A walk up Seat Sandal

So, after completing my 1000 miles challenge in 2019 (hurrah!!!) I made a start for 2020 with a local walk around the Plantations on New Years Day. But I was still itching to get out into the hills, so as Friday looked like it was going to be a decent day and I was still on holiday from work, I decided to head off up to the Lakes and tackle Seat Sandal, the mountain that dominates the view to the north from the western and southern shores of Grasmere.

Rather than scrabble for a parking space in one of the lay-byes on the A591, I parked up in Grasmere. Some walkers are reluctant to pay the parking fee but I don’t think £8 for the day is unreasonable – especially when you compare it with what you have to pay in central Manchester. Starting from Grasmere added 2 or 3 miles along a rough road to my walk, but that wasn’t a problem.

I set off on a bright sunny morning with bright blue winter sky. A little chilly but I was wrapped up and you soon warm up walking.

Leaving the car park there was a good view of my objective.

I walked into the village, stopping at Lucia’s takeaway to buy one of their Cumberland sausage rolls to make sure I had fuelled up ready for my walk. I then set off down Easedale Road before turning north up Helm Close, a rough road (a track in places) which took me up past fields and isolated houses, passing to the east of Helm Crag

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Steel Fell dead ahead

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and there’s Seat sandal with a glimpse of Fairfield to the right

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My route would take me up the gill (valley) between the two mountains up to Grisedale Hause.

I crossed the busy main road – it was a bit of a blind corner so I had to take care not to get run over by the cars that speed up the road between Grasmere and Keswick – and then set off along the path up the gill

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Looking back across to Helm Crag

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There are two paths up towards the hause, one to each side of a minor hill, the Great Tongue. I crossed over the beck to take the right hand path, which is part of the Coast to Coast route

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I was climbing up through rougher country now

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Climbing up towards the hause

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I eventually reached the hause and was greeted by a view of Grisedale Tarn and Dollywagon Pike

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While I was walking the wind had been picking up and the cloud stared to appear covering what had been a beautiful blue sky. Here’s the view back down the gill

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Time to stop for a break, shelter from the wind and grab a bite to eat, and a hot coffee from my flask.

Over to the left was my Seat sandal and a steep climb up the scree (not a route for Anabel, then!)

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It certainly was a steep climb and hands were needed in a few places. But it wasn’t too bad and it didn’t take me too long to reach the top of the slope. Pausing part way a took a few snaps back down towards the Tarn and Dollywagon Pike

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St Sunday Crag and the slopes of Fairfield with Ullswater just about visible in the distance down Grisedale

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It was windy when I reached the summit and there was thick cloud over the fells to the west and north

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Looking across to St Sunday Crag and the mighty Fairfield

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After a short break to take in the views I set off down the ridge towards Grasmere – a much more gradual descent renowned for great views down to Grasmere and over to the fells to the west. Unfortunately the thick cloud rather obscured them today.

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More and more cloud came in as I made my way down the ridge, but I managed to snap a few atmospheric shots (spruced up with a little manipulation with Snapseed!)

The path along the ridge eventually joined the track down the gill and I retraced my steps back towards Grasmere

The rain finally arrived as I walked along the lane back to the village. Looking back over to Seat Sandal and Fairfield looks like I got back down just in time to avoid a downpour.

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I called into the village, had a browse in Sam Read’s bookshop (and was tempted to purchase a slim volume) before heading back to the car. It was just after 3 o’clock so I decided to drive up to Keswick and a visit to the Keswick Boot Company – after all the walking I’ve been doing I needed a new pair of boots

I’ll need to get out on the fells again soon – these boots are made for walking!

A wet morning in Buttermere

I woke up on Tuesday to be greeted by, as expected, a wet and windy day. It was forecast that conditions would change mid afternoon, but most of the day looked like it was not going to be conducive to getting up on the fells. So after breakfast I had a decision to make about what to do. I hadn’t come up to Buttermere to spend the day in a Youth Hostel and working on the principle that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, (I don’t actually agree with that statement) I donned my waterproof coat and prepared to get wet!

I decided that my best option was to spend the morning taking a stroll around the lake and decide what to do in the afternoon later on, depending on how things were looking.

As I set out, this was the view over the valley towards High Stile

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Approaching the small picturesque Church of St James at the end of the Newlands Pass,

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I decided to pop inside and take a look.

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Under this window, which looks towards Haystacks (not visible today, alas!), there’s a monument to Alfred Wainwright

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Leaving the shelter of the church, I set off through the village towards the lake, passing the Fish Inn

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which, in the 1790’s, used to be the home of Mary Robinson, the landlord’s daughter, who was known as “The Beauty of Buttermere“. In 1802 she was swept off her feet by a visitor to the Inn, calling himself “Colonel Alexander Hope” and they were married. It turned out, however, that he was in fact John Hatfield, an undischarged bankrupt, who was already married. After conning some local residents out of money, he scarpered, but the law caught up with him and he ended up being tried in Carlisle and hanged. More detail can be read on the Fish’s website.

Famous visitors to the Inn have included the Lake Poets, Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge.

The circuit of the lake is very popular as it’s quite an easy walk, but very scenic, so on a fine day the route gets busy. It was quieter today, but I wasn’t the only one braving the wind and rain.

Carrying on I soon reached the lake to be greeted by choppy waters and an atmospheric view down towards Fleetwith Pike.

The waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill were in full spate

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I carried on through the woods down the west shore of the lake

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Looking across towards High Snockrigg (great name that!)

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I continued down the path . Another view of Fleetwith Pike

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and to my right High Stile visible through the cloud

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and High Crag

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Getting near to the top of the lake

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There’s Haystacks. Glad I wasn’t planning on going up there today!

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An atmospheric view of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks

I crossed over, past Gatesgarth farm, to the east side of the lake. A walk down a short stretch of road and then back on to the path along the lakeside.

Looking across the lake to High Crag and High Stile

Getting closer to Buttermere village, the path goes through a tunnel excavated through the rock.

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Looking across to the waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill and Red Pike

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It had taken me just over a couple of hours to circumnavigate the lake . My coat had kept me dry but it was time to get out of the rain. There are 2 cafes in the village. Unfortunately one pf them was closed for the week for renovation but the other, at Sykes Farm, was still open, so I popped in for a brew and a nice bowl of hot pea soup. In fact, I ended up having a couple of brews as I whiled away the time for an hour and a half, drying out and deciding on what to do in the afternoon. There were signs that the cloud was beginning to clear, so there was a chance of a drier walk in the afternoon.

Keith Haring at Tate Liverpool

Last Saturday we travelled over to Liverpool to take a look at the latest exhibition at the Tate on Albert Dock. It’s had a lot of good reviews so I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about. I didn’t know a great deal about the artist, Keith Haring, but had seen some of his works, probably most notably his large canopy was hanging in the ceiling of the stairwell in the grand hallway of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam during a visit last year. He’d painted it for a solo exhibition at the museum in 1986.

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So, the extensive Tate retrospective was a good opportunity to find out more about the artist. The exhibition was busy (but not crazy busy like some of the blockbusters held in London), so it was clearly popular. But there was plenty of space to allow us to take time to look at the paintings and reflect on them.

The Tate exhibition website tells us

A part of the legendary New York art scene of the 1980s, Keith Haring (1958–1990) was inspired by graffitipop art and underground club culture.

Haring was a great collaborator and worked with like-minded artists such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. All were interested in creating art for the many. Haring designed record covers for RUN DMC and David Bowie, directed a music video for Grace Jones and developed a fashion line with Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. In doing so, he introduced his art and ideas to as many people as possible.

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The exhibition covered the whole of the top floor of the Tate and there were a large number of works on display from the whole of his career, including these two early works when he was influenced by Walt Disney cartoons. And cartoon like figures and symbols were prominent in his work throughout his career. Unlike most Tate paid exhibitions photography was allowed.

When he moved to New York, he became known for chalk drawings he produced on the black paper on empty poster spaces in subway stations; drawing quickly as people walked past and stopping to watch him. There was a video in the exhibition of him doing just that and then getting arrested! The pictures became popular that they were taken away almost as soon as they were finished. There were a few examples in the exhibition, although they were difficult to photograph due to reflections in the glass protecting them.

He’d paint on almost anything he could lay his hands on, like this Yellow Taxi bonnet (or “hood” as our American friends would say!)

and quite a few works on display were painted on tarpaulins – a lot cheaper than canvas.

A number of icon like symbols recur throughout his works, including a crawling baby, a dog, a figure with a whole in its stomach, a cross, computers and some others. Most of his work contain one or more. There’s a good discussion of the symbols and what they represent here, and the Tate provide a key in the free booklet you’re given as you enter the gallery.

He was a political artist and many of his works carry a message, whether about nuclear energy, South African Apartheid, gay rights, racism or drugs.

And, as a gay man living in New York in the 1980’s, he used his art to raise awareness of AIDS. He himself was diagnosed with the disease in 1988. His poster Ignorance = Fear refers to the challenges people who were living with AIDS faced. 

Here’s a few more examples of his work

Before the visit, I was a little sceptical about the exhibition. I knew about his cartoon like paintings and thought it would be fun, but that I’d have tired of it after seeing a selection of them. But that wasn’t how it worked out. Despite the apparent simplicity of his style, there was a lot more depth and complexity than I expected.

There was a lot to see – besides the paintings there were a number of videos about his life and work – so there was too much to take in in one visit. One advantage of being Tate Members is that we can hopefully go for another look before the exhibition finishes in November.

Louise Bourgeois in the Rijksmuseum Gardens

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Spider (1996)

If you’re scared of spiders, it’s probably best if you keep away from the Rijksmuseum Gardens at the moment! For the last few years there’s been an exhibition of works by a noted sculptor in the gardens, and this year they have works on display by Louise Bourgeois, who is well known for her bronze sculptures of giant spiders,

When we’d looked around the Tassel Museum we wandered along the canals, grabbed a bite to eat and then made our way to the Rijksmuseum. We expected that there would be an exhibition in the gardens and we knew we’d have time to have a look before we got the train back to Haarlem. And, unlike the main part of the museum, entry is free! We hadn’t checked out what was on but as soon as we spotted the first sculpture, we knew who the artist was! Luckily spiders don’t scare me, as several of the arachnid monsters are on display! !

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Crouching spider (2005)

The gardens themselves are very attractive and popular on a sunny day – and the sun kept breaking through the cloud while we were there.

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Louise Bourgeois grew up in a suburb of Paris, in a family of antique tapestry dealers and restorers. In 1938, following her marriage to the American art historian Robert Goldwater, she emigrated to the United States. It took a long while before her work was acknowledged, as it was quite different from the type of art popular in America at the time. and she only started to become popular in the 1970s when she was in her 60’s.

Her work often represents aspects of her life. the spiders, for example, are influenced by her protective mother who, although she didn’t spin webs, was a weaver and by the familie’s tapestry repair business.

I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bask into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it

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Spider couple (2003)

This was probably the only one of the 12 sculptures on display I wasn’t so keen on. It rather reminded me of the monsters that used to appear in Doctor Who in the 1970’s – perhaps that’s why!

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In and Out #2 (1995-6)

This was the earliest work on display. It’s quite different from the others and rather like the works of Brancusi. It’s apparently meant to be a self portrait of the artist surrounded by her 3 children.

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Quarantania (1947-53)
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Welcoming Hands (1996)

This rather moving group of bronze sculptures displayed on rough stone pedestals, represent friendship and solidarity. They were originally displayed in New York on a site with a view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where immigrants first arrived in America, although they are now normally sited in the Tuilleries in Paris. Their message has a contemporary resonance with all the movement of people trying to escape war and poverty, looking for a better life. Some people show friendship and solidarity to them. Sadly, in these cruel times, too many don’t.

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This sculpture of a child’s hand was particularly touching (emotionally, that is, of course)

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Fountain (1999)
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Untitled (2004)

These two high-gloss aluminium sculptures of Untitled (2004), hanging from the branches of the great wingnut tree, refer to her father’s habit of storing chairs by hanging them on roof beams in the attic of their home

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Inside the museum entrance atrium there were four seats in the form of giant eyes

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Source: https://www.azquotes.com/author/18216-Louise_Bourgeois

Plas Newyyd

After a glorious hot and sunny day on Tuesday, we woke up on Wednesday to grey skies. We’d planned to visit the National Trust Property, Plas Newyyd, near Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch and only a short drive away from our holiday apartment.  The house is in a stunning location on the banks of the Menai Straights with, on a clear day, views over to Snowdonia.

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A bit grey today

The house dates from 1470, although there have been substantial modifications since then, and, until it was handed over to the National Trust, it was the seat of the Marquesses of Anglesey. However, they must have made a “sweetheart” deal with the NT as the current Marquess’ son and his wife live there in private apartments.

The National Trust website tells us that

Plas Newydd belongs to the early 19th century and the ‘cult of styles’, cheerfully mixing Neo-classical and picturesque Gothick……. the interior is mainly Neo-classical with very good examples of late 18th-century Gothick work in the hall and music room

Although we didn’t realise it until we’d arrived, the house is currently undergoing a large scale refit (reservicing) that will see the replacement of the majority of its mechanical services including heating, electrical, and other essential systems – many of which were first installed during the 1930s. This means that it isn’t possible to visit many of the rooms I saw during my visit last year and some of the rooms that were accessible had been stripped of their contents or had some, or all of the furnishings covered to protect them from the ongoing works.

The Duke’s library and study, with it’s messy contents, was still open, although we were told that it’s intended to remove them in the near future. Taking out the contents, cataloguing and then putting them back in exactly the same places is going to be one hell of a job!

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The NT have done their best to keep the house open and have actually made the reservicing a feature of the tour, which I personally found interesting. They even had a display about the removal of asbestos, including a mock up of an enclosure and a mannequin dressed up in the personal protective equipment the asbestos strippers (that’s the people who strip out the asbestos in case the word conjured up a different meaning in your mind!).

The most interesting room in the house is the dining room where one wall is covered by a large mural created by the artist Rex Whistler in the 1930’s. This was still accessible so we could view the mural, but the furnishings had been removed.

The mural is a trompe-l’oeil seascape painting of an imagined scene of Snowdonian mountains, Italianate churches, castles, and a harbour. There are many tricks of perspective which result in various elements of the painting appearing to change when seen from different parts of the room.

It was impossible to get a photograph of the whole of the mural, so here’s one from Wikipedia

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After looking round the house and an obligatory visit to the cafe for a brew, we had a wander round the grounds. First we visited the formal gardens

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Afterwards we had a walk through the woodland the skirts the Menai Straits to the Rhododendron Gardens.

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Unfortunately it was too late in the year to see the Rhodedendra in bloom, but it allowed us to stretch our legs.

We treated ourselves to an ice cream and then, avoiding the wasps attracted by them, made our way back to the car park, stopping off to admire the wild flower gardens with their colourful display of poppies, cornflowers, daisies and other native species.

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McKenzie’s Pyramid

Mckenzie’s soul lies above the ground
In that pyramid near Maryland

McKenzies pyramid

After we’d visited the Hardmans’ house we walked a short distance down Rodney Street to the former church of St Andrews. We wanted to take a look at a monument in the graveyard that features in a well known tale told in Liverpool.

A pyramid stands over the tomb of a certain William McKenzie. He was a “self made man”, born in Nelson, Lancashire, who, after initially working has a weaver, became a civil engineer and became a successful contractor in the canal and railway industries, which developed rapidly in the 19th Century. He eventually moved to Liverpool where he lived in Grove Street, which I know very well as this is where the University of Liverpool Chemistry building is located!

He is supposed to have been an inveterate gambler, who bet and lost his soul in a game of poker with the Devil. The local legend is that he is sat upright in the tomb at a table with a winning hand of cards in his hand, thereby, not being buried, depriving Old Nick of his soul. However, his unusual entombment also prevents him entering heaven, so his ghost is said to prowl Rodney Street at night.

An interesting story but one that cannot be true (even if you believe in heaven and hell). McKenzie died and was buried in 1851 but the pyramid was only erected 16 years later by his brother.

Despite this, the legend persists, and is even mentioned in the first two lines of a song Does this train stop on Merseyside by local band, Amsterdam.

It’s also been recorded by the well known Irish Folk singer, Christy Moore

Which version do you prefer?

Halima Cassell at Manchester Art Gallery

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After a busy week in Ireland, the day after my return we headed into Manchester. We had tickets for the production of Mother Courage at the Royal Exchange and had booked a pre-birthday meal in a restaurant in the Northern Quarter, and decided to drive in during the afternoon to visit the City Art Gallery. There was a lengthy queue for the Leonardo exhibition, so we decided to give it a miss. It would have taken up all the time we had and we’d probably have chance to see it on another day before it leaves Manchester and we wanted to have a look at another exhibition that had just opened in the Gallery.

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Halima Cassell is a sculptor who was born in Kashmir but grew up in the north west of England  and currently lives in Shropshire. She creates complex geometric patterns in unglazed ceramic, bronze, stone, wood and cast glass. I’d seen one of her works during a visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery last year and there were a couple of works on display last time we were at the Manchester Gallery (they were preparing for the exhibition) and we were keen to see this large scale display of her works.

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Her sculptures are incredibly complex geometric patterns that, in many cases, are clearly inspired by nature.

Cassell is gifted with an exceptional ability to visualise complex patterns and mentally project them on to 3-D objects. Her work is diverse in inspiration and form, but her personal style is instantly recognisable due to her bold, energetic designs, crisp carving and intuitive understanding of how to integrate pattern, form, material and scale. (exhibition website)

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Looking at the works I couldn’t help wondering whether she ever made a mistake with her carving (just imaging spending hours on a complex carving then at the very end slipping with the chisel !!) or if something went wrong with th efiring. Well these things, particularly the latter, clearly happen. One of the exhibits was a piece of a cast ceramic that had exploded in the kiln. and she has also embraced problems where cracks can develop in castings by using a Japanese technique where gold is used to fill the cracks, thereby turning a potential disaster into a creative work of art.

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One work, still in progress, was Virtue of Unity a display of ceramics using clay collected from different countries, the patterns embodying some perceived characteristic of the nation.

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Her intention is that, when it’s complete the work will represent every nation on earth. There’s a long way to go yet!

Her work is amazing and as the exhibition is on until the beginning of January next year it’s pretty certain we’ll be going to see it again.

Halima Cassell: Eclectica–global inspirations from Manchester Art Gallery on Vimeo.