On The Prime Meridian, Day Three

On the ground, in the skies.

Amongst the plans we made before arriving here was a trip to the nearest fishmonger in Louth. We are not that far from Grimsby where fish is still landed on a daily basis and we hope that this will mean fine fresh produce. A simple view in these days of global food transportation, but we’ll hold onto it for now. Besides, fresh fish doesn’t travel that well. Unless it is in the sea.

On this basis we make an early dash to Louth to visit Igloo Foods.

As we wend our way through its higgledy piggledy town centre I get a sense of faded glory. Louth is a market town and thankfully has many apparently thriving independent shops, a diversity of trades – an active ironmongers is always a good sign to me. But the discount shops have moved in. Just here and there, not in great numbers. I wonder how it will look in five years time, or maybe only two.

There are a couple of characters about who, given a change from shell suit to Victorian street garb, would have been ne’er do wells in a Dickensian novel. The ambling youth later blocking our way, apparently innocently staring into a shop window (it was empty), then following us a little too close until I brave a sharp stare – I’m onto you – and stop him in him in his tracks, is a case in point.

Only when we reach the next corner do we realise how quiet that little side-street was. I ask Si if he saw the man with the roll-up sat on the steps near to where we encountered our temporary shadow. Despite this, I love this type of town. Narrow dysfunctional streets, not knowing where you are, a slightly shabby appearance being spruced up in random places, independent traders each with their own speciality, having to visit at least four shops for your weekly purchases, and recommendations of who might have exactly what you want.

I also favour this time of day, just before opening time. Blinds being raised, unloading of goods, shouted “hello”s and “nice day”s, butchers carving up and hanging meat carcasses, windows and pavements being washed down, savvy shoppers arriving early for the best cuts, the promise of a good day’s trade.

We collect our fish, grab a quick cache, then revert to type and complete the shopping in the co-op supermarket. Sad really.

A quick drop off of provisions then onto Gunby Hall, a National Trust property with pretty gardens and a prettier cat called Committee, because she looks like she has been designed by one. Much like Min the cat back home. She lazily greets us whilst sunning herself on the path to the greenhouse.

Designed By Committee

Committee the cat

We find that we do not tend to visit the houses of National Trust properties, but the gardens and woodland walks. The former gives me ideas for our more modest patch back home, and the latter allows us to stretch our legs in a tame environment, plus some ideas for the wilder (less maintained) part of our garden. Gunby has the added bonus of a church (sadly locked), with views over the fields.

Close to the estate, and still part of it, is Monksthorpe Chapel, which has what looks like a cess pit, but is in fact a disused outdoor baptistery. On our way there we pass the former site of RAF Spilsby, now featuring a poultry farm. Large sheds emit a familiar smell, pervasive and persistent. We are pleased to leave and head to a grass verge near Revesby to have our lunch.

Being in these parts means a trip to Coningsby, home of the RAF Typhoons. It’s a sunny day and makes for good plane watching. Himself is pleased as we sit in the car park full of similar couples but mainly many solo males armed with tele-photo lenses galore.

Down the road is Tattershall village boasting a fine 15th century castle-keep. We have visited before, decline the audio tour and head straight for the ramparts.

One of Tattershall's  Corner Towers

One of Tattershall’s corner towers

It’s a clear day and the views are splendid. Lincolnshire does not have the dramatic beauty that you find in Snowdonia or the Lake District, but, being reasonably flat, you get a real sense of space around you. The skies here are huge. Really huge.

Big skies seen from Tattershall Castle

Big skies seen from Tattershall Castle,

Next to the castle and visitor centre is the Holy Trinity Collegiate Church. A fine building with intricate stone work and a wonderful east window.

The Holy Trinity Collegiate Church, Tattershall

East window, Holy Trinity Collegiate Church, Tattershall

We return to the cottage via another of our favourite spots, known to us as the Scenic Lay-by. It is on the blue stone ridge and its allows us to look over towards the cottage, just about.

Part of a failed panoramic shot from The Blue Stone Scenic Lay-by

Part of a failed panoramic shot from The Blue Stone Scenic Lay-by

Dinner is delicious. Halibut baked in lemon and pepper, accompanied by purple sprouting broccoli and seasonal Boston new potatoes.


We round the day off with an impromptu stroll partway along the Roman Road which passes though Tetford.

Roman Road Sunset

Splendid. Just splendid.




On The Prime Meridian, Day Two

Thoughts and Prayers

I woke early.

Sunrise over the Bluestone Ridge, Lincolnshire Wolds

As with our previous holiday, I enjoy observing the quirks of cottage, like the motion sensitive lights in Anglesey which I had to activate by waving broccoli at them. Here it is the noisiest fridge I have ever come across. Not that I am a seasoned fridge expert. It is almost constantly bubbling and whirring away to itself. Hang on. It’s just stopped. Like the death of the Martian call in Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, the silence is unbearable.

On the way back from our top up shopping, the promise of a geocache leads us to the little Saxon church at Lusby. It is one of the joys of geocaching that many members place caches in interesting places. It is not all about the numbers. This being a case in point. Not finding the cache didn’t matter. The church was a joy to visit.


St Peter’s Church, Lusby, which has stonework dating from Saxon times.

There was a sign warning of ponies in the churchyard, but they were either elsewhere or very very tiny.

I imagine that if I lived nearby, this would be my refuge as and when I needed it.

On a related note, it is Open Churches Weekend in West Lindsey. Somewhere we had driven past on previous holidays but not visited is St Mary’s in Stow. The church pre-dates nearby Lincoln Cathedral, and boasts Viking graffiti, believed by some to be from the 12th century. Entering the church at the moment is like entering a building site, probably because it is one. The roof is undergoing repairs, costing in excess of £500,000. 

The fine stone in-laid vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows.

Above the ceiling is a void with a floor of jagged stone edges. It is said that if you can find the right one, removing it will cause that segment of the ceiling to fall to the floor below.

Someone must have used a step ladder to reach and polish this censer.

It is a majestic building in comparison to the many little chapels and churches in the surrounding villages, second in grandeur possibly only to the cathedral itself.  Lusby chapel would fit inside several times over and I would be inside that chapel.

We spent lunch in an elevated lay-by near RAF Scampton with some bikers, waiting for something that never happened. I can’t tell you what it was, because it never graced us with its presence.

Later we make a random choice of b-road and we are presented with a turning signposted Wickenby Aerodrome and RAF memorial. Wickenby was a base for Lancasters in the second World War and a maintenance unit was based here long after. There is a small memorial, sadly devoid of commemorative panels (stolen) and statue (stored in fear of theft). It declares the price paid for our freedom.  A freedom that some have chosen to use to deface the memory of the fallen.

Just inside the aerodrome perimeter is a memorial walk. Trees planted and dedicated to individuals and or crews. It is very moving. The words “an uncle never known” are too painful for me to consider dry-eyed.

We continue our walk to the end of one runway and pause a while.

Looking along one of the runways at Wickenby Aerodrome

We are again a little early to return, and head for afternoon coffee in a favourite lay-by near Burgh On Bain. Last time we visited, Si grabbed the cache here before I had got the car door open. We check that it is still present before we leave.

Before dinner, we stroll along the lane and grab a couple of caches, taking in the gentle beauty surrounding us.

View from Clay Lane, Little London, Tetford

It’s a pleasant end to a thoughtful day.


On The Prime Meridian, Day One

And we’re off.

The journey from west to meridian takes about three and half hours. We leave at 0715 and, knowing that our residence for the week wll not be available until after 1600, we will have time to kill. Himself has concerns, I have plans.

I take the wheel for the first leg of the journey, which is grey, wet and windy. We skirt Manchester and head over the Woodhead Pass. A pleasure in good weather, a slow grind today in a long train behind the obligatory petrol tanker.

Stop One is a quick changeover near, well, nowhere in particular. Himself takes the wheel and I start to relax, which is not good because I’m supposed to be navigating. Only one minor diversion. Usually I can hide my errors (he has no sense of direction), but the even if the sun hadn’t been so low, he would have spotted the complete about-turn at the next roundabout. Maybe I should have asked him to drive around it a few times to disorientate him.

Usual exchange:
“This looks familiar.”
“I thought so too, that must be a feature round these parts.”

Soon we are at Roche Abbey for Stop Two. Last visited two years ago and still ruinously splendid. The light wasn’t very good, so I’ve applied a little snapseed magic:

It was a Cistercian abbey, dissolved like so many in Henry VIIIs reign. The locals assisted in its physical collapse, and one wonders what pleasure they took in finding fine building materials at the expense of The Church. You might think of monks as pious individuals, praying constantly, healing the sick and feeding the hungry, but there is evidence that many in England did not live such a Godly life.

Roche might have been different. There is an extensive infirmary. That said, we are only too aware in the twenty-first century of the effects of a diet of excess, so maybe this was for residents use only.

Stop Three is a cute little windmill at Tuxford. It is National Mills weekend and the entrance fee has been waived. As usual, I climb up all available stairs and himself keeps feet on terra firma. There are five floors (it doesn’t look that tall from the ground), and they are milling today in a fine breeze.  The change in the turning speed of the stones as the strength of the breeze rises and falls takes me by surprise. I keep fingers and clothing well away.


We purchase flour and muesli but, because of some obscure health and safety rule, we are refused cake. Hrumph.

After a lunch break in a non-scenic lay-by and a stop for provisions at our 2013  holiday base in Doddington we are on the last leg of our journey. Except that we are too early to collect the cottage keys and must kill time at a local garden centre where cake is not refused and we head to local land mark, the Belmont  Mast.

This 1154 foot tall structure is television transmission station. In 2010 was shortened  by roughly 100 feet. Prior to this it was considered the tallest structure of its kind in the world.

We park up with a good view and good cake (at last). Stop Five is also the setting for our first geocache find of this holiday. We exchange a very shiny plastic key for a plastic soldier, who I name Lincolnshire Tommy.  Si points out that he should really be an airman to be from Lincolnshire, but he is quite clearly a soldier and the name sticks.

We set off too soon and have to make Stop Six. Where there isn’t a geocache or cake, just a lay-by overlooking the mast (if you look over your shoulder).

Soon we are the cottage. It is as pretty as as I remember it from seven years ago.

After unpacking, unwinding and dining, we take a brief stroll into the adjoining village. It is a warm Saturday evening and young men stand outside the inn. We take a tour of the churchyard, then head back to the cottage, bagging a cache on the way.

It has been a good start to the week.


On The Prime Meridian, Nearly

And breathe. The out of office is set, Min the cat is in her holiday home, and the car is just about packed.

The title refers to our position relative to acknowledged time lines. Tomorrow we will be holidaying in Lincolnshire, an undervalued county in our opinion, but we’ll not complain. We would not want everyone to descend upon our peace.

Our base for the week will be a hamlet called Little London. There are several other Little Londons in the UK. They are on the Greenwich Time Line, giving their connection to our capital city, hence the name. The similarities just about stop there.

I thought that I would look a little into how and why Greenwich became recognised as longtitude zero, otherwise know as the Prime Meridian and I give you a Wikipedia fuelled nutshell:

– The Greek Eratosthenes developed the notion of longtitude;

– Ptolemy developed this further suggesting a Prime Meridian running approximately through The Canaries;

– Increased long distance sea travel and the development of the naval chronometer demanded a more accurate method of mapping and the agreement of the line of longitude zero.

– In 1884, the International Meridian Conference held in Washington, D.C. voted to adopt the Sir George Airy’s Greenwich  meridian as the prime meridian.

– The French wanted a neutral line, abstained and continued to use the Paris meridian until 1911.

– Many Prime Meridians are listed by Wikipedia, surely a contradiction in terms?

– The Airy Meridian is at GPS   0° 00′ 05.3101″ W.

As far as I am concerned, for the coming week, we got ‘tude zero!


Happy Saturday

In my memory, the sun was always shining. I’m sure that it must have rained. This was mid-seventies England after all.

Almost every Saturday, after my brother and father had returned from football practice, mum and I would journey to our nearest chip shop for the Saturday lunchtime treat. It was only half a mile away, but to my little legs,  it was in another land.

Sometimes we walked, but most often we would cycle. Me on my Raleigh Fourteen, mum on an old black bicycle which looked as though it might have been owned by Mary Poppins. It was probably no more than twenty years old, but appeared Edwardian. Or possibly Victorian, which means that Mary Poppins must have bought hers second-hand. She loved that bicycle, and I remember sharing her tears when a clumsy neighbour ran his car into it. Fortunately it was leaning against a wall at the time, not in use. Unfortunately, it was irreparable.

The journey took us out of our middle-class comfort zone towards a less leafy and busier part of town. Still quite young, I had just started to notice that there were houses smaller than ours, and where the only place to park your car was on the road. Unlike us, there was only one car per house. I was slightly scared of one particular road, flanked either side with vehicles, and I was glad not to be alone. Twelve years later I would dread being asked to navigate along that same road by my driving instructor. On Saturday mornings, the younger me would be rewarded for my bravery with fish and chips.

Our chip shop was, at that time, run from the side of another shop. Almost round the back. There was only a short counter and even on a Saturday lunchtime, the queue would spill onto the pavement. By the time I was old enough to visit on a Friday evening, the chippy had expanded into the adjacent shop, acquired a larger counter and customers had somewhere to sit to wait for their takeaway. Back in the mid-seventies, the queue for a Friday night fish supper must have stretched past several nearby houses.

Enjoying fish and chips is more than just eating. It starts when you are close enough to smell the food being prepared. As the chip-shop door was left open, our meal ‘commenced’ as we secured our bikes to a nearby lamppost. My mother unhooked her basket from the handlebars. It was a large gondola basket. I had a mini version which I too unhooked. My role in proceedings would be to carry the ‘mushy peas’ back home in my little basket.

The next phase of the meal takes place whilst standing in the queue. Nowadays I might spend that time changing my mind about what to order, but back then choices were from a limited menu and in your wait the increasingly strong smell built the anticipation of pleasures to come. You would never smell fish, just frying chips and the sharpness of vinegar on a satisfied customer’s purchase as they left the shop and you were one step closer.

Stepping inside the shop you knew you had reached the holy grail. Enormous jars of pickled eggs (YUK!) sat on the counter. They still make me think of eyeballs in a horror movie to this day.  I watched them with a mixture of suspicion and fear until it was our turn. The shop owner silently moved the chips around in the fryer whilst his ruddy-faced wife took our order. I wondered if she eat all the leftovers at the end of a day.

“Three fish and chips please. No vinegar on one of the portion of chips. Oh, and two cartons of mushy peas please.”

I hated vinegar with a passion, and if  ‘my’ chips (which I shared with mum) suffered even the slightest contamination from another portion, this little princess would be sulky all day.

Our fish would be wrapped together, and each portion of chips had its own parcel. All wrapped in greaseproof paper then each parcel cloaked in newspaper to keep it warm.

We left the shop heads high, smiling at the queue. We have our lunch, you still have to wait for yours. Be patient and you will be rewarded.

Baskets re-hooked and bicycles unsecured we headed back home. The return journey seemed longer, the scent of our lunch calling to us, tempting us to pull over and try just one chip. I split my attention between the road ahead and my little basket of jade green jewels.

Upon return we hastily leave the bikes in the driveway and head indoors to dish up. My brother and father are already waiting. A family of four enjoying a greasy smelly treat together, mine with no vinegar but lashings of tomato ketchup (ironically laced with vinegar). How the food stayed warm on the journey back I’ll never know. Magic newspaper? It was probably almost cold, but memory has a habit of glossing over such details.

We have knives and forks but are allowed to eat the chips with our fingers if we wish. A special Saturday treat.



Ref: Writing101, Day 10 Prompt: Tell us something about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Yes, I am weeks behind, will complete the course in my own sweet time…..

At The Same Time

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Intricate.”

Intricate does not always mean small.

We came across this splendid device in the formal gardens of Culzean Castle, near Ayr in West Scotland. We had visited the castle before, but must not have visited the walled garden. Standing on its plinth, this multi-faced sundial towered above me and told us over and over that it was about 12:30.

I remember wondering at the amount of thought, effort (and time!) which would have gone into designing this intricate timepiece.

Many faces, but giving the same answer. We could learn something from this.


Intricate Sundial

Time for lunch?


He could smell the wool, almost taste it. Even from several feet away.

Alison put her arm around him.

“Don’t fret my love. I know that it’s hard for you, but you did the right thing. No-one could have expected you to carry on by yourself. It wasn’t possible.”

Less than twelve months ago, Gavin Hughes had been a fourth generation mill owner. His forefathers had passed down the tradition through the years, instilling the love of the fibres, bestowing upon him the skills and secrets learnt over scores of years, until it all ended. With one son running a successful construction business in Australia, and the other studying a PhD in Genomics at Cambridge, there was no-one to take on the heritage. No-one to be the fifth generation. No-one.

Alison would tell him that it was not his fault that neither child had seen a future in wool, that other factors left the business untenable, but Gavin had a strong belief in “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. He knew that he hadn’t done enough to encourage Mathew, whose love of anything mechanical was ideal for keeping the Victorian machinery working. But the boy was more interested in fast cars and local girls, and too many heated exchanges had burned that bridge. Owen was too bright to be tied to the Teifi Valley. That was clear from an early age.

The local wool museum had offered apprentices, but Gavin’s stickling for tight timekeeping and short temper resulted in a high turnover in staff (unlike the sales) and the supply of willing volunteers ran dry.

As did the Teifi, several times a year. Perhaps those loony-leftie tree huggers had a point about global warming thought Gavin. A watermill cannot run without a water, and if there wasn’t a drought, there was a flood, overfilling the mill pond and spilling past the head race. Feast or famine. Drought or flood. Not biblical proportions, but enough to wonder if someone up there had it in for you.

As a child, Gavin had been fascinated by how shaggy fleeces had been turned into soft blankets of many colours. The willowing, turning the washed fleece into fine wisps like the hair of the angels. The fierce looking carding machines, aggressively drawing the wisps through an intricate route around their enormous drums. The click-clack-thwack as the shuttle shot across the loom, only to be returned with equal ferocity, then back again.

But now there was only silence. The fleeces were gone, the machines had been sold as scrap and the shell of the mill awaited the property developers. They said the conversion would be sympathetic to the history of the area. Gareth didn’t care. He had betrayed his ancestors and deserted his trade. He would live a comfortable but troubled retirement in Beaumaris, and never return to the Teifi.


Ref: Writing101, Day 9 Prompt: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Writing 101 Day 7 and 8: Night and Day

Please take the time to read this beautiful spin on a recent writing 101 prompt.

Smiley in the Mirror

Night and Day met at dusk and exchanged their daily pleasantries

“I’m as warm as I’ve ever felt” said Night, in a husky voice. “I’m warm and cool and dry and moist, none sleep save those whom you exhausted.”

“I burned everyone foolish or unfortunate to step out under my power” Day rumbled, proud and full of himself.

“My light baked their land, their crops and their minds”

“Your cruelty and kindness are already known to all” said Night “Stop boasting!”

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We’re sat in his ground floor flat, listening to Dark Side Of The Moon.

“Words or music. Which is the greater part of a song?” he asks.

“Music. Definitely.”

“Really? So the story of the song is not important to you?”

“If I didn’t like the delivery of the words, I wouldn’t like the song. Besides the song is much more than the dialogue. Not all songs are dialogue, some convey feelings or moods. It’s the melody, chords and instrumentation that will catch my attention.”

“It’s the words that draw me to a song. Take Marillion’s ‘Warm Wet Circles’, there are so many clever meanings, it evokes so many scenes from a young man’s life.”

He quotes:

‘Like a mothers kiss on your first broken heart, a warm wet circle
Like a bullet hole in Central Park, a warm wet circle’.

“I’ll agree that’s clever, but I just can’t take to Fish’s delivery on this song, and the guitar solo is predictable….”

“But can’t you see the images?”

“I don’t give myself time to, because I don’t like the arrangement”.

I take a sip of wine. ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ starts. A particular favourite of ours.

“What about this track?” I ask.

Ref: Writing101, Day 7 Prompt : Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.
Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue.


Catching The Worm

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Early Bird.”

Crisp Morning Light

Crisp Morning Light

It was the Sunday between Christmas and New Year, and many people were sleeping off their seasonal excesses. The cache had been launched the previous evening and we headed off to try our luck at being the first to find it.

Our dedication was not only rewarded with a clear log book, but also with crisp early morning views over the marshes towards Wales. The sun was still low when we took this shadow selfie.

I particularly liked how the light picked up the frost on the marsh reeds, and the subtle differences in the sky colour.