Current Affairs

Pylon of the Month - September 2016

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With a new school year starting, getting a pylon up on the blog for September is always tough and with the middle of the month looming, I'd begun to think that it might not happen.  Yesterday, however, I had a conversation with one of the students I teach and they mentioned that on the way to Heathrow fairly recently they had seen a line of pylons by the side of the motorway (so either the M4 or the M25).  Immediately realising that it would be of interest to me they captured the view on their phone and you can see the result above.  I don't have any more information that that, but thank you to the student for ensuring that September is not a pylon free month.

Just to give fans a bit more to look at, I thought that I'd also share a news article about a Stockholm architect's plans to convert two disused pylons into observation towers.

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The pylons are in Norra Djurgården national city park in Stockholm.  According to dezeen magazine

"Both we as an office and the client see an industrial historical value in keeping some of the big towers – they are quite amazing structures,"  Berensson  [the architect] told Dezeen.  "They have a great potential to be used for other things than carrying power lines – it's a tower for free!" he said. "There is also of course economic benefit in not having to pay to tear them down."

Remember this if you hear of any plans to tear down disused pylon in the UK!!


Pylon of the Month - February 2016

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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;  http://dumgalagainstpylons.org/.  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 - December 2015

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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.  

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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 - April 2015

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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 colleague............is 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.  


Pylon of the Month - May 2013

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This month's pylon comes from a fan of the website in Somerset and was taken almost exactly a year ago during the floods that affected Somerset in May 2012.  As the summer has started with much better weather so far (at least in Oxfordshire where I'm based) it seemed a good time to remind pylon followers of just how grim the summer was last year. The photograph was taken on Aller Moor and doing a bit of research led to my finding out quite a lot of new information about Somerset.  For a start, I had heard of the term the 'Somerset Levels' but had no idea what it meant.  I now know (courtesy of Wikipedia) that the more correct term is the 'Somerset Levels and Moors' and that the name Somerset may derive from the fact that in prehistory winter flooding meant that the area was only visited in summer. Hence Sumorsaete, meaning land of the summer people.  The 'levels' refers to the flat clay based areas near the coast with the moors being inland flood plains, as this month's pylon very clearly shows.  As a result, they are one of the most important inland wetland landscapes in Britain or even (according to the Visit Somerset website) in the world.   It is hard to credit that I have driven through the area on the M5 many times (most recently en route to Cornwall this Easter) and never realised that it is an area of such biodiversity and ecological importance.  There is even an ongoing attempt to reintroduce Cranes to the area and according to the Great Crane Project
Cranes are wonderful, iconic birds that are sadly missing from many of their former wetland haunts in the UK.  They were lost as a breeding bird around 400 years ago as a result of the draining of their wetland nesting sites, and hunting for food.

It is also tremendously important archeologically because the peaty soils are good for preserving ancient settlements.  So if you are in the area, once you have ticked off this month's pylon from your 'must see' list you there is no shortage of other things to do and places to visit.
 
It would be remiss of me not to finish by mentioning that pylons are very much in the news in this part of the country.  The proposed pylon line to carry electricity from the new nuclear power station due to be built at Hinckley Point will have 50m tall pylons which will have a significant impact upon the landscape, not least because they are twice as tall as the current towers.   Local MPs are campaigning to have the tranmission lines buried underground, but given the costs of this I fear they are likely to be disappointed. Having said that, a five mile stretch in the Mendips has been earmarked for possible burial, so watch this space for updates during the rest of 2013 and beyond.


Pylon of the Month - November 2011

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After all the excitement of September when Pylon of the Month featured on The One Show I have had a busy time and so hence the very delayed publication of a new pylon.  Normal service should be resumed in December, so for for all you pylon fans who have contacted me (there have been quite a few; seriously), there is no cause for alarm.  What else could I do for November other than to showcase the winning pylon from the Royal Institute of British Architects Pylon Design competition

As Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said:

”This is an innovative design which is simple, classical and practical. Its ingenious structure also means that it will be much shorter and smaller than existing pylons and therefore less intrusive. This competition has been a great success in bringing forward new and creative approaches to a pylon model which has not changed since the 1920s.We are going to need a lot more pylons over the next few years to connect new energy to our homes and businesses and it is important that we do this is in the most beautiful way possible.”

I have to confess that the winning design wasn't the one that I voted for as part of the public consultation, but now that I can see the winning design in a suitably festive landscape I can see why it won. If you want to look at all the entries (and some of them are really very imaginative if somewhat impractical) then look at the competition gallery