Sunday, 26 February 2012

Hodder Bridge and the Crossing of an Army

August 1983 saw me dashing about the Lancashire countryside, avidly snapping away at anything that was falling down, had already fallen down, or had a story to tell.

At the time I had a series, John Burke's Curious Lancashire running every now and then in the bi-monthly magazine Lancashire Magazine.

This is the River Hodder, a tributary of the Ribble. The bridge has obviously seen better days but fits all of my criteria in that parts of it have fallen down, the rest of it looks (though I'm not sure it is) in imminent danger of falling down, and it most certainly has a story to tell.

Across this bridge marched an army. Not just any old army, but an army on their way to a battle. Not just any old battle, but a battle that would change the course of English history.

The army was led by Oliver Cromwell, a name that even today can divide the country. On that day in 1648 his men were on their way to Preston, where they would win a huge victory upon which hung the fate of the Civil War. Following the battle the Royalist cause collapsed. The Parliamentarians called for the King to be brought to trial and six months later he was beheaded at Westminster on such a low block that he was forced to lie prone on his stomach in humiliation.

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Friday, 24 February 2012

On The Buses

I have never described myself, or even thought of myself as a bus enthusiast. But a few photos went through the scanner recently of a commercial vehicle rally in Blackpool from 1983.

These used to take place every year along the Middle Walk - and still may do these days for all I know. Though the last event I noticed seemed to have lots of modern buses and a drivers' competition and seemed by far more about today's bus companies than about nostalgia and older vehicles.

The above bus, NTF 466, is a 1952 Daimler CVG6 (someone will know what that means...) in the livery of Lancaster City Council. At the time and for a considerable number of years we used to see it regularly on the roads of the Fylde and Wyre districts as it was available for hire.

DGS 625 is a 1951 Leyland Tiger PS1 in the livery of Lonsdale Coaches and with a totally weird angled window across the corner of the half-cab...

Although these photos were taken almost 30 years ago and the vehicles were already over 30 years old themselves at that time, I had no problems at all in finding out the details about them, thanks to lots of interest in bus preservation. Simply by putting the registration number into Google, I found not only all these details but lots more besides.

Whilst I found scores of photos of these vehicles, some from the same event as here, I have to admit I don't get all that excited about knowing the chassis number...

But for the die-hards, here's a shot of a double decker with the bonnet up! NLE 882 is an AEC Regent III from around 1953, fleet No. RT 3775 with London Transport.

These were the real London double deckers and instantly recogniseable. Two at least achieved fame on the silver screen - one being driven to Athens by Cliff Richard in the film Summer Holiday and one being driven under a low bridge by Roger Moore in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die. I know who I'd rather drove me out of the two...

They are made of sterner stuff than the James Bond film would have you believe. Roger Moore, in his book about the filming of his first Bond film, recalls they had already cut the top and put it on runners so that it would immediately zip to the back of the bus and drop off, allowing the lower deck to drive on!

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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Hawkshead and Hill Top 1983

This week a set of photos from the Lake District have been going through the scanner.

In August 1983 Fran and I took Gillian, then aged 6, and Fran's parents, Bob and Peggy, up to the Lakes and over the Windermere Ferry to Hawkshead.

It wasn't exactly a glorious English summer's day, but then again it wasn't actually raining so we counted ourselves lucky! We did feel as though we were ready for a spot of lunch once we had stretched our legs and the shot shows the family emerging from the Minstrels' Gallery tea room. This was a regular calling place when in Hawkshead.

By heck... blue-tinted specs! Why did we ever think they were cool? And they cover half my face for Heaven's sake!!!

Anyway, this is taken inside the cafe as the 29-year-old me sits behind my 'tache waiting to order our food. There is a minstrel's gallery but I never saw it with any minstrels in the vicinity and haven't got a photo of it either. Take my word for it, or go and have a look as I suspect (and hope) they won't have changed the place very much in the past 30 years.

Hawkshead is a nice place to visit anyway, with lots of narrow streets and alleys and old buildings, joined to each other on the first floor, so that you find little tunnels underneath like this.

At Near Sawrey you can visit the home of children's author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter. Called Hill Top this is now kept as a museum of her life and work.

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Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Fairy Steps

In August 1983 I found myself pushing through the undergrowth of a forest near a village called Beetham in north Lancashire. The path - or perhaps I should say the line of least resistance - led to the top of an outcrop of rock. There were three ways down.

One was by rope, ably being demonstrated by a group of youngsters, one of whom can just be seen top left. The second was by jumping and hoping you didn't break anything on landing... The third was by the extremely narrow way of a series of what seem to be natural steps leading down through a fissure in the rock.

Legend has it that the flight of steps was made by the fairy folk, who further will grant a wish to anyone who climbs the stairs successfully without touching the sides. Even in 1983 when I was built somewhat in the manner of a racing snake, this would have been a severe challenge. I somehow feel even trying it today might be somewhat more embarrassing... er... I think I've caught a button on a bit of rock...?

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Sunday, 12 February 2012

A Few Curiosities

I like to find things that are a little out of the ordinary (and haven't all that far to look, let's face it...) So a quick collection of a few bits that have been going through the scanner in the last week or two.

Starting close to home, this is a view of Carlin Rock which is about half a mile off the sea wall at Bispham where I live. Only visible at low tide and shrinking because of the wearing effect of two tides a day and probably sinking into the sand as well. Even further out to sea is Pennystone Rock. Only uncovered at extremely low tides, it's said the stone used to sit outside an old inn and that there was an iron ring set in it for tethering horses.

I think I blogged about the God Stone of Formby after a more recent visit in 2007, but this photo was taken in July 1983 when I first went looking for it after reading about it in the excellent King's England series of books by Arthur Mee in the volume about Lancashire. Lancashire was a slightly larger place in the days of those books! It can be found in the churchyard and is said to pre-date the church, being a pagan stone that locals carried their dead around 3 times. The early Christians carved steps and a cross and a circle representing Heaven to show that the way to Heaven was through the cross.

A slightly more modern relic, but a reminder of a way of life now vanished none-the-less. Sheds of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway at Haworth in Yorkshire. A couple of steam locomotives are in steam, ready for the day's work on this museum line.

And finally, a view across the River Wharf of Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, taken later on the same day as the Haworth photo in July 1983. The ruins of the abbey are impressive and the scenery of this beautiful spot makes them all the more so. The line of stepping stones had disappeared the last time I was there. I hope that was temporary and not a modern health & safety nonsense.

Return to Legends, Lore and Superstition Index Page

Monday, 6 February 2012

Fun in Bed

Miss Franny had been upstairs for quite a while and came down with a twinkle in her eye...

"We can have some fun in bed tonight!" she announced, bringing raised eyebrows and a smile to my face.

"Bring your crayons," she continued, "and we can colour in the duvet...!"

Sunday, 5 February 2012

"Paradise Reborn" - The Billy Fury Way!

From Pierre Petrou, Head of Media,

Northampton moves halfway to paradise for fans of rock legend Billy Fury next month.

The Sunnyside family-friendly pub is to host the annual "biggest Billy Fury Show on Earth" in tribute to the Liverpool-born star who died almost 30 years ago after a history of heart trouble which had dogged his stardom.

Organised by the website,, the event takes place at the scene of Billy Fury's last public appearance in 1982, and it raises money for the Heart Fund at Alder Hey Children's Hospital.

It is expected to attract over 200 Fury fans from all over the country and whilst the main show takes place on Saturday 17th March, many of Billy's fans have taken advantage of snapping up a weekend break.

Now in its seventh successful year, it comes at a time of renewed interest in Billy Fury, after a path was named after the singer, last July, close to where he recorded many of his biggest hits at Decca Studios in London.

An album of lost material was also released at the end of last year by the singer, who is the most successful artist of all time never to have had a UK number one.

Prices for the show are just £10.00 which currently includes over a dozen live acts, including Rob Dee, Dean & Jane Hubert, Creeping Bentgrass and Johnny Red.

Many of those snapping up the weekend break are staying at the accommodation base, The Sunley Management Centre, (which is within walking distance from The Sunnyside).

Pierre Petrou, Head of Media for, said, "Billy still has a very loyal following of fans who like to meet up at this gig for a very special night, remembering the man who's music gave so much pleasure.

It's a night of some very talented singers with some amazing voices, capturing the music of the sixties with passion and fondness."

He added, "Billy is a true rock 'n' roll legend, who proved to the world that British pop stars could be just as exiting as their American counterparts and the weekend brings together fans and friends who can all share their common love of this legendary icon."

Billy Fury, who's hits included, "Halfway To Paradise", "Wondrous Place", "I'd Never Find Another You", "Jealousy", "It's Only Make Believe", and "Maybe Tomorrow" was one of the most successful singer-songwriters of all time, having more hits in the 1960's than the Beatles.

Born Ronald Wycherley, he worked as a tugboat-hand after leaving school in Liverpool and at the age of 18 was signed by music impresario Larry Parnes, (today's Simon Cowell), after giving a live 'audition' at a Marty Wilde concert.

He continued to score minor hits up until his death in 1983, just as he was planning a major comeback. His last public performance at The Sunnyside in 1982 makes this event rather poignant for his fans, who will be rocking the weekend away in Fury style!

For tickets and accommodation details, please email or call 07941 219207 to check room and ticket availability at the Sunley.

Tickets for the main show on Saturday night are just £10.00.

Currently, the line up of live acts for the main show include;

Creeping Bentgrass
Rob Dee
Russ Dee
Michelle Gibson
Geoff Howlett
Dean & Jane Hubert
Dave Jay, (MC)
Laura & Emily
Dave Michael
Johnny Red
Paul Ritchie
Roger Sea
Alan Wilcox
Dave Wilcox

Details of the event can be found by following the link on the front page of

The Sunnyside is in Boughton Green Road, Northampton, NN2 7AG.

Proceeds from this event are donated to the Heart Fund at Alder Hey Children's Hospital.

For further information, please contact Pierre Petrou, Head of Media,, via email

Do You Like Surveys? (Yes or No only please)

Reading the paper today - shows how lacksadaisical I'm feeling for a start...

Apparently the results of a survey done by a travel-related website "shows" that Britons are "rather confused" about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Apparently one in eight claim to have seen the Colossus of Rhodes, a statue destroyed around 900 years ago. Perhaps they were thinking of that big chap who tries to entice you into his cafe for a drink after watching you wave away his neighbours who are doing exactly the same...

One in twenty say they have been to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Turkey. And I, folks, am one of them.

Admittedly it doesn't look much of a temple these days and the bulk of stone has been nicked from the site to build other things. The one standing column has been cobbled together from lots of bits, probably not all originally from the same pillar.

But it is undeniably there.

Three percent of people claim to have been to the Statue of Zeus at Olympia too. I am not one of those. But I have been to the site where it stood and there are again some rather large chunks left of the building that housed it.

So if I saw a survey question that said "Have you seen..." I would say no, but if I saw "Have you been to..." and it was about a relic where the remains can clearly be seen (in my view this is true of the Temple of Artemis but not of the statue) then I'd struggle to express it in terms of "yes" or "no". Have you been to Stonehenge? But that's a ruin too...

I suspect that a few of the people surveyed may have been less confused about where they had been and what they saw than were confused at the meaning of the questions - though I admit I haven't seen the survey so cannot say with any certaincy in this case.

Every time I receive a survey, almost regardless of where it comes from, there is inevitably at least one - and sometimes every - question that requires a yes/no answer that simply cannot be answered that way. It's a tactic used by some to ensure that survey results meet their own ends. People who are confused will either not answer or will forget the big "if" in their mind and select the most appropriate - which may not be appropriate at all - answer.

I am reminded of a schoolteacher who once told us about a man who had died from drinking water. He had drunk several buckets of it in fact, trying to win a bet.

So... drinking water... is it dangerous? Please answer "Yes" or "no" only...