Author Archives: Backstreeter

Chinese workers in Abingdon Cemetery from the First World War

Cut Trees
During the First World War there was a need for labour as part of the war effort, and many Chinese Mariners served on UK vessels. Some of these became stranded in the UK and found other work. Two such men have been buried together at the bottom of the Spring Road Cemetery in Abingdon. Anne sent me an email asking whether, in these days of pandemic, they had been victims of the influenza pandemic.

An article in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch Vol. 60 (2020), titled The Chinese mariners of the First World War, says that there were 67 Influenza fatalities recorded among Chinese Mariners, serving on UK vessels, all but one after July 1918.

Muk Cheung, of Bao’an, an area of the city of Shenzhen, worked at the stores depot at Milton Barracks, and died in Abingdon Cottage Hospital of pneumonia on February 10th 1918, aged 31 years.

Ah Fook, possibly of Hong Kong, worked at the stores depot at Milton Barracks, and died in Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, of an aneurysm on April 13th 1918, aged 33 years.

More on the cut trees and destruction of wildlife habitats

Cut Trees
After yesterday’s walk we visited the other bank of the River Thames to look closer at the large area of trees that had been cut down last month. The map above gives an idea of their location.
Cut Trees
The area beyond the tumbledown picnic benches used to be trees.
Cut Trees
This picture gives another view, with the piles of stacked tree trunks in the distance.

Tuckwells were granted permission to extract minerals in 1971 from a number of areas on Thrupp Farm, including the field called Nyatt [Area 5]. They excavated minerals from all the other areas but not Area 5. More recently they have been extracting minerals from Sutton Wick, south of Abingdon.

During an enquiry in 2019 their spokesperson said they still intended to extract minerals from Area 5 in future. The record of the discussion is at https://mycouncil.oxfordshire.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=20620. Local people wanted the area left undisturbed.
Cut Trees
The area not only includes meadows and trees but also a small lake, all of which had become a habitat for wildlife.

Walk by Rye Farm to Swift Ditch and back by the River Thames

This walk took us down the small road to Rye Farm and then along a muddy pathway and across a large field to Swift Ditch and beyond, then back to Abingdon by the Thames path.
Walk to Swift Ditch and back
As we set out there were a few people – like us – out on their allowed lockdown exercise walk.
Walk to Swift Ditch and back
The view from the Rye Farm track is across ploughed fields with crows, towards a green rise where there are sheep and trees.
Walk to Swift Ditch and back
On the other side is a hedge that has been cut back, and a few buildings including Kingfisher barn which people can book to stay.
Walk to Swift Ditch and back
There were fewer people beyond Swift Ditch.
Walk to Swift Ditch and back
I have blogged about Swift Ditch a few times before. In 2007, the police had found the body of a lady, suffering from dementia, who went missing. She was found in one of the pools between the faster streams of water.
Walk to Swift Ditch and back
This time there was nothing quite as tragic but it might be sad. Over the other side of the River Thames there were long piles of cut down trees. Somebody asked me last month why they were cutting down so many trees down that way. Could it be for gravel extraction? The area is adjacent to the former gravel pits of Radley Lakes. I didn’t know.
Walk to Swift Ditch and back
There are a lot of boats moored by the Thames Path. My wife likened them to the Gyptian boats in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, recently on BBC 1.
Walk to Swift Ditch and back
One boat was sunk in the middle of the river. Bundles of dry vegetation came floating downstream. Somebody was cutting a new clearing on the river bank. Possibly to help rescue the sunken boat.

At Abingdon Weir we had to wait a few minutes as people kept coming the other way. The new convention is that you wait until you have a clear path before going across. Sometimes it pays to wait. I did see the blue flash of a Kingfisher.

Light snow, Christmas tree recycling, Covid-19 support, and vaccines for over 80s

Snow and Christmas Tree Recycling
Looking out the back window this morning there was light snow on walls, and roofs.
Snow and Christmas Tree Recycling
Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council have sad that ‘Due to the current restrictions in place and the guidelines regarding social distancing we will not be carrying out the Christmas tree recycling event on the Market Place this year.

I have seen a few discarded trees. Some looking tatty. Others still look lush and green.

The Vale of White Horse District Council
says ‘While our garden waste service – which normally collects real Christmas trees from customers for recycling – is currently suspended, all residents can still drop off real Christmas trees.’ They list some locations but I have not checked whether this is still going ahead given the lockdown. Somebody might know.

The District Council also has a list of support they can give businesses and residents during the lockdown.

The South and Vale Community Hub team will put people in contact with with community groups and volunteers that can provide support. The council also have some practical support available for eligible people facing financial hardship or homelessness. Financial support for business affected by the restrictions continues to become available from the government and is administered locally by the district councils.
Snow and Christmas Tree Recycling
Meanwhile the roll out of the vaccines is progressing. I will be taking my mum, who is in her eighties – the second top priority group, to get her first jab tomorrow. She has just been notified. People are being warned that it is free and anybody trying to charge you is likely to be a scam.