Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races – 2013

Monday, February 12th, 2024

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races – Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, but in 2013 it fell on Tuesday 12th February and was celebrated in several places across London with Pancake races.

Shrove Tuesday is the final day of the Christian Shrovetide or Carnival, observed in different ways around the world as Wikipedia relates. It is the day before Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. We are perhaps rather short-changed here in the UK with pancakes, while in Venice and Rio Janeiro they have real carnivals to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Some other countries also have rather more interesting foods than our traditional pancakes. All are ways to eat up richer foods before Lent when Christians ‘fasted’ or rather ate more simply for 40 days before Easter. It was also a day when people went to priests for confession to have their sins absolved – shriven – before getting down to serious service of repentance the following day, Ash Wednesday, and some churches still ring their bells to call in worshippers.

People in the UK have been eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday since the 16th century, and even in families which did not observe the ecclesiastical calendar almost everyone ate them on that day in my youth, even if in homes like mine they came after the standard meat and two veg. I’ve never been keen on them, and perhaps the best you can say about them is that British pancakes are rather better than crêpes.

In many towns and cities in Britain the day used to be a half-holiday and work ended before noon to be followed by some kind of riotous mob football games with hundreds taking part in the streets. But most of these ended with the passage of the 1835 Highways Act which banned playing football on public highways, though the tradition continues in a slightly more organised form in a few towns.

Pancake races are said to have begun in 1445 in Olney, Buckinghamshir when a woman making pancakes was surprised by the sound of the shriving bells and ran to church hot pan in hand, tossing the pancake on her way to stop it sticking. Whatever. But they soon became a fairly common tradition, along with various forms of begging and trick and treating now more associated with Halloween. But apart from a few particular instances – such as at Olney – these races and other practices had more or less died out by the twentieth century.

This century has seen a revival in pancake races, often raising funds for charities, including in London the Parliamentary Pancake Race between parliamentarians and press raising funds for Rehab and the City of London pancake races begun in 2004 by the Worshipful Company of Poulters to support the annual Lord Mayor’s Appeal.

I’ve photographed both these, and in 2013 made another visit to the City of London race in Guildhall Yard, then rushed from there to the Great Spitalfields Pancake Race at the Old Truman Brewery just off Brick Lane which was supporting the Air Ambulance and is a fancy dress team relay event. Races I’ve been to in other years have included those in Leadenhall Market and outside Southwark Cathedral as well as the Parliamentary race.

You can read more about both events and see many more pictures of them on My London Diary, where there are also pictures from the races in other years – put ‘pancake’ in the search box at the top of the My London Diary page to find more. Links to the 2013 races below:

Great Spitalfields Pancake Race
Poulters Pancake Race

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London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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The Source of the Thames

Tuesday, April 4th, 2023

The Source of the Thames
Thames Head – where the river is first visible

The Source of the Thames: Ten years ago today we were engaged on a very different walk to those I’ve been writing about in recent posts on my wanderings in London in 1989. Together with my wife and elder son we were about to complete our walk along the length of the Thames Path which had begun a couple of years earlier.

The Source of the Thames

Of course I’d walked along by parts of the Thames in and around London, out to Windsor and towards Reading and to the east all the way to rather remoter regions on the estuary beyond the end of the route over the years in piecemeal fashion, but around 2010 we’d bought a guide to the Thames Path and began walking and marking off sections in an organised way.

The Source of the Thames

The National Trails site says the path is 185.2miles (298 km) from its source in the Cotswolds to Woolwich. The path was first proposed in 1947 but it was only 49 years later that it was officially opened in 1996, though I’d walked a few sections and made some minor suggestions after the Ramblers released a draft for consultation a few years earlier.

Ashton Keynes

Some physical improvements needed to be put in place, with several footbridges needed to cross the river where ferries had long ceased operation, and there were also many negotiations with riverine land owners, angling groups and local authorities to allow access. Not all these were successful, and there are still lengths of the route which are less than optimal in the upper reaches of the river.

Neigh Bridge Country Park

According again to the site, the trail is “Easy to reach by public transport”, but that is only partly true. Even below Oxford there are some sections a mile or two from the nearest station or bus stop which adds significantly at one or both ends of a day’s walk, and once you get much past Oxford things become more difficult or impossible, certainly for those of us coming from the London area.

Old Mill Farm

The last reliable and reasonably frequent bus route from Oxford back in 2013 took us to Hinton Waldrist, a small village a mile or two from the path, and our day walks had ended there. For the final section my son had booked us into two nights accommodation on route between there and the source, at Buscot and Cricklade and we returned home at the end of our third day of walking from Kemble Station, a mile and a half from the source.

We had decided to make the walk in the week after Easter Sunday, which in 2013 was on March 31st and had begun on the Tuesday. On Thursday 4th April 2013 we left our hotel in Cricklade by 9am and after a short look around the town began the final day of our 3 day walk.

It was a cold day and there was still ice on some of the puddles. Our route guide – David Sharp’s ‘The Thames Path’ – told us we had 19.7km to walk to the source, but we had to do a little further as there was a diversion: “The Thames has changed course and is now flowing over the Trail, just inside Gloucestershire” a notice with a helpful map told us – and another 2.5km to the station. The guide was otherwise excellent, but would have been rather easier to follow had we been walking down-river as it suggested and described rather than in the opposite direction.

On My London Diary I described our route and day in some detail so I won’t repeat that here, and there are over 80 pictures from the day in the account. Perhaps some of them are a little misleading as I used a fisheye lens and made the river look as if it turns considerably more than its already rather twisty route. The were some long and rather boring sections too on which I took no pictures.

There was no river on the final section

Scenically this is one of the less interesting of the Thames Path sections, but it was important to complete the walk, even if the final section was completely dry. It was bitterly cold and would have been more enjoyable in warmer weather even though we were well wrapped up – and needed to take a short rest in a pub in Ashton Keynes in the middle of the day to warm up before continuing.

The dry spring – though Spring had been wet

The source was something of an anti-climax. What is supposedly a spring with a stone marking it erected there by the Thames Conservators. I don’t know when water was last seen there, and others I know who have walked the river have all found it dry. The best I could find for some distance down the hill was a blue pipe on the grass – but there was nothing flowing from that either. There were some deep puddles in the mud by a gate some way down, and a larger one in the grass just above Thames Head, but it was only below the Fosse Way (A433) at Thames Head that a small stream became visible.


We walked to Kemble station to find we had just missed a train and it was 50 minutes to wait for the next. There was what looked like a cosy waiting room but it was locked. It was far too cold to stand and wait on the windswept platform so despite our aching legs we went for a walk around Kemble before catching the first of three trains for our journey home.

More about the three days of our walk on My London Diary:

Thames Path: Cricklade to the Source
Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade
Thames Path: Shifford to Buscot

Good Friday 2010 in London

Saturday, April 2nd, 2022

Good Friday 2010 in London – This year Easter Day is celebrated on April 17th by Western Christianity, though as usual a week later by Eastern churches. But it is a ‘moveable feast’ and is on the first Sunday after the first ‘ecclesiastical full moon’ (don’t ask) on or following 21st March, which means it will always be somewhere between March 22nd and April 25th. In 2010, Easter Day was April 4th, so April 2nd 2010 was Good Friday. I photographed two public events for it in London.

Good Friday 2010 in London
Jesus’s body taken down from the cross in Trafalgar Square

Crucifixion on Victoria St, Westminster

Good Friday 2010 in London

I photographed ‘The Crucifixion on Victoria Street’ on Good Friday for a number of years, though decided to stop doing so more recently, largely because of how I felt the behaviour of other photographers. When I first photographed the event there were relatively few of us taking pictures and we did so with some discretion, respecting the religious nature of the event. But over the years the number of photographers has increased greatly and it became more of a media circus, with a few really interfering with the proper nature of the event.

The event brings together clergy and congregations from a number of churches on and around Victoria Street, which includes the Westminster Abbey, the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathredral and Methodist Central Hall as well as other churches, church schools and projects in the area. They process along Victoria Street behind a man carrying a large wooden cross – in 2010 carried by men from the Passage, a project for homeless people close the the Cathedral – and stop for short services in front of the three main churches.

The main service was outside the entrance to Westminster Cathedral where there were hymns, bible readings, a meditation, prayers and a reflection on peace to honour the innocent victims of our times by The Most Reverend Vincent Nicholls, the third Archbishop of Westminster I’ve photographed on these steps.

I left the procession as it made its way towards Westminster Abbey where there was to be a final service.

Crucifixion on Victoria St

The Passion of Jesus, Trafalgar Square

This was the first Passion Play to be performed in the square since 1965, and was a highly professional performance by a group based on the Wintershall estate near Godalming that have been putting on similar but larger and longer ‘Life of Christ’ plays there for a number of years.

Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss

The play related key events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, folowing the stories in the four gospels with both narration and the voices of the main characters coming to the crowd over loudspeakers around the square. It was a colourful and at times exciting rendition of what was for some of us a familiar story, but for some present was novel.

Photographing the live performance had to be from the sidelines, but I was able to do so fairly well, though mainly from longer distances than I like to work from. It was an interesting presentation of a difficult story to stage.

The pictures on My London Diary show the story in sequence and I think capture all the key moments.

The Passion of Jesus

Easter Pictures

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Easter is of course the major Christian festival of the year, but here in the UK is seldom one that lends itself to photography. There are rather more public events around Good Friday, some of which I have photographed over the years, but we have never had the kind of large-scale Easter Parades like that in New York and some other cities overseas.

Easter Sunday in Richmond Park, 2010

So Easter has usually been a rather quiet time for me, sometimes with an outdoor almost-dawn service and perhaps a long walk later in the day or on Easter Monday. This year for obvious reasons it will be a little quieter than normal, though perhaps I will take my allowed daily exercise with a walk or bike ride.

Pat Arrowsmith

Two exceptions to my normal pattern in have both involved visits to Aldermaston with CND. In 2004 I began on Good Friday in Trafalgar Square, where there was a ‘No New Nukes‘ rally, with speakers including Tony Benn, Jenny Jones, Pat Arrowsmith, Jeremy Corbyn and many more.

The march proper began at Hyde Park, with around 2,500 people beginning the first leg, and I started with them, but soon gave up, leaving them at Kensington High St station to come home and file pictures while they made their way towards Slough.

I had a day off on the Saturday as my son was visiting us and we went on a family walk in the lower Lea Valley – and I forgot to put any pictures from this on my web site.

Pat Arrowsmith on the march

On Easter Sunday I got on my bike and rushed to Maidenhead where I locked my machine up and met the marchers who were arriving after an early morning start from Slough. There were now only several hundred walking the full distance, and they took a brief break for tea and coffee and then continued on their way towards that evening’s stop at Reading. I walked with them for the next few miles until their lunch stop, and photographed them from a footbridge over the road as they walked on towards Reading. I had a rather long walk back to Maidenhead for my bicycle and then the ride home.

On Monday I was feeling tired and rather than the heavy camera bag with the Nikon D100 and a film camera I took just a small knapsack with a water bottle and a lightweight Canon Digital Ixus 400, all of 222g. This took only 4Mp jpeg files, though at 2272×1704 these were not hugely smaller than the 3024×2008 of the Nikon. It had a useful zoom range, equivalent to 36-108mm, but the autofocus was sometimes rather slow, giving a highly unpredictable shutter lag. I sometimes found I had given up and moved the camera away from the subject by the time it fired.

The results were generally quite acceptable, and could produce an excellent A4 print, with the jpegs which were generally bright and sharp, often looking rather better than some from the larger Nikon files taken using RAW. In 2004 RAW conversion software was at times rather primitive and probably I was even less skilled at using it.

I took the train to Reading, along with my wife and one of our sons, and we walked the 12 miles or so to Aldermaston where I photographed the rally and then walked at least halfway around the perimeter fence of the large site. Fortunately we then got a lift to the station for a train back to Reading.

In 2018 it was the 60th anniversary of the first Aldermaston March, and on Easter Sunday I joined the crowds there for a rally. As well as calling for the UK to abandon its ridiculously expensive and totally useless nuclear weapons (our so-called deterrent) it also had something to celebrate – A UN treaty banning nuclear weapons which was finalised in 2017 and had then been signed by 122 nations.

This time I put my bike on the train to Reading and enjoyed a pleasant country ride in good weather to the rally and then back from Aldermaston.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.