Turrets and chimneys – a visit to Tyntesfield

Staying in Bristol recently, we went to Tyntesfield, a Gothic Revival house remodelled in the 1860s and 1870s by the Gibbs family. The Wikipedia page about it is reasonably informative. It is now owned by the National Trust, whose page about it is here.

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Viewed as a whole from the side from which we approached it, the exterior is a mess:

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What ancient monsters lurk in Trap Grounds swamps?

A walk on a dull afternoon. The entrance to Port Meadow is flooded, so I go instead to the Trap Grounds, an area of trees and ponds in which the relics of a wartime factory can be seen beneath the undergrowth.

More on that another time. In the middle of the Trap Grounds is a long pond. A notice, presumably aimed at dog walkers, warns that the drawbacks of plunging in include the smell which, I imagine, would stay with you for a while.

Trees living and apparently dead overhang it. The mud has helped ensure that even the most rapacious of spiv developers has been kept at bay and that the dim little creatures who infest Oxford’s planning department have left it alone. Dedicated volunteers rescued it and work tirelessly to keep a balance between wildness and accessibility.

One always thinks this kind of scene will photograph well. It rarely does. I had a go today; no great works of art resulted but the pictures do at least show the place:

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Port Meadow horses, a balloon and a microlight on an evening walk

Few of the horses and ponies on Oxford’s Port Meadow would win prizes in an equine beauty parade. Some of them, however, have character. This one caught my eye on this evening’s walk:

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Going out to Port Meadow and back in the evening

It was still quite light when we went out to Port Meadow at 5:25 on 13 March:

By 6.25 it was nearly dark:

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My photographs of North Devon railways and stations in the 1960s

I inherited from my father his interest in abandoned railway lines and in maps. I learnt to use Ordnance Survey maps from trips we did together to trace closed routes in North Devon, looking for remnants of stations, bridges, and embankments.

When we started, there weren’t very many derelict railways lines. Apart from the long-closed Lynton and Barnstable Railway, most Devon lines still existed, though traffic gradually disappeared from many of them.

We walked on the Filleigh Viaduct as the track was being pulled up in 1967 – my father was at school in North Devon during the war and Filleigh was the station for the school. This is the view from the east end of the viaduct looking westward:

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Following the trail from Ipswich to Rifle Trench near Arras

By the end of this story, a proper expert in the field had effortlessly summarised that which took me a while to dig out. I enjoyed the chase anyway, and set it down here more for my own recollection than because it will matter to anyone else.

Someone learns that I am going to Arras. A distant relative called Arthur Stanley Peck is commemorated there, she says, and asks if I will find his name on the Arras Memorial and send a picture or two of it. She know nothing more of him than the sparse details recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s excellent website. There is also a mention of Peck’s tag, which has apparently been found in a field and returned to Suffolk.

A few days later, after a bit of poking around on Google, I am gazing across what I am reasonably sure is the field in which he died, along with 95 others from his battalion.

Click here for a larger copy of this picture. It is large, made up of 23 separate photographs, and may take a while to load; drag its frame to the right to see it at full size.

I did not find Peck’s name on the Arras Memorial – it was dark and cold when we got there, and although the picture below appears to show legible panels, that is thanks to a long exposure of a near-dark wall:

One advantage of going to memorials after dark in the winter is that no-one else is there, just you and the ghosts of the thousands remembered in these magnificent places.

Amidst those hundreds of thousands of dead, one needs a link, however tenuous, to bring flesh and blood to the story, to give a purpose to the research, and to turn that ordinary field into a bloody scene from history. Continue reading

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Writing up the 2017 New York trip as we set off for 2018’s

I use long flights to clear out unused drafts, duplicates and the other detritus which gathers in Evernote’s copious corners. Flying to Legaltech New York 2018, I found the article I wrote after last year’s show. It might serve as the warm-up to this year’s event.

For the last eleven years, I have spent the week which pushes January into February in New York. The occasion is what is probably classified as a “trade show”, where people with interests in a particular industry, profession or business gather. It always used to be called “LegalTech”. Recently, for reasons which escaped me, it became “Legaltech” (that small “t” mattered to someone); in 2017 its organisers called it “Legaltech part of Legalweek THE EXPERIENCE”.  Or “LegalTech” as we all stubbornly call it.

Legaltech was originally for the display of all kinds of technology which might be be used by lawyers. I wasn’t there back then, but I picture booths showing the latest developments in typewriter ribbons, carbon paper and shorthand books. “Mobile” meant a calculator with a battery and a paper roll. On the comms front lawyers argued about the ethical implications of sending correspondence by telex. There were rumours of a new kind of typewriter with a memory. International Business Machines shortened its name to IBM and asserted that no-one would ever want a computer in the home. The “document lifecycle” then involved selling you reams of paper one year, boxes and shelving the next, then document storage in old warehouses, and finally a can of petrol and a box of matches. By the time I first went the electronic discovery cuckoo had driven out nearly everything else. Continue reading

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