Posts Tagged ‘Staines’

Staines, Always Just Staines

Friday, May 20th, 2022

Staines, Always Just Staines – Staines-upon-Thames Day, Sunday 20th May 2012.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Councillors ordered ‘Ali G’ look-alike Drew Cameron to be escorted off the site

I’ve lived in Staines since 1974, but it was a place I knew years earlier, growing up seven miles to the east in Hounslow, now a part of Greater London, but then, along with Staines in Middlesex. Staines was out in the country, and I remember watching a herd of cows being driven along one of its main roads. A few boys from there came to my school, and we would sometimes laugh at their country yokel accents.

Staines then was a place we would sometimes come to on Bank Holidays, taking a 116 or 117 bus ride and then walking to the Lammas, a park beside the Thames, with paddling pools and a diving pool into the river. It was here I learnt to swim, though now anyone foolish enough to get in the river here probably gets first-aid treatment.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Staines was a Roman town, Ad Pontes

Staines had its own smell, or rather stink of linseed oil from the lino – Staines’s largest industry occupying a large site to the north of the High Street – but now long-closed and a large shopping centre. The smell hung on for a few years, but I think has now gone. And that High Street had a notorious and ever-present traffic jam, taking the A30, the main route to the south-west, though the centre of the town. That was alleviated by the opening of the Staines Bypass, and later the M3 and M4 which run a few miles to the south and north of the town, but Staines Bridge, despite widening, continues to be a traffic bottleneck.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Drew Cameron as Ali G

Politically, Staines has long been true-blue Tory, one of the safer Conservative seats, and its current MP is Kwasi Kwarteng, though he spends little time in the constituency. In 1965 when almost all Middlesex became part of London, a rebellion by backwoods Tories in the posher areas of Sunbury and Shepperton led to the formation of a new borough, Spelthorne, which broke away to become a part of Surrey, the ancient enemy county across the Thames.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad cuts a ribbon

While the Thames was the major factor in the development of Staines – a Roman bridging point, Ad Pontes – more recently its proximity to London’s Heathrow airport and three motorways – M25, M3 and M4 have been significantly more important in persuading major companies to set up offices in the area. So it was something of an anachronism when Tory councillor Colin Davis, over a Magnum of Champagne proposed changing its name to Staines-upon-Thames – more appropriate would have been Staines-by-Heathrow.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Kwasi Kwarteng MP at the event

Few if any actual Staines residents backed the change, though it was popular with estate agents and the like. Many voted against it in the local referendum, but most of these votes were disqualified as they came in via the local football club, enabling the Tories to forge a majority. The whole campaign, fired by the anger of a few at the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen whose character Ali G claimed a gangster upbringing in the ‘Staines Ghetto‘ and to be the leader of ‘Da West Staines Massiv‘ showed a massive sense of humour deficit, as well as a whiff of anti-semitism. Ali G had been a huge publicity boost for Staines, and the campaign for the name change attracted more world-wide publicity – and even an article in Vanity Fair.

The London Stone (replica)

Colin Davis won his bet, and the name change was officially made and celebrated at an event in Staines on Sunday 20th May 2012. Since it was taking place a short walk from my home I went to photograph it. As I comment in My London Diary, “An Ali G lookalike who turned up to a Staines event marking the local council’s decision to change the name of the town because of the publicity given it by Ali G was escorted off the site by security. It was further proof that some Spelthorne councillors lack a sense of humour but need to make an ass of themselves.”

Colin Davis is no longer a Spelthorne Councillor, and was more recently chair of the Enfield Southgate Conservative Association in north London. He was this year suspended from the Conservative Party and subsequently “resigned after after a photo allegedly showing him wearing a Nazi uniform at a social event several years ago emerged.”

Waiting for ducks to arrive in the Duck Race

Spelthorne Council has featured in Private Eye and elsewhere on numerous occasions over recent years for its huge borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board to buy office and retail space, much of it outside the Borough, though it does include £385m for the large BP site in Sunbury. The man behind the policy – which the Treasury has said it would ban other local authorities following was deposed as Tory group leader in 2020, after which he and 5 other councillors left the Tory Party to form the United Spelthorne Group.

Their resignations left the Conservatives in a minority on Spelthorne Council, which is not in a position of ‘no overall control’ for the first time since its formation – which is perhaps how local councils should be. Two Labour councillors have also left for the Breakthrough Party, and the council now has a minority administration of Liberal Democrats, Green Party and the Independent Spelthorne Group.

Personally I still live in Staines. If I can be bothered when web sites fill in my address as Staines-upon-Thames I correct it. It’s not really a big deal, unlike Brexit, but it would be nice to go back officially to the old name.

More on My London Diary at Council Attempts To Rename Staines.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Boxing Day Pictures

Sunday, December 26th, 2021

Boxing Day Pictures I took in earlier years – mainly on our normal annual walks from Staines to Old Windsor. It’s a family tradition, a walk we’ve made most yearssince we moved here in 1974, though not always taking the same route. This year is one of the few years we won’t be making it.

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

There are more pictures from all of these walks – except that in 2020 – on My London Diary. Click on the picture for any of the other years to go to more about the walks and more pictures.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Christmas Eve, Christmas walks

Friday, December 24th, 2021

An acre of America at Runnymede

Christmas Eve, Christmas walks. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on Christmas Eve. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to be able to help with the final preparations for Christmas – things like going to collect our order from the butcher, wrapping presents… But there is sometimes time for a walk.

Sculptures and the Old Town Hall, Staines

For many years we’ve invited people to visit on Christmas Eve, to come in and share some home made cakes, biscuits and drinks. Linda has made mulled wine which has gone down well, or mulled apple juice and some of us shared a decent bottle of red, though I often had to drink most of it myself.

Disused railway line, Staines

Our smallish front room often got rather crowded though most of the younger visitors would be upstairs in a bedroom making large and complicated layouts of a Brio railway. There was a lot of talking, sharing news and sometimes some singing together; it is a small room, but still has a piano. We’d often run out of chairs, though we brought more down from upstairs.

Underneath the Staines by-pass

It had rather run down in more recent years, partly because our own two children had left home, but also as friends moved away. But this year it won’t be happening at all. Omicron has made us all rethink. People are wary of inviting others or of responding to invitations. We’ve still got the large Stollen and I expect several different varieties of biscuits will be made, but on Christmas Eve we will be eating them on our own, though we are expecting just a little help from close family in the few days that follow. But then there’s the Christmas Cake to eat as well.

Magna Carta Memorial, Runnymede

But it will be a rather different Christmas to usual. We decided too that we should cancel the family Boxing Day pub meal that had been booked. That means also we won’t be making the five or six mile walk to get there which we needed to get back an appetite after Christmas Day. I’ve already missed the carol service where Linda was in the choir – it seemed an unnecessary risk. And the concert by her choral society last Saturday was cancelled at short notice.

Mead Lake from Devil’s Lane

But we still will have a Christmas dinner with some family – if rather fewer of them than previous years, and I’m sure we will still go out for some walks. We will still have presents to share and still enjoy ourselves, but it won’t be quite the same.

Thorpe

The pictures here are from our walks in 2013. Since there is no public transport here on Christmas Day and little or none on Boxing Day our walks are all close to our home. You can see more of them in Walks around Staines.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Armistice Day – November 11th

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

Poppies in Trafalgar Square. 11 Nov 2006

When I was young everything still stopped for two minutes at 11am on Armistice Day although the main remembrance events had been moved to Remembrance Sunday in 1939 so as not to interfere with the war effort. But traffic still pulled into the side of the road here. In France the Armistice de la Première Guerre mondiale is still a national holiday.

Paris lle, 11 Nov 2008

I’m not a pacifist, but I am firmly opposed to most wars, both historic and current. The First World War was clearly a disaster that should not have happened, a family quarrel that should not have resulted in such incredible suffering and loss of life largely with people killing others who they had far more in common with than with those who sent them into battle.

Clearly US war in Vietnam (and earlier the French in Indochina) was wrong as was the invasion of Iraq. And equally clearly we as a nation should not be wasting money on pointless nuclear weapons and selling arms to promote wars around the world such as that in Yemen. And so on.

Remembering Animals Killed in War, Park Lane, 11 Nov 2006

But while it seems clear that America should not have been fighting in Vietnam, it seems clear that the Vietnamese had to fight against them, just as it seems clear that Cubans were justified in fighting against Batista and US imperialism – and the same applies to other struggles against colonialism and for national liberation.

School Students Against the War, Oxford St, 11 Nov 2006

I’ve recently re-read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and although Stalinists contest his view of events it remains powerful both as a personal account of the war in Spain and makes clear the main reasons why the democratically elected government was defeated by the fascists – and Stalinist Russia’s contribution along with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to that defeat, which made a wider war inevitable. If you’ve not read it, this is a book I highly recommend – and there is an excellent article ‘Orwell and the Spanish Revolution‘ by John Newsinger in International Socialism Journal which explains Orwell’s position and deals with some of his detractors.

Staines, Nov 11 2007

I grew up in the years following the Second World War and had my share as a wolf cub and boy scout of standing in short trousers with the bitter November wind blowing up them at Remembrance Sunday parades at local war memorials. Of course we should remember those who died, but not in the kind of militaristic and often jingoistic fashion that most or all such events have in England. The best way to honour their sacrifice is surely to work for peace. In Germany they have a day as a peace celebration.

Families of Servicemen Killed in Iraq, Cenotaph, Whitehall. 11 Nov, 2006

After briefly photographing the event at the Mairie in the 11th arrondissement – I’d rushed out from a café when I saw the event happening – we strolled the short distance to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

Père-Lachaise, Paris lle, 11 Nov 2008

FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Staines 1987

Saturday, March 6th, 2021

My photographic projects in London relied on being able to get a train from Staines, and although the service was generally rather better back in the 1980s than now, there were still times when I turned up at the station only to find there were no trains running. It was probably on one of these days when I’d arrived at the station with my camera bag on my shoulder that I decided instead of going back home to take a walk around the town instead. There is nothing spectacular about these images, but I think they are an interesting record of a time and place and one that in many respects has changed since I took them in October 1987.

Clarence St, Church St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-51-positive_2400
Clarence St, Church St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne

This corner has changed relatively little, but Johnson and Clark, the Staines department store said to have been the inspiration for a sitcom closed long ago, and its main building on the other side of the road not in this picture long demolished. It was a business which always seemed stuck in a 1950s time warp. The shop with a closing down sale at right had been Staines first supermarket, a small Tesco , but possibly it was a successor selling up; it is now a Wetherspoons, and the last pub I visited before the lockdown in December.

Market Square, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-41-positive_2400
Market Square, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne

The Blue Anchor was in business here, possibly from the 15th century, and the brick facade dates from 1721. Some of its windows are real but others only painted, presumably because of the window tax which first came into force in 1696 and was only repealed in 1851, and its hard to see the difference in this picture. One of the major inns in the old town, it closed as a pub around 2006, and has since been a series of restaurants, currently Turkish and of course only able to serve takeaway meals.

Staines Town Hall was built in 1880, financed by public subscription and the building became redundant when Spelthorne Council built new offices around a mile away – and at roughly the same time was Grade II listed. For some years it was used only for occasional concerts (and is the courtroom in the 1982 film Gandhi) but the council spent £1 million to convert it into a much-needed arts centre in Staines which opened in 1994. But this lost money and was closed in 1999 being at the wrong end of the borough to get support from the Tory council. It reopened as a wine bar from 2004-12, then was left empty (apart from a brief squat) before being sold off to a developer for £1.6 million with planning permission granted in 2018 for conversion to flats despite there being no parking space and inadequate disabled access. Many Staines residents regard it as a scandalous loss of what should have been seen as a major public asset for the town desperately short of cultural facilities.

Cock Tavern, Church St, Bridge St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-31-positive_2400
Cock Inn, Church St, Bridge St, Staines, Middx, 1987

The Cock Inn, built in 1832 on a site that had been a pub for several hundred years, closed in 2009 and is now offices. Behind it was Ashby’s Brewery, where a modern building for Courage can be seen peeping over and to the left, but it served Brandon’s Fine Ales, brewed in Putney. Some of the older Ashby buildings still stand, converted to residential and office uses and the Quaker Ashby family was one of the most important in the growth of Staines.

A second Staines brewery, on Kingston Rd, set up by the Harris family was taken over by Ashby’s in 1903 and closed in 1914. Later it briefly became Staines Library and then an adult education centre for Surrey County Council but was closed 15 years ago and has been empty and unused since. Squatters occupied it in 2015 attempting to open up the buildings for community use but were evicted after a couple of months.

Clarence St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-26-positive_2400
Clarence St, Staines, Middx, 1987

Clarence Street was built as the approach road to the new Staines Bridge designed by John and George Rennie and opened by King William IV and Queen Adelaide in 1832, a short distance upstream of previous bridges thought to have crossed the river since Roman times close to the Market Square. It was the fourth bridge to be built since the Civil War and is still in use, widened considerably in 1958, but still a bottleneck. The building on the corner of Bridge St was in the 1970s Staines Library.

High St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-03-positive_2400
High St, Staines, Middx, 1987

Staines High St is still lined by a few buildings of some architectural interest from the Victorian era, along with some rather less exciting 20th century additions, but the big difference is that it is now pedestrianised.

High St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10h-11-positive_2400
High St, Staines, Middx, 1987

Another view of the north side of the High St, this time looking east towards the ‘Iron Bridge’ which carries the Windsor Line across the road. Almost all of the buildings here have now been demolished, with a large hotel replacing most of them.

London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10h-36-positive_2400
London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987

The main road through Staines, on the line of the Roman Road to the Southwest which became the A30, becomes London Road to the east of the Iron Bridge seen at the left of this picture. Fortunately the opening of the second section of the Staines bypass in the 1960s takes much of the traffic away from the town which had been a notorious bottleneck. Only the shop and pub barely visible here at the side of the bridge remain (though probably not for long), with both the 1950s shops, the 1930s Post Office and the rest all long demolished and now part of a new partly high-rise largely residential development currently nearing completion – and including a new Co-op store.

London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10h-35-positive_2400
London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987

A little further along on London Road and some pleasant 1920s style parades of shops on the north side (with some of a similar age on the south side, which would have been in shadow – so I will have decided to photograph them another day in different lighting.)

London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10f-33-positive_2400
London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987

Surprisingly the Three Tuns and the two shops to the left are still there today, though sadly closed at the moment. As with all pubs we wonder if it will one day reopen, though we hope so, though it isn’t one I frequent. It was listed on this site in 1798 and possibly dates from rather earlier. The large office block is long gone, and development is promised on the site, though when I last looked it was still just earth and rubble.

There are a few more pictures of Staines on page 7 of my album 1987 London Photos, including just a few of the common land and other open spaces around the area on the edge of London – but just inside the M25 which is perhaps its real boundary.


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.


The 11th Hour of the 11th day

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020
All pictures from Staines on 11th November 2007

I have mixed feelings about Remembrance Day. Of course we should remember those who have died in wars, but the events which take place on Remembrance Sunday often seem to glorify war, and rejoice in military victory. Remembrance Day – or Armistice Day as we used to call it – is a day for more sombre observance and reflection, though it often passes most people by. Gone are the days when traffic across the nation stopped and cars pulled to the side of the road to observe the two-minute silence on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day“.

My father served in the Great War, though he only joined up at the start of 1918. Before he had worked in a munitions factory, but had been laid off, and was called to a medical around his 18th birthday in December 2017. He was examined and the medical officer, after finding he was deaf in one ear asked him if he really wanted to join the army – and only passed him as fit when he said he did.

“I was given the number 119377 and the rank of 3rd Air Mechanic (called 3rd Ack Emma), and awarded the magnificent wage of one shilling plus one penny a day, seven days a week – the extra penny because I was designated Clerk.”

Fortunately for him it wasn’t until July 1918 that he arrived in France, and the airfields had to be a little back from the front line, and they only once came under fire. Dad was impressed by the many nationalities working together – more from his short life story he wrote in his 80s:

“Chinese coolies prepared our sites and probably erected buildings; and of course they dug the petrol holes out. There was every nationality represented amongst the troops and auxiliaries. It was amazing how varied an organisation the armies were. There were lots of horses, mules and bullocks pressed in to do the work. Then there were the Tommies and the Frenchies and all the other fighting men, all colours, marching backwards and forwards – Colonials, Indians, Africans; we had an Empire then!”

And this is his account of the Armistice:

“We were up near Courtrai when the armistice was announced – cwas it alled Bissingham or something like that? We stayed there until after Christmas and a lot of the old hands went home from there. I don’t remember doing much there. I think we had an inkling that it was coming, and I was crossing over to the flight sheds which were old “Jerry” ones when I met a civilian who shouted “La guerre fini ; tres bon, monsieur”; I replied “tres bon, m’sieur”. On Christmas Day we had a concert, and all of us who did not usually do guard duty were detailed to take a two hourly turn throughout the night. I went over to do my turn at the appointed hour. I saw no one there and came away when I thought the time was up.”

As one of the latest to join the war effort, Dad stayed on in what was now the Royal Air Force, becoming a part of the occupying British Army on the Rhine (BAOR) . It was only at the very end of 1919 that he was finally returned to England and demobbed early in 1920 – with back pay of £75 – equivalent to over £3000 allowing for inflation.

Of course Dad had a very easy though not entirely uneventful war compared to most, and he had made his choice to serve, although under conscription. But many of those who went – in this and the Second World War – had little choice. Dad did his bit back at home in the Second World War in various ways too, and a younger member of my wider family was killed in action. But like many I think his experiences of the war left him convinced of its futility, and although at home we observed Remembrance Day respectfully, there was none of the militarism that seems to be a part of the Remembrance Sunday parades which often seem to encourage the anti-German spirit of “Two World Wars and one World Cup”. That Great War was supposed to be the war that ended all wars, but sadly only led to more.

As a Wolf Cub, and later a Boy Scout I had to go and march with the troop and to stand in short trousers in the cutting November wind while bugles sounded and soldiers marched. As a photographer I’ve more recently photographed some of these events, though always with a little reluctance. In quite a few years I’ve been in Paris in November and back in 2013 I was in Germany, where they do not celebrate the armistice, but instead have a more inclusive national day of mourning to remember members of the armed forces of all nations and civilians who died in armed conflicts, and now include victims of violent oppression. As here there are church services and parades to lay flowers at war memorials but it seemed a much healthier event than those in this country.

Remembrance Sunday in Staines 2007


Black Lives Matter

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

Staines, Surrey, UK. 4th June 2020.

I won’t be going to today’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest at London’s US Embassy though I would like to be there, both to show my support and also to take photographs, and it would be an easy journey for me.

The health risks of attending, though not huge, are greater for me than for most or all those who will be there, as if I were to be infected my life would be at greater risk both because of my age and because I have diabetes. I’m fortunate not to have great problems with diabetes, and I think I lived with it for over 30 years before it was diagnosed as a contributory factor to my heart attack in 2003, and now insulin and a careful diet usually keep it well under control, but it does mean my immune system isn’t too great.

The risks would be quite low. According to one of our leading epidemiologists speaking on the radio yesterday, about 1 in 700 people currently has Covid-19 and is infectious, although they may not be showing any symptoms. The proportion who are infectious in the protest crowd is likely to be rather smaller, as those who do have symptoms will almost certainly stay away. The protest will be taking place outside in a very open area, which will cut down the chance of infection.

The chance of being infected depends on various things. You reduce it by physical distance from an infected person – so if people at protests are able to keep that 2m away from people not in their own social group that helps greatly. If people who have the virus are wearing even simple home-made face masks that greatly reduces their spreading of the virus.

Protesters ‘Take the Knee’ at the side of Staines Town Hall.

Being a photographer is slightly more complicated. In the nature of things you have to move around and thus have a greater chance of coming close to one of that very small number of infected persons present. The moving around also cuts down your chance of always keeping that 2m distance. If you are, like me, someone who likes to get close to those you are photographing, you would be advised to change your way of working, moving perhaps to longer focal lengths. And you would certainly be advised to wear an effective mask when working. Moving around does have the advantage of decreasing the time you are close to any individual, which will also reduce the chance of infection.

The main danger to protesters will almost certainly come from policing. The police seem consistently to fail to observe social distancing and fail to wear face masks, so putting the public at risk. But also they often try to herd protesters into smaller areas where social distancing may be impossible, often to try to keep traffic flowing.

A silent die-in for 8 minutes 46 seconds in the Two Rivers shopping park in the centre of Staines, the time Floyd was restrained by a police officer.

It was probably unwise for me to leave home on Friday to cover a Black Lives Matter protest which I could hear from my window in Staines, particularly as I rushed out unprepared, forgetting to pick up my face mask. Of course I tried to keep at a suitable distance but there were moments when this wasn’t practicable. It was a rather smaller protest, with perhaps a couple of hundred people, not all of whom were wearing face masks either. Rather more of my pictures than usual were made with a short telephoto lens, with my wide-angle used largely for wider views in an attempt to preserve social distance.


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.


Slowing Down

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
The Old Town Hall, Staines – given away and now being converted to flats

Tuesday

Two lycra-clad cyclists were chatting nonchalantly as they came up beside me on the road coming into Laleham this morning and I heard them for a few seconds until they swept apparently effortlessly past me. Perhaps I sped up just a little, though I was already going as fast as I could comfortably, and I was just a little discomforted as I saw them take the same route as I was intending to travel, down Ferry Lane and Thames Side, though they were only perhaps 50 yards ahead as I made the right turn behind them.

They weren’t actually going a great deal faster than me, and they were still in sight by the time we reached Chertsey Lock, over a mile and a half after they had passed me, perhaps just 300 yards ahead, but it was their apparent ease that upset me a little, as I was more or less at full stretch.

I lost them then, as they went right and I went left, continuing to push myself on my morning 10 mile exercise ride. It was a warm morning with little wind, ideal for cycling, and as I made my way through Littleton and Charlton, glances at my watch confirmed that I had a good chance of meeting my target time for the ride of 40 minutes. It was after all only 15 miles per hour.

It was when I came to the busy A308 Staines Road West that things really began to go pear-shaped. Rather than ride along the road I decided to take the safer shared foot and cycle path on its north side. It starts along pavements, with a few nuisance side-roads which crazily have right of way and then becomes a fairly narrow path with a surface disrupted by tree roots. I had to slow down, changing down two gears, and even then it was heavy and uncomfortable going. Then came a combination of bumps and a large jolt shook my pannier off its rack and I had to stop to fix it back on.

I stopped and found I was pretty well exhausted. What should have been a simple job of lifting the pannier back on eluded me, it slipping out of my hands. After around a minute of struggling I thought I had it fixed and rode off – but when I got home found I had only got one of the two supports on the rack. I struggled on, but when my target time came still had a little over a mile to ride.

I was deflated and could hardly bring myself to go on. That last mile or so was hard going although I took it at around half my normal pace, finishing the ride in 49 minutes. When I got home I collapsed into an armchair and could do little for the next half hour or so. Twelve hours later I’m still feeling tired from the ride.

I don’t intend to give up the rides but I think I have to become rather more realistic about my capabilities. Back in the day I’d reckon on three minutes per mile, but roads were smoother then and I was younger and fitter and on a lighter and faster bike, with lightweight alloy wheels and tubular tires – and around three stone less of rider to carry. Those two riders who passed me were probably each 50 years younger than me – and probably hadn’t had a heart attack and weren’t insulin dependent.

So tomorrow when I take the bike out for another ten, I’ll be happy to get home in around an hour – perhaps a little longer if I stop off a few times to take pictures – and leave targets to the young and fit.

Wraysbury River

Wednesday

Today it was three or four degrees cooler as I left home around 9am for one of the easier and possibly slightly shorter 10 mile rides on my list of nine routes. I made a point of stopping a number of times to take a few photographs to illustrate this post.

Wraysbury River and M25

This was a largely traffic-free route – a back road to nowhere, a bridleway, a minor road, a wide shared path beside a road, with just a short section at each end close to home through normal suburban traffic. But what really makes it an easy ride is the road surfaces. Non-cyclists just don’t realise what a difference this makes. Our road network was largely built for cyclists and back in my youth we had road-rollers (and even the occasional steam roller among them) which smoothed the road when it was relaid. Whoever decided to do away with these and just chuck on tar and gravel and let the traffic bed it down was certainly not a cyclist. These rough road surfaces just mean a little more road noise for drivers, but need noticeably more effort to cycle on – and along with the extra potholes and road waves tire our wrists and keep our eyes looking down at the road rather than enjoying the view.

Wraysbury River

After yesterday’s ride I took things easy, not pushing things but going at a comfortable rate. On the long roadside shared path down from Stanwell Moor between the reservoirs, now gloriously smooth, I couldn’t resist, changed up a gear and really flew, but otherwise took it easy.

Mill, River Colne, Stanwell Moor

There were just a few drops of rain as I approached home. I’d done my daily exercise and was sweating a bit, but wasn’t exhausted. The ten miles are fairly nominal, and this one may be a little shorter than yesterday, but despite being much more relaxed and making several short stops I’d taken three minutes less.


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.


Another cycling problem

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

My cycling for exercise continues, but not entirely without incident. I had a day off from exercise on Saturday, when the furthest I went was to walk to the bottom of our garden, perhaps around 30 yards. I got more exercise from the twenty or thirty times a day I walk up and down the stairs, though its only 13 steps.

Staines Reservoir South

Sunday I did get on a bike, for a leisurely ride with Linda, mainly along cycle paths and bridleways. We locked our bikes at the bottom of a footpath that leads up the side of one of the Staines Reservoirs to the path between them. It’s apparently a top bird-watching site, but all we’ve ever seen there is the occasional duck and gull. There was a small bird sitting on a post too far away to identify but possibly a pied wagtail, common around here.

Spot the bird – possibly a duck

We cycled on and took a path to Stanwell Moor, returning to Staines along the bridleway which leads down beside the King George VI reservoir, rather bumpy for cycling but usually deserted, though for some reason we met several largish family groups walking back from Staines Moor. People do go there to paddle in the River Colne in hot weather.

Wraysbury River and M25

Monday I again went to Stanwell Moor, but taking the rather better bridleway beside the M25. It gets a little narrow after a small Thames Water site beside the Wraysbury River, and I put on a face mask for this and the next section where its seldom possible to keep proper distancing when passing others – though there were very few I passed going in either direction. It’s difficult to know why the river is called the Wraysbury River (or Wyrardisbury River) as it doesn’t go to Wraysbury; a stream from it does flow to join the Colne Brook which does – or why locals have always called it the Wraysbury River rather then the River Wraysbury – which Google maps confounds by changing between the two at the Staines By-pass, but the many streams of the lower Colne are altogether something of a mystery.) I made a short diversion at Leylands Lane walking along a narrow footpath that leads to a weir on one of the at least 3 streams of the River Colne here, then retracing my steps to Horton Road to go past the former mill on the main stream there before continuing on to Stanwell Moor Road to return to Staines along the now resurfaced cycle path. What used to be an often painful ride with concrete blocks not quite meeting every few yards jolting the buttocks is now smooth tarmac and a pleasure to ride.

River Colne, Horton Road, Stanwell Moor

Tuesday I decided it was time to face a proper hill again, rather than just the odd railway and motorway bridge we have in our part of Middlesex, and made my way up Egham Hill and Middle Hill to Englefield Green. This time I changed to my smaller chainwheel before the ascent (I’ve learnt it takes a little nudge from my heel to actually get it to move), and while I didn’t find the hill easy arrived at the point I gave up last week feeling much healthier. But I was very much panting for breath, far more than normal. Though I’ve fortunately not had real breathing problems, whatever virus I’d had and still haven’t completely shaken off has clearly left me with some reduction in lung function, and I needed to take a few minutes to get my breath back before continuing on the gentle rise.

Cemetery, Englefield Green

Once at the top it was a really pleasant ride through the village, stopping briefly to take a couple of photographs at the cemetery, then again as I went downhill past Royal Holloway College, and I was really enjoying the ride along the shady undulating road towards Virginia Water when disaster struck. Finding a steeper than expected short section of road I pulled rather enthusiastically back on my gear lever to change down, and shuddered to a halt with a loud grating sound. There is a stop on the rear dérailleur which should have prevented the chain going too far, but somehow it had jumped over the largest sprocket into a narrow gap between that and the spokes and was jammed solid.

Great Fosters

I pulled the bike to the side of the road and found an old glove I carry for dealing with chains, and tried to pull the chain out. It wouldn’t budge. I pulled and pulled – nothing. After several minutes I carried the bike across the road to where there was a pavement and continued. I was feeling pretty desperate; not only could I not ride the bike in this state, but I couldn’t even wheel it – I would have to carry it to move it. I tried harder, now using both hands and not caring about getting oil on me, and took the chain off the chainwheel so there was more to get a handle on. I could now try from both ends of the jam. Finally I got one link out, pushing it away from the wheel as well as pulling, and was encouraged. I thought I could help it a little by turning the wheel, and kept on. Eventually another link came free. I tried harder from the other end of the jam and got another link free, but it was still stuck almost a third of the way round inside the sprocket. I kept trying and finally several links from the other end came free, but there were still two or three firmly stuck. They had to shift I thought, and used all of my weight to jerk the chain out and finally it yielded. It had taken me 20 minutes to free it.

I carefully rerouted the chain to its correct position and set off, taking things easily in case there was any more damage, but it seems to be OK and I got home without any problems though half an hour later than planned – and needing to wash myself and my trousers to get the oil off. I checked the gear setting carefully before my next ride.

Fortunately, Wednesday’s ride was uneventful.


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.


On the Moor

Monday, February 3rd, 2020
Staines Aqueduct and water works

It was August Bank Holiday, the last Monday in the month, and I thought vaguely about going up to photograph the carnival in Notting Hill as I’ve done in many previous years. But only rather vaguely; I used to revel in the loud music and the crowds, feeling the ground and my whole body vibrating to the powerful bass, dancing along with the crowds by the sound systems and Mas bands.

River Colne, Staines Bypass from the sluice for the River Ash

But more recently, though I still get a thrill from carnival I also get tired rather quickly, and soon find myself wanting to go home or anywhere to enjoy some peace and quiet. And since I left regular employment to go full time into photography, Bank Holidays have lost the attraction they used to hold. I’m my own boss and can take any day off, and am more likely to be working on them and weekends than on weekdays.

Bank Holidays have often become times for us to go on overlong country walks, taking advantage of the earlier times we can get the lower ‘Super Off-peak Fares’ on our local trains to get to our starting point. But this time both Linda and myself were hobbling a little – I’d been on my feet too long taking photographs over the previous week and she was still suffering from a minor bike accident, and, as she reminded me, there was plenty to do in house and garden.

River Colne and Staines Moor

I can’t quite remember what that plenty was, or how much or probably little I did of it, but by mid-afternoon we were both of us ready to give up and go out for a short local walk. It turned out to be a little further than either of us anticipated, having forgotten quite how long taking the path we did would commit us to, and what we had intended to be a couple of miles turned out to be five, with the last two or three becoming rather painful. But at least it was a fine day.

Staines Moor is an oddly interesting place. Dead flat apart from the ant hills and a man-made lump once part of a rifle range. Continously grazed for at least a thousand years but not ploughed, a SSSI. Part of a number of areas of common land which used to surround Staines, though the part our house backs on to missed out on registration. There were fights and riots when parts here were enclosed, with rancour continuing into the early years of last century over the Lammas. And fights which still continue over gravel raising, which has taken place over much of the area – and gravel companies who own the moor and have worked around its edge certainly still have their eyes on it. It’s a curiously quiet place surrounded by noise from the M25, the Staines Bypass and aircraft climbing or descending to its neighbour Heathrow. A flat area with on two sides the long sheep-grazed flanks of giant reservoirs.

Our walk took us beside or past four of the rivers of Staines – and just briefly close to home by the other two, the Thames and Sweep’s Ditch. The four are all streams of the Colne – the main river, the Ash, Bonehead Ditch and the Wraysbury River. We also twice crossed the Staines Aqueduct built in the early years of the 20th centruy to take water from the Thames at Wraysbury to Staines and Hampton, still present though at least partly replaced by a 2.4m diameter tunnel in 1960-63. It was responsible for considerable flooding in Staines in 2014, overflowing into the Ash.

The moor is still grazed, though rather less intensively than it used to be. We live on the wrong side of Staines to have grazing rights, and in any case came too late to the area to register for ‘farrens’ in 1965. So none of those horses or cows in the pictures are ours.

Too many more pictures at Staines Moor.


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.