Warrington – Saturday 17th September 2022

Warrington in Cheshire stands close to the River Mersey, and one of its claims to fame is that it was the first place in the UK to have an Ikea store!  Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who, as Lewis Carroll, wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass, was born nearby and the town is rightly proud of its association.  In Old Market Place there is a large sculpture of the Mad Hatters’ Tea Party by sculptor Edwin Russell, and the Waterstones, which is housed in a modern shopping centre has an Alice in Wonderland mural.

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Old Fish Market

The old Fish Market was restored and moved to a new home in Old Market Place where it is used for various performances, and has a huge screen which shows sporting events. On the day we visited a choir performance was taking place.

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Belfast – Tuesday 13th September 2022

We had a few days in Belfast, going across from Cairnryan in Scotland as foot passengers on the ferry.  Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, and neither of us had been before so were looking forward to exploring.  We LOVED it – the people are so friendly and there is loads to do, but as we only had three nights we just scratched the surface.   We took advantage of a reasonably priced day-ticket and used the buses a lot to get round.  The Waterstones is located on Fountain Street, which is one of the main shopping streets in the city, and which underwent restoration in 2019.  We definitely want to go back to Belfast as there is so much more to see.

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Belfast

Titanic Belfast

The Titanic Belfast is situated on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard which built the ship.  It opened in March 2012, a few weeks before the centenary of the sinking of RMS Titanic, which killed more than 1500 people.  The museum includes many interactive exhibits and even a ride! It really is an excellent museum and we spent ages here, reading the history and soaking in the atmosphere.  After leaving we popped over to the Titanic Hotel for a drink, in the bar, which is in the drawing offices of the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff.

The Titanic Hotel and Drawing Room Bar

Shanklin Road, Falls Road and The Peace Wall

As Queen Elizabeth II had died shortly before our visit, we decided to head to the Shanklin Road to look at a mural painted for her platinum jubilee.  The site was covered with flowers left by people wishing to pay their respects.  From there we walked to the Peace Wall in Cupar Way. This is one of the many Peace Walls (also called Peace Lines) to exist in the city, which were built to segregate areas during The Troubles.  These are due to be removed by 2023.  From here we walked to the Falls Road to look at the Bobby Sands mural.  There are several museums to The Troubles, looking at it from both sides, which we didn’t have time to visit, but would like to on a future trip.

Belfast City Hall

This is another place we wanted to visit, as normally the building is open for people to explore, but due to the Queen’s death the tours were suspended.  We were able to go to the café, so we did see to get a little of this beautiful building, which took eight years to complete and opened in 1906. The stained-glass windows we saw are gorgeous (there are many listed on the Belfast City Government website, but obviously we didn’t get to see them all).  The one included below is located in the north east corridor, and shows the Famine, but actually commemorates the people who died due to Typhus and Cholera between 1846 and 1848.

Inside

Outside

C S Lewis Square

Author C S Lewis, probably best known for the Narnia series of books, was born in Belfast in 1898, and there is a square dedicated to him in East Belfast. The photos below of sculptures by Irish artist Maurice Harron are, clockwise from top left are Aslan, Mr and Mrs Beaver, Maugrim, The White Witch and Mr Tumnus.

Below, clockwise from top left: 1. and 2. The Dark Horse and their mural courtyard. 3. Harland & Wolff’s cranes ‘Samson’ and ‘Goliath’. 4. and 5. St George’s Market.

Currently reading:  The Infirmary by L J Ross

London Kensington High Street – Tuesday 6th September 2022

I met my good friend Helen in London for the day and, as we usually do, we spent the day walking and talking!  We walked through St James’s Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (stopping for coffee on the way!) finishing in Kensington High Street.  The Waterstones is only a minute away from Kensington High Street tube station, and the building that houses it is (if you look up) a rather attractive red-bricked building called Hornton Court, which was built in the 1920s. 

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Below, clockwise from top left: 1. Buckingham Palace from Green Park. 2. The London Eye from Green Park. 3. The Blue Bridge, Green Park .  4. Buckingham Palace. 5. Household Cavalry Mounted Division (possibly the Blues & Royals) in The Mall.

Currently reading:  Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Macclesfield – Friday 8th July 2022

Macclesfield is a small and hilly market town in Cheshire. Once famous for its silk production, there is a museum to the silk trade in the town centre which charts the rise and fall of the industry.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit, which is a shame as it looks very interesting.  We stopped for a quick late bite to eat before heading off to Shropshire where we were staying that night.  The Waterstones is in a modern building in the main shopping area at the top of the town.

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Macclesfield map

The photos below are (clockwise from top left): 1. Looking down Church Street. 2. Macclesfield Town Hall. 3. Chapel Mill (built as a chapel in 1880 and converted to a mill in 1946 – now an interior solutions business).  4. St Michael’s Church, viewed from Church Street*

After leaving Macclesfield we drove through Congleton, where I spotted a statue of a dog from the car, so we pulled up to take a look.  It’s of Treo, who served in Afghanistan. She ended her days in the town with her former handler when the pair left the army – she was awarded the Dickins Medal – the animal equivalent to the Victoria Cross.  Although not Macclesfield, I thought I’d share it anyway.

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Currently reading:  The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

*The photograph looking towards St Michael’s church was taken by Daniel Case and is used with permission under the GNU Free Documentation License – click here to see original image.

Reigate – Sunday 19th June 2022

We stopped for an early lunch in Reigate as we headed home from a trip to Kent.  Reigate is an historic market town in Surrey with the main shopping area centred on two roads, running at right angles with each other, and featuring plenty of independent shops, as well as the larger chains you’d expect in a busy town.   The Waterstones is in a Grade II listed building dating from the early 1800s, which was originally just a dwelling.  Before Waterstones took the building over, it was run as a Draper’s shop by the Knight family, opening in 1885 until the shop closed in 2017.

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Reigate map

Reigate Castle Grounds

The castle in Reigate fell into disrepair and was eventually demolished in 1648.  The site is now a park.  In 1777, a folly – a mock gateway – was built on the location of the old castle buildings.  The inscription on the folly, which is in English on one side, and Latin on the other, reads “To save the memory of William Earl Warren who in old days dwelt here, and was a loyal champion of our liberties from perishing like his own castle by the ravages of time, Richard Barnes at his own expense erected this gateway in the year 1777.”

The Old Town Hall (now a Caffè Nero Coffee shop)

Currently reading:  A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon and Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson

Weybridge – Monday 18th April 2022

Weybridge is a pretty town in Surrey, that takes its name from the River Wey, a tributary of the River Thames.  There has been a bridge crossing the river here since the first Elizabethan Era.  Weybridge professes to have been the first town in Britain to have electric street lighting, although Googling suggests that Newcastle and Godalming also make this claim!  We visited here briefly just to pop into Waterstones, which here is called The Weybridge Bookshop to fit the aesthetic of the town.   

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Weybridge map

Brooklands Museum

Near to Weybridge is Brooklands – the first purpose-built race track – which is considered to be the birthplace of British motorsport and opened in 1907.   The site is now a large motor and aviation museum which opened in 1991.  The museum’s mission is “To preserve and interpret the heritage of Brooklands, to use that heritage to inspire and educate and to provide a sustainable world-class visitor attraction accessible to all.”, and having visited I would say they fulfil this brief really well!  We paid extra to visit the Concorde Exhibition (currently £6) which was very interesting.  The museum is also the site of the London Bus Museum, for which entry is included with the Brooklands’ Museum ticket, and is also worth fitting in.  We spent 4.5 hours at the museum, but could easily have spent longer.

Walton-on-Thames – Monday 18th April 2022

It was time to leave Ealing and head home.  Before leaving I decided to go for a walk up to see the Hoover Building, as it was such a lovely morning.  The Hoover Building opened in 1933 and is Art Deco in style.  I’ve seen it from the car many times, so thought I’d go and take a proper look.  It’s a gorgeous building, which has now been developed into luxury apartments – the smaller building, which was also part of Hoover, is now an Indian restaurant.  After my walk we headed towards home, stopping on the way at Walton-on-Thames, which is a market town in Surrey close to the Thames.  We didn’t have time to explore – we had a bite to eat, and visited Waterstones which is in a modern shopping centre.  With its pale shelving and high ceilings, it has a nice light and airy feeling.

Walton-on-Thames map

The Hoover Building

St Mary’s, Perivale

St Mary’s is a redundant 13th Century church, now used as an arts’ centre.

London Putney – Saturday 16th April 2022

After Wandsworth we walked down to the River Thames and then to Putney to visit the Waterstones, which is located in a modern shopping centre.  After that we walked to Barnes for lunch, which is a pretty part of London with a village feel.  From there we hopped on a bus, hoping to see the Taskmaster House (from the Dave/Channel 4 comedy panel show), but sadly it was blocked off, so we could only glimpse a bit of it!

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Putney map

The sculpture pictured below, located in Wandsworth Park next to the Thames, is called Pygmalion by sculptor Alan Thornhill and was installed in 2008.  Apparently it’s one of nine sculptures along this stretch of the river, but we didn’t spot any of the others.  It has no explanation as the artist wanted people to put their own interpretation on it. 

Taskmaster House

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London Wandsworth – Saturday 16th April 2022

Whilst walking across Wandsworth Common we spotted a building in the distance so diverted to take a look at it.  We thought it might have been a big church and were hoping to go inside, but when we got there we discovered it was a building called the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building.  Built in the mid-19th century, it was originally used as an “asylum for girls orphaned during the Crimean War” – despite the use of the word asylum, this was actually a school.  It now contains flats, some small businesses and a restaurant called Le Gothique.  After taking a couple of photos we headed to the Wandsworth branch of Waterstones, which is located inside the Southside Shopping Centre.

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Wandsworth map

The Royal Victoria Patriotic Building

London Clapham Junction – Saturday 16th April 2022

According to their website, Waterstones Clapham Junction is in Battersea!  The area is not part of London that we were familiar with, but is a nice area, especially the nearby Northcote Road, which has been (possibly temporarily?) pedestrianised and is full of independent shops and places to eat.  After that we walked across Wandsworth Common towards our next stop of the day.

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London Clapham map

Northcote Road (left) and Wandsworth Common (right)