Monday, 17 January 2011

Bagshot Grange exists in North Yorkshire

One of the funniest radio programmes I have heard is the Museum of Everything. They only ever made three series (see the Wikipedia entry for more details), but one of the running themes was that of Bagshot Grange.

Bagshot is a stately home where the owners had fallen on hard times and have, grudgingly, been force to open it up to the public as a way of accessing funding (there are several references to English Heritage and the National Trust).

Visitors, who are left in no doubt that they are not particularly welcome and beneath her, are taken on tours of the building by the Lady of the house.

Whilst the experience today didn’t include a tour by the lady of the house my experience of visiting a certain North Yorkshire castle left the distinct impression that the only reason the public are being let in is to raise some extra funds to keep the house.

First sign was the entrance fee. It’s on a par with Dover and Edinburgh Castles, but at those sites there are multiple attractions and a full day’s worth of museums and other attractions on site.

Second sign were the carefully placed signs telling visitors to “stay away from the house”

Third was the total lack of any furniture, interpretation or even poorly designed wax works in the rooms, just one single small description panel which, in most instances, duplicated the information on the guide you are given on the way in.

Fourth was the dampness in the rooms, condensation running down the walls and the windows. At one point a selection of bins had been placed in the middle of the room to collect the small waterfall that was dribbling from the top of the ceiling.

Reading every panel in full, taking in every nuance from the hand-out, and stopping to take lots of pictures, I was still round and out in little over 30 minutes.

I’ve spent longer looking round the bare ruins of a small castle which English Heritage don’t even bother to charge for.

Now, where in North Yorkshire is Badgerland…

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Invest now in land at Gravelly Hill

OK, perhaps it won’t make much of a return for you today, or even your children or their grandchildren, but some point in the next 200 years it will pay off.

Firstly, for those of you who know it better by its nickname, I’m talking about the salubrious part of Birmingham otherwise called Spaghetti Junction.

You wouldn’t want to live there today, what with all those lanes of fuming traffic (and fuming drivers sat in the endless tailbacks).

But 200 years ago if you’d told someone that the noisy, messy and smelly inland harbours in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds would one day become some of the most desirable residences in their respective cities they would have had the same reaction to someone telling you to invest in housing by the M6 today.

Over the last couple of months I’ve spent several days in all three cities and in all cases the big developments have been around the canals.

Some of the most exclusive developments in Birmingham are around Old Turn Junction, the 18th Century equivalent of Gravelly Hill. The area around the Clarence Dock in Leeds is heaving with luxury flats, high end retailers and even a Casino.

It’s all a massive, and positive, change from the way canals were treated in the past, spending many years slowly decaying into little more than industrial tips and derelict waste grounds.

So, if you’re looking for a long term investment, just remember 200 years ago railways didn’t exist and 150 years ago the idea of the horseless carriage would have gotten you locked up in an asylum. Who knows what the next big thing in transport will be, and if it doesn’t require roads then Gravelly Hill will be the 22nd Centuries dream regeneration site.

Admittedly, it will probably also be the setting off site for a lot of those 22nd Century HGV driving holidays where you take a vintage 2002 Eddie Stobart lorry round the parts of the UK motorway network that are still navigable, but that will be “quaint” and post-post-industrial.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Whisper it, but they may be better off without the train

The railway line between Darlington and Richmond closed in 1969. They weren’t part of the Beeching cuts, but they didn’t survive for that much beyond his cuts.

Today the branch lines round this part of the country that do survive have roughly hourly services, many of which end early in the day (In particular the line from Darlington to Bishop Auckland)

However, between Darlington and Richmond there is now a regular bus service. In fact there is a bus every 15 minutes throughout most of the day and it runs late into the evening.

It does lead you to wonder if a level of service that good could ever be provided if the branch line was reopened.

Add in the fact the buses stop in the town centre, and the station is nearly a quarter of a mile away and at the bottom of the valley near the river, and the implication is actually the current set up, whilst perhaps not as environmentally friendly, is certainly more tourist friendly.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Perhaps we might have to demolish the Olympic stadium

There has been a row brewing in the regional press this week about what will happen to the Olympic Stadium once the 2012 games are over.

BBC News: IOC Chief wants running track left at 2012 stadium

One plan sees the site being remodelled slightly as an athletics and football stadium

The other plan sees the site being demolished and a new football stadium built. A much older athletics ground south of the river would be regenerated, so the Olympic park would be left without a stadium.

Personally, I think the idea of tearing down a brand new (tax-payer funded) stadium just 8 weeks after it has opened is wrong, not least of all for the horrific waste of money and resources.

However, walking between St Pancras and Kings Cross stations this afternoon my certainty about this has started to waiver.

St Pancras International station opened in 2007 after a complete refurbishment. The underground link from the domestic high-speed platforms to the tube station didn’t open until much later.

Today, walking along the passageway I was intrigued to see areas fenced off and signs reporting that “To help with the improvement of St Pancras International station this area is having new flooring installed”

Forgive my ignorance, but surely when you build a new bit of station you build it to last a good few years, not to have to close of bits for “improvement works” a year later.

But, on that basis, perhaps the best option for the Olympic Stadium will be to pull it down. After all, at the end of the six weeks of Olympic Games it will need to be closed for “Improvement works” to fix everything that’s falling to pieces.