Saturday, 22 May 2010

S. Island Synopsis.......
Mar 21 Dunedin
- First flight/a load of balls
If you recall my blog post on 11 October, 2009 entitled "Flying Boats" you will be aware of my ignorance regarding the subject of flying 'firsts'
On our way from Oamaru to Dunedin we encountered another story new to us.
Richard William Pearse who lived nearby our route was a farmer with an interest in mechanical things. He built a two-cylinder petrol engine in 1902 and went on to construct a monoplane from bamboo, tubular steel, wire and canvas. In 1903 he attempted to fly this machine which must have resembled a modern microlight. After a redesign of the engine to increase the power he succeeded in taking off from the road alongside his farm and, after 50 yards airborne, crashing into a gorse hedge. This was 31 March 1903 some nine months before the Wright brothers' flight.
As we followed the coast towards Dunedin we also encountered the Moeraki Boulders. Formed 60 million years ago on the seabed when lime salts congregated around a hard core, these near-perfect spheres range in size up to about 14ft in diameter.

There are many Maori legends centring on the boulders and we certainly found some odd creatures around here
Barlick Jets
Alongside Victory Park in Barlick is a factory owned by Rolls Royce. It was originally the Rover Jet engine research unit where Frank Whittle worked on his invention. In 1943 the respective MDs of Rover and Rolls Royce agreed to exchange this unit for the RR tank factory in Belper, Derbyshire. This decision pleased Frank Whittle as he felt Rover were interfering too much in his work. So, whilst Rover took over development and production of the Meteor tank engine, RR developed the only British jet powered plane to see active service in WWII - the Gloster Meteor.
During the war the remoteness of Barlick had been seen as an advantage but in peacetime it views changed and the research unit was moved to Derby. Barlick continued to work on special components for RR jets and the RB211 nomenclature was derived from Rolls Barnoldswick.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Wherre is Barlick?
There used to be thirteen cotton mills in Barlick. If my history teacher is to be believed that would place it in Lancashire because Yorkshire worked wool. Now, of course, there are no working mills in Barlick.

Perhaps that explains the ambiguous cast iron work on the benches in Victory Park

It does not explain why the lane named Forty Steps has only 39 steps!

One mill - Bancroft -has been partially rescued. Although the weaving sheds were demolished in 1978, the engine house and boilers have been preserved and are in steam about 18 Sundays per year. Most Saturdays it can be viewed whilst the volunteers are working .
S. Island Synopsis......
Mar 20 Oamaru - River Town
The small port of Oamaru grew affluent as a centre of support for the agricultural activities in the Otago region. this was boosted by the introduction of frozen meat shipments from the Totara estate just south of the city. This affluence is reflected in the buildings, many of which are built in a local limestone very similar to Bath stone in UK. It is easily carved and was shipped all over New Zealand to adorn official buildings. Here in Oamaru, however, it was used for more modest structures too.
As was common in New Zealand, wherever the National Bank of New Zealand opened a branch the Bank of New South Wales built a larger building. This they located as close as possible to the National building but on this occasion I think the home-grown bank is the more impressive.

The old Post Office

With its wide streets and Victorian Gothic architecture, Oamaru is impressive. What is surprising is that it is a warm, welcoming town with the feeling of a village about it. In the converted wool store where we took morning coffee there was an old monochrome TV on the wall with an unchanging and uninteresting image. This was explained as the CCTV image from under the floor where some Blue Penguins had nested and from where they walked across the railway and down the road each day to get to the sea.
Another peculiarity here is the street naming. We could find only one street - Harbour St. - which was not that of a British river. We are not talking about Thames, Tyne and Severn here - we are talking hundreds of streets.

Anyone familiar with the Chilterns will recognise this one!

This would probably go down well in the Chilterns too!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Having grown up in on the Bucks /Herts border where Berkhamsted is called Berko and Rickmansworth is called Ricky it comes as no surprise that Barnoldswick has a diminutive form.
The fast flowing stream here have not been harnessed for hydro-electricity but provided the power for the weaving industry on which Barlick grew from 2828 residents in 1851 to 6381 fifty years later. Until the Leeds-Liverpool canal arrived in the late C18 Barlick was a little off the beaten track. Inevitably steam power for weaving and transport accelerated the growth but the town still retains that small town feeling with small independent shops in every street. If you use Ham, Egg and Chips as the yardstick dish for an English restaurant, as Nigel of Autumn Venture does, then Victoria' restaurant in the town square is almost up to the standard of The Boat in Thrupp.
We are moored opposite the Silentnight factory, which is rather noisy during the day but we are hoping for a silent night tonight.
S. Island Synopsis......
Mar 19 Oamaru - Dam, Dam, Dam
Attracted by our venture into McKenzie country yesterday we decide to take the long way from Timaru to Oamaru. The country alternates between undulating hills and flat plains but the ever-present features are the mountains to the west and the streams which run down off them to the east coast. These braided streams are presumably very seasonal in their flow for the valleys seem considerably bigger than required at this time of the year - end of summer.
At Lake Tekapi we find water that is too blue to believe- it looks just like the post cards. On the shore of the lake are two structures attracting interest.

The charming little Church of the Good Shepherd

Ironically the other one is........guess who?

All this water rushing off the mountains in the spring has not gone unnoticed. It is dammed for hydro-electric power. Some rivers are dammed at several points along its course in order to get as many bites of the cherry as feasible.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

S. Island Synopsis....
Mar 18 Timaru
The road from Ashburton south to Timaru follows the main line railway across the Canterbury Plain. And plain much of it is. Fearing that She who drives the car might fall asleep I organised a detour inland to a small town of Fairlie. This is McKenzie Country and thereby hangs a tale.

James McKenzie was a sheep rustler who evaded prosecution for a considerable time as he was always in the pub with plenty of witnesses when the sheep were stolen. But he is not really the hero of this story. True, McKenzie had found a pass through the mountains which was unknown to others but when he taught his dog to do the rustling all alone, that's when it became the stuff of folk heroism.

Timaru is a very pleasant sea-side town but has a secret.

How is it they have a photograph from the 1950s which shows She who drives the car fifty years before she ever went to New Zealand?
A Welcome Sight
We got away from the marina just after lunch and even remembered how to drive the boat. Heading up to the summit level, the first part of the journey is through Nelson which is not aplace one would choose to spend a night. However it was very pleasing to see this mill building in the process of being renovated - destined to be a Muslim girls' school, I believe. Preferable to dereliction or replacement by plywood houses.
Water levels are so low we were dismayed that the boat one lock ahead of us was not prepared to wait and share the ascent with us. As these are the first locks M has done since breaking her wrist she would have felt more comfortable sharing the load. this is particularly so as these locks were built for operation by no-one under 7ft tall. To make matters worse the pratts in front of us managed to leave paddles open at both ends of one lock so when we arrived the lock would not empty but the pound above was draining very well. Inevitably we ran aground in this pound and had to pinch water from the next pound.
The compensation, of course, is that this is one of the most attractive stretches of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.
This ascent did remind us a little of our previous encounter with Barrowford Locks. four years ago we passed this way en route to our younger son's wedding and on our return journey we had to wait for repairs to be made to one of the locks.

It did not look quite this bad today but it might have done had we not been there to remedy the error.

Gremlins, gremlins
And arthritic fingers
These are the current excuses for the problems with yesterday's posts.
Please read them again and they should make sense now

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

S. Island Synopsis....

Mar 17 Ashburton

Leaving the splendour of Christchurch and the Banks Peninsula we drove south to Ashburton where we had heard we would find a museum of woodworking full of lathes and wondeerful artifacts. Unfortunately no one was there to open up the museum and the two telephone numbeers on the door were both defunct. This seemed a little too casual to me as no-one around knew who to contact or how.
So we cut our losses and sneaked in the side door of the shed next door where they "sometimes have a steam museum."
I can't really get to grips with this place. The town has the main line railway down the middle of it with the main highway running alongside. There is a small but unremarkable town museum and a brewery pub where we had a very tasty Irish Stew. (it is St. Patrick's day, after all)
Take a Dip
Don't forget that there are three years of archived blog entries available via the panel on the right of this screen. Why not take a dip into this time last year perhaps or some memorable date?

Monday, 17 May 2010

South Island Synopsis
By now some of you will have realised that whilst Gecko was coping with the British winter, the crew were on the other side of the world. We left Manchester at the beginning of March and flew to Perth, W.Australia via Singapore to visit relatives. We left Perth in 38C sunshine and landed a few hours later in Brisbane where it was 20C and raining. After a couple of nights with distant relatives we flew on to Christchurch to start our five-week tour of New Zealand.
Mar 14-16 Christchurch
First impression is of a quiet, clean city. No dog poo, no Keep of the Grass signs and bus drivers who not only speak English but also know where they are going. They even have a rack on the front of the bus for bikes or push chairs.
After collecting the hire car we thought we should buy a few groceries for breakfast etc. What a shock - prices are 3-4 times the UK - even the fresh fruit grown locally.
The main port for Christchurch is Lyttelton which, when we visited it, was busy with lumber, containers and pleasure craft. Our main reason for visiting was to view the Time Ball and Signal Station. Before the days of accurate clocks the time ball would be dropped down the pole every day at 1pm so that ships in the harbour could adjust their own timepieces. The flags gave weather and other warnings.The signal station is now managed by the Historical Places Trust which, through a reciprocal arrangement, allowed us free entry on prsentation of our National Trust card. She who must be obeyed has a brother in the merchant marine and he informs us that the flags flown here spell A H O Y.

The harbour at Lyttelton was formed by a volcano about 9 million years ago as was Akoroa on the southern coast of the Banks Penninsula. The volcanos were long ago submerged by the weight of mountains leaving two harbours effectively formed in the craters.

Akoroa harbour formed by the volcanic crater

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Home at last
Yes - we are home from our two month tour down under.
When we have finished wading through the accumulated post, blogging will recommence.
Thank you for your patience and I hope you find it worth the wait.