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Cotswold Holiday

26th-31st Aug 2017

We spent a week staying in a large holiday let on a farm near Stow-on-the-Wold with a group of around a dozen friends, and went out on a number of lengthy walks and visit by car. Pictures taken on visits to properties such as Kelmscott are not for commercial use and are shared for purely private enjoyment - and perhaps they will encourage you to visit the sites. There are rather a lot of pictures of and in churches.

Kelmscott, Great Coxwell Barn and Lechlade


We'd walked past Kelmscott when we walked the Thames Path in 2013, but the house was closed, and although I've long been interested in William Morris I've never before managed to visit, so this was an opportunity not to be missed, though it involved a fairly long drive.

After our tour of the house we ate a picnic by the Thames and then set off to drive to the National Trust owned Great Coxwell Barn, a large and ancient tithe barn on the outskirts of Faringdon . On the way back to Stow, we stopped for some shopping in Lechlade and I had a quick walk around the church and churchyard.
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Upper Swell & Stow-on-the-Wold

The market cross, Stow-on-the-Wold

In the morning we walked from the farm to Upper Swell and looked at the church, and in the afternoon walked to Stow-on-the-Wold, were the others found a tea shop and I went to what claims to be the oldest pub in England, The Porch House, previously known as The Eagle and Child. It's a dubious claim, though a hospice was apparently built on the site in AD 947, but there are certainly many better pubs. Even in Stow.
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Country walk, Upper Slaughter, Lower Slaughter & Lower Swell

Dovecote near Lower Swell

It was a good day for a walk, and our first few miles was mainly along a long stretch of Roman road, now unsuitable for vehicles, though we did meet a few off-road motorcyclists, and then on to the 'pretty' villages of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter - where the village fair was taking place. and we stopped for tea and cake in the village hall. We made our way back though Lower Swell and I detoured for a short rest at the pub to sample the local beer before pressing on to Upper Swell and back to the farm.
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Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water, the Slaughters,

Crossing the WIndrush in the middle of Bourton-on-the-Water

We caught the bus from Stow to Bourton-on-the-Water, which was rather crowded and walked around the town and the one-ninth scale model of it before finding a quiet place on the edge of the River Windrush to eat a picnic lunch and then walking on to the Slaughters again, this time taking tea in the mill in Lower Slaughter. By now a fine day had changed to light drizzle, which accompanied us on our walk back to Upper Slaughter and a different route from there to the Roman Road and back to the farm cottage. Despite the wet which eventually soaked through my boots and socks it was a pleasant enough walk.
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Naunton, Guiting Power, the Rollright Stones & Adlestrop

Rollwright Stones - The Kings Men stone circle

The day started a little damp, and we were happy to go with a group by car to visit a couple of village, starting at Naunton, where one of the party had once attended a family wedding in the parish church and wanted to pay a visit. It also has a rather fine former Baptist chapel, and an ancient dovecote. We drove on to Guiting Power, a village which still possesses a pub and a shop as well as a parish church which we visited. In the afternoon I suggested a visit to the Rollright Stones, just over the border in Oxfordshire, which I'd read about but never seen, and it was worth the visit. On the way back we made a short visit to Adlestrop, where Edward Thomas's train stopped in 1914 (railway minutiae suggests he was on a slow train scheduled to call there and not the express as the poem alleges.) British Rail closed and demolished the station in 1966 but the Cotswold line still runs past. Jane Austen would probably still recognise much of the village and area, supposedly that of her Mansfield Park.
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Donnington, Broadwell & Stow-on-the-Wold

The site of the Battle of Stow at Donnington

Another walk took us through the site of the Battle of Stow, the loss of which in the early morning of 21st March 1646 effectively ended the English Civil War. Although some historians now doubt that the battle actually took place here where there is a monument to it, and the Royalist commander Sir Jacob Astley surrendered at the Market Cross in Stow-on-the-Wold after fighting a running retreat. We followed a not dissimilar route but with less haste, walking into Donnington and then on to Broadwell, picnicking in the churchyard before going down past the wells into the market square, where some had afternoon tea and I went around to take a few pictures and sample the local beers before we walked on via Netherswell Manor to Lower Swell and then back to the cottage.
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Ghouta 4th Anniversary

Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 19 Aug 2017

Syrians protest against 'Chemical Assad and the chemical attacks on Ghouta
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Campaigners from the Syria Solidarity Campaign marked the 4th anniversary of the Assad regimes mass chemical attacks in Ghouta with a protest in Trafalgar Square.

The attacks on August 21, 2013 by rockets carrying 1,000kg of deadly nerve gas Sarin killed 1477 people, almost entirely civilians and injured over 10,000 in the towns of Zamalka and Ein Tarma in East Ghouta and Moadamiya in West Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus.

A man came to argue with the protesters, telling them they shouldn't be protesting here because they were not British. He also said that Trafalgar Square was a place for entertainment rather than protest, something completely at odds with the very long history of protests in the square. The protesters called him a racist and told him forcefully to go away. Eventually a Police Community Support Officer led him away and the protest continued.
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ASH at the ICA

ICA, London. Sat 19 Aug 2017

Simon Elmer and Geraldine Dening with their map of social cleansing of council estates, mainly by Labour
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I was sorry I could not be at the opening of the show by Architects for Social Housing (ASH) in the ICA Upper Gallery, but was pleased to be able to visit earlier this afternoon and take some photographs as they put finishing touches to the display..

The alternative estate designs prepared by ASH are impressive, and really point out both the lack of imagination of commercial developers and their concern for profit rather than developments for the community.

A giant map on one wall with coloured pins showing social housing estates under threat or already lost to private development makes clear the shameful extent of what is happening across London and largely by Labour dominated councils who are decimating social housing, designating council estates as brownfield sites for clearance and collaborating with major developers to produce a city which is unaffordable for its current residents, with many large developments now largely or entirely owned by overseas investors.

Photographs and a superb set of films show some of the resistance to this by groups on estates such as Cressingham and Central Hill by residents with the help of Simon Elmer and Geraldine Dening of ASH and by groups such as Focus E15.

The Grenfell Tower fire has lifted the carpet a little on the shady and disreputable actions of one London council but many of the practices and the failures of Kensington & Chelsea are shared by other boroughs across the city and further afield. Grenfell could have happened in Southwark or Lambeth or Newham or Hackney or Camden etc.

Given the terms of the public inquiry it seems unlikely that a great deal of light will be shed by it on the systemic failures that have led to the current crisis in social housing. We need a total change in outlook, so that councils again become proud of providing good quality affordable homes for their communities rather than looking at council estates as assets to be realised and caring nothing about what actually happens to the people as opposed to their empty promises.

And it's shows like this - and the work that ASH and others put in which has largely been neglected by the media and entirely disregarded by councils - which give us the only hope for the future of our city. Time for politicians to start taking notice and stop thinking about the free lunches, trips and overpaid jobs they are currently bribed with by the industry, and long past time for Labour to come up with an about-turn in its housing policy.
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Stand Up to Trump

US Embassy, London. Sat 19 Aug 2017

A large banner at the protest 'Dump Trump - No Sexism Racism Poverty'
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Stand Up to Trump, a group supported by around 20 organisations including the CWU, NUT, Unite, UCU, CND, Stop the War, Campaign Against Climate Change, Muslim Association of Britain and others, hold a protest outside the US Embassy.

They say Trump's bigoted rhetoric is sowing hate and division, encouraging extreme right-wing groups which is responsible for events such as those in Charlottesville and condemn his warmongering in threatening nuclear war against North Korea and the invasion of Venezuela and his support of climate-wrecking policies.
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Travellers evicted in Staines

Staines, Middx. Thu 17 Aug 2017

The unused field had been kept in good condition by the travellers who were carefully clearing up
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Travellers who have occupied a field next to Spelthorne Council offices in Staines were this morning being moved off by bailiffs employed by the council.

The travellers who are evangelical Christians many of whom run legitimate businesses had kept the site in spotless condition and as I walked around there was little or no rubbish visible and they have cleaned up fly-tipping on the site, the grass was in good condition and people were eager to tell me their side of the story as they packed, preparing to leave peacefully.

There is a desperate shortage of sites for travellers in North East Surrey, with Spelthorne having only one public site with only 10 pitches. Sites are said to have a 40 year waiting list. The travellers at Spelthorne were given 10 days to leave land they own at Adas Farm in Hardwick Lane, Chertsey where they were attempting to set up a permanent site on a rather scrappy piece of Green Belt on 10th June. They had applied for but not received planning permission, but had begun work on the site, and their barrister had argued that permission was likely to be granted.

They moved on to occupy other sites in Runnymede Borough, who then obtained an injunction barring them from publicly owned land across the borough, and they then moved across the river into Spelthorne Borough and arrived at the unused field beside the council offices in Knowle Green on Friday 4 August.

THe council's legal bid to get them moved on was defeated in court yesterday but this morning bailiffs and police arrived at the site, ordering them to leave. The travellers say their eviction is illegal as the law in use only applies to private land, and that Spelthorne council have not taken the required steps, including considering the welfare of the children concerned, before the eviction.

Neither GRC bailiffs who escorted me from the site nor the Surrey Law Enforcement team were willing to answer any questions about the eviction or its legal basis and Spelthorne Council were making no comment, but it would appear to have been made under Common Law.

GRC Bailiffs on their web site offer a service "removing unauthorised occupiers/travellers from land owned by their clients, without the expense and delay of having to go through the court system" using Common Law eviction, which gives landowners and their agents "the right to remove trespassers from their land using reasonable force if required." They say the main advantage is the speed with which evictions can be carried out and say they "act using totally lawful methods as acknowledged by the Department for Communities and Local Government in the official “Guidance on Managing Unauthorised Encampments”."

Later in the day all the travellers had gone, but a few of the bailiffs remained, with a digger making trenches across the entrances to the field. The travellers had been on the site for a couple of weeks and had not in any way been a nuisance to local residents - of whom I am one. The field between the council office car park and the leisure centre is seldom used and is just across the road from one of the largest parks in the area. Although probably not suitable as a permanent site there seemed to be no particular reason to move the caravans on before some better solution could be found.

I can't help thinking that the right thing to do would be to for councils to cooperate with groups like these and find a place where they could set up a permanent site. There is no shortage of suitable land in either Runnymede or Spelthorne, with many hectares of former gravel pits dotted around the area and not fully reclaimed. Surely we should be treating travellers as fellow human beings rather than regarding them as a nuisance to be dealt with.
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Justice for Marikana vigil

South Africa House, London. Wed 16 Aug 2017

Protesters hold posters and flowers in front of South Africa House
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Protesters hold a protest vigil outside the South African High Commission in Trafalgar Square on the 5th anniversary of the massacre when 34 striking miners were shot dead by South African police at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine.

The event was organised by the the Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum (PACSF) and Marikana Miners Solidarity Campaign and was one of several events over 3 days. After around half an hour they were joined by Primrose Nokulunga Sonti and Thumeka Magwangqana who are visiting London from the Marikana women's organisation Sikhala Sonke (We Cry Together).

Flowers were handed out and the two women gave a resounding presentation about the effects of the massacre. The event was continuing when I had to leave.
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End dependent visa system abuse

Croydon, London. Wed 16 Aug 2017

Indian Ladies UK pose in front of Lunar House
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Indian women came to Lunar House in Croydon to protest at the the Home Office's failure to protect the human rights of migrant wives brought to the UK under the spousal visa system.

Wives have to be sponsored by their husbands to receive a visa, and hundreds of husbands have abused the position of power this gives them, in some cases keeping wives in conditions that amount to modern slavery and in hundreds of cases callously disposing of their wives by writing to the Home Office claiming they are separated.

Currently the Home Office then cancels the spousal visas in 7 days without any investigation, giving the women no right to stay in the UK, often without them having any knowledge of the request and having absolutely no chance to appeal against the cancellation.

Some husbands have taken their wives and families back to India purportedly on holiday while reporting a separation, and have then returned to the UK with their children leaving the wives without any support in India.

'Indian Ladies UK' who organised the protest demand that the Home Office demand documentation of a legal separation under which wives would be granted their legal rights before the cancellation of their visa.
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Marikana Massacre Protest at Lonmin HQ

Mayfair, London. Wed 16 Aug 2017

Charlie X is shut out of the block where Lonmin have their offices
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On the 5th anniversary of the massacre when 34 striking miners were shot dead by South African police at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine, the Marikana Support Campaign and others protested outside Lonmin's Mayfair offices.

Many of them held large photographs of the dead as they called for a public apology by Lonmin and the ANC government, particularly Cyril Ramaphosa, the payment of reparations to the dependent of those killed and those injured and arrested, both on the 16th August and at the police killing and injuring of women a month later.

They demand that the police responsible be prosecuted, that 16th August be declared a South African National holiday, and there be full consultation over a commemorative monument. They also want the government to act against Lonmin to force it to meet is previous and current obligations to provide over 6000 social housing units for mineworkers and the community - so far only 3 show homes have been built - and if necessary to revoke its right to mine.

The protest was attended by Primrose Nokulunga Sonti and Thumeka Magwangqana from the Marikana women's organisation Sikhala Sonke (We Cry Together) whose request to meet with Lonmin representatives to demand justice was ignored.
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Vedanta accused of global crimes

Lincoln's Inn Fields, London. Mon 14 Aug 2017

An activist pours polluted water over men representing Vedanta's Anil Agarwal and CEO Tom Albanese
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Grass roots campaign Foil Vedanta hold a noisy protest outside the AGM of Vedanta who they accuse of illegal mining in Goa, increasing harassment, torture and false accusations against tribal activists in Nyamgiri, Odisha and eleven years of ruinous and continuing pollution by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Zambia.

Dongria Kond tribal campaigners in Nyamgiri have used Indian laws to stop Vedanta destroying their sacred mountain for its bauxite, but the company are trying and lying to get around these. Foil Vedanta's investigations in Zambia have shown the company have fraudulently avoided taxes and failed to publish mandatory accounts and they have publicised their many other offences around the world.

Vedanta is a FTSE 250 British mining company controlled and 69.6% owned by Anil Agarwal and his family through a series of tax havens and holding companies,. It was launched on the Stock Exchange in 2003 with help from the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) who continue to support it. Foil Vedanta call for the company to be delisted and shareholder activists went into the AGM to question its activities.
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Fire Risk Tower Blocks

Newham, London. Sat 12 Aug 2017

Smoke flares are now a common part of protests
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Focus E15 Mothers led a march from Ferrier Point in Canning Town to a rally at Tanner Point in Plaistow pointing out the danger of these two blocks with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower, demanding safe homes, not social cleansing in East London.

They then continued to the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, a once popular estate with over 400 empty homes which Newham's Labour council largely emptied of people over 10 years ago and intends to demolish, for a ‘hands around the Carpenters Estate’ solidarity event against decanting, demolition and social cleansing.
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Duke's Lodge for Grenfell residents

Holland Park, London. Thu 10 Aug 2017

A former resident of Duke's Lodge tells us how they lost their fight to stay
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Campaigners the Peoples Republic Of North Kensington, an organisation supporting the former residents of Grenfell Tower, held a protest outside Duke's Lodge, a large block of flats in Holland Park calling on Kensington & Chelsea Council to compulsory purchase the empty block and refurbish its 27 flats as housing for families displaced by the Grenfell fire, around a 15 minute walk away.

The protest was supported by some local residents from Grenfell and by Class War. Ian Bone of Class War, who lived in Grenfell for three years in the 1980s, spoke. The vacant block is owned by the Candy brothers, and a former resident who was passing and stopped to talk told with protesters she had spent £40,000 on interior decoration or her flat and that she and the other residents were forced out very much against their wishes.

Plans to demolish the large block and replace it by 3 luxury villas were turned down by the council and the owners have now put the site on the market for £70 million, roughly twice the amount they paid for it.

The Grenfell residents want to remain in the local area and remain as a community - despite which at least one family have already been rehoused by the council in Peterborough - and this building, along with empty flats on the Sutton Estate would be an ideal location.
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Hiroshima Day 72 Years on

Tavistock Square, London. Tue 6 Aug 2017

Flowers at the memorial cherry tree - Jenny Headlam-Wells, Camden Deputy Mayor & Carol Turner, CND
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London CND held a ceremony in memory of the victims, past and present on the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later.

After a number of speeches and performances there was a minute's silence during which the Deputy Mayor of Camden and others laid flowers around the commemorative cherry tree.
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Tottenham remembers Mark Duggan

Tottenham, London. Sun 4 Aug 2017

The family of Jermaine Baker, shot by police, want justice
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A march from Broadwater Farm to a rally at Tottenham Police Station remembered the death of Mark Duggan on the sixth anniversary of his killing by police, and also the police killing of other members of the Tottenham community - Cynthia Jarrett, Joy Gardner, Roger Sylvester, Mark Duggan and Jermaine Baker and the recent murders of Rashan Charles, Darren Cumberbatch and Edson Da Costa.

Led by Stafford Scott, when the march arrived at the Police Station there was poetry, a minute of silence and speeches from family members as well as local activists, Becky Shah from the Hillsborough campaign and a speaker from the Justice for Grenfell campaign. A large crowd had gathered at the police station, including many young black men who watched from across the road.
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Broadwater Farm Estate

Tottenham, London. Sun 4 Aug 2017
The Moselle goes underground as it approaches Broadwater Farm
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Broadwater Farm Estate, known widely as simply 'The Farm', became notorious in the 1970s and 80s when poor maintenance and crime in poorly lit 'deck level' walkways made it into a sink estate after problems with damp, infestation and electrical faults led to half of its original residents moving out.

High unemployment and insensitive policing led to considerable tension, and after Cynthia Jarrett died while police were searching her flat there were several minor incidents which blew up into a riot as more and more police came into the estate with firefighters who put out a small fire. Faced by increasing attacks from residents the police withdrew, but two officers failed to escape. PC Richard Coombes was seriously injured and PC Keith Blakelock was beaten and hacked to death.

An intensive regeneration programme following the riots greatly altered the estate, removing the deck level almost completely and making both structural and environmental changes as well as dealing with the problems of management behind much of the resentment felt by residents, running the estate with a local management team, and jobs were provided by converting some shops into light industrial units. By the 2000s the estate had a long waiting list and had one of the lowest crime rates in London, though it still retains a powerful and blinkering presence in the Met's demonology.

The estate is built over the River Moselle which still flows above ground in the adjacent Lordship Recreation Ground, a large public park of over 20 hectares in Tottenham in the London Borough of Haringey. The area remained as open land because of the risk of flooding until the estate was built in the late 1960s. Because of the flood risk there is no housing at ground level, which has extensive car parking under the blocks.

I took a walk in the park having arrived at Broadwater Farm considerably earlier than I expected (Sunday rail travel is particularly unpredictable this year) and then walked back through the estate.
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Stop Killing Londoners road block

Marylebone Road, London. Fri 2 Aug 2017

A white van driver tries to push his way through the protesters
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Rising Up environmental protesters in Stop Killing Londoners briefly blocked the busy Marylebone Road at Baker St in 'Staying Alive' road-block disco protest to raise awareness and call for urgent action over the high pollution levels from traffic on London streets which cause 10,000 premature deaths each year.

The protesters walked into the road with banners and umbrellas with the message 'Stop Killing Londoners' and sat down while a statement was read explaining why they were protesting and that it would only be a delay of 5-10 minutes, then danced in front of the blocked traffic before leaving the road.

They then repeated the protest a short distance away on the opposite carriageway. A few people argued with the protesters, several motorcyclists road dangerously through the protest and one man driving a white van first attempted to drive through the protesters and then threw water over them, but others voiced support for the need to drastically cut pollution
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London Images

August 2017

Westfield from Shepherds Bush station
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Some from the developments at Waterloo and Nine Elms that I've been following for a long time, but also quite a few from elsewhere across London - Marylebone Rd, Kingsway, South Bank, Holland Park, Battersea, Plaistow, Croydon, Hyde Park, Brixton...
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