26th November picture of the day…

Tags

, ,

Although today’s been spent working from home I’ve been making a conscious effort to tear myself away from computer screens and get some exercise. After spending 14 days in self-enforced isolation and not leaving the house I swore to myself that as soon as that was over I’d boost my exercise levels again. On thing I’m never going to develop is corns on my bum – so this week I’ve been out every day, getting the steps in. When you live high up on the side of a valley, exercise really isn’t a problem if you’re using ‘Shank’s Pony’ rather than a vehicle. There’s no chance of me getting more than a few metres from the house without hitting a gradient of one severity or another! I must admit I’m feeling better for it too. Mind you having to carry the full camera kit around again is pretty good exercise too – as I found out on Tuesday! I might not be globe-trotting at the moment, it’s more of a regional amble – but it’s better than nothing!

When I have been staring at screens it been to wade through emails and paperwork to sort out some more writing jobs, Ebay sales as well as continue the trek to get all my old slides scanned. I may not be able to leave the country, but the pictures I’m currently scanning of Island-hopping through Indonesia are certainly taking be places – both in space and time….

This leaves me in a quandry. What shall I choose as the picture of the day, as I’ve got so many suitable candidates. Orang-Utans in the Gunung Leuser national park in Sumatra perhaps? No, I’ve done that before (you’ll be able to see loads in the travel gallery tomorrow anyway). Maybe another gorgeous sunset somewhere? Nah, I don’t want to get too predictable. Oh, I know – something you might not have seen. Here’s a last one from Sumatra before Lynn and I started Island hopping. This was taken in Maninjau Town on Lake Meninjau, West Sumatra on the 17th August 1998. The 17th is Indonesia’s Independence day, and the town arranged a parade. Part of that parade involved local children dressing up in regional costumes, both from Sumatra and the rest of the Indonesian Islands. The country has a rich ethnic and religious mix and this parade celebrated that fact – as you can see from this picture.

If you’re interested in looking through more photos from Sumatra (or the rest of the epic trip), you can find them in this gallery on my Zenfolio picture website. I’ll be adding many more shots of other exotic Indonesian Islands over the next few weeks…

MeanwhileI’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank You!

25th November picture of the day…

Tags

, , ,

I’ve been based back at home today after yesterday’s commission in Merseyside so I’ve been kept busy editing the pictures for my client as well as the library shots I took on the journey. Well, that and dealing with an overflowing email inbox, Ebay sales and trying to get fitter after shaking off our self-imposed lockdown lethargy! There’s been a lot to juggle and the days just don’t seem long enough to fit it all in. Oh yes – there was also a blog update on the past 6 weeks events on HS2 (our new high-speed railway). I hadn’t realised it was that long since my last update, or just how much had happened in the intervening time.

Because of the ‘action-packed’ programme I didn’t get out to complete my 12.5k steps until late this evening – which was interesting as it’s the first time I realised there is an impact from the latest lockdown(ish). During the day the levels of road traffic seem unchanged – especially when it comes to the school run. This evening was different as there wasn’t a soul on our local roads. Why would there be – there’s nowhere to go! Everyone’s at home in the evenings which makes it the perfect time to go out for a wander. There was just me, the odd fox and the occasional cat as I bimbled along the road through Scarr Woods and back.

OK, It’s late and I’ve a busy day ahead tomorrow, so here’s the picture of the day, which I scanned earlier. I took this in Mid August 1998 from the rear deck of our Homestay at Lake Maninjau, Sumatra late one evening as the sun set beyond the volcanic crater edge. Having a place that was built on the water’s edge is superb. I’d discovered the Homesty a few years earlier when I passed through on a solo trip in 1992 and I was more than heppy to find it unchanged 6 years later.

If you’re interested in looking through more photos from Sumatra (or the rest of the epic trip), you can find them in this gallery on my Zenfolio picture website. I’ll be adding many more shots of other exotic Indonesian Islands over the next few weeks…

Meanwhile, I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank You!

High Speed 2 (HS2) update number 3.

Tags

,

My last update was back on October 7th, so as so much has been happening recently I though it time for update No 3. Here’s a (by no means exhaustive) round up of news from the past 6 weeks.

On the 7th October HS2 Ltd signed the contract for the first 2 of the Tunnel Boring Machines that will be boring beneath Greater London. These tunnels will be twin bored. At 13 miles each way, and with a combined total of 26 miles, HS2’s London tunnel’s will be the same length as Crossrail.

These machines are part of a package of 10 TBMs purchased to construct the 64 miles of tunnelling along the HS2 route between the West Midlands and London.

The (TBMs) are being built by world leading manufacturer Herrenknecht and will be delivered to the site in the UK by the end of 2021. They’re being designed and manufactured specifically for the London clay and chalk ground conditions they’ll be used in.

These first two London TBMs will be launched from a portal at West Ruislip and will travel 5 miles east, creating the western section of the  Northolt Tunnel. Once they arrive at Green Park Way in Greenford the machines will be extracted from the ground and the site will then be used as a vent shaft. The 8.4 mile tunnel will be completed with a 3.4 mile tunnel drive from Old Oak Common using two further TBMs which are yet to be procured. A second tunnel between Euston and Old Oak Common will complete the remaining 4.5 miles of London tunnel between the two HS2 stations. 

Once the first new TBMs have been built, they will be transported by sea before being delivered to site at the end of 2021. Once assembled, they will begin the tunnel drive from mid 2022, until completion at the beginning of 2024.

Construction London Tunnel Maps

On the 14th October details of a 5 year study into geology along the HS2 route was announced in a partnership with Bath University and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) in a major study of the geology beneath the first phase of Britain’s new high speed railway between the West Midlands and London.  You can read the full details here.

A few days later on the 19th October the designs for the HS2 viaducts at Edgcote (515m long) and Lower Thorpe (210m long) in Northamptonshire were unveiled, along with details of major new wildlife sites and environmental mitigation that will be created. Full detail are here.

An artists impression of the new Edgecote viaduct. (Copyright HS2 Ltd).

Over the weekend of the 24-25th October another engineering milestone was celebrated when a 45 metre, 914 tonne modular bridge was moved into place over the M42 motorway in just 45 minutes! Just like last time, the motorway reopened 24 hours ahead of schedule. More here.

On the 27th October HS2 revealed updated designs for the Canterbury Works vent shaft headhouse and compound, in South Kilburn, London. It will be one of four structures that will be built to provide ventilation and emergency access to the high speed rail line for the 4.5mile long Euston Tunnel between Euston and Old Oak Common. More Here.

Design for the Canterbury Works headhouse and compound. The Canterbury Works site is located in South Kilburn, behind Canterbury Road and Canterbury Terrace and next to the existing railway tracks. Picture Copyright HS2 Ltd.

Just 3 days later, the final design for the Little Missenden vent shaft headhouse was revealed. This will provide ventilation and emergency access to the high-speed railway’s 10 mile-long Chilterns tunnel below. The headhouse is one of four that will be built above a vent shafts leading down to the high speed rail tunnel and is similar in style to the HS2 headhouse at Chalfont St Peter announced earlier this year. More here.

The pace of announcements in November didn’t slack off. There was a slew of news on virtual Meet the Contractor events, substantial grants to community funds and innovative robot technology for the TBMs as well as gold awards for sustainability.

Then, on the 23rd November, the 4 day virtual ‘Meet the contractor’ event went live, with around £12bn worth of contract opportunities. Needless to say, there’s been a lot of interest. You can find out more here.  

On the same day HS2 issued an invitation to tender to five bidders in the running to design, deliver and maintain almost 300 state-of-the-art lifts and escalators for HS2’s four major new stations. The contract is divided into two separate packages for lifts worth up to £267m and escalators worth up to £198m. Shortlisted bidders are;

  • Fujitec UK Ltd
  • Kone Plc
  • Otis Ltd
  • Schindler Ltd
  • Thyssenkrupp Elevator UK Ltd

There’s more details here.

The political front hasn’t been forgotten either. Yesterday the Government published a statement of reasons command paper for the High-Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill. The command paper is titled the ‘Government overview of the case for HS2 Phase 2a and its environmental impacts – Update for the House of Lords’. This is required by Parliamentary Standing Order 83A(9) to assist the House during the third reading of the High-Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill. This document summarises the work that has already been done to assess, control and mitigate the environmental impacts of HS2 Phase 2a, and explains why the government continues to take the view that the HS2 Phase 2a project is worthy of its support.

The 24th was also the day HS2 Ltd invited contractors to bid for first major civils work north of the West Midlands, on the phase 2a route to Crewe. Known as ‘Early Civils Work – Package 2’ (ECW2), the new £50m programme includes a range of enabling works designed to reduce disruption during the main build stage of the project. This includes major highways works and associated utility diversions as well as a range of environmental and other surveys along the 58km route. In a separate deal was a detailed programme of ground investigation along the 2a route, with Hs2 confirming that the latest package – worth £25-30m – has been awarded to Balfour Beatty. More here.

Last on the list is today’s announcement that HS2 and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have agreed to work together to deliver the utility diversions required to enable the planned Birmingham Eastside extension to serve the new HS2 Curzon Street Station on its proposed route to Digbeth. Details here.

Phew! I really do need to do these updates more often! As you can see, there’s a huge amount going on at the moment – and that’s without other work on the ground, such as the continued arrival of the Chiltern Tunnel Boring machines from Germany, whose components continue to be shipped in and moved to sites on the Phase 1 route.

There’s also utilities work still happening, with National Power having successfully installed a bridge at Denham (despite the actions of the tiny protest camp in the area) ready to begin installing the new HV pylons that will replace the old route. Away from the Chilterns and Warwickshire work is picking up the pace in Staffordshire, where clearance of trees and scrub has picked up the pace. You can find a detailed look at what’s happening up and down the HS2 route by taking a look at the excellent ‘HS2 in your area’ website.

Needless to say, the protests against HS2 have had no significant effect and are well past their peak due to a combination of factors. They never managed to attract large numbers of people and many of the real activists have rendered themselves useless by getting arrested and being subject to bail conditions/injunctions. Nowadays protests are very small scale and tend to involve one or two people climbing on to lorries before being nicked by the police and carted off to the local co-shop. The minor delays they cause to HS2 work is out of proportion to the inconvenience they cause to locals – who’re getting increasingly unhappy with what they see as a waste of everyone’s time! As protesters seem to be spending more time in court than they do trying to stop HS2 I can only see one way this is going…

Hopefully, once the latest ‘lockdown’ has eased and we know what the new rules are I’ll be able to begin bringing you bulletins from events along the route. In the meantime, I’ll do another update in December. Watch this space…

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

Rolling blog: Earning ‘Lockdown’ lucre…

Tags

, ,

07:00

Ugh! I’d almost forget what it’s like to have the alarm set for before sparrowfart. Those nights where you know it’s going to go off at 05:30 and you have fitful sleep because you keep waking up in anticipation. I don’t miss mornings like that – especially this time of year, although today’s started off mild – and dry. The walk down the hill to Sowerby Bridge station was rather pleasent until I got into the town itself. Compared to ‘Lockdown 1’ there’s far more people out and about (me included) so the roads were busy.

I’m currently waiting for the 07:00 to Wigan Wallgate via Manchester. Having left Leeds on time its dropped several minutes already and isn’t expected to arrive until 07:12. Thankfully, I have plenty of time to make my connection in Manchester, so as long as it doesn’t lose any more time…

A York service has just departed with the 3-car carrying just a handful of passengers and there’s only half a dozen of us waiting for the 07:00.

07:20.

I’m on my way, 11 mins late – and no idea why! One of Northern’s 3-car Class 158s (displaced from top-link duties by the new Class 195s) crept into the station to take us to Manchester. After leaving Hebden Bridge there’s now a grand total of 6 of us in the leading car…

07:50.

We’re now speeding towards Manchester after calling at Rochdale. I’ve counted two dozen in our car now, hardly pre-Covid levels but an improvement on the last lockdown.

09:00.

I’m now on the 08:47 Manchester Oxford Rd – Liverpool Line St after walking across a pretty much deserted city centre from Victoria. It’s eerie seeing what’s normally such a thriving place so quiet. This time of morning you expect to see people streaming into work but the only things open that I could see were food outlets – all vieing for what little trade there is. Walking up the ramp to an equally deserted Oxford Rd station was a first! Normally I’d be ducking and diving though the commuters flooding off the station!

The train I’m on is equally quite, although a few dozen did alight when it arrived. Its made up of a 150/156 combo, so there’s no guessing which I chose. It’s refurbished set so we even have the luxury of USB sockets at our tables. I count 3 of us in the whole car…

09:21.

We’re just passing the quiet bulk of Fidlers Ferry power station and it’s almost time for me to get to work. I’ll see If I can post a picture or two from what I’m up to later…

Back when I’m free…

15:00.

Well, that was an interesting few hours work with a film crew PR company and the staff of a major train building firm at their plant in Widnes. There’s a clue in the picture.

I’m beginning to build up a range of masks that’s rivalling my collection of high-vis vests..

Alstom’s Widnes plant is a busy place at the moment. Yesterday, an off-lease Class 321 arrived for experimental conversion to a ‘Breeze’, Hydrogen powered train. 321437 has lost its trailer car (which has gone for scrap) but the remaining 3 cars will be used as a test bed for a potential fleet conversion.

Another part of the plant is busy with the internal and external refurbishment of Transport for Wales Class 175 DMUs (Alstom Coradias, built in the first batch of new trains after privatisation). Two sets were receiving attention whilst I was there. Meanwhile, the plant continues to grow, with new facilities in place ready for the start of the internal refurbishment of the Avanti West Coast which will start in 2021.

21:00.

I’m home and it’s time to bring today’s events to a close. Getting back to work in the thick of an industry that’s kept going throughout the pandemic as it has such a vital role to play’s been really enjoyable. Hopefully, normality will continue to resume now that we’re looking to coming out of the latest restrictions and several vaccines are on the horizon.

Travelling back through Manchester and a city centre where so much is inactive due to Covid makes me realise that normality can’t return soon enough – although I don’t think everything will return to the way it was before. If nothing else, 2020 has given many people pause for thought.

I did grab a few more pictures on my journey home as I stopped off on the way a couple of times, but most of those shots will be saved for other times and other blogs. As it was dark by the time I was walking across from Oxford Rd to Victoria I thought I’d have a play, so there is this shot…

In contrast to many other trains I’d been on today, the 16:58 I caught from Manchester Victoria back across the Pennines was straining at the edges of overcrowding as protocols stand right now. Life is returning and once vaccines are rolled out I’ve little doubt passenger numbers will ramp up rapidly. Will they ever return to pre-Covid norms. I have a view on that, but that’s shared (along with the reasons for it) in Part 3 of my round Britain Trip for RAIL magazine which will hit the newsagents on December 2nd, so I’ll refrain from saying more until then!

Tomorrow I’m back to working from home as I’ve a shedload of new pictures to edit and other work to catch up on. But I hope it won’t be too long before I’m out and about again…

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

23rd November picture of the day…

Tags

, , ,

Another busy day during ‘lockdown’ – or what passes for it this time. The pair of us have been occupied with work all day apart from making a determined effort to get out and get some exercise – despite the rather biting wind and dull weather, although that kept many people at home and out of our way, so it wasn’t all bad!

My routine involved swapping between scanning yet more old slides and replying to emails, along with a bit of housekeeping and cooking. Not exactly the ‘rock and roll’ lifestyle, but at least things are moving in the right direction and getting us prepared to exit what’s probably been the shittiest year on record on an even keel – which is more than some poor unfortunates will be able to do.

I’ll end today’s missive with a picture of the day from today’s batch of old slide scans. It was taken at a Homestay at Lake Maninjau in West Sumatra in August 1998. I’d spent time here back in 1992 when I used it as a base for a jungle-trekking trip to the Mentawai Islands, and there was no way I was going to miss stopping there again as it’s so spectacular and so peaceful. This photo opportunity came out of the blue as one of the many kittens around our homestay decided to explore by leaping onto a backlit table just as I had my camera to hand.

If you’re interested in looking through more photos from Sumatra (or the rest of the epic trip), you can find them in this gallery on my Zenfolio picture website. I’ve been busy scanning throughout the day in order to get this album finished before the end of the week, so another 50 have been added.

I won’t have chance to add any more old slides tomorrow. Instead you’ll be treated to another rolling blog as I’m off to Widnes in Merseyside to carry out a rather interesting railway industry commission – which will also allow me to get some contemporary rail pictures too. Watch this space…

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

22nd November picture of the day…

Tags

, , , ,

It’s not exactly been a lazy Sunday – even if it has been a fairly quiet one. My wife’s been busy much of the day on her ‘virtual retreat’ and the various yoga/exercise and meditation classes that involves whilst I’ve been pottering around at home scanning slides and catching up on some email correspondence. The weather’s hardly been conducive to doing much more as we’ve had intermittent rain thoughout the day. Even so, we did manage to get out in between Dawn’s sessions to food-shop and get a walk in through our local woods and up around Savile Park whilst dodging the showers.

Back at home, I took another trip down memory lane whilst scanning the latest batch of old slides from Sumatra. I reckon that with any luck this album will be done and dusted by the end of next week – which is rather pleasing. That means it’s only 22 years it’s taken me to get them to a wider audience! So, without further ado, here’s the picture of the day, which was taken in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province at the very Northerm tip of Sumatra on the 3rd August 1998. This is the city’s Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, which I couldn’t resist visiting at sunset. Here’s why…

Aceh has a fascinating if turbulent history going back centuries. It’s seen more than its fair share of conflicts, but its biggest challenge happened a few years after Lynn and I visited. On Boxing Day 2004 the city and surrounding area was devastated by a Tsunami. It’s estimated that the disaster killed 167,000 inhabitants and destroyed more than 60% of the city’s buildings. It was the hardest hit of all the places struck by the Tsunami. Lynn and I had a lucky escape from the Tsunami. On Boxing Day 2002 and 2003 we were on beaches in Southern Sri Lanka that were badly damaged by the disaster, but in 2004 we’d delayed travelling as we’d a lot of plans for that year. You can imagine how we felt when we learned of the devastation caused to places we’d visited and knew well. There, but for the grace of God…

If you’re interested in looking through more photos from Sumatra (or the rest of the epic trip), you can find them in this gallery on my Zenfolio picture website.

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

21st November picture of the day…

Tags

, , , ,

Today’s not quite been the one I expected, but it’s been an interesting one nonetheless. The ‘other half’ has been on day 2 of a 3 day ‘virtual retreat’ via the power of the Internet. This meant Dawn was up early – and so was I, which has given us both some productive time rather than just lazing around thinking “Sod it, it’s a Saturday in lockdown”…

This morning I penned a blog about the latest weapons-grade dishonest about the HS2 rail project. It’s certainly created a stir as no other Journalist seems to have bothered to question the guff about HS2 ‘desecrating’ a children’s memorial.

With that done and the weather having returned to being crap, I stayed in and spent time editing the pictures from Thursdays railway foray on the Harrogate loop as well as continuing to scan more old slides – one of which you’ll see in a minute. I’m gradually working my way through an album of travel pictures taken on the ‘grand-tour’ that Lynn and I took in 1997-99 and right now those pictures are of Indonesia. Looking back 22 years is quite a bitter-sweet experience, not least because of the fact Lynn’s been dead for seven years now, but also because it really was a different age – and one in which we had a ball! Let me explain. In 1998 Asia had suffered an economic crisis that crashed the currencies of many of the countries we were travelling through – Indonesia especially. For the Indonesians it was a terrible time that led to a destabilisation of the country and eventual downfall of the country’s dictator President. It also caused racially based riots as the countries Chinese community were made scapegoats by some. But, for tourists and travellers who arrived once things had settled down, it was very different. I’d been in Indonesia 3-4 years earlier. Then, £1 would have bought you around 3,500 Indonesian Rupiah. When Lynn and got the ferry over from Malaysia to Sumatra in July 1998 the exchange rate was 22,000 rupiah to the pound – yet prices for most things (in rupiah) had hardly changed! You were rich! To say this took the pressure off a couple backpacking would be an understatement. You didn’t have to count the pennies at all and as the pair of us were frugal anyway, money went a loonngg way. It was a vintage time to be travelling through SE Asia.

One place we pitched up at was a magical little place off the North Coast of Sumatra, Iboih on the island of Pulau Weh. Our time there deserves a blog in its own right as we had a fabulous time with a group of people who all really jelled. Because it was hard to get to – you must have really wanted to be there – and that made all the difference to the place. This was in the days before backpacking became ‘flashpacking’ where young people would parachute in and out of places via cheap airlines. Then, you went the ‘hard’ way by train, bus or ferry. So, here’s the picture of the day, the small but beautifully formed beach at Iboih, seen sometime between mid-to the end of July, 1998. We liked it so much our planned week turned into 16 days and even then we had to force ourselves to leave…

Just out of shot to the right is Rubiah Island, which you could swim to (and a group of us once did). The coral around here was gorgeous and it was absolutely teeming with different varieties of fish. Facilities at Ibioh were basic, the wooden bungalows were simple and had no showers. You bathed out in the open with water from the communal well! The group of people we met there had pitched up from all corners of the globe, but formed a community. Looking back at the pictures I’m scanning I realise that it was one of the few places we went to where I took lots of pictures of fellow travellers – some of whom I’m still in contact with today. So it will always hold special memories for me as a perfect moment in time – which is why I’ll never go back…

If you want to see more pictures of our travels, you can find them in this gallery on my Zenfolio picture website. I’ll be adding shots almost daily over the next few weeks.

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

The truth about the ‘desecration’ of a children’s memorial by HS2…

Tags

, ,

There’s an old saying that ‘a lie is halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on’ – and this is never truer than when it comes to stories planted in the media by opponents of the HS2 high-speed railway that’s currently under construction.

Here’s the latest example, which is a tale about a memorial woodland outside Wendover in Buckinghamshire.

The story was planted by a young lady from East Devon, one Beth Mahoney. Here it is;

Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Needless to say, it soon got picked up elsewhere and amplified and exaggerated even more. Reading it, you’d think that HS2 contractors had just turned up out of the blue and bulldozed all the trees, memorials and (alleged) children’s ashes to make way for the new railway. After all, the story contains all the right elements to cause outrage in certain circles: Death, children – and trees.

One of the people who helped amplify this story and the sense of outrage was none other than ‘celebrity’ environmentalist, Chris Packham (who’s relationship with the truth is always questionable when it comes to HS2) who tweeted this.

So, what’s the truth? Let’s go back to the beginning, shall we? This is the announcement from the hospice about the establishment of the memorial wood.

Note, this is a memorial woodland. It is not (and never has been) a cemetery. No-one is interred there and if anyone has scattered ashes there, then they have done so without official sanction. Nor is it specifically about children.

Why did no-one know this work was happening, as is claimed? The truth is – they did – and they’ve known for years. Here’s a rather revealing story in the local rag, the Bucks Herald from May 2019. It’s headlined…

The end of the article carries this rather revealing response from HS2 Ltd.

So, the memorial isn’t being bulldozed at all and the hyperbole about ‘desecration’ is just that. Yes, it’s unfortunate that services have to be diverted through a small part of the memorial wood, but compared to (say) exhuming graveyards, this is on a very different scale.

Funnily enough, the Bucks Herald seems to have suffered a strange bout of amnesia about their 2019 article when they published this new one on the 19th November. It’s headline?

Notice two things. One, the old newspaper trick that – you can claim any old cobblers as long as you put it in inverted commas! Two, suddenly the memorial wood has become exclusively “a memorial site for children” The rag goes on to interview parents of a child who sadly died, who are quoted as saying “

“If HS2 needed to use the site, they could have dealt with the matter sensitively, making sure that the families of the children whose memorials were there were given the opportunity to dig up their trees and remove their memorial stones.”

Hang on a minute? How would HS2 Ltd know which families are linked to the memorial woods? It’s not a cemetery remember, and the only people who would know anything about deaths at the hospice is – the hospice. So, did the hospice know this work was going to happen? Of course they did – as is revealed here.

This is the Facebook page of the Aylesbury and District news from the 6th January. It contains this page.

Once again, note ‘those who’ve died’ Not ‘children who’ve died’ And the entry underneath is?

Out of interest I contacted HS2 Ltd about some of these claims.

They told me that they gave the landowner and the hospice a month’s notice before they took possession of the woodland (notified 17th September, possession took place on 20th October). Their understanding is that the hospice sent out correspondence to all known donors on 20th September advising of the possession and the works They also told me that the public notice published on the HS2 community website that covers the area does confirm on page two under “preparation works” that trees will be cut down.

Now, I’m not in any way casting any aspersions on the Hospice here. It seems they’re completely innocent parties in this manufactured row and mischief making by others cynically using any stick they can find (or invent) to beat HS2 with – and damn the truth!

So what is the truth? Well, it’s that a small section of the memorial wood has had to be dug up to divert utilities. Once the work is done, new trees will be planted and the memorial woodland restored. It’s unfortunate, but it’s very different to the distorted picture being painted. The fact is, 85% of the woodland is still intact, as was reveled by this local resident on Twitter.

My problem with all this – apart from the obvious lies and distortions – is the way some people are stoking up a climate of hate against HS2 and anyone who works for it. People working on HS2 construction sites already have to deal with abuse and harassment from protesters, some have even been followed back to their hotels, but accusing them of ‘desecrating’ a children’s memorial has hit a new low. How long before a poor HS2 worker is attacked by some idiot fired up by stories like this?

It’s about time some sections of the media started telling the truth – and some ‘celebrity environmentalists’ too for that matter…

UPDATE:

Since I wrote this blog, new information has come to light which (yet again) exposes the hype and hyperbole behind this story. The information comes via ‘Planet Radio’ and you can view it in this link. The headline?

The article contains a statement from Tracey Hancock, Director of Fundraising for the hospice, part of which explains this..

Rennie Grove Hospice Care and the landowner were given a month’s notice of HS2’s intention to take possession of the land on 20 October 2020. Rennie Grove wrote to every family recorded as having a tree in the woodland to let them know that the area would be out of bounds after this date. The charity has since become aware of one family who did not receive their letter and who subsequently visited the woodland to find the tree planted in memory of their daughter and a memorial stone they had also placed by it were no longer there.

A spokesperson for HS2 was also quoted, saying this;

“We informed the Hospice and the landowner a month in advance, providing them with time to notify the families and friends of the deceased who may have wanted to remove any fixed items before work started.”

Despite the truth now being out, watch the tiny bunch of protesters who still think they can stop HS2 exploit bereaved families and the Hospice for their own ends and drag this out for their own propaganda purposes. This cynical attempt to exploit the issue is being circulated on various anti HS2 Facebook pages – and during the Covid lockdown too!

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

20th November picture of the day…

Tags

, , , , ,

After the excitement of breaking free from the office on a sunny day yesterday, and the chance to get some interesting and historical pictures to boot – today’s been back to the usual pattern in more ways than one. The glorious sunshine was a flash in the pan and here for one day only. Today we reverted to heavy grey skies, rain and the light levels that would make a troglodyte feel at ease.

This has meant I’ve worked from home all day, juggling the mundanities of everyday life with editing and scanning pictures and arranging a couple of commissions, so my times been well spent – if a little frustrating at times as I watch the latest political shenanigans on the news. That the Home Secretary’s found to have been bullying her staff is (obviously) a resigning matter. Only it’s not the perma-smirking Priti Patel that resigns – it’s the Senior Civil Servant who conducted the investigation into the allegation and who was hung out to dry by Johnson! So, no change there then. The old film adage about “who do I have to f**k to get a part in this movie” has turned into “what do I have to f**k-up to get the sack around here”? Nothing, apparently – unless you count making up a derogatory nickname for the Prime Minister’s latest squeeze! Honestly, how this country ever managed to rule 1/3 of the planet is beyond me…

Still, I did manage to get out for a long walk in the drizzle and murk, which was good. After being in self-imposed isolation its lovely to be building up the exercise again. This weekend Dee’s on another ‘virtual retreat’ as part of an online group she really enjoys being part of – so it’s a good excuse to get out from underneath her feet and get a few more miles walking under my belt. Admittedly, I have other plans too as I’ve still loads of stuff to get onto eBay. Methinks this will be a productive weekend because of it. After all, it’s not like we’ve got much else to do during this lockdown – and I’d much rather feel the time was being spent doing something useful rather than sat on a sofa watching TV…

Today’s picture of the day is one of the latest batch of slide scans. I’m slowly working my way through an album of pictures from Malaysia and Indonesia. 95% of them have never made it onto my picture websites before, so it’s great to finally bring them to a wider audience. Today’s image was taken in the Batu Caves outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in the first week of July 1998. The caves are an important site for Malaysia’s Hindu community and well worth a visit, both to enjoy the caves themselves but also some of the shrines to Gods in the Hindu pantheon.

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

Rolling blog: Trusting the weather forecast…

Tags

, , , ,

07:40

Well, it’s a long time since I’ve done a rolling blog! Today, despite the fact it’s cold and raining here in the Calder Valley I’m trusting in the reliability of the weather forecast and venturing out to document more modernisation of the rail network.

Over the next few weeks Network Rail is working on the section of the Harrogate loop East of Knaresborough which contains several manually operated level crossings and single track sections that are controlled by semaphore signalling and tokens. It’s a system that dates back to the early days of the railways. My mission is to record it before it disappears. So, shortly I’ll be heading off to get the train from Halifax to Leeds. Stay with me to see what happens…

08:40.

Well, that was predictable! The large lineside fire in Bradford that occurred a couple of days ago is still causing chaos with many trains either cancelled or ‘bustituted’. My 08:30 to Leeds is now a bus so I’ve opted for plan B, which will save me a couple of bob anway.

I’m now waiting for the 08:50 Bradford Interchange to Huddersfield which is starting from Halifax. A Class 150 is sat here now, burbling away merrily, although the two of us who’re waiting to catch it are out on the cold platform as the Conductor’s not here to open the doors!

This diversion will lose me an hour but it can’t be helped. I suspected I wouldn’t get all the pictures I wanted today so another trip was on the cards anyway.

08:57.

By the time we departed there was a grand total of seven passengers on the train which is now bumbling its way to Brighouse. The Conductor has already been round to check tickets, which was good to see.

09:05.

Brighouse station had just three passengers waiting. Only one boarded my train, swapping places with a chap from Halifax. Now we’re trundling along to join the Trans-Pennine main line. On (literally) the bright side, my trust in the weather forecast seems to be paying off as the earlier rain’s disappeared and blue sky’s in the ascendency!

09:55.

Funny how things work isn’t it? In one of those serendipitous moments my arrival in Huddersfield coincided with an email request for an article about a group based there! This gave me time todo a quick recce and get some useful pictures, so the delay to my day worked to my advantage. It also made up for the fact my 09:46 TPE train to Leeds was running late as the Redcar service it forms wasn’t due until 10:07. Never mind, I thought, I’ll catch the 09:49 Huddersfield – Leeds ‘stopper’. I’m sat on it now. It’s still here – as the Driver who’s due to take it forward is on a late-running Manchester – Huddersfield stopper ans won’t be here before 10:00. Fair play to our Conductor for telling us this on the PA in a world-weary but entertaining fashion! So, which goes first? Us or the Redcar Express? Watch this space…

10:05.

In the end our driver arrived in time to take us out a 09:59, ahead of the Express. As we left, our Conductor made an apologetic announcement and updated the safety message by saying “and if you see anything suspicious – like a train running on time – please contact the relevent authorities”!

11:10.

Finally, I’m on the right track – as it were – as I’m currently on the 10.59 from Leeds to Knaresborough having left Yorkshire’s premier city 90 minutes later than I’d planned. My train from Huddersfield was a lot busier than I’d expected, but still only 30-35% full. In contrast Leeds station was deserted as it’s the cities that are hardest hit by business closures and travel restrictions, as this photo shows.

Even so, work on the railway continues and the new platform 0 is really beginning to take shape. The temporary structure I used on my RAIL rover has been swept away and the line closed once more as the passenger platform is integrated as one side of a pier serving 0-1. The new steelwork for the canopy’s in place and most of the resurfacing is complete. The main focus of work now is around the bufferstop.

Right now I’m going to kick-back and enjoy the scenery from my seat on a comfortable but quiet Class 170…

12:10.

I’m enjoying a brief interlude at Knaresborough in-between trains to soak up some sunshine whilst I can. There’s a much more intensive service as far as the pretty little town, but Eastwards too York it becomes hourly. The station is still controlled by this tiny North Eastern Railway signalbox, which is starting to show its age as it’s developed a distinct lean compared to the row of houses it was built up against!

15:10.

That was an interesting few hours! I managed to get as far as my target, Hammerton and spent a very interesting hour looking at the historic railway kit and chatting to the young signaller who was on duty. A friendly chap who’d only been in post for 6 weeks, he filled me in on some of the work that’s happening between now and the new year. In Hammerton’s case little is changing other than the replacement of the life-expired crossing gates with new ones and the replacement of the electic token system and physical tokens with electronic ones. This old 10 lever Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company frame in its own little shed on the platform will remain controlling the station.

When I called in on Cattal, it was obvious there’s a much bigger job in hand. The loop at the station’s being extended to the West and the present set of points which have a 20 mph speed restriction on them are being replaced with a higher speed version the will raise linespeed to 40 mph. Here’s the sight that will disappear from this weekend as the new electronic system replaces the physical tokens that the signaller handed to the driver.

Here’s the view from Cattal level crossing showing where the loop will be extended.

16:55.

I’ve resisted the temptation to hang around and be a laggard on the way home so Leeds was my last stop. Seeing the station so deserted during the evening rush is quite something, but I’ve got the pictures I wanted and services on my line are still disrupted so I’ve caught the 16:42 from Leeds to Manchester Victoria which is being diverted via Brighouse, so it reverses at My home station of Halifax before resuming its route through the Calder Valley. It’s actually quite busy but I’m assuming that’s because some of my fellow passengers didn’t want to be stuck on a bus!

21:10.

Time to draw this rolling blog to a close now I’m safely tucked up at home and adding some of the pictures I took earlier. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip out as much as I have!

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!