An afternoon in Southport

Back in mid September an unforseen and sudden change in circumstances meant that Michael’s planned five days over in Ireland didn’t happen so he swapped three of his days off work for days another time and on one of his two remaining days we went to Southport. Now to be honest I’ve been there so many times over the last few years that I felt there was nothing different for me to see or photograph but I wanted Michael to have a nice day out to make up for not going to Ireland and Southport was his choice so off we went.
Parking by the Marine Lake we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up again at 4pm, and I headed into town to find the Go Outdoors store – I wanted to look for some blue plates and bowls for when I next go camping but the Blackburn and Preston stores didn’t have any, neither could I get them from their online store so I thought I’d try the Southport one. On my way to the town centre I passed The Bold Hotel, originally built by Thomas Mawdsley in 1832 but now a Grade ll luxury boutique place; I remember Michael staying there on a particular occasion several years ago and though I wouldn’t normally photograph the front of a hotel it was the strange looking horse above the main door which attracted me.
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When I finally found the Go Outdoors store it came up trumps and I got just what I wanted, four plates and four bowls in blue for just £1 each; of course having a large carrier bag with its contents in one hand and holding Poppie’s lead in the other hand meant it was impossible to use the camera for any further photos so I took my purchases back to the van then set out again. 
At the beginning of the pier I decided to do something I’ve thought about for ages, walk right to the far end of it, however I changed my mind on the spur of the moment and did something else I’ve never ever done – I got a return ticket to ride along on the land train just for the experience. There was nothing much at the end of the pier when I got there, just a pavilion with a cafe, an amusement arcade with vintage machines and a modern sculpture supposed to represent the movement of wind and water, but at least I could say I’d been there.
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Dotted at various points near the pier were several modern sculptures on tall steel poles and walking through the main promenade gardens I came to something I’ve never really noticed before, a drinking fountain surrounded by attractive iron railings. About 1 metre square and standing 3 metres high it was a gift from one John Fernley in 1861 for the use of Southport’s lifeboat crew and fishermen and was sculpted from sandstone, with polished pink granite, coloured mosaic and a white marble bowl.
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Farther along the promenade and across the road I found something that’s very hard to miss – on a gable end wall was a huge mural of the iconic 3-times Grand National winner Red Rum in training on Southport beach. Commissioned as part of Sefton’s Borough of Culture celebrations for 2020 it was painted by Liverpool-based street artist Paul Curtis in March this year, and covering an area of more than 270 square metres it took over a week to complete.
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Heading through King’s Gardens towards Marine Lake I came to a flower bed built up on a corner. It looked rather unkempt but the flowers were quite pretty so were worth one or two snaps. At the far end of the lake was the start (or end depending on direction of travel) of the Lakeside Miniature Railway although being mid week it wasn’t running, and just a few yards away was a carousel with its brightly coloured horses and designs providing several photo opportunities.
Southport Miniature Railway was built in 1911 and operated by Dr. Ladmore, a local dentist; it opened on May 11th that year with the first steam train, King George V, running at 3pm. After being taken over by Mr Griffith Vaughn Llewellyn it was renamed Llewellyn’s Miniature Railway, then in 1945 it was sold to Harry Barlow who owned a local engineering company famous for building miniature locomotives. It was renamed Lakeside Miniature Railway and the first petrol driven trains started running that year.
In 1968 the railway was sold on again to John Spencer, a stallholder at the nearby Pleasureland fairgound, and he did much to improve it and tidy it up. In 2001 the line was sold yet again to Don Clark and Graham Leeming then in 2016 it was purchased by Norman Wallis, current owner of Pleasureland. The railway is one of the earliest of its type still running on its original route and is said to be the oldest continuously running 15-inch gauge railway in the world.
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From the carousel I made my way along the seaward side of the lake to the wide bridge across the centre. It was getting on for 4pm and I just had time to take a handful of photos as I crossed the bridge then it was time to meet up with Michael at our prearranged spot near the beginning of the pier.
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Not far from the pier was the Waterfront pub/restaurant, we had been in there a couple of times before and we knew the food was pretty good, plus dogs were allowed in the bar area, so that was our choice for a meal before setting off for home. Michael had made a couple of purchases of his own while in the town centre so with my own success in getting the plates and bowls I wanted plus the photos I took we agreed that it had been a good day out for both of us.
 

A wander round Fleetwood

Following the very pleasant couple of hours I recently spent at Fleetwood Nature Reserve and the marshes I drove the short distance into Fleetwood itself to have a wander round there. Parking spaces along the seafront were all occupied so I went along to the large car park near the Marine Hall expecting to pay and was quite surprised to find it was free; leaving the van there I went through to the traffic free promenade and walked back in the opposite direction, eventually ending up back on the main seafront road.

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Painted pebbles along the beach wall

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Set back in a corner of the esplanade was the Beach Lighthouse, also known as the Lower Lighthouse. Commissioned by Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood, the landowner, developer and MP who founded the town, it was designed in 1839 by Decimus Burton, one of the foremost English architects and urban designers of the 19th century. Built of sandstone and 44ft tall its style is neoclassical with a square colonnaded base, square tower, and octagonal lantern gallery. First illuminated on December 1st 1840 it was originally run off the town’s gas supply before later being converted to electricity. It was designated a Grade ll listed building in April 1950.
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A bit farther along the promenade was ‘Welcome Home’, a bronze life size sculpture of a mother with her baby, daughter and family dog designed as a tribute to the families who would welcome back the ships bringing their loved ones home after several weeks of deep sea fishing. Sculpted by artist Anita Lafford it was sponsored by the Lofthouse Company, makers of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges, and unveiled in 1997. Unfortunately shooting directly into the sun meant that my photo wasn’t as good as it could have been.

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A few yards along from there was the Fishing Community Memorial and farther on still was the Helicopter Crash Memorial. On December 27th 2006 a helicopter with two crew was ferrying five gas rig workers between platforms beyond Morecambe Bay when it crashed into the sea, killing everyone on board. Rescue efforts recovered the bodies of six men, including the two pilots, and they were brought back to shore at Fleetwood by RNLI lifeboat crew. The body of the seventh victim was never recovered.
An investigation into the crash started the same night as the accident and the subsequent formal report stated that ‘human factors’ were the cause of the crash. Sandra Potton, wife of the pilot Steve Potton, chose the spot near Fleetwood lifeboat station for the lectern-style memorial and met the cost of it herself.

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Fishing Community memorial

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Helicopter crash memorial

A short distance down a side road off the promenade was the Pharos Lighthouse, otherwise known as the Upper Lighthouse. Also designed by Decimus Burton and with a height of 93ft it was, like the Lower Lighthouse, first illuminated on December 1st 1840 and ran off the town’s gas supply before being converted to electricity. Operating in conjunction with its sister lighthouse it guides shipping safely through the treacherous sandbanks of the Wyre estuary. Unusually for a functioning lighthouse it stands in the middle of a residential street and was once a striking cream and red colour but in the late 1970s the paint was stripped off to expose the original sandstone.
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Back on the seafront I had a wander down by the side of what must be Fleetwood’s one and only amusement arcade just to see what was down there and came to a long concrete path running above the riverside and past several jetties. With nothing of interest to see I didn’t bother walking along but there were some good views across the river to Knott End on the other side.

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Cottages at Knott End

On the seafront once more I crossed the road into Euston Park situated on a corner plot between the esplanade and the large North Euston Hotel. Not really big enough to call a proper park it was more of a large garden but it was a very pleasant place; the obelisk in the centre bears a plaque with the inscription ‘Erected by public subscription to the memory of James Abram and George Greenall who lost their lives in the storm of November 1890 whilst heroically endeavouring to save others’.
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Heading south along the esplanade my next port of call was the boating lake and model yacht pond but I remembered they were quite a distance down so I collected the van and drove down, just managing to find a space in a small car park between the road and the yacht pond. A bridge between the boating lake and the yacht pond took me to the beach and dunes; the view was nice enough but there was nothing else there so with just one shot I retraced my steps for a walk by the side of the yacht pond before going back to the van – it was time to head for home.
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Driving back along the esplanade there was just one more place I wanted to check out before I left Fleetwood completely. About twenty years ago I’d gone with someone else to what was then Freeport Leisure, a large shopping ‘village’ on the outskirts of the town; I hadn’t been there since but I remembered there was a marina there so I went to take a quick look. Apparently the place has undergone a few changes over the years and is now known as Affinity Outlet Lancashire; for some reason it didn’t seem to be as big as I remembered but that could just be my mind playing tricks. It was a pleasant enough place though and I got a handful of shots before I finally set off for home.
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By the time I’d reached the shopping village the sky had clouded over a fair bit but the sun was still shining and it stayed with me all the way back home. It had been an interesting and enjoyable day out but with Poppie now curled up in her bed it was time to grab a chilled can of Coke from the fridge and relax for a while.

Lytham Hall, minus the snowdrops

All through February I was hoping to go to Lytham Hall to see the snowdrops – I went last year and was well impressed – but the continually wet and windy weather has made sure I didn’t get there, however the forecast for that area yesterday promised some sunshine in the afternoon so at lunchtime I took a chance and set off with Poppie for the Fylde coast. It was indeed sunny when I got there, in fact it had been sunny all the way from home, but sadly the snowdrops were all but over. The vast carpets of pretty little white flowers which had so impressed me last year were decidedly threadbare and dull but the grounds are so nice it was still worth having a walk round.
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Since my visit there last year I’d found out that somewhere in the woodland was a small lake with the remains of an old ruined boathouse which was worth a photo so I went in search of it, only to find what had  been the boathouse was looking rather less than photogenic. It seemed to be undergoing some restoration as it was cordoned off from the footpath – although I didn’t let that stop me, I just walked round the open end of the barrier to get the shots I wanted.
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Next came a walk round the fishing lake known as Curtains Pond; no boathouse there but more open and attractive than the first lake. From there I went to the courtyard where there was an attractive corner with plants for sale; I was hoping to buy some snowdrops but there were none in evidence and the only person I could ask was deep in a long conversation with two other ladies. I hung around for a while but there was no sign of an end to their conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt so I photographed some very colourful flowers then took myself off elsewhere.
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It was nice to see that since my visit a year ago the scaffolding which had surrounded a large part of the Hall at the time had gone so I was able to take a photo of the entire front of the building, then after a short wander round the grounds closest to the Hall I retired to the dog friendly cafe for coffee and cake which, incidentally, was very nice.
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Without venturing deeper into the woodland and risking getting muddy wet feet I decided to call it a day and make tracks for home once I came out of the café. Walking back to the car park my eye was caught by a flash of colour just visible among the trees and when I went to check it out I found a large rhododendron, more of a tree than a bush, in the early stages of blooming. The first day of March seems to be very early for something like that, especially with all the recent bad weather – maybe the Fylde coast and the Lytham Hall woodland has a milder climate than here at home.

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A splash of colour among the trees

Driving along the long private road from the Hall I stopped briefly to get a shot of the waterlogged parkland on the other side of the fence then continued past the station and through the town centre to the promenade where I decided to do something I’ve meant to do for a long while but haven’t done.

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This isn’t a pond, it’s waterlogged parkland

Finding a free roadside parking space I left the van and went for a walk along Lytham green to the windmill, first passing the church of St. John the Divine. The church was built in 1848/49 and was paid for by public subscription, with the land having been donated by the Clifton family of Lytham Hall. The windmill was built in 1805 and was designed for grinding wheat and oats to make flour or bran; it was gutted by fire in 1919 but two years later the owner donated it to the town and it was restored, then in 1951 it was given a Grade ll listing.
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Next to the windmill is the old lifeboat house, originally built in 1852. It’s now a museum and on display at the top of the nearby slipway are two anchors which were caught off the Southport coast in the trawl net of a Fleetwood fishing boat in the 1980s; they were restored in 2013 by Fylde Borough Council and various volunteer groups.

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The old lifeboat house

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An unusual decorative memorial bench near the windmill

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Those were to be my last shots of the afternoon. The grounds of Lytham Hall had been quite sheltered but on the green there was a bitterly cold gale force wind blowing; time to head home and stay in the warm indoors for the rest of the day.

 

Snowdrops for Sophie

In light of my recent incredibly sad and heart breaking loss of Sophie I thought long and hard about doing this walk, especially as I’d originally intended taking Sophie with me, but there was nothing to be gained by staying at home and after several weekends of not being able to go anywhere I really needed a few hours out. My intended destination was Hornby Castle Gardens, only open on a few select weekends each year with the most recent being the snowdrop weekend. Sunday’s weather forecast for that area was for sunshine and even though it was cloudy and grey here at home I decided to take a chance and go.
As I got to the far side of the nearby moors I could see sunshine and blue sky ahead and by the time I was heading north up the M6 it had turned into a really lovely day. Living where I do, halfway up a hill on the north side of town, I don’t normally encounter any instances of flooding in bad weather so I was quite surprised at the sight which greeted me as I drove along the A683 towards the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Just before Claughton village the River Lune had overflowed and a huge area of flat grazing fields had disappeared underwater, though fortunately the natural slope of the land from the roadside had prevented the water from reaching the road itself or any roadside properties.

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There’s a river in there somewhere

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Set back off the road, and just out of reach of the flood water, was the old Lanefoot Crossing signal box in the garden of a nearby cottage. Once part of the long-disused ‘Little’ North Western Railway line which operated between Lancaster and Wennington, then extended to Leeds, it was in use between 1849 and 1968, and in more recent years has been preserved and refurbished to be used as a summerhouse for the cottage.

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The Lanefoot Crossing signal box

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There was no parking available in the grounds of Hornby Castle so I left the van in the village car park and walked along the road and over the bridge to the castle gardens entrance gates. The River Wenning, swollen from all the recent rain, was in full flow as it ran west to join the Lune, and on the east side of the bridge the water was a seething boiling mass as it came over the nearby weir – definitely not a place anyone would want to fall in.

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River Wenning looking west

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Looking east

Entrance to the castle grounds cost £5 with dogs free of charge and after being given a map, which I didn’t really need as I’ve been there before, though not at this time of year, I set off with Poppie to find some snowdrops. Now I don’t know if my expectations were too high or if maybe the recent bad weather was a factor, but far from seeing carpets of snowdrops as I thought I would all I found were small clumps dotted here and there among the trees, with several clumps together on the bank leading up to the castle lawns.

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Driveway up to the castle

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The pond and island

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Part of the path along the riverside had been closed off as it was muddy and very slippery but I got round that by walking along the riverbank itself, and when I rejoined the path I came to the remains of a dead tree trunk. One side looked very much like the other so it was hard to tell which had been roots and which were branches but I liked the shape of it so it was worth a quick snap.

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Along the riverside walk

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Just past the tree trunk the path wound steeply uphill and almost doubled back on itself, emerging at one corner of the castle lawn. At the far side steps led down a short steep bank to the main driveway and on the bank itself were a couple of clumps of pink flowers ; they looked a bit sorry for themselves but at least they provided a bit of colour.
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Across the driveway a path and a succession of wide shallow steps went down through a wooded area to the walled garden ; at this time of year there wasn’t much colour about the place but I did see some more pink flowers, some daffodils, a few more isolated clumps of snowdrops and some lovely bright blue things which I don’t know the name of.
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The walled garden was my last port of call, I’d been everywhere else and with so few snowdrops to see there was no point walking round again, so I made my way back to the van and with one last shot from the bridge I set off for home, arriving back at 4pm and still in sunshine. Although Hornby Castle’s website promises ‘hundreds of named varieties of snowdrops’ the ones I saw all looked the same to me, and compared to the carpets of flowers I saw at Lytham Hall last year the clumps of snowdrops dotted here and there were rather a disappointment.
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This had been my first proper walk with Poppie on her own and it seemed so strange having just one little four-paws with me instead of two. Even though the snowdrops didn’t live up to my expectations I know that Sophie would have loved the walk so I’ve decided – when the time is right, and in her memory, there’ll be some snowdrops planted in her corner of my garden.

 

A short visit to Southport

After most of December being damp, grey and miserable the day before New Year’s Eve turned out to be fine and sunny with plenty of blue sky and as I’d been unable to take Laura anywhere decent since she came to stay with us we decided to make the most of the nice day and go to Southport. The drive out there was very pleasant and the sun was still shining when we got there, however it wasn’t to last long.
Parking up in the car park just off the main esplanade and overlooking Marine Lake we realised that none of us had any change for the ticket machine so Michael said he would pay by card. Now we had never paid by card before so weren’t familiar with the procedure, however he put his card in the machine and tapped in the amount he wanted to pay but other than the screen saying ‘please remove card’ nothing else happened – no printed ticket, nothing. So he tried it again and got the same result, which then had us thinking that the machine was faulty and it had taken the payment twice without giving us a ticket – and we were even more puzzled when the guy behind us put cash in and it printed him a ticket.
Not knowing whether we had actually paid or not, and not wanting to leave the van if we hadn’t, I rang the number on the side of the machine and after pressing 1 for this and 2 for that etc I spoke to a very helpful guy who said that if the machine hadn’t printed a ticket then we hadn’t paid, and if we paid by card or on the app we wouldn’t get a ticket anyway. He took the details of the van and our payment over the phone and assured us that we had up to four hours in the car park – and after almost half an hour of messing about we were finally sorted.
Leaving Michael and Laura to their own devices I took Sophie and Poppie and went for a walk along the lakeside, though I only managed to take one photo before the sun went in and the sky clouded over big style. Very disappointing but I made the best of it and continued my walk round the lake, through the gardens, down to the beach and back onto the pier, and the sun did come out again briefly a couple of times though the clouds were very grey.

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Marine Lake and Marine Way Bridge

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King’s Gardens

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Street art under a lake bridge

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Colourful walls at the skate park

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A very busy pier

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Although there hadn’t been many people down at the lakeside the pier was very busy, and when I got down to Lord Street it was even more so there – I would never have expected to see so many people on a winter’s day but presumably most of them had been attracted by whatever sales were on in the shops. Across the road from the shops and outside The Atkinson theatre and arts venue was a tall ‘Christmas tree’ type structure with lights which constantly changed colour ; I watched it for a while and took several photos but even though it wasn’t yet 2.30pm the grey sky meant that the light was already fading – time to give up, meet Michael and Laura and find something to eat.

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St. George’s Place gardens

I met Michael and Laura near the beginning of the pier and we went to the nearby Waterfront, a Hungry Horse pub/restaurant, for our meal. By the time we came out of there the daylight had almost disappeared and as there was nowhere else to really go to we returned to the van and drove home. Thinking back it had been a bit of a disappointing day really – this holiday for Laura was the first time she had come over to England and so far she had experienced nothing but damp days and grey skies ; with the morning sunshine and blue sky I’d really wanted to give her a nice day out but the change in the weather put the kibosh on that. Hopefully though, the next time she comes to stay the weather will be much better and I’ll be able to show her how nice Southport can be.

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.

 

Dublin street art

While on my recent days out in Dublin I came across many different variations of street art, most of them in the Temple Bar area, so join me on my Monday walk this week as I wander the streets, lanes and alleyways on the south side of the River Liffey. Most of the artwork is unfortunately ‘artist unknown’ although the names of some artists are underneath the relevant photos – mouse over or click on the multi-shots for names and/or locations.

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The Tara building, Tara street, Artist – Maser

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Temple Bar Laundry, Aston Quay/Aston Place

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The Icon Factory art gallery/cafe, Aston Place

The Icon Walk is a public art installation showcasing original work by local artists and featuring many Irish icons both past and present ; it’s also a way of brightening up the forgotten lanes and alleyways behind Fleet Street and discouraging senseless graffiti and the discarding of rubbish. Although I wasn’t really interested in photographing the faces of various Irish people, most of whom I’ve never heard of, I did like the multi-coloured murals along one side of Bedford Lane.

At the end of Bedford Lane was an artistic tribute to the famous greyhound from the 19th century, Master McGrath (pronounced Magraa). The smallest of a litter of seven born in 1866 and trained by a well-known Waterford trainer of greyhounds for coursing he performed so badly at his first trial that his trainer ordered for him to be given away. His handler took him on and he went on to win several courses, after which he was given back to his trainer. Master McGrath was the first greyhound to win the Waterloo Cup three times and he became such a celebrity that his owner, the 2nd Baron Lurgan, was asked to take him to meet Queen Victoria and the Royal Family.
Master McGrath’s success was so great that Lord Lurgan was able to build a terrace of houses in Walthamstow, London, with the proceeds from his wins ; the houses still stand, forming part of Shernhall Street, though at one end they are still clearly marked as ‘Master McGrath Terrace’. The dog died of heart disease in early 1873 and an autopsy showed that his heart was twice the size of a normal dog’s heart ; he was buried in the grounds of a house called ‘Solitude’ in Lurgan.
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Bricked-up doorway, Bedford Row

The ESB Central Distributing Station is a large building which wraps around the corner of Fleet Street and Bedford Row. Built in 1926-28 for the Electricity Supply Board it houses an electricity substation and offices ; representative of the design used by the ESB in the early 20th century it’s one of the few buildings of that style in the city and is a significant contributor to the architectural character of the Temple Bar area. The modern artwork extends right along the front of the building but unfortunately I couldn’t get a decent photo of it as there were too many people around to spoil the shots so I had to be content with a side view.

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Side wall of ESB Central Distributing Station, Bedford Row

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Side wall of Auld Dubliner pub, Fleet Street

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Side wall of Japanese noodle bar, Asdill’s Row

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Artist group – Subset

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A pair of very bright shop doors

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Rear of Café Rubis, Crane Lane

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Above the Jam Art Factory, Crown Alley

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Shop front, Fownes Street, artist – KinMx

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Kennedy art shop, Harcourt Street

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Traffic light box, Tara Street

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Building site hoarding, City Quay, artist – Leah Hewson

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Irish Wolfhound, City Quay, artist – James Earley

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Shop front, George’s Quay, artist – Decoy

These are just some examples of Dublin’s street art, there are many more which either I couldn’t find at the time or I didn’t know about until I got home. One which I did find though provided me with so many photos I think it deserves a post of its own which will follow soon. An internet search since I got home has provided me with a map of four different street art walking routes in the city which take in many of the works by named artists, and though I may not have time to do all four walks in one day I fully intend to do at least two of them the next time I’m in Ireland.
I’m linking up this week with Jo’s Monday Walk where she shows us some of the delights of Sao Bras de Alportel in Portugal – do pop over and have a look if you haven’t already done so.

The Irish National Stud & Gardens

In which I fall foul – again – of the ‘law of Irish distance and directions’ and indulge my love of horses…
Chatting to the two guys in the shed at the bottom of Kildare tower I asked if it was possible to walk from there to the Irish National Stud. I thought it was but I wanted to be sure and they confirmed that yes, I could walk there, it was only a mile – if I took the road opposite the market square, followed it past the Grey Abbey, over the motorway, turned left at the end, next left and the second right would bring me to it. It sounded simple enough but by now being rather dubious about Irish directions and distances I decided to seek confirmation (or otherwise) from the information centre in the market square and a very nice lady in there gave me the exact same directions, telling me it would take me about half an hour.
Now at the speed I walk it does not  take me half an hour to cover just a mile so it sounded like this place was a bit more than that. Also it seemed like I would be doubling back on myself, however off I went and after what felt like forever – 29 minutes to be exact – I reached the entrance to the National Stud. On paying my entrance fee in the visitor centre I was given a couple of information leaflets, one of which had a map showing how to get there, and when I looked at it I realised that instead of following the directions I’d been given and going a long way round I could have walked down a different road which would have taken me straight there. Also there’s a regular free shuttle bus from the shopping village so I needn’t have walked there at all, but no-one had told me that!

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Blue : the way I went  –  Yellow : the way I could have gone

The Irish National Stud was originally founded in 1900 by Colonel William Hall-Walker, a horse-loving Scottish-born businessman from a famous brewing family. After purchasing a farm and other land at Tully on the outskirts of Kildare town he set up a thoroughbred horse breeding facility and quickly became the most successful breeder of his time, enjoying his finest hour when his favourite Tully-bred colt, leased to King Edward Vll, carried the royal colours into the winners enclosure after a famous victory in the 1909 Epsom Derby.
The world-renowned Japanese Gardens were devised by Colonel Hall-Walker and created between 1906 and 1910, being laid out by Japanese master horticulturalist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru. Planned to symbolise the ‘Life of Man’ through trees, plants, rocks, lawns and water the gardens trace the journey of a soul at it goes along the various paths of life from birth to death. The name Minoru means ‘the favourite one’ and this was chosen by the Colonel for his favourite horse, the one which won the 1909 Derby.
In 1915 Colonel Hall-Walker moved to England and gifted the entire Tully property and land to the Crown ; it then became the British National Stud and its success continued under the leadership of Sir Henry Greer, though the Japanese Gardens fell into a period of relative obscurity. In 1943 the newly formed Irish Government took over the land and buildings and in 1945 the Irish National Stud Company was formed, taking over the running of the stud in 1946 ; also that year the Japanese Gardens got a horticultural supervisor to return the gardens to their original splendour. Fast forward to the present day and in 1999, to celebrate the forthcoming Millennium, St. Fiachra’s Garden was designed by an award winning landscape architect to commemorate St. Fiachra, the patron saint of gardeners.
Turning left out of the visitor centre the first thing I came to was a very ‘flower power’ life-sized sculpture of Minoru, the horse which won the 1909 Epsom Derby. This was part of Under stARTers Orders (the capital letters aren’t a typing mistake) an arts charity initiative celebrating the redevelopment of the iconic Curragh Racecourse and raising funds for two charities local to Kildare, the Irish Injured Jockeys and Sensational Kids. A total of 21 resin sculptures were exclusively painted by some of Ireland’s leading equine and contemporary artists and were put on public display at various locations in and around the county, with the opportunity to buy either online or at a live auction in June.
The cost of the admission included a guided tour of the stud and its various facilities and though at first I’d intended just wandering about on my own I realised that there was a tour starting at 2pm so I decided to join it, having just enough time to snatch a handful of photos before going to the meeting point near the Minoru sculpture.

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‘Minoru’ by Liza Kavanagh

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The tour guide was a very friendly and knowledgeable young lady called Sarah and as she walked the group round she gave out lots of really interesting information about the workings of the stud, interspersed with a few amusing comments here and there. Past a sculpture of Invincible Spirit, the current top stallion, and the entrance to the Sun Chariot Yard foaling unit was the museum with the skeleton of the legendary Arkle displayed in the window. Arkle, owned by the then Duchess of Westminster and named after a mountain in Scotland, won 27 of his 35 races including three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup wins, and had the highest Timeform rating ever given to a steeplechaser ; he remains the greatest steeplechaser to have lived anywhere and at any time.

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Sculpture of Invincible Spirit

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Entrance to the Sun Chariot Yard

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Skeleton of Arkle (1957-1970) – the genuine article, not a plastic replica

Past the stallion boxes were the stallion paddocks where I was able to see at close range some of the world’s current best stallions. Depending on popularity a stallion’s breeding fees can range anywhere between the price of a car and the price of a house ; the top stallion is currently Invincible Spirit with stud fees of £120,000 per time, he is father to many champion racehorses and his foals can sell at auction for several hundred thousand pounds each. Past the nursery paddocks were the Living Legends paddocks where previously great racehorses can live out their retirement years, with five horses – Hurricane Fly, Hardy Eustace, Kicking King, Beef Or Salmon and Rite Of Passage – currently in residence.
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Invincible Spirit

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Decorated Knight

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Dragon Pulse

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Living Legends, L-R Hurricane Fly, Rite Of Passage, Kicking King, Beef Or Salmon

Across from the Living Legends paddocks was the extensive St. Fiachra’s Garden and once the tour ended I went back to take a couple of photos before going to the café for a much-needed coffee and a cake treat. With a good selection of cakes and other calorie-laden stuff I was spoilt for choice but eventually decided on a slice of Banoffee Pie, which was highly delicious and also very filling.

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Path through St. Fiachra’s Garden

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A look round the Japanese Gardens was a must and as the café was right next door I didn’t have far to go to get there. To be honest I don’t really subscribe to the Japanese ‘story of life told through a garden’ concept, I like to look round a garden for the garden itself, but all the features were numbered so I followed most of them – although not all in sequence – without referring to the story, the end of which is actually quite sad.
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The Bridge of Life

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The Tea House

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With or without the story the Japanese Gardens were lovely ; it was a shame it was such a grey day as with sunshine and blue sky they would be really stunning. Checking the time when I came out of the gardens I was hoping I would be able to go back to St. Fiachra’s Garden but there was a courtesy bus leaving the car park at 4.15 and I didn’t want to miss it (getting that would save me the walk back into town) so reluctantly I gave up on that idea.
The courtesy bus put me off just inside the shopping village and from there it was only a short walk across a car park to the bus stop for the coach to Roscrea. I arrived back at 6pm to another of Nellie’s lovely meals then later on I went round to Laura’s to spend a final hour with her before tackling the unwanted, although relatively easy, task of packing my things ready for the following day’s journey home. Apart from the needlessly long walk to get to the National Stud my day had been very interesting and successful, and not having had time to see all that the Stud has to offer means I’ll be making a return visit as soon as I get the opportunity.

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…