Category Archives: Cultural Capers

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - mouth of Tyne and Black Middens

Sculptures, statues and carvings for Cee’s Black and White Challenge

A monument to one of Britain’s most famous seafarers stands looking out over the mouth of the River Tyne at Tynemouth on the North East coast. From his elevated position on a substantial sandstone plinth, stands the statue of Admiral Lord Collingwood.

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - Admiral Lord Collingwood
Statue of Admiral Lord Collingwood at Tynemouth

The plaque on the plinth recalls Collingwood’s role in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - Collingwood monument plaque
Collingwood monument plaque

This monument was erected in 1845 by Public Subscription to the memory of ADMIRAL LORD COLLINGWOOD, who in the Royal Sovereign on the 21st October 1805, led the British Fleet into action at Trafalgar and sustained the Sea fight for upwards of an hour before the other ships were within gun shot, which caused Nelson to exclaim, “See how that noble fellow Collingwood takes his ship into action.”

We can also read that Collingwood was born at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1748 and died in the Service of his country on board of the Ville De Paris on 7th March 1810 and was burried in St Paul’s Cathedral (London).

Finally, we learn that the four guns on the monument belonged to his ship the Royal Sovereign.

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - Thomas Bewick
Thomas Bewick’s sculpture marks the site of Bewick’s engraving workshop

Here we have another of North East England’s famous sons. This wall-mounted sculpture of Thomas Bewick marks the location of his engraving workshop near St Nicholas’ Cathedral in Newcastle upon Tyne. Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) is renowned for his wood engravings, many of which were published as book illustrations. Bewick was a keen naturalist and observed nature closely. Some of his finest wood engravings form the illustrations of his two-volume “A History of British Birds” – Volume 1, Land Birds, was published in 1797 and Volume 2, Water Birds, soon followed in 1804. You can see a few classic examples of Bewick’s work here on the Bewick Society’s website.

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - Bird of Prey
Bird of Prey wood carving in our woods

After looking at the acclaimed wood engravings of Thomas Bewick, I thought we’d take a look at another wood carving of a bird but this carving is of rather a different sort. This majestic bird of prey sculpture stands perched on its pole at one of the viewing points in our local woodland.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my sculptures, statues and carvings. Please do take a look at what others have found for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Medieval doors for the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge

Doors -  St Nicholas' Cathedral, Newcastle
St Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle
 Castle Keep, Newcastle - external view of original entrance
Castle Keep, Newcastle – external view of original entrance

Sometimes, a door can let you enter the past. As you cross its threshold you can imagine all of the historical figures who have made that same step. The doors I have chosen for the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge belong to two of Newcastle upon Tyne’s medieval buildings. Ever since the 14th century, people have been entering and leaving through these doorways – from medieval kings to modern day visitors.

J Peggy Taylor

“On 9 July 2015, the European Parliament might destroy photography.”

Nico  Trinkhaus #saveFoP
Save the Freedom of Photography!

Have you heard about this attack on photography?

The Freedom of taking photos in public places is under attack. Until now, in most countries in Europe you were safe to take and publish photographs that are taken from public ground – This is called Freedom of Panorama. When you were on vacation, you could take a photo from the London Eye and share it with your friends on Facebook*. If someone wanted to pay you for using this photo, that was okay as well. But this is about to change and may destroy photography as we know it.

Save the Freedom of Photography – Change.org Petition to European Parliament

When news of this Change.org petition dropped into my inbox, my first thought was, “It’s not April 1st is it?” It really did sound quite mad. However, when I read on, it seems that bureaucratic trouble-making was seriously at work here.

Julia Reda, a Member of the European Parliament from Germany, had highlighted that whilst in most European countries the Freedom of Panorama for photography is enshrined in law, in some other European countries, such as France and Italy, there is no Freedom of Panorama law. Through her position as a Member of the European Parliament, Julia Reda was seeking to address this situation. Freedom of Panorama allows anyone to take, publish and sell photographs of public buildings or structures provided they are taken from areas that are open to the public.

However, the current draft amendment for a new European Union law on this issue has turned Julia Reda’s plan on its head. Instead of providing for Freedom of Panorama for photography in a few more countries, the draft law seeks to take this freedom away from everyone! As Nico Trinkhaus has said in the text of his Change.org petition, if we allow this law to be passed, street, travel and architecture photography would effectively be killed stone dead. *Julia Reda has pointed out, you could not even privately upload your photos to Facebook without seeking the consent of the relevant architect, as uploading grants Facebook a license to use the photograph commercially.

When I read this last part, I was just wondering how the European Parliament proposes that people might make contact with architects who are no longer with us … when my son sent me a link to Wikipedia –

“Absence of full Freedom of Panorama means we can’t illustrate Wikipedia properly.”

Freedom of Panorama in Europe in 2015 – Wikipedia

W-h-A-A-A-t! Imagine life without Wikipedia … no, I can’t either.

I hope you will agree with 190,000 of us that this European Parliamentary madness must be challenged. Please take a look at the petition that Nico Trinkhaus has put on Change.org. If you are in the EU, you can also help by writing to your MEPs. Here in North East England, our Labour MEPs have said on their website:

“This amendment is a bad proposal and as MEPs we’re working to make sure it’s rejected:”

Labour MEPs for the North East – Freedom for Commercial Photographers

#saveFoP

Thank you.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge: Ground

Magnesian limestone and sand at Trow Point, South Shields - b-w image
Magnesian limestone and sand at Trow Point, South Shields

For Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week, we are looking at the ground. I often find the ground quite interesting because it is full of history.

The first image I’ve chosen shows an example of the Concretionary Magnesian Limestone on our North East England coastline. If you’re a geologist, you’ll certainly have heard of this well-known rock formation. The rocks were formed during the Permian period, over 250 million years ago, after rising sea levels flooded the adjacent sand dunes. The UK was still part of a large landmass at that time and lay just north of the equator. I always find it fascinating that we can just look down at the ground and look back so far into pre-history.

Another aspect of this particular spot that always strikes me as we walk across it, is the contrasts in texture. The sand is smooth, soft and usually cool, as the rising tide is normally casting its white foamy fingers across it. The Concretionary Magnesian Limestone is, by contrast, very rough. It really does look like concrete, with lumps of stone set into it, created entirely by the forces of Nature without any human help.

Stoney Road - surface - b-w image
The road surface gives the Stoney Road its name

My second image is of the old road that runs through our woods. It still retains its old surface of local sandstone gravel, though some parts have been reinforced with newer limestone. Unsurprisingly, this road is known as the Stoney Road and a hundred years ago was the main road linking our village to a neighbouring one. We often walk along the old road when we go into the woods, to see the carpets of bluebells in Spring or the carpets of leaves in Autumn but it is also a cool green tunnel in high Summer. I’m sure this old road would have many tales to tell, if only the ground could talk!

Do take a look at the ground with other entrants in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week – there are some wonderful shots to see.

J Peggy Taylor

St Mary's Heritage Centre, Gateshead

Medieval Churches for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Historic churches are very much part of the fabric of North East England. To find some fine examples for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week on the theme of Churches or other religious buildings, I’ve taken a look through my photo archives.

My header image above is of St Mary’s, Gateshead. Much of the current building is Victorian but it retains some medieval features. This church is no longer used for worship and is now Gateshead’s Heritage Centre. Not only does this church building enjoy an impressive view of the River Tyne and the city of Newcastle but it also has the award-winning international music venue, Sage Gateshead as its more recent next-door neighbour. You can’t see it on this photo, but to the right hand side of St Mary’s is Gateshead’s Hilton Hotel. It may be keeping good company nowadays, but back in its medieval history, St Mary’s was the scene of the grisly massacre of William Walcher, Bishop of Durham and his entourage. The church and its land was also commandeered by the Scots Covenanters during the Siege of Newcastle in 1644, part of the English Civil Wars.

St Nicholas Cathedral Church, Newcastle upon Tyne
St Nicholas Cathedral Church, Newcastle upon Tyne

The lantern spire of the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas is one of Newcastle’s famous landmarks. This medieval church building is mainly 14th and 15th century, so it too has seen its share of the historical conflicts that affected North East England. One story tells that during the 1644 Siege of Newcastle, the mayor, Sir John Marley, held the Scots prisoners in the church, right underneath the lantern spire, to deter the Scots army from aiming their cannons at the church from their position across the River Tyne at St Mary’s, Gateshead.

Hexham Abbey, Northumberland
Hexham Abbey, Northumberland

Hexham Abbey is the oldest of the churches I have chosen for this challenge, with Wilfred’s original church on this site dating back over 1300 years to the 7th century when Hexham was part of the Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria. The town of Hexham lies only a few miles from Hadrian’s Wall so it is not surprising that the original church was built mainly from stone salvaged from nearby Roman ruins. The Saxon abbey in turn was ruined by Viking invaders in the year 875 and the church was subsequently replaced by an Augustinian Priory around the end of the 12th century. The current building of Hexham Abbey largely dates from the 12th century priory. Only the crypt beneath the abbey was part of the original Saxon building.

Hexham Abbey’s other remaining relic from the Saxon era is a special stone throne called the Frith Stool. Whenever I think of Hexham Abbey I always recall a moment of acute embarrassment on a family visit to the Abbey some years ago when my then toddler son decided it would be fun to jump up and down on this ancient stone relic! I am glad to say that despite the aged caretaker’s look of absolute horror, the Frith Stool survived that invasion just as it had stood up to the Danes in the 9th century 😉

Please do take a look at the Churches and religious buildings that others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Learning by observation and photography

Caution! Children learning … for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Watching your children learning about the world around them is one of the pleasures of parenthood. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week our theme is ‘Catching People Unawares’. As a home educating family, taking photographs is one way we use to record our children’s learning experiences. This means I take a lot of photographs of our boys getting involved in all kinds of interesting activities. For this week’s challenge I decided to pick out some unusual or fun images from my archives.

History and the out-of-doors are two favourite family themes for our educational excursions and sometimes they overlap, making double the learning fun.

Trying out blacksmithing
Trying out blacksmithing under expert guidance

A woodland and heritage skills activity day in one of our local woodlands gave Matt the irresistible opportunity to try out the old craft of blacksmithing. We have previously seen blacksmithing demonstrations and also visited a renovated blacksmith’s shop complete with working forge. Entering that old building was like stepping back in time!

In days long gone, every village would have had its village blacksmith to make or mend items locally in iron and steel. Nowadays, it is mainly by people blacksmithing as a craft and as an art form that has prevented this heritage skill from dying out. On this occasion Matt produced a rather impressive pendant under the patient guidance of the visiting blacksmith.

Learning to build a two-stroke engine
Where does this piece go? Learning to build a two-stroke engine.

At last year’s annual Heritage Skills Festival, Matt learned how to put together an old two-stroke engine with the helpful assistance of an engineer from the local museum service who was overseeing this activity. Learning to maintain two-stroke engines was once part of the standard apprenticeship training for young engineers and was a particularly useful skill in our north east region as two-stroke engines were widely used in industry and ships. Shipbuilding used to be a huge industry on Tyneside up to the late 20th century.

Studying Roman history -John Collingwood Bruce's bookcase
Learning about John Collingwood Bruce and Roman local history

The UK-wide Heritage Open Days are often a good chance to visit places and learn about things that are not always open to the public. One such event we enjoyed was at the end of our ‘Roman Summer’.

We’d visited special touring exhibitions and been on guided tours of Roman forts with a renowned expert on Roman history. We’d learned about “the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain” – the Vindolanda tablets, among many other Roman treasures at Vindolanda.

Then in September, the Heritage Open Days gave us the opportunity to spend a morning with the county archaeologist, learning about a very significant nineteeth century local historian with a keen interest in Roman history, John Collingwood Bruce. Bruce is best known for his systematic study of Hadrian’s Wall. His “Handbook to the Roman Wall”, now in its thirteenth edition, has continued to be the main academic guide to Hadrian’s Wall.

On our visit, we were able to examine a copy of Bruce’s original “Handbook to the Roman Wall” – the large brown tome you can see on the table in my photo is Part 1 of this work. We also saw other books, maps and artefacts belonging to John Collingwood Bruce, including the rather magnificent wooden bookcase at the end of the room. Incredibly, the bookcase is made from old bridge timbers.

While dredging work was being carried out on the River Tyne, Bruce arranged to have some old bridge timbers salvaged from the river bed. At the time, he believed these timbers were from the original Roman bridge across the Tyne – Pons Aelius. However, the archaeologist explained to us that it is now understood these old timbers were from medieval bridges that had subsequently been built in the same place. The timbers were then carefully dried out and Bruce had them made up into this elaborate bookcase. The bookcase now stands in the Archaeology Education Centre at Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields.

Getting close to nature - ground level photography
Sometimes nature photography requires meeting the subject face to face

When studying the natural world, sometimes there is no better way than direct observation. For our boys, this often seems to include lying on the ground to capture the best view of the object or creature under scrutiny …

Getting close to nature - ground level photography
Getting a close-up on nature means getting down in the dirt

… especially when there is the possibility of a competition with your brother for ‘best shot’ 😉

The creature under scrutiny in these images was the rather beautiful, though predatory, Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris.

Tiger beetle near its burrow on a sandy bank
Tiger beetle near its burrow on a sunny and sandy bank

This relatively large beetle is about 1.5cm (5/8th inch) long and is irridescent green with yellow-gold spots. Green Tiger Beetles have quite long, maroon legs that enable them to run around rather energetically on this steep sandy bank where we find them on sunny Spring days. These beetles choose bare earth or sandy banks for their burrows as it warms up faster in the sun and this is beneficial for the Tiger Beetle’s hunting technique.

I hope you have enjoyed my ‘candid camera’ shots of our boys engaged in active learning. For more images of ‘Catching People Unaware’ do please visit Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn in the woods

European Tree of the Year … and the winner is …

Did you vote for your European Tree of the Year 2015? Now the votes are all in and counted and we have a winner … Estonia’s “Football Tree”! Congratulations, Estonia!

Estonia’s oak tree on a football field received nearly 60,000 votes so is clearly very well loved by its community. This oak tree stands right in the middle of a football field and the players play around it! Who says trees can’t be the centre of attention? 🙂

The Major Oak was England’s first entry in this competition and came in sixth in the vote.

You can find out all of this year’s results on the European Tree of the Year website. All of the trees that were finalists in the competition also become part of the ‘European Trail of Trees’. This means people can find out more about each of Europe’s chosen trees.

Whilst winning is always fun, in this competition it was the taking part that was the most important. The number of votes Estonia’s tree received (about a third of the total votes cast) shows the high regard this special tree has in their country. Here in England we don’t do so well at caring for our special trees and we need to try harder. Hopefully, the interest and support enjoyed by all of the entrants in the Tree of the Year competition will help to make more of us love our trees, especially our very special ancient trees.

J Peggy Taylor

Old railway truck - flanged wheels

Wheels for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge

When I saw this week’s theme of ‘Wheels’ for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge, I remembered the fascinating wheels on the old railway trucks in our woods. I’ve posted about the wheels on the old coal trucks before, but for the challenge I decided to re-imagine these iron flanged wheels in black and white.

Railway truck wheels in black and white
The railway truck’s flanged wheels rode cleverly on the rail. You can also see some of the braking mechanism between the wheels.
Flanged wheels in black and white
In this close-up shot of the flanged wheel you can see some of the elaborate engineering involved on the coal truck wheels

I think black and white captures the aged engineering of these old work horses quite well.

You can find more interpretations of wheels in black and white in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn in the woods

Vote for your European Tree of the Year!

Do you remember back in October I was asking you to vote for England’s Tree of the Year? When all the votes were counted, in December the Major Oak in Nottingham’s Sherwood Forest was crowned as England’s favourite tree.

The Major Oak is now representing England in the 2015 European Tree of the Year contest. Why for England only and not the UK? Don’t worry, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are not missing out here, as each country has chosen its own tree.

Oak trees are my favourite tree, so I am extra pleased it was an oak tree that was chosen to be our Tree of the Year 🙂

The many colours of Oak bark
So many hues, from greens to purples, in this wonderfully textured Oak tree bark

What is the European Tree of the Year contest all about?

“We are not searching for the oldest, the tallest, the biggest, the most beautiful or the rarest of trees. We are searching for the most lovable tree, a tree with a story that can bring the community together.”

Now it is time to vote for our European Tree of the Year, from all of the nominated trees. As well as England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, trees from many countries across Europe are all competing for the European Tree of the Year title.

To see all of the nominated trees and cast your vote, please visit the European Tree of the Year website.

Voting closes on 28th February so please vote this week for your European Tree of the Year.

J Peggy Taylor