The Coastal Path in Norway – Vigelandsparken Part I: The Bridge

Norway!  What a country!  We flew into Oslo’s Gardermoen International Airport.  We got the quick, clean FlyToget train into the city.  From there we walked over to our hotel in a blistering 30 degree heat, wondering if we were in the right country.  We dumped our bags, walked back to the station and got a T-bane straight over to Vigelandsparken.

VigelandGustav Vigeland (1869-1943) is Norway’s most famous sculptor.  Born to a farming family in the south of the country, he apprenticed in Norway, before training further in Copenhagen, Paris and Italy.  The Vigelandsparken in Frognerparken lies to the northwest of the City Centre.  It contains a massive display of his work – 212 pieces in total along an 850 metre axis.  Its central theme is the circle of life.

Immediately upon walking through the park gates, a monolith in the distance beckons you, but there is a lot to see on the way.  The first section of the display is the Bridge, lined on both sides with bronze sculptures.  The figures are of men, women and children of all ages.

The BridgeI identified with a lot of the sculptures.  As a father of twins I certainly identified with this one:

Bridge SculptureAnd at times I have most certainly felt like this:

Bridge SculptureI wasn’t the only one who identified with the sculptures here.  Deb most certainly identified with her doppelgänger.

Bridge Sculpture Deb PosingOh let me try that!

Bridge Sculpture Nic PosingHmmmmmm.  And  there I was thinking my body would look exactly like his…

“Hey kids, your turn!” we yelled, but they were nowhere to be seen.  They had stormed off in embarrassment, disowning us.  The Vigelandsparken is one of the top tourist attractions in the entire country, after all.  There are a lot of people to witness the excruciatingly painful antics of your parents and our kids wanted none of it.

“Oh come on, Ben,” I said, “try this one”.

Angry BoyOf course, there was no way Ben was going to try any of the poses, and particularly not this one.  This was Sinnataggen (the Little Hot-Head or the Angry Boy), supposedly modelled on a child Vigeland had seen in London.  It is one of the most popular sculptures in the park and there were a lot of people admiring it.  In fact we struggled to get close.  We went off instead to admire some of the others.  The depth of feeling in some of those faces was beautiful.

The Bridge MosaicWhen on the Bridge it is not just the sculptures you want to look at.  Wander down to the river below else you might miss the waterfall.

Bridge and WaterfallHave a sit down.  Leave the throngs of tourists on the bridge and take some time out.  Nobody seems to come down here (even in the 30 degree heat).

Gardens by BridgeWe sat down and rested for a while before heading on to the next stage of Vigeland’s passage of life.

The Bridge (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • The Bridge:  N 59° 55.560 E 010° 42.235

The Coastal Path in London – The Shard

Although walking the coast of Britain is our primary objective, we also have a side mission – to go to the top of every one of the World Federation of Great Towers.  There are 45 of them.  If we really are going to get to the top of all of them (which I’m sure we won’t) we will have to travel to every continent in the world and visit places we would never normally go to.  That, of course, is the main reason for doing it in the first place.

We have been up the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.  It was accommodating enough to stand right on our Coastal Path.  We have gone half way up the Eiffel Tower (meaning we’ve got to go back to do it properly).  We have been up Berlin’s Fernsehturm.

But there was one tower which was much closer to home which we had not yet been up – The Shard in London.  Completed in 2012 and standing at 310 metres (1,016 feet) The Shard is (at the time of publication, at least) the tallest building in Western Europe.  You need a wide-angle lens to get it to fit in a photo.  It dwarfs all other buildings.

The ShardIt is worth walking away from it and then walking around it – there are some impressive views to be had.

The ShardThe Shard is so tall that you have to get two lifts up.  The first stops half way up the tower.  You have to get out and cross over to another one in order to get to the very top.  I’m sure this is a gimmick – a deliberate travelling disadvantage.  “It’s so tall you have to get two lifts up!” is what they want you to say.  And of course it works, because that’s exactly what I did say at the beginning of this paragraph.

But what we really came for were the views.  Were they any good?  We’d been on the London Eye on a couple of occasions and enjoyed the views from that.  Oh look!  There’s the Eye – down there!

London EyeAnd look!  There’s the Walkie Talkie!  This is something on an infamous building in the UK.  Whether or not its infamy is known outside of the UK I don’t know, but this building has literally melted cars!

Walkie TalkieIn 2013 poor old Martin Lindsay parked his Jaguar in the City of London.  Two hours later he arrived to find that parts of it had melted.  Was it vandals?  No!  It was the sun reflecting of the glass exterior of the Walkie Talkie!  The developers had to pay Martin Lindsay for the cost of the repairs.

The glass exterior curves inwards and downwards, channeling the sunlight into a heat ray that every schoolboy with a magnifying glass can only dream about.  Do you see the black sheet over the building in the picture?  That’s a permanently fitted sunshade to stop anymore damage to the nice shiny cars of the people of London!

Most of London’s iconic buildings could be seen from The Shard.  We saw the Tower of London…

Tower of London…and next to it was Tower Bridge.

Tower BridgeOver in the distance was the Thames Barrier (which keeps us Londoners dry).  Can you see it?  Its those strange humpy things sticking out of the Thames.

The Thames BarrierEven the viewing gallery had a viewing gallery!

Viewing GalleryThere is one feature I like to see on any tall tower.  It is the cherry on top, so to speak.  It has to have an open-air deck.  If you are going to go up a tower you want to feel the chill air and cold breeze at the top.  I was pleased to see that The Shard has one.

Open Air DeckThe Shard is expensive.  Have no doubt about it.  For a family of four it cost £87.90.  That’s a huge amount compared to other tower experiences.  Even so, The Shard was packed and we enjoyed our visit.

Four Great Towers of the World Federation down (well OK, three-and-a-half)!  Only 41 to go (well OK, forty-one-and-a-half)!  Next stop Žižkov Tower I hope!


The Shard (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • The Shard:  N 51° 30.270 W 000° 05.190

The Coastal Path in Scotland – Dalmore and the Cromarty Firth

On Day 2 of our Scotland trip we visited Dalmore Distillery.  Dalmore sits on the north bank of the Cromarty Firth.  This is a picturesque setting, as we saw when we took a wander up the pier after our tour.

Dalmore DistilleryAs we strolled along the shoreline we disturbed an oystercatcher.  It circled around us, shrieking warnings at us.  We moved back inland and after that the bird dropped down to a point on the shore, out of site.  Clearly we had been too close to its nest.

OystercatcherThe Cromarty Firth is well known for its oil rigs.  At the entrance to the firth is a dry dock which is used for the repair of oil platforms.  From our jetty we got some great views up the firth towards the maintenance work.

Oil Rigs on Cromarty Firth

One day, if we’re lucky, we’ll be walking right by those rigs.  But that’s a good 4,000 miles away yet…

Points on this walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Dalmore Distillery:  N 57° 41.315 W 004° 14.340
  • Dalmore Jetty:  N 57° 40.806 W 004° 14.288
  • Oil Rigs at the Mouth of the Cromarty Firth:  N 57° 41.750 W 004° 01.600

The Coastal Path in Scotland – Dornoch

In June of 2014 I was back up in Scotland for a meeting with my friend Campbell.  Whenever we are in Scotland we try to visit some distilleries and we also try to fit in a walk along the coast.  If at all possible, Campbell tries to time our walks for when the weather is moving in, and also for when I have left my waterproofs back at the hotel.  In the past he has done this with amazing success.

This time we stayed in Dornoch and I was determined not to let my trouser pockets fill up with raindrops again.  So when I left my waterproofs in the hotel room this time I made sure I did it when the weather wasn’t moving in.  But this was Scotland.  The weather is always moving in.  Oh dear!

We walked out of the town centre and through the Royal Dornoch Golf Club to get to the coast.

Royal Dornoch Golf ClubBeyond the golf club we hit the beach at exactly the right time.  The sun still shone on the sands, but in the distance the clouds were rolling in, and on the horizon we could see a bank of rain.  Campbell almost melted in anticipation as I yearned for the waterproofs I’d left in my room.

Dornoch BeachDornoch is Gaelic for “Pebbly Place”.  We found rocks here today, but no pebbles.

Campbell on Dornoch BeachRather, the pebbleless flat sands stretched away into the distance.  All the better to draw my eye up to the rain clouds on the horizon which were making their way over.

IMG_7402One thing we did find on the sands were the husks of sea potatoes, a type of urchin.  More than a few of them had starfish hiding inside.  What was going on here we had no idea.  All we knew was that when the rain started to fall (and fall it did) the starfish had sea potatoes to hide under but we did not.

Starfish in Sea PotatoThe rain droplets were plump and heavy, but not too aggressive at this stage.  We got a bit wet but this was not a drenching, at least not yet.  Still, there was more to come and it was bringing heavier rain with it – look!

Rain Coming InWe decided to turn around and head back.  As we reached the outskirts of Dornoch something caught our eye.  It was a stone, dated 1722.  This stone marks the exact site of the last recorded burning of a witch in the British Isles (although not the exact date, for the date on the stone is wrong.  The burning actually took place in 1727).  The poor woman in question was Janet Horne.  Once a lady’s maid, by 1727 she was old and exhibiting signs of what today would be accepted as dementia.  She lived with her daughter who had deformed hands and feet.  Presumably it was these deformities which gave her neighbour the idea of accusing Janet Horne of allowing the Devil to shod her daughter so he could use her as his pony.

Both mother and daughter were arrested, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be burned at the stake the next day.  The daughter managed to escape, but Janet Horne was not so lucky.  She was stripped, smeared in tar, and paraded through the town.  When she arrived at her place of execution she reportedly smiled and warmed herself by the fire, oblivious to the fact that this was the same fire which would shortly consume her.

Poor old Janet Horne.  Her place of execution is now steeped in domesticity.  It lies in the garden of a house.  The owners hang their washing next to it.

Janet Horne's StoneWe gave poor Janet Horne a thought and wondered what happened to her daughter.  Then we returned to our hotel, the Dornoch Castle.

A most impressive hotel, we spent our evening at the bar where we sampled some incredible whiskys.  For any whisky lovers, Dornoch Castle is a must-do.  The owners are incredibly friendly and spent a good couple of hours with us stood in front of their bar.  I won’t tell you how much the most expensive dram of the evening was, for like some whiskys it would make your eyes water.  What I will say is that it was a 1960’s Bunnahabhain and it was worth every penny.

Dornoch is a beautiful place.  I hope to return one day.

Dornoch Castle

Points on this walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Dornoch Beach:  N 57° 53.111 W 004° 00.750
  • Janet Horne’s Execution Place:  N 57° 52.608 W 004° 01.440 
  • Dornoch Castle:  N 57° 52.785 W 004° 01.785

Walk Statistics:

73 – Bournemouth

It was a short walk today.

We zipped up Bournemouth Pier.

We looked east.

View East from Bournemouth PierAnd then we looked west.

View West from Bournemouth PierWe zipped back down the pier.

I stopped to take a picture of a strange ball bearing-like thing which sat on a roof.

Strange Giant Ball BearingAnd that was largely it.  As we reached Alum Chine Deb said she could go no further.  Her back was twinging.  About 10 years before she had prolapsed three disks and spent several months in and out of hospital.  We knew now to be very careful and called today’s proceedings to a halt.  We didn’t know it at the time, but our walking for this summer was pretty much at an end.  Deb had a prolapse relapse several days later.  She managed to stay out of hospital but couldn’t do much for a couple of months.  Even when she was able to walk distances again we decided to spend the rest of the summer strengthening her back rather than pushing on.

As I walked back to get the car there were powerboats racing up and down the seafront.  It looked more fun out there than where we were right now, I thought.


Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Bournemouth Pier:  N 50° 42.863 W 001° 52.490
  • Alum Chine:  N 50° 42.680 W 001° 53.752

Walk #73 Statistics:

72c – Boscombe to Bournemouth

When we left Boscombe Pier, one of our party showed us that walking wasn’t strenuous enough for all of his pent-up energy.

Pull-Up BenThe walk from Boscombe Pier to Bournemouth Pier is just under 1½ miles.  My brothers (bonkers, both of them) have swum it.  As for us, we walked over – but instead of venturing up the pier we ricocheted off it and headed into the gardens.

Bournemouth GardensThe Gardens were very picturesque, but we weren’t here to see them.  We were here to see this:

Bournemouth BalloonThe Bournemouth Balloon (also known as the Bournemouth Eye) is a helium balloon, tethered to the Lower Gardens.  Tickets can be bought for flights to approximately 500 feet, giving panoramic views of Bournemouth and the coast.  What was not to like?  We bought our tickets and headed off for our flight.

Bournemouth BalloonWhen we boarded we found out that the balloon basket was not at all big.  It might have looked it from a distance, but it was actually doughnut-shaped, with a hole in the middle.  The tethering rope ran down through this hole, into a fixing point and winch which had been dug into the ground.

Bournemouth Balloon Tether PointThe doughnut-shaped basket was narrow, to say the least.  It was a cage one person wide.  If you wanted to move around it, the other passengers had to move round with you!

Lift OffThe views towards the Bournemouth seafront and pier were good…

The View From the Balloon…but I confess to being a little disappointed with the other views.  I couldn’t really see Poole – there was just a little bit too much in the way.

The View to Poole From the BalloonHmmm.  Perhaps we would get better views of our Coastal Path from the pier?  But that was for another day.  We were only doing a short walk today.  We left the balloon and caught a land train back to Boscombe.


Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Bournemouth Balloon:  N 50° 43.163 W 001° 52.719

Walk #72 Statistics (of which this post forms the final part):

72b – Boscombe Part II

The boards of Boscombe Pier made for comfortable walking.  I could not really put my finger on why exactly, but piers are made for walking on and I enjoyed walking on Boscombe Pier.  And whilst it is true to say that most piers are symmetrical in shape, I especially enjoyed the symmetry of this pier.

Boscombe PierThe central shelter of Boscombe Pier is lined with information boards describing the history of the area.  There is an interesting story about a whale.

In 1897 a whale strayed too close to the shore and was run over by a steamer.  The whale suffered a broken back, died, and was washed up on Boscombe beach.  It was 70 feet long, weighed over 40 tonnes, and came to present a bit of a problem to the authorities.  At first, it drew excited crowds.  Schoolmasters brought their classes down to give lectures.  Later, in the evening, the children would come back to climb over its carcass and use its slippery skin as a slide.  Their parents must have dispaired at the smell of them when they got back home.

IMG_7131 croppedThe whale was annexed by the Coastguard on behalf of Her Majesty’s Receiver of Wrecks (even today, any whale washed ashore is deemed the property of the Crown).  The Coastguard decided the best thing to do was auction it off.  Three days later a crowd of 500 people turned up to see it sold to a Dr Spencer Simpson for £27.  Dr Simpson declared he was going to strip the whale of its flesh, boil the skeleton and turn a profit by putting it on display and giving lectures.  He wrote a cheque out, duly addressed to the Queen, and got started.

15a - Boscobmbe Whale Information Board croppedStripping a whale of its flesh and boiling its skeleton is no small undertaking (I once found a sheep skull in the hills of Ingleborough, took it home and boiled it clean, so I have a small notion of the amount of work involved).  Anyway, Dr Spencer also discovered it was quite a lot of work, and he had a whole whale to deal with.  He enlisted local workmen to assist him.  In the meantime, whilst the carcass proved to be a popular tourist attraction, it slowly began to decompose.  One man travelled all the way from Somerset to see it.  He walked around it and then climbed on top of it.  Asked what he was going to do by climbing on top, he replied, “Do?  I’ve come forty mile to see this ‘ere whale, and I’m going to walk on him from his head to his tail”.  This he tried to do, but he sunk into the decaying flesh and had to be pulled out by onlookers.  I wonder if he got a change of clothes before travelling the forty miles back home?

As the whale decayed it also began to smell.  Worse and worse the stench became as the carcass slowly seeped and sank into the sand.  The workmen sprayed it with disinfectant, but the Council lost patience at such a large and insanitary pile of rotting flesh (Boscombe’s origins were a spa town, you must remember).  The Council sent their chief sanitary inspector out with men and carts so as to remove the body.  They were met by Dr Simpson who also had the backing of the coastguard, and so the chief sanitary inspector with his men and carts had to leave again.  Not to be deterred, the chief sanitary inspector returned five days later with more men and bigger carts.  A fight broke out, and Dr Simpson drew a sword-stick, threatening to run the chief sanitary inspector through with it!  He was promptly arrested and charged with assault!

The whale was dismantled and most of the blubber dumped off Brownsea Island.  Dr Simpson managed to get some of it to Poole where he intended to auction it off.  This auction was not a success; Dr Simpson spent £135 transporting it only to find that nobody turned up to bid.  Eventually, after 45 minutes, some curious seafarers arrived, and a short while later the blubber was sold for five shillings.

As for the skeleton, it was eventually displayed on the pier.  It lasted until 1904 when it was dismantled; it is now lost in the swirling, stinking mists of time.

Boscobmbe Whale Information Board croppedMy sheep skull, on the other hand, sits on my mantlepiece to this day and gazes at me unblinkingly as I write my blog posts, smiling at me with its toothy grin.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Boscombe Pier:  N 50° 43.130 W 001° 50.580

Walk #72 Statistics (of which this post forms the second part):


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