The Vault Regulars

Monday, August 21, 2023

Simulator adventures, a flight to fantasy.

Simulator Adventures 18th August 2023

It was my 70th birthday and Sheila said today was going to be a surprise day. I was intrigued and I had no idea of what or where I was driving to. We arrived at the Holiday Inn and parked up, I didn't get out of the car as Sheila went into the hotel and sorted out the parking ticket.

She came back to the car and gave me a small wrapped present. Upon opening it my first reaction on seeing the smart box and the wings logo was is this something from Breitling company.

I opened the box. It was a flight ticket. More intriguing. The ticket was for a flight Bergen to Oslo in an Airbus A320. I still hadn't clicked as the ticket was so real. How are we getting to Bergen I asked?

Just a short walk from here Sheila replied with a smile.

We arrived at a flight simulation unit within a few minutes walk. 

We met Alan and Stuart, both ex pilots and their 2 dogs, a beautiful lurcher and border terrier.

The office is just like being in first class on a plane with genuine aircraft seating. Much comfier than what I am used to travelling cattle class. Even free chilled drinks.

We had a chat about what to expect and the route. You can pick your route or have a route suggested. It all depends on the software availability. 

Prior to our flight, I as the captain and Sheila as the passenger received our instructions ie fuel requirements, weights, centre of gravity etc. Also we had our route charts and beacons, runway and weather. All exactly as would be given to real captains.

I got into the pilots seat, which costs a wapping £125,000 and adjusted the height. My instructor walked me through the pre flight check list. Then explained what all the instruments and switches did. A little daunting at first sight but splitting all the lights and switch banks into groups makes life just a bit easier.

Then we were ready for take off. 

Here are 2 short videos. The first one is preparing to take off and the second is the take off.

 The video doesn't pick up the small steering wheel for the nose wheel or the fly by wire joystick in my left hand.

During the flight which lasted one and a half hours, there was lots of questions and answers but unfortunately no drinks trolley or inflight food. The scenery was spectacular and we checked the weather at Oslo airport as we went.

The instructor gave me a couple of emergency problems to resolve which was 'wheels would not lower' and a plane was coming at us on the same trajectory and the same height. I won't say here how the problems were resolved as it would spoil anyones visit. But as we are still alive all went well.

There is plenty to do and checks to be made and the time passed so quickly. Then there was the small job of landing. Everything is the same as a std commercial airliner so I felt a bit nervous about doing it but the instructor gives you confidence and guides you through it.

Here is the video of my landing.

Having done the flight I have to say what a fantastic experience I had. It was never on my thoughts to have a go at doing this, I never suggested at any time in the past that I wouldn't mind doing it. So how Sheila came up with this is still a mystery.
The guys at Simulator Adventures in Salford are fantastic and they do flights in other aircraft so check out their website if this post has taken a grip on your imagination. I have kept this post brief so that I don't spoil the adventure for others but I assure you that you will not regret giving it a go.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Onto Nob End! 10th August 2023.

 No I'm not writing a rude post, it just happens to be the name of an area in the Bolton suburbs. 

I believe the name is ancient and came about from the shape of the land. Someone had a strange imagination.

Nob End from the air.

The area is surrounded by water, the River Irwell, The Croal and the Manchester Bury Bolton canal. 

The area is still derelict today although it has been a SSSI since 1988. I will explain more later in the post.

Our route today started in Little Lever at a tiny car park adjacent to the Manchester, Bury Bolton Canal. (In short the MBBC). SD76319 06762.

Across the old colliery bridge and we were on the tow path. The MBBC is no longer in use and much of the canal is being reclaimed by nature or worse still, some parts have been filled in.

Our first section was in water although full of weed and algae.

The image has not been enhanced and the camera was not set on vivid. This is how it looked.

The MBBC was built in 1797 from Bolton and Bury to Oldfield Rd in Salford and then it progressed to join the River Irwell just outside of Manchester in 1808. One of the local landowners Matthew Fletcher who was a mining engineer and a coal mine owner was the technical advisor and the bill received the Royal assent in 1791. He was also involved in the Wet Earth Colliery which was the first deep colliery in the Irwell Valley. The name "Fletcher" may ring a bell to some people as this is the name of the short canal adjacent to the MBBC at Clifton.

Back to the towpath, we spotted our first glimpse of the River Irwell, far below the escarpment and through the trees, the water sparkling in the sunshine. 

Finding one of the original canal steam cranes was a great surprise for us. This crane is the symbol used by the canal restoration society and can be seen on numerous badges along the canal route. It is located at Mount Sion. This crane is in surprisingly good condition except for its boiler. The mechanical parts look like they would work with a bit of servicing. It was made in Leeds by J. Smith and sons. It sports the serial number 3184. The crane was used to unload mainly coal which came from Ladyshore colliery and drop them down 20ft to the Mount Sion Bleach works which today makes paper. 

1850 Thomas Smith of Rodley West Yorkshire steam crane. (Not Jones as some web sites suggest.)

 An unusual feature for any canal came into view, a green lake. This feeds the canal but I am told by a local boatman that the lake is not navigable. The lake is not named on the OS map but I'm sure locals will have one for it. It is fed from numerous springs found on the far side. There are no sluice gates that we could see and both canal and lake appear to be on the same level.

Many dragon flies zoomed passed us but the water fowl were mainly Moorhen and Mallard. Once we reached the metropolis of Radcliffe the canal was left as we headed off through Beirut, sorry I meant the litter and junk strewn backstreets of Radcliffe towards Asda supermarket where we picked up the disused railway line heading for Ringley. Mike, who was our walk planner for the day decided that a meander was due, for those not used to our meanders, its means we are temporarily displaced.

After a few minutes we were back on track and stood on the Outwood Viaduct railway bridge which opened as a timber construction in 1846 and converted to cast iron in 1888. It closed in 1966 and has now been tastefully modernised for cycles and pedestrians, opening in 1999 and is Grade II listed.

The River Irwell from the viaduct.

The viaduct courtesy of Wikipedia.

The old railway line trail is now Outwood country park. Still in situ is Ringley Station which today is overgrown but just about recognisable as a platform. (below).

We joined the Irwell sculptor trail for a short distance until we came to the A667 where we had a bit of road walking to do. We continued to Cinder Hill where we joined the old road to Ringley which is a pleasant route through to the village. In one of the many fine houses we spotted a folly of a Norman clock tower or possibly the clock tower at Ringley church. Certainly well made.

Ringley is a nice spot to stop for lunch, which was our plan but we were a bit early for the pub opening. 

The bridge at Ringley has the honour of being the oldest bridge on this stretch of the Irwell. Again it is Grade II listed. It was built in 1677 in the reign of the Merry Monarch, Charles II.

After a brief stop at Ringley we walked the tow path of the MBBC again although now it has been filled in. It runs parallel to the Irwell for a little while before we get to Nob End and the Prestolee basin with its 2 sets of 3 locks which raised or lowered the boats 64ft, it's now derelict. This is the end of the Manchester section of the canal. After the locks the canal runs one way to Bolton and the other to Bury.

The remains of Ringley Lock and the canal in water to Prestolee

Standing on Prestolee viaduct we see the two bridges below us. The first one a concrete structure carries a sewage pipe. The second with the square stonework is a very old pack horse bridge and was once the only way across the river.

The two shots above show the basin. The top one with the iron girder bridge was a canal spur which led to a dry dock and where loading took place at a number of small coal pits, I think it was called Oakes canal. Today it's filled in. The bottom shot (centre) shows the entrance to the first lock. Now much overgrown.

We walked up the 64ft to the top lock to view the Meccano Bridge and the old pub aptly called The Nob Inn. (Well it had to be didn't it.) Today it is a cattery.

Where the canal splits. Under the Meccano Bridge the canal heads down the 6 locks to Manchester. Under the bridge to the right the canal goes to Bolton and behind the canal heads to Bury.
The Meccano Bridge with the Nob Inn Pub.

The tow path route back to our start point passed one of the nails in the canals coffin. On the 6th July 1936 a huge breach occurred draining the canal of all its water. Some old railway lines used to reinforce the bank can still be seen. It was considered too expensive to repair it at the time.

Thanks to David Dixon on Geography for the use of the breach photograph.

What happened at Nob End then?

** For many years the area surrounding Nob End was the site of many bleaching works and paper manufactures. Until the middle of the 18th century the bleaching process took several weeks to complete; the material had to be soaked several times in an acid of fermented sour milk, tentered on hooks to absorb sunshine and dew, boiled in alkali made from plant ashes. It could take months to bleach cotton and linen as it was so dependent on the weather and the supply of milk. Sulphuric acid became much in demand by the bleaching trade as a substitute for sour milk which had been the only acid liquor or ‘sour’ available. It was also essential in the manufacture of chemical bleaches once chlorine had been discovered. The dying industry needed it to render indigo soluble and in the preparation of mordents and the calico printing industry for producing citric acid and as a sour.

This former chemical works site, Initially producing sulphuric acid, later producing a range of chemicals including sodium carbonate.

Sodium carbonate or washing soda was being manufactured here in the 19th century by the Leblanc process, a process which produced vast quantities of alkali waste material.

By the end of the 19th century the works had been demolished, but the waste remained, slowly weathering to allow plant growth. In the 1950’s the site was found to contain a large population of plants normally only found on calcareous soils.

Today the site is a protected area containing no natural landforms, created by the dumping of this chemical waste.
Known locally as the ‘Vats’ or ‘Vat Wastes’.

One of only four known surviving Leblanc waste sites in the world, all within a few miles of this site. This 8.8ha site is the largest and most species rich. The plateau of the waste tip is approximately 10m above the level of the rivers and at this point most of this depth is comprised of alkali waste.

** Thanks to Phil Sharples for this information.

Our Route. Starting at the flag and walked in a clockwise direction.10.40km and 3,1/2hrs.

Monday, August 14, 2023

A visit to County Durham. 11th- 13th August 2023

 I have been here before but it was a matter of just passing through whilst on backpacking trips. It just happened to be raining today and it had also rained all night, so what is the best thing to see after heavy rain?,  a splendid waterfall.

It was a bit of a shock having to pay for parking and pay to see the falls as well, however I have to say that it wasn't a rip off. 

The falls were High Force at Middleton in Teesdale.

A good well maintained path leads down to the fall and today with all the rain we could hear it before it came into sight. Not many people were around as there would be if the weather had been fine. Wonder-fall.

We spent about 1/2 hour down at the fall and returned via a pleasant woodland walk spotting numerous wood carvings and fungi as we went. Unfortunately many fungi close to the path had been destroyed by someones boot but we looked off the path and found some surprises.

This was one of the biggest fungi I have seen. Probably about 10" across. (25.4cm)

Back at the car we joined the queue for ice cream. The car park was now quite busy. 
It was still raining and many folk including us sheltered under the adjacent trees enjoying our ices.

Decision time! What do we do in the rain? Go to the pub of course. So off we went. We ended up in the Copper Mine in Crook. A nice food pub with cask ales including a stout. It was busy, in fact very busy but the nice staff found us a table where we enjoyed the Consett beers and excellent grub.

After a very pleasant afternoon it was a quick trip back to our Air B and B for a wash and change of clothes before heading to the Kynren. What's a Kynren I can hear you say. Well it's a show played in the outdoors about the history of England and it is absolutely brilliant. I can only advise you to go and see it. But here below are a few photos of the event.

The show was first class as was the organisation from all the volunteers. From first arriving until getting back out of the venue car park it was perfect. The show itself lasts 90 minutes but there is plenty to do in the show ground itself prior to the doors opening.  Well worth a visit.

The following morning we headed off to see the Bishop. Well the Bishops castle to be precise. Having paid the tenner to go in and do the tour in my opinion it isn't a castle. It is closer to a Bishops Palace.
Once again the organisation and the volunteers were very very good.

I enjoyed the trip round the castle but I was a little disappointed that so much of it had been either modernised or hidden out of public view. I really wanted to see some original features and although much of the chapel woodwork is original you do have to search out the rest.

Back in Bishop Aukland town centre we had a quick trip up the tower which was good for 10 minutes and then a walk around the streets showed just how bad the effect of the economy is having with many shops and hostelries closed and boarded up. Such a shame for a lovely town centre.

We got back to the car just before this cloud decided to drop it's contents.

Well that was our short trip to County Durham. It was worth it as I can now understand every third word that the locals say. innitt. There is lots to do here and hopefully it won't be too long before we return.

Thanks County Durham.

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