Pure Island Happiness

Had a fantastic two nights on the great Isle of Wight, staying at the lovely Hazelwood in Shanklin, run by Phil and Karl. This was my third visit to the b&b with my partner; a well decorated place to stay that offers beautiful views over Shanklin and the sea.


(view from Hazelwood and bedroom below)

The ferry trip over from Southampton to East Cowes is an experience and great start to an Island break in itself, and you will often see ships passing up and down the Solent. On this Sunday evening we were lucky to follow the Celebrity cruise ship Eclipse as it left Southampton water:

Shanklin itself has a long beach on the English channel, a quaint old village with thatched buildings and Shanklin Chine; a gorge that is well worth a visit in summer evenings as lit up (something we were a week early for this time). There are many places to eat and drink, with the two evenings spent at the Steamer Inn on the seafront and the Crab Inn within the old village. The Steamer offers a great choice of dishes, large portions and gorgeous views, while the Crab offers a great value menu during the week in a quaint thatched pub.

        (view back to Shanklin along coast path)

        (Fishermans Cottage by the Chine)

        (Fish pie and Chicken & Chorizo pasta at the Steamer Inn)

        (view from the Steamer)

Both days on the Island we couldn’t have picked better weather, with Monday & Tuesday warm and sunny throughout. Monday was spent walking between Shanklin, Brading Roman Villa, the Garlic farm and a short visit to Arreton Barns craft village before getting a well deserved bus back; after around 11 miles walk. Tuesday we spent at one of the Islands top attractions the Needles Park with a walk up to the headland and the New Battery; offering views over the rocks, lighthouse and back to the mainland.

       (view from Forum Cafe at the Roman Villa)

The Roman Villa at Brading is fascinating, and one of the most preserved I know of. We were lucky at having found a voucher online to get half price, and a deal on a hot drink and cake in the Forum Cafe. All the staff were exceptional and offered the best service; we were even lucky enough to get a short personal tour by the very knowledgeable Ann. The mosaics are detailed, and the information panels about the history of the site, and the heating system are worth a read. The views from the villa over the hills, Brading, Sandown and the channel beyond give a great backdrop. I can imagine why they chose this position, with ships able to get to the port on what is now land.


       (mosaic including the cock-headed man)

       (complete mosaic including Medusa head)

       (Garden with hypocaust for the heating on left)

The Garlic farm near the village of Newchurch is worth a visit as being the only one of it’s kind in the country, and started up over 40 years ago. It offers tastings of it’s black garlic, chutneys and olive oils among other products, and a well stocked shop. You have the chance to walk around the farm, relax in the restaurant with garlic dishes, and at busier times there is a tractor trailer ride. The farm has been shown on food related programmes with Mary Berry visiting in the last few years.

        By the shop of www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk

A whole day can be spent at the western tip of the Island at the Needles with much to see including shops, amusements, a chair lift or walk down to the beach, boat rides, sweet manufactory and the glass works. There is also a sand shop where you can fill your own souvenirs with sand of the many colours of Alum Bay or buy one ready made. I bought a cat shape but is also a lighthouse, map and others made out of clear glass. The walk or bus up to the headland owned by the National Trust is worth it for the views, and can also visit the Old Battery (small charge or free for NT members) and the New Battery (free) where rocket testing took place.

       (view over Alum Bay and coloured sands)

       (view over the Old Battery)

                                          (model of Prospero satellite in the New Battery)

The New Battery contains an intriguing  exhibition about the secret rocket testing carried out on the site in the 1950s and 60s. There is a model of one of the rockets (Black Arrow) developed here then launched in Australia, and of the Prospero satellite which although no longer in use still orbits twice a day. A wood replica of the control panel in one of the rooms is also being created by a volunteer.

       (view of the chairlift and bay)

       (view of the Needles)

I would also recommend watching the demonstration in the Alum Bay Glass, as you get to see a whole vase or other item being made from start to finish. As the furnace is on around 1000 degrees you will feel the heat. There is a shop selling a range of glass ware, that is all unique from the glass blowing process.

                                          (glass blowing)

I have only been back two days and miss the Island already, but i’m sure will return very soon. There is something about the place with so much to do, that keeps you returning again and again for another piece of Pure Island Happiness. I will just leave you with my underground style map of the Island:

Warrington 2021

Following on from Kingston-upon-Hull in 2017, which generated millions in investment; Warrington has the fantastic opportunity to bid to become the UK Capital of Culture in 2021. This would put the town up against other bidders including Coventry, Sunderland, Paisley and Stoke on Trent, but I think we have a good chance of being successful.

Warrington has a long history going back to being founded by the Romans as a Mersey crossing point. The town became a centre of manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution with steel (particularly wire), textiles, brewing, tanning and chemical industries. Warrington has also greatly expanded since becoming a “new town” in 1968, and more developments are on the way including a new market/Time Square, and the Omega site by the M62.

(Warrington Town Hall)

Located in the Cultural Quater; Warrington has a concert hall (the Parr Hall), an arts centre (the Pyramid), Warrington Museum, and Warrington Central Library (the first rate-supported library in the UK). A heritage centre for Lymm has also been given planning permission. A number of well attended festivals, carnivals and walking days are held annually in the borough including the Warrington Music Festival, Stockton Heath Arts Festival and Lymm Transport Day.

Historic buildings of interest in Warrington include:

  • Warrington Town Hall (and its golden gates), formerly Bank Hall (built 1750)
  • The 14th century Parish Church of St Elphin, largely a Victorian rebuild with a 281-foot (86 m) spire, the sixth tallest in the UK.
  • Parr Hall, home to one of the few remaining Cavaillé-Coll organs.
  • Warrington Transporter Bridge, a Grade II listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument
  • The Barley Mow, established in 1561, the oldest pub in Warrington
  • Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Grade II listed building and one of the oldest municipal museums in the UK.

There are also several conservation areas in Warrington; including Bridge Street, Bewsey Street and Church Street.

Warrington also has Culture Warrington, a charitable trust created in 2012 delivering arts, heritage and events across the borough. Several parks are around the town , along with nature reserves (Risley Moss, Woolston eyes), and canals (Manchester Ship Canal, Sankey, Bridgewater).

(Grappenhall Heys Walled Garden)

The 2015 study by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA); where Warrington scored lowest of all authorities in the UK in terms of heritage assets has been greatly criticised. I believe now is the time to increase the promotion of the cultural capital the town has, and create a shift in how people view Warrington; both locally and nationally. Even though I have only lived in Warrington since 2009; I have grown to call the town home, and believe it has a lot to offer visitors if promoted in the right way. As a member of the Friends of Warrington Transporter Bridge, and the Warrington Civic Society I have also enjoyed getting involved locally in promoting the historical aspects of the town.

(Warrington Transporter Bridge)

The next step is a board of six will be created; that will carry out their research over the summer, with the aim of making a bid next Spring. In my view a website and a social media campaign would be needed to promote the bid, and cultural aspects/events that exist. This is something other bidders like Paisley have already started working on. Let’s start a hashtag of #Warrington2021

Fire Walking over Hot Coals

On Saturday morning (14th) I took the opportunity; crazy in the mind of some to raise money for Warrington Disability Partnership and walk over hot coals. Many pictures were taken, with the event captured on film.


(Starting the Fire)

The fundraiser was organised by Jamie Boyd from the Today Team based at Taylor Business Park near Culcheth, Warrington. Apart from myself those taking part included Mayor of Warrington Geoff Settle, Warrington Worldwide Editor Gary Skentelbery and Active Cheshire CEO Anne Boyd, and around 20 others.

After a 45 minute motivational training session co-ordinated by by world record fire walker Scott Bell from UK FIREWALK. I felt he gave a great talk to get us in “the zone”, and to remember it is fire so don’t get “cocky”. The group of us; now firewalkers took it in turns to walk over hot coals at 613 Celsius (as measured at the time). I myself walked over 4 times with most others going over at least 2 or 3 times. I gained a small blister and a tingling right foot afterwards, but after a couple of days was back to normal. We also each got a certicate for taking part from UK FIREWALK. http://www.ukfirewalk.com/


Warrington Disability partnership; http://www.disabilitypartnership.org.uk/  is now in it’s 25 year, and Jamie has since quoted a total of over £1800 was raised from the event, including my £131 so far. If you would still like to donate and sponsor me please visit:


Maritime Heritage Trust Semimar

A seminar organised by the Maritime Heritage Trust looking at Sustainable Futures for Waterfront Cities and our Industrial, Maritime and Transport Heritage, was held on the Albert Dock on the 11th May. I went along representing a group I have got heavily involved in since last year; the Warrington Transporter Bridge, along with the chair Margaret Ingham. Many other groups were represented  including the Bidston lighthouse on the Wirral, the National Railway Museum in York, Walton Gardens in Warrington, and the Canal and River Trust.

The day started with short presentations aboard the steam tug; Daniel Adamson, known as “the Danny”. This tug was originally built in Birkenhead in 1903 and in the past has ferried passengers between Ellesmere Port and Liverpool. The three short talks gave an overview of the Danny’s history, the restoration work through the £3.8 million lottery grant, the learning programme and plans looking forward. An analogy was used by Cathriona Bourke of”you wouldn’t throw away a child’s teddy bear, so why get a new boat?” instead of restoring it. A buffet lunch was held aboard after a chance to look around and ask any questions. I will have to return and see the work finished, especially the saloon carpeted and furnished.


After lunch the talks and discussions moved into the Lecture Hall of the Merseyside Maritime Museum opposite the boat. A key skills presentation began the afternoon by Peter Middleton looking at gaining funding for the future of a project, including sustainability and resources. He used example projects from the world of Children’s television, and included the fable of the Ostrich and the three legged stool.

A major point throughout the session was about creating partnerships with others, and thinking outside the box with experiments and product innovation. The potential for a North West Transport and Maritime support network. The speakers on this topic were:

  • Clare Rawlinson; Marketing Manager of the Albert Dock spoke about the success of the “Steam on the Dock” event which brought thousands into the Liverpool waterfront with heritage engines they may not have seen before.
  • Jamie Davies from the Ironbridge Institute and Morol; talked about building your web and social media presence into your routine, and engaging the public by digital means.
  • Janet Small; White Funnel General Manager of the MV Balmoral, got some jokes in talking about bringing the heritage attraction by sea to the public, with 55 ports being visited this year. “We are all heritage” but need to think for the future and network.
  • Bob Gwynne; Associate Curator from the National Railway Museum in York talked about “Steam warms the market for tourism”, projects should connect with the public, and railway preservation should crossover with other forms of transport.

Henry Cleary, the Deputy Chair of the Maritime Heritage Trust opened the discussion on the current challenges, and opportunities we all have by mentioning the key issues from the Titanic Conference of October 2015. These included:

  • Raising the game on reaching new members and audiences
  • Communicating the story and learning from others
  • Influencing local authorities and others on the potential of heritage.

The other challenges mentioned throughout the discussion by the panel of Ian Murphy (National Museums, Liverpool), Adam Tyson (HLF), John Megoran (PS Kingswear Castle Trust), Bob Gwynne (NRM) and Bob Pointing of the Canal and River Trust were;

  • Continuity and future proofing
  • The need to attract younger people
  • Bureaucracy of meetings turning people off
  • Liverpool being more buoyant and successful
  • Getting pricing right

The concluding remarks of the day by Dan Cross; Chairman of the Danny were that communication between groups, to help each other is the best way forward. This could be done by a range of means, and I agree that sticking together to share knowledge will help us meet the challenges ahead.


Cheshire PCC debate in Warrington

As election day arrives today, a debate was held yesterday evening in the Sir Thomas Boteler School in Latchford for the Police and Crime Commissioner election. All four candidates attended:

  • Jonathan Starkey – UKIP candidate, former Councillor from Ellesmere Port and Musician
  • John Dwyer – Conservative, retired Assistant Chief Constable and existing PCC since the first election in 2012
  • David Keane – Labour Councillor on Warrington Borough Council
  • Neil Lewis – Liberal Democrat, entrepreneur and business coach from Chester

Each was given a five minute opening speech about their background, and what they would bring to the role. Jonathan Starkey would be “impartial” and bring “common sense” to the PCC role, and make Cheshire the “safest and best funded force”. John Dwyer stated that he has “built a solid foundation” in his work, delivered his manifesto and added new officers, with “53 in 2015″ bringing the total to 2300. He has also focused on Cheshire’s rural communities and those detained with mental health issues. David Keane stated he is standing for”people and values”, knows what “residents want for the future” and will “stand up for the public service. Neil Lewis talked about his manifesto and 6 key pledges which he felt “all candidates should have”, the increase in the crimes of “abuse” like domestic violence, and how “technology” is changing in relation to crime.

There were four questions asked from members of the audience on the future roles of Police & Community Support Officers (PCSO’s), the difference between closed and non-operational stations, police powers online vs privacy, and how to convince people who have lost trust it is worth talking to the police.

On the future role of PCSO’s John Dwyer believes they still “have a future” as the public “find value in them”, while David Keane stated that he would”listen to what people want” and “defend PCSO’s; who do a wonderful job”, create known officers in communities with decent funding, with the role under”continuous review”. Neil Lewis would “champion PCSO’s” in their role, and look at the fundamental issue  of “crime prevention” speaking to schools and neighbourhoods, especially in regard to cyber crime, of which “90% is preventable”. Jonathan Starkey would “increase Police Officers” over PCSO’s and fight for “government grants”.

There was much agreement on the question on Police Stations that the service needs to being engaged with the public in each community.

In regard to the powers the police have with online crimes Neil talked about privacy meaning security. “We don’t give a young person a car and say ‘there you go…’ – we require them to pass a test before they are allowed out on their own. Why don’t we do this with smart phones?” David agreed and said the “scale of cyber crime” should be recognised. John Dwyer agreed that “90% of cyber crime is preventable”, and Jonathan Starkey felt passwords should be changed often, to stop information being tracked and obtained. Cyber crime is seen as a growing issue, and one which all candidates agreed would look at going forward.

The question on trust in the police was raised by an audience who offered advice at a Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Jonathan Starkey believes we should “instill from a young age” that it is a good thing to trust the Police, while John Dwyer admits there has been difficulties in trust but the “report of crimes is increasing”. David believes that “engagement” to create “trust”, and offering the “resources to investigate what the public wants” is the best way forward, while Neil admits it is a challenge but there are “creative ways” to look at this, with the “Fire Service” an example of who to follow, and any complaints will be sent direct to his office to build trust.

At the close of the debate each candidate was given a minute to sum up, and the main points they stand for. John Dwyer talked about his three and a half years in office, how “crimes have come down” but states there is more work to do to “make Cheshire safer” and “hostile to criminals”. Jonathan Starkey thanked Neil for the debate, and talked about how he would “record all crime, be visual & approachable, be accountable” and offer “transparency”. Neil said he was “about the future” and is the “time to change”, prioritise “staying safe online”, “would tackle abuse”, look at “deaths on the road”, and use “collaboration” to save money. David wants to “stand by you”, and wants you to “feel safe” and will be “accountable”, but knows it is a “challenge in the next few years to not accept cuts”, and will “cut crimes not the police.”

Overall I though was a good debate, and I learnt a lot more about the role, and what each candidate stands for. I would say remember to go out and vote to make a difference. For any more information there is the choose my PCC page for Cheshire: