Category Archives: Art and architecture.

LEAFY SURREY.

 

An interesting weekend.

For the last 20 or so years Mel, a friend from school days, and I have completed an annual ‘pub to pub’ walking week on various long distance trails. We walked a stretch of The Thames Path last year and had hoped to continue this year but he has been in ill health so we didn’t make it. Instead to keep in touch I arranged to travel down to Woking for a weekend in Surrey, it turned out to be quite a busy few days.

First we walked a pleasant flat mile along the canal into Woking centre, rehabilitation exercise for him. This is the Basingstoke Canal which originally linked Basingstoke with the River Wey navigation and hence the Thames and London. Agriculture, coal and timber were transported from the end of the 18th until the early 20th century. Now a few pleasure boats use it but the towpath provides a pedestrian and cycle route between communities. The wildlife is reputed to be outstanding, we saw a couple of ducks. Linking the Living Planet centre, UK office for the WWF, to the town centre is the pedestrian Bedser Bridge built to commemorate the famous local cricketing twins, Surrey regulars in the 50’s. On either side of the bridge are statues of the pair, Alec bowling to Eric, but where’s the ball – lots of people were keen to point it out high on the wall of the nearby Civic Offices.

Our reason for crossing the bridge was to get to the Lightbox a gallery and museum centre. After paying our respects to H. G. Wells the author of The War of the Worlds, the Martians had landed on nearby Horsell Common, we enjoyed a coffee in their cafe. Short of time we omitted the main galleries with still life and sculptures in favour of the history of Woking. This fascinating exhibition highlighted Woking Palace, The Shah Jahan Mosque – the first purpose built mosque in the UK, Brookwood Cemetery – famous for being the London overflow cemetery during the 19th Century, Brookwood Mental Hospital, the importance of the railway to Woking, local heroes and commerce eg. Kenwood Mixers. All brilliantly laid out and explained – a worthwhile hour.

I walked wide eyed through the bustling shopping centre with its stalls of international street food and sculptures. 

‘Surrey Hills’
Sarah Holmes.
A local artist Inspired by 2012 Summer Olympics.

It is unusual for an arcade to be so alive. the afternoon drifted on but the evening was spoiled by a poor quality Indian Restaurant.

A sunny start next day and we were pottering on his allotment, The whole site was colourful and productive with plenty of keen gardeners doing their thing. I did some token weeding whilst Mel sprayed his heavy crop of tomatoes and as a bonus I came away with some nice fresh vegetables.

Another place where Mel could do some gentle flat walking was in Savill Gardens and that’s where, after a coffee in their extensive and crowded cafe, we found ourselves. We were almost the only ones wandering in the garden itself, don’t know where the other thousand people from the car park and cafe/shop ventured. The main event here is the spring Rhododendrons but I found plenty to enthrall me today. They have a splendid wild flower display for starters and the summer bedding was a blaze of colour. On the way were infinite colours of Hydrangea macrophyllia.

Next stop was the Air Forces Memorial, a memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from air forces who were lost during WWII. Those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace. The name of each of these airmen and airwomen is engraved into the stone walls of the memorial, according to country and squadron. There is a complementary register with more individual details. This solemn and thought provoking site was opened in 1953 by Queen Elizabeth II and has an outstanding position above the Thames and Runnymede. Today there was scaffolding around the building and the upper terrace was blocked off but we still had views of Windsor Castle, the river Thames, a busy Heathrow and Wembley Stadium. An absorbing experience.

 

 

 

 

 

A late Buffet lunch was taken in the Runnymede Hotel on the river and what a buffet – everything you could think of was on offer, all first class quality – at a price. A lovely restaurant to relax in and watch the world go by on the Thames, the closest we got to walking the Thames Path this year.

It was in this vicinity that in June 1215 King John signed the Magna Carta giving political reform that has more or less survived the last 800 years. Hence a lot of tourists mingling along the riverside.

Home for a rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BURNLEY WAY. Day Five.

Portsmouth to Towneley Park.

If you google Burnley to Portsmouth by bus you can imagine the result –  a ten hour journey to the south coast. Today’s more modest journey went like clockwork, leave home 9.45, park up at Towneley Park, 10.43 bus to Burnley bus station, 10.55 bus to Portsmouth [the one in Cliveger Gorge] and I was walking back into Lancashire by 11.30. I’m becoming a bit of Burnley Bus nerd. The weather today was perfect for a change.  A track climbed steeply from the main Calderdale road and headed into the hills, unusually it was unmarked. Roe deer ran before me and disappeared in the bracken, only their barking could be heard. This was steep climbing and I was soon looking back down into Calderdale and up to distant Stoodley Pike.

Once above a remote barn conversion a smaller path made a beeline for Heald Moor.  A rough track then led along the ridge to Thieveley Pike which was marked by an Ordnance Survey Pillar, 449m,  the highest point on the BW. This was the essence of open Pennine walking just me, skylarks and cotton grass.

Halfway along the ridge was a stone marker plaque who’s origin I cannot find, any ideas?

 

The extensive views were back to the Coal Clough Windfarm, down Calderdale to Stoodley Pike and The Peak District, Lancashire Moors, Hameldon Hill, distant Bowland and then Pendle and the Three Peaks and more of Yorkshire…

  A subsidiary ridge went over Dean Scout Rocks  which made a convenient lunch stop looking down into the Cliviger Gorge. A steep track descended through more sections of the Burnley Forest. Going under the railway I joined a section of the Pennine Bridleway, this turned out to be a delightful peaceful pastoral passage past old farms on what must be an ancient track. Ripe raspberries in the hedgerows were a bonus.

I was circling a hillside plantation named the Fireman’s Hat though I couldn’t see the resemblance, this has been made even worse by a communication tower which has somehow been allowed to be placed in this prominent natural position, money must have changed hands. I walked my way through Walk Mill and payed a quick visit to the Barcroft Hall a 17th century building. Interestingly there was of those old American caravans in the garden.

I then entered the extensive grounds of Towneley Hall and met the masses enjoying a sunny day, children and dogs included. There are paths and avenues everywhere. An ice-cream van by the bridge over the Calder River was doing a good trade and I couldn’t resist a cornet. A stroll  past the hall itself, note to visit in future, and then up a mature lime avenue to the gates on the main road and my car.

 

So I’d completed The Burnley Way, in more days than planned and in poor summer weather conditions but had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Met some lovely people along the way. Good varied walking with fascinating natural and industrial features along the way in an area not known for its walking. My photos don’t do it justice. It is well waymarked and the guide leaflets from Burnley Council clear and accurate. I had learnt a lot more of this area and I highly recommend.

 

THE BURNLEY WAY. Day Four.

Worsthorne to Portsmouth.

Rain all morning, once again the summer weather had conspired against me but rather than be inactive I opted for another short stage. My lunchtime arrival in Worsthorne coincided with a brightening but showers were still in the air, however I didn’t need waterproofs for the rest of the day. A flagged path across a field took me into Hurstwood described as a delightful Elizabethan village with attractive buildings – most seemed to be under renovation at present so I didn’t dally. A lane crossed the infant River Brun which I had come across a couple of days ago in Burnley centre. The now cobbled lane passed isolated farmhouses onto the moor, I pondered on the man-hours  needed to construct these old highways. Dropping down into Shebden Valley the reason for the lane became apparent – an extensive area of quarrying. Apparently this was for limestone extraction using hushes and what remained was piles of unwanted stone, the sheddings. I joined The Pennine Bridleway at the bridge but for some reason I was directed to a smaller path into the workings, this soon became indistinct and my wanderings were more and more erratic until I hit the Long Causeway road.  [Stay on the bridleway!] This straight road possibly dates back to the Romans and was used as a packhorse trail in the 18th century. It is characterised now by the Coal Clough Windfarm which it runs alongside, I remember this as one of the first in this area. From up here Pendle dominated the skyline to the north.  At a corner a farm track continues on the original line and I just followed this although the footpath supposedly takes to the field. Another isolated farm is passed and a lovely little building which would make a good bothy but more likely an expensive holiday cottage.

The path traverses above a wild clough and passes through plantations which are part of The Forest of Burnley a lottery funded scheme to create new forest around the area, I had noticed secveral others on these walks. Pathfinding through the new plantations is not always easy and waymarking could have better. I found myself on the top of a gritstone cliff, Pudsey Crag according to the map, a diversion was taken to view it from the valley. It looked worthy of climbing but is apparently out of bounds on private land. Deep wooded cloughs are entered as one progresses towards the Cliviger Gorge, occasional cottages appear out of nowhere – this is a secret place. Coming out of one of the cloughs towards Brown Birks farm I was confronted by a large brown bull right on the track, I was so overawed I didn’t even get a picture. Backtracking I picked up another footpath circumnavigating the field and with a bit of ingenuity safely avoided the bovine obstacle. I was now dropping into Cliviger Gorge and looking at the climb out on the otherside which will start my next stage. Looking down were the back to back terraces of mill villages Cornholme and Portsmouth. I jumped on the bus to take my me back to Burnley but found it pulled off the main road to visit some smaller villages and I surprisingly saw I was only a mile from my start so I was dropped off and walked into Worsthorne. Another day of discovery.

THE BURNLEY WAY. Day Two.

Hapton to Briercliffe.

I must have been somewhat dazed when I left Hapton Station as within 15mins I was lost and heading back almost to where I started but once orientated I made a direct route into Padiham where I stumbled into an unexpected cafe [the Belly Buster] for coffee.

Anyhow after the coffee break my brain kicked into action and I was soon following the River Calder out of Padiham and into the Grove Lane Greenway. All peace and birdsong, it is difficult to imagine this area amongst the trees  hosted a coal colliery relatively recently . Across the fields was Burnley F.C. training ground and also Gawthorpe Hall. The latter is the end of The Bronte Way from Bradford which I hope to complete with Sir Hugh later in the year when he is fully recovered.

River Calder.

What looked on the map like a riverside path turned out to be a tarmacked lane so I made good progress. The day was overcast and warm, I seemed to be sweating profusely and not feeling good.  For no obvious reason I started to have a longing for chips. Were the two connected?

At a bridge across the Calder near an old ford, lots of sand-martins flying low, I met up with the said Bronte Way and also the Pendle Way [completed not without interest 20 years ago – another story involving the Mountain Rescue when I didn’t need rescuing.] Climbing steeply out of the valley the paths seemed to be little walked but the signing remained good and I kept on course. Mention of Pendle made me realise I had not seen this dominating hill today in the poor visibility but there across the valley it appeared out of the mist.

A series of horsey fields were traversed and suddenly I was looking down into the sprawling mass that is Burnley. Urban parks by the river led past a Holiday Inn, a holiday in Burnley? and down to join the towpath of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. This goes into the heart of Burnley and an area named the Weavers’ Triangle – a collection of 19th century mills and warehouses from when the town was a major cotton-weaving centre. There are ruined buildings and alongside renovated ones providing office and living spaces. Several weaving sheds were still visible with their distinctive sawtooth roofs giving Northern light. A covered wharf appeared and next to it a pub in a converted warehouse, The Inn on the Wharf. Despite the fact that I was carrying lunch the craving for chips got the better of me and I was soon sat with a pint of Copper Dragon, a salad sandwich and a portion of home made chips.

Burnley appears out of the murk.

Back on the canal after a couple of turns and more derelict wharves and mills you come to the ‘Straight mile’ where the canal runs along an embankment 60ft above the town. Easy walking with views to the new developments in town to the left and Turf Moor football stadium to the right. I am reminded of the former great days of Burnley FC with the outspoken Bob Lord at the helm, they won the league in 1960 – oh happy days. What struck me most about this stretch of the Leeds – Liverpool Canal was that there were no boats which is at odds with most stretches of our inland waterways. At the end of the embankment the canal crosses the river Brun [said to be the origin of Burnley’s name –  Brunlea]  A double back under the canal takes you into the Brun Valley Park a greenway leading out of town. A large part of this area was a former colliery though you wouldn’t know it today with all the mature trees in new parkland. Rather crudely carved wooden marker posts served this stretch of the Way bringing me out at Netherwood Bridge though there seemed a multitude of alternative tracks through the muddy woods. Hereabouts I took a more direct line up to the equestrian farm, busy with girls grooming horses and mucking out vast pile of manure. Further up the hill the Burnley way was rejoined for a stretch downhill into a hidden valley, orchids were plentiful on the damp meadows. At the bottom there was a little footbridge over the River Don, a stream really. What a lovely spot for a lazy Summer’s day – oh I had forgotten it is Summer.

A series of old stone flagged steps lead out of the valley, these steps go by the local name of Ogglty Cogglty whose meaning has been lost in time. At the top of the steep slippery ascent indistinct field paths go up towards Queen’s  Mill in Harle Syke. This large mill in a side street apparently is the last working steam powered mill but it all looked very closed to the public today.

To be continued…

 

THE BURNLEY WAY. Day One.

 

Towneley to Hapton.

I had chosen Towneley Hall as a convenient starting point for the 40mile Burnley Way which I’d broken down into three days’ walking. I’d obtained an excellent leaflet guide from Burnley Council which detailed the walk very well and it is marked on the 1:25,000 OS map OL21. I could see that a radial bus service would ease getting to and from daily start and finishing points, living so close it wasn’t worth paying for B and B.

A late start and a shortened day to let the morning’s rain abate. On the no 483 bus this morning was a man in full golfing regalia with trolley and bag so I knew we had arrived at Towneley Golf Club when he got off. I could have been anywhere but crossing the road I came across the first of the BW waymarks with the birds beak giving the direction up a little lane. I couldn’t make out the coke ovens which were supposed to be hereabouts but soon came across an art installation, part of the Wayside Arts Trail, a red brick kiln which is sadly falling apart or has been vandalised – a depressing thought. I realised I’d forgotten my camera so out came the phone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onto an affluent housing estate old tracks passed between properties, not the terraced housing one associates with Burnley, this is the west side of town.  Crossing a busy road I climbed up the hillside and was immediately looking down on the town and its moorland surroundings, this view was shared by the golfers I joined on an interesting looking course. I navigated my way between greens and across fairways without causing too much trouble and out onto the open fell. Up here apparently was the site of an Isolation Hospital serving smallpox and scarlet fever at the beginning of the 20th century and later TB patients, it was certainly isolated, how things have changed in a hundred years. Away to the left was the Singing Ringing Tree a well known sculpture I’ve visited on other occasions, its a shame it was not incorporated into the BW by following the Arts Trail. 

The Singing Ringing Tree from a previous visit.

Downhill in poor visibility towards Clowbridge Reservoir to cross another busy Pennine road linking the mill towns of the area, this one was heading to Rossendale I think. By the road were signs of previous mining activity with adits going into the hillside, this turned out to be the site of 19th century Wholaw Nook colliery. Four stones from the foundations have been carved by Ian Grant to represent Four Seasons in a Day, a reference to the local weather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the open moor track on the otherside of the road I met a couple from Bury who had been on the SW Coastal Path about the same time as myself so we swapped stories. They are hoping to backpack the BW in the near future. I found negotiating Nutshaw Farm a bit complicated with all the building work, I was not the only one as further on up a rough cart track was a delivery van with a puzzled driver trying to follow his satnav, I suggested he turned round while he could and sorted a route out for him on the good old fashioned 1:25,000 OS.

Approaching Nutshaw Farm.

A steady ascent above Clowbridge Reservoir and I was on Hambledon Hill, but not the trig point, with its various communication towers. Pendle Hill was visible to the north but south I couldn’t identify the moorlands. Even up here there was a burnt out car.

Looking back from Hameldon Hill over Clowbridge Reservoir to Thievely Pike.

Ahead was Great Hambledon but the BW doesn’t seem to bother with isolated summits, I was however drawn to a prominent cairn on the edge of the escarpment. This involved crossing boggy ground on a vague track with small stone quarries below me along the rim. The cairn gave me a chance to eat my sandwiches while watching the wind turbines to the east, these are always prominent from the A56 as you wind out of the Ribble Valley. Pendle was still misty and views into Bowland disappointing.

Towards Great Hambledon.

 

 

Murky Pendle above the Hapton Valley.

First of many windfarms.

Because I’d gone off route I had to find a way down the rocks which now encircled the moor and this proved tricky and time consuming. Once down there was a stretch of rough ground, an old firing range, an almost impregnable plantation and some irritating farm tracks. The plantation was one that had been developed with the help of lottery funding creating the Forest of Burnley project with many sites on the route. Then I was in Castle Clough Woods. I had been here before on The Hyndburn Way and was intrigued by the deep gorge apparently created by glacial meltwater. I was keen to explore further and left the BW once more and dropped into the gorge itself which has a small stream running down it. Heavily wooded steep slopes with quarried rocky outcrops must provide a diverse natural habitat – this is a hidden gem.

Deep in Castle Clough.

I managed to find a way out into Hapton playing fields and back to the station just as the weather was starting to improve.

 

CREATE LONGRIDGE. 2017.

It has rained most of the day. I have just come in from walking round the town admiring all the artists’ works – ‘Creating Longridge’. This is the second year this event has been staged and up to a hundred artists registered to paint and draw in the streets under the public view. A great showcase for local artists and a social occasion for us residents. Shame about the rain and all the jokes about water colours.                                                                                                             Berry Lane, the main street, had the highest concentration of artists some braving the outdoors under umbrellas whilst others sheltered in shops and under canopies. There was a wide variety of styles with some professional pieces, many of the scene in front of them. All the artists were cheerful and communicative despite the weather, it is Lancashire after all. Judging will take place later for the public’s choice.

On my way into the town I had passed the football club who were holding a beer festival, the tents looked bedraggled in the rain but no doubt the punters were having a good time despite the notice at the gates stating ‘no alcohol beyond this point’.

A good effort by the town. Next year the sun will shine.

HIGH POINT OF THE SW COASTAL PATH.

Heddon’s Mouth  –  Ilfracombe.

The dawn chorus woke me in this secluded hotel, there was no other noise, and the sun was already bright.  A good breakfast fortified me for the steady climb back up onto the cliffs. A well graded track led up through the gorse and heather with the bracken growing fast. Stopping for a break on a convenient stone was a mistake as I was immediately attacked by several ticks, this was tick city up here. Managed to remove them all before they had settled but was on the alert for the rest of the morning, I know I am stupid to be walking in shorts.On the way up there were good views back down to Heddon’s Mouth beach and yesterdays descending path. Looking back up the wooded valley there was no sign of my hotel. Patches of mist were coming and going in the valleys. Way down below were many inaccessible coves. This was good open walking with views up the coast past many unknown headlands and not forgetting to look back at previous points. Ancient stone walls capped with vegetation bordered the fields, Devon Hedges, with stones laid on edge. These are a superb habitat for lichens and plants.. Typically there was a loss of height down into a little valley before the long ascent onto the highest point of the SWCP Great Hangman Hill 318m, its cairn was already occupied by a couple of youngsters looking at their phones rather than the view. They were the forerunners of a large jolly party from Liverpool staggering up from the other side. More walkers were evident today enjoying the good weather, a Dutchman was walking the whole route.

Great Hangman ahead.

On the way down I avoided the ascent of Little Hangman and on a cliff path was able to hear the sea once more. Sea kayaks and speed boats were nosing into rocky coves and then I was looking down into Combe Martin beach packed with families.

Wild Pear Beach.

Wet suited people with boards were in the streets and the paraphernalia of seaside holidays for sale everywhere. I managed to find a cafe with a shaded balcony above the hubbub and enjoyed a late lunch featuring crab.

A fellow coastal walker finding it hard going.

Leaving after three I still had a long way to go and it was very hot and sunny. Little lanes and flower lined paths avoided for the most part the busy coastal road. I was never far from little beaches and busy campsites, this is a popular area. The natural harbour of Watermouth was  interesting but at low tide all the boats look forlorn. A family passed me on the way to a beach only to find it was ‘private’ there seem to be lots of those about.

Valerian, ox eye daisy and orchid.

Approaching Watermouth.

Watermouth harbour with Great Hangman behind.

The beautiful Widmouth Headland seemed to be hard work in the heat with lots of steep stepped sections. The bays of Ilfracombe were getting closer, and then I was onto a nasty stretch on the busy road. As you approach the town SWCP  ‘footprints’ are supposed to guide you along but I kept losing them. Again being low tide the harbour looked a bit cheerless… Since I was last here 10 years ago to catch the ferry to Lundy a statue by Damien Hirst, who lives in Combe Martin apparently, has been erected at the harbour mouth. ‘Verity’ is certainly very conspicuous at 20m tall, a pregnant lady with half her innards showing holding aloft a sword and referring to truth though the relevance to this Victorian seaside resort remains a mystery to me. The unusual theatre looking like two cooling towers is no doubt another attempt to update the town… A dated hotel in the backstreets sufficed me for the night. I was tired after a long day of ups and downs amongst stunning scenery,