I Am Not Amused

I am Not Amused
The “Grumpy Old Man” posing for his admirers

The “Grumpy Old Man” was on a road trip yesterday to the seaside. On the way he stopped off at the now disused Hadlow Road railway station, which has been preserved to give an authentic 1950’s look.

The station is designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building. It is one of two visitor centres on the Wirral Way, with the other at Thurstaston where the platforms remain in situ, but the station has not been restored.


52/2013 Week 25

52/2013 Week 25

Unlike many people when I go on holiday I don’t take too many photographs. Holiday for me is to spend time with my wife and just relax. However, I do take my camera gear with me and sometimes I’ll take the odd photograph but it’s not the top priority.

One of the reason we were in Yorkshire was to look at some areas that were important in both my wife’s and my own family history. In the village of Long Preston we came upon the pretty parish church of St Mary the Virgin which is a grade 1 listed building dating back to Norman times. The beautiful stained glass was just too good an opportunity to miss.


Gwrych Castle

Gwrych Castle

Gwrych Castle is a Grade I listed 19th century country house near Abergele in Conwy county borough, North Wales. Erected between 1819 and 1825 at the behest of Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh, grandfather of Winifred Cochrane, Countess of Dundonald. From 1894 until 1924, when the Countess died, it was the residence of the Dundonald family. The Countess left the castle in her will to King George V and the then Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VIII). However, the gift was refused and the castle passed to the Venerable Order of Saint John. In 1928, the Earl of Dundonald purchased the castle for £78,000, selling the contents to meet the cost.

During World War II, the Government used the castle to house 200 Jewish refugees. Following the war, the castle left the Dundonald family and was open to the public for twenty years. It was called The Showpiece of Wales at this time, and attracted many visitors. It was also used as a training venue for the English World Middleweight boxing champion Randy Turpin in the early 1950s.

Gwrych Castle Gate

In the early 60s it was an occasional venue for the famous motorcycle dragon rally and in the 70s it was used as a centre for medieval re-enactments, attracting tourists with such events as jousting and mock banquets.

The castle was last open to the public in 1985. Thereafter, it started to decline. It was bought in 1989 by an American businessman (Nick Tavaglione) for £750,000. However, his plans to renovate the building were not carried out. As a result, the castle was extensively looted and vandalised, becoming little more than a derelict shell

Gwrych Castle Ruins

During the period of Tavaliogne’s ownership, historian Mark Baker campaigned for the castle to be brought back to its days of glory—a campaign that he started when he was twelve years old. Baker was instrumental in forming the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, dedicated to ensuring the castle’s future. The condition of the property was monitored by the Trust, who lobbied Conwy council to compulsorily purchase the property, eventually placing enough pressure on the American owner, who put it up for sale in March 2006.

Gwrych Castle

City Services Ltd, trading as Clayton Homes and Clayton Hotels, bought the castle in January 2007 for £850,000, after it failed to reach its £1.5m reserve price at the 2 June 2006 auction. On 30 April 2007, Clayton Hotels announced a 3 year project, costing £6,000,000, to renovate the castle and convert it into a 90-bedroom 5-star hotel, creating 100 jobs. The project was subject to planning permission, but had the support of the Trust. Clayton Hotels spent about half a million pounds on its plans, clearing the site and rebuilding areas. City Services Ltd was placed into Administration on 12 August 2009, and the Castle sold by the administrators in April 2010 for £300,000 to Edwards Property Management (UK) Ltd of Colwyn Bay, who plans to continue the project to convert the Castle into a Hotel. Edwards Property Management. As of 2012 their subsidiary Castell Developments are in the process of securing planning permission for the Hotel.

Gwrych Castle View

As a photographer I would love to get in the castle and photograph it. There is a large security fence round the castle, albeit with several holes in it

52/2013 - Week 1

However, there are enough dire warnings about the state of the buildings inside to make it a dangerous excursion and I’m not that stupid. Saying that, on the day I visited and walked round the grounds, which are open, I did see two vehicles go into the castle beyond the fence. The occupants of one of the vehicles told me they were the “Official Photographers” so there must be some areas you can access safely. They also told me a Luxury hotel would be open on the site by 2015.

I have been in touch with Mark Baker, mentioned earlier in this post, asking about access. Mark has passed my details to the owners of the castle but I suspect they will not allow access.

All of the information for this article has been taken from a Wikipedia Entry for Gwrych Castle apart from the last two paragraphs.


Photo A Day August – 3rd

Another day in paradise and something completely different. This time it’s a photograph of Llandudno Pier, still an HDR image, but with additional work done in Photoshop.

Llandudno is a seaside resort and town in Conwy County Borough, Wales. Llandudno was specifically built as a mid-Victorian era holiday destination and is served by a branch railway line opened in 1858 from Llandudno Junction with stations at Deganwy and Llandudno.

Modern Llandudno takes its name from the ancient parish of Saint Tudno but also encompasses several neighbouring townships and districts including Craig-y-Don, Llanrhos, and Penrhyn Bay. Also nearby is the small town and marina of Deganwy and these last four are in the traditional parish of Llanrhos. The ancient geographical boundaries of the Llandudno area are complex. Although they are on the eastern side of the River Conwy (the natural boundary between north-west and north-east Wales), the ancient parishes of Llandudno, Llanrhos and Llangystennin (which includes Llandudno Junction) were in the medieval commote of Creuddyn in the Kingdom of Gwynedd, and afterwards part of Caernarfonshire. Today, Deganwy and Llandudno Junction are part of the town community of Conwy even though they are across the river and only linked to Conwy by a causeway and bridge.

The award-winning pier  which is shown in this image is on the North Shore; it was built in 1878, and is 1,234 feet (376 m) in length and a Grade II listed building.

Looking back towards the town from the end of the pier, on a clear day you can see the mountains of Snowdonia rising over the town. A curious major extension of the pier in 1884 was in a landward direction along the side of what was the Baths Hotel (now where the Grand Hotel stands) to provide a new entrance with the Llandudno Pier Pavilion Theatre at the North Parade end of the promenade, thus increasing the pier’s length to 2,295 feet (700 m). Attractions on the pier include a bar, a cafe, amusement arcades and children’s fairground rides. There is also a range of shops, including Victorian kiosks selling photographic prints of the local area, crafts, herbal remedies and souvenirs.

In this I wanted to show that you can take HDR to the extreme, although this isn’t as extreme as some I’ve seen. The HDR part of the image has been over-cooked by pushing the sliders more than I normally would. Additionally I decided to give this image a bit of a glow and then try to age it a bit.


Knightstone Island

I know I’ve shown images of Knightstone Island before but this is slightly different. It’s from Knightsone Island looking along the causeway towards Dauncys Hotel. Knightstone Island historically housed a theatre, swimming pool and sauna. After years of disrepair and dereliction, the area was redeveloped by Redrow Homes. During 2006/2007, luxury apartments were built on the site.

At high tides the causeway is often covered by the sea. In earlier posts here I have shown the danger of this as people try to walk along the causeway when the tide is already washing over it. I’ve also posted an article about a stormy night on Knightstone Island.

Technical Note: Image is a bracket of 3 RAW from -2 to +2 in 2 EV steps taken with a Samsung GX10 fitted with an 18-50mm kit lens @ 18mm. ISO 100, f8, shutter speeds from 4 sec to 15 sec. Camera was mounted on a RedSnapper RS-284 & RSH-12 Ball Head and the shutter was fired using infra-red remote control. HDR processing was with Unified Color‘s HDR Express

Blaise Castle

Blaise Castle is an 18th century mansion-house and estate near Henbury in Bristol (formerly in Gloucestershire), England. Blaise Castle was immortalised by being described as “the finest place in England” in Jane Austen‘s novel Northanger Abbey.

Flint fragments show Blaise Castle Estate was probably first inhabited by Neolithic farmers. There is more definitive evidence for Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman activity through the distinctive hill-forts in the area and other archaeological finds. The value of this historic landscape was recognised when it became a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1982.

After the Anglo-Saxon invasion and subsequent conversion to Christianity, the land was granted to the Bishop of Worcester as part of the Kingdom of Mercia. During this time the estate picked up its association with Saint Blaise that lives on in the estate’s name.

Blaise Castle House

John Harford, a wealthy Bristol merchant and banker had Blaise Castle House built in 1796–1798, designed by William Paty. It is a grade II listed building.  John Nash added a conservatory c. 1805-6, and in 1832-3, C.R. Cockerell designed the Picture Room, now housing a fine display of paintings from Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. Harford also had Blaise Hamlet built to house his servants and tenants, to designs of Nash and George Repton in 1811.

A branch of the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery since 1949, Blaise Castle House now features collections relating to numerous household items in addition to its period interior decoration.

The castle

On a hill above the gorge is a sham castle overlooking Bristol, Avonmouth and the Avon Gorge, with views across to South Wales on a clear day. The architect was Robert Mylne and the date of building 1766; it is now believed that the design and the choice of the Gothic castle style may have had political connotations. Although referred to as a folly, it was inhabited well into the 20th century with sumptuous internal decoration. It is a grade II listed building.

The estate

The castle and its 650 acres (2.6 km2) of parkland are now open to the public (the ‘folly’ opens most Sunday afternoons) and include modern visiting facilities and a car park.

The grounds were laid out by Humphry Repton (1752–1818) a leading landscape gardener. Parts of Repton’s designs still exist, notably the impressive carriage drive which winds its way from the house. The Regency architect John Nash was responsible for the addition of the conservatory.

The grounds, which are open free of charge to the public, include a gorge cut by the Hazel Brook through Bristol’s limestone. The gorge features a selection of stunning landscape, including Goram’s Chair, a limestone outcrop often used by climbers, and Lover’s Leap and Potter’s Point, two panoramic viewing spots.

Stratford Mill was re-erected within the gorge after Chew Valley Lake was flooded to form a reservoir. Ongoing renovations started in 2004 of the mill, settling ponds and associated estate pathways.

 At the gorge’s southern end, Hazel Brook joins the River Trym, which continues its flow towards Sea Mills.