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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)

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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

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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?

A Visit to Bolingbroke Castle

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Bolingbroke Castle is an important historical castle and was the birthplace of Henry IV and was taken over by Parliament during the Civil War. The castle itself was surrounded by a moat and contained large towers and a gatehouse. It was white-washed, and traces of this limewash can still be seen on the stones on the outer wall. Bolingbroke Castle was made out of weak stone, however, and considered to be in a bad state in the early 1300s. (The lime may have been used to try to protect it.) Part of the wall collapsed in the mid-1500s.


The castle was built in the early 1200s and then owned by John of Gaunt, father to Henry IV. The castle was never used as a royal residence after Henry IV became king, but it was under Royalist control. The Battle of Winceby took place a couple of miles north of the castle, and the Parliament forces won and ruined the castle. A lot of the stone was later taken from it.



Part of the grassy mound that encased the castle remains was unearthed in the mid-1900s and escavated. The Great Hall and kitchens were buried again to preserve them.



Have you been to Bolingbroke Castle?

Newark was one city in England that I had never visited before this September. The main reason of the visit was to see Newark Castle, which is located in the centre of the city. Newark is a city in Nottinghamshire that has a rich history and was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War, and there's a trail and museum dedicated to it in the city. While visiting the castle, we decided to walk into the centre of Newark to see what the town had to offer. I was already impressed with a few old buildings near the castle. The market square was sign-posted, so we followed these signs into the centre to take a look and to find brunch.



The side streets from the castle opened up into the main market square, which contained covered tents. The stalls were not very busy, and many of them were empty on the Saturday morning when we visited. We found a couple of vans selling cooked food in the square, and I had a cheese and onion toastie from one of them while the bloke has a bacon roll from another.



The market square also contains a water pump with an emblem of the city's coat of arms. Bear and bull-baiting also took place in the square until it was outlawed in the 1830s.



Many of the buildings in and near the square were very old. I wish we could have stayed a little bit longer for tea in the timber-framed building below, which appeared to be a popular tearoom.


The city also has an art gallery and small museum off the square, and these can be visited for free. There's also a few niche shops and the chain stores, but the city is quite a small one and can be visited with lunch in a couple of hours. (To visit the museums, do plan a little longer.) Have you ever been to Newark? What did you like the best?

A Visit to Newark Castle

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Newark was one town in England that I had not yet visited, but as we were staying the night in Rutland, we decided to drive a little further in order to visit it. Newark Castle was on my list of places to see, and we found parking across the road and paid the castle a visit. Although it looks imposing from the river, there's not much left of the castle after it was destroyed in the Civil War. The castle was free to visit.


The city of Newark suffered a lot in the Civil War as troops loyal to the king were stationed here at the castle and at private houses (thus increasing the size of the town), and the town only surrendered after the king did first. The town does have a museum and a Civil War walk.

The castle gardens were landscaped in Victorian times and opened in 1889. Additional landscaping was done in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Right inside the gardens is a model of present-day Newark, which was created in 2005.


Newark Castle was built in 1130 by a powerful bishop Alexander the Magnificient, but the site was the location for a timber and earth castle and was also used by the pre-historic, Romans, and Saxons. King John died at the castle in 1216 (possibly due to being poisoned), and early in October marks 800 years since he died.


As Newark was a strong loyalist centre, the castle became a stronghold. After the surrender, the castle buildings were destroyed and left to ruin. The stones were eventually stolen, and there's not much left of the castle itself except for the areas that are a little harder to reach. Damage by cannon fire can be seen on the river-side of the castle.


The main wall of the castle is against the river banks. On the side of this wall (in the picture above), timber-framed buildings were constructed which formed the Great Hall and Bishop's Hall. These contained the large windows to let a lot of light in, and the large windows looked over the river.



Tours of the upper rooms of the castle tower and the dungeon are possible, but these only happen on select days and times. Unfortunately, my visit was outside of those times.


I also had a wander across the river to get some photographs of the imposing-looking structure.


Have you ever visited Newark Castle?

An Afternoon in Ipswich, England

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I've never been to Ipswich before last weekend when I went to see the Pigs Gone Wild trail. Ipswich is a small town, and I enjoyed the old buildings and the new harbour area. I could not get great photographs of a lot of the areas, but there's a large square with beautiful buildings (known as Cornhill or Cornmarket). The market was set up, and I wandered around and saw other timber-framed buildings and buildings with ornate designs.


We went to Smokey Joe's for lunch. It wasn't my first choice of place, but my partner wanted to go there instead of the open-air street pub or the Thai restaurant across the street. I had the chicken burger, which was very delicious. It came with chips that had a paprika salt on them, and I also ordered beer-battered onion rings. Onion rings were a weakness of mine and a food that I often do not get to try in the UK.




I loved these timber-framed buildings.


The building above is known as 'Ancient House' and is a shop.



This old building contains ornate decorations and details. One is an advertisement for a Croydon watch maker.


The harbour area looks like it has recently been regenerated and contains many restaurants, hotels, and clubs as well as the university.

The 'Great Fire of London' Walk

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Three-hundred-and-fifty years ago on September 2, London burned for four days just a year after the Great Plague (Black Death) plagued the city. The city and most of its buildings, including St. Paul's Cathedral, was largely destroyed by the fire. This destroyed over 130,000 homes and 84 churches and left thousands homeless considering only approximately six people (that they know about) perished.

We know a little bit about the unfolding events from Samuel Pepys and his writings in his diary. Because this year marks 350 years since the anniversary of the fire, many events are taking place to commemorate it. One of the events is a free two-hour walk around the City, which takes place all week this week at different times. I decided to join one of the walks earlier today. I know this part of the City very well as I worked near Cannon Street and Bank Station.


Our meeting point was Monument, the monument created after the fire as a memorial. It is a large free-standing column with a frieze on the side. The Monument can be climbed (as there is a staircase inside the column) and views can be enjoyed; I climbed Monument a few years ago and received a certificate. The location of the Monument is imporant because if it was laid down, the gold flame on top would meet the location where the great fire is said to have started.


Thomas Faryner's bakery on Pudding Lane is attributed to the start of the fire and printed on maps after. He was the King's baker. It is thought that his maid forgot to put the fire in the ovens out, but something else may have set the fire off. The summer of 1666 was very hot and dry, so it may have been a spark or started by something else. We will never know. The maid was actually one of the few who is thought to have died in the fire. A plaque, gifted by the Worshipful Company of Bakers, marks the spot near where the bakery would have stood.


The baker and his family did manage to escape. The buildings were built so close together with some of the top floors almost joining. They managed to jump out of the window and into the neighbours house and escape. 


On the Monument, the frieze depicts London as a lady lying on rubble. The older figure to her left represents Father Time, and the two figures in the clouds represent peace and wealth. This means that London will rise again from the ashes. On the right side, the King and architects/scientists/other important people build the city up again.


The flame on the top of Monument is plated with gold.


From Monument, we headed down the hill and across the road to St. Magnus-the-Martyr. Just to the right of this church was the original entrance to the old London Bridge. I have previously covered this church in a blog post, and it's worth a visit to see the model of London Bridge. The walk was meant to go inside the church to see the model, but the church was shut. You can read more about London Bridge, the model of the bridge and St. Magnus-the-Martyr here.

After the visit to the church, we walked along the Thames and got to Cannon Street Bridge where we were told about the steel yard. It was actually a place for weighing wool, not for steel. It was owned by foreigners (we were told that they were mainly Dutch, French and German), and at the time of the fire, it was thought that the fire started here and anyone with a foreign accent was to blame and some suffered violence during and after the fire.


We were also read passages from Samuel Pepys' diary. In the diary, he mentions Cannon Street and Walting Street. We walked around the area where Bow Church is because these streets follow a similar footprint to the original streets from 1666. 


Bow Church looked lovely in the sunshine.

We then headed north across Cheapside, which was a wider street and the main shopping area. The fire managed to jump across the street here. We walked down Ironmonger Street.


Near the Guildhall, I captured a photograph of one of the old buses.


The Guildhall mostly survived the fire, but it needed a new roof. The fire did continue northward and further east and west.


We then made our way down Gresham Street toward St. Paul's Cathedral. We stopped off at the candlemaker's livery hall, which is decorated well. Next door is the goldsmith's hall.


We came to St. Paul's Cathedral. The original cathedral was destroyed by the fire. Actually, many years before the fire, another fire had burnt part of the cathedral. The scaffolding remained while it was being repaired, but this caught fire and the whole cathedral and its beautiful tower was destroyed. Christopher Wren constructed this new one with the second largest dome in the world. He is buried in the crypt.


While they were clearing the burnt rubble from the original cathedral, they found the stone with the word 'resurgam' ('will rise again'). This had meaning for them, so they made a new stone with this word and a falcon rising from the ashes on top of it. Although London suffered, it did rise again from the ashes.

While the King and mayor were at a loss and not taking the situation seriously, Samuel Pepys was instrumental in coming up with a solution to tear down houses so that they would not spread fire.


The 'Fire of London' walks take place all week this week in the lead up to the 350th anniversary of the great fire, which started on September 2. The walks are free and led by a City of London guide.

For more information about other events, visit Also, the Museum of London is holding an exhibition about the great fire until next spring.

An Afternoon at Lincoln Castle

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We visited Lincoln at the end of July, and we explored the city and looked at the poppy installation in the grounds of Lincoln Castle. While in Lincoln, we also decided to take advantage and see Lincoln Castle. We paid to enter the Victorian prision (located inside the castle walls), walk along the castle walls, see the Magna Carta and listen to the audio guide. The Magna Carta, a document dating from 1215 specifying liberties and freedoms to citizens, is currently outside of Lincoln Castle to be shown with its counterpart at Salisbury and two at the British Library. The Magna Carta at Lincoln Castle is only one of four in existance. A replica can be found at the castle until the original is returned later this year. Because it is currently not on display, we had our entrance tickets marked so that we could return to the castle to see it for free.


The castle itself dates from the 1000s, and it was built on the site of a Roman fortress. The town was a popular strategic centre and market town, and it is built on two mottes (raised earth). It is one of the best examples of a Norman castle.


The walls are Norman, and we walked around them. Along the walls are information panels about each area, but I listened to the audio guide. 





At Cobb Tower, over-looking the cathedral, hangings were held above the trap door into the tower. This tower was used as a prison. When soldiers were stationed here, they drew grafitti. Most of these were crosses, but there were figures (probably of saints) drawn as well.


Further along the wall walk is the old location of one of the mottes, and this is now a cemetery inside the walls with large trees. The graves are of prisoners or their children.


We also saw one of the other exist gates, which suffered from damage due to a property developer.


The last part of the castle tour consisted of visiting the prison (the red brick building below). The prison was separated into a men's prison and a smaller prison for women. Actors and actresses played out the prisoners and their victims, and the rooms could be visited to see the living conditions. Many of the rooms also contained interactive elements for children.



A museum with World War memorabilia was also inside one of the larger rooms to coincide with the poppy exhibit. There was also another part of the prison that houses artefacts discovered on the grounds of the castle, such as a skeleton.


The prisoners also had the benefit of a church, but there were panels between the prisoners so that they could listen but not interact with each other.


This prison was one of the first to be regulated and also took an overflow of prisoners from London. The rooms in London would hold several prisoners to a room, and many would get the wrong connections or be in danger. The number of prisoners to a room would be limited and modest. 


We did not have long before the castle closed, so we rushed through the prison. However, we have the ticket so that we can return again. Have you been to Lincoln Castle?


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