Category Archives: Art and architecture.

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – LONGRIDGE FELL NEVER EASY.

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Up on Longridge Fell we were doing OK until the guide, walk no 23 of Mark Sutcliffe’s book, said to take a jink right in the trees. We already had jinked right awhile back as the fallen trees from last year’s storm Eunice?, blocked our tracks. But others had come this way recently, in fact quite a path had developed. We bushwhacked on. For once, I wasn’t the leader, Phreerunner was running but not as phree as he thought.

When Martin (aka Phreerunner) had included in his Friday walks Longridge Fell I couldn’t refuse to accompany him. I secretly knew the problems ahead but didn’t want to spoil the fun, it’s not Cicerones fault. I thought it a good idea to bring JD into the mix for some local support.

We had left Hurst Green alongside the delightful Dean Brook with its bobbin making history. The stream bed was carved by the water into Daliesque shapes. Resisting the urge to take another photo of Greengore we move on and across fields I don’t usually travel. Lanes and then a boggy path brought us out onto the top ridge where a simple stroll led to the summit trig point, 350 m. The light on the Bowland Hills was flitting from one area to another, but the three peaks never put in a show. Time for coffee and snacks.

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Shireburn Alms Houses.

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The onward path disappears into a dark plantation, and already we start meeting obstructions. When I was up here early last year I found it impossible to make safe progress. It was slightly better today as Martin forged forward bent double to avoid the branches. We made it through to more open ground and then found with the use of our phones a path going in the right direction. It is fairly chaotic up here at present, a shame that the forestry workers can’t spare a day with a couple of chain saws to clear a way.

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As we left Hurst Green earlier this morning we passed the Shireburn Alms Houses and I related as to how they were originally built higher up on the fell in the earlyC18th and subsequently moved stone by stone down into the village around 1946. Well now we were above their original site on the fell next to the ‘blue lagoon’ reservoir. It wasn’t blue today in the rather dull conditions. The foundations can still be seen if one looks around, we didn’t.

Across the road, over a wall and down some fields, the directions lacked clarity here. We ended up in someone’s garden with a couple of wild eyed dogs snapping at our heels. We escaped and found our way down a ravine, the correct stile now visible behind us. It always amazes me, and I’ve said it too many times, that landowners don’t put signage up through their property and maintain the stiles – it’s not asking too much. If you buy a country property you will be well aware of any rights of way coming through it. Time to start issuing fines, I know that will never happen.

We skirted around Stoneyhurst School, admiring the architecture and the long stately drive. I think this was all new for Martin, and I shall be interested in his write-up for the walk on his blog. Soup and rolls back at Chez BC completed an excellent ‘Friday Walk’  May meet up again when he moves his troops to Silverdale in a couple of weeks time, or should I make the effort and travel down to Cheshire for somewhere new?

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I didn’t take many photos, it was all too familiar, or so I thought, and we were busy chatting.

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PRESTON GUILD WHEEL, MISCELLANEA.

  Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant controlling trade in the town. That was back in 1179. Holding the Guild every 20 years probably started in 1542, membership would only change every other generation. Bringing together the town’s merchants, craftsmen and traders led to pageantry, feasting and processions. Six centuries later Preston still celebrates the Guild (though there has been free trade since 1790) every 20 years.

  There is a local saying “once in a Preston Guild” due to the 20 years gap – the equivalent of “once in a blue moon”. We like to be different up here.

  The last Guild was 2012 and to celebrate it Preston and Lancashire County Councils devised this 21mile ‘green route’ circling the city nearly all off-road. It was opened in August 2012, and though not as green as it used to be is a lasting legacy to the city and its Guild celebrations. LCC has devised an auditory commentary by scanning the QR codes attached to the mile markers. I must get round to trying them.

  Known locally simply as The Guild Wheel, GW, it also has a Sustrans cycling route number – 622.

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I haven’t been on the Guild Wheel since last September’s aborted ride. Let’s see what today brings.

I get off to walk the steep track down Red Scar into Brockholes Nature Reserve. I’ve had enough mishaps recently, I don’t want to tempt fate, who is on strike today? Maybe the Nurses or the Ambulances. Better safe than sorry or worse.

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Without binoculars, it is pointless to stop off at the bird hides, though I do recognise some swans from a distance.

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The ride alongside the Ribble is the greenest section of the GW and whilst the sun was shining the river took on a liquid silver appearance.DSC03068

The route brings you right into the heart of the city where the Old Tram Bridge linked Penwortham to Avenham Park. It was built originally by the Lancaster Canal Company in 1802 to link the Leeds Liverpool canal system to the isolated Lancaster Canal using carts to transport the commodities. The arrival of the railways led to the closure of the tramway in 1858. Recent inspections of the bridge have shown it to be on the verge of collapse, and it was closed for good in 2019. There has been a strong local campaign for some sort of restoration, both from a historical view and more importantly as a leisure facility, it being a popular pedestrian crossing of the Ribble in the city. Costings were proving prohibitive but then along comes ‘levelling up’ and Preston has received a £20 million grant from the government. Good news, going hand in hand with Eden Project I mentioned in my last post.

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Avenham and Miller Parks are looking splendid. Proud Preston.

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It’s 21 miles whichever way you choose to go.

 

Alongside the GW they are raising the river defences in Broadgate, the work is taking two years and already is causing traffic chaos at that end of the city.

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‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?

Once I’m past the city of cars I’m on a new piece of tarmac alongside the junction with the Western Distributor Road system, it will soon be open. The GW then goes under the new bridge spanning the Ribble Link Canal.

 

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Western Distributor links, that’s Longridge Fell in the background.

 

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I call in as usual at my favourite café on the GW, the Final Whistle, in the grounds of the university sports fields. Toasted teacake and a coffee £2.95. Whenever I have a toasted tea cake I’m reminded of my sadly departed mate, big Tony, who couldn’t start a day’s climbing without his toasted tea cake and a pot of tea. We had a list of cafés throughout the north-west serving this delicacy. Great times.

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A robin is always on hand to help clear up the crumbs.

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Nothing much else to report, the housing estates are still proliferating on every space i the Cottam area eating up the green spaces, but what about these catkins in the sunshine – a harbinger of better days to come.

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DÉJÀ VU ON THE LUNE.

DSC03052The place, the time, the circumstances.

Here I am looking into a flood on the cycle track to Glasson. Did it all happen two weeks ago? What am I doing here again? I ask myself, I curse myself. I’ve been impatient and obviously unrealistic. I’m not thinking straight. The water has not had a chance to recede. We’ve had snow melt loading the Lune. This time I don’t put a wheel into the water but just turn around and pedal back with my tail well and truly tucked.

I’d only come out on this fairly grim day for some exercise to build up the knee muscles. There is a limit to what you achieve on the static bike in front of the telly. And my limit is almost zero. There is nobody about, I long for the Spring when the friendly tea van will be once again parked up at Halton Station.

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Loneliness of the long distance cyclist…

Let’s make the best of it, cross the Millennium Bridge and head back to Morecambe. I come in at the west end, considered the most run down part of town, for a good reason. But last week the government has given £50 million towards the Eden Project, levelling up. Planning permission has been granted, so now it is a matter of securing all the finances and starting the scheme on site. Our Prime Minister has been up here, controversially by plane, to try and spin the occasion. Unfortunately a simple seat belt error has put him into deeper waters.  I try to envisage the site but think I am on the wrong side of the Stone Jetty. The Midland Hotel will be close by and benefit from the investment as I am sure the rest of Morecambe will. Shame about the present rail non-station. Wouldn’t it have been great if they could have reused the Victorian Station and have visitors arriving in style. Car parking will become a problem.

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Change of plan, the other side of the Lune.

 

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West End of Morecambe.

 

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Will I ever see it like this?

I’ve a splitting headache developing and go in search of painkillers. I’ve had problems since my blackout and injury a few weeks ago and don’t feel with it. Morrisons Petrol outlet serves me well. I enjoy another tasty cheese and onion slice from Kennedy’s bakery in the Festival Market. A combination of Brufen and pastry get me going again. But the pain gets worse and worse on the right side of my scalp. Glad to be back at the car, bike packed into the boot , I cancel my planned visit to Sir Hugh, fasten my seat belt and head home. It is only then that I realise since removing my cycle helmet that the pain has gone. Must have been localised pressure on my skull all along. Numbskull!

A strange day really. Jamais vu?

THE WITCH’S GRAVE – LYTHAM.

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I was in Lytham a couple of days ago seeking out the memorials relating to the Mexico ship disaster of 1886 which led to the deaths of 27 lifeboatmen. The worst loss of life in the history of the RNLI. Chatting to one of the locals on the Lytham Promenade, he enlarged on the Cliftons of Lytham Hall, an interesting family by all accounts, and the influences they had had on the town over the centuries. He mentioned the mysterious Witch Wood.

Witch Wood is what’s left of The Big Wood, a 5,000 acre site, once part of Lytham Hall Home Park. The Cliftons ran into financial trouble and sold off the estate to Guardian Royal Exchange in 1963. Somewhere along the line the local council gifted the remaining derelict Witch wood to Lytham St. Annes Civic Society who proceeded to create a narrow strip of woodland, a green corridor in the heart of the town. Undergrowth was cleared and new native trees planted.  A plaque says the woodland was officially opened by Prince Phillip in 1974.

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The Western Exit, notice the cobble wall of Lytham Hall estate.

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My visit, with cycle in tow, was going to be brief. The approach, after visiting St. Cuthbert’s Church, was along an old private driveway, now open to pedestrians, over the railway into the old Clifton Estate.

I’d been told of the Witch’s Grave inside these woods. Spoiling the story, not a female scary Witch but a horse belonging to John Talbot Clifton, the squire of Lytham Hall. The horse, Witch, had an accident in 1888 within the woods and a gravestone apparently marks its resting place.

Once in the woodland strip do I go left or right to find the grave? I go left, westwards, along a well-used path, no cycling allowed says the sign. Fair enough. The narrow wood is bounded on the south by the railway and to the north by a largely hidden housing estate. It should be easy to spot the grave especially at this time of year with little undergrowth. Of course, I don’t really know what I’m looking for. After walking a few hundred yards I have not found the gravestone. I turn around and head back.

A local couple are walking towards me – “excuse me, do you by any chance know where the Witch’s grave is?” ” Yes you must have passed it back there – it’s on the right in the trees” They offer to show me where, and I retrace my steps once more. It is evident they are very proud of their wood and extol the virtues of the Lytham Civic Society and all the good work the volunteers do. They are not too keen on irresponsible dog owners or cyclists. I wheel my bike quietly beside me. Next thing my guides and I are at the far western end of the wood where it joins the road without encountering the grave. They apologise, explaining they were distracted by our conversation. I apologise for troubling them and turn tail to try again.

Along the way I gather up more ‘knowledgable’ locals in my quest. “I think it is in the other half of the wood” is a popular opinion. So over the driveway and into the eastern half of the wood, we spread out scouring the undergrowth. They begin to lose interest but say they will shout if they find it as they scatter off onto side paths. I retreat to the western half as advised by the next group of locals, one who had walked these paths as a child believing in the Witch and fairies in the trees. For a while I follow them but begin to doubt their reliability and hang back, bicycle still in tow. That’s about a dozen locals I’ve consulted so far, it can’t be so difficult, surely. Back to the central driveway.

At last a pleasant lady with spaniel, must be local. I repeat my request and all of a sudden positivity arrives. She marches me without any fuss to the spot maybe a hundred yards away which I must have passed half a dozen times. I thank her profusely, she looks at me wondering whether I will be able to find my way out.

To be honest the gravestone is small and not that obvious in the trees. The stone is inscribed  – The Witch. Died Jan 5th 1888Satisfied, I can continue on my way now, not daring to mount my bike till well out of the wood. I cannot give you a grid reference for the stone – best of luck if you go in search. Try asking a local.

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A STIRRING TALE.

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                                         The stricken Mexico.     E Krause/The Atkinson

“The sea ran mountains high, and the breaking water was fearful”. Coxswain William Clarkson Lytham, Lytham Lifeboat Charles Biggs.

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The tracks and lanes are still icy up here in Longridge. I want to get out on my bike, so opt for the hopefully snow free and safer Fylde Coast, there have been more than enough ‘accidents’ in my posts of late.

Has everybody had the same idea? The roadside car parks are all full and a mass of mainly dog walkers throng the promenade. And bracing is the word that comes to mind. The bracing was in the arctic breeze from the south, and it was in a southerly direction that I started. It will be easier on the return is once more my reasoning.

I’m always focused when pursuing a mission, and I’m on a mission today. I’ve been reading about the wreck of the sailing ship Mexico on the sands of the Ribble Estuary on the 9th December 1886. Worth a read here.

Basically the Mexico out of Liverpool became stranded on Ainsdale sands in a violent storm. Lifeboats from Southport, Lytham and St. Annes were launched. Those from Southport, Eliza Fernley, and St. Annes, Laura Janet. were both wrecked in the storm with the loss of 27 local men, (2 had survived from the Southport boat) . The Lytham boat, Charles Biggs, however rescued the 12 crew of the Mexico and rowed them to safety. An heroic effort but the single biggest loss of life in the whole history of the RNLI.

There are a series of related monuments and memorials scattered around the Ribble Estuary towns, Lytham, St. Annes and Southport. I’m only concerned with the first two today. Despite all my cycling exploits on this stretch of coast I have previously been unaware of this important history. How often must we go about with our eyes closed?

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First up is probably the most prominent, the St Annes lifeboat monument, depicting a lifeboatman, on the South Promenade, It is almost hidden behind walls in the ornamental St. Annes Promenade Park, next to the public conveniences, no wonder I’ve passed it by in the past. A William Birnie Rhind designed it in 1887. A colossal statue carved in sandstone with the names of the 13 lost from the St. Annes lifeboat, Laura Janet, The attached notice encapsulates the story. DSC02998DSC02992

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Up a main road, and I was at St. Annes Parish Church. Commissioned by Lady Clifton in the early 1870s, one of Paley and Austin’s, and named in memory of her aunt who was called Anne. (the Clifton family from Lytham Hall were prominent in the area for centuries) It was built as a chapel of ease to the then parish church of St Cuthbert in Lytham. Here are buried five from the Laura Janet boat. It is heartening that the Laura Janet Memorial has had a recent refurbishment funded by the local Civic Society. I found it in a forest of elaborate memorials, a sandstone Celtic Cross inscribed with the names of the men. The Church, Lychgate and Memorial are all grade II listed. Notice the pebble detail in the walls, a common architectural feature in St. Annes and Lytham.

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Winding back through side streets I find the original St. Annes Lifeboat House, on East Bank Road, now a funeral parlour but with a blue plaque to commemorate the disaster, and an unusual weather vane. It seems odd that this boathouse was so far inland whilst the new one is on the shore.

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After a pleasant cycle down the promenade I was at the site of the original Lytham Lifeboat House on the edge of the estuary. In the summer months it is open as a museum to the lifeboatmen. It was from here that on that fateful day in 1886 that the Lytham boat, Charles Biggs, rescued the 12 crew members of the Mexico. DSC03004 (2)

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DSC03012On the marsh shore are a couple of anchors caught up in a trawl net by a fishing boat in the 1980s. The larger one is of the type lost from the Mexico. The other dates back to the late C18th used by warships from the time of Admiral Nelson.

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Time to find the memorial in the graveyard of St. Cuthbert’s Church a few blocks inland. From the promenade I made my way through Lowther Park (more of that another time). The church dating from 1835 stands alongside a busy road, but the graveyard is peace and quiet. The Laura Janet Memorial was easy to spot, being the tallest around. A Gothic pinnacled tabernacle. Plaques told of the crew and where they are buried.

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Whilst I was hereabouts I discovered the Witch Wood – but again I will leave that for another time. All that remained was to cycle back up the promenade, thankfully with the wind behind me, to where I had parked on North Promenade.

The RNLI is a charity saving lives at sea and deserving our support. How much of the infrastructure of Britain now relies on dedicated volunteers and funding raised by the public?

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THE CREW OF THE ST. ANNES LIFEBOAT LAURA JANET.

William Johnson, 35  (Coxswain)
Charles Tims, 43       (2nd Coxswain)
Oliver Hodson, 39      (Bowman)
James Bonney, 21
Nicholas Parkinson, 22
Richard Fisher, 45
James Johnson, 45
John P Wignall 22
Reuben Tims, 30
Thomas Parkinson 28,
Thomas Bonney, 35
James Dobson, 23
James Harrison, 19

THE CREW OF THE SOUTHPORT LIFEBOAT ELIZA FERNLEY.

Charles Hodge  (Coxswain)
Ralph Peters     (2nd Coxswain)
Benjamin Peters
Peter Wright
Thomas Spencer
Thomas Rigby
Timothy Rigby
Harry Rigby
Thomas Jackson
Peter Jackson
John Ball
Henry Hodge
John Robinson
Richard Robinson

The Southport crew have their own memorial and burials in Southport across those treacherous sands. Next time I visit there I will be on the lookout.

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1. St. Annes Lifeboat Monument.   2. Laura Janet Memorial, St. Annes Church.   3. Old St. Annes Lifeboat House.   4. Old Lytham Lifeboat House.   5. Laura Janet Memorial, St. Cuthbert’s Church.  W. Witch Wood.

TURNERS AT THE TATE.

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Started in 1984, the Turner Prize is named after the British painter JMW Turner (1775-1851), more of him later.  It is an award presented annually to a visual artist born in or based in Great Britain in recognition of an outstanding exhibition of his or her work. It is considered the highest honour in the British art world, though the winner is often controversial. High profile winners in the past include Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry, Damien Hirst and Steve McQueen. Originating at Tate Britain, the Prize now travels out of London in alternate years to other venues in the UK. This year the Tate at Liverpool’s Albert Docks was hosting it.

The Albert Docks area down on the river front has over the years I have been visiting established itself as one of the better tourist attractions in the port. A complex of dock buildings and warehouses opened in 1846, and was the first structure in Britain to be built from cast iron, brick and stone, with no structural wood becoming the first non-combustible warehouse system in the world.

It was revolutionary in its design as ships were loaded and unloaded directly from or to the warehouses. The dock became a popular store for valuable cargoes such as brandy, cotton, tea, silk, tobacco, ivory and sugar. However, within 50 years, larger and more open docks were required.

The complex was damaged during WW2 air raids on Liverpool. With the general decline of docking it finally closed in 1972. After ten years of dereliction, the redevelopment of the dock began in 1981, when the Merseyside Development Corporation was set up, with the Albert Dock being officially re-opened in 1984 as a tourist and retail attraction. The retail side has not prospered but now bars and restaurants complement the cultural scene. Whatever, it represents the great prosperity of the Port Of Liverpool in the last two centuries.

In the 1980s it was decided to create a ‘Tate of the North’.  This would be a gallery dedicated to showing modern art and encouraging a new, younger audience. First The Maritime Museum moved in then in 1985, James Stirling was commissioned to design the new Tate Gallery. His designs left the exterior of the building almost untouched, but transformed the interior into an arrangement of simple, elegant galleries suitable for the display of modern art. It opened to the public in May 1988.

Coming full circle 2008 marked the year Liverpool was named European Capital of Culture. To celebrate this, in 2007 the gallery hosted the Turner Prize, the first time the competition was held outside London. A major step forward for art in the provinces. It is back here after 15 years and that is why I was in Liverpool on a wild January day.

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The waterfront had a wintery Venetian atmosphere, I walked past the tacky outlets selling Beatles and LFC paraphernalia to enter the Tate at the far end. Lovely scouse accents greeted me, directing me to the top floor for the four selected Turner Prize exhibits.

Each was on a large scale, well presented in the spacious galleries. The four were Heather Phillipson, Ingrid Pollard, Veronica Ryan and Sin Wai Kin. To be honest I had not come across any of them. Have you?

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First up was Heather Phillipson, a room full of delights. Multimedia – videos, music sounds, sculptural installations – all coming at you from different directions. Complex and absurd, nothing is what it seems and there is a sense of menace – in the artist’s words “all may be on the verge of collapse” The video of clouds and swans had me entranced whilst in the background all sorts of clanking noises were going on.

I felt a little let down with Veronica Ryan. Maybe it was too complex for me. “There’s a kind of subtle autobiographical component to the work, and the jury feel that she’s extending the language of modern contemporary sculpture in new and subtle ways,” The room was a quiet space with salvaged articles brought to life and references to her Caribbean upbringing and even the Covid crisis. 

Next up was the lively Sin Wai Kin. He has created a fictional world of his own with characters exploring commercialism, racism and sexuality. All shown with cardboard cut-outs, videos and music. Very disturbing to my sheltered upbringing, a complicated mesh of relationships vividly portrayed.

Lastly, but not least, Ingrid Pollard. Again of Caribbean heritage who has been photographing scenes since childhood. Her racial differences in our culture always fascinated her and her present exhibition reflects that. Photographs of ‘Black’ people within our British culture form one space. In the other is the moving ‘Bow Down and Very Low’ which centres around a young girl from a film screenshot combined with a kinetic installation of mechanical bowing. “We share some things in common and that’s the beginning of the conversation“.

 

 

So who won, well the judges decided upon Veronica Ryan. Their decision would have been influenced by her recent Windrush dedicated installation in Hackney, tropical fruits for all to enjoy. The prize is for the latest works of the artist not necessarily just the Tate exhibition. 

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Veronica Ryan in Hackney.

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A break was needed in the friendly café.

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The nineteenth-century artist J.M.W. Turner( 1775 – 1851) was a figure who had been innovative and controversial in his own day.  Today he is considered to be one of the greatest British artists. Turner, himself, had wanted to establish a prize for young artists, so it was fitting to name the prize after him. At the moment Tate Liverpool is also hosting an exhibition of some of his seascapes alongside an auditory interpretation by Lamin Tofana. Dark Waters. That’s where I was heading next.

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There are two rooms showing Turner’s sketches and finished paintings accompanied by the music of Lamin.

Turner had a long-lasting fascination with the sea, the ships that sailed it and the dangers they encountered. He was influenced by notable sailing disasters of the time and also the links to the slave transportation prevalent in the C18/19th. Liverpool was of course a major seaport in those days.

Lamin Fofana, an electronic music producer and DJ, was born in Sierra Leone and lived in Guinea before moving to the United States in his early teens to escape the civil war. Lamin’s music reflects the diversity of his upbringing. Complex and otherworldly, his music reflects immigrants struggle to define their place in a new environment through creative expression. 

On display are some of Turner’s sketch books, he never travelled without one. The sketches are exquisite –  a few lines depicting the power of the oceans. There are more of his finished sketches framed on the walls, all capturing the moods of the water. And then there were about a dozen of his most famous oils. Time to stand and stare, and marvel at his artistry capturing light and movement. All the while in the background were Lamin’s hauntingly evocative sounds. 

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Gazing out of the window was a scene worthy of a Turner sketch, the River Mersey being whipped up in the strong winds. All enhanced by Lamin’s music.

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There was much more to view at the Tate, but my two main objectives had been fulfilled, and they had both exceeded my expectations. Time to hit the motorway before the traffic builds.

WINTER IN MORECAMBE.

DSC02554I can’t believe it but on a cold winter’s morning I get mixed up again with a half-marathon run along the cycleway from Halton into Lancaster. Back in the summer I was in the mixt of a larger run, and it proved frustrating on the narrow paths.

DSC02532So today I took an early opportunity to seek escape up the ramp onto the Lancaster Canal Aqueduct, over the Lune and into quiet countryside. Only the odd dog walkers were met before I disembarked onto the promenade leading around the Bay to Morecambe.

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The Lakeland hills were in greyness, but there was an attractive brightness over towards Arnside Knott and Grange on the far side of the Kent estuary. The tide was well out with a lot more sand exposed than I’ve seen before. Wading birds followed the water’s edge but too far away to identify with the naked eye. I couldn’t work out if the scenes with the exposed sands appeared better or gloomier than usual, certainly they were in Winter mode.

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The few promenaders with their dogs were well wrapped up in the cold weather. I was soon into town and past Eric’s statue. I was on a mission to have a closer look at the Winter Gardens building, temptingly described in one of Eunice’s recent posts.

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Alas, it was all closed up as she had warned us, but I was hoping the café would be operating, but no. I was tempted by Brucciani’s next door, but I had no bike lock. I certainly wasn’t tempted by the noisy amusement arcade on the other side. Adversely this seemed to be the busiest place of the few open on the prom.

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DSC02549I was now wheeling by cycle along the pavements. The old station with its impressive frontage was next. Peeping inside there was a rather lacklustre Xmas fayre in progress. The room was presumably the old spacious waiting hall, in its heyday this station would have been extremely busy bringing tourists to the heart of Morecambe. ‘Bradford-by-the-Sea’. The new station is a bleak platform in an industrial waste – so much for thoughtful planning.

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I wandered around the corner to the Festival Market, busier than the station, selling all things cheap and cheerfully. I knew a café inside where I could safely sit with my bike and watch the world go by. Most of the world in here seems to be obese, a sad reflection on deprived Northern areas? Levelling up is never going to catchup (brought up in PMQ today). The Eden project, if the government gives their share of finances, (brought up in PMQ today) would certainly help Morecambe to throw off its undeserved downtrodden reputation. It could have a lot to offer.DSC02555

I was aware of that reputation as I cycled a particularly dingy rubbish strewn route out of town. There have been knife attacks here recently, and I have often observed druggy characters in the shadows. Nobody is immune from the social deprivations in our modern society. One can’t blame the immigrants, legal or otherwise for everything. We have too much home-grown crime already. There was an interesting article on Byline Times this week on how it felt to be an Albanian in the UK at the moment. I have tried to be objective, I like Morecambe, but there is an underbelly of seediness in the winter air.

Needless to say I was soon into Lancaster, over the Millennium Bridge and racing back to Halton passing the finish line of the half-marathon on the way. It felt good to be out on the bike again.

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A HURST GREEN VARIATION.

DSC02475With the trees almost bare of leaves we saw extra detail today on our stroll out of Hurst Green. Mike had phoned me the night before thinking it could be a dry day, at least in the morning. My knee was painful from Saturday’s walk around the Silverdale area, but I didn’t like to put him off – I have done so several times recently. I picked him up as his car was looking worse for wear after a close encounter with an HGV. He is slowly working his way through the maze of insurance reports.

Parking up opposite the Bayley Arms which is sadly once more deserted and neglected. It is a difficult time for the hospitality trade, but it would appear that it was being poorly managed according to the ubiquitous Tripadvisor. Hurst Green is in the civil parish of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley. I’m mentioning this because Mike spotted the pub’s alternative name spelling at odds with the ‘official’. The parish is stuffed with listed buildings many associated with Stonyhurst College and estate.  The diverse architecture of the area does make it an ideal rambling venue for anyone with a historical interest. I restrain myself from photographing most of the gems passed today, well only a couple. The rest are hidden in my previous posts.

We suspect the Tolkien Trail will be very muddy, and it is becoming overused. So we head in the other direction dropping down to Dean Brook with its remnants of the water powered industries of previous centuries. Bobbin and spindle workings were common hereabouts supplying the flourishing Lancashire cotton mills. Mill races, previous ponds and evidence of damming seem more obvious today in the sunshine. The water is very lively after heavy rain. I used to bring my children and subsequently grandchildren along here, it was a favourite spot for ‘pooh sticks’ launched from the bridge and then followed downstream as far as possible. Today you would not have able to keep pace. DSC02476

I divert from the path to show Mike the abandoned Sand Quarry which provided the building blocks for much of Hurst Green. I had forgotten how extensive it had been, again everything looked clearer with the bare trees. Years ago Simon and I climbed an exciting route up the middle of the largest rock face using many of the features left by the quarrymen – shot holes and incut slots. It all looked overgrown today – nature slowly taking over.

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Onwards we went up the old cart track from the bridge. How many times have I photographed Greengore, an old hunting lodge, but today I found a different angle which highlighted its impressive southern frontage.

DSC02479Once on the top road we just ambled along catching up on the news, there were few cars to disturb us. Down the lane back to Stonyhurst we passed the well known Pinfold Cross commemorating a worker’s untimely death. Cometh the hour. DSC02481

And on past what had been the stables for the horse-drawn sledges pulling stone down from Kemple End Quarry, better quality than Sand Rock, to build the college and its houses. You can still follow the line of the sunken track up the fellside. The tumble down barn has been recently restored and upgraded to an upmarket holiday cottage.

We debated which route to take back to the village – go right and stay on the road all the way or continue down and follow a way through Stonyhurst College. We went for the more interesting latter knowing that it would entail a muddy section towards the end.

The college forefront was busy with coaches ferrying pupils around. The main building is under wraps for some restoration but the elaborate finials and roofline of St. Peter’s Church was just waiting to be photographed against the autumn sky. Here is my modest result – only to be approached by ‘security’ to say no photography. Why? Children’s dormitories. What in the church? I hope I don’t offend anybody with my picture.

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The muddy stretch has been improved by a short section of tarmacked track on the hill heading into Hurst Green. We entered in by the old smithy and the Almshouses and it started raining as we drove home over the fell Cometh the hour.

***

Capturehurst green

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – the darker side.

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I’m being unkind there, the darker side of the Pennines is actually in the White Rose county. But it is often gloomy as you drive down through these eastern Lancashire valleys with the prominent Peel Tower watching over you.

Walk 28, Holcombe Moor from Ramsbottom promised “A non-too-demanding walk from the endearingly quirky of Ramsbottom up onto the moors and back in time for coffee and cake – or a pint – in one of many inviting bars and cafés” That turned out to be a little short on the detail, both good and bad, but we are out for adventure and discovery after all.

Ramsbottom, forget the corny jokes, is, or was a solid Lancashire Mill town. Wikipedia as usual has more than enough information. It is now an apparently thriving, on the evidence of all the people there today, shopping destination. Its strength is the number of independent businesses both basic and frivolous. Parking was not easy on a busy Saturday. The station, one of the main attractions, with sometimes steam hauled trains up the valley on the East Lancs Railway was just around the corner. Only diesels today but come later and there will be Santa Specials.DSC02246DSC02245DSC02251DSC02253

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Relics of the past.

I’ll gloss over the first stretch through a modern industrial landscape. But all of a sudden one is out into open fields with the River Irwell alongside. I’d been here before on the  Irwell Sculpture Trail which at the time seemed very short of sculptures. Today I was noticing things new like the ‘stone hedge’ bordering a field, the nod to industrial heritage on the site of Cross End Mill, (a C19th dye, bleach and subsequent textile print works) the little allotments and a modern day communal food bank.

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Capture Cross End

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The path deposited me in the isolated hamlet of Strongstry, a couple of back to back streets which must have provided housing for mill workers in the past. There seemed to be a sense of community with book banks and bird feeding stations. A nice place to live.

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Now for the interesting and unexpected bit, underplayed in the book. A scramble up alongside a lively stream in a hidden, rocky, tree lined gorge. Pure delight for 3/4 of a mile and 500 feet of climbing. Well done the National Trust who care for this land.

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Out the top and across the road the character of the walk changes as open moorland is reached with increasing views over all those industrial valleys. The arrival at the top was greeted with a plethora of signs warning of the dangers of the MOD firing range, with more regulations than you could throw a bomb at. There were no red flags or explosions today, so I could happily trip along the ridge of Holcombe Moor.

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The main point of interest was a stone monument erected in 1902 on the substantial base of an ancient Pilgrim Cross. The inscriptions told of the way to Whalley Abbey in the C12th.

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From there I could have made a beeline to the distant Peel Tower over Harcles Hill, but the going looked boggy and besides I was following Mark’s footsteps. His way was no less boggy but had views down into the steep sided valley of Red Brook south of Bull Hill. I’m not certain I took the right track, there were so many, but eventually I homed in on Pell Tower after an arduous half hour or so, again underplayed in the guide. It was a lot taller than I had remembered, 128ft in fact, and today as always the destination of many family groups coming up the short way from Holcombe. Built in 1851 with public subscription to mark gratitude to locally born Sir Robert Peel for repealing the complicated Corn Laws which were causing starvation in the agricultural workers. Political intrigue was as complicated then as it is today. I think of him more for his reform of the criminal justice system and the establishment of Police Constables, ‘peelers’.

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A murky tower in the distance.

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Arduous conditions – welcome to winter walking.

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Bull Hill – I’ve never knowingly visited.

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Tried an arty shot with the ‘towers’ of Manchester in the background. It didn’t come off.

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Look at the size of the figures.

I found a good stone to sit on overlooking the valley and opened my lunch box containing my lovingly handcrafted egg and tomato salad sandwich. Placing it on the stone behind me whilst I poured some hot tea. Reaching for the anticipated sandwich it had disappeared. I had to look twice, but it just wasn’t there. The culprit was a silent poodle who must have crept up behind me, there he was finishing off my lunch higher up the hill. I suspect his owner was hiding out of shame.

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There’s a dog up there…     I’m on my way down.

Rested but not fed I started to make my way down steep tracks, past a Millennium Bench, and lanes through Holcombe. A mixture of old stone cottages and extravagant new properties, the former predominating the lower I went. My intention was to stop off for a pint in the Shoulder of Mutton pub and phone the plastic bag man, living nearby, for him to join me in what was once one of our haunts after climbing. But alas the place was boarded up , landlord needed. It is not a good time for pubs. So down steeply, and I mean steeply, into Ramsbottom.DSC02340DSC02341DSC02343

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A Lowry’esque church – Holcombe.

DSC02351The streets were still busy. I was disappointed to see also that the Grant Arms in the centre had closed, I stayed there on the Irwell Sculpture Trail, it was pretty grotty at the time I must admit. It is now a financial investment office. You can see why traditional pubs suffer as quite a few small bars were scattered around, offering a good range of beers often home-brewed, cocktails and a bright environment. They were all full of happy people.DSC02357DSC02355

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Maybe here lies the answer…

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…more likely here in a modern bar.

I was pleased to see that the welcoming Chocolate Café across the way was still in business, it was always a haven on shopping trips. All things chocolate.DSC02358

Anyhow, a change of plan, and we were soon sat in The Garsdale on the edge of Bury enjoying a beer and chewing the fat as they say in these parts.

A superb varied walk full of interest but a little more demanding than Mark suggests, or am I getting old? Surely not. Thanks for sticking with me.

CaptureRamsbottom.

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Easington Fell again.

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My usual ploy of a leisurely start to the day, drinking coffee, catching up with the news and maybe a crossword or two seemed to be sensible as the rain hammered down. Another coffee whilst I scanned the Cicerone Lancashire Guide for an accessible walk more testing than the Blacko one a couple of days ago, delightful though that was. (Today’s turned out to be a tough test of eight difficult miles)

This post became rather long and rambling, I can only apologise now.

I was soon driving out to Grindleton in the Ribble Valley. Several flooded roads did not bode well, perhaps I should have brought Wellingtons. But the forecast was for improvement, and I’ll go with that. The route in question , Walk 20, included an ascent of Easington Fell. I’ve been up there many times. A good friend used to live in Grindleton, and we often did circuits above the village. The last time I was up there was in lockdown 2020 when I approached from the north out of Harrop Fold. The day did not go well, and I was lost for some time (more than I would like to admit) in mist on the fell. I did not want a repeat of that fiasco. 

I parked in Grindleton which looked rather sad with both of its pubs closed. They were working on one, formerly the Buck Inn, but progress is slow. The Duke of York sits forlornly on the opposite corner.

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The Duke becoming derelict.


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Not likely! The old Buck Inn, why the name change? Looks like corporate management.

I walk through some lovely woodlands and above the old Greendale Mill originally powered by the lively valley stream.

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I found this on the internet, TCW.

In the 1850s and 60s a quarter of the adults in the village were hand loom weavers of cotton, but industrial mills were being developed apace and depriving the domestic workers of their livelihood. It would have been seen as a benefit to Grindleton when a mill was built there, providing jobs without the workers having to make arduous journeys further afield, perhaps to Preston or Blackburn. Greendale Mill was built in about 1868 by the Grindleton Industrial Association Ltd with space for 180 looms. It straddled a brook and was driven by a water turbine and a 15hp steam engine, which was powered by a huge coal-fired boiler 7ft in diameter and 25ft high. By 1871 the mill had been leased to a tenant, Timothy Marsden. He employed about 50 people and had 100 looms.

At about 12.50pm on Tuesday, September 26, Marsden was seen stoking the furnace to get the boiler steam pressure up. Two or three minutes later there was a shattering explosion. Shocked mill workers rushed out and saw the boiler house had been blown to bits. Masonry and roof slates lay everywhere, covering the surrounding fields up to 200 yards away. A pall of steam hung over the mill and the surrounding area, and there was a deathly silence.

Three or four men entered the boiler house and found the boiler had been torn from its brick setting and thrown across the room, its metal plates ripped apart, and the rivets sheared through. Timothy Marsden was lying on the floor, an oil can in his hand, gasping for air and making rasping sounds. He was severely scalded on his back, arms and legs, and he had a deep gash on his head.

The workers carried him into the cotton warehouse and a doctor arrived. Slipping in and out of consciousness and deeply shocked, Marsden asked what had happened and when told he said, ‘Poor me! What shall I do?’ With some difficulty his clothes were cut off. He asked to be taken to his home in Darwen, about 20 miles away, so he was carefully wrapped in blankets and loaded on to a horse-drawn cart for the journey. The doctor tended to the terrible scalds and the head wound for the rest of the week, but Marsden contracted lockjaw and died on the Sunday night, five days after the accident.

An inquiry was held at the Duke of York Inn, a few hundred yards from the mill, on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 14, and the jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

Damage to the building cost £500 (about £60,000 now) to repair, and the mill was not fully operational until early the next year. Cotton manufacturing continued until 1930. After that, felt was made for hats, and then engineering components. In 1960 the site was acquired by a haulage firm. It is now a storage facility. 

The area round the mill, about 20 acres, is now owned by the Woodland Trust which planted it with broadleaf trees in 2000 to commemorate the Millennium. There are a number of damson trees to reflect the fact that Grindleton was once home to a jam factory.

I thought that was worth the read.

Now on Green Lane leading up the fell. At one time this was a pebble stoned way. Bits of tarmac keep appearing to give access to the scattered houses. 

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I remember White Hall from some previous visit. Its price is now £2 million. 

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A touch of colour on the way.

Upwards and onwards I pass the extensive grounds and properties of Cob House. One of the grandest overlooking the Ribble Valley and no doubt valued at more than £2 million. I often muse as to who lives in these mansions, local businessman come good or a crook doing bad.

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A little farther up a Bridleway slopes off to the left into a valley with the isolated Simpshey Hill straight ahead. My memory clicks back to 1989 when I was introducing one of my son’s to off-road ‘cycle packing’, the other son has more sense. We camped down by the little stream and were surprised if not scared by a large black mink approaching us as we cooked our beans. We didn’t sleep easy. That was the time when animal rights activists were releasing the animals from the mink farms, much to the detriment of the local otter population.

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Simpshey Fell and valley.

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West Clough Brook.

I worked my way around Simpshey and then Easington Fell with its forest appeared, it looked a long way. In fact, I ended up walking continuously uphill for nearly 4 miles and was glad of a sit down on an old wall for a bite to eat. From up here Pendle was prominent on the horizon, as always, and swinging round the Bowland Fell were all a bit hazy in the moist atmosphere.

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The long way up to Easington Fell in red.

DSC02184I knew that the next section around the north side of the forest would be hard going. I aim for a pile of stones, marked as ‘The Wife’ on some maps.

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The wife.

From there is rough ground, climbing the ‘rusty gate’ mentioned in Mark’s guide, up to another pile of stones marking the summit of Easington Fell, 396 m. (Header photo) The good views into Yorkshire and the Three Peaks were obscured, but I could see my way along the plantation edge. What is not readily apparent is the condition of the ground, it deteriorates into a reedy boggy nightmare where I was concerned I would sink without trace. By now the wetness had spread up to my waist, and I was tiring in the heavy going. I was looking for a way through the forest and was concerned it maybe blocked by all the storm damage from last winter. The easy option would have been to continue outside the trees on an undulating course to Beacon Hill, but I was keen to follow the guide. An indistinct post showed the way into a fire break which thankfully was clear of fallen trees.

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That rusty gate – first of many obstacles.

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Distant Beacon Fell.

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Rough going – what lies beneath?

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Trouble ahead?

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That elusive fire break.

At its end I joined the Shivering Ginnel, an ancient walled route through these hills. ‘Shivering’ because it was so often a cold north-easterly wind that blew through here.

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Shivering Ginnel.

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How many have passed this way.

It was a relief to break out onto the open moor at Beacon Hill. The ground around the summit seems to have been disturbed, mining activity or a more ancient burial ground? Does anybody know?  Pendle has to appear in the background of the Summit photo. The River Ribble is somewhere down below.DSC02212