It Isn't A Good Britain, It's A Great Britain

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

After heavy rain during the night, we rolled south from Edinburgh in sporadic showers through the land of the giant bird shredders … I stopped to look at them. I’d not been up close to one in a decade or so, and like my daughter, oh, my how they’ve grown in that time.

english windmills 1There are so many in just this one spot that they have to give them numbers. I was greatly amused to find out that they have an official “Turbine Spill Kit”.

english windmills 2

I assume that it contains all the stuff necessary to clean up the blood spilled by the birds and bats killed by the blades, but who knows? … I saw a raptor of some kind that was tragically intrigued by the wind lifting and swirling around the blades, so I pointedly looked somewhere else and found another curious sign warning of two more separate dangers I hadn’t even considered.

english windmills 3

Gotta love the climate spinmeisters at work, it even extends to the signs … folks, those are not “WEATHER WARNINGS” as the sign claims.

They are “WIND TURBINE WARNINGS”, and very real ones. The maximum tip speed on those blades is on the order of 200 miles per hour (320 Km per hour). Think about the damage that say a 20 kg (44 lb) chunk of ice moving at 200 miles an hour might do to a house or a car or a child … and they build these near highways, schools and homes?

Suitably impressed and depressed, we rolled on south to visit Matt Ridley and his family. Matt is an amazing guy, he was the Science Editor for the Economist magazine, is the author of several books, writes a blog called “The Rational Optimist“, and is a member of the House of Lords. He graciously had invited the Clan Eschenbach to stay for a couple of days and offered to show us around the countryside.

One of the places Matt took us to was Northumberlandia, the “Goddess of the North”, reputed to be the largest sculpture of a woman on Earth. You can get a sense of the size by noting the cars in the car-park at the lower left, it’s a million and a half tonnes of earth …


This picture was taken soon after it was completed. It was lovely and green on the day that we visited, with people walking all over …

Why is this significant? Well, because it’s a reclaimed open-pit coal mine. I was impressed.

Here’s another one, about six months after being refilled with the overburden (or the “muck” as it’s known in Northumbria, and pronounced “mook”):

reclaimed coal mine

I was quite amazed by the coal ex-mines. I had thought that a) an open-pit coal mine would leave a horrible long-term scar and b) that there wasn’t much you could do with the land after mining. I was totally incorrect on both counts.

From there Matt took us to visit the Chillingham Wild Cattle. Wild cattle in England? That’s what I said. Well … it turns out that somewhere around the year 1200, the local ruler in Chillingham Castle put a stone fence around several thousand acres, to wall in a herd of wild cattle said to have been introduced to the area by the Romans for their sacrifices. These wild herds thrived throughout England but were dispersed with the arrival of Christianity—all except the Chillingham herd, which was kept as ‘unstealable meat’. Chillingham Castle has passed down through the various family lines to an amazing couple, Sir Humpry and Katharine Wakefield. Sir Humphry was good enough to accompany us to see the herd. As Sir Humphry explained, you can’t drive away wild animals with big horns, and so the near-by Scots raiders went away hungry.  The herd was then enclosed around the year 1200 for sport hunting, and since then … well, other than being given a bit of hay in the depths of the winters, and being hunted back in the day, they’ve been left totally alone since. No veterinarian visits. No injections. No castration. No ear-tags. No branding. In fact, they are untouched by any human hand throughout their entire lives, and they are indeed very wild. Sir Humphry said that some time back in the past, it was noted any calves that were handled by humans were generally immediately killed by the herd, so they haven’t been man-handled in centuries. Here’s the sign on the gates, kinda sums them up:

chillingham cattle sign

And they’re not kidding. Now, I grew up on a cattle ranch, I’ve seen most all of the breeds, and I have a reasonably good eye for cattle … and these are not your average brain-dead moo cows. They are awake and alert, and unlike regular cows, you definitely get the sense that there is a wild and wise creature looking back at you from the other side of the horns:

chillingham cow

The Warden of the Cattle, Richard Marsh, accompanied us and answered all of our questions. I noted that unlike domestic cattle, they are stronger in the forequarters and lacking the large rear ends, so I asked him about their unusual build. He said that they are all like that, built for speed and for fighting rather than for meat. Overall they are an amazing herd, about a hundred bulls, cows, and calves, and the warden was obviously proud to be their champion.

Someone asked the Warden about inbreeding, and the lack of predators. He said that there was a curious custom that the herd invariably followed. The Warden said that the herd has one “King Bull” at any one time. And whenever a calf is born, when it is about a week old, the calf is brought to be introduced to the King Bull himself. He sniffs and licks the calf and checks it out. Usually it is accepted by the King Bull into the herd.

But sometimes, the King Bull says no, not good enough. No one knows why. The smell? Bad taste? In that case, in another few days the mother will try again. And it may or may not be accepted that time.

If not, then the mother will try once more, third time’s the charm.

And if the calf is still rejected … then she will go off into the woods with the calf, and leave it there. She will prevent it from returning to the herd, and it will die.

What a remarkably intricate world we live in, where a bunch of cows figures out how to keep a small genetically interbred herd strong in the absence of predators. Astonishing.

As I mentioned above, we were accompanied on the cattle-viewing expedition by Sir Humphry Wakefield, who lives with his wonderful wife Katharine in Chillingham Castle. After our trip to see the cattle, Sir Humphry gave us a guided tour of the Castle itself.

I find it difficult to describe either Sir Humphry or the castle, so let me start with the castle, it has hundreds of rooms, so it’s less complex than he is. Chillingham Castle started out life somewhere around the year dot as four watchtowers with a fence connecting them. Then at some point the towers were connected with stone walls  to make a palace for a visiting Scottish King. It had always belonged to the Grey family line since that same year dot, but was abandoned in 1932. Here’s the castle, and a resplendent Sir Humphry in formal hunting attire:

chillingham castle and sir h


And from the same source, here he is looking much more like the man who put on his boots and accompanied us to the Chillingham cattle field and told us fascinating stories about the history of the herd.

the real sir humphrey

Sir Humphry’s wife, Katharine, came from nearby Howick Hall. Howick is yet another Grey property and once part of the Chillingham Estates. So they have brought Grey blood home to Chillingham Castle once again.  Sir Humphry bought the lands around the Castle but was gifted the ruined building which had  never been sold in its thousand-year history.

He then set about rebuilding it and then filling it with the most amazing, idiosyncratic, eclectic collection of objects that one could ever imagine … tripled. For example, we walked into one room to find an antique tripod-mounted (and doubtless inactivated) Vickers machine gun mixed in with a variety of medieval weapons. Bizarre. Inside and outside the castle you can find … well … everything and anything. For example, there are two cannons in the courtyard that Sir Humphry said were stamped with the markings of Nelson’s favourite flagship, the  “Foudroyant”, captured from the French in the 18th century with the name retained to add gall to subsequent attack.

chillingham cannon

Intrigued by old naval guns, I asked how he’d gotten them, and he said he’d found them in the Crimea. I asked “How does one do that? Did you wander around the Crimea going ‘I say, you wouldn’t happen to have seen one of Lord Nelson’s cannons, would you, he seems to have mislaid it’ “.

Sir Humphry laughed his marvelous laugh, and said, “You know, I have only two skills in this life—riding horses, and recognizing quality. I saw these in a bunch of old rubbish behind a shop in Crimea, and bought them and brought them back.” Well, naturally, how foolish of me not to have guessed. Of course, being Sir Humphry, he had exact replica period wooden cannon mounts made for them.

The interior of the castle is poorly lit for photography, but here is one of the inner rooms:

chillingham hall

There are curved brass Viking horns on the table, along with a variety of halberds and pikes and medieval weapons on the wall … but in true Sir Humphry fashion, mixed in with the horns and plates on the table is a very lovely and apparently authentic antique Fijian war club … who knows why? “Because Sir Humphry”, my daughter said … that made sense to me. I take my hat off to the man, he indeed has the eye for quality. At the end of the hall above you can dimly see a fully caparisoned horse and rider, here’s a closeup. It’s full-size, and up on a stand but doesn’t even start to dominate the huge hall … like all of Sir Humphry’s works, from the exquisite gardens to the windvane on top of one of the towers with the golden bat that is the symbol of the Grey family, the hall and all of its contents was very, very impressive.

chillingham rider

During the tour Sir Humphry told us the story of the Battle of Flodden Field, which happened almost exactly 500 years to the day before our visit. He is a most accomplished raconteur, giving us all of the details large and small, describing the position of the armies and how they moved,  how they dressed, and what they were thinking. At one point when he was describing a skirmish in astonishing (and likely accurate) detail, I said, “Sir Humphry, where on the field of battle were you standing at that moment when they charged?” It took him a moment to bring his mind forwards out of the mists of time, and then he laughed, shook his head, and said “It may surprise you, Willis, but I actually wasn’t there!” as if it were surprising to him as well … and then he was off again with tales of a hunted criminal forced to serve as a guide after his brother was captured and threatened with death, and the disposition of the archers in a line off of the left flank, and, and … I now know a whole lot more fascinating facts than a man should ever know about that battle, which took place about ten miles from Chillingham Castle.

After the tour, we were treated to a lovely dinner in an equally eccentric and equally impressive family dining hall in the private section of the castle. The evening had turned cold, and I’ll tell you, the castle would be a nightmare to heat. It’s not much more than a drafty pile of stones, and in this case the stone walls are about four foot thick. Well, except for the walls on the  vulnerable north side, which Sir Humphry said were built out from 8 foot to 20 foot thick in the early 1500s, to protect against cannon fire. That’s great for cannon fire … but not for heating fires, build a fireplace on one side of those walls and see how long it takes for the other side to get warm … brrr.

But the food was hot and delicious, and the fire in the fireplace was warm, as was the convivial atmosphere. The other dinner guests were the head of one of the Colleges at Cambridge and his wife, and the conversation ebbed and flowed with passion and pleasure. My greatest thanks go to Sir Humphry and Lady Katharine for their hospitality, for their stories, and for restoring a marvelous piece of English history.

The next day, I got the chance to go salmon fishing with Matt Ridley and my gorgeous ex-fiancée. We went to a stretch of the River Coquet, here’s Matt and Ellie on the river.

coquet river

Now, I’ve caught a lot of salmon in my day, but it’s all been commercial trolling and commercial net fishing. Once I was in the airport leaving Alaska and I got to talking with a guy carrying some rods. I asked how the fishing had been. He said it was great, he’d caught 18 silver salmon. “How did you do?”, he asked. Almost shamefacedly, I admitted that during the season I’d caught about 120 … tonnes … of silver salmon. So it was a first for me to try my hand at casting a fly for salmon in a river. Matt and a local guide did their best to school me in the arcane art, and I’m proud to say that at no time during my rather alarming experiments did I actually hook either a tree, the guide, or my ear.

I also didn’t hook a salmon, in fact Ellie was the only one to get a bite, but ask me if I care … I was out in the sun and the wind, on a lovely stretch of a river with boon companions, and the chance to learn a new kind of fishing was just a bonus. What’s not to like?

In the evening we had dinner at Matt’s house with his good lady Anya and their son Matthew. Anya is another one of those amazing folks, a neurobiologist with both a PhD and an MD, and the dinner guests were there for a neurobiology conference. Glamorous surroundings, glistening candelabras, and glittering conversation made it a most memorable evening.

In the morning, sadly, our time with the Clan Ridley was over. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality, which was of the best kind—effortless despite the effort, generous despite the cost, and without apparent limit.

From there, we rolled on south and had lunch with James Delingpole. James writes a blog for the Telegraph which I would describe as witty, incisive, and acerbic … and that’s just how he is in person as well. He fed us to the brim with his patented cheese toasties in the old country house where he resides, and then led us on a lovely countryside walk to a hill where we could see the old local manor house and the church. But all too soon, we were off again, heading back to Heathrow and a morning flight with only one final bright spot in view.

The bright spot was that we got to have dinner with Josh, who does the often hilarious weekly cartoons for WattsUpWithThat and the Bishop Hill Blog. I’m a cartoonist as well, here and here are my livetoons of the 2010 ICCC. But like everything else in my life, my cartooning is totally self-taught, and Josh is the only real-life cartoonist I’ve ever met. He turned out to be a lovely man, with the same warm personality that shines through in his cartoons. He’d brought along his sketch-books, so I got to see how a real cartoonist does it, even his simplest sketches are full of joy and laughter.

Then yesterday, up early, off to Heathrow, the joys of security, the long, long ten and a half hour non-stop flight back to San Francisco, the two-hour bus ride, then forty-five minutes by car to our house at the end of a dead-end road in the redwoods. This morning I woke up at 4 AM, which is noon GMT, and couldn’t sleep … now that the sun’s up, here’s what the view from my place looks like … warm, lovely, and very peaceful.

home again

So our long and wonderful hegira through the British cities and countryside is all over, and for me it’s back to pounding nails on Monday. The gorgeous ex-fiancee returns to being a Family Nurse Practitioner, and the summer is over for our college lady, she’s jumping in her car and heading off to Uni today.

Not much more I can say, except to offer my thanks to all of the WUWT readers who have been so supportive, offering advice and information and encouragement and stories and support. I wish that I could have taken up on everyone’s invitations for food and drink and lodging. My apologies that I did not have time to respond to everyone’s invitations, comments and ideas, but I definitely read them all, and followed many of them. Here’s the team, enjoying the UK to the max on a sunny day in a secret, undisclosed location:

clan eschenbach

In addition, I give my greatest appreciation and thanks to those people who I was lucky enough to actually meet and spend time with. These included Benny Peiser; Tim Daw; Nick Luke; the Old Seadog; the “Bishop” Andrew Montford; Christopher Monckton; Matt, Anya, and Matthew Ridley; Sir Humphry and Katharine Wakefield; Richard Marsh, the Chillingham Game Warden; David the Northumberland fishing guide; James Delingpole; and Josh the cartoonist. If I’ve forgotten any, my apologies, you’re included too. All of them without exception gave freely and generously of their time and energy to show the marvels and mysteries of their local countryside to three rather benighted and bemused Colonials … you all have earned a special place in my pantheon of heroes, come and visit us when you have the chance and we’ll return the favor.

Always more to come, I’ve been doing some science in the spaces in between the places, and I have until Monday to write it up … life goes on.

Best regards, and thanks for all the fish, including the salmon that got away …


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Tim Ball
September 20, 2013 10:57 am

They said the sun never set on the British empire. Someone else said it was because you couldn’t trust the British in the dark.

John B., M.D.
September 20, 2013 11:00 am

What a delightful post.

September 20, 2013 11:04 am

What a great summary of a most excellent adventure.

September 20, 2013 11:17 am

Thankyou for this and for all your other accounts of your visit to our country.
I hope you enjoyed your visit as much as I have enjoyed living it through your words. Please come back because there is much, much more for you to see: the West country, Wales, the Midlands, and much, much more. For example, as a Californian you may enjoy the World’s best surfing beaches which are here in Cornwall.
And it seems you have discovered why the English value eccentrics!

Mike Smith
September 20, 2013 11:19 am

That was a jolly good yarn. Thanks, old chap!

September 20, 2013 11:19 am

Willis, I hope that taste of fly fishing has whet your appetite. When the blood is angrified or the heart is heavy, the streams do a wonder — even if the fish are finicky and the weather poor. No day that includes casting a fly rod is bad. Thanks for this most informative travelog.

September 20, 2013 11:23 am

Fascinating that nature has put a bison build on those feral cattle.

September 20, 2013 11:23 am

The sun never sets on the British Empire because the Sun sets in the west and the British Empire is in the east. QED.

September 20, 2013 11:24 am

There is an excellent critique of wind turbines by Leo Smith MA ( electrical sciences ) , ” Limitations of ‘ renewable ‘ energy ” :
It is linked to the gridwatch site which gives real time data about how much electricity each type of power station is generating :
An informative book on the subject of the effect of wind & solar on the national grid is
” When will the lights go out ? ” by Derek Birkett

Salvatore Del Prete
September 20, 2013 11:24 am

Willis it looks like a great time. Enjoy!

September 20, 2013 11:26 am

“Here’s the team, enjoying the UK to the max on a sunny day in a secret, undisclosed location”
I know what you mean Willis, the whole place looks the same to me too, lots of grass, grey cloudy sky and lots big rocks lying about everywhere.

September 20, 2013 11:41 am

The Scots poem, ‘The Flowers of the Forest’ is a lament on the Scots casualties at the battle which included the king.

September 20, 2013 11:42 am

Thanks for a really good, fun and insightful travelogue. If you are ever back this way would be delighted to meet up with you, perhaps as you go en route to Richard and the supposedly best surfing beaches in the world. Mind you I would pay good money to see him riding a large wave.

September 20, 2013 11:48 am

You say to Willis:

Thanks for a really good, fun and insightful travelogue. If you are ever back this way would be delighted to meet up with you, perhaps as you go en route to Richard and the supposedly best surfing beaches in the world. Mind you I would pay good money to see him riding a large wave.

LOL Me on a board? No, I use my age as an excuse.
Of course, the real reason is that the ocean here is wet (even in Cornwall not everything is perfect), and I draw the line at getting wet. 🙂

M Courtney
September 20, 2013 11:50 am

Thanks for the travelogue.
It was most entertaining. Often I leapt ahead in the posts to just savour your wit and literary eloquence.
I hope you and Clan E enjoyed our Sceptred Isle.
And I hope the time spent with the UK sceptic aristocracy led to some interesting cross-fertilisation of ideas before AR5.

September 20, 2013 11:55 am

richardscourtney says:
September 20, 2013 at 11:48 am
Cornwall ranked #24 out of 50 top spots:
Oahu Pipeline #1, birthplace of surfing, both ancient & modern.

September 20, 2013 12:09 pm

milodonharlani says:
September 20, 2013 at 11:55 am
richardscourtney says:
September 20, 2013 at 11:48 am
Cornwall ranked #24 out of 50 top spots:

I’m amazed they don’t have St Ouen’s Bay (Five Mile beach), Jersey on that list. Some great Atlantic surf there.

September 20, 2013 12:09 pm

For such a small land, there’s so much to see. I’m not at all surprised you enjoyed the trip.

September 20, 2013 12:12 pm

Everybody is entitled to an opinion including that guy who thinks Watergate Bay is better for surfing than Fistral Beach (which he thinks is a bay). Next time the surfers decide to hold their World Championships at Fistral Beach perhaps you should tell them nearby Watergate Bay is ranked in that ‘Top 50’ but Fistral Beach is not.
I don’t surf so I accept the opinion of the surfers.

September 20, 2013 12:14 pm

Great one Willis heres one to chew on should be set in concrete for posterity!
FROm “(Reuters) – A “hiatus” in global warming so far this century is partly caused by natural variations in a chaotic climate and is unlikely to last, a draft United Nations report by leading climate scientists says.
The 127-page draft, and a shorter summary for policymakers that is due for release in Stockholm on September 27 after editing, say factors including a haze of volcanic ash and a cyclical dip in energy emitted from the sun may also have contributed to a slower warming trend.” Ect Ect…. LOL
Please note UNLIKELY TO LAST they are really putting themselves on the line on this one. Anything to keep the cash coming in….

colin maclean
September 20, 2013 12:19 pm

I’m glad you had a great time. Haste ye back.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
September 20, 2013 12:19 pm

I hope you can take some cheer from the liklihood those stones in the last picture will be standing long, long, long after the last flake of rusted metal from the turbines in the first picture will be scattered to the wind and forgotten.

September 20, 2013 12:19 pm

Nice little series Willis.

Claude Harvey
September 20, 2013 12:20 pm

An interesting tale beautifully told. An American rural expression comes to mind: “Seem like old Willis been squattin’ in high cotton!”

more soylent green!
September 20, 2013 12:32 pm

Contemporary America reminds me of post-war Great Britain, except I’m not sure Great Britain deliberately decided it no longer wanted to be great.

Dr T G Watkins
September 20, 2013 12:34 pm

I echo Richard Courtney’s comments. Lots more of the UK to see and many more interesting and fun people to meet.
Regards to you and your family.

September 20, 2013 12:54 pm

re your post at September 20, 2013 at 11:24 am concerning the problem of windfarms.
For obvious reasons, I think this link – which covers the same and more as your link – is more readable.

Gerry Parker
September 20, 2013 12:56 pm

I’ve noticed that neither bread, nor beer, nor pubs survive the trip across the Atlantic. Difficult to pick which of the three I regret the most, but comfortable intimate seating (of wide and various kinds) in a pub is a concept that has not caught on in America.
Gerry Parker

Gunga Din
September 20, 2013 1:03 pm

Joseph Blieu says:
September 20, 2013 at 11:23 am
The sun never sets on the British Empire because the Sun sets in the west and the British Empire is in the east. QED.

Actually, the phrase dates back to when Britain had colonies that spanned the globe. As late as WW2 India was a British possession.

September 20, 2013 1:28 pm

I can’t wait for your next vacation!

September 20, 2013 1:40 pm

Phil & Richard:
I know some better spots than some of those on the list, too, but nobody asked my opinion & I wouldn’t have mentioned them had I been asked.
I’m still waiting for global warming to make it possible to throw away my wet suit. If only the missing heat were hiding in surface waters instead of where it’s too deep to be measured. But a warmer world would probably have punier waves.

September 20, 2013 1:59 pm

Google Earth doesn’t show the Lady of the North. Latest terrain image is 2009.
But Panaramio has a couple dozen photos

is one of the best
from N 55 05′ 15″, W 1 37′ 37″
The Street view looks to be from 2009, too and doesn’t view the Lady.
[I linked in the photo, it’s great. -w]

September 20, 2013 2:02 pm

The wind-farm is built on land owned by the aluminium smelter in the background. Unfortunately, although one of the most efficient plants in the world, it couldn’t survive UK energy policy and closed in 2012.

Brad Stedel
September 20, 2013 2:23 pm

Held in a 240L yellow wheelie bin, the Turbine Spill Kit 240 has a range of materials to allow staff to deploy successful containment on wind farms.
The kit offers up to 6m of boom containment on land/water, 18m of sock containment for land based spills and cushions and pads to uplift free product. Stakes are provided to secure booms; dammit slabs provide a temporary seal to leaking pipes and drums, both oil, chemical and frost resistant. A 2.5L bottle of Hi-Bar, a non-toxic oil dispersant is included to deal with oil sheen on hard surfaces. The wheeled kit is secured with tags to indicate tampering.

There are enough contaminants in a turbine to warrant a spill kit, who knew?
[Added blockquotes for clarity. -w.]

September 20, 2013 2:24 pm

So glad you enjoyed your visit to our small island, Willis. We may not have the land area,or the natural resources, or the industry, of some other countries, nor the international political clout that our leaders seem to think we still do, but (as you seem to have discovered) we have been around for an awfully long time, so we must be doing something right 😉

September 20, 2013 2:37 pm

Thank you for showing my country to me through a very literate visitor’s eyes. There is so much to see, experience and simply know in this wedge of land.
I have been to the grave of Little John, been in the Church where the first Sermon leading to the Pilgrim Fathers voyage was delivered and nothing has changed in the Church since that time and have been a passenger on some of the most beautiful preserved steam-powered railways this country has to offer.
Haste ye back, there’s many of us real Englishmen will welcome you, even me, a relatively new import into my Mother-Country!

September 20, 2013 2:44 pm

I’ve hooked my ear fishing. I now bring wire cutters. This was fun read. That castle looks amazing. I want one. They only take what… like 40 years to build?

September 20, 2013 2:50 pm

Thank you for making me look at my country again through un biased eyes. Your diary has been a joy to read .
Come back again soon , and open the eyes of those who take our wonderful home for granted.

Michael Larkin
September 20, 2013 3:01 pm

I’ve loved every post in the series, Willis. It’s sad it has come to an end. Although I’m a Brit myself, you saw some things I haven’t, and of course you saw them through a pair of different eyes: as Robbie Burns put it:
“O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.”
You have that power, Willis. God bless you and all your family.

September 20, 2013 3:02 pm

The warning sign at Chillingham is one of the best bits of Popular Art I’ve seen in ages.

September 20, 2013 3:24 pm

Thanks for a very entertaining series of reports, Willis. They have been hugely entertaining and informative. Those Wild Cattle are fascinating and terrifying too.

September 20, 2013 3:27 pm

Willis, I didn’t think you could surpass your last travelogue. But as often is the case, I was wrong. This was a really great read [and a pox on whoever was stingy about giving it 5 stars! Some folks are never happy about anything].
When I become Emperor of the World, I will send you and your clan everywhere, just so you can tell us about it. [That could take a while, but I always keep my promises…].
My admiration of our English/UK forebears is brought to life by your travel anecdotes. So please, keep ’em coming! I am proud to be old[ish], white, and half Scot [other half Teutonic]. We are the best, and I make no apologies whatever for my un-PC views.

September 20, 2013 3:33 pm

Surfing. Somewhere I have pictures of my mother surfing at Trevone Bay in the 30s – on the old thin wood (and then ply) boards. I could surf on these before I could swim. Treyarnon, down from Trevone. No wetsuits for four year olds then, no lifeguards. With the coming of the lifeguards from Oz, surfing started to move in Cornwall – though there had been long board riders there for some time. There’s a number of good surfing beaches along the North coast and I can recall a Kiwi mate, brought up surfing all the time there, being more than surprised by ten foot rollers coming in at Trevone. Sadly, I stopped holidaying down there aged around 16, and never got to try the proper boards, which were then just starting to appear.
Willis. Glad you had a great time! Come back soon.

September 20, 2013 3:36 pm

Richard Dawkins recently said
“All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”
Funny thing that. Outrage in this Christian country that he dissed Islam; but the media never give him a hard time for his relentless and methinks he doth protest too much assaults on Christianity.
How does that work?

September 20, 2013 3:41 pm

In your comment at September 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm you touch on a real problem with which our country is wresting when you conclude

it does show that despite no longer having an Empire, Britain still presides over Empire of ideas …
For millennia Britain has been an island off the coast of Europe. So, when people had troubles in a European country they could take a boat and escape to Britain. And they were accepted here so long as they spoke the local language of the time. This had two effects.
Firstly, we obtained the ‘English disease’; i.e. the English have great difficulty learning other languages. Oh, we learn them at school etc. but tend not to retain them. The things one learns ‘at mother’s knee’ without knowing they have been learned are powerfully learned. And 2,000 years of culture is not easily overcome in a generation. But if one wants to sell a product in e.g. Germany then success is more likely if the seller does not expect the potential customer to speak English. So, we are forced to overcome our cultural imprinting and to learn other languages. For many this is difficult.
Secondly, and much more importantly, we have had a great cross-fertilisation of ideas and cultures. For example, East Anglia is more Dutch than Holland. This has had great benefits. Novelty arises when ideas and cultures mix, and such novelty would otherwise be unlikely. So, we have always ‘punched above our weight’ in science, engineering, art, philosophy, politics and religion. For example, Gustav Holst who composed The Planet Suite was born in Cheltenham then lived his life in Gloucestershire, and Sir Alec Issigonis devised the mini car. Holst and Issigonis are not obviously English names. It is not surprising that Newton, Faraday, Rutherford and etc. were also English. They lived in a land which has been fertilised by new ideas and novel cultures in every generation for millennia. We gave the world the industrial revolution and all that has flowed from it.
Germany has also ‘punched above its weight’ for a similar reason. Being in the middle of Europe people had to pass through it or settle in it when forced from their homelands.
But now our country has a problem. We first recognised it when Hong Kong returned to China. Hong Kong was a colony so everybody in Hong Kong was a British Subject entitled to live in Britain. But our country is too small for us to cope with millions of immigrants arriving at one time. We solved that problem. But the same problem is now provided by Eastern Europe.
Modern communications make travel easy and provide information of foreign lands. Also, EU employment legislation allows people from anywhere in the EU to work anywhere in the EU. The poor people in Eastern Europe would prefer to live in Britain. But we cannot take them all.
So, what do we do? If we ban immigration then we stop being us. And our being us has benefitted the entire world. But if we allow anybody to immigrate to here then the country could not cope so what we are would cease to be. Heads we lose and tails we don’t win.
This dilemma of how we continue to be us is the greatest problem facing Britain today. But our politicians avoid this greatest problem of our generation and campaign about AGW instead.
And before anybody asks. No, I am NOT being racially, ethnically, or religiously prejudiced. On the contrary, I am rejoicing at the diversity which makes us what we are, and I am proclaiming the problem of how to continue the non-ending increase to diversity which has been our basic nature for thousands of years.

September 20, 2013 3:45 pm

Willis, that’s not formal wear, that’s hunt wear. The boots are the giveaway.

September 20, 2013 3:58 pm

richardscourtney says:
September 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm
How the once intellectually towering heights of the East Anglian flat lands & fens have fallen!

September 20, 2013 4:19 pm

Jeremy Poynton says:
September 20, 2013 at 3:36 pm
“Funny thing that. Outrage in this Christian country that he dissed Islam; but the media never give him a hard time for his relentless and methinks he doth protest too much assaults on Christianity.
How does that work?”
Atheist pseudojournalists hate Christianity and love Islam because the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The Muslims call them Dhimmies.

September 20, 2013 4:25 pm

richardscourtney says:
September 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm
“It is not surprising that Newton, Faraday, Rutherford and etc. were also English.”
One of my favorites.

View from the Solent
September 20, 2013 4:34 pm

Willis, thank you.
Your postings never disappoint.

David Chorley
September 20, 2013 4:36 pm

Northumberland is one small corner of England which is largely overlooked by tourists: which is good for those of us who know it and love it, but hard for those making a living there

September 20, 2013 5:04 pm

Thank you for allowing us to share in your trip to England Willis! And extend our appreciation and thanks to your family too.
Careful, fly fishing can be addictive. :-> One can even fly fish the deep blue sea, though I’d recommend sticking with local to shore fish first.

September 20, 2013 6:29 pm

“in true Sir Humphry fashion, mixed in with the horns on the table is a very lovely and apparently authentic antique Fijian war club … who knows why? “Because Sir Humphry”, my daughter said … say no more, say no more. ”
Er, Willis, I don’t think that means quite what you think it means. Unless you meant to imply that Sir Humpy was shoving it where the sun doesn’t etc.
Other than that, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your latest set of blogs. If you haven’t yet written a book, why not?

September 20, 2013 9:14 pm

“Here’s the team, enjoying the UK to the max on a sunny day in a secret, undisclosed location…”
Aha! I recognized it immediately. But where did you get the time machine to take you to London’s Trafalgar Square, 2178 AD?

September 20, 2013 9:19 pm

Willis, thanks for sharing your vivid and fresh impressions of a land I love. Your descriptions are up there with those of Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island) as being the next best thing to actually being there.

September 20, 2013 11:04 pm

Willis, as always a delight.
Two things :-
1, Are you sure EM Smith and your good self are not long lost twins? The writing style is uncannily similar, as is the polymath approach. Makes for a great read.
2. “…long, long ten and a half hour non-stop flight…“. We Aussies would consider that a quick overseas hop. Harden up, man!

September 21, 2013 12:03 am

I have seen a cannon like the Victory one. It was and still is in Tarnagulla Australia. The info I have seen is that it came from a ship Called the Nelson see…

John Coleman
September 21, 2013 12:10 am

It is a certainity in my mind that Willis is living his life more completely and fully than any of the rest of us. It is our high good fortune that he takes us along when he can. When I “went to England” I never left London and never met anyone. Look at the difference. It is humbling.

September 21, 2013 2:42 am

” I saw a raptor of some kind that was tragically intrigued by the wind lifting and swirling around the blades, so I pointedly looked somewhere else and found another curious sign warning of two more separate dangers I hadn’t even considered.”
I have heard that the turbulence will pull the birds into the blade. It is not just a matter of avoidance, these things are sort of magnetic. Perhaps a scientist could tell me if this is true?
I found this claim for mortality numbers “According to the Spanish conservation charity SEO/Birdlife, a typical wind turbine kills between 110 and 330 birds per year. Other research from Sweden puts the mortality rate as high as 895.”

September 21, 2013 2:49 am

“Bison build on feral cattle”. Wild boar also have that heavy forequarter build. It seems to help make the males look more impressive against competing males when looked at side on.
Thanks you for a very entertaining view of our island, there is still lots more to see.
When you plan your next visit, give us some notice and we could play “pass the parcel” and save you the expense of accommodation and travel, as well as showing you round.

September 21, 2013 2:58 am

Willis, I have enjoyed your trip around the UK, and looked forward to your posts. Sometimes I do not feel comfortable with my Britishness; our culture has become more self-centred, undisciplined and changed dramatically during my lifetime. Reading your posts has reminded me how much there is to love about Britain, and you have shown us the best side of our country.
I did not know you made drawings (my passion, I wish I could discuss some ideas I have about visual grammer), please continue to bring your brand of broad mindedness, humanity and science to this blog. It is a very valuable contribution to what is certainly the best science blog in the World.

September 21, 2013 3:28 am

Glad you all had a great time. You can always return and ”do” the bits you missed because there are plenty.

Hari Seldon
September 21, 2013 3:39 am

If you want to know more about how the wind farms in the North East of England are affecting the local bird life try: –

September 21, 2013 4:20 am

Nice story Willis! Hope we once meet here in Belgium, where we can offer a lot of history too, but unfortunately far less nature than in the UK in our mostly flat and overcrowded country…

mike fowle
September 21, 2013 4:53 am

A very gracious and entertaining account of your travels. Thank you. And how interesting to read of your meetings with people that I read every day on line but have never met. Look forward to seeing Josh’s cartoon(s) of you!

September 21, 2013 5:03 am

Dear Willis
I forgive you for not revealing the Old Sea Dogs name however I believe that your secret mission to that pile of stones set in the prairies of ole Sarum had one intention only? You already have a pile of rocks somewhere in the Arizona desert expropriated from over the River Thames and you can please leave those pile of rocks where they are:-)
Thanks for all your posts which have been excellent.

Peter Shaw
September 21, 2013 5:13 am

Your informative section on “wind turbines” raises two points –
A turbine is something roughly top-shaped which rotates, so I suggest the term you use is spin; they are in fact wind-generators – or, more colloquially, windmills.
They patently are rotating machinery. Industrial safety doctrine is that rotating machinery gets an enforced exclusion zone, and guards to prevent things falling in or flying out.
I’d like your take on how well these are implemented in your example, and whether there are issues the national safety authority might address.

Jan Smit
September 21, 2013 5:17 am

So, Willis, I see you’ve discovered Britain’s best kept secret. Funny really, I was in a pub on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) last night drinking a pint of Secret Kingdom and thinking to myself what a fabulous place North Northumberland is and how it owes its sense of mystique to the fact that so few people are familiar with it. You may just have made a dent in that, sharing with the world the treasures of Chillingham and environs.
Having lived in this largely unspoiled part of the UK for many years I can attest to its untamed yet charming character – not unlike the wild cattle on the Chillingham estate. But if this area is itself a treasure trove, then the many gems it contains are its richest bounty. And Chillingham is just one of many examples of hidden finds that, to be honest, we would perhaps prefer to keep hidden. Glad to hear you enjoyed tasting of its richness, but selfishly resentful that our precious secrets are leaking out to a wider audience 😉
Thank you for your series of mini travelogues regaling us with your experiences of this wonderful isle. It’s been great to vicariously revisit old stomping grounds and relive precious memories…

David Riser
September 21, 2013 5:37 am

Great Post!
David Riser

September 21, 2013 5:43 am

Seen some documentaries where cattle raised as beasts-of-burden (instead of meat animals) are at least as smart as horses and much easier to take care of.

Steve T
September 21, 2013 7:48 am

richardscourtney says:
September 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm
In your reply to willis above you say ” It is not surprising that Newton, Faraday, Rutherford and etc. were also English. They lived in a land which has been fertilised by new ideas and novel cultures in every generation for millennia. We gave the world the industrial revolution and all that has flowed from it.”
While I accept that technically Rutherford may have a claim to being English (English parents) and became a UK National, he was born in New Zealand and didn’t come to England until in his mid twenties when already rated as extremely able (working under J.J. Thompson at the Cavendish). I’m not sure how much input England had on his formative years.
Other than that, I agree wholeheartedly with the content of your comment. I hope that the problem you raised finds a solution.

September 21, 2013 8:01 am

Steve T:
Thankyou for the clarification you provide at September 21, 2013 at 7:48 a
in response to my post at September 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm
You point out

While I accept that technically Rutherford may have a claim to being English (English parents) and became a UK National, he was born in New Zealand and didn’t come to England until in his mid twenties when already rated as extremely able (working under J.J. Thompson at the Cavendish). I’m not sure how much input England had on his formative years.

Thankyou. You make a good point. However, with respect, that emphasises the point I was making and which has provided our present problem that I note you hope can be solved.
Again, thankyou.

Luther Wu
September 21, 2013 8:18 am

I would not dream of making any comparisons of the adventures of the Eschenbach set with something from PBS or NatGeo (those Commies.)
I couldn’t help noticing that much of what you wrote about is just like it is in the movies. Whether the movies actually capture such things as the good nature of Sir Humphrey, or whether our perceptions have been collectively altered, isn’t for me to say.

UK Marcus
September 21, 2013 8:34 am

Thank you Willis, for such a beautifully written account of your, all too short, visit to our shores.
You have shown the reason why a small, damp island off the north-west coast of Europe has had such influence on the world stage for over 200 years: The weather was always better south and east so that is where we went for adventure, but that small island keeps drawing us back; it’s where we call home.
Farewell, for now, to you and your ladies.

September 21, 2013 8:44 am

Luther Wu:
re your post at September 21, 2013 at 8:18 am.
Please be assured that Willis has not misled you. We British have many (i.e. numerically and not percentage) loveable eccentrics, and we treasure them. Indeed, I put it to you that the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (whom I like and admire) is one example known to WUWT readers by his writings: he is building a folly in his grounds.
Loveable eccentrics add value to our culture like icing adds value to a Wedding Cake. Without them we would all be poorer because ordinary people do ordinary things. And extraordinary things benefit us all.
Indeed, we British are not alone in treasuring loveable eccentrics although we tend to be most willing to admit it. Think of the extraordinary life Willis has led, and how that enables him to provide us with a variety of riches of which his above travelogue is one: surely, his American brothers and sisters can treasure that.

September 21, 2013 10:42 am

I’m glad you liked our country, Willis. Those who see it as a land of science and industry generally understand it far better than those who don’t.

September 21, 2013 10:45 am

” While I accept that technically Rutherford may have a claim to being English (English parents) and became a UK National, he was born in New Zealand and didn’t come to England until in his mid twenties when already rated as extremely able (working under J.J. Thompson at the Cavendish). I’m not sure how much input England had on his formative years.”
But often these great people become great after they find themselves surrounded by a mixture of ideas coming from many disciplines, and they shine because they are open minded enough to discus their thoughts across departments. This is why Cambridge created the opportunity for a whole series of breakthroughs?
This is exactly the opposite attitude to modern Climate science which closets itself together, refusing to admit that anyone outside their group has anything to contribute to their “expert” analysis. It is also why those who want WUWT to be a purely science only blog are so wrong.

September 21, 2013 10:59 am

richardscourtney says:
September 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm
Some other world championship sites are also missing from the list. There is a number of different organizations with championship series. Cornwall’s was part of the ASP tour, but was cancelled this year due to lack of sponsors.
I’ve never surfed either Cornwall or Jersey, so am not qualified to form an opinion. I’ve never even been to Jersey (much as I’d like to), but have seen some excellent waves crash into the Cornish coast.

September 21, 2013 12:02 pm

Willis, I really enjoyed reading your blog, I have lived in NE England (Newcastle upon Tyne), since I was a student in the ’70’s. The people here are very friendly, very much like the Americans I have met in Florida and New York. I am so pleased you like our part of the world. We will be visiting your neck of the woods next year (San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas and finally Hawaii), we are looking forward to it and I am sure we will encounter the same friendliness there, as we have on the Eastern seaboard of the US!
Please keep writing your fascinating travelogues, if you are interested, my youngest daughter, Rebecca is currently touring SE Asia with her boyfriend, Rob and she is writing a blog about these travels and previous ones!
If you are ever in the UK again, I would gladly help out with the “Pass the Parcel” idea, you are more than welcome to stay with us!

September 21, 2013 12:13 pm

Thankyou for your post addressed to me at September 21, 2013 at 10:59 am.
I value information on things I know nothing about, and – as I said – I know nothing about surfing. All I know about it is what my nephew tells me: he is a surfer. And in this thread tonyb (who has met me) stated his amusement at the idea of me on a board.
My comment was an aside in a message to Willis about reasons he may want to return to UK. I thank you for the information, especially because it may be useful to WUWT readers who are surfers, but I don’t know enough about surfing to discuss it. Sorry.

Gentle Tramp
September 21, 2013 12:48 pm

This sad documentary movie gives also a striking picture of the so called “Green Energy”:

September 21, 2013 1:05 pm

Love the “danger sign”; does that say thank you for your “contribution$”? Great post Mr W.

September 21, 2013 1:09 pm

Thanks for an excellent and enjoyable series of posts.
There is indeed much to see in our islands.
When I retire, I intend to see a lot of London – with occasional forays further afield. I think that’ll see me out.
So glad you enjoyed your time here.
StephenP says:
September 21, 2013 at 2:49 am
. . . .
When you plan your next visit, give us some notice and we could play “pass the parcel” and save you the expense of accommodation and travel, as well as showing you round.
I agree; you and your ladies would be most welcome here – between London proper and Gatwick.

September 21, 2013 1:13 pm

Hi richardscourtney, Thanks for your brilliant article
showing the folly of trying to use wind turbines to generate electricity for the national grid.
I sent a copy to my MP & MSP & various others. I also posted it on the Dundee Evening Telegraph website under an article about a convoy of wind turbine propellers moving through Dundee 19th Sept 2013 but it was deleted. I suppose maybe they get advertising revenue from the wind industry and don’t want to risk it. Anyway it is willful ignorance.
Other books pointing out the reasons against trying to use wind turbines in association with national grids :
Robert Bryce, ” Power hungry, the myth of green energy & the real fuels of the future ”
John Etherington, ” The wind farm scam ”
John Constable of Renewable Energy Foundation, ” The green mirage ”
Adam Smith Institute, ” Renewable energy: vision or mirage ?”
George Taylor of American Tradition Institute, ” The hidden cost of wind electricity ”
Scottish Wild Land Group, summer magazine 2013, ” Wind farms gone wild, is the environmental damage justified ”
MEP Struan Stevenson, ” So much wind ”
Nigel Lawson, ” An appeal to reason , a cool look at global warming “

September 21, 2013 1:41 pm

The wild cattle are enclosed and have no predators and yet they are never culled to prevent overpopulation? That seems odd.

Brian H
September 21, 2013 7:13 pm

harkin says:
September 21, 2013 at 1:41 pm
The wild cattle are enclosed and have no predators and yet they are never culled to prevent overpopulation? That seems odd.

Read much? “hunted back in the day”

Hari Seldon
September 21, 2013 11:37 pm

Raptors and windmills:- The link I gave earlier has lots of articles and links to the damage these money mills do, including an article about the money made by the RSPB who are installing mills on their ‘protected’ sites. This shows me, at least, that these organisations are not organisations interested in ‘conservation’ of birds, but are there for the interests of the organisation itself. These organisations are run, on a day to day basis, by well meaning people but are managed by people who have no understanding of ecology and the impact of their own policies.
If you want to see a White Tailed Sea Eagle, a species recently reintroduced back into the UK, chopped clean in half go to :-

Aussie Luke Warm of the Commonwealth of Australia.
September 22, 2013 2:13 am

I come here to read lots of things. And this is the only place I know where I get to read you, Mr Eschenbach.

September 22, 2013 3:41 am

Thanks Willis, it’s been a great read.
Two things I’ve taken from your writing….
1) Despite the amount of moaning we do about the place, it’s not a bad place to be. (You’ve concentrated on a lot of historical aspects of the UK but there’s quite a bit of world leading technical and atristic work going on).
2) Travel is good, it broadens the mind.

September 22, 2013 3:42 am

BTW, it still is a Great Britain.

September 22, 2013 4:22 pm

I’ve finally had a chance to read your latest report. I do hope you and your ladies had a truly wonderful time here. It sounds as though you did! Thank you for your fascinating travelogue; I’ve certainly learnt more about my native land!
This is a great country; it’s just a pity it’s being undermined in certain quarters.
I’ve never visited the US of A; I do hope I manage to before I’m too old! It sounds wonderful too.

September 22, 2013 5:42 pm

A couple of thoughts. After working on tankers in the North Slope crude trade, the spill kit was probably to deal with the turbine gear oil when a gear box explodes. I also spent some time at a TXU coal fired power plant near Paris (Texas). They had strip mined the coal and then restored the land. The land looked BETTER than the adjoining areas because it had some relief to the topography.
Steamboat Jack

September 23, 2013 2:39 am

Jon Jewett:
re your post at September 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm.
You comment on opencast mining in the US.
Here in the UK the law decrees that approval of an application to opencast mine requires
1. the application includes plans for storage of top soil,
2. plans to restore the land following the mining,
3. the time period in which the mining will occur, and
4. financial arrangements to pay for 1 to 3.
Government inspectors monitor the mine and it would be closed if there were any failure of 1 to 4.
So, in the UK it is normal for the land to be restored to better condition than before the mining occurred.

September 23, 2013 12:20 pm

Paul Miskelly gives a detailed critique on the failings of wind farms in his 2012 report, ” Wind farms in eastern Australia , recent lessons ” ,
Paul Miskelly wrote to the Australian Minister for industry Ian Macfarlane

Brian H
October 4, 2013 10:30 pm

Brian H says:
September 21, 2013 at 7:13 pm (Edit)

harkin says:
September 21, 2013 at 1:41 pm
The wild cattle are enclosed and have no predators and yet they are never culled to prevent overpopulation? That seems odd.

Read much? “hunted back in the day”

True … but they haven’t been hunted in a couple hundred years.

An interesting ambiguity: did you mean “back then” or “hunted back in the daytime”? 😉
Is the newborne culling by the King Bull sufficient to keep herd size in bounds?

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