Back in April, while on an afternoon out in St. Anne’s, I went to Ashton Gardens situated on the edge of the town centre. It was a place I hadn’t been to before and in the sunny weather I was impressed enough to want to go back during the summer, so my Monday walk this week features a second visit which was undertaken earlier this month. Just as previously I started my walk at the gates in the side street closest to the town centre then wandered round in a ‘sort of’ anti-clockwise direction, ending at the gates on the main road.
When I got round to the rose garden I must admit to being slightly disappointed as it didn’t look quite as good as I’d expected. Although all the beds were full of roses of different colours it seemed that many of them were already past their best with withered blooms and fallen petals, indeed two gardeners were busy dead-heading the worst of them. Not being interested in gardening I’ve no idea if there’s a particular time when roses are at their best – maybe there is and I’d missed it, or maybe the best was yet to come, however the garden was nice enough in its own way and I got a few good photos.
Beyond the rose garden was the undulating land with the two ponds and meandering waterway, and the place looked a lot different to April when the trees were still quite bare. And strange as this may sound, I actually thought that there was too much greenery around as a lot of it was obscuring what had previously been some really nice views, however I still got some good shots and the bonus was seeing the fountain in the big pond shooting water about 15ft in the air, something I hadn’t previously known about as it hadn’t been working in April.
Next came the Japanese garden which I’d missed last time as I hadn’t known about it, then the circular sunken garden with its beds full of pink and white flowers ; in the bright glaring sunlight they looked rather washed out but the pink ones were actually much deeper than they appeared. From there I made my way past the war memorial and the pavilion cafe then down the wide main path to the gates onto the main road, finally making my way back to where I’d left the van in the car park at my usual cafe.
It had been interesting to see the difference in the gardens now it’s mid summer but of course that’s got me wondering what they will be like in autumn when the leaves are changing colour – and who knows, maybe a third visit will be on the cards in the not-too-distant future.
July’s photo hunt has arrived and the topics this month are – cluttered, paddle, pink, starts with an ‘E’, roof, and as always, my own choice. I already had a couple of photos in my archives and the rest have fallen into place within just a few days so here goes –
In my work as an office cleaner I’ve come across desks in various stages of tidiness or disarray, ranging from ‘minimalist’ with just monitor, mouse and keyboard to those which can only be described as ‘organised chaos’, and it was one of these which made a good subject for the first topic.
My little dog Poppie came to me on the last day of October in 2014 and with it being autumn/winter I didn’t really have the chance to find out if she would swim or if she even liked water. In May the following year, during a camping holiday on Anglesey, we were walking in a secluded little bay where a stream came from somewhere inland and tumbled down over rocks into the sea, and though Sophie stayed firmly at the edge Poppie went straight in and had a great time paddling and splashing about – and this was the first of many occasions when she’s been eager to go in the water while out on a walk somewhere.
The next photo was also taken on Anglesey, on a visit to Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens three years ago. The close-up shot of the fluffy pink flower (which I’ve since learned is an Allium) came out so well that I had it enlarged and made into a square canvas print which was just right for a plain bit of wall in my pink bedroom.
A couple of weeks ago Michael went down to London for a concert at the O2 arena ; although in previous years he’s been to various concerts in Manchester this was the first time he’d ever been to London. The ‘band’ was Empire of the Sun, an Australian duo (with a backing band and dancers) apparently known for their very elaborate and colourful costumes and stage sets – he’d only discovered their music late last year so he was quite excited when he found out that they were playing just one UK gig this year.
Prior to him going to London I’d asked him what he wanted for his forthcoming birthday and got the usual answer of a shoulder shrug and “I don’t know, get me anything” which really wasn’t helpful at all, however when he came back from the concert he’d enjoyed himself so much that the solution to the birthday present problem leapt up and smacked me in the face. A quick search on the internet, a few clicks of the mouse, and three days later his present arrived – three Empire of the Sun cds. It was his birthday on Friday last week but he went to Ireland the day before so I gave them to him then and he was really pleased.
I found the photo for the next topic only a couple of days ago. Heading north along the A6 towards Garstang I passed a pub which in previous years has always looked to be a nice place though it seems that it’s been disused for a year or two now. With barriers round it on the pavement side it looked like it was in the initial stages of demolition though it was the roof which caught my eye as I drove past, so on my way back home I stopped to have a look and found that the place had been on fire. It looked like it had been in its current state for a while so I was surprised to learn via the internet that the fire only happened a week ago.
My final shot was another one I found earlier this week, it was actually two separate pictures on display in a Garstang shop window. There was no price on them so no doubt they were expensive for what they were but they did rather amuse me so I took a shot of each of them and ‘glued’ them together in my photo editing programme.
Well there you have it, my photos for July. Thanks again to Kate for hosting the challenge, unfortunately she’s been having ongoing internet problems but the link to her own blog is finally working so I’m off now to see what everyone else has chosen for the categories this month.
After my visit to Manchester’s Cat Café last week I was wandering idly round a few nearby streets when I came across something which gave me a great idea for a Monday walk – a huge mural painted on a gable end wall. I’d heard, or maybe read somewhere, that there was quite a lot of street art in various places around the Northern Quarter so back at home I did some Googling, made a list and printed out a street map, and went back to Manchester the following day to track down as many examples as I could.
My walk started from Piccadilly Station where I got off the train, and I found my first art example as soon as I emerged from the building. Not exactly ‘street art’ it was a sculpture by Johanna Domke-Guyot, commissioned by the charity Blind Veterans UK, formerly known as St. Dunstan’s, and unveiled in October 2018 to remember the returning blind veterans of the First World War. Thinking back to the impressive war memorial I saw at St. Anne’s a while ago it was a sculpture that somehow was impossible to ignore.
Walking from the station towards Piccadilly Gardens a quick glance to my left unexpectedly found my first piece of street art on a gable end wall down a narrow side street. It wasn’t on my list but it was a good start and with the aid of my printed out street map of the area I roamed around for almost three hours along main roads, side streets and back alleys, gradually working my way round and down in the general direction of Victoria Station. Some of the things on my list proved impossible to find, maybe because they’d been painted over, and in a couple of cases major new construction work was covering up the murals, but I also had the bonus of finding some things which weren’t on my list.
I had to trespass on a building site to get the next shot as the mural is set back between two buildings with the one on the left undergoing a lot of work. The front of it and half the street were cordoned off with tall barriers and I couldn’t get a proper shot from across the road, however there was a convenient gap in the barrier just in the right place so looking round to make sure that no-one was watching I stepped through, got my shot, then got the hell out of there before any of the workmen saw me. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the full height of the mural – just above the cross is a crown shape in gold – but I got the best part of it. Titled ‘King of Nowt’ it’s supposed to highlight male suicide in the younger age groups but to be honest I can’t really see the significance.
As I’ve never watched Game of Thrones – it’s definitely not my cup of tea at all – I had no idea who the next face belonged to until I Googled it when I got back home. David Bowie’s face had adorned this wall previously, which is what I’d been looking for, but it had been painted over and replaced with this ; I did like the happy dogs on the wall of the old public toilet block though, it’s a mural to make any dog lover smile.
The next mural was painted by a UK artist for the Cities of Hope street art project in 2016. Featuring a child of Papua New Guinea it’s dedicated to those people fighting for independence in New Guinea; the same artist also painted a similar work on a gable end in Blackburn. The following mural is supposed to represent someone with mental health issues trying to overcome the difficulties faced while attempting to make some positive life changes.
The next picture wasn’t actually a mural, it was one section of a multi-section advertising hoarding round a vacant corner plot but I took a photo of it just because I like pugs.
The next mural must surely be the most significant of all the ones I found. Commissioned by the Manchester Evening News it was painted by graffiti artist Russell Meeham, otherwise known as Qubek, and is a true Mancunian tribute to those affected by the 2017 terror attack at the Manchester Arena, with each bee representing one of the 22 people killed in that attack. Unlike many street artists who use stencils for their work Qubek painted this freehand using dozens of cans of spray paint and taking two days to create it.
And finally, the last one isn’t really street art, it’s a pavement sign outside a coffee bar, but it amused me enough to take a photo of it – and I think I could quite probably put myself in the last category!
All these murals and signs were found within a few streets of each other in a relatively small area of the city ; I did find a couple of others but I didn’t like them enough to photograph them or want to put them on here. I have no doubt that there are probably many more tucked away down various side streets and alleyways I didn’t go down, and I know that some of the ones I found will eventually be painted over and replaced so who knows? – I don’t ‘do’ cities but I may very well be tempted to go back there another time to see what other street art I can find.
Anyone who knows me knows that cities hold no attraction for me whatsoever, give me countryside or coast and good views any time, however on Monday this week I decided to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long while and haven’t up to now – make a visit to the Cat Cafe in Manchester. It was very much a spur-of-the-moment decision made at 8am, I booked online straight away for the 11am slot and leaving the van at home I went into Manchester by train. The café was an easy walk from Victoria Station, I got there a few minutes before eleven and once I’d booked in at reception and got my visitor’s pass I was free to spend my hour with the cats.
The first cat I saw was a Ragdoll, sleeping in a box which looked far too small for it – unless of course it was an exceptionally big cat. Next was one sleeping in a cardboard house on top of a unit in the window then I saw Savannah, a beautiful Bengal who was more than willing to have some attention lavished on her before she too curled up and went to sleep. After having a wander round and taking a few photos I got a can of Coke from the bar – unlimited hot and cold drinks are included in the cost of the visit – then sat on a very comfy settee for a while just taking in the calm and peaceful atmosphere of the place before spending more time photographing some of the residents and their surroundings.
When my hour was over I said goodbye to the cats which weren’t asleep, handed in my pass at reception, and emerged from the quiet coolness of the café into a busy street and a sunny day which was getting warmer by the minute. It had been nice to spend an hour with the cats in the café, it was something a bit different from the norm, but an hour had been long enough for me. Would I go again? – probably not. It was nice for a one-off experience but it’s expensive for what it is – and anyway, if I ever want to cuddle a cat I’ve got three of my own here at home.
After my well earned coffee and cake break at the Allonby Tea Rooms my quest continued round the corner on the main road where the Ship Hotel is situated. A Grade ll listed building, the Ship was originally a 17th century coaching inn with stabling for horses and was popular with those travelling on the old coaching route to London. In 1857 Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins stayed overnight at the Ship while touring northern Cumberland, and though Dickens didn’t think much of the village itself (describing it as ‘a dreary little place’) he did like the Ship and described it as ‘a capital little homely inn looking out upon the sea….a clean nice place in a rough wild country’.
A few yards along from the Ship a stone built bridge carries the road diagonally across Allonby Beck. In former times the beck was much wider and shallower than it is now and was crossed at road level by an old cast iron bridge which was unfortunately destroyed in 1904. A traction engine, hauling a steam-driven fairground ride, started to cross the bridge but never made it to the other side ; the bridge cracked under the weight and the whole lot ended up in the beck which was swollen after a period of heavy rain. Following that incident a new stone bridge was built in 1905 and it’s still in use today.
On a corner near the seaward end of the bridge and overlooking the play park is The Codfather fish and chip shop. It doesn’t feature on my list of properties to find and I don’t have a photo of it but I mention it because I find it a little odd. To find the next property in the brochure I had to look near the post office but search as I might I couldn’t find a post office anywhere ; eventually I asked a local and was told that the post office counter, such as it is, is only open on Thursdays between 10 and 11am and is actually in The Codfather – how bizarre! I know in these times of companies and businesses downsizing and making cutbacks a post office can often be found within a supermarket but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of one in a fish and chip shop!
Once I’d located the ‘post office’ it was easy enough to find the next two properties. The Grapes was one of two pubs situated only a few yards apart and a narrow lane running at the side of The Grapes once led to the fish yards owned by a local family. Now a private house with a modern front door and windows, structurally it still looks the same as it was many years ago although strangely there’s only a brief mention of it in the brochure. The 3-storey Solway Hotel stood on the corner of the block; there were two versions of it and in more recent times the second one was known for a while as The Ocean Liner. It was a highly successful establishment providing good food and entertainment, and Country & Western nights were popular with acts like Boxcar Willie bringing in the crowds. Following a fire in the 1990s it was demolished and a modern 2-storey house built in its place but with an identical roof line to that of the hotel.
Back on the main road, across from The Codfather and set back off the road itself, is Pig In The Bath antiques/junk shop in what was once Allonby Mill. The present mill building dates from the 19th century and stands on the site of a much earlier building which may have been a corn mill. Between Pig In The Bath and the road bridge a footbridge runs over the beck to a small square of cottages and the one on the left was once The Queen’s Head Inn which, in the mid 1800s, became Allonby’s first and only Temperance Hotel. Tucked away down a very narrow passage behind this property is tiny Cruck Cottage, named after the building method used in its construction ; a timber frame of oak ‘crucks’ or trunks provided the main foundation for the structure then it was in-filled with laths and a mixture of animal dung and straw. Cottages like these were known as ‘clay dabbin’ cottages.
Set back in the square, and at the beginning of Garden Lane, is Glen Cottage, a nicely renovated holiday let which still retains some of its original features including wood beams and an inglenook fireplace. It was once the home of well known Cumbrian artist Percy Kelly who lived there for ten years. The initials AK – PK – 1958 can still be seen engraved on the lintel in the bedroom, with AK being his first wife Audrey and 1958 being the year they moved in ; it was while living in Allonby that he produced some of his best watercolours of the region.
Percy moved out of Glen Cottage in 1968 after Audrey discovered that he was secretly cross-dressing ; she continued to live there and after they divorced he eventually remarried, moving to Kendal, then Wales, and finally Norfolk. His second wife left him in 1983 after twelve years together, and while taking HRT, convinced he was becoming a woman, Percy changed his name by deed poll to Roberta Penelope. After spending his life steadfastly refusing to sell much of his work he died in 1993 in obscurity and poverty, though his cottage was later to be found crammed with his work. More information about Glen Cottage and Percy Kelly can be found here on the cottage’s website.
Garden Lane was once part of the main thoroughfare through the village and continued further than it does now ; it’s cut off by the beck which runs through the back of the village but when the beck was wider it had a shallow ford and Garden Lane was linked to Brewery Lane. The present narrower channel was dug by POWs during WW2 and being deeper it effectively separated both lanes. One of the properties in Garden Lane had large ovens in the cellar which could be accessed from outside, and as many homes didn’t have ovens at the time villagers would take their tattie pots to be cooked at the house in Garden Lane, earning it the name of Tattie Pot Lonning (Lane). The garage at Rainford House in Garden Lane was originally a clay dabbin cottage though at some time it was extended upwards by adding a stone-built gable. In recent years the present owner has restored the clay structure with antique bricks but a piece of the original clay and gravel has been ‘framed’ on the garage’s side wall.
Back on the main road, heading south and next door to the Baywatch Hotel, is Twentyman’s ice cream shop and general store. Twentyman’s had originally been boat breakers but when that trade died out the family saw an opportunity to provide ice creams and refreshments to passing visitors. The business was founded in 1920 and over the years has become famous throughout north Cumbria for its ice cream, made on the premises from a secret family recipe, although the modern property of today bears little resemblance to that of 1920.
The penultimate building on my list, the church vicarage, was built in 1872 to replace a smaller vicarage which was situated in what is now the church graveyard. When Allonby parish merged with nearby Crosscanonby the vicarage was sold and in the 1950s it became a holiday home for children with disabilities, with actor and comedian Richard Hearne, famous for his ‘Mr Pastry’ character, being a fund raiser for the venture. Since then the building has been a hotel and a private home before becoming what it is now, West Winds Tea Rooms.
Christ Church is the last building on the main road through Allonby heading south. The original chapel was built in 1743 but a hundred years later it was deemed to be too small for the growing congregation ; it was rebuilt in 1845 then enlarged in 1849 and again in 1885. The low roofed part of the building on the north side was once a school for about 100 children, it was built in 1741 before the original chapel and eventually became the Church school.
With Christ Church being the last on my list I finally had everything in the brochure found, photographed and ticked off. It had been a long, varied and interesting (sometimes mildly frustrating) day and with the late afternoon sun turning into an early evening sun and casting shadows where I didn’t want them it was time to return to the van and head back to the camp site. I’d completed my quest and the three of us had walked and wandered far enough so a good couple of hours of chill out time was more than justified.
**A lot of the information on Allonby and the post title came from ‘Allonby – Past and Present’, a very interesting and informative booklet which gave me the inspiration to seek out all these places and find out more about them. It’s produced by the Allonby History Group, which meets at the village hall every last Wednesday of the month, and can be found in various outlets in the village and other places throughout the county.
Five miles north of Maryport in Cumbria the little village of Allonby lies strung out along the coast road, with a long, wide and very pleasant green running between the road and the beach. During my first visit there at Easter I’d been given a brochure about the history of the village and its various buildings and reading through it I realised that there was far more to the place than I’d first thought, so on a recent revisit I made it my mission to start at the north end of the village and work my way south, finding and photographing all the various buildings shown in the brochure.
Allonby originally started life centuries ago as a tiny community scattered around four farms but over many years it grew into a small fishing port, with the main catch being herring which were either salted or smoked to preserve them for transport to market. In 1703 the Religious Society of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers, converted a cottage in the village into a Meeting House and the Quakers became a large and influential section of the local community. At the extreme north of the village a Quaker burial ground was established, a simple space of grass and low headstones with the entrance being a deceptive door in a stone wall bordering the road, and it was from there that my quest began.
Next to the burial ground is North Lodge, built in 1824 by Thomas Richardson, a noted banker and leading member of the Quakers. The building is symmetrical and the central pavilion provided a holiday home for Richardson and his family while the adjoining four cottages and two houses were let to needy Quaker spinsters or families. Richardson was also very instrumental in adding significantly to the funds raised for the building of Allonby School, which is still in existence, and North Lodge is still in use today as low-cost housing.
After being established in 1703 the Quaker Meeting House was used continually for over 250 years but by the 1980s it was beginning to show its age, with windows which were jammed shut, rotten floors and much damp. The members secured a grant and raised another £3,000 for repairs but when work began more structural problems came to light. Eventually the funds ran out and the Meeting House officially closed in July 1991 ; five years later the building was sold and converted into a private house, which it still is today.
On a nearby corner is the Congregational Chapel which was built in 1844 and used for about 120 years. In the 1980s it was converted to a private house after having closed for worship about twenty five years before. Between the chapel and the old Meeting House is what was the Sunshine Home, built in 1934 as a children’s holiday home by Margaret Harrison in memory of her husband who had been a director of a Clydeside ship builders. Open each year from Easter to October it provided a fortnight’s holiday for under-privileged children from all over the country for almost sixty years.
In 1990 the home received £3,300 from the BBC’s Children In Need appeal to install an all-weather surface in the playground but in that same year an unpleasant incident occurred when the mother of two boys staying there complained that a member of staff had ill-treated one of them. The police and Social Services became involved and the home was immediately closed ; although there was no evidence to support the allegations the damage was done, and coupled with the increasing difficulty of finding suitable staff the original owner’s granddaughter who had inherited the home decided that it should remain closed. The building was eventually sold and converted to become the private house it is today.
Allonby Village Hall was converted in 1911 from a barn into a church hall to bring the Anglican presence into the heart of the village, and what can be seen today is more or less how the building was back then. Activities are held there regularly and include table top sales, dance classes, Pilates, Bridge, quizzes and musical entertainment. Across the road from the village hall, and on the edge of the green, is the Reading Room built on what had been the site of a factory school with a large weaving room and tithe barn. Designed by a Quaker architect from Manchester and opened in 1862 the reading rooms and a library originally stood over an open Italian-style piazza where people could shelter from bad weather ; eventually though the open colonnade was bricked in and the space converted into a billiard and games room.
The reading rooms served the people of Allonby for more than a hundred years and at one point became home to a collection of natural history specimens. During WW2 they were used by the WVS (Womens Voluntary Services) for the preparation of camouflage netting for the armed forces, and during the 1951 Festival of Britain they served as the venue for a ‘Festival of Antiques’. Unfortunately usage had declined by the early 1970s and maintenance was a problem so the building was sold, with the proceeds being used to upgrade the village hall. The new owner was a local businessman who proposed to turn the building into a motorbike museum but his plans were turned down by the local authority and the place stood empty for thirty years. Gradually the building began to deteriorate and after a severe storm part of the roof collapsed, bringing the gable end down with it. Finally, in 2005 the local council agreed to a partial demolition and conversion to residential use, and after the work was hampered by delays and ever-increasing costs the new owners eventually took up residence in 2013.
Not far from the Reading Rooms, and just across Allonby Beck on the seaward side of the green, is a short row of cottages known as The Hill, and although the land is now mainly level it was, at one time, just as its name suggests. Here were once thriving boat building and fish curing industries, with fishing boats being launched into the sea from the Hill and a smokehouse at the end of the row, also regular fish sales were held there after each catch was brought in. During the 1930s the Jackson family brought horses to the village and opened a very successful riding school which was based at the end of The Hill next to where there is now a modern play park. For obvious reasons I couldn’t take any photos of the play park but where it’s situated was once the site of the Smiddy On The Hill owned by blacksmith Dick Saunderson.
Across the road, and set sideways on to the road itself, is an odd little detached cottage with a flat-roofed side extension on what was once the front of the building and its front door on what used to be the side, meaning it now bears no resemblance to the small double-fronted steep-roofed building it once was – this was known as The Bazaar, and at various times in the past it’s been a fancy goods shop, a Co-op shop, and a chip shop.
Behind The Bazaar is part of The Square, which isn’t just one Square but a long straggle of cobbled lanes and smaller squares extending in two parts through the back of the village and converging on what was once the Market Place, where the old bath house is situated. Commissioned in 1834, built during 1835 and early 1836 The Baths opened in July that year ; they had warm, cold, sulphur and vapour baths fitted out in marble and using water piped from the sea by a small steam engine, whose furnace also heated the water. At the rear of the building a long ‘Promenade Room’ with an iron balustrade overlooked the sea and there was also a smaller reading room.
By 1856 however, Allonby Baths faced competition in the form of the new seaside resort of Silloth just eight miles away. With a fine selection of modern hotels and boarding houses the town also had an attractive set of sea water baths, and with people preferring to go to Silloth Allonby Baths gradually lost their popularity. In August 1862 a notice appeared in the local papers announcing the intention to liquidate any debts, wind up the business and consider accepting an offer for the land and building. That offer was made by an MP who had also financed the Reading Rooms ; the building was converted into a boarding house and by the turn of the century had become a private residence, which it has remained ever since. It’s also a Grade ll listed building.
Across from the front of The Baths is Allonby Grange, a property built in the Colonial style. It was once home to Anne Satterthwaite who had inherited the building as part of her family’s estate ; after her only son died her daughter-in-law Sarah became Mrs Satterthwaite-Clark when she remarried in 1882, her groom being James Clark, founder of Clark’s shoe empire. After her mother-in-law’s death Sarah continued to live in the house and during the course of her years there she gifted a fine hand-drawn hearse to the people of the village ; in her old age she regularly held lavish garden parties in the beautiful garden at the rear of the property.
Set back on the left beyond the far end of the Market Place is a small modern housing development known as Costins, which takes its name from the original building which was once a Georgian bow-windowed multi-shop run by the local family of the same name. The Square continues from the Market Place as a narrow cobbled lane lined by pretty cottages, one of which is Swan Cottage, formerly the Swan Inn. It could once have been more than one dwelling as at one time there were two separate sets of stairs leading to different parts of the property. The front of the building dates from the mid 18th century while the back is more likely to be Victorian, which would go some way to explaining the two different staircases.
By the time I’d ticked Swan Cottage off my list, and having foregone my late lunch, it was time for a brew and a snack. The Allonby Tea Rooms were close by, set back off the main road, and there was a vacant table outside so I gave myself and the dogs a well-earned break before the next part of the ‘treasure hunt’.