Sunday, 28 August 2011

Invitation for ospreys

No matter what one thinks about the concept of flooding a large patch of countryside in order to create a reservoir one has to be impressed how Rutland Water has managed to enrich the natural life in the area. The way ospreys arrived and started nesting and how they number has been multiplying shows what can be achieved with continuous preservation work. Even the works to improve the functionality of the reservoir encompass their effect to the animal life and try to mimic natural environments.

When it comes to the recreational use of the reservoir, commenting as a person coming from a country of thousands lakes, it was a surprise to me that as a human being you are not invited to enter the waters of Rutland Water. Unless you are in a boat or on the shore with wellington boots in your feet and a fishing rod in your hand that is. Swimming is not allowed in the water parks. This seems a bit ironic since the sheep along the neighbouring shore were swimming happily. Must be the effect of Health & Safety!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A landscape for Ramadan

A friend is celebrating Ramadan. We had a meeting last week and she had her mobile alarming her of the sunset when she could have coffee with us. I am also reminded of Ramadan by the everyday landscape at Tesco’s where the shelves are packed with cooking oil, fruit juices, rice and chopped tomato tins and freezers are full of lamb kebab, okra and samosas.


On Mill Road I used to pass the crowd chitchatting along the lane after the Friday prayers and notice the coming of Eid by the ‘Closed for Eid’ in the windows of the local cafĂ© and halal butchers. However, Ramadan was not visible there in the same way in the shop windows as on Belgrave Road. Eid Mubarak signs where not on in Cambridge.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Foxton Locks: lifting the spirits

The canals in Leicestershire run literally in the middle of nowhere. That’s why Foxton Locks, the engineering feat on the waterway to Market Harborough, is not right outside a busy village but in the middle of beautiful rolling countryside dotted with farms. The view from the top is pleasing.

The structures at the Locks also testify of failure. Of a failure to compete with railways. Even if the Thomas lift, a canal boat lift, had been constructed to speed up the movement of commercial boats, it managed to run only for ten years. After 1911 it was left to rust and rut. The Partnership at the site has been doing sterling work with Lottery Heritage funding repairing buildings and constructing walkways and a viewing platform. The money has paid for clearing the docks and cutting trees in the Thomas lift area and presenting it for the public.

However, the Partnership aims at reconstructing the lift into working order. Although I understand this from the local point of view, it is a pity if the ruins that are evidence of past events – and failure – are lost from full view in the process. This is an age-old problem in heritage: to preserve the original features as they are or to reconstruct to show how they were in their heyday? Different coloured building materials will probably ensure that the difference between the original and the new is underlined – and a working boat lift will probably be an awesome sight.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Burrough Hill and the modern uses of hillforts

What can you use a hillfort for? The days of needing a hideaway in a place where you can see an enemy coming are over. Even the need for Ordnance Survey triangulation points is not there any more. So what can you use a scheduled monument for? At least in Leicestershire the answer is for leisure, recreation, sport and fresh air. Near Beumont Leys there is a small Iron Age hillfort in the Castle Hill Country Park but the huge site at Burrough Hill is a proper country park with cows roaming across the ridge and furrow. The hillfort has its parking area where the participants of a leisure ritual, i.e. visitors, can leave their cars in order to take part in their chosen activity and visit a revisit the site. They can take a walk, experience the route around the banks and marvel the beautiful view. Even the skies are reclaimed with local model airplane society manning the ramparts.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Castle Donington:
Landscape of Noise, Landscape of Leisure

When you walk along the High Street of Castle Donington, pass by the church and enter the residential areas, you could be in any lovely Georgian and Regency village in the Midlands. However, on a quiet afternoon you may suddenly catch the sound of motor cars and airplanes. Two steps from the village in the south you have East Midland Airport and Donington Park side by side, the former the first stop for international travel from Leicester, Nottingham and Derby and the second one of the main sites of motor racing in England. One person’s noise is another person’s reminder of easy access to motor sport, travel and/or plane spotting. Race tracks convey ideas of speed, danger and adventure. Airports allow old-fashioned daydreaming in a modern context and pining for far away lands even if one may choose never to leave. Both create distinctive modified landscapes, pleasing to the lovers of machines but not necessarily for traditionalists.