Tag Archive | World Heritage Site

One Tower, Many Stories

Exploring England #38

London’s skyline is dominated by skyscrapers and towers; some are famous and are visited by thousands of tourists each year. At a height of 27 metres the White Tower, part of the Tower of London, was the tallest building in London at its completion  in 1098. Standing at a far more impressive 306 metres and completed in 2012, The Shard is the tallest building in the UK.

Another tower, less well-known but claiming an equally significant place in English history, is the Jewel Tower, located behind the Houses of Parliament. Dating from the 14th century, the tower is one of only two buildings to have survived the 1834 fire which destroyed the Palace of Westminster.

Built in 1365 on the orders of Edward III, the tower was originally known as the ‘King’s Privy Wardrobe’. It housed his personal collection of jewels, silverware and luxurious wall-hangings. To protect the king’s belongings, the ground floor had no windows and 18 locks were placed on the doors. A moat surrounding the tower, filled by water from the River Thames, added extra protection.

The tower later became known as the Jewel Tower because of a misconception that, in medieval times, it had housed the Crown Jewels. From 1580 to 1864, it was used as a storage facility for the official parliamentary records of the House of Lords. Documents including Acts of Parliament and the death warrant of King Charles I were filed by the Parliamentary Clerk, who lived in a small house next door.

Occupancy of the tower changed again in 1869 when the newly-created Standard Weights and Measures Department took up residency. With its thick stone walls, the tower was the perfect place for testing delicate instruments and creating standardised units of weight and measure. It was here the imperial system of measurement was developed. The Department continued its important work until 1938, when it was found that vibrations caused by an increase in passing traffic affected the precision of the instruments.

In 1987, UNESCO declared the Jewel Tower and its surrounding land a World Heritage Site. It is also protected as an Ancient Monument and Grade I listed building. Today, English Heritage has custody of the tower, which is open to the public every day. Exhibitions on all three floors showcase the different roles the Jewel Tower has played over the years, with replicas of King Edward’s silver plate, copies of historical documents and 19th century measuring instruments on display.

The Jewel Tower may not be imposing or beautiful, but it’s worth spending a couple of hours learning more about this unique building and its fascinating contents.

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When Is A Walk Not A Walk?

Exploring England #17

With the forecasters predicting sushine and record breaking warm temperatures, the day seemed ideal for a trip to Liverpool. Rather than braving the traffic and trying to find a car park, we decided to travel by train and spend the day on a self guided walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage listed city centre and docklands. That was the plan…

It was overcast when we arrived – not the sunshine we were expecting, but perfect for walking. Lunch was our first priority and the menu at the busy Pump House restaurant was enticing. A local lady dining at the next table gave us some friendly advice. “Have the fish and chips,” she said. “They’re the best in town.” We did, and she was right.

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We weren’t so sure about her next statement. “It’s going to rain this afternoon,” she said. “It’s going to pour at 2 o’clock.” That’s not what the weather forecast said, we were thinking, although we were too polite to say so.

Fortified by our delicious lunch, we set off to explore Albert Dock. Opened in 1846, Albert Dock was once the centre of a bustling port for sailing ships from around the world. As these ships were replaced by modern vessels, the docks and warehouses became redundant and they finally closed in 1972. After a restoration project lasting six years, Albert Dock reopened in 1988 with cafés and restaurants, galleries, shops and museums bringing people back to the old warehouses along the River Mersey.

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This part of the river is more than a kilometre wide and the buildings on the opposite bank looked like doll houses. Undeterred by the heavy, grey clouds gathering low in the sky, we wandered along Kings Parade where hundreds of engraved love locks decorate the path by the river.

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Even on this dull day, tiny ferries were busy on the river and we thought a cruise would be a pleasant way to see the city. But just as we turned towards the ferry terminal, it began to rain. Our lunch time companion’s prediction was correct. It wasn’t just a light shower – it was pouring!

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Even with our raincoats walking was no longer enjoyable, so we decided to see Liverpool from a different perspective and boarded a CityExplorer bus. We sat downstairs, where the view wasn’t as good but the seats were dry. The driver’s live commentary was as entertaining as it was educational and for the next hour we listened to his stories of Liverpool and her beautiful buildings.

Eventually the rain eased enough for us to start walking again. We left the bus on Victoria Street and went around the corner to Mathew Street, home of the Cavern Club, where the Beatles performed nearly 300 times in the early 1960s. One benefit of the rain was the lack of people and we walked straight in…or down, as the steps went below street level to the basement. It was warm and dry and a great band was playing Beatles music – it was fun to stop for a while and enjoy  the vibrant atmosphere.

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After browsing in one of several Beatles shops, we headed once more towards the River Mersey.

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The city’s maritime history is commemorated at Liverpool Parish Church where a weather vane in the form of a golden sailing ship sits on top of the tower. In the Church gardens, the Liverpool Blitz Memorial depicts a young mother taking her children to shelter during a bombing raid. On the roof of the Royal Liver Building, once the tallest building in Europe, sit two mythical Liver birds, medieval symbols of the city.

Our last stop was St John’s Garden, a terraced sculpture garden featuring statues of well-known Liverpudlians including Prime Minister William Gladstone and a memorial to the King’s Liverpool Regiment.

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We arrived back at the train station just as the leaden skies opened again. We’d had enough of walking in the rain and, as the Beatles would say, we had tickets to ride!

 

Go for more Monday Walks with Restless Jo.

Poldark is Everywhere!

Exploring England #14

We couldn’t go anywhere in the south of Cornwall without seeing the handsome face of Ross Poldark. From cushions to coffee cups, his presence was unavoidable. I wasn’t complaining. I’ve read Winston Graham’s wonderful historic tales of the Poldark family, and I enjoyed watching both the original 1970s and new 2015 television productions as much as anyone.

So did my sister-in-law, who asked for a souvenir. When I purchased a key ring for her, I made sure to tell the shop assistant it wasn’t for me. He laughed – it wasn’t the first time he’d heard that story!

The Poldark name doesn’t just belong to the fictional family though. Close to Helston on the Lizard Peninsula is the Poldark Mine, and you’d be mistaken if you think it’s a television set left behind after filming.

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Tin has been mined in this area since the Bronze Age and records show it was being processed here in Tudor times. As the oldest surviving complete tin mine in Cornwall, it’s part of the UNESCO Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.

The mine shafts visible today date from the 18th century. The only way to see them is on a guided tour; wearing protective helmets, visitors go underground to explore the old tunnels and shafts on several levels. The walls are slick with moisture and the sound of water still flowing deep in the mine fills the dark spaces.

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While modern access is via metal steps, remnants of the old ways remain in place and veins of ore-bearing granite left untouched make a dark tracery across the rock walls.

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So what is the connection to the Poldark name? Winston Graham launched the last book in his Poldark series here in 2002 and underground mining scenes in both television shows were filmed in the mine. According to our tour guide, the author was a friend of the mine owner and gave his permission for the mine to be renamed in honour of his much loved characters.

Fact or fiction? I don’t know, but it makes a great story!

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Buried Treasure

Exploring England #4

Like many people, we visited Dorset’s spectacular Jurassic Coast for one reason. Well-trod paths over dramatic cliffs lead to pretty coastal villages but we weren’t looking up. With heads down and eyes on the ground we had one goal  – to find fossils.

The 154 km stretch of coast between Exmouth and Studland Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage area, with geology spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Millions of ancient creatures and plants are preserved in the sedimentary layers of the cliffs, waiting to be revealed when the cliffs crumble away during wild weather.

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At the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre we saw huge ammonites dating from the Jurassic Period. With high hopes we joined the crowds on Charmouth beach and, although we found many tiny treasures, there were no 185 million year old fossils lying around waiting to be discovered.

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Continuing our search, we travelled west to Lyme Regis, a very busy town with very narrow streets. Avoiding the congestion and costly parking, we left the car at Charmouth Road car park. From the top of the cliffs it was a gentle downhill walk to the foreshore where a wide wall, built to protect the cliffs from erosion by the sea, doubles as a walking route into town.  It was only 400 metres but we took our time, enjoying wonderful views of the English Channel, the Jurassic limestone cliffs and the stony beach connecting Charmouth and Lyme Regis .

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Evidence of fossils was everywhere in Lyme Regis.

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The Lyme Regis Museum houses a vast collection. Some fossils were collected by Mary Anning, who made her living finding and selling them in the first half of the 19th century, while others have been found by modern enthusiasts. Along with more beautiful ammonites, there were fossilised plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, sea creatures whose descendants include whales and dolphins.

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Fossils are still sold in Lyme Regis but we didn’t want to find our first fossil in a shop. The best way to achieve our aim was to join one of the museum’s guided walks, led by paleontologists Chris, Paddy and Tom.

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We met the our group outside the museum and, after a short explanation about the geology of the coast, our guides led the way to the beach, where early morning wanderers were already scouring the shore.

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Paddy showed us how to look for signs of fossils in the stones and demonstrated safe techniques for breaking them apart.

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Armed with a little knowledge and much anticipation the group spread out, and before long fossils were turning up everywhere.

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Our guides made sure everyone ended the walk with a handful of history. Ours included a tiny ammonite encased in mudstone and two belemnites, distant relatives of today’s cuttlefish.

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With our goal accomplished and our walk completed, our perspective changed. It was time to look at more than just the beach!

 

See more walks all around the world at Jo’s Monday Walks.

Lyme Regis Museum is currently closed for refurbishment but daily fossil walks are still taking place. Check the timetable for costs, dates and times.

A Morning in Port Douglas

Goin’ Cruising #7

Day Five – Port Douglas

Port Douglas is the gateway to the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest and, even on a sunny morning, the distant mountains are dark with a dense covering of forest. We’ve been to the rainforest before so this time we stayed in town.

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Our walk began from the Reef Marina, where small boats were moored alongside luxury yachts and fishing trawlers.

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It was a short walk around the waterfront to Market Park and the Church of St Mary’s by the Sea. Inside the church, the window behind the altar created a real life artwork.

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Leafy Macrossan Street begins at the end of the park. This bustling street is lined with souvenir shops, cafés and pubs and we wandered along, stopping on the way to admire local arts and crafts.

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Macrossan Street leads to the Esplanade and the northern end of Four Mile Beach. Our goal was Flagstaff Hill, where an easy walking track leads up and over the summit to Trinity Bay Lookout.

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From here, the view was breathtaking: Four Mile Beach curving away to the distant mountain range, Pacific Dawn resting at anchor in the Coral Sea and beyond her, the fringes of the Great Barrier Reef showing dark blue on the horizon.

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We continued walking down the other side of Flagstaff Hill, past luxury homes hidden behind tropical gardens. We envied their million dollar views and debated which home we would buy should we ever win the lottery.

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At the bottom of the hill we left our daydreams behind and joined the tourist crowd on Macrossan Street. We retraced our steps back to the marina, where a little orange tender was waiting to carry us back to the ship in time for a well-earned lunch.

Join Jo for more Monday Walks

 

Nature’s Designs ~ Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Ornate

When spring comes to Western Australia the wildflowers bloom in abundance. At first glance the blossoms look simple but closer inspection reveals the fine details. These wildflowers were all found in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area.

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Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Ornate