Beautiful Britain – Clacton-on-Sea

Nestled on the Tendring peninsula on the east coast of England, and providing seaside entertainment for the masses for over 150 years, the town of Clacton may seem like any other  British seaside town. Clacton came to prominence in 1871 when it was founded by Peter Bruff as a seaside resort, largely for Londoners to escape the city. He built the pier, which still stands today, and steamer was the main method of reaching the town until the road and rail system caught up.

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The heyday of the town was really the middle decades of the twentieth century when there was a Butlins Holiday Camp and many hotels and guest houses to entertain the day trippers and summer holiday makers. Then along came cheap flights to more exotic locations and, like so many British resorts, there was a significant downturn in the economy.

Even in the 21st century the town still has a significant number of visitors and people enjoying the sandy beaches, and going on the rides and other amusements on Peter Bruff’s original pier. When we were kids there were dolphins and orcas kept in the swimming pool on the pier, but thankfully that’s gone now.

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The landscape has also changed a bit with the offshore wind farm on Gunfleet Sands but all in all a pretty standard town that has had its ups and downs…  

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… Or is it?  

Well, there are two things that are also uniquely interesting about this town, so let me explain.

Firstly, Clacton was the site of the first civilian casualties in World War II when Frederick and Dorothy Gill were killed by a Heinkel bomber that crashed into their house on May 1st, 1940. Little is made of this fact, although I clearly recall a plaque on a bench on nearby Skelmersdale Road detailing this tragedy when I was a teenager.

Secondly, although Clacton is primarily known as a typical Victorian seaside town, the area slightly inland at Great Clacton was inhabited by the Celts and there is some evidence of Roman involvement too at the coast. The most amazing fact though is that during the paleolithic period, the area was used for flint mining and tool manufacture. And in 1911 there was uncovered the “Clacton Spear” a wooden yew spear which, at 420,000 years old is the oldest known wooden tool created by man.  It is, in fact, even older than Homo sapiens and was carved by our pre-ancestors Homo erectus.  An entire period of human development, Clactonian, was named after the town and describes the fascinating industry of flint working and tool making.

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By Chemical Engineer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
I lived in Clacton during my teenage years and was totally unaware of this significant piece of our history. Sometimes it truly amazes me how understated the British people can be. In many other places in the world both these events would have been used to develop another aspect of the town, with museums and themed activities, but not in this corner of Essex.

How Quintessentially British!

~Richard

Beautiful Britain – Southwick

It’s been over 7 years since we last visited the UK as a family and I thought our recent visit would be a great opportunity to write something about good old Blighty for a few posts. It will motivate me to process my photographs and also is relevant to promoting the art group I run at Quintessentially British, which now contains over 11,000 images of “Britishness” by more than 700 artists. Ironically, I haven’t posted that many images of my own to the group since I set it up 5 years ago, so this trip was an opportunity to get some more images to post!

So, I’ll start with our first port of call – literally – Southwick, in West Sussex.

Southwick is a small coastal town situated on the River Adur on the south coast of England. There have been settlements here from at least the Roman times and the town is first recorded in the Domesday Book (1085 AD). Like many nearby towns, it was the extension of the railway lines in the 19th century which really caused the town to expand becoming a popular place for tourists to visit and take the sea air.

Although largely eclipsed by Shoreham-by-Sea to the west and Brighton & Hove to the east, Southwick still has a thriving commercial port (called Shoreham Port, even though it’s really in Southwick and Fishersgate), serving both commercial and navy vessels in docks on the River Adur.

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There is a nice village green with traditional pub on the edge, railway station and a couple of new windmills placed adjacent to the pebble beach, almost as an advance guard to the huge wind farm that is being developed off the coast in the distance.

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A bit of something for everyone, perhaps? Certainly a nice place to sit in the sun and enjoy a “99” (soft ice-cream cone with a chocolate flake).

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How Quintessentially British!

~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

 

52 Week Challenge: Week 33

WEEK 33: Artistic: Collaboration – Doesn’t matter what you shoot, just do with another artist. Share vision and ideas. Collaborate.

 

For this composition I decided to look back to a brief visit I had to the UK in the early summer. My mother is an amateur watercolorist and oil painter with a keen eye on composition. As we were standing outside her kitchen door enjoying the sunshine in a bright, cloudless sky she pointed over to her fence and the rambling rose that was overhanging it and suggested that I take a photograph because of the beautiful bright red petals. I thought the arch of the flower made an excellent frame for the chimney pot on the neighbor’s house.

A collaborative artistic effort.

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~Richard

Then and Now: Tower Bridge and The Tower of London

As I am wont to do, I was browsing the Library Of Congress’ collection of old photographs yesterday when I stumbled across a great panoramic image of Tower Bridge and The Tower of London taken from Southwark in 1909. As the image is public domain I downloaded the TIFF file and spend a few hours in GIMP restoring this great shot. The great thing about restoring and retouching is that I go over the whole image “pixel-peeping” and so see lots of details such as the man in the skiff, people promenading along the north bank near Traitor’s Gate and the old signs on the warehouses at St. Katharine’s Docks, to name a few.

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I thought it might be interesting to see a more contemporary view. As I cannot get to London from Pennsylvania that easily I used Google street view to come to my rescue with a fairly similar angle, just up from where HMS Belfast is berthed.

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Unsurprisingly, much of this area has changed over the last century with the working dockyards for loading and unloading barges long gone as the road network and container ships took over transporting goods, and the warehouses at St. Katharine’s Docks were bombed out during the Blitz, but the two main London icons live on, and I am sure the original photographer would have marveled at the sight of Canary Wharf in the distance.

~Richard

A Story – The Swaffham Pedlar

The old historic market town of Swaffham, in Norfolk, England was brought to fame a few years back as the fictional town of Market Shipborough in the British TV series Kingdom, starring Stephen Fry.

The locality has links back to Boudica, the queen of the Iceni, famed for leading the uprising against the Romans in AD 60-61 but the town celebrates a more recent (only 300 years old or so) and humble ancestor who has been depicted on the town sign for years.

The Pedlar of Swaffham makes an interesting tale and was first recounted in the Diary of Abraham de la Pryme in November, 1699:

Constant tradition says that there lived in former times, in Soffham,” alias Sopham, in Norfolk, a certain pedlar, who dreamed that if he went to London bridge, and stood there, he should hear very joyfull newse, which he at first sleighted, but afterwards, his dream being dubled and trebled upon him, he resolv’d to try the issue of it, and accordingly went to London, and stood on the ridge there two or three days, looking about him, but heard nothing that might yield him any comfort.

At last it happen’d that a shopkeeper there, hard by, haveing noted his fruitless standing, seeing that he neither sold any wares, nor asked any almes, went to him, and most earnestly begged to know what he wanted there, or what his business was; to which the pedlar honestly answer’d, that he had dream’d that if he came to London, and stood there upon the bridg, he should hear good newse; at which the shopkeeper laught heartily, asking him if he was such a fool to take a jorney on such a silly errand, adding, “I’ll tell thee, country fellow, last night I dream’d that I was at Sopham, in Norfolk, a place utterly unknown to me, where, methought behind a pedlar’s house, in a certain orchard, and under a great oak tree, if I digged, I should find a vast treasure! Now think you,” says he, “that I am such a fool to take such a long jorney upon me upon the instigation of a silly dream ? No, no, I’m wiser. Therefore, good fellow, learn witt of me, and get you home, and mind your business.”

The pedlar observeing his words, what he sayd he had dream’d, and knowing that they concenterd in him, glad of such joyfull newse, went speedily home, and digged, and found a prodigious great treasure, with which he grew exceeding rich; and Soffham church, being for the most part fal’n down, he set on workmen, and re-edifyd it most sumptuously, at his own charges ; and to this day there is his statue therein, cut in stone, with his pack at his back, and his dogg at his heels ; and his memory is also preserved by the same form or picture in most of the old glass windows, taverns, and alehouses of that town, unto this day.

 

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It is an interesting tale and one perhaps that we should all take heed of as we rush about our days: sometimes it isn’t always obvious where we can learn something of benefit. Everything we do or see can be an unexpected learning experience and we have to be open to it like the simple Pedlar of Swaffham, who is still commemorated for his open mind over 300 years later.

~Richard

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