Monthly Archives: February 2015

Nine Arches Viaduct from the meadow path

Scale in our landscape

History in the landscape fascinates me. I love to explore the architectural forms built by our ancestors, from castles to abandoned coal mines and from intact and preserved structures to stray bricks found in a stream bed. Whether I am exploring ‘virtually’, through maps and photographs, or physically on the ground, a question that I often ponder is, “Why was it built here, in this particular location?”

With the Nine Arches Viaduct, in Gateshead’s stretch of the Derwent Valley, it is possible to answer my question definitively. When the Derwent Valley Railway was built in the 1860s, the Earl of Strathmore refused to allow the railway to cross his land on the south side of the river and this meant two sizeable viaducts were needed to route the railway onto the north side to avoid the Earl’s Gibside Estate. I can appreciate that to keep the railway on a level route would have taken the railway rather close to the grand Georgian house and besides, the Earl’s coal interests didn’t require this railway line, so why would he help out his competitors?! Arguments of this sort were commonplace as Victorian coal mine owners sought routes to transport their coal to the River Tyne and so increase their fortunes.

Nine Arches Viaduct on the Derwent Walk Railway Path

The Nine Arches Viaduct now carries the Derwent Walk Railway Path, a multi-user route that is very popular for walking, cycling and horse-riding. This route is part of the C2C long distance trail between the east and west coasts of England.

Many people must travel over the rather unassuming concrete surface of the viaduct without ever knowing the reason for its existence and those who never venture from the main path down to the river bank would also never know the huge scale of this amazing piece of Victorian engineering, 500 feet (152 metres) long and rising 80 feet (24 metres) above the River Derwent.

Nine Arches Viaduct from the river bank

As you’ve probably guessed, the viaduct is known as the “Nine Arches” because it has nine arches, though only one of them actually spans the River Derwent.

Nine Arches Viaduct from the meadow

Looking up from the meadow and the river bank is the best place to see the impressive scale of this sandstone and brick bridge structure. The fence under the trees and the trees themselves in the above image give you some idea of the height of the railway viaduct. Now let’s take a look at the Nine Arches Viaduct from an elevated viewpoint.

Old Hollinside - panorama of the Derwent Valley in Autumn colour

Here we can see the Nine Arches Viaduct in context. You can see it is dwarfed by its own landscape setting, taking its small-scale place in this wooded valley. I think the view over this part of the Derwent valley is wonderful when the woodland is in its Autumn colours.

This post is my entry for the WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge this week on the theme of ‘Scale’. I was inspired to take part in this week’s challenge by Cee’s entry at Cee’s Photography … it was that amazing maple leaf that hooked me 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Allotments: We Need Them Now More Than Ever

This is a ‘green issue’ that I really care about. Allotment gardens are meant for growing food, not for councils or developers to profit from. Here we have an incredible example of this in Bristol, where prime growing soil is set to be destroyed for a supposedly ‘green’ transport system! Bristol is also currently the “European Green Capital” and should be setting a good example, not going for green gimmickry whilst destroying a positive environmental project. Government needs to be protecting allotments rather than deregulating in favour of so-called ‘development’. Please sign the petition to “Help Protect the UK’s Allotment sites”. Thank you.
J Peggy Taylor

AGENTS OF FIELD

It’s a big week for allotment gardeners here in the UK. As Sara-Jane Trebar, who spearheaded the fight to Save Farm Terrace allotments (and won), launches a national campaign to help protect the UK’s allotment sites in response to the startling number of allotment closures over the past few years, campaigners in Bristol have taken to the trees in protest over the proposed MetroBus development that will destroy some of the most valuable food-growing land in the country.

SFT Farm Terrace Protesters. (Photo courtesy of Sara-Jane Trebar.)

Allotments, as we know them, have been part of our cultural heritage since the Victorian age when local authorities were obligated to allocate land to the common people, enabling them to grow their own food. They have remained popular since that time, with numbers peaking at times of national recession, such as during the Dig for Victory campaign and post-war years of the 1940s…

View original post 897 more words

Hooky mat chair seat cover - craft project header

Starting a new craft project: is it a rug? is it a chair?

We have a preference for pre-loved furniture in our house. For example, this means we have dining chairs that don’t match. The dining chairs themselves are all of the long-lasting wooden variety, probably dating from somewhere around the middle of last century.

Our pre-loved furniture
The wooden dining chair near our Beautility sideboard

Our dining chairs see very regular use, so you can imagine the seats of these chairs from time to time begin to show distinct signs of wear and need to be re-covered. One of the chairs is currently in this very worn condition and in dire need of repair.

Worn chair seat cover
Worn chair seat cover in need of replacing

Normally to mend our chair covers, I simply cut out a suitably sized piece of upholstery material and replace the old chair seat cover, restoring the seat padding at the same time if necessary. However, this time I decided to combine replacing the chair seat cover with practicing a new textile skill. When I say ‘new’ textile skill, I really mean ‘very old’ textile skill – it is only new to me, though I have been studying it for a while. Now I have the perfect opportunity to try my hand at a traditional rug-making method that could have quite possibly been practised in the homes where our old chairs started out more than half a century ago.

Will it work, using a rug-making method to create a chair seat cover? Well, I can only say I have seen it used this way in the hands of an expert, so I am hopeful 😉

The rug-making method I am planning to use was known locally in our area as “hooky mat-making” where strips of recycled textiles (usually old clothing and household textiles) were hooked onto a base of strong woven jute sacking that had been stretched taut onto a frame. In North East England the word ‘mat’ was used rather than ‘rug’. Hooky mats are one of the two main mat-making styles that were widely used right up to the middle of the twentieth century in North East working class households to create floor rugs, as bought carpets were unaffordable for many people. When completed, a hooky mat has quite a flat pile with short loops. The other style of mat-making was called a “proggy mat” and that results in a mat with a longer, softer pile finish.

Linen canvas stretched on the frame
Linen canvas stretched on the frame – this is the base for the chair seat cover

For my hooky mat chair seat cover, I have chosen to use some heavy linen canvas as the base and I’ve stretched this onto a large heavy-duty painting frame that I had conveniently available.

Hooky mat tool in hand turned wood
Hooky mat tool in hand turned sycamore wood

The tool I will be using to craft my hooky mat design is this wooden hook that I asked my son (the woodworker) to make for me to a particular size and shape. He began by turning a short length of sycamore wood on the pole lathe and then between us we carved the hook end to the required shape. The hook may need some more refining yet – I shall have to see when I put it to use.

My draft designs inspired by Rennie Mackintosh
My draft designs inspired by Rennie Mackintosh

Currently in my new craft project I am preparing the design that I will be working onto the linen base. While I was browsing for potential design ideas I was inspired by some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s flowers and Art Nouveau mosaics, so I decided to develop my design in this early 20th century style.

Hooky rug tool, textile strips and draft designs
Hooky mat preparations – tool, textile strips and the beginnings of a design

My colour scheme will be deliberately chosen from a limited palette of colours and I also want to keep the colours subtle rather than bright. Partly my range of colours will be dictated by the availability of suitably coloured textiles. I have begun preparing some textile strips in greys and purples so I will choose other colours to work with them.

Hopefully I will complete the design this week and perhaps manage to make a start on working the textile strips into the linen base. I’ll let you know how my latest upcycling craft project goes 🙂

J Peggy Taylor