Category Archives: Growing up in the 1950s

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!

A to Z of Windows – O is for Ovar in Portugal

The plan for our three days at the seaside in Furadouro was to take a break from travelling and the trains, the drag-bags and the packing and unpacking and to spend some time relaxing on the beach.

Unfortunately our plan was scuppered by the weather because when we woke the next day there was a thick sea mist which would have challenged anything that the North Sea can throw at us back home.

Read The Full Story Here…

A Return to Alicante

My sister has a place in Spain near Alicante so we have been there several times.

In a week in Iberian Autumn we did the usual things, sat in the sunshine, walked the beaches, lunchtime tapas, joined the ex-pats Brits for evening meals and watched the golfers humiliating themselves on the first tee.

It was mid-November and the weather was just perfect.  Shirt-sleeve weather in fact with sunshine and big sky so after breakfast we were away to the nearby city of Alicante which I was sort of surprised to discover is the eighth largest in Spain.

Read The Full Story Here…

 

Voices of the Old Sea – Guardamar de Seguara

“By the end…it was clear that Spain’s spiritual and cultural isolation was at an end, overwhelmed by the great alien invasion from the North of money and freedoms.  Spain became the most visited tourist country in the World, and slowly, as the foreigners poured in, its identity was submerged, its life-style altered more in a single decade than in the previous century.”-  Norman Lewis, ‘Voices of the Old Sea’.

After almost two years we took the official paperwork challenge and risked a flight to Europe, to Spain, to visit my sister at her overseas home near Alicante.  I was nervous about that but I have to say that everything about the outward flight went perfectly.

After a couple of days lounging around, drinking San Miguel and eating tapas Lindsay pulled a surprise – we were going on a bike ride.  I like bike riding but not in the UK where the roads are dangerous but in Spain there are miles and miles of cycle paths where there is no real danger except for the occasional potholes.

Lindsay and Mick ride for miles several days a week but we are not used to long distances which after fifteen kilometres and sore butts accounts for our non smiley faces.  And we had still got to cycle fifteen kilometres back home.

Anyway, back to Guardamar. I confess that I love this place.  It fascinates me.

Like many Spanish villages on the coast it once relied almost entirely on fishing but it has the distinction of suffering three severe environmental disasters.  The original village was built between the banks of the River Segura and the Mediterranean Sea but heavy silting from the river and the encroachment of sand dunes from the sea overwhelmed the village and one hundred and fifty years ago it had to be completely abandoned and relocated to safer ground.

This is the site or the original village today which is a palm forest planted to try and stabilise the ground but Guardamar has new problems.

The linear park of palms and cactus and succulents are withering away and dying back as they struggle to fight some sort of pest or disease which one by one is killing the trees and plants that (I am told) once provided a stunning green park for visitors to wander amongst.  Such a shame.  A warning of just how ‘temporary’ life can be on Planet Earth!

In the 1940s the municipality agreed permission for local fishermen to build houses directly on the edge of the beach, something that would not be allowed today and would be regarded as rather reckless.

The Casas de Babilonia are a string of elegant beach houses built perilously close to the sand and the sea and over the years the advancing Mediterranean has nibbled away at the fragile infrastructure and undermined the inadequate foundations.

Families lived and worked at the edge of the sea. Today the houses are  retrospectively declared to be illegal builds that contravene the Spanish Coastal Law (ley de costas 1988) that defines a public domain area along the coast and a further zone beyond  where  restrictions apply to private ownership.

Moving on, later, in the 1960s came tourism but not from the North as Norman Lewis lamented but from the towns and cities of Spain itself and even today you won’t find package holiday deals to Guardamar de Seguara.

Trouble from the river and bother with pests has been followed by catastrophe from the sea in a massive wild Mediterranean storm in December 2016 which battered the coast and the fishermen’s houses and left them in a parlous state.  Almost unrecognisable, nearly gone, the victim of changing coastal dynamics, the battering ram of the sea when twenty foot high waves crashed into the decaying properties and did massive amounts of damage, washing away walls, tearing down terraces, breaking beams, trashing tiles and crushing concrete.

This is the coastline today…

Such was the fierceness of the storm that it rearranged the seabed and the coastal geography and removed the beach and the sand where fishermen once rested their boats and holidaymakers put down their towels and pitched their sun umbrellas.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Christmas Tales

As for most people Christmas was best when I was young and still believed in Santa Claus.  In those days we used to alternate between a Christmas at home one year and then at the grandparents the year after.  I can remember two of these quite clearly.

Read The Full Story Here…

Memory Post – Heating The House in Winter

We have just had a cold snap, not much of a cold snap, it only lasted for two days and the temperature barely dipped below zero’

Nevertheless newspapers were full of sob stories about fuel poverty, how some people can barely afford to heat their homes and calls for the Government to make emergency benefit payments. In the Yorkshire post this week one woman claimed that she was so unable to pay fuel bills that she was using a hair dryer in place of central heating.

To be clear I am not being judgemental here, just making a social observation.

When I was a boy houses were cold in  Winter, very cold indeed and it was just an inconvenience that was part of 1960s home life.

On the 29th to 30th December 1962 a blizzard roared across England and Wales and continuous freezing temperatures meant that the snow cover lasted for over two months and the winter of 1962/63 was the coldest over England and Wales since 1740 and there wasn’t another frost free night until 5thMarch 1963.

This would have been quite an ordeal I’m certain because like most people in 1962 we lived in a house without central heating and this was in the days long before double glazing and thermal insulation.  I don’t think we even had a fitted carpet!  The house had an open fire in the lounge and a coke boiler in the kitchen to heat the water and that was it.  Sitting around the fire was quite cosy of course but when it came to bed time this was a real ordeal.

Having a bath was a nightmare. Bathrooms were ice boxes – ours seemed to have an unfair share of outside walls. Hot water was limited and the tank (heated by the coke boiler) ran out long before there was enough in the bath for a proper soak.

I know that we had some electric fan heaters somewhere but Dad was reluctant to use these because he lived in fear of the quarterly electricity bill and we were only allowed to use them when temperatures got below well below freezing.

We certainly didn’t have anything such as this…

The bedrooms weren’t heated in any way and the sheets were freezing cold and we certainly didn’t go to bed without a hot water bottle and thick flannelette pyjamas and without modern duvets, as it got colder, we had to rely on increasing numbers of blankets piled so high that you could barely move because of the weight.

When the house ran out of spare blankets overcoats were used instead.  During the night the temperature inside the house would drop to only a degree or two higher than outside and in the morning there was frost and ice on the inside of the windows that had to be chipped off with a knife before you could see outside.  Our school clothes were stiff with cold.

I can remember the mornings well, first I’d hear Dad get up and after he had checked for frozen pipes and put the kettle on I would hear him making up the fire and raking the coke boiler ready for ignition.  He always did this job in his maroon and white check work shirt.  After fifteen to twenty minutes or so it would be time to leave the comfort of the warm bed and go and see what sort of a job he was making of it.

On a good day the fire would be well established and roaring away and the temperature in the house would be limping up towards freezing but on a bad day he would be fighting to get it going and would be struggling with a newspaper stretched across the grate trying to ‘draw’ the fire into life and the house would still be at the temperature of the average arctic igloo.

This was drawing the fire but it obviously isn’t my dad…

I can only imagine that this was quite a dangerous procedure which required maximum concentration if you weren’t to burn the house door and get it a whole lot warmer than it really needed to be.

The house would still be cold by the time we had had our porridge and gone to school or to work and then it would be mum’s job to keep it going all day so that by tea time when we all came home it was nice and warm again.

Only the living room of course so playing in our bedrooms was out of the question and the family spent the evening together around that comforting fire.

An interesting newspaper advert from 1958…

That seems like a good deal to me – a real bargain, a three bedroom house loft insulated for £5 5 shillings.  Dad’s salary in 1960 was £815 a year so I am certain that he could afford it.

I might be wrong here but I think Silver Stormax is sold today as Thinsulex Silver Multifoil and still seems fairly reasonable at £103.99 for a roll 1.2 x 10 metres.