WIRRAL WAY INFORMATION
My late father was Scots so naturally I have an attachment great affection for the country and have been visiting since forever.
It would be impossible/stupid to try and describe all the place has to offer in one post so I’ll just use a selection of nine images chosen from a hard drive that’s bursting at the seams with Scottish imagery. There’s no theme to the choice, apart from all being taken in Scotland (obvs), they just brought back memories or there was something about the shot that either appealed at the time or struck me later, you know that thing that you didn’t notice because you were so engrossed in getting the shot it only catches your eye later when you sit back and look at them again in a more relaxed frame of mind.
The headline image is of a rainbow spanning the waters of Loch Rannoch, it was taken on the first day of that year’s holiday, a nice good omen for the fortnight’s break ahead.
Enough words, to the photos.
I imagine every photographer will be familiar with this scenario. You are working through your photo files and an image catches your eye. You may have seen it countless times before, you will remember taking it but this time around it hits you with that other ‘something’ that makes you sit back in your chair while you try and analyse what it is that caught your attention.
Here’s a small selection culled from a recent house keeping session on the photo files.
The featured shot was a grab shot with my mobile ‘phone. I was hurrying to catch a train at Earlestown, one of my local stations, the route had been electrified a couple of years ago and the parapet of the footbridge had been raised with heavy duty glass panels as a safety measure. The pattern of raindrops caught my eye as I crossed, damn I’d seen it and I couldn’t walk past it as I knew I’d regret it for the rest of the day. The camera was out of harms way in my rucksack so out came the mobile. Shot taken I went and caught my train (just), I tried a couple of filters on the image but I kept coming back to black and white, so here it is.
That’s the back story for one of these shots, you can put your own to the rest.
The Seasons are turning warm, the days are getting slowly longer and the sun is becoming less shy about being seen out and about. Today started a bit on the grim side with a slow fog lazing about but by the mid morning it had largely burnt away so I decided to make a break for it before the weather closed in again.
I decided to head for the market town of Chorley, about an hour’s drive away, sometimes less if the traffic is behaving itself. When I drive to Chorley I generally leave the car in Astley Park, it’s just off the town centre and it makes for a pleasant walk. The main path is straight and clear from the front of the house, see the headline shot, but there are also paths that wander through the woodlands, over bridges and past burbling streams. These would have been used as an elegant diversion for the occupants of the house through the years.
As is the way with these things, ownership of the house passed through different families, either by marriage or a family line dying out. The Charnocks, Brookes and Townley-Parkers all owned the house at one time, eventually it passed into the care of the council in the 1920’s It’s open now at weekends and contains a fantastically impressive plasterwork ceiling as well as a gallery and exhibition space.
The impressive frontage with it’s lion capped doorway dates from the 1660’s, being built onto the original timber frames house. Alas it was a bit of a rushed job and became slightly detached, the floor of the long gallery now has an impressive set of bumps and hollows as you promenade along it. I’ve also heard that it may be haunted….
On a lighter note the old stable block has a really good cafe.
One treat of today is that the snowdrops, Galanthus Nivalis, as my late father’s gardening books tell me are now out in profusion and they added that striking burst of white whenever the sun broke through the clouds that were cartwheeling across the sky. A pleasant bonus on a crisp day, I might try and catch them again before they fade.
It was towards the end of October and the weather had picked itself up from the grey doldrums. Not wanting to waste this bonus of sunshine I took myself off by train. I had decided to go down to the Welsh borderlands and travelled on to Chester and then Shrewsbury. It’s a pleasant, easy journey that I’ve taken quite a few times.
From Shrewsbury I decided to head out to the market town of Welshpool, it sits on the Montgomery Canal and it’s an area I know little if anything about. If nothing else it would be an interesting journey, I would have a meal and pick up ideas for next years when the longer, warmer days return.
The journey out wasn’t a long one and the station at Welshpool is not too far from the town centre. The old station building is no longer in use by the railway but instead is now a shopping centre in the renovated building.
I knew that Welshpool was served by one of the many preserved narrow gauge lines that are a feature of Wales, the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, so I made my way over to the station at Raven Square to see what information was available for future planning. The railway has it’s beginnings in attempts to increase access to the farms and villages in the valleys higher up in the hills and at one time it ran right through then town to the station on the main line. Unfortunately between it’s closure and reopening at the hands of volunteers the stretch through the town was lost.
When I got to the station, it’s not a long walk and it was a really pleasant day, I found that I was only fifteen minutes away from a departure so I took advantage of this stroke of luck and had an extremely enjoyable journey along the valley of the River Banwy to the terminus at Llanfair Caereinion and a lunch in the pleasant station cafe.
It’s definitely on my list for a revisit in 2019.
High on the sometimes bleak West Pennine Moors in between the Lancashire towns of Horwich and Chorley there’s a hilltop rich in trees, with here and there the remains of buildings showing through. These are the Terraced Gardens, the creation of local businessman William Lever, later 1st Viscount Leverhulme. I’ve been visiting the gardens since my childhood and have seen the ebb and flow of their condition over time. The gardens were an extravagant mix of pathways and follies, the designer was Thomas Mawson. From the top of the gardens there are views right across the plain of Lancashire to the coast.
Leverhulme created the gardens at the turn of the 1900’s, he was familiar with the area from his courting days and the gardens were heavily influenced by his travels. He made his fortune by building on his family’s grocery business, creating the very successful Sunlight Soap brand along the way. His main home was on the Wirral at Thornton Hough, the Wirral is also the location of the garden village of Port Sunlight which he built to house the workers from the adjacent factory. The fascinating Lady Lever Galley which houses some of the art collection built up by him and his wife and opened in her memory can also be found in Port Sunlight.
After Lord Leverhulme’s death in 1925 the estate was sold on to the owner of a local brewery and on his death the estate was bought by Liverpool Corporation who already owned much of the land in the area and had created a series of reservoirs to supply the city. The main house and the estates’ gatehouses were demolished in 1947 and the long period of decline began. Now in the hands of the water company United Utilities a program consolidation and restoration work is underway.
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.
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.
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.
The fishmonger was in town as well, busy in the hot sunshine.
Your sweet tooth would be well catered for on Mrs B’s stall, where jams, honey and marmalades were the order of the day.
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.