Monthly Archives: July 2016

Victorian rural railway bridge in snow monochrome

Bridges for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Living in a landscape of rivers and old railways means we have lots of bridges in our area. Here are some of my favourite bridge pictures that I’ve previously featured on my blog – from Tyneside icons to forgotten relics – for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

Bridges in our woods

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
Stone-built culvert in monochrome
This stone-built culvert was part of an old stream crossing in our woods.
Industrial inspirations - bridge to the old colliery yard
Industrial archaeology in the woodland undergrowth. Remnants of the bridge that carried laden coal tubs from the mine over the stream into the old colliery yard. Green mounds mark the brick bases of the bridge arch.

Bridges in our valley

The new Butterfly Bridge, River Derwent, Gateshead
The new Butterfly Bridge over the River Derwent in Gateshead. The old bridge was destroyed by the floods in 2008.
The Nine Arches viaduct that carried the Derwent Valley Railway. The C2C cycle route follows the Derwent Valley Railway Path through this part of Gateshead's countryside.
The Nine Arches viaduct carried the Derwent Valley Railway. This wonderful piece of Victorian engineering was built because the Earl of Strathmore would not allow the railway to pass over his land at Gibside.

Tyneside bridge icons

Newcastle Tyne Bridge, the High Level Bridge, the Swing Bridge and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, all crossing the River Tyne
Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge, the High Level Bridge, the Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge and the Swing Bridge, all crossing the River Tyne
Gateshead Millenium Bridge
The award-winning Gateshead Millenium Bridge – the newest bridge over the River Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead’s quaysides.

Do take a look at the bridges others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

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J Peggy Taylor

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Tall Pea Plants flowering

A tall pea plant tale

Picking fresh pea pods is one of the delights of Summer vegetable gardening here in the UK. My new allotment garden share means this year I can once again indulge in this delight.

I’ve grown peas in the past, but this time, I’m growing tall peas. Very tall peas they are actually – growing up to 10 feet tall! Now that is tall! (10 feet is about 3 metres if you’re metric 🙂 )

I chose my tall climbing peas from The Real Seed Catalogue. They’re a heritage seed variety called “Champion of England” and, like a lot of heritage seeds, they have a lovely little story behind them.

The Champion of England tall climbing pea is a traditional UK pea, dating back to the mid-19th century. In years gone by, all peas were tall peas, but with the advent of mechanised harvesting, shorter varieties became the norm as the harvesting machines were unable to harvest from taller plants. Once tall peas were no longer grown as commercial crops, apart from a few seeds in seedbanks, the Champion of England pea became unavailable … until one day in 2007.

In 2007, the people at Real Seeds received a letter from a Mr Robert Woodbridge in Lincolnshire. His grandmother had grown Champion of England tall climbing peas in her garden in Pickworth, Lincolnshire and saved their own family strain of these peas since the 1940s.

Mr Woodbridge’s grandfather had worked at a large country house during World War II, mending greenhouses, and his grandmother had originally been given some of the Champion of England peas by the head gardener there. Mr Woodbridge had kept his promise to his grandmother to keep growing and saving the Champion of England tall pea and had a batch of seeds that he offered to Real Seeds.

The people at Real Seeds were, of course, delighted and called the peas “an amazing find”. They have then been able to gradually produce more of the Champion of England tall peas until they had enough to offer them through their online Real Seeds Catalogue.

Champion of England tall climbing peas - sowing peas direct
Early in May – sowing Champion of England peas directly into the soil

I began sowing my Champion of England peas on 3rd April, though with my earliest pea sowings, I don’t sow them straight into the ground. It would be too cold for them in April – especially this Spring, which was very chilly here in Northern England.

Instead, I put 12 dry peas in a jar and amply cover them with cold water. I leave the peas to soak for around 24-48 hours, then I drain out the soaking water and also give the soaked peas another rinse or two with fresh water.

The drained, but still wet, peas stay in their jar (covered loosely with the lid) on my kitchen counter until they sprout. I just rinse them with fresh cold water a couple of times a day.

After about 4-5 days the radicle (root) of the peas begins to grow. When most of the peas have grown a radicle, I then plant the sprouted peas into cardboard toilet roll tubes filled with multi-purpose compost. I find 12 tubes just fit nicely into an upcycled plastic carton saved from supermarket-bought mushrooms.

I repeated this whole process with another batch of 12 peas when the previous batch had been planted into their cardboard tubes and had produced small pea shoots (approximately 8-10 day intervals).

Champion of England tall climbing peas - planting out
Pea plants planted out complete with their cardboard tubes

My Champion of England peas had an excellent germination record using my sprouting method. When the pea shoots had grown to about 4-6 inches tall (10-15 cms), I planted them out in the allotment.

The first batch of 10 successful plants were planted out on 21st April. With the pea plants being in cardboard tubes, planting out is simply a case of digging a deep enough hole and planting in the whole thing, tube and all. I added a generous trowel-ful or two of my deliciously earthy-smelling home-made garden compost to the planting hole before putting in the pea plant, to give the plant a good feed as it grows.

Tall Pea Frame - adding the cross-pieces
Tall Pea Frame – adding the cross-pieces

While I was waiting for my peas to grow, I built a huge pea frame from hazel rods and netting and set it firmly in the ground. The upper cross piece that supports the netting is 8 feet (approximately 2.5 metres) above the ground.

Tall Pea Frame - the finished rustic hazel rod frame
Tall Pea Frame – the finished frame with its rustic hazel poles and pea netting

Although the Champion of England peas were reputed to grow to 10 feet, I must say I was a little skeptical as to whether they would manage this on our cold and windy northern hillside. (Our local climate is a bit different to the peas’ original home in Lincolnshire!) But, I thought I’d build the pea frame tall enough, just in case my tall pea plants did reach their maximum height.

Champion of England tall climbing peas about a foot tall
On 25th May the pea plants were about a foot tall

My Champion of England pea plants grew relatively slowly at first – probably due to the cool conditions we experienced through much of the Spring. However, as soon as the weather began to warm up a little bit and we saw a bit more of the sun, the transplanted pea plants began to shoot away.

At the end of May, after about a month in the ground, the plants were around a foot to 18 inches high (30-45cm).

Champion of England tall climbing peas
By the 9th June the pea plants reached the first cross bar – approximately 3 feet tall

By 18th June the tallest pea plant measured almost 5 feet high (1.5 metres).

Champion of England tall climbing peas - nearly 5 feet tall
Champion of England tall climbing peas – nearly 5 feet tall

Now, on 2nd July, the tallest plant has reached 7 feet high (2 metres).

Champion of England tall climbing peas - 7 feet tall
Champion of England tall climbing peas – 7 feet tall

Even more exciting than the fact that my peas plants were rapidly turning into tall peas, on the Summer Solstice (21st June) I spotted one of my tall pea plants had produced its first beautiful natural white flowers.

Champion of England tall climbing peas -first flowers
Champion of England tall climbing peas -first flowers

About a week later, a good few more flowers had appeared and then, even more exciting, I saw the first pea pod forming. Now, about a further week on, I can see the tiny peas beginning to show in a couple of the pods.

Champion of England tall climbing peas - first peas forming in pod
Champion of England tall climbing peas – first peas forming in pod

It’s just so exciting growing tall peas! I can hardly wait to taste these sweet, fresh garden peas … I just hope the jackdaws don’t get there first 😀

J Peggy Taylor

Favourite walks - beechwood path

Favourite Walks for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

We love to walk. Our favourite walks take us on modern multi-user routes, along coastal paths and old railways, but we also love to scramble along leafy, muddy woodland tracks in our own local woods. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, we are sharing walks, both indoors and out. All of the photos I have chosen, feature places we love to walk.

My header shot is of our beautiful local beechwoods. We know and love this path in all seasons and all weathers. Its surface can be dry and sandy or distinctly soggy, with deep puddles and rivulets cascading between the tree roots. Its popularity with cyclists in recent years has prompted the addition of limestone gravel to some parts of the path to keep it passable in wet conditions.

Favourite walks - the aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens
The aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens

I thought I add one indoor walk for this challenge. Sunderland Winter Gardens are like a little oasis in the heart of the city centre. This high level aerial walkway is a wonderful vantage point from which to view the impressive tropical plants in the Winter Gardens. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge last week, I showed you the fountains you can see both inside and out at Sunderland’s miniature-tropical-rainforest-in-a-giant-greenhouse.

Favourite walks - Whitburn Coastal Path
Walking along Whitburn Coastal Path to Souter Lighthouse

At least once every Summer, we head out to the North East coast and walk along South Shields Leas to Souter Lighthouse or walk the Whitburn Coastal Path. Both of these paths are maintained by the National Trust along this beautiful and fascinating – but also the most dangerous – stretch of England’s coast.

When we aren’t walking coastal paths, we love to walk along old railways. Here in North East England, we have many old railway tracks that have been turned into a connected set of footpaths.

Favourite Walks - Lintzgreen Station, Derwent Walk
Walking through Lintzgreen Station on the Derwent Walk

Here we’re walking through one of the old stations that stood along the Derwent Valley Railway which carried passengers and freight through our leafy green valley last century when coal mines and steel furnaces were the main employers. You can see the train platforms on either side of the track. My son had evidently found something interesting and had climbed up onto the platform from where passengers would have travelled northbound through to Newcastle. This footpath is now known as the Derwent Walk, a multi-user route that forms part of the C2C long-distance cycle route, and which links up to the Waskerley Way, below.

Favourite walks - Waskerley Way
Heading out across the heather moors on the Waskerley Way

The Waskerley Way railway path takes us out over the heather moors and is another favourite walk of ours in Summer when the purple heather blooms. I love walking this path but you have to go prepared – this is real moorland and the weather can change suddenly. A warm Summer’s day in our valley can mean a cool and brisk breeze on the moor and passing showers envelop you – you literally have your head in the cloud! Warm clothing and waterproofs are definitely a good plan.

Favourite walks - going to our camp
Walking to our camp in the woods

Not all of our favourite walks are on wide and well-defined footpaths. We also love leafy woodland tracks. A few years ago we built a camp entirely from natural materials and there I taught the boys to cook outdoors over a small wood fire. The camp was deep in the woods, so the walk to reach it required a bit of scrambling through brambles and steep-sided streams. Here we are taking the narrow track along the top of the stream gorge on our way to cook at the camp.

Favourite Walks - going home along the old railway
Going home along the old railway in our woods

Wherever we may roam, we always return home, and quite often the walk home is along the old railway in our local woods. Just like our favourite beechwood path that we saw at the beginning of this post, we have walked the old railway in every type of weather – sun, rain, fog, frost, ice and snow. We knew all its muddy puddles. We sometimes even sledged along it on the way home from school, years ago when the boys were young.

When the railway was very dry, you could still see the impressions in the ground where the old wooden railway sleepers had lain when it carried the mineral line that took the coal from our village to Newcastle. I’m slightly sad that this Spring the old railway has been resurfaced with gravel to make a modern multi-user route. However, with the increasing rainfall due to climate change, the puddles in some places were becoming so deep and wide, a boat was almost needed! So perhaps the new path surface was the only practical solution 🙂

Do take a look at the walks others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

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