Thursday, June 29, 2017

Paddington Bear - RIP Michael Bond

I've been a fan of Paddington Bear most of my life. Paddington Bear was created by Michael Bond in 1956, so I was sad to hear that Michael Bond died on 27 June 2017.

Paddington, who comes from "deepest darkest Peru" was found on Paddington Station and was taken home by the Brown family. Over the years Paddington had many adventures and escapades. I read many of his books over the years. There has also been a TV series and a film.

Paddington is well known for his love of marmalade sandwiches. As part of a tribute to Michael Bond, people left jars of marmalade and flowers at the Paddington Bear statue on Platform 1 of the station.

Mum bought me a large size Paddington Bear, not when I was a child, but when I was 28. He is about 47 cm high.

Since then I acquired 2 more. The small one is my travelling companion and since I had him, he has been everywhere with me on all holidays and trips away, even on weekends away. As you can see he is well worn, especially his hat -

Monday, June 26, 2017

Crossness Pumping Station

In May 2017 I went to a talk on the Crossness Pumping Station and found it very interesting. So when they had a steaming open day on 25 June I went to see the place for myself. It is located near Abbey Wood, on the south bank of the River Thames east of London.

The Crossness Pumping Station is nicknamed the Cathedral on the Marsh. It was built to improve Victorian London's sewerage system and was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. It was officially opened by the Prince of Wales in April 1865.

At that time London was suffering from outbreaks of cholera, as the water supply as well as the River Thames were heavily polluted with sewage. It is said that up to 20,000 people died annually in London from cholera. So the Metropolitan Board of Works were asked to do something. Joseph Bazalgette was the engineer of the MBW was put in charge to finding a solution to these problems. He had 85 miles of new sewers built and those connected with the many smaller sewers that ran into the Thames. This took the effluent to the east area of London where it was discharged into the Thames and flowed out to sea. This required a number of pumping stations.

There were 3 pumping stations, One at Abbey Mills, north of the river, but only the shell remains. South of the river there was a pumping station at Deptford, which has essentially disappeared and the one at Crossness which is now being slowly restored.

Today the pumping station is surrounded by a large sewage plant operated by Thames Water.

At Crossness, 4 rotative beam engines were built by James Watt & Company, and were used to pump London's sewage into a reservoir before being discharged into the Thames on the ebbing tides. The 4 engines were housed in the The Beam Engine House, which is now a Grade 1 Listed Industrial Building. The Crossness Engines Trust is a charity that was set up to preserve the buildings and restore these pumping engines. The workers are all volunteers. This is from the CET www :

"The Beam Engine House was constructed in the Romanesque style and features some of the most spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork to be found today. It also contains the four original pumping engines (although the cylinders were upgraded in 1901), which are possibly the largest remaining rotative beam engines in the world, with 52 ton flywheels and 47 ton beams. Although modern diesel engines were subsequently introduced, the old beam engines remained in service until work on a new sewerage treatment plant commenced in 1956. Following abandonment in the mid 1950's, the engine house and engines were systematically vandalised and left to decay, which greatly impeded the Trust's restoration/conservation programme."

"The complex was designed in the Romanesque (Norman) style, in gault brick, with considerable ornamentation with red brick arches and dog-tooth string courses. The three entrance doorways were decorated with Norman dog-toothed red brick arches, whilst the main entrance, facing the river (now hidden by an extension) was further decorated with the coats-of-arms of the MBW and adjacent counties. There was originally a magnificent chimney, 207 feet high, which has since been demolished."

Side view of the engine house

 The 3 entrance doorways -

The interior of the engine house is incredibly ornate, with amazing wrought and cast iron work. There is one engine in each corner and in the centre is an octagonal structure of iron columns, highly ornamented, with supporting iron arched screens and the open octagonal well on the main beam floor.

There were polished tubular brass hand rails. The ironwork was painted in natural colours following those of the leaves, branches and fruit represented.

Looking up at the openwork upper iron floors painted in french grey and vermilion, with the shafts of the main columns in indian red.

The 4 beam engines are named "Victoria", "Prince Consort", "Albert Edward" (the Prince of Wales) and "Alexandra" (the Princess of Wales). You can read more about them in detail on the CET engines page.

In 2003 the restoration of "Prince Consort" was completed and is steaming on 6 open days a year.

Looking up at the beam and the openwork upper deck -

The 4 engines -

Victoria is now being restored. The other 2 will be left as they are.

On the upper floor, with "Prince Consort" at the back left -

and one of the unrestored beams -

Looking at the whole length of the building, "Prince Consort" is at the back left -
 Note the MWB logo -

The spiral staircase goes down to the lower floor & the base of the engines -

The entrance building now  houses an exhibition called The Great Stink, covering the first urban sewage systems right through to systems of the future. There is also a lot of info on cholera. Some old toilets -

Current view from the river

1865 view with the chimney -

Crossness Pumping Station is an amazing piece of Victorian heritage.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer solstice 2017 & Ramadan

The summer solstice, 21 June 2017 was also the hottest day for more than 40 years, in fact since 1976. At London Heathrow the temperature reached 34.5 C.

From BBC :

Hottest June day since summer of 1976 in heatwave

21 June : The UK is basking in its hottest June day in 41 years, with a temperature of 34.5C (94F) recorded at Heathrow.
The Met Office reading at the London airport is the highest in June since the mercury hit 35.6 (96F) in 1976 - the all-time high since records began.
The heatwave has seen five sizzling days in a row during which temperatures in parts of the UK have topped 30C.
But weather warnings have also been issued for rain, with thunderstorms expected in some areas.
BBC weather presenter Chris Fawkes said: "To have these really prolonged spells, you need a block of high pressure that directs other weather fronts away.
Then we get the hot weather coming up from Europe."
Storms are forecast for some areas later in the day, and yellow weather warnings for rain in parts of England, Wales and Scotland are in place until the early hours of Thursday.
Our presenter added: "It is all going to go bang tonight.
"The hot air from the surface will meet with colder air coming in from the Atlantic and we will have some big thunderstorms, gusty winds, heavy rain and, in some places, even hail.
And as I type this on 22nd morning, the clouds are gathering and thunder is in the distance. However we do need the rain.

It is also the last week of Ramadan. In London on 21st the fasting times were 02.40 - 21.25. That is a long day. However these times don't coincide with sunrise and sunset, as these are 04.43 and 21.20, which is 16 hr 38 min of daylight [time&date]  . So I wonder if the fasting times in the UK are adapted to start and finish early.

In the Arctic Circle countries the sun never sets at this time of year. Interesting article on Muslims in northern Finland where fasting lasts 23 hours and 5 mins, as the sun only sets for 55 mins - see The Independent. Some Muslims chose to stick to these times, others follow a Middle East timetable.

Incidentally Ramadan 2016 was the longest days of fasting in 33 years, see BBC.

See my 2016 blog with info on the summer solstice.