The Light Railway

The Wick to Lybster Railway conformed to the Light Railway Act of 1896 which did not demand specific legislation to construct.   Reducing legal costs and enabling new railways to be built quickly, it was intended to encourage the building of new ‘light railways’ in areas of low population.  Using the powers of this Act, the Wick to Lybster Light Railway finally opened 1st July 1903 but with the new legislation came certain restrictions: the weight of the rolling stock could not exceed 12 tons on any one axle; the maximum speed was 25 mph, reducing to 10 mph on curves which had a radius of less than 9 chains; level crossings had to be approached at no more than 10 mph.

The decline of the fishing industry at Lybster and the construction of a road between Wick and Helmsdale in the 1930s signalled the end for the Light Railway which closed on 1st April 1944.  John Skene who was the driver of the first train on the opening day of the railway in 1903 steamed up the engine for the last trip in 1944.

Perhaps because of the harsh terrain and climate, perhaps because of its ‘light’ construction, little remains visible – the occasional embankment seen from the A9, the hint of a cutting through an empty field and maybe the odd stationmaster’s house, largely indeterminate from other Caithness architecture.  The wonderful exceptions are the station buildings at Thrumster and Lybster.  Following the line’s closure, Thrumster Station continued life as a Post Office, a caravan site office and finally a garage store before being acquired by the Yarrows Trust in 2003.  It is now perfectly preserved internally and externally, defiantly sited just a few feet from the busy A9, heading north to Wick.

Thrumster Station

The station at Lybster survives through simple vested interest – it is now the clubhouse for the Lybster Golf Club where the cutting heads north west through the course and the 7th whites tee box sits in the middle of the line – it is a pity that there is no longer any evidence of the platform:

Lybster Station

Advertisements

From Cawfield Quarry …

… to Ventners Hall, south to Caw Gap and back to the quarry along the top of Cawfield Crags – a 3.47 miles amble without too many steep ascents/descents.  Motorcycling keeps you fit 🙂  I discover these places on two wheels and then go back with the good wife to explore on foot.  This explains the colour image at the start of this collection – taken on a different day to the subsequent monos:

OS Map

Cawfield Quarry

High Close a Burns

Looking east from Close a Burns

Looking north towards Close a Burns

Hadrian’s Wall Country just north of Caw Gap

Looking west from Cawfield Crags

It’s good to remember …

old friends.

Last Sunday evening Miss Janet Clinksale was sitting in her cottage in the Berwickshire village of Chirnside, listening to Songs of Praise on television.

Janet’s home is close to Chirnside kirk, and it was in the churchyard there that Jim Clark was laid to rest two weeks ago.  From her window, Janet could see scores of visitors passing her cottage to visit Jim’s grave, and pay tribute to him.

As you may know, Songs of Praise came from Lenzie last week, and it was led by Kenneth McKellar.  When Kenneth began to sing, as a solo, the old Easter hymn, “When I survey the Wondrous Cross,” it was so beautiful that Janet turned up the sound on her TV, and threw open her front door so the visitors could hear it, too.

As Kenneth’s voice soared out into the still, sunny evening, echoing over the fields, the strangers on the road stopped and gathered round Janet’s door to listen.  Then one of them began to sing the hymn quietly, until all of them were singing it with Kenneth McKellar.  Even the village bobby was there, standing with them.

It was one of those magic moments when time seems to stand still – and when the last notes died away and the visitors turned to go, they took with them a memory that will always be green.

A local Borders paper, May 1968.

Jim Clark’s memory still burns bright.  On Saturday (7th April 2018) we drove the Elise up to Duns and Chirnside, fifty years to the day since that tragic accident at Hockenheim on the saddest of Sundays. Newtown Street in Duns was closed off – a variety of Lotus cars lined the road, Classic Team Lotus displayed a collection of his single seaters, there was an anniversary exhibition at Chirnside Hall and a Commemoration Service at Chirnside Church.

Lotus 43

Lotus 43 + the BRM H-16

Duns, 7th April 2018

A small selection the Evoras and Elises at Duns

Lotus 11 Westfield replica,

This is one of my favourite stories from that sad time which occurred many miles from the small town of Chirnside.  I first came across it in Eric Dymock’s 1997 book – Jim Clark – Tribute to a Champion, Prologue and Epilogue, page 26 – it is unattributed.  The Motor Sport archive is more specific: Shortly after Ed and Sally (Swart) moved to California in 1980 they attended a beach party where one of the guests told them that the day after Clark’s death he had been driving along the 405 freeway.  The announcer on the radio suggested that all those listening who were mourning the death of “the great racing driver Jim Clark” should turn on their headlights. He said the whole of the 405 lit up.

Northumberland in mono …

… by now these images should show hints of springtime colour but Northumberland, for the most part, remains determinedly black and white.  To quote Joan Didion, we live entirely by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.  Put simply, March, and now the beginnings of April, do not fit my narrative line.  I have put 498 miles on the Yamaha since January 1st and squeezed five rounds of golf between the snow showers. Every mile and every fairway I have been clobbered up to the nines with multiple layers and thermals.  Enough is enough – let’s skip spring and go straight to summer:

Sandhoe in the snow

Snow and frozen puddle – on the road to Fawcett Hill

Afternoon light, Beaufront Woodhead

Up the hill to Beaufront Woodhead

Under March skies

The wrong line

St John’s, Whitfield

Misty morning, Beaufront Woodhead

Misty morning, Beaufront Woodhead

Hexham in heavy rain

Stublick Chimney

Towards Branchend

To emphasise the point, these last two images were taken today, 1st April. I was on the way to Allendale Golf Club to take part in the first competition of the year – it soon became evident this was not a practical proposition. I turned around 😦

The Cross

Given the proximity of the ‘b’ and the ‘n’ on the QWERTY keyboard, this place could be easily dismissed as a typo.  Approaching from the east via Gilsland and West Hall, Bewcastle seems impractically distant from anywhere.  In the words of Peter Davidson, it feels like the last of England.  The sheep and cattle roam free under the Border’s wide skies, at a point where Northumberland, Cumbria and southernmost Scotland meet.  Davidson compares its remoteness with that of Norway’s northernmost Sami territory, Finnmark.  It was probably this, more than anything, that determined I must go.

And yet, for all its remoteness, there is obvious evidence that, at various times in ancient history, this place possessed significance.  There is the corvid haunted castle, the church which stands on the same land once occupied by a Roman fort and, within the graveyard, the Bewcastle Cross,  the finest Anglican Cross in Europe. Dating from the 7th century, it is dedicated to Alcfrith, son of Oswiu, King of Northumberland who ruled from 641 – 670 ADwww.bewcastle.com.

Bewcastle Cross, St Cuthbert’s Church

St Cuthbert’s Church

Peter Davidson again – The Idea of North – Topographies , Britain:  The point of the Bewcastle Cross within any idea of the English north is the absolute, internationalist sophistication of its iconography and execution: the vine scrolls are eastern Mediterranean in inspiration; the panel of Christ is derived, via Ireland, from Coptic sources. This is as sophisticated an artefact as the England of the late seventh century was capable of producing: it has details consonant with the sculpture of contemporary Rome.  It forces a reconsideration of the whole question of centre and periphery, standing as it now does in a hamlet at the very edge of England where to go further north you would have to walk to reach Scotland.  By drove roads, moss-troopers’ tracks, memorised secret paths to the frontier.

Rome, 1141 miles

The road to New House

Between Park Farm and The Wilderness

The ford at Rawney

These last images are from a four mile, circular walk that heads north from Bewcastle towards New House, west to Park Farm, south to Lyne Bank Bridge and east, back to Bewcastle.  Examine the OS map and the entire area is criss-crossed by footpaths, bridle paths and farm tracks – the memorised secret paths to the frontier.

We will return – not least because Bryony and Joy at the relatively nearby Scypen were so welcoming, late on a March Sunday afternoon.

OS Map view of walk

Winter-misted Hills

Beyond our neighbours’ frosted washing lines,
Their silvered slates and chimney-pots,
Our borderland begins …
Make what you can of it, for no one knows
What story’s told by winter-misted hills.

Douglas Dunn – Northlight 1988

Fawcett Hill

Looking west from Fawcett Hill

Towards Beaufront Woodhead from Fawcett Hill

No way through to Beaufront Hill Head

Cabin crazy

This is the sort of thing that I find interesting, particularly when I have been cooped up for too long.  Anyone who uses a Fuji X camera appreciates the remarkable jpegs it is capable of producing straight out of the box.  However, as a ‘serious’ photographer, I feel obliged to shoot in RAW to provide maximum scope for adjustment – change to exposure, recovery of highlights, adjusting shadows etc etc, the possibilities are endless.  Consequently, I spend happy hours post-processing an image to the point where sometimes it is almost as good as the film simulated jpeg produced by the camera.

There are other options – Photoshop Camera RAW camera calibration contains all of the film simulation profiles which, at the click of a mouse, supposedly provide immediate conversion to the preferred profile – except that, even to this amateur eye, they don’t look as good as those produced in camera.

Enter Fujifilm’s X RAW Studio – I don’t know if this approach is unique to Fuji but it seems a very neat solution. This isn’t just another RAW processor, instead it enables access to the image processor inside the camera.  Consequently, what you get is exactly what Fuji intended; not only that, it is non-destructive so you can generate as many film simulated versions as you like, all from the same original RAW file i.e. if you are shooting RAW + a simulated JPEG, you are not constrained to one version of the JPEG.  There are detailed explanations of the set up and conversion process on Youtube – this is a good one.

If my ramblings are clear as mud, perhaps this will make more sense – this is the same image – shot in RAW and Acros + Red filter JPEG and these are four versions of the same image with four different Fuji film simulations:

  • Top left is Vivid/Velvia with strong grain;
  • Top right is Acros+Yellow filter with strong grain;
  • Bottom left is Sepia with no grain;
  • Bottom right is Classic Chrome with no grain.

Not only are these none destructive edits to the original RAW file, the subsequent JPEG edits are also preserved in *.FP1 files so they can be reloaded and amended further.  All of this done with the convenience of a large monitor, rather than peering into the camera’s LCD.

How often I will use X Raw Studio I am unsure, given that I am already post-processing with Photoshop CC, ON1 2018 RAW and occasionally ON1 B&W (this remains a very effective mono engine even though replaced many releases ago).  Nevertheless, it is good to know the option exists.

Anyway enough of that.  The reason I am going cabin crazy is down to the endless hours in front of this screen.  The Siberian snow has now been replaced by a dull wet slushy thaw and I can find no enthusiasm to go outside – unlike the previous few days.  This has been the weather in and around Hexham:

Our under-used postbox – we haven’t seen a post person in days.

Egger from Oakwood – on a smartphone – too weighed down with shopping, even for the diminutive X100F.

The view from Hexham Bridge using a smartphone – as above.

The road down to Hexham

A flock of sheep ane behind, a Flock of Seagulls