Friday, 28 July 2017

The Ebbw Vale Works Museum

Have you ever visited anywhere with one question, one burning question no less, that you don't get answered (yet) leads you into hours of amazing historical discovery?

Yes? No? Or maybe? Well, today, this was exactly where I found myself. Usually, you'd find me blogging about my Cakey Bakey Exploits, some other bits of crafty-ness, or maybe some general outdoors and garden 'stuff' ... Today was something so different, I must share it with you all.

I visited The Ebbw Vale Works Museum, well, the General Offices as it happens, on the off chance, as you do.  In the foyer of the general building lay a plaque (above) and two photographs relating to Company Sergeant Major John (Jack) Henry Williams.

These three images are of the information that can be found to the left of the door in the foyer of the building.
I would like to thank the staff for allowing me to take pictures and for their hospitality.

Now, John Henry Williams (whom I shall, with utmost respect and admiration, informally refer to as 'Jack') was such an amazing WW1 war hero, that he had bestowed upon him, on the 27th October 2016, the honorary freedom of the County Borough of Bleanau Gwent. The thing was, and the thing I failed to understand, was why the County Borough waited to bestow this honour, in perpetuity, on this young man decades after he had died!

I was directed from the foyer area down past the archives room and into the Works Museum. As I walked the corridor, I could see small glimpses of that amazing stuff called 'history and enlightenment' peaking at me from there and abouts.

Now, this blog post will not enlighten you to much historical interest, but what I hope it does is give you a gentle taste of the delights that await you that could quench your thirst for knowledge.  For, through the double doors, stood two gentlemen quite willing to answer as much as I had to ask. But, alas, not the exact question - the answer to that will be my next visit.

I asked my question and was directed to a display dedicated to 'Jack' and his fellow war heroes and comrades.  Images of pre-war soldiers awaiting deployment, with faces that showed no fear of what they were about to experience, then images of wounded men with eyes so full of sadness, it was hard to comprehend! We can never comprehend.

I don't wish to dwell too much on 'Jack' because this post will simply run on forever, but I must tell you about this place!

The whole history, in pictures, adorn the walls of the steel works, both old and 'new', the 'stuff' salvaged and saved from the junk yards for us all to see. Like the iron works bell, cast in 1807 that rests in the fire place of the old General Managers Office. It intrigued me some, as Ebbw was spelled 'E-B-B-Y', I thought 'Maybe that's the old way of spelling it." - In that split second of a thought, my guide enquired as to whether or not I had noted the spelling mistake. 'A trick question' I thought, but alas, I was correct, E-B-B-Y should have been E-B-B-W.

The hours whisked by, case upon case of artefacts, old measuring instruments, beautiful decorated tins made with Ebbw Vale steel, ingots, badge pins ... Frame upon frame of the processes of steel making, from beginning right to end, the maps, the people, the homes, and the tales, all took up so little time I thought, but hours had passed me! It was exciting! I especially enjoyed the personal thoughts or maybe 'urban legend' as to why the Germans never bombed or hit the steel works - I urge you to find this out for yourself!

My accidental guide was Mr Daniels, and how did I know this? Well, I failed to participate in any introductions at my first meeting as I was focused on 'Jack' and his freedom of the County Borough, but he had enlightened me to so much, including his own bit of personal family history of a 'leaving' or retirement certificate, alas, one year off half a century.

His colleague, whose name I failed to acquire, was also a font on knowledge. I can't thank these gentlemen enough. What a credit the are.

Anyway ... I have so much information I want to share with you, but I know the volunteers at the Works Museum will do a far better job. Even if you're not interested in the industrial heritage of the valleys, you can't help but be intrigued by the social history of the folk from the valley. How they lived, how they worked, how they were paid even. I was like a sponge, the more I found out, the more I needed to know.

Alas, I could waffle on forever about this wonderful place and the knowledgeable people that work there, but I want you to see it for yourself. You need to feel the history you're looking at and soak up the knowledge as well as the atmosphere for yourself! Learning is a wonderful experience. Not coming from the Ebbw Vale valley and knowing nothing, I feel I have to return to learn more - I encourage and urge you to do the same. 

To find out more, click here and if you use Facebook, click here.

You see, I simply cannot do this place of learning any justice. Have I mentioned that you have to see it for yourself?

I actually feel like I'd honestly love to work there.

Now, should Mr Daniels ever read this, and if he remembers me, he left me with a question in return for my own. I hope that I saw and have found part, if not all, the correct answer ... "Time Fleeth Away Without Delay."

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Handsome Antique Clock

To say I have a passion for clocks might just be a little bit of an understatement, as my children will no doubt agree and enlighten you on. 

I have been gifted this most amazing and beautiful old timer! But all I know about it so far, is that the guy it was bought from told me.

It was found in the corner of an antique store in Machynlleth when on a day out following in the footsteps of Owain Glyndwr and checking out the site of the old parliament building - A very outdoorsy day!

I'm doing my best to get a clearer image of the crossed arrows on the clock face

I have been told that ... "It's a Vienna Wall Clock made between 1890 and 1910." 

Not sure it the finial is original. 
It doesn't seem to have ever had anything on the left and right flat 'platforms' to have broken off
The pendulum may not be original either, this clock could have had an R=A pendulum 

It has a few bits if slight damage, but it doesn't take an antiques expert to see that the damage is old and the repairs (where made) are also aged and old.

I will be spending many weeks, yes, weeks, cleaning the case. The 'dirt' needs to come off, but some can stay on for the effect, but it's lived in a very smokey house and needs a little refreshing.

I'm not actually bothered if visitors or readers don't like it, it's beautiful, it works perfectly, it's one I have always longed for and it's mine.

Time for some research to find out all I can about this handsome time piece.

If you have any information and research on this clock that you'd like to share, leave me a message below

My research so far:
  • I searched for the crossed arrows on the clock face and found that it could be from the Hamburg American Clock Company / Hamburg Amerikanische Uhrenfabrik.
  • The crossed arrows or Pfeilkreuz seemed to have been the trademark for HAU and registered in about 1891
  • Possibly from Gustav Becker
Interesting Links:

Friday, 14 July 2017

Outdoor Revolution Ozone 6.0XTR Air Tent - Experience-based review

Following the disastrous experience with another brand of air tent, read the review here, you would have thought that it would have put me off them for life! But, following a visit to the camping centre, some excellent customer service, a significant amount of time having tours and reviews of other air tents, we chose the Outdoor Revolution Ozone 6.0XTR. 

The guy in the camping centre (his name was Paul) listened to the needs that any new tent had to meet:
  • Accessible needs for someone with mobility disabilities / issues
  • Space, to prevent this person falling into things and causing themselves harm
  • Two bedrooms, one for the carer and one for the disabled person
  • One person had to be able to put the thing up by themselves
  • And a little future-proofing extra, namely additional ease of access, without a large 'step' to gain entry, just in case it's needed in the future
About the tent
A family tent that can sleep six, with a large living area. Five oxygen air tubes and a 'Vario' front door (which means you can move its position in the tent itself. Both wheelchair and pushchair friendly. Intelligent Frame (IF) Release Valve, which prevents the user from over inflating the poles. The list goes on, go check it out here on the Outdoor Revolution website

Having said all that, this tent meets all those needs. So here are my pros and cons list:

The plus points
  1. It is possible for one person to put this tent up, with little or no assistance
  2. It has two bedrooms, one sleeps four persons, the other two persons
  3. The IF system gives you a sense of security that you're not going to burst the poles by over inflating them.
  4. Windows, and oh wow does it have amazing windows! Lots of
  5. Zip down curtains instead of zip up, so they fall to the floor ready for rolling up, much easier than having to roll the bloomin things up from the bottom, which meant that my person with specific needs could open them without help. OK so I had to roll them up for safety, but that was no great hardship
  6. Wasted space it at a minimum. Meaning, walk to the edge of your tent, when your head touches the sides, check that dead space from your feet to the wall of the tent. This includes the bedroom space.
  7. Palatial beyond nothing I have encountered before.
  8. Two additional side doors, one with an eye-brow for that added protection from the weather
  9. The front section has a number of ways to leave open, two panes or just the one.
  10. Mesh on the two side doors
  11. Tinted windows
  12. 'Snug Rug' aka carpet (optional extra) has joins that come with safety mats to eliminate / reduce trip hazards.
  13. Zip in mesh door (optional extra), which can be used at the front instead of the window, the window can them be moved inside to divide the living space, or vice versa, its your own choice.
  14. Storm straps come with it, well, because you never know
  15. Sewn in ground sheet from the back of the bedrooms, right to the front door!
  16. Lounge liner (optional extra), offers an air gap on the roof of the 'living' area to keep the cool in and the warm out, an extra bit of shade
  17. You have an extra option of a third bedroom if needed (need to purchase this if you want it)
  18. Air poles are exceptionally sturdy compared to another brand
  19. Poles are pre-shaped, so the didn't distort in the wind
  20. It was still keeping out water after 18 hours solid of driving rain
  21. Footprint! Always get a footprint!
  22. Storage bag has wheels - cool!
  23. I'm sure my list will grow, but I think that just about covers it for a moment.
The negatives
I'm going to have to find some, so here goes:
  1. It weighs a lot! Had to be rolled in and out of the car by this here weakling 
  2. As with any big tent, you do need a little help packing it away

Did I mention it was palatial?

In conclusion:

If I put you off air tents with my previous review of another brand that uses the air pole system, then fear not, all is not lost, there are exceptional ones out there, and I think this is it for me!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Blog name change

Hi all

I felt that, just calling this my "gardening" blog, was somewhat too restrictive. So, from today, it shall be known as my Great Outdoors Blog.

It will still involve a lot of my garden but will also include outdoorsy posts not specific to my garden.

I hope you enjoy the more varied entries

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Zempire Aero TXL Air Tent - Experience-based review

I want to take time out of my usual garden and baking blogs to bestow upon you a little review of this product, based on personal experience.

About the tent
This is the largest of the inflatable tents that hail from Zempire, a company based in New Zealand and breaking into the UK market. The following is a quote (direct copy) about Zempire from their website:

"We [Zempire Camping Equipment] have now done extensive research on the specific requirements for international markets, such as the UK and Europe and have ensured our tents are designed specifically to withstand the rigours of the Northern Hemisphere weather extremes."

About us - the users
I am a carer for someone with mobility issues and other specific needs and I needed to be able to erect the tent - by myself.  With this in mind, this tent had to be able to accommodate both carer and the person being cared for, two separate bedrooms for a start, which is why this tent was the tent of choice. Space, two bedrooms and easy to put up.

What is to follow is my own, personal review of the tent, based on first hand experience.

The plus points:
  1. It is possible for one person to put this up with little or no assistance from a second person.
  2. It has two, generous sized bedrooms
The negative points:
  1. I'm guessing I should have realised there were going to be issues when the pump, supplied, didn't have its pressure gauge and the porch poles were missing! I had to borrow a pump with gauge to ensure the 7psi was reached.
  2. The two poles at the rear of the tent, even though pumped to the correct PSI, could not maintain their upright status and kept flopping all over the place.
  3. These two poles were deflated and re-inflated in order to reshape them - without success
  4. This left the two bedrooms unusable and a makeshift sleeping area had to be made in what was to have been the 'living room' at the centre of the tent.
  5. During the night, it leaked! Which I expected with it being a new tent. This instigated a 20 mile drive to purchase extra towels to place at the bottom of the poles where the water was pooling.
  6. When we arrived back we were welcomed by the inside of the centre air pole (see images below) that had burst out of its casing and also the zipped compartment that attached it to the tent. I undid the outer case and made an attempt to make a 'fix'.
  7. The pole front of centre (see below) had distorted in shape.  Little did I know that it had already burst out the its internal casing and was only being held in place by the casing of the tent material.
  8. Strange little tearing noises could be heard and before I knew it, this second pole burst out of its tent casing material and ripped at the side of the zipper whilst the zipper stayed zipped up.
  9. This now meant that it could not even have received a temporary fix
Centre air pole

Front of centre air pole distorted before bursting out of tent casing

Front of centre air pole whilst bursting out of tent casing

What happened next
  1. It was to late to pack it up and come home, but the person I was caring for needed somewhere to sleep so ...
  2. A B&B was needed for the night. But, alas, there was no room at the inn so to speak, therefore ...
  3. Another 20 mile trip ensued on a hunt for a replacement tent of any description. Found one and pitched beside the one we couldn't sleep in. This had turned out to be a most expensive weekend.
Two other air tents, that use the same system but by a different manufacturer withstood exactly the same weather conditions as this but maintained their structural integrity without any issues

In conclusion

I cannot give you a reason for this happening but this tent needs further work and research because, in my personal opinion, this tent at least was incapable of withstand the 'rigours of the Northern Hemisphere weather extremes', I'd go as far as to say it cannot withstand a gnat's fart!
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