Of views and greens in London

I think there are two ways of really getting a feel for a city: walking its streets and public parks and viewing it from above. But being my parents’ daughter I am not one to spend a lot of money on these things if I can get them for free instead (so sorry, no pictures of a helicopter ride). Fortunately, walking is free but then only half the fun in the rain on a cold January day.

So instead I headed inside for some luscious greens at one of London’s best kept secrets – the Conservatory at the Barbican. This hidden tropical gem actually the second biggest Conservatory in the city and features over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees and even some exotic fish. The conservatory was built as an “add on” to disguise the theatre’s fly tower (where sets are stored) and manages to incorporate the structure in clever ways. There are bridges and balconies to explore and some of the plants you might even recognise from your own home, though they are enormous in here. Who would have thought there is such a fine green oasis hiding amidst this brutalist concrete structures. Entry is free but the conservatory is only open on certain dates so check their website in advance.

 

One of my other favourite indoor green spaces is the Sky Garden at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street (locally also known as the “Walkie-Talkie“). And best of all, it combines a garden with spectacular views (depending on the weather obviously). The Sky Garden features three storeys of exquisite public gardens including an open air terrace. 155 meters up, the Sky Garden begins at level 35 and gives you a 360-degree view of London. Entry is free but spaces are limited and you have to book in advance!

Last but not least on my list of best views has to be one of its latest additions – the new Switch House at the Tate Modern. The top floor features an open viewing terrace and though it might “only” be 10 levels up, it certainly gives you good 360-degree views of the London skyline. Access is free but you might have to queue for the lift during busy times.

And I even managed to fit in a short walk along the banks of the River Thames.

More hills to climb – Clwydian Range

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Nelson Mandela

Well, I don’t think he was referring to geographical features but in the Clwydian Range you can take this quite literally.

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Moel Famau and the Jubilee Tower

The range of hill lies on the border between Denbighshire and Flintshire in Wales and has been classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1985. The highest hill is Moel Famau (555m) with the Jubilee Tower on its summit. And even though the tower marked a joyous occasion it’s kind of a sad story really.

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Only the base is left of the tower

The Jubilee Tower was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of King George III in 1810. Designed by Thomas Harrison of Chester it was supposed to look like an Egyptian obelisk with three tiers. Supposed to – due to a lack of funds it was never completed and a major storm brought down the incomplete tower in 1862. The remaining upper part of the tower was demolished for safety reasons, leaving just the base. Rubble and smaller stonework was reused by local farmers for dry stone walls.

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Even what little remains of the Jubilee Tower can be seen from far away.

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Love those carvings, the top one dates from 1850

So instead of finding a magnificent structure, you are rewarded with spectacular views across the Wirral and Merseyside to the east and across to the coast, Snowdonia and the Dee Valley to the west and south.

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Looking towards the Dee Estuary, you can just make out Flintshire Bridge

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The views are fantastic.

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The path I came up is visible on the left. Ruthin can be seen in the background.

You can also see the chain of Iron Age Hillforts that follow the range on the other hill tops. About 2500 years ago these peaks were occupied and defended and had huge earth ramparts constructed around them.

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Moel Arthur. You can clearly see the earthen banks and ditches.

You might think, that being on the highest hill already it would be quite easy to visit these. Not quite. It goes down. And up. A lot.

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And down and up the hill again…

Made it! It was so worth the effort.

Made it! It was so worth the effort.

All the while during my hike I didn’t quite know where to look because the views were so beautiful all the time. And once I had left Moel Famau it was so quiet. No man-made noise, just me and nature.

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Caergwrle Castle – Queen’s Hope

With spring and some drier weather finally here I am trying to tick off the last items on my ‘castle list’. There are many castles in North Wales, some well known and popular (like Caernarfon Castle) and some a bit more overlooked. Particularly those that were left in ruins and are more difficult to get to because of their location. But sometimes it’s exactly that location that makes them spectacular.

Caergwrle Castle

Caergwrle Castle

Here are a couple of historic facts for those of you who are interested: Caergwrle Castle, also known as Queen’s Hope in scholarly texts, is located (as the name suggests)in the town of Caergwrle, in Flintshire. Built on a steep hill near the Anglo-Welsh border, it was the final castle to be built by Welsh rulers before the loss of Welsh independence in 1283.

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From the other side. The views extend far into Flintshire and Cheshire.

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Looking up the north tower.

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“Inside” the north tower which still features remains of a fireplace and privy on.

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Dressed stones, up to head height, were robbed to build structures in the village in the 17th century.

 

Construction of the castle began in 1277, after King Edward I gave the lordship of Hope to Dafydd ap Gruffudd as reward for his service in the Welsh war concluded earlier that year. The castle  was apparently still unfinished when Dafydd revolted in 1282. By the time Edward had gathered an army to invade Wales in June, Dafydd had already retreated from Caergwrle, and had slighted the castle, even blocking up its well to deny it to the English. Edward promptly began rebuilding the castle, and gave it to his wife, Eleanor of Castile. However, a fire in 1283 gutted the castle and it was never rebuilt.

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The blocked up well.

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The castle had quite a substantial size considering it was built up on a hill.

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An old oven that once fed the army of stonemasons can still be seen.

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Looking back towards the north tower.

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An old archway.

One down on my list, three more to go. And I already picked up a leaflet in the local TIC with more castles to visit…

 

 

Magazine launch with a view – high above Liverpool

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Liverpool Skyline with West Tower
Copyright LivingOS
http://www.flickr.com/photos/livingos/3209807847/

I was fortunate to attend the launch of the online magazine #EDiT last night which took part in the penthouse on the 38th floor of the West Tower in Liverpool. #EDiT is a new stylish business magazine for the Northwest which we designed at Mako Creative Solutions.

And what a location for a launch this was! Situated right on the waterfront the West Tower offers amazing views over Liverpool and as we were blessed with sunshine and clear sky it was the perfect evening to sit outside on the penthouse’s balcony and enjoy the sight.

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The dining area (I suppose) of the penthouse where we were welcomed with an #EDiT cocktail.

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My colleague Dave (again) in the living area of the penthouse

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It was the perfect evening for sitting on the balcony and enjoying the views.

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Proof I was there too. I’m trying to make a brave face.

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Royal Liver Building, Albert Dock, Echo Arena and Liverpool Cathedral just on the left

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Liverpool Cathedral, Radio City Tower, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (the one that looks a bit like a tipi)

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Mersey estuary towards Liverpool Bay. The Liverpool Docks stretch for over 7.5 miles (12.1 km) and are the largest enclosed interconnected dock system in the world.

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