It’s photo hunt time again and Kate has really posed a challenge with this week’s topic. At first I didn’t think I’d be able to do it as I couldn’t think if anything to fit with ‘unexpected’ but some serious thinking time and a trawl through the archives came up with five photos which could be suitable. I’ve used a couple of them on the blog before but I know there are now other readers which won’t have seen them or know the stories behind them so here goes.
Back in the summer of 1997 I experienced my first ever camping trip, a weekend on Anglesey with my then partner. He had often told me about a particular camp site he used to go to on fishing trips with his brother before he met me and as my birthday that year fell on a weekend I asked him to take me there; he did warn me that the site was very basic and there was nothing there, but I didn’t care, I was looking forward to the adventure. The site consisted of a few sloping fields separated by hedges and as we drove along the top to pick a nice spot the view of the nearby bay suddenly opened up in front of us; it was so unexpected that all I could say at the time was “Wow!” That unexpected view and the weekend itself was the start of my love of Anglesey and I’ve camped at the same site regularly over the years since then – you can read the full story of how I came to love Anglesey here.
Staying on Anglesey for the second photo and one day back in June 2016 I was walking along a section of the Anglesey Coastal Path near Lligwy beach. The path was quite narrow in places with a thicket of trees along one side and as I approached a bend I heard a rustling sound. At first I thought someone was coming from the opposite direction but no-one appeared, however I heard the sound again and there, down a narrow gulley a few feet below me, was a young Fresian cow looking up at me through the strands of a wire fence. It seemed a very strange place for a cow to be in but just after I took the photo it turned round and ambled off through the trees.
Close to home now and in October 2016 I was pet sitting for a family on holiday, looking after their dog Maisie. She was a lovely dog and an easy one to deal with but she had a habit of wandering about from side to side when I was walking her on the lead. One particular early morning, and for no reason at all, she just unexpectedly stopped dead in front of me and I fell right over her, sprawling full length on the rough tarmac pavement. I didn’t come off lightly either; I banged my left knee which soon started to swell and I scraped the skin off the palms of both hands, with the right one bleeding like a stuck pig. It took three days for the swelling in my knee to go down and several more before my right hand healed – and following my unexpected trip I took to walking Maisie on an extended lead so I wouldn’t fall over her again.
My 2018 Easter camping break at a site in North Wales was blighted almost from the start by grey skies and plenty of rain, culminating in the mother of all disasters on the Easter Monday. That weekend was the first outing for my brand new 4-berth tent though I’d decided before I left home that I would sleep in the van, a decision that I was later to be very thankful for. I’d pitched the tent on the nearside of the van and on the next pitch, at the other side of the tent, was a 4-berth touring caravan; when I woke on the Monday morning and looked across the van I could see the side of that caravan through a gap in the van curtains. That was strange, I hadn’t been able to see the caravan before because my tent was between it and me – except this time it wasn’t. An unexpected snow shower during the night had landed on the tent and frozen, with the weight making the tent collapse. Two of the three poles had snapped and the end where I would have been sleeping, if I’d been in there, was completely flattened – thank goodness the dogs and I had been in the van otherwise the tent would have come down on top of the three of us.
Back to Anglesey now, and one day during a camping break in May 2015 I went to explore the woodland at Penrhos Coastal Park. Although I’d been to the coastal park several times before I’d never walked through the woodland and as I wandered along random paths I discovered various old stone walls, monuments and follies which were once part of an original country estate from centuries ago. Most of the woodland was very green with ferns and different types of foliage growing under the trees and along the paths but as I rounded a corner I came across the unexpected and delightful surprise of a small clump of pretty pink flowers nestling in the undergrowth, the only ones I saw in the whole of the woodland.
Well that’s just about it from me, I hope everyone likes my choices – time to make a brew now and hop over to Kate’s blog to see what interesting things others have come up with this week.
This week’s Monday walk was done just five days ago on what was the first really sunny day for quite a while. Any snowfall in my immediate area over the previous three days had arrived during the evenings as a very thin covering which had disappeared by lunch time the following day, though on higher ground it still lingered in various places. Wednesday arrived with sunshine and a bright blue sky and as I had to drop some shopping off at my friend’s in Belmont village, just three miles up the road from home, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and take the dogs for a decent walk while I was up there.
Starting from the Black Dog pub I went up the hill past St. Peter’s church then cut diagonally across the rough grass to the end of the Blue Lagoon. Much of the reservoir’s surface was iced over but in the corner nearest the road 20-odd ducks were gathered in a large patch of clear water. Across the road a kissing gate led onto the village playing field then a narrow path at the far side of the field took me uphill past the local allotments; a bench at the top makes a lovely place to sit for a while and enjoy the view across the moors but it was far too cold for that so I made my way past a row of quaint stone cottages and back to the main road through the village.
A hundred yards or so up the road a short path took me down to Belmont Reservoir dam; at one time it was possible to drive from Belmont across the dam and along the moorland road to the Egerton area or vice versa but when the wall of the reservoir overflow channel was rebuilt a few years ago barriers were put at each end of the dam and it can now only be used by pedestrians and cyclists, although I was the only one there just then.
Just past the far end of the dam I had to negotiate a few quite large patches of ice where water had flowed across the road from the fields but once I was past those I had a mile of pleasant traffic free walking with only the sounds of birds and sheep for company. One sheep – or possibly ram – grazing close to the road had the most wonderful curly horns so I just had to get a photo of it. Eventually I came to a crossroads where turning right would take me back to Belmont village but it was such a nice day I decided to extend my walk via the Blue Lake so turned left instead.
Another half mile of quiet road walking got me to the wide track leading past the Blue Lake with a view of Winter Hill in the distance. With the reflection of the blue sky in the water it would normally have deserved its name but it was now almost completely frozen over with a thin layer of snow covering the ice, so White Lake would have been a better name for it just then.
The track past the lake and a nearby pine forest took me to the moorland road running between Belmont and Egerton and that’s when I got quite a surprise. Normally that road is a very quiet one with just the odd vehicle every so often and I’d only seen a couple of cars when I turned off at the crossroads to go to the Blue Lake, but now all of a sudden it was like the M6 on a busy day with a constant stream of traffic going in both directions, and I had to continually step onto the snowy grass verge to keep myself and the dogs safe.
Turning left at the crossroads to go back down to the village the road becomes narrow with a couple of bends and barely enough room for two cars to pass each other. I’ve walked down there with dogs, both mine and my friend’s, many times with no problems but now with so much traffic it was a nightmare and I was glad when the road widened out as I got closer to the village; with one last shot of a few sheep on a nearby hillside I finally reached the main road and my van at the start of the walk.
Back at home, and talking to my next-door neighbour, I found out why there was such an unusually high volume of traffic on that moorland road. At the time I would have been just over halfway through my walk there had been a bad accident on the main A666 running through Egerton to Darwen and Blackburn and a section of the road had been closed in both directions, with traffic being diverted along the moorland road. In spite of it all though I’d still enjoyed my walk and even though it was cold it had been good for all three of us to get out in the fresh air and sunshine.
It’s the second week of this month’s Friday photo hunt and with any number of things to choose from to fit the topic I decided on a mixture of ‘sensible’ and ‘quirky’, picking one shot from the archives and taking the others just a couple of days ago.
The first one is self-explanatory, these things appear in many different places and I use them all the time at work. If you look closely you can see the floor is still damp from when I mopped it. The signs are normally hung on a wall bracket when not in use but some people have a habit of not putting them back so I often have to hunt round the workshop to find them.
A while ago, when I was shopping for new camping accessories, I wanted a whisk small enough to fit in my camping cutlery box. The only ones small enough were in sets of two or three of different sizes so I bought two, using the larger one here at home and keeping the small one for camping.
Snowy had been with me for quite a while when for some unknown reason she decided scratch a hole in her soft bed and pull out half the woolly stuffing. Now contained within the bed this stuff is fine but when a determined little dog has been digging it just seems to explode and go everywhere and I seemed to be constantly picking up clumps of it from various places.
Back in December 2019, while on a short break in Ireland, I went to have a look round Dublin’s Carmelite Church. It was a very unusual church and also very beautiful with lots of brightly coloured stained glass windows; some of the loveliest were the Rosary Windows, crafted in the 1930s by a Dublin company and restored in the 1990s.
Back in the 1980s my greatest wish was to be able to afford to give up work and spend three years or so touring round Australia in a motorhome. I loved everything about Australia, especially the wildlife, and my favourite animal was, and still is, the wombat. One particular year we were on holiday in Norfolk when I saw some cuddly toys in a gift shop; they didn’t look like the usual teddy bears, dogs or cats, to me they looked like wombats and as they were probably the nearest thing to wombats I would ever get to see I bought a couple.
Now I know I have at least one Australian reader who’s probably thinking I’ve lost the plot and these creatures look nothing like wombats – the photo doesn’t do them justice anyway – but as I’m never likely to realise my dream and see a real one they will have to do as substitutes. And with that last bit of silliness it’s time to make a brew and hop over to Kate’s blog to see what everyone else has chosen for their words and pictures this week.
The Kingfisher Trail is a scenic 14-mile linear route running from the car park at the south end of Bolton’s Jumbles Reservoir to Philips Park Nature Reserve just north of Manchester. Originally started by the Croal-Irwell Valley Ranger Service in the early 1990s it was taken over and re-established by the Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside branch of the Wildlife Trust after the ranger service was disbanded. Passing through ten different rural areas it includes four natures reserves, two country parks, a site of special scientific interest, an arboretum and a section of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal.
In previous years I’ve walked along a few sections of the trail with the dogs without realising they were parts of an official trail and it was only in December that I walked a section of it during my quest to find the preserved front porch of the old Bradshaw Hall. Following that walk I downloaded a trail map and decided that, time and weather permitting, I would walk the rest of the 14-mile trail in convenient sections, starting each section where I finished the last one.
As I set out for work last Thursday morning the early beginnings of a lovely sunrise promised a nice day so I took the camera in preparation for a walk after work. From the works’ car park a narrow path runs down the side of the premises next door to large securely locked and chained cast iron double gates which were once part of the estate belonging to Bradshaw Hall. At the other side of the gates is the path which is part of the Kingfisher trail and the point where I’d turned off on my December walk to find the Bradshaw Hall porch; if I could climb over the gates I could leave the van at work and start my walk from where I previously left the trail.
It was a daunting task given the size of the gates though with trainers on I could have done it, however given that some parts of the trail would probably be very muddy I was wearing wellies so I knew my feet wouldn’t fit through the gaps between the railings – all I could do was drive to what would be the end of my walk, leave the van there and walk by road to my starting point at the other side of the gates.
Unfortunately by the time I’d left the van in a convenient small car park and walked to where I wanted to be the blue sky had gone and the sun had turned very weak and hazy, only appearing spasmodically from behind a continuous bank of grey-white cloud. With the prospect of getting some very dull photos it was decision time – continue or go home, however I decided to continue, using the walk as a recce for another time when the weather would be brighter and there would be some leaves on the trees.
Passing the gates I’d wanted to climb over and following Bradshaw Brook with the works’ premises on the far side I eventually came to the first of three weirs which had been part of the water management system of Bradshaw Bleachworks established in the 19th century. A sign on a nearby fence said ‘Danger – deep water’ and looking at the turbulence just below the weir I can imagine it really was.
Past the second weir the river widened out a bit and flowed more quietly. Through the trees up ahead and to the left I could just see a waterfall so I went to take a look; flowing over a man-made structure the waterfall was part of the small brook which ran through the remains of Bradshaw Hall’s original gardens and eventually flowed into the main river. Crossing a bridge over the small brook and back at the riverside I eventually came to the third weir.
The structure of this weir was obviously different from the other two as the water formed interlocking wavy patterns just before it flowed over the weir itself; I’ve never seen that before and thought it looked quite attractive. Just past the weir the path left the riverside and took me through a wooded area with a small partially overgrown pond before crossing a narrow lane and taking me back to the river.
Through another small wooded area I came out into a meadow with Bradshaw Cricket Club just across the river on my right. The path ended in a bridge which took me onto the long driveway leading down to the club and I took my last photo from there before heading up to the main road and the nearby car park where I’d left the van.
It was a shame that what had promised to be a really nice day turned out to be so dull and grey but in spite of that the walk, although not a long one, had been quite enjoyable. I’d discovered somewhere new and got some reasonable photos, and it’s a walk that will certainly be worth repeating later in the year and in much nicer weather.
Continuing the weekly photo hunt through February and I must admit that this week’s topic of ‘lovely memory’ really had me thinking hard. Like most people I have many good memories of various times and events in the past but only certain ones stand out. A couple of nice memories from previous years did spring to mind but I don’t have any suitable photos for them so I’ve chosen a few shots from just a couple of years ago, although the memory goes back more much further than that.
Back in the late 1970s and early 80s my parents would rent a holiday flat in Morecambe for a week in September each year and some years I would take Michael and join them for a few days. One year, when Michael was just three years old, we went picking blackberries on Heysham Head and he had his own little bag to put some in. He was with me while my mum was a few yards away and he’d picked quite a few when all at once he ran down to my mum, presented her with a handful of blackberries, and said “Aren’t I kind to you?”
Now that may not seem particularly special to most people but given his very young age his words were very sweet and actually quite amusing; my mum never forgot that moment and it’s been mentioned in conversation many times over the years. I went to Heysham Head just a couple of years ago while on a day out in Morecambe and I couldn’t help remembering Michael and the blackberries all those years ago.
Children seem to grow up so quickly these days and even though that 3-year old little boy is now a grown man on the wrong side of 40 the memory of the blackberry picking day at Heysham Head will never be forgotten by either of us.
While I was on my 2-week stay-cation last September, and on one of the area’s Heritage Open Days, I visited St. Augustine’s Church in Pendlebury, eight miles from home and an easy 20-minute drive heading towards Manchester. I’d never been there before but it had come to my attention the previous day and it sounded interesting so off I went.
Known locally as the ‘Miners’ Cathedral’ because of its vast cathedral-like proportions and its location in the heart of a one-time coal mining community St. Augustine’s came into being thanks to the generosity of one man, Edward Stanley Heywood, one of the family of Heywood Brothers who were influential Manchester bankers. Situated about five miles from the centre of Manchester the church was designed in 1870 by architect George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907) assisted by Thomas Garner, and construction started in 1871 with the foundation stone being laid in September that year. The completed building was consecrated in May 1874 and the total cost including decoration and furnishings was borne by Heywood himself. The church’s first vicar was Heywood’s brother-in-law Dr. Alfred Dewes who devoted his life to St. Augustine’s and remained there until his death in 1911.
George Frederick Bodley served as an apprentice architect for five years then at the age of 23 set up his own practice in 1850, eventually setting up a partnership with Thomas Garner in 1869, and it was during the later years of the 19th century that some of his finest churches were built. In designing St. Augustine’s Bodley had also designed a bell tower which was to be a free-standing structure linked to the church on the south side and standing higher than the main roof, but the ambitious project to build a church of cathedral proportions was extremely expensive and as Heywood considered the bell tower wasn’t essential the plan was abandoned and the money was used to provide a vicarage, school and gatehouse. The church itself was built of red brick, with a clay tiled roof and dressed stone for the windows and doorways, and the building’s dimensions measured 160ft long from east to west, 50ft wide and 80ft 2ins high at the ridge of the roof.
Above the main west doorway three niches contain the statues of St. Augustine flanked by the Angel Gabriel on the left and the Blessed Virgin Mary on the right, and high in the wall below the apex of the roof is a recess housing the single church bell. Above the porch doorway on the south west corner, which was originally the main entrance, are another three niches housing statues, with the centre one being Our Lord with his hand raised to bless those entering the church, and at each side are the carved 1874 date stones.
Below the window in the east wall is a memorial showing the Risen Christ and commemorating the 178 men and boys, the youngest only 13 years old, who lost their lives in a devastating underground explosion at the Clifton Hall Colliery on June 18th 1885; the bodies of the victims were buried in the grounds of several local churches with 64 of them being interred at St. Augustine’s. The churchyard also contains the war graves of twelve service personnel from WW1 and four from WW2 and is a favourite spot for tortoiseshell butterflies who continue to make the grounds their home.
Before opening for public worship it was Bodley’s express wish that St. Augustine’s was provided with chairs for the congregation rather than pews. This was not only from an appearance point of view but also to prevent the system of paid pew rents whereby the wealthy could have exclusive use of a particular pew for themselves, their family and friends. This system in other churches had often discouraged the poor from attending services as they could find themselves having to either stand up or sit on cold bare floors; there are seven rows of pews towards the front of the nave but these were later additions.
At the north west corner of the nave is the octagonal font, standing two steps above floor level. Each of its eight sides has an arched recess containing a shield, with four of the shields bearing the IHS monogram while the others have roses and fleur-de-lys. The font cover is a finely crafted piece of woodcarving and has a traceried lower section with three tiers above and an angel at the top.
High up on eight of the internal buttresses in the nave are a series of elaborately carved and gilded frames containing paintings depicting several saints, and of these eight the front two on each side of the nave have been restored. The four on the north wall are saints Paul, Peter, Gregory and Augustine while those on the south wall are the Venerable Bede and saints Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine of Hippo; unfortunately bright sunlight shining on the paintings of Gregory and Augustine made them difficult to photograph successfully so I only got six out of the eight.
The square pulpit is carved in the 16th century style with ‘linen fold’ panelling on the three sides. A later addition was a shell-shaped ‘sounding board’ suspended above it from an iron bracket, this was to project the speaker’s voice into the nave; in 1929 it was described by a writer (unknown) as “an American contraption – very effective but also very ugly”. Church records show that it was installed during Bodley’s lifetime and it was known that its appearance reduced him to tears; fast forward to 1996 and it was removed after extensive consultations with everyone concerned.
Spaced at intervals along the walls of the nave and continuing into the north and south choir isles are a series of carved wooden plaques, possibly later additions, telling the story of the Crucifiction; I photographed them all but there were far too many to include them all on here so I’ve selected just two.
Dividing the nave from the chancel is the oak rood screen, an elaborately carved design of Bodley’s with a wide central arch and six open sections with delicate tracery, surmounted by the base of the (incomplete) rood loft forming a deep canopy to the screen itself. Just in front and above the screen on the north side of the nave is the organ loft with its richly coloured and gilded organ case, again designed and crafted by Bodley; the organ itself was originally built by Brindley & Foster of Sheffield, later rebuilt with pneumatic action by Ernest Wadsworth & Co of Manchester then rebuilt with a detached console in the mid 1990s.
The doorway to the organ loft is on the opposite side of the nave to the organ and the door itself has large hinges depicting leaves and acorns, another example of Bodley’s meticulous attention to detail. Before the organ was rebuilt in the 1990s access to the console was gained by walking across the top of the rood screen, hazardous enough but made worse with the installation of a bank of heating pipes covering most of the canopy top. Although very effective in combating the cold down-draught they also prevented the use of the safety handrail, making the journey to the console doubly perilous, although a certain Dorothy Morris, St. Augustine’s organist for over 30 years, regularly made the hair-raising journey until she was well into her eighties.
On both sides of the chancel the ends of the rear choir stalls incorporate ten carved creatures, five on each side, and include a cockerel, a dog, and several mythological beasts. In the north choir isle behind the stalls is a small shrine while in the south choir isle is a permanent Lady Chapel with its own altar and seating for eight people, both created in the mid 1990s. The richly painted chancel ceiling was restored and repainted in 1971 but some later damage to the external roof resulted in water ingress which caused the paint to peel in several places, which seemingly hasn’t so far been rectified.
Bordered by gold vine leaf trail and completed with gilded cresting at the top the huge reredos fills the centre of the east wall while at each side the wall is lined with ‘linen fold’ oak panelling. The reredos itself is made up of 19 compartments containing a series of richly coloured paintings; each compartment has a traceried canopy and parts of some of the paintings are in relief. On the shelf at the bottom are six large candlesticks, four of which were dedicated in 1930; made in Milan they are copies of some 300-year old candlesticks situated where St. Peter’s Chair stands in Rome.
The design of the windows was closely supervised by Bodley, with the stained glass being done by Burlison & Grylls, a partnership set up in 1868 with the encouragement of Bodley himself and Thomas Garner. By the 1890s Burlison & Grylls was one of the most highly regarded stained glass firms in the country; thousands of their windows appeared in churches throughout Britain, with their most spectacular being the large rose window installed in 1902 in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.
Bodley’s opinion was that much of the stained glass of his period was spoiled by having too great a variety of colours so for St. Augustine’s he chose colour schemes to provide each window with just one dominant colour. The windows themselves are set high in the church walls, with their bases some 16 feet above floor level, and being so high it was impossible to get good clear shots of them; apparently the only way to fully appreciate the detail in each window is through binoculars.
Tucked in the south west corner of the nave and near the south porch door is a very small single window depicting the entrance of St. Augustine into Canterbury, and with the addition of a votive candle stand in 1996 this corner has become the Shrine of St. Augustine. Most of Bodley’s original furnishings and adornments remain largely unchanged and any alterations or additions which have been made over the years are very few.