Category Archives: Art and architecture.

SD 38. BARROW TO NELSON.

We are out walking our SD 38 line again. A lane leads steeply out of Barrow through mainly new housing, ribbon development if ever I saw it. Crossing the busy A59 we continued climbing into Wiswell, an interesting little hamlet with a famous gastro pub. A van was delivering organic vegetables to houses, one of these expensive subscription ideas where you probably finish each week with a box still full of potatoes and carrots. From here the route became moorland onto a ridge which was really an outlier of Pendle Fell, the mast marked on the map seems to have disappeared. We had climbed 500ft in a mile and were beginning to steam in the mild weather. Sabden could be seen in the distance. Below us was the large hidden valley of Sabden Brook and we slowly made our way down to pick up tracks into the village. I mentioned the famous Sabden Treacle Mines of which Sir Hugh had no knowledge, sadly they are no more and I will leave those with curiosity to investigate. We followed lanes to the 19th century church and then out past a farm from where a pipe led into the fields. This pipe actually came out of the midden slurry tank and snaked  into the fields, a tractor pump was starting up to inflate the pipe which we followed almost hypnotically for several fields. Eventually the pipe seemed to connect up with another tractor with spreading machinery, but nothing happened. By now we realised we were off track so diverted back onto a rough farm road. This led to the 16th century Dean Farm  with its wonderful mullioned windows and incongruous 19th century extension.  Muddy fields and rough reedy grass below the ridge of the so called Forest Of Pendle led us to lunch on the wall of Tinedale House. A climb onto the grandly named Rigg of England which was mainly equestrian farms. Up here were good views back to the massive bulk of Pendle and across to Newchurch in Pendle which we had visited on The Lancashire Witches Walk.Below to the south was the industrial Burnley – Nelson – Colne corridor. It didn’t look too bad from up here. Ancient tracks down the hillside brought us into Fence alongside the White Swan pub where I recalled a seasonal wild garlic meal.  Where do these memories unexpectedly come from?

We made a mistake in trying to follow footpaths parallel with the busy road, we were hemmed in by unnecessary plastic ‘hedging’ on the boundary of more equestrian enclosures. Escaping eventually into a large graveyard, where we were surprised by the number of Muslim graves. We started dropping down into the valley alongside a small beck. Surprisingly green paths led us into the heart of the Lomeshaye Industrial Estate. At the large Wellocks complex we enquired what  ‘The perfect ingredient‘ was but unfortunately only Polish was spoken. Subsequently we discovered that it was a high end food distribution firm to the restaurant trade founded originally by a potato merchant whom Sir Hugh had known from his Yorkshire days. It was pleasant to enter Nelson through Victoria Park with its bandstand and paths alongside Pendle Water.

Under the motorway, over the canal and then a steep road heading up into Nelson town centre where we found the modern bus station which gave us a busy ride back to Barrow.

*****

 

 

 

 

A MISTY BEACON FELL.

Normally I can see Beacon Fell from my house – but not this morning. A freezing mist hung over the landscape. Not to be deterred I wanted to walk up there and back, in deference to the weather and my late start I took the car some part way. I know these footpaths well as I often do this walk or a variation, it is in fact the first section of my Longridge Skyline Walk.

The snow was disappearing from the fields as I set off. Soon I was walking through the first of several developments where an original farmhouse with its surrounding barns has morphed into an expensive looking ‘hamlet’. This one is based around Higher Barker.

Familiar field paths [I didn’t need a map today] lead to the Cross Keys Inn where holiday type units have been built around the site, none ready for occupation in what is a speculative development. The Cross Keys was a farm-cum-basic pub run by brothers and known affectionately and ironically by locals as The Dorchester. What of its future?

The lane ahead is always soggy and today was no exception. I could hear a woodpecker in the trees of Whitechapel.

The sun was trying to break through the mist as I crossed fields to Crombleholme Fold another group of houses old and new. The sheep were surprised to see me emerging from the gloom.

Still no view of Beacon Fell which I knew was looming up above me.  The trees were soon reached and as I entered them a small herd of Roe Deer passed in front of me seconds after taking this picture.

The car park at the visitor centre was virtually empty and I was the only one in the cafe where I enjoyed a good coffee. To reach the summit I followed the latest version of the walking snake, this one is expertly crafted from stone so should be more durable than the previous wooden sculpture.

I had the summit to myself with tantalising glimpses of Parlick and Fairsnape Fells through the mists.

A newish path, there are many since the storms of last year, and a concessionary bridleway through deciduos plantings took me out of the park.

A field footpath led me down to the fishing lake/holiday homes of Woodfold, another development which seems to be enlarging every time I pass this way. Do these places go under the planning radar?

My next aim was Barnsfold Farm environs where more sympathetic conversions were carried out decades ago.

Then it was muddy fields to Bullsnape Hall and back to my car just as the sun finally burst through. The final stile was a challenge.

An enjoyable day from nothing.

*****

SD38. SINGLETON TO INSKIP.

The night before I arrange with Sir Hugh  where to meet up for our next stretch along northing SD 38 . I’m sat waiting at New Hall whilst he is sat waiting at Cuddy Hill a mile and a half away, a misunderstanding compounded by the wrong mobile numbers. Redfaces and ‘mea culpa’ all round. Once communications are re-established we drive to Singleton to start walking later than we had planned. By now there is a glimpse of sunshine.

Singleton is an interesting village with an old PO, several lodges and halls, picturesque cottages, a fire engine shed and a Parish Church. The estate was developed from 1853 onwards by the Miller family, wealthy cotton manufacturers working  with the Horrocks family in Preston. The estate is now held in trust and appears well maintained. There are permissive paths through the estate but we lack the maps to use them.

At Singleton Hall’s South Lodge the original gates bear the initials of Thomas Horrocks Miller and on the gate posts ‘Demi Wolves’ taken from the Miller coat of arms.

The old PO.

Lodge gates.

A Demi Wolf.

The timber-framed fire engine house is nearby, it has decorated plastered walls and a louvred bell tower. The engine was horse-drawn and before a fire could be attended the horse had to rounded up in the adjacent field. 

Estate cottages lined the lane and worshippers were leaving the church as we passed.

Thistleton, Elswick and Inskip villages were visited in turn. Not far off is the site of Cuadrilla’s controversial fracking wells and the local feeling is demonstrated by all the anti posters.

Does fracking cause earthquakes?

Todays walking was easy through fields but we lost count of the high awkward styles and muddy farm tracks.

The farms we passed were a mixture of traditional working and modernised for rich commuters. The stangest was an old thatched cottage with a very modern residence built within yards of it. Strange, who would want to do that?

Everywhere were ponds, former marl pits, that look as though they are used for fishing and duck shooting.

Elswick is known for the Bond’s ice cream shop, now more of a restaurant.

Inskip is known for RNAS Inskip, a former forces base and airfield. It is now used as a military high frequency radio transmitting station and the antennae can be seen for miles in this flat landscape.

The last farmyard was the worst for muck just before we reached the car. Jolly Japes.

Maybe you would be advised to read Sir Hugh’s account of the day. http://conradwalks.blogspot.com/

*****

 

IT’S GRIM DOWN SOUTH.

I couldn’t think of a theme for this post until I was caught up in the transport chaos that is almost the norm down here. [almost as scary as the Hieronymus Bosch painting seen below] After a lovely weekend I was dropped off a few streets away from  Woking station as the traffic came to a stand still. I was going to catch a train up to London Waterloo to begin my journey home but the station was closed as the lines were blocked due to ongoing weekend engineering works. I was pleased with my lateral thinking and quickly had an E-ticket on my phone for the coach to Heathrow to link in to the tube system. OK the bus was an hour late due to the traffic but once on board the driver skilfully navigated the traffic and dropped me off at Terminal 5. Should I go back to Preston or fly off to the Caribbean?

 

I was down here to see my old friend Mel [a regular walking companion on many of my posts here]  who has had some recent heart surgery and is on kidney dialysis, some people get a bad deal. He was feeling great and looked really well.

I’d arrived at Euston Friday lunchtime, usually I have a break in the British Library but today headed across the road to The Wellcome Collection, ‘the free museum for the incurably curious’.

 

What a strange but fascinating collection – artificial limbs, paintings, sex aids, obesity, pharmaceutical jars, Charles Darwin’s walking sticks, Napoleon’s toothbrush, Everest medicine chest and much more all collected by Sir Henry Wellcome.

The Garden of Earthly Delights from Hieronymus Bosch.

On at the moment is an exhibition Living with Buildings looking at the relationship between our health and the spaces we live in. Included is a painting by Pissaro, Andreas Gursky’s iconic photo of apartments in Paris, the Paimio chair. There is a separate Global Clinic exhibition looking at a new design for simple and sympathetic installations in emergency situations and remote locations.

Oh and there is a nice cafe and an upside down Gormley statue. Quite a place and one I’ll put on my visit list for trips to Euston.

 

Whilst Mel was at hospital Saturday morning I visited the Woking Lightbox for an Impressionism Exhibition. This gallery is only small but seems to organise some outstanding displays and this was no exception…

There was a good selection of paintings but I was intrigued by the previously unknown bronze statues. A glorious infants head [Dalou], a simple peasant worker [Dalou] and a brutal figure [Rodin] drew my attention.

Next door was an exhibition of Elisabeth Frink’s works and when you step in the room you are confronted by …

… the gallery lady on duty felt uncomfortable when alone with this figure.

I joined up with Mel’s wife for a street Korean lunch at Shins, I was confused by the menu and smiling staff so I just opted for a tofu Bipimbap – tasty and filling. The Katsu curry looked good as did the glass noodle soup. Waiting at the bus stop was an experience as we were directly below the cranes working on some new sky scrapers almost as scary as Frinks works. These will completely transform the skyline not necessarily for the better according to local opinion, but they may save some fields being built on.

Sunday morning saw us at the RHS Wisley garden, it was clear and sunny but very cold so we headed to the cafe for hot drinks. A walk around the grounds is always selective but we managed to see the vegetable plot, rock gardens, Bowles corner, alpine houses and the Tropical Glasshouse. The autumn colours were still prominent and I found this a relaxing interlude in a busy schedule, I am envious of having this wonderful place on your doorstep and being able to visit regularly and leisurely to see the changing seasons.

I didn’t fly off to the Caribbean but caught the train to Paddington and a bus to Euston. With all the rearrangements and travel this morning I’d not eaten so I ventured into a Nepalese Restaurant in a nearby side street for a late lunch. https://www.great-nepalese.com/eat/  It was actually quite authentic and made me wish I was back in Kathmandu but I ended up in Preston.

A LITTLE MORE OF THE LOT.

It’s the end of August and I’m back in the Lot Valley, France, for a couple of weeks as is usual.

The house of my friends is as welcoming as ever and the weather is perfect. The problem is I can’t get out of bed in the morning. My stiffness in shoulders and hips has intensified and nobody sees me until lunchtime when I’m the head chef. After that I’m semi OK and can walk up the easy Combe de Filhol behind the house. To my amazement on an oak tree I spot a luxuriant fungi. Orange and yellow bracts sprout from the tree, I’ve no idea what it is but I suspect it is edible and return to cut off a few slices.

A quick search suggests, no proves, it is  ‘chicken in the woods’  – a delicacy in some regions. Without further to do I fry a piece up and season up with salt and pepper. It tastes good but more like a lemon flavoured mushroom than chicken. I start with a small piece, some people are allergic to them, but the next day fry up more pieces for friends who realise I’m not dead.

Nothing to do with the fungus but I slowly become worse with the stiffness and pain, almost certainly PMR [look it up], and have to resort to the steroids prescribed to me. I take two after breakfast and two the same evening and miraculously the next morning I’m virtually back to normal. Life is returned and  I’m able to do some gardening, swim and go on my usual walks around the area. I enjoy a lovely walk along the ridge to the communication tower and back along the vineyards. Buzzards flying above and butterflies fluttering alongside, blues and clouded yellows. From the ridge I have great views of Puy L’Eveque above the River Lot and am impressed by the size of the church above the town, arrowed below. I don’t think I’ve ever visited it,

So a couple of days later we make a pilgrimage to investigate. What a find! The church of Saint Sauveur began in the 13th century and is in an elevated position with views over the valley. It is of course built from limestone giving it a clean bright appearance. There is an elegant arched entrance porch soaring up to the bell tower. Elaborate stone carvings are found above the door. The interior is generally plain with high vaulted Gothic arches but there are fine stained glass windows. Coming back outside we can see where the building was extended in the  C19th. High on the North East wall is a strange observation tower. Surrounding the church are masses of burial vaults.

Apart from that it is mainly eating and drinking at the numerous local hostelries. In particular Le Pigeonnier alongside the River Lot gives a fine view of Puy L’Eveque’s medieval houses rising from the valley. In contrast Le Cote Lot restaurant in the Bellevue Hotel has a fine terrace room looking down onto the Lot below. Le Caillau courtyard restaurant close to the house has a romantic atmosphere with fine food but due to its popularity we found the service has deteriorated. More fine evening dining was experienced at La Venus Restaurant in nearby Prayssac and of course we made our usual pilgrimage to the Brit Hotel in Fumel for their fabulous lunchtime buffet.

Looking up at Puy L’Eveque from Le Pigeonnier.

Looking down from Cote Lot to the river.

Le Caillau courtyard.

The Brit’s Buffet.

Back at the house mirabelles, quince, plums and figs all collected locally gave a healthier balance to our diet.

It will be a wrench returning to the UK as Autumn starts.

JOHN O’GROATS TRAIL. 7. Golspie to Brora.

A perfect walk.

Breakfast was shared with a man from France who was taking a dog and a cat over to Orkney – that is a long story. The day was perfect – fresh and clear. The trail went out of town past the houses of the former Sutherland estate with their Duke’s statue looking down on them. In the close up photo below the quarry used for stone for the base can be made out. Onto the dunes  and a path towards Dunrobin Castle the largest house in the Highlands and once owned by the notorious Duke Of Sutherland. I saw it from below and it did look impressive, I was too early for their falconry display. A bit further on and I diverted up to Dun Liath broch expecting I’d be the only one there but a mini bus pulled in and discharged a group of tourists who were mainly interested in taking selfies of themselves. After they departed I wandered round the 2000 year old ruins in peace. After regaining the shore I dropped onto the beach as the tide was out. There were some interesting rocks covered in seaweed, one reminding me of Dougal the dog from The Magic Roundabout. There were seals on the rocks and exposed sandbanks, their calls were hauntingly human. I arrived into Brora by the harbour area where a few fishing boats were preparing to go out to their lobster pots. Nearby was the old ice house used when the harbour was more prosperous. This coast was famous for its herrings which would have been smoked locally. Up the road was a clock war memorial of unusual design. I lunched in the delightful Linda’s Cafe and enquired about a taxi who could pick me up if I walked a few more miles up the coast, none was available but they suggested I would be able to catch a bus back. So off I went again over the golf course onto the perfect beach for two or three miles. A swim was needed halfway to cool me down. At the end of the golfcourse I clambered over the railway and landed on the A9 where I managed to flag down a bus back to Brora.

Notice Trail waymark.

Brora Golf Course.

Endless sands.

My airbnb was good with plenty of time for stimulating conversation with the hostesses and the Jack Russell. There was a private episode in my bedroom when becoming concerned I may have a tick attached to my derrière.  I attempted to locate it without the benefit of mirrors with no success until I came up with idea of a selfie from my phone. Eventually I focused in to the right area, a false alarm as it happens, but I hate to think what Google may have done with my images.  Now all I have to do is persuade someone to drive me back up the A9 in the morning which will make for an easier day’s walk to Helmsdale.

*****

JOHN O’GROATS TRAIL. 5. Tain to Embo.

A day of two halves.

Two halves scenically and weather wise. It drizzled in the morning but was hot and sunny for the afternoon.

Dornoch Firth.

Breakfast in The Royal was excellent and made entertaining by a group of plonkers on a nearby table. On some sort of group activity holiday the 30somethings were engrossed in laptops and tablets and ignoring the staff. Their ‘leader’ announced that they had to leave at 9am and went off to rouse a couple of late risers. After 8.30 they eventually switched off, almost, their electronic devices and put in complex orders for the cooked breakfast. Not surprisingly they started getting frustrated with the slightest of delays and complaints were put to the waitress who dealt with the little darlings with restrained Scottish aplomb and a wry smile.

After passing the Glenmorangie Distillery little estate lanes were used before dropping down to another brush with the A9 to get across the Dornoch Firth – 30 minutes of fumes and speeding cars. I was glad to clamber down a steep bank onto the shore. The track eventually swung away from the coast onto a road past farms. Bulls guarded the fields and there was some equine presence at some stables. It was along here it started drizzling, so off with my shirt and on with the waterproof. A little further the JO’G Trail was signed into Camore Woods, pine woods standing on a gravel ridge from the ice age. Within this area were several obvious mounds which are the remains of hut circles and chambered cairns 3000 yrs old. A standing stone was seen in a field on the right seemingly reflecting the steeple of Dornoch Cathedral. As an aside I noticed for the first time the sound of rain falling on different trees – almost silent on the pines but waterfall like on the larger deciduous  leaves.

Dornoch was busy with tourists, I visited the cathedral with its beautiful vaulted ceiling and then found a little cafe in the square behind for a light lunch. The rain had now stopped, the sun was out and fortified I walked down to Dornoch Royal golf course which has been used for the open in the past. The fairways were narrow between the sand dunes and the bunkers looked horrendous. The track on the edge of the course was directly above the sandy deserted beaches and I couldn’t resist a paddle which turned into a brief refreshing swim.

I was dry by the time I walked through a large camping/caravan park and into the little village of Embo. This was made up of streets of small houses presumably a fishing industry in the past. My B and B for the night was comfortable and peaceful.

 

*****