Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Silloth Carnival 2006

Bank Holiday Monday, 29th August 2006... a birthday at the caravan site, and a family get-together to visit the Silloth Carnival!

Silloth still has the air of a Victorian seaside town, with wide cobbled streets and a central Green for festivities. The annual carnival is popular enough, but this year they invited the Red Arrows to make an appearance so from 10am the whole town was shut off to cars. I travelled and made it before the curfew, meeting at the caravan site and walking into town after cake and coffee.

First, though, we had a visitor to the caravan!:

Donkeys on the Green (please note the fairy in front!):

There was some traditional Cumberland Wrestling going on too, with some competitors coming from Brittany where it is also still popular:

There was a procession of floats etc (these kids are obviously traumatised):

There were two Longcakes Icecream Vans on the Green, but one was purely ornamental:

There were some reprobates hanging around drinking cider:

Some of the food stalls from Solfest had made it to the Green, along with a travelling fairgound with scary-looking rides (scary because they were made of Meccano)

Then the main shows starting with the sadly-soon-to-be-upstaged RAF parachute display team:

They were dropped from a Hercules which did a little flypast but I wasn't quick enough to get pics... then we all moved to the other side of the Amusement Arcade to see the rest of the show, to be performed in and above the Solway with Criffel as a backdrop.
(Special mention should be made of the announcer who we found completely hilarious, but wasn't meant to be funny... the whole thing was like something out of Phoenix Nights!)

First, a Spitfire, which was more than a bit impressive:

Then an airsea rescue, including Lifeboats:

The conditions were a bit choppy but the skies nice and clear for the Main Event. Now I'm going to indulge myself in posting quite a few pics here, cos they were all so good!
There's also clips on YouTube, this one is the better one. You can hear the lead pilot giving out the commands, like some sort of manic Darth Vader.

There were a few sore necks!

Then it was back to the caravan for more cakes, then back home.

Solfest 2006

So we arrived on the Friday afternoon, to find that the rest of the world had got there before us, and claimed their camping plots. We settled on an patch near the top of a hill, which made us able to hoist our pirate flag with pride above the tent, and also gave us fantastic views south-east towards Skiddaw and the Lakeland Fells, and north across the Solway to Criffel.

After setting up, we went for a wander around the site to see what was on offer... stalls and shops and freaks (yay for freaks!). Lots of lovely food stalls to sample - our frequent favourites were the Mexican Burrito stall and Stoat's Porridge (open daily from dawn until after 11 with the same 3 staff!). There was an artificial stone circle, a pair of huge wicker people, an enormous wooden twirly thing, and some wonderful kites flown above the Tarn nearby, a giant gecko, a squid, a diver... Some wonderful photos of the kites here

On Saturday we were joined on the campsite by M&M, who brought a tiny red throw-up tent. It was also themed as "Pirates and Faeries" night (not sure of the difference between a faerie and a fairy) ... B, M and M were pirates complete with black facepaint facial furniture. I was a fairy but had no wings (who says fairies have wings anyway?) but I had multi-coloured facepaints and assorted glowsticks. In fact, we all had lots of glowsticks thanks to my bulk eBay purchase!

The trick with the toilets was to not expect too much, so we didn't and they were mostly OK. I only "opted out" twice! The weather held off in the most part, it got a bit windy on the Saturday night but we learned later that we completely escaped a huge nearby downpour on Sunday night which took place when the Proclaimers were onset - indicated to us only by quite cool pink lightning behind the main stage!


Spotted early Saturday morning on our way to the porridge stall, a Pirate in Pyjamas getting into the spirit (or possibly still in spirit from the night before):

My fairy outfit:

Fairy on a Scooter:

Fluffy Friends: Sals, KC and Beardy:

The man from Radio Cumbria in his fairy outfit:

Why? Dunno but it made a good photo:

Pink Stilt Person:

Mad, annoying Story-telling Woman:

Oh yeah and the moosic....
Main mentions go to Nick Harper and Seth Lakeman who did not disappoint, in fact were both fantastic. Special mention to Selector of whom I had no prior expectation, but I enjoyed a lot. I was a bit disappointed with The Proclaimers, who proved they can do their set in their sleep now, and made a far-too-sharp exit which left us quite frankly feeling a bit unloved.

The fabulous Nick Harper:

Seth Lakeman in action:

Croft 5, with bubbles:

The Proclaimers:



The Selecter

Nick Harper

The Proclaimers

Seth Lakeman

My Seth Lakeman snippet on YouTube

Croft 5

Stoats Porridge

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Motorway Diaries

On my travels I have been making mental (and physical) notes of things I wanted to mention on my blog. What now follows is a gratuitous list of nonsensical stuff which may or may not make any sense to anyone. It's completely self-indulgent.

  • The heather on the hills is blooming - I bet Ros Castle smells nice at the moment, and I bet the plums are out at Blawearie House. I miss Northumberland.

  • There's are a few bridges over the M6 which seem to be purely for cows. It's a nice sight.

  • Abba sometimes sound like Pinky and Perky.

  • Who's that Scottish Buddhist bloke on the Radio 2 Breakfast show called? I liked him. (his name is Dharmachari Nagaraja, hear him here)

  • In spring you see a lot of yellow wild flowers (daffodils, primroses, broom, gorse), and later you tend to see pink and purple, like now it's Heather and Rose-Bay. Exception is red campion which bloomed early June. I wonder why this is? Something to do with the angle of the sunlight, wavelengths and that?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Miles and Miles of Motorway

I do lots of driving with my job. Last week I did about 600 miles, together with leisure trips this mean my cars have to go 30,000 miles a year.

So, I know motorways quite well. It's a good job I enjoy it. I think one of the reasons I like it is that I can switch off and let my mind wander. I usually have the radio on, except when there's no reception or if The Carpenters or Good Tradition come on.

Some folk might say driving so much is boring, but I have no trouble entertaining myself.

I spot odd things like shoes or gloves by the roadside. These things are a bit of a mystery, I mean why is there often just one welly boot? I mean a pair is fair enough; perhaps someone left them on the verge when they were getting their spare tyre out of the boot. And I can imagine someone driving away with gloves on the roof and they get thrown off with the first gust of wind etc... hhmmmm. (Upon googling, I found this particular subject to be quite popular... here's another link).

It's becoming more accepted knowledge these days that the verges of roads, in particular motorways, are mini wildlife havens. The UK government have recognised this by launching the Biodiversity Action Plan. When I'm covering my patch, it's mostly through lovely countryside. This time of year, there's lots of vivid pink Rose-bay Willowherb, which is now turning fluffy and setting off "fairies" to the air. Apparantly, it's edible, which I didn't know.

I've seen more than my fair share of the M74 and M6 especially. I'm pleased to see they have started work on upgrading the link between the two. I blogged about this dangerous road back in March when there had just been another fatal accident. Since then, they have closed the lay-bys (woo-hoo!) ... I would like to think this was partly because of my complaining, but probably not, because it was so startlingly obvious that this was hellishly hazardous.

So, bring on the roadworks, firstly the resurfacing of the nastily narrow bridge over the River Esk... If you look at that linked picture, please notice the complete lack of hardshoulder and consider that "for safety" they have narrowed the lanes further recently with temporary barriers, but not applied a slower speed limit. (Cue insane nutter drivers up the arse, and cue me touching the brakes to make them increase the distance from my bumper to more than six inches)

Grr this was supposed to be a positive post about how nice it is to drive around a lot, and it's ended up being a rant about mad drivers.... ah well, that just about sums it up!

Cumberland gap upgrade 1

Cumberland Gap M6 / A74 highways Agency website

24 July 2006 - work finally started

Saturday, August 05, 2006

South Lakes Wild Animal Park

I remember months ago driving towards Barrow-in-Furness along the A590 in south Cumbria, whilst talking to someone on the phone (handsfree!) and being very confused because I was sure I could see a giraffe, and maybe a rhino.... very odd, but yes it was true - what on earth...?

It was South Lakes Wild Animal Park, a place which started as a conservation charity to save the Sumatran Tiger, and has developed into the most popular tourist attraction in Cumbria.

We decided to pay it a visit this weekend. After a small queue at the entrance gate, we entered down the path (and through the haze of smokers loitering before the "no smoking past this point" sign).

The first animals were the sunbathing cheetahs, visible from a high wooden platform.

Further down the path was the narrow-guage railway which runs the length of the park, suitably loaded with pester-powered kids.

Although most of the animals were caged it was for good reason; most of the inmates were there for preservation reasons, especially the tigers, and the rest were there to make the park more attractive to visitors to raise the money for the conservation projects. We did not see a single uncomfortable-looking creature the whole time we were there. The penned areas were spacious and even in some cases vast fields. Some animals were sheltering and resting inside their cages, seemingly for quiet as much as anything else.

Animals unlikely to eat each other were housed in the same spaces, while ring-tailed lemurs were given the run of the entire place, to comical effect.

There is a special section for Madagascan animals, entered through big high gates so as to not mix the different lemurs.

Some very lazy red-ruffed lemurs: -

(or has there been some lemur carnage)

There was an enormous aviary for macaws and vultures and a condor, the place was big enough for them to fly about at full tilt, which was a sight to see.

There were some black-footed penguins, the type that live on the South African coast so they didn't mind not being cold.

Throughout the day there were set feeding times so visitors could gather round and also hear the keepers (AKA "animal carers") give a little talk and rattle the donation buckets.

Gratuitous funky gibbon:

The Sumatran Tigers' feeding time meant pinning dead chickens up very tall poles and making them work for their dinner!

much chop-licking afterwards...

There was an aviary for fruit bats which had a viewing area inside, so they were flying about inches from our faces, squabbling for bits of carrot and picking fruit from the pile on the floor they shared with the tortoises.

There were some spectacled bears rescued from Peru, again this was another conservation project visitors were encouraged to donate to. Shame we didn't get any pics of them, they were asleep inside.

The White Rhinos were a wonderful red colour thanks to the local mud. They shared their field with the giraffes and a family of Hamadrayas Babbons, the viewing platform gave fantastic views right over to the lions.

(spot the Rhino - and the baboons...)

This was all we could see of the lions when close-up. Later from the rhinos we could see them being fed and being a bit more lively!

Note: all these pictures are clickable...
Credit to Blokey and his smart camera for quite a few of them

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