Tag Archives: travel

The Lamplighter

“Public lighting … is so well executed in the cities of London and Westminster, as to excite the admiration of all foreigners, on their arrival at the British metropolis. Not only the streets, lanes, courts, and alleys of these great cities, but the roads in every direction leading thereto (and some for several miles), are lightes with lamps, rendering the approach safe and convenient. Before this wise regulation, murders, robberies, riots, and innumerable accidents occurred in the streets, during the obscurity of night.” from The Costume of Great Britain, published 1804.

Lamplighter

Lamplighter

Lights were lit each evening, generally by means of a wick on a long pole. At dawn, the lamplighter would return to put them out using a small hook on the same pole. Early street lights were sometimes candles, but the lamp in this drawing is an oil fired one. Another lamplighter duty, illustrated above, was to carry a ladder and renew the candles, oil, or gas mantles.

In some communities, lamplighters served in a role akin to a town Watchman; in others, it may have been seen as little more than a sinecure. Later in the 19th century, gas lights became the dominant form of street lighting. Early gas lights required lamplighters, but eventually systems were developed which allowed the lights to operate automatically.

Today a lamplighter is an extremely rare job. In Brest a lamplighter has been employed as a tourist attraction since 2009 to light up the kerosene lamps in the shopping street every day. There is also a lamp lighter in Wroclaw, Poland.


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Westray

After taking the morning ferry from Kirkwall we started our visit to Westray with a walk along the coast near the Rapness Water Mill. Oats were milled here until about a hundred years ago. ‘Ideal for DIY enthusiast’ would be the estate agent’s description of this place and I bet it would make a nice house. Put some panoramic windows in, mod cons like heating and electricity and you would have a great home. Not for us though: a bit too remote and quiet.

 

Rapness Water Mill

Rapness Water Mill

We walked to what is known as Castle O’Burrian, a sea stack where once a hermit lived. Now, at the right time of year, this is where you can see hundreds of Puffins, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots and other birds. Today there were only some tired gulls.

 

Castle O'Burrian

Castle O’Burrian

Next destination was Noup Head, on the northwest corner of the island. The last bit of the ‘road’ was a bit rocky and I would not have attempted it with the old RX8, but our new car got up to there quite easily. The lighthouse is another Stevenson construction (David A), from 1889. It was converted to solar power in 2001.

 

Noup Head

Noup Head

The cliffs are spectacular and seem much higher than 79 meters when you stand near the edge. Gannets put on a show for us, majestically gliding up to their perches on the vertical rock face. There were still some young birds with their dark plumage (whenever I use or read that word I always have to think of the dead parrot’s sketch.)

Cliff At Noup Head

Cliff At Noup Head

 

Gannets Nesting At Noup Head

Gannets Nesting At Noup Head

After a quick fish and chips lunch in the Pierowall Hotel (delicious), we went to the airport. Unfortunately there was no time to take the world’s shortest schedule flight to Papa Westray. The plane is airborne for about a minute (47 seconds in the right weather conditions) and covers a distance of about 1.7 miles (2.4 kilometers.) We did observe the sign that told us to “be aware of propellors.” Before taking the ferry back we just had time for a short walk to Cross Kirk, a ruined 12th century church and churchyard with a view across the Bay of Tuquoy.

 

Cross Kirk

Cross Kirk

 


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Orkney Coasts (Part 1)

One of the attractions that brought us back to Orkney was the varied and often spectacular coastline. There are spectacular cliffs, deserted beaches, secluded bays, all beautiful and, at this time of year, relatively quiet. On Mainland you can find many of these spots and you are never more than half an hours drive from any of them!

One of the outstanding places is Birsay, with its tidal island, view of Kitchener’s Memorial and geos. The word geo is derived from the Old Norse gjá and refers to “an inlet, a gully or a narrow and deep cleft in the face of a cliff. Geos are common on the coastline of the Shetland and Orkney islands. They are created by the wave driven erosion of cliffs along faults …” (from Wikipadia.)

Coast near Skiba Geo

Coast near Skiba Geo

 

From the Brough of Birsay you get a good view of Kitchener’s Memorial. He was the secretary of state for war at the beginning of World War I and best known for his image that appeared on recruiting posters pointing out that “Your country needs you!” The memorial is there because it was off this part of the Orkney coast that the HMS Hampshire, with Kitchener on board, ran into a German mine and sank in 1916. He and 600 sailors died. After the war conspiracy theories explaining his death abounded. One of them stated Winston Churchill and a Jewish plot were responsible. Another one stated that the ship did not hit a mine at all, but was sunk by explosives hidden aboard by Irish Republicans.

Kitchener's Memorial

Kitchener’s Memorial

 

Weathered Whalebone

Weathered Whalebone

 


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Helmsdale

The name of this region in the northwest of Scotland would fit well in one of the Lord Of The Rings films. When we drove through it, on our way to Orkney earlier this year the landscape itself also reminded us of scenes from those films: lonely, wide ranging views, desolate, beautiful. The faded purples and browns of the vegetation confirmed that autumn was on its way. We needed to be on time for the ferry, so did not have the time to go for a walk, but when I spotted this view from the road I pulled over and walked some way towards the railway line.

 

Little Railway Bridge and Shed

Little Railway Bridge and Shed

 

I also combined three bracketed exposures into an HDR image to bring out the dramatic sky more.

Helmsdale Sky

Helmsdale Sky

 


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A Day On Hoy

In September this year we spent three weeks on Orkney in the same house we rented last year. Having a bit longer this time meant that we were able to visit a few of the smaller islands and the first one was Hoy. The walk up to the Old Man Of Hoy was easy and well signposted, although it did prove a challenge for those who don’t like to go near cliff edges with 200 foot drops…

Hoy Cliff

Hoy Cliff

 

On the way to Orkney we had taken the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness specifically because you can get a really good view of The Old Man from the sea side. Unfortunately, visibility was very poor that day. We were compensated when we went to Hoy as the weather was beautiful: warm and clear skies. The Old Man stood erect and provided a good reward for the 3 mile walk.

Old Man Of Hoy

Old Man Of Hoy

 

After closer inspection and a bit of zooming in with the 105mm lens I noticed that a few climbers were actually trying to climb the stack! Not sure if they were going to get there as it was almost 13:00 already and they were only about a third of the way to the top. I had just read in a local paper that a few weeks earlier Chris Bonnington, who was the first to climb to the top in 1966, had reached the summit again at the age of 80!

Climbing The Old Man

Climbing The Old Man

 

The stack is thought to be less than 300 years old, as a map of 1750 shows a headland where the Old Man is now. The name ‘Old Man of Hoy’ originated from a time when the stack looked quite different, as shown on this watercolour painting from 1817. A storm washed away one of the legs early in the 19th century leaving it much as it is today, although erosion continues and the stack is certain to disappear. By 1992 a 130 ft. crack had appeared in the top of the south face, leaving a large overhanging section that will eventually collapse. Kudos to the climbers that succeed to get to the summit. Standing on the cliff edge is exhilarating, reaching the top of the Old Man must be sensational!

 

Old Man of Hoy by William Daniell, 1817

Old Man of Hoy by William Daniell, 1817

 

After the cliff top walk I visited the Dwarfie Stane, a megalithic chambered tomb carved out of a gigantic block of Devonian Old Red Sandstone. The name is derived from local legends which says the dwarf Trollid lived there. I crawled inside and wondered if the stone is on the list of the Mountain Bothies Association, as it provides comfortable shelter for two or three people, the separate chamber even has a stone cushion!

Dwarfie Stane

Dwarfie Stane

 

Inside The Dwarfie Stane

Inside The Dwarfie Stane

 


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Winter Sun

This year it was my turn to organise a surprise holiday for our anniversary. Slightly out of character I opted for a package deal in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol. The hotel was quirky, with an Austin Healey 3000 parked in reception (apparently it was the prize possession of the owner of the hotel/spa/gym complex and still in full working order.) The food and wine were excellent and the included spa treatment very relaxing. We did not spend a lot of time in the hotel, but made a few day trips in Andalusia. The first one was to one of our favourite haunts in this region: Ronda. We got there via a place we had not been before Casares, one of the typical Pueblos Blancos.

 

Casares

Casares

 

Visiting these inland places at this time of year, when there are not many other visitors, gives you a different perspective. Not a lot  tourist tat for sale, shops and galleries closed for the winter. On the coast it was different though. The item that appears most often on the menu of restaurants in Fuengirola is still “Full English Breakfast” and the boulevard is lined with English pubs and Fish & Chips shops.

 

Our other trip was to Cordoba. It was over 15 years ago that we first visited the Mezquita and it had not lost any of its attraction. What a great place it is; home to two religions and a fantastic mix of different styles of architecture.

 

Mezquita

Mezquita

 

Near the newly restored Roman Theatre in Cordoba Ruud’s Eye was caught by the shadows on a wall.

 

Wall And Shadow

Wall And Shadow

 

Before the Christians and Muslims the Romans put their stamp on this area. One of the monuments to evidence their culture is the Roman Theatre in Cordoba. which had just been opened to the public the day before we were there.

 

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

 


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Cliffs At Yesnaby

Cliffs At Yesnaby

Cliffs At Yesnaby

 

This is one of the places I am definitely going to re-visit on my Orkney trip next year. The house has been booked and this time were going for a bit longer: four weeks! This will give me the time to be a bit more patient and wait for good light. That’s one of the problems with going to many places for short visits, i.e. a week or less. You see some beautiful places, but sometimes the light is just not right. You can then do one of two things, don’t take a picture, because you know that you will not be entirely happy with the result, or try to do the best with what light you have available. There is usually so much to see that waiting would seem like you could be missing out on visiting another beautiful place. Next year I will have a couple of other options. Wait an hour or so for improving light, or come back another day.

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Lastours

Lastours is about 12 miles north of Carcassonne, in the Montaigne Noir. This small town is famous for the group of four castles, towers really. The path up there is steep in places, but well maintained and safe. The views from the top are magnificent, especially when there is a dramatic sky. The view of the castles below is from a special ‘belvedere’ on the hill opposite. You have to pay an entrance fee to get to that viewpoint, unless you have paid the fee for climbing up the path to the castles.

Four Castles At Lastours

Four Castles At Lastours

 

 

Cabaret And Tour Régine

Cabaret And Tour Régine

 

Cabaret Castle

Cabaret Castle

Thinking

Thinking

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More Little Back Streets And Alleys

I said I liked wandering through these little streets…

I think this is my favourite one. No idea what the women were talking about, but I was very happy they were there! We nearly missed the area with these old, cobled streets and houses with shuttered windows, but as we arrived two minutes before the Abbey closed we had two hours to kill before it re-opened. We first had lunch in a small coffeeshop/restaurant in the Place de la Republique. The warm vegetable salad was really good and the heat from woodburning stove was very welcome as, despite the sun, it was cool. The free WiFi enabled us to check that the aircontroller strike was definitely finished and then we wandered through the old bit of Caunes-Minervois.

 

A Chat

A Chat

 

One of our favourite places in the area is Lagrasse. It also has some lovely old, cobbled streets and a great place to have lunch.

Bricked Up, Shuttered, Open

Bricked Up, Shuttered, Open

 

A new town for us this time was Béziers. It sits atop a hill and was the first town attacked during the Albigensian Crusade. Catholics were given an ultimatum to hand over the heretics or leave before the crusaders besieged the city and to “avoid sharing their fate and perishing with them.”[6] However, they refused and resisted with the Cathars. The town was sacked on July 22, 1209 and in the bloody massacre, no one was spared, not even Catholic priests and those who took refuge in the churches.

 

No. 4

No. 4

 


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Little Back Streets And Alleys

One of the reasons I like going to the south of France is the to wander around in its towns and villages. Especially the little out-of-the-way, neglected, run down streets and alleys provide great opportunities for photography. Windows, shutters, people, cats, flowers, graffiti, letterboxes, bicycles, they are some of the things I like to photograph in those places. The fact that those places are  not easily accessible and the most obvious places to find things that are attractive to the average tourist has often helped to preserve a certain authenticity that gets lost when visitors descend on a pretty place in numbers. The souvenir shops and bars and restaurants may not be there, but instead we find a sort of calm, unselfconscious confidence that comes from being a ‘real’ place. Here are a few of my pictures that hopefully do a better job of explaining what I am trying to describe than these words.

 

French Alley, Gruissan

French Alley, Gruissan

 

Pentacle, Alet-Les-Bains

Pentacle, Alet-Les-Bains

 

Old Shop Front, Narbonne

Old Shop Front, Narbonne

 


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