Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Engineering marvel of the Canal Age

Before I knew much about aqueducts (whether ancient or modern), I imagined they would be constructed to bring water to areas that had none. While they can serve that purpose, I’ve since learned that aqueducts have been built in places with plenty of water—such as a river valley.

One example of this is a first-century aqueduct system constructed by the Romans in Southern France to carry water from the Eure spring in Uzès to a water tower in Nîmes, about thirty miles (fifty kilometers) away. In this case, it was the spring water in particular that the Romans coveted, using it to supply the fountains, sewage systems, and spas of the flourishing town. As part of the aqueduct system, the Romans built the now-famous Pont du Gard, a bridge that enabled the channel of water to cross over the Gard river and to continue on its way to Nîmes. In a way, it was like they built a river (or stream, if you will) above another river; rather remarkable to a non-engineer like me.

The Pont du Gard is remarkable for a number of other reasons, including: its longevity, having remained largely intact over the last two thousand years; its size, being the highest aqueduct ever built by the Romans (at 49 meters in height); and its incredible engineering, being composed of large stones that fit together without the use of mortar. Now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and every year large numbers of visitors from around the world come to see this amazing construction (including me in 2013—it was an awesome sight). Originally built to serve the social and business interests of Nîmes, the Pont du Gard now serves as a potent reminder of human ingenuity.

Channeling Ideas

A slightly less famous and considerably younger version of the Pont du Gard can be found in Northeast Wales. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, built between 1795 and 1805, was created to carry the Llangollen canal over the valley of the River Dee; another river-over-a-river construction. In this case, the Llangollen canal, which connects three major rivers—the Dee, the Severn, and the Mersey—was originally part of the Ellesmere canal, a route built to connect the coalfields and ironworks of the town of Wrexham with the sea.

The creation of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (about which more in a moment) was one among a series of large-scale construction projects that began in the late 1700s and continued into the 1830s. These projects were sparked by the opening of the Bridgewater canal in 1761, created by the third Duke of Bridgewater (a great example of an aptonym if ever there was one) to provide an efficient means of transporting coal from his coal mines in Lancashire to the booming industrial city of Manchester. This canal, which included a large aqueduct over the River Irwell, proved so profitable to the Duke that it encouraged many others to build canals of their own.

Canal Knowledge

Before the development of railroads, canals were the first means of mass transport of goods in Britain. The canal-building craze started by Bridgewater helped to fuel the so-called Industrial Revolution, which saw a change from a primarily agrarian society to one in which trade and manufacturing could be undertaken on a massive scale. The reason for the incredible success of the canal system lay in its great improvement over the traditional method of transporting goods.

While Britain had always relied upon waterways as a means of transport, being surrounded by water and possessing many large navigable rivers, those areas of the country not in proximity to a body of water could be accessed only by road. However, roads at that time were mostly built of mud, and could become impassible in bad weather. In addition, there was a limit to how much cargo could be transported by horse and cart, usually around one to two tons. In comparison, the new canals could accommodate boats carrying 30 tons, with only one horse needed to pull the load as it walked beside the boat on specially created towpaths. This dramatically increased the rate at which goods could be shipped, and brought incredible profits to the companies that operated the canals.

There were limitations to this mode of transport, though; in order to save costs, canals were often built quite narrow. This meant only specially designed “narrow boats” could navigate the canals. In addition, because canals are constructed bodies of water with no current, the speed of travel was limited to the speed of the “horsepower” involved, although this problem was less prominent in later years as steam and electric powered boats were developed.

Gradually, with the rise of the railroad, the canal system came to be less and less economically viable. Although the canals were still in commercial use well into the 20th century, their dominance was greatly overshadowed by other modes of transport. Unlike other European countries, such as France, Germany, and the Netherlands, which modernized their canal systems to accommodate larger vessels, the British system did not undergo the same kind of overhaul and fell more and more into disuse.

Fortunately, the canal system in Britain was reborn in the 1960s and ’70s when it came to be associated with holiday travel. Now these historic canals are frequently used by boaters and tour operators seeking a new form of vacation activity.

Canal Retentive

The first commercial canal built by Bridgewater was designed by James Brindley, a man with very little formal education, but who nonetheless went on to become one of the best-known engineers of the 18th Century. Following in his footsteps, Thomas Telford was only four years old when the Bridgewater canal was opened, but came to prominence after he oversaw the construction of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct from 1795 to 1805.

The aqueduct has many notable features, including its great length (1007 feet; about 300m), its structural ingenuity (in its use of tapered support columns), and the construction of the metal trough in which the water is carried. In order to reduce the weight of the masonry pillars, they were built wider at the bottom than at the top, allowing the aqueduct to reach a great height. The masonry was held in place by a mortar made of lime, water, and ox blood. The metal trough carrying the water (and the boats) was built from cast iron sections joined together and caulked using flannel dipped in boiling sugar, and then sealed with lead.

Canal Plus

In 2005, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct celebrated its 200th Anniversary, and in recognition of its cultural importance, was submitted to UNESCO as a potential World Heritage Site (which it was awarded in 2009). Like the Pont du Gard, it receives many visitors and has become a significant tourist attraction. Boat rides along the aqueduct are popular, often traveling to and from the town of Llangollen, the site of the International Eisteddfod, a music festival that takes place every year in July.

As with the Pont du Gard, a purely commercial endeavor has now become something to celebrate. Although the canal system, including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, no longer drives the economic engine of Britain, the ingenuity of those who designed these marvels continues to amaze and inspire all who see them.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on Interesting Thing of the Day on June 21, 2006.

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Author: Morgen Jahnke

Divorce: Should you sell the house?

So, you’ve decided to move forward with divorce. This will impact your life in many ways, and one of the most significant changes will be to your finances. You will have to adjust your lifestyle and make other changes in order to suit your new situation. Despite these things, you may want to try and keep your family home in your divorce.

Your house is probably the most valuable asset you and your spouse have. Deciding what will happen to the house is one of the most common sources of disagreement in a divorce, but you may think that it will be best for you and your children to remain in the home. If this is the right choice, there are multiple things you will want to consider before you move forward.

Things to think about before buying

You probably have a strong emotional attachment to your family home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should try to keep it. You will need to consider your post-divorce income and whether you can afford things like taxes, upkeep, HOA payments and more. If you can afford to do so, you may be able to try and buy out your spouse’s share of the family home. 

Buying out your spouse’s share is possible, but it can be a complex situation to navigate. First of all, your spouse will probably need to agree to that. After that, you may be able to negotiate payment in lieu of other assets, a lump-sum payment or other means. Additional factors to consider include:

  • Mortgage – Do you know what kind of mortgage you will need and how much payments will be? Do you have preapproval?
  • Equity – How much equity is in the home? This will determine how much you owe your spouse.
  • Interest – Have interest rates changed since you originally purchased the home? It is possible this could change your payment amount.
  • Refinancing – You may be able to refinance your home in only your name after the divorce process is final. 

It’s smart to consider the financial implications of all the choices you make during your divorce process. If you want to keep the family home, it’s smart to be certain that this will truly be best long-term. Before you agree to anything or move forward with an important decision, you may want to discuss your case with an experienced Texas family law attorney.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Mother who abducted child and then tried to hide her ordered to return her to Australia

As any regular reader of this blog will be aware, reports of cases involving children are usually anonymised to protect the privacy of the child. However, there are occasions when the court decides that it is appropriate to release full details of the case. One such occasion is when the whereabouts of the child are unknown and the court decides to release details in an effort to locate the child.

That is what occurred in the recent case Uhd v McKay, which concerned an application by a father for the summary return of his three year old daughter Ruby to Australia.

There is quite a lot going on in this case, but I don’t need to discuss it all for the purposes of this post. I will not therefore be going through all of the details of the case, but if you are interested you can read the full judgment here.

The essential facts of the case were as follows. The father is an Australian national. The mother is a British national but has lived in Australia for about the last 22 years. They began cohabiting in November 2012 and married in April 2013. Their daughter, Ruby, was born in December 2015, although by that time the marriage had broken down and the parents separated.

On the 22nd of September 2018 the mother removed Ruby from Australia without the father’s consent, and brought her to England. She then bought a camper van and proceeded to tour the country with Ruby, eventually ending up in the Outer Hebrides, where she lived for two months during October and November 2018.

The father eventually found out that the mother had brought Ruby to this country. He therefore commenced proceedings under the Hague Convention on Child Abduction for Ruby’s summary return to Australia. As Ruby’s whereabouts were not known, Mr Justice Keehan made an order permitting details of the case to be reported in the media, in an effort to locate her. After extensive media coverage, Ruby was located, and the father’s application was set down for hearing.

The mother opposed the application, relying on the exception provided by Article 13(b) of the Convention, namely that to order the summary return of Ruby to Australia would result in a grave risk of exposure to physical or psychological harm, or otherwise place Ruby in an intolerable situation. In seeking to make good that exception, the mother made extensive complaints regarding the conduct of the father during the course of their relationship, and thereafter within the context of extensive proceedings in Australia relating to Ruby’s welfare, which proceedings remain ongoing in that jurisdiction.

The matter was heard by Mr Justice MacDonald in the High Court. His conclusions were quite clear. He said:

“I am satisfied that the mother’s actions in removing Ruby from the jurisdiction of Australia represented a blatant and premeditated act of child abduction. That conclusion is reinforced by the fact that having abducted Ruby from the jurisdiction of Australia, the mother sought to go to ground in the Outer Hebrides in an effort, I am satisfied, to avoid detection … this court is also left with the strong impression that thereafter the mother sought before this court to distort and misrepresent the facts in this case with the aim of bringing herself within the exception provided by Article 13(b) of the 1980 Convention.”

The mother’s Article 13(b) ‘defence’ was not made out, and therefore Mr Justice MacDonald ordered the summary return of Ruby to the jurisdiction of Australia. Any disputes between the parents regarding Ruby’s welfare would be determined by the courts of Australia, the jurisdiction of Ruby’s habitual residence.

Hopefully, this case will act as a warning against parents seeking to avoid the law in the way that the mother did here. The arm of the law is long, and such actions are ultimately only likely to make matters worse.

I should point out that Mr Justice Keehan’s order did not mean that this final judgment need not be anonymised. However, Mr Justice MacDonald took the practical view that, having regard to the extensive information that had already been placed in the public domain by that order, he was satisfied that this judgment should be published without being anonymised.

The post Mother who abducted child and then tried to hide her ordered to return her to Australia appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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Author: John Bolch

Do we really need an inquiry into the ‘secret family courts’?

It is, it would appear at least for now, an academic question, after the Prime Minister rejected calls for it at Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday, but it is still worth asking: do we really need a public inquiry into the so-called ‘secret family courts’?

First let’s just remind ourselves who asked for an inquiry, and why. On the 15th of May a group of 123 MPs from across the House of Commons wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke informing him that they are “campaigning for a simple amendment to the Children’s Act, which would remove the automatic parental rights of those who have fathered a child though rape.” They went on: “None of us want to believe that the rule of law and the justice system in this country, of which we are proud, can be used as a weapon to traumatise victims.” And then they got to their point:

“The lack of transparency in the family courts, while essential in maintaining the privacy of families and children, does not allow scrutiny and masks decisions that are made contrary to the interests of victims of domestic abuse, rape and violence, or their children. We are therefore calling for an independent inquiry into the treatment of victims of domestic abuse and violence in the family courts to establish the extent of the problem [i.e. of courts granting contact to parents who are known to be abusive] and if more fundamental reform is required to address the issue.”

The letter was referred to by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire current affairs programme as part of a special investigation into the family courts that it ran last week, and was mentioned in a story on the BBC News website, under the heading “Call for inquiry into abusive parents’ access to children”. The story also mentioned another eye-catching fact: “At least four children have been killed by a parent in the past five years after a family court granted access.”

Informed readers will spot three errors in the above. Two of them may be considered minor: it is the ‘Children Act’ not the ‘Children’s Act’, and the term ‘access’ has long since been replaced by the term ‘contact’. However, the third error could be rather more significant: there is no such thing as ‘parental rights’. This is important, as it is a very common misconception that parents have ‘rights’ in connection with their children, in particular a right to have contact with them. They do not. Whether or not a court orders that a parent should have contact with their child is determined solely by reference to what is best for the welfare of the child, not by any ‘rights’ of the parent. Yes, it is true that the law operates on the presumption that, unless the contrary is shown, involvement of the parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare, but there is no ‘automatic’ right of any parent to have contact with their child.

OK, so do we really need an inquiry?

Obviously the central issue is the number of ‘errors’ that the courts are making (i.e. putting a child in danger by ordering contact with an abusive parent): are they enough to warrant the expense of an inquiry? Well, I think we need a little perspective. In the last five (complete) years the family courts have made orders involving 862,304 children. Four children to have been killed during that time by a parent granted contact is four too many, but it is an extremely tiny fraction (by my calculation 0.0005%) of the number of children that the courts deal with. Obviously, there may be other deaths that have not been recorded. There will also be other cases in which children have been injured or abused by a parent who has been granted contact. But realistically, how many are we talking about?

And anyway just what more can be done to reduce the number of errors? Yes, the system can be improved – it always can. For example, further efforts can be made to ensure judges are aware of the issues. But surely most judges are already fully aware? It is not as if the risk of abusive parents has just come to light. It has been known about for many years, during which time there have been many initiatives to address it. A further initiative in the form of a public inquiry may or may not help, but any improvement is only going to be marginal.

I’m not being complacent here. The ‘welfare’ test referred to above already includes the risk of the child suffering harm. The incidence of domestic abuse is already fully recognised as an indicator of possible risk, and is therefore considered very seriously by the courts, and fully taken into account when the court makes its decision on whether to order contact, and what type of contact to order.

Yes, mistakes are made (and hindsight is a wonderful thing), but judges dealing with contact disputes face an extremely difficult task. Remember, for example, that many ‘custodial’ parents will invent or exaggerate allegations of abuse in order to deny contact. Remember also that judges are under enormous pressure to ensure that non-custodial parents are not wrongly denied contact with their children. These things will not change as a result of any reforms to the system.

And lastly there is the cost of any inquiry. The Leveson Inquiry cost £5 million, and other inquiries have cost much more. Surely, that kind of money would be far better spent on providing the system with the resources it so desperately needs to do the job it has been tasked with doing. After all, the system is now under incredible pressure with increasing workloads, which are themselves likely to increase the incidence of error.

In short, I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with the Prime Minister: there is no evidence to suggest that a public inquiry, with the expense that that entails, is necessary.

The post Do we really need an inquiry into the ‘secret family courts’? appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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Author: John Bolch

The Fata Morgana Effect

Fata Morgana seen on Norwegian coast: Just the hardly visible crest is on real position.

Fairy castles in the air

When people accuse you of building castles in the air, they are not usually congratulating you on an incredible engineering feat, but more likely trying to bring you back down to earth with a thud. Synonymous with daydreams, pipe dreams, and all other dreams unlikely to come to fruition, castles in the air are at best a hopeful vision, and at worst, a hopeless illusion.

Although the phrase “castles in the air” (the original phrase was “castles in Spain”) is most often used to describe imaginary constructions, it can also be used to describe a very real optical phenomenon—the fata morgana effect—in which different levels of hot and cold air distort the appearance of objects on the horizon to make them look like, well, castles in the air.

Tempting Fata

Fata Morgana is the Italian name for Morgan le Fay, the half-sister of King Arthur in Arthurian legend. Reputedly a sorceress and able to change shape at will, Morgan le Fay was sometimes said to live below the sea in a crystal palace that could also rise above the surface. The fata morgana effect was so named for the superstitious belief among sailors that she created illusory visions to lure men into a false port and to their death. The term first entered English usage in 1818, when it was used to describe an occurrence of the phenomenon in the Strait of Messina, a narrow body of water between Sicily and the region of Calabria in southern Italy.

Technically, fata morganas are a type of mirage, related to those visions of water in the desert, or less exotically, to those seeming pools of water on the highway on a hot day. However, the latter two are examples of inferior mirages, while fata morganas are classified as superior mirages. It’s not that fata morganas are inherently better than the others; the difference lies in the way each mirage is produced.

Refract Up

Although the word mirage is derived from the French verb se mirer, meaning “to be reflected,” a more apt description of a mirage is that it is refracted. As light passes through layers of air with varying densities (density being determined by factors such as pressure and temperature), it bends, or more specifically, refracts, according to each layer’s characteristics.

In the case of inferior mirages, light bends upwards when it moves from a denser layer of cold air into a less dense layer of hot air, like that created above a highway on a hot day. As light hits the surface of the road and bends upwards, it looks to our eyes as if we are seeing a reflection in the road of what is just above it—in this case, the blue sky. This is because we perceive that light travels in a straight line to our eyes, even when that is factually not so.

Lake Superior

A superior mirage is the reverse of this; what we perceive to be higher in the sky is actually lower to the ground. Light is bent downwards when it hits a layer of cold air, making it appear as if what is below our sight line is actually straight ahead or above us because we are seeing the inverted image of what is on the horizon projected above it. This can be further complicated when there are multiple layers of hot and cold air, creating a highly distorted image as the light refracts through them.

Superior mirages occur wherever the surface temperature is colder than the air above it, usually over bodies of water and areas with ice or snow on the ground. The term fata morgana is most often used to describe superior mirages occurring over water. In these instances, objects on the horizon, such as ships, islands, cliffs, or icebergs, appear taller than they are because their inverted image is reflected above or superimposed on them. This elongation of objects on the horizon may make it appear as if there are turrets or towers rising up from the water, leading to the description of fata morganas as castles in the air.

As this effect can occur with ships, making them look higher above the horizon than they are, some have speculated that this is the origin of the Flying Dutchman legend, in which a ghostly ship is doomed to sail the seas for eternity.

There are many other types of superior mirages; one of them, the fata bromosa, or “fairy fog,” is created under the same conditions as the fata morgana, but has a different appearance. It appears as a bank of fog, with varying degrees of brightness, but without the fine detail of the fata morgana.

Fata Complete

Since its introduction into regular usage, the term fata morgana has come to mean more than just an optical phenomenon; although it has kept its original meaning of referring to something that is illusory, its use has been expanded throughout popular culture. It provided the title for a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, an 1868 polka by Johann Strauss, and an Agatha Christie crime novel. It’s the name of a French publishing house, a character in Sergei Prokofiev’s opera, The Love for Three Oranges, and a film by Werner Herzog composed solely of desert landscape images.

The enduring popularity of the term shows how compelling it is as an idea—that there are mysterious phenomena, benign or malevolent, that are beyond our understanding. Or it may be that we continue to be enamored of our castles in the air, despite the knowledge of their illusory nature, as the last stanzas of Longfellow’s poem conclude:

So I wander and wander along,
And forever before me gleams

The shining city of song,
In the beautiful land of dreams.

But when I would enter the gate
Of that golden atmosphere,
It is gone, and I wonder and wait
For the vision to reappear.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on Interesting Thing of the Day on July 24, 2006.

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Author: Morgen Jahnke

Take Control of Your Digital Storage

Take Control of Your Digital Storage cover

This week, another book just for Mac users! As the amount of data we store continues to grow, figuring out where to put it and how to access it becomes more complicated. Every Mac includes internal storage in the form of a hard drive, SSD, or Fusion drive. But you may also have one or more external devices (such as hard drives, flash drives, SD cards, or RAID devices), not to mention network-attached storage (NAS) devices or cloud storage (like Dropbox or iCloud Drive). Making sense of all your options, managing your stored data, choosing new devices or services when you’re running out of space, or even just figuring out what’s where can drive anyone to distraction.

Jeff Carlson covers all this and much, much more in his book Take Control of Your Digital Storage. For example, the book helps you choose a new (internal or external) hard drive, SSD, or hybrid drive; determine how much storage space you need; understand APFS, Apple’s new filesystem; format, partition, and repair disks using Disk Utility; choose and use a NAS, RAID, flash drive, or SD card for use with your Mac; work with disk images; and decide among local, network, and cloud storage for various types of files.

This book, like all Take Control titles, comes as an ebook, and you can download any combination of formats—PDF, EPUB, and/or Kindle’s Mobipocket format—so you can read it on pretty much any computer, smartphone, tablet, or ebook reader. The cover price is $14.99, but as an Interesting Thing of the Day reader, you can buy it this week for 30% off, or just $10.49.

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Author: Joe Kissell

Out with the Old and In with the New Books!

For a while, there’s been a project I wanted to get done, but it was very daunting. The bookshelf in my kids’ room was so beyond horrible, stuffed to the gills, books shoved in every which way and on top of each other. I love reading, but seeing that bookshelf that way made me not even want to touch it, because I could never find what I wanted, and the likelihood of things coming tumbling

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Author: Penniless Parenting

Smart Ways to Invest Your Money in 2019

If you work hard and earn money, then budget well and don’t spend so much, you might be lucky enough to end up with a nest egg of money, some savings. You can just keep it in the bank where you may earn a small percent interest, or you can make your money work for you and bring in larger returns via investing. This post by Nancy Evans gives some ideas how you can do that.

There are a number

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Author: Penniless Parenting

A family pet or the beneficiary of your father’s entire estate…

When German designer Karl Lagerfeld sadly passed away earlier this year, the media reported that ‘many’ people were concerned about the fate of his beloved pet cat Choupette.

Well, it seems they should not have been as media reports suggest that she has been named in Lagerfeld’s will. The feline could be set to receive a portion of the estate, which is estimated to be worth more than £150 million in total.

So, we asked Theo Hoppen, our inheritance law expert to join us on the blog to look at what provision you can make for pets in your Will in England & Wales.

“I often get asked by clients whether it’s possible to leave money or property to pets in a Will. The short answer is ‘no you can’t as any gifts you make in your Will must go to a human beneficiary however, it is possible to indirectly provide financial support for a beloved pet.

You can create a gift in your Will leaving your pet to an appointed person in the same way that you might leave a family heirloom to someone.  This is because the law regards a pet as a chattel, i.e. an item of property other than freehold land, which means you can gift it to someone else.  If no one is able or willing to look after your pet, it can be left to an animal charity to look after.

When advising clients, I always recommend that they speak to the person who they want to care for the pet, so they can check that they are willing to look after them.

People can also consider providing the nominated pet owner with a cash sum or set up a Trust to cover the cost of caring for the pet. A sensible move is to make any cash gift conditional that they look after your pet when you die.  Unfortunately, they are not legally obliged to spend the money on the animal and can use the money as they ‘see fit’.

Like the Karl Lagerfeld story, you often read about people leaving their fortune to their pets but it’s not possible in this country to leave a cash gift directly or transfer assets to a pet. (It is reported this can be feasible under German law.) Thankfully this is the case, as unsurprisingly, an animal cannot open a bank account or manage the money.

If you would like to provide provision and care for your pet, you will need a Will or update your existing one to ensure they are looked after to your wishes. You can get make a quick enquiry here or use the contact details below.”

The post A family pet or the beneficiary of your father’s entire estate… appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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Author: Theo Hoppen