Category Archives: Art and architecture.

LANCASTER CANAL 4. Galgate to Lancaster.


Today Peter’s wife, Denise, joined us for a shorter walk along the canal into Lancaster. It didn’t turn out as short as expected. Having completed our walk we caught an early bus back from Lancaster. As we were leaving the city several police cars, ambulances and a fire engine overtook us with lights flashing and sirens blaring. There was obviously trouble up ahead, possibly on the motorway but soon we were stopped and the A6 closed due to a serious accident. We were going nowhere. Students alighted from the bus and started walking up a side road and cycle path into the University. There was no choice but to follow and soon we were wandering through the extensive campus hoping to bypass the closure and walk into Galgate. This proved an interesting diversion, even getting a close up view of the silk mill there. The Air Ambulance helicopter was in action so I hope those involved in the accident are not seriously injured. Will donate to their charity on the next occasion.

Anyhow to get back to the start. Smoke was drifting up from several residential boats moored in the basin at Galgate. I noticed on a wall a bank of post boxes for the boaters, I suppose you need some sort of address for communication if you are permanently living on a barge. The usual gentle meandering walk took us into the countryside on what was a dull day so views to the hills were limited. Conditions under foot varied. Occasional roundels indicated we were sharing the route with a named walk, A Breath Of Fresh Air, which takes in interesting areas of the Lune, coast and canal around Lancaster.

After just over a mile we entered the wooded Deep Cutting which takes the canal through glacial deposits to avoid a long detour, quite a contrast to the open land. Apparently this is the place to see kingfishers but not today.

At its northern end the outskirts of Lancaster are reached. On the left at the entrance to a new development, Aldcliffe, the old gate house has been left to rot, shame. On the contrary there are some splendid houses on the other bank. Glimpses of the castle came into view. After passing under the main railway line city centre wharves were  reached. On the right was the converted boat house where packet boats were repaired after being lifted into the upper floor. On the adjoining ex British Waterways yard are new developments with the old crane preserved. The tall chimney is the hospital incinerator. At one point we have to cross over to the other bank for a short distance, the bridge is constructed to allow the horses over without unhitching. Student accommodation has been built alongside the canal and with a few pubs in old warehouses the area has a good ambience. A lot of money has been spent in Lancaster in the last few years and by look of things quite wisely. There is a fine bridge bearing the name of a local blacksmith at the time, 1876, when the bridge was widened.Leaving the canal at a pedestrian bridge, we wander through streets to board the ill fated bus.


The Silk Mill back at Galgate …



Corniest boat name of the day…

The forecast is not good for the next few days so I’m not sure when I’ll be out again for episode 5, anyhow I think my hip needs a rest. I’ll just stick to the exercises my physiotherapist has given me.


And for completeness our homeward detour…

A DAY BY THE SEASIDE – Blackpool Prom.

A beautiful sunrise and minus 5° temperatures dragged me out of bed. After yesterday’s experimental stroll I was still able to put one foot in front of the other. Time to get going.

Almost to the year Sir Hugh and I were walking around the Fylde on The Wyre Way. Having walked from Fleetwood to Rossall we cut across country to the River Wyre itself to complete the route on a dismal December day. Today,  a not to be missed sunny one, with temperatures struggling to reach zero I was back: parked possibly illegally in Rossall School with the intention of walking 10 miles to South Shore terminus and catching the tram back. As a get out I could catch the tram at virtually any point if I was struggling.  Once on the promenade I realised the possible foolishness of this venture, the path was an ice rink even the dogs, which were outnumbering people, were skating about. Out came the walking poles to give me some security, I was here for some easy flat walking to test my hip not to fall and break something.

The sea played little part in today’s walk:  the tide was out, the waves flat and the sombre December weather blurred the horizon. So I could concentrate on the immediate surroundings of the promenade. Inland to start was dreary housing and apartments, retirement ‘I do like to be by the sea’ places. All very forgettable. But the new Clevelys promenade is all curves and a pleasure to explore.

The lighting installations reflect a Gaudi appearance.A striking memorial installation to all the ships lost on this coast …

Clevelys, Bispham and Norbreck passed by, the clock tower and the hotel notable landmarks. The sea front hotels in this area reflect back to a golden age with names redolent of fashionable London – The Savoy. Grosvenor, Imperial etc, all dated and out of sync in the modern era.

Out of interest, but maybe of importance, all the old toilets on the promenade have been closed down and replaced with infrequent pay to enter booths. Why spend all this money on refurbishing the front to a high standard and then charge 20p to pee. The answer is privatisation of what should be a public service. I didn’t have 20p so peed on the beach. Sorry but it was very cold.

Along this stretch they were dismantling the famous illuminations. I had a behind the scenes view and could only guess at some of the displays. One of my son’s birthday is October so it was a simple matter at the time to fill the car with his mates, drive them through the lights, fish and chip supper and home.

The sands stretched on and on regardless of the hinterland.

A striking sculpture recognising our emergency services…

Now Blackpool Tower and the North Pier were approaching fast. Commercialism is mainly closed down in winter but there were still some venues screaming out at the punters with promises of untold entertainment. But mainly all was drab and shuttered. The golden mile closed down!        I even had to go inland a block to find somewhere to eat, yes you have to have fish and chips when in Blackpool.

Central and South piers were closed for winter as was the Pleasure Beach and just about everything else.    Walking on the beach looked attractive but turned out to be too strenuous. The day was getting colder and the prom stretched on for miles. It was with some relief that I arrived at South Shore tram terminus and negotiated a trip back to Rossall.


ZCapture.JPG blackpool


I was a student of the ‘sixties’. Living in London, and when not enjoying drug fueled orgies, I acquired numerous strategies for free entertainment to eek out my grant of £10 per week. You didn’t get a lot of orgies on that. Cycling up to Hampstead Heath for sunny picnics, playing football in Hyde Park on Sunday mornings, free theatre tickets from the nurses home, BBC performances when they needed an audience, folk clubs enjoyed over a long solitary cup of coffee, Kew Gardens, British Museum.  You get the idea.

Close to where I lived was Portman Square which hosted The Courtauld Collection [of textile fame] another free facility. Maybe I had to show my university pass but I don’t remember. Often I would come along here and immerse myself in their intimate world of art. A few rooms depicting some of the world’s masterpieces. Medieval religious works, Rubens, Gainsborough, Degas, Pissaro, Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, Van Gogh, Matisse, Dufy, Sickert, Mûnter. What a list. Those images have stayed in my brain all these years so it was time to refresh them. The Courtauld is now housed in the imposing Somerset House and has become a major attraction, attracting a considerable entrance fee. But all those mental pictures are still here although they have been diluted by more recent, equally brilliant, acquisitions. The atmosphere is not as personal but the rooms hosting the galleries are elegant in themselves, giving that quintessential English experience. A magnificent spiral staircase connects them, I used the lift.

The pictures below are only some of the ones I remembered, as you will see this is an amazing collection.  Thank you Mr. Courtauld. How many do you recognise?


CAMPIN. 1425




RUBENS. 1613


MANET. 1863

DEGAS. 1871

MONET. 1873

RENOIR. 1874

MANET. 1881

SEURAT. 1886

VAN GOGH. 1889





DUFY. 1907


MUNTER. 1909

Outside in the square ice skaters were enjoying an early Xmas. Waterloo Bridge gave a view of the city with all the new high rise buildings and St. Paul’s tucked away. the bustle of Waterloo station brought me back to reality.

Whilst visiting Mel and Pat in Surrey we also crammed in Wisley Gardens, Mercedes Benz test track and showcase building, an exhibition of Turner’s art of the Thames Valley at Woking Lightbox, Asian street food, Polesden Lacy house and gardens, beer and curry at the opening of a new restaurant and a French Bistro. The weather was beautiful, blue skies and sunshine. The colours Autumnal.                                                                                    ***



On the way back to Euston I visited The Agra in Whitfield Street to prolong the nostalgia. This family-owned restaurant was established in 1954 and was reputedly the first establishment in Britain to install a tandoori oven. As students we would visit for the Tandoori Chicken and Naan Bread. The decoration and toilets have changed little over the years. The food however remains good quality ‘curry  house’  Perfect before boarding the Pendolino.


Preston – Westward Ho!

Sometimes reaching the start of a walk can be an interesting day in itself.

At the very moment I was being picked up to be taken to the station half a dozen sheep appeared in my garden, this led to a few frantic minutes of attempted sheep rounding up. I made the station on time but I’ve no idea what happened to the sheep.

Ironically given my destination my morning coffee was purchased at the West Cornwall Pasty Company kiosk, I resisted their ‘traditional’ pasty as I’m sure there will be more to come.

The waiting room and buffet at Preston Station has interesting information relating to when it was at the hub of troop transport in WW1.

Back in Barnstaple I had time to explore more of the town and was amazed at their covered Pannier Market, in use for 160years, and the adjoining Butchers’ Row previously populated with rows of adjoining butchers’ shops. A reflection of the importance as a port and market town Barnstaple has been.

My hotel for the night was further from the centre than I’d hoped but luckily round the corner was the friendly Reform Inn with their own brewed Barum beer at £2.50 a pint, that was the last I’d see of those cheap prices in touristy Cornwall. 

It turned out two gents staying at the same hotel were on their last leg to Lands End having ridden on strange Monkey Motorbikes from John O’Groats in 6 days.

I’m here for a week to complete another section of my John O’Groats Lands End walk using mainly the SW Coastal Path in this region as it gives spectacular walking. Feels as though I’ve done a day’s walking already.




An interesting weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

Home for a rest.








Portsmouth to Towneley Park.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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



Worsthorne to Portsmouth.

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

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