Wednesday, 15 February 2017

In Another Place

I have always felt very fortunate to live near the waterfront at Waterloo just north of Liverpool. The River Mersey passes by the bottom of the road before opening out into the Irish Sea. There is nothing quite like the sound of the sea and the wonderful sunsets that I have mentioned before.

All of this was taken to a different level in 2005 when 100 iron men appeared along the length of Crosby Beach. They are the work of renowned sculptor Anthony Gormley – creator of the Angel of the North in Gateshead. In fact, each of the Iron men is moulded from casts of the artist’s body. In effect they are 100 replica Gormleys. They all appear to be looking out to sea towards the same distant point – to another place.

The original plan was for them to pay a short visit before heading off to the USA. But they have stayed with us ever since and are now a permanent feature.

They have certainly led to an increase in visitor numbers. On any weekend, especially in the summer, tourists can be seen admiring them, photographing them or even dressing them up!

Their effect on the beach itself is stunning. They are spread out over 3 km between the beginning of the beach at Waterloo and the Coast Guard Station at Burbo Bank. You might want to focus on just one of them as he looks longingly into the distance. Or you might want to stand back and watch many - all with that same longing. Any photograph of the beach seems to come alive with their presence.

You can access them at any point along the promenade that follows the length of the beach. The most popular places get to them is from the bottom of South Road, 5 minutes from Waterloo Station, near Crosby Baths or from Burbo Bank itself. If you use the South Road route be sure to stop for a drink at the remarkable Waterloo Place Café and Gallery that has been created from the remains of what were once unused and rather nasty public toilets!

If you can mange to walk the length of the promenade then it is an experience not to be missed - although the walkway is regularly inaccessible to wheelchairs, buggies and wheelchairs if the sand has been blowing from the dunes and not been cleared away – something that happens all too often. But even with that warning, a visit to the now famous Iron Men is an essential part of any visit to Liverpool

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The one and only Albert Dock

You cannot write a series of blogs about Liverpool without mentioning the Albert Dock, which is the biggest tourist attraction in the city and also one of the most popular in the UK outside of London with over 4m visitors a year. This is even more remarkable to those of us who remember the early 1980s when the Dock was closed, run down and a depressing example of urban decay. To be honest I have little memory of what it was like back then because, like everyone else, I never went!

So here is a quick history lesson. The docks were opened in 1846 by….yes you guessed it…Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. It was built of iron, brick and stone making it the first fire proof warehouse in the world. 

Its dockland hey day was in the late 19th and early 20th Century by which time the demands of modern trade and gradual decline of Liverpool took its toll. By the Second World War there was little by of shipping although the warehouses remained very active. Extensive damage in the May Blitz of 1941 did not help. The docks never really recovered. In the early 1960s demolition was considered. The dock finally closed in 1972 and remained in a derelict state until the revival which began in the 1980s.

It is now impossible to visit the dock without encountering hundreds of visitors from across the world. The attractions are varied and fascinating.

The first port of call for many is the Beatles Story. This a must for any Beatles fan – or anyone else who wonders what the fuss is about – 

The current highlight is a set of Sgt Pepper suits!

A short walk around the old docks brings you to the Tate Gallery. 

Its historic setting merits the visit and a coffee on the dockside is an essential experience. But the gallery itself has hosted some great exhibitions. I have been to Dali and Klimt  presentations and you can currently see Tracy Emin’s memorable unmade bed.

You can also take in the Maritime Museum which merits a blog post of its own. There are endless places to eat and drink including Revolucion de Cuba and  Liverpool Comedy Central –

But I have to say that my favourite activity is simply walking around the area taking in the vibe, the nostalgia and the sheer beauty of the old and modern beautifully reflected in the still water.

I drive past the Albert on my way to and fro work everyday and have begun to take it for granted. But for anyone visiting for the first time or old timers like me who take a moment to stop and look, it is a world class attaraction which can still take the breath away ..

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Whenever I gaze on Waterloo Sunsets I am in paradise

Not many words in today's post. This is all about beautiful sunsets. So the pictures can do all the talking.

One major advantage of being on the North West coast of the UK is that Liverpool enjoys some magnificent sunsets. And we have had some particularly stunning performances in the last few months. The best are of course at the waterfront but I took these at Knowsley Safari Park in December - it isn't all about lions tigers and bears - oh my!

The world famous waterfront at the Pier Head and Albert Dock also produces some memorable moments to entertain the ever growing numbers of tourists..

But the sunsets at Crosby Beach - about 5 miles north of the city centre beat anything the rest of the world can offer. The sunsets themselves are almost overwhelming but when they are set against Anthony Gormley's Another Place they just take your breath away. 

So enough words from me - just sit back and enjoy the view!

Monday, 23 January 2017

We've got one to spare

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Liverpool had no Cathedral. Now that seems a long time ago to many of us. But when you compare it with say Winchester (1071), Salisbury (1258), Ely (1109)  and even Chester (1541) we are absolute beginners. The plans for an Anglican Cathedral began in about 1901 and the first part of the building was completed in 1910. It was designed by the fascinating Giles Gilbert Scott, a Roman Catholic who showed his versatility by also designing the classic red telephone box! 

For various reasons the magnificent building was not completed until 1978. Its external length makes it the longest in the world. Overall it is the fifth largest in the world. Because of its size and location on St James’ Mount, it dominates the Liverpool skyline. Putting it simply – it is huge!! It is built in gothic style and its huge arches and stained glass windows take your breath away however many times you see them.

It is worth the visit just to wander around and take in the sheer splendour of the building

To add spice to a visit you can take a lift (£5.50) to the top of the tower and, on a clear day, enjoy some of the most spectacular city views in the world –

By the 1960s moves were afoot to build a second cathedral for the city's Roman Catholic population. In 1962 work began. It was completed somewhat more promptly than its Anglican counterpart, opening just 5 years later. So this year it celebrates its 50th birthday
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King is a masterpiece of modern architecture although back in the 60s locals did not know what to make of it. It was variously nicknamed Paddy’s Wigwam and the Mersey Funnel. Today it stands out as a magnificent feature of the city’s landscape.

But the external grandeur does not prepare you for the stunning beauty of the interior. With its modern windows, central altar and soft colours it literally shocks the senses. If you visit this cathedral you simply need to sit and take it all in. It is an experience not to be missed.

The two cathedrals are less than half a mile apart and are linked by the appropriately named Hope Street. Stand on the steps of the Metropolitan and you can see the Anglican at the far end of the street.

The Street is in fact named after a former dignitary William Hope but the name of the street has often come to symbolise the unity of the two communities particularly after the Toxteth riots and the Hillsborough disaster on 1989.

According to the classic folk song we’ve got one to spare. Some might even say we’ve got two to spare. But these two Cathedrals are now part of the fabric of Liverpool and we would not lose either for the world!