All three could be found in most country pubs at one time. In these days when carpets, light shoes and piped music are more common there still remain odd enclaves where stepping survives and thrives. Some pubs in rural Suffolk such as The Swan at Worlingworth, among the Romany and Travelling community and the lifeboat crew from Cromer in Norfolk are three such. Down on Dartmoor there's a similar, even more common, tradition.

The step-dancing at the Traditional Music Day was an occasion for happiness and sadness. It was great to see so many young dancers but there was also a notable absence. Percy West, a great dancer who inspired and encouraged so many others sadly passed away earlier in the year.Leo Temple said a few heartfelt words before treating us to an all-too-brief display of brilliant stepping....

Simon Ritchie demonstrated the incredibly difficult feat (feet?) of step-dancing and playing the melodeon both together and simultaneously at the same time......


In the old pubs a musician would start up a tune and dancers would each dance, one after the other, till no one could dance any more. At the end of the afternoon many of the dancers recreated this spectacle as a grand finale....

You'll notice the wonderful age-range of the dancers and also how different styles creep in. Long may they continue to have a rattling good time!

Take care.