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Errwood Hall and Shining Tor

Lovely day yesterday, walking with Lady Hughes and Ziggy. Done this one a few times over the years but it’s still a favourite.

Starting at Goyt Reservoir we walked up to the ruins of Errwood Hall. This was originally owned by a wealthy Manchester businessman, but it was eventually passed down to two sisters who never had any children of their own so it fell into disrepair when the family line fizzled out.

Up on a neighbouring hill is the family plot – at least they have great views.

Walking across to Foxlow Edge we followed the path to the Spanish Shrine. This looks a bit like Hagrid’s cottage (Harry Potter) but it was built for the family’s Spanish governess who was a catholic. She would ride up to pray. Going inside, there are pictures and prayers from people today, so it’s still in use – more than can be said of the hall.

We then climbed up to Pym’s Chair and turned right up the ridge to Cat’s Tor and then Shining Tor. In the distance could see a solitary paraglider drifting around the summit.

Shining Tor isn’t a big hill but it’s the highest point in Cheshire, with great views of the Peak District and Manchester in the distance. We named our media company after it as it’s fairly local and we just lied the name – in fact we officially registered it yesterday, so this trip was quite apt.

From the top, we walked across and back down towards the Reservoir and a well-earned ice-cream in the car park.

Chris

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More Artistic Endeavours

I’ve been working on some more digital art.

As I said in my previous post on digital art, these pictures are ‘painted’ on a computer, using a variety of tools including drawing, painting, airbrushing, etc. They aren’t created by the computer, they’re created by me. Nowadays people assume digital means it was done by an app or a filter.

So, you may say, why don’t you just use paint like normal artists? Well I used to and I may go back, but the fact is this is just so much easier. I don’t have to buy lots of paints and brushes, I don’t have to put on overalls and I don’t have to clean up afterwards. I can just switch on the computer and get started. If you think of digital photography compared to film photography and you get the idea. It’s just cheaper and hell of a lot more convenient. I quite like the polished, airbrushed look you can achieve as well.

One drawback however, is the reduced value. If I used oil paints on canvas, it would be unique, and though I could make prints of it, there would only ever be one original. With digital art you simply need to copy and paste and you have another exact copy. If you can make unlimited perfect copies of something at no expense it’s difficult for people to see them as having any value. Luckily I don’t have to consider that too much as I just do these for my own pleasure – but if you’d like to buy a signed copy please get in touch!

By the way, these are reduced resolution copies so they load on the page easier – it also stops any unscrupulous readers trying to make bigger prints for themselves.

Anyway, that’s enough whingeing, here are the pictures. I hope you like them.

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Roy Keane

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Lawrence of Arabia (portrait)

I’ve actually had this one printed as a large acrylic, and now hangs in my office.

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Mako Shark

I thought I’d try something other than a portrait.

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Layna Fergus

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Clare Hughes

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George Best

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Eric Cantona

If you’re going to paint great Manchester United players you can’t leave out King Eric.

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Clint Eastwood

lawrence-020217-version-2Lawrence of Arabia (landscape)

I painted this as a matching piece for the portrait, but changed my mind about printing it.

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James Bond

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Willem Dafoe

 

Thirlmere and Great How

Even though it is now mid-september the weather still seems to think it’s July – I heard on the news that weather has been this warm at this time of the year for over a hundred years. Grabbing the last, freakish, shout of Summer we headed up the now, rebuilt A591 past Windermere, Ambleside and Grasmere to Thirlmere (reservoir) for a circular walk including a summit of the small, but perfectly built, Great How.

I should say that this stretch of the A591 has only been open for a few months since hurricane Desmond swept part of it away earlier this year, cutting one of the main routes in the Lake District between North and South. The road is now is shiny and new as well as a new bridge and some new drainage, etc. There are still a few diggers around though and we discovered several paths are still closed. Unfortunately we only discovered this after we’d walked them – what with the signs only being at one end and all!

Not much to say about the walk, except that it was short and sweet, very sweet. The valley is gorgeous and the views of Thirlmere from the top of Great How are stunning, especially on a day like this. Thirlmere is actually a reservoir and it’s construction before WW2 caused a strong protest that ultimately didn’t halt the reservoir but did lay the foundations of the National Trust – don’t say you don’t learn anything reading these.

We took a leisurely pace to soak up the scenery, and allow for our shocking lack of fitness, and finished off with a quick pint at the Traveller’s Rest pub before setting off home.

Chris

 

Bruges

Finally found time to write up our trip to Belgium last week, and it was so good, I’m going to have to break it into three parts. So, with that in mind, here’s part one: Bruges.

The current Mrs Hughes and myself travelled to Bruges, via Virgin Pendolino to London (of course!) and then Eurostar to Brussels, before catching a 40-minute connection to Bruges itself.

We’d never been on Eurostar before and it only took just over two hours to get there. It would have been quicker to fly, yes, but this was travelling to be enjoyed, not endured. It was smooth, the service was good (though not as good as Virgin – of course!) and sitting in a comfortable chair, drinking wine while the countryside raced past was lovely – I recommend it.

The only downside to the journey, was Brussels Midi station. A dark, ominous, subterranean place, made worse by the heavily armed soldiers patrolling constantly. You can understand why they’re there, after the recent attacks, but rather than reassure, they just seemed to give the place the air of a warzone. Clare really didn’t like this place but, hey, we weren’t there long. We were later told by an English guy staying in Brussels that he knew two people who had been robbed in there. We didn’t experience anything like that, it was just a bit shabby and a bit tense.

Bruges is a beautiful medieval town, which has somehow managed to avoid the ravages of both world wars and stay intact. It really is a stunning environment, with cobbled streets, canals, chocolate shops, beautiful old buildings and picturesque bars and restaurants. The only noticeable hazard was the risk of getting run down by a bicycle, they’re everywhere.

We stayed in a gorgeous B&B (De Loft) just 5 – 10 minutes’ walk from the centre. It is part of a converted lace factory and our room was more of mini-suite. The owners were friendly and recommended various places to eat and drink and also pointed out a few to avoid.

We did a few tourist essentials, such as climbing the belfry (361 steps) and going on the canal tour, but we mainly just explored, chilled out and enjoyed ourselves – and drank some of the finest beers I’ve ever tasted!

The Belgians view beer in the same way the French view wine, and in fairness they’re very good at brewing the stuff. Each different beer seemed to have its own glass, which must be a nightmare for most of the bars. One of them, Kwak beer, is served in a glass which can’t stand up on its own and comes with a wooden holder.

The local people encountered were warm and friendly and it was great to talk to other visitors from all over the world, including Spain, Denmark, Australia, USA, Germany, Italy and even Taiwan (via London), everyone was having a great time and all were friendly – I suppose having over a thousand different types of beer can really help international diplomacy, maybe something there for the UN to consider?

There are lots of things we didn’t do and I’d definitely go back again, given the chance, but we had limited time and something else we really wanted to do while we were there – look out for part two.

Chris

From Rusholme with Love

 

My life is like a Bond film, except for the violence, the glamour or vice,

But I do work with a guy, with one gammy eye, like the one in You Only Live Twice.

I have had some odd jobs to pay the occasional bill,

Though I had a license to drive a fork-lift, and never a License To Kill.

 

My car went off a jetty once, like that lotus in the Spy Who Loved Me,

But my sleek machine was no submarine, it just stayed there and voided its warranty.

My mate Dave’s a baker, at Easter he tries to be fun,

He’s no killer assassin, Scaramanga or Jaws, he’s the Man with the Hot Cross Bun.

 

I’m no super spy, living life on the edge, I tend to just go with the flow,

With my asthma, I asked should I live to the max, answer, wife yes, Dr No.

In Thunderball they scuba dived, in Greece I once went for a snorkel,

I lost my left flipper, two minutes in, and just swam round in one great big circle.

 

I have had a sty in my right Goldeneye, dislocated my left index Goldfinger,

Had a nasty Skyfall off a small garden wall, the Spectre of which does still linger.

I play bingo at Mecca, not Casino Royale, you could say it’s For Your Eyes Down Only,

It’s Live and Let Die when you’re one off a row, this life that I lead can be lonely.

 

I suppose I do have one thing 007 does not, the love of my life, my Octopussy,

She’s my Quantum of Solace, my Pussy Galore, I’m just lucky she isn’t that fussy.

For my Tomorrow Never Dies, when she serves up a shepherd’s pie, and I’d Die Another Day if I betrayed her,

‘Cos she’d kick my Living Daylights to the Moonraker and back, and leave me sorely in the need of a first aider.

 

The World is Not Enough to tempt me into James Bond’s life, but the Diamonds Are Forever I’ve been told,

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I might have a thrilling time, but for recruitment now I’m surely far too old.

I don’t want a View To A Kill, I prefer a view of a hill, to be honest it all sounds a dreadful pain,

I’m happy with it all just the way it is, but then they do say, Never Say Never Again.

 

Chris Hughes 2016

Kinder with Ziggy

Here comes the sun!

I have been known to criticise the tyranny of a sunny weekend, meaning that you can’t relax when the weekend weather is good – you have to make the most of it, whether you want to or not. Now this may sound a bit miserable, so I’m trying to be positive. This weekend the weather was beautiful so I “decided” to do something with it. Lady Hughes was working this weekend so it was just me and Ziggy for a quick sprint up Kinder Scout.

The forecast was excellent, so I threw my rucksack in the back, with Ziggy’s bed – he likes to ride in style – and headed off to the Peak District. I wanted to travel light this time so I didn’t take my camera – all pictures done on my phone I’m afraid. But hey, it’s what’s behind the camera that matters!

Once there we could see some cloud on the tops but the forecast said it would burn off as the day went on, just a little haze, and this proved to correct – you see, sometimes they get it right.

Now I’ve climbed Kinder Scout many times, from many different directions but this is still my favourite, the ‘up’ bit is a short sharp shock and then it’s over, there’s a little scramble and the the views are great. We walked up through Edale, past the Nag’s Head Pub (official start of the Pennine Way), up Grindslow but quickly zig-zagging right up the Nab for a scramble up the rocks towards Ringing Roger. If all this sounds a bit confusing, get an OS map and check it out.

On the top, you get wonderful views and a perfect place for a break and a bite to eat.

We then followed the path round the edge of the plateau, heading west before going over Grindslow Knoll and then making our way back down into Edale for a medicinal pint at the Rambler’s Inn – it’s compulsory apparently, reinvesting in local economy and all that.

Ziggy was on the lead for most of the walk as there were sheep out but on the tops, well away from any livestock, I let him for a few stretches. Hi recall has improved but still isn’t perfect. Either that or he just fancied going with some other hikers for a bit.

My fitness is improving (I think?), but I underestimated the sun a bit and burnt my arms – but hey-ho, at least I had my hat. No sunstroke for me, thank you very much!

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Not sure what Ziggy made of the Peak District as this was his first visit and he’s actually from Bulgaria – but he seemed to like it.

Chris

 

Bumping into Billionaires in Hawkshead

Beautiful, sunny, bank holiday weekend, so it’s off to the Lakes for another mini-adventure. With Ziggy in the back, we cruised up the motorway to the lakes, crossed Windermere by ferry and drove twelve miles on to the town of Hawkshead.

We’d decided on a little circular hike from Hawkshead to Tarn Hows and back again. Hawkshead is a little town nestled in-between Windermere and Coniston and can lay claim to being one of the most beautiful towns in the Lake District – which is saying something in the Lakes. With it’s narrow passages and white-walled buildings it resembles a cornish fishing village more than a lakeland town.

Parking up, we put our boots on and set off into the town. Outside one shop we paused for a moment and I spotted a tall, middle-aged lady who looked vaguely familiar. Standing only six feet away from me I suddenly realised who she was – Jerry Hall (one-time supermodel wife of Mick Jagger and before that, Bryan Ferry’s girlfriend). As she’s recently got married, I looked around for her new husband and there he was, billionaire media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch. Now, I’m a man of the world, but I don’t tend to bump into billionaires and supermodels very often when I’m walking my dog. Unfortunately my paparazzi skills were failing me and by the time I’d got my camera out they were walking away, but trust me, it was definitely them.

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The rest of the walk was had less celebrities but was still very beautiful. There was a little cloud and summer haze but we still had great views of the surrounding fells, including the Old Man of Coniston and the Lansdale Pikes, and the weather was fine.

At Tarn Hows we found a felled tree which had coins pressed into it, presumably for luck – it didn’t seem to have brought the tree any. We did the obligatory “I thought money didn’t grow on trees” gag, and moved on.

Back in Hawkshead we rested outside the pub and had a medicinal pint to replenish lost minerals and vitamins, etc. – always good practice after a hike I find.

Chatting to the locals we asked if they got many billionaires hanging around the shops and all they could say was that there had been a big wedding that day and there did seem to be a lot of Aussies around – who knows?

Anyway, my advice when hiking, is always keep a look out for billionaires and supermodels, you never know when you might meet Richard Branson in Edale, Bill Gates up Ingleborough or even Cindy Crawford on Blackstone Edge – have your camera ready!

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Chris

 

Elliott’s 18th Birthday

Catching up on my blog today so it’s important to record the 18th Birthday of our son Elliott.

This was a bit of a low-key affair as Elliott was more interested in going out clubbing with his mates – the days of jelly and pass-the-parcel are all gone now I’m afraid.

Having said that, we couldn’t let such an important event go without some sort of a do, so we had an open house for a few friends and family and my sister Bev helped us out with another of her wonderful cakes.

There was much merriment and a we even had a drink or two as we celebrated Elliott’s step into adulthood. One of the highlights was probably my mate Andy bringing in three adorable black Labrador puppies, who everyone loved – even when they messed all over the floor, thanks Andy!

To commemorate the occasion I wrote this poem:

Elliott’s 18th Birthday

Elliott’s eighteen, hip, hip, hooray,

We hope he enjoys it, has a wonderful day.

He’s tall now,

And skinny,

And his hair’s really long.

We’re just grateful he hasn’t gone and pierced through his tongue.

 

His childhood behind him, he strides on ahead,

At least, after noon, when he gets out of bed.

He’s clever,

Good-looking,

And very polite.

But his bedroom’s a tip, it’s a terrible sight.

 

His future is bright as he starts his new college,

Just don’t think of the debt that he’ll now have to manage.

He’s trendy,

He’s cool,

He wears mainly black.

And he brushes twice daily to avoid getting plaque.

 

Along with his brother, they’ve made us quite proud,

But two are enough, is what we have vowed.

They’re hard work,

Exhausting,

Expensive, and yet.

They came out much better than we ever could bet.

 

Happy 18th Birthday, Elliott.

 

Elliott’s had his share of struggles over the years and he’s worked really hard to get where he is today so we’re very proud of him, he’s a great lad with a brilliant personality and we love him.

happy birthday son!

 

 

 

Wansfell Pike and Troutbeck

My wife Clare works on the trains and last week she happened to meet Sir Chris Bennington, the mountaineer – if you don’t know who he is, google him, NOW!

Anyway, Sir Chris is in his eighties now and has had a hip replacement, so he told Clare that he had been forced to limit his expeditions to the smaller Himalayan mountains from now on. So, are you feeling old? Feeling like time is running out? Well take Sir Chris’s example and relax a bit, limit yourself to just the smaller, unclimbed mountains of the world’s greatest mountain range – but only if you’re over eighty and have had a hip replacement. If not then get off your arse and stop complaining.

I’m inspired to get out more, so I dusted off my old walking boots and drove Lady Hughes and, myself up to the Lake District for a mini-adventure.

Parking in Ambleside, we walked past the waterfalls an up to the the top of Wansfell Pike. Not a huge hill to be sure, but the approach was steep and my lack of fitness made it seem much bigger. – I think the technical term is knackered!

The weather was perfect, warm with almost no wind at all, so we did most of it in short sleeves – in March. On the top, the views were wonderful, the low cloud was burning off revealing the snowy mountain tops of Coniston, Langdale and many more more.

Down the other side into Troutbeck. This beautiful village was very idyllic – even the ramshackle sheds were tidy and looked like they’d been designed specially. We stopped for a brew in the local tea shop and then pressed onward back into Ambleside.

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It may not have been a Himalayan mountain, but I do have nearly forty years to catch up to Sir Chris, so it’s a start I suppose.

Chris

London and the National Portrait Gallery

I’ve started an art class recently, and been learning how to draw and paint – yes, there’s no beginning to my talents.

I’m particularly interested in portraiture as I’ve done a bit through my photography and I really enjoy it. Anyway, this has been a difficult week for Lady Hughes and myself and we were looking for a bit of a distraction, so I suggested a day trip to London to check out the National Portrait Gallery, partly so I could see how the pros do it, and partly because I know how to show a girl a good time – endless pictures of old, dead people.

So, yesterday, we jumped the pendalino to Euston and within a couple of hours we were there.

The National Portrait Gallery is at the back of the National Gallery, which is at the back of Trafalgar Square, so it was reasonably easy to find. One of the rules when you arrive is no photography, which is why I have no pictures of the pictures, sadly – though some people did ignore this rule and were taking pictures on their phones. Not sure how interesting a grainy mobile phone photo of a famous painting will be in the future but each to their own I suppose.

The first thing that strikes you about the Portrait Gallery is that there are a lot or portraits, and I mean, a lot! This may sound stupid, but you very quickly realise that there is a finite amount of portraits you can probably look at, and admire, before portrait fatigue quickly sets in.

The second thing to realise about the Portrait Gallery, is that it’s not necessarily the best place to go to learn about painting portraits. It’s more of a history lesson than an art lesson. Before the advent of photography, a portrait was more of a functional thing than an expression of artistic creativity. It’s not necessarily the painting, rather than who the painting is of, that is the focus. We joked that at times it was like looking at line of celebrity passport photos, which isn’t entirely fair, but you know what I mean – hopefully?

Even after photography was invented, portraits were seen as a status symbol for the elite. We saw various generals, politicians, kings, queens and other high-ranking individuals. It was as though once you’d made it to a suitably high level in the country you were then worthy of a portrait. The down-side to this is that you did feel at times as though you were walking through the establishment hall of fame.

I found the contemporary portraits more interesting as they were more creative and there was more variety in the different approaches.

On the whole it was a great trip, there are some beautiful works of art to see there and the historical context of the subjects is fascinating. After leaving we even had a little time to wander around Trafalgar Square, though half of it was fenced off for an upcoming event. When I was a kid, Trafalgar Square was all about the pigeons, but they’ve nearly all gone now and instead you’ve got various street performers dressed as Yoda, pretending to levitate – where’s their portrait eh?