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The Welsh 3000 Challenge

April 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Some very good friends of mine are planning to do the Welsh 3000 Challenge later this year, and as keen walkers, me and A invited ourselves along to one of their practice walks this weekend.

There are 15 peaks over 3000 ft (about 915m) in Snowdonia, North Wales, and the challenge is to walk up and down (or traverse) all of them within a 24 hour period.

The usual route is to start with Snowdon itself (the tallest peak at 3560ft/1085m) and then head northwards ticking off dangerous Crib Goch and difficult Tryfan before crossing the A5 road, scrambling up the seemingly endless Pen yr Ole Wen and then heading off through the undulating Carnedd range to the final peak Foel Fras.

This weekend, as 3 of our group of 5 had no intention of doing the whole thing later on in June, we opted for the easier second half and were rewarded with fantastic weather, brilliant views and an exhilarating 7 hours of pretty tough, but very enjoyable walking. This photo was taken by me from somewhere up our second peak looking back towards Tryfan, with the A5 skirting Llyn Ogwen lake below and Snowdon just visible in the distance.

Enjoyable though our day was though, I don’t think I’d be able to do the whole 15 peaks. Our “easy” walk took us just under 7 hours and I for one was glad to reach the finish. My friends are hoping to do it all in less than 16 hours, during which time they’ll walk more than 30 miles, start (and possibly finish) in darkness and if I know them, wear an increasingly bizarre range of head gear….

I wish them both well.

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Liverpool Metropolitan Cathederal & William George Mitchell

April 11, 2011 3 comments

We were in Liverpool a couple of weekends ago and we took the opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Designed in the early 1960’s by Frederick Gibberd, this stunning building was the result of a competition to design a replacement for the partially finished design of Sir Edwin Lutyens. Lutyen’s proposal was begun in 1933 and upon completion would have been the second largest Cathedral in the world, with the worlds largest dome. Unfortunately for Mr. Lutyens, WWII happened and what with one thing and another, the post war Catholic Community of Liverpool found it could no longer afford such a grand gesture.

A reduced (and much derided) design was produced by Adrian Gilbert Scott (the brother of Giles, the man famous for giving us the red K2 phone boxes and Battersea Power Station) and its rejection at the end of 1950’s paved the way for a completely new approach. The new proposal had to incorporate the completed crypt of Lutyen’s design, and had to allow over 2000 people to be able to see the altar at any one time. The Catholic Diocese of Liverpool had been much impressed with Coventry’s new Cathedral (consecrated in 1962) and appointed its architect Basil Spence to the board of judges. As such, Gibberd’s throughly modern proposal found a receptive audience and work began in 1962.

When we were there I was taken not only with the wonderful interior (which even for a complete non believer like me, really is amazing, full of colour and space ) but also by the external sculptural works of William Mitchell.

At either side of the main entrance to the building are two huge panels. They look as if they are made from some form of cast or wrought copper or bronze, but are in fact made from glass reinforced plastic (GRP).

The inspiration for these fantastic works is taken from Revelation 4 which describes the animals John saw looking up into heaven…

“And round the throne were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
And the first beast was like a lion and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man and the fourth beast was as a flying eagle.
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him and they were full of eyes within.”

Whilst the idea of organised religion leaves me totally cold, I do think this wonderful work sums up the rather bizarre biblical descriptions with immense success… there are eyes and wings everywhere, and the face of the man is breathtaking (especially close up)

Mitchell also designed and executed the stone carving on the huge bell tower that rises above the Cathedrals entrance pavilion.

If you get the time to have a look at some of the other works on his web site, it’s surprising¬† to me that Mitchell is not more widely known and respected. His work has a very strong sense of style which not only incorporates large, bold images and shapes but is then beautifully executed through the use of unusual materials and techniques.

I particularly like “The Story of Wool” bas relief on the International Wool Secretariat building (although this black and white, presumably contemporary, image is the only one I can find and as such I can’t actually confirm if it still exists)

I think I can feel the need for some futher research…

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