Leaving the compact anonymity of my B&B for the open road!
Having been unable to sample the joys of the Quality Hotel.
The Quality Hotel closed in 2014 and was demolished two years later after the site was bought by the city council following vandalism and fires.
The ten-storey concrete block was built in 1970 in the 350th anniversary year of The Mayflower ship setting sail from Plymouth for North America.
Plymouth Hoe’s fifty million pound hotel and apartments project appears to have ground to a halt with no building work happening more than a year after developers vowed it would start in 2018.
Henley Real Estate, the firm behind the plans for an 11-story hotel and a 15-floor block of flats on the demolished former Quality Hotel site, has gone silent on plans and not responded to emails and phone calls from Plymouth Live.
When we visited the site the only sign of life was some weeds growing out of the ground.
I’ll leave them to it, I’m off in search of the South West Passage
The South West Coast Path itself is 630 miles long and is the longest established National Trail in the country. Starting at Minehead in Somerset it runs along the coastline of Exmoor, continuing along the coast of North Devon into Cornwall. It follows the entire coastline of Cornwall, goes across the mouth of the River Tamar and continues into Devon. After running along the south coast of Devon it then follows the Dorset coastline before finally ending at Poole Harbour.
However if you follow the Coastal Path you’ll miss this delightful concrete fire station training tower in Plympton.
Along with the longest corrugated iron structure in the West Country.
You’ll miss getting slightly lost and a cup of tea at the Dream Bites roadside café in Modbury.
Dream Bites café, we’re all is welcome, from cars to Biker’s to Ride outs to Puplic and to work companies even you the cyclists!
GREAT FOOD GREAT PRICE.
You’ll miss the deep hedged lanes of Devon.
Where the four x fours force you into the roadside brambles with consummate ease and regularity – even on a designated cycle route.
Respite from such trials and tribulations can be found upon siting a water tower or a deserted butchers – down at Slapton Ley.
Slapton Ley is the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, it is entirely freshwater.
Much beloved of my old pal Harry H Potts and family.
Then it’s up a hill down a hill to Dartmouth.
I made enquiries at several sea front hotels – who upon assessing my mode of dress and transport, despatched me to a back street pub B&B, suit y’self suits me, and my pocket.
The Seale Arms was just the job.
Quick change for the artist – let’s have a look around.
It’s full of historical architectural detail.
And slightly more hysterical architectural detail.
Time for a pint – chatting in the pub to yachting types, for it is here that the sense of tradition, the sea, power and wealth traditionally resides.
Tuesday 28th July 2015 waking up early on the outskirts of Okehampton – I went next door to explore – the Wash and Go.
I went back to Okehampton.
Headed out of town along the old railway line to Plymouth – where rests the solemn remains of previous railway activity and Meldon Quarry.
It’s believed that the first quarrying began around the late 1700s when the local limestone was extracted. Over the years this gradually gave over to aggregate quarrying and apelite quarrying until it final closure. The original owners of the quarry were the London and South Western Railway and then came Britsh Rail and finally EEC Aggregates.
Crossing Meldon Viaduct.
Meldon Viaduct carried the London and South Western Railway across the West Okement River at Meldon on Dartmoor. The truss bridge, which was constructed from wrought iron and cast iron not stone or brick arches, was built under the direction of the LSWR’s chief engineer, WR Galbraith. After taking three years to build, the dual-tracked bridge opened to rail traffic in 1874. Usage was limited to certain classes of locomotive because the viaduct had an axle load limit. Although regular services were withdrawn in 1968, the bridge was used for shunting by a local quarry. In the 1990s the remaining single line was removed after the viaduct was deemed to be too weak to carry rail traffic.
The crossing is now used by The Granite Way, a long-distance cycle track across Dartmoor. The viaduct, which is a Scheduled Monument, is now one of only two such surviving railway bridges in the United Kingdom that uses wrought iron lattice piers to support the cast iron trusses – the other is Bennerley Viaduct between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Architects– Percy Bartlett and William Henry Watkins
Built on the site of the Andrews New Picture Palace, which had opened in 1910, and was demolished in 1930. The Gaumont Palace was opened on 16th November 1931 with Jack Hulbert in “The Ghost Train” and Sydney Howard in “Almost a Divorce”.
The imposing brick building has a white stone tower feature in the central section above the entrance. Seating inside the auditorium was provided for 1,462 in the stalls and 790 in the circle.
It was re-named Gaumont in 1937 currently closed and at risk.
The post war redevelopment of Plymouth produced this sizable Portland Stone Shopping Centre.
‘A Plan for Plymouth’ was a report prepared for the City Council by James Paton Watson, City Engineer and Surveyor, and Patrick Abercrombie, Consultant Architect, published in 1943.
Planning is not merely the plotting of the streets of a town; its fundamental essence is the conscious co-relation of the various uses of the land to the best advantage of all inhabitants. Good planning therefore, presupposes a knowledge and understanding of the people, their relationship to their work, their play, and to each other, so that in the shaping of the urban pattern, the uses to which the land is put are so arranged as to secure an efficient, well- balanced and harmonious whole.
The magnificent dalle de verre fascia of the Crown and County Courts.
having had a good old look around I sought shelter for the night, with some difficulty I found a profoundly plain room. The town seemingly full of itinerant contractors, filling the vast majority of available space.
Not to worry let’s have a look at the seafront.
Tinside Lido by J Wibberley Borough Engineer, with Edmund Nuttall and Sons and John Mowlem and Company, builders, with entrance building of 1933 by the same engineer.
Set in a beautiful location overlooking the sea at the tip of Plymouth Hoe and voted one of the top 10 best outdoor pools in Europe, Tinside Lidois an attraction not to be missed.
Built in 1935, Tinside is a slice of the quintessential British seaside from a bygone era. The Lido is a wonderful example of art-deco style and is Grade II listed.
Time for a timely 99 tub – what ho!
Followed by several pints of Dartmoor Jail in the delightful Dolphin Hotel.
The Dolphin Hotel is a pub on the Barbican , the building, which is known as either the Dolphin Inn or Dolphin Hotel, is a Grade II listed building. It notable as the setting of several of the artist Beryl Cook’s paintings.
The three storey building was constructed in the early 19th century, although it may contain fabric from an earlier structure. It has a slate mansard roof surrounded by a tall parapet with a moulded cornice. The front has white stucco with plaster reliefs of dolphins. The pub is associated with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, some of whom stayed at the hotel on their return from exile in Australia in 1838, when a Mr Morgan was the landlord.
It is a no-frills unmodernised pub famous for its cask ale, draught Bass served straight from the barrel. The sign on the front of the building has always called the pub the ‘Dolphin Hotel’. In 2010 the pub was refurbished, but vandalised in 2014.
Following a sound night’s sleep, courtesy of the Ocean Hotel, I set out on my Ridgeback World Voyage – purchased through the Cycle to Work Scheme, I have essentially used it in order to cycle away from work.
My dream had always been to devise a way of life, where the lines between work, leisure and culture disappear, where such tiresome social constructs have finally become redundant – let’s go!
Having failed to learn from my previous jaunt, that a map is a handy aid to successful travel, I set off merrily without one – on Sunday 25th July 2015.
Following Sustrans’ signs will suffice, says I to myself.
I arrived safely in Brean, as the rain began to fall with a deeply disheartening enthusiasm.
The signage indicated a route across the beach – I quickly learnt that heavy rain and sand do not produce a sufficiently solid surface for cycling, when push comes to shove, there’s only one way forward.
There was no escape to the left, the extensive run of caravan parks and private leisure facilities having erected attractive razor wire topped barriers and locked gates – I pressed on.
With every arduous tortured sandy step, I developed an even deeper antipathy towards Pontin’s Brean Sands.
Here at Brean Sands we have been busy getting ready to welcome guests to our park. We have painted all our apartments, we have fitted over 10,000 metres skirting board throughout the apartments. All external soffits have been painted along with all the Double Decker apartments and main buildings. The QV Bar, Restaurant and also the Fun Factory have all had new flooring fitted. Our Restaurant bays are now refitted as well as improvements to our till area & reception desk.
Free at last from the sandy hell of the shore, I sought succour in this seaside café – where panoramic views of the sea come free.
Having enjoyed the multiple benefits of a breakfast not included tariff at the Ocean Hotel, I was now very, very hungry indeed – I made very, very short work of egg and beans on toast.
I briefly kept company with a Swiss couple, who were on an extensive motor car tour, I quickly became something of an apologist for the day’s foul weather.
It’s not always like this you know.
Stating the obvious, yet thinking the converse.
The panoramic view through the other window – a delightful row of rain soaked, link low rise maisonettes – nirvana!
I was arrested by this arresting wayside shelter/art gallery facility commemorating the Coronation of 1953, in the village of Chedzoy.
The village is at the western end of King’s Sedgemoor and lies on an ‘island’ of Burtle marine sands, close to King’s Sedgemoor Drain. The area was settled possibly in the Mesolithic period, and timber trackways from the third to first millennium B.C. provided routes to other settlements on the Somerset Levels. Roman artifacts have been found in the parish.
The name of the village is pronounced Chidgey or Chedzey, and derives its name from being Cedd’s Island. The zoy part of the name being derived from eg or ieg meaning island.
The shelter stands at the corner of Front and Higher Streets – it would appear that the Burghers of Chedzoy had exhausted their inexhaustible font of creative naming resources, by the time that streets had been invented – the Mesolithic fools.
The village people seem to be suffering from some collective false memory syndrome recollection of a fabulous Mer-family past.
Improving weather in the Bridgwater area, as we languish in the cool shade of the by-pass, beside the River Parrett.
The River Parrett has its source in the Thorney Mills springs in the hills around Chedington in Dorset in England and flows west through the Somerset Levels. The mouth is a Nature Reserve at Burnham on Sea where it flows into Bridgwater Bay on the Bristol Channel. The river is tidal for 18.6 miles up to Oath; and, because the fall of the river, between Langport and Bridgwater is only 1 foot per mile, it is prone to frequent flooding, in winter and high tides.
The River Parrett is 37 miles long and its main tributaries include the Rivers Tone, Isle and Yeo. The River Cary drains into the Parrett via the King’s Sedgemoor Drain. The River Parrett drains an area of over 652.5 square miles – comprising around fifty percent of the land area of Somerset.
Here we are in Williton – where the modern world is ready to sweep in unannounced as announced in the Somerset County Gazette.
Plans to build a new supermarket, retail units and health centre in Williton have been resubmitted this week. J. Gliddon and Sons Ltd. has put forward new plans for the redevelopment of land off the A39 Bank Street in Williton, behind its existing store.
The shop will be demolished to create the access road, with the company expected to occupy a new unit fronting onto Bank Street once the mini-roundabout has been built.
Well so far so good – I arrived in Minehead in one piece – bike intact.
Having only the vaguest notion of where my onward route lay – I hastened to the Tourist Information Office. Having carefully explained my malaise the helpful staff gazed at me with mild amazement, liberally mixed with slightly perplexed eye-rolling and the odd tut.
Having received quite detailed instructions, I was almost immediately lost, following a road that abruptly ceased to be a road. Reluctantly I picked up a woodland path, rutted with tree roots and certainly not a suitable cycling route.
It fell away sharply, as I careered out of control down the precipitous slope.
On reaching the end I discovered that my new rain jacket had also fallen away, along with my treasured Casio watch, which was tucked safely in the pocket.
I lightly bit my lip and reflected that climbing back up the precipitous slope, which I had only too recently incautiously careered down, was not an option – onward ever onward.
In my mind the younger me looks at the older me – having lost all faith in my ability to manage my life with even a modicum of honesty and integrity, or at best a basic grasp of reality.
A whitewashed Grade I Listed 15th-century Church, with a 14th-century tower.
Welcome to this outstanding Parish Church, which, thanks to it’s distinctive white appearance stands as a beacon on the hills of Exmoor. For centuries Selworthy Church has been a focus for residents and visitors as a place to experience the power and presence of God. We hope you find peace of God here and leave uplifted, refreshed and inspired.
Further on down the road somewhere or other I had a cup of tea and piece of cake.
Had I carried out even the most basic research, I would have known that the ups and downs of Exmoor are no easy ride, particularly in heavy rain without a rain jacket.
As the sky darkened I was heartened by the sight of the light’s of Ilfracombe, twinkling star like in the distance – following eighty six miles of toil and a measure of trouble, I finally arrived at the pre-booked digs. They had been concerned by my no-show, relieved when I finally arrived, incredulous when I told the tale of the day’s travails. The lady of the house ever so kindly washed and dried my sodden clothing.
I showered and hit the town – eschewing food in favour of a pint, chatting to a garrulous gang of solar panel cleaners from Cornwall.
Returning merrily to the B&B and the prospect of slumber.
Although there is evidence in the local area of occupation since the Iron Age, it was still a small village until the 19th century when it became a seaside resort, and was connected with local towns and cities by a railway, and two piers were built. The growth continued until the second half of the 20th century, when tourism declined and some local industries closed. A regeneration programme is being undertaken with attractions including the Helicopter Museum, Weston Museum, and the Grand Pier. The Paddle Steamer Waverley and MV Balmoral offer day sea trips from Knightstone Island to various destinations along the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary. Cultural venues include The Playhouse, the Winter Gardens and the Blakehay Theatre.
I pushed my bike along the prom heading for my pre-booked digs in a stylish seafront hotel.
Past the Marine Causeway linking the shore to some kind of modern day Post Modern Shangri-La.
A mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains, possibly not.
You can stroll onto Knightstone Island, where you will find some cafes serving light snacks and refreshments, or to the other side which takes you along the causeway, accessible to walk across according to the tides. At the other side of the Causeway you will find a small rocky beach with tidal rockpools ideal for exploring.
Just along the prom stands one of my all time favourite seaside shelters.
Even further along – what’s all this here then?
The foundation stone of the Birch-designed Birnbeck Pier was laid in 1864. It opened on 5th June 1867 and consisted of a 1040 foot cantilever construction to Birnbeck Island and a short jetty extending westwards from the island.
It seems to have changed hands several times in its relatively short life, including the stewardship of the infamous Urban Splash and the mysterious mystery owners, the current custodians it seems, have done little to secure a secure future.
It remains alone and untended, stretching aimlessly out to sea.
In April 2015, Friends Of The Old Pier Society created a novel fund raising scheme in which 1p and 2p coins would be lined up to stretch from the Grand Pier to Birnbeck Pier.
September 2019 Councillor Mr Crockford-Hawley said:
It’s this end of Weston which is the sore, it’s the carbuncle, it’s clearly well past its prime and it needs some serious attention. I mean it would be wonderful if somebody came along with an open ended bank account and said ‘yup, I’d love to restore it for the sake of restoring it’, but quite clearly there’s got to bean economic future for the pier, there’s got to be a purpose for the pier.
Possibly a wealthy Beatle could bail the ailing pier out of deep water?
Next thing I know I’m outside the imposing and impressive sounding Ocean Hotel. Sad to say on the day/night of my visit it wasn’t just this weary traveller that appeared to be over tired, happy to report the the New Ocean Hotel has been revamped and in tip-top condition by all accounts.
Any road up, let’s get out, take a walk up the road – have look at some local type.
Watney’s mythical Red Barrel.
Watney’s was the Evil Corporation which sought to crush plucky small brewers and impose its own terrible beer on the drinking public. It acquired and closed beloved local breweries, and it closed pubs, or ruined them with clumsy makeovers.
Its Red Barrel was particularly vile – a symbol of all that was wrong with industrial brewing and national brands pushed through cynical marketing campaigns.
Keeler Productions has taken over Locking Road Car Park, opposite Tesco, and The Regent Restaurant, in Regent Street, to film a BBC period series The Trial of Christine Keeler, based on the Profumo Affair in the 1960s.
Enough of all that period drama, let’s have a look at some period architecture.
Madeira Court – 67 flats built in 1988.
Weekly Social Activities include – coffee mornings, card evenings and occasional days out, organised by social club. New residents accepted from sixty years of age, both cats and dogs generally accepted.
Boulevard United Reformed Church – Waterloo Street
Architects Gordon W. Jackson and Partners 1959
Constructed on part of the site of the former Electric Premier Cinema, the Odeon Theatre was opened on 25th May 1935 with Jack Buchanan in Brewster’s Millions. Built as one of the original Odeon Theatres in the then emerging Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres circuit, it was built on a prime corner street position in this sea-side town and was the first of several Odeon Theatre’s to be designed by architect Cecil T Howitt.
The Weston-super-Mare Odeon was built by C Bryant & Son Ltd of Birmingham on the site of the former Electric Premier Cinema. It opened on 25 May 1935, at which time it was described in the souvenir programme as ‘modernity at its best’, with seating accommodation that was ‘luxurious and spaced to give ample room for true comfort’.
A short walk along the prom snapping shelters and the sheltered – no two the same.
I then chanced to fall into a Beer Festival and bad company – the rest is a blur, see you all tomorrow there’s some cycling to be done.
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.