Sunday, 30 August 2015

Thomas comes steaming down

Thomas The Tank Engine on the Churnet Valley Railway

The 'high' season for the Churnet Valley Railway is coming to an end, so they are pulling the stops out with all sorts of extra attractions to pull in visitors.

I was enjoying a pint at The Black Lion, which lies by the railway line in a quiet part of the valley, and had strolled out for some fresh air ... only to see Thomas The Tank Engine suddenly steaming down upon me.  Mildly terrifying.
It meant I had to have another drink.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Dominated by beer

Coors site in Burton

If ever a town was dominated by one industry, it's Burton by beer.  And if ever a town's beer industry was dominated by one brewer, it's Coors.

The American firm originally came to Burton to take over all of the Bass Beer firm's works - but, oddly, another firm actually walked off with the 'Bass' name.  So poor old Coors had to change all the branding in the town.  As you can see.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Ecton's Folly

'The Folly' in Ecton

This extraordinary house is known locally as 'The Folly' - being built in the 1930s by the rather eccentric Arthur Ratcliffe, who was MP for Leek at the time.  It has elements of a fantasy castle.
Its copper spire has become green with verdigris after being exposed to the air for so long.

You'll find it up an isolated track in Ecton where the few other homes were used by the old mining company for its officials.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Relaxed lemur monkeys

Lemurs at Peak Wildlife Park

People don't seem to like the term 'zoo' much anymore, so the former Blackbrook Zoological Park, near Leek, has recently thoughtfully re-invented itself as the Peak Wildlife Park ... but basically it's a small zoo.

The interesting thing about it is that one can go into quite a few f the enclosures, and be quite close to the animals.  I wasn't sure how I felt about this, but the animals (like the lemur family in the photo) seemed relatively at ease with human presence.
If you don't mind zoos, in fact it's a good way for a family to pass a few hours.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Bizarre building

Smithfield-One building

This very dramatic-looking building seems to be in the local paper constantly (for the wrong reasons).  Smithfield-One was started last year as the planned base for Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which is spending £55 million on this and the surrounding 'business district' in Hanley. However, plans have now changed and the new Central Library will be installed there, as will 'other stuff'.

So... the library's gain, I suppose.

The multi-coloured design on the cladding is said to be inspired by the work of the famous 1930s 'Bizarre'-style pottery-designer, Clarice Cliff, who was a local girl. I'm not sure she'd recognise the attribution, but I guess we all are entitled to our own interpretations.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Pleasant for pheasant, for now

Pheasant

The 'Glorious Twelfth' (of August) is a bad date for red grouse, as this is the day that the season for hunting them opens.
I didn't know this but: the season for hunting pheasant doesn't open until October.  So this pheasant here is having a peaceful summer.  Unlike the grouse.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Izaak Walton - up with the saints

Izaak Walton statue on the outside of Lichfield Cathedral

Happy birthday Izaak Walton! Izaak is pretty much the doyen of Staffordshire's greatest writers, though Arnold Bennett runs him a close second.  For some reason, a good number of pubs in the county are named after Izaak.
Of course, it's doubtful if anyone reads his works much any more, four hundred years later - even his famous 'Compleat Angler' but - would he have ever expected that anyway?

He has the unique (I think) honour of being the only writer to have his statue in the pantheon on the exterior of a cathedral - though I'd love to know if I'm wrong.
In this picture, he takes his place in a niche on the outside of Lichfield Cathedral along with saints and angels and demons (and occasional king and bishop) - beat that, Arnold Bennett!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Good luck wedding charm

'The Bride's Hand' at Longdon Church

You'll find this odd, rather amateurish carving in the porch of St James Church at Longdon - it is of a hand, with a heart at its centre.
The church guide says it is called 'The Bride's Hand', as brides used to touch it on their way in to the church as a way of bringing good fortune to the marriage.  Some still do.

I can find nothing else about it, as for example... how old is it?  Why does it show a left hand, when it is on the right-hand side of the porch door? If that is a heart in the centre, why is it upside-down? 
I suspect, however, that it was just a bit of fun when it was carved - and is nothing more than that.
Well, I think so...

Monday, 3 August 2015

Blonde wheat

Wheat field

It's one of those things... we always think of wheat as golden-brown.  In fact, it is honey-blonde.  Well, it is at this point in the growing-season anyway.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Dilapidation proves order

Dilapidated footbridge near the River Anker

As someone who walks a lot I often silently thank all those farmers and organisations who keep up the county's pathways - particularly in maintaining footbridges and stiles.
The county council's Environment Department is ultimately responsible for securing footpaths, but, under-resourced as they are, they now get official help from local Ramblers' groups.

Footpaths are pretty well looked after locally (in my humble opinion) - so I was quite surprised to see this dilapidated footbridge (over a ditch) near the River Anker.  Paradoxically, this exception to the rule is a reminder about how much in order most of the network of paths is.