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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Boats, beers and boozers,3.

My next visit for boats, beers and boozers is a very special one. We continued on a short way down from Wakefield to arrive in Castleford. Arrival is quite exciting because it is as close to a cross roads as you will get on a river as the Rivers Calder and Aire meet. The fourth leg of the crossroads is formed by the canal cut. A small basin was made by the Aire and Calder Canal Co. just after the river lock as there is the remains of the original 1699 lock up from the river, called the flood lock.

When ever we have entered  the canal the water coming, from left to right in the photo, down the Aire has been not too bad. I can imagine with a good bit of fresh coming down and with a 600t barge it would be fun threading the bow in here at Castleford Junction Lock.

Looking east along Castleford Cut from the footbridge over the Castleford Junction Lock. The canal re-enters the River at at Bulholme Lock. I think the basin could be used with the flood gates, mid picture, closed.

The 'Collectors' office and managers house and workers homes were completed in 1832 and stand next to the Junction Lock.

There are plenty of moorings along the cut and the town isn't too far away at all. Using the Millennium Bridge also shortens the route and makes a lovely entrance into the town. Castleford was the site of a Roman Fort but grew massively when the many coal mines were opened and exports exports via Goole and Hull grew. It was the home of Nestles Toffee Crisp and After Eight Mints until 2012. It is still the home of the Burberry factory, but this is due to relocate to Leeds by 2019.

The Castleford Millennium Bridge over the weir of the River Aire with the remains of a barge that had been washed over the weir in flood. At the far side of the river is the fish weir to allow movement of fish for spawning.

At the south side of the weir is the Queen's or Allison's flour mill. It was run by the Allison family from 1921. This was the largest stone ground mill in the world during WWII. It had been completes in 1888 and it's six stones were driven by a 20' water wheel. In WWII greater output was required so an extra 14 stones were added, but they were electrically driven. It ceased work in 2010, but has been acquired by a trust that are restoring it and opening it to the public.

As you may guess by the story of industrial closures in the area the town centre is not as thriving as it once was. However it has a lovely little museum at the Library, there is a shopping centre with all the expected shops and an indoor market open Monday to Saturday and an open Market in the pedestrianised High Street on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday with plenty of stalls.

However for the purposes of this blog the gem in the town is the Junction pub. This is a truly unique boozer as all its beer is served from the wood but through hand pumps. The pub owns the barrels and sends them off to the breweries to be filled. The pub itself is maybe one that would not attract you as you walked past, but once inside it is a 'proper' pub where conversation is the main thing. After the beer that is! There are open fires and plentiful of selection of  beers. During my last visit I had a pint of Inuendo, Ridgeside Brewery from near Leeds. It slipped down a treat and at £2-80 warranted 4*. I thought I may be on a roll so tried a pint of Mosaic which was a beautiful fruity pale ale and again well worth the £2-80 and 4*'s. I thought it was brewed by Temptation Brewery but may have been mistaken. I have never had a bad pint in this pub. It is also the only pub that I have had toast and dripping too. I also had a little chat with Ian Clayton who is a local born writer and broadcaster that I'm sure you would recognise if you saw him. It is that sort of pub and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anybody.

The not so glamourous exterior of the Junction pub in Castleford.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Boats, beers and boozers 2.

Last April we were on the Calder and Hebble Navigation. I think it was a little different to this year! We stopped over in Wakefield at the mooring by Fall Ings Lock that drops the canal down on to the River Calder. We had a good look around Wakefield that is well worth it as it has some lovely buildings and good shopping along with the Museum Hepworth Gallery if you like contemporary art. The moorings are very close to the Hepworth and the Chantry Chapel on the bridge over the Calder.

We had a lovely day and decided to go for a walk From Fall Ings Lock we walked along the towpath by the river bank and ducked under a rail bridge. There seems to be some major project about to happen in this area. A little further on you come to the site of an Wakefield's old power station. There is still a sub station and the cooling pipes and pipe rests can be traced too. The walk is on the bank of the river and is called the Ashfields walk. These were the ash lagoons for the waste from the furnace of the power station but have been recolonised now. The path is in good condition and is a popular walk at the weekend. Walk to the next rail bridge and bend round to the right along side the marsh area. When you come to the hill follow the path up to the road and follow that to the Village of Heath. (The walk can be extended by going under the rail bridge and following the river to opposite Broadreach Lock head in land from here or continue by the river, then under the railway again and follow the path round the Half Moon Lake to the Hill).

On the banks of the River Calder and the Ashfields walk.

 Broadreach Lock  where the cut leaves the river. About a mile further on the River ducks under the canal at Stanley Ferry.

Looking down the River Calder with the walk extension to Half Moon Lake on the right.

 Heath village is a huge common with several big houses round it. Very good for dogs I should think. Many of the houses are very grand and must be worth a bob or two.

Heath Common, nr Wakefield.

Past a few of the houses, on the left, you come to the Kings Arms. The building dates from 1700 and was originally a terrace of houses. It was converted to a pub in 1841. It is really all you could wish of a Yorkshire pub. There are several small rooms all with stone flagged floors and gas lit. Open fires makes the settles and benches hard to get out of in the cooler months, but in the good weather there is a beer garden and the views across the common. Mind you it does get busy in the good weather and weekends as the food looks great. They do bar food and there is the Gas Light Restaurant for the full Monty. A baguette and chips is about £7. But you don't need to eat as the beer will sustain you. The pub is owned by the Osset Brewery that is not too far away at all, and the Kings Arm's Bitter is brewed by them and was lovely and slid down a treat after our walk. For seconds I went for a thick dark pudding called Portland Black from Welbeck Abbey Brewery, Notts. It was just like a pudding as it was rich and smooth and was full of toffee, vanilla and liquorice touches. It was a good job we had a bit of a walk back to make room for tea!

Kings Arms, Heath.

Across the Common is a short cut that takes you down the hill and comes out at the old power station site.
On the side of the hill overlooking the Calder valley is this tower that I took to be just a folly. However it turned out to be Lady Bolles Water Tower that was built in around 1690. It seems at the foot of the tower was a spring. a water wheel worked from this spring that pumped some of the water up to a tank at the top of the tower. From there it was run via lead lined piping of some sort to another tank at the gates of the Old Hall where she lived. That tank was covered by a similar looking building. It worked up to the 19th Century.

The next day was still nice so we left Wakefield and headed further east. Fall Ings Lock seems to be very deep but this winter I expect the river was way up so wasn't such a drop. Castlefield next stop.

Friday, 15 January 2016

London Visit, Day 2.

No.1 daughter had work to do so we were accompanied on our walking tour by Joe. We headed for Oxford Street. I would normally dread this as it is not my idea of fun trawling through the shops, that are just bigger versions of ones we have at home, with loads of other people, most of which don't seem to understand how to act in a crowd. But today we were starting the walk at the end of the street at Mable Arch.

Marble Arch is actually on a traffic island. However it did start life right in front of the centre of Buckingham Palace. It was designed by John Nash of Carrara Marble in 1827. It was moved, not because the state coach would not pass through, but because Queen Victoria had so many children and such a large court that Buckingham Palace had to be extended. The original two wings were infilled with rooms that form the front we know now, including 'the' balcony. It was moved in 1851 to the corner of Hyde Park. Park Lane was widened in the 1960's so from 1964 it has been stranded. There are three small rooms inside the arch that were used as a police station!

Stuck in the middle of a traffic island close to Marble Arch is the site of the Gallows at Tyburn. From 1196 to 1783 prisoners were executed here. Execution days were public holidays and up to 200,000 people could turn up. The relatives of the condemned would rush forward to pull on the legs once the cart had been driven away to hasten death. A permanent gallows was set up in 1571 and in 1649 24 were executed at the same time!  It is estimated that about 50,000 went to meet their maker from here. When we see reports of the terrorists etc it reminds us that we are probably only separated from them by 4 or 500 hundred years!

From there we walked through Portman Square, part of the 110 acre Portman Estate that was given by Henry VIII to his Lord Chief Justice Portman in 1533. It turned out a good gift for his family. We passed Home House where the Courtald Institute of Art  was housed until 1989 and where the 5th man of the Soviet spy ring, Anthony Blunt confessed. We were soon in Manchester Square and at Hertford House where the Wallace Collection is housed. It has free entrance to see the numerous treasures within. There are paintings by Titian, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Gainsborough, Velazquez and the 'Laughing Cavalier' by Hals. The rooms are beautifully decorated and there are rooms full of armour too. It is well worth a visit. The dining looked lovely. It is in the covered atrium and seemed to be calm and un-busy for a special meal or snack. It is now on our list of returns.

We were soon walking to Marylebone High Street that certainly had a feel of the old village with a good mix of shops. Octavia Hill, who we met on yesterday's walk, started her work just off the High Street buying houses in the slum there. Down Grotto Passage we came to the Ragged and Industrial School opened in 1846. These schools were for the very poorest folk around the slums of London and it is thought that around 300,000 children were educated in their schools.

We walked through the Garden of Rest that was where St Mary's was founded in 1400. This was how the area got the name, St Mary's was by the Tyburn Brook, or bourne! It was bombed in WWII. Francis Bacon, Charles Wesley the hymn writer and brother to Methodist John Wesley, Nelson, Lord Byron and William Hogarth are all associated with this church. Round the corner were these tiles and statue. The building has now been converted to a teaching are and theatre for Regent's University, London.

A little further on was St Marylebone church of 1817. It took over from St. Mary's as the older church had become too small. It is heavily associated with Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett as it is where they were married. She was an invalid and the when the writer Browning read some of her poetry he fell in love. Her father tried to block all his children from marrying. However the couple met and married in this church in secret and then she returned home until they fled to Italy a while later. There she wrote the immortal lines 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love the to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.'

We wandered down the many mews that led of the roads that housed the horses and grooms of the big houses. We were soon on Wimpole and Harley Street. We walked over Portland Place that was laid out by the Adam Brothers and is supposed to be so wide because of a promise made to the owner of the house where the Langham Hotel is now, that his view of the countryside at the end of the road would not be blocked. The Langham Hotel above was built in 1860's and was very lavish even then. It was frequented by Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain when in Town, Napoleon III, Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward and Emperor Haile Selassie.

Just round the corner is the art deco Broadcasting House. As it was Sunday the courtyard was not in use, and I didn't see the characters of NW1 riding in on their folding bikes. It is all much smaller than you think and makes you realise that there are a lot of smoke and mirrors involved, and that is probably why TV is supposed to put pounds on you!

The Medical Society of London was founded in 1773 and moved here in 1871. Was I alone in not realising that there were more than one medical Society. It was the first that accepted all branches of medicine so that each could learn from the other. There were at one time 10 Societies and now I think there are 6, some of which meet at this place. 

Just off Cavendish Square I saw this at the entrance to a grand house. There was one on either side of the door way. I was fascinated by the trumpet like item half way up. I thought it may be for snuffing out a burning torch but it doesn't really seem big enough to fit a torch in, unless they were much smaller than appear in films etc. there would be no need to snuff out candles as they could be just blown and if they were in a lamp they wouldn't fit. Has anybody any other explanation of it?

Just off Oxford Street are Brown Hart Gardens that are a quiet oasis away from the shopping bustle. It is a special place as the gardens are above a substation. When the current large house buildings were put up in the late 19th Century they all had a square with a small garden. in 1902 the Duke of Westminster leased the square to the electric company for a sub station. He insisted though that the garden was not lost and had to be added to it's roof. Over the years since WWII it became more and more derelict but has been recently improved and is a definite place to stop to get away from the rush of shopping. There is the glass walled cafe and plenty of benches etc.

The Grade II Listed Structure
The very distinctive Grade II listed sub station and garden.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

London Trip, day one.

We were off to London for the weekend again and popped down on Friday afternoon. We were fifteen minutes late arriving  due to a broken rail near Peterborough, or so we were told. Straight to the hotel on Old Street and got our usual corner room. Met up late with daughter and partner but as it was so late headed to Weatherspoon's for something to eat.

The next day the 'kids' were busy so we entertained ourselves with a self guided walk around the Southwark area. Getting of the bus at London Bridge we soon found our first stop, Guys Hospital. In the area is also St. Thomas' hospital which was founded in the 12th Century. We 'ummed' and 'ahhd' about going in the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret Museum, but time and the entrance fee held us back. Maybe another time. However just down the road is Guy's Hospital that was named after Sir Thomas Guy who was a local printer who made a fortune in the South Sea Bubble by getting out before the crash. Guy's opened in 1721 and was built to take the cases that St. Thomas' thought were incurable! Through large wrought iron gates into a court yard and on your left is the Hospital Chapel.

The church is adorned with plaques dedicated to those associated with the hospital, many of the names are recognisable today. The statue is of Sir Thomas Guy holding the hands of one of the incurables. It was installed in 1779.

Back outside and through an archway we wandered back to Borough High Street. We passed the lunatic Chair that was one of the alcoves on the London Bridge that was demolished to make way for the one that is now in Arizona.

There were fourteen of these on the old bridge. Guy's bought this for ten guineas to provide shelter for the convalescing patients of the Lunatic House. The only other surviving alcove is in Victoria Park.

Borough High Street has many 'yards' leading off and each was once the site of a coaching inn. Before the railways people would arrive at these inns and wait before heading south of London or over to the continent. This building replaced an earlier one destroyed by fire in 1677. It was mentioned in 'Little Dorrit' by Charles Dickens and even earlier Shakespeare's company played in the courtyard surrounded by the galleries.

The Shard is ever present on this walk and makes a good juxtaposition with many of the very old buildings that have been here for centuries. Here the wall in the foreground is all that remains of the notorious debtors Marshalsea Prison. There had been a prison here since before 1381 as Wat Tyler's rebels targeted it. Here was perhaps where Charles Dickens got is insight into the poor of London as his father was imprisoned here in 1824 for a debt of £10. The whole family moved in with him except 12 year old Charles and his sister Fanny. They lived near by and had to fend for themselves. Having been a very respectable family the fall from grace must have affected him greatly.

The south bank was notorious for its high life with nefarious goings on, outside the jurisdiction of the City of London. One of the worst areas was known as the Mint and felons flocked there to escape capture. It was a strange sight to therefore come across these cottages in the middle of London with gardens to the front. They were built by Octavia Hill who had a hand in many housing projects around London and else where. She is famous for going on to help start the National Trust and also the Army Cadet Force. There was to be no swearing or drinking by the tenants. Just opposite is the Cross Bones Graveyard. This was where the prostitutes of the area were buried, and later paupers. The girls had to pay rent and fines to the Bishop of Winchester but on death they were shunned and not to be buried in consecrated ground. This was there last resting place. They were known as Winchester Geese. Locals have adopted the cemetery now and it does have a strange atmosphere.

On the way to Southwark Street we passed the Boot and Flogger. It is the only place in the country allowed to sell wine without a licence. The boot and flogger refers to the method of corking a bottle. We will return and have a look inside at some stage. However we were heading to bigger things. The picture above is the main gates into the atrium of the Hop Exchange. Just like Corn Exchanges and Stock Exchanges there were hop exchanges, but I had never heard of them. As many hops were grown in Kent the south bank was an obvious place for it. During the week you can enter the atrium and see the galleries oif offices that we could only glimpse.

The whole building is impressive and well worth a look as it is just down from Borough Market. We visited the Sheaf pub that you can see here in the basement of the exchange and they had a good range of beers and the food was also reasonable.

I can remember visiting the Market years ago when it actually sold fruit and veg that wasn't organic or had been grown by a collective of out of work farmers or what ever. It is fantastic to see the variety of stuff available and even more fantastic to see the prices people are willing to pay for things. It was extremely busy but I have never been fond of walking along and eating myself.

Just past the Golden Hind replica, which isn't that much bigger than a wide beam canal boat, we came across Porter Street. Not a bad spot really as it is just behind the Globe theatre and is just down the road from where they have discovered the footings of the actual Globe Theatre rather than the reconstruction. 

The reason we had chosen this walk was that we had tickets to see 'Funny Girl' by a good friend for our wedding anniversary/Christmas/Birthday present. The theatre is the Menier Chocolate Factory. This is the building that was built as a chocolate factory around 1865. In fact you can still smell a faint whiff of oil and grease as you go in. It is a Grade II listed building and after being derelict from the 1980's it became the intimate 180 seat theatre in 2004. 'Funny Girl' was fantastic with the whole cast being very good indeed. As it is so small it feels like you are very involved. Sheridan Smith has been winning awards galore for her performance and it is easy to see why. We are lucky to get to see it as the tickets are sold out as are the tickets for the Savoy Theatre where it is transferring in April. I wasn't too surprised to see my friend sitting waiting for us along with his Mum and friend. It was great to share a meal with them afterwards before they headed home.

As we had been lucky all day in dodging the showers we decided to walk back to the hotel for some exercise. I managed to get this half decent shot of Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast from the middle of London Bridge. It wasn't long before we were back with a cup of tea and taking the weight off our feet.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Boats, beers and boozers 1

Here we are with a New Year and pretty atrocious weather to boot just at the moment. The grey rainy days has had me thinking about our last years trip around the canals and rivers of England. Through out that journey I kept a note of the all the pubs we visited and what beer I drank. It came to over 80 pubs and over 100 different beers. I did keep some notes, but not very comprehensively so I hope to do better this year. This series of items will be occasional, as and when I feel the need.

A lot seems to have been written about the pubs that are right next to the canal and easily accessible but we like to visit ones a bit further from the cut but make no apologies about having a little walk to reach it. All blogs about pubs and beer are purely subjective as every one has differing tastes but hopefully I will convey more than just the beer or more than just the pub, but the total 'experience'.

My first pub is actually right next to the canal all be it a bit of the cut that is not often boated I should think. The Leggers Inn is at Savile Town Wharf on the Dewsbury Arm of the Calder and Hebble. If you are heading east the turn at the foot of the Thornhill Double locks is quite tight, and for a deep boat the water is a little shallow but it is worth the half mile effort for a visit to the Leggers.

Half way up the Dewsbury Arm.

Savile Town Wharf was once a very busy basin serving the numerous mills that surrounded it. These have been cleared now and an ope car park is left. The building that houses the Leggers Inn  was the stable block for the boat horses. The pub is actually up stairs in the hay loft although there is a large outdoor area over looking the moorings. Upstairs the bar has a lovely multi stove that keeps the rooms nice and snug in winter. There are beams and quirky bits of machinery coupled with posters and enameled signs that give a great atmosphere. There are usually six hand pulled real ales on plus a couple of ciders. On our last visit I had a pint of Witch Hunt from Moorhouse of Burnley. It wasn't my cup of tea, but the Moonshine, lovely hoppy pale ale with plenty of fruitiness, from Abbeydale of Sheffield was gorgeous. The prices are good Moonshine was £2-50 a pint! The food is simple but good value and the cafe next door does nice 'normal' grub too. There is a pool table in the second bar and there is a function room where I witnessed a wake and a birthday party as well as the Mikron Theatre production of 'Rising Agent' last year.

About twenty minutes walk from the basin is a load of out of town shops to suit all. A further ten minutes will bring you into the heart of the town of Dewsbury. There are some nice restaurants and a few very nice pubs too, including a Weatherspoons, but the main attraction is the market. It is a 'proper' extensive northern market with just about anything you could ask for at rock bottom prices on the over 300 stalls. If you do venture this way make sure it is market day. The lovely Victorian Market Hall is open every day except Sunday and the open market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays

The Leggers Inn  from the moorings. The white building is the offices of CV Marine who run the basin. There are no designated visitor moorings but if the office is open pop in and ask the friendly folk where to go, and if it isn't just moor where you can, or where one of the locals points out.

We loved the pub and the town despite it having the heart of it taken away by the out of town shopping and the accessibility of all the other local towns. The market is a must though.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

All over bar the shouting.

Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope you all managed to remember to say 'White Rabbit' as the first thing you said on New Years Day! Christmas Day was a good day with me as I managed to find some presents that Helen was pleased to receive, rather than my usual offerings. Hopefully those brownie points will stand me in good stead through the year. Every winter we make a visit to Spurn Point and as daughter Amy was home we made the trip on New Years Eve as it was one of the few days we have had with some sun! We drove to Kilnsea and then walked up from the Crown and Anchor pub to the Bluebell Tea Rooms.

The Bluebell tea rooms were at one time a pub. As can be seen on the side of the building it was built in 1847 and was 534 yards from the sea. In 1994 the place was converted by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust into a tea room and by then it was only 190 yards from the sea. It is even less now.

 Despite the wind there were a few folk out braving the wind. On the seaward side of the point it was a little more sheltered when down on the beach as the wind was from the south west. There were a few sea anglers taking advantage of the falling tide. In the distance can be seen just one of the extensive wind farms that are being installed off shore. On the right can be seen a jack-up vessel that is used for installing and maintaining the turbines.

This is what is left of part of the concrete road that got washed away. The blocks to the right were the protection and the flat concrete sections were the roadway. Originally there was no road as the battery at the end of the point was serviced by ships bring requirements to a jetty down there. Later a small railway line was built connecting the point battery with the one built at the neck of the point.

The wind had blown the drying sand away as the tide had turned but the pebbles sat on little piles of sands. I gave a lunar landscape to the beach on a small scale.

This was another area where the road had disappeared. When I used to drive down to the point the road ran close to this area and the timbers protected it. You can also see concrete slabs of the road way.

 At some stage next to the wooden groynes thousands of tons of chalk had been dumped to further protect the road. I loved the way the chalk boulders have been evenly distributed and they seem to be painted.

Back at the Crown and Anchor we looked back to the point end. In the foreground are blocks that were placed in WWII as tank traps to prevent the use of the point for landing. Further out was too much deep mud. The highest building in the distance is actually the light high light. It looks strange as it is covered in scaffold and the round top is disguised in polythene sheets, This light was built in 1895 and is 128' high. It had a light that shone for 17miles. It became disused in 1985 as navigational aids made it redundant. The £400000 restoration will make it open to the public and contain workshops and galleries. The next point is actually the old low light house. The light before the one being restored was built by Smeaton and was demolished when the new light was built the old low light gave a safe bearing coming down river when the two lights were in line. The low light was built in 1852 and was discontinued when the new light was lit. The lantern was removed and a water tank was built at the top to provide storage and a head of water for the lifeboatmens houses at the point. The next building is the control tower for the vessel traffic service and pilots of the Humber. Until 1975 the pilots worked from a cruising cutter. After then they worked from launches from a jetty at Spurn Head. The VTS tower is now the only manned place on Spurn. Due to the breech of the point towards it's neck in 2013 and the loss of the road the Lifeboat families now have moved to Grimsby. The pilots are boarded and landed from launches from Grimsby but the tower is still manned but relieved via Grimsby launches too. There are plans to relocate the tower too as life will be come more difficult as the point deteriorates further over time.

All in all Spurn is a very special place and will become more so as no access is allowed by cars of the general public. It is a good walk down to the end but will be very rewarding for those that make it in the summer.