Montserrat

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One final post (this really is the last) about our summer trip to Spain.

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We’d bought Montserrat tickets which included our underground travel to and from the mainline station, a return train journey, cable car rides, two funicular trains and entrance to a small audio-visual museum. (A luxurious novelty to experience an integrated transport system). All this to get us to the spectacular…

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Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey.

Apparently the Monastery was founded in the 10th Century, although many of the current buildings are deceptively modern.

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The Basilica…

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..outside, and…

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…in.

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The Basilica houses a famous Black Madonna, la Moreneta ‘the little dark one’, but there was a very long queue to visit her in her position at the back of the Basilica, and we were keen to explore further afield.

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We visited the audio-visual museum, where we watched a couple of short films: it seemed mainly to be an advert for the choral school which is based here. We could have bought a more expensive ticket which would have included lunch and entrance to another museum, but we were happy with our usual packed lunches and in the end didn’t really have time to fit in the other museum anyway.

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I was very struck by this statue. The face, despite appearances to the contrary, is concave rather than convex – a sort of three dimensional negative image.

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The situation of the monastery is amazing, nestling amongst the crags of Montserrat (serrated mountain). Incidentally – if you were thinking that Montserrat is an island in the Caribbean, then you were right – it was named, by Columbus, in honour of the Monastery and la Moreneta.

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What looks like a waterfall in the back of the photo above is actually one of the two funicular railways at Montserrat.

This…

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…is a view from near the station at the top of the line.

Several paths leave the station, including one to Sant Jeroni, the highest point on the mountain.

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We opted for a shorter route which wound its way around the hillside and back to the monastery.

We were entertained on our walk by grasshoppers, lizards and butterflies.

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I’ve seen grasshoppers like these before in France. Although ostensibly brown, when they leap they open their wings to briefly reveal a startlingly flash of aquamarine.

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The views were extensive.

And there were rocky knolls just off the wide track to tempt intrepid explorers…

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A wayside chapel.

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This is the other funicular…

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It descends below the monastery. Only one path leads away from the lower station, skirting around the base of impressive crags.

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The Cable Car!

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Past numerous religious sculptures.

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To another tiny chapel perched on the hillside.

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From there we had to rush somewhat in order to catch the funicular back to the monastery, then the cable car and our train back to Barcelona. We’d packed a lot in without by any means managing to see everything –  the ‘other museum’, for instance, is reputedly stuffed with art treasures and is almost certainly worth a look. And I’m sure the long round trip to Sant Jeroni would be spectacular (it’s apparently something of a right of passage for the youth of Catalonia to climb it at night). Next time!

Montserrat

Barcelona -Sagrada Familia

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You can’t really visit Barcelona without taking a look at the Sagrada Familia.

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It’s another place which TBH and I have visited together before, on our previous flying visit to Barcelona. We certainly didn’t book in advance then, and I don’t think we had to pay either, but these days both are necessary and it’s quite expensive. We’d saved a little by booking an early evening slot for our visit.

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Anyway, it was well worth it – it’s an amazing building. I’m sure my photos don’t come close to doing it justice.

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It’s also a work in progress. I would love to come back when it’s finished (current projection is 2026).

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Serial masochists (i.e. regular readers) will know that I like visiting churches and cathedrals, and that when I’m there I’m particularly fond of stained glass windows.

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The multi-coloured windows of the Sagrada Familia, and the amazing way they lit the space, were the highlight for me.

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I’m not sure if you can get a sense of it from these pictures but it was stunning.

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A magic square! I haven’t made good on my resolve to use it in a lesson yet. I wonder what the significance of the total 33 is – unless it’s the obvious one? I presume that the figures here are Jesus and Judas.

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If you are making a visit, it’s worth factoring in some time to take a look at the small museum within the Basilica which holds many of the scale models, some of them pretty big,  which Gaudi used when he was working on his designs for the building.

Barcelona -Sagrada Familia

Barcelona – Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia

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One final stop for the day, a look-see in the Cathedral, now that the party were all appropriately attired.

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The interior of the Cathedral was most impressive – my photos don’t really do it justice – but better yet: for a reasonable fee (I think it was 3 Euros each) you can take a lift up to the roof.

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For some views out over the city.

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Looking back to Montjuic.

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A curious bell-tower.

Barcelona – Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia

The Three Amigos Ride Again

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It’s quite a long time since CJ, X-Ray and I have been out for a stroll together. Back in 2010 it seems, although we started a walk together in January 2011, but X-Ray turned back for the comforts of the tea-shop. It was very satisfying then, that the team were back together at the end of last week. Here we are – I’m represented by my rucksack – on the summit of Whitbarrow. We’d parked near Witherslack Hall and took the relatively steep ascent from there.

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Kent Estuary and Arnside Knott from Whitbarrow.

The walk southwards along the plateau is delightfully easy walking and the Kent Estuary and the small hills of home loom larger in the view as the distance closes.

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Field Scabious (I think).

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As we dropped down through the trees towards the village we came across this mystery…

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Something hanging in netting from a tree. Artwork?

We passed through the village of Beck Head and visited the Hikers’ Rest Self Service Cafe which I first came across on a family walk just after Christmas.

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CJ, who wasn’t carrying a rucksack, bought himself a bottle of water. The cafe is well-stocked with reading material. Here X-Ray is reading a randomly selected sentence from The Complete Sherlock Holmes. From that clue, CJ correctly identified the story as The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk. Quite a party trick.

We strung some paths and lanes together, across the Winster valley, to reach the Derby Arms for lunch. The beer was good, the sun continued to shine (rather contrary to the forecast) and the food, particularly the Thai Chicken Broth, was vey palatable.

At that point CJ had to speed back to the cars, needing to make an assignation at Oxenholme Station prior to a planned wild-camp at Sprinkling Tarn, so took the direct route via the road. X-Ray and I took a slightly more circuitous route.

First stop was Latterbarrow, where the wildflowers were stunning (I can’t think why I didn’t take any photos)

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Meadow Browns.

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A pleasant walk through woods brought us to Witherslack Church, also known as Barwick’s Church…

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There’s a little more about this church in this post about my first visit back in 2010 with B.

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We sat in the churchyard for a while and I watched this Red-Tailled Bumblebee’s progress around the flowerbeds.

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One final short, steep climb over Yewbarrow and a steady descent brought us back to the car. We still had one final treat in store however: a fox cub strayed on to the road as we drove back down the valley.

A very fine walk; hopefully our next outing will come around less than six years from now.

The Three Amigos Ride Again

Silverdale to Keswick I: To Kendal

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With Lancashire playing silly b*****s with the Easter Holidays this year, the boys have a completely different fortnight off to the rest of the family. A and I decided to make a virtue of necessity and head off on our own little holiday jaunt: a walk from Silverdale to Keswick. Here she is setting off, on the Tuesday after Easter Monday, fully garbed in waterproofs since the sky was a monotone grey and a light rain was falling.

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We walked past Challan Hall…

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…and Hawes Water, diverting ever so slightly to check whether the toothwort which appears here every year was flowering…

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It was…

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From there we continued alongside Silverdale Moss…

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I can’t recall having seen it so flooded before, though I suspect that had we visited midwinter, the meres would have been even more extensive. A couple of spots of brilliant white in amongst the reeds were Little Egrets, whilst a Heron flapped away in that laconic, slow-motion fashion that they have.

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The bridge over Leighton Beck. A did all of the map-reading on this first day and some of it thereafter.

We passed Hazelslack Farm with it’s Peel Tower and then began the ascent of Beetham Fell. This old coffin route finds a fault in a line of crags…

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…which leads to a bit of a viewpoint…

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…and hey-presto, the clouds have broken, there’s some blue sky at last, it’s stopped raining and there’s an odd moment of sunshine.

The Fairy Steps…

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…brought us to the top of the Fell and an improved vista…

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…of Arnside Knott, the Kent Estuary and Hampsfell.

Dropping down the far side of the hill we encountered our first clumps of daffodils, which would become something of a feature of the walk.

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Another feature of the walk were the frequent stops for both of us to take photos.

Close to the boundary of the woods there’s a ruined building with a huge patch of snowdrops below it. Sadly, they’d finished flowering, but I’ve made a mental note to come back and take another look next February.

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By the time we’d reached Beetham, it was spitting with rain again.

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Beetham.

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St. Michael and All Angels.

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In addition to stopping to take lots of photographs of flowers, birds, butterflies, leaves etc whilst I’m walking, I also like to take a proper look around any interesting places I pass. There was a tension here though between exploring thoroughly and reaching our night’s lodgings, so we didn’t look into the church. It’s well worth a look however. Photos of the interior here, from a previous visit.

The optimism about the weather which I’d felt on Beetham Fell had been a little premature it seemed, and as we walked through Dallam Deer Park the heavens really opened.

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Most of the Fallow Deer were sheltering under the trees looking slightly forlorn, although some were still out in the open…

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As we dropped down the hill past Dallam Hall and towards the River Bela…

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…one decision seemed to have been made for us. We’d been debating where to buy lunch, but although it was still quite early our minds were being made up for us by the inclement weather. Booth’s in Milnthorpe had become the new favourite in the bidding.

“Even if we don’t get lunch from Booth’s, can we just go in and browse?”, was A’s opinion on the matter.

In fact, when we’d bought a bit of lunch, the rain had stopped again and the sun was shining. We found a bench in the car park, spread some gear out to dry and tucked in. A fine time, as we sat mud-spattered and bedraggled, for a friend from the village to roll up in her car, wind down the window and inquire what we were up to.

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The path out of Milnthorpe took us up a slight hill and that modest elevation gave fine views of the Kent Estuary…

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…Whitbarrow Scar, and Heversham Head…

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The next part of the route had been a bit ticklish to plan. We needed to get to Levens Bridge: the Cumbria Coastal way would do that, via a series of minor lanes; we could climb Heversham Head, but the paths we would use zig-zag furiously; we opted for the most direct route, involving some walking along the main A6, but mostly on a parallel road which runs through the villages of Heversham and Leasgill.

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St. Peter’s, Heversham.

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With another daffodil decorated cross.

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The pump, from 1900, at St. Mary’s Well, which according to the sign on the wall behind, supplied the village with water for around 1000 years.

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Whitbarrow Scar.

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Leasgill.

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Leven’s Hall and its famous topiary.

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From Levens Bridge we would follow the River Kent upstream to Kendal.

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The Bagot Fallow Deer in Levens Deer Park.

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Initially, we could choose which bank of the river to follow and unfortunately we chose the West bank, still a source of much recrimination since…

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…a crucial bridge was closed, forcing us to retrace our steps back to a road bridge and then follow the East bank after all.

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All the way along the river we were to see plastic bags, traffic barriers, bundles of twigs and various other detritus in the branches of riverbank trees far above our heads. It was very sobering to see just how high the river-level had reached in last November’s floods.

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Happily we also saw goosander on the river and grey wagtails bobbing about on its margins.

Hawes bridge was also still closed…

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The river eventually brought us to…

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Where we were staying in the Hostel, formerly YHA, now independent, and highly recommended. I’d booked a two-bed room, but we were upgraded to a bigger, en-suite room, the only disadvantage being that it was on the third floor . The shower was very hot and very powerful and very welcome. We just had time to grab a meal in the Brewery Arts Centre (handily close by the hostel) before settling in to watch ‘Batman versus Superman’, about which the least said the better. (Oh alright, if I must, my detailed review: it was rubbish, but I managed to sleep through quite a bit of it, so not all bad).

By popular demand (well Alan and Andy): maps.

Silverdale to Milnthorpe:

Silverdale to Milnthorpe

Milnthorpe to Hawes Bridge:

Milnthorpe to Hawes Bridge

Hawes Bridge to Kendal:

Hawes Bridge to Kendal

 

 

Silverdale to Keswick I: To Kendal

Heysham Coast

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And then…I’m way behind again. This little ramble seems so long ago now. The kids were trampolining, I was at a loose end, but the weather looked promising and the sun was shining on St. Peter’s. (I still haven’t been inside, there seemed to be a wedding on.)

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Sadly, the weather rapidly deteriorated, but the Heysham Coast is perfect for a short invigorating stroll.

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Although the views are somewhat marred…

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…by the proximity of the nuclear power station and the ferry port.

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(I can’t seem to do level horizons any more. I wonder…do I stand at a crazy angle without even realising?)

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Later the boys and I were out again for another brief wander near home. Lambert’s meadow…

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…was back to being a meadow, after weeks spent submerged.

Easter holidays started today, hence some time for me to catch up. After weeks spent submerged.

Heysham Coast

A Promenade to Heysham

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Left a child at a birthday party in the West End of Morecambe, two hours until pick-up, hardly worth driving home, but just about time for a stroll along the promenade to the headland at Heysham, an old favourite walk from many years ago when I lived in Morecambe and, since I relied on public transport to get about, often tried to find walks to do straight from my own front door.

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You can tell that this was a while ago: back in September it was, before the deluge started, and it was still possible for the sun to shine.

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I didn’t really have time to explore properly at Heysham – for instance I’ve never been into the ancient church of St. Peter’s, something I must remedy next time I am ferrying children to this vicinity.

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Hard by St. Peter’s is the ruin of St. Patrick’s, which is also extremely old and atmospheric.

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Quite hard to find a great deal on the internet about St. Patrick’s. This sign from the site itself…

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…is at least as informative as anything I could find elsewhere.

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The rock cut graves are very small. Understandably perhaps, given the effort which must have been involved, but I remember reading, in Lacey and Danziger’s excellent ‘The Year 1000’ that the Saxon, Viking and later Norman people who lived in England around when it’s thought that these were sculpted, were generally well-fed, tall and long limbed.

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Sadly, I didn’t have time to linger, but the walk back was lovely, with large mixed flocks of seabirds on the shore providing distractions along the way.

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Another option for my next taxi–outing to Morecambe would be take TBH for Afternoon Tea in the sun lounge of the Midland Hotel.

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I might feel justified then in aiming my camera at the restored Art Deco interior and in particular the Eric Gill sculptures there…coming (soon?) to a blog near you…

Links:

Reviews of ‘The Year 1000’ on goodreads

A History of the Midland Hotel

A Review of David Constantine’s award-winning short-story ‘Tea at the Midland’

National Trust page about St. Patrick’s

A Promenade to Heysham