The Irvine Welsh book title is derived from a scene where two of the main characters, Begbie and Renton, meet an old drunk in the disused Leith Central Station which they are using as a toilet. The drunk asks the two boys if they are “trainspotting”. I guess this is meant to be amusing on several levels, the prime one being that that there are no trains. The station closed to passenger traffic in 1952 and although it was retained as a diesel maintenance depot, this too ceased in 1972. The station has been demolished but the frontage retained. These sorts of facts appeal to an ex-trainspotter. I have never got beyond the first twenty minutes of the film and have never felt inclined to read the book – not so much a soap opera, more a dope opera. I mention this only because I have found myself hanging around Mallaig station waiting for steam trains to arrive these last couple of days. It takes me back.
A trip to the local Heritage Centre provided some more appealing facts. The station was originally much grander. The platforms were covered, a turntable was located in a siding, roughly on the site of the current seashore car park and, a separate line used to run down to the quay to enable loading direct from the fishing boats. Without the turntable, the Jacobite must swap ends at Mallaig and reverse back to Fort William.
Mallaig still thrives but it has much less to do with fish. There is a constant supply of through traffic/people on the ferries to/from Skye and twice a day in the summer, the steam trains disgorge carriage loads of visitors. This must work wonders for the local traders, at least in the summer months:
K1 Class Locomotive 62005
62005 swapping ends at Mallaig
Black 5 45212 arriving at Mallaig
A mixed-traffic locomotive designed by Sir William Stanier in 1934
Keeping a clean machine
Black 5’s, as they were known by enthusiasts, totalled 842 by the time the last was built in 1951.
45212 about to swap ends
I have been waiting for this for a while. Driving up from Hexham, tell-tale dust was blowing across the road. Armed with the X-Pro2 and the Fujinon 18-55mm zoom I was back to the field in minutes hoping to catch a monster in action. It did not disappoint – a Claas harvester was lumbering around in ever-decreasing circles throwing up vast dust clouds to confuse the enemy.
It was a super-heated afternoon with a hot sun piercing high dark clouds – it was very ominous. Within an hour biblical rain was falling on Hexham, the harvester and all souls beneath. It seemed unlikely that the harvest has been completed in time and, sure enough, this morning there was still a large patch of uncut oilseed rape and an abandoned combine harvester. The dust in the air had been replaced by expletives:
Will I see you give more than I can take
Will I only harvest some?
As the days fly passed
Will we lose our grasp
Or fuse it in the sun.
… You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don’t understand
Just what you will say
When you get home
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
Top House 2 – North Shields
Jackie and Helen
Arrid Foo on percussion
Jaktrax & Arrid Foo
Top House 2.
The night wears on.
… the bikes have taken me in the last few days in search of images. The old rolling stock being put to an agricultural use sits in a field above Allendale. Thorneyburn is way over yonder in the minor key – between Bellingham and Kielder. Linnels Bridge and the Mill are on the road between Hexham and Slaley. The transport for most of this can be seen in the last. What an unpredictable summer it has been.
Old rolling stock
The gates at Thorneyburn
A cross at Thorneyburn
The Mill at Linnels Bridge
Above Allendale and Catton
The trip to Duns has become an annual pilgrimage. Last year in April, to commemorate fifty years since Jim Clark’s death at Hockenheim in 1968 and, this year, for the opening of the extended and much enhanced museum. Last year in the Elise, this year, 167 miles on the F850 GS on a perfect day for riding.
The displays include a new commemorative film, his trophies, a walk-around time-line of memorabilia and two of his iconic vehicles: the Lotus 25 R6 on loan from the Tinguely Museum Switzerland and a Lotus Cortina on loan from Dario Franchitti – perfect choices. Clark was stunning in any Lotus but for real entertainment, there was no better sight than Jim flying the Ford at ten tenths through the apex on three wheels.
The Power of One
The Lotus 25 R6
The Lotus Cortina “in flight”
Lotus Cortina – close up
Looking at the Cortina more closely, I was reminded that they were originally badged under the Consul brand. My parents belonged to the ‘Ford family’ owning three consecutive Consuls throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. They have appeared at various times in this blog, including the original MK1. Just at the time they might have gone down the Cortina road, they chose the Corsair – a big mistake, the first being so unreliable, it was quickly replaced by another. I can only assume at a significant discount.
The primary difference between the two Corsairs was that the first’s crunchy column-change was finally replaced with a standard floor-change in the second. Mother had learned with a column-change and in her usual determined fashion, she was sticking to it, long after it was a good idea. When they returned from working abroad in the mid 1970s they remained loyal to Ford, finally acquiring a Mk III Cortina. After that it was a Volvo 343 followed by a series of pedestrian Vauxhalls. As with many other aspects of their later years, automotively they had lost their way.
There is a terrifying beauty to this place. It appears post-apocalyptic which, given its history, is as it should be. Throughout the 20th century the site was used for a wide range of military research programmes, not least by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. Meanwhile, at the northern end of the ‘island’, the Cobra Mist structure stands as a monument to the experimental, Anglo-American, over-the-horizon radar system. The vast complex is now privately owned with rumoured plans to use the building to house an IT server farm.
To the frustration of local volunteers, much of the site is in decay and the National Trust has no interest in maintaining the infrastructure, their primary concern being the bird sanctuary. Even the lighthouse is under threat – perilously close to the shingle beach, the expectation is that one more violent winter storm could see it collapse into the sea.
Orford Ness provides a timely reminder of “Oppenheimer’s deadly toy“. The research that was undertaken on this site cannot be un-invented. The threat of Armageddon remains. Indeed, it could be argued that the threat is greater than at any time since the Cold War with the potential for terrorists and rogue states to get their hands on such technology. Leaving the ‘island’ behind on the ferry to Orford, there is the distinct impression that school children are being wound up to agonise and protest over entirely the wrong threat.
Towards Black Beacon from AWRE 1
Derelict structure around AWRE 1
Looking south towards AWRE 1
More dereliction at AWRE 1 (you cannot reach the Pagodas)
Left behind – sole survivor
Towards the lighthouse
The lighthouse showing desperate attempts to shore up the underlying supports – “one more bad winter and it could be gone”
The lighthouse from the south
Black Beacon from the lighthouse
The approach to AWRE 1
… and other monochromes, from a walk between Portmahomack and Tarbat Ness lighthouse. To get here, head for Inverness, cross the Kessock and Cromarty Bridges, follow the A9 north, by-passing Invergordon, until a turning right is signposted Fearn and beyond. We are here because of golf, a ‘research’ trip for Golf in the Wild – Going Home – golf doesn’t get much wilder than this.
It is also a fine place to stay regardless of the golf: Known in Gaelic as ‘Port MoCholmaig’ or St Colman’s Port, Portmahomack can trace its roots back to 800 AD. Today, this pretty fishing village is well-known locally for its picturesque setting. The only village on the east coast of Scotland that faces due west, Portmahomack can enjoy spectacular sunsets. And because it is situated in an area of the Highlands renowned for its low rainfall, the village doesn’t suffer with those pesky West Coast midges! – http://www.portmahomack.org/
A remarkably flat landscape for much of the road towards the tip of the peninsular, the landscape was purpose-built for aerodromes. More than seventy years after the end of World War II, there is much evidence of the decaying infrastructure that supported RAF Tain. It is also prime farmland, more reminiscent of the Great Plains than a land steeped in ancient Pictish history. There are the inevitable too-yellow fields of oil seed rape but also, acres given over to potato crops, much of which ends up in crackly packets of Walkers Crisps.
Once you reach the coastal village Portmahomack, the landscape roughens up such that the golf course is anything but flat which makes for a thoroughly entertaining 10-hole layout at the top of the village. Golf was first played here in 1894 and the current club established in 1909.
Portmahomack even has its own Carnegie Hall which, by happy coincidence, was playing host to Lizabett Russo on the night we arrived.
These photos ignore the golf as I am honour-bound to occasionally entertain the Good Wife/part-time caddie with walks that don’t include greens and fairways:
Wide open spaces
Oil seed rape.
Tarbat Ness Lighthouse.
Tarbat Ness Lighthouse.