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Barry & Amanda go to Paradise

Barry & Amanda go to Paradise

It may be that this may not quite match your vision of Paradise and, in fact, it probably doesn’t match ours either but it’s there in writing so it must be true.

This trip was to be a test to see if it was going to be practicable to visit Birmingham as a number of day trips by train rather than staying there for a number of days.

We left home at about 9:00 AM and walked to the station and caught the 9:23 AM train for Shrewsbury. It was an uneventful journey of about 50 minutes and we waited at Shrewsbury for about 20 minutes for our train to Birmingham New Street Station and after another uneventful journey of about an hour we arrived in Birmingham.

This was going to be an ‘Indoors’ day, as it was quite cold out, so we were aiming to go to Victoria Square first and visit the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. We found our way to the exit nearest to Victoria Square and emerged into what I think was Navigation Street. Brrrr! We then walked north along Pinfold Street, right up Ethel Street then left at the top which led us to Victoria Square. It was all rather confusing because the centre of Birminham is like a building site at the moment with hoardings and diversions everywhere.

We found the museum quite easily and went inside (entry is free). The travelling time taken to this point is approximately 3 hours although it didn’t seem too onerous.

One has to then go upstairs to the next level where the museum starts at the Round Room. The museum itself is a 19th-century Grade II listed building.

The structure of the Round Room, like many of the other galleries, is worthy of observation especially the large glass-domed roof. The passage to the right of the central figure is ‘The Bridge’ which crosses the street below and this is that same bridge from outside.

The first gallery we visited was the Industrial Gallery which was mostly wood, jewelry and ceramics related items but the gallery itself is certainly worth examining. The construction features a lot of metal, which I assume is cast iron, and note the circular metal decorations at the top of the support columns.

The large columnar structure hanging down in the centre of the picture is one of a number of Victorian gas lights and it has not yet been determined how they functioned.

Needless to say we found our way to the Edwardian Tea Room just beyond the Industrial Gallery as it was now about lunchtime.

This view was taken from the upper galleries that follow on from the Industrial Upper Gallery and it’s also worth showing you this gallery and its roof.

Typically Victorian with more ironwork and the same gas lamps hanging from the roof as in the Industrial Gallery. Rather attractive don’t ya think?

We had lunch here and found it to be very comfortable with very good food. We ended up sharing a table, as it was busy at one o’clock, and had some very pleasant conversation with two very nice people from Suffolk. The conversation included, as one would expect, on how to ride a penny farthing bicycle.

After lunch we moved on through the Round Room into the main part of the museum and, let me tell you, one could get lost in here. After going down one level we found ourselves in the Gas Hall and, no I don’t know how the name is derived. We weren’t particularly interested in the exhibits but, again, it’s a rather nice Victorian building.

Going back upstairs into the maze of galleries we found an amazing choice of subjects.

In that picture above you can see the arch into the next gallery and on the far side is another arch ad infinitum. It is easy to get lost unless, perhaps, you carry a floorplan with you ( they are downloadable on the web).

Amanda specifically wanted to see the Staffordshire Hoard; one of the biggest finds of gold objects in this country and we did actually manage to find the gallery. This is a picture I took later on from the Egyptian Gallery on the floor above.

The helmet above is a replica of the original which was discovered as a multitude of small fragments. The person who deduced its original form must have been an expert on jigsaws.

In the picture of the gallery taken from above you may have noticed in the top left corner there was a small fragment of a freize showing; this is more of that freize.

The frieze is a replica of the Parthanon frieze in the British Museum and is otherwise known as the Elgin Marbles. It can be seen from the Egyptian Gallery.

We had now decided that it was time to move on to our next location and as we were leaving we spotted a small case, near the Friends of Birmingham Museums desk, no more than 2 feet square.

It was a single small pot as seen above but the image is repeated multiple times and is known as an Infinity Box.

This particular box is an ingenious piece of fine craftmanship made from a variety of beautiful woods, including burr walnut, Indian rosewood and white maple, surmounted by an illuminated glass box containing mirrors that enable the viewer to see Infinity from all directions.

It also works if one walks 360 degrees round the case; a fascinating experience.

We finally left the museum to locate our next building. The building in question is that very distinctive one in the centre of the next picture – the Birmingham Library.

The exterior is certainly unique but I can’t decide yet whether I like it or hate it. I do know, however that I like the interior.

For those of you who dislike modern buildings look away now.

That picture gives you an idea of what the interior is like. The building has 9 floors with a lift serving all floors or escalators from the 4th floor down to the ground floor.

Going up to the very top floor gives access to the roof viewing platform.

This platform is on one side of the building only i.e. it does not go all the way round. This time of the year is not the best time for this sort of photograph as the sun is very low and the lighting rather contrasty plus the fact that the place is covered in cranes.

However this platform does give access to this:

This is the Shakespeare Memorial Room.

The Shakespeare Memorial Room was created and designed to house the Shakespeare Memorial Library by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. He was responsible for re-building the old Central Library after the original building was gutted by fire in 1879 and the Shakespeare Memorial room opened off the new wing of the that building.

The room is in an Elizabethan style with carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. The woodwork is by Mr Barfield, a noted woodcarver; the brass and metal work by Hardmans. The ceiling decoration is stencilled.

Controversy surrounded plans to demolish the Central Library in 1971 so this room was re-built as part of the Library of Birmingham.

The next level down, Level 8, is, so I understand, not accessible to the public. Going down to Level 7 gives access to the Secret Garden.

This is one of the Roof Terraces and not the best time of year to see a garden but we cannot change that. We will try and visit again during the summer months. It does however give another high level viewpoint and one with fewer cranes.

There is another roof terrace further down, about Level 3 as I remember, shown below.

So back inside which is a lot warmer than it is out here.

There are an awful lot of books in here. Apart from the shelves you can see in the pictures there are further galleries radiating from the central space which are lined both sides with book shelves.

We decided it was about time we made our way back to the railway station but just opposite the station we spotted something worth inspecting.

That is the Piccadilly Shopping Arcade which was originally built as a luxury cinema in 1910 and was later converted to a shopping arcade in 1925. Nice hand-painted ceiling.

We went back into the station and bought something to eat on the train from Shrewsbury to Knighton then discovered that we had a choice of three trains; one just after 4:00 PM, one just after 4:30 PM and one just after 5:00 PM. Whatever train we choose we cannot afford to miss that last one otherwise we miss the last train from Shrewsbury to Knighton and wouldn’t be able to return home until tomorrow.

All good so far. We decide to get the earliest train which would get us into Shrewsbury in time to have a leisurely coffee before catching the Knighton Train. That was the theory until we saw the train – it was packed with lots of people standing and we didn’t want to be standing for an hour. Bummer!

We decide to get the second train which leaves from a different platform. We find the platform and wait in the cold. The train arrives and that one is also packed. In fact it is so full that we not allowed to get on. Double bummer! One of the local commuters tells us that this happens every weekday.

This is getting serious! We cannot afford not to get on the next train. We go back to the original platform and we wait in the cold again. When the train stops everyone on the train gets off and we are reasonable near the doors that we get on to the now empty train fairly soon and actually get some seats. Whew! The train soon fills up as much as the one we first saw but at least we aren’t standing.

There are no more problems and we arrive in Shrewsbury on time with 10 minutes to catch our next train which is waiting in the platform and, as usual, there is plenty of room.

Well I said this was a test trip and it taught us that day trips to Birmingham are not a good idea. To avoid the rush hour we would have to leave before 3:30 PM which would make our sightseeing day unacceptably short. If we go again, and we hope to, we are going to have to stop for at least two nights. So we now need to find a nice hotel near the centre of Birmingham that provides dinner as well as breakfast.

We shall see.

From Iron to Copper – Day 3

From Iron to Copper – Day 3

Another morning. Another breakfast. Another sunny day. Another day trip. This is getting boring. Can I cope with all this good weather?

After breakfast we set off on a 30 minute trip to Penrhyn Castle near Bangor. This is another National Trust property and a rather unusual one at that. We arrived at the entrance without mishap and it looked a normal enough gateway.

When we caught sight of the castle it looked like a rather impressive Norman castle.

We knew, however, that this castle was built in the 19th century as a family home and not a military building at all. When we started out we were dubious that we would like a ‘fake’ norman castle but we enjoyed it very much and you will, hopefully, see why.

Penrhyn Castle was built between 1820 and 1833 for George Hay Dawkins Pennant by the famous architect Thomas Hopper. Known for his unorthodox style, Hopper opted not to follow the fashion for Gothic architecture but went against the grain choosing a neo-Norman design. Hopper’s hands-on approach also meant he oversaw the designing and building of the castle’s furniture, made by local craftsmen. In 1951 the castle came into the care of the National Trust.

Before we went inside the main building we went into the Courtyard first. The courtyard is very large and has been turned into a railway museum.

The Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum is dedicated to local narrow gauge railways. In the 19th century, Penrhyn Castle was the home of the Pennant family owners of the Penrhyn slate quarry at Bethesda. The quarry was closely associated with the development of industrial narrow-gauge railways, and in particular the Penrhyn Quarry Railway, one of the earliest industrial railways in the world. The railway ran close to Penrhyn Castle, and when the castle was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1951 a small museum of industrial railway relics was created in the stable block.

The first locomotive donated to the museum was ‘Charles’ from the Penrhyn Quarry

and this is the driver.

The rather impressive locomotive below, ‘Fire Queen’, is one of the older locomotives in the museum having been built in 1848.

This next picture shows another of the locomotives together with a gawking bystander. You can also see how they have squeezed many locomotives into this narrow gallery. The width of the gallery makes photography difficult but I managed to photograph some. Amanda is actually trying to work out how we are going to squeeze this one into our garage.

This is the actual courtyard with the locomotive gallery on the right. When we had seen enough we went through the archway at the end and walked round to the front entrance of the house.

We went into the front entrance and found ourselves in a small, short, unpretentious corridor with a door at the end. We went through that door and emerged into an entirely different space – and I mean SPACE. The first picture of the reception hall is taken from the ground floor level and the second picture from the gallery which is visible in the first.

That should give you an idea of the scale of this place. Everything is larger than life.

The main staircase is pretty amazing with just about everything featuring carved stonework. This chap must have had money to throw away.

There were some very long corridors on the upper floor like the one above which disappears off into the distance. All in all this house is extraordinary and we would quite happily visit again.

Having seen round the house we trotted off to the walled garden and on the way saw this view with lots of buttercups. Nice!

The first part of the garden is formal in design which includes this area with the pond and box hedges together with a rather strange woman who looks as though she’s about to get up to mischief of some sort.

This Azalea shrub looks spectacular.

Further down the garden it becomes informal with a natural looking pond, an observation deck and a little summer house of sorts.

That was the end of our visit to Penrhyn Castle near Bangor but it wasn’t the end of of our day. Our next destination is Anglesey; an island off the north coast of Wales.

After a short journey, which included crossing the bridge over the Menai Strait to Anglesey, we arrived at the National Trust property of Plas Newydd, parked our car and started to walk up to the house. Along the way we couldn’t help but notice this row of rather fine cedar trees with interesting fluted trunks.

The house is in a rather nice position overlooking the Menai Straits but is not as imposing as the one we have just come from but it is still bigger than ours.  :oops:

This next picture shows the Menai Straits with the bridge that we used in the distance (You can just about see the bridge on the horizon).

There is plenty of parkland but not much in the way of gardens except for the small Italianate Terrace.

As far as the house goes it is a fairly standard stately home with the usual rooms.

Lord Anglsey’s study below has been left exactly as he left it and I have to say that it does look a little on the untidy side. How on earth he could find what he wanted beats me.

From here we went back to Llandudno to prepare for yet another day.

The Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker

The Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker

We had been waiting for a sunny day and were beginning to think that it would never happen and then, suddenly, today it was sunny. Time for a trip methinks.

We set off for Ironbridge which is just over an hour by car from us going via St. Milburga's Well in the village of Stoke St Milborough. The well is actually a spring which was first mentioned in 1321 and is said to be unfailing and good for sore eyes. Our eyes weren't sore so we are unable to verify that. cool Villagers would rinse their clothes in the well and beat them on a flat stone nearby. It has been going for over 700 years and it hasn't stopped yet.

You can see from the picture that the flow of water is very strong.

Onward to Ironbridge.

Ironbridge has nine museums not counting the Iron Bridge itself and we drove to Blists Hill first which is set up as a Victorian town. This is a typical Victorian street.

There was a Fish & Chip Shop in this street where we bought a single portion of fish and chips, wrapped in paper, to share as our lunch and there was more than enough for the two of us. I can also tell you that it was very tasty indeed having been cooked in the Victorian way i.e fried in beef dripping (fat). The chips were crisp on the outside and soft inside – perfect.

There are a lot of Victorian buildings here including industrial, commercial and domestic together with lots of machines. The view below shows an old mining area with headgear above the shaft and the small brick building on the right houses the steam winding engine which hauls the cage up the shaft. The second picture below shows the actual steam winding engine which was running when we were there.

Nearby was the replica of Trevithick's Locomotive which is in steam often on a Saturday (check before you go). This was the world's first steam locomotive to run on rails.

We walked alongside the canal to the far end where we saw the Inclined Plane. This is a VERY steep hill with railway tracks on it which would be far too steep for a locomotive to be used so there was a steam winding engine at the top which was used to raise and lower barges from the canal at the bottom to the canal at the top and vice versa. That must have been a sight when it was working.

We then walked down by the side of the tracks to the lower level but if you are not capable of that you could walk back along the canal to the Funicular Railway or Inclined Lift which connects the upper and lower levels. This is completely automatic so just press the button to call the lift and then ride up or down to the other level.

There is a LOT to see here and you could easily spend a day in this museum alone.

Our next port of call was the Jackfield Tile Museum a short drive away. One point worth mentioning is that parking is chargeable but the ticket will allow you to park in any of the other museum car parks at no extra cost.

You don't drive through this entrance arch, the car park is off to the right, but you do walk through and the museum entrance is along on the left and is fairly obvious.

This was on Amanda's 'must see' list but I did wonder if I'd find it a bit boring. I needn't have worried; it is amazing.

There were some rooms, like this one, which display various, mostly individual, tiles but there are also many tile exhibits like this one.

Many of the exhibits and the individual tiles are astonishing.

After looking around the tile museum we moved on to the Coalport China Museum. There are two brick kilns here and the photographs below are taken from the same spot looking in both directions.

Parts of the internal structure of the kiln in the top photograph have been removed to give an idea of what goes on inside during firing.

There are also workshops where one can watch pottery being made and hand painted.

Which, of course, brings us to the Saggar Maker. This is him in his workshop and in the past he would have had two assistants including a Bottom Knocker. The Bottom Knocker would have been a young, unskilled lad who would have sat in a corner producing clay pads, using a shaped iron band, which would be combined,by the skilled Saggar Maker, with the sides to make the final Saggar. 

A Saggar is a large container made of fireclay which would hold pottery during firing to protect it and the next picture shows the cut-away view into a kiln with Saggars piled high.

There are also a number of display rooms where individual items can be seen.

As the pottery museum is only a short walk along the canal from the Tar Tunnel we went to have a brief look. I say a brief look because, at one time, visitors were able to walk along the tunnel but now one can look into the tunnel from the entrance but not walk along it. I'm hoping that sometime in the future it will, once again, be possible to walk along it but that may be months or even years.

The tunnel is about 1100 yards in length and it was originally designed to be an underground canal connecting some of the mine shafts to the Shropshire Canal. However whilst it was being dug the workmen hit a source of black, sticky tar which was discovered to be natural bitumen. The bitumen originally flowed in prodigous amounts at about 1000 gallons a week although it reduced some years later.

That was the end of our little trip so we went home. There are more museums that we haven't seen so we'll probably be back.

For more information on these museums see the Ironbridge pages on the main web site.

Castle to Canal

Castle to Canal

Who’s a silly boy then? We did this trip at the end of July and I duly wrote it up and I thought that I had posted it on the Blog – but no, I had forgotten that important bit. As you can see I have rectified that mistake and here it is in all its glory! (Well it’s only 3 months late).

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Monday 24th July 2017

The weather was borderline and unsettled but we decided to risk it. Approximately 25 miles from home is the town of Montgomery which, although the county town of Mongomeryshire, is really quite small but thoroughly delightful.

This is the town centre; virtually all of it. The view is from the churchyard and where the building on the left stops is the main road. On the other side of the main road is Broad Street, where the cars are parked, and the brick building at the back is the Town Hall

The church is quite imposing and sitting on a knoll makes it more so.

Up near the top of Broad Street is the Dragon Hotel a rather striking 17th century former coaching inn.

There are some interesting ancient buildings in Arthur Street which runs north from the top of Broad Street.

There is a little lane running steeply uphill from near the Dragon Hotel and when you have puffed your way to the top end you will arrive at Montgomery Castle or, at least, what’s left of it. There is not a lot left but what there is remaining is impressive.

The views from the castle are also impressive and it shows what a good defensive position it was.

We left Montgomery and headed further north to Welshpool. We have been here before, once for Powis Castle and another visit to ride on the little Welshpool narrow gauge railway but we hadn’t actually looked round the town itself. However, before we do that, we had to have another quick look at the railway and discovered a locomotive that we hadn’t seen before waitng in the station. This locomotive looked slightly smaller than the one we’d seen here previously.

We then went on to the Montgomery Canal on the otherside of Welshpool. If you look at the following link it will show a map of Welshpool that gives an idea of where these various places are. Powis Castle in the bottom left corner, Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway middle left and the Montgomery Canal roughly in the middle. Don’t confuse it with the river further right which is very wiggley; the canal runs further left.

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=322510&Y=307508&A=Y&Z=120

We walked across the bridge and came down to the canal at this point.

There was a further bridge or two before we arrived at the lock outside the Powysland Museum (second picture).

We went across the canal to the Powysland Museum. Next to the canal you may be able to make out the two metal sculptures of Herons on the bank with a close-up in the second picture.

I took the picture above from on the bridge shown in the picture below.

Inside the museum are a variety of interesting artifacts ranging from a stash of ancient roman coins to old kitchen equipment.

A final view of the Town Hall in High Street and we decided to call it a day.

The Other End – Day 4

The Other End – Day 4

Today is our last day in Swansea and we wake this morning with wall to wall cloud.. Are they trying to tell us something? The cloud wasn't a surprise as it was foretold in the weather forecast and we always belive those don't we? We planned for this so it was going to be museum day. We packed our things after breakfast, paid the bill and left our one case with reception until we were ready to leave Swansea.

Each day we had come out of the hotel and turned left to start our adventures so we turned right instead. We could see on the map that in this direction the road went down to the river so we went to explore. We found a nicely designed footbridge and something we didn't expect. Whenever we were in the Marina area we often saw the pointed top of something white poking up above the buildings in the distance and now we know what it was.

We didn't stay here for long because we had plenty to do so we moved off towards the Swansea Museum; our next stop. You might notice that I didn't take this next photgraph today. Because of its situation the front of the museum faces almost north and the only time the front is in sunlight is around 7:00 AM so I was up early yesterday to get this photograph. This is the oldest museum in Wales and the building was built for the Royal Institution of South Wales in 1841 in the neo-classical style. Entrance is free.

This horizontal duplex steam engine from a lead rolling mill in the Lower Swansea Valley, built 1901, was outside in the grounds.

Back inside one of the galleries was dedicated to the first world war. It had this simulation of a trench together with many other related exhibits.

Another gallery was dedicated to pottery from South Wales. The display cases run along each side of the gallery and across the end showcasing many varied exhibts.

There was a small room on the first floor containing this mummy plus related items. This is Hor who was a clothier priest and scribe of the God Atum.  In the daily ritual of the temple it was his duty to change the clothing on the holy statue of the God.  He lived in Akhmim in Upper Egypt between 250-200 B.C. during the Ptolemaic Dynasty and was named after the God Horus. The mummy was gifted to Swansea Museum in 1888 by Field-Marshal Lord Francis Grenfell who was born in the St. Thomas area of Swansea in 1841.

This typical Victorian display must contain a great number of invertebrates, most of which appear to be butterflies, with an obvious large spider in the centre.

We moved on a short distance to the National Waterfront Museum. This is a large modern building on the edge of the Marina next to the Tram Shed. This is part of the National Museum Wales whereas the previous museum and the Tram Shed are part of the Swansea Museum as are the two old vessels floating in the Marina outside the Waterfront Museum.

You wouldn't get me up in this thing. It reminds me of a flying bycycle.

Built in Maindy, Cardiff, between 1907 and 1909, Charles Horace Watkins claimed to have flown the Robin Goch on several occasions during 1910, but sadly no official record of the flights exist. What is irrefutable is that the Robin Goch was the first wholly Welsh-built aeroplane, and probably the earliest working monoplane in Britain.

Watkins himself designed the 40 HP motor, and it was forged from bits of steam engine, in the Great Western works in Roath, Cardiff.
The fuselage is hard wood, the wings are canvas and piano wire, and inside the cockpit there is a dining chair to sit on, a spirit level to check you're straight, a ball in a tube to make sure you're the right way up. Pretty primitive stuff.

This is a Benz 'Duc' Motor Car. This particular model was first registered in Monmouthshire in 1904.

This is a replica of Trevithick's Penydarren tramway locomotive. The original was built in 1803-1804 and on the 21st February 1804 it made its first 9 mile journey hauling a load of ten tons of iron together with around 70 people who hitched an unofficial ride. This was the first journey made by a steam locomitive on rails and started a world-wide revolution in railway transport.

Apparently this replica is fully working and is steamed up once a year. Typically this year it was the Saturday just before we arrived. I would certainly liked to have seen that. We did watch a video but it's not quite the same as the real thing. Next visit maybe.

Well that was the end of our visit to Swansea. We went back to our hotel to collect our case and trundled it up to the station to catch a train at about 2:30 PM. We arrive home just over 3 hours later.

SUMMARY:

I have to be honest here and say that in the past I wouldn't have given Swansea a second thought with regard to a tourist destination and it was only because our railway line ended up there that we did too. The fact that the line did go to Swansea encouraged me to do a little research on the place and I began to realise that if offered the visitor quite a lot of options. Many other potential visitors probably take my initial view and don't even consider it which is their considerable loss.

We had a lovely time and really liked the place. We would recommend it without hesitation and do intend, sometime, to go back because there is still plenty of interest that we didn't have time to see. There is a good bus service around the city and its environs so one doesn't really need a car (We didn't bring one).

There are a number of well known tourist destinations that don't have as much to offer as Swansea does and visitors flock to those but not to Swansea. I'm baffled.

I hope that there will be people out there who read this report and realise what they're missing. Swansea deserves better recognition.

Tunnels, tribulations and lots of time.

Tunnels, tribulations and lots of time.

Late last year I mentioned Brunel’s tunnel under the Thames in our Return from Rotherhithe trip but I wasn’t able to show you the actual tunnel. We can now rectify that omission. Isambard Brunel was nearly drowned whilst building this tunnel and you can read the story  here should you be interested.

We travelled to London although not as far as Liverpool Street Station this time. We changed at Stratford onto the Piccadilly Line and travelled to Canada Water where we changed once more onto the Overground.

Naturally, at this point, the Overground is underground and why not? The Underground runs overground in places so why shouldn’t the Overground run underground? It’s all very logical. When you’ve re-organised your thinking processes we’ll continue.

We then travelled one stop to Rotherhithe. This is the southern end of Brunel’s tunnel and it’s where we encountered the first tribulation.

I was hoping that, as this tunnel is of particular historical interest, the tunnel lights would be on most of the time but no, all was dark. The southern end of Brunel’s tunnel is some way from the station platform so I could see no sign of it. Bother!

Nothing for it but to get on the next train and proceed to the northern end, Wapping Station, to find out what we can see there. There appears to be a train every three minutes on this stretch of the Overground network so not long to wait.

We soon arrived at Wapping and were pleased to discover that we could see this end of Brunel’s tunnel. One thing I had noticed was that the platforms at both Rotherhithe and Wapping were very narrow – not more than six feet I should say. Just enough for two people to pass without going too near the edge.

There are two separate tunnels running parallel and this is the view from Wapping Station platform.

You should be able to see that the tunnel is horseshoe shaped which makes it quite distinctive. The next picture shows the view looking along one of the two tunnels. You should be able to see that the tunnel floor slopes downward and then upward with the two railway lines reflecting light in the far distance.

Time to move on so it’s back on the train northwards one stop to Shadwell to get the DLR to Tower Gateway which is where we find our next tribulation – it’s raining. There wasn’t any rain in the weather forecast. Oh gosh they can’t have got it wrong can they?

We wait a short time for it to stop and walk the short distance to Tower Hill Station on the District Line where we travel to Embankment. When we did our Strand-ed walk I photographed Watergate Walk but omitted to photograph the actual Watergate so here it is.

When it was built in 1626 it was on the shoreline of the River Thames with those steps going down into the water and was intended for visitors to the Duke of Buckingham’s house but then later the Embankment was built making the shoreline much further south.

Back on to the Underground we travel back east to Blackfriars. We were on our way to Blackfriars Lane and passed The Blackfriar pub which I have photographed before but I had the opportunity this time to include the whole building showing its shape rather well.

Very soon after that we were walking along the narrow Blackfriars Lane.

We passed Apothecaries Hall where The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London is based. The hall was originally part of the Dominican priory of Black Friars but was purchased by the Society of Apothecaries in 1632. The original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and a new hall was built on the same site and completed in 1672.

We continued along Blackfriars Lane until we reached Carter Lane which we turned into. It is interesting to note that this was, at one time, one of London’s main thoroughfares.

Part the way along Carter Lane we arrived at the junction with Burgon Street where there were a number of little narrow lanes round about.





A little further along Carter Lane we spotted this YHA building (hostel) with interesting decoration on it and it turns out that the building was originally the St. Paul’s Choir School, built in 1874, hence the latin inscription and the ecclesiastical motifs on the facade.

A short way on and we were opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral and as it was lunch time a visit to St. Paul’s Crypt Cafe was in order and that was where we hit our next tribulation – it was manic. The place seemed to be full of school parties so we turned round and left. The best thing to do seemed to be to go straight to the British Museum, our next port of call anyway, and get some lunch there and that is what we did.

Their Gallery Cafe was much more civilised. Afterwards we went up to the upper floor where we had plenty of time.

There was a variety of clocks and watches here from the very old to the relatively modern including this early wooden clock and it is all wood even the gear wheels.

There was a rather fine watch dating from 1625 which shows the date, the age and phase of the moon, the seasons, month, day of the week, quarter hours, the time and alarm setting. Anything else you want to know?

There was even a clock dating from the early 1500s.

We moved on to the the dead body department (Egyptian Mummies) where we saw Gebelein Man dating from 3500 BC. He looks as though he could do with feeding up a bit. Just in case you are a little confused his legs are on the left and his arms on the right.

After looking at many Egyptian mummies we had had enough and headed for home but we went the long way. Walking from the British Museum to Holborn Station we continued walking along Holborn to just past Chancery Lane station and thence to Hatton Garden. We weren’t there for the jewellery but for this:

Easily bypassed as ‘just another doorway’ but a closer look produces this:

It’s one of those intriguing narrow alleyways. Walking a short way in we reach Ye Olde Mitre pub built in 1546 and extended in 1782. Henry VIII was married in St.Ethelredas near by and his daughter, Queen Elizabeth, is said to have danced around the cherry tree at the pub door with Sir Christopher Hatton.

Well that’s it for today. A walk back to Chancery Lane Station and thence home. Do keep reading these posts as I’m sure one day an interesting one will come along when I’ve had enough practice.

Return from Rotherhithe

Return from Rotherhithe

It all started so well too. We arrived, as usual, at Liverpool Street Station after an uneventful journey and walked down to Aldgate where, by chance, we discovered something that we weren't anticipating.

This is a modern wooden monument which is standing on the site of one of the old London gates, namely, Aldgate. It is thought that there was a gate already spanning the road to Colchester in the Roman period, when the City wall itself was constructed and it was always an obstacle to traffic. It was rebuilt between 1108-47, again in 1215, reconstructed completely between 1607-09 and finally removed in 1761.

Geoffrey Chaucer occupied appartments above the gate in the late 1300s when he was employed as a customs official.

It's amazing what can be found just wandering around London. However we set off once again along Minories and soon arrived at our first intended destination – the Tower of London. This is where things started to go pear-shaped or, to be precise, people-shaped.

We have been to this area many times but have never seen so many people and, so it turned out, they were all around the Tower. One of the factors was probably that it was half-term and children were on holiday this week and also that it was a beautifully sunny day and not at all cold.

The other factor which may explain the numbers of people was this:

You have probably heard about these ceramic poppies. There is supposed to be one for every British life lost in the first world war but I'm not going to count them. They are around all four sides of the Tower and so are the people trying to view them. The crowds were so dense that one could only shuffle along and, consequently, it took a long time to get round.

We did, eventually, get all the way around the Tower and here are a few of the photographs that I took to prove it.





When we decided to leave we went along the pavement on the north side of the Tower and even that was shuffle, shuffle, shuffle as far as Tower Bridge Road. Walking along Tower Bridge Road to cross Tower Bridge wasn't easy. We wouldn't really want to experience that again and we probably won't because the poppies are to be removed in the early part of November.

I managed to get a quite nice photograph of the Tower, once we had reached the other side, and a nice picture of Tower Bridge.


We turned round and headed east along Shad Thames. As it was now 12:15 we decided to stop in Peapod for an early lunch. Although it's small and the range of offererings is also small the soup, whatever the flavour, is alway delicious.

After lunch we headed further along Shad Thames until we could access the riverside walk. Staying close to the riverside we had some interesting views of the Thames, one of the old docks and some of the converted old warehouses.




Then the riverside path diverts inland to the narrow streets of Bermondsey. We found that here, as we found in Wapping on the north side, a lot of the old warehouses have been converted to expensive accomodation some with rather splendid river views.

We followed Bermondsey Wall (that's a road not a wall) and again, as in Aldgate, we came across something totally unexpected.

This is all that remains of King Edward III's manor house, built over 650 years ago, on what was then a small island surrouned by marshland.

These remains are in Bermondsey Wall East near the Angel Pub which dates from around 1830 and the pub is therefore Victorian.

Just a short way on we found King's Stairs Gardens which leads to Southwark Park. We did expect to find this and it was an attractive garden but we didn't have time to explore the relatively large park.

Along more narrow streets to St. Mary's Church, Rotherhithe.


The present church replaces the previous 12th century building and was completed in 1716. It was designed by John James, an associate of Sir Christopher Wren.

Shortly after this we passed the Mayflower pub.

The original pub was built in the 16th century but was substantially rebuilt in the 18th century and has associations with the Mayflower which took the settlers to America. Christopher Jones was Master of the Mayflower and he lived in Rotherhithe and is buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Mary's Church. The Mayflower (ship) , apparently, was moored nearby before it left on its journey to America via Portsmouth and Plymouth.

Just past the Mayflower pub was what I can only describe as a 'garden gantry'.

This view is looking back after we had passed under it. You should be able to see the Mayflower pub on the right and, a little further back, St. Mary's Churchyard on the left.

We were now at our next planned point of interest.

This was the pumping house built for pumping excess water from Brunel's tunnel under the Thames which was started in 1825 and opened in 1843. This was the world's first tunnel to pass under a river and if I were to say that it was an arduous project it would be an understatement particularly when one realises that the Thames was like an open sewer at the time. I should also mention that it was Marc Brunel, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's father, who oversaw this project although Isambard did join the project much later.

The chimney which carried the steam engine exhaust is rather obvious.

The pumping house is now a small museum and to one side is the original shaft from where the tunnels were started. It is possible to access the shaft on guided tours which take place only on some days. Check the web site if you're interested. The chairs on the floor of the shaft are for visitors when they are listening to the guide.


We walked on a little further staying close to the river until we reached Surrey Water where we turned towards the river along the very short canal to see an old obsolete bascule bridge similar to that which we saw at Shadwell.

That's a chunky bit of machinery and so back to Surrey Water with a view towards Canary Wharf.

Walking to the far end of Surrey Water we found the entrance to the canal, with its little bridge, easily enough and followed the canal which heads for Canada Water. It reminded us very much of the canal we followed from Wapping to Shadwell Basin on a previous trip.


The canal is old but the housing alongside is relatively new. An attractive environment.

We finally arrived at Canada Water which we found to be rather boring. A small lake surrounded by shops. However we could get a number 47 bus which dropped us outside Liverpoool Street Station for the train back home.

We haven't, however, finished with the Rotherhithe peninsula yet. We intend to go again but possibly not until next year. You can come again next time if you like. smilies