Friday 30 April 2010

Sadler Gate

Derby's Cathedral Quarter is full of gates; Friar Gate, St Mary's Gate, Iron Gate and this one, Sadler Gate, referring to the craft of the saddler. The word is evidence of Derby's Viking past, as, in Viking parlance, 'gate' means 'street'. It was in 874 AD that the Danes first occupied the area and named the settlement Deoraby (Village of the Deer) and the town then became one of the `Five Boroughs’ of the Danelaw.

Sadler Gate is an interesting mix, having quite a rich history, but also being at the heart of Derby's bar and club culture. One building which falls into both categoreis is The Old Bell Hotel on the left of the photograph, which was a coaching inn dating back to around the mid 17th century. Room 29 of this establishment is said to be haunted by young servant girl who was murdered by the Jacobite army in 1745.

If you look along the line of the Gate, most of the buildings appear to have flat roofs, but this is actually an illusion created by a series of false facades, built because the architects wanted uniformity along the street.

Branching off from Sadler Gate are a series of little passages and yards; most notably Blacksmiths Yard. I had an interesting experience here last summer. Derby has a significant deaf community. A friend had just completed her level 2 British Sign Language course and been told by her tutor of a new cafe opening in Blacksmith's Yard which would be run by, and cater for, deaf people. It was recommended as a place to socialise and practice her signing. A group of four of us duly went to the cafe. When we arrived, we sat outside in the sunshine and were served our coffee. After a little while, one of the owners of the cafe came out for a chat. It was only during the course of this conversation that we learned that we were a tad premature! The cafe was not yet actually open for business!! I can't think of many other places where coffee would be cheerfully served from a not-yet-open cafe.

Thursday 29 April 2010


Tending my garden is a little like painting the Forth Bridge; reach the end and you have to go back to the jungle at the start; and I confess that I can never remember exactly what is in it, or where it is, or when it will appear. But the great thing about that, is the element of surprise when up pops a flower I had completely forgotten; and that's what happened this week.

I knew that there was the odd tulip in various corners of the garden (mainly red), but, until they appeared, I had completely forgotten about this little cluster just at the bottom of the lawn.

What a gorgeous show of colour and a lovely surprise :)

Wednesday 28 April 2010

View from an upstairs window

Once upon a time, this land was all fields which were bordered, at regular intervals, by hawthorn trees.

Looking along the line from the bottom of my garden, the remnants of most of them can still be picked out. Unfortunately, most are now nearing the end of their natural span and needing quite a lot of attention. In fact, two winters ago, a largish piece snapped off my next door neighbour's hawthorn and landed in the garden of the gentleman at the bottom. It did a little damage, so he wasn't overly impressed. As a result, my neighbour had his taken down completely.

I have twice had mine cut back, but, this year decided that it needed a vigorous pollarding. I was a bit reluctant because I do enjoy the white blossom in the spring. The result, however, has been a real opening up of what was already a lovely view and I can now see the tops of the distant ridge of hills from downstairs as well as up.

Drawing back, reveals more of the garden. The pure white pear blossom, which has been promising for a few days, has finally delivered, the delicate pink cherry is still in full show-off mode and the Kerria japonica (Jew's mallow) looks like a splash of bright yellow sunshine.

After years of watching narrow strips of sky between lines of terraced houses, I count myself richly blessed to have a view and a garden like this :)

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Thorns transformed

This stained glass window was created from scratch by my artistic friend of yesterdays blog. It forms part of a glass wall; one of a pair erected inside St Peter's, Shipley, when it was refurbished in late 2005 - 6.

The image within the glass was based on a vision of Christ wearing a crown of thorns, which then transformed into a crown of glory, with rays of light radiating outwards.

I particularly like the crown, but if you look closely, there is also amazing detail in the eyes; especially the right one (left from where you are sitting). They look so alive!

Monday 26 April 2010

Of friends and creativity

When my sons were little, we had a sing along video called A Day full of Songs. It was great! The boys loved the catchy tunes and the journey-story behind them and, I admit, so did their Dad and I. In fact, I think we still have the video squirrelled away somewhere.

Well, yesterday, I went on a different journey and ended up with a day full of friends. I got to spend a whole day in the company of one very good friend, went for coffee with two more lovely friends and even had the chance to meet a new friend who happens to be the author of a blog I enjoy following daily. It was this new friend who taught me how to create a link without having to use the whole web address! And it works!! Thank you Jenny Freckles. Much neater :)

Another friend from yesterday is creative in a different sort of way; one in which I am sadly lacking, she is artistic and she was happy for me to share a couple of her pictures. Thanks Christine.

I love the bold colours and energy of this painting. It is full of life and joy, with big stylised features balanced by lots of little details. It catches the eye and holds the attention. I like it a lot!

I'm annoyed that I blurred the second one slightly, because the textures of the water are amazing.

I particularly like the way the moonlight reflects off the water like a host of dancing, shimmering fireflies. Very atmospheric!

Two very different paintings, but each with their own qualities. I'd love to be able to do this! Wish I had inherited  my Mum's artistic gene!

Sunday 25 April 2010

Boy and goose

At the back of the Council House is the Boy and Ram, but at the front we have the Boy and Goose.

The statue dates from 1926 and was modelled in bronze by Alexander Fisher. It was originally known as the 'Boy and Gander' and was positioned in the Market Place until 1971 when it was moved to the Riverside Gardens because of road reconstruction. Then in 1976 it was placed within the new Assembly Rooms and eventually moved here. 

I enjoy the sense of movement in this statue; the idea of the boy and the goose dancing together, having fun. It is a lighthearted statue.

And just for your entertainment...

When the light is shining onto the viewscreen of my camera, it can be difficult to be sure exactly what I am photographing. At such times, I will usually take two or three shots to see which turns out best. The photo below was my first attempt at the boy and goose...

(Best viewed large)
Is that the lamp post he is grabbing?

And I wonder what the goose is finding so tasty on the top of a Derby bus shelter! Someone's discarded sandwiches perhaps?

Saturday 24 April 2010

Boy and ram

Just along the River Gardens from the Council House is this statue of a boy and a ram; not surprisingly, called 'Boy and Ram'.

Now 40 years old, the statue was originally sited in the Castlefield Main Centre, a 1960s built shopping complex close to the middle of town. In 2005, when the whole area was bulldozed to make way for the new Westfield shopping centre, the Boy and Ram was relocated to the River Gardens. The intention, though, was that this new home would be only temporary with the statue destined for a significant location in the Westfield upon its completion in 2008. Well, the Westfield was completed in 2008, but the statue doesn't appear to have moved in yet! Hmmm!

I do like this unpretentious work of art, but I was slightly amused by the description on the Derby Public Artwork website:

'Boy and Ram' reminds me of the pose of an American-style bucking bronco, where the foolhardy rider clings on at the back and grips the animal's horns at the front, in a battle of man and beast. Yet here there is no epic struggle, no bravado. The barefoot boy, his hair hanging foppishly over his face, bears a rather bored expression and appears almost to loose interest in his sport. Slightly built, waif-like, somehow almost immortal, he could fly off effortlessly at any moment, like an angel or Peter Pan.

I couldn't have put it better myself  :p

Friday 23 April 2010

St George's Day

Today is St George's Day. St George is the patron saint of England and it's fair to expect that we would know a reasonable amount of information about him, so here is a short quiz for you to find out just how much you really do know about this dragon fighter! (Shucks. You were hoping that would be the first question, weren't you?)

Fair enough! One for starters...

1. Which mythological creature does legend claim St George defeated in single combat? [Now you won't score zero :) ]

As the rest are probably a little more tricky, I'll give you some options to choose from.

2. To which period of English history did St George belong?
Medieval, Saxon, Roman

3. In which country was he born?
England, Germany, Turkey

4. How did he die?
In battle, Beheaded, Pneumonia

5. Where did he die?
Israel, England, Germany

6.  Which king adopted the cross of St George as the English flag?
Æthelred (865–871),  Saint Edward the Confessor (1042–1066) or Richard the Lion Heart (1189–1199)

7. Of which of these countries is St George the patron saint? 
Russia, Greece, Ethiopia, Georgia, Lithuania, England, Portugal, Palestine

8. St George did not become patron saint of England until the 14th century. Who did he replace?
St Edward the Confessor, St Wystan, St Augustine

OK. Here come the answers

1. Do you really need me to answer this one?

2. He was a Roman soldier and priest in the Guard of Emporor Diocletian born around A.D. 270, but he probably never visited Roman Britain.

3. He is believed to have been born in Cappadocia (now Eastern Turkey).

4. He was beheaded, after refusing to renounce Christianity in the Diocletian persecutions, probably at Nicomedia near Lyddia in Palestine on the 23rd of April in the year 303 AD. (Hence the choice of date as his 'day'.)

5. In those days, it was known as Palestine, but now Lydda is in modern day Israel.

6. Richard the Lion Heart, because some of his crusaders saw St George in a vision and were victorious. The red cross was worn as an emblem on his soldiers tunics.

7. This was a bit of a cheat, because the answer is 'all of the above!'

8. He replaced St Edward the Confessor.

So, how did you do?

Happy St George's Day

Thursday 22 April 2010

River views

Before I leave the vicinity of Exeter Bridge with it's notable Derbeians, there are a couple more photos I want to share. This one is taken from the River Garden steps, directly behind the Council House. The end of Exeter Bridge can just be seen to the left of the picture, with one of the concrete posts on which the bas sculptures are mounted (I can't remember which one is on that specific post). I particularly like the deep blue of the river here, with the texture of the ripples and the muted reflection of the trees.

The other picture made me smile...

Ready, steady..!

Notice the mallard acting as race marshall...

And the rather confused pigeon.

And who's the king of the castle?

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Herbert Spencer

The fourth and final member of the quartet is Herbert Spencer. Listed as a philosopher, he is best known as the inventor of the new 'science' of Sociology, and tagged 'The Father of Sociology'. As such, he is not very popular with my younger son, who ended up taking GCSE Sociology as a result of his preferred choice clashing with his main option! He was left with either Sociology or German, and as he hadn't done any German up to that point...

Spencer was a contempory of, and rival to, Charles Darwin, devising his own theory of evolution which preceded Darwin's, but lacked some key elements. It was Spencer who popularised the term evolution and who introduced the phrase survival of the fittest.

For Spencer, though, the focus of his theories was on human behaviour and adaptation to circumstances. He studied man's place in society and the functions of the state, writing books with titles like:

The Study of Sociology, 1880.

The Man versus the State, 1884. and
Essays, Scientific, Political and Speculative, 1892.

I must admit that none of these really make me want to rush out and add to my library, but perhaps I am negatively influenced by my own memories of Sociology A level. Not the best choice I have ever made!

Post script: Just had a thought - Herbert Spencer doesn't seem to have had any connection with the Silk Mill. That's novel!

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Erasmus Darwin

The third of the quartet is Erasmus Darwin 1731-1802 and, even more than the previous two, he looks as though his bas relief sculpture could do with a bit of gentle scrubbing!

I love the name Erasmus; it rolls off the tongue very nicely. Though I'm not sure that either of my boys would have appreciated being given it. No - I take that back; I am sure! They would never have allowed me to forget it!

The name which immediately catches the eye, however, is Darwin - especially as this one is also listed as a botanist, and yes, he was related. Erasmus was the grandfather of Charles (of evolution theory fame) and obviously influenced his thinking, as many of Erasmus' poems and writings referred to the interconnectness and development of things in nature.

Organic life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in ocean's pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing.

Erasmus Darwin. The Temple of Nature. 1802.

Erasmus is best known as the physician who turned down an offer by George 3rd to be Physician to the King, though his intellectual scope ranged far wider, also being a well known poet, philosopher, botanist, naturalist and inventor. He wrote widely and formed a number of influential intellectual societies.

Darwin's personal life was also quite colourful, with two marriages and at least two illegitimate children. On marrying his second wife, Elizabeth, he moved to Radbourne Hall, just outside Derby and from there into Full Street (the birthplace of William Hutton - by the Silk Mill).

(It's beginning to feel as though every famous Derbeian is, in some way, connected with the Silk Mill!!)

He died on 18 April 1802, shortly after having moved to Breadsall Priory, on the northern edge of Derby. He is buried in All Saint's Church in the village.

Should you wish, you can find out more about Erasmus Darwin here, the website of the house in Lichfield where he established his first successful medical practice. It is now a museum:

Monday 19 April 2010

William Hutton

The second member of the quartet is William Hutton who, unlike John Lombe, was actually born in Derby. In fact, the street in which he was born (Full Street) runs right by the Silk Mill and at the age of seven, William Hutton was employed in the Silk Mill on a seven year apprenticeship. It was not a happy experience for him; he later wrote of the long hours, low wages and beatings.

William's mother died in childbirth when he was ten and his father had a fondness for drink, so at age 15, William moved to Nottingham for a second apprenticeship under his uncle; this time as a stocking maker.

It was only after the death of his uncle that William began to explore his true interests. He taught himself bookbinding and, eventually, opened a bookshop in Birmingham, followed by a paper warehouse; which proved a very successful business, allowing him time to research and write the first History of Birmingham in 1782.

Others of his writings grew out of his experiences:

 Narrative of the Riots was as a result of his victimisation for his Quaker beliefs during the religious riots of 1791. Both of his houses were burned down, but he later sued the town for damages and was awarded the princely sum of £5,390.

The History of the Roman Wall was written as a result of his having walked the entire length of Hadrian's Wall in 1801...

...and his autobiography The life of William Hutton was completed just before his death in 1815.

Remembered as a historian, author and poet, William Hutton is commemorated by a blue plaque on Waterstones in central Birmingham; the Exeter Bridge bas relief sculpture pictured above; and a plaster statue in a niche above the shop window of what was once Boots the Chemist in St Peter's Street.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Silk Mill

This photo was taken from Exeter Bridge looking down to the site of the Lombe brothers' Silk Mill, now somewhat overwhelmed by the very new Jury's Inn. When Thomas Lombe died in 1739, the building was sold to Richard Wilson of Leeds and his partners William and Samuel Lloyd, both London merchants. It continued in silk production until around 1908, when it was taken over by F.W. Hampshire and Company, the Chemists. They used the premises to make fly papers and cough medicines - a bit of a come-down from silk!

Then, in 1910, disaster struck! The adjacent flour mill, belonging to Sowter Brothers, caught fire. The blaze spread rapidly and soon, the Silk Mill was alight. The east wall collapsed and fell into the river, while the remainder of the building was gutted. Only the foundations and the shell of the bell tower remained. Following this, the mill was rebuilt at the same height but with three storeys instead of the original five, and that is how it remains today.

The building is no longer in use as a factory, but is now home to the Derby Industrial Museum.

In front of the Silk Mill is the newly built swing bridge, which I mentioned in one of my earliest posts; . (The Mill itself is in the photograph from that post.) At the time, I said that I had not met anyone who had crossed the bridge, but I'm delighted to say that I now know three people who have! One of them was Mark, my son, who told me he'd been across with some college friends, "Just because it's there". The other two were myself and an 'out of town' friend who wanted to see the city. We walked across, turned round and walked back because, frankly, unless you happen to live in one of the houses at the far end, there's nowhere else much to go.

Post script plea: The only way I know how to link back to one of my previous blog posts is to insert the whole url, but I know that there is a better way. Please could anybody educate me?

Saturday 17 April 2010

John Lombe

Back in February, I blogged about four famous Derbeians featured in bas relief sculpture on the Exeter Bridge; the ones I had walked past countless times without ever noticing! I've finally been back to take a look at what I have been missing.

Interestingly, the temporally more distant two of the four, also feature as plaster statues in niches of the building I photographed yesterday. I'm discovering that it's amazing how much I see when I actually take time to look!

I'll start with the most distant past.

John Lombe was made famous by silk. He was lucky enough to have a half brother, Thomas, who had made a small fortune in the silk trade. When Thomas heard that the small silk mill in Derby was failing, he knew that there was huge potential in the market (silk stockings for the ladies) and sent John to investigate a possible new method of manufacture. In 1718 they patented a single machine which would wind, spin and twist silk using water power; an innovative concept which John had seen being trialed by the Italian silk industry.  A new, larger silk mill was built on the site of the old one (just above Exeter Bridge) and production started apace.

Unfortunately for John, he was unable to enjoy the fruits of his labour, as he died in 1722, the year that the new mill was opened. The circumstances surrounding his death were questionable and it was suspected that he had been poisoned by an Italian assasin. Was this a case of industrial espionage biting back?

And here he is in plaster (so to speak).

Friday 16 April 2010

Boots and books

I haven't always lived in Derby, but I grew up here and re-settled in the city nine years ago. Some parts have changed significantly since I was a child, but there are other places which I remember for a whole host of different reasons.

This shop, on the corner of St Peters Street and East Street is right in the centre of town. It was built in 1912 by Albert Nelson Bromley of Nottingham, for Boots the Chemist. The style was deliberately grand, with Venetian style windows, prominent gables and a covering of decorated stucco, all of which have contributed to its present status as a grade 2 listed building.

It is, unfortunately, not occupied at present. Boots moved out of here into the newly opened Eagle Centre in the 1970s and other shops have come and gone in the interim.

Now, this is where my memory may be playing tricks on me, but I believe that this is the building where Mum used to bring me to buy books. I recall a bookshop (or book department) on the third floor and, each month, I would bring my pocket money to fill in the gaps of my Enid Blyton collection.

Yes, I do realise that this admission ages me - and that Enid Blyton books are very frowned upon these days for their outdated attitudes towards minority groups and the working classes - but I, like many of my generation, grew up enthralled by stories of secret goings on in old or remote buildings, hidden passages, smuggler's caves, ghost trains, strange lights... The list goes on! Her books were rooted in the adventure and mystery genre, with fearless children taking on, and defeating, a series of disreputable adult crooks, usually placing themselves in great danger in the process and always solving the mystery by the end. I owe my love of reading to Miss Birch, my third year junior school teacher (that's Y5 to the younger generation) and The Ring O Bells Mystery.

'Politically correct' she may not be but, in one respect, Enid Blyton was way ahead of her time... One of her most famous characters was very gender non-conformist :p

Thursday 15 April 2010

More changes

Some more photographs of my garden today.

I think I'm right when I call these grape hyacinths. Please correct me if I'm mistaken. I love the delicate blue and the shape of the individual flower bells.

These ones are definitely hyacinths. I have examples of a few different colours in the garden. The one thing which they do all have in common is the scent, which is gorgeous!

Oops! Where did that One Water come from?

I don't normally like pink, but cherry blossom is a definite exception...

...especially against a clear blue sky!

And the daffodils are still dancing.

Wednesday 14 April 2010


Slightly less than 2 months ago, my garden looked like this:


What a difference now!

First came the snowdrops, followed by the crocuses, then the daffodils and now, everywhere I look, the garden is bursting into life. This is definitely the time of year when it is at its best. The bulbs and the blossom give a glorious show of colour, before the summer-long battle with the weeds really hots up.

It's a huge amount of work and I don't always devote the time or effort which it requires, but, having spent 12 years in a small, mid-row, back to back terrace with a tablecloth sized patch of soil, I am grateful for my garden!


Tuesday 13 April 2010

One Cork, One King and Nine Ladies

Mark is not the only climber in the family. His younger brother is also a bit good on the indoor walls and not averse to scaling the odd rock or two...

...though this one, at least, was planned and somewhat easier, having holds cut into the side! This photograph dates from 2007 - the same year as yesterdays blog, though later in the summer. (It was obviously a good year for rock scaling). Now, of course, it would be a matter of principal to avoid the holds at all costs!

This particular rock is known as the Cork Stone and is one of a number of blocks of granite to be found on Stanton Moor, above Birchover in Derbyshire, The granite is the harder rock which has remained as the surrounding plateau was worn away. The Cork Stone stands 15 feet high and, as well as the footholds, has also accumulated a variety of pieces of graffiti, one of which is dated 1613.

The Cork Stone is a naturally occurring outcrop, but Stanton Moor also bears much evidence of human occupation, from as long ago as pre-historic times; probably as a result of it's elevated position with distant views to all sides. Because of this, there are a number of man-made cairns and barrows on the moor, though many are difficult to spot, being pretty effectively covered over with heather. There are also at least 2 small stone circles, the most distinct of which is known as the Nine Ladies and is accompanied by a rock known as the King Stone.

Legend has it that the circle was created when nine ladies were turned to stone for daring to dance on the moor on the Sabbath. The King Stone was the fiddler to whose music they were dancing.

Whatever the truth, the area was obviously of some ceremonial significance around 3,500 years ago and makes an interesting place for a walk today.

Monday 12 April 2010


My eldest son, Mark, is 18 today. Where has the time gone? I can't believe that a child of mine has officially hit adulthood!

Being the nostalgic type, I have of course been thinking back over the past 18 years and remembering some of the times we have had; good and not so good. Being a parent brings many joys, but is also a massive responsibility...

All those HUGE life shaping decisions to make! What if I get it wrong?

The pride of achievements celebrated and good times shared together.

Living through difficulties and emerging in one piece.

Onging battles >:(    "No, I don't care how brilliant you think it is...I really don't want to watch that video on YouTube at 2 o'clock in the morning! This is me, in bed - asleep!!!"

There are hundreds of stories I could tell, but thought I might share just one; which you will probably find hilarious, but scared me half to death!

It was a hot afternoon during the long summer holiday and we had been stuck indoors all day, so I decided to pack a picnic and drive us up to Alport Heights, which is only about 10 miles from home & has great views. Mark was 15. We ate our picnic and then Mark wandered off to "have a look" at the big pillar of rock slightly below us.

The next thing I know...

It took him about 2 minutes to reach the top, but twenty heart-stopping minutes (with 2 false starts) to get down again! I think I was more worried for his safety during those twenty minutes than at any other point during the whole 18 years; and all I could do was watch!

The amazing thing is, that he wasn't phased at all. He was so confident in his own ability to reach the bottom in one piece, that he didn't bat an eyelid, whereas I can feel my pulse rate increasing just thinking about it!

Three years on, he climbs regularly at the Derby Climbing Centre and has been offered a conditional place at the University of Cumbria to study for a BA in Outdoor Leadership. No doubt part of his course will focus on... and safety :p

Happy birthday Mark! :)

Sunday 11 April 2010

Stile 3

 I always find these things an absolute pain!

The kissing gate (yeah, yeah - tired joke) was designed for the purpose of allowing the passage of walkers, but not the passage of livestock. It consists of a half round or V shaped enclosure, between which is trapped a hinged gate. Swing the gate away, squeeze into the enclosure, swing the gate back, exit.

The name actually comes from the way in which the gate only 'kisses' the sides of the enclosure, rather than being latched, though it is normally weighted so that it rests closed to one side or the other.


  • It can't be left open by accident (as if :p)

  • It can't be tied or fastened open on purpose!

  • It doesn't need a latch
The word 'squeeze' might have been a bit of a clue here. Anyone who has walked with a rucksack of any size (or even worse, a toddler in a back carrier!) will know that these things are not easy to negotiate; the problem being, of course, that if they are constructed with a space large enough for easy passage of a person with a large rucksack, they are also easy passage for a sheep - because sheep are notoriously adept at getting out of places that they are not meant to get out of!

All things considered? Give me a 'climb-over' stile any day.

Saturday 10 April 2010


This morning, Mark, my almost 18 year old son, and I went a bit mad and decided to clean out our garage. Like a twit, it didn't occur to me to take a 'Before and After' picture until we had been hard at it for about 30 minutes, so, the following is a pictoral telling of the last 3 hours of our garage clean out:

At this point, we had already shifted 1 bike, a top box, a shredder, a pool table top, a low cupboard and all of our camping stuff.

And here most of it is:

...along with other assorted junk.

We had friends along to keep us company; though his bigger brother got taken outside.

Emptied (as much as necessary), de-cobwebbed (sorry spidey) and vacuumed. Wow, it looks big!

Pity that most of this lot has got to go back inside :(

...except the wheely bins of course :)

Finally, after 3 1/2 hours it looks like this:

...and at least now I know where everything is!

Won't comment on the state of my muscles after two afternoons of gardening, one evening training and a garage sort! Thank goodness Mark was willing to help!

Now let's see how long it lasts!

Friday 9 April 2010

Pumps part 2

...but, I cannot think about water and pumps without my mind turning towards those for whom the daily grind of water collection is still a reality (not to mention those who have no access to clean water at all) and I wanted to write about a scheme which I think is brilliant in it's simplicity.

Meet One Water. The water itself is from Powys, but One is rather special because 100% of the profilt from sales of this water is pumped into a scheme which brings clean water to communities in sub-Saharan Africa. The scheme is called Playpumps. It works like this...

A borehole is sunk into a source of clean water, usually close by a school or other place where children gather. At the top of the borehole is installed a pump. The pump is in the form of a specially crafted children's roundabout. As the children play on the roundabout, water is pumped out of the ground into a 2,500 litre storage tank and piped to a tap, providing instant clean water for a community. The children no longer have to walk to collect water.

The Playpump is capable of producing up to 1,400 litres of water per hour, from a depth of 40 metres, if the roundabout is rotated at 16rpm. Boreholes can be deeper than this though, because the pump is effective up to a depth of 100m.

The storage tank, which stands 7 metres above ground, can now also function as an advertising hoarding. All four sides are leased as billboards; two to advertise products and the other two for health and educational messages. The money raised from leasing the billboards pays for the upkeep of the Playpump, so, once installed, the whole system is self sustaining.
What a brilliant idea - the children get to play and the whole community benefits from clean water!

The short video at this link, advertises One Water by showing exactly how Playpumps work

And the co-op website has a Playpump water game. Follow this link to see how much you can pump :)   

Thursday 8 April 2010

Pumps part 1

The village pump was once the focal point of community life, not only providing the main source of clean water, but also a place to gather and exchange news.  Today, it is difficult to imagine what it must have been like to have no instant access to clean running water, but I know that the single biggest irritation when we camp (which I love to do) is having to collect and carry water. It makes me appreciate the ease of turning on a tap - especially for hot water at washing up time!

Most village pumps were cast iron and all companies had their individual markings for identification, though weathering often renders them unreadable. I think that the shape and arrangement of the lettering of the Hanbury pump are consistent with the stamp of the makers Appleby and Co., who were an ironworks in Renishaw near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, between 1793 and 1999. (To see if you agree, follow the link to this website )

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Lych gate

Many traditional church buildings in England are approached through a lych gate. This is true of St Werburgh, Hanbury.

Typically, a lych gate consists of a shed-like roof, covered with tiles or thatch and supported by four or six wooden pillars, with or without additional embellishments or decorative features. There is also, not surprisingly, a gate!

There are, however other styles of lych gate. In some parts of the country, lych gates are more commonly constructed from stone and St Keverne's church in Cornwall even has a chapel of rest built above its lych gate.

The word lych originates in Saxon English and has survived through to modern day usage. The Saxon word lych meant corpse and the purpose of the lych gate was as a resting place for a body in transit to a funeral service. In the middle ages, bodies were commnly buried in shrouds, rather than coffins, and sometimes had to be carried over distances to reach the church. The shrouded body would be laid on a bier under the lych gate while the funeral procession awaited the priest. Often the first part of the buriel service would then be read under the shelter of the gate, before the cortege continued into the church.

The oldest lych gate in England is believed to be at St George's churchyard in Beckenham, South London, and dates from the 13th century. It is likely that lych gates date back long beyond this but, being wooden structures, no older ones have survived to the present day. Most current examples date from the 15th onwards, including some new ones built to commemorate the Millennium.

I've never before stopped to think about the origins of the lych gate, but I think I find this slightly creepy. Without wanting to be irreverant, it strikes me as being a bit like a bus stop for bodies.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

St Werburgh

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the Fauld Explosion . The site of that explosion was outside the village of Hanbury, just over the border from Derbyshire into Staffordshire.

Hanbury is a small village about 7 miles from the town of Burton on Trent. The village church is named after St Werburgh, a Saxon princess who, in 1680, became abbess of the nunnery founded here by her brother Ethelred, King of Mercia. Werburgh died in 706 AD and was buried in the village; as a result of which, the church became a place of pilgrimage. Unfortunately, in the early 900s, when the Vikings became a threat, her remains were moved out of the village to Chester.

The church itself was largely rebuilt in the 14th century, had clerestories added in the 15th century and then the tower and south aisle were rebuilt in 1842. 

For those who, like me, haven't the foggiest what a clerestory is:

clere·sto·ry also clear·sto·ry (klîrstôr, -str)

1. The upper part of the nave, transepts, and choir of a church, containing windows.
(Free Online Dictionary)

...and now I know what they are, I can spot them quite easily in the photo.

The outside of the church is certainly impressive and I would have liked the chance to look around inside, but the memory which will stick with me most, is from walking towards the small graveyard at the rear. To the front, the church is quite enclosed, with a lane running by and cottages alongside, so as we walked round the side of the building, the view took me completely by surprise. The village is elevated, overlooking the Dove valley, and the church is perfectly placed to take advantage of that. It wasn't clear enough to make a good photograph, but we could see for miles.

Monday 5 April 2010


A couple of months ago, a friend and I met for lunch at one of the many garden centres around Derby. Afterwards, we browsed the bookshop and came across a book with an amusing title. I can't remember it exactly, but the gist was that the book was full of poems which we had probably learned at school and believed we knew, but, if challenged, would struggle to recite past the first verse?

This particular poem has to be one of the most famous English poems ever written, and seemed very appropriate for Easter Monday. I managed about half of verse two, with the odd snippet from three and four. Shameful! :(

I wandered lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

by William Wordsworth (Published in Collected Poems, 1815)

But did you know that this was actually Wordsworths second stab at this particular poem? His first version, written in 1804 and published in 1807, has only three stanzas. Verse two is omitted completely, while 1, 3 and 4 have subtle changes.

The poem was inspired by an entry in the journal of his sister Dorothy, after they had taken a walk along the shores of Ullswater in the spring sunshine; a lake which, I suspect, is going to become more familiar to me over the next three years, as my eldest son is hoping to attend the University of Cumbria, based in Penrith - Ullswater being the closest of the lakes at about 8 miles from campus.

A baggage-ferrying, round-trip of 320 miles has to have some compensations! :)

Belated PS: I find it fascinating when other blogs which I follow have similar themes or particular references which link with what I also have blogged. It's over a week since I decided to write about daffodils on Easter Monday, and today, there is a quote from Wordsworth's poem on this blog: , which I thoroughly enjoy reading daily!  Do take a peek.

Sunday 4 April 2010

A tale of the unexpected

Of course they didn't believe the women! Well, be honest, would you have? With their own eyes, they'd seen Jesus crucified and laid out in a tomb. The Romans said he was dead and they'd even stabbed him to make sure. They didn't get something like that wrong! Too much experience!

So, of course he couldn't be alive. There were lots of other explanations for what the women said they had seen; the favourite of which was wishful thinking! It's amazing how powerfully you can imagine something if you want it badly enough. And after all, they were women!

It's amazing what short memories the disciples had. After all, it was only a little while since the whole incident with Lazerus. You'd have thought there might have been a bit of a clue there! But, maybe they didn't want to believe it. If they didn't allow themselves to hope, they wouldn't be opening themselves up to crushing disappointment. Oh no; safer to be a sceptic. And after all, they were men!

But then, suddenly, there he was, walking among them in the upstairs room, and now no-one could deny it; not even Thomas, once he'd spoken to Jesus face to face. And then there were those two on the Emmaus road. And the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb had to be bribed by the High Priests and elders because the rumours were starting; there was a definite need for a bit of Pharisaic spin, first century style.

So the news began to spread; Jesus is not dead. He has come back to life. He is risen. And what had seemed like the end of all their hopes and dreams, longings and expectations, suddenly became a new and better beginning, in a way most unlooked for.

The cross was empty, and so was the tomb.

Easter Sunday

the day when Christians around the world celebrate the risen Christ and proclaim him Lord of all.

Alleluia. Christ is risen!...