The Battlefield Line

The delight of the Ashby Canal is not only that the Triumph Factory and Museum nestle on its banks at Hinckley but also, not much further north along the towpath, is the Battlefield Line Railway.  A short stretch of rails that run north from Shenton to Shackerstone via Market Bosworth, more or less parallel with the canal.  To the east and ten minutes walk from Shenton Station is Bosworth Field and its Heritage Centre – The Battle of Bosworth Field (or Battle of Bosworth) was the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York that extended across England in the latter half of the 15th century. Fought on 22 August 1485, the battle was won by the Lancastrians. Their leader Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, by his victory became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty. His opponent, Richard III, the last king of the House of York, was killed in the battle. Historians consider Bosworth Field to mark the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, making it a defining moment of English and Welsh history – Wiki – Battle of Bosworth Field.

The day was dark and damp which was entirely in keeping with a steamy outing.  My boyhood was spent hanging around once grand Victorian stations in search of trains and their numbers.  In the immediate post-war period these underfunded filthy cathedrals were a second home – the engines, the rolling stock, the buildings, the drivers and the firemen were all soot-blackened.  Rain, smog and the darkness were their perfect companions. This is what I remember, this is what I search for – judging by the volunteers of a certain age that run the Battlefield Railway, I am not alone:

5542 at Market Bosworth

5542 at Shenton

5542 at Market Bosworth

Paul, the ticket man

5542 at Shackerstone

5542 at Market Bosworth

Ticket Office at Market Bosworth

Waiting Room at Market Bosworth

Ticket Office, Shackerstone

The museum, Shackerstone

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Danger – do not proceed …

Owning a motorcycle is like owning a dog, you can get into long conversations with people who would ordinarily pass you by.

The stop at Bellingham was planned – the Yamaha has a fuel gauge but its advice is at best vague.  It always pays to independently keep track of mileage and expected range – about 150 miles maximum.  This is particularly so when heading north up the A68 – without diversions there are no petrol pumps between Hexham and Jedburgh.  Hence the plan to fill up at Bellingham – a scenic diversion which worked well except my arrival coincided with a tanker delivery.  Within minutes the driver had expressed an interest in my bike and so the fifteen minute wait was filled with conversation.  The same thing happened later in the day when I made a brief detour to the Holy Island causeway; an elderly chap was keen to tell me all about the Vincent he once owned and wished he still did

I was heading for Haddington to the east of Edinburgh – first to collect some copies of David Shaw Stewart’s excellent Views from the Tee and then to meet my eldest for lunch.  Rather than retrace my steps I returned via the A1.  This is a longer route home but the northern stretches near the coast can be spectacular and the dual carriageway allows the cobwebs to be air-blasted from the Yamaha.  These are just some images from the day – a splendid 220 mile ride out in perfect autumnal weather:

Filling up the filling station, Bellingham

Haddington in autumnal sunshine

Robert Ferguson of Raith memorial – Haddington

From the causeway to Holy Island

You have been warned

On the causeway bridge

Another view from the causeway bridge

A summer with Joan …

The White AlbumWhere I Was FromSlouching Towards Bethlehem – all stories of distant places in a distant time – scattered with searing observation that make place, time and distance irrelevant.  Joan Didion has the capacity to invade your thoughts, for days on end:

Notes from a Native Daughter (Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
Perhaps in retrospect this has been a story not about Sacramento at all, but about the things we lose and the promises we break as we grow older; perhaps I have been playing out unawares the Margaret in the poem (Spring and Fall – Gerard Manley Hopkins):

Margaret are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving? …
It is the blight man was born for
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Where I was From – Part Four
Flying to Monterey I had a sharp apprehension of the many times before when I had, like Lincoln Steffens, “come back”, flown west, followed the sun, each time experiencing a lightening of spirit as the land below opened up, the checkerboards of the midwestern plains giving way to the vast empty reach between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada; then home, there, where I was from, me, California.  It would be a while before I realized that “me” is what we think when our parents die, even at my age, who will look out for me now, who will remember me as I was, who will know what happens to me now, where will I be from.

…  We kissed, we had a drink together, we promised to keep in touch.  A few months later Nancy was dead, of cancer, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.  I sent the recital program to Nancy’s brother, to send on to her daughter.  I had my grandmother’s watercolor framed and sent it to the next oldest of her three daughters, my cousin Brenda in Sacramento.
I closed the box and put it in a closet.
There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.

It has been an obsessive and busy summer.  When thoughts jostle for space, I escape – two wheels at speed empties the head, concentrates the mind and lifts the spirit.  I seek out empty and abandoned places – I want no distractions.

Border Park Services

Abandoned years ago

Where the fuel prices are frozen in time

Before departing I had worked out a circular route going north along the A68, into Scotland towards Selkirk and then south to Kielder. Not for the first time, I was thwarted by road closures, this time the B6357. When did this become the norm rather than the exception – much to my annoyance, I was briefly distracted 😉

You don’t need a weatherman …

… to know which way the wind blows – Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan, recorded on January 14, 1965.  According to english.stackexchange.com, the lyric was the inspiration for the name of the American radical left group the Weathermen, a breakaway from the Students for a Democratic Society. In a 2007 study of legal opinions and briefs that found Bob Dylan was quoted by judges and lawyer more than any other songwriter, “you don’t need a weatherman…” was distinguished as the line most often cited.

I mention this apropos of nothing other than I was at Traigh for their Open over the weekend and, as always, from the high points on the course, you don’t need a weatherman, you can see the weather coming for miles and there was plenty of it.

The view from the 3rd tee

The Clubhouse – the umbrella accurately indicates that the sun was only a passing fancy

Threatening weather

Not immediately apparent, but my bottom half is drenched 😦

The view from the 2nd tee

Looking back to the 2nd tee – Traigh Open 2018 – the essence of Golf in the Wild

While I am going off at tangents, I will make this not particularly original observation – to fully appreciate any music you must hear it in the context of its own time. This track and everything else on Bringing It All Back Home was a shining beacon of originality which inevitably fades with time and the production of more than 50 years worth of subsequent music. Nevertheless, I can still remember the excitement felt by that introverted 14 year-old as this album first emerged from the single speaker of the family Dansette. All the words are still inside my head.

The Friends’ Meeting House

In the sparsely populated land between Plenmeller and Coanwood Commons, on the edge of Garbutt Hill is a burn which flows north to feed the southern Tyne.  Across a stone bridge which leads to Burn House, tucked into a fold in the land is The Friends’ Meeting House.  Wandering these lost lanes on a motorcycle, it is surprising what you find.  According to the Historic Chapels Trust, “Coanwood Friends’ Meeting House was built in 1760 not far from Hadrian’s Wall. The almost unaltered interior is a rare and eloquent survival of historic Quaker layout and it powerfully evokes the silence of Quaker worship in this remote place, where the only sound is usually the wind and, in winter, the fast-moving burn nearby”.

I first found the chapel in April but did not venture inside, just assuming the door would be locked.  Earlier this week I returned to its simple, peaceful interior:

The Friends’ Meeting House

The interior

Quaker Faith & Practice

Ordnance Survey Leisure Map

A bit like dogs, motorcycles get you talking. A local, removing moss from the nearby stone bridge, was a disappointed owner of a Harley. The conversation moved from bikes to Chapels and the equally interesting, if more ornate, ancient Church at Beltingham set in the centre of the tiny village. This is where I will head next.

Opposite the Friends’ Meeting House – that large screen has been replaced.

Alnmouth

This blog is being neglected, not as a result of a conscious decision but simply through lack of time.  In part this is due to the ongoing heatwave in the UK; I don’t remember anything like it since 1976.  We travelled in the first part of the year but now I am locked into a cycle of golf, golf administration and putting many miles on motorcycles.  In short, I am making hay while the sun shines because at some point this must end.

This set of images is from a trip to the coast over the weekend.  It is perhaps indicative of a compulsive tendency that the coastal walk should skirt two golf courses, Alnmouth Village and the Foxton.  Perhaps I am in need of help 🙂

The Foxton golf course, Alnmouth

Alnmouth beach as the temperatures rise

On the beach Alnmouth beach

One man, two dogs, Alnmouth beach

Alnmouth beach

Northumberland’s fields of gold

Amble Harbour, lazin’ on a sunny afternoon

First impressions …

I knew nothing of this place before I came, Southwold, indeed Suffolk was a mystery.  All I knew had been gleaned from the endless repeats of Coast on the BBC.  Except, for some reason, I remembered that Gordon Brown had holidayed here.  Regardless of your political persuasion, Gordon, a son of the manse, is never going to be your first point of reference for advice on having a good time.

As it turns out, according to Andrew Rawnsley, the holiday was nothing more than a PR stunt by Sarah Brown, an initiative designed to suggest that the Prime Minister was on the same wavelength as middle England.  History shows it didn’t work, not only that, “he hated every minute of it and couldn’t wait to get back to Scotland”.  Like I said, not your first point of reference for advice on having a good time.

It may appeal to middle England but it has a distinctly New England feel.  There is nothing to hate and much to like – busier than I would prefer (it is the end of half-term week), it is pretty, unspoilt and not overtly commercialised.  So far we have only spent time in Halesworth, Southwold and Walberswick but, it is already easy to imagine coming back:

Across the River Blyth, Southwold Harbour

Fish for sale, Southwold Harbour

Sheds at Southwold Harbour

The ferry, Southwold Harbour

Some like fishing, some don’t

Southwold in a sea mist

Southwold beach and distant pier in a sea mist