Archive for March, 2016

New footbridge at Harold Wood Station

March 10, 2016

From February 16th

Some months ago I attended an exhibition at St. Peter’s to tell us about what would happen in the run up to Crossrail. I was glad to be re-assured that all four lines could still be used by both the TfL (Crossrail) and Greater Anglian trains to keep the services going during maintenance or other problems. My wife was less happy when I told that construction traffic from the A12 traffic lights to the station would use our road on the way to the station; this, so far, doesn’t seem to have made any impact in our road.

It was a couple of months ago that the foundations for the footbridge were put in. This involved closing the fast lines for a weekend while a temporary bridge went, at platform level, between platforms 2 and 1. Then there was no great activity in the station, apparently, for some time. Of course, there was work going on up and down the track, and we have become used extra construction equipment appearing in Station Road at evenings and weekend and to varying sorts of weekend closures. Also there are TWO works compounds occupying perhaps two thirds of the station car-park.

It was a slight shock, therefore to come back from a weekend away and find that most of the new footbridge, obviously pre-fabricated was in place. It is on a grander scale than the original. It is still a long way from finished, as the lifts and the walkway joining it to the booking office block need to be installed. The works compound near the station building is now much emptier!

Joining to the booking office block will involve demolition of the existing footbridge, which has apparently an asbestos roof.

Harold Wood people await further developments with interest.


Lagan River Path

March 10, 2016

From: February 14th.LaganPath14Feb16

Belfast is, in Irish, the fort on the river Farset , and if you had been there 300 years ago you would have seen ships docked in the Farset, just like in the Fleet in London or the Ouseburn in Newcastle; but now like small rivers in many cities it is largely underground (under High St, in fact). Belfast is now definitely on the River Lagan. In recent years, the weir that marks the divide between the tidal and non-tidal Lagan has been moved downstream from the Gasworks to where the Liverpool and Heysham ferries used to dock near the city centre. The next weir up is at Stranmillis, and marked the start of the Lagan Navigation, which used the river and bypassed the weirs with locks with canal sections. About 10 miles upstream, in Lisburn, the canal left the river and headed towards Lough Neagh, from there, in the heyday of canals, you could have gone, via rivers and canals, all the way to Limerick in the south-west of Ireland.

Although the canal fell into disuse in 1958, there is still a path following the canal or the river from Stranmillis (about 1 mile from the centre of Belfast) to Lisburn. You can have a nice Sunday walk along a section of the river. Stranmillis to Shaw’s bridge is close to city buses at both ends and the ‘The Lock Keeper’s Inn’ café (involved in a political scandal about 5 years ago) makes a pleasant stop.

But we, Barbara & I with a local friend as guide, decided to walk the next section up, from Drumbeg to Shaw’s Bridge. A bit of shuffling left a car at each end, included a detour by car to local Neolithic fort, the Giant’s Ring, and a coffee at the Stables near the Drumbeg Bridge. So refreshed we walked downstream to Shaw’s Bridge, keeping an eye out for the cyclists who also use the path. The left bank skirts Malone Golf Club, whereas on the Co Down (right) bank it is completely rural except for the former mill village of Edenderry (footbridge from the path).

This all forms part of the Lagan Valley Regional Park and at intervals you can find QR codes (see picture) that should give you access to audio commentary. However, the one I tried was in a spot without much Vodafone signal, so it only downloaded and played some minutes later, as we continued on our way. A very nice outing, within 6 miles of the centre of Belfast.

There is, in quite a lot of versions, a mock heroic ballad about a disastrous barge journey to the canal, with the crew rescued by use of a scarf or braces. The links take you to 2 versions:

Their voyage from the Docks didn’t even take them to Stranmillis! Of course, the Clancy Brothers have recorded the ballad.

Zac Goldsmith’s great-grandfather (and other ancestors)

March 7, 2016

When I was a student at Queen’s University, Belfast there were three on-campus places where students lunched – the Students’ Union, a ‘temporary’ dining hall (the building’s still there!), and the Great Hall.

The Great Hall is an impressive wood-panelled room and at that time it had a discreet cafeteria servery at one end while a selection of oil paintings of University worthies decorated the walls.

Such worthies obviously included Chancellors of the University and I remember that one of them was the 7th Marquess of Londonderry, Chancellor 1923-49; that still makes the most long-serving Chancellor the university has had. His granddaughter, born Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the daughter of the 8th Marquess, is Zac’s mum. The 7th Lord Londonderry was a Tory MP before the First World War. Afterwards he became a Stormont MP and minister. In 1926 he moved his career back to Westminster and was a minister in all Tory and National governments until 1935. The family London house, Londonderry House in Park Lane, was famous in the 1930s as a place where the influential met socially.

His family was extremely rich. The 3rd Marquess (who succeeded in 1822) had ‘married well’ to an heiress from north-east England, under whose land were seams of coal. (This accounts for the village of Londonderry in North Yorkshire.) So the family were major coal owners until Nationalisation, as well as major landowners with fine houses in the North-East and Ulster.

The 3rd Marquess’s half-brother, who was briefly 2nd Marquess, is better known to history as Viscount Castlereagh – the title he had during 20 years at the top of Tory governments at the start of the 19th century. He represented Britain at Congress of Vienna and was considered by liberals as a very reactionary figure. Both Shelley and Byron wrote poetry that made it clear that they hated him.

Zac Goldsmith is a golden boy because his father was a very rich man, but not many know that through his mother he has a silver spoon because she was from a rich family which owned much land and many coal-mines.