This week’s Monday walk is a local one which I did a couple of weeks ago after I left work one morning. After what seemed like weeks of interminable rain with only the odd bit of sunshine here and there I came out of work to a sunny morning and blue sky so I decided to leave the van there and take a walk round the nearby Jumbles reservoir to catch what was left of the autumn colour before it all disappeared.
Unfortunately the blue sky didn’t stay as clear as I would have liked and by the time I got to Ousel Nest Meadows banks of grey/white clouds were gathering. I briefly thought about abandoning my walk but decided not to, and though it wasn’t one of the better walks I’ve done round there I still got several reasonably good photos when the sky turned blue again.
Heading down the hill towards the reservoir dam I could hear the water before I saw it; when I was last round there in late May it was flowing normally from the overflow pipe but this time it was positively gushing out as a result of all the recent rain.
By the time I’d got to the top of the long steep incline at the far side of the dam the blue sky was back and it stayed with me until I got to the far side of the bridge at the end of the reservoir, although the sunshine itself wasn’t exactly bright. Leaving the reservoir briefly I walked a short way along the riverside path to the waterfall where I came across a couple of people fishing, then back on the bridge I took a couple of shots of the old quarry. Unlike late May, when several weeks of warm sunny weather had rendered the quarry so dry I could walk along the bottom of it, this time it was completely full and looked totally different.
Across the bridge the trees were more dense in spite of having lost their leaves; the path veered away from the water so open views were few, and with the sun having disappeared again things looked a lot less interesting than when I’d been there earlier in the year.
Walking through the nearby stable yard I came across a pretty shrub, presumably evergreen but a lot of the leaves were red, and the steep bank at the side of the lane was a carpet of russet coloured leaves. A squirrel darted across the lane just ahead of me and ran up a tree but he disappeared too quickly for me to get a photo of him.
Farther along the lane were a couple of open fields where horses usually graze and in the corner of one of them, shaded by the bare branches of two trees, was a small pond. Across from the fields were the gateways and enclosed gardens of four large detached houses and my last shot was taken looking back down the lane before heading back to collect my van from work.
I’ve walked round the Jumbles many times over the years and always enjoyed it but this time it wasn’t as good as usual. Maybe it was because the sky kept clouding over, or maybe the lack of leaves on the trees reminded me that winter, a season I don’t particularly like, wasn’t far off. Whatever the reason, next time I do that walk it will be in summer on a warm day with wall-to-wall blue sky and sunshine.
It’s almost the end of November and the monthly photo challenge has arrived again – where does the time go? This month’s topics are – House plants, Ring/s, Harbour, Window, Sky, and as usual, my own choice, so here goes –
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m not a gardener in any way, shape or form, and that goes for indoor gardening as well as the outdoor stuff, so although I do like house plants I very rarely have any. I’ve had lots of various ones in the past and though I start off with good intentions and they look nice for a while I eventually forget to water them and they just die, so when I wanted to make a certain corner of the bathroom look a bit nicer I got an artificial trailing thing which does the job nicely.
Over to Anglesey now and while on a camping holiday there in 2015 I came across the ‘Time and Tide’ bell, installed on Cemaes beach the previous year. It was sculpted by Marcus Vergette and is known locally as St. Patrick’s Bell as it’s situated not far from where St. Patrick is said to have founded his first church in 440 AD after being shipwrecked close to the shore. There’s an inscription on the bell in the form of a poem by Glyndwr Thomas – “Above the waves, melodiously, Sounds the name of a saint so fair, A bell whose knell is here to tell, Patrick’s eternal prayer” – and it rings twice a day with the waves at high tide.
Although Cemaes is only a small village with not much there it’s also a nice little place with a very photogenic harbour, especially when the tide is in. I can never resist paying a visit and taking a few photos whenever I’m camping on Anglesey so it was hard to decide which of the many to use for the next topic, however I finally decided on this one taken in May 2013.
The next photo is one I used in a post twelve months ago but it’s so nice I couldn’t resist using it again. Walking through a local park one evening on my way home from an afternoon out I passed the back of a nearby church; the lights were on in the building, lighting up the stained glass windows, and while most of them looked quite plain the one behind the altar was something else. In the dark of the evening the deep colours of the stained glass really stood out and though I was looking at it from the outside it was certainly worth taking a photo.
Choosing a ‘sky’ shot for the next topic wasn’t easy as I have quite a few photos which would lend themselves, however while searching the archives I came across this one taken on the last day of November 2017. I was on the second day of a five-day break in Ireland and had been to Kildare and Portlaiose; the late afternoon shot was taken from the window of the moving coach as I was on my way back to Roscrea.
I had no difficulty at all in choosing the final shot, in fact I decided to use two as they are so topical. If anyone is watching this year’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here you’ll know it’s coming from Gwrych Castle in North Wales; a derelict and dangerous ruin for many years it’s now in the slow process of being renovated by the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust. I’ve camped several times at a lovely site just down the lane from the castle and in August 2016 I went on a guided tour of part of the grounds during a special open day, however three years previously, before any renovations began, I found a path round the back of the castle and managed to sneak into the grounds through a gap in the security fence. Although most of the actual buildings were boarded up I was able to wander freely up and down the paths and steps of the inner grounds, and as the place is built on several levels I got some good shots looking down from one of the upper turrets.
Incidentally, I’m A Celebrity isn’t a programme I would normally watch – I saw the very first one years back and decided it wasn’t my type of thing so haven’t seen it since – however I’m making an exception this time just because of the location, and sad person that I am I’m actually finding it quite entertaining.
Well that’s just about it for my selections this month, I hope everyone likes what I’ve chosen for the topics. As usual I’m linking up with Kate’s blog, time to make a brew now then I’ll hop across to see what everyone else has chosen this time.
My Monday walk this week was done just a week after Snowy’s arrival and was her first long walk with me and Poppie. A 20-minute drive from home took us to the Leeds/Liverpool canal at Adlington and our walk started from the White Bear Marina, with our goal being Frederick’s Ice Cream Parlour a couple of miles northwards on the outskirts of Chorley.
Parking at the marina itself seemed to be for boat owners only as there was a barrier across the lane leading down to it, however just across the road was a recreation ground with a small parking area so I was able to leave the van there. I shot my first photo from the bridge as I made my way down to the towpath then got another couple of shots as I walked past the quite extensive marina, the largest one on the whole of the canal.
Although the main A6 wasn’t too far away, once I left the marina behind I was in open countryside. Narrowboats and canal cruisers were moored along the far bank for quite a long way, there was even a cute looking houseboat moored at the end of a landing stage and across the fields at one point I could see my old friend the Winter Hill tv mast in the distance.
Leaving the boats behind, the open countryside gave way to trees lining each side of the canal and round a couple of bends I eventually came to bridge 71. Just beyond the bridge was Ellerbeck Narrowboats, a small boat hire business with half a dozen boats set back in a private mooring and within its grounds the Boatyard Bus Cafe, a quirky cafe set on board a 1990 Leyland Olympian double decker.
Farther along the canal half a dozen boats with colourful designs and windows were moored on my side and round the next bend I came to bridge 72 with a ‘Welcome To Lancashire’ sign fastened to the stonework, which I thought was rather odd – if it had any connection to the county boundary then I’d been in Lancashire before I’d even got to the White Bear marina.
The next bridge, 72a, carried the main A6 road over the canal and another ten minutes walk took me to bridge 73, my turn around point. Across the canal a few cattle grazed peacefully in the fields and at the side of the bridge steps and a path led up past a small area with picnic tables to Frederick’s Ice Cream Parlour on the main road.
The Italian Federici family have been making luxury ice cream for over four generations and the main road ice cream parlour and cafe has been the home of the business since 1936. I’d previously been told by more than one person that the place was very popular and with a queue from the door, round the corner and quite a distance down the path it would certainly seem so. Crossing the road when there was a convenient gap in the traffic I snapped a quick photo then went back to the path and returned to the canal.
Heading back to White Bear there was one boat across the far side of the canal which intrigued me. With a central wheelhouse it looked to be more like a converted fishing boat than narrowboat and with peeling paintwork and boarded up windows it looked a bit of a mess compared to most of the other boats I’d passed. Less than ten minutes later I reached bridge 70 and before long I was back at White Bear marina and bridge 69 where my walk began.
I hadn’t actually set out until mid afternoon and it was getting on for 6pm by the time I got back to the van but the warmth of the sun had stayed with me all the way so the walk had been very pleasant. I’d never been along that section of the canal before but as it’s only a short drive from home I may very well do that walk another time – and maybe next time I’ll go over the bridge and pop into the Boatyard Bus for coffee and cake.
After months of constantly searching various sources, both locally and in other parts of the country, I finally found a new little dog to join my family. Losing Sophie in February hit me hard, especially as she had slowly been showing positive signs of recovering from her stroke, and though I’ve still had Poppie I’ve spent so many years with two dogs that things just weren’t the same with only one – I needed to get another little friend, and as much for Poppie as for myself.
Snowy was eight months old when she came to me a few weeks ago. Size-wise she is taller than Sophie was so is about the same size as Poppie, and though she isn’t actually a long-legged Jack Russell some of her photos do make her legs look quite long. Originally from a manic household of five kids, three dogs, and two adults who didn’t have enough time to devote to her, she was so timid and scared that she would jump at her own shadow and not having been socialised she would back away if anyone went near her. She was very quiet for the first couple of days after I got her but then slowly started coming out of her shell, even gaining the confidence to jump up onto my bed and settle down by my pillow.
Snowy had been with me for a week when I introduced her to Poppie. A trial walk round the field at the end of the street went okay so I drove to the canal and took them both for a walk along there. On the whole Snowy was fine but she wasn’t keen on other dogs approaching her or people passing her, which was understandable when she hasn’t been socialised.
A check-up at the vet’s after three weeks showed that she was the right weight for her size and was 100% healthy, unfortunately as circumstances had interrupted her original injections they had to be started again but she was as good as gold in the surgery and never moved an inch when the actual injections were done.
Over the few weeks Snowy has been with me her personality has changed a lot, and if I’d been hoping for a calm, quiet, gentle little dog like Sophie then I would have been very much disappointed. She’s turned into a typical young Jack Russell living life at a hundred miles an hour, and she’s as mad as a box of frogs. She’s also a collector of all things weird and wonderful and in spite of having several toys she will ‘find’ various things to take into her bed – her favourites are the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls and Michael’s socks and I have to check her bed twice a day to see what’s in there.
I won’t deny that in some ways, and possibly because of her previous life, Snowy isn’t the easiest little dog to deal with, especially as her socialising issues need a lot of work. Although I didn’t initially want a dog with ‘problems’, in every other way she was just what I did want so there was no way I could have walked away once I’d first seen her. Sorting out her issues will take time but I’m in this for the long haul and I’ve no intention of giving up on her; she’s funny, affectionate, adorable and very cute, and I’m looking forward to her being part of my little family for many years to come.
Previous to my ‘behind the scenes’ theatre tour at Morecambe’s Winter Gardens I’d found out that back in 2016 several murals and mosaics were commissioned and created as a project to help reinvigorate the town and celebrate its heritage so when I came out of the theatre after my tour I went in search of them, although with the exception of one I’ve been unable to find out who the artists were.
The first piece of artwork to be produced and the last one I photographed was, to me at least, the best one, and was on the side of what was once the Victoria Inn. It was a collaboration between Morecambe artist Kate Drummond and Sheffield-based artists Faunagraphic and Rocket01; given the title ‘The Sands and Seas’ it was so large and detailed that I had to take several separate shots of it.
Walking down a side street on my way back to the seafront I discovered the Central Methodist Church with its attractive front portico. Built in 1875/76 it was given a Grade ll listing in January 1993; unfortunately I’ve been able to find very little information about it but the lack of a board outside detailing service times etc. leads me to suspect that it’s no longer used as a chapel.
Not having Poppie with me meant that for once I was able to have a look round the stalls in the indoor Festival Market where dogs aren’t allowed, then after coffee and a meal in Rita’s Cafe I went to have a wander along the Central Promenade. Above the shoe shop near the cafe was a brightly coloured psychedelic pattern and not far from the Midland Hotel and the stone jetty the walls surrounding the area where the fairground is usually situated were painted in many different patterns and colours.
Although it had only been a couple of months since my previous visit to Morecambe the weather and the views across the bay were so good that I couldn’t resist taking several more photos. The gardens and flower beds were looking particularly attractive, possibly even more so than in July, and though I don’t profess to be any sort of gardener I do have a great liking for bright and colourful flower beds so the camera was put to good use.
To say that it was well past mid September the weather was fabulous, and still warm enough to be wearing a t-shirt even though there was a breeze. I would have loved to stay to see the sunset but I had a little dog waiting for me at home so eventually it was time to think about going back, but not before I’d had another coffee in Rita’s Cafe, which just finished the day off nicely.
After seeing some photos a while ago showing part of the ornate interior of Morecambe’s Winter Gardens theatre I decided I just had to see this place for myself so during my 2-week staycation in September I booked a place on a ‘behind the scenes’ guided tour; unfortunately dogs weren’t allowed on the tour so this was one occasion when I had to leave Poppie at home.
The Morecambe Baths and Winter Gardens Company was formed in 1876 by a consortium of businessmen from Bradford who developed an unoccupied piece of land on the sea front into a site for new public swimming baths, surrounded by the covered gardens which gave the Winter Gardens complex its name. The total cost of the baths was £12,000 and facilities included three large swimming baths – two for gentlemen and one for ladies – 24 private baths and two medicated baths, all supplied by filtered sea water initially collected in four large tanks sited beneath a wooden jetty situated approximately 50m from the promenade.
In 1877 a proposal was made for three restaurants to be erected next to the baths – a first and second class restaurant and behind them a third class restaurant for ‘excursionists’ who would, for a payment of 2d, be able to enter without being required to buy anything. There was also to be a 30ft long grand aquarium with fish, ferneries, fountains and plants, a ballroom and a fine arts gallery. The land for this development was purchased from the North Western Railway Company at a cost of £10,551 and the complex opened in June 1878.
As a later extension to the existing Winter Gardens complex the Victoria Pavilion Concert Hall and Variety Theatre was built at a cost of nearly £100,000, opening its doors to the public in July 1897. It was designed by Mangnall & Littlewood of Manchester, with noted theatre architect Frank Matcham as consultant. Interiors were by Dean and Co and the tiling in the lavish foyer and stairwells was by Burmantoft of Leeds with the ceramic modelling attributed to Spruce, one of the finest ceramic modellers of the late Victorian period. With its audience capacity of 2,500 and a stage larger than any of its London contemporaries the theatre was one of the largest concert halls in the North West and quickly became known as the Albert Hall of the North. Over the years it was the home of the internationally renowned Morecambe Music Festival and played host to Sir Edward Elgar, the Halle Orchestra and many other well known performers from variety, music and theatre.
In the early 1950s the Winter Gardens were taken over by Moss Empires, the largest UK chain of variety theatres and music halls, but by the mid-1970s the theatre’s fortunes were in decline. With its operating license expiring in 1977 the decision was taken to close the whole complex and it was announced at the end of one of that year’s summer shows that the theatre and complex were closed with immediate effect. The original Winter Gardens was eventually demolished in 1982, leaving only the theatre remaining and with a very uncertain future.
In 1986 the Friends of the Winter Gardens group was formed to represent the interests of the building, campaigning for its restoration and preservation, then in 2006 the Friends formed a charitable trust company, The Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust (Ltd) to purchase the theatre. The years since then have been spent in cleaning, repairing and restoring various parts of the building and fundraising to enable the ongoing and never ending work to continue.
The tour was limited to a group of five visitors plus the guide and started off from the front of the auditorium, where visitors can pop in for coffee and a bite to eat accompanied by music from the resident organist. The auditorium has a roof span of 118ft and a height of 65ft and is still one of the largest in the country; the fibrous plaster ornamental ceiling is hung from a skeleton of girders originally supplied by the Widnes Foundry and is a masterpiece of Victorian engineering.
Up a short flight of steps and through a door on the left of the auditorium the guide led the group along various passageways and up and down different stairs, stopping in different rooms to point out various interesting features. It was actually quite difficult taking photos and absorbing all the information and history at the same time, with hindsight I should have taken a notebook and pen to jot things down.
While the auditorium itself looked fairly decent the same couldn’t be said for behind the scenes. Almost everywhere I looked there were signs of the deterioration and delapidation which the theatre had fallen into over the years; with holes in ceilings, flaking plaster and bare brickwork in many places it was going to take a lot of man hours and many years to restore the theatre to its former glory.
Originally reserved for the highest priced tickets the Grand Circle is currently undergoing restoration and was out of bounds, with viewing only allowed on a tour with an experienced guide. From the centre of the circle shallow steps led up through double doors to a long and wide corridor which would once have been a very pleasant carpeted seating area with a bar and toilets at each end. With tall wide windows along its length there were good views over the promenade to the South Lakeland hills across the bay.
Back in 1982, five years after the theatre closed its doors to the public, several hundred seats were removed from the Grand Circle and sold on, with the later presumption that many had been sent to Australia and would therefore be lost for ever, however in 2019 the Winter Gardens trustees were contacted by the Theatre Trust with the news that more than 400 of the seats had been listed for sale on an online auction site and were actually only 35 miles away in the Leyland Masonic Hall. After confirmation that the seats had originally belonged to the Winter Gardens the owners cancelled the auction and offered them back to the theatre trustees who launched a seat sponsorship campaign to raise funds towards their purchase. Behind what was once the Grand Circle’s bar area were two unrestored rooms full of these seats, well covered for protection but with just a couple on show as part of the tour.
Down a few stairs and along a short passageway was the double-sided staircase leading to the Upper Circle, known in theatrical terms as ‘The Gods’. This was reserved for the cheap seats, with the original bench seating only being replaced by the current folding seats in 1953, though the walls, floor and ceiling of the staircase were just as ornate as those down below.
On a side wall close to the top of the stairs and just inside the door to the Upper Circle itself was a small folding wooden seat, this was where the usherette would sit while on duty. Unfortunately the dizzying height of the top row of seats was out of bounds but I was able to get a detailed look at the ornate ceiling and the top of the highly decorated two-tier boxes at the side of the stage.
Back down at Grand Circle level I was able to look in one of the upper boxes with its once-lavish curtains and decor. Being set at an angle it mostly looked out over the auditorium and the view of the stage was very limited unless you craned your neck, but back in the day (and maybe still today) private boxes were really all for show – if you could afford the expense of a private box then you were considered to be ‘somebody’.
Having already looked in the general dressing room, which was very spartan and basic, down at stage level was the star’s dressing room though even that wasn’t particularly lavish. Then it was onto the stage itself with its huge steel safety curtain raised above; I didn’t quite catch all the writing with the camera but right in the very top left corner of the curtain and difficult to see was the signature of a little-known comedian and the words “Archie Ore died here autumn 1974”. Presumably he was the warm-up for a more well-known act but he mustn’t have been very good if the stage crew didn’t want him back.
The tour ended where it began, at the front of the auditorium, and as I made my way back towards the entrance I took my last few shots of the stairs to the Grand Circle and some of the features in the foyer before emerging from the dim light of the theatre into the bright afternoon sunshine.
The tour had been extremely interesting and standing on the stage itself looking out into the auditorium had brought back memories of my own days in local theatre many years ago. I’d done it all, from painting scenery flats and sourcing props to makeup, lighting, costumes, special effects, providing animal ‘actors’, singing, dancing and acting, and standing there I could almost get a whiff of the distinctive smell of greasepaint.
The theatre tours ended on the last weekend in October but I enjoyed that one so much that I’ll certainly go on another one sometime next year – and next time I’ll take a notebook with me to jot down all the interesting information.
The end of September somehow seemed to signify the end of any decent weather, locally at least, and though many October days started off with blue sky and sunshine it was almost a guarantee that by 10am the blue would have been replaced with grey clouds followed by rain. This was particularly frustrating as being at work until 9.30am meant that I missed the best part of each day, however there was a morning in the middle of the month when I wasn’t working and I was able to take advantage of the early blue sky and sunshine to have an autumn dog walk round the local Queen’s Park.
Unable to park near the main entrance as I’d done on my previous visit in August I left the van on a side road and went into the park via one of the two west entrances, following various paths to the west end of the Promenade Terrace and the steps which were halfway along.
At the top of the steps was the Vantage Point Garden; just as in August it looked rather scruffy around the edges but it was still a pleasant place to sit in the sunshine for a few minutes. Wandering round to the sunken garden with its bare flower beds I found a large part of it was still in the shade so I only took one shot before retracing my steps.
Back through the Vantage Point Garden and down the steps I walked along to the east end of the terrace and the semi-circular ‘Pie Crust’ viewing point, then down the hill past the ‘Pie Crust’ and along a path to the left I eventually came to the River Croal, Dobson Bridge and the fishing lake, still with its green surface weed, at the bottom end of the park.
Across Dobson Bridge I headed west past the tree with the teddy bears round its base and on towards the fountain and the nearby curving bed of red and yellow flowers. Following my previous park visit in August I found out that early in the summer the flower bed had formed the top part of a rainbow, with the rest of it and the words ‘Thank You’ painted on the grass in support of the NHS.
From the fountain I headed west towards the cafe then meandered up and along various paths to the big duck pond where various ducks, geese, coots and seagulls congregated; a lot of the geese and ducks came close in the hope of getting some food but unfortunately I had nothing for them.
Following the path round and above the pond I came to a junction; right would take me back in the direction of the sunken garden so I chose left and meandered along until I came to the edge of the park and the entrance/exit which would take me back to where I’d left the van.
As I drove the two-and-a-half miles back home clouds were building up and true to form half an hour later the blue sky and sunshine had gone, to be replaced by grey sky and intermittent showers, so I was rather glad that I’d taken the opportunity to do my Queen’s Park walk early in the day.
On Tuesday evening Michael and I went to a local pub/restaurant for a meal after I finished work, our last opportunity before it closed for a month. It’s a place we go to regularly as an alternative to our other favourite, the Black Dog in Belmont Village; the meals are always very good, the staff provide a friendly and very helpful service, and we have never had a problem, however on Tuesday we had the maddest dining experience ever.
A quick look at the menu and Michael decided to have the steak sizzler while I opted for the chicken tikka masala, however when it came to ordering things didn’t quite go according to plan – and this was the conversation :
Me : “I’ll have the chicken tikka masala please”
Waitress : “Sorry, there’s no chicken tikka left”
Me : “No problem, I’ll have the chicken and roasted mushroom pie with mash then please”
Waitress (having gone to the kitchen then come back to our table) : “Sorry, there’s no chicken pie left either”
Me : “Okay, then I’ll have the steak and ale pie instead”
Waitress (back again for the third time) : “Sorry, I don’t know how to tell you this but there’s no steak pie either”
Now where meals out are concerned I consider myself fairly easy to please, however I was now beginning to feel slightly niggled at having to quickly make a fourth choice so –
Me (after a quick glance at the menu) : “I presume you have fish available? In which case I’ll have the hand-battered cod please”
Waitress (having got halfway to the kitchen then done an about-turn) : “Do you want chips with that or do you still want the mash?”
Now I’ve never ever heard of having mash with fish (rather an odd combination I think) and the menu clearly stated that the fish came with chips, so I don’t know how I managed to keep a straight face when I replied “Chips please”
Five minutes later the waitress was back again and by this time I was beginning to think she was attached to our table by an invisible length of elastic, however –
Waitress : “Do you want garden peas or mushy peas?”
Me : “Mushy peas please”
I really thought she was coming to tell me there was no fish available either, in which case I would have just about lost the will to live, but eventually our meals arrived with no further problems and very nice they were too, even though mine wasn’t what I’d originally wanted. I actually felt a bit sorry for the young waitress having to go between our table and the kitchen so many times but both Michael and I saw the funny side of it and we couldn’t help laughing, especially when we heard the same waitress telling the couple in the alcove behind us that there was no syrup sponge left!
We could only assume that because the place is now closed for a month the kitchen staff weren’t making/cooking as much food as they would normally do so it was just unfortunate that three things I asked for were three things they hadn’t got. Michael did point out one thing though – they have special daily deals and Wednesday is Curry Wednesday so I’d love to know what the answer would have been if I’d gone in that day and asked for chicken tikka!
My Monday walk this week features a visit to Kirkby Lonsdale during my stay-cation in September. I’d never previously been any farther east along the A683 than Hornby village but I’d seen a couple of pictures of Kirkby Lonsdale somewhere on the internet and it looked like there might be a chance of getting a few nice photos, so a sunny morning saw me heading up the M6 and across the A683 in that direction.
Having previously looked on Google maps I knew there were several places to park in the vicinity of Devil’s Bridge over the River Lune on the fringes of the town, which was where I wanted to be, but in spite of it being a weekday during term time it seemed like the world and his wife were out and there wasn’t an available parking space anywhere so I headed into the village. Driving through the centre I followed a sign for car parks and found three small ones but again they were all full so I ended up in the car park of Booth’s supermarket where there were plenty of spaces and I could stay all day for £3.50.
Unfortunately by the time I’d sorted out the parking situation the sky had clouded over and the sun was playing hide and seek so I decided to have a look round the village first before going down to the river. Down a short narrow alley between an optician’s and a children’s shoe shop I found a small cobbled courtyard with a cottage at the end, then along a nearby narrow lane was an attractive cottage and a quaintly named cobbled square with its old market cross where, centuries ago, pig sellers would sell their livestock. Fast forward to more modern times and both the cobbled courtyard and the square were used as locations in Double Sin, a 1990 episode of the Poirot tv series. Past the square and a double-fronted house with a very pretty garden the lane went steeply downhill and between the buildings on each side I got a view towards the far side of the river.
From there I retraced my steps and just behind the Sun Inn, along the narrow traffic-free and aptly named Church Street, I came to St. Mary’s church. As a Grade l listed building the oldest parts of the church date from Norman times though the oddly-placed clock in the tower is presumed to be a 19th century addition. In the grounds just beyond the building was a stone built octagonal gazebo which had once been in the garden of the vicarage, and just to one side was a peaceful corner with a couple of benches and a very pretty circular flower bed.
Beyond the gazebo and along the path I came to Ruskin’s View, a small pleasant area with three benches set back off the path overlooking the River Lune. The view from there was painted by artist JMW Turner in 1822 and in 1875 the art critic, painter and poet John Ruskin was so impressed with the picture that he described the panorama as ‘one of the loveliest views in England, therefore the world’.
From Ruskin’s View I backtracked through the church grounds and the village to Devil’s Bridge and the river; the clouds had been clearing steadily and the blue sky was increasing so hopefully I would get some of the shots I was looking for. Devil’s Bridge has three spans and dates from around 1370; constructed of fine gritstone ashlar it’s thought to have been built by monks from St. Mary’s Abbey in York.
The roadway across the bridge is only 12ft wide and as vehicle numbers increased over the years it was closed to traffic in 1932 with vehicles being diverted to the newly constructed Stanley bridge 160yds away. The river beneath the bridge is popular with scuba divers due to its deep rock pools and clear visibility, and the bridge itself has long been a popular location for illegal ‘tombstoning’ (bridge diving) which has caused at least one death, that of a 22-year old man in 2012.
A gate near the beginning of the bridge led to a footpath which took me along by the riverside; much of the river itself was obscured by trees but there were a few places where I could get down to the waterside and I got several shots before going back to the path and retracing my steps. At the far end of the bridge was the Devil’s Bridge Snack Bar, a mobile catering trailer; judging by the queue it was a very popular place but there was nowhere to sit so I decided to walk back through the village and search out a dog friendly cafe for some coffee and cake.
Unfortunately my cafe quest proved to be unsuccessful. I found four – one was closed and the other three were small, cramped, and packed with customers, so whether any of them were dog friendly or not I don’t know, I didn’t hang around to find out. Instead I went back to Booth’s supermarket, got an ‘own brand’ Swiss Roll and a carton of Booth’s apple juice – which were a heck of a lot cheaper than coffee and cake in a cafe – and spent half an hour in the comfort of my own van.
After finishing my snack it was still only 3.45pm, too early to think about going home, so hoping I might finally find a parking space near Devil’s Bridge I drove down there with the intention of having another walk by the river. There were no available spaces near the bridge but directly across the A683 and at the end of a short lane there was a parking area with a few vacant spaces so I pulled in there – and ended up going on an unintentional long walk.
Leading from the corner of the parking area was a footpath going uphill through a wooded area so just for curiosity I decided to see where it went. I didn’t go far before the footpath opened out onto a narrow tarmac lane with a pleasant looking static caravan site on the left; still curious I followed the lane for a while with the views over open fields and hills getting better and better. Eventually I came to a tree with an odd looking bulge on one side of its trunk; nearby was a small enclave of cottages which I later learned was the start of the hamlet of High Casterton with cottages strung out here and there for quite a distance along the lane.
I hadn’t a clue where I would end up but the weather was so good and the scenery so nice that I was just enjoying the walk for what it was, however it wasn’t too long before I saw a crossroads up ahead, with another handful of cottages and a signpost which told me that the lane on the left would take me back in the direction of Kirkby Lonsdale.
The lane was only about half a mile long, eventually bringing me out on the A683 by the entrance to Casterton Golf Club – a left turn eventually got me back to the mobile Devil’s Bridge Snack Bar and my last shot was of the National Park sign in the lay-by near the end of the bridge. For some reason I seemed to have walked for miles but when I checked the time I’d only been away from the van for an hour.
Driving back down the M6 in the direction of home I thought back over my day. Apart from the initial difficulty in finding somewhere to park I’d enjoyed myself immensely, and though Kirkby Lonsdale isn’t a big place I know there’s a couple of corners of it I haven’t yet seen so maybe a sunny day sometime next summer will see me making a return visit.