Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Time machine

Having seen astronaut Tim Peak’s landing craft, we thought we’d see if we there were any tickets available to see the exhibition of 12 Leonardo da Vinci drawings that was also showing. at the National Museum Cardiff,  ‘Yes’ they said, ‘two tickets available right now, come on in.’

144 of Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection are displayed in 12 simultaneous exhibitions across the UK to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing features 12 drawings at each venue, all selected to reflect the full range of Leonardo’s interests – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

LD 12

I was surprised we were allowed to take photographs, but we were, so long as there was no flash used. Fumbling around with my phone to take a snap or two to upload to social media, I had a bit of a moment where I realised the phone was about to flash! I quickly bundled into the folds of my fleece, for fear of  a 500 year old de Vinci disappearing like invisible ink, in front of my eyes! (The Banksy incident was running through my mind).

LD 11

Was there anything he couldn’t draw or imagine?

DV8

Great feats of engineering and soft romantic portraits

DV5

The anatomical drawings are incredible.

DV3

Not only in terms of the observation,

DV1

but he clearly had a rich understanding of how the body works, which seems a head of its time, as the information  screen explained.

DV4

Leonardo da Vinci, wrote in backwards, ‘mirror writing’ as to why the jury seems to be out, but as a left handed dyslexic, who was made to write with ink  at primary school, yes a ‘dip pen’  it was 1968 not 1508! But I can remember the mess I made, so I can understand why he wrote the way he did, but not how!

And now I’m seeing the teacher responsible for insisting on me writing in pen and ink in this drawing, you get the picture?

Da Vinci 12

Afterwards we found our way to the coffee shop, to reflect that we had just been transported, from Tim Peake’s space travel, to five hundred years ago, when the polymath that was Leonardo da Vinci was sketching something remarkably like a helicopter all under one roof. Amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You have reached your destination

We meandered our way through Shropshire, and the South Wales coalfields, to reach Cardiff, our boy Joe has been working in Cardiff on his industry placement year, what a cracking time he’s been having (he’s studying civil engineering at Swansea University). There is a very handy campsite, near the city centre, (book it is you can it is fully booked more often than not) this allowed us to catch up (and feed, what student doesn’t want mum and dad to turn up and take them out for dinner?) with Joe in the evenings and we got to have a good mooch around the city, with Spud the dog, close at hand.

We were on the doorstop of The Museum of Wales, at opening time, along with a large number of school parties, but we were swift of foot, and savvy to getting ahead of school parties, before teacher could raise their clipboard, we were off and in, to see astronaut Tim Peake’s *landing capsule, which has been touring the UK, it’s got a bit of a Sutton Hoo look about it, in the background, the parachute with which it drifted down to earth or came down with a bump, depending whose story you believe.

Tim Peake 8

It was very well lit, so you could see inside, not much room to swing a cat…

Tim 1_

it looks kind of basic doesn’t it, compared to the smart phone or tablet you might be reading this blog on?

Tim Peake 4

We were comforted to see, that if all else fails, there is a ring bider or two you can refer to for instructions what to do next.

Tim Peake 5

Not sure how you recharge it though.

Tim Peake 2

It looks like it took a bit of a knock, I’m sure a bit of body filler or gaffer tape would sort it though, no harm done.

Tim Peake 3

https://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2016/06/Soyuz_TMA-19M_landing

*Tim Peak is a bit of a hero in our books, not only for what he did in space, but with what he continues to do educating  and encouraging young people into studying  STEM  sciences and with his involvement of  The Scout Association

 

 


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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.

lockers

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…

 

 

 


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Much Wenlock

After visiting three of the ten museums in the Ironbridge Gorge, we sought a hearty supper and a welcoming campsite in nearby Much Wenlock.

Much Wenlock is an ancient market town, it was sleepy when we hit the streets early next day, it has many beautiful old buildings,

Much Wenlock timbered building

I was caught by a wave of childhood nostalgia, by a RSPCA collection box, a little bell rang when I put Mr Uphilldowndale’s money in it, lovely, look how loved those noses are!

RSPCA vintage collection box

The Guildhall, 16th century.

 

Much Wenlock Guild Hall

A place you wouldn’t have been wanting to be chained too, back in the day

Guildhall much wenlock

Can graves look cosy? Maybe its just the symmetry.

two graves much wenlock

There was an antique shop, that was very well stocked…

Much wenlock antiques 2.jpg

Certainly not somewhere that has not had a Marie Kondo makeover!

Much Wenlock antiques

Another little flash of nostalgia, my grandmother had a little table just like this, I’m sure she brought back from one of her early early ‘package deal’ holidays, of which she was an early adopter… I must post about that.

Nan's Table

Much Wenlock was the home of the modern Olympics, founded by William Penny Brookes

Penny Brookes

A little town, with much to see and note,

Much Wenlock window

But we must be on our way, underground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Just my cup of tea

I have a little china cup, once upon a time it lived in the glass fronted cabinet in the ‘front room’ of my great, great aunt’s house, one of those late Victorian rooms of heavy furniture and creaking floor boards, the lids of the china teapots in the cabinet rattled as you walked across the room.  Here she is seated, centre, I don’t remember her a being very jolly,  but I do remember, in the 1970’s her then white hair, had a nicotine stained quiff of yellow,

Jenny

Time passes and the little cup then moved on to my mum’s dresser, and now it lives in my cabinet of curiosities. It’s marked Coalport China

Coalport white_

I thought I might find out a little about it at the Coalport Museum.  What I discovered is that my plain little cup has some much grander cousins (excuse the shaky photo).

Gold teacup

It seems Coalport sold undecorated china, and it was often decorated by other companies to their specification. I prefer my little white cup, just the way it is,  I like its simplicity.

I can’t think that this little print came from the dour great Aunts house, it seems far to whimsical for her taste, but who knows.

Chinacup

 

 

 


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More bricks than most.

Our visit to the Ironbridge area and Coalbrookdale, and our third museum of the day, the Coalport China Museum  

With its wonderful bottle kiln, which, whilst it looks aesthetically pleasing to the eye now, must have been a filthy smoke belching beast in its day.

Brick bottle kiln coalport

When it came to manufacturing ceramics, there were a lot of bricks involved.

Brick 8.jpg

As much craftsmanship in their manufacture as the fine ceramics that were produced from these building and kilns.

Brick bottle kiln

One of kilns (I’m not sure how many there were at this site originally,  I guess many) had been dismantled, however its remains gave a different view of how beautifully built these kilns were, just look at the curving deliciousness of these bricks, its stone that holds my heart, but bricks are flirtatious!

Bottle kiln

Everywhere you looked their were bricks, the floor of the yard

Brick 6.jpg

The walls, every brick must hold a story…

Brick wall coalport

 

 


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Cast in Iron

Shoreacres asked in my last post, about the difference between, cast and smelted  iron, the answer, both the long and the short versions can be found in the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron   But perhaps more readily accessible is this website

I enjoyed Shoreacres comment, this is what I love about blogging, things you’d never have known about, but for the comments of fellow bloggers…

This is so interesting. Now I’m trying to remember the difference between cast iron and smelted iron… I just learned that the difference is between cast and wrought iron. Wrought Iron is iron that has been heated and then worked with tools. Cast Iron is iron that has been melted, poured into a mold, and allowed to solidify. The difference came to mind because when I lived in Liberia, there still was so-called “Kissi money” circulating. It was made of iron by village blacksmiths, and circulated into the last century along with various other currencies.

I rather like the idea of a village blacksmith knocking out their own currency, a kind of quantitative easing?

There were many thing in the museum, made of iron that surprised me, whilst I’d seen garden benches before, I’d not seen household furniture, here a table chair and wall cupboard, how on earth did you fix a cast iron cupboard to a wall,? That’s what I want to know. It’s difficult enough hanging a picture at this house, with its ancient plaster.

Coalbrookdale furniture .jpg

As we left the museum, I was sad to see the nearby Coalbrookdale Foundry, the gates locked and in a sad state of dereliction, our old AGA would have been made there. It served many uses in our home from warming the dog,  To drying all manner of things

Snowy Mk11 Drying.jpg

And whilst our oil fired AGA is no longer with us  (it went on to a new home and will be working away somewhere) we now have a dual fuel range cooker, made by the same company, but not  it seems at this foundry.

I find this newspaper image so sad and poignant, as the employees left for the last time, after 309 years of production, they tied their boots to the iconic gates.