Category Archives: Art and architecture.

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY – A KENDAL INTERLUDE.

A Kendal snapshot.

Nick Burton’s book Wainright’s Way is far more than a walking guide as he incorporates so much well researched biographical detail of AW. Already I’ve have covered his early life in Blackburn which included a look at the town where he lived from 1907 – 1941.

Now having reached Kendal, where AW lived from 1941 until his death in 1991, Nick takes a short tour of the town pointing out places AW was associated with and I found much of interest on my stroll around. Kendal Civic Society has placed green information plaques everywhere marking historic buildings, far too many for me to mention here, all I can say is that Kendal is worth a days visit.  It was not a town I was particularly well acquainted with, in the past queuing through the main street on the way to and from the Lakes, now it is thankfully by-passed.  Visits to the climbing wall in an old milk processing mill on the outskirts gave no time for exploring the town and anyhow the traffic is awful and parking difficult.

Today I start above Kendal Green, a lovely open space, at the end of a culdesac where AW had a house built in 1949. He lived here with his first wife, Ruth, and then with his second, Betty until his death. Being elevated he had good views to the Kentmere Fells. What a contrast to Audley Range in Blackburn.

AW would walk down past Kendal Green on his way to work, this is a large open space with mature trees. Halfway down is a plaque commemorating an oak planted in 1864 to celebrate Shakespeare’s 300th birthday. I wasn’t sure that oak was still standing but there is a further plaque for one planted in 1964, 400 years since his death. The link is explained in the first plaque.

At the lower end, you arrive at Windermere Road where AW caught buses to the Lakes on a Sunday. Here also is the corner shop where he stocked up on pipe tobacco.

The long straight road into the town is  Stricklandgate leading to the distinctive Town Hall where AW worked from 1941 to 1967, becoming Borough Treasurer in 1948.

To get here I passed the  Library, Stricklandgate House, and ‘Wainwright’s Yard’ The latter a newly developed shopping arcade made more memorable by the present-day premises of Westmorland Gazette who published most of AW’s books.

The ‘yard’ is one of the dozens off the main street that at one time hosted small industries and shops, most have been altered over the years but all are numbered and can be located with a leaflet from the tourist information. One nearby is named Webster Yard after the architect who designed much of 19th-century Kendals’ prominent housing. Another is C17th Sandes Hospital built with wool money, it now encloses rebuilt almshouses designed by Webster’s firm. Apparently many of the properties AW would have known were demolished in the 1970s.

 

Sandes Hospital

I wandered into the back yard/garden of The Brewery, formerly a Vaux brewery and now an arts centre and Yough Hostel, and was delighted to see the Leyland clock which I’ve discussed in a previous post about the A6 over Shap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further on are some ornate gates that lead to Holy Trinity Church. Built when Kendal was prosperous from the wool trade it is one of the widest churches in the country with five aisles. What an amazing church.

There is the Old Grammar School and Abbot Hall and I’m on the banks of the Kent for a riverside walk. A small park had a plaque referring to K Shoes, once one of Kendal’s largest industries. Howard Somervell of Everest fame, 1920, belonged to the family running K Shoes and naturally wore Kendal-made boots on the mountain. Nearby is a record of historic flood levels.

MIller Bridge, Webster designed, was built in 1818 as part of a complex of warehouses serving the terminal basin of the Lancaster Canal. Aynam Mills were originally for the wool trade but in AW’s time were the premises of a well-known tobacco and snuff manufacturer, Illingworth’s. I became a little lost in the maze of lanes amongst all these warehouses, many being put to good use.

My route took me along an elegant Georgian terrace the home of the all-encompassing Kendal architect George Webster. A little further was another terraced area with an open space where the residents dry their clothes to this day.

I passed another church and then Castle Dairy one of the oldest occupied houses in Kendal. Apparently, the Elizabethan interior is worth viewing as part of a meal in the restaurant now in the building.

 

 

 

 

Round the corner is the town’s Museum where AW was heavily involved for the time he was in Kendal. It was closed today so I was not able to view a collection of Wainwright memorabilia.

Over the busy Victoria Bridge with associated sympathetic warehouse accommodations alongside the Kent. Ahead back on Stricklandgate was the third of Kendal’s parish churches. On the next corner are the premises of Titus Wilson, printers since 1860, AW’s first publisher.

It was now a short walk back up the side of Kendal Green.

Kendal is certainly worthy of further exploration.  I can appreciate it would be a good place to live and did I mention Kendal Mintcake?

 

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 7. HAWES BRIDGE TO MITCHELLAND, B5284.

Sir Hugh and I are progressing on our Wainwright Way journey, over halfway now. We’ve been able to do at least one trip a week between other commitments and weather windows. Today we pass through Kendal, AW’s hometown from 1941 to his death in 1991, featured prominently in his Westmorland Heritage book, 1974. Then we climb Scout Scar one of AW’s The Outlying Fells, 1974, “ a pictorial guide to lesser fells .. of Lakeland written primarily for old age pensioners…”  We were hoping for good views from this fell into Lakeland and in particular the Kentmere fells leading to High Street our objective in a couple of day’s time.

The day starts well with a gentle stroll along the River Kent into Kendal, we chose a riverside option over the suggested canal route which we have both very familiar with. Perfect, sunny and clear, boding well for the day ahead. The filled-in Lancaster Canal was joined on the edge of town as it headed for defunct wharves and warehouses at the heart of a previously industrial Kendal, the coming of the canal improved the supply of coal from Lancashire to those industries. However today we were diverted up past an enormous cemetery to visit what remains of Kendal Castle on its elevated hill. AW, when he first moved here lived in a council house just to the north-west of here.

Castle Grove AW’s first house in Kendal.

Many of Kendal’s dog walkers were up here this morning enjoying the weather and views, Scout Scar was prominent to the west whilst looking north to the Lakes there were some ominous clouds on the summits. The castle has guarded over Kendal since the C12th and has apparently strong links with Katherine Parr, the 6th wife of Henry VIII.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Heading down we walked through neat Victorian terraces, crossed the River Kent on a footbridge and joined the crowds on Kendals high street. The town hall where AW was Borough Treasurer stands proud at the top of the street.  When I explored Kendal recently I was unable to find Collin Croft one of the sites sketched by  AW in his Westmorland Heritage, I tried a little harder today and we found our way into a hidden maze of alleys typical of the town.

We then walked up leafy streets heading out of town. A sign above a gateway alluded to links with a previous Presbyterian Chapel. An obelisk appeared without any information. Over the Kendal bypass, interesting milepost,  we entered fields that are marked as an old racecourse and also the start of the Lake District National Park. The sky was clouding over despite the optimistic forecast. Scout Scar, or more correctly Underbarrow Scar, is a limestone escarpment popular with the people of Kendal and today walkers and joggers appeared from all directions.  We arrived onto the ridge near a large cairn with the trig point to the north. It was then that the heavy rain hit us, views disappeared and we walked on grimly towards the ‘mushroom’  shelter. Any semi-shelter was already taken and it was too cold to hang about so we just carried on to the end of the fell, a slight anticlimax to what should have been a memorable situation. The shelter was erected in 1912 in recognition of George V’s coronation. It has a 360-degree indicator which I had been interested in viewing but all that was lost in our haste to get off the fell.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Calmer sunnier conditions returned as we walked off nearby Cunswick Scar on Gamblesmire Lane, a bridleway we followed down into a different landscape. Undulating green fields, stone walls, sheep, whitewashed squat farms all make up the Cumbrian landscape, of course in AW’s time it was Westmorland. Gamblesmire Lane, almost Quagmire Lane in parts continued through this landscape. In sections it was a unique, hedge defined rollercoaster.

We eventually found somewhere to sit and eat and then it was field after field heading towards an isolated tower. A farmer was sorting out his sheep for market and seemed keen to chat, he must lead an isolated life up here. Eventually, we reached the restored bell tower of the C17th St. Catherine’s Church, the rest of the church was demolished and a new one built a short distance away, seen in the picture below.

A Wainwright. 1975.

 

More idyllic fields were traversed and we were soon back at the car and a drive home in lovely low sun.

*****

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 5. HORNBY TO HOLME.

The good weather had to end – it had been raining all night and I was half expecting a ring from Sir Hugh to call off today’s walk. No, not really, he is far more resolute than that. And anyhow it would be drier by late morning, I do miss Dianne Oxberry giving us the NW forecast but there are some interesting successors.

The River Wenning in Hornby was probably running a good two feet higher than when I finished my last walk.

Hornby was short-lived and we were on a lane passing the motte and bailey of  Castle Stede, C10th, somewhat obscured by trees and rain. Down below was our first view of the River Lune which we crossed on the graceful Loyn Bridge. Wainwright sketched thsese in his Lune edition. It was here we left Bowland which has provided some excellent walking in a thankfully relatively unknown backwater.

A Wainwright. 1980.

We splashed our way through soggy fields, struggled over slippy awkward stiles, jumped or waded through little temporary rivers; all the time the rain came steadily down. Everywhere was drowning.  After the Gothic style Storrs Hall a tarmacked lane gave some respite although it was more like a river in parts [damp heading photo]. It climbed over pleasant hills but the views were minimal, vaguely ahead was Hutton Roof an area of limestone outcrops which we regularly climbed on. My camera was safely stashed most of the time.

Unhelpful.

Storrs Hall.

I’d never heard of the River Keer before although I must have crossed it many times by road, rail and canal as it winds its short way onwards through Carnforth to Morecambe Bay. Today it was a raging stream barring our progress but hidden in the trees was a small bridge. Unfortunately, a sign stated it was closed as it had been partially washed away in floods, we had no option but to trust it as we couldn’t have waded the fast-flowing water.  I sent Sir Hugh across first.

Pleased with ourselves for overcoming that problem we were nearly run down by a train whilst crossing the Morecambe to Leeds line.

Oh! and it was still raining into the early afternoon. More importantly, we had just left Lancashire and entered Cumbria, formerly Westmorland. Westmorland was a county of the Lake District until in 1974 it along with Cumberland and bits of Lancashire became Cumbria. Wainwright must have had a soft spot for Westmorland because he brought out an academic book on its history and villages – Westmorland Heritage, 1975, now out of print and expensive second hand.

More ups and downs followed on paths that receive very little usage. Eventually, there was a glimmer of blue sky as we reached a better path on a ridge, it was nearly two before we found somewhere dry to sit and eat a spot of lunch.  Here our topic of conversation turned from Brexit to Sir Hugh’s flask which he was convinced was not his, maybe the top was but certainly not the body. It seemed to pray on his mind as he was still debating it as we started on our way.

My camera had not been used much in the wet weather but now as things cleared we had views of Morecambe Bay, Arnside Knott and the southern Lakes. When I use the term ‘Lakes’ I am really referring to the Lake District and particularly its hills, odd that we use such a  contraction.

The distant ‘Lakes’.

Arriving at a familiar road leading out of Burton up to Hutton Roof, we are less than a mile from the former but WW climbed a wall and took us on a circular tour of the land around Dalton Hall [which we never glimpsed]. There didn’t seem to any logic for this but I suspect Nick Burton is taking us on a voyage of discovery based on AW’s Westmorland book. No complaints, except the extra mile, as the estate was quintessential English parkland of a certain era. A wonderful selection of trees planted way back when.

Dalton Old Hall Farm.

A pair of ‘kissing trees’.

We eventually arrived in Burton-in-Kendal, to give it its full name. People drive, too quickly, through its narrow main street, I’ve probably been guilty of that, but on foot you realise the wealth of architectural buildings in the village. At one time Burton was an important stopping off point on the Lancaster to Kendal carriageway. It became an important corn market in the C17-18 and its wealth is reflected in its houses. The canal and then the railway took all its trade to Kendal and it has not really improved since then. I was sorry to see the Royal Hotel, in the centre next to the market cross, looking closed and derelict, we used to drink a pint or two here after a climbing evening on Hutton Roof or Farlerton.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Our next objective was to join the Lancaster Canal for a mile or so into Holme. We followed a lane signed from when Burton had a station, the mainline trains just fly through now……as does the motorway with Farleton Crag above.

We took to the more sedate towpath of the Lancaster Canal for our final mile into Holme. I have walked this stretch before and the towpath was just as muddy. No boats use this northern section which has been cut off from the rest of the system by the motorway. Below us at one point is Holme Mill with its lake, at one time a flourishing C19 linen mill with flax grown locally. On the other side of the canal are some well-preserved coke ovens.

At bridge 149 we climbed out into Holme which we will have more time to explore on our next stage of WW. Apart from some dampness of my socks I had coped with the day’s rain and floods which had given us an extra perspective to a simple walk.

*****

 

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 2. WHALLEY TO LONGRIDGE FELL.

The Ribble at Dinckley.

An afternoon’s walk of history, graveyards and conversations along the way.

As I wait for a bus to take me to Whalley a lady of a certain age enquires as to my journey, I’m in boots with a rucksack and attached walking poles.  When I tell her of crossing the Ribble at Dinckley Bridge she recollects a time when a ferryman would take you over for a penny. It was like that in AW’s early years when he explored the Ribble Valley north of his home in Blackburn.

My bus deposits me in the middle of busy Whalley at 12.30, I’m a late starter these days. Wainwright’s Way takes me past the ancient parish church, I make a mental note to revisit between 2 and 5 when it is open. I do however make the effort to seek out some of the Saxon crosses in the churchyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walk past the Abbey grounds which I visited last weekend.   The lane out of town actually goes through the oldest West Gate.  It has an impressive ceiling but is somewhat diminished by the road passing through it. Almost immediately you pass through another arch, that of the railway viaduct, the longest and largest in Lancashire. 48 arches of immaculate brickwork. A functional ‘Old Sol’s Bridge’ crosses the Calder River, built in 1993 to replace the 1909 one of Solomon Longworth, a local mill owner. Backstreets of Billington, old and new, take me out through horsey country to cross the A59 and into a more rural scene. I wander across fields which have the clearest signing and stiles  I’ve come across, an example for other farmers to follow.  Although I’m aiming for Longridge Fell in the distance the view of Pendle behind me is everpresent.

I recognise Old Langho Church, built using stones from Whalley Abbey after the dissolution. I take a picture to compare with AW’s Ribble Sketchbook.

A Wainwright. 1980.

I then make the effort to seek out, in a far graveyard, the memorial to 600 who died in the nearby Brockhall Hospital. The tablet is inscribed …

‘In an isolated institution located to the northeast of this stone there lived from 1904 to 1992 a large number of people who were thought to be too strange, too difficult or too challenging to be cared for in their own communities. The institution, in turn, was called Lancashire Inebriates Reformatory (1904) Brockhall Hospital for Mental Defectives (1915) Brockhall Hospital for the Mentally Subnormal (1959) Brockhall Hospital for Mentally Handicapped People (1974) and Brockhall Hospital for People with Learning Disabilities (1991). Although those who lived there carried heavier burdens than most they were part of our common family.

‘Brockhall Hospital closed its doors in 1992 and the land on which it stood was acquired by Gerald Shimon Hitman of Newcastle upon Tyne who raised this stone as a memorial to those who ended their days in the hospital and are buried here. God full of compassion grant perfect rest beneath the shelter of your presence to these your children who have gone to their eternal home. Master of mercy, cover them in the shelter of your wings forever and bind their souls into the gathering of life. It is the Lord who is their heritage. May they be at peace in their place of rest.’

Poignantly, Gerald Hitman, mentioned on the memorial is buried nearby.

I pop into the old Bull Inn for a pint but am dismayed at the internal  ‘improvements’ that have totally destroyed the place. What a shame, another pub ruined, I shan’t be returning.

The footpath now goes alongside a development of ‘luxury lodges’ extending into the open countryside. A lady occupant says that they are holiday lets but that quite a few are permanent homes. How to get around our flimsy planning regulations. Another field ruined.

A steep drop leads to a hidden footbridge over a lively Dinkley Brook. I’ve never been here before. Soon a lane is reached, the line of a Roman Road from Ribchester to Ilkley. At a farm along here, I watch as a golfer practises his drives across the fields, he has spent his life as a dairy farmer and only now has time for leisure pastimes. He too remembers, as a child, the ferry at Dinkley and much more.

At last, I’m on the lane dropping down to the Ribble, Longridge Fell is ahead.  Two local ladies on their daily walk are also keen to chat refreshingly about the area until they realise they have to rush for the school pickup.

Dinkley Hall is too far away to observe behind ‘new’ barn conversions but the new shiny bridge is glimpsed below replacing the suspension bridge damaged by floods. The river scenery here is stunning and timeless. [heading photo]

A Wainwright. 1980.

Over the bridge The Ribble Way is joined – an ill-fated long-distance path but with perhaps the best-designed logo The lane up to Hurst Green goes on forever but there is an inn at the top if required. From up here, there is a view back to Whalley NabI had a snack sat on a bench next to a war memorial cross which unusually refers to The Boer War. It is inscribed – This cross commemorates the services of Frederick Sleigh first Earl Roberts K.G.V.C.and his companions in arms the soldiers and sailors of the Empire who fought in the South Africa Campaign 1899-1902.

Opposite on a small roundabout is the WW1/WW2 memorial. Higher in the village are the Shireburn Almshouses, sketched by AW, but when he was wandering this area as a youngster were still up on Longridge Fell. Erected in 1706 but removed and rebuilt in 1946 in the village providing accommodation for Stoneyhrst employees. I’ve never discovered why they were high on the fell in the first place.

A Wainwright. 1980.

Stoneyhurst College is intricately associated with the village and much has been written about it.  Up the road, circumventing the graveyard, The Our Lady Statue looking down the avenue to the College has been restored and is shining bright, I think I prefered it as before. It is not marble but steel painted white. That famous view is also timeless, that’s not me yomping up the road.

My accent of Longridge Fell continued by picking up an old bridleway, a favourite of mine, alongside lively Dean Brook with its old bobbin mills and then past buttressed Greengore, an ancient hunting lodge. The day was passing and the forecast predicted rain by 5pm.  There has been a lot of change up here with storm and fungus damage to the trees so I used local knowledge to find my own familiar tracks to the summit. The Bowland Hills across the Vale of Chipping were darkening and rain was spreading across the Fylde towards me. I reached my previously stashed cycle and hurtled down to Longridge just in time. I shall regain Wainwright’s Way at the summit trig point when time and weather allow.  Bring on Bowland.

*****

 

 

 

 

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 1. BLACKBURN TO WHALLEY.

Escaping the city.

My train was full of lively pre-match Blackburn supporters. Most didn’t have tickets and exited the station somehow, I was glad I wouldn’t be on their train after the match. AW was a lifelong Rovers supporter.

Outside the station, as I gathered my bearings I was struck by the number of expensive-looking cars, with modified exhausts and booming stereos, cruising around aimlessly at high speeds. I refrain from comment.

I began the long walk up Audley Range. Mills at the lower end near the canal have gone and been replaced by budget shopping units. From the canal upwards AW would have had almost a mile of two-up, two-down terraced housing. There has been demolition in parts giving little cul-de-sac estates. a mosque and many Asian shops but the higher you get the more you are attuned into AW’s time when he trudged up and down from the centre to number 331, his birthplace and where he lived until 1931 when he married. Until 1935 a tram ran halfway up before going to Queen’s Park.

I couldn’t resist calling in at one of the little Asian ‘Sweet Shops’ to buy a couple of samosas for my lunch.

Fittingly there is a plaque on 331 to commemorate Wainwright though I wonder whether any of the Asian population hereabouts will realise the significance. Opposite his house is an open space formerly a brickworks producing the millions of bricks for the housing and mills.

I reached busy roads on the edge of town. Up here AW attended primary schools, now demolished under ring roads and Tescos. I was glad to turn down to the Leeds – Liverpool Canal at Gorse Bridge. The canal would have been lined by warehouses and mills and here is one of the last, the derelict Imperial Mill once employing 300 until closing eventually in 1958. Many of the mills diversified into minor industries after cotton had crashed.

The canalside walk took me past the Whitebirk Estate, shops and car salerooms, and under the maize of roads connecting with the motorway system. One always sees things differently from a canal and then the next time I drive around these roads I’ll reminisce to myself and try and spot the canal. I ate my samosas as I walked the towpath and realised they had quite a kick to them.

Before long I was in a more rural landscape and leaving the canal to climb steeply up onto the ridge of Harwood Moor. An old bridge is crossed, this is the line of the former Blackburn to Padiham railway. The industrial landscape is left behind and suddenly you have a view of Longridge Fell, the Bowland Hills, Yorkshire peaks and Pendle. It was these northern edges of Blackburn that AW  explored as a youngster and subsequently with work colleagues. A certain Harry Green wrote a regular walking column in the newspaper and produced some guidebooks to the area and into the Ribble Valley and Longridge Fell.  One of AW’s walking companions, Lawrence Wolstenholme, kept a diary of Harry Green inspired walks and his descendants still have a copy of Rambles by Highway, Lane and Field Path. H Green 1920. So it is certain that they walked these trails out of Blackburn.

I entered a farmyard patrolled by a bull and hesitated before rushing to the other side and safety. All the fields up here seemed to contain frisky bullocks so I did a little creative road walking to get me on my way. I was soon on a higher ridge with even more extensive views.

Looking back to Blackburn.

Longridge Fell and the distant Bowland Fells.

Down a reedy path to the Dean Clough Reservoirs with Pendle in the background and then I make my own way up above them to come out onto Moor Lane above Langho, it was only last week that I visited The  Lord Nelson Inn here for lunch. Its a very basic but friendly pub with good beer and a limited home-cooked menu,  a couple came in and asked about dining “have you a gluten-free option?”   “No!” was the simple answer.

I didn’t have time today to call in for a pint but marched off along the virtually traffic-free Moor Lane. At one point I glimpsed a deer eyeing me through the trees. Whalley Nab is at the end of the lane directly above Whalley and the River Calder. The River Calder flows through Whalley to join the Ribble, leaving behind its industrial hinterland where in the distance can be seen the Martholme Viaduct which carried the aforementioned Blackburn to Padiham railway. I had a birds-eye view of the Ribble Valley and Whalley, making out the street plan and the more famous railway viaduct over the Clitheroe – Blackburn line I travelled this morning. The Ribble Valley was one of AW’s many sketchbooks done in later life, Nick Burton has illustrated his text with some of these sketches.  It will be interesting to compare AW’s views with my own as I proceed.

A Wainwright 1980

Before I knew it I was crossing the Calder into the busy main street. The impressive 13thC church was closed. Whilst waiting for my bus I had a very short time to look round the Abbey ruins, free entry today – Heritage Week or something. They deserve more so I’ll return for a longer visit.

I’ve finished the first stage of Wainwright’s Way and I’m looking forward to the rural walking to come.

*****

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY – AN INTRODUCTION AND A VIEW OF BLACKBURN.

Wainwright’s Way is a 123-mile long-distance route linking the place where he was born, a Victorian terraced house in Audley Range, Blackburn, with his final resting place, by Innominate Tarn on Haystacks in the Lake District.

The walk follows in his footsteps linking his youthful walks, the sights he sketched and wrote about in Lancashire and Westmorland, time in Kendal before entering the Lake District, land of his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

I have obtained a guidebook written by Nick Burton which as well as giving a route description goes into detailed aspects of Wainwright’s life. Nick’s first chapter is devoted to AW’s time in Blackburn and suggests a short tour of the sights that he would have been familiar with. I have already made a ‘pilgrimage’ to his Memorial on the hills above Blackburn and now I’ll explore the town centre.

Wainwright lived in Blackburn from 1907 until  1941. How different the town would have been when he went to school and from the age of 13 worked as a clerk at the Town Hall. Blackburn had been a boomtown based on the cotton industry which was slowly contracting, mills were still dominant and the pollution and noise must have been all invading. Rows and rows of basic housing accomodated the workforce of which many faced poverty in the slumps of the 20s and 30s. The town centre reflected its former glory with buildings of Victorian splendour and daily AW would walk to work at the Town Hall in the centre. So much has changed as Blackburn has been redeveloped but Burton tries to show you a glimpse of AW’s time. There’s not much left. The town seems to have suffered from the bulldozer more than others.

Nick Burton.

The bus station from where he departed for adventures further afield has been moved and the station forecourt ‘modernised’.

The Cathedral stands centre stage, the land around it has become a pleasing open space. There are tombs of past notaries such as the Fielden and Peel families. Queen Victoria’s statue occupies one corner while closer at hand is a modern statue.

Variety theatres have disappeared from hereabouts and the centre is dominated by a large shopping mall cum market. On Darwen Street is the old Post Office now a thriving Wetherspoons.

On a corner is the ornate old Lloyds Bank and then the remains of a Victorian Exchange Arcade. Northgate survives but with a poor selection of shops. Ahead is Gladstone’s statue pointing to King George’s Hall and courts.

Across the way is the impressive terracotta Technical School and behind is the shell of Blakey Moor Higher Elementary School where AW was briefly a pupil in 1919-20 before leaving for a job at the Town Hall.

The Italianate Town Hall is still standing and now connected to a multistorey extension overlooking the statue of W H Hornby a cotton baron who became Mayor in 1857.

Nearby are two other Victorian buildings from AW’s time. The scruffy Cotton Exchange, a cinema in the early 20th century,  and the former Library now a museum.

Georgian Richmond Terrace is mainly legal offices but was built for rich local gentlemen before they moved out to the countryside when the railways came.

James Street retains its cobbles if nothing else.

Alongside St. John’s Church is the earliest church in the town, started in 1789.  Recently run as an arts centre it was gutted by fire earlier this year and looks lost and forlorn. Somewhere in the grounds is a memorial stone to the Thwaites family, local brewers.

Speaking of which their town centre brewery is being demolished since they have moved away. The sight of dray horse waggons a memory. Past the bingo hall, Penny Street has become a large soulless car park next to the new bus station.

Nick Burton suggests a diversion up Old Eanam Road past the old Soho foundry to view a few remaining canalside buildings and wharves. Despite the coming of the railways, there would have still been commercial canal traffic in AW’s time.

 

In Nick Burton’s book, AW’s sketches from his many books are used to supplement the descriptions. I can find none of Blackburn.

Back to the station and time to escape to the country.

 

 

 

 

 

THE LOT. A HOLIDAY DIARY.

Puy L’Eveque on the Lot River.

I’ve just returned from three weeks staying in my friend’s house in the Lot Valley, France.  The weather as you can imagine, in August, was hot and sunny.

The first week was shared with the owners and their family, the second two weeks one of my sons came out with his family.

Here is a snapshot of daily life.

Day 1.  Hot air balloon. Awoke this morning to see across the vineyards a hot air balloon landing through the mist over towards Vire. They must have had a fantastic flight in the clear morning air. I don’t know where they launch from, an unusual start to the holiday.

Day 2. Men in orange. It turns out that this Thursday is a French Bank Holiday, we get caught out with the shops being closed.  This explains why the hunters are out in the combe, dogs try to flush out deer or wild boar into the open. Not a good time to go walking. Thankfully there were no shots heard this morning.

Day 3. Full moon. I seem to often visit whilst there is a full moon which shines brightly over the back of the house and garden whilst we are finishing supper.

Day 4. In the pool. The two young children make the most of the pool as the temperature sores into the 30s.

Children, father and grandma.

Day 5. BMF training. Saturday back home in Leeds is BMF training session in Roundhay Park so the exercises were recreated on the lawn. It all looked very energetic and powerful from my viewpoint on a lounger.

Day 6. French walkers. Each day I get out for a short walk, often before breakfast. My favourite is up the garden into the woods and then back down The Combe de Filhol. Today I extend my walk around the Orienteering Course in the woods across the way. I come across a group of French walkers, holidaying in the area, marching along with a map. Normally I see no one but today as I zigzag about I bump into the same group several times, they look a little uneasy as I keep appearing from the undergrowth.

Day 7. Hints of autumn.  On my walks I started noticing fungi pushing through the undergrowth. Unfortunately they looked poisonous, On the other hand, the mirabelles, small plums, were prolific and once stewed provided many delicious desserts with yoghurt or ice cream.

Day 8. All change. I take mine hosts back to the airport and await the arrival of my family group. They are quickly through passport control, how will this be next year after Brexit?   I drive them back with a short coffee break in Isseagac, a charming Bastide town.

Day 9. Garden games. A lot of time was taken up with games in the garden. Boules, table tennis, french cricket, croquet etc. The competitive spirit was well demonstrated in croquet where some most unfriendly manoeuvers were taken.

Day 10. On the bike. For some of my longer excursions, I took one of the bikes with me but ended up walking as much as riding due to the terrain and the bike’s gears’ obstinacy. One of my favourite trips which I hadn’t made for some time was over the hills to St. Martin le Redon in the Theze valley. Firstly over to Touzac then over the river Lot on a splendid metal bridge. Near here is a good swimming spot in the slow running river, popular in the heatwave, One of the GR routes is joined to go over another group of hills down into the Theze valley. St. Martin is a sleepy village but has gained a little cafe since I was last here; a welcome addition. In the valley is a string of limestone cliffs which I often climbed on in happier times. Hilly tracks take me over to Duravel and slowly back to the house.

Day 11. More exercise. As if last weeks exercises hadn’t been enough my own family started on more each day. Matthew and Lou’s seemed fairly casual but Sam was into serious workouts in between fast runs.

Day 12. Shush! there’s a deer in the garden. The orchard higher up the garden has numerous apple trees which drop their fruit at this time of year. It is a regular event for deer to visit the garden for this fruit and Alex spotted one tonight, well done; they don’t hang around long.

Day 13. Off to market. Sunday is market day at the nearby town of Montcuq.  There is a market somewhere every day but this one is very popular with locals and tourists. Every sort of stall [produce, clothing, antiques etc.] street entertainment and an interesting village to explore.

Day 14. The Poolman cometh. An ageing hippy drives up in his Morris Minor van, he has a collection of them, and cleans the pool.

Day 15. Snakes and glow worms.

Day16. More pool activities.  The weather was perfect for relaxing in the pool. One of the challenges was to do a length on the banana,

Day 17. Orienteering. In the woods I’ve set up a simple orienteering course. The family were keen to try it and being competitive split into two groups, I’ll call them the tortoises and the hares. They disappeared for an hour or so and needless to say the more careful tortoises came in first. This proved the hardest to find in a pile of stones in the middle of the trees…

Day 18. Eating in and out. We have mainly eaten at the house, two vegans to feed plus two picky ‘enfants’. Despite that, the family have eaten out at several local restaurants. Chips and salad is the best option for vegans in France. For a special occasion, I specifically booked the nearest place we could walk to. Le Caillau is a lovely courtyard restaurant with a reputation for good food. They told me they could cater for Vegans. My family appreciated the atmosphere and the food but I thought they could have been a little more creative with the seasonable vegetables, What have I missed out – wine tasting, Martignac with its Medieval church, lavoir and cazelle, Buzzards, Bastide towns, castles, mosquitos, kayaking and LOTS  more.

Day 19. Chez mois.  Je suis de retour a la maison maintenant, c’est l’Automne.   Que fait Boris?