Another year has drawn to a close and it’s time for me to look back on some of the things which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months, though in some ways 2021 has been rather an uneventful year so this time I’m concentrating more on the places I’ve been to.
The beginning of January brought just enough snow to make things look pretty and my first walk of the year gave me the sighting of a heron at the hidden lake in the grounds of Smithills Hall and the llamas at the nearby open farm. More snow fell later in the month and during a walk through a local quarry and fields not far from home I was drenched from head to foot in a wave of slushy snow and water when a 4 x 4 driver deliberately drove at speed through a huge puddle at the side of the road. Only a mile from home I could quite easily have gone back to get changed but I decided to carry on and the climb up through the quarry and brisk walk through the fields stopped me from getting cold.
Early February brought a couple more light overnight snow falls and the 9th was the first anniversary of losing sweet little Sophie so in her memory I took the dogs for a snowy walk round the Belmont area, a walk which Sophie had done with me several times over the years. In one of the fields I met a sheep with extremely curly horns and found that the Blue Lake was almost completely frozen over with ice and snow. The following day I took a walk round the Jumbles Reservoir and got some more lovely snowy photos.
Early March saw me making two visits to a reservoir which, although fairly local, is in the middle of nowhere and too far to walk from home. The first visit failed however as the traffic and parking situation was a nightmare and after an hour and twenty minutes without ever getting out of the van I ended up right back where I’d started from, at my own front gate. The second visit was much more successful though and I had a lovely walk round the reservoir where I found much of the south side looking more open after the felling of quite a lot of trees. Also that month I made three visits to Manchester and on each occasion came back with a whole host of street art photos.
Early April saw me seemingly being inundated with chocolate. On the spur of the moment Michael bought me two bars of white chocolate from the corner shop, his girlfriend sent me a lovely bunch of flowers and some chocolates and I won a pack of Cadbury’s creme eggs in an online Easter competition. Later that month I had a ridiculous conversation with Michael when he couldn’t think whether that particular day was Wednesday or Thursday and only a week later I had almost the same conversation with the boss’s son at work when he couldn’t remember if the day was Wednesday or Thursday. As well as local walks with the dogs I also made another two trips to Manchester and made a spring revisit to Corporation Park in Blackburn.
Early May was blighted by a fair amount of cloud and rain so there were no trips out and local walks were kept to a minimum. Another couple of photography trips to Manchester were made and when the weather came nice later in the month I got some lovely colorful shots of different shrubs and trees in various gardens which I passed on one of my walks with Snowy and Poppie.
The Manchester Flower Show was held in lovely weather during the first week of June and I made two trips to find and photograph the many floral displays and installations situated in various locations around the city centre. Also that month I discovered the delightful area of the Castlefield Basin where the Rochdale Canal and Bridgewater Canal meet and I was lucky enough to see the Castlefield Goslings who commute between the canal basin and the streets at the other side of Deansgate, taking their lives in their webbed feet by crossing the extremely busy main road. It beats me how they haven’t been squashed but traffic does seem to stop for them.
The highlight of July was my 10-day holiday in the Lake District, and though it started with a sore foot, a fault with the tent, a leaky loo and a swollen arm all four problems were soon resolved and with mainly good weather I went on to have a lovely time away. During the ten days I went to the delightful little village of Caldbeck, met up with blogging friend Jayne who took me on a lovely walk round Ravenglass, visited the Lake District wildlife Park and discovered several new-to-me places including Harrington harbour.
August was the month when Michael and I twice went for a curry meal at a local pub/restaurant and each time there was something missing from our order. The first time the mango chutney was missing so was substituted with mint yogurt, then the second time there was no mango chutney, no mint yogurt and no rice so we ended up with chips instead. Luckily we both saw the funny side of it and assumed that the lack of some foods was caused by various disruptions in the supply chain at the time. During the bank holiday weekend I had a nice walk along a section of the Lancaster Canal at Hest Bank, a place I’d never been to before, and also visited Arnside and Jenny Brown’s Point near Silverdale, then the following day went to Morecambe.
The middle Sunday of September was the start of my second 10-day Lake District holiday and though the first couple of days were grey and cloudy the weather came good and I was able to revisit some places I’d previously been to and explore others which I hadn’t, including Workington harbour, Bowness-on-Solway and Port Carlisle. I also walked by Bassenthwaite Lake and climbed Latrigg Fell the hard way (almost vertically) when the path ran out due to a large area of trees being felled, but it was worth the effort as the views from the top were fabulous. The highlight of the holiday though was without a doubt my visit to Ennerdale Water which offered fabulous views and gave me lots of great photos. The 25th of the month was Snowy’s first anniversary, a full year since she came to live in my little family at the age of 8 months.
October was very wet for most of the month but a break in the weather late on saw me going down to North Wales for a 2-night mini camping break and to make a long overdue visit to Eileen, a special blogging friend. During the weekend I met Eileen’s new little dog Tilly, and visited Flint Castle, Rhuddlan Castle and the oddly-named Horton’s Nose nature reserve at the mouth of the River Clwyd.
November for the most part was another rainy month when dog walking was kept to the local avenues or just the back garden if it was really bad but a couple of days of nice weather in the middle of the month gave me the opportunity to have a walk round Rivington Gardens to catch the remains of any autumn colours. Also that month I took the 25-minute train journey to Blackburn to see the Knife Angel, a 27ft tall sculpture made up of over 100,000 knives.
Early December was cold but dry and a lovely sunny day saw me taking the dogs on a local walk round Smithills Hall and through nearby woodlands and fields, then the week before Christmas I made my last visit of the year to Manchester, a late afternoon/early evening one to photograph the light sculptures in the city centre. To round off the year, just four days ago I made an impromptu spur-of-the-moment short trip to North Wales, staying at a new-to-me camp site and also visiting Eileen again. I only got back home late afternoon yesterday so it will be a while before details and photos appear on here.
So there you have it, some of the highlights of my year. All that remains now is to welcome any recent new readers to my blog and thank everyone for visiting and leaving comments; if it wasn’t for my readers there wouldn’t be a blog, so I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – have a good one!
Although I haven’t been feeling in a particularly festive mood up to now, yesterday I finally brought out my ‘lazy person’s pre-decorated Christmas tree’ from its hiding place in the cupboard under the stairs. I told the story of its existence last year although I did think maybe it was past its best and I should get a new one, however I decided instead just to update it this time with some gold tinsel instead of the existing silver. There’s only one thing wrong though – the gold tinsel just doesn’t look right with the silver decorations, it’s too fussy, so when I get a minute later on I’ll be putting the silver tinsel back.
And now for something completely silly. A couple of weeks ago I bought Snowy and Poppie a Christmas jumper each, which they hadn’t worn up to now but yesterday they had to suffer the indignity of having tinsel wrapped round their collars and their photos taken just for this blog page. Of course being the obedient little dogs they are (not) neither of them would stand still or look at me both at the same time so out of 13 shots only these six were anything like usable, with my own personal favourite being the last one in this sequence.
Well for once this is only a very short post as I wind down to enjoy the next few days – that’s about it for now until I do my yearly ‘looking back’ post next week so all that remains is for me to send
to all my blog readers, both regular and recent, with very best wishes from me, Michael, Snowy & Poppie – I hope everyone can make Christmas as good as these strange times and changing circumstances will allow x
The National Monument Against Violence and Aggression, known as The Knife Angel, is a collaboration between artist Alfie Bradley and the British Ironwork Centre in Shropshire. Created to raise awareness of knife crime it also stands as a memorial to those whose lives have been affected by it.
When the idea of a sculpture made entirely of knives was first discussed the Home Office was contacted for permission to collect knives from police forces across the country in the hope that this co-operation would bring about the introduction of new knife amnesties, with the Ironworks offering to supply each force with knife banks completely free of charge. Permission was granted by the Home Office and the ”Save A Life, Surrender Your Knife” campaign was born.
The Ironworks created a total of 200 knife banks and during nationwide amnesties in 2015/16 over 100,000 knives were both confiscated by, or handed in to, every main constabulary across the UK. The collection of knives included machetes, meat cleavers, swords and ordinary household kitchen knives, with some even arriving at the Shropshire workshop in police evidence tubes and still with traces of blood on their surfaces.
To create the 27ft tall sculpture Alfie Bradley constructed a steel supporting frame and formed the basic angel shape using steel sheeting which the knives could be welded onto. Every knife was disinfected and blunted before being welded onto the sculpture; the wings were created using only the blades which produced a feather-like appearance, while the facial features were a mix of Alfie’s great grandad, grandad, dad and two younger brothers.
During the angel’s creation families who had lost loved ones due to knife crime and violence were invited to send a personal message of love and remembrance which Alfie would engrave onto one of the blades to be fixed on the angel’s wings. Messages were also sent from ex-offenders who had since seen the error of their ways and gone on to support the fight against knife crime and violence in a bid to stop it happening on the UK’s streets.
It took just over two years to create the sculpture and in December 2018 the Knife Angel began its official National Youth Anti-Violence Educational Programme across the UK, beginning its journey outside Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral then moving on to Hull in February 2019. Since then it’s moved on to a different town or city each month – until the end of this month it’s in Blackburn, Lancashire, which is where I saw it just a couple of days ago.
To say that the photos don’t do this angel justice is an understatement. It’s a brilliantly designed and expertly crafted sculpture which I found very sobering and thought provoking, but regardless of what it stands for it’s a truly beautiful piece of art in its own right and I’m glad I got to see it before it moves on.
A day where I go looking for a new tv and find a lovely church….
After the sunshine of the previous day the second morning arrived cloudy and grey though still very warm. Activities around the farm started just after 8am and when I took Snowy and Poppie for their morning walk I found a large agricultural wood chipper making short work of a gigantic pile of tree trunks, with a couple of tractors and trailers running in relay taking the chippings up to the big barn at the top of the farm track.
The grey sky and low cloud seemed to be fairly widespread with no sign of clearing so I decided to stay on site, read a few chapters of my book and maybe indulge in a bit of daytime tv, something which I rarely do at home, however the tv itself had other ideas. As I moved it round to avoid the light reflection from the tent window the aerial connector came out of the back of the set and when I looked the connection port itself had broken off inside the set and there was no way of fixing it myself.
Later information from the site owner told me that there was a tv repair shop in Wigton, about 12 miles away; I’d been intending to visit the town at some point during the holiday anyway as I wanted to check out the heritage trail so it seemed like this day was as good as any even if the weather was still dull. I found the tv repair shop with no problem and while the tv could probably have been fixed it couldn’t be done for a week or so and the cost of the repair could possibly be more than the small 24″ set was worth. It looked like I would have to search out a new one from somewhere but not before I’d had a walk round the heritage trail.
Starting from where I left the van the first building I came to was St. Mary’s Church. It dates from the late 1700s and was modelled on St. Michael’s in Workington, though I’m saving any other details for another time as it really deserves a post of its own. In front of the church, between the building and the road, was the old cobbled Corn Market, while on the south side was a row of traditional Georgian cottages built in the 1700s. On the north side was a row of cottages known as the Widows’ Hospital, built in 1723 following a bequest from the Rev John Thomlinson, Rector of Rothbury, for the widows of six Protestant clergymen from across the county of Cumberland.
Along the road and across on the other side was Wigton Methodist Church, built in 1883 and modernised inside in 2005, then back past St. Mary’s I came to Market Place and the George Moore Memorial. Built in 1872 and dedicated to Moore’s first wife Eliza Ray each of the four sides features a sculpture by the pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, showing scenes of the Acts of Mercy with Eliza’s face above each one.
Across from the memorial was the former Kings Arms Hotel, originally a coaching inn where authors Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins stayed while on their Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices during the wet winter of 1857. Apparently they didn’t enjoy the town very much as Collins had previously fallen on Carrock Fell and twisted his ankle. The hotel was renovated in 1987 and when the wallpaper was stripped off it was found that Dickens had put his autograph on one of the walls.
Along the road to the left of Market Place was the Hare & Hounds, a pub and former shop which is now just one property. Built in the late 17th/early 18th century it’s one of the oldest pubs in Wigton and has been Grade ll listed since November 1984.
Back past the George Moore Memorial and down Station Road I came to the John Peel Theatre, built in 1884/85 as a barracks for the town’s Salvation Army corps. Wigton Theatre Club was formed in September 1952 by the head of Wigton Secondary School and the members spent the first ten years putting on plays, usually four each year, in the school hall, then in the Parish Rooms. In 1964 Redmayne’s Bespoke Tailors bought the barracks from the Salvation Army and rented the building to the theatre club, giving them substantial help in converting it into a theatre which was named after the John Peel of the well known song, then when the land around it was to be redeveloped in 1988 the club purchased the building in order to ensure its continued use as a theatre.
Round the corner from the theatre and on the way to the next building on the trail I came to a short alley leading to a couple of houses with unexpectedly pretty gardens. They weren’t connected in any way to the Heritage Trail but they looked so bright on such a dull day that I couldn’t resist taking a couple of photos.
The next building on the trail was the premises of Wilkinson Joinery on the site of the Old Corn Mill. Part of a 1775 rebuild of a much older building the current building served as a water-powered mill until the late 1920s; on the side wall are three original mill stones and a bronze plaque detailing the building’s history.
Across from the joinery place was a cottage with a large mural painted along its gable end wall. Steps at the side of its boundary wall led up to an open alleyway where part of the wall had been replaced by glass panels giving a view of the mural. It obviously depicts life in the past but so far I’ve been unable to find out what it signifies and why it’s there; it isn’t even mentioned in the heritage trail brochure.
At the end of the alleyway, which was quaintly named Birdcage Walk, I came to two more buildings with murals on their walls. Now home to the Free 4 All environmental charity they had once been part of the Old Cotton Mill, buildings which originally housed workers from the town’s thriving cotton industry in the 18th century.
At one corner of the car park where I’d left the van I came across The Pump and The Lamp. Originally situated in Market Place they had replaced a cross with a bell which was rung on each market day but which had burned down during a bonfire to celebrate Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in 1805. The Pump and Lamp stayed in Market Place until 1872 when they were taken down to make way for the George Moore Memorial; after being stored for many years they were re-erected in their current spot in 1998. Heading back to the van my final shot, which had nothing to do with the heritage trail, was of a brightly coloured mural in an alleyway between the car park and one of the main streets.
There were actually 22 points of interest on the heritage trail but I didn’t photograph all of them as many of them now bear no resemblance to what they once were – while they may each have a bit of interesting information attached to them I don’t think shop fronts and takeaway places look particularly exciting.
Having spent quite some time walking round the heritage trail, and with no sign of the cloudy grey sky giving way to any sunshine, I decided to abandon my quest to find a new tv and return to the camp site. I could still watch a dvd if I wanted to and I had a couple of books to read so my tv search would continue another day.
That’s a rhetorical question to which I don’t need or want an answer but it seems to me that many people these days act as if it’s the holy bible of the internet and the be-all and end-all of social media, to the point where a person is excluded from certain things unless they are a Facebook member.
For a few years now a friend and her daughter have been trying to persuade me to join Facebook but I’ve always steadfastly refused, being of the opinion that a lot of people on there are brainless morons and troublemakers, and I speak from experience. I’m not going into detail but several years ago, when I worked in a senior school, I was the target of a lot of unwarranted personal and malicious name calling, sniggering and verbal backchat which stemmed from something a certain pupil had posted about me on Facebook and shared among her friends. It was deeply upsetting at the time but fortunately it didn’t last too long before the pupil in question was dealt with, though I vowed there and then that I would never ever join Facebook.
Fast forward to one day a couple of weeks ago and through the local community group which I’m a member of – which has nothing to do with Facebook – I learned that a deceased cat had been found at the side of the main road not far from me and someone was asking who it might belong to. From the description I thought it might belong to one of my bosses so I offered to go and collect it – if it wasn’t my boss’s cat I would take it to the local vet to be scanned for a microchip – however when I got there I found it had been picked up by someone else.
It turned out that this guy was a member of a nationwide group where members collect cats killed on the roads and attempt to reunite them with their owners before they are picked up by local council operatives and dumped in the trash to be disposed of, leaving their owners wondering what happened to them when they didn’t come home. The group was started a couple of years ago in conjunction with a campaign to get the government to pass a law requiring all cats killed on the roads to be classed the same as dogs and the accidents reported.
Having had a couple of my own cats go missing in previous years and not knowing what had happened to them I was very interested in becoming an active member of this group – if I could reunite just one deceased pet with its owner it would be worth it – so the guy gave me the details and the phone number of the local woman who started it and runs it. I phoned her later that day but guess what? – to join the group I have to be on Facebook as that’s how they operate and get in touch with individual members. So I guess I won’t be becoming a member after all – it’s a shame but I absolutely refuse to go against my own principles and join Facebook just to join that group.
Another example of this Facebook thing occurred only yesterday. Through my Postcossing hobby I was made aware of Postcards of Kindness, an initiative run by age uk where people write and send postcards to residents of care homes to brighten up their days. Again this was something I would be interested in doing but yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s a Facebook group so unless I become a Facebook member I can’t take part.
I really can’t understand what’s so special about Facebook – it’s as if most people, whether individuals or businesses, can’t function without it and everyone expects everyone else to be on it. Well I may be considered to be something of a dinosaur in the world of technology and social media – I’m not on Twitter either – but though it’s a tad annoying that some things are denied to me my life so far has jogged along nicely and it will no doubt continue to do so without the need for Facebook.
I had the most bizarre experience in my local Asda store the other day when I popped in to get a sandwich and a couple of other things on my way home from work. As seems to be the norm with many supermarkets these days the sandwich and snack section with two self-scan checkouts is in a corner of its own, so to save going through two separate checkouts I went to get the sandwich first with the intention of getting my milk and a loaf from the main part of the store and just going through one checkout with the three items, however….
As I was deciding which sandwich to have a young woman standing almost next to me was loading her Asda basket with quite a large selection of them and it struck me that maybe she was having some friends or family round for the evening, but I wasn’t prepared for what she did next. Expecting her to go to the nearby self-scan checkout I was quite surprised to see her go the other way and head rapidly towards the exit doors. It seemed I’d just witnessed a shoplifter in the act but not being sure if that really was the case, and also out of curiosity, I followed her and sure enough she went straight out of the store with the basket full of sandwiches. I immediately mentioned it to the security guy at the desk by the door, describing what the young woman looked like and what she was wearing, but even though he scanned the whole car park with the surveillance cameras there was no sign of her, she had completely vanished so there was nothing he could do.
Finally getting my own sandwich I went to the far side of the store to pick up a carton of milk and a loaf then made my way to the main self-scan checkouts but as I got there I noticed the same young woman already there, though this time she had a couple of carrier bags over her arm. Having seen her get away with stealing the sandwiches only a few minutes before I didn’t like the thought of her getting away with anything else so I quickly dumped my own three items on the nearby customer services desk, told the assistant on duty “I’ll be back for those in a minute!” and ran through the store to alert the security guy by the door. As I was talking to him the young woman came walking towards the exit so I pointed her out, he stopped her as she went through the foyer and I left him to do his job.
Back at the customer services desk the assistant asked me why I’d disappeared so suddenly and when I explained she said “Well I’ll say one thing, you can certainly run fast!” Retrieving my three items I finally went through the checkout though as I got to the exit, far from seeing that the young woman had been detained as I expected, the security guy was sitting back at his desk on his own. It seemed that he had checked her bags and whatever Asda items she had in there had been paid for and she had the receipt, so he had no reason to hold her.
Thinking about things afterwards, and how quickly the young woman had disappeared with the sandwiches then gone back in the store, I can only assume that either she had a car parked close to the exit doors or she was with someone else in a car, enabling her to get rid of the sandwiches before she could be picked up on the surveillance cameras – it all seemed very strange.
There have been a couple of occasions in the past where I’ve seen someone detained by security at the door – I remember one guy had a couple of bottles of whisky which he hadn’t paid for – but this is the first time I’ve ever actually witnessed someone stealing something. The whole situation was so bizarre I could hardly believe it had happened, but I’ve replayed it in my head several times since then and yes, it did happen. Normally my shopping trips to Asda are very mundane and ordinary but this one certainly wasn’t!
Well not actually bananas but a situation experienced by myself and Michael just recently made me think of the novelty song from donkey’s years ago which I sometimes heard on the radio when I was a kid. Some of you may remember a post I wrote last November when a certain pub/restaurant we went to had no chicken tikka, no chicken pie and no steak pie, fortunately something we both saw the funny side of – well we recently had a similar situation at the very same place.
Just over a week ago, on the Wednesday, Michael suggested that if I picked him up from work at 6pm as I was on my way home from my own job we could go for a meal – it was Curry Wednesday and we could get a meal and a drink for almost £2 less than the price of just a meal on any other day. The curries come with rice, a poppadom and mango chutney, however when our meals were served the mango chutney was missing. On asking the waitress we were told there was no chutney but we could have mint yogurt as an alternative – it sounded a bit yuck but as a dip for the poppadoms it was okay and the meals themselves were very nice.
Two days ago we went back to the pub/restaurant for another curry but this time, not only did they still have no mango chutney, they also had no mint yogurt, and worst of all they had no rice! Now Michael can be funny but still keep a dead straight face so when he came back from ordering at the bar and said there was no rice and we were having chips instead I was convinced he was winding me up but obviously he wasn’t – our curries did come with chips, and though I don’t normally eat chips they actually made a change and the meals were still good.
Last year we put the shortage of meals down to the fact that the restaurant was closing for a month’s lockdown, this time we can only assume that the lack of some foods has been caused by various current disruptions in the supply chain, none of which are the restaurant’s fault, but with no mango chutney, no mint yogurt and no rice it did get us thinking – if we go there again next week maybe they’ll have no chips and we’ll just get curry!
I don’t know where I first found out about the traditional hardware shop and heritage museum in Cockermouth – it wasn’t featured in my ‘111 Places’ book so maybe it was on a leaflet picked up from somewhere a couple of years ago – but while I was in town getting the antihistamines for my horsefly bite I thought I may as well check the place out.
Around 1829 John Banks opened a tin smithy business in a building at the rear of what is now the hardware shop, then in 1836 he added a plumber’s workshop to the tin smithy and opened the shop at the front, with the deeds of the property being signed by William Wordsworth’s father who was then the land agent for Lord Lowther. John’s son, also named John, later joined his father in the business which then became J B Banks & Son. As well as being a successful businessman John Banks was also a local personality of some influence and his proposal that there should be proper control over the ownership of guns eventually led to the introduction of the gun licence.
In 1902 the business employed 16-year old Wilfred Jackson. Every day he would cycle to and from his home, five miles each way, and often acted as the delivery boy, carrying all manner of items for neighbours and customers on his bike. In 1923, at the age of 37 and by then a partner in J B Banks & Son, Wilfred married Daisy Emerson who had a confectionery business in the town and their son Jack was born in 1926. Wilfred worked full time until he had major surgery at the age of 72 then he resumed work on a part time basis until his death at the age of 78.
On January 5th 1933 the business became a limited company and in 1942, at the age of 16, Jack Jackson joined his father Wilfred in the firm, though he took a break from the business in 1944 when he joined the Royal Marines for three years. In 1957 he married Dorothy Eckford and they went on to have three children, Kay, Alan and Vanessa. In 1958 Peter Chandler, who had been Jack’s best man, joined him in the shop and worked there for many years until he retired through ill health.
Jack Jackson, like John Banks before him, was a man of many parts. He was a founder member and President of the Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team established in 1953, and by the late 1960s he had bought out the remaining ‘sleeping partner’ in the business. In his spare time he collected all kinds of local memorabilia, particularly antique locks and keys, and in 1969 he became a magistrate, only retiring in 1996 when he reached the age of 70.
On three separate occasions between 1950 and 1970 the shop front was damaged after being hit by lorries going uphill on nearby Castlegate, the steep and narrow road going out of the town. All three lost control on the ascent and slipped backwards, crashing into the shop front. It was also in the late 1960s that the shop was extended backwards and joined to the separate tin smithy at the rear, and it was then that the long forgotten well was discovered in the former shop yard
As a young girl Jack’s youngest daughter Vanessa would get pocket money for cleaning all the brass scales and weights and polishing the mahogany shop counters, then she officially joined the payroll in 1985 at the age of 22. The firm also owns the commercial and residential premises behind and above the business and Vanessa managed the letting of these premises as well as working in the shop. When Vanessa passed away in 2018 at the age of 55 her role was taken over by her daughter Sarah who had become the fourth generation of the family firm when she joined in 2014, and now with Sarah and her dad, Chris, who has taken a more active role in the business, J.B Banks continues to serve its customers and community.
The heritage museum came about as a result of the devastating flood of November 19th 2009 when the rivers Cocker and Derwent, which meet in the town, burst their banks after heavy rainfall. The shop was flooded to a depth of 4.5ft, counters were overturned, stock was ruined and silt was left everywhere. The clean up and salvage operation took eight weeks, during which ruined stock was removed, the whole floor was replaced, stained and aged and the counters were repaired, cleaned and polished.
Due to an accumulation of paperwork and items collected and stored upstairs over many years there had been no room to put things during the flood so realising that space was needed in case of an emergency Vanessa and expert locksmith Ken Day, who joined the business in 1963 and is still there, took on the task of sorting through everything on the first floor during 2010. With nearly 200 years of history to go through it took quite some time to identify and label all the items found in the old workshop; while many items were retained others were sold and local archives took some of the interesting paperwork for their records.
The workshop and office were left as authentic as possible, with original ‘sit up and beg’ desks, high stools and typewriters from different eras in the office, while in the workshop a massive workbench running the length of six windows was left with vices, hammers, anvils, pipe benders and more, looking just as if the workers had put down their tools and gone home for the day. Once everything was sorted out the public were allowed through the rear doors of the shop on a regular basis from 2011.
Entering the shop from the sunlit street was like stepping into another era. Even though it does sell plenty of modern day items it looked just like the independent hardware shops I remember from my childhood, where you could get almost anything no matter how obscure it was. It also reminded me of the classic Two Ronnies ‘Four Candles’ sketch, and looking round this shop I was in no doubt that it would be possible to buy four candles – or even fork handles.
Through the door at the back of the shop the ground floor of the museum was a mixture of antique tools and equipment, memorabilia and old signs and school photographs, with a unique ATCO Trainer car and the old well in one corner. There’s a long-standing rumour that there may be a secret passage in the well, connecting it to the nearby castle, but so far no-one has ever tried to find it.
The ATCO Trainer car was manufactured by Charles H Pugh Ltd of Birmingham, a company better known for the production of lawn mowers. After the introduction of the Highway Code in 1931 and compulsory driving tests in 1935 the car was designed as a Safety First trainer car for school children, to help stem the rising numbers of road casualties by giving them basic training in car handling and road sense from an early age. Built around a 1939 ATCO lawn mower with the cutters removed it had a 98cc 2-stroke petrol engine in the back and scaled-down versions of a full-size car’s controls, with the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals all in the normal positions. With a speed of 8-10mph starting was by a pull handle between the two seats and there was just one forward and one reverse gear.
The original plan was to sell these cars in great numbers to schools and local authorities as part of a nationwide road safety initiative, a plan which received widespread backing from the press, politicians and the House of Lords, and distribution was to be through the motor trade and established ATCO lawn mower outlets. The cars were launched on June 16th 1939 but after only 250 had been built the project was cancelled with the outbreak of World War 2; it was estimated that 200 had been sold with the rest being broken up for the war effort.
With the introduction of fuel rationing, and the car’s small engine being able to achieve a distance of up to 80 miles on just one gallon of petrol, some of the cars were registered for the road to be used by adults rather than children and the Sunday Chronicle of November 26th 1939 featured a picture of an Oxford businessman driving a road registered ATCO Trainer through city centre traffic.
The wooden staircase to the upper floor of the museum was decorated on both sides with a large collection of old locks and keys, from simple padlocks to plate locks, penny-in-the-slot toilet door locks and even police cell locks. Set back in a corner at the top of the stairs was the small office with its high desks and stools, pre-war items, advertisements and paperwork, all looked over by an oil painting of John Banks.
The rest of the large space featured the long workbench and tools of the tin smithy and plumber’s workshop on the right while on the left floor-to-ceiling racks contained a diverse mix of tools and various other objects collected over the space of many years, from clogs and clog irons rescued from the old cobbler’s shop next door to a more up-to-date bus stop sign.
If I had read the labels on most of the items in there I would have been there for hours but with only an hour for on-street parking I couldn’t linger too long, so with three quick photos of the nearby streets with their colourful houses and shops I made my way back to the van.
The shop is open Mondays to Saturdays from 9am to 5pm and the museum from 9am to 4pm. There’s no charge to look round the museum but there’s a visitors’ book and an unobtrusive donation box on a table near the foot of the stairs. Visitors can take as many photos as they want and dogs are welcome in both the shop and the museum. If anyone reading this is ever in the Cockermouth area then I can recommend a visit to step back in time for while – it’s a fascinating place.
Continuing my walk round the city centre in search of floral installations I backtracked from St. Ann’s Square to the nearby Selfridge’s store where I found two large decorated commercial wheeled bins outside the main entrance, each containing a sizeable arrangement of foliage and flowers.
According to various websites there was a bee-friendly rooftop garden at the Printworks so as that was only a couple of hundred yards away I made it my next stop, however I could find no signs or indication of the garden anywhere. Asking one of the security guys at the entrance I was told that it hadn’t been finished in time so wasn’t yet open to the public; a bit disappointing really as apart from the garden itself I think I could have got some good shots of the city centre from up there.
Round at the Arndale shopping centre I went in search of a large floral bee but even though I walked through the whole place, both upstairs and down, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’ve seen it on Instagram since then so I can only assume that either it didn’t exist at the time or as it was still only early morning it hadn’t been put out on display for the day.
Moving on I decided to go up into the NQ as according to the official website Stevenson Square had received (quote) ‘a magical floral makeover’ however when I got there I felt distinctly underwhelmed. Expecting to see a myriad of flower decorations brightening up many parts of the square I could only find a couple of decorated doorways and one or two planters containing tall grasses, although behind a bus shelter there was a very quirky use of some old portable tv sets and deep wooden office drawers.
Down the road in Tib Street the Northern Flower shop had a display of flowering plants set outside on wooden crates although as I’ve never seen the place open before I’m not sure if that was actually part of the flower show or just their normal way of trading. Across the road and round the corner Frog flower shop was festooned in pretty garlands although as I’ve seen them on previous occasions they seem to be a permanent fixture rather than part of the show.
Three different local groups of stitchers, knitters and yarn addicts have collectively been yarn bombing the lower part of Market Street outside M & S and that’s where I found the bright, colourful and quirky knitted trees complete with bees, birds, rainbow caterpillars and even sea creatures, all guaranteed to raise a smile.
By this time I’d more or less given up on my planned route round the streets so I decided to just wander randomly to find other displays. In St. Mary’s Street I found Gaucho Argentinian restaurant, along Deansgate I found the attractive terrace of the very new and recently opened Qbic Hotel, and in the lower part of King Street Boodle’s doorway was surrounded by deep pink and cream roses.
Dotted at various points along King Street were several quirky hand sanitizing stations, while some very pretty flowering plants tumbled out of a cement mixer into a wheelbarrow garden. The nearby organic health and beauty products shop Neal’s Yard Remedies had an attractive display using a modern delivery bike and outside Framed Opticians in St. Ann’s Passage was another wheelbarrow garden, this one being inspired by the 1980s ballroom culture of New York City.
In St. Ann’s Alley I found the Bread Flower delivery bike. Local business Bread Flower delivers flower bundles and freshly made bread across Manchester every weekend and for the flower show their bike and trailer had been turned into a miniature cottage garden filled with herbs and seasonal plants. At the top of King Street I got my final two shots of the day, an iconic red telephone box bursting with (artificial) red and deep pink blossom.
I knew I still had a lot more to see but by then I’d been walking round for four hours and it was very hot – time to call it a day, go home and chill out, then plan a return to Manchester on another day.
The constantly cloudy and rainy weather which has blighted most of this month has ensured that since my last post I haven’t really been anywhere to walk the dogs or take any photos. Yesterday’s plan was a visit to Manchester as I have a theme in mind for a couple of blog posts but to get the best shots I need at least some blue sky and sunshine and that just wasn’t happening, it rained on and off all day.
Being forced by the weather to stay close to home I’ve spent some of my spare time over the last few days concentrating on my Postcrossing hobby and via the internet I’ve bought several bundles of unused postcards. On Friday I received a bundle of 100 cards featuring pictures of commemorative stamps issued by the Post Office over the years, they are all mint condition/new/unused and include several sets with a common theme. They are all really lovely cards so in the absence of a Monday walk I’ve scanned a few of my favourites to put on here.
The first set of five wildlife cards were reproduced from stamps issued by the Post Office in October 1977, while the second set of five rose cards are from stamps issued by the Royal Mail in July 1991.
The set of four Food and Farming cards were individually titled ‘Fruit and Vegetables’ ‘Meat’ ‘Dairy Produce’ and ‘Cereals’ and were reproduced from stamps issued by the Royal Mail in March 1989, while the individual card was reproduced from a stamp issued in October 1983 which commemorated the early trade and produce fair British Fairs.
The next card is my favourite from a set of four, reproduced from the Studio Pottery series of stamps issued in October 1987, while the zebra is a particularly striking card from a bundle of 100 random mint condition/new modern contemporary cards.
And finally, a painted picture rather than a postcard. A while ago I was en route to somewhere a few miles away when I passed a large warehouse selling both new and refurbished furniture, appliances, household items, bric-a-brac and just about anything else you can think of. It’s one of those places that’s good for a mooch round even if you don’t want anything, and as I’ve been looking for a new treadmill I popped in on the off-chance they might have something. Unfortunately I didn’t find a treadmill but I did find a lovely little painting so bright and colourful I just had to have it, especially as there are some cute little cats in it.
Obviously I don’t know where the painting originally came from or if the artist is local, and I doubt the guy in the store would know, but it’s exceptionally well done and it looked to be new so I was glad I found it. I haven’t put it up on a wall yet as I haven’t found quite the right place for it but I’ll find a home for it eventually; meanwhile it’s propped up on the unit near my pc so at least I can see it while I’m typing.