Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Scotney Castle

Scotney new Castle

Merv and I are on our way home from Tenterden and it's starting to get dark but there is just time to see something else of the Kentish weald: Scotney Castle is just a small detour off our route.

It turns out that it is actually two castles: a 19th century one on high ground and the ruins of a medieval castle surrounded by a moat lower down. We started at the top and entered the courtyard of Anthony Salvin's 1837 castle built for Edward Hussey III. It is described as being in Elizabethan style, but the efect is quite severe, suggestive of the late Victorian Scottish Baronial style. The yellow and grey stone was quarried from close by. The property was left to the National Trust by Christopher Hussey in 1970.

A small gate leads round to a terrace where you can see the back view.

There is a lovely view up a long shallow valley.

We then headed downhill, missing a partial view of the old castle. However, this enabled us to gradually discover its delights. We first passed the odd-looking thatched Ice House.

 At the bottom we had our first view of the rear of the old castle. It is in fact an amalgam of two elements: a medieval tower and a 17th century house attached to it. Part of this was pulled down by Edward Hussey to create a picturesque ruin.

The most dramatic view however is from part of the way round the moat where the tower is to the fore and the new castle can be seen on its hillside beyond.

We circled round the moat to see the inside of the castle ...

... and climbed to take one last landscape view.

It remained only to head back up the hill to the car park and to brave the M25 to get home.

Conditions: cold.

Rating: four stars. A delight.


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.