I can’t believe I’ve come to this. Scrabbling down roadside embankments to retrieve bits of smashed telegraph pole following a tip-off from another website. This obsession all started last year when a lazy BT engineer lobbed an old one into my hedge, which I subsequently restored. Since then I’ve been rescuing bits and pieces from all over the country. Including the odd ceramic insulator sent to me in the post. I have a cunning plan for those but cannot reveal anything at all just yet. All of which has caused my poor dear wife to come down with a severe bout of tutting-eye-roll syndrome.
Anyway, this is one of those lovely antique four-arms that still stand (stood) along the B5105 between Ruthin and Cerrigydrudion in Denbighshire. And which fortunately, quite recently, I photographed the lot. it’s unlikely that the offending vehicle is still in a singular number of pieces following such a smash, but there was no sign of it by the time I got there.
Anyway, with my missus “keeping nicks” I attempted a swift recovery. However the ceramics were so badly corroded to their stalks that i couldn’t remove them. But 2 of the arms were shattered and separate from the rest, so for now I retrieved these. I managed to recover 3 x single grooves and 2 x double grooved white ceramics to add to my burgeoning collection. Alas the wood was beyond economical repair and has been added to the logpile.
I was later to be found sat in our yard scrubbing them back to some fantasised about former-glory. I know that our Honorary Technical Advisor, Keith S**** H.T.A.T.P.A.S. will be pleased because he just wrote and said so.
Is it a pole? or is it a pylon?
These massive structures support the weight of all the electricity generated by Cefn Croes Windfarm as it crosses the lower slopes of Pumlumon (eng: Plynlimon) in mid Wales.
On this particular day (9th April) they had absolutely nothing to do as there wasn’t a single breath of wind. Not even atop the mountain itself at 2,467ft (752m).
Rarely have I been so high and experienced so little wind. So, in an attempt to alleviate their intense boredom, these biploar poles, near Eisteddfa Gurig farm, took to fishing for clouds. And I was amazed to see this one catch a gorgeous little cumulus humilis as we passed underneath. It hung onto it for a short while, only to let it go back into the wild again whereafter the cloud shortly evaporated.
I first encountered these cards in a shop in Llandeilo,Carmarthenshire, wherein I promptly brought the lot.
They are the creation of Jacky Al-Samarraie of www.theartrooms.co.uk who clearly understands the aesthetics of the rural telegraph pole. My vested interest notwithstanding, these bold cards seem to capture, exquisitely, the essence of our British countryside. Jacky tells me that of all the cards she has designed, those with telegraph poles are her favourites. Why wouldn’t they be? For more cards and even more with telegraph poles on them visit The Art Rooms website.
What’s so special about this pole? you might say. And a photo taken amid leafless trees on a dull grey day. But they don’t have to be spectacular to feature in my pole-of-the-month spot. They just need to catch my eye. For starters, this one, at Pwllglas near Ruthin, is an orphan – there are no longer any telephone wires attached to it.
The business end of it, as well as having 5 cross-arms, some double-sided – has an eclectic mix of ceramic insulators. There are “pot-heads”, “double grooves” and in varying shades and of various antiquity. And then there’s a couple of extra potheads on a mini-arm at the top. Clearly this pole has been busy at one time.
And then look at the bottom. If they were ever to remove this pole (heaven forfend) then it would leave a perplexing gap in the wall.
Da-da! I think that’s how you spell it. Mission accomplished; fait accomplis; job done. The head of my pet telegraph pole has now been restored.
The arms dismantled, sanded, polished and then oiled. The metalwork sanded and rubbed and re-painted and a set of new insulators located. And doesn’t it look splendid. (Ok, please try to ignore that our porch needs a lick of paint)
Pole barn – becomes telegraph pole barn
I pondered for ages where now to keep it. My long-suffering wife even indicated there was an outside chance she mightn’t go completely bonkers if she came home to find it fixed up in the office. But I remember how much the wood stank once it got warm and thought better. Then another da-da! moment – my large 3 bay barn out in the field is a (telegraph) pole barn. The obvious place for it.
More on my barn in a future episode dear reader, and some of the other uses to which I put retired telegraph poles around here.
By the way, Jake of jajainsulators.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/ wrote and told me that the unusual layout of this particular arms wood is to avoid the fouling of trees and other objects within the hedge line.
I’ve almost finished my other “arms wood” project too. That’s just a single arm with four insulators – two brown and two white. Another serendipitous hedgerow find that one. Hedgerow beachcombing is not quite so well known, and even less practised than sandy beachcombing, and whilst you do still find the odd useful item and plenty of old wood, you can end up with a lot of empty lucozade bottles too.
Other restoration projects in hand : my “Welcome to Cerrigydrudion” road sign, and a 20+ ft length of rope. Coming to a telegraph pole website near you – soon. You’ll just have to be patient.
Firstly, our Honorary Technical Advisor Keith S**** H.T.A. T.P.A.S. (pictured left, yesterday), has written in answer to Paul’s request for information a good few posts ago.
Have just seen Paul’s heart rending message,he is obviously worried that his poles may fall over. Do not fret my dear chap, properly pressure creosoted poles will last up to 100 years, yes 100 years before they fall down.Trust this alleviates your anxiety.
Keith S.(Honourary Technical Advisor,T.P.A.S)
He’s also written again to correct this website on some potential inaccuracies – well, that’s what Honorary Technical Advisors are for after all. In my Hieroglyphics gallery I make mention of “Heavy” poles. Apparently, no so thing; they are light, medium or Stout as indicated by the “cutting in (gouging). Last gouged figures on a pole indicates its year of processing. “Mind you”, he says, “the stouts would be pretty heavy”.
Finally, and it was never my intention to collect telegraph pole insulators or indeed photos of them. But that is what seems to be happening. And Ray Thorp – ex GPO / Post Office Telephones / British Telecom employee of 42 years sent me some photos of his eclectic potting-shed based collection. Among his ageing exhibits are an ex-Southern Railway insulator made of pitch-fibre. And the central one pictured right dates back to the National Telephone Co. and while porcelain on the inside is made of enamelled tin on the outside – like a camping mug.
Stay tuned listeners… All photos gratefully received – ceramics, pole of the month contenders, bizarre stuff.
Telecom Eireann engineers have come up with a novel way of getting around the budget cuts within the Irish GPO – simply don’t bother with the lower half of their telegraph poles. No hole to dig, only half the wood used and technically no need to pay the wayleave ground rent either.
This photo taken along the R181 somewhere near Castleblayney in central Ireland. Part of me says I should have saved this photo for April.
Many people, my wife included, upon being gifted a parcel like that at left, might be inclined to think “what the hell did I do to deserve this?” But to a severe sufferer of Anoraksia Nervosa, like myself, such a receipt is a delight. It’s arrival preceded also by the entertainment watching our flimsy postman struggle first to lift it out of his van, and then to reach over our gate to wedge it into my letter bin.
I must confess that these have actually been through a scrub in the kitchen sink before being put back in the box for this photo. One of them – the darkened one in the photo – is an old L.M.S. (London, Midland & Scottish) insulator. It’s seen some severe high-voltage arcing in it’s working life by the look of it.
Very many thanks to Mark Taylor from Sutton Coldfield who answered my appeal for ceramics. A cheque to cover the postage is on its way, along with some carefully chosen pure thoughts and our good wishes.
As you can see, I've been very busy in my shed of late. Braving the cold, the drizzle and the incredible drafts that howl through the gaps in my jerry-self-built workshop.
This week I have been mostly brushing, filing, sand-papering and painting. Not to mention some arms-wood planing. But first, the photo above gives you, dear reader, a tantalising preview of two other restoration projects that I have in-hand…
It is often pointed out to us that half of the photos we show on this website are, in fact, electricity distribution poles. But as we say on the front page :
“We don’t care what the wires contain either. They all carry electricity in some way be it the sparky stuff which boils your kettle, or the thinner stuff with your voice in it when you’re on the phone”
If you were to stop Joseph and Mary Public in the street, point them at either an electricity DP or an aged GPO pole and ask “What is that?” 99.9% of the time, I am sure, you will hear the answer “A telegraph pole”. And it is on that premise that this site operates.
That and the fact that all wire-carrying wooden poles, as far as I am concerned, have an essence of whimsical poetry all of their own. There they stand, silent sentinels, forever observing us who scurry about beneath them, oblivious. I’ll get my coat.