Categories
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.

Categories
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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Categories
architecture buildings model villages townscapes Yorkshire

Saltaire – a unique village – Part One

Saltaire is a place with a special atmosphere and a special place in British history, but also a place which very few people have ever heard of. We visited last year but then because of time and terribly wet weather we did not have time to look around the village itself. At that time we spent the day exploring the Salts gallery, where you can see so many pieces of art work from David Hockney, as well as galleries of furniture and beautiful craftwork.

Saltaire is a World Heritage Site and is recognised for the part it played in the development of the society we live in today. When you visit it is hard to believe it was the creation of one man, Titus Salt, a true visionary. He began as a successful business man, indeed one of England’s most eminent Victorian industrialists. He began by building a mill where he aimed to produce the finest wool fabrics utilising the most efficient methods available at the time.

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What made Salt stand “head and shoulders” above his contemporaries was his desire to provide his workers with the healthiest working conditions possible. coupled with this was his ambition to provide his workers and their families with social and community benefits virtually unknown during this period of British social history. We discovered how he achieved this as we explored the “model village” of Saltaire.

It was great to arrive again at Saltaire with the weather slightly better than on our last visit. Dull, overcast but not raining! So follow in our footsteps along the cobbled streets as Jude the Undergardener negotiates the town trail leaflet which took us down into Albert Terrace.

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We turned into William Henry Street where we noticed a variety of styles and sizes of house, from the smallest terraces with no front garden to three story town houses and larger semi-detached homes with gardens. This reflected the status and responsibilities of the tenant. Every street in Saltaire is wide enough to ensure natural light for every home. The three story buildings comprised shared lodgings for single workers whereas those adjoining with a small front garden were homes to the factory foremen.

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In Caroline Street the front door of every house opens directly onto the street showing that these tenants were the lowliest workers. The back lanes between the rear yards of these terraces, which once would have been home to the washing lines and ash cans have become the habitat of the wheelie-bin.

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When we turned the corner into Albert Road we noticed a distinct change. The houses here were larger, grander residences and all semi-detached. These were home to company executives, teachers and the church minister. These would have been built  on the outer boundary to ensure their tenants had a view of open countryside as befitting their status at that time. Open spaces throughout were left for small squares and gardens for communal use. The bunting hanging in the trees shows that this still holds true today.

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All homes whatever the status of the tenant had better conditions than anywhere else in the country at that period. Every house had running water, gas lights, a yard and an outside toilet. There must have been a great sense of pride here. The alternative conditions which most of their contemporaries endured would have been a different world. Salt had moved his factories and his workforce out of Bradford which was then the fastest growing town in the UK. The mill workers of Northern mill towns such as Bradford would have suffered terrible, dirty, dangerous working conditions and slums as homes. Working conditions would still have been difficult and the hours long but Salt was a philanthropic employer.

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One of Titus Salt’s most thoughtful and forward thinking ideas was the provision of almhouses, which we found situated around Alexandra Square. These were homes for elderly and infirm persons “of good moral character”. The inhabitants of the almhouses were also given a pension, all this 40 years before the first state pension. The buildings themselves were very decorative and overlooked an open area of garden.

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We were by this time well in need of a lunch break so made our way to the small area of shops and cafes in the centre. In part two you will find us in search of the social and community buildings, of which Titus Salt provided many. I leave you with another view of the mill with the allotments in the foreground. Salt ensured that there were green areas between the mill and his workers’ homes. The green spaces around the church served the same purpose.

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Sadly someone left Saltaire less happy than we were – they went home with only one glove!

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Categories
architecture buildings photography recycling townscapes Yorkshire

Haworth – Village of the Brontes – Part Two

Welcome back to Haworth, the village of the Brontes, where you find us just about to enter the church, in whose parsonage the family of writers lived. As we walked the gently sloping roadway to the church and parsonage we passed another interesting, eccentric shop. Haworth seemed to attract such places. The church itself was a tall, bulky building and very imposing – not an attractive building at all. But visitors are attracted to it for its Bronte links.

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Throughout the church interior we discovered links with the Brontes, which was not always easy in the gloomy interior. Light is always strange inside churches and you feel uncomfortable using a flash. Check out these plaques, old photos and documents.

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Almost opposite the church was the school in which Charlotte Bronte taught. It was a very short journey to work!

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The tall stone wall surrounding the churchyard was covered in mosses. Close up some patches looked like pictures of earth from the air.

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The parsonage frontage looks straight at the church and was built on a high piece of land so looked most imposing.

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Beyond the Parsonage a narrow footpath took us up to the edge of the moors which influenced so much of the Bronte family writings. Styles and gateways on this track were extremely narrow and walkers had to squeeze through. They were also of strange designs which we had never seen before. The walls alongside the track as it passed the last few village dwellings presented me with the chance to take a few texture shots. In places the path was made of flat stones sunk into the grass.

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We returned to the village centre and took the gentle stroll down the Main Street, with its eclectic mix of shops many displaying art and crafts. We soon discovered we were visiting soon after the village had celebrated the day the Tour de France cycle race came and the day after it had celebrated Halloween. Spot the recycled cycles and the spooky happenings.

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As we left the village to start our long journey home we made a diversion over the moors to take a short wander in the footsteps of the Bronte family. It was easy to see how its isolation and atmosphere provided such inspiration.

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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.

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Categories
buildings light light quality the sea the seaside the shore townscapes Wales

Llandudno Sea Front and Back

We decided a visit to see the sea was a good idea. It would blow away the cobwebs of winter and give us a healthy dose of sea air. So off to North Wales we went, stopping off at Pensarn for a wander along the beach and then further along the coast to Llandudno where we wanted to visit a photography exhibition at the gallery, Oriel Mostyn.

Our beach wanderings featured in the post “Textures on the Beach”, but in this post we visit Llandudno. The photos were taken on my Galaxy phone’s camera, an excellent little machine. We started by visiting the gallery but after indulging in an excellent coffee brew the exhibition of photographs disappointed. We decided a walk along the town’s main street and along promenade would make up for the disappointment. We enjoyed the walk but we were oh so cold.

Enjoy a walk with me and my little camera starting in the coffee shop at the gallery, along the street and the promenade. You will have to imagine the biting wind making your eyes run and burning your cheeks. The late afternoon light created a blue haze over the seafront giving the photos an unusual feel to them.

From the gallery coffee shop window we could look down and over the town.

 

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Off into the cold walking against the wind along the main street.

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A side street took us back to the promenade with its strange palm trees opposite a street of tall hotels.

 

 

 

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The blue hue over all the buildings reflected the colour of the sea and sky.

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One last photo. This lady reminded me of the Anthony Gormley steel sculptures of his work, “Another Place” on the beach at Crosby. She looks as if she is deep in thought looking out to sea.

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Categories
architecture buildings gardens photography townscapes

The New Birmingham Library

It has been many months since I last wrote about architecture so I very much hope you enjoy this one. Firstly a few letterbox taster shots.

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On Sunday Jude and I plus our two children, Jamie and Jodie, and their respective “other halves”, Sammi and Rob, met up to visit an amazing new building in Birmingham, the new library. We have been watching it under construction for several years as it developed upwards from the place where we used to park the cars when we went to the Symphony Hall. We were full of anticipation as we walked the short distance from the car park. When you have such high expectations of any visit you are fully aware of the likelihood of disappointment. But we were not to be disappointed in the slightest – the library looked amazing from the first glimpse between buildings until we finished exploring outside and in.

The design features based on circles hugged the outside walls and caught the light beautifully. The interplay of shape and light felt so powerful. Our eyes just would not stay still. The reflections that painted the glass a deep blue stood out against the watery blue of the January sky.

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The smoothness of the huge sheets of glass at the bottom of the building reflected the surrounding buildings in such clarity.

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For such a modern building it sits so happily with its neighbours whatever their ages. This is a sign of quality design. I just love old and new architecture sitting side by side like old friends, looking contented and comfortable.

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So far we had only looked at the side of the library so we were looking forward to turning the corner.

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We found a revolving door to afford us entrance to explore inside. We were greeted by the warm aroma of coffee beans being ground and water seeping through them. We had to take a seat and give it a taste.

Inside is just as satisfying, everything perfectly designed and sitting comfortably. Everywhere we looked people, mainly students, were studying or browsing the book shelves. Many stared at computer monitors which lined the inside of the windows.

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Many of the interior fittings and features are based around circles, such as the lighting fittings and the light tubes. The interior lift to the very top few storeys was a cylinder shape which ran in a long circular tube of glass.

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On several levels there was access to the outside onto terraces. These were full of seating built into raised metal planters, featuring interesting plantings and even nest  boxes on poles. Here you can gain different views of the building itself and see its structure in detail.

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Part way around our tour of the top floor we found this little sculpture in one of the terrace gardens.

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From here you also gain close up views of the building itself and get the chance to study the structure itself.

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On one level we finished exploring the terraces and went back in a different entrance to discover a room dedicated to the works of one William Shakespeare. A room from the original Birmingham Library had been dismantled and re-assembled in the new building. The intricate detailing included the book shelves, the wooden wall panels and engravings on the door. The books lined the shelves which were full to capacity.

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The views over the city were stunning! Not everyone seemed happy getting close enough to the edge to appreciate this though!

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Well done to Birmingham! A building to be proud of! We will soon be back.

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Categories
Gwyndd landscapes light light quality photography the sea the seaside the shore townscapes Wales

Closed for Winter but not Deserted – Barmouth – Part Two

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Back in one of our favourite Welsh seaside town of Barmouth we crossed the dunes and discovered the debris of the storms.

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We came across seaweed wrenched by the roots from its sea floor home, an empty shell of a Cuttlefish, some twisted driftwood and fishermen’s debris.

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As we left the dunes we found ourselves out in the open on the wide expanse of the beach itself. Here we gained views of the sea front hotels and guest houses and the yachts in their winter compound lit up by winter sunlight. The sand had risen piled high in drifts against the sea walls.

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The peace we were enjoying as we listened to the gentle lapping of the waves and the wind lifting and moving the sand, was suddenly shattered as the sky darkened and a hail storm arrived. At the same time our peace was also shattered by the sound of raised alarms. Someone was in trouble out at sea, the coast guards arrived with flashing green lights on the roofs of their cars, followed by police with their blue lights  flashing out of sync. The rapid response inflatable life-boat launched after being drawn across the sands by a tractor with caterpillar tracks gouging deep ruts cutting across the smooth surface of the sandy beach. Within minutes just the tracks were left and the life-boat disappeared out to sea on its mission.

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The storm passed as quickly as it had arrived. The sun burst back through the thinning clouds, lower now and with a golden hue. It bathed buildings and yacht masts with golden light.

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As we reached the end of the town we heard behind us the deep throated diesel engines of a big caterpillar-tracked vehicleas it dragged the big life boat across the beach and out to sea. the situation was a serious one!

As we left after a good day at the seaside blue patches began to appear in the cloudy skies.

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Categories
Gwyndd light light quality photography the sea the seaside the shore townscapes Wales

Closed for Winter but not Deserted – Barmouth – Part One

So after journeying through Wales we were getting very close to the sea.

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The road along the Mawdach estuary gained sharper bends and narrowed and we soon found ourselves alongside the sea. The railway bridge crossing the estuary came into view as we approached Barmouth , a crisp silhouette cutting through the seascape.

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The road rose up a final slope taking us up and over this row of old boats and fishing huts.

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The road into the town was covered in drifts of sand built by the combination of recent high tides and strong winds. We slowed to a walking pace as driving became difficult. We made our way to the first car park, wrapped ourselves up well in thick coats, gloves, scarves and I had the added protection of a hat and set out to explore our one of our favourite seaside towns. We noticed that the sand had drifted right up the promenade seats burying their legs, and almost to the tops of the concrete sea defences.

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We found the town mostly closed along the sea front, all closed up safely for winter. Cafes, amusement arcades, fairgrounds all empty of life. Outdoor seating was locked away and the fairground rides in wraps. We were surprised to see that Elvis had his own parking space alongside Las Vegas Amusements.

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The hotels and guest houses glowed in the sun with the deep blue-black of the stormy sky, the white  of their window frames and doorways intensified. Suddenly a rainbow began to grow before our eyes and we watched as it became a full semi-circle of every colour under the sun.

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One tiny building was very close to the sea, actually situated on the promenade, making it very vulnerable to the ravishes of the winter tides and storms. We discovered lovely sayings written on rustic boards. Even closed this little beach cafe, The Beach Cabin, had a lovely atmosphere.

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Welcome to the beach cabin

No worries

No cares

No dramas

Relax you’re on beach time

No watches

No clocks

No deadlines 

Life is good on the beach

Across the promenade from the Beach Cabin sand dunes covered in rough grasses formed a barrier between the cabin and the beach and sea. We made our way over the dunes to explore the seashore itself and go back towards the way the entered the town. Follow our footsteps in my next post, Closed for Winter but not Deserted – Barmouth – Part Two

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Categories
allotments Britain in Bloom community gardening flower show fruit and veg garden design garden photography gardening gardens open to the public grow your own half-hardy perennials renovation Shrewsbury Shropshire town gardens townscapes

A town riverside walk

Although we live close to our county town of Shrewsbury we go for months between visits to the banks of the River Severn, in whose loops the town sits snuggly. In the summer the council garnish the river banks with bright coloured plants in all sorts of containers and hanging baskets.

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I am not that keen on these brightly coloured bedding annuals but they seem to fit in with their setting so well here. Mother nature herself adds a little subtle planting herself with wild flowers growing close to the water and wonderful waterfalls of reflections.

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Our footbridge an old Victorian suspension bridge has recently been completely refurbished and it is looking smart in its new green suit. The builders greatest challenge was to make sure that after the make-over the old bridge retained her sway. As you walk across her she sways from side to side!

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This weekend is time for the famous Shrewsbury Flower Show so when we reached the open parkland spaces alongside the river we found signs of the village of tents and rows of arena seats appearing at a great rate of knots. It seemed to be growing up around us as we walked towards the little sunken garden called The Dingle.We now anticipate our day out at the show on Saturday most eagerly. We hope to go in the afternoon and stay until closing time with the magnificent firework display over the river.

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And so to the Dingle herself, which is not my cup of tea at all, but it is enjoyed by thousands every year. It is all a bit garish for my taste, but I do admit that it takes a great deal of skill to create and maintain it. It certainly gives pride to the town. Come on a tour with us and see what you think.

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We wandered back into the town centre to have a look at how the town council had decorated the Square as part of their “Britain in Bloom” campaign. All the allotment sites in and around the town had planted up mini-allotments small enough to fit on a pallet and these were collected up and put in the square. Local artists crafted two scarecrows from metal to give an extra dimension.

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Each post marking loading bays along the High Street had been given a topknot of Ipomaea in two foliage colours. Very subtle and very effective.

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