Looking back – 2019

As this year draws to a close it’s time to look back on some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. January started with a New Year’s Day walk round a large local park which I hadn’t been to for many years but for once I was on my own ; Sophie was on the long road to recovery following a recent major operation and couldn’t go out so it would have been unfair of me to take Poppie and leave Sophie behind. Also that month Michael was rewarded for ten years continuous service at work with £100 of ‘extra dough’ to be paid as either a tax-free lump sum or vouchers to use wherever he wanted.
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New Year’s Day walk in Leverhulme Park
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Sophie post-op
February started off with a few days of snow and though it was bitterly cold there was also lots of blue sky and sunshine so the first of the month saw me taking a very snowy local dog walk to Smithills Hall ; although not too far from home it was Sophie’s first post-op walk of any distance and she was absolutely fine. Later in the month I got the surprise, and much appreciated, gift of a beautiful dog quilt hand made by my blogging friend Jayne and I had my first visit to Lytham Hall for a snowdrop walk. Then in contrast to the cold start to the month the weather became so unseasonably warm and sunny that I was able to wear a t-shirt and cycling shorts on my dog walks – something previously unheard of in February!
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A snowy walk round Smithills Hall gardens
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Snowdrops at Lytham Hall
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A very precious dog quilt
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Hard to believe how warm it was on this dog walk
In contrast to the unseasonably warm weather of late February March was mainly grey, wet and windy so decent dog walks were few and far between. At the beginning of the month I treated myself to a new camera and on a dog walk round a local nature reserve tried out some of the settings on shots of various wildlife around the lake. March was also the month when I found myself locked in the front porch at work one day and spent quite some time sitting on my upturned mop bucket while waiting to be rescued by the boss’s son.
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Domestic Greylag Goose at the nature reserve
April started off with a beautifully pleasant sunny day on the 1st of the month so taking advantage of it I visited a local park which I hadn’t been to for over 40 years, then a week later I discovered the very lovely Ashton Gardens at St. Annes, gardens which I hadn’t known about until someone at work told me about them. The good weather continued for most of the month although the early mornings were a bit chilly, then a long sunny and very warm Easter weekend saw me making my first foray into the north western Lake District, camping at a wonderfully peaceful farm site north of Bassenthwaite Lake and actually coming home with a suntan.
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The sunken garden at Queen’s Park
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The colourful entrance to Ashton Gardens, Lytham
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View from my pitch at the camp site
May brought more good weather and after finding out about it on the internet I paid two visits to the secluded village of Sunderland Point on the River Lune estuary. The only road access to the village is by a tidal causeway which is several feet under water twice a day so I timed my first visit for when the tide was out, then to get a different perspective I went again when the tide was in, parking a mile or so away from the village and walking the rest of the way along a footpath. May was also the month when my pc decided to give up the ghost big style and I had to work from a borrowed laptop until I could get a new desktop model.
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View from Sunderland Point at low tide
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High tide at Sunderland Point
Early June saw the arrival of my birthday and a cash gift from Michael gave me the opportunity to buy a much-longed-for and rather expensive folding camp bed, then later in the month I returned to Cumbria for a 10-day holiday, camping at the same site I’d stayed on at Easter. The weather was mainly good and taking some suggestions from the book ‘111 Places in the Lake District You Shouldn’t Miss’ I discovered and photographed several places I wouldn’t otherwise have known about.
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The camp site wildlife lake
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View over Loweswater
I don’t, as a rule, frequent cities as they hold no attraction for me at all but mid July saw me going to Manchester, not once but twice. The first time was a visit to the Cat Café which, given the not-exactly-cheap cost, was a one-off experience, then after some internet research my second visit to the city was to track down some of the many murals and works of street art dotted around the Norther Quarter. July was also the month when I accidentally managed to get a large and very solid traffic cone wedged firmly under the back of the van when I was at work, and being unable to free it I ended up calling out the AA. Fortunately there was no damage to the van though the situation did give the AA guy a good laugh.
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Savannah at the Cat Café, Manchester
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A Manchester mural
August started off well with a lovely walk along a section of the Lancaster Canal and a wander round Garstang, plus two visits to Blackburn in search of some street art, but the month went badly downhill when my van was stolen complete with all my camping gear which was packed in it ready for a planned holiday to Anglesey. However, in spite of the emotional and practical upset I was determined not to let it stop me from getting out and about and the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend saw me having a lovely day out at Arnside, and after driving everywhere for ten years it made a change to go by train.
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The Lancaster Canal at Garstang
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Arnside beach and viaduct
September started off with glorious weather and two weeks after my day out to Arnside I went by train to Morecambe and walked from there to Heysham Village, another lovely little place I hadn’t been to for many years. Three days later I went over to Ireland for a week where, among other things, I spent two days roaming round Dublin photographing street art and other things, climbed six near-vertical ladders up the inside of Kildare tower, visited the Irish National Stud, explored a haunted castle and went to the lovely little village of Dromineer on the east shore of Lough Derg. Over the course of the week I took 951 photos and once back home it took me a month to edit them all and write my holiday posts on here.
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Cottage Tea Rooms, Heysham village
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The supposedly haunted Leap Castle, Co. Offaly, Ireland
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The lakeside at Dromineer, Lough Derg
October for me was very much a ‘nothing’ sort of month. The good weather of September had finally disappeared and with the exception of just a couple of dry days it rained almost constantly so any dog walks were kept local and short. The highlight of the month was the day when a large tree fell across the lane leading down to one of the places where I work, completely blocking any access ; it took several items of heavy machinery and half a dozen guys with chainsaws to cut it up, move it and unblock the lane.
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This was much bigger than it looks
October’s rain continued into November and made it another ‘nothing’ month with no good dog walks and no days out. My camera card somehow decided to corrupt itself and I couldn’t download the most recent photos to my computer, and though it was mildly annoying it wasn’t the world’s greatest disaster as the photos were only local ones which could be taken again another time. After getting a new media card I took the camera to work one morning and got a couple of nice shots of the early morning sky through the trees ; it had the makings of being a nice day but less than two hours later the rain was back. November was also the month when a cute little mouse (fortunately already dead) ended up not as the dinner of the cat which caught it but as the dinner of one of my two dogs!
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Early morning sky through the trees at work
And so to the events of this month – another short holiday in Ireland where I photographed lots more Dublin street art, and a visit to the Trafford Centre to see the Coca-Cola truck. Michael came back from Ireland on the 14th and brought his girlfriend Laura to stay until after New Year ; Christmas was a quiet affair with just the three of us. More damp and gloomy weather has prevented us from having a decent day out though yesterday we actually had some sunshine and blue sky so we had a drive to Southport and back. Tonight we’ll probably go up to the moorland road near here and watch the fireworks going off all over all over town – Michael told Laura about our annual ‘tradition’ and she specifically asked if we can go.
So there you have it, some of the highlights of my year. All that remains now is to welcome any recent new readers to my blog and thank everyone for visiting ; if it wasn’t for my readers there wouldn’t be a blog, so I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – have a good one!

 

Some Christmassy bits and pieces

In late November, a week before my holiday in Ireland, I went to a large garden centre just a few miles from home. It had been a couple of years since I’d been there during the run up to Christmas and remembering that they’d previously had some really good Christmas displays I thought I’d be able to get some nice photos. I was a bit disappointed however as the displays weren’t nearly as good as in previous years and with boxes of decorations and other stuff stacked around most of them it wasn’t really worth taking many photos. I did call in at a smaller garden centre on my way back home though and found they had a lovely working miniature village on display so my journey wasn’t entirely wasted.
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The day after I got back from Ireland earlier this month I took myself off to the Trafford Centre on the outskirts of Manchester to see the Coca-Cola truck ; I’d missed it when it came to my home town last year as I’d been over in Ireland at the time so I was determined I wouldn’t miss it this time. Leaving the van at home I went to the Trafford Centre by bus ; the express service was an easy 20-minute ride along the motorway straight to the centre and I didn’t have to drive round and round the car park looking for a space.
The truck certainly seemed to be very popular as there was a continuous queue of people of all ages taking photos of themselves and others in front or at the side of it and I had to exercise a lot of patience to get my own photos without someone getting in the way. I’d only ever been to the Trafford Centre once before, about twelve years ago, on a brief visit with someone else and I didn’t really see much of it, so once I’d got the shots I wanted I went to have a look round inside. I wasn’t particularly interested in the shops, just the place in general, and with it all being decorated for Christmas I was able to get some good photos.
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At the Alpine Village outside the Great Hall
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And finally, a couple of attractive window displays at the florist’s shop on the main road close to home. I like the winged ponies – I can’t call them unicorns as they don’t have horns – but I thought the seal looked cute enough to have his own picture.
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I really meant to post these photos before Christmas but somehow writing about my Ireland holiday got in the way. I’ve just had two relatively pc-free days so hopefully if I don’t get sidetracked over the following few days my next post should be a round-up of the last twelve months – actually my computer tends to be a bit on the slow side these days so maybe I should start now  🙂

An hour in Adare

In which I find a nice little park, suffer a disappointment and find some lovely stained glass windows…
The last full day of the holiday arrived dull and grey but not wanting to waste it by staying in Roscrea I decided to take myself off to Adare which was, according to various sources of information (and I quote) ”one of Ireland’s prettiest villages with its main street lined with unique thatched cottages” – even on a dull day it sounded like it was worth a look. To get there I had to change buses at Limerick ; the coach from Roscrea to Limerick passed through Nenagh and as there was a shop there I wanted to go back to I decided to break my journey, get what I wanted then continue to Limerick on the next coach. With two different bus companies running between Roscrea and Limerick, and staggered bus times, planning my journey was like planning military manoeuvres and it would have worked out well if everything had gone to that plan but it didn’t.
The first coach arrived twenty minutes late in Roscrea so I only had just enough time to get what I wanted from the shop in Nenagh before the second coach arrived, however I needn’t have rushed after all as that one turned up forty five minutes late. Of course when I got to Limerick my intended bus to Adare had gone ages before so I had to wait fifty minutes for the next one, however I finally got there albeit quite a lot later than I’d wanted to. As it turned out though, arriving late in Adare didn’t really matter as I didn’t stay as long as I’d expected to.
The bus put me off at the entrance to Adare Town Park, it looked like quite an attractive place so I decided to have a look round there first. With lots of trees and lawned areas, a small stream running along one side, a thatched gazebo and plenty of benches it was a very pleasant place to walk round and would probably be very pretty in spring and summer.
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On the way into the village, and just up the road from the park, I’d noticed a row of thatched cottages and as my sources of information had said the main street was lined with them I expected to see many more, but looking down the road all I could see were normal buildings and shop frontages. Across the road from the park was a heritage centre and tourist information place so I went in there to ask, only to be told that the cottages up the road were the ones I was looking for. So much for the main street being ”lined with thatched cottages” – one row and that was it. I felt like saying that whoever produced and printed the information should be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act!
When I went to have a proper look at the cottages I found that most of them had been turned into little businesses ; there was a café, a gift shop, a craft shop, two very small restaurants, a bistro and a couple of holiday cottages. Admittedly they did look quite attractive and no doubt in summer, with gardens full of flowers, would look very pretty, but having expected to see a quaint little village full of them I was rather disappointed to find that those were the only ones.
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Next door to the heritage centre was Holy Trinity Abbey Church, the only Trinitarian Abbey in Ireland. There is no record of the exact date of its foundation but it’s believed to have been established between the years 1230 and 1240. Dissolved in the 1560s the church eventually became a ruin but in 1809 the 2nd Earl of Dunraven restored the building and gave it to the Catholic Church. No major structural changes have taken place since 1884 although there have been several modifications and some development in the years since then, and in summer 2010 a programme of critical repairs was undertaken to preserve the church.
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The sanctuary

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The sanctuary screen
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A section of the sanctuary ceiling
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The Lady Chapel
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From the church a short walk along to the far end of the main street produced just one more thatched cottage set back from the road in a wrap-around garden, then with nothing else to see in the village and the afternoon still dull I decided I may as well get the next bus back to Limerick. I had about half an hour to wait though so I went to look round inside the heritage centre and found a very bright and pleasant looking cafe ; I just had time for coffee and cake so I ordered a slice of Banoffee pie and a latte, and was pleased to see that this time the coffee came in a proper glass mug.
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Coffee and cake at the heritage centre cafe
By the time I got back to Limerick the daylight was fading rapidly. The bus from Adare had taken me to the bus station but the coach back to Roscrea left from Arthur’s Quay park, a good walk through the city centre, and as I had an hour to kill I thought I may as well take my time in going there and get a few evening shots en route. Past Arthur’s Quay the front wall of the Hunt Museum was lit with green lights so I got a shot of the horses against the coloured background then walked along to where I could see the illuminated side of the castle ; I even had time to cross the bridge, walk along the riverside at Clancy’s Strand then re-cross the river at the next bridge, where my final shot was one of the illuminated 1916 war memorial.

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O’Connell Street
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The Hunt Museum
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King John’s Castle and river views

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The 1916 war memorial
Relaxing by the fire later that evening I went through the photos I’d taken while I’d been out. It had been an odd sort of a day and I hadn’t been particularly impressed with Adare ; I’d only been there for just over an hour and that had been enough so I doubted I would ever go back there again, however since getting back home I’ve found out about another couple of places there which, on a nice day, may be worth visiting so who knows? – maybe I’ll make a return visit sometime in the spring or summer months.

 

A day out in Dublin

In which I take a long walk round Dublin city centre, find more street art than I ever imagined, and have a very unusual coffee….
Since my two visits to Dublin in September an internet search had provided me with maps of four street art walks around the city ; one of these seemed to be a distance out of the centre itself but the other three were definitely doable. Not sure if I would have enough time to do all three in one day before I lost any decent daylight I concentrated on the first two which were both in the same part of the city ; the starting points of each walk were close together but the end points were a distance apart so to save back-tracking I started at the end of one and followed the route in reverse to join up with the start of the second, thus turning two two-and-a-half mile walks into one five mile circuit.
My walk began on the south side of the river at City Quay with a large Irish Wolfhound done by James Earley, the artist who painted the outside of the Blooms Hotel ; I’d actually photographed this one in September but still took another shot of it. Right along the riverside, past the Samuel Beckett Bridge and almost before I ran out of road, a right turn took me up to Hanover Quay on the huge basin of the Grand Canal where I found another work by James Earley, though this one was partially obscured by several leafless young trees. There was another one close by done by Decoy but the bottom half of it had been painted over which rather spoiled it, so I gave that one a miss.
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Artist – James Earley
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Artist – James Earley
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The Grand Canal basin
Past the end of the canal basin a good walk involving two right and two left turns took me to the next piece, a 2-part work on the side of a business premises. Not far from there was Merrion Square followed by St. Stephen’s Green and Iveagh Gardens and as I was going that way anyway I took a look round all three and also photographed some more of the colourful Georgian doors for another post. I was particularly interested in seeing Iveagh Gardens properly as I’d abandoned my visit there in September due to a sudden rain shower.
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Artist – Ominous Omin
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Merrion Square Gardens

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Oscar Wilde’s house
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St. Stephen’s Green
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The cascade, Iveagh Gardens

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The next artwork I wanted to find was just a few streets away from Iveagh Gardens. I couldn’t get all of it due to a couple of parked cars being in the way but the line at the bottom actually reads ”So get your head out of your phone”. A very true sentiment when so many people these days walk round with their heads down, eyes glued to their phones and constantly texting or internet surfing as they walk. From there a long zigzag route down towards the Temple Bar area provided me with more street art than I ever thought possible and I took so many photos it’s been really hard deciding which ones to include in this post.
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Artists – Maser in collaboration with Aches
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Artist group – Subset
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Artist unknown
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Artist – Maser
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A digitised image by Aches – more effective if viewed from a distance
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Side wall of The Times Hostel – artist unknown
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Artist unknown
Now although certain individuals may think it’s fun to get a cheap can of spray paint and scrawl amateurish pictures and tags over random bits of blank walls proper works of street art need permission from the council and this permission isn’t always granted. Street art though is a constantly changing medium, murals can often be changed twice in the time it takes to get that permission and headed by the artist group Subset the Grey Area Project was born, a movement to paint murals on walls quicker than the council can paint those same walls grey. Although some of the murals I found may not be completely ‘official’ they certainly brighten things up and look a lot better than blank grey walls.
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Artist group – Subset
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On the back wall of a cash and carry place – artist unknown
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Artist – Eoin Barry
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Artist – unknown
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Liberty Lane – a whole street full of art and graffiti
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The next few murals I wanted to find were all in Temple Bar but as I headed down the main road in that direction I unexpectedly came to the entrance to an indoor shopping arcade. With shops on each side and stalls down the centre it looked quite intriguing but I didn’t want to linger so once I could get a clear view with no-one close by I took a quick shot then continued down the road to Temple Bar and hopefully some coffee and cake.
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George’s Street Arcade
A while ago Queen of Tarts, an Irish cake shop and café, had been recommended to me though I can’t remember now who or where the recommendation came from, so I thought I’d give it a try and found it down the pedestrianised Cows Lane just off the main road. It seemed to be quite a busy place but I found a small vacant table and ordered a latte coffee and a slice of the ‘Queen of Chocolate Fudge’ cake ; it was going to cost more than I would normally pay for something like that but I was on holiday so deserved a treat. Well that’s my excuse anyway!
After the young waiter had taken my order I was quite surprised when he returned a couple of minutes later with a carafe of chilled water and a glass – this was something totally unexpected and I began to feel I should have dressed for the occasion! My coffee and cake arrived not long afterwards and that’s when I got another surprise – instead of the coffee being in the usual type of tall glass mug with a handle it came in a small handle-less glass, the type of thing you would have orange juice in if you had a hotel breakfast. This was weird, and when I looked round to see other people being served drinks in the sort of glass mugs I’d expected my coffee to come in it seemed even weirder.
Wondering if the young waiter had made a mistake I went up to the counter to query it and was told it was usual to serve the coffee like that as that was how the owners liked it to be done. I must admit though, of all the different places I’ve been in over the years I’ve never encountered that  one before. The coffee itself however, although not mad hot, was very nice and the cake was absolutely divine ; I’d actually expected to only get a small slice with a tiny blob of cream but I got a sizeable piece with a good portion of cream, in fact there was so much cake that I couldn’t quite eat it all. Price-wise it hadn’t been too much of a blow-the-budget expense either and although the coffee situation was weird the cake was wonderful so I’d definitely go back there another time.
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Coffee and cake at Queen of Tarts
Back along the main road from the end of Cows Lane was Crampton Court, a courtyard and narrow alley leading between the road and the main street through Temple Bar. In 2014 ‘Love The Lanes’ was a joint initiative between Dublin Council and The Temple Bar Company to allow artists to visually improve some of the lanes around Temple Bar and this alleyway was one of them, being decorated on both sides by various artworks. By the time I emerged from the alleyway the daylight was starting to fade so I got my last four shots as I walked along the main street through Temple Bar then headed back towards the river and the bridge which would take me towards the bus station.
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A collection of strange creatures promoting a youth art initiative
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Artist – unknown
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Artist – unknown
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Portrait of Irish musician B P Fallon by Maser
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Artist – James Earley
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ESB building, Temple Bar – artist(s) unknown
At the far side of the river I noticed that the pyramid rooftops of George’s Quay Plaza were lit with purple lights round the edges and in the fading sunlight they looked quite attractive. On the side wall of the building down below was the outline of what had once been a work of street art ; created by Italian artist Artur Bordalo it was a red squirrel and had been made up of different items of trash, including an old bike, found in and around the city. Unfortunately it fell foul of Dublin council’s drive to build as many new hotels and office blocks in as many derelict or run down parcels of land as possible and it had to be removed, although nothing has been built there yet.
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Sunset over the Liffey
With the sun finally setting over the river I made my way round to the bus station and got the 4.30pm coach back to Roscrea. I hadn’t had time to do the third street art walk but I’d certainly got plenty of photos during my day and I can look forward to doing the other walk another time.

A day out in Limerick

Where I find some colourful horses and lots of street art…
A cold but sunny morning on the second full day of my holiday saw me heading off to Limerick in search of some street art. I’d found a few examples when I was there in September and since then I’d found a website listing several more and their locations so with a list written in my notepad I was now on a mission to find and photograph them. Getting off the coach at Arthur’s Quay park I crossed the grass to get a view of the Shannon river, and though I took a photo from there back in September it looked so nice I just had to get another shot. Sitting on top of a post in the water was a seagull, so still that I thought for a moment someone had somehow put a stuffed toy up there, but eventually it moved so I zoomed in and took a snap ; its red beak and legs told me it could have been a red billed gull, one which also seemed to be still quite young.
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Along the road from Arthur’s Quay was the Hunt Museum, originally an 18th century Customs House designed by an Italian architect. After a major restoration and refurbishment in the mid 1990s the building was established as a museum to house the important and extensive art works and antiquities collected by John and Gertrude Hunt during their lifetime ; more information about the museum can be found here.
Standing outside the museum were two life-size and very colourful horses from the Horse Outside Project, a joint venture between the museum and a community arts initiative. The work on the horses evolved over several months and the colours and images painted on them were inspired by various objects in the museum’s collection, including sacred and religious items.
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Just along from the museum the road took me over the river and I followed it past St. Mary’s Cathedral to St. Mary’s Church where information led me to believe there could be a mural on the opposite corner. There was, a large and very colourful one on a gable end wall with a smaller one on the back yard wall of the butcher’s shop next door, and though the pig needed no explanation I couldn’t really see the significance of the wording. It was rather amateurish compared to others I found and wasn’t on my list but it was worth including it.
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Artist – Betarok75
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Artist unknown
Heading back towards the city centre I came across a narrow street off the main road and set at an angle to another street with a triangle of grass and trees between the two. The houses were double-fronted and the door and window surrounds were all painted different colours making the terrace look quite attractive. There was a car parked outside the far end house and four or five young cats were playing round it, chasing leaves and whatever else they could find. One of the cats looked particularly pretty and while I didn’t want to get too close in case I spooked them all I managed to get a shot of that one.
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Back across the river and in a small courtyard on the side wall of a solicitor’s premises near the bridge I found the first ‘proper’ mural, and though it wasn’t on my list, right across from it on the side wall of a small modern 2-storey office block was another one, presumably done by the same two London artists known as Church of Best Ever. At the far side of the office building, between that and the library building, was a long narrow alley and as I passed the end I spotted some more street art about halfway down ; none of it was on my list so I had no idea of the artist(s). The alley was a dead end, leading to what seemed to be a boat repair business ; a few old dinghies were lined up alongside the wall of the workshop and these had been painted to incorporate them into the art on the wall ; unfortunately I couldn’t get the full mural as a couple of cars were in the way.
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Back past the Hunt Museum and across the ground floor windows, doors, shutters and walls of a disused building was the slogan ”Culture is where we are from” while round the corner was the same slogan but with the word ‘from’ replaced by ‘going’. Back in 2014 Limerick had been Ireland’s first National City of Culture and the slogans were produced in a 2016 bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2020, though the city lost out to Galway. Unfortunately due to the amount of traffic and/or parked cars I couldn’t get either slogan completely but with a lot of patience I managed to get the best bits.
Although I’d made a list of the artworks I wanted to find and the street names of their locations I’d forgotten to print out a street map before I left home so my next port of call was the tourist information office, where I got chatting to a very friendly and helpful lady who gave me a street map and also marked on it the locations of the artworks I wanted to find. I didn’t get the lady’s name but I did tell her about this blog and she made a note of it – so if you’re reading this, whoever you are, then thank you, your help was much appreciated.
Walking up the road from the tourist office my eye was caught by something which appeared to be flying above a narrow lane on my right so I stopped to have a look. There was a pub and bar on the right with seating outside and this ‘thing’ was suspended on chains between the upper floor of the bar and the wall of the building across ; it was a bird of prey, possibly an eagle, though what ever it was supposed to be it looked rather weird and seemed to have no significance to the bar.
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Further up the road I came to the Biodiversity Garden and the next two artworks on my list. The garden was created several years ago from a corner plot of derelict land, to coincide with Limerick being the 2014 National City of Culture ; over 100 small native Irish trees were planted, along with over 35 species of Irish wildflowers and several larger trees in recycled oil barrels decorated by local artists. Now while I have no doubt that the garden initially looked very pretty it certainly doesn’t look like that now ; with overgrown and untidy shrubs, a stack of pallets against one wall, a couple of traffic cones lying on the floor and a hotch-potch of other detritus in various places it looked very unkempt, unloved and abandoned.
The artwork, called Love Me So, is on two adjacent walls in the garden and was painted in 2013 by Dermot McConaghy. One section stands at 30ft x 50ft and the other is 20ft x 30ft, with both pieces taking a total of four days to complete. The larger piece features a woman looking back on herself as a child and the smaller one features that same child. Unfortunately the child’s face was looking a bit worse for wear and both pieces were partially obscured by overgrown trees and shrubs but I managed to get a reasonable shot of each of them.
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Love Me So (1) by Dermot McConaghy
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Love Me So (2) by Dermot McConaghy
Across the road from the Biodiversity Garden was Fox’s Bow arch at the entrance to a narrow back lane leading to the shopping street beyond ; on the side wall of the arch was a mural by Louisa Donnelly but I couldn’t get the whole thing as there was a car parked right in front of it. Unfortunately it had been defaced in a couple of places but seen face on it was the abstract face of a big cat, possibly a tiger. Towards the top of the road the whole frontage of one particular building had been given a makeover with some psychedelic art ; at the time I didn’t know who the artist was but I suspected it could have been Maser as his artwork is very distinctive, and later information told me I was right.

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Artist – Louisa Donnelly
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Artist – Maser
At the top of the road I turned right and right again into the road behind, where I found the next artwork on my list. On the corner of a 3-storey car park building it was painted in 2014 by an Australian artist of Irish parentage, and though the colours may have faded a bit from when it was originally done it’s still a great piece of art and so far has managed to escape being defaced by senseless graffiti.
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The Fishermen by Fintan Magee
Having temporarily run out of street art with that last piece I made my way down the road to take a walk along the riverside in the direction of the docks, though I only went as far as the Shannon Bridge. At the far side of the bridge was a skate park with a sea theme painted on its outside walls, and though the shark wasn’t in the same league as most of the street art I’d seen it amused me enough to take a photo of it.
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Retracing my steps I came to the Seamens’ Memorial, set down off the quayside and with its back to the river. Originally it was in remembrance of the lost seamen of the Shannon estuary and wasn’t specific to wartime casualties, however in 2004 a stone tablet was added to the base of the memorial, listing the names of the Limerick and Clare men who lost their lives on three Irish Merchant Navy ships during WW2 ; this was because the bodies of the men were never recovered and their families wanted them to be remembered in some way.
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The Seamens’ Memorial on Bishop’s Quay
Further along the riverside, where Bishop’s Quay becomes Howley’s Quay, was the Dockers Monument, commissioned by Limerick City Council and erected in 2010. At the time when Limerick’s dockyards were a major source of employment working there was one of the most enduring and difficult ways to earn a living so the life size bronze sculpture by Limerick-born artist Michael Duhan now pays tribute to all those men who served at the docks, with their names on a commemorative plaque beside the monument.
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The Dockers Monument
Heading back in the direction of Arthur’s Quay park I was beginning to feel quite peckish – it was time for coffee and cake, and I couldn’t think of anywhere better than Jack Monday’s Coffee House where I’d had a nice lunch on my day in Limerick in September. Crossing the river at the next road bridge I repeated my September walk along Clancy’s Strand which would bring me out opposite Jack Monday’s. Towards the end of the riverside boardwalk and displayed on a tall pedestal was the Treaty Stone, a large irregular-shaped block of limestone which was once used as a mounting block for horse riders and where the Treaty of Limerick was reputedly signed on October 3rd 1691.
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The Treaty Stone
After indulging in coffee and a slice of gooey chocolate cake I crossed back over the river to find the last artwork on my list ; it was situated on a gable end wall across from the castle although what’s there now isn’t what I was originally looking for. After my visit to Limerick in September I’d found out about a large artwork in that location, though I couldn’t understand how I’d missed seeing it at the time as it was very much ‘in your face’, however the lady in the tourist information place had told me it had been removed in September, obviously just prior to my visit there which would explain why I didn’t see it.
Just along the street from the new artwork was a piece which had only appeared since I was there in September. It was on a side wall set back off the street but so far I’ve been unable to find out who the artist is and what it represents. Further along still my eye was caught by an old advertising sign on the wall above the Cauldron Bar, a premises no bigger than an ordinary terraced house though maybe years ago it was once a little hardware shop. Although not strictly street art I took a photo of the old sign as I like things like that and I remember the brand name from my early childhood.
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Artist unknown
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An old advertising sign from way back
And so to the new artwork across from the castle. Designed and painted by Dublin-based artist Aches it’s dedicated to The Cranberries lead singer, Limerick-born Dolores O’Riordan, who died suddenly almost two years ago at the age of 46. It was created by overlaying three separate images of her performing on stage back in 1993, images chosen to immortalize her as a young woman at the peak of her career. I must admit to not being terribly familiar with any of The Cranberries songs, I only really know Linger, but for the people of Limerick memories of the singer will certainly linger on in this colourful artwork.
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Dolores O’Riordan by Aches
That was to be my last photo of the day, I’d been wandering round Limerick for four hours and though it was still only just after 3pm I didn’t want to be too late in getting a coach to Roscrea as the ride back would take over an hour. I’d found all the artwork on my list and more besides so my day out had been very successful – it was now time to get back to Roscrea and relax in front of the fire.

 

A couple of hours in Nenagh

A day in which I don’t get to climb a tower but I do experience some Irish logic…
After an uneventful and fairly relaxing journey at the beginning of the month my first full day in Ireland started with the anniversary mass for Michael’s dad and Uncle Jimmy. It was too late afterwards for me to go anywhere which was any great distance away from Roscrea so I decided to go to Nenagh, just a 25-minute bus ride away, to repeat last year’s climb to the top of the castle tower. When I got there however I found that the tower was closed ; I knew there was a couple of days when it wasn’t open but couldn’t remember which days and unfortunately Monday was one of them. Having been up to the top of the tower once though I wasn’t too disappointed at it being closed this time so I decided to have a general wander around instead.
In the grounds of the castle tower an open gate was set in the wall on the far side and when I went through I found myself in a small garden set between the castle’s outer walls and the perimeter walls of both the St. Mary’s churches. Devoid of any colour in the flower beds it was still a pleasant and peaceful little place and would probably be very pretty in the spring and summer months.
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Round the corner from the garden and across the road was the last remaining (disused) block of the old prison built in the 19th century, and the octagonal governor’s house which is now a heritage centre and museum. Guided and self-guided tours can be taken and I would have loved to see the inside of the prison but just like the castle tower the place was closed ; now I may be missing something obvious here but I really can’t understand why many places are closed on Mondays.
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The former prison governor’s house, now Nenagh Heritage Centre
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The last remaining old cell block
Heading out of town I took a walk to Nenagh Town Park, built on a small flood plain surrounded on three sides by the Nenagh river, and opened in October 2014. I’d been there last year and wasn’t terribly impressed as it seemed to be little more than a kids’ adventure playground rather than a proper park, but it was only ten minutes or so from the town and the afternoon, even if somewhat chilly, was quite nice so a there-and-back walk was actually very pleasant and it was nice to get away from civilisation for a short while.

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On my way along the road back into town I cut down a side street to the remains of the Franciscan friary. Founded sometime before 1252 the friars lived there until being expelled by the Cromwellians, though it wasn’t long before they returned. A community stayed in residence until 1766 but even after they left some friars continued to work in the area as parish clergy ; the last Franciscan of Nenagh was a Fr. Patrick Harty who died there in 1817.
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Back on the main shopping street I turned right instead of left towards the shops. Just out of curiosity I wanted to see if there was anything worth seeing if I went out of town in that direction and I hadn’t gone far when I came across a large abandoned and seriously derelict building. There was nothing to say what it was or had been but it was worth a few photos and later information told me that it was an old military barracks. The complex was built in 1832 and occupied by members of the British army for the following ninety years, after which it was handed over to the new Irish State and was used for various purposes over the following years until the early 1980s. In spite of various proposals for preserving the barracks no work was ever carried out and the complex gradually became derelict. In 2009 the Department of Defence offered the property to the local authority but the proposal was turned down and since then most parts of the complex have become dangerous and beyond saving.
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Back in town I window-shopped up the main street until I ran out of shops, and that’s when I experienced some great Irish logic. Among the last few shops in the row was a hair salon with an A-board outside displaying the various prices and also the words ‘No appointment necessary’ and ‘Walk-ins welcome’. Looking through the window I could see there was no-one in there and as I badly needed a cut and restyle I decided to take the opportunity and get it done, however it wasn’t to be. With no customers in the shop, and the stylist just sitting having a coffee, I was told she could only offer me a 3.30 appointment, which would be too late if I wanted to get the 4.15 bus back to Roscrea. Needless to say I didn’t book it, but as I walked back out of the salon I did wonder what happened to ‘No appointments necessary’ and ‘Walk-ins welcome’!
A few yards along the street from the hair salon a right turn took me past another row of shops and on a corner I came to an old bell tower and what had obviously once been the entrance to something. There was a wrought iron gate across the archway but it opened when I tried the latch and I walked through into a small but pleasant cemetery. Many of the headstones were quite old but the more recent ones suggested that this place was still in use. Later information told me that the bell tower, gateway and attached mortuary chapel had been built in 1760, added onto an Anglican Church of Ireland church built forty years previously. The church was in use until 1865 then it was abandoned and eventually dismantled after the congregation moved to a new church ; the inter-denominational burial ground lies where the old church once stood and the bell tower and roofless mortuary chapel are all that’s left of the building itself, although strangely I’ve not yet been able to find out what the church was actually called.
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Those were to be the last shots I took in Nenagh ; no doubt the town had other interesting places to see but there was something I wanted to look for in one of the shops and I didn’t want to be late for the bus or I would be stuck there for another two hours. I arrived back in Roscrea to one of Nellie’s delicious cooked meals and the remains of the trifle from the previous day then spent the evening watching a bit of tv and planning my next day out, with fingers metaphorically crossed that the weather would stay nice for me.

On the outside looking in

Well I wasn’t actually  looking in but I was  on the outside….
A few weeks ago, while walking home from work one evening, I took a shortcut through a small local park close to home. Backing onto one corner of the park is a church and there must have been something going on in there that particular evening as all the lights were on, lighting up the stained glass windows. Most of them looked quite plain but the one which was, presumably, behind the altar looked really lovely and certainly worth taking a photo of, however I didn’t have my camera with me at the time and on the numerous occasions I’ve passed since then the church has always been closed.
That was until earlier this evening. I’d been out for the afternoon taking photos for a future post and noticed the church lights were on as I passed nearby so I did a quick detour to get a shot of the window from the outside, and in the dark of the evening the deep colours of the stained glass really stood out.
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I’d love to see the window from the inside but unfortunately the church only seems to be open for normal services and not to visitors so I’ll have to be happy with my shot from the outside.
And talking of churches, I had a lovely few days away in Ireland and visited three churches while I was there – one which I discovered almost by accident – so there’ll be lots of stained glass windows appearing on this blog once I get my photos sorted out and I start writing about my holiday.

 

A new addition at the farm

As there’s no Monday Walk this week I thought I’d post something which definitely has the ‘awww’ factor. On November 21st Smithills Open Farm, just fifteen minutes walk from home, welcomed the arrival of a miniature Shetland pony born to Shetland parents Dinky and Stuart Little. It’s the first Shetland foal ever to be born at the farm and though its arrival was a bit later in the year than would normally be ideal mum and baby – apparently smaller than she looks on the photos – are bonding well and both are very healthy.
As from last Saturday – November 30th – the little foal will be going into the pets corner at the farm and the farm staff will be running a competition to choose a name for her. I’d love to go and see this adorable little foal for myself but at £8 per adult I think the admission price to the farm is a bit steep, so I’ll have to be content with these photos – which obviously aren’t mine, they come courtesy of the local paper.
**As I’m currently on holiday in Ireland and have no internet access this post has been scheduled so I’ll reply to any comments when I get back at the end of the week – and maybe by then the little foal will have a name.