On The Turn

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE IN A GROUP TO ACCESS ENLARGED GALLERIES

Anyone who had imagined that the long-running saga of the British Gas electricity bill had reached its conclusion will have been under the same misapprehension as me. Here is a brief recap. I had paid the delayed bill over the phone on 11th January. On 21st I received the next bill, including the paid amount. I was told the payment hadn’t gone through because of a problem in their system. I paid it again. Today I received a reminder for the first amount. I telephoned once more; said I knew my views would make no difference, but that they would make me feel better; then gave my views.

Afterwards I continued my scanning of the colour negatives from Henley to Newark trip of July 2003.

Grasses and wild flowers still covered the footpaths, and I was treated to what I believe was my first sight of a damselfly.

Sheep and fields of grass occupied the landscape on the opposite bank of the Oxford Canal,

Garden with 4X4 and phone box 7.03

which seemed an unlikely resting place for an iconic red telephone box.

 

I caught up with Pacific Pete at the Braunston Turn Bridges. theoxfordcanal.co.uk website informs me that this section of the waterway, which shares its route with the Grand Union Canal Main Line as far as Napton Junction, is ‘one of the few places on the entire stretch of the Oxford Canal where there is narrow boat access to another river or canal. It is worth noting from the point of view of use by cyclists and walkers that the towpath really deteriorates very soon after Braunston Turn Bridges. In fact this section of the canal has hardly any towpath in some places and is a real mess suffering from collapse, potholes, mud, nettles and brambles. It can be all but impassable in places if there has been any sort of recent wet weather.’

Unfortunately, I didn’t know this.

According to Wikipedia, ‘The Horseley Ironworks (sometimes spelled Horsley and Iron Works) was a major ironworks in the Tipton area in the county of Staffordshire, now the West Midlands, England.

Founded by Aaron Manby,[1] it is most famous for constructing the first iron steamer, The Aaron Manby, in 1821.[2][3] The boat was assembled at Rotherhithe. She was only the first of a number of steamboats built on the “knock-down” principle. The ironworks have also been responsible for the manufacture of numerous canal and railway bridges of the 19th century.

The ironworks were built near the Toll End Communication Canal[4] on the Horseley estate, which had been sold by their owner at the turn of the 19th century[5] due to demand from engineers wishing to profit on the construction of the BCN Main Line through the estate. The date when the ironworks were constructed is unknown but is believed to have been by 1815.[5] Industry in the area prospered and the location retained the name of the Horseley estate as shown in an 1822 survey of the area.[6]

With the increasing popularity of canals, the ironworks quickly became popular for manufacturing canal bridges, mainly in the local vicinity.[7]Canal bridges made by the ironworks include the Engine Arm Aqueduct (1825), two roving bridges at Smethwick Junction (1828),[8][9] Galton Bridge (1829), and Braunston Towpath Bridges (1830).[10][11] By the end of the canal construction era, Horseley Ironworks had emerged as one of the most prolific manufacturers of canal bridges in the West Midlands region,[5] especially in Birmingham.[12] This was a result of their signature bridge design which had become popular amongst canal constructors. The design has been replicated more recently, for example in Birmingham during the regeneration of Gas Street Basin where Worcester Bar is linked to Gas Street.[13]

Horseley Ironworks were also responsible for manufacturing in the railway industry. Railway bridges constructed included that of the viaduct for the London and Birmingham to Holyhead railway at Shifnal, Shropshire which was cast in 1848.[14] As well as manufacturing bridges, they also produced locomotives.[15]

The company also manufactued construction steelwork for the pier of Ryde, the Palace Theatre in London, Rugby railway station, a seaplane hangar in Las Palmas and the Dome of Discovery at the 1951 Festival of Britain.[16]

People who have worked for the iron foundry include Charles Manby, the son of Aaron Manby, James Thomson,[17] William Johnson[18]and Richard Roberts.[19]

The firm moved in 1865 to a site on the now defunct Dixon’s Branch, off the BCN New Main Line (Island Line), near the South Staffordshire Railway line. The factory survived under a succession of owners until 1991, when it was closed down and subsequently redeveloped as a housing estate.[4]

I managed to keep up with Sam and James in the boat whilst, having passed under the elegant bridge from the time of Queen Victoria’s predecessor, King William IV, they negotiated their way through a narrowboat-congested area to the next flight of locks. As can be seen, there was barely room for the lengthy ocean-going oars.

Sam rowing

Eventually the rower was once more under way.

After this, I had to find my way up and down various hilly areas, where I was surprised in the darkness by the only badger I have ever seen alive. I was amazed at how fast it could run. It was fortunate that the creature took off in the opposite direction, because running anywhere, by that time, was quite beyond me.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s perky cod, parsley flavoured fish cakes and crisp chips plated up with pickled Freshona gherkins and Garner’s onions. We both drank Pedro Jimenez Coquimbo 2016.

 

The Rose Garden Bench

Staked rose

Two tall roses in the Oval Bed have responded so well to nurturing that they needed more stakes. This morning, after embedding stout wooden poles and tying up the plants, we moved back into the rose garden the bench I had built last year using the cast iron sides we had found in the makeshift fence alongside our neighbour, North Breeze.

I then walked down to Roger’s fields, and across to the woodland at the far end, then along the footpath beside the trees. The day benefited from a strong breeze.

Cow Parsley

Seeding cow parsley applauded wispy clouds scudding across a bright blue sky;

Grass

submissive grasses bent in the hedgerows;

Barley

and golden barley billowed across the fields.

Footpath

Beyond the first section of the footpath through Roger’s land lies a further stretch which has, until recently, been too overgrown for me to tackle in sandals. The kind farmer has now opened this out so ramblers can easily reach the woods and look back up the hill.

Red Admiral in Barley

A Red Admiral butterfly flickered among the barley as a poppy in a cornfield;

Butterfly Dark Green Fritillary

and a tattered Dark Green Fritillary reflected shiny ferns.

Damselfly

What I think were damselflies, stately, never still, blunted my focus.

Bench in rose garden

After lunch came the hard part of positioning the bench. This involved digging a shallow pit, lining it with a membrane, filling it with sand, embedding rows of bricks to form a platform, and finally adding stepping-bricks for access. Only then could the seat be sited.

Rose garden

This is the current view due south from the bench.

St John's Wort

St John’s wort embellishes the bed by the entry arch;

Clematis Passion Flower

and a potted clematis Florida Sieboldii ( Passion Flower)  fronts the kitchen window.

This evening, Jackie enjoyed her Hoegaarden as a cooling aperitif to our dinner of succulent chicken marinaded in lemon and lime sauce served with her famous egg fried rice, carrots, green beans and corn on the cob. I finished the merlot with the meal.

The Mole Catcher

One of the benefits of writing a daily blog over a period of more than two years is that it can be used to jog one’s own memory. Quite often we have checked something by using the search facility. Struggling to remember the name of the architectural salvage outlet where we had bought a door knocker on 9th April, we looked up ‘The Knocker’, and there it was – Ace Reclaim. Actually, I had remembered the Ace bit, which I thought rather impressive.  Unfortunately they were not open today so we couldn’t visit them for something to contain a rose that is straying across the main brick path.

There was, therefore, no excuse to go for a car ride instead of gardening. Boundary cornerWhen I had cut down the last of an invasive privet, I had finally reached the corner of the boundary under siege from next door. (My computer, or maybe WordPress itself, delights in deciding it knows better than I which words I wish to use. It changed the ‘finally’ in the last sentence to ‘fatally’. I do hope the machine is not prescient.) The foliage on the right of the photograph is to be repelled when necessary. The two edges of IKEA wardrobe sections roughly central to the picture mark my assessment of the boundary line, based on metal stakes stuck in the ground. The facing metal poles with worm-eaten wooden struts wired and ragged to them continue along the South side of the back drive. Once I round the compost heap and enter that stretch there are metres and metres of similar bits of wood, metal, and wire marking out territory, between a number of mature trunks of felled trees. Decisions will have to be made about a number of shrubs that line this drive, among which Blackberriesare blackberries coming through from the deserted garden, that are so scrumptious looking and such thick stemmed as to make me think they are cultivated. If anyone does move into the empty house we will need someone like the cartographic decision-makers of nineteenth century Europe, who drew lines across uncharted territory around the globe, to do the same for us.

Stepping stonesDandelion nailed to treeDuring recent weeks Jackie has been removing unnecessary composite paving stones from the mess that is the system of paths in the kitchen garden, and transferring them to her work area to use as stepping stones from there to the new shrubbery, rather like, but longer than, the system I had inserted at The Firs. I helped a little with that today.

It was possibly when prising one of these slabs from its original position that Jackie extracted her dandelion trophy. This had such a magnificent root that she was minded to nail it to one of the pillars of the wisteria arbour where she sometimes takes her rests. She pointed it out to me today. We were both under the erroneous impression that the countryside tradition of nailing moles, regarded as vermin, to fences was in order to keep others away. She thought her action might deter other dandelions. However, that is not the reason rows of moles are lined up like the heads of unpopular members of opposing factions in mediaeval England. They are there to demonstrate to the farmer that his freelance professional mole catcher has done his job. Maybe crows hung in trees could serve as a deterrent to others. There does not seem, however, any consensus on the reason for this practice.

StreamDamselfly 2Damselfly 1This afternoon I ambled down to Shorefield, and, after spending some time leaning on the railings of the bridge over the sun-dappled stream that runs alongside the holiday chalets, returned home. Damselflies flickered iridescent blue over the water seeming to reflect their hue, and coots, keeping well out of fleeting sight paddled in the ochre shadows. So quick were the insects that only when they took a rest in the sunlight was I able to focus on them. I couldn’t actually see this one when I pressed the shutter, but I had seen it land and hoped for the best.

Blackberries pickedBraeburn applesLater, I picked some of the blackberries. As they were mostly emerging from the top of the jungle, I had to teeter on top of the stepladder to reach them. Cleared patchA bird has already started on one of our three Braeburn apples, but we will probably need to buy some cookers anyway for blackberry and apple crumble.

Jackie worked all day on further clearing the patch she had begun yesterday. The exposed root in the picture is a euphorbia about to be clipped and discarded. These are attractive plants, but they self-seed and tend to crop up in the wrong places. Those in our garden have been given a free rein for a number of years, so they must be culled in order to free up what they have choked.

Seeking somewhere different for our dinner tonight, we tried the Rivaaz Indian restaurant in Milton Station Road. The initial disappointment at being informed that they do not serve alcohol, but that we could bring our own, was somewhat assuaged when I remembered we had parked opposite an Off-Licence. It was completely quashed when we noticed that both naga and phal were on the menu. The food was marvelous, and the service friendly, efficient, and unobtrusive. The lamb in my nagin was lean and tender, and Jackie thoroughly enjoyed her chicken jabajaba. Both meals were flavoursome. The rices were cooked to perfection, as was the parata and the mushroom and spinach side dish. We both drank Kingfisher, and neither of us could quite finish our meals.