Friday 15 June 2012

The very simple introduction to creating your website

The very simple introduction to creating your website is particularly suitable if you are:

  • Someone who has not yet used the internet and now needs to have a website 
  • A basic internet user who wants to have your own website
  • A member of an organisation without a website who needs to explain the basic concepts to others

Whilst 85% of the UK's accessed the internet last year (2011), the level of skill varies from very basic user to highly competent. Eight million adults in the UK have still never used the internet. If you feel unsettled or unsure of your use of the internet – you are not alone :-)

A very simple introduction to ceating your own website

A website is a collection of linked pages on the web. For example the BBC has a website, that contains individual pages on the programs, news and sport covered by the BBC.

You need five things to create your own website:

  • Access to the internet
  • An address – called a “domain name”
  • A place to hold your website – known as “hosting”
  • A way to build your website
  • Information to put on your  website

I will assume you can access the internet and consider the other four points in a bit more detail.

The analogy is of you finding a suitable address (domain name), with a nice plot of land (your hosting) on which to build your house (website) to move your personal effects into (your web content).

Domain Name – your address on the internet

Just as the place where you live or work or meet has its own unique address, a website on the internet must have a unique address – your domain name. Examples are or Domain names are available for sale on the internet. A domain will typically cost about £3 to £5 a year. A site may cost about £20 a year. My own website is and I also own

Hosting – your plot of internet space

At your address, you need to have space to build your website. This is provided by companies that “host” your site, like landlords or owners of a plot of land. Some hosting companies provide a minimum of space free. In this case, you may have to accept their advertising on your site in return or their giving you a domain name that they own and that is linked to them. This article, for example, is on my free blog hosted by Google's Blogger, it has “blogspot” in its address. Most companies provide you with paid for hosting which you can link to your own domain name.

Building your website

Now that you have your address and plot on the internet, the domain name and hosting, you can begin to build your website. At one end of the scale hosting companies offer simple free website templates that you can use. At the other end of the scale you can employ a website designer to make a large and flexible website for you for thousands of pounds.

You can learn to build your own from scratch. A good alternative is to use the free Wordpress program to build your site. Wordpress is open-source and maintained by a community of selfless individuals. Designing and building your own site requires time and commitment but is not as hard as it may sound.

Adding content to your site

This is the most important part, filling the space of your new website with words, pictures, videos and sound. Surprisingly, this is the part that many companies find difficult to do.

However, if you have a passion, an interest, a cause, a desire to communicate with others – then this is the part which you will find the easiest. You need to add new content on a regular basis to your website so that it looks alive.


So, I hope that I have shown that creating your own website is a bit like building your own house; you find a suitable address (domain name) with a plot of land (your hosting) on which to build your house (the website). You then move in and gradually fill it with your personal items (your website content).

This article gives you the big picture.  Of course there is the nitty-gritty of how to do these things. Hopefully you will feel more confident about finding out – or finding a key individual who can help you with building your site. Good Luck! :-)

If you are a small charitable or social or interest organisation in Cambridgeshire who would like some help along the way, please get in touch with me, 

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Ely history group looking to the future with your help

A volunteer run picture archive preserves a vital part of Ely's heritage and history. Browsing through the collection, there are reminders of people, their lives and buildings, I was particularly struck by the unusual double chapel in Ely Cemetery, completed by local builder Richard Freeman in 1856 and the absolutely breathtaking photograph of the rood screen, one of Sir Ninian Comper's early works, at St. Peter's Church Broad St. Ely.

1854 to 1856 - The Cemetery Chapel, Ely.Built by local builder Richard Freeman in 1855/6.One half for C of E. the other for non conformists. Courtesy of Ely group of CCAN
1888 to 1898 - The rood screen, one of Sir Ninian Comper's early works, at St. Peter's Church Broad St. Ely, courtesy of the Ely Group CCAN
The Ely group of CCAN (the Cambridge Community Archive Network) has worked hard to archive the pictures collated online. Today, I was invited to their meeting as part of their look to the future work of the group.

We discussed a whole range of issues. The overriding message that emerged was the need for a new level of engagement with the wider community. How do you attract the interest of the young people to the history around them? How can you become an even better source that people will increasingly look to for news and information on the hidden or newly discovered heritage around them?

Recording the voice of local residents, shop owners and people associated with the City of Ely is already underway. Living on the crest of today, even living memory shines a light on a dramatically different world decades ago and beyond. Being able to hear the direct testimony in local voices will  be a great step forward.

In our digital age, adding written words to the existing and new images in the form of testimony, records and memories in one resource is still the most powerful tool online. People search for information using text and still mainly find their information in the written word.

Help is needed with the digging for information and writing about the great and small people and events around the City of Ely – and with preserving the information.

I found a stark example of the fact that history still has relevance to today when wandering around Ely Museum, after the meeting had taken place in one of the rooms there. The museum is located in the old gaol and had a frozen display of prisoners awaiting trial, deportation and execution upstairs. The shocking treatment of one prisoner in the late 1800s caused visiting magistrates to raise the question of inhumane treatment – a topic that is current today with the debate swirling around the legality of deporting Abu Qatada to a country where he might be tortured.

Members of the Ely group of CCAN at Ely Museum
The Ely group of CCAN pictured above is a dedicated team that would welcome help and involvement from others in Ely in preserving the city's history; whether young or old, whether making a small or major contribution in interest and time.

Why wait until YOU are history? Get involved now! Contact Chairman Peter Kerswell, Tel: 01353 666655, Email: 

Saturday 9 June 2012

The unique historic New Bridges linking St Ives and Hemingford

Walk across the mediaeval bridge from the aptly named Bridge Street in St Ives, Cambridgeshire and you come to a lesser known but equally important monument, the New Bridges, London Road, Hemingford Grey.

I was on my way to the A14 coffee morning in the Taproom at St Ives today ( Considering the torrential rain overnight, it was with some apprehension that I left the car in the Dolphin Hotel car park, after all, it does flood very nicely. However, I was reassured by the workmen repairing the brickwork of some of the 55 arches that make up the New Bridges. Naturally curious, I went over for a chat and was prompted to do a bit more internet research back home.

New Bridges, London Road, St Ives to Hemingford showing arches prior to repair work in June 2012

Constructed in 1822 within 23 weeks using 250000 bricks, even Thomas Telford considered the New Bridges an important structure when he visited in 1826 during his review of the turnpike trusts ( of Britain. At 700 feet/213m  it is “a unique causeway in the UK in that it is the longest road causeway with the greatest number of continuous brick arches” (English Heritage. More information at

New Bridges is a Grade II listed monument, yet the repairs are surprisingly superficial and decorative as the underlying arches are still relatively sound. The original brick was local yellow gault brick and it is being replaced with new yellow bricks. As they are as unweathered, they do contrast quite strongly with the old at the moment.

New Bridges, London Road, St Ives to Hemingford showing arches after repair work in June 2012

Apparently, according to the builders on site, the foundations of the causeway are built on wood.  This reminded me of the old Aberystwyth – Lampeter Railway which was built on a whole year's supply of wool fleeces where it traversed Tregaron Bog (

The greater hazard to the bridge is probably the bumper to bumper car parking along almost its entire length along the East side. The practically constant asymmetrical load of 30+ tons appears to be visibly causing the bridge to sink more on the east side than the West ( – looking South).

If you look more closely along the length of the bridge, closer to the far end of the Dolphin Hotel car park, you can see that the arches there are different ( This is where the St Ives to Huntingdon stretch of the Railway used to cross the bridge after 1847 – with a level crossing!

A chance conversation and you discover another facet of our regions history!

Like help with writing your article? Contact Chris

Thursday 7 June 2012

The transit of Venus seen from the SDO, Mona Loa and Queensland over the internet

An event equally momentous to the Queens Diamond Jubilee, the transit of Venus grabbed my attention.

Britain’s location and the threat of clouds meant that I was unlikely to see the last few minutes of the transit of venus at 5am or so on the 6th of June. However, having a long standing interest in solar activity via the SOHO and SDO solar observation satellites, I thought these would present a good opportunity to watch the transit from space.

Surprisingly, the older SOHO satellite, although placed at the L1 Lagrange point directly between the Sun and Earth, would not see Venus transit across the sun. The reason being that the SOHO satellite is placed about 1.5 million kilometres closer to the sun and the angle of view is sufficiently different.

Fortunately, the SDO satellite is in a geosynchronous orbit around the Earth, a mere 36,000 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean just off the coasts of Peru and Mexico. It was expected to see the transit much as we would from Earth. The SDO also had a special Venus transit page at and therefore was worth watching.

There were two other opportunities to view the event live over the internet. NASA Edge promised to bring a live stream from the telescopes on the peaks of Mona Loa in Hawaii at Across the Pacific, the University of Quennsland was also coordinating live coverage from Australian telescopes – at

The transit was supposed to start with first contact with the disc of the sun (as seen from Earth) at 23:16 BST from Australia and about 23:09 from Mona Loa in Hawaii.

I had all three sites up and by 22:25 BST. Venus could be seen approaching the sun via through the SDO when viewed using very short ultraviolet light. These wavelengths shows the corona or outer atmosphere of the sun and are not as bright as the photosphere - the bright yellow sun surface we usually see. Flicking between channels, the Mona Loa broadcast started at 10:45 and the Australians  also went live.

Just before first contact, when Venus just appears to touch the edge of the sun, the Hawaiian telescope went off line briefly! Having access to several different observation sites paid off.  I observed first contact via the SDO at about 23:07:45 BST, followed later by the Australian telescopes. Eventually, the Americans did come back online.

You can see the images I downloaded at the time from the SDO page, every couple of minutes or so.
They show Venus and the sun's edge highly magnified as the planet approaches and then begins to move across the sun. These are followed by pictures of the entire sun about halfway through the transit.

I deliberately downloaded images on the 6th (the following day) to show Venus against the sun as seen at different wavelengths.Each successive image looks deeper into the sun. We start at the Corona, where flares are visible and move into the chromosphere, where you can see convection cells. Then we reach the low temperature, quiet zone of the sun. Finally, we arrive at the final layer which is the one we usually see with our naked (but protected!) eyes, the photosphere.

A particular lovely feature is that Venus crosses the sun close to a region of sunspots and high solar activity. We are currently in the peak period of the sun's activity in its 11 year cycle and sunspots are a regular feature on the sun's surface.

The next transit of Venus across the sun is expected on the 10th December, 2117 so I was very happy to have lived at the right time in our history to see this momentous event.

Viewing the transit of Venus would not have been possible in this way if information from NASA, the SDO, the University of Queensland and access to the internet were not made publicly available. This event demonstrated to me, why open access to technology and information is important.

If you would like help with writing your news, get in touch with Chris at