A Monkey's Revenge - My Blog

Fire and Bath stone

I was reminded this week of how lucky I am to be a photographer. You see some weeks can be dire but others like the one in question can be great with interesting and unusual assignments coming my way. The above images show the UK's first volunteer airborne fire ranger, Jeremy Paxton at work in Gloucestershire.

Following a bad experience with a show-off pilot, I've always been rather scared of helicopters. Jeremy cured that for me with a display of absolutely smooth and skillful flying of his McDonnell Douglas 500E helicopter,(the Vietnam-era design made famous as 'little birds' in the film 'Apocalypse Now'). No hanging in the seat straps with the door removed and flying parallel to the ground for me this time!

Back on the ground Jeremy's skills became clearer when he scored a direct hit on a pallet fire after only two attempts. The demonstration proved that one ton of water dropped right at the heart of a fire can achieve a quick result. It also shows how fast a photographer can run between filling up buckets of water! A ton of water dropped on your head might completely ruin your day ;-)

Further north in the Staffordshire village of Ilam The Telegraph sent me to photograph a local landmark which is about to have the scaffolding removed after extensive rennovation of the cross. Built by Jesse Watts Russell in 1841, in memory of his wife Mary, the monument had been deteriorating badly since then and the top replaced with a simple concrete cross back in 1960. Thanks to the efforts of Phil Mottram and the Ilam Cross Trust which he formed, the stonework is now restored to how it used to look and has several new parts carved from Bath stone-including the angel seen in my second photo next to trustee Sue Prince.

By coincidence, the Victorian monument is in the style of an Eleanor Cross like the one at Geddington, Northants, very close to where I live. It is modelled on one of the crosses which Edward I had erected at each stopping place of the body of his queen, Eleanor of Castile, on its progress from Nottinghamshire, where she died, to its tomb in Westminster Abbey, in 1290.

I feel privileged to have been able to take photos of such a wonderful landmark from a spot 40 foot up in the air.I last visited around 25 years ago during a walk around nearby Dovedale. Now I'm determined to pay a return visit when the scaffolding is gone and stonemasons Andy and Ian's skilled craftwork can be seen properly.

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