Not quite a steaming, throbbing, souk of course, but Barrow’s indoor market is better than many. In fact a disturbing number of much bigger towns don’t have a market at all, which is a great shame.
It’s not the grand, reeking, dank old market hall that scared the bejaysus out of me when I was little. That disappeared in a burst of 1960s municipal vandalism. Nor is it all that good for fruit and veg, which is what I really need a market for (how I miss Portobello and other street markets from my London days!) But it is a pleasant and airy sort of place, always worth mooching around for half an hour or so, and there are gems to be found amongst the tat now and then.
The old derelict docklands at the back of Barrow Island are changing fast now. Not so long ago it was scrubby grassland but the local wildlife was gathered together with a reptile fence and relocated. Well I think that’s what happened. I hope so anyway – before the JCBs moved in.
Pretty soon we’ll have a regenerated dockland just like every other regenerated dockland from Baltimore to Bangkok, with a marina, and Lego apartment buildings, and chichi bars.
I’m late today because I was doiung some serious computer upgrading, but I’m glad to say I’m getting it in in time!
Most activity in the Port of Barrow takes place out of sight of casual prying eyes. One is tempted to suggest that this is because the biggest user of the docks is British Nuclear Fuels.
However, once in a while something goes on right under the High Bridge, where freight moving to and from the shipyard is dealt with. That, apparently, is what the remaining hammerhead crane is there fore – not just a museum piece after all!
Today the Vega, out of Marstal. Denmark, was in the dock. I don’t know whether that big piece of equipment is coming or going. Evidently I caught it while the crane crew were at lunch! Nor do I have much idea what is, although a hint may lie in the Wikipedia entry for Marstal, from which we learn that the small town is home to a major solar power complex.
Jeff was asking, when I featured the Spirit of Barrow monument, why there was no commemoration of the white-collar workers who contributed to Barrow’s success. The fact is, there is. To some extent anyway. Not a prime town-centre statue but a series of plaques around the Barrow Island area where most of the yard is, put up by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers to mark engineering achievement.
‘Lady Superintendent”? Hmm… Ah well, it was in 1914. Hold on a minute. What are those dates again? 1914-1919? Ah yes, holding the fort while the men are fighting on the Somme. And afterwards? Ah, Dorothee, the men are back. Well, some of them. Off you go then, back to the dolly-tub!
I’m feeling poorly today so I’m going to crawl into bed now. Offers of TLC will be received with much thanks!
Barrow buses have recently been fitted out with a panel at the back, each commemorating a ship built at Barrow. In this case I travelled home from the hospital, where I spent time on a nebuliser this afternoon, with the SS Oriana, the last Barrow-built liner.
These Barrow buses are operated by Stagecoach and are not the Barrow Corporation Transport buses of fond memory: dark-blue double-deckers with colour-coded destination blinds instead of route numbers. A few of those are preserved and were used, for example, in the filming of Housewife, 49, the film of the wartime Barrow memoir Nella Last’s War. Occasionally they come out for a trundle and if I catch one I’ll include it in the blog. Are there any Old Barrovians reading this who can remember the colour codes?
Have I mentioned that Barrow is home to one of the great Victorian Gothic buildings of England? One that could stand proud in the company of civic glories like those of Manchester or Leeds?
One doesn’t like to introduce something like this too early in the proceedings of a warts-and-all portrait, lest one be thought to be in the pay of the Marketing Department. But it is magnificent, and that clock tower is a landmark over a very wide area. Barrow was the dream of James Ramsden the Railway Baron, and round the parapet of the tower are a number of horned sheep heads in turrets. Ram’s Den – geddit?
Look up as you walk through the Victorian Heart of Barrow and you’ll see a lot of ornamental moulded brickwork, like this over the entrance of the Derby Hotel in Dalton Road.
Lower down, the prospect is much less attractive. What must once have been a splendid Victorian alehouse has degenerated into a spartan chavvy boozer, revolving round wide-screen sport (and crude sport symbolism on the windows) and without even any decent beer in sight (no handpumps to bee seen anyway). Most unpleasant.
In fact, one shortcoming of Barrow is the lack of a halfway decent pub with good beer and an atmosphere congenial to conversation. A few are so-so, but most are ghastly and all but a handful don’t server proper beer. This is odd because there are lots of good pubs in the sparsely populated areas to the north.
Welcome to Arthur Street. It’s a perfectly servicable street of Victorian terrace houses. Very typical of much of the central Barrow area as it was laid out as a new model community in the nineteenth century. I wouldn’t be unhappy living in one of them. The only problem I can see is the blight of pebbledash that has struck in the last thirty years: painted brick was always the Barrow way.
The trouble is, it’s in the way of the money-grubbing schemes of developers, who want to put up a Wimpeyville of bland housing units, quite outside the character of the town. And they have enlisted the support of the local borough council; Tory-led for the last couple of years. Tories aren’t interested in the sort of people who live in Arthur Street, who like living in Arthur Street. No Tory represents the ward, but what does that matter? The council with it’s majority group of the ovine tendency that thinks and votes how it’s told to has steamrollered the scheme through, and thus people must be driven from their homes to make a profit for developers.
Does Arthur Street look like a teeming slum to you? No, of course not. If you think, as I do, that demolishing this community is a disgrace then you might like to tell our beloved leader, Cllr Bill Joughin. You’d be best confining yourself to words of one syllable though because poor Bill isn’t what you might call a towering intellect.
The sun’s shining and the bitter edge has gone from that easterly wind. In fact it’s a lovely, dreamy kind of afternoon with a brisk but not unpleasant breeze and a bit of a haze on the sea. And yes, as soon as this happens, Rosie heads for Walney beach!
Have I mentioned that Walney beach is one of my favourite places anywhere? Surely not! Although whenever I start to question my sanity in coming back to Barrow to live, I walk down there and realise why it made sense. However low I may have been feeling, I can’t help but smile when I’m there.
We’re two days past the full moon, so the tide is high and at its full in the early afternoon and the wide, flat sands will have to wait for another day. For now, though, it’s just delightful to walk along the pebbles of the upper beach; good Lakeland rock, all of it, washed down the Esk and the Duddon over many thousands of years, rounded by the sea. (But you can’t see those in the picture, just sand, shingle and an old breakwater)
The stub end of Cornwallis Street, across from the Town Hall, is know to Barrovians as the Gaza Strip. Many towns these days have their ‘strip’, lined with chain bars, and Barrow has several of the usual suspects in other places, mainly Duke Street, but the Gaza Strip is in another order of unsavouriness. The bars are shabby and run down. I’m not sure whether this is down to neglect or a deliberate policy of making the places as unappealing as possible to the discerning drinker so that the undiscerning young can go about their business getting rat-arsed and making easy profits for the booze companies.
Either way, the Gaza Strip is a blight on our town. (Why can’t they sweep this away to make way for Wimpeyvilles and marinas?)