We awoke to a sunny start to the day and decided it was suitable for a quick foray into the countryside. One of the places that we hadn't visited for a while was Rivington, near Horwich.
A friend, who had visited recently, showed us some interesting photographs that he had taken of the area and so set off to make our own explorations. We later discovered that due to heritage funding the grounds of the estate were being improved.
We arrived and were fortunate enough to find parking although it was quite busy, The Sat Nav had taken us through the village and just before parking, we saw a small stream that looked interesting, so after crossing a small footbridge, we decided to explore that first,
Having not visited Rivington for a couple of years, we set off to investigate by heading up to the hill. The path was well trodden but there were some excellent hidden corners, small waterfalls and ruins of what had once been an impressive garden.
The climb was quite strenuous but well worth it for the views. Eventually, as we reached the top, we found the Japanese Terraced Gardens and rested here for a while. Not having a map, we missed the path to the very top but now that we have our bearings, we can return there and do that in future.
We proceeded along the path, looking for a way down. As we reached the seven Arch Bridge, we met another walker who told us which path to take.
Although the weather had been fine when we set off, dark clouds had started to appear and just as we made our way down to the Small Barn, we had a heavy downpour of rain. Fortunately, it didn't take us too long to reach a dry haven, (the cafe!) and we were able to sample some of the excellent food.
A really nice walk exploring the area and it's good to see the rejuvenation of the gardens and paths,
Some people are not keen on Facebook but I have met some interesting people through it and had a few opportunities for my paintings.
In this instance, Dave Hendry from the Westhoughton Art Group, contacted me to ask if I did demonstrations. It has been over twenty years since I did my one and only demo to Swinton Art Club and so it was something I had to think about.
As an artist I am quite happy to show my work but I tend to work in silence and go off into a trance -like stage at times, where I become unaware of things around me. Members of Salford Art Club, where I go, will testify. Only recently one lady had been trying to get my attention for five minutes, as apparently I had been kicking her chair!
In this case Dave said that it would be a paint along, where I painted in stages and members followed the work on their own painting. This suited me far better so I agreed to his proposal.
I sent out the photograph above, so that members could see the scene they were painting. I also took the watercolour study I had done of the scene.
I arrived early, as I wasn't sure of the traffic and had a lot to set up. I was met by Dave who had a chat with me about important things like break time with coffee and biscuits!
Dave had been the instigator of the group and had several roles to play in managing the group. Members started to arrive shortly afterwards.
It was a class with a wide range of ability; some had never used oil paints, let alone a palette knife that I would be using.
After a quick introduction, I started by slowly adding some light colours on the canvas. Members followed along. At each stage I would stop and have a walk around to help and talk to members. It was an interesting experience because each one approached the task differently. Some were a bit timid about applying paint thickly, particularly ones who were used to using watercolour. One member ran out of white half way through; others worked at different paces.
I had decided to miss the big tree out but some members added this. A range of final paintings resulted with each one reflecting the personality of the painter. I was really pleased with the end results; some of these are shown underneath. Some were unfinished but they took the photograph away to finish the work at home.
Hopefully, some of the members will continue to try out this technique and maybe some of them learnt something to take away with them. This was a really enjoyable day for me with a lovely group of people and I would like to wish them continued success in their painting.
As I packed away, a lady came up and said that she had really enjoyed learning a new technique and had learnt a lot, which was very gratifying. On a more lighthearted note, one man, as he left, said to me that he was going straight to the art shop to buy a big tube of white oil paint! Success!
Westhoughton Art group's Website is http://www.westhoughtonartgroup.com/blog/
We were all a bit apprehensive about how we might cope with oils..... a medium that few had used before, but you did a fab job of putting the group at ease and, by the end, I believe that you opened up the eyes of the members. We will be asking you to return next year if you're up for the challenge........and thank you for a interesting and entertaining session.
I must have done something right!!
Funchal centre was a shock in a way. We are used to going into town of an evening and there being lots of bars and most of these would be playing music.
There are bars but these tend to be quiet until you go inside and some do play music then. Most others are eating places and have an area to drink as well.
For anyone who likes football, and fortunately we do; most bars have several televisions showing different games. For those on a diet be aware; with every new drink you can get a bowl of nuts or crisps, which are often eaten without you realizing it.
One of the main evening entertainments is sitting in one of the restaurants and having a leisurely meal with wine and watching the world go by. Having eaten in the hotel, we did sit in a couple of bars in a quaint square, situated in the old town, for a drink and enjoyed the singers; buskers really with their guitar cases open for tips.
If you look at my sketch above, you will notice the leprechaun. I just wanted to make sure that you understood that I had not had too much to drink! It was a painting on the wall, honestly!
On one occasion we wandered into town and one of the squares had been set up for a fashion show. We didn't have tickets but as we asked around one of the designers was kind enough to give us two of his tickets.
This was a fascinating experience and a first for us. We were impressed with some of the designers work but a little flummoxed by the last one, until we decided that they were highlighting the jewellery. I have to admit, I couldn't see the men of Salford wearing the clothes on show.
Although most of the shops closed quite early, we did manage to buy a few souvenirs. We bought my father -in-law a bottle of a traditional rum drink called Poncho. Obviously I had to sample it first; it was sweet with lemon and very potent!
Funchal had a relaxed atmosphere and we felt safe wandering around the old town, down dark alley ways, discovering old buildings and churches.
On the last night we went for a walk to the Harbour to see the design centre built on top of a large rock outcrop. Although we did take our life in our hands getting there, as a local cycle group were riding up and down the road at quite a speed.
Having searched for a way in and nearly giving up, a couple arrived and we followed them and found the lift door on the harbour side. We went up in the lift and the outlook at the top was stunning. The design centre featured work by Nini Andrade Silva, who did interiors for hotels etc. These were stunning, but unfortunately there was a private function on and most of the centre was closed.
We were fortunate enough to catch the final sunset as it reflected off places on the other side of the bay. The houses lit up as it became darker and added to the effect.
We finished the night off with a drink at a local bar, overlooking the harbour, that had its own micro brewery. A fitting end to an excellent holiday on Madeira.
When we visit a new town we like to explore the local art scene and if possible visit the main gallery. We read in the guide book that the old fort housed a collection of modern art and set off to visit the exhibition.
The fort was at the far end of town on a headland and was an impressive building. On entering the building we had a look around and then asked the staff where the exhibition was. This was met with blank expressions. Eventually we found someone who understood and they explained it had been moved up the coast to another town. Unfortunately nobody seems to have publicized this and people were still coming to the fort.
At least we had the old town to explore. At the meeting in the hotel the rep had mentioned that the old town had been getting run down and people had not been going there. A group of artists had come together and decided to paint all the doors; this had happened and now the streets were alive again filled with cafes, restaurants and a variety of shops.
We had wandered around a different times during our two weeks and there was always a superb atmosphere and at every turn there was something new to see.
When we go on holiday we always try to bring back a piece of original art from the area. In this case we found a small shop run by artists that offered a range of classes and also had their artwork for sale. We purchased a wooded wall hanging made from found pieces that were made into a village scene.
On exploring further we found several small galleries and enjoyed seeing the range of work on show.
We loved the quote on the inside of the brightly covered door and on entering enjoyed a chat with a couple of the local artists who had studios there. They have an open competition and invited me to enter. A nice idea but costs would be a little prohibitive.
We also met another artist, Ricardo Jorge, working in his own gallery who went to college near Norwich in England. We particularly liked some of his landscape paintings and had an interesting talk with him about his time in England and his inspiration.
An enjoyable time spent exploring the art scene and maybe if we ever return we will travel up the coast to find the modern art gallery. If they have not moved it again without telling anybody!
After a brilliant tour of the west side of the island, we were looking forward to the tour of the East side. This did not start well. After being picked up by the minibus, we set off to pick up other passengers from other hotels. Unfortunately, when it came to the last pick up, the driver misread the name and took us to one twenty minutes further on. We then had to rush back to town to the correct hotel.
This meant we were late setting off and the early part of the day seemed a little rushed then. Plus tearing down the small roads did nothing for our constitution.
Our first stop was a Wicker Factory, reasonably interesting, but difficult to take home! How we were supposed to pack great big baskets in our luggage was something that was discussed at length by our fellow passengers?
Next, was another interesting viewpoint at Pico do Aneiro, where the views, looking over the island were spectacular. We were above the clouds, which was quite eerie and novel. It made us think of what it would be like to climb even higher viewpoints in other parts of Europe. Maybe one for the future.
We moved on and stopped for lunch at a pleasant restaurant before moving onto a walk at Ribeiro Frio. This was by the side of another Levada, which was also through a wooded area leading to another impressive viewpoint. It was a shame that it was quite cold and dark. After packing warm clothes for the previous trips and not needing them, we did not bring them this time and regretted it.
,After, descending into the village we set off for Santana. This was another place we were looking forward to; seeing the v shaped traditional houses. Although these have largely disappeared from the island because of their size. In the centre of Santana village, some examples are kept as a heritage site.
Again, we were a little rushed and the houses we got to see were new ones for tours and converted into shops. I did manage to find one still lived in but the rest were spread out and we didn't have time to find them.
Lastly, we drove to what was described as the only sandy beach on Madeira at Machico. An interesting place and we had a nice walk along the promenade. It was even nicer as the sun came out and finally the day became much warmer- thank goodness!
This trip was difficult to sum up. The start was not very good and during the trip we were rushed in places and even missed a couple of advertised stops. Also the cold did not help. Even with these problems; it was excellent value for money and enabled us to see more of the Island. I think after the success of the first tour, to the west side, our expectations were quite high and it was difficult for this tour to live up to them.
I would certainly recommend these tours but have warm clothes with you if you are going into the mountains.
Although organised tours can be worthwhile sometimes off the cuff days can be special and this was one of those days.
One of the things that intrigued us about Madeira was the Toboggan sled rides. Unfortunately, one of the problems with going on these, is that they are at the top of the mountain and it is often covered by clouds. For the first few days this was the case but on this day we woke to a clear sky so set off on our adventure, although I hadn't told Sue yet.
You can walk to the top but we decided to take the cable car as this was a lot easier. The views were impressive and the houses clinging to the cliff sides even more so. Not a place to sleep walk in the night!
On arriving at the top we had a lunch in a small cafe overlooking the view and then set off to explore. The first place we arrived at was the Jardim Tropical Monte Palace.
Our rep in the Hotel had told us the queues were longer earlier in the day for the Toboggan rides, particularly if a cruise ship was in, so we had time to spare.
We had heard of the garden and decided to explore. This proved to be a good choice as it was a fascinating place where we spent about three hours. We slowly walked down the hillside wandering through the sculptures and pathways finding interesting views and features at every turn. Although tropical, a lot of the sculptures etc. had a Chinese theme, which surprised us at first. Eventually it opened out to a stunning view of the house and lakes. I wanted to sketch this but people commandeered the best places to sit and it was too hot in the sun.
Eventually we found a sheltered spot where I drew a pond with a small bridge. Just as I finished a couple came and sat in front of me.
Next we moved around to the other side of the small lake where I sketched the tower building,
As we made our way back up the hill this had been a superb afternoon and really enjoyable.
After leaving the garden we made our way to the toboggans. As it was late afternoon there were no queues and we were soon on our way. This was an exhilarating experience and not to be missed.
The ride finished half way down the hill. We were told by our rep in the hotel that the walk down to town was quite manageable and not to take a taxi. What she didn't mention was how steep it was and the fact you had to dodge cars coming down the narrow road. Our knees suffered but we made it to the bottom.
An unplanned day and one we will always remember.
Although our hotel was just out of city centre, it was ideally situated for a walk away from town towards the other hotels and Lidos along the coast.
Here there were more of the larger hotels and concrete lidos, where you could spend the day sunbathing and swimming. There are not a lot of beaches and these are ideal for people who just want to relax in the sun with every convenience on hand. The one I sketched was typical of these.
Further along the road you came to the new shopping centre, the Forum Madeira, where more high street retailers are found. This was a nice change to be able to walk around out of the heat. The roof garden was excellent but under used. I felt a bit sorry for the man who sat up there all day with a hawk; probably to frighten off pigeons etc.
Another organised tour was to the Nun's Valley. This is a small village situated in the crater of an extinct volcano, which has kept its 16th-century Santa Clara Convent; where the nuns used to hide from pirates who were attacking Funchal.
The trip started at a stunning viewpoint, where we could look down on the small village. In the first picture you can see the original road used by villagers. A winding treacherous way clinging to the cliff side.
Having said that the new road is still very narrow in places and as we sat having a drink, at the viewpoint, we watched two coaches trying to pass at a narrow section. This was like two stags fighting with one advancing and then retreating, then the other doing the same. This went on for about twenty minutes before one gave in and reversed so the other could pass. Drivers pride was at stake I think.
One of our hobbies is Geocaching, where we look for hidden caches. On our travels we try to find one at every stop. As we looked at the viewpoint, we found the hiding place, which was a deep hollow in the rock side. As we considered putting our hand inside, another man code name 'Peter Pan' without even thinking about it, reached in to retrieve the treasure. Much braver than us, so an apt name. After chatting he told us this was his 499th find.
After the road was clear we descended the valley to the village. This was quaint but a little disappointing. Maybe because we didn't have long to explore it. Again we decided to look for a Geocache, which was at the local Fire station. As we rooted around a fireman came out and gave us a hint. As we opened the log we realised 'Peter Pan' had achieved his aim of collecting his 500th cache. So congratulations to him, but we will get there one day.
Two interesting trips; one organised and one where we just explored the area. Both chances to see different parts of the island.
Just a quick blog today.
I find the idea of sketching sunbathers an excellent topic as they tend to stay still, which is an advantage for an artist.
The first pictures shows a couple we met on the trip to the west coast and enjoyed their company.
The second picture is a general picture around the pool.
Finally i looked up from sunbathing and the pool was empty, but all at once a group entered and stood at the deep end. This appeared to be because it was coming to the time for the evening meal and I wondered if they were just cooling off before going to get ready.
Because of the angle I was at I could only see their heads and it looked like seals or as Sue said just bobbing heads. It seemed quite surreal and I just had to capture the scene. Maybe it was too much sun influencing my vision.
I used to do a lot of these studies in the past and some of the paintings from these are in the Holidays page of this website.
After several years of holidays abroad, we have realised that we are no longer sunbathers. We can no longer lie for hours and all to soon we become restless. As well as that, we are not ones for returning to a place we have visited before so we like to explore n different countries whilst we can.
Like many holiday makers we attended the holiday Rep's presentation. This is mainly to find out information and if reasonable; plan trips. We had done research and talked to close friends who had visited the Island, and because of this we had an idea of what we wanted to do.
On arrival the hotel receptionist had given us a leaflet of trips recommended by them. The best package included two full days and one half day tours. At the meeting these same trips were offered at three times the price.
We have done trips with various companies including one on which we were the only English speaking couple. This was not ideal. The guide would spend ten minutes describing something and then in English say something like "We are passing some ruins".
In this instance we went with the Hotel's tours, as the Rep's were a little on the expensive side for the same tour.
The first one covered the West side of the Island. After being collected at the hotel the minibus took us to the next harbour at Camara de Lobos, a quaint harbour with small streets covered with decorations. This was my first sketch showing the white houses and boats.
Next a stop at Cabo Girao a glass bottomed sky-walk. We had been on these before so knew what to expect and the views were certainly worth it.
After that it was on to Ponto do Sol for a coffee break and a walk around the town where we were impressed with the church.
Then to something we had heard a lot about a walk along a Levada; on of the many walks along the paths by the side of the irrigation channel. A nice walk above the clouds, although this one was dry because they were building a new reservoir nearby. A note to myself, 'Wear long trousers next time because of the thorns'
Next, we stopped for an included lunch at Porto Moniz, famous for it's rock pools. Unfortunately, we didn't have costumes with us as these were very inviting on a hot day.
Another stop at Veu da Noiva, allowed us to see the old road around a headland, where at one time you drove under a waterfall and as the driver pointed out this saved him washing the van afterwards! This road was no longer safe for coaches and had been replaced by one of the many tunnels through the mountains that have been constructed.
After another short stop, at a small village, where we saw another highly decorative church interior, there was a steep climb to the viewpoint at Encumeada. From here you could see impressive views of both sides of the Island.
So was it worth paying only a third of the price for the trip. On the down side the air conditioning wasn't perfect but apart from that there were no complaints. We went to the same places, parking was easier and the local driver knew shortcuts where large coaches couldn't go. We also met a lovely couple from Belgium and sat with them for lunch.
A highly recommended trip and a good start to our exploration of the Island.