Tuesday, May 11, 2021

OCCOQUAN REGIONAL PARK, DOWN BY THE RIVER, AND A QUESTION

I have a question for you.  Has anyone had experience with the Live Traffic Feed widget that I have added to my right-hand side bar (scroll down right to the bottom)?  Enjoying geography as I do, I thought it would be interesting to see where everyone came from, but am not sure if it is worth keeping?  I wonder if you could let me know what you think of it in your comment.  Depending on what I can learn means I will either keep it or remove it.  Thanks in advance.

The first bird we found was our popular male Red Cardinal.  The female is also very beautiful but in a more understated way.  She is not like her flashy male counterpart and I enjoy her more muted colors.  She, however, was not seen on this photo op and I was grateful for the male's company.  (This link will take you to a website showing the female, and further down very similar birds.)

I borrowed the following illustration from here, and it has many more photos and more information if you would like to take a look.


This is the bridge I shared in a previous post, and you can see Gregg on the left.  It is between the parking lot and the short walk that takes you across another parking area (for cars and boat trailers this time), and then the river beyond.
It is a very pretty bridge and the new lush green leaves are making it even more so.
An Osprey can be seen sitting on a nest.  I don't know what that white strip is, hopefully not plastic.
It wasn't until I got the photos downloaded that I saw the Osprey, its head just poking above the nest.
A Cormorant  made its way down river also.
A mallard was swimming along at a much slower pace. 
The river was like an airport runway and we were right next to the landing path of the Canadian Geese.
"If we all had as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong."
~Author Unknown~
When a goose gets sick or is wounded, two other geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and provide protection.  They stay with the unhealthy member of the flock until it is either able to fly again or dies. When it is time to launch out, they will join another passing flock or try to catch up with their own."
~Author Unknown~
From our bench we watched as several Great Blue Herons flew down the river also, not all at the same time.
"A heron symbolizes calmness, patience and determination."
~Author Unknown~
These large homes and large boats intrigue me.  I want to go and knock on the door and say hello, who are you and what do you do in life?
When we first moved to Virginia from California over 30 years ago, we looked at a lot of houses.  We almost bought a place on the river in Occoquan.  Nothing as big as these but the commute into DC was too far for hubs way back before retirement.  The house we almost settled on had a sun room overlooking the river.  I think about that house occasionally, but am happy where we ended up.  We have had a good life here and our home fits us like a comfortable old shoe.  
Big boats and little boats mingled.  Families were out in their kayaks.
"I had no plans of any destination.  I wish to flow like a river."
~Lailah Gifty Akita~
"I was still water, held by my surroundings.  I am now a river, carving my own path."
~Scott Stabile~
This must have been where they rented them, unless they had their own. We walked by on the way to the river.
As we were leaving this area we also passed the 100 year old Beehive Kiln, used by prisoners to make bricks for the Occoquan Workhouse and other buildings throughout Northern Virginia and DC.  (The Lorton Reformatory has been closed for several years now.) This kiln and chimney are the last of the nine beehive kilns that once operated here.
As I read here, the reformatory began as a former prison complex established in 1910 for the District of Columbia.  I won't go into great detail but it has quite a history, not pleasant.  However, since it closed in 2001 and has been turned back over to the County of Fairfax, the maximum security wing has been turned into a shopping center, and the old medium-security "Central" facility is now an apartment complex, and the one time chow hall is now a gym.
At the same time we looked at that house I mentioned on the river, we also looked at a new housing community just down the road from here.  They were lovely houses.  There was, however, one name in the area that gave me pause as I read it,  "Prison View Estates".  I remember side-eyeing my sweet other half and asking if there was a prison nearby?  I don't remember his answer.  As we drove down the road my eyes got a little wider at the sight of the large buildings of the reformatory, on both sides of the road.  On one side was the men's section, on the other side was the place for women. 

One side note: my father taught me never to judge others by where they ended up in life, walk a mile in their shoes for a year he used to say.  He also taught my mom, my sister and me a few self-defense moves when we were in our teens (he was a 30-year career police officer).  To this day I am always aware of my surroundings (he sowed those seeds early).  I don't think about it too much now because it became second nature.  A lot of other sage advice on people followed through the years.  It was his mission in life to take care of his girls and teach them a few skills that might help if needed.

On his retirement from the force, a friend and old acquaintance of his asked him to come and work at a practice he had recently opened, a solicitor's (lawyers) office.  We had moved to Devonshire (UK) by that time and lived not too far from Dartmoor Prison.  Dad would often tell me about its history.  Part of his job was to visit clients inside the prison.  He would occasionally take us along and drop my mother, sister and me at the tea room in town, which wasn't too far away.  
We always drove by the entrance as the street we used to get into town took us right by the prison.  That entrance is carved into my memory, as I remember the bell above the old gate vividly.  I suppose it made quite an impression. Dad would warn us every time not to take any photos as we drove by, they weren't allowed.  My finger was itching for the shutter button but a promise was a promise.  On some of these trips we would pass by work crews being marched down the road with their guards. 

From the time dad dropped us off to the time he picked us up, it was usually enough to eat our tea and scones, and look around a couple of shops.  Princetown was a pretty little town and a stop for tourists, many of whom were interested in seeing that old historic prison.  I had heard if there were any escapes, and because of the location, many of them got lost on the moors.  There were bogs and rocky terrain to contend with, and then there was also the fog.  

These two photos above and below were borrowed from the website.  Even though we couldn't take photos of the main entrance, the view of Dartmoor Prison from a distance could be seen over a stone wall high up on a hill.  I have my own photos of it somewhere, from a greater distance than you can see here.  If you go to this website you will read that it was constructed between 1806 and 1809 by local labor, to hold prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars.  It was also used to hold American prisoners from the War of 1812.  (This prison will also be closing in 2023.)
But as I often do, I digress and getting back to where we were over 30 years ago.  My first impression of Lorton Reformatory was that the main building was very formidable looking, a big scary place and the guard towers weren't too far from the road.  They were close enough if I remember correctly, that we could see the guards at the top of those towers.  We passed by many times over the years, whenever we traveled in that direction on weekend road trips down south. 

My dear hubs had thought it would be a good idea to look at these houses.  I wasn't sure and was non-committal but I could already feel my heels digging so far down into the dirt, that in reality that dirt would have been over my knees and sinking deeper the more I thought about it.  

I remember clearly our conversation on this subject, going back and forth for a few days, and what sealed the deal to the 'nay', was the news that two men had escaped and police had closed off the neighborhood we had been looking at.  This wasn't the first time as others had gone over the wall before.  That was enough for me. We didn't buy that house either.  Gregg told me that the reformatory wasn't going to be around for long.  He had probably read about it closing, but it wouldn't be for another couple of years or so, maybe more, and I could not be persuaded.  He used to travel quite a lot back in those days, and I was just too much of a nervous nelly about it all.  I also reminded him what he said about the commute.  We have since driven by that  housing development many times and it is lovely.

Here's another page showing its history.  You will read that Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie once performed at the prison, in one of the fields.  It was also where many years earlier suffragettes were imprisoned and they were treated horribly. So yes, there is a lot of history in these buildings, and if we knew what those ladies had to go through on both sides of the Atlantic to get us the vote, we would realize what a privilege it is.  We owe them so much.  

I didn't start this page off to be such a long ramble, but for some reason my memories and my fingers started flying today.  I like to write our own family history for our son.  In fact it was why I started blogging in the first place.  He has been asking questions about our early years lately.










40 comments:

  1. I just love cardinals and geese - great photos today!

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  2. These houses are really right ON the water! I love the flying Heron, I have tried to get a photo like this, it has been too hard. I see the traffic feed, I will come right back and see if I'm on it.

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    1. Thanks Ginny, my flying heron was a bit blurry but it's a memory. It seems that traffic feed widget isn't very accurate but always having an interest in geography I enjoy looking up where these places are. Perhaps just as well it's not that accurate. When I pop in it miles away from my location also.

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  3. Hmmm, I'm not registering on the traffic feed.

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    1. That's interesting, thanks for letting me know.

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  4. Intersting post. Fun on the water, birds and so on. Lovely to read.
    Love the make Cardinal, we don't have them here.

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    1. Hello Margaret and thank you, glad you enjoyed :)

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  5. Looked at the live feed, says Tasmania which is correct but the wrong place within Tasmania :) other end of the Island.

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    1. Thanks again, it seems to be way off that feed.

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  6. I hope the water level doesn't go above that sign, my location isn't correct but state is

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    1. I hope so to. Thanks for your input on the traffic feed Linda :)

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  7. Fascinating facts about the geese.
    The live feed had my country correct but the state very, very wrong.

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    1. Glad you found it interesting EC. Interesting about your comment on this feed. Very inaccurate it sounds like. Have to say though that I have enjoyed looking up the geographical locations and finding out about that area :)

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  8. Hello Denise,
    Interesting post and info on the prison. The park, river and the birds are lovely. I like the shape of the kiln. the traffic feed seems to have my info correct. Take care, enjoy your day and week ahead.

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    1. Thanks Eileen, and for your input on the traffic feed :)

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  9. our male cardinal is named Loud Mouth. during mating season he never shuts up. he is beautiful like this one. As a child I lived less that a mile from a prison in Savannah GA called The Brown Farm, back then GA used prisoners to do all the work and they had chain gangs out working under guards with guns, they were a common sight and yes, there were many that escaped. I would not buy a house that was close to one and also with that horrid name Prison View Estates. maybe the people who work at the prison lived there. lots of beauty in your photos today

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    1. I thoroughly enjoyed your memories of GA Sandra, so interesting. How you described your cardinal also gave me a chuckle :) My sister-in-law told us that she has a cardinal who sounds off at his 'rival' while looking at himself in the side mirror on her car. She now has a special cover for her side mirror because he leaves behind a mess on top of everything else. They must have renamed Prison View Estates. I can't find it anywhere now.

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  10. forgot to say, LOVE the geese in flight photo. and yesterday while walking Beau two came over our heads honking like crazy. a rare sight here in FL

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    1. Great! And me too. Love to hear them as they are flying overhead :)

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  11. The bridge is pretty especially now that the trees are in leaf. The riverside houses remind me of those on the River Thames in my home county. What a lot of bird activity! You are blessed to see the osprey and nest. Two of them (very rare to see breeding birds) in Wales and England have been vandalised, the eggs damaged and the osprey parents have flown away. The Dartmoor prison reminiscences are interesting. I am on the traffic feed but with the wrong place name instead of the city where we live.

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    1. Thank you Linda and how sad to hear about the nests being vandalized. I have seen TV shows on those homes on the River Thames, beautiful places and idyllic settings. Thank you also for your input about the traffic feed :)

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  12. Fantastic photos Denise. Thanks for sharing them along with your memories with us. I had that live traffic feed years ago but don't really remember what I thought of it. Now that you reminded me of it I might add it to my to try again too.

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    1. Hello Martha and thank you :) Glad you enjoyed my reminisces. Thank you also for your input on the traffic feed.

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  13. Lots of interesting topics in this post. Your info on prisons is interesting. I would think you're the only blogger to do a post on prisons.

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    1. I have to say I laughed out loud when I read your last sentence Red :) I had a similar comment from my dear hubs who said in a light-hearted voice, pretty blog post about the river and then in a dramatic voice and then we have PRISONS. I laughed again of course.

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  14. That traffic feed is not accurate. I do not live near Ewa Beach, Hawaii. I live in Honolulu. LOL. So, feel free to delete it.
    Anyway, I would not live near the prison either.

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    1. Thanks Gigi, we definitely have an inaccurate 'traffic feed', and thanks for your input too.

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  15. I like that, "our home fits us like a comfortable old shoe" Great photos. I enjoyed your ramble. :)

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  16. Lovely photographs here.

    I know a few blogs who use that traffic feed but it does not always appear to be that accurate. I recall one time apparently I was living in Reykjavík!

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you Jan and that's quite a ways off indeed :)

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  17. Interesting post! The live traffic feed may be more for your interest I am thinking.

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    1. Thank you Christine, you are probably right as I do love learning geography and this is a good pointer into finding out where certain cities and countries are in the world, even though it seems that my blogging friends don't actually live in that part of the country or even world :)

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  18. Beautiful shots. I'll admit, I tend to blog read on my mobile, so the side panel doesn't show up.

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    1. Thanks so much and Thank you also for letting me know about the live feed :)

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  19. I love Occoquan! I've been to the brick kiln, but it was long ago.

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    1. Hi Linda, Occoquan is a pretty little town though it has been a while since I visited :)

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