For some reason, around five years ago, I accidentally started photographing all of the blue plaques in Leeds.
I remember having my interest ignited after spotting my first bright blue disc against the red walls of the Quebec Hotel in the city centre. It marked the building's original use as the Leeds and County Liberal Club. Once I'd captured a few, my slight tendency towards obsession informed me that I had no option but to complete the task I had unwittingly started.
I was of course aware of the concept of the blue plaque scheme, but previously had no idea that there were so many in Leeds. A little research quickly found more than sixty-five, and over the years this has increased to a little short of one hundred and fifty official Leeds Civic Trust, Wetherby Civic Society and Ilkley Civic Society blue plaques, plus a handful of others that fit the bill of being plaques that are blue. Or black. Or even red; to be honest, so long as they mark a building, person or even an event, they are round and they have an LS postcode, they are in my collection.
Or at least they are added to my list; a few are currently inaccessible. A mop-up trip was long overdue, and a week off work afforded the ideal opportunity to get out and bag some of the plaques missing from my collection.
A route was identified to allow me to get about town using only a FirstBus DayRider ticket (Gemma was at work so I was without the car). And in fact most of the day went to plan. Here are the results:
A walk into town the previous weekend allowed me to snap the new plaque at the Irish Centre, so my trip started on a bus. I hopped off at the BBC Studios at St Peter's Square, then headed to Commercial Street before going down to Holy Trinity Church. That was the first disappointment of the day - it was closed (as it had been on Sunday)*.
Never mind; onwards to Park Square. But where was the plaque? Upon checking my itinerary I realised that I'd made an inexplicable mistake - the Odd Fellows plaque was in fact in Queen's Square. What a fool! Never mind; I was able to quickly plan to swing by the correct location later in the day.
I boarded a bus to Pepper Road in Hunslet to pick up the accessible-daytime-only Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Company plaque, which is tucked away down an industrial side-street that I've had a look down before. But the plaque is further hidden by being behind some big gates that are normally locked on an evening and at weekends.
A possible lengthy detour on foot to the John Charles Sports Centre (buses go there in the evenings only) was avoided by a trip there in my car earlier in the week. Instead, my iPhone told me my bus to Bramley would arrive in two minutes. I thought if funny, then, when it immediately appeared. Only when I had boarded did I twig that this was the 86, not the 85. But a quick check of the WY Metro area map reassured me that in fact this service might even be quicker as it avoided the city centre.
At Bramley, I took my picture and straight away caught my connection towards Headingley. But as we pulled out of the bus station, I happened to glance to my left. I was shocked to see a blue plaque that had totally kept itself under my radar. What to do? Could I come back in my car one evening. I thought it a shame to have to do so given I was so close now. Back to the iPhone; the Next Bus app told me that I could meet with the bus back to Bramley at Kirkstall. So I did.
Back on the next 91, I had only lost half-an-hour. I had a little trouble finding the William Astbury plaque in Headingley, but that was again my fault for writing down the wrong house number. Then I walked to my location in Burley before having my longest wait for a bus - frustratingly this was for the 56, which supposedly has an eight-minute frequency.
I alighted at the old BBC Studios on Woodhouse Lane, where there were two plaques to be had, before picking up the Queen's Square plaque I missed in the morning. Finally, a quick journey to Roundhay Park to snap the blue plaque on The Mansion, before heading home.
Phew, what a long but successful day.
*Update - since drafting this post I chanced upon Holy Trinity Church being open, and seized the opportunity.
Browsing the Internet on my mobile telephone one evening, my eyes stopped on the following passage on the Wikipedia entry for Castleton:
Castleton used to be on the A625 road from Sheffield to Chapel-en-le-Frith, on the way to Manchester. Leaving Castleton, the western road used to go over Mam Tor, but after continual collapses and repairs (Mam Tor is called the 'Shivering Mountain' because of its very loose shales) it was eventually abandoned.
Did someone mention an abandoned road?
The above map shows the area around Castleton as is was nearly half a century ago, as recorded in the ever-fascinating AA Book of the Road 1966 edition. You can clearly see that the main road through Castleton is called the A625. The route from Sheffield, through Hathersage, continues to Chapel-en-le-Frith.
But what's this? The current map as depicted by Multimap shows no sign of the A625. Instead, the route through Castleton is labelled the A6187, and takes a different route to the west of the village. Look, no kink!
The explanation is that kink, or rather, the ground upon which it lay. The original 19th Century route from Castleton to the west threaded though Winnats Pass, a difficult mile long 1 in 5 climb between two pillars of rock. In 1847 the Manchester & Sheffield Turnpike Company decided to bypass this route, and built a more gentle road up the western slopes of nearby Mam Tor.
I don't know if the 1,700ft peak was known as the Shivering Mountain in 1847, but if t was the Manchester & Sheffield Turnpike Company missed a vital clue as to the certain failure of their project. The above southerly view shows a shady scar, known as the Mam Tor Landslide. This is essentially a 4,000 year old landslip, which when last measured ten years ago was found to be still moving at an average annual rate of 25cm.
The instability of the ground, plus the increasing amount of traffic (especially heavy lorries from the mid-20th century) resulted in major repairs being required in 1912, 1933, 1946, 1952, and 1966. In 1974 and 1977 major landslides put the road out of action for many weeks at a time; after the latter event some sections were reduced to single carriageway.
But keeping the road open was always going to be a Sisyphean task, and Derbyshire County Council recognised they were fighting losing battle in 1979. Interestingly, they chose to simply abandon the road that crossed the landslip area (just half a mile or so of tarmac) from the hairpin bend just beyond the disused Odin Lead Mine to Blue John Cavern at the top of the hill. The road was re-numbered in the year 2000; the new A625 turns south-west just before Hathersage, and joins the A623 beyond Froggatt.
The map above is the most recent Ordnance Survey map of the area. Compare this to an Ordnance Survey from around 1930 (below), and one from 1899 (double below).
And now I suppose you might like to see some pictures? Well, seeing as you've been good enough to read this far...
Gemma and me at the bus turning circle, near Blue John Cavern. This is the end (or start) of the road at the top of Mam Tor. It was a little windy.
I walked about two-thirds of the way down the road. Here is the view of the hairpin bend, just before a major section of missing road. I was amazed at how in places, the road just wasn't there; the asphalt and foundations had simple crumbled into tiny pieces and dribbled down the hill.
From the same spot, looking uphill. Note the massive steps in the road, which here is slipping down towards the bottom-left of the picture.
A little further up the hill, looking down towards Mam Farm. See how the Chapel-bound carriageway has dropped around four feet, and has then been swaddled in ballast washed out from under the Castleton-bound lane.
Below are a trio of views towards Castleton. You might just be able to make out the out-of-place cement works in the first two.
Here's my beautiful girlfriend sat on the above 'step'.
Next, a downhill view from the same step (check out the white lines still in evidence), and then a close-up of the large crack.
The same step, again from below, models unknown. Even cyclists are forced to dismount at this point.
Finally, look at this hole. JUST LOOK AT IT!
I thought that we'd have the place to ourselves, but there were plenty off people walking and cycling on this thirty-one year old tarmac corpse. I wonder what it will be like in another thirty-one years, and how long nature will take to erase any trace of the old A625. I don't feel like the Shivering Mountain is under any obligation to rush.
We would have been packing up and driving back today. I still can't believe how crummy the weather has been (and that we picked this week to go camping). Even leaving aside the storm, I don't think that there has been a fully dry day in North-West Wales in the last seven days.
There's quite a lot to see and do in the top left hand corner of the country. We were all looking forward to the following points on the tourist trail:
As well as not getting to go to any of the above, we did not get the chance to use any of the new camping equipment we purchased in the weeks before the holiday. Specifically, we tried and failed to get our windbreak to stand against the wind (surely its sole purpose), and the built but did not use the twin-hob / grill combo stove.
We popped over to the Davies' on Sunday. I drove Andrew and four bags of rubbish to the tip, and we had a lovely sandwich. Then we went into town for coffee and cake. We took a diversionary route, a semi-industrial arc round from the south-west to the east. And I took some pictures. Here are some of them.
On Saturday we went over to Andrew and Michelle's house in Wakefield for a pre-Xmas get-together. Dean and Rachel came over for the afternoon with their two children Nathanial and Isabella.
Although I bumped into the latter coupling in the week when I met up with Gemma at the German Market for lunch in the beer tent, it was good to have longer than then an hour to catch up with them. It felt like I hadn't seen our hosts for ages, but really it's only been a few weeks.
One of the items on the agenda was a walk in nearby Thornes Park. Eventually, as it was getting dark, we decided to go for it and donned our warm coats and hats. Olive used the great outdoors to try out both her ever improving walking skills and her new shoes. Since taking the following footage, Gemma has thankfully removed the squeakers from each shoe.
I also managed to take a few pictures before the camera battery died. Although technically poor, I really like the below shot of Olive pottering along. Definite album-cover material.
After the walk, the Viponds headed back to Bradford whilst we got fish and chips and settled down to watch the 2009 Comedy Awards.
What to do on a damp day off? Something undercover. And it crossed my mind that you can't get more undercover than heading underground.
My mum and dad came to visit this weekend. On Saturday it rained all day, and so I plumped for the National Coal Mining Museum, which is nearish to Wakefield and operates a free-entry policy (as do so many museums in Yorkshire, to their credit)
The museum is on the site of the old Caphouse Colliery, which closed around the time to the 1984-5 miners strike (although in fact the coal seam had been exhausted, so closure was inevitable). A mine was first sunk here in 1789, so it didn't quite make it to it's 200th birthday.
After the mine closed, the miners were transferred to nearby Denby Grange Colliery, and work started to convert the site into a mining museum. 'National' status was granted in 1995.
I am pleased to report that we all had a pleasant time.
Various buildings on the site have been restored (such as the pit head baths, above) and the visitor is left free to wander them. But the highlight of the museum is the underground tour. In return for donning a hard-hat and surrendering contraband (matches and lighters, and objects with batteries such as watches, phones and cameras - the reason being that no sources of ignition are desirable underground) you get to squeeze into a small cage that is lowered 450ft into the earth.
The underground tour is conducted by ex-miners, which is an excellent idea. Who better to tell us civilians about working life at the coal face? Our guide was a tough-looking chap with a strong Barnsley accent and an ever-so-slightly camp manner called John (though his hard-hat stated his name was Griff). He was knowledgeable and humourous, and entertained and informed us as we travelled the story of coal mining from the late 18th century to the present day.
I enjoyed learning new things, such as how exactly they get the coal out of the ground (methods only really became modern and efficient in the last fifty years), and words or phrases that have infiltrated the English language.
Shut your trap - no, not you; this saying comes from the essential role of children who worked down mines from single-figure ages. Their job was to open the traps (doors which directed airflow so as to ensure workers further along the tunnel network didn't suffocate.
Doing a stint - during the days of manpower over machinery, men were assigned a ten yard section of recently blasted coal-face and were required to shovel the coal in their area onto the belt, which would take it on to the surface. The ten yards, measured out by a yard stick, was called a 'stint'.
Don't worry, the above picture wasn't taken underground. Four two-day-old piglets would seem a little out of place there. On Sunday, the weather turned pleasant and so we went for a walk to Temple Newsam. We parked up on Bullerthorpe Lane and walked the mile or so along The Avenue, the original approach to the estate. At first you can clearly see the house in the distance, but about halfway along the road dips into a valley and turns right in some woods, before spitting you out near the lakes below the house.
The grounds we free of the snow and ice that gripped the estate the last time we came here for a walk, and the large field in front of the house bore the scars of last weekend's music festivals. After a refreshing bottle of pop, we paid into Home Farm, the traditional source of meat for the estate. Here, we saw numerous Sows feeding their newborns, and I learned that baby pigeons can be eaten on Fridays as they are not classed as meat. We walked back to the cars via the walled garden and the folly, and headed home for a well-earned cup of tea.
Here are some images taken on a Levada walk in the foothills on the East of the island of Madeira, where we spent a week in June.
This is the last holiday picture post for Madeira. Thank you for your patience. All of these pictures can be found on my Flickr pages.
To Castle Howard for a 5¼-mile Sunday walk arount it's peripheries, as prescribed in Gemma's new book '1001 Family Walks' by the AA (of all people). Walking colleagues for today were Josie and Sarah, friends of Gemma from her A&E days. Thinking (correctly) that the route would present difficulties for a perambulator, we borrowed a baby backpack and installed Olive within. She seemed to really enjoy her new-found height.
The route was quite damp and muddy after some heavy overnight rain, and we were glad to reach what we deemed to be the half-way point, where we stopped at the side of a metaled road beside a field of corn and poppies, and ate a splendid lunch of sandwiches, eggs and fruit.
The final part of the walk afforded us views of some of the eccentric, oversized and out-of-place follies built on the Castle Howard estate, including the Mausoleum, the New River Bridge, the Temple of the Four Winds, and the Pyramid. We then slightly nervously traversed a field full of cows (and a bull, unseen), before Olive fell asleep on the final stretch. We then went to the cafe at Castle Howard for a refreshing cuppa.
Phew, what a busy last few days I have had. Almost too busy actually. Last Wednesday, we babysat Scarlett and had Andrew, Michelle and Deb stop over; they went to see NOFX playing in town. We went on another short break, and I celebrated my birthday over the bank holiday weekend. It's the break I'll be typing about now.
You'll recall that we went on a Sun holiday to Blackpool recently. Well, my mum and dad also take Sun holidays, and had booked a caravan last week at Barmston Beach, a few miles south of Bridlington on the North Yorkshire (East Riding) coast. They kindly invited us over on Thursday and we stopped the night.
Their caravan was certainly more plush that the one we had; it featured central heating, a microwave, and a much more spacious bathroom and shower. The site itself was small and secluded, situated at the end of the road that runs through Barmston village. Literally, for the road crumbles over the cliff and onto the sandy beach below. Here, the unstoppable and swift erosion of the east coast is evident. Any Romans taking a Sun holiday would have found themselves two-and-a-half miles from the sea.
The site is a small one, and after a long walk on the deserted beach, we retired for the evening to converse. The following day we drove up to Filey (location of another of the numerous caravan parks in this part of the world, at which Gemma spent much of her childhood holiday time). We parked up and strolled, passed the chalk-white apartments and guest houses of the Royal Crescent, into town. There, we called in to a tea shop, before taking a polite look at the three streets that make up the shopping district. I actually like the size of Filey's town centre, and appreciate the fact that most of the shops and attractions are family-owned independents. There is certainly a refreshing lack of amusement arcades.
We then deemed that enough time had elapsed since tea and cake to have some fish and chips, after which we drove back to Leeds (where the weather had been overcast at best; out on the east coast seemed to be the place to be for the best weather towards the end of last week).