RIVINGTON. Sunlight And Old Stones.

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.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS.  Seven Arch Bridge.

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. The Seven Arch Bridge across the old road from Chorley into Horwich.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS.  Seven Arch Bridge Steps.

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. The steps leading down from the summer house to the Seven Arch Bridge over the old Chorley – Horwich road. Due to the steep slopes visible in this shot the gardens were laid out in a series of terraces.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. The Pigeon Tower.

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. One of the most striking and visible features of the gardens is The Pigeon Tower seen from the boating pool. The tower was built to take advatage of the views from the highest point of the gardens. The top floor was used as a sitting & sewing room by Lady Leverhulme. as can be seen from the photo consolidation and restoration is work taking place throughout the gardens.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. The Swimming Pool Restorati

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. The the boating pool beneath the Pigeon Tower undergoing restoration. Viscount Leverhulme being a great believer in the benefits of fresh air and exercise would occaisionally swim in the pool. Again the restoration work in progress can been seen with the new lining to the pool and the clearing away of overgrown vegetation.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS.  Bungalow Ruins.

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. Lord Leverhulme’s house at Rivington was a bungalow by the name of Roynton Cottage. This tiled flooring is all that now remains of the building. Roynton Cottage replaced an earlier, wooden cottage which was burnt down in 1913 by Edith Rigby as a Sufferagette protest. The curve of the tiles runs along the edge of what had been the cicular ballroom, the ceiling of which was dark blue and decorated with gold stars representing the constellations on the night of Lord Leverhulme’s birth, 19th September, 1851.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS.  Ruined Shelter.

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. The ruins of a garden shelter on the level below the site of the bungalow.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS.  Double Staircase.

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. the double staircase which leads up from the boating pool to the site of the bungalow Roynton Cottage.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. Gardeners Cottages.

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. Gardeners Cottages above the Japanese Pool.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS.  The Dell & Blue Pool Bridg

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. Looking down the course of the waterfalls in the dell towards the footbridge.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS.  Caves Above The Dell.

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. The man made caves alos known as The Bear Caves, on the path above the Dell.

11/11/18 RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. The Japanese Pool.

RIVINGTON TERRACED GARDENS. The Japanese Pool. Inspired by the Willow Pattern design in its heyday the pool as surrounded with tea houses lit by lanterns and was fed by waterfalls and cascades from the upper levels of the gardens.

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Chorley. Waiting For The Bus.

Even though I’m a car owner I still like to use public transport regularly, either the bus or the train. I welcome the change from being the driver so I can just sit back and let the journey unfold. I find these sorts of journeys really helpful if I’m working on a project, a photo book, a short story or a blog post that’s got a bit ‘sticky’ or isn’t progressing as well as it should. I just sit and watch the world go by the bus or train window and let my mind freewheel. I try not to deliberately think about the problem in hand, that just seems to chase any solution further away into the dark corners.

There’s plenty of stimulus to be found on these journeys, scraps of overheard conversation, or scenes being acted out as you pass by.

What were those two staring at so intently?

What was in the big, cardboard box that was so heavy?

The briefly noticed scene in a cafe window, do those two people meet regularly?

The list is endless.

There was a particular reason for me travelling to Chorley, a market town in central Lancashire, not too far from where I live. The town has a vibrant centre and market, with plenty of independent traders and they always put on a good event. I was going to collect my ticket to the flower show which is held at the end of July in the grounds of Astley Hall which is just off the town centre. This is the fourth year that the show is being held and each year they have added to and improved it.

It has become a permanent fixture now in my own calendar. There’s all the attractions you would expect, the displays, the talks, appearances from well known gardeners from the TV. There’s also a growing food court area.

Speaking of food, collecting my ticket only took a few minutes so I had plenty of time to have a walk around the town and the market. I had a really good brunch at one of my favourites, Bee’s Country Kitchen on the market and after some more shopping I headed back to the bus station in time to have an afternoon coffee & cake at Woodchats Cafe on the bus station, in fact you can just make it out at the top, right hand corner of the photo.

The next event I’m looking forward to after the flower show is Chorley Live, a two night event of live music played at venues throughout the town centre. I blog more about that one when I’ve been.

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Chorley. Leek & Potato Soup

The weather in my part of the UK is currently bouncing to and fro between wet, windy or just plain horrible and it’s been like this for the past few weeks. I finally ran out of patience a couple of days back and decided I had to get out of the house come what may. I had counted all the flowers on my wallpaper more than once and my camera was sat in it’s case feeling lonely and neglected.

It was Tuesday, that meant Flat Iron Market day in the nearby town of Chorley. I believe the name comes from the practice in years gone by of turning up at the market with an old blanket, the corners of which you weighted down with anything to hand, old flat irons etc and that was your stall and that name stuck. Things are more organised today. Due to building work the Flat Iron isn’t on it’s usual site, a large car park instead the stalls are threaded through the streets around the covered market. I must admit I like it, the arrangement means you get the best of both worlds, the regular shops, Chorley has a fine selection of independent traders, mixed in with the market stalls.

You would have to put a lot of effort into going hungry in Chorley, the choices of places to eat is really wide. To warm up on this visit I took myself to Bees Country Kitchen on the side of the covered market. This place is a true gem, an almost bewildering selection of food comes out of a single market stall. I went for the Leek & Potato soup, perfect for the cold weather. Seating is in a couple of pavilions alongside so you get to eat and watch the world go by. Perfect if you are looking for inspiration for that project/image/idea.

The Bees Country Kitchen

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Ormskirk. Hot Soup On A Cold Day

It was Thursday which meant it would be market day in Ormskirk. I needed to get out of the house for a few hours as I had a couple of errands I needed to sort out and as I hadn’t been over that way for a little while I thought it would make a pleasant change.

Ormskirk is a market town in West Lancashire, an area of broad flat plains stretching out to the coast and the Irish Sea. The resort of Southport is only a few miles further on. Its a farming area with a rich dark soil. The market is held on Thursdays and Saturdays and straddles through the pedestrianised centre around the clock tower. Its a general market so it’s probably got whatever you are looking for.

The weather had been reasonable when I turned out but as I stepped off the train the rain decided to visit Ormskirk as well. I quickly sorted out the bits of business I needed to and after a short look around the stalls getting colder and damper, I decided I needed to warm up somewhere. I’m a great fan of cafes, something I inherited from my parents who were great people watchers. Ormskirk has quite a wide choice, it’s my mission to try a different one on each visit, on this wet market day I picked Cobble Coffee.

I found a window seat so I could watch the world go by while I had my very pleasant bowl of hot soup and my coffee while outside in the unfriendly weather the Thursday shoppers scurried about getting everything done, while the stallholders put on the brave face and did their best to keep warm.

(PS. The soup was a excellent, lightly spiced Parsnip, perfect for a cold, inhospitable day )

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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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Manchester. Art On The Street.

A few weeks ago a friend invited me along to his graduation ceremony for his Masters degree which was being held in Manchester. I think it now makes him some sort of Jedi.

The event was being held in the starkly elegant Bridgewater Hall across from the Victorian splendour of the Midland hotel, the hotel was acting as the dressing room for the students cap and gownery. So needless to say there was a certain amount of hustle and bustle between the two but in amongst all the celebrations and mortar board throwing etc. there was a small oasis of calm.

Carefully, diligently a gentleman was sketching away at recreating the Manchester skyline in a panorama of watercolours and pen strokes. From time to time small knots of the celebrating crowds would break off to admire his craftsmanship but never once did he break his concentration or step out of his zone.

I wonder what the finished image looks like and where it’s now hanging?

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Astley Hall & Figures In A Walled Garden

A favourite place of mine for taking my camera for a walk is Astley Hall on the outskirts of the Lancashire market town of Chorley. The Hall has it’s origins in the 15th century, with succeeding families of owners each putting their own stamp on the building. To the rear of the hall is the walled garden, the kitchen garden, providing produce to feed the household. The garden has been under a program of restoration and replanting with the emphasis shifting to the decorative as opposed to the edible.

It’s a spot that holds year round attractions as the season ebb and flo, the bare sticks of trees and frozen hummocks of soil slowly warm and ease themselves into a new cycle of life for the year. Shoots forcing themselves through onto the stage of a new growing year and fresh leaves begin to garland the trees as the days lengthen.

The walled garden is also a stage for an ever shifting range of features and exhibits. Two that have caught my eye are these wicker figures, not quite a Wicker Man, they don’t quite have those sinister overtones, they are more peaceful and reflective.

13/09/15 CHORLEY. Astley Hall Walled Garden. Wicker Figure.

LANCASHIRE. Chorley. Figure woven out of willow in the walled garden.

My original shots were colour but something in the poise of the figures made me try out B&W versions of the images which I felt conveyed more the timelessness of a peaceful walled garden.

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