Kempton Water Works steam engines

With England v Ireland rugby at 14:30, I had a dilemma, I wanted to go and take a look at the Kempton Steam Museum where the engines would be running, but I also wanted to get a walk in, all of which would take place near Twickenham. I took s look at the maps and it would be a bit of a challenge.

When I woke up in the morning the decision was made for me, the mini-beast from the east had arrived and it was snowing and there was a bitter wind to go with it. Sid the walk I would drive to the museum and then get back in time for the rugby.

Kempton’s pair of triple-expansion steam engines were at the cutting edge of water pumping technology when they were installed in 1927-28 to supply 39 million gallons of water to North London. The demand for water in London ramped up after WW1, and was the reason for building the twin triple steam engines to pump water, into the local reservoirs. Later steam turbines were added rather than a third triple engine.

The pumps finally closed down in 1980 and were declare of national importance by English Heritage, an army of volunteers restored them and the building reopened with one working engine in 1984 when HRH Prince of Wales reopened the place.

I arrive at just about 10:30 the opening time of the museum, parking was under the M3. Entrance was £7 and included a free optional guided tour of the non-working engine. The workshop by engine would be steamed up for 30 minutes once an hour. The engines are very big, in fact massive and they dominate the left and right end of the building, they are as tall as the building which makes sense as the building was built to house them. The spectator area is about a their of the way up the building and a balcony all the way round over looked a large pot of an area which contains large values and pipes.

I had a good look around the exhibition of unusual stuff, ranging from measuring equipment if all sorts, radios, computers and loads of other interesting junk. I grabbed a coffee and coconut cake from the cafe, while I waited for the steam up to start and then the tour. The tour was very good in a group of eight we got right up close to the machinery on all the 4 levels of gangways around the engine. It took about an hour and a half, and I left soon after to get back for the rugby.

The Ridgeway – Ashbury to Letcombe Bassett

Time to get back to the Ridgeway, after a few months of absence. I plotted the next 12 miles from Ashbury and determined that Letcombe Bassett and therefore Wantage would be the best place to leave the car. 12 miles would be tough as it was my first walk of that distance for a while and also there were no coffee stops or cafes on the route. One of the downsides of the Ridgeway is that it does not really go through many villages or towns near them but hardly ever through them.

I left the house at 08:10 dropped Helen up the road and headed to Wantage, ignoring the Sat Nav and going south of Oxford to get to the A34. I was hoping the rain/drizzle would stop by the time I got to Wantage but it had now. I sought out a shop to get some cheap waterproof trousers, and found some for £7 on the market. I suspect the vendor could have applied surge pricing as it was the type of inundation that makes you really wet. I grabbed a coffee in Costa to get my bearing and figure out how to get to Ashbury. Uber said there were no cars available so I wandered over to the local taxi rank. An old man seemed to be headed the same way so I held back rather than grabbing the only taxi waiting.

It wasn’t long before a taxi turned up, the driver was not very talkative and when he was he mumble quietly, so there wasn’t much conversation, he dropped me at the top of the hill where the Ridgeway crosses the B4000, which saved me having to walk up it from Ashbury. I headed off down the path the rain continued and I realised that I wold have to put the waterproofs on if I wanted to stay slightly dry.

The walk was pretty uneventful to start with but there were some ancient monuments to take a look at Wayland’s Smithy was the most interesting and the only one where I came across anyone else out having a look. I plodded on and passed a trough with a tap and a notice that said the was was fit to drink and that it was to celebrate the life Peter Wren who loved the countryside. I had a drink to save the water I was carrying. We need more taps like that in the countryside, to go with the benches you sometimes come across. Both would be very welcome on a long walk.

Eventually I came across a lady on a bicycle followed by three dogs, she stopped and told me an old dog was lagging behind a bit. About a quarter of a mile later I came across a setter who looked like he was on his last legs, it was all he could do to lift his head to look at me while he plodded past. next up was another lady and a dog this time both were on foot. The lady explained that she trying to keep off the slippery chalk, however she was running out of grass and was in danger and slipping down, I offered here a hand down but she said thank but no thanks so I left here teetering on the edge of a grass patch.
not many people Old dog

A couple of 4×4 drove up and 4 men with fluorescent orange flags got and walks across a field down to the valley. There were small sections of corn growing they clearly were running a shoot for pheasants, which were quite numerous in the area. Finally I arrived at Letcombe Basset, but unfortunately there was no pub so I settle for a bench at a junction. It had stopped raining for a while so I took the opportunity to take my waterproofs off to let my now slightly damp jeans dry out. While I was doing so a man drove out out of a parking space then moved his van into the vacated space then drove off in the car. Between each move he left a vehicle blocking the highway, there was no traffic.

The walk to Letcombe Regis was along a road because I missed a turning for a foot path, I tough someone had blocked the entrance but studying the maps more closely a complaint would not be necessary as google streetview allowed me to see where the foot path entrance was that I missed. In the village there was a big retirement complex which was run by Bupa. It was quite well done and I guess catered for all sorts of retired people, that that did and did not need care. There was a brand new village shop and cafe, it was a bit strange, clearly run by locals, but there was not much useful produce in the shop cuppa soups cakes and biscuits the sort of thing you would need if you were visiting an elderly relative! I stopped for a weak coffee and move on.

The path back to Wantage was paved but cross country I imagine that maybe it was built by the manor house at Letcombe Regis for staff in the bygone days, I wasn’t complaining it made for easy walking. In Wantage I popped into the cobblers to ask about leather glue apparently Bostik 6092 is the best stuff, but they could not sell me any even though I don’t look like a glue sniffer. In specsaver they did not have my contact lens fitting I was not being successful on the shopping front. I did manage to get the ingredients for Lhaksa at Sainsbury’s.

I dropped by Rory’s to fix his PC and he bought me a pint at the Akeman in return, it was good to catch up. The Lhaksa worked out OK.

Australia – Brisbane part deux

I didn’t feel I had done the city of Brisbane, so I returned via a school run, then a 200 bus. I got off the bus on the bridge near the museums then grabbed a coffee from a stall in the Musem complex. I wandered down to the river and spotted my second big spider of the day with a web attached to the railings. It is hard to get pictures of them because the camera wants to focus on the background and manual focusing would require me to get my face close up to the web and spider.

The Queensland Museum opened first so I went there, it is a great museum mainly dedicated to natural history, specifically relating to Queensland. I would highly rate the museum for its content and presentation. The Queensland Art Gallery was a great building, with some interesting art, it was a great opportunity to serve some Aboriginal art which has great vibrant colours, which reflect the colours you see in the bright sun.

It was turning out to be a museum day, my next one was a 1km walk away, at the Roma Street Police station, where the Queensland Police Museum is housed. It shows presents the work of the Queensland Police since the force was created, as well as details of done crimes some still unsolved and some which were tricky to solve. I headed for the city hall next to take a look at the Brisbane Museum and clock tower. But first I had a fish burger at a Mos Burger.

The Brisbane Museum was very modern and well done, and you could get a tour up the clock tower, which I did to get good views over the city. The large buildings are starting to encroach though. The exhibition covered the history of Brisbane, including the floods, and a survey based on a sample of 100 Brisbane residents.

To get the full house I went to the Commissariat Store Museum, run by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland. The building was built by convicts and the exhibition focused on life during that time. The most famous exhibit is a bottle supposedly containing convicts fingers, it looked like an empty jar with some residue on the bottom, but they had got it tested and confirmed that it did contain a human finger bone.

I got the 200 bus home.

Australia – Brisbane City tour

As I was there it would have been strange to not take a look at the city of Brisbane itself, so I got dropped off at the end of the school run, then caught a 200 bus to the centre where I grabbed a coffee and did some research. Two attractions near by caught my eye, the Brisbane Martine Museum, run by volunteers so would probably be good, and the Boggo Goal tour, which only closed in the 80’s.

The Boogie Gaol was a timed tour only and I got myself on the only daily tour at 11:00. That gave me some time to take in the Maritime Museum. I only had about an hour before I would have to go to Boggo so I checked I could get back in later. I enjoyed the museum, I did the outside area first then the indoor exhibits later. They have a few boats that has taken part in endeavours for example the pink boat a 16 year old sailed round the world in and a boat some guys had built from a flat pack and rowed across the Atlantic. The Boggo Gaol was a good tour, you got to see all the graffiti still on the cell walls. The tour guide was informed, ttpld us about the notorious roof top riots, and attempted escapes.

I walked through the the Botanical gardens but they were nowhere near as good as Sydney or Perth. Next I was walking through part of the city centre offices area, before getting to a pedestrian bridge over to the Southbank where Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art or GOMA is. Modern art is veryuch a love it or hate it thing, so I passed a lot of the stuff. There was a great film I saw years ago call power of 10, and I always have time to watch it.

I had done enough walking so I headed back to G&Ls on the 200 bus, I would have to find time for another day in the city.

Australia – Maleny to Brisbane and my final weekend

I request breakfast at 07:30, eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes, interestingly the eggs were poached in shallow water so looked like fried eggs except without the fat, I will try the method myself. After a brief chat I bid the hosts farewell and drive to the centre of Maleny for supplies, I had a mountain to climb.

Mount Ngungun is the sixth tallest of the Glass House Mountains at 253 m. There are others which look more spectacular but these cannot be climbed or, as was the case on the day were closed due to the bad weather. I parked up at the start of the trail, some people were just setting out on the trail, they sprayed themselves. I figured it was mosquito repellent. Finished my coffee and started up the path only to be bitten twice by mosquitoes. I turned back drive into town and bought some spray.

Suitably kitted out I returned sprayed myself then just the path again. It was quite humid in the forest at the base of the climb until most of the way up. The sun being out contributed somewhat. The path is relatively short but the net result is a steep one. Lots of steps are cut it of the path and protected by rocks. Half way up there is a big overhang which looks like a a cave. The last few hundred metres the path flattens out a bit before a final little kick, which is a bit of a bottle neck.

On the top it is all orange rock and the ridge stretches for about 75 metres to a small pinnacle, interestingly infested by flies so I did not stay there for long, retreating about 10 metres away. I rested for a while taking a timelapse and taking on some water. I got chatting to a guy flying a DJI drone, he told me about the best Glass Mountain to climb Beerwah, which although is very steep in places he said it was perfectly achievable.

At the bottom of the climb two guys asked me about mosquitoes, I gave them the use of my spray. I spent the rest of the day driving and taking in the scenery, stopping off a a couple of small towns. The final leg back to Brisbane took me along a motorway that was being widened, and the traffic was heavy, such a contrast to the roads just a couple of 10’s of km west and inland.

The Friday evening we went over to the other cousin-in-law and caught up. I was invited to play poker on the Saturday night, I wasn’t sure given my lack of knowledge of the game.

The next morning we went for breakfast near G’s boxing gym. I had scrambled eggs on toast, G had a Rbens bagel, corned beef and sauerkraut, L had the fitness bowl which looked the best of our chosen dishes. The fitness bowl had a cornucopia of items, yogurt, haloumi, eggs, nuts avocado and seeds. We also were offered a sample of cold brewed black coffee, which takes 50 hours to prepare, it tasted like cold black coffee. Not my cup of tea.

L dropped me off at SD&P’s where I helped them get setup for the poker night, there was a lot of preparingvand cooking going on, they were expecting 22 players and about another 10ish family members. I set up a new Bose networked speaker for D.

Everyone arrived but there were. A couple of no shows so I agreed to join them all and play. $40 is the going fee and you get a pile of chips. The ante went up over the evening as did the small and large bets. I was a bit lost but managed to be the person with the most chips on the table at the mid evening break. After some dessert and ice cream we started playing again. I did not last long, after the break it only takes a few hands to lose a lot.

Sunday I spend over at SD&P’s we went for a ferry ride followed by a walk in the peak and lunch at an Italian deli. In the evening we went out for a Thai meal in West town, I had seafood Lhaksa which was very good. After we stopped off at a trendy coffee shop and had dessert I had citrus tart again very nice.

Australia – Toowoomba to Maleny

I left the Sunday Motel before 08:00 and headed for the Japanese gardens which feature in the tourist blurb. It was strangely in a housing estate on the edge of the city. The gardens are Ju Raku En (roughly translated means ‘to enjoy peace and longevity in a public place’) were opened on 21 April 1989 by Mr Yoshiharu Araki from the Brisbane Consul-General of Japan. I chose the wrong time for a visit as they were not that peaceful a gales was blowing and the gardener was shaping the shrubs with a petrol hedge strimmer. I didn’t stay longer than it took to walk around and take a few pictures.

On the way out of the city I grabbed a coffee and wrote a few postcards. I hadn’t appreciated how high up the city is, as I left there was a steep motorway with views across the plains below. Lorries were warned to use a low gear and there were two emergency escape lanes one which had been used, based on the tracks. Towards the bottom a few lorries were going really slowly, despite the hill leveling out a bit, I theorised that they had hot brakes or something.

I stopped for another coffee at a rest stop at the bottom then made the mistake of trying to take a country road. It was a good gravel track to start but about 15km in it dwindled down to a narrow track, I decided was too off road, so I had to double back. The countryside was flat and agricultural for a while and on a couple of detours I passed through some small towns with the traditional high street and not much else, Lowood was a good example and I stopped to take a look around.

Phil had recommended a route cross country to the east of the waters formed by Somerset Dam. I found the route despite Google complaining, and climbed steadily, then I was in rolling hills for a while. I passed through a very small village with a Coronation gall and a shop, there were a lot of trailers with powerful speed boats on trailers. I stopped to investigate, they were there to fish in the fast flowing waters of the river which was swollen by the rains and the Dan just up stream generating electricity, it was in full flow. I’m not sure how speed boats and fishing mix but there were boats promoting fishing magazines and tackle.

Next stop was Kilcoy, another small town far from the previous town. I’m figuring that the reason these towns can support small independent shops, is the distance to the next town, although I got the impression some were hanging on by a string.

Maleny was an interesting place, there was a spiritual hippy feel to the place. I wandered up and down the high street and bought a second hand book. In a local artist cooperative I managed to find that elusive gift I had been searching for for Helen, no clues as to what it might be here ;-).

I had already passed her my accommodation was, so it was easy to find Sienna Chalets, which turned out to be a B&B. The room was clean and comfortable, breakfast was included. Accommodation is more expensive than the UK so it always felt like the accommodation was slightly shorter version priced, either that or I am a tight arse. I settled in and started to process two days worth of photos, then headed down to road to Brouhaha brewery for something to eat. The beer selection. Was great although a little bit less fizz and not so cold and I think they may have cracked making a good beer. I had broadbean falafel for a starter and a seared tuna salad for main, the most healthy meal for quite a few days. All tasted and went down nicely. I was in bed early as I had booked a 07:30 breakfast, I had a mountain to climb and a giant pineapple to visit the next day. Watch this space.

Australia – The Pyramids and Toowoomba

I woke up at about 07:30 and my alarm went off, I had decided to skip the motel breakdfast to get an early start. I grabbed a Snickers, fruit and water from the Coles over the road, then headed to the Pyramids for a second summit attempt. On the way out I grabbed a coffee from a cafe and my Snickers served as breakfast.

It only took about 30 minutes to get those the Girrawin National Park, I parked up and my alarm went on again, I realised I had assed onto another state New South Wales was on daylight savings, and my mobile had picked the time up from the mobile network. Some backpackers were dismantling their tents before the park rangers turned up.

I set out along the now familiar path, there were a lot more Kangaroos about, and headed up the steep steps to the section where I had abandoned the day before. The route across the rocks were fine now they were dry. I was surprised how exposed the route was in places. I got to a point where the rock was again wet after some pondering I decided to regroup and sat on a rock, whilst the sun which was occasionally breaking through the clouds did its stuff and dried the rock surface. I waited about 30 minutes and things looked no better so for a second time I reluctantly turned around. On the way down I warned a couple about the wet rock, they thanked me but wanted to see it for themselves. I wonder if they took the challenge on.

I dropped in to the Pyramids vinery on the way back to the main road and got G&L some wine for putting up with me, then took after a few miles on the road took a few back roads. I left the granite rim and was now in an agricultural region, all the way to Toowoomba.

I came to one town called Allora which was typical of the towns you come across in these parts. One street or block in the centre has all the local shops, some of them not really shops, i.e. lawyers, vets doctors. The high street is normally really wide and cars park diagonally, there is never normally a problem finding a space.

Next came big open skies over a big agricultural plain, with crops and cattle in every available field. The road slowly climbed to Toowoomba. I parked up and went for a wander. The local art museum reminded me of home with the landscape paintinf by English artists. One of the reasons for visiting Toowoomba was to meetup with Phil who I had been at school with over 37 years previously. His wife ison Facebook and arranged themeetong. We went to a coffee shop and spent two hours talking about school and what we had been up too since. It is not something I would normally do but I really enjoyed meeting up and would definitely do it with other old friends.

We said our goodbyes byes and I headed to a close Thai restaurant, and had prawn Lhaksa even though it was not on the menu. My quest for the perfect one continues.

Australia – Queen Mary falls and Girraween National Park

I got a good night’s sleep, so was up early, it was cold in the cabin because they are not well insulated, probably not necessary given the usual climate. I left the hut at 08:00 and headed towards Killarney where the Queen Mary falls are. By pure chance I decided to take a Google suggested alternative, but slightly slower route rather than the national highway. After leaving Stanthorpe it turned into a gravel road, I had a AWD so I followed it, through some beautiful country. There were lots of photo opportunities, but I didn’t taken them all because most of the time it was raining. The whole drive took about an hour, occasionally I would come across tarmac where there was a village.

The last village I came to was called Legume and I stopped in the village shop for petrol, and a bag of crisps. As I was trying to figure out the petrol pump a lady came out and offered to fill it for me. We got chatting and it turns out her husband was from Bexley and had been a £10 pom. He said that he was last back there in 1975. The shop was full of the usual stuff crisps etc, but also has a lot of beer wines and spirits for sale. They gave me a tourist map of Warwick I thanked them and and carried on.

My first real stop of the day was Queen Mary falls the most spectacular of a series on Spring Creek. I parked up and headed to to the lookout which was a short walk. The falls were impressive, and I noticed that at the bottom there was a walkway so I headed round the longer path, taking in more of the rain forest and the base of the falls. When I got back to the car I popped over the road for coffee and cake, which came with a squirt of cream, it would have been rude to not eat it. Outside there were parrots feeding on bird seed, as well as some tiny pretty looking birds with red Tails, they turned out to be Firetail Finches.

My next destination was Mount Bald where some interesting balancing rocks have formed. The route took me back on the gravel tracks I had followed early in the day. It was an hour’s drive and a bit tricky to find as I was using offline Google maps. I parked up and found out at the visitors centre that the walk to Pyramid summit was about 2 hours return, I had enough time.

On the way I detoured to see the balanced rock forming an arch over the path, and then headed up the path to the summit. It was threatening rain, but I was feeling lucky. Eventually the path climbed steeply for many steps and then the steps ran out and a rock hill took over. There were white marks painted on the rock to showtgw way. I started to climb but although I might have got up I realised the rock was too slippery tockne down. Reluctantly I turned around, especially as it could have got wetter if the rain started again. On the way down I saw a group of Kangaroos grazing in a clearing, when a black animal which from a distance looked and acted like a pig walked across the area where the roos were grazing.

The drive to Tenterfield, where I had a motel room booked, was about an hour and pretty straight forward. The motel was basic but clean, breakfast was crazy so I thought I would leave it and get something on my way in the morning. I went for a walk down the High Street to see what there was, it seemed to be a one horse town. All the buildings were in an art deco style.

Sir Henry Parkes was the local here there was a school or arts and musuem dedicated to him. According to Wikipedia he was the father of the Australian federation. “Sir Henry Parkes, GCMG (27 May 1815 – 27 April 1896) was a colonial Australian politician and longest non-consecutive Premier of the Colony of New South Wales, the present-day state of New South Wales in the Commonwealth of Australia. He has been referred to as the “Father of Federation” due to his early promotion for the federation of the six colonies of Australia, as an early critic of British convict transportation and as a proponent for the expansion of the Australian continental rail network.”

I decided that the Commercial Hotel was the best place for details nner so I had a shower headed out at about 18:30. Lemon pepper squid was my choice which came with chips and salad, and was tasty. I spent some time researching my next move then went back to process my pictures and do a sun dance in the hope of better weather.

Australia – Brisbane to Stanthorpe via the Gold Coast

I had a hire car to pick up and a ledge booked for the Monday night, I was off on a road trip. We work up in the G&L household to a power cut. G dropped me off at Europcar and I picked up a Subaru Forrester. I headed for the Gold Coast on the M1 which quite busy, but I eventually arrived at the Gold Coast. However the traffic light were always red so I really wonder why I had bothered. I stopped and grabbed a coffee and then headed in land.

My accommodation was booked at a vineyard just outside Stanthorpe, but I was going to take my time getting there taking in the landscape. First I headed for Mount Tambourine which is actually a town. I stopped off at the tourist information then headed out to the Skywalk a raised walkway int he rain forest. It was raining a bit when I got there which ironically was probably the right sort of weather to visit a rain forest. I grabbed a macadamia nut biscuit from the cafe then headed towards Warwick.

I took a few small roads on the way taking in some great views of the agricultural area where most cleared fields had cattle grazing. At Warwick I parked up and stretched my legs with a walk up the high street where the cars all park at 45 degrees to the pavement down both sides.

As I approached my final destination it started to rain/drizzle, but I managed to find the Ridgemill estate at about 17:00. The accommodation was one of 8 chalets all with a parking porch. I headed into Stanthorpe and grabbed some fish and chops for dinner, which would be the second night in a row.

Australia – Wireless museum Blue Mountains Botanical Gardens

I thought I would have an easy day, without too much walking, a few weeks earlier I had discovered that there was a wireless museum, towards the Blue Mountains but I had not managed to check it out. So my plan was to drive out there and take a look, then take it from there.

I parked up at the museum, there was space fire just five cars, just my sort of museum. The owner cam out of his house, and introduced himself, Ian ran the museum and I it seemed was his only visitor so far that day. He unlocked and took my $10 entrance fee. It was my type of museum, packed the the rafters, in this case with old radios, there must have been at least a thousand. Most of them worked or did when they were put out on display.

Ian was a friendly chap, and was keen to demonstrate and explain the history of some of them. He warnede that Rodger would might turn up and that if he did he would have a Philips radio with him. I was so ask Ian questions if he did. Five minutes later Rodger turned up, with his Philips radio set, which he plonked down and started to explain that it needed repairing. I asked Ian at me questions, but Rodger was keen to demonstrate his knowledge of radios.

A little while later a young guy called Rex turned up with his partner, they had not however been warned about Rodger and got drawn into conversation. Rodgers carer came in and lurked around and left with Rodger a while later when he had got bored. One of the biggest radios was off a ship which had been seized by the authorities for drug smuggling. It was about six feet wide and tall, and was fully functional, Ian had acquired it through an aquaintance who helped him transport it back to the museum on a trailer.

Ian was a mine of information he played a record that was the theme music of an Australian radio soap that was supposedly the inspiration for the Archers. He also has the first FM radio station transmitter in Australia, and knew the weaknesses in all the radios he had, apparently through repairing them all. He learnt radio when as a child his parents ownedba newsagents, and he used to look at the Wireless hobby magazine which intrigued him, he has to write down the queries he had and ask the people who collected the magazines to get the answers, but after a while he realises he had learnt enough to know more than some of them.

I said said my goodbyes and headed out to the Blue Mountains Botanical Gardens, glad I had remembered that the museum existed. It was a pleasant 30 minute drive to the gardens, the road was steep and twisty on places. I parked up and had a wander around. Although there was a lot of work going on in the gardens it was well worth the visit, plenty of the plants were flowering. I spotted plenty of birds as well, Crimson rosella, Blackbird, New Holland Honeyeater, and Eastern Spinebill. Best of all and one of my top three Australian birds was the Fairy Wrens, a bright blue male and the drab female, pecking around in the grass.

I grabbed a coffee on the way out which as I have found in Australia always involves a long wait, I don’t know why but it seems to be the rule here. Before I found the car I detoured to look at the spring garden flowers, which I am not sure whether they were native, the plans looked to delicate, Iris, pansy and tulip, were the main ones.

I decided to take the long way back via some small roads, and my adventured started with a 5km dirt track which led to another road across rolling agricultural land, it was very scenic. Eventually I came a cross a roll on roll off ferry. It was free but the ferry man said I had to stay in my car so I could not get any pictures. I stopped at an apple shop in Bilpin which is a local apple producing area.

I headed out and had a Lhaksa with prawns for dinner and had an early night as I had work in the morning and was still adjusting to Sydney time.