Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Sorting the Music for the Devizes Chamber Choir´s Spring concert.

 Sorting the music for the Sops, altos, tenors and basses.

I´ve been singing again with the Devizes Chamber Choir, and inadvertently offered to be the choir´s librarian!    Not an easy job!   This spring we will sing Vivaldi´s "Gloria"  Nielsen´s "Springtime in Funen" and "Be Still, My Soul" from "Finlandia" by Sibelius.  I have sung the "Gloria" several times, but not the Nielsen or the Sibelius, although I know the tune very well.   I am looking forward to some good singing in the New Year.

Three scores for each of the 50 members of the choir.

Each singer will need three scores, so I spent an afternoon numbering each copy from 1 to 50, and then bundled them into groups of three.   There is always a little chaos at the beginning of each new term, when everyone has to collect their music, and even more when it all has to be collected, and returned to the music library.  Happy Days!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Carols by Candlelight in St Mary´s Church, Devizes

 The Norman high altar in St Mary´s Church.

St Mary´s Church, one of three medieval churches in Devizes, lies redundant at the moment.  It is kept alive with one service a week, and attempts are being made to turn the lovely space into a community arts centre.   The plans for an extension have been turned down twice, which is most unfortunate.  We sang a carol service here in 2013, so hopefully this will become an annual event.  We sang without an accompaniment, and managed to stay reasonably in tune.

 What a wonderful light in which to sing.

My candle and carol sheet, and not easy to photograph with one hand!  

I had problems trying to sing, hold a candle and take some photographs, and in the process I managed to get my right hand covered in hot wax.  Mince pies and mulled wine were served after the service, which were very welcome.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Out Walking near Jubilee Wood, Rowde near Devizes

 Jubilee Wood, near Rowde, where hundreds of trees have been planted to celebrate the Queen´s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

It was a cold day, but well worth the 3.5 mile walk from my home to the wood and then back up the Caen Hill flight of locks.  Having eaten too much over Christmas, I was in need of a good, fast walk.  I planted six of the above trees, although I´m now not sure which ones.

The Rowde Village plaque.

Rowde village consists of mainly brick built houses, although a number of 17th century buildings still remain in the village centre.   These include the "George and Dragon" public house.   "The Cross Keys" a pub built in 1938, now stands on the site of a timber framed and thatched building, which unfortunately burnt to the ground.  The 15th century church of St Matthew stands in the centre of the village.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Up on the Civil War Battlefield Site on Roundway Down.

 Could this be "Bloody Ditch?"

The Royalists won this battle on top of Roundway Down, and at some point in the fight, the Parliamentarian Cavalrymen were driven off the edge of the Down and into the so named "Bloody Ditch."  There are several ditches, and no one is really sure which one it was.

 A distant "Oliver´s Castle,"  not that Oliver Cromwell was ever there!

This promontory, topped with trees, is the site of a neolithic hill fort.  It must have been very chilly up there on a dark and stormy night!

Oliver´s Castle showing the steep chalk escarpment, that drops down to the lower greensand.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pond Dipping at Caen Hill.

 Walking to the top of the Caen Hill flight with a party of local school children.

The "Canal and River Trust" run nature courses for children every summer.  I joined a group on Wednesday, and followed them, as they walked from Devizes Wharf to the top of the Caen Hill flight of locks, and thank goodness the sun shone!  

 Catching bugs and butterflies with nets.

Pond dipping at the top pound.

"Canal and River Trust " volunteers work with the children,  to show them the wonders of natural life at the top of Caen Hill

Friday, 6 June 2014

Grubbing About in the Gravel at Moon´s Quarry, Radstock.

 Not just a pile of gravel, and treasure chest for geologists!

 Waiting to climb into the minibus at the Somerset Earth Science Centre.

In Whately Quarry pondering the  problems of draining a quarry pit.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Devizes U3A Geology Group´s visit to Whatley and Moon´s Quarries in Radstock

 The Earth Science Centre at Moon´s Quarry in Radstock.

Oh dear, I completely forgot to write up my blog about my visit to Whately and Moon's Quarries near Radstock in Somerset.  A group of us from the Devizes U3A Geology group paid a second visit to the "Somerset Earth Science Centre," this time to visit both working quarries.  The above photo shows the centre, which faces a lovely lake, complete with Canada geese and their babies!  We all agreed, that this place would make a lovely private house.

 Moon´s Quarry

This small quarry produces Andersite, a very hard rock, which is used to cover the very top of road surfaces, because it is so hard wearing.

 The control centre at Whatley Quarry.

During our visit no one seemed to be on duty here, and we were left to wander around alone.  The desk panels showed a diagrammatic view of the entire works, complete with what looked like a crocodiles snapping teeth, which represented the various stone crushers.   Now fully mechanised, all these processes were done by hand!   

 Setting off in the minibus.

We had to stay inside the minibus with our safety hats on, which was a bit uncomfortable, but meant it might save our heads if a big boulder fell on top of the minibus!

 A very big truck!

The rock is blown up with explosives, and then transported from the rock face to the crushing plant.  It is tipped into huge stone crushers, and comes out the other end a small gravel chippings.  

Whatley Quarry artificial lake.

We were able to get out of the minibus beside this artificial lake, naturally formed at the bottom of the quarry.  It is very deep, as you can imagine, and will get deeper as the quarrying continues down.  There is concern about how deep they can quarry without upsetting the balance of water supply in the area.  No one is really certain where the hot springs at Bath originate, and digging here too deeply could make the warm water spring disappear!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Weymouth by the Sea

Up on Furzy Cliff, consisting of Oxford clay with a thin Corallian Limestone overlay.

I had a good week in Weymouth, where I spent most of the time wandering over cliffs and along the beach searching for interesting pebbles and driftwood.   I failed to do the sensible thing before I went, which was to read about the geology of this part of the Jurassic coast, so I had to wander clueless for much of the time, whilst taking in the fresh sea air! 

Falling Furzy Cliff, with its falling sign!

Mudslides frequently occur at the undercliff, which consists mainly of clay.  Fossils can be found here, although after much time spent hunting, I found nothing! 
 Walking the beach looking towards Bowleaze Cove.

 Walking towards a distant Weymouth.

The weather was good most of the time, although the fresh wind kept the temperatures down.  The photo above shows the sea wall and promenade, with a two mile distant Weymouth on the horizon.  I stayed in Preston, about three miles from Weymouth, so walked this lovely coastal path a couple of times, and got the bus back. 

Donkeys on Weymouth beach.

Above a distant Portland can be seen on the horizon, and in the middle the tall pole that supports a viewing tower at the entrance to Weymouth harbour.   To the right is "Nothe Fort," which was built in 1872 to protect Portland harbour, which was then becoming an important Royal Navy base.  The fort played an important role in WWll, when the harbour was used as a base for the British and American navies.  

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Off To Dorset on the Bus for a Week at the Seaside.

The harbour at Weymouth.

The blog will be a little quieter this week, because I'm off on holiday to the above.  I just hope it does not rain all the time!  Hi di ho!

Frome Museum, and "Quarry Faces" a History of the Stone Quarries in the Area.

 Box of Explosives and a detonator.

This interesting little museum in Frome,, a hilly little town, with all the most interesting shops at the top of the hill of course,  lies in the cider making county of Somerset.  At the moment it is showing a special exhibition about the quarrying of stone in the local area.  The area is famous for its oolithic limestone, which has been quarried here since the 13th century.  The stone built nearby Wells Cathedral, and also some of the fine 18th century buildings in Bath.

The above photo shows a box that once held dynamite, an explosive discovered by Alfred Nobel, which made mining and quarrying a much easier process.  Stone could now be blasted out of the mines and quarries, instead of by the labour intensive method of hand cutting with huge saws.   To the left are two detonators, used for setting off the explosives.

The Nobel tool, lying in the foreground of the photo, was used to clamp the fuse wire onto the detonator.  These pincers were coated with ? (help me!) a metal which prevented sparking, and prematurely setting off an explosion.  I'm no chemist, so my knowledge here is a bit thin on the ground!

Sieves for the grading of road aggregate.

Aggregate is used for road construction, and after the stone was blasted out of the quarry, it was smashed into smaller pieces, and then graded in large hoppers into different sizes for various applications.

A view of the exhibition.

After our visit we found a local cafe for lunch, where we enjoyed tasty bacon butties,  cups of coffee and a glass of Somerset cider!   All my idea of a good day out.

The fossil remains of some of the large animals, that once roamed the local landscape.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

May Bank Holiday Monday in the Market Place, Devizes.

The prancing horses enjoy their circular run.

I`ve been busy this week, so have got a little behind with my blog writing!  Also the time was "out of joint," because last Monday was a bank holiday, and then the following days felt in the wrong order.   I´m sure I´m not alone in feeling lost sometimes!   These photos were taken at the "Devizes Lions" Bank Holiday festival in the Market Place last Monday.  The sun shone for a change, and everyone had a good time.   

The prancing horses were kept busy all day, not only by children, but with older ladies and grannies, who were reliving the experiences of their youth.   Many years ago I took a ride on a similar roundabout, but was so ill, that I´ve never ventured near one again. 

Captive ducks wait to be caught.

I visited early, before it got too crowded, and saw these little ducks waiting to be captured by excited children.  The chap running the stall is holding the sticks with hooks on the end, which are used to "fish out" each duck.

Mr Punch and his poor wife and baby frighten the children.

Plants for sale.

The collectors' market in "The Shambles."

This old building called "The Shambles" was the Devizes Cheese Hall, and used in the 18th and 19th century as a market place.   One wall holds an old information board entitled, "Rules of the Cheese Market" which lists what can be done and what not in the market.  The building was recently renovated, and now regular collectors´ markets take place throughout the week.  The building was used in the filming of "Far from the Madding Crowd" way back in the 1970´s.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Caen Hill Locks on a Sunny Saturday Morning.

 The view through "Prison Bridge."  

After a week of awful grey and very wet weather, the sun finally shone on us all on Saturday.  Having been cooped up at home for a few days, I made the effort to take a long walk around the 16 locks on the Caen Hill flight on the Kennet & Avon canal in Devizes.  This weekend is the May Bank Holiday, and everyone was out and about, taking in the sun before it disappears again in the coming week when rain will be with us again.  

The photo above was taken underneath "Prison Bridge," so called because in the 19th century the large "County Prison" stood nearby.   The bridge was recently restored, as parts of the parapet were knocked into the canal by a fatal car accident on the bridge in 2012.  

 A narrowboat entering lock 44.

This lock is almost the top of the flight, and in the distance locks can be seen descending towards Lower Foxhangers and on towards  Bradford on Avon and Bath.

 Swans and cygnets.

The swans have produced five healthy cygnets, although sadly I read a notice which said, "Please keep dogs on a lead.  During the week a cygnet was killed here by an unleashed dog."   
The old "Lock Cottage Cafe" at the top of the flight of 16 locks.

The lock is the site of my "Dance with death," when in 2005 I slipped on a rope and fell from the lock side down onto my boat at the bottom of the lock.   I survived much shaken and bruised, but from that moment on, I have kept away from the edge of locks, although I do venture into the cafe to buy a big rum and raisin ice cream, complete with a chocolate "99."  Happy days!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

"Sense and Sensibility" at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury

The main entrance to the "Watermill theatre" in Newbury.

I had heard about this little theatre on many occasions, but had never manage to get there and see a performance.  I was not disappointed, because the production of this popular Jane Austen story was excellent.   The drive to the theatre was not helped by the torrential rain, which was so heavy, it was almost impossible to see out of the windscreen.   Just outside Hungerford the road was flooded, and we had to wait in line until our turn came to pass through in the middle of the road!  

When we arrived at the theatre, we had to sit in the car for ten minutes or so, until the rain stopped.   The car park was flooded, but we picked our way to the entrance past the ducks, who continued doing what ducks do in the spring time, with one female and two or three males! Female ducks have a hard time every spring!  

The stage in the little theatre.

The theatre is small, perhaps holding an audience of about 150 people.   We sat in the front row, in the middle of the action, and with a good view of the costumes and some fine looking 19th century young men.   The cast of professional actors produced a completely convincing performance, it was wonderful.

The one set was used for all the scenes.  

With canny furniture removals, the one set served to show a smart house, a little cottage, a ballroom, a walk in the garden, watching the stars, and the catching creepy crawlies in a pond! A white screen in front of the windows could be raised and lowered.  

In the above photo,  it is lowered to show a room in a small cottage, in the ball scene it was raised to show the more elaborate window frames of a smart manor house.  All very clever.

The piano sets the scene in a small house.

The theatre is in a converted watermill, and in the entrance, a glass fronted wall allows the audience to see the water rushing past the old waterwheel and out through the sluices.  That evening, with all that rain, it looked in full flood!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Field Trip to the Somerset Earth Science Centre and Searching for Fossils.

The eco-friendly Earth Science Centre at Radstock, Somerset.

This low-level building beside a small lake,  has been built as an eco friendly educational centre.  We paid a visit and listened to a morning lecture about the age and formation of our planet, with an afternoon walk along the River Mells to a quarry to look for fossils.

A volcanic bomb.

This piece of rock started life as lava thrown out of a volcano.  The gaseous bubbles are still visible after the lava cooled millions of years ago.  In the background can be seen Juliette, one of the informative lecturers, who talked us through the eras and ages of planet Earth.

Fossil hunting in Tedbury quarry.

These fossil hunters are members of the Devizes U3A Geology group.  Most of us found something of interest, and I was the only one who found a complete bivalve shell.  It is very small, millions of years old, and I have named him "Fred."

Three group members at the "De la Breche Unconformity."

This interesting structure has inclined and weathered limestone rock as the bottom layers, with more recent layers of sandstone deposited on top.   These stratae took millions of years to form.  Limestone and chert for road building was quarried here, which enabled geologists to discover this remarkable rock formation.

Exploring one of the many lime kilns in the area.