Category Archives: Wakefield

The old boat house


Croc was still recovering from his brief encounter with the English wildlife. He didn’t feel as confident as he did before he had seen the swan and there had been no more leaning out of the pocket. Instead Croc had taken to peaking with one beady eye while using Bertie and a wad of tissues he’d found in the pocket as support.

In complete comparison, Bertie was in his element. He was reliving the past and so many happy and pleasant memories were coming back to him like ghosts being awoken by the sights, sounds and smells he was experiencing.

Bertie could remember listening to the story of how Newmillerdam got it’s name. The village was originally called Thurstonhaigh, but got its current name when a grain mill powered by water from the dammed lake was built, changing the name to ‘New mill on the dam”.

Bertie was in a wave of memories when he suddenly squealed and grabbed a rather startled Croc. “Look, look, look!” shouted Bertie waving his paw in the direction of the outside world. A rather shocked Croc attempted to sink back into the warm, dark pocket thinking if he kept getting shocks like this he would age beyond his crocodile years, but Bertie was having none of it this time. He gave a big tug on Crocs tail as he was trying to make his escape and they were both catapulted into the daylight, much to Croc’s dismay. As their eyes became adjusted to the light Bertie was elated to find they had been placed on a log together over looking the 1820’s Boat House he had been getting so excited about and had wanted to show Croc. Croc hadn’t noticed the Boat House, he was too busy looking out for white swan ghosts again and identifying a plan of escape.

As Bertie chatted away to Croc about the history of the Boat House, how he had once been in there for a cup of tea when it was a cafe and how it was the most photographed thing at the lake, Croc slowly began to relax and found himself getting caught up in his colleagues enthusiasm. If Bertie isn’t scared when he has those stubbly little legs to help him escape, then I should be fine, thought Croc. It was at this moment that Croc truly began to take in the pretty cool scenery around him.


Croc gets a sudden fright!


Bertie knew exactly where he was going to take Croc next, although he kept it as a surprise. Croc was beginning to get use to the travelling lifestyle and was becoming more and more adventurous. As the familiar motion of the car came to a stop Bertie explained to Croc that they were going somewhere which was very special to him. He had a real connection to this place and could recall being in a push chair as a young bear with a different travelling companion being pushed around, occasionally stopping to feed the ducks and listening to his travelling companion squeal with delight.

Bertie and Croc were at Newmillerdam Country Park, a historical lake dating back to 1800’s with a wealth of history hidden within the woods and along the nature reserve walk.

Croc was keen to get going and started to peep out of the coat pocket almost as soon as they were out of the car. He could hear the now familiar bird calls and the gravel of a pathway crunching underneath him. He was very careful not to lean too far following his latest experience of falling!

Suddenly Croc leap fully back into the pocket and lay quietly as if he was at the bottom of a lake. Bertie was taken completely by surprise at Croc’s reaction. He gently calmed Croc down and found out that when he was looking out of the pocket he had seen a huge white ghost!

Confused brave Bertie peeked out and then started to laugh. It wasn’t a ghost, Bertie explained, but a swan! A large white bird coming in to sit on its nest. A crocodiles automatic reaction to any danger is to sink as low as they can and remain perfectly still and this was exactly what Croc had done. Bertie encouraged him to come and have a look again now the bird was settled. It was still a close call Croc thought to himself!

On closer inspection…


On their way towards the car park at Sandal Castle, Croc asked Bertie about the many different plant and flowers he was seeing. Croc had never left Australia before and some of the simple things which Bertie never really noticed were really catching his attention. He didn’t realised that there could be so many subtle differences between two countries.

Bertie happily pointed out the flowers and trees. Croc was especially drawn to the brightly coloured daffodils. They reminded him of mini sunshines and as he leaned further out of the coat pocket he was in to get a better look he began to feel himself slipping. Seeing his friend in danger, Bertie grabbed hold of Croc’s tail, but it was too late. Momentum had already taken hold and was stronger than Bertie’s grip. Both Bertie and Croc tumbled towards the floor.

The bump of their landing wasn’t has heavy as Bertie knew it should be. When they both opened their eyes they realised they were in the middle of the very flowers Croc had been leaning out of the pocket to admire. They both looked at each other and started laughing.

Thankfully for these two adventurers, their absence from the coat pocket didn’t go un-noticed and soon they were scooped up and placed back into safety. Croc commented on how lovely the daffodils had smelt when they were laid in the middle of them. Bertie agreed. Croc decided that he was beginning to like Bertie’s home and started to feel excited about where he would be taken to next. His crocodile adventurous spirit has started to awaken and stir!

Ancient Castles and Cyclones

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It was a cloudy day in England when the two unlikely friends, Bertie and Croc, set out on another day of touring Yorkshire. Croc was being to realise how rich and diverse the UK was. He especially liked the historical buildings which he had seen so far as there was nothing like this where he came from in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Knowing Croc’s growing interest in historical architecture Bertie decided to take him to the ancient ruins of Sandal Castle. Sandal Castle sits high on a hill overlooking the River Calder and, like all good castles, has panoramic views of the surrounding town and countryside. The Castle is now just a shadow of its former glory.

The first castle to be built on the site was made from timber in 12th century. Since then Sandal Castle was rebuilt in stone and has seen many sieges, including playing a part in the historical Battle of Wakefield which was part of the War of the Roses. Following three sieges during the English Civil War in 1645 Sandal Castle became a ruin and was left to join the dust of the soldiers who had fallen at its feet.

The first thing Croc and Bertie saw was a large sign. Croc noticed the warning signs showing many different ways you could fall, he never knew there were so many! Being a Crocodile Croc had never learnt to read, Bertie did not know this. At the beginning of the tour it became clear to Bertie that, unfortunately the best bit he had planned would not be able to happen. The climb to the top of the highest point was closed and Bertie, remembering the Wellington Monument was also closed off, began to wonder if there was some mysterious power telling them not to climb tall buildings?

As they sat together on a bench Croc quietly asked Bertie if a Cyclone had destroyed the castle. Once Bertie had stopped laughing he explained to Croc that they did not get cyclones in the UK and certainly not anything near as bad as the cyclones they experienced in the Northern Territory. As they sat on the wooden bench Bertie explained to Croc about the historical battles which were fought at Sandal Castle. The longer Bertie’s story continued the wider Croc’s eyes became looking at the castle and trying to imagine the scene hundreds of years ago.

Bertie and Croc’s location

Did you manage to spot where Bertie and Croc were sat on the black and white photograph in my last blog: Wide Eyed Wonders ?

They were near the door on the Chapel, peeping round the corner at the camera.

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Wide eyed wonders

Bertie and Croc were just beginning to get settled in Somerset when change struck again. Bertie knowingly advised Croc that this was the travelling lifestyle, you just got use to a place and you ended up moving on. It was one of the reasons Bertie had tried to settle in one place for a while. Whereas Croc had just mastered settling in the safety of a coat pocket. He felt warm and cosy and for some reason the darkness was beginning to feel like a friend. Bertie suspected Croc had jet lag and was determined to get him out and about and onto his new time zone.

As they settled in the camera bag together listening to the rumbling of the car tyres on the road they both contemplated out loud where they might be heading to next. Croc secretly hoped that it was warmer.

When at last they were pulled out from the camera bag they were placed, together, on a cold stone wall. After being nestled in the camera bags darkness for quite a while their eyes look some time to get adjusted to the lightness of being outside. Bertie froze as he realised Croc was sat happily beside him looking around and looking quite alert, his eyes were huge as he took in the new place they had come to!

Bertie and Croc were sat on an historic chapel which was built between 1342 and 1356. It turned out this was one of only 4 bridge chapels still surviving in England! Bertie could see the wall of a stone bridge from where he was sat. The bridge was very old as well and had been built soon after 1342 and replaced an earlier bridge which was used to travel over the River Calder.

Bertie’s excitement grew as he realised he was HOME and they were sat on St Mary’s Chantry Chapel in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. He immediately went into tour guide mode and showed his wide eyed friend the bridge and chapel from many angles. Bertie’s head began buzzing with ideas about where he could take Croc next….after all this was his home town and he felt a strong responsibility to be a good tour guide.

Can you spot Bertie and Croc together in the black and white photograph? All will be revealed in Thursday’s blog post!

Are you appreciating the good?

Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield
Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

Sometimes you forget to appreciate what you have around you all the time. It becomes normal, mundane and similar. You start to take it for granted.

After travelling extensively I came home with a whole new perspective on life. I had seen new places, met new people and expanded my view of the world. Stepping back in to a familiar “place” was hard, like trying to squeeze into a pair of old socks which don’t fit you anymore and the holes in the toes keep catching you out. It still felt like home but I looked at it differently.

I could really appreciate all the good things about my home town. The bad things were still there but I realised that everywhere has good and bad points. Life is about balance after all.

I started to look and appreciate the history, the buildings such as the Opera House. Sandal Castle where the Battle of Wakefield was fought in 1460. Bretton Hall where you can wander around a period Manson, admire Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth sculptures and walk in the woods and fields. The Hepworth Gallery (pictured above) built on the canal wharf which is FREE to enter and wander around.

Sandal Castle ruins
Sandal Castle ruins

Even in my home suburb of Outwood, an ex-mining community as many of the suburbs are around this area. I began to notice that if I walked down a back alley and through a new housing estate there were hidden period houses from Edwardian times. The large Victorian terraces with so much character looming down the main road to Leeds and my favourite walk high up on the farmers fields at the back of Newton Hill where you can see for miles out towards the moors.

So many people when they travel rush to tick a destination off their list….spent 3 days in London, tick! 4 nights in Bangkok, tick!

How many people stop for a while in one place and really begin to learn about it? The longer you stay still the more you see and travel is no different. You see the good, the bad and the ugly when you remain in one place long enough. This kind of travel truly makes you appreciate the good so much more.