Thursday, 20 March 2014

White Cliffs near Dover – with the Ramblers Mar 2014

One of the walks I really wanted to do was over the N.Downs along the coast.

The Maidstone Ramblers led such a walk last week and having driven down to Folkestone, met up to take the train to start at Dover. After the initial climb out from the station to the outskirts of Dover, we passed the 1804 Drop Redoubt, built as a defence again the impending Napoleonic invasion and reinforced in the 1850's.
Interestingly, the gun directions also face inland. The commandos were secretly here in WW2, in order to blow up Dover harbour in the event of an invasion.

Looking at one corner of the massive pentagon of defences – earth covered against mortars

A hazy view across to Dover Castle

A view west over the A20, towards the coastal path rising above the cliff top allotments

A view east back towards Dover, looking down on the rail track that runs under the cliffs

The A20 -the main route to/from the ferries to Europe

The cliff top path sometimes perilously close to the edge – here is a 'fresh' cliff fall as seen by the bright chalk face

Setting off west along the N.Downs way along the cliff top

Looking back – with the line of ventilation shafts for the railway that runs under the cliffs

World War 2 defence bunker – looking out to the Channel
Another WW2 defensive structure – what is it? Answer at the end of the post

Yellow gorse. A sign of spring arriving on what was a lovely day!

Looking at the erosion of the softer chalk cliffs

The (almost) white cliffs of Dover

Further along the N.Downs Way, we came across a Memorial to the Battle of Britain.

It was an evocative area to remind us of the bravery and sacrifice given by the men and women of the RAF to defend our shores in the gravest period of WW2.

Reminders of our past
Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 (Replica) R6775 XT-J

A Martello Tower – on the eastern edge of the Folkestone – built around 1805 as a defensive chain of towers to rebuff the expected Napoleonic invasion

We finished our walk back to Folkestone Station and the car. This took us through the older town streets, where I spotted a sign of my patron saint! A great way to finish! 
St.Anthony of Padua
Answer to Question above: This concrete dish-shaped structure was one of number built prior to World War 2 and the invention of radar. The concrete acoustic mirror was an early warning devices with the aim of detecting incoming enemy aircraft by the sound of their engines.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Windy Whitstable – N.Kent Mar 2014

We went over to the coast this week, and missed the better weather – getting the cold easterly along the coast. Jackets and fleeces were in order, a pair of gloves even came out. My brother and partner came down and we wandered along the harbour and beach front – at least the cold wind meant it wasn't crowded.

The harbour
Cockle dredges with the suction sledge stowed on the stern
Brixham trawlers
Whitstable old harbour town is renowned for the fishermen sheds and seafood stalls.
A few were open selling fresh fish and the widest range of shellfish – including the famous oysters.
Fishermen sheds

Old sheds – turned into holiday lets
Old sheds!

There was plenty of evidence of the oyster trade on Whitstable beach. There were piles of oysters shells, ready to be returned to the spawning beds in the due course.
Boxes of shell
 We sheltered from the wind in a beach-front pub, housed in an historic Oyster Company Warehouse. Seafood was the obvious choice and it was delicious.
Dressed crab! Delicious!


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Mid Hants Magic – Spring Steam Gala March 2014

Taking the opportunity as we are down in Kent, I was over for the first train of the day at Alton Station on the Watercress Line.
The Gala £25 ticket promised some express loco running and I was not to be disappointed.

First out was West Country Class No.34046 Braunton.

 Built in 1946, Braunton originally had an air smoothed casing. This was removed from the 4-6-2 when 'rebuilt' in 1959. The BR class 7P6F was scrapped in 1965. It has been restored and can run on the mainline

So named as it ran on West Country rails through to the Devon town

Our departure was delayed due to 'signal failure' and we needed to be given the right of way under 'flags'. Apparently. it was a failed electric relay.

Two other Southern Region classics, were the Schools Class 'Cheltenham' and 'Lord Nelson.

SR Schools 4-4-0 No.925 Cheltenham on the cattle dock at Alresford. This loco was built in 1934, one of the last to have the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement and the most powerful class of this type in Europe. Retired by 1962, only 3 of this type survived, this example is owned by the National Railway Museum and was recently overhauled in 2012. See link to where we saw 'Cheltenham' at the Severn Valley Steam Gala in 2013.

SR Lord Nelson Class 4-6-0 No.850 is also owned by the National Railway Museum and is called 'Lord Nelson'. A powerful passenger express built for the loading restrictions of Southern Region in 1926 it ran until 1962 and has a national status.

'Cheltenham' and 'Lord Nelson' double head out of Ropley westwards. See link for video.

The star of the Gala was the main-line express Merchant Navy Class No.35028 'Clan Line'. Built in 1948 at the very start of British Railways nationalisation, she worked heavy trains in the south east to the Channel ports and Bournemouth. Originally designed by Oliver Bulleid for Southern Region to have air smoothed casing, this was removed in 1956 with a number of other technical modifications.

No. 35028 'Clan Line'

The powerful 8P classification loco easily starts eastwards from Ropley Station.
See link for video.
There was also a demonstration freight train, clanking it's way through Ropley Station, pulled by the No.850 'Lord Nelson'. See freight link for video.

The nationally recognised boilershop was open to have a look round I had the interesting opportunity to talk with the foreman about the work being down there.

The firebox stays being bolted in place

A newly fabricated firebox backplate, made of copper

A boiler being worked on

All in all a great day out with lots to see and learn about.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Garden of Kent - Birds and Bees

One of the enjoyable aspects of our stay in Kent is looking out of the window at the bird feeders and seeing the variety of birds.
As well as the more usual robins, wren, blackbirds and thrush, we have watched birds very close up, just outside the windows.
Here are some of them (photos taken from the web!)

        Great tit                                                                       Blue tit
        Long-tailed tit                                                             Collared dove 
        House sparrow                                                        Hedge sparrow or dunnock?       
   Green woodpecker - feeds like a thrush         Greater spotted woodpecker - loves peanuts

There are also 5 hives in the orchard - kept by a local beekeeper.
One of my jobs is to check they haven't been dislodged by the storms and the anti-woodpecker netting is intact (apparently, the local woodpeckers have a taste for honey?!)
Bees buzzing out - on a sunny day in Jan
Mr. Beekeeper 
Beekeeper Apprentice
The netting and bricks need taking off, to get the roof off!
A good quantity of bees that have been feeding on the sugar supplement (removed)
This is a pollen fondant supplement to go with the sugar one, that was put back
Job done until early April, when the hive is opened up for inspection of the queen and it is warmer for the bees!