A long walk before home time

Just like the previous day the morning started off rather dull but it did brighten up as time went on. With only a small cabin bag and a backpack it didn’t take long to pack my things for coming home then I took a walk up to town as there was one thing I wanted to do – get something suitable to leave at the grave. Sometime during the summer Michael had added half a dozen solar lights and only a few days previously had put two vases of fresh tulips there ; Nellie had added a remembrance plaque for Jimmy, the lantern which I’d left there last year was still lit, and with the remembrance plaques Michael and I had put there last year and another couple of flower arrangements, albeit artificial, the plot looked quite pretty, but I still felt like I should add something. Eventually I settled on a bunch of  red and white flowers and and a small plaque and made my way up to the cemetery.
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Back at the house, and with some time to spare, I decided to go in search of something I’d only found out about since my stay there last year – a stream with man-made waterfalls running through the grounds of Mount St. Joseph Abbey, which I hadn’t seen when I walked round there last November. Having previously promised Trixie that I would take her for a walk sometime I clipped the lead on her, grabbed the camera and off we went ; it was 11.15am and my coach wasn’t until 3pm so I would have plenty of time to walk two miles to the abbey, find and photograph the stream and walk the two miles back again.
All the time I was walking the weather was brightening up until eventually the sun came out and blue sky appeared, and my brisk pace made me so warm that I ended up taking my jacket off and tying it round my waist. I reached the monastery in forty minutes and following Michael’s directions went past the parking area and round into the woods where I found the stream quite easily, and realised that if I’d walked just a little bit further into the woods last year I would have found it then. Being surrounded by trees it was a bit gloomy but I got a handful of photos and made a mental note to revisit, if possible in spring or summer next time.
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The abbey grounds
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It was 1.15pm when I got back to the house so I’d only been out a couple of hours, and I hadn’t been in long when Nellie put a dinner on the table for me – she said she didn’t want me travelling home without having had a decent meal even though I told her I could get something at the airport. Michael was out but he came back in time to come up to the bus stop with me – he wasn’t coming home with me but staying on for another week. Nellie said she would come too as she needed to post a letter, so after saying goodbye to Trixie who was curled up on her cushion we all walked up to town together.
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Recovering from her long walk
Now while I may have had no problems at all on my journey from home to Roscrea the same couldn’t be said of the reverse. The coach to the airport arrived bang on time at 3pm and it was a very pleasant ride up to Dublin although with traffic building up through the city centre the coach was twenty minutes late at the airport, but that didn’t matter as my flight wasn’t until 7pm so I had plenty of time. The delay was actually with the plane itself ; wherever it had come from it was late, and though the departure gate closed at 6.30 there was no sign of any staff or any indication of when boarding would start.
Eventually, just before 7pm, the staff arrived and after a load of faffing about started the boarding process ; I was third in the queue but it didn’t make any difference as everyone had to queue up again and wait for the door onto the tarmac to be opened. Then when we got to the plane we had to queue up again  before they would allow us on as they were still trying to clean and tidy up. Finally we were allowed on, and it was obvious they’d only done a quick job as there were crumbs on the three seats and the floor where I was, and probably in many other places as well. Eventually the plane took off forty minutes late and finally landed in Manchester at 8.15pm, but even then my problems weren’t over – and this is where it gets ever-so-slightly stupid.
On my three trips to Ireland last year, on all outbound and return flights and the flight to Dublin a few days previously, passengers have always walked the very short distance from the plane to the airport building but not this time. When everyone got off the plane we all had to queue to get onto a couple of shuttle buses ; I thought maybe the plane had pulled up quite a distance from the entrance we had to use so that’s why we had to go on the buses but in actual fact the plane was right where it should be and the buses just turned in a big circle and pulled up right outside the building! Of course the second bus, which I was on, had to wait until everyone had got off the first one and it had driven off before it could pull up to the entrance – yet another few minutes delay and there were grumbles coming from several passengers. Honestly, it would have been quicker to walk across the tarmac as on previous occasions! I really couldn’t understand the reason for all that at all, and I’ve actually done a very  rough drawing to illustrate it – as you can see, I’m no great artist!
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This just didn’t make any sense at all
By the time I’d got through the airport and done the ten minute walk to the station Sod’s Law decreed that I would just miss a train and I had twenty minutes to wait for the next one. Fortunately it only made three brief stops going through Manchester so I was back in my home town a bit sooner than I expected. With a taxi from my local station I finally arrived home almost eight hours after I left Roscrea; needless to say the dogs were pleased to see me so I took them for a quick walk then made a coffee and retreated to my bed – any unpacking could wait until the morning. I’d had such a tiring and frustrating few hours I just wanted some chill-out time and a good night’s sleep – and with the whole bed to myself I was sure to get it!

A visit to Nenagh

Sunday morning December 3rd was very much a chill-out morning after the previous rather uncomfortable night. Nellie had gone to morning mass so I made myself some coffee and toast and took it back to bed to relax with my book for a while, only getting up when she came back in. Even though I said I’d already had breakfast she insisted on making me another one and did me some more of her divine scrambled eggs – I don’t know how she does them but they really are delicious.
Although the day had started off dull it brightened up by late morning so I decided to take myself off to Nenagh, a half-hour coach ride away from Roscrea ; Nellie had told me that although the town centre wasn’t a big place there was a nice church and a castle there so it would be worth going to take a look. As the coach got further west the day brightened up even more until I arrived at Nenagh in bright sunshine with blue sky – that would do for me.
Nellie had told me that if I turned right when I got off the coach I would find most things of interest close by so that’s what I did. The first thing I came to was the Courthouse, designed and built in 1843, and in the very pleasant grounds were the bronze sculptures of three Olympic gold medallists with links to Nenagh. Next was the gatehouse to the old prison which now has only one cell block left intact and with its unique octagonal governor’s residence is classed as a historic monument.
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Nenagh Courthouse
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L-R Matt McGrath (weight thrower) Johnny Hayes (athlete) Bob Tisdall (athlete)
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Old prison gatehouse
Further along the road I came to St. Mary’s of the Rosary Catholic Church, a neo-gothic church built in 1895 – and this must be the most spectacularly ornate church I’ve ever been in so far. The whole place was truly beautiful and it was hard to know what to look at first – if I’d been using 35mm film I would have used up more than one roll. As it was, with limited time if I didn’t want to fall foul of the odd bus times back to Roscrea, I stuck to just over a dozen photos but that’s one place I will definitely return to at a later date to get some more shots.
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St. Mary’s of the Rosary Church
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Out in the grounds, and adjacent to this church, was the smaller St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, built in 1862 and seemingly a much simpler building than its more ornate next door neighbour. Any intention of looking inside though was forgotten about when I saw that the castle keep was right next door, separated from the church grounds by a tall wrought iron fence and gate. Unfortunately the gate was locked so I took a shot of the keep through the bars then went off in search of another way in.
I was destined to be disappointed however, as when I did find the official entrance that gate was locked too and a notice informed me that the castle isn’t open on Sundays, so I had to be content with a couple of shots from a nearby car park down a narrow side street. Also down the side street was the back yard wall of a pub which fronted onto the main street, and set into the wall was a very colourful mosaic picture – pubs and alcohol don’t interest me but the picture was worth a photo.
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St. Mary’s Church of Ireland
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Nenagh castle
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Mosaic picture set in a wall
From there I made my way round to the main street to have a look at the shops. The town centre was a bit bigger than Roscrea but it didn’t take long to look round ; I only went into two shops though I didn’t buy anything from either of them, and just two hours after arriving in Nenagh I was back on the coach to Roscrea. I hadn’t been in the house long when Nellie said dinner was ready ; it was a lovely meal and I couldn’t have eaten another thing afterwards. As soon as it had gone properly dark I nipped out to take a shot of the Christmas display in the garden of a house a few doors away then I settled indoors for the rest of the evening.
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There’s more but it wouldn’t all fit in the shot!
Nellie told me that the people who live there add one extra thing every year – it certainly looks pretty and it brightens the street but I wouldn’t like to get their electricity bill afterwards!



A visit to Kildare and Portlaoise

The first day of December arrived cold but with lots of blue sky and sunshine so not wanting to waste such a glorious day I decided to take myself off to Kildare for a bit of exploration. On my first trip to Ireland last October the coach from the airport had turned off the main route and gone to Kildare Village, which isn’t an actual village but a very attractive shopping centre just outside Kildare town, and it looked so nice that I’d put it on my list of places to visit when I had the opportunity. Allowing for three stops en route it was an hour by coach from Roscrea so it was doable, though the stupidly infrequent coach times meant that (a) I may not have very long there or (b) I would be there longer than I wanted to be before making the return journey.
After a late-ish breakfast of the most divine scrambled eggs on toast done by Nellie I got the 10.30 Kavanagh’s coach from the stop round the corner from the house and arrived at Kildare Village an hour later – and for anyone who likes designer and expensive stuff it’s definitely the place to go to as every single shop was a big name. Calvin Klein, DKNY, Karen Millen, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, Versace, Cath Kidston, Kurt Geiger, Heidi Klum, Nike, Lulu Guinness, Armani, Swarovski….. those were just some of the names among the 90-plus shops, and even though most of them were advertising ‘discounts’ their stuff was still expensive. I don’t ‘do’ designer anything though so the only shop I went in was the Lily O’Brien’s chocolate shop – I may have given up eating cake several months ago but I do like a bit of chocolate occasionally so I treated myself to a bar of Salted Caramel and one of Malted Chocolate Crunch then spent most of my time taking photos.
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Kildare Village
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One of several reindeer in set displays around the village
One of the side ‘streets’ of the village led to a children’s play area and a boardwalk running between two pleasant grassy areas to a main road a couple of hundred yards away, and about halfway along was what seemed to be an old ruined church. With a couple of shots taken from the boardwalk I went along to the road to see if I could find a way in and discovered an information plaque set in the boundary wall – this place was the Grey Abbey, named from the colour of the habits the resident monks wore.
The ruins occupied one corner of an obviously still used graveyard but with the entrance gate locked my only means of access was via a primitive stone ‘stile’ which went up and over the wall; a wire fence separated the ruins from the graveyard and a large notice said ‘Danger – Keep Out’ but part of the fence had collapsed to ground level and it was obvious that others had gone before me so in I went. The ground was very overgrown and there was nothing in there other than a couple of simple but very rusty metal crosses standing side by side and looking very unloved, so with just a couple of shots taken I made my way back through the graveyard to the main road.
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Grey Abbey ruins from the boardwalk
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Inside the ruins
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Following my nose a few minutes walking took me to Kildare town centre – what there was of it, which wasn’t much – and a walk along Market Square got me to St. Brigid’s Cathedral and Kildare Round Tower which was set in the cathedral grounds. At 108ft high it’s Ireland’s tallest accessible Round Tower, with seven levels of floors and ladders (installed in 1874) to reach the top; I would have loved to do the climb but unfortunately both the tower and the cathedral were closed for the winter so I had to be content with taking a few photos from the grounds, though I’ve put them both on my ‘places to visit’ list for another time.
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St. Brigid’s Cathedral
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Kildare Round Tower
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With nothing much else to see or photograph I returned to the Village for another quick look round the shops then went to get the 1.50pm bus back to Roscrea, though as I still had a big part of the afternoon left I decided to stop off en route at Portlaoise (pronounced Port-leesh) and have a look round there. Michael had previously told me in conversation that there wasn’t much there but although the town centre wasn’t a large place it was actually bigger than I expected. There was a nice modern indoor shopping centre there too, with many of the shops we see here in the UK, though I didn’t find anywhere or anything worth taking a photo of so my visit only lasted just over an hour before I got the 3.40pm Bus Eireann coach back to Roscrea, arriving back at the house at 4.15.
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Sunset through the coach window
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Wind turbines at sunset, viewed from the moving coach
As soon as I walked in Nellie had a mug of coffee on the table for me then not long afterwards she produced a large plateful of stew with potatoes and veg – and very good it was too. Michael spent most of the evening in his room reading a book he’d recently bought and Nellie and I watched the soaps and a couple of other programmes, punctuated by playing tug-of-war with Trixie and an old cushion cover, until it was time for bed. Still not entirely comfortable with the bed sharing thing I let Nellie go up first and waited until I knew she would be asleep before I went up, then after reading a couple of chapters of my book I finally settled down for the night.

A canal walk and a few photos

After fine but heavy rain which lasted through most of yesterday afternoon and last night today turned out to be gloriously sunny, and with just a light breeze it was perfect for a dog walk. As I had to call at a store which was south of the town centre I decided to stay in that direction and go along a section of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury canal which I’ve been along several times before. My walk started in Moses Gate country park and after doing a circuit of the wildlife lake I made my way via a short bit of road and a footpath to the upper part of the canal.
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The canalside path was extremely muddy in many places so I was glad I’d changed into my wellies before I left the van; there were a couple of spots where I had to be careful I didn’t slip and fall into the water but other than that it was a really pleasant walk. About halfway along I came across a pony grazing quietly in a rather waterlogged field, then a bit further on I was greeted by a family of three swans who glided along to say hello; they weren’t impressed by the dogs though and one of them hissed at Sophie. It was this section of the canal where the recent incidents concerning the other two swans had taken place, and other than a few ducks it seems that these three are now the only residents – I just hope that they are left alone to live their lives in peace and tranquility.
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Eventually I came to where the canal had been blocked off to make way for a wide bridle path and though I could have gone further I didn’t want to run out of sunshine so I made that my turn round point and headed back the other way, then with one more photo taken I left the canal itself and took a path down through the nearby woods which eventually took me back to the country park.
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By the time I got back to the van our rather muddy walk had taken its toll on both me and the dogs – their legs and undersides were completely black and soggy and my trousers, which I hadn’t  thought to tuck into my wellies, were wet round the bottom and splashed with mud right up to my knees. It had been a very enjoyable walk though, and both the dogs and the trousers could easily be cleaned up when we got home.


An afternoon in Southport

Almost six weeks since I last saw him, Michael finally arrived home from Ireland early last Friday morning ; circumstances kept us both busy on Saturday but yesterday the weather was looking quite promising so we decided to have a ride out somewhere and Southport was the choice. We arrived there at lunch time and with four hours on the car park ticket we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up again at 3pm to go for a meal somewhere – it had been several years since I was last there so I wanted to be off exploring and taking photos and I didn’t expect Michael to trail round with me.
Starting off near the pier I walked along one side of the Marine Lake then went up onto the bridge which crossed the lake and took me to Princes Park, then from there I wandered along to Pleasureland, the large amusement park. On my last visit to Southport the funfair had been a partially closed small shadow of its former self so this time I wasn’t expecting to see much, however I was quite surprised to find that it’s now grown into a large vibrant and colourful amusement place with rides and attractions everywhere I looked.
After wandering round there for a while I made my way back to the lake and headed through King’s Gardens towards the pier then went down to Lord Street, the long main shopping street. With many nice old buildings, monuments and gardens I could have taken several photos along there but unfortunately I ran out of space on my camera card ; having the dogs with me meant that I couldn’t really go in any of the shops and as it wasn’t far off 3pm anyway I just made my way back to the van and waited for Michael.
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Southport pier
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Marine Lake
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Pleasureland amusement park
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Hook A Duck stall
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Colourful artwork on the carousel canopy
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King’s Gardens
As Michael had been a frequent visitor to Southport over the last few years he said he knew a nice place to go for a meal so I settled the dogs in the back of the van and off we went back to Lord Street and to the Westminster Tea Rooms – and this place wasn’t just any old cafe. With wood panelled walls hung with old pictures and mirrors, ornate coving, chandeliers, white table linen and proper napkins, tea and coffee served in silver pots, afternoon tea served on 4-tier cake stands and the waitresses in black dresses with white collars and aprons, it had a very 1920s feel to it and I felt as if I’d stepped back in time. The meal was good too and once we’d finished we made our way back to the van and I took Sophie and Poppie for a short walk along the lakeside before we set off for home, arriving back just before I needed to put the van lights on. All in all it had been a really nice afternoon, and the old fashioned tea room experience had made a nice change – I don’t know when I’ll get to Southport again but at least now I know of a really nice place for a meal when I do go back.

Off on my travels again

Hopefully, if things go to plan – which they probably won’t – I’ll be leaving home at 7am tomorrow for my annual 10-day holiday in Norfolk. I really wanted to leave earlier than that – 5am would have been ideal as it’s a six hour journey – but I’ve had so much to do today and various things have conspired against me to make sure some of them didn’t get done, so I need to finish them off in the morning before I go anywhere. My friend round the corner is feeding the cats for me until Michael comes back from Ireland on Thursday, then he’ll take over until I get back the following Tuesday. The van is packed and my bag is packed so I only need to finish off the things which didn’t get done today then I’m off – so I’ll ‘see’ you all when I get back and hopefully I’ll have lots of photos for here and my other blog.

A great weekend in North Wales

On Tuesday afternoon I got back home from a long weekend at Manorafon Farm camp site in Abergele, North Wales – a weekend where, for once, I hadn’t been camping alone as Michael had been with me. I’d actually asked him last Tuesday if he wanted to come with me as I thought a few days of sea air might help his continuing recovery from the broken ankle but he’d refused and said he was quite happy to stay at home. I’d left the van packed up from my Anglesey holiday a few weeks ago so his refusal meant that I didn’t need to re-organise and re-pack it with extra stuff for him, however at half past midnight last Friday he suddenly said he wanted to come, the deciding factor being that as there would be electric on my pitch he would be able to charge up his phone. So at 6.30 on Saturday morning I was busy packing the van with camp bed, mattress, extra bedding and food etc, and instead of leaving home at my intended time of 7.30am we didn’t leave until 8.30.
Although it had been rather overcast when we set off the sun started shining not long into the journey and from then on the weather just got better and better. My usual route down the M56/A55 was abandoned for once in favour of the A548 running close to the River Dee estuary as I wanted to stop at Greenfield Dock to take a few photos – I’d read about this little place on Ruth’s blog but when I wanted to find it for myself last year I’d missed the turning off the main road so didn’t get there. There was nothing much there other than a little creek with a handful of small fishing boats beached on the deep mud banks but in the sunshine the views across the Dee estuary were worth a couple of shots and it was nice to have a short break from driving.
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The Dee estuary from Greenfield Dock
I’d originally intended to make a stop at Talacre beach further along the coast, but the later-than-planned start to the journey meant I was running out of time as I’d arranged to meet my blogging friend Eileen at 11am and I didn’t want to keep her waiting too long. Having met properly for the first time last August it was lovely to see her and her adorable little dog Annie again and a very pleasant couple of hours was spent chatting over a coffee and a walk round her local boardwalk before we said our goodbyes. It was just after 1pm when I got to Manorafon – I’d been able to select my pitch when I booked online back in May so I knew exactly where I was going and with Michael’s help, albeit limited because of his foot, the tent was soon put up and pegged down and the inside sorted out, then the rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the sun.
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Manorafon Farm
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One of the site’s many residents
Late morning on Sunday saw us driving the 43 miles to Anglesey; although it was only a few weeks since my holiday there I was going for a particular reason – to photograph Parys Mountain with the heather in full bloom, which it hadn’t been back in July. And it was certainly worth going – in the six weeks since I last walked round there the mountain had burst into colourful life with pink and purple heather everywhere, and needless to say I took far more than just a handful of shots. My walk round the mountain was followed by a drive up to Penrhos for a cheeseburger then it was back across the island to Benllech where we spent some time by the beach before finally leaving the island and going back to the camp site.
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Parys Mountain in bloom
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Benllech beach
On Monday, while on a morning dog walk, I discovered that the old castle up the lane from the site was partially open to the public so Michael and I had a walk round up there. It was good to see what progress had been made in the restoration over the last year but I was rather disappointed to find that the most interesting parts of the place have been closed off since I was at the open day last August. Later on we had a drive along the coast and I finally found Talacre beach and its lighthouse and got the photos I wanted, then on the way back to the camp site I called at Eileen’s with a brochure which I’d forgotten to give to her on Saturday. I’d left Michael at one of the amusement places down near the beach and on my way back to collect him I managed, from Eileen’s directions, to find and photograph a possible ‘escapee’ from the local zoo peering over someone’s high hedge.
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Gwrych Castle
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Talacre beach & Point of Ayr lighthouse
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Anyone lost a giraffe?
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The Pantri Bach Cafe, Pensarn
After some overnight rain Tuesday was dull and overcast though the sun did keep trying to break through the clouds. A leisurely breakfast was followed by the packing up process and by 11.15am we were ready for leaving the site; a dog walk down on the beach was followed by an early lunch in the nearby Pantri Bach cafe then it was time to set off homewards. The day brightened up as we got further north and we arrived home at 3.15pm in glorious sunshine, a fitting end to a very varied and enjoyable North Wales weekend.