A day in which I almost lost my phone again, went looking for bullet holes and experienced being ‘underwater’ without leaving dry land…
My day started with a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast done by Nellie then I set out to get the 9am coach to Dublin city. As per usual it was late and when I got on I found the driver was the same guy as the previous day – and just like the previous day he was going hell for leather then slapping the brakes on when he had to slow down or stop. This time though, to avoid my phone slipping out of my pocket I’d put it in my small bag along with my camera, notebook and pen, and the bag was on the seat beside me. It didn’t make a scrap of difference though – at one point the coach pulled up so sharply that my bag fell off the seat and the phone came out, skidding along the floor underneath the seats in front. Not being able to see how far it had gone I waited until the coach stopped at Portlaoise and while the driver was dealing with the queue of passengers I went in search of it, finding it by the feet of a lady sitting three seats in front of me. The rest of the journey to Dublin fortunately passed without further incident and I got off the coach near the Custom House on the north side of the river.
After buying the book ‘111 Places in the Lake District That You Shouldn’t Miss’ for my holiday in June, and finding it very interesting and informative, I’d since got the equivalent one for Dublin and using that book I’d made a list of all the things in the city centre which would be relatively easy to get to on foot, although not all in one day. Plus I had a few ideas of my own, so join me on my Monday walk this week as I roam round Dublin searching out various serious, quirky, and interesting features of the city.
My walk started at the outer perimeter of Beresford Place, the attractive gardens which surround the north, east and west sides of the Custom House. In the centre of the north side was a rectangular pool and a fountain, with a larger-than-life-size bronze statue of Eire (Ireland) supporting a dying soldier. Designed and erected in 1956 the statue commemorates those IRA members who died in an attack on the Custom House in 1921 during the War of Independence.
On the west side of Beresford Place, and standing in the shadow of an overhead rail line, was the statue of James Connolly, a Scottish-born Irish Republican and Socialist leader. He was centrally involved in the Dublin lock-out industrial dispute in 1913 and in 1916 was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising, aimed at ending British rule in Ireland and establishing an independent Irish Republic. Because of his leadership role in the Easter Rising he was executed by firing squad in May that same year.
Across the river, and facing the Custom House, was Georges Quay Plaza. A 13-storey complex of modern buildings completed in 2002, it houses the headquarters of Ulster Bank and is sometimes jokingly referred to as Canary Dwarf in reference to London’s Canary Wharf. Although it wasn’t actually on my list of things to find I took a photo just because I liked the pyramid-shaped roof tops at different heights.
Next was the Daniel O’Connell statue at the end of O’Connell Street. Although I’ve photographed it on previous occasions I didn’t know about the bullet holes until I read about them in the ‘111 Places’ book. Erected in 1882 in honour of ‘The Liberator’ the statue was very much in the line of fire during the 1916 Easter Rising and the larger-than-life bronze version of O’Connell was hit repeatedly. Also injured were three of the four angels who guard the monument’s base ; the figure of ‘Courage’ was shot through her right breast and ‘Eloquence’ was hit in the elbow. A total of 30 bullet holes have been found throughout the monument, 10 of them on O’Connell himself – rather an unfortunate fate for the statue of a great parliamentarian who detested violence.
Halfway along O’Connell Street was the GPO (General Post Office) one of Ireland’s most famous buildings and the last of the great Georgian buildings to be erected in Dublin. The foundation stone was laid in August 1814 and the building was completed in about three years ; the main part was built out of mountain granite while the front portico was of Portland stone. During the Easter Rising of 1916 the GPO was used as the headquarters of the uprising’s leaders but in the course of the rebellion it was destroyed by fire and wasn’t rebuilt until 1929 by the Irish Free State government. In spite of its fame as a place of Irish freedom ground rent for the GPO continued to be paid to English and American landlords right up to the 1980s.
Just three streets behind O’Connell Street was Moore Street, Dublin’s oldest food market famous for its open-air fruit and vegetable stalls It wasn’t in the book but I wanted to take a look as it had featured in Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie – which, incidentally, isn’t as funny as the tv programmes. Back in 1916, at the end of the Easter Rising, five of the seven signatories of the Irish Proclamation of Independence, including James Connolly, surrendered to British forces from a terrace of houses on Moore Street ; fast forward to 1998 and Dublin City Council wanted to demolish the terrace to redevelop the area but this was opposed by groups who declared Moore Street and its surrounding area to be an important part of Irish history.
After many years of legal wrangling and campaigns to prevent redevelopment demolition work was scheduled to start in early 2016 ; legal action against it was started by campaigners and the houses were occupied and held for five days by protesters. The Save Moore Street 2016 campaign group was then formed and the site was blockaded to prevent building workers gaining access ; the blockade was maintained for almost six weeks and was only lifted after a legal judgement finally found in the group’s favour. On March 18th 2016 Justice Max Barrett declared that the whole terrace, street and surrounding lanes constituted a national historic 1916 Battleground. The plot of the Mrs Brown’s Boys film follows a very similar theme, possibly based on real-life events with many adaptations, but while the film is entirely fictitious Moore Street and its market certainly aren’t.
Back to the riverside and the next thing I wanted to see was the Dublin Port Diving Bell situated across the Liffey and beyond the Samuel Beckett bridge. Created by Irish engineer Bindon Blood Stoney it was used in the construction of the city’s deep-water quays. Once lowered onto the seabed workers would climb down into the bell via the funnel – there was just enough room for six men to work – and they would flatten the seabed in preparation for huge concrete blocks to be laid. The bell was in service from 1871 to 1958 and in spite of the many risks involved the work on the quays never cost a life or even a serious injury.
After its working life was over the bell lay idle for many years and was in danger of being scrapped but in the 1980s it was hoisted onto one of the quays it had helped to build and left there, standing as a tribute to the many workers who had turned the former tidal harbour into a deep-water port. In spite of its heroic story it had no plaque or information to tell people what it was but in 2015 it was raised onto a specially constructed platform and transformed into a miniature museum which can be entered from two sides. Information panels around the walls give details of the bell and how it was used in the construction of the quays ; the space inside is small and the sound of constantly running water underneath a steel mesh floor gives an idea of how the workers must have felt at the time.
Heading back west along the riverside I came to something which had intrigued me when I passed that way last December. An old red brick building was being demolished to make way for the completion of a huge partially constructed modern building but it seemed like the workers were taking care not to demolish the front wall. This has proved to be true, the front façade of the old building has been saved and given a clean up and the new modern building stands behind it, although the two aren’t connected. There’s a huge amount of construction work being carried out across the city and I’ve noticed before that many old buildings are being saved while new buildings are erected round them ; the mixture of old and modern seems odd but in Dublin it works.
A bit further along the quayside, and sandwiched between two other modern buildings, was the Immaculate Heart of Mary church, founded in 1908 and belonging to the Parish of City Quay. It wasn’t even on my list or indeed in the book but it was open, so never one to resist a church interior I went in for a look round ; I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
The next thing on my list and in the book was the Countess Markievicz statue, unique among Dublin statues in that it also includes the subject’s dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Poppet. The Countess played quite a part in Ireland’s fight for independence and just before the 1916 Easter Rising she had the task of making a flag for rebel headquarters. With the shops being closed for Easter she had to improvise so used a green bedspread stretched out on her drawing room floor, and while she was trying to cut out the shape Poppet kept pulling at the material until he tore a piece out of the side. Undeterred, the Countess carried on, painting the words ‘Irish Republic’ in gold, then it was smuggled into the Irish Citizen Army headquarters and from there taken to the GPO to fly from the roof during the rebellion.
The flag is now on display at the National Museum, a revered symbol of the Republic’s foundation, although a rather damaged one. It’s believed though that the damage wasn’t all the work of Poppet ; half the ‘c’ in ‘Republic’ is missing, presumably shot away during the Rising, but if the original story is true then what was finished by the guns was started by an unruly spaniel.
A few yards along the street from the statue was the Irish Times clock, fixed above the front of the newspaper office’s building. The exact age of the clock has never been established but it’s thought to date from the early 1900s ; it was originally erected on the old Irish Times building but was removed when the offices relocated to a different building in another street. It was never erected at the new building and was left wrapped in plastic and languishing in the back alley until it was noticed by one of the newspaper’s editors who mentioned it to the chief executive, after which it was cleaned up and erected on the building where it gained iconic status.
The clock found itself temporarily without a home when the newspaper sold the office premises in 2006 and relocated to the current building. In June 2007 it was sent to Stokes Clocks and Watches in Cork for a facelift when it was fully automated and illuminated from the inside so it will automatically light up at dusk, but its relocation suffered a hitch when it was found to be too heavy to put directly onto the new building. An aluminium-clad steel frame was designed to support the clock and mounted on a reinforced concrete base and the clock was finally lowered into position in 2008.
The final thing on my list for the day was one of the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) trains. The DART system was established in 1984 and is an electrified commuter railway network serving Dublin’s city centre and coastline, stretching from Greystones in the south, just over the border into County Wicklow, to Howth and Malahide in north County Dublin. Unfortunately I couldn’t photograph a train at a station as I needed a ticket to get through the barriers but as I walked back along the riverside I managed to snap one as it passed on the overhead line nearby.
With that being my last shot of the day I made my way to Busaras, the main bus station, for the coach back to Roscrea. Of course it was late but at least I didn’t have to suffer the same driver as before and I had quite a pleasant journey back ‘home’, where Nellie had a lovely meal waiting for me. It had been quite a long day with plenty of walking so after a quick phone call to Michael it was an early night for me that night, with tentative plans made for the following day depending on the weather.
Well I got back home on Tuesday after my short holiday in Ireland, a holiday which was badly needed to recharge my mental and physical batteries and to use up some of the time I had off work. It was a holiday of contrasts – dull days, sunny days, cities, countryside, rivers, a gorgeous lake, castles, churches, museums, a 108ft high tower, ponies and horses, bus drivers both fast and slow and those with only half a brain, things I knew about and those which I found unexpectedly, Irish times and distance as opposed to English times and distance, and lots of street art. Oh, and I also got ‘thrown out’ of a quarry for ‘trespassing’!
From taking off at Manchester airport on Wednesday last week to landing back there on Tuesday this week I took a total of 951 photos. Yes, you read that correctly, 951 – so I’m now in the slow process of sorting out, editing and resizing the ones to put on this blog, and day-by-day accounts of the holiday will follow in due course.
I’m not sure if I’m glad to be home or not. In a way yes, as relying on public transport to get to anywhere over there limited my options of places to go to, but the weather here is currently sunny with blue sky so it’s making me want to be back in Roscrea. There’s nothing like being contrary is there?
My Monday walk this week is more of a wander than a walk and takes in the delights of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet, a complex of thatched roof buildings sitting alongside the Lancaster Canal and just off the A6 at Bilsborrow, five miles south of Garstang. I’ve passed this place many times over the last few years and often thought how attractive it looks but I’ve never made a point of stopping off there until one sunny day just a few weeks ago.
The history of the hamlet goes back to the 19th century and one Thomas Duell who was born into a working Yorkshire family in 1804. In 1832 he moved across the Pennines to the village of Barton, north of Preston, and later that year was ordained into the church, becoming vicar of St. Lawrence’s Church and living in a small humble vicarage. Unfortunately the vicarage suffered a devastating fire and was burnt down, so while it was being rebuilt Reverend Duell went to Bilsborrow to stay at School House Farm which had been built in 1798, two years before the completion of the Lancaster Canal. While there he helped to tend the orchards and look after the pigs and during his spare time in 1834 he built a Dutch barn to store the crops and shelter the pigs over winter.
Among the items that had been salvaged from the vicarage fire were some sacks of barley ; the sacks had been scorched by the flames and the barley toasted to a dark chocolate colour. Not wanting to waste it Reverend Duell steeped it in water and boiled it up, then noting the colour and aroma of the brew he cooled it, added yeast and made a beer which, due to the scorched barley, was as dark as porter is today. Setting up a small brewery in a corner of the barn he began brewing beers for the farm labourers and his parishioners, with that very first brew at Bilsborrow considered to be a porter.
Fast forward to the present day and the seeds of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet were sown in 1980 when Roy and Irene Wilkinson opened Guy’s Eating Establishment, a restaurant and pizzeria serving authentic Italian food and sited where Reverend Duell had built the Dutch barn all those years previously. In 1986 School House Farm was purchased and extended to become Owd Nell’s Canalside Tavern, selling Tetley ales, Castlemaine and Moosehead lagers, with Boddington’s Bitter being added to the range in 1987. One of the farm’s two wells was situated in front of the farmhouse and in 1988 a local man, John Bamber, descended this well ; it was found to be brick lined to a depth of 30ft with a wider sand and gravel bottom 10ft deeper.
In 1990 more land was purchased and Guy’s Lodge was built, creating 26 en-suite lodge-style rooms (though interestingly there is no Room 13) and the name Guy’s Thatched Hamlet was created to encompass Guy’s Eating Establishment, Owd Nell’s Tavern and Guy’s Lodge. In 1991 another six bedrooms were added to the Lodge and three craft shops were completed, along with the cobbled Spout Lane which was built on part of the old original route from Clitheroe to Blackpool. Spout Lane is also the site of the second of the original farm’s two wells.
In 1992 the first Guy’s Oyster Festival took place, run in conjunction with Murphy’s Irish Stout and opened by Bob Kennefick from Murphy’s brewery and boxer Barry McGuigan ; this became an annual charity event with proceeds being donated to Guy’s nominated charities each year. 1993 was the year the cricket ground and thatched cricket pavilion were built and a cricket match was played against a select Lancashire XI which included David Lloyd, while the Guy’s Select XI included Sir Denis Lillie. The following year saw the founding of the Boddington’s Village Cricket League and the addition of another 21 lodge-style rooms.
In 1996 the crown green bowling green was built then in 1997 came the thatched bowling pavilion, staff accommodation and an extension to Durty Nellie’s Snug. Finally in 2002 another twelve en-suite rooms with spa baths were built, bringing the total number of en-suite lodge rooms to sixty five. Today Guy’s Thatched Hamlet is still owned and run by the Wilkinson family and their own porter is brewed using Reverend Duell’s recipe.
Guy’s Thatched Hamlet had proved to be quite an intriguing place with far more there than can be seen from the road or canal and I really enjoyed my wander round, but finding any information about the place since then has proved very difficult. However, my thanks must now go to Anne Musella fromGuy’s who very kindly responded to my email enquiry and supplied me with details about the history and development of the Hamlet, enabling me to write this post. And if the weather is nice the next time I’m passing that way I may very well stop off for a coffee and something delightfully indulgent at Owd Nell’s Tavern.
**There’ll be no Monday walk next week as I’m off to Ireland on Wednesday for a week. Having some time off work but unable to go camping a short holiday on the Emerald Isle seems a reasonable alternative, so hopefully the weather will be good and I’ll be able to explore one or two new places – I’m looking forward to it.
My Monday walk this week features a visit to Southport on a very warm and sunny day in July (before the theft of my van) and strangely enough exactly a year and one week since my day out there in 2018. Southport had once been the home of the legendary racehorse Red Rum and sometime in the months since my previous visit I’d found out (and I can’t remember where from) that there was a statue of him in one of the shopping arcades off Lord Street. Back in 1977 I’d had the privilege of meeting Red Rum when he was the star attraction at a local horse show just three months after winning his third Grand National ; I worked for a well-known national bookmaker’s at the time and interviewed Red Rum’s trainer, Ginger McCain, for the staff magazine. Rummie was a beautiful animal and had stood very patiently while I took several photos of him and chatted to his trainer, so having once met the horse in the flesh it would be interesting to see what the statue looked like.
Leaving the van in the car park overlooking Marine Lake I walked through the side streets from the promenade and emerged onto Lord Street just beyond the main stretch of shops, so I crossed the road with the intention of walking all the way along one side and back along the other. Not far along I came to a water feature where water bubbled up from a low fountain and overflowed down an area patterned with small stones before disappearing into a mesh-covered gully. It was actually hard to tell that there was any water there at all, but Sophie and Poppie enjoyed a paddle and a quick drink before we moved on to the gardens further along.
Reaching the end of the gardens I crossed the road again and walked back past all the shops. The first arcade I came to proved to be the wrong one ; the Red Rum statue was in the second arcade and I have to say that when I found it I was deeply underwhelmed and unimpressed. There’s a life-size statue at Aintree racecourse, an excellent likeness sculpted by Philip Blacker, a former jockey who knew Red Rum well, but I thought this Southport one was a very poor second best. Sculpted by Annette Yarrow (whoever she was) and presumably done from photographs, it was only half life-size and was completely out of proportion – the legs were too short and fat, the hooves were too thick, the body was all wrong and the head and facial features reminded me of a donkey. In short, it was ugly, and whichever members of Sefton council originally approved it should have gone to Specsavers.
Now while the Red Rum statue may have been ugly the arcade itself was lovely and I spent several minutes wandering round and taking photos. A Grade ll listed structure originally opened in 1898, the arcade is typically Victorian with a domed glass roof supported by ornamental ironwork, stained glass windows along the balcony and original mahogany shop fronts. Created by a Victorian entrepreneur who owned most of the shops on Lord Street it was first named the Leyland Arcade after a prominent Southport MP of the time. During the 1950s the arcade was renamed the Burton Arcade after it was purchased by Montague Burton tailor’s business, then in 1976 the head lease was purchased by an Anthony Pedlar who renamed it the Wayfarers Arcade. Over the years different parts of the arcade have gone through periods of restoration and refurbishment but these have always been in keeping with the original style of the building.
From the arcade I made my way round onto the promenade and took a stroll through Kings Gardens and along the lakeside. It was nice to see that in contrast to last summer, when the flower beds were mostly bare because of the hot dry weather, this time there was quite a lot of colour in them, and the lake itself was very busy with lots of people taking to the water in various types of craft.
From the far side of the lake I wandered through Princes Park to the sea front where I got a big surprise – the tide was in and the sea was lapping the sand within just a few yards of the concrete walkway running along by the sea wall. Throughout the whole of my life that’s the first time ever that I’ve actually seen the sea at Southport, it’s usually so far out beyond the end of the pier that it isn’t even visible ; I know someone who lives in Southport and even he has never known the sea to come right in. It was a photo opportunity not to be missed though and I took several shots before making my way back to the lake and under the bridge to the car park, where I sat in the van and had a pre-prepared light snack before setting off for home.
The drive back was very pleasant and when I got home and told Michael about the sea he was surprised too ; he’d been to Southport many times during the years of his marriage and he’d never seen the sea either. I’ve no idea why it was so far in on that particular day but it was certainly a nice surprise and in a way it made up for the disappointment of seeing that awful Red Rum statue in the arcade.
The photo hunt has come round again and though I’ve got most of the photos in my archives I had to get my thinking cap on for a couple of them. The topics for this month are – mark, duck(s), window, arm, straw, and my own choice, so here goes.
First up is a leather bookmark which was bought and given to me by my blogging friend Eileen during theGwrych Castle open weekend in August 2016. Gwrych (think Greek) Castle in Abergele, North Wales, is a Grade l listed former country manor house and outbuildings in the style of a sprawling medieval castle ; while the main building is a dangerous ruin with no public access the formal gardens and one of the towers have undergone much restoration and have been open daily for the last couple of years. The August open weekend was actually my first formal visit – I’ve camped at a nearby site several times and on more than one occasion sneaked into the grounds by a back way to take photos which are now impossible to get. The bookmark itself gets plenty of use and is currently living in the second autobiography by actor David Jason.
While walking along a local disused canal at New Year in 2017 I came across a Mandarin duck, not the sort of creature one would expect to see in a location like that. He was beautifully coloured, and though I have several photos of various ducks in various places I thought he was so pretty that he deserves a couple of photos in this post.
For the next topic I have any number of windows – stained glass church windows, windows in historical buildings, shop windows etc, but finally decided on this one taken from the plane on the approach to Dublin airport in October 2016. The weather was perfect and it was a good flight from Manchester but it was also bittersweet as Michael and I were taking his dad on his very last journey to Ireland (but the first by plane) to spend the final weeks of his life with his brother and sister-in-law in the family home.
Thinking outside the box for the next one, and while taking a photo of my own arm was the easy option it was also too obvious so as a rather different alternative I came up with this one which was taken on a recent canalside walk. The Lancaster canal runs for 41 miles from Tewitfield, north of Carnforth, down to Preston, but a two-and-a-half mile offshoot runs through the countryside to Glasson Dock at the mouth of the River Lune. Now known as the Glasson Branch this section of the canal was previously referred to as the Glasson Arm – and a very pretty arm it is too.
Thinking outside the box again for the next topic, and while it would have been too easy to stick a couple of drinking straws into a glass of juice I decided to get creative. I didn’t have enough straws of my own though as I don’t normally use them but my friend Lin came up trumps and gave me a handful of them – ten minutes with a pair of scissors last night and this was the result.
And finally, my own choice could have been anything from the thousands of photos in my archives but for some reason this one really stood out for me when I took it so I think it deserves a place in this post. It was taken while I was on holiday in Cumbria in June this year and to me at least, is one of the prettiest flower shots I’ve ever taken, though the larger version looks much better.
Well that’s it for another month and as always I’m linking up withKate’s blog. I really don’t know how she manages to think up such random subjects each month so it’ll be interesting to see what other bloggers have chosen for the topics this time.
An August bank holiday with glorious weather but no van, however I wasn’t going to let being without my own transport stop me from going somewhere so I decided to ‘let the train take the strain’ as the adverts used to say and for my Monday walk this week I would visit Arnside, a village on the River Kent estuary at the north east corner of Morecambe bay.
Letting the train take the strain was an absolute joke for the first part of the journey though ; the cancellation of the previous train and the one going to Blackpool meant that the one I was getting was already full to bursting when it arrived, with hoards of other people fighting to get on, and I only just about managed it myself. As I approached one of the doors a woman standing just inside said “You can’t get in here!” so I replied “Can’t I? Watch me!” and I heaved the dogs in and squashed in after them with seconds to spare before the doors closed – having just had a two-mile walk from home to the station there was no way I was missing that train and waiting an hour for the next one! Fortunately I only had to go as far as Preston before changing trains and the second one was fine, with plenty of room and a seat to myself, so the journey to Arnside was completed in relative comfort.
Arnside village lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is situated on the West Coast main railway line. At one time it was actually a working port but building the viaduct across the Kent estuary in 1857 caused it to silt up, making the port no longer viable. The viaduct itself is 552 yards long with 50 piers ; it was rebuilt in 1915 and is a very prominent feature of the village, being more or less the first thing to be seen when coming into Arnside past the railway station.
At the far end of the promenade I came to the private grounds ofAshmeadow House, a listed building which dates from 1818. A narrow path ran uphill alongside the hedge and a notice said that visitors were welcome to walk round the woodland and wildflower meadow so I thought I may as well take a look. The patches of shade in the woodland provided a lovely coolness away from the sun’s heat, and though the wildflower meadow seemed to be devoid of any actual flowers there was a separate area at one end which had been divided into several beds with different flowers growing in each one, although some of the blooms seemed to be past their best.
Heading back downhill through the far end of the woodland I came to a slipway down onto the sand ; it briefly crossed my mind to head west and walk along to Silverdale but not knowing how far it was I decided against it and only walked a relatively short distance along before heading back to the village.
Along the promenade I saw a sign for Arnside Knott, a high up place which would give me some great views over the estuary but again there was no indication of distance, however I did see a side road named Church Hill. A road with a name like that just had to lead to a church – I was right, and five minutes later I came to St. James C of E church. It was open to the public too and with a conveniently shady spot to leave the dogs I went in for a quick look round. Built between 1864 and 1866 and extended in 1884, 1905 and again between 1912 and 1914 it was a lovely place with some beautiful stained glass windows to photograph, though the bright sunlight shining through some of them made it difficult to capture the details.
Back on the promenade I went in search of somewhere to treat myself to coffee and cake. Arnside has a couple of pubs, a few cafes and tea rooms and even a fish and chip shop but the tables and seats outside all of them were occupied ; at least there was a Londis shop which was open so I resorted to a bit of D-I-Y and got a can of Coke and a snack from there then found a partially shaded bench at the far side of the promenade gardens where I could sit for a while and watch the world go by. A short stroll later to the end of the pier and back then it was almost time for me to catch the train for home.
Not having been to Arnside for well over ten years I’d really enjoyed rediscovering it although it confirmed my opinion from all those years ago – there’s not much there. Saying that though, there’s just enough to make it interesting. It’s a very quaint and attractive little place so anything more than it has would spoil it – and anything it does lack is more than compensated for by the lovely location and wonderful views. Since getting back home I’ve found out that every so often there’s a tidal bore which travels right up the estuary and is apparently something worth seeing, so who knows – I may be making another visit to Arnside sometime in the future.
Exactly a week after my first walk round Blackburn town centre I got the 7.30am train from the nearest station to home and arrived back in Blackburn less than half an hour later, so my Monday walk this week features my continued wanderings to find more of the murals in various parts of the town. First was the Alexandra Gallagher mural at the back of a car park, which I couldn’t getlast time as too many cars were in the way, and bingo! – my early start had paid off as this time there wasn’t a car in sight and I was able to get shots of the whole thing. Next was the coffee shop window and again my early start proved to be a winner as the place wasn’t yet open so there were no tables, chairs or people outside to get in the way.
From the coffee shop I had to cover some ground I’d already covered on the previous visit but the next two murals were in roughly the same area and I didn’t want to double back on myself any more than I needed to. Given the title ‘Cottonopolis’ the first one was done by a female duo well known in the street art world and it paid tribute to Lancashire’s cotton mill workers of the past, some of which were young children only six years old.
The second one wasn’t the easiest thing to photograph as it was on one of the staggered side walls of a modern building surrounded by high railings and security gates – I had to put my arm through the railings, point the camera and hope for the best, and just as I was getting my shot a nearby intercom buzzed into life with a disembodied voice asking if it could help me. Presumably I’d been picked up on cctv, in which case the voice would have seen that I was only taking a photo so I ignored it, got a couple of shots and went on my merry way.
Back up the road again and near the car park mural I managed to get a shot of one I missed on my previous visit as there were cars parked in front of it, then it was on to a road junction where I should have been able to find two more murals but it seemed they no longer existed. That wasn’t the case with the next one though – I’d found it on the internet since my first visit, it featured a couple of Hayley Welsh’s whimsical creatures and I just had to find the real thing if it was still there so I was really pleased to see it covering the whole of a gable end wall overlooking another car park.
The next mural was on a wall by a car park behind the Hayley Welsh mural but this particular piece of rough land was seemingly being used as a bit of a site storage area for the nearby roadworks. It was cordoned off with tall barriers and there was so much stuff around that I couldn’t even see the mural properly, however the barrier gate was open and though there was a notice saying ‘Construction site parking only’ I figured out that as I wasn’t parking anything and there was no-one around anyway it would be okay to nip in and get the best shot I could. So that’s what I did, without getting caught, and also got a corner shot from outside the barrier.
From there it was only a short distance to the next one which was done for the Open Walls festival last year. This particular mural was huge, taking up the whole wall and boarded-up windows of an old building although part of it was obscured by trees. Painted by Sheffield artist Phlegm (I’m sure he could have picked a better name than that!) it’s a homage to the town’s cotton workers of years gone by and features a fantasy creature sitting at a loom. A local vote after the event picked it out as being the town’s favourite, but though it’s a brilliant piece of artwork there are others which I personally prefer.
Just down the road from ‘Loom’, and on the side wall of a bar, was a mural by an English-based Malaysian artist. It was done in the style of a fine arts piece depicting a dressmaker at work, but the wall was in a closed-in alley and once again several commercial wheelie bins were in the way so I could only get a partial shot of it.
Having had no breakfast before I left home I was feeling rather peckish by this time so I broke off my mural search and went to look for a café – a proper café where I could get a decent breakfast at a reasonable price, not one of these ‘in’ places of the moment which sell vile looking green smoothies and ‘healthy options’ costing an arm and half a leg – and I eventually found one in one of the pedestrianised shopping streets. A quick look at the menu and I chose a ham omelette, which was made with four eggs and came with a salad, and a mug of milky coffee, and I must say I was quite impressed. The omelette was so filling I only just managed to eat it all and the coffee was really good, so that’s a place to remember if I ever go to Blackburn again.
Heading back to where I needed to resume my mural search I cut down a short narrow alley and came across the rear yard of some business premises protected by a high steel fence and a very colourful gate ; I don’t know if the gate was supposed to be part of the art thing but it was worth a quick shot anyway. Not far from where I hoped to find the next murals on my list I had the surprise of finding one which wasn’t ; it was on a hoarding on the corner of a narrow back alley and was very amateurish in comparison to all the others, also some moron had scribbled over part of it with a few rude words but I managed to get most of it.
Round the corner from the water voles were the next three murals on hoardings, one of which celebrates Lancashire’s farming heritage, and down the street was a large mural high up on a gable end wall. Below the wall, at street level, was an enclosed private bit of land with a wooden shack type of a building and on the front of it were two more murals which I didn’t expect to see as they weren’t on my list – there was no clue to the artist(s) but one of these I recognised as being the face of the well-known 1930s, 40s and early 50s Blackburn contralto singer Kathleen Ferrier.
By this time I needed to find a loo but wasn’t sure where there would be any, however across the far side of the nearby large car park was a Morrisons store and as I needed to get some bread at some point that day I though I may as well kill two birds with one stone, which actually worked in my favour. The store had an off shoot like a very mini shopping mall and high up over the door into the street was a clock – not exactly street art but it amused me enough to take a photo of it as I was on my way out. I’ve since learned that it strikes every quarter of an hour and the monkeys swing down from the tree – if I’d known that beforehand I would have waited another five minutes just to watch it.
Back to the mural search and the next one, which would have been the last on my list, was just across the road from Morrisons. Painted by Mr Christa it ran the full length of a long hoarding at a road junction and was quite difficult to photograph all in one but I managed to get most of it. Back across the car park and I found the final few, a group of five murals all done by the same artist but each on a separate section of wall. These were really lovely and personally I felt they deserved to be in a much more prominent location than in a side street on the high wall of a shopping centre car park.
Satisfied that I’d finally found all the murals on my list – or most of them at least – I headed back to the station and the next train home. There were four murals I hadn’t managed to find but it wasn’t for the want of trying ; I’d been in the right location each time but it seemed that these had become non-existent, probably painted over or otherwise removed, however over the two separate days I’d found and photographed a total of 41 murals and a café window so I was happy with that. And having seen how much different Blackburn town centre is now compared to the last time I went there ten years ago maybe, just maybe, I might return sometime for a general look round.