Category Archives: Growing up in the 1950s

East Yorkshire – Ducks and Puffins

We arrived at Skipsea Sands Holiday Park at the scheduled time of four o’clock, located our accommodation and began to unload the car.

Within seconds a family of ducks arrived at the caravan door.

These birds must be really smart, they know that four o’clock on Monday is new arrivals time and they hung around looking for food.  I imagine mother duck gets the baby ducks ready, tells them to look cute and do a bit of begging and they will be set for the week,

We didn’t have any suitable duck food (bread is not good for them apparently) so we had no offerings.  Five minutes later a car pulled up opposite and started to unload and they waddled off to try their luck there instead.  In five days we never saw them again.

Which brings me to Puffins.

Every summer Puffins arrive for the breeding season at nearby Bempton Cliffs and this year some bright spark at the Yorkshire Tourist Board came up with the idea of a Puffin trail in Hull and East Riding.

There are forty-three of them but we only found six…

I can only imagine it is quite a chore to try and find all forty-three, rather like searching for the Holy Grail.

Later a family arrived at the next door caravan, they moved in with what seemed enough supplies to last a whole month and an inflatable paddling pool.  After they went out some aquatic birds arrived and in view of the hot weather and the adjacent  dry stream were more (t)hen happy to jump in…

After evening meal we went for a walk along  the coastal path…

… and reflected on a very, very good day.

East Yorkshire – Withernsea, Erosion, a Pier and a Lighthouse

Leaving Spurn Head we travelled north along a road with more curves than Marilyn Monroe towards the seaside town of Withernsea.

On the way we drove through the unfortunate village of Easington and I say unfortunate because in the local Coastal Management Plan Easington is identified as a place not worth defending against the advancing sea and one day it will be gone.  It is called ‘managed retreat’.  I don’t know how long this will take but I noticed that the pubs were shut and there were no shops.

The advance of the sea is relentless.  The coastline here is the fastest area of erosion in the UK.  Every year six foot of land is swept away, an estimated average of two million tonnes which is moved south on the tides towards the Humber estuary and builds land there whilst it takes it away here.

On a previous visit I once came across an official looking man in a hard hat and a high visibility jacket who was taking photographs and making notes.  His name was Brian and I asked him about the erosion.  He explained to me that the problem is that this coastline really shouldn’t be here at all because it is made up of unconsolidated soft clay and small stones called glacial till that were scooped up from the sea bed by a glacier as it advanced south during the last ice age and dumped here as the ice eventually melted and receded north about ten thousand years ago.  It is just soft clay with the consistency and the look of a crumbly Christmas Cake that simply cannot resist the power of the waves.  In that time an area of land twelve miles wide has been eroded away and returned to the sea bed where it came from.

I didn’t have high expectations of Withernsea, I can’t explain why but I liked it immediately and we walked to the sea front and the Pier Tower entrance.  I say pier but there is no pier here anymore.   Built in 1877 it didn’t last very long as ships and boats kept running into it and by 1900 it had gone.

No one in England lives more than seventy miles* or so from the sea but when they get to the coast they have a curious compulsion to get even closer to the water and as far away from the shore as possible without taking to a boat. The Victorians especially liked piers and by the time of the First-World-War there were nearly two hundred sticking out all around the coastline.  If there had been satellite photography a hundred years ago then England would have looked like a giant pin-cushion.

English piers you see are rather fragile structures and over the years have had an alarming tendency to catch fire – Weston-Super-Mare, Brighton, Blackpool, Eastbourne, and Great Yarmouth have all suffered this fate but Southend-on-Sea is probably the most unfortunate of all because it has burned down four times which seems rather careless.

The problem with a pier of course is that they are generally constructed of wood and are highly combustible and a quarter of a mile or so out to sea they are also rather inaccessible to the fire service so once they go up in flames little can be done but to watch the blazing inferno from the safety of the promenade until the fire goes out by itself and all that is left is a tangle of twisted metal girders and beams.

There was once a railway line to Withernsea out of Hull which made it a busy seaside resort bringing visitors from South Yorkshire but it is long gone, swept away as part of the railway reforms of the 1960s, visitors stopped coming and today, tucked away on the far east coast it is too remote to attract holiday makers, they go to Bridlington a few miles further north which still has its railway line.

Pictures from the website https://withernsea1.co.uk/index.html

I always like to see how far a name has travelled and my research tells me that there is a Withernsea in Maryland USA, close to Washington DC and in British Columbia, Canada.

After a bag of proper Yorkshire chips and a Belgian lager we made our way now to the top visitor attraction in Withernsea – the lighthouse.  It is no longer used for its intended purpose, everything in Withernsea is redundant it seems but is now a museum with an energy sapping climb to the very top with some good views over the town and the North Sea.

* Based on a direct line drawn on an Ordnance Survey map from location to the first coast with tidal water, the village that is further from the sea than any other human settlement in the UK is Coton in the Elms in Derbyshire at exactly seventy miles in all directions…

The National Space Centre in Leicester

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”   –  John F Kennedy                                   

I was born in Leicester (for overseas readers it is pronounced simply as Lester) in June 1954. My family left the city for the nearby town of Rugby six years later. When asked I always say that I am from Leicester and I am always proud to say so.

Last year I visited the city for the first time after sixty years and went to the Richard III exhibition, this time round I went to the National Space Centre in the heart of the city.

Leicester has the National Space Centre because the University of Leicester has played a significant role in Space exploration and the research and development of Space technology.  Not a lot of people know that.  I didn’t!

Despite the so called Tory ‘Levelling Up’ agenda most National Museums are in London but as well as Space in Leicester there are National Museums in York (Railways), Beaulieu (Motor Cars), Wakefield (coal mining) and Portsmouth (Royal Navy).

I am not sure exactly what I thought might be there, after all  I have been to Cape Kennedy in Florida so why did I need to go to the National Space Centre in Leicester.

The place certainly surpassed my modest expectations.

I was immediately impressed.  The centre is four stories high and clad in inflated pillows made of toughened plastic – the same material used on the Eden Project domes in Cornwall.  This material is 1% of the weight of the equivalent amount of glass and post construction was described by the Guardian newspaper as “one of the most distinctive and intriguing new buildings in Britain”.

I imagined that it might take an hour to go round – it took four and the last one was rushed so I will have to go back.  It has sections about the Solar System, the creation of the Universe , a Planetarium, full size rocket displays (I kid you not) and a top floor dedicated to the first moon landing.

I found it really interesting, this member of staff has seen it umpteen times and is clearly bored with it all.  Bored enough to take a nap…

The Apollo 11 space flight seemingly fulfilled US President John F. Kennedy’s aspiration of reaching the Moon before the Soviet Union by the end of the 1960s, which he had expressed during a 1961 speech before the United States Congress.

But not everyone was convinced and almost immediately some theorists began to produce evidence that disputed the Moon landings claim.

Different Moon landing conspiracy theories claim that some or all elements of the Apollo Project and the Moon landings were falsifications staged by NASA and that the landings were faked in some giant hoax.  Some of the more notable of these various claims include allegations that the Apollo astronauts did not set foot on the Moon at all but instead NASA and others intentionally deceived the public into believing the landings did occur by manufacturing, destroying, or tampering with evidence, including photos, telemetry tapes, transmissions, and rock samples.

he most predominant theory is that the entire human landing program was a complete hoax from start to finish. Not a Giant Leap but a Giant Cheat.

Some claim that the technology to send men to the Moon in 1969 was not available or that the Van Allen radiation belts, solar flares, solar wind, coronal mass ejections and cosmic rays made such a trip impossible with a success rate calculated at only 0.017%.  Others argue that because The United States could not allow itself to be seen to fail to achieve Kennedy’s aspiration, the obsession with beating the USSR and the huge sums of money involved (US$ 30 billion) had to be justified, that the hoax was unavoidable.

As the theories gathered momentum it seemed that rather than being filmed on the Moon all of the action actually took place on a film lot and in the middle of the Nevada desert.

For a while I must confess to having been taken in by these conspiracy theories but when I think about it the size and complexity of the alleged conspiracy theory scenarios makes it wholly unlikely.  The most compelling reason of all is the fact that more than four hundred thousand people worked on the Apollo project for nearly ten years and all of these people, including astronauts, scientists, engineers, technicians, and skilled labourers, would have had to keep the secret ever since and that, I suggest, would be completely impossible

My favourite story about the space race is that because it was supposed that a standard ballpoint pen would not work in zero gravity because the ink woudn’t flow to the nib, NASA spent millions of dollars developing the zero-g Space Pen, while the pragmatic Russians came up with the alternative of using a simple pencil or a wax crayon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on an image to view the Gallery…

 

Quiz Time…

1  How many men have walked on the Moon?

2 Who was the third person to walk on the Moon?

3 How many orbits of the Earth did Yuri Gagarin complete in 1961?

4 In what year did Leicester City win the Premier League Title?

5  James T Kirk.  What does the T stand for?

The Fear of Dogs

Yesterday I raised the subject of fear of dogs.  It is called cynophobia.

I don’t like dogs because I see no redeeming features in them. They sweat, they are greasy, they smell, they have bad breath, they shit on the pavements and they urinate up my garden wall.  What is there possibly to like about them?  If I was Prime Minister I would have them all rounded up and destroyed!

And I have to say that I agree with Bill Bryson:

“It wouldn’t bother me in the least…if all the dogs in the world were placed in a sack and taken to some distant island… where they could romp around and sniff each other’s anuses to their hearts’ content and never bother or terrorise me again.” 

Read the full story Here…

From The Archives – Hillmorton County School

The Hillmorton County Junior School was an old Victorian building with high ceilings that soared into the sky and partitioned classrooms with rows of old fashioned wooden desks with years of scratched graffiti  and attached lift up seats on squeaking hinges.

Read the full story Here…

North Yorkshire – Settle to Appleby by Train

In the morning we had a very fine Yorkshire Breakfast.  A Yorkshire Breakfast is really just a full English but most places now try and regionalise it  with some variations. 

The one above is my attempt at a Little Chef breakfast.  Keeping it simple, bacon, sausage fried egg with mushrooms, fried potato, black pudding and baked beans in a separate dish.  I do think that it is important to have baked beans in a separate dish.  I imagine the Queen has baked beans in a separate dish but Prime Minister Boris Johnson eats them out of the tin.

A Full Scottish Breakfast has haggis and potato cakes, a Full Irish has white pudding, a Full Welsh has Penclawdd cockle and laverbread cake and the menu is in a funny made up language and in Cornwall they have hog’s pudding an especially unpleasant combination of pork meat and fat, suet, bread, oatmeal or pearl barley and formed into a large unnatural looking sausage.  

A Full Australian Breakfast looks very similar but the Full American loads it up with waffles and pancakes and they can’t cook bacon properly.

So today we were going on a train journey on the famous Settle to Carlisle line across the Pennines, the so called backbone of England.  We were going from Settle to Appleby so not quite all the way to the border town.

In terms of distance it was only a short drive to Settle but Yorkshire roads are very narrow and at times unpredictable so it took rather longer than anticipated.  And at some point we missed an important turn so now it took even longer.  After an hour or so we arrived at the Ribblehead Viaduct.

The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct carries the Settle–Carlisle railway across the fabulously named Batty Moss Valley and was built a hundred and fifty years or so ago, it is thirty miles north-west of Skipton and twenty-five miles south-east of Kendal and is a Grade II listed structure.

The land underneath and around the viaduct is a scheduled ancient monument. Because it was so far from any major settlements the workers and their families lived in three navvy settlements called Sebastopol and Belgravia and best of all Batty Wife Hole – there is an appropriate monument to commemorate them below the arches.

We stopped and admired the viaduct but the clock was ticking so we pressed on to the town of Settle.  When we set off this morning we thought we might have time to look around the town but  now only made it to the train station by the skin of our teeth and purchased our tickets just in the nick of time.

Settle Railway Station is like piece of 1950s history, it belongs on a model railway, a brick ticket office with exterior wooden features painted maroon and cream in classic English railway station colours from over half a century ago.

The train arrived on time and we bagged our seats.  The route crosses the most remote and scenic regions of the Yorkshire Dales and the terrain traversed is among the bleakest and wildest in England.  It takes an hour for the train to make the journey at an average speed of a sedate forty miles an hour.

The railway’s summit at 1,169 feet requires a sixteen mile climb from Settle to Blea Moor so it is rather slow going, almost all of it at a gradient of 1 in 100 and  because in times gone by steam trains didn’t cope well with gradients it was known to train drivers as “the long drag”.

This stretch of the line has fourteen tunnels and twenty-two  viaducts and the most notable is the twenty-four arch Ribblehead.  Soon after crossing the viaduct the line enters Blea Moor tunnel, 2,629 yd long and 500 ft below the moor, before emerging onto Dent Head Viaduct. The summit at Aisgill is the highest point reached by main-line trains in England. At an altitude of 1,150 feet and situated between Blea Moor Tunnel and Rise Hill Tunnel immediately to its north, Dent is the highest operational railway station on the National Rail network in England.

Corrour Railway Station in Scotland At 1,340 ft is the highest mainline station in the UK.  At 3,000 feet the highest railway station in Australia is Summit Railway Station in Queensland,  The highest station in the World is Galera in China at 15,700 feet above sea level which to put that in perspective is about half as high as Mount Everest and half the cruising height of most modern aeroplanes.

This was a delightful and scenic journey as we crossed viaducts and disappeared into tunnels  with wonderfully descriptive names – Stainforth Tunnel, Dry Rigg Quarry, Blea Moor Tunnel, Arten Gill Viaduct, Rise Hill Tunnel,  Shotlock Hill Tunnel, Ais Gill Summit, Smardale Viaduct and Scandal Beck.  And stopping at stations – Horton in Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, Dent, Garsdale, Kirkby Stephen and Appleby. 

Into the County of Cumbria we spent an hour in the town of Appleby which I have to say was not the best part of the day before making our way back to the train station which was probably the best thing about the place because it meant that we were leaving and took the train back to Settle.

Sorry Appleby.

Memory Post – Decimalisation

On 15th February 1971, after five years of planning by the Decimal Currency Board, Britain abandoned this medieval currency system and converted to a new decimal system based on pounds and new pence.

Read The Full Story Here..

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Sunset Sunday – Kessingland in Suffolk UK

Memory Post – The Wonder of Woolies

When I was a boy the Rugby store at 30 High Street was one of my favourite shops in town.  It was big, it was bright, it was cheap and gaudy and it was like an Aladdin’s cave full of treasure.

Read The Full Story Here…

Trees in Threes

I like these trees, I can’t explain why, I just do!