PHOTOGRAPHS SEPTEMBER 2007
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Sue and I went to Bladon in Oxfordshire to see the grave of Winston Churchill, here in St Martin's Church. He's lying next to his wife Clemmie and surrounded by the rest of the Spencer Churchill family.
The stone here isn't the original. That was worn out by the number of visitors, and replaced by the present one in 1998.
When I go down to see Sue at Swindon, I usually stop for the night at the scenic viewpoint at Birdlip Hills near Gloucester. I've posted a pic or two of the view over to Gloucester before now, but here's a view that you get from the cab of Caliburn when you wake up in the morning - looking over towards Cheltenham.
Here is Caliburn in a low cloud in Werrington, Stoke on Trent, peforming his first tow job.
Paul and I took his old land Rover chassis down to the metal factor's and weighed it in. Much to our surprise, we received £16 (€25, $32,) for it. Dunno if that's a reflection on the substantial nature of the Land Rover chassis, or a reflection on the current high price of scrap metal. Then we went off to Matlock and brought a new one back.
Here is Caliburn performing his second tow job. Yes, we paid a little visit to the farmers' auction at Derby for a good poke around. And it's a good job we took a trailer with us, for we stumbled across an Allen Scythe.
Yes, you may well be wondering why I'm so delighted about an Allen Scythe. Well, just imagine a giant hair clipper with cutters so strong that they will cut through saplings of about an inch or so diameter. And then it's powered by a 250cc Villiers 4 stroke motor and advances at about 6mph and nothing in the world has been known to stop one in full flight.
And then imagine my farm in France. On the side of a steep mountain and all overgrown with thistles, brambles and ground alder. An Allen Scythe will go through that lot like a dose of salts.
There were all kinds of accessories available - water pumps, rotavators. Dozens of them. This came with a snowplough attachment that will really come in useful around here.
Paul and I couldn't get it to run, though (not that we were surprised - the condition of the fuel tank indicated that it hadn't run for years) and after some messing around and hot-wiring a motorcycle coil across the circuit, we had a nice fat spark. But there's no compression now. So it's either a new barrel, piston and rings, or a single-cylinder diesel engine. If you have any of the above or some accesories lying around chez vous, and we'll work out a deal.
I told you I was making a database of places to stay when I sleep overnight on the road in Caliburn. This here is another such place.
Leaving the M6 via the M55 to Blackpool and then taking the A6 north, then not too far from Forton near Garstang is a road cut-off. Just behind the hedge is a nice wide parking area that is amazingly quiet considering how close you are to the main road.
There was just me and a lorry or two overnight, but next morning, the place was heaving with lorries, cars and vans, all stopping at the Burger Bar place that had likewise materialised here in the morning while I was asleep.
No facilities, but then again there are the woods. And I doubt that the Burger Van would be here at weekends.
One of my most favourite places in the UK is on the A6 just outside Penrith in Cumbria. From here, there are some wonderful views across the motorway and the London - Glasgow railway line to the Cumbria Hills and the Lake District.
If you look very carefully you can just about make out a UFO on the top left of the photo.
When I worked for Shearings in the early 1990s I used to drive up here almost every Friday night to drop off passengers on my way to Edinburgh and I reckon that it was views like this that made me appreciate the grandeur of just what was on offer in certain corners of the UK. I'd seen them before of course, but I had never really appreciated them.
Nothing on the same scale as the Rockies of course, but nevertheless ...
These small isolated farms out here are really a reminder I suppose of some kind of lost community. Whilst the Romans had a reasonable presence up here, there wasn't much remaining at the time of the Domesday Book. Nevertheless, it's easy to imagine the farmhouse in the 14th century being something of a fortress against border raids, with a small collection of cottages for the workers huddled up close for protection.
Not of course that the landscape would have been much like this all those years ago, but any site would set its priorities as access, water, and a sustainable form of defence.
Alston in Cumbria is another place that I have visited on my travels. It's said to be the highest market town in England.
It was also the terminus of the 13 miles of the famous British rail branch line from Haltwhistle - famous because despite all predictions it survived the "Beeching cuts" of the 1960s, only to disappear in less than a blaze of publicity on 1st May 1976.
Part of the track bed and some of the infrastructure was purchased by the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society, who laid a two-foot (610 mm) gauge line in 1983 to use as a working museum of a small fleet of industrial locomotives. Some, such as this one, are diesel-powered, whereas others are steam powered.
It's not a patch on another narrow-gauge steam line that I stumbled across on my travels a few years ago, but then, what is? I don't think that there is anything that can match the Cumbres and Toltec.
This view from the station goes down past the level crossing (the road runs to the station car park) and signal box in the direction of Kirkhaugh, some 2.5 miles (4km) away. This is as far as the line has reached, although there is talk of extending the line to Slaggyford, which will effectively double the distance of the line.
This locomotive is STB 4. It's an old NCB (National Coal Board) diesel from Seaham in County Durham, and was built in Leeds by the Hudswell-Clarke company in 1952.
It's powered by one of the legendary Gardner 6LW diesel engines - an engine much more widely known in road transport circles in the 1030s, 1940s and 1950s. In those days, there were hundreds of small independent bus and lorry manufacturers in the UK - firms such as Albion, Guy, Scammell, Crossley, ERF and so on. These companies were far too small to design and manufacture their own engines, so bought "off-the-peg" diesel engines from manufacturers such as Gardner, of Patricroft in Manchester.
Astonishingly, one of these engines in the right hands has been known to return 17 miles per British gallon (13.5 miles per US gallon, 16.5 litres per 100km) on road transport operations, which for an engine of almost 8500cc, is well-nigh astonishing.
Here's a photo I couldn't resist taking. A Volkswagen "New Beetle" - in the car park of the "Auchan" in Montlucon, France.
I'm still trying to work out now if it's parked or abandoned. It's certainly selfish.
In France, there's a road near me that I take several times each year. It runs from Pionsat to St. Maurice-prés-Pionsat. And there's a certain spot in between the village of St. Hilaire and St. Maurice that is probably one of the most idyllic sites in the whole of rural France.
The main road comes down the hill from Pionsat behind from where this photo is taken, and then swings hard left over the small river and up the bank towards St. Maurice. The old "chemin" that follows the river to Chateau-sur-Cher is directly ahead, as you can see.
The small river is in the long line of greenery that you can see that cuts from bottom left to middle right, and my guess is that the buildings here were formerly a small mill for corn grinding, powered by the water of the river.
It's not quite Flatford Mill, but nevertheless I think it's pretty impressive.
You ought to know by now that I'm more-than-interested in any kind of Heath-Robinson gadget being used for a purpose other than that for which it is intended. Hence my attenfion was drawn to this interesting trailer support.
Not quite the jack-leg device that you might expect, but never mind. It's certainly effective. I can think of a dozen uses for an object such as this.
Well, deer me!
Here I was a-wandering around the back of an old garage in Evaux-les-Bains in the Creuse to see if I could have a better view of an old Renault quatre-chevaux and instead I stumble upon a herd of deer quietly grazing in a well-fenced field just across the green from the thermal baths.
This group of males of the species looks totally worn out. It must have been some stag party last night - that's all I can say.
There wasn't anyone around to ask whether they were being kept as an ornamental herd or being farmed for their venison. If the latter, I'd be surprised if there are many takers. I've heard that venison is pretty deer.
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