Splendid news from the organisation Historic England. This august group is dedicated to protecting valuable historical sites from damage or, worst case, demolition. They just released details of another 21 sites to go with the near as dammit 1000 they’ve had protected in the past 12 months.
Some are the sort of things you might expect. There is, for example, a Bronze Age burial mound in the middle of a housing estate in Shooters Hill in southeast London. The fact it still exists surprised me somewhat. Mind you, I was surprised many years ago to find the remains of the Roman bath house in that alley just to the back of Villiers Street. Lifelong commuters through nearby Charing Cross don’t know about that one.
I’m pleased to learn of the protection of some rare 18th century beehives in Cornwall. The world’s a better place when people care about something so abstruse, don’t you think? There are some protected dovecots around too, which is rather charming.
Then we get to the more idiosyncratic end of the market. Down in Hampshire there’s a burial ground (death is a big part of HE’s remit) containing the remains of 26 Turkish sailors. They died of cholera in the 1850s while their ship was in quarantine off Gosport. At least the powers that then were knew the restrictions worked. Always nice to see that something turned out as you planned, though I suspect the Turkish sailors might not have had the same perspective.
From my point of view, the most pleasing is also way up the Beaufort Scale of idiosyncrasy, because I’ve actually been on it. It’s the water chute ride at Wicksteed Park near Kettering. It was built in 1926, is wooden, and not exactly a white-knuckle affair. We’re not talking Tidal Wave at Thorpe Park here.
It’s a very sedate affair indeed, with the carriage (effectively a boat on wheels) winched slowly up a very modest slope to the station where you board. Then they just let it go. You rumble down the hill, hit the water at little more than a brisk trot, and glide to a gentle stop. The only real excitement is being winched back up again, as you go backwards.
There’s something quintessentially English about the whole thing, and about that fact it’s now preserved for posterity. This pleases me.