Foam Amsterdam

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The second full day of our break in the Netherlands we left our son to spend the day with his sister and then took the train into Amsterdam – a 20 minute journey. I wanted to visit the Foam photographic museum, which is on the “Golden Bend” section of the Keizersgracht . It was a warm day, if overcast, so we decided we’d walk along the canal, which I always enjoy. It was surprisingly quiet – there weren’t as many people and, particularly, bicycles, around as during previous visits as can be seen in the photos I shot.

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Foam is one of two photographic museums in Amsterdam. The other one, Huis Marseille, which we visited the last time we were in the Netherlands at Christmas, is also on the Keizergracht, and we passed it on our way to Foam.

There were four exhibitions showing in the museum. The main one was Silver Lake Drive a retrospective of the work of Alex Prager, an American photographer and film maker from Los Angeles. The exhibition included large scale prints and a number of films, in some cases photographs being stills from the films. Rather like Cindy Sherman, she creates scenarios but, rather than featuring herself, as Sherman does, she uses actors, models and extras. The scenarios are influenced by film noir, thriller, melodrama and crime fiction, but also have a surreal quality. Some of them were clearly influenced by the films of Alfred Hitchcock such as The Birds and North by North West.

The style of the photographs, with bright vibrant colours, was very similar to that of Martin Parr and there were similarities too in the way the photographs capture people in action, although Alex Prager’s scenes are staged whereas Martin Parr’s photographs are of real people, sometimes caught unawares but sometimes posed.

Crowd #1 from the series Long Week-end (2010)

Her compositions were interesting and often taken from unusual angles, like this one, looking upwards from floor level and with the figures positioned at the edges of the photo.

I hadn’t come across her work before so this was a good discovery!

Another of the exhibitions featured the work of a British visual artist Dominic Hawgood. In Casting Out the Self he

visualises the effect of the drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which he personally experienced as a transfer into the digital realm. (Foam website)

The works in this exhibition weren’t photographs as such but 3 dimensional objects and digital projections, a number of them including a statue of the Buddha. I had mixed feelings about this exhibition, but I did like one of the installations which included a circle of smaller reflective silver spheres surrounding a larger one, illuminated by UV light (A statue of the Buddha was also included in the installation)

On the top floor Morpher III (1989) by the French artist, Kévin Bray was an abstract multimedia work centred on a digital film in which he created a surreal, imaginary landscape.

I wasn’t so sure about this one at first, but once I’d worked out what was going on after watching the film a couple of times I found it quite engaging.

So, overall an interesting visit. Some of the works a little challenging and not to my taste but I certainly enjoyed the Alex Prager exhibition.

Teylers Museum

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During our previous visits to Haarlem, we’ve passed the entrance to the Teylers Museum, which stands on the Spaarn embankment, many times, but I’d never visited.

Open to the public since 1784, it was the first museum in the Netherlands. It was founded after the death of Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778) a successful silk merchant and financier who had a wide range of interests in the arts and sciences. In his will, Teyler left two million guilders (roughly 80 million euros) to establish a foundation, to promote theology, the sciences, and the arts.  In 1779, the Foundation’s first directors commissioned the young architect Leendert Viervant to design a ‘Books and Art Room’ behind the Foundation House (Fundatiehuis, where Pieter Teyler had lived). The result was the Oval Room, which is still the heart of the museum, although the premises have been expanded considerably since then. In fact, it’s rather like the Tardis. It doesn’t look so big from the outside but once you’re inside there’s a whole series of interconnected rooms and a whole new extension which, from the outside, you wouldn’t know were there.

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By Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the Netherlands, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, Link

It’s quite an amazing place. In many ways it’s an old fashioned museum with lots of exhibits, including fossils, minerals, coins and scientific instruments, many in glass display cases. There’s also two galleries of paintings and a large collection of drawings and prints by artists including Michelangelo, Raphael, and  Rembrandt. The building itself is also fascinating. We spent a couple of hours looking round but there’s really too much to see during one visit.

Visitors are provided with an audio guide which provides information on selected exhibits by entering a number. For this summer the audio guide also includes an introductory tour, a “radio play” based on Napoleon’s visit to the museum in 1811 which focused on the history of the museum and key exhibits.

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We followed the “Napoleon tour”, which took about half an hour, and then had a more detailed look around, concentrating on particular areas of interest.

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Just a few of the large collection of fossils
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Humanoid skulls and bones
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Fluorescent minerals
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The large electrostatic generator. They had smaller examples to see as well.

The Oval room was one of the highlights. Originally this was the whole museum! It’s lit only by natural light that comes in through the skylights – so it’s probably best to visit on a bright summer’s day!

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It was difficult to get a shot that really shows off the room, so I resorted to embedding a picture from Wikipedia which was taken from the balcony, which isn’t accessible to the public.

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By Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the Netherlands, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, Link (source: Wikipedia)

A painting in one of the art galleries shows what the room looked like in 1800, with the large electrostatic generator in the centre.

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A large horseshoe magnet supporting 100 kg
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An early electric battery
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An astronomical globe

The two art galleries were also lit by natural light

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The collection mainly features works from the Dutch Romantic School and the later Hague School and Amsterdam Impressionists.

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Wintergezicht met Schaatsers (1864) by Johan Barthold Jongkind
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De Molen (1899) by Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch
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Twee dienstboden op een Amsterdamse brug bij avond (1890) George Hendrik Breitner
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Trommelslaagster (c 1908) by Isaac Israels

Like many other galleries and museums in the Netherlands there was a temporary exhibition marking 250 years since the death of Rembrandt. It featured prints by the master and some of his contemporaries.

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As usual, I was bowled over by the beauty and the amazing detail of Rembrandt’s tiny prints. One of them had been blown up and covered the whole of one wall. Even on such a large scale the detail was amazing.

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And this was the real thing, which, even though it is the largest of his landscape prints, was not even as big as an A3 sheet of paper

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The newest part of the museum, an exhibition hall and a cafe, were built in 1996 and are airy, cantilevered spaces on two sides of a “secret” courtyard / garden.

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It was time for some refreshment!

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the Dutch know how to make mint tea!

We’d spent more than a couple of hours in the museum so had a last look around before returning our audio guides and leaving the building to meet up with our son and daughter, who’s been spending some time together.

Teylers is an excellent museum and I suspect we’ll be paying a visit another time when we next visit Haarlem.

Back to Haarlem

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Last week we were back in Haarlem, to visit our daughter while taking a few days break. As usual, we managed to pack a lot into the week – spending some time exploring the small, historic city, watching some live music acts (the Haarlem Jazz Festival started towards the end of our little holiday), taking in some art in Amsterdam and even managing a short walk on the dunes.

We caught the plane from Manchester. Unfortunately there was a dealy which meant we were sat on the plane for over an hour and a half before it took off. Not the greatest experience, but it could have been worse. So we arrived in Haarlem a couple of hours late. It’s quite easy to get to the city by catching the Number 300 bis that runs from Schipol airport to the train station in Haarlem, a 40 minute journey with buses about every 10 minutes during the daytime. We’d rented a house a few minutes walk from the station, so after picking up the keys we were soon settled in.

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The next morning we spent the morning wandering around Haarlem. The Single canal was just a couple of minutes walk from our little house. The canal was built as part of the city defences and the northern section zig zags – a defensive arrangement. The city walls used to stand on an embankment to the south of this section of the canal but they were dismantled many years ago as the city expanded northwards and a park created where they used to stand. We followed the path along the canal bank through the park.

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We spent the rest of the morning mooching around the pleasant streets in the city centre before grabbing a bite to eat in the cafe on the top floor of the Hudson Bay department store

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from where there are good views over the city.

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The building that the Hudson Bay store occupies was built in the 1930’s for the Vroom en Dreesman store. It’s architecture is modernist in style with Amsterdam School and Art Deco influences. It’s something of a Marmite building – you either love it or hate it – I fall into the former camp! V and D went bust in 2015 and the building was unoccupied the first time we visited Haarlem, but it was taken over by Hudson Bay (a Canadian company) who opened there in 2018.

There are some rather nice stained glass windows in the stairwell and on some of the floors

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After we’d eaten we wandered through the shopping streets down to the Spaarn and made our way to the Tyler’s Museum. Our visit there warrants its own post so to finish this one, here’s a few photos I took around the town (some taken later in the week).

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A Coniston Round

Last Friday I managed to get out again for a walk. This time I decided to go up to Coniston with the intention of climbing Dow Crag and then on to the Old Man of Coniston. I ended up walking a little further than that!

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I parked up in the village and then cut across the fields to join the Walna Crag road just after the old quarry car park.

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I crossed the old pack horse bridge after which the path started to steepen

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My first objective over to the right!

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Dow Crag is at the end of a ridge with two other peaks – Brown Pike and Buck Pike. As I started up towards the first of these there were great views over to nearby fells and valleys – last time I was up here just over 12 months ago I couldn’t see a thing as the fells were covered in low cloud.

I carried on, reaching the top of the pass turning right to start climbing up towards the ridge. Looking west to the Duddon estuary

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The Duddon Valley

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The Scafells over to the northeast. They would soon be shrouded in cloud.

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I carried on along the path towards Buck Pike. Although the east side of the ridge consists of steep, rocky crags that plummet down to the bottom of the valley, the west side is a much gentler slope, so the walking wasn’t difficult .

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Looking across to the Old Man

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and down to Coniston Water

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As I climbed up to Buck Pike, looking down I had a view of Blind Tarn. It got its name as it has no apparent inflow or outflow

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Dow Crag ahead.

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Unlike during my last walk up here, I could see the rocky crags, a favourite haunt of rock climbers. But none were evident.

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Looking down one of the gullies

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The summit of Dow Crag is crowned with a pyramid of rocks. Despite my dislike of heights I clambered up carefully, gritting my teeth and being careful not to get too close to the edge – I’m no crag rat!

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Looking down I could see Goat’s Water, the large tarn in the valley below

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I’d seen a few people as I’d made my way up from Coniston following the same route as me. Some had passed me and raced ahead while with others, walking at a similar pace and occasionally stopping to take in the view (an excuse for a rest?) we kept overtaking each other. As I reached Dow Crag a large party were coming up from the other direction.

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After a brief break for a bite to eat I carried on. The path initially descends to Goats Hawse before climbing up to The Old Man. Last time I’d descended down into the valley and then back to Coniston but this time I carried on climbing. There were plenty of people coming down the other way, most taking the path down to Goat’s Water.

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Looking back to Dow Crag from the hawse

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and down to Goat’s Water

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Climbing the path up the Old Man from the Hawse – I could see a lot of people ahead.

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It was very busy on the summit. The route up to the Old Man from Coniston is very popular. It wasn’t as crowded as when I’d climbed Snowdon a few weeks ago – there isn’t a train! – but there were plenty of people who’d made it to the top.

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I stopped for a while to take in the view and snap a few photos. The weather was improving as the cloud that had been threatening was clearing.

Looking down to Coniston and Coniston Water

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Copper Mine Valley

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Down to Low Water

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The cloud hadn’t cleared from the Scafells

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Dow Crag

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Looking along Brim Fell and the path to Swirl How

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My original plan had been to descend down the “tourist path” to Coniston and have a brew in a cafe, but with the weather being so good and the fells looking so inviting, I decided to carry on along the ridge over Brim Fell to Swirl How and then descend down via Lever’s Water.

I didn’t have to walk too far from the summit to get away from the crowds. Very few people were straying this way or coming from the opposite direction.

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Looking down to Lever’s water

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and, on the other side of the ridge, down to Seathwaite Tarn.

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It had taken less than an hour to reach the summit.

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Time to take in the views!

The cloud had cleared from the Scafells by now.

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Looking over Lingmoor and Little Langdale (where I’d walked the previous week) towards the Helvelyn range and the Fairfield Horseshoe.

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Looking back along the ridge to Brim Fell and the Old Man

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and then there was Weatherlam, the last fell on the ridge.

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I didn’t quite have the summit to myself, but almost. I chatted to another, younger, walker who had been following the same route as myself and there were a couple of other walkers taking various routes. But it was very peaceful compared to the Old Man.

With the weather so good – it’s rare to get such a good day in the Lakes – it looked very inviting, so another change of plan. I had to descend down the “Prison Band” which is a slightly tricky route, to Swirl Hawse and had then intended to follow the path down to Lever’s Water and then down Coppermine Valley back to Coniston. Instead, I decided to carry on and tackle Wetherlam to complete the round.

Loooking towards Little Langdale , Pike o’ Blisco and the Langdale Pikes from the hawse

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Onwards and upwards to Wetherlam

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I passed a mother with her two young sons coming up the Prison Band as I was descending and an older couple with their dog coming from Wetherlam and when I reached the summit I met the young man who I’d been talking to on Swirl How. But that was it.

Here a a few photos of the views from the summit of Wetherlam. They just got better as the day went on!

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Looking across to the Old Man

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I took the path heading southwards along the ridge of the fell which descends fairly gradually towards the Yewdale fells, turning down Hole Rake to Coppermine Valley and then back to Coniston. It’s a fair walk, about two and a half miles to the village

There were outstanding views to Coniston Water

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The path down Coppermine Valley

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Looking back up the valley towards the fells.

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By the time I made it back to the village, all the cafes had closed for the day. The pubs were open, of course, but were very busy with lots of people sitting outside enjoying the sunshine.

It had been probably the longest walk I’d done for a long. I gone a lot further than I’d originally intended, but when the going is good, the good keep going! And I’d thoroughly enjoyed it.

And I hadn’t quite finished. When I’m in Coniston I have to go and have a look at the lake. Especially on such a sunny evening.

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There is a light that never goes out

“When it shall be said in any country in the world my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want; the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness: When these things can be said, there may that country boast its Constitution and its Government” ― Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

Last Saturday we went over to Manchester to see a matinee performance of the current play at The Royal Exchange. The theme of There is a light that never goes out : scenes from the Luddite rebellion is given away in the title – it’s about the Luddites, based on events in Westhoughton (only a few miles from where I’m writing this) and Manchester in 1812.

Luddite is used as a derogative term these days – for people seemingly opposed to progress. But in the early 19th century progress and new technology was putting people out of work, driving down living standards and forcing men, women and children into working long hours at backbreaking work in the new factories and mills. Ordinary working people were powerless – they didn’t have the vote – so the only way they had to strike back was with violence directed at the source of their oppression – the factories and the machinery they contained.

The play is based on factual material – newspaper articles, police reports and eyewitness accounts – studied by the authors and cast. So the story is told from the perspective of the participants – the workers themselves and, also, one of the factory owners who agitated for reform – for the employers but certainly not the workers.

It’s a modern production so isn’t a straight story told scene by scene like a historical drama on TV or in the cinema. The cast take several roles, costumes and props are minimal and music and lighting are used to create the atmosphere and the noise of the factory. The actors speak the words of the workers, but there’s improvisation too using modern language and slang.

The Royal Exchange itself (the building, that is) also features in the play – a protest meeting held there on 8 April 1812, turned into a riot.

Ultimately the Luddites were defeated and they were viciously suppressed by a brutal state. Their cause was, essentially hopeless, as it was impossible for them to stop the march of technology. However, in Manchester and the nearby towns, the spark of rebellion wasn’t extinguished. And neither was the brutality of the state. Only 7 years later, on Monday 16 August 1819, a mass meeting of workers demanding Parliamentary reform, held on Peters Field in Manchester was attacked by cavalry of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry with sabres drawn. 18 people were killed and 400–700 were injured. A massacre that became known as Peterloo. Another defeat for the workers, but struggles continued and eventually their demands were realised. But it took a long time and wasn’t achieved without many other struggles. It wasn’t given to us on a plate.

There’s a lot of events taking place in Manchester at the moment commemorating Peterloo – the play is part of that, I guess in that it celebrates Manchester radicalism. Before the play we called into Manchester City Art Gallery and had a look round the exhibition Get Together and Get Things Done which explores

with people the wider theme of the crowd through international historic and contemporary art and group activity, looking at how an art gallery can be shaped by the crowds that use them.

One of the photographs on display was of a Chartist rally on Kennington Common London in 1848 when people were still campaigning for the more or less the same demands being advocated at Peterloo, 29 years later.

I was struck by this print, produced by L’Atelier Populaire during the 1968 events in Paris.

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Today we are faced with a similar problem as in the 19th Century – the rampant charge of new technology. Is history repeating itself? How will people, and governments, respond?

The Industrial Revolution was the original Northern Powerhouse, but not everyone bought into the future it promised. Angry workers smashed the new machines and were written off as enemies of progress. Their 19th-century complaint, that bosses were using technology as an excuse to beat down the workers, resonates now more strongly than ever.

Royal Exchange website

Lingmoor, Blea Tarn and Little Langdale

Since we returned from our holiday in Anglesey, I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather looking out for opportunities to get out for a walk. Work is usually quiet during July and August and that allows me to take some days off in addition to my holiday weeks. I hope in the future to ease of the workload so I can do more of that!

The first Friday in August promised to be a decent day up in the Lakes so I set off early to drive up the M6 (again!). I’d planned a walk in the Langdales, setting out from Elterwater village, tackling the more modest fell, Lingmoor and then returning via Little Langdale.

It was a bright and sunny morning when I parked up in the National Trust car park in the centre of the village. I took a moment to have a look at the bridge

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I had a quick look at the small village – a former quarrying settlement

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and then set off along the minor road that would take me towards my first objective, Lingmoor.

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It’s a modest fell, only 1538 feet high and so dwarfed by the larger fells that surround it. But it’s known as a great viewpoint and I hadn’t climbed it before.

Wetherlam and the Coniston Fells dominated the view as I set out down Little Langdale.

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The slopes of Lingmoor over to the right of the path

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Starting to climb the fell

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Another grand view of Wetherlam

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The hillside was heavily covered with bracken. These days I’m wary that it could be a source of ticks so I rarely walk in shorts.

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Looking across to Great Langdale

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Helvelyn and the Fairfiled horseshoe peeking over the lower fells to the east of Great Langdale

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Windermere visible in the distance

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Carrying up the hill through slate quarry waste. There was a handy bench to stop, have a butty and take in the view

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Continuing onwards and upwards the path started to shadow the “Great Wall of Lingmoor”

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It’s amazing to think that people actually built these dry stone walls on top of the fells, often in places that are very difficult to access just walking never mind manhandling great lumps of stone. The walls aren’t as old as people think. They were mainly built following the Enclosure Acts of the 18th Century when common land was taken into private ownership and the peasantry lost the right to use the land. So what many would consider an attractive feature of the landscape often, depending on your point of view, represents the greed of the wealthy and oppression of the poor.

Carrying on along the path

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Through the gate at the summit

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Great views in every direction

The Coniston Fells

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Pike ‘o Blisco with Crinkle Crags behind

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Crinkle Crags and Bowfell

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The Langdale Pikes

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Great Langdale with the Helvelyn range and the Fairfield Horseshoe above the lower fells

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Lower down Great Langdale with Loughrigg Fell in view. I could make out the distinctive shape of Ill Bell and some of the other Far Eastern fells in the distance

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Windermere

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I stopped for a while before continuing north along the ridge

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Looking down towards Blea Tarn

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The path followed close to the dry stone wall

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until close to Side Pike

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when I took a path down to the valley

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During the walk, cloud have come in but it was still warm and I completed the walk wearing only a t-shirt. No need for a fleece or jacket.

I walked down the quiet road for a short while then joined the path towards Blea Tarn.

Looking up to Lingmoor

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I reached Blea Tarn, a popular beauty spot, where I stopped for a bite to eat.

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I carried on round the tarn and then joined the road which would take me down to Little Langdale. It’s not usually very busy and I only saw a couple of cars as I descended down to the Wrynose Pass.

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A short walk up the pass and then I took the track across to the other side of the valley

A couple of locals keeping an eye on me!

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Looking back across the valley to Lingmoor

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Passing an old farm building

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The view from the other side

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The view up Little Langdale

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Looking down to Little Langdale Tarn with Lingmoor in the background

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Another old house – I saw several along the valley and most of them were owned by the National Trust

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And another one!

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I diverted off the track over to Slaters Bridge – there’s a reason I particularly wanted to have a look at it (any guesses?)

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The bridge connects Little Langdale with the many slate quarries in the Tilberthwaite area and so is named for the quarry workers who would have used it to travel too and from work.

I had intended to carry on over towards the Three Shires pub and then head back to Elterwater, but it was a grand day and I was feeling good so I decided to extend my walk. So, I turned back to carry on along the path beside the river

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Looking across the valley

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I came across another attractive old house, which had a tea garden! Only one thing to do.

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Refreshed, I continued on the path which went past Colwith Force

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Photographs never do justice to waterfalls, unfortunately. But, although not exactly the Niagara Falls, it was quite impressive.

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I continued following the river

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I crossed this attractive modern bridge

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and then walked downstream to have a look at another waterfall, Skelwith Force

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Heading back upstream the path went along Elterwater (the tarn) towards Elterwater (the village!)

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It wasn’t too far now back to the village – an easy walk along a good flat path.

Reaching the car park I dumped my rucksack in the car and went for some refreshment at the popular Britannia Inn

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Sadly, these days, I’m restricted to non-alcoholic beverages – but it was cold and wet and just what I needed after a long walk.

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I’d gone further than intended but had enjoyed the walk. You need to take advantage of days like this one had been – we’re not getting too many of them this summer.

Parys Mountain and the Copper Kingdom

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In my line of work you almost inevitably become something of a nerd, unable to resist an industrial site, especially a historical one, even when on holiday. So the last day of our stay in Anglesey we drove over to the north east of the island toward the small port of Amlwch , which at one time was the site of a major copper mine.

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Copper has probably been extracted in the area since the Bronze Age, 4000 years ago, but most activity took place from 1768 after The Great Discovery when Roland Pugh a local miner stumbled on a large deposit of copper ore at Parys Mountain,  a couple miles from the small port. His reward was a bottle of whisky and a rent-free house for the rest of his life. That would have seemed like a great deal at the time, no doubt, but it pales into insignificance compared with the amount of money made by owners of what became, for a while, the biggest copper mine in the world.

We parked up in Amlwch and walked over to The Copper Kingdom Centre, in a converted copper ore store on the quayside. This small museum told the story of copper mining in the area. The high point of the industry in the area occurred during the 1780’s when it dominated copper production in the UK. The copper from the mine was used to “copper bottom” the Admiralty’s wooden ships of war, to prevent the growth of seaweed and barnacles and to protect the wood from attack by shipworms.

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Originally the ore was extracted from surface pits and shallow shafts, then by open cast mining, from underground adits. The ore was broken into small lumps by hand, the and shipped to Lancashire or to the Lower Swansea valley in South Wales. The ore was sorted by women – the Copper ladies – which sounded similar to the Pit Brow Lasses who used to be employed in coal mines, particularly in the Lancashire coalfield.

The small harbour expanded due to the need to export the ore Other industries grew up in Amlwch alongside the mining – chemical processing and ship building and repair. The small port becoming a hive of industrial activity. Inevitably the mine became worked out and the other industries also declined, so Amlwch is today a quiet backwater. However, there is thought to be a reserve of about 6 million tonnes beneath the old mine workings. There’s been some thoughts about working the reserves but it’s not currently economic.

After looking round the museum we had a stroll around the harbourside, visited the small maritime museum and had a brew in the cafe, both in the old Sail Loft building. Then it was back to the car to drive the few miles over to Parys Mountain where we were able to wander around the old mine workings. There’s a guided trail, but we didn’t follow it, preferring to wander round on our own.

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It’s a desolate industrial wasteland, and due to the high level of soil contamination, little life can survive here. But it has it’s own strange beauty. With a range of colours it was rather like a 3 dimensional abstract painting.

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the old ruinded windmill standing on top of the wasteland
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