27 October 2011

Clever, Those Chinese, Very Clever

When the engineering solution to a problem is simple we tend to overlook the elegance of its simplicity. Chamber locks, with gates at both ends, were in use in China by the tenth century. They were likely introduced to Britain from the Netherlands, where the first recorded example in Europe was at Vreeswijk, from 1373. This example, on the Montgomery Canal, is one of a sequential pair.

15 October 2011

Welsh Mustard

The Valley Works of Rhydymwyn, near Mold, was founded in 1939 as a facility for the production and storage of mustard gas by ICI’s Special Products Division. It takes its name from the Alyn Valley. The Alyn was culverted and, back in the days before we pretended to give a damn about the environment, used to discharge toxic waste into the estuary of the River Dee.
The site was split into four main areas: mustard gas production, bulk storage in three tunnels driven into the limestone flanks of the valley, the filling of shells, and the fitting of these with explosives and fuses (one of the magazines is pictured above). The facility provided for the production of over 300 tons per week.

Mustard gas production stopped at the end of WWII. From 1947 to 1959 the tunnels were home to the UK's strategic stocks. Ultimately the material was dumped at sea or burned on site, which remained as a buffer depot until the early 1990s. Some remediation work was undertaken in 2003, but the site undoubtedly remains toxic, and is thus securely fenced and guarded. 

There were originally 200 or so buildings. About 50 remain. One, building P6, was converted in 1942 to house equipment used to test how feasible it might be to separate the isotope U-235 on an industrial scale. This was for Tube Alloys, the codename for part of Britain's nuclear programme. This ended in 1945 when America constructed and used the world's first nuclear weapon, humankind's next generation of WMD. 

10 October 2011

Llanymynech Toposcope

High above the village of Llanymynech, on the border of England and Wales, is the Border Viewpoint, a toposcope fabricated in 2011 by Tanya and Gideon Petersen. The toposcope proper is rather crudely made, but the supporting frieze, in hot-forged steel, has as its right-hand panel a very effective silhouette of the interior of the Hoffman kiln that can be seen in the plain below.

07 October 2011

Triumph Dolomite 1500 SE

At 32 years' old and given Leyland's reputation for patchy build quality using dodgy steel, that the Dolomite passed its MOT is pleasing. FGU 417V was likely saved by its immediate post-build application of Cadulac rust-proofing. With new rear tyres, replaced indicator flasher unit, and adjustment of the handbrake cable, she's good to go.

Introduced in 1979, just 2,163 SEs were produced. You could have it in any colour and options scheme you desired, as long as your choice was black paint, full-length silver stripe, front spoiler, and Spitfire-type wheels. They all have burr walnut door caps and dashboard, grey velour seats, and grey carpet.

The DVLA cites just 36 remaining examples. Of those, only a dozen are understood to be running around. If you have a 1500 SE, please drop YMGW an email with your name, location, car registration, and some information about whether it's on the road.

04 October 2011

Bencroft Wood

One of the four woods that go to make up the larger reserve of Broxbourne Woods - YMGW passim - Bencroft Wood, Hertfordshire, is predominantly of hornbeam coppiced for many hundreds of years. This supplied the maltings of Hertford and Ware with fuel, and charcoal for the manufacture of gunpowder. The above truck find is likely beyond identification.

01 October 2011

Yet Another Fine Car, Stanley!

To have one steam car turn up at a local cafĂ© - YMGW passim - is more than a little unusual. To have another do the same just a few weeks later is quite incredible. This is another 1909 Stanley, a 10hp Model E2, same owners. The hand-painted coachwork is stunning.