Category Archives: Visits

Drax Power Station — Wed 5th Sept 2018

On a good day, the 12 cool­ing towers and 851-foot main chim­ney of Drax Power Station are a famil­iar site on the hori­zon from the uplands to the west of Sheffield, 35 miles away as the crow flies.

But 28 mem­bers and guests of Stumperlowe Probus Club were afforded a much closer look at Britain’s largest power gen­er­at­ing facil­ity with a three-hour visit during which we learnt much about Drax’s trans­ition from a coal-powered sta­tion, when it was the UK’s largest emit­ter of carbon diox­ide, to a much greener future which could even­tu­ally see it pro­du­cing ‘carbon neg­at­ive’ elec­tri­city, taking more carbon diox­ide from the atmo­sphere than it pro­duces.

In 2003, Drax took its first steps away from fossil fuel, which had defined elec­tri­city gen­er­a­tion for more than a cen­tury, and began the trans­fer to bio­mass fuel as a renew­able altern­at­ive to coal.

Fifteen years later, three of the station’s six gen­er­at­ing units now run entirely on com­pressed wood pel­lets, mostly impor­ted from respons­ibly man­aged work­ing forests in the United States and Canada, while coal has been releg­ated to a sup­port­ing role to cover spikes in demand and main­tain the sta­bil­ity of the system.

Now Drax has con­ver­ted a fourth unit from coal to bio­mass, which rep­res­ents the passing of a two thirds marker for the power station’s coal-free ambi­tions and rep­res­ents more than 600 mega­watts of renew­able elec­tri­city going into Britain’s national trans­mis­sion system. It is the largest decar­bon­isa­tion pro­ject in Europe. Drax sup­plies six per cent of the country’s elec­tri­city and 11 per cent of its renew­able power.

As well as being an import­ant stra­tegic asset nation­ally, Drax is also vital to the local eco­nomy, employ­ing more than 700 people at the plant and sup­port­ing 3,650 jobs through­out Yorkshire and the Humber. The eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion to the region stood at £419.2 mil­lion in 2016.

Drax dis­tri­bu­tion ter­min­als are loc­ated at four ports on the east and west coasts of north­ern England – Hull, Newcastle, Immingham and Liverpool — rout­ing fuel from ships for onward deliv­ery into the heart of the sta­tion by rail. A 12,500-ton ship­load of wood pel­lets will keep Drax’s tur­bines oper­at­ing for two and a half days.

Each of the station’s six tur­bines actu­ally con­sist of five sep­ar­ate tur­bines, namely one high pres­sure (HP), one inter­me­di­ate pres­sure (IP) and three low pres­sure (LP). To pro­duce steam, Drax has six boil­ers each weigh­ing 4,000 tonnes. They con­vert energy from bio­mass or coal into steam at the rate of more than four mil­lions pounds in weight per hour inside 300 miles of steel tubing.

The steam tem­per­at­ure of raised to 568 deg C and the pres­sure to 166 bar. The boil­ers oper­ate either con­tinu­ously or on a daily cycle of morn­ing start-up and night shut­down as required by demand, known as ‘two-shifting.’ Exhaust steam from the 140-megawatt high pres­sure tur­bine is returned to the boiler for reheat­ing before being used in the 250mw inter­me­di­ate pres­sure tur­bine at 565 deg C and 40.2 bar. It then passes to the three 90mw low pres­sure tur­bines at 308 deg C and 6.32 bar.

The steam strikes and lifts a series of angled blades moun­ted on the tur­bine shaft, making it rotate at 3,000 rpm (50 cycles a second). The steam then passes to two con­dens­ers and is taken to the 12 cool­ing towers, two for each of the six gen­er­at­ing units.

To gen­er­ate the elec­tri­city, an elec­tro­mag­net on the rotor spins inside a stator (the sta­tion­ary sec­tion) of copper wind­ings, gen­er­at­ing 19,000 amps at 23,500 volts. A trans­former increases the voltage to a mind bog­gling 400,000 volts before send­ing it via cables to the adja­cent National Grid sub-tation for dis­tri­bu­tion into our homes, offices and factor­ies.

After an intro­duc­tion in the ‘learn­ing centre’ where our party was split into three groups and the work­ings of the power gen­er­at­ing pro­cess were explained with sev­eral scale models, we were kitted out in in hi-vis jack­ets, plastic hel­mets and pro­tect­ive eye­wear for an out­door tour of the vast site in elec­tric bug­gies. Inside the build­ings, with the 1,400-foot tur­bine hall as the centrepiece, we were given head­phones to allow us to hear the inform­at­ive com­ment­ary by our guides in the very noisy sur­round­ings.

Our heads were buzz­ing not only with noise but a slight over­load of facts and fig­ures as we peeled off our pro­tect­ive layers and climbed back into the com­fort of our coach for the jour­ney home to Sheffield via a lunch­time stop at the Brewer’s Arms in Snaith to round off a most enjoy­able day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carr Head Farm Vineyard visit — Wed 18th July 2018

Several mem­bers of Stumperlowe Probus Club have more than a passing interest in wine, includ­ing at least two who are share­hold­ers in a commercial-size French vine­yard, but they learnt much about the trials and tribu­la­tions of smal­ler scale pro­duc­tion on a Peak District hill­side 950 feet above sea level.

A party of 26 club mem­bers enjoyed lunch at a local hostelry before pro­gress­ing to the farm on the out­skirts of Hathersage for a tour of the vines fol­lowed by a tast­ing and buying oppor­tun­ity.

Michael Bailey, the pro­pri­etor of Carr Head Farm with his wife Mary, planted the first of his 1,700 vines on a one and a half acre, south west facing slope in 2014, so the ven­ture is still in its early stages. It was largely a retire­ment pro­ject; it is very labour intens­ive and he admits that a vine­yard of that size will never become a highly prof­it­able busi­ness.

Members listen intently as Michael talks us through some of the tech­niques of grape pro­duc­tion

Michael was an engin­eer by pro­fes­sion, and his career change began when he took a course at Plumpton College, the UK’s centre of excel­lence for wine which, as well as teach­ing the skills of viniculture, has its own vine­yards in East Sussex stretch­ing to 25 acres pro­du­cing 40,000 bottles of award-winning still and spark­ling wines each year.

 

After the recent heat­wave, it has the mak­ings of an excel­lent har­vest, although the grapes still have some way to go before being picked towards the end of September

When we star­ted the course, the tutor went round the class and asked us all where we wanted to start grow­ing grapes,” Michael recalled. “There were people from the places you might expect – South East England, Cornwall, and up into the Midlands, and when I said North Derbyshire at an alti­tude of almost 1,000 feet, his reply was to the effect of ‘well, good luck to you!’”

 

 

Michael explains the use of a refracto­meter which will meas­ure the spe­cific grav­ity of the grapes and thus the alco­hol con­tent of the fin­ished wine

The sev­eral vari­et­ies of grapes pro­duced each year go to make the white, spark­ling rosé and still rosé offered by Carr Head, although there is no winery on site at Hathersage and the grapes are sent away to be pro­duced by the Halfpenny Green vine­yard at Bobbington, Staffordshire.

 

A Visit to The Yorkshire Air Museum

A small but select group of Stumperlowe Probus Club mem­bers enjoyed an inspir­a­tional and at times emo­tional visit to the former RAF Elvington air base near York which now houses the Yorkshire Air Museum or, to give it its full name, the Allied Air Forces Memorial and Yorkshire Air Museum, on Wednesday, September 13.

Our select group, minus the pho­to­grapher of course, with some of the exhib­its on show behind us.

As with other visits in the past, for example to the National Rail Museum, the four and a half hours we had allowed proved barely time enough to explore all the exhib­its, indoor and out­door, as well as the archive mater­ial and cinema screen­ings, not to men­tion a lunch­time visit to the NAAFI where many of the British and French air­crew lost during World War II would have enjoyed their last meal.

No 77 Squadron suffered heavy losses during its time at Elvington, with over 500 air­crew killed, miss­ing or taken pris­oner and almost 800 Halifax bombers lost as it played a major part in the Battle of the Ruhr and the bomb­ing of Berlin. In May 1944, 77 Squadron moved to the newly opened nearby RAF Full Sutton and was replaced at Elvington by two French squad­rons, num­bers 346 ‘Guyenne’ and 347 ‘Tunisie’ who both played lead­ing parts in the bomb­ing of Germany.

The Handley Page Halifax Mk III

Elvington is the largest ori­ginal war­time RAF Bomber Command sta­tion open to the public any­where in the world. Retaining the authen­tic atmo­sphere of an oper­a­tional base, the site con­tains the 77 Squadron Memorial, the French Air Force Memorial, the Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial, the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Memorial and the Air Transport Auxiliary Memorial.

Elvington was the war­time home of the only two French Air Force Heavy Bomber Squadrons, who flew the huge Halifax four-engined bomber on mis­sions over occu­pied Europe. The museum, which is held in spe­cial affec­tion by many vet­er­ans and the des­cend­ants of those brave airmen , has there­fore enjoyed a unique rela­tion­ship with the people of France, and the French Air Force and gov­ern­ment, since its found­ing more than 30 years ago.

Of the out­door exhib­its, the high­light for many was the French Mirage IV nuc­lear bomber which had been offi­cially inaug­ur­ated at its new home at Elvington only ten days earlier. The Mirage, which was Western Europe’s fast­est mil­it­ary jet cap­able of sus­tained speeds of Mach 2.2 (1,400mph), was trans­por­ted by road on a four-day jour­ney from the Chateaudun air base in France.

The French Mirage IV nuc­lear bomber

The new attrac­tion, which was first pledged to the museum by the French gov­ern­ment more than 12 years ago, was offi­cially unveiled on September 3 by Général Laurent Lesellier, rep­res­ent­ing the Chief of the French Air Force. It joins the much smal­ler Mirage III fighter which is also the only one of its type in Britain.

The Elvington museum opened in 1985 and had only a hand­ful of air­craft to dis­play. In those early years, volun­teers were con­cen­trat­ing on refur­bish­ing the cent­ral build­ings of the ori­ginal war­time site as well as focus­ing on restor­ing an ori­ginal Halifax bomber. The French vet­er­ans who, 40 years after the war, were still very active, were anxious to help and to ensure that their own his­tory within RAF Bomber Command was not for­got­ten.

A Visit to The Sheffield University Diamond Building — 26th April 2017.

Exterior view of the build­ing.

Thanks to Graham Snowdon, our sec­ret­ary, eleven mem­bers enjoyed a very edu­ca­tional visit to the Sheffield University’s latest and most expens­ive build­ing, the Diamond Building. It gets its name from the out­side facade which is dec­or­ated with dia­mond pat­terns. Some people hate it and others love it. At least it makes a state­ment. It is a sci­ence and engin­eer­ing, teach­ing and research facil­ity, with the emphasis on Research.

It has four floors and a base­ment which house:

  • Student-Led learn­ing spaces.
  • 4 com­puter labor­at­or­ies.
  • 9 lec­ture theatres.
  • 3 work rooms.
  • 17 engin­eer­ing labor­at­or­ies.

The whole interior is designed to have an open spa­cious feel about it and max­imum use is made of nat­ural light. The cent­ral sec­tion of the build­ing is open with study pods on stilts to allow the nat­ural light to come down from the ceil­ing.

Each study  pod has two levels, an inner level for quiet study, and an open top study area.

Most of the labor­at­or­ies are around the cent­ral space and on sev­eral floors, whilst the lec­ture theatres are con­fined to the base­ment.

The group look­ing into a lec­ture theatre.

The build­ing is open for stu­dent study 24 hours a day,  7 days a week and it has the capa­city to cater for 4,300 stu­dents.

The visit lasted approx­im­ately 2 to 2.1/2 hours with some mem­bers trying their hand at flying on the flight sim­u­lat­ors.

It was an excel­lent morn­ing for the mem­bers that atten­ded and our grate­ful thanks must go to the uni­ver­sity staff who were so accom­mod­at­ing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NATIONAL MEMORIAL ARBORETUM — Wed 7th September 2016

Any visit to the National Memorial Arboretum is bound to be a day of mixed emo­tions, and so it proved for the 24 mem­bers and guests of Stumperlowe Probus Club who made the two-hour jour­ney to the 150-acre national centre of remem­brance at Alrewas, Staffordshire.

The NMA hon­ours the fallen, recog­nises ser­vice and sac­ri­fice, and fosters pride in our coun­try.

And it does it very well, with more than 300 memori­als in the beau­ti­fully land­scaped grounds, a chapel of remem­brance where we heard the Last Post before observing two minutes’ silence at 11o’clock, the Royal British Legion poppy field and what is inten­ded to be the centrepiece of the whole site, the Armed Forces Memorial.

Featuring no fewer than 30,000 trees, the arbor­etum is an evolving, matur­ing wood­land inter­spersed with long, sweep­ing grass ter­races and walk­ways and bounded on two sides by the River Trent and River Tame. It is there­fore a living, grow­ing trib­ute to those who have served and con­tinue to serve their coun­try.

Sadly for us, the Armed Forces Memorial — which was ded­ic­ated in the pres­ence of Her Majesty the Queen in 2007 — was closed for refur­bish­ment at the time of our visit, but fac­sim­iles of the 16,000 names recor­ded on the memorial have been moun­ted on dis­play boards in front of the chapel of remem­brance.

While cities, towns and vil­lages through­out the coun­try have memori­als to their men who died in the two World Wars, this is ded­ic­ated to those who have died in the ser­vice of their coun­try since the end of WWII. But I was left won­der­ing why such a stun­ning piece of archi­tec­ture should need to be closed for major main­ten­ance work less than ten years after it was built.

Of the smal­ler memori­als, each would have a spe­cial sig­ni­fic­ance depend­ing on which branch of the armed forces family mem­bers served. It might be the Far East Prisoners of War build­ing, the Russian Convoy Veterans memorial, the British Korean Veterans’ Association memorial or others hon­our­ing such groups as the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the Merchant Navy Association, the Normandy Veterans or the Suez Veterans’ Association.

Few, how­ever, pro­voked more emo­tion than the Shot at Dawn memorial, tucked away in a wooded copse on the very east­ern fringe of the site, where dawn first breaks.

It com­mem­or­ates the 306 British and Commonwealth sol­diers who were shot for deser­tion or cow­ardice during World War I. Most were suf­fer­ing from shell shock, or what we now know as post-traumatic stress dis­order, and all were gran­ted posthum­ous par­dons by the British Government in 2006.

All 306 are rep­res­en­ted by posts, like those to which they would be tied before facing the firing squad, and each with a name plate attached. The memorial statue itself is mod­elled on Private Herbert Francis Burden, of the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, who was shot at Ypres on 21st July 1915. He was just 17.

A Visit To The National Railway Museum At York.

NRM Visit

A party of 49 mem­bers and guests from Stumperlowe Probus Club enjoyed a day at the National Railway Museum in York on Wednesday, 16th March. In front of the iconic Mallard, in the Great Hall of the museum, chair­man Vince Allsopp (left) hands over a cheque for £250 on behalf of the club to Tobias Lumb, Head of Public Programmes at the NRM. Also in the pic­ture (hold­ing the folder) is club sec­ret­ary Graham Snowdon, who was wear­ing two hats as a life member of the Friends of the National Railway Museum.

A selec­tion of pho­to­graphs taken on the day by  Peter jack­son are avail­able for view­ing in the Gallery.