A couple of hours in Nenagh

A day in which I don’t get to climb a tower but I do experience some Irish logic…
After an uneventful and fairly relaxing journey at the beginning of the month my first full day in Ireland started with the anniversary mass for Michael’s dad and Uncle Jimmy. It was too late afterwards for me to go anywhere which was any great distance away from Roscrea so I decided to go to Nenagh, just a 25-minute bus ride away, to repeat last year’s climb to the top of the castle tower. When I got there however I found that the tower was closed ; I knew there was a couple of days when it wasn’t open but couldn’t remember which days and unfortunately Monday was one of them. Having been up to the top of the tower once though I wasn’t too disappointed at it being closed this time so I decided to have a general wander around instead.
In the grounds of the castle tower an open gate was set in the wall on the far side and when I went through I found myself in a small garden set between the castle’s outer walls and the perimeter walls of both the St. Mary’s churches. Devoid of any colour in the flower beds it was still a pleasant and peaceful little place and would probably be very pretty in the spring and summer months.
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Round the corner from the garden and across the road was the last remaining (disused) block of the old prison built in the 19th century, and the octagonal governor’s house which is now a heritage centre and museum. Guided and self-guided tours can be taken and I would have loved to see the inside of the prison but just like the castle tower the place was closed ; now I may be missing something obvious here but I really can’t understand why many places are closed on Mondays.
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The former prison governor’s house, now Nenagh Heritage Centre
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The last remaining old cell block
Heading out of town I took a walk to Nenagh Town Park, built on a small flood plain surrounded on three sides by the Nenagh river, and opened in October 2014. I’d been there last year and wasn’t terribly impressed as it seemed to be little more than a kids’ adventure playground rather than a proper park, but it was only ten minutes or so from the town and the afternoon, even if somewhat chilly, was quite nice so a there-and-back walk was actually very pleasant and it was nice to get away from civilisation for a short while.

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On my way along the road back into town I cut down a side street to the remains of the Franciscan friary. Founded sometime before 1252 the friars lived there until being expelled by the Cromwellians, though it wasn’t long before they returned. A community stayed in residence until 1766 but even after they left some friars continued to work in the area as parish clergy ; the last Franciscan of Nenagh was a Fr. Patrick Harty who died there in 1817.
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Back on the main shopping street I turned right instead of left towards the shops. Just out of curiosity I wanted to see if there was anything worth seeing if I went out of town in that direction and I hadn’t gone far when I came across a large abandoned and seriously derelict building. There was nothing to say what it was or had been but it was worth a few photos and later information told me that it was an old military barracks. The complex was built in 1832 and occupied by members of the British army for the following ninety years, after which it was handed over to the new Irish State and was used for various purposes over the following years until the early 1980s. In spite of various proposals for preserving the barracks no work was ever carried out and the complex gradually became derelict. In 2009 the Department of Defence offered the property to the local authority but the proposal was turned down and since then most parts of the complex have become dangerous and beyond saving.
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Back in town I window-shopped up the main street until I ran out of shops, and that’s when I experienced some great Irish logic. Among the last few shops in the row was a hair salon with an A-board outside displaying the various prices and also the words ‘No appointment necessary’ and ‘Walk-ins welcome’. Looking through the window I could see there was no-one in there and as I badly needed a cut and restyle I decided to take the opportunity and get it done, however it wasn’t to be. With no customers in the shop, and the stylist just sitting having a coffee, I was told she could only offer me a 3.30 appointment, which would be too late if I wanted to get the 4.15 bus back to Roscrea. Needless to say I didn’t book it, but as I walked back out of the salon I did wonder what happened to ‘No appointments necessary’ and ‘Walk-ins welcome’!
A few yards along the street from the hair salon a right turn took me past another row of shops and on a corner I came to an old bell tower and what had obviously once been the entrance to something. There was a wrought iron gate across the archway but it opened when I tried the latch and I walked through into a small but pleasant cemetery. Many of the headstones were quite old but the more recent ones suggested that this place was still in use. Later information told me that the bell tower, gateway and attached mortuary chapel had been built in 1760, added onto an Anglican Church of Ireland church built forty years previously. The church was in use until 1865 then it was abandoned and eventually dismantled after the congregation moved to a new church ; the inter-denominational burial ground lies where the old church once stood and the bell tower and roofless mortuary chapel are all that’s left of the building itself, although strangely I’ve not yet been able to find out what the church was actually called.
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Those were to be the last shots I took in Nenagh ; no doubt the town had other interesting places to see but there was something I wanted to look for in one of the shops and I didn’t want to be late for the bus or I would be stuck there for another two hours. I arrived back in Roscrea to one of Nellie’s delicious cooked meals and the remains of the trifle from the previous day then spent the evening watching a bit of tv and planning my next day out, with fingers metaphorically crossed that the weather would stay nice for me.

A woodland walk from work

After being unable to download the most recent photos from my camera to the computer and going through a process of elimination I came to the conclusion that somehow the camera card had become corrupted, so a week ago I got a new card and took the camera to work the following morning to test it on my walk home. It was gradually coming daylight as I got near to work and the sun was brightening the sky with a bit of colour so as I walked down the lane I took a couple of shots through the trees.
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All the time I was at work the sun was shining from a lovely blue sky but by the time I left the blue had gone and the sky was grey with a decidedly very weak and watery sun just about shining through, not really what I wanted for my photos but even if they looked dull I was determined to retake the ones I took a few weeks previously and which I couldn’t get off my other camera card.
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Walking up the lane from work
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Looking back
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The stump of the tree which fell across the lane, pushed back into where it came from
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From the top of the lane five minutes of road walking took me to another short lane and past a farm entrance to where a gate took me to a woodland path. It was bitterly cold and locally it was the first morning with a proper frost, giving the open fields beyond the fence and tree line a crisp white covering.
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At the end of the fence a narrow path went down to the right ; I’d never been along there before and I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere so I decided to check it out. It was steep, with rocks, bricks and tree roots hidden under the fallen leaves but I managed to pick my way carefully down without slipping. Almost at the bottom was a very peculiar structure ; from the top of the path it looked like part of a small building but it was actually just a single stone wall with an opening partially covered by a rusty iron gate. With no evidence that there had ever been any other walls attached to it and no clue as to its purpose it seemed very strange.
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Beyond the wall the path levelled out and followed the river on the left. On my right was a steep bank covered in undergrowth and with a field at the top ; as I walked along a movement caught my eye and I turned just in time to catch the fleeting sight of two deer which ran along the edge of the field just above me, disappearing into the trees then running up the main path. I’d obviously disturbed them, and though I would have loved to get a photo they were gone so fast that I didn’t even have time to put my hand on the camera.
I could only walk so far before the path and field were bisected by a deep gully with a stream at the bottom ; it wasn’t very wide and under normal circumstances I would have jumped across but I didn’t want to risk slipping on the frosty ground so I turned round there and headed back to the main path. A bit further down was the remains of another fallen tree ; this must have toppled from the steep hillside a while ago, obviously across the path as someone, presumably the nearby farmer, had cut most of the branches off to clear a way through.
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Past the fallen tree the path levelled out and I was walking alongside the river, back to a normal level now after being quite a fast flowing torrent from all the recent rain. Ahead of me was the bridge I would cross but first I wanted to check out somewhere else. A few weeks ago, while in conversation with an older friend, she had asked me if there was still a small lake hidden in the trees up the hillside above the bridge as she remembered it from her younger years ; although I’ve walked along the riverside many times over the years, both with dogs and without, I never knew there was a lake in the area so it was time for a bit of exploration.
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A rough steep path on the left of the main path took me up through the trees then levelled out, and a distance along it there was indeed a lake. Now it may very well look quite attractive on a sunny day in spring and summer but on a dull autumn morning with bare trees and no wildlife it didn’t exactly have the ‘wow’ factor, but at least I’d found it and could confirm to my friend that it was still there.
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Back down at the riverside I took a shot from the bridge then crossed over to what I call the ‘home’ side of the river. It wasn’t far from there to the end of the path which emerged at the bottom of a cobbled lane ; on the right was a small gated yard with three stables where three horses looked out over the doors. The nearest one was Eden and the middle one was Honey but I couldn’t see the name of the one on the left as there was a rug draped over the stable door. The top of the lane brought me out onto the road round a large modern housing estate ; fifteen minutes of meandering from there round minor avenues and I was finally home.
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With the exception of the detour to find the lake I walk that route three times a week and from work to home normally takes me 35 minutes ; this time it took me almost an hour and a half but I’d managed to get some reasonable photos, and when I downloaded them onto the computer with no problems later on it proved that there was nothing wrong with either the camera or the computer, and confirmed my assumption that the previous camera card was faulty. At least it had been easily and cheaply replaced, and just in time for another forthcoming trip back to Ireland.
**Two days later, when I stopped to say hello to the horses while on my way home from work, a younger woman was in the process of filling up their hay nets – and she turned out to be someone I’d worked closely with several years ago, and though she lives not far from me we’d lost touch when we both moved on to other jobs. It was good to have a catch-up, during which she told me the third horse is called Archie, and remembering that I once worked with horses myself she said I could go down any time to see her three – and I might just do that.

Blackburn Cathedral – some history and photos

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

Heysham village and Morecambe

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

Glasson Dock and Lancaster Canal

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

Dublin street art

While on my recent days out in Dublin I came across many different variations of street art, most of them in the Temple Bar area, so join me on my Monday walk this week as I wander the streets, lanes and alleyways on the south side of the River Liffey. Most of the artwork is unfortunately ‘artist unknown’ although the names of some artists are underneath the relevant photos – mouse over or click on the multi-shots for names and/or locations.
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The Tara building, Tara street, Artist – Maser
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Temple Bar Laundry, Aston Quay/Aston Place
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The Icon Factory art gallery/cafe, Aston Place
The Icon Walk is a public art installation showcasing original work by local artists and featuring many Irish icons both past and present ; it’s also a way of brightening up the forgotten lanes and alleyways behind Fleet Street and discouraging senseless graffiti and the discarding of rubbish. Although I wasn’t really interested in photographing the faces of various Irish people, most of whom I’ve never heard of, I did like the multi-coloured murals along one side of Bedford Lane.
At the end of Bedford Lane was an artistic tribute to the famous greyhound from the 19th century, Master McGrath (pronounced Magraa). The smallest of a litter of seven born in 1866 and trained by a well-known Waterford trainer of greyhounds for coursing he performed so badly at his first trial that his trainer ordered for him to be given away. His handler took him on and he went on to win several courses, after which he was given back to his trainer. Master McGrath was the first greyhound to win the Waterloo Cup three times and he became such a celebrity that his owner, the 2nd Baron Lurgan, was asked to take him to meet Queen Victoria and the Royal Family.
Master McGrath’s success was so great that Lord Lurgan was able to build a terrace of houses in Walthamstow, London, with the proceeds from his wins ; the houses still stand, forming part of Shernhall Street, though at one end they are still clearly marked as ‘Master McGrath Terrace’. The dog died of heart disease in early 1873 and an autopsy showed that his heart was twice the size of a normal dog’s heart ; he was buried in the grounds of a house called ‘Solitude’ in Lurgan.
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Bricked-up doorway, Bedford Row
The ESB Central Distributing Station is a large building which wraps around the corner of Fleet Street and Bedford Row. Built in 1926-28 for the Electricity Supply Board it houses an electricity substation and offices ; representative of the design used by the ESB in the early 20th century it’s one of the few buildings of that style in the city and is a significant contributor to the architectural character of the Temple Bar area. The modern artwork extends right along the front of the building but unfortunately I couldn’t get a decent photo of it as there were too many people around to spoil the shots so I had to be content with a side view.
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Side wall of ESB Central Distributing Station, Bedford Row
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Side wall of Auld Dubliner pub, Fleet Street
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Side wall of Japanese noodle bar, Asdill’s Row
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Artist group – Subset
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A pair of very bright shop doors
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Rear of Café Rubis, Crane Lane
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Above the Jam Art Factory, Crown Alley
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Shop front, Fownes Street, artist – KinMx
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Kennedy art shop, Harcourt Street
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Traffic light box, Tara Street
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Building site hoarding, City Quay, artist – Leah Hewson
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Irish Wolfhound, City Quay, artist – James Earley
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Shop front, George’s Quay, artist – Decoy
These are just some examples of Dublin’s street art, there are many more which either I couldn’t find at the time or I didn’t know about until I got home. One which I did find though provided me with so many photos I think it deserves a post of its own which will follow soon. An internet search since I got home has provided me with a map of four different street art walking routes in the city which take in many of the works by named artists, and though I may not have time to do all four walks in one day I fully intend to do at least two of them the next time I’m in Ireland.
I’m linking up this week with Jo’s Monday Walk where she shows us some of the delights of Sao Bras de Alportel in Portugal – do pop over and have a look if you haven’t already done so.

The Irish National Stud & Gardens

In which I fall foul – again – of the ‘law of Irish distance and directions’ and indulge my love of horses…
Chatting to the two guys in the shed at the bottom of Kildare tower I asked if it was possible to walk from there to the Irish National Stud. I thought it was but I wanted to be sure and they confirmed that yes, I could walk there, it was only a mile – if I took the road opposite the market square, followed it past the Grey Abbey, over the motorway, turned left at the end, next left and the second right would bring me to it. It sounded simple enough but by now being rather dubious about Irish directions and distances I decided to seek confirmation (or otherwise) from the information centre in the market square and a very nice lady in there gave me the exact same directions, telling me it would take me about half an hour.
Now at the speed I walk it does not  take me half an hour to cover just a mile so it sounded like this place was a bit more than that. Also it seemed like I would be doubling back on myself, however off I went and after what felt like forever – 29 minutes to be exact – I reached the entrance to the National Stud. On paying my entrance fee in the visitor centre I was given a couple of information leaflets, one of which had a map showing how to get there, and when I looked at it I realised that instead of following the directions I’d been given and going a long way round I could have walked down a different road which would have taken me straight there. Also there’s a regular free shuttle bus from the shopping village so I needn’t have walked there at all, but no-one had told me that!
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Blue : the way I went  –  Yellow : the way I could have gone
The Irish National Stud was originally founded in 1900 by Colonel William Hall-Walker, a horse-loving Scottish-born businessman from a famous brewing family. After purchasing a farm and other land at Tully on the outskirts of Kildare town he set up a thoroughbred horse breeding facility and quickly became the most successful breeder of his time, enjoying his finest hour when his favourite Tully-bred colt, leased to King Edward Vll, carried the royal colours into the winners enclosure after a famous victory in the 1909 Epsom Derby.
The world-renowned Japanese Gardens were devised by Colonel Hall-Walker and created between 1906 and 1910, being laid out by Japanese master horticulturalist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru. Planned to symbolise the ‘Life of Man’ through trees, plants, rocks, lawns and water the gardens trace the journey of a soul at it goes along the various paths of life from birth to death. The name Minoru means ‘the favourite one’ and this was chosen by the Colonel for his favourite horse, the one which won the 1909 Derby.
In 1915 Colonel Hall-Walker moved to England and gifted the entire Tully property and land to the Crown ; it then became the British National Stud and its success continued under the leadership of Sir Henry Greer, though the Japanese Gardens fell into a period of relative obscurity. In 1943 the newly formed Irish Government took over the land and buildings and in 1945 the Irish National Stud Company was formed, taking over the running of the stud in 1946 ; also that year the Japanese Gardens got a horticultural supervisor to return the gardens to their original splendour. Fast forward to the present day and in 1999, to celebrate the forthcoming Millennium, St. Fiachra’s Garden was designed by an award winning landscape architect to commemorate St. Fiachra, the patron saint of gardeners.
Turning left out of the visitor centre the first thing I came to was a very ‘flower power’ life-sized sculpture of Minoru, the horse which won the 1909 Epsom Derby. This was part of Under stARTers Orders (the capital letters aren’t a typing mistake) an arts charity initiative celebrating the redevelopment of the iconic Curragh Racecourse and raising funds for two charities local to Kildare, the Irish Injured Jockeys and Sensational Kids. A total of 21 resin sculptures were exclusively painted by some of Ireland’s leading equine and contemporary artists and were put on public display at various locations in and around the county, with the opportunity to buy either online or at a live auction in June.
The cost of the admission included a guided tour of the stud and its various facilities and though at first I’d intended just wandering about on my own I realised that there was a tour starting at 2pm so I decided to join it, having just enough time to snatch a handful of photos before going to the meeting point near the Minoru sculpture.
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‘Minoru’ by Liza Kavanagh
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The tour guide was a very friendly and knowledgeable young lady called Sarah and as she walked the group round she gave out lots of really interesting information about the workings of the stud, interspersed with a few amusing comments here and there. Past a sculpture of Invincible Spirit, the current top stallion, and the entrance to the Sun Chariot Yard foaling unit was the museum with the skeleton of the legendary Arkle displayed in the window. Arkle, owned by the then Duchess of Westminster and named after a mountain in Scotland, won 27 of his 35 races including three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup wins, and had the highest Timeform rating ever given to a steeplechaser ; he remains the greatest steeplechaser to have lived anywhere and at any time.
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Sculpture of Invincible Spirit
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Entrance to the Sun Chariot Yard
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Skeleton of Arkle (1957-1970) – the genuine article, not a plastic replica
Past the stallion boxes were the stallion paddocks where I was able to see at close range some of the world’s current best stallions. Depending on popularity a stallion’s breeding fees can range anywhere between the price of a car and the price of a house ; the top stallion is currently Invincible Spirit with stud fees of £120,000 per time, he is father to many champion racehorses and his foals can sell at auction for several hundred thousand pounds each. Past the nursery paddocks were the Living Legends paddocks where previously great racehorses can live out their retirement years, with five horses – Hurricane Fly, Hardy Eustace, Kicking King, Beef Or Salmon and Rite Of Passage – currently in residence.
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Invincible Spirit
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Decorated Knight
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Dragon Pulse
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Living Legends, L-R Hurricane Fly, Rite Of Passage, Kicking King, Beef Or Salmon
Across from the Living Legends paddocks was the extensive St. Fiachra’s Garden and once the tour ended I went back to take a couple of photos before going to the café for a much-needed coffee and a cake treat. With a good selection of cakes and other calorie-laden stuff I was spoilt for choice but eventually decided on a slice of Banoffee Pie, which was highly delicious and also very filling.
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Path through St. Fiachra’s Garden
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A look round the Japanese Gardens was a must and as the café was right next door I didn’t have far to go to get there. To be honest I don’t really subscribe to the Japanese ‘story of life told through a garden’ concept, I like to look round a garden for the garden itself, but all the features were numbered so I followed most of them – although not all in sequence – without referring to the story, the end of which is actually quite sad.
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The Bridge of Life
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The Tea House
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With or without the story the Japanese Gardens were lovely ; it was a shame it was such a grey day as with sunshine and blue sky they would be really stunning. Checking the time when I came out of the gardens I was hoping I would be able to go back to St. Fiachra’s Garden but there was a courtesy bus leaving the car park at 4.15 and I didn’t want to miss it (getting that would save me the walk back into town) so reluctantly I gave up on that idea.
The courtesy bus put me off just inside the shopping village and from there it was only a short walk across a car park to the bus stop for the coach to Roscrea. I arrived back at 6pm to another of Nellie’s lovely meals then later on I went round to Laura’s to spend a final hour with her before tackling the unwanted, although relatively easy, task of packing my things ready for the following day’s journey home. Apart from the needlessly long walk to get to the National Stud my day had been very interesting and successful, and not having had time to see all that the Stud has to offer means I’ll be making a return visit as soon as I get the opportunity.