Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sunday Ramble from a deranged shop assistant and pictures of Wingham and Sarre Mill

The weather was just too bad for a walk this morning so no pictures of that today, sorry about that and it’s a bigger sorry than one would expect. Looking at my web statistics during the first 5 days of this month over 21,000 of my pictures have been viewed, most of them from my morning walks over the last few days.

I don’t think this has anything much to do with the quality of the pictures, I would be the first to admit that most are no more than snaps, I think it is much more to do with the fact that so many people for one reason or another are not able to go for a walk in the morning.

The business with the various problems associated with the Pleasurama development has taken up a lot of time this week, time that I would far rather have devoted to various local history projects, but where issues of public safety are concerned other things have to go onto the back burner until they are resolved.

I am making some progress with issues related to the cliff façade in front of Wellington Crescent and above the building site and have reasonable hopes that soon something will be done to prevent heavy vehicles from going up there next to the edge of the cliff.

I usually publish the pictures I take in fairly small sizes so they load quickly 1,200 pixels wide being the norm, I use a computer program to resize the whole batch of pictures in one go, but the business of conveying the problems with the cliff façade to some civil engineers has required me to publish some of the pictures I took a couple of weeks ago, when I went and had a look at the problems there, in a larger size, 2,500 pixels wide.

For those of you that are interested there is one of the bulging bit at as well as considering the pressure of the weight of the chalk behind the bulge that caused the concrete filled blocks to crack down the middle, the other point of interest here is the amount the blockwork has bulged out relative to the pillar next to it.

With chalk cliffs in a natural state, falls are usually relatively minor, one of the problems associated with putting some sort of obstruction in front of them is that the pressure builds up until the obstruction fails and the fall is much larger.

The following links take you to some pictures of cliff falls that occurred in Ramsgate and illustrate what I mean.

Another problem is that the stronger material forming the façade is likely to be made of larger and heavier lumps that do more damage than chalk.

My assertion that there is something wrong with the foundations of the cliff façade seems to be being taken more seriously, this link takes you to the larger size pictures of the foundations, or at least where the foundations should be

I have put numbers under a few of them to make it easier to understand my explanation of what the pictures show the numbers correspond with the text below.

1 this is the bottom of a supporting pillar there is no 2 metre foundation and it is sitting directly on exposed chalk that is already weathering, as you can see from the cracks beneath the left side of the base of the pillar.

2 and 3 concrete has recently been applied at the point I first noticed the apparent absence of foundations in Jan 2008, it has been applied thinly directly to the topsoil and there is a gap at the top of it

4 I can only assume that the ends of the metal rods exposed here are the ends of the reinforcing rods within the supporting pillar above.

Back in 2007 when the first bit of the bottom of the cliff was dug out and it looked to me that the foundations just were not there, the council’s engineers assured me that there was no problem with the foundations, this is a quote from one of their emails.

“The foundations of the facade is on a mass concrete base some 2 metres thick and founded on what would appear to be good sound chalk. I shall be very surprised if there is any cause for concern.”

I suppose in retrospect I should have pursued the matter more vigorously, I think part of the problem there was it was difficult to gain access to the site and the other part of the problem was that I assumed that once I had pointed out the problem they would deal with it.

I am coming to the unhappy conclusion that the council’s engineers assumed that I was some sort on nutcase and just ignored what I said. It is not a pleasant sensation to realise that I had wasted so much time and effort on people who were just humouring me because they assumed I was deranged in some way and frankly it made me stop and wonder about the toys that could be lose in my attic.

You have to appreciate that on one side of the argument are a whole group of large and serious chaps in hard hats with letters after their names and on the other side of the argument there is only me, a shop assistant that may have been subjected to the wrong kind of potty training.

Back in the 1960s I worked in the physics departments of various universities, I won’t name and shame them by association, it is enough to say that at that time electronics was a new sport and there were not enough people who understood it, so they didn’t look too closely at one’s qualifications.

Something I noticed during that time was that some of the people who were very good at the theory, were not so good at the practical engineering side, in fact on some occasions people who had made considerable advances in various highly technical fields couldn’t actually put a plug on their test equipment if it arrived without one.

This has got me to thinking about what an engineer really is, by that I mean what makes him or her different to people who are not engineers, I can only speak for myself here and say that it mostly boils down to not being happy about not knowing how things work.

For example, I mean I wouldn’t be happy driving a car without understanding exactly how it works, I think this may be partly due to the time I spent on boats, where if for instance the engine or radio stops working at sea, there isn’t necessarily anyone else there who can repair it.

I finally got round to reading this weeks Isle of Thanet Gazette page 7 would only seem to confirm my insanity as the article about the councils intention to close the tourist information centres has a section called Fact File.

With a title like that one would assume it must be right, however the picture entitled “FOR THE CHOP Ramsgate visitor information” seems to be of the TDC council office in York Street, something confirmed by the sign in the window visible, in the photograph, pointing to the visitor information centre.

I suppose with the tourist information centre being hidden where no tourist would be likely to find it, the intrepid Gazette reporter failed to find it too.

We had to go and pick up our Brownies who had been camping in Wingham village hall, fortunately the sun came out so there are a few pictures.

I should also point out that the café at Sarre Mill produced home made sandwiches and has an excellent Wi Fi signal.

The whole thing sandwiches for 3, buttered scone for my wife, three apple juices a coffee for me, entrance to the mill for 2 adults and 2 children £21, excellent value in fact.

My camera batteries ran out of charge somewhere near the top of the mill and I had to switch to my antique camera, my own fault as I should have take a professional flash unit with me and didn’t, hence the shadow on the wide angle shots too.

As you can see the pictures get a lot brighter as the weather improves, once again all of the pictures go in including the ones taken from the car for the children, so some of them are frankly terrible.

Once again the pictures are being published automatically so you may have to wait for them to appear, here are the links.

Coming back to the Wi Fi thing, I can’t over emphasise here the advantage of being able to sit in a café, typing this sort of thing out, while waiting for the children to, eat up, drink up, go to the lavatory, etc.

I may well ramble on as the day progresses particularly if it doesn’t stop raining.


  1. Wonderful place Sarre Mill isn't it.
    Their Malted Cob flour in our bread machine makes 'shop' bread taste like cotton wool!

  2. Michael with regard to your not knowing what makes engineers different and your need to understand in great detail the workings of your car etc.

    You mentioned just two forms of transport, boats and cars, can I take it then that you have never travelled by train or plane? While I like the majority have a rudimentary knowledge of flight, I would never question the pilot’s ability to operate the aircraft or that of the engineers who designed it.

    Clearly you are able to use a computer, do you fully understand how it uses hexidecimal numbers in compiling and running programmes? Would a lack of this knowledge cause you to stop using your computer?

    Your computer uses electricity and I would suggest powered by nuclear sources, do you fully understand nuclear physics?

    The difference between us mere mortals and yourself has nothing to do with potty training, it’s that we are confident that those professionally qualified people around us have the skills, training, experience and knowledge within their given field so mere mortals can fly on planes, ride on trains and use a computer.

    Engineers are able to base their calculations on fact not conjecture that’s the difference……….

  3. Nethercourt it most certainly is a little gem really and I hope a lot of people will go and have a look at it and sample their wares.

    21.36 it’s years since I flew anything and never got as far as going solo, too expensive and too environmentally unfriendly for me, but of course have tried some of the computer programs that allow you to pilot pretty much anything.

    Aviation is however an area where government involvement in an engineering project lead to an air disaster, because no one involved was prepared to admit their errors. The R101 airship has certain parallels with the Pleasurama project, what happened there eventually lead to many of the people involved being killed because none of them would stick their necks out and say the deign was fundamentally flawed. I would recommend you read Nevil Shute’s biography “Slide Rule” it is an interesting reflection on what happens when civil servants try to run an engineering project.

    With computers I am afraid to admit it goes even deeper than understanding something about how they are programmed, I recently repaired one by replacing components on the motherboard with a soldering iron, causing much interest from the youf of today.

    I suppose that is part of why I was able to put up over 500 pictures on the internet yesterday, just to amuse a few people who were to ill, disabled or even busy to get out themselves and yet no one else seems to have managed this, I am always looking for someone doing this for the other parts of the world that I knew in the past and no one seems to.

    The trouble with all of these things including nuclear reactions is that once they have been invented they really are not that difficult to understand. Something that may amuse you is that when I read about this aspect of physics, I realised that the scientists that caused the first atomic reaction were not entirely certain that it would stop until it had destroyed the whole planet.

    So anyway are you confident that the cliff façade is safe, would you for instance be prepared to stand under the bulging bit, or drive a fire engine on top of it? Funny thing really, although I had to work up the courage to go right under the bulging bit I still don’t seem to be effected by standing on top of it that much.

  4. Man Fights Erection in High Street


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