Follow by Email

Thursday, 24 October 2019

San Sebastian

After Wellington defeated the French Army at Vittoria, his British/Portuguese/Spanish armies pursued them to the Franco-Spanish border. He laid siege to San Sebastian and blockaded Pamplona, effectively sealing the border road (La Grande Chausée).

The fortress is not large but it is very well sited, on a promontory jutting out into the Bay of Biscay. The town had a curtain wall and a citadel of the Castle of La Mota.

I copied this map from Frederick Myatt's book, "British Sieges of the Peninsular War".

We walked from the base of La Mota to the castle on a very warm and sunny day.

At the top, there is a museum with a couple of guns outside

This looks like a medieval period breech loader

Inside the very small museum

The lower terrace has great views of the city

The Santiago battery

Looking East from La Mota, over the River Urumea, to Mount Olla

Looking South, over the City

The next two photos I took the following day from the terrace of our hotel and just before breakfast. The sun was very low, just showing above the Chofre Sand Hills. The first shows the Isle of Santa Clara, then Mount Orgullo with Castle La Mota, then Mount Olla.

This photo is the last one of the beach and city.
History timetable.


11th July First siege of San Sebastian starts.

25th July Siege abandoned.

25th July - 1st August The Battle of the Pyrenées. Soult launches the French Army counter offensive to clear the Allies from the Northern Pyrenées passes but is defeated by Wellington's armies. The French withdraw into France.

6th August Second Siege begins.

31st August The town of San Sebastian falls.

1 - 8 September Allies lay siege to and take La Mota citadel.

Monday, 21 October 2019

"Official Secrets"

Recently, we have been to Cityscreen Cinema in York to watch either films noir or New York Opera Co. live on satellite transmission. Yesterday we attended to watch a film on current release, "Official Secrets", and we are very pleased we did. It is based on a true whistle blower story, just before the second Iraq War, an employee at GCHQ leaked a copy of a top secret instruction to The Observer newspaper. The story was well written. The director kept the film at a fine pace and made good use of atmospherics. Best of all was the acting, Keira Knightly put in the best performance I have seen from her, nicely played, very balanced and very mature. She was ably supported by Matt Smith and Ralph Fiennes. To top it off, some beautiful filming out in the Cotswolds.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

In the Pyrenees

One of the sites we visited.

Following the victory at the Battle of Vittoria, Wellington's British & Irish/Portuguese/Spanish army pursued the French force to the Spain/France border that runs through the Pyrenees.

Marshall Soult was given command of the French. Wellington laid siege to San Sebastian and blockaded Pamplona. At the end of July, 1813, Soult decided to launch two counter-attacks into the passes at Maya and Roncesvalles.

I took some photos at Maya that show what a beautiful landscape this is and I can only imagine how the two forces fought in it.

Walking up from the road, looking back down the valley

Wild (?) ponies

"We're keeping an eye on you humans"

Beautiful country, probably much more wooded than Wellington's time

In the distance, France, La Grand Rhune

Bay of Biscay in the distance

Spanish vultures
Fighting in the Pyrenees, an early print (sorry about the quality)

Friday, 11 October 2019

Wellington Invades France

I have been on a battlefield tour with a company, The Cultural Experience. The tour was "Wellington Over the Pyrenées".It was an excellent tour, very well organised and planned, good hotels and travel and a very nice group of 15 people.

The tour leader was ex-Royal Artillery Colonel Nick Lipscombe. He leads several tours per year in the Iberian Peninsula. He is also a published author.

The tour was mainly around this book of Nick's

We flew into Madrid, went by coach to Burgos for overnight stay, then on to the battlefield of Vittoria where Wellington crushed the French army that was evacuating Western Spain. From there we went into the area shown in the map, San Sebastian, Pamplona, Biarritz and finishing in Toulouse.

I am working through my photos and I will post some of them later.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

A trip to Newcastle - to see Dippy

We made a day trip to the Hancock Museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to see Dippy. This is the Natural History Museum's dinosaur that is currently doing a UK tour.

The fossilised remains are of a diplodocus

Dippy is huge, the head is about 20feet/6 metres off the ground

Over half of its length is tail
Toddlers had great fun running around the base pushing small carts

The Hancock also has a TRex fossil

Me, about to be TRex lunch
B, as a TRex, also looking for lunch

The Civic Buildings nearby, with seahorses

The River God

Friday, 6 September 2019

My view of Nidderdale

Four years ago, we moved into this house in Easingwold, North Yorkshire. Our street is at 90degrees off the main road, the Thirsk Road. The next street also is at 90degrees off Thirsk Road, so our rear garden shares a boundary with a house on the second street. That house has a much larger rear garden.

When we moved in, that house had a screen of mature trees on their side of the boundary. Last year, the owners took down nearly all of those mature trees, sold the land and another house has been built.

In this photo, the house on the right is the new house, the trees behind are similar to the mature trees that were taken down. The roof visible on the left belongs to my neighbour's house.

With the felling of the trees, the variety of birds has fallen, for example, we used to have siskins in our garden, we don't anymore. The felling has an upside. From our bedroom window, on very clear and sunny days such as yesterday, the distance view is of the Yorkshire Dales.

We can now see across the Vale of York all the way to Nidderdale, a distance of around 25 miles. As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining, but I would like to see a couple of siskins now and then.

A siskin