Thursday, 31 January 2008

Having A Ball

I have just discovered artist Giles Penny while trying to find the creator of this bronze sculpture, Man With Ball, and I really like his style. Giles Penny was born in 1962 in Dorchester, Dorset and studied at various Art Colleges between 1978 and 1984. His website says "His fondest way of working is in relief, which he believes is half way between sculpture and drawing." and his work is, more often than not, in bronze. His drawings, sculpture and relief work all have a humorous and friendly nature, and is accessible to none arty types, like me. The work shown is about 8 feet tall and stands in the entrance to housing development Sheldons Court (off of Winchcombe Street), it was commissioned by Crest Homes in 2000. Giles Penny's work has been used in many different locations including many pieces at the Bodyshop Headquarters, the Atrium Garden at the BBC and at Canary Wharf London.

Check out more of Giles Penny's work here

Wednesday, 30 January 2008


After the long winter months the arrival of snowdrops tells you that spring is finally on the way. They are one of the earliest flowering plants of the new year and the colder the weather is, the longer the flowers will last. Snowdrops have specially hardened leaves to push there way up through the frozen ground and snow, although they've had a pretty easy journey upwards this year due to the lack of a "proper winter" here in Cheltenham. I photographed these snowdrops in Pitville Park, under some of the trees. In the background you can make out the Bandstand and part of Pitville Pump Room. More about the Park and Pump Room next week. For now just be pleased that spring has sprung!

Please click on the first photo for a larger version, the detail is fantastic!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Pottering Around The Cathedral

The Citizen newspaper reported yesterday that the crew working on the next Harry Potter film had arrived in Gloucester to prepare for filming, and I immediately thought "photo opportunity!". The magnificent Cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral double up as the corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and are filled with children from the neighbouring King's School. A huge marquee has been erected in the schools grounds to get costume fitting for the 174 pupils taking part underway.

The Cathedral has been used twice before by Warner Brothers, for the filming of The Philosopher's Stone and The Chamber Of Secrets. In the past you haven't been able to get near the place, so I didn't know what to expect when I got there - but it was "access all areas"! Above is the garden that is enclosed by the Cloisters, now its turned over to scaffolding and staging.

There wasn't a great deal of activity at the Cathedral, but these guys were working on protecting the stone floor of the Cloisters in readiness for the camera tracks. Outside there was one security guard, from Movie Lot Security, on his mobile phone, stood in front of two vans. I acted all innocently as I walked by him, I got to the back of the vans (and out of his sight) and I pushed my camera through some security fencing without really looking, getting a snap of what I hoped was film cameras...

...but it turned out to be electric cables! When filming of The Half Blood Prince gets under way properly I'm going to head back to the Cathedral and try to at least take a photo of a camera. Maybe even a wizard or two! Watch this space...

Monday, 28 January 2008

Red Chimneys

All those chimneys and that striking architecture really caught my eye while I was out and about last week. This large and impressive red brick building looks Victorian to me but I'm not sure. All I know is its big! I don't know what its used for or by who, I don't even know what its called. What I do know is that its in Malvern Road and it may be part of the Ladies College, as its near some of their sports facilities, but I don't really know! My standards are slipping. Sorry!

Just have fun counting the chimneys...

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Antarctic Explorer

Doctor Edward Wilson was the Cheltenham born explorer and is commemorated with this statue, in the Long Garden in front of the Municipal Offices. He was born in Cheltenham on 23rd July 1872 and from a young age showed an interest in natural history. He studied at Cambridge University for a degree in Zoology, gained in 1894, and then qualified in medicine, also at Cambridge, in 1900. After working abroad he took part in several Arctic explorations, writing up his findings and contributing watercolour illustrations to other peoples works. In 1910 he joined the famous Captain Scott on his National Antarctic Expedition to the South Pole, but tragically both men died in March 1912 on the return journey.

News of Wilsons death reached Cheltenham in February 1913 and a fund was set up to create a memorial to the explorer. The original plan was for two plaques to be hung in the Town Hall but Wilsons widow suggested that as Edward loved the outdoors a more suitable memorial should be erected. The bronze statue shown was modelled by Scotts widow and was unveiled on 9th July 1914 by Arctic explorer Sir Clarence Markham. A display of Wilsons Arctic clothing and kit, as well as some of his artwork, can be found at the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum.

The inscription on the plinth of the statue reads - "He died as he lived, A brave true man. The best of comrades and the staunchest of friends."

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Cheltenham Nightspots - 2

Continuing my series of bars, pubs and clubs in Cheltenham, this is the 21 Club in Regent Street. As you can see its in the basement, the basement of a wedding dress shop! I am pretty sure the two are not related. I've never been in this club but I guess its quite small inside and, as the sign on the gate says, serves cocktails. I think I'll have to do some research and pay the club a visit. And try some cocktails (for research purposes only).

Friday, 25 January 2008

Pig In Muck

In a field, close to where I work, is this pig. The Pig (a Gloucester Old Spot) is quite lucky because the owners of the patch of land use it for homing rescued farm animals, so who knows where he came from or worse, where he was heading. I've seen this pig for a few weeks now and the other day I decided I'd get a snap. As I lept over the ditch, to get up to the fence, he spotted me and came charging over (pigs move fast, even through thick mud!) grunting and snorting. I grabbed my camera, as I backed away fearing for my own safety (pigs are big!), and started clicking away and this is the only picture I took that wasn't blurred!

Here are 5 facts about pigs :-

1. Pigs have litters of up to 15 piglets
2. Pigs eat up to 5% of their body weight in food a day
3. Pigs have 4 toes on each foot but only walk on 2 of them
4. Pigs have 44 teeth and the canine teeth constantly grow
5. Pigs have a 30 minute orgasm!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Planning Mistake

To me, this building is a result of one of the worst planning decisions ever made by Cheltenham Borough Council. This awful looking development in the Lower High Street is not suited to the Regency style of the town and just brings down the whole of the lower end of town, which suffers enough from a negative image. In 1967 all of the buildings on the North side of the High Street, between Henrietta Street and Bennington Street, were demolished. Those that were destroyed included the Fleece Hotel, the original arched entrance to the Brewery and, worst of all, the Richard Pates Boys Grammar School. The school had stood on the site since the 1500's and the more recent Tudor Gothic style building, dating from 1889, was lost forever. The schools frontage featured castellated roof lines, gargoyles, stone carved windows and steep gables. All of this history and fine architecture was replaced with a white, style-less block (now grey, stained and outdated). Efforts have been made to try to improve this section of town, like the limiting of traffic to buses only and the widening of pavements, but I think the best bet would be to send this structure the same way as the Grammar School et al and start all over again.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

How Much Is That Kitty In The Window

Continuing yesterdays theme of banking, I spotted this chap in the window of the HSBC bank, at the junction of the Promenade and the High Street. He is there to promote the banks latest advertising campaign of "greener banking". The T.V adverts show the banks teaming with animals and birds, with employees fighting their way through dense undergrowth while sweating due to tropical conditions. All I found were queues for the ATM's and only two tills open!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

A Rock And A Hard Place

At the moment this is the position the British Government find themselves between. I am by no way an expert on financial matters, and find this all a bit confusing, but basically the Government must decide whether or not to nationalise the Northern Rock bank, who are the UK's fifth largest mortgage provider.

Back in September last year the bank was forced to ask the Bank of England for emergency financial support (£25 billion) due to loaning money beyond its means, because of the global credit crunch. This caused savers with Northern Rock to start drawing out there savings, leading to queues outside branches and the companies website crashing. The words "don't panic" by those in charge brought about the first run on a British bank in more than one hundred years.

At present every tax payer in Britain has provided over £2,000 to help the Government keep the bank from declaring itself bankrupt and causing a serious recession. The money lent is now to be repaid in bonds by the bank and its hoped that a private group will buy the bank, Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group is in the running. If this didn't happen and the Government nationalise Northern Rock they would be responsible for some of the mortgages in the country, which is not a position any Government wants to find themselves in.

There's something to be said for keeping your money under your mattress!

For a more detailed timeline of the Northern Rock crisis check out

Monday, 21 January 2008

Royal Crescent

Surprisingly Royal Crescent is the back drop to Cheltenhams bus station, the Royal Well. The bus station is a bit of an eyesore in front of the towns earliest Regency terrace to have survived intact. The Crescent was first designed as two blocks of 12 houses, with a road between, by architect Charles Harecourt Masters at the start of the 1800's. Construction started in 1805 and was completed in the early 1820's, the houses first used as lodgings for visitors using the towns Spas. The Crescent is now used mainly as office space with many Solicitors and Doctors surgeries occupying most buildings. In 1998 the over grown trees and shrubs between the bus station and Crescent were removed, revealing the white curved terrace, and replaced with a Beech hedge and Silver Birch trees as a commemoration of Diana, Princess of Wales who died the year before. The ironwork railings and balconies are one of the features of Royal Crescent and are typical of the Regency buildings in Cheltenham.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Protected Antiques

Promenade Antiques is, not surprisingly, on the Promenade in Cheltenham, opposite the Colonnade. This little shop has been there as long as I can remember and mainly sells gold and silver jewellery, watches, and ornaments. People are always stopping to look at all the interesting items in the window, eyeing up the latest shiny trinkets. Last year the shop was in the news as a car full of men pulled up outside, jumped out and tried to smash the window to steal the treasures behind the glass. Luckily for the shop owner (but not the robbers) two shopfitters, working on the refurbishment of a shop opposite, ran over and fought them off. The thieves made off empty handed and the workmen were local heroes, for a day or two at least.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Cheltenham Nightspots - 1

Cheltenham has a relatively small town centre with one of the countries highest number of bars, pubs and clubs in a square mile town centre. This picture starts a series of photos of Cheltenhams nightspots.
The entrance to Boogie Lounge is just a small door tucked in amongst the regency buildings opposite the Town Hall but opens into a large room with a bar and dance floor. Like many of the towns nightspots the name is new but the venue the same. Boogie Lounge has been known as Bohemia and the Fish and Fiddle, that's the last time I went (quite awhile ago), when they used to have an open mic night. The music was always varied and the singing talent different!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Step Back In Time

This clock, with its swinging sixties style, could (to some) look a little outdated, but to me it has a modern retro feel. Its on the front of the department store Cavendish House, situated in the Promenade.
Not surprisingly this shop facade is not the original one, it was built during the modernisation of the shop between 1962-1966, it cost £800,000 and replaced the 1826 art nouveau windowed frontage. The store Clark and Debenham was founded by the same named gents in 1826, and was soon renamed 'Cavendish House Silk Mercery Establishment', a very catchy name for a shop! Over the next century Cavendish House (Cav, as its known locally) expanded along the Prom, buying up neighbouring shops and houses until it had the longest shop front in town, at around 170 feet. The store now has many different departments including menswear, ladies clothes, shoes, electrical, homeware and the inevitable perfume counters. Its pretty much like all department stores worldwide. But not many can boast such a long history and feature an antique clock of the future!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

I Spy With My Little Eye...

...something beginning with G.C.H.Q.

This photo is taken from Crickley Hill looking towards the West side of Cheltenham. The big round building, to the right of the middle of the picture, is the Government Communications Headquarters (click on the picture for a larger image). GCHQ carry out intelligence and security work answering to the Foreign Office and working in tandem with MI5 and MI6. The building is known by Cheltonians as 'The Doughnut', as its round and has a hole in the middle! And that hole is large enough to fit the Royal Albert Hall inside.
GCHQ came to Cheltenham in 1952 and occupied two sites, the one shown at Benhall, and one at Oakley, on the other side of town. Many local people say that there was an underground tunnel that linked these two sites, but as GCHQ's work is secret we'll never know. In 1999 it was decided by the government to merge the two sites into one and Benhall was chosen for the new building. The doughnut cost about £330 million with the actual cost, including a 30 year service contract, being £1.2 billion. At the time of construction it was the largest single development in Europe, taking 3 years to complete, with the 6,000 strong workforce moving in September 2003 and completing the move by the summer of 2004.

On the security fence that surrounds the perimeter of GCHQ it clearly says 'No Photography', so this could be as close as you get to photograph the building without being taken in as a threat to national security!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Branching Out

These Beech trees were taken in the woods at Crickley Hill Country Park. The park is on the edge of the Cotswold Hills and over looks the Vale of Gloucester. The park is a mixture of Woodland (natural and man aided), Grassland, and steep Limestone hillside. The park has many trails for walkers and includes a visitors centre and archaeological site. The site has been excavated over the past 25 years and the remains of a hillfort have been revealed, with the fort and related buildings being marked out with coloured posts. To get a better view of this area there is a raised viewing platform with details of what is believed to have once been on Crickley Hill. As well as all this the park is home to around 200 species of wildflower and 34 different types of butterfly. Not bad for a walk around the top of an old hill!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Bargains Galore

We are half way through January and the sales continue apace. In the past January sales used to start on the 2nd of the month, but now they begin on Boxing Day (26th December), and the poor sales assistants are lucky to get Christmas day off. Here in the U.K pre-christmas profits for the nations high streets were up on previous years, even with the expected dip in the economy ahead. Many stores are offering massive discounts to get shoppers to part with their cash, some with 75% off. I don't normally bother with the sales, as all my money goes on Christmas, but this year I had some gift vouchers and picked up some great bargains. So in effect I got more for my money for free!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Now Not Showing

The first film I ever saw at a cinema was here at the Odeon. It was 1982 and it was E.T, I was only small, so I don't remember much about it. My Uncle took me, it was Shrove Tuesday and when I got home I had pancakes. My Uncle likes embarrassing me by telling how I was more interested in the folding seats and the curtains (remember when cinema screens had curtains?) and how I was crying at the end!

The Odeon Cinema closed on the 5th November 2006 after 70 years in business. It was built on the site of the former Highbury Congregational Church in Winchcombe Street, the church was demolished in 1932. The art-deco building was originally called the Gaumont Palace Cinema, then changed to the Odeon a few years later. The cinema had just one large auditorium and hosted many live acts including the Beatles and, in 1964, The Rolling Stones (guitarist Brian Jones was born in Cheltenham). As demand for more films grew the cinema increased its screens to three and then more recently seven, dividing the huge Screen One (where I saw E.T) into three. Cheltenham used to have seven cinemas but over time only the Odeon survived. The main reason for its closure was the success of the Cineworld Multiplex at the Brewery development, it just couldn't compete.

Its sad to see this once great building lying empty and derelict. The site was purchased by Trinity Church for its expanding congregation for £2.5 million, with plans drawn up for redevelopment costing another £2.5 million! As yet nothing has started, though a local night club is now interested in the site.

And I still cry at the end of E.T!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Horsing Around

I don't normally post more photos of previous posts but I had several that I really liked of Neptune's Fountain, so here they are! The photo above shows more detail of Neptune, taken through some of the plants surrounding the fountain. In the background are Jack's Caff and part of the Ladies College. Below is a photo of the four horses around the base of Neptune's shell plinth. I think they represent the crashing waves of the sea, of course I could be completely wrong!

For some of the fountains history see yesterdays post.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Dried Up Neptune

I'm back! It's been a while but now I'm sorted with new computer and, more importantly, new camera so normal service has resumed!

This is Neptune's Fountain, built in 1892-3 to perk up the end of the Prom. At the time a local town guide said "It was installed when Victorian Gothicism was on the wane, with beaux arts influences gaining ground on a lingering neo-mediaevalism." I couldn't agree more! Designed by borough engineer Joeseph Hall, it is based on Rome's Fontana di Trevi. It was carved from Portland stone by local company R.L. Boulton & Sons and water first flowed on 30th October 1893. Over the years the fountain has under gone numerous running repairs including new balustrade and urns. Most noticeable was the lack of Neptune's right arm, which was missing for several years until a replacement was installed. The day I took the photo the water, as you can see, was off. I'll post a photo in the summer when its in full flow.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Theme Day - Best Photo Of The Year

First things first - Happy New Year!!! I hope 2008 is a good year for you and you achieve all you want!
As I haven't been posting for long I didn't have loads of photos to choose from, so I decided on this one. Its only from December, but I thought it was a good one with some fun and humour! Its taken from the window display of clothes shop White Stuff in the Prom. I love the drunk gingerbread man staggering home in his pants, complete with traffic cone on his head! Best of all is his gingerbread wife, waiting with a rolling pin to give him what for!
Due to a busted laptop I probably won't be posting for the rest of the week while I await the arrival of a new one, but I'll be back with brilliant photos from my new fantastic camera!
Check out the links below to see other photos from blogs all over the world taking part in theme day.
Paris, France - London, England - Hyde, UK - West Sacramento (CA), USA - Grenoble, France - Stockholm, Sweden - Riga, Latvia - Saint Paul (MN), USA - Manila, Philippines - Silver Spring (MD), USA - Weston (FL), USA - Prague, Czech Republic - New Orleans (LA), USA - Wichita (KS), USA - Cleveland (OH), USA - San Francisco (CA), USA - Hobart (Tasmania), Australia - Greenville (SC), USA - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Menton, France - Monte Carlo, Monaco - Mainz, Germany - Melbourne, Australia - Portland (OR), USA - Albuquerque (NM), USA - Wassenaar (ZH), Netherlands - Kyoto, Japan - Tokyo, Japan - Toulouse, France - Naples (FL), USA - Jakarta, Indonesia - Brussels, Belgium - Stayton (OR), USA - Selma (AL), USA - Mexico City, Mexico - Ocean Township (NJ), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Port Angeles (WA), USA - Toruń, Poland - Fort Lauderdale (FL), USA - Budapest, Hungary - Baziège, France - Nashville (TN), USA - Saint Louis (MO), USA -" target="_new">Cottage Grove (MN), USA - Chicago (IL), USA - Prescott (AZ), USA - Bellefonte (PA), USA - Nottingham, UK - Miami (FL), USA - Philadelphia (PA), USA - Evry, France - Trujillo, Peru - Arlington (VA), USA - Denpasar, Indonesia - American Fork (UT), USA - Seattle (WA), USA - Chandler (AZ), USA - Coral Gables (FL), USA - Montpellier, France - Joplin (MO), USA - Pilisvörösvár, Hungary - Crystal Lake (IL), USA - Bucaramanga (Santander), Colombia - Boston (MA), USA - Torun, Poland - New York City (NY), USA - Dunedin (FL), USA - Quincy (MA), USA - Stavanger, Norway - Chateaubriant, France - Maple Ridge (BC), Canada - Jackson (MS), USA - Wailea (HI), USA - Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Budapest, Hungary - Austin (TX), USA - Montréal (QC), Canada - Cypress (TX), USA - Bicheno, Australia - Wrocław, Poland - Brookville (OH), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Nelson, New Zealand - Cheltenham, UK - Wellington, New Zealand - Rabaul, Papua New Guinea - Mumbai (Maharashtra), India - London, UK - Haninge, Sweden - Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation - Arradon, France - Jefferson City (MO), USA - Orlando (FL), USA - Mumbai, India - Terrell (TX), USA - Bogor, Indonesia - Delta (CO), USA - Radonvilliers, France - Saigon, Vietnam - San Diego (CA), USA - Adelaide (SA), Australia - Belgrade, Serbia - Auckland, New Zealand - Seguin (TX), USA - Inverness (IL), USA - Oslo, Norway - Singapore, Singapore

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