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More Than Words

Exploring England #20

Foremost among the many beautiful buildings in Manchester is the John Rylands Library. Founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband John Rylands, the library was gifted to the people of Manchester and first opened to the public in 1900.

The library houses a vast collection of precious books, manuscripts and illuminated texts, including a Gutenberg Bible. An entire wing is dedicated to the Althorp Library, which Enriqueta acquired from Lord Spencer for £210 000 in 1892. But as fascinating as the collections are, it’s the spectacular Victorian building many people come to see.

The neo-Gothic interior is richly ornamented, with stained glass, vaulted arches and soaring ceilings. Statuary fills every niche.

Enriqueta and John Rylands, immortalised in white marble, greet visitors to the Reading Room, where alcoves are filled to overflowing with aging leather-bound books.

Historical figures of artistic and scientific importance line the walls of the Reading Room, They look down serenely upon those who visit, as if ready to impart their knowledge to a new generation.

Whether it’s ancient words or wonderful architecture, this beautiful library has something to offer everyone.

Wall Walking

Exploring England #19

Many towns and cities in England have remnants of ancient walls and gates, originally built by the Romans and fortified centuries later by the Normans. Chester’s city walls are the most complete in Great Britain and give a wonderful perspective on the city, both inside and beyond. With medieval towers and bridges, a Norman castle, Roman amphitheatre and an ancient harbour lost long ago, a walk on the walls is a walk through history.

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The three kilometre walk surrounds the city centre and is elevated almost all the way round. We climb the steep medieval steps at Northgate, the highest point along the wall, and immediately the views are spectacular.

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Inside the wall is Northgate Street, home of The Pied Bull, oldest licensed house in Chester; beer has been served on this site since 1155. The Shropshire Union Canal, with pretty canal boats moored by the path, echoes the curves of the outside of the wall.

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The first tower we come to is the Phoenix Tower. Medieval in origin and restored by two city guilds in the 17th century, the tower is named for the carved phoenix above the door, symbol of the Painters’ Guild. In 1645, King Charles 1 watched the defeat of his army in the battle of Rowton Moor from the roof of this tower.

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Chester Cathedral, built in Gothic style, stands close to the eastern wall. For more than 1,000 years, worshippers have gathered on this site, and we leave the wall for a couple of hours to enjoy the splendid stained glass, medieval carvings and Victorian mosaics inside.

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Climbing back up to the wall, we walk on to Eastgate and the Eastgate clock, which commemorates the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. The gate and its beautifully ornamental clock mark the entrance to Chester’s pedestrian shopping mall, where Tudor style buildings line the streets.

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From the top of the wall at Newgate we have a bird’s eye view of the Chester Amphitheatre. Dating from 275 AD, the stone amphitheatre is the largest of its type in Great Britain. It was in use until around 350 AD and would have been the site of military exercises, gladiatorial combat and other Roman entertainments. We’re surprised to spot some Roman soldiers in the amphitheatre today! Luckily, instead of going into battle, they’re telling stories of their exploits.

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Next to the amphitheatre, there are more traces of Roman occupation in the Roman Garden. The garden was developed in the 1950s but the pieces on display are not in situ. They were collected on 19th century building sites around Chester and placed together in this formal setting.

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When we turn the south east corner, the River Dee comes into view. The water here seems calm and still until it rushes over the weir built by the Normans around 1092 and onward under the Old Dee Bridge. This beautiful stone bridge, complete with seven arches, was built in 1387 and was the most important connection between northern England and Wales.

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There are private homes along this part of the wall and we wonder what it would be like to live here. The address of this home leaves no doubt about its unique location.

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After passing the bridge, our walk on the wall continues alongside the river, where leafy trees provide welcome shade.

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The scenery changes again on the western side as Chester Castle dominates the skyline. Originally a timber structure built by William the Conqueror in 1070, the castle was rebuilt in stone during the 12th century.

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Further along the western wall is the vast green expanse of the Roodee, Chester’s famous race course. It’s difficult to believe that, where horses now compete, Roman ships once docked – two thousand years ago this was a busy Roman port on the estuary of the River Dee. As the river changed course and the estuary silted up during medieval times the port disappeared, although traces of the Roman quay are still visible in parts of the wall. Horse racing began on the marshy land in 1539 and by the 18th century the races held in May were at the top of Chester’s social calendar. Today, the Chester Cup is one of England’s most important horse races.

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On the north west corner of the wall stand two more towers. The angular Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower and the Watertower, recognised by its semicircular walls, were both strategically placed to protect the river port from attackers.

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The last tower we come to on the walls is Pemberton’s Parlour, a Georgian alcove created in the ruins of the earlier medieval Goblin Tower. It was named after John Pemberton, a Mayor of Chester in the 18th century, who often sat here while supervising his team of rope makers toiling on the ropewalk below. After walking right around the city, we follow Mr Pemberton’s example and rest for a while in the shade.

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Returning to Northgate, our circuit of the city walls is complete. The Pied Bull is open and it’s time for some of that beer!

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Join Restless Jo for more Monday Walks.

On The Outside

Exploring England #18

As we explored the streets of Manchester, I spent much of my time admiring the elaborate façades of the buildings. During the Industrial Revolution, the city was the centre of the nation’s textile industry and many of the buildings reflect the enormous wealth created by many but enjoyed by just a few. Luckily, these beautiful buildings can now be appreciated by everyone.

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Weekly Photo Challenge ~ The Road Taken

Blooming Truro

Exploring England #8

Garden Photography: Urban Spaces

In the warmth of a September evening, Truro is bright with natural colour. Beautiful hanging baskets greet visitors to Truro Cathedral.

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Window boxes overflowing with greenery and planters filled with late summer blooms decorate the streets.

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Begonias, all velvety yellows, oranges and reds, are complemented by delicate purple salvia.

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These vibrant flowers fill me with anticipation for my own Southern Hemisphere summer!

Enjoy more blooming urban spaces with Jude.

Falmouth – Near and Far

Exploring England #7

Even with our GPS, it wasn’t easy to find our Airbnb home in Falmouth. The narrow road, winding and lined on both sides with parked cars, climbed a seemingly endless hill. Eventually we found the correct address, and then we had to go even higher – our flat was on the fourth floor.

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We were beginning to wonder if it would be worth all the effort, until we walked into the living room. Perched high above Frobisher Terrace the flat, with its two large picture windows, overlooked the waters of Carrick Roads and the village of Flushing on the other side. We had the best view in town!

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Every day it was different. Early in the morning, the glow of the rising sun made a pathway between the tiny boats anchored offshore. One day, ocean mist shrouded everything in a veil of white. At night, the reflected lights of the port glistened on the water.

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Our location wasn’t just amazing because of the view. A ten minute walk down Beacon Street took us to the oldest part of town, where the street names and shop façades gave us clues to their history.

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At each bend in the road the street name changed. High Street became Market Street and then Church Street. On the corner here, the Church of King Charles the Martyr pays homage to Falmouth’s history as a Royalist town during the English Civil War.

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Narrow alleys between the shops, unchanged over the centuries, led down to the piers and the harbour.

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At the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, we explored a Viking boat-building yard, listened to the stories of passengers aboard the packet ships of the 19th century and raced in a purpose built dinghy in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

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Leaving the boats of the Maritime Museum, we continued along Bar Terrace past prettily coloured homes, all with that same wonderful view of the ocean.

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An uphill walk along Castle Drive and Castle Close led to King Henry VIII’s fortress, Pendennis Castle. Along with St Mawes Castle across the estuary, Pendennis was one of a line of coastal fortresses and remained in use from Tudor times to the end of the second World War.

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Like Henry’s soldiers who kept watch on the castle walls, we had 360° views. We saw Falmouth and its beautiful waterways from yet another perspective. We could even make out, far in the distance, our own private vantage point at the top of Frobisher Street.

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Join Jo for Monday Walks.

Imaginings

I love London…

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…and when I visit London I like to pretend I live there. In my imagination I don’t have to go to work; I have the freedom to wander day after day, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. If the weather isn’t great, I can stay in because there will always be another day, and my inner city apartment is modern and spacious with a glorious view of the river.

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In reality, we never have enough time in London to do everything we want. We like to stay in Bloomsbury, an area we’ve come to know well. Each time we arrive in Cartwright Gardens, it feels as if we’re home.

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The studio apartment we always book is the size of a matchbox and it’s on the third floor, so we get our daily exercise going down the staircase in the morning and up again that evening. Instead of the Thames, we can see the pretty garden between the buildings if we lean far enough out the window.

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But the location is marvellous. It’s just around the corner off Euston Road, yet the traffic noise can hardly be heard. From Kings Cross tube station in one direction or Russell Square in the other we can go anywhere in the city. We buy our fresh fruit and vegetables from the friendly man at the little stall on Marchmont Street. There are several grocery stores nearby and even more pubs. Our favourite is Mabels Tavern on Mabledon Place, and in the evening we walk around the corner to join the after-work crowd for dinner and a drink.

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I will probably never live in London, but when I visit I like to imagine I’m a local!

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Local

Going Up?

Close to home #8 Q1 Tower, Gold Coast

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all within a couple of hours’ drive of our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The Gold Coast consists of more than 70 kilometres of beautiful sandy beaches on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. From laid back Coolangatta in the south to the luxury of Sanctuary Cove in the north, there are plenty of places where you can sit and enjoy beautiful views of this iconic Australian surf-side city.

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To see the wonders of the Gold Coast from a different perspective, you can also go up – to the SkyPoint Observation Deck at the top of Q1.

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From the top of the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building there is a 360° view of the Gold Coast and the mountain ranges of the hinterland.

North

North

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South

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East

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West

On levels 76 and 77 of Q1, SkyPoint is 230 metres above the broad stretch of beach at Surfers Paradise and at that elevation, you can see up to a distance of 60 km. Even Mt Warning in northern New South Wales, the first part of mainland Australia to see the sun each morning, is visible on the horizon.

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Whether you’re relaxing on the fine white sand or enjoying a coffee high above the beach at Skypoint, the views of the Gold Coast are always superb!