The final day the first sight of cloud and sea mist.
I awoke early and took an amble around Amble.
Then off on the road to Warkworth and beyond to Alnmouth – where I revisited a small group of asymmetric post-war dormer bungalows.
Stopping to view the flood plain of the River Aln, chatting perchance with the local environmental officer.
Who explained how the flood defences had been removed, as this encouraged the natural process of flooding and receding to proceed unhindered, thus preventing property from being interminably sodden.
We also discussed the decline in vernacular architecture and the fashion for all that is New England, much to the detriment of New Northumberland.
One day everywhere will look like a someone else’s vision of somewhere else.
The good folk of Craster have wisely prevented the local bus from entering the North Sea.
The way north took me over a well laid concrete track.
I came upon three wise men from Durham, Rochdale and Doncaster, gathered around a concrete-bag bunker.
The first and last outdoor festival I ever done attended, unforgettable.
Weaving down and around quiet lanes I encountered this Walker Evans workshop.
Armstrong Cottages is an estate originally built by Lord Armstrong for the workmen restoring Bamburgh Castle.
The 1901 Census lists the current inhabitants with their provenance and professions.
114 residents are listed for the 19 cottages, of whom 53 are working men employed in the building trade: their professions include stonemasons, joiners, plumbers, rope & pole scaffolders, blacksmiths, and plasterers.
Many come from Northumberland or Scotland, but a significant proportion are from further afield: Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire – and one from the Channel Islands.
Seven nights in November will now cost you the best part of a thousand pounds.
Day four Thursday 4th September 2014 – leaving Clacton on Sea for Frinton on Sea is the equivalent of crossing continents, time zones, aesthetic and social sensibilities.
Leaving the razzle-dazzle, frantic fish and chip frazzle, for the sedate repose of germ free Frinton.
Green sward and restrained modernist shelters adorn the foreshore.
I love the bold optimism of Maritime Moderne – the bright eyed, forward looking window grid of these fine flats.
I have a cautious admiration for the faux Deco newcomers.
The modernist estate was attempted many times in the interwar years; visions of rows of fashionable white walled, flat roofed houses filled developers eyes. In practice the idea was less popular with potential house buyers. In the Metro-Land suburbs of London, estates were attempted in Ruislip and Stanmore, with a dozen houses at most being built. One estate that produced more modernist houses than most, albeit less than planned, was the Frinton Park estate at Frinton-on-Sea on the Essex coast.
Oliver Hill was known for his house designs, which spanned styles from Arts and Crafts to Modernist. Hill was to draw up a plan for 1100 homes, as well as a shopping centre, luxury hotel and offices. The plan was for prospective buyers to buy a plot and then engage architects to design their new house from a list of designers drawn up by Hill. The list featured some of the best modernist architects working in Britain at the time; Maxwell Fry, Wells Coates, F.R.S. Yorke and Connell, Ward & Lucas.
As wonderful as this sounds today, the buying public of 1935 did not quite agree. The majority of potential buyers were apparently put off by the Estates insistence on flat roofs and modernist designs. Plan B was to build a number of show homes to seduce the public into buying the modernist dream. Of 50 planned show homes, around 25 were built, with about 15 more houses built to order. The majority of these were designed by J.T. Shelton, the estates resident architect, with a number designed by other architects like Hill, Frederick Etchells, RA Duncan and Marshall Sisson.
The town is also home to this traditional confectioners – Lilley’s Bakery.
Leaving the coast for pastures new – well, a ploughed field actually.
Crossing the River Orwell over the Orwell Bridge on my way to Ipswich.
The main span is 190 metres which, at the time of its construction, was the longest pre-stressed concrete span in use in the UK. The two spans adjacent to the main span are 106m, known as anchor spans. Most of the other spans are 59m. The total length is 1,287 metres from Wherstead to the site of the former Ipswich Airport. The width is 24 metres with an air draft of 43 metres; the bridge had to be at least 41 metres high. The approach roads were designed by CH Dobbie & Partners of Cardiff.
The bridge is constructed of a pair of continuous concrete box girders with expansion joints that allow for expansion and contraction. The girders are hollow, allowing for easier inspection, as well as providing access for services, including telecom, power, and a 711mm water main from the nearby Alton Water reservoir.
The bridge appears in the 1987 Cold War drama The Fourth Protocol, in which two RAF helicopters are shown flying under it, and at the end of the 2013 film The Numbers Station.
This the only time that I chose to have a glass of beer whilst awheel, normally waiting until the evening – I couldn’t resist this charming looking brew pub in Framlingham.
Earl Soham is a village close by, on the A1120. The Earl Soham Brewery beers started out in life being brewed in local man Maurice’s old chicken shed. You may be pleased to hear they have a slightly more sophisticated set-up now, without forgetting their humble roots.
If you haven’t tasted them before, we think you’ll be as delighted with them as our regulars, and you can be guaranteed of a warm welcome if you come to try them out.
The sort of wayside boozer where I could have easily idled away an hour or two – hopefully I’ll pass by again some time and linger longer.
Another water tower – somewhere.
The most enchanting of shop fascias.
Something of a curiosity – David Frost’s father’s ironmongers in Halesworth – and the Ancient House with its ancient carving.
The bressumer beam at the front of the is linked with Margaret de Argentein in the late 14th and 15th century, it is believed t it could have been a manor or toll house.
Currently trading as a Bistro with paranormal problems;
Things in the window were swaying the other day and when we went to stop them they almost fought back.
I’ve seen two ghosts in the kitchen. One was clearly a man, the other was when I thought my daughter was over my shoulder but when I looked around she wasn’t there, and we were the only two in the building.
Rides include the world famous Snails and Tyrolean Tub Twist.
A huge toy town mountain incorporates the Spook Express kiddie coaster, Jet Cars and Neptune’s Kingdom undersea fantasy ride, Pirate Ship, Major Orbit, Balloon Wheel and Skydiver complete the rest of the rides.
Hungry – why not grab a bite at the American Diner.
I actually went to the Wetherspoons.
Though the town is full of tiny pubs.
And a chippy.
I wandered the highway byways and promenade of Great Yarmouth, all alone in a neon nightmare!
Day three Wednesday 3rd September – leaving Southend under a cloud.
The huge slab of the Civic Centre shrouded in sea mist.
Designed by borough architect – PF Burridge.
Queen Mum Opens Civic Centre – It took a while to get there, since 1958 when the council agreed to embark on a quest to build a new home for itself; but on 31st October 1967 HRH the Queen Mother did the honours and formally opened the spanking new Civic Centre. During its build Southend was classed as being in the top ten in the country for full employment, due to this workers were hard to come by and bus loads of workers were brought in to complete this and the many other projects shooting up along Victoria Avenue at the same time.
Cllr Beryl Scholfield commented later on the day – The Queen Mother opened the Civic Centre in 1967, when my husband was chairman of the town hall committee, and we had lunch with her at Porters. We were presented to her when she came in. There were no more than about 30 of us there. It was a most exciting day.
She was as natural as you see her on the television.
A Union Jack lowered to half-mast in tribute to the Queen Mum has been stolen from Southend’s Civic Centre. A council spokeswoman today denounced the theft as – a despicable act at a time of great sadness and national mourning.
The outrage has caused extra sadness for royalist residents in the town because of the Queen Mother’s special place in the history of the Civic Centre.
The Leda and the Swan statue by Lucette Cartwright, which used to be in the Civic Centre atrium, gets a polish in May 1987.
A bronze statue depicting a mythological rape has finally found a new home at the mayor of Southend’s official residence. The controversial statue of Leda and the Swan was specially commissioned by Southend Council in the Sixties and first stood outside the courthouse in Victoria Avenue.
Later it was moved to the Civic Square and then to the courtyard of the Palace Theatre, in Westcliff. Later, it was moved to the Civic Centre when it caused outrage among staff. Workers claimed the statue, representing the rape of Leda by the Greek god Zeus disguised as a swan, glorified rape as an art form.
Last week, the statue was removed from the Civic Centre and is now at the mayor’s residence, Porters, in Southend.
Rob Tinlin, Southend Council’s chief executive and town clerk said – The statue of Leda and the Swan was located at the Civic Centre until a suitable location was found. The statue is permanently on display in the garden of the mayor’s residence, Porters in Southchurch Road.
It is in an appropriately landscaped area next to the pond.
Misty eyed I missed the sculptural fountain – William Mitchell I presume?
Said farewell to Neptunes unilluminating assorted fish.
Heading out of town past noisy scenes of quiet despair, no more fancy goods, no more confectionary – shake that.
Heading inland, away from the wibbly wobbly estuarine coast of higgledy piggledy Essex, through freshly mown pasture and solitary haywains.
This is Constable country:
Like many artists practising at the time, Constable used sketches as source material for fully worked-up compositions. He did not find the production of finished paintings easy, which probably contributed to his late recognition by the art establishment.
Passing by solitary bus shelters, patiently awaiting passengers.
Waterworks works in the palatial neo-classical manner, with a restrained nod to incipient Art Deco.
Encountering the occasional leafy lane.
I eventually found myself on the outskirts of Colchester, outside St Theresa Of Lisieux .
A striking pre-cast concrete frame design of 1971, with a dramatic and well-lit interior, lively modulation of wall surfaces and some furnishings and artworks of note.
Architect – JH Dabrowski
The entrance façade has a large gable and projecting entrance canopy, above which is a bronze statue of the Risen Christ, by local artist Tita Madden – 1977
This is a large modern church, built with a pre-cast concrete frame with a crossover roof beam system, allowing for dramatic internal effects. Within the bays created by the frame, the walling is mostly brick, with some pre-cast concrete panels, and large areas of glazing. Concrete is also used for the window mullions and surrounds. Each bay has the brickwork slightly angled or faceted, giving the design a great sense of movement and liveliness, both inside and out.
£240,000 will get you an Art Deco maisonette in Vint Crescent from Wowhaus:
This one is a ground floor apartment, which has undergone a complete refurbishment, but with one on keeping those period features to the fore – period features such as original radiators and those distinctive windows and doors are intact, rubbing shoulders with some new, high-end finishes like oak floors and updated kitchen and bathroom.
Foolishly I became more than somewhat lost and on making enquiries concerning my whereabouts and destination, I was met with gently derisive laughter. Therefore, I bypassed Colchester, took the wrong route along a mainly main road and ended up much too quickly in Clacton.
Home to several shops to let, as we shall subsequently see.
Also home to a fabulous concrete frieze on the exterior wall of the library.
Quickly ensconced in my bijou digs – I hit the town to take a look around.
I was staying right opposite this here boozer – a little too early for a pint, I’ll pop back in a bit.
Seaside shelter in a faux vernacular manner, calm seas ‘neath an azure sky – perfect.
Artifice and authenticity the sunbathing citizens sit beside an inflatable pool – perched above the sea on the pier.
Clacton Pier, which opened on 27 July 1871 was officially the first building erected in the then-new resort of Clacton-on-Sea. A wooden structure 160 yards in length and 4 yards wide, the pier served as a landing point for goods and passengers, a docking point for steamships operated by the Woolwich Steam Packet Company, and a popular spot for promenading.By 1893, Clacton had become such a popular destination for day trippers that the pier was lengthened to 1180 ft (360m) and entertainment facilities, including a pavilion and a waiting room, were added to accommodate them.
A mighty river valley was formed in the second Ice Age, as the glaciers receded and rushed seaward.
The mighty River Mersey was formed on the eastern edge of Stockport, at the confluence of the Tame and Goyt/Etherow rivers.
Thousands of years in the making, as the water-powered mills of the adjacent Pennine Hills migrate to the lower reaches of the towns, in search of water, workers and steam, the full force of the Industrial Revolution takes shape in the west.
The mixed farming of the alluvial valley, which opens up onto the Lancashire and Cheshire Plains, meets and greets the incursion of dye and brick works, mills and manufacturing.
Fred Schofield’s farm 1930
View towards Stockport from Heaton Mersey Park
Serviced by a complex and competing rail system based around Heaton Mersey Shed.
Opened in 1889 and served until May 1968 operating steam locomotives to the end -Coded 9F.
Here we were at the centre of a rail hub spreading out in all directions, to and from the ports, cities and resources of the country and beyond.
Great movements of steel, cotton, coal, people and manufactured goods.
Fireman Eddy “Ned” Kelly
Heaton Mersey railway station was opened on 1 January 1880 by the Midland Railwayand lay on the newly opened line which ran from Heaton Mersey East Junction to Chorlton Junction and on to Manchester Central station.
The station was situated at the southern end of Station Road which still exists. The station was later operated by the London Midland and Scottish Railway and was closed by the London Midland Region of British Railways on 3 July 1961.
The area was criss-crossed by railways – its bridges traversing the roads, fields and river, dominating the landscape in a wild flurry of steam and smoke.
The end of steam – as drivers, fireman and staff were transferred to Newton Heath, was followed by the slow demise of the rail network, freight moved to road and passengers purchasing their first cars and a passport to illusory freedom.
The mighty Mersey is now flanked by newer neighbours, a shiny blue administrativepyramid, business park, car showrooms and nature reserve, the only certainty is change.
Great volumes of earth are moved to from a new topography a topography of leisure – the gentle stroll, jog and cycle replaces the clank of fire doors and shovel on coal.
But take a look around you and you will see the remnants of the industrial age, shrouded in fresh hawthorn and enshrined in birch and beech.
To walk this landscape is to traverse geological, agrarian, industrial and post-industrial time – they all coexist and coalesce. Have an eye, ear and heart open to their resonance and presence, transcend time and space in the Mersey Valley today, you’re part of the leisured generation.
To begin at the beginning, well actually to begin in the middle and walk to the current beginning. The Gore Brook flows from the Lower Gorton Reservoir and from there onwards to meet the Chorlton Brook in the west, though I should imagine that prior to the construction of the waterworks, it was fed by more distant moorland waters.
Manchester being on the eastern edge of the Lancashire Plain and the western edge of the Pennines is riddled with rivers, rivers which now wriggle in an under and overground web, across heavily developed urban areas. Following the Industrial Revolution former meadow, common and farmland was overwritten by factories, housing and roads, the rural character of the rivers and brooks soon becoming darkened and polluted by the surrounding industries.
The Red Path is a pedestrian link between Pink Bank Lane and the Gorton boundary at Buckley Road. It roughly follows the course of Gore Brook. The original footpath, running from Buckley Road to the bank of the brook, was made using black cinders. It was probably made in the 1940s to provide access to the allotments located on either side. In the early 1950s , a concrete bridge was laid across Gore Brook and the footpath extended to Pink Bank Lane. This section used red bricks in it’s construction, probably supplied by Jacksons brickworks . Crushed bricks were then used as a topping to make the path smoother and fill in any cracks. The thoroughfare soon became known as the Red Path.
So wide eyed and mapless I bowled up at Brook Terrace, just off Stockport Road Longsight, in search of The Gore and its source.
In the early 1900’s the river was still open and bridged, here at Stockport Road, later culverted and covered – anticipating the arrival of Tesco’s and Granada TV Rentals.
From there we pass under the railway along Brook Terrace and into Parry Road.
The underpass is still there and very much in use, as is Stanley Grove School – the Manchester Central Schools’ Kitchens are long gone, along with the food filled, insulated aluminium cases, that fed the hungry mouths of many, with semolina, pink custard, meat pies and lumpy mash.
Onwards to Elgar Street and still no sign of the river, hidden beneath our feet, the corner of Northmoor Road, can be seen on the corner, no longer distributing dividends, but now providing social housing.
We arrive at Pink Bank Lane, a rich mix of terraced homes, flats and factories – and the long lost Garratt, and the long lost Gore.
Though the lazy, lazy river has been confined in a brick lined wind, to meet the ever pressing needs of the Gorton Sewage Works.
The river then hugs the edge of Annie Lea Playing fields on Buckley Road, until it disappears again as it meets Mount Road, the playing fields are still open ground – the Manchester Cleansing Department, seen on the left – is no more.
Here on Knutsford Road we see the construction of the tunnels and culverts, the footbridge to the left spanning the railway, is still there.
Finally we see The Gore reemerging clear, clean, wide, proud and resplendent in Sunny Brow Park, where it is still maintained as a decorative, duck-filled lake.
Briefly underground again and into the back of Far Lane, skirting the Brookfield Church graveyard.
Then tunnelling under Hyde Road at the back of the church lodge, appearing once again alongside Tan Yard Brow.
The manmade waterfall continues to cascade, the Fairfield to Old Trafford railway is now the Fallowfield Loop, Manchester Cycleway, young lads no longer mess about in wellies and torn Tek Sac jeans on the bank, the Tannery no longer tans.
Then we end our journey by the broad expanse of the Lower Gorton Reservoir, implausibly dotted with jolly yachts, and home to a now absent stepped outflow stream. Look up to the east, and there you’ll see the moors, you could go further.
To the east of Manchester and the west of Ashton sits The Moss.
This area of low lying, deep peaty bog, just outside Ashton-under Lyne, was drained in the mid 1800’s to grow some of the best crops – It was world famous for its celery but also grew good cabbage, cauliflowers and lettuce, with cucumbers and tomatoes grown in glasshouses.
This map of 1861 shows an area criss-crossed with lanes, ditches and field boundaries.
A world that survived into the 1980s, captured here so beautifully by Brian Lomas, prior to the building of the M60.
Its location on the south east corner of the Lancashire Coalfield, and the burgeoning demands of the Industrial Revolution saw the further development of mining in the area.
As the demand for coal outstripped the output, a deeper mine was opened in 1875, at Ashton Moss. This new pit had its own railway branch and canal arm for efficient transportation of the coal. In 1882 a second shaft was sunk – at 2,850 feet, the deepest in the world at that time.
The New Rocher pit closed in 1887 and Broadoak pit closed in 1904, after which time Ashton Moss pit was the only coal mine still in operation in Ashton. Although it produced 150,000 tons of coal a year in the early 1950s and employed over 500 men, Ashton Moss colliery closed in 1959 and part of its site is now the Snipe Retail Park on the boundary with Audenshaw.
Seen here in this painting by local artist David Vaughan.
Ashton Moss is an area I have known for some fifty years or so, my grandfather was a collier at the Ashton Moss Pit, I worked trains around the triangle of rail that encloses the area – I returned some time ago to take a look at what remained of a once fertile area.
This area of low lying, deep peaty bog, just outside Ashton-under Lyne, was drained in the mid 1800’s to grow some of the best crops – It was world famous for its celery but also grew good cabbage, cauliflowers and lettuce, with cucumbers and tomatoes grown in glasshouses. The ground was apparently fertilised by marl dug from local banks or pits, and by dung brought by horse and cart from the elephant and tiger enclosures at Belle Vue Zoo, down the road.
Four brothers of the Kelly family came from Ireland shortly after the Irish potato famine of 1840’s, settled on the Moss and still have a descendent selling fruit and vegetables on Ashton Market today.
The Moss is also where Bill Sowerbutts, of Gardener’s Question Time fame, learnt his trade. Bill’s first memories were of his Father’s smallholding on the Moss, which had been bought from a market gardener called Tommy Knight in 1892.