On today’s blog, we’re celebrating World Wetland Day, a fantastic event that celebrates the signing of the conservation of wetlands. The UK boasts a fantastic selection of wetlands, all of which make for a wonderful day out whatever the weather. In celebration of this special day, we’ve pulled together a selection of pictures from our favourite UK wetlands to show you just how wonderful British wetlands can be!
Few figures in the history of the English language are as well-known or much-lauded as John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Born in 1892 in South Africa, JRR Tolkien was the creator of the Lord of the Rings saga and an eminent scholar of the English language. Passing away in 1973, the luminary is known worldwide as a creator of fantastic fantasy worlds, and as a classic Englishman who enjoyed a remarkable and altogether studious life. Discover more about Tolkien’s relationship with Britain at Sykes’ Isle of Inspiration.
A turbulent childhood
Moving to England at the age of four upon the death of his father, Tolkien settled with his mother and brother in the small village of Sarehole, Birmingham, leaving eight years later to live with a Catholic clergyman after his mother passed away. His time spent in the countryside idyll would later inform Tolkien’s conception of the Shire, a location featured in a number of his fantasy works.
Working studiously, the young Tolkien was able to secure a place at Oxford’s Exeter College where, in 1915, he achieved a first-class degree in linguistics. Experiencing – and escaping unscathed from – the horrors of the Somme as a lieutenant during the First World War, the newly-wed Tolkien took up a post at the University of Leeds and began what would become a notable career in the study of ancient Germanic languages. Providing translations and criticisms of great works such as Sir Gawain, Sir Orfeo and Beowulf, Tolkien’s work in Leeds, and later Oxford, greatly informed the subject’s debate and study, making waves in academia even to this day.
While working as a professor in the 1920s and 30s, Tolkien began writing fantasy stories in earnest with his writing group, The Inklings – members included Owen Barfield and CS Lewis. In 1937 he published The Hobbit, sketching over a hundred drawings to support what was then regarded as children’s fiction, and through the next decade worked on the Lord of the Rings, releasing The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954 and both The Two Towers and The Return of the King in 1955.
A force in fantasy
Both of these works of high fantasy – known the world over thanks partly to the Peter Jackson motion picture reimagining – were greatly informed by Tolkien’s knowledge of language, Germanic history and the great epics of Norse mythology, and the work is now a keystone of the fantasy genre. International bestsellers long before the films were produced, the releases afforded Tolkien an early retirement, one that he enthusiastically embraced with his wife Edith. The writer was made a CBE in 1972, a year before his death.
It’s the first Walk of the Month for 2016 and we’re kicking things off in style by compiling a list of the best walks in Britain! Isle of Inspiration, a recent addition to the Sykes website, has shown us that Britain has a lot to offer walkers; from coastal paths to rugged country routes, there is a lot of ground to cover. The following walks are all featured in Isle of Inspiration and come with a strong tie to some of the UK’s most recognisable artists, so when you walk along these routes you could be walking in the footsteps of Barbara Hepworth, Kate Bush or even William Wordsworth.
Rosedale Mineral Railway Walk
Covering just one mile this walk should take no more than an hour to complete and takes in some fantastic views of the Yorkshire Moors. Whilst following the path, walkers should look out for evidence of the ironstone industry; a row of terraced houses which were originally built to house railway line workers, are of particular interest.
See the full walk here: Rosedale Mineral Railway
Hole of Horcum Walk
Both Kate Bush and Emily Brontë were big fans of the Yorkshire Moors and when following this five mile route, it’s not hard to see why. With panoramic views, archaeological remains and beautiful Yorkshire scenery, this three mile walk is more than worth the effort. To see more of the moors, walkers can opt to take a diversion making this walk closer to seven miles long.
See the full walk here: Hole of Horcum
Seaford to Eastbourne Walk
If you fancy a day walking along the beautiful south east coastline then this 13.8 mile walk is for you, but be warned the route takes around seven hours to complete and is not recommended for beginners. For those brave enough to take on this challenging walk, you’ll be rewarded with sensational views of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head.
See the full walk here: Seaford to Eastbourne
Zennor Head Walk
Probably the easiest walk in our selection, the Zennor Head Walk takes just 30 to 40 minutes to complete and covers one mile. When following the route, walkers will be treated to fantastic views of Cornish countryside and coast, some of which are bound to have inspired the work of the iconic artist Barbara Hepworth.
See the full walk here: Zennor Head
Cliff Top Walk
This is the easiest of our Cheddar George walks and a brilliant introduction to the area. At just three miles long, this walk should take around two hours to complete and incorporates some of Cheddar George’s most iconic scenes. From the Horseshoe Bend and Lookout Tower, to The Pinnacles and Black Rock Gate, it’s easy to see why this area inspired JRR Tolkien.
See the full walk here: Cliff Top
Extended Cliff Top Walk
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous then why not take on the extended cliff top walk? With a longer walking route, you’re able to see more of the area’s incredible landscape and fantastic wildlife. This walk follows a five mile route and will take around three hours to complete. Walkers should take care as the path has some rough sections and steep climbs; it is not advised to undertake this walk when the weather is windy or foggy.
See the full walk here: Extended Cliff Top
Mendip Hills Walk
At 5.3 miles, this walk will take just overthree hours to complete and is fantastic for the more experienced walker. The ascent is 314.1m so suitable walking shoes and a walking pole are advised. Whilst walking, we suggest keeping an eye out for the herd of British Primitive Goats which can be found grazing on the cliffs.
See the full walk here: Mendip Hills
Semer Water Walk
The Semer Water walk offers a fantastic day out for experienced walkers, where they can ramble along the 10 mile route as they take in some of the Lake District’s most iconic scenery. The walk takes a minimum of five hours to complete and with many stopping points along the way, there are plenty of opportunities for a picnic with fellow walkers.
See the full walk here: Semer Water
Grasmere and Rydal Water
This is a relatively easy walk, with some steep sections appearing over the 5.6 mile route. In total, the walk should take just over two hours to complete but if you want to stop off and admire the scenery, we would suggest allowing two and a half hours. Whilst on your walk, be sure to stop off at Dove Cottage which was once home to poet William Wordsworth.
See the full walk here: Grasmere and Rydal Water
Superluminal skies; dreamy, swirling landscapes; a deft attention to detail – few have ever commanded paint and brush with the same skill as Joseph Mallord William Turner. An English romantic painter who brought the same skills and efforts that until his time had only been reserved for historical pieces or portraiture, Turner irrevocably advanced and broadened the scope of painting, showcasing the Britain of the time in glorious Technicolour. Visit our Isle of Inspiration page to explore more about the artist’s intertwined relationship with the British Isles.
A natural talent
Turner was born in 1785 in Covent Garden, London, to a barber and wig maker and his wife. While staying with various uncles throughout the south of England as a child, Turner began to display a natural talent for sketching and painting, a skill that his father encouraged by displaying and selling his son’s works in the window of his shop. The nascent artist was noticed through this small-scale selling, and in 1789 he was accepted to the Royal Academy of Arts.
At the academy, the young artist’s skills bloomed greatly. Beginning with a style that was traditional and architecturally-focused, Turner’s artistic gaze began to lean towards landscape painting, with which he was exceptionally gifted. At age 17 he was presented with the Great Silver Pallet for his landscape drawings, and throughout his time studying, works of his were included in many of the Royal Academy’s exhibitions.
A fruitful career
Upon leaving the school, Turner began a variety of small artistic undertakings to earn a livelihood, and later took the step of travelling through Europe. Visiting France, Switzerland and Venice, the artist found a great amount of inspiration for his works, and began experimenting with a style of painting that was later touted as a predecessor to the impressionist art movement.
An eccentric end
Despite lecturing at the Royal Academy, Turner began to withdraw from the world, painting continuously but only spending any time with his father, whom he lost in 1829. Still selling and exhibiting his paintings, yet dropping in and out of depression over the death of his father, Turner lived in relative isolation until he died in 1851 in Chelsea, London.
There’s nothing quite as invigorating as the sight and smell of a freshly brewed cup of tea, slowly percolating cafetiere, or steadily bubbling pint. Indeed, for many creative individuals, these pleasures and the beautiful establishments that serve them form an integral part of the creative process.
Literature and bars truly go hand in hand, and some of Britain’s – if not the world’s – best pieces of literature have been conceived and honed at busy and bustling café and pub tables – here are some of the most famous
The Elephant House, Edinburgh
Located near the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh’s beautiful Old Town is The Elephant House, famous for being the café in which JK Rowling wrote the globally-lauded Harry Potter books. Warm, cosy and inviting, it’s easy to see where Rowling received inspiration for Hogsmeade’s Three Broomsticks Inn, although it’s not just wizardry that the café has inspired: Ian Rankin (author of the Inspector Rebus novels) and prolific author Alexander McCall-Smith are both also fans of The Elephant House.
The George Inn, London
Located near to the site of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, The George Inn dates back to the 16th century, and it’s widely acknowledged that the coaching inn was used by Shakespeare and Dickens. Creaky, beautiful, and harking back to a long-forgotten era, the inn is perfect for enjoying a pint, the winding corridors taking visitors back to the bard’s era.
Dylan Thomas Boathouse, Carmarthenshire
The home of famed Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, the Dylan Thomas Boathouse, overlooking the Taf estuary in Carmarthenshire, is the place where legendary works such as “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “And death shall have no dominion” were likely penned. While these days the poet’s actual abode is devoted to exhibitions, lovers of literature can enjoy a brew and take in similar sights to those Thomas was inspired by.
The Orchard Tea Garden, Cambridge
Many an acclaimed wordsmith has whiled away a sunny afternoon at The Orchard Tea garden in Cambridge. Over the years the Grantchester pavilion and outdoor seating area has welcomed the likes of Sylvia Plath, Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolf, to name but a few icons, and it’s easy to see why they came in their droves, enjoying the particularly pretty meadow-lined lawn.
The Oxford Bar, Edinburgh
Known to many as the chief stomping ground of Inspector Rebus – Ian Rankin’s gruff, rule-bending detective – The Ox, as it’s locally known, is a perfect place to sip on an ale and ruminate over a literary project. Rankin isn’t alone in enjoying the traditional, lively pub – dramatist and poet Sydney Goodsir Smith enjoyed spending time there during his life.
Zennor Chapel Cafe, Cornwall
Home to DH Lawrence – before he was railroaded out of the town by locals who feared the writer to be a spy – Zennor, a tiny village nestled on the Cornish coast, was one of the writer’s favourite locations, a place he perceived as having a more beautiful sea than the Mediterranean. If you take a trip to Zennor, make sure to take tea at the Zennor Chapel Café, a beautiful granite tearoom that’s perfect for spending an afternoon sat in the sun.
Pillars of Hercules, London
Existing in the same spot since 1730, Charles Dickens mentioned this enchanting Soho bar in his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. That’s not all; the wonderfully wooden interior has drawn in all sorts of contemporary writers – Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Clive James, to name but a few – who have been known to produce works at the bar’s laid-back tables.
If this selection of bars has got your creative juices flowing, then we suggest a visit to our Isles of Inspiration page where you can discover the beautiful British scenery that inspired some of the UK’s most influential artists, writers and musicians.