Earliest snowdrops ever

One of the first signs of spring is snowdrops (Galanthus).

They make your ‘umble scribes spirits lift knowing that winter will be banished in the not too distant future and spring is waiting in the wings.

snowdrops photographed this morning on All Hallows Road in Easton

Above is a picture of snowdrops taken this morning on All Hallows Road in Easton.

The last time this blog had a specific post on snowdrops, it was dated late January, so these are the earliest flowering snowdrops your correspondent has ever encountered in Bristol.

Given this early appearance of snowdrops, how long will it be before the next signs of spring – such as hazel catkins opening or flowering croci – occur?

Going, going,…

Last week’s post on east Bristol’s Wain Brook (posts passim) attracted considerable interest on social media amongst local residents with a love of local history and maps.

These interested parties included a member of the original team that put together the online Know Your Place mapping project, who commented further that he’s currently working on a flood mapping project that will include a number of Bristol’s hidden watercourses.

Yesterday another peek over the bridge parapet at Lawrence Hill revealed that there’s now less of the Wain Brook to be seen as the works progress: it can still be seen flowing left to right in the masonry inspection chamber.

However, this hidden watercourse will soon disappear once more beneath the trackbed: and who knows how long will pass before it once more sees the light of day.

Metal plates cover the top of the Wain Brook culvert

Metal plates cover the top of the Wain Brook culvert

Only in the USA?

What is the hapless US customs officer featured below going to do when he finds out there’s a Paris in France as well as Texas, an Athens in Greece as well as Georgia and Boston is named after a market town in Lincolnshire in the UK?

tweet detailing conversation with US customs officer who confuses Bayreuth Germany with Beirut Lebanon

No further comment needed. 😀

A rare sight

Works – the so-called “FourTracking – have been underway for some time on the railway line through east Bristol up Filton Bank between Bristol Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood stations.

The “FourTracking” entails increasing the capacity up Filton Bank by replacing the two sets of tracks that were removed between some 35 and 40 years ago. The route up Filton Bank is used by mainline services to both South Wales and the Midlands, as well as by local rail services.

On the section of Filton Bank between Dr Day’s Junction and Stapleton Road station, the majority of the current work entails clearing away 3 decades of detritus and refurbishing the infrastructure, including the original drains in the cutting. At Lawrence Hill station, this has included refurbishing a culvert, as I found out looking over the railway bridge the other day.

culvert works at Lawrence Hill railway station

A small culvert being refurbished right next to Lawrence Hill railway bridge. What hidden waters does it contain?

I was intrigued by the slight curvature of the culvert as drains are normally straight. What could this be?

To find the answer your ‘umble scribe had to search maps dating back to the late 19th century. These are available through Bristol City Council’s Know Your Place website.

No clues were forthcoming from the 20th century maps and other resources available. However, the 1880 Ordnance Survey mapping for Lawrence Hill revealed what the culvert actually was. It carries the Wain Brook – one of Bristol’s hidden watercourses – under the railway.

If you examine the image below, it will be noted that Lawrence Hill railway bridge lies between the two sections of the Wain Brook then running above ground – one to the right of the bridge past the “Wainbrook Works” and the other section to the left past open ground (now a park).

1880 Ordnance Survey map of Lawrence Hill showing the Wain Brook

Very little information is available online about the Wain Brook itself. Judging from the map evidence its source seems to be in the region of Plummers Hill in St George and in times gone by it flowed across the fields that were to become St George Park. After the park’s creation, the Wain Brook was used to feed its ornamental lake.

From can be surmised from the sparse clues available, from Lawrence Hill the Wain Brook – still in culvert – flows down Lincoln Street (site of the Wain Brook Elderly Persons Home. Ed.), past Gaunt’s Ham Park and through St Philips and the Dings (where some 200 years ago it flowed through withy beds) to empty into the River Avon at a point near Bristol Temple Meads station.

The Church Crawler web page for St Luke’s Church in Barton Hill contains the following reference to the Wain Brook.

In the early 1800s Barton Hill was described as a small rural hamlet comprising mainly of wheat fields and orchards with a stream, The Wain Brook, running through and dominated by two large houses namely, Tilley’s Court and Royal Table House.

The earliest historical reference to the Wain Brook that my research has turned up dates back to the 13th century, when in the manor of Barton Regis (present-day Barton Hill) there was a meadow belonging to St Mark’s Hospital called ‘Wainbroke’ (after the Wain Brook) that extended between the ‘meadow of the hospital of St Lawrence of Bristol and the meadow formerly of Richard de Pisa’.

The hospital of St Lawrence of Bristol was Bristol’s medieval leper colony (St Lawrence was the patron saint of lepers and leper colonies were always established beyond the built-up areas of medieval towns and cities. Ed.), which was founded by King John in 1208 when he was Earl of Mortain. The hospital’s establishment gave its name to the whole area. Lawrence Hill roundabout now occupies the vicinity of the site where the hospital is thought to have stood.

If readers have further information to add about the Wain Brook, please feel free to comment below.

Hold the front page!

The print edition of Scotland’s The National newspaper has an interesting take on the latest Brexit shambles, a comedy of epic proportions if only it were no so tragic.

on blank page paper has headline stating UK finally releases details of secret Brexit impact reports

No further comment required.

Readers may like to leave their comments below on the likely impact of Brexit. 😀

Modern oxymoron in East Bristol

Spotted on Devon House in Whitehall Road, Bristol, this morning.

Sign in photo reads Supported Independence, Devon House

This fine old building, which has a Georgian core, is currently being refurbished for some sort of supported or sheltered housing scheme.

However, whoever thought up the “Supported Independence” text on the sign doesn’t really understand English and probably couldn’t even begin to say what constitutes an oxymoron, i.e. an epigrammatic effect, by which contradictory terms are used in conjunction. .

Dictionary.com defines independence as follows (NB: emphasis added):

1. Also, independency. the state or quality of being independent.

2. freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.

I rest my case.

Another Google Translate classic?

agua sin gas, still water, encore de l'eau, immer noch wasser

No further comment is necessary.

No Welsh please, we’re Great Western Railway

Earlier this week Wales Online reported that train company Great Western Railway will not have Welsh language announcements or signs on its new class 800 fleet that will be providing services on the Great Western route from South Wales to London Paddington.

800 Class locomotive in GWR livery

Class 800 locomotive in GWR livery. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The lack of Welsh language announcements or signs on board was first spotted by Cardiff City Labour councillor and Welsh learner Phil Bale, who raised the matter with Great Western Railway via social media.

GWR responded to Cllr. Bale as follows:

I’m afraid we have no plans to have bilingual signage and on-board announcements on these services.

Diolch yn fawr, GWR!

The decision was justified by GWR remarking that the trains serve both England and Wales they aren’t a dedicated South Wales Fleet. However, as a patronising nod in the direction of Wales having a distinct language, GWR did point out that it had leaflets available in Welsh, but passengers would have to ask for them first (presumably in English. Ed.).

In response to GWR’s monoglot policy, Councillor Bales remarked: “For me it shows that Great Western are stuck in the dark ages. We have a Welsh Government target of one million Welsh speakers and there are international transport operators who manage to provide their services in different languages all across Europe.”

As the trains do serve both countries, one would have thought that providing bilingual announcements and signs would have been a common courtesy to those who speak Welsh; and as for Councillor Bales’ remark about running services in other countries, your correspondent doesn’t believe the travelling public overseas would tolerate the incompetence and sheer bloody-mindedness of GWR.

GWR’s attitude contrasts sharply with that of fellow train company, Arriva Trains Wales, which also runs services between Wales and England (e.g. from Cardiff Central to Manchester Piccadilly. Ed.). Arriva provides both signs and announcements in both Welsh and English, as well as bilingual ticket machines and timetables, even at English stations.

Plaid Cymru described GWR’s attitude as “disrespectful“, whilst a Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society) spokesman said: “Ensuring bilingual signage and announcements on trains in Wales is a matter of basic respect for the Welsh language – there is no excuse not to. The fact GWR have said they don’t intend even to ensure these simple things, and that they’ve missed easy opportunities to do so, shows that they are not a suitable organisation to provide a train service in Wales.

“The Welsh Government should publish strong language standards in the transport sector so that the Welsh Language Commissioner can force companies like GWR to respect the language.”

According to the South Wales Argus, a Welsh Language Commission spokesman said: “Great Western’s alleged lack of investment in the Welsh language is a cause for concern.

“In 2016 the Commissioner submitted a report to the Welsh Government recommending that Welsh language standards should be placed on train companies. The Commissioner continues to work with train companies and others to develop the use of the Welsh language on a voluntary basis, and discusses public concerns with them.”

Welsh paperwork rejected by bank in Wales

Santander logoYesterday’s Wales Online reports that Santander refused to deal with paperwork submitted by a customer… because it was written in Welsh.

This is in spite of the fact that the bank has a clearly stated Welsh language policy which states:

We want all of our Welsh speaking customers to feel comfortable using Welsh language in their day to day banking with us and we encourage its use wherever possible. It’s why we support a number of Welsh language initiatives, allowing customers to use Welsh language in conversations with our Welsh speaking colleagues in branch, on our cash machines in Wales and when writing to us.

This policy was clearly not known to some manager somewhere in England as the bank declined to process membership forms after they were handed in at the bank’s branch in Aberystwyth.

After their submission in Aberystwyth, the paperwork clearly landed on the desk of a bank official who clearly didn’t speak the language of Hywel Dda, as the forms were subsequently returned to the branch in question with a note which stated: “Please return these documents to your account holder. Unfortunately Santander can only accept these documents written in English.”

Unfortunately, the paperwork in question was submitted to Santander’s Aberystwyth branch by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (aka the Welsh Language Society).

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg’s rights spokesperson Manon Elin, commented as follows:

This is another example of a private company refusing to provide a Welsh language service because they’re not required to do so, and that’s completely unacceptable. We must have a language law which ensures that banks have to respect basic rights to use the Welsh language. Unfortunately, the Welsh Government’s plans for new legislation make it less likely that banks will have to comply.

The vast majority of people have to bank, but there is no means of banking online in Welsh, and we have to fight for other basic services in Welsh.

The society has also raised the matter with Minister Government Alun Davies challenging him to change the bank’s policy. In a recent white paper, the Minister refused to commit to extending Welsh language rights to the banking sector because of the ‘present economic certainty‘.

In response to this incident, the bank has commented as follows:

Santander accepts documentation that we receive in Welsh in line with our Welsh language policy.

We understand our customers who live in Wales may have various documentation and forms that will be written in Welsh.

If our policy has not been followed then we apologise for any unintentional upset this matter may have caused. The matter will be reviewed to ensure this does not happen again.

For your ‘umble scribe the final sentence from Santander can be translated into plain English as: “Oops! We’ve been caught out!” 🙂

Mixed messages

In addition to being a chore, there’s now more than a hint of ambiguity in grocery shopping.

Take this sign in Tesco outlets.

Is it a threat or a promise? You decide. 😉

sign in photo reads you're next

Hat tip: @soapachu.

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