"If we were to prophesy that in the year 1930 a population of fifty millions, better fed, clad and lodged than the English of our time, will cover these islands, that Sussex and Huntingdonshire will be wealthier than the wealthiest parts of the West Riding of Yorkshire now are, that cultivation, rich as that of a flower-garden, will be carried up to the tops of Ben Nevis and Helvellyn, that machines constructed on principles yet undiscovered, will be in every house, that there will be no highways but railroads, no travelling but by steam, that our debt, vast as it seems to us, will appear to our greatgrandchildren a trifling encumbrance, which might easily be paid off in a year or two, many people would think us insane. We prophesy nothing; but this we say: If any person had told the Parliament which met in perplexity and terror after the crash in 1720 that in 1830 the wealth of England would surpass all their wildest dreams, that the annual revenue would equal the principal of that debt which they considered as an intolerable burden, that for one man of ten thousand pounds then living there would be five men of fifty thousand pounds, that London would be twice as large and twice as populous, and that nevertheless the rate of mortality would have diminished to one half of what it then was, that the post office would bring more into the exchequer than the excise and customs had brought in together under Charles the Second, that stage-coaches would run from London to York in twenty- four hours, that men would be in the habit of sailing without wind, and would be beginning to ride without horses, our ancestors would have given as much credit to the prediction as they gave to Gulliver's Travels. Yet the prediction would have been true." (Macaulay 1830: 121-122)
Macaulay talked too much, but he was a shrewd man. Apart from the flower-gardens on the tops of Ben Nevis and Helvellyn, we recognize something not too different from the real 1930s in his predictions of a hundred years before. They appeared in a review of Robert Southey's Sir Thomas More, or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society. Macaulay detested Southey's romantic conservative vision of his subject, and set out to prove the benefits that industrialization would bring.
There were lots of things Macaulay didn't see: not just hunger-marches and the stock-market crashes, but the harm that the factory landscape was to wreak on people's lives in his own day. And he was also the man who imagined the day "when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St Paul's" (Macaulay 1840: 548). That was in an essay about the papacy, which he hated, and which he expected to find existing in undiminished vigour then.
Reading Macaulay now is a fascinating, ambivalent exercise, a scanning of past futures. That is the theme of this issue. Kathryn McKee looks at one of the most famous predictions of recent years, for librarians anyway: the Follett Report of 1993, whose implementation led so many of us to projects that we should not otherwise have been able to afford. We also have a view of the Domesday Project - cutting-edge technology in 1986, obsolete by 1989, now being brought to life again. And, in a year that has seen the introduction of the new Voyager software and the Newton catalogue across Cambridge libraries, we can rejoice that there has been nothing like the debacle of two years ago. I crave your indulgence for a poem written in 2000 about a novelty of those days that is still with us.
Plus, of course, the usual features: People, and What librarians do in their spare time. Gotthelf Wiedermann tells us about sailing. How better to celebrate the launch of Voyager than that?
Macaulay, T.B. 1830. Southey's Colloquies. In 1909: 99-122
Macaulay, T.B. 1840. Von Ranke. In 1909: 547-569.
Macaulay, T.B. 1909. Lord Macaulay's Essays and Lays of Ancient Rome. London: Longmans.
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Those of us who were working in academic libraries back in 1993 will no doubt remember the stir caused by the Follett Report (1). We bought copies of the report, some of us read some of it, we attended seminars to discuss its implications (2) . In the introduction to the report it claimed to be "founded on an assessment of likely changes over the next five to ten years". As we near the end of that period, it seems a good time to stop and assess whether those changes have in fact occurred. Did Follett get it right?
It is useful to set the report in context. In 1993, it was widely welcomed by the academic library community. According to A. Rennie McElroy: "Most librarians think that it offers an accurate analysis of the problems and opportunities facing them and that its recommendations are generally sound." (3) Perhaps that is not surprising, if one takes Deborah Shorley's point that "Most importantly, Follett has been welcomed because it declares unambiguously that the problems faced by university libraries in the 1990s will not be solved without a good deal of money". (4) The fact that the report was not merely an expression of ideals and visions, but was firmly rooted in the possible, and accompanied by a proposal to invest £20 million over three years for a planned programme of specific projects doubtless increased its acceptance by the academic community.
The Follett report was largely uncontroversial. It based its conclusions on current experience, and did not try to gaze too far into the crystal ball. Graham Bulpitt commented on its "concentration on short and medium term issues which are likely to receive support". (5) Indeed some librarians were critical of its lack of vision. McElroy again declares that "with the exception of some aspects of information technology, Follett says little that is radically new and makes few proposals that had not been aired already". (6) Indeed, Bernard Naylor recalls that the review group's chairman told briefing meetings on the report that "he did not expect libraries to be operating very differently over the next 5-10 years". (7)
A central premise of the report was the shift in emphasis in academic libraries, away from the idea that their essential role was the provision of physical holdings, and towards the concept of the library providing access to information, not necessarily from within its own collections. As R. G. Heseltine puts it, "insofar as there is a consistent vision of the future contained in the Follett Report, it is a vision of the electronic or virtual library". (8) It is in the IT section of the report (chapter 7) that the committee allowed itself to indulge in more imaginative predictions of what changes developments in technology could bring, with a set of brief scenarios outlining a typical day for a student, an academic, and a librarian of the future. From her perspective as a computer services manager, Annette Howarth was unimpressed by this section, "The Report did raise some visions, but only rather jokingly in four [sic] little anecdotes, and our in-house Library Curators felt these should just be passed over". (9) I think many of us felt at the time that those sketches were just a flight of fancy, unlikely to be translated into reality within the foreseeable future.
Let's look more closely at some of the possible developments described though. How closely does the 2002 student's day match that of Follett's Alice? Like Alice, today's student will probably have a networked computer in his/her room, and may well be using it to access favourite soap operas, and receive emails from family members, as well as work-related communication from tutors. (I notice that Follett didn't predict the downloading of the latest CDs and films across the internet.) Some students may hand in work electronically, depending on their tutor, though most will still be submitting hard copy. Certainly I know academics who have collaborated on research proposals sending edited versions with highlighted corrections to and fro across the Atlantic by email, so the software for such exchanges is in use today. The notion of recording lectures to replay them across campus video link has not been translated into reality in 2002, and still seems an unlikely prospect. However, checking references online and downloading articles direct from the internet is well and truly with us, with a large number of electronic journals available across the university, and facilities in place for online ordering of documents from the BL, PRO, and other such institutions using credit cards. I've used such services myself for documents of personal interest, and found them quick, efficient, and easy to use. Our students would find themselves pretty much at home in Alice's world.
The academic's day perhaps does not match Follett's vision quite so well. While electronic diaries may be technically possible, I'm not sure that whole departments have taken to them with enthusiasm organisational culture may dictate practice here rather than available technology. Minutes do circulate electronically though, and no doubt many land in that electronic wastebasket which Follett's Professor Higgins used. Libraries are still hassling academics for their reading lists (some things will never change), but while the proportion of multimedia items is gradually increasing over the years, they do not make up anything like the majority of references. The printed word predominates. Video conferencing facilities are certainly now available within Cambridge University (and also within public library services with the implementation of the People's Network), but interactive seminars with students around the world are very much a one off event rather than a standard component of any course.
How many of us might now identify with Follett's Virtual Librarian? I suspect we will not do so that closely. Preparation and collation of course materials to the extent described in Follett's vision is probably not a regular feature of the Cambridge librarian's role, though the degree to which librarians and academics have collaborated in the delivery of teaching has always varied between HE institutions, and some librarians may spend more time in the assembly of course materials for presentation online. No one has yet suggested converting the UL's tower into a multi-storey carpark: the fate that met Follett's old university library! Even so, the various new library buildings across Cambridge in the last decade could well be described as "light" and "flexible" like Follett's new library. Whether they have also been "unpretentious" is a question I'll leave others to judge! Control of publishing has not passed wholesale from the commercial sector to the academic community, though digital reprinting does allow publishers to operate on a more 'on demand' basis than in 1993. A higher proportion of professional library staff may be working on finite projects, dependent on funding bids and short term programmes rather than in permanent positions, though that mirrors the general trend in the wider employment market. The day when most new books go onto the shelves within a day with a single swipe of a barcode is alas still a dream, though maybe Voyager will help to reduce any cataloguing backlogs more quickly. Giving weekly seminars as Follett's librarian did on "information discovery and management" is probably not something we all do routinely, although more of us are involved in guiding users in the use of electronic information resources and anticipate this activity increasing year on year.
So, we haven't yet reached the totally virtual library, though it is perhaps unfair to expect too close a match with the sketches in the report, which itself admits that "predicting the future is rarely simple. Most forecasts turn out to be inaccurate, and factors other than technological ones are often critical." (10) While regarding the concept of 'the virtual library' as a useful guide to what might be possible, the report openly acknowledges that most libraries will continue to combine electronic with printed media for the foreseeable future. Unsurprisingly perhaps, adoption of new technologies has progressed furthest and fastest in the area of student services. Across HE institutions the move towards access rather than holdings is certainly taking place. More catalogues and finding aids are being made available online, together with some original documents. We take it for granted that a range of journals and databases will be available across the university to the end user at the click of a mouse. The terminology is no longer unfamiliar, but has passed into common usage. Five years ago now CULIB itself devoted an entire issue to 'the virtual library'. (11) A recent job advertisement from one of the UK's older and more traditional universities outlined "A new post to champion undergraduate learning support, including ... developing VLE involvement". (12) Nine years on from the Follett Report, the Virtual Learning Environment is not just a possible concept for the future, it is a present reality.
Kathryn McKee, Sub-Librarian, St John's College
(1) Joint Funding Councils' Libraries Rev.
Group. Report. Dec. 1993.
(2) Seminar on the Follett Report and the Role of Information Technology in the University's Library Services. Held 22 June 1994 , Little Hall, Sidgwick Site, under the Chairmanship of Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer
(3) A. Rennie McElroy. Follett: one view from Scotland. British J. of Academic Librarianship, v.9 (1/2) 1994.
(4) Deborah Shorley. Follett: a northern Irish perspective. British J. of Academic Librarianship, v.9 (1/2) 1994.
(5) Graham Bulpitt. Follett: a view from a new university. British J. of Academic Librarianship, v.9 (1/2), 1994.
(6) A. Rennie McElroy. Follett: one view from Scotland. British J. of Academic librarianship, v.9 (1/2), 1994.
(7) Bernard Naylor. Follett and upward mobility. British J. of Academic Librarianship, v.9 (1/2) 1994.
(8) R.G. Heseltine. The Follett Report and higher education. The New Rev. of Academic Librarianship, Vol.2, 1996.
(9) Annette Haworth. The Follett Report: a computer services perspective. British J. of Academic Librarianship, v.9 (1/2), 1994.
(10) Joint Funding Council's Libraries Review Group. Report. December 1993.
(11) Cambridge University Libraries Information Bulletin. N. S., no. 41, Michaelmas 1997.
(12) Library & Information Appointments . v.5, 13 Sept. 2002.
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"In the 1980s the two media, television and computing, aided by lasers, became unified into a new medium, interactive videodisc. This article will describe the most ambitious project in this field up to the present, namely the two 'Domesday' videodiscs made by the British Broadcasting Corporation in the years 1984-1986. This project used the latest techniques in information retrieval and data storage to lay down, in electronic form, a portrait of British society in the 1980s. The scheme cost several million pounds and involved more than a million 'authors'. By examining from the inside how it was made, we can learn something about the potentials and limitations of a medium which, either in the form of videodisc or compact disc, is likely to be the most important technological development for visual anthropology of the next few years." (Macfarlane 1994: 384)
The BBC launched its Domesday videodiscs in 1986. The historian and anthropologist Alan Macfarlane became involved with the project as an academic adviser. His article, written not long afterwards, and first published in Visual Anthropology Review, tells us what went into the making of Domesday, and what information the users could hope to get out of it.
Even from the standpoint of 2002, and knowing of the strides technology has made since the 1980s, you can see that Domesday was an impressive achievement. Its antecedents included not only the medieval survey after which it was named, but also museums, encyclopaedias, TV documentaries, radio features such as the old Scrapbook series, and the Mass-Observation project of the 1930s and 1940s. Schools and other groups, representing 9000 patches of the UK, contributed essays, photographs, and surveys of land use and amenities. They were given the widest of briefs, precisely so that the final picture, or range of pictures, should be as varied as possible. The collection also included texts from newspapers, government reports, the publicity of small organizations, and specially-written articles by experts, and a vast quantity of statistical information.
Looking forward, Domesday ventured some innovations in what we should now call 'virtual reality'. "These 'surrogate walks', round a council flat, a stone cottage, Brecon town centre and a Scottish pine forest, are an experiment to simulate moving through an area in any direction. Thus it is hoped that a future historian might be able to prowl round a number of houses, occasionally going up very close to examine the contents of a drawer or the ornaments on a shelf." (Macfarlane 1994: 388)
Historians were not to be the only beneficiaries of the work. Macfarlane cites promotional literature that envisaged the discs being used by schools and colleges, libraries, commercial organizations, tourism and travel organizations, land and estate agents, courier and distribution services, local and national government offices, writers and journalists, film and television companies, and regional development agencies.
Note his wording, though. "It is hoped that a future historian might be able to prowl." Not "Future historians will prowl." Macfarlane's article isn't starry-eyed. The shadows appear in its opening paragraph and never go away. The problems he explores most fully are those to do with content: questions of copyright, bias, reliability, relevance. But the technical questions nag in the background, all the way through. Amongst other problems, Domesday would only run on special Domesday hardware.
No one is exactly sure when Domesday's technology became out of date. Ellis Weinberger, of Cambridge University Library, told me he remembered Domesday as definitely in the past tense when he joined the CEDARS (CURL Exemplars in Digital Archives) project in 1999. He reckons Domesday was probably doomed ten years earlier. The crunch, as he understands it, was an occasion in the late 1990s when the Science Museum wanted to include Domesday in an exhibition seminar. He reports that the Museum borrowed a copy of the discs and their hardware, but could not persuade Domesday to play.
From time to time, articles appear in Sunday newspapers, sneering at the short life of this electronic monument, so much less durable than the Domesday Book that it was meant to commemorate.
But when Ellis Weinberger talks of Domesday 1986, he does not sneer. He is involved with the CAMiLEON project, whose acronym expands as Creative Archiving at Michigan and Leeds: Emulating the Old on the New. CAMiLEON is funded by the National Science Foundation in the United States and by the Joint Information Systems Committee in the UK, and its concern is to bring old digital records back to life. Amongst its interests is Domesday. Other organizations share that interest: the BBC, for obvious reasons, and the Public Record Office. CAMiLEON hopes to have at least a demonstration version of Domesday available by the end of 2002.
Domesday's life after resurrection will be in some ways a rather restricted one. For legal reasons, the material will be accessible only at places that already have the 1986 hardware. As the cost of the project spiralled in the course of its preparation, those places are few-but they do include the British Library, Leeds University, and two locations in Cambridge. Some other organizations (the National Library of Wales, the Colchester Data Archive) own copies of the 1980s discs; it remains to be seen what access these bodies will have to the new version.
Weinberger has discussed digital preservation in these pages before (Weinberger 1999). I asked him: was Domesday's fall into disuse mere misfortune? Or did it have a lesson for us?
It was a misfortune, certainly, he said. But it had a lesson, too. Complex digital objects do not simply stay there, like books. If they are meant for long-term use, then a strategy has to be specifically designed for their long-term preservation.
It'll be interesting to see how Domesday looks to the cold new year. Its compilation is probably too far back in time for the widespread commercial application that was envisaged 16 years ago; and perhaps it is still too close in time to be a matter of pure history. Maybe Domesday will have, at first, the disturbing frisson of old home videos. But its historical value is almost certain to grow. This is one past future that, very probably, does have a future after all.
Aidan Baker, Haddon Library
Macfarlane, A. 1994. BBC Domesday: the social construction of Britain on videodisc. In L. Taylor (ed.), Visualizing Theory: 385-408. New York: Routledge
Weinberger, E. 1999. Digital objects as manuscripts: how to select material that is born digital for long-term preservation. Cambridge University Libraries Information Bulletin, n.s. 45, 10-14.
Many thanks to Alan Macfarlane and Ellis Weinberger for help with this article.
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The Faculty of Education has a new Assistant Librarian in Lucy Seffen, who moves there from Caius. Lucy's interests include ballet and sewing - very occasionally combined in the making of ballet costumes.
Lyn Bailey bounces across this page once again, moving from Selwyn to Classics. In another move at Classics, Alicia Periel takes up a new full-time trainee post, coming here from the Institute of Classical Studies in London. Alicia is intending to pursue the distance-learning course at Aberystwyth.
The Seeley's new Assistant Librarian is Celine Carty , who brings extensive experience from Newnham and from Stanford University. The Seeley has had some other changes too: Ymke Mulder has returned to Sweden with her family, and Nevenka Pavlovic-Rider has moved up to take her place. Nevenka's own old job has been taken by Maria Baker, moving on from work as an evening invigilator.
Libby Tilley and Julie Beaumont have returned to their usual jobs: Libby to the Earth Sciences Library, and Julie to Reader Services in the UL after half a year spent in training the rest of us in the use of the new Voyager software. Lesley Gray has given us some statistics for what that entailed: 32 training sessions, which filled just over 450 seats and took 46 days (9 x 5 day weeks), plus 5 refresher courses and 5 "surgeries". To say nothing of the training materials and documentation, or the visits to libraries and questions answered by phone and email. Libby and Julie are a very large part of the reason why Voyager's launch has been a success, and CULIB wishes them well in whatever else they may take on now.
In the college libraries, Patricia Aske leaves Corpus Christi to take over from Pam Judd as Assistant Librarian at Pembroke College. Pam will continue to work part time cataloguing the rare books. Iwona Krasodomska-Jones moves from Pathology to take up Patricia's post as Sub-Librarian at the Butler Library at Corpus.
St John's College's Graduate Trainee for 2002-3 is Alice Hine. Alice has just graduated in philosophy at the University of Durham. Her predecessor Jo Davies is now going on to Sheffield University to take her MA in Librarianship, and will be joined there by Kate Heawood, Librarian's Assistant at St John's. Kate is replaced by Frank Bowles , who has recently completed a history degree, having had an earlier career as an executive in a freight company. Five other colleges have appointed new graduate trainees for 2002-03. Emily Greenstreet is at Christ's, Lucy McCaskie at Newnham, Ben Pendleton at Emmanuel, Jasmine Stables at New Hall, and Angela Tawse joins the staff at Trinity.
Sarah Taylor moves from the Faculty of Education to become Librarian at Selwyn College, following Lyn Bailey's move from Selwyn to the Faculty of Classics. Elizabeth Stratton is now working as Archivist for two days each at Downing (Mon. & Tues.) and also at Clare (Thurs. & Fri.). She is already dealing with a large number of research enquiries about College history, careers of members and college estates as well as sorting out exhibitions.
At the University Library, Kathleen Lane joined the Darwin Letters Project in March. Kathleen previously ran a course supporting Ph.D. students across departments and colleges who supervise undergraduates. John S. Craig took up his appointment as Munby Fellow in Bibliography on 1 October. His research topic is books in 16th and 17th century English parish churches. Stefan Reif has been awarded the University's D.Litt. in recognition of his work in Jewish liturgy and manuscripts.
Kathleen Cann, Bible Society Archivist, retired at the end of May. Gotthelf Wiedermann has finished his temporary contract in Manuscripts and has been appointed Deputy Head of Accessions to replace Anne Darvall who retired at the end of September. Jeremy Wong has also retired from his post as Head of the Library Offices.
Having acquired her CTF MA in Jewish-Christian Relations, Sonia Waters has left the Greensleeves retrospective conversion project to do a teacher-training course at Homerton. Damiri Knapheide has also left Greensleeves, to move with his family to Los Angeles. As the conversion of the guardbook catalogue has now been contracted out to OCLC and MARC Link and so Greensleeves staff diminishes as people leave and are not replaced.
Following a number of booktrade jobs in the US and an urge to return to his native England, Tim Arnold from Maine joined the Entrance Hall staff in June and he and his wife Rhonda are now both working in Cataloguing. Anna Nipper has left the UL to return to Denmark, and has been replaced in English cataloguing by Fiona Grant. Sophie Dubillot left foreign cataloguing in July to spend two years in Hanoi teaching English as a foreign language.
It has been a good year for new additions to UL families. Jasmine Elkin arrived on 3 July, a second daughter for Trudy and Lucas. Nicola Thwaite had a daughter in August, and Paula Jarman on 3 October.
People at the UL were saddened to hear of the death on 8 March of Ron Jordan who worked in the entrance Hall from 1985 until his retirement in 1996.
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(recalling Henry Reed)
In the 1940s
a poet could look down his nose
at an NCO, I suppose,
who said The reason being is,
and a capsa's a vase and the Vasa capsized.
with those whose task it is to train
us would spurn any such disdain
for an unsyntactic phrase,
hough a capsa's a vase and the Vasa capsized,
and they all said it, I think.
Learning computerized accounts
I woke for varying amounts.
Some if not all of it would sink.
And a capsa's a vase and the Vasa capsized.
History ran up the shore.
Whether money's grant or profit,
tax or gift, the movement of it
calls on all our powers to track.
We struggled in the wake
and wash of ledgerspeak.
Debt was not cut at Okinawa.
And a capsa's a vase and the Vasa capsized.
In the run-up, the thing seemed to swell with historical change.
Up and running, not very, it comes to show,
like a blooper of snow-ploughs bought for the wrong sort of snow,
no human trends outside the usual range.
And a capsa's a vase and the Vasa capsized.
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I like variety in life. Perhaps it is for this reason that I pursue pastimes which are not only varied in themselves, but also bring me in to contact with very different people. I satisfy my musical interests by singing in choral societies, such as CUMS, or going to concerts. I attend conferences and occasionally publish some of my research in Reformation history and theology. And I love sailing, because it is something totally different from the 'civilised', intellectual world in which most of us work, but also because it brings me closer to nature. I regularly race my dinghy at the Hunts Sailing Club near St Ives, and occasionally crew for a friend on his yacht, either racing on the East coast or cruising to France or to other destinations on the English coast. Most of all, I love sailing my own boat at weekends on the Suffolk or Essex coast. Rather than giving a lot of factual detail, below is a description of a weekend cruise I undertook a few weeks ago.
Saturday, 14 September, 10 a.m.
As I walk down the slip-way, the first ripples appear on the glassy surface of the River Orwell, heralding the beginnings of the day's sea breeze. The sun glares through the morning haze which will soon lift and give way to a sunny autumn day. Forecast for the day is North-West, force 2-3, later veering North, 3-4. I stow my gear in the dinghy and cast off. It is a 200 yards' pull to get to Trigla's mooring. Trigla is a 20 ft 'Shrimper', a traditional style sailing boat, gaff rigged, with a 3 ft bowsprit and tan sails. With the centreboard raised, she only draws 1.5 ft, ideal for exploring remote creeks or for slipping over a shallow bar at the entrance to estuary rivers such as the Deben or the Ore. The ebb is already pulling fast, so it is quick work to reach the mooring. Once on board, I hoist the mainsail, tie the dinghy to the mooring buoy and cast off. As Trigla drifts downriver, I unfurl the jib. Both wind and tide take me quickly past Pin Mill, a small hamlet made famous by Arthur Ransome "We didn't mean to go to sea", but, in fact, a place with a very long boat building and maritime trading history going back to the Middle Ages. Today, the hulks of Thames barges, launches and fishing boats along the shore bear witness to this past, and its atmosphere, not least the 'Butt & Oyster', have become the attraction of many classic boat rallies.
As I am on a dead run, mainsail to starboard, I lock the tiller in position and pole the jib out to port to stop it flapping restlessly. A look at the GPS tells me that we are doing 5 knots over ground, aided by about 1.5 knots of ebbing tide. The haze has lifted and reveals a beautiful, autumnal blue sky. Gradually more and more yachts appear, most of them, like me, making for Harwich and the sea beyond. At 11.15 a.m. I enter Harwich harbour basin; Harwich to port, Felixstowe container port with its impressive skyline of 300 ft cranes and vast container ships to starboard. Having switched on the VHF to listen to Harwich Harbour Control, I make sure I stay out of the main shipping channel, but the shipping lane from Parkstone Quay has to be crossed if you want to go out to sea. A good lookout is essential to make sure no ferries are about to use this channel - they are surprisingly fast and the Harbour Patrol will give you short shrift if you don't stay clear!
It is slack water as I sail past Harwich breakwater. I remove the jib pole and gybe (swing the mainsail to the other side). My course is now due South to Pye End buoy, and then SSW to the Walton Backwaters, ca 2 nautical miles south along the coast from Harwich. The wind has reached a steady 3-4. This is sweet sailing indeed! The sea is a wonderful clear green colour (makes a difference from the usual estuarine grey-brown). To the west I can see the row of hotels on the elevated shoreline of Dovercourt, witness to a failed attempt at the beginning of the 20th century to turn this small town in to a fashionable seaside resort. To the south, floating on a glittering sea reflecting the sun, a Thames barge is coming my way, heading for Harwich. It is Xylonite, a 90-year old iron spritsail barge, now lovingly restored by some owner or association. These Thames barges were once the mainstay of goods transport along the east coast before trains and lorries took over. With their huge rig and graceful motion they have something ghostlike about them. As the panorama of Felixstowe recedes into the distance, I approach the channel leading into the Walton Backwaters, a complex network which appears, at high water, to be one vast inland sea with one island and a few humps, yet which, at low water, reveals itself to be acres of mudflats and saltings with hundreds of creeks, channels and dykes, all ready to challenge, mystify and intrigue the navigator, especially a first visitor. About one mile into this area, the main channel divides into two: Walton Channel, leading south to Titchmarsh Marina, and further on to the Walton and Frinton Yacht Club, right in the backyard of Walton on the Naze; this channel is always quite busy and lined with moorings on both sides. I prefer the other channel, Hamford Water leading WSW, where there are no moorings at all, except for a handful at the very end, near Beaumont Quay. As I sail down this channel, some heavy, densely packed cumulus clouds have appeared in the south-west. This looks like rain. Approaching my favourite anchorage, just beyond Kirby Creek (where a sign warns skippers 'Here be witches'!), I let go the sheets and climb forward to ready the anchor. As Trigla comes to a halt, I drop the anchor - 16 metres of warp should be enough; quickly back into the cockpit to drop the mainsail, while the first drops of rain splatter on deck. I just manage to take refuge in the cabin before the clouds burst and we are surrounded by thunder and lightning. Time for a cup of tea - actually, looking at the clock (12.30 p.m.), might as well have lunch. Half an hour later the rain has stopped and the sunshine returned. It is quite hot now. I dry the cockpit and decide to top up my suntan. It is so peaceful here; only one other yacht at anchor some 400 yards away. Not a building, road, or human being in sight. The only thing you hear is a colony of seagulls and terns squabbling over territorial rights. Time for a swim. The water is very warm at this time of the year. I float a line from Trigla's stern, just in case the tide pulls me away too fast. As I enjoy the sensation of the warm sea water, I suddenly spot a seal no more than 20 yards away. Let's hope it's not a leopard seal! For the rest of the afternoon I enjoy the peace and remoteness of this place. Towards the evening a Drascombe Lugger sails past. I recognise the boat: It's the Vice-Chancellor! He has already rigged a tent for the night and disappears in one of the creeks - a good way to get away from it all! It is getting dark now. A huge cumulus cloud glows pink in the Eastern sky, reflecting the sun which has already sunk below the horizon. I light the anchor light and cook myself an omelette. Sitting in the cockpit, I can see the loom of Felixstowe container port to the north; elsewhere it is completely dark, except for the moon casting a beam of her reflection on the water. As it is getting cold, I retreat into the cabin, light the oil lamp and listen to Radio 3 for a while. In the middle of the night I wake up realising that the wind has increased considerably in strength, causing the rigging to hum and the main halyard to beat against the mast. There is nothing for it: I have to get out and tie it to one of the shrouds to silence it-should have thought of it before! Could be an exciting sail tomorrow. But as long as the wind stays in the North or, preferably to the west of north, I won't have any rough seas to contend with. Let's hope so!
Sunday, 15 September, 9 a.m.
While having breakfast, I listen to the local weather forecast transmitted by the Coastguard: wind NNW, force 5, locally 6. I have to wait until lunchtime to have a favourable tide for my journey back. So, plenty of time to relax. As I sip another cup of tea, the Vice-Chancellor sails past again; having arranged some form of self-steering, he busies himself in the bow to sort something out - clever! A little later, my friend, the seal, turns up again. He (she?) has caught a big fish - I think it's a sea trout. The seagulls are taking an interest in it too, aggressively diving towards it, but the seal is unperturbed. At 1 p.m. I weigh anchor; with 2 reefs in the mainsail I set off home. On a broad reach Trigla enjoys a brisk sail at nearly 6 knots. As I exit the Walton Backwaters, I have to sail closer to the wind. It is an exciting, fast sail in a good force 5 and glorious sunshine. A whole fleet of yachts is going the same way, and it is great fun racing against them. On entering Harwich harbour I have to tack upwind all the way, approaching the huge container ships at Felixstowe on the port tack until they tower above me, then tacking away from them on starboard, always making sure I keep clear of commercial shipping. As I enter the Orwell, the wind eases somewhat, so I heave to and shake out one reef. Trigla surges ahead with her increased canvas, heeling in the gusts so that I have to play the mainsheet all the time. It is hard work, but very exciting with glittering spray coming over again and again as she digs her bows into the green, sunlit choppy sea.
5 p.m.: I approach my mooring at the Royal Harwich YC. I start the engine, strike sails and pick up the mooring buoy. Time for some late lunch. Sitting in the cockpit, I watch the boating activities on the Orwell and enjoy the relative peace after such and exhausting, but exhilarating sail.
Gotthelf Wiedermann, University Library
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The next issue of CULIB will be on the theme of Special Collections. Anyone wishing to contribute should send articles to Kathryn McKee at St John's College, by the end of Lent term (14 March).
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CULIB is edited by Aidan Baker (Haddon Library), Kathryn McKee (St John's College Library), and is produced and distributed by Sheila Cameron (University Library). The online version is produced at the UL by Fiona Grant.