Category: Travel / Out and About (Page 1 of 18)

Tatton Park

So I was off to Tatton Park for the day. I only knew, somewhat vaguely, that it was somewhere in Cheshire – ie – south of Manchester, in the posh bit of the North, and that it comprises a large stately home with a famous set of gardens. I’d deliberately not done my homework, wanting to be surprised. This was the third coach day trip that I’d been on with ‘The Heptonstall Village Team,’ a well organised organisation with whom I’d travelled to Liverpool and Harlow Carr during the previous couple of months.

All aboard
All aboard

The coaches are comfortable, have a toilet on board, and at various times throughout the journey we are fed crisps and toffees and are invited to buy raffle tickets for an onboard raffle, the prizes of which are usually bottles of wine or large boxes of Quality Street toffees, a local delicacy. More than 90% of the people on board were women, as is the case in nearly every event I attend. Perhaps I’ll have to invade Andy’s Man Club in order to find some men to talk to. A few weeks ago going to a poetry reading with a friend we gave a lift to the event to a couple. As I sat next to the man in the car he remarked “Will need a good beer if I’m to sit through listening to someone spout poetry all night.” “Oh,” I jumped onto his train of thought, ” Are you interested in local beers?” And with that the conversation took off and lasted all the way to the venue – best local brewery, where to buy Northern Monk locally, the attractions of Vocation. Once firmly installed in the Dusty Miller our conversation took a turn to football, him being a Liverpool supporter, but I won’t hold that against him – riiiight! How refreshing it was to chat about something other than the cost of parking or the inconvenience of the latest local roadworks.

But back to the coach trip. Speeding through the industrial warehouses and superstores of Stockport we were soon in rural Cheshire. the landscape reminded me of the time when I lived in Cambridgeshire – flat, flat, and more flat. There was no point going for walks around there because you could see everything before you set off. Just before we entered through the impressive park gates we drive along a narrow tree lined avenue edged with mansions, each in their own style, some with porticos, some with huge glass conservatories, others with immaculately tended gardens far too big to be maintained by two pairs of hands. This was the Cheshire that you read about – posh Cheshire. Entering the park land we stopped at the ticket office and disembarked. “We’ll be leaving from here at 4 o’clock. Don’t be late” we were told. It was only 10.30. Good grief. I had 5 and 1/2 hours to kill! A docent from the park boarded our bus. “So yer from ‘eptinstall? In’t that near ‘ebden Bridge? Anybody ‘eard of’t Stubbin Wharf pub? Eee it were grand.” Less than three hours ago I’d booked a table for my daughter, son-in-law and myself at the Stubbins Wharf pub to watch one of the Euro games when they come to visit for their honeymoon in a couple of week’s time. She’d texted me the previous evening about the pub showing the Euro games there now that the pub’s recent refit has big screen TVs throughout. It’s a place that’s been special to me, usually taking my visitors to have dinner or at least a drink there and last time my three daughters and I were all together in England we had dinner there – and that was all before I discovered that one of my ancestors ran the pub in the early 1900s!

The Japanese garden came into view with its lily pond, though they were not yet flowering. Various bridges spanned the pond, and a replica of Mt Fuji stod on the perimeter. I was transported back in time to my trip to Japan in 2006.

The Japanese Garden

Just the previous day I’d attended a lecture about Japanese gardens at the Halifax Arts Society, given by Marie Konte-Helm, OBE, no less. Many of her photos were of gardens in Kyoto and when I told my daughter about the talk she told me that she’d been to many of them, including a fascinating moss garden. Perhaps I’ll incorporate some of the ideas into my garden which I’m in the process of designing at the moment. Having been to the lecture I was able to identify and understand the significance of several of the features before me, including the bridges, the water and Mt Fuji. Some of the maples still had their red hue and the bonsai treatment of the shrubs was well maintained. I chatted to one of the gardeners who were out in force.

She told me that there are about 80 volunteer gardeners looking after the estate. An enormous conservatory was next to attract my attention, built to Lewis Wyatt’s design in 1818 and restored in 2010. Nearby a fernery houses many Australian and New Zealand tree ferns from the Egertons’ travels and a robotic arm was watering them – almost as surreal as the robotic lawnmower in action on one of the lawns.

From New Zealand I made my way Kenya – only a ten minute walk. With the heat of the African sun beating down upon me I took took shelter in the African hut built to console Maurice when he became too ill to visit his beloved Kenya, where he had a private estate that still exists.

The African hut

I made my way to the stables housing the cafe, not to mention some very early motor cars that the Egertons used. It had warmed up and I sat on the forecourt to have a pot of tea – so very English – and imagined the mayhem that must once have played out on these cobbles as the horses were taken in and out of the stables.

It was time to go into the mansion. But as I made my way there I suddenly came face to face with Shaun the Sheep! Now a couple of weeks ago I’d visited the Wensleydale Creamery, home of Wallace and Gromit, where an encounter with Shaun was to be expected, much anticipated in actual fact. But here? Amongst the hoi poloi of British society? In fact there were no less than ten Shauns scattered throughout Tatton gardens and parkland, and if I hadn’t reached the grand old age of 11+ I could have picked up a card and crossed each statue off and got a prize if I’d seen them all.

There was even one in the Japanese garden. It was named Sakura and was complete with cherry blossom and Mt Fuji.


Entrance to the mansion is by a back door, fitting considering my lowly status, and so the splendour of the imposing building can’t be seem from this side. But as soon as I got in I thought to myself how like Sledmere House this is – another stately home that I’d visited with the Halifax Antiquarian Society two years ago.

Can you see me?

The feel of the building itself, the views of the extensive grounds and the room upon room of oil paintings of every size imaginable were so Sledmerean. Minutes later I read ‘Elizabeth Sykes of Sledmere married her cousin Wilbraham Egerton in 1806. Shortly after Wilbraham inherited Tatton. Elizabeth was an accomplished musician and keyboard player and the bookcase houses her large and varied collection of musical masterpieces.’ So naturally I headed off in search of the music room passing the amazing dining room.

Harpsichord in the music room undergoing flood management

In one corner was a harpsichord which had been a wedding present to Elizabeth from her brother Mark Masterman Sykes on her wedding. The room had been badly damaged during a storm about 4 weeks ago. Water had got into the roof and run down the walls destroying much of the silk fabric lining the walls. Major restoration work was being carried out since mould had started to grow, and most of the books had had to be removed.

In another part of the music area a square piano stood. I asked the guide if he knew who the manufacturer was.”Could it be a Broadwood?” I asked. “Ha!” he responded. “I’m part of the Broadwood piano making family.” I told him about ‘Mr Langshaw’s Square Piano’, a book that I’d reviewed for a magazine – a true story about a woman in England discovering that a Broadwood piano had been turned into a chicken coop. He wrote down the name of the book to read it sometime. He tried to take of photo of the writing above the keyboard to see who the manufacturer was. He tried three times but we couldn’t decipher it. I asked if I could be allowed to play it but no, I couldn’t. It would set the alarm off. Well, I’d been fortunate enough to play the piano at Sledmere so I guess that will have to suffice for now. I have been fortunate to play John Ruskin and Elizabeth Gaskell’s pianos when I’ve asked, so there’s no harm in asking. Another piano in the hall had been played by Sir Charles Halle and Gustave Holst had played his trombone there too!

The piano that Sir Charles Halle played

The huge library was next. I always wonder when I see such collection how many of the books their owner have actually read. I suppose many of the books were bought to preserve them. This library was amassed over three centuries with each generation adding their own layer of interest. I read that the ‘earliest book is a treatise in Latin on architecture by Vitruvius dated 1513.’ Last month’s arts society lecture had been on architecture and told of Vetruvius’s book! Wouldn’t you know it? I was beginning to feel quite at home. Then I discovered another connection that was quite unexpected. Tatton Park has some first editions of Edward Lear’s work.Lear has always held a special place in my family ever since I was required to learn many of his poems by heart for my elocution lessons as a child. I passed on my love of his poetry and drawings to my children and I even have some of his work on my bedroom wall, a gift from my daughter. I even adapted one of his poems to be my ‘speech’ at my daughter’s wedding.

I wanted to know more about the family so I headed to the servants’ quarters to an exhibition about Lord Maurice Egerton that commemorates the 150th anniversary of his birth. For 30 years he explored parts of Africa. He kept a detailed journal of his travels, was a keen photographer and brought back many souvenirs.

Photos from Maurice’s travels

His safari camping equipment was on display with its parasol, camp bed, deck chair and rucksack along with his fascinating photos of the people he met on his travels.

I found myself standing beneath dozens of stuffed animal heads.


He must have kept the taxidermist busy. He also visited the Klondike and Yukon territories, another connection with my daughters reminding me of our trip to Alaska together.

It was time for lunch and now it had warmed up to the extent that I could take my winter coat off and sit at the outside tables and have a sandwich. My companion for the next half hour was none other than Bill Bryson, travelling through this small country. When I first read this book it didn’t make much of an impact on me – well, not much did with two 8 year olds and a 6 year old to care for but now that I’m rereading it I find his observations as an American on English life very funny but also very true. Perhaps it was reading this in the stable yard that inspired me to write this little travel blog after a long hiatus.

After lunch I took a look at the little gift shop, book swap and farm stand before heading back into the gardens to try and find the entrance to the Italian garden which opens onto the mansion, by way of a terrace. Designed by Joseph Paxton in 1847 the garden shows off the front facade of the mansion and overlooks the extensive parkland.

View of the Italian Garden

The lower walls of the mansion have been discoloured by the weather and they look like impressionist landscapes – at least to me.

Having seen the imposing mansion in all its glory now in the afternoon sun it was time to board the coach back to Hebden Bridge. The 90 minutes it took to drive to Tatton in the morning was doubled in the rush hour traffic but I amused myself listening to my ‘newly discovered on my phone app’ Jez Lowe, Pink Floyd, The Doors and ELP.

4 nights in sunny Newcastle

August 8th, 2022. So I’m off to Newcastle for four nights. OK. It’s not on the coast but surely it’ll be cooler than Hebden Bridge. Maybe the windows will open in my hotel, unlike in my apartment. But then again, maybe they won’t. Another hot hot week is expected throughout England with temperatures in the 90sF. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Newcastle even though Durham, where I did my postgrad studies was only a 15 minute train ride away. My closest friend in school had gone to uni in Newcastle but had graduated and left by the time I went to Durham. (Actually I discovered in my journal that Colin and I visited Paul at Newcastle uni in 1978 but I have no recollection of that trip).

The Tyne Bridge and The Sage arts centre, Gatehead

My anytime return ticket was £50 so I set off as soon as I was ready and arrived in Newcastle exactly 3 hours from leaving home. It’s a bit far away for a day out but it was an easy journey, changing trains just once in York. It was very hot and sunny and lots of haymaking was in progress in the hinterlands of Yorkshire. It still takes me by surprise just how flat the land is in this area. I’d always associated Yorkshire with hills and dales but that shows the sort of landscape I sought out when I last lived in the north of England all those year ago.

Newcastle railway station was vast and a veritable treasure house of bars and coffee shops. It even had an M & S food court and a Sainsbury’s catering for all a traveller’s needs. I was really tempted to have lunch there but I wanted to ‘see’ the city and its famous bridges that I’d only seen from the train before. I headed out through the impressive arches of the station, stepping in the footsteps of Sting, to Jury’s Inn, a 7 minute walk away according to Google Maps. I’ve never stayed in a Jury’s Inn before, far too soulless for my liking, but it was close to the station, advertised a coffee bar (a possible breakfast venue) and a restaurant in case I didn’t feel like going out for dinner. There was no way I was going to pay £14 for my breakfast preference: cereal, toast and tea. As it transpired there was no way I was going to pay £15 for a hot dog for dinner either. And the coffee bar didn’t exist. The bar served coffee! That’s not what I call a coffee bar. My room was on the third floor and overlooked the central courtyard of a complex of apartments and offices.

View from my window

I was travelling light and after hanging up a couple of things in the wardrobe I headed out into ‘the big city.’ I hadn’t been able to find a tourist information centre mentioned anywhere online and on inquiry back at the station I found out that there isn’t one.

I made for the centre of the city and within minutes it became apparent that this place is very different from Leeds and Manchester, the two northern cities I am most familiar with. In those places it seems rare to see anyone over the age of 35. This place was very much alive with people of all ages wandering around the predominantly pedestrian centre.

The work is part of a series called Man with Potential Selves created by Sean Henry in 2003.

A few older historic buildings were wedged between bustling shops, the whole being looked down upon by Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey from atop a doric column 135ft high. It was built in 1838 and in 1941 his head was knocked off by a bolt of lightning. Earl Grey served as British prime minister 1830-1834 and possibly the tea is named after him. The vast shopping centre, Eldon Square was the largest shopping centre in Europe when it opened in 1976 on the site of the old town wall. With the high temperature I kept to the outdoors looking for a place to eat, outdoors but in the shade. It seemed that everyone else had the same idea and Newcastle isn’t equipped with much in the way of outdoor cafes. The days when they would be in demand must be very few and far between. After trying at least a dozen places I settled for a Japanese sushi place where all the tables were vacant – not a good sign – but this, the ‘Rolls-Rice of Japanese food’ provided me with a quite delicious meal and a pot of Oolong tea. On retrospect I should probably have opted for an Earl Grey, but I didn’t know of the connection at the time. I had already noticed several Oriental food markets dotted throughout the area, again, not something I had anticipated with my old fashioned view of the city. Also there were lots of supermarkets in the centre which brings people in to the centre and the bus station is adjacent to the Eldon Shopping centre. Most large towns I know have their supermarkets on the outskirts of town, necessitating a car to get there, leaving the town centres empty and abandoned. I always feel that Halifax is a ghost town after 6 o’clock in the evening. I usually like to photograph back streets and alleyways but in the centre I found little evidence of these.

After several abortive attempts to find a bus to take me to the river front, Quayside, I saw a Hop on Hop off bus approaching and jumped aboard, welcoming the breeze on the open top upper deck, and a sit down, having wandered around for several miles. The city centre surprised me. I’d expected a somewhat run down city. In fact, my choice of hotel had been governed by my mistrust of Aparthotels and Airbnbs on side streets – but this was my prejudice from my recollections of the city’s reputation 40 years ago. Instead I was confronted with a bustling metropolis of colourful, new, inventive architecture interspersed with a few historic buildings. The tour took me past the new castle. I didn’t know of its existence. I don’t suppose I’d ever considered the city’s name. But if this 1000 year old ruins was the new castle where is the old castle? Something to discover during my stay.

From the running commentary on the bus I learned that the derivation of Gateshead was goat’s head and referred to the goat farms on that side of the river. We crossed the river Tyne twice and I learned that the 5 bridges (of the Nice’s 5 bridges suite) had now been increased by two. A pity – seven doesn’t scan! I’d expected an industrial landscape, shipyards, warehouses, preserved factory chimneys. Not at all. Passing over the swing bridge I could see a riverside walk on both sides of the Tyne with well patronised outdoor cafes and bars on this very warm summer evening. Elegant hotels now filled the former industrial buildings and the number of people strolling along the riverbank looked more like an Italian passeggiata than a northern city at play.


After the hour’s tour I spent an hour in the hotel decompressing, picking up the book I’d brought along for the trip – Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations: Diary of an Independent Woman. I don’t know when I last read this book but it made a big impression on me. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that a piece of paper dropped out of it, something I’d written at the end of my month’s stay in England, so either 2016 or 2017. I had a shower to try to cool down a bit before heading back out to explore, now realising after getting my bearings from the bus tour that I could walk to Quayside quite easily. I’d picked out a waterfront restaurant for dinner simply based on its name: The Pitcher and Piano. At a pedestrian crossing the lights weren’t working and I got into conversation with a lady who advised me that The Pitcher and Piano was too far to walk and “far too expensive.” What that said about how I must have appeared to her is quite amusing. But I couldn’t find the place she recommended – Lloyds, and ended up in a Wetherspoons. All the outdoor tables were taken, as had been the case in all the previous eateries I’d passed, so I headed upstairs where I at least could have a chance at hearing myself think. It was an old building with exposed beams, thick stone walls and a tiled roof. I edged my way to a table with a view onto the river. I asked the waitress what the building had once been but she didn’t know. Later I found that it had been erected c 1515 as a warehouse, according to Pevsner.

An ancient Wetherspoons (c. 1515) next to the 1849 High Level road and rail bridge

Leaving the pub I walked further along the river, crossed the swing bridge and ended up in an outdoor bar almost under the Tyne bridge with its distinctive semi circular arch. This ‘hip brewpub’ is made up entirely of shipping containers in various stages of rusting.

Pub made from shipping containers under the Tyne Bridge

They were set in a colourful garden and it was a delight to drink a glass of their locally brewed beer even though it was served in a plastic cup and cost 3.95 for a half pint! I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than 2.99 before. But what the hell! This was an amazing iconic landscape in front of me, and I was part of it. I really must listen to Nice’s 5 Bridges Suite, and some Sting – a local lad.

I retraced my steps amidst the cawing seagulls dive bombing me from the bridge’s girders. What? Seagulls? This was 10 miles from the coast.

I was to find the answer to that question at the Baltic Centre in a couple of days. I got a taxi back to the hotel. At 3 it was cheaper than my beer. I spent the evening searching online for bus timetables, opening hours, and made a list of things I’d like to do now that I had a feel for the place. There did seem to be quite a dearth of good tourist info. Perhaps all the people out there are locals. Later I watched the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games from another city which has changed dramatically since I knew it- Birmingham.


Day 2

I woke to a loud continuous noise issuing from the forecourt and into my room through the open window. I peered out. Men were using giant hosepipes to power wash the forecourt. Just my luck.

Still, I was awake now and settled down with a cup of tea and immersed myself in ‘Without Reservations’ for an hour before venturing out in search of breakfast and wondering what the day in store for me.

This trip’s book

Two ladies in the lift were just coming back from partaking of their hotel breakfast which they were extolling for its vastness – bacon, sausage, baked beans, egg and toast. I couldn’t think of anything worse to begin my day so I trekked off to the railway station and ‘Destination 1850’, a small coffee bar where I was the only customer.

Last night I had made a list of things to do but many places were closed on Tuesdays so I decided to go and find the Angel of the North. As it happens an original piece of artwork of this iconic sculpture by Anthony Gormley took pride of place in the hotel corridor just outside my room. I’d always wanted to see this gigantic figure completed in 1998 and viewed by 33 million people each year due to its proximity to A1. It stands 66 ft tall and has a wingspan larger than that of a Boeing 757.

The Angel

It was a half hour bus ride through Gateshead and its suburbs and soon I was standing on the A1 being buffeted by passing cars doing the maximum speed only inches away from me. But there it was, The Angel, and I explored the grassy bank on which it stands, ready to withstand a 100 mph wind – the angel, not me. A mobile coffee shop had set up camp in the parking lot and a dozen or so people were exploring the site. I felt compelled to touch the weathered steel. Impromptu memorials decorated the bushes surrounding the site the words of some bringing me close to tears.

Back on the bus I headed back into the city and got a picnic to go at M&S and then back to the hotel where the power cleaning was still in noisy process. A shrimp pasta salad accompanied my reading of a few more of Alice’s exploits in Paris and then it was off to The Discovery Museum which had been pointed out on the Hop on Hop Off bus the previous day. It was mainly set up for children and there were lots of them around, mostly with grandparents in tow, but I was surprised to see an army tank outside the entrance to the building. I thought for a moment that I’d been transported into Kiev.

Outside the Discovery Mueum

As I stopped to take a photo a man came over to me. “Know where she was built?” he asked in that Geordie accent I love so much. “I’m sure you’re going to tell me” I quipped. Then it was ‘Where are you from?’ That’s a complicated question and depending on the circumstances I can give a one word answer or several paragraphs. “What do you think of Newcastle? Is it what you expected? ” He was 54, born and raised in the city. I fully expected him to offer to give me a personalised guided tour of his home town but ‘I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.’

So what did I discover in the Discovery Museum?

1. The new castle was originally built of timber in 1080 by Robert Curthose, son of William the Conqueror and rebuilt in stone between 1168 and 1178

2. The old castle was a small Roman settlement and bridge built on Hadrian’s Wall around the year 200

3. In the 1600s a ‘Newcastle Coat’ or ‘drunken cloak’ was given as a punishment to drunkards in the city. They had to walk the streets wearing the barrel for everyone to stare and laugh at.

4. Eldon Square was the biggest indoor shopping centre in Europe when it opened in 1976.

5. There was a large ship the Turbinia was the first turbine-powered steamship. Built as an experimental vessel in 1894, she was easily the fastest ship in the world at that time.

I wandered through Life’s courtyard – a vast science centre opened in 1998 which houses both a science museum and ground-breaking research into regenerative medicine and genetics.

The courtyard of Life

It also incorporates a cafe and two bars but its the colourful construction of the building itself that stopped me in my tracks, beckoned me into its shade for an iced coffee, before heading down to Quayside.

I’d caught a glimpse of a plinth in a beer garden from the top of the double decker bus and I thought I’d go and check it out. It was now passeggiata time and a cool beer sounded just the thing. In the garden every table was occupied and when I walked over to read the words on the plinth it was obvious from the looks I got that I have very much a minority interest – which suites me just fine. I was totally taken aback by what I read. The plinth is the centenary memorial, 1891, to John Wesley and read ‘Near this spot John Wesley preached his first sermon in Newcastle on Tyne, Sunday May 30th, 1742.

Memorial commemorating John Wesley’s first sermon in Newcastle

This founder of Methodism, who preached in Heptonstall, and, according to some sources actually stayed in Lily Hall, home of my ancestors in that village, would surely have turned over in his grave to see his memorial taking centre stage in a beer garden!

Continuing along the waterfront I passed deckchairs festooned with plastic flowers and then a sculpture of what I took to me an anti slavery piece but in fact it takes its

Slave or fire eater?

inspiration from a strongman and fire-eater who regularly performed here on the Quayside – the chain is another reference to his act – and the statue was intended to breathe fire. Unfortunately but understandably, the cost of safely maintaining a gas flame ‘was prohibitive.’ Next to come into view was the Blacksmith’s Needle. It was made by the British Artist Blacksmiths Association, with its constituent parts made at different forges around the country.  The sculpture was unveiled in May 1997 by the percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who rang a bell, which hangs inside the needle.

Blacksmith’s Needle

Oh my. I didn’t know that connection when I was there, and I couldn’t find an explanation of the piece, but I did see some music notation on it and took a close up photo. When my daughter was working in Santa Cruz she served breakfast to Evelyn Glennie when she was in town participating in the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

Passing notes

I’d passed only one waterfront restaurant which had empty outdoor tables and I’d checked out the menu. It looked tempting so I retraced my steps and approached the maitre d’. “Table for one?” I inquired. “Sorry, we’re fully booked” came the reply couched in a beautiful Italian accent. I gestured to the dozen or so empty tables. “Really?” “Sorry, Madam.” “Oh, can’t you just fit me in. It’s just me and I won’t take up the table for long.” I turned on the charm. “With your lovely blue eyes how can I refuse your request?” came the smiling response and in no time I was sitting at a small table on a raised bank with a perfect view of the other diners, the evening strollers and the 7 bridges across the Tyne. Not being a foodie the name of the restaurant meant nothing to me. In fact Gino d’Acampo is a three Michelin star chef with seven series of Gino’s Italian Escapes on ITV with a cookbook for each series. He’s a regular presenter on TV cookery shows and panel shows and was crowned King of the Jungle in the ninth series I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.Along the way in 1998 he broke into Paul Young’s apartment and stole guitars worth over £4000.

My table and view at Gino d’Acampo

My table was adjacent to 2 others on which two men were also eating alone. I’m very conscious of going into pubs and restaurants by myself and can have great fun seeing what reaction I get. I set up a conversation with one of the guys, who was staying in the hotel, travelling for business. “Oh, I didn’t realise this is part of a hotel.” Apparently it’s called Innside. Its publicity states ‘Explore Newcastle’s most exciting new hotel, perfect for business and leisure. Indulge in art, music and culture with spectacular views of the Tyne and its bridges.’ Obviously I must have good taste. The hotel guest grew up in Newcastle and we discussed how the city has changed in the last 30 years. He’d stayed at The White Lion in Hebden Bridge just two weeks ago! So wrapped up was I in the conversation that I ordered a crème brulee and a second beer and eventually I settled back to watch the sky and river take on it ‘pink time’ colours as I listened to The Five Bridges Suite after chatting to Sarah and giving Daphne a glimpse of my spectacular view. “

Fantasia 1st Bridge” “2nd Bridge”

“Chorale 3rd Bridge”

“High Level Fugue 4th Bridge”

“Finale 5th Bridge”

The work was commissioned for the Newcastle Arts Festival and premiered with a full orchestra conducted by Joseph Eger on 10 October 1969. Written by front man Keith Emerson who left The Nice to form Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Keith was born in Todmorden, the next town along the Calder Valley from Hebden Bridge, after his family had been evacuated there in the Second World War. Although I knew the music of the album inside out I’d never paid any attention to the words. Now I wanted to read them and hear them because I’d seen the bridges, Northumberland street, Grey Street and St James’s Park.

Five bridges cross the Tyne
And the city sits close by
For some go north and some go south
But each one seems to cry
There’s no good complaining ’bout dirty air ‘cos there’s nothing much else to breathe
And it’s no good shouting from nine to five if you haven’t got the guts to leave
You do not want to leave
Then you make yourself believe
You’ve got something up your sleeve

Won’t you take a walk with me down to the Jesmond Dene
Very Green

Take me to Northumberland Street
Where Northumberland people test their feet
On a pavement
On a crowded afternoon
And no one wants to change this
But I bet they’ll do quite soon

Take me to the new town hall
With the light show on the wall
In the evening
All crimson, green and blue*
Has your mother ever noticed?
Perhaps she will quite soon

Take me to St James’s Park
Where St James’s people park their feet
On a Saturday
United there they stand
Now everybody’s dad’s there**
With a bottle in his hand

Take me down to Grey Street
Where no great people ever meet
On Grey Street
It’s all too very calm
I don’t suppose you’ve been there
That don’t change the rule

For info about the making of 5 Bridge Suite:

A brief taxi ride got me back to the hotel where I listened to Side two of the album – Emerson’s arrangements of Sibelius, Beethoven, Bach and Dylan.

The old Coop building built in 1932 – now a hotel.


Newcastle’s castle built 1172-1177 replaced the one built by the Romans to keep the Scots out

Today I was the castle’s first visitor, climbing up the stairs to the Black Gate precisely as the cathedral clock struck 10. I had presumed that it was given its dark name after its colour, blackened by industrial grime. But no. It was named after Patrick Black who became Prince Charles’s tailor in 1613. When Charles became king Patrick was sent to France with £1000 to buy material for the coronation robes. A replica of the famous painting of King Charles in his regalia shows a very dandified-looking man clothed in black robes, white satin and lots and lots of ermine and the biggest bows on his shoes you ever did see.

Portrait of King Charles l in the robes created by Patrick Black painted in 1636 by the Van Dyck studio

Another plaque was, surprisingly, a photo of ukulele playing George Formby who made his first public appearance in Newcastle in a pantomime. He became famous during the 1930s and 1940s and was a great favourite with my parents. I remember the ‘When I’m cleaning windows’ song being sung in our house. The rest of what’s left of the castle is on the other side of the railway tracks. The castle had been reused as a fortress during the Civil War but pubs and taverns and many of the city’s cobblers made their residence inside the curtain walls of the castle.

Atop the keep

Before long, it housed a series of tightly packed slum houses known as the Castle Garth which remained and when George Stephenson was constructing his railway bridge in 1847 many people wanted to demolish all evidence of the castle but a group of historians fought for its retention and the railway had to rebuilt around the castle. I rather enjoyed looking from a window from which arrows would have been launched and seeing the sleek body of an Avanti train edging its way along the track like some giant millipede overlooked by a giant stick insect, commonly known as a crane!

Trains and cranes from a 12th century window

So off I trotted under the railway viaduct where the outline of the Roman fort is preserved in the cobbles and climbed the stairs into the castle keep. The thing that drew my attention was the amazing vaulting with its decoration. Richard l spent a winter here in 1292, sitting in the 43 ft high Great Hall. There was a splendid chapel too, and a cellar with its own fresh water supply, which was later used as a prison.

The castle’s chapel

One notable prisoner was Mary Bruce, sister of Robert the Bruce from 1310-1314. Ha! The first school I taught at in Bedford was called Robert the Bruce Middle School. The flooring of some of the passages was very uneven and with little daylight I had to be very careful where I placed my feet.

I climbed the stairs all the way to the top of the Keep. At one point a sign read ‘only 99 more stairs to the best view in Newcastle.’

Emerging into the top of the tower I came face to face with two knights in shining armour. Actually their armour was a little rusty, but they didn’t mind. They were too busy concentrating on getting the necessary trajectory to be able to hit the train below.

But enough of this excitement. I needed to cool down before my next adventure and found the perfect spot at a Greek cafe with outdoor tables shaded by large umbrellas – the perfect choice for my elevenses. And then it was on to Durham.

The express X21 takes an hour to reach Durham, a place I’d not been back to since doing my postgrad studies there, though I’ve passed through on the train which gives a wonderful view of the cathedral and castle on the skyline. I could have made this journey by train in a quarter of the time but the bus travels through the villages where I can see the local pubs, little grocery stores, pretty, or not no pretty, churches and see more of people’s day to day life in the centre of their communities. I passed through Chester-le-Street, which I’d heard of and Pity Me, which I hadn’t. Of the many entomologies I found the one I prefer is the story that the coffin of St Cuthbert was dropped near Pity Me on the way to Durham, at which point the saint implored the monks carrying him to take pity on him and be more careful. The bus dropped me off across the river from the hill on which the castle and cathedral stand sentinel to the religious and political vagaries of the centuries.

Durham Castle and Cathedral

The town was packed with tourists. Unfortunately I’d missed the boat – literally.

The last one hour boat trip of the day along the River Wear had already departed so I wound my way ever upwards towards the cathedral. I recognised some of the street names but little else. But apart from a dozen or so photos, mostly of views of the river and cathedral in deep snow, and one of me and one of Colin outside my dorm at St Mary’s college I have little mementoes of my nine months there. Today the cathedral was my first destination and I remember having afternoon tea there occasionally but I think that was in a building on the cathedral green back in the day. I also have a recollection of walking close to some ancient tall buildings at dusk and being bombarded by bats.

As I entered the cathedral I just couldn’t believe how vast it was. I mean I was totally blown away by its size. Both St Cuthbert and St Bede are buried here and a few modern sculptures and new stained glass windows have taken up residence in the last 40 years. One thing that particularly drew my attention were with thin, tall black marble columns covered in fossils that were supporting the vaulting. I asked a ‘Welcomer’ if she knew what the fossils were. She didn’t but she told me how much she relished the question. “Most people just ask me where the toilets are,” she laughed. But not being able to give me any answer she referred me to Norman, the chief archaeologist who was working on an ancient door. Apparently it’s a fossil coral and was extracted from the bedrock of the River Wear further upstream.

Fossiliferous pillars

He also directed me to a large circular stone in the centre of the cloisters telling me about the crinoids visible there. The cafe is now in the cloisters and I sat there in the shade, relishing my mackerel salad with a world class view. I thought of how much it reminded me of the cloisters on Iona. The cloister garth was used extensively as a filming location for the Harry Potter movies. In fact, Durham cathedral was Hogwarts.

Next I went to take a peek at the monks’ dormitory with its original 15th oak beamed roof. Another Welcomer greeted me and we were astonished to find that we’d both been on the same PGCE course at Durham in the same year, though we didn’t know each other. He’d done his teaching practice in Hartlepool and when I mentioned that I’d done mine in Easington Lane he immediately grasped the difficulties I must have had with the Elemore pit, the lifeblood of the community, closing down that same year creating mass unemployment in the town.

The cathedral from Cathedral Green

He told me that when were students at the uni there were 7,000 students. Now there are 40,000 – that’s more than Newcastle which has 35,000. That’s hard to comprehend, especially when the town was so packed today and all the students were not in college. There’s also a Japanese College on the same site as St Mary’s. And when we talked about the recent changes in Newcastle he mentioned the influx of people from Japan who came over to work in the car industry. The Nissan factory was built in Sunderland in 1984. Just as I turned to leave this magnificent room it hit me that my parents had visited this place, before I came to Durham I think. And for the strangest reason I seem to remember them actually staying in this room. (Later at home, rooting through some journals I found a reference to my parents visiting 8 years before I went there on one of their road trips).

I walked past the castle which has been the home of one of the University College since 1837 and waited for the bus back to Newcastle and rather than wait an extra half hour for the express bus I took the stopping bus, simply because I was so uncomfortable waiting in the hot sun. The journey back was a nightmare taking one and a half hours in which I totally melted!

It was straight back to the hotel to bask in a cool bath (not big enough to lie in) and I came out feeling somewhat refreshed. The next big challenge was what to do for supper. Gino’s was fully booked and I fancied Thai food because I’d noticed a Thai restaurant in Durham but it was too early for dinner just then. I checked online and found a Thai Takeout just across the road from my hotel. I called them to make sure it was open and considered getting a takeaway but I thought I’d go over and check to see if it had any outside dining area.

Trying to find my supper

The row of shops where I thought it should be all looked as though they’d seen better days and several were permanently closed but even though I walked up and down the row twice I couldn’t find the Thai place. On the corner was a pub and I asked a couple sitting at an outside table if they knew of it. No, they didn’t and they were locals. So I called the place again. “We’re a click and collect only and our door is round the back of the shops. I’ll come and get you.” And within 2 minutes the man appeared and steered me round to the back of the building where a rather dubious looking door led into a room, but I wasn’t allowed in. He brought me a menu outside and I ordered and he told me it would be ready in 10 minutes.

Ah, found the right door.

I wandered back round to the front of the pub feeling somewhat uneasy in this back street. True to his word within 10 minutes a text appeared on my phone. My food was all ready to collect. Quite an adventure. I took it back to my room and tucked into my lovely dinner while watching a film about the life and career of Marin Alsop, the famous conductor who had been the director of the Cabrillo Festival in Santa Cruz and so I’d spent many hours watching her rehearse and conduct the orchestra, give conducting masterclasses as I review her work for various papers and magazines.

Marin on the telly

It was delightful to have a little bit of Santa Cruz with me in Newcastle. This was followed by Episode 1 of the new series of Shetland, which was the series that led me to go on a vacation to the Orkney and Shetland Isles in 2017 before I moved back to live in England. I love the scenery but find the plot line often difficult to follow. I need subtitles for Douglas Henshaw’s accent!

Lamp on Elvet Bridge


I’m sitting at a table outside The Baltic, drinking free tea. I need to move every so often to stay in the shade. To my left is The Sage, landmark venue for music and concerts, home of the Northern Sinfonia and closed for the whole of my stay here. For some reason its curving steel roof reminds me of a snail, or possibly a shell-less slug with its creased body as it manoeuvres. It rises from the river bank on a grassy hill and there’s a lot of construction in progress to its rear. I’ve been considering coming to Gateshead to a concert here sometime, and staying the night. Now I know the lie of the land I’m much more inclined to actually do it. There’s even a Jury’s Inn just next door.

Tea time at The Baltic

It was another ridiculously hot day and I had purchased my yoghurt from the station and headed off to the castle to eat my breakfast picnic outside the Black Gate of the castle just like yesterday.

Breakfast reflections

Then I set off to cross the High Level Bridge on foot, having been across its lower deck on the bus. I was immediately set upon by seagulls but the few locals walking over the bridge in business suits hardly noticed them.

Actually they are kittiwakes, something that I was learn from a notice on the viewing platform at The Baltic. When the reconstruction of the flour mill into a wonderful arts centre was under way in 1998 a temporary tower was built to house the displaced kittiwakes. Newcastle has the UK’s highest population of inland ‘seagulls.’ The High Level bridge was the world’s first combined road and rail bridge and was opened in 1849. The trains run along the upper deck so during my traverse a deafening rumble pierced the gentle sound of the morning road traffic inches away from me, from time to time.

Love this photo

There was less graffiti than I expected and to walk between the giant girders and ancient street lights was quite an experience. I paused for a moment half way across to look out at the swing bridge and the Tyne bridge. A boat was approaching the swing bridge and I hoped it would necessitate its ‘swinging’ but it was able to pass beneath the red and white span.

Will it or won’t it?

Actually they are kittiwakes, something that I was learn from a notice on the viewing platform at The Baltic. When the reconstruction of the flour mill into a wonderful arts centre was under way in 1998 a temporary tower was built to house the displaced kittiwakes. This is the UK’s highest population of inland ‘seagulls.’ The High Level bridge was the world’s first combined road and rail bridge and was opened in 1849. The trains run along the upper deck so during my traverse a deafening rumble pierced the gentle sound of the morning road traffic inches away from me, from time to time. There was less graffiti than I expected and to walk betweem the giant girders and ancient street lights was quite an experience. I paused for a moment half way across to look out at the swing bridge and the Tyne bridge. A boat was approaching the swing bridge and I hoped it would necessitate its ‘swinging’ but it was able to pass beneath the red and white span.

The inner workings of a bridge’s mind

Back on dry land I found myself in Gateshead and I passed a stone violin commemorating the life of the world famous (not in my books) fiddle player, James Hill of Bottle Bank. Bottle bank was actually the name of the street cascading down to the Tyne and my great great great grandfather was named James Hill.

James Hill’s violin

A blue plaque on a wall nearby told that Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders lived in Gateshead 1706-1710, in Hillgate where I was standing. In his lesser known book ‘Tour through the whole island of Great Britain’ he describes in great detail the lives and hardships faced by people living in the Calder Valley.  In the the second of his journeys through the area, Defoe described  the difficulties he experienced in coming down Blackstone Edge in a snow storm, during which he almost lost his life. 

My photo of a snowstorm on Blackstone Edge, 2018

On arriving at the base of Blackstone Edge he then described the route along the still undulating valley with its houses interspersed throughout. He also gave one particularly gruesome account of the Halifax guillotine in use.

I walked past the entire length of The Sage with its reflective windows and then on to the old flour mill. It opened as a flour mill in 1950, employing around 300 people. The building is 138ft tall with a wing span of 79 ft and the building still contains the grain hoppers which run almost the height of the entire building.

The Baltic

It closed in 1981 and it wasn’t until 1994 that it was converted into an arts centre after an international architecture competition. Its six storeys high and each storey has immensely high ceilings. All the exhibits are contemporary and related to climate change and women’s role in society throughout the world. Some knitted lampshades and giant fabric banner of mythical beasts in particular caught my eye. The lift ran along the outside of the building and was glass.

It took me a few attempts to be able to look out as I ascended to take a look at the 6th floor restaurant. This must be one of the best locations to have a meal in the area since its all glass, but today it was absolutely stifling and only one table was occupied. So I settled for a seat in the ever diminishing shade in the forecourt and enjoyed the free tea and a croissant. I asked the barista if this was the only museum in the world to offer free tea with as many refills as required but she didn’t know. “I know people from other countries are always surprised that the gallery is free,” she told me. Like the rest of the places I visited the centre was mostly being viewed by grandparents taking out their grandchildren during the school holidays and I find that difficult to accept that I’m so far away from my children and grand daughter. I went back inside the building to continue my exploration noticing a plaque commemorating the honorary patrons of the building who include Bryan Ferry, Sting, Yoko Ono, Melvyn Bragg and Antony Gormley. In the children’s discovery room I found a wall covered in something like aluminium foil which produced wonderful reflections. I took an obligatory selfie and posted it on Facebook with the title ‘Melting in The Baltic.’ A friend took me seriously and asked if I’d had a nice time on my cruise! Another quote I saw in the foyer was ‘A Gentle reminder to look longer, think deeper and take the long way home.’ I think this reinforces the sentiment of the Alice Steinbach book and also’Away and Aware – a field guide to mindful travel’ that Anna sent to me last week.

‘Melting in The Baltic’

With that in mind I took the ‘long way’ back towards my hotel, crossing the Millenium bridge and then climbing through the flights of stairs through treelined streets of old cottages juxtaposed with high rise offices above Quayside. It was while thus occupied that I came across All Saints church with its slim tall tower exuding a certain elegance.

All Saints Church

A plaque outside told of its construction in the 18th century and that it is the only elliptical church building in England. Then it said that the church had been deconsecrated in 1961 and used as offices and a rehearsal studio for the Northern Sinfonia before they moved over the river into their present home at The Sage.In 2009-11 it suffered catastophic floods and was left in a state of total disrepair A group of people were having a picnic on the steps. “What is it now?” I asked. They looked at me as if I’d flown in from another planet. “A church – duh.” The door was open so in I went. Yes, indeed, so in I went, picking up a guide leaflet and admiring the round church with its beautiful woodwork. It’s now a Presbyterian church and is only open 3 hours a week, and I happened to have walked up its doors in this small time window.  Sir John Betjeman, the former Poet Laureate, described it as one of the finest Georgian churches in the country. The plaster ceiling above the nave is more reminiscent of a stately home than a church. No pillars support the roof and a balcony runs around the entire circular body of the church. The whole interior is very light with large windows – from which there is a great view across the river.

Beautiful plaster ceiling

I’d booked a table back at Gino’s for this evening’s meal and I took a new rout down to Quayside, down lots of flights of stairs leading down from the level of the High Bridge down to the waterside. I arrived at 6:15, 15 minutes early and asked to be seat outside. “Sorry. The outdoor tables are all booked,” I was told. You need to go inside and check in. Inside the restaurant it was not only packed by more importantly extremely noisy.

Dinner alfresco at Gino’s

“I’d like to sit outside where I sat last night- table 503” I said to the maitre d’ making me sound like a regular customer. “No problemo. Just wait until I set up the table for you.” Ha! I had a lovely meal of jumbo prawns and spaghetti and at one point last night’s maitre d’ came over to my table to welcome me back. I guess it pays to be persistent.

Reflections on my trip to the North East


I had an opened ended train ticket back to Hebden Bridge but once I know I’m leaving a place I like to get on the road – or in this case, the tracks – so I packed up and walked to the station, the temperature being expected to reach even greater heights in the course of the day. I thought of the photo of Sting in the very spot where I was standing.

I bought a few snacks for the journey and went in search of my platform. It was packed. I couldn’t even get onto the platform. It turned out that a previous train hadn’t yet shown up due to a problem on the line north of Newcastle (Where have I heard that before??) and then people had also arrived to board the next train. I went to sit on a quieter platform and people watch for a while. I then noticed that the train parked on my new platform showed ‘Darlington’ as its destination. Or was it? Perhaps it was to pass through Darlington on its way to Leeds, my destination. No destinations or routes were showing on the overhead signs on the platform but eventually I found the train driver. Yes, we’re going to York but not until after two other trains leave. I had no problem with waiting if if meant a less crowded train. I was able to board and wait the half hour until it was due to leave. Meanwhile I could see the crowd on the other platform increasing in size by the minute.

The White Horse of Kilburn

The time came for us to depart. We sat. We sat. At last we were told that there was a problem with the train and the driver needed to turn off the engine – and the air conditioning – to fix the problem. Half an hour later we set off and had a nice trip to York, passing the White Horse at Kilburn, covering 1 ½ acres, cut into the rock and then covered with white limestone chips created in 1857 although who was responsible is disputed. I changed trains at York and having boarded the train an announcement told us that, after Leeds, the train would not be stopping in Bradford or Halifax. In fact, our next stop after Leeds would be Hebden Bridge. I couldn’t believe my luck. It was 2 o’clock as I walked across the park into town. The severity of the heat was apparent in the fact that the park was almost completely devoid of people apart from one man who seemed determined to offer himself up as a fried human being!

Anyone for toasted man?

Scarborough, here I come

Day 1, Scarborough

I’m sitting in the restaurant of The Grand Hotel, Scarborough, with a perfect view out to sea with Scarborough castle perched on the cliff top beyond the harbour.

The impressive looking Grand Hotel

At least the trains were on time today AND the taxi turned up so I arrived in Scarborough on time, right at 2 p.m. Even though it was well before noon when I set off my fellow travellers were already in party mood, and I thought back to my train journey through Scotland just 2 days ago where it is illegal to consume alcohol on trains, something I wasn’t aware of.

Fellow travellers bound for Leeds

I knew that checkin at the hotel wasn’t until 4 p.m. and according to their email this was ‘strictly enforced.’ As I was in the process of booking my stay I’d briefly noticed a video on YouTube describing the hotel as ‘The worst rated in Europe?’ and I dismissed it as another crank’s hyperbole, but it had mentioned that the lines for checkin can be over an hour long, both with the high number of guests and the gross incompetence of the staff. So I decided to take my time and I found a handy shoe store on my walk through town since last week in Stonehaven the strap had broken on my beloved Jambou sandals and was irreparable. The main street was busy, busy, busy and I had to pick my way around push chairs, dogs, toddlers on reins and mobility scooters as I wound my way to the hotel. It was only just gone 3 o’clock but my backpack was too heavy to cart around and sight see. The building is impressive to say the least. As are the list of previous guests: Frederick Delius, Gracie Fields and The Beatles, along with Sir Winston Churchill, Edward Vlll and Ramsay MacDonald, England’s first labour prime minister. And, if the Daily Express is to be believed ‘ADOLF HITLER dreamed of converting a seaside hotel into his personal palace if he had invaded Britain. The fuhrer planned to hold court at the spectacular Grand Hotel in Scarborough which towers over the North Yorkshire resort’s Golden Mile.’

There were three receptionists at the checkin desk and just one person in front of me. I waited 20 minutes and then I was called to the desk. Everything was going along nicely. He assured me that my room was ready and suddenly a supervisor appeared and announced a change of shift. Even though the receptionist was halfway through checking me in he had to stop and I waited for another person to log in to the computer, find where my booking information was and eventually complete the transaction. My room was on the fifth floor which was fortunate because that’s as high as the lift goes. I hadn’t paid extra for a sea view but I had paid extra for a window! There are many rooms named ‘city rooms’ without windows if you can believe that! It was already quite warm in my room with its west facing aspect so I went over to the window to open it.

View through my window

Couldn’t. I immediately had visions of me roasting alive since the temperature was expected to reach 90F – or more. Hmm.

15 minutes after setting foot in my room I went off to start exploring the town – that’s so ‘me’ when I’m travelling. As I waited for the lift an employee was waiting too. “I can’t seem to open my window,” I began. “They all open,” he replied. “Can you show me how?” I felt as if I’d just turned into Emma Thompson in the movie I saw last week ‘Leo Grand’ so I took him back to my room and he worked his magic, and in moments the window was open to its full 6” capacity.

I made my grand entry into the lobby down the majestic staircase, designed specifically so that two ladies wearing crinoline dresses could pass with their escorts without impediment, and headed for the terrace, overlooking the sea.

Seagull poop is a major problem here, along with their shrill cries and propensity to want to come and eat or drink anything you have in your hand. In fact, the entire town has a major seagull problem and signs keep reminding people not to feed the birds, even at tuppence a bag, but I saw many people doing just that.

My bird’s eye view from the terrace

Each morning I would see someone with a giant hose pipe hosing down all the exterior flat surfaces to keep fresh poop from setting hard.

Man with giant hose

As I sat there watching the birds’ antics I began to differentiate the swooping calls of certain birds and then I heard little tweets and looked up at the amazing brick facade of the building above me. At the time of its construction this was the largest brick building in Europe, and the largest hotel in Europe.

It was designed by Cuthbert Broderick who designed the grand edifice of Leeds Town Hall and in whose memory I have been known to raise a glass at the nearby Wetherspoons, named after him. Cuthbert paid amazing attention to detail. The intricate moulding around the rounded arched windows is beautiful. He even personally designed the metal downspouts.

Attention to detail

This evening, perched above many of the windows were nests, and the fluffy baby seagulls were tweeting to their parents “It’s tea-time, mummy.”

Leaving the hotel I took the steps at the side, running the length of the Victorian funicular railway, leading down the cliff to the beach. Known as ‘seagull’ alley the steps were deep in white guano. The road along the seafront was packed with people, most of them with young children, eating fish and chips and queuing at the fresh seafood stalls. The beach was a mass of people, some with beach umbrellas but many, many people in as few clothes as possible getting burned by the intense sun but women in saris seemed to have the best idea with loose fitting clothing but with all skin covered, especially those wearing burkas.

On hearing that I was bound for the seaside my morning taxi driver from Islamabad had recounted his recent visit to Turkey with his caucasian girlfriend who insisted in getting as tanned as possible. “In Pakistan we cover up when the sun is strong,” he called. “She cried all the next day because the burns hurt so much.”

Fried human
I was tempted but I didn’t!

I passed Scarborough fair full of screaming children enjoying the rides and headed towards the lighthouse which was less densely populated affording me great views of the castle and the bay, entire dominated by the Grand Hotel. Colourful tourist boats vied for position with the fishing boats and the two arms of the jetty were packed with prawn creels – all very picturesque.

By 6 o’clock I was back in my room, and after checking that the tv remote was present, and that the tv worked, and that the shower worked, I set off to find dinner. I’d booked dinner at the hotel (by accident) and I soon regretted it, although I hadn’t seen any places to eat dinner part from fish and chip stalls so far.

The Grand Hotel dominates the view

The dining room was absolutely enormous capable of seating several hundred people but there were only about 20 people having dinner. I had to show my room key to the receptionist who told me I could sit anywhere. I sat down at a table by the window and waited to be served – and waited, and waited. Eventually I went back to the check-in desk. A different receptionist looked up from her desk which I noticed had an interesting sign attached – on her side of the counter!

Sign attached to the dining room receptionist’s desk

“Oh, didn’t she tell you? You serve yourself from the buffet table.” Got it.

Just one half of the dining room

It was a hot buffet. Just what you need when it’s the hottest day of the year. The serving spoons in the dishes of macaroni cheese, breaded pollock and roast pork slices had heated up under the heat lamps to the point where I was in serious danger of burning my hands if I used them. All the food had been sitting there for 2 hours under these heat lamps and there was only one cold dish – lettuce and cucumber slices. Dessert proved to be somewhat better with cool cheese cake available in several different flavours. The glasses for water were so tiny I had to go and refill mine 4 times during my meal. Coffee (instant) and tea were served in the lounge.

The exterior of the dining room – such a contrast from the interior

After this wonderful experience I took a walk to the south side of the bay passing the original spa building which was what sparked off the development of Scarborough as a town for wealthy tourists rather than just a fishing community. Adjacent to the building is an outside area with deck chairs and a bandstand that I’d seen on my previous visit to Scarborough in 2018 when I’d taken a special excursion steam train direct from Hebden Bridge.

An attractive sea wall close to the Spa

A notice drew my attention. The Spa Orchestra was giving an outdoor performance here tomorrow morning at 11 o’clock. What fun it would be to sit in a deck chair, open to the elements, overlooking the sea listening to the orchestra in the covered bandstand. Farther along the promenade the seafront wall was edged with local rock, wonderfully weathered.

I returned to the hotel via the blue bridge that was constructed to allow access to the Spa from the rest of the town and my passage was accompanied by very persistent seagulls. I poked my nose into the cabaret taking place in the ballroom. As the website states: ‘LIVE entertainment is available every night in the hotel’s stunning ballroom, with dazzling cabaret shows featuring professional dancers and entertainers dressed in stunning costumes.’ Here a solitary singer was singing to a backing track while a grandad entertained his grandchildren on the dance floor.

Cabaret anyone?

I purchased a booklet about the history of the hotel from the front desk and retired to the almost empty lounge for my ‘happy hour,’ reading about the history of the building and writing my journal.

Poo steps

Day 2

I slept remarkably well considering the thinness of the walls and the screeching of the seagulls through my open window. My breakfast companions were a group of heavily tattooed Belgian motorcyclists on one side and a table with two mums and five children under the age of three. One of the little ones had a piercing scream which she used to good effect and even when she had been whisked off out of the restaurant her cries could be heard from the level above. Going back to my room there were two men in the lift when we were joined at the next floor by a woman in uniform. “Yer work ‘ere, luv?” one of them asked her. “Yes.” “Well it’s raining in our room, pourin’ in through t’ ceiling. ‘Ere, look. A’ve taken a video,” and he pulled out his phone to show his movie. Well. I had woken up to strong winds, rain and heavy clouds which had completely taken me by surprise.

Enjoying theSpa orchestra

I called the Spa to find out if the outdoor concert would still be held outside. I wasn’t interested in attending if it had been moved indoors because of the rain – I wanted the experience the special ambiance of the outdoor setting. I was assured that since it had now stopped raining the concert would go ahead in the courtyard so I made my way down to the Spa. There was a small coffee stand in the Sun Court and a long line beside it. There was one person making the tea and coffee and dealing with the money. Coffee? I can’t honour the bitter brown drink that I was served with by that name. Hot water had been poured on the contents of the sachet of instant brown stuff that passes for coffee in many establishments in England. Ugh! Anyway, I found a comfy looking deck chair and plonked myself down to relax beneath the racing clouds.

Although the repertoire wasn’t my cup of tea (more like the coffee) the standard of performance was excellent, many of the instrumentalists doubling up on a second instrument. The orchestra consisted of ten members and the director who had a degree from York University. It’s the last remaining professional seaside orchestra in the country and performs 8 concerts a week during the ten week season. Although almost without exception the audience were grey haired the orchestra were definitely not. In fact, the trombonist appeared to be in his mid twenties. The concert finished at 12:30 and then I followed my plan of catching the bus and spending the afternoon in Robin Hood’s Bay. The bus ride took 50 minutes mostly through rolling countryside where the corn, oats and barley were golden in the sunshine which had made its appearance during the concert. The heather on the open moorland was just beginning to show its purple colouration. I hadn’t been to Robin Hood’s Bay since hiking 39 miles of the Cleveland Way from Saltburn to Scarborough in 1982. I saw a sign pot for Boggle Hole youth hostel where we had stayed.

I was here -at this very spot in 1982, heading to Boggle Hole Youth Hostel

The village is also the starting/ending point of the famous Wainwright’s Coast to Coast footpath, 117 miles of which I hiked, beginning at Richmond and ending at St Bees. Since we were hiking both to and from the village I hadn’t remembered that there is no traffic allowed in the village – or perhaps there was when I went before, but the bus stopped at the top of the village in a large car park with toilets available. I popped in to use the facilities but popped out again immediately. You needed two 20p coins to access the facilities and I didn’t have a single coin in my purse. Fortunately I soon found someone to give me change. I thought pay toilets were a thing of the past.

Suitably refreshed I set off down the one street that leads to the sea. It’s so steep in many places that steps have been put adjacent to the road to assist the heavy foot traffic, and busy the village was.

In its terrain it is similar to Hebden Bridge but with its golden stone and picturesque bolt holes the village has a much prettier feel to it – less Yorkshire Grit, more Yorkshire colour. I recently watched a travel program about the village’s history and the bolt holes were escape routes and places of hiding for the pirates who made this almost hidden village their headquarters. These side streets were wonderful with their nooks and crannies, buildings on top of other buildings, covered passageways and tiny well kept gardens in full bloom at the moment. If you look up Robin Hood’s Bay on the web you are confronted with page upon page of Holiday Lets. A very small proportion of the houses are owner occupied but there are some interesting tourist shops and lovely pubs.

I took a look in the dinosaur ‘museum’ which, alongside the dinosaur skeletons has fossils to purchase. I bought another ammonite necklace in honour of my ancestor, Samuel Gibson, (1793-1849) a notable fossil collector from Hebden Bridge whose fossil collection I have been to see in the back rooms of the Manchester Museum. He lived for a while in Mytholmroyd, keeping a pub in which were displayed his collections. I had to clarify with the shopkeeper that this was a genuine ammonite fossil since it was only £1. And them I just had to buy a lapis lazuli bracelet, £6, and two more stone bracelets.

From one of the little shops I bought a fresh crab sandwich and wound my way down to the beach at found a spot on the cliff wall to sit and eat my picnic.

Hmm, I wonder what these are in the sea wall

I didn’t realise it at the time that a tunnel from my sitting spot into the cliff wall was actually a smugglers’ tunnel leading to one of the tiny streets with the cottages so that the smugglers could take their goods directly from the boats to their homes. I took off my new shoes and paddled through a few rock pools, got an ice cream from the van parked on the sand and then an iced latte.

Yum Yum

On the way back up I explored the mosaics on the cliff wall and then headed up to the bus stop at the top of the village. I didn’t have long to wait and in 50 minutes I was back in Scarborough, the view having been better from the upper deck of a double decker.

I spent an hour or so wandering around the town, suddenly seeing a hotel whose name seemed familiar – the Falcon Inn. It looked closed up but the front door sported a handwritten sign saying ‘Please ring the bell for service. Don’t knock.’ well, I tried but no service appeared. It looked abandoned but some of the windows were open. I asked a couple of my taxi drivers but they didn’t seem to have heard of it despite it being quite a large establishment. one of my ancestors, Stansfield Gibson married, in 1901, as his fourth wife the widow of the man who kept this hotel. His story can be found on another post in my blog.

The Falcon Hotel

Eventually I took up temporary residence at an outside table at the King Richard lll inn, and spent an hour people watching. As the pub’s website says: ‘We take our name from THE King Richard III! It has long been believed Richard III stayed in the Grade I listed building whilst on naval business in Scarborough back in the 1400s.’ Some of today’s people’s summer outfits were stunning. Back in the hotel I had a quick shower, chatted to Anna from the terrace about how her new job is going, being serenaded by the seagulls throughout our conversation

Serenading seagulls

and headed to the hotel restaurant for dinner. After writing my journal in the bar I headed off to my room by 9:30 and watched a couple of quiz shows on tv before switching out the light.

Day 3.

On waking up next morning I was relieved to find a coolish breeze issuing from my open window. I watched a YouTube video about the history of my current residence, and after breakfast took a little stroll into town to judge the severity of the heat since the government’s extreme red alert health warning was still in place. The highest temperature ever recorded in England would be today, 104F which was why I had selected Scarborough as my destination, where it was only predicted to reach 80F. And, oh yes, I bought another pair of sandals from the same shop since the blisters I incurred yesterday were very painful. All three of my Jambou sandals have worn out and my only remaining pair of sandals are on their last legs.

Enjoying a paddle in the North Sea

Back in the hotel I set off to explore the ‘hidden’ rooms- the premier restaurant, the cricket room and a couple of completely empty lounges with furniture that looks as if it’s never been sat in. My attempts to call a taxi from the free taxi phone in the foyer took a while but I eventually got a response and so after an iced frappe and a poppy seed muffin in the

At the Cat’s Pyjamas. Could I order fried man on toast?

courtyard of The Cat’s Pyjamas I got the taxi to take me to Peasholme Park from where I could hop on a miniature railway to take me to Scalby Mill,

The engine on the turntable at the end of the track

Abandoned carriage

reminding me of the little railway I took with Anna in the Bois de Boulogne on my last trip abroad before Lockdown. The ride was only ten minutes long but I saw the extent of the park with its boating lakes full of dinosaur boats – certainly a place worth exploring on a cooler day.

The dinosaur boats looked like lots of fun

I took a little wander around the north bay with the same view of the castle we had when we were just completing our Cleveland Way hike. I thought about going to Sea Life aquatic centre but many of the animals are outdoors. In normal circumstances I’d have walked back along the beach into town passing the brightly coloured beach huts and climbed up the cliff to the castle and the church where Ann Bronte is buried but with such heat I didn’t think that would be wise.

Sign at the entrance of the Grand Hotel

So I walked back to the little railway station and waited for the train in a covered area serenaded by birds nesting on the ledges above me. I had a hot dog (ha!) in the park but it was just too hot to explore the park though I did pass the giant outdoor arena seating 8000 where big names were being advertised. I was surprised to see Simply Red are appearing there this month and also George Ezra, two of my favourite acts. Built in the 1930s and revamped in 2010 it has played host to Elton John, Brittany Spears and Noel Gallagher.

Open air theatre and boating lake

Back in town I tried to book a two hour boat trip to Whitby passing Robin Hood’s Bay but despite the heat, it was currently 85F, apparently there was too strong a wind out at sea to run the trip, so I settled for a short half hour sail around the harbour. As people boarded the little boat I really felt like Jacques from As You Like It- an observer rather than a participant. The volume at which many of the people speak to each other (with no alcohol involved), and the yells and screams every time the boat swayed or bounced over the wake that the speed boat in front of us made me cringe. They were so intent on taking selfies too. Of course I was the only person of the 20 of us on board traveling alone which gave me the opportunity to watch the British, mostly Yorkshire folk, at play. One man looked remarkably like Mark Twain!

The ship’s mate pointed out the headland of Filey Brigg to the South and we could just make out Flamborough Head beyond. As the boat turned and headed back north into the harbour I found it quite incredible to think that I’d walked the entirety of the cliffs in front of us.

From the boat

On the way back to the hotel I wandered around the Bolts, the back streets of what is left of the fishing village of Scarborough, providing me with my daily fix of abandoned doorways and rusting bannisters on well-worn staircases connecting the old streets, here all encrusted with guano.

Dinner in the dining room was a very hot, gloomy, uncomfortable affair since the management had closed all the windows and drawn the heavy curtains in a vain attempt to stop the heat getting in. A hot buffet was just what I needed for dinner 🙁 Back in my room I was treated to a lovely golden sunset.

Sunset from my room

Day 4

The weather forecast was for it to be the hottest day ever recorded in England, and the met office got it absolutely right. While the temperature in Hebden Bridge was forecast to be 98F

I was to enjoy the comparative cool of 89F in Scarborough. So faced with the prospect of a considerable hiked up to the castle so I plumped for an hour’s bus ride hoping that the open windows of the bus would give me some semblance of a breeze. Bridlington’s high was predicted to be a mere 76F .

Riders of the bus – with apologies to The Doors

The bus wound its way through the Yorkshire Wolds through loads of caravan sites! These vast places were something else with their own bus stops (sometimes 2, so extensive were the sites), boating lakes, playgrounds, indoors sports dome, supermarket, fishing lakes, and at one I even saw a tractor pulling a train taking residents of the park up from the beach since all the caravans are perched on the cliff tops.

The most famous of these sites is The Blue Dolphin with 350 sites for touring caravans and tents and 1000 static caravan, and this was just one of the sites the bus drove through.

I’d never been to Bridlington before and I’d imagined it as a fishing town so I was expecting an industrial town centred around an active fishing industry. No way! The place is a Mecca for tourists with its huge bay and welcoming sands, fish and chip shops in every second building – not what I expected at all. My first stop was a stroll around the harbour and an iced coffee at Tilly’s coffee shop, the name of my kitty.

Every shade of blue imaginable

Many of the boat tours had been cancelled due to the strong south east winds causing rough sea conditions further out to sea than I could see. I watched a pirate ship, complete with its Jolly Roger flag sail from the dock but it was only a 15 minute ride.

After picking up a seafood platter at one of the ubiquitous seafood shops I found one of the few benches in the shade. I’d just sat down to eat when I found myself looking at a dead seagull chick in a shop doorway. The ladies on the next bench told me they’d heard it fall late last night (!?).

I decided to walk along the South Promenade. It sounded so grand, and indeed, there was a Spa that’s now a theatre. Various water features were scattered along my route, pools in full use and an artificial water course for paddling on concrete. I selected to go for a paddle in the sea and its coolness was very much appreciated. At one point I was passed by a land train and every so far a train logo was painted on the promenade, so despite the heat I thought I’d walk the full length of the promenade knowing I could take the land train back into town. It ran every 20 minutes so when I’d had enough walking I sat on a bench and waited for the train at the next painted logo. I stuck out my hand as the train approached. It slowed down. It stopped. The driver leaned out of his cab. “I can’t pick you up. The nearest place to get on the rain is a mile further along, at the Spa.” I pointed to the logo painted on the promenade. “Oh, that’s just to warn people to beware of the train. Sorry luv.”

With heavier steps I headed back into town and made my way to the bus station which wasn’t easy since it’s in a residential neighbourhood and completely surrounded on all sides by Victorian terraced houses.

I couldn’t decide whether or not to break my journey at Filey on the way back. I’d only ever been there once and that’s when I was 6 years old and I went with my dad for a week at Butlins holiday camp. My mum wouldn’t go. Very odd. I think she thought Butlins was “common.” Knowing I’d be in the vicinity I’d watched a YouTube video about the old camp. It closed down many years ago, its station, where I suppose we must have arrived, abandoned and houses built on the site. I also found out that Butlins had once owned the Grand Hotel where I was staying. Anyway, I thought I’d give it a whirl so I got off the bus at Filey bus station and found my way down the steep hill to the beach. Nothing much attracted my attention, or maybe I was just hot and tired. I’d no recollection of going in the sea but I did find a photo proving that I did, all those years ago.

At Filey in 2022

Age 6 at Filey

I didn’t stay very long. I got the bus back to Scarborough and relaxed on the terrace with “Enduring Love’ my chosen book for this trip. Again the restaurant was really too hot for me to eat in and I asked the receptionist if I could take my dinner out onto the terrace. She replied that she didn’t know what the rule was about that. “Well, I’ll just do it and see what happens,” I replied. I filled my plate with food that had been sitting under the hot lights for over 2 hours, covered it with another plate and headed onto the terrace. It must have been 20F cooler there but I did have to recover my plate with the spare plate immediately between every bite otherwise the seagulls would have whisked every morsel away.

I had very little packing to do, mainly the two pairs of new shoes I had purchased. Next morning I took at taxi back to the railway station and had an uneventful journey back to Hebden Bridge.

Lifeboat activity

Abroad at last! Can you call Aberdeen ‘abroad’?

Aberdeen Day 1

The genesis of this trip came from my school friend Judith who mentioned that she’d booked a trip to Aberdeen to meet with a cousin who she’d never met before. She’d already booked her train journey and her accommodation – in Cove Bay, a town 5 miles South of Aberdeen city. Faced with the prospect of what was predicted to be the hottest day of the year in Hebden Bridge, in my second floor apartment with no outdoor area and windows that barely open, I jumped at the opportunity to be by the sea. The fact that the weather forecast was predicting that Aberdeen would be at least 15 degrees F cooler than West Yorkshire sealed the deal. The night before I’d attended a very enjoyable concert at Hope Chapel given by the Spooky Men’s chorale.

Spooky Men’s Chorale

But it was to be day of travel problems. Problem number 1: the taxi service that I always use is fully booked. Problem number 2: As I stand waiting outside waiting for taxi company #1to arrive I receive a message to say that they have been delayed and will be at least 15 minutes late. So I call back company number 1 and they will be with me ‘in five.’ And they were. Problem 3: I was looking forward to picking up one of my favourite cheese scones from the station cafe to eat as a snack on my long 5 hour journey – and they were all out of scones!

An earlier train had been delayed and so I was able to take one which meant that I had a little more time to change trains in Leeds onto the Edinburgh train. Soon after I boarded I got a message from Judith to say that she’d missed her connection in York and so now she’d be arriving in Aberdeen around the same time as me rather than an hour earlier. I enjoyed the journey passing Durham Cathedral and seeing the bridge across the Tyne – with passing reference to The Nice.

I’d made this journey to Aberdeen in 2017, taking the ferry to the Orkney Isles from the city. At one point I could just make out the isle of Lindisfarne off the coast. The train was hot but not unbearably so. I think there must have been effective air conditioning . We stopped at Berwick upon Tweed as scheduled, but then we didn’t restart. Problem number 4: We sat and sat, and eventually we were informed that a tree that come down on the track in front of us and that it had brought down the track’s power lines. We’d have to stay put for ‘some time.’ That didn’t sound good at all. After sitting still for an hour on a train that seemed to be getting hotter by the minute we were issued with an update as follows: ‘We are sorry to announce that there is no update as to when this service will resume. Because we have been delayed for over an hour a complimentary soft drink will be available from the bar at the front of the train.’ We ended up sitting there on the train for four hours! Conversations between passengers were slow to start up but start up they did. I was sitting opposite a businessman from Cambridge who had travelled up to Leeds the night before, bound for Aberdeen to collect his new Tesla. But even such a riveting conversation has its limits and these were arrived at in much less than 4 hours. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we’d have had a decent view, either animals in the countryside, or city animals to people watch but we were on a station platform with a view of a brick wall – literally.

My view for four hours!

Eventually we received another update. We were to leave the train and 30 taxis would take us the 56 miles to Edinburgh. We all got off. Problem number 5: No taxis arrived. After an hour of standing on the platform, where only 1 toilet for all 96 of us worked, we were told to board another train which would be assigned to the south track to bypass the situation. We all boarded the train. We set off. After 10 minutes we stopped for another half hour. It was at this point that Judith and I worked out that we were now on the same train. If she hadn’t have missed her train in York she would have avoided all this chaos but I would have been stranded alone.

We eventually arrived in the vast Waverley station at 8:30p.m. five and a half hours after our scheduled arrival time. We queued with many others as we tried to find if the railway company could arrange overnight accommodation for us in Edinburgh as we had been told it does in situations like this. A train to Aberdeen was showing up on the departure board for 9:30 but we were told there was no guarantee that it would run. “Ah no” we were told by a very frazzled customer relations man. “There are no room to be had in Edinburgh because of the golf.” “What golf?” I wanted to ask. What were we going to do? Where could we spend the night? At one point Judith suggested we slept on the floor of the ticket office. But with perseverance she found us an Airbnb only 1 ½ miles from the city centre and we left the office to jump into the nearest taxi. Problem number 6: No taxis are allowed into the station concourse for security reasons and so none of the signs pointing to ‘Taxi’ are correct – and Waverley is a huge station. Eventually we were told that if we walked to a nearby hotel there were probably some taxis outside it. Correct and 10 minutes later we were climbing some bare stone spiral steps to an apartment above a cbd shop and dumping our bags before heading out immediately to find some food. We were in a city neighbourhood close to the cinema. The first pub that we found food in had already stopped serving for the evening. Well, it was 10 p.m. so we opted for some food from Sainsbury’s to take back to the apartment for a quick meal. I was all tucked up in bed by 11:30. The wall mounted tv was minus its remote and so was inoperable and the bedside light didn’t work. There was no milk in the fridge or even tea or coffee in the room but we’d noticed that when we’d arrived and brought some from the supermarket.

Throughout the night we were woken by sirens blaring – there was a fire station opposite- and yells and screams of people revelling in the street. At least in Hebden Bridge those particular sounds are usually over by 3 a.m. but here they were still going on after first light. And there were gulls- angry sounding, and persistent. It didn’t really help that I’d had to keep the window open all night because of the heat.

Day 2

By the time I surfaced the next morning at 7:30 Judith had already had a shower, eaten breakfast and was heavily engaged in doing a crossword puzzle. She’d brought her ancestry papers and charts that I’d been helping her with online and we planned on doing some more ancestry research during our Scottish adventure. Out train to Aberdeen was due to leave at 9:30 so we booked a taxi to get us to the station 45 minutes before departure, wondering if it would actually show up or still be affected by yesterday’s downed power cables. When we arrived at the station it was the only only train during the next two hours that hadn’t been assigned a departure platform so things didn’t look too promising. Then, 5 minutes before it was due to leave a platform was given and then it was a mad rush to find our platform. I mean this was a crazy rush. People were standing in the corridors, standing in the compartments. Two elderly men were sprawled on the floor between the seats but we were fortunate enough to get a couple of seats. I never knew Aberdeen was such a popular destination but I reckoned they were simply left overs from last night’s fiasco. We passed over the Fourth Rail Bridge and as we came into the next station, Leuchars, I suddenly saw hundreds of cars parked on a field at the side of the station.

Cars galore

“What’s going on?” I asked the man sitting next to me who was also taking a great interest in the sea of cars. Only minutes before he had just apologized to me profusely as his full bottle of Coke (sugar free, of course) took flight from his pull down table at a particularly bumpy section of track, plumeting directly onto my bare ankle from a great height. Ouch! “It’s the golf” he explained. “This is the nearest station to St Andrew’s golf course.” As we pulled into the station most people got off the train, heading for a fleet of double decker buses parked alongside.

We passed through the coastal town of Stonehaven where we had initially planned to spend our first day in Scotland, but by the time we arrived in Aberdeen on time- well, precisely 18 hours late- we didn’t feel like jumping on another train or bus to go and explore Stonehaven. Exiting from the station, opposite the ferry terminal, we had a quick lunch in Aitchie’s Ale House close to the Station Hotel where I had stayed the night before catching the overnight ferry to Orkney in 2017. We took a taxi to Cove Bay. Judith was staying in an Airbnb in the centre of a huge housing estate built in the 1960s for the people working in the oil industry according to another taxi driver. I had chosen to stay in the ancient tiny community of Cove Bay and my Cove Bay hotel was perched right on the cliff.

First view of the Cove Bay Hotel, my home for three nights.

It was a picturesque, family run place and although I didn’t have a sea view I overlooked the old street of terraced bungalows, common in Scotland, but rarely seen in England. My room was comfortable and the TV remote control was present!

After an hour Judith arrived and we set off to walk along the coastal footpath right from my hotel. Soon we passed a new-build project of 167 houses for rent, right on the bluff. 15 minutes later saw us on top of the cliffs where sea birds’ calls accompanied our walk for the next 5 ½ miles. I called a halt to our walk when I couldn’t handle a steep downward track. It was too slippery for me with its loose stones. I couldn’t believe how fortunate we were with the weather.

I mean, we were in Scotland and I was too warm! There was not a cloud in the sky and the light breeze didn’t have much effect cooling me down. I came home with a little more colour on my face – a combination of the sun and the see breeze- very pleasant. Dotted along the sea, close to the cliffs were markers, each of 3 buoys and a flag- lobster pots. I wondered?

As we retraced out steps Judith announced that she was going to take the short path back to her Airbnb and she’d see me tomorrow morning when we were going on an all day coach trip. It was only 4 p.m. but she’d been up far earlier than me. She was looking forward to spending the rest of the day relaxing and doing crosswords and reading- things that I can’t do when I’m travelling. I found my way back to the hotel and joined five local men in the public bar watching, yes, you’ve guessed it – the golf!

The mating game

The bar overlooked the ocean and I had a perfect view as I sipped my my pint of cider. I had ordered a half but, hey, never mind. I was writing my journal when I noticed that the men’s conversation had turned to Yorkshire so I went over to join them.

Bar time

On being asked where in Yorkshire I am from one man immediately mentioned the sweet shop on Bridgegate, Hebden Bridge – small world.

Journal writing

Cider finished, I set off to find Cove Harbour. I’d seen a little sign pointing past the hotel to the harbour. Thinking that it would have tourist shops, cafes etc I’d asked the men in the bar. “No, this is the only place to eat around here,” I was told. And then he’s added “It’s a steep walk back.” This made made a little cautious but once over the cliff top I could see a stone jetty which seemed to have been chopped off in its stride.


A line of rusty chains prevented me falling off the end. Just by the chain was a group of 4 young people enjoying the view. I peered over the edge of the jetty. Only one boat was moored- Rachel. Obviously Cove Bay is no longer a thriving fishing village. As I stared across the harbour at some rusting boats on dry land a sudden gust of wind took by cap off and it landed in the sea next to Rachel. Of course, I’d been on a trip with my daughter Rachel when I’d got the cap. For several years Rachel and I attended a weekend’s history event at Donner Pass in the Sierras, California, to trace the story of the overland trail across the mountains, and in particular the year of 1846-7 when 87 emigrants were stranded over the winter in the deep snow. Only 48 survived. We would attend lectures, reenactments and hikes during the weekend. Each year we were given a cap and this was one of mine that was now in the North Sea. It first I was upset but then I laughed. Well, this was certainly something to remember Cove Bay by. I threw up my hands at the 4 onlookers who had witnessed the incident and then went off to explore the pebbles and rusty remains of what had once been a thriving harbour.

Are they looking for my cap?

After 20 minutes or so I head up back the cliff road, slowly. Two young ladies were just about to put on wetsuits when one of them came over to me and said “You just lost your cap?” The people on the jetty had told her what had happened. “If you wait until we’ve got our wetsuits on we’ll go in and see if we can find your cap.” Really???

I spent the next 15 minutes admiring the stone carvings on the large stone blocks lining the road that I’d missed on my way down and then watched as the girls entered the water.

Cap retrieved

I thought they had little chance in finding the cap. Surely it would have sunk by now. But within 5 minutes a sudden shout told me that the cap had indeed been spotted, and off she swam, grabbed the hat and I hurried back down to gratefully retrieve it from her hands. What a story!

Thank you, ladies

Back in the hotel after a wash and brush up and a careful positioning of the sodden cap on the sunny window ledge in my room I headed downstairs to the restaurant. “Did you enjoy your walk?” asked the bartender. So I told him my story, before checking out the restaurant (tourists with children) and public bar ( locals – all men). I settled down to my chicken tenders and skinny fries in the public bar, exchanging comments from time to time with my fellow drinkers.

Day 3

Sun was streaming through the window when I woke. Remarkably I’d slept a full seven hours – something I never do at home. It made me wonder whether my sleep is disturbed by the traffic noises throughout the night at home. I’d booked breakfast for 7:45 but I was raring to get the day under way and I poked my head into the dining room at 7:30. I was the first down for breakfast but later two couples came for their ‘full English.’

Breakfast in the restaurant overlooking the sea

My taxi arrived at 8:30 and we picked up Judith and bounded at breakneck speed into the centre of Aberdeen where we were to meet Rabbie’s tour at 8:45. Once the 11 of us were seated in our 16 seater coach we were asked by our leader/cum/driver to introduce ourselves. Never for a minute did I expect that Judith and I would be the only British people on the tour. Well, come to think of it I don’t really visualize Aberdeen as a tourist destination. Our fellow travellers for the day were from El Salvador, Bangladesh, China and Denmark. Alice, our guide, runs a rare breeds farm when she’s not working for Rabbie’s and her prize pig had given birth to piglets during the previous night. Within minutes of setting off it became apparent that she was going to be one of those guides who never ever stops talking. She’s very much a historian and apart from half a dozen times during the day when she played a couple of tracks of traditional Scottish music she kept up her monologue, not about what we were seeing as we passed it but about the general history of Scotland and its historical relations with England. In the afternoon we were treated to a three part history of Mary, Queen of Scots. Our first drive of the day was the longest at 1 ½ hours and we headed North West, inland across flat arable land with scatterings of sheep and cattle. After ¾ hour I just had to block her out to concentrate on what I was actually seeing, so I put on my headphones and listened to Glass, Riley, Gabriel Kahane and Rufus Wainwright – a perfect combination.

The first stop of our nine hour tour was at the Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay where people were gathered excitedly on the waterfront to see if they could spy any dolphins but the sea creatures didn’t feel like putting on a display for the tourists today. Lovely clouds were racing across the sky and even at sea level the wind was strong. But the air temperature was still nice and warm. The pebbles here were a myriad of colours and some mosaics had been created from them.

Next stop was the Bow and Fiddle rock, an enormous sea-sculpted rock just off the coast.

It’s called the The Bow and Fiddle but I think it looks more like an elephant

We viewed it from the high cliff top and then drove to Cullen, a small town renowned for it fish soup.

Bloomin’ Heather

The cafe most famous for this delicacy was already packed to the rafters so we opted for the Thyme Tea shop with its blend of food to eat and art and antique furniture to buy. Three people sitting on the comfy antique sofa opposite and with paintings and craftwork decorating the wall behind them it looked like a scene from a movie.

Movie set in Cullen?

How British. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I caught a fragment of their conversation and realised they were all American. Cullen was originally a fishing village centred around a protected bay and it reminded me of Staithes with its pan tiled roofs. Some of the older cottages on the waterfront were brightly coloured and Alice explained why. I’d been wondering about that for the last four years since visiting Tobermory, the south west coast of Ireland and the Shetlands. Before the advent of lighthouses the brightly coloured buildings helped the fishermen to navigate their way back to the harbours. Thankyou Alice.

Next was a stop at Portsoy another fishing village centred around the harbour and this time the fishing is still an active occupation for many of the residents. At one point in time the fishermen left these same towns and the fishing industry became totally centred on Aberdeen but in recent years it has returned to the villages and the populations in these villages has expanded. I spent the 20 minutes of our stop exploring some disused warehouse buildings taking my photos of abandoned industrial architecture as is my wont.

Cap in hand this time
Smiling trash bins
Reflecting on my visit to Cullen

Our penultimate stop of the day and probably the most interesting was at Crudes Bay to see Slains Castle, now in ruins but it one of the most dramatic locations I’ve seen. It is quite literally on the cliff edge and one tower on the sea side it built directly above a gap in the cliff with a huge drop directly into the ocean.

First glimpse of Slains castle

The site is now owned by Public Works and there is no charge to see it and wander the ruined hallways, and even the cellars and towers where signs warn that it’s unsafe to climb the towers or delve into the dungeons. Alice shared with us that she’d always been too scared to go into the dungeons alone so the first time she ever ventured down there was in the company of a tour group that she herself was leading!

It was a mile walk to the castle from the car park and while Judith elected to go and find a cup of tea in the village I set off up the gentle climb through woodlands and eventually caught sight of the castle across golden fields of wheat, reminding me of the part of the Cleveland Way I walked with Anna on her trip to England in 2019. I spent a wonderful half hour exploring the ruins, but didn’t have the courage to go down into the dungeons. Some of the castle dates back to 1597 but much of it was rebuilt in 1837 following the marriage of the 18th earl to a daughter of King William lV.

Slains castle – the setting for Dracula’s castle

Bram Stoker had visited the castle and used much of the building as a resource when writing Dracula. Indeed he came back to the village and it was while staying in the Kilmarnock Arms (which we had passed) that he began to write Dracula. Ah, here’s another connection with Anna’s visit. We spent a day in Whitby which was another place Bram Stoker visited, in 1890, which provided him with atmospheric locations for his Gothic novel. Johnson, Robbie Burns and Boswell all visited Slains castle, as did Winston Churchill – before it fell into ruins!

In 1972 the castle and its adjoining 332 acres was purchased by a building contractor for £10,000 and the first thing he did was to remove the roof to cash in the lead content which brought him more money than he’d paid for the castle and land together. I loved exploring the nooks and crannies with the weathered sandstone of the ancient walls adjacent to the cement cladding of more modern times added to prevent the ruins falling into yet more disrepair.

In its Hay day – get it?

It was teatime by now and our final stop for the day was at Bullers of Buchan, a collapsed sea cave.

This looks like something from a magazine

Lots of wildlife photographers with heavy cameras strewn about their persons and tripods in hand could be spotted but as far as I could see all the puffins had gone in for their tea. It was a remarkable rock formation, like a giant had taken a big slice of the rock and eaten it for his dinner.

A narrowing rock bridge separated the bite hole from the sea and I ventured out onto it as far as I dared and knelt down just long enough for Judith to try and get a photo of me perched where the puffins should have been.

Our journey back to Aberdeen was along the coast road and we were dropped off at the bus station. It had been our intention to take the bus back to my hotel but after searching in vain for the correct bus stop for Cove Bay, and even asking several bus drivers who seemed to have no idea we eventually worked out that the Cove Bay bus is run by a different operator and doesn’t stop in the bus station. Sigh! Anyway, we eventually got it sorted out and found the correct bus stop and 20 minutes later we were back in the Cove Bay Hotel. Judith had brought her Ancestry stuff that I’d been helping her with online in preparation for her meeting with her cousin the following day. We spent 30 minutes in the public bar working on the project until the juke box got called into action and so we adjourned to the quiet of the restaurant to continue our studies, somewhere along the line tucking into dinner as we worked. She left around 9:30 and we said our goodbyes.

I can’t believe the colours on these two photos of the seawall in Portsoy – no filter!

Day 4

I was awake at 6 a.m. but that was really too early for me to start the day so I listened to the radio and eventually went down for breakfast, taking my time and writing my journal about yesterday’s trip. Despite being assured at the hotel’s front desk that buses to Aberdeen were every 15 minutes I found out at the bus stop that no, they are every half hour but I was reassured by the fact that there were already 5 people waiting for a bus, and one was a local.

Once in Aberdeen bus station I found the bus to Stonehaven was already parked in the bay and ready to depart. I asked the driver how long it would take to reach Stonehaven. “Depends on the traffic” was his rather unhelpful response. “Well, roughly” I prompted. At this he carefully retrieved his timetable and consulted it diligently. “We’ll be there at 11:25 – depending on the traffic, of course.” I settled back to enjoy the 40 minute ride which in several places runs along the coast on the A90. Alighting I found myself in the centre of a much larger town that I anticipated. In fact, it took me a whole ten minutes to reach the harbour during which I passed the birthplace of the deep fried Mars Bar. Who would have thought?

Typical of this part of the world it’s grey granite that predominates and it gave the town a very grey feeling, further exacerbated today by the heavy grey clouds that appeared to be perched just above the town. Alice had told us that she’d attempting to get the adjective grey removed from Aberdeen’s nomenclature as the grey granite city and replace it it with the silver city. In this harbour town there were no garish shop signs, no flashing neon.

There were lots of cars and at the north end of the bay a large caravan park and activity centre hug the coast. I followed the boardwalk north really enjoying the metal sculptures of various boats, many of them quite comical. Wire sea creatures filled with beach pebbles alongside inviting picnic tables had been created by local boys’ clubs and men’s sheds. A large mural with photos and fragments of colourful ceramic adorned the side wall of a shop and was the work of people in recovery.

Looking back to town

No glitzy seafront hotels here. Most of the houses were social priority housing for retirees – quite a different concept from most seaside places.

I turned around after a couple of miles in the spot where a unique fossil was discovered in 2003. It was the oldest known air breathing animal in the world: a fossilised millipede arthropod which lived 428 million years ago- Pneumodesmus newmani, named after its discoverer Mike Newman, an amateur geologist.

I was bound for the Ship Inn on the harbour whose enticing menu I’d spotted earlier. Mussels. I mean, I can’t spend 3 days on the coast without having my favourite dish, and I have to say they were the best mussels I’ve tasted, cooked to perfection, and my table outside facing the harbour was perfect.

I even had to take my jacket off, it was so warm, despite the few sprinkles of rain from time to time. For dessert I had delicious fresh fruit kebabs – that was a new one for me. I was soon joined on the next table by a man wearing a Yellowstone T shirt which I commented on. Yes, he had actually purchased it in Yellowstone unlike the man I chatted to a few days later wearing an Oakland T shirt who tried to convince me it was in New Zealand. He even took out his phone to prove his point – and then realised he had got Oakland and Auckland mixed up! My fellow diner was a teacher of English from Spain who ordered the mussels too on my recommendation.

After lunch I headed to the museum to discover more about the famous fossil but was disappointed to find it closed so I wandered around some old wooden shacks, some of which had found new service as wood fired saunas.

Mid afternoon I got the bus back to Aberdeen and spent an hour exploring the granite city. Unfortunately the street art tour only takes place at the weekends but I picked up a map at the tourist information centre and found a couple myself.

Some of the large buildings are very impressive having their own peculiarly Scottish style of architecture. In 2017 I’d spent an afternoon and morning in the city awaiting the ferry to the Orkneys and I revisited some of the large buildings I’d seen then.

Colour in Aberdeen

I’d been walking for most of the day and I’d have loved to jump on a city tour bus but they don’t have those in Aberdeen so I headed back to Cove Bay. I took the 3A bus, the driver assuring me it went to Cove Bay. Indeed it did, but nowhere near my hotel. I should have taken the 3, not the 3A. Another couple, from Denmark, were in the same dilemma as me so we walked back to the hotel where they were also staying.

A beautiful evening stroll on the coastal path

I sat in the bar for an hour writing postcards and my journal. A few locals came in and seemed to now class me as a local, it being my third night there, and they came and joined me at my table, while the bar tender asked me if I wanted ‘my usual.’ At 6:30 I went to post the postcards in the post box outside the post office, the only shop in ‘old’ Cove Bay, and then I went to explore a track above the harbour. In that hour I only passed one rather scary looking man and a field full of pigs and their piglets. Not a single sound could be heard apart from the gentle breathing of the sea.

Making friends with the piggy wigs

No people’s voices, no cars. It was quite magical. The blue sky had a smattering of puffy clouds which were now taking on the golden glow of late evening. Returning towards the hotel I passed the old terraced cottages but still not a sound was to be heard. In a little garden I discovered a statue in honour of the last fishwife of Cove Bay who used to carry the fish in a basket, walking all the way to Aberdeen market to sell them.

Fishing has been going on in The Cove since pre history. By the 18th century the village was said to be ‘healthy though somewhat chilly and the fisherfolk understanding and industrious, sober, charitable and honest. ‘ Whitefishing was the basic source of income, the fisherman going out to sea at midnight, laying their lines at dawn and returning with the catch. The fisherwife was active by 4 a.m. and her day was full of cleaning, preparing and selling the fish which she carried in a creel on her back all the way to Aberdeen. This creel could weigh up to 76 kilos – heavier than a man. In fact it usually took 2 men to lift the creel on to her back.

The last fisherwife of Cove Bay

Meanwhile back at the hotel bar the locals were staking out their tables for tomorrow night’s live music. No amount of persuasive banter could convince the bartender to reserve the tables for them in advance– that’s a procedure only available to patrons of the restaurant – not the public bar! Eventually it was decided that one member of the group would come in to the bar at 6 o’clock and claim the two tables nearest the snooker table which would be removed and form the space for the band’s set up. Two of the TVs in the bar was tuned to the golf at St Andrews but I was able to watch France v Belgium women’s soccer on the third tv.

Back in my room I was sad to be going home in the morning and all the news was about the high temperatures expected throughout Britain during the next few day. It was forecast to be the highest temperatures ever recorded (and indeed this turned out to be accurate: 104F) and I just couldn’t face this in my second floor apartment with no outdoor space, and windows that barely open. I looked at the weather forecast for various parts of the country and decided that I’d go to Scarborough, on the East Coast whose high was expected to be around 15F less than Hebden Bridge. So it would be back home for one night, get some clean clothes, and head off again.

Saturday night in the Big City

Last night I went to see a very beautiful piano recital in a candle lit cathedral. A group of fellow pianists from my piano Meetup group attended, meeting for food and drink in a very noisy Banyan Tree first, and we were even treated to free champagne in the cathedral library in the intermission.

However I was a little apprehensive about the journey back to Hebden Bridge and from comments made later in the evening I know several other people travelling home by train were wondering how rowdy their trains would be. This was the first evening concert I’ve attended since Lockdown and this got me thinking about another memorable evening’s entertainment in Manchester that I’d written about four years ago:

February 4, 2018.

The police, a penis and a guitar concerto – just a normal Saturday evening out in Manchester

4So the guitar concerto finished to tumultuous applause and Ravel’s Bolero brought the concert to stunning conclusion, but my evening’s entertainment was far from over. I found myself with a full hour to kill on Manchester Victoria station before I caught the last train back to Hebden Bridge. Now, in all fairness, I had been warned by several people that catching the last train from the big city, especially on a Saturday night could be ‘a bit of a bother’ but I had smiled to myself and thought ‘I’m a woman of the world – surely it can’t be that bad!’ Ha! Ha!

First off I headed for the toilet. Now, I’d used that particular public convenience on the station concourse before, so I had my 60p ready in my hand, tut tutting to myself about the outrageous cost of a pee on British stations when, to my surprise there were three teenage boys at the turnstile where you put your money in. “We’ll hold the bar and you can get in without paying.” OK, I thought. I’ll go for that. They held the bar and I walked through into the ladies only to find every stall featured a man peeing – with the door open. ‘Oh, my god. I’ve gone into the men’s by mistake!’ and rushed out, scarlet faced. I checked the sign on the door – twice. No, I was right. This was the ladies. Ha! Ha! Good joke. I returned, found an empty stall, locked the door, and went about my business with a huge grin on my face.

Returning to the concourse I set about waiting for an hour for the last train to Hebden. I had a sandwich to eat that I’d taken to the concert with me but didn’t get to eat it in the intermission as planned because of the interesting conversation I had with the man in the adjacent seat. I asked if he’d ever heard Rodrigo’s guitar concerto played live before. He hadn’t. He wasn’t used to coming to ‘these things’ but had been to an all black production of Hamlet at the Lowry Centre the previous week and had left at the intermission because he didn’t think that Shakespeare’s characters should dressed in ‘rap gear.’ I asked if he thought that the orchestra should change into appropriate clothing for the year in which each piece was composed. This brought out such a lovely laugh that I decided to continue the conversation, rather than barge my way past him to the bar. He has just taken up the saxophone and has had four lessons. He finds the whole experience is magical – his words, not mine. He’d always wanted to play the piano as a child but he was committed to football practice 6 days a week and so his dad said no to piano. After 20 years in the army, and 20 years in business at the age of 57 he’s semi retired and just beginning to do all those things he’s never had time for. A friend took him out on a yacht, so he bought a yacht with all the trimmings, and learned to sail on the sea. Then he bought a sort of road bike – a ‘Rolls Royce’ of the biking world after seeing the Tour de France. I asked him why he chose the saxophone. He’d gone to a Barry White concert with his first girlfriend and all the girls in the audience had screamed in girly admiration of the saxophonist, so that’s why he’s chosen the sax: for the sex! By this time the 4 minute call for the restart of the concert had been sounded and I still hadn’t collected the drink I’d pre–ordered from the bar. I rushed out only to find a tub of ice-cream on my number spot. I’d ordered a bottle of water! I ran to the bar tender, was issued with a bottle of water and hurried to my seat.

Back to the station concourse. I found a bench by the barrier on which to while away an hour. Luckily I had my new book with me carefully packed for just such a circumstance. There were two benches to choose from. I stayed away from the one with the girl throwing up as her boyfriend tenderly stroked her back. There was a high police presence on the station, this being the site of the Manchester Arena bombing last May and from time to time one of the policemen checked up on the couple. Soon however, they were joined by another girl who seemed to know them. She kept doubling up and screaming. She appeared totally normal one minute and screaming the next. All this was rather distracting me from reading my book, and when the concert at the Arena let out around 10:30 the station filled, the noise was loud and the women on their stilts of stilettos reminded me more of a balancing act in a circus, than people quietly going about their business on their way home. There was zero quiet here.

Eventually the train arrived and I was careful to sit in a different carriage than the guy with the two out-of-it ladies. I settled back for a 40 minute train ride and for entertainment I watched the locals at play. Each carriage was filled and lots of people were standing. Well, more like swaying, actually. The only sober person – besides me – was a guy with his arm in a sling. A couple were making out one minute and laughing uncontrollably the next as the guy sampled the girl’s friends in turn. I presumed they all knew one another, but when we got to Littleborough, that den in iniquity, the guy got off the train, shouting ‘Nice to have met you all.’ When on the platform he ran to the carriage window and unzipped his pants and held his penis up to the carriage window – MY  window. The train started to move. He held onto the train and started to move with it. The train came to a screeching halt, the guard jumped from the train onto the platform and arrested him. As you can imagine this took some time. The girls were bouncing up and down with excitement and one of them turned to me ‘I feel so badly for you. You were just sitting there nice and quiet and then this happened.’ I laughed.

The next stop was Walsden, five minutes away. During those minutes there was some sort of altercation in the next carriage. Perhaps a fight? The girls got up to look, shoving each other out of the way to get a better look but they couldn’t make out what was going on but there was a lot of movement of people, and raised voices. Now Walsden is a tiny, tiny station in the middle of a little village whose only claim to fame is Grandma Pollard’s Fish and Chip shop. Eventually we could see the girl who’d been throwing up at Victoria Station. She was being propped up on a bench on the platform by a couple of fellas. We waited. And waited some more. The train was going nowhere. There was no information coming on the intercom from the guard. People started to get rattled. ‘Why should we wait because someone can’t hold their drink?’ ‘We want our money back for this ride!’ ‘Just leave her.’ It seemed that we had to wait until either the police or ambulance service came to collect her. So our 40 minute ride turned into an hour and a quarter. The girls called Bye Bye to me as they got off at Hebden Bridge. A very patient taxi driver had been waiting for the arrival of the train to take them through Haworth home to Keighley. I guess I now know what ‘a bit of a bother’ means!

Ancient and modern – Ordsall Hall to Salford Quays

As I began my day at Hebden Bridge station my eyes were drawn to this face made from footprints. Little did I know that my destination, Ordsall Hall, is a mecca for paranormal activities

It took a train and two trams to get to Ordsall Hall. I looked up through the clear roof of the tram stop to the high rise buildings of Manchester.

Getting off the tram at Exchange Quay I found myself in the middle of a housing area, many new builds squeezed between Victorian terraces. It felt a million miles from the photos I’d seen of Ordsall Hall, with its half timbered facade and ancient brick additional wings. And then I saw it, separated from the main road by a fence and a small but pretty formal garden with deck chairs emblazoned with ‘Ordsall Hall’ gracing the patio. It wasn’t what I expected, and I think that was its location rather than its actual appearance that surprised me.

800 years time warp – looking through an 800 year old window.

The wood carvings on the facade had been lovingly restored where necessary but it was interesting to look closely at the originals and see how they had weathered through the centuries, the wood cracking and contracting so that there were vast gaps in its appearance. The history of the hall:

The old and the newly refurbished

Entering (free) I was greeted by a volunteer who suggested the directions I should walk through the house in order not to miss any rooms. Many of the displays in the various rooms were aimed at children and the guide mentioned that I was lucky not to have arrived on a day when school visits were happening. As the oldest building in Salford it’s a favourite for school visits. As it was I was one of less than a handful of people exploring on this Thursday afternoon.

The Great Hall with its leaded windows provided opportunities to look out, no longer at farmland as the original residents did but at modern housing developments – quite incongruous.

From upstairs there was an interesting view of the Great Hall with its long table set for a banquet – again, primarily aimed at educating the young.

Surely this would have not been a window!
Hmm – I had planned to eat pork chops for dinner. Not so sure now!

The Star chamber dates back to 1360 and the amazingly carved Radclyffe Bed is the only original piece of furniture in the Hall, belonging to Sir John Radclyffe and Lady Ann Asshawe in 1572 at a cost of £20 (£4,800 in today’s money). There was even a replica Tudor bath that visitors could sit in, and armour to try on.

The Radclyffe bed
A viewing window allowed me to see the roof beams.

Many of the rooms held wardrobes with period costumes for children to try on and it reminded me of my own children trying on the costumes at Gibson mill and Dean Clough – not SO long ago!!!

Though the hall was lived in by members of the Radcliffe family for over 300 years it eventually passed on to other families. Between 1872 and 1875, the artist Frederic Shields (1833-1911) lived in the Hall. He painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style and was friends with John Ruskin. He a letter to Ruskin he described the Hall as “the happiest refuge I have ever nested in.” Later the building was used as a working mans club and then as a training school for clergymen. It was purchased by Salford Corporation after a narrow victory and opened to the public in 1972, undergoing major renovations 2009-2011.

From a selection of short films in the audio/visual room I watched a movie about Salford in 1968 with original footage of the slum dwellings and the beginning of the clearances. I remember it being classed as a place not to visit by my mum who had friends close by.

I was disappointed that the cafe, highlighted on the online searches I’d done previous to my visit, had only cake to eat – perhaps it had been a favourite with Marie Antoinette. I was certainly ready for some lunch. I did managed to spot a teacake though, and I sat outside with a pot of tea and my toasted teacake, while the peacock kept me company.

Feeling somewhat refreshed I now had a decision to make – what to do next, and so I opted for a quick visit to Salford Quays and the Lowry Centre, which was the next stop on the tram route to Eccles. It was lovely to walk along the waterfront but I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. There were hardly any people around at all – very strange. On previous visits it had always been bustling with visitors.

The Lowry Centre

I popped into the Lowry centre to purchase a sandwich and drink planning to get the water taxi back into the centre of Manchester and have a picnic on the boat.

One of my favourite bridges
Another – in blue to match a rare Salfordian blue sky

While I waited for the boat I wandered along the bridges at the Quays enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sunshine. The boat was being well utilized and I just managed to get the last empty seat on the upper outside deck – a perfect spot for my picnic.

Arriving back at Spinningfields in Manchester was like landing on a different planet. The offices were just closing the the place was abuzz with people beginning their commute home.

A statue I hadn’t seen before in Spinningfields

I wandered back down towards Victoria Station. The outdoor tables at the bars and restaurants around Exchange Square were doing a roaring trade and it took me a while to find an empty table along the side of The Banyan Tree – empty because it wasn’t in the direct sunlight that the British seem to favour 🙂 There were no seats available outside The Old Wellington but then I’d already spent enough time in an half timbered building. Built in 1552, The Old Wellington is the oldest building of its kind in Manchester. Originally built next to the Market Square on what is now Market Street, our half-timbered and traditional building was moved 100m from its original site in a redevelopment programme in 1998.

The Old Wellington

A rather good band, The Gulls, was playing in the square and from my perch I could enjoy the music as I people watched and waited for my train.

Exchange Square, The Gulls and the Cathedral
Through a glass darkly
A Blue Moon against the Cathedral

Kirkstall Abbey – Man’s imprint on the landscape

And yes, it IS, for the most part men, not women who created the structures that caught my attention on a visit to Kirkstall Abbey near Leeds.

I’d visited the abbey twice before and had enjoyed the quiet ambiance of this spot, selected around 1100AD because of its proximity to running water, plenty of fish, good arable land and quarries that could provide the stone for the buildings. Monks were vegetarians – except they could eat fish.

I got the bus out to Kirkstall after spending the morning in the Henry Moore Gallery and Leeds Art Gallery and Museum. Until this year the entrance to the abbey had always been free and the man in the visitors’ shop apologised for having to charge me an entrance fee! It’s still free to Leeds residents.

The visitors’ centre man then added, “There’s a tour just about to start. Would you like to join it?” “Yes, please.” And so I stepped outside and was welcomed by Trevor. All the others in the group were from North Carolina, and it was taken for granted that I was American too. Well, with an accent like mine and a jacket sporting ‘San Diego’ on it, no wonder. All the people were highly knowledgable about medieval history and architecture asking interesting questions which Trevor enjoyed.

I always find it difficult to comprehend that such intricate magnificent buildings were constructed so long ago. At Kirkstall Abbey I particularly like the wonderful shapes created by the weathering of the millstone grit, and the green coloured shades of stone created by the lichen in the damp climate. Trevor pointed out a door. Dead monks were wrapped in a simple shroud and pushed through the door – hence the phrase ‘death’s door.’ In a time of primogeniture when a man’s possessions would pass on to his first born son subsequent sons had to learn skills and one way in which this could be provided would be to have them join an abbey as a child where they would be instructed in both farming skills and book learning – and Latin would be taught.

When the monasteries were closed and ‘dissolved’ in the 1540’s when Henry Vlll broke away from Catholicism and founded the Church of England Kirkstall Abbey was looted and abandoned. Until the modern main road was constructed in the 1820s the main road ran directly through the church and is marked by the paved road in the centre of this photo! Several of the ancient pillars on either side of the gate shows damage caused by passing horses and carts.

I love the colours and textures of the stone.

One of the abbots had his own private quarters up stairs that still exist and he had two fireplaces, whereas the monks were only allowed to sit by the fire in the communal space for 15 minutes per day. But sometimes the abbot got up to no good and had to ask for pardon from the Pope. Sending word to Rome and getting a response took an entire year in which time the abbot was held in a tiny room, imprisoned – without a fire.

Leaving the abbey, passing a friendly ladybird I asked Trevor for directions for walking along the canal back into Leeds. What had begun as a dull day weatherwise had turned into bright sunlight and I was overdressed for the heat. It took me an hour and a half to walk back in to Leeds and I was grateful for the intermittent trees along the canal providing me with shelter from the direct sun.

When I saw the mile markers along the towpath I was glad I was heading to Leeds rather than Liverpool.

Several of the bridges and abandoned mills along the towpath had wonderful colourful street art, something that I often enjoy, reminding me of the wonderful work in some of the tunnels on the Donner Pass railway in California.

For the first couple of miles I had the towpath to myself but as I neared Leeds it became more populated as people were walking home from work. Eventually the huge cranes which dominate the skyline of both Leeds and Manchester at the moment came into view.

As I stopped to take a photo of two swans and their 7 cygnets floating majestically towards me another photographer crouched down to take a photo of the family. No sooner had he knelt than one of the swans came over to investigate. The photographer didn’t flinch at all as it tried had to pull his jacket into the canal.

I passed the Leeds industrial Museum house in a former mill, with a beautiful colour garden leading to the entrance from the towpath. I peeked in and decided it would be a good place to visit, but it was just about to close for the day.

I soon found myself in the midst of huge mills now converted into elegant apartments. The canal led me straight to a tubular building that I’d often seen from the train. Apartments above but at ground level was a craft beer place called Salt. It provided a welcome glass of ale at an outdoor table from where I could see many canal barges juxtaposed with the converted mills and newly constructed high rise buildings – man’s imprint on the landscape.

Debussy visits Blackpool – or – what I did on my birthday!

I’d made no plans for my birthday, zero, zilch, nada. I opened the curtains. Heavy rain was streaming down the windows and low water-laden clouds obscured the hills above me. “What did you do for your birthday?” Ironing,? Vacuuming? Grocery shopping? Hmmm . . . think . . .. think . . . And then I recalled that I’d been thinking about going to Blackpool. A friend had recently gone for a day trip to that seaside town, and I’d been meaning to go there for the last 4 years. It’s easy since it’s just one through train. I looked up the weather forecast for Blackpool. Lo and behold: A full day of sun. A no brainer. And off I ran through the pouring rain to the station for the next train to Blackpool.

It takes an hour and 20 minutes and goes through the lovely countryside of the Cliviger valley, the brilliant green of the hills dotted with lambs. By the time we had reached Preston it had a least stopped raining. Preston station reminded me of trips to see my mother-in-law who had lived in Preston when I knew her. By the time I reached Blackpool at 11 a.m. the sun was shining brightly and a predominantly blue sky had the occasional fluffy white cloud scudding across its vast expanse.

I arrived at Blackpool North and within 10 minutes I’d found my way to the sea front and the North Pier.

The wonderfully quirky wind shelters on the restored promenade

There was not a single person on the beach, or in the wind shelters on the promenade. I didn’t see one piece of litter on ‘the front’ though the streets inland have seen better days with many shops shut down between the rows of bed and breakfast houses.

Victorian decoration preserved

The last time I’d been to Manchester was in 1996 on a trip from the U.S. I looked up my holiday journal. We’d driven over to Blackpool from Preston on our first evening after flying out from San Francisco.

June 15, 1996

Since I was just by the north pier I decided to walk its length, the longest of the three coastal piers seeing lovely examples of Victorian wrought ironwork. A placard on the pier told of its history and construction. It was constructed in the 1860s and the architect was . . . .Claude Debussy!!! What? The photograph on the sign was of Debussy, the French composer. The name of the architect was Eugenius Birch! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’d done my undergraduate dissertation on Debussy and the Impressionist movement and I knew this photo of Debussy well. I would follow up this when I got home.

It was windy but still beautifully sunny. There were very few people walking on the pier, a few cafes and tourist gift shops were open.

On the pier

Seeing the tower reminded me of visiting the Temple Bar and Grill under the tower. My dad’s mum used to take us there occasionally for a special treat. I remember going down a little alleyway to a brick building in which was a small restaurant. Eating out was a complete rarity so that’s why it sticks in my mind. I don’t recall how we got there because my dad didn’t get a car until I was about 10 years old. I called in at the tourist information centre on the front to ask about it. The man had heard of it but believed it had been an Irish bar, named after Temple Bar in Dublin, a district that I’d visited a couple of years ago. That didn’t seem to fit my memory so I set off to see if I could find it.

I found Temple Street behind the tower. A narrow alley, just as I’d remembered it. It now just has a tapas place on the corner and further down, where I though the grill should be is an electricity substation. But what this? A plaque on the wall.

This plaque would explain why how the grill got its name so I’m pretty sure that this was the location of my family’s meals – and had nothing to do with Dublin!

How about a ride to the top of the tower? I had seen the lift going up and down from the pier and since this was my birthday that would be a memorable way to celebrate.

The tower has 7 floors of venues, restaurants, bars, gift shops. I found the sign posting sadly lacking. I mean, just trying to find my way to the toilet was a major undertaking. However, having refreshed with a coffee in one of the cafes with wonderful views overlooking the sea, I found my way to the lift and up we went with a real person operating it!

The glass viewing platform extended beyond the tower itself and though other people seemed quite happy to stand on it and pose for photos I couldn’t bring myself to do that. It reminded me on the big shopping centre in Paris where Anna was quite happy to walk onto the platform but I just couldn’t. But the views today were wonderful, both out to the sea and inland to the town itself.

New steps, lights , and sculpture that moves in the breeze

The man in the tourist information centre had mentioned the market at Fleetwood so I decided to take the tram along the waterfront to Fleetwood. My dad used to go on fishing trips to Fleetwood and Heysham when I was a little girl – sleeping in the car. It was fun to go for a tram ride. It took 45 minutes and it was STILL sunny when I reached my destination. A large hotel dominated this stretch of coast and in the adjacent garden was an imposing statue. He appeared to be holding a lighthouse. The man was Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood. Fleetwood acquired its modern character in the 1830s, when he, the High Sheriff and MP, conceived an ambitious plan to re-develop the town to make it a busy seaport and railway spur. He commissioned the distinguished Victorian architect Decimus Burton to design a number of substantial civic buildings, including two lighthouses. Hesketh-Fleetwood’s transport terminus schemes failed to materialise. The town expanded greatly in the first half of the 20th century with the growth of the fishing industry, and passenger ferries to the Isle of Mann to become a deep-sea fishing port. Wow! I never knew that the town of Fleetwood was named after a person.

Mr Fleetwood holding his lighthouse!
And the bigger version

The beach was fenced off with Danger signs warning of dangerous tides, but there was lots of colour in the grasses and flowers.

After battling with the wind for half an hour on the beach I headed off towards the market to find some lunch.

An American hot dog for my birthday lunch.

Although market rights were granted to Fleetwood Market in 1725, it wasn’t until 1840 when Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood started using those rights that the Victorian Market was built. The building has stayed true to its Victorian heritage and has changed very little. However, in 1990 the market was extended, and as a result is one of the largest markets in North West of England. It has over 150 stalls within three indoor heated halls and a selection of outdoor stalls. I think I’ll come back to spend more time at the market. I came home with a long white cardigan – a birthday present to myself.

Preserved tram stop

As I headed to find the tram back to Blackpool I saw an interesting shop front on the Esplanade. Not far away was an old tram stop. I wondered if it would stop at this preserved tram stop but I found one looking more up – to-date.

What can i say?

Back on the tram we passed a vey grand looking building which turned out to be the Rossall School which educates girls and boys aged 0-18 as both a day school and a boarding school. Amazingly it boasts that it’s an All Steinway school and has its own piano academy. Fee are up to 12,000 per term for a boarder and to belong to the piano academy is just a further 4,800 per year! The main building looks very much Bolton School, my old secondary school. One of the school’s most famous alumni was Sir Thomas Beecham who founded the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras. He was also closely associated with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Hallé orchestras. From the early 20th century until his death, Beecham was a major influence on the musical life of Britain and, according to the BBC, was Britain’s first international conductor. Ah, that’s why there’s a music academy at Rossall. Rossall is a school steeped in history, and is, according to the school’s website often referred to as ‘The Eton of the North’.

The school was founded in 1844 by Rev. St Vincent Beechey as a sister school to Marlborough College which had been founded the previous year. Its establishment was ‘to provide, at a moderate cost, for the sons of Clergymen and others, a classical, mathematical and general education of the highest class.’ 

Beechey set about finding the funds required to set up such a school and received support from many including The Earl of Derby, the Duke of Devonshire and the Bishop of Chester. Sir Peter Hesketh Fleetwood agreed to lease his ancestral home of Rossall Hall to the school on a 21 year lease with the option to purchase for £7000 in the first ten years. The Northern Church of England Boarding School, renamed Rossall College under the reign of its first Headmaster Dr John Woolley, opened on 22 August 1844 with 70 boys enrolled. By the following March 120 pupils were in residence. Rossall was part of a flurry of expansion in education during the early Victorian period and the School was granted a Royal Charter on 21 October 1890. Rossall was widely considered to be in the top 30 public schools in the UK and by the end of Queen Victoria’s reign its academic results were among the best in the country and enjoyed a reputation as ‘The Eton of the North’. Girls first joined the school in the 1970’s and currently represent half of the student body.

Rossall School

Arriving back in Blackpool there was a long queue of people outside the railway station. I though they were waiting for taxis but I was soon informed that an accident had occurred on the train line in Blackpool and no trains could use the station. I joined the queue, waiting for half an hour for the replacement bus service that took us back to Preston station, taking an hour in the heavy rush hour traffic but at least I saw some new scenery. Luckily the train back to Hebden arrived a few minutes after I did and I arrived home at 7, just in time to guzzle down some dinner whilst chatting to my daughters before my weekly zoomed pub quiz.

After the quiz I looked up the Blackpool Debussy connection. Sure enough I’m correct. Not only is the photograph of North pier’s architect really Debussy but whoever designed the placard about the architect has used the Wikipedia photo of Debussy. So far I have left three messages with the company that operate the North pier but they haven’t returned my calls!

Debussy in 1908 (Wiki photo)

Arches galore

Last week on my journey to Sheffield the train had stopped at New Mills Central station, a town bordering Derbyshire and Cheshire. As we’d slowed down approaching the station a deep gorge was visible adjacent to the station, and a walkway appeared to run the length of the river. Ruined mills lined the gorge walls. I did some online research and it beckoned for more exploration. So yesterday, with low clouds showering me with intermittent sprinkles, I found myself alighting from the train and immediately found a steep path, no doubt once cobbled but now tarred, taking me deep into the bottom of the gorge to river level.

The noise of the town’s traffic was completely drowned out by the cascades of water as it rushed along the river bed, interrupted by weirs from time to time. The sound echoed off the tall stone cliffs and massively impressive viaduct arches. A facade of a disused mill towered above a modern looking walkway clinging precariously to a massive stone wall reminiscent of the Great wall of Todmorden. The walkway is Torrs Millenium walkway and was completed in 1999 and a plaque close by is in memory of its chief engineer who was killed in the London bombing in 2015 while on his way to a Derbyshire County Council conference.

The vast edifice of Torr Vale Mill, just across the river there, started as a water-powered cotton mill in the 1780s. It was converted first to steam, then to electricity and spun its last yarn in 2000.

Millenium walkway and Torr Vale Mill
What an amazing jumble of buildings from different periods of construction
The noise from the weir was deafening

At one point a mill chimney had been built directly onto the cliff wall. The cliff attracts rock climbers. As I walked along the gorge was closed by several bridges both a lover levels just above the stream and at the highest level on top of the cliffs. I found myself wondering why, if the river had carved out this gorge, the cliffs showed no signs of being eroded by the water. Eventually when I got back home I found my answer on the discovering Britain website:

‘It is hard to believe today but the River Goyt once took an entirely different course. Where we stand now would have been nothing but solid sandstone. The change came 2.5 million years ago when the Earth went through a series of Ice Ages. The planet’s temperature dropped and vast areas were covered in huge ice sheets.Here at The Torrs, the titanic movement of an ice sheet swept along a huge quantity of boulder clay. Clay is impervious to water. This effectively dammed the previous course of the river. When the ice finally started to melt around 10,000 years ago, the newly resurgent Goyt was forced to find another route down towards the Mersey.
It found it through a line of weakness in the Woodhead Hill Rock. The easily-worked sandstone was just as easily eroded by the fast-flowing Goyt and Sett rivers, fed by all that melting ice. The result was this
swiftly cut, deep and narrow gorge.’ The water smoothed stone was quarried to provide the stone for the building of the mills in the gorge.

The other question I had was about the origin of the name of the town – New Mills. I presumed that one of the early mills had been destroyed by fire and then rebuilt as ‘new Mill.’ But no, I was completely wrong – as the same website informed me: ”The power of water had been harnessed along these rivers for centuries, chiefly for milling corn. Water was the obvious choice for driving the machines of the early Industrial Revolution. The name New Mills does not stem, as you might think, from the huge buildings we saw from up top. There is a record of a water-powered corn mill further up the River Sett as far back as 1390.”

Reminds me of Sicily

When a second mill was built, nearer to The Torrs, it became known as ‘New Milne’. So, the growing town had already acquired its name when manufacturers eyed-up all this free water power during the 1780s. The stone for construction, as we have seen, was just to hand and easily worked. Quarrying cleared enough land to provide the first cotton mills with a large enough plot, so it really was a win-win situation. ‘

Emerging from the canyon I found myself in a large meadow peppered with buttercups and mayflowers. One unexpected find was a friendly llama!

Trying to find the canal which parallels the River Goyt came to nothing, having been told my someone on the trail that it was ‘on top of that hill above the meadow’ pointing up a steep hill. So heading back towards the walkway I thought I should take a look at the Shrub club

that I’d been told was worth a visit. It’s a bar/restaurant in a former mill. It certainly had an amazing location. It’s very much a wedding venue and I wondered how the participants and guests would negotiate the steep trails down the gorge.

Inside the Shrub Club

Heading into the town centre of New Mills lunch was provided by Pride of the Peak. In the town’s main street I felt as if I’d just stepped back in time 40 years, and this feeling was certainly emphasised by the pub. There was just something about the decor with its cheap shiny decorations. This was further borne out by the tv channel playing in the lounge – 80’s and 90’s pop videos. I ordered a chicken, bacon and avocado salad which was enormous, but just at the side of the bar opposite the table was a glass refrigerator with all sorts of tempting deserts, and after glancing in their direction for an hour I succumbed to a trifle. However, it was served with a further plate of fruit and fresh cream. Wow!

Leaving the Pride of the Peak the next port of call was to be the canal which I’d failed to reach, the first time round. I passed a large factory reminiscent of a Lowry painting. It’s the current home of Swizzles sweet factory which makes Love Hearts and Refreshers.

The canal basin was full of barges. Further along the Peak forest canal a sign caught my eye – Beware Giant Hogweed. I thought that perhaps the weed fell into the water and disrupted the steering of the boats but – wrong again.

“Beware Giant Hogweed”

The giant weed is highly toxic to human skin and online there are horrendous photos of burns that people have suffered from touching the sap of the Giant Hogweed. Hmm.

Back home after a 9 hour adventure including 9 miles of walking and barking up the wrong tree three times!

Unexpected links – around Bradford

I’d not been to Bradford since before the first lockdown and I felt as if it was time to spread my wings a little more. For the previous few days I’d been exploring new territory – first a presentation in Mirfield which I’d never been to before. It was given by Emma Decent whose online creative writing classes I’d been attending during lockdown. I spent a pleasant hour after lunch exploring the canal in Mirfield.

Calder and Hebble Navigation

The following day I’d gone to a lecture in Manchester Cathedral about the ‘forgotten’ Mancunian Edward Watkin who not only designed the first channel tunnel in 1880 (!!!!) which was abandoned after 2000 yards of digging, but also attempted to build the world’s tallest tower, to rival Mr Eiffel’s, in 1896. After the first stage was completed the structure started to tilt and this project likewise was abandoned and the current Wembley stadium was built on the site. After that, the weather behaving itself, I’d taken a river cruise along the Irwell River to see again the amazing new construction of office blocks and residential towers that’s turned Manchester into a city unrecognisable from my childhood.

So day three began in Bradford. I was to attend an organ recital in the cathedral but that was just the catalyst to get me to the city.

Bradford Town Hall

In 2016 when I’d stayed in England for the summer I’d joined a group of crafters in Bradford Cathedral engaged in a huge project to sew a long kneeler that would front the high altar. I’d gone back to the group in 2018 after I’d moved back to live in England and they were still working on the piece. I was eager to discover it it had been finished and whether it was now in use for its designed purpose.

Then to the organ recital and a wonderful buffet lunch to be nibbled in time with the music! These lunchtime organ recitals, both in Halifax minster and here in Bradford are renowned for their lunches.

The cutest ever miniature Cornish pastie

Leaving the cathedral I headed back into the centre of town to find the bus stop to take me to somewhere new to me. At the bus stop were 3 teenage boys and a girl yelling loudly to passing motorists, jeering at passers by and generally making a nuisance of themselves. They looked me up and down. I felt they were trying to intimidate me. “Hello. Do you know which bus goes to Cartwright Hall?” I asked. They froze. I wish I could have taken a photo at that moment. They seemed so taken aback that I had spoken to them. The girl offered a bus number to me and then one of the boys said, “Hey. This girl is younger than me and she keeps making fun of me.” Giggles all round. “I’m not from round here” he continued. “I grew up in Leeds.” “And this one here” he continued, pointing at his friend, “he grew up in Pakistan.” “Oh, where abouts in Pakistan? I’ve only ever been to Karachi” I replied. They all stopped in their tracks. “Really? You’ve been to Pakistan?” he replied with a definite degree of incredulity in his voice. Determined not to be outdone by his friend in embarrassing me, he continued “And this one here, he’s been in prison!” He paused for effect. “I used to teach in a prison” I answered. Again I wished I had a photograph of their faces. Total incredulity!

And then onto Cartwright Hall. Until someone I knew had recently visited this place I’d never heard of it, and talking to other local people it isn’t well known by the people of Calderdale, even though its only 11 miles from Hebden. It’s an art gallery but until I read the exhibits I presumed it had been the stately home of a wealthy mill owner.

Cartwright Hall in Lister Park

I approached through the formal gardens sporting fountains below which was a boating lake and pavilion.

A sign informed me that the gardens have been modelled on the Mughal gardens of the Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir, Northern India, and the Taj Mahal, and Pakistan. I wonder if my friend from the bus stop had ever visited one of them. I’m fortunate to have visited both these amazing gardens.

I sign I would never see at an American art gallery!

Having paid my entrance fee – precisely zero – I entered an amazing building with a grand staircase, marble columns, arched windows. Before me were intricate costumes of the Bradford Mela carnival, celebrating the Caribbean culture in the city.

Costumes from the Mela festival – and me

There’s a room devoted to local lad David Hockney including one of his famous swimming pool paintings, a Warhol Marilyn, and a Lowry industrial landscape.

A work by Hockney caught my attention – a piece depicting his mother on a trip to Bolton Abbey, one of his mum’s favourite day’s out, as it was my mum’s. His parents met there. I noticed that he included his own feet in the foreground, something I often do in my photos to show my own presence in the image.

It was time for some refreshment. I’d seen the vast courtyard from an upstairs window. It had just one table in it – occupied, but by the time I got down the stairs it was empty, so I had the courtyard all to myself.

Are they contemplating the Meaning of Life? In 1983 Cartwright Hall was briefly used as part of the musical number Every Sperm is Sacred in the Monty Python film, The Meaning of Life.

The wool combing machine was invented by Edmund Cartwright, the inventor of the power loom, in Doncaster. It was patented in 1790. This machine was used to arrange and lay parallel by length the fibers of wool, prior to further treatment. The machine was important in the mechanization of the textile industry. Samuel Lister was an English inventor whose contributions included a wool-combing machine that helped to lower the price of clothing and a silk-combing machine that utilized silk waste. In 1838 Samuel and his brother John opened a worsted mill in Manningham. He had worked on a machine to comb wool so that the long hairs would be separated from the short, thus allowing their use for different kinds of textiles, and eventually he evolved a successful machine from an earlier, inefficient device built by another inventor. Its success contributed greatly to the development of Australian sheep farming. In time he had nine combing mills operating at once—five in England one in Germany, and three in France. He provided the land and the money to build the art gallery and museum for the people of Bradford and named it after the inventor, Cartwright, whose invention had enabled him to make his fortune.

Update: Precisely one week after ‘discovering’ Cartwright Hall I attended an illustrated talk by historian David Glover in the Square Chapel. He showed old photos of Halifax and one of the photos on screen was a still from a movie: Room at the Top, a 1959 film shot mostly in Halifax but some scenes were filmed in Bradford. in fact, the ball scene had been filmed in – yes, you’ve guessed it – Cartwright Hall!

Further update: The next week I found out that Ed Sheeran’s dad was a curator at Cartwright Hall when the family lived in Hebden Bridge.

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