Sunday, 28 May 2017

Things to smile about

Liverpool trip
Wandering around Southport, a few things caught my eye and made me smile. For one thing, despite it being a seaside town, I couldn't see the sea! Strong currents didn't seem to be a current issue.
The Lancashire coast is gradually silting up and the wide expanses of shallow sand mean that the tide goes in and out over a huge distance. So beware, as when it does come in (you can see the high tide mark in my photo) it comes in fast and unpredictably, and yes, there are strong cross-currents that have caught many people out and even caused fatalities.

A café close to the pier had a large area of seating outside. Being Britain, the day was cold and windy so there were just three brave souls sitting there. That didn't seem to bother the resident entertainer, who was belting out old favourite songs and a stream of banter as though the whole world was listening.

I chose not to sample the delights of the lawnmower museum! (Though it is, I'm sure, a cutting edge attraction). 

I was just thinking 'the North isn't all cloth caps and whippets' (a popular stereotype) when half a dozen whippets walked past!

The butt of jokes, perhaps...

Saturday, 27 May 2017


Liverpool trip
Sometimes it only takes a few bright colours to cheer me up... and a cup of tea, of course!

Friday, 26 May 2017

All the fun of the fair

Liverpool trip
Have you ever been in a Hall of Mirrors, those distorting mirrors that they have in fun fairs and amusement parks? For some reason ever since I was a child I have found them absolutely hilarious and have been known to collapse, helpless with hysterical laughter, once inside. I was delighted to find that the seaside resort of Southport did not disappoint. There was a hall of mirrors in the pier amusements. I'm taking the risk of posting some images! I might pin the second one on the fridge as a deterrent!

Thursday, 25 May 2017


Liverpool trip
To my delight, there was a Victorian carousel - Herbert Silcock's Golden Gallopers - at the end of Southport Pier. I love carousels. Since it was the week of the famous Grand National horse race (yes, ages ago!), held at the nearby Aintree racecourse, I decided that was a good excuse to treat myself to a ride, which I haven't done for... oh, at least 35 years! It was a smooth and graceful ride. I love the colours and the tinny organ music. This particular carousel was built over 100 years ago by Savages of Kings Lynn. It was purchased by the Silcock family, who run Southport's pier amusements, in 1989 and took three years to restore. A few of the 33 horses and the three cockerels are the originals but most are faithful reproductions. 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Southport Pier

Liverpool trip
Southport Pier is really long, at over a kilometre; it's the second longest pier in the UK after Southend. I couldn't see from one end to the other, or even capture it all in one photo. It was a bracing walk (!) and I didn't stop at the ice cream and doughnut shack part way down, but thankfully there's quite a smart pavilion café at the far end so I could wrap my hands around a hot coffee to warm up.

Interestingly, at one time, pleasure and fishing boats used to berth at the pier head. When the bay silted up, the pier was extended, but nowadays the tide goes out far beyond the pier and the bay is too shallow for boats. There was once a tramway, originally for transferring baggage and goods, but that finally ceased in 2015 due to rising costs. For those who can't manage the walk, there is now a little land train that runs up and down.

I couldn't see the sea, even from the pier head - but I could see Blackpool with its famous tower, further up the coast.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017


Back to my Liverpool trip last month... So many outings, I'm finding it hard to fit all the photos in!

Whilst in Liverpool, I took the train a few miles up the coast to Southport. As with most of our northern coastal towns, the resort's heyday was in late Victorian and Edwardian times, when those with money came to stay in elegant hotels, believing sea-bathing to be a cure for many ills, and the working class had day-trips to the seaside. The legacy of those times is found in Southport's extensive Marine Gardens, recently restored by the town council in a £5.5 million project.

The huge lake, with its elegant bridges, was at one time the scene of elaborate, masked Venetian galas and firework displays. (One of the stone, arched bridges is in the background of my photo below. The tall suspension tower belongs to a newer road bridge behind the gardens.) Things are rather more sedate these days but it's very pleasant to stroll around. There are children's playgrounds, bowling greens and a miniature railway that has run through the gardens since 1911.

Southport is nowhere near as run down as many of our seaside towns. It is close to several prestigious championship golf courses, strung out along the sandy coast, including Royal Birkdale which sometimes hosts the Open Championship. The town also holds several major shows each year, like the Southport Flower Show, the UK's largest independent flower show, and it is a conference venue.

One of its 'jewels' is Lord Street, a long and wide boulevard with gardens in the middle. It holds many of the town's public buildings and many shops and cafés, under elegant glass arcades. There's also a market and a pedestrianised shopping area, so the town is a magnet for those who love shopping. I enjoyed my day there very much! (Treated myself to lunch in the Westminster Tearooms too: smoked salmon sandwiches, tea in a silver teapot, fine bone china teacup - wonderful!)

Monday, 22 May 2017

Cloud mirrors

Such a beautiful day...  I walked past my favourite trees again and enjoyed the way the clouds were echoing their shapes.

We're having a lovely spell of dry weather, though before long they'll be saying it's a drought! This coming Bank Holiday weekend (27-29) is the annual Saltaire Arts Trail, so let's hope the good weather continues.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Over the hills and far away

This was the view from the bottom of the drive of Beacon Hill House (see yesterday). Being so high up, it commands superb views across the Wharfe valley to the moors and dales beyond.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Beacon Hill House

Since 1927, the National Garden Scheme has encouraged the owners of exceptional private gardens to open to the public on one or two days a year to raise money for charities. Over £50 million has been donated, from admission fees and plant sales. I picked up a booklet showing all the gardens open this year in Yorkshire and (now that I'm a lady of leisure) I am going to enjoy visiting a few of the more local ones.

Beacon Hill House sits high up on the moors between Ilkley and Bolton Abbey. Its open day coincided with one of our first very warm and sunny days of the year but much of the steep plot of about seven acres is woodland, so there was plenty of shade. The house was built in 1848 by a businessman, Benjamin Briggs Popplewell, who chose the 1000ft high location hoping that the bracing, clean air might cure his consumptive child. (I don't know whether it did!) The original gardens were more formal and exposed than what exists today but there are traces of Victorian arches, walls, follies and a rather splendid Gothic dog kennel.

It has not been a good Spring for gardens. The magnolias were badly browned by frost and a recent spell of very dry weather has left many plants looking parched and weak. There were some rhododendrons in flower but some were past their best and the herbaceous plants are not yet flowering. The daffodils are over, though the woods were full of bluebells. The house has a pretty orchard and some of the trees had blossom. I love seeing trees coming into leaf, all maturing at different rates too. There were some attractive coppery tones among the spring greens.

Friday, 19 May 2017


A recent walk, with friends, through Bingley and up via Eldwick to Shipley Glen was both green and pleasant, on old footpaths and tracks that also took us through some of the wealthier residential parts of the area. There are some fabulous properties tucked away, both old and more modern. The lovely house above is the Grade II* listed Gawthorpe Hall in Bingley (not to be confused with the Tudor Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley, which has Brontë connections). This Bingley manor house dates back substantially to the 17th century (1600s) but may encase a medieval timber framed house. I think it is split into at least two dwellings nowadays; what a wonderful place to live.

Conversely, the buildings below - Old Mill House in Eldwick Beck - appear originally to have been a row of cottages associated with Eldwick Beck Mill, built in the 1850s and now amalgamated into just one or two houses (I'm unsure of the exact configuration).

The property below really appealed to me. Perhaps it is that old apple tree in its front garden, just bursting into blossom when we passed. It is Springs Farm, in Eldwick Beck, which is, as far as I can find out, a yeoman's farmhouse dating back to the 1770s.

The little hamlet of Eldwick Beck is, I understand, now a conservation area. It is very attractive, sitting as it does in a dip around Loadpit Beck, a stream that eventually finds its way down to the bottom of Shipley Glen where it joins the River Aire. The beck is named after the Late Bronze Age 'bloomeries' in the area, where axe heads were cast from iron ore (lode), probably to be used for clearing land for agriculture.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

A sea of blue

I wish I could transport you to Hirst Woods to see (and smell) the bluebells. They really are spectacular this year. I don't know why people travel to the more 'famous' woods to see them when there are these on our doorstep. I would have expected the woods to be packed with people on a stunningly beautiful spring day - but there was just me and my camera, and a handful of dog-walkers. Photos don't do them justice really. The woods are a sea of colour as far as the eye can see - although the colour actually changes from a pinky mauve in the sunshine to a deep, deep blue/purple in the shade. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Apple espalier

Apple blossom, on a tree trained as an espalier against a wall.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Gayle Mill

Another tick off my bucket list... Gayle Mill, near Hawes in Wensleydale, has been somewhere I've wanted to visit since it was featured some years ago on a C4 TV programme called 'Restoration'. The programme asked viewers to vote for a heritage restoration project, which would win a grant for its completion. Gayle Mill came in the top three in the national finals and though it didn't win (despite my vote), it attracted sufficient interest for the restoration to be completed.

It is a Georgian mill, originally built about 1784 as a water-powered cotton mill (strangely, as this is the heart of sheep country!). It was turned over to flax and later wool spinning, before becoming domestic accommodation in the 19th century. (There are intriguing remnants of Victorian wallpaper.) Around 1879 it was turned into a sawmill, the waterwheel being removed and replaced by a water-powered turbine that drives various woodworking machines (sawbench, circular saw, planes and lathes) by a series of belts and pulleys from a central lineshaft, as well as generating some electricity to light the mill and some nearby houses. The sawmill closed in 1988 and the building looked set to be converted to apartments. However, the North East Civic Trust oversaw the restoration and the mill is now managed by a trust and used as a working mill, museum and workshop for a variety of heritage skills training courses.

It was fascinating to look round. The volunteer who guided the tour was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He explained and demonstrated how the turbine worked, fed from the river via a sluice and down the mill race, seen in my top photo. When the river level is low, there is a mill dam higher up the hill that can feed water to the mill. He showed us these amazing cartwheels (below), explaining how they are made from three different types of wood that have different strengths and flexibility. The iron rim is made smaller than the wheel, heated in a fire and, when expanded, slotted round the rim. As it cools, it shrinks and pulls the wood tight on the spokes. This is a very skilled process. Like many of these country crafts, the skills are dying out and places like Gayle Mill are fighting to keep them alive.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Yockenthwaite stone circle

My second visit to Yockenthwaite in as many weeks, but I went searching for this...
I got quite excited when I found it, this almost perfect prehistoric stone circle in Langstrothdale. It is thought to be a Bronze Age burial cairn. That means it could be 4000 years old... imagine that!

Although the Dales seem quiet and tranquil these days, in the past there was a lot more activity. There are traces, like this stone circle, of prehistoric times; there are Roman roads and settlements; there were medieval hunting forests; there are many remains of lead and coal mining, which began in Roman times but peaked from the 16th century onwards, dying out by the late 1800s. Nowadays it's all sheep farming and tourism. How things change.