Sunday, 31 August 2014

Photo Scavenger Hunt : August

It's time once again for the monthly scavenger hunt, organised by Greenthumb at Made with Love. I don't know about you but I found it really tough this month! I'm not saying this is the best selection of photos I've ever submitted but I did manage to find something for each category. Here's what I found.

W is for... : Windmill, spotted on a recent walk in Haigh. According to the information board, it was built in 1845 and was used to pump water.

5pm : Working on the border of a wall hanging.

Everyday : Oh how I struggled to think of something for this one! In the end, I decided on an everyday object, an old fork, which has been transformed into something of beauty - well, I think it's beautiful anyway.

Centered : The attention of these horses is completely centered on me and Chickpea. There are another 3 just out of shot and they were all totally fascinated with us. Unfortunately, a ditch and tall undergrowth meant we couldn't get any closer, though the one with the star on its forehead did try.

Peace : Wise words on a bench at Wycoller Country Park (photos from our visit coming soon).

Ball : Spotted in a Chinese restaurant where we were celebrating ours and a friend's very belated birthdays. The ball spins as water pours over it from the dragon's mouth. The sign over the ornament says 'Please do not touch the magic ball!'

Luggage : Suitcases for sale on a local market.

Under : Graffiti under the canal bridge.

On your shelf : My small collection of Freshly Caught Fairy Folk.

Something you do every day : Make several cups of tea! White, no sugar for me. White with two sugars for Chickpea.

Glitter : Glittery decoration on one of my birthday cards.

Sunglass : Chickpea posing in the garden in her sunglass(es).

If you'd like to join in with the Scavenger Hunt, you can find the categories and other entries over at Made with Love. x

Friday, 29 August 2014

Darwen Tower

Well, I thought I'd sneak in another post before the Scavenger Hunt on Sunday. One of the themes of our days out this summer has been climbing up hills, much to our surprise as it's really not something we make a point of doing! It was just pure coincidence that my list of places to visit all seemed to be at the top of hills. Today is no exception as our destination is Darwen Tower high up on Darwen moor. So I've spoiled the surprise by showing you the Tower right at the beginning, but here's how we got there.

Chickpea's boyfriend lives in the area so we collected him on our way. We parked at the Sunnyhurst Wood car park and set off up the public footpath opposite the pub and past the cottages.

The Tower is over there in the distance looking just like a space rocket getting ready for launch.

Looking back the way we've come, you can see how far up we've climbed.

Darwen Moor is part of the West Pennine Moors which I've shown you before on our walk up to Rivington Pike.


Right outside the Tower is a trig point which is the first I think I've ever seen or, more likely, the first one I've taken any notice of.

And behind us...

...the Tower!

It's also known as the Jubilee Tower as it was completed in 1898 to commemorate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee.

It's 86 feet tall and, because it's rather breezy up here, the dome on top has blown off several times during its history: the current one dates from 2012.

There's a spiral stone staircase inside which takes you to the first, wider level, followed by a metal staircase to the very top.

To the south is open moorland and, in the distance, the television transmitters on Winter Hill (you can just make them out reaching up to the clouds on the bluey coloured hill).

Below, Sunnyhurst Hey reservoir which is being decommissioned and turned into a wetland area.

Now, we're looking back down the path we walked up, with Blackburn in the distance.

Continuing clockwise, the rooftops of Darwen with the 300-foot tall India Mill chimney in the middle.

If I zoom in, you can see it a little better. Built in 1867, It was apparently modelled on the style of a Venetian campanile (bell tower).

Back down on the ground a young Skylark.

And what I think are common-spotted orchids amongst the clover.

And patches of lovely cotton grass.

It was a perfect day if a bit hot for climbing hills. I'm not sure we'll be visiting the tower again but I'll be interested to see the reservoir when it's been converted to the wetland area.

And that concludes our days out in July, just as we reach the end of August! Next time it's the monthly scavenger hunt. Thank you for your comments on the Blackpool post - it was particularly interesting reading all your memories of visits there yourselves, good and bad! Enjoy your weekend. x

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Blackpool & Illuminasia

I'm glad you liked the blackberry fool I shared last time. Luckily I made plenty as one portion is never enough :) Today I'm taking you back to our adventures in July: me, Chickpea and her boyfriend are heading for the coast. However, our destination, Blackpool, couldn't be any more different to the wild beauty of our visit to Silverdale.

While I was growing up we holidayed in Blackpool almost every year. One of our favourite things was to see who could be first to spot the Tower as we raced along on the train or in the car. So exciting to finally see it and know that we were nearly there!

For several years we stayed in what was then called a boarding house, better known now as a guest house (half-board). However, we mostly stayed in caravans, first my auntie's and then our own. We always came to buy bbq chicken from this shop and I was thrilled to see it's still here, and the chicken looks just as delicious.

Further along the street is the Winter Gardens which opened in 1878. It's undergone lots of restoration recently and houses a theatre, restaurant and cafe, plus a new tourist attraction which we'll be back to see later. On the day we visited, it was being used for the graduation ceremony of Blackpool & the Fylde College so there were lots of students wandering around in their gowns with proud families in tow.

And look, we're right under the Tower now! There'll be a better view of it later but a couple of facts: it opened in 1894 and is 518 feet tall. A lesser known fact: in all the years we holidayed in Blackpool, none of us ever went to the top of it! When I was younger I don't think we could afford it, or at least there were better things to spend our limited money on. The same goes for now, though I'd like to go up there one day.

What we did do was visit the attractions in the building underneath, one of which was the Tower Circus. I don't remember much about it but, reading the Wikipedia entry, I do remember seeing the finale when the circus ring was lowered and filled with water and there were fountains lit up with lights - magical to see as a child.

The other thing Blackpool is famous for is its Illuminations, which stretch along the sea front for 6 miles and contain more than 1 million light bulbs. This year the grand switch on is 29 August until 9 November. I'm not sure whether these are part of the preparations for this year or are part of an all year round display. One of our favourite treats when I was little was to ride through 'The Lights' on one of the illuminated trams though there were always queues to get on the best ones like the rocket or the train.

Anyway, let's carry on. We were heading for the sea front to walk along the North Pier, the oldest (1863) and longest (1650 ft/500m) of Blackpool's 3 piers. Each of the piers has very different atmospheres and this always seemed the most sedate. You used to have to pay to walk along it too though it's free now.

All along the pier are these beautiful cast iron seats which, like the pier, are clearly in need of some TLC: we saw signs saying that profits from the attractions were going towards maintenance and restoration.

The four hexagonal kiosks were built around 1900.

There are great views of the sea front from the pier. This is looking north...

and this is south where you can now see the Tower in all its glory, with Central Pier in the distance.

Near the end of the pier was this unusual double-decker 'Venetian Carousel'. I thought it was historic but a search on the internet tells me it was built in 1991 and cost £500,000!

I don't think the whole of this stand would cost you half a million quid! I only took the photo because it reminded me that there used to be a joke shop in Blackpool which sold things like itching powder and whoopee cushions! It always fascinated me that someone could make a living out of selling nothing but joke toys!

After the pier, we carried on along the promenade heading towards Central Pier - this is looking back north. We liked the new lamp posts but the black 'Dune Grass' left us baffled. Apparently they are the world's largest kinetic sculpture and won an international award in 2013!

Much more interesting was The Comedy Carpet. It covers 2200m2 and contains jokes, songs and catchphrases from more than 1000 comedians. We spent ages wandering around reading parts of it. If you're interested, the web site has a map of the full carpet and index of the different sections: this is Catchphrases 1.

Carrying on along the promenade, you can see the big wheel and other attractions on Central Pier.

To our left is Coral Island, one of many amusement arcades. Chickpea was thrilled to see that her favourite parrot is still on the outside of the building.

And we were all delighted to see that there are still donkeys providing rides along the sand. I have several photos of me as a child on one of the Blackpool donkeys.

We're now walking along the Central Pier which was always our favourite as it includes fairground rides and amusement arcades.

We walked up the north side to the end and back down the south side, looking towards South Pier.

If I zoom in a bit you can see the fairground rides which are now on the Pier - it was more like the sedate North Pier when I was younger. The rollercoaster is The Big One on the Pleasure Beach amusement park, 'the most visited tourist attraction' in the UK.

There were a couple of things I wanted to do on our visit and this is one of them. Chips with plenty of salt and vinegar. They would have been even better eaten out of newspaper but 'ealth & safety means we had to settle for a polystyrene cone. Still delicious though.

Fortified with our chips, we headed back to the Winter Gardens to see Blackpool's newest attraction, Illuminasia, which was billed as the 'world's largest indoor illuminations experience'. The tourist leaflet looked intriguing so we decided to give it a go.

All the models were created by Chinese artisans who covered metal frames with silk and lit them with LED lights. Let's take a look...

We weren't sure what to expect but, I have to say, we were really impressed. Land of the Giants (with the dog, snail and toadstools) was our favourite and it was quite an experience walking between the huge illuminated models. I'm not sure it would have been worth a full price ticket but we bought discounted ones from the tourist information office.

Just time for a coffee in the local market - another place we used to visit during childhood holidays, particularly the very good fruit and veg stall near the entrance.

Then a last walk along the sea front with a Mr Whippy ice cream (another of my targets for the day!).

No, it isn't really 12 o'clock: it showed the same time all day!

It's a few years since I'd been to Blackpool, partly because I spent so much time here as a child but also because it seemed to have been taken over by stag and hen parties. Some of the 'novelties' openly on sale in the kiosks and gift shops were totally unsuitable and crude for a family resort. Thankfully, these were much less visible on our visit and it does seem like they're trying to bring the family atmosphere back. As it is, I had a great day walking down memory lane and also seeing all the new things Blackpool has to offer.

This morning I woke to glorious sunshine which is lucky as we're off to a country park today. Tomorrow I have the less exciting task of shopping for a new washing machine :(