Category Archives: Cultural Capers

Large subjects - cumulus cloud

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Large subjects

For Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week we are looking at large subjects. ‘Large’ is a relative term. To appreciate the scale of a subject, we have to look at size compared to something else. The large subjects I have chosen from either the built or natural landscape are all quite substantial … at least compared to a human.

Medieval manor house - black and white photo
Medieval manor house

This medieval manor house was three storeys high and even the remaining ruins are quite impressive. In this image, you can see the scale of the building compared to the oak tree immediately behind it.

Victorian railway bridge - black and white photo
Victorian railway bridge

This Victorian railway bridge has been built very tall to accomodate the contours of the ground here on the banks of the River Derwent, so that the railway could be constructed on a given level. You can see the scale of the bridge compared to my son who is walking underneath it.

The Broad Oak - black and white photo
The Broad Oak

The Broad Oak gives its name to the farm on which the tree stands and what a magnificent ancient oak tree it is too. The scale of the tree can be deduced from the other trees and bushes in its vicinity.

Whitburn windmill - black-white photo
Whitburn windmill

Whitburn windmill is a restored 18th century flour mill and now it towers above the new housing nearby.

Do take a look at the large subjects others have found for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Victorian rural railway bridge in snow monochrome

Bridges for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Living in a landscape of rivers and old railways means we have lots of bridges in our area. Here are some of my favourite bridge pictures that I’ve previously featured on my blog – from Tyneside icons to forgotten relics – for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

Bridges in our woods

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
Stone-built culvert in monochrome
This stone-built culvert was part of an old stream crossing in our woods.
Industrial inspirations - bridge to the old colliery yard
Industrial archaeology in the woodland undergrowth. Remnants of the bridge that carried laden coal tubs from the mine over the stream into the old colliery yard. Green mounds mark the brick bases of the bridge arch.

Bridges in our valley

The new Butterfly Bridge, River Derwent, Gateshead
The new Butterfly Bridge over the River Derwent in Gateshead. The old bridge was destroyed by the floods in 2008.
The Nine Arches viaduct that carried the Derwent Valley Railway. The C2C cycle route follows the Derwent Valley Railway Path through this part of Gateshead's countryside.
The Nine Arches viaduct carried the Derwent Valley Railway. This wonderful piece of Victorian engineering was built because the Earl of Strathmore would not allow the railway to pass over his land at Gibside.

Tyneside bridge icons

Newcastle Tyne Bridge, the High Level Bridge, the Swing Bridge and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, all crossing the River Tyne
Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge, the High Level Bridge, the Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge and the Swing Bridge, all crossing the River Tyne
Gateshead Millenium Bridge
The award-winning Gateshead Millenium Bridge – the newest bridge over the River Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead’s quaysides.

Do take a look at the bridges others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge - Featured Blogger

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Sunderland’s Fountains

A trip to Sunderland is not complete for our family without a visit to Sunderland Winter Gardens and Mowbray Park.

Fountain - Sunderland Winter Gardens
Fountain – Sunderland Winter Gardens

The “Winter Gardens” is really an absolutely enormous greenhouse, full of exotic plants such as banana plants and pitcher plants that you’d normally find in a tropical rainforest. It’s probably hardly surprising that in this mini rainforest, water features are important. One of our favourite water features is this stainless steel fountain. The water cascades down the surface of the tall steel tower, making wonderful wave patterns and catching the light as it flows.

Fountain - Mowbray Park, Sunderland
Fountain – Mowbray Park, Sunderland

Right outside of Sunderland Winter Gardens is Mowbray Park, a lovely old-fashioned municipal park, complete with a duck pond and this rather marvelous fountain. I love the way my son has captured the falling water in this shot.

Do take a look at the fountains others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Keep off the artwork!

Keep off the artwork sign
“Keep off the artwork” – Gateshead Interchange

I see this sign every time I travel through the bus station at Gateshead Interchange. It always makes me smile 🙂

We have many public artworks in our area – in the town centre, along the cycle path by the river, and even in our local woods – but this is the only one that seems to require a sign to discourage any adventurous types from climbing on it!

I thought I’d share my curious sign for Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Living History Events for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Our family’s home education journey has taken us to many events over the years. One type of event that has always proved very popular with our boys is Living History. Here in North East England, the Romans, the Vikings, and the English Civil Wars have all played their significant parts in our local history.

We have enjoyed some wonderful learning opportunities at Living History days at museums and Roman forts around the North East. We’ve met people dressed in authentic costumes of the era and learned all about the lives of the people they represent. As a parent, I have found this kind of ‘hands on’ approach has really brought the history alive for our boys. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week on the topic of ‘Events’, I thought I’d share with you a few photos of some of these Living History events.

Children having fun at a Roman history day
Young trainee gladiators learning their moves at Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields

That’s my young gladiator, second from the right 😉

Tablet weaving at Viking living history event, Great North Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne
Tablet weaving demonstration at a Viking living history event, Great North Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne

Another thing we have found with the participants on Living History days, is their generosity with their time and knowledge. We talked to this lady for ages about her Viking tablet weaving. It was fascinating to see how the different patterns were made.

Musket-loading demonstration at English Civil War living history event
How to load your musket – English Civil War living history at Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend

Our boys took a close interest in how to load a musket at this English Civil War living history event held at the Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend in Summer 2010. Later in the same Summer we saw muskets and Civil War artillery in action at the re-enactment of the Battle of Hylton Castle.

Sunderland’s Hylton Castle was the scene of this important English Civil War battle in March 1664. The rivalry between the North East cities of Newcastle and Sunderland is legendary, especially in terms of football. Back in 1644, things were no different! Newcastle supported the Royalists and Sunderland were on the side of the Parliamentarians.

The Parliamentarians really needed to win the Battle of Hylton Castle to keep the port of Sunderland out of Royalist hands. The Parliamentarians did win which meant the port of Sunderland was also able to continue to supply their allies, the Scottish Covenanters, which in turn meant that the Scottish Covenanters were properly supplied for the pivotal Battle of Marston Moor on 2nd July 1644 – the largest battle ever to take place on English soil.

Battle of Hylton Castle - English Civil War battle re-enactment
Battle of Hylton Castle – English Civil War battle re-enactment

This large-scale re-enactment was organised by the Sealed Knot re-enactment group and a very dramatic battle it was too, with musketeers, pikemen and field artillery. The armies marched to the beat of their drums. The smell of gun smoke filled the air as the musketeers lined up and fired off their muskets and the field cannons were loaded. “Have a care!” they called out, before,”Boom!” the cannons were fired off too. The sturdy pikemen in their steel helmets clashed pikes in noisy groups on the battle field. The ‘injured’ were tended by the female camp followers.

As well as the battle re-enactment itself, there was also a large living history encampment with demonstrations of food, entertainments and various skills and crafts of the time. We spent the whole day at this event, exploring the living history encampment, watching the dramatic battle and soaking up the atmosphere among the crowds of people who had come along to experience the Battle of Hylton Castle.

Do take a look at the events others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

Steps and Stairs for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge

Stone stile, Whitburn
Stone stile at Whitburn

As a keen countryside footpath explorer, I have climbed over many stiles in my life. Most of them tend to be of the wooden rickety type. But I think this one we found a couple of Summers ago at Whitburn is magnificent … and definitely the most sturdily built one I have ever traversed! There was no need to perch precariously on the top of this fine sandstone edifice. I was able to stand atop and gaze out across the meadow to the North Sea beyond, completely without any risk of the stile giving way beneath me!

Steps to castle entrance, Newcastle Castle Keep
Steps to main entrance of Newcastle’s Castle Keep

Regular visitors to my blog may have seen my photo of the view looking down from the top of Newcastle’s Norman Castle Keep for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge last week. This time we are looking up the steep stone main steps to the ‘front door’ of the Castle Keep. Can you spot the silhouettes of our two boys in the dark doorway? 😀

Castle Stairs, Newcastle upon Tyne
The Castle Stairs to the Quayside

When are outdoor stone steps called ‘stairs’? When they lead down the steep slope from the old medieval town onto Newcastle’s Quayside. There are several sets of ‘stairs’ in this vicinity. My two photos show the Castle Stairs and the Long Stairs (known in Newcastle’s Geordie dialect as the ‘Lang Stairs’). The Castle Stairs and the Long Stairs between them lead from the Castle Keep right down to the Quayside.

Another set of stairs that lead from the Castle grounds is the more oddly-named ‘Dog Leap Stairs’. Apparently ‘Dog Leap’ is an historical reference to ‘a narrow slip of ground between houses’. This set of stairs has two claims to fame. Firstly, according to local legend, when the well-to-do Bessie Surtees eloped with the coal merchant’s son, John Scott (later to become Lord Chancellor of England) in 1772, they escaped on horseback up the Dog Leap Stairs. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have a photo of these stairs, but if you can imagine, this is a long set of steep, stone steps – on horseback? That sounds as if it would be a hair-raising experience! The Dog Leap Stairs are also mentioned in the song ‘Down to the Waterline’ by the band, Dire Straits.

Castle Stairs, Newcastle Quayside
The foot of the Long Stairs at Newcastle Quayside

At the foot of the Long Stairs is one of the oldest buildings in Newcastle. This timber-framed building dates from the 15th century. In the 19th century it was owned by a family called ‘Cooper’ and was an actual cooperage (barrel-making!). It retained the name, “The Cooperage”, but I knew it as a quaint old public house in the closing decades of last century. The pub closed down in 2009 and it seems, sadly, the building is no longer in use.

Do take a look at what others have found for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week on the theme of Steps and Stairs.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Black & White Featured Blogger Badge

Newcastle Cityscapes for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Newcastle upon Tyne - view from Castle Keep roof
Newcastle upon Tyne – view from the Castle Keep roof

View from the roof of Newcastle’s Castle Keep

This was the chosen location for early settlements because of its defensive position high above the River Tyne – the Roman fort at Pons Aelius, an Anglo Saxon settlement and the original Norman motte and bailey castle built by Robert Curthose all occupied this site at different times. The medieval Castle Keep still stands guard on this ancient vantage point today.

I chose this image because I think of this spot as the starting point for the development of the whole of the City of Newcastle. Modern day visitors can climb to the roof of the Castle Keep and look out right across the city, just as medieval knights and soldiers in the English Civil Wars would have done in the past. The views have changed a lot, of course. However nowadays, visitors can enjoy the cityscape and spot local landmarks rather than worrying about the approaching Scottish armies 🙂

Grey Street

Newcastle  upon Tyne - the very elegant Grey Street
Newcastle’s very elegant Grey Street

Nikolaus Pevsner, the eminent 20th century architectural historian, described Newcastle’s Grey Street as “one of the finest streets in England”. Grey Street is named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. That’s the same Earl Grey who gives his name to the famous fragrant tea. However, the Monument to Earl Grey that heads Grey Street recalls something even more important than tea! It celebrates Earl Grey’s Great Reform Act of 1832 that gave Britain’s electoral system a good shake up, gave more men the vote and saw an end to the ‘rotten boroughs’ … well, at least it was a move in the right direction 😉

Newcastle’s 19th century grandeur, that is so beautifully displayed in Grey Street, was significantly influenced by two men whose names are synonymous with the elegant classical architecture that still graces the contemporary city, Richard Grainger and John Dobson. Unsurprisingly, both men have Newcastle streets named after them.

Grainger Street

Newcastle upon Tyne - Grainger Street
Grainger Street, Newcastle, with Grey’s Monument in the middle distance

This photo shows Grainger Street, which also leads up to Grey’s Monument. Richard Grainger was the son of a quayside porter, and set himself up as a builder and developer. With the help of his wife’s wealthy family, he built up a very successful business. In 1831, it was he who created the vision of an elegant and fashionable new street, Grey Street, right in the heart of the city centre. You can read more about Richard Grainger’s vision for Newcastle’s Grey Street on this blog post by Tyne & Wear Museums service.

John Dobson Street

Newcastle upon Tyne - John Dobson Street (Library and Laing Art Gallery)
Newcastle’s Central Library and Laing Art Gallery on John Dobson Street

Here’s a contrast of architecture on John Dobson Street (though neither of these buildings were designed by John Dobson!) – Newcastle’s 21st century Central Library building and the early 20th century Laing Art Gallery, built in the Baroque style. John Dobson was a 19th century Newcastle architect and a contemporary of Richard Grainger. Dobson had trained in London and returned to Newcastle with many fashionable ideas from the capital. Working together, John Dobson and Richard Grainger put their elegant stamp on new developments in Victorian Newcastle.

The Tyne Bridge

Newcastle Tyne Bridge and 3 other bridges over the River Tyne
Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge and 3 more of the bridges over the River Tyne

No trip to Newcastle would be complete without a view of our world-famous Tyne Bridge. To close my entry for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, I have chosen this photo taken looking west along Newcastle’s historic Quayside. You can see four of the seven bridges that span the river within a short distance of each other along the city centre stretch of the River Tyne. Reading from the river surface upwards, we have:

    1. The red and white Swing Bridge (built on the site of the original Roman Pons Aelius),
    2. The blue Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge (this carries the rapid transit system),
    3. The elegant Victorian ironwork of the High Level Bridge (built by William Armstrong)
    4. … and at the top ~ the famous arches and ironwork of the Tyne Bridge, the classic icon of Newcastle for we local people, wherever we are in the world 😀

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Newcastle cityscapes. The links in the text will take you to more information and photos about the people and places mentioned, either in previous blog posts of mine or via other resources I have found.

Do take a look at the cities others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

European Parliament saves Freedom of Panorama

Nico Trinkhaus #saveFoP
Save the Freedom of Photography!

Do you remember this image?

Last week I posted about the European Parliament’s crazy idea that would have outlawed much of street, travel and architectural photography in Europe.

I can now happily report that there was an outbreak of common sense yesterday at the European Parliament.

“After handing over the half a million signatures on Wednesday, the parliament voted yesterday with a big majority against any restriction of the Freedom of Panorama!” Nico Trinkhaus on Change.org

Julia Reda, the MEP who was supporting our campaign to save Freedom of Panorama from Euro-meddling, was overwhelmed by the response to the petition. She said:

“the petition has changed the debate in the parliament considerably and a lot of the parliamentary groups that originally voted for a restriction of Freedom of Panorama are clearly changing their mind about this.” Julia Reda MEP

The change of heart in the European Parliament was so complete, the French MEP, Jean-Marie Cavada, who had introduced the proposed legislation amendment to end our Freedom of Panorama, even asked members to vote against his own amendment!

Commissioner Günther Oettinger of the European Commission said that they “don’t intend to restrict the Freedom of Panorama”. He said:

“what you can see with your eyes as a citizen, on public places and streets in Europe, you should be allowed to also photograph it with a camera.”
Günther Oettinger of the European Commission

So that’s a successful outcome? Almost. This outcome was certainly a win for people power, but we must not forget the whole reason Julia Reda initially brought up the issue of Freedom of Panorama for photographers in Europe. France, Italy and other European countries still do not currently enjoy Freedom of Panorama. It is hoped the European Commission will now take on board the strength of feeling on this issue and look at bringing Freedom of Panorama to all European countries.

Thank you to everyone who supported our Freedom of Panorama! 😀

J Peggy Taylor

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - mouth of Tyne and Black Middens

Sculptures, statues and carvings for Cee’s Black and White Challenge

A monument to one of Britain’s most famous seafarers stands looking out over the mouth of the River Tyne at Tynemouth on the North East coast. From his elevated position on a substantial sandstone plinth, stands the statue of Admiral Lord Collingwood.

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - Admiral Lord Collingwood
Statue of Admiral Lord Collingwood at Tynemouth

The plaque on the plinth recalls Collingwood’s role in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - Collingwood monument plaque
Collingwood monument plaque

This monument was erected in 1845 by Public Subscription to the memory of ADMIRAL LORD COLLINGWOOD, who in the Royal Sovereign on the 21st October 1805, led the British Fleet into action at Trafalgar and sustained the Sea fight for upwards of an hour before the other ships were within gun shot, which caused Nelson to exclaim, “See how that noble fellow Collingwood takes his ship into action.”

We can also read that Collingwood was born at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1748 and died in the Service of his country on board of the Ville De Paris on 7th March 1810 and was burried in St Paul’s Cathedral (London).

Finally, we learn that the four guns on the monument belonged to his ship the Royal Sovereign.

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - Thomas Bewick
Thomas Bewick’s sculpture marks the site of Bewick’s engraving workshop

Here we have another of North East England’s famous sons. This wall-mounted sculpture of Thomas Bewick marks the location of his engraving workshop near St Nicholas’ Cathedral in Newcastle upon Tyne. Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) is renowned for his wood engravings, many of which were published as book illustrations. Bewick was a keen naturalist and observed nature closely. Some of his finest wood engravings form the illustrations of his two-volume “A History of British Birds” – Volume 1, Land Birds, was published in 1797 and Volume 2, Water Birds, soon followed in 1804. You can see a few classic examples of Bewick’s work here on the Bewick Society’s website.

Carvings, Statues and Sculptures - Bird of Prey
Bird of Prey wood carving in our woods

After looking at the acclaimed wood engravings of Thomas Bewick, I thought we’d take a look at another wood carving of a bird but this carving is of rather a different sort. This majestic bird of prey sculpture stands perched on its pole at one of the viewing points in our local woodland.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my sculptures, statues and carvings. Please do take a look at what others have found for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Medieval doors for the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge

Doors -  St Nicholas' Cathedral, Newcastle
St Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle
 Castle Keep, Newcastle - external view of original entrance
Castle Keep, Newcastle – external view of original entrance

Sometimes, a door can let you enter the past. As you cross its threshold you can imagine all of the historical figures who have made that same step. The doors I have chosen for the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge belong to two of Newcastle upon Tyne’s medieval buildings. Ever since the 14th century, people have been entering and leaving through these doorways – from medieval kings to modern day visitors.

J Peggy Taylor