Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Anemometer gloom and joy

I picked up a cheap wireless weather station a few years ago, which has been less than successful, but for the money, does work well enough to stop me from looking for a skip to give it a new home. The ongoing problem is simply poor wireless performance, which stops and starts for no obvious reason. Range is not the cause, nor low batteries – it just stops and starts at random throughout the year.

Biggest disappointment was the early death of the rain sensor. Yes, I can look out of the window and see rain but… the system showed rainfall history and stats, which is handy. But the sensor just stopped being seen one day, and never connected again.

So, I’m left with things like wind speed and direction (and some derived quantities) temperature and RH, and barometric reading (and more derived quantities such as dew point).

Once a year, I have to take the head unit down and fit new batteries – remember… wireless.

This year, the thing was unusually dirty, with a lot of black dirt (maybe mould or moss) stuck to it, so a quick clean was in order.

This was fine, until the cloth I was using flicked a loose corner around one of the anemometer legs – and the cup snapped off.

I know how little force this cause, and I saw the corner of the cloth getting caught and dropped it – but I think that a few year exposure to UV had made the cheap plastic brittle, and it just separated without bending.

The way it broke the arm out of the edge of the cup meant there was not way to pin it or support it in some easy way, and the thin material had no strength. I did consider trying to melt the plastic and weld the part, but guessed this would fail as it only works if the right type of plastic has been used, and if it fails, the mess that’s left is even less repairable than what was started with.

As the weather was so cold, I decided to try a trick, and mixed up some slow-setting epoxy, which is almost solid when cold.

Heating this allowed it to be flowed into and around the break, but once it had cooled, the resin was so thick and the parts so lightweight) that it held them in place until it set.

After leaving it to cure for a few days, a gentle tap showed it had actually done the job, and the cup did not just immediately fall off.

I rebalanced the rotor to take account of the added weight of the resin on the damaged arm, and some weeks (now months) later still see it spinning away, having survived this year’s winter storms.

Anemometer cup repair

Anemometer cup repair – the one on the right

 

March 13, 2014 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

Moat House – the story that just keeps going

Moat Brae © Copyright Darrin Antrobus

Funny how you can innocently note a little story… think you will just make one post… then find you have started a life’s work. (I haven’t counted how many posts I’ve made on this, or rolled together in later entries when I realised the story was going to run.)

Such seems to be the case with the restoration of Moat House in Dumfries.

For those not yet aware, I first noticed this house was hopefully going to be rescued and restored in memory of writer JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, and who had credited the house as having been inspiration in the story.

That was over 5 years ago: Tourism opportunity missed.

As you’ll see from that short little ramble, my interest then was not so much in the house and its history, but the problems that those wishing to save it were in having in raising funds and support to save it, and I had a little kick at those who were calling for tourism to Scotland to be grown – yet they were not chipping in a penny to bring visitors to a place then could be widely recognised.

Since then, I’m glad to say that the supported of the project have managed to raise finance and support, and recently Dumfries Peter Pan house project reaches milestone.

Metal theft

However, only a matter of days after the project reached this point (making the house watertight) it fell victim to the  scum which is plaguing the country at the moment, metal thieves.

These cretins will steal any metal, regardless of the danger, cost, or inconvenience cause to others. They rip out live distribution cables and rail systems, raid substations, tear out phone and telecommunications cabling, smash war memorial to tear out the brass plaques, and as happened to Moat house, strip the lead flashing used to make roofs watertight.

Usually, they will get only scrap metal value for what they steal, while the original owners are left with bills of thousands to make good the damage they cause – in the case of Moat House, the cost was estimated at £2,000.

However, attacks on electricity supplies or phone cables can cost much more, and more significantly, put lives in danger.

There are so many stories about this online now that there is no need for me to post links – just search ‘metal theft’ and you will find many current stories, for example:

£40,000 of damage caused as thieves rip metal from Benarty Primary School | Edinburgh & East | News | STV

Lewis Macdonald fears lives could be lost unless metal theft is tackled | Aberdeen & North | News | STV

New laws planned to tackle £12m metal theft boom – Top stories – The Scotsman

This action has probably eaten still further into the money the Moat House project has raised, since it means: Dumfries Peter Pan property security stepped up.

See also:

Police launch Operation Nickel to catch tool and metal thieves – Dumfries and Galloway Standard

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daldowie Doocot gate crash – Take 3

I happened to come around the back of the repaired doocot gate instead of the front, and discovered that there was something of a surprise – or perhaps a shock – waiting for anyone that might try crashing into again, should they happen to hit the repaired gatepost (the one on the left, as seen from the road).

I clearly had not been paying attention the first time I passed the repaired item and grabbed a passing pic, as I failed to notice what was supporting the gatepost that had been broken – I thought it was just a wooden post that had been used a support to hold the pieces together while the concrete base set.

I should have taken a closer look…

When I came to this from behind the gate, it became obvious that driving into the repaired gatepost would not be a very good idea – what I had taken to be a simple wooden support was actually a substantial piece of steel girder or H-beam, and it was only its weathered and rusty surface that had stopped me from noticing this when viewing the small section visible above the gatepost.

Doocot gate girder

Doocot gate girder – OUCH!

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Daldowie Doocot gate crash – Take 2

If I’d been asked, I’d probably have offered an opinion to the effect that the broken gate that once barred access to the car park next to the Daldowie Doocot (Dovecote) would stay broken for some time, probably days running into weeks.

I’d have been wrong – and I was pleasantly surprised when I strolled past it on Saturday (less than 4 days after the incident), to see that it was back in place, and looking almost as good as new. At least all the bit had still been there to put the gates back together, and all it really needed was new wooden post set in concrete:

Daldowie doocot gate fix

Daldowie doocot gate, almost as good as new in next to no time at all

Daldowie Doocot gate

As was

Since we had the advantage of some daylight this time around, I thought I’d catch a view of the doocot, just for completeness:

Daldowie Doocot

Daldowie Doocot

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Moat Brae House prospectus launched

Moat Brae © Copyright Darrin Antrobus

When I mentioned Moat Brae for the first time, way back in 2008 – Tourism opportunity missed, it was really to have a dig at the “50% by 2015% demand by the Scottish Government, which was their subtle request for the tourism industry to increase its turnover by 50% by 2015. The stick was there, but no apparent carrot to help meet the call.

Moat Brae, with its connection to Peter Pan and author JM Barrie seemed to be an ideal tourist trap (or magnet), but had been left to the vandals, with a quick search showing reports of damage dating back to 2003, and no real help to save the house, which might even have been looking at demolition if the damage and decay continued.

Since then, there has been a number of stories that suggested good news and the start of work to save and restore the house, but these always turn out not be the start of real work on the structure, but of plans.

When the name of Moat Brae bubbled up to the top of my news feeds this week, the wording suggested that work was about to start:

BBC News – Dumfries Peter Pan house project launched

But it turns out that its just another planning announcement and prospectus launch, and reveals that the trust looking after the house has yet to complete its purchase:

The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust is currently raising funds for the upgrade of the building and has secured Joanna Lumley as a patron for its plans.

She said: “I am so thrilled and proud to be here to launch these exciting plans for the future of Moat Brae House and garden.

“There is such wonderful potential to create a fantastic National Centre for Children’s Literature.

“I want to help raise the profile of this admirable project so that Peter Pan fans from all over the world can support this wonderful restoration.”

The house and garden were in private ownership between 1823 and 1914.

It subsequently became a nursing home which shut in 1997 and fell into disrepair.

A local housing association then bought the property and planned to turn it into a residential development.

However, a campaign was launched to stop those proposals and ownership of the building was transferred to the PPMBT for £1 in 2010 with the goal of creating an “attraction of international significance”.

The group is now launching its prospectus with its vision for the historic site which Barrie described as an “enchanted land” which was “certainly the genesis” of Peter Pan.

The trust’s first goal is to raise £750,000 to fund the agreed final purchase price of the building and undertake urgent repair works.

While I like to think I am a realist, and understand how long these projects can take, I hadn’t thought I’d begin to wonder if I would still be writing this Blog by the time the house was opened.

Nor am I criticising the trust – hats off to the members for perseverance.

However, I think those (at the Beeb) responsible for writing the leader for the articles might want to keep the headline a bit closer to reality.

Update

Just after the prospectus was launched, Historic Scotland granted the project £250,000 towards emergency repairs to secure the property from further decay, but this still leaves it short of the £615,000 being sought to complete the these repairs alone.

Urgent repairs funding has been awarded to the house which inspired JM Barrie to write Peter Pan after playing in its gardens as a child.

A grant of £250,000 is being given by Historic Scotland to help restore the Moat Brae building in Dumfries.


Development director Cathy Agnew said the funds would help in its goal of raising £615,000 before the end of the year to carry out emergency work.

She said it would let the trust take the “first steps to deliver this project and save Moat Brae”.

BBC News – Dumfries Peter Pan house project secures repairs funds

Another update

Busy time down in Dumfries, and following the above stories there was yet another, as Joanna Lumley – already noted as a patron of the Moat Brae House project – unveiled a statue of Peter Pan at the entrance to the town:

The Peter Pan statue was provided by the action group, the People’s Project, which is working to improve the appearance and reputation of Dumfries.

Ms Lumley said she was amazed at the work which had gone into the wood-carving.

“I absolutely love it – I am so impressed that it is all made out of one enormous spruce tree trunk,” she said.

“It is absolutely enchanting and it is standing outside the garden centre so everybody who is driving past on the road can see it.”

BBC News – Joanna Lumley unveils Dumfries Peter Pan statue

Yet another update

There must be a regular traffic jam in Dumfries these days, as I just spotted news that the people from the Buildings at Risk register have been there for a look as well, and updated the entry for Moat Brae House:

Moat Brae House, SCT Ref No 2215, Dumfries and Galloway

2013 – Still updating

Five years on from first noticing Moat House, and this is still Work in Progress.

A land deal has been agreed towards plans to create a national centre for children’s literature in a house that helped to inspire the Peter Pan story.

Dumfries and Galloway Council approved plans to transfer ground it owns near Moat Brae for just £1.

It will allow the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust to take forward its overhaul of the Dumfries building.

Work is currently getting under way to begin the restoration of the house where JM Barrie played as a child.

It is now owned by the PPMBT (Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust), which is spearheading a £4m scheme to restore and redevelop Moat Brae as Scotland’s first Centre for Children’s Literature.

Dumfries Peter Pan house project secures £1 land deal

August 2, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rothesay buildings to benefit from £500,000

One of the best sights I’ve enjoyed over the years has been the approach to Rothesay aboard the ‘Big’ ferry, as it passes the various mansions and villas along Mount Stuart road on its final approach to the pier, and the town’s unmistakable waterfront.

Rothesay front and esplanade

Rothesay front and esplanade © Zak

You can find many more views of this area of Rothesay in Zak’s Reflections Photo Gallery.

I can’t say exactly when, perhaps a decade or two (maybe even longer as my perception of anything further back than about five years is vague to say the least), the buildings along Argyle Street and behind the esplanade benefited from something of a tidy up, and a splash of paint, and looked all the better for it.

Since then, without criticism, it’s probably fair to say that the pot must have run dry after that, as there was little maintenance carried out afterwards, and the salty sea air took it toll over the years. A number of shops, and some dwellings, were given up, becoming abandoned and derelict, with some having been demolished in recent years due to their dangerous condition, and the start of 2011 being marked by reports of pieces falling into the street, and just missing pedestrians.

Thankfully, there is now news of both funds and help to assist with local efforts to restore the town’s waterfront view, following an announcement by Scotland’s Culture Minister, Fiona Hyslop.

Historic Scotland’s Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme will be contributing towards the Townscape Heritage Initiative, and a sum of £499,933 will be available to help with Argyll and Bute Council’s plans for what has been described as ‘Scotland’s largest conservation area’.

Together with the straight funding, the council and building owners gain access to expertise and guidance, and residents within the conservation area regeneration scheme will be able to apply for grants in the summer.

Perhaps I’ll manage to make the trip this year. Ever since I made the mistake of tempting fate by making arrangements to meet some friends on the island a few years ago, I have singularly failed to make what had been something of an annual ‘away day’ ever since, as various mishaps have conspired to thwart ‘best laid plans. White Van Man even managed to ruin my car one year – and he was going backwards when he did it! And that was just after I managed to fix the damage one of Argyll’s deer had done the year before.

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One third of roads in Scotland deemed ‘unacceptable’

Not too long ago, I highlighted the condition of the footpaths around the east end of Glasgow, in particular, along the trenches where cables had been laid for cable TV: Will cable companies be held responsible for winter footpath damage?

At the time, (and without claiming any great insight, foresight, or imagination), I predicted there would soon be a great wailing and moaning about the condition of the road, and not a word would be heard about the footpaths.

Footpath winter damage 06

While I am certainly not spearheading any sort of campaign or crusade regarding the issue of the forgotten footpath, I do note that we now have a report on the roads, and that report claims that more than one-third of Scotland’s road are not in acceptable condition, and that a huge maintenance backlog now exists.

Worse still is the finding of Audit Scotland to the effect that this worsening condition is actually accompanied by an increase in spending on maintenance. Only 63% of roads were deemed to be in acceptable condition. Since 2004, the maintenance backlog has increased from £1.25 billion to £2.25 billion. In 2009/10, £654m was spent on maintaining trunk and local roads, which represents an increase of £32m on spending in 2004/05.

Transport Scotland, which has responsibility for trunk roads such as motorways, said it would fully consider the report’s findings, and added that the Scottish Government was providing local government in Scotland with significant levels of funding, and that local authorities had the freedom and flexibility to allocate the total resources available to them based on local needs and priorities, including road improvements.

There’s no real point in considering what any of the various political party’s spokespersons have said in response to this, because the simple fact is that this is all they will do now, and for years  to come, as the aftermath of the recession and forthcoming spending cuts means that the old expression “Talk is cheap” will come into play.

While there will no doubt much debate about how this abysmal situation can be resolved the simple fact is that since VED (vehicles excise duty), once knows as the ‘Road Fund’ or similar, became a huge earner and was no longer earmarked or ring-fenced for road, it has become nothing more than a Treasury cash-cow, and the roads can go to pot (holes).

This is not a politically motivated thought – whoever is in power would make no material difference – it’s a simple matter of practicality. It has taken decades to create the road network, and to consider rebuilding one-third of it, which in effect is the state we are at now, would take decades.

Add to that the fact that while the remaining two-thirds are perhaps deemed acceptable today, in the decades it will take to repair the currently unacceptable third, that fraction is the same age as broken, bit, and will shortly follow it into unacceptability.

Perhaps they should have a word with the folk that managed the painting of the Forth Bridge – they might learn something.

Auditor General for Scotland appears at Holyrood

Auditor General for Scotland, Robert Black, presented his report to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee, and opened by revealing that his own car was off the road after hitting a pothole.

Scotland’s roads watchdog reveals car damaged after hitting pothole | Scotland | STV News

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will cable companies be held responsible for winter footpath damage?

While I’m sure the usual whining will be heard regarding road damage and potholes after the severe winter of 2010/2011 (now described as the coldest for 100 years), as will become clear, that is not the subject of this post. However, for the sake of providing some financial numbers as food for thought for the subject to come, I begin with some tales of winter woes from the roads since they include budget costs.

The severe winter saw the Scottish Government announce an additional £15 million to repair road potholes (and it looks as if Argyll and Bute Council could be holding its hand out most of that alone), three times more than last year’s figure.  COSLA (Convention Of Scottish Local Authorities) noted that councils had already spent their entire winter budget for road maintenance by mid-December 2010, and immediately stated that its members were looking for more. COSLA president Pat Watter featured on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, suggesting that the cost of pothole repairs could exceed £100 million

For comparison, I spotted an English article on the same subject, where the Local Government Association (LGA) said town halls were to be hit by a £165 million cut in their road maintenance budget. It noted that local authorities had received an extra £100 million over the £871 million Highways Maintenance Budget for 2010/2011, and had repaired more than two million potholes. But went on to note that the additional money would become a £65 million cut from April, and that the budget would continue to fall to £707 million over the following three years.

Footpaths and cable trenches

Some years ago – and I have no idea of the actual date as I do not subscribe to cable – the east end of Glasgow became a virtual building site as the area succumbed to a never ending frenzy of trench digging, when almost every footpath was ripped open to lay cable along its length. The trenches were about 300 millimetres wide, and maybe twice that figure in depth. Watching and dodging the work and mess, I thought it was somewhat variable in quality, and sometimes quite shoddy in places. Material being returned to the trench after the cable was laid did not look properly compacted in a number of places, and I had my doubts about the integrity of the work done in freezing conditions, when some trenches were not topped with tarmac for extended periods. Hot pitch poured along the edge of the filled and topped trenches often looked as if it was just sitting on top of, rather than penetrating and hot-sealing the two edges together.

But what do I know?

Well, I do know that a number of footpaths suffered subsidence in the months following the trenching, and the sight of a contractor turning up to rectify the failure (fill the hole) was not uncommon for a while. Not entirely unexpected in all cases, as it could be anticipated that the work could have disturbed pre-existing voids adjacent to their new work, which covered a large area.

I will also be fair, and mention that the various utility companies; water, gas, electricity, phone etc, have visited over the years, and the footpaths are not pristine.

However, one of the most noticeable failures on the footpath during this severe winter has been the opening up of one side of the cable trenches, and subsidence, also usually to one side, and generally falling toward the road facing side of the trench, which subsequently leads to further damage appearing in that section. This degree of widespread failure has not appeared before, and I’d have been out photographing it if it had.

I did start taking photographs once the weather improved and the thaw cleared the snow, but gave up after the first few as I would never have got where I was going. There damage was nearly continuous is many places, and the proper medium to record it would have been video, to save time.

I kept a few sample images, which I have added below, and will try to remember to revisit the same spots later in the year. Not to see if they have been repaired, which is something I doubt I will find, but to see if the damage has ‘repaired’ itself.

This is not quite the crazy idea it might at first appear to be, as it may be the case that the severe cold has caused extreme contraction of the material, and by the time things heat up in May (or perhaps August to be more realistic), many of these features will close themselves, as if by magic, as the surrounding ground warms and expands.

I’m sure some wits will suggest the footpaths don’t look any different from their usual appearance in the following pics, so you will have to take my word for it that before the first snowfall of December 2010, and the almost immediate plunge to -12°C that followed, they may have looked a bit worm, but did not have the stepped edges visible on the trench cuttings, or the cracked and subsided areas adjacent.

It’s also notable that the cracked kerb edges are not simply down to vehicles driving over them during the freeze, but appear to have been caused by pre-existing stresses within the surface, as the same cracking was seen on many kerbs where I know no traffic has driven over during the freeze, and they were only revealed when the snow melted. Similar cracks were also seen on areas of the footpath where cars pass over them regularly to reach owners’ drives – and the cars had often been snowed into those drives for days, confirmed by the absence of tyre tracks in the snow beneath them.

As for the question posed in the title…

Of course not.

The contractors that dug the trenches might well be gone by now, and there will have been a guarantee period, which will have expired by now, and then there’s the matter of all the other folk that have dug up the footpath and the roadway since the original work was completed and signed off.

The council will pay, as it will for anyone that trips over those hazards, so that means I will be paying – even if I don’t fall over one of those steps.

Oh well – maybe I should go throw myself down on the footpath a few times… and get my moneys’ worth.

Footpath winter damage 01

Footpath winter damage 02

Footpath winter damage 03

Footpath winter damage 04

Footpath winter damage 05

Footpath winter damage 06

Update

I should have known I would come to regret having promised to follow up this original post, and the following months proved how ill-advised this was, but here goes.

As noted, I gave up noting exactly where the pics were taken, simply because there were so many possibilities, but I was still able to watch a few as they were in places I pass daily.

One of the points noted was there was no point in photographing them later, as the consequences were hidden from sight.

Although Glasgow City Council’s web site claims that only salt is distributed, the reality is that grit is thrown on the footpath. The result is that by the time the weather clears, the crushed and powdered grit has filled many of the cracks and openings as the material has been washed into them over the weeks.

Obvious damage still remains, in the form of collapsed ironworks laid into the road and footpath, and the broken and cracked edges of the footpath which subsided toward the road remained, being too large to be filled by grit, or to return to their original position when the ground returned to higher temperatures and expanded.

Quite a lot, but by no means all, of the cracks and seams that opened in the extreme cold of winter 2010/2011 did tend to close up as the ground warmed, but not completely – perhaps grit in the cracks filled some of the space, and prevented proper closure.

It would seem, however, that the first problem I saw was the lesser of the two evils of the cold, and at least partially ‘self-repairs’.

The unexpected discovery was that more damage seems to have been caused by vehicles, especially heavy vehicles, crossing over the edge of the footpath.

January 13, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, council, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Historic Scotland needs to get realistic

While there can’t be any argument with the principles that Historic Scotland upholds with the regard to the protection and preservation of listed properties, the time is surely coming when their policies have to be better tempered to meet not only the needs of the buildings they seek to protect, but also those who choose to live in them, and become responsible for their upkeep.

There’s no shortage of horror stories to be found of nationally significant A, B and C-Listed building being lost forever, because the owners simply don’t have the financial resources to meet the demand of Historic Scotland, and make repairs and restorations using period methods and material, both of which can be horrendously expensive when invoked in today’s economic climate, and where labour and material costs have multiplied many times by comparison with the day when labour was cheap, low-paid, and available in almost endless amounts.

While there may be a case for A-Listed buildings of national importance – and which can attract public and private funding to support them – lesser structures, and B and C-Listed properties need to see some sort of relaxation of the rules to allow them to be saved by owners with more modest resources.

As it is, owners can make repairs using modern materials, and run the risk of ending up in some sort of legislative confrontation, or they can do nothing or abandon their property (if they can afford that) and leave it to ruin and decay. At best, this ends up as a compulsory purchase (unlikely as council budgets are as strapped for cash as the owners), or compulsory demolition if/when the property falls into such a state of disrepair as to become dangerous.

Certainly, in the case of lesser known B and C-Listed building which are getting older by the day, the time is coming where the option of repairing or maintaining them using sympathetically chosen modern methods and material is preferable to having them abandoned or poorly maintained due to the cost of applying traditional, period workings.

Surely it’s better to have the structure retained, looking correct, even if it may not be 100% original under the surface, than being converted into a pile of rubbish while nothing is done and it is left to decay.

We managed to do this with Classic Cars many years ago, and even badly restored examples are now welcomed, as enthusiasts realise that as they may become more valuable over time, they can be better restored to their original condition as funds later permit, whereas if they had been left to rust and decay, then they’d have been scrapped, and gone forever, without the option, or even opportunity to better restore them.

The BBC carried out some short interviews with poperty owners stuck with the problem of being required to carry out specialist repairs which were well above the budget of less original work:

Tough rules on materials, design and permission could be pricing the average Scot out of restoring their own built heritage, a BBC investigation has found. Lesley Riddoch reports.

Rules ‘hamper restoration’

August 4, 2008 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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