Dig Deep

I want to go to Big Pit, said Mr Uphilldowndale, after we’d been wallowing in the history of the industrial revolution in Ironbridge. ‘That sounds interesting’ I said, ‘but I’m not going down it.’ For decades Mr Uphilldowndale has been regaling me with his description of what it was like, back in the very early 1980’s, when he went down to the  48 inch thick coal face of Emley Moor colliery and there was no way I was going to be wriggling around 300 feet underground. Far to claustrophobic for my liking.

So we  headed south into Wales and rolled up at Big Pitt,

Big Pit National Coal Museum (Welsh: Pwll Mawr Amgueddfa Lofaol Cymru) is an industrial heritage museum in Blaenavon, Torfaen, South Wales. A working coal mine from 1880 to 1980, it was opened to the public in 1983 under the auspices of the National Museum of Wales. The site is dedicated to operational preservation of the Welsh heritage of coal mining, which took place during the Industrial revolution.

big pitt

Mr UHDD went to check the lie of the land and came back to tell me that I wouldn’t have to crawl around I could stand up throughout our tour, that admission was free (I had been feeding the dogs) and that we were going down the pit now, as they were expecting 70 school children to arrive in twenty minutes time. So cajoled by added headroom and propelled by the thought of not wanting to be caught up amongst 70 children in a confined space we were on our way down Big Pit.

No photos allowed I’m afraid, cameras, phones, digital watches are all contrabrand

The mine is covered by HM Inspectorate of Mines regulations, because it is still classed as a working pit.[4] Visitors wear a plastic hard hat, safety lamp, and a battery on a waist belt which weighs 5 kilograms (11 lb). Visitors must also carry on their belt a rebreather, which in case of emergency will filter foul air for approximately one hour, giving a chance for survival and escape.[40]

The tour guides are men who used to work at the coal face, or either Big Pit or another colliery, so you got a real flavour of what it was like ‘in their day’ and plenty of history too. Who can start to imagine what it was like for children,  working underground.  There was enough to  see and hear about keep my attention from wandering to the fact, I was in a coal mine, most of the time.  I was surprised about the amount of woodworm in the pit props and timbers though! They can’t treat the timber with chemicals, they just have to keep on replacing it.

They had some beautiful shiny miners lamps, I’ve one at home, it looks a little neglected to compared to Big Pit’s lamps. No canaries down the mine but they did have some in the lamp room (I hadn’t been reunited with my camera at this point!)

Big pit canary

Plenty to see around the mine

big pitt bogies_

Many of the original buildings are accessible,  from the explosives store,

big pitt book

to the medical room,

Medical room Big Pitt

And displays of equipment and ephemera.

Big pit nurse poster

The locker room, what a lot of lockers! I’d never thought about the fact a miner would have two lockers, one for his coal soiled clothes and one for his clean clothes.


I can imagine both would have been popular.

smoking and spitting_

The arrival of ‘pit head baths’ must have transformed the daily routine, for the miners and the women at home…  I love these towels, their style is on the edge of my childhood memory.

showers big pitt

In the showers they also had a recording of  singing, I thought it was Tom Jones, but then a lot of Welsh miners would have sounded like Tom Jones…




Momento Mori

Momento Mori Kirkwall pointing hand 2


TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_21

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts that started in June and are still limping along! I’ll get there in the end…  something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

A visit to St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall,  sadly if was only a brief visit, we managed to slip in  for a quick look around, just as a children’s concert was closing  (there was much fiddle playing, but more of that in a moment) and preparations  for a wedding were beginning , mind you I’d rather see a building that is very much part of the community than one preserved for tourist like me.

There are some wonderful tomb stones, its true to say I find them fascinating,  on many levels, and Orkney has many that are note worthy (there’s probably another post to be had, Mr Uphilldowndale will tell you I spent a lot of time mooching around grave yards on our trip). These  stones I loved because they, leave the viewer in no doubt, we are all just passing through, momento mori, ‘remember you must die’  an hour glass, a spade, a coffin, a skeleton,  cross bones and skull have you got the message? No use spelling it out, if the viewer can’t read, and not many would have been able to circa 1600, so lets be visually bold.

Momento Mori Kirkwall 4

Here, there is something about the hand, with the pointing finger, that made me smile, there is a touch of the Monty Python  about it, what looks like a sleeve, is actually a clasp holding the stone vertical.

Momento Mori Kirkwall pointing hand_

The font was rather wonderful, made with beautiful  marble, or are they pieces of agate? I know they make jewellery with Scottish agates; it reminded me  of another font made of precious stone

Font St Magnus Kirkwall

The external fabric of the cathedral itself has taken a hammering from the elements,

Stone exterior St Magnus_

Momento mori, even if you are a lump of stone

Stone exterior St Magnus 2

After we returned home, I read of a  battered fiddle, bought at a car boot fair, for £20,

It turned out that the fiddle had been made in 1919 by Thomas Sutherland from Flotta, and that the wood had come from HMS Vanguard.

More than 800 people died when the battleship sank in Scapa Flow in July 1917 after a series of internal explosions.

Do have a listen to the restored fiddle, being played in St Magnus cathedral, it will give you goose bumps.

All Loved Up

It isn’t very often I get out my florist wires and ribbons these days, but I had a lovely time a couple of weeks ago making bouquets for a wedding.

Wedding 2

I used beautiful blue love-in-the-mist,  which I’d grown grown from seeds that Flighty kindly sent me,

The brief had a lovely relaxed, country feel about it. I’d masses of hydrangea’s in the garden, which were just the thing


For the  ceremony, which was outside, in a stunning location. 


There was such a wonderful vibe about the place during the preparation, everyone beavering away, hanging bunting and paper lanterns, assembling luscious cakes, the band doing sound checks and banter.

Someone even managed to find time to get the kettle on



Ladies and gentlemen; the bride and groom ( Photo Credit Phil Sproson).

Blight and Blossom

Here we are May 14th and the blossom struggling to break out.

Some features of spring are as they should be, across the valley I can see small flockettes of lambs zipping around the fields, they may be in playful mode, they may just be trying to keep warm, its difficult to tell; from this distance it’s like watching an early video game.

So what blossom have I found? A snow flake of wild plum

A dash of blossom -1

A claw set cluster of crab apple, so near yet so far, as the weather is cold and wet, it may even snow tonight.

A dash of blossom 3-1

I’d a plan to post about blossom in April, I’d have posted beautiful blossom and then delivered seamless segue into beautiful music,  however nature has been slow off the mark, but the music can wait no longer.

Recently we were fortunate enough to have a real gem of an evening of live music, it was a tiny village hall sized affair where we saw Ashley Hutchins and his son Blair Dunlop perform. I’m sure sure Blair’s  musical future is much bigger than village halls (Ashley’s is already in the bag).  Blair’s album is called  Blight and Blossom.

Blair has a  linage of music and poetry,  it is in his  very DNA and, as my mum would say, ‘what’s in tree comes out in the branches’. Enjoy.

It was touching to see (no, make that feel, it was an emotion that was palpable in the hall) Ashley’s pride in his sons performance and craft (and if its not pushing the tree metaphor a tad too far, it was a moment, a memory, to be laid down in the heart wood of the tree.)

Saying Goodbye To Daz

We met in the Autumn sunshine to say our farewells to Daz H,  Darren Holloway.

Hundreds of family and friends packed into the service, I’d stitched 43 club coloured ribbons for his club mates to wear, it wasn’t enough we were some short.

It was a service  that flowed with fond memories of his life and loves, and captured him so well. Many, many tears were shed. This is my favourite photo of Daz, I think it is an  iconic image of  him: Daz  in full flight.

Daz-2011 (1)

Photo by Andy Holden.

Here are the words that were read at the service, written by a fell running friend Mr 1470, they too capture the essence of Daz.

"Some news just hits you like a bolt from the blue, so unexpected, so bizarre in its nature that it fails to register in your cerebral cortex. It seems like a dream, and you fully expect to wake next morning to find the earth back on its true axis.
After that initial hit, the news creeps insidiously into every pore of your being, overwhelming you with a sadness that just floors you, unable to articulate your feelings and leaving you alone with your thoughts and memories.
On this grey, cold Highland morning, as the mist parts and the hillside across the loch becomes visible, I can’t help but see him descending, as graceful as a gazelle on his favourite rocky, bouldery terrain, lost in a world of concentration, his face contorted with effort, his eyes locked in an almost thousand yard stare, his knee and elbow bloodied from some earlier fall.
He’s gaining now on his rivals (and friends!) and nothing will distract him from his desire to reel them in. I shout encouragement….”go on Darren!”….but there’s not a flicker, he’s immersed in his gladiatorial battle.
As the ground flattens out, he strains every sinew to hold position as the finish line approaches. He crosses the line, totally spent, not an ounce of energy left, having given 100% (as he did to everything in life).
And then, just as suddenly, his demeanour changes and he’s all smiles and handshakes and offering words of congratulations to those around him. But it’s not for him to slink off towards the cafe or the pub with the rest of the front runners. Cup of water in hand, he walks back up the last part of the course, cheering, greeting and offering encouragement to those of us who can only dream of the level of performance which he delivers time and time again.
The word “legend” is much overused these days. He deserves that title, for his mastery of the fells, for his ability to make everyone feel special with well chosen words, for his deep understanding and appreciation of the ethos, history and legacy of the sports he loved, for the total enthusiasm with which he led his life. I only hope he knew just how much people thought of him.
The world is a sadder place for the passing of such people. My world is a sadder place this morning. He showed me true friendship, kindness, support and inspiration. To say I admired and respected him would be a massive understatement. My thoughts are especially with those whom he loved and who loved him. It must be so hard to take in….."

And this was the music

As I Slept I Dreamed a Dream

Earlier this week our family gathered in Worcester for the funeral of My Mother-in-law (MiL).

She moved to Worcester in the mid 1980’s she loved the city, but most of all she loved her home. The epicentre of her home was her cosy kitchen, with its original cast iron range (which she took great pride in keeping lit all winter) and the steady, contented, tick tock of her clock.

The photo  below is of a stained glass window that caught my eye during the wedding of my brother in law and sister in law, just a few days ago.

A special place -1

I thought the sentiment captured M-i-L’s relationship with both her home and with the city of Worcester. The quote is from the opening line of John Bunyan’s  Pilgrims Progress.

MiL’s faith was very important to her, as was music (it was The Three Choirs Festival that first brought her to Worcester)  and her funeral drew together many people from different churches in the city, there was beautiful  music and hearty, tuneful singing (not from me, I so can’t sing at the best of times, let alone with a lump in my throat!) It was a service that celebrated her life and truly captured her spirit, which is just what we hoped it would be.

Describing MiL to a colleague I said she was ‘feistily independent’:  and feisty was a word that cropped up several times during the funeral service, it’s also a word that could be easily substituted for passionate.

She was passionate about the ordination of women, she was a lay reader and involved with the group Women in Theology. She was passionate about her political beliefs and her wish for peace, she was a  peace demonstrator at Greenham Common back in the 1980’s.

MiL was also passionate about her bike, a keen cyclist all her life she cycled from Worcester to stay with us in north Derbyshire during her 70th year, staying at youth hostels along the way. I remember  she asked when she arrived if she could take a soak in a hot bath. I asked would she perhaps like a glass of sherry to take with her? She giggled and replied ‘I’ve never done that before, it sounds very decadent, but yes I think I will!’ She flatly refused to wear a cycle helmet, her theory being that it was the motorist responsibility not to hit her! (I’m pleased Tom has a very different attitude to cycle helmets!)

MiL had problems with hearing loss for a number of years; an operation to insert a cochlear implant had helped a lot, but many things remained very difficult for her.

Were talking yesterday about such an incident.

To set the scene,  we were all in a yellow taxi  cab in New York city, we’d flown over to catch up with BiL who was racing around the world it was all very exciting. MiL was sat in the front of the cab, next to the driver, the rest of us were piled in the back. The driver is trying to ask MiL where she is from, but because she couldn’t see his face to lip read she couldn’t work out what he is saying.

Frustrated, the cab driver turns to us in the back and asked loudly

‘Doesn’t she speak English?’

To which my mother in law replied tartly.

‘ Actually, I’m deaf in ANY language!’

That told him. She would also have told you, don’t gabble, look at me when you are speaking to me and take your hand away from your mouth. Her hearing loss made social occasions, with lots of chatter and background noise particularly difficult; she had a poster above her desk,  it read

‘The loneliest place in the world is the edge of a conversation’

A Different View

An email came my way over the Christmas break, it came from pianist, composer Jack Gibbons  it was a request for my permission to use some of my photos from Flicker to accompany a recording of his work. In the cyber world of ‘cut and paste’ it is always nice to be asked, it is also nice to see a different take on your own work, in this case my photos, so let the music sooth you into the weekend. Enjoy.


The Family of Man

the family of man 3-1

Ancestor I, Ancestor II, Parent I

The Family of Man, by Barbara Hepworth at Snape Maltings. To be enjoyed by the family of man. In the background, the sails of boats on the river Deben

The sign is rather weathered

the family of man-1

The sculpture is rather tactile

the family of man 2-1

What I can’t capture here is the sound of an orchestra, rehearsing in the building behind me.

Snape Maltings -1

Let There be Music

After indulging in art, we took to music.  Now here in the UK most places the size of St Davids (population 2,000) would have at most, a village hall in which to offer a recital, but  St David’s is different, it has its very own cathedral

St Davids-1


We went along to a concert  performed in the by Elin Manahan Thomas (open the link and have her singing running for added atmosphere and goose-bumps  to this post)

St Davids 2-1

accompanied by  the  lovely young people of TheCardiff School of Music (who all looked no older than Tom.) Simply beautiful music in a spectacular location

St Davids 3-1

It was something of a treat for Mrs Ogg and I to walk to the pub for our supper saunter down to the cathedral for the concert and then stroll back to the cottage.

St Davids 5-1

After City Lights

I’ve been to not one, but two cities this week, Wednesday saw me entombed for the day in a Manchester hotel and over the weekend I’ve been staying in Leeds city centre. I’m so not used to being downtown on a Saturday night. I (and my colleagues) suddenly felt very old and parochial.*

After city lights-1

It didn’t bode well when we arrived at our hotel to find reception swamped by hen parties booking in for the night. We just knew that they are going to have far more staying power than us and would not go quietly, into, or out of the night.

I was lucky my room overlooked Tetley’s brewery, some of our group had rooms that over looked a night club and plaza, a plaza that was still teeming with life  and booming with music at 4am. If I looked bleary eyed this morning it was due to my over indulgence (we had a very nice meal and ‘some wine’ at the Arts Cafe) other were wearied by the excess’s of other revellers. 

I was very happy to get home this afternoon and sit and watch the leaves float by on the pond, it’s been been a beautiful sunny day. It was about as much dazzling colour and excitement as I could cope with.

After city lights 1-1

*OK so we might have been just a tad envious of their youthfulness; as we wallowed nostalgically in tales of  clubbing and parties past (especially those who frequented the Hacienda) I’ve never been much of a clubber, but I am fond of a dance and a party

(Lloyd Spencer’s photography captures Leeds nightlife perfectly)