Travel Stories

They Don’t Call Me Jodrell Bank Ears For Nothing, You Know!

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The first nights sleep in a different place is normally interrupted and not particularly easy or enjoyable. Every sound wakes me, nothing feels right. Not at Willington Hall. I sunk like a heavy weight (true, and full of food!) into the giant, welcoming bed, and fell into a comfortable and deep sleep. I woke naturally, with the soft sound of rain falling outside, the occasional bird song, and otherwise, silence. I have never stayed anywhere more quiet.

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You know how sometimes you wake up singing a random song? This morning mine was, ’N n no, no, no, no place I’d rather be!’ (Clean Bandit, innit?) I laughed at myself and my appropriate morning theme tune.

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We rolled down the stairs to breakfast. Full English for Adam (no beans, no tomatoes), and Eggs Benedict for me. This is where I realised that I am a terrible creature of habit. The Eggs Benedict had changed! Perhaps if I’d not slept like a baby I’d not feel like a baby when I looked on at my delicious, but ‘wrong’, breakfast. The ham was wrong, where was my ham? What have you done with my muffin? Adam had no answers.

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It was a good Eggs Benedict – thin circles of white toast, waves of parma ham, fresh runny egg, and tangy hollandaise sauce. Had I known nothing else, this would have been most excellent, eggcellent. But I’d expected something different, and I couldn’t be consoled. I’ll liken it to the time Adam thought someone had put black grapes on his pizza (he was a child) but when he bit into the sweet grape it had the taste of a thousand chlorinated swimming pools, it was an olive! Now, an olive is a delicious thing, but not when you think it’s a grape.

Anyway! With our breakfasts eaten, and the rain falling, we ventured out into the world, and off to Jodrell Bank.

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My mum used to call me Jodrell-Bank-ears when I was a kid. It wasn’t an aesthetic thing, more of a range and audible scale thing. I heard everything. I also kept notes of what I heard in my Keep Out! notebook with the pop-up spider in the front.

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The Lovell Telescope is an incredible piece of engineering, and is Grade 1 listed. It’s pretty impressive to think it was built in the 1950’s and is still working and making new discoveries, it tracked the space race (including space dogs!), it’s the third largest steerable radio dish telescope in the world, and is the centre for MERLIN, the Multi Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network.

Interferometer, what a marvellous word!

I learnt lots of wonderful things, but I’m not going to tell you them here, just incase we are on opposite teams in a pub quiz one day and I need an advantage.

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The beautifully named Whispering Dishes. So cleverly simple. Two mini parabolas facing each other – you whisper into the centre of one, the shape focuses the waves and sends them in a direct line to the opposite dish, where the other person is ready to receive your insults/profound statements and hears you perfectly clearly, as if you were stood right in front of them. That’s how the Lovell Telescope works.  Bloody amazing.

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As the rain stopped, the sun came out. We headed back to Willington Hall, and spotted this marvellous bread conveyor belt on the way…