Annandale Distillery…………..Scottish whisky (just!)

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On my recent visit to the Lake District it was suggested that I make a foray across the border to visit the Annandale Distillery (given my interest in whisky) which is the most southerly whisky distillery in Scotland. It is tucked away just outside the town of Annandale in a little valley and would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it.

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The buildings have been refurbished at a cost of £14 million (increased from the original estimate of £10.5 million) and they have done a magnificent job of retaining as much of the original structure as possible. The setting is simply delightful and it is reassuring to see wooden casks (used for maturing the spirit) stacked around the yard.

Background History*

The original Annandale Distillery was built in 1830 by former Elgin-based excise officer George Donald, who named the site after the valley in which it is situated. Using water from the Middleby Burn for the whisky and the Guillielands Burn for cooling and power, the distillery produced single malt whisky for 90 years.

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Donald ran the distillery until 1883 when it passed to John S. Gardner & Son, the namesake of which kept cows, pigs and horses on-site, feeding the animals on the draff and leftover grain from the distillery. Under Gardner’s tenure the distillery underwent a modest expansion, and at the height of its production was making 28,000 gallons of spirit annually.

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Just 13 years later John Walker & Sons purchased the site, but the now renowned whisky group had grander ideas up its sleeve. Come 1919 the company decided to abandon Annandale to concentrate on developing its signature blended whisky, Johnnie Walker. By 1921 the distillery was closed, its fittings stripped for use elsewhere.

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The site passed into the hands of the Robinson family, who were famous for producing Provost porridge oats. What was left of the distillery became a production line for the breakfast cereal brand, while the bonded warehouses were used to house cattle. The remainder of the buildings fell into a state of disrepair.

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In 2007, the site was purchased by the Annandale Distillery Company, led by husband-and-wife owners David Thomson and Teresa Church, who also own market research operation, MMR Group. The duo set about painstakingly returning the site back to its former glory over a seven-year period that cost in the region of £10.5 million.

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Production of two significant whisky styles began in November 2014, named Man O’ Words after the poet Robert Burns, and Man O’Sword after Scottish warrior Robert the Bruce. Casks of both are available to purchase before the spirit is mature enough to be called whisky. The Annandale Distillery Company put a price tag of £1 million on the first cask filled on 15 November 2014.

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A tour of the site is essential and we were fortunate to be taken around by a couple of staff (the two of us were the only visitors for the 10.00am tour) who were incredibly knowledgeable and answered every question we could think of. We concluded our visit in the “Bonded Warehouse” for a tasting.

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They have a lovely cafe (above photo) and do visit even if you don’t want to consume anything as the furniture in the cafe is simply staggering. Individually designed and hand built by a local craftsman, the chairs are simply pieces of art that I would put on display. But do stop for refreshments as the service is excellent and the snacks first rate.

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2018

  • I am indebted to scotchwhisky.com for the background history.
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Posted in Scotland, The Lake District, Uncategorized, Whisky | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Lakeland Drive…..Bassenthwaite and Buttermere

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I have just returned from a three day visit to the Lake District in Cumbria and my affection for the area continues to increase, although I still argue that there is no finer place in the UK than the Yorkshire dales…………but the Lakes is now running it close!

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On one of the days we set out early to drive across country from Aitketgate, eight miles South East of Carlisle, to Bassenthwaite (technically there is only one lake in the Lake District and that is Windermere, all the rest are “waters”) passing through a variety of beautiful villages including the wonderfully named “Unthank.” We were also provided with spectacular views of the Solway Firth, albeit hidden behind a little haze and cloud.

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Arriving at the very northern tip of Bassenthwaite we slowly made our way down the A66 making several stops to take in the beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, the light was not brilliant and taking photographs was a bit of a struggle, moreover, I am still getting to grips with my new Canon 200D. I did however, manage to get a shot of a superb little chapel on the far side of the lake and surrounded by trees that cascaded down the fell to the waters edge.

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We then swung westwards along the B5292 and the Whinlatter Forest Park pass then down the B5289 past Crummock water to the village of Buttermere. Here we stopped for a bite to eat at Sykes Farm Café / Shop who did an excellent coffee and the best home made Quiche this side of the Ural mountains, it is the best I have ever eaten.

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Full replenished we turned right onto the B5289 and then turned immediately left just past St James Buttermere chapel along a road that takes you northwards heading for Keswick. This particular un named road (and apparently un numbered) has at its apex, one of the most stunning views in the fells. Although the weather was a little over cast it was a pleasure to stop the car and just stand for a few minutes to take in the spectacular scenery, along with a good number of other visitors.

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A leisurely drive through the pass eventually brought us back to the A66 and a straight run back to Penrith and then back up the A6 to our residence.

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Although I have visited several places before, each visit offers something new and in particular the different seasons can give a very different perspective to the land.

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2018

 

 

Posted in Birds, Church, Landscape, Nature / Flowers, North of England, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Port Sunlight and William Lever, Social Philanthropist…………..should be compulsory reading for HR professionals

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Yesterday I paid a second visit to Port Sunlight village and visited the museum and one of the workers cottages. The museum is small but well worth a visit if you are the least bit interested in our industrial heritage. As is the workers cottage next door, preserved and showing the living conditions the workers enjoyed.

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The museum tells the story of William Lever and his vision in creating this village for workers at his Sunlight Soap factory. The displays explore how the village developed, from the working conditions to the charming architecture and lively social scene. The museum is packed with nostalgia, from vintage soap packaging to the story Ringo Starr’s first performance with the Beatles, which took place in Port Sunlight in 1962. Through film shows, interactives, models and an array of intriguing artefacts you can discover the tale of this inspirational village.

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Port Sunlight is arguably the finest surviving example of early urban planning in the UK, and has remained largely intact since its foundation by William Hesketh Lever in 1888.

The village is home to more than 900 Grade II listed buildings set in 130 acres of parkland and gardens. More than 30 different architects created the buildings, monuments and memorials we still see today, and nearly every period of British architecture is represented through revival design. The village is a good example of the aesthetic movement, which emphasised visual and sensual qualities of art and design, and the Arts and Crafts Movement, with its emphasis on traditional craftsmanship.

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Lever built Port Sunlight to house the workers at his soap factory, Lever Brothers, which eventually became the global giant, Unilever. The village represents one man’s vision to provide industrial workers with decent, sanitary housing in a considered architectural and picturesque form.

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However, rather than a philanthropic venture, Lever claimed it was all part of a business model he termed ‘prosperity-sharing’. Rather than sharing the profits of the company directly with his employees, Lever provided them with decent and affordable houses, amenities and welfare provisions that made their lives secure and comfortable and enabled them to flourish as people. It was also intended to inspire loyalty and commitment.

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Port Sunlight was by no means the first model industrial village, Robert Owen’s New Lanark on the River Clyde in Scotland was developed from 1800, and Sir Titus Salt’s village of Saltaire from 1851. But at Port Sunlight, these ideas combined with provision of green spaces, parkland, and public buildings and were the key influence on the Garden City Movement.

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What is fascinating is the philosophy adopted by Lever and the lengths he went to in creating a work environment that was beneficial for the workers and which he firmly believed had a real impact on the companies “bottom line” i.e. profitability.

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Moreover, if you read through the extracts I have posted you will see references to issues that are still being argued over today e.g. employee engagement, staff welfare, staff wellbeing, health and safety, rewarding staff, education and development, decent housing. This man was a visionary and we could still learn much from him today!

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Having worked myself at a senior level in an HR Function I can see that all the “new ideas” that were constantly thrown up were nothing new. Lever was developing and implement both HR and Leadership / Management policies / procedures at the turn of the 20th century, and which are just as valid today, possibly even more so. he had already used the term “pester power” in relation to marketing and trained his salesmen through extensive programmes.

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What we constantly get today is regurgitated ideas dressed up in fancy HR terminology, often used in that familiar game of “bullshit bingo”, ask any manager and they will probably be able to tell you what this is.

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During the first world war Lever, who was a man of his time and believed a woman’s place was in the home once married (and all women employed had to resign upon marriage), changed his views after seeing how women took on “traditional mens jobs” and uttered the memorable line “This war has discovered women”.

Every Business Studies undergraduate and MBA student should be brought to Port Sunlight to see the village and visit the museum, it would be a salutary lesson for all.

 

Posted in abuse of women, Culture, employment, Equality, Health and Wellbeing, History, Industrial Heritage, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The “World of Glass”………industrial heritage

The other day I decided to continue my exploration of the industrial heritage of Northern England and after a quick “Google” and follow research I came up with the World of Glass Museum at St Helens in Lancashire (it says Merseyside but try telling that to a St Helens resident!). A 45 minute drive and I was entering the free car park at the side of the museum and then entered through the huge conical building at the front.

The museum has two great galleries to explore:-

Glass Roots Gallery – explains the history of glass with artefacts dating back to Ancient Egypt from 3000 years BC. With Glass from all around the world across many centuries, you can see how glass has played a very important part in our everyday life

 Earth into Light Gallery – tells the story of what made St. Helens great from its humble beginnings to its rise a world leader in Glass making. But St. Helens isn’t only Glass, there was a thriving coal community. Plus you can find out what the connection is between a cold remedy and classical music.
Ever wondered what life was like in a Victorian town? Step into St Helens past and relive life in the town in the last century.

The highlight of any visit however, is the glass blowing / shaping demonstration which is simply astonishing in terms of skill and craftsmanship. To see the blower start with a blob of molten glass and then through a process of shaping, immersing in the furnace several times and handling the molten glass is impressive to say the least, the final result is a bowl of beauty and I am still trying to work out how he shaped the edges into a waive like shape. I sat mesmerised for the best part of 40 minutes and the only thing I could think to say on leaving was “wow”. I will be returning to see further demonstrations.

The museum sits at the side of the old Sankey Canal and believe it or not, has its own little vineyard outside the café (soup and sandwich excellent value), you can even sit out in the good weather (not often you can say that in St Helens!).

You need two to three hours to get the most out of a visit and at the moment you pay for admission and then get free admission for as many visits as you want in the next twelve months, which is staggeringly good value.

I would strongly recommend a visit to the museum but try and ensure that you visit on a glass blowing demonstration day and you will be nothing less than extremely impressed.

Below are some of the photographs I tool in less than ideal conditions and with a subject constantly on the move, hence the less than brilliant quality of the photographs.

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Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2018

 

 

 

Posted in Art, Art and Sculpture, Industrial Heritage, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Another Cheshire walk……….the Rawhead Circuit

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I continue to explore the rural Cheshire countryside and to this end recently purchased the book “Easy Walks from the Sandstone Trail” by Tony Bowerman* to broaden my knowledge of the area.

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Having already completed several walks from the book, yesterday I decided on the “Rawhead circuit” walk, which offers panoramic views from the highest part of the sandstone ridge with rock platforms, cliffs, caves and copper mines.

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A quick thirty minute drive down the A49 (from Weaverham) and then onto the A534 then just after the village of Bulkeley a sharp right along a rather narrow lane to bring me to my parking spot.

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The walk is extremely rewarding with stunning views and once and for all puts to bed the myth that Cheshire is a “dull flat county”. This walk is uphill and down dale at times, passing through lush green “Amazonian” type forests and close encounters with some very large fearns. There are one or two fairly steep ascents / descents and the footing can be a bit uneven, but it is worth the effort, and after all, the walk is only three miles in length.

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As you descend part of the walk you are suddenly, unexpectedly, faced with a large rock escarpment which reminded me of some of my walks in the Peak District.

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On this particular walk I was stopping quite regularly to appreciate the views and scenery, and trying to catch the images with my camera. Visibility was not brilliant and there was a haze over the countryside, but you simply make the best of the conditions.

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On the final bit of the walk I came across a hedgerow of blackberries, which were ready for picking, the season must be about 3-4 weeks ahead of the normal blackberry picking season. I consumed them last night with a large bowl of raspberries, blueberries and Greek yoghurt! A good start to the season.

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Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2018

* Top 10 Walks, easy Walks from the Sandstone Trail – Tony Bowerman (Published by Northern Eye Books)

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Pontcysyllte Aqueduct……….”the canal in the sky”

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In my travels around Europe and the UK I have encountered many engineering and architectural wonders, the Ribblehead Viaduct, the Roman Aqueduct in Segovia, the Forth Bridge, the Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark and the magnificent Vasco de Gama Bridge in Lisbon to name just a few.

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Last week I took the opportunity to visit the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Llangollen in North Wales. Since moving to Cheshire last November a number of people have said you must go to see the “canal in the sky” as it is an engineering marvel and only about one hours drive from where you are now living.

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In 1805, architects Thomas Telford and William Jessop built Pontcysyllte’s cast iron aqueduct on 19 pillars over 100 feet (30 metres) above the River Dee, on the Welsh-English border. More than 200 years later, this vast landmark was named a World Heritage Site and it is now the longest navigable aqueduct in Great Britain and the highest in the world.

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So taking advantage of the beautiful weather and going mid week to avoid the hordes of tourists we set out to visit the aqueduct. Upon arrival we headed for “Jones the Boat” to book a trip on a narrow boat across the bridge and also take on light refreshments (the obligatory cappuccino).

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The very helpful young man pointed us in the direction of the aqueduct and suggested we walk across it before our boat trip. The first sight of it is a little unnerving as there is a narrow path at the side of a VERY narrow canal which crosses the aqueduct, however, the views from the path are quite spectacular, looking down to the River Dee which runs below and the Welsh hills in the near vicinity.

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I stood and watched a narrow boat come across the canal and on board was an elderly gentleman on the tiller whilst his wife stood at the front. As they reached the end of the aqueduct section, the woman smiled at me, breathed a sigh of relief and said, “I am glad that is over”.

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The boat trip across the aqueduct is wonderful if a little unsettling as on one side there is no barrier and just a straight drop to the ground one hundred feet below. I managed to get to the front of the boat along with several other keen photographers to start shooting the trip across. The trip lasts about forty-five minutes and it would be a crime not to experience it if you visit.

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We also took the opportunity to walk down to the foot of the aqueduct and it is from this vantage point that you can fully appreciate the immensity of the task they faced when constructing it. It also looks a damn site more than one hundred feet in height from the base.

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There is an excellent little visitor’s centre with very helpful staff and of course I succumbed and bought my grandson a badge and a key ring!

If you have never been to this wonderful place then put it down as a “must visit” place for the future. It is part of our proud industrial heritage and we should support it as much as possible.

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2018

 

 

 

Posted in Canal, Industrial Heritage, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Daniel Adamson…………tugboat on the River Weaver

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For the last week or so I have been making regular journeys to the M56 motorway which requires me to cross the River Weaver at the Acton Swing Bridge just three miles form my home. Each time I crossed the bridge I could see a rather large tugboat moored at the foot of the bridge, and I couldn’t help wondering what it was doing there.

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So yesterday, taking advantage of the lovely weather I drove down to the bridge and went to have a look at this impressive boat. As I approached I could see the boat was named “Daniel Adamson” but which meant nothing to me. So a little background to the boat and its history:-

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The Daniel Adamson is a remarkable survivor from the steam age and a most unusual vessel. A small but incredibly powerful canal tug, she was built to tow long strings of barges laden with goods from the inland towns of Cheshire and the Potteries to the great seaport of Liverpool. She made her appearance on the Mersey at a time when old-fashioned sailing ships still jostled for space on the Liverpool waterfront with the great steamships and ocean liners of the Edwardian era.

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The 109-year-old steam-powered tug was built at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead has spent the last year at the shipyard being lovingly restored by a band of volunteers*. The restoration work, part of a £3.8m Heritage Lottery Fund award and with support from the Mayor of Liverpool included refurbishing all the brass work and intricate woodwork including returning the saloons to the 1930s style.

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I walked alongside of the boat taking some photographs and was then encouraged to go on board to have a look around. Firstly I was taken to see the newly refurbished “art deco” saloons which had been done by the apprentices at Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, and what a job they have done, the craftsmanship is outstanding and the woodwork simply beautiful.

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A tour of the bridge was next with everything looking “as new”, I was particularly impressed with the brass footplates on the stairs down to the deck, wonderful pieces of craftsmanship (and they are the original ones on the ship).

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Next, I donned hard helmet and shoe covers and then down into the bowels of the tug to inspect the engines and boilers. The boilers were much larger than I anticipated and keeping them full of coal must be real hard graft when the tug is “full on”.

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Unfortunately, I cant remember the gentleman’s name who took me around but I would like to thank him for his patience and willingness to explain things in detail for me (and in simple terms as I am a non-techie). He also gave me a brief history of the docks in Liverpool where he worked as a tugman, it was absolutely fascinating.

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So my advice is take the time to visit this wonderful old boat, it is part of our industrial heritage and we should do as much as possible to support and preserve it.

  • Full details of the history of the boat can be found here https://www.thedanny.co.uk

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2018

 

 

 

Posted in Industrial Heritage, Lancashire, Liverpool, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment