Pylon of the Month - December 2022


December's Pylon of the Month was chosen to bring a bit of colour to the depths of winter and also to bring a bit of culture to the blog. The picture above, La Route des Alpes, is by Tristram Hiller and was painted in 1937 when he was staying near Vence, a commune set in the hills of the Alpes Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France, north of Nice and Antibes. Even the keenest followers of the blog might struggle to recall that Hiller also featured on PotM back in January 2014 with his 1933 pylon painting which is generally accepted as one of the earliest or possibly even the first artistic appearance of a pylon. Hillier studied at the Slade School of Art, London, in 1926, and then in Paris where he fell under the influence of surrealists such as Giorgio de Chirico and Max Ernst. According to the Tate's description of this painting, Hillier later wrote that when staying near Vence:

I started to paint landscape again, not in my earlier manner en plein air, but attempting to construct my pictures from rough drawings which I would elaborate in the studio, in the style of the Flemish and Italian masters whose work I had recently had so much opportunity of studying. This was the beginning of my ultimate phase in painting, and became the manner in which I have worked ever since.

For a bit more on the life of Hillier, this short 6 minute film is hard to beat, but if you're looking for a deep dive into his artistic influences and how he blurred the distinction between abstraction and surrealism then this Art UK article is where to go. For a wider cultural overview of pylons and the art and poetry of the 1920s then James Purdon's 'Landscapes of Power' is excellent.

Merry Christmas to pylon fans everywhere! Next month we'll get back to pylons in real life.


Pylon of the Month - July 2020


July's pylon of the month is a splendid model made by a pylon fan who had this to say:

The structure of the pylons is a very interesting design to me and I have recently made an “organic pylon” out of twigs and branches which were gathered whilst out walking my dogs......I am not sure if there will be a demand for this as an artistic statement, but it is something I enjoyed building even though it took longer than I initially thought!

The shadow cast by this month's pylon is also a thing of beauty and the level of attention to detail is quite something.


The vast majority of pylons that feature on the blog are real life pylons that can be visited, but over the years there have been a few models or other artistic offerings. There was a pylon tattoo back in October 2012, followed in December 2013 by a Meccano pylon as well as others that have the 'Art' tag attached to the post.  

Now for a bit more technical detail about the use of wood in real life rather than in model pylons. Wooden poles in the UK are used for lower voltage lines (33 kV and 11 kV) and you see them alongside paths and near residential areas where the voltage has been stepped down from the main transmission network.  For pictures and details of the different types of power lines, this website is a good and fairly straightforward guide.

That's all for this month. More pylon action here next month or if you need more frequent pylon action in your life then go to Twitter and Instagram @pylonofthemonth.

Pylon of the Month - May 2020

Untitled picture

After a pylonless April, I decided that May should be a pylon picture that I had taken myself rather than one of the many sent in regularly by fans of the website.  Near where I live a few miles south of Oxford is part of the National Cycle Route 5.  A mile or so north along the (newly improved) route from Sandford Lock you pass within a few metres of the beauty in the foreground of the photograph acting as a frame for the next two pylons in the line.  You can pause and admire the size and scale of it from up close (and underneath for that matter) before you continue alongside the River Thames to Oxford.  Look more carefully at the picture however and you will see that there are four pylons and this whole area is a pylon rich environment because of the proximity of Didcot Power Station.  If it's a hot day and you decide to cool off in the river as part of your day out, be careful about taking a dip without being aware of a nearby hazard.

Sandford Lasher, or weir, is on the left bank well upstream of Sandford Lock. The pool below the weir has been notorious since the 19th century because of the number of individuals who have drowned there.

Despite having lived there for 16 years, I'd never heard of it before but it's famous enough for the J. Paul Getty Museum to have a photograph from 1872 in their collection.

I'm not as good at identifying the different pylon designs as I should be, but I think these are L6 pylons but I would be delighted to be corrected if I'm wrong.  This page from Flash Bristow's website is a good place to start if you want to know more about the different kinds of pylons. A quick check confirms that it is on a 400 kV line as shown on the open infrastructure map, another excellent source of information about the electricity transmission network in the UK.  At the nearby Cowley sub-station, the 400 kV line gets stepped down to a number of 132 kV lines and another rich source of information about sub-stations in the UK is the Wikipedia page on High Voltage substations in the United Kingdom.  So there you have it for another month; local history, a dash of culture courtesy of a Los Angeles museum and arcane technical information about pylons and electricity transmission networks.  Come back for more next month!







Pylon of the Month - June 2019


June's Pylon of the Month is an absolute cracker that I first came across on Twitter courtesy of @CPF_Photography who then kindly gave permission for me to use it.  It was taken in Birmingham near one of the city's many canals and for more wonderful Birmingham photographs look on the CPF photography website.  Let's deal with Birmingham and canals before we get into the pylons themselves.  A quick google search will reveal claims that Birmingham has more canals than Venice with 35 miles of waterways compared to Venice's 26 miles.  It turns out to be true but as the National Community Boats Association points out:

It’s at the heart of England’s canal network and has 35 miles of waterways so it does technically have more than the 26 miles of navigations you’ll find in Venice. But Birmingham is much bigger than Venice, so the density of canals there makes them a much more prominent feature of the city. Also, the canals of Venice are wide, whereas Birmingham’s waterways are narrow.

My elder son is at university in Birmingham and so I've been there quite a few times in the last couple of years, but the canals have yet to feature on my trip itinerary.  That clearly needs to be rectified as soon as possible.

Now to more pylon related issues.  The first thing that struck me when looking at the photograph is the wonderful reflection in the canal of the pylon in the foreground.  More careful inspection revealed that this foreground pylon is a terminator pylon - the end of the line where the cables go down to finish at a sub-station rather than continuing to another pylon. This was quickly followed by noticing that the next two pylons further back look different with two 'ears' rather than a single apex.  The two pylons further back are, however, a different line and I must confess at this point that I'm not entirely clear why they have two 'ears'.  I do know that the thin wire running through the top of more standard pylons is an earth wire designed to protect the pylons from lightning strikes but why two?  I look forward to learning more so that I can cross it off my 'things I still need to know about pylons' list.  Despite all the time I've spent writing about pylons over the years and the fact that I'm a Physics teacher this is still quite a long list. Let me know if you can help to shorten it a little.....


Pylon of the Month - September 2016


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.


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 - January 2014

GMA 3488

Regular readers of this blog are probably looking at this month's pylon and wondering what is going on, but for the first pylon of 2014 I thought that it would be appropriate to feature the first artist to recognise the significance of the pylon.  The picture is by Tristram Hillier and was painted in 1933.  It is in the collection of the National Gallery of Scotland which has this to say about it:

'Pylons' was exhibited at the first and only exhibition of the modernist 'Unit One' group in London in 1934, where it aroused much interest. It was purchased from the exhibition by Elizabeth Watt, who bequeathed it to the Gallery more than fifty years later. In this painting the three tall pylons carry no wires and their location on the beach is deliberately enigmatic. The attention to detail and relocation of objects from their usual surroundings draw parallels with the work of Dalí and Tanguy. However, unlike those artists, Hillier does not use unlikely objects and improbable landscapes.

I was made aware of the picture when I read my copy of the Jesus College Cambridge annual report in which there was an article by a research fellow, Dr James Purdon about "how the first pylons stimulated the artistic imagination of the nation".  You can read it in the report here and so I won't attempt to summarise the article, but Stephen Spender (who has featured on Pylon of the Month before) and the poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis both feature.  I was also rather fond of another picture, Landscape with Pylons by Julian Trevelyan, mentioned in the article and shown below (image obtained from here) and the article made connections between surrealism and pylons that certainly gave me food for thought.


Having raised Pylon of the Month to a new cultural high point, I thought I would briefly mention the fact that pylons are very much in the news at the moment in Ireland.  This recent Irish Examiner article gives a pretty good overview of the latest situation:

Throughout large swathes of Munster and Leinster, opposition has been mobilised against the proposal by Eirgrid to erect 1,300 pylons on a corridor running from Little Island, in Cork, through Wexford to Kildare. The exact route for the ‘Gridlink’ project has yet to be decided, but nobody within an ass’s roar of it is taking any chances................

If you want to follow development then twitter is a good place to start.  Search for the keyword 'pylon'and (in amongst lots of tweets from the USA where pylon refers to American Football and what we in the UK call traffic cones) you can find plenty of (mainly critical) tweets abouts Eirgrid's plans.