I’ve finally managed to get my sorry arse out of the apartment having had the laziest of Sunday’s and so I thought I would jot down a few notes over a Flat White. This is the last Sunday of my second trip back to the UK this year. It’s been a long trip; four weeks but feels so much more. Unfortunately it will be less than four weeks before I’m back again for another month. While these visits play havoc with my life back home, my plans and more importantly my sleep patterns, they have allowed me to be a tourist in my own country and as such visit a few places which I’ve never been to before, or certainly not for many years.
As always when I sit down to write a post I am reminded how little I retain in my mind these days; if I don’t write it when it happens it seems to be lost. Perhaps a few sparks may ignite as I work.
The late flight in was not enough to stop me being awake at 4 am the following morning. As I was not heading down to see Lauren until the following day I had to find something to do. I could sit and watch telly or, as was the decision, I could head into London and be a tourist.
I was still at school the last time I visited St Pauls Cathedral. It was a school trip but I don’t actually remember how old I was or which school I was at. Somewhere I am sure I still have some photos!
Having not seen Steve during my previous trip I messaged him to see if he was about. We met up at his place round the back of Kings Cross and jumped on a bus into the city. A few hours wondering around St Pauls and then lunch wasn’t a bad way to spend the day. With jet-lag kicking in I headed back to Wycombe much earlier then I would have liked.
Steve took this picture from the upper gallery in the dome. I made the Whispering Gallery before height issues forced me back to ground level.
Sunday and I was off to Canterbury to see Lauren. Another early start so I took the scenic route back through the centre of London, past parliament and along the embankment to Docklands, Blackwell tunnel and then the A2 south.
With no plans we just had a lazy walk around the city and cathedral as well as a huge lunch. The weather was superb and the company not too shabby either.
Sadly, as always, work has to interrupt proceedings but as I was staying in Manchester the next weekend I decided to make a visit to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.
Canals and the inland waterways of Britain have long held a fascination for me. Something about the accessible, living history would be my guess. It is this interest that is one of the things that makes Australia such an amazing place for me to live. The history in Sydney can be seen, touched and experienced first hand. My visit to Port Arthur, Tasmania, reinforced to me just how recent some the country’s “history” actually is. Many trips are planned to the various convict, mineral and gold mining sites now abandoned around greater Sydney and New South Wales.
The docks, warehouses, cottages and boats were great to see and so a happy few hours was spent looking, enjoying and soaking up the atmosphere.
Being so close to the castles of North Wales it would have been rude not to have visited at least one. Conwy Castle was one of Edward I “ring of steel” designed to suppress the welsh following a revolt. It later played important rolls in various uprisings and was even held by the last native Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndŵr. The fortifications were constructed to encircle the entire town much of which remain and are accessible to this day.
This was my first visit to this part of Wales but I doubt it will be my last. Chips by the sea rounded off a great day.
With the weather set to hold fair on Sunday, actually hotter than Sydney apparently, I headed north out of Manchester for the town of Lancaster.
Lancaster Castle is at the very heart of the city and was until a couple of years back still a functioning prison, the oldest working prison in the country. The building remains an active court, the longest serving court in the country. There have been many famous accused passing through among them the Birmingham Six who where held in the prison as the underground passageway into the court meant that maximum security could be ensured.
Infamous for the number of people condemned to death within the court the process of passing sentence, execution and removal of the dead became very streamlined with the underground passage from gallows to coffin still visible if not, sadly, accessible to the public. Infamous amongst the condemned where the Pendle Witches in 1612.
Both courts can be viewed during the tour as can the route for the accused from prison to dock. When condemned you can actually see where the prisoner was “sent down” to commence their term at Her Majesties Pleasure.
Form Lancaster I headed further north to Pooley Bridge and then up past Ullswater through the lanes and valleys to the tiny hamlet of Martindale and the Old Church of St Martins. This is a truly stunning, peaceful and remote location. It is a place I have visited a number of times since first finding it by pure luck over 25 years ago. While I have changed in so many ways over the years the church, and valley in which it sits, have not changed at all, locked in their own time and space.
Last weekend I was back down south. While watching some rubbish on the TV I picked up another canal location I needed to see.
Edstone Aqueduct on Stratford-upon-Avon Canal is the longest such structure in England, and what an amazing structure it is. Effectively a long cast iron trough built on top a brick structure where the adjoining tow-path has been build at the bottom of the trough so as the boats pass by they are at eye level.
The whole of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal was built on a shoe-string. Bridges and locks where built to the minimum 7ft width wherever possible. One result of this were the ingenious bridges which where constructed in two halves, a gap being left through the middle of the bridge deck to allow the horses tow-lines to be passed through without being unhitched.
At Lowsonford stands an original barrel roofed “Lenghtsmen’s Cottage” which is now owned by the Landmark Trust and available to rent for holidays. During my visit the trust had an open day so I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have a look around.
Outside, on the bank of the canal, looking down towards the water, was a steel statue by Sir Antony Gormley. I say “was” because I understand it was only there for a year to mark the Landmark Trusts anniversary and was due to be removed in the week after my visit. I have always liked his work and it seems somewhat appropriate in the setting of the canal lock.
My final weekend was much quieter. On Saturday I took a drive back out through the North Wales country side, past Snowden and on to Caernarfon and its magnificant castle. From there I started north back towards Manchester with a detour across the Menai Bridge and into Anglesey, another first for me.