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.

Moorlands in winter

A family birthday celebration in Derbyshire and roads closed due to snow dictated our route over the Staffordshire Moorlands and into Derbyshire via Leek and Ashbourne. Driving over in the late afternoon just as the sun was dipping below the horizon and finding a layby just after sunset and where sheep were feeding was a good opportunity for some photos. The return journey was in the dark.Winter landscape Peak Distric (1 of 1)Winter landscape 2 Peak District (1 of 1)Sheep and Wind Turbine Peak District 2015 (1 of 1)

Homeward Bound

My train journey home on Friday was enlivened by the company of three fifty-something Liverpudlian women who were heading to Birmingham for the weekend. Nail varnish was applied, eyebrows tweaked, hair colour and texture discussed and family misdemeanors dealt with on the phone. They had a discussion with the woman opposite about the standard of nightlife in Liverpool, Wolverhampton and Birmingham – conclusion: Liverpool is for young people, there is nothing happening in Wooly these days and Birmingham is the best option. Drinks and crisps were consumed (and I was very generously offered some) and then one turned the music on her Blackberry up and we enjoyed some Michael Jackson as we crossed the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge. The train manager emerged after Runcorn to check tickets and had not got very far down the carriage before he returned to our table to ask that the music be turned down as someone had complained. The volume was reduced by a small amount with the knowledge that it would take the train manager some time to do the whole train and return to us at the back. All too soon I got to Crewe and wished my companions a good weekend.

Art in Liverpool

Friday was cooler and I had a teaching session to do in the afternoon in Liverpool. In the morning I treated myself to the Tate Gallery exhibitions: Mondrian and his Studios and Nasreen Mohamedi, an Indian artist whose work was completely unknown to me. It is always interesting to see how an artist’s work develops, particularly if only one period is well known. The exhibition covered Mondrian’s work over the years and into the abstracts we are most familiar with. I always find artists’ studios fascinating. I remember visiting Georgia O’Keefe’s last year and feeling very at home with her collection of found objects from the natural world. My little collection is on my table in the my studio. Mondrian painted squares of colour on the white walls of his studio.
Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue 1935 by Piet Mondrian 1872-1944
Nasreen Mohamedi also produced abstract works beginning with natural forms and moving onto very minimalist abstractions. She was also a photographer and I could appreciate her focus on cropping scenes to look at the edges and geometric forms.
Tate Liverpool chandelier
My original plan had been to spend some time down at the waterfront taking photographs as the light was particularly good, the tide out and I could see some possible compositions. Unfortunately just as I left the gallery the heavens opened and it rained very heavily. The black cloud followed me all the way from the Pier Head to Toxteth and I arrived at the hospital dripping wet. On my return walk to Lime Street Station it had fortunately eased off somewhat.

Unexpected Day Out

With a meeting cancelled unexpectedly at the last minute, it was not difficult to decide to use my train tickets anyway and have a day in London. I had missed the Viking exhibition at the British Museum on my last trip and as we Henshaws are said to be descended from them, it was a ‘must’. Despite planning to do some reading on the slow train down, this was not to be. From Stafford to Euston the woman sitting opposite me with two phones and a laptop was very loudly arranging the Fire & Rescue Services’ National and International Summer Camps. There is now nothing I don’t know about these events. Gazing out the window at the brilliant yellow of oil-seed rape fields under glowering black clouds, it was also evident that the weather forecast I had looked at the day before had not been accurate – it rained for most of the day. The British Museum was incredibly busy compared to my last visit in March with dozens of tour buses parked outside and lots of people inside. The exhibition was well worth the trip and has inspired me to find out more. Back in the rain, I headed to Oxford St to do some birthday present shopping and then back through Bloomsbury to some favourite book haunts – the remainder and secondhand section of Waterstones on Gower St, Skoob Books in the Brunswick and another shop in Marchmont St which specialises in the arts. I found a history of country music for James as he will be off on the gentlemen’s trip to Nashville and Memphis next year. Back at Euston several trains were delayed including mine. Still no peaceful reading on the return journey – as a (fairly) pleasantly intoxicated Glaswegian felt the need to explain at length why he had missed the Glasgow train (in the bar drinking G&Ts) and so was on my train (drinking red wine) as he had to go and stay with a friend in Runcorn. At least getting back to Crewe later meant the drive home on quiet roads was quicker.

Going slow for Congleton Choral Society

Yesterday was the day I decided to do my fund-raising venture and drive from Smallwood to Edinburgh via B roads rather than the usual motorway route. We left at 7am and the first few miles were towards Swettenham, a village with a great pub and a church the Choral Society used to sing in at Advent. However, on this occasion we passed it by and made our way towards the Warburton Toll Bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal. We paid our 12p toll and once across had to do a few miles on the A57 before picking our way through Winwick, Newton le Willows and Wigan. In Wigan, we had a brief stretch of the legs and bought the paper before carrying on towards and around Preston. Once past Preston it was much easier to head over to Longridge and Clitheroe where we had a coffee stop and short dog walk by the river. Our route continued through Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria passing many small towns and villages. One had a Passion Play in the town centre and we were listening to the Bishop of Bradford’s Good Friday message on the radio. In Cumbria the radio signal vanished so I put on my Easter music CD which started with Mascagni’s Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana which had sung in our last concert. Lunch was eaten beside Pendragon Castle near Kirby Stephen but unfortunately the castle was closed to the public as the building was deemed to be dangerous. We had to be content with a photograph. Under the blue sky the spring flowers were amazing.  Sheep and lambs were sleeping in the sun in fields and on the hills. We crossed the border on the B6318 and were again on more familiar roads via Langholm, Eskdalemuir, Traquair, Peebles, West Linton and through Midlothian to Edinburgh. James calculated that we had completed the 310 miles with an average speed of around 33 miles per hour. We followed several tractors and farmers feeding their stock, waited for rabbits, pheasants and sheep to move from the road and even two Buddhist monks who were walking in the middle of the road at Eskdalemuir. We saw places we would love to revisit with more time to explore. Although I did not feel tired when driving and felt that I could have carried on further, as soon as I stopped, I felt quite exhausted. 
Welcome to Scotland B6318Blackthorn at Pendgragon