About ms6282

I'm a consultant and trainer specialising in the recognition, evaluation and control of health hazards in the workplace. I'm based in the North West of England, but am willing to travel (almost) anywhere

Le Tour de Britain

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Last Saturday was the final day of the Tour of Britain professional cycling race and the final stage was in Greater Manchester. Starting in Altrincham the route took it through all of the boroughs in the Metropolitan County, including Wigan, before finishing in a sprint on Deansgate in the centre of Manchester.

For many years I’ve followed the Tour de France, mainly watching it on the TV, but have seen 4 stages live – once in Skipton when it visited Britain and 3 times in France. So given as the British Tour was going to pass just a few miles from my house, I decided I should go up to the other side of Haigh Woodland Park and watch the riders speed past.

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And speed past they did! It was a flat stage and so they were pedalling at at 30 or 40 mph as they rode down School Lane, where I was standing amongst the crowd, heading towards Haigh before carrying on through Aspull, Hindley, Atherton and Tyldsley and then on through Salford towards Deansgate. I tried to get some photos, but not being experienced at sports photography, most of my efforts were rather blurred and poorly framed.

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First of all the Police motorbikes sped past followed by a number of cars. The sound of the TV helicopter heralded the arrival of the riders. A single bike was in the lead followed shortly behind by a large breakaway pursuing group. More police, and team cars followed before the arrival, a few minutes later of the peloton. It was all over in about 5 minutes.

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The Council had arranged a number of activities in the park and had a large screen showing the TV broadcast of the race so I stopped to watch. They were going at some pelt and the race was over with the final sprint about 40 minutes after I’d seen them on Scool Lane. That was some going!

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The stage was won by the Dutch rider, Mathieu van der Poel, who was also the overall winner of the race.

A calf, a sheepfold and a waterfall

….. and the site of an iron age settlement.

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Last Saturday I decided to make the most of a fine day and get out for a walk. As usual, the hard decision was where to go. This time I decided I’d drive up to Sedburgh and head out for a walk in the Howgill Fells. I had a route in mind – another longish walk with plenty of interest. Although part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and close to the Lake District, the Howgills (a group of high, grassy hills cut through with deep valleys ) are usually relatively quiet.

I parked up in the market square, got into my walking gear and set out. My route was going to start off fairly easily by following the river bank steady climb up towards Cautley and its waterfall. A steep (very steep, in fact) climb up beside the waterfall would take me up onto the fells and then I’d follow the ridge back to Sedbergh, taking in a few summits.

Leaving the car park I cut through the town centre (not that there’s much of it!), passing the Information centre and some interesting shops and old buildings as I made my way down to the river.

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I joined the path along the river bank at the New Bridge – well it was new in the 18th Century!

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The path followed close the river bank for a few miles

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With views of the Howgill Fells over the fields to the left.

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After a while, the path left the river bank and climbed up to a paved track by Buckback Farm. I had some trouble here. The right of way goes through the farm yard but I couldn’t get through the complicated set of gates so had to find an alternative way through the yard. I’m not sure whether the farmer was deliberately blocking the right of way or it was just my ineptitude and inability to work out how to get the series of gates open. Anyway, I finally got onto the narrow metalled road and followed it as it started to climb. The route ran more or less parrallel to the river but higher up and closer to the fells.

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The metalled road terminated at Thursgill farm and turned into a rougher track. The old stone farmhouse had an interesting neo-Gothic style entrance, added in 1885

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The path carried on along the valley, steadily gaining height. Some stretches were quite muddy and boggy but the views over the valley to the Yorkshire Dales were fantastic on a sunny morning.

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One of the local residents was wondering what I was up to.

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After a couple of hours, a little longer than I’d expected (the route was a little harder going than I’d thought), the path dipped back down to the river as I reached Cautley where I would turn off to climb up on to the fells.

This was the site of an iron age settlement. There was an information board with some details about the site, but to an untrained eye it would have been impossible to know anything had been here. Some scattered rocks on the raised ground were the only remains. The settlement had been built at the foot of Cautley Spout, a waterfall with the highest drop in England, at least for a cascading waterfall above ground. It doesn’t look much in the picture below but the water plunges over the top of the fells falling a total of 650 feet (198 m)  down a series of steps to the valley floor below.

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So now I started to climb up the VERY steep path up beside the falls. It had been raining of late so there was plenty of water tumbling down making it a dramatic sight as the path gets quite close to the water at some points.

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Looking back down to the valley floor – taking a photo was a good excuse for a short break during the steep climb!

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I finally reached the top – it had taken me about half an hour, and then followed the path along the beck (the same one which would tumble down to form the falls) heading towards my next destination, the highest point in the fells, the hill known as the Calf.

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After a short while I spotted this sheepfold – one of a series in Cumbria created by the renowned artist, Andy Goldsworthy.  Red Gill Washfold is a large restored washfold with a built-in cairn to celebrate sheep farming renewal.

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After spending a short while looking at the washfold I continued on along the path which followed the beck as far as the spring that fed the stream.

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Eventually emerging on the ridge that runs across the top of the fells. Visibility on the day was excellent and I was greeted by a fantastic view over to the high fells of the Lake District. There were the Coniston fells, the Scafells, Great Gable, Bow Fell and many of the other high mountains.

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A short climb and I was on the top of the Calf, the highest of the Howgill Fells. It’s a flat plateau which doesn’t have definite peak, but htere were great views in every direction.

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On a fine day like today the main fells in th eLake District would have been bustling with walkers, but there were only a few people up here on the Howgills. There were a couple of guys taking a break and after I’d asked one to take the obligatory photo of me at the trig point (I’m useless at taking selfies) we had a brief chat. They were wild camping over the weekend and were taking it slow, enjoying the walk, the scenery and the weather.

After a short while I continuing my walk, following the path that crosses the fells on the way back to Sedbergh. It’s relatively easy going but with some ups and downs. Other than a fence that crosses the range on Calders there are virtually no man made boundaries on the top of the fells which gives a real sense of freedom. It’s an open access area too, so you’re free to roam and although there are plenty of clear paths many of them aren’t marked on the OS maps.

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Looking over to the Yorkshire Dales. At one point I could see all three of the Three Peaks.

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Looking over towards Morecambe Bay.

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I’d been up here before when we walked up to the Calf from Sedbergh and then returned by the same route. Like then, I took in the summits of Bram Rigg top, Calders and Arant How. This time I decided to continue further along the ridge to take in the summit of Winder.

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Then I started the descent down the steep path back down to the valley. It was hard on my old knees. I find it much tougher going down than climbing up steep slopes these days.

On the way down I passed a small group of the wild ponies that live up on the fells. They didn’t seem to be bothered as I passed close by.

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I was fascinated by their long manes that cover their eyes and faces

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There’s Sedbergh down in the valley.

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I left the fell on the west side of the village, through Lockbank Farm and then made my way back to the centre wandering past a variety of old buildings through the narrow streets. As I expected none of the shops were open. For some bizarre reason they shut at 4 o’clock. Obviously they’re not interested in making money from walkers come back down from the hill. I was surprised to find a cafe that was still open, only shutting at 6, so I took advantage of this to stop for a well earned brew!

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I wandered back along the main street to the car park, passing some independent shops

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and the book shelter

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changed out of my boots and then set off on the journey home. It’s not too far and as the motorway was relatively quiet, it only took me an hour and a quarter.

Another long walk on a warm sunny day. I wonder how many more opportunities I’ll have before the end of the year?

A walk from Littleborough to Todmorden

For my second walk during the hot and sunny Bank Holiday weekend, not wanting to endure the inevitably busy traffic, I decided to take the train over to Littleborough. I’d worked out a route that would take me over to Todmorden, taking in a stretch of the Pennine Way. It was a long walk but doable. As it happens I ended up extending it a little.

Arriving at the station, a short walk along the road I was on a minor road that crossed the canal and then became a track that was soon out into the fields. A path then took me through some woods, past a farm and then past the golf course with views of the hills opening up.

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The low cloud that was hanging over Wigan and Manchester had cleared by the time I reached Littleborough. It was sunny and becoming hot and there was barely a breeze. The wind turbines on the hills were completely still.

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The line of pylons carrying power cables that stretch out over the moors brought to mind a poem by Stephen Spender that I’d studied for my O Level in English Literature. Here’s an extract

The Pylons

The secret of these hills was stone, and cottages
Of that stone made,
And crumbling roads
That turned on sudden hidden villages

Now over these small hills, they have built the concrete
That trails black wire
Pylons, those pillars
Bare like nude giant girls that have no secret.

by Stephen Spender (extract)
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Can’t say I’ve seen many nude girls that look quite like that, mind!

I guess that the modern day equivalent are the Wind Turbines of which I could see plenty on the nearby hills during my walk.

I’d originally planned to climb up the “Roman road”, that would let me join the Pennine Way to the north of Blackstone Edge. As it happens as I reached the path that would lead me to the start of the ascent, looking up to Blackstone Edge I decided to divert and climb the edge, taking the path up to the south of the summit, adding 2 or 3 miles to my planned route.

Looking down to Hollingworth Lake as I climbed

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A couple of curious locals ahead

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The top of Blackstone Edge ahead

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It didn’t take too long to reach the top of the hill with it’s jumble of millstone grit bolders

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I stopped by the trig point for a short break and a bite to eat. Just like on Friday, long range visibility wasn’t so great but the views over the moors were still OK.

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I was now on the Pennine way so followed the path heading northwards. Looking back to the Edge.

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I reached the Aiggin stone

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The Pennine Way then descended down the “Roman road”

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before turning north by the drain – a waterway taking water from one of the reservoirs that feed the Rochdale canal

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It wasn’t too long before I reached the White Horse pub on the A58 which runs over the Pennines from Littleborough to Halifax.

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Crossing over there’s a short walk stretch of road before the Pennine way continues along a gravel path that’s used a a service road for a string of reservoirs.

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This path extends for a few miles and is pretty flat. It’s reputedly the easiest stretch of the Pennine Way. The lack of inclines means it’s also one of the least interesting stretches, but on a fine day there were good views over the moors and the water in the reservoirs was a lovely bright blue.

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About a mile along the track I reached this little bridge, which I crossed and then walked along to an outcrop of millstone grit in a former quarry

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Inscribed on the rock is a poem

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This one of the Stanza Stones – poems by Simon Armitage (the new Poet Laureate) inscribed on rocks on the moors between Marsden (his home town) and Ilkley, all about an aspect of the water which frequently falls on these moors. This is the Rain Stone

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Unusually (!) it wasn’t raining today, but it had been a few days before and the moors off the path were wet and boggy.

Rejoining the path I carried on heading north passing a string of small reservoirs.

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After passing the last of the reservoirs, the path continued over the boggy moor. Fortunately flagstones have been laid down over the boggiest section other it would have meant walking through a quagmire. There’s a reason why Simon Armitage located his Stanza Stones up here!

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Soon, Stoodley Pike came into view

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It didn’t look so far off, but sometimes your eyes can deceive you!

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Carrying on, Todmorden and the nearby villages came into view down in the valley

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and looking in the opposite direction towards Cragg Vale, home of the Coiners

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My plan was to descend down the Calderdale Way and follow it to Todmorden where I’d catch the train back to Wigan. Looking north along the Pennine Way, Stoodley Pike didn’t look so far off and I was tempted to continue onwards.

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But I’d extended my walk by a few miles already by tackling Blackstone Edge so I decided to stick to my original intention.

The path was an old packhorse trail and had been paved, making the walking relatively easy.

I was greeted by a couple of sheep as I entered the small village of Mankinholes

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It’s small village of old traditional Pennine houses, an ancient settlement, going back to the 13th century, and some of the houses were built in the 17 th century. They would probably have been originally occupied by textile workers, weavers and spinners, who worked from home, so the houses have the typical rows of mullioned windows that allowed maximum light into the first floor work rooms.

I reckon that later on, after the Industrial Revolution had killed off the domestic textile industry, the occupants probably went to work in the mill in nearby Lumbutts – there’s an old path across the fields between the two villages and that was what I followed.

Lumbutts isn’t as old, coming into existence along with the mill in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Reaching Lumbutts I passed the local pub which, on a Bank Holiday afternoon, was busy with customers enjoying a meal and a pint.

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Time was getting on so I didn’t stop but carried on to have a look at the village chapel

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It’s rather a large chapel for a small village but probably served the surrounding area. It was only constructed in 1911, replacing an earlier building. The ground floor was used for the Sunday School with the main chapel above it.

I rejoined the Calderdale way which carried on along the road and down the hill towards the old mill. The only thing left is the unusual old tower.

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The mill was water powered and the tower contained three water wheels, one on top of the other, powered from lodges on the hills above.

I carried on along the road for a while passing the rows of terraced workers’ houses

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A short while further on the Calderdale Way turned off the road to start crossing some fields. Looking across to Stoodley Pike

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I passed a number of old, traditional houses which are now expensive, desirable residences

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Soon I could see Todmordem, but it was still a way off

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I carried on along the Calderdale way through fields and along a country lane, eventually arriving at the small former textile town down in the bottom of the narrow valley.

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Todmorden used to split by the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire and the neo-Classical Town Hall actually straddles the border.

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Since Local Government reorganisation it’s been entirely in West Yorkshire, but remnants of the old loyalties remain. My walk had taken me from Littleborough in Lancashire (well, Greater Manchester these days) and across the border into West Yorkshire. But it would be difficult to tell the difference as the landscape and architecture across the South Pennines is essentially the same.

I’d run out of water a couple of miles before reaching the town (should have stopped at that pub!) so needed to get some cold liquid. It was nearly 5 o’clock and everything seemed shut but I managed to find an off licence were I was able to buy a couple of bottles of diet coke from the fridge for a couple of quid. The cold liquid and caffeine were more than welcome and I quickly downed the contents of one of the bottles saving the second for the journey home.

I didn’t have too much time to look round before the next train was due so I made my way to the station. It was running 10 minutes late and I might have otherwise missed it (although they run every half hour). Just over an hour later I was back in Wigan.

Another grand walk on what was probably going to be the last sunny day for a while. I also feel that September is the beginning of Autumn, so this was my last walk during this year’s summer. But Autumn can be a good time for walks too – so fingers crossed!

A walk around Rivington

The August Bank Holiday weekend was forecast to be a scorcher so I was determined to get out to make the most of what was likely to be the best weather for some time. But it was a Bank Holiday and I certainly didn’t fancy sitting in a lengthy traffic jam on the motorway. I also didn’t want to miss seeing the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final which was taking place at Wembley on the Saturday (I wasn’t going down to London but wanted to watch the match on TV, even though our biggest rivals were playing). Any road, with a little thought and planning I managed to devise a couple of routes that would allow me to get out on the hills which avoiding these problems.

On the Saturday morning I was up reasonably early and was soon heading out to drive the short distance to Rivington where I parked up on the car park up near the school. I’d decided to head up to the top of the Pike and then work my way back down and follow a route along the Yarrow and Rivington reservoirs back to the car.

Despite having been up the Pike many, many times I managed to find a path up through the terraced gardens I hadn’t followed before.

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I reached the top of the Pike. There were a few other people up there, but it would get busy later on a sunny Bank Holiday weekend.

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Long range visibility wasn’t so great, but I had a view down to the reservoirs

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and, in the opposite direction, over to Winter Hill (the path over the peaty moor looked rather glutinous after all the recent rain – glad I hadn’t decided to walk over there today)

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and looking over Anglezarke Moor to Great Hill. On a good day I’d have been able to see as far as Pendle Hill and the Yorkshire Dales, but not today.

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After a short rest I set off back down the hill, walking past the Pigeon Tower, recently restored – and a good job the volunteers have done too.

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Looking down towards Yarrow Reservoir.

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I followed the old road down the hill. It was very rough to say the least.

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I walked past the Hall Barn and then cut across the fields to Rivington Village where I stopped for a brew and a bacon butty at the village cafe. Refuelled, I took the path from the village over towards Yarrow Reservoir which I circumnavigated.

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Looking across the reservoir towards Winter Hill and Rivington Pike

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Looking down to Anglezarke Reservoir

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I took the path down beside the “waterfall” (the over flow from Yarrow Reservoir)

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and then crossed the dam between the Anglezarke and Upper Rivington Reservoirs.

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I followed the path southwards along the west shore. Looking across I could see Rivington Pike

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Reaching the dam, I crossed over and then took the path along the east shore of Lower Rivington Reservoir, diverting half way along to take a couple of photos of the “Saxon Barn” (officially Great Hall Barn). As I’d expected, although I hadn’t seen too many people up to now on my walk, the car park and cafe at the barn were heaving. A lot of people drive over here, park up stop for a brew and then maybe take a short stroll. But most don’t stray too far from their cars.

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Back on the path, I eventually reached “Liverpool Castle” – a folly based on the original Liverpool Castle (which no longer exists) by Lord Leverhulme, the local lad “made good” (he founded Lever Brothers, now part of Unilever) who used to own the land round here and created the Terraced Gardens.

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It was a short walk back to the car park where I changed out of my boots and, after stopping to fill up the car on the way home, arrived back in good time to watch Saints get stuffed in the Challenge Cup Final – so a great day all round!

Ruskin, Turner and the Storm Cloud

John Ruskin, the noted Victorian Art Critic and Social and Political thinker was born 8th of February 1819. Consequently a number of exhibitions and other events are being held around the country to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. Ruskin spent his last years at Brantwood on the shores of Coniston Water, overlooking the Old Man and the other fells, so had a strong connection with the Lake District. Abbot Hall in Kendal have a strong connection with Ruskin and have a number of his drawings and watercolours in their collection. So, it’s not surprising that in this celebratory year they’re holding an exhibition.  Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud has been produced in partnership with York Art Gallery and University of York and is showing in Kendal from 12 July to 5 October.

Ruskin championed the work of the great British artist JMW Turner, proclaiming him to be ‘the greatest of the age’ and so the exhibition is intended to be

the first in-depth examination of the relationship between both men, their work, and the impact Ruskin had in highlighting climate change.

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Our first ever visit to Abbot Hall, way back in April 2012, was to see another exhibition featuring the works of Turner – Turner and his Contemporaries: The Hickman Bacon Watercolour Collection – we’ve been back many times since.

The exhibition includes a large number of paintings and drawings by both Ruskin and Turner, together with some by their contemporaries, and occupies the whole of the first floor of the Gallery.

The curators also commissioned contemporary artist Emma Stibbon to produce some large scale works in response to Ruskin’s concerns about the environment.

In June 2018, Royal Academician Stibbon retraced the steps of Turner and Ruskin visiting the Alps. She took the route made by Ruskin in June 1854 when he produced a series of daguerreotypes (early photographs) of Alpine scenery, to see what remains of the glaciers today.

Her work shows how geography has been impacted by climate change over the last two centuries.

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Turner’s paintings are usually nothing short of breathtaking and that was certainly the case with those works – mainly watercolours of British and alpine landscapes – included in the exhibition

JMW Turner, The Passage of Mount St Gothard, Taken from the Centre of the Teufels Broch (Devil’s Bridge), 1804 © Lakeland Arts Trust

Ruskin himself wasn’t a bad draftsman and water-colourist himself (although his paintings are not in Turner’s league, there aren’t many artists who are) and the exhibition featured a large number of his architectural drawings and landscapes. During his time at Brantwood he painted many pictures of the lake and fells, including this one of the Old Man seen from his home over the lake.

ohn Ruskin, Dawn, Coniston, 1873, Watercolour over pencil, Acquired with the support of a V&A Purchase Grant and the Friends of Abbot Hall, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria

During his travels in the Alps Ruskin photographed a glacier in the Alps, near Chamonix (photography being yet another of his interests)

John Ruskin and Frederick Crawley’s ‘Chamonix, Mer de Glace, Mont Blanc Massif’ photograph taken in June 1854

Emma Stibbon returned to the glacier and took photographs using another early photographic process, cyanotype, from the same position. Her images reveal just how far it had retreated as a result of climate change.

Stibbon is quoted in the Guardian

When we think of the Alps,” said Stibbon, “we think of iconic white peaks. By the end of this century, there probably won’t be any snow.”Advertisement

She added that Ruskin was ahead of his time in realising “the Industrial Revolution was affecting air quality and that air pollution was linked to the use of coal. He could see that glaciers move and I think he suspected that there was some [ice] recession, which would have been starting around that period in the 1850s.”

Another interesting and thought provoking exhibition at Abbot Hall.

Last day in Haarlem

Our flight home at the end of our short holiday didn’t leave Schipol until after 7 o’clock, so we had more a less a full day before we got the bus to the airport. I had a wander along the canal first thing before we had to leave our little house.

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We dropped our bags at our daughter’s work, went for a coffee and then had a wander round town, mooching round the pleasant shopping streets. There was a small market on in the Botermarkt

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After grabbing a bite to eat we decided to visit Sint Bavo, the Grote Kerk. We’d been inside before a couple of years ago but decided we’d like another look round. There’s an entry fee, but it’s quite reasonable.

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We caught the end of one of the regular organ recitals held in massive Gothic building. Installed in 1738, the organ is huge – it covers the whole west wall of the church and is almost 30 metres high. It’s something of a tourist attraction in it’s own right and has been played by Handel and Mozart.

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The floor of the church is covered with gravestones. We spotted the grave of Pieter Teyler, who left the money for the museum that bears his name.

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Afterwards we wandered down to the river to meet son and daughter by the windmill – they’d been spending the last afternoon together.

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We walked back to the Grote Markt and had a final drink (mint tea!) then it was time to pick up our bags and say goodbye.

We’d had a good little holiday in Haarlem and the weather had been kind – much better than we’d expected from the weather forecast we’d seen before we arrived. The week had just disappeared and it’s not easy to leave your daughter behind, even if she is grown up 😦 We’re planning to go back for Christmas – providing we can find somewhere suitable to stay. And now we’re just about coming to the end of summer that’s not so long off.

Haarlem Jazz

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Our visit to Haarlem coincided with the annual Jazz Festival which started on the Wednesday and ran through until Sunday. We’d hoped to catch some of the music on the Wednesday and Thursday before we headed for home on Friday. On Wednesday evening, however, it poured down more or less continuously so after spending some time watching one of the acts on the opening night, we decided to call it quits and retreated to Tierney’s bar! The next night was much better. It didn’t rain and we were able to sample some of the music and atmosphere.

On the Wednesday there was only one stage, set up in the Grote Markt, but the next night three more stages opened up. 2 other stages around the Grote Kerk – on Oude Groenmarkt and Klokhuisplein – and another venue at the Pletterij , on the outskirts of the town centre.

From what we saw there wasn’t much jazz being played at the Jazz festival, which is why it’s actually billed as Haarlem Jazz and more. On Thursday the main stage was occupied by a couple of performers playing / performing electronic dance music, which is very big in the Netherlands. Not my scene at all, but clearly loved by the audience of mainly young adults.

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The other two stages around the Grote Kerk seemed to be devoted to soul music. Looking at the programme the “real” jazz seemed to be playing at the Pletterij .

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Soul Six on the Klokhuisplein stage
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We spent most of our time listening to a band on the smaller stage in the on Oude Groenmarkt . Uncle Sue are a local band and with a female singer and a horn section who were performing Stax style soul music. They were a good live act and much more up my street!

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