After a dry January on the pylon front (but not on the alcohol front....), February's pylon is a cracker. As with so many of the pictures on the blog, it was provided by a fan of the website and the email that accompanied the picture is an inspiration to pylon fans everywhere.
We've always had a fascination with pylons, living on a farm as kids we'd often walk out into the fields and stand under them and marvel.
The picture was taken near the village of Claxton in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire. My only visit to that area was nearly 25 years ago and a bit of Googling led me to the place I stayed; The White Swan in Pickering. It was easy to track down because just about the only thing I remembered about the stay was the great selection of St. Emillion wines. It's good to see that nothing has changed in the intervening years on the wine front!
Anyway back to the pylons and to the information provided by the photographer.
Two high voltage power lines cross paths, and in order to allow one to pass under the other a large pylon has been constructed for one power line, while the other power line has been split into two smaller pylons that pass under the higher power line.
Then there is a lyrical passage that will surely elicit nods of recognition from readers of this blog.
I think there is a beauty to this structure. Firstly in a mathematical sense, the symmetry of this arrangement of the pylons and the geometric shapes constructing the individual objects. But also in the sense of how these gentle giants contrast so heavily with their natural surroundings but managed to blend in so unnoticed by so many as if they were simply trees that had always been there. There's also the fact that these objects hold such importance to everyday life, and that hours upon hours of thought will of gone into the placement and design of this structure at the hands of engineers - only for them to peacefully blend away to the countryside: noticed by only a few.
Prompted by the mention of the word symmetry above, I'll finish for this month with a hiveminer generated collection of beautiful symmetrical pylon images.
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 weather1 is 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.
October slipped by without a pylon and November was in grave danger of going the same way until two things happened. One was a comment on the blog asking when the next pylon was going to be posted and the other was a visit to Geneva where I saw this beauty. But it wasn't just Geneva, this pylon is actually inside the cathedral of physics that is the 'Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire' or CERN as it is know all over the world. As a Physics teacher this is about as good as it gets and so how could I possibly resist.
CERN uses quite a lot of electricity when it is up and running:
At peak consumption, usually from May to mid-December, CERN uses about 200 megawatts of power, which is about a third of the amount of energy used to feed the nearby city of Geneva in Switzerland.
The annual electricity bill is about €60 million but about 90% of this is linked to the operation of the accelerators and at the moment, the Large Hadron Collider, is shut down for maintenance and upgrade work so there whoever has the job of feeding coins into the electricity meter must be having an easy life.
This second long shutdown (LS2) is due to be completed by early summer 2020. Until about March visiting CERN is definitely worth the effort as you can get underground and look around in a wat that just isn't possible when everything is up and running. Get there whilst you can!
This month's pylon is from Italy and will be particularly appreciated by pylon fans of a bibulous disposition. It was sent in by a fan of the website and was taken in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. In particular, the vineyards of Barbaresco, and according to wine-searcher:
Barbaresco is one of the great wines of the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy. Historically it was called Nebbiolo di Barbaresco (Nebbiolo being the grape it's made from) and was used by the Austrian General Melas to celebrate his victory over the French in 1799.
Such is the beauty and distinctiveness of this part of the world, that in 2014 it was recognised as a World Heritage Site because '......the Piedmont vineyards provide outstanding living testimony to winegrowing and winemaking traditions that stem from a long history, and that have been continuously improved and adapted up to the present day'.
So pylon fans heading for this part of the world can tick off the rather splendid asymmetric pylons in the vineyard before retiring to a bar to sample the local wine. In doing so, it would be wise to ensure that the difference between the two local wines Barolo and Barbaresco is properly appreciated.
The main difference in Barolo and Barbaresco is in the soils. The soil in Barbaresco is richer in nutrients and, because of this, the vines don’t produce as much tannin as found in the wines of Barolo. Both wines smell of roses, perfume and cherry sauce — and they both have a very long finish. The difference is in the taste on the mid-palate; the tannin won’t hit you quite as hard in the Barbaresco.
The quote above is from wine folly and with plenty of wine recommendations to try out, oenophile pylon fans will be in heaven.
July's pylon is another Wiltshire pylon and the red sky and clouds provide a beautiful backdrop to its lovely silhouette. There is definitely something here for the cloud spotters and the photographers, but you can pick out the Stockbridge dampers and two sets of ceramic insulator discs so there is also something there for hardcore pylon spotters. It was sent in by a fan of the website and is on the A350 in Chippenham, near the Premier Inn. Pylon fans seeking an excuse for a road trip could do worse than heading down the M4 to Chippenham, which :
....enjoys a reputation as a flourishing and lively market town, with a compact centre and thriving commercial life, it has been granted Purple Flag Status for its nightlife.
Never heard of the Purple Flag Scheme? No, me neither so let's educate ourselves via the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM) website:
The Purple Flag standard, launched in 2012, is an accreditation process similar to the Green Flag award for parks and the Blue Flag for beaches. It allows members of the public to quickly identify town & city centres that offer an entertaining, diverse, safe and enjoyable night out.
Once you've ticked the pylon off your to do list and perhaps enjoyed a night out in Chippenham there are plenty of places to visit because:
The great houses and art treasures of Longleat, Bowood, Corsham Court, Lacock Abbey and Dyrham Park are within easy reach, as is Castle Combe Racing Circuit.
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.....
Having missed March and with April nearly half gone, I was determined to get a new pylon on the blog and so this month's pylon is another one sent in by a fan. It comes freighted with historical significance as the excerpt from the email that accompanied the picture shows.
Walking down Holywell Lane through Lighmoor, Telford.
Beside a path followed by Cinderloo protesters 200 years ago stands a sturdy oak.
A witness to the anger of the colliers and the retribution wreaked on them by the local yeomanry.
The oak looks shocked, its limbs jolted by the electrical waves transmitted by the pylon.
Perhaps waking from a nightmare, reminded of a vision of poverty and despair that it observed in February 1821.
Coming originally from Manchester, I'd heard of Peterloo, but Cinderloo was new to me. A quick Google search leads to https://cinderloo.com where you learn that
February's Pylon of the Month comes courtesy of Physics students at The Angmering School in West Sussex. As a Physics teacher myself, how could I resist a picture that came about as a result of learning about electricity transmission? In fact, as some readers will know, Pylon of the Month in its current incarnation came about because of a website of the same name that I used when teaching electricity. When it stopped working back in 2008, I decided to do something about it and the rest is history. At this point, being in teacher mode, I'll link again to the excellent and informative article from Drax power station about the history of the pylon.
It is thanks to these students that I have now heard of Angmering and a bit of time on Wikipedia quickly led me to the fact that Stanley Holloway spent the final years of his life there. Stanley and I have a bit of history - his monologue 'Albert & the Lion' is one I remember from childhood and having grown up in and around Ramsbottom, the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Ramsbottom are the parents of Albert makes it all the more memorable. If I'm honest, I'd always assumed that Stanley Holloway was a northerner but now discover that he was born in Essex and lived all of his life down South. That's what I like about writing Pylon of the Month - I learn something new and interesting every month.
Don't forget that my 'The Secret Life of Pylons' book with Unbound needs all the help it can get it it is ever to become a reality!
January's Pylon of the Month comes from a fan of the website who was driving through Scotland when a perfect pylon moment occurred. The email that came with the photo captures that moment perfectly:
Scotland, Tuesday, 1st January 2019, New Year’s Day, driving home from Wester Ross to East Lothian southwards down the A9 (mercifully quiet). It was early afternoon, on a stretch of that great road that is wonderfully rugged and remote, just before the turn off for Dalwhinnie. The giant pylons which run along above the A9 seem to add to the drama of the landscape, but at this moment, the sunlight caught the cables, and lit them like strands of gossamer. It was like a mystical fairground on those hills. Fortunately, Lay-by 90 cropped up and I was able to draw off and get out to capture them before the moment moved on and the spectacle was gone.
The email continued with sentiments that pylon fans everywhere will endorse:
You either love these giants, or hate them. Personally, I think they enhance the sheer rugged grandeur of this landscape. They stride along above the road; they are all giant, but there are the really tall ones, but also the shorter ones; ones with all legs the same height, others with two short legs, fitting into the uneven terrain. An amazing feat of engineering.
Pylon fans who want to check them out will also be able to visit the famous Dalwhinnie distillery for a wee dram or two of their 'Winter's Gold' - An indulgent, honeyed Dalwhinnie that is comforting, rich and sweet, with notes of heather and peat and a spicy warmth. Who could ask for anything more at this time of year? On that thought, I'll leave it there for now. As always, @pylonofthemonth on Twitter has more regular pylon action for those who can't wait until February.
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.