Monday, 12 August 2019

out West

Oh to be beside the seaside again last week - such joy!

August 2019 Morecombe Bay

So naturally we started with Morecombe itself.  Despite growing up with New Brighton, Southport and Blackpool as my go-to seaside towns, I'd never been to Morecombe - until now!  And I just love a seaside town, the air, the light and the bustle.

And Morecombe prom has evidently been given a beautiful facelift - very impressive wide sweep, shared amicably by walkers and cyclists, beautifully planted grasses, stylish seats  and that stunning backdrop of the Lakeland fells. 
The sunshine was a joy - we'd battled over from Sheffield that morning, eating our butties in a service station car park somewhere around Manchester in such driving biblical style rain we'd not even dared make a dash to the loo!

But typically for the West coast, the rain lifted and the sun came out, just for our visit!
We strolled along the prom (prom, prom) from end to end, luxuriating in a warm sea breeze and blue skies - finally treating ourselves to a cuppa with a view, in the recently refurblished Midland Hotel - a striking Art Deco relic of the great railway age and opposite a pretty stunning station building. 
Then of course it was time for an ice cream, but not before a peek at the renovations going on at the palatial Winter Gardens
 So many streets of stunning old houses and not enough time to explore
 but always time for a bit of sunshine and that smile
And then we headed north via Carnforth Station, film set for Brief Encounter.  We were too late for the iconic cafe but was interesting to have a peek through the windows.
Next we headed to our holiday destination - Arnside and Silverdale, very deservedly an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  And after checking in to our wonderful AirBnB we were just in time to see the last of the sun setting over River Kent Estuary and the mighty Lakeland Fells while we ate our evening meal.
I'd been wanting to visit this part of the coast for many many years - loving the way it sits there on the map nestled between the Lakes and Lancashire, almost like a shallow peninsula.  On the OS map there are few roads and the many nature reserves and hill viewpoints have to be reached by footpath.  There's the famous Leighton Moss nature reserve and the National Trust areas and all the many other parts of the AONB including limestone pavements at Gait Barrows and on parts of the coast.  It's also famous for it's butterfly population, birds, wildflowers and treacherous quicksands.  We'd both grown up being warned by school and home about the quicksands on our local beaches but it had been a long time, so this was a good reminder to take care.

Next morning we started off in Arnside with a cracking artisan coffee at the lovely Moochin' About.  

Then walked south along the rocky beach, marvelling at this estuary and it's wide expanse of sea, sky and mountains. 

Turns out you can do mud walks from Arnside over to Grange Over Sands, led by a Queen's Guide, no less!  This looks so amazing and is now on our must-do list.  Cedric Robinson, the Queen's Guide who's led the walks for 56 years retired this year, however a new guide has been appointed and the tradition continues.
So after a great picnic on the little prom at Arnside, we drove over to Silverdale to do some coastal walking there too.  The sun was blazing and the skies blue and the wide expanse of the estuary running into the Irish Sea was just magnificent.
We were staying just below Arnside Knott (a Marilyn if you've ever heard of those?), so we pottered up an ancient rutted track to an even more ancient and faded wooden topograph, telling us that we could see almost every Lakeland peak worth mentioning from that one viewpoint!  Absolutely stunning, just reminded us of our first distant view of the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho a couple of years ago.

Then it was back to Arnside promenade to join the queue for some spectacular fish and chips at Arnside Chip Shop and a setting sun across the railway bridge.
And having spotted that there railway bridge, we had to make the spectacular 4 minute train journey from Arnside to Grange over Sands the next morning before we headed home.
 To arguably the most picturesque train station ever - perched on the estuary
Then back again to Arnside and our drive home to Sheffield.  End of a fabulous stay.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

sky high

Great exhibition at Park Hill flats at the moment in Sheffield - Love Among the Ruins.  Some brilliant photos from 1961 and 1988 - the black and white and colour contrasts are poignant too.  And also incredible film footage from the early 60s when the bustling shopping area in the flats was in full swing and a vibrant community thrived.
So on Saturday we'd booked onto a walking architecture tour of the undeveloped parts of the now derelict site.  Being fenced off and unmaintained, the weeds have flourished since my last visit.  Andrew Jackson from the Twentieth Century Society led the walk.
Here's one of the 4 pubs on the site - we were inside this a couple of years ago to see a great video installation as part of the Art Sheffield 2016 festival - Up Down Top Bottom Strange and Charm
some of the original mosaics and signs remain
This dry hot summer has given the landscape a kind of pampas grass feel as we look over to the developed Urban Splash section.
Always loved the walkways
and here's another of the pubs
and some wild colour
This is the site of the original Grace Hill Nursery.  Piece in the Sheffield Star on the move to the new site.
More of the colourful mosaics that have stood the test of time
Recent fire damage to one of the blocks
New home of the lovely S1Artspace in the old Park Hill garages - and the flat roof was originally a play area.  S1Artspace rescued this from demolition by moving in this summer.
And for the final bit of the tour we headed into the new Urban Splash part of the development - where some of the original staircases have been kept in.
but the "milk float" corridors have been narrowed a bit to provide more private entrances to the flats.  Loved the personalised glass corner displays at each flat.
Unsurpassed views across our wonderful city of Sheffield
Good appreciation of the original concept of the graduation in brick colours from red at the bottom to pale yellow at the top.  These were replaced with bright panels in the first phase of development but will be retained in the future work.
And a feel for the great open public space behind the flats.  Which could easily have ended up housing a multi story car park if developers had got their way.
A great day - and ended with a relaxing coffee at the lovely South Street Kitchen which opened earlier this year.

Monday, 12 March 2018

marshes and mud

Part two - Monday and Tuesday 26,27 February 2018 (and a Friday surprise)

So, the birthday happenings didn't stop with the weekend (and if you've missed that see Landmarks first).

After a late night run dropping off the younger members of the Famous Five across London, we carried on forging East to our late night destination, the lovely Bell Inn in the quaint hilltop hamlet of Horndon on the Hill.  Felt like a treasure hunt, finding the key in a little box and a note directing us up old wooden steps to our cosy room above the 15th century inn.
and after a good night's sleep we could see better where we'd climbed last night in the dark
and the front of our pub
and explore the lovely Horndon on the Hill 
with it's ancient Woolmarket. 
We'd hoped to peek inside the interesting looking Grade 1 listed church of St Peter and St Paul, built in the 13th century, but sadly it was all locked up.
So no chance to warm up there and I tell you - it was absolutely freezing cold.  The Beast from the East was forecast to start tonight and already snowflakes were trying their best in this little corner of Essex.
But, hardy Northerners that we are, we wrapped up and headed down to the Thames Estuary, just 5 minutes drive away, to the lovely little nature reserve - Thurrock Thameside Nature Park  - beautifully thought out, overlooking Mucking Flats and marshes and Canvey Island.
Note how the new visitor centre mimics the shape of the oil terminals on Canvey Island - and inside they had an amazing log burner surrounded by seats, sort of Viking friendship hut style - very welcome on a day as cold as this!
Just look at that snowstorm working it's way across to us from Canvey Island - to our right
and to our left the sky is still blue- but we had to quickly dive into the visitor centre as the snow storm created a complete whiteout for 10 minutes or so!
But we soon venture out again 
it's so very wild and very beautiful - and see how quickly the sky changed as yet another snowstorm passed over
Bit of warmth in the hide and spotted a kestrel
But now it was back into the car and overland to the town of Maldon - famous for it's salt
Fascinated by the last of the Thames Sailing Barges, lovingly restored and moored up.  These were built late 19th century and early 20th and you can even take trips on them in the summer around to Mersea.
A kindly local let us peek on board
But it was onwards and upwards and a little hike out to St Peter's Chapel on the edge of the marshes of the Blackwater estuary at Bradwell-on-Sea on the Dengie Peninsula
wild and totally wonderful and icily cold
with an amazing fragile coastline made of cockle, beyond the salt marshes
But it was back to our cosy Bell Inn for the most fabulous meal and a blazing log fire.


We set off from Essex as the 'Beast' started and just got back to Sheffield before it caught up with us there and we were snowed in for 3 days!

And finally, a week or so later, Mike had another post-landmark birthday celebration, this time at the cosy Packhorse Inn at Little Longstone - more log fires and more fabulous food and lots of lovely friends
 'twas hard to drag ourselves away from the fire . . . 
But we were soon revitalised by a quick hike around the lovely dale of Water-cum-Jolly, through the eerie drippy tunnels of the Monsal Trail and back along the muddy banks to Monsal Dale. 
Fabulous week all round!