Uphilldowndale

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


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Float your boat

You can’t leave canals out of the history of  the Ironbridge Gorge, for transporting all those delicate and valuable china goods, to hauling the coal to fire the kilns, it was by far the best option, the only other way was pack horses on unmade roads.

Brick bottle kiln coalport

The canal at Coalport was frozen over in part, on the day we visited, the ducks waddled along as best they could, occasionally falling through the ice, or swimming along in the style of an ice breaker

Now I may be the ‘creative’ of the household, but I know cracking engineering  solution when I see it. This is the Hay inclined plane, we have few of those nearer to home, but none as impressive as this, ours were used for hauling trucks full of limestone or coal to or from the canals, here they simply moved the whole boat.

Inclined Plane_

The Hay Inclined Plane is a canal inclined plane with a height of 207 feet that is located on a short stretch of the Shropshire Canal that linked the industrial area of Blists Hill with the River Severn. The inclined plane was in operation from 1792 to 1894 and can be visited as part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town and is also a waypoint on the South Telford Heritage Trail. In operation box-shaped tub boats 20 feet long were taken up and down the plane on twin railway tracks, an empty boat would be loaded into the river at the bottom and a full boat would be loaded into the canal at the top, a rope would connect the two so that gravity would drop the loaded boat down to the river counterbalanced by an empty boat being raised to the canal. At the bottom of the incline the rails went underwater allowing the boats to float free.

I participially like the wiggle in the rails

Inclined Plane 3

 

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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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Galloping towards Spring

Coltsfoot,  Tussilago farfara, I’d  recently been thinking how I’d not seen this sunny little spring flower for donkey’s years, I’d even thought about going to see if it still grows in the place I remember it as a child (funny how I can remember where that is, but not where I’ve put my phone) and then I stumble upon a magnificent clump a few hundred yards from the house.

Coltsfoot 2

Historically it was used to treat coughs and asthma (although  the toxins it’s now known to contain wouldn’t have done your liver any good) my book also says it was dried and smoked, so that’s not going to improve your cough is it?

Gypsy folklore has it that wherever it grows, coal will be found below. And I have to say, that for the sake of my neighbours house we have to hope its a coal seam (which is entirely possible) and not a coal mine.

Coltsfoot

I’d been reminiscing with some friends about coltsfoot rock, a sweet we used to buy as children, it became apparent from the conversation, that it is a bit of northern delicacy (its made in Lancashire)  

Three sticks of Coltsfoot Rock

My memory is that it tastes not unlike liquorice, and a few weeks later I stumbled upon some in an old fashioned sweetie shop, I was looking for Parma Violets at the time, but that’s another story. I can confirm, it still tastes like liquorice. I bought some for my friends, one was so taken by the memory of it, she took some sticks home, broke them into pieces, so that she could make it last longer, I doubt we did that as kids.

 

 


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Tale of Two Trees

A couple of years ago I purchased two Victoria Plum trees,  it was purchase made of nostalgia, Mum always used to buy me a bag of plums on our holidays each year, in my memory they were delicious, over the years I have deduced that they must have been Victoria plums, however these days they don’t seem very easy to find in the shops.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with two trees of plums, Mr Uphilldowndale doesn’t like them, it will be the mad apple lady all over again.

However as time passes I’m not convinced the two trees are siblings. Have I been sold a pup, or is one a late developer? They are growing a few yards from each other, same amount of light etc.

Exhibit one

Victoria left_

Exhibit one, buds

Victoria left bud 2

Exhibit two

Victoria right

Victoria right blossom_

As a foot note, its true what they say, when you plant a tree you always wish you’d done it five years earlier…

 

 


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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.

 

 

 

 

 


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Ironbridge

More of our travels,  this time Ironbridge in Shropshire, somewhere that has been on our ‘one day we’ll go to…’ list for a long long time. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site 

If Soho House and the Lunar Society was where the formative minds of the industrial revolution came together, this is where the base materials and skills became more than the sum of their parts

Opened in 1781, it was the first major bridge in the world to be made of cast iron, and was greatly celebrated after construction owing to its use of the new material.

Iron Bridge

We didn’t realise the bridge had been swathed in scaffold and plastic for some considerable time,  whilst it had been renovated, it had been recently unwrapped, we overheard some of the locals saying they didn’t like its ‘new’ colour (which is actually the historically correct, original colour)  I like the colour because it reminded me of my dad, he used to paint anything that didn’t move with ‘red oxide paint’ (OK, so occasionally  he made an exception and got out a pot of ‘battleship grey’, but that was the full colour spectrum of his paint stock.)

Iron Bridge red

The Ironbridge Gorge provided the raw materials that revolutionised industrial processes and offers a powerful insight into the origins of the Industrial Revolution and also contains extensive evidence and remains of that period when the area was the focus of international attention from artists, engineers, and writers. The property contains substantial remains of mines, pit mounds, spoil heaps, foundries, factories, workshops, warehouses, iron masters’ and workers’ housing, public buildings, infrastructure, and transport systems, together with the traditional landscape and forests of the Severn Gorge. In addition, there also remain extensive collections of artifacts and archives relating to the individuals, processes and products that made the area so important.

Iron Bridge tolls

Ironbridge has ten museums, we managed three in a day, but we have a season ticket to return at our leisure.

Iron Bridge buildings_

If you are visiting Ironbridge, we feel we should give a shout out to the hospitality of The White Hart

White Hart Ironbridge.jpg