The Great British Car Journey

My family have a history of vehicles including cars. My great grandfather ran a garage: 

my grandfather was a locomotive engineer and my father was chief engineer for Alexander’s Coachbuilders. My brother used to work at Lotus and is still a fan of old cars and vans. I once had a photo on Guardian Witness when the theme was ‘the family car’ having submitted a photo of the 1932 Rolls Royce my parents had in the 1960s.  

We visited the Great British Car Journey museum in Ambergate because my sister in law’s memorial event was being held there. My brother met her when she was working at a nearby filling station. The museum is situated in what was an old wire works on the banks of the River Derwent.  

It starts with Herbert Austin designing a small car and setting off the British Car Industry.   There are various makes, travelling through the years.

  Some cars, like this Vauxhall Victor belonged to a specific individual, sometimes with a story attached.

There was one of the first Landrovers

and a Reliant Scimitar which my mother had many years ago.    

There were many others including this 1981 DeLorean.

At the back of the building there was a workshop where the restoration work is done. There is also a cafe. You can opt to drive one of the vehicles (accompanied by an instructor). There is a large poster at the back of the museum showing all the options and the prices.

Some of these vehicles were in a garage outside the museum.

Before leaving we crossed over to the buildings on the other side of the river. The White Peak Distillery is here and also a local artist based nearby who painted a mural on this building:

A Night in Kelham

En route to visiting my brother in Norwich we had a break in our journey for a night in Kelham. It is a small village in Nottinghamshire; northwest of Newark which grew up around a crossing of the River Trent. Very early bridges crossed the river upstream of the present one, somewhere near the church. Evidence of foundations of buildings have been found south of the church, which suggests that the settlement was originally in this area, and that a major flood may have forced a move to the present site. We stayed at the 18th century Fox Inn which is in the Brit Stops scheme. Members can park their campervans for free behind the inn and there is electric hook-up for £10. We had a delicious evening meal in the pub.

The name was originally spelt Kelum in the 12th century. In the 2011 census the population was 207; almost a half of that of Smallwood where we used to live. Currently, a large proportion of the residents are retired, with the younger people working in nearby Newark. Very little development has been allowed. Kelham has some interesting history; when King Charles I surrendered at Southwell in 1647, he was held at Kelham Hall by the Scots. An information board in the village shows the Scots encampment being situated on the other side of the river. The bridge over the River Trent was constructed in 1856.

It is wide enough to allow two cars to cross at the same time but larger vehicles have to wait until no-one is approaching from the other direction. The A617 is a very busy road running between Newark and Mansfield. There was an interesting notice about fishing.

Kelham Hall is a is a Grade I listed building sitting within 52 acres of park land. The original gate is on the main road in the village

but the current entrance is further down the road. The hall is hidden by woodland.

It has had several incarnations: including being the home of the Manners-Sutton family but was destroyed twice and re-built over time. The second rebuild was after a fire by Sir George Gilbert Scot in 1863. From 1903 to 1973 it was the home of an Anglican order of monks led by Father Herbert Kelly, who founded the Society of the Sacred Mission or SSM. They trained men for missionary work and later for the Church of England ministry. They were known worldwide as ‘The Kelham Fathers’. Father Kelly was responsible for the planting of the extensive collection of trees in the hall grounds, some of which have grown into excellent specimens. The grounds are now one of three sites designated by the ‘Men of Trees’ for memorial planting by individuals. The SSM cemetery is just outside the church wall. During the Second World War, the SSM were host to many military and civilian groups including some Texans. The first drilling for oil in the United Kingdom was in a field in Kelham in 1919 by Thomas D’Arcy. Small traces were found, but lack of money forced abandonment. He then went on to found a worldwide oil exploration company, returning to Kelham Hills in the 1940s to find oil and a small field was established. Later the Hall became the main offices for Newark and Sherwood District Council which was formed in 1973 and was available for weddings and conference but the company went into liquidation in 2021 and now has a new existence with new owners.

There is no shop but one house had a notice suggesting it had been one in the past.

The village is an old farming community which grew up as part of the estate to serve the lords of the manor of Averham and Kelham, providing employment for most of the inhabitants. Some families have lived in the village for several generations. The farms have amalgamated since the 1950s. The Hall home farm is in the centre of the village

and another one is closer to the edge.

The estate was used to develop the technique of growing sugar beet when it was introduced to this country during the First World War. The Kelham sugar beet processing factory was built in 1921. It is now known as the Newark factory and is one of the largest and most modern sugar factories in Europe. After a quiet night close to this busy road we continued on our journey to Norwich.

RHS Garden Bridgewater

I have been a member of the Royal Horticultural Society for many years and visit their gardens if I am in the vicinity. The newest is RHS Bridgewater in Worsley, Salford, Manchester. We stopped off on our last trip down south. You do have to book visits but the booking lasts for the whole day and you can arrive whenever you want and stay for as long as you like. We arrived mid-morning in July.

The historic 154-acre Worsley New Hall estate was turned into the RHS Bridgewater Garden to improve and enrich Salford’s communities and environment. Worsley New Hall, in its formal landscaped gardens, was a notable residence in the 19th century. It was built for the 1st Earl of Ellesmere between 1840 and 1845, designed by the architect Edward Blore – whose speciality was Tudor and Elizabethan-style architecture, and whose reputation was for completing projects on time and to budget. This project cost just under £100,000 to build, which is the equivalent of around £6.7 million today. The estate sat northwest of the current garden.

Worsley New Hall was a British Red Cross Hospital during the First World War and afterwards the house and garden declined. In the Second World War parts of the hall were requisitioned by the War Office and its gardens used as training grounds by the Lancashire Fusiliers. In the 20th century, a fire and dry rot led to the hall falling into disrepair. In 1943 a scrap merchant bought it for £2,500. Subsequently, the grounds were used as a garden centre, a Scout camp and a rifle range. There are still some old buildings in the garden.

We began by walking around the walled gardens after passing the learning centres on the way.  Weston Walled Garden is divided into two: the Kitchen Garden

and the Paradise Garden.

I enjoyed photographing some flowers.

North of the walled gardens are two glasshouses, one devoted to fruits

and one to Mediterranean plants.

There is a pollinator meadow

and Moon Bridge Water.

The Chinese Streamside Garden is under construction and should be completed in three years.

The garden is surrounded by a forest with an arboretum to be developed in future.

There is also a lake which will have future development. I will definitely return in a different season.

A night by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

We spent a night in our van at a Brit stop by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at the Crooke Hall Inn.

The canal is 127 miles long and we were close to bridge 47 which had a notice saying it was 32 miles to Liverpool and just over 95 to Leeds. Crooke sits three miles to the west of Wigan, on the far side of an area known as Standish Lower Ground. It is within the parish boundary of Shevington and situated on the north side of the River Douglas and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The last time I was near this canal was in 2018 on my walk to Edinburgh when I diverted from the road into Wigan along the canal and through the flashes into the town centre.

The history of the village goes back to the 11th century when it was part of Shevington Manor. The Crooke estate was owned by the Catterall family from 1421-1713. Crooke Hall was built in 1608 but no longer exists because of subsidence. It was demolished before the Second World War. From the 1870’s until 1963 Crooke became a vital cog in the coal mining and distribution system along the river and the canal. There is an old tip tub sitting by the canal which was discovered after the mines had closed. It is thought to be 70-100 years old.

Around that time Crooke had more than 550 people living in the village; now the population is around 120. The school closed in 1985 due to falling numbers and the village shops have closed.  It is now a quiet little village which has a one road access off the main road.  There is a total of 65 dwellings, the pub, a Marina, a Chapel and a Nursery.

In 1975, the houses in Crooke were due to be demolished.  This stirred the residents into action and the Crooke Village Co-operative was formed to protect 36 of the 67 properties from definite demolition. It ran from 1978 to 2008.

Thirty-five of the properties are now owned by Adactus, a housing authority and the rest are privately owned. Throughout the year, the chapel organises events for its members which are open to anyone who wish to attend and the pub too have regular events and are ably assisted by the Crooke Village Residents Association. Formed in 2008, it replaced the former Co-operative. This association deals only with the maintenance of pathways, some grass cutting, tree and shrub pruning, litter picking, some bulb planting with a view of keeping the village looking presentable. Thanks to this, Crooke has managed to win one of the top awards in the ‘North West in Bloom’ challenge.

We parked up and waited until the pub opened at 4pm. Thankfully the excessive heat of the previous two days had disappeared. Several barges came past us, some mooring for the night: others heading to the nearby marina which can hold 90 boats.

In the morning the towpath was in use by joggers, dog walkers and an e-scooter. Under the trees in the beer garden two magpies, a wood pigeon and a grey squirrel were hunting for food just like back home.

Chess Valley Walk

While visiting friends in Hertfordshire it was a warm sunny day, so we had a walk on part of the Chess Valley Walk. Our friend is the vicar at St Lawrence Church in Bovingdon

so, before setting off for the walk we had a wander around the churchyard and I admired the invertebrate hotel which is under construction in the grounds. Mine is very small in comparison and constructed from a six-bottle wine box, not pallets.

The River Chess is a chalk stream. It arises in the Chiltern Hills and flows for 11 miles through Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire in Rickmansworth. We parked near Chenies Manor which was built in 1460 by Sir John Cheyne it soon became the seat of the Dukes of Bedford. It was closed on the day we were there, but you can visit and it is also a wedding venue. The Chess Valley Walk is 10 miles. We walked a section of it along paths and some lanes.

We passed some horses in fields but also saw some ragwort in nearby fields. It is toxic for horses.

The walk passes through Frogmore Meadow which is a nature reserve. There are wildflower meadows

and further on, farmland.

Historically, the water of the River Chess, together with the fertile land, was ideal for growing watercress. This industry flourished in both Chesham and Rickmansworth in the Victorian era and supplied London. It was transported on the newly constructed Metropolitan Railway. Today the only working watercress beds are at Moor Lane, Sarratt which we passed. In 2014, persistent overflows from Chesham Sewage Treatment Works forced the watercress farm to cease sales, and to continue operation the farm now uses well water. We could not see the watercress fields from the path but this was close to them.

After a cold beer in the grounds of a nearby inn we returned to Chenies to pick up the car and return to our friends’ home.

Revisiting Liverpool

I was last on a train in 2019. This time we were travelling down to Liverpool to see an event at the arena and catch up with some of my former colleagues. We have visited the city several times but not since 2018.

The trains and stations were still somewhat quieter than before the pandemic. Before the arena event we had some time to wander along the waterfront near the Albert Dock.

Liverpool has an interesting history. It was established as a town on a greenfield site in 1207 and was an agricultural and fishing village until the River Dee began to slit up and Chester could no longer function as a port. Liverpool had become a major port by the industrial revolution taking e.g. salt and coal from South Lancashire, Cheshire and North Staffordshire for export.  Emigration across to the Americas increased in the 19th century and Liverpool became the main European emigration port. Some of my ancestors sailed to North America from Liverpool. Unfortunately, much of this trans-Atlantic trade involved the slave trade.

I had not seen any exhibitions at the Tate Liverpool that I wanted to see but did enjoy this installation outside.

Further along is a statue of Billy Fury.

Like many other fences or bridges on waterways, people have been attaching padlocks to the fence on the waterfront. Most are now quite corroded.

We watched the Mersey Ferry come over from the Wirral and dock a little further along from where we were standing.

Near the Pier Head is a propellor from the Lusitania. The ship sailed from Liverpool to New York from 1909 until the 7th of May 1915 when it was torpedoed by a German submarine. 1,191 people lost their lives.  

It was then time to watch the sun go down

And then return to the hotel via the Pier Head.

A night by the canal

Our first trip to England since moving back to Scotland in the autumn of 2020 was back to South Cheshire and was our first night in the van since autumn 2019. We are members of Britstops; a list of places which allow you to park a campervan overnight for free. No facilities have to be provided but many are public houses or cafes and benefit from the custom. The Broughton Arms in Rode Heath is one of such venues and sits on the Trent & Mersey Canal. It was close enough to where our son and his partner live so we had arranged to meet them for a meal that evening.

The Trent and Mersey Canal is 93 miles long, has 76 locks and opened in 1771; engineered by James Brindley. The canal runs from Preston Brook and the connection to the Bridgewater Canal down to Trent Lock at Derwent Mouth where it joins the River Trent. The Broughton Arms is situated between Bridge 140

and lock 54. The towpath is accessible from the side of the bridge in front of the pub.

It abuts Rode Heath Rise which used to be the site of a salt works. Brine was pumped up from underground and heated in large pans until the water had evaporated. The salt was transported to the rest of the country via the canal. The salt works were abandoned in 1930 and the land reclaimed for public use in 1980. There are open areas, woodland

and plenty of wildflowers.

Each year on 5th November, a large bonfire is held here. I did wonder if the pile of old beer garden furniture in the corner of the car park was being saved for that. Further east, past the junction with the Macclesfield Canal is the Harecastle Tunnel, constructed to carry coal to the kilns in the Potteries and was one of the longest in the country.

The Macclesfield canal was very close to our home when we first moved down to England. We had to find a building that could house the surgery for my husband’s GP practice and accommodation for us. After four years we could afford to move out to let the practice expand and find our own home. Living so close to the canal was great for a walk but also meant that I made sure that our son learnt to swim. I had just thought ‘what if he runs out of the garden and down to the canal and falls in?’ The gates were open much of the time to provide access to the surgery parking. A few years later, when I was working at the Parent and Baby Day Unit, we had a staff outing which was a day trip on a narrow boat on the Macclesfield canal. We hired it and drove it up towards Congleton, stopping before the locks to have a pub lunch and then returning to base. I have known and still do, several people who love narrow boats and even live on them by choice but that is not for me. I did enjoy seeing some of the Mallard ducks and ducklings.

The following morning we drove to Shropshire to give my Dad his Fathers’ Day present and then headed back north to Scotland.

Sampling Southport

On one of our recent trips to Edinburgh, we decided to divert via Southport. It is the largest seaside town in Merseyside and the only Conservative constituency in the region. The town lies on the Sefton Coast of the Irish sea with the Ribble Estuary to the north. To the south is Ainsdale and Birkdale Sandhills Nature Reserve which is one of the largest areas of wild sand dunes left in the UK. Southport is home to the second longest pier in the country; the longest being Southend. It opened in August 1860 and is the oldest iron pier in the country and at a length of 1,108m, the longest iron one.

Interestingly in a time of climate change, global warming, rising sea levels and parts of the east coast of England disappearing into the sea; the sea in Southport has been recessing away from the coast during the 20th century. The Kings Gardens and Marine Lake are now where the beach was previously.

They were opened in 1913 and reopened after restoration in 2014. Swans and other water birds were on the water while bridges and the pier take traffic and pedestrians across to the sea front. Other green spaces in town are Hesketh Gardens and Victoria Park. Every year Southport hosts a Flower Show which celebrated its 90th anniversary in summer 2019. Lord Street is in the town centre lined with Victorian buildings and many shops. Southport still has many independent shops but has also lost some and some of the chain stores have left like many other towns in the country. Lord Street hosts Wayfarers arcade which opened in 1898 with 30 stores. There are now a few empty ones.

In September 2019, the town received £1.6m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and in addition to money given by the council, this is being devoted to rejuvenating the town centre. Most of the market was being renovated and only a few stalls were open. We found Broadhurst’s Bookshop on Market Street. It has new books on the ground floor and two floors of secondhand books.

There are two other secondhand bookshops in town. We passed one of them but it was closed. A picnic was had in the sun by the beach and I had a brief beachcomb. There was only a narrow strip of sand but a long stretch of mud and the tide was out.

On an off-season weekday it was very quiet with just a few dog walkers. There were lots of razor shells on the beach; more than I have seen anywhere else, a few cockles and whelks. I found one piece of sea glass and then noticed an older man picking up something and filling bags which he was then loading onto his cycle. We got chatting and he told me that he was picking up coal for his fire. It is not something I have seen on a beach before but he told me that he had heard of a guy in Yorkshire who collected large amounts of coal from his local beach and sold it to a power station. Later, we watched the sun go down at the end of the pier

and the lights come on.

We had to leave the next morning and driving out of town it was hard to find a Guardian newspaper at any of the garages or newsagents in the outskirts. With a bit more time and when our coastal journey gets round here there is the Botanic Gardens to explore, the Atkinson Centre and a bird reserve slightly north of the town on the coast.










Exploring Bury Market

We enjoy visiting markets and during our recent trip to Australia, sampled the one in Cairns with friends and the largest market in the southern hemisphere; the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne which I had last visited in 2004. The market in our local town has shrunk in size dramatically over the 29 years we have lived in the area. It used to extend over the whole common but is now limited to a few stalls outside the market hall. This made me intrigued to hear that coach trips ran to Bury market in Greater Manchester and eventually we got round to exploring it ourselves. The market has been running for 500 years and claims to be the best in Britain.

bury market 5 jan 2019

The market is very central, next to the Mill Gate shopping centre, the Metrolink and the town centre. The inside hall is open every day except Sunday while the stalls outside are on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. A nearby car park only cost £1.80 for three hours. There are 11 blocks of over 350 stalls outside and others around the edge selling a huge variety of food and drink, household goods, clothes and shoes, tools, electronics, gifts, cut flowers etc at very reasonable prices. It is a little like a maze for the unfamiliar but there are frequent sign posts and the stallholders are very friendly and helpful. There is a separate meat and fish hall inside….

bury market 1 jan 2019

where you can even buy a whole salmon.

bury market 4 jan 2019

Black pudding is popular in these parts and has a separate stall. You can have it laced with chilli if you wish.

bury market 2 jan 2019

The one bookstall was largely devoted to paperback fiction with some children’s books.

bury market 3jan 2019

The market was quite busy even on Wednesday but most of it is accessible by wheelchair, only a few aisles would be a little too narrow. There are several cafes and tea rooms and we had our lunch in one. The people at a nearby table took a long time deciding where to sit and an even longer time deciding what to order. Our journey home was quicker than the outward one as the as the motorway problems which had slowed down all the surrounding roads had cleared. If I lived a little closer I am sure I would be a regular visitor to this market.


Two things conflict with my drive to a more sustainable life – my love of travel and despite decluttering, still finding the very occasional item I feel I must have. Today I failed on both counts. We were driving down to Gatwick for our flight to Sicily tomorrow. Amazingly we avoided two accidents on the M6 which happened after we had reached the M42. A red soft top Ford Mustang brightened up the motorway in the midst of all the HGVs. James decided to stop at Bicester Outlet Village with the intention of doing some early Christmas shopping. Needless to say we did not really see anything for anyone’s present but enjoyed a walk in the sun, our picnic lunch and a break in the driving. Despite saying that I did not really need any new clothes or shoes, I wandered into LK Bennett and spotted the dress. A black long-sleeved sequin evening dress which looked just fabulous. The rail only had very small sizes but as I was about to give up when the shop assistant said she had other sizes in the back. I could not resist and attempted to justify it to myself by saying it was to replace one worn out evening dress and one that no longer fitted. This photo is not quite the same as it as mine has no train but you get the idea.


The M25 was not too busy and we soon found the airport and our hotel. Now it’s time to relax before final preparations for the flight tomorrow morning. There will be no need for eveningwear on Mount Etna.