They say time flies by as you get older, and for me, this was certainly true in 2014. No sooner had the buds burst out on the trees, than the leaves were falling and Winter was returning to this part of the United Kingdom. I suppose the main reason the year flew by was because I was kept busy most of the time. I don’t seem to get bored, although I do have many moments when I sit around and watch the World drift by. Not having to work does give me the luxury to enjoy these quiet moments, and I feel very lucky to be in the position I find myself in.
My first trip away from Selston came on February 3rd when I took a ride to Kilnsea, a small village on the east coast at the mouth of the Humber Estuary. This is a place that holds many memories for me, especially as we spent many holidays here when the kids were younger. The area was devastated in December 2013 by severe gales and a tidal surge, which swamped a large part of the village. I saw the devastation a couple of weeks after the event, but I went back there in February to see how the area was recovering. Fortunately, the surge damage was on the way to being repaired, although the damage to the wildlife will take many months to correct itself.
Whilst visiting Kilnsea, I thought it would be nice to stay at Sandy Beaches Caravan Park in the village. The last time we stayed there would have been about 30 years ago, so we booked a holiday in August. This park was badly damaged by the storm surge, although it was mainly the caravans which bore the brunt. The area is prone to coastal erosion and several metres were removed from the shore during the surge. Also, the road down to Spurn Point was severed which meant that the only way to visit the Point was on foot. The breach in the peninsular was about three-quarters of a mile, and it looks unlikely that the dunes will repair themselves for many years.
This was our first holiday in a caravan in 30 years, so we were not too sure what to expect. As it turned out, we had a lovely and relaxing break. The weather was fine all week and I was able to do a little walking and I took many photographs. The caravan park wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but it was ideal for us. We have already discussed visiting again in 2015.
We made two visits to Herm in 2015. We normally go every year, but this year we decided to see what the island was like out of the main season. We had our usual holiday there in June, but went back at the end of September when it was Sandra’s birthday. During our June visit, the annual charity cricket match was taking place. To my amazement, my long time guitar hero Robert Fripp was there with wife Toyah. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to speak to my hero, but I did manage a couple of pictures of him as proof that I did see him. We have already booked our fifth holiday in Herm later in the year.
Our final holiday in the year was to Portmeirion in North Wales. We have been on day trips here many times, but only stayed on holiday once, in a cottage in the village. This time, we stayed in the main hotel. We were slightly disappointed as there were a couple of wedding receptions during our stay there and it wasn’t the quiet holiday we had hoped for. Once the weekend was over, the peace returned and we were able to enjoy our holiday.
Portmeirion is ‘The Village’ in the 60s television series ‘The Prisoner’ and it’s one of the most amazing places you could visit. A collection of buildings brought here from around the World and re-assembled along an estuary near the town of Porthmadog. You don’t get to see the village at its best during the day. It is only after the day-trippers have departed that you benefit from the peacefulness. This is another place that we will return to regularly.
My interest in local cricket disappeared in 2014 and I didn’t see a match all season. Since the lads finished playing I don’t enjoy the game, and I don’t often watch games on television either. One interest that did increase through the year was vintage trains and I went to several events throughout 2014. I’m not a ‘trainspotter’, but I do enjoy riding on and photographing trains.
The Midland Railway Centre is only a few miles down the road from where we live, and we can see the smoke from the engines across the valley. My eldest son, Jamie, was married here and the Centre will always be somewhere I will visit regularly. I went there in March when a new footbridge over the platform at Swanwick was opened, and I returned again in September to attend a ‘Diesel Event’ where lots of various diesel engines that ran in my youth were in service.
A little further away is the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, which runs between Wirksworth and Duffield. In 2013, I won a competition run by Trent Barton Bus Company to drive a diesel for the day, and I returned to the railway in August 2014 for their ‘Multiple Memories’ photographers’ event. This event re-created scenes from the 50s, 60s and 70s using their Diesel Multiple Units, and I was able to get some ‘behind the scenes’ photos, including an evening photo-shoot in the sheds.
In May, whilst on holiday at Portmeirion, the Welsh Highland Railway from Porthmadog to Caernarfon was officially opened and a weekend event was held. I was able to travel the length of the line for the first time, as well as travel on the Ffestiniog Railway which is a sister company to the Welsh Highland. Several photo-shoots were lined up during the weekend, as well as some unusual workings and some visiting engines. It made our holiday in Portmeirion even more interesting than usual.
We only attended one Camelot function in the year, which was the 20th birthday celebrations for local winners held at the National Watersports Centre in Holme Pierrepont. As a result of this, I appeared on BBC Radio Nottingham, Notts TV, where I did my first live television interview, and East Midlands Today. EMT presenter Jo Healey came to Bracken House and interviewed me in the garden. As a follow-up, BBC Radio Nottingham came to do an interview at the weather station in December to discuss the prospects of a White Christmas [yawn].
In the garden, I finally accepted that I could no longer manage all the work myself and I enlisted the services of local gardeners Gardens2U. I agreed a yearly contract with them during the summer which will see them look after the weeding and maintenance of the flower borders, allowing me time to concentrate on the vegetable patch and wildlife meadows. I’m looking forward to the gardens looking better in 2015 when the plants are able to develop without the weeds to restrict them.
Well, that’s about it for 2014. No overseas trips this time, though I still have a long list of places I want to visit. I hope to cross at least one of these destinations off my list in 2015, and I am already thinking of returning to the Outer Hebrides, this time as part of an organised tour by rail, coach and ferry. I would like to visit Svalbard this year, but I need to lose weight and get fit before I dare attempt the Arctic Wilderness. Maybe this is one for 2016.
- 1,400 flood defence projects get funding in £2.3bn spending plan (itv.com)
- Government to spend £470m on flood defences (independent.co.uk)
- Flood defences: £2.3bn fund will protect 300,000 homes (theweek.co.uk)
- Weather review – December 2014 (alanrowley.info)