Sunday, 29 April 2007

"Lets go fly a kite..."

There is a brisk NE wind today. Perfect for kite flying, but no one seems keen to go. Maybe it has something to do with the injuries incurred last time! My arms are much better (I can get my hands up to comb my hair and everything), and my brothers back improved after a month or so! Never mind I'll go by myself....

I pack this away meticulously every time and yet it always re-emerges as if I'd just stuffed it in there!

That's better. Now it looks like a kite.....
...well, sort of a kite.

Okay, so maybe I didn't mention that it's a parachute.

When flying your parachute it is always wise to have an anchor. This may seem to be sufficient, but it isn't! When eventually it pulls free, it comes at your head like a guided missile (RUN!).

This is what you need! (Or possibly something even heavier!) Oh, and put it in gear and make sure the handbrake works, or you'll lose it.
Right, got everything you need? Big kite, lots of strong rope, carabiners, heavy object, spare pants. Off to the park then...

Always check for low flying planes, we don't want another 'incident' do we?

These pictures are from the 'good old days' when people were happy to get their arms ripped off by powerful kites.
See, with lots of you it's up in no time (and you don't have to get dragged along by your foot either).

It's up! Going well, the car is jiggling about a bit, it's pulled a little toward the ditch, but I think we're okay...

Brother gets 'carried' away. It may have been at this point that his back problems started. No, look he's having fun...I think.
Is he laughing or crying?

Oh wow! This is fun, I'm flying..

Now not as much fun. My arms are coming off and it's getting higher." At what point do you let go?", "If I get too high I won't be able to let go!". Damn I should have thought all this through several seconds ago...

Pull the canopy collapse line...OW!
If my hand w
asn't caught up I'd have let go by now. Would have saved me being dragged all over the field. Those 'skid' marks are going to take some washing out! (from the grass, really your 'mucky' mind!)

ZZzzooOW!... The rope snaps and whistles past our heads. Just as well I wasn't still up in the air, or next s
top would have been 'Grimsby'!
The parachute makes a brief break for freedom but gently flutters down beside a rather surprised grazing cow!
Tired and slightly taller we head for home.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Winter's over!...

I know it's been warm for ages, I know it hasn't rained for a month, but there was always that uncertain feeling that winter could suddenly return.
Today it felt that winter was gone, banished. No more late frosts, no sudden cold snaps, biting winds etc.
The leaves are truly out on the trees.
Here on the lakes near Fisherwick, some of the Coots have almost fully grown chicks!

In the 'estate' woods of Fisherwick hall the bluebells are well on their way.

Baby rabbits everywhere! Almost stepped on one while trying to take this photo! (thought it was a rock).

The sun has returned to it's former strength, not that weak yellow affair that I've become used to over winter.

Many of the fields are patchwork yellow with rapeseed flower.

The badgers are spring cleaning their sets. This spoil heap is over 5 feet tall!

Took the Vittesse out today. The vigours of spring make me want to drive that little bit too fast! The 'loud' pedal was very inviting, although getting on a bit (the car, not me) this chap still goes like "shit off a shovel"!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Not so 'secret' bunkers!....

Years ago I used to drive regularly to Admaston Hall where one of my clients lived. On the way I would pass through Fisherwick. It was a difficult lane to drive along, not particularly wide, people would drive a little too fast (not me of course), and on the one side was a foreboding brick wall scarred and holed by numerous accidents.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see these huge mounds, grassed over and with really tall telegraph pole style lightning conductors on top. What the hell were they? Curiosity got the better of me!
This was 4 years ago. A ten year old map showed nothing but fields, strange. On a much later map it suddenly appeared, 'storage depot'.
With the arrival of Google Earth this anomaly could no longer hide!

Secret bunkers have lost their 'mystic' since the freedom of information act!

I decided to have a drive round one evening and see what I could see. Approaching via a long dark lane on the Fisherwick hall side, I came across a track. The spotlights illuminated a sign. I didn't know what 'E.A NIGHT PATROLS' meant but I was pretty sure it was time to go home!

Next day I decided to have a look in daylight. There was a footpath marked on the map nearby and this seemed my best bet.

Of course I checked for any warning signs beforehand. Didn't want to be shot for being on MOD land or anything!!

No, everything seems fine, after all it's a camcorder not a camera.

I was a little nervous about filming here. I don't like confrontation and didn't want an angry exchange with a disgruntled land/bunker owner.

Tentatively I ventured into 'Morlock' territory.

'Accidentally' straying from the footpath I could see the access roads and regularly mown mounds.

Closer up, the lift entrances were clearly visible.
What was stored here? The only vehicles I've seen going in or out are lorries marked 'Skipper Produce' with a picture of a big dog face on the side! I cannot find any trace of this company!

Okay, with a bit more digging about and the help of the freedom of information act I finally, after many years got to the bottom of this.
It is an explosive store, built in 1954, supplying local mines and quarries.
The 'dog' lorries I can't explain other than it's probably not wise from a security point of view to have 'Explosives R Us' printed on the side!

Sometimes it's no fun finding out the truth. It was so much more exciting wondering about the 'bunkers in the fields'!

While I was finding the old video footage for this post, I came across some other film.

In the woods near Kinver, I came across this very overgrown strange road/ track. It led downhill, into a rocky gorge.

There up ahead, was a doorway!

A closer look left me even more intrigued.
I later found out that this is one of many 'back doors' to a huge ww2 underground factory!
Fully equipped with a pub, living accommodation, shop, hospital, this factory was kept in reserve in order to take over aircraft engine manufacturer should the more 'public' factories be bombed.

The door was securely welded shut.
I so wanted to look inside....

...but this dark foreboding, apparently bottomless hole seemed to be the only option! No way am I going in there!!!

I'll just have to keep looking for another 'front door at the back'!

Nothing much happening...

Not much has happened this week....I've been distracted what was it called? Ah that's it, work.
"Work to live, not live to work"

Of course the days are much longer now, so there is always a spare hour to go and have a snooze in your hammock in the woods.

This is a great spot. If you leave the canopy off the hammock you can watch the buzzards wheel above you. HEY, that's not good. Better move about a bit, show them that I'm not dead!
Damn rabbits! Woke me up again. How can they make so much noise? What are they doing down there?..OH

Did a bit of kayaking this week (couple of 5mile trips). Nowhere new, just along the canal near Drayton Manor. This is the bridge that I forgot to photo for a previous post.

It's a great little footbridge, a real landmark. There should be more stuff built like this. So many houses are designed with no inventiveness. Things could be so much better...imagine giving directions to your house, "turn left at the 'spires', staight up to the 'stilted cottage', turn right and I'm third on the left", "yes, that's right, the white one with the turrets and a footbridge"!

I like spiral staircases. You just can't fall down them. Well, you can a bit but you soon lose momentumn, you can't fall all the way down that's for sure...Should put them in old peoples homes, would save a lot of trouble!

Yes, the tower does lean like that, but I think it's meant to. Hang on I'll just move my boat back a tad, just in case!
No, it's alright look, the other one leans in the opposite direction. I'm going off having turrets on my house, they seem like a lot of worry.

Now, if you lie on your back and take a picture it appears sraight! "Can I get past please?", "Sorry, just taking a picture", "Course you are dear!"...Can't they see that I'm an artist?

On the other side you've got this cool swivel bridge. Don't park in front of it though, or a very big farmer will come and have words with you. Actually he's very nice and freindly. After asking me if I could move the car he was the first to point out that I was sat on an ants nest,..could have been nasty!

Saw the first Mallard ducklings of the year.

I hadn't noticed how well camouflaged they were until now...Hang on, is this the right picture? You'll have to take my word for it, they are there! They're on the wall I think. Strange, on the video they are as plain as day!
Must be 'ghost' ducklings (don't show up on film).
You know it wasn't until I saw ducks hide that I realised that ducks 'duck' and this is where the word comes from. You probably already knew this, but it's a revelation to me! All those stripes on Mallards that I thought were just pretty suddenly make sense. When the duck 'ducks' its head down, the sripe on the head that goes across the eye, lines up with the marks on the wings. This forms a continuous dark band which looks like a reflection on the water, when they 'freeze' they melt away into the background!

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Glorious day....

The kayak was strapped to the car and ready to go. A flask of 'camp' coffee (you know, the one with chicory that comes in a bottle) and a flask of soup with crusty bread, plus my trusty rucksack of paraphernalia were impatiently thrown into the car. The weather was glorious and I needed to be out...

As I drove through the lanes to get to Drayton village, the sun began to 'burn' through the early mist. After passing the vineyards on Shirral lane, I came to the pastures where the horses are put to graze. Full of the vigour's of spring, they ran along side the car to the limit of their field. It was going to be a magical day.

The canals were empty. Not a soul to be seen, just how I like it. Flat like a mirror, the only ripples were mine!
A quick paddle from Drayton swing bridge (the one that looks like a white double turreted castle but stupidly neglected to photograph) up to Kingsbury water nature reserve. Here I took a soup break and exchanged a few words with the homeless guy who occupies this stretch of water (if you're going to be homeless, be homeless somewhere nice!).

Paddling towards Fazeley, I turned left at the basin and headed for Hopwas woods via Tamworth. The canal people were beginning to wake up and it was getting busy, but they are all such friendly folk.
It's only mid April but it's getting really warm (25c), I've left the sun cream in the car and I'm beginning to regret it as my shoulders are sunburning. (What is up with the British weather? No winters to speak of and getting hotter year after year! CRAZY!)

Running the gauntlet of the two pub gardens either side of the canal at Hopwas village, "What sort of boat is that?", a tipsy but friendly bloke asks. "Paddle steamer!" I reply. (He seems happy enough with the description and returns to his beer).
The tranquility of Hopwas wood beckons...
The canal is high up here, the river Trent to the right , some 100 feet below and beyond that lies Tamworth. A world war two 'pill box' stands guard. They are everywhere, the canals and rivers were considered to be a real weakness from invasion and were well fortified.

I've always been intrigued by these relics of war. Around here seems to be a hot spot from every era. To the west from here is a nuclear bunker (Admaston) mothballed but still intact, and at Fisherwick there is a complex of 7 bunkers marked on the map only as 'storage'. What would you need to store underground, served by lift shafts, protected by 20ft high earth blast banks, 40ft lightning conductors? The only vehicles in and out are lorries marked "Skipper produce", with a picture of a dog, (this company doesn't seem to exist!). A subject for another post!! If you don't hear from me, I've stepped on the wrong toes!

The woods here at Hopwas are lovely. At this time of year they are full of anemones. I love to put my hammock up here and I never get disturbed by dog walkers. Perhaps this sign explains why!
On the return trip, (11 miles today, achy arms tomorrow!) I managed at last to film one of the many grass snakes I see swim across the canal. I know the regular places that they hang out, but their appearances are so fleeting I rarely get to film them.

This little chap was waiting to cross as I approached. After a mad scramble to get the camcorder out of the rear boat hatch, I began filming.
They are canny creatures and will take the time to watch you, to judge your intentions.

When you see them swimming up ahead, it often appears as if they are are an insect, trapped by the water, zipping about on the surface causing little 'V' waves.

They are so at home on the water, dinky tongue testing the air as they go.

Once up on the bank, curiosity gets the better of him. He hung around for a good 30 secs, checking me out. I can't express how chuffed I am when I get to see these guys.

See you chap, I'm off home. Tired arms, but as relaxed as one could ever be....Today, life is good...