Monday, September 19, 2016

RNLB WINDSOR RUNNER - CIVIL SERVICE NO.42 [A VISIT TO THE TITANIC QUARTER IN BELFAST]

This is a “relief lifeboat” and I have no idea what that actually means.

The Trent-class lifeboat is an all-weather lifeboat operated by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) from 30 stations around the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland to provide coverage up to 50 miles (80 km) out to sea. Introduced to service in 1994, the class is named after the River Trent, the second longest river wholly in England.

Windsor Runner (Civil Service No 42) was so named to commemorate the fundraising success of the twelve half marathon races held at Windsor Great Park each year up to 1995. This Trent-class lifeboat was stationed at Blyth, Northumberland, and went into service on 1 December 1995. She was purchased at a cost to The Fund of £693,698.

This boat was originally based at Blyth Lifeboat Station.

A lifeboat had first been based at Blyth in 1808, privately sponsored by Sir Matthew Ridley. This boat was wrecked on service in 1810 and was not replaced. In 1826 the Port of Newcastle Shipwreck Association funded a new Blyth lifeboat and in 1866 the RNLI took over the running of the station. In 1920, for the station's first motor lifeboat, the RNLI built a new boathouse and slipway which, with modifications over the years, is still in use for the "D" class inflatable today. The various motor lifeboats over the years were slipway launched until October 1982 when a Waveney-class fast afloat boat was allocated to the station. The Waveney served until replaced by a new 25knot Trent-class boat in December 1995 (in fact, unusually, all of Blyth's motor lifeboats had been built new for the station). However, a review of lifeboat provision in the North East led to the decision to withdraw the all-weather lifeboat from Blyth, and the station became inshore only on July 16, 2004. Inevitably, decisions to close or downgrade stations often lead to local concerns and following the RNLI's decision the Blyth Volunteer Lifeboat Service was set up and purchased a 38-foot-6-inch Lochin lifeboat which had been built in 1990 for the Caister Volunteer Rescue Service (a body similarly set up after withdrawal of an RNLI all-weather boat). The boat, named Spirit of Blyth and Wansbeck, went into service in 2005.

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LAGAN RAILWAY PLUS PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE IN BELFAST [TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE]

The railway bridge across the Lagan dates from the rebuilding of the Belfast Central line in 1974/76.

It replaced the old structure which was known locally as the “Shaky Bridge”. The older bridge was in use from 1884 to 1965 when the line was closed to accommodate the widened of Middlepath Street.

The current railway bridge carries trains to Derry, Larne and Bangor [correct me if I am wrong about this].

The footbridge is on the downstream side of the railway and it connects both sides of the Laganside Walkway.

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

THE BIG FISH NEAR THE LAGAN WEIR IN BELFAST [BY JOHN KINDNESS]

The Big Fish also called the Bigfish is a printed ceramic mosaic sculpture by artist John Kindness. 10 metres long and constructed in 1999 it is located at Donegall Quay in Belfast, near the Lagan Lookout and Custom House. The outer skin of the fish is a cladding of ceramic tiles decorated with texts and images relating to the history of Belfast. Material from Tudor times to present day newspaper headlines are included along with contributions from Belfast school children. The Big Fish also contains a time capsule storing information/images/poetry relating to the City.
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Saturday, September 17, 2016

THE WATERFRONT HALL IN BELFAST [WITH NEW EXTENSION]

OK, I must admit that I had failed to notice that this building had been extended until I returned home from Belfast.

Robinson McIlwaine designed the original building but lost out to Todd Architects for a £29.5 extension. According to many in Belfast the extension - which has already attracted local nicknames such as the Box on the Docks and the Sore on the Shore [I am sure that there are some rude names] - is an ugly addition to the Belfast skyline.

Belfast Waterfront is a multi-purpose conference and entertainment centre, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, designed by local architects' firm Robinson McIlwaine. The hall is located in Lanyon Place, the flagship development of the Laganside Corporation.

The development is named after the architect Charles Lanyon. Planning for the building began 1989, with the hall being completed in 1997 for the sum of £32 million. The main circular Auditorium seats 2,241 and is based on the Berlin Philharmonic Hall designed by Hans Scharoun. However the flexible design of the Auditorium allows the stalls seating to be moved to create a larger arena.

The smaller adjoining Studio seats 380. The dome of the building is coated in copper. This is so the exterior will eventually turn green and reflect the dome of Belfast City Hall and other Victorian buildings in the city centre. The building also contains bars and a restaurant.
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ORIGINAL - BEFORE EXTENSION WAS ADDED: The Waterfront Hall Belfast

The New £5m Lagan Weir Footbridge In Belfast City [I Like It]

The new Lagan Weir Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge was officially opened on 30 June 2015. It was still under construction when I visited the city in 2015 but this year I got the opportunity to use and photograph it. I must admit that I was impressed.

The footbridge connects Donegal Quay with Queen’s Quay, replacing the rather unattractive old footbridge.

The new structure consists of structural steel, enveloped in aluminium cladding with a glass parapet on the east elevation and a stainless steel post and wire system on the west parapet.

The Lagan Weir, completed in 1994, at a cost of £14m, is located across the Lagan between the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and the M3 bridge (completed around the same time) in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Lagan Weir was jointly funded by the Corporation and the European Commission. It was constructed by Charles Brand Ltd and designed by Ferguson and McIlveen.

The weir is a series of massive steel barriers which are raised as the tide retreats to keep the river at an artificially constant level. This improvement to the sewerage system combined with massive dredging of the river by mechanical excavators, and installation of an underwater aeration system, has led to a marked improvement in water quality and the environment around the river.

Lagan Weir, dredging and aeration have increased water quality in the river and salmon is returning. An otter and seals have followed the fish that now move up river to spawn in what was once an aquatic death trap. The objective of the structure is to keep the level of the river artificially constant, as it is a tidal river the level of the water varied by up to three metres between high and low tide. This exposed mudflats which were unsightly and emitted a strong odour, particularly in the summer months.

The transformation of the riverside by the construction of the weir has been a catalyst for development along the riverside. Another part of the project is the “Lagan Lookout” centre which explains the history and function of the weir as well as the history of the Lagan itself.
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THE OLD FOOTBRIDGE: The Lagan Weir, completed in 1994, at a cost of £14m The Lagan Weir, completed in 1994, at a cost of £14m The Lagan Weir, completed in 1994, at a cost of £14m

BELFAST BIKE DOCKING STATION AND OLD STYLE RED PHONE KIOSK [URBAN DECAY - NORTH STREET BELFAST]

This phone kiosk is an example of a 1936 K6 'Jubilee Box' and it is listed. 

This bike docking station is on North Street [across the road from Blinkers]. Maybe someone might be able to explain why there are so many weeds and grass growing between the footpath bricks.

The phone kiosk is not in the best of condition either. Lower North Street which has been described as “the street that time passed by”. It was external to the security barriers during the bombing campaign and as such it was avoided by shopkeepers and customers alike. It has never recovered especially following destruction and neglect of the North Street Arcade by fire.

Coca-Cola Zero Belfast Bikes, commonly referred to as Belfast Bikes, is a public bicycle rental scheme which has operated in the city of Belfast since April 2015. At its launch, the scheme, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola HBC, used 300 Unisex bicycles with 30 stations The Department for Regional Development (DRD) is providing initial capital funding for the scheme as part of their Active Travel Demonstration Projects budget.

NSL is looking after the daily operation of the scheme, while Nextbike is responsible for the bikes. Initially there will be 30 docking stations and in the future it is hoped the scheme will be expanded beyond the city centre boundary. Options for expansion will depend on securing additional resources and council approval.


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North Street Arcade, a listed building from the 1930s in the traditional Art Deco style, burned down in what many people believe were suspicious circumstances in 2003: This Is Really Sad - North Street Arcade, Cathedral Quarter (Destroyed By Fire)

RAMADA ENCORE HOTEL [ST. ANNES SQUARE AREA OF BELFAST]

I cannot believe that it is now necessary to book hotel rooms up to a year in advance in order to get acceptable prices and this is especially true when it involves a visit to Belfast.

At the end on my visit in June of this year I had decided that it would make more sense to make a number of short trips rather than staying overnight in Belfast but having given the matter a lot of thought I decided that it would be best to spend at least two nights in the city.

I am also currently considering the possibility of getting a train from Belfast to Derry but I have to think about it a bit more as some of my contacts advise against this idea because the train service is not good.

 My experience of staying in hotels in Belfast has been less than good. In general the hotels in or near the city centre are overpriced and somewhat lacking when it comes to service. After trying about ten different hotels, including the Europa, since 2001 I have decided that the Ramada Encore suits me best but it can be very expensive depending on the time of the year and the days of the week so the dates available are limited.

I do not like IBIS or ETAP hotels but I have been advised that the IBIS near Queens University is excellent but when I checked I discovered that they are looking for Euro 198 for two nights [early June 2017].

In the case of the Ramada  I checked the price for a single room for two nights [26-27 September] and the price is Euro 287. Two days later the same room costs Euro 380 and on other dates it can be as high as Euro 500. As a comparison the George Boutique in Limerick is available at Euro 126 for two nights early in the week and Euro 220 late in the same week. The George is, in my opinion, a much better experience than any of the hotels in Belfast.

 Because it suits my basic requirements I actually like the Ramada and the location could not be better. I stayed there in July 2016 and a two night stay only cost me Euro 110 [Euro 118 late May 2015]. I have booked two nights at the end of May 2017 at Euro 162 which is a big increase considering that Sterling has dropped in value by about 10%. The best price that I could get in early July is Euro 446 for two nights through booking.com [Euro 580 through expedia.ie].

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TRANSPORT HOUSE IN BELFAST [THE UGLY HOARDING HAS EVENTUALLY BEEN REPLACED BUT ON THE CHEAP]

For many years the building as been surrounded by very unattractive hoarding but recently the Unite Union agreed to carry out works to remove the awful hoarding and to replace it with a high quality mural in keeping with the building. Unfortunately what I thought was high quality tile-work is nothing more than a painting on wooden hoarding. I must admit that they had me fooled.

While I am not from Belfast but the way this building is being neglected really annoys me.

I get the impression that many people consider this building to are nothing more than an ‘eyesore’ and that’s a pity. Take my advice and see it before it is gone forever.

I have visited this location a number of times over a five year period in order to see Transport House rather than the Albert Memorial Clock because it is much more interesting. If I want to see a Clock Tower there are many to be seen throughout Europe but of course not all of them lean. Built in 1959, in the International Style Transport House became the focal hub of the trade union movement in Northern Ireland.

When it was listed Transport House became the youngest listed building in Belfast. Originally designed as headquarters for the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union it was eventually taken over by Unite. It is believed that the architect, J. J. Brennan, was inspired by Michael Scott’s International Style ‘Bus├íras’ bus terminal in Dublin. The building is mainly clad in green tiles with a large mosaic to the front of the structure but unfortunately it is now derelict and in very poor condition.
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