Pylon of the Month - January 2021


The first pylon of 2021 comes from Boars Hill just outside Oxford and was sent to me by a friend after a walk with his wife during the recent cold snap.  The hoar frost on the hedge and the fog1 made for a wonderfully atmospheric scene that can surely only have been enhanced by the pylon's presence. Boars Hill is a beautiful area for a walk if you are in the Oxford area and was where Matthew Arnold was inspired to write Thyrsis, the poem in which the famous lines that have come to define one misty-eyed2 perspective of Oxford.

And that sweet city with her dreaming spires

She needs not June for beauty's heightening

It is clear from the pylon design (PL16?) that this is a 132 kV line and a quick check of the Open Infrastructure Map confirmed this and also showed the lower voltage lines that you can see in the foreground of the picture. In the UK, three phase supply on wooden poles is usually either 11 kV or 33 kV but sadly, the map doesn't specify the voltage on such lowly lines. Interestingly, the 132 kV tower only seems to have a single circuit (3 lines - one for each phase) with two lines on one side of the tower and the third on the opposite side. I'm not sure why so I'll seek out the answer when I tweet this out as @pylonofthemonth

For more about Boars Hill, the Oxford Preservation Trust website is wonderfully informative.  The literary links to the area are legion, with four Poets Laureate having lived there; Robert Bridges, John Masefield, Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden. Elizabeth Daryush, the daughter of Robert Bridges, was also a noted poet and the garden of her house on Boars Hill is managed by the Oxford Preservation Trust. A visit there would be just the ticket for any pylon fans with a literary bent.


  1. I was going to call it mist until I looked up the difference and according to The Met Office, it turns out to be fog because you can see less than 1,000 metres.
  2. Foggy-eyed just doesn't work here.



Pylon of the Month - December 2019

Pylon (1) (1)

December's pylon of the month is another first for the blog as the observant amongst you will already have spotted.  It is an absence of pylon or a pylon of the imagination, at least in the picture above.  I spotted it on Twitter recently where it was posted by @geospacedman with the following description:

Contrails? No, electricity cables backlit by building works lights over the hill. I think there's a pylon in this shot but invisible.

For those who are not satisfied with the power of their imagination and want to see it in real life, you need to head to the cycle path from Lancaster University into Lancaster.  It's the transmission line through the middle of this map below looking west towards the pylon just over the railway line.  
According to Susan Hill in this Guardian article, ghost stories fulfil a basic human need and as the author of the very scary Woman in Black, she should know.  I'm looking at this picture and already thinking of long demolished pylons that reappear on certain nights when strange happen in the local vicinity.  I'm thinking of a quiet misty night, walking home alone when the buzzing noise that you get from pylon lines in damp weatheris heard as a warning of approaching death; a kind of electrical banshee.  Need I go on?  Perhaps you are already looking at the picture above, feeling a shiver run down your spine and swearing never to walk alone near pylon lines in the dark.  Then again perhaps not.  
Merry Christmas to Pylon fans everywhere and see you again in 2020.  If you can't wait until then, you could always invest in one of these lovely Christmas tree decorations.
1.  That sound has a name, according to BC Hydro specialist engineer Mazana Armstrong.  Corona, Latin for crown, is the name for the luminous "crown" of tiny sparks that can, very rarely, be visible around equipment such as power lines and insulators. It's this crown that causes the occasional buzzing and crackling that you can hear....."Water droplets like rain, snow, or even fog and mist, help speed the electrical breakdown of the air particles, making the corona louder and easier to hear," she says.

Pylon of the Month - December 2018


November was another pylonless month and with December rushing by, I decided that action had to be taken to ensure that two fallow months in succession didn't come to pass.  A recent email inspired this month's post:


I wrote a poem about a pylon and was wondering if you would like to feature it on your blog? I live in Manchester, and the poem was inspired by a specific pylon in Sale Water Park.
The pylon that acted as the poetic muse is the one above courtesy of Geograph which has this to say about it:
One of the dominant features of the square is the high voltage power line which crosses Sale Water Park. This pylon is near the south eastern end of the lake. A footpath runs beneath the legs. There is a second pylon in the square on the northern shore of the lake.
That's enough background - let's get to the poem itself written by Annie Muir, an award winning and published poet based in Manchester.  To find out more visit her blog



She stands by the lake
like the ribcage of a dinosaur.

A spider’s web for catching clouds
with six arms like a god or six legs like a bug.

She is pear-shaped,
the capital A at the start of the alphabet,

caged in her steel corset dress
and barbed wire socks. A puppeteer of seagulls

managing the ducks that sprinkle her lake
like hundreds and thousands on a 99

but also a puppet herself, held up by wires
like lines indicating movement –

she is the shed skin of a moment in your life. A monument
to the here and now

like a photo of you with a different haircut
or a pair of old shoes

tied to your new ones by the laces
but trailing behind, covered in mud.


Regular readers of this blog will already know about the pylon poets, of whom the most famous is Stephen Spender featured on the blog back in May 2009. I'm also a big fan of the forgotten pylon poet Stanley Snaith who featured on the blog more recently in August 2017.  

Merry Christmas to pylon fans everywhere.

Pylon of the Month - August 2017

P1060430 copy

 This month we have a Scottish pylon from Loch Errochty, a man made freshwater loch in Perth and Kinross.  The pylons are on the Beauly to Denny power line which brings power from renewable sources in the north of Scotland to consumers further south.  It was (and remains) very controversial and the Herald Scotland reported back in 2015 that 'Its impact on the Highland landscape was compared to taking a razor blade to a Rembrandt'.  Those who planned and built it insist that it is essential if Scotland is to meet national renewable energy targets.

You can see a more zoomed out picture below.


A few factoids from the BBC

  • The line is 137 miles long and supported by 615 pylons which run through some of the country's most inaccessible terrain.
  • The project supported more than 2,000 jobs over seven years
  • But it attracted about 20,000 objections
  • It is the longest transmission line to be built in the UK in recent times
  • Its highest point is the Corrieyairack Pass at 2,526 feet

As soon as I saw the picture (which was sent in by a fan of the website), my thoughts went to a 2009 article in the Guardian by Jonathan Glancey entitled 'The Gaunt Skeletal Beauty of Pylons'.  I wrote about it back in 2009 and it was the article that first introduced me to the Pylon Poets and Stephen Spender's poem about pylons. Rather pleasingly, the post is still number three on Google if you search on 'pylon poets' which explains why I still get a fair bit of traffic on the blog from a post that is eight years old.  Anyway, I still think that there is a kind of beauty that pylons bring to a landscape.  So did Barbara Hepworth according to this very scholarly article from the Amodern website

Likewise, the sculptor Barbara Hepworth drew inspiration from the sight of “pylons in lovely juxtaposition with springy turf and trees of every stature” seen from the window of an electric train.

The same source makes it clear that there was plenty of opposition to the pylons that the construction of the National Grid in the 1920s and 30s brought:

For others – including Rudyard Kipling, John Maynard Keynes and John Galsworthy, co-signatories of a letter to the editor of The Times – the erection of “steel masts” carrying “high-tension wires” over the Sussex Downs amounted to nothing less than “the permanent disfigurement of a familiar feature of the English landscape.”

But Reginald Blomfield, the man who oversaw the design of the new National Grid pylons was having none of it in a letter to the times:

Anyone who has seen these strange masts and lines striding across the country, ignoring all obstacles in their strenuous march, can realise without a great effort of imagination that [they] have an element of romance of their own. The wise man does not tilt at windmills – one may not like it, but the world moves on.

I'll finish with a 1933 poem by Stanley Snaith discussed extensively in the Amodern article.

Over the tree’d upland evenly striding,

One after one they lift their serious shapes

That ring with light. The statement of their steel

Contradicts nature’s softer architecture.

Earth will not accept them as it accepts

A wall, a plough, a church so coloured of earth

It might be some experiment of the soil’s.

Yet are they outposts of the trekking future.

Into the thatch-hung consciousness of hamlets

They blaze new thoughts, new habits.


Are being trod down like flowers dropped by children.

Already that farm boy striding and throwing seed

In the shoulder-hinged half-circle Millet knew,

Looks grey with antiquity as his dead forbears,

A half familiar figure out of the Georgics,

Unheeded by these new-world, rational towers.

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 - 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.

Pylon of the Month - December 2012

Sunrise over mersey
Sometimes, a month passes so quickly that I never get around to posting a new pylon.  As a result I often get e-mails reminding me to update the blog (really I do; you know who you are.....).  Looking back through the archives, however, I was shocked to see that there has never been a December pylon of the month and I was determined to put that right.  With recent fans offering me pylon pictures from the Grand Canyon, Maryland and other exotic locations, I was tempted to head abroad again, but instead I am returning to the roots of this website with an ordinary British pylon.  I'm also heading up North back to my roots because it is a picture taken looking out from the A50 near Warrington towards the North East and I lived in nearby Leigh for a short time and in the North Manchester area for all of my childhood.  The A50 runs from Warrington to Leicester and the most exciting thing that I could find out about it was that a section of it between Stoke and Derby was originaly meant to be a new motorway, the M64, but the project was cancelled in the 1976 and so no such motorway exists.  Warrington itself has quite a lot to offer if you are in the area.  It has been a crossing point on the River Mersey since ancient times (and the river features in the picture above) and was also the site of the last Royalist victory of the English civil war on the 13th August 1651.

The quality of the pictures on Pylon of the Month is quite variable, but this one is a real gem and well worth double clicking to appreciate in all its glory.  I'll use it as an excuse to link back to the most popular post on Pylon of the Month about Stephen Spender's poetry, because the Guardian article that described it was headlined "The gaunt, skeletal beauty of Pylons".  All over the world people seem to get set essays on Spender and his pylon poem and when you google 'Stephen Spender Pylon' out comes Pylon of the Month as the top hit. At least it did when I wrote this post and long may it continue.  Merry Christmas to pylon fans everywhere.  

Pylon of the Month - October 2012

Karol tattoo
This month's Pylon is different for all kinds of reasons as I am sure all but the most unobservant of readers will have already have spotted.  After quite a few years of real pylons that you could actually go and visit if you were so inclined, that might prove more diffcult this month.  I have also kept the contributors to the website anonymous, but this month I'm happy to report that the pylon is tattooed on the arm of Karol Michalec from Brighton (as always, click on the photo for a larger version).  You can find out more at his website.  Although if you do go down to East Sussex to visit Karol, you could also visit the Patcham pylon that I mentioned only last month.  I've never really been tempted by body art myself, although as I'm due a mid-life crisis perhaps I should pre-empt it and visit my local tattoo parlour.  If I did, I'd be very tempted by a bubble chamber tattoo, although perhaps this equation for the momentum/position version of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle might be a bit more understated and stylish? 
Anyway, the other bit of pylon news this month relates to a book, The Beauty of Electricity Pylons in the Dutch Landscape, that I mentioned back in November 2009 after it featured in Alain De Botton's fantastic book, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.  One of the authors of the Dutch book (Anne Mieker Backer) has got in touch and so I now know that is published by De Hef in Rotterdam. So if you are looking for an unusual Christmas or birthday present for a Dutch speaking friend or family member then your search is over.  Full details here.

Pylon of the Month - May 2012


I've been meaning to feature a pylon like this one ever since reading Alan de Botton's splendid book 'The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work'.  It has a chapter on electricity transmission and pylons and in it, he has this to say about pylons:

"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"

Judging by the interview in the Independent from where I grabbed this quote, I wasn't the only person to be rather surprised by the use of the word coquettish in relation to pylons.  In the dictionary, "coquettish" is defined as flirtatious or sexy and these are not the first words which spring to mind when thinking of pylons.  But then again (and at the risk of sounding a lot weirder than I actualy am), I can kind of see what he means when I look at this month's pylon with its rather provocative lack of symmetry.  

On a more prosaic note, the picture was taken from the car park of Millets Farm near Abingdon-on-Thames (Britain's oldest continuously occupied town) in Oxfordshire. So it is easy to visit and you can do a bit of food shopping and visit the garden centre at the same time. So if you are looking for a fun day out for all the family now that  summer now icumen in you know where to go.

Pylon of the Month - August 2011


After a break from pylons in July, Pylon of the Month is back again and as summer is with us it is time for the pylon picture taken on my holidays.  This year, it comes from Greece and it was taken in the village of Agios Floros just north of Kalamata (famous for its delicious olives) as we drove back to Athens after a wonderful two weeks on the Mani peninsula.  We stayed in Kardamili, a small but beautiful village that until recently was the home of the famous travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor.  His book, Mani, is well worth a read if you want to get a feel for this part of Greece as it was in the 1950s.  His most famous book, however, is probably 'A Time of Gifts' which tells the story of the first part of his walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in the 1930s.  He fought in the Second World War and led the raid that captured and evacuated the German Commander from Crete as made famous by the film ''Ill met by Moonlight'.

On one day trip we went to Pylos and it did occur to me that there might be a link between Pylos and pylons.  If there is I can't find it, but I did stumble across an excellent discussion on the origin of the word pylon (meaning a tower carrying electricity cables).  Keen pylon fans will already know that the original use of the word was to describe the gateway to an Egyptian temple, but the first use in the modern sense cited by the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1923 (pre-dating the building of the National Grid which began in 1928).  

"A tall tower-like structure erected as a support for a cable, etc.; spec. (now the principal use) a lattice-work metal tower for carrying overhead electricity lines. 
1923 E. SHANKS Richest Man iii. 52 Half a mile up the mountain, a cable, a thin black line, traversed the crystal air, borne up on pylons"   

It is not clear how 'pylon' came to have this meaning but there is much interesting etymological discussion to had here for those keen to expand their pylon knowledge.  The Pylon Poets (see this previous Pylon of the Month post for further details) do get a mention in the OED as well and one contributor to the discussion wonders if they played a part in popularising the use of the word with a deliberately ironic reference to ancient monuments.  Fascinating stuff and if you ever meet anyone who thinks that pylons are boring, do enlighten them.