Castell Dinas Brân

Took a walk up, over, down and round the castle fortress of Bran.

Castell Dinas Brân walls

View up the Dee valley from Castell Dinas Brân

Castell Dinas Brân from the south

Castell Dinas Brân from the west

As Brân is Welsh for raven there were some raven sculptures on the path.

Metal raven

Carved wooden raven

On the way down towards Llangollen I spotted an ROC post in a field.

ROC post

ROC post

Sheriff Muir Atlantic Wall test site

On Sheriff Muir a few miles North East of Dunblaine there is a section of reinforced concrete wall in the middle of the moorland visible from the road.

Sheriff Muir Atlantic Wall

It was built to emulate a sea wall with a characteristic overhang on the road or “seaward” side and an anti-tank ditch at the base.  The front face is pockmarked with numerous impact craters characteristic of shell fire.  Significant sections have the facing completely broken away down to the thinner (1/2″) reinforcing rods.  Larger (1″) reinforcing rods from the core are also visible in places.

Sheriff Muir Atlantic Wall - "seaward" side

The Northern end of the wall is three meters thick but at the Southern end it steps down to a final width of about one meter.  I assume these different thicknesses were to assess the effect of shell fire on different thicknesses of concrete found on sea walls.

Sheriff Muir Atlantic Wall showing different thicknesses

In the three meter section there are several significant partial breaches in the structure, probably as a result of demolitions charges – possibly from the Churchill AVRE 290mm petard mortar with it’s “flying dustbin” 12kg demolition charge.  These breaches are adequate for infantry to be able to cross the obstacle.

Sheriff Muir Atlantic wall showing breaching attempts

The northernmost of these is a full breach of the wall that’s 4m wide – enough for a Churchill or Sherman to pass through.

Breach in the Sheriff Muir Atlantic Wall from the "seaward" side

On the “landward” side there are large pieces of concrete that have been deposited some distance back from the wall which suggests a significant quantity of explosives were employed.

Breach in the Sheriff Muir Atlantic Wall from the "landward" side

Being a relatively short section of wall, and with the various thicknesses, it’s unlikely this was used for troop training.  The most likely explanation seems to be that this was used for testing the effects of different artillery shells and engineering equipment on a section of sea wall similar to that found at the landing beaches.

Several hundred meters to the South there is a blockhouse which I didn’t have the time to explore.

Strung up hops

As the hop has started growing the stems have fairly quickly reached the point where they need support.

There had been a satellite dish on the side of the house above where the hop planter is now so I was able to re-use a couple of the mounting points for that to put up a wood batten into which I had screwed four eyelets with long stems to hold them clear of the wall.

Hop strings against side of house

I also added four eyelets to the inside of the planter and then ran coir string between them using clove hitches to tie it off.

Hops in container showing strings

The coir string is good for climbers as it has a rough texture that gives them plenty to take hold of.  Rather than the tendrils used by peas and beans the hop stems have very small hooks on the stems that feel almost like velcro and it’s these that hold them onto the strings.

Hooks on stem of Golden Tassel hops

Hop planted

We have a space by the back door that’s south facing and an ideal spot for a climber. Being from Kent I decided to try and see if I could grow a hop in this spot. As a bonus I found a nursery that sells hops a few miles up the valley from where I grew up.

Planter at the corner of the house by the back door

Hops are a rhizome so need space for the roots, from what I’ve read they will grow in containers – provided they are big enough. As this is by the access to the back door space was at a premium so I got two narrow planters, took the bottom off one, and fixed them on top of each other to create more volume. Growing in a container will probably dwarf them and reduce the crop but as I don’t want it growing onto the roof of the house and as I’ve selected an ornamental variety I think it’ll be fine.

The hop comes as a bare root wrapped in moss for protection.

Bare root Golden Tassels hop with moss protection along side

The planter was lined with a bin bag to help protect the wood and the bottom half was filled with topsoil I had for the lawn and the top half with garden centre compost. Then I hollowed out a space for the roots and filled that with compost from the bin.

Golden Tassels hop planted with the crown under the surface of the soil.

Following the hop planting guide, the crown is below the surface of the soil which was then well soaked from the rain water butt.

Now to wait until around April when it should start sending up shoots.

Bordurian Air Force Bf 109

In the Tintin adventure of King Ottokar’s Sceptre the Bordurian Air Force are shown operating Messerschmitt Bf 109s.

Bordurian Air Force Bf 109

However, these were added in the redrawn and colourised 1947 edition. The first, black and white, edition – that was serialised weekly from August 1938 to August 1939 – shows them operating Heinkel He 118 dive bombers.

Bordurian He 118

Whilst the individual panel compositions have basically remained the same, the page composition for this sequence has been changed in going from four pages down to two:

King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1939 edition, page 95King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1939 edition, page 96King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1947 edition, page 55

King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1939 edition, page 97King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1939 edition, page 98King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1947 edition, page 56

Heinkel He 188

The photo of an He 118 from Wikipedia matches one frame of the book exactly. Hergé was known for keeping extensive scrap books and using them as reference when drawing Tintin books so it is likely that this photo ended up in his scrap book before becoming the basis for this frame.

Luftwaffe He 118

The He 118 was a prototype German dive bomber design that lost out to the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka in the mid 1930s and was never ordered by the Luftwaffe. So, whilst it would have been contemporary when Hergé was initially writing the book, the Bf 109, being the main fighter of the Luftwaffe during WWII, would have been much more recognisable to readers in 1947.

It seems that Hergé didn’t have many reference images for the He 118 as the inboard sections of the gull wings are drawn as wing root fillets in most images.

He 118 from King Ottokar's Sceptre showing gull wing rendred as a wing fillet

Which Bf 109 version is it?

The Bf 109 was probably drawn by Edgar P. Jacobs who, as part of Studios Hergé, oversaw a lot of the background detail work of post-war Tintin books. It doesn’t exactly resemble any one specific variant of the Bf 109: the nose – and specifically the chin mounted radiator – most closely resemble the Jumo engined B that saw service in the Spanish Civil War but the rounded wing tips most closely resemble the F.

Bordurian Bf 109

Other details that don’t match between versions are the fixed tail wheel (it was made retractable in the F); the lack of bracing struts for the tail plane (they were first removed for the F); the small triangular panels in front of the cockpit are shown as unglazed (first seen in later F models); and it’s shown with five exhaust stubs on each side that would indicate a V10 engine which was never used in the airframe.

It does look somewhat like the Merlin engined HA-1112 but the details of the nose and the lack of under wing radiators don’t match.

Perrin acoustic locator

The Syldavians are shown as using what looks very much like a Perrin acoustic locator to detect the approach of Tintin in his Bordurian aircraft.

Syldavian acoustic locator

This was designed by French Nobel prize winner Jean-Baptiste Perrin and the locator featured on the cover of Popular Mechanics in December 1930 – which may well have found its way into Hergé’s scrapbook.

Cover of Popular Mechanics, December 1930, showing a Perin acoustic locator

Second compost bin

We’ve now got two compost bins, one (right) is the working bin and the other (left) is the maturing bin.

Two compost bins - left full, right empty

When the working bin is full it is turned over into the maturing bin – i.e. the top of the working bin gets put into the bottom of the maturing bin leaving the oldest compost at the top.  We can use this compost from the top whilst the bottom of the bin continues to compost.  The working bin can then be filled up with new material and the process can be repeated.

Nice compost at the top, ready to use

Big lumps of grass cuttings don’t compost very well, they tend to turn into layers of anaerobic slime.  Normally I try and cut the grass often, taking less than a third off the blades means I don’t have to use a grass box and the cuttings will break down in the lawn giving the nutrients back.  When the grass is growing faster and opportunities to cut it are less – mostly in spring and autumn – then I’ll collect the cuttings, put them in a pile next to the boxes and then put them into the working box in small batches so it gets mixed through.

As a bonus, some of the potatoes we’d put into the compost had grown so we have an unexpected harvest.

Compost heap potatoes