Thursday, 21 June 2012

Rain in Tavistock

Lots of people told me before I moved to Tavistock that it's "nice, but rains a lot". Is it wetter here than anywhere else in the UK? I don't know - Summer 2012 seems to have happened in April and it has been cold / wet / windy everywhere since then. We usually check weather on the Met Office website using their excellent 'weather-at-a-glance' page here:

Weather in Tavistock

and today I spotted the Met Office's 'rain radar' which certainly seems to agree with the well-tested method of looking out of the window to see whether it's raining or not. I've a feeling the data is collected by lots of people looking out of their windows.

Rain radar

The Met Office have a little information panel on both these pages showing a picture of an old reel-to-reel tape drive with a caption saying they've got a newer version of the page. I've tried the new pages and though they look very nice, they don't seem to be nearly as clear nor as responsive as the old pages. Maybe I'm just a reel-to-reel kind of person.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Meadows playground

The Meadows playground is in the centre of Tavistock, just behind the Wharf cinema and Meadowlands swimming pool. It's a frequent stop for us. Despite the obviously older play equipment in the playground, the kids love playing there: the helter skelter is a big favourite. There are some lovely hedges / dens nearby and some fascination generated by the exercise equipment (is it? The labels have weathered away!) dotted around the park.

View Tavistock playgrounds in a larger map

Woodpecker Way playground

Woodpecker Way playground "Tiddy Brook" is one of the smaller and newer playgrounds we visited. It's next to the road, but fenced in among some lawns around a tree-lined cycle path and stream.

There seems to have been some good work done on linking the roads in the area with footpaths and cycleways. It's certainly more navigable than Google Maps - in June 2012 - would lead you to believe. There's a direct, off-road route from the Bishopsmead playground to this playground, suitable for a road-bike and trailer.

View Tavistock playgrounds in a larger map

My kids enjoyed the high-quality, modern play equipment very much, even though we were there on a miserably soggy day with frequent rain showers. They spent as much time sheltering under the "crow's nest" as they did playing on it!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Whitchurch Play Park

Whitchurch Play Park is a nicely secluded and spacious playground tucked away at the end of Church Lea in Whitchurch. It has just a few pieces of modern playground equipment, but they're well placed around the perimeter of the field. The centre of the field can accommodate a game of football between goals at either end.

View Tavistock playgrounds in a larger map


Bishopsmead playground

Bishopsmead is a lovely playground. It's surprisingly large, hidden away from view behind houses. Access is half way along a verdant alleyway between houses in Hazel Road and Oak Road. It has plenty of space and lots of equipment: including 3 separate swings, an assault course and an enclosed toddlers' play area.

View Tavistock playgrounds in a larger map

Courtlands playground

Courtlands is the best-equipped playground we have visited so far in Tavistock. It has plenty of equipment suitable for toddlers (in their own enclosure) and also at least one robustly-made climbing puzzle that is a challenge for an adult! It must be fairly new, as all the well-made equipment seems to be in tip-top condition. Even the speaking tube worked - a first for me and my kids, they were captivated by it!

View Tavistock playgrounds in a larger map

We entered the playground from the gate at the end of Hessary View. There is also access from Courtlands Close and Courtlands Road. We visited Courtlands on a cool, windy day with threatening clouds and occasional showers, but even so it was quite busy - it's obviously a popular playground.

Internet access

I work online, so good quality Internet access is important to me. I had some reservations about moving to the South West, suspecting that it might simply be "too far from London" for reliable, fast Internet access. Having said that, I have had bad Internet access experiences within reasonable commuting distance of London.

I shouldn't have worried. BT - as usual - did their best to prevent me accessing the Internet. There was a phone line in my house which I couldn't use because it was "still in use". I had to pay for a new line, I was told. When the BT technician came, he said the line that was still in use had been disconnected at the telegraph pole a long time ago and all available connections used for some newly built houses in the neighbourhood. No, really. A few weeks (why does it have to take so long?) later, I had the best Internet connection I have ever had in the UK.


From BT Wholesale:

That's a great download speed, and more than sufficient for me. .9Mb/s upstream is not bad either, though I would prefer the figures to be more similar to each other or even reversed! I produce content (media and software) at home and must frequently upload it to the Internet. A slow upstream connection is a severe handicap on my productivity.

The reason why Internet connections so often feature slow upstream bandwidth and fast downstream is that they're consumer connections. We're expected to consume content from centrally located servers. Whenever I see campaigns for faster broadband, they typically demand ever faster consumer connections. There are obviously very many people who would like to watch YouTube videos at ever greater resolutions and with ever briefer buffering delays - what they want is TV, but to watch different programs at different times to their neighbours. It's this demand that dictates that we get Internet connections with enormous download bandwidths (for delivering video to us) and pitifully small upload bandwidths (to allow us to change channels on our TV emulators).

I wish we had something better suited to home digital production - it ought to be the UK's new cottage industry. Perhaps there's some scope for installing a community-managed network in a place like Tavistock, but there would have to be considerable local interest in it. I fear the future is almost certainly more asymmetric (bandwidth and services) wireless networks. Maybe I'll have to move to a capital city so I can 'work remotely' within shouting distance of a data centre.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Montgomery Drive playgrounds

Plural this time because on our way along Montgomery Drive a few days ago to the main playground there we passed a little play area on the left just after a road on the left called "The Heights", which we assumed was for very young children. I've just seen on Google Maps what I think must be a third small play area at the very northern tip of Montgomery Drive. That one appears to have access from Manor Road too. We visited only the large one by Perry Close.

View Larger Map

The Montgomery Drive playground has some good equipment in it. The little climbing / traversing wall is quite tricky and the assault course - though small - seemed to hold the attention of its users quite well. It's a new playground and the equipment is quite solid, so it's all in excellent condition. It's a bit of a fishbowl, overlooked from every direction by nearby houses with roads also on three sides, but it feels quiet and safe.

Bannawell Street playground

Thanks to a relayed tip-off from one of's facebook* contributors, we set out to investigate a new playground this morning. We were none the wiser when we arrived at the "top of Bannawell St" so we sought local knowledge. A couple of people gave us directions that sounded right for the Courtlands playground, but it wasn't until we'd started a brute-force search of the local side-streets that someone said "it's just over there, through a farm gate".

View Larger Map

To enter the playground, you do need to go through the farm gate on the north side of Abbey Place, only metres east of Russell Court. You're not there yet - a further 50m along a track beside a little stream and through a gap in trees takes you into a sloping field with a small asphalt area beneath a basketball hoop. The playground lies adjacent to this field, across a small bridge.

The surroundings are lovely - there's no road visible and the playground is not bad too. It has swings and an assault course similar in construction to the one at Monksmead. There are a few picnic tables and benches, and plenty of shade thanks to some mature trees. My kids particularly enjoyed the good-sized sloping field and the little stream with surprisingly many bridges in such a short length!

*If you're a facebook member perhaps you can see the original contribution too. I'm not - I find the whole concept of a members-only web perverse. I suppose it could be considered truculent to knock $104bn worth of perverse... what a pay day!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dennis Willcock, world fencing champion / sidecars

So there I was at a T-junction somewhere in Tavistock, wondering (Emily had left the playground-finding map at home) where we should go next on our playground-finding tour when I spotted a sprightly man striding up the hill, so I asked him for directions. He was Dennis Willcock - a lovely, interesting, vigorous man - the UK's world (very!) over-70 fencing champion!

Dennis was interested in our bike trailer, an 'Adventure AT3' bought from Amazon (but perhaps no longer in stock). He told us he had had sidecars on a motorcycle and before that on a tandem bicycle. I had a quick search to see if I could find out anything about bicycle sidecars: I'd never seen one. A few pages mentioned "Watsonian" sidecars, which I recall Dennis mentioning as the make of one of his sidecars. Feast your eyes on these beauties:

1936 BSA T64 Piled Arms Tandem with Watsonian Sidecar

Coventry Eagle tandem and Watsonian Sidecar

A bicycle sidecar sounds more romantic than practical to me - I can only dream of what it must be like to ride one!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Take my hand...

I've surprised myself - never one to spend very long choosing a domain name, this one just popped into my head. Now I wouldn't normally consider myself a Tony Bennett fan, but I knew immediately from where the idea had come!

We're new (as of late April 2012) to Tavistock, and enjoying living here so far. We're having plenty of adventures and discovering lots of new things about Tavistock; I intend to use this blog as a way of capturing some of that. I can't promise any more Tony Bennett, but I hope you'll find something of interest here!