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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Spinningfields Manchester

Spinningfields in Manchester has been completely redeveloped into a major entertainment, financial, shopping and residential centre. 3 and 4 Hardman Square was designed by Norman Foster.

Spinningfields, Manchester

Located between Deansgate and the banks of the River Irwell the area contains Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Manchester Magistrate's Court, the Manchester Opera House, the People's History Museum and the The John Rylands Library.

Spinningfields, Manchester.

The development took place after 2000 and resident institutions include a number of banks and insurance companies. For eating out there are branches of Ibérica, Itsu, Scene Indian Street Kitchen and Wagamama. The Oast House is a popular pub here with a beer garden.

Spinningfields, Manchester, UK.

Retail ranges from brand to high street with branches of Armani and Nicky Clarke to Mark's and Spencer's, Waitrose and WH Smith.

Accommodation options near Spinningfields include the 4 star Great John Street Hotel, once a former Victorian School, complete with roof garden and classic rooms, the Manchester Marriott Victoria & Albert Hotel also 4 star and the luxury apartments in the 5 star The Bridge, just across the River Irwell.

Spinningfields, Manchester.

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Guy Fawkes Birthplace

Guy Fawkes (aka Guido Fawkes) was born in Stonegate, York, close to York Minster in 1570. His subsequent capture underneath the Houses of Parliament on November 5, 1605, while attempting to blow up the building and assassinate King James I of England in the so-called "Gunpowder Plot," is celebrated each year on Guy Fawkes' Day.

Fawkes was actually the son of a Protestant, but his mother came from a family of recusant Catholics and later remarried a Catholic, after her first husband died while Guy was still a young boy.

York at the time was a center of Catholic militancy and it is believed that the young Guy moved towards that faith while at school and in the modern parlance became "radicalized" - leading to him leaving for the continent to join the Spanish army fighting Dutch Protestants in the Low Countries.

Guy Fawkes Birthplace.

Guy Fawkes joined the plot led by the hapless Robert Catesby to blow up the Houses of Parliament but was discovered guarding the gunpowder under the building and after two days of relentless torture began to reveal details of the conspiracy.

Fawkes jumped to his death from his gallows in Westminster in January 1606, breaking his neck and thus avoiding the pain of being hung, drawn and quartered. A fate that befell his lifeless body.

In some ways, the story of Guy Fawkes - one of Britain's first terrorists - is somewhat prescient of modern terrorism. Radicalized in his home country, Fawkes left to fight in a foreign army, adopting a nom de guerre (Guido) and then bringing his knowledge of explosives back in an attempt to change the political status quo.

Nowadays Guy Fawkes' birthplace is a popular and fashionable four-star inn and restaurant, the Guy Fawkes Inn.

Guy Fawkes Inn
City Centre
High Petergate
Tel: 01904 623716

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Rheidol Railway Wales

The Rheidol Railway (Rheilffordd Cwm Rheidol) in Wales is known as one of the "Great Little Trains of Wales".

Rheidol Railway Wales.

The Vale of Rheidol Railway travels 20 kilometres from the town of Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge, climbing nearly 200 metres to reach Devil's Bridge Station, nestled deep within the Plynlimon Mountains.

The railway began in 1902 to carry timber to and lead ore from the mines of the Rheidol Valley. The railway has been in continuous operation as part of the nationalized railways from 1948, then the privatized railways since 1989 and now as a heritage railway.

Rheidol Railway Wales.

The lead mining in the area went into decline soon after the opening of the railway and more so with the onset of World War I, so the railway switched to mostly passenger traffic serving tourists from the indudtrial cities of Liverpool and Manchester.

Rheidol Railway
Check the official website (above) for the timetable and fares on the railway.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Timbrell's Yard

Timbrell's Yard is a relatively recent addition to the accommodation options in Bradford on Avon.

Timbrell's Yard, Bradford on Avon.

Timbrell's Yard is a rejuvenated 17th century coaching inn boasting a bar, fine dining and trendy, Nordic-styled rooms. The bar has a variety of local ales, cider and wine.

The extensive menu in the highly-recommended restaurant features a range of dishes prepared with fresh, West Country produce.

There are 14 rooms at Timbrell's Yard and can be booked with dinner inclusive.

Timbrell's Yard.

Timbrell's Yard (Book a room)
49 St Margaret's Street
Bradford on Avon
BA15 1DE

Timbrell's Yard is very close to Bradford on Avon railway station with views of the river.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Luccombe Hall Hotel

The Luccombe Hall Hotel is a historic hotel and spa located in Shanklin on the South Coast of the Isle of Wight. It is known as 'The View with the Hotel'.

View of the hotel's gardens from one of the rooms
It is a quiet seaside hotel, surrounded by 4 acres of landscaped garden, including their pool, putting green, tea garden and giant chess set.
The rooms are simple but the views make all the difference.

The hotel was built in 1870 as a summer holiday home for the Bishop of Portsmouth.

Luccombe Hall Hotel
Luccombe Road
PO37 6RL

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Blue John Cavern

Blue John Cavern is one of several show caves in the Castleton area of Derbyshire's Peak District. The others are Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern.

Blue John Cavern, Castleton.

The Blue John Cavern is home to Britain's rarest semi-precious stone (fluorite) and is only found in this location.

The stone has been mined since Roman times and examples have been found in what were previously parts of the Roman Empire.

Ornaments and jewelry are still produced and sold in the Blue John Cavern store as well as in jewelers and souvenir shops in Castleton and the wider area.

Blue John Cavern, Derbyshire.

The Blue John Cavern offers guided tours of the mine by actual working and retired miners, who explain the history of the cave and the semi-precious stone found within.

The tours last around 45 minutes and are an informative guide to the long working history of the mines.

Blue John Cavern.

Blue John Cavern
Mam Tor
Hope Valley
Derbyshire S33 8WA
Tel: 01433 620638

Hours:  9.30am to 5.00pm or 5.30pm in summer. Open daily except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day (weather permitting).

Access: The Blue John Cavern is close to Winnats Pass and Speedwell Cavern in the Hope Valley.

Blue John Cavern, Hope Valley, Derbyshire.

Blue John Cavern, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, UK.

* Visitors should note there are a lot of steps and a narrow head room in the underground passageways. It is advisable to wear shoes with sufficient grip.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Plain English Campaign

The offices of the Plain English Campaign are based in the small Derbyshire town of New Mills.

Plain English Campaign.

The Plain English Campaign is part of the life's work of Chrissie Maher OBE, who has waged a long struggle for government departments and other organizations in Britain to produce clear and concise English that is easily understood by ordinary people.

Chrissie Maher began her campaign by shredding official documents in Parliament Square in 1979 and since that day has waged a constant struggle against bureaucratic jargon and gobbledygook.

Plain English Campaign.

Now a growing number of official bodies have their communications edited and approved by the Plain English Campaign including local councils, companies, and fire and police services.

Plain English Campaign
PO Box 3
New Mills
High Peak
SK22 4QP
Tel: 01663 744409

The Plain English Campaign is located in a late 19th century stone building on the main street in New Mills up from the Torrs Riverside Park.

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Torrs Riverside Park New Mills

The town of New Mills in Derbyshire, south east of the urban areas of Stockport and Manchester, has a long history of industry that is now preserved as part of the Torrs Riverside Park.

Torrs Riverside Park New Mills.

The River Goyt has created a gorge through the sandstone here and it was the waters of the Goyt and Sett that initially powered some of the first mills of Britain's Industrial Revolution.

At the foot of the gorge stand the ruins of the now derelict Torr Mill, which was destroyed by a blaze in 1912 and not rebuilt. The remains of Rock Mill also stand on the river bank. Torr Vale Mill was in operation until 2000 and was the longest operating mill in the country having started in the 1780's - over 200 years of continuous operation.

Torr Vale Mill, New Mills, Derbyshire.

Torrs Hydro is an interesting project that has its roots in the early industrial history of the valley as water power is once again utilized.

Located on the weir at Torrs Mill, Torrs Hydro is the UK's first community owned and funded hydro-electric scheme and provides power when the water energy is enough to turn a huge Archimedes Screw. Profits generated from selling the power are used to fund local education and regeneration projects.

The weir at Torrs Hydro, New Mills.

The low bridge seen in the photograph above is one of the original bridges that crossed the Goyt, which has been superseded by the Union Road Bridge, constructed in 1894.

Union Road Bridge constructed in 1894.

The Millennium Walkway was built from 1999-2000 to join the hiking trails of the Goyt Way and the Sett Valley Trail. A memorial plaque commemorates Stan Brewster the civil engineer from Derbyshire County Council who was in charge of the project. He was sadly killed in the London terror attack of July 7, 2005.

Memorial to Stan Brewster.

The New Mills Heritage Centre just off the main street in New Mills has information on the history of the site and the abundant wildlife that inhabits the valley. There is also a cafe and shop providing refreshments for visitors and hikers.

Millennium Walkway, New MIlls, Derbyshire.

New Mills Heritage & Information Centre
Rock Mill Lane
New Mills
High Peak
Derbyshire SK22 3BN
Tel: 01663 746904

Hours: Tuesday - Friday 10.30am - 4pm;  Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays 10.30am - 4pm (4.30pm BST)

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Royal Pavilion Brighton

The Royal Pavilion, aka the Brighton Pavilion, was a former royal residence built for the Prince Regent, the future George IV. The palace was built in stages beginning in 1787.

The building seen today with its domes and minarets in an exotic Indian style is the work of architect John Nash, who started work on the residence in 1815, transforming it from a modest seaside villa in to what we can see today.

Nash is known for his work in London, which included parts of Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Regent's Street and Marble Arch.

Brighton Pavilion, Brighton.

The Royal Pavilion became a seaside pleasure palace and a luxurious setting for the extravagant lifestyle of drinking and gambling of the Prince Regent together with his long-time companion, Maria Fitzherbert. The sea air and dips in the sea were also thought to be good for the Prince's gout.

Royal Pavilion Brighton.

The Royal Pavilion and the presence of the spendthrift prince had a stimulating effect on the town of Brighton, which grew exponentially during this period.

However, after George's death future monarchs hardly visited the palace and eventually Queen Victoria sold the building to the city of Brighton in 1850. The civic authorities opened the building to the public as Brighton became a seaside resort for Londoners with the opening of the railway in 1841.

During World War I the Royal Pavilion served as a hospital for Indian troops wounded on the Western front. Since 1920 restoration on the Royal Pavilion has been ongoing to return the building to its Regency splendour complete with the Chinese furniture and wallpapers so beloved by the Prince.

Royal Pavilion
4/5 Pavilion Buildings

Hours: October to March: 10am-5.15pm (last tickets at 4.30pm); April to September: 9.30am-5.45pm (last tickets at 5pm) Closed 24 December (from 2.30pm), 25 & 26 December

Adults £13.00; Children (age 5-15) £7.50

Access: The Royal pavilion is a 15 minute walk from Brighton Railway Station and only 5 minutes from Pool Valley Coach Station.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach is the roughly 5 mile shingle beach within the city limits. Brighton's Palace Pier (Brighton Marine Palace and Pier) opened in 1899 and is an iconic structure on the beach.

Brighton Beach.

The British Airways i360 is a newer arrival on Britain Beach near the site of the ruined West Pier.

The 160-metre tall observation tower opened in 2016, and as its name suggests, provides 360 degree views out over the sea as well as Brighton, the South Downs and the surrounding countryside inland. The same team behind the London Eye on the River Thames in London were behind the i360.

Brighton Beach, Brighton, Sussex.

The Palace Pier (www.brightonpier.co.uk) has a number of rides and attractions from traditional fairground favourites like carousels and dodgems to more modern rides such as Galaxia and Turbo Coaster. There's a restaurant (the spiritual home of fish and chips) and a couple of bars on the pier.

Palace Pier on Brighton Beach.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Westgate Canterbury

Westgate in Canterbury is the city's most famous gate and part of the original defensive wall that once surrounded the city. Westgate is the largest surviving medieval city gate in England and a Grade I listed building.

West Gate Canterbury, Kent.

Westgate dates from around 1380 and throughout its long history has stood guard over the road to and from London. Hundreds of thousands of medieval pilgrims must have passed through this gateway into Canterbury, on their way to visit Thomas Becket's shrine at Canterbury Cathedral.

West Gate Canterbury.

Westgate is the only one of Canterbury's seven medieval gates still standing. It is 18m high and built of local ragstone. Westgate replaced a previous Roman gate that had stood on the spot. The structure served as a jail from the 15th to the 19th century.

West Gate Canterbury.

Westgates contain such defensive architecture on its three floors as battlements, machicolations (for pouring boiling oil), a parapet and gunloops.

The site is now part of the larger One Pound Lane development that includes The Pound Bar & Kitchen within the former city jail and police station, adjacent to Westgate, and Westgate Towers Museum & Viewpoint. See www.onepoundlane.co.uk for more details.

West Gate Canterbury.

1 Pound Lane
Kent CT12BZ

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Parrot Canterbury

Medieval beams,  oak floorboards and three open fires welcome you to The Parrot in Canterbury. The Parrot boasts well-cooked, flavoursome food & quality local cask ales.

Parrot Canterbury.

The Parrot is the oldest pub in Canterbury. In fact, The Parrot, which was built in the 15th century, is located in one of the oldest buildings in Canterbury. The Parrot's construction was contemporaneous with the construction of the famous Cathedral towers a few hundred yards away. The Parrot pub was called Simple Simon's until 2008 but was originally called St Radigund's Hall. It was named after the monks of St Radigund at Bradsole near Dover.

Parrot Canterbury.

The exterior of The Parrot can be viewed at any time, but only customers of the pub can view the interior.

Parrot Canterbury.

Visitors to The Parrot should sample the food and ales but should also be sure not to miss the nearby cathedral and Westgate.

Parrot Canterbury
1-9 Church Lane
St Radigans

Tel: 01227 454170
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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Canterbury West Station

Canterbury West Station in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the two main stations in the city, the other being Canterbury East.

Canterbury West Station, Kent, UK.

Canterbury West Station serves trains operated by Southeastern with high speed services to London St Pancras via Ashford International, Ebbsfleet International and Stratford International. There are also trains to London Victoria via Maidstone and Charing Cross via Sevenoaks. Other local services run to Ramsgate and Margate.

Canterbury West Station, Kent, UK.

The station has two platforms: Platform 1 and Platform 2. With services to London from Platform 1.

The first station at Canterbury West was built way back in 1846. Nowadays the station's facilities include car parking for over 100 cars, an ATM, PlusBike bicycle hire and refreshments.

Local buses call at both Canterbury West and Canterbury East stations.

Canterbury West Station.

Canterbury East Station (to the south) is on the Dover branch of the Chatham Main Line. Canterbury East Station is also operated by Southeastern with local stopping trains and a fast train to Dover Priory and services to London Victoria via Faversham and Chatham.

Canterbury West Station, Kent, England.

Canterbury West Station
Station Road West

Canterbury West Station.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Acton Park

Acton Park opened to the public in 1888 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. It is Acton's largest open space and contains many features that make it stand out from other parks, including the 'Twilight Tree', a fantastic playground, a children's centre, tennis courts, a pond, a basketball court and, most recently, a miniature golf course.

Acton Park, London.
Acton Park - http://www.visitlondon.com

The 'Twilight Tree' is a Dutch Elm tree that was carved into a statue of a woman, with a squirrel and a pair of owls above her. The sculpture was originally about 28 feet tall, but has since been cut in half, so the woman and the wildlife and separate statues.

The Twilight Tree, Acton Park, London.
The Twilight Tree - http://www.geograph.org.uk

The South side of Acton Park is an important area for wildlife, as it contains a pond, an elaborate garden and an area that is fenced off purely for wildlife to thrive.

The playground is fantastic and has recently been redesigned to incorporate a huge wooden climbing frame. At the Southern end of the playground is the children's centre which offers a programme for babies and toddlers in the morning, and then an after school club for local schools in the afternoon. They also operate programmes during school holidays.

Putt in the Park is Acton Park's newest edition. It replaced the bowling green and has become a big hit since opening in 2016, as it is also attached to the Acton Park Cafe and they have their own fully licensed bar.
Putt in the Park, Acton Park, London.
Putt in the Park - http://www.puttinthepark.com

Park Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 9am-Dusk
Telephone for the Children's Centre: 020 8743 6133

Acton Park is easily accessible by bus and tube.
Buses: 207, 607, 266, 70 and E3
Tube Stations: Acton Central (Overground) - 2 min walk, Acton Town (Piccadilly Line) - 20 min walk, East Acton (Central Line) - 20 min walk

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Friday, February 24, 2017

The Needles Isle of Wight

The Needles are a row of tall, pointy chalk cliffs that are located off the coast of the Isle of Wight. They are the Isle of Wight's most iconic and popular tourist attraction.

The cliff which gave the Needles their name, being the only needle-shaped rock in the row, collapsed in a storm in 1764, but the name has stuck ever since.

The Needles Isle of Wight.
The Needles
Due to the popularity of the Needles as a tourist attraction, a small amusement park was opened at Alum Bay, where the Needles are located, as well as a chairlift that allows a better view of the Needles than you can get from the headland.
The Needles Isle of Wight.
The Needles chairlift - http://www.theneedles.co.uk
Also located on the headland are the Needles Old Battery, the Needles New Battery, and the High Down Rocket Testing Site. The Old Battery was built between 1861-63, designed to defend against enemy ships.

The New Battery was then built after there were concerns that the firing of the guns from the Old Battery was causing the cliffs below to crumble. The New Battery was built further up the cliffs, and was completed in 1985. Both of the buildings are Grade II listed buildings.

The Needles Isle of Wight.
The remains of the Old Battery - http://www.geograph.org.uk

The High Down Rocket Testing Site was built in the 1950's and was operated in secret. The Black Knight rocket was tested at this site in the 1950's, prior to it's launch in Australia, as well as the Black Arrow rocket in the 1960's.

The High Down Rocket Testing Site played a very important part in Britain's Space Programme, but was neglected after the 1970's and the majority of the buildings were demolished. There is a small museum dedicated to it at the Needles New Battery.

The Needles Isle of Wight.
The High Down Rocket Testing Site - http://www.derelictplaces.co.uk
Alum Bay New Road
Alum Bay
PO39 0JD

Read more on The Needles

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