Wednesday Walk: 6

[Since I’m not able to ramble as much as I’d like at the moment, I’m remembering some hikes from the past.]

Nidderdale 2016

This was a great ramble that took me from the town of Pateley Bridge through pleasant countryside and onto the moors. It’s an area rich in industrial heritage, and I made the most of what I came across.

The moors near Pateley Bridge.
Memento mori at St Mary’s church, Pateley Bridge.
Prosperous Mine, near Pateley Bridge
A couple of sherds of blue and white embedded in the footpath at the edge of Pateley Bridge.
Industrial landscape, late autumn.
Industrial landscape
Cockhill smelt mill remains.
The lonely moors and a reminder of the industrial past.

My album can be found HERE

My Museum Monday: 6

I have always been a railway enthusiast. My peripatetic life has given me the opportunity to be a a train spotter, nor have I ever managed to create a model railway. I guess I’ve really been interested in the history and archaeology of railways, and rather than travel on heritage railways I’ve preferred to explore the traces of long-abandoned routes in whatever country I’m in. Being a “grown-up” has meant that I’ve acquired a few relics of past railways, though mostly in miniature. 

O gauge (top) and HO gauge model “switchers”.

This week’ s artefacts are two “switchers” as they are called in North America – large shunting locomotives. My two examples are in O and HO gauges. The 70-year-old Lionel O gauge locomotive is missing its bell and an exhaust vent. Replacement parts will cost just a couple of dollars, but unfortunately the spares source in the US has a $40 minimum order for shipping, so repairs will have to wait until some future opportunity. The HO loco is a modern model. I doubt I’ll ever get to operate the Lionel model, which is sad because it has a built-in bell. It also weighs a ton!

More trains next week…

Four Friday Photos: 5

[Every Friday I’m posting, for the fun of it, four photographs selected pretty much at random from my hard drives. They were captured with a variety of technologies, from analogue through early digital to my latest cameras, so their quality, both artistic and technical, may vary!]

Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island

A niche, Cowichan Bay

Cowichan Bay is one of those places where nature and industry collide. It has a lumber operation and a dock. There was once a railway line. It also has a conservation area. The wetlands are under constant threat. This plant may not survive for long…


Weston Super Mare, looking towards Steep holm

I wonder what is the purpose of those posts?

Osoyoos, BC, Canada

Decay, near Osoyoos, BC, Canada

I find archaeology everywhere.


Lizard, Cyprus

I am not in any way a wildlife photographer. I have neither the skills nor the patience. So any creature (other than plants, which normally can’t run away and hide) that I manage to capture has been come across by accident, and has conveniently posed for my photograph.  I like the rather haughty expression on the face of this lizard.

Wednesday Walk: 5

An early autumn stroll along the Osoyoos Canal

Looking south along the trail on the west side of the Osoyoos Canal.

Before it reached Osoyoos Lake, just north of the Canada/US border in the interior of British Columbia, the Okanagan River once snaked southwards through a series of oxbows, flowing through a wetland that was made special by being flanked by desert. In order to control the river, and facilitate the irrigation of the agricultural land that developed on the valley floor, the river was canalised in 1923. Fortunately some of the wetlands have survived and have been conserved since the 1980s as a vitally-important nature reserve.

The former route of the Okanagan River, now an isolated oxbow lake.

The trail beside the canal offers a level walking and running route that provides glimpses of the arid hills to the east, and pasture to the west.

My Osoyoos Canal album can be found here.

Ate the foot of the hills, what remains of the ever-shrinking desert landscape that once stretched down the east side of the valley floor.
In the distance one can see the uplands to the west of the Okanagan River.
Haynes Ranch, long-abandoned, overshadowed by the hills on the east side of the valley.

My Museum Monday: 5

As an historical archaeologist, with a special interest in industrial archaeology, I spend a lot of time lurking around old canals and railways, or where these once were. Once abandoned, railways can disappear completely, built over or ploughed away. If the route has not been completely obliterated, there may be little remaining apart from the track bed (overgrown or turned into a footpath or bicycle trail), a few concrete fence posts and any associated civil engineering such as embankments, cuttings, bridges and tunnels – generations of railway enthusiasts will have removed anything small and rescuable!

However sometimes all is not lost, and the archaeologist’s eye can occasionally locate evidence of a long-vanished railway.

Railway spikes, Michigan (left) and Wales (right).

The artefacts from my museum today are railway spikes, hammered into wooden sleepers to grip the flanges of T-shaped steel rails. The three larger spikes on the left are from a standard gauge railway line, the smaller spikes are from a narrow gauge industrial tramway. When the wooden sleepers were replaced or the rails were removed the spikes were sometimes thrown aside or mislaid – I found these examples rusting away in the vegetation beside the track. 

Inexpensive, quick and easy to use, spikes were (and are) used in vast numbers around the world, especially in North America.

Driving the spikes into the timber must have required both significant skill and strength!

Four Friday Photos: 4

[Every Friday I’m posting, for the fun of it, four photographs selected pretty much at random from my hard drives. They were captured with a variety of technologies, from analogue through early digital to my latest cameras, so their quality, both artistic and technical, may vary!]

Haynes Ranch, north of Osoyoos, BC, Canada

Haynes Ranch, Osoyoos Canada

Every time I return to Osoyoos I revisit the Haynes Ranch. I’ve known this site for nearly 30 years, and every time I return my heart is in my mouth, because I dread the destruction, or at least the collapse, of its brittle timbers. So far it has survived, entirely unprotected from the elements and from vandalism, though each year it moulders further towards the desert floor. The buildings are probably about 140 years old.

Wall, Idana a Velha, Portugal

A Portuguese wall

As an archaeologist I have a passion for old walls. The stonework of this example from inland Portugal, not far from the Spanish border, is breathtaking.

Freight branch, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Vancouver rails

For a city that is founded on railway history, Vancouver has little to show for it. This scene is long gone. Here and there one can find traces of the rails that were once interlaced with thecity streets, but there are fewer as more and more development obliterates the past.

River Lune, Cumbria

Lune lunacy

A moment of fun on the bed of the River Lune, Cumbria.

Wednesday Walk: 4

[Because we can’t go for a day marching up and down hills at the moment, I’m sharing some walks from the past.]

Black Mountains and Pen Y Fan, Wales

A somewhat ironic sign, given that it is surrounded by hills!

Two August walks that made us puff and pant a little. 

Boundary markers

The first walk began and ended at Cwymyoy, where there’s a little chapel. As we neared the end we came across  St Issues church, Partrishow, which has a splendid interior, complete with angels and a sinister memento mori that apparently has been whitewashed over repeatedly but always reappears!

The grave-digging memento mori at Partrishow church, with scythe, lantern and spade

The second walk took us up and up until we reached the summit of Pen y Fan, where we looked down on the magic lake of Cwm Llwch. As we descended, cloud suddenly enveloped the summit, showing how dangerous the high ground can be even in perfect summer weather. 

Up and Up…
The magic lake of Cam Llwch
The clouds descend over Pen y Fan

My album can be found HERE.

My Museum Monday: 4

[Like most of you, I can’t visit museums at the moment, so I’m sharing objects from my own museum]

Doll bits

Bisque porcelain doll part, glazed and unglazed.

Nineteenth-century ceramic (bisque porcelain) doll parts are common finds on archaeological excavations around the (colonised) world. Originally attached to fabric bodies, which in most cases have decayed and vanished, the heads, legs and arms survive well. As so-called “evocative” objects, the usual explanation for their presence is that they were children’s playthings, but I have a suspicion that they were often valued and possessed by adults as “keepsakes”.

Fabric doll with bisque porcelain head and limbs

I am especially fond of the woebegone expressions of my complete examples, and their tousled and knotted hair.

Bisque porcelain “penny doll” with limbs attached using wire.

The doll with a bisque body may have been a little more expensive than its fabric-bodied siblings, but I use it as an example of a “penny doll”, which had movable limbs.

Four Friday Photos: 3

[Every Friday I’m posting, for the fun of it, four photographs selected pretty much at random from my hard drives. They were captured with a variety of technologies, from analogue through early digital to my latest cameras, so their quality, both artistic and technical, may vary!]

Trees near Malham, Yorkshire

Trees are beautiful creatures!


Time can be measured in layers of paint.

Marsden, Yorkshire

Old boundary marker, ancient moorland.


In late 2002 I acquired my first digital camera, a simple point and shoot Olympus. I decided to play with this new, albeit primitive in today’s terms, technology by taking at least one digital image every day of 2003. Being forced to explore my surroundings visually and to create 2D images, meant that I could look for patterns and pictures everywhere, however mundane the location. Here, the rusty scar around the padlock contrasts vividly with the geometric regularity of the shutter.

Wednesday Walk: 3

[Since I’m not able to ramble as much as I’d like at the moment, I’m remembering some hikes from the past.]

Along Derwent Edge

Up on the moor. Eroded trails restored using old flagstones.

This hike begins and ends at Ladybower Reservoir, Derbyshire. After a steep climb it’s pretty easy walking across rolling moorland. It’s a great route, made even more interesting by the fantastic shapes carved into the gritstone outcrops.

A stage landscape of peat and rock
I jocularly refer to these outcrops as “dinosaur droppings”
I guess these are Derbyshire’s version of “hoodoos”
The Wheel Stones

My Derwent Edge album can be found HERE.