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.


Blackburn Cathedral – some history and photos

As my pc still isn’t allowing me to download my most recent photos from the camera I can’t post either of the two latest Monday walks so this week I’m featuring a wander round Blackburn Cathedral which I visited back in July during my hunt for some of the town’s street art. Although I’ve been to Blackburn several times as an adult I hadn’t been in the cathedral since I was in my teens and still at school so this visit was almost a completely new experience.
Blackburn Cathedral, formerly the parish church of St. Mary the Virgin, is one of England’s newest cathedrals yet one of the country’s oldest places of worship, and is today the end result of many transformations and a magnificent example of modern architecture. Situated right in the town centre the earliest documentary evidence of a church in that location is recorded in the Domesday Book compiled in 1086. The architectural history of the old church is known with certainty from the 14th century when it was rebuilt in the decorated style during the reign of King Edward lll, but time eventually took its toll on the old building and in 1818 it was decided to demolish it and build a new church.
Designed by architect John Palmer in the early Gothic Revival style the new church was essentially a Georgian building and was consecrated in 1826. In 1926 the Diocese of Blackburn was created and St. Mary’s parish church was elevated to cathedral status, then in the early 1930s fundraising was started to enable the building to be enlarged in keeping with its newfound importance. Work began in 1938 with the original church forming the nave of the much larger building, then after being interrupted by WW2 the work was resumed and continued through the 1950s and into the early 1960s, though with changes to the original ‘modern gothic’ design.
In 1961 architect Lawrence King joined the project and designed the distinctive lantern tower which consists of 56 different panes of coloured glass and a slender aluminium spire. The tower was completed in 1967 and the cathedral itself in 1977, and what had been built over the last almost 40 years was finally consecrated as Blackburn Cathedral that same year. In more recent years there’s been a couple of upgrades to the building ; the original 1960s lantern tower had been constucted in concrete but in 1998 it underwent restoration and was rebuilt in natural stone, then in 2000/2001 the east end roofs and parapets were rebuilt to blend them into the existing structures. Also at the same time a new piece of art was commissioned for the building’s exterior, The Healing of The Nations,  a sculpture by artist Mark Jalland. A huge abstract steel and copper circular piece, it contains thousands of interwoven fibre optics which create many changing light patterns at night.
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Blackburn Cathedral and Queen Victoria statue
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The Nave, looking east
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The Sanctuary
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The Nave, looking west
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‘Worker Christ’ by John Hayward
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‘The African Madonna’ – the plaque reads ‘A gift to the Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Blackburn, from the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew and St. Michael, Bloemfontien, 1999
The sculptor Josephina de Vasconcellos was commissioned by the Blackburn Diocesan Mothers’ Union to sculpt a statue as a memorial to their secretary, Helen Dex. It depicts Mary as an earthly mother bathing Jesus, her baby, who appears anxious to get out of the bath. Viewed from the front Mary’s expression is that of happy mother, while viewed from the left it’s one of adoration, but viewed from the right it’s an expression of sorrow.
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Mary and baby Jesus statue
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The ornately-carved pulpit was one of the first gifts of ‘new furniture’ to mark the transition of the building from Blackburn Parish Church to Blackburn Cathedral. The rich pre-war design with six carved figures was completed in 1940 and was a memorial to Dr. J T T Ramsay, a local doctor who was also a former Mayor and Alderman of the Borough. The figures and their emblems are St. Peter, St. James, St. John, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Andrew and St. John the Baptist. On the underside of the pulpit roof is a monogram comprising of the first three letters, in Greek, of the name Jesus and near the top of the back panel is a small cross, a gift from the Lutheran Diocese of Braunschweig (Brunswick) in Germany, with which the Diocese of Blackburn is linked.
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St. John, the eagle of the Word of God
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Two years before the consecration of the new church in 1826 a plan for an organ in the west gallery was submitted by John Gray and Frederick Davison ; built by JW Walker the organ was opened in 1828 with a concert which included works by Handel played by newly appointed organist Joseph John Harris. Over the years the organ went through several rebuilds and restorations ; sitting on four platforms high above the ground the last rebuild was in 2001/2002 by Wood of Huddersfield – comprehensive details of the organ(s) can be found here.
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A section of the ornate ceiling in the nave
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The Lantern Tower
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Window light over the west door
In 2013 a 14-year plan was finally put into practise to regenerate the Cathedral Precinct and the surrounding area, now known as the Cathedral Quarter, and work was completed in 2016. The old Boulevard bus station outside the train station was relocated to a modern site adjacent to the indoor shopping mall a few hundred yards away and the Boulevard itself was refurbished to create a smaller interchange with a new hotel, office block, Starbucks coffee shop and a restaurant and bar, and a new Eastern Precinct was created for the cathedral itself. This houses a library, refectory, meeting rooms and offices, ten residences for clergy and lay staff and has a very attractive pedestrian area and gardens fronting the main road.
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The cathedral itself has so much of interest that it would be impossible to write about everything here. There was really only one thing I didn’t like about the place – the huge monstrosity on the outside of the building which calls itself a ‘work of art’. It’s ugly, looks completely out of place and totally ruins the overall look of what is otherwise a beautiful building – whoever approved it to be put there really should have gone to Specsavers. Other than that I’d really enjoyed my wander round the cathedral and having found more information since my visit it’s a place I’ll certainly go back to another time.

Heysham village and Morecambe

Heysham village, just south of Morecambe, is somewhere I hadn’t been to for a number of years but seeing some recent photos of the place prompted me to pay a visit one Sunday in early September. Unfortunately the times of the buses to Heysham didn’t coincide too well with the time I got off the train in Morecambe ; knowing that the distance between the two isn’t really that far I decided I could get there on foot in the time I would spend waiting for a bus, so join me as I walk from Morecambe’s central promenade to Heysham village and back again.
Past the West End, away from the main road and with few people about the pedestrian promenade was very quiet ; weather-wise it was a beautifully clear day and I could see right across the bay to Grange-over-Sands and the coastline and hills of south Cumbria. Eventually the promenade split into two and I took the lower section close to the beach ; steps at the end took me up to join the path above, leading between a handful of cottages to the bottom end of the village where a short lane off the main street ended in a slipway down onto the beach.
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View across the bay to south Cumbria
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View towards Heysham village and cliffs
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Not far up the main street was St. Peter’s Church so I made that my first port of call. A Grade l listed building, with a churchyard sloping down a shallow cliff to the beach and rock pools beyond the wall, it’s believed to have been founded in the 7th or 8th century. The chancel was added on in the mid 14th century, the south aisle in the 15th century and the north aisle in the mid 19th century, with some of the fabric of the original church still remaining in the present church.  As well as stained glass windows I wanted to find and photograph the carved Viking hogback tombstone which dates back to the 10th century ; it’s situated inside the church but unfortunately the place wasn’t open so I had to be happy with a wander round outside instead.
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St. Peter’s Church
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Just off the main path through the churchyard was Glebe Garden, a previously overgrown and neglected area transformed into a peaceful and pretty corner by local volunteer gardeners – and that’s where I found the hedgehog. It was curled up in the sunshine on the gravel path, a strange place and time of day for it to be out and at first I thought it was dead ; I couldn’t just leave it there so fastening the dogs to a nearby bench I went to move it, however it uncurled itself so it was very much alive. It seemed to have trouble moving though and when I looked it was dragging one of its back legs behind it – the poor little thing was obviously injured and couldn’t get a grip on the gravel.
A few yards from the path and in a corner of the garden was a compost heap so I suspected the hedgehog may have come from there but I didn’t want to put it back there as it would probably end up back on the path again and maybe at the mercy of someone’s dog. I thought the best thing to do was take it to a quiet corner of the churchyard where at least it would be better able to move about on the grass but just as I was about to pick it up two young women came down the path – and that’s where things got ever-so-slightly stupid.
They were foreigners, German I think though both spoke very good English, and when they saw the hedgehog one of them insisted that it needed professional attention there and then ; out came her phone and she proceeded to Google various options but with no vet in the village or anywhere nearby she eventually phoned the RSPCA, only to get a recorded message saying it would be fifty minutes before her call was answered. She did find an animal charity shop in Morecambe but somehow couldn’t comprehend the fact that (as I told her) it wouldn’t be open on a Sunday and even if it was they wouldn’t just take in an animal. She couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take it anywhere herself as she and her friend were on bikes but she spent so much time faffing about on her phone that eventually I lost patience, told her I would sort it myself, and scooped the hedgehog up in my tracksuit top and popped it into my bag.
At first I did think about keeping the little creature in my bag, aborting my day out and bringing it home to take to my own vet the following day but I wasn’t sure if it would survive the walk back to Morecambe and the journey home by train and bus so I did what I intended to do in the first place. Collecting Sophie and Poppie from the bench, and making sure I got out of sight of the two young women, I went to the furthest bottom corner of the churchyard and put it gently on the grass behind a large headstone – I felt guilty for leaving it but without my own transport or anything proper to carry it in there wasn’t much else I could do.
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Glebe Garden
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From the church gates a path led a short distance through a wooded area to the ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel situated on a grassy knoll overlooking the cliffs and the bay. A Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade l listed building, the ruin dates back to the 8th or 9th century, with the 10th century barrow graves cut from the rock only a few yards away. Due to their size and shallow depth it’s thought they held bones rather than bodies, though these days they only hold sea and rain water.
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St. Patrick’s Chapel ruins
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10th century barrow graves
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View of the bay from the cliffs
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Back on the main street I decided to walk to the far end of the village without stopping then take any photos as I worked my way back towards the church. At the end of the street the road opened out with a row of cottages and small shops on one side and on the other a large almost-circular ’roundabout’ where the buses would turn round. On the corner, and next door to each other, were the Curiosity Corner tea room and The Old Barn café ; by then it was time for coffee and cake so I fastened the dogs close to an outside table at the café (the tea room was full) and went in to order, however when I saw the very OTT price for a tiny square of cake I just asked for a coffee – and that wasn’t particularly brilliant either but it was passable.
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Across the street from the café was one part of the Heritage Centre which is an unusual surviving example of a 17th century longhouse – a cottage and barn combined. Sometime in the 20th century the longhouse was converted into two separate lock-up shops with a cottage between the two ; in 1999 the Heritage Trust for the North West acquired the two shops and with grant aid from various organisations and individuals they were turned into a small Heritage Centre. The centre was opened in 2000 then in 2005 the Heritage Trust acquired the cottage in the middle. In 2010 work began to restore the cottage which had, at one time, been the living quarters for the occupants of the original longhouse ; a new floor was added to the Heritage Centre and it was reopened in 2011, with the cottage being leased on a short-term let.
On the wall of the right hand building was a large plaque, The Spirit of Heysham, carved by a Michael Edwards to depict the village’s historic legacies including St. Peter’s Church and St. Patrick’s Chapel with its hilltop barrow graves. Each year in mid July the village holds a 2-day Viking festival with battle re-enactments, food and craft stalls and a whole range of family activities ; above the Spirit of Heysham plaque, and on the balcony at the top of a fire escape, was a large Viking figure presumably left over from one of the festivals as a bit of an attraction.
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Looking down Main Street
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The Heritage Centre cottage
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Cottage Tea Rooms, Main Street
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With its whitewashed cottages and colourful flowers in tubs and hanging baskets the village’s main street was certainly very pretty. There was one thing I had to do though before I left all this behind and returned to Morecambe – the little hedgehog had been on my mind and I couldn’t leave without going back to the graveyard to see if it was okay. Although I wasn’t sure if I would actually find it I did, quite unexpectedly ; it was on the grass about twenty yards from where I’d left it so it seemed that even with its damaged leg it could still get about. Being out in the daylight wasn’t ideal but if it could find some food and somewhere safe to curl up then maybe it would have a chance – as I reluctantly walked away I really hoped so.
Heading out of the village I took the upper path above the promenade ; at the bottom of the slope was a large field with a handful of friendly ponies who all came to say hello and a sweet little foal who seemed to be quite shy. The ponies seemed to be looking for titbits but unfortunately I didn’t have anything to give them. Back at Morecambe’s West End I checked the time and found I only had an hour until the time of my train home so not wanting to stray too far from the vicinity of the station I only walked as far as the area near the Midland Hotel.
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Heading back to Morecambe
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Morecambe itself is an odd place. The busy seaside resort I remember from my childhood and early teens fell into a decline in the late 1970s and the following years saw the loss of both piers and the eventual closure of the dolphin show (not a bad thing), the open air swimming pool, the Art Deco sea front Midland Hotel and the promenade fairground/theme park. Regeneration and investment, especially of the West End area, began about fifteen years ago ; after a major refurbishment the Midland Hotel reopened in 2008, the former promenade railway station building became an arts venue, there’s a Morrisons supermarket and retail park not far from the seafront and the promenade itself has had a makeover. Even so, the seafront is still shabby in places ; the land where the theme park once was is still derelict and surrounded by hoardings, there are several empty and shuttered-up shops and a few of the bed-and-breakfast places seem to need a bit of an external makeover. In spite of this though the areas along the promenade which have been done up do look really nice ; to be honest I do like Morecambe in spite of its shabbiness.
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The Midland Hotel and central promenade
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The Stone Jetty
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The Time & Tide Bell, installed on Stone Jetty in March 2019
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Midland Hotel from Stone Jetty
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Central promenade gardens
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With one final shot of the promenade gardens I headed for the station, only to find when I got there that my train had been cancelled, however a replacement bus to Lancaster station had been laid on. Unfortunately, because of the one-way system round Lancaster town centre, the bus was on the last minute arriving at the station so I had to run to get my connecting train. I made it with a few seconds to spare though and the rest of the journey home passed quite well.
Although back in Morecambe the blue sky had clouded over somewhat it had been lovely while I was in Heysham and the sunshine had really shown the village off well. It had been my first visit there for many years, I’d really enjoyed my day and I’d got some lovely photos – maybe next time I won’t leave it so long before I return.

Glasson Dock and Lancaster Canal

As October seems to have been constantly wet and miserable, weather which now looks like it’s continuing into November, I thought I’d brighten things up a bit by posting a Monday walk which I did on a warm and sunny day in early August. Having been to Garstang only a couple of weeks previously I decided this time to go a bit further afield and have a wander round Glasson Dock, a little place on the River Lune estuary which I hadn’t been to for several years.
Back in the early years, before becoming a dock, Glasson was just a small farming and fishing community but because of the increasing difficulty of navigation up the Lune to Lancaster docks the Lancaster port authorities decided to build a dock there. Land at Glasson was purchased in 1780 and construction was started, with the dock finally being completed and opened in 1787 ; it was a well equipped place and could hold up to 25 merchant ships.
Construction of the Lancaster Canal was started in 1792 and finished in 1800 and during that time thought was given to making a connection between it and the sea, although the original plans weren’t actioned. Those plans were revived in 1819 and after additional finance was raised construction of a canal branch, later known as the Glasson Arm, was started in 1823 and opened in 1826. Over its two-and-a-half mile length from Galgate to Glasson the branch dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal is lock-free for the whole of its length the Glasson branch was constructed with six locks between Galgate and the Glasson Basin, with a seventh lock between the basin and the dock itself.
In 1834 a shipyard and Customs House were built at the dock, followed by a watch house in 1836 and a dry dock in 1841. The quay was connected by a branch line to the railway network in 1883, operating passenger services until 1930 then continuing with goods services until its final closure in 1964. The shipyards, which had been mainly concerned with ship repair rather than ship building, eventually closed in 1968 with the dry dock being filled in a year later. A limited amount of commercial shipping still uses the dock to this day, with outgoing shipments including coal for the Isle of Man and Scotland’s Western Isles and incoming cargoes of fertiliser and animal foodstuffs. Since the shipyards closed in the late 1960s the canal basin has developed over the years into a marina for pleasure craft, with mooring facilities for 220 boats and a wide range of boating services, and in more recent years the trackbed of the disused railway line has become a very pleasant linear park and cycleway.
The road into Glasson runs alongside the salt marshes of the estuary, with a large rough-surfaced car park overlooking the canal basin and marina. At the end of the car park and set back off the road was the Lock Keepers Rest, a permanently sited large caravan-type fast food place with tables outside, and across the corner was the white walled Victoria Inn. The last time I was at Glasson Dock the Victoria was open but due to lack of business it closed four years ago – a shame really as it looked like it would have been a nice place for a meal and a drink.
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View from the road into Glasson Dock
The road past the Victoria Inn led to a small car park at the beginning of the east side of the dock and across the far side a crane was unloading something from a cargo ship. Up ahead I could see a small white building with an odd-shaped tower at one end of its roof. Intrigued I went to take a look but was told by a guy in a nearby portacabin that members of the public weren’t allowed along the dock side – so I asked nicely and he said I could go and take a couple of photos if I was quick about it. The little building, apparently now used for storage, had originally been a lighthouse built round about the same time as the dock ; there seems to be very little information about it but it was classed as Grade ll listed in 1985.
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Back past the lock gates which separated the dock from the canal basin I decided to take a walk along the canal, something I’d never done on any previous visits to Glasson. Close to the car park was a permanently moored ‘live-aboard’ narrow boat looking quite attractive with its bright pots of flowers on its roof, then a bit further along and in complete contrast was a sunken wreck with just its cabin sticking up out of the water. I think I remember seeing that boat years ago when it was complete and being lived on ; information tells me that it was called Kikobo and was an ex-fishing boat. During high winds in December 2013 it was repeatedly struck against the dock side until a damaged plank sprung a leak and it went down, although not as far as it is now. Because of bad weather it couldn’t be salvaged at the time and for whatever reason it was just left to sink even lower – a shame really that it’s ended up like that.
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A hundred yards or so past the beginning of the canal was Christ Church, designed by Lancaster architect Edmund Sharpe and built in 1839-40. The east window has a modern design dating from 1979 while the other windows all date from the 19th century, and the churchyard contains the war graves of two soldiers from World War l and one soldier from World War ll.
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Christ Church, Glasson
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Unfortunately being hampered by the restraints of work later on I had to keep my canal walk reasonably short as I wanted to make time for coffee and a snack at the cafe near the dock, so I only walked as far as the third bridge before turning round and retracing my steps. It was a nice walk though, and once I’d got away from the canal basin and past the first bridge the scenery was lovely.
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The first bridge
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View looking towards the second bridge
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View towards the third bridge
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Looking back to the second bridge
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Heading back to the Glasson Basin
Back in the village I crossed the end of the canal by the swing bridge and went to the café on the far side of the dock, ordering a ham and cheese toastie and a can of Coke as it was really too warm for coffee. It was really pleasant sitting out in the sunshine but all too soon it was time to have another wander round before I made tracks for home.  Just along from the café was the Dalton Arms pub set back in a large car park on the west side of the dock, and just by the entrance was a long planter with a very pretty flower display which I thought was worth a photo.
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Tithebarn swing bridge
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View from outside the cafe
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Back across the car park and behind the Victoria Inn I got a photo of the view over the estuary looking towards Overton village, then with shots from the nearby bowling green and cycleway I headed back to the van.  As I drove away from the village I stopped at the side of the road for one final shot of the view over the inner estuary then I headed for home without stopping again.
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View across to Overton
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The bowling green and estuary
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View towards the Bowland fells
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View over the inner estuary
It had been nice to spend a couple of hours or so at Glasson Dock after not having been there for quite a while, and since then I’ve discovered details of a circular walk in the area which takes in a few points of interest so no doubt I’ll be making a return visit sometime next summer.

Kildare round tower and St. Brigid’s Cathedral

In which I climb six near-vertical ladders and look round another church…
After the lovely sunshine and blue sky of the previous couple of days the last full day of the holiday arrived very cloudy and grey but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from going out. My destination this time was Kildare with a couple of places to visit in mind, and I got the 10.15am coach – when it finally came – from Roscrea. It put me off at Kildare shopping village so I thought I may as well have a quick look round while I was there, although the designer shops are all so expensive I would have needed to take out a mortgage if I wanted to buy something.
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The first place I really wanted to visit was Kildare round tower, specifically to climb up the inside to the top. I’d first discovered it on a visit to Kildare a couple of years ago but it was early December then and it was closed for the winter months so I’d put it on my list of places to go back to when I had the opportunity. Walking through the town from the shopping village I came across a building which looked like it had once been three cottages but was now just one place with painted windows and doors at the front. There was nothing to say what it was, and in spite of much Googling I still haven’t found out, but round the side was a colourful enclosed space with a handmade plaque on the wall saying that bit was St. Brigid’s evergreen garden.
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Kildare street art?
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Kildare round tower is situated in the grounds of St. Brigid’s Cathedral ; built in the 12th century on the site of a previous much older tower the walls are over 2ft thick and at 108ft in height it’s Ireland’s second tallest tower and one of only two which can be climbed. The Romanesque doorway, which is situated 13ft above the ground, is constructed of ornately carved dark red sandstone receding in four ‘steps’, while the original conical cap was replaced by castellations in the 18th century. These castellations have crumbled in places over time so there’s now a steel cage round the tower roof to stop anyone falling off.
At the bottom of the steps leading up to the door was a small shed with two very genial Irish guys taking payment for doing the climb and after handing over my 4 euros I set off on my adventure. Now in the last few years I’ve climbed quite a variety of steep staircases, usually spiral ones, but this wasn’t even a staircase ; a series of six almost vertical ladders took me up through the floors, and though four of the ladders seemed to be fairly modern in construction ladders three and five have been in place since 1874. The tower narrowed in width as I got higher up and the bottom of each ladder was almost touching the wall, meaning there was only just enough space for me to squeeze onto the first step. Added to that was the fact that the top two ladders only had a handrail on one side – this definitely wasn’t a climb for anyone with claustrophobia or a fear of heights.
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Photo from 2017 showing the position of the doorway

Kildare Round Tower doorway

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Looking down from the doorway
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Ladder 1
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Ladder 2
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Ladder 3
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Ladder 4
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Ladder 5 with only one handrail
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Ladder 6 – still only one handrail
Eventually I reached the top of the last ladder and emerged onto the roof ; it was a shame it was such a cloudy grey day as the views over Kildare and the surrounding area were excellent and I got several shots as I walked round. I had to watch where I was putting my feet though as there was no guard rail round the top of the ladder ; one wrong step and I could have fallen through the hole to the platform below. The custodians of the tower mustn’t have heard of health and safety! I took my photos without mishap though then set off on the slow and careful climb back down the six ladders.
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The top of ladder 6 and the tower roof
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Views of  Kildare town from the tower
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Rear of the cathedral from the tower doorway
Back at ground level I had a quick chat to the two guys in the shed then went to have a look in the cathedral. In the entrance was a small collection of medieval sculptural monuments, including the tomb of Bishop Wellesley who died in 1539, and there were many more historical features in the cathedral itself but I was more interested in the stained glass windows. They were all very lovely, as most stained glass windows are, but I particularly liked the modern design dedicated to St. Luke and installed in 1974.
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The High Altar
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Carving on the side of the pulpit steps
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The Bishop’s Throne
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A section of the beautifully tiled floor
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The front of the church
For some strange reason the cathedral closed for lunch at 1pm and as it was getting close to that and it looked very much like I was the only person in the place I thought I’d better go before I got locked in. My next port of call was within walking distance and this was one I was really looking forward to.
To be continued…

St. Mary’s Cathedral & St. Mary’s Church, Limerick

While on my recent walk around Limerick I visited both St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church which are only a short distance away from each other ; very confusing to have two St. Mary’s in close proximity but the Cathedral is Church of Ireland (Anglican) while the other church is a Catholic one.
St. Mary’s Cathedral, or to give it its full title The Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgin, was founded in 1168 and built on the site of a palace belonging to the last King of Munster ; it’s the oldest building in Limerick still in continuous daily use. The west door is said to have once been the original main entrance to the palace though it’s now only used on ceremonial occasions ; a centuries-old tradition decrees that the bishops of Limerick knock and enter the Cathedral by that door as part of their installation ceremony. The Cathedral tower wasn’t added to the original building until the 14th century ; at 120ft high it contains a peal of eight bells and a stationary service bell which can be rung from the ground floor.
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St. Mary’s Cathedral
St Mary's catherdral west door
The Romanesque west door
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One of the features in the cathedral was a small opening known as the ‘leper’s squint’ in one of the walls of the north transept. In medieval times leprosy was common and believed to be highly contagious so lepers weren’t allowed into churches ; the ‘leper’s squint’ allowed them to see and hear services and receive Communion through the opening without coming into contact with other worshipers. There were so many interesting features in the cathedral that it would have been impossible to photograph them all and read all the information about them in the time I had so as I wandered round I just photographed the ones which intrigued me the most.
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The ‘leper’s squint’
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This cute woodcarving was in the choir stalls

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My final shot, and what I think is the nicest of all the windows
In contrast to the age of the Cathedral St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church is less than 90 years old, having been built between 1930 and 1932 on the site of a previously demolished church built in 1749 ; all that remains of the original church is a font and a plaque at the rear of the present church. While I’d found the interior of the Cathedral to be quite dark and a bit oppressive in many places the interior of this church was a complete contrast ; it was light and bright and had a much more airy feel to it.
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St. Mary’s Catholic Church
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Behind the high altar were six Venetian mosaics, each depicting an unnamed angel and with a verse of the hymn ‘Te Deum’ underneath. Above the mosaics were three stained glass windows depicting the Visitation, the Assumption, and the Annunciation, while on the ground the beautiful designs of the marble floor tiles were certainly worthy of a couple of photos.
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Back outside in the bright sunshine I pondered on the two churches I’d just been in, and while the cathedral had much more historical interest it was the bright and airy church I much preferred. And who knows, I may well pay another visit the next time I go to Limerick.

University Church and Dublin doors

Walking along past the south side of St. Stephen’s Green on my second day in Dublin I came across the porch entrance to the Newman University Church, or to give it its full title the Church of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. Sandwiched between two tall houses this church entrance was small, very unusual, and nothing like any church entrance I’ve ever seen before.  Discovering that the church was open I went in to look round, and if I thought the entrance was unusual the interior was even more so.
Founded in 1855 by John Henry Newman (later Cardinal) for the Catholic University of Ireland founded just a few years previously, the church was designed in a Byzantine Revival style due to Newman’s dislike of Gothic architecture, and it was built on what had previously been the gardens of 87 St. Stephen’s Green. The house itself was built in 1730 and after the construction of the church it remained throughout the years as the church presbytery until it was sold in 1988. Above the porch is a suspended belfry which houses a set of electronic chimes ; the original bell is housed in the administration block of the Belfield Campus.
From the porch six steps led down to a long atrium and through a door at the far end I emerged into the ante-church which had an overhead gallery supported by arches, beams and marble columns. At one time iron railings separated this part of the church from the nave but they were removed in 1990 and now surround a couple of small shrines. It would take me all day to write about all the features of this church and how uniquely beautiful everything is so I’ll just say that comprehensive details can be found here and my photos can do the talking.
University Church Dublin
The porch entrance to University Church
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The nave from the ante-church
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The sanctuary
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In the Lady Chapel
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Looking down from the pulpit
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The right hand wall
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The left hand wall
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The Nativity
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The Adoration of the Magi
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The Boy Christ among the Doctors in the Temple
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The nave from the sanctuary
After leaving the church I went to the National Museum then from there I crossed the road to nearby Merrion Square to look for some of Dublin’s colourful Georgian doors. Back in the early 18th century the doors were all of a similar pale neutral colour ; part of the elegance of Georgian architecture is its uniformity and perfect symmetry but eventually many of the doors’ owners decided they wanted to express their individuality by changing the door colours, knockers and fanlights etc.
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This one needs a bit of TLC
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Fast forward to 1970 and an American advertising executive shooting a commercial in Ireland was so struck by the beauty of the doors that he photographed 40 of them. The poster collage he produced was used for a campaign to promote Ireland in the USA but then the posters themselves became a commercial success, selling in their thousands and showing that the classic Georgian doorway was one of Dublin’s treasures. Nowadays, a look in any gift shop with a postcard stand will invariably produce a card showing some of the city’s colourful doors.
As for that beautiful little church, strangely it wasn’t featured in the book so therefore wasn’t on my list of things to find. Discovering it was purely accidental but I’m glad I found it as it truly is an amazing place – and since getting home and finding out more about it it’s now on my list for a definite revisit in the not-too-distant future.