Liverpool The Walker Art Gallery

When We visited Liverpool we had not got an agenda for the afternoon so there we were at the Albert Dock with three and a half hours before we would be picked up again. It was raining the sort of rain that doesn’t seem that heavy, but before you know it you are soaked and getting very chilled  so our first priority was to keep dry.

Here is a rainy Liverpool. It is difficult for anywhere to look appealing when it is wet.

We visited the tourist information office for a map and a look at the bus timetables but the centre was so crowded we decided to walk to the Walker Art Gallery. I know the Liverpool Tate was closer but I don’t really understand most modern art and some of it irritates me. I wanted to enjoy my time in this city so we headed out to the gallery. So here we are outside the gallery.


It was free which is always a lovely surprise with a great high ceiling and central space downstairs. As you can see the building is reminiscent of the Natural History Museum and Science Museum in London and not too different from The Natural History Museum in Oxford. Perhaps they built all these buildings from a common template.


I really wanted to see the Pre-raphaelites so we made our way to the 19th Century gallery.

Here is Echo and Narcissus


And here is a cross dressing page


When I find out how to rotate this I will. This is from the story of Dante and Beatrice. In this painting she is ignoring him, but her friend is quite obviously checking him out.


This is Isabelle from the Prom Isabella and the pot of basil by Keats. If you don’t mind growing your basil in a pot containing your dead lover’s head it is a fine tail. Looking at the picture and the expressions of her brothers it isn’t really difficult to tell who is responsible for the loss of his head.  I did think if you were to wear tights that are that close fitting you shouldn’t try to kick the dog IMAG3286

I rather liked these two women of Phoenicia. They look more substantial that the picture above more like real women that the fantasy of some anaemic idealised figure. I also like the fact they are not looking out at the observer. I think this was painted for the drapery.


This is earlier and more idealised but still she appeared more real than many of the figures.


Another picture painted for the drapery. Her face is totally closed and expressionless.


This isn’t a great photo despite not using flash the lighting bounced off the picture . I liked that they were all playing music.


More angelic musicians here. Is it me or do they look a bit pallid and unhealthy?


Finally one that puzzled me. Any ideas?


I found a few Dutch old Masters the old man is by Carl Fabritius and he young man is  a Rembrant self portrait. There is such calm and poise and space in these paintings. I hadn’t expected to find 17th century Dutch masterpieces her so it was a lovely surprise.


Here is the famous Hans Holbein portrait of Henry VIII. Those little piggy eyes and huge jowls just make me shiver. I heard last week on a history programme that 72,000 people were executed during his reign.

The final portrait I photographed is an impressionist painting of a poor woman ironing. No posh clothes or fine jewels but I felt closer to her than the grand beauties. Isn’t it always the case that behind the scenes there is some impoverished woman cleaning or ironing or cooking unnoticed and unrecorded for the most part.


This is a modern work of two girls dancing. There is such an expression of abandon and movement and excitement I had to photograph it.


When we emerged it had stopped raining and look how much more attractive it suddenly becomes.


This was a wooden installation in the middle of the streets and shops. Isn’t it fun.


Back at the docks we took yet more pictures. The swans are a species unique to this area apparently.




Small Gardens

I am fascinated by what can be done in a tiny space with a small yard or strip of garden and here I want to share some ideas I found on holiday. They say that Kent is the garden of England and whilst I thought it was full of gardens, many counties of England are full of beautiful gardens. Indeed gardens are something we do very well.

I believe it is relatively easy to make a lovely garden in a larger space where there is room for a water feature, trees a shade area a lawn bedding plants etc. Not to mention the money to buy all these things and perhaps a gardener to care for it all.

However, to make a small awkward area look interesting is much more challenging.

Here are some of the ideas I have seen and photographed on my travels this summer.

This is the garden of the hotel where we stayed.


I thought it was rather a tribute to bedding plants and brash colours but in the sunshine it was rather pretty. I would rather sit amidst flowers and shrubs that surrounded by grass and concrete.



It is amazing what you can make with a narrow passage beside your house. This one was in Hythe.



If however you only have a wall and your plants get wind blasted and salt encrusted. It is still possible to plant in containers. What a great idea these were!



Once again this time a narrow strip between two houses this time just behind the sea wall so subject to salty winds and storms. This is a real garden complete with a few weeds and grasses.



This garden really made an effort not only was there the model pheasant on the balcony, but the plastic crabs and lobsters  next to the front door. I don’t think I would have them in my garden but beside the beach it didn’t look too tacky. I am not too sure about the pirate flag though. Just as well those troughs are secured.



Then there was a small space in Rye between the church and the street, that was overflowing with plants. It was very romantic and atmospheric.


Even where there were three storey victorian houses, many of the small patches of garden had been lovingly nurtured. This one was just beside a basement and had to be photographed over the wall looking down. I was inspired with how much could be done with just a few metres of space.  Again this one was in Hythe.


Finally the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch had its own style of gardening. The small gardens beside the tracks tended to contain small models of animals and gnomes. However, the signal boxes and stations had some really lovely tubs and hanging baskets.



Railway sleepers obviously make excellent plant containers. The gauge on those railway lines is approximately 15 inches and this shows in the photograph above.

Do you have any ideas of what can be done in a small space?


Hythe The military canal and history

Whilst we were staying in Kent, every morning we would get up early for breakfast and then go for a walk for about an hour after our evening meal we would go for another walk. Many of these walks were taken either along the beach or along the military canal. The  canal was built in the early nineteenth century in order to defend the  coast against invasion.


The Romney Marsh had been left virtually undefended in the belief that it could be quickly flooded and the subsequent boggy ground, criss-crossed by drainage ditches, would be impassable. The threat of Napoleonic invasion led to questioning of this  view. After much deliberation Lt-Col John Brown, Commandant of the Royal Staff Corps, decided that flooding the marshes was unworkable, it would take too long, if the threat proved a mistake many homes and much farmland would be destroyed. Therefore he suggested that a canal be built from Seabrook, near Folkestone around the back of the Romney Marsh to the River Rother near Rye, a distance of 19 miles. The canal system would have sources of water from the sea and the River Rother. It would be 19 metres wide at the surface, 13.5 metres wide at the bottom and 3 metres deep. The excavated soil would be piled on to the northern bank to make a parapet, behind which troops could be positioned and moved out of sight of the enemy. The canal would also have ‘kinks’ to allow enfilading fire along the length of the canal, if the enemy attempted to cross it. I know it seems a bit silly to think that an army that had marched across much of Europe would be stopped by a deep ditch.


On October 30 1804 excavation of the Royal Military Canal was commenced. Harsh winter weather and severe flooding, as well as difficulty in attracting labourers called navvies delayed the completion and by May 1805 the canal project was close to disaster: only six miles had been completed and work had stopped.  The Prime Minister William Pitt intervened: the contractors and Rennie were dismissed.

The project was put in the hands of the Quartermaster-General’s department with Lt-Col. Brown in command. Navvies dug the canal, while the military built the ramparts and turfed the banks. Flooding continued to be a barrier to progress and hand pumps were used day and night to keep the trench from filling with water. Eventually powerful steam-driven pumps were used to clear the water.

Here is a picture of the monument to the navvies who built the canal



At its peak there were 1,500 men working on the canal. The canal was dug entirely by hand, using picks and shovels and the soil was carried away in wheelbarrows. Once the canal was dug it was lined with clay. The change of command and the greater work force speeded progress so that by August 1806 the canal was open from Seabrook to the River Rother.
However, the original dimensions of the canal were greatly reduced due to increasing problems encountered by the builders and pressures of time, so that for most of its length the canal is half its projected width.

Iden Lock was completed in September 1808, which linked the canal to the River Rother and Rye Harbour, effectively turning the Romney Marsh into an island, but it wasn’t until April 1809 that the canal was actually completed.

Plaque to the canal



By the time the Royal Military canal was fully ready for use, the threat of invasion had long since past. Napoleon’s plans for invasion suffered a major setback following his navy’s defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He withdrew his troops from the French coast and focused his intentions on central Europe.

Map showing the route of the canal obviously we did not walk the entire length, but used it as a base to explore the town and its surroundings.


The fact that the canal was never used for its intended purpose, cost £234,310 (a huge amount in Georgian England)  meant that the canal became an embarrassment to the Government – it was considered to be a huge waste of public money. It was cheekily called Pitt’s ditch after the then Prime Minister William Pitt

The radical journalist William Cobbett, who toured the country on his Rural Rides during the 1820s, was typical of the critics of the canal: ‘Here is a canal made for the length of thirty miles to keep out the French; for those armies who had so often crossed the Rhine and the Danube were to be kept back by a canal thirty feet wide at most!’

The Government desperately needed to find ways of recovering some of the money spent on the canal and in 1807 opened it to navigation and collected tolls for the transportation of produce and goods. In 1810 the canal was opened for public use and tolls were also collected for the use of the military road between Iden, Rye and Winchelsea. There was also a regular barge service running between Hythe and Rye, which took around four hours to complete.

Despite these efforts, traffic was never heavy, and the opening of the Ashford to Hastings railway line in 1851 further decreased its use. The Government was struggling not only to recoup the money invested in the canal but to meet the costs of maintenance.

Consequently, during the 1860s the stretch from Iden Lock to West Hythe was leased to the Lords of the Romney Marsh for 999 years at an annual rent of one shilling, while the the town of Hythe purchased the remaining stretch, that ran through the town, for conversion to ornamental waters. The canal west of Rye was sold to four individual owners. By the late nineteenth century the canal trade had all but gone. The last ever toll was collected at Iden Lock on December 15 1909.


Despite previous doubts surrounding the canal’s usefulness for defence in the nineteenth century, it was quickly requisitioned by the War Department in 1935 as war in Europe became increasingly likely. The banks were lined with pill-boxes as the nation awaited invasion, this time by Hitler, but once again there was no invasion.

This is one of the Martello towers along the beach the red flag shows that the shooting range is active which is why the photograph is somewhat distant.


Despite never being used to defend the nation it is a very beautiful place to walk or cycle. There are boats that  can be hired. Trees flank the water and the usual assortment of ducks, geese and swans live on the waters. Herring gulls in all stages of maturity use it as a place to wash and clean their feathers not to mention scrounge any food from passing individuals.


and it is much pleasanter to walk into Hythe along a beautiful tree-lined peaceful waterway that along a noisy dirty road with extremely narrow pavements. There are some parklands.


Unlike the canals here in the midlands there are considerable more pleasure boats but considerably fewer supermarket trolleys, old motorbikes and other debris.

The town of Hythe has a long connection with the defence of the country. Hythe was originally one of the cinque ports (from the French for five, but pronounced sink), they comprised Hastings, Hythe, Dover, Sandwich and New Romney. However when New Romney silted up Rye took over as a cinque port. The earliest known charter to the Cinque Ports collectively (a general charter) was granted by King Henry III in 1260, but there is evidence that the Ports acted together from an earlier date.  It was found from the terms of those charters and other evidence, including the Pipe Rolls of Henry II and the Domesday Book (published in 1086), that the Ports had enjoyed common privileges in return for their service to the Crown since the 11th century and were already known collectively as the Cinque Ports. Until the 16th Century, each of the Five Ports was required to provide the Crown with a specified number of ships, for 15 days every year; each crewed by 21 men and a boy. If their service was required for longer than 15 days in any year, they were entitled to payment for the additional period. Hythe supplied five ships. In return they were first granted important legal and fiscal privileges, as well as valuable commercial benefits and social status (see footnotes if you are interested).

As the fortunes of the head ports changed over the centuries, so the contributions of their limbs varied. Coastal erosion, silting-up of harbours, foreign raids and the Black Death took their toll on all of the ports at different times and to varying degrees.  At one point it was discovered that Hythe had only supplied two ships and the King threatened to revoke the town’s privileges.


Hythe’s military history dates back to the Roman times. It was the original home to the School of Musketry. Today, Hythe Ranges is a major training area for the Ministry of Defence. Beside the canal are the remains of military barracks and an unusual war memorial.


The Ports enjoyed  rights and privileges in return for their ship service. These varied over time and from one port to another, according to the particular charter, but the rights and liberties most commonly granted were:-

Early royal charters confirmed their customary right to land and dry their nets (den and strand) on the shore at Yarmouth, in Norfolk. The Portsmen also assumed responsibility for the administration of justice at the Fair. It was the need to defend and manage this vital economic interest which led directly to the development of the Court of Brodhull, which assumed responsibility for the appointment of bailiffs (magistrates) from the Ports to keep order at this often unruly gathering.

●Freedom from pleading ‘otherwise than as the barons of … the Cinque Ports plead’, that is to say, in their own courts of law.

●Freedom from a wide range of taxes which were payable in the course of travel and trade during medieval times; including custom, toll, lestage, passage, rivage and sponsage.

●Freedom from fifteenths and tenths (national taxes levied by the Crown).

●The right of withernam – if a Portsman was owed a debt by a resident of another town or if he was unjustly charged a toll or levy elsewhere; a warning letter would be sent to the offending town demanding (re-) payment within 15 days. If redress was not forthcoming, the next visitor from that town would be arrested and, after a hearing, sent home with notice of the judgement against his townspeople. If that failed, the next traveller from the defaulting town was liable to be detained and his goods confiscated and sold to cover the outstanding amount.

I used this website initially,_Kent#The_Cinque_port_Court_of_Shepway

and these ones

Much of this information was supplemented from this website which I used to research the origins of the canal.


Going to Kent

Well I thought I would update you on our summer travels. This year I decided we would visit Kent. I have never been to Kent before and I thought it would be an adventure to visit somewhere new. It took most of the day to arrive. The traffic on the M25 is already notorious so the least said about it the better. I slept for most of the way with my usual narcolepsy.

The Hotel is almost on the beach literally adjacent to the beach. It had been built in the 1930s so looked a bit like a Poirot set from the outside.



It looked a lot better in the sunshine.



Inside it was alright not too much of the modern minimalism but a bit pseudo Elizabethan downstairs wooden beams heavy doors etc. we were on the second floor the stairs were narrow and twisted so we opted for the lift. The lift could barely contain a single person so the pair of us with cases was challenging. In the end it was like playing an impromptu game of twister especially when we tried to reach the lift controls.

Our room more than made up for the rest with a balcony two huge windows and lots of light we overlooked the beach and the road.






The beach is shingle but with a concrete path to the side. This makes walking a great deal easier. The only birds visible were a few house sparrows and the occasional flock of starlings. Herring gulls patrolled the beach looking for a meal and we did spot a lesser black backed gull.

Along the edge of the beach four brave/foolhardy blokes were attempting to swim in the sea. A short distance away a group of herring gulls watched them avidly. I am almost sure I saw one of the gulls nudge his companion as he singled out a particularly cold looking individual as his next meal. I reckon these vulture/ herring gulls were just waiting for hypothermia to set in, before they attacked. One of the men appeared to have turned blue from the waist down, although that could have just been his shorts. Unfortunately the predatory gulls put me off swimming in the sea. After all my carcass could feed considerably more gulls, for a long time. Besides the Japanese are still carrying out whaling, so, swimming could put me in considerable danger. This is what the beach looks like but in the interests of not bringing the human form into disrepute I have omitted the hypothermia victims.




Well that is all the news for today.

I will tell you more tomorrow!

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