I had a few exceptionally enjoyable days in London – a trip postponed from March 2020, just before most of the UK went into its first Lockdown. On my final day I decided to walk from my hotel just off the Tottenham Court Road to Notting Hill Gate before walking to Victoria to catch my coach home. There is a Waterstones here – it styles itself as Notting Hill, although technically it is in Notting Hill Gate which is, apparently, a different area!
Diana, Princess of Wales
A statue to Diana, Princess of Wales was unveiled in Kensington Gardens on 1st July this year, on what would have been her 60th birthday. Originally commissioned to commemorate the 20th anniversary of her death, it stands overlooking the sunken garden.
Currently reading – All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle
We were heading to Suffolk to visit relatives, so we only had the briefest of stops in the historic market town of Bishop’s Stortford to grab a quick lunch. We therefore didn’t have time to see the town properly, but the café we stopped in was very close to the Waterstones, so we popped in to take some photos. As you can see it is set in a modern building in the main shopping area of the town. From the little bit of the town we saw, it looked quite pretty – maybe we’ll get back one day?
Cheltenham in Gloucestershire is considered to be the most complete Regency town in Britain – it is also a spa town, the mineral waters having been discovered there in 1716. One of the town’s most celebrated residents was composer Gustav Holst, most famous for his orchestral suite, The Planets. There is a statue celebrating him in the park Imperial Gardens where he is shown standing in a classic conductor pose! The Waterstones here is located in an attractive building, originally The Imperial Hotel. It became a post office in 1876 and remained so until 1987.
Gustav Holst Statue
Currently reading – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain
We went to Dorset to visit family for lunch in their favourite restaurant as we hadn’t seen them since 2019 due to Coronavirus, so it was lovely to catch up with them. We were very close to Castlepoint, which is a modern out-of-town shopping centre, so there isn’t much else there, but we stopped off to visit the Waterstones on our way home.
We didn’t have time to visit anything local in this area on this occasion, but we have visited Christchurch town centre before, which is only were only about 3½ miles from Castlepoint, and the photos below were taken on that occasion. Christchurch Priory is one of the longest churches in the country, and contains a memorial to the poet Shelley. Shelley’s wife Mary Wollstonecraft is buried in a nearby church, together with her husband’s heart. This large memorial was offered to that church by Shelley’s son, but they rejected it as being too large!
Currently reading – The Appeal by Janice Hallett
On the last day of our holiday, Peter went off to do a track day which our son had bought him for Christmas, so I hopped on the train from Horsham where we were staying and headed to London to meet a friend who I was supposed to meet in March last year, just as Coronavirus was taking off! We spent the day catching up and walked from Victoria to Shakespeare’s Globe on the South Bank.
On our walk we went through Green Park where there were 100 elephant sculptures, which were part of the CoExistance Campaign which raised £3 million for human-wildlife coexistence projects. It was the last day of them being on public display together, so I was lucky to see them. On our way back to the train station we visited the Waterstones at Victoria, which opened in 2019 in a modern shopping centre.
The CoExistance Elephants
“Scenes in the Square”
The statues below are part of a trail in Leicester Square called Scenes in the Park. We didn’t take time to find them all, but I think they’re there for a while, so I may take another look when we go to this part of London again later this year.
Below clockwise from top left are Harry Potter, Gene Kelly in Singing’ in the Rain, and Mary Poppins!
We visited Chelmsford in July 2018 – you can read about it here. In September of the same year, Waterstones acquired the Foyles chain of bookshops, so we had to revisit! As we were heading to West Sussex, we didn’t have time to stop for long, but were able to visit the Foyles. It is located in a modern building in a new shopping development and opened in 2016.
Colchester is a large market town in Essex. During Roman times it was an important settlement known as Camulodunum, and today Colchester claims to be the oldest town in Britain. The town is home to a Norman castle, the keep of which is the largest example of this type in Europe. It was used as a prison to house those accused of witchcraft by the infamous Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. In June 2019 a memorial to the women wrongly-accused was placed in the rose garden in front of the castle. The Waterstones is housed in a beautiful building which was formerly the site of the National Provincial Bank.
Colchester Town Hall
The Town Hall building opened in 1902. At the top of the building stands St Helena who is the patron saint of Colchester. This beautiful building is open to the public, but sadly we did not have time to visit.
Yarm is another market town that we had not visited before, and possibly wouldn’t have if it wasn’t part of this quest. It’s a really pretty town with some cobbled streets, set on a meander of the River Tees. Parts of the town are dominated by a 43 arch rail viaduct, opened in 1852 and now Grade II listed. The old Town Hall building stands in the centre of the town and was built in 1710 to replace an old Tollhouse. Over the years it has been used as a court, a market and even a public toilet! The Waterstones in Yarm is in a red brick building located in a former bank.
Yarm Town Hall
Darlington is a market town in County Durham famous as the location of the first steam power-driven locomotive railway when the Stockton & Darlington Railway was established there in 1825 in order to connect local coal mines to the River Tees. Although not the first railway, the Stockton & Darlington was the first to use steam locomotives and to transport passengers as well as goods. The Waterstones is located on the outside of a modern shopping centre.
Clockwise from top left – Darlington Market Hall and Clock Tower, completed in 1864, Joseph Pease, who contributed to the establishment of the Stockton & Darlington Railway and was sometimes referred to as The Father of the Railways, Darlington town centre, Darlington railway station.
To celebrate the railway heritage of the area, a statue was funded by various organisations including the National Lottery, the supermarket chain Morrisons and Northern Arts in 1997. Entitled Brick Train, it was created by sculptor David Mach out of 185,000 bricks and was constructed to include some special bricks to encourage bats to inhabit the sculpture. In addition, several local schools made up time capsules which have been placed inside the statue.
The photo of Darlington town centre (no attribution link available, but freely shared – see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Darlo_town_centre.JPG) and the one of the station (JThomas / Darlington Railway Station / CC BY-SA 2.0) are used under the creative commons licence and were taken from Wikipedia.
We were going to see my cousin and her husband just outside Carlisle, as they were opening their garden to the public for charity as part of the National Garden Scheme, so on our way over we stopped at Hexham, which is a market town in Northumberland, and is possibly best-known for its Abbey. The Waterstones is located in a pedestrian street in the heart of the shopping area.
The Abbey was originally constructed in around AD 674 from Roman ruins found locally in the surrounding areas and the building has been added to over the years. Whilst we were there, the Abbey had an art installation ‘On Angel Wings’, which is in tribute to the many people who have died of Covid-19 and consists of around 4500 origami angels suspended 45ft high in the Abbey’s Chancel and lit from the sides. It is a stunning display.
Below, clockwise from top left – The Moot Hall (originally a meeting place and the town’s courthouse), Hexham Old Gaol (England’s oldest gaol), the Shambles Covered Market.
My cousin’s garden!