Thursday, 23 November 2017

Horsing Around in Kent

Last week I travelled to Kent to see a dear friend who has recently moved there.  I can work/study anywhere so it was a good opportunity to shift venues for a bit.  Rachel works for Tregothnan so I parked myself at her pad near Kings Hill.

On the Tuesday she suggested a walk with some horsey ladies who wanted to discuss bridleways access across Tregothnan land.  Rachel was too busy to walk with us so I was happy to attend as her replacement.  We met with the ladies and Rachel explained that she was leaving them in my capable hands.  "So, who are you?" they naturally quizzed - presuming that Rachel had rocked up with a random friend who was just out for a stroll in the sun.  "I'm a chartered surveyor like Rachel," I stated.  They looked a tad impressed.  "Actually I'm a land surveyor if that helps." Even more impressive looks.  "OK," they said, "let's walk".

So we walked across various bridle paths.  I had no idea of the nuances of bridle path, public footpath  etc. It seems that horse people dislike dog owners, dog owners dislike horse riders and every one hates ramblers and the RSPB.  Or that's the hierarchy I understood.  We walked various paths and came across some unfriendly horse barriers.
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Double stacked railway sleepers are too high for horses to easily step over.  I'm not sure if they're there to discourage cyclists/motorcyclists but add on effect is that they can't be bridleways.
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I suppose it depends whether you mind having an enduring right of way across your land that allows access to pedestrians, horse and cyclists.

Anyway, chartered surveying head off I spent Wednesday at Excel in London on an UAV exhibition. Very small and, to be honest, boring so I didn't spend long there. I won't drone on about it [a couple of my readers may get the joke] so I headed back to Kent via a familiar spot.
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I've been in this pub many times and it's like a comfort zone when I'm having a shabby day.  Worked for me.

I headed back home on Friday and lo and behold, when I arrived back in Exeter some bright spark had nicked my suitcase.  So now I'm without glasses (so can't drive), chargers, mouth guard, MSc notes, clothes, gym shoes and all the other gubbins that one naturally carries around with them that isn't 'valuable' but it worth something to you because it's yours.  Someone else has all my stuff and I'm schlepped.  Awaiting the final guillotine from British Transport Police tomorrow (they say wait 7 days for it to turn up) then I'm onto an insurance claim.

So a very memorable week in Kent. But for all the wrong reasons.

Saturday, 28 October 2017


Weston-super-Mare has never been on my bucket list: it has a reputation for being the place you miss out between Taunton and Bristol, a bit of faded glamour with a decaying pier and chip shops.  However a friend was staying there recently, and other one was free for supper, so it was an ideal moment to get to know WSM.

I suppose I should have engaged brain earlier.  A place nicknamed 'Weston-super-Mud' is called that for a reason: it has a huge tidal range.  I knew it had a flat bay and that a vast amount of beach was exposed at low tide (up to 1.2 km in fact) but I hadn't realised it had a large vertical tidal range too - up to 11.8 m, the second largest in the world.  Now that alone should have had me dashing up the M5: honestly, how do these things pass me by?
20171023 WSM 12.47.51
Richard and I strolled north around the harbour towards the Birnbeck Pier, destroyed by fire some years ago.  You can make out it's old life boat slipway.
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This walkway fascinated me. You can hardly make them out, but there are people walking along this path. It looks as if they're walking on water but it's actually an infinity walk on the edge of the enclosed lagoon.
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Very clever.
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And guess what? It had surveyors on it!
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Richard pointed to the church on the hill south and said he sometimes walked up there - and so stoked with coffee/diet coke we marched up to the church at Uphill.  I pointed out the church's benchmark for Richard.  Despite being a Chartered Surveyor these are not something he feels the need to hunt at every turn, tsk.

The view back across the bay was wonderful.
20171023 WSM 14.11.24
On Monday, before I headed back, we walked up onto Brean Down. It was a good stiff climb up from the car park, and more awesome views, this time south towards Burnham across the Berrow Flats towards Bridgwater Bay.
20171024 Brean Down 13.02.51
Once on the Down we headed towards the fort on the west end. But, guess what we found first? Richard knew about this but forgot I'd get excited. I really think he should hang out with geomatic surveyors a bit more. It's TP1608.
20171024 Brean Down TP1608 trig
You can see the islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm to the left/right of the trig respectively. Interestingly, to me at least, Steep Holm is in Somerset and Flat Holm, 4 km north, is in Wales. Steep Holm has a trig and Flat Holm a lighthouse so both are worth a visit.
20171024 Brean Down TP1608 view
Once over the hill Brean Down Fort appears. It's an interesting place to look around. It was built in the 1860s as a Palmerston Fort and was occupied by the military during both the First and Second World Wars. It is a windy promontory and being sat manning the search light during the war must have been a grim job.
20171024 Brean Down 13.26.10
There was a nice benchmark on one of the barrack buildings. Cue rolling of eyes from Richard.

During the 1930s they used Bridgwater Bay to practice military manoeuvres (and perhaps explosives). The aircraft would be directed to their ranges using a large concrete arrow built onto the top of the down. Richard had been up on the Down many times but never seen this.
20171024 Brean Down 14.16.21
Weston may be going through a regeneration in the next few years.  Depending on the progress of the Avon Barrage, the tidal regime may be significantly modified and, perhaps the bay will stay fuller for longer.  This could attract developers of marinas etc.  I'm not sure if this would be a good or bad thing? I quite like Weston as it stands: cute and quirky.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Trinity Buoy Wharf and East India Docks

Last Sunday I had a day alone in London so hunted for something to do, coming across an outdoor dance event involving a shipping container (Dance Umbrella). It was at Trinity Buoy Wharf which I'd never heard of let alone visited.  Boy, if you'll excuse the pun, was I in for a treat!
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20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 2.43.39 HDR
Trinity Buoy Wharf used to owned by Trinity House who, amongst numerous nautical services, manage the lighthouses and buoys around England and Wales.  They used the wharf to house spare buoys and run lighting trials: indeed Faraday experimented here.  There were even trial lighthouses built.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 2.40.48 HDR
The Corporation of Trinity House withdrew from the wharf in 1988 and 10 years later Urban Space Holdings took over and since then have created an amazingly creative living and entertainment space opposite the O2.
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I'd heard of this innovative container housing. In the area it was, with its wonderful river views, I suspect these are not cheap.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.12.56
This is the second lighthouse that was built, Bow Creek Lighthouse (they demolished the first).
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It was free to climb - and so I did.  Wonderful views across to the O2.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.08.58
And it has the smallest benchmark I've even seen.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.00.28
One thing that excited me greatly was discovering that the measurement of MSL was first defined here - before Liverpool before Newlyn. I knew Liverpool pre-dated Newlyln but had no idea that Trinity Buoy Wharf pre-dated them both. Sadly you can't see the datum line - maybe I'll need to hire a boat next time to have a proper hunt?

This wharf has the first ever tidal/lunar clock, alunatime.  The clock face shows the lunar cycle and the chimes musically play the state of tide.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.05.05
Anyway, the reason I initially headed to the wharf was for the dance show. Well, it was weird to be honest. It involved 40 minutes of watching a container slowly unfold and an artist drape herself around it to some mournful bongs from a speaker.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.50.10
She stood on top and swung an axe.
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It wasn't really my cup of tea but I'm delighted it got me to this amazing wharf.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 4.04.53
I headed back towards the DLR and realised that East India Docks were open. That drew me in...
20171015 East India Docks 4.47.51
On the dock gates I spotted a marker for MSL.  Not the marker, but the one for these wharf gates - where O-D = Ordnance Datum.
20171015 East India Docks 4.48.10 HDR
There you go - enlarged.
20171015 East India Docks 4.48.26 HDR
You can see the lovely clear tidal height marked in the wharf walls on the other side.
20171015 East India Docks 4.50.56 HDR
As I wandered to the East India DLR station I espyed the wonderful sign "Prime Meridian Walk". And as I turned I realised that it was directly across the Thames from Greenwich.
20171015 East India Docks 4.59.03
I turned and followed it north as long as I could, which wasn't far.
20171015 East India Docks 5.00.00
I took the DLR to Bank and then decided to walk back to Vauxhall.  This took me a while, especially as I stopped and explored the interesting Gabriel's Wharf on the South Bank en route.  And to end my long traipse, a view of the Thames as the sun faded. Beautiful.
20171015 Thames

Thursday, 19 October 2017

London Greenwich

It's not the first, and certainly the not last, time I've visited Greenwich but every so often I like to go check it's still all there.  This time I was with my brother and his sons.
20171014 London KJ and Boys 14.16.16
It was a grey day but you always get good views from up by the observatory.

And I have no idea how many times I've had my photo taken with these measures and benchmark.
20171014 London KJ and Boys 14.17.51
It was time to find the meridian (well the OSGB36 variant) and stand a nephew in each hemisphere.
20171014 London KJ and Boys 14.19.23
We then wandered down to the play area, finding a lovely sun dial on the way.  It was quite hard to explain the concept of this to the boys in the absence of a shadow.
20171014 London KJ and Boys 14.29.54
After a charge around the park we visited the National Maritime Museum.  Again, I haven't been here for years and it was just oozing lovely maritime-y goodies including this absolutely monster map.
20171014 London KJ and Boys 15.28.09
I retraced a journey with my feet for the boys that I did earlier this year: Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Windhoek, Johannesburg and Mbabane and back.  Robin scooted of towards the Middle East...
20171014 London KJ and Boys 15.34.02
I know these aren't terribly popular items but I find them fascinating.  Our history of positioning at sea when all you have is a sky to navigate by.
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And a familiar old face.
20171014 London KJ and Boys 16.16.28

Friday, 13 October 2017

Plymouth Remembrance

I went to Plymouth yesterday to see the 14-18 WOW poppies which are on tour following their Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red exhibition which I saw at the Tower Bridge in 2014.
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I hadn't realised they'd been touring since then, until I heard they were in Plymouth. The Wave structure is amazing.
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It is fittingly draped over the Naval War Memorial.
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Once I'd completed the World War remembrance I started my own memories.

Plymouth and I go back a long way.  My first real memory of it was in September 1990 when we moved there just after getting married.  Our first house was in West Hoe, which one can see from the Hoe.
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We only lived there a year but I remember it being wet most of the time - it doesn't really 'rain' in Plymouth, you just get damp by being outside.  I initially worked in Saltash for a survey company so would cycle across into Tamar into Cornwall every day.  Oh, and we got burgled.

Once we moved to Exeter, and I started working at the UKHO, most of my trips to Plymouth were Navy focused.  I must have had over a 100 trips to Plymouth.  I visited the hydro school at HMS Drake numerous times to learn, teach and most recently, be an external examiner.  I've visited the Royal Marines at RM TAMAR and sailed on various Naval vessels in the Sound.  Outside of work I was in the RNR briefly at HMS VIVID and was an external examiner at Plymouth University for 4 years.  I have attended Hydro Society and RICS lectures there and even paddled across the sound with the Exeter Canoe Club.

So, memories galore, I wandered across the Hoe.  I said 'hi' to Drake and his globe.
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Smeaton's Tower. On a clear day you can see the stump where it was sited next to the new Eddystone Lighthouse.
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Indeed, welcome to Plymouth.
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It was a moody day - mainly sunny but occasionally there were raindrops (don't forget, I was in Plymouth).  However I caught a fair weather window and sat outside on the damp benches and did some work.  However, the clouds made for some atmospheric photos.
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I was also able to indulge myself with a hug of the quirkiest trig I know.  Such that you can hug a wall.
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The last time I was in Plymouth I was walking the SWCP.   Another memory.
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I strolled down into the Barbican.
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I love the light in Autumn.  It is a richer colour and the lower sun angle creates a taller Ruth (I need all the help I can get).
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Considering I only lived in Plymouth for a year, the subsequent decades have filled me with hundreds of memories.  Next to my home town, my university city and my current home city, Plymouth is a familiar and comfortable place and yesterday was another delightful memory.