Hest Bank, Silverdale & Arnside – a walk in 4 parts

Back in January this year I watched the second series of a crime drama shot in and around Morecambe. Most of the locations I instantly recognised from previous visits but there was a house featured in a place which I felt I knew even though I also knew I’d never been there. Some logical thought and a study of Google maps and street view eventually showed me where it was so the Saturday morning of the August bank holiday found me driving along Morecambe promenade and the coast road to arrive in Hest Bank just a couple of miles northwards.
The road to the shore was crossed by the west coast main train line and the barriers were down when I arrived so I had to wait a few minutes for the trains to pass. Just beyond the level crossing was a parking area and a small cafe, with a long and pleasant green overlooking the bay and a few more small parking areas set at intervals just off the tarmac lane. With just a couple of large semis and a very small residential static caravan site there was nothing there but it was a nice enough little place which seemed to be popular with walkers with or without dogs, while the vast expanse of sands provided good cantering for a couple of horse riders.
Walking northwards I soon found the house I’d seen in the tv series; the lane turned into a gravel track there which ended in another small parking area and a grassy foreshore above the shingle beach. I would really have liked to walk on a bit further but I could see quite a few people in the distance with several off-lead dogs, something which Snowy doesn’t like, so I turned round there and headed back the other way. Back at the van I got chatting to a couple about to set off on a bike ride along the Lancaster Canal; it seemed it was only a short distance away so I decided to leave the van where it was and go check it out.
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I found the canal quite easily and my walk northwards started from Bridge 118, built in 1797, but if I’d been expecting to pass through some nice countryside I was destined to be disappointed as the canal was lined on both sides with houses and bungalows. Many of the properties on the far side had large attractive gardens reaching down to the canal side while those on the towpath side were set just below the canal bank. Long strips of well mown grass separated the boundary walls and hedges from the towpath and I got occasional views over the rooftops to the bay.
Not knowing how far I would have to go to find some countryside I gave up at Bridge 122 and set off back to where I started; I had other places to go to so I didn’t want to spend too long looking for something which could possibly still be miles away. Bridge 120 was a ground-level swing bridge which seemed to provide access to just one house set on its own and not far away was a quirky looking cottage with a not-very-straight roof and an overgrown garden. I couldn’t tell if it was lived in or empty but it intrigued me enough to take a quick photo.
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My next port of call was Silverdale but knowing how to get there and actually getting  there were two completely different things. What should have been a relatively easy drive from Carnforth turned into an epic all-round-the-houses, miles-out-of-my-way journey round unknown country lanes due to a closed road and diversion at a crucial point, but I got there in the end.
Now I remember going to Silverdale as part of a coach trip with my parents when I was about 9 or 10 years old and though I don’t recall going to the village itself I do remember being totally unimpressed with the coast part of it as there was absolutely nothing there, so I was hoping that after all these years it might have changed a little. It hadn’t – there was still the same rough parking area, the same row of cottages set back behind a high concrete sea wall, the same ankle-twisting rocky shoreline and vast expanse of sand. Yes, the view across the bay was good but other than that there was nothing – in less than ten minutes I had all the photos I wanted and I was back in the van.
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Next on the list were Jack Scout nature reserve and Jenny Brown’s Point, a relatively short drive from the village and neither of which I’d been to before. Unfortunately I couldn’t get remotely close to either of them in the van; about halfway there I was met by the second Road Closed sign of the day so I had to find a convenient place to park on a nearby lane and walk from there.
Jack Scout is an area of low limestone cliff owned by the National Trust, with its name thought to have come from old English or Norse meaning a high point where oak trees grow. Well known for its wildlife and extensive views over Morecambe Bay the area features a partially restored 18th century lime kiln and the Giant’s Seat, a huge limestone bench. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see either of these as a notice on the gate leading into the grassland warned of cows in the area and sure enough I could see several of them mooching about among the trees and shrubs. Not wanting to put myself and the dogs at risk I decided not to go there so another few minutes walking finally got me to Jenny Brown’s Point where a couple of benches set down off the lane gave great views over the channels flowing into the bay.
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No one really knows how Jenny Brown’s Point got its name. One story says she was a young maiden hopelessly scanning the distant horizon for the return of her lover, another that she was a nanny, cut off and drowned by the incoming tide while trying to rescue the two children in her care, though the more believable theory stems from the 1660s when a mother and daughter, both named Jennet Brown, lived at Dikehouse, the farm at the Point. The area has also been known as Brown’s Point (1812), Silverdale Point (1818) and Lindeth Point (1828) though Jenny Brown’s Point was in use on an 1829 estate plan and has been used by the Ordnance Survey from 1848.
One story which is certainly true is the tragic tale of the Matchless,  a converted fishing boat used for taking holidaymakers on trips across Morecambe Bay during the summer months. On September 3rd 1894, carrying 33 passengers and just one skipper/crewman, the boat left Morecambe to sail to Grange-over-Sands but just off Jenny Brown’s Point it was hit by an unexpectedly sudden strong gust of wind. Within seconds it capsized, throwing people into the water where many became fatally tangled and trapped in the sails and ropes. Although other nearby pleasure boats came to the rescue only eight passengers and the skipper were saved; 25 holidaymakers including five children, the youngest only 2 years old, all perished.
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A few hundred yards away from the benches the lane ended at the 18th century Brown’s Cottages where huge slabs of limestone looking almost like a slipway led down to the waterside. Nearby were the remains of what would once have been a small quay and part of a broken bridge which would have crossed the channel known as Quicksand Pool.
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Just beyond the cottages was an old chimney, now Grade ll listed and believed to be the remains of a short-lived copper mining and smelting project set up in the 1780s by Robert Gibson, Lord of the Manor of Yealand. He wrongly assumed that he had the right to mine for copper on nearby land owned by the Townleys of Leighton Hall and the copper was processed in a furnace at Jenny Brown’s Point, but after several lawsuits the whole operation was abandoned in 1788; Gibson died three years later in 1791.
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From Jenny Brown’s Point I walked back along the lane to the van then drove the four-and-a-bit miles round to Arnside. Normally I wouldn’t like to drive into to Arnside on a bank holiday as it would be extremely busy and parking wouldn’t be easy but it was gone 5pm by the time I got there and many day visitors had already left so I was able to find a parking space near the far end of the promenade.
Arnside village is situated on the West Coast main railway line in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. At one time it was actually a working port but building the viaduct across the Kent estuary in 1857 caused it to silt up, making the port no longer viable. The viaduct itself is 552 yards long with 50 piers; it was rebuilt in 1915 and is a very prominent feature of the village, being more or less the first thing to be seen when coming into Arnside past the railway station.
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The pier was constructed by the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway Company in 1860, replacing an earlier wooden structure and also providing a wharf for ships after the building of the viaduct prevented them from reaching the inland port of Milnthorpe. In 1934 a storm destroyed the end section of the pier which was subsequently rebuilt by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, then in 1964 Arnside Parish Council bought the pier for £100. Following a storm on the night of January 31st 1983 it was rebuilt by the Parish Council after the cost was raised by public subscription and grants, and it was officially re-opened on April 12th 1984.
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Walking along the promenade I heard the sound of singing coming from upstairs in the sailing club building which was once the Customs House. A board outside said the place was open so for curiosity I popped inside; a steep wooden staircase led up from the corner of a very simply furnished room and from up above came the sound of laughter and the chink of glasses. There was nothing to say if this was a public event or a private one but I don’t like sea shanties anyway so I didn’t bother finding out.
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My walk took me to the end of the pretty promenade gardens before I turned round and headed back to the van, with a quick detour up Pier Lane on the way. It was well after 6pm by then, the lane was in shade and the few small shops were closed but as I’d never been up there before it was worth a quick look.
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My route homeward took me down a part of the A6 which I’d never previously been along and as I headed south I caught the brief sight of an air balloon floating somewhere above the trees. Eventually I could see it properly and with not a lot of traffic on the road I was able to pull up in a couple of places and snap a handful of shots before it disappeared behind a ridge in the fields.
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It was almost 8pm when I finally arrived home, with the evening sun having stayed with me all the way back. Having set out reasonably early that morning it had been a long though very enjoyable day but now it was time to make a brew and relax for a while before the dogs needed their bedtime walk.

Harrington, Workington & Allonby

The penultimate day of the holiday and after some heavy overnight rain – very unexpected as the evening before had been lovely – the sunshine and blue sky were back. My first port of call that morning was Harrington, a coastal village between Whitehaven and Workington. As far as I knew there was nothing much there but it did have a small harbour with a handful of boats, and having been caught by the rain after just one photo the previous day it was worth going back for a bit of a look round.
Back in 1760 Squire Henry Curwen built a small quay at Harrington on the south side of the River Wyre (not to be confused with the River Wyre running through the Fylde area of Lancashire) though there were no ships registered to Harrington at that time, but by 1794 there were around 60 ships and trade in the village was increasing. Shipbuilding and its associated industries were established by 1800 and during the 19th century Harrington became quite an important port, exporting coal to Ireland and lime to Scotland and importing iron ore. Unfortunately by the turn of the 19th/20th century a decline in the manufacturing industry saw the harbour’s use gradually drop and the Port of Harrington eventually closed in 1928.
In 1940 the Ministry of Aircraft Production set up a hush-hush Magnesite plant at the former Harrington Ironworks site at the south side of the harbour, which was sealed off and used as a reservoir for the works. The plant extracted magnesium from seawater for use in aircraft components and incendiary bombs; it was operational until 1953 and during its time was one of only two plants in the country. Eventually the plant was dismantled and the buildings demolished and in 1966 the land was completely cleared.
Today Harrington is largely a dormitory town for employees of the shops, offices and light industry in Workington and Whitehaven and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (formerly British Nuclear Fuels) down the coast at Sellafield. At the height of its industrial past the town had five railway stations but now only has one, situated on the Cumbrian Coast railway line close to the harbour.
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The harbour itself has found a new lease of life as a mainly leisure facility with 14 moorings for boats up to 35ft and 25 moorings for boats under 20ft, plus six moorings for fishing boats up to 35ft. There’s also a sailing and fishing club based on the north side of the harbour and a slipway for ‘trailer-sailors’ to access the water. On the south side is an extensive and very pleasant parkland area where the Magnesite plant once stood and a road runs along the harbourside to a large free car park overlooking a rocky beach.
Halfway along the road is Sea Legend, a sandstone statue sculpted by Shawn Williamson and unveiled in 2000. Possibly inspired by Norse mythology, viewed from one side the figure appears to be carrying a large fish but on the other side the figure’s hand is clamped firmly in the creature’s huge teeth so maybe it was getting the better of him.
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Walking round the inner harbour to the north side I came to the small beach of the outer harbour. A couple of old fishing boats and half a dozen dinghies nestled in the nearby grass and a narrow path led northwards between a pebbly rocky beach and a low grassy cliff. It wasn’t the prettiest of places along there so I didn’t walk too far before turning round and retracing my steps back to the harbour. Round the south side and past the Sea Legend sculpture my harbour walk ended where it began, in the car park overlooking the rock pools and the sea.
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The next part of the day was a visit to Workington harbour at the mouth of the River Derwent, three miles or so north of Harrington. I’d been aiming to go there a couple of years previously but a wrong turn had taken me to a dead end near a wind farm premises at the far side of the port, however directions from Jayne and a previous look at Google Maps had given me a good idea of how to get there and this time I found it with no problems.
A long road took me through an area of commercial premises then a pleasant heath alongside the mouth of the river to a car park at the end of what was essentially a spit of land jutting into the sea. A concrete walkway along the nearby breakwater led to an ugly square two-storey tower surrounded by railings and a staircase; not exactly a lighthouse it did have a beacon light on its roof and it’s also one of the two recognised west coast starting points of the coast-to-coast cycle route – the other is in Whitehaven.
Next to the breakwater was an area of shingle/stony/rocky beach strewn with boulders, not the nicest of places to spend any time, so with just one photo taken I drove back along the road to where there was a lay-by next to a strange circular little building with a conical roof and a boarded-up door and window. This was built in the early 1800s as a harbour workers’ shelter – a workman would watch the tide in the estuary from the shelter and raise or lower a marker to inform seamen of the water depth. The chimney stack is apparently a more modern cosmetic addition.
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Between the road and the river a tarmac path led from just beyond the lay-by and through a grassy area to a slipway and a small yacht harbour where a couple of dozen leisure craft were moored; the tide was going out and many of them were already settled on the mud. Behind the yacht harbour was a longer harbour where there would be more boats, but though there were bright blue skies out to sea dark grey clouds were gathering inland and constantly obliterating the sun. If it was going to rain I didn’t want to get caught in it so I returned to the van; I could always go back to the harbour sometime in the future.
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At the far side of Workington and on the A596 coast road heading north I came to a large Asda store and petrol station so I pulled in there to get a few provisions and fill up with diesel ahead of the journey home the following day. By the time I came out the grey clouds were clearing away and the sunshine and blue sky were back so I continued northwards, and bypassing Maryport I eventually reached Allonby, the third and final stop of the day.
I first ‘discovered’ Allonby at Easter two years ago and was impressed enough to return a couple of months later. To many people it would appear to be just a quaint village strung out along the coast road but delve into its history, as I did two years ago, and you realise there’s far more to the place than you think. Parking overlooking the sea towards the south end of the village, and with views across to the hills of southern Scotland, I walked north along the footpath/cycle path to where Allonby Beck flows across the beach into the sea then walked back south, sometimes along the road and sometimes round the quaint narrow cobbled streets behind.
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On the side wall of the Baywatch Hotel was a 25ft mural which had been painted last year as a tribute to Colonel Tom Moore and to raise money for NHS charities. Apparently the wall was due to be painted anyway so the work was commissioned by Peter Blake who runs the hotel and painted for free by Maryport-based artist Bethany Grey. Now while it may prove to be a bit of an attraction for visitors to the village I have to be honest and say I’m not particularly impressed with it – it’s out of proportion for one thing. There are far better Tom Moore artworks elsewhere – Akse’s mural in Manchester’s NQ is far superior to this – but if the residents of Allonby like it that’s all that matters.
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At the south end of the village I crossed the road and walked along the beach for a while, something which I hadn’t done on my previous visits to Allonby, then returned to the van. With nowhere open to get anything like a decent meal – I’ve often wondered why cafes etc are closed on Mondays, don’t people eat on those days? – I went across to Twentyman’s shop and got a sandwich and can of Coke which I demolished in the van while looking at the view in front of me.
I don’t know what it is about Allonby but I’ve really fallen in love with the little place and the afternoon turned out to be so lovely that I felt reluctant to leave. I would have liked to stay to see the sunset but although it was gone 6pm that was still hours away so after one final photo taken from in front of the van I headed back ‘home’ to the camp site.
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Although the dark grey clouds over Workington at lunch time had caused me to cut my harbour visit short any possible rain hadn’t materialised; the rest of the day had been lovely, and relaxing in the sunshine outside the tent on an equally lovely evening was a good end to the final full day of the holiday.

Whitehaven and St. Bees

Day 8 of the holiday and I was tying in a look round The Rum Story at Whitehaven with a later visit to St. Bees just a few miles to the south. Leaving the van in Tesco’s car park close to the north end of Whitehaven’s harbour I crossed the road to the end of the pedestrianised Millennium Promenade where there was a large sculpture; known as the Whiting Shoal it was sculpted by Alan Clark in 2001 and depicts the large group of fish which, centuries ago, brought the town its very first industry. Across from the sculpture a long wall had been decorated with street art courtesy of Young Cumbria, a youth work charity for young people aged 11 to 25; I rather liked the dolphins, they looked quite cute.
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Away from the harbourside and heading towards The Rum Story I saw that several large circular pebble mosaics were set down the centre of a pedestrianised shopping street. Created by Maggy Howarth of Cobblestone Designs in Lancaster they were inspired by other mosaics which had existed around Whitehaven in the past.
The first mosaic featured John Paul Jones, an 18th century Scottish-American naval captain. Born and brought up in Scotland he began his maritime career sailing out of Whitehaven at the age of 13, then after serving on board a number of merchant and slave ships he rose through the ranks to become a commander. After killing one of his mutinous crewmen with a sword during a dispute over wages he fled to North America and around 1775 joined the newly founded Continental Navy in their fight against Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War. In April 1778 he led two assaults on Whitehaven’s harbour with the intention of setting fire to the fishing fleet on the second occasion but both attacks failed, causing the Americans to retreat.
In 1999, as part of the launch of a series of Maritime Festivals, Jones was given a posthumous honorary pardon by the people of Whitehaven in the presence of Lt. Steve Lyons representing the US Naval Attache to the UK, and the US Navy were also awarded the Freedom of the Port of Whitehaven. The King George ship in the second mosaic is a representation of the Whitehaven-built ship Jones sailed on as a young third mate; it was also the slave ship whose launch was celebrated with a large enamelled goblet, one of the finest pieces of glassware from the 18th century which is now on display at the Beacon heritage centre on the harbourside.
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The mosaic of the fox in front of Whitehaven castle and surrounded by running hounds is based on the best surviving original mosaic in the castle courtyard, while the mosaic with the locomotive illustrates the Crampton loco which was made at the Lowca engineering works just up the coast. The first Crampton locomotives were developed between 1845 and 1847, they had a distinctive single pair of large driving wheels and were designed with a low centre of gravity to improve stability at speed on a narrow gauge track, though the design was adopted more in the United States and Europe than in Britain.
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The mosaic with what appears to be a couple of men in a hot air balloon basket actually depicts several mine workers descending a shaft at one of the nearby collieries, while the next one seems to be based on the hare coursing events which would take place on Harras Moor above the town. The dragon mosaic doesn’t seem to have any information attached to it but the last one appears to be based on the Lowther family coat of arms. Walking back along the Millennium Promenade after my visit to The Rum Story I just had time to snap a few harbourside photos before my time ran out at Tesco’s car park.
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From Whitehaven I drove the four miles south to St. Bees and parked in the large car park overlooking the seafront and beach. I’d been to St. Bees twice a couple of years ago but hadn’t looked round the older part of the village so after a walk along the seafront as far as the bridge across the beck I turned inland and eventually came to the Priory Church, though having the dogs with me meant that I couldn’t go in this time.
Along the road and close to the station was Beck Edge Garden, a small but very attractive enclosed space with a statue of St. Bega and a couple of benches set in a paved area. The statue was sculpted by Colin Telfer of Maryport and was unveiled by the local Mayor on September 16th 2000, when a capsule containing a scroll listing villagers’ names was placed in the plinth by the Chairman of the Parish Council.
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St. Bees seafront looking north
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St. Bees Priory Church
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Statue of St. Bega
Beck Edge Garden
St. Bees station
Across the level crossing I walked up the main street until I’d almost run out of civilisation then back down on the opposite side. With only one shop which was closed, a couple of pubs and a handful of B & Bs the place didn’t exactly have the ‘wow’ factor but it was nice enough and I did get some quite attractive garden photos.
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Back at the van I gave the dogs a good drink then set out for my next intended port of call further back up the coast, however I’d only just got there and taken my first photo when the sky clouded over and it started to rain. It wasn’t heavy but it was just enough to make me abandon my plans and as it was late afternoon by then anyway I decided to drive straight back to the camp site; I could always return the following day if the weather proved to be nice enough.

A walk on the wild side

Situated in the extensive acreage owned by the Armathwaite Hall Hotel close to the northern end of Bassenthwaite Lake the Lake District Wildlife Park is only a relatively short drive along the country lanes from the camp site so on Day 5 of my holiday I decided to go along and take a look. As wildlife parks go it’s not a big place compared to many – about 24 acres in total – but most of the enclosures and paddocks were large with wide and well laid out paths making it easy to walk round and see everything.
The meerkats were closest to the entrance so I started with those, gave the next door reptile house a miss, then wandered along various paths round the enclosures. Some of the animals weren’t easy to see or photograph as they were hiding among the various trees and vegetation in their enclosures, and try as I might I just couldn’t see the red panda which was supposedly curled up asleep on a branch. I got shots of most of the ones which interested me and which stayed still long enough, and seeing the zebras reminded me of holidays spent in South Africa – the people I stayed with referred to them as donkeys in pyjamas, something which always makes me smile.
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Yellow mongooses – native to South African countries
Kookaburra – native to Australia and New Guinea
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A distant shot of alpacas
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Grant’s zebras – native to Eastern and Southern Africa
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Dwarf zebu – a breed of domestic cattle native to India
Ring tailed lemur – native to South Madagascar
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Black and white ruffed lemur – native to Madagascan mountain forests
Lar gibbon – smallest member of the ape family, native to eastern Asia
Walking towards the birds of prey aviaries my attention was caught by a loud screeching noise and I went round the corner to find two of the ugliest chicks I’ve ever seen – they had faces that only a mother could love, though they were cute in their own way and would probably grow into quite nice birds. It was the smaller of the two which was making all the noise, it was ear splitting and constant, but eventually mum appeared from somewhere with some food for them both and the screeching finally stopped.
Striated Caracara chicks – native to the Falkland Islands
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Brazilian Tapirs – native to South America
Crowned Crane – native to Eastern and Southern Africa
View over one of the paddocks towards Skiddaw
The final shot was actually taken from somewhere in the middle of the park as I was walking round but I’ve saved it until last as I think it’s a really nice view. The park has birds of prey flying displays, various animal talks, picnic areas, indoor and outdoor play areas, a cafe and a gift shop, none of which I bothered with; I was a bit disappointed that some of the animals were hiding so I didn’t get to see them but I liked what I did see. For a small-ish park it was very nice so I may very well make a return visit another time.

Ravenglass – a walk in two parts

Day 4 of my holiday started with the most glorious sunrise over the nearby fells just before 4.30am, a promising start to the day ahead. This was to be my ‘big day out’ and I left the camp site a bit earlier than usual for the drive down to Ravenglass to meet up with Jayne. We had agreed to rendezvous in the village car park and when I arrived I found she had got there just a short while ahead of me. She had reversed her campervan/mobile home into a space in an empty corner of the car park so I drove into the space on its nearside, meaning our side doors were opposite and we could sit and chat easily without being disturbed.
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Jayne had previously suggested taking me for a walk, she had in mind a part of Ravenglass she suspected I hadn’t seen before – she was right – so after much chatting and drinking of cool ginger beer and coffee we set off. Through the car park and over the railway line we came to a pretty little garden set behind the signal box, then past the nearby play park and quite a distance along a lane through a pleasant wooded area we came to the ruins of a Roman Bath House.
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The Roman fort of Ravenglass was established on land between the lane and the river estuary and is believed to have been occupied from AD 130 to the end of the 4th century. Standing almost 13ft high in places, the remains of the bath house are among the tallest surviving Roman structures in northern Britain. The building was identified as being Roman in the 19th century, although it was initially thought to have been a villa and wasn’t identified as a bath house until the 20th century.
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Further along from the bath house the lane turned to the right and led downhill under the railway line to the estuary, where we walked along above the shore line before dropping down onto the sand for the last couple of hundred yards to the village’s main street.
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Back at the car park there was much more chatting to be done until it was time for Jayne to leave but it was still only late afternoon, my car park ticket was valid for all day and I had no reason to rush back to the camp site so I decided to stay for a while longer and take myself off for a walk across the railway bridge to the other side of the river.
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Back in the village I had another walk along to the end of the main street then took a path between the houses and past the end of the car park where Jayne and I had started our walk. At the far side of the railway line for the second time I dropped down onto the platform for the steam railway and came out onto the main road into the village. Down the road and under the main railway line I was then on a loop back to the car park and my final shot of the day was taken as I passed a very pretty cottage garden.
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It was well after 7pm when I finally got back to the camp site, with the good weather having stayed with me all the way back. Meeting up with Jayne had been lovely, I’d had two nice walks and taken lots of photos in the process; it had been a perfect day, now it was time to make a brew and relax for the rest of the evening.

Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket

After my brief visit to the pharmacy in Cockermouth and a look round the hardware shop and heritage museum I returned to the campsite to decide on the next part of my day. The first antihistamine tablet, which I’d taken as soon as I came out of the pharmacy, was already working its magic as the swelling in my arm had gone down considerably, and the previously purchased painkillers had seen off most of the pain in my foot. Not wanting to aggravate it any more than I needed to I decided to drive out to Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket; both places seemed to be fairly small so I shouldn’t have too much walking to do.
The villages had previously been suggested to me by my blogging friend Jayne and though I didn’t remember it at the time Caldbeck was actually featured in my ‘111 Places’ book. The village’s history can be traced back to before medieval times and since the Lake District was designated a National Park in 1951 Caldbeck, being very close to its northern boundary, is classed as being the last (or first) village within the Park. Looking at the photo in the book and reading the details it sounded like it was quite a picturesque little place so with sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds I was looking forward to seeing it.
From the camp site there were two different ways to get to Caldbeck so I decided to go clockwise, one way there and the other way back. My route from the site took me onto the A595 then several miles north to the B5299 heading roughly east. The narrow road seemed to go on and on and I thought at one point my usually good sense of direction had failed me and I’d somehow taken a wrong turn somewhere but eventually I arrived at Caldbeck and a sign directed me to the village car park where I was able to leave the van in the shade of some trees.
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The road to Caldbeck – not far to go
My walk started from the far end of the car park where a path led up a slope between the rear gardens of two houses and curious to know what was up there I went, coming out by an extensive village green with a large duck pond. Unfortunately I couldn’t walk all the way round the pond as the green was bisected by a couple of deep drainage gulleys with water running down them. They were only narrow but still too wide to jump across with two dogs so I had to walk quite a distance along the nearby track before I could cross the green, where I came out onto the road opposite the attractive Cornerstone Methodist Church.
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Down the road and across from the car park entrance was Friar Row, a pleasant lane with a handful of detached houses on one side and stone cottages on the other. Eventually the lane turned into a track across a field and my way was barred by a field gate; it seemed to be private land from there so I retraced my steps to the bridge over the beck.
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Across the bridge I skirted the rear wall of the church grounds and came out at Priest’s Mill, a restored early 18th century water mill originally built by the village rector at the time. Initially used for grinding corn, from 1933 it was used as a sawmill and joiner’s workshop until floods destroyed the mill dam in 1965. The mill was eventually restored, with the work being completed in 1985, and it now houses a couple of craft and gift shops, a cafe and a tea garden, and there’s a picnic area beside the river. The only machinery left is the 14ft diameter water wheel which has been restored to working order, and though I didn’t go inside anywhere the wheel pit area apparently displays a local collection of old rural implements.DSCF9377 - CopyPriest's Mill, Caldbeck
A short walk up the track past Priest’s Mill brought me to a row of attractive cottages set sideways on to the road and a few yards along was the gate to St. Kentigern’s Church, also known as St. Mungo’s. Built on the site of a previous church dating from the 6th century the earliest parts of the current church date from the 12th and 13th centuries, with alterations made in 1512 and again in 1727 when the height of the tower was increased. In 1880 the building was restored by Carlisle architect C J Ferguson and a further restoration was carried out in 1932 by J F Martindale.
Close to the church is St. Mungo’s Well, a holy well where Christians were baptised in the 6th century, and in the churchyard is the grave of John Peel, a well known local huntsman who became the subject of the song D’ye ken John Peel?  written by his friend John Woodcock. Also buried in the churchyard is Mary Robinson who became known as The Maid of Buttermere.
Mary was born in 1778, the daughter of the landlord of the Fish Hotel in Buttermere. At the age of 15 she caught the eye of Joseph Budworth, a soldier and writer who described her beauty in great detail in his light-hearted ramblers’ guide to the lakes and as a consequence she became quite a sensation. Five years later she married the Honourable Alexander Hope, MP for Linlithgowshire, and her wedding was reported in the London Morning Post by Wordsworth’s friend Coleridge, though several people expressed their doubts about it. It turned out that they were right and the man was an imposter by the name of John Hatfield, a forger and swindler who was already married; convicted of his crimes he was hanged a year later leaving Mary heartbroken. Her popularity had grown though and she became the subject of many theatre plays, novels and poems. She went on to marry Richard Harrison, a local farmer, and they had four children together; she died in 1837 at the age of 59.
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Along the road from the church I found the village store and a row of cottages with pretty gardens, and set in a triangle between three lanes was the local pub, the Oddfellows Arms. Heading back to the car park I passed another couple of rows of cottages and some more very pretty gardens separated from the road by Gill Beck, then a hundred yards or so further on I was back at the car park.
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With my circuit of Caldbeck completed I headed the mile-and-a-half along the road to the neighbouring village of Hesket Newmarket and I have to admit to being totally underwhelmed. Although there wasn’t a great lot at Caldbeck it did have several interesting features and it was a very pretty place but there was hardly anything at Hesket Newmarket. Just a pub, a small chapel and a very small shop tucked away in a corner but other than that, zilch, nada, nothing, and no pretty gardens anywhere. Its one saving grace, for me at least, was the attractive view down the village green with the fields beyond, and with just one photo taken I returned to the van.
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My route back to the camp site took me back through Caldbeck and towards Bassenthwaite, passing through the hamlet of Uldale before eventually reaching the A591 where a couple of miles north I reached the turn off which would take me close to the site. I’d previously only been along that particular lane just once, on my way to the site on my first day, and I hadn’t taken much notice of the surroundings but this time I did and the views were lovely.
At one point I could see Bassenthwaite Lake, which wasn’t really all that far away, so I stopped the van in a convenient place and got out to take a couple of photos. Unfortunately no amount of editing has been able to get rid of the overhead electricity cable very visible in the zoom shot but in reality it didn’t spoil the view at all.
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Thinking about my afternoon out, if Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket hadn’t been suggested by Jayne, with Caldbeck also being featured in the ‘111 Places’ book, I would probably never have known about either of them or even gone there. Being a bit off the beaten track they certainly weren’t touristy places, in fact Hesket could best be described as ‘sleepy’, and though I wasn’t particularly impressed with the place I did like Caldbeck, so maybe some day in the future I’ll make a return visit.

Looking for Looney Tunes

Another day in Manchester over the weekend and this time I was on the Looney Tunes art trail. Now to be honest until last week I’d never heard of Space Jam and hadn’t a clue what it was supposed to be but apparently it was the first full-length film produced by Warner Brothers featuring a combination of human actors and well known Looney Tunes cartoon characters.
To celebrate 25 years since its 1996 release, and ahead of the new Space Jam film coming to cinema screens next month, several Looney Tunes characters have been painted in different locations around the city by street artist Captain Kris in collaboration with Warner Bros. UK and Manchester Business Improvement District, and for those with smart phones each piece of art includes a QR code (whatever that is) leading to a virtual map of the trail.
Now, I don’t have a smart phone and nor do I want one, so I had the fun of seeking out these artworks for myself. Armed with a list of characters and locations and the street knowledge gained from many hours spent roaming round the city centre over the last few months I set off from Victoria Station with my first stop being inside the Printworks where I found Bugs Bunny, Marvin the Martian, and Daffy Duck.
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Next on the list was Daffy Duck at the nearby Exchange Square tram stop but I wasn’t sure if he would actually be there. The art trail only officially opened last Wednesday but a report in the Manchester Evening News on Thursday said that Daffy had already vanished – apparently he had been mistakenly removed by a council cleaning team. Luckily the artist had reinstated him fairly quickly and there he was, on one of the platform’s central pillars.
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Round at the top end of Market Street I found Bugs Bunny popping out through the front wall of Primark then over in the NQ I found Marvin the Martian and Lola Bunny on the front of a pizza restaurant in Edge Street. A short walk through the streets took me to the Pen And Pencil bar where Porky Pig was doing battle with a leaking pipe on the outside wall then I found Sylvester stalking Tweety Pie round the corner of 111 Piccadilly. 
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Next on the list was another Bugs Bunny in Canal Street then a walk to Circle Square found Wile E. Coyote chasing Road Runner round Symphony Park. A short walk from there took me to First Street where I found the Tasmanian Devil bursting out through the wall of Junkyard Golf then another short walk found the Looney Tunes gang skateboarding through Deansgate Square.
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After another visit to Castlefield across the main road (more of that in a future post) I had quite a trek along Deansgate to look for Speedy Gonzales somewhere in Spinningfields. He took some finding as Spinningfields is a big area – 23 acres apparently – and just like the website details for the flower installation at Deansgate Square earlier this month the location details for finding Speedy bore no relation to where he actually was. Thanks to a patrolling security guy who knew what I was talking about I finally found him sliding down the rail at the top of some steps and I got my last Looney Tunes photo – that was it, I’d found them all.
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According to the website the Looney Tunes art trail actually started with Speedy Gonzales and finished with the characters in the Printworks so technically I’d done it the wrong way round but it didn’t matter in the slightest; I’d been to all eleven locations and happily I’d found all the characters. Making my way back to Victoria Station I popped into a cafe in the Royal Exchange Arcade for a coffee and a snack then stopped off in the Corn Exchange for a quick bit of photography there before catching the train back home – after almost five hours walking round the city centre it was definitely time for a rest.

A discovery walk round Castlefield Basin

My Monday walk this week was one of those impromptu ‘while I’m here I may as well look round over there’ walks. That being so, aside from seeing a couple of photos on Instagram I hadn’t previously researched the area I went to, nor did I photograph things which I now know could be of interest but I can, and probably will, go back there another time.
Castlefield is an inner city conservation area in Manchester and within its boundaries lies Castlefield Basin where the Rochdale Canal and Bridgewater Canal meet. Although many of the area’s old warehouses from long ago have disappeared over the years most of the remaining ones have been restored and renovated to be converted into modern apartments and offices alongside high quality new developments, an outdoor waterside arena for live music and several bars and eateries, making Castlefield Basin a very pleasant and popular place.
My walk started on Deansgate where the Rochdale Canal disappears under the road for a short distance and a railway line runs overhead. At the far side of the viaduct was a tall and very narrow building, empty and derelict for many years but once part of a sawmill possibly dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. A pleasant offshoot from the cobbled Castle Street ended in a large parking area at the side of the Bridgewater Canal then steps on the right took me back up to the road.
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Passing the large and now converted canalside Merchants’ Warehouse on my left and the beer garden of Dukes bar on the right the road took me to Lock 92 on the Rochdale Canal, where the canal itself joins the canal basin. At the far side was the attractive lock keeper’s cottage with its pretty garden though looking down the canal I couldn’t miss what must currently be Manchester’s ugliest building, the Beetham Tower, a 47-storey mixed-use skyscraper on Deansgate.
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Past the cottage the road took me under three viaducts to a dead-end offshoot of the Bridgewater Canal with its narrowboat moorings next to Castlefield Bowl, the outdoor music and events arena. Heading back to the canal basin along the towpath I took a couple of shots under the bridges before emerging at Catalan Square with its tapas bar and attractive outdoor dining area complete with floral planters.

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Narrowboat moorings at Castlefield Bowl

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Staying on the towpath would have taken me back past the lock keeper’s cottage so I went up the steps to Catalan Square and crossed the modern Merchant’s Bridge running above the junction of the two canals to the area of Slate Wharf. With a span of 40 metres the 3-metre wide deck is hung from the steel arches by 13 hangers, and with no underneath supports it has a bit of a bouncy feel to it when walking across. Taking photos from the middle of the bridge when other people were walking across it needed a steady hand and a lot of patience to avoid blurry shots.

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The Bridgewater Canal from Catalan Square

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Potato Wharf from Merchant’s Bridge, with a freight train passing overhead

At the far side of the bridge was the pleasant open area of Castlefield Green with several narrowboats moored alongside and The Wharf pub/restaurant with its outdoor seating area. At the head of a small former wharf by a bend in the canal was the restored Middle Warehouse, now converted into offices, apartments and a restaurant and also the home of Hits Radio, formerly Key 103 and previous to that Piccadilly Radio.
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Past the front of Middle Warehouse a small footbridge took me back onto the canal towpath and if I ignored the ongoing development of multi-storey apartments and 2-bedroom duplexes of Castle Wharf on my right it was a very pleasant walk until I eventually emerged onto the main road not far from where I started.
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Never having been to that area before I didn’t know what to expect but I was very pleasantly surprised by how nice it is. Having now found out a lot more about the place a return is definitely on my list and hopefully there’ll be a lot more photo opportunities waiting for me when I do go back.

Manchester Flower Show – 3

My Monday walk this week, which has now become a Tuesday walk, covers my second day in Manchester and this time I started by looking for flower show exhibits and installations which were away from the immediate centre. Less than ten minutes walk north east from Victoria Station brought me to Angel Meadow and the first installation, a leafy giraffe and a baby elephant.
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Back past Victoria Station and I had a fairly long walk down to the far end of Deansgate to get to Deansgate Square and the Towers of Flowers, the next installation, but when I finally found it I was less than impressed. Photos on Instagram and the flower show website showed a tall display of colourful blooms with three high rise towers in the background – they were great shots and I wanted to create my own version but for some reason any colour had gone. The display was dull and looked scruffy and however I tried I just couldn’t get the shot I wanted.
Moving on from there it was a reasonably short walk to my next stop, the pleasantly pedestrianised area of First Street where I found some quirky installations with watering cans and a lovely bright display on top of the entrance to the Innside hotel, while a nearby railway bridge had a large floral arrangement hanging underneath each of its arches.
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Next on the list was the Whispering Wisteria, a tree sculpture draped with 500 pieces of wisteria and situated at Circle Square on Oxford Road. Hidden in its branches were tiny speakers broadcasting the sounds of the community around Circle Square and though they weren’t loud they weren’t exactly whispering. The tree itself was nice though and while the wisteria may have been artificial it was a lovely colour and worth seeing.
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Along the road I should have been able to find another secret garden at the Kimpton Clock Tower Hotel but again the reality bore no resemblance to what was on the internet. Unless the garden was actually inside the hotel, which looked too posh for me to go in wearing t-shirt, cycling shorts and trainers, there was no evidence of it anywhere on the outside, though to compensate for its apparent invisibility I did take a photo of the florist’s stall at the entrance as they were supposed to have created it.
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A ten-minute walk from there took me to ‘Picnicadilly’, a side section of Piccadilly Station approach which had been fenced off and turned into a very pleasant picnic area with shrubs, artificial grass and picnic benches.
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Down the road to Piccadilly Gardens and on Portland Street I found Soak In The City, a bath full of flowers situated in the ground floor window of a modern office block, but again the reality wasn’t the same as the website. The internet had shown a very pretty photo of the bath taken from inside what seemed to be a reception area but with the building closed there was no access so unfortunately I could only get my shots from outside. Disappointing really but there was a pretty tree just outside the door so at least I got a reasonable shot of that.
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Back across to the far side of Piccadilly Gardens I revisited Stevenson Square in the NQ to check if I’d missed anything on my previous visit; I hadn’t really, though I did find some small fancy trees in pots outside a restaurant down a narrow side street. From there it was down to the Arndale shopping centre and another search for the floral bee sculpture inspired by the 2018 public art trail Bee In The City. This time I found it quite easily and its location proved that it wasn’t there when I’d looked for it before.
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Next I was on a quest to find a bike covered in orange blooms supposedly situated in King Street. I hadn’t known about it on my previous visit and though it seemed to be too bright to miss I couldn’t see it anywhere even though I walked the length of King Street and back. I did however use the opportunity to photograph one or two things which I hadn’t done previously.
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The next on my list was the King Street Town House which promised a very pretty frontage. It wasn’t actually on King Street, it was a couple of streets away from the top end but I found it easily enough and though the front wasn’t exactly awash with flowers the entrance was very pretty.
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Just along the street was the Belvedere modern office block, though with a name like that it should really have been a hotel. Here in what would normally be the main entrance was Swing Into Summer, a large and very lovely floral display with a swing at its centre. I’d known nothing about it as it wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the internet so I found it by accident but I was glad I did as it really was nice.
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Heading back to Victoria Station I had one last place to go to, the Corn Exchange not far from the cathedral. My main reason for going there will be featured in a future post as I took many more photos than I expected but I was also delighted to find that both entrances were covered in flowers, making my last two shots exceptionally colourful.
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As I headed back home on the train I was glad to take the weight off my feet for a short while. I don’t know how far I walked round the city centre that day but it was certainly some distance, and after almost seven hours on foot I was glad to get home and chill out for a while.

Manchester flower show – 2

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.