My 2017: February

February 1st this year and we were still in Hobart Tasmania; I know I’m the sort of person that when I visit a place I want to live there and be there for ever more… it’s always mostly fantasy; much as I loved Iceland I actually don’t think I could live there (well, maybe I could, but it isn’t likely) however Ireland I really do think I could spend my life there. This isn’t just for foreign parts, the north-east coast of England enchanted me, but is it really practical… whereas I also loved Monmouth and I think it would be a practical place to live. However Tasmania… I completely lost my heart; it appealed in every way and I felt comfortable and at home – from the moment I stepped off the plane and smelt the intoxicating and strangely familiar Tasmanian pepper plant, Tasmannia lanceolata, I wanted never to leave…

Halfway through February, with a tear in my eye, we left and flew to Brisbane to stay with friends. Our lovely and marvellous hosts there managed to squeeze a wonderful variety of trips to every sort of interesting place you could imagine – rain forests, art galleries, museums, mountain top breakfasts, river cruises, botanical gardens, Australian animal sanctuaries (kangaroos and koalas, dingoes a platypus!) the Gold Coast, historical places of interest… and of course, the bonus of being with people we like very much!

We came home from the Sunshine Coast to a rainy, sleety, slushy cold England. We were delighted to see our family again of course, but I felt slightly heart-broken at being on the other side of the world from a place I loved so much!

Apart from our memories, what else did we bring back? A healthy tan for a start! We were also much fitter; we had walked and walked and walked, nearly a hundred and thirty miles, which might not seem a lot for some people, but for us who are so sedentary usually (writing, painting, and drumming don’t involve much movement!) and considering we had days of flying, driving, being on boats, or days where we were wandering round galleries and museums, was an achievement! I confess we had also put on a few pounds..

We spent most of the holiday apart from the last week with just the two of us and it was wonderful – we always get on well anyway, but we had so much fun, so many funny things, shared so many experiences… it was marvellous, and a fitting celebration of our silver wedding anniversary the previous October.


My 2017: January

My January this year was the most amazing of my life. I went to Tasmania. The only connection I have with this beautiful Australian state is that my great-grandfather was born there and live there until he was in his thirties.

We arrived at the beginning of the month, just after New Year, and spent the whole time there – which meant I had a most wonderful birthday in the Central Highlands in Cradle Mountain-St Clair National Reserve. We did travel around, ten days from Hobart to Strahan, to Cradle Mountain, to Launceston, to Swansea and back to Hobart, but we spent most of our time in the beautiful state capital.

The trigger for this holiday was my great-grandfather, and one of the first things I wanted to see and visit was the synagogue his father and uncle were instrumental in building. It is small but beautiful, unchanged for over a hundred and seventy years. It was so thrilling to see the names of my great-great grandparents on  commemorative boards in the elegant old place of worship.

We also found the site of the magnificent mansion my family lived in from the 1840’s-60’s, only the name and the gate house remain, Boa Vista. This was not just a family pilgrimage; we explored Hobart, went on coach and boat trips, walked, walked, walked. There were so many places of beauty and interest and we met so many wonderful friendly people. Being foodies we really enjoyed the wonderful local produce, including, of course, wine, beer and whisky.

It’s difficult to pick out any highlights, every day was a marvel, everything we saw was interesting, engaging and fascinating. We were impressed with the amount of art we saw everywhere. We loved the museums and art galleries. We loved the guided walks, some of which we did several times. It was unbelievable to see wombats and pademelons in the wild, and to see Tasmanian devils and quolls in sanctuaries. It was an unforgettable experience to see dolphins swimming along beside our boat, leaping and diving, and to see flying fish and albatross… next time I want to see a penguin and a whale – more than one would be great, but one would be enough.

I feel a little at a loss to properly write about this marvellous five weeks we had… and I’m sure as soon as I post this I will think of something I want to add.

Here is just a random list

  • city rambles
  • coastal wanders
  • breath-taking views
  • stories from people we met
  • our ‘local’ the Shamrock
  • ironwork and tracery
  • MOMA – the Museum of Old and Modern Art, and riding on a sheep to get there
  • the settlement secrets tour of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – I really recommend this theatrical experience
  • Mawson’s Replica Huts – a fascinating and moving experience; the small wooden replica hut hides an absolute trove of moving and fascinating history of Antarctic exploration
  • the sunsets
  • Travelodge hotel – a warm welcome and comfortable accommodation
  • the cenotaph
  • the Darwin River
  • the old houses
  • going to the top of Mount kunanyi – in the fog
  • the boats, ferries and ships
  • the pure air
  • the flora

I have to stop… the list would be endless…

  • the Hobart Rivulet
  • the Tench – the Hobart Penitentury
  • hoping against hope a thylacene would be seen while we were there – not necessarily by us, but just to know some have survived

I can’t wait to go again… if we can ever afford it!

View from our hotel room

A reach… and reach!

I was looking at some information about our area, I can’t now remember whether it was our local newspaper, or maybe something on a local news site, but I came across a reference to Finzels Reach in Bristol. Now, although I’ve lived in the west country for over fifteen years and been associated with it much, much longer (in fact since I was in the sixth form here) I don’t know Bristol that well, and nor do I know and have never heard of Finzels Reach.

From the context of what I read I guessed it was a new development of some sort, but I had no clue as to whether it was a new name or an old name (thinking of how new pubs are called things like the Flask and Spile, the Toad’s Ear, and new roads are called all sorts of strange things) Then, today, just by coincidence, a friend and I were walking along by the Floating Harbour in Bristol, just by where the castle once was, and across the water we saw ‘Finzels Reach’!

It looked as if it might have been an old building, now much smartened up and with new development going on behind it. When I got home I looked it up to find out exactly what it had been; The area where we were walking opposite it had been virtually flattened during the Bristol blitz, but the old warehouses opposite were still standing.

Originally there had been a sugar refinery, the Counterslip  Sugar House, on the site from the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Bristol merchants have had a chequered past, on a particular shameful time  was when they were involved in the vile trade of enslaving African people and taking them far from their home, across the Atlantic to work the new plantations established in the Americas – displacing and ‘eliminating’ the original inhabitants. Sugar was brought back to Bristol, and this was the site of one of the refineries.

The building we were looking at were those rebuilt by Mr Finzel, to be precise, Herr Conrad Finzel in 1846. It was rebuilt because it had burnt down and it became one of the major refineries in the country. When Herr Finzel died, his son also Conrad took over, and the business continued until the early 1880’s when it became a brewery.

So this was Finzels Reach… my friend who is Hungarian asked about the word ‘reach’ as she only knew it as a verb. I knew it also meant a stretch of water… and we wondered whether the verb came before the noun, or vice-versa… another thing to look up.

It seems – as I understand it that, there were two origins of the word reach – one which was a noun meaning a stretch of water, and one the verb meaning to stretch out to grasp something… so, there we are!

PS my featured image is not of Finzels Reach but it is Bristol, what’s known as Bristol Byzantine

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!