Blue skies in Picardy – what more to ask? This is le Crotoy and its idiosyncratic hotel/restaurant, Les Tourelles, now restored and looking lovely, just like the personnel in the picture. In the other direction lies the Somme estuary (see picture below). On the other side of the estuary is St Valery, a larger and equally attractive town, with stunning domestic architecture, high town walls and the start of the steam railway line back to Le Crotoy.
Set high on a ridge overlooking the M1, Bolsover Castle is an impressive monument but not a building you’d defend for long against attack as the castle is largely decorative: built to impress royalty (and failing). However, it impressed us, especially the decorative art inside the three grand storeys. Some memorable allegorical paintings giving an excuse for a bit of titillation, seventeenth century style.
- which calls out for a witty caprion, surely? The murals and other decorative work are in remarkably good condition, too. Across the courtyard, you can visit the riding stables, the second very good reason for a visit. At weekends there are demonstrations of the skills of both horse and rider, showing how modern dressage evolved from the necessities of mounted warfare. Fascinating stuff – and there’s a good cafe, too.
The Church at the top of the 199 steps is unusual in retaining its 18th Century box pews and its triple decker pulpit, from which the minister could see everyone as he preached his fire and brimstone, no doubt. Today, though warmed a little by its ancient coke stoke, it has a strange and not altogether pleasant atmosphere – fitting, perhaps, as an inspiration to Bram Stoker and his many imitators. As we walk down, the chill wind eases but the views are still stunning, even on a grey day.
The wide open Kent estuary – but not in Kent. This is a part of Cumbria less visited but a haven for birds and people who like to get quite a long way away from it all. Below is the view from my bedroom at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks: a pleasant sight even early in the morning. Luckily no cocks have been fighting here for some time, though a Rod Stewart impersonator created quite a racket last night…
Underneath London’s Guildhall Art Gallery is a Roman amphitheatre and this, believe it or not, is it. In spite of (or perhaps because of) the 21st Century lighting effects, the space is very atmospheric. Above, the gallery reflects Victorian high art with some deliciously robust pictures. I particularly like this one, which if I remember correctly, is called ‘Early to the Ball’ and reflects that sense of hanging about waiting for things to happen:
Around the corner and part of the same Guildhall complex is the Clockmaker’s Museum, wherein I discovered, of course, more about John Harrison. It houses his first clock, dated 1713 and made when he was 20:
The description reads: ‘Long case clock. Movement by John Harrison. Oak dial with date aperture. 8 day striking movement. Anchor escapement. Keyholes concealed behind lower spandrels. The earliest known clock by JH made when he was 20 years old. Signed John Harrison 1713 in ink on the calendar wheel.’
The West Pier broods out to sea like some burnt out alien spaceship while the East Pier has the razzmatazz. Some stunning buildings along the front as well as some more recent monstrosities. Back from the sea-front the Lanes provide a cornucopia (seems like the right word for Brighton) of very individual shops and cafes – together with some nice pavement art. Perfect for a wander, as are the residential streets nearby.