Saturday, 13 August 2022

haw! haw! haw!

Haweswater is the most easterly lake in the Lake District, and also the highest above sea level—if you exclude the upland tarns, which were formed by a different physical process. It was once a natural lake, but its fate was sealed with the passing by Parliament, in 1919, of the Haweswater Act, which allowed Manchester Corporation to build a dam across the outflow from the lake. Construction of the dam began in the 1930s, and it was completed in 1940.

I hadn’t been up the valley containing what is now a reservoir for many years, and Paula had never seen Haweswater, so, given that nowadays I’m constantly thinking about new cycling routes, ones that we’ve never done before, I decided that a ride to Haweswater would be a good idea last Monday. The following map, which is a photo of a section of an Ordnance Survey road atlas with a scale of three miles to the inch, will allow me to describe the day’s ride (because the apparent scale of the photo will depend on the kind of device you’re reading this on, you can get an idea of the true scale from the fact that the village of Askham is about five miles from Penrith).
The first problem that we experienced on the ride was the sheer amount of tourist traffic on the B5320 between Eamont Bridge and Pooley Bridge, but we encountered a much more awkward problem when we reached Askham: a sign proclaiming that the road ahead was closed! The sign also indicated a diversion to the east to the A6, which would not have been any use to us, so we decided to continue on the originally planned route through Helton and Bampton. However, at the fork in the road a short distance south of Askham, we encountered another sign reminding us that the road ahead was closed, so on the spur of the moment I decided to follow the left-hand option, past the hamlet of Whale, which I’d never been along before but had originally planned to follow on the return journey.

I don’t think we’ll come this way again. Not only is this road extremely rough, probably because it carries very little traffic, but we encountered two closed gates, which we could pass through, but having to stop to open and close the gates breaks up your rhythm. However, we eventually reached Bampton Grange, which isn’t marked on the map but is just a short distance east of Bampton. I took a photo here of a bridge over the River Lowther in which you can also see this village’s church tower:
There were also signs pointing to Haweswater—and no indications of any road closures ahead. I took this photo of a second bridge a short distance further on:
I had anticipated a climb up to the dam, but although it is quite long, this hill isn’t particularly arduous. However, the road along the valley is very up and down, although none of the hills is hard work. We had good but intermittent views of the lake, and I made a mental note of where we might stop to take photos. We didn’t stop though, until we reached the top of a long hill and I noted what seemed like quite a steep plunge to the valley floor next.

While we considered whether to continue, we scrambled to the top of a rocky spur between the road and the lake, where I took quite a few photos. The following three photos show the view down, across and up the valley, respectively:
You may notice what appears to be a short series of terraces on the hillside to the right of the small tree plantation in the second photo. These are widely known as ‘sheep tracks’, although sheep have nothing to do with their creation. They are formed by a process known as solifluxion, which is the slow downhill creep of soil under the influence of gravity. The pink/purple colour in the foreground is heather, which is flowering earlier this year than usual.

I then shifted my position and took another photo looking up the valley in which you can see the continuation of the road:
I also shot a short left-to-right panoramic video:

When we finally continued up the valley, I couldn’t help thinking that the hill we were descending would be quite a tough one to ascend, but it turned out to be easy!

One of the sad effects of the construction of the dam was the drowning of the village of Mardale Green. The inhabitants were rehoused elsewhere, and all the buildings were demolished, including the Dun Bull Hotel and the seventeenth-century church of the Holy Trinity, although the interior fittings of the latter, which included a Jacobean oak pulpit, went to other churches. The corpses buried in the churchyard were exhumed and reburied in Shap.

Although nothing now remains of the village itself, the stone walls enclosing fields and marking narrow lanes can be seen when the water level in the reservoir is low, and given that there has been very little rain since we came back to Penrith in June, I wondered whether these features might be visible. They were:
This is a closer look at the area of interest:
There were quite a few parked cars at the road end, but all were likely to have belonged to walkers out for the day. There were no tourists, and consequently almost no traffic, which made cycling along this valley an absolute delight. I took this photo looking back down the valley before heading back home:
And I took this photo of the dam on our way home:
You can see that the water storage is well below capacity.

We returned home through Bampton and Helton and saw no sign anywhere of roadworks or road closures. However, due to the sheer volume of traffic on the B5320, we abandoned my original plan to return to Penrith via Pooley Bridge. Mind you, Eamont Bridge is a notorious traffic bottleneck, with its light-controlled humped bridge over the river, that took a while to negotiate. Nevertheless, another grand day out.

Thursday, 21 July 2022

ma shi po: a recent history

When we moved to San Wai, a village about a mile east of Fanling, in 2008, it didn’t take us long to discover the area between Ma Sik Road, which at that time marked the northern boundary of Fanling, and the Ng Tung River. It wasn’t densely populated by Hong Kong standards, but there was a substantial population, mostly living in tin shacks, and the area was extensively cultivated:
The third photo shows a typical dwelling in the area at the time.

There was once a stone device for milling rice outside a house that, as I noted years later, hosted several meetings, I assume to discuss the many adverse things that were starting to happen in the neighbourhood—and, presumably, what to do about it. On this basis, I conjecture that the house was the home of the local tai fu (headman). The following photo, taken in October 2008, also shows the path that runs past the house:
This grinding machine disappeared many years ago, probably taken by someone as a souvenir as events progressed.

I think that we can be forgiven for regarding the area as a kind of bucolic idyll, but what we didn’t know at the time was that the area was scheduled for ‘development’. What follows is a series of hyperlinks to posts that I’ve published over the past 14 years that document the significant changes that have taken place during this period.

I first wrote about this area, which was known as Ma Shi Po (‘horseshit area’) at the start of 2010:

Hong Kong Country

This account also includes photos of the local river and images of the Wah Shan Military Road and the nearby hillside. In November 2010, I returned to Koon Garden, of which I’d photographed only the entrance gate. It had been abandoned, and I wanted to take a look inside:

Return to Koon Garden

This is a view of the entrance to Koon Garden that also shows the house, which wasn’t visible in the photo that I used in Hong Kong Country:
Things first began to take an unwelcome turn in 2011, when major property developer Henderson Land planted a large number of ‘keep off’ signs. This post focuses on the signs erected by protesters:

Turf Wars

Several of the huts in this area have had artwork painted on the external walls, including this one:

The Cat Man’s Hut

In the summer of 2017, a statue of the cat farmer appeared next to the site of the cat man’s hut while I was in the UK, and I included a photo in Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes. This photo was taken in March 2019, shortly after the cat had been given a new straw hat:
I wonder what happened to it.

By 2015, previously cultivated areas that had been fenced off by Henderson Land had become completely overgrown:

A Blot on the Landscape

The following year, artwork began to appear on footpaths and nearby buildings:

Art Promenade

The frogs were painted on a section of path that remains accessible, but there is now no trace of their existence. The next photo is a view of the left-hand hut, which I described in Art Promenade but did not provide a photo. The hut on the right had yet to be decorated when I took this photo in October 2011:
Painting of the right-hand hut did not get underway until December 2016:
A short distance to the left of these two huts, there was a large hut that had already been decorated when we moved into the area, although the following two photos were taken at the same time as the two previous photos:
This building extends away from the main path. And this is a closer view of the hen on the right, next to the path:
More protests erupted in October 2016, and this is an account (with photos):

Turf Wars Update

In April 2017, large numbers of terracotta figurines appeared next to the main footpath in what was clearly an organized display. They were meant to represent the people and traditions of the area, but like everything else here, they have now been bulldozed into the dirt (I did rescue a few before this happened):

Terracotta? Ah! Me

Although most of the land under cultivation when we moved to the area was fenced off more than a decade ago, some land was still being farmed in March 2020. Why? I’ve no idea:

A Farming Mystery

I wrote several posts towards the end of last year that described recently abandoned houses in Ma Shi Po. This is a particularly poignant example:

More Abandoned Houses

So what does the area look like now? I gained access to the area on a Sunday in October 2021, when no work was being done, and took the following photo:
Farewell Ma Shi Po!

Friday, 17 June 2022

photographic highlights: 2021–22 (part 3)

…continued from Part 2.

The first photo is a shot of the Ng Tung River about 2km upstream from where it flows past our village. I have no idea what kind of plant is creating these green splodges, which I’ve never seen anywhere else:
Notice that like all significant watercourses in the northern New Territories, the river has been canalized. I shudder to speculate what intensity of rainfall would cause the flow to overtop the banks.

There is just one cotton tree in our village (a big one), and this is what the ‘mess on the ground’ looks like when the flowers drop:
The next photo shows another bougainvillea that I’d never seen before. It is located alongside a dirt road that we now refer to as ‘accidental tourists’ (so named because we were shooting a video, and Paula went the wrong way, inadvertently discovering a through route that we hadn’t previously known existed):
Paula spotted this moth on the west wall of the local wai (‘walled enclosure’). The wingspan is almost 15cm:
The cycle track from Taipo to Shatin runs along the shore of Tolo Harbour, and I stopped to take this photo of a large group of egrets on an artificial island close to the shore:
The right-hand half of the ridge in the distance is Pat Sin Leng (‘eight summits ridge’).

I spotted this ceramic ornament, apparently discarded, lying on the ground next to a tree. I’ve no real idea of what it depicts, although there is a tale in Chinese folklore about eight fairies (which is also an alternative translation of ‘Pat Sin’). However, there are only six on this object:
I’ve taken photos of this bougainvillea, in the grounds of a school next to the cycle track that runs alongside Jockey Club Road, before. I didn’t realize at the time I took this photo that someone else was also taking a photo of the display:
Dry-stone walls are an integral part of the scenery where I come from in England, but I never expected to find one in Hong Kong. I discovered this wall off the beaten track somewhere between Fanling and Taipo:
I was surprised to see this graffito, on the abutment of a bridge over a large nullah (‘storm drain’) in the Kam Tin area, as I cycled past. It reads ‘FREEDOM’, so it probably dates to the anti-government protests in 2019, although it’s in a location where few people will see it:
The final bougainvillea photo in this collection is of a plant adorning a covered seating area next to the cycle track that runs along the side of the railway and expressway in west Fanling. This location is a short distance south of the construction site that I wrote about in Constructivism. I never used to come this way, but thanks to the disruption caused by construction along our local river, this cycle track is now our standard way home after cycling ‘out west’:
After taking the photos that I used in Constructivism, I walked back home through Sheung Shui along a route that took me past S.K.H. Chan Young Secondary School. I photographed these two paintings on the wall of the school by poking my camera through the railings:
Last month, I was cycling ‘out west’ by myself, and on the spur of the moment I decided to explore the area south of the big tree temple, which I’d never checked out previously. Among the things I discovered here was this house, which has the date 1936 above the portico on the left. To my surprise, it is marked on Google Maps, where I learned that the house was built by an Indonesian Chinese man and is known locally as ‘the Great Beam House’. It appears to be abandoned, but it isn’t possible to go inside:
I had intended to create a post specifically about flame trees, but almost all the trees that I’ve seen this year produced only patchy displays of colour. The next photo shows one of the few exceptions. It was taken looking west along Ting Kok Road, on the eastern outskirts of Taipo:
Paula and I were cycling along the approach road to ‘the hospital path’ when I heard a shout from behind. My wife had spotted a large cluster of toadstools next to the road. I took quite a few photos, of which this is the best (there were many more toadstools that are not in the photo):
Another fungal photo. This one shows a bracket fungus on a section of fallen tree trunk next to the pavilion in the village of Shui Mei where we always stop for a short break:
I was up on our roof recently playing about with the telephoto function of my camera. This was the result:
My final photo in this year’s collection was also taken on our roof. A few days earlier, we’d noticed a hornet that appeared to be in the process of building a nest, and it had clearly been extremely busy in the interim. The vertical dimension is about 15cm:
Paula thinks we should destroy it, but I want to see what, if anything, happens next.

previous highlights collections
Photographic Highlights: 2015–16
Photographic Highlights: 2016–17
Photographic Highlights: 2017–18
Photographic Highlights: 2018–19
Photographic Highlights: 2019–20 (Part 1)
Photographic Highlights: 2019–20 (Part 2)
Photographic Highlights: 2020–21 (Part 1)
Photographic Highlights: 2020–21 (Part 2)

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

photographic highlights: 2021–22 (part 2)

…continued from Part 1.

I was walking past a small ornamental garden in Sheung Shui back in November when I noticed this:
Believe it or not, each of the ‘sticks’ making up these ‘vases’ is an individual living plant!

The next photo is a view of the Kam Tin River, looking downstream. The elevated railway is part of what was once known as the West Rail Line. There used to be a cross-platform connection with the East Rail Line, which inter alia runs through Fanling, at the Hung Hom terminus. However, the Ma On Shan Line, formerly a mere branch line connecting the new town of Ma On Shan to the network, has now been connected to the former West Rail Line, which terminates in the most westerly of the new towns in the New Territories, Tuen Mun. Unsurprisingly, the West Rail Line has now been renamed the Tuen Ma Line:
This is a view of the same stretch of river, looking upstream:
The second photo was taken on a subsequent occasion. When we’re cycling through the area, the vantage point from which this photo was taken is reached first.

I photographed these yellow pom-pom flowers in a small private garden on the road out of our village towards the river. They were gone within a few days:
I’m not sure where I took the next photo, but I think it’s somewhere near the Prince of Wales Hospital in Shatin, where I’ve been an outpatient recently. It shows a housing estate that is under construction, with a tower crane on each block:
I took the next photo, which shows the minibus station next to Fanling station, entirely because of the tiny crescent moon. The left-hand of the two empty bays in the centre of the photo is where we would catch a minibus to our village:
In the past, I’ve devoted entire posts to displays 0f bougainvillea (Bougainvillea Boogie, Bougainvillea Boogie #2, Bougainvillea Boogie #3), but I don’t see many new examples of this impressive show of colour nowadays, so I’ve decided to include the ones that I’ve seen during the past few months in this collection. This one can be seen in Kwu Tung North, a couple of kilometres east of Fanling:
I can’t comment on the traditional Chinese building in the background, because it’s not possible to gain access to take a closer look.

A lot of trees in Hong Kong have roots that can be seen above the surface, but what drew my attention to the tree in my next photo was the way the brick paving has shaped the direction the roots have grown. This example, in Luen Wo Hui, is one of a line of trees of the same species, all of which have had their root systems modified, albeit less dramatically, by the paving, which follows the single basket-weave arrangement that is almost ubiquitous in Fanling:
I don’t think I need to explain why I took the next photo. Jockey Club Road is probably the busiest road in Fanling, and most of the street signs are spelled correctly, but I’ve seen at least one other sign where the name has been misspelled like this:
Large leaves like this are ideal for collecting rainwater, although it probably isn’t safe to drink:
This is another view of the minibus station next to Fanling station. This photo was taken in the late morning of 1st January, which was a public holiday. The inordinately long queue is for a minibus to Hok Tau in the Pat Sin Leng Country Park, which is a popular destination for day trippers from the city for hiking and barbecues:
The queue is so long that it extends into the next bay, which would make it awkward to catch a minibus to our village because we would have to push through the crowd.

I’ve no idea why the occupant of the house in the next photo has decided to hang up hundreds of empty bottles, although I conjecture that it may create an unusual lighting effect inside (this wall faces west):
The road past this house, which is located west of Fanling, is a cul de sac, so it carries almost no motor traffic, which makes it ideal for cycling (it’s a dead end only for larger vehicles).

Three black-winged stilts (‘red legs’) in the Kam Tin River:
Almost all the examples of bougainvillea that I see are cultivated, with the colour displays hanging over people’s boundary walls/fences, but this one, on a little-known road on the southern outskirts of Fanling, is completely wild:
I probably cycled past this truck, parked alongside the unnamed road linking Kwu Tung North and Ha Shan Kai Wat, quite a few times before deciding to take a photo:
There! You have it on good authority. Paint is dead! I didn’t realize it was ever alive.

(storm drain I photographed these two large dolls on the other side of a nullah (‘storm drain’) that runs alongside Hok Tau country trail #1. The one on the left is meant to be the front half of a dancing lion:
Continued in Part 3