Saturday, 29 December 2007

Hoar Cross Downhill Soapbox....

I missed this event last year, but this time I was determined to see it. Professionally filmed and relayed to a huge screen at the bottom of the run, this was the 'Downhill Soapbox' competition.

Organised by MAD (Meynell Arms Drinkers (a local pub)), this charity event raised £56,000 last year!

The karts are run down the steep 1/2 mile course of School hill from Hoar Cross Hall to the Meynell Arms pub....where you WILL need a drink.

There weren't so many crashes ('over the hedges', cos that's where the debris get thrown) this year, but Santa did mangle his sled, causing concerns over 'elf and safety'.

The Flinstones 'rock'eted past, their feet going like the clappers.

'Postman Pat' was there with his 'black and white cat'..... less of a cat and more of a sex kitten, you can't see it in the photo but she had a really cute tail!

Bentley was there, demonstrating their racing heritage with a little class.

The USAF had entered a deceptively simple looking kart, but on closer inspection revealed some precision engineering and alloy welding to die for...... OK, so I like engineering!!

Some of the creations were heavyweights with hydraulic disc brakes to prevent the inevitable......

..... others relied on lightweight and the hay bales at the bottom of the course for 'braking'.

'Monster Kart'!!!!! Over forty foot in length, the Coca Cola lorry with private Reg plate 'P3PSI' (Pepsi), complete with LED marker lights and 'spinners' was the result of a months hard work and might end up as a pile of plywood should the run go wrong....

The notice informs Coca Cola which company it should take to court..... Yes, you could take them to court and cop a load of bad publicity, or just donate £10,000 to a worthwhile charity and reclaim your good name. (Oh, and by the way Mr. Pepsi £20,000 would score some 'browny points as well!!!)

This post continues below in video form.... It took me flipping ages to download all this stuff to Blogger, so you better well watch it..... Sorry, I mean, the following post is offered courteously for your perusal!

Hoar Cross Downhill....moving pictures (whatever next!)

There was a good turn out, many not venturing up the steep hill but instead generating more charitable funds by watching the big screen and drinking from the Meynell Arms and the beer tent (all profits to a good cause).

If your brakes worked, then the plan was to stop and ring the bell, if not then hay bails were provided for 'your comfort'.

The General Lee was able to stop without jumping the bridge which is always 'out'.......Daisy did turn up, but she looked better on TV!

This one was shaped like a coffin... it always pays to be prepared.

It may not appear that fast, but then it's not you that is an inch from the ground about to receive a bout of 'gravel rash'!!

30 to 40 mph in a low slung pram...transport of the future (the oil will run out one day)!

40 ++++ foot of downhill go-kart...the stuff of childhood dreams.

NASA funding cutbacks cause a complete re-think on launching techniques.

The 'Harry Potter' bus is a little unstable even in its scaled down form...... Double decker buses four times the height of this drive past my house every day, what the hell were we thinking of when we invented these!!!!!

The 'bath tub' chassis design has been embraced by Formula One designers as the ultimate in safety....Oh , crap let's hope so!......

Friday, 21 December 2007

Summer's on it's way....

It's the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere. My ever faithful GPS informs me sunrise was at 8.15am....well you don't think I was going to get up to see for myself did you? Horrible time of day morning, all cold and full of grumpy people.

Sunset is at 3.53 pm. That's a mere 7 hours and 38 minutes of daylight!

Of course it's so overcast and foggy here that the daylight is further curtailed. Realistically it doesn't get properly light until after 9.30 (so I've been told), and nightfall creeps in from as early as 3.20pm.

The blazing sunshine sometimes doesn't warm things up at all!

The decrease in natural light has a marked effect on our psychology. Melatonin increases disturbing our sleep patterns and serotonin is reduced causing lethargy, despondency and generally making us very bad tempered. Well, this the excuse I'm using for the behaviour of a certain cat....Max. He was sitting peacefully on the windowsill, so I bent down to say hello. Normally this would be greeted with a touch of noses and a purr, but today he decided to swipe me around the eye with razor sharp claws! With an angry cat now attached to my face, I grabbed his paw so he couldn't pull it free causing more damage and managed to carefully unhook it from my lower eyelid. We then had a scrap on the lawn which I made a point of winning. Later we made up over a saucer of milk (Max had one too). Winter is getting to us both.

Now I have a swollen eye that makes me look like a Rembrandt portrait.

By midday the sun was quite high, I assume (it was still obscured), and the temperature soared to nearly 1 degree.

It is traditional to light a fire to chase away the darkness. It is meant to be the largest log you can find as to last through the longest night. I was a bit short on massive logs so I instead celebrated, and marked the passing of 'Mr. Stick'.....Mr. Stick is made of stout pine and helps me explain things to those not willing to learn. He has been to hand when I had that run in with car thieves (See previous post 'Men in Black' gone bad...5th April) After years of faithful service in the role of home defence, Mr. Stick met an untimely end after a bizarre fly swatting accident!

Thank you Mr. Stick, you'll be sorely missed.

Nightfall was premature in the town tonight, but better longer lighter days are a coming, here's a boot up the arse of winter!.......

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Not much done, in the winter sun....

There's not much been going on lately. Hardly enough daylight to have any adventures, but the sun being so low in the sky does have its bonuses..... beautiful sunsets. Although this scene appears idyllic with the oak and hay stack on a lonely hill, it was in fact masked by the roar of cars hurtling past on the M6 motorway.... a picture tells a thousand words but not necessarily the truth!
Competing with the noise of the road, this passenger jet rumbled as it streaked across the sky, its vapour trail illuminating in the sunlight like a comets tail.

The birds flew West, heading to the sanctuary of the local lakes.

They always seem to head out East in the morning and return to the West come evening. I don't know the reason for this, maybe having the sun in front makes navigation simpler, or perhaps they appreciate the sun rise/ set too.

You really feel the temperature plummet as the sun retreats this time of year....roll on spring.

Personally I'd be tucking those feet into my feathers!

When it's cold and crisp like this, the vapour trails from the airliners linger for hours.
I'm hoping it's going to be clear the next few nights as there is a meteor shower due. Eyes to the skies, especially on Friday.

I've noticed an awful lot of military jets lately. These were unusually coming from the direction of the local city civilian airport.

Normally they stay well away from passenger jet flight paths. They were in an almighty hurry and I had next to no time to snatch a quick photo. Makes you wonder what they're up to.

The day came to an end as the ribs of multi coloured cloud painted their fading scene in the dimming sky....

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Priory prying.....

I love history, in particular, local history. When I'm browsing through old books, maps and papers concerning my neck of the woods, I regularly find reference to Canwell Priory. The priory was created and, through the ages controlled by seats of power. There were always arguments about lands attached, small skirmishes and bequeathed money for newer more elaborate building. The site of the priory was flattened in the late 1700s and much of the good stone taken for a new stable block in its place. These structures were to compliment the newly built great hall, which had been partly funded by the sale of lead taken from the coffins dug up on the land (old money didn't work for their wealth, they took)! The map of 1610 shows Canwell, or Canwall as it was then known as a small settlement but there is no priory or church. It appears that by 1525 it was deserted and ownership reverted to the King. A survey in 1526 described "The Lady Chapel on the north side of the Chancel was ruinous, all but one side of the cloister has fallen down." In 1530 the bells were sold off for £13 6s 8d.

This early Ordnance Survey map from 1834 shows the hall in existence but the stable block has gone. The fashion was for great gardens and it seems the proud site of the priory didn't fit in with the plans.

A 1960s map marks the site, but there is little to see on the ground. Resident monks would, over time be promoted to Prior and when it came to retirement were well looked after. When Prior John Molton retired in 1400 it was arranged "That he was to have lodgings in the part of the priory lately built in by Ralph Bassett and to receive good food at the priors table and an annual allowance of 33 shillings and 4 pence in silver pennies for dress and other necessaries." In other papers some of these lodgings were described as being "separate and removed from the main party of buildings" to the south. On the map, to the south is a curious patch of woodland now encircled by a farm track.
I decided to see if I could find any remains of the missing priory buildings....

The priory was founded in 1140 by Geva, illegitimate daughter of Hugh 1, Earl of Chester. It was a time when people would pay for monks to pray for their souls, assuring a place in heaven. A spring was mentioned to be nearby, later named St. Modwens well. This was my clue as to locating any ruins. I soon found a small stream and tracked it up to a spring line in the slope beneath the wood. Once amongst the trees I discovered a man made gully which deepened to a gorge some 30 foot deep.

I knew I was on the right track as all around were old Yew trees. These were traditionally planted in religious places, a throwback to Pagan times when they were believed to ward away evil.

Soon I came across old dressed stone, local sandstone. There were some good sized pieces and lots of it strewn everywhere.

Then, up ahead in the distance at the far end of the ever deepening gorge, I saw it.....

It looked like a tunnel, but as I got closer I realised it was the remains of an old gate entrance.

It was made of old (you can tell by the narrow section) brick. The mortar was pale and crumbly indicating an early construction.

Inside you could see the intricacy of the brickwork. There were two small rooms in series with little alcoves at each side.

The doors from each end had long since gone, the cutouts in the wall indicated their position. It looked as if this archway had once been topped with a large stone structure but it had all collapsed. The gateway led to a curved trackway avenued with Yew, this led to a huge hollow where I suppose the lodgings had been. As I stood there in the failing light I wondered as to what goings on there had been. The monks and priors that had once lived here weren't always what you would expect. In 1272 a monk, William de Sutton (a local), killed a man, fled and was outlawed. The priory was fined 1 Mark for letting him escape. In 1377 there were 3 monks and 1 prior but by 1456 there was a crisis because there were no monks left. When a prior retired he would get a good pension and a resident monk would take over his position. It was quickly realised by the monks that this way they could all retire and live happily ever after. This scam was eventually addressed when it was found that one Prior didn't even live in Canwell and was actually in jail elsewhere!

The sun bowed out for the day, glowing orange across the sunken treetops in the hollow of the forgotten priory, its secrets shared but not fully discovered....