Corporation Park, Blackburn – some history and photos

Corporation Park covers an area of 44.5 acres and is situated on a very steep hill about quarter of a mile north west of Blackburn town centre. I’d never previously been there until the day last month when I went in search of the Colourfields panopticon and though I felt distinctly underwhelmed with Colourfields itself I was quite impressed with the park as a whole, so my Monday walk this week features many of the photos I took while wandering round there.
The park area was once a quarry known as Park Delph, containing large areas of millstone grit which was used for building the majority of Blackburn’s churches and cotton mills. The first steps towards establishing a park were taken in 1845 when money was raised towards the purchase of the land which was secured ten years later in 1855 by the then Mayor of Blackburn, Thomas Dugdale. Work started that same year with landscaping done by William Henderson and the building of the Triumphal Arch and its east and west gatehouses as the main entrance on the southern edge of the park.
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In 1857 three of the park’s four fountains, including the largest one situated by the main entrance, were built and paid for by Mayor William Pilkington and two Russian cannons which had been captured from Sevastopol during the Crimean War and presented to the town by the then Secretary of War were mounted on a stone-faced battery at the top of the park, which is where the Colourfields panopticon is now situated.
The grand opening of the park was performed on October 22nd 1857; shops in the town were closed and factory bosses gave their employees leave to attend the event. Mayor William Pilkington led a procession from the town hall and the Sevastopol cannons were fired as part of the celebrations. An estimated 60,000 people were in attendance with 14,000 of them having arrived by train – paths were overcrowded and there were thousands of people outside the park. Four years later the park was the scene of another massive gathering when eleven brass bands performed on the upper terrace in 1861 and more than 50,000 people congregated to listen.
Although the park itself has no dedicated car parking area there’s plenty of free parking available on the roads at each side so I left the van on the east side and went back down the hill to start my walk from the main entrance. Just inside the arch and on the left was the war memorial and Garden of Remembrance, originally laid out in 1922/23 but refurbished and updated over the years. On the right of the arch was the large ornamental fountain originally powered by gravity and with a water jet shooting 75ft into the air. After being in continuous operation since 1857 it was turned off in 1905, partly due to the nuisance caused by spray drifting from the water jet and also the £30 annual cost of maintaining it and the other three fountains.
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Heading northwards up the steep main path I came to the statue of Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers and spring. Created by Thomas Allen of Liverpool, who moved to the town in 1870, it was presented to the park by T H Fairhurst in 1871. Unfortunately the statue hasn’t survived through the years completely unscathed; in a 1952 act of vandalism the bun at the back of Flora’s head was knocked off and she sustained a chip out of one shoulder after being knocked off her pedestal, then in 1960 she was attacked with paint in a protest against apartheid in South Africa.
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Close to the statue was a pretty cascade flowing down from the large lake above. Known locally as the ‘Big Can’ the lake was formed from a pre-existing reservoir created in 1772 and which served as the town’s water supply until the installation of the water mains in 1847. Just to the west was a much smaller lake with a restored fountain in the centre, and both lakes are home to several species of waterfowl including ducks, swans and moorhens. South of the lakes was an open area where a bandstand was erected in 1880; it was replaced by a larger model in 1909 but this was dismantled in 1941 and along with various gates and railings the iron was used as salvage towards the war effort.
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From the smaller lake the path veered westwards and I emerged through a small copse to a wide expanse of lawn and the Victorian Palm House, commonly called The Conservatory, up a double flight of steps ahead of me. Supplied by W Richardson & Sons of Darlington and built of cast iron it was opened in 1902 and has a double height atrium for exotic palms and plants with a single height wing on each side for more northern fauna. With its ornate ironwork it would once have been a beautiful building but unfortunately time, neglect, bad weather, continued vandalism and council cutbacks have all taken their toll; it’s been closed to the public for quite some time and after part of the roof collapsed during a storm in 2019 it was deemed unsafe so had security fencing erected all round it.
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In 1950 a timber aviary was built close to the west side of the conservatory then in 1958 it was replaced with a better and more permanent structure. It’s still inhabited by a handful of small birds but looked rather worse for wear and was nothing to write home about so I didn’t bother taking any photos of it, then heading east past the conservatory I came to the Italian gardens with a wide path and steps leading between two lawned areas to the Broad Walk.
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The Broad Walk was laid out during 1863/64 as part of park improvements undertaken by local unemployed cotton mill workers during the depression known as the Lancashire Cotton Famine. The path, which runs east to west across the width of the park, was paved with stone taken from the upper slopes and a row of lime trees (I’ve been informed there are 72 of them) was planted on the southern edge. According to the Blackburn Times newspaper in 1936 ‘crowds of young men and maidens would walk four or five abreast, promenading from end to end between 3 o’clock and 4.30 in the afternoon’.
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From the Broad Walk several paths and steps climb between rocky outcrops and lead up the steeply sloping land to the top level of the park where a wider path runs east to west. Along the path was the Colourfields panopticon sited on the old cannon battery which is 213m above sea level compared to the park’s main entrance at just 130m. At the east end were several tennis courts dating from the early 20th century and terraced into the hillside, with a small pavilion dating from 1921. Unfortunately they all looked rather unkempt and unused though a modern children’s cycle track situated nearby did look quite pleasant.
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In the 1960s a children’s play area and paddling pool were added to the park then in 1974 the park itself and its adjacent residential streets were designated a conservation area; in 1996 this was extended to the south and the park was given a Grade ll listing by English Heritage on the register of Parks and Gardens. In 1999 a Historical Restoration Management Plan was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund and in the years since then many improvements and refurbishments have taken place.
After eventually finding the Colourfields panopticon (and in some ways wishing I hadn’t bothered) I made my way back down through the park via various steps and pathways, taking general photos as I went and ending up back at the main entrance where a large bed of brightly coloured flowers at each side of the arch attracted several butterflies.
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When my mum was young she lived in Blackburn and would often go to Corporation Park when she was a child; sadly she’s no longer here but I do wonder what she would think of it now compared to how it was back then. Admittedly a couple of areas do look a little shabby but on the whole it’s a lovely place so a return visit another time is definitely on my list.

Lowther Gardens, Lytham

Situated at West Beach and across the coast road from Lytham Green Lowther Gardens is the oldest park in Lytham St. Annes. Covering an area of almost 14 acres the gardens were provided by Squire John Talbot Clifton in honour of his wife Eleanor Cecily of the Lowther family in Cumbria, and also in memory of her father who died in 1868. Laid out on what was previously poor grazing land known as Hungry Moor the gardens were designed under the supervision of a Mr Tomlinson, who worked on the nearby Clifton estate, and were opened to the public on August 27th 1872.
In 1905 the gardens were given to the local council by Clifton’s son with the bowling greens being laid out the same year, and though several changes have been made throughout the years since then most of the original design and layout is still in place today. The first Lowther Pavilion was built in 1922, tennis courts were added in 1929, an aviary was constructed in 1934 and in 1936 a new main entrance and a car park were added. In 1981 the original Lowther Pavilion was replaced with the current pavilion, which is the borough’s only theatre, and in 1999 a long herbaceous border was planted to replace the rose bed near the pitch and putt area. Current features also include a crazy golf course, children’s play area and a cafe serving hot meals, light refreshments and soft drinks.
I’ve been past Lowther Gardens many times over the years on my visits to Lytham St. Annes and though I’ve often promised myself that I would stop off there and have a look round I never have – that was until three weeks ago when I was able to tie in a visit there with my quest to photograph the old boats and tractors featured in my Monday walk last week. Lowther Gardens was the nearest place to where I wanted to be so I parked there and spent quite some time wandering round before going across the road to the promenade. 
Close to the main entrance was the Lowther Pavilion where I had to get my car park ticket from but it’s not a particularly attractive building so I didn’t bother taking a photo of it. A path round the side of the pavilion took me through a wooded area where I came across what was once a bandstand in a clearing, then farther on I emerged behind one of the bowling greens.
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Crossing the grass to the main path I came to a rather unkempt flower bed featuring an old bike with a basket on the front and the natural ‘sculpture’ of a man sitting reading. This was ‘Between The Tides’, the recreation of a (much tidier) display celebrating the tradition of shrimp fishing on the Ribble estuary and which won Silver Gilt in the Flower Bed category at Tatton Park Flower Show in 2014. At the time Russell Wignall was the only full time ‘shrimper’ in Lytham and he can still be seen most days with his bike at Church Scar where he keeps his boat Grace, and which, coincidentally, is where I later photographed the old tractors.
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A short distance up the path and across the grass to the left was the long and wide herbaceous border with its gently curving edges rather than straight lines. Just like the Between The Tides flower bed it was rather unkempt but it was full of bright and attractive flowers with the Cobble Clock in the centre. Designed by Maggy Howarth of Cobblestone Designs, who also created the Paradise Garden mosaic in Lytham town centre, the clock was unveiled in 2005 to mark the 100th anniversary of Lowther Gardens’ status as a public park, though unfortunately it currently has no hands.
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Backing the border was a long box hedge with its neatly trimmed wavy lines giving shelter to the flowers and behind the hedge I came to the rose garden, a large expanse of lawn with an elevated seating area at the far side and individual circular beds each with a different colour of rose.
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Back on the main path and in the centre of the gardens was the large Victorian lily pond with its life size bronze statue, not in the centre but towards one edge. Unveiled in November 2003 ‘Shrimper’ by sculptor Colin Spofforth was commissioned as part of a heritage lottery project for Lowther Gardens, with the history of shrimping in the area having been meticulously researched to ensure that the sculpture’s clothing and accessories stayed true to an 1880’s shrimper from the area. Swimming lazily in the pond were several large fish but the water was a bit too cloudy to get any clear shots of them.
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From the lily pond I headed back out of the gardens and across the road onto the green; before I went in search of the old boats and tractors there was something else I wanted to look for which I’d also seen on someone else’s blog.
Back in the early 20th century there was a prosperous fishing industry in the Ribble estuary but as the river gradually became more polluted several outbreaks of food poisoning were linked to the consumption of shellfish so to combat this three mussel cleansing tanks were constructed by Lancashire County Council and opened in 1935, operating for just over twenty years before being closed in 1957.
A restaurant was built on the site of the western tank, with the building later being used as a nightclub then as a roller skating venue but by the mid 1990s it had become derelict and vandalised so was demolished and the area paved over. The old central tank became occupied by the Ribble Cruising Club and the eastern tank by the RNLI Lytham lifeboat and its crew, then in 2017 Lytham St. Annes Civic Society sponsored the refurbishment of the paved area to retain the views and celebrate the heritage of the site.
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With the tide having now retreated I took the opportunity to walk right down to the end of the long lifeboat jetty; it was quite a distance across the sand and thick mud and looking back to the promenade it was easy to see why the lifeboat is launched using a tractor and trailer. 
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With a final long distance shot of Lytham windmill and the old lifeboat station in the distance I headed back along the jetty to the promenade – it was time to go in search of the old boats and tractors back along the beach somewhere.
 

In search of Colourfields

Pennine Lancashire’s Panopticons are a unique series of twenty-first century landmarks purposely situated in high-point places which give panoramic views of the surrounding areas and after visiting the Singing Ringing Tree three weeks ago I decided to seek out another of the landmarks. Blackburn’s Corporation Park features Colourfields and as it’s an easy drive from home I went there just a couple of days ago.
The Colourfields landmark sits on the former cannon battery which was originally installed for the park’s opening in 1857 and which housed two Russian cannons captured during the Crimean War. Unfortunately time took its toll over the years and the battery fell into disrepair but the design and construction of Colourfields in 2006 enabled the structure to be preserved rather than demolished, which would otherwise have been necessary owing to its deterioration.
The large park is situated on a very steep hill to the north west of Blackburn town centre and while I realised that Colourfields would more than likely be towards the top end actually finding it wasn’t the easiest task. Numerous paths led to different parts of the park but following various signs didn’t help as they seemed to be sending me in all different directions, and I was just beginning to lose the will to live when I got chatting to a very nice couple who lived locally and were able to tell me where the landmark was and how to get to it.
Unfortunately when I did finally find Colourfields I felt distinctly underwhelmed and disappointed. There was nothing anywhere to say what it actually is, no information board, nothing, and having previously seen photos of it on the internet it was vastly different to what I expected. Any colour had disappeared almost into oblivion, there was a tile missing from one of the steps and some parts of the original coloured floor surface had been replaced at some time with ordinary plain grey tiles. The surrounding railings were nothing to write home about either, they looked just like the ones you find where you cross a road junction with traffic lights – in short, the whole thing just looked incredibly dull.
Internet information says that from the viewpoint you can see over the park down below and the town beyond, and on a clear day there are distant views towards Lytham, Southport and Fleetwood; unfortunately most of the view was obscured by trees and the sun was shining from completely the wrong direction so I didn’t take any photos from there. For the purposes of this post I’ve pinched a couple of shots from the internet just to show what Colourfields should look like but the other four photos are my own.
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It’s a shame that Colourfields has lost its colour and is looking a bit worse for wear as it was obviously once quite attractive, but though much of the internet blurb describes it as being ‘dramatic’ and ‘impressive’ I’m afraid my own opinion of it is vastly different. On the other hand, Corporation Park itself is lovely and I got some great photos while I was there so I may very well revisit another time but one thing’s for certain – I won’t be walking all the way up to Colourfields.

Queen’s Park squirrels

Walking through Queen’s Park the other day I took several photos of the squirrel I saw, a couple of which I included in my previous post, but as he looked so cute I thought he deserved a post of his own. I actually took a photo of another squirrel when I was in the same park last year so I’ve included him too.
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Although the squirrel I saw last year very quickly scampered up the tree the second one wasn’t in too much of a hurry so I was able to watch him from a respectable distance for several minutes. I know grey squirrels are classed as vermin but to me it doesn’t matter what colour they are, they are all cute and this one certainly was.

Early morning in Queen’s Park

Following the frequent bouts of torrential rain during last week’s storm whatever-it-was-called the weather here has been quite changeable. The mornings have started off sunny with blue skies promising nice days but by about 9am the clouds have appeared and lingered for most of the day, with the sun only returning in the late afternoons while I’ve been at work and unable to go anywhere. So when I woke to blue sky and sunshine yesterday I decided to forgo my usual leisurely Sunday morning and go out early for a walk round Queen’s Park on the edge of town, just a short drive from home and where I hadn’t been since April last year.
Being so early in the morning most of the areas near the park’s main entrance were still in shade so I went straight to where the park was more open – I could go back to those areas later on. Past the Sunken Garden and the Vantage Point Garden I came to the Promenade Terrace, a wide and pleasant walkway with statues set back in the shrubbery, benches at intervals and a viewpoint at one end; this was surrounded by a semi-circular wall which for some reason is known locally as the Pie Crust.

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The Pie Crust from down below

Down the hill from the terrace, and at the bottom end of the park, I came to the River Croal and a small fishing lake looking rather neglected with its surface covered in green weed. Spanning the river just there was a bridge which looked badly in need of a good coat of paint; the path at the far side split left and right with the left leading towards the town centre, however I went right and crossed back over the river via the much nicer restored and repainted Dobson Bridge.
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Up the hill from the bridge and set back off the path was a large collection of teddy bears at the base of a tree. If this was a personal memorial to someone it seemed to be a bit excessive but then I remembered – on Mother’s Day earlier this year a 7-year old little girl, innocently playing while out with her parents, had been stabbed in a random attack by an unknown woman, and in spite of all attempts to save her she died of her injuries; the teddy bears must be for her.
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Continuing past the tree I came to what must currently be the brightest part of the park, a long curving bed of red and yellow flowers near the wide stone steps leading back up to the Promenade Terrace. Near the bottom of the steps were a couple of benches and an ornamental fountain which would probably look nice if it was working but it wasn’t.
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Past the fountain was the large play area very much in the shade, then in the bottom corner of the park was the attractive stone built gatehouse with the not very attractive modern single storey cafe (which I didn’t take a photo of) situated behind it. Following a path up another hill I eventually came to the two duck ponds, and while there were a few ducks on the smaller pond most of the wildlife seemed to be congregated on the big one.
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From the big pond a path up yet another hill took me to the end of the Promenade Terrace and the steps back up to the Vantage Point Garden. An open and informal square with modern seating the garden was surrounded on three sides by low shrubs and flower borders but like several other areas of the park it seemed to be suffering from a fair amount of neglect. The fourth side was completely open and had extensive views across the rest of the park towards town although the sun was unfortunately in the wrong direction for a photo.
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Heading back towards the main entrance I found that most of the sunken garden was finally in the sunshine so I was able to get a few shots there though sadly the flower beds, which should have been a riot of colour, were completely bare. Past the sunken garden my eye was caught by a movement up ahead; a squirrel had scampered down from a tree and I watched it for several minutes while it rooted about in the grass then sat there nibbling on whatever it had found for its breakfast.
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Once the squirrel had gone back up its tree I continued round the edge of the park to the war memorial then with the last couple of shots taken I made my way back to the van which was parked just across the road from the entrance gates.
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It was only 9am when I got back home and as I made my breakfast I was glad I’d gone out when I did; clouds were beginning to gather and just like the last few days less than an hour later the sun had disappeared and the sky was grey. I didn’t mind too much though; I’d had a good walk with Poppie and got some nice photos so to misquote a popular saying – the early photographer catches the sun!

 

Smithills Hall and Moss Bank Park

My Monday walk this week is one I did right at the beginning of the month when most of the trees still had quite a way to go before they acquired any decent greenery. At the far side of the nearby park is Smithills Forest, part of the vast Smithills Estate owned by the Woodland Trust; being close to home it’s a good place for a dog walk in decent weather though with all the rain of the winter months I hadn’t been that way for a while.
The path from the bottom end of the local park enters the forest about halfway along the east side and the first thing I saw was what had once been a lovely old tree, now drastically cut down with all its branches lying in sections on the ground. I hate to see trees cut down but presumably it had been a victim of February’s storms and had become dangerous. Following the path alongside the stream I eventually came to the ornamental stone bridge and the path leading up to Smithills Hall’s hidden lake; in spite of all the rain over winter it was looking quite dried up in parts but I got one shot then went for a wander round the rest of the grounds.
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Walking along by the outside of the Hall I noticed something I hadn’t seen before even though I’ve been there many times over the years. High up on an outside wall was a stone engraving with two initials and a partially unrecognisable date; research when I got back home told me that the initials were R B and the date was 1579. Between 1485 and 1659 Smithills Hall was owned by the Barton family and in 1579 Robert Barton rebuilt the Great Hall in stone. He also added a stone gabled west wing to the building so the initials were obviously his; it’s amazing to think that they have been there for so long.
Wandering round the grounds I came to the 1873 grave of Little Bess. Unlike my previous two visits when it had been decorated with ribbons and several pots of artificial flowers there was now just one flower in a pot, and knowing that the grave isn’t tended by anyone in an official capacity the addition or replacement of various flowers is a bit of a mystery.
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Leaving the Hall behind I walked along the lane past what was once Smithills Coaching House restaurant and the quaint little square gatehouse and crossed the road to a footpath running between the high hedges and fences of several residential properties. This eventually led down through a wooded area and brought me out close to the 260ft tall Barrow Bridge chimney where a short walk along the road took me to the top end of Moss Bank Park.
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Barrow Bridge chimney from Moss Bank Park

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From the daffodil covered slopes at the top of the park I made my way down past the deserted play area and closed-up café to the rock garden and the walled garden. Both were closed and the gated and wire-fenced entrance to the rock garden meant that I couldn’t see anything at all from the outside, however the fancy railings set into the wall of the walled garden had plenty of spaces which allowed me to see the garden and get several uninterrupted shots.

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The bottom end of the park

Strolling through the far end of the park and across the grass took me back to the chimney and from there I retraced my steps to Smithills Hall but instead of going back through the forest I went along the lane and through the nearby yard at Smithills Open Farm. I’ve never actually been into the farm itself as I refuse to pay what I consider to be quite an expensive entrance charge, therefore I didn’t know of the existence of the llamas so I was quite surprised to see two adults and two young ones in the paddock next to the lane.
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With the final four shots taken I made my way past the farmhouse and through the local park to home, where I finished off my afternoon walk relaxing with a good mug of coffee and a slice of cake.

 

Peasholm Park, Scarborough

My Monday walk this week features Peasholm Park in Scarborough’s North Bay area, a place I visited while camping near there at Easter a few years ago. The park is situated on what were once the extensive grounds of the medieval Northstead Manor which had been part of the Crown Estate from the 14th century. By the beginning of the 20th century the area had become open farming land but in 1911 Scarborough Corporation bought some of the land from the Duchy of Lancaster and created the public park which was opened in 1912, then following the purchase of more land the natural ravine of Peasholm Glen was added to the park in 1924.
The park’s main attraction is its large boating lake with a central island; accessed by a Japanese-style bridge the island has a peaceful wooded area and Japanese-themed gardens said to be based on the Willow Pattern pottery design with a pagoda and a waterfall flowing down to the lake. Three times a week during the summer season the lake plays host to the Naval Warfare event the Battle of Peasholm, a recreation of the Battle of the River Plate using man powered model boats steered by council employees and known as ‘the smallest manned Navy in the world’.
My walk started not far from the lakeside cafe and circuited the lake in a clockwise direction. In late April the trees were resplendent in their fresh green foliage, the cherry trees were full of pink blossom, the flower beds were a profusion of bright red tulips and yellow bedding plants and with the brightly coloured dragon boats on the lake the whole area looked really pretty.
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At the far side of the lake I crossed the Half Moon Bridge onto the island, stopping momentarily to watch the progress of three dragon boats on the water below, then at the end of the bridge I turned left and walked past the waterfall and round to the other side of the island where the grass beneath the trees was covered in a carpet of daisies and half a dozen geese were chilling out in a patch of sunlight.
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Ignoring the geese I climbed the steps up to the top of the island; never having been there before I didn’t know what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised to find a pretty and very peaceful Japanese garden surrounded by trees and shrubs and dotted here and there with stone ornaments. A path ran all the way round the garden and a pond in the centre was crossed by a couple of oriental bridges.
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Having walked round the gardens twice I made my way back down the steps, round the base of the island and back across the Half Moon Bridge to continue my clockwise walk round the lake. By the time I reached the café I was feeling quite peckish – it was time for coffee and cake, and though the café was very busy I managed to get a table on the outside terrace where I could sit for a while and watch the world go by.
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My lakeside walk ended where it had started, not far from the café. My previous visit to Peasholm Park had been during a holiday thirty years before so it had been nice to wander along the lakeside and discover the gardens on the island – and hopefully it won’t be another thirty years before I make a return visit.

 

An hour in Adare

In which I find a nice little park, suffer a disappointment and find some lovely stained glass windows…
The last full day of the holiday arrived dull and grey but not wanting to waste it by staying in Roscrea I decided to take myself off to Adare which was, according to various sources of information (and I quote) ”one of Ireland’s prettiest villages with its main street lined with unique thatched cottages” – even on a dull day it sounded like it was worth a look. To get there I had to change buses at Limerick ; the coach from Roscrea to Limerick passed through Nenagh and as there was a shop there I wanted to go back to I decided to break my journey, get what I wanted then continue to Limerick on the next coach. With two different bus companies running between Roscrea and Limerick, and staggered bus times, planning my journey was like planning military manoeuvres and it would have worked out well if everything had gone to that plan but it didn’t.
The first coach arrived twenty minutes late in Roscrea so I only had just enough time to get what I wanted from the shop in Nenagh before the second coach arrived, however I needn’t have rushed after all as that one turned up forty five minutes late. Of course when I got to Limerick my intended bus to Adare had gone ages before so I had to wait fifty minutes for the next one, however I finally got there albeit quite a lot later than I’d wanted to. As it turned out though, arriving late in Adare didn’t really matter as I didn’t stay as long as I’d expected to.
The bus put me off at the entrance to Adare Town Park, it looked like quite an attractive place so I decided to have a look round there first. With lots of trees and lawned areas, a small stream running along one side, a thatched gazebo and plenty of benches it was a very pleasant place to walk round and would probably be very pretty in spring and summer.
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On the way into the village, and just up the road from the park, I’d noticed a row of thatched cottages and as my sources of information had said the main street was lined with them I expected to see many more, but looking down the road all I could see were normal buildings and shop frontages. Across the road from the park was a heritage centre and tourist information place so I went in there to ask, only to be told that the cottages up the road were the ones I was looking for. So much for the main street being ”lined with thatched cottages” – one row and that was it. I felt like saying that whoever produced and printed the information should be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act!
When I went to have a proper look at the cottages I found that most of them had been turned into little businesses ; there was a café, a gift shop, a craft shop, two very small restaurants, a bistro and a couple of holiday cottages. Admittedly they did look quite attractive and no doubt in summer, with gardens full of flowers, would look very pretty, but having expected to see a quaint little village full of them I was rather disappointed to find that those were the only ones.
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Next door to the heritage centre was Holy Trinity Abbey Church, the only Trinitarian Abbey in Ireland. There is no record of the exact date of its foundation but it’s believed to have been established between the years 1230 and 1240. Dissolved in the 1560s the church eventually became a ruin but in 1809 the 2nd Earl of Dunraven restored the building and gave it to the Catholic Church. No major structural changes have taken place since 1884 although there have been several modifications and some development in the years since then, and in summer 2010 a programme of critical repairs was undertaken to preserve the church.
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The sanctuary

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The sanctuary screen

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A section of the sanctuary ceiling

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The Lady Chapel

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From the church a short walk along to the far end of the main street produced just one more thatched cottage set back from the road in a wrap-around garden, then with nothing else to see in the village and the afternoon still dull I decided I may as well get the next bus back to Limerick. I had about half an hour to wait though so I went to look round inside the heritage centre and found a very bright and pleasant looking cafe ; I just had time for coffee and cake so I ordered a slice of Banoffee pie and a latte, and was pleased to see that this time the coffee came in a proper glass mug.
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Coffee and cake at the heritage centre cafe

By the time I got back to Limerick the daylight was fading rapidly. The bus from Adare had taken me to the bus station but the coach back to Roscrea left from Arthur’s Quay park, a good walk through the city centre, and as I had an hour to kill I thought I may as well take my time in going there and get a few evening shots en route. Past Arthur’s Quay the front wall of the Hunt Museum was lit with green lights so I got a shot of the horses against the coloured background then walked along to where I could see the illuminated side of the castle ; I even had time to cross the bridge, walk along the riverside at Clancy’s Strand then re-cross the river at the next bridge, where my final shot was one of the illuminated 1916 war memorial.

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O’Connell Street

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The Hunt Museum

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King John’s Castle and river views

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The 1916 war memorial

Relaxing by the fire later that evening I went through the photos I’d taken while I’d been out. It had been an odd sort of a day and I hadn’t been particularly impressed with Adare ; I’d only been there for just over an hour and that had been enough so I doubted I would ever go back there again, however since getting back home I’ve found out about another couple of places there which, on a nice day, may be worth visiting so who knows? – maybe I’ll make a return visit sometime in the spring or summer months.

 

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.