The precious Romanesque carvings at Lincoln Cathedral

John Ruskin once described Lincoln Cathedral as being “out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles.”  Sitting at the summit of the hill that Lincoln is built on, the cathedral occupies a commanding position over the surrounding area.  It’s easy to see why Ruskin held this wonderful building in such high esteem.

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Exploring the ancient churches and fortifications of the Lune Valley

Last summer, I visited a part of my native Lancashire that I’d never been to before – the Lune Valley.  It’s a beautiful part of the world which probably gets overlooked due to its proximity to the famous, dramatic landscapes of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.  The valley is probably most famous for Ruskin’s View, the stunning vista – immortalised by John Constable – that can be observed from Kirkby Lonsdale (just across the county border in Cumbria).  But the Lune Valley also has a fascinating, half-forgotten history, and is home to some wonderful old churches.

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Ruskin’s view

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The stunning “ship of the Fens” – Ely Cathedral

As I made my way north on the train from Cambridge to Ely, the Fens seemed to stretch out forever.  An entirely flat landscape of fields, waterways and even solar panels spread in all directions.  The Fens is an alien place to me; I grew up in Lancashire amongst hills, moors and valleys.  Until the Fens began to be drained from the 17th Century onwards, the little city of Ely was an island amid a vast watery landscape of rivers, peat beds and marshes.

Atop the highest hill in the Fens – a mere 26 metres above sea level – is a magnificent cathedral that dominates the landscape.

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Pepperpot towers, Gothic splendour and Parisian stained glass: exploring Southwell Minster

A few weeks ago, I was spending the weekend with old friends in Sheffield, and on the Saturday afternoon we drove out to Southwell, a pretty little town in Nottinghamshire.  I wasn’t sure what to expect – my friend had sold Southwell to me as a beautiful and interesting historic town, but I had no idea of the magnificent gem at the heart of Southwell – the Minster.

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St Bartholomew the Great: a Romanesque gem in the City

Nestled between pubs, restaurants and the hospital buildings of St Bart’s on West Smithfield is a Tudor gatehouse.  During the week office workers, hospital staff and the traders of nearby Smithfield Market hurry past this structure without giving it a second glance, but groups of people on guided tours usually stop outside this rather incongruous site.  The gatehouse marks the entrance to the City of London’s oldest parish church, St Bartholomew the Great, a rare survivor from the Great Fire, albeit much changed from its early years.

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