Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Steam Rally Welland

There is both a Titanic Experience and a monument to the Titanic’s Engineers who perished that night.

We headed vaguely North and a little West from Southampton aiming for a little spot named Welland for a Steam Rally. By chance we passed a sign for Highclare House which for all you Downton Abbey fans is the actual place where the TV show was filmed. Unfortunately when we got there they told us to keep moving as all available tour spots were full and only advance reservations made on line would get us in.

Highclare Castle
In another of those chance happenings Barbara posted a picture of Highclare on Facebook and my Cousin John and his wife Claire asked where we were because they lived not far away! We found a really nice pub stop at the Two Watermills Inn, had a great evening in the bar and lunch with John and Claire the next day before we left. Another confirmation that NOT making plans can pay off in wonderful ways!

Some of our neighbors along the way
Welland was next.

Some explanations may be helpful.

For the Facebook haters we have to say “Sorry”. We love Facebook and we have got back in touch with people we have lost touch with otherwise. People we have known since we were teenagers or even before that.

When we posted that we were coming to UK and thinking about buying a Motor Home one of those old friends Keith Arthurs popped up and offered help and advice.

Thanks Kit!

Then he told us about a club he belongs to the “Motorcaravanners Club” who have great rallies. Being rally fans we were interested. When he told us that one of the rallies was at a Steam Rally and it would fit our timetable we were even more interested.

We have been looking forward to this.
Keith fixed us up with membership to the club, even putting up the cost of membership for us when there was a problem with our US debit card and the club website! Good man Kit!

We now got to meet up with him and Carol, Poppy and Daisy (the last 2 being their dogs).

Keith and Carol
The venue was a HUGE farm and took up I would estimate to be seven massive fields. It looked like every RV club in the country had a section for them to camp together. “Our” club, the Severn Valley chapter had over 100 RV’s on site and a wild guess had me thinking there were over 1000 total RV’s camped around the event.

Part of the Motorcaravanners club.
It was a 3 day affair although we arrived a day early and got set up ahead of most people, giving us a chance to explore the place before the big crowds arrived.

Large and busy beer tent

Vendors and fun fair
For the uninitiated a Steam Rally is an event where enthusiasts of antique steam powered farm and industrial equipment can get together and show it operating as it would have when it was new.

A steam powered truck

My favorites the Steam Traction Engines

There were Steam powered traction engines, saw mills, road rollers, trucks, stationary engines, operating scale models of them too and most fascinating of all a STEAM POWERED FUNFAIR!

Yes that's a steam powered carousel

The traction engines provide the electrical power for the rides too.

As if that wasn’t enough there were vintage cars, motorcycles, trucks, tractors, military vehicles, construction and earth moving equipment. Models of all those too including radio controlled construction equipment digging miniature holes and moving the dirt around in RC trucks.


Working steam models

Radio controlled earth moving equipment

Working model steam locomotives

Just in case you got bored there was a market area that sold everything under the sun, a food area and a massive beer tent selling micro brewery beer. Oh and tractor pulling in the evenings!

For the finale on Saturday night they had an ABBA tribute band and a fireworks display.

Antique Motorcycles

Gorgeous cars

What with “Happy Hours” with the club, dinners with Keith and Carol, a club raffle etc., the weekend just flew by and before we knew it it was time to pack up and head off again.

Great meeting everyone, thanks Keith and Carol see you again soon we hope!

Suddenly it’s August!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

South from Liverpool


Further down the Pier Head is Liverpool’s Titanic Memorial dedicated to the ships Engine Room staff who were in the main from Liverpool.

Titanic Liverpool was moored at the marina

Titanic seems to have become a major part of this trip and I think I will have to dedicate a separate blog about our journey thru its story and our experiences.

Meanwhile we caught up with a few friends and relatives and spoiled the Grand Kids a little more, before heading southwards to spend a few days with Graham and Elaine near Lincoln.

Grand Daughter Kaitlynd shows off her photo skills with a portrait of her brother Niail

Lincoln was the center of the bomber campaign against Germany in WW2 and the whole area is dotted with airfields from that era and museums, pubs and monuments that celebrate the sacrifices made by airmen from all over the world.

Graham and Elaine's Pontiac Business Coupe

We attended a 1940’s weekend. Popular across England with people who like to reminisce about those times. Everyone was dressed in period costumes and several re-enactors groups had displays of both military and civilian goods.

The Dam Busters Pub
With a Lancaster Bomber tire as decor

Thanks Graham and Elaine for a great time.

Bomber Command "Operation Manna" memorial
Celebrating the food drops to the starving Dutch population in 1945

We have reverted to our “No plan plan”! Or maybe its a “Half plan plan” because we are going to a Steam Rally at the end of the month with another old friend Kit.

We ambled towards Cambridge and stopped at a pub for the night intending to visit the “Dad’s Army Museum”. Dad’s Army was a British TV comedy about the Home Guard in WW2.

"Desert Rats" 7th Armoured Division Memorial

Unfortunately it was only open on Saturdays and as we arrived on Tuesday we didn’t get to see it.

In another of those awesome moments when fate steps in we searched the area online for something else and a picture of a tank on a plinth popped up.

Eerily it was a monument to the famed Desert Rats that my Dad served with. We set out to find it.

The monument was deep in Thetford Forest about 5 miles from where we had spent the night. When we arrived and started exploring it turned out that the 7th Armoured Division had been brought here from Italy in March 1944 to train and prepare for D Day. Dad’s unit, the 44th Royal Tank Regiment was here!

From the unit history I knew that the short period they were here was the only time between 1941 and 1946 that they were in UK. Before that time they had been in the front line in Africa, Sicily and Italy. Afterwards they were in Normandy, Belgium, Holland and Germany. At wars end they were in Hamburg and in 1946 they were part of the Victory parade in Berlin.

The site of the original NAAFI buildings. Dad would have been right here in 1944

A sign said there was a museum and it was open but when we got there is said it was closed. A little ticked off about it I called the number of the manager shown on the information board to suggest he took down the sign saying it was open.

He immediately told us to wait there, and minutes later he opened the place up just for us!

Although there is very little to be seen of the original camp except the concrete roads they have recreated some of the buildings to form the museum. These stand on the bases of the NAAFI buildings. NAAFI stood for Navy, Army, Air Force Institute. This would roughly equate to the PX store in the US but provided entertainment for the enlisted men with things like pool tables, darts and music as well as having a canteen serving food and drinks.

So Dad drove these roads and stood in this very spot!

We decided that our next stop would be Cambridge, neither of us had ever been here or to the other famous college town of Oxford, We stayed at a nice but expensive Camping Club site that was just 150 yards from the bus stop for the town center.

We used the hop on hop off bus to see the city including the big American Cemetery.

The American Cemetery Cambridge

Our particular favorite naturally was Downing College! How nice that they named it after us.

The history of Downing College

An imposing building, quite suitable for our college

Actually it was named for George Downing who it appears was a pretty slick fellow, having been on BOTH sides of the English civil war and awarded honors for having been so. He was also instrumental in getting the Dutch to leave North America, which led to New Amsterdam being renamed New York! Good old George!

 Downing Street where the British Prime Minister lives is named after him.

The ENIGMA code machine

We saw on the map that we would be quite close to Bletchley Park. This was a Top Secret WW2 establishment that cracked the German military codes and developed the modern computer. History has recorded the US ENIAC as the first but this British one predated it and was too secret for it to be known.

The original country house at Bletchley

The code breakers used every inch inside

A sudden thought came to us while we were there.

We had planned that we would spend the best part of 5 months in UK and Ireland seeing all those things we missed when we lived here for 35 years. And now, suddenly we have been here 3 month already and we are feeling pinched for time!

There is no way we can do all the things we planned…

Where the heck has the time gone! We have to start trimming our ambitions and putting dates on calendars! We have to PLAN….

Meanwhile we headed South towards my Aunt Sheila's to see her and my several cousins around Portsmouth on the South Coast. We were here 5 years ago too but missed a lot of stuff.

Barb, Sheila, Helen and Liz

Several nice cozy pubs provided camping, beer and food along the way. We LOVE pub camping!

Some nice pubs we camped at.

Behind one of the pubs

A traditional British Canal Boat, like a house boat.

A side trip into Southampton provided another Titanic link as this was the port she sailed from. 790 of her crew were from here and only 175 survived. 

There is both a Titanic Experience and a monument to the Titanic’s Engineers who perished that night.

Titanic Engineers Memorial

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Isle of Man and Liverpool

Failure to wish the fairies “Good Morning Fairies” or “Good Afternoon Fairies” is sure to bring rain down on you for the day.

We dutifully wished them well and were rewarded by nice weather.

Because the roads, towns and villages in the Island are all small and parking is at a premium everywhere we rented a car for the week we were here. It looks quite nice, its a Kia Picanto. Bright red, that color should mean its sporty!

The gutless wonder

HA! the thing has no power at all and spent most of its time in second or third gear screaming along because it wouldn’t pull fourth up even a slight hill. It actually has 5 speeds and the speedometer goes up to 140mph! I think they got the decimal point in the wrong place!

Still it did let us explore some of the smaller places on this small island.

We went to a “Sheep Dog Trial” – shepherds with highly trained Collies rounded a small flock of sheep around a field and into a pen against the clock. It’s great to see a working dog doing it’s stuff.

A large statue of the Manx Sheep

Sheepdogs eager to go

The event was high over Douglas.

Still on the subject of sheep we went to a living history museum called Criag Neash on the very southern end of the island and discovered a breed of sheep unique to the island with the strangest looking horns, four of them!

A living Manx Sheep

Creag Neash village

Famous for it’s motorcycle races the Isle of Man also has events for vintage and classic cars. We saw some as we traveled round. We dropped in at the Manx Motor Museum to to see their collection. They had many motorcycles both street and race. I had fun, Barbara not so much maybe!

The Peel 3 wheeler made in the Isle of Man

More museums! The Manx Air Museum, the Manx Museum and some living history in the Manx Steam Railway and the Manx Electric Railway both of which were built in the Victorian era and are still operating to this day. Wonderful craftsman built wooden carriages and bright brass fittings.

Aircraft relics fished out of the seas around the island

We had hoped to do the whole rail thing which would take us from where we were camped to the highest point in the island at Snaefell. The Steam Railway would take us from Port Erin to Douglas, we would then catch a horse drawn tram along the promenade and catch the Electric Railway to Laxey, finally getting the Snaefell Mountain Railway to the very top. Unfortunately due to major remodeling of the promenade the horse trams are not running this year so we had to catch a bus instead.

Isle of Man Steam Railway

Built in the 1870's and still running!

Passenger cars much more modern, built in 1923

From Sneafell on a clear day they say you can see 7 Kingdoms. The Kingdoms of Mann, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England plus the Kingdom of the seas and the heavens.

We saw 5 of them, Scotland and Wales being obscured.

Another Victorian experience, the Manx Electric Railway

And another, The Snaefel Mountain Railway

The 7 Kingdoms

Just below the summit on the TT course is a statue depicting Joey Dunlop who was the most successful TT racer in history. Killed not in the TT races but in some obscure race in Estonia and sadly missed.

Joey looks down on the TT course at the Bungalow

The week in “The Island” has just flown by, the campground has been great and the tranquil atmosphere has relaxed both of us completely. Unfortunately we have to move on and we are making arrangements to meet up with friends and relatives who we haven’t seen in several years. Should be great!

High speed ferry Mannanan

The same high speed ferry that brought us to the Island took us from the Island to Liverpool. As it was late in the day we had a reservation at the Liverpool Marina where you can dry camp almost in the heart of the city but tucked away between the River Mersey and one of the old Victorian Era docks.

We though it was the garbage truck!

When we pulled in we though they had parked the garbage truck in the next spot but then when we looked at the huge vehicle we discovered it was a gigantic “Overlander” rig designed to cross any kind of terrain from the Sahara Desert to the Andes Mountains. Quite where this one was going from Liverpool was a mystery and it plainly hadn’t gone anywhere so far, as even the tires were clean and shiny. The owner opened one of the huge lockers in the side and we could see it was equipped with all the gear needed to get out of swamps or sand dunes. We laughed because even the shovels so neatly stowed, still had the manufacturers stickers on the blades!

Next day we crossed the River Mersey thru one of the famous tunnels and returned to Arrow Brook Farm where we left from a little over a month ago. We rented another car and started making the rounds of friends and relatives.

Our home town is Birkenhead which is opposite Liverpool but has its own history and historic figures. We went on a tour of the old cemetery which we had both played in and walked around when we were children.

Flaybrick cemetery chapel

The tour guide was chatting with a guy as we walked up. I started chatting then got the feeling I new the other guy from somewhere. He mentioned the shipyard and I asked if he had worked in the Mold Loft. He turned out to be one of the Journeymen Shipwrights that welcomed me there on my first day as an Apprentice 55 years ago!

Alfie Poval (L)

There are several prominent figures buried in the this cemetery including a gentleman who had been a member of the YMCA when Baden Powell visited and gave a talk about his ideas for a boy’s organization based on his own days acting as an army scout.

Grave of the founder of the first Boy Scout Troop

Unfortunately the gentleman’s name escapes me because he then went and formed the world’s first Boy Scout Troop. 25 years later, to celebrate that event they held the Worlds first Boy Scout World Jamboree in an area called Arrow Park which is still a park and behind which we are camped!

And in another Titanic link there is a memorial here to one of the ships engine crew who was lost.

With our daughter we took a trip to Liverpool to see the Western Approaches Command Museum. This underground bunker was sealed off in 1945 and only discovered again in 1991. Intact and well preserved it has been opened to the public.

On this huge map every convoy, U Boat and Maritime Bomber were plotted.

The purpose of this secret bunker was the control of all the allied convoys that crossed the Atlantic Ocean and the fight against the U Boats that threatened Britain’s vital food and material supplies which came from the New World.

The Convoy Command is in a back street

We have seen the other end of this lifeline in Nova Scotia at Halifax and Sidney and we wanted to see this museum last time we were in Liverpool, 5 years ago, but unfortunately it was closed at that time.

It was a very interesting exhibition showing the development of the convoy system and of the weapons and tactics of the U Boat hunters. The Womens Royal Naval Service (WRENS) provided 80% of the personel in the control center and in the tactical school for ships captains that was run there. One story tells of a very experienced submarine hunter who tried his skills against the school staff in a simulator. He lost contact with the submarine 3 times and expressed his wish to see the gentleman who had beaten him. He refused to believe that the young females who came forward where the real power behind the scenes!

Liverpool’s sea front was for many years the center of emigration to Canada and the USA. The big passenger ships came here and tied up at what is called “The Pier Head”.

The 3 Graces, Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port Authority Building

The tall seafront buildings are know as “The 3 graces” and they consist of the Liver Building, The Cunard Building and the Liverpool Port Authority Building. Tucked behind them and dwarfed by them is the White Star Line Building, more Titanic links, although Titanic never came to Liverpool she was registered as a Liverpool ship.

White Star Building tucked away behind.

Further down the Pier Head is Liverpool’s Titanic Memorial dedicated to the ships Engine Room staff who were in the main from Liverpool.

Liverpool's Titanic Memorial