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Returning to Manchester and work on cosmic ray showers


My love of the countryside and trees
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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I was brought up in the country, love the country. I always disliked towns. I like going to London or New York, but after a few days or nights, I want to get back to the country. And that when we... we bought the place I'm speaking from now, the Quinta in Swettenham, in 1948 and that has been a wonderful place for me and for us. The remainder of our children were born here and are still living happily in various parts of this country now, though they've often been abroad. Unfortunately, my wife became ill and she... she died in 1993, and since then I've been living here alone, but I do have many friends and am very happy to... to be able to carry on in this way.

The other great passion in my life has been trees and shrubs, and when we arrived at the Quinta in 1948, we found that this had been built as a rectory in I think 1911. The rector of the parish, a man by the name of Banners... his great desire was to marry a girl who lived in Congleton, and her condition of marriage was that he would build her a house exactly the same as the one she lived in in Congleton, and that was the Quinta. Well, we changed it quite a bit. The house with the same name in Congleton has now been taken down and built over but in the nearby town of Congleton, there are various roads and a school called The Quinta.

Now, here at the Quinta, we bought it and it was about four acres and I began planting and we gradually acquired more and more land, and throughout the whole of my life after the war the planting of trees and shrubs has been a tremendous relief. In fact, as you know, I gave the BBC Reith lectures in 1958 I think it was and the kind reviewer said that they'd been written over the spade, a truism, because mainly one sorts out many difficult and intellectual problems when one is not thinking about them. Anyhow we gradually extended the arboretum here and at the present time it's about 40 acres, contains three national collections of the genus pine, a fraction of the ash, and the oaks. And about ten years ago... in fact when my wife died, I wanted to... I couldn't bear to think that when I died that a bulldozer will come in and uproot all those trees, so I handed over all but five acres to the Wildlife Trust, and they in turn shared it with the Tatton Garden Society, of which I happen to be President. So at the present moment I am really in charge of only this house and a few acres around it, but nevertheless, I'm deeply involved with the arboretum and now I like to walk in it and plant every day, and that is my habit now. I like to work in the garden in the morning and go to Jodrell in the afternoon. So that's the sort of background which I've enjoyed and very glad to have done so.

I also, having lived through so long and for so much of the 20th Century, in spite of all its troubles and difficulties and near disasters, some of which I'm still going to talk about, which happened after the war... nevertheless, it's been a privilege to see such an enormous developments. Look, I was in my youth as a young boy happily sitting on an edging stone playing five stones, rolling hoops along the village lanes, no motor cars, one aircraft and absolutely rarity and now look at the world. I mean, in my village you have to be very careful to cross the road, and the aircraft has a monopoly of life, but to have lived from the time when those things did not exist, to this age, this technological age has been quite a remarkable experience. Now, my own children, they're... alas a year ago my eldest daughter died. She was the matriarch of the family, but the rest of them are still alive and well. I've got no... there's no scientist. My eldest son, he became a geologist and, in fact, still divides his time between the Bullard Geological Laboratories in Cambridge and is still working for one of the oil firms, BP. And so that has been the background to my life and all that I'm talking about. All that I have talked about so far and all that I'm going to talk about now.

Bernard Lovell (1913-2012), British radio astronomer and founder of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, received an OBE in 1946 for his work on radar, and was knighted in 1961 for his contribution to the development of radio astronomy. He obtained a PhD in 1936 at the University of Bristol. His steerable radio telescope, which tracked Sputnik across the sky, is now named the Lovell telescope.

Listeners: Alastair Gunn Megan Argo

Alastair Gunn is an astrophysicist at Jodrell Bank Observatory, University of Manchester. He is responsible for the coordination and execution of international radio astronomical observations at the institute and his professional research concerns the extended atmospheres of highly active binary stars. Alastair has a deep interest and knowledge of the history of radio astronomy in general and of Jodrell Bank in particular. He has written extensively about Jodrell Bank's history.

Megan Argo is an astronomer at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory researching supernovae and star formation in nearby starburst galaxies. As well as research, she is involved with events in the Observatory's Visitor Centre explaining both astronomy and the history of the Observatory to the public.

Tags: London, New York, Swettenham, Congleton, BBC, Reith lectures, Tatton Garden Society, Wildlife Trust, Jodrell Bank, Bullard Geological Laboratories, Cambridge, BP

Duration: 6 minutes, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008