First of all I have to admit that I don’t normally take much notice of war memorials – if I see one and it looks nice or enhances the view then I’ll take a photo but I don’t stand there reading the inscriptions as the names mean nothing to me. However the one I saw recently in Ashton Gardens at St. Annes is so impressive and so movingly detailed it literally stopped me in my tracks and I just had to take some time to study it properly and photograph the many different aspects of it.
In the aftermath of the First World War, which had claimed many thousands of British lives, a huge wave of public commemoration resulted in tens of thousands of war memorials being erected across England, and one of these stands in Ashton Gardens as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by those members of the local community who had lost their lives during the war. Financed by a gift of £10,000 from Lord Ashton and unveiled in October 1924 the cenotaph itself was designed by prominent Scottish architect Thomas Smith Tait and constructed in white granite, with the bronze sculptural work carried out by notable Lancashire-born sculptor Walter Marsden who had himself served during the war and had been awarded a Military Cross.
The very top of the memorial pylon features a globe on which stands a female figure dressed in a long gown, with arms raised and looking to the sky, but it’s the pedestal which carries the most detail. A series of bronze plaques in relief show a succession of scenes depicting various aspects of the war, from a soldier saying an emotional goodbye to his wife while their small child tugs at her shawl, to a tired and weary group returning from the battlefield. The front face of the pedestal has a rectangular bronze panel inscribed ‘1914 : NAMES OF THE FALLEN : 1918’ with 170 names listed, and this is flanked on the left by the relief figures of an airman and a seaman and on the right by the figures of two infantrymen. The panels wrap round the sides of the pedestal and depict various other figures, while the rear face has a panel showing returning soldiers including stretcher-bearers and men carrying their wounded comrades ; in every panel the dress, weapons and other equipment are all shown in great detail. The front and rear faces of the pylon also each have a plaque inscribed ‘IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO FELL 1939 – 1945’ with 64 names on each, and a further plaque commemorates those who lost their lives in later conflicts.
On top of the pedestal, above the plaques and at either side of the pylon, are two of the most detailed, poignant and emotionally haunting sculptures I’ve ever seen. On the left, a shell-shocked soldier with his face showing the nervous strain and tension brought about by the ever-present feeling of danger, and on the right a young woman sitting gazing ahead in shock and sorrow at her husband’s death, not realising that her baby is looking to her for a mother’s love. I’d approached the war memorial from the sunken garden on the left so the sculpture of the soldier was the first thing I saw, and it was that which made me stop as it’s so detailed and life-like.
The sculptures and the panels express many of the emotions associated with wars and conflicts and as a centrepiece of Ashton Gardens the memorial is certainly very impressive. In February 1993 it was given a Grade ll listing, then in June 2017 the listing was upgraded from Grade ll to Grade ll* for its architectural and sculptural interest, design and historic interest, and rarity. To my mind that’s a very well-deserved listing, and at the next opportunity I’ll certainly go back to Ashton Gardens and pay the memorial another visit.
This week’s Monday walk features a place I was never aware of until someone at work told me about it just a few days ago. Yesterday was the first of Michael’s days off work and though the morning started off rather dull it had brightened up considerably by early lunchtime so we decided to drive over to the coast for a mooch and a meal. Leaving the van in the car park of our usual cafe at St. Annes we went for a coffee first then Michael went off to mooch round on his own while I took Sophie and Poppie on my discovery walk.
Ashton Gardens are located just a couple of streets behind the promenade and right on the edge of the town centre. Originally a rectangular plot of land the gardens were established in 1874 by the Land and Building Company and were named St. Georges Gardens ; they remained unchanged until 1914 when Lord Ashton gave a donation to acquire the gardens and an adjacent strip of land for the people of St. Annes. Later that year the council ran a competition to redesign the gardens, it was won by a local man and the gardens were redesigned to incorporate a greater diversity of spaces, although the original undulating nature of the land was retained. Renamed Ashton Gardens in honour of Lord Ashton they were formally opened on July 1st 1916 ; in 2010 a major refurbishment was undertaken thanks to a grant of almost £1.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund plus additional funding from other sources.
My walk started at the main entrance closest to the town centre and right from the start I found something to photograph. Turning right just inside the gates a short path and a few stone steps took me down to a couple of bowling greens where various games of bowls were in progress, then beyond the second green and down a few more steps I came to what appeared to be a rose garden. Although nothing was actually in flower I can imagine it would be really lovely when everything is blooming.
Beyond the rose garden, and lying in undulating ground, were two ponds connected by a narrow meandering waterway which was crossed at various points by stepping stones and a hump-back bridge, and sitting on top of a small island of rocks in the middle of the smaller pond was a young seagull who obligingly stayed put while I took his photo. Even with the still-bare trees this place was delightful and I got far too many photos to put them all on here.
Back towards the centre of the park was a circular sunken garden, and though some of the flower beds were still bare or very sparsely planted the others were full of deep purple hyacinths which gave off the most gorgeous perfume. In the centre of the wide main pathway was the war memorial – and it was so impressive and so movingly detailed that it really deserves a post of its own. At the end of the pathway I came to the second main entrance with its fancy double gates and with a final shot of the modern crest set in one of the gates I left Ashton Gardens and made my way to meet Michael back at the cafe.
Across the road from the entrance to the gardens some building work was in progress on a large corner plot ; according to the hoarding all round it the new building was going to be an apart-hotel and pictures showed some of the intended facilities. I couldn’t tell if the place will be dog friendly but one of the pictures showed an adorable little dog snuggled in some bedding – it reminded me very much of a little dog I once looked after on a regular basis, and it looked so cute I just had to get a photo of it.
Back on the sea front I made my way through the promenade gardens and round by the beach huts to the cafe where Michael was waiting for me at an outside table. Of course no visit to St. Annes would be complete without a walk on the beach so once we’d had our meal we took a short walk along the sand before returning to the van and making our way back home.
It had been a lovely afternoon out and I’d been very impressed with Ashton Gardens ; I was really glad the guy at work had told me about the place as otherwise I wouldn’t have known about it, but now I do know I’ll make sure to pay a return visit for some more photos when the leaves are on the trees and hopefully the flower beds will be planted up. And if anyone reading this is ever in that area then do go and have a look round, it’s a lovely little place.
My Monday walk this week is an exploration of a large local Victorian park right on the edge of the town centre, a park which I haven’t been to for over 40 years. I remember my parents taking me there when I was a child – with nothing but acres of green space, a duck pond and a rather rubbish playground tucked in the bottom corner I thought it was the most boring of all the local parks. Fast forward to 1977 and when I worked at the far side of town I would often walk home through the park although I didn’t take much notice of my surroundings and have never been there since, but with a grant of over £4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2009 the place has undergone several improvements over the last few years so on a recent lovely sunny morning I took the dogs and went to check it out.
Queen’s Park, an area of roughly 22 acres, was created on pasture land purchased from the Earl of Bradford, and lies on sloping ground just out of the town centre. Originally called Bolton Park it was opened in 1866 by the Earl of Bradford himself, then in 1897 it was renamed in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Features included an ornate bandstand surrounded by water and flower beds and with amphitheatre-style terraces for seating, a pavilion building, an ornamental fountain, a large paddling pool and the Chadwick Museum which opened in 1884. The bandstand and its lake, the pavilion and the fountain were all gone long before I was born, the paddling pool disappeared not long afterwards and the museum was demolished in 1957 after the exhibits were transferred to the new town centre museum in the main library building – maybe if these things had still been there when I was a child I would have found the park a lot more interesting than I did at the time.
The park does have a couple of claims to fame though – in 1969 outdoor scenes for the Bolton-based film Spring and Port Wine, starring James Mason, were shot there, and in August that same year a little-known singer named Freddie Mercury performed with a band called Ibex in front of 500 enthusiastic teenagers at the town’s first open-air rock concert. He formed his own band Queen the following year and went on to become a global superstar.
There are several minor entrances to the park and two main entrances, one being at the bottom end close to the town centre and the other at the top on the wide main road which eventually leads to Chorley. My stroll started from this top entrance and straight away I got my first few photos, then as I walked down the wide main path a squirrel ran across in front of me to the bottom of a tree, staying there just long enough for me to snatch a photo of him.
A few yards along I came to the large circular formal sunken garden surrounded by trees, shrubs and bushes ; the flower beds were bare but I did see my first rhododendron shrub of the season in full flower. A little way along the path from there, and set in an elevated position, was an informal garden with modern seating and views over the lower end of the park and towards the town centre.
A minor path on the right took me down through the trees to the largest of the two lakes inhabited by various ducks, swans, geese and seagulls, then another path took me back up the slope to a wide and pleasant terraced walk backed by shrubbery where a modern war memorial and three Grade ll listed life-size statues on tall plinths were set back among the greenery.
At the end of the terrace I walked down the grassy slope to a minor path with the aim of getting to the bottom end of the park and working my way round and back up to the top, however a signpost told me that Dobson Bridge was down a path on the left so I decided to go and have a look. Dobson Bridge was erected in 1878 to link the original park with a later extension (now playing fields) on the far side of the River Croal and was officially opened by B A Dobson, Chairman of the local Park Committee. Built of cast iron and on cast iron supports it has ornamental stone pillars at both ends, each with an ornate cast iron plaque featuring the town’s crest. Thinking back to my childhood I remember the bridge to be a grey not-very-nice-looking structure but having been restored and repainted in modern colours it now looks quite attractive.
The path passed the end of Dobson Bridge and a little way along was a small fishing lake backed by a bank of trees and another bridge, plainer this time, which led to a small development of modern business units across the river. There was a path on the far side of the fishing lake so I was able to walk all the way round before making my way back to the lower end of the park.
The next path split into two so I took the lower one which headed in the direction of the playground in the bottom corner of the park, and Sophie being Sophie she found what must have been the only muddy patch in the whole park, though by the time we got to the playground the mess on her paws had disappeared. Not far from the playground a set of wide stone steps and a long path led back up to the terrace with the statues, and at the bottom of the steps was a fountain and a couple of benches. From the playground I took the path past the bottom main entrance and the modern cafe and followed it uphill towards the main road, with my last shot featuring the same as the first – daffodils.
Back at home I checked out the park on Google Maps satellite view and realised there were a few things I hadn’t yet seen. Maybe it was because I’d been looking at the park with fresh adult eyes or maybe the modern improvements had helped, but I’d found it a lot less boring than when I was a child, and having missed a few things this time I’ll certainly be returning later in the year for another exploration and dog walk.
There have been several occasions while driving along the sea front at Lytham that I’ve passed a sign pointing down a side street to ‘Lytham Hall’ though I’ve never actually been there until now. It was on my list of ‘go to’ places for later this year but a few weeks ago I found out that each weekend in February it’s possible to do a ‘snowdrop walk’ round the grounds of the hall and dogs were allowed too, so always on the lookout for photo opportunities I decided to go sometime this month, finally making my trip two days ago. After several days of lovely sunny weather locally there was some cloud mixed in with the sunshine but once I got over the moors near home and could see to Preston and beyond the blue sky was looking very promising so I was looking forward to discovering somewhere new.
The Palladian style Lytham Hall was commissioned in 1752 by Sir Thomas Clifton to replace a previous house which had long been the seat of the Clifton family ; it was designed by the eminent architect John Carr and incorporated parts of the previous 16th century house, the remains of which can still be seen. The house was built between 1757 and 1764 and the successive generations of the Clifton family owned it for two centuries. During WW1 part of it was used as a military hospital, then in 1919 the Clifton family who lived there at the time moved away to Ireland meaning the house became rather neglected. The last surviving member of the Clifton family, a film producer, squandered much of the family’s wealth over the years and in 1963 Lytham Hall was sold to Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance for office accommodation. In 1997 Lytham Town Trust bought the hall and grounds with the help of a donation from BAE Systems and since then it has been in the care of the Heritage Trust for the North West on a 99-year lease.
Although there is plenty of room for parking close to the hall it seemed that on ‘special’ days it was for disabled access only so when I arrived at the main gate I was directed to a car park just across the road. Back at the main gate I paid my £3 entrance fee (all proceeds go to the upkeep of the hall and grounds) and was given a map of the grounds and the route of the snowdrop walk then I was free to wander at will. It was a good ten minutes walk along the driveway from the main entrance past open fields to the parkland surrounding the hall, and the snowdrop walk started just inside the gate.
To start with there were only a few isolated clumps of snowdrops here and there under the trees but as the walk progressed so did the snowdrops, and in many places it was easy to see why they have their name as the ground looked just like it was covered in a blanket of snow. Wooden picture frames on stands were set up at strategic places along the walk to show the best views for taking photos and though I made use of some of them I wandered off the path more than once. At one point, looking through the trees I spotted a lifebelt hanging on a fence – where there was a lifebelt there must be water so I went to take a look and found a nice lake which I was able to walk all the way round.
Among the snowdrops in the more grassy areas were several clumps of daffodils which added a bit of colour, and a few crocuses were dotted here and there. In a border near the kitchen garden wall I discovered some pretty pink flowers ; there was nothing to say what they were and some of them looked a bit shrivelled but they were worth a photo and I’m sure in due course someone will tell me their name.
Once I’d seen most of the snowdrop areas I turned my attention to the house and its immediate surroundings. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a full photo of the front of the building as there was a lot of scaffolding erected but I managed to get a shot of the centre part of it and some long distance shots from across the gardens. On the south side of the house was a huge twisted tree with intertwined branches and close by a new enclosed garden had been created, set in the lawns where a car park had once been when the building was offices. Across the lawns was The Mount, a high earthen mound which has been situated there since at least the 18th century ; recent work on the gardens has included the installation of steps and a sloping pathway up to the top of The Mount to give a good view over to the house and surrounding parkland.
While I’d been wandering round the weather had got better and better and it was more like a summer’s day than mid February so not wanting to cut the day short when I left the hall I drove right along the sea front to my favourite cafe by the beach at St. Annes, where I had two mugs of their delicious milky coffee, then after a short dog walk along the beach I set off for home. The weather was still glorious when I left Lytham behind but as I got to the outskirts of Preston the sky had started to cloud over and when I got closer to home it was really dull and grey, vastly different to when I’d set out a few hours before. I didn’t mind too much though – I’d had my day out, the dogs got a good walk, and I’d got some good photos of somewhere I’d never been before so I was more than happy. And now having finally been to Lytham Hall I can say that I’ll certainly be making a return visit later in the year.
Since my walk on New Year’s Day the weather locally has been constantly cloudy, grey, wet and dreary, certainly not nice enough to get out and about with the camera, however since the snow arrived early last week we have had four days of lovely blue sky and sunshine so a couple of days ago I took myself off for a short-ish walk to Smithills Hall, not too far from home and an easy walk if I don’t have a lot of time or want to be too energetic. My route, as on my previous walk to the Hall, took me across the local park and through Smithills Wood with its bare trees being in complete contrast to the last time, although there was still plenty of greenery and autumn colour around.
This time, instead of going from the wood up onto the lane I crossed the little stone bridge and followed the path which took me straight into the gardens of the Hall. Since discovering the 1873 grave of Little Bess on my last visit I’ve tried all avenues to find any information about the little dog but come up with nothing other than that she belonged to the Ainsworth family who lived at the Hall at that time. Someone from the Friends of Smithills Hall group did contact me in reply to my query but couldn’t give me any information other than the grave isn’t tended by any members of the group as I first thought, so it would seem that the flowers and decorations on it must have been left by a mystery dog lover.
I spent quite some time wandering round the grounds but even though the sun was shining it was still bitterly cold and wandering rather than proper walking wasn’t keeping me warm, so after taking the photo of the lake I made my way out onto the lane and headed for home, going through the nearby farm yard rather than back through the wood.
By the time I’d reached the bottom end of the park the sun had disappeared and the sky was looking rather heavy – if it was going to snow again I’d rather be indoors before it did, so although I’d had an enjoyable walk I was glad to be on my way back home.
I’m linking this with Jo’s latest Monday Walk where this week she takes us on a boat ride to the Algarve island of Culatra, where the sunny weather is just the thing to bring a bright start to the week.
After reading a recent post on Jayne’s blog, in which I commented that a certain photo looked like it was upside down, she followed that with another post with some ‘upside down’ photos specially for me. Well that got me thinking – I knew that somewhere in my archives I had some photos which could be turned upside down and I’ve spent some time over the last few days searching for them so in the absence of a Monday walk and just for a bit of fun here they are, including one with some gravity-defying rocks. And just so certain people don’t have to stand on their heads to make sense of them I’ve also included the ‘right way up’ ones.
One thing I’ve realised while doing this – if you look at certain ones long enough you end up not knowing which are the upside down ones and which are the right way up. I wonder if Jayne realises just what she started?…..
As 2018 draws to a close I thought I would recall just some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. On January 3rd, after making an official complaint at the local hospital three weeks previously about the apparent misdiagnosis and lack of proper treatment of his broken ankle, Michael finally got to see the relevant specialist and was put on the emergency list for an operation asap. That took place just three days later when he had a bone graft and a plate and a couple of screws inserted to bring the broken bits together, followed by six weeks in plaster. His recovery was long, and certainly very painful in the early stages, but he finally went back to work ten-and-a-half months after he first broke the ankle.
Early February saw me succumbing to the much-talked-about-at-the-time Aussie flu virus and taking two weeks off work ; it was the first time in my life I’ve ever had flu of any sort and I’d never felt so ill before. The up side though, if you can call it that, was the opportunity to catch up on some reading and I got through several books in the time I was off work. Late in the month my washing machine gave up the ghost and after trying in vain to get someone to repair it I ended up getting a second-hand-but-almost-new one from a local shop ; it was in absolutely mint condition and is still working well. After several weeks of wet and often cold weather the last few days of February turned out dry and gloriously sunny so the end of the month saw me taking the dogs for a walk along one of my favourite routes through a local golf course and the Last Drop Village. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable walk and just rounded off the month nicely.
Early March saw the return of the sparrows which, the year before, had taken to perching on the outside window sill of the spare bedroom. I hadn’t expected them to come back so it was lovely to look through the glass and see them less than 3ft from where I sit when using my pc. In mid March, after several months of searching on the internet and in various camping stores, I finally ordered a new tent to replace my much-loved previous one which had sustained an irreparable tear in its roof the previous year. It wasn’t quite the same as my old one but it was near enough, it satisfied all my criteria and came at a good price with free delivery so I was more than happy. One evening late in the month saw part of my street turned into a river when a main water pipe burst and sent a substantial amount of water flooding across the road – it took two days for United Utilities to fix the problem but not before many gallons of fresh water had gone to waste down the drains. The end of the month saw the start of the Easter weekend and my 4-day break in North Wales, a break which wasn’t the best for many reasons and one in which the word ‘break’ could be taken literally.
The month of April certainly didn’t get off to a very good start for me. It rained on and off for most of the Easter weekend and put the kibosh on many of my plans, and on the Monday I woke to find that during an unexpected overnight snow shower which had turned to ice my brand new tent had collapsed on top of my belongings ; two of the three poles had broken completely and the end where I would have been sleeping had been totally flattened – thank goodness the dogs and I had been in the van. Fortunately the two broken poles were the only damages my new tent suffered and back at home a few days later I took them to my nearest camping store to get the broken sections replaced. The rest of April passed fairly uneventfully with the only other highlight being a visit to the animal sanctuary spring open day later in the month, and with Michael still being off work he came too – the first time he’d ever been there and he quite enjoyed it.
The beginning of May saw Michael finally going back to work on a phased return just over ten months since he first broke his ankle in June last year. It also saw a dramatic change in the weather with the rain of the previous months gone and the start of what was to be a very long and very hot summer. The first bank holiday weekend of the month saw me suggesting (very unwisely) that we go to a car boot sale on the Sunday and then on to St. Annes – the weather was extremely warm, the world and his wife were out on the roads and we ended up getting stuck in nose-to-tail traffic, going miles out of our way and missing the car boot sale completely. It took ages to find somewhere to park at St. Annes but once we did we had a very enjoyable afternoon with a good meal and a couple of dog walks along the beach. On the middle Saturday of the month I went to Hornby Castle gardens, somewhere I’d never been before and where I got some lovely photos, then the following day I managed to burn my foot with scalding water from a recently-boiled kettle. Silicone dressings prescribed by the doctor helped to ease the pain and promote healing, and after resting it as much as possible for a week I couldn’t ignore the continuing good weather any longer so the final weekend of the month saw me taking the dogs for a local walk to Smithills Hall and gardens.
My planned 11-day holiday on Anglesey at the beginning of June was shortened by several days due to circumstances beyond my control but I managed to get six days out of the eleven and with the continuing good weather I really made the most of them by exploring as many places as I could in the time that I had. The highlight of the week just had to be finding and photographing the old abandoned brick works at Porth Wen – it was difficult to get to and involved a long walk with a couple of hairy moments but it was an amazing place and well worth the effort for the photos I got. The rest of the month was fairly uneventful but then the 28th saw the start of a wildfire up on the moors not far from home, a fire which would eventually cover more than five square miles, mean the closure of several local roads including the one running past the end of my street, and would involve more than 30 fire crews while it was at it worst.
At the start of July Michael and I had a lovely day out in Southport then for his birthday in the middle of the month he went over to Ireland for a few days, where he encountered a coach driver who didn’t know the route from Dublin airport to Roscrea and had to be directed a couple of times. The highlight of the month though just had to be the tour of the new outdoor Coronation Street tv set ; with great weather, a very knowledgeable tour guide and the freedom to take as many photos as we wanted it was a great tour and one I would certainly do again.
Although most of the Winter Hill fire had been extinguished by the middle of July and the number of fire crews reduced there were many hot spots still burning under the surface so it wasn’t until early August that it was officially declared to be completely out after a total of 41 days. On the 9th of the month I took my first walk up there the day after the land was reopened to the public and was shocked and saddened to see the large scale devastation the fire had caused. Two days later the highlight of the month came when, at the town’s central fire station open day, I got the opportunity to go up in the air on a fire engine hydraulic platform – from 100ft up the extensive views all round the town were brilliant and I got some great photos.
The highlight of September came early on in the month when, during a Heritage Open Day, I got the opportunity to climb the 180ft bell tower at the local parish church and also try a bit of bell ringing. Although the weather wasn’t the best – the long hot summer had finally ended locally the day after my fire station visit – I still got some good photos from the tower roof and the bell ringing was quite an interesting experience. A very sad time came in the middle of the month when I accompanied my friend Janet on the day she had her dog Aphra put to sleep, then later in the month I had my second short holiday on Anglesey, with an impromptu visit to my blogging friend Eileen on the way there. The weather wasn’t the best to start with but it got better as the days went on so I still got out and about and had plenty of sunshine for my photos.
Apart from when Storm Callum hit the UK towards the middle of the month October was really nice weather-wise and still quite warm for the time of year so I went on long walks with the dogs as often as I could, both to local places I’ve often been to and some I hadn’t even known about. In the process the lovely autumn colours gave me lots of great photos and I even had one featured in an online edition of the local evening paper.
A dull day in early November saw me taking a photography trip to Preston Dock (now known as Preston Marina) after reading the very interesting history about it, then on brighter days I continued my autumn dog walks in the local area. The highlight of the month though was a dazzling light display which lit up the front of the local town hall on two consecutive evenings – unfortunately it was very poorly advertised and I think I may have missed some of it on both occasions but what I did see was amazing and I still got some reasonably good photos.
My short holiday in Ireland at the beginning of this month was very enjoyable and a day of exploration round Dublin city centre was so interesting that it left me determined to go back in the future and for much longer, as there’s so much to see that it can’t be done in just one day. Just over a week ago I developed a nasty sore throat, cough and cold which came from nowhere and robbed me of my appetite so Christmas in the Mouse House was rather a non-event, although as there was only me and Michael anyway it didn’t matter too much. I’m feeling much better now though and tonight we’ll probably drive up to the moorland road near here and watch the fireworks going off all over town.
So there it is, just some of the highlights of my year, and all that remains now is to thank everyone for visiting this blog over the last twelve months and to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – cheers!