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birds buildings Church architecture colours countryside landscapes light Shrewsbury Shropshire trees wildlife

Walking the Shrewsbury Battlefield – Part One

Although we have lived in Shropshire for years it is only now that we have finally visited the site of the famous Battle of Shrewsbury and the Church of St Mary Magdalene built there to commemorate those who died in battle.

There were absolutely no clues that a battle ever took place here as we walked the footpath across the site of the battle, but we enjoyed wandering along the hedgerows with the song of Skylarks high above us and the distinctive call of the first returning migrant warbler, the Chiffchaff. We enjoyed seeing and hearing a Yellow Hammer a scarce farmland bird.

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Signs of spring were to be seen every step of the way, freshly bursting buds with the brightest of greens emerging and the earliest of blossoms.

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The willows were giving a light show, as the sun shone through their catkins.

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Some trees were still bare skeletons against the blue skies.

 

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As we approached the scatter of buildings around the church, a shallow stream flowed alongside with banks of water plants coming to life.

 

 

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In the woodland around the church we discovered the remaining fish ponds used by the college chaplains.

 

 

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We wandered past the church and made our way to the nearby Battlefield Farm Shop which luckily had a coffee shop! We decided to have a look at the church on the way back when we would be well-refreshed. In converted old farm buildings an exhibition explained all about the Battle of Shrewsbury.

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We began our walk back around the battlefield site following a narrow gravel path between a tall hedge and an old chestnut fence. In a field showing signs of ancient ridge and furrows agriculture we spotted a drainage pond rich in vegetation and a old fallen tree with the most amazingly shaped trunk and branches.

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In part two of our look at the Shrewsbury Battlefield site we will look at the church and the skeletal tree in more detail.

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architecture buildings Church architecture colours light light quality outdoor sculpture photography the sea the seaside the shore townscapes

A Seaside Town at Night

We often visit North Wales and the island of Anglesey. It is an area with beautiful countryside, long quiet beaches, tiny villages and seaside towns. When we stay for a mid-week break we sometimes use a hotel in the seaside town of Caernarvon, enjoying the walks along the sea front, the quay and the marina.

This post is a gallery of shots taken on a wander through the town and along the sea front as light fell. The temperature was slowly falling as the evening crept in. The atmosphere of the place reflected the changing temperature and light levels. Come and share our wander with us! Fresh evening air and the sounds of the sea lapping at the sea walls trying to drown out the harsh cries of the sea gulls.

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Great memories that make us yearn for a few more days by the sea!

 

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Church architecture colours flowering bulbs garden photography gardening gardens gardens open to the public irises light light quality ornamental trees and shrubs shrubs spring bulbs The National Trust walled gardens winter gardens

Croft Castle month by month – part two – February

So here we are back at Croft Castle for the second wander in 2015 around the grounds for my February post. We thought we would find that little would have changed since our January visit, but we found plenty to see and really enjoyed our wander. Fresh buds looked ready and waiting to burst into new life when temperatures rise and light values increase. Droplets of rain from a recent shower caught the light where they lay upon the leaves of a Hypericum.

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In the long mixed border beside the tall walls which enclose the walled garden the first flowers of the year had opened, the delicate blooms of the snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis and a few pink blooms dotted amongst the marbled foliage of the Cyclamen coum.

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Gardeners had recently discovered a cobbled path running diagonally beneath the lawn close to the gateway to the walled garden. We imagined the excitement when the first signs appeared or perhaps the chink of a spade heard as it hit a cobble. When fully excavated no doubt it will join up with the network of cobble path to be found throughout the garden and grounds.

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Inside the walled garden the temperature rose noticeably and we were well protected from the cold of the winter winds. Enjoy this batch of photos showing what we found within the walls.

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The foliage of two different Epimedium plants looked good together, one with its coat of glossy green the other a rich shining bronze.

 

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This old willow with branches rambling haphazardly and randomly caught our attention as its silver catkins shone out in its dark corner of the walled garden. Some branches were severely affected by fasciation causing them to be deformed and tightly curled. Others were subject to gall growths caused by gall wasps.

 

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The blue gate that had enticed us to pass through it in January was open again, and we diverted easily to see what was happening in the bothy and greenhouses.

 

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Snowdrops found the shelter under every tree within the walls and encircled their trunks in white bracelets.

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We left the protection of the walled garden and wandered around the borders closer to the castle. We were amused by the sight of this caterpillar up a tree. He was a part of a children’s trail discovering the delights of Alice in Wonderland.

 

 

 

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When we had skirted most of the castle we reached the little church which on our last visit was covered in scaffolding due to being subject to renovation. We were glad to find the builders had left the little building in peace.

 

 

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Little narrow borders feature in the grounds of the church and looked full of promise. For now though we had to be content with the display put on by this wonderfully colourful Euphorbia.

From there we returned to the car park to make our way home. On our next visit to Croft Castle we will hopefully discover many more signs of spring.

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allotments architecture buildings Church architecture community gardening fruit and veg garden design garden photography garden seating gardening gardens gardens open to the public grow your own hardy perennials ornamental trees and shrubs outdoor sculpture sculpture town gardens trees

A Bishop’s Garden

The grounds of a cathedral doesn’t sound the most promising place to find an interesting garden but we had heard good things about the gardens at Wells Cathedral , so when visiting the cathedral itself we just had to have a look.

It turned out to be an excellent idea as we found the bishop’s garden to be full of interest and atmosphere. Come for a wander and see if you agree! The garden sits well with the architecture which encloses it or sits within it. At times the plants climb the walls or scramble over ruins. At times the architecture is a backdrop and the colours of the stone and brick act as a great foil for the colour of foliage and flower.

It is a garden of plants and walls.

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We found sculpture in several styles and from different eras within the garden.

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The planting was well thought out with interesting combinations.

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White stemmed Birches bleached in the brightness of the day looked so at home against the white of the stone.

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Overall the garden design was informal but in an area enclosed by buildings we found a more formally structured garden. In the borders within the formal structure the planting was ebullient and lively.

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Part of the garden had been given over to the local community to use as a communal garden including allotments.

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So the discovery of the Bishops Garden proved to be an unexpected treat, a place full of delights, tumbling ruins, rich plantings and sculpture.

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architecture buildings Church architecture

Three Cathedrals – Wells Cathedral – Part Two

Welcome back to Wells Cathedral. In part two we will be looking at an amazing staircase and some recent features.

The staircase is wide and gently rising and even more gently curving. They have a design that has elements of modern ideas.

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Truly modern design exists in the wooden furniture used by the Bishop and his cohorts. Clean lines and pale wood create beautiful sculptural pieces. Fine examples of beauty working with function.

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Another modern item is this fabric hanging in delicate shades of blue and purple. Every breeze adds movement and each fold catches the light.

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In contrast let us look at a few of examples of work wrought by ancient craftsmen, in stone, metal and glass.

 

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At the top of the stairwell we looked at earlier we discovered the Chapter House, a place of quiet and peace. Whenever visitors such as us entered this room they sat and talked quietly to their companions or else just sat alone looking around them. They looked upwards at its complex vaulted ceiling and the striped columns rising to meet it, or read the scripts found on the brass plaques around the walls.

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We shall finish off this look at the cathedral at Wells with a few shots of its famous archway shaped like a number 8, which is called the Scissors Arch. It is beautiful and as far as I know unique, but there is such a simple reason for being there. It is to prevent the collapse of the central tower.

 

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Whilst at Wells we wandered around the Bishops Garden which we enjoyed immensely. Look out for a post about it coming soon.

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architecture buildings Church architecture photography sculpture townscapes

Three Cathedrals – Wells – Part One

Welcome to the next cathedral in my Three Cathedral series of posts.

We visited Wells Cathedral decades ago and we remembered very little of it apart from a wide sweeping stone stairway. So when we returned in the autumn we looked forward to reacquainting ourselves with its architecture. We guessed where the Cathedral would be in the little city of Wells by following the wide street with its market right to its very end. The market stalls almost funneled us towards the cathedral gates. 

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Just before entering the cathedral grounds we came across this beautifully colourful National Trust shop.

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An open green with specimen trees showed us the way to go.

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Wells Cathedral is a tall imposing structure designed to dominate the city and its inhabitants.

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A modern entrance had been added in recent years to give visitors a comfortable way in and to preserve the main doorway in. The use of green oak and matching stone ensured that the modern extension fitted beautifully and most sympathetically. the new entrance also carefully led us to a new cafe again designed to match. From every one of its windows we got views to entice us onward to explore.

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The vaulted ceiling of the cloister walk has been sensitively restored to show its intricate complex web of wooden beams.

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As well as architecture it is the craftsmanship displayed in our old ecclesiastical buildings that impresses us most. It is good to see them well preserved and carefully, lovingly looked after.

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Often when exploring church buildings it is possible by looking up, to discover carvings of characters. like this “impish” character below left. He looks like he is plotting his next trick. The wooden carving on the left was high up and hard to see in detail and he was part of an ancient complex clock.

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Let us finish this first part of two posts about Wells Cathedral by looking at other characters we managed to find hidden here and there throughout the great building.

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In part two we carry on with our tour and discover an amazing curved staricase and some modern additions.

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architecture buildings Church architecture townscapes

Three Cathedrals – Hereford – Part Two

Back at the cathedral in Hereford, we found colour flowing in through the windows even though it was a dull day. The stained glass windows seemed to capture the little light there was. The majority were typical of such windows found in any church building anywhere in the UK …..

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……. but a few were very different indeed. These were of recent design with a original art work and a style and technique we had never seen before.

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Hereford is famed for being the home of one of the most famous of ancient maps ever produced, the Mappa Mundi. The detail was amazing and it was hard to imagine that this was the work of someone’s imagination. How could it have been conceived? Other ancient books were displayed in glass topped cases.

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The craft of wood carving is not left out, as we discovered fine examples on misericords and chair backs.

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The smith was not left out either. We found these very detailed carvings on gates at the entrance to a walkway within the cathedral.

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Our final craft we discovered was the work of the stonecarvers. These two dragons topped off pillars in a tiny chapel.

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Once back outside we were disappointed not to be able to walk around the the building to view it from all sides but we were very pleased to find a courtyard containing this beautiful piece of sculpture and close by some intricate ironwork on a pair of gates.

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As we returned to the car we found a few interesting buildings left in the centre of the city. A row of old cottages close to the Cathedral, the Victorian Public Library and an old warehouse now restored and extended to provide modern apartments. So there ends the look at the first cathedral in this little series.

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architecture Church architecture

Three Cathedrals – Hereford – Part One

On a freezing cold day in mid January we decided to visit Hereford which, although only an hours journey or so away from us, we had never visited. It is the county capital of Herefordshire. The city centre was not very impressive at all and we had the impression much of its ancient architecture had been destroyed in the ’60’s and ’70’s, exactly the same as had happened to our county town Shrewsbury. A few gems remained but there were an awful lot of ugly building around them.

But on a day with sleet and wet snow showers we were here to see the Cathedral. We first sited the cathedral as we walked up a narrow cobbled street with local artisan shops lining each side. The Cathedral School buildings clustered around the entrance gateway to the Cathedral Close so uniformed school children busily and hastily crossed the close in every direction.

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Edward Elgar, composer, is celebrated with this beautiful bronze statue so full of character, where he leans back on his old Samson bicycle admiring the cathedral.

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A single raindrop had settled itself right on the end of his nose, and hung ready to drip onto his magnificent moustache.

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Close to the main Cathedral entrance a recent oak framed building housed the workshop of the stone mason. Masons are constantly kept busy on repairs to stonework in every cathedral around the country.

The Dioscese of Hereford was founded in 676 and the first Cathedral dedicated to King Ethelbert was built in 794. Ethelbert was to become a martyr and the Cathedral dedicated to him became a place of pilgrimage. His bones stored at the Cathedral became a centre of a pilgrimage. A new Cathedral was built between 1020 and 1040 but in 1075 was destroyed by the Welsh.

Thus major rebuilding work followed between 1107 and 1158 in the Norman style, still much in evidence today. So the Cathedral today contains examples of architectural styles from the Norman period right up to the current time.

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The main way into the Cathedral is through a huge stone porch. Inside massive oak doors were well furnished with iron hinges and a lion headed door knocker.

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Once inside the incredible height of the building became apparent with wide intricately carved stone pillars leading the eye up to an incredibly beautifully carved and painted vaulted ceiling.

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It is unusual to see such colour in an Anglican building in this country. We were soon to discover that this building had been very colourfully decorated as we found original examples. Hereford Cathedral is a fine example of English Gothic church architecture. Within it we were to find colour in its stained glass windows, in the tiles on its floor, on wood carvings and in fabric.

The first example we found was the decoration in orange and red around this tiny stone window but we were soon to find even more colour in the mosaic patterning around the base of the carved stone font.

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Probably one of the newest examples of colourful craftwork to be found was on the intricately embroidered kneelers hanging from the seats.

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We found many examples of detailed and richly painted carvings in both stone and wood.

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Before we finish part one of our visit to Hereford Cathedral we shall look down at our feet to admire the colourful, patterned tiles.

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All this ancient delicate craft needs protecting from the damp and cold. Several of these huge, iron, pot-bellied oil burners were working hard to do this. In part two we shall look at carvings in stone and artistry in glass and  in words on paper.

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Categories
architecture buildings Church architecture photography Yorkshire

Haworth – Village of the Brontes – Part One

We spent a midweek break in Yorkshire this autumn, combining a return visit to the RHS Garden Harlow Carr, with a return to Saltaire and a first visit to the village of the Brontes, Haworth. A busy few days full of interest, enjoyment and variety.

First I shall share with you our visit to Haworth a village up on the moors of Yorkshire. The village and the moors are closely linked to the well-known and much loved family of writers, the Brontes. We found the village after miles of travelling high in the moorland on roads with regular steep climbs and descents. The road began to drop steeply as we approached the village and signposts indicated a car park on the edge of the village. We parked up in a car park hidden in woodland and from there a footpath took us into the very heart of the village.

Haworth is a beautiful place! A village with a strong community feel to it and a centre for creativity where many artists and craftspersons live, work and display their work. To add to the enjoyment of Haworth we discovered that Halloween was due to be celebrated fully. We also discovered that the village has some most excellent coffee houses!

The path took us down below the village’s allotments where the hens entertained us with their contented clucking as we passed unnoticed. We passed the back of the church and entered the very heart of the village, the Square.

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Small businesses clustered around the Square welcoming visitors. You can see how the street drops steeply away from the Square. We decided that the number of coffee shops reflected the steepness of this hill – visitors need lots of places to stop and rest!

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We soon realised that this village had a real sense of community feeling accompanied by an equal sense of pride with a gentle humour running through. Just look at the path gardens under the front windows of these cottages complete with seats. A great place to share your thoughts with neighbours, greet visitors with a friendly smile and watch the life of the village going by. Nearby this little humorous figure enjoyed life in another front garden.

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There were frequent reminders too of the place that the Brontes hold in the hearts of the villagers.

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We followed part of the village trail that encompassed the places most relevant to the life of the Bronte family. We had to walk to the edge of the village to find the starting point where we began with a look at the Sun Inn where in the mid-19th century turn pike tolls would have been collected, and then close by we found the schoolroom which was linked to the West Lane Methodist Chapel which has since been demolished. Behind this schoolroom, which is now the meeting place for the Methodist congregation, we found the old graveyard which afforded wide spreading views over the valley.

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Close by was the rival West Lane Baptist Chapel which had an extensive school room added at the rear. It seemed amazing that this little village huddled in a valley bottom supported several chapels and a church. It reflects the life style of the time, when employers expected their workers to attend their chosen place of worship in order to keep their jobs. Some believed it would keep them out of the inns and public houses.

The second photo below shows a strange arrangement of old gate post ornamentation now displayed atop a garden wall.

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A short walk down the street back towards the heart of the village we found this beautiful and very old building, Townend Farm with its attached barn. These were built in the 17th century but still retained much of the original features including the most beautiful windows.

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We next found a row of back-to-back workers cottages, and we could tell from the relatively large area of upstairs windows that some sort of weaving must have gone on here. The terraces also had basement dwellings below the street level.

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The trail leaflet took us back to the centre where we stopped to look at the interesting array of shops. The Tourist Information Centre was housed in this strange thin building squeezed in a small space between two streets as they merged. The building has a short tower and pyramidal roof which was added when it changed from being the “Mechanics’ Institute” to the “Yorkshire Penny Bank”. The square here sits at the base of the wide steps leading up to the church. The village stocks are still in place outside what were once the post office and a temperance hotel. This teetotal hotel was supported by Patrick Bronte whereas rather ironically Branwell Bronte preferred the building opposite, The Old White Lion Inn.

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The Main Street led us out of the square as it dropped away steeply. We took a detour to the church before embarking on the downhill climb to discover the delights of that street. Part 2 of my Bronte posts will see us visiting the church and the Main Street.

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Categories
architecture buildings canals Church architecture outdoor sculpture photography renovation sculpture townscapes

Gloucester Docks

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We had a weekend away recently and passing near to Gloucester on our way back decided to drop into the city and make a return visit to its historic docks. We had not been there for about 30 years and even then it was at the start of a rebirth. A few of the old dockside warehouses had been restored and given a new lease of life. We had gone specifically to see the “Opie Collection” which was an amazing collection of old packets and packaging. we were wondering how the development had fared and if it had an air of rebirth and vibrancy such as developments at Cardiff Dock and Merseyside’s Albert Dock had managed to achieve.

Trying to park was not easy – they hadn’t got that right! And the road signs all around were dreadful but we did manage to park and found our way to the dock area. It was definitely worth the effort. It seemed at first glance to be lively and well-used with little sign of the dereliction that curses most dock areas. On the walk from the car park to the docks I spotted these red poppies bursting with colour and energy through a crack in the pavement. They glowed against the black fence. I loved the image of nature breaking through the concrete and adding a touch of softness to the rigidity of man-made structures.

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As we entered the docks themselves after a short walk we were instantly amazed by the lively feel of the place. New life had been given to dereliction and what once were working docks and warehouses had been given a second chance to burgeon as leisure, retail and new homes.

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As usual in these reborn docks plenty of coffee shops beckoned. In the evening there are also plenty of restaurants to entice the evening visitors.

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While we turn to restaurant and cafe for refreshment today, in times gone by when the docks were places of strenuous often dangerous labours the dockworkers and bargemen would have turned to religion so all of the larger docks provided a chapel. Gloucester was no exception.

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The craft that moor here now are are barges converted for leisure and pleasure and the odd tourist boats offering regular trips. It was hard to imagine the noise and constant movement of barges and their cargoes that must have moved through here every moment of every day when the docks were fully working.

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A favourite building of us both is the new Gloucester College of Art which sat in its blue and white crispness as a compliment to the blue of the sky and the white of the slowly passing clouds. When seen through the original dockland warehouses the college presented hope for the future.

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Signs of its bustling past remained and had been lovingly restored as sculptural memorials to its past and to the men and women who toiled there. They have a beauty all of their own.

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New pieces of sculpture commissioned as tributes to the docks’ past sit alongside the remnants of its earlier industriousness. Some thrusting into the air indicating power while others subtly placed where feet trod and the occasional eyes fell to spot them.

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The lift bridge was still toiling away lifting the road to allow water craft to enter or exit the docks. Where once the bridge would have lifted to give passage to working barges now the vessels passing below are pleasure craft manned by weekend sailors or tourists on trips along the waterway.

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After dropping into a retail centre for coffee we wandered into an area of the docklands still undeveloped and this area presented a stark contrast to the newness we had been enjoying before. They seem to be patiently waiting their turn for fresh breath to be breathed into them them as thoughtless vandals paint graffiti on their doors and throw bricks through their windows.

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This final trio of photos illustrates the sharp division between the developed and the symbols of the past.

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As we took the path back to the car we stopped to get a close up look at this sculpture shooting skyward when we noticed a fingerpost directing us to the cathedral and, as we had never visited it, we naturally followed its invitation. We were impressed enough with a quick view of the outside to think we must come back for another visit.

2014 06 25_1263 2014 06 25_1264

2014 06 25_1265