Port of Felixstowe pt II: Wheels and Concrete

Having seen the shipping side of the docks, I have also explored the ‘other’ side, which is the equally interesting ‘nuts and bolts’ of how the port works.  If you aren’t familiar with Felixstowe or the East of England, then you may not know that the port is woefully poorly connected to the rest of the country.  Basically, there is one trunk road, known as the A14, which runs pretty much from the dock gate to Birmingham in the centre of the country.  It is hopelessly over capacity, such that traffic often grinds to a halt at busy times.  You would imagine that rail would also be a good way of moving the vast numbers of containers that we saw in the previous post – considering that one large ship can now carry some 10,000 20 foot containers, that is potentially 5,000 truck journeys, or a fraction of that number of trains.  But the rail network is not great either, so there is something of a bottleneck for freight leaving Felixstowe to its destinations.

These photos were taken at various places in or near to the docks, and represent some of the more interesting things I found as far as moving the goods around is concerned.

Above: trucks lay waiting to be called to pick up their loads.  There is massive security at the port, and drivers must produce a biometric ID card at the gates or they are denied access.

Above: ‘The Grid’ – the containers come off the ships and are stacked on a 3-dimensional grid system, which you can see marked on the ground.  Each container is allocated an ‘X’, ‘Y’ and vertical ‘Z’ position so it can be found easily to be loaded for its onward journey.  Did you know that the docks sometimes close when it snows?  The reason is that the snow covers the grid markings, and the crane drivers cannot see which containers are which!!

Above: Stacked ‘Short Sea’ containers [denoting that their journey is short as opposed to from the other side of the world].

Above: a fork lift which can lift a loaded 20 foot container, which could weigh 20 odd tons.

Above: There are all manner of ageing vehicles which are only used within the yards, and which are known as ‘shunters’.  This tired-looking one must have retired from the open road many years ago.

Above: Abandoned?  This has been dropped off whilst another container is emptied, to be picked up again later.

Above: I for one would not like this to be my place of work, as I fear heights!

Above: Waiting seems to be a large part of the job, for the ships’ crew and everybody else reliant on them.

Port of Felixstowe pt I: Ships and Shore

The second set of pictures I took yesterday afternoon, in unseasonably warm sunshine, was from the marina at Shotley.  This is a peninsula between the rivers Orwell and Stour, and within a few hundred yards of the shore here you have Harwich, to the south, which is a major ferry port for European destinations, and Felixstowe to the north, which is one of the largest ports in Europe.  It being a Sunday afternoon, the port was relatively quiet, with two large container ships already berthed, Maersk Klaipeda and MSC Rossella, and one which arrived whilst I was shooting, Maersk Taurus [which is the one in the last picture]. 

It is quite interesting watching the movement of these vast ships – the port is now able to handle the largest container ships in the world – because although the Taurus has a weight of 94,000 tonnes, it was pirouetted 180 degrees by two little tugs in about five minutes, and looked for a moment rather graceful.   The other interesting thing about shooting a large port like this is the sheer vastness of the machines.  As well as the ships, which are incomparably large, the cranes also dwarf everything around them.  Their drivers sit a hundred feet above the ground in a glass cab, sliding back and forth over the dock and then over the ship as they move the containers.

Pin Mill in the Afternoon

My daughter is at school quite a way from home, and as a result, when birthday parties occur, there is usually a long drive involved.  Rather than try and get home and then go back again, I find it easier [assuming the weather is decent] to take the camera and find somewhere nearby to take some photos for a couple of hours. Today was just such an afternoon; the dog refused to get into the car, so I could not spend the time walking him.  Instead, I took two sets of pictures.  The first is of Pin Mill, a small hamlet that sits on the south bank of the River Orwell as it flows from Ipswich out to sea at Felixstowe.  The light was very clear today, and the still water provided some great reflections.

Liverpool by Night

Here are a few pictures from a recent trip to Liverpool, mostly from the Pier Head area.  I snuck out of the hotel and captured some interesting sights.  My previous ramblings around the city were documented here.

The first one was taken out of my hotel window, and the second is a crop of the first, but with the white balance turned down to about 2200.  They were all taken on my d3100 with shutter priority mode at F16 over a long exposure at ISO100.  Hey, enjoy, already too soon!

Winter Sunset

I tried to do a few sunset pictures last year with varying degrees of success, using an ND Graduated filter to reduce the glare of the sun.   However the sunsets in East Anglia, dramatic as they can sometimes be, do not really allow you to include the sea because you are by definition on the east coast, much to my frustration.

So I was really excited when I got lucky yesterday – work took me to Sidmouth on the Devon coast – some 5 hours drive from home, and I arrived at the hotel just in time to get out of the car, stretch my tired legs and take some photos on the beach.   The temperature was already near freezing as I got there, but it was a beautifully clear day and it was too good an opportunity to miss.

As you can see, there were also some surfers in the water – I don’t know how they stood the cold, even in wetsuits.  The water looked icy.  So, here are my favourites.



Copenhagen in Winter

Right, to ease me back into blogging again after a lengthy lay off, I am posting a little photo diary of this weekend’s trip to Copenhagen.  It was savagely cold, in a way that the UK has not been so far this winter.  The east wind goes through any layers you are wearing and eats its way into your very being.  Copenhagen is a compact little city, with a lot of waterways, and a few very good real ale pubs.  These shots were all taken with my little Samsung point and shoot camera, because we only took hand luggage and the big camera is too big!!


2011 in review


Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christmas Break

It is hardly appropriate for me to take a Christmas break from blogging, because I have posted very sparsely since the autumn.  My apologies – this is because I have been busy doing other things and there has not been much time to post things.  I will get around to it soon!  In the mean time, these Victorian singing cats have a message.

Back to Road Again

When I first started this blog way back in the autumn of 2008, I had just purchased my first ‘proper’ road bike, an Orbea Aqua 2009 model.  It was a £500 bike, as I recall, and it set me on the road to my current lifestyle in many ways, as I have cycled as a matter of course when ever time allows, ever since. 

As regular readers of the blog will be aware my cycling tastes have evolved ever since.  The Orbea donated many of its parts to my next purchase, a lovely Post Office Red Thorn Audax Mk3.  That was ridden a fair bit, including my first 100 mile ride, and in the summer of 2010 I sold that and bought my Thorn Raven Sport Tour with the Rohloff gear hub.  Along the way, I also acquired a Circe Helios tandem as well.  So why, you might ask, am I now writing about my most recent purchase, a 2011 Cube Streamer road bike?

The Cube was one of those ‘too good to be true’ bargains in the autumn sales, when bike shops habitually clear out the ‘old’ year’s models in readiness for the coming years bikes.  This one was reduced in price significantly, but also had an extra 10 percent off as well, which made me crack.  But why a road bike, after all this time?

Well, I have to admit that the frequency of my riding has dropped off somewhat this summer.  Partly that was due to being busy most of the time, but it was more than that.  The Raven Sport Tour is a heavy bike.  It runs 1.4 inch tyres on 26 inch wheels.  I guess I was finding it hard to get excited about doing my regular circuits on a bike which, I was painfully aware, took a massive amount of dragging around.  And the problem with doing less riding is that you get less exercise.  Which kind of leads me full circle – I began to recall the excitement that a lightweight bike with close tolerances gave me.

Since about March this year I have been using the excellent Garmin Edge 500 GPS computer on my rides.  This, when you connect it to the Garmin Connect web site, allows you to upload ride data and analyse it – average speed, distance, time, elevation, heart rate, etc.  When you are faced with actual metrics regarding your riding, it becomes too stark to ignore.  My average speed was declining, my ride frequency was less; in other words, alarm bells were ringing.  And so it was that I began to seriously consider a road bike again, as an addition to my stable.

A quick look at the bikes on sale caused the usual problem – where to start?  I anted to go for something rather less entry level than my Orbea, which, although an excellent bike was rather sparsely equipped.  And I must admit to having considered Cube last time around as well – the dealer I bought my first bike from was also by chance a Cube dealer.  Being German, they are a very respectable marque, who along with the likes of Focus, Rose, etc have penetrated the UK market quite successfully in recent years with bikes that have a standard spec way above their price bracket.  The Streamer is a mid-point model – between the entry-level Attempt and the ‘serious’ level Agree, it had the same Aluminium frameset as the higher priced line, and a decent level of kit – which included Ultegra levers and rear mech, 105 triple chainset and front mech, cassette and chain, and ‘old’ 105 brakes.  I’m not sure why the Germans tend to supply so many of their bikes with triple chainsets, and after much pondering I decided to change this to a double Ultegra chainset and front mech.

So, what was it like taking to the tarmac on a sleek road bike, after a year of riding an upright, long wheelbase comfy tourer?  In a word, my first ride scared me senseless.  The excitement and engagement that a road bike gives you came flooding back.  I rode around the village in a mile long loop, and came back heart pounding and smiling all over.  Since then, I have managed a couple of decent rides, the last one being just over 30 miles.  I am getting accustomed once again to the feel and position of the bike, and the very direct feedback that it gives.

I have replaced the standard fit saddle with a bargain last years model Specialized Romin SL, which is feather light and very comfy.  I have also fitted the cadence sensor that came with the Garmin, so I can now use the ANT+ links that allow the heart rate monitor, speed and cadence sensor as well.  These modifications have got me motivated once again.

The bike has a Deda carbon fork which gives a nice comfortable ride, and on normal road surfaces it is a very firm but not uncomfortable bike which seems to be stiff and not given to flexing under accelleration.  The standard fit Easton EA-30 wheels [made specially for Cube, I guess, as you can’t seem to buy then anywhere else] are perfectly reasonable hoops, although a wheel upgrade will be on the cards at some point.  But even so, it gets up to spped easily, and seems to hold that speed as well, the awesome Ultegra brakes bringing me back to a more sensible pace when applied.  I have taken the step of replacing the standard pads with Koolstop Salmons for the winter.  The Ultegra levers, which are carbon bladed, allow very precise modulation on the brakes, and the gear shifts are sweet.  Having moved from 105 triple to Ultegra double seems to have been a smooth transition, given that the left hand [front mech] shifter is actually designed to work with three gears not two.  I just figured that living in flat old East Anglia, there would be little use for the small 30 tooth ring and I always liked the 52-39 gearing on the Orbea, so have replicated this against a 12-27 rear cassette.  I just have to accept that next time I try and do Holme Moss, Mark will beat me to the top as I struggle and puff away….

I’ll report further in a few weeks, but initial impressions are good.

Wish You Were Here….

Phew, long time no posts, eh?

Sorry about the break – you know the kind of thing.  Work, real life, tonsillitis – but tonight I’ve decided to post some things just to get me back in the habit again. August was such a great month for FR – I was acually exceeding one post per day at one point – and then…only one for the whole of October!

Not much commentary with these as I had originally felt that they didn’t make the cut – but I think I was also getting a little to technical – precious about my shots as well, and I had forgotten that a picture can be worthwhile even if it’s not technically perfect.  So….they do at least convey, to me at least, the end of summer on the bleak Suffolk coast – the crowds have gone, the temperature is cooling, the clouds have obscured the sun, and the leaves are starting to drop.  Some are HDR’s but the people on the beach one is just a single exposure.

It’s a long haul ’til next spring…

And finally, moving north-west again,I took this one in my New Brighton Beach set which I posted last month.  To some of you it will be horrendously over-cooked, and that’s why I held off from posting it.  However I have just looked at it again and I think it’s worth posting – it certainly conveys that ‘end of summer’ feeling, although some might say it’s more ‘end of the world’……if you have an opinion, use the comments box below to let me know!

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