Monday, 30 May 2011

Tony's Non-Singular adventure to Southend

Right then me dears, We are off on another adventure. This time into the wild marshes and wilderness of the Essex coast.
I am not on my own this time either as I have almost the whole gang with me as we set of from the remote London out post of Barking.

Once on the train to the sea-side the obvious thing to do was to scoff our packed lunch like school children

We were also making rather a lot of noise in the quite carriage ! Some people just cant eat crisps quietly.
We are bound for the very end of the line Shoeburyness .
Undaunted by the weather we found ourselves seemingly miles from anywhere and especially from the sea. Trusting in our native guide we went on into the unknown

After walking through Shoeburyness we got our first glimpse of the sea.

Singing songs to keep our spirits up and making sure the stragglers didn't lag to far behind we marched on.

Our trusted guide 'Sherpa Southgate' told us that we were at last getting close as he could sense that we were near to the sea. He was right, we could see the coast guard station on our left which was a bit of a clue.

 We had arrived at the sea side.

Fab !!!

We had an interesting walk ahead. From here down through the delights of Southend itself to Leigh-on-sea.

All along this stretch are hundreds of beach huts and very charming they looked too, even with the grey sky and 25 kph wind.

They must look a real treat in the sunshine with the mums brewing tea and the kids building castles in the sand.

Stage one complete is was time for some fortification

To early for lunch; a quick pint of Spitfire and a bag of Quavers and we were off again down into the bright lights and noise of Southend.
They were having an Air Show so apart from it being a bank holiday weekend it was very busy indeed . We didn't hang about too long.

This building caught our eye though. The Kursaal.
The Kursaal was the world's first ever theme park. It predates Coney Island in America.
The word Kursaal is German, meaning a "Cure Hall" or spa. It was adapted to mean a place of healthy amusement.

This is it in 1910.
The twenty-six acre site was designed by the architect Campbell Sherrin, who also designed the Brompton Oratory. At the time the Kursaal building and its dome were at the cutting edge of architectural design .
It housed, a circus, a zoo, a ballroom, an arcade with amusements, a dining hall and a billiard room.

The Kursaal ballroom had perhaps the finest dance floor in England,
Some of the most famous bands and orchestras in the country played here
Vera Lynn began her singing career in the Kursaal Ballroom with the resident bandleader Howard Baker.

You can click this to get that original dance hall flava!

No time even for an afternoon tea dance though, so we went on to brave the pier.

It was closed to walkers due to the air show but as the trip to the end and back is 3 miles long we weren't too disappointed and went to play the slots to console ourselves.

On through the crowds of Southend, with extra seaside jollity provided by BBC Essex Radio playing really loudly over some very dodgy ancient P.A. system. It echoed for miles along the whole of the front.
It reminded me a bit of the Radio One road show that used to visit Plymouth every year in the 70s but without anyone interesting or famous.

It started to thin out as we got further along West Cliff. Most of the people were walking in the opposite direction to watch a chap bieng winched aboard a Sea King helicopter (such fun). We marched onwards.

past the lovely Southend Cliff Railway, constructed in 1901 by the American engineer Jesse W. Reno, it soon proved noisy and unreliable due its exposed location.
The current line was opened in 1912. It  is 130' in length and climbs 57' at a gradient of 43.4%

At last back to the peace and quiet of the estuary and a rare photo of Madam Arcati herself taking yet another stunning shot looking across the river towards the Isle of Grain in Kent
 (photo by Alistair)

By now the tide was right out .

An obelisk in the mud ?

Only Alistair and Cronain were brave enough to risk the mud to walk over to it.
the Crowstone erected in 1837 replaced an earlier stone.
It stands on the shore to mark the end of the River Thames - after this point the Thames becomes the North Sea .
We were almost at journey's end and as we got closer to old Leigh-on-Sea there were a lot more boats.

then on into Leigh itself.

We were only 30 miles from London but in another world and time.

First references to Leigh, or Legra as it was known date back to the Domesday Book.

What we needed now was food and that means only one thing in Leigh and that's seafood.

and only one place to start; Osborne Bros.

Thomas George Osborne started Osborne Bros in 1880.
He sold cockles from Cockle Shed Row in Old Leigh.
Osborne Bros’ first boat was purchased for £10 in 1910.
Shortly after this, Thomas Osborne took over the running of the Crooked Billet pub opposite the Café. 

Not the actual food we had but an aide memoir

In over one hundred years of trading the business has remained within the Osborne family
right up until today when the fourth and fifth generation descendants of Thomas George Osborne run the business.

In 1928, the first Renown boat was built by Haywards of Southend.
This boat was used in the evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk in 1940 along with five other Leigh cockle boats.

The boats were used to ferry troops from the beaches to the ships anchored in the deep waters.
The boats each rescued around 1,000 troops during this mission but as they were starting back home the Renown hit a mine and the boat was completely destroyed with the loss of all the crew – Frank Osborne (son of Frank Osborne), Leslie (Lukie) Osborne (son of George Osborne), Harry Noakes and Harold Graham Porter.
In 1972, a memorial statue was erected in St. Clement’s churchyard in Leigh honouring these men.
With thanks. 
Information and photos from Osborne Bros, Billet Wharf

Time for a well deserved pint and the main course. We first tried the 'The Ye Olde Smack' which was swarming with ankle biters. We moved on rather quickly to the 'Mayflower' 

 A very pleasant pub with friendly local staff. Actually its half pub half fish and chip shop and we enjoyed both very much indeed.

Ending our visit with dessert in the ' Crooked Billet ' which is now a Nicholsons pub. Nice place, very cosy with a fab view but they served us apple pie with custard and a baked cheese cake, both totally frozen in the middle.
Having already waited 20 minutes for the frozen food we didn't feel like waiting until they 'made another one'.
Luckily we had our main course in the 'Mayflower'.

A fab day all round and well worth another visit for sure.


Sunday, 29 May 2011

Tony's singular adventures; Bristol

Right then me dears I be off to Brizole (or Bristol to you).

I have always been fond of Bristol ever since I used to pop up there as a teenager in the 70s to 'do' the scene.
Pubs and clubs have come and gone since then although I believe that the Elephant, the Griffin and the Pineapple are all still going strong.

Alas no time to troll around as I am on a mission to meet my mother for lunch. It seems rather a long way to go as I live in London and Mum still lives in Plymouth. Mother was on her way to Wales for a holiday and it made a good half way point to meet.

I still get a thrill every time I go through Paddington.
From a child it was always the gateway into London and filled me with excitement. Now it is my gateway to the West Country and Wales.

It really is an iron cathedral to the locomotive and I love it. I can remember steam trains (just) and try to imagine what the place would have been like filled with steam, smoke and those wonderful noises.

If you click this you can get some idea.


Thank you Brunel.
He was involved in all aspects of the design of the stations at Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads which are complete opposites in style. 

Some contemporary critics considered the turrets, facades and decoration were inappropriate and anachronistic, but it is today admired for the way style, space and structure come together naturally and coherently.
A lesson that should be learnt today methinks.


On into Bristol where old and new, beautiful and ugly sit side by side.

Down into the old city to Corn Street, once the home to banks and commerce, now the home of bars and cafes.
We went to The Commercial Rooms for lunch. A very grand building indeed and where the decision to give Brunel the contract to build 'Gods Wonderful Railway' was made.

Its now a Wetherspoons. When I first arrived a tribe of druggie types were sat on the steps with their rottweilers. I was loathe to go in let alone take my dear Mater there for lunch. It turned out that they weren't customers anyway and left after a while as did most of the less than chic dinners. (The joys of a late lunch).

Mission accomplished - a lovely afternoon with my wonderful Mum.
So it didn't matter so much that the food ranged from bland, mediocre to full-on inedible.
It might not have been the best choice of venue but the good thing about Wetherspoons is that the beer was good, there was no horrid music and it was cheap. But I would advise avoiding the fruit crumble at all costs!

The time flew by and it was a dash to the station.

past this sadly derelict pub back to Temple Meads.

to Paddington

And home to some real food.
Lionel's Breton specialty: a spring casserole of ham, meaty sausage, peas, cos lettuce and potato. Truly delicious.