Friday, 31 October 2014

It doesn't frighten me...

Lichfield Cathedral 'grotesque'

There's a very fine line, when it comes to monsters, between terrifying and plain silly.
This dragon figure on the east end of Lichfield Cathedral is a case in point.  Because some of the very old 'grotesques', as they're called, had crumbled away, the cathedral authorities decided to replace them a couple of years ago - but in a  "21st Century style".
However, frankly, this figure doesn't look so much like an ancient guardian, warding off evil spirits, as a character from a child's computer game.
In my humble opinion.

This post was featured on the My Town Shoot Out Photo Blog for its Halloween theme

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Walk at Hanging Rock

Hanging Stone, Sraffordshire

It may be nearly November, but the weather is still very mild - even if the sky is permanently light-gray.  Walking is easy in such weather: you just have to be careful not to wear too many layers or you are soon stripping off...

I followed the Roaches walk from the Walking Englishman website to Hanging Stone (in pic) which is an easy landmark to pick out.  From a distance it has an Easter Island effect, but it's basically a gritstone rock outcrop.

This post was featured on the City Daily Portal Landmarks theme

Monday, 27 October 2014

Secret sixties garden revealed

Stonehill Quarry House Garden

Some fascinating places are opened up to the public for the National Open Garden Days.  One of the last of the events for the NGS in Staffordshire for this year took place on Sunday when Stonehill Quarry House Garden welcomed visitors.

The house and surrounding wood are set in the hollow of an old rocky quarry, which has now been encouraged to return to Nature - shrubs, ferns, flowering trees have been planted in profusion.

The house, a nice example of modernistic late-60s architecture, echoes the wide and jagged angles of the old quarry.

This post was featured on the MyTown Shoot-Out Photo Blog

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Nothing matters

Artwork by Emily Campbell in Hanley Park

The small island in the centre of Hanley Park boating lake has a low perimeter wall around it, carrying words.  You have to walk around the lake shore to read them all of course, so it makes for a thoughtful ten-minute stroll. 
Depending on the time of year, the foliage forces limited views of phrases, which then stand out on their own, with resonance. For example, the whole sentence here is actually:  "There are sounds all around, but nothing matters except the sound of your voice".  
The concept was created by artist Emily Campbell.

The artwork has inspired a song by a North Staffordshire musician, Matt Churchill - 'Brushed steel words in Hanley Park'


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Deceptive bus station

Hanley bus station

Like all bus stations, the main feeling on entering the main bus-hub in Stoke on Trent is of encountering an atmosphere of lost hope.
From outside though, it looks rather futuristic - and almost inviting.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Seighford angel flies

Churchyard angel at Seighford

This grave angel appears about to fly; it really is a fine piece of stonework. Yet, however fine, it is sited unregarded in an isolated country churchyard at Seighford.
She stands over the last resting-place of the exotically-named Edwin von Schmidt-Secharau, who died in 1903.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sainted bee


The urge to leave graffiti seems to be a strong one - even if the subject matter appears to be incomprehensible, like this one (...a sainted bee?) found in woods near Silverdale.
Sometimes, graffiti seems to me almost like a coded message, only meant for the few who might understand it.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Staffordshire against slavery

Erasmus Darwin statue

It's Anti-Slavery Day tomorrow -and Staffordshire has a proud record in the campaign to oppose slavery at the end of the eighteenth century.  Erasmus Darwin (whose statue this is, in Beacon Park in Lichfield) was one of the local thinkers who were bitterly opposed to the slave trade, and was also one of those who took part in the campaign to boycott sugar from the West Indies in 1792.  (Strange to think that boycotts were used even back then...).

By the way, you'll notice in the statue's left hand three shells - because his motto was E Conchis Omnia (Everything From Shells).  He was one of the first people to consider evolution scientifically, and his motto reflected his thinking on that matter.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Wonder viaduct

Penkridge Railway Viaduct

I don’t care what anyone says: bridges are amazing things.    The Penkridge Railway Viaduct over the River Penk looks dull (I admit) from a distance - but it is a work of art in fact.
Thomas Brassey was the contractor; and it opened for business in 1837.  (This work was the making of Brassey – from then on he became the great railway builder of the century.  His biography says that by 1847 he had built one out of every three rail miles in Britain...)

One of the wonders of Staffordshire!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Walking on pigeons

'Pigeons' public art in Cheadle

When you walk along Cheadle's pavements, you walk on pigeons.  It was hard to find out why exactly, but after some enquiries, it seems that one of Cheadle’s main claims to fame is that it was once home to the national racing-pigeon champion Palm Brook Lad (the fastest RPRA sprint champion ever, apparently, though I couldn’t find actual confirmation of that). 
The town felt it must celebrate one of its sporting heroes.

The artist was Ian Naylor.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Being watched in the woods

CCTV camera surveillance sign

Apparently Britain's population is one of the most 'watched' in Europe, with more CCTV cameras in surveillance on us than in other countries of the continent.

However, it still seemed odd to see this sign ... in a wood!!  Maybe the land-owner doesn't like people picking bluebells (?)

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Elvis Presley ... in Staffordshire

Head-quarters of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain

What's this?  The head-quarters of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain?  Down a side-street in a small market town in North Staffordshire?

I was completely bowled over to come across this small office/record shop (it only sells Elvis stuff of course, many limited items, and Elvis DVDs, books, memorabilia etc). Manager Vicky Molloy was very welcoming - and has even set up a (vinyl) record player so that people can bring in their favourite Elvis discs and sit about, on the sofa provided, talking about them.
Vicky, who now manages the fan club, lives nearby; and thought an Elvis shop would be a nice idea... She is there most times, at Cross Street in Cheadle.

This post was featured on the Friday Shoot-out Photo Blog

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Pre-loved stately home

Ingestre Hall

Ingestre Hall is a lovely old Jacobean mansion, now taken over and used for education courses and such.

A spate of such lovely stately homes came on to the market following the Second World War; and, often, as in the case of Ingestre, the local county council would step in to buy the house - to save the property by re-using it. 
I don't think any council today, even citing good heritage reasons, would feel it could justify the expense of any similar conservation project.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Spode who got the girl

Josiah Spode III monument in Stoke Minster

Josiah Spode was one of the great potters of the eighteenth century, who, alongside men like Wedgwood, made the Potteries famous. 
Yet, this grand and rather overwhelming monument in Stoke Minster is for his grandson - Josiah Spode III (who is largely unremarked in the history books).  In fact, as far as I can see JS III only ran the business for two years.

Still, to have a grieving maiden weep over your death for nearly two centuries is some sort of achievement I suppose...

Friday, 3 October 2014

Grooving with arrows at Alrewas

Wall of Alrewas Church

Erosion?  No. In fact this grooving into the wall of Alrewas Church is another example of a habit of medievel times - that of sharpening your arrow-heads using the friable stone of a church building.  
Men were required by law to practise their archery skills regularly, and would meet by the church to do it.  So why not use the church wall as a form of whet-stone at the same time?!

There's another example at Checkley.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Thor's Cave is 87th

Crag with Thor's Cave

According to Trip Advisor, Thor's Cave is ranked a very poor 87th of all the 150 attractions in Staffordshire.
Though that sounds daft, in fact the assessment is about right - the cave, albeit of great pre-history significance, is just a rather slimy-slippery large hole in the side of the crag (the one in this photo) and doesn't ... IMHO ... have much of a 'feel'.

It's much better to choose one of the local fantastic walks, and see it from a distance!