An August bank holiday with glorious weather but no van, however I wasn’t going to let being without my own transport stop me from going somewhere so I decided to ‘let the train take the strain’ as the adverts used to say and for my Monday walk this week I would visit Arnside, a village on the River Kent estuary at the north east corner of Morecambe bay.
Letting the train take the strain was an absolute joke for the first part of the journey though ; the cancellation of the previous train and the one going to Blackpool meant that the one I was getting was already full to bursting when it arrived, with hoards of other people fighting to get on, and I only just about managed it myself. As I approached one of the doors a woman standing just inside said “You can’t get in here!” so I replied “Can’t I? Watch me!” and I heaved the dogs in and squashed in after them with seconds to spare before the doors closed – having just had a two-mile walk from home to the station there was no way I was missing that train and waiting an hour for the next one! Fortunately I only had to go as far as Preston before changing trains and the second one was fine, with plenty of room and a seat to myself, so the journey to Arnside was completed in relative comfort.
Arnside village lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is situated on the West Coast main railway line. At one time it was actually a working port but building the viaduct across the Kent estuary in 1857 caused it to silt up, making the port no longer viable. The viaduct itself is 552 yards long with 50 piers ; it was rebuilt in 1915 and is a very prominent feature of the village, being more or less the first thing to be seen when coming into Arnside past the railway station.
At the far end of the promenade I came to the private grounds of Ashmeadow House, a listed building which dates from 1818. A narrow path ran uphill alongside the hedge and a notice said that visitors were welcome to walk round the woodland and wildflower meadow so I thought I may as well take a look. The patches of shade in the woodland provided a lovely coolness away from the sun’s heat, and though the wildflower meadow seemed to be devoid of any actual flowers there was a separate area at one end which had been divided into several beds with different flowers growing in each one, although some of the blooms seemed to be past their best.
Heading back downhill through the far end of the woodland I came to a slipway down onto the sand ; it briefly crossed my mind to head west and walk along to Silverdale but not knowing how far it was I decided against it and only walked a relatively short distance along before heading back to the village.
Along the promenade I saw a sign for Arnside Knott, a high up place which would give me some great views over the estuary but again there was no indication of distance, however I did see a side road named Church Hill. A road with a name like that just had to lead to a church – I was right, and five minutes later I came to St. James C of E church. It was open to the public too and with a conveniently shady spot to leave the dogs I went in for a quick look round. Built between 1864 and 1866 and extended in 1884, 1905 and again between 1912 and 1914 it was a lovely place with some beautiful stained glass windows to photograph, though the bright sunlight shining through some of them made it difficult to capture the details.
Back on the promenade I went in search of somewhere to treat myself to coffee and cake. Arnside has a couple of pubs, a few cafes and tea rooms and even a fish and chip shop but the tables and seats outside all of them were occupied ; at least there was a Londis shop which was open so I resorted to a bit of D-I-Y and got a can of Coke and a snack from there then found a partially shaded bench at the far side of the promenade gardens where I could sit for a while and watch the world go by. A short stroll later to the end of the pier and back then it was almost time for me to catch the train for home.
Not having been to Arnside for well over ten years I’d really enjoyed rediscovering it although it confirmed my opinion from all those years ago – there’s not much there. Saying that though, there’s just enough to make it interesting. It’s a very quaint and attractive little place so anything more than it has would spoil it – and anything it does lack is more than compensated for by the lovely location and wonderful views. Since getting back home I’ve found out that every so often there’s a tidal bore which travels right up the estuary and is apparently something worth seeing, so who knows – I may be making another visit to Arnside sometime in the future.
First of all I must thank everyone for the comments and kind words on my previous post, and offers to share details of my stolen van in the hope that it can be found. To be honest I’ve been too tired and too emotionally strung out to reply to each comment individually but it’s good to know others are thinking of me and are willing to help where possible, so thank you everyone – and thanks also to Jayne for putting the van on her own blog.
Yesterday I had some news, positive in one way but still not good. I was at work just after lunch when the boss and one of the other guys came into the office to say that Maddie, who works in the office and had left for home earlier on, had phoned to say she had seen the van. It was on the M62 passing Ikea Warrington and heading west in the direction of Liverpool, towing a caravan and seemed to be in convoy with a green car behind it – Maddie had recognised it as she overtook it. I reported it to the police straight away but my worry now is if it’s been taken by travellers they may very well have changed the number plates, in which case it probably won’t be identified on any ANPR cameras or such.
Worst case scenario is it could probably end up in Ireland via either Liverpool or Holyhead, at best I’m hoping that whoever has it is has taken it just to have a holiday and it may end up back in Bolton, but to be honest I don’t think that’s likely. I’m glad in a way that it’s been seen on the road as it least it means that so far it hasn’t been broken up for parts, but it’s so upsetting to know that someone else is driving round in what, to me, was a big part of my life. I wonder if the scrotes who did this realise how much devastation and emotional upset they have caused? Would they care if they knew? Probably not.
Initially I wasn’t going to put this post on here and I thought long and hard before I did but then thought ”what the hell, I’ll put it on anyway”. The last week has been one of the most awful weeks of my life and one I hope no-one reading this ever has to go through. Why? Because last Wednesday night, soon after 10pm, my van was stolen from right outside my house and I actually saw it being driven away but could do nothing to stop it. It had been locked and the key was in my pocket so whoever stole it had obviously broken into it.
I reported it to the police straight away but from their initial response, ie they ‘won’t actively be looking for it’, I’m not very hopeful that I’ll get it back. It’s not only the van that’s been stolen though – it was packed up with all my camping gear ready for my holiday in North Wales in early September, plus I had various personal items in there which were of great sentimental value to me though worthless to anyone else. Some of these were rosettes which my previous little dog Sugar had won at various shows – sadly she died of kidney failure the week before Christmas 2014 so those rosettes were very precious to me and can never be replaced.
Needless to say, my forthcoming holiday plans have been cancelled, as have any plans of going out somewhere over the bank holiday weekend or in the foreseeable future, and getting to work is now proving difficult in some cases as two of the places aren’t on direct bus routes so it means I have a fair amount of walking to do. At the moment I just feel that not only has the van been stolen but half my life has gone too – yes, all my camping gear can be replaced, albeit slowly and at great expense (the van not so easy) but nothing will erase the gut-wrenching, stomach-churning feeling of having everything ripped out from under me and actually seeing it disappearing.
I wish I could feel angry at the low-life(s) who did this but strangely I don’t as other emotions are keeping any anger at bay. I feel I was targeted – out of all the cars parked in the street why mine? – but more than that I feel shocked, sad and upset to the point of frequently bursting into tears, and just so incredibly numb. I’m back at work this week after taking two days off last week but I’m not really working, I’m just going through the motions ; my world has been turned upside down and I feel like I’m just existing, not living.
My gut feeling is that the van is still somewhere in my local area but just in case it’s gone further afield I would really appreciate anyone in the UK reading this to keep an eye out for it and contact the police if it’s seen – with the eagle on the front and the patterns along each side it’s very distinctive and not easy to miss. My lovely blogging friend Jayne has also posted it on her own blog and asked her readers to share so who knows, the power of the internet might just bring a result.
Exactly a week after my first walk round Blackburn town centre I got the 7.30am train from the nearest station to home and arrived back in Blackburn less than half an hour later, so my Monday walk this week features my continued wanderings to find more of the murals in various parts of the town. First was the Alexandra Gallagher mural at the back of a car park, which I couldn’t get last time as too many cars were in the way, and bingo! – my early start had paid off as this time there wasn’t a car in sight and I was able to get shots of the whole thing. Next was the coffee shop window and again my early start proved to be a winner as the place wasn’t yet open so there were no tables, chairs or people outside to get in the way.
From the coffee shop I had to cover some ground I’d already covered on the previous visit but the next two murals were in roughly the same area and I didn’t want to double back on myself any more than I needed to. Given the title ‘Cottonopolis’ the first one was done by a female duo well known in the street art world and it paid tribute to Lancashire’s cotton mill workers of the past, some of which were young children only six years old.
The second one wasn’t the easiest thing to photograph as it was on one of the staggered side walls of a modern building surrounded by high railings and security gates – I had to put my arm through the railings, point the camera and hope for the best, and just as I was getting my shot a nearby intercom buzzed into life with a disembodied voice asking if it could help me. Presumably I’d been picked up on cctv, in which case the voice would have seen that I was only taking a photo so I ignored it, got a couple of shots and went on my merry way.
Back up the road again and near the car park mural I managed to get a shot of one I missed on my previous visit as there were cars parked in front of it, then it was on to a road junction where I should have been able to find two more murals but it seemed they no longer existed. That wasn’t the case with the next one though – I’d found it on the internet since my first visit, it featured a couple of Hayley Welsh’s whimsical creatures and I just had to find the real thing if it was still there so I was really pleased to see it covering the whole of a gable end wall overlooking another car park.
The next mural was on a wall by a car park behind the Hayley Welsh mural but this particular piece of rough land was seemingly being used as a bit of a site storage area for the nearby roadworks. It was cordoned off with tall barriers and there was so much stuff around that I couldn’t even see the mural properly, however the barrier gate was open and though there was a notice saying ‘Construction site parking only’ I figured out that as I wasn’t parking anything and there was no-one around anyway it would be okay to nip in and get the best shot I could. So that’s what I did, without getting caught, and also got a corner shot from outside the barrier.
From there it was only a short distance to the next one which was done for the Open Walls festival last year. This particular mural was huge, taking up the whole wall and boarded-up windows of an old building although part of it was obscured by trees. Painted by Sheffield artist Phlegm (I’m sure he could have picked a better name than that!) it’s a homage to the town’s cotton workers of years gone by and features a fantasy creature sitting at a loom. A local vote after the event picked it out as being the town’s favourite, but though it’s a brilliant piece of artwork there are others which I personally prefer.
Just down the road from ‘Loom’, and on the side wall of a bar, was a mural by an English-based Malaysian artist. It was done in the style of a fine arts piece depicting a dressmaker at work, but the wall was in a closed-in alley and once again several commercial wheelie bins were in the way so I could only get a partial shot of it.
Having had no breakfast before I left home I was feeling rather peckish by this time so I broke off my mural search and went to look for a café – a proper café where I could get a decent breakfast at a reasonable price, not one of these ‘in’ places of the moment which sell vile looking green smoothies and ‘healthy options’ costing an arm and half a leg – and I eventually found one in one of the pedestrianised shopping streets. A quick look at the menu and I chose a ham omelette, which was made with four eggs and came with a salad, and a mug of milky coffee, and I must say I was quite impressed. The omelette was so filling I only just managed to eat it all and the coffee was really good, so that’s a place to remember if I ever go to Blackburn again.
Heading back to where I needed to resume my mural search I cut down a short narrow alley and came across the rear yard of some business premises protected by a high steel fence and a very colourful gate ; I don’t know if the gate was supposed to be part of the art thing but it was worth a quick shot anyway. Not far from where I hoped to find the next murals on my list I had the surprise of finding one which wasn’t ; it was on a hoarding on the corner of a narrow back alley and was very amateurish in comparison to all the others, also some moron had scribbled over part of it with a few rude words but I managed to get most of it.
Round the corner from the water voles were the next three murals on hoardings, one of which celebrates Lancashire’s farming heritage, and down the street was a large mural high up on a gable end wall. Below the wall, at street level, was an enclosed private bit of land with a wooden shack type of a building and on the front of it were two more murals which I didn’t expect to see as they weren’t on my list – there was no clue to the artist(s) but one of these I recognised as being the face of the well-known 1930s, 40s and early 50s Blackburn contralto singer Kathleen Ferrier.
By this time I needed to find a loo but wasn’t sure where there would be any, however across the far side of the nearby large car park was a Morrisons store and as I needed to get some bread at some point that day I thought I may as well kill two birds with one stone, which actually worked in my favour. The store had an off shoot like a very mini shopping mall and high up over the door into the street was a clock – not exactly street art but it amused me enough to take a photo of it as I was on my way out. I’ve since learned that it strikes every quarter of an hour and the monkeys swing down from the tree – if I’d known that beforehand I would have waited another five minutes just to watch it.
Back to the mural search and the next one, which would have been the last on my list, was just across the road from Morrisons. Painted by Mr Christa it ran the full length of a long hoarding at a road junction and was quite difficult to photograph all in one but I managed to get most of it. Back across the car park and I found the final few, a group of five murals all done by the same artist but each on a separate section of wall. These were really lovely and personally I felt they deserved to be in a much more prominent location than in a side street on the high wall of a shopping centre car park.
Satisfied that I’d finally found all the murals on my list – or most of them at least – I headed back to the station and the next train home. There were four murals I hadn’t managed to find but it wasn’t for the want of trying ; I’d been in the right location each time but it seemed that these had become non-existent, probably painted over or otherwise removed, however over the two separate days I’d found and photographed a total of 41 murals and a café window so I was happy with that. And having seen how much different Blackburn town centre is now compared to the last time I went there ten years ago maybe, just maybe, I might return sometime for a general look round.
After my recent foray into Manchester to seek out some of the street art in the city’s Northern Quarter I remembered reading a few months ago that Blackburn also has various murals dotted around the town centre so I decided to do a bit of internet research to find out more about them.
Blackburn Open Walls was started in 2016 by Blackburn-born international artist Hayley Welsh as a 3-year project starting that year to bring street art to some of the town’s forgotten walls, and several local, national and international artists have created a collection of large scale murals on a variety of buildings. It took a while to find out where most of these things are and after much studying of Google maps for street names I made a list and set off recently in search of some of them, so join me on my Monday walk this week as I wander round Blackburn town centre looking for art.
Leaving the van at home I went to Blackburn on the train and as I came out of the station I saw my first art piece – not a mural but the sculpture of a young woman holding her child’s arm while he tries to reach for a teddy bear dropped on the ground. A short walk from the left of the station found the first four murals, two of them by Hayley Welsh herself ; Hayley is apparently well known for her cute, whimsical and often sad looking fantasy creatures and I really loved the second one I found. From those first four murals it was just a matter of following the street route I’d written out for myself and ticking things off my list as I found them, although I ended up doing more than one deviation.
A search for one of Curtis Hylton’s works, the colourful head of a bird surrounded by roses, proved to be a bit frustrating as I couldn’t find it anywhere even after several checks of my list and the street name, but I did find some works by other artists. A later internet search proved that I was in the right location and looking at the right building so the bird must have been painted over and replaced by one of the other works, though so far apart from one I’ve been unable to find out who the other artists are.
The next mural was down a narrow back alley, covered the full rear wall of three separate businesses and reached from ground to roof. Unfortunately several commercial-sized bins were lined up alongside the wall making it difficult to get a full photo – so I wheeled three of them out of the way and the following five shots are the best ones I could get.
The next mural covered the full length and height of the single storey extension to a business premises but unfortunately the wall was at the back of a car park, so with cars parked all the way along it was impossible to get a full photo. I waited around for a while and eventually one car moved and I was able to get a shot of the centre part of the mural but I was disappointed not to get the whole thing as it looked really colourful.
Not far away from there was a coffee shop with rather a cute picture on its window. Okay, it wasn’t exactly street art but it was worth a photo though there was only one problem – people were sitting at tables outside, making it impossible to get a good shot of the window whichever angle I tried to take it from. So I came to a decision – I would split the walk into two parts, give up for the time being and return to Blackburn another day but very early in the morning. Hopefully then I could get a shot of the full mural with no cars in the way and also take a photo of the coffee shop window with no people in the way – so with that decision made, and happy with the shots I’d got so far, I headed back towards the station and the train home.
To be continued next week….
I suppose there have been times in the lives of many people when they’ve done something a bit stupid which at the worst could be a bit embarrassing or at best could be funny, depending of course on the particular individual’s sense of humour and frame of mind at the time. Well that was just the sort of thing which happened to me about three weeks ago.
To put you in the picture, the main car park at my evening job has a wide offshoot which runs between the works building and the office building and has a large storage unit at the end ; whenever there’s a delivery of steel components due a couple of traffic cones are put out to stop employees from parking in the offshoot and preventing a wagon from backing in. Deliveries aren’t expected or accepted after 4.30pm though and by the time I get to work at 4.45 the offshoot is clear, so in the recent very warm sunny weather I’ve been parking the van in the shade at the side of the works building and near the fire escape from the offices.
So when I finished work on the evening in question, instead of leaving the offices by the main door I left via the fire escape, straight down the stairs and into the van which I reversed along the offshoot to the main car park. Before I got there however there was a thud and a clunk behind the van and I knew I’d driven over something ; thinking that going forwards again would release whatever-it-was I did just that, except whatever-it-was insisted on staying under the van, and when I got out to investigate I found a rather large and extremely solid traffic cone wedged securely between the rear wheel and the wheel arch. Now I knew there had been no traffic cones around when I arrived at work as I’d driven straight into the offshoot so I could only assume that for some reason someone leaving the works at 5pm had left it there, and because I’d left the offices by the fire escape instead of the main door I just hadn’t noticed it.
A bit of to-ing and fro-ing in the van wouldn’t release it and I didn’t want to do any damage to the van itself so I went with Plan B and out came the solid camping mallet I use for knocking tent pegs into hard ground – if I could beat the cone into submission I might manage to get it free but this thing was solid and I couldn’t even put a dent in it. So Plan C came into force and I called out the AA – well I don’t pay astronomical membership fees each year not to make use of their services! The guy who came out to me soon had things sorted though, he jacked the van up at the side, pulled the cone out from underneath and checked for any damage (to the van, not the cone!) Fortunately there wasn’t any but he could hardly stop himself from laughing and he did say that’s the first time he’s ever been called out because of a traffic cone.
And me? -well I could have been embarrassed about the situation but my wacky sense of humour saw the funny side of it. I never thought, when I first joined the AA several years ago, that I would end up calling them out because of a traffic cone stuck under the van but needless to say, whenever I’ve parked in the car park offshoot since then I’ve made sure to check for any stray cones before I reverse!
My Monday walk this week features a section of the Lancaster Canal and the small historical market town of Garstang, both places which I hadn’t been to for several years until recently. Garstang itself lies just to the east of the main A6 about ten miles north of Preston and the same distance south of Lancaster, but my walk started on a country lane just to the west of the A6. Bridge House Marina is situated in a quiet location next to the very scenic Lancaster Canal and a few times in the past I’ve stayed on the caravan park there ; the last time was ten years ago though so with a possible future visit in mind and before the start of my walk I parked in a lay-by on the lane near the entrance and went for a wander round to see if it’s still as nice as it always was (it is) and to pick up a current brochure and price list.
Leaving the van in the lay-by my walk started from the entrance to Bridge House, and a short distance along the lane a hump-back bridge took me over the canal to the towpath on the far side. From there it was an easy and level 15-minute walk into Garstang, and with boats moored up in various places it was nice to see that nothing had really changed in the years since I was last there.
Heading into Garstang the canal wound its way past the outskirts and steps took me up off the towpath to a road bridge leading the short distance into the town itself. Just past the end of the bridge was Pickle Cottage, and with it’s very pretty and colourful garden it was worth a couple of photos. At the end of the road was a mini roundabout with the Farmer’s Arms pub set back on a corner, and going straight on took me into High Street and the main part of the town.
There were lots of interesting independent little shops along both sides of the road, several cafes and other places to eat, and a couple of pleasant weinds (side alleys) with more shops, and it was nice to browse in various windows as I went along. By the time I’d got towards the end of High Street the intermittent and often inconvenient clouds which had previously gathered were beginning to clear and the sun was shining in earnest ; an already warm day was turning into quite a hot one and as I knew of a nice place where I could chill out in the shade for a while I nipped into the nearby One-Stop shop to get a sandwich and a nice cold can of Coke for a mini picnic.
Across the road from the One-Stop shop was a very pretty little remembrance garden set back on a corner and a walkway from there took me past a small car park to a pleasant grassy and tree-shaded area by a bend in the River Wyre. There were plenty of people about, mainly young students, but there was lots of space so I picked a nice spot and settled down to enjoy my mini picnic, then following the river for a while I walked along until the path took me up onto a private lane past a playing field with a view over to the lower slopes of the Bowland Fells.