27 May 2011

Milling About

Either side of the road from Beverley to York, just outside the former, is common land, the Westwood, still used for the grazing of kine. A number of windmills once stood on this common land, and there are remains of three - Union Mill, Westwood Mill, and Black Mill.

Black Mill stands atop the highest point of the common, virtually in its centre. The cap and sails were removed when the mill closed in 1868. It provides though a fine foil to Beverley Minster, which peeks over the horizon.

19 May 2011

Castleford, West Yorkshire

Outside grim Castleford's ugly Civic Centre is the working model of Henry Moore's Draped Reclining Figure, 1976-79. Moore was born here. It's easy to see why he left.

11 May 2011

Dammed Impressive

Opened in 1970, Scammonden is unique in Britain, the only dam that both holds back the waters of a reservoir (Scammonden Water) and carries on its crest a motorway (the M62). It's reached by exiting at junction 23 and taking the A640 over Saddleworth Moor.

Excavation commenced in 1964, the first task being the removal of 40 feet of soft peat, which characterises the area. The dam has a clay core, and a graded sandstone fill. The overflow bellmouth is rather like that at Ladybower Reservoir, outside Sheffield (YMGW passim). A number of access points enable engineers to enter the dam's bowels.

Motorways take up a lot of space. The dam is 60 yards wide at the top, and 475 yards wide at its base. Its scale can be appreciated by passing through the subway, large enough for a mid-size truck, that runs through the embankment. A club hillclimb track, operated by Mid-Cheshire Motor Racing Club, snakes up the east flank.

Another engineering marvel is nearby - Scammonden Bridge, carrying a B-road over the Deanhead cutting, through which the motorway passes before/after traversing the dam. When built, this was the longest concrete single span bridge in the world, with an arch of 140 yards and a deck of 220 yards.

09 May 2011


The 33rd Sandwell Historic Vehicle Show turned up an excellent mixture of classic cars, including the space-age Chevrolet Special pictured above, buses, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles, alongside the usual colourful trappings of the fayre variety.

Guy Motors was founded in Wolverhampton in 1914 by Sydney Guy, who ran the business for 43 years. The company, famous for its buses and trucks, was bought out by Jaguar in 1961, and continued until 1982. The Red Indian mascot originated from an advert of 1924, "Feathers in our cap", which celebrated Guy successes. The feathers of the advert reminded people of a head-dress, and the mascot was born.

The Morris Six was, at the name implies, a six-cylinder, manufactured between 1948 and 1953. The one on show was used as a Chief Constable's car - all bells and whistles!

04 May 2011

Dammed Details

The dam to the Booth Wood Reservoir was commenced in 1966 and opened in 1971. Damming the River Ryburn, it's 850 feet high, 1,160 feet wide, and of 148 feet maximum thickness. But it's details at the base of the dam that attract the eye - blocks to break up water flow, V-notch weir measuring gauges, and iron-rich water-staining.

The dam can be reached by turning off the M62 and heading for Sowerby Bridge. By heading back up towards the motorway via narrow lanes, one can reach Ringstone Edge Reservoir (below), high above Huddersfield. Almost entirely encircled by a stone wall, and with a massive earth bank, Ringstone, built 1886, feels very different to Booth Wood. The two wheelhouses are listed.

01 May 2011

The Elephant of Hengoed

Selattyn Tower, a folly, was erected on Selattyn Hill, in the middle of a Bronze Age ring cairn, in 1847. During WWII it was used as a lookout by the Home Guard, the hill being the last high point before the Monsanto chemical factory at nearby Cefn.

Below Selattyn is Hengoed, home to Peter Clare and Snowdrop, his home-built petrol engine-powered mechanical elephant. It moves its legs and head, lifts and squirts water from its trunk, and, by means of an iPod, bellows. Snowdrop fills a single-axle horsebox - she had to be loaded to start her journey to a show in Lyon - and can carry six little children.

Showdrop loaded, space opened up to get a proper look at Peter's 1924 showman's van, built in Brighouse, and early 1900s street roundabout - complete with hollow wooden horses, cocks, and other animals.