St Sunday on Saturday

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Still determined to make some progress on my 1000 miles challenge target, last Saturday I headed up to the Lake District of a walk up on the fells. I decided to start out from the small village of Patterdale, which is close to Ullswater, and walk a route along Grisedale, climb up from Griseadale Tarn up onto the hill known as St Sunday Crag and then follow the ridge over to the rounded grass hill of Birks and then back down to my starting point. Saint Sunday is a local name for Saint Dominic, and why the hill is named in his honour, nobody really knows!

I set off early and drove up the M6, past Kendal and over the Kirkstone pass to Patterdale. There’s very limited street parking but the Patterdale Hotel has a reasnably sized car park for which they charge £4-50 for a day’s parking. Browse the walking blogs and bulletin boards and you’ll find plenty of people moaning about the charge. Personally I think it’s quite reasonable – in Manchester that wouldn’t get you two hours in the city centre!

A short walk along the (not so major) main road, past the pleasant St Patrick’s church, with daffs blooming in the churchyard.

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Just after the church I turned down the lane that would take me down Grisedale

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Views of the Helvellyn range, to the north of the valley, soon opened up. Snow was clearly visible on the tops.

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I carried on up the valley, initially on a tarmaced lane but eventually this ran out and I was on a rougher track

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heading into wilder, more remote countryside

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looking back down the valley

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The crags of Dollywagon Pike ahead. The building underneath the crags is Ruthwaite Lodge, a climbing hut owned by the Outward Bound Trust

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Carrying on up the valley it wasn’t long before Ireached Grisedale Tarn, which I’d passed last year after I’d set out from Thirlmere and walked along Helvelyn, Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon Pike.

Here’s the Tarn with Seat Sandal in the background

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Looking back down the valley I could see my next objective,the ridge and summit of St Sunday Crag

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A brief stop for a brew and I set off along the path taking me uphill towards Deepdale Hause, the point on the ridge between St Sunday Crag and Fairfield

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Looking back down to the tarn as I climbed

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Looking across to Dollywagon Pike and Nethermost Pike with Helvellyn in the background

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It was a clear trail at first but at some point I lost the path and had to scrabble up the steep slope for a short while to reach the clear path along the ridge.

Looking west along the ridge to Fairfiled

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Looking across from the ridge over to the Helvellyn range on the other side of the valley.

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and looking east over Deepdale

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and looking back along the ridge

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Soon, I was approaching the stony summit of St Sunday Crag

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from where I got my first glimpse of Ullswater

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Looking across to Helvellyn and Striding Edge

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I carried on rapidly descending the very steep slope down from St Sunday Crag – hard work on the knees!

Looking back to St Sunday

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The next objective was Birks, a modest flat topped fell. One path skirted the hill but I decided on the relatively easy climb up to the summit.

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Even on a grey day, there were excellent views of Ullswater and Place Fell and the surrounding hills and mountains.

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Looking east towards High Street

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Another steep descent and I was back down in the valley. I took the path through the fields and woods, arriving by the Patterdale Hotel. Time to stop for a brew before heading back to the car.

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A walk from Staveley

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The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley,
(To a Mouse, Robert Burns)

Last Saturday I was due to travel up to Scotland to spend a few days walking and chilling out on the the Isle of Arren. My bags were packed. I was expecting rain and perhaps a little snow but, hey, that’s Scotland. When I got up I turned on the TV and watched the BBC weather forecast for the week ahead. It wasn’t good. A storm was forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday (the latter being the day I was due to travel home). So besides being unlikely to get in any decent walking there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to get home as planned. So, regrettably, I decided that the most sensible option was to cancel. This turned out to have been the right thing to do as when the storm hit the ferries to the mainland were cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was disappointing to miss out but I knew it was a gamble when I came up with the idea a few weeks ago. Arran will still be there in a few months when I’m looking at rearranging my trip.

I changed my plans, only taking a couple of days off work. The first of these, the Monday, looked like it might be a reasonable day, a lull before the storm hit. So I decided to the take the opportunity to get out for a walk. I took the train up to Staveley and set out for a wander on the low fells at the bottom of Kentmere. On the train from Oxenholme I could see that there had been a snowfall overnight, but there were signs that it was thawing. I wasn’t planning on going up on the high fells, so I wasn’t expecting any difficulties.

Leaving the train station I cut across to the old Mill Yard and stocked up with some goodies from the artisan bakery before crossing and then walking along the river to Barley Bridge.

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A short walk along the quiet road and through a gate and I was on the path that took me steeply up the hill heading towards the fells.

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I’d decided to make Brunt Knott my first objective. I’ve climbed it a couple of times before and on a clear day there are great views up the Kentmere Valley, over to the Coniston Fells and the Langdales in the west and towards the Howgill fells to the east.

It was several degrees above freezing so the snow was rapidly disappearing, although there was a smattering of the white stuff on the top of Brunt Knott and Potter Fell

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After passing Brunt Knott farm,

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I took a steep, direct route up to the summit and was pleased to be able to get my boots into some snow. Reaching the trig point I was greeted by a good view of the snow clad fells of the Kentmere horseshoe

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I took a more gradual route back down. It was wet, muddy and slippery so I had to be careful to stay upright. Luckily I had my walking poles with me.

I retraced my steps along the quiet road and made my way back up Potter Fell towards Potter Tarn

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The skies were clouding over, but, looking back to the west, I could still make out the Langdale Pikes and Coniston Fells in the distance

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I took the path around the tarn and then headed up the hill towards my next objective, another tarn, Gurnal Dubs

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Like Potter Tarn it’s a natural water feature that was dammed to create a small reservoir for local industry. In the case of Gurnal Dubs three smaller natural ponds (or “dubs”) were swallowed up to make one larger lake.

It was blustery on the exposed fell and I took shelter behind the boathouse while I had a warm drink of coffee from my flask

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I walked along the lake and then retraced my steps back towards Potter Tarn

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I followed the path parallel the stream from the tarn down the valley towards the River Kent

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A short walk along the country lanes

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and then I cut across the fields down to the River. Crossing over, I followed the path back towards Staveley

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Back at the old Mill Yard, I had time for a brew in Wilf’s Cafe before heading back to the station to catch my train back home.

It had been a good walk and helped me forget my disappointment at missing out on my planned trip to Scotland.

A walk on the moors

On Saturday I decided to get out for a walk up on the moors. I’d plotted a circular route from near Horwich, along the Rivington and Yarrow reservoirs, along Lead Mine Clough, then skirting Anglezarke moor before cutting across to Rivington Pike and then back down to the reservoir.

It was a grey, misty morning but the weather forecast predicted that it would clear up around midday for a couple of hours before the rain came in.

I parked up and set off along the muddy path from the car park

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passing the replica of Liverpool castle Lord Leverhulme had built

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and then reaching the path along Rivington lower reservoir

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I carried on to the end of the artificial lake, crossing the dam and then following the road along the western shore of the Upper reservoir. Rivington Pike and Winter Hill were hidden in the low cloud.

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At the end of the lake I crossed over to the eastern side and climbed up to Yarrow reservoir, following the path along the water and then along the minor road until I reached Allance Bridge

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then I took the path along the River Yarrow up Lead Mines Clough. The name gives away what used to go on around here. At one time there were mine workings along the river and the waters were used to process the ore.

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I took the path that headed east up on to the moor, following the track used by the local sheep farmers. There had been quite a few people enjoying the paths along the reservoirs – walking, on their bikes and on horseback – but it was very quiet on the moor – I only saw a couple of mountain bikers in the 4 or 5 miles before I reached the Belmont road.

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It was grey and misty, but as I walked over the moor, passing the ruined farms at Simms and Hempshaws, the mist began to clear

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The mist hadn’t cleared on Winter Hill – the main mast was still obscured in the low cloud

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I crossed over the Belmont road and took the old track that would take me up across the moor to the top of Rivington Pike

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It looked grey and desolate, but it was brighter looking back over to Anglezarke

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After a relatively easy, gradual climb I reached the pigeon tower that has been undergoing renovation along with the paths, gardens and other structures that make up the “Chinese Gardens” created for Lord Leverhulme on the slopes of the Pike.

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I continued along the track and, although I hadn’t originally planned to climb to the top I can never resist climbing a hill!

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I took in the views over to Winter Hill (now free of mist)

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and back down to the reservoirs

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After taking in the views, I made my way down the hill through the terraced gardens

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Reaching Rivington Hall Barn I headed along the path through the woods, making my way back towards the car park I’d left a few hours before. 5 minutes before I reached the car it started to rain – the Met Office had got it right.

A good 10 mile walk only a few miles from home.

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.

Castletown – A walk around the estate

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After looking round the IMMA for a couple of hours I was starting to feel a little “arted out” – I’d spent the day before in Galleries too, in Liverpool – and needed some fresh air. So I decided to drive over to the Castletown estate, about half an hour’s drive from Kilmainham and not far off my route to Naas, to take a walk around the estate. I’d been there before – I was surprised to find it was almost 4 years ago when I checked. Castletown House is notable as it was the first Palladian style house in Ireland, built between 1722 and 1792 for William Conolly, who was the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.  During my previous visit I’d looked around the house, but this time I wanted to take a turn around the grounds – a relatively easy walk. In any case, the house was closed for the winter and was only due to open in March.

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The car park was packed but I managed to find a space in a layby on the main drive and set out for a stroll. It had been bright and sunny, though quite windy in Dublin, but the cloud had come in by the time I arrived at Castletown. But it was still pleasant enough for a walk. Plenty of other people, including quite a few families with children, had the same idea. It’s a relatively easy walk as the grounds are quite flat and I managed a couple of circuits, stopping briefly for a coffee at the cafe in the house’s west pavilion.

The Liffey, Dublin’s river, flows through the grounds

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View of the house
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Gothic style gate house
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View of the ruined church over the Liffey
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A folly, built in the style of a classical “temple” , complete with columns removed from the Long Gallery during it’s redecoration in the 1760s
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The ice house

Wolfgang Tillmans – Rebuilding the Future – at the IMMA

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After passing through the Mary Swanzy paintings, which I enjoyed very much, I went to look at the Exhibition of photographs by the German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans which occupied the whole of the East wing of the Gallery.

According to the exhibition guide he’s

 one of the most accomplished and widely celebrated artists working today, recognised for major contributions to the development of contemporary photography in terms of subject matter, production, scale, presentation and methodology.

He doesn’t specialise in one style but his work encompasses landscapes, portraits, street photography and abstract images. They come in different sizes too, ranging from very small to gigantic, as can be seen in this photograph (it’s a little weird photographing photographs!)

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Rebuilding the Future comprises over 100 works and captures Tillmans’ unique way of working. This new exhibition for IMMA mixes works from throughout his career and in numerous formats, installed in IMMA’s galleries in direct relation to the physical spaces and atmosphere of the museum. 

He built in reputation in the 1990’s while he was in Britain with photographs documenting the London club and gay scenes but he’s moved on since then.

One of the first image I saw was this large photograph of the sea looking towards the land. Printed in monochrome and quite grainy, it was almost abstract in nature

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Some of the other works that caught my attention

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One of his portraits – this one of the singer Neneh Cherrie

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A wall of photographs from the London music scene

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A couple of the individual photos

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Mary Swanzy the IMMA

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After a busy day on Saturday,I was up early the next morning to drive over to Holyhead to catch the boat to Dublin as I’m back over working in Naas this week. The boat arrived at the port just after midday, so I had an afternoon to do a few things rather than just spend the whole day travelling.

I decided I’d drive over to the Irish Museum of Modern Art out at Kilmainham as I hadn’t been there for a while and I quite fancied seeing the exhibition of work by the German photographer, Wolfgang Tillmans. 

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To reach the Tillmans exhibition I had to pass through several rooms devoted to the work of an Irish artist, Mary Swanzy . She was born in Dublin to a prosperous Protestant family – her father was a distinguished eye surgeon – and grew up around Merrion Square in the south side of the city but during her long life relocated several times and travelled widely. From viewing the exhibition it’s clear she was an accomplished artist, but isn’t well known, no doubt because she was a woman. As she herself is quoted as saying on the exhibition website

 ‘if I had been born Henry instead of Mary my life would have been very different’.

It was the last day of this exhibition and it was clearly popular with the Irish public as it was very busy and the catalogue had sold out. She was born in 1882 and worked right through to her death in 1978. She trained in Dublin and then in Paris and was influenced by the styles that emerged during the early 20th Century. So it was interesting to see her work having just visited the Fernand Léger exhibition at Tate Liverpool the previous day as both artists are particularly known for their Cubist and Futurist paintings, but also created works in other styles, such as Surrealism.

In her early work in Paris, she adopted a Post Impressionist style, as in this portrait of her sister

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Portrait of Miss Muriel Swayzey (1907)

She later adopted the Cubist style

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Young woman with white bonnet (1920)

Besides portraits, her subjects included landscapes and flowers

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Cubist landscape (1928)

In 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, she left Ireland travelling through Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Hawaii and Samoa. One of the rooms was devoted to paintings from this period, which have similarities with Gaugain’s work from his time in Tahiti.

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Afterwards she moved to London before relocating to Dublin at the start of WW2

Her style changed over time, becoming more figurative and in some cases adopting the Symbolist

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This is portion apart (group of sorrowing women) (1942)
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Potato Famine (1940)

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Female nudes with horse and viaduct (1930’s)

After the war she returned to London. The works from her later years, displayed in the final room, are quite different and difficult to classify. Many of them feature caricatures of people and animals. As the exhibition guide tells us

This strange assembly of characters make the images appear like scenes from the world of science fiction rather than deriving from an art historical lineage

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Revolution (1943)
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Reading employment offer column (1972)
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Opera Singer (1944)

One of the paintings from the 1940’s was a portrait of her sister. Quite different to the one she’d painted early in her career, really illustrating the evolution of her work.

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Portrait of Muriel Swanzy Tullo (1942)