funranium: (Default)

I gotta write this down before I forget it again.

While vacationing in Ol' Blighty, I kept thinking of things or be reminded of truly horrible tasks in antiquity.  I believe it began with contemplating the gleaners that used to muck through the castle garderobe outfalls.

Then we went to Shropshire Castle (AKA the Shropshire Regimental Museum) and saw the reichsjagermeister (translation: the Reich's master of the hunt) baton of Hermann Goering.  This reminded me that there was once a valet who's primary task was to wrangle Goering's hemmoroids. 

Side story regarding the baton: Goering had been given the baton and title by Hitler to feed the only thing larger than the flying fat man of the Luftwaffe himself, his ego.  It is a beautiful piece and I wish I had a picture of it, but cameras are forbidden in the museum.  Surprisingly, the internets have no pictures of it (that I can find) either.  It seems that an enterprising member of the Shropshire Yeomanry managed to loot the baton from Goering's effects.  Lawsuits have since raged where Germany, the US, and England (in the form of the Imperial War Museum) have tried to lay claim to the baton.  They've all failed as the legal argument of spoils of war, with a side note of "you should know that better than anyone, Imperial War Museum *lingering glance over their collection*" has won every time.  If you want the hunt baton, you've got to invade England and do some looting of your own.  Fair's fair, after all.

Also, as a personal win, I got an member of the Yeomanry in his mid-50s to agree that Eddie Izzard's "Do You Have A Flag?" bit regarding British colonialism to be pretty much dead on.  As he did point out to us, they do indeed have a lot of flags.

When we to Ludlow Castle, I ascended to the tippiest of the tippy top towers, the one that is on the moat facing of the Norman keep with the flag on it.  It was a warm June day but standing by the flag it was diamond cutter nipples time.  I realized then that a sentry posted to the top of that tower to keep watch had very obviously pissed someone off to end up there.  There isn't even room for a brazier up there to keep you warm.

Lastly, while wandering around the Roman ruins of Exeter (or Isca Dumnoniorum if you prefer the traditional name) with British Nick and sharing the idea of horrible jobs of antiquity, we thought up the horror of the Roman orgy lubricator.  Imagine if you will two highly trained lube slaves standing at the ready and some fine snippets of conversation that might drift between them:

  • "Quick!  Get some oil on the pile of Julii over there before they sieze up."
  • "Boy, I've been doing this for 20 years.  It takes a dab hand to keep a senator from chafing."
  • "By the gods...Germans. *shudder of horror*"
Please supply your horrible job of antiquity below.
funranium: (Default)
Okay, here's yesterday's British industrial oddity post with all the accompanying text.  Enjoy.
funranium: (Default)

So looking at the picture below, ignoring the feet, tell me what the hell you think this is and when it was built, because it most certainly isn't a natural formation:

While you think about it here's another shot of it extending into the distance with Hay Tor in the background.

Hay Tor, and the accompanying Hound Tor, are part of the inspirational landscape of the Dartmoor that help inspire Arthur Conan Doyle's "Hound of the Baskervilles".  It is also a remarkably vertical hike, that this picture doesn't do justice to, getting to Hay Tor.  England may not have much in the way of high elevation, but it makes up for it in topographical relief.

Anyway, give up?  This is a railway sculpted from granite in the 1820 (back when railroads were the Next Big Thing) to transport granite from the nearby quarry to the coast by, and I quote, "gravity powered cars, and drawn back to the top by ponies".  That's right, they'd load a car full of granite and then let it go.  Presumably the coasting speed wasn't all that high.  Of particular interest to me was the fact they actually had switches to divert cars.  It would be a very brave man to try to hit the switch on an granite loaded car.  Now, when they went to build this there was, and still is, a distinct lack of iron for rails and trees for ties to build a railway.  But they do have a lot of granite...I'm surprised Vermont and New Hampshire didn't try to pull this trick too.

Next, we visit the Hay Inclined Plane in Coalbrookdale.  This picture does not do justice to the grade that this track goes up which looked like 1:1.5 to me.  It was intended to haul canal boats up on rail trollies from the canal at the bottom to the River Severn at the top.  Why would they do this crazy feat?

Because it was slightly less crazy than the original plan to make a canal tunnel through the hill and then hoist the canal boats up with an crane/elevator and then plunk them in the Severn.  Of course, just because Plan B is less crazy doesn't mean that they didn't try Plan A first.  They didn't even abandon Plan A because it was a bad idea (because stout British Quaker engineering can overcome Nature at every turn).  No, they abandoned it because they were having a hard time with all the tar that was seeping into the tunnel.  It got to the point that they realized that this tar was worth far more than any profit to be made on the canal boats and just decided to mine for tar instead.  The Incline happened because they still needed to move the boats.

Of course most people don't go to the Tar Tunnel or the Hay Incline Plane when they visit Coalbrookdale. The whole place is a UN World Heritage Site as it is considered the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. What most people go to see is the Ironbridge (I believe that I mentioned in a previous post that Quakers didn't have the most imaginative naming scheme):

It is the first cast iron bridge in the world and was used as proof of the quality and strength of Shropshire iron (this shouldn't have been a big question since that was the reason the Romans thought going this far north was worth it). Of course, while the bridge was great, the banks have been collapsing since it wad built so a few patch jobs have been necessary to keep the bridge from tearing apart.  They seem to have held nicely for 200 years:

It has been commented that I can't take normal tourist vacations. I can't help it that I find these things awesome.

Posted via

So, Plan B

Jun. 17th, 2009 09:44 pm
funranium: (Lazy)
Due to physical limitations found in members of the expedition, trekking for several days on The Ridgeway has been scrapped.  Instead we took an extra day in Shropshire playing in Chester and are now safely ensconced in Wales.  Currently writing from an undisclosed location in Conwy; had a lovely day playing in the castle and wandering about the Victorian seaside resort/Bronze Age copper mine of Llandudno.

With glorious strength in my Strong Arm, I will defeat Welsh Rail and bus services to go hike a bit of Offa's Dyke from Knighton tomorrow.  Failing this, a loud delclaration that, "I am not a number, I am a free man!" may have to happen in Portmeiron. 

Reminder to self and extra credit to all you following along at home courtesy of my visit to Coalbrookdale (there is dale with a brook that had coal in it; it is practically Icelandic in its uncreative descriptive accuracy): find out more about the "British Coal Tar" patent remedies that were sold in America prior to the Pennsylvania oil strikes.  My former history of science and technology professor has a bottle of "Conestoga" (as in the wagon popular for the Oregon trail) brand British tar reclaimed from settler site in the American West.  He also has a Darby cast iron mercury bottle, which is just awesome...if slightly his office at Keele.

Also, Roman ruins in Chester = impressive.  I very much enjoyed walking the perimeter of the old wall.  Did the same of the Conwy medeival wall as well, probably about three laps around town all told.  Old Longshanks certainly had a grand time letting Wales know they were English.

December 2012

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