Saturday, 20 June 2020

The Bullshole

The Bullshole is an area in Cholsey that is situated between the Main Great Western rail line and the old single track railway to Wallingford. It was a place where countless children spent their childhood paddling and looking for sticklebacks in the stream that ran through it. Many happy summers were spent there buy myself and others like me. Now it is a shadow of it's former self. I have visited it many times over the years but I feel I should write a blog on my memories of it.

This is Sandy Lane in Cholsey, the estate was built back in the 1960's on a field that used to grow crops. The Lane is named after the footpath that went across the field coming out on West End a road that ran around the outside which gave access to a houses along there.

On the other side of the path you saw a footpath that continued on it has changed little over the years. In my younger days this was more a muddy track in the winter with dogs mess to dodge. Now it is a little better though you still get the odd mess that dogs leave and people who thing it is beneath then cannot be bothered picking up

 The two photos show the path the one on the left is by a drainage ditch the right is looking back to the entrance from that spot. The drainage ditch was always full of water and reeds when I was a kid. The sides were slippery and if you were not careful you would end up the the ditch. Years ago the repaired the sides using concrete filled sacks which you can still see but over the years the ditch has filled with silt and leaves which filled it up and now there is hardly ever any water in it. 

At the end of the path you turn left 

You will find the brook running by the path. Looking right which is downstream you can see a muddy section to the left that is where the stream that came form the bullshole joined. Looking left you can see a culvert in the distance.
The culvert is under the tunnel that runs under the old bunk line (local name for the railway) to Wallingford to the right you can see a wooden footbridge. This is something which was built in the in recent times because when I was a kid it did not exist, the only way to get to the island as we called it was to scramble yo the embankment wall and jump the fence at the bottom. It was an overgrown area of shrubs and stinging nettles.

Now you just walk across the bridge and look down at the brook, The sides were concreted back in the 1960's and form a channel that the brook runs though, before the bridge was built we just jumped over the channel
Looking downstream you can see the bank has nee eroded away more my kids working their way along, it never was like that when it was first repaired.
 Walk on a little further through the woods and you come to another footbridge

This crosses the dried up stream bed that comes out of another culvert that is under the Bunk Line. The stream bed is overgrown with weeds saplings and debris from fallen leaves and branches. On the other side of the bridge is Millennium Woods that is at the South end of Jubilee Meadow. When I as a kit the woods were not there and the meadow was full of cattle grazing.

Walk under the bridge and you come to railings that stop you walking in to the brook. You can go either way, the right will take yo on a footpath that goes past the Bullshole and onto St Mary's Church
Left will take you beside the brook and to a long tunnel under the Main Railway

Looking down at the brook the only thing that has changed is it has become overgrown. The little cut to the right is an old concrete slipway that was built for cattle to go don to the brook and brink. It has become very overgrown and covered in soil. As a kid I remember it just been a trampled down back where the cattle walked down to drink in the brook.

Before we go in the Bullshole I will take you on the left hand footpath to show what you can see. The first think you notice is the wooded area on the left. This used to be just a grass triangle between the Main and Bunk lines, over the years it has become over grown and the footpath widened. It was quite muddy back in my time and a haven for wildlife where you could see lizards and grass snakes

At the end you come to the long tunnel under the main railway. By the tunnel to the right you might see it is overgrown and notice an old gate. This used to allow them to herd the cattle out of and through the long tunnel to fields on the other side. The tunnel floor is uneven and is formed from years a build up of mud an cattle dung that had dried. IT my time you had to dodge the cow pates in the mud. The cows hooves are the reason the floor is so uneven after all these years
This is where you come out at another barrier and again you can go one of two ways.

Go left and you will cross this field to a bridge that goes over the brook and on across another field where you come to a track. You can go across the track and on to Lollingdon or turn left and head back to the village via West end

Go right and you will follow a footpath that takes you to the Lees and if you want to St Marys Church and the village or onto Aston Tirrold.
I remember cattle in both these fields in the past now they grow crops in the on her on the right.

Going back to the junction to the Bullshole and take the right path where you come out here. In the past there was a kissing gate you went through but now it has gone
The meadow beyond is now over grown with grass the trees you see in the near distance were not there when I was young maybe the odd small shrub but all  this was short cropped grass and if you were lucky the cows were on the other side of the field
 The footpath will cross this bridge that need some repair on the other side you will now find a fence and gate to go through before taking the footpath to the church

Over to the left you can find an opening where you can access the Bullshole pool. as you can see it is full of debris and has no water willows grow on one side
The bed was muddy but you could walk along it where you could see old dead leaves and branches from the willow. As a child this was always full or water which was quiet deep at lead for a kid it was coming over your wellies or up to you knees. I wondered why it got like this
 Part of the reason is this, the exit form the culvert is blocked with debris and stones that come off the rail embankment partly through erosion and part through kids scrambling up. I wonder that Network rail have not fenced it off to stop trespass like other places.
 I looked back up the pool and went back home wondering if I would ever see the stream flow back through here again.
Before I go I will show you where the stream came from. Believe it or not it runs along over by the left where the fence is and turns right by the row of trees you see in the distance. The stream then joins back up with the brook over to the left about half a mile away. The stream bed is mostly blocked up over the years and if it was to flow again would need the land owner to help clear the debris from the stream and network rail to clear the section at the bottom of the embankment before you started on the Bullshole itself. Water does flow in times when the brook floods after winter rains but not for long. I'd like to think it will happen but I will not hole my breath.
 The Map below shows where I have taken you and I have marked the footpaths in charcoal. the red lines show the culverts under the railway North is at the top in the two maps I show
This second map is from the Ordnance Survey maps of the area in question. The Church can just be seen in the top Right had corner
Thanks for reading

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Didcot Power Station

They began building Didcot Power Station in 1964, I remember seeing the pylons being constructed either side of the Road as I went to school on the bus to Reading. In the distance from our village you could see the building being constructed. The one thing people from the area will remember is the fact you could see the stack for miles around, a sure sign that you were not far from home if you were travelling from your holiday  
The photo above from 1966 looks like it is taken of the place where the South Towers are going and built on where the old POW camp was from the Second World War

This photo was sourced of the internet and shows the cooling towers being built.
They could be the North towers

The towers in 1968 with the stack over on the right, one of the things I remember as a kid seeing built.
 A year later the Turbine Hall was well on the way to being built
A year Later it looked like this
 The turbine hall in 2013 just before it closed. This is how I remember seeing it around 1972 when I went on an open day to look around. One thing I remember is going past the Milling Machines that ground up the coal to dust so it could be injected in the boiler. We were told the sprinkler system that was they to extinguish fires would drown you if you were unfortunate to got caught in it. 
Photo taken by Martyn James Bull
When I left school the option for an apprenticeship at Didcot Power station   was not on the cards but when I finished it was one of the places I could have gone to work, in fact years later I did go for a job there but noting came of it, too many people after the same job.
Over the years I took many photos of the power station though none from the time it was being build during the 20th  century.
You passed by it on the way to Bristol and it looked powerful with all the steam coming off the cooling towers.

The power station from Upton in December 2008 during the winter

On the way down Hagbourn Hill by the junction with Upton road you could not help see the it in the distance across the plain.

 The power lines as you passed them on the way from Appleford to Sutton Cortenay November 2011

A different view from opposite on Haddon Hill in October 2010  
Nearby on Great Western Park the the cooling towers and stack look enormous in November 2011

You got a good view from a local landmark Wittenham Clumps in 2013. when this photo was taken it had been closed for three months

A year later the first three cooling towers were due to be demolished, this would be the last photo of them from Hagbourn Hill

I went around to the power station to get one last look at the huge towers, the next tome I came here they would be gone

A week or so before the even I went to the top of Cholsey Hill to get a photo of the power station with the sun going down.
It would be one of the last sunsets it would see

A few days before the demolition I took a last photo of the towers in the sunset

Two days later the cooling towers were coming down, the time we were told was about sons and I arrives around two where I took this photo. The police had told people to stay away but but I do not think that the hundreds of People who had come along to watch where I was along the London Road outside Harwell were concerned at what they said nor the people on the hillside behind

3am came and still no news even though people with phone were constantly updated everyone else

The just before 4 am  we noticed one of the towers move, the glow you see is the explosion. The other two towers quickly followed the first

in the space of less than a minute they were all collapsing 
 and by the end of the minute all three were just dust rising in the air.
 A few hours later I went back to the same place and took this shot of the stack & boiler house

I even went down to the site and took a photo through the fence
All that remained was rubble of the towers that had been there.
That was it the view had change a little for the first time in over forty years, noting changed with the scene for a few years then a tragedy happened at 16:00 hours on the 23rd part of the boiler house which was being demolished collapsed killing three contractors who were inside

I remember seeing the place like the photo above on my way to work in the morning,  going home that day and seeing part was missing and thought I did not think they were demolishing part today. It was not till I saw the news that I found out what happened
You can see part of the collapsed building poking out beside the stack

A couple of weeks later T took this from a path outside Appleford, the damage was clear to see
  Under all this steelwork lay the bodies of the men who had been trapped in the collapse, Five months later in July the brought the rest down by explosive, I  saw the dust as it came down while we were diving home from Henley on Gangsdown hill. The relatives had wanted the bodies retrieved but the contractors could not justify placing more men in danger. The end of August the found the first body, the second a eight days later in September, the third was found a week later. Each time the person was taken away form the site a guard of honour stood in science as they went by.
In August 2019 the reaming three towers were due to be demolished.

I took one last shot of the towers a couple of evenings before

The morning of the demolition the sun was just rising when I got there
 It shone on the towers one last time

at one minute  past five the first tower started to move followed quickly by the second and the third started to lean
 On the way down the first and second could be seen distorting as they fell
 The third looked to come straight down while dust came out the middle of the others
 As the third neared the ground dust was rising from the others
 Then all that was left was rising dust, the landscape changed again
 Across on Wittenham clumps you could see the crowd watching there
The sun came out and shone on the graves  of the towers while the last of the dust settled
 All that was left was the stack.
In February 2020 we had gales with some really strong winds, the stack was due to come down and I thought it would be cancelled but at 7:30 in the morning it was bought down. I did not go to watch I felt it was too dangerous in the high winds as it was later in the day I was nearly blown over getting this photo.

Days later I went back for another photo and this time it was not so windy

 The Stack had once stood a little to the left of the stack you see the old  cooling towers right & left with the boiler house just to the right of the stack. One of the tallest landmarks in the UK was gone what is there now is not noticed. What will become of the land where the old power station once stood no doubt will become a housing estate with I hope a memorial to the poor souls who lost their lives while demolishing the building.

A last look at the power station from Cholsey Hill

From Hagbourne Hill to where the Power Station once stood