Archive for the ‘Travel writing’ Category

Pugin and the Gothic Revival

February 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Architect, designer, illustrator, devout worshipper, sailor, wrecker. All of these describe
A W N Pugin, the force behind the Gothic Revival.

Mention the name Pugin, and it’s fairly certain that Big Ben will come to mind. True enough, the Palace of Westminster – the seat of Parliament and the heart of the nation – with its famous clock tower is one of the most prominent and well-known buildings in the land. But examples of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin’s work, and more particularly of his influence, can be found across the country, and include not only impressive government buildings but modest country churches and private houses. Read more…


Broadland in winter

November 10, 2008 Leave a comment

The Norfolk Broads form one of the largest areas of wetland in the country. Martyn Oliver explores the landscape and its fascinating history.

Sitting roughly on the Norfolk–Suffolk border between Norwich and Lowestoft, and stretching north for about 20 miles, lies the network of shallow lakes and rivers known as the Norfolk Broads. For many years the area, which is now a National Park, has been a magnet for holiday-makers and nature-lovers, drawn to the waterways, marshes and reedbeds. Read more…

The Great Orme Tramway

August 20, 2008 Leave a comment

Legend has it that St George (or St Michael, depending upon which books you read) fought the dragon all over mainland Britain. The dragon breathed a deadly fire, but the saint leapt onto its back where the flames couldn’t reach him, and rode the enraged dragon off the top of a rocky headland at the northernmost tip of Wales and into the sea, where it drowned. Martyn Oliver took the same route, but travelled by tram.

The headland is The Great Orme, at Llandudno in North Wales, the highest sea-facing outcrop in Britain and named after an old English word for a dragon: ‘worm’.

The climb to the top of The Great Orme is as steep today as it was in St George’s time, but you no longer need to wait for the next dragon to hitch a ride. Instead, the four carriages of The Great Orme Tramway make their measured way up and down the hillside, one every twenty minutes, seven days a week, between April and October. Read more…

Faded glory, or a bright future?

February 14, 2008 Leave a comment

What is it that epitomises the traditional British seaside holiday? Buckets and spades? Shrimping nets? Ice-cream cornets? Beach huts? For photographer Andrew Wing, beach huts represent far more than August Fortnight at Mablethorpe. Here he talks to Martyn Oliver (with diary notes by Wivi-Ann Wells).

© Andrew Wing

For most of us, mention of any one of these will bring back a wave of nostalgia. But for one man, whose shadow you see in the inset, beach huts represent far more than memories of August Fortnight at Mablethorpe. Andrew Wing and his partner, Norwegian photographer Wivi-Ann Wells, spent their holidays for the best part of five years in pursuit of every beach hut in Britain. The results are due to be published later this year.

Why beach huts, I asked Andrew. What is so special about them for you to make them the subject of such a comprehensive study?

‘Why not beach huts?’, he responded. ‘In fact, I’ve been fascinated by them ever since I was a kid and spent the summer holidays at the seaside with my family.’ Andrew comes from Nottingham in the English Midlands, a place about as far Read more…

Precarious beauty

With its broad, empty beaches, wide open skies, and tidal salt marshes and reedbeds which provide a home for some of Britain’s rarest wildlife, the North Norfolk coast is a special but threatened place. Martyn Oliver explores.

The first thing that strikes the visitor to North Norfolk is how empty it is. The coastal towns and villages with their reddish-brown stone houses, often substantial and Dutch-inspired, seem to echo a quieter, more peaceful time, a time before the roar of traffic, a time characterised instead by the catcalls of gulls and the ever-present background rattle of sail-shrouds against masts.

This reflects a paradox, a change in the national consciousness: fifty years or so ago, and especially during the first week or two of August when the hosiery mills and shoe factories of the Midlands had their annual shutdown, the whole of the East Coast from Skegness and Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire to Great Yarmouth and Caister in Norfolk would be thronged with trainloads and coachloads of holidaymakers. Now, except for the resorts of Hunstanton, Wells and Cromer, the North Norfolk coastline is more often than not deserted.

Read more…