Ashford in the Water

Ashton in the Water is a small, picturesque village in the Peak District just a few miles from Bakewell. It’s particularly, renowned for it’s “Sheepwash bridge” over the river Wye. It’s actually an old packhorse bridge but on the west side there’s a pen used to hold lambs while ewes were dropped in the water on the opposite bank. The ewes then swam across the river to reach their lambs.


It’s a very small village with stone cottages, a church and a couple of pubs.
In past times Ashford was a working village. The cottages would have been home to lead miners, quarry and stone workers and the like. Today most of them seem to have been converted into holiday acommodation. Like White Coppice, that I wrote about a few weeks ago, it’s an example of how a industrial village can be changed and become a picturesque destination.



The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi


We arrived in Abu Dhabi early morning so after we checked into our hotel room, unpacked, freshened up, changed and grabbed some breakfast we had most of the rest of the day to do as we pleased. It didn’t please me to spend the day working on my laptop – I wanted to see something of the city – so three of us decided we’d take a taxi out to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.


Unlike in Dubai, where non-Muslims are forbidden for entering the Grand Mosque, the one in Abu Dhabi welcomes visitors provided they respect the dress and behavioural code appropriate for a Muslim place of worship. Visitors can wander around on their own, so long as they keep to designated areas, and there are guided tours several times a day. We managed to arrive in time to catch the 11 o’clock guided tour and also spent some time exploring on our own.



The Grand Mosque is the equivalent of a Christian Cathedral. It’s massive, covering 30 acres, and can accommodate over 40,000 worshipers. It’s architecture reflects cultures from across the Muslim world. It has 82 different sized domes in all, four minarets, loads of decorated columns and Moorish arches.


The mosque was constructed from 1996 to 2007 and is the eighth largest in the world. No expense has been spared. There’s high quality marble everywhere, in many places inlaid with different colours producing patterns and floral motifs.


There are sumptuous decorations on the ceilings


and walls




No images of people or animals, but lots of geometric patterns and floral decoration. This pattern rather reminded me of a William Morris wallpaper design.


Inside, there are seven imported chandeliers madein Munich Germany that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals.





And the floor of the main prayer hall is covered by the world’s largest carpet



This is one of several clocks, made in England, that show the times of prayer




Columns are inlaid with jewels and precious stones.





Like the great European cathedrals, this Mosque is meant to impress, instil a sense of awe into visitors, and act as a symbol of the incredible wealth of the rulers of the Emirate.

Impressions of Abu Dhabi


I was in Abu Dhabi for a few days last week attending a conference I’d been involved in organising and which I was chairing. I didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing, but had an afternoon and a few hours during the evenings to explore. There wasn’t enough time to get too far from the area I was staying, but I managed to see the two major attractions – the Grand Mosque and the Corniche


– and flew over the racing circuit and Ferrari World amusement park on the way in.We were staying in the Rotana Beach hotel where the conference was being held. So although it was hot outside (30 C plus) it felt rather that we were inside an air conditioned bubble for most of our stay. A rather artificial world of luxury.


The City

  • Abu Dhabi is the largest of the Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates and the capital city bears the same name as the region. The city originated on a T shaped island jutting out into the sea, but has now expanded onto a number of neighbouring islands. There’s even a man-made island, Lulu island, just off the coast.
  • It’s not that long ago that the city was a small settlement on the main island but since oil was discovered there has been a tremendous growth in a few decades – the population expanding from 58,000 in 1952 to an estimated 1.72 million in 2009.


  • There didn’t seem to be a historic core of the city, at least I wasn’t able to find one. It’s very much a modern city of tower blocks and skyscrapers.
  • A lot of very modern shopping centres full of expensive shops. All the usual high street names from the UK, Europe and the US. More evidence, if we really needed it, of globalisation.
  • It’s still growing at a pace and almost seemed like one big construction site at times.


The People

  • Less than 20% of the population are natives, the overwhelming majority of inhabitants of the city being expatriate professionals from Europe, Australia, South Africa and the USA with a vast army of labourers, hotel staff, domestic servants and building workers from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines. Consequently there’s very little contact with Emirati citizens on a day to day basis.
  • There were some locals at the conference and I found them to be quite open and very hospitable.

Getting around

  • Abu Dhabi isn’t built for exploring on foot, particularly the newer suburbs. There are footpaths in the older parts of the city and when I got out of the hotel for a walk there were plenty of people moving around on foot heading home from work. But the pavements weren’t particularly in good condition and high kerbs made it difficult for anyone with even minor disabilities.
  • The car dominates and the traffic during the busier parts of the day is horrific.And many of the drivers seemed completely mad driving at speed from jam to jam, swerving into gaps and driving very close to the vehicle in front.
  • Taxis are cheap compared to the UK and are the best way of getting around the city. There are public buses too.

Eating out

  • There wasn’t a shortage of places to eat. All the usual fast food outlets plus lots of restaurants, particularly Indian and Lebanese.


  • We mainly ate in the hotel (expensive but our costs were being covered) but we managed to get out one evening to eat in a Lebanese restaurant close to the hotel that was recommended by a Northern English expat we met while visiting the Grand Mosque. We had a sumptuous feast for about £10 a head – no booze though!





  • The vast majority of the buildings were rather bland non-descript tower blocks thrown up when the city was developing. More recently a number of “landmark” skyscrapers have been constructed. Most  were away from the hotel we were staying in but we saw some of them when we went out one evening to the Corniche and on the way to and from the airport.



  • The most beautiful building we saw, and visited, was the Grand Mosque, a taxi ride from our hotel towards the airport.


  • A number of major landmark projects are underway in the city including branches of the Guggenheim Museum and the Louvre on Saadiyat Island. The Guggenheim building has been designed by Frank Gehry and the Louvre by Jean Nouvel, a couple of “superstar” architects.


  • Currently there’s very little of art and culture in Abu Dhabi. – I guess it says a lot that one of the main attractions is the giant flagpole that we could see over the water when we visited the Corniche one evening


Saadiyat Cultural District will be a centre for global culture, drawing local, regional and international visitors with unique exhibitions, permanent collections, productions and performances. Its iconic institutions will be housed in buildings constituting a statement of the finest architecture at the beginning of the 21st century

  • The Louvre is due to open next year and the Guggenheim in 2017.

The Crawford Gallery Cork


The Crawford Gallery is Cork’s public art Gallery. The main part of the building, built in 1724, was originally the Cork Customs House. Emmet Place, where it’s located, today is a wide street but used to be a harbour off the north channel of the River Lee. The gallery was extended in  2000, substantially increasing the exhibition space.

I visited it twice during my short stay in Cork – in the daytime and then during Thursday evening when it’s open until 8 o’clock.

They have a decent collection of paintings but not on the scale of the public galleries in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.

Outside  I spotted this Banksy style stencil on the wall outside.


Inside, on the main staircase there was an attractive, contemporary stained glass work in the window.


Unfortunately I didn’t make a note of the artist’s name.

At the top of the stairs there was a sculpture by the Northern Irish artist, F. E McWilliam depicting a woman blown over by an explosion during “the Troubles”


Woman in Bomb Blast (1974) by F.E. McWilliam,

I normally associate McWilliam with abstract works, but this is very realistic. A little research revealed that this work

is the last and largest sculpture from a series called Women of Belfast which, he explained, ‘was concerned with violence, with one particular aspect, bomb-blast – the woman as victim of man’s stupidity’. Although they can be read as a metaphor for women affected by violence, these sculptures were McWilliam’s response to the Provisional IRA bombing of the Abercorn Restaurant in the centre of Belfast on 4 March 1972. The bomb exploded in the restaurant which was packed with Saturday afternoon shoppers, killing two women and injuring some 70 other people.

The Gallery’s collection spans the centuries from the 16th Century onwards. I particularly liked the exhibition of works by Irish artists from the AlB Art Collection which was donated to the Irish State in February 2012 and will become part of the Crawford Art Gallery’s permanent collection. These were some of my favourites

DSC02394 The cockle pickers (1890) by Joseph Malachy Kavangh


Corpus Christi Procession (1880) by Aloysius O’Kelly


A Race in Hy Brazil (1937) by Jack B. Yeats


Blue Still Life With Knife (1971) by William Scott


A Place With Stones (1979) by Patrick Collins


Habiba (1892) by John Lavery

The gallery also has a collection of watercolours, ink drawings and stained glass by Harry Clarke whose marvellous stained glass windows I saw in the Honan Chapel a mile or so away.


The Gallery’s website tells us

Clarke may be described as Ireland’s major Symbolist artist, whose synthesis of literary, musical, poetic and imagined visual images draws on a wide range of eclectic, sometimes obscure sources to produce an entirely original and idiosyncratic vision. This is as firmly rooted in the Yeatsian Celtic Revival and National Romanticism of late 19th/early 20th century Ireland as in European Symbolism, Decadence, and Art Nouveau of the same period, with the unusual extra dimension of consummate technical skill in stained glass.

The Gallery’s collection included a large number of cartoons – preparatory drawings on paper – for his masterpiece The Eve of St Agnes which is displayed at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin


and illustrations from Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe

The Fall of The House of Usher

Most of the earlier works on show and the temporary exhibitions didn’t particularly interest me, each to his own, and I didn’t intend to look around the large room full of casts of Classical Graeco-Roman sculpture. But on my second visit on my way out I popped into the sculpture gallery which is to one side of the entrance. I’m glad I did because tucked away on the wall in the corner was a large painting by Hughie O’Donoghue.


Raft (2007) by Hughie O’Donoghue

The Honan Chapel


The Honan Chapel stands just outside the official boundary of the UCC campus, but is effectively, part of the site. So I couldn’t help but notice it. I almost passed it by, but as I wasn’t in a particular hurry to get back to the train station I decided I might as well take a closer look. I’m glad I did. It was a little gem.


It was only built in the early 20th Century,being consecrated on 5 November 1916. At first glance I could see it was a neo-Romanesque building, this doorway being very typical of the style


but a closer look revealed Celtic features, such as these capitals


The chapel is, in fact, a product of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement and is Hiberno-Romanesque, reflecting the style of early Christian churches in Ireland. It’s a product of the Celtic Twilight of Irish artists influenced by Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and the Celtic traditions of their native land.


Inside there is a magnificent mosaic floor depicting the “River of Life”, (the colours haven’t come out on my photos, unfortunately)




All the “furniture and fittings” were beautifully crafted and full of detail







But I was particularly taken by the superb stained glass. There are nineteen windows in the Honan Chapel. Eight of the windows were designed by An Túr Gloine (The Tower of Glass), the stained glass studio of the Irish artist Sarah Purser. The other eleven were designed by Harry Clarke, the artist responsible for the Eve of St Agnes window that’s displayed in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin  The Honan Chapel was his first major commission.








Clarke’s work is exquisite. Very much influenced by the Art Nouveau, Symbolist and Arts and Crafts movement with finely drawn figures, minutely detailed images and luminous colours. Thee photos really can’t do them justice;they need to be seen “in the flesh” to be really appreciated.

UCC Cork


After looking round the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, I decided to explore the UCC campus. The grounds are open to the public and there’s even a visitor centre where I was able to pick up a small booklet about the college and its buildings.

University College Cork (UCC) was established in 1845 as one of three Queen’s Colleges – at Cork, Galway and Belfast – to provide access to higher education in the Irish province of Munster. Today it’s part of the National University of Ireland (NUI).  Probably the most famous person associated with the College was George Boole, the inventor of Boolean logic, who was Professor of Mathematics between 1849 and 1864.


The campus is located on the edge of a picturesque limestone bluff overlooking the River Lee associated with the local early Christian saint, Finbarr and UCC’s motto is ‘Where Finbarr Taught, let Munster Learn.’



The limestone buildings of the Main Quadrangle were designed by the architectural partnership of Thomas Deane and Benjamin Woodward. A neo-Gothic complex as  his was considered the most suitable style for colleges at that time, being inspired by the great medieval colleges in England. 




The Visitor Centre can be found here as well as the Stone Gallery which contains an exhibition called ‘Stories in Stone’ featuring a series of Ogham Stones which are inscribed with an ancient Celtic script. Written in a series of carved lines, the collection dates back as far as the 5th to 7th centuries AD.






The Crawford Observatory  was opened in 1880 and named after William Horatio Crawford, a local brewer and merchant. it was restored and re-opened in 2006


This modern building is the Áras na Mac Léinn  – the Student Centre.



The President’s Garden, which lies between the east wing of he Quadrangle building and the Student Centre, was originally reserved for the exclusive use of the College President and his guests.


Officially outside the college grounds, but adjacent to the Student Centre, is the Honan Chapel. But this building deserves a post of its own.


Contemporary Ceramics at Chatsworth

The Dukes of Devonshire have long been collectors of ceramics and pottery. The current Duke has continued the tradition. and  there are a number of ceramic works on display in the public areas of Chatsworth.

Edmund du Waal’s A Sounding Linem a work comprising 52 porcelain vessels in 5 celadon glazes and 14 thrown porcelain vessels in 5 white glazes is installed in the fireplaces and high corbels of the Chapel Corridor.


At first glance, especially when viewed during the Luminaire event, they all appeared the same off-white colour. But closer inspection during the daytime revealed subtle variations in shade. Like much of his work the pots have a Japanese, Zen-like quality.

These two abstract forms were also displayed in the Chapel corridor. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the artist.


This large scale pot located on the landing at the topof the flight of stairs from the Painted Hall is Chinese Ladders by Felicity Aylieff . The form and design of the pot is inspired by the structure of bamboo scaffolding used by builders in China.


In the State rooms, and elsewhere in the house, were a number of installations by the Australian artist, Pippin Drysdale. With interesting surface textures and vibrant colours her works are inspired by the landscapes of her native country.




This stunning installation is fixed to the walls of the North Sketch gallery.


Created by the artist Jacob van der Beugel, the work represents the DNA profiles of the the Duke and some members of his family. The Chatsworth website tells us that the:

Raised ceramic blocks represent the DNA strand of ‘Everyman’ in the central portrait, which is flanked by the personal DNA profiles of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, their son Lord Burlington and his wife, Lady Burlington.

DNA samples were taken from members of the Devonshire family and the results were translated onto ceramic panels, while aspects of each individual’s personality are captured on glazed pieces in their DNA sequence


This is how it looked during the Luminaire event, lit up with candles.


There are 659 warm, ochre coloured panels making up a large work, approximately 20m long x3m wide x4m high all along one of the walls of the long  narrow room.  The other wall is covered with mirrors which reflect the panels.


Overall a stunning contemporary work of art.