Wednesday, 29 November 2017


St Mildred's church

Another trip to Kent with Merv, this time to see Tenterden, the largest town in the Weald. We decided to follow the "perambulations" in the Pevsner guide for Kent: West and the Weald, starting from St Mildred's church.

The most notable feature of the church is its massive 15th century tower, seen above from the south. The inside has been heavily shaped by a 19th century restoration, but the roof and the splendid arch of the bell tower are much older.

Following Pevsner, we headed to the High St and turned east (left), passing the 15th century Woolpack Hotel to reach the Town Hall of 1790.

Opposite was a classic Wealden house dating back to at least the 16th century.

Continuing east and on the same side of the road was a nice juxtaposition of a small timber-framed house with an 18th century one covered with 18th century mathematical tiles.

 At the far end was the former 1930s Embassy cinema. It seemed pretty similar to one I used to go to in Esher when I was a lad.

Continuing into East Cross, we enjoyed this eccentric tower house, complete with seasonal visitor.

We retraced our steps and after a reasonable lunch at the White Hart headed west, first noticing the refurbished NatWest bank.

 On the opposite side of the road was the Zion church of 1835, rebuilt  in 1867.

Further along on the left was the former Workhouse.

The houses become increasingly wide apart as you continue along the High St, with the large grass area on the left. On the right hand side, a nice group of clapperboard houses. At the end was the gatehouse of Heronden Lodge (1846). It seems it is now the entrance to a camp site.

We retraced our steps and made a quick visit to the impressive restored railway station, one end of line that runs to Bodiam.

Finally we had a brief glance at the Tenterden Museum.

We had enjoyed our wander around Tenterden, but in truth there was no really impressive building or view and as we had a bit of time spare before braving the M25 we decided on a visit to Scotney Castle, which was more or less on the way home.

Conditions: cold.

Distance: perhaps 3 miles.

Rating: three stars.

Friday, 17 November 2017


 Leeds City Hall

We are on a short visit to Leeds to see our nephew who has just started at Uni there. I have taken the liberty of merging a little bit of last night’s walk with today’s.

We set out from our hotel, Quebecs in er Quebec St. It is a very good hotel in a lovely building which was once the Leeds and County Liberal Club. The terracotta decoration on the facade usually suggests a date in the 1880s and it turns out that it was built in 1891.

At the end we turned right and then second left in St Paul’s St where I admired the Moorish arches and floral decorations of this house.

Our immediate goal was Park Square and as we turned right to go into it we were astonished by more Moorish architecture on the rear corner of St Paul's House. It was built as a warehouse and cloth-cutting works in 1878.

It is imposing from the front with extensive terracotta decoration around the windows and what seems to be two minarets on the corners.

We left the lovely square, noting an astonishing number of rubbish bins which we took as an expression of civic pride. Just around the corner into the Headrow we passed Oxford Place (Methodist) Chapel. It was built in 1835 and extended in 1895 when the adjoining Chambers, with its splendid tower, were added to be let as offices and provide a source of income.

Just beyond the chapel we came to the celebrated Town Hall by Cuthbert Broderick between 1853 and 1858 (see picture at the head of this post).  The Christmas decorations and banners don’t do very much for the façade.   

We turned left up Calverley Street passing the German Market and then the Civic Hall. This is a fairly undistinguished 1930s building, but it is lifted by the projecting clock supported on gilded struts and by the golden owl on the top of the spire. This is another picture from last night with the sun right on the clock.

We headed north to meet Benji and have an illuminating walk around the places where he lives, works and plays. As we were crossing the motorway bridge, there was a fantastic modern tower on the right.

 I took just one picture of the University campus as a memento: the 19th century Great Hall of the University.

We headed back to where Calverley Road meets the Headrow and went in to see the City Art Gallery. This was very good with some excellent 19th and 20th century pictures. We especially enjoyed four by Atkinson Grimshaw. To our great surprise and delight, there was a very good display of watercolours and sketches by the East Anglian painter John Sell Cotman, who was once seen as a better water colourist than Turner, and is still seen as pretty good.

Within the building was the delightful Tiled Hall café …

… and the reference library in a room with great terracotta tiled arches.

Now further along the Headrow, a road seemingly lined with shopping centres, to turn right into Lands Lane and enter the wonderful zone of arcades. The first one we saw, Thornton’s Arcade, was one of our favourites. It was apparently the first of eight arcades built by about 1900. It was built by local architect George Smith in 1877-8, for Charles Thornton.

We continued down Lands Lane and turned into Queens Arcade which brought us out into Briggate. We then went into the impressive County Arcade of 1901.

At the end we turned into Duncan St which brought us to the Corn Exchange. It was designed by Cuthbert Broderick (he of the City Hall) and completed in 1862. It is an oval structure, not tremendously exciting from the outside …

… but airy and spacious on the inside. A bit of a tardis therefore. After a renovation on 1980s it now contains an array of small shops. I found it reminiscent of Covent Garden market.

We then went along Call Lane and right into Kirkgate to see Leeds Minster. It is a 19th century building constructed after its predecessor was destroyed in a fire.

Now we headed towards Brewery Wharf, crossing the River Aire on the way.

Brewery Wharf was a bit disappointing to be honest – all modern buildings, not the renovated old brewery we imagined. It would have been possible to embark on an exploration of the river bank and the tow path of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal further along, but we were now cold and a bit tired so we headed back across the river. We turned left into The Calls and then Call Lane, right into Lower Briggate and left into Boar Lane. This brought us to City Square just in front of the station where we enjoyed a pleasant late lunch in a restaurant called, rather ridiculously, The restaurant, in the former central Post Office.

Conditions: bright at first, becoming progressively greyer.

Distance: about 4 miles.

Rating: four stars. Really interesting and enjoyable, but nothing that was absolutely great.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Wimborne and Badbury Rings

Wimborne Minster

Our friends Dave and Chris are visiting and we thought we would show them Wimborne. We were lucky enough to discover the existence of a Town Trail - only available from the Tourist Office in the High St, opposite the Minster. We started our walk with a visit to the Minster. One of its distinctions is that it has two towers: a later one at the west end and the 12th century one over the crossing which can be seen in the photo above. There was a spire as well until 1600 when it fell to the ground.

The famous Chain Library was closed, but we enjoyed the Astronomical Clock, which dates from 1320. It sits in the West Tower

From the west end there is a great view along the nave with its fantastic Norman arches.

This is the view of the ceiling of the Crossing Tower. I took the same picture when we did a circular walk around Wimborne in 2011, but this one is better.

Following the Trail, we crossed the churchyard to enter the Cornmarket. Markets have been held here since 1224. This is the Market House of 1758, built on the site of the old Guildhall.

We retraced our steps to go round to the other side of the Minster, where I confess we weren't tempted by the Wimborne Model Town, a replica of Wimborne in the 1950s. It was shut anyway. We were however delighted to be taken past the Old Grammar School, rebuilt in a rather lovely Tudor style in 1851. It is now private apartments.

We doubled back into King St and turned right, turning into Dean's Court where our guide pointed out a car park where there were once almshouses (built 1560, demolished on their 400th anniversary in 1960). It's a sad tale. At the end of the road is Dean's Court, "an attractive mansion set in secluded grounds", but almost entirely invisible. The garden can be visited on certain days, so we will have to look out for that if only to see the long crinkle-crankle (serpentine) wall mentioned in the guide.

We again returned to King St and turned into East St, crossing this rather nice bridge.

We doubled back again and walked up the High St to emerge in The Square. It is a fine space, but it is a shame that it is mostly road.

We walked up East Borough and left into Priors Walk with Allendale House (1823 by Sir Jeffry Wyatville)) on the opposite corner.

At the end we resisted another detour - this time to see where the workhouse was once located (it was demolished in 1958). As with the car park that was once almshouses mentioned earlier, I find it hard to see the point. We had a similar experience doing the Jane Austen walk around Southampton - it was full of places, now demolished, where Jane once had coffee or whatever.

We turned into West Borough to see the somewhat unprepossessing Tivoli Theatre on the right. We will come back though as it apparently has a fine art deco interior and definitely has an interesting programme of gigs.

At the end of West Borough we headed towards the Cornmarket again and the end of the walk.

To complete our fun we headed out of town to Badbury Rings. This iron age hill fort is unusual in having a large clump of trees in the middle of it so that its full extent is not immediately apparent. It consists of three concentric circular ramparts with ditches between them, some 18m deep. It dates from around 800 BC and was in use until the Roman occupation of 43 AD

This is the view looking outwards from the grove of trees.

We left by a gate at the rear of the hill fort and followed a track along the edge of High Wood and then walked along the side of the wood to join King Down Drive, a wide and pleasant country lane.

A right turn brought us to the Blandford Road which we followed for a mile or so beside the famous avenue of beech trees. They looked lovely in the late afternoon sun

Conditions: bright and not too cold.

Distance: perhaps a mile and half around Wimborne and 3 miles around Badbury Rings.

Map: Explorer 118 (Shaftesbury and Cranbourne Chase).

Rating: four stars.

Friday, 27 October 2017


Canterbury Cathedral

A nice day was in prospect so I thought I would progress my English cities project with a visit to Canterbury. I have walked and blogged 33 out of 51 - see my Cities page. It would be all the more interesting because I was a graduate student there more than 40 years ago and I haven't been back since.

I was armed with a walk route from The Guardian that started at Canterbury East, but I arrived at I arrive at Canterbury West station since East did not have not such a good service), so I had to improvise! I started by going completely off piste and heading for Manwood's Hospital, almshouses in St Stephen's Green dating from 1570.

Actually this was rather fortuitous because it meant walking in the direction of the University and I did get a slightly nostalgic glimpse of some of the buildings on the hill outside the city. I headed back towards the city centre along the busy norther ring road and turned left to follow the quiet banks of the shallow and rather lovely Great Stour river.

Reaching St Radigund's St I turned left, away from the river towards the High St, passing the colourful Blackfriars St ...

.. and then later, in Guildhall St, this art deco Debenhams shop with colourful stained glass in the upper parts of the windows.

Once in the High St I turned right (west) to pass the wonderful Royal Museum and Art Gallery of 1857.

A little further along was the Eastbridge Hospital (the Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr, to give it its full name), founded in about 1176 as a hospice for poor pilgrims visiting the shrine of St Thomas a Becket. This is pretty quick work, since Becket was murdered only a few years earlier (29 December 1170). It became an almshouse in the 16th century and continues in this role to day. For a long period part of it was also used as a school.

Inside there is a wonderful undercroft where the pilgrims slept in cubicles, but when the hospital became an almshouse it was used as a coal cellar. It was restored in 1933.

There is a chapel on the ground floor which was closed in 1547 and restored in 1969, and on the first floor a refectory with a rather damaged mural of Christ in Glory.

Continuing along the High St there was the Marlowe Theatre off to the right. It was designed by Keith Williams and opened in 2011. It is the third theatre of its name in Canterbury and is named for Christopher Marlowe who was born and attended school in the city.

By now I realised that I was going to do an  anti-clockwise circle, culminating with the Cathedral and then heading back to Canterbury West.The next port of call was the Westgate, which the one thing I had a very clear memory of. It was the built in 1379 and has the distinction of being the largest surviving city gate in England. I took my photo from the inside because here too the road outside was choked with traffic.

I headed back up the High St and turned right down Stour Street to pass the Canterbury Heritage Museum. The building was once the 13th century Poor Priests' Hospital, but it was turned to secular uses in 1579.

At the end I turned right into Gas St to emerge by the ruins of the Norman keep. It was largely constructed in the reign of Henry I as one of three Royal castles in Kent (along with Dover and Rochester). By the 19th century it had been acquired by a gas company and was used as a storage centre for gas for many years, during which time the top floor was destroyed. It is currently closed, having become unsafe.

I was no more or less opposite the East station and I walked a short way on the bridge over the ring road to get the excellent view of the walls promised in my walk description. It was indeed a fine sight.

The first city walls were built by the Romans and by the 12th century the walls were ill-maintained and of little military value. Fears of a French invasion during the Hundred Years War led to a great rebuilding programme. Parts were demolished in the 19th century and there was some bomb damage during the Second World War. Happily, there was further rebuilding in the 1950s and now over half the original circuit survives. There is a pleasing walls walk around Dane John Park.

After this section of walls I headed away from the city centre for a brief glimpse of the gatehouse of St Augustine's Abbey. The abbey was founded in 598 as a Benedictine monastery and functioned in this way until its dissolution in 1538. It was just dedicated to St. Augustine, it was actually founded by him. There wasn't time to go in so I made do with a quick snap of Abbot Findon's Great Gate. It was rebuilt after a long period of decline, which affected the whole abbey, and bomb damage during the Second World War.

Now I finally headed towards the Cathedral, entering through the magnificent Christ Church gate, built between 1504 and 1521. It is thiought to have been built in honour of Prince Arthur, Henry VIII's elder brother who married to Catherine of Aragon in 1501.  Arthur died the following year aged just 16: Henry VIII became King and married Catherine himself in 1509.

I had of course left it too late to do justice to this huge and wonderful cathedral. Founded in 597, the cathedral was completely rebuilt from 1070 to 1077. The east end was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the twelfth century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174. The Norman nave and transepts were demolished to make way for gothic replacements. I had forgotten just how big it is: 160m long and 50m wide; the crossing tower is 70m high. Quite overwhelming.

Two parts especially caught my eye: the cloister, rebuilt 1397-1444 is a beautiful space ...

... and the stained glass on a deep blue background in the Trinity chapel.

Having proven that there really is too much to see in a single day and that I could recognise almost nothing of the city, I decided to call it a day, promising to myself to come back before too long and finish the job.

Conditions: a lovely sunny day.

Distance: the walk which I didn't really follow was only 2.5 miles. My own meander must have been about 4.

Rating: five stars.