In February, we headed to the UK for a family wedding that we had really been looking forward to. The overnight flight to Heathrow got us across the Atlantic. When we landed, we headed for Terminal 5 to unload. However, our gate was not yet clear. We had made good time across the water, so we were a little early and the late departures of BA were not designed to accommodate that! Instead, we started doing laps of the concourses while they waited for us to have a gate open. We ended up parking on a taxiway for a while and then doing another half lap. While this was not ideal, I did end up taking a few photos of the BA jets around the airport.
I have posted a few shots of preserved aircraft at Kemble, but Cotswold Airport is the end of the line for a lot of planes in a far less graceful way. It is the base for disassembly of airframes that have reached the end of their operational lives. A jet doesn’t have to be that old to have greater value in its parts than as an operational aircraft. If a major check is coming up and it isn’t worth that much post check, it might be worth it to the owner to have it broken down for spares. As airframes get older, this decision is more obvious.
Kemble is the location where a lot of this happens. From the airfield or from the road that passes by, you can see a line up of aircraft that are unlikely to ever fly again. They will be progressively stripped of their most valuable parts. They may hang around like this for a long time with bits being gradually taken off as they are demanded by other operators. Eventually, there will be little left of value and the scrap metal will become the most valuable thing that they have to offer. Then they will be cut up. It is a safe process for an aviation enthusiast but a normal part of the life cycle of an aircraft. If you are in the area, head by to see what is there.
Plenty of the houses in Longparish are thatched. One of them has a roof line that drops very low to the ground on one side of the house with the door and windows on the other side. That must be the side that gets more light. The back side of the house seems to be very shaded with the result that there is a lot of growth on the roof. It was covered in various lichens/mosses. I wonder whether they degrade the thatch or actually provide an additional layer of insulation.
Despite it having been built at the end of the 90s when I was still living in the UK and working in London, I have had surprisingly few times when I have seen the O2 Arena (or the Millennium Dome as it was known back then). I didn’t head out to Docklands very often and one of my few close encounters with it was on a party on a boat that went down the Thames but, since that was a work thing, I was more engaged in conversation than looking outside. I have seen it from planes approaching Heathrow occasionally but that is about it.
When I made me trek out to the east end of London and walked along the river back to Greenwich, I came right up to the arena. From the riverside, you actually don’t have a good opportunity to see it clearly because you are too close to it. It was possible to see some of the supporting cables but, since it is right up against the river, you lack an overall view. However, I was taking the cable car across the river to get to ExCel and the elevated view this gives provided me with a far better look at the structure.
Looking through the windows of the gondola is not ideal for getting pictures and I was struggling to avoid reflections and not always succeeding. Despite that, it was the best angle I was going to get so I took a bunch of shots. The closest locations still had the dome obscured by the new buildings that have gone up in front of it but, as I got further across the river, the dome came more fully into view.
As you walk along the banks of the Avon heading towards the gorge, you are outside the locks that keep the water level up in the docks and in the tidal area. This used to be a popular location for boat to unload passengers and there are a number a jetties that have been built there. However, the traffic for these locations dried up a long time ago and they have fallen into disrepair over the years. The larger timber members are more resilient so you end up with these skeletal structures that are gradually collapsing. I wonder how many more years they shall survive or whether they will be deemed too dangerous and taken down before they can collapse.
Walk right to the end of the village of Longparish and you come to St Nicolas Church. You know you are going to find a church because the clue is in the name of the village and, besides, what village in the UK doesn’t have an old church in it? As you drive in to the village from the south, the church is the first thing you see and it looks pretty quintessentially English. Near the end of our stay, we did walk down to have a look inside. The churchyard was not too large and there is a newer graveyard across the road. Inside, it is a simple but pleasant little church. No idea how popular it is but it seemed in good shape. I did take a stroll down the lane to get a shot of it from the south, only to discover that the house in front of it tends to be more intrusive in the shot than appeared to be the case when driving along the road.
When you look around harbors, you will often come across some unusual boats that have found a second life. Just the other day, I saw a trimaran that had been modified with a new cabin which looked very out of keeping with the rest of the hull! Walking around the docks in Bristol, I was surprised to see a variety of boats that had clearly started life somewhere different.
One of them bore all the hallmarks of an Amsterdam tour boat. I don’t know whether the boats there still look like this, but they certainly did in years gone by. Plenty of window space for the tourists to get a good look at the city as they went along the canals. Another one fits into the category of what I remember things looking like but no idea whether they still do! That was an ex-Hoseasons boat from the Norfolk Broads. I remember having a boat just like this one for a vacation there when I was a teenager.
The type of boat that regularly finds a second life is a lifeboat. The ex-RNLI boats are popular, presumably because they are built very tough so will provide years of service and it probably doesn’t hurt that they are seaworthy in the worst of conditions. Modifying them to live on might change some of their characteristics but I suspect they are still better than average. There were a couple of these in the docks too. Keep your eyes peeled when walking amongst boats and see if you can spot anything unusual. When I was a small boy, Bembridge Harbour had a houseboat that was a converted Motor Torpedo Boat from the Second World War!
The area of Bristol known as Clifton sits on the top of the hill overlooking the Avon. To get from the water to Clifton is quite a climb. These days you would drive up there but, in the days, when vessels would be bringing passengers in by boat along the river, an alternative was required. The Clifton Rocks Railway was the solution. This was a funicular railway that ran in a tunnel from alongside the river up to near the suspension bridge.
Built in the 1890s, it operated until the 1930s when the decline in passenger numbers meant it was no longer viable. The tunnels were used as office space during the Second World War with the BBC being one of the tenants and they continued to use the space into the 1960s. There is now an effort to restore aspects of the tunnels although the railway will never operate again given the usage the tunnels have had since service ended. The station at the bottom is still visible but is now alongside a busy roadway so might easily be missed as you drive past.
As we were walking through Brandon Park, we saw this gull on the grass by the path. I don’t know for sure what it was up to, but I wondered whether its steps were designed to sound like rain falling to worms beneath the surface to encourage them to come up and then get eaten. Maybe it is something else but, whatever it is, it was pretty funny to watch. Needless to say, I thought it was worth getting some video.
I posted about Cabot Tower in a previous post about our Bristol visit. When there is a high point to try, it is likely I will head up there. Nancy is less enthusiastic about this sort of thing than me so I left her below and headed up. There is a narrow stone spiral staircase to get to the upper levels and I was rather glad that it wasn’t a busy day because the stairs would not be ideal to pass on. It would work but it was better to not have to!
The view from the top was great. You are already high when up on the hill but the extra 30m gives you a great view of the city in all directions. You can see the various buildings within the city center, you have a great view over the harbour area, and you can see the stadium further out as well as the Ashton estate. The stadium is Ashton Gate which is the home of Bristol City football club but from my perspective is more importantly the home ground for Bristol Bears rugby team. Since Nancy was waiting below, I didn’t hang around too long up the tower but I did take in the views. Shame it wasn’t a slightly nicer day but at least we got down and back to the car before the rain started.