Clitheroe and Downham

Now I’ve more free time I’ve been thinking about getting myself an e-bike. I used to do a lot of cycling at one time – more than 15 years ago to be honest, but my bike, a decent hybrid, has hardly been out of the shed since then. I’m not sure that the old legs could cope with the hulls around here these days so an e-bike does sound appealing. But they’re not cheap, especially some of the ones I’ve been looking at. The Ribble Hybrid AL e Trail has particularly caught my eye, but it’s expensive, costing £2000 more than the non-electric equivalent. Can I justify the cost? Well I thought I should go and take a look. The company have a showroom on the outskirts of Clitheroe, an hour’s drive away, so it seemed sensible to go and have a look. And given a decent weather forecast we decided to make a day of it. No, not a day in the bike showroom but after sussing out the bike we spent the rest of the day in and around Clitheroe.

First stop was Holmes Mill, aformer textile mill close to the centre of town that’s been convered into a food hall, beer hall, brewery, hotel and cinema.

We parrked up and had a look round the food hall. Lot’s of tasty stuff on display, much of it local produce from Bowland and the Ribble Valley.

The food also serve light meals and drinks so as it was midday and we aere starting to feel hungry so grabbed a table outdoors – it was already starting to get busy – and ordered a couple of “planks” from the menu. They arrived promptly.

Well fed, we drove the short distance into town centre and parked up. The next destination was Clitheroe Castle which stands on a prominent hill surrounded by 16 acres of park land in the centre of town. Clitheroe is a pleasant market town with mainly independent shops and is the home of a certain WordPress blogger! We had visited the Castle before, but that was a long time ago when our offspring were very small and we took them to see the castle. I think the last time I was in the town properly (not counting driving through it or visiting a client on the outskirts) was when I was conducting some research in the Library for a project which investigated the impact of the local cement work’s plan to burn waste solvents to fire the kiln during my studies for my Masters.

On our way up to the castle we passed one of the markers for the Lancashire Witches’ Walk, a 51-mile (82 km) long-distance footpath between Barrowford and Lancaster, opened in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the trials of the Pendle witches.

The poet laureate,  Carol Ann Duffy, was commissioned to write a poem for the trail and Ten cast iron tercet waymarkers, designed by Stephen Raw, each inscribed with the name of one of those executed (in this case Isabel Robey – who was actually from St Helens but was hanged with the women from Pendle) a verse of the poem the have been installed at sites along the route. This was the fourth marker on the trail,

A short steep climb and we reached the castle

The Norman keep – the second smallest in England – was built in the late 12th century and was garrisoned by a small company of troops to keep an eye ont he strategic route along the Ribble Valley.

On a fine day there were good views all around from the battlements surrounding the kep

Looking towards Pendle Hill
The view towards the Bowland Fells
The hills of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance

There are several other buildings in the Castle grounds that house the town museum It isn’t free entry but decided to visit. As with many local museums it’s exhibits are mainly aimed at children (I bet they have a lot of school visits during the year) but we found plenty of interest, particularly about the history of the castle, town and local industry.

A recreated Victorian kitchen in the museum
A textile work in the museum rembering the Pendle Witches

There was an exhibition of paintings and other exhibits on the theme of cycling (quite relevant given the original reason for our trip over here) in the Steward’s House – this is the building where the landlord’s representative lived.

The castle site remained in private ownership until 1920, when it was sold to the people of Clitheroe for a consirable sum to create a war memorial. We though that the landlord was rather mean spirited, and could have donated the castle and the land to the town, but that’s the landlord class for you. The town raised more than they needed to pay off the landlord so the surplus was used to create the pleasant park.

A very poignant memorial

We returned to the car and decided to drive over to the small village of Downham, a few miles away. It’s a very picturesque, small village at the bottom of Pendle Hill. The properties are all owned by the Assheton family who rent or lease them out and they don’t allow residents to install overhead electricity lines, aerials or satellite dishes. This has made the village a popular location for filming period TV programmes and films, including the BBC One series Born and Bred. More notably it was the main location for the 1961 Bryan Forbes film, Whistle Down the Wind.

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I’ve been there several times, last time a couple of years ago with the offspring, but this was a first for J. We’re both fans of the film and so after stopping for an ice cream at the small cafe / shop, we went for a short walk where I was able to point out the main locations used in the film.

The farmhouse where Hayley Mills and her film sister and brother lived with Worsall Hill behind. The hill features at the beginning of the film when the children are seen running across and down it.
The barn where Alan bates playing the runaway murderer hides.
Pendle Hill seen across the fields during our walk

After returning to the village set off back to Clitheroe where we’d decided to eat out, but as it was a little too early, we decided to drive over to the riverside Brungerley Park where ther’e a sculpture trail. There isn’t a car park but given the time of the day (early evening) we had no trouble finding a place to park on the road close to the entrance to the park.

Here’s a selection of the sculptures, including some by Halima Cassell, who’s work, complex geometric scultpures, I rather like.

Common Comfrey by Halima Cassell
As The Crow Flies by David Halford
Fir Cone by Halima Cassell
Otter by Fiona Bowley
The Ribble King by Matthew Roby
Sika Deer by Clare Bigger

We spet a good hour or so meandering through the park on a mild evening but it was time to go and get something to eat! We’d decided to return to Holmes Mill and eat in the Beer Hall, where it looked like they had a decent “pub grub” menu. They also have a very extensive beer menu, including a range of Bowland beers that are brewed on the premises.

The beer hall – I took the photo during our earlier visit – it was surprisingly busy in the evening when we returnedgiven that it was a Wednesday. I bet it’s heaving at the weekend.
The mill engine that used to power the textile machinery.

The food was pretty good – and very filling. These is the lamb kebabs I ordered

Feeling stuffed after our meal it was time to set off for home. We’d had a very enjoyable and busy day. I think I really out to get out into the Ribble Valley more often.

A visit to Windermere Jetty Museum

Leaving Blackwell we decided to drive over to, another Lakeland Arts site, the Windermere Jetty Museum, a short drive away on the other side of Bowness. We’d visited before, just before the first lockdown, but though we could spend a little time there revisiting the exhibits and enjoying a brew on the lakeside.

As it turned out we spent longer there than we expected as there were a couple of art exhibitions – normally they would probably have been shown at Abbot Hall but with that still be shut for refurbishment I guess Lakeland Arts were taking advantage of the facilities here.

First, though, we had a look around the main displays

One of the exhibitions, shown in the main building in a room with a view over the lake, featured large scale abstract watercolours by Barbara Nicholls, an artist from Cheshire.

Her technique used to create these works involved laying out large sheets of heavy weight
paper on the studio floor, which were then wetted before applying the pigments which would then begin to spread out by capillary action – just like ink dropped onto wet blotting paper. The skill of the artist is then to manipulate and control the pigment. The finished works being made up of sections from several of these sheets cut and then collated to form a whole.

These monumental watercolours emerge from a process of manipulating coloured pigment in large quantities of water. The pigments behave in a variety of ways; some gather in dark, opaque pools, others are translucent, lapping at the paper to form gentle tidal marks.

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It was quite appropriate for paintings created by the movement of water to be displayed in a room with a view over the Lake.

The second exhibition was in the old fire station that had been relocated from Bowness village to the grounds of the museum

Dovetailing is an immersive installation by Sculptor Juliet Gutch in collaboration with composer and viola player Sally Beamish and filmmaker Clare Dearnaley inspired by luthiery (the making of stringed musical instruments). 

Entering the small building we encountered a darkened room with wooden mobiles suspended from the ceiling with a film being projected onto a screen.

The mobiles were made up of wooden shapes resembling shavings produced during the planing of the wood used in the construction of a violin or viola. The film, with the soundtrack by Sally Beamish, included natural sounds, the workshop process during the manufacture of a violin and the movement of the mobile forms.

Then it was time for a brew. It was a pleasant day so we sat outside looking over the water (there are good views from inside the cafe too)

I liked the wooden shelters that had been built by the museum staff using boat building techniques

Leaving the museum we weren’t ready to set off for home so we drove into the village centre, parked up and went for a walk along the lake.

There is very little of the east side of Windermere where it’s possible to walk along the lakeside. Most of the land is privately owned and access isn’t possible for the hoi poloi – reflecting the theme of the exhibition we’d visited at Blackwell that morning. The main exceptions are Fell Foot, at the south end of the lake, and Cockshott Point, a stretch of parkland where we were walking at Bowness. Both of these are owned by the National Trust. Cockshott Point was bought by the Trust with the help of a certain Mrs Heelis (better known as Beatrix Potter) who sold some paintings to raise funds for the purchase. Without this intervention it would have been likely that the land would be sold to a private buyer who would have prevented access.

There’s more of a “right to roam” on the west side of the Lake (formerly in Lancashire!), but, again this is due to the intervention of the National Trust. I think a lot of people think the NT is all about preserving manor houses, but their original vision was about opening up the countryside and without them large area of the lake District and other parts of the country wouldn’t be readily accessible.

So our say in the Lakes ended as it started, with us reflecting on how access to the countryside and the lake shores is still limited and how we need to continue to campaign for the “Right to Roam”.

Sizergh Castle. A walk, a meal and a concert.

A few weeks ago we had tickets for a concert in Kendal by This is the Kit. Rather than just drive up in the late afternoon for the evening performance we decided to make a day of it. We had thought of visiting Blackwell as we hadn’t been there for a while, but found that they were installing a new exhibition that would open a couple of days later so it wasn’t the best time to go. We’ll get up there soon though, Something in Common tells the story of England’s countryside and the peoples’ fight for Common Land, a theme right up my street, so to speak. So, instead we decided on visiting Sizergh Castle, a National Trust property, as we hadn’t been there for quite some time.

The National Trust website describes the property as a “beautiful medieval house with rich gardens and estate“, and I think that pretty much sums it up. The house isn’t owned by the Trust though – this is one of those sites where the owners couldn’t afford to pay for the upkeep of the house and estate so made a deal with the Trust. The castle with its garden and estate is in the care of the National Trust but the house is still owned by Hornyold-Strickland family – a type of arrangement I’m not comfortable with. Most of the house is open to the public, but there’s a private residential wing and I expect the family use the hall for entertaining outside he NT’s opening hours. I’m not sure whether they live there full time, mind.

We parked up and after a coffee went for our self-guided tour of the hall and gardens.

The oldest part of the house, the defensive tower, was built in the mid 14th century. It used to be thought that it was a pele tower, built as a defence from marauding Scots, but these days is considered to be a “solar tower” as it contained private living space for the owners, for their “sole” use – hence the name. A true pele tower was a defensive structure that could be used by the local population when being harassed by the reivers.

The most impressive features of the house for me were the oak panelling and fireplace surrounds.

Some of the panelling had been sold to the V&A in the 1890’s. However it was returned in 1999 on a long-term loan.

As usual with these “stately homes” there was a large collection of paintings, particularly portraits, and we spotted a couple by the local lad George Romney. The Strickland family were Catholics and strong supporters of the Stuart monarchy and one room is full of portraits of the monarchs from that dynasty.

The gardens are particularly impressive. Our previous visit had been during the autumn so the colours were much fresher and greener in early summer. However, I reckon they would look good whatever the season.

The limestone rock garden, which was created in the 1920s, is the largest of it’s type under the National Trust’s stewardship.

I always like a good vegetable garden!

After looking round the garden we returned to the cafe for a light meal before setting out for a walk around the grounds. A misunderstanding on my part meant we ended up following the longer set route which was more than J intended. I blame my poor colour vision for misreading the map!

After walking through some fields and meadows the route took us into the woods of Brigsteer Park

and then on to Park End where a short diversion down a boardwalk took us to a hide overlooking a recreated wet land.

Park End Moss, which is on the edge of the Lyth Valley, was once an area of degraded farmland that’s been “rewilded” by the National Trust into a wetland haven for wildlife. It’s probably how much of the valley would have looked before it was drained to create agricultural land.

Looking back as we climbed the hill up towards the nearby farm we had a good view over the wetland with Whitbarrow dominating the far side of the valley (I must get up there one of these days).

We then had a steep climb for a while to take us to the top of a ridge overlooking the valley (I was getting in trouble now for misinterpreting the map).

A short diversion along the ridge as far as St John’s church

allowed a view over the valley right across to the Lake District Fells. Worth the climb (at least I thought so).

We then followed the route back down through woods and field to Sizergh (down hill more or less all the way), passing some typical Cumbrian farmhouses (I think they’re rented out now as holiday cottages by the Trust).

The cafe was closing up as we reached the hall complex so there wasn’t time for a final brew, so we returned to the car and drove over to Kendal which only took about 15 minutes . We had a mooch around the town centre, including the obligatory visit to Waterstones where, as frequently happens, books were purchased. We then picked up some supplies from Booths supermarket followed by a tour around the one way system so that we could park up before we made our way to the Brewery Arts Centre. There were no spaces left in their car park so another trip around the one way system was needed to find a space on an alternative convenient car park – free after 6 pm – near Abbot Hall (which has been closed for the past few years as it’s being renovated. Hopefully it will be reopening soon – fingers crossed)

We’d decided to eat in the Arts Centre restaurant. Having never been there before I was surprised just how large it was and there seemed to be plenty of customers, many taking advantage of an early evening pizza deal. We were too late to take advantage of that but, in any case, I was very pleased with my choice of a rather tasty pie with sweet potato fries, followed by

a pudding to mark the state of our nation i.e. an Eton Mess.

I rather liked this tapestry representing different aspects of Kendal, that wa son the wall of the restaurant.

We finished in good time for a pre concert drink and then on to the gig.

I’ve known of This is the Kit for a number of years – they’re played regularly on Radio 6 Music – and enjoy their work, and I wasn’t disappointed with the concert. I was impressed with the venue. It was larger than expected but with the main seating area quite steeply banked there was a good view of the stage from most seats. I think it’s likely we’ll be returning in the future as we can combine a concert with a day out in the southern Lakes and a nice meal in the restaurant! I’ll be keeping an eye on their “What’s on” page on their website.

After the concert we headed back to the car passing the Leyland Motors Clock that once stood on Shap summit but in 1973 was relocated to stand outside the Brewery Arts Centre.

So, all in all, a good day out.

A day in Cartmel

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Last Thursday, was a special birthday for J . After most of May had been cold and wet, we woke up to a warm sunny morning and a blue sky. Someone was smiling on her!

We’d planned to go out for the day with a special family dinner time (midday up here!) meal booked in Rogan’s bistro in Cartmel. So after J had opened her presents everyone got ready and we set off up the M6.

It was a beautiful day in Cartmel and as we had 30 minutes or so before our booking, we had a short stroll around the village. There were quite a few people around enjoying the sunshine and it seemed that some had arrived a couple of days early before the traditional Whit race meeting which started on Saturday. Spectators were allowed this year.

The village shop
Cartmel Priory church

Then on to the bistro

Rogan and Co. is branded as the “relaxed neighbourhood restaurant in the magical village of Cartmel“and is part of the culinary empire of Simon Rogan which includes L’Enclume, which is just round the corner, and which featured in second episode of series one of The Trip which starred Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  L’Enclume would have been pushing the budget a bit, but Rogan and Co., with it’s Michelin Star, was still a special birthday experience.

All the courses were nicely presented and were very tasty. These were my choices

Non-alcoholic G & T
Freshly baked bread
Roasted lamb, pickled jasmine, pea & mint – chunks of lamb shoulder immersed in a pea based sauce (veloute?)
Roasted skate wing, asparagus, turnip & mussel cream
Mascarpone sponge, gooseberry, yoghurt & woodruff
Fudge, accompanying the after dinner coffee
J’ pud – Dark chocolate fondant, celery milk & maldon sea salt

After I settled the bill, feeling full, but not over stuffed (the sign of a well balanced meal) we went for another wander around the viallge, across the racecourse and through the woods, making the most of the start of summer – especially as we’d been rather starved of sunshine during May this year.

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The former Priory gate house
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The old village lock up
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Kendal Castle

After our visit to the Windermere Jetty we decided to spend the afternoon in Kendal, which is only a short drive from Windermere. Abbot Hall has closed for renovation and moernisation so we won’t be visiting as often as we have over the past 10 years, but it’s a pleasant town with some decent shops. We wanted to restock with some coffee beans and tea from Farrars and pick up some supplies from the Booths supermarket in Waignwright Yard (makes a change from Tesco) and we thought we’d walk up to the castle, as we hadn’t been there for a while.

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The Castle was built in the early 12th Century on a glacial hill left behind from the last ice age, to the east of the town. It was more of a fortified manor house  for the local barons, than a military stronghold, but it would have dominated the town, looking over it from it’s prominent high position. And it would have been a potent symbol of their wealth and power. The most well known family to be barons of Kendal were the Parr’s, whose most famous member was Katherine Parr, the sixth and last Queen of Henry VIII. Although some locals claim that Katherine was born in the castle this seems unlikely as it was no longer the family’s main residence at the time she was born. The castle was acquired for the town in 1896 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and is currently in the care of English Heritage. Effectively a public park, it’s a popular spot for locals and visitors for a stroll and to take in the good views on a good day.

Although cloud had come in since the morning visibility was still fairly good and there was a good view from the castle over the town and across to nearby fells. There was still some snow up on the summits.

Looking over the town to the Lakeland Fells
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Zooming in on Red Screes
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Yoke and Ill Bell in Kentdale
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Looking eastwards

Afterwards we walked down into the town passing many interesting old buildings. I’ll have to make a special visit, I think, to take some photos.

After we’d done our shopping we decided that rather than head straight home and get stuck in traffic on the M6 we’d drive the short distance to Staveley and have our tea in the Royal Oak. We arrived a little early as they only start serving food at 7, but that wasn’t a problem as that gave us a chance to relax with a (non-alcoholic in my case) pint!

Plas Mawr

During our day in Conway, after visiting the castle and before our walk along the walls, we decided to pay a visit to Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan town house on the main street in the middle of the town. It’s owned by Cadw and has been beautifully restored.

Plas Mawr is Welsh for the ‘Great Hall’, and it was built between 1576 and 1585, at a total cost of around £800, for a wealthy merchant, Robert Wynn, the third son of a local landowner who’d made his fortune by working for a Tudor diplomat, which led to him travelling across Europe. When he returned home to North Wales, he had the house built and it’s design is influenced by the Flemish buildings that had impressed him during his travels. After his death legal complications meant that ownership of the house took time to resolve and so it was left untouched, which is why it hasn’t changed much over the years.

Entrance is through the gatehouse which is on High Street. Visitors then pass through a small courtyard into the main building. It’s a self-guided tour but visitors are provided with one of those audio guides that you point at a data point to listen to the relevant commentary.

Robert Wynn wanted to impress his visitors to show off his wealth and the house has a number of features to try and achieve this, including some very fancy plasterwork. There were examples of this in the first room we visited, the hall. Cadw have had it restored, wit the figures of “Greek” priestesses and other symbols painted in bright colours. The owner’s initials featuring prominently.

There was plasterwork all over the house, even in the kitchen. It must have cost a fortune to have all this work done by travelling craftsmen.

After looking round the kitchen and pantry, the next stop was the brewery – an important room as until relatively recently water wasn’t fit to drink so the “small beer” (dilute ale) was the staple drink. Stronger beer would also have been brewed here.

The commentary made a point of stressing that the brewery was located directly underneath the master’s bedroom and that he would have had to endure some strong odours on brew day!

We then visited the courtyard and restored Elizabethan garden where we got a good view of the exterior. Notable features are the tower and the stepped gables, influenced by Flemish architecture and which would have been very unusual in North Wales.

Some of what looked like the original woodwork was visible on the exterior doors

Back inside we went upstairs to the top of the house. The large attic is where the servants would have slept.

The timber roof has arch-braced collar trusses, joined using an unusual system called “double pegging”, which was only used in the Conwy valley during the late 16th century.

In 1683 the Mostyns, who were a powerful family in North Wales, took over ownership of the house and over the years it was used for various purposes, with rooms subdivided and let out as cheap lodgings and at one time an infant school occupied some of the rooms. Cadw have furnished one of the rooms on the top floor of the house to show ho it would have looked when it was rented out by a poorer family

Moving down a floor, we saw the bedchambers of Robert Wynn and his wife.

More fancy plaster work in his bedroom

and here’s his privy, just off his bedroom. Rather a luxury for it’s time!

And here’s Dorothy’s chamber. He married her in 1588 after his first wife, also called Dorothy, had died childless. Although he was getting on in years they had 7 children together.

Most of the first floor was occupied by the very grand Great Chamber, the main room where the Wynns would entertain their guests. Of course, there was yet more plaster work

The remaining rooms on the first floor were devoted to an exhibition about hygiene and water provision. These would originally have been used as bedrooms for guests and the children of the family. We rounded off the visit by climbing the steep stairs and ladder up to the top of the tower where there were views over the town, castle, harbour and nearby mountains.

Plas Mawr is certainly a very well preserved and interesting building. It provides a glimpse into the life of a prosperous family living in a small town in North Wales during the Elizabethan period. The architecture is interesting too, showing the influence of continental styles on the British gentry.

Conwy Town Walls

Conwy was built as a bastide, a fortified settler town, surrounded by high masonry walls, built at the same time as the castle. The new town was populated by settlers who’d moved from England, probably from nearby counties such as Cheshire and the walls would have encouraged immigrants to settle there as they would have helped protect them from incursions by Welsh locals. The walls are extremely well preserved, running for three quarters of a mile, with 21 towers and three original gateways.

It’s possible to walk on top of them for a good proportion of their length. Who could resist?

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Looking over the southern section of the walls from the Castle

The towers, constructed at roughly regular intervals, are D shaped and “gap-backed”, which means that they didn’t have walls on the inside. They originally had removable wooden bridges to allow sections of the walls to be sealed off from attackers

There were great views from the walls across the town to the castle, harbour and nearby Carneddau mountains

Looking over the harbour towards the castle for the spur wall
a view of the castle over the rooftops from the southern section of the town walls

A visit to Moorcroft Pottery

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A couple of weeks ago we drove over to Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent for a visit to the Moorcroft Heritage Visitor Centre. Moorcroft are one of the few remaining British pottery companies based in the city (or cluster of towns) which was originally the centre of pottery production. Moorcroft specialise in the production of hand made art pottery using traditional craft techniques. Their distinctive “tube lined” Art Nouveau and Art Deco inspired pieces have a loyal following and some designs can fetch high prices.

One of my Christmas presents last year was a “factory tour” and we’d finally got around to organising a date to visit. The Visitor centre is located on a former manufacturing site and the first thing you see when you arrive is the Grade II Listed Bottle Oven, the last remaining one of several that used to be used for firing the pottery made here.

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These traditional kilns were fired with coal and were very polluting, belching out smoke, carbon dioxide and other gases, so were replaced with cleaner electric kilns following the 1956 Clean Air Act. Moorcroft’s production now takes place in a more modern factory a short distance away, but this site is used for research and development of new pieces as well as hosting factory tours. There’s also a small museum of Moorcroft pieces and a shop.

We started off by looking round the display of photographs showing the history of the site and the traditional production process. And we were able to peek inside the Bottle Oven.

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This is where “ware” twas fired. The individual pieces were initially put into fireclay boxes called “saggars” which were then stacked inside the oven ready for firing at a temperature between 1000° C and 1250° C , usually for two or three days.

We then had a look around the small museum with it’s extensive collection of Moorcroft pieces covering the company’s history.

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I particularly liked this large pot with pictures of pottery workers

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There were also some pieces from the Blackwell collection which had featured in an exhibition at the Arts and Crafts house near Bowness (which we visit regularly) a few years ago

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Then it was time for the tour. The guide, Corrie, was very knowledgeable and took us through each step in the production process which included by demonstrations by the highly skilled workers.

These days the pots are cast using the slip casting technique, so the initial step is the production of the pattern which is then used to manufacture the moulds. A liquid slurry of clay is prepared which is poured into the mould. Water is absorbed from the “slip” leaving a solid layer in contact with the mould. The excess slip is poured off and the mould disassembled leaving behind the cast pot. We’d had a go at this ourselves a couple of year ago during a visit to Tate Modern (of all places!)

The casting is then cleaned up, initially on a lathe and then by “sponge fettling” (a great term!) before the design is traced onto the pot and the tube lining applied. Liquid colour is then applied inside the areas created by the lining. All these process are carried out manually and require enormous skill. And the hand made approach means that each piece, even of the same design, are all slightly different.

The pots are then given an initial firing, coated with glaze and then re-fired to complete the piece. The firing process is where the real “magic” (or, possibly, alchemy) occurs, as the colours are transformed.

No photographs are allowed during the tour, but the following video provides a potted version of the process

and it’s summarised with some good photos on their website.

We finished our visit by looking round the shop. The pieces may seem expensive for pots, but having seen the process, the skill involved and the time it takes to produce the pieces, they seemed well-priced. We were tempted to shell out but we’ve nowhere to display ceramics properly in our mess of a house (perhaps I should stop going out so much and stop home and get it sorted) and, perhaps more importantly, we’d be terrified of knocking it over and breaking it!. However, we decided to buy a plaque we could hang on the wall, selecting a design based on the work of Charles Rennie-Mackintosh, partly influenced by the exhibition we’d visited in Liverpool the previous Saturday. The price was similar to what I’d expect to pay for a limited edition print by an established artist, so not unreasonable for what, in effect, is a ceramic equivalent – and having paid for the factory tour we received a modest discount.

I really enjoyed the visit, being able to see skilled workers in action. (I had to stop myself concentrating on the health risks, mind!). And I can now really appreciate the individual nature of what are really works of art.

An autumn day at the YSP

A few photos taken during our visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last Saturday.

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Black Mound (2013) by David Nash
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Large Two Forms by Henry Moore, in the distance
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Wilsis (2016) by Jaume Plensa
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Square with Two Circles  by Barbara Hepworth
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Albero folgorato by Giuseppe Penone
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A new work by Peter Randall Page Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo) 2017
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Square with Two Circles at sunset

Colin’s Magical Mystery Tour

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We spent last Saturday on a tour of Beatles related sites in Liverpool organised by our friend Colin. He’s a really keen Beatles fan and spent quite a bit of time organising the tour, researching and scouting out locations. So on Saturday morning we drove over to his house where, together with a bunch of Colin’s family and friends boarded a mini bus ready for the relatively short drive over to Liverpool.

First stop was Huyton Village Cemetery

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Where Stuart Sutcliffe, the Beatles’ original bassist, is buried.

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Then on to the Jewish cemetery, to visit Brian Epstein’s resting place

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Then on to Penny Lane

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Look closely and you can see Macca’s autograph

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In my first year at University, I lived in Student Halls, just at the bottom of this famous street, so it brought back some memories.  I used to go to the chippy half way down the street.

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The Beatles song really describes the shops on Smithdown Square at the top of Penny Lane. This is where there’s a bus terminus where buses from the centre of the city with the named destination stop.

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Here’s the bus stop

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and the barber’s shop

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We popped into the pub across the road from the chippy for half an hour and then, suitably refreshed set off for our next destination, Strawberry Field (note that Field is singular).

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Strawberry Field, which isn’t far from where John Lennon grew up, used to be a Salvation Army children’s home.  According to Wikipedia, he

would often scale the walls of Strawberry Field to play with the children in the Salvation Army home. The proprietors complained to his school about his antics but to no avail. Finally, they took him to his Aunt Mimi with whom John was living. She told him if he continued to do this, they would hang him. He continued anyway. Thus, the line in the song, “Nothing to get hung about, Strawberry Fields forever”

Construction work is taking place at the moment, so we were only able to take a look at the gates, which are actually replicas of the originals,  installed May 2011.

Next stop was Mendips, on Menlove Avenue, where John Lennon lived with his Auntie “Mimi”

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Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s childhood homes are owned by the National Trust and it’s possible to visit them and go inside on a National Trust tour. We’d done that some years ago. But on Saturday we could only look at the outside.

Then on to Woolton Village, to see the hall where John and Paul first met

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and then into the churchyard

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to see Elanor Rigby

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and also to pay homage to the great Liverpool football manager, Bob Paisley.

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Back on the bus and on to another cemetery, the final one of the day, to visit the very modest, but beautiful, grave of Julia Lennon (John’s mother)

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Cilla Black is also buried in the cemetery so we had a look at her headstone too. Not as simple and modest as Julia’s.

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Then back on the bus and on to Paul’s childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road

img_9158img_9159 We then drove into Liverpool city centre and stopped for refreshments in the Jacaranda Club on Slater Street

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The club was founded by Alan Williams, the Beatles first manager, and they used to perform here in their early days.

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I loved the old Juke box

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In the upstairs bar they have a record shop selling new and second hand vinyl discs, together with several turntables where you can listen to them (the second hand ones, anyway)

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This Pete Best’s drum kit (the Beatles’ original drummer who was replaced by Ringo Starr)

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Then it was back on the bus and down to the Pier Head to take a look at the statue dedicated to the Fab Four and pose for pictures

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We had someone take a group photo, which is at the top of this post. I don’t normally post personal pictures but you’ll have to guess which one of the group is me!

A short drive from there and we were dropped off on Matthew Street

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I used to hang out here and drink in some of the pubs in my student days. It was quite different then, much quieter, before it became a tourist attraction.

We called into the Cavern Pub for a drink and watched the band for a while – they were VERY loud

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Before crossing the road and paying our £2-50 apiece to descend into the Cavern Club itself

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There was a band on playing Beatles tunes

The Club opened on 16 January 1957 as a jazz club, but later became a centre of the rock and roll scene in Liverpool in the 1960s.  It  closed in March 1973, a few years before I went to Liverpool University and was filled in during construction work on the Merseyrail underground rail loop. It was excavated and reopened on 26 April 1984 to become a major tourist attraction (although the original entrance is long gone, replaced by an electrical substation.

We stayed the rest of the evening in the area, eating in a nearby restaurant. After the group split up with some choosing to sample the local pubs. We went with a smaller group for a drink in the Hard Day’s Night Hotel. Around 11 we all got back together to take the minibus back down the M58 to Wigan.

It was a good day out. Colin had done a great job pulling together the itinerary and keeping us entertained with quizzes and a commentary while we were on the bus. Well done Colin!