Journey into the future and the past

We were driving to Nottingham today to visit my aunt. It is a familiar journey in addition to family visits, for many other reasons. Our favoured route is the scenic one over the Staffordshire Moorlands, which gives me a fix of the uplands before dipping down into Derbyshire. Passing through Derby, there are still a lot of Georgian buildings on the west side of the city but very quickly we are on concrete dual carriageways and a short stretch of motorway to get to my aunt’s part of Nottingham. A brief respite from the rain in what promises to be the wettest June in living memory, made the driving easy. Passing through moorland villages, many hedges were adorned with ‘Vote Leave’ posters, a reminder of the great uncertainty facing the UK in the next week about the outcome of the referendum and if we do vote to leave the European Union, even more uncertainty about what will happen then. Brailsford, a village straddling the road between Ashbourne and Derby, also has an uncertain future like many in the UK, as it is proposed as a site for more housing. ‘Save our village’ notices were everywhere.

During our time with my aunt we inevitably ended up discussing family history as I have been researching this since I was at school and was given a lot of material by my grandmother, some of which remains a mystery. She is always available to fill in the gaps and dispel some myths but some still remain. These photographs remain a partial mystery. They were among my grandmother’s photographs and her handwriting on the back of the first says ‘American oil man, distant relation’, the second ‘Arbor Lodge’ and the last has ‘Humboldt Oil Field 1923’ on the front. I sent them to Arbor Lodge, Nebraska which is now a State Park and they confirmed that the second photograph is of the house and that the Humboldt Oil Field was several miles south of there. They forwarded my e-mail with the photographs to their historian but I am still waiting to hear if they have identified the man and then I can try and identify whether he is a distant relation or not. Some of my Irish ancestors did emigrate to the USA so he may be related to them. The mystery remains.

American Oil Man Distant relation_edited-1

Arbor Lodge Nebraska State Park_edited-1

Humboldt Oil Field Sept 16 1923_edited-1

The slow road back home

Sunday always brings out interesting vehicles and as today was sunny, all the convertibles. On the Edinburgh bypass we were overtaken by a Corvette, an Official Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1968. The countryside next to the bypass has enough pylons striding across it to satisfy a member of the Pylon Appreciation Society. Yes, it does exist; see Our slow drive home started by heading to the Glenkinchie Distillery so that I could photograph it for the book I am slowly compiling for James, of all the distilleries in the British Isles. We clocked up quite a few last year in the Highlands, Orkney and Northern Ireland and need to continue filling the gaps.
Glenkinchie 5 June 2016-1
Afterwards we drove down the A68 passing the wind farm just north of Lauder. Scotland is way ahead in renewable energy than other parts of the UK but we could still all do more. The only traffic jam of the trip was in Lauder, as there was a vintage and classic car event at Thirlestane Castle. Parked in the village was a pale green E-Type Jaguar, I liked the colour but James disagreed. Further on we crossed the Tweed we had walked along the day before and passed the Leaderfoot viaduct I had photographed last year.
Leaderfoot viaduct (1 of 1)
On Carter Bar at the border, I got a discount on my coffee for bringing my own mug and admired the views in peace until a German tour bus arrived.
Carter Bar 1 5 June 2016-1
Carter Bar 3 5 June 2016-1
We carried on over the uplands and back down into fields yellow with oil seed rape flowers. In Stanhope we saw another classic car – a lovely red Lotus. There were also lots of bikers out on the B roads but these inhabitants should really have been in the Andes, not the Pennine Hills.
? alpacas 5 June 2016-1
On the A66, signs warned us about horse-drawn vehicles as Appleby Horse Fair was held this weekend and is a big event for the travelling community. South of Brough and on the surrounding roads they were camping for the evening with tethered horses grazing on the grass verge. We drove alongside the Settle-Carlisle railway which I must incorporate into one of my train journeys to Edinburgh at some point. All the way from Cumbria into North Yorkshire the flax was blooming in the upland bogs and buttercups in the lowland meadows. I stopped for a photograph of the Ribblehead Viaduct before we got back onto bigger roads and found ourselves following a shed on a trailer.
Ribblehead Viaduct 5 June 2016-1
The last leg of the journey was on dual carriageways and the motorways around Manchester. From the traffic reports we were hearing on the radio, avoiding the M6 seemed to have been a good decision. As ever, I made a mental note to revisit some of the places we passed in the evening with my camera.

Photography and a blast from the past in Edinburgh

After a few days of getting up before dawn, some early train journeys, painting the flat bathroom and having the boiler fixed for a hefty sum, it was time for a little pleasure. The sunny, warm and still Indian summer days we have been enjoying for the last few weeks are coming to an end. The sky was still blue today but the wind was strong and had blown all the fallen leaves onto the pavement.

Leaves 2 22 Oct 2015 (1 of 1)Leaves 1 22 Oct 2015 (1 of 1)

I was heading for the National Portrait Gallery in Queen Street to see a photography exhibition documenting Scotland one year after the Referendum entitled ‘Document Scotland: The Ties That Bind’. The gallery itself is a fabulously decorated building:
Gallery 22 Oct 2015 (1 of 1)

The section of the exhibition that spoke most to me was Sophie Gerrard’s ‘Drawn to the land’, a series of pictures of female hill farmers in various parts of the country. Having been brought up with the children of hill sheep farmers on the Ochils and the Perthshire hills, a sheep to me will always mean a Scottish Black-faced Hill Sheep. I love the uplands and cannot believe that I have spent the last 25+ years living just above sea level. The photographs did not shy away from addressing the hard life many hill farmers have but also celebrated it and why these particular women had chosen either to stay in what is usually a male career or return to it, having moved away.
Photo 22 Oct 2015 (1 of 1)
Other parts of the exhibition focussed on the links (particularly slavery) between Scotland and Jamaica and the lower levels of the Scottish Football League. I am still waiting for my camera to come back from repair and to indulge my passion again.

Homeward Bound

We woke this morning to a perfect day for a drive. Sunshine, blue sky with s few high white clouds and a calm, blue sea. Travelling on a bank holiday is never ideal but we had to get back to work again. James had decided to vary the route and I did not complain as it involved a visit to one of my favourite bookshops, Barter Books in Alnwick. On the A1, the first traffic jam was before we had got as far as Berwick. However, it was short-lived and disappeared after the combine harvester responsible pulled over to let everyone past. The sun was still with us as we crossed the Tweed and had a coffee break at Lindisfarne services. Barter Books is based in the old station at Alnwick and is dog friendly although Flora preferred to sit outside and watch the goings on outside. They have a model railway running around the shop.

Barter books 2 (1 of 1)

I found two books to add to my North American library, one on Colorado and one on the natural history of New York.
Barter books 1 (1 of 1)

All too soon it was time to continue on our way. The second traffic jam was just north of Morpeth, the sky was clouding over and the first rain drops fell. Over the Tyne there were hordes of people heading for the Metro Centre and once we were past the Angel of the North we started to see people who were heading home from the Leeds Festival. The A1(M) continued to be busy and we had another brief stop at Scotch Corner. My childhood memories of this place are a roundabout with a few toilets under the pine trees. Needless to say it now has all the usual eateries and has little to distinguish it from any other service station. Several sections of the A1 are still being upgraded to motorway so there are miles of roadworks and slow traffic between there and Weatherby. Near Ferrybridge power station I was reminded that my younger brother used to refer to the cooling towers as ‘the big vases’ as they were landmarks on our regular journeys back and forth from Scotland to the East Midlands.


We eventually left the motorway and took the A628 through Yorkshire and over the Woodhead Pass where the purple heather and grass verges full of flowers were amazing. I got a fix of the expansive vistas of the uplands and we even had sheep in the road as we cut across to Glossop on a B road. Then it was the A6 via Chapel en le Frith and Buxton. By the time we were heading into Cheshire, the rain was heavy, the cloud low and lots of water on the road. At least the garden did not need watering when we got home.

The uplands

Although I awoke to blue sky (and grabbed a photo of the turret of Esdaile and our cherry tree branches against the blue), the clouds soon arrived and the forecast was rain/sleet and snow over 200m. James decreed that this ruled out a beach walk as he did not spend five years in Aberdeen and walk on the beach in all weathers as I did. The second option was varying the route back down south which I am always in favour of. The A68 was the choice and after passing through Pathhead where James did his trainee year, we were soon south of Earlston and spotted the Leaderfoot Viaduct which I did not remember from childhood visits to these parts (we used to go to the campsite at Lilliardsedge). Just north of the campsite is the Monteath Mausoleum which again, I don’t remember.
Leaderfoot viaduct (1 of 1)

Outside the towns there was very little traffic but some great views on the B road from near Otterburn and through Bellingham.

View north of Carter Bar (1 of 1)

We kept seeing Pennine Way signs which is a reminder to walk from Smallwood to Edinburgh, taking the Pennine Way for the majority of the journey. Today we had to pass by. The ubiquitous hill sheep are a potent reminder that these hills would have all been covered in forests before the sheep came.
Nearer to Alston (the highest market town in England) we could see the north Pennines had a dusting of snow and it was by the road as we drove over the Hartside Pass (1903 feet)
Near Hartside Pass 7 Dec 2014 (1 of 1)
and then descended into Penrith, the rain and the motorway home.
Descending into Penrith (1 of 1)