Salisbury Cathedral

Britain’s tallest Cathedral Spire

Salisbury Cathedral in Winter afternnon sunshine from the South lawns

Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest spire in England (404 feet, according to Wikipedia). The Cathedral Close is also the largest in England: it has one of the oldest working medieval clock in the World (1536) and it houses the best-preserved copy of the Magna Carta, the foundation of Laws in Britain.

Our friends (BA in History) tell us that Lincoln Cathedral spire was taller at 524 feet, until destroyed by a storm in 1548. The Fire of London (1666) destroyed the Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral (at 493 feet). Taller Cathedral spires remain in Europe (e.g. Ulm and Cologne).

The Cloisters and Chapter House

Salisbury Cathedal is also said to have the largest cloisters in Europe (unclear whether in floorplan or volume) and these offer a gentle walk with splendid views framed in every archway. Numerous historical figures are buried under the stone floor and there are two sets of stocks (presumably to punish anyone else who tries to steal the Magna Carta!)

The Magna Carta

In the Chapter House, South of the main Cathedral building and East of the Garth Cloisters, there are cassocks of previous Bishops and other notables of History, as well as a small tent where the best of four copies of the Magna Carta is housed. “Guarding” this treasure on our visit was a delightful elderly Cleric gentleman, who explained it all in detail and with great enthusiasm. (Strictly no cameras – plenty online if you want)

In the Refectory and shop, it is possible to purchase both drinks, snacks, curios and mementoes for your visit. Guided tours of the main building sare £7:50pp at the time of our visit (small discount for OAP’s and education).

Salisbury – The City

Outside the Cathedral Close and grounds, the City itself is quite compact but we did not have time to explore shops on the day we travelled (29th November). We did spot a Stag atop The White Hart Hotel, more or less opposite an ancient pub, describing itself as “The New Inn – refurbished in the 15th century”.

Salisbury Cathedral is just an hour’s drive from Weymouth, along the A354 past Blandford Forum. If you have time, we have heard Blandford Camp is worth a visit, too, with interactive exhibits re signals intelligence and wartime coding (we are told). Winchester Cathedral is just another 30 minutes further.

Winchester Cathedral – Christmas Market

Winchester Cathedral – the longest Nave among European Gothic Cathedrals

Winchester is a pretty city, about 12 miles North of Southampton and about 1.5 hours drive from Weymouth. We chose to visit Winchester Cathedral on the first day of the Christmas Market (26th November). According to Wikipedia, Winchester has a history dating back to the Iron Age, later Roman (Fort Venta), then laying foundations for the first Cathedral around 660 ad (Wintan-Ceastre).

Around Winchester Cathedral is a large “close” district, mainly lawned, with a few benches and a couple of statues, plus a refectory and shop. Outside the refectory is a memorial to William Walker (born William Robert Bellenie, 1869) who performed enormous labours as a diver, to emplace cement and stone underpinnings via hundreds of pits in total darkness, to support the Cathedral against subsidence in the peaty subsoil.

Around the East and South sides of Winchester Cathedral on the day of our visit, was a Christmas Market, said to be one of the largest in Europe (although we think Salzburg is bigger and more interesting!) There were about 300 stalls, selling all manner of goods, with a very welcoming Mulled Wine and Doughnuts stand at the entrance. There was a large skating rink and a large crafts area. The town itself is compact but houses a number of fine eateries and many independent shops to tickle the wallet. Driving is not much further than Swanage or Purbeck.

Weymouth Harbour Wall repairs – Update at mid-stage

Without recapping all the data in the previous post, we would like to update further work on the Weymouth Harbour Wall repairs at the midway stage (last week of pile-driving?) During 19th November, the contractors swiftly moved the piling jig another 10 metres or so along the Harbour Wall repairs site to the final position (Western end, 74m).

Very quickly, the piling rig was then fitted with piling guides and another 6 piles were lowered into position. Ancillary work onvolved spot-welding and cutting where the “ears” of the “staples” were deformed and manually “knocking” the piles into alignment, against the wind and crane movements till they could slide smoothly into place. Below is a “sequence” (actually compiled from 2 adjacent pile emplacements).

You can easily see from the above why the Council and the Contractors advised us to close for the duration of the works! (See here for a contemporary update from Weymouth Harbour website). Also, note the dust and grime adhered to the outside of the windows. Together with extra internal dust generated by pile driving vibrations, this is another reason for closing our business during the works.

Self-explanatory, really. Aligning the piles and hammer before “tapping” then into stable locations. Then the sustained piling begins. Expected to take a few days. Note how much construction dust and dirt has been accreted onto the outside of the windows!

Note the occasional transient excursion in vibration records below. In this example, the peak-to-peak transient was approximately + 50 to – 80 mGal, or about MMI 4 (possible damage). Peak-to-peak the gap was about 130 mGal – or MMI 5 (persons may lose balance, significant building damage) – BUT – it was only a transient, not continuous, not repeated many times and not resonant – so no observable damage likely. Also note, our measurements are NOT accurate, NOT ground displacement figures and NOT directly relatable to MMI values. MMI itself is a scale more usually associated with earthquake events (running from 1 – no effects, to 12 – total destruction). We only use these results as rough indicators.

Transient excusrion captured 19th November, ca 5pm, around + 50 milliGal and – 80 milliGal

Pile driving vibrations and resulting damage to nearby structures is a long investigated subject and surprisingly complex (Some accessible texts are – http://onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs/hrr/1967/155/155-002.pdf https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:610771/FULLTEXT02.pdf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pile_driver )

Update: 22nd November

We shall not bore you with another series of vibration graphs – just some typical data as the crew near completion of the piling stage (about 12 metres distant).

About +40 and -30 mGals.
Note the sound spectrum is very wide, reflections and reverberations spreading the spectrum

As with the vibration graphs, the sound level graphs are NOT accurate and depend significantly on factors such as microphone quality, sampling rate and software rendering. As a very rough guideline, the sound and vibrations are disturbingly loud indoors and sufficient to dislodge some items from shelves, rattle toilet seats, windows, doors, floorboards and plumbing against fixings. However, we see no significant damage yet.

Room scenter damaged shaken off table

Esplanade lighting scheme – November 2019

Nearly 2 years ago, meetings were held to develop and consult on a new Esplanade lighting scheme, to be designed by consultants Tonkin Liu. From about 13 candidate proposals, the plan devolved to a system of pc-controlled LED strips, mounted in highly corrosion-resistant aluminium alloy fixing shrouds, vertically on street furniture (principally streetlamps).

Originally, it was hoped there would be up to 80 lighting strips installed but the finished project has only 28(?) The new Weymouth Town Council has been charged with operating and maintaining the system following by “gifting” from the merged Dorset County Council (after they subsumed most of the Town’s assets).

Although the new lighting is less bright than neon displays, streetlamps and vehicle headlights, they make a gentle backdrop in the dark and a few more would have highlighted the sweep of the Beach as the old fairy lights did. On the other hand, the reduced numbers has probably diminsihed the perceived impact – contrast the brilliant displays illuminating the Pavilion Theatre.

The old fairy lights, from about 10 years ago.

Weymouth Harbour wall repairs

Brief notes at 6-week stage (16th November 2019)

After 6 weeks and despite many signs stating the road is closed, we still get up to 1000’s of pedestrians and drivers who refuse to believe the road is actually closed!

Initial survey

Before commencing the Harbour Wall repairs, it was necessary to establish the existing condition – of the wall and nearbyconstructions and busines premises. There was a preliminary survey in several phases. This was carried out prior to work commencing (30th September) with a main aim of checking external condition of nearby buildings. This would enable any damage caused by pile-driving and related operations to be determined

There was then an internal survey using old-fashioned methods (camera and clipboard). (peter.christie@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk).

Demolishimg the old kiosk building @ Ferry Steps

The next phase of Harbour Wall repairs was to demolish the old storage and sales kiosk, built above the waling beam next to the Ferry Steps. Initially, the building was shrouded in temporary sheeting, checking for and removing any potentially hazardous materials. Then the “JCB” moved in a flattened the site in short order.

Further work includes replacing parts of the existing waling beam (anchoring structure for the tie-rods holding existing and new sheet piles in place – the tie rods are alleged to extend some 23 metres underneath the adjacent buildings).

Pile Driving operations

The main work involved pile-driving new sheet piles about 0.5m from the existing wall surface profile, about 18m into the subsoil. Originally, it was suggested a 4.5 Tonne hammer would be used to start the piles into position, followed by a more substantial (45 tonne?) ship-mounted hammer to drive the piles fully home. We have no specific information (as public) but we think the current hammer is a half-tonne hydraulic type – the noise is quite substantial and vibrations presently lie around 20 – 50 milliGals.

The piles will be cut as needed for drainage and tie-rod fixings. The gap will be back-filled with reinforced concrete, with ancillary works to fix in new sections of waling beam. The whole project is being (part?) funded from a £1.9 million Coastal Regeneration Scheme opening the way for the Harbourside Redevelopment Scheme(ca £3.3million?). When the repairs are completed, there are plans for new Harbourmaster and fishing buildings plus a scenic walkway around the Peninsula perimeter. Any flood defences would be funded from a different scheme.

Vibrations

Discussions of vibrations arising from pile driving and consequent effects on nearby structures tend to get a bit complex. In very general terms, ground displacements of 2mm/sec or more poses some risk of minor damage to older buildings (such as Listed Grade 2 Aaran House), while displacements above about 5mm/sec may cause significant damage. Hammer weights about 0.5 Tonne and frequencies about 1/sec tend to fall into the range of MMI (Modified Mercalli Index) 3 (noticeable but very little damage) while “heavier” impacts and higher frequencies can push perceived effects up to MMI 4 (minor damage) or even MMI 5 (significant damage, difficulty maintaining balance). The Council advised us to close for the duration and we took their advice.

Above, we see a few graphs of accelerometer readings vs time, during the early weeks of pile driving. Note the acceleraometer was not too accurate or sensitive and the sampling rate was low – which may cause some peaks to be “missed”. Using the archaic non-SI unit, the Gal, we can see background levels around 2 milliGal, rising to around 50 milliGal, as the operations got nearer. There is no easy relationship between Gals and mm/sec ground displacements but the MMI scale would suggest 30 to 50 milliGal = MMI 3, roughly. We have observed only slight plaster cracking and a little dust fall.

Closure of Esplanade to Custom House Quay road and pavement junction

Meantime, up to 2,000 pedestrians per day and 100’s of motorists are “visiting” the site, at least as far as the road closure next to The Roundhouse b&b. It is quite amusing to see all those stern faces crumple into astonishment when they find out a half-dozen “road closed” and “diversion” signs were not just dumped for fun and the road into Custom House Quay really is closed (6 weeks till now: another 6 weeks to go approximately).

The Council (DCC, formerly WPBC) have advised the nearest properties to close during the period of works, for safety, noise and disruption reasons. Hence, we are closed (since 1st October) till the Christmas period (scheduled completion 23rd December). We are hoping for compensation due to business interruption.

Reopening in 2020 – early in January

We apologise for any inconvenience to guests who would have wished to book our guesthouse this autumn, but the works were essential and closure was unavoidable. It was only a few years ago a section next to Condor Ferry Berth collapsed. Allegedly that was in relatively sound condition compared to the current repair section. Of course, public safety is paramount and works have continued as rapidly as feasible. We thank all our guests for visiting us in the past and we hope to see you all again next year. Happy Holidays!

(See mid-stage update)

Port en Bessin

From the Series: Ferry Trips to France

Port en Bessin Huppain is a commune ofthe Port on the Bessin River adjoined to the small town of Huppain in the Cotentin sub-department (West of Manche) on the Cherbourg Peninsula. We drove out from Bayeux, not so long ago, to tour Normandy Beaches (ibidem) but found many shops and restaurants closed due to being a Sunday. Whereupon, we stumbled acorss the very large and bustling market in Huppain, strung along the Portside. The Harbour was very reminiscent of Weymouth Harbour.

There were a number of cafes, bars and shops, some selling “Fine Old Calvados” (for some very fine old prices, but worth it!) A glass engraver asked my Wife’s name and decoratively engraved it on a small tumbler, free in just a few seconds. “Le moins prix du Monde”. We hope to go back soon to commission a larger work. (About 30 minutes from Bayeux).

Mayenne

From the Series: Ferry Trips to France

Mayenne is a curiosity of France – both a town, a river which runs through it and the Department created on March 4 1790 by the French Revolution,. Mayenne lies in Haute Normandy, surrounded by gently rolling farming countryside, charming towns and historic ruins. The area, Pays de la Loire is acknowledged as one of the prettiest regions of France, well worth the 2 to 3 hour drive from Cherbourg (possibly better to stay overnight in one of the lovely gites or b&b’s to be found locally).

Famously, Chateau de la Motte Husson is not far away (featured on Channel Four TV) – about 6km to the South. In Mayenne itself, there is a 10th century Chateau fortified in the 13th century, which is probably best viewed across the River from the riverside carpark on the East side), a Basilica de NotreDame built in 100 and the Romanesque Eglise de Saint Martin.

When we travelled there quite some time ago, we enjoyed the cafe scene in the little square above the town (photos below) and sought directions to the hamlet of Ger from the proprietrix. Within minutes, 5 ladies were all helping us and that is a measure of how wonderfully friendly and helpful the people of Normandy are in general.

Laval

From the Series: Ferry Trips to France

Laval is about 1 hour’s drive South of Saint-Lo, equidistant from Rennes and Le Mans (2 great towns for exploring and shopping). It is the administrative capital of the Mayenne Department (Mayenne is about 20km North). The City is surrounded by industrialisation but at its heart is a fine, imposing centre of grand proportions, set off by the beautiful Mayenne River. The central streets are narrow but easily navigated to find a fairly large and rather attractive tree-lined car park next to the main bridge. Here, one can relax in cafes, overlooking the river or browse main shops, including a diversity of bookshops up the hill. Every 30 minutes, fountains jet from the River near the bridge and, for the more energetic, it is said to be a continuous, gorgeous riverside walk all the way to Mayenne.

Isigny sur Mer

From the Series: Ferry Trips to France

Isigny is a short drive further along the N13 from the turn for Grandcamp Maisy. Isigny is a small town, in commune with 62 neighbouring villages, named after the D’Isigny family, who served with William the Conqueror (links to Walt Disney, also!) Just along from the port, there is access to the Western end of Omaha Beach. Isigny is a local centre for dairy products (AOC) and the cheeses are simply superb! We can recommend the fish soup in the Harbour Cafe as well.

Grandcamp Maisy

From the Series: Ferry Trips to France

Grandcamp Maisy is a good site to start your tour of the Normandy Beaches, with Omaha, Gold and Juno close by: Utah just a short drive West across the Cotentin, Isigny sur Mer a few km West and Point du Hoc a few km East. There was a huge German battery sited there in the Second World War and a small museum display remains. Beyond, on the outskirts, is a large area of the former German emplacements, which has not really been explored or developed by historians.

Down on the Beach (Omaha?) there are WWII truck tours, which start from around Euro 80 all the way up to about Euro 750, for the Airborne Division Tours (presumably much more than just a truck tour?)