Posts Tagged ‘Lancashire’

Weird British Event #3 – Gravy Wrestling

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I read an advertisement for the bank holiday activities at the Rose ‘n’ Bowl pub in Bacup. What are you supposed to expect when you read the words “Gravy” and “Wrestling” next to each other? No… Surely not…? It must be a typo.

But no, my friends. That was no typographical error. The World Gravy Wrestling Championships were happening and that same curious bug that begged me to go to worm charming and chicken racing was back again, telling me I needed to go and experience this wonder. I attempted to convince Sir Pubert Gladstone that driving 40 minutes north of Manchester to the fairly average town of Bacup to go to a slightly dodgy pub to watch people rolling around in hot meat juices was a GREAT way to spend his Bank Holiday Monday. He agreed and we were off!

Technology at the Rose 'n' Bowl

Welcome to the Rose ‘n’ Bowl

So Bacup’s name is far more interesting than the place itself. There are some streets, some houses, a few pubs and that’s about it. It does have a great view of the hills of the Irwell Valley which made for a great backdrop to the jawdroppingly remarkable stage and gravy pool set up for the Gravy Wrestling Championships. I was shocked by the effort and planning permission that must have gone on behind the scenes to set up the performance area. I believe the Rose ‘n’ Bowl normally has a lawn bowls green behind the pub. The entire space had been covered in plastic with a raised pool area set up in the middle. In the pool was a steaming lake of brown liquid – the infamous gravy. The commentator informed us that the gravy had been sitting out for one and a half hours and was therefore cooling down and forming a nice gelatinous top. Delicious.

A professional set up

A professional set up

Monday was an unexpectedly cool day and so all of the spectators were keen to see the action get underway. After some customary technical difficulties with the sound system and a lovely performance from the local under-15s dance school, we were underway. Out came the competitors – they were READY TO RUMBLE!

The competitors line up

The competitors line up

Driving to Bacup we had discussed the possibility of competing in the competition and I had seriously contemplated giving it a go. However, like worm charming and chicken racing, I soon realised that this was serious business and you couldn’t just enter on a whim. All of the wrestlers had planned and gone to great efforts with their costumes – no one was just wearing their old sports clothes. Super man, Oscar the Grouch, a headmaster and Tarzan were there and they had all practiced their entrances.

Last year's champion won best costume as Oscar the Grouch

Last year’s champion won best costume as Oscar the Grouch

It was WWF with less baby oil and more gravy. As the first bout was called, the two wrestlers came out calling to the audience, strutting their stuff and mocking their competition. The white-shirted referee blew the whistle and it began. Gravy explosion.

Gravy is slippery stuff when it is coating plastic and human flesh. The first two male wrestlers slipped around all over the place, throwing each other into the air (as best they could) and body slamming with vigour. It was incredible! Strength, agility but mostly luck combined for a highly entertaining wrestling competition. The wafts of hot meaty liquid really added to the overall experience.

GRRAAAAVVVYYYY!!!

GRRAAAAVVVYYYY!!!

The cold weather and a desire to eat something other than a chip butty meant we didn’t hang around to watch the entire competition and a lack of information of the Rose ‘n’ Bowl Facebook page means I have no idea who won. But it was a fantastic way to spend a cold public holiday. Unlike worm charming, I don’t think I will come back to compete in the Gravy Wrestling Championships next year. I would need years of preparation and some serious protein shakes.

 

Weekend Hill Climbs

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

How many times do you have to repeat an activity for it to be classified as a habit? Over the past few weekends Sir Pubert Gladstone and I have started a trend of packing a picnic lunch and driving to a ‘thing on a hill.’ We have visited three ‘things on hills’ now – is that verging on an addiction? At least it isn’t drug related, although large amounts of cheese are involved. 

A friend from my office had told me about the panopticon sculpture series that is dotted throughout Lancashire. There are four sculptures perched on various hills delivering panoramic views (hence panopticon) of the surrounding lumps and bumps of the region. You can’t beat a free panoramic view so we got our picnic lunch together, bought some Maltesers in case we got stuck up the hill and had low blood sugar levels, and headed off in search of The Singing Ringing Tree.

We had looked at the four statues on the internet and decided that The Singing Ringing Tree, designed by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu, was going to be the most exciting. However, it was also quite mysterious as no websites gave away its exact location and it wasn’t on Google maps. “Above Burnley” was the closest we got, along with some grammatically incorrect driving directions and the instructions to look out for “a brown sign”. Thanks to a random stab at a potential location and a lot of good luck, we found The Singing Ringing Tree. We also found the brown sign which was on the far side of the road and pointing to the carpark next to the statue. Handy.

As we walked along the dirt track to the statue, we both made the observation that it was a lot smaller than we expected. The images on the website suggested a much bigger tree but I guess that’s what online advertising is all about. The statue is made from multiple metal pipes piled on top of one another to form a twister-like shape. The tubes act as musical instruments as wind blows through and past them, hence the singing. Through some sort of miracle, we had managed to come on one of the very few non-windy days and the tree was silent. So it was a silent and slightly smaller than expected metal tube tree.

A very quiet singing tree.

A very quiet singing tree.

It was a nice silent tree though – I really like the fact that it exists as an open-air artwork for people to enjoy. And the view over Burnley was wonderful. We sat at a table next to the statue and had our picnic in the sunshine with views over Lancashire. Lovely.

Pubert makes a might fine sandwich.

Pubert makes a mighty fine sandwich.

We had some time to burn so we decided to hunt down another of the panopticons. Thanks to an excellent 3G connection “above Burnley” I googled the approximate location of the Halo (again, a distinct lack of location/directions) and we were off. Our search for the Halo took us up a very narrow, winding road “above Haslingden” although there were a few more brown signs pointing us in the correct direction this time.

The Halo is a large satellite dish structure, located on a landfill site, that apparently lights up at night. During the day it is grey and there was a distinct smell of urine. The structure was quite interesting and the views were good but definitely less impressive than the Singing Ringing Tree. The secluded location on the top of a hill and the difficult to access road suggested it would be a great place for teenagers to come and ‘hang’ at night. Plenty of KFC packaging scattered around too. In fact, both locations had a worryingly large amount of fast-food containers and general rubbish floating around. Considering both statues were in relatively remote areas and surrounded by nature it was horrifying to see how much rubbish had been left by visitors. For shame.

The Halo.

The Halo.

So that was one Saturday. The following Saturday we decided to head to a very distinct tower on a hill that we had seen on our previous weekend drives. The tower was reminiscent of a tower on a hill that local Mancunian artist, Lowry, had painted in such artworks as A Landmark. We googled whether or not it was the same tower but it turns out it probably isn’t. But who cares? Let’s drive there anyway! Picnic made, Anzac biscuits packed – we were off to Peel Monument.

Our drive took us to Ramsbottom, a town I have wanted to visit for some time purely because of its name. And there is also a pub with particularly good looking food that I want to eat at. We saw the pub but didn’t go in, and instead walked up a steep and winding path in the warm sunshine to reach the tower on the hill. There were quite a few people who had had similar ideas – Peel Monument is a popular spot for families and sporty-types. There was no signage to explain what Peel Monument was and you couldn’t go inside but once again the view was great and we had a nice picnic in the sunshine. (I have since Wikipedia-ed Peel Monument and it is believed to be a memorial for Sir Robert Peel.)

Tower on a hill.

Tower on a hill.

Where our next ‘thing on a hill’ will be, I’m not sure. But any local suggestions are very welcome.

Brockholes and Clitheroe Castle

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

On Sunday Sir Pubert Gladstone and I went on an adventure driving north of Manchester to a nature reserve near Preston. A friend working in my office mentioned Brockholes as a place to visit so Pubert and I took a risk and ventured out in potentially rainy weather. Located on a junction just off one of England’s busiest roads (the M6), Brockholes is a newish development featuring some fantastic wood-panelled huts floating on a lake. Last weekend there was a vintage and craft fair with stalls selling handmade products and pre-loved items. Like most craft fairs, most of the stalls were a bit naff. But the buildings were fantastic with some very interesting roof angles, sun lights and paper-machê ceilings. 

Brockholes

Brockholes

Brockholes

Brockholes

We went for a wander around the nature reserve checking out the River Ribble and some small forested areas. Sadly the weather turned on us and we headed back to the car to escape the rain. We had contemplated eating lunch at a wood fired pizza stall but there was a long queue and they weren’t exactly producing pizzas at the speed of light. So we decided to head off on a random drive, seeing where the roads would take us. Hopefully to a nice pub.

We spotted a sign pointing to a town called Clitheroe – difficult to pronounce and sounding like a character’s name in a Jane Austin story it seemed like the perfect location for us to head to. Clitheroe was a pleasant surprise – winding streets leading to a castle on a hill. We found a café to eat some lunch at before we went for a walk to the top of the castle. From here we had a great view over the countryside until it started raining again.

Moody skies at Clitheroe Castle

Moody skies at Clitheroe Castle

View from Clitheroe Castle

View from Clitheroe Castle

It is great to be able to get out and explore England. It continues to amaze me how much there is to see in such a small space. So much history. Saying that, we drove past a sign for Botany Bay which turned out to be a shopping centre. Disappointing.