Timisoara – a great place to visit!!!

I’ve just read a great blog about a place I’ve only recently heard of, Timisoara in Roumania… to quote –

I would really recommend visiting Timisoara as I feel it is going to be the next European must visit destination. Tourism is still just emerging as an industry and the only way for this beautiful city is up, especially with its new and very much deserved recognition as European Capital of Culture  2021.

I didn’t know it was the third most populous city in Roumania, and locally known as the capital city of the  region of Banat.  In it’s history it has been annexed by the Kingdom of Hungary, been part of the ottoman Empire, and is brimful of history!

However, I have never been there… but if you want to know more, and see some fabulous pictures, follow this link:

via Spending time in Timisoara, Romania

Connected with Weston-super-Mare

I’ve been connected with Weston-super-Mare for many years; my family moved here when I was still at school but two years later I moved away to Manchester and didn’t return except to visit for a very long time.  When my own children were quite small, we moved back to Weston for a variety of reasons and have lived here ever since.

The first thing I remember heating about Weston from someone who knew it was that its nickname was Weston-super-Mud – I thought we were going to move to live by the sea which would be similar to the sea I knew and loved on the east coast of Norfolk and Suffolk. Weston got its nick-name because it is on an estuary of the Rivers Severn and Avon and so there is a lot of silt in the water and the shore line itself is a band of marine clay.

When we moved to Weston it seemed so incredibly old-fashioned, unbelievably so! I thought maybe coming from Cambridge which is only fifty miles from London that maybe I had an unrealistic idea of what things were like – but no, moving to Manchester and Weston seemed even more old-fashioned.

The town is only quite new compared to other places. It was only really in the early 1800’s that it began to develop from a tiny fishing hamlet and a few farms into a sizeable village. it was already becoming bigger and more significant when the railways arrived and that wrought huge changes on the town. It began to develop as a tourist centre, but other industries develop too, including potteries, mineral mining, quarries and lime production. However it was the tourist industry which took over and in the early twentieth century Weston was a very popular destination. However the general decline in numbers of holiday makers visiting British seaside towns affected Weston – perhaps cheap package holidays abroad and a greater expectation than Weston could provide hastened the decline.

There were however other things going on; light industry, manufacturing, dormitory housing now there was the motorway link to the north and south, and Weston’s population began to grow. To be sure  people are employed in the many  retirement/residential/care homes, but the local college is increasing in status and there are many great things about the town which now has nearly 80,000 people living here.

I have recently been attending a series of lectures about the history of the town, which have been most interesting and opened my eyes to much that residents of W-s-M should be proud of – and forget the Weston-super-Mud sobriquet!


The Hobart Rivulet (3)

Earlier this year we went to Tasmania; we spent most of our time in the city of Hobart but had a two week tour of some of the rest of the island. Although we were over a month in Hobart, we didn’t run out of things to do, and towards the end of our stay we realised there were still more places to visit, walks to take, sites to see! In our last few days we took a walk down the length of the Hobart Rivulet – well, the part that is accessible and not beneath the city! We very much enjoyed it and thought many other visitors and tourists would enjoy it to – a walk through Hobart’s history, and in a way, the history of the whole island.

I have been writing  about the  Rivulet, the small river which can become mighty torrent. It runs off kunanyi, Mount Wellington, which towers over the city. I wrote about its long history of association with people, from the mouheneener people who  lived and walked by it for nearly ten thousand years, to the white British colonialists who arrived to use what they then called Van Diemen’s Land as a jail for their unwanted prisoners. I wrote next about how the Rivulet was misused by the new settlers – it powered their factories but it was used as a waste disposal for all the often toxic by-products, and it was used as a sewer, over five hundred toilets discharging directly into it. By 1912 action was taken and a proper sewerage system was put in place. Now the Rivulet, the parts which are not culverted beneath the city, provides a pleasant parkland for a riverside walk.

Here is the next part, I have repeated the past few lines of part 2 to put what I am writing here into context. If you notice any mistakes or errors, please do let me know!

There is a riverside walk which is delightful;  we loved our amble along its course and  we saw plenty of birds, on the water, on the grass, in the shrubs and trees; sadly we didn’t see any platypus which live in the Rivulet. Further up there is a wonderful range of Tasmanian creatures, devils, quolls, wombats and Bennett’s wallabies… we saw no sign of any of these!. We were not the only ones to enjoy the walk on that day in February; there was a constant stream of walkers, joggers, pram pushers, bike riders, people young and old – people who obviously lived in the area and visitors like us. Before white people came to this place, the first people would have followed this same path from the mountain to the river, going back generations.

I hope I have made this sound idyllic, a credit to the city, an insight into history, and the people who have lived and worked here. I hope I have encouraged you to wander along its banks as we did, should you be so fortunate to visit the city.

I hope also that you will now share my disbelief, horror, and outrage, when I mention that a programme of ‘tidying’ up has been going on which has included council workers spraying chemicals, including glyphosate, along the banks of the Rivulet, chemicals to kill weeds. It is important, of course it is to keep the banks clear – there have been terrible floods in the past – but using toxic sprays in this sensitive and important area? Risking the lives of the animals – birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals who live here, and risking the health of the people who enjoy the area – is that right? Is it ethical? Is it sensible or safe? I suggest the answer to these questions is no… A resounding no.

I am going to write to the city council asking if this is their policy, and if it is to consider changing it. It impacts not just on the local people and wild life – but it may impact directly on a burgeoning industry – tourism. There are various other ecological wars being fought in and around the beautiful state of Tasmania – the use of toxic weed killers and herbicides is not attractive to potential visitors! It’s very wrong, and it’s also very stupid.

© Lois Elsden

Here are links to parts 1 and 2:





Mr Bazalgette visits Weston-super-Mare

I’m going to a series of talks about our town, the history of it and the people who have lived here. In the 1700’s our small village of Uphill, to the south of the town was bigger and more important than Weston, which was little more than a few farms and some fishermen’s cottages. All changed at the turn of the century, and now Weston has a population of about 78,000, and Uphill about 8,000.

There was tremendous growth in Weston throughout the nineteenth century, churches, schools, municipal buildings; great architects designed the buildings; in 1841 Isambard Kingdom Brunel built a railway bridge known as Devil’s Bridge, a single span brick bridge, with ashlar coussoirs.  It is the highest and widest single span brick bridge in the country and has a Grade II listing. One of Brunel’s friends and associates was Joseph Bazalgette; Brunel was born in 1809, Joseph was ten years younger.

I learned this evening that Joseph had been working on some water engineering project in Bristol and he came to Weston and had some input into the project to improve the sanitation system in our town. I learned this tonight at the talk, but I cannot find any corroborative evidence yet, apart from the fact that he wrote a paper with a Mr Whitehead   ‘A Report on the Yeo, Parret and Isle Drainage’in 1869. I was very excited to learn that a hero of civil engineering who saved the lives of tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people by his sanitation works in London, was in our town… but when?

I shall ask next week at the next lecture… Joseph was born in 1819, married Maria Kough from Kilkenny and had at least eleven children!

In case you are wondering about my featured image, it shows where the sewers used to empty into the sea just near our village – and this was after the sewerage and sanitation system was put in place! All is pure and clean now!


October moochings

It has been a wonderful October day today, shirt-sleeve warm, lovely sunshine a pleasant breeze and blue, blue skies! We didn’t do much, just mooched into town, then dropped down to our county town of Taunton and mooched some more. October really is the beginning of autumn, but it often surprises with a few lovely summery days before settling down into a decline.

Several years ago we went down to Sussex to Winchelsea Beach where my husband and a band he had been playing with for all his adult life – and quite a few teen-age years as well, had a gig in a wonderful pub, the Ship. I’d not been there before, although I think we may have driven through the area many years ago on a miserable wintry day… we hadn’t stopped to site-see, too jolly chilly. However, when we went down to Winchelsea Beach on this occasion the weather was wonderful. We had all travelled from away, most of the band from north Surrey, us from Somerset. We checked into the hotel where we were all staying, and then went to the venue.

The Ship is a great pub, with an interesting style – being so close to the sea it has a nautical theme… and when we were there it had a door into a butcher’s shop… in fact they had a sheep roast, like a hog roast but with a whole sheep. We heard a story at the time that the owners had wanted to have nautical artefacts and bought a job lot which they thought would be a few assorted pictures, maybe a porthole or two, a few knotted ropes, a bit of rigging etc… what turned up was a pantechnicon carrying an extraordinary collection including lifeboats and a funnel… By the time we visited all was beautifully and interestingly arranged.

While we were there we visited Rye, and the town of Winchelsea, and Hastings and the Romney Marshes and  Dungeness… we were on the way home when we stopped there and the mist had come in and it was spooky and a bit creepy with the power station and the lighthouse…

However, the thing I remember most is the band inside the pub rehearsing (and sampling the beer) and us wives and partners sitting outside on some decking, our shorts and shirt sleeves rolled up as far as they could, lounging back basking in the glorious sunshine… we all ended up with sunburned noses… in October!!


Return to the Bone Cave

People often ask why do I blog… well, there are lots of reasons, but the simple one is that I like writing, and blogging is a way of practising, sharing, and having fun with my writing! I often find that things I use here become the basis for something else.

I visited somewhere very interesting which made a big impact on me. I wrote about it a couple of times, and now I have brought those different pieces of writing together and it will form part of something else… Here is the first draft:

The Mendip Hills of Somerset are riddled with caves, potholes, underground streams and lakes, created millions of years ago by the action of water on limestone. … no-one actually knows the extent of the system or systems, but each in its own way is a marvel. Tens of thousands of years ago some of them were inhabited by people; before that animals sought shelter within or came to die or had their bones washed into the caves by torrential rains or melting ice.

The minerals within the hills have been exploited for thousands of years, and in the Banwell area there are seams of yellow and red ochre; the yellow is a hydrated iron hydroxide known as limonite, the red is from iron. It was used as a dye and colouring agent going back to the earliest human activity when people decorated their caves and no doubt themselves with the brilliant colours.

In Banwell, near the end of the Mendip chain, there is a cave open periodically to the public, which is called the Bone Cave. The Bone Cave was called the Bone Cave because of the vast quantity of bones found inside it when it was discovered in 1824; it was an accidental discovery because a nearby cave full of stalactites which had been found fifty years before, was a popular tourist attraction; a charity dig was mounted to open it up into another part of the system, to raise money for the village school; a tunnel was dug and this broke into the Bone Cave.

The stalactite cave still exists but no-one can visit without proper caving. However the Bone Cave can be visited, and as you enter you will see it is just a big, roundish cave, but stacked neatly along the walls are piles of bones from the creatures which had died there. The eighteenth and nineteenth explorers working for the Bishop of Bath and Wells who owned the land, tidied it up for visitors to the caves. Outside there were gardens and buildings, grottoes, an osteoicon (bone house – museum) and tower, were all part of what might be called a Victorian ‘theme park’.

In the cave was found a wondrous mixture of skeletal remains of wolves, wolverines, bison, reindeer, other deer, and a bear; these had arrived quite naturally, washed in nearly a hundred thousand years ago during the Ice Age. Many of them had, as I mentioned, been gathered and neatly stacked to form exhibits for the nineteenth century tourists; however, many thousand upon thousand remain beneath the floor of the cave. The Bishop of Bath and Wells, George Henry Law, had a residence built there and he believed that the bones were evidence of the Biblical flood which had engulfed the world.

When I visited, I was led down into the darkness, treading carefully on roughly hewn steps. The cave is extraordinary, and extraordinarily atmospheric. Some of the bones had been left in a heap and the guide picked some up and I was able to handle and hold them. They were mostly bison and reindeer, but I also saw mountain hares, red foxes, otters and wolverines. These bones give an interesting picture of life then; wolves for example were less hunters as we think of them, and were scavengers; the predominant predator species then was the bear.

The guide handed me a huge, yellowing hip bone; a gigantic bear thought by scientists to be a not a cave bear but a species related to polar bears, and one of gigantic proportions. These creatures could be up to twelve feet tall… imagine that… a twelve-foot tall carnivorous bear…

As I stood in the flickering candlelight, holding this massive hip bone, I had a really curious, almost overwhelming sensation… which I can’t really explain. It was only a momentary sense of something, but I can really understand how people feel that objects contain power. Holding the bear bone in that cave was an unforgettable experience.

© Los Elsden 2017

And did those feet…

I have started a local history course in our town of Weston-super-Mare; the leader/lecturer is historian John Crockford-Hawley, one of our local councillors. It was the first evening and as a start Mr Crockford-Hawley went back 35,00 years to the earliest inhabitants of our little Somerset village of Uphill… Obviously there wasn’t a village here that long ago, well not a village as we know it. However people lived here, and no doubt had successful lives in their terms – an area with fresh water, plenty of birds and animals and fish, plenty of land and sea plants, relatively safe as it is by a hill, and with plenty of stone to use as tools and weapons. We travelled through the millennia up to about 1841, when railways arrived here in Weston. At first the people in charge insisted that the actual engines remained out of town and the carriages were pulled to the station by horses!

Uphill was the first part of the area which was inhabited, and although other areas soon had early peoples and then the Romans, Uphill is the place which can claim to be the oldest.  Although we have a hill, Uphill Hill, the village isn’t called after it; a pill or pyle is the local name of a small navigable channel – the pill here probably belonged to Oppa or Opo, hence Oppa/Opo’s Pill – Uphill!

There are many legends as well as true stories attached to our village  – my favourite I think is that St Patrick was snatched from the hill here when he was a boy tending his father’s flocks. He was taken to Ireland as a slave, and became a saint in due course, the patron saint of Ireland but maybe he was actually a Somerset lad! I also knew the legend that Jesus is supposed to have travelled to Glastonbury with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. However, I didn’t know that they were supposed to have arrived at the wharf in Uphill, and maybe travelled up our River Axe into the Mendip hills to the lead mines where Joseph, Uncle Joe who was a metalworker purchased some fine Somerset ore.

When William Blake came to write his well known poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time’, he was thinking of that legend – some think as I mentioned, that Jesus and his Uncle Joe went to Glastonbury, but why would they, there’s no metal there, no lead to be bought!

  And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant Land.