Peter Walker’s Peace Doves Soar in English Cathedrals


This autumn an immersive art installation by UK sculptor Peter Walker has flown into to medieval Chichester cathedral to inspire West Sussex residents and international visitors alike. It is perfect timing for raising our eyes to the heavens and reflecting on how to encourage world harmony in these difficult times.

The wonderfully visually striking work comprises “fifteen thousand handmade paper doves suspended above the cathedrals historic Nave.”

Schools, local community groups and members of the public have written individual messages of ‘peace, love and hope’ that are all contained within each of the paper bird’s wings.

Peace Doves Installation in Chichester Cathedral by Peter Walker - view from main aisle. Photo by A.Howse
Peace Doves Installation in Chichester Cathedral by Peter Walker – view from main aisle. Photo by A.Howse

From the 30th September and until mid-November 2023 Peter Walker’s immersive sculptural artwork has been on display to the public.

Visitors to Chichester Cathedral can see the temporary avian themed exhibition every day and whenever the church is open. During services visiting local and tourists will be invited to join the worship or stand at the back and admire the original piece featuring throngs of handcrafted hanging birds. Spending time within the 948-year-old cathedral is free and donations to the building and its maintenance are very welcome.

There were a selection of special events and talks throughout the season that required booking in advance on the website. (1)

Peace Doves by Peter Walker Art Installation at Chichester Cathedral, view from main aisle centre. Photo by A.Howse
Peace Doves by Peter Walker Art Installation at Chichester Cathedral, view from main aisle centre. Photo by A.Howse

Peter walker works in a variety of mediums including, paper, fabric, stone, bronze and light. Walker also works in collaboration with a company called Luxmuralis to create light installations using digital media and the type of commercial lighting that you might find in a large-scale entertainment music venue.

Images are projected onto historic buildings exteriors and ecclesiastical interiors creating interesting colourful effects that can be a permanent artistic statement. Alternatively, the ephemeral design can be changed frequently, set to music and turned off and on to meet the needs of the intended audience or the service attendees.

In a recent interview with Church Times Peter Walker explains his decision to develop his work as a light and space artist “It’s not painting by numbers. I’m not trying to make the original arches and architecture disappear: it’s creating a conduit for people, opening up an emotional pathway.”

There is a lot of division and discord amongst leaders across the globe and we head into 2024. We need artists like Peter Walker more than ever to remind us that peace, hope and love are important. The message that peace, hope and love remain key values for us all to strive for and develop, as we look for what unites us in our communities both locally and globally, whatever our religion or beliefs.

Peace Doves by Peter Walker at Chichester Cathedral, view towards entrance doors. Photo by A.Howse
Peace Doves by Peter Walker at Chichester Cathedral, view towards entrance doors. Photo by A.Howse
(1) Peace Doves, Chichester Cathedral website, 23rd November 2023 Peace Doves, Chichester Cathedral (2) Peter Walker sculptor on Facebook 23rd November 2023 Peter Walker sculptor on Facebook (3) Luxmuralis, projection art gallery website, 23rd November 2023 Luxmuralis, projection art gallery website (4) ‘Peter Walker, the artist who makes light work’ Church Times, 14 April 2023 (4) ‘Peter Walker, the artist who makes light work’ Church Times

Coastal Communities Bounce Back After Storm Ciaran Batters UK


Ciaran is biggest gale since The Great Storm of ‘87

The storm ‘clean up’ and recovery work continues on the south coast of the United Kingdom, as well as several other areas across England and France, who were all hit with record wind speeds and high tides at the beginning of this month.

Storm Ciaran was the most intense storm to hit the British Isles since the ‘Great Storm’ of autumn 1987 according to the Met Office (United Kingdom Meteorological Office). A shipping forecast severe gale warning was issued on Wednesday 1st November (in Plymouth in Devon) which read:

“Southerly gale force 8 veering westerly and increasing violent storm force 11 or hurricane force 12 later” The sea state was declared likely to be: “Very rough becoming high or very high later”

On Thursday 2nd November the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum announced a ‘major incident’. A ‘major incident’ was also declared on the island of Jersey. The Hampshire fire service warned that there was a “potential risk to life” and damage to buildings, falling trees and flooding were reported. (1)

The highest wind speeds in England were recorded on the west coast on the night of 1st November reaching 63 knots or 72 miles per hour in Dorset and Cornwall. Two French weather stations in Brittany reached gusts of over 100 knots or 115 miles per hour. Tragically the Met Office described how “Across western Europe more widely, heavy rain and flooding linked to storm Ciarán reportedly led to at least 13 deaths.” (2)

Ciaran hit areas on the south of the UK, the Channel Islands and the west coast of France the hardest. Many other regions and counties are also attributing ongoing electrical and flooding related problems to Ciaran’s intense wind and rainfall. (3)

A tornado was reported on the eastern side of Jersey in the Channel Islands. 150,000 homes mostly across the west of England and Wales were left without electrical power and millions of residents in southern England experienced power cuts. (2)

Fishbourne railway line floods, West Sussex, storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse
Fishbourne railway line floods, West Sussex, storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse

Buses waded through flooded roads bravely in Sussex and Hampshire while rail and flight services were widely cancelled. Ports such as Dover were closed until calmer conditions returned.

Ciaran clear up continues

As many residents finally enjoyed some dryer weather over last weekend the Met Office announced further caution because of another storm named Debbie, which crossed the country from the south on Monday bringing further blustery gales and heavily wet weather.

In Guildford and surrounding districts in Surrey three water treatment plants were without power after the massive gale caused serious problems resulting in thousands of homes without a supply of fresh water. There was some chaos as Surrey’s residents were advised only to drive on the roads if leaving home to pick up bottled water from one of the hastily set up water ‘pick up’ stations around the centre of the busy commuter city of Guildford.

Stream water gushes in Fernhurst Surrey. Photo by A.Howse
Stream water gushes in Fernhurst Surrey. Photo by A.Howse

The Royal Surrey Hospital also declared a major incident because of the lack of water supply and local care homes were also put under pressure as they strived to provide provisions for their vulnerable residents. (3)

After Surrey residents spent the first few days of November rushing about looking for supplies of bottled water, a week later on the 9th November Surrey Live news reported that:

“Thames Water said they have fixed the issue at Shalford treatment works which left thousands of homes in Surrey without a water supply this week – now a new issue has arisen at a different water treatment centre. 504 postcodes are now affected by a fault at Ladymead Water Treatment Works” (3)

Thames Water apologized to customers and advised that a £30 compensation would automatically be applied to their account for water shortage affected households. However local residents who had lost water and dealt with low pressure for a week complained to The Guildford Dragon news. Many Surrey locals are annoyed about the lack of communication with Thames water, blaming decades of underinvestment since the utility companies’ privatisation, for the inability to deal with the relatively unextraordinary amounts of rainwater at the beginning of the winter season. (4)

Night view as roads flood in Chichester harbour West Sussex, storm Ciaran, photo by A.Howse
Night view as roads flood in Chichester harbour West Sussex, storm Ciaran, photo by A.Howse

Not everyone was upset by flooded roads, electrical outages and transport problems. There was some cheer in a pub near Chichester in West Sussex which unexpectedly benefitted from the unpassable overflowing roads down to the picturesque harbour. The small friendly team at The Berkeley Arms finally relaxed last Sunday night after a whole coach load of tourists decided to order lunch at once, at this handsome traditional pub.

After being unable to travel on further to their original Solent seaside destination the day trip visitors were happy to find a warm welcome at the inn. “It was a bit hectic but we managed to serve everyone with a good hot meal.” The Berkeley Arms bar lady admitted with a smile. (5)

Boat floods, rainbow on horizon, Chichester harbour, Photo by A.Howse
Boat floods, rainbow on horizon, Chichester harbour, Photo by A.Howse

(1) ‘Storm Ciaran: Major incident declared on south coast of Hampshire amid high winds and heavy rain’ Steve Deeks, The News (Portsmouth) 16th November 2023 ‘Storm Ciaran: Major incident declared on south coast of Hampshire amid high winds and heavy rain’ Steve Deeks, The News

(2) ‘Storm Ciaran, 1 to 2 November 2023, Met Office, UK ‘Storm Ciaran, 1 to 2 November 2023, Met Office UK (3) ‘504 more Guildford postcodes without water due to new Thames water issue.’ Lucy Williamson, Surrey Live, 9 November 2023 ‘504 more Guildford postcodes without water due to new Thames water issue.’ Lucy Williamson, Surrey Live (4) ‘Anger with Thames Water Remains Over Its Handling of Water Supply Interruptions’ Martin Giles, The Guildford Dragon, 8 November 2023 Anger with Thames Water Remains Over Its Handling of Water Supply Interruptions’ Martin Giles, The Guildford Dragon (5) ‘The Berkeley Arms’ Pub in Old Bosham, Sussex, 16 November 2023 ‘The Berkeley Arms’ Pub in Old Bosham, Sussex website

Is Unexploded Ordnance Still Relevant to Life in the UK?


What is Unexploded Ordnance?

The United Kingdom’s parliamentary government website describes unexploded ordnance as “explosive weapons that did not detonate when they were employed and still pose a risk of detonation.” (1)

It is estimated that there are 100,000 tonnes of unexploded material lying in the sea (marine environment) and on land around the British Isles from World War I and World War II. There are two ways of dealing with items that are discovered, still containing a powerful charge. High Order detonation which is exploding the found object with extra detonation. Low Order detonation involves firing a small charge at the explosive causing it to burn out without detonating. (1)

Although many teams of specially army personnel were dedicated to clearing any unused mines or other dangerous items left during the international conflicts of the early in the 20th century, it was not possible to uncover every potentially life-threatening device. Unexploded ordnance or UXO is still to the present day often found in Great Britain, primarily in areas that were significant during World War I and World War II.

As well as the risk of explosion, chemical leakage and environmental pollution can occur from items originally prepared for armed combat. Specialist private commercial services can also be contacted to make any area safe. An example of this type of security company is Brimstone and also 1st Line Defence based in Hertfordshire who provide free factsheets on their site. (3)

“Some of the most densely bombed cities included Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, Exeter, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Plymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth, with the areas most at risk from being bombed being docks, airfields, major cities, manufacturing sites and industrial centres.” advises Brimstone specialist UXO handlers, on their website. (4)

Specialist agencies agree that UXO’s can still be found today and could appear in a variety of sizes and designs. These may include: WW2 high explosive bombs, WW2 incendiary bombs, parachute mines, rockets, projectiles, grenades, landmines and mortars according to Brimstone.

What should you do if you suspect you have found a UXO?

Members of the public are reminded that if any suspicious package is found, even if it is small, it is best to keep well away from the object and call the police for assistance, following any instructions given by police (like evacuating the area).

The UK government’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation provides guidance regarding procedures to ensure the health and safety of workers and members of the public who may be using ex-Ministry of Defence land for new purposes and constructing new developments. This includes directions of how to contact an Explosive Ordnance Clearance team if an UXO is discovered unexpectedly. (2)

Police Force’s around the country provide information and education about this aspect of keeping the public safe, in order to inform local citizens about the dangers and what they should do. In September Hampshire and Dorset emergency services held a special family style event in Portsmouth harbour to demonstrate and celebrate the unique role that the police force, fire and medical emergency departments play in our communities in the UK. Experts from the emergency services were on hand to talk to the public about health and safety and the excellent work that all the emergency services do every day and night.

In January an unexploded World War Two device was found in the Isleham Marina area of Mildenhall in Suffolk. The police dispersed the area and ensured bomb disposal experts diffused the object so residents could return to their homes safely. (5)

Do UXO pose a threat in the UK?

Although the UK has experienced nearly a century of peace on its countryside, shores and waters UXO still remains an ongoing but relatively rare threat to people working on construction projects or men, women and children simply exploring the great outdoors.

A report by Matt MacDonald construction experts advising on the development of Bank station in London in 2011 warns that: “In recent decades there have been several incidents in Europe where Allied UXBs have been detonated with at least three incidents causing fatalities. Although no fatal incidents related to UXB (unexploded bombs) have occurred in the UK in recent years, data from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal industry show that from 2006 to 2009 approximately 15,000 items of ordnance ranging from aerial delivered bombs to Land Service Ammunition (such as mortar rounds and grenades) have been removed from construction sites.” (6)

The Matt MacDonald report for London Underground continues to state how “It is estimated (between 2006 and 2009) that about 5% were live and still fully functioning. The number of items of Small Arms Ammunition recovered during this period possibly runs into tens of thousands.”

Key points to remember about UXO in the UK

If you or anyone else that you know is working on a construction site or private property redevelopment along the south and east coast of England (or any of the areas mentioned above that are known to contain UXO’s) it is wise to enquire about if the area has been health and safety assessed for the presence of UXO before digging or using any electrical tools or mechanical equipment. If unsure consult an expert to assess the area in advance of commencing works.

Ordtek provide UXO risk management and are based in Norfolk and have an interactive map of affected areas in and around the United Kingdom, the Channel and neighbouring countries, on their website. (7)

In the unlikely event that you are out exploring the coastal waters, seaside or countryside and you come across an item of any size that looks like it could be a possible UXO, quickly move away and stand well back and if there is no immediate danger then call the non-urgent enquiries UK police telephone hotline by dialling 101.

  (1) ‘Low Order deflagration for UXO disposal for the commercial sphere Unexploded Ordnance’ Parliament UK website, 2 November 2023 Unexploded Ordnance’ Parliament UK website (2) Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) Policy Instruction, Guidance for Unexploded Ordnance in Infrastructure Activities, 2 November 2023 Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) Policy Instruction, Guidance for Unexploded Ordnance in Infrastructure (3) 1st line Defence risk management, Mitigate the risk of UXO on your project, 2 November 2023 1st line Defence risk management, Mitigate the risk of UXO (4) ‘What is Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)?’ Brimstone, 4 September 2023 ‘What is Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)?’ Brimstone (5) ‘Unexploded WW2 device found in Mildenhall basement’, BBC News, 24 January 2023 ‘Unexploded WW2 device found in Mildenhall basement’, BBC News (6) ‘MACC UXO Threat Assessment, Report For London Underground’, 2 November 2011 (6) ‘MACC UXO Threat Assessment, Report For London Underground’ (7) ‘Ordtek Mine Map, Offshore UXO contamination’, 2 November 2023 ‘Ordtek Mine Map, Offshore UXO contamination’

It’s the Final Run For The Clipper Round the World Boat Race South Atlantic Challenge

Tenacious yacht, clipper boat race, Portsmouth Harbour, The Solent, Hampshire, photo by A.Howse
Tenacious yacht, clipper boat race, Portsmouth Harbour, The Solent, Hampshire, photo by A.Howse

On the 3rd of September thousands of spectators lined the coastline at Gunwharf Quays marina at Old Portsmouth and Southsea beach to marvel at the colourful spectacle of nearly a dozen gleaming racing yachts gliding along from Gosport marina in Hampshire to set sail on an unforgettable transatlantic voyage.

There was a slight delay of around an hour to the official race time to allow the organisers to make their last-minute preparations to the Clipper Round the World yacht sailing race at four o’clock. Nobody in the vicinity minded as it was such a glorious afternoon to be out on the Solent.

This September the Clipper Round the World boat race commenced in high style from the glistening calm waters of the Solent to the booming sound of an Old Portsmouth traditional firing salute.

Portsmouth in Hampshire, England is the home of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and dozens of enthusiastic sailors in all sizes of nautical craft lined up on the Solent to take a glimpse and cheer on the brave crew of the first leg of the transatlantic Clipper racing rally.

An official pilot boat motored around the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour guiding the boating onlookers, who gathered in droves, gently drifting about in the gentle breeze of a perfect summer day.

Adventurous yacht, Clipper race, Portsmouth Harbour, photo by A.Howse
Adventurous yacht, Clipper race, Portsmouth Harbour, photo by A.Howse

There are eleven Clipper boats each measuring seventy foot in length that make up the Clipper Race in 2023. The route is divided into eight legs which include six ocean crossings.

This week heavy rain, strong winds and lightening have faced the competing sporting teams in a weather phenomenon that is termed a ‘Sudeststada’

Today, on Race 2 day 26 The Clipper Race organisers reported that

“as the fleet makes its final run towards Punta Del Este …over the last 24 hours the coast of South America has served up some challenges with a frontal system passing overhead bringing squally, unpredictable and light conditions.”

Another squally ‘Pampero’ of rather too exciting weather is forecast over the next few days which may involve some Captain testing strategic leadership to ensure a smooth wind maximised ‘reach’ sail into Punta Del Este and winning glory.

The slogan ‘Achieve Something Remarkable’ is the theme to this year’s race. The first person to sail solo non-stop around the world was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and he launched the famous annual globe competition in 1996 stating “you will never conquer or master the ocean but you can endure it.”

Participating in the race is a possibility for men and women of all ages and qualifications, although specific training courses are a key element of preparing for the prestigious and challenging yachting competition.

Prizes are given to the first three boats across the finishing line for each race and the overall winning team is presented with a Clipper Race Trophy.

Clipper race fleet, The Solent, Hampshire, photo by A.Howse
Clipper race fleet, The Solent, Hampshire, photo by A.Howse

“If Mother Nature throws down the gauntlet you must be ready to face it.” warns the website which invites would-be sailing competitors to not underestimate the power of the natural forces of time and tide. However, if a uniquely ambitious life-changing experience is your calling then Clipper Round the World Race a recruiting for the next international off-shore tournament, so you may be tempted to “seize the moment and unleash the adventure” and join up. (2)

Currently the leading vessel is the Yacht Club Punta del Este which is also the location of the finish line the fleet is heading for keenly, completing the second leg of the global ‘Race of Your Life’ in Uruguay, South America. The second competitor is team Perseverance who are only just over twenty nautical miles behind, which is amazing considering the vast distances involved.

After a 40,000 nautical mile epic journey the crews are expected to complete the eighth leg of the international circuit and cross the final finish line at North Pier marina in Oban in Scotland between the 12th to the 16th July 2024.

  (1) Clipper Round The World ‘Achieve Something Remarkable’ official website, 11th October 2023 Clipper Round The World ‘Achieve Something Remarkable’ (2) ‘A Race Without Equal’ Clipper Round The World, official website, 11th October 2023 ‘A Race Without Equal’ Clipper Round The World Race (3) Royal Navy, Clipper 2023-24 Round The World Yacht Race Departure and Start, 3 September 2023 Royal Navy, Clipper 2023-24 Round The World Yacht Race Departure and Start

Light Railway Attractions Rely on Volunteers to Help Keep UK Tourism Rolling


England is enhanced by a variety of light railways which offer families and individuals of all ages an opportunity to enjoy the experience of riding through a naturally beautiful environment on a fabulous traditional diesel or steam train.

It is a perfect way to learn about Great Britain’s industrialisation and the history of the railways. A round trip on a light railway is a good way to develop understanding about basic engineering as well being a fun day out for toddlers, children and adults alike. Usually, the nostalgic trips take under an hour and offer visitors the opportunity to stop at different stations which usually offer a variety of amenities and interesting things to see and do.

Volunteer’s help keep costs down for an organisation. These enthusiastic team members make these affordable days out accessible to all and ensure the old fashioned railways are reasonably priced, during these years of the cost-of-living squeeze.

Volunteers keep the additional facilities open (including cafes, shops and toilets) and help to create amazing seasonal events that are truly memorable for hundreds of visitors. Below is a selection of vintage railways to try out and there are many splendid locations to discover all over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Straw 'busker' at Hayling Light Railway, part of Scarecrow Festival, Hayling Island Hampshire, image by A. Howse
Straw ‘busker’ at Hayling Light Railway, part of Scarecrow Festival, Hayling Island Hampshire, image by A. Howse

South of England Light Railways

Hayling Light Railway Trust is situated on the south coast of Hayling Island which is reached via a single carriageway car bridge spanning across Langstone harbour, in the southern county of Hampshire, England. The Hayling Light Railway line consists of three stations; Beachlands, Mengham and Eastoke. (1)

The line runs ‘east to west’ along the seafront. See our previous article for more details of this interesting story of rail on a beautiful island on the Solent coast. Volunteers are key to the success of this nostalgic seaside venture and the community spirit is shown in our feature image with the Scarecrow festival ‘passenger’ busking while they are waiting for their train to depart. (2) (3)

One of the first preservation rail networks The Bluebell Railway commenced in 1960. The vintage route runs between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead in Sussex. This is a reopening of part of the line that used to run to Lewes in east Sussex. The four stations along the line have been restored to reflect different architectural periods in rail history.

The Bluebell railway website describes how they have one of the finest collections for steam locomotives. “Horsted Keynes, been seen regularly on television and in films, including Downton Abbey, Muppets Most Wanted movie and Churchill’s Secret. Our station at East Grinstead is adjacent to the Southern Railway station, and therefore accessible via National Rail transport.” (4)

Paddington Bear visits the railway on 7-8th October and The Giants of Steam event is 13-15th October featuring many locomotives. (4)

Hayling Light Railway train 'The Islander' in front of Hayling funfair., Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse
Hayling Light Railway train ‘The Islander’ in front of Hayling funfair., Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse

East of England Light Railways

Other volunteer railways in England include the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway which is based at Brockford station, Wetheringsett, Stowmarket, Suffolk, IP14 5PW. The MSLR or ‘middy’ ran from the early 1900’s. This line has also had a bumpy ride during its history and after being closed in 1952 due to disrepair, the MSLR was reopened in 1990 as a registered charity recreating the splendours of Edwardian train travel. (5)

The world’s smallest light railway named the ‘Wells and Walsingham Light Railway’ can be found just to the east of Wells-next-to-the-Sea. This relaxing half hour rail journey connects with the village of Walsingham on the north coast of Norfolk. (6)

Midlands Light Railways

Evesham Vale Light Railway spans over a mile across a country park in the Vale of Evesham. The attraction is owned by Adrian and Sandra Corke and operates throughout the year. The Evesham Vale Light Railway website describes how “volunteer roles provide an interesting and enjoyable past-time that enthrals visitors and enthusiasts alike.” At Evesham Vale Light Railway they provide a branded uniform. (7)

Situated in Chasewater Country Park, north east of Wolverhampton in Staffordshire, The Chasewater Railway operates passenger trains from its headquarters at Brownhills West to Chasetown, with intermediate stations at Norton Lakeside and Chasewater Heaths. A round trip of nearly 4 miles takes about 45 minutes.

Chasewater Railway Volunteer Opportunities include an “active junior team” of volunteers “involved in Operations and Permanent Way work” as well as organising a range of fun seasonal events, all coordinated via Facebook communication. (8)

North of England

The Kirklees Light Railway in Yorkshire opened to the public on the 19 October 1991, but the foundations of the line date back to the mid-19th century. Situated in the Pennine foothills, this steam train railway can be found between Huddersfield and Barnsley. The railway line now runs from Clayton West to Shelley, a distance of just under 3.5 miles. The Kirklees Light Railway claims to offer one of the best family days out in Yorkshire!

The Kirklees Light Railway is supported by dedicated volunteers who assist the small team of permanent Whistlestop Valley staff to maintain and operate the railway. “This involves an immense amount of work undertaking a multitude of activities.” (9)

The East Lancashire Railway is located at the heart of Bury town centre which is north of Manchester. The 12-mile line includes 7 stations and stops at the Bury Transport Museum. Visitors can choose from countryside walks to more bustling village destinations offering a custom-made day to suit everyone. The ELR’s autumn events programme features days out with the popular train character Thomas and Friends, Halloween Ghost Trains, wine tasting and dining onboard and an Autumn Steam Gala on the 13th to 15th October. (10)

The East Lancashire Railway “relies on volunteers all day, every day.” The ELR states that without them “we wouldn’t be able to maintain and run our heritage trains, open stations or host the events and experiences our guests love.” (11)

West of England

Swanage railway operates a service with full size steam and diesel passenger trains that cover five 5.5 miles of line from Norden to Corfe-Castle and down to the Victorian seaside town of Swanage. As well as Norden and Corfe-Castle the vintage trains stop at Harmans Cross and Herson Halt and Swanage. (12)

Although not a heritage line The St Ives Bay Line in Cornwall claims to be one of the most scenic in Britain and we think this could well be possible. Spectacular views along the coast from Hayle Towans and Carbis Bay can be enjoyed whilst traveling by rail. St Ives station is right next to the beautiful Porthminster beach. (13)

The Bodmin Railway connects Bodmin General with peaceful Colesogget Halt, Bodmin Parkway, Boscarne Junction. This month the railway is delighted to receive their wedding license so eloping and engaged couples can now plan their special day in 1950’s country style. “Your skills could be just what we need!” declares the Bodmin Railway management. They explain that the steam and diesel route “could not run” without its treasured volunteers who are all aged over 14 years. The Bodmin Gala will be on 14-15th October 2023. (14) (15)

Valued volunteers benefit and can experience a variety of roles on the railways

Volunteers of all ages are key to enabling visitor attractions and organisations all over the United Kingdom to continue to offer reasonably priced educational and leisure activities, during a challenging time in our country’s economic history. Volunteering with light railway companies can involve steam driving, diesel driving, guard duties and shop and ticket sales, track maintenance, engineering works, overgrowth clearance, building works, grounds maintenance and more.

The benefits of keeping fit, making friends, expanding an interest for history and engineering, enjoying the outdoors and countryside as well as making a difference to the local area are all really positive incentives for people who have some spare time to contribute to their community.

Volunteers keep these historic pleasure routes on track and looking forward to further development as cultural destinations as an essential part of the tourist industry in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and an important part of the UK’s national identity and income.

Dozens of light railway attractions contribute to UK economy

Wikipedia is a good place to read more details about the more than fifty narrow-gauge railways in Britain today and also all the museums that can be visited across the British Iles. (16)

For an interactive map of the dozens of wonderful miniature railways in the United Kingdom head over to Britain’s Great Little Railways website. Britain’s Great Little Railways (BGLR) represents the UK’s leading narrow, miniature and minimum gauge steam & diesel railways. The organisation covers trains of every size and shape whether they are powered by steam, petrol, diesel and batteries. (17)

There is also a Great British Railways Facebook page with news and events around the country. Scenic rail Britain is a visually impressive blog that outlines the best railways to visit and where to see coastal train views. (18) (19)

Heritage railway systems sales are not covered by government statistical analysis at present. However, the light rail and tram railways generate a substantial amount of revenue altogether which contributes to the UK economy.  Last month government figures reported that passenger revenue was up by 23% in England to more than 211 million journeys and operators received a passenger revenue of £329 million.  (20)

(1) Hayling Light Railway Trust, official website, 27th September 2023 Hayling Light Railway Trust (2) ‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ Facebook page, 27th September 2023 ‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ Facebook (3) Scarecrow ‘busker’ Hayling Scarecrow Festival, Hayling BEST community group website, 27th September 2023 Scarecrow ‘busker’ Hayling Scarecrow Festival at Hayling Light Railway (4) Bluebell Railway, The Stations, official website, 27th September 2023 Bluebell Railway, The Stations (5) Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, official website, 27th September 2023 Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, official website (6) ‘Wells and Walsingham Light Railway’ official website, 27th September 2023 ‘Wells and Walsingham Light Railway’ official website (7) ‘Evesham Vale Light Railway’ official website, 27th September 2023 ‘Evesham Vale Light Railway’ official website (8) Chasewater Railway’ official website, 27th September 2023 ‘Chasewater Railway’ official website (9) The Kirklees Light Railway official website, 27th September 2023 The Kirklees Light Railway official website (10) East Lancashire Railway official website, 27th September 2023 East Lancashire Railway (11) Swanage Railway, official website, 27th September 2023 Swanage Railway, official website (12) Great Scenic Railways, St Ives Bay Line, St Erth (P & R) – St Ives, 27th September 2023  Great Scenic Railways, St Ives Bay Line, St Erth (P & R) – St Ives (13) Bodmin Railway on Facebook Bodmin Railway on Facebook (14) Bodmin Railway website, 27th September 2023 Bodmin Railway website (15) British narrow-gauge railways, Wikepedia, 27th September 2023 List of British heritage and private railways (16) List of British heritage and private railways, Wikipedia 27th September 2023 British narrow-gauge railways, Wikepedia (17) Britain’s Great Little Railways, Find a Railway, 27th September 27th 2023 Britain’s Great Little Railways, Find a Railway (18) Great British Railways Group on Facebook Great British Railways Group on Facebook (19) Scenic Rail Britain website, 27th September 2023 Scenic Rail Britain website (20) Light rail and tram statistics, England: year ending March 2023 Department of Transport published 5 September 2023 Light rail and tram statistics, England: year ending March 2023

20 years of Hayling Light Railway Shows How Locals Can Really Connect the Community

Mengham cafe and beach huts, Hayling Island, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse
Mengham cafe and beach huts, Hayling Island, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse

Volunteer groups can really impact how vibrant and successful an area is and also how tempting a location is to national and international visitors. A good example of this phenomenon is the friendly team of likeminded locals that painstakingly built and updated the Hayling Light Railway. The smart, traditional light railway engine and its many carriages forms the “cherry on top of the cake” along Hayling Islands picturesque beachfront, which overlooks the Solent and across to the Isle of Wight.

Hayling Light Railway Trust is situated on the south coast of Hayling Island which is reached via the car bridge across Langstone harbour in the southern Hampshire, England. The Hayling Light Railway line consists of three stations; Beachlands, Mengham and Eastoke. The line runs ‘east, west’ along the seafront. (2)

Beachlands railway station postcode is PO11 0AG which is handy information for those traveling by motor vehicle. There is a £3.50 for the day car park which is also adjacent to a funfair, visitor information centre, café and accessible toilet facilities.

Mengham features a memorial to the C.O.P.P. or Combined Operations Pilotage Parties who were heroes of World War II. The C.O.P.P. were based on Hayling Island from 1943 under the leadership of Lord Mountbatten and members of this group carried out covert beach operations to assist the war effort prior to the Allied Landings. There are also refreshments available at Mengham and accessible toilets.

C.O.P.P. Memorial and windswept trees, Hayling Island, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse
C.O.P.P. Memorial and windswept trees, Hayling Island, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse

Eastoke is the location of the HLRT’s Eastoke Railway Souvenir and Gift Shop which is open during train running hours. The shop stocks a wide range of Thomas the Tank Engine, railway merchandise, toys, metal wall signs, jigsaws and other gifts. Eastoke has a play park for children with shops and cafes. There are accessible toilets.

Eastoke view from cafe, Hayling island Light Railway, image by A.Howse
Eastoke view from cafe, Hayling island Light Railway, image by A.Howse

Hayling Island is served by the Stagecoach 30 and 31 bus routes, both buses have stops by all the three stations along the Hayling Light railway route. The nearest main railway station is Havant which is near to the Havant bus station.

Until 1963 there was a railway line called ‘The Hayling Billy Line’ that was a branch that connected Hayling Island to the mainline Havant station which has regular train services to London, Brighton, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

‘The Islander’ as the Hayling Light railway is called is a nostalgic new version of old ‘Billy Line’ steam trains that would have served residents and tourists visiting the picturesque island from 1867 to 1963. Run entirely from volunteers this characteristic and rather splendid burgundy steam train replica runs on a track formed of hundreds of iron rails.

The trains operate Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year and daily through Hampshire school holidays. Ten trips carry enthusiastic tourists and locals along the route on specific times roughly every 50 minutes from 10am until 5pm. The fares are a reasonable £5 return for adults and £3 for children / concessions.

The first train departed Beachlands of Saturday 5th July 2003 and many of the original band of volunteers are still at the controls today. Over the past two decades the line has been developed including a new main shed location. There have been several ‘locos’ and the current ‘home fleet’ consists of blue ‘Alan B’, red ‘Jack’ yellow ‘Edwin’ and a rather smart green loco named ‘Alan Keef 11’.

Beachlands train shed, Hayling Island Light railway, image by A.Howse
Beachlands train shed, Hayling Island Light railway, image by A.Howse

In 1988 Bob Haddock opened his ‘East Hayling Light Railway’ within the popular Mill Rythe holiday village. In 2001 Bob Haddock moved the railway and opened the ‘East Hayling Light Railway’ along the seafront. When Bob retired the East Hayling Light Railway society purchased the railway and the renamed ‘Hayling Light Railway Trust’ has continued to be developed and celebrated by this local team of rail enthusiasts operating as a charity.

The famous Thorpe Park resort has kindly contributed to the success of the railway working with the dedication of the volunteers in the Hayling Light Railway Trust. “The first project of this newly established charity was to recover rails, sleepers and an old locomotive from Thorpe Park Resort. A member of the HLRT heard about Thorpe Park’s plans to build a new rollercoaster and remembered the railways of old that the theme park hosted.

Hayling Light Railway carriages and beachuts, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse
Hayling Light Railway carriages and beachuts, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse

Not only were all the track materials still on the site, but AK11 of the old Treasure Island Railway was still on site and free to us as long as we could recover it. After a few works parties, the volunteers had recovered 2000 feet of rail, 70 sleepers, clips and, of course, AK11.” explains the HLRT official website. (3)

On the 26th July 2023 the Hayling Light Railway Trust celebrated the long-anticipated arrival of the recently reconditioned Alan Keef 11 locomotive. “Spectators gazed in awe as the 0-4-0 diesel hydraulic loco was raised in the air before being placed onto the Hayling rails.” (3)

This 23 and 24th September a 20th Anniversary Gala will be held accompanied by the ‘Hayling hot rods’, visiting steam loco ‘Peter Pan’ and a model railway exhibition and trader stalls at the community centre. A free bus service will ferry customers between the buildings in the show.  (4)

Although the beach line railway was initially objected to by the council who were unable to find a way of reviving the original Hayling Billy Line, the Hayling Light Railway has proved to attract and delight visitors from all over the United Kingdom and beyond. The upcoming Gala event this weekend puts Hayling Island on the map for train fans.

This Autumn event is in addition to the existing festivals on the island that are ideal for water sports and kite surfing fanatics, which are the other exciting leisure activities for which the golden sandy beachfront is well-known.

Our next article is all about Light Railway visitor attractions to visit all over England this season. (1)    Based in Portsmouth Hampshire, The News recently shared a wonderful photo of Horndean Light railway which was a tram car like system which transported passengers down Portsdown Hill to the town of Cosham, a few minutes’ drive north of Hayling Island. ‘Throwback photos of Portsdown Hill from over the years’ Steve Deeks, The News, Portsmouth, Hampshire, 23 June 2023 Portsdown Hill from over the years’ Steve Deeks, The News (2) Hayling Light Railway Trust, official website, 20th September 2023 (3) ‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ official website, 20th September 2023 ‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ official website (4) ‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ facebook page, 20th September 2023  

Last Call for Andy Warhol: The Textiles at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum


American born Andy Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and lived and worked in New York, USA. Exhibiting as a commercially trained artist in the 1950’s and 1960’s Warhol is known for being a founder of the Pop Art movement and best known for his famous silkscreen prints of Marilyn Monroe and other prominent celebrities of the mid-20th century.

Warhol’s multidisciplinary career encompassed art, film production, music production, sculpture, advertising and writing as well as the design and creation of graphics and fabrics for American manufacturers. Warhol was crediting with developing innovative silk-screen printing techniques and inspiring the art and craft of visual merchandising which is still practiced in retail businesses all over the world today. Warhol’s most popular works celebrate the wonder of the everyday through the repetition of commonly consumed products, such as the Campbell’s soup can artworks.

It is Warhol’s textiles which are the subject of the latest exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum at 82 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF which is open until Sunday 10th September. This wonderful collection of bright pieces reflect the optimism of post-war America and the society and times during which they were created.

Themes such as gardening, sewing, sailing, delicious food and desserts, nature and even housework tools are both colourful and joyful and represent what was actually happening in many households at the time. We are reminded that ‘art reflects life’ and that later in his career Warhol is known for deliberately highlighting individual personalities in his work, giving them his memorable signature or “fifteen minutes of fame”.

It is special to look closely at Andy Warhol’s inky sketched hand drawings that form the basis of the repeated screen-printed cottons and silks in the series of fabrics on display at the fashion and Textile Museum. The ‘all over’ printed patterns often border on the abstract and nostalgic and it is not surprising that they had such wide appeal with customers in the American market.

There is a splendid mixture of ‘on the roll’ fabrics and beautifully sewn garments, many of which are vintage dresses and patterns from the 1950’s and 1960’s that convey this exciting time in fashion brilliantly. The summer silk frocks that are showcased on the first floor of this voluminous building are stunning. The simple Warhol designs glow in beach ready hues and create lots of impact despite their often relatively mundane subjects.

Admission to the Fashion and Textile Museum is a reasonably priced £12 and concessions are available. A ‘drawing room’ is provided for visitors to chart and network and enjoy sketching and drawing their own versions of Warhol inspired couture. British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes owns this gem of a city museum. Rhodes and her team endeavour to promote fashion and textile artists and the industry as a whole and keep art and design accessible for creative residents of south London and beyond of all ages.

Warhol is quoted in his online biography ‘Monsters and Critics’ as having said “I’d rather buy a dress and put it up on the wall, than put a painting, wouldn’t you?”[ 

It is fantastic that this beautifully curated exhibition has been able to remember and pay tribute to Andy Warhol’s textiles and display them to such a high standard. Warhol was very successful in his lifetime and he continues to delight new generations with his original approach to art, textile design and illustration.

  (1) ‘Andy Warhol’ biography, Monsters and Critics online, 8 September 2023 ‘Andy Warhol’ biography, Monsters and Critics (2) ‘Andy Warhol’ Wikepedia, 8 September 2023 (3) Fashion and Textile Museum, 8 September 2023 Fashion and Textile Museum

English Country House Interiors to See in the South of England this Summer

Read ‘The Colourful Past, Edward Bulmer and the English Country House’

Edward Bulmer is a British architectural historian and interior designer. Edward’s first book ‘The Colourful Past, Edward Bulmer and the English Country House’ showcases Bulmer’s portfolio of classic interiors with his confident style and creativity.

Working with owners of some of the most prestigious historic houses in Britain Edward Bulmer has sensitively custom designed each home he has completed individually. Featuring the finest possessions to be found within these special country estates, Edward Bulmer then organises any restoration that is needed and hand selects any new pieces that are required to orchestrate schemes that are harmonious, beautiful and also practical for modern living.  (1)

At a recent talk at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, Bulmer spoke of his carefully considered approach to decorating these grand villas. Bulmer’s client’s abodes are often originally from several century’s old English architectural periods such as Georgian and Victorian. Edward Bulmer knowledgably combines traditional art, furniture and artifacts with a coordinating palette of eco-friendly soft hues. The sustainably produced Edward Bulmer Paint range has been developed ‘in house’. This process is followed in order to achieve high quality elegant and balanced interiors, that are fit for royalty. (1)

See Gwen John: Art and Life in London and Paris’ at Pallant House, Sussex

Edward Bulmer paints have provided the perfect backdrop to ‘Gwen John: Art and Life in London and Paris’ an exhibition which is currently at Pallant House in Chichester, West Sussex until 8 October 2023. The subtle natural tones of the Edward Bulmer paint range have been used as a painted wall background throughout the several rooms of John’s wonderful paintings, drawing and sculptures on display in the contemporary wing of this Georgian house museum and gallery.

Gwen John was born in Haverfordwest in Wales and studied at Slade School of Fine Art. John was a post-impressionist artist who produced some of the most striking and accomplished portraits and interior artworks during a culturally important era of British artists.

“She chose to make her life and work within the heady art worlds of London and Paris amid a rich cultural circle that included James McNeill Whistler and her lover, Auguste Rodin.” the Pallant House Gallery website describes.

The excellent show, which explains her work through a series of detailed and original oils, watercolours and hand drawn pieces, highlights the sophisticated and tonally masterful spectrum that reflects her authentic self and the life and times that Gwen John was living in. (2)

The exhibition is curated by Alicia Foster and is highly recommended. The visitor can marvel at the inspiring and expertly framed English and French interior oil paintings from the beginning of the last century. The artworks convey a timeless appeal that is fit to grace any stylish home.

Gwen John’s younger brother Augustus John was also a notable artist breaking ground in modern art in the early 20th century. There is a portrait of Gwen John created by her brother John in this Pallant House collection. (2)

The Festival of Chichester combines art, music and theatre and more than one hundred events, so there is lots to discover if visiting Pallant House this month. (3)

Arundel Castle

The Duke of Norfolk (also the Earl Marshal of England) and his household and ancestors have lived at Arundel Castle for more than five hundred years. As Arundel Castle still has a family living at the medieval property and often welcome their favourite guests, the wonderfully historic but practical interiors are delightful to see, if you are visiting Sussex this summer. (4)

Chartwell House

The Chartwell Literature Festival showcases “the top names in historical non-fiction and celebrates the 70th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s Nobel Prize in Literature.” The event is on between the 8th to the 10th of September 2023 and is the ideal opportunity to visit Sir Winston Churchill’s home in Westerham in Kent where he lived for over forty years.

Chartwell is now owned by the National Trust and displays throughout the conservatively decorated rooms the many gifts that were given to Churchill and his family by international friends and colleagues. This makes for a fascinating tour which gives an insight into how the Churchill’s lived in the traditional country home of Chartwell House. (5)

Green Room , Osterley House, West London
Green Room , Osterley House, West London
Osterley House

Osterley House is a Georgian country estate in west London and a great place to see Regency style interiors.  Presented by the National Trust as it would appear in the 1780’s, Osterley House is an opportunity to be inspired by the colours, patterns and designs of architect and interior designer Robert Adam and this important time in English architecture.

The Osterley House website explains how the estate was originally built before 1576 for the merchant Sir Thomas Gresham. Osterley Park was (then) bought by the banker Francis Child in 1713 and was remodelled for his grandson Robert in 1763-80 by Robert Adam.

The Tapestry Room is well worth a visit and the nature themed tapestries took four years of work by craftspeople to complete. (6)

Charleston Farmhouse

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to paint every surface in your home with your favourite colours and motifs look no further than Charleston Farmhouse, near the upmarket town of Lewes in Sussex.

From the 1920’s and beyond Charleston was a gathering place for the Bloomsbury Group who are some of the 20th century’s most influential modern painters, writers and artists, who challenged the conventions of the times.

An eclectic and joyful mix of vintage and modern art, furniture and ceramics as well as hand decorated walls creates a charming home that reflects the bohemian lifestyles and progressive attitudes of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and their contemporaries. (7)

Garden View Farleys Farmhouse, Muddles Green, near Lewes, East Sussex
Garden View Farleys Farmhouse, Muddles Green, near Lewes, East Sussex

Farley’s Farmhouse

Lee Miller and Roland Penrose set up home at Farley’s farmhouse in the Sussex countryside a few miles north of Eastbourne and Lewes in 1949. Their circle of friends, family and creatives included Man Ray and Picasso. The old country cottage and gardens is the ‘Home of the Surrealists’ and includes modernist art and artifacts that were created by Miller and Penrose and also gifts from some of the most prominent artists of the 20th century.

Lee Miller was an extraordinary American lady who was known for her fashion and war photography and modelling for Vogue. Lee Miller’s talents included organising adventurous travel tours, photography, making art and surrealist cookery. Miller’s husband Roland Penrose was known in his own right as one of the most accomplished painters of this important period in English contemporary art.

Miller and Penrose’s family still oversee the running of the estate and enjoy spending their lives sharing the wonders of this special place, in this particularly gorgeous part of Sussex. If you fancy donning your best costume to celebrate summer The 6th Annual Surrealist Picnic will be held on Sunday 27th August. (8)

Russell-Cotes House

The building of East Cliff Hall began in 1897 and was completed initially in 1901 for Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes. The home “encapsulates the grandeur of the late-Victorian era” and showcases the Russell-Cotes’ decorative art collection. There is a Japanese room and a Moorish Alcove and the house is united by a grand staircase surrounded by splendid artworks.

On the 10th of September there is a special ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ tour taking visitors on a ‘behind the scenes’ tour at East Cliff Hall. (9)

Join the club to see the most interiors

Visiting a selection of the UK’s country houses and palaces can be an educational, fun and healthy way of enjoying ‘me time’ or quality time with loved ones. Spending time understanding grand house visitor attractions can help us to appreciate our modern way of life and also bring us ideas for living a more creative and fulfilling life.

Purchasing an annual membership to an organisation like the National Trust, English Heritage or Historic Houses is a fantastic way of supporting listed and culturally important architectural buildings, interiors and art and craft collections for the joy of people of all ages throughout the next decade and also for future generations to enjoy. A club membership can give you and your family and friends access to hundreds of historic places at a reduced price. There can be promotions on these club memberships for example English Heritage are offering 25% off an online annual membership with code YORE25 today. (11)

If you are able to travel around the country visiting stately homes on days off and on holiday time it can make financial sense to purchase a different annual membership every year of two. This will enable you to gain free tickets and reduced entry to as many venues and events as possible which will definitely brighten up your diary and keep life stimulating and creative.

    (1) ‘Colour is King: Edward Bulmer’s first interior design book’ Edward Bulmer and the English Country House published by Rizzoli, website, 19 August 2023 ‘Colour is King: Edward Bulmer’s first interior design book’ Edward Bulmer and the English Country House (2) ‘Uncover the life, loves and influences of Gwen John, a groundbreaking modern artist.’ Pallant House gallery website, 19 August 2023 Gwen John, groundbreaking modern artist, Pallant House Gallery (3) ‘Festival of Chichester’ Festival of Chichester website, 19 August 2023 ‘Festival of Chichester’ (4) ‘Arundel Castle, Castle HistoprHistory’ 19 August 2023 Arundel Castle, Castle History’ (5) ‘Chartwell, Family home and garden of Sir Winston Churchill’ National Trust website, 19 August 2023 ‘Chartwell, Family home and garden of Sir Winston Churchill’ National Trust (6) ‘The House at Osterley Park’ National Trust website, 19 August 2023 ‘The House at Osterley Park’ National Trust website (7) ‘House Visit’ Charleston website, 19 August 2023 ‘House Visit’ Charleston website (8) ‘Farley’s Farmhouse, Home of the Surrealists’, 19 August 2023 Farley’s Farmhouse, Home of the Surrealists (9) ‘Russell-Cotes, House, Gallery, Garden’ 19 August 2023 ‘Russell-Cotes, House, Gallery, Garden’ (10) National Trust website, 19 August 2023 National Trust website (11) English Heritage website, 19 August 2023 English Heritage website (12) Historic Houses organisation, ‘Historic Houses Pass’ 19 August 2023 Historic Houses Pass

Is Pedestrianisation the Future for UK’s Fresh New High Streets?

Pedestrianisation what is it and why does it matter?

The Cambridge dictionary defines pedestrianisation as “to make an area into one where vehicles are not allowed to go”. Science Direct quotes Sustainable Transport in their online magazine describing how “In the beginning, pedestrianisation was limited to the streets with the highest concentration of large shops and pedestrian volumes, and was designed according to the model of a suburban shopping mall.” (1)

Creating separate spaces for people to walk, shop and sit together safely is important. At the end of June Jessica Murray reported in The Guardian how campaigners calling for better road safety took part in a street protest in the Kings Heath area of Birmingham. Residents in this Midlands community expressed their anger, grief and outrage about “those who drive at ‘terrifying speeds’ throughout the city.” (2)

The community called for change after “four people including two children died and four were also seriously injured by drivers, in separate incidents across the city” in one month in the surrounding area of Birmingham. Following the protest, the local council the leader of Birmingham City Council, John Cotton and his team committed to “working quickly” to act and improve the situation The Guardian then reported. (2)

For those commuting on foot and walking for leisure in Birmingham and all across the country the ideal type of streets for both safety and the vital health benefits of fresh air, are fully pedestrianised areas.

The pedestrianised gathering place is reminiscent of the European architectural model of having attractive centres with restaurants topped with apartments and offices that are all gathered around an attractive square or central area. This classic design creates public spaces that feel attractive to people of all ages and provides opportunities for markets, fountains, social events, concerts, sculptures and artworks and other distinctive urban cultural highlights and seasonal displays.

Pedestrianised shopping street Alicante Spain, Photo by A Howse
Pedestrianised shopping street Alicante Spain,
Photo by A Howse

The French and Spanish (and many other countries in Europe) café culture is at its best in a pedestrianised location where town and city dwellers can easily meet and see each other and be seen. The rectangular plazas enable the greatest choice of shade for outdoor dining during the hot summer months.

'San Francisco fountains Valencia, Spain by A Howse
San Francisco fountains Valencia, Spain by A Howse

The English Victorians loved a decorative wide pathway exclusively designed for elegant strolling and they especially loved ‘to promenade’ along their most fashionable seaside destinations without worrying about sharing their special walkways with any unexpected traffic. The pedestrianised promenades also allowed eligible men and women of the middle and upper classes to be visible and meet within the strict social protocols of the time.

In the 21st century pedestrianised locations benefit both retail and hospitality businesses through increased visitor numbers or ‘footfall’. This is because locals and tourists choose to visit and stay longer as they enjoy a relaxing leisure experience in fresh air. Caring for people who have special needs or need accompanying and looking after young children and dogs is much easier in an environment without transport related hazards. There is a noise reduction effect which also adds to the charms of pedestrianisation for many, especially those who are neurodiverse or have sensory issues.

Pedestrianisation: what does it take to achieve?

How easy it is to permanently pedestrianize a town or city depends on many factors. The option to divert existing traffic through one or more alternative routes is key to successful pedestrianisation. Temporarily diverting the high street involves a ‘multi-agency effort’. This means it is logical that in order to permanently ban cars, motorbikes and commercial vehicles from the high street, many utilities companies, local planners, resident’s associations, businesses and organisations need to be brought together to develop a workable local plan. All these interest groups have to discuss and agree the best way forward for the design of their community centres.

Temporarily pedestrianised high street Midhurst, West Sussex
Temporarily pedestrianised high street Midhurst, West Sussex, Photo by A Howse

Towns and cities of all sizes could be considered for pedestrianisation in the near future. This August there is a controversial trend to prevent drivers entering commercial and community centres. Later this month the ULEZ fee in London is applied to many more districts and the area the ULEZ covers is expanded much further to cover more of Greater London.

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone Charge is paid daily by all petrol and diesel cars and vehicles entering the ULEZ even if they live just outside the zone. This ULEZ fee is in addition to the existing daily congestion zone penalty charge in the West End centre of London. The new ULEZ tariff is also in addition to current road and sales taxes and income taxes currently paid by drivers and workers trying to get to and from their employment (and childcare settings) by car and commercial vehicle. (3)

Pedestrianisation Examples and Considerations

Last year James Pollard wrote in an open letter to The Guardian highlighting the advantages for pedestrianising Oxford Street in the West End of London, which has been full of buses, traffic and pollution for nearly a century.  Pollard argues that it is an opportunity for controlling the swelling number of shops on this famous high street that mostly sell unhealthy sweets and candy, to tourists, shoppers and workers who live in the capital. (4)

Construction and logistics firm Crowdguard wrote about how “There is a balancing act to be achieved by addressing the challenges of public health, social inequality and climate and ecological emergencies with pedestrianisation on the one hand, while being mindful of the practical needs of city dwellers and small business owners on the other.” (5)

Gunwharf Keys in Portsmouth, Hampshire is a good example of a relatively new pedestrianised commercial centre which is popular and successful all year around. Gunwharf Quays features a large Plaza which is used for a variety of celebrations and activities for children and families. (6)

However, in Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth is expensive to park for the day compared to other free out of town retail developments nearby. The free ‘Park and Ride’ is only a convenient service if one has plenty of time to wait for the shuttle buses (scheduled every fifteen minutes plus an eleven-minute bus journey) and you are not planning to buy any heavy purchases or travel home much later in the evening after a meal, the cinema or just some late-night shopping. (6)

It is important that all the users of the town centre are considered when developing a new plan for pedestrianisation. This ensures that emergency services can still access key public areas quickly and those with disabled badges and special mobility needs can park their vehicles easily.

Shoppers in town centres want to conveniently park their cars and pick up their purchases and perhaps even large items like furniture from stores along the high street. This is particularly the case if they have been doing just that for many years and feeling good about supporting local businesses before ‘down town’ became pedestrianised. Otherwise, if a trip becomes more inconvenient or impractical, they may think twice about spending their money in their local town centre and be tempted to select other out of town retailers further afield instead, or opt for online stores that can offer free home delivery.

'Midhurst Open for Business' sign during temporary pedestrianisation, Photo by A Howse
‘Midhurst Open for Business’ sign during temporary pedestrianisation, Photo by A Howse

Pedestrianisation is not a new concept but it is a city planning format that has thus far stood the test of time in the UK. There are no guarantees of success however. It takes many positive interest groups working in combination to make a cultural and commercial centre that can thrive, despite the unexpected changes and the highs and lows of modern life. Most towns and cities in the UK have an interesting history and have evolved organically over at least the last five centuries, naturally taking in to consideration the natural topography of the county. This gradual ‘ad hoc’ development does not always lend itself to introducing modern, pedestrianised, well equipped centralised gathering places for facilities and amenities that are organised into neatly arranged zones.

In Waterlooville in Hampshire the main council owned car park next to the pedestrianised high street centre has become free of charge again this summer to promote locals and tourists popping into the traditional high street town which is struggling despite the many good cafes and restaurants. Waterlooville, in common with hundreds of town centres across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has been adversely affected by lack of financial and commercial investment and competition from the adjacent out of town shopping centre and superstores as well as the effects of the enforced pandemic shutdowns and cost of living crisis in the UK. Local residents are positive about the free parking initiative so far.

Waterlooville High Street, Hampshire, England, Photo by A Howse
Waterlooville High Street, Hampshire, England, Photo by A Howse

Some upmarket commuter towns like Guildford in Surrey, Horsham in Sussex and Tunbridge Wells in Kent have flourished since 2020 and enjoyed buoyant sales and a multitude of busy unique boutiques. These upmarket towns are the lucky winners in a ‘city commuter belt’ postcode lottery.

There are losers too as hundreds of other traditional market towns and seaside hotspots are battling with too many empty commercial buildings, high rents and commercial rates and a lack of ‘anchor’ and destination stores. This week it was announced by the BBC that Wilkinsons the general hardware chain had gone into receivership.

This will add to the problems of vacant shopfronts in shopping malls and pedestrianised precincts for market towns such as Havant in Hampshire where ‘Wilco’ provided the ballast of a well-known brand to an otherwise smaller and less well-known name retail selection in the old high street and shopping mall which both accompanies and competes with the relatively new ‘sheds’ and superstores nearby.

Pedestrianisation’s Historical Development and Today

The International Journal of Transportation Science and Technology published a report this spring which looked at the possibility of pedestrianizing Edinburgh city centre in Scotland. In 2019 Edinburgh council undertook an ‘Open Streets’ consultation to research the idea of pedestrianisation of Edinburgh city centre which has performed poorly in recent air pollution studies. (7)

The academic researchers writing in The International Journal of Transportation Science and Technology found that the “Residents’ overall opinion of pedestrianisation has been found, in the majority of cases, to be broadly supportive post-implementation.” The statistically analysed survey data shows that those who did not regularly travel into the centre were least likely to support the future pedestrianisation plan positively.

Conversely people of all ages residing in the greater Edinburgh area who regularly headed into the city centre were likely to be keen on the pedestrianisation plan. The researchers also concluded that disabled citizens may be “less supportive of pedestrianisation if they believe reduced city centre parking and disrupted public transport routes are an inevitable side-effect.” (7)

Despite pedestriansation being a relatively old-fashioned idea in city planning compared to the technological advances of many aspects of modern life in the UK, there is still a lot to be celebrated about this type of cityscape design. In order to achieve the best outcome for all the city users, individuals and families living, working, visiting and relaxing in the popular hearts of the major destinations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland pedestrianisation is still a valuable urban design solution. The same principles apply when considering pedestrianisation in smaller towns too.

Technological advances such as instore ordering for swift home delivery, retail drone deliveries and individualised delivery lockers can help to overcome the challenges of having to pick up larger shopping items in a car within a pedestrianised zone.

The development of electric and alternatively powered vehicles, scooters and bicycles which can be quieter, cleaner and packed with automated safety features may mean vehicles and pedestrians can coexist more easily in municipal centres in the future and potentially more areas can be pedestrianised. Consistent and safe bicycle and walking routes need to be prioritised in order to produce a winning scheme. Investing in healthy air transport options for the population will be rewarded by lowering the cost of sickness benefits and NHS healthcare needs of a healthier nation in the long term.

Pedestrianisation: an uncertain outlook brings new opportunities

In this uncertain time for many sectors including the arts, retailers and hospitality businesses it is as vital as ever that existing commercial interests are carefully considered during major pedestrianisation projects. Both residents needs and the emergency services access routes requirements need to be met. Logistical planning for local authority services and public transport schemes can be incorporated effectively and the environment improved for everyone with the right pedestrianisation design.

The constraints of the relatively modest central UK government funding available for major infrastructure improvements can be a barrier to delivering major changes at this economically challenging time. For example, the HS2 project has met some serious roadblocks in recent weeks and whether the railway will be completed is in question after many millions of pounds have been spent already.

Therefore, there are many potential downfalls and difficulties that confront any new pedestrianisation plan in the current post Brexit ‘cost of living crisis’ financial era. Building much demanded new housing, modern commercial development and the supporting infrastructure that meets the needs of everyone is a big task in any county. Simultaneously caring for the environment for current and future generations is an essential but difficult conundrum, on the limited budgets that councils and developers have to work with in the UK.

However, there is also much energy within local communities to move forward and strive to achieve creating the best ‘places to live the best life’ possible for everybody in the region of every age.

We have seen some huge and unexpected structural and political policy changes introduced within the last few years in the UK. Both community and business leaders and their constituents have many minds that are open to embracing major change, in order to reap significant rewards in terms of improved living standards, future economic prosperity and a healthier and safer environment for citizens living in and visiting the British Isles. The future of the fresher, safer, more attractive pedestrianised city centre looks as bright and vibrant as ever.

(1) ‘Pedestrianization’ Science Direct, 3 August 2023, ‘The role of pedestrian precincts in adapting city centres to new lifestyles’ Rolf Monheim, Sustainable Transport 2003, Science Direct, 5 August 2023 ‘Pedestrianization’ Science Direct, Rolf Monheim, Sustainable Transport (2) ‘Outcry in Birmingham after four cyclists and pedestrians die in a month’ Jessica Murray, Midlands Correspondent, The Guardian, 19th June 2023 ‘Outcry in Birmingham after four cyclists and pedestrians die in a month’ Jessica Murray, Midlands Correspondent, The Guardian (3) ‘ULEZ Expansion 2023’ Transport for London, official website, 28 July 2023 ‘ULEZ Expansion 2023’ Transport for London (4) ‘Pedestrianisation would help rid Oxford Street of American sweet shops’ James Pollard, Michael Barron, Tim Law, The Guardian, 11 July 2022 ‘Pedestrianisation would help rid Oxford Street of American sweet shops’ James Pollard, Michael Barron, Tim Law, The Guardian (5) ‘Is pedestrianisation the key to attracting footfall back to our towns and cities?’, 14 July 2023 ‘Is pedestrianisation the key to attracting footfall back to our towns and cities?’ (6) ‘Gunwharf Quays’ Waterfront Outlet Shopping, 28 July 2023 ‘Gunwharf Quays’ Waterfront Outlet Shopping (7) ‘Demographic and behavioural factors affecting public support for pedestrianisation in city centres: The case of Edinburgh, UK’ International Journal of Transportation Science and Technology, Torran Semple, Grigorious Fountas, March 2023 ‘Edinburgh, UK’ International Journal of Transportation Science and Technology, Torran Semple, Grigorious Fountas  

Unexpected Pedestrianisation Gives Sussex Residents a New View

Midhurst is a peaceful and picturesque market town of West Sussex. Residents in Midhurst, which is situated well within the South Downs National Park, are not used to national press or major incidents involving unexpected pedestrianisation.

This week the last road diversion signs advising visitors to Midhurst of the council enforced diversions were removed. The usual two-way traffic travelling through the town of Midhurst resumed on the 23rd June after three months of disruption. The route now enables road users to drive along the popular A286 road north towards the upmarket commuter town of Haslemere in Surrey or south towards the city of Chichester and its harbour in southern England once again.

The only sign left after the unplanned allocation of public space in the centre of Midhurst is the boarded-up 17th century listed public house The Angel. The monumental country inn sustained extensive fire damage following an accidental fire on the 16th of April in the early hours of the morning. The cause of the blaze is still unknown and according to ITV meridian news The Angel owners want to rebuild the monumental and historic building. An ITV meridian news reported that “More than 30 people, including a number of Ukrainian refugees, were staying at the Angel Inn when the fire started, but managed to escape uninjured.” (1)

On the 19th April Mike Davis from West Sussex County Council and his colleague finished the hoardings that closed off the high street to every road user, apart from people who usually use the pavements. Mr Davis explained that there “has been a fire at the Angel Inn pub. The road will be closed for at least 4 weeks. The beauticians next door is closed but the other businesses will stay open.”

Two female customers at the stylish and busy Midhurst boutique Stepping Out nearby agreed “we wish Midhurst would be permanently pedestrianised. It feels so much more relaxing and friendly to shop here without the traffic driving through the town centre.” (2)

Residents adapt and return to prioritising the traffic traveling through their town

The incident is still affecting people living and working in Midhurst and this week a West Sussex Highways spokesman stated: “The footway and parking bays immediately in front of the fire-damaged buildings are not in use, due to the shoring-up structure and hoarding covering the area. However, we are receiving concerning reports of people walking onto the highway to get around the hoarding. We urge residents to please remain safe and cross the road using the pedestrian crossings, rather than walking around the hoardings and into the traffic on the busy A road. A big thank you to the Midhurst community for their ongoing patience and understanding throughout the road closure and reopening.” (3)

Although the noise and hazards of heavy traffic continue to divide the high street in Midhurst once again, there is now ‘a seed of an idea’ for an open and relaxing pedestrianised area which has been unexpectedly trialled. There is support of the concept from many locals who use the town centre frequently to shop, work, relax and socialise in the numerous hospitality businesses. Many obstacles currently exist including for example, an alternative route, that doesn’t adversely impact citizens living in the surrounding streets or the nearby Cowdray estate.

The shocking incident of the blazing Angel Inn hotel in the normally orderly street, where thankfully nobody was hurt, was a regrettable drama for the owners, their team and anyone close to them. It might be possible that the silver lining in this instance is that the future of this historically attractive English market town might be as fresh and green as possible. That is all dependent on if the local shoppers can get their way and the central commercial area is permanently reserved again, just only for those on foot, with mobility aids and on their bicycles.

  (1) ‘Road closed off after fire ripped through listed buildings in Midhurst to reopen’ Meridian News ITV, 23 June 2023 ‘Road closed off after fire ripped through listed buildings in Midhurst to reopen’ Meridian News ITV (2) Stepping Out Boutique Midhurst, 13 July 2023 Stepping Out Boutique Midhurst (3) ‘Midhurst A286 road reopening – an update’ West Sussex County Council 4 July 2023 ‘Midhurst A286 road reopening – an update’ West Sussex County Council (4) ‘Midhurst on the move again after major road finally reopened’ Connor Gormley, 5 July 2023 ‘Midhurst on the move again after major road finally reopened’ Connor Gormley