Ancient Ireland [3] : Lismore

Other features of ancient Ireland are the stones – carvings and standing. We saw the carvings on the stones at Knowth but there are more carved stones scattered across the countryside. Or … maybe not scattered at all but strategically or symbolically placed monuments. There are wells dedicated to saints. There are ancient churches, cathedrals, monasteries and abbeys – the earliest religious foundations.

Some of these ancient sites I came across on my walks.

Lady Louisa’s Walk, Lismore

LL Walk Lismore

[Following description is from here.]

Lady Louisa’s walk is a gentle and picturesque walk which takes you, for the most part, on a woodland walk along the river bank. Continue reading

A Further Selection of Colchester Landmarks

There is, of course, more to Colchester than just recycled Roman bricks. Peake’s House is in the Dutch Quarter which was named after the Flemish weavers who settled here during the 16th century.

Heritage route

 Heritage Trail Route

St Helen’s (just a few steps from East Stockwell Street) was first recorded in 1097 but its history goes back to the 3rd century AD. It was founded by Empress Helena (St Helena is Colchester’s patron saint). She was the daughter of King Coel (of Old King Cole nursery rhyme fame) and mother of Emperor Constantine the Great who was born in Colchester.

St helen's Chapel

Since 2000 AD the chapel has been a Greek Orthodox parish church of the Patriarchate of Antioch. Inside the tiny church the walls are hung with icons to the various saints including Saint Helena and Saint Barbara.

Saint Barbara

Next to the chapel on one side is a former Quaker burial ground and on the other a line of black bricks leads slightly uphill to a window through which you can see some of the remains of a vast Roman theatre that had been capable of seating 3,500 people. A mural on the wall shows an artist’s impression of the theatre when it was in use.

Theatre and reflection

The Roman Theatre Foundations – a Reflections of the Street

Roman theatre

Plan of the Roman Theatre superimposed onto a modern street map

Nearby, on West Stockwell Street, is the former home of Jane and Ann Taylor who were famous for writing verse. Jane Taylor wrote the nursery rhyme ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ in 1806.

Twinkle house

Home of Jane and Ann Taylor

about taylors

We read about the Taylors in Colchester Museum

Twinkle twinkle

Colchester Town Hall on the High Street has an impressive tower designed by John Belcher and opened in 1902. It rises 50m above the street and is surmounted by a statue of St Helena and other historical figures connected with Colchester including Queen Boudicea of the Iceni. She led a rebellion against the Romans in 60 AD.

Town Hall

Colchester Town Hall

We sought out Tymperleys the former home of Dr William Gilberd a scientist and physician to Queen Elizabeth I. It’s now a tea room and until very recently had housed a large collection of Colchester-made clocks. Bernard Mason who had collected the clocks and lived at Tymperleys left the entire collection and the house to the borough. Now only a very small selection may be seen in the Colchester Museum.



You can’t miss Jumbo! It’s a huge brick water tower built in 1882 and named for a famous elephant at London Zoo. The Rev John Irvine who lived in his rectory on the site of the present Mercury Theatre was not happy about the giant structure erected at the bottom of his garden and described the monstrosity as a Jumbo. The name stuck and the builders added a brass elephant to the weathervane as a reminder to the unhappy clergyman.

Jumbo and theatre Balkerne

Jumbo and the Mercury Theatre seen through Balkerne Gate

In addition to the Heritage Trail we also followed the Town to Sea Trail : Colchester and its historic port, the Hythe. “A unique art trail, designed for walkers and cyclists, follows the tidal River Colne through some lesser known areas of Colchester”.  We followed the whole of the 2 mile trail from its start at firstsite, an arts centre near the castle, to the end at the Hythe, a mixture of deserted or renovated quayside warehouses and modern out of town flats and shopping centre. We had a coffee in B&Q at Colne Causeway.



oyster shells


Information Board : Colchester Oysters are the best!

R Colne in its heyday

The River Colne in its Heyday

The Hythe

The Hythe today

Tidal river colne today

The Tidal River Colne Today

The highlight of the walk, but on a slight detour, was the Church of St Leonard at the Hythe; preserved by the Churches Conservation Trust its opening hours are limited but we were lucky again.

St leonard

St Leonard-at-the-Hythe


Interior : Early 20th Century Wall Paintings above the Arch once covered the whole Church

Windows St leon.

Early 20th Century Stained Glass : Sts Osyth, Helena and Ethelburga

Door musket holes

The Medieval door of this old port church still bears the holes made by troops to put muskets through during the English Civil War.

“Perhaps it is little known that Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star actually consists of 5 verses, with the fifth verse rarely sung. Here’s the complete 5 verses, taken from the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd edition, 1997), with the repetition of the first two lines added to fit the melody.” [source]

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Then the traveller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveller in the dark,—
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

Walking in East Sussex

The main aim of my stay in Sussex was to meet up with two Swiss friends. Last year when I was staying with Barbara in Bern for the weekend the idea of visiting Charleston and all those ‘Bloomsbury’ related places in Sussex was suggested. I said I’d also wanted to visit them and showed Barbara the Landmark Trust website. When she saw Laughton Place tower she would not be budged to look elsewhere for accommodation. So we ended up last weekend in the tower and visiting as many Bloomsbury locations as we could manage.

Alfriston Church

Alfriston Church and Village Sign


Badgers Alfriston (Note the Boot Bags – it’s on the route of the South Downs Way)

Barbara and Kathryn first wanted to have a few days in London so I spent the first two nights at Laughton Place on my own. But for the most part I wasn’t alone thanks to Fran being able to spend Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday with me.

Seven Sisters Info

Knowing my love of hiking she had planned a walking expedition for us but the weather was not kind on the Wednesday morning so we took lunch in Alfriston and drove later in the afternoon to the Seven Sisters Country Park car park, donned our boots and set off on a shorter walk following the River Cuckmere to where it joins the English Channel. At the sea’s edge you have a wonderful view of The Seven Sisters cliffs over which we might have walked part of the South Downs Way had the morning’s weather been different.

Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters (looking east)

Looking west at 7 sisters

Looking west

Sign and River

River Cuckmere behind the Footpath Signpost

River Cuckmere

River Cuckmere with Ox Bow Lakes, Meanders and the English Channel

Meanders and Buttercups

Meanders and Buttercups

Thank you, Fran, for your good company and for being the most informative guide possible!


The Village of Firle nestled below the South Downs

On Sunday Barbara, Kathryn and I drove to the car park above the village of Firle and walked a mile or so each way to Firle Beacon and back. At the Beacon (an Ordnance Survey Triangulation Point) we could see the Channel and a cross-channel ferry arriving at Newhaven in one direction and the flat levels and meadows that surround Laughton Place in the other. There right in front of us but a little distant was our Tower itself.

On South Downs

Sunday Morning on the South Downs

After our walk we headed down into Firle village. Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (see future posts about ‘Bloomsbury-on-Sea) are buried in the churchyard; Virginia and Leonard Woolf had a house in Firle before they moved to Monk’s House and we had a drink in the warm sunshine at The Ram Inn.

Firle churchyard

Firle Churchyard : Graves of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell

LT Firle

Little Talland

Little Talland House, Firle

I also managed to fit in a short walk directly from the Tower towards Laughton village but I never quite made it. I was anxious to see the village but had the time constraint of meeting the London train too so after a mile or so I turned back and drove to Laughton (the village of the buckle).

Bridge Stile

Complicated Bridge/Stile near Laughton Place

LP from footpath

Laughton Place in its Landscape

Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Settle

On Sunday I joined the second Ribble Valley Rambler walk of the year organised by The Friends of DalesRail (of which I am now a member) : Horton to Settle via Helwith Bridge and Stainforth Force: 7 miles, easy. Book and alight Horton; return from Settle. I worked out that since 21st December I have walked from Ribblehead to Long Preston in 3 sections.

On Saturday morning the sun was shining and the sky was blue so I decided to book my train ticket for Sunday from Shipley to Horton. As I left Bagshaw Museum at about 4pm it began rain and I don’t think it stopped until after midday on Sunday. But as I’d paid for my train ticket I resigned myself to a wet walk and dressed for the occasion.

Leaving Horton

The Group moves off from Horton Station

The wind blew and the rain fell but 9 of us met on Horton station and headed off towards Settle on a tarmac track. In fact much of the walk had to be diverted away from the Ribble Way and onto nearby lanes since the paths became extremely muddy and in some cases totally waterlogged and flooded. The river was running full to overflowing and many fields were under water.

Waterlogged fields

Typical Waterlogged Field

Liable to flooding

Liable to Flooding

Full Ribble

The Fast Flowing Ribble

Muddy field tracks

Muddy Field Tracks

Flooded footpath

Path Closed Due to Flooding

Path disappeared

Ribble Way has Disappeared Under Water

Stainforth Bridge

Fast Flowing River Ribble at Stainforth Pack Horse Bridge

The Force

The Full Force of Stainforth Force

Nearly at Settle

Nearly at Settle

The sun did eventually peep through and on arrival in Settle there were glimpses of blue sky. It was good to get out though despite the wet weather.

At Settle

The Aislabie Walk from Fountains Abbey – The Short Route

Referring back to the Barden Moor Access Area practice walk a couple of weeks ago I’m pleased to announce that the alternative walk, which I had initially thought rather dull, was a big success so here’s a brief description of it and some photos. You will notice that the weather was exceptional that day. Several days on either side were dark and wet but the weather last Thursday was truly a gift.

Aislabie Walk

The walk was taken from a rather nice leaflet I picked up on a previous visit to Fountains Abbey. The Aislabie Walk (subtitled A journey through picturesque landscapes) is 17.5 miles (allow 8-9 hours) altogether. It’s a circular walk from Fountains Abbey (car parks and toilets) to Hackfall and back. However, along the way there are several points at which you can cut short the route and I chose the 7.5 mile option.

Aislabie map

We parked at the main Visitor Centre car park and set off down the road to the River Skell following it west and then north for nearly two miles until we reached the old sulphur springs and ruined buildings of Aldfield Spa. You could smell them as you approached.

Sulphur Springs

The Wanderers disturbing the Sulphur Springs

From the Springs we headed slightly uphill to Aldfield village itself, passed through a couple of fields of kale (this had been what I remembered as the ‘dull’ part of the walk, across meadows to Laver Banks where we lunched at Woodhouse Bridge and joined the road later at Galphay Mill Bridge (point 5 to point 16 on the map).

A pleasant track through former parkland, now grazed by cows, brought us back to the the gates of Studley Royal Park. We crossed the deer park (only spotted one) taking in views of the Choristers’ House, St Mary’s Church and Ripon Cathedral.

Studley Royal

Studley Royal Hall much of which was destroyed by fire in 1946

Ripon Cathedral in the distance

Ripon Cathedral in the distance

Church and House

St Mary’s Church and the Choristers’ House

St Mary's

St Mary’s, Studley Royal Church

So my concerns about the walk were not at all justified and a good day out was had by all!

The Hepworth Wakefield : James Tissot: Painting the Victorian Woman

Approaching The Hepworth

Approaching The Hepworth over The Aire and Calder Navigation

It was a miserable, grey, wet day last Wednesday and after my usual Nordic Walking session I decided to take a trip to Wakefield and revisit The Hepworth. Back in March I clipped a review of the Tissot exhibition from the Weekend Financial Times, Visual Arts section. Reading the review and knowing Tissot to be a Victorian artist I was intrigued that he should be showing at such a modern and avant-garde gallery as The Hepworth. The answer, as I found out upon enquiry to a steward, is simply that the Wakefield City Art Collection is also housed at The Hepworth and this show is based around pictures in the collection.

From the Tissot Exhibition webpage:

On The Thames

On The Thames (1876)

Taking the much cherished painting On the Thames, 1876, from our collection as a starting point, this new collection display explores the representation of women in the work of French born artist, James Tissot (1836-1902).

The display will also feature loans from Tate and several regional art galleries, and will discuss the portrayal of Victorian femininity in relation to Tissot’s life-history and the contrasting roles of women in the region’s coal industry.”

Subtitled “How happy I could be with either” the painting caused a scandal when it was exhibited at The Royal Academy.

Other paintings in this small single room show include:

Portsmouth Dockyard

Portsmouth Dockyard (1877) [Tate]

PD 1877

Portsmouth Dockyard notes

HMS Calcutta

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) (1876) [Tate]

GHC 1877

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) notes

The exhibition looks at the representation of women in Victorian England through two contrasting sets of images: the fashionable women of James Tissot’s society paintings (above) and photographs of female workers in northern coalfields (not so easy to photograph in the display cases). Costume was a key element in Tissot’s work. He was born in the French port of Nantes where both his parents worked in the fashion and textile industry.

The painting “On the Thames” was originally owned by Kaye Knowles whose wealth came from his family’s Lancashire based colliery business. The Lancashire “pit brow lass” was mostly associated with the Wigan coalfields where women worked at the pit head. Their costume was also central to the pictures since there are wearing trousers which in Victorian times were perceived as a threat  to the moral and social order.

I see from the press that another exhibition featuring James Abbot McNeil Whistler’s London and the River Thames has just opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. I wonder whether I shall manage to get to see it before it closes on January 12th 2014?


Wapping (1860) [National Gallery of Art, Washington]

“To be here is glorious” : The Tamina Gorge in Bad Ragaz

Bad Ragaz is famous for its hot springs and the other Friday I met a good friend who is Swiss at the town’s station and we took the special “Schluchtenbus” (Schlucht = Gorge) to the source of these springs and the dramatic gorge itself a few kilometres out of town.

Altes bad Pfäffers

Alten Bad Pfäffers

There’s a small charge for turnstile entry into the Gorge itself where you walk along a narrow footpath – alongside the torrent of a stream and being dripped on from above – to the source of the hot springs itself.

Tamina Gorge

The Gorge

I think the gorge and spring are in happy coincidence with each other since the thermal waters seem to be independent of the rushing stream waters. It was only afterwards that we discovered the supply of free to loan rain capes.


The springs were discovered in about 1240 by two hunters. The monks of the nearby Monastery of Pfäfers recognised the healing powers of the thermal waters. The reputation of the spa spread far and wide and became internationally known and were visited over the centuries by many famous people : Hans Christian Andersen, Joanna Spyri, Thomas Mann to name some of the literary visitors.

Spyri and Mann

Altes [old] Bad Pfäfers is the former monastery on the site and is now a restaurant, meeting rooms, museum and exhibition centre.


The Original Bath in the Museum


Exhibition about Paracelsus

As former visitor, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Hiersein ist herrlich” [To be here is glorious]