+++*

Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘walking’

A random passer-by

Or, on rural etiquette

I’m still taking some time to get used to the idea that we live on the edge of the countryside now. Yes, the village we live in is something of an unfocused suburban affair with no real centre, Victorian terraces and post-war cul-de-sacs* with churches and chapels and grocery stores scattered through it in a random, unplanned and unfocused way like cherries in a fruit cake. Nevertheless, we live on the edge of it. A few minutes away, after going up one dead-end and taking a short-cut between two others, you are out among fields. Oak trees and pine plantations look down on you; and further up the valley, you can see the beginnings of mountains. If you climb the ridge, and look back, our village and the neighbouring ones are spread out below you; and in the distance the Severn Sea is a silver gleam on the horizon in front of a blue and misty Somerset.

This would look much better taken with a proper camera

Hilltop oaks

As the countryside goes it’s fairly busy with people, especially at the moment when exercise has to be within walking distance. At any time of day, even a weekday, there are dog-walkers, joggers, pony-exercisers and people like me just off out for a wander down all of the lanes and up many of the paths. And this is what I’m not used to: all of these people, or almost all, will greet you with a cheery “Hello!” as they pass.

Coming from an inner-city neighbourhood where that sort of behaviour would have people assuming you were trying to rob them, I’m really not used to having to respond to it. I still can’t work out the timing. As someone approaches, I start to think: “are they a greeter? Or a not-greeter? They don’t look like a gre…” and then a sudden “Hello!” startles me and my greeting in response turns into a strange, half-strangled squeaky grunt somewhere between brain and voice.

A dark and mysterious pine plantation

The best answer I have is to fix them with eye contact before they speak and give a firm, silent nod. The sort of firm, silent nod that says: we are passing by on equal terms, as people who Appreciate the Landscape and do not need to spoil it with Unnecessary Noise. Even if they say something, the Firm Silent Nod is a good approach to take, removing any risk that my vocal cords will malfunction and produce something unintelligble at a key and crucial moment. Stoic fellow-travellers, we can be, briefly united in the siblinghood of tramping the land. There’s no need to spoil the illusion, now, is there.

This might not work in a few weeks time, when I’ve spotted the same people more than once. For now, that hasn’t happened; as yet I don’t even recognise people who live on the same street as me. If people start to see me frequently and it starts to become awkward, maybe I’ll have to come up with a different strategy. We’ll have to wait and see.

* or, if you prefer, culs-de-sac

Photo post of the week

Ger y camlas

One aspect of moving house, especially if you move to a completely different neighbourhood or another town altogether, is the joy you can have in exploring the new area, finding all the interesting corners and places to go. In the current hospitals-overflowing stay-at-home situation, this is a bit limited; but at least there is exploration that can still be done on foot. In Bristol I was getting rather jaded of all the places I could visit on foot, even when it led to interesting local history blog posts. Now, there’s a whole new set of avenues of local history to explore.

One of the spots I can reach on foot is a quiet, sleepy canal backwater. You can’t even use it as a canal any more; most of the road bridges have been demolished or flattened out (or are roads that didn’t even exist when the canal was in use), so you can’t get any sort of boat under them. It’s essentially a long pond, busy with ducks and moorhens, and with its towpath busy with walkers.

Along the canal

Along the canalbank there are a few surviving hints of its industrial archaeology. Here, for example, is a mid-19th-century boundary post.

Canal boundary

This post must be from some decades after the canal was built, because “MR&CC” is the Monmouthshire Railway & Canal Company; and the canal company only added “Railway” into its name in the 1850s. The canal—the Crumlin arm of the Monmouthshire Canal—was built in the 1790s, but within 10 years of its opening some of its main users were looking to replace it with a railway. Not wanting to lose revenue, the canal company agreed to split the railway* midway: the lower half was built by the canal company and the upper by the owners of the Tredegar ironworks, with the dividing line at the nine-mile mark eventually becoming the village of Nine Mile Point. At opening in around 1805, the combined system was the longest railway network in the world, and quite a few stretches of the route are still in use now.

Later on, the split at Nine Mile Point was preserved. The upper section, the Sirhowy Railway, was bought by the London & North Western Railway. The canal company, though, was bought by the Great Western Railway, and some of their signage survives along the canal bank too.

GWR sign

This is a standard design of weight restriction sign—there are other GWR examples along other GWR-owned canals, and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway has a North Eastern Railway one.

No doubt I will have a lot more to say about local history in the future. As yet I’m not even sure what questions I want to ask, let alone have started to investigate the answers. At least when I do, though, I’ll be able to enjoy the scenery as I go. Even when I can only explore places I can reach on foot, there is still an awful lot to sit down and look at.

Bench

Mynydd Machen

* A quick terminology note: I’ve used the word “railway” in something of a blanket way here. The railways I’m talking about were built as what are now called “plateways”, with flanged track and unflanged wheels. At the time, in South Wales, they were generally (but not always) called “tramways” or “tramroads”.

New Year's Day

Or, the sights of Bristol

Went into town today, walking via Riverside Park. As we walked down River St, we were overtaken by a Hipster Dad pushing his buggy, rather faster than us.

At the passageway from St Matthias Square through to Temple Way, there are usually homeless men sheltering, by the huge hot air outlet vents from the local branch of Future Inns. Today, when we reached it, there were several. One hunched up on the floor, back against the wall. One stood, arm outstretched touching the wall, body shaking with tremors, face fixed solid. Another next to him, concerned; Hipster Dad on his phone calling an ambulance.

After getting a few things in town we walked up and down the harbour: along the north bank from the Centre down to Gas Ferry, across on the ferry boat then back along the other bank to Prince St Bridge - which is now a temporary scaffolding bridge way up above the normal one. The harbourside was much busier than town, with people out and about for a New Years Day walk. People who, of course, didn’t really know what they were doing. There was a long queue for the ferry boat, with people standing about, getting confused, trying to count up if they had enough money for the fare. “They’ll be needing to make twin and triple wheelchairs soon,” said an old woman in the queue who saw our double buggy, “because there’s not enough people to look after us all.” As we walked back along the other side, The Child Who Likes Fairies was very excited by the stabled stock of the Harbour Railway - “Choot! Choot!” and insisted on giving it all a very close look and playing with the vacuum bags.

Bitter

In which we go for a walk

Went for a walk on the beach today, to try out a new camera lens.* I’m told that brisk exertion can be good when you’re feeling down; and struggling through the biting wind across the dunes always seems to leave me more cheerful than I was before. When I was too tired for the sand, I moved down and walked along the firm mud at the edge of the saltmarsh instead.

Even at half a mile, the roar of the breaking waves was a loud, constant growl. I stood and watched ships lining up and waiting to be piloted upriver, and tried to take photos of the changing weather.

(as they are on film, you’ll have to wait)

* Nikkor AF 35-70mm 1:3.3-4.5, if you care – an early 90s model, I think. I can never understand Nikon lens ranges. I don’t normally go for zoom lenses either, but it was only £35.