Back to Borough Market

A few days after our short break in the Peak District I was down in Dartford with work. I’d travelled down by train via London so we decided to combine work with pleasure and the other half travelled down on the Friday morning and met me in London for a short stay. We were staying in a Premier Inn at Southwark near Borough Market. It’s a really “buzzing” area during the evening with plenty of places to eat and lots of pubs and bars, all of which were busy on an autumn evening. The terrorist attack by zealots who don’t like people having fun only a few weeks ago doesn’t seem to have stopped people getting out and enjoying themselves – and that’s the way it should be.

We had a rather nice contemporary style Leabanese meal at a busy Arabica , a restaurant under the railway arches on Rochester Walk near the market

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followed by a stroll along the South Bank before turning in

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The next day, after breakfast we went for a wander around the market.







Monsal Dale


The last day of our short break in the Peak District, we’d planned to go out for a walk. I had a few routes in mind but decided to “suck it and see” depending on the conditions. When we woke up it was raining, but the forecast was that it would clear before the afternoon so we would need to restrict ourselves to a shorter walk as I was working the next day and didn’t want to leave it too long before we set off for home. So after picking up some bacon and a few other items at the Chatsworth shop, we drove over to Monsal Head, a famous Peak District beauty spot.

We parked up by the Monsal Head Hotel – the large car park soon fills up at the weekend but there was plenty of room on a Monday morning. It’s in an elevated position looking over the Wye Valley at a spot where the Wye, flowing eastwards, encounters a band of harder rock and is forced to make a sharp turn southwards, carving its way through a of limestone ridge.  Until the 1960’s a railway line from Derby to Manchester ran westwards along the valley over the Headstone viaduct and through a series of tunnels. Today the railway route has been turned into a walking and cycling trail – the Monsal Trail. From the viewpoint we looked down over the viaduct and the valley.


Despite being a somewhat grey day, overcast with middling visibility, it was still a stunning view.

We walked along the trail some 26 years ago carrying my daughter, who was then a baby less than a year old, in a baby carrier strapped to my back. I remember her hitting me on the head to try to make move quicker! Since then the trail has been improved and the tunnels opened up so that you can walk or ride through them during the daylight hours.

Without a definite plan in mind, we decided to follow the trail westwards for a few miles and see where we ended up, so we took the path down from the viewpoint by the hotel down to the viaduct. This was the view looking north west along Monsal Dale


and south west, downstream.


We followed the former railway track, taking care to avoid being run over by bikes! It was reasonably busy despite being a Monday morning in early Autumn.

Views down into the valley itself were rather intermittent as the track was lined by trees that blocked the view for much of its length. Eventually the rather attractive Georgian buildings of Cressbrook Mill came into view.


Despite being a peaceful valley today, at one time, during and after the Industrial Revolution, Monsal Dale was a hive of activity with the river powering cotton mills at Upperdale, Cressbrook and Litton and with lime kilns further west in Chee Dale.

The first mill at Cressbrook was built for Sir Richard Arkwright in 1779 but this burnt down in 1785 and was rebuilt by his son in 1787. The large Georgian building visible from the trail is an extension built in 1814.

IMG_2881Just after the viewpoint we entered our first tunnel.

IMG_2883IMG_2926 Emerging at the other side there was a view down to very pretty part of the valley known as Water-cum-Jolly


Soon we were back inside another tunnel, emerging and looking down over Litton Mill. We climbed up the path to the top of the tunnel to get a better view


Built in 1782 Litton Mill became notorious for the poor treatment of the workers and apprentices – and that’s during a period when workers didn’t have an easy life, to say the least!

At that point we decided to retrace our steps, walking back through the tunnels before descending down into the valley at the deserted train station at Upperdale.

We crossed the river over to the small settlement. The distinctive blue/green paint telling us that the former famm and mill worker houses were now owned by the Chatsworth Estate. The larger house was a Band B while the other buildings had been converted to rental properties. Very attractive they looked too.


We followed the road for a short distance and then took a path that took us back over the river


and then under the viaduct and along the river south west from Monsal Head


Looking back towards the viaduct


We carried on walking down the valley beside the river


We didn’t follow the river all the way to the A6 but a short distance after the weir crossed over a bridge to the other side of the river and then followed the path that rose steeply up through  he wooded flank of the valley,


eventually emerging back at Monsal Head


We stopped a short while to admire the view and then it was time for a brew in the courtyard outside the pub next to the Hotel.

“Mystery” sculptures at Chatsworth

We spotted a number of sculptures we hadn’t seen before while wandering around the gardens and woods during our recent visit to Chatsworth.

This giant pink shoe Pop Art sculpture is by Michael Craig-Martin and was one of 12 of his works exhibited at Chatsworth in 2014


This baby elephant is by Barry Flanagan and was shown in the 2012 Beyond Limits exhibition


We couldn’t find out which artists had created these next two sculptures. Any information welcome!!!



Antithesis of Sarcophagi


During our tour of the Beyond Limits  exhibition at Chatsworth, we spotted this large cube of granite standing on the lawn where one of the exhibits had been located during Beyond Limits 2016, but it wasn’t included in the list of this year’s exhibits.


We wandered over and took a closer look. We noticed a number of holes drilled into the granite and peeked though them, revealing something of a surprise



a hidden garden inside the cube!

Reading the accompanying information panel and discovered that this was a work that had originally been exhibited at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower show last year. It was designed by Martin Cook and Gary Breeze .


It had been included in the inaugural RHS Chatsworth House Flower Show in June this year and was still on display


Gary Breeze’s website tells us

Antithesis of Sarcophagi represents a world turned inside out; a garden inside a sculpture; desolation versus life; civilisation versus nature. A forty-four tonne rough granite cube, one face painted with a mysterious inscription, contains a rejuvenating woodland; only visible from the stark, ash-charred exterior through small fissures in its surface.

The planting was done with great sensitivity and precision by 7 times RHS medal winner Chris Holland.

A fascinating work that’s up for sale – “price on application”. Don’t think I can afford it though!



Beyond Limits 2017


It’s become something of a regular fixture that we visit the Beyond Limits exhibition of contemporary sculpture organised by Sothebys at Chatsworth. So last Sunday we drove over to Derbyshire to take a look at the works on display. This year the focus was entirely American with works from artists including  Isamu Noguchi, Richard Serra and Robert Indiana.

My overall impression was that this year’s exhibition wasn’t as strong as the others we’ve seen – there didn’t seem to be as much variety and there was a “sameness” about a number of the works. However, when reviewing the photographs while preparing this post, my perception changed somewhat and I found more variation than I initially thought and found that I appreciated more some of the works after a second look – albeit looking at photos. So, a worthwhile visit with some attractive sculptures and new discoveries.

So, what did we see?

Leaning Fork with Meatball and Spaghetti III  by Claes Oldenburg & Coosje Van Bruggen was the first work we saw. Not a good start for me as I wasn’t impressed. It’s meant to be amusing, I thought it was corny.


Tropical Night Disc by Louise Nevelson. Much more interesting.


Three sided pyramid by Sol Lewitt. Does what it says on the tin!


Soliloquy by Isamu Noguchi, a favourite artist after discovering his work during our first visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, back in 2009


Untitled by Joel Shapiro. Sited at the bottom of the grand cascade


Gradiva, the first of 5 sculptures in the exhibition by Julian Schanabel. It looks like the local pigeons have been paying attention to this one.


Golem by


Joe by Julian Schanabel


Si Tacuisses by Julian Schanabel


Leutweyler for BB by Julian Schanabel


Untitled , a second work by Joel Shapiro


The Cave by Mark di Suvero. In previous years the works sited by the ornamental pond have been enhanced by the setting with reflections in the water. So although this was an interesting enough piece, the location didn’t really add to its appeal for me.


Irregular Procession by Sol Lewitt


Lock by Richard Serra.

The work is formed from five separate steel parts: two thin plates that stand upright on their sides and three smaller blocks that sit along the ground. These separate elements are not fused in any way; rather Serra relies on the forces of gravity and a careful balancing of the relative weights to achieve stability.


One Through Zero by Robert Indiana


Voltri Bolton X by David Smith


Big M  by Wendell Castle. Another one that does what it says on the tin. Originally created for the Marine Midland Bank, Rochester, New York


Barrier by Robert Morris, which looks like a giant hash tag. Of course the hash tag wasn’t quite so ubiquitous when this work was created in 1962 so an illustration how the interpretation and understanding of art works can change over time with cultural changes.


Untitled by Sam Francis


Column of Four Squares Excentric Gyratory III by George Rickey.


This kinetic sculpture was attracting a lot of interest as it moved, twisting a twirling  randomly. I think most people were fascinated and wondered how it worked. I think its movements depended on the wind.


Source by Tony Smith. Although painted with a uniform colour the two tone nature of the pigment created some interesting optical effects. I rather liked this work because of that.


Curvae in Curvae by Beverly Pepper. This was the last work we saw during our tour of the exhibition and it was probably my favourite. Don’t think I can afford to buy it, though!


Of course, what I think is irrelevant really. This is a selling exhibition in a setting meant to impress the wealthy individuals and corporations who are helicoptered in to view the sculptures, with hopes of a sale. It no doubt attracts a few extra paying visitors like us to swell the Chatsworth coffers. But it’s a good opportunity to view works of art we otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to see and in a beautiful setting which enhances many of the works. All being well we’ll be back again next autumn.

Synthesisers and Brass


Saturday evening, the start of what was a busy long weekend, saw us driving over to Liverpool for a concert at the Art Deco Philharmonic Hall. We had tickets to see a concert – a double header with Hannah Peel’s Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia and Tubular Brass’ arrange ent of the classic “Prog Rock” album from the 70’s, Tubular Bells, arranged for a brass band.

These days, I’m a regular listener to BBC 6 Music and I’d heard selections from the Tubular Brass album and the single released by Hannah Peel in advance of the album. I enjoyed both enough to buy tickets to go and see them performed live.

Now Prog Rock has had something of a bad press these days, the cliche being that it was about pompous, overblown tracks by self indulgent musicians. There’s an element of truth in that but I that isn’t the whole story. As a teenager, like many other six formers, I was a fan of bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis and the likes and before they started to take themselves too seriously, I think they produced some good music – even if it did mainly appeal to male sixth formers and students!

The audience was  mainly well over 50 with a scattering of younger faces. Probably made up of an interesting mix of brass band aficionados, prog rock fans of a certain age and others attracted by the plays on Radio 6.


Hannah Peel was on first and played the whole of her album that had been released only the previous day, although she had performed it at some festivals over the summer. It’s a 7-movement odyssey composed for analogue synths and a full 29-piece colliery brass band and tells the story of an unknown, elderly, pioneering, electronic musical stargazer and her lifelong dream to leave her terraced home in the mining town of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, to see the constellation of Cassiopeia. It’s seems a crazy idea mixing synthesisers and brass but it worked. Hannah was on stage dressed in a silver trouser suit behind a bank of instruments, bringing back memories of the likes of Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson, accompanied by the musicians of the Tubular Brass ensemble and with swirling visuals projected on an overhead screen.


Swooping stellar synths combining and merging with the more down to earth brass and finishing with a recording of Hannah’s grandfather from Manchester Cathedral when he was a young choir boy at the end of the final movement The Planet of Passed Souls.


After the break it was time for Tubular Bells scored and arranged by Sandy Smith who first encountered the Mike Oldfield album as a teenager when it was released in the mid 70’s.

The original vinyl album was central to our frequent Saturday night house parties, especially as the night drew late and a combination of fatigue and the effects of early experiments with alcohol took hold. It is almost impossible to convey to those not around at the time the seismic impact which the release of Tubular Bells had on young, enquiring musical minds.

The original album consisted of two pieces of music, each taking up a whole side, made up of several sections of multitracked instruments played by Mike Oldfield himself. In the Tubular Brass version the music was played by different combinations of brass instruments. Hannah Peel joined in, introducing the instruments at the end of the first half, originally done by Viv Stanshall on the original album and contributing some synths during the second half. I thought the brass arrangement really worked and, if anything, worked better than the original.

To end the performance the ensemble played 3 prog rock pieces, finishing with a brass arrangement of ELP’s version of Fanfare for the Common Man.

Two great performances. Brass and synthesisers – what’s not to like?

Unusual Neo-Gothic Building in Glasgow


One of the buildings that took my eye while I was mooching around Glasgow Merchant City last Monday afternoon was what the British Listed Buildings website describes as a

Bizarrely detailed Gothic warehouse,

I think that just about sums it up! It’s relatively restrained in that there isn’t much decoration or embellishment and looks more like a later Art Nouveau or Glasgow School style building than a typical Victorian Gothic wedding cake.

I particularly liked this eyecatching

unusual semi-octagonal door head with heavily moulded octagonal oculus above.


I haven’t been able to find much information on it other than from the British Listed Buildings posting, but that does tell us that it was originally a warehouse, that it was built in 1859, and that the architect was R W Billings