Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambs.



I visited the site via a guided tour organised by Cambridge Wireless (

The Cavendish Laboratory pioneered radio astronomy under the direction of Professor Sir Martin Royle from 1945 to 1982. in 1957, the Mullard Radio Astronomy Laboratory (MRAO) was built at Lord’s Bridge, 8 km SW of Cambridge. A number of large aerial structures are present on the site, some mothballed and some still in use.

After an introductory talk, our first visit was to the Ryle Telescope, eight large dishes now reconfigured as an interferometer, part of the AMI, their long railway track no longer in use.  We were lucky enough to see one dish tracking to a target.

We visited the Arcminute Microkelvin Imager (AMI) which has ten 3.7 metre dishes inside an enclosure.

We visited the COAST  optical aperture synthesis site. This has been used to study the surfaces of nearby supergiant stars.

We visited the Half Mile Telescope and its mesh dishes, now mothballed, some mounted on wide-gauge railway track.  We looked inside the 1960’s control room. Nearby, alongside the railway track is the 4C array, not now in use.

We could see the giant e-Merlin receiver dish, one of several spread around the UK.

The former Oxford-Cambridge line passes through the site and some of the dish tracks are aligned on its route. The buildings of the Lords Bridge halt are still in existence and have been re-purposed.

Altogether this was a most interesting visit and our guide was very knowledgeable.
Click on thumbnails

Lord’s Bridge station
Ryle Telescope
AMI array
Half Mile Array
Half Mile control room
Half Mile control room
Half Mile dish
4C array

Acton Burnell Castle, Shropshire

English Heritage
Acton Burnell Castle, actually a fortified manor house, stands near the village of Acton Burnell. It is believed that the first Parliament of England at which the Commons were fully represented was held here in 1283, in the nearby barn. Today all that remains is the outer shell of the manor house and the gable ends of the barn.
The manor house was built in 1284 by Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, friend and advisor to King Edward I. The building was rectangular with a tower at each corner. It was three storeys high consisting of a hall, solar, bedrooms, offices, chapel and kitchen.
Much of the building was demolished by the mid-17th century.
Today what remains looks interesting. Only the shell of the residence is accessible, via a path through a wood.
Your satnav may take you to the entrance of a college. If so, drive through the village till you see the brown signs (same postcode).


Clun Castle, Shropshire

English Heritage
Clun Castle was established by the Norman lord Robert de Say after the invasion of England and went on to become an important Marcher-lord castle in the 12th century, defending against the Welsh. It was owned for many years by the Fitzalan family, who gradually abandoned it in favour of the more luxurious Arundel Castle. The Fitzalans converted Clun Castle into a hunting lodge in the 14th century, complete with pleasure gardens, but by the 16th century the castle was largely ruined.
In 1894 the castle was purchased by the Duke of Norfolk, who undertook a programme of conservation to stabilise the castle.
Today the castle is very ruined, with the now three-sided Great Keep, built for the FitzAlan family’s resifential use, being the most complete part. Adjacent platforms, the site of the outer baileys, have no structures above ground. The River Clun loops around the castle far below the mounds.
To visit, you should park in the village and look for the gated lane leading up to the castle.


Stokesay Castle, Shropshire

English Heritage
Stokesay Castle, actually a fortified manor house, was built in the 1280s and early 1290s by fabulously wealthy wool merchant Lawrence of Ludlow. It was intended to keep out robbers rather than withstand a serious seige. The striking timbered gatehouse was built much later, in 1640-41, presumably replacing an earlier stone gatehouse.
During the English Civil War the ‘castle’ was garrisoned by Royalists, who surrendered when a Parliamentary force approached the ‘castle’ in 1645 and issued a summons to surrender.
Stokesay has a number of interesting internal features, including a fine hall roof and an elaborately carved wooden mantelpiece. The nearby church (not English Heritage) is worth a look. The gatehouse has some interesting carvings on the inner side. The great hall has an impressive roof structure. In the so-called Solar block, the solar has an elaborate panelled interior dating from the 17th century, with elaborate carvings of fruit, flowers and figures on the overmantel above the fireplace.
All parts of the castle can be visited, including the roof of the south tower.
Stokesay is well worth a visit.

Hall roof
Upper room, N. tower
Mantelpiece, solar
S. tower room
Gatehouse detail

Toddington Park, Beds

Not to be confused with the nearby Toddington Manor.
The house had changed hands about two years before the date of my visit. I visited via the HHA’s ‘Invitation to View’ scheme.
The house is early 19th Century with late 19th century additions. The family who built it also owned Toddington Manor at the time. The extensive grounds are attractive. Mostly laid to lawn, they include a pond, a lake and a large number of trees, some of which are rare species. The period features of the house interior were mostly removed by a previous owner in the 1970s, consequently there is very little to see inside other than some attractive cornices. The house tour included only two of the principal rooms, one of which was used to host the afternoon tea. We did have the opportunity to look in the cellars, which contain an impressive array of central heating equipment and pipework. The grounds include an original Victorian dairy.
Our host gave an informative tour of the gardens and a description of the house and its history.

Front entrance
Side view

Carreg Cennen Castle, Wales

The castle, situated on a hilltop, dominates the surrounding countryside. It is accessible via Castell Farm, which actually owns the freehold of the castle. The farm has various rare breeds and a tearoom. Reaching the castle is via a stiff 20-minute walk. It is now ruined, but various levels can be explored, including a passage to a cave which was incorporated in the defences. If you want to explore the cave you will need a torch as the lower part is totally dark. Spectacular views are available form the castle.
The castle dates from the 13th Century, probably built for John Giffard, a Marcher Lord. It was garrisoned for the last time by Lancastrian forces during the Wars of the Roses, and after its capture in 1462, 500 men laboured for four months to dismantle it using picks and crowbars.

Inner wall
View from castle
Wall of solar
Relic at farmyard
Farmyard and castle

King Alfred’s Tower, Stourhead, Wiltshire

National Trust
King Alfred’s Tower is a brick-built folly on the Stourhead estate, intended as an eyecatch and viewing point. Construction was completed in 1772. The size of the tower is impressive. It is triangular in section with rounded projections at the corners, with a spiral staircase in the corner furthest from the door.
To visit the tower, you can drive there or walk. If you follow the sparse brown signs from the Stourhead entrance, after driving through a wood for some distance, look out for an inconspicuous old-style round National Trust sign. To the right is the entrance to the car park, not obviously visible. Crossing the road from the car park, after a few yards you should exit the trees and see the tower at the end of a field to your right.
Alternatively you can walk from the Stourhead gardens – you will need a map and directions, and time to complete a 5.5 mile round trip walk.
The tower can be visited at any time free of charge, but is open (for ascent) only on weekends in the summer. Check the Stourhead NT website for specific dates.

South Devon Railway (heritage railway)

Engine at Totnes
The former GWR branch line runs alongside the river Dart from Totnes to Buckfastleigh. Before closure, the line terminated at Ashburton, but the trackbed is now buried under the A38 expressway. Stations are at Totnes and Buckfastleigh, with an intermediate station at Staverton. The overall length is 6.64 miles. The Totnes terminal is about 10 minutes walk from the Totnes GWR mainline station, and the heritage railway headquarters are at Buckfastleigh. Along the train route there are pleasant views of the river, etc.
Parking is free at Buckfastleigh, and at the site there are gardens, a museum, rail sidings and workshops, a riverside walk and other things to interest visitors. The nearest parking at Totnes is at the GWR station and costs about £6 a day. There are good modern train connections to Totnes.
If you like heritage trains, this is well worth a visit.

Kelly House, Devon


I visited Kelly as part of the ‘Invitation to View’ scheme. The Kelly family have lived at this site for 900 years, and the present Georgian house was built in 1742, incorporating parts of the earlier house. Some alterations were made in the Victorian period, to move the main entrance.
In recent years the estate has encountered financial difficulty, but the Kellys are determined to preserve and maintain the house.
Parking in the stableyard, one is faced with a couple of disused and collapsing buildings. The house is in better condition, but it is not hard to notice various things in need of urgent attention. The tour includes downstairs and upstairs rooms which are generally in good condition with period furnishings (some have been recently restored for use as B&B rooms).
We were shown round by the owner, who gave a very full account of the history of the house and description of its contents, followed by tea and cakes, during which the host and his daughter continued to make us feel welcome.
Next door to the house is a small church which contains memorials of various Kellys.

The Church

Cleeve Abbey, Somerset

English Heritage
Cleeve Abbey was founded around 1198 as a daughter house of Revesby Abbey in Yorkshire, during the height of the Cistercian expansion. The abbey acquired substantial holdings across North Somerset. In the fifteenth century the abbey’s finances seem to have improved, and the abbey buildings were substantially altered and renovated. Some alterations continued up to the suppression by Henry VIII’s officials in the 1530’s.
The abbey church was demolished at the suppression, but other substantial buildings survive. The south and west ranges were converted into a private house, and later the site became a farm.
The refectory (or hall) is the most notable feature, and a preserved pavement, a chamber with wall paintings and the refectory are also worthy of note. Most of the evidence of occupation as farm and as cottages has been removed.
Travel: Parking on site. A station of the West Somerset heritage railway is nearby.

Hall (refectory) roof
Refectory wing