Beautiful Britain – Harwich

The town of Harwich, situated on the mouth of the the Rivers Stour and Orwell has been an important port for centuries. The town’s name derives from the Old English here-wic, meaning “military settlement” and received its charter in 1238, although it is likely it was established long before this time.

The Royal Navy established a dockyard here in 1652 for around 60 years, and although there is no longer a navy presence here the port was important during World Wars and has been an important commercial port for “travel to the continent” for decades. There is a large area we used to simply refer to as “The War Department” as a kid which is filled with reinforced concrete bunkers, towers and gun emplacements and was a wonderful place to play as child. I recall stories being told of how the guns there shelled the German battleship Scharnhorst when it passed along the coast, although I cannot verify them.

There is also an older fort, simply called The Redoubt, that was built in 1809-10 to defend against Napoleon, which again emphasises the strategic position of the town over the centuries.

Harwich is also famous for being the birthplace of not only the Captain of Mayflower, Christopher Jones (c. 1570) but also the famous ship itself. The Mayflower, which went on to carry The Pilgrims to the New World, was likely built at Harwich and was certainly registered as being “of Harwich” in the 1609-11 Port Books.

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A walk along the docks and port of Harwich to Harwich Green also reveals an unusual building – the treadwheel crane. Using mechanics that was largely unchanged since the Roman period this is a human-powered lifting device was built in 1657 in the Naval Yard. It was moved to the Green in 1932, and is the only double wheel treadmill crane in Britain. It fascinated me as a child, and seems to stand as a sort of testament to past labour associated with the town.

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Trinity House, the official keeper of lighthouses and deep sea pilotage, has been an important part of the town for a long time with pilot boats guiding vessels into the ports and lightship and buoy maintenance being conducted here.

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Unlike many coastal towns, Harwich never really became a seaside resort, maintaining its position as a “working town” and letting the neighboring town of Dovercourt take the tourists.

Nevertheless, it’s not all work, and there is fun to be had if you look for it…

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~Richard

So nice to go traveling

Wow, it has been over a month since I posted a blog! I am appalled with this failure of what started out as a rebooted daily discipline, back in Jan 2016, but there’s been a good reason for this.

In mid-June I was fortunate enough to have taken an extended family vacation back to England and include a brief 2-night sojourn to Paris too. I had grand plans of writing blog entries and posting images as we traveled but, to be honest, I was too busy enjoying myself “in the moment,” as they say these days.

And that’s how it should be.

I will play a bit of catch up over the next few weeks and months as I process the hundreds of photographs I did take that will jog my memory. And I’ll start off with the first three that I worked on yesterday evening, from Brighton, Paris and Amesbury.

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The time went very quickly and we saw family, several friends, and many of our old stomping grounds and tourist attractions. We were even fortunate with the notoriously unpredictable British weather.

It would have been nice to have stayed longer and spend more time with even more friends and family but, alas, time caught up with us and it was with mixed emotions that we returned to our home in Pennsylvania. After a day or so I admit that it’s good to be home and to appreciate the life that we have here.

That’s the philosophical part of traveling, perhaps!

~Richard

 

St. George’s Day and a lesson from the French?

Last year I wrote this post relating to the patron saint of England, St. George. One year on and as Britain is stumbling forward through its self-inflicted exit from the European Union, I see little change in the mood of Little Britain, at least from what I read in the media.

Today, on the “other side of the channel” as we tend to call it, we saw the potential for a change in Europe as Emmanuel Macron finally gave Marine Le Pen a good run for her money and established that the center left candidate may actually stand a chance to win in a two-horse race for the Presidency for La Republique. Perhaps we will see a tide change and just maybe this will have a knock-on effect on the results of the snap election that Prime Minister Theresa May has called back in the UK. After all it may not be so much about St. George killing the dragon anymore but rather that the slumbering dragon, in the form of the disenfranchised populace who weren’t motivated to cast their democratic vote last time, will actually see that their opinions do count and turn up at the polling stations to make their mark.

Perhaps it is time for the dragon to roar…

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~Richard

Thoughts on Brexit

The Brits have spoken. In a closely run race, fueled by a combination of vitriolic rhetoric, hate-speech, fear-mongering and lies by both sides it appears that the population voted with their gut feelings, as that was all they could trust. Just over half the country will be rejoicing and just under half despairing. It would have been the same whatever the outcome.

This is democracy in action.

The stock markets, who thrive on uncertainty and fear, have plummeted as a knee jerk reaction, even though nothing actually changed overnight. Many people will have lost money and a small, but significant, few will have made a fortune in just a few minutes.

This is capitalism in action.

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All of us always have someone to blame …

Britain, Europe and many other countries now face a period of navel-gazing, hand-wringing and reassessing their world view. What will be the final impact of this move? To be fair, the only thing for sure is we don’t know. This is uncharted territory as no-one has left an integrated community in this way.

The EU is (still) much more than a simple trading bloc; it is a mechanism of maintaining some sort of cohesion across a continent that has been war-torn for centuries. What will be the knock-on effect of Brexit – who can tell? Will others use the example of Brexit to foment grassroots anger and leave also? If nothing else the Eurocrats should, at the very least, take a moment to look at the way the EU machinery works – the unelected officials, bureaucracy and corruption. It’s time to ‘fess up guys and girls, realize you’ve been caught and do some house cleaning. Even a remain vote should have prompted this.

The idea of a united Europe is a noble one, but where did it all go wrong? Self-serving, greedy, narcissistic behavior from within – that’s where.

How sweetly ironic that similar characteristics were exhibited on Thursday by millions of voters on that small island off the west of the European mainland.
~Richard

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