November 26, 2011 GMT
The Gold Rush
A little jaunt of photos around a bit of South West Ireland. Mainly in the rain and mist and wind. (Severe gale 9 on the BBC shipping forecast - longwave 198kHz - what a great institution! Not only for those at sea, but when you're clinging to the edge of land as well).
The title of this entry has nothing to do with the area, but I couldn't think of a better one.
(Except Way Out West, but that's Laurel and Hardy who we've had twice already if I remember right).
Gateway to the far west of the Skellig Ring at Ballynabloun.
A Little Irish Lane
On the seafront in Waterville. No matter what I tried with camera and computer, this would only come out in black and white.
Silent as well -
Must be the Lone Prospector on the right.
Somewhere on the South West Ring of Kerry. Had to Blu-tac my shoes to the ground.
"... perhaps Storm 10 later...."
The Bumpy Irish Road to Bantry Bay.
Hope the journey back home, via Skibbereen, Cork and over the Irish Sea, is smoother.
Posted by Ken Thomas at 12:37 PM
November 21, 2011 GMT
Adventure Travel In Killarney
You never know what simple adventure may lie round the next corner.
But first, last night I saw a brilliant staging of 'Tom Crean - Antarctic Explorer' at the INEC Theatre Killarney.
Slightly updated from the version I'd previously seen, which in turn had developed from the first performance I ever saw, in the tiny lecture theatre of the Scott Polar Museum in Cambridge, about eight years ago.
Research into the Scott and Shackleton era of Antarctic exploration continues to unearth new aspects and information. - For instance, the photos that Scott himself took on his fateful journey to the South Pole (with Tom Crean as far as the final supply depot) were completely lost until a few years ago when they were found in a New York sale room. The great-nephew of Scott's right-hand man retrieved the prints for posterity and published them for the first time just last month, but the negatives still appear to be lost forever.
(Right now is the 100th anniversary of when many of those photos were taken).
Likewise, the story of Crean's life slowly becomes more complete through ongoing research.
So it was that last night I learnt that on retiring to Anascaul in 1920, things were a bit tricky (read - very dangerous) for someone who had spent over twenty years in the British Royal Navy. So he disappeared to Dublin for a year or so to shake off all notion of his naval and Antarctic history. He didn't return to Anascaul until all knowledge of his past had truly been lost in time.
And he never murmured a word about it.
And the name of the pub that he ran for the rest of his life was just that - nothing more than just a name.
Well, not any more it's not.
- For anyone interested in more about Tom Crean, the wikipedia page is petty good.
Anyway, I nipped into a back-alley pub in Killarney to get out of the rain (almost but not quite non-stop since Wednesday). And as I ordered "a Guinness with fish and chips please," a local customer seated at the bar immediately piped up, "Hey begorra! You must be from the Elephant and Castle. What did you do there?"
Well, when I got back up off the floor, I replied, "Yes, I was born in that very area, near the Imperial War Museum. Always worked in London including a couple of years in the 60s just off Borough High Street."
"I could tell straight away!" he said, and continued to relate how he'd managed many of the pubs in and around Lambeth between 1960 and the late 80s.
"I returned back here to Killarney afterwards but I still visit a few times a year - my children's families all live over there."
So, like most things in Ireland, that conversation took many a wandering twist and turn, helped by the gravity of the Guinness.
Outside once again, and around the next corner, I bumped into a wonderful method of adventure travel, yet to be introduced into this blog.
It was in the final stages of preparation, about to set off.
So here it is.
And about time too:
Waiting to gallop aboard the carousel, ready to turn and run rings around the moon. What an adventure!
Around 40 horsepower and no paperwork needed.
Now, these Two Campaigners
have successfully completed their five-day adventure all around Great Britain, with more than a few stories to tell.
So congratulations to them - and give 'em yer money....
Posted by Ken Thomas at 08:07 PM
November 20, 2011 GMT
Go West Old Boy
To The South Pole.
And at last I was off, with a Ryanair ticket. I wondered what airport they would deliver me to. Southend? Southampton? South Of The Border? Down Mexico Way?
No, it was Cork.
And just beyond Killarney lay my destination.
The pub that Tom built.
He was born here:
- and is a true local hero. He's everywhere, including on the stairs of the B&Bs.
And in the garden opposite the Post Office.
I headed off along the 'Anascaul Straightaway' towards the house where he was born.
Taking off above the South Pole Inn (blue building to the left behind a tree).
The Straightaway is so straight it would make Einstein proud.
Photo taken from close to Tom Crean's birthplace - just as the sun came out. Anascaul is in the bottom of the distant valley.
Maybe this was why Tom Crean came to like marching in dead straight lines across Antarctica. And good enough at it to save the lives of his companions.
Notice the slight kink in the lane, caused by the force of gravity exerted by the Guinness brewery in Dublin. Just as Einstein calculated.
Then I found this:
The secret ingredient of Guinness.
They feed old bicycles into the muck spreaders to fertilise the barley fields.
No wonder 'It's good for you', and its gravity is strong enough to make bends appear in the roads on the other side of the country!
You read it here first in McCrankpin's Meanderings.
There's more than just emerald green in the colour of the countryside here, even in dull old November.
A little west of the South Pole Inn is the town of Dingle, and beyond that the Dingle Peninsula.
At Dún Chaoin you reach the furthest west you can go on mainland Europe.
But wait! There's a ferry to a group of tiny islands even further west.
Today the weather is fearsomely bad, not good for taking photos let alone a ferry - it's difficult to stand up in the wind:
Dún Chaoin Bay.
Further round towards the pier for the Blasket Islands Ferry.
No, there are definitely no ferries today to the Blasket Islands.
So a right blasket case this excursion turned out to be....
Today, the Atlantic weather is so fierce it's even stopping the rivers in their tracks:
If this little stream thinks it's going to reach the ocean it's got another think coming.
"No way José! You'll need a hose to squirt you through this wind and into those waves."
Further along, this farm gate had become a leaky lock gate.
Maybe an oil tanker will come cruising down here in a moment, its GPS mistaking Ceann Sraithe, just up the road, for Canal Suez. Better move on.
Back in Anascaul there's a local industry specialising in Black Pudding.
The landlady in the B&B tried to convince an Amercan couple how good it is with the cooked breakfast, but made the fatal mistake of giving an honest answer to the question, "What's in it?"
So that's alright then, I'll have theirs.
Up in the hills above Anascaul is Lake Anscaul, with some deep reflections in the still waters.
And some colour by the lane to the lake.
Then it was off to Killarney by way of the sunset at Inch Beach in Dingle Bay:
- for a performance of Aidan Dooley's one-man play of Tom Crean's life.
Eight or nine years ago Aidan Dooley performed this play in the South Pole Inn,
to an invited audience that included two of Crean's daughters, both in their 80s at the time.
Well, this performance went down in history as being a particularly emotional one. It was the first time his daughters had ever heard of their late father's heroic exploits.
(When Tom Crean retired back to Anascaul from the Navy, in 1920, his Antarctic adventures were long behind him, and he never told anyone, including his daughters, what he got up to down in The South. And he kept no diaries. So it wasn't until long after his death in 1938, when Antarctic historians started to delve into the diaries of his companions, that his life story started to see the light of day. His first biography wasn't published until about the time of Aidan Dooley's performance in the South Pole Inn
I'm sure it'll be just as good a performance in the theatre in Killarney this evening. In my research I've never found if Tom Crean has any grandchildren - maybe there'll be some in the audience.......
Posted by Ken Thomas at 09:23 AM
November 11, 2011 GMT
Clearing The Way
Had a particularly enjoyable outing through more Surrey byways on my latest trip to Guildford.
There's a huge patient support centre at St Lukes with a wide range of activities and therapies, some free, some almost free. So I joined the art class. One morning per week, everything provided, making for a much more relaxed visit than when undertaking treatment there.
Ideal for getting lost and muddy on a motorbike on the way.
And in a way, playing with the artist materials (inks this week, acrylics last week) is a little like playing with the mud in these lanes. You use a brush on the paper, a motorbike on the lane.
The lanes and the woodlands in these Surrey Hills are all pretty ancient, the woods are quite dense and the lanes well hidden under the leafy canopies. There's not much light. I really need a tripod for the long exposures but I'm not going to carry that amount of luggage.
So on this little trip I mainly took photos when the sun was squeezing enough brightness through the branches.
Firstly, back to Hogden Lane around the Polesden Lacey estate. I found the route this time.
A couple of photos along the slope down to the end of the lane, where it joins Ranmore Common Road:
Oh, to be in England now that November's there.
Five hundred yards along the tarmac of Ranmore Common Road towards Guildford brings us to Drove Road. And about half a mile down there:
Yes, there are lots of riders that would have had a go at jumping over this, but I'd just spent the morning delicately applying inks to paper, so I wasn't really prepared for rough stuff. And there was no first-aid back-up team.
When I first saw it, I thought of the state of these byways back in the 60s and 70s, when uncertainties about their status led to some individuals blocking the lanes with whatever they could find to stop us riders using them.
But this trunk had definitely fallen from the remaining stump just out of view, and probably not long before I arrived.
It wasn't difficult to clear out the way and the journey continued.
There was plenty of mud and water further on.
My plan was to fork right here onto Sheepwalk Lane, just next to this gate. But I didn't expect this sign in the straight on direction.
Years ago the rest of Drove Road was closed by the council at this point. It had become severly damaged by over-use (mainly by 4X4 vehicles unfortunately) with deep ruts which became rivers in the rain adding to the erosion. The ancient features of this track were in danger of being completely destroyed.
Even more so on Beggars Lane, which this track leads to about half a mile further on. That's an old steep chalk track dropping down the side of Hackhurst Downs to the A25 Guildford Road at Gomshall. I hadn't bothered to look up the latest status of these two tracks, assuming they were still closed.
I don't know if it happens elsewhere in the country, but the council here has a policy of repairing badly damaged byways and re-opening them to two-wheeled traffic only where there's a danger of four-wheel traffic continuing to cause problems. London Lane at Shere is one such (only bikes allowed on that lane in the winter). And here's the rest of Drove Road, now open to bikes (and small horse-drawn carts) only.
So we'll give it a try.
I took a few photos where there was still light reaching the lane.
Still on Drove Road.
And on to Beggars Lane.
At the start of the descent down Hackhurst Downs, there's a strange road sign, reflective and scattering the flashlight everywhere.
The Highway Code
that I remember always used to say "Keep Left."
Here, we're encouraged to wander all over the road as we like. How neat is that?
On reaching the bottom at the A25 it was off to the usual stop at Box Hill. But once back on the tarmac away from the mud you suddenly realise how cold you're getting. And a common effect of my continuing hormone treatment is an occasional loss of temperature control. Hot one minute, cold the next. So time to call it a day for today and find a new thermostat.
I'll return to Beggars Lane before the winter progresses too far and ride it in the other direction, up the hill (I hope - the chalk's pretty slippery in places). But Ireland beckons in the meantime.
Then there's Fullers Farm Road and Wix Lane further towards Guildford, and Ponds Lane in Little London.
Not to mention all the byways beyond Guildford around Frensham and Hindhead. Will probably need a new carnet and a laissez-passer to get there.
Posted by Ken Thomas at 10:36 AM