Dennis Country

Dennis Country

Welcome to my blog ...

Please send me an email if you wish to leave a comment. My website includes sections on the environment, green woodworking and some industrial history photos from Gwent, UK.

ParcelForce and Post Office - a weak combination!

Shopping - FinancePosted by Dennis Hopkins Fri, May 13, 2016 10:52PM
- but strong in making me lose money and time, wish I'd seen reviews of ParcelForce beforehand ...

I sent a largish item within size/weight limits by ParcelForce (PF), for collection at a specified Post Office. This is what happened:
1. I specified collection 0900-1400 26/4/16, it was collected 1812
2. I could not enter recipients required post office depot for delivery, only 4 presented on PF website
3. The selected post office refused to accept delivery on 27/4/16, although parcel was within weight and size restrictions
4. There was no warning on PF website of potential refusal to accept by Post Office
5. The tracking information repeatedly referred to Returned to Sender, rather than being held at a depot, seemed very keen to return rather than trying to resolve. Note the 1 minute lapse between returning to depot and returning to sender!

6. I managed to get PF to attempt a second delivery, when this failed parcel was returned to me.
7. ParcelForce sent an email to the recipient that the parcel was ready for collection 5/5/16 10:40, was delivered to me one minute later at 10:41. It couldn't be collected, it was on a van, and no point notifying the recipient, it was being delivered back to the sender 130 miles away!
The "Force" wasn't with me here, lost money and time. Claiming for compensation looks very time consuming, all the details have to be entered again, they know all that from the parcel and invoice number, obviously an attempt to deter claims.

UPS, via the Parcel2Go website, successfully delivered parcel on the second attempt (when recipient wasn't available 1st time). There was no immediate decision to return to sender.

ParcelForce have denied my claim saying that the recipient refused delivery. Not correct, didn't read my claim notes, their Post Office "partner" refused delivery. To be continued-

After sending ParcelForce another message, this time with salient details in capital letters, and repeated, they say "Having reviewed the details of your appeal i have arranged to reopen and pay your claim for a postage refund". Since the details of the claim were the the same as before, they either ignored them the first time, or refused the claim on the same evidence presented when they accepted it - interesting. I wonder if they do this for every claim.

Received refund of postage only (2 months later, consequential costs refused, as expected)

Hawthorn in wildlife friendly garden

ConservationPosted by Dennis Hopkins Fri, May 13, 2016 02:49PM
About 25 years ago I found a hawthorn tree growing from a seed, dropped by a bird I guess. I transplanted it into a border, and now the trunk is about 7 inches (17 cm) diameter, but it's not very tall. With pruning and training (I'm not sure how), it's become a low pollard at about 3 feet, with dense growth to 6 feet. In the photo, the trunk is about one third from the right, branches extend to the upper left along the trellis.

This thorny tree growth is popular with birds, especially with peanut/seed feeders nearby. It gives them some protection from cats and other predators. I just trim the "hedge" section once a year, wearing heavy duty leather gloves of course. Hawthorn is relatively slow growing at this altitude (850 feet), and can be shaped by severe pruning if necessary. It usually produces flowers and berries on the previous years growth. Another bonus, it doesn't spread by producing "suckers" or from bits of stem lying on the ground, unlike blackthorn and some willows etc..

Cheap Extractor Fan Filter

MiscellaneousPosted by Dennis Hopkins Thu, March 03, 2016 09:10PM
After a few years one of my ceiling extractor fans wasn't working well, and I found that the fan and ducting had become clogged with fibres drawn in through the vent. It was hard work to remove and clean the fan and replace the ducting, so I decided to put a simple filter behind the ceiling vent to reduce the need for maintenance. For a filter, I used a couple of cable ties and some mesh similar to that used to package fruit (in this case the mesh packaging of a new duct section). The photo below shows the "press fit" filter in place in the frame of the ceiling duct - some fibres have been caught after a period of use.
Of course it's important to ensure that the "filter" cannot impact the fan blades - here the tension of the cable ties holds the mesh in place at the start of a 1 metre long duct. I made a second filter, shown in comparison with the partially clogged one in the photo below.

Argos Online – Didn’t Work Well For Me

Shopping - FinancePosted by Dennis Hopkins Sun, January 10, 2016 10:38PM
7 Jan 2016: I ordered a washing machine and the recycling of the old one. I was disappointed that a new machine was not delivered on 8th Jan., but Argos did achieve taking the old one away. Their website does not make it easy to view order status, but it became apparent that the order for the new machine was lost (while Argos retained the money). After numerous phone calls another "order" of mine was found, which was for two delivery charges of £499.96 (see photo), a bit excessive considering there was a special offer of free delivery! The help line operator admitted there was a problem, and said they will deliver in a few days. In the meantime I’ve made a note: “DO NOT USE ARGOS ONLINE, DELETE ACCOUNT”

Update 19 Jan 2016: The washing machine was delivered and works fine. However for the warranty to be valid I need an Argos sales invoice which they failed to provide. Argos customer services say contact the washing machine manufacturer. Now I'm trying to convince Argos that they should provide the sales invoice, this may take some time. The Argos website has very limited functionality, but it's possible to find an order summary if you know the order number.

Update 23 Jan 2016: I received a sales invoice by email today.

Pale Tussock Moth Caterpillar

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Wed, October 28, 2015 12:55AM
I was surprised to find this very striking moth caterpillar (Pale Tussock, Calliteara pudibunda) inside an inverted wheelbarrow in south east Wales (elevation approx 1000 feet, 300m). I only had an old style mobile phone with me, so it's a poor image. A Google search for information and photos is here. This website has very good photos, and the adult moth is also impressive. It seems the species is "fairly common" in England and Wales, but a sighting made it into a local newspaper (South Wales Evening Post, with incorrect adult photo). When moving, black markings can be seen between the bright yellow segments, along with what looks like an erect red "tail". I moved it to a safer place while wearing gloves, just as well because handling can cause skin problems.

Ruin on Cefn Crib Mountain, Pontypool

HistoryPosted by Dennis Hopkins Mon, August 24, 2015 10:31PM
I recently visited an outline building ruin to the west of Pontypool (ST 24100 99720; Lat, Long: 51.691062°, -3.099337°). It was built of double coursed bricks, an approximate octagonal shape, with attached rectangular outline shaped walls. Please click the images below for larger versions (these open in a new window or tab).
I wondered initially if this ruin may have been a gun emplacement, or something to do with a nearby old coal level. It's curious that it's not shown on any maps I've found so far, except for the highest resolution of a current online Ordnance Survey map.
The octagonal shape reminded me of Pontypool Folly, which was demolished in 1940 to stop it being used as a landmark for German bombers targeting Glascoed munitions factory. Was this a "replica" Pontypool Folly built in WW2 to confuse German war planes? Perhaps the answer is in a local history book I haven't read yet.
1 Sept 2015: There is a platform about 120m away constructed of similar bricks and reinforced concrete (photo below). The commanding position at over 1200 ft ASL, with long range 360 degree view, suggests that this would probably have been a good place for a WW2 anti aircraft gun.
8 Oct. 2015: Thanks to Phil Jenkins (website) for making enquiries, and information received from a number of people, it seems likely that the octagonal ruin was a WW2 RAF watch tower / lookout post. Also that searchlight(s) and anti-aircraft gun(s) were located in the area in WW2, my guess possibly on the recangular hard standing. The octagonal ruin is a similar shape to a Type 27 WW2 pillbox, but I didn't see evidence of a roof. That may have been recycled, but having no roof would be useful for spotting aeroplanes! Differing from the pillbox, Phil pointed out that northern wall is in two overlapping sections, to provide a recessed entrance (presumably) - this can be seen on Google Earth images. Some photos taken of the views surrounding this site are available here.

I hope I've summarised the information correctly, and would be happy to include any further comments (with credit). In that case please send me an email

Stock Fence Strainer Post Strut

MiscellaneousPosted by Dennis Hopkins Fri, July 31, 2015 10:15AM
In this thrilling installment I've included a couple of photos of my trial of a way of installing a straining post strut, based on a method described in the Forestry Commission online booklet "Technical Guide - Forest Fencing" (60 pages, not fully studied yet). In this method the strut is not embedded in the ground. I placed the end of the strut on a flat stone, secured with a nail through the "thrust plate" stake. The stake is tensioned towards the straining post using strands of wire, but there seems to be an error in Fig. 5a on page 7 of the document - the wire should be on each side of the strut.

I thought an advantage of this method was that the strut may be less liable to rot, and the wire could help prevent the strut slipping laterally. I'm not sure about using a nail to fix the strut to the stake, but I used one having pre-drilled the stake to reduce any tendency for it to split. A possible disadvantage to consider is that animals may get caught in the straining wire, but a section of stock wire could be fixed to the normally unwired side. As usual, I failed to line up the struts on the straining post, but perhaps that may weaken it less.
Note: This was part of a relatively short fence (10m + 30m) which didn't require a very high tension, hence the small diameter straining post and short struts).

Eclipse 2015

MiscellaneousPosted by Dennis Hopkins Fri, March 20, 2015 07:33PM
I snapped this image of the partial eclipse in south Wales on 20 March 2015 at about 9:14am. I held binoculars in one hand to project an image onto a garden bench, camera in the other hand - surprisingly something recognisable was captured!

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