String length II

A Pile of poles, yesterday

W e’ve had an update on the question that seems to be on everybody’s lips – just how many telegraph poles are there?.  When last we tried to answer this question we consulted that great fount of human knowledge – Yahoo Answers – which produced the number 1,265,810.

Since then we have had an email from Nala107 (I suspect that’s not his real name) off the internet who says :

Hi, BT has around 3 to 4 million poles on record and it is estimated to be the same number off record.

The number on yahoo is vastly under-estimated.

I know this as I am a BT Openreach pole tester!

Thanks Nala107 – your answer may be more accurate than the one we came up with but it’s nothing like as precise (or as wrong).

On Her Majesty’s Service

We have no idea where he’s been.  Presumably On Her Majesty’s Service somewhere, or at her pleasure maybe.  He is the man with no name – he who moves within the shadows – our very own top secret Honorary Technical Advisor.  All we know is that he’s Keith, and he’s back. 

My wife was beside herself with joy when the telegram arrived late last night.  The bespectacled post office telegram boy was rather startled at her reaction and seems to have forgottten his hat!

Telegram from Keith S**** Honorary Technical Advisor to this Society

Anyway, now that we are back at full sagacious strength here at the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society, it’s time to post up a few of the questions from a curious public that have landed on my desk in the last few weeks.

 Q1. From Pete Goodes…

Spacing Distance along Main line  During  1950`s
Can anybody advise me on the above.
Thank you.

Q2.  From Hugh Burrows…

Does anyone happen to know if the National Telephone Company used step or foot irons on their wooden poles, and if so, what form did they take? I am investigating the history of Kendal’s Telephone Network pre automation, and have found something interesting in a building which I understand was the site of the first Telephone Exchange, Office and Store back in 1895.

Any assistance would be much appreciated.

Q3.  From Asela Premachandra…

I have a Rediffusion Telegraph pole in my back garden which has blown down in the recent high winds. I have tried to find out who is responsible for the pole now that Rediffusion has gone out of business but am failing miserably. Can you point me in the right direction? Any help gratefully received.

If you can offer any help, information, or answers to any of the above, then do please send us an email to

Thank you.


We’ve Moved

The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society has moved

T he Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society has upped a considerable number of sticks and moved Headquarters, camp-followers and office cat to darkest, ruralest middest-Wales.  And we chose a really clever time to do this – Christmas and New Year.  So extreme apologies if you’ve written to us recently and are awaiting a reply, or your membership certificate seems to have got stuck in the post.

We are though now making in-roads to our administrative backlog and hope to be running on 3 cylinders again soon. 


Despite plenty of notice, a couple dozen phone calls and many hours of listening to the BT “on-hold” musak, the earliest they can connect us to the interweb is February.  According to them, there is a DACS on the line! Well bloody well take it off then I say.  Apparently, a ladder is required.  And an engineer to climb said ladder, and also 3 minutes to disconnect the damn thing.

You’d think with all of our telegraph pole virtue extolling what we do, BT would be banging on my door asking what they could do to help us*1

We’ve been very inventive here though and with the aid of my wife’s hairdryer, the pull-string-voicebox from inside a Barbie doll, and a binatone alarm clock radio we’ve rigged up a sort of “heath-robinson” modem – enough to enable me to upload this nonsense at a rip-roaring 47 bps (0.00000047 Mb/s). 

Up yours BT!


*1 If you’re a BT Openreach engineer and Llanfair Caereinion is on your patch, there’s a cup of tea and some of my wife’s lemon drizzle in it for you if you can fix us up.


2012 Calendar

The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society 2012 calendar



W hat a beautiful item to adorn your office/kitchen/bedroom/toilet wall.  Yes, the wonderful Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society 2012 calendar is here.  And completely unlike other appreciation societies or calendar vendors we could name – ours is available for the very reasonable price of zero.  Yes, you can download ours completely for free.  Some self-assembly might be required.

Download it.  Print it out (the header sheet, page 1, onto card) and staple top to bottom.  Then tear your house apart looking for a hammer and a nail or some other means of appending the thing to your wall.  It’s so easy, even our cat could do it (if she ever got from in front of the fire).

My guess is that within 15 minutes of this calendar appearing online, society sage, Honorary Technical Advisor Keith S**** (HTA TPAS) will be standing back and admiring one on his living room wall – pride of place among his numerous awards for sage advice dispensation.

Get ’em while they’re hot.

How long is a piece of string?

Telegraph poles disappearing into the distance

We had a letter this week from Shaun Hull from

Hi there,

I was wandering [sic] if anyone knows the approximate number of telegraph poles, still in use today, in the U.K.?

Shaun Hull.

The answer to your question Shaun, is yes!  His name is Clive, he is a retired metalworker, and we believe he lives in the Halesowen area of the West Midlands.  However we wondered why you might want to know about him.  Rather than find out who exactly knows the answer to this most vexing of questions, why not let’s have a go at working it out for ourselves.  That way we don’t have to trouble poor Clive at all.

And where else to seek truth but that great fount of all metaphysical wisdom in the modern world. That’s right; Yahoo Answers.  Those people are so clever.  And this has to be correct because it was the top answer as chosen by 40% (2) of the people who read it. And the answer is a rather surprising : 1,265,810. 

Newsletter Archive

For those of you who simply cannot get enough Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society news, we are making available a collection of the printed version of our newsletter.  These contain essentially the same telegraph pole related items of the website, only laid out slightly differently and arguably with fewer spelling mistakes.  Download them below.  There is an order to these, but we can’t remember what it is.


Newsletter #0117

Newsletter #0.0732

Newsletter #3177

Newsletter #77.77

They’re in PDF format, so if you need the thingy to make it all work, click here.  

Society Annual Outing

Expedition 2011 – Tiree, The Hebrides, Scotia

Distribution poles on Tiree A week last saturday morning, the entire administration staff of the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society boarded the society Smart CarTM and set course for the north.  Destination, first Oban, then the good ship M.V. Clansman for a 4 hour bucking and swaying across to the isle of Tiree.  Yes, we cleverly timed our jaunt to coincide with the fag-end of hurricane Katia thrashing its way up the west side of Britain.

Oh how we chuckled at the dictionary entry for Tiree which lists it as the sunniest place in the UK as we huddled by the wet sticks in the fireplace with the cottage roof rattling above our heads and the angry sea foam splashing against the windows.
Tiree's tiredest looking telegraph pole
But we did find the odd gap in the tempest to enjoy this delightful island.    Herewith a list of adjectives and descriptions for you to conjure with :  flat, peaceful, windy, sandy beaches, blue, interesting houses, lapwings, kite-surfers, fantastic views, seals, dramatic, peaceful – oh did I already say peaceful? 

Anyway, every holiday is a busman’s and a bit of telegraph pole spotting always on the cards.  The flat vistas, particularly the central part of the island they call “the Reef” allows photos like that on the left; distribution poles disappearing off into perspective infinity (almost).  It was this kind of scene that first attracted me to the aesthetics of poles in my weird boyhood.

The other picture, taken through globs of rain on the lens shows Tiree’s tiredest telegraph pole which clearly isn’t long for this world.  Closer examination revealed its “do not resuscitate” notice.  We spoke in hushed tones in its presence.

The Peterborough Anomaly

My wife has kept an old Cray supercomputer in the back parlour for years.  We’ve always used it to air clothes on and dry boots.  And it’s a favourite place for the cat to sleep as it hums away performing its 1012 floating point operations per second.  Anyway, The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society membership database has been growing quite steadily and we decided we would use the old Cray to do some statistical analyis of our members.  What we found was quite startling.  Look at this membership distribution graph :

TPAS membership by county

A modest cluster of TPAS members in Wales and  Devon as we might expect.  Similarly a slightly higher frequency of memberhip in the south east which also comprises London so not out of the ordinary.  But the enormous spike of members per million per capita in Cambridgeshire completely flabbered our ghast.  If this were a scientific data-set then this would be more than statistically significant – it might be considered definite proof of something. But what?  Luckily our data resolution is such that we can drill-down into the data to analyse on a town by town basis.  See Fig 2.

TPAS membership by county

The graph showed a fairly even distribution across all the towns and villages according to their respective population. But then look what happens at Peterborough. What is it about this low-lying fenland town that compels so many of its citizens to appreciate telegraph poles enough to join the only society in the whole world dedicated to appreciating them?

Could it be the far-reaching fenland vistas allows Peterburgers uncluttered perpectives as telegraph poles disappear off in to the distance? Who knows? But maybe we should consider holding the next Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society Annual Conference in Peterborough.

Rare One-and-a-half arm pole

A rare 1.5 pole near RuthinRuthin from the Clwyd Gate


I’ve been seeing this pole for ages.  A rare 11/2 armed pole.  Only, the road it was on was too busy to stop.  So I waited for a day when the missus was driving and without the ubiquitous tail-gater coming over the Clwyd Gate pass near Ruthin, Denbighshire, North Wales.  So grainy quality due to photo taken from moving car.

Worth a visit not least for the view of the Vale of Clwyd from the top.  And I hear the restaurant has improved again.


Apologies to the person from whose blog I nicked the Ruthin photo

Purveyors of Telegraph Pole Erection since 2001


Cumberland Comms Ltd have written to me with the most concise message yet received (that does not have swearing in it).

We put poles in the ground

There wasn’t a full stop at the end either. So maybe they intended to tell me much more about themselves and were cut short.  Perhaps by the telephone ringing with an order for a telegraph pole or maybe someone disturbed their train of thought with a mug of tea. Or could it be that they just don’t see the point or significance of full-stops.

Cumberland Comms LtdIf the latter, then they need to consider the distress they put pedants like me through. For starters, I never paused for breath until I got to the end of their email, including all the footers and everything.  And then I had to go on and on to my poor wife about the standards of punctuation and what do they teach them in schools these days.

Anyway, upon research, it transpires that Cumberland Comms Ltd do indeed put poles in the ground. And they’ll do so for you too – at the right price of course – just like they have been doing since they started in 2001.

With the word “Cumberland” in their name though, I expect they prefer to erect them up there – in a county which hasn’t existed as an administrative entity since 1974.  Ooh, it’s a complicated world!


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