Sunday, 27 April 2014

Wrexham, North Wales

Town centre    GJC_002628 (1)_edited

My next series of posts takes me back literally, to North Wales in 2011 and there's a couple of reasons why I want to dig into the past and one of those reasons will be obvious at the conclusion of this mini series.
On a side note and in keeping with the other blog theme of life, the lessons I learnt today were just as confusing as why I wanted to publish this post ... haha ... Getting conflicting advice from various people  "Learn from the past, not live in it" ... and ... "Sometimes you have to step into the past to fix your present, otherwise you won't have a future".

Sometimes I even surprise myself of what I post as Wrexham is not an obvious destination and I wrestled with the idea of posting this. There are some gems in the town and it would be a shame not to display them.
I opted for a 1 hour lunch break en route to Mid / North Wales instead of my usual Chester car stop. This was my first ever visit here so it was an extensive 30 minutes exploration fitted in ... around a Town square sandwich !! No doubt I've put my footprint or stamp on the images making it attractive to Google image hunters ! On the other hand, regular readers will know by the length and ending of this post what I secretly thought of the place !

Wrexham, the largest town in North Wales and sitting near the English border, has been the scene of early historic skirmishes (King Edward I  v  Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294) although due to its location not near a river, the epicentre shifted later to the east at Holt. During the 18th century the town became famous for its leather industry and the later Industrial Revolution.

St Giles Church   GJC_002626 (1)_edited
St Giles Church Tower
   The 16th century St Giles church Tower, is unofficially known as one of the seven wonders of North Wales. Although I wouldn't pay much attention to that as it came from an old rhyme possibly by an early English tourist !!  ... who took artistic license in poetry  ... steeple ... yeah right !!

         Pistyll Rhaeadr and Wrexham Steeple,
         Snowdon's mountain without its people,  (that'll be right as well ... haha)
         Overton yew trees, St Winefride's well,
         Llangollen bridge and Gresford bells.

Temple Row     GJC_002670
... situated in aptly named "Temple Row"

General Market    GJC_002632
General Market Hall
Wrexham is blessed with markets to the point that I wasn't sure which one was which !!! ...

General Market    GJC_002663_edited-1.jpg

... The People's market used to be the vegetable market, The Butcher's market that used to have a Corn Exchange and now has more than just meat on sale. The open air market that used to sell ... err ... cattle but has become a general market ...

General Market   GJC_002637

... and lastly ... a general market that sells vegetables outside !!! Confused ? ... you will be !

Former library    GJC_ 002644_edited.jpeg
Library (1906 - 1973) or rather ... Lunchtime !
The former Wrexham Library sits on the edge of Queens square waiting for the set up of the monday morning outdoor market ... while watching me eat a sandwich on the other side of the square.

                            Town centre   GJC_002643_edited

In my opinion, the centre piece building of the shopping centre, shown in the title image, is not the historic leather industry but .... Boots. ! ... sorry :-)

Horse and Jockey    GJC_002649

The 16th century Horse and Jockey pub is thought to be the oldest building in the town centre. It was originally an open large room dwelling called a hall house that was later converted into three cottages. One was used as accommodation for travellers and another was used as a Beer House. In 1868 all three buildings were converted into one public house. The name was chosen as a result of the successes of a jockey called Fred Archer at a nearby racecourse.

Window box   GJC_002655
Window box
One of the towns industries was the brewing of Wrexham Lager that started in the 19th century by German immigrants. The large export market that subsequently developed was lost during and after World War II resulting in problems and debts. There was further interest later but mergers to larger brewers and a final transfer away to a Yorkshire Brewery ended production in 2002. Wrexham Lager was recreated however in 2011 and is popular locally.

                            Horse and Jockey    GJC_002647

The connection between the Wrexham Lager company and The Horse and Jockey was that the pub was bought by the company in 1938 and saved the building from collapsing.

Lastly on the way back to the car, I thought I was in for a treat with another Welsh wonder ...

Overton Arcade   GJC_002665
Overton the Welsh wonder
... sadly not although photographically interesting ... maybe I had to walk a little further to find a Yew Tree.

Overton Arcade    GJC_002666
The walk back to the car ... and my destination

Best get to work on the next post straight away then !

Monday, 7 April 2014

Burford, Lechlade and ... Downton, Oxfordshire Cotswolds

 The riverside   GJC_014950

Having travelled a long way for an organised 3 night walking trip at New Year, it seemed like I had to put my boots on at least once during the rain soaked trip. While I was with another two viewing the sights of Oxford on the previous day, the rest of the party were out on full day walks ... testing their equipment out. As one seasoned attender said "It's not bad weather, it's just bad clothing" ! With that thought in mind, it was interesting listening to the stories of the warriors who returned after their exploits in the mud.

 Commencement of flloods   GJC_014927

On day two, it was evident that more than two thirds of the group wanted to abandon the stalwarts in favour of something more practical. The weather forecast for the morning was abysmal becoming drier in the afternoon. My driver friend for the trip was becoming increasingly frustrated as he was getting withdrawal symptoms without his boots. He discovered a laminated short walk card next to the boot room in the centre where we were staying.

 Lechlade on Thames   GJC_014930

The basic plan for the day seemed less achievable due to the amount of cars and number of agreed locations to visit. It sounds simple to say we'll visit a Rohan walking shop in Bampton, go for a cup of tea in Burford and do a 4 and 1/2 mile walk in Lechlade. It somehow worked out ok, but not without the stress of the details.

Bampton  GJC_014891
Isobel Crawley's House
First stop Bampton. I have to disappoint people here by informing them that I have never even seen an episode of the TV series Downton Abbey but I went along with the plan in the interests of ... errr ... journalism ... haha. Downton is the fictitious name of Bampton and as I didn't know what I was meant to be looking for, I was relying on some of the excited voices around me. Unfortunately at this point, two minutes out of the car, the heavens opened and there was no time to photograph the church to the right as it was a sprint to the sale in the walking shop.

Bampton  GJC_014889
Bampton Transport
To say that we were in the walking shop for a while was an understatement, it was a welcome shelter from the rain with the owner maybe not quite believing how many people were in the shop. The walk on the previous day that I opted out of in favour of Oxford, was in very gruelling and wet conditions. One person wanted to improve the standard of her waterproof overtrousers so in the meantime I examined every possible and potential piece of kit and then discounted it on either not requiring it or the discount not being enough. After a while, the rain settled to a drizzle and I thought I'd take the lead by leaving the shop to find my friend who was getting edgy about the timings of the day. Unfortunately the purchase still hadn't been made and it seemed like another 20 minutes before everyone was satisfied. Bampton wasn't looking it's best today so I only managed two other shots of the village.

Bampton   GJC_014890
Buying Potential ?!
I wonder what's happened to the house prices here in the last couple of (Downton) years as the residents of Bampton might not like me showing you the house that looks the most unkempt but those that know me will understand I can't turn down a photo opportunity like that !

 Burford    GJC_014904

Next stop Burford and the rain hadn't stopped yet. Burford, at the eastern end of the Cotswolds otherwise known as the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, has essentially one main street built on a hill going down to a small traffic light controlled bridge across the River Windrush. As a result, it is unfortunate from my previous experiences here in high summer that traffic queues going downhill are a problem. The top end of the street is more residential with the lower end attracting tourists to the quaint shops.

Burford    GJC_014908
A town of wool history, 14th - 17th century ... and 21st century
On this occasion I'll spare you the historical details of Burford that stretches back to Saxon times as I don't have the relevant photographic documentation ...

Burford    GJC_014897
The aptly named Mermaid pub !
... we only came here for a cup of tea to warm up and the packed lunch picnic didn't happen until much later in the afternoon. My friend held the door open for me and realised " Oh no, he's taking another photograph again !"

  Burford    GJC_014910

There was a spare 30 minutes available before we all met back at the car park for the next instalment of the day. Some chose to stay next to the fire in the pub, others went shopping and you know what I did !

Burford     GJC_014903_edited-1
Enjoying the rain today !
A couple of signs caught my attention outside a Craft /Art shop that took my mind off the weather. I felt that they could come in useful in my photo library for a later date ... and as it turns out, later in this post !

                            Burford    GJC_014899

This way to the car park, the afternoon walk and ........ the drier weather !

                            Christmas tree at sunset   GJC_014969_edited-1

Once everyone had found somewhere to park in Lechlade on Thames, we "congregated" outside the church ready for the walk. The distance of between 3 and 5 miles was achievable in an afternoon.

  Lechlade on Thames   GJC_014929

Essentially the route was through the churchyard and in an easterly direction along a less a bridle path  eventually crossing a road bridge over the River Thames and returning westwards on the southern side.

                            Lechlade on Thames   GJC_014940

As it was winter time, the sun was getting low providing some wonderful lighting and textures.

   Lechlade on Thames   GJC_014942

If the weather had decided not to be kind to us, we would have finished the walk here by crossing the bridge back into Lechlade but we pressed on for what was the best part of the day.

The riverside    GJC_014948
Lechlade on Thames

We continued westwards along the southern side of the Thames until we reached a footbridge just before a mill. I spent a bit of time albeit rushed trying to photograph the mill as the sun was going down but in the end couldn't decide which one if any to put in the post as there are plusses and minuses ... I gave up and published them both ...

   Flooded field   GJC_014960
The walk back into town was along a hedge lined lane with breaks revealing the extent of flooding in the nearby fields. I should point out that there was another month of rain before things got really bad.

   Flooded field   GJC_014962

   On yer bike  GJC_014967

We eventually arrived back to Lechlade without the assistance of items to be dug out of the mud and a speedy return with tired legs.

The afternoon conversation with members of the walking party was pleasant enough ...

Burford    GJC_014902
"Speak without offending" .......                           
..... but thankfully someone had a whole afternoon of having nothing to say ..... !!

   Lechlade on Thames   GJC_014917

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