Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lake Helen, time warped in Florida

Founded in 1888 by Henry DeLand and named for his daughter Helen, Lake Helen survives as a quaint reminder of not only the past but also of its better days. From a vigorous beginning enjoying rapid growth the town was dealt a near mortal blow in the winter of 1894-95 when the Big Freeze struck. 
Almost entirely dependent on the citrus industry the town was stopped in its tracks as the majority of the groves were wiped out. About half of the inhabitants were ruined and compelled to leave town while the remainder clung to the nascent vacation industry for survival.
Lake Helen was one of numerous towns throughout the US which depended heavily on Sears & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog for its supply of houses. Examples from the early 20th century until the dawn of WWII abound throughout the downtown area and lend a fairy tale aura to the area. There are numerous examples of late 19th century American styles including Bungalow, Neo-Classical, Colonial Revival, Frame Vernacular, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and many more. The city fathers are working hard to ensure the continuance of these lines in future residential and commercial structures.
Today, with a population of about 2,500, Lake Helen appears to have few visible means of support outside of a bedroom community for the neighboring cities Deltona and DeLand.
See here for a glimpse of the once bustling and prosperous neighborhoods enjoying a quiet and leisurely existence.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sidmouth, England - September 15, 2010

As its name suggests, Sidmouth lies at the mouth of the River Sid. Situated in a valley between Peak Hill to the west and Salcombe Hill to the east the town faces south into the English Channel. It is in the county of Devon with a population of roughly 15,000 - more than 40% of whom are over the age of 65. In addition to being a retirement destination the economy is heavily dependent on tourism.
Sidmouth's rocks contain fossils and so this stretch of coast is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Sidmouth appears in the Domesday Book as Sedemuda and, like many towns on the south coast of England, it started life as a small fishing village. However, every attempt over the centuries to construct a harbor failed, preventing growth either from fishing or cargo operations.
At the end of the 18th century, the fashion for coastal vacations began to take hold and throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras numerous fine vacation villas were built in the area. Today, many of these have been converted into guest houses effectively squeezing out the small fishing industry altogether.
In 1819, George III's son Edward, Duke of Kent, his wife and baby daughter - the future Queen Victoria - came to stay at Woolbrook Glen which in later years morphed into the Royal Glen Hotel that is still in operation.
A wide esplanade has been a seafront fixture since Regency times although it was nearly lost in the early 1990s via a series of storms. Some additional breakwaters were built and new beach had to be trucked in by road.
For more pictures, click here,

Plymouth, England - September 11, 2010

Plymouth, probably best known as the departure point for the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620, is a city on the coast of the county of Devon, about 190 miles south-west of London. It is located between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they flow into Plymouth Sound.
Plymouth's history goes back to the Bronze Age and it became a trading post for the Roman Empire a couple of thousand years ago. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Sudtone, Saxon for south farm, and in 1254 it was awarded the status of a town. It wasn't until October 1928 it was granted status as a city.
During the 16th century locally produced wool was the major export commodity and Plymouth became the home port for successful maritime traders, including Sir Francis Drake as well as Sir John Hawkins, who led England's first foray into the Atlantic slave trade.
Construction of the Royal Citadel began in 1665, after the Restoration; it was armed with cannon facing both out to sea and into the town. Throughout the Industrial Revolution Plymouth grew as a major shipping port, handling imports and passengers from the Americas.
During World War I, Plymouth was the port of entry for troops from around the Empire and also grew as a manufacturer of munitions. It was also an important embarkation point for US troops for D-Day in WWII. The city was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, in a series of 59 raids known as the Plymouth Blitz.
Today the city is home to around 250,000 people, making it the 16th most populous city in England.  Plymouth has ferry links to France and Spain and an airport with European services. Check out more pictures here.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Whittington, Shropshire, England

The village of  Whittington had a population of 2,600 or so in 2011 and the area appears to have been inhabited since prehistoric times. We last visited there in September, 2009 and passed the night in a grody campground. 
Some remaining structures are worth a quick look here.

Friday, March 03, 2017

September 6, 2009 - Back to the Sixties...

Roydon, a village in the Epping Forest district of Essex county and lying along the River Stort, was selected as our next stopover for a couple of reasons. First, it has a close by railroad with frequent trains to and from London, and second, it is only a few miles from where we lived for six years in the sixties - more nostalgia on the way!
Roydon is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 CE as Ruindune while Saint Peters, the village church, dates from the middle ages.
For such a small village, Roydon has boasted a cricket team, Roydon C.C., since 1839 and a soccer team, Roydon F.C., since 1901. The campsite, in Roydon Mill Leisure Park, had actually been closed prematurely for the season due to some badly behave
d hooligan campers the previous weekend. Fortunately, the management honored our booking and it served as a great base for cycles rides around our old haunts as well as a launch pad for London.
stead Abbotts, a much larger village of nearly 2000 souls, is only four or five miles from Roydon and was the closest community to where we had lived in the sixties. Recorded in the Domesday Book as Stanstede with the Abbotts tag being added in the 13th century after the property passed to the abbot of nearby Waltham Holy Cross. The Greenwich Meridian (longitude 0°) passes through the village and is marked by Meridian obelisks that were planted in 1984. The River Lee flows alongside the village on its way south to the east side of London. There are two churches and several pubs in the village. One pub, the Red Lion, was our "local" when we lived there and was a monastery when it was built in 1538.
Across the river Lee from Stanstead Abbotts is St Margarets - more precisely Stanstead St Margarets - another village, this one about 1300 people. There is a train station at St Mar
garets providing fast service to London and both of these villages have morphed into commuter communities over the last generation or so. Our home here was less than a mile from the station.
The closest large town (20,000 population)
that provided shopping, library, banking etc., was Hoddesdon, a couple of miles to the south. This town developed as a coaching stop between Cambridge and London and, during the 18th century, as many as 35 coaches a day passed through. Hoddesdon is also mentioned in the Domesday Book and received a market charter in 1253. After WWII, Hoddesdon had also slowly transformed into a dormitory town for London commuters.
A large portion of the old town center was r
azed between 1965 an 1975 to be replaced by unsightly high-rise apartments with seedy ground floor retail spaces that have suffered extreme business turnover and attracted much graffiti. A profound disaster.
In 1974 a bypass was
opened around the core of the town and much of the main street was pedestrianized. Parking remains difficult. What is left of the old town center is belatedly a conservation area with a few historic buildings scattered along the main street. The Clock Tower, a brick structure built in 1835 is built on the site of the Chapel of St Katherine which had been erected in 1336.
During the six years that we lived in the area we had never thought to explore Rye House, an historic oddity just a short distance off our beaten track. This omission was corrected during this visit and we discovered a fine pub along with one of the earliest brick structures known in England. We also learned of the infamous Rye House Plot to assassinate King Charles II of England and his brother, James, Duke of York in 1682.
Later, we visited Great Amwell and Little Amwell, a mile or so north of St Margarets. Here there is a church, St John the Baptist, and a pleasant pub named George IV. For more glimpses of these English backwaters, click here.