Chester. A City And It’s Walls.

Fancying a few hours out and about in the cool October air I took the train out to Chester. I have a choice of rail routes to the city and this time I took the longer one through Liverpool and down the Wirral Peninsular. I like to use rail journeys to make notes and work on ideas for blog posts, books and other photo projects.

I arrived in Chester just before lunchtime and decided to to the market for a bite to eat, I’d seen a bakery stall there on a previous visit and thought I would give it a try. Yes it was good, very good in fact, it’s now on my list of places to eat and drink. I like having these bolt holes, oases where I can sit back and watch the world go by.

As you will see from the photos, the weather was not the most inspiring or welcoming but it was good enough to have a walk around and see what was going on in Chester.

17/10/18.  CHESTER. Northgate Street.

CHESTER. Northgate Sttreet opens out to form a square in front of the Town Hall and across from that sits the Cathedral of St. Werburgh.

17/10/18.  CHESTER. The Groves.

CHESTER. The Groves is the pleasantly tree lined promenade down by Chester’s river, the Dee. Busy with visitors on a crisp cool day as the leaves take on their autumn colours.

17/10/18.  CHESTER. Morgan's Mount.

CHESTER. Morgans Mount on the city walls. The cannon sculpture commemorating the civil war. In 1645 King Charles Ist watched the defeat of his forces at the Battle of Rownton Moor from a tower on the Walls of Chester. The cannon sculpture was created by Colin Spofforth.

17/10/18.  CHESTER. The Market. Crustem Bakery.

CHESTER. Crustem Bakery and Cafe on the market.

17/10/18.  CHESTER. The Market. Crustem Bakery.

CHESTER. Crustem Bakery and Cafe on the market. My chicken, bacon & salad sandwich. I had seen this bakery on a previous visit to Chester but I had already eaten and anyway the place was quite busy but I made a note of it for future reference. I was not disappointed and I shall be returning.

17/10/18.  CHESTER. The Market. Crustem Bakery.

CHESTER. Crustem Bakery and Cafe on the market.

17/10/18.  CHESTER. The Water Tower.

CHESTER. Now garlanded with trees, the Water Tower once stood with the waters of the River Dee lapping against it’s base as it guarded the entrance to Chester’s harbour on the river.The silting of the Dee as it’s course changed led to the closing of the harbour and the city loosing it’s pre-eminence as a trading port to Liverpool on the River Mersey and left the Water Tower standing on dry land.

17/10/18.  CHESTER. Watergate Street Centurion.

CHESTER. On the corner of Bridge Street & Watergate Street a local Centurion goes about his duties. You encounter these costumed guides quite regularly around the city, often in charge of parties of schoolchildren enjoying the experience of being drilled and marching as the Roman Army.

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Manchester. A Walk On A Sunny Day.

The sun was high in the sky and I had a free day, not wanting to waste to good weather I took myself off into Manchester. It’s an easy and quick train ride from where I live. I arrived at Manchester’s Victoria station, one of the two large stations which serve the city.

Victoria is a wedding cake of a building, which is having some much needed TLC. The Manchester Arena venue was built over part of the station which meant most of the original overall roof was scrapped, though most of the original concourse remains in it’s dark wood and mosaic glory.

29/08/16 MANCHESTER. Victoria Station.

MANCHESTER. Victoria Station Concourse.

Nearby is the Triangle, once a Victorian produce trading hall, it’s now a shopping and food destination. The headline image is of an art display by Manchester artists, this is housed in one of the units created in the building.

While I was in Manchester I thought that I would have a look at the recently opened Mackie Mayors on Swan Street. It’s a dining destination in what had once been a wholesale produce market, there’s a central dining area with a selection of food outlets around the walls. The name dates back to the days when the building was erected and Mayor Mackie ruled the roost in Manchester.

MANCHESTER. Mackie Mayor's

It was still a bit early in the day to go full on for lunch so I settled instead for morning coffee and cake, very good they were too.

Manchester. Wolf House Coffee, Mackie Mayors.

MANCHESTER. Mackie Mayors, coffee and cake at Wolf House Coffee.

Wanting to walk off my coffee and cake I made my way across Swan Street and into the network of streets that are part of the Ancoats district of the city centre. Along Blossom Street is Halle St. Peters, converted of of a former church it is the rehearsal and recording studio’s for Manchester’s renown Halle Orchestra. Even in this calm, cultural oasis the tide of building and redevelopment rolls on.

Manchester. Halle St. Peter's , Blossom Street.

MANCHESTER. The Halle Orchestra rehersal space, on Blossom Street.

Walking on a few more streets, I passed alleyways leading off Cross Keys Street, where urban art was in evidence on a row of derelict doorways.

MANCHESTER. Off Cross Keys Street.

I’ll end this part of my walk at New Islington by the Ashton Canal, built in the 1700’s to bring coal to the city, the canal makes connections with the Rochdale Canal and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which burrows it’s way to Yorkshire under the Pennines through the Standedge Tunnel.

MANCHESTER. New Islington, Construction Cranes.

I’ll come back to my Manchester walk in a future post.

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Todmorden. A Market & A Folk Festival.

The weather had at last taken a turn for the better, the sun was high in the sky and the breeze was warm. There had been a run of grey, wet days and I needed to get out of the house and into the world outside. I’m lucky in where I live in North West England that there are really good transport links, railways in particular. It was a Saturday so that markets would be open, I really like the atmosphere that come with a market in a northern town. I picked the town of Todmorden as my destination, it sits up on the Pennines on the Lancashire – Yorkshire border and is a decent train ride away.

I made my way to my local station, Newton le Willows on Stephenson’s historic Liverpool to Manchester route bought my ticket and caught the train into Manchester where I would pick up the onward service to Todmorden. The train change at Manchester was a relaxed one, time enough for a coffee and some people watching on the station concourse, then it was onwards and out through the suburbs of Manchester and into the Pennines. For all the urban sprawl around Manchester, its soon left behind as the hills make their presence felt.

The steady climb up through the rolling moors is suddenly interrupted by the sudden blackness as the train plunges into Summit Tunnel, at over a mile in length it is an example of the challenges that face the Victorian railway builders. With modern trains the tunnel is a brief-ish blip on a journey but for the early passengers travelling behind a smoke and spark belching steam locomotive it must have been a very much more thrilling experience.

Coming out of the tunnel the journey was only a few more minutes before the train pulled into Todmorden station, which sits a little above the town centre. The town was busy, a combination of good weather. Market day and it being the weekend of the town’s Folk Festival.

First order of business after any journey is a coffee and I knew just the place in the market hall, the Exchange Coffee stall.

05/05/18  TODMORDEN. The Folk Festival 2018. Market Hall, Exchan

TODMORDEN. On the Saturday market hall, Exchange Coffee stall.

You will never go hungry or thirsty in Todmorden, there are so many places to choose from but this is a favourite of mine, as is the market hall itself. So it was a mug of really good coffee and some cake ( some things just go together ) while I gathered my thoughts and took in the surroundings. There’s the market hall, with is collection of businesses, butchers, bakers and a ‘proper’ hardware stall.

05/05/18  TODMORDEN. The Folk Festival 2018. Market Hall. Hardwa

TODMORDEN. On the Saturday market hall, the hardware stall.

 

While outside there are more stalls, the whole place having that atmosphere of busy coming and going, conversations being had, shopping being dome and friend and acquaintances being greeted.

A local church had set up a fund gathering cake stall, the cakes were good too. It would have been rude to walk past and not make a donation, well that was my excuse.

05/05/18  TODMORDEN. The Folk Festival 2018. The Open Market. St

TODMORDEN. On the Saturday open market, St. Peter’s Church Wallsden, Charity cake stall.

 

The fishmonger was in town as well, busy in the hot sunshine.

05/05/18  TODMORDEN. The Folk Festival 2018. The Open Market. Pa

TODMORDEN. On the Saturday open market, Paul’s Fresh Fish.

 

Your sweet tooth would be well catered for on Mrs B’s stall, where jams, honey and marmalades were the order of the day.

05/05/18  TODMORDEN. The Folk Festival 2018. The Saturday Open M

TODMORDEN. On the Saturday open market, Mrs. B’s jams and cakes.

 

Dragging myself away from the market I went in search of the Folk festival. There was a busy program of events and the various troupes of dancers and musicians were performing at various points around the town. The image at the head of this post is off the 400 Roses Belly Dancers, who bewitched the crowds with their graceful, rhythmic movements.

For contrast the Oakenhoof Clog Dancers also entertained with the steady click clack of the clogs backed by the breathy notes of the accordion and the twangs of the guitars.

05/05/18  TODMORDEN. The Folk Festival 2018. Oakenhoof Clog Danc

TODMORDEN. The Folk Festival 2018. The Oakenhoof Clog Dancers accordion player.

 

05/05/18  TODMORDEN. The Folk Festival 2018. Oakenhoof Clog Danc

TODMORDEN. The Folk Festival 2018. The Oakenhoof Clog Dancers. Man in a hat full of blossom.

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Liverpool. Passing Through Lime Street Station.

I had a day turn up where I had nothing that I really needed to get done, so rather than waste this unexpected bonus I decided on a trip out on the train. My ‘free’ day was a Thursday which meant that it would be market day in Ormskirk, a market town not too far away in West Lancashire. The journey by rail involves travelling into Liverpool and back out again. That’s not as complicated as it sounds as there are excellent services in both directions. Readers of my blog, if you are one, thank you, will know that I visited the Cobble Cafe in Ormskirk for a bowl of hot soup a little while ago.

15/02/18  LIVERPOOL. Lime Street Station. Concourse.

LIVERPOOL. Lime Street station, the concourse.

Lime Street station sits at the end of the Liverpool to Manchester route created by Stephenson. The original terminus was in Crown Street, which while it was easier to construct in engineering terms, was a little too far out from the city centre to be either convenient or competitive. This lead to the building of Lime Street in 1836. Construction was not without it’s challenges, the principal one being the steep gradient down from the junction with the Crown Street route at Edge hill on the City’s outskirts. Now a steep sided cutting the route was initially a dark, satanic tunnel cut through the sandstone ridge. Something which must have tested the nerves of those early railway passengers.

The traveler’s destination is a grand terminus under an arching roof, one of the oldest functioning termini in the country. The frontage, facing St. George’s Hall sitting loftily on it’s plateau, was an imposing hotel which is now given over to student accommodation. I wonder what they think of living in a building that on it’s opening was described as looking like Dracula’s Castle.

15/02/18  LIVERPOOL. Lime Street Station. Concourse.

LIVERPOOL. Lime Street station, the concourse, main line platforms.

 

The station is home to a large array of main line and local services, plus tucked away in their own tunnels beneath are parts of the Merseyrail suburban network. Currently a rebuilding program is in progress with a view to adding more capacity and bringing the promise of direct services to Scotland in the next year or so.

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Liverpool. Calderstones Park.

Like every other photographer I am always on the lookout for images, seeing if I can find  one with the elusive spark that tingles down the spine. For me it doesn’t have to be a dramatic scene, just one where the elements fall into place. Where there’s a sense of place. It’s a constant search as I look for material for the photobooks I produce.

This shot is from a journey I made into Liverpool, to Calderstones Park to the south of the city. The park was once a grand estate and house with the various elements which went with a house of that period. The open parkland surrounding the smaller, more intimate gardens nearer the house. I visited early in spring this year, it was still cold and new growth had yet to make it’s presence felt. Wandering around the Old English Garden I found this row of gardener’s outbuildings tucked away behind a high hedge. There was something in the quiet, unassuming, workaday scene that caught my eye, so the shot was made. With the starkness of the trees so early in the year I decided that a black and white image would be the way forward, to emphasise the coolness of the day and bring out the regimented lines of the brickwork.

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Chorley. Astley Hall All Lit Up.

Astley Hall is a historic manor house on the outskirts of the Lancashire market town of Chorley. It’s favourite place of mine, I like to visit it with my camera as the seasons roll and change through the year.

It has a changing sequence of events taking place through the year which always add to the pleasure of any visit. A more recent attraction is Astley Hall Illuminated, a light show that takes place in the grounds on one night in November and I was able to make it to this years performance. As well as the lights there were other attractions, living Christmas Trees walking around, children being terrified and intrigued in equal measure and a Brass Band from the Lancashire village of Tarleton played Carols throughout the evening.

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SPARK Line up outside the Hall

The highlight for me though was a drumming troupe by the name of SPARK. Their appearance was completely other worldly. They wore illuminated costumes, the colours changing as the beats of their drums changed. Throughout the evening they marched in formation around the Hall and it’s grounds like ghostly Pied Pipers with the crowds following in their wake. It was a truly magical experience.

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SPARK attracts the crowds.

I’ve already made a note to check out the date for next year, a tip if you go wrap up warm, it’s Lancashire and it’s November. I warmed up afterwards with a hot chocolate from the Hall’s Cafe Ambio, a lovely end to a great evening.

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Drums and lights in a circle from SPARK. 

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Liverpool. A Very Particular Gallery.

A few days ago I finally made my way to a place I’ve been meaning to visit for some time, the Victoria Gallery & Museum, part of Liverpool University. I had kept coming across references to it and had made various plans to visit but something had always come up and got in the way until the Saturday when I finally got through the door.

The Gallery is located on Ashton Street, off Brownlow Hill. It stands opposite the modernistic Metropolitan Cathedral, the warm, red brick of the gallery building is a stark contrast to the brash concrete and angular shape of the cathedral.

LIVERPOOL. Metropolitan Cathedral.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

This isn’t the largest museum or gallery I’ve ever visited but it more than makes up for it with character and quirkiness. The interior of the building is largely unchanged from its opening, when the top floor, now the Tate Hall, served as the University’s library. It is a marvellous time capsule of Victorian design and style of that period. The magnificent entrance hall, now a excellent cafe, is dominated by a wonderfully tiled fireplace from which elegant stair cases lead off up to the higher floors.

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum

The Entrance Hall Cafe.

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum

Stairway to The Upper Floors

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum Owl Skeleton

Owl Skeleton On The Stairs.

Some of the displays are contained within individual rooms, which I found helped, I was able to focus more on specific items rather than be overwhelmed by larger displays.

The top floor of, the original museum library, now the Tate Hall named after Sir Henry Tate one of the University library’s benefactors, is a large and airy space with a beautiful beamed ceiling. This part of the gallery contains a wonderfully quirky mix of displays, one end has exhibits charting the part Liverpool University played in nuclear research, for medical uses originally and then how that changed with the onset of WW2 and then with the coming of peace developments with lead to the building of the Large Hadron Collider. At the other end of the room however there is a display of dentistry through the ages with a reconstruction of a typical Victorian era Dentist’s surgery and a collection of dentures form around the world.

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum Tate Hall.

The Tate Hall.

One final aspect which made my visit so enjoyable was the staff, they are amongst the most friendly, approachable and well informed that I have met, only to happy to discuss the museum, its history and displays. Treat yourself to a couple of hours away from the rush of the city centre, next time you are near or in Liverpool, pay the Victoria a visit.

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