… memories are made of this.
The joy comes from the company, the startling landscape and the occasionally well struck golf ball. The grief comes from the sliced drive into a rising westerly, the ball never to be seen again. Sconser and Traigh are the distilled essence of Golf in the Wild – when the going gets tough, the tough don’t get going, they stand and stare.
It has become an annual ritual – drive part way into Scotland on Thursday night; head for Skye on Friday morning and meet up with David C of ScottishGolfbyTrain; play Sconser on Friday afternoon; catch the Ferry to Mallaig from Armadale on Friday evening; play in the Traigh Open on Saturday. People might question the sanity of driving such distances (760 miles) for golf but that’s life, some will get it, some won’t. It’s like riding a motorcycle at high speed or throwing an Elise into a long sweeping corner – until you have done it, there is no understanding.
I cannot get enough of Traigh so when the golf is done, I head for the ridge across the top of the course to watch the setting sun – there is nowhere else that provides such a magnificent panorama of the long day closing:
… below the golf course at Traigh.
… the clubhouse from the beach at Traigh
… the third green at Traigh.
… the view from the second tee at Traigh.
… below the golf course at Traigh.
… the ninth green at Traigh
On an entirely different topic, music has become a too cheap commodity. As a full subscriber to Amazon Music, I have access to a vast library way beyond my teenage imaginings. New releases are immediately available, listened to and then largely forgotten as I move on to grab the next handful of free sweets. I have lost touch with the cherished LP, the carefully considered purchase and the endless plays until every track was imprinted. I mention this because I hooked up my phone to the hire car’s sound system to find that only three albums were accessible, all by The Boxer Rebellion. After twelve hours behind the wheel, all the tracks are now reassuringly familiar:
Everything passes, everything changes. The objects I idolised as a boy are now museum pieces and the heroes I worshipped are gone but, the obsessions remain. I am old enough to look at these machines and remember their day of revolution; the days they rolled off the transporter ramps into a world aghast at their modernity. I am old enough to remember the consequences of their frailties.
plural noun: relics
– an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest.
– a part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence.
Both definitions apply. All of these machines have personal significance beyond their histories: the first time I saw them in the pages of Autosport; the first time I saw them in the ‘flesh’; the first time I saw them in flight; the still moment I heard of the tragedies. All of them represent remembrance of things past and none more so than those that carry the green and yellow badge:
Maybe in some distant place, everything is already, quietly, lost. Or at least there exists a silent place where everything can disappear, melding together in a single, overlapping figure. And as we live our lives we discover – drawing towards us the thin threads attached to each – what has been lost.
Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
Jim Clark’s 1967 Dutch GP winning Lotus 49 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel.
Rindt’s Lotus 72 – the Donington Collection
Lotus 25 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel.
Lotus 25 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel
Like Runcorn, Worsley is another place I would never think to go but for the canals. Also, like Runcorn, it is on a branch of the Bridgewater Canal although in this instance it ultimately leads somewhere – to Leigh and a branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Despite its proximity to Manchester’s extensive motorways and the industrial centre of Trafford Park, Worsley is significantly more prosperous than Runcorn; it is almost prettified. The approach by canal requires a high level crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal, achieved by the remarkable Barton Swing Aqueduct – a waterborne route designed to swing open for the passage of ships beneath. I don’t know if the aqueduct is still able to swing nor if it is ever necessary – large shipping into Manchester ceased many years ago. I last passed this way in 1980 when the bridge was still manned:
… crossing the Manchester Ship Canal by water.
… the Barton Swing Aqueduct – a view of the Manchester Ship Canal and Barton Road Bridge
The canal is at Worsley’s centre, overlooked by the magnificent Packet House – this grade 2 listed building, and the Boat Steps directly in front of it, date back to 1760 and the half-timbering was added in c.1850 by the 1st Earl of Ellesmere. You would have purchased your ticket for the ‘packet boat’ at the Packet House and boarded at the Boat Steps.
To the right of the Packet House is the entrance to the Delph, a forty six mile underground canal system which intersected with coal mines to the north. It was built on four different levels and connected by a water powered inclined plane and lifts. There is a neat symmetry to this engineering marvel. The underground waterways provided a connection from the mines to the surface, transporting coal on narrow thin-ribbed boats nicknamed starvationers. The canals provided an effective drainage system for the waterlogged pits and the water from the pits helped feed the canal. The bright orange of the system around Worsley provides ongoing evidence that the supply system remains in place. The Delph and its tunnels are my idea of hell – the creepy 2926 yard Harecastle Tunnel is as subterranean as I am prepared to get. The final image shows an inspector legging a starvationer in the 1960s (I assume the water levels have risen since the tunnels were last used commercially, that or working conditions were even worse than I imagined).
The Packet House
The Boat House
Filling the water tank
… heading back to the Bridgewater mainline.
One of the benefits of travel on the English canals is that it takes you places you would never think to go, some by routes hardly ever used. Why else would you think to go to Runcorn. The branch that leaves the Bridgewater at Preston Brook once connected this stretch of inland water to the much grander Manchester Ship Canal but, no more. The locks that connected Runcorn’s Waterloo Basin with the Mersey and later, the Manchester Ship Canal have been filled in but their outlines remain and it is still possible to walk much of the route. The Unlock Runcorn website provides the full history and the hope that one day this route will return to navigation.
It is not the Bridgewater Canal that predominates in Runcorn, it is the bridges – the Runcorn Railway Bridge opened in 1868 (also known as the Ethelfleda Bridge) and the Silver Jubilee Road Bridge opened in July 1961. The bridges span both the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey at Runcorn Gap – I suspect most speed across without being aware of the town beneath. It isn’t pretty but it has its attractions:
Silver Jubilee and Railway Bridges, Runcorn
The bright side of Runcorn
Waterloo Bridge, Runcorn
Silver Jubilee Bridge, Runcorn
The Clarendon, Runcorn
The Chambers Building, Runcorn
The ‘beach’, Runcorn
I have been neglecting this blog. The weather has been unusually good, flaming June has given Northumberland a taste of Tuscany or, should that be North-umbria. These images, which have all appeared on Blip, explain the neglect – there will be plenty of time to sit at the keyboard over the winter months 😦 – frost and snow are not conducive to bikes or golf:
… to Carter Bar via Carlisle and Hawick – 134 miles
The Monster – clean and at rest
Press start for instant exhilaration
Skid risk … actually a certainty with steep gradients and hairpins.
To Vindolanda under hot Northumbrian skies
It has taken time but, with the persistence of an unreformed trainspotter, I have concluded that this motorcycle is a Triumph 494cc Model P. Standing proudly in front of the sidecar is my mother aged about four while Mrs Kipper sits, queen-like, on her mobile throne. The motorcycle was introduced at the 1924 Motor Cycle Show and fits perfectly with family chronology – this photograph was probably taken by my grandfather around 1926-27 and I would guess the machine is nearly new, just possibly on its maiden voyage.
The tell-tale signs are the shape and markings on the fuel tank, the forks and the size and shape of the guards which distinguish it from the Triumph Ricardo. All of the minor details match images of other Model Ps. The number plate indicates it was registered in Portsmouth, an invigorating fifty mile ride from Andover.
According to Bonhams, the Model P was a landmark machine in the development of the motorcycle in Britain. A no-frills, sidevalve-engined model, the newcomer was priced at £42 17s 6d, at which level it undercut every other 500cc machine then on sale in the UK. The first batch manufactured was not without its faults, but once these had been sorted the Model P was a runaway success. Output from Triumph’s Priory Street works was soon running at an astonishing 1,000 machines per week, and the Model P’s arrival undoubtedly hastened the demise of many a minor manufacturer. At auction, a restored Model P will now sell for around £9000.
As the owner of a Triumph Scrambler, I now know there is a distant connection with my maternal grandfather’s choice of machinery, at a time when there were many more manufacturers to choose from. My Scrambler is an 865 cc, air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin. You can trace the origin of this machine back through the 1959 T120 Bonneville, the 1953 Tiger T110, the 1950 Thunderbird and the 1938 Triumph Speed Twin. My bike and that of my grandfather’s are not so distantly related as might be imagined.
The Scrambler, back at Crindledykes on new rubber – Michelin Anakees
When I want to go back, I head for the sea. For all our modern advances, our relationship with sand and water is unchanged in my lifetime. These images could have been taken any time in the last sixty years. There is a quality of light in the sky as you approach the sea which is apparent long before you arrive at the coast. It is this I remember from long ago summer holidays, summers when the sands were too hot to walk on barefoot. I am still drawn by that light:
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
Behind the dunes is the wonderful Alnmouth Village Golf Course, the oldest 9-hole course in England. On this day the fairways were brown and hard meaning the ball would run forever. By comparison, the greens were islands of lush green. I was frustrated not to be playing – in my head, sand sea and golf are inseparable.
Alnmouth Village golf course