Monday, March 06, 2017

A men's magazine location, some Roman ruins and an African steamboat

Yesterday I had to go over to my sister's house to sign some papers to do with selling a flat we had bought to provide income to pay for my mother's care home bills.  As it was, despite the typically gloomy BBC weather forecast, a nice afternoon we went over to Virginia Water which is part of Windsor Great Park.  We have both been going there for as long as we can remember (at least fifty years, we thought) and my sister runs there most weekends but I hadn't been there since the children were little.   

My favourite part when I was small was the waterfall (or cascade as they call it) which is a splendid but artificial structure.  It is at its best when, as yesterday, there has been a lot of rain. Originally built in 1750, it was washed away in a storm and was rebuilt into its current ten metre high form in 1788.

More than fifty years ago a pictorial and the cover shot were done here for the second issue of a brand new men's magazine.  Scottish girl Linda Richie, Penthouse's second Pet of the Month, was photographed by Bob Guccione, cavorting around the cascade in rather less clothes than she wears on the cover.  For an undressed, NSFW shot you will have to go over to Legatus' Wargames Ladies!  This issue, Volume 1 number 2, appeared for  April/May 1965. The two month issue was caused by having to find a new printer for issue 3, as the first two had sold so fast the numbers required had overwhelmed the original printer.

I took this picture yesterday of the area where Miss Richie posed for the cover.  It's the top corner of the general view in the third picture up.  I am sure that the Crown Estate didn't give Penthouse (which was already notorious before it even launched - Guccione having been fined £600 for distributing flyers containing pictures of naked ladies in the post to advertise the magazine) permission to shoot here.  However, he later wrote of a shoot he did in Richmond Park (people forget Penthouse was originally launched in Britain and only went over to America in 1969, when Guccione found out he was outselling Playboy to US troops in Vietnam) where his model just wore a raincoat which she had to remove for photos and rapidly put on again if they heard people approaching.  No doubt Miss Richie had to do something similar!

Moving along the shore of the (equally artificial) lake from the cascade you come to an impressive set of Roman ruins.  Now, nearby Staines (or Staines-upon-Thames as it has now been pretentiously rechristened) is an old Roman town, originally called Pontes (and referred to as such in one of Bernard Cornwell's Last Kingdom books) as it was the site of the Romans first permanent ridge over the Thames.  In fact, it is also the Legatus' original home town (my sister still lives there - having previously lived in Sussex, Belgium, Toronto, Islington and Northern Ireland).   These ruins are not from the area's Roman past but were transplanted from the Roman city of Leptis Magna in Libya 

The columns and stones were organised as a gift to the Prince Regent by the British Consul General in Tripoli in 1816.  They spent some time in the British Museum before being transferred on gun carriages to their current site in Windsor Great Park in 1826. 

Since I was last there they have restored and opened to the public another small section of ruins the other side of the road which runs along the back of the site.  This section also includes some stones taken from Carlton House, the Prince Regent's residence in London.  When the Prince Regent came to the throne, as George IV, in 1820 he decided that Carlton House, which was on Pall Mall, was too small and so commissioned the expansion of Buckingham House into Buckingham Palace and the demolition of Carlton House.  The two expensive terraces of town houses put up on the site of Carlton House were sold and the proceeds used to help pay for Buckingham Palace.

I never went to Leptis Magna when I travelled to Libya, sadly, as it is some way from Tripoli and not something you can do in a spare afternoon.  It is very unlikely I will ever get to the country again, given the terrible state it is in.  I really liked the Libyans who, unlike most North Africans, didn't hassle westerners when visiting.  You could walk around the souk untroubled.  I did get out to another Roman City in Libya, Sabratha, nine years ago.  I went with some colleagues and the four of us had the city to ourselves.  The locals did see us coming, though, and upped the entrance fee to a rip-off 15 pence each.

The lake, which is Virginia Water itself, gives its name to the local town of the same name (Virginia Water, that is (although it does sound like the name of a suffragette) not Lake, which is in the Isle of Wight and features in their dreadful postcards of 'Seven Wonders of the Isle of Wight': 'needles you cannot thread, Cowes you cannot milk, Lake where you don't get your feet wet etc.  Dismal).  Virginia Water is almost entirely populated by golfers and along with Cobham (my local town) became the first towns outside London where the average price of a house is more than £1 million.  Originally there was a stream called the Virginia there but the Duke of Cumberland, when he was the Ranger of the Park, had an ornamental lake dug, reputedly by prisoners from the Jacobite rebellion who were imprisoned nearby.   The lake was much expended after the storm that destroyed the original cascade and is now about four and a half miles around the perimeter.  This makes a nice walk, as we did yesterday, or a good run as my sister does every week in the summer.  Three laps are excellent  training for a half marathon.  I have run the Windsor Great Park half marathon twice (a very long time ago, needless to say).

On location in Virginia Water

While we were walking along the shore my sister mentioned that she had seen a steamboat moored on the lake a couple of years ago when out for a run.  There are no boats on the lake, it was a film set.  Yes, Virginia Water was standing in for the Congo for the Legend of Tarzan back in the summer of 2014.  About a third of the way from the left, on the treeline in the top picture above, you can see the top of the obelisk which is a monument to the Duke of Cumberland.  "The butcher!"  I remember my mother telling me he was called.  "The only way to deal with the Scots," my father used to say.  

In the finished film

I thought that the steamboat was the best thing in The Legend of Tarzan and it made me want to get on and finish the model one I started to make years ago, based on a Gary Chalk design in Wargames Illustrated.

This was the first piece of wargames scenery I had tried to make since some papier mache hills in the early seventies and it says much for Mr Chalk's plans and instructions that it turned out looking reasonably boat like, especially as I changed his design to make my one longer.  It actually doesn't need very much work to finish it and I really should get on with it, as it has been lurking around in this unfinished state for at least ten years.  Basically I just need to do the canopy and dirty it down a bit.  Perfect for Congo!

Unfortunately, there is no place for paddle boats in the North West Frontier and that is what I will carry on focusing on for the next few weeks.


  1. What a great the nicest possible way

  2. a very interesting post. There must be a rush on paddlesteamers as they seem to be appearing everywhere.

  3. Lovely read and nice to revisit places of our youth. I often find these places seem smaller than memory recalls as well.