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Sustainable Transport Lewes

(Response by Jonathan Vernon. Green Party Town Council Candidate, Castle Ward)

Lewes Cycle Planning

Bikes at the Prison Crossroads on the entry to Lewes. 5 Nov.

Leading up to 5 November parked motor vehicles disappear from the streets of Lewes and in the day during the afternoon all motor traffic clears. Imagine a Lewes like that all the year round. Imagine only pedestrians and cycle ways. Perhaps for a planned hour before the marching a parade of cyclists in fancy dress could take place to celebrate the freedom to move around the streets. Perhaps this could lead the way to changes to limit or restrict motor traffic in favour of pedestrians and cyclists.

Here we mean provision for cyclists age 8 to 80, upright on workaday bikes for shopping, going to school and commuting rather than helmeted, brightly clad racing cyclists.

To be successful a ‘Cycle City’, as they have come to be called in the Netherlands, requires a complete and comprehensive network that is both attractive and comfortable. Partial fixes, barriers and signage can just add to the clutter and confusion. Change needs to be more subtle with wider paths, cycle priority and trees as calming measures.

And some societal and cultural shift too is needed, from cafe culture to cycle culture, with shops reclaiming the streets where parking bays have been removed to allow them to create a terrace environment. The town should be one of 5 minute cycle rides, 20 minute walks and regular trains to other towns. It also needs to be a town centre that is attractive to people free of outsized motor vehicles, their noise, pollution and threat.

a) Hard measures (infrastructure: shared space, improved crossings, dedicated cycle paths removal of restrictions on cycling, traffic calming, new shared pedestrian/cycle routes, safe crossing points)

‘Every location is different, and it’s never as simple as copying and pasting their methods’, write Chris & Melissa Bruntlett in ‘Building the Cycling City’.

Lewes has many narrow, twisting streets and lanes, often with significant pinch points. Achieving the desired separation between motor vehicles and cyclists, and between cyclists and pedestrians will only be possible – some of the time, in some places by taking out parking or even reducing two-way traffic to one-way. This is the challenge for Lewes. Cyclists need a comfortable, safe journey the entire way from home to destination, not just here and there.

From ‘Design for Cycle Traffic’ John Parkin

FThere are measures though:

Enforcement of 20 mph with roundels on the road and signage.

A significant volume of large vehicles in the 20 mph zone is a deterrent to cyclists. Lorries need to do their deliveries before 7:30am, not parking up on the kerb on the High Street throughout the morning from 8:30am. Buses are a problem and a solution. Cyclists and buses should be kept apart.

Traffic can be tamed with traffic calming to make sure it travels at under 20 mph.

If there’s any major difference in speed (anything over 20 mph), then full separation is required with concrete barriers, a grass median, planter boxes, or bollards.

As we know, the 20 mph speed limit is often broke.  Living in the Winterbourne too often vehicles using the rat run between Brighton Road and Bell Lane think they can finally pick up speed along Winterbourne Lane which is already home to closely parked parked vehicles.

A277 Bright Road ‘rat run’ in and out of Lewes, morning and late afternoon rush hour via Montacute Rd, Barons Down Rd, Delaware Rd and Winterbourne Lane. Forms part of the Lewes ‘South Circular’ for people wanting to dodge snarl ups at the Prison crossroads. 

This ‘rat run’ down Montacute Road, along Barons Down Rd, Delaware Rd and Winterbourne Lane is circumvented in part by cyclists using the path between Delaware Rd and Valley Rd, just as they will use the pedestrian path through Bell Lane to St Pancras Gardens – with good reason. It isn’t only more direct, it also avoids the dangers of the mini roundabout at The Swan Inn and at the weekend the vehicles parked up on the kerb along Southover High Street.

Here, like so often in Lewes, a narrow road, with a narrow footpath, with parking bays and cars parking up over night and through the day on the single yellow lines at weekends and bank holidays, becomes quickly clogged at various points, made far worse when there are multiple double-decker replacement buses from the station trying to get along here too.

There will be similar stories right across Lewes.

Too many vehicles, large and small, pedestrians and cyclists, mixed with residential street parking and deliveries creating an environment that can be unpleasant for pedestrians, let alone cyclists trying to use the road.

Another ‘rat run’ to avoid the frequently jammed High Street is off Nevill Rd, down Prince Edward’s Rd, then dogleg down Park Rd and The Avenue onto the A2029 into the centre of town. Where else is the quality of the environment and safety for cyclists and pedestrians in residential areas being compromised because of the atrocious state of traffic on the High Street?

Avoiding the High Street to get from the West to East of town on the Lewes’s very own ‘north circular’ to avoid frequent snarl ups on the High Street, usually caused by commercial vehicles, some of them vast container lorries unsuitable for the town’s street’s parked up, or double parked or simply blocking the road.

All opportunities to improve pedestrian as well as cycle access to the centre of town need to be explored, including a foot and cycle bridge from South Street.

Motor vehicles can be banned from overtaking cycles though signage has to be clear and can be difficult to enforce legally.

After this:

Restrictions to casual parking on single yellow line kerbs especially at weekends.

Potentially reduce some street parking to make cycling safer in the already narrow roads.

If feasible limiting access by lorries to hours where cyclists are less prevalent.

The physical size, speed and frequent stopping makes it a problem for cyclists to share the road with buses.

Shared space is a last resort, ideally pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles should each have their own routes.

In France there is often a two way cycle lane on one way streets so that cyclists do not have to go the long way round.

Parts of Lewes appear suitable for mixed use where road-markings are removed and pedestrians and slow moving vehicles mixed. However it is often here that faster cyclists need a dedicated lane.

The pedestrian bridge at the Pells to be wide enough for cyclists and a second pedestrian and cycle bridge from South street across the Ouse.

Better, bolder end to end cycle parking where it is most needed. Close to amenities.

The Dutch model is for cycle tracks that are paved with an easily identified inch-thick top coat of dyed red asphalt. It’s everywhere throughout the Netherlands — you know when you’re on a cycle track. But does Lewes have the space for this? Not without restricting parking and two-way flow of traffic.

On busier roads the cycle ways need to be completely separated – anywhere the speed of motor-vehicles is over 20 mph.

The Dutch have taken the concept of the protected bike lane and carried it through the intersection. More often than not, there is physical protection on the corners where there’s cars turning right or left. There’s are often mid-block protection provided as well, so that you don’t feel exposed. The raised cycle track is also carried through the intersection. Through design, they’ve made the cycle track a priority — visually and physically. (John Parking, Designing for Cycle Traffic).

To achieve this at junctions in Lewes significant investment, even compulsory purchase orders would be required to remove walls, even buildings. This is unrealistic, therefore restricting speeds, and restricting access by certain kinds of larger vehicles is required.

Creation of clearer routes to Priory School so students can feel they can cycle from the key residential areas.

Give way junctions, roundabouts, signals and crossings all need thought.

b) Soft measures (promotion of cycling and education, driver education)

Parental support for children learning to cycle with group based support.

Have spaces where children can learn to cycle safely.

Promoting cycling in schools.

The concept of cycling starts getting introduced to a lot of kids in preschool. They’ll run around on these push bikes. But the biggest education — while it’s not mandatory throughout the country, it’s done by most schools — is students around grade four or five, in the 10 and 11 age range, start taking cycling skills courses.

Between the ages of 11 and 12 they have to take a written exam to show that they understand the rules of the road. They also do a practical exam. So, every year, dozens or hundreds of Dutch students go out onto the street and travel on their routes to get to school, on a designated pathway. The Fietsersbond, which is their national cycling advocacy group, puts the kids right in real life situations, navigating their streets, knowing when to turn, how to signal, where to stop. (John Parkin, Designing for Cycle Traffic).

Known for closing the centre of town temporarily for marches could this be done to celebrate cycling and have a cycle route circuit.

PR and Social Media Campaign, and online education.

Initiatives such as ‘Car Free Sunday’, even ‘Car Free Sunday Mornings’ would be a start.

Also ideas promoted such as ‘Bike to Shop Day’, ‘Bike to School Day’ and ‘Bike to Work Day’.

c) Current reality – speeding traffic (above 20mph), increase in vehicles using Lewes as a through route and increases in traffic from new developments in town, inappropriate and dangerous parking and close passing often result in dangers to cyclists (and pedestrians)

This reality needs to be tackled firmly. Only at 20mph or less does it feel safe for cyclists to share the road. Though this doesn’t feel any safer where there are a lot of larger vans, lorries and buses. The real need is for a Rapid Transit System linking up Lewes and Ringmer to Brighton. ‘Cars parked here will be removed’ is a sign I have come across that needs to be used around Lewes.

All roads that are one way for motor vehicle traffic should be two way for cyclists.

d) Perceptions that roads are unsafe is one of the main barriers to cycling

The perceptions are real. Unfortunately Lewes suffers from too much traffic, including large vehicles and narrow streets made worse for dual used because of parking provision. Do away with all street parking and a cycle lane could go in – but that would surely prove unpopular and impossible to enact. The incessant replacement bus services has double decker buses forever on Southover High Street and Bell Lane. Vehicles of this size, like the vast freight lorries that sometimes end up in the wrong place, are unsuitable for Lewes Roads.

Convenient, easy and attractive cycleways from somewhere to somewhere – not tokenism. They must be relevant to real travel needs. From homes to schools, to stations, bus stops, shops, the Leisure Centre, Pells Pool and cinema.

With secure parking and signage.

e) Would you campaign for greater investment in cycling to ensure that 10% of the transport budget was spent on cycling?

It has required ‘courageous political leadership’ elsewhere to overturn urban planning of the 60s and 70s and since that has favoured the motorcar. Lewes was saved from having its centre carved out to make way for a wider through road down the High Street. Even the bypass is a comprise too close to town that blights us with noise pollution. Something has to be done to reduce single occupant vehicle use clogging the streets, not least the vehicles coming in to the ESCC buildings as well as measures to dissuade so many parents from driving their children to our local schools that are a short cycle or walk away.

Include pedestrians as well as cycling as two valuable alternatives to the motor vehicle which both ideally requiring separate paths and cycle ways.

f) How would you support the building and maintenance of dedicated cycle infrastructure, reallocate space, redesign of existing road and paths suitable for cyclists of all ages and abilities.

This is a very tall order for Lewes. We are not designing on a flat greenfield site. The challenges in Lewes are considerable because of its history and infrastructure and too much planning in the 1960s and since that put the motor vehicle first.

Getting the volume of traffic down is key, and getting fewer large vehicles too when cyclists want to be out. Seeing the ESCC move to Polegate might reduce incoming traffic to an in town car park … or site this on the edge of town and have a park and walk/cycle scheme at both ends of town.

g) What local action would you support?

The issues with motor vehicles are multifarious : speeds, pollution, volume, size, parking …

Dutch experience: We make a differentiation between the hunched-and-helmeted cyclist and the upright, bare-headed cyclist. Upright, everyday cycling, a form of walking-with-wheels, is far more broad, inclusive, accessible, and appealing to people of all ages and fitness levels. It isn’t just about getting from A to B as quickly as possible, it’s about enjoying the ride.

h) How should the Councils use the experience of cyclists when designing cycle facilities?

The behaviours of cyclists even where they are ignoring restrictions, like pedestrians taking shortcuts indicate a potential solution to a problem rather than something to police and punish.

There are lessons to be learnt from around the UK, but also in Denmark and the Netherlands. New housing and work spaces need to be designed with pedestrians and cycle use prioritized over the motor vehicle.

As well as cyclists, we need to talk to pedestrians as those on foot, on bikes or in motor vehicles need to be given separate provision and as often as possible kept apart.

Further Reading

17 November 2016 1913-1914

1914-books

Order books from Amazon related to 1914: two on Kindle and the Peter Simpkins’ book on Kitchener’s Army in print. All to set the scene, and cover before, during and after the two week episode where 11,000 recruits to Kitchener’s Army turned up in Lewes, a Sussex market town with a population of a little over 10,000 and had to be billeted.

I feel I am speaking out the broad background to events in Lewes but need specific reports, letters or diaries to provide the necessary detail. Should I find out in which houses they stayed and locate the public buildings? How were they fed? Where were the entertainments held? Will the Regimental Diary for 22nd Division tell me anything? How many Lewes men had either gone to France or were in training in another part of the country as Territorials or as new recruits?

I’m on antibiotics and prescription painkillers to try and tame my sinus pain. I am dehydrated at night and have a migraine like headache all the time.

From Lewes, East Sussex

The River Ouse at Southease, The South Downs Way

Walking and taking photos yesterday afternoon after a morning writing – for me that was 4.30 am to 11.30am I resolved a character/plot issue in a novel I am challenging myself to complete in first draft in a month. This is part of an online ‘Write a Novel in a Month’ thing that has been running since 2002: recommended. It has all the joy and connectivity of learning in a supported environment that you could want.

This is an OU course too. A lot is said about keeping a notebook. I have ‘issues’ with this.

During this walk I decided that I had to make the protagonist’s only friend his nemesis and enemy. I also figured out a story that has been on my mind for 25 years about a 9-year-old girl buried in a school garden … however, there was something else knew that I thought I’d remember but had forgotten by the time I got to the car sad I could have tapped a cryptic message on the phone’s notepad, phoned home and left a message on the answer-phone, recorded a note on the iPhone, or scribbled a note had I pen and paper … the issue I have is that when you develop a habit of jotting down ideas it can bring your life to a grinding halt: you stop to take notes, pull over in a lay-by to write something down, let something burn in the kitchen, don’t answer the phone, wake up in the middle of the night repeatedly … this happened to me. I could not sleep for long without having an idea about something. And then I ended up managing that database, and having more ideas in a crushing spiral of brain pain no gain self-defeating, bean-counting, self-analysis, deconstructive, non-creative nonsense. Be warned smile

The answer is to work as a tree surgeon. My solution is to fill a reasonable part of my life, paid and as a volunteer, teaching and coaching swimming to kids, adults and disabled people. That keeps my head, hands, feet and soul gainfully occupied.

Learning can be an obsession; look at me. I know that learning with The OU fills such an important space in my life that even when the money has run out I want to keep doing more sad

Here in Lewes we shut the town centre down for a march as often as we can.

It all stems from 5th November. We had only been here a couple of months and we were enrolled in a Bonfire Society. That was 13 years ago.

The town also has a Moving on parade for all primary schools in the district, not just the town, but from outlying villages. The town centre is closed to traffic and kids, dressed up, carrying banners and whatnot on a theme, march through town and end it with a party in the Paddock – a large field, formerly part of the earthworks around the 11th century Lewes Castle.

It helps to make an occasion of something when we move on. We’re rather good at it:

  • Christenings
  • Marriage
  • Death
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Graduation

I’m down for Brighton or will try to enroll in Versailles for my graduation. I skipped my first nearly three decades ago. I just didn’t feel like moving on. I hadn’t felt I’d had an education to justify the fuss. My fault, not theirs. I put in the hours and came out with an OK degree but that isn’t why I’ll remember my undergraduate years.

I should mark moving on, and away from this blog. It logs, day by day, and in the background countless pages of hidden notes. It has carried me through the Masters in Open & Distance Education.

H809, my bonus track, will mark the end.

For this reason I am migrating most of the content and the journey it records to an external blog.

My Mind Bursts

From time to time I’ll post a note at the bottom of the page to say this is where it’ll be from June.

My moving on.

By May, I’ll also know if the next few years have been set up. We’ll see. I may even be back at the OU in some capacity. I rather

 

Drawing

 

Fig.1. Copse – Lewes – Snowfall January 2010

I did a dozen of these and still mean to complete a Triptych on a grand scale with Lewes Castle above the tree tops. Who is going to give me the space and three months to do it?

I’ll keep posting drawings until someone remembers I could draw before I could write or read.

But Mum would put 6B pencils into our hands and even age 4 we had a drawing board and cartridge paper.

 

 

Marching with Commercial Square – Bonfire Night, Lewes 2012

From

Marching on Bonfire Night, Lewes, East Sussex

Procession of the martyrs crosses, as part of ...

Procession of the martyrs crosses, as part of Lewes’ Bonfire Night celebrations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moving to Lewes with young children in 2000 we were immediately invited to join one of the Bonfire Marching Societies.

We’d join other families, all of us – in this instance – dressed up as Confederate Soldiers.

On November 5th in Lewes the schools close early. Parking enforcement warnings have been up for weeks – most of the roads must be clear of parked cars by 2.00pm.

At this time the first visitors arrive and gather in the pubs while families get ready. Across town people pull out lovingly made costumes: buccaneers, Confederate Soldiers, Native North Americas, Zulu Warriors, Monks … there is a dress code and dress rules. In Southover we dress as buccaneers (think Johnny Depp in pirates of the Caribbean) Everyone MUST wear a Tricorn hat or they get removed from the march … or sent to the back.

At the back, no shame in that. you dress as a ‘Smuggler’ black shoes, white trousers a jumpers with horizontal stripes of black and yellow or red and white and a red woollen cap.

We’ve done them all. Indeed getting rather too enthusiastic we joined a second society so can spend a few hours as Confederate Soldiers and a few more hours as buccaneers. Across towns all the pubs are of course open. Across town there are stalls selling food.

I tell people ‘we march’ and they must think this is a circuit around town then over. Not at all.

The timetable runs thus.

5,10pm Children’s Procession

5.45pm Procession of Remembrance (We congregate at the War Memorial for the fallen of the First and Second World Wars)

6.45pm Third Procession

8.00pm United Procession (all six societies converge, merge, then split up)

9.30pm Grand Procession … and we head for the firesite. A bonfire of wood which went up over the weekend.

11.00pm Sixth Procession

11.30pm Final Procession

So here are some of my photos from last year.

Just Google ‘Lewes Bonfire‘ and between YouTube, Flickr and Blogs you’ll get the picture. Want to join in? Not easy. The roads close. The buses stop. And the train service deliberately sticks to its timetable – no extra services. Time it and you can drive back and forth along the Lewes bypass (A27)

And what has this got to do with learning or e-learning?

If you live in Lewes, a great deal. These are marches that tie us directly into the following:

The 16 Protestant Martyrs burnt alive at the stake in the centre of town,

The foiling of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament – as relevant today as four centuries ago,

Tom Paine (Declaration of Independence, he lived and spoke here first, his meeting rooms are on the High Street.

And modern history – each of the six marching societies build a massive float that goes onto the bonfire marking some feature that has irritated the towns folk this last year – we can be micro or macro, so may burn an effigy of a person or thing. So the Ayotalla and Tony Blair, the Chief of Police and even George W Bush got the treatment. The Pope gets it in the neck too – but representing the powers that martyred Protestants and religious intolerance.

There are at least SIX marches during the year, typically midday or early afternoon – traffic is banned, banners and floats come out for ‘The Moving on Parade’ for example – celebrating kids completing their PRIMARY SCHOOL education.

MORE HERE: Lewes Bonfires

 

Reflections on memory creation and expressions of digital and analogue memory

Fig. 1. Shadows below the Fredikson-Stallard installation ‘Pandora’ with additional Neon EFX

Fredrikson Stallard piece for the Digital Memory Gallery sponsored by Swarovski called ‘Pandora’ is a collaboration between Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard, two British Avant-Garde designers.

This is a picture of the shadow beneath the chandelier put through a Neon EFX.

Fig.2. Shadow of Pandora – Before EFX

Is reconstruction of their work from a shadow by third part software now my memory, image and copyright?

Photography is permitted in the gallery, so sharing and transformation is both expected and encouraged.

Fig.3. Pandora – in situ.

Like flames in a fire just look. Actually, a fire place touches more senses with the smell of the fire, or damp people around it – let alone a spark that might scorch the carpet or the back of your wrist. (Now there’s an idea – though not one that health & safety would allow through).

In relation to memory, where I entered a gallery and did not take a picture what control does anyone have of the memory the experience created or the image I have?

If supra-human digital devices are used to store what we see and hear for later management and manipulation somewhere what kinds of permissions, copyright and privacy laws might we breach? How many people do you see and hear, and therefore place and potentially identify during the day – especially if this includes lengthy walks along the South Bank, across Tower Bridge to Tower Hill and the length of Regent’s Street?

Historically we shared memories through stories – creating a visual impression in the narrative and perhaps exaggerating interactions for effect. I contend that the most vivid ‘virtual world’ we can create is not a digital one, but what we create for ourselves in our mind’s eye.

In learning terms there is a lot to be said for keeping it simple – a story well told, without illustration.

The ‘bard’ holding the attention of the audience alone on the stage or at the end of a classroom. A speaker who is alert to the audience and well enough informed and confident to shift the emphasis and nuance of their story to suit the audience on the night. How can such flexibility be built into distance and e-learning? Hard without some live element and  synchronous tutorials.

Radio is vivid. Try some BBC Radio drama.


Fig. 4. Southover Bonfire Society – at the bonfire sight, November 5th 2011

For a super-sensory experience marching on Bonfire Night in the East Sussex town of Lewes meets all the above criteria and more:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Experience
  • Touch, taste and smell
  • and the emotionally charged atmosphere in relation to family, community, pageantry and history.

How to wake the dead – pinning the past – the lost generation of World War One remembered in the Sussex market town of Lewes


Fig. 1. The War Memorial, Lewes High Street, Lewes

An extraordinary way to impress upon those living today, the terrible price and undoubted anguish and trauma caused by the death of one or more member of a family during World War One.

Steve George took the names of those featured on the Lewes War Memorial from the First World War. His research gave him an address which he pinned on a Google Map.

And where the war dead lived:

The men from Lewes who died in the First World War

Fig. 2. Where the WW1 War Dead lived in Lewes : remembered on the Town’s War Memorial.

Some grabs using Google Maps and Google World:

Fig. 3. Where the WW1 War Dead lived in Lewes : remembered on the Town’s War Memorial. (Satellite view)

  • Lots of the pins represent addresses with multiple fatalities
  • Approximately a third aren’t represented by individual pins.

Fig. 4. Where the WW1 War Dead lived in Lewes : remembered on the Town’s War Memorial.

One corner of the town. Every 3rd or 4th house marking a soldier missing or known to be dead never to return.

“The more you zoom in “, says Steve, ” the more clusters open out and the more shocking it gets”.

Fig. 5. The War Memorial, Lewes High Street, Lewes

On the War Memorial there are two, sometimes three names from the same family: brothers, husbands, fathers and sons. The loss in some families was higher still.

THE NEXT STEP:

  • Other towns, cities, associations and corporations to do something similar.
  • Do the same in all nations that suffered losses during the War.
  • Feature photographs of those named.
  • Link their home to where they fell (or where they lie).

Fig.6 The Tynecot Cemetry near Passchendaele.

Fig 7. International Corner, Belgium. The 75th Anniversary of Passchendaele

Jack Wilson with Lyn Macdonald in 1992, marking the spot near International Corner, north west of Ypres where on 22nd October 1917 Jack burried Dick Piper and Harry Gartenfeld in shallow graves (their bodies were never recovered)

Fig. 8 John Arthur Wilson in 1916. A studio photograph taken in Consett, Co. Durham the week before he was transferred to the ‘suicide squad’ and sent for training on the Vicker’s Machine Gun in Grantham

Jack was from Benfieldside, Shotley Bridge. Those who died from his commmunity are featured in the Church. Where did the Lewes men fall? Where are else are they remembered? Do their relations or ancestors know their story? What do we tell future generations?

Fig. 9. Lyn Macdoland, author of ‘They called it Passchendaele’ at the Tynecot Memorial with veteran
Jack Wilson MM in front of the names of fallen comrades Dick Piper and Harry Gartenfeld June 1992

Fig. 10. The Ypres Salient, Passchendaele : The Western Front autumn 1917

Fig. 11. The dead around Tyne Cot as a result of the October-November push known as Third Ypres, 1917

Fig. 12. What they fought for and where many of them died. A set of concrete German pill-boxes in the mud of Passchendaele, late 1917

Fig. 13. How it ended for tens of thousands in the cratered morass of the Ypres Salient in 1917

Fig. 14. Third Ypres. August – November 1917

Fig. 15. They Called it Passchendale. Vivid narrative from Lyn Macdonald supported by the voices of many veterans in their own words.

500 years of Lewes Old Grammar School, so what do they do? Close the High Street and march around town in costume

A school parade through Lewes. This is Lewes. This is normal.

I’ve been marching around in fancy dress for 12 years either as a Confederate Soldier or an early 18th Century Pirate.

Does Lewes produce more historians per head of population than other towns in the UK?

I wonder because all this activity must have an impact, especially on the younger participants. I took over 200 photos this afternoon, and spent a lot of time getting close ups of the 3d ‘Banners’ that were paraded through town.

The detail and craftsmanship impressed.

The entire set could be used as multiple pegs into the 500 year history of England … and beyond, this is afterall the town of Tom Paine.

This on the day Scotland starts its yes campaign for independence and I happened to be reading the chapter in the Norman Davies book ‘The Isles’ on the extraordinary mishaps that resulted in the union of England and Scotland in the first place.

Scotland had gone bust financing an attempt at empire building in central America. I favour independence. Of the 62 ancestors I can trace back to the 18th century one was Irish, and some 50 from Scotland, the rest from the North East or North West of England.

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