Stonehenge, ‘Christchurch beach’, The New Forest, and Wiltshire cornfields

(All photographs taken by me, August 2021, note, rather than several postings I’m sharing all the remaining pics)

If you’ve been following my WordPress closely, (humour me) today’s is the photographic finale to my families week long vacation. In previous postings I’ve shared our London sightseeing also canal boating legs, now to the visits of Stonehenge and our beautiful countryside walks through Wiltshire, a rural and farming County largely untouched by the current orgy of housebuilding across Oxfordshire.

(Big sigh), that’s called progress and now I’M veering off message. Anyways…………..rather than repeating my tale, there’s 3 earlier postings of photos that explain all 🙂 .

You’re all busy people, so if you wish to understand more about this beautiful and ancient English County, go visit Wikipedia but lol if not here’s the synopsis:

Wiltshire is characterised by its high downland and wide valleys. Salisbury Plain is noted for being the location of Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles which together are protected along with so many other ancient landmarks close by, with many raised ‘barrows’ and 4000 year old White Horses cut into the chalk,

…………….also the largest training area for the British Army.

An ancient County, Wiltshire is notable for its pre-Roman archaeology also Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age people that occupied Southern Britain, building settlements on the hills and downland that cover much of Wiltshire, with Stonehenge and Avebury being the most famous Neolithic sites in the UK.

Here endeth the History bit, but just understand Wiltshire’s downland could be described the birthplace of ancient Britain…………you, me, who knows may just have descended from here?…………..I think that’s fair lol.

Stonehenge

English Heritage describes Stonehenge thus,

‘Walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors and circle the large blue stones transported great distances from Wales (however no body knows how), marvel at one of the wonders of the world and the best-known of all prehistoric monuments in Europe’.

I guess these mystical ancient stones might affect people in many different ways, Barak Obama famously describe them as “being on my bucket list!” Yes seeing them up close is emotive, 4000 years old no less! But being truthful a famous scene taken from literature crossed my mind, Stonehenge is the place Hardy’s ‘Tess D’Urbervilles’ apprehended by the police after murdering her evil manipulative and rapist husband.

There you are, Stonehenge is a truly incredible structure again described thus:

At Stonehenge on the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone in the north-east part of the horizon and its first rays shine into the heart of Stonehenge.  

Observers at Stonehenge at the winter solstice, standing in the enclosure entrance and facing the centre of the stones, can watch the sun set in the south-west part of the horizon

Christchurch beach

Moving on from Stonehenge we lunched at Christchurch beach on the South Coast, not far from the seaside Town of Bournemouth to be more exact, a cold day the weather can be described as bracing rather ‘bikinis and trunks’. Still after a year of COVID lockdowns, looking out to sea was a lovely highlight for me.

The New Forest

Wiltshire’s ‘The New Forest’ is one of Britain’s many National Parks (also protected from building houses upon), hmm I guess there’s little more to add than you can walk for miles through tranquil woods or across rugged heathland, the complete antithesis to bustling London…………..oh and you’ll be persistently bothered by wild horses stealing packed lunches of food (if you allow them to).

Wiltshire cornfields

As I described earlier, the rural County of Wiltshire is peaceful relatively un-spoilt and regarded as a ‘bread basket’ of Britain, summer views with fields of golden corn as far as the eye can see………..and hopefully for many years to come.

A. Shepherdson 2021

Canal Boating through Wiltshire!

I never did complete the tale of my family’s week long vacation did I! If you’re interested the previous 3 postings tell the tale of our London overnight stay, it’s basically a ‘photo dump’ of shots taken by myself, you know sightseeing and different places of interest………….fairly easy reading.

After departing London we then ‘set up camp’ so to speak at my brothers home, he lives in the rural farming County of Wiltshire, the complete antithesis of London, slow paced and peacefully tranquil when you venture into a countryside now golden with ripening corn.

Below photos taken from our Canal barge we hired for the day, notice the ‘tow path’ on the right hand side trodden by horses throughout the centuries centuries and now replaced by diesel power, steam trains locomoting along thousands of miles of track put an end to commercial barge traffic, but at least tourism saved them from being filled in with soil or garbage……………..I saw more Herons in one day than I’ve seen in my lifetime, not forgetting Dragon Flies the size of flying pencils, and SO quiet.

The Canal network of the UK played a vital role in the Industrial Revolution, creating great wealth by moving valuable goods manufactured in the Shires, like cotton pottery and steel…… goods destined for the British Empire and making many a Victorian rich. The UK was the first country to develop a nationwide canal network, expanding to nearly 4,000 miles the length and breadth of England. These Canals allowed raw materials to be transported to a place of manufacture, then finished goods to be transported to consumers more quickly and cheaply than via a land based route.

Roads were being constructed, improved and replacing dirt farm tracks, but they couldn’t easily handle heavy and bulky materials like coal for power stations and steel from Sheffield, or delicate and fragile materials like pottery from Stoke and lace from Nottingham, one horse could pull fifty tons of cargo by barge and I guess created the unit we know today as Horse Power!

Easy peasy to understand, 1 horse drawn Canal barge equates to 1HP!

A. Shepherdson 2021

Steam Railway visit (pt 2/2)

(I realise part two of my recent visit to a heritage steam railway is a little late, it’s a photo blog so nothing tooo heavy but better late than never? Anyways reading part one really will help you understand the narrative of this evening’s post. 🙂 My take is enjoy the photos of a very unique British tourist attraction.)

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GWR’s crown jewel is a Type Merchant Navy Class locomotive now lovingly restored

 

Several of you will be aware 01/09/2018 I visited a Gloucester Steam Railway Attraction click here for part 1 where you’ll discover ‘many’ photographs taken by moi on the day.

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Cheltenham Town platform the beginning of my journey, the gentleman standing on the platform wearing Company dress of the day is in fact an UNPAID volunteer……… in other words his passion and hobby is steam trains. (Btw that’s my train under the bridge.)

Below Toddington Station and a very typical railway platform scene, I travel British railway of today and I cannot remember seeing flowering hanging baskets……….. again arranged by volunteer enthusiasts God love them oh and the homemade cakes were lovely.

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Several station stops after Cheltenham Town and I am now standing on Toddington station platform

Below I’d guess this is how a 1940’s railway waiting room would have appeared, a telephone manufactured from Bakelite and a coal burning fireplace to heat the room in winter. 

Below photographs taken from within the carriage I was travelling in, yet again built 1940’s with wooden panelling and extremely comfortable it was to! Incidentally heated via steam pipes from the err steam engine!

Below our locomotive taking on water a common sight on all steam railways of the era.

In light of present day terrorist atrocities blighting every town and city across the globe, my photos below just show how times have changed with these piles of unattended suit cases laying unattended on a platform, I would add this scene is far from being staged for a camera! Watch any black and white movie of the era and this is what you will see stacks of luggage!……….. A security nightmare if ever you saw one.

The heritage railway also has vehicles owned by the train Company on display with the lorry below left painted in GWR dark brown and cream livery……… incidentally I’d never seen a three wheel truck before.

Now for two photographs (below) taken by me gazing out the window at the countryside gently rolling past……….. if you are interested the County is Gloucestershire.

……………. and finally the Railway is also home to heritage diesel locomotives circa 1960’s and my opinion JUST as important to save for future generations to enjoy and travel on.

©A. Shepherdson 2018 (Feel free to copy photos from these two Heritage Railway Blogs)

Lions Tigers in a farmer’s field?……… IN England?

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To avoid confusion the cages below are not in a zoo, these big cats in my photos were all rescued from zoos then released into the wild. 🙂

I had intended to call this post Animal Zoos are cruel! But that’s a negative title and I’m a positive guy please read on……………. 

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I hope you’ll enjoy Matt Monro (yes we had our own Frank Sinatra) singing ‘Born Free’ perhaps you’ve never heard this tune before?

Born free, as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heartRead More »

My daytrip to a Heritage Steam Railway…….

….……….. 🤔now there’s a real mouthful ‘Title’ for you ty for being so patient! Being a little more precise and accurate today’s post is more a self taken ‘photo dump’, or in other words sharing pictures ‘snapped’ by me on said daytrip to GWSR’s Heritage steam attraction.

Below these 4 pics are important photos to my tale, they include day ticket to ride the line for the day, the branch map later scanned from the souvenir program and myself holding a coffee mug bought from the station shop! (Now at work).

1/09/2018, a warm sunny Saturday!

Let me begin by saying I’m quite pleased with the strip of photos below, Imagine me precariously hanging out the passenger carriage window (people have lost their heads!) taking 4 photos which when joined together make 1 panoramic scenic shot/view.

 

To be honest how to best approach writing this post has been playing on my mind, let me explain! There are 2 ways of writing about my day which could either be a ‘1000 wordRead More »

My daytrip to a Heritage Steam Railway, pt1

Apologies for this post being a little late coming, but this draft has taken a great deal of planning………………. the photographs are ALL of the same location, namely my Town’s Station and Goods Yard, alas the track was pulled up sometime ago and the buildings pulled down……. 🙂 that’s called progress, I’ll go on to explain why my home Town regrets the closure decision taken by Dr. Beeching way back in the 1960’s, and remember I’ve tried to keep this post relevant to my daytrip rather than a transport history lesson.

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Steam train and passenger carriage stopped at Witney station, a UK branch line that connects with Oxford (unseen in the far off distance)

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Again a train stopped somewhere along the Witney to Oxford branch line

Call this post more of an introduction to last Saturday’s daytrip to the middle England ‘Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway‘ Heritage Line, and because that’s a real mouthful I’m NOT going to keep repeating, so for the purposes of this post I’ll use the anacronym GWSR!

Now I’m passionate about all things trains and railways so I’ll try my best to keep my stream of consciousness simple and free from nerdy techno detail, there is in the UK a rather patronising unfair label pinned onto railway enthusiasts called ‘trainspotters’, well I’m lol not a ‘spotter’ but trains capture my imagination.

There you are wouldn’t life be boring if we ALL talked about soccer all day? 

The above two photographs give you a hint as to what became of our Railway branch line….…….. please read on then return to this picture a little later! Btw they’re one and the same bridge.

My home Town used to have a rail line connecting itself with Oxford, yes the famous University city. Built before the turn of the 19th century, progressively over the decades the line fell out of used, then in about 1960 three hypothetical options were on the table as they were for 100 no profitable lines across England, people were buying cars and well society was changing.

These three options faced this loss making Oxford branch line!

1. The Town’s folk to use the railway to commute into Oxford, shop work and play, then commute home again hence making a massive profit for British Rail, the consequence the line remains open.

2. People stop using the railway completely, drive their cars everywhere and all freight switches to lorries on the road, consequently the line is closed as being non profitable, and soon after houses roads and factories are built on the land………. it’s called progress.

3. The non profit Oxford branch line closes because no one uses the trains, however the public form a preservation group, raise the funds to lay new track, buy steam locomotives to haul paying tourists schoolchildren and townsfolk to and from Oxford. The consequence the railway becomes a Heritage branch line and profitable!

(The collage of photos below also appear individually)

My Town chose option…………..…

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The Goods Yard, and now this is where the layout kinda gets complicated! The photographer is looking at the Goods Yard which after closure became a Coal Depot. Now for the purposes of my tale, the passenger Station and platform  is directly behind him, this Yard joins the Branch line and if you’re to make any sense of the following photos try and visualise the layout!

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I believe this is the very last passenger train to run on our train Line to Oxford, the gentleman in the centre has a camera hanging around his neck, the word special is written on the train and apparently rathe ironically hundreds of Townsfolk came to ride in this funeral procession!

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Two locomotive coupled together hauling a passenger train into the main Station, colour but probably taken early 1950’s

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A freight diesel locomotive hauling coal coming out of the Goods Yard

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Passengers waiting on the platform, the photos in colour, there’s a great many people so possibly this is taken the day the very last passenger train travelled the line.

Witney 7
Looking at lady standing at the Station wearing stylish fashionable clothes, this could be early 50’s?

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They Goods Yard yet again!!

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The Goods Yard probably 1950’s and still in operation, on the left is tracks and the vehicles are painted red and cream the livery chosen by British Railways before privatisation?

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Buildings that used to make up the Goods Yard after closure became a coal depot and now wait for it! Now visit this spot in 2018 and you’ll find Sainsburys supermarket

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I would guess looking at the ladies dresses this photo of a train at Witney station is very old indeed. Late 1800’s?

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(The following 2 photos are taken from my own collection and I paid money for them! Reading the captions, these two very special trains are all set to leave the Goods Yard and join the Oxford Branch Line……….. which as you remember is situated behind the photographer……………. let me ask you a question, have you ever heard of the name Witney Blankets?)

Witney 2
My home Town used to be famous the world over for making woollen blankets, the photo shows wagons loaded with blankets setting out on their journey to Oxford and beyond, alas every blanket mill has disappeared along with the railway.

Witney 3
This isn’t the same train from above, no this locomotive hauling many wagons filled with bails of blankets is possibly earlier than the above train……….. I don’t know but taking a look at the lorry on the left I would say it’s an old one?

……….yes you guessed correct, our Town chose option 2 line closure, the awful consequence being all the above photos are Town’s buildings long gone consigned to history……………. and rubble!

The reason why is simply People stopped using the Oxford Branch line, it stopped making money and passenger trains stopped rolling down the tracks in the late 50’s, soon followed by the last freight hauled train in the 60’s, and yes houses and roads were built on the land. Virtually little is left to show we once had a railway many years ago………. all except these old grainy photographs I’ve in my collection. (Above)

Without wishing to labour a point the Heritage railway GWSR, remember I visited Saturday lol keep up, chose yes option 2, tourists now visit from miles around some flying in from all parts of the globe, all to sedately ride up and down the line pulled by steam trains, and the line makes money……….. hmm, with a little foresight Witney could have done the same!

In my following post I’ll share with you all my taken photographs, a picture post of pure English nostalgia, but before I go I’ll leave you with the final dark episode to my dark foreboding tale.

With vision and insight things could have been so different, my Town could have purchased the land, formed a Heritage Company and carried commuters to and from Oxford, yes life could have been so different, but alas we didn’t and Jeeze aren’t we regretting that lack of insight……. worse still Oxford City Council has ridiculous pipe dreams of building a line and connecting Witney with Oxford because well, the shear volume of traffic on the roads causes daily misery and gridlock! Between 7am and 9am, then 3pm and 6pm traffic is virtually at a walking pace!

The irony is, with a little vision planning and people playing their part by travelling on this Oxford branch line, the line would be open today then all our transport problems would have been solved………. and they say human beings are intelligent? 

The point to this sorry tail? Those same 3 options back in 1960 faced the branch line I visited last Saturday, GWSR chose to stay open and create a Heritage railway, we closed ours and have regretted that depressing decision each and EVERY day.

I hope this hasn’t been dry reading hence I’d planned to write the post as simply and straightforwardly as possible! (I was pushed for a little time as well 🙂 )

A. Shepherdson 2018

 

Update! I am not a man who’s easily beaten

If you read my previous post you’ll know Wednesday I woke up early and left the house after breakfast with the intention of visiting a heritage steam railway, well events conspired against me (long story involving broken down trains) and being as I’m not a man who’s beaten I set out a second time this time travelling by coach (1/4 cheaper than by train) and success I arrived, spent the day riding on steam trains, took lots of photos and as you’ll guess a blog will follow!

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My souvenir mug, 🙂 I’ll use this at work!

(I hope readers are interested they are trains after all 😀 , and give me a day or two to write a post).

A. Shepherdson 2018