Pylon of the Month May 2016


There has been a fair bit of pylon procrastination and a lot of busyness recently and so May's Pylon of the Month is the first since February. I've been as active as ever as @pylonofthemonth on Twitter, but at long last here is another post on the main website.  

There are lots of striking pylon images on Twitter, but this one proved irresistible and comes courtesy of @jcurtisart.  With pylons providing ideal resting places for birds, the bird/pylon combination is actually quite common on Twitter.  The internet is also full of striking images and there is even a Birds on Electricity Pylons T shirt!  The bird in the picture above is a Heron and the picture was taken from the bank of King's Sedgemoor Drain on the path from Bawdrip not far from the M5.   The drain in King's Sedgemoor Drain was constructed between 1791-1795 and according to Wikipedia: an artificial drainage channel which diverts the River Cary along the southern flank of the Polden Hills to discharge into the River Parrat at Dunball near Bridgewater. As the name suggests, the channel is used to help drain the peat moors of King's Sedgemoor. There was opposition to drainage schemes from the local inhabitants, who feared that they would lose their common grazing rights. However, the main channel was constructed between 1791 and 1795, and despite some defects, brought some relief from flooding to the area.

King's Sedgemoor is part of the Somerset Levels which featured on Pylon of the Month back in May 2013.  There is quite a bit of detail about this beautiful part of the world in this earlier post, but the flooded pylon makes it clear that drainage in this part of the world remains very much a live issue.  Despite being a keen walker, I must confess to not having heard of the Polden Hills, overshadowed as they are by their bigger neighbours, The Mendips.  Next time I'm heading down the M5, perhaps I'll make time to stop over and explore the area.  A bit of pylon/bird spotting and a walk in the Polden Hills followed by a meal at the Knowle Inn in Bawdrip sounds like a pretty good way to spend  a day.  That's all for now and the normal monthly service will be resumed for the rest of the summer!


Pylon of the Month - February 2016


A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, some photons of light set out on a journey towards earth. They arrived recently and had the luck to be captured by @Skullet who posted a picture on twitter which caught my eye because of the pylon.  The galaxy concerned is Andromeda and you can see it near the top of the picture above the pylon as a smudge of light.  It's 2.5 million light years from earth which means that the photons of light were traveling through space for 2.5 million years (at about 9500 billion kilometres per year, that is definitely far far away). Andromeda is a galaxy in our local group and because it is visible with the naked eye (if you are in a suitably dark place) it has been known about for a long time.   Wikipedia has this to say

The Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi wrote a line about the chained constellation in his Book of Fixed Stars around 964, describing the Andromeda Galaxy as a "small cloud".  Star charts of that period labeled it as the Little Cloud.[19] The first description of the Andromeda Galaxy based on telescopic observation was given by German astronomer Simon Marius on December 15, 1612.  Charles Messier catalogued Andromeda as object M31 in 1764 and incorrectly credited Marius as the discoverer despite it being visible to the naked eye. In 1785, the astronomer William Herschel noted a faint reddish hue in the core region of M31. He believed M31 to be the nearest of all the "great nebulae" and based on the color and magnitude of the nebula, he incorrectly guessed that it is no more than 2,000 times the distance of Sirius.  In 1850 William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, saw and made the first drawing of Andromeda's spiral structure.

Back down to earth, the pylon itself is near Crianlarich in Scotland.  Pylon fans interested in visiting the area will be delighted to know that there is plenty to do in the local area, especially if hill walking is your thing.  The last time I was there was about 26 years ago when walking the West Highland Way (with a quick diversion up Ben More on the shores of Loch Lomond) but perhaps this is the excuse I need to revisit the area! Pylons are actually quite a contentious issue in parts of Scotland at the moment with Dumfries and Galloway being especially concerned;  As is often the case, it mainly comes down to whether or not one thinks that the additional cost of burying and then maintaining underground cables is justified when weighed against the impact of large pylons on the landscape. It is a problem that isn't going to go away because of the drive for more renewable energy. Getting the electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed means transmission lines and pylons are the cheapest way of doing this, at least if you are thinking only in financial terms.  The relative costs of the overground versus the underground option are much debated as this 2012 report shows and it is not a straightforward issue.

So there you go; it was already late February when this pylon was posted. I hope it was worth the wait and that you've learnt something if you've read this far.

Pylon of the Month - January 2016




Most of the time, Pylon of the Month is a celebration of the ordinary pylons that surround us and it is their quotidian nature that makes them so charming (at least in my eyes).  Every now and then, however, an extraordinary pylon captures my imagination and so for the New Year I bring you 'A Bullet from a Shooting Star' by sculptor Alex Chinneck. According to TimeOut London:

This massive steel sculpture was commissioned by the London Design Festival in collaboration with Greenwich Peninsula, and references the industrial history of the site it will be poking out of. British sculptor Alex Chinneck's 35-metre tall inverted electricity pylon weighs 15 tons, and will be visible from North Greenwich station, the Thames Clipper, the Emirates Airline cable car, Canary Wharf and planes flying to and from City Airport. By night it will be illuminated, becoming a beacon and projecting a lattice of shadows onto the ground below. 

I've been aware of the sculpture for some time now and have retweeted images of it as @pylonofthemonth, but I never use images from the internet here, instead relying on either my own pictures or those sent in by fellow pylon enthusiasts.  So this month, pylon fans everywhere have reason to be grateful to Nabil Jacob who sent me these pictures.  

It is worth pointing out that a very significant amount of engineering was required to make the sculpture possible as this Guardian article makes clear

Indeed, while the pylon may look weightless, balancing on nothing but a tiny tip of metal, the amount of engineering that has gone into the spectacle took almost a year of work. To keep the pylon upright, 100 tonnes of concrete have been poured into a 20ft deep hole. Chinneck and his team also had to make an entirely new and advanced design for a pylon, made from 400m of steel and weighing 15 tonnes.

I've got a backlog of less exotic pylons lined up for 2016 so keep coming back for more.  In the meantime, Happy New Year to pylon fans everywhere and I hope that the new design of the blog is to everyone's taste.  It is the first time I've changed things since I started back in 2008, so I can't be accused of rushing into it!

Pylon of the Month - December 2015


November slipped by without a pylon and not wanting pylon fans to end the year on a downer with another blank month, I was looking through the numerous pylon pictures sent in by fans, but struggling to find one that was right for December.  Then on Twitter as @pylonofthemonth, I was alerted to the wonderful picture above of a Cumbrian pylon.  

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 20.28.26

Making this Pylon of the Month seemed to be the least I could do given the troubles being caused in Cumbria by the weather, although I guess that having a Cumbrian pylon feature on my blog isn't going to make too much of a difference to life under such difficult circumstances.  The picture was taken by @Gardener_John and you can find more his fantastic pictures here.  Despite growing up in the North West and spending many weeks of my life in the Lake District, I must confess that I had never heard of Levens or Lindale.  Levens has a population of 1007 and the rather magnificent looking Levens Hall with its celebrated topiary garden.  Lindale, on the North-East shore of Morecambe Bay sounds just as interesting because of a famous former resident:

Lindale's most famous resident was John "Iron-Mad" Wilkinson, an ironworker and inventor who lived in the village from 1750, where he owned the Castle Head estate. He produced the iron for and helped design the world's first iron bridge (at Ironbridge and Broseley) and he made the world's first iron boat in 1787. A large iron obelisk stands in the village as memorial to him.

The village's full name of Lindale in Cartmel gives a clue that a road trip to this part of the world is well worth a day or more of your life.  Once you have done a bit of exploring, nearby Cartmel is a foodie destination with Trip Advisor having a guide to the 'The 10 Best Cartmel Restaurants'.  L'Enclume is the most famous and in 2014 was, according to the Good Food Guide, the best restaurant in the UK. So a bit of pylon spotting might be the main aim of your trip, but there are other attractions as well........!  That is what I love about writing Pylon of the Month; I always end up better informed than before I started writing a post.  I hope you are too as well if you have read this far.

Pylon of the Month - October 2015

Pylon of the month


The last two months have been up close and personal with my holiday pylons and so for October, I have gone for a more picturesque sunset pylonscape.  I quite like 'pylonscape' as a portmanteau word, although a quick Google search reveals that I'm not the first to use it, with John Sandell photography getting there before me!  The picture was sent in by a fan of the website and was taken in Middlesborough. Avid readers of this blog might remember that this isn't the first pylon from the North East to feature on the blog.  Back in February 2013, the Tees crossing pylons (the tallest pylons in the UK at 145m) featured, but is good to be back on Teeside after a gap of a couple of years.  I've never been to Middlesborough, but if I do, then the Captain Cook birthplace museum will definitely be on my 'things to do' list and the Love Middlesborough website has lots of other museums and galleries that could keep me going for a few days.  That's all for this month, but as always remember to follow @pylonofthemonth on Twitter if you want more regular pylon action.


Pylon of the Month - September 2015



With the start of a new academic year, I have been pressed for time and if a few more days had passed, I might not have got round to posting a pylon for September. Then I was contacted by the BBC and asked to appear on the Mark Forrest show (about the decision to remove some pylons from National Parks - I can't disagree with that) and I thought it would be bad form not to have an up to date blog.  So here is the second of my holiday pylons, this time from the beautiful Alhama de Granada in Spain.  We had a wonderful family holiday there at the end of August and this picture was taken just above the town after a walk along the famous gorge.  Like last month's pylon, it wouldn't win prizes for magnificence or size, but Pylon of the Month is as much about the unprepossessing pylons as it is about the more magnificent examples that have featured over the years.  I'll leave it there for this month and return in October with more non-holiday pylon action. As always, if you want more regular pylon updates, do remember @pylonofthemonth on Twitter.

Pylon of the Month - August 2015


As promised last month, here is the annual 'what I did on my holidays' pylon.  It was taken in Turkey near to Selcuk and I could have chosen bigger and better pylons, but this one caught my eye as we waited for a bus back from Pamucak beach, a few miles outside town.  It is probably the most unassuming pylon ever to have featured on Pylon of the Month, but it just goes to show that even small rusty pylons can get their moment in the sun.  I also like the fact that it is asymmetric and as I mentioned back in May 2012, it is this kind of pylon that may well have led Alain de Botton to describe pylons thus:

In different species, I noted varieties of modesty or arrogance, honesty or shiftiness, and in one 150-kilovolt type in ubiquitous use in southern Finland I even detected a coquettish sexuality in the way the central mast held out a delicate hand to its conductor wire

Selcuk is well known because of its proximity to the amazing ancient Roman city of Ephesus.  It really is a wonderful place and if you head out to tick off this month's pylon, then do make sure Ephesus is also on your itinerary!   You can also go and see the site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis, although you need a vivid imagination to really enjoy it.  It was our second visit to Selcuk (the last visit featured in August 2009) and as most people only go to Ephesus, the nearby town remains relatively unspoilt and a really lovely place to stay.  Contact Alison for advice and stay in one of the great houses that she looks after and you won't regret it.  

Pylon of the Month - July 2015



With my summer holiday (in Turkey) looming and the usual 'holiday pylon' to follow in August, I thought that I would choose a UK pylon for July.  I have quite a backlog of submissions from fans of the website, but this rather splendid one from Essex caught me eye as I trawled back through my collection of emails from the last year or so.  This is what the email I received had to say:

I recently took these photos whilst out on a 10 mile hike near Woodham Ferrers which is near Maldon in Essex.  I thought the pylons were majestic and fascinating, hence looking on the web at other photos and coming across your site.

Woodham Ferrers itself has more than a few points of interest of which my favourite is that it was attacked during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381. This revolt, about which I knew almost nothing (the name Wat Tyler rang a bell, but that was about it.....), seems to have been about a form of Poll Tax and started in Essex and then spread to Kent.  

I recognised the name of Maldon because of the sea salt connection.  It has been harvested since 1882 because Flat tide-washed marshes and low rainfall mean high salinity.  So pylon fans heading to Essex can top up on sea salt and this series of email exchanges on whether there is a discernible difference between sea salt and other forms of salt makes for interesting reading before you make any purchases.  For literature fans, Maldon also features in HG Wells's War of the Worlds and in the Marvel Universe, the twin superheroes Psylocke and Captain Britain were born and raised in Maldon.  Science fans will be equally pleased to know that John Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh, was nor in Maldon and went on to win the Nobel Prize in physics in 1904 for:

...his investigations of the densities of the most important gases and for his discovery of argon in connection with these studies".

Perhaps more relevant to the picture above, the reason for the blue sky in the background is due to Rayleigh scattering.  I'll end on that note and if you have read this far, then I hope that you are as delighted as I am that a pylon picture can lead to so many interesting (if somewhat random) facts about Essex.  I'm always better informed after writing these posts and hope that any readers are as well.

Pylon of the Month - May 2015


I've received a lot of pylon pictures over the last few weeks and choosing between them was causing me a bit of trouble.  I therefore decided to experiment with a bit of democracy and let one of my year 10 physics classes choose.  From a shortlist of six pylons, they chose the one above, although it wasn't unanimous and today in the lesson there was a bit of grumbling from a disgruntled student who is convinced that the wrong choice was made.  Anyway, it was the colour of the sky and the birds in flight that captured the popular vote and the fan who sent in the picture had this to say about it:

I've become a fan of your site via a colleague [who is] currently the recipient of the award for March. I have quite a lot of pylons, basically because where I live (Preston) there is only really one decent spot to photograph the sunset which is from near the docks, on the Ribble, and across the water in Penwortham is a substation at Howick Cross. The pylons carry the electricity over the river and either spoil the view or enhance it. Personally I like it as they give a focus to what would otherwise be a fairly mundane view as there are no other real landmarks in the direction of the sun. 
The North West of England seems to be a hotbed of pylon fans and this is one of a number from that part of the world.  As regular readers of this blog might know, that is the part of the world where I grew up and although I have only been to Preston a few times I do remember the famous/infamous (delete according to your taste in architectural styles) Brutalist bus station built in the late 1960s and since 2013, a grade 2 listed building.  As far as I am aware there aren't any listed electricity pylons, but the 'Patcham Pylon' near Brighton is grade 2 listed.  This has nothing to do with electricity, but harks back to the original use of the word pylon to describe the monumental entrance to a Greek temple.  I could go on (and have done so before, here in September 2012 and August 2011 where the etymology of the word 'pylon' was discussed).  That's all for now folks.  Come back next month for more or follow @pylonofthemonth for a more regular supply of pylon pictures.


Pylon of the Month - April 2015

Pylon 1

This has been a very busy month on the pylon front.  As well as making it onto the BBC website (Meet the Pylon Spotters) along with Flash who runs the Pylon Appreciation Society, I have done several interviews on local BBC radio stations about pylons.  The reason for this is that the six new T pylons (which I talked about back in November 2011) have been at installed at the National Grid training centre in Nottinghamshire and for a couple of days the UK went pylon mad, setting a new daily record of 4265 hits on Pylon of the Month.

I could have let all this publicity go to my head, but after considering featuring the new T pylon for April I have decided to stay true to the many fans who have sent in pylon pictures.  When I get a 'real' picture (rather than one from the internet) of the new T pylons I'l definitely use it, but until then it is business as usual.  So this month's picture was taken in Edinburgh and sent in with the following message:

Our very keen on your blog ‘Pylon of the month’ we took these photos out of our office windows earlier today – it would make his day/week/month if they could be included in your blog...... 

The window in question seems to be at the Milton Road Campus of Edinburgh College, which rather fittingly offers Electrical Engineering amongst many other courses.  With any luck, the news feed on their home page might soon be announcing the exciting news about Pylon of the Month featuring a nearby pylon.  It might even get people at the college debating whether they prefer the old lattice pylons as featured above or the new T pylons.  Flash Bristow has no doubts that 'These new electricity pylons will make Britain a duller place' although I'm not so sure.  They won't be replacing existing pylons and even new pylon lines will have the option of using the T pylons or not, so with variety being the spice of life perhaps it will enhance the pylon offering in the UK.  For lots on this and for more regular pylon action go to Twitter and @pylonofthemonth.