It’s frequently claimed that the arts and cultural life of the UK revolves around London; that visitors, funding and innovation sit unfairly weighted within the capital. However, there are many incredible attractions outside of the capital, including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, a hugely rich hub for art and sculpture, but most excitingly the landscape which surrounds it is so integral to its offering, making it uniquely special.
A new visitors’ centre has been built recently, providing a wonderful hub to your visit, with great coffee and a brilliant shop, and therefore somewhere perfect to shelter from any possible inclement weather [not that Yorkshire would ever suffer from that…].
There are a huge variety of sculptures from a number of artists, including Barbara Hepworth, Damien Hirst, and Henry Moore, and we particularly loved some of the more colourful artworks and how they were offset against the slightly grey day. Below is Niki de Saint Phalle’s Buddha:
Have you ever been for a walk along the Regent’s Canal? Everyone knows about the Thames, and has probably walked across one of its bridges or along the Thames Path, but the Canal is a slightly better-kept secret. During the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, canals were built all over the country as an efficient way of transporting industrial materials and products, while the roads were still in a relatively poor state. By 1790, the Oxford Canal had been built, meaning that goods could be transported to London and beyond using water transport.
However, the Oxford Canal was only wide enough for one narrow barge at a time, and the Thames didn’t suit these narrowboats at all. Either goods had to be transferred onto larger barges, or the boats were at risk. As such, the idea of a new canal from Paddington to Limehouse, and the creation of a new dock at Limehouse, was born, which would prevent the need for transference onto barges or wagons for goods to reach the City and the Thames docks.
The project started to progress when John Nash started to plan the development of Marylebone Park (later to become The Regent’s Park). Initially Nash planned for an attractive waterway through the park, but upon realising that the cargo boats may prove unsightly he routed the canal instead along the northern boundary, hidden in a deep cutting. This section was completed in 1813, and the whole canal was opened in August 1816, on the birthday of the Prince Regent.
Immediately the canal was busy, with cargo ranging from building and industrial materials to hay and vegetables for the markets. These early cargo boats were pulled by horses, walking along the towpath at the side, although ‘legging’ was required in two of the tunnels (a chain-powered tug was introduced in 1826 given how slow this process was). We [well, one of us…] tried legging for ourselves at the Black Country Living Museum – we can highly recommend as a great day out! However, the ‘golden age’ of canals was already on the decline, thanks to Robert Stephenson and the introduction of the powerful steam locomotive. One Midlands route in particular passed across the Regent’s Canal as it came into Euston, the London & York Railway went under the canal by tunnel as it approached Kings Cross, and the Midland Railway went over it into St Pancras. Finally, the North London Railway opened in 1850, carrying goods from Camden to Bow from the Midlands.
Although the waterways continued to be useful for a time in the carrying of coal to power the trains, the carrying of freight in its entirety ended during the 1970s, leaving us with a beautiful path running alongside London Zoo (you can see the giraffes on a good day!) and past the backs of the ridiculously ornate and luxurious, many Nash-designed, houses in Regent’s Park.
Mottisfont Abbey started life as an Augustinian priory dating back to 1201. From this, it was transformed by Lord Sandys into a large house; this family also owned The Vyne, also in Hampshire, and divided their time between the two properties.
You might not think of the City, London’s financial district, as being the best place for a touristy visit. It’s true that there are a lot of people in suits pushing past you at the tube exit gates, and a Pret on every street corner, but we’d really recommend a trip to discover some more hidden secrets. It’s near to well-known historical sights, like the Tower of London, the Monument and site of the Great Fire of 1666, but also a more modern attraction, the Sky Garden. [It’s also quite interesting to walk around at the weekend when it’s almost surreally quiet!]
Located at the top of a skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street (nicknamed the Walkie Talkie due to its shape), the Sky Garden is on the 35th floor. Once you’ve whizzed up in the lift, there are three storeys of indoor landscaped gardens featuring plants from all over the world, observation decks (although these are sometimes closed depending on the weather), two restaurants and a bar.
It’s January, and like many we’re feeling a little worn down by the freezing temperatures, lack of available funds and propensity for interesting places to be closed for refurbishment. However, we’ve got some great plans for summer lining up already, as well as a few weekend distractions, so we thought we’d share with you some of our favourite ideas and tips to break up your week.
1. Booking tickets – a long way in advance
I was clearly feeling uncharacteristically organised in October, so I put the day that the Royal Opera House winter season opened in my diary, and when that day came I logged on at 9am and speedily booked some opera and ballet tickets for January. At £17 each, they didn’t break the bank, but were a welcome treat on the first day back after the Christmas break and then again in mid-January once we were feeling very fed up. Not only were they a spend we couldn’t have justified in January, but all but the most pricey tickets sell out pretty much the same day at the ROH. [You could also check out the Friday Rush at 1pm every Friday, where the ROH sell last-minute tickets for a variety of prices.]
2. Borrow a doggy
This isn’t a sponsored post, but we’re feeling a lot of love for BorrowMyDoggy… You do have to pay to sign up (£10 for borrowers), but you get matched with dogs in your area who might need occasional walking or looking after. Win – you get to hang out with a dog and you’re helping out someone in your community! Disclaimer: we haven’t tried it out ourselves yet, but have friends who love it.
Often, we like to bring you beautiful hidden gems, quirky finds or recommend places you might never have thought of to experience. Today, though, we found some photos from a late summer outing which made us so happy, we wanted to share them – it was a lovely Sunday day out, but probably somewhere you already recognise!
As you know by now, we love nothing more than a saunter around Hampstead Heath. It’s green, it’s walkable, and most importantly [for some] has a large collection of dogs to swoon over. We love Kenwood House and have a few favourite routes we explore. However, lately we made an exciting new discovery, thanks to a tip off from a podcasting friend (check out her brilliantly-engaging podcast, Uncatalogued, if you love museums and want to know more about the fascinating people who bring them to life). This discovery was Hampstead Pergola, described as “essentially, a raised walkway” near the Golders Hill Park part of the Heath. But what a raised walkway it is…
In 1904, Lord Leverhulme bought a large house in this area, named ‘The Hill’. With an interest in landscape gardening, he bought up the surrounding land and aimed to built his Pergola, for parties, summer evenings, and as a vantage point for enjoyment of the stunning gardens surrounding it. The architect he enlisted was the renowned Thomas Mawson, and he cleverly utilised the leftover materials from the nearby building of the Hampstead extension of the Northern line to cut transport costs. The Pergola was completed in 1906, after just a year in construction, and Lord Leverhulme expanded it twice more, in 1911 and 1925.
The house, visible to a degree through the Pergola’s framing, is still privately owned and now split into a number of apartments.
Although one of us is currently incapacitated, having [very annoyingly] broken his foot slipping in a tube station (don’t worry, our love for public transport hasn’t abated too much), we wanted to see what we could catch of the first Lumiere festival to come to London, as I remember them being such a success up in Durham a few years ago. We headed out for the evening, but our first stop was the Benjamin Franklin House near Trafalgar Square, the only house still standing that Franklin lived in. He came to London intending to lodge here for a few short months but stayed for 16 years, even remaining while his wife died at home. The house remains in a fairly faithful state, although it was since used by Charing Cross station as a small hotel, but it has no original furniture. Rather than fill the house with replicas, the team have decided to approach this in an unconventional way, using image projection, recorded speech and an actress to take us through the story. Ultimately, we thought this was very successful (although rarely have I read more divisive opinions on Trip Advisor!). The actress herself was completely engaged and spoke clearly – had she been anything less than perfect the tour would have suffered (on which note, she did rather need a new costume…). The tour was informative, and we learned a great deal about the man himself and his rich and varied life. In the face of presumably limited resource, we thought this was an ingenious way to bring the house to life.
We then wandered up to Trafalgar Square itself, to see the Lumiere installations everyone has heard so much about. On which note, first of all, out heartfelt congratulations to the Lumiere PR and marketing team – with so much going on in London, this was the thing everyone was talking about. Unfortunately, though, this did mean that a) we couldn’t see anything, really and b) so popular were some of the installations that they had to be turned off to deal with the crowds. Our first stop was the National Gallery, which itself was looking beautiful as always…
We love you, Yorkshire! The time between Christmas and New Year was perfect for a few days exploring the North of England (while trying to stay out of the floods), where one of us comes from. Leeds Art Gallery was one of our stops, home at the time to the British Art Show, which meant it was almost completely full of contemporary installations. We did put in an [early] appearance in the creative children’s section, as you may be able to tell…
And made sure we took a look at the one room which remains constant amid the changing exhibitions; home to Renaissance and Victorian works by a range of artists, The Temptation of Sir Percival was one which caught our eye. Painted by Arthur Hacker in 1894, it depicts Percival, one of the Round Table knights, being tempted in his piety by a beautiful, predatory maiden. Excalibur of course features in the painting, as the counterfoil to her advances, and we particularly liked the use of colour and emotion in a classical scene.
Have you been to Winterville? We couldn’t face the Winter Wonderland crowds so thought we’d see if this was quieter, more interesting and just as festive!
So it was quieter. Almost too much quieter [it was a little bit creepy]. There were a lot of rides, and I’m a bit rubbish with rides [disappointingly], but they were fun to watch… And there were some indoor sections which were pretty amazingly decorated. Our favourite was a bar/café/stalls section (we really wish we’d seen the band playing!):
We did have much mulled wine, which was very good.