Pylon of the Month - April 2024


April's Pylon of the Month is one of those in the picture above. It's not like the old newspaper Spot the Ball game where I've chosen one secretly and you've got to guess which one it is and win a prize1. Rather, you can choose your own favourite using whatever metrics you want. I'm going for the one on the right of the two reflected in the puddle. If you've found this page via X/Twitter, feel free to let me know if you chose a different one! 

The picture was sent to me by a colleague and fellow physics teacher and is located north of Kennington near Oxford. Eagle-eyed pylon fans will already have spotted the fact there are two different transmission lines in the photo. One at 400 kV and the other in the foreground with the less substantial pylons, at a mere 132 kV. The lower rated line heads to the West Oxford substation near Osney whilst the 400 kV Cowley-Seven Springs marches west to Gloucester and beyond. The picture also caught my eye as I sat writing this post with the rain coming down outside, because of the standing water. It's been a very wet year so far, but in this field, there were stripes of flooding that caught the eye of my colleague. A bit of research led to the conclusion that is an archeological remnant of a ridge and furrow ploughing:

Ridge and furrow is an archaeological pattern of ridges (Medieval Latin: sliones) and troughs created by a system of ploughing used in Europe during the Middle Ages, typical of the open-field system.

The stripes caused by the ridges and furrows can clearly be seen on the LIDAR image of the area below courtesy of


That's all for this month. See you in May when the weather will hopefully have improved!

1. According to this Guardian article from 2014, a jackpot hadn't been paid out for over 10 years in the Spot the Ball competition because so few people were entering the competition. As far as I'm aware, it isn't in any newspaper nowadays but there are, inevitably, online versions. This is one of them.

Pylon of the Month - February 2024


Sometimes in February, I just want a reminder of sunnier times to come, but this month's pylon sees me hunkering down with a seasonally appropriate pylon sent in by a fan of the website. He is such a fan that a 2024 calendar he produced to celebrate Yorkshire pylons made the news! Anyway, back to February and Blackstone Edge on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border where this picture was taken.  The pylon in the foreground is a tension pylon, specifically a D90, so called because the transmission lines are Deviating by 90 degrees. There was lots of detail about the difference between tension and suspension pylons back in February 2017 and it is worth visiting to see one of the most spectacular photographs to feature on the blog. The email that accompanied this month's pylon pointed out a detail that would have escaped the notice of all but the most eagle-eyed:

....the line coming from the left (from Padiham substation) is dual bundles, but about half-way along one jumper on each arm, another jumper has been added, the 3 then going to 3 glass insulators on the other side of the tower, meaning triple bundles going off into the distance towards Halifax.

I don't understand what is going on with this dual to triple bundle change but as always, I'd be delighted to find out more!1 Sometimes my requests for further information do bear fruit. Back in September 2022, I wrote:

This type of pylon is (according to the French pylon Wikipedia page) a cat pylon (Le pylône Chat) and you can see why with the triangular features on top looking like ears. Whether that is a name recognised across international borders I have no idea - well travelled pylon experts please do get in touch and let me know.

A well travelled pylon expert did get in touch to point out that page 187 of a World Bank Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Study on the proposed 225 kV Bolgatanga-Ouagadougou Interconnection Project (Ghana side) contained a reference to a cat's head configuration tower.


Just one more thing I sign off. Any new pylon spotters who need help identifying the different pylon types should take a look at this excellent Spotters’ Guide to Pylons. It was published by the Pylon Appreciation Society, and although the website still exists, the society is sadly no longer active because the founder, Flash Bristow, died in 2020. See you in March!

  1. Pylon enthusiasts did get in touch via Twitter: "I think the change is due to wind loading. The twin bundles are offset from each other with no spacers either. They start here where the line turns north, and has full exposure of the east-west wind over the Pennines." You can read all about it on Twitter.




Pylon of the Month - January 2024

PY 140214

Happy New Year to pylon fans everywhere!

January's Pylon of the Month is one of a famous pair from Cádiz in Spain. So famous in fact that they have their own Wikipedia page, which has this to say:

The Pylons of Cádiz, also known as the Towers of Cádiz, are two 158 m (518 ft)-tall pylons..........running from Puerto Real Substation to the substation of the former Cádiz Thermal Power Station, situated on the peninsula upon which the city of Cádiz stands.

They aren't as tall as the 190 m high Thames crossing pylons, and are only rated at 132 kV but size isn't everything, and the unusual truncated conical cross-section of the towers marks them out. This unusual design stems from the fact they were constructed from 1957-60 under the Franco regime. The huge steel carriers required for a more conventional design couldn't be manufactured in Spain and importing them was not an option. I almost used the word unique when describing the towers but if I had done, I might have been deluged with emails pointing out that the Shukov Tower on the Oka River has a very similar hyperboloid design. I feel like I should issue a content warning at this point in case anyone gets sucked down into a constructivist architecture internet rabbit hole - I escaped by the skin of my teeth. 

Cadiz was already on my "places to visit" list but it has moved up several places as a result of this month's pylon. That's all for now - see you in February!

Pylon of the Month - December 2023


Dec15 Dec16 Dec21
Dec21 Dec18 Dec18
Dec15 Dec18 Dec21

December's Pylon of the Month should be plural - Pylons of the Month. I decided to go back and find all the December posts from previous years and bring them together. The layout is a bit all over the place, which I could presumably fix if I got stuck into a bit of HTML, but I decided to go with a rough and ready aesthetic instead. The first December pylon wasn't until 2012, over four years after the blog started which was a bit of a surprise. After that, I wasn't imbued with the Christmas spirit because I didn't bother with a December pylon for the next two years, but since 2015 there has been one every year. If you are at a very loose end and there is nothing on the TV over the festive season, it's easy to find all the posts on the Pylon of the Month archive.

The other thing that struck me is that there have been very few truly seasonal pylons. The only one that features snow is December 2017 which was from Spain and sits in the centre of the layout above. December 2019 did at least show pylon fans how they could buy a pylon-themed Christmas tree decoration, which got me looking for more of the same and led me to this wonderful PaintsPylons tree decoration. I've just ordered one and so should pylon fans everywhere. On that note, I'll sign off with a Merry Christmas to electricity infrastructure fans everwhere! See you in 2024.

Screenshot 2023-12-16 115144

Pylon of the Month - November 2023


November's Pylon of the Month was sent in by a fellow pylon fan with the comment that:
You’re probably not aware that over the course of this year the National Grid has changed the line of pylons between the Offerton substation and West Boldon in Sunderland / South Tyneside. They are now in the process of removing the old 275Kv towers that still stand wireless.
While I keep an ear to the ground, this was the first I'd heard about this development in the North East of England. The email also mentioned that the new 450 kV towers might be related to the opening of a new electric vehicle battery factory. Google didn't turn up anything definitive about this, but Envision is working with Nissan on just such a factory that is due to open in 2025 according to this article on the Electrive website. There is something about pylons without wires that I find rather sad - pylons without a purpose - but I imagine that the old towers will soon be taken down. Perhaps they will be recycled and born again as part of one of the many new lines planned over the next decade. 
About 8-10 new 450Kv towers have been installed and according to the sender of the picture,
One of the towers (not photographed - though I could do one if you like) is of an odd shape that seems to be where the new series joins the old series.
Of course, I took up the offer of a photograph and here it is. I'm hopeful that one of the many fans of the website expert knowledge about the National Grid will be able to shed some light on the details of how the old 275 kV and new 450 kV pylons were brought together.
Finally, October saw my first TV appearance on the BBC's Politics SouthEast programme. In that part of the country, the many proposed new pylons are causing a certain amount of controversy and my job was to try and persuade people that pylons are beautiful. I'm not sure whether I succeeded or not, but I enjoyed the chance to get my message out there!

Pylon of the Month - October 2023


October's Pylon of the Month was meant to make an appearance in September as an addition to the occasional series of 'What I did on holidays' pylons. It can still do that, but is also part of the rather more regular 'better late than never' series. The picture was taken on the outskirts of Ciutadella on the beautiful island of Menorca in late August. Having spent time on the beach, a rainy day proved to be the perfect opportunity to visit Lithica, a disused quarry that has been converted into a magical place. On the walk to the quarry, the appearance of a substation was an added bonus and I couldn't resist a photo with the pylon, for once, being upstaged by some serious electrical infrastructure. What caught my eye as much as anything was the rather striking blue glass insulator discs that you can just about make out in places. Anyway, back to Menorca which only has one traditional 245 MW power station near the capital Mahon. According to a recently published report, 97% of Menorca’s electricity demand in 2018 stemmed from the combustion of fuel oil and diesel at this power plant, while the contribution of renewable energy to the electric power system was 3%. The Menorca 2030 Strategy for decarbonising the island's energy system aims to do something about this by "placing Menorca at the forefront of clean energy usage and serving as a benchmark for other territories of the European Union". We had such a great time on the island that I might well go back annually to keep an eye on how the project is progressing. That's all for this month and I'm already working on November's pylon so hopefully, it won't be late!



Pylon of the Month - August 2023


Even the most unobservant readers of the blog will have spotted that August's Pylon of the Month is a bit different and I have @moakcarlsson to thank for bringing it to my attention on Twitter. I'll certainly be getting hold of a copy of the book she is currently writing that includes this and other CEGB adverts. The image of a pylon being plonked down by a hand from the sky is quite arresting and the issues raised in the text of the advert are as relevant today as they were over fifty years ago.  Some headlines from the last few months:

Give cash to households in path of new pylons, government urged

East Anglia pylons: Landowners contacted over 112-mile power line

Business owners say super pylons 'threaten future of countryside'

In Somerset, noisy new net zero pylons are marching across the countryside – and the locals are not happy [paywall]

Anger over revised route for 112-mile pylon line through Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex countryside

The push for net zero bringing ever more sources of renewable energy online is behind almost all of these headlines and the ones that will surely follow them for the foreseeable future. The National Grid's recently published ‘Delivering for 2035: Upgrading the grid for a secure, clean and affordable energy future’ sets a target of 'Building over 5 times more transmission overhead or underground lines than we have built in the last 30 years'. It's hard to find too many people opposed to the idea of greater use of renewable energy, but whilst it's easy to support the idea in principle it all gets a bit messy when the pylons affect you rather than other people. It's pretty much a textbook definition of NIMBYism.  Most of the objections to the routes chosen for the pylon lines could be addressed by spending a lot more money to bury the cables or, in some cases, routing them offshore but the cost of this is around ten times more expensive than traditional overhead lines, so unrealistic under most circumstances. That's all for this month. September will see a return to a pylon that you could actually visit if you were minded to do so! 

Pylon of the Month - July 2023

Pylon 2After two pylonless months, July's pylon comes all the way from the hills outside Wellington, New Zealand. The picture was taken looking south with the Makara wind farm in the distance and beyond that the South Island, with the Cook Strait in between. Whenever I think about New Zealand, a couple of things spring to mind. The first is a piece of music called Land of the Long White Cloud by Philip Sparke that I played many years ago with Besses o' th' Barn brass band. I don't remember many pieces I played nearly forty years ago so something about it must have been special. You can hear it being played at the 2022 European Brass Band Championship. The second is an exchange between Queen Elizabeth and her equerry, Sir Kevin in Alan Bennett's novella, The Uncommon Reader: 

"New Zealand, that land of sheep and Sunday afternoons….If one wanted to pass the time one would go to New Zealand". 

I think it was meant as a gentle dig at New Zealand, but it's a country that is high up my list of places to visit and as my wife is a big rugby fan and has relatives there, she wouldn't take much persuading as long as we went during the rugby season. 

Anyway, back to the pylon. It was emailed in by a fan of the blog who has been involved in the electricity industry for 30 years so the email was packed full of interesting links. The very first electricity generated in New Zealand was in 1888 and it was from a hydroelectric power plant in Reefton that supplied the inhabitants of the town at a cost of £3 per year for every light in the house. Today, around 90% of New Zealand's electricity is from renewable sources, and in the words of this month's pylon provider "Despite being a long stringy network, over difficult, mountainous, earthquake-prone terrain, and exposed to extremes of weather New Zealand enjoys a highly resilient and reliable transmission system". It also includes an HVDC cable that links the North and South Islands and although HVDC was being used for various projects from about 1954, the construction of the inter-island link from 1961-65 made it fairly cutting edge in technological terms. An interesting historical footnote is that the cables used for the link were made by a company, British Insulated Callender's Cables (BICC), that played a significant role in the construction of the British National Grid.

I'm resolved not to miss any more months this year, so although that's all I've got for now, I'll be back again soon!

Pylon of the Month - April 2023


As winter starts to recede in the rearview mirror and the skiing season draws to a close, April's Pylon of the Month comes from St. Anton in Austria. The last time an Austrian pylon featured on the blog was back in May 2011. A colleague sent this picture my way in the middle of her holiday with the good news that she had so far managed to avoid skiing into it. The padding around the bottom would suggest that isn't the case for everyone! Anyway, a quick check of the invaluable Open Infrastructure Map reveals that the valley in which St. Anton sits has quite a few pylon lines running along it, so it is hard to be sure exactly which line this particular pylon is on.  It's good to see that sustainability is important to the area with the St. Anton Am Arlberg website proclaiming that:

An important and unique project in the world of ski resorts is the independent power supply. In 2005, the Kartell power plant was expanded and the Kartell lake put into operation. This reservoir, which is also a tourist attraction, holds around eight million cubic meters of water and supplies around 33 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The entire storage volume of the Kartellsee is used again by the existing Rosanna power plant. This means that St. Anton am Arlberg has been self-sufficient in electricity supply since 2006.

I can't find the specific power plants mentioned above on the Wikipedia List of Power Stations in Austria page but that could well be because of naming issues in English and German. It is clear, however, that pumped hydropower is big in that part of Austria as you would expect from the terrain. The nearby Kaunertal Power Plant is an example and it generates around 661 Gigawatt hours of electrical energy in a typical year. You can even visit it, so if you find yourself in the area in winter and fancy a day away from the slopes, then this looks like a must-see for all fans of winter sports and electrical infrastructure. 

That's all for now, but as always, you can head to Pylon of the Month on Twitter if you want pylons to be a more regular part of your life.


Pylon of the Month - March 2023


October's pylon comes via Twitter courtesy of @Cloudwatcher 32 who goes by the Twitter name Liminal Spaces1. It caught my eye for a number of reasons, the first of which is that there has always been a special place on Pylon of the Month for pylons photographed out of the window of a moving vehicle. One of the earliest pylons on the blog back in July 2009 was from a photo taken on the M6 and there have been many others since. This one was self-evidently taken out of a train window and I like the juxtaposition of the electricity transmission network and a lone pylon with the railway electricity transmission system in the foreground. I also like the interior lights reflected in the window and which act as a reminder that the image was taken whilst on a journey.  'Liminal' in the OED has one definition that is particularly relevant here given the source of the image:

Characterized by being on a boundary or threshold, esp. by being transitional or intermediate between two states, situations, etc.

Railway journeys offer lots of scope for gazing out of the window and spotting pylons, although mobile phones and onboard wifi mean that fewer people take the opportunity to do so. Happily, @Cloudwatcher32 did and this photo was taken whilst heading down the East Coast main line north of Peterborough. The ever trusty Open Infrastructure map tells me that the pylon is on the 400 kV Cottam Power Station to Wymondley Substation line but a quick check shows that Cottam power station was decommissioned in 2019. Further investigation on the map seems to indicate that the West Burton power stations could be using the line - perhaps someone in the know could confirm this? Anyway, if it is West Burton, there are two power stations there, one combined cycle gas turbine (West Burton B) and one coal-fired (West Burton A). West Burton A is one of only three coal-fired power stations left in the UK and was due to close in September 2022. Its life was extended by six months because of the volatile energy market associated with the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and it is now due to close at the end of March 2023. Featuring on the blog in the month of its demise is therefore a rather timely tribute to its loyal service since 1966 and a nice way to bring this month's post to an end.

1. If you're unclear about the difference between a Twitter handle and a Twitter name this link should clear things up