Thursday, May 25, 2017

Visiting Bazalgette's magnificent sewers

Regular readers will be well aware of my fascination with the life of John Martin, his pioneering work on London's sewer system, how it was taken up by Bazalgette in the great Victorian engineering project encapsulated by the wonderful Grade 1 Listed Crossness Pumping Station.

Readers might also have also spotted my interest in London Under, from Brunel's Thames Tunnel to disused tube stations and canal tunnels to the lost rivers of London.

So hopefully it will be at least partially understandable that high on my list of places to visit in London would be Bazalgette's magnificent sewers.

It was therefore with great excitement that I received an invite from Thames Water for just such a tour.

We started off at the Grade II listed Abbey Mills pumping station, which was once known as the "mosque in the marshes" due to its elegant dome at the top:
Inside there is much of the original metal work, but unlike Crossness this pumping station has been continually in operation, so there are also more modern pumps filling its cavernous spaces:

We were given an extremely interesting history of how London managed its water supply and, er, corresponding wastage (to put it delicately). There was also an update on the famous Thames Tideway Tunnel aka the Super Sewer, more of which anon, including what will happen to the Bubbler.

The tour then showed us the site's main buildings and their history. There used to be two tall chimneys but they had to be demolished in the Blitz because of concerns that if they were damaged they might fall on the pumping station itself.

Then it was time to get dressed up for the descent into London under and the sewers. The outfit made us all feel a bit like the Ghostbusters - who are you going call? - very comprehensively covered, with not just one but two gloves, which to be honest made operating the camera a bit frustrating.

Anyhow managed to get a few shots with approximately the right settings:
I'm sure you're wondering about the smell but it really wasn't that bad. They'd lowered the water level but we still to wade through a foot or two of brown water, and it wasn't just Thames mud giving it its colour I'm sure. So we were all very incentivised not to fall over or in.

Our guide showed us the Bazalgette original brick work (top photo), looking good after about 150 years and still doing its job to keep the dirty stuff out of the Thames. We also got a lesson in what not to flush down the drain, complete with examples.

More on all of this later, as there was lots of really interesting information provided over the afternoon and I have a stack of photos and videos to, er, wade through.

Many thanks to Thames Water for arranging the tour.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Boating weather

The weather has finally warmed up and the boats are out on the Thames.

All it needs now is for my workload to decrease!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Paddle boat Italie on Lake Geneva

 I have previously posted comments about paddle steamers, the authentic and the total fakes.

On Lake Geneva there is, fortunately, a lovely "Belle Epoque" fleet of side paddle boats, such as the Italie, seen here up by the famous Jet d'Eau:
 Alas I was working far to hard to go for a trip (or alternatively investigate the D35 cats racing out on the Lake) but it made a nice distraction when going for a walk or jog.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Two lessons from my first yacht sail

A long time ago, in a country far, far away.....

Ok, enough May the fourth misquotes, but many years ago I signed up for something called Villa-Flotilla holiday where the first week involved teaching newbies how to sail a yacht and the second off we'd go.

It was for a sailing company that is now long gone but others still sail from where it was based, namely Nidri on the Greek island of Lefkas (Lefkada).

I'd never been on a yacht before but was keen to find out more from our instructor, on who we relied to teach us the mysteries of sailing.

Unfortunately the first thing he did was run our yacht aground just outside Nidri! So the first topic of my first sailing lesson was how to kedge off. Fortunately I haven't had to use this technique since but no doubt it was useful to know.

The second lesson was the all important person over-board drill. Most courses simulate a body by tying a fender to a bucket then chucking it into the waters, but our instructor was a bit more ambitious in that he jumped over-board himself.

I do wonder what would have happened if we had been poor students at that task.

Later I was to learn other important things, such as why it was a bad idea to crash-gybe in front of an oncoming Greek ferry, but that's another story.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Boats! Boats! Boats! .... in Corfu

From a flying visit last weekend. Many, many years ago I did a villa-flotilla on nearby Lefkada which might be worth a post.