Another day in Dublin – Part 2

After lunch my walk continued with a visit to Trinity College to find the Ernest Walton memorial, a modern sculpture with a series of five spheres ‘balanced’ one on top of the other. The college grounds are very extensive and in spite of getting directions from one of the staff at the entrance I couldn’t find this thing anywhere so eventually I gave up. What I did find though was a very peaceful little garden set back off one of the paths and with a bed of brightly coloured plants and foliage next to it.
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A garden in Trinity College grounds
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From the college I headed up to the top of one of the busy shopping streets to the next place on my list, the Royal Fusiliers’ Memorial Arch, generally referred to just as Fusiliers’ Arch. It was built in 1907 and modelled on the 1st century Arch of Titus in Rome, and while most people just see it as the main entrance to St. Stephen’s Green it’s actually a memorial to the 222 members of the Dublin Fusiliers who died fighting for the British army during the Second Boer War in 1899 – 1902. Stand underneath the arch and look up and the names of all the fusiliers can be seen on the underside.
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Fusiliers’ Arch, St. Stephen’s Green
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Next on my list was Iveagh Gardens, just a 3-minute walk away from St. Stephen’s Green, and tucked away behind the buildings on the south side they are still a secret to many as there is no obvious way in ; the entrance nearest to St. Stephen’s Green was actually at the end of a cul-de-sac full of parked cars so could quite easily be missed. The gardens owe their layout to the Great Exhibition of 1865 and have several unusual features including a miniature maze modelled on the one in London’s Hampton Court, although impossible to get lost in unless you’re only 2ft tall, and a water cascade over a rock feature made up of pieces from each of Ireland’s 32 counties. Unfortunately I’d only just got to the park when it started with fine drizzly rain and though I spent several minutes sheltering under the trees it showed no signs of stopping, so I gave up on exploring the place properly and took just a handful of shots from under my umbrella.

 

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Iveagh Gardens
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Heading to the next place on my list my eye was caught by a small and unusual looking building sandwiched between two much taller buildings. It turned out to be the entrance to a church and it was open so I went in for a look round, and what I saw really took me by surprise. The interior was absolutely amazing and incredibly beautiful, so much so that I’m saving the photos for another post.
And so on to my next port of call, the National Museum, to see the Bog Bodies. There are several of these on display in the museum but the one featured in the ‘111 Places’ book is known as Old Croghan Man after the area in Co. Offaly where he was found in a peat bog in 2003. It’s been estimated that he died sometime between the years 362 BC and 175 BC and would have only been in his late 20s ; what’s left of him indicates that he was 6ft 3ins tall and his smooth hands and manicured fingernails suggest that he was of high social standing, maybe a king or someone in line to become one. Whoever he was he died violently from a stab wound to his chest then he was decapitated and his nipples were cut off before his body was cut in half. Looking at this headless, legless torso in its display case it was incredible to think that this ‘thing’ that had once been a man was so old – certainly a testament to the preservation properties of peat bogs which can mummify human flesh and prevent decay.
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Old Cloghan Man
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Another reason for me to go to the museum was to visit the Natural History part of it which was in the same building and not far from the Bog Bodies. Established in 1856 as a ‘cabinet-style’ museum its layout and animal collections haven’t changed much since Victorian times and it’s often described as ‘a museum of a museum’ or commonly referred to as ‘the Dead Zoo’. It seemed to be a very popular place as it was extremely busy and I found it difficult to take photos without someone getting in the shot or standing right in front of what I wanted to photograph ; it was very interesting though and I could have spent far more time in there than I actually did but time was getting on and I needed to think about heading back to the bus station.
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The Dead Zoo
View from the upper balcony – photo from the internet
Across the road from the museum was Merrion Square, one of Dublin’s largest and grandest Georgian squares with an attractive central park, though my main reason for walking round there will be covered in another post. As I walked down the east side of the square I stopped briefly just inside the entrance to the park to snatch a couple of photos then continued along the north side where I came to the sculpture of Oscar Wilde lounging on a huge boulder across the street from the house where he was born.
The Wilde monument was created by sculptor Danny Osborne who travelled all over the world to source suitable materials for his work and brought back some of the earth’s rarest stones. The green of Wilde’s smoking jacket is nephrite jade from Canada’s Yukon, while the collar and cuffs are pink thulite from central Norway. The tweed-like trousers are sculpted from blue pearl granite with pieces of feldspar showing through, a material which came from a fjord near Oslo, and the shiny black shoes are charnokite, a black granite material from India. As the sculpture had to keep its colours while outdoors and subject to different weather conditions only the rare and ultra-hard materials chosen were suitable.
In 2007, ten years after he first appeared on the boulder, which is 35 tonnes of Irish quartz, Wilde needed a head transplant as the ceramic which had been first used had started to crack, so Osborne travelled to Guatemala and returned with a special white jade which was sculpted into Wilde’s permanent head. Oscar Wilde is remembered, among other things, for his extensive writings, his colourful personality and flamboyant dress, and this sculpture is certainly a great tribute.
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Merrion Square Gardens
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Oscar Wilde sculpture
The Oscar Wilde sculpture was the last thing on my list for that day ; apart from the very short time I’d spent having lunch I’d been walking constantly for over four and a half hours so it was definitely time to get the coach back to Roscrea. There were a couple of things on my list which I hadn’t found but I can look for those, and other things, on another day in Dublin sometime in the near future.

Ashton Gardens in summer

Back in April, while on an afternoon out in St. Anne’s, I went to Ashton Gardens situated on the edge of the town centre.  It was a place I hadn’t been to before and in the sunny weather I was impressed enough to want to go back during the summer, so my Monday walk this week features a second visit which was undertaken earlier this month. Just as previously I started my walk at the gates in the side street closest to the town centre then wandered round in a ‘sort of’ anti-clockwise direction, ending at the gates on the main road.
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St. George’s Road entrance
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The first of two bowling greens
When I got round to the rose garden I must admit to being slightly disappointed as it didn’t look quite as good as I’d expected. Although all the beds were full of roses of different colours it seemed that many of them were already past their best with withered blooms and fallen petals, indeed two gardeners were busy dead-heading the worst of them. Not being interested in gardening I’ve no idea if there’s a particular time when roses are at their best – maybe there is and I’d missed it, or maybe the best was yet to come, however the garden was nice enough in its own way and I got a few good photos.
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Beyond the rose garden was the undulating land with the two ponds and meandering waterway, and the place looked a lot different to April when the trees were still quite bare. And strange as this may sound, I actually thought that there was too much  greenery around as a lot of it was obscuring what had previously been some really nice views, however I still got some good shots and the bonus was seeing the fountain in the big pond shooting water about 15ft in the air, something I hadn’t previously known about as it hadn’t been working in April.
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Next came the Japanese garden which I’d missed last time as I hadn’t known about it, then the circular sunken garden with its beds full of pink and white flowers ; in the bright glaring sunlight they looked rather washed out but the pink ones were actually much deeper than they appeared. From there I made my way past the war memorial and the pavilion cafe then down the wide main path to the gates onto the main road, finally making my way back to where I’d left the van in the car park at my usual cafe.
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The Japanese garden
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The sunken garden
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The pavilion cafe
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Looking back up the main path
It had been interesting to see the difference in the gardens now it’s mid summer but of course that’s got me wondering what they will be like in autumn when the leaves are changing colour – and who knows, maybe a third visit will be on the cards in the not-too-distant future.

 

Strolling round Queen’s Park

My Monday walk this week is an exploration of a large local Victorian park right on the edge of the town centre, a park which I haven’t been to for over 40 years. I remember my parents taking me there when I was a child – with nothing but acres of green space, a duck pond and a rather rubbish playground tucked in the bottom corner I thought it was the most boring of all the local parks. Fast forward to 1977 and when I worked at the far side of town I would often walk home through the park although I didn’t take much notice of my surroundings and have never been there since, but with a grant of over £4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2009 the place has undergone several improvements over the last few years so on a recent lovely sunny morning I took the dogs and went to check it out.
Queen’s Park, an area of roughly 22 acres, was created on pasture land purchased from the Earl of Bradford, and lies on sloping ground just out of the town centre. Originally called Bolton Park it was opened in 1866 by the Earl of Bradford himself, then in 1897 it was renamed in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Features included an ornate bandstand surrounded by water and flower beds and with amphitheatre-style terraces for seating, a pavilion building, an ornamental fountain, a large paddling pool and the Chadwick Museum which opened in 1884. The bandstand and its lake, the pavilion and the fountain were all gone long before I was born, the paddling pool disappeared not long afterwards and the museum was demolished in 1957 after the exhibits were transferred to the new town centre museum in the main library building – maybe if these things had still been there when I was a child I would have found the park a lot more interesting than I did at the time.
The park does have a couple of claims to fame though – in 1969 outdoor scenes for the Bolton-based film Spring and Port Wine, starring James Mason, were shot there, and in August that same year a little-known singer named Freddie Mercury performed with a band called Ibex in front of 500 enthusiastic teenagers at the town’s first open-air rock concert. He formed his own band Queen the following year and went on to become a global superstar.
There are several minor entrances to the park and two main entrances, one being at the bottom end close to the town centre and the other at the top on the wide main road which eventually leads to Chorley. My stroll started from this top entrance and straight away I got my first few photos, then as I walked down the wide main path a squirrel ran across in front of me to the bottom of a tree, staying there just long enough for me to snatch a photo of him.
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Daffodil display near the entrance
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Names are listed on all four sides of this cenotaph
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A few yards along I came to the large circular formal sunken garden surrounded by trees, shrubs and bushes ; the flower beds were bare but I did see my first rhododendron shrub of the season in full flower. A little way along the path from there, and set in an elevated position, was an informal garden with modern seating and views over the lower end of the park and towards the town centre.
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The sunken garden
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Rhododendrons are my most favourite shrub
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The modern garden and seating area
A minor path on the right took me down through the trees to the largest of the two lakes inhabited by various ducks, swans, geese and seagulls, then another path took me back up the slope to a wide and pleasant terraced walk backed by shrubbery where a modern war memorial and three Grade ll listed life-size statues on tall plinths were set back among the greenery.
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The terraced walk
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John Fielding, mill worker, trade unionist and MP, statue erected in 1896
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Benjamin Disraeli, writer, MP and twice British Prime Minister, statue erected in 1887
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James Dorrian, popular and well-respected local doctor, statue erected in 1898
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Modern war memorial erected in 2015
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At the end of the terrace I walked down the grassy slope to a minor path with the aim of getting to the bottom end of the park and working my way round and back up to the top, however a signpost told me that Dobson Bridge was down a path on the left so I decided to go and have a look. Dobson Bridge was erected in 1878 to link the original park with a later extension (now playing fields) on the far side of the River Croal and was officially opened by B A Dobson, Chairman of the local Park Committee. Built of cast iron and on cast iron supports it has ornamental stone pillars at both ends, each with an ornate cast iron plaque featuring the town’s crest. Thinking back to my childhood I remember the bridge to be a grey not-very-nice-looking structure but having been restored and repainted in modern colours it now looks quite attractive.
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Dobson Bridge
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River Croal from the bridge
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Riverside walk
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The path passed the end of Dobson Bridge and a little way along was a small fishing lake backed by a bank of trees and another bridge, plainer this time, which led to a small development of modern business units across the river. There was a path on the far side of the fishing lake so I was able to walk all the way round before making my way back to the lower end of the park.
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The fishing lake
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The fishing lake and Dobson Bridge
The next path split into two so I took the lower one which headed in the direction of the playground in the bottom corner of the park, and Sophie being Sophie she found what must have been the only muddy patch in the whole park, though by the time we got to the playground the mess on her paws had disappeared. Not far from the playground a set of wide stone steps and a long path led back up to the terrace with the statues, and at the bottom of the steps was a fountain and a couple of benches. From the playground I took the path past the bottom main entrance and the modern cafe and followed it uphill towards the main road, with my last shot featuring the same as the first – daffodils.
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Look who found the muddy bit
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“Look mum, my paws are clean again now”
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The path to the terrace
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A very colourful play area
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Heading back to the main road
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Back at home I checked out the park on Google Maps satellite view and realised there were a few things I hadn’t yet seen. Maybe it was because I’d been looking at the park with fresh adult eyes or maybe the modern improvements had helped, but I’d found it a lot less boring than when I was a child, and having missed a few things this time I’ll certainly be returning later in the year for another exploration and dog walk.

New Year’s Day walk 2019

After more than two weeks of almost constant gloomy and wet weather New Year’s Day was dry, bright and sunny so I took the opportunity to go for an afternoon walk round part of Leverhulme Park, a local place I hadn’t been to for about twenty years. Unfortunately though, I couldn’t take the dogs this time – with Sophie having recently had a major operation she wasn’t allowed out and it wouldn’t have been fair to take Poppie and leave Sophie behind so for once I was on my own.
Leverhulme Park is the largest of all the local parks and was gifted to the town by well-known local soap magnate and generous benefactor William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme). Back in 1914 Bolton Corporation was negotiating to buy 67 acres of land on the outskirts of town to turn into a park but when WW1 broke out government restrictions made it impossible to raise all the money necessary for the purchase. When William Lever heard about this he bought the land himself and presented it to the town, then went on to buy further pieces of land to extend the park to 98 acres – a total of 88 of these acres were donated by him and the park was eventually named Leverhulme Park in his honour.
Although the top end of the park provides the usual park facilities – well mown grass, bowling greens, cricket pitches, football pitch, playground, dog walking areas and more recently an up-to-date leisure centre and running track – the bottom end has more of a countryside look with wild meadows, woodland, two rivers and several unmade tracks and paths, and it was this part I was going to explore.
My walk started at the main car park close to the playground and followed a wide tree-lined tarmac path with the cricket pitches and a bowling green up a bank on my left. After a while the tarmac changed to cobbles and the path went downhill through a small wooded area, ending up close to a road where a row of cottages nestled in the shadow of the 86ft high Darcy Lever viaduct. This was once part of the railway line connecting Bolton to Bury but the line was closed in 1970 and the track was left derelict for many years, though more recently the viaduct has become part of a shared footpath/cycleway running from Bolton to Radcliffe.
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A few yards along from the cottages the River Tonge flowed down wide shallow steps and under the road ; footpaths ran both right and left of the river and I took the right hand one as I knew that would take me back into the park. I hadn’t gone far when the path split at the beginning of a wild meadow ; going straight on would take me directly across the meadow so I went left through a small coppice and followed the river round the meadow’s edge. At the point where Bradshaw Brook joined the river itself a man was throwing sticks into the water for his dog although it looked rather gloomy just there as the tall trees were keeping the sunlight at bay.
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The River Tonge
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Bradshaw Brook
At the far side of the meadow the path took me through a thicket of trees to a second meadow ; the man and his dog had given up playing in the river and were walking ahead of me. On the left was a bridge with stone parapets and railings, a bridge which I knew would lead to another more cultivated part of the park although I would save that one for another time. Continuing straight on the path led through more woodland but not sure of where I would end up I turned right and followed a nearby dirt track uphill.
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Bradshaw Brook near the bridge – a great spot for picnics and paddling in summer
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Looking towards the meadow from the bridge
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The top of the dirt track brought me out onto the main path through the top end of the park close to the running track ; although it was only just after 3 o’clock I was already losing the best of the sunlight so deciding that it was time to go home I followed the path past one of the more modern slide constructions and back to the car park.
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It had seemed strange walking without the dogs but although it hadn’t been a long walk – time-wise it had only taken 45 minutes – it had been a good one and it was nice to see that the bottom end of the park hadn’t really changed in the years since I was last there. I’d got some good photos too so I must remember to go back in the spring/early summer to see the differences a change of season will make.
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My walk, clockwise from yellow dot
It’s good to see that my blogging friend Jo is resuming her Monday walks when she can so I’m linking this with her latest, a walk round a nature reserve and salt marshes in Southern Spain, ending with some delicious-looking cake and cream.

South of the Liffey – Temple Bar

Across the road from St. Stephen’s Green main entrance were four horse-drawn carriages so as I love horses I went over to say hello to them. The ponies were all standing patiently waiting for customers ; the black one obligingly lifted his head and posed for me while I snapped his photo and the one at the back made me smile as he was dressed for Christmas complete with reindeer horns on his head. A bit further along the road I came across two large bright yellow-and-blue amphibious tour vehicles belonging to Viking Splash, and although the prices aren’t exactly cheap it looks like a fun way to see some of the city.
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From the park the next place I wanted to see and actually go into was the Natural History museum ; built in 1856 as a ‘cabinet-style’ museum the building and its animal collections haven’t changed much since Victorian times and it’s often described as ‘a museum of a museum’ and referred to as ‘the Dead Zoo’. Unfortunately though I couldn’t seem to find it ; I’d turned down a street off the road past the park as I knew it was in that area somewhere, and though I found the archaeology museum, which I had no interest in, there was no sign of the natural history one. It was only much later, while studying a map of the city, I realised that if I’d gone just one street further from the park I would have found it, but at least now I know for another time.
Having given up on the museum I made my way back towards Trinity College and past a hardware shop with a name which amused me enough to take a photo of it. Past the big Bank of Ireland building I came to the maze of side streets known as Temple Bar, a busy neighbourhood just behind the riverside. Promoted as being the city’s ‘cultural quarter’ and centre for nightlife many of its pubs and bars host live music events and among its cobbled streets are quirky boutiques, contemporary art studios and galleries and many many cafes and eateries – it’s even possible to go on a ‘musical pub crawl’ for an evening of songs, food and drinks in three different pubs. Several buildings are painted in bright colours and there’s street art everywhere ; I could have spent at least half a day just wandering round all the streets but with limited time I didn’t go too far.
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A great name for a hardware shop
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A colourful mode of transport outside the Temple Bar Hotel
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ThunderRoad Cafe and party restaurant
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One of the area’s best known pubs – the musical pub crawl starts here
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Another popular place
Down a narrow side street and on a corner I came across the brightly painted Icon Factory, a cafe and art gallery, and in an effort to prevent unofficial and senseless graffiti the walls of the adjacent alleyway had been painted in bright patterns and designs. About halfway along were painted boards depicting some of Dublin’s humorous references to the various statues situated around the city, and though I’d previously known about a couple of the sayings featured I didn’t know about the others so I photographed them all.
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Retracing my steps back along the alleyway I went past the colourful Icon Factory and down to the end of the street which brought me back to the riverside not far from the pedestrian-only Ha’penny Bridge. Officially named the Liffey Bridge it was built in 1816 using 18 cast iron sections made by the Coalbrookdale Company in Shropshire and shipped over to Dublin. Before the bridge was built there were seven ferries which were used to cross the river at that point but they were in such bad condition that their owner was told to either fix them or build a bridge – he chose to build the bridge and was granted a 100-year right to charge anyone crossing it a ha’penny toll which matched the previous charge for using the ferries which it replaced – hence it became know as the Ha’penny Bridge. While the toll was in operation there were turnstiles at each end of the bridge but the toll was dropped in 1919 and the turnstiles were eventually removed.
Fast forward to the 21st century and in 2001 the number of people using the bridge on a daily basis was counted as a staggering 27,000 ; a structural survey showed that some renovation was needed so the bridge was closed for repairs and reopened in December that year. In 2013 Dublin City Council removed over 300kg of love locks from the bridge and signs were put up asking people not to put any more padlocks on it. It’s such a popular bridge that I hadn’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting a photo of it with no-one on it but I took one from a distance and luckily only a few people were crossing at the time.
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The Ha’penny Bridge looking west
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One of the fancy lamp fittings above the bridge
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Looking east from the Millennium Bridge
A couple of blocks along from the Millennium Bridge I came to an unusual-looking and rather elegant four-storey building on a corner ; this was Sunlight Chambers, currently home to a firm of solicitors, and it was decorated with picture friezes above the ground floor and first floor windows. I couldn’t really make out what the friezes signified but they were so unusual I took photos of what I considered to be some of the nicest ones.
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Sunlight Chambers
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The building and its friezes intrigued me so much that once I’d got settled back here at home I decided to do a bit of research, and what I found out really surprised and amazed me. Designed by Liverpool architect Edward Ould the building was constructed in 1901 to be the Irish headquarters and offices of Bolton-born William Lever (later to become Lord Leverhulme) of the well-known Lever Brothers soap company.
Sunlight soap was one of the first soaps to be made on an industrial scale from vegetable oil and using architect Edward Ould William Lever built Port Sunlight, a manufacturing base and model town on the Wirral in Cheshire. When he needed a name for his new Dublin headquarters a variation of the Sunlight theme was obvious so the building became Sunlight Chambers. The friezes were designed and crafted in 1902 and actually tell the history of soap and hygiene, with some of the features being symbolic representations of how Lever Brothers made and exported their products.
As I photographed Sunlight Chambers and various parts of the friezes I had no idea then that the building in front of me would turn out to have such a connection to my home town – and now I know about it I’ll certainly make a return visit in the not-too-distant future to take some more photos.

South of the Liffey and St. Stephen’s Green

As I crossed the Samuel Beckett bridge I stopped in the middle to take a couple of photos of the river in both directions then continued along the south quayside, and with not many people about that part seemed to be a lot quieter than across the river. Heading west the sky lost its blue colour and became dark grey and heavy although the sun was still shining so I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t actually rain. Almost opposite the Jeanie Johnston ship I came across something which I didn’t expect – set back off the road and surrounded by modern office buildings and commercial premises was a row of 3-storey terraced houses which looked like the lower level was all basement flats with the actual houses up above. A highly commercial area seemed a strange place for a row of residential dwellings but they actually looked quite nice and they certainly had a good view of the river.
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Looking east with the MV Cill Airne – the Blue River Bistro Bar – in the foreground
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Looking west
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The Jeanie Johnston
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On City Quay and just past the Sean O’Casey bridge I came across The Linesman, a life-size bronze sculpture by Irish artist Dony MacManus. The winning entry in a public art competition in 1999, it commemorates the tradition of docking in the area and is a tribute to all the dockers who worked at Dublin port throughout the years. A few yards further on and across the road I descended from the sublime to the ridiculous when I came across a closed down cafe with a roller shutter displaying its daft name and picture which rather amused me.
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The Linesman
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I wonder who thought of this name?
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The Custom House and Talbot Memorial Bridge
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The next bridge along was Butt Bridge and just up the road on the left my eye was caught by a brightly coloured building so I went to check it out. There was nothing which gave any clue as to what the building actually was but later research has told me that it’s the Tara building, a co-working hub with a gallery and cafe, and the outside was painted by the Irish street artist Maser ; it was certainly very eye catching and worth a photo.
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The Tara building
Past another couple of bridges and opposite the wide O’Connell bridge I took a left turn and went in search of a couple things I particularly wanted to find. This area was much more central and compared to the quietness of further back along the quayside it was heaving with people and extremely busy. Although I hadn’t planned it the first major thing I came to was Trinity College ; there seemed to be a lot of people going through the gates so I decided to take a quick look. Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth l it’s a sister college to Cambridge’s St. John’s College and Oxford’s Oriel College ; it’s also one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland and is Ireland’s oldest surviving university, with the ancient Book of Kells being kept in the library there.
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The campanile (bell tower) in the college’s main quadrangle
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The Graduates Memorial Building
Next on my list was the Molly Malone statue which I found outside St. Andrew’s church in one of the narrower shopping streets. A group of buskers were singing on the nearby corner so there was quite a crowd gathered, and as is often the case with famous statues it seemed that everyone around wanted to have their photo taken with this one and I had to wait quite a while to be able to get a shot with no-one else in it, though unfortunately I couldn’t do anything about the information kiosk behind it.
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St. Andrew’s Church
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The Molly Malone statue
Having previously studied a small map in a free booklet about Dublin’s attractions I followed my nose up to the top of the nearby pedestrianised shopping street to St. Stephen’s Green, a decent-sized park with a couple of lakes and oodles of green space. Surrounded on all four sides by blocks of offices and other commercial buildings it was a lovely peaceful, and obviously very popular, oasis and it was nice just to wander at will and take photos here and there.
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Park map at the main entrance
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The first lake
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The second lake
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Even though it was now winter there was still some autumn colour left in various parts of the park and it looked so nice that I could imagine it would be really lovely in spring and summer. I could have spent much longer in there but there was somewhere else I particularly wanted to find so reluctantly I headed back through the main entrance and off on my next quest.

Radcliffe Tower and Close Park

My Monday walk this week is more of a wander than a walk and features a look round Radcliffe Tower and Close Park at Radcliffe, a town just over six miles from home. Being a frequent visitor to the large camping store in Radcliffe I’ve been to the town many times over the years but I didn’t know anything about Radcliffe Tower until just three days ago when I was reading through someone else’s blog. It seemed that the tower and park are in an area of the town which I’ve only ever passed through a couple of times on my way to somewhere else, which was probably why I didn’t know about it, so as there was plenty of sunshine and blue sky on Saturday afternoon I decided to take the dogs and check things out.
A 20-minute drive took me to the car park at the entrance to Close Park, and though I was itching to look round the park straight away I decided to find the tower first. Just off the main road and adjacent to the car park was Church Green, a three-sided cobbled lane with three modern terraced houses on one side, a small public garden in the middle and St. Mary’s church at the bottom end. Built in the 14th century with the tower being added in the 15th century the church is Grade l listed, with the churchyard containing the war graves of six soldiers from WW1 and three from WW2. Unfortunately the central garden and the front of the church itself were very much in the shade but I got a couple of photos then moved on to find the tower.
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The Parish Church of St. Mary
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A path from the car park took me over a wide water-filled channel – originally a closed-off part of the nearby River Irwell – and past the back of the church to another path behind the far side of the graveyard ; the ruined tower and its surrounding land were completely enclosed by a high galvanised steel perimeter fence but at least there was a gate which allowed access during daylight hours.
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The back of the church seen through the trees
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Radcliffe Tower west wall and original entrance
Built as a typical fortified pele tower the earliest record of it dates back to 1358 ; it would have been three stories high with storage on the ground floor and living accommodation above. In 1403 the tower’s owner, James de Radcliffe, was given permission by King Henry IV to fortify his house and a new Great Hall was built to adjoin the tower, forming Radcliffe Manor, with the original ground floor storage area being converted into a kitchen with a fireplace on each of three walls. In 1517 the Manor passed to a distant branch of the Radcliffe family and in 1561 it was sold to the Assheton family who lived near Rochdale. They leased the hall and its land to tenant farmers, with subsequent members of the family continuing to do the same until 1765 when it was sold to the Earl of Wilton from Heaton Hall near Prestwich, though he continued to let it out to tenants.
By the early 1800s much of the Manor’s former grandeur had gone, with residents living only in the small west wing. The Great Hall was converted into a barn and the tower itself was used as a farm building, with the huge ground floor fireplaces in the south and east walls being knocked through to give access for farm carts and/or animals. By 1840 the Great Hall and the west wing were in such a state of disrepair that they were demolished and some of the stone from their foundations was used to build cottages nearby. The tower itself was spared and continued to be used as a farm building, with a new farmhouse being built to the north of where the Great Hall had been standing.
In 1925 the tower was scheduled as a monument and though it stayed in the ownership of the Wilton family until the 1950s the land round it wasn’t protected and in the 1940s gravel quarrying began to the south of the tower. By the 1960s the nearby farmhouse and cottages had been demolished, then starting in the 1970s the quarry was turned into a landfill site with large trucks rumbling right past the tower which, protected only by a fence round it, was in a very delapidated state by then. The future of the tower began to change in 1988 though when Bury Council took over ownership and conservation and stabilisation took place, which included blocking up two windows and the original fireplace arches. The scheduling of the monument was extended to include the land where the Great Hall had stood and by 2007 the landfill site had gone, with Bury Council acquiring the rest of the land surrounding the tower.
Starting in 2012 a series of archaeological investigations took place on the tower and Great Hall site and also on the site of the later farm and cottages which had been built nearby – finds from the Great Hall site included 15th century Cistercian drinking pots and storage jars and also showed that the floor would have been made from glazed tiles. Today the Medieval fabric of the tower has been professionally conserved and restored and the area round it has been landscaped, with a ‘pathway’ next to the tower marking out the footprint of the original Great Hall.
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The north wall with a fireplace arch still visible
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A window in the east wall
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The south wall with another fireplace arch
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West wall window showing the underside of a spiral stone staircase
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West wall showing the diagonal roof line where the Great Hall was joined to the tower
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Part of the footprint of the Great Hall marked out by a continuous pathway on the ground
At various points around the grounds covered information boards told the history of the tower site and once I’d read and photographed them all I made my way through the gate and back along the path to the park.  Close Park was originally the grounds to Close House, the home of the Bealey family who established a nearby bleaching business in the 18th century ; in 1925 the family presented the house to what was then Radcliffe Urban District Council for use as a Child Welfare Centre, with the grounds being converted into a public park for the town’s inhabitants. The house was also used as a clinic, a museum and an ambulance centre before being demolished in 1969, and the nearby bleachworks was finally demolished in the 1980s when a modern housing estate was built on the site. Current facilities and attractions at the park include 7 football pitches, 3 tennis courts, a bowling green, outdoor gym, children’s playground, a sensory garden and various sculptures which are part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail.
Starting from the car park the first thing I saw was a huge stainless steel dinosaur, one of three sculptures created by artist Mark Jalland in consultation with children from local primary schools. From there I followed the path down to the sensory garden and what I first thought was a water feature was actually a stainless steel and copper sculpture based on a cup cake, although after seeing it on an internet picture it seemed to have lost its chocolate topping. The third sculpture, not far from the bowling green, was a cheetah wearing trainers – presumably meant to signify running fast but strangely the trainers were only on diagonal feet. Who knows what goes on in the minds of these artists?!
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‘James and his ball of fire’ inspired by papercraft models and inflatable animals
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‘Chococupcakeboy’ based on a chocolate cup cake
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‘Tara in her trainers’
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Having found the three sculptures I wandered at random round the rest of the park ; the playing fields stretched for quite a distance but there didn’t seem to be much in that direction so I stuck to the main body of the park, and with the sunlight really showing off the autumn colours of the trees I got several lovely shots before ending my wander back at the car park.
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Downloading my photos onto the pc later on it struck me what a brilliant resource the internet is, even though it’s something that most of us now take for granted. I’d only found out about Radcliffe Tower and Close Park through reading a blog which I’d found from a link on another blog I’d discovered while doing a general search for something else – if it hadn’t been for that I could have lived the rest of my life in total ignorance of the place but now I know about the park I’ll certainly pay another visit in the not-too-distant future.