To The End Of The Day

Before lunch I sent an e-mail scan of the resubmitted probate form to the relevant Government Department; afterwards I posted the form and a covering letter in snail mail.

From Everton Post Office we took a forest drive.

The landscape with horses in rugs alongside Barrows Lane was nicely lit by the late afternoon sun.

The corrugated iron building is in that same lane; the farmhouse and wonky outbuilding in Mead End Road.

Jesus beams burst from lowering clouds onto the tree lines along Burley Road.

A group of donkeys outside Brockenhurst, chomping on thorny shrubs near where Jack parked the Modus gradually transferred from one side of the entrance drive to the other to try their luck from our vehicle, especially as I had disembarked to photograph them and

the ponies on the other side of the road.

Soon it was time to head back to the pharmacy at Milford on Sea to collect medication then take in

the beginnings of golden sunset tinting the foamy waves, the spray rising from the rocks, and the sturdy wooden breakwaters.

Then on to Barton on Sea as the sun was sinking and walkers watched this phenomenon or turned away from it.

This evening we dined on lefties from Saturday’s Chinese Take Away, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of Hardy’s Crest.

A Family Visit

After lunch we enjoyed a lovely surprise visit from Danni, Andy, Ella, and Jack. Our great-niece began as usual by dragging her father into the library to bring out the toy box. In there she was delighted to find her pea which she had left behind last time. She kept hold of it for most of the visit and made sure she took it home with her this time. She was very keen to be photographed with her brother.

Ella hadn’t eaten on the way here, so enjoyed her snacks, some of which ended up in her hair which was unclogged by her mother. She had sat on the sofa with her parents listening to the Sound Storybook, pressing as appropriate for specific noises.

Jackie was delighted to converse with Jack.

Upon departure, Ella calmly put on her shoes by herself.

Later I did not need to leave our garden to catch the sunset.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome chicken and vegetable stewp with fresh crusty bread. Neither of us imbibed.

A Deterrent

I have come to the end of my Keeping/Dickens series, but I do have more of the artist’s works. For those who would like to see some I will begin with

This is the cover of a large format book.

My scanner cannot manage a double page spread so I will have to do my best to match up the pages, as in these front endpapers.

Here is the title page,

and the first two pages of text.

Alfred Noyes’s romantic ballad, first published in the August 1906 issue of Blackwood’s Magazine is, according to Iona and Peter Opie writing in 1983, reputed to be “the best ballad poem in existence for oral delivery”.

As is his wont, Charles Keeping, in his own inimitable style, releases the grisly reality of this ghostly tale.

Adding no further analysis as I present segments in forthcoming posts, I will allow the pages to speak for themselves.

There is a triangular section of land at the bottom of our drive which borders onto the care home next door. Vehicles are constantly driven over the beds we plant there. Because of the nature of the establishment neither we nor the residents can know whether the culprits are staff members or any of a range of visiting tradespeople, suppliers, friends, or relatives. Having decided that the time has come for a deterrent, we engaged Martin Bowers to build us a raised bed.

Having prepared the area for its placement Martin cut the heavy timbers with a handsaw.

Holes were then dug for the galvanised pins which will hold the frame steady against buffeting from visitors. Note the solid clay that our craftsman needed to penetrate and remove.

The end grain of the sawn timbers were smoothed

and sealed with a protective coat.

The last stage today was to cut and fit the second level beams.

This afternoon Joe and Angela visited and my brother and I corrected the Probate application forms for resubmission which I will carry out tomorrow. The ladies visited Mr Chan and brought back an excellent range of food from Hordle Chinese Take Away with which they both drank Bucks Fizz and I drank Hardy’s Crest 2020.

Chasing Her Stick

This morning I published

During mid afternoon we took a forest drive to Puttles Bridge and back.

Several groups of walkers set out on the flat and reasonably dry trail through the woodland, while I chose

the wetter area alongside Ober Water, with its ripples, reflections, mossy stumps and gnarly roots.

It was there I met Steve and Fizzy, his twelve year old companion with the spring of a puppy who never tired of chasing and returning her thrown stick. We had an enjoyable conversation.

The sun was weakening as we returned home via Brockenhurst where ponies cropped the soggy verges.

What, I wondered, had chewed the lichen-covered log lying in a Winterbourne stream.

This evening we dined on duck in orange sauce, soft centred and crispy coated; crunchy carrots; boiled baby potatoes; tender runner beans and cabbage, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Shiraz.

A Knight’s Tale (96: King’s Lynn)

Sometime in the late 1970s I travelled to King’s Lynn on the Norfolk coast in order to deliver a speech about Social Work to the nuns of a convent about ten miles away. From London this involved a lengthy train journey and cab rides. The town was etched in my memory because it had suffered from the North Sea flooding of 1953.

(BBC News)

‘The devastating North Sea flood of 1953 caused catastrophic damage and loss of life in Scotland, England, Belgium and The Netherlands and became one of the worst peacetime disasters of the 20th century. 307 people died in England, 19 died in Scotland, 28 died in Belgium, 1,836 died in the Netherlands and a further 361 people died at sea.

The flood caused a major rethinking of coastal defences, weather prediction and warning systems after it became obvious that the majority of deaths could have been avoided had these already been in place. The failure of any preventative measures meant many people – babies, adults and the elderly – went to bed that on that fateful night of Saturday 31 January 1953 not knowing of the devastation to come and for many that they would not wake up in the morning.

The Terrain

The east coast of the UK has a number of low lying areas, some of which are barely above sea level, most notably in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Essex and the mouth of the Thames area. The Netherlands also has 50% of its territory less than 1 metre above sea level and 20% of it is below.

Sea defences in the UK were of inadequate design for flooding and tidal surges in 1953. What little there was had been designed in World War Two and was designed to keep invading armies out, not invading seas. The natural sea barriers such as sand dunes had also seen much erosion and had numerous gaps where people had walked over and worn away the natural height. Tragically, these would later prove to be natural inlets and gateways for the sea surge to flow inland.

Post war housing shortages also saw a rise in the number of pre-fabricated buildings (mainly in a bungalow design) in many of these low lying areas. This cheap type of housing was also popular with the rising post-war trend of seaside holidays especially in places like Essex and were nearly always located very close to the shoreline. The design of this type of house was never intended to withstand such force and many collapsed or were simply washed along with the current, ending up metres away from where they originally stood or washed out to sea entirely. 

Lack of warning

That afternoon of 31 January 1953, a number of people noticed a weak tidal ebb. However, it didn’t seem to cause any alarm and people carried about their daily business as usual. Fishing boats still went out as usual and buses still ran their routes along the seafront. It was a typical Saturday for the people living on the coast. The official weather forecast was a slight drizzle and strong winds but nothing regarding waves and tidal flow.

This calm evening was soon to change. At different points during the evening, the tide surged over the sea walls taking many by surprise and leaving no time to warn others. One survivor in Norfolk said it took less than 15 minutes from the water first tricking in, to reaching almost 5 ft inside his property. Those living closest to the sea reported that a wall of water came over almost immediately with many homes collapsing instantaneously with the force of the water rushing in.

The force of the sea also snapped telephone and electricity cables, rendering communication impossible. Similar stories were reported in Belgium and The Netherlands. The coastal residents on both sides of the North Sea were entirely at the mercy of the tide.

The death toll at sea also included those from a number of smaller fishing vessels to the larger passenger ferry MV Princess Victoria, which sailed from Stranraer to Larne with 179 people on board including 51 crew. A rogue wave broke open the already damaged ferry doors whilst sailing in the Northern channel. One survivor recollected seeing one of the lifeboats crashing back into the sinking ferry, capsizing and pulling all the women and children on board down to their deaths. Of all the passengers and crew on board the ferry that night, no women or child survived. 133 lives were lost in total and only 44 men survived.

Immediate aftermath

The preliminary emergency response came from the surviving community itself due to delays in communicating for outside assistance. Outside of the affected areas, the first that many knew of what had happened was many hours after the majority of people had been killed.

In the UK, 1600km of coastline was damaged destroying mile upon mile of sea wall and inundating 160,000 acres of land with seawater, rendering it unusable for a number of years for agricultural purposes. Livestock and domesticated animals were killed in the thousands and washed out to sea. Over 24,000 homes in the UK were seriously damaged. 40,000 people in the UK were left homeless and many people’s livelihoods were ruined. In the Netherlands where the death toll was much higher, 9% (337,300 acres) of Dutch farmland was devastated by sea water. Over 47,000 homes were damaged, 10,000 of which were completely destroyed.

When the official UK search and rescue operation was launched on the morning of 1 February it involved the police, ambulance staff, the fire service, army, the Navy and RAF personnel.  The ‘blitz’ spirit was once again in full swing with temporary shelters popping up and soups kitchens opening. The story of the flood went worldwide with offers of help coming in from many places abroad such as Canada, Finland and even from schoolchildren in Kuwait.

In The Netherlands, the US Army (based in East Germany) sent aid as well as other surrounding European countries. A national donation program was implemented as well as international aid pouring in. The Red Cross was so overwhelmed with contributions; they actually gave away funds to other countries in need.

Post flood

Questions soon began to emerge regarding the complete lack of warning given to the population and the consequent number of deaths. UK priority was initially given to repairing sea walls in addition to rehousing the displaced population. Long-term, building new flood defences were based much more on a cost/risk basis.

The Thames Barrier, which I photographed in April 2002) is one such example that was designed and built following the lessons from the 1953 flood. Warning sirens were put in place at the most at risk areas and are still in use today. The response in the Netherlands was immediate with the Dutch government quickly forming the Delta commission to study the floods and eventually the ‘Delta Works’ were commissioned, enabling the closing of estuaries to prevent upstream flooding and included dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees, and barriers. Taxes were implemented and readily accepted with a national mind-set that this must never happen again. Even today, commemorations still happen on every anniversary for the dead.

Weather and tidal forecasting leapt forward in the ‘60s with the use of satellites, which provided more accurate predictions and data. The Met office began working with the National Oceanography centre and the environment agency was created. We also saw the emergence of more immediate communication with TV and regular weather reports.

Despite all the huge improvements made since 1953 and as the famous story of King Canute and the waves showed, man can never control the sea. However, we can be better warned of its actions ahead of time. Sadly for the coastal residents of 1953, neither time nor tide could wait. ‘ Weather and tidal forecasting leapt forward in the ‘60s with the use of satellites, which provided more accurate predictions and data. The Met office began working with the National Oceanography centre and the environment agency was created. We also saw the emergence of more immediate communication with TV and regular weather reports.’


Back to the 1970s

The last passenger train was, as far as I remember, about 6.30 p.m. This was confirmed by the sole station staff member. I arrived in such good time that I went for a walk, returning to see a train departing.

I became further perturbed when I saw the single employee pedalling away. I caught up with him and asked if that had been my train. With a look of terror he informed me that there was only the night train to come and cycled off in haste.

There was a long wait ahead of me. No dining establishments were open. There was a cinema – showing ‘Stand Up Virgin Soldiers’. I bought a large cup of popcorn and settled into my seat – one of three now occupied.

The film was meant to be funny, but I wasn’t in the mood.

The night train got me home in the small hours of the morning.

Sunset Over Christchurch Bay

Much of the day was spent posting

After this I walked out of our front door into

Christchurch Road,

into Downton Lane, across the Royal Oak carpark,

and on to Roger Cobb’s footpath to catch Christchurch Bay in time for sunset.

This evening we dined on second helpings of yesterday’s Chinese Take Away with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Shiraz

A Knight’s Tale (95: Gaeddren)

Later in 1983, probably after we returned from the French trip, we holidayed in a farmhouse near Cerrigydrudion in North Wales, where friends Ann and Don were refurbishing their recently acquired house.

Sam, N. Wales 1983
Sam and Louisa N. Wales 1983
Louisa N. Wales 1983

Sam was soon at the wheel of an elderly tractor, whilst Louisa engaged the attention of the cattle.

Misty landscape

This misty shot down the valley must have been taken early one morning.


Hills like this were all around us,

Blending so well with the rugged hillsides

Abandoned machiery 1
Abandoned trucks
Disused slate mine 1

were the abandoned artefacts of a disused slate mine, itself adding heaps to the mountain terrain.

Becky, Louisa, Jessica, Sam and Matthew

In the foreground of this picture, Becky carries Louisa, and Jessica leads Sam towards another visitor in the doorway of a mine building.

Terraced houses 2
Terraced houses 3
Terraced houses 1

It was in revisiting these images of terraced and semi-detached houses, perhaps once the homes of quarry workers, that I thought of Aberfan.

‘The Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, on 21 October 1966, killing 116 children and 28 adults. It was caused by a build-up of water in the accumulated rock and shale, which suddenly started to slide downhill in the form of slurry.

Over 40,000 cubic metres of debris covered the village in minutes, and the classrooms at Pantglas Junior School were immediately inundated, with young children and teachers dying from impact or suffocation. Many noted the poignancy of the situation: if the disaster had struck a few minutes earlier, the children would not have been in their classrooms, and if it had struck a few hours later, the school would have broken up for half-term.

Great rescue efforts were made, but the large numbers who crowded into the village tended to hamper the work of the trained rescue teams, and delayed the arrival of mineworkers from the Merthyr Vale Colliery. Only a few lives could be saved in any case.

The official inquiry blamed the National Coal Board for extreme negligence, and its Chairman, Lord Robens, for making misleading statements. Parliament soon passed new legislation about public safety in relation to mines and quarries.’ (Wikipedia, on which there is much more information.)

This is one of the abiding memories of my young adulthood, and, indeed, parenthood. The whole of the UK, and possibly much of the world, was in shock, especially because the school had borne the brunt.

On a happier note we enjoyed numerous holidays at Gaeddren, with Annandon – the name shared by each of them because Sam and Louisa couldn’t tell the difference when they were very little and therefore made a portmanteau word suffice for each of them.

I carried out numerous training runs in the hills around Gaeddren.  Perched on a hill above Cerrigydrudion, this house was an ideal point from which to engage in fell running.  Since I used the roads, this wasn’t actually fell running, as I had done in the Lake District, but it felt like it.  Watching the changing light as I ran up and down roads cut from this rocky land, passing flowing streams and rugged trees sometimes indistinguishable from the granite to which they clung, was a truly exhilarating experience.  It was on one of these two hour marathons that I felt my only ‘runner’s high’.  No pun intended.  Please don’t think I could, even on the flat, run a marathon in two hours.  Here, I use the word figuratively.  A ‘runner’s high’ is a feeling of intoxicated elation, said to come at one’s peak.  No further pun intended.  Well, I never tried LSD.  I did, however, find it useful pre-decimalisation.  Pun intended.

When I did seek an even route I ran the complete circuit of Llyn Tegid, known to the English as Lake Bala.  Having three times, once in 88 degrees fahrenheit, managed the Bolton marathon, which ends with a six-mile stretch up the aptly named ‘Plodder Lane’, with a vicious climb at the end, I thought I might attempt the North Wales marathon.  Imagine my surprise to find it boringly, unrelentingly, flat.  Here I will divert, as I once did in the Bolton race.  My grandmother, then in her nineties, was seated on a folding chair in order to watch me come past.  I left the field, nipped across, kissed her on the head, and quickly rejoined the throng.  She seemed somewhat nonplussed, as did a number of other competitors.  After all, why would anyone willingly supplement, even by a few feet, a distance of 26 miles 385 yards?

A Touch Of The Sun

This morning I finished reading my Folio Society edition of ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.

I will adhere to my normal practice of not giving away the story, despite its great reputation. The book is very well crafted, displaying a number of developing relationships in a young man’s transition from humble origins to gentrification. There is plenty of humour in this otherwise tragic, yet romantic, tale. Two major characters are unforgettable, and “What larks” is a phrase still enjoyed. Dickens’s descriptive powers of place and scene are at their height. Much of the action is carried along at a fast pace; its dramatic opening and penultimate sequences are gripping.

Christopher Hibbert’s erudite introduction puts the novel into the context of the author’s life and work.

I scanned the last seven of Charles Keeping’s emotional, detailed, illustrations which demonstrate his mastery of line.

In ‘She withdrew her hands from the dish and fell back a step or two’ the artist faithfully portrays these hands as the author describes them.

‘I saw her running at me, shrieking, with a whirl of fire blazing all about her’

‘Mr Jaggers stood before the fire. Wemmick leaned back in his chair, staring at me’

‘I saw in his hand a stone hammer with a long heavy handle’

‘We went ahead among many skiff and wherries, briskly’

‘I laid my hand on his breast, and he put both his hands upon it’

‘What I had never felt before was the friendly touch of the once insensible hand’

Late in the afternoon the lingering pall draped over our land gave way to a sunny period, so we drove into the forest to enjoy it. Given the hour, we could take just one option before the light failed.

We settled on Highwood Lane in the north.

Ripples and reflections supplemented the stream running alongside;

smoke spiralled into the atmosphere redolent of burning leaves;

working horses some in rugs, were fed or rested.

I wandered about the woodland, so different from yesterday’s murky scenes. A touch of the sun makes all the difference.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s excellent Hordle Chinese Take Away fare, with which Jackie finished the Chenin Blanc and I drank more of the Shiraz.

The Gloomiest Day Yet

Yesterday evening I read more of ‘Great Expectations’ and can now post five more of Charles Keeping’s superb illustrations.

In ‘Wemmick’s arm was straying from the path of virtue’ the artist uses a double page spread to indicate space between the elements of the scene.

‘He hugged himself with both his arms, looking back at me for recognition’

‘We sat down to consider the question, What was to be done?’. Here space is indicated by a significant empty chair.

‘I looked stonily at the opposite wall, and forced myself to silence’ might be seen as an example of passive aggression.

‘All that water-side region was unknown ground to me’, nevertheless, it is not beyond Mr Keeping’s imagination.

On what was probably the gloomiest day yet of our current stretch, we took a forest drive after shopping at Tesco.

Given that the camera usually picks up more light than does the human eye I have chosen not to brighten any of today’s images from mid-afternoon. Jackie parked the car along Forest Road while

I wandered about a stretch of woodland the images of which reflected the mood of the day.

The last of these carries the reflection of the Modus which Jackie had brought down the sloping road to pick me up.

This was Burley Road at 3.30 p.m.

Back along Forest Road ponies remained unperturbed by the cars or their headlights.

One we had seen earlier planted firmly across the road had turned her attention to the other side of a plastic fence.

More lichen brightened a stone on the opposite side of the road.

Further along ponies partook of provisions of hay.

This evening we dined on roast lamb; mint sauce; Crisp Yorkshire pudding; perfectly boiled potatoes, carrots , and cauliflower; and tasty gravy, with which I drank more of the Shiraz, and Jackie drank more of the Chenin Blanc.

A Prospective Crow’s Nest?

On this still, silent, gloomy gunmetal grey day, apart from the avian variety we discerned very little signs of life as we took a not very hopeful drive into the forest.

A pheasant trotted across Sowley Lane;

except for one fleeting moment even crows and doves were not in their usual numbers on the roofs and ruins of St Leonard’s ancient granary.

A crow courtship was taking place atop a ruined wall. Could this be a prospective nest?

Jackie also photographed a perching crow;

a grounded robin; and

a flightless kite.

The first ponies we sighted were cropping the East Boldre moorland;

a pair of Shetlands shaved the green in front of Turnstone Cottage.

This evening we enjoyed a second sitting of Jackie’s succulent sausages in red wine; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; creamy mashed potatoes; and firm Brussels sprouts. The culinary Queen drank Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2021, and I drank more of the Shiraz.

PS. I have often featured this ruin, never with such a comprehensive history as Lavinia’s question has prompted:

(1) St. Leonard’s Barn

St. Leonard's barn, looking from close to the scant remains of the western gable, past the more recent barn and on towards the eastern gableSt. Leonard’s barn, looking from close to the scant remains of the western gable, past the more recent barn and on towards the eastern gable

Particularly impressive evidence of the monks’ farming endeavours can be seen at St. Leonard’s where the ruins of an enormous 13th or 14th century barn, with a later, circa 16th century, barn built within, stand by the roadside.

Said to be the largest barn built in medieval England, the St. Leonard’s barn was 70 metres (230 feet) long and 33 metres (108 feet) wide, and had a capacity of ½ million cubic feet. Originally a seven bay aisled barn with porches either side of the centre bay, the whole of the east gable end and north wall remain, and so do most of the west gable and the east part of the south wall.St. Leonard's barn - the remains of the huge eastern gableSt. Leonard’s barn – the remains of the huge eastern gable

Barns such as this – the Cistercian order alone is reputed have built up to 3,000 – were used to store grain grown locally and also provided workspace for threshing the grain in a lengthy, labour intensive process whereby the crop was spread on the floor and beaten with heavy wooden flails so as to separate the grain from the straw and chaff – the dry, scaly protective casings around the seeds.

The barn, then, would clearly have been an absolute hive of activity in stark contrast to its current, peaceful persona.

(2) St. Leonard’s ‘sister’ barn at Great Coxwell 

Great Coxwell barnGreat Coxwell barn

A somewhat smaller, contemporary barn survives intact, in the care of the National Trust, at Great Coxwell in Oxfordshire, which had been part of the ancient Manor of Faringdon. (Still in magnificent condition, this barn is 46 metres (150 feet) long and 13 metres (44 feet) wide).

An outlying grange belonging to Beaulieu Abbey, Faringdon had originally been intended to be the site of the abbey – King John, the Cistercians’ benefactor, granted the lands at Faringdon in 1203, but they instead went on to found their abbey in 1204 at Beaulieu on land also granted by the King.

This barn provides a fascinating insight into how the St. Leonard’s barn would probably have looked all those years ago – it served the same purpose, had the same ownership and is of broadly similar vintage: it was until recently considered to be of early 13th century date but scientific testing of its timbers have subsequently suggested that it was under construction in 1292, or shortly afterwards. (