Sunday, 19 April 2015

Halo, gates and a tree

My blogging has been few and far between lately: I seem to have lost my mojo and, also, we don't seem to have done much of note recently, even with being off all this past week. However, I do have a day trip to tell you about today.

Over the last year me, Chickpea and her boyfriend have been visiting a series of sculptures called panopticons which are based around East Lancashire. We'd already seen the Singing Ringing Tree and the Atom and last up is the Halo at Haslingden ('valley of the hazels').

There's a car park in town and the route is well-signposted to the location of the sculpture at Top O'Slate. This former quarry and landfill site has been reclaimed as part of a land regeneration scheme.

Scattered around the site are signs of its industrial past.

Then, as you emerge from the wood, Halo stands on top of the hill. Designed by John Kennedy, it's an 18m-diameter steel structure supported on a tripod five metres above the ground.

It's positioned so it can be seen from some of the major local roads. Although impressive during the day, its unique feature is that it's lit up with blue lights at night so that it looks like a spaceship hovering above the hill. We'll definitely be back one day to see that as the photos on the internet look amazing.

The views are pretty impressive too even though it wasn't a clear day. Here we're looking down the valley with Haslingden down below and Manchester in the far distance.

Having completed our trio of panopticons, I'd been thinking about what else we might do to plan our day trips around. As luck would have it, I came across the Irwell Sculpture Trail which is a 33 mile route from Bacup to Salford Quays featuring over 70 artworks. There are clusters of the sculptures in particular places and one of these clusters was nearby.

Off we set to Rawtenstall (pronounced Rottenstall). The town is also home to the start of the East Lancashire Railway which is a heritage line running steam and classic diesel trains. Unfortunately there were no steam trains running that day or we'd definitely have had a ride - next time.

The first two of the sculptures on the trail are along a path at the side of the railway line. Luckily I had a copy of the trail with me as there was no signposting whatsoever, or any information about the sculptures. A shame as the web site is really comprehensive with lots of information about the project, the individual artworks and the local area to plan your day.

Anyway, these are Gateway 1 & 2. Railway lines were used to create the archway of the gates and the interior panels are in the shape of steam train wheels. The mosaic floor underneath also has the same pattern and is in the maroon and cream colours of the East Lancashire Railway.

The final sculpture is the Bocholt Tree. This one celebrates the links with Rawtenstall's twin town of Bocholt in Germany: Bocholt's civic symbol is a tree. Take a look at the picture on the web site and you'll see what it originally looked like without all the tinsel and other things that people have decorated it with. You can also see that the trunk and branches were originally painted black and white - I don't know if the painting has worn off or whether it just needs a good clean!

The other thing Rawtenstall is famous for is being the location of the last original temperance bar in Britain. This area was a stronghold of the temperance movement which advocated abstinence from alcohol, the demon drink! Later, when I was telling my Mum about our day out, I discovered that one of my relatives used to have a temperance bar in the '50s. It's safe to say none of us practice abstinence these days!

We did stay and sample some of the sarsaparilla. Drinkable but with a distinctive taste. Chickpea's boyfriend said it reminded him of the smell you get in the dentist's surgery! Yep, can't see many of you being tempted with that image in your head!

Last up was The Whitaker, which houses the local museum and art gallery. Downstairs are displays of stuffed birds and animals, pottery and a room laid out in Victorian style. Upstairs are local pottery and memorabilia and objects collected by the family who once lived here.

The costumes and sewing related items were naturally my favourites. The crochet hook is the one with the yellow handle and it has the smallest hook I've ever seen - it must have been used for very fine lace work.

We finished our day sat on a bench in the grounds, admiring the cherry blossom and the views of the hills. There were a couple of sights we didn't get to and there's another cluster of the Irwell sculptures not far away so it's safe to say we'll be back. x


  1. What wonderful photos - the gates in Rawtenstall are amazing. We don't live far from the atom panopticon at Wycollar and remember it when it still had it's reflective steel ball in the middle. It is a shame it is no longer there.

  2. What wonderful trails and displays - we have nothing like that here in NW Washington state. We were talking about that the other day - it is sad that we don't see the interest in preserving things and making gardens and displays. Once something commercial is torn down it is always replaced with condos and apartments - always. Such a shame.

  3. It's good when you can combine an art or history trail with beautiful countryside. I've enjoyed seeing where you went and the fascinating features. I like the stop at the temperance bar, which we think of as quirky now, but would have been one of many in certain communities at one time. The museum looks like an interesting place to visit. Have a good week!

  4. This looks a wonderful walk with so much to see... I would enjoy this trail and all the things you have discovered.
    Amanda xx

  5. I love seeing your blog posts as I am in Lancashire too. You always discover unusual and interesting places to visit. I actually really want to visit the Temperance bar in Rawtenstall. My fave cordial is the Rosehip and Rhubarb. I am addicted! x

  6. I'd like to see the Halo at night too. I'd have liked looking at all the old sewing bits and pieces xx

  7. I'd love to see the Halo at night! The panopticans in Lancashire are my 'to visit' list, but I never get around to it! I quite fancy seeing those other sculptures day! I don't think I've ever been to Rawtenstall but it looks an interesting place.