Archive for the News 2013 Category

The storm of 2013

Yesterday’s storm was apparently the most dangerous to hit the UK since “the big one” in 1987 – it’s certainly not often you see a Force 11 mentioned in the inshore marine forecast. From London the biggest effect appeared to be that most of the train services being cancelled beforehand as a precaution making it extremely difficult for people to get in to work. The only damage I saw was a large tree had come down on to flats near to the line into London Bridge and one small tree between the Shard and Guy’s hospital that had blown over.

Not often you see a Force 11 mentioned in the inshore forecast!

Not often you see a Force 11 mentioned in the inshore forecast!

A week in Corfu

Below are a couple of photographs from a lovely week in Corfu. The effect of the economic turmoil was certainly very visible – there was a large number of half finished buildings, uncollected rubbish and political graffiti everywhere, especially in Corfu Town which was looking really scruffy. Despite this, it was a wonderful relaxing break with great weather for the time of year.

A Heated Issue: The Walkie Talkie Building Heat Spot

At lunchtime I popped over London Bridge to see for myself the heat spot that is created along Eastcheap by the reflection from the curved face of the new skyscraper which is affectionately known as the “Walkie Talkie” building. I arrived to witness a farcical scene – there were hundreds of people and a dozen film crews who had also come to witness the phenomenon which was focused just outside of Maplin when I arrived. The police were also there directing people and traffic with a  number of parking bays having been put out of use after someone’s care was melted. Scaffolding had been erected around several affected small businesses who I felt very sorry for, especially after stepping into the heat spot – it really was uncomfortably hot. The city of London is a bit of a focus for architectural designs that suffer from schoolboy errors – who could forget the millennium bridge.  Apparently the phenomena will only last a few more weeks this year, but if you do get a chance it’s definitely worth popping down to view.

Eastcheap Heat Spot

Eastcheap Heat Spot

Walkie Talkie Reflection

Walkie Talkie Reflection

A temporary fix for the walkie talkie building

A temporary fix for the Walkie Talkie building


Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Kingston to Hampton Court

Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard

My Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard

This was my first use of my new inflatable stand up paddle board which arrived a couple of weeks ago. On Saturday morning I took an early train to Surbiton before walking down to Kingston where I promptly set about inflating my paddle board. Inflating the board seemed to take ages but after 25 minutes the board was inflated to the correct PSI and I was ready to go. I chose this stretch of the river for a first run as it is non-tidal and is used by human powered craft.


A Night in the Bluebell Woods

A section of path in Champernhayes Forest

A section of path in Champernhayes Forest

This weekend I headed back down to West Dorset to visit my family and see my sister who is back from Uganda for a couple of months. On Saturday night I packed up my swag and headed out to Champernhayes forest to spend a night in the bluebell woods. This has become an annual event although I have yet to convince anyone to join me! Since moving to London it has taken on extra importance for me to get a break away from the craziness of the “big smoke”. The bluebells have not been the best this year, perhaps due to the adverse weather conditions earlier in the year and also due to forestry operations. It was still wonderful to spend a couple of hours admiring them before the sun went down. The night passed with all the usual obligatory noises and disturbances of a night in the forest and I woke to find a young male deer a couple of metres away. On awakening, I startled him causing him to snort at me to show his annoyance. Sunday was spent down on Weston beach below the Donkey Sanctuary with the family before I returned to London on the train in the evening.

A trip up to Snowdonia

This week we headed up to Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. We opted to get there by train rather than by car which meant catching a train from London Euston to Chester and then changing trains to reach Bangor. The journey across the top of Wales is rather interesting as the railway line runs close to the seafront. From Bangor we took a local bus to the village of Llanberis before checking into the Pardarn Lake Hotel.

On Tuesday we took the Sherpa bus to Pen-Y-Pass to join the P.Y.G track to the top of Snowdon. The walk was certainly less tiring than last time I climbed Snowdon (this time not having taking part in the three peaks challenge). After a quick hot chocolate in the questionable cafe at the top we took the Llamberis path all the way back down into Llanberis village to enjoy some food and a beer at The Heights Cafe Bar. Later in the day we ate out at Llanberis Spice.

Wednesday involved a trip to Caernarfon to look around the town, harbour and castle. The weather was markedly coder than the previous day with a strong Northerly bringing down the temperature.

After a lovely few days up in North Wales we headed back down to the “big smoke” on Thursday afternoon.

Altitude Profile

Snowdon Trek - Altitude

Altitude Profile of the trek (P.Y.G track up, Llanberis path down)

Trek Route

Snowdon Trek - Map

Trek Map (Start: Pen-Y-Pass; Finish: Llanberis)

Folding Kayak Adventures: Brighton to Eastbourne

This was my first trip out with my new Wayland folding kayak so I was very excited. This was to be an overnight trip from Brighton to Eastbourne whilst enjoying some of Southern England’s most spectacular sea cliffs.

Making my way down to Brighton involved an early rise followed by a 1Km walk to the tram station at Woodside before catching the tram to East Croydon where I picked up the train to Brighton. I had no problems with transporting the kayak on the trolley or getting the trolley on and off the train. The trolley stows perfectly in the cycle/wheelchair area in an upright position. From Brighton Station I headed straight down the hill to the beach where I set about putting the boat together. This was my first attempt at reconstructing the boat and it was relatively straight forward, although it did take around about an hour to complete (I am sure with practice I could do it in 15 minutes). On this initial trip I opted not to use the rudder or sail kit. After checking over the boat several times and then checking my safety gear I moved the boat to the water’s edge before loading the boat with my provisions. The bag and my sleeping system stowed in the fore compartment whilst the wheels and my other equipment fitted snugly in the rear of the vessel. The trolley (with the wheels removed) stowed on the foredeck.

Launching the vessel from the steep artificial gravel beach proved difficult as it was not possible to use my tried and tested plastic boat method due to the fact that the folding kayak is not as rigid and the skin could be more easily damaged than plastic. It took two attempts to launch through the small dumping waves, after which I was on my way. I was joined by a fellow paddler as I first paddled West to have a look at the old pier before turning around to start my journey towards Eastbourne. The boat felt very different from my previous boats but moved reasonably well and was responsive even without the rudder installed. Passing underneath Brighton Pier I started to get more comfortable as I headed on past the Marina and Roedean School.

After a couple of hours of very leisurely paddling I reached the Port of Newhaven. Continuing on I quickly reached Seaford Head and landed on the beach at Cuckmere Haven. After unpacking the boat and moving her above the reach of high water I enjoyed the remaining part of the afternoon. The beach was busy until late evening; I was quite annoyed to see that people had dumped their rubbish on the beach. For dinner, I headed off on foot to the Golden Galleon at Exceat Bridge where I enjoyed some food and a pint before heading back down to the boat for the night.

I set off on the last part of my journey at around 6:30AM in the morning into a beautiful sea mist. I hugged close to the magnificent Seven sisters cliff line which I could barely make out in the conditions although I could hear the waves on the shoreline. I used this opportunity to belt out a few old pirate songs in my finest South West accent before passing Birling Gap which has fascinated me since I was a child with my mother’s stories of smugglers (my great grandfather was the rector at East Dean and it was rumored that old smugglers tunnels connected the rectory all the way down to Birling Gap). Continuing on, I quickly reached Beachy Head where I circled the magnificent lighthouse which looks to be in need of a paint job. Trinity House, who is responsible for maintaining navigation aids said that it was unable to afford to pay for  the painting of the lighthouse so a group has been set up to raise money for the building to be repainted. From Beachy Head the mist began to lift and I landed my craft safely on to the beach at Eastbourne in front of the old lifeboat station. (I would have continued on under the pier but the route was blocked by a large vessel pumping gravel on to the beach in front of the pier).

The last part of my trip involved carefully washing every piece of equipment down with fresh water before laying it out to thoroughly dry. I then packed up the kit and set off towards Eastbourne railway station where I caught the train back towards London. My first trip out with my folding kayak was a resounding success, the exception being that I forgot my sunscreen so ended up getting my face and arms rather burnt.

Trip Map

The arrival of my new Wayland Folding Kayak

Yesterday I headed off on the train to Reading to pick up my new Mk I Achilli 500XL Wayland Folding Kayak. It’s been a rather long wait to finally get my hands on my boat – 188 days, which is just over six months from the date I placed my order to eventual delivery of the boat and accessories. Apparently there had been some restructuring at the factory in Poland which resulted in the delays.

First impressions of my new craft are very good – it looks to be beautifully made and I am sure I will quickly get my head around to putting together all of the pieces. The packed craft is slightly larger than I originally envisaged – when packed and placed upright on its trolley the bag is as tall as me, although it was quite easy to transport on the trolley and take on the train. I hope to take my new boat out for some sea trials in the coming weeks.


The birth of my Raspberry Pi-Arduino Robot

After a few months of playing around with robotics I have almost finished my first robot – I had always wanted to build myself a robot!

R.O.B.O.T is a WIFI robot which is based around the Raspberry Pi. Robot can directly sense and log light, distance, tilt, direction, temperature, pressure and gas. Further details can be found in the ‘projects and interests‘ section of my website.