October 2016 Archives

Halloween 2016 & Update

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

I enjoy seeing the Halloween decorations and costumes each year, and I love this time of the year. I went out with an ex-colleague on Friday night in Bethnal Green and was amused with the costumes seen; some of them were very creative. On the tube journey back home, costumes and crowds were more chatty. Here in the UK, the holiday is blended with Bonfire Night, which falls on November 5, and consists of bonfires and fireworks. Last night and Saturday night, I saw that many programmes (such as 'XFactor' and 'Strictly Come Dancing') had Halloween themes and Halloween programmes were on television; I watched "The Blob". I'm not into the very scary/gory films or costumes.

Halloween cupcakes

Yesterday, the bloke and I went to Bournemouth and caught up with some of his friends and family. Seven of us went to an escape room where we played two games and (because it was early) had a drink at Starbucks before going bowling. I did surprisingly good, considering I have not been bowling too many times in my life and have not been at all since around 2011. After two games of bowling, we parked in Bournemouth town centre and saw "Doctor Strange" at the cinema before going for a meal and drinks and played around with Snapchat filters.

Halloween cupcakes

This year, this season also marks the end of my current contract. I was hoping that it would go on for another year at least as I was really enjoying the work and had been on the project from the beginning. I'd started in early January, and the last few months had been more stressful as we had to do so much overtime in order to meet tight deadlines. (Actually, since I had been there, not a week went by where I did not put in at least one day of overtime, and I had not had any time off.) To say the least, this year has been a hectic one and one where I've not had much of a personal life. I didn't expect everything to change so soon. 

Whatever I decide to do, I hope that I have a healthy work-life balance. Keep reading my blog to see what I get up to next! Happy Halloween!

Visiting Newcastle Castle

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

As I was in Newcastle, I decided to take a visit of Newcastle Castle (also known as Castle Garth). The site of the castle contains a small patch of the grounds, the castle keep, and the barbican. The barbican (now known as the Black Gate), was my first stop. The barbican was surrounded by a small moat; the upper floors were added in the 1600s. Today, these rooms are a museum.

Black Gate

From the upper floors of the barbican, the inner courtyard can be seen as well as a pit in the ground known as the Heron Pit, named after a corrupt sherrif of Northumberland who had the pit (used as a prison) installed above his quarters.

Black Gate

Black Gate inner yard

A castle occupied its current location on top of a hill before the 1080s when the Norman castle was constructed. By the middle ages in the late 1200s, the king visited; Edward I had Christmas at the castle.

Black Gate inner yard

Heron Pit

Part of the grounds between the castle keep and barbican and below the bridge was the location of a church with at least 600 human remains buried beneath. The church was in existance before the castle, and the walls of the castle were built around it. It was known as Monkchester, suggesting it was built near a Roman fort known as Pon Aelius. The cobble stones near here mark where the Roman fort was located.

Pons Aelius

After looking at the grounds, I went into the castle keep, which is well-preserved and contains many rooms to look around. Some of the rooms contained items similar to what would have been in the rooms, and the garderobes had the wooden toilet holes over them. The Great Hall looked impressive with its high ceiling and balconies over the side (which would have been opened later). Also near the top of the keep was a well room, and the well was noted at being 99 feet deep with the stone basins on either side of the well containing lead pipes that could pipe water through other areas of the keep.

Castle keep

Officer's room

Well room and well

One of the other rooms in the keep had grafitti dating from the Civil War (1600s). Troops were stationed here.

Garderobe, grafitti from Civil War, original wooden beams

After visiting the Great Hall and other rooms, I walked up the winding staircase to the top of the keep where I admired the excellent views. Panels on the top discussed the railways and bridge. The tracks are very close to the castle and would have gone through the castle; I am glad that they prevented this and saved the beautiful castle.


Views from top

Next, I headed all the way down the winding staircase to the lower floors. Down here was a cellar that was used for storage and then later as a prison at one time, and the iron chains can still be seen in the walls. In World War II, it was an air raid shelter. Lead pipes from the well room run into the cellar, and there was probably a wooden tap.

Hallways on both sides of the upper part of Great Hall

The chapel is also here, and it is designed beautifully with carved stonework on the ceilings and above the doors.


Have you ever visited Newcastle Castle?

Lunch at The Botanist, Newcastle

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

I recently paid Newcastle a visit, and this was my first trip to the city. While visiting, I decided to stop for lunch at the Botanist. The restaurant is one in a chain by the restaurant group 'New World Trading Co', and I visited their "Smuggler's Cove" branch in Liverpool a couple of years ago. As the name suggests, the Botanist is a plant-themed restaurant and contains photographs of plants and shelves of gardening equipment. The bar in the centre of the restaurant is covered with ivy and is overlooked by an impressive high glass dome which gives the appearance of a greenhouse or botanic garden.



The decor and ambience was amazing. I love the attention to details, and similar to the "Smuggler's Cove", the menus look well-done and include illustrations.




I visited alone, and I was seated in the main restaurant area near the entrance. The small room at the back looked welcoming and sunny.



I opted for the alcohol-free drinks. First up was the watermelon dew drink. This drink came with a large slice of watermelon. The ingredients included watermelon syrup, lime juice, and this was topped up with lemonade and a little bit of mint. It tasted refreshing.


Afterwards, I had the Homemade Lemonade. This was a tart lemonade, but they can make it sweeter. I like mine tart. It included lemonade topped up with elderflower juice and soda.


To start, I had the spicy sweetcorn soup. This tasted amazing and was the perfect level of spice. I didn't care much for the bread with it as it tasted a little too dry as if it had been sitting around for a little while.


For the main, I opted for the Malaysian chicken curry and rice. Sadly, this was a disappointment. The dish was more like a soup; it was not a sauce, and it contained whole cooked (and under-cooked vegetables) in the soup and small bits of brown chicken. It was not good at all and it had no flavour. I left most of this and told the waitress, but nothing was done. This was a great disappointment as I've had Malaysian chicken curry at other restaurants, and it's been perfect and not at all like watery flavourless 'soup'.


Because I was still hungry as I could not eat the nasty main dish above, I had a dessert. I ordered the lemon tart; this tasted fine but was not the best lemon tart I've ever had. It didn't have a lot of lemon zest, but it was more than welcome after the previous dish.


Despite the ambiance of the restaurant and the starter and drinks, I'd give this place a miss. I was not impressed with the main and lack of correction on the matter. Have you ever visited this restaurant?

JimmyC Paints Shakespeare on South Bank

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

For a long while, the wall on Clink Street, South Bank (London) contained an old mural that had been tagged over. The mural was by Spanish street artist SPOK and the subject may be best described as a spray can gadget. The mural has been looking tired for awhile; I first took notice of it in 2010, and it was already looking a bit tired then. Earlier this year, I noticed that it had been tagged over extensively. I'm happy to say that the wall near the entrance of the tunnel on Clink Street has had a new lease of life.


The new wall features the work of Australian artist JimmyC (James Cochran). I covered a lot of his work in my originally post here, which features Usain Bolt during the 2012 Olympics. Over the past few years, JimmyC has been busy creating new murals and refreshing them, such as this female portrait near Great Eastern Street, this female portrait near Petticoat Lane, this scenery and portrait on Calendonian Road, this portrait of Mick off Brick Lane, this family portrait on Joe's Kid Cafe, and the portrait of David Bowie that was famous at the beginning of this year after the singer passed on


This new mural is not too far from Shakespeare's Globe theatre and features the bard himself. This is appropriate because this year marks 400 years since the end of Shakespeare in 1616, and London hosted 'The Complete Walk' in April to mark the anniversary and showed light projections on the Guildhall. The walk mentioned features several shorts of the bard's work, and one of the screens was located in the spot where the mural is; it was showing "The Twelfth Night."


This is an excellent addition to London's street art scene as it shows a famous London resident, located not far from his theatre which was probably a little closer to where the mural is than the present day reconstruction. Have you been to see it yet?

Newcastle Street Art

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

While I did not go to Newcastle in order to see street art, I did manage to find some without looking. One of these is work by Karl Striker, who has been compared to Banksy. The artist uses a stencil style, and the below piece is located across from the police headquarters. It was commissioned by the owner of the wall, and the piece shows a police officer with the sign reading "warning stereotyical lookalikes operating in this area". The street art is protected with perplex.


Most of the street art that I saw in Newcastle was located in the archways behind Sage concert hall. I believe these are called Comusica arches and contain a lot of street art. I've taken a selection of photographs of these.





I noticed part of a mural by Sheffield-based artist Phlegm inside one of the arches, but it has been painted over. 


The piece originally looked like the below, which I took from Phlegm's official Pinterest page. Too bad that it has been tagged over as it looked like an excellent piece tucked away in this archway.


A Weekend in Tyne & Wear and Newcastle

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The weekend before last, I visited Newcastle and Tyne & Wear in the north of England. This was my first visit to the area, and although it was just a short visit, I managed to discover some places that I would like to visit again for a longer time. The area is beautiful and consists of some very attractive coastline, parks, and cities. Photographs of my visit can be seen in this post.


One of our first stops was to Saltwell Park in Gateshead after visiting the Angel of the North. This is a beautiful park with nice views, a boating lake, beautiful gardens, and Saltwell Towers, a mansion dating form the mid-1800s. The park and gardens were looking lovely in the autumn, and Saltwell Park appears to be a popular place with many families visiting it and the tearooms at Saltwell Towers. I would like to return for a longer visit.


Another stop we made was to Whitely Bay along the coast. There is a picturesque lighthouse in view, and the beach was busy with surfers as the waves were quite large when we visited. There is a nice sandy beach here.



North Shields was the next stop, and this was visited at dusk.


Union Quay at North Sheilds is a fishing harbour with fishing boats and nets laid out. I captured a picturesque photograph here of the harbour and the boats. There is a little bit of parking here at Union Quay.


The next morning, I had a nice walk from Gateshead to Newcastle. I saw the famous steel bridge (Tyne Bridge) over the river Tyne and crossed the newer Millennium footbridge just up the river to get some better views of Tyne Bridge. The sun had come out, and I got some good photographs of this bridge. The bridge is an icon of the city of Newcastle.


Newcastle is built on a hill, so I had to walk up a steep hill to get to the rest of the city from the river area. The Tyne Bridge actually is built up so it can cross the river.


Newcastle is an attractive city and has quite a few shops that I wish I could have explored longer. There also looks like quite a few good pubs and restaurants.


One of the monuments in Newcastle sits high upon a column. It is Grey's Monument, named after Charles Grey who was the 2nd Earl Grey (apparently there is an association with him and Earl Grey tea). The column is similar to the column in Trafalgar Square, and this is because it was built by the same sculptor. The monument was built in the 1830s. 


I would like to visit Newcastle and the area again. Do you recommend any attraction in this area for my next visit?

Russet, Purple and Gold

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

I really miss autumns in the USA. They are so much more colourful than the bland autumns here in the UK where the leaves may turn a slight shade of brown or orange before falling to the ground. Also, the weather just turns a bit cooler. In the USA, it gets much colder and frosty for a couple of weeks before the last warmth of the year returns for another couple of weeks. These two warm weeks are known as "Indian Summer", and it's my favourite time of year. This normally happens in the early or middle part of October. Of course, some autumns are more colourful than others, and wind or rain is not appreciated because that knocks the leaves and colour off the trees.


I have not been to the USA for autumn or seen it since I lived there, and that last time was around 2003. From what I remember, it was not a memorable autumn like some of the past ones. The above photographs were past autumns that I enjoyed growing up, and they would have been taken in the late 1980s and early 1990s. My aunt bought me a camera for my birthday in the late 1980s, and it went everywhere with me. 

One of my favourite pastimes was going on walks on the farm. My favourite was to climb the large hill that was located across some pastures. The hill over-looked a small village and valley, and it was a great place to enjoy the views and the autumn colours.

Autumn also meant drinking apple cider (pure apple juice) and carving pumpkins. It also meant picking gourds, squash, apples, and Indian corn. Indian corn is brightly-coloured corn that is used for decoration in the autumn. It is left to dry in the fields and then picked in the autumn. The husks are peeled back to reveal beautiful colours, and the colours were unknown until the husks were pulled back to reveal it.

Over January one year, probably close to twelve years ago now, my father was helping with replacing the flooring at my grandmother's house. They discovered several old newspapers dating from the early 1900s, and the newest one of the lot was dated in the early January at around the same time that the floor was being replaced, which means that the last floor work was probably done about 90 years ago at roughly the same time of the year.


I read many of the articles in the old papers. In one, there was a poem that described autumn. The papers are currently in the USA, but I wanted to track the poem down. I remembered the title of it, so I tried my luck at searching for it and was able to locate it. News in America is syndicated because it's such a large country, so articles would be posted across many papers. I was able to trace the poem to an identical page located in a newspaper known as Elmira Telegram from New York. The direct link is at the bottom of this post. 

Nearly a hundred years after the poem was published by an (I assume) reader/writer who submitted it to the Denver Times newspaper, it was read by me. I do not know anything about the writer of the poem other than it was printed in the November 4, 1903 edition of the Elmira Telegram newspaper. The poem is below.

The woodland dreams in the distant blue;
The foothllls hide in the purple haze;
The forest is robed in a royal blue,
And the boundless valleys seem ablaze.
The beautiful trees unfold,
In a quiet display of, shifting-scene,
Advance from the order of gray and green
To russet, purple and gold.

The mellow sunbeams gleam and glow,
And shimmer above the peaceful fields.
The willows lean where the waters flow;
The rushes rustle their fluted shields,
The grasses are all unrolled;
The cricket his farewell sonnet weaves
While over him hang the autumn leaves,
In russet, purple; and gold.

Oh, let me wander among the vines,
Where bramble and briar shield the brake
When Indian summer around me shines,
And the frosted leaves a footway make!
I refuse to be counted old--
The alluring hopes of youth return
For the mystic fires, of boyhood burn
In russet, purple, and gold. 

- O. W. KINNE, (In Denver Times)


Autumn really is my favourite time of year.

'Angel of the North' by Anthony Gormley

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The 'Angel of the North' is a giant steel sculpture created by Anthony Gormley in 1998 for Gateshead near Newcastle. The steel angel is 20 meters tall and 54 meters wide. The angel placed here symbolises the use of the land below for coal mines and to express the new information age. The steel angel has been drilled into the ground 33 meters so that it will withstand the wind and gravity. In total, it cost £800,000 to create. The sculpture is an icon of Tyne & Wear and the north of England.


Getting photographs of the angel with a bright and overcast sky was particularly difficult.



Have you ever seen the Angel of the North?

The Great North Snowdog Charity Sculptures

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Tyne and Wear are currently hosting 'Great Snowdogs of the North' charity sculpture trail to raise funds for St. Oswald's Children's Hospice. The snowdog sculptures are inspired by the animated short "The Snowman™ and The Snowdog", which is a popular winter and holiday film featuring a little boy who builds a magical snowman and snowdog. Each sculpture has been painted or crafted by an artist or group of artists. The charity trail runs until 29 November, and the sculptures will be auctioned in the new year.

Snowberry - Simon Tozer

Last weekend, I headed up to Newcastle to have a look around as the city and area is one of the few places in the country that I have not had a chance to visit; I also downloaded the app for the Snowdog trail, and the bloke and I headed off finding the snowdogs. Unfortunately, the snowdogs were scattered all over the county and not in one place where we could walk to them, so we drove to see them and I spent the next day in Newcastle in order to see the ones that I could visit on foot. I managed to see all of them except for one that was located much further north in Northumberland National Park.

Dog on the Tyne - Jane Headford

Snowdog Springtime - Joanna Lumley

Great North Polar Pooch - Sandra Jaekel-Bothyart

Tails of the Sea - Joanne Wishart

Luna - Geoff Chappell

Wonderhound - Illona Clark

Sparky - David Sith

Chilly Dog - Sally Adams

Rosy Posy - Sarah Jane Richards

Patchword Snowdog - Jill Barklem

Es Tu Cosa - Tristan Lathley

Gingerbread Dog - Sarah-Jane Szikora

Pawdington - Mandii Pope

Rover Codex - Ellie Tarratt

Skipper - Joanne Wishart

Snow Angel of the North - Mik Richardson

Snowline - Jim Edwards

Arthur - Jeff Rowland

For more information about Great North Snowdogs and the trail map, visit the official website at http://www.greatnorthsnowdogs.co.uk

Often, the street art scene in London encourages collaborations, such as this piece that appeared in the summer by Binho Ribeiro and Tinho. Both Tinho and Binho Ribeiro (Binho) are street artists from Brazil. Ribeiro has a long legacy of producing street art in Brazil, and this spans from the mid-1980s. The work below was created for the LATA Street Culture Festival. Ribeiro creates brightly-coloured characters and uses patterns.




Tinho also began his street art career in the 1980s, and he painted the background, water and the Big Ben in the mural above.

Ananda Nahu Street Art

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Ananda Nahu (ANahu) is a street artist from Brazil who creates her work using many small stencils and freehand painting. Most of her work features bright colours and has a human element to it. She recently painted on a wall near Old Street. The mural features a cloaked figure holding a bright red apple. It was painted for LATA Street  Culture Festival. 




Although this was her only work in London, she did paint additional murals in Liverpool and Whiteley Bay during her visit to England.

An installation of fifteen signing and lighting see-saws are currently visiting Leicester Square in London until the 27th of this month. The see-saws are part of an installation known as "Impulse", and they appeared in Montreal over Christmas last year. The see-saws make musical sounds and light up when they sense movement and interaction. They are free to use and help to liven up the afternoons and evenings as the days get shorter.



The see-saws will be in Leicester Square until 27 October, and they can be visited from dawn until dusk when the gates to the square are closed off. They are free to use and can accommodate four people, although I did see one with six people on it.

The last time that I posted about street artist Paul 'Don' Smith's work was earlier in the year when I discovered that he had painted a lot in Soho in west London after most of his work had become tagged over in east London. The artwork and that post can be seen here. This post features a large selection of Paul 'Don' Smith's street art over the past year. The most recent piece was painted off Hackney Road and features singer Amy Winehouse.




Paul 'Don' Smith paints another tribute to Lenny.


The story earlier in the year where the gay night club in Orlando, Florida was targeted was remembered.


Another tribute to Lemmy.


A tribute to David Bowie, who died in early January of this year.



'The Kiss'


'A Clockwork Orange'







Tom vs Bane


Richard Asher

Unfortunately, a lot of the work in Soho now has a white cross painted over the top of it. This is a shame to see the work of one of London's busiest street artists painted over so that others cannot enjoy it.

Every year or two, the artwork on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square is refreshed with a new work. The work is selected by a panel or voted on by the public, and the winning piece for this year is by artist David Shringley from Macclesfield, England. The bronze sculpture features a giant hand giving the "thumb's up" sign, which has become synonymous with social media websites for "liking" something. The artwork is titled "Really Good". This piece originally came to light during the voting in 2013 for the next commission, but it lost out to a horse skeleton sculpture.


The thumb is deliberately made out of proportion to encourage positivity in the world, and it could not come at a better time in this whirlwind summer politically and socially.




"Really Good" is the eleventh artwork to be commissioned by the Mayor of London on the Fourth Plinth. Past entries have included giant blue roosters, horse skeletons, ships in glass bottles, and even everyday people. I've not been able to cover all eleven of them, but here are some of the past entries that I have seen:

2015: A horse skeleton with a stock ticker tape
2014: A giant blue rooster
2012: A boy on a rocking horse
2011: Ships in a bottle
2009: members of the public were encouraged to do their own 'thing' on the plinth
2005: limbless pregnant female

This year marks the 950th anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, one of the defining moments of Great Britain. To mark the anniversary, a small troop of people have followed in King Harold's footsteps to march down to Hastings on foot and on horseback. This small group recently arrived in London and spent the day Saturday informing visitors of the famous battle and demonstrating examples of daily life and tasks that the people of Great Britain of that time had to do in order to survive. The small set-up was located in Hyde Park near Hyde Park Corner and featured demonstrations and talks about the following subjects: the battle, warfare, cooking, candle-making, weaving, leather-processing, physician and health treatment, pottery-making, metalwork, basket-weaving, and more. The day was hosted by English Heritage.


I arrived at around lunch time and listened to some of the talks that the demonstrators were having and engaging with other visitors. The talks were quite popular and engaging. I saw families and children taking part in basket-weaving and candle-making as well as getting photographs with armour and shields.


For those who do not know much of the history of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, I will give a brief introduction to it. The British Isles were constantly invaded by neighbouring people. King Harold had just defeated Vikings near York at Stamford Bridge in 1066 when he was informed about an invasion by the Normans, led by William the Conquerer. (William the Conquerer was from modern-day northern France/Netherlands/Denmark.) The Normans had invaded the south of England. King Harold tried to surprise the Normans by marching toward Hastings, but William's scouts warned him in advance. The big battle happened near Hastings. Both sides had roughly equal numbers of men, but the English had more foot soldiers and the Normans had archers. King Harold was killed on the battlefield. Afterwards, William marched to London and started to build his castle (now the Tower of London) there.


The small group of actors will be arriving in Hastings to re-create the battle at the castle in approximately a week.


The first tent had a physician set up, and he was discussing the various tools used and how problems would have been solved. He showed us a hook that was used to break the skin and flesh and a saw that was used to saw through the bone to amputate a limb. The main arteries would have either been singed or had acid applied to stop the bleeding. He also detailed what the procedure would be to solve urinary tract problems, such as removing kidney stones.


The next tent was demonstrating basket-weaving.


Another was demonstrating how to create candles. 


The next one was a large area with a fire pit, and it was a metal-worker demonstration with a small anvil placed on a tree stump. The metal was heated and then hammered on top of the anvil.


There was another one demonstrating leather-working. The next demonstrated pottery-making. The pot had been created, so he demonstrated how the spout and handle were created.


The spout and handle were created together. They were shaped, and he cut the spout off using a knife. This was then placed onto the pot. Using the remainder of the lump of clay, he made the ring larger before cutting it off. The ring was then cut in half, evened out, and then shaped onto the pot to create the handle.


The busiest area was a talk about the Battle of Hastings using a map on the ground. 


Out of nowhere, the heavens opened and we had a downpour. The Battle of Hastings history lesson was post-poned as the speaker told us to get underneath the nearby tree to shelter until the downpour stopped. It didn't last too long before it dwindled and then stopped altogether. 

The men dressed as warriors in armour took shelter and took care of their armour; we were told that the pieces were very expensive. While he took shelter in the cookery tent, he talked about being one of the four who had done the entire march from Yorkshire. Eight others had done part of the walk. Most of the marching was done on foot and on horseback (in today's sensible shoes so that the expensive replica footware would not be damaged; the original men would have gone barefoot part of the time so that they would not wear out their shoes). 


While I was standing near the cookery tent, I overheard the lady talk about the ingredients for the food. Samples were also offered to visitors. The food was also being cooked. The rain put most of the fire out, but it was brought back to life with air. A couple of pots were on the fire.


When the rain had completelt stopped, one of the ladies from the cookery tent took the weaving loom out again to demonstrate it. Near her were the armour tents and two horses.


Hyde Park was also looking particularly autumnal today.


On the way out of the park, I saw the two horses being riden around the perimeter of the settlement.



This was an informative little excurision, and after the downpour, the weather did brighten up a lot. The group had attracted a large crowd, and it's good to see so many people taking an interest in history and living history events.

Neon Legacy at Shepherd Market

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

For ten days (until October 13), Shepherd Market in Mayfair is hosting a street exhibition of neon signs, dubbed Neon Legacy. The signs are switched on at midday until 8:00pm, and another exhibit will be taking place throughout the month of November at Bankrobber Gallery in Notting Hill. The signs are the work of Chris Bracey who passed away a couple of years ago but his neon sign workshop "God's Own Junkyard" has remained open thanks to his family. Bracey was responsible for many neon signs in west London and Soho as well as signs for films, such as "Blade Runner." He also collaborated with popular artists, such as Damien Hirst. 


I've not yet made it to "God's Own Junkyard", but it's been on my London 'to-do' list for awhile now. I have always been fascinated by neon lights and holiday lights, and these featured in my paintings (when I had time to paint/draw). The neon signs are located in shop windows at Shepherd Market, about a five-minute walk from Green Park underground station. I managed to capture many of the signs during my visit.












The gun sign above was animated. The gun became a pistol, and this switched angle from a side view to a barrel view.





My favourite sign was the sign above, behind the 'liquour store' sign. This is a colourful sign. I actually want to create a neon sign. I love them!

In the middle of September, I visited Rutland Water in England's smallest county (Rutland). I previously posted about Oakham and Oakham Castle, which I visited the day before. The day was a pleasant one, and it was not too hot nor too cold. It was also dry, so I got to enjoy the scenery and take a couple of short walks to other attractions. Rutland Water is only a new addition to the country; it is a man-made resevoir that was created by damming a valley. The resevoir opened in 1976 to supply water for cities such as Peterborough and Milton Keynes. It is also used for a variety of water sports and bird watching. It has something for everyone. After visiting Rutland Water, we went to nearby village Greetham and had lunch at a pub called The Wheatsheaf. Below are my photographs of Rutland Water.


Our first visit was to Sykes Lane car parking, the location of the main tourist information centre and a museum dedicated to bugs. A marathon was due to begin when we arrived, so it was busy here as we watched the beginning of the marathon. Also at this location is The Great Tower sculpture by Alexander, which is made of bronze. It is the largest bronze sculpture ever cast and fits well into the surroundings.


We decided to take a little walk toward Whitwell, where the river boat tours disembark from. On the way, we took in beautiful views and saw an old plane fly overhead. There were also a few sheep roaming here, and many families were out walking their dogs. We saw some rowers and fishermen too.




After having the short walk, we decided to drive to Normanton to see Normanton Church, which is the icon of Rutland Water. It was only a short walk from where we parked, and we saw wonderful views of the church. I took so many photographs. Normanton was partially submerged when the valley was flooded, but they wanted to save the church from flooding. To save it, a wall was constructed around it.





A wedding was taking place inside.


While we were walking back to the car, I noticed these beautiful and colourful row of sailboats in the water. They were from the sailing club nearby.


After the visit to the church, we walked back to the car and drove to Whitwell so that we could board the Rutland Belle for a tour of Rutland Water. We were told a history of the water and the area around it.



The concrete tower in the middle of Rutland Water is used to monitor the water and, in particular, the amount of oxygen in the water. If the oxygen is low, it pumps more into the water. The oxygen outlets are located in various areas around the tower. These areas are popular with fishermen as I suppose the air attracts the fish.


We also sailed over to Normanton Church, and I got some more photographs from a different angle.


The sailboats were out in full force. They offer training programmes for young adults and children and special boats for people with special needs.


We explored a couple of the villages as well, but our next stop was to get Sunday lunch before driving back to London. We went to The Wheatsheaf pub in Greetham, just north of Rutland Water. The pub has a little duck pond with quite a few ducks quacking away.


We were given onion bread to start, and this was served with dip. I had most of mine with my soup.


I had sweetcorn soup, which tasted delicious.


Next up were the mains. I opted for the vegetarian dish, which was a pasta and goat's cheese with squash. This tasted very good and was full of flavour.


The bloke had pork belly with all of the Sunday roast trimmings, including vegetables which were not pictured.


For dessert, I had the salted caramel brownie with vanilla ice cream. This tasted very good, but it was a little bit too rich for me. I could not finish it.


The bloke had a selection of ice creams.


Overall, we had a lovely time at Rutland Water. Have you ever been, or would you recommend anything in particular?

A Stay in Oakham, Rutland (England)

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

In the middle of September, the bloke and I had a weekend away in Rutland. We stayed in Oakham, one of the picturesque villages in the small county in England. In the previous post, I covered the visit to Oakham Castle, a beautiful Great Hall and one of the best examples of Norman architecture in the country. Oakham's market days are Wednesday and Saturday, and the market was closing up when we arrived at about 4:30.



Near the market area were two market crosses dating from the medieval period. The largest and oldest one is located in front of public school Oakham School. It is known as the "butter cross" and is a typical design compared with others that I have seen with a cover and a circular column in the middle. The circular column was where the produce (eggs, milk, produce) would have been laid out for sale.


At the base of the butter cross are stocks with five holes. The sign near the buttercross debated on why there were five holes; no one knows why there are five holes.


We stayed the night at the Whipper-in Hotel in Oakham, which in located at the market street and was an old coaching inn.


The rooms of the hotel were given place names, and our room (Warwickshire) was located in the converted stables. A little knitted bear greeted us on our bed, and we were asked to bring the bear to dinner with us for a free starter. Other guests had other bears with different offers. Dinner and breakfast were both included for us.


To start, the bloke had Thai fish cakes with sweet chilli sauce. I had mushroom soup and bread.


The bloke had steak for his main, and this included onion rings and chips and a bit of salad.


I had the chicken breast wrapped in bacon and creamy leak sauce, and this was served with green beans and mushrooms. I also ordered a side of vegetables.


The bloke had ice cream, and I had the lemon tart with cream for dessert.


All of the food was very delicious, and I could not fault any of it. It was a good base to explore Rutland and Rutland Water, and I will soon be posting my photographs from Rutland Water, so keep checking back.

At different times throughout the year, the London Transport Museum arrange tours of some of London's disused tunnels and abandoned underground stations. In February last year, I got to go on the tour of Aldwych Station on the Strand. At the beginning of this year, I booked to go on additional tours through Hidden London and booked to see the disused tunnels of Euston Station. My tour was early on Sunday morning. I've always wondered how Euston got its name; Euston station is named after Euston Hall, the family home of the landowners.


Our meeting point was at the abandoned tube station at Euston on Melton Street. We arrived early and got breakfast at a coffee shop across the street and then joined the queue of people that arrived in that time. When it was time, we went inside the building to watch slides and were told that Euston was the first major mainline station and used to have a beautiful Victorian arched facade and a beautiful Great Hall. The station became over-crowded as it was a terminus for a couple of different train companies, and different tickets needed to be purchased to use the different lines.


We were then taken into another one of the rooms of this building, where we saw the remaining tiles painted white. Some of this paint was rubbed off to show the green colour, which was used for many of the underground stations. The remainder of this building is used as an extractor with a noisey fan that helps circulate the air through the old lift shaft.

After the visit to that room, we were then led to the new Euston station underground. The new station was built in the 1960s when (sadly) it was cheaper to pull down the old Victorian architecture and build new, so the beautiful building was lost forever. Once we descended into the underground, we went onto Platform 6. This was one of the existing old platforms, and the door at the end of the platform went into the abandoned tunnels.


The only below-ground ticket hall level exists at this station not far from the doorway that we entered at the end of Platform 6. We saw the old ticket window. Visitors would use these tunnels to go from one line to another, but they would have to pay for tickets on different lines. 


These tunnels were closed to the public during major improvement works. They were closed in the mid-1960s. The blue tiles and advertisements serve as a reminder of their days in the mid-1960s as a time capsule, and I wondered how many people walked by and saw these posters. Some of the highlights in the posters include a "Puss and Boots" from the Theatre Royal, an advertisement for "Coronation Street", "West Side Story" at the Astoria, a poster for P&O cruises, advertisements for hair, advertisements for books/newspapers, film advertisements ('Lonely are the Brave' and 'The Valiant'), sporting events, and advertisements for music (Bobby Darin). The subjects do not really differ too much from today. The typeface and colours (bright, bold neons) are so different.


Another gem of a find is a neon-orange poster advertising the movie "Psycho", which is a classic today. The film was launched in 1960, and it appears that at least one poster would have been covering it before it was ripped off to reveal the title of the film. 


Another three gems include travel-related posters. One advertises British Rail, and another advertises the Midway Pullamn train.


After admiring the posters, we walked back down the tunnel to the location of the old lift shafts, which are now empty and used for ventillation purposes. They were actually very chilly. In the image below, the entrance to the lifts is on the left and reminds me of stations that still do have their lifts, including Covent Garden and Goodge Street.


We stepped inside and looked up to see the top of the lift and ground level, which gave us an indication how far down from the surface we were.


The next part of the journey went down to the ventillation chambers in the bare tunnels where we could read the casting years of the metal rings. We walked down the tunnel in the below image and around a tight corner where we  came upon four or five vents in the ground below us. 


These were above the trains on the Victoria line, and the vents allow air to get through to prevent sunction and make the tube a little more bearable in the winter. The tunnels here were nice and cool. We were told to ensure we kept onto our belongings so they didn't fall down onto the vent grids. We saw people walk by and trains pass directly below us. Apparently, on one tour there was a rowdy group of drunks and the people on the tour kept shouting at them and confused them as no one can see into the vents from the platforms.


This was the last part of the tour, and we decided to look at the original gatehouses that marked the original station entrance before leaving. These complemented the style of the original Euston station. One was for entering the station, and the other was used for exiting the station.


The highlights of this tour were to see the 1960s advertisements and the ventillation chambers above the Victoria line platforms. I'm looking forward to seeing Down Street and Clapham early next year.

Oakham Castle in Rutland, England

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Oakham Castle is located in Oakham in Rutland, England. It was inhabited before 1066 as a motte and bailey castle, but the Normans built the first stone castle on this site; it is considered one of the best examples of Normal architecture. In the 1200s, the castle (manor) was surrounded by a wall and gatehouse. Today, the Great Hall and earthworks containing bricks for part of the wall are all that remains of the castle. Other buildings to keep the castle running existed within the walls but were demolished at different stages.


The Great Hall dates from the late 1100s. It has survived so long because it functioned as a courtroom until recent times. Oakham Castle received funding in 2014 for restoration work and reopened at the end of May this year.


One of the different facts about this castle are the horseshoes. Aristocratic and royal visitors to the castle have a tradition to honour if visiting the castle. The tradition is to provide a horseshoe. The reason for this is that the castle was owned by the Ferrers (ferrier) family, and their symbol on their coat of arms is the horseshoe. The oldest one is Edward IV's, presented in 1470. Recent ones include the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) and Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla).


Oakham Castle may not look like the traditional example of a castle, but it is. Many of the Great Halls would have looked similar, and some of the earth banks remain around it. Have you been here to see the horseshoes?


Recent Comments

  • jenn: Thank you. read more
  • Murge: Amazing post. read more
  • Herbert: good post. site read more
  • Frank Quake: Hey, This is great when you said that I had read more
  • Chappy: You mention peptides here? I have had first hand experience read more
  • jenn: Thanks! I love the work. I have got more recent read more
  • Fanakapan: Thanks for the write up. This was some of my read more
  • jenn: Yes.... but that's only for the islands. Mostar and Montenegro read more
  • jenn: Hello, the code is not mine to hand out. I'll read more
  • pantich: More info about the best day trips from Dubrovnik can read more
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID