HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Entry for September 23, 2007 – Royal Gunpowder Mills

Posted by HelenEdith on September 23, 2007

We had quite a day out yesterday. I had arranged to go on a London Photography Meetup Group outing to the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey in Essex. We weren’t due to meet there until 1pm, but we needed to allow a bit more than an hour for the car trip, and we had to stop in Chislehurst first to visit the cash machine, so we left the house sometime between 11:00am and 11:30am.

The cash machine was quickly dealt with and we headed down the M20 to Swanley, following my normal weekday route, and joined the M25 at Junction 3. There seemed to be just as many vehicles on the road at Saturday lunchtime as there are on a weekday morning, although there were more cars and less lorries and people seemed to be driving a fraction more slowly than they do at the tail end of the morning rush. (Conditions do sometimes mean it’s actually possible to drive quite fast, even in the mornings!)

There was a bigger queue at the Dartford Tunnel than I see on a weekday morning, but once I got to the spot where the lanes spread out for the toll booths, I was the only car heading along the DART-Tag lane. It didn’t do me much good, because there was actually a traffic jam going into the tunnels. One good thing came out of that, as I looked up while driving towards the tunnel, and I saw the top structure of a large ship passing overhead along the Thames!

Once through the Tunnel, the traffic eased considerably. Maybe some of it was going to Lakeside and left the M25 once through the Tunnel. We made good time the rest of the way to Waltham Abbey, and apart from getting in a left lane which forced me to turn left when I wanted to go straight across at a set of traffic lights, I had no difficulty in finding the Royal Gunpowder Mills. There were several other Meetup people there who had driven. The rest of the crowd came by train and were walking from the centre of Waltham Abbey. Unfortunately, we were short of mobile phone numbers for that group, but someone did eventually manage to make contact with them (a 10-minute walk away which none of us wanted to do!) and tell them not to wait at the church for us.

The Royal Gunpowder Mills site was used for the manufacture of gunpowder and other explosives from at least as early as the 17th Century right up until the middle of the 20th Century, but is now open to the public as a museum. Stephen and I elected not to take the Land Train tour, which was on a trailer behind a nice big green John Deere tractor driven by a lady. We had no objections to the lady, but tickets were in short supply and we’re likely to get another opportunity to see woodlands and countryside in a few week’s time, so we passed on it.

Instead, we stayed near the entrance to the site, where there were two re-enactment groups doing a special event, and we watched men (and a few women) in a variety of historic uniforms acting out the battles of yesteryear. Some of the people involved were the same ones that we saw at the Wild West Show at The Hop Farm a couple of months ago, but they are colourful and we were happy to see a bit more of them.

We also looked inside the Rocket Museum. That was quite nostalgic for Stephen, because he used to work for the Ministry of Defence in their Photographic Trials Unit, and he actually remembered when a number of the exhibits were being developed and tested. There were some other interesting displays in the Rocket Museum, as they had a series of early microcomputers (what we now know as PCs) and they even had some of them up and running!

We elected not to go to the pub after we’d finished at the Royal Gunpowder Mills. I think that a few others went straight home as well. We didn’t exactly go straight home ourselves, as we made a detour to Lakeside. I wanted to go to IKEA as they had some picture frames that I wanted. The Lakeside site is huge and I’d never penetrated far enough along it to locate IKEA, which turned out to be further away from the shopping mall than I’d ever imagined. We used some of the shortcuts in IKEA so that we didn’t go through the whole showroom, although we did have a look at part of the showroom stuff as Stephen was interested in it.

The picture frames took some locating. We found the picture frame area in the Market Hall all right. The problem was finding the exact frames I wanted, whose Swedish name I couldn’t remember. It turned out to be RESLIG. There weren’t as many of them on display as there were of some of the other lines. I wanted those ones because they allow items up to 10mm thick to be placed in them, and I want to put in photographs which are already on mounting board. Upon examination, we discovered that the frame is loaded by undoing some screws, which should enable me to open it up and change its contents without wearing it out. Most of the others have little metal tabs that you bend, and I think that changing their contents a few times would result in the little metal tabs breaking off.

We also found a couple of heavy glass vases that will be Stephen’s Mum’s birthday present. Stephen says that they should be ideal for her orchids and heavy enough for the cats not to knock them over.

Then we went back to the main shopping mall and found ourselves a parking space. There are 13,000 free spaces, and amazingly, many of the car parks were full at 6:30pm on a Saturday evening. We did find that although the car parks were showing as full, when the barrier raised and let us in, there were actually a number of free spaces, so I think that they allow for a certain number of empty spaces so that circulating vehicles will find a parking spot sooner rather than later.

I wanted to go to Holland and Barratt, and once that was done, we walked about half way along the shopping mall to Primark, where we had a look for some socks for Stephen. He chose a very reasonably priced 6-pack of assorted grey socks. He also got some more of his favoured boxers.

We contemplated stopping for some food, but we had food at home waiting to be eaten and decided to save our money. We did make one further side-trip on our way home: I crossed the QEII Bridge in the extreme left lane and followed the brown tourist signs, hoping to find the viewpoint for looking at the Bridge. We must have missed a sign somewhere, as we didn’t find the viewpoint and ended up in Dartford instead. It was dark by then and we didn’t go back for another try.

I was hoping to find it yesterday, as it’s getting to the time of the year when I’m crossing the Bridge at twilight on weekdays and I want to know where the viewpoint is so that I can go straight there and take some photographs. Messing around trying to find it on a weekday isn’t something I fancy, and so far, no web search has turned up directions to it. I might have to make a good old fashioned phone call to somebody – either Tourist Information or maybe Le Crossing, who run the tunnels and the bridge. Le Crossing don’t publish viewpoint information, though, so Tourist Information might turn out to be the better bet. That’s if Dartford has tourist information!

I’ve been editing my pictures today, but haven’t got them on my website yet. The picture on this blog entry is one of the ones I took yesterday. I particularly liked it when I realised that one drop of whatever the man’s drinking has dripped and the camera caught it in mid air. Just a wee drop seems like a good title for it.

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