A Travellerspoint blog

July 2009

WALES AND LAKES

We set off across the Severn Bridge [shocked at having to pay the expensive toll of £10] to Cardiff, where we had a camp-site in the centre of town next to the stadium where the Ashes cricket was being played. Of course the camp-site was full of rival Aussies and Brits, and we were lucky to even get a site. The walk into town was through a lovely garden alongside the river Taff.
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We drove through the Brecon Beacons nature reserve, hoping to find a camp-site near Brecon, but they were all full. We then pushed on for a couple more hours to the coast, just north of Aberystwyth. The site was sloping so much we needed several wooden blocks to prop up the front wheels so that we didn't slide out of bed!
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The campsite was called Ocean View, but we didn't think much of the view!
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We explored the seafront promenade of Aberystwyth,
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found a beautiful pub-front in town
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and admired the war memorial with a lady arising from the ashes.
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From there we visited Aberaeron, where the streets are lined with Georgian houses painted in pretty colours, which makes a pleasant change from all the grey and brown stone of so many British towns.
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The goal was to sample the famous honey ice-cream on the quay, which was good!

We pushed north again, landing up in Porthmadog, and having to stay in a cheap, but crappy camp site, as the others were full. It was raining heavily by now and "cabin-fever" was starting to develop seriously. We couldn't wait to get to Scotland where a week in our friends' empty house with a clean, hot bath awaited us.

The next day found us in the walled town of Conwy on the north coast of Wales. After a rip-off pub lunch, we walked on the quayside in the sun and found the smallest house in Britain.
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We didn't visit the castle, but were intrigued with this enormous crack in the town wall. Apparently when the Victorian engineers tunnelled under the wall to build the train line, it appeared, and in spite of the best engineering efforts has remained to this day!
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We had a long, four hour drive to the Lake District, where we overnighted near Kendal. Here we decided to join the Camping and Caravan Club to save on site fees in future.

We headed for the nearby Windermere lake, stopping in Bowness-on-Windermere to look at the swans fighting each other off their cygnets.
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Lots of holidaymakers about already and the English schools aren't even out yet! On the other side of the lake we visited Hilltop cottage, the home and garden of Beatrix Potter.
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We almost caught a glimpse of Peter Rabbit under the flower pots!
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Sandi took lots of photos of the flowers that Beatrix loved and grew in her garden.
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We had to wait an hour for our timed-entry to the cottage, so what better way to kill time than to enjoy a pint of the local beer in the sun outside a cute pub, admiring the view?
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We looked across the street to this house,
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where we found "Mr Macgregor" basking in the sun.
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The rain came down again, and we had another four hour drive to Livingston, where we had the luxury of Estralita and Bernie's house all to ourselves for the next week. How nice it is to have space, a clean bathroom and a modern kitchen in which to unwind. Even though the weather was unsettled for most of the time, it was wonderful to have the time to sort ourselves out, and catch up with the Travel blog; like a holiday within a holiday!

Posted by davidsandi 04:39 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

BATH AND THE AVON RIVER VALLEY

On Monday we met up with Francesca [Jeremy's neice] for coffee, and then explored Bath for the rest of the day on our own. The Georgian architecture, exemplified in the magnificent Royal Crescent, is quite stunning. Two renowned architects of the 18th century, John Woods Elder and Younger, designed all the Palladian-style fronts of most of the buildings in Bath, so there is a grand uniformity. Each house owner was then left to design the rear of their house, so these vary enormously.
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Bath Abbey is the focal point of the town and is right next to the Roman Baths.
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The Pulteney Bridge crossing the river Avon, is lined with shops.
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We were camping 30 minutes from Bath near Lacock Abbey, which we explored the next day.
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We discovered that one of the Harry Potter movies used one of these rooms in the film.
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The ceilings of the cloisters
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are covered in a fascinating variety of bosses, like this one showing a fish swallowing a goat!
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The Abbey also has extensive gardens
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and grounds in which we found this tree: could it be an "arthritis tree"?
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Lacock is a very pretty village
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and has a museum displaying the earliest cameras and the first negative-positive photographs, developed by William Talbot, a resident of Lacock.

In the afternoon we went off to nearby Avebury, which is a much larger circle, of smaller stones, than Stonehenge, 27 km away.
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Even part of the village is within the stone circle.
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The whole circle is surrounded by a deep ditch and an embankment
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We went back into Bath for an evening street comedy tour called BizarreBath, which was supposed to be the highlight of any visit to Bath, but was expensive and disappointing.

Next day we explored Bradford-on-Avon and enjoyed a 2-hour trip on the Kennet-and-Avon canal in a canal boat.
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Many people live permanently on the river in houseboats
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and carry everything on the roof, including firewood and the kitchen sink!
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Someone made creative use of old teapots in which to plant their garden!
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On the way back we stopped for ice-cream cones at an Ice cream boat.
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Going through a manual lock is a leisurely activity.
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Then it was time to head into Wales for a week.

Posted by davidsandi 07:49 Archived in England Comments (0)

THE NYE CLAN GATHERING

Colerne, near Bath

On Sunday 5th July David's cousin, Chris Nye, at the request of Pierre, had arranged a gathering of the Nye clan at his new home in Colerne, a tiny village near Bath. Molly, our GPS, in her wisdom took us up a long, steep and very narrow road,which was hair-raising especially when faced with oncoming cars. It was great to see all David's English cousins [Michael, Mary, Chris, Ebu and Judy] with their kids and partners. Michael [senior] drove all the way up from Devon, where his yacht is anchored. Pierre and Michele and Jonty were in the UK on a 3 week holiday to visit Michael [junior].
Chris and his new partner, Eileen
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Here they are with Tamar [Michael's daughter]
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Chris' 4 kids with 2 of their partners, Jenny [Sam's wife] and Rachel [engaged to Jake]: Jenny, Seb, Miriam, Sam, Jake and Rachel
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Mary, now married to Bill
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Ebu, Bill, Michael and Mary
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Judy, Michael and Mary
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Pierre having a discourse with Jeremy
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Jonty and Michael [who is doing his gap-year at an English school in the Midlands]
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Sam with his sister, Miriam, and his wife Jenny in front
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Chatting on the lawn [unfortunately Anna and Michele have their backs to the camera]
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Mary's daughter, Anna, with her husband, Dominique
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Us with Judy
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We were blessed with sunny weather until 5pm when the rain came down and we went in to watch Federer take the Wimbledon title in a gripping match.
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Posted by davidsandi 04:18 Archived in England Comments (0)

BUGS, BUDDIES AND BEACHES

E and W Sussex

After recouping our energies with a good night's sleep after the Solstice, we headed down south, stopping at Winchester on the way. David was convinced the cathedral tour was only £2, having visited before, but on discovering that it was over £6 each we decided to browse the quaint city centre instead.
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We found a nice camp-site on the river Arun, between Arundel and the sea, although we were annoyed at having to pay for showers again. We met another camper who was taking his three ferrets on holiday.
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Chichester Cathedral was interesting, especially these ornate water spouts to drain water off the roof.
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While on a tour [a free one!] of the inside of the cathedral, David felt as if the plug had been pulled and his legs wanted to give way. Worried that this was a rapid onset of old age, we sat on the grass outside for a while. On the way to Forest Row to see Jonathan and Andrea Shopley, the fever started and he realised that he had caught another bug! Jonathan made a delicious barbeque, but sitting outside just accentuated the rigors. Here is their gorgeous dog, Griff.
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The next day the long anticipated weekend with the Lilleys arrived at last! We met Paddy and David Lilley in Tunbridge Wells, but instead of touring the Helios homeopathic pharmacy as planned, Dave swallowed Disprins [in the midst of all the homeopathic meds] to stop the teeth chattering and to enable him to drive down to Hastings. The homeopathic remedies that David L had prescribed started to work, but it was a week before he fully recovered.

We rented a static caravan for the weekend with the Lilleys. It was situated in a lovely wooded holiday park called Beauport, near Hastings.
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The wooden deck was covered in potted fuschias and vegetables, and although the caravan had cardboard walls [there was no escaping David's diarrhoea!] and the bedrooms were hardly bigger than the beds, it was comfortable and clean. The next day we wandered about the very quaint, old village of Rye with its cobbled streets
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and stopped for a pint at the Mermaid's Inn [built in 1420 and notorious for its smuggling history].
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The beachfront at Hastings was very busy, full of people from "the other side of the railway line", and rather tacky. These wooden net shops, where the fishermen hang their nets to dry, are unique to Hastings.
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Back at the caravan, Sandi made one of her now famous seafood chowders for dinner. Here is David Lilley expressing delight at the chowder!
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Breakfast next morning was enjoyed out in the sun...
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The weather was lovely and hot and thus ideal for walking along the seafronts of Bexhill and Eastbourne, which were both far quieter and nicer than Hastings.
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We met a delightful old lady on Bexhill promenade, who after extolling the virtues of living in Bexhill, offered to take this photo of the four of us.
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Eastbourne has a long seaside promenade along its extensive beach,
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and like Brighton, has a wonderful old Victorian Pier, which sadly has seen grander days.
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We met another homeopath, Moira, for lunch at the Golden Galleon near Seaford, after which we enjoyed the walk to the shingle "beach", marvelled at the white chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters,
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then walked back through fields full of bunnies, dandelions, thistles and blackberries [abuzz with bumblebees].
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Sadly, it was soon time to bid the Lilleys farewell, but not before we had each had an osteopathic adjustment to our desperate spines.
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Our next stop was a camp-site near West Wittering beach. The beach was a 20 minute walk away, but at low tide it took another 5 minutes to reach the water as the beach was so wide! It is a Blue flag beach with lovely fine sand, just like at home. The water was warm and only lacked waves - at last a proper beach in the UK! We now found ourselves in the middle of a "heatwave" - temperatures of 28-30 deg and the BBC full of warnings about what not to do!

These Hypericum blossoms seem to thrive in the heat.
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After 3 days at W Wittering we moved to South Lytchett Manor near Poole, which was a very full campsite. We were given a voucher for a free bottle of wine at a nearby pub, of which we took full advantage. We browsed the Saturday street market in Poole, and drove along Sandbanks, a peninsula of supposedly the most expensive real estate in England.

When we arrived at Ebu, it was early evening with still a few hours of light ahead, so we decided to try to find the lane of cherries again that David and Ebu had happened upon 2 years previously. We found the lane, and the black cherries were ripe for the picking! We munched and picked happily for the next hour, taking bagsful home.
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Posted by davidsandi 05:25 Archived in England Comments (0)

SUMMER SOLSTICE AT STONEHENGE

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We spent Saturday night at cousin Judy and Rob's, in Ebford, eagerly anticipating the Stonehenge adventure ahead the next day with Judy, Ebu, and the Druids. Unfortunately Judy developed gastro with severe leg cramps, so was unable to come with us. So, after a late supper with cousin Ebu and Jeremy, the excited trio, Ebu, Sandi and David set off for Stonehenge in the van, in the advancing dusk. At registration, we discovered that Jonathan, Judy’s son who had invited us, had arranged for David and Sandi to be banner bearers - an exciting honour to be so close to the "action". This meant wearing white robes and receiving instruction [“don’t stab anyone in the backside with the banner point when going through the tunnel”, etc].
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At 11.45 pm we all gathered in the car park, before setting off in solemn procession for the Midnight ceremony; the Druids in single file led by the sword bearer, followed by the invited guests. There were about 50 Druids and 30 guests, which made the whole celebration intimate, since there were 34,000 people at the public gathering the night before! We marched along a path in silence for about 30 minutes to a special mound.
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We were supposed to be meditating as we walked, but this proved impossible as we tried to avoid stones and holes in the dark! The sky was overcast, windless and there was no moon. At the mound the Druids formed an inner circle and the guests formed the outer circle. The Chief Druid spoke about various issues, as well as a short guided meditation. This ceremony was meant to reflect the autumn and winter of our lives, but the solemnity of the occasion was interrupted by someone farting loudly, followed by another fainting! The skies cleared, the stars came out, and we walked back to base, where we had 90 minutes to rest before gathering for banner instruction. We decided that the best way to spend the time was by drinking No Caf and playing Scrabble in the van.

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At 3.45 am we donned several layers of warm clothes, then our robes, raised the banner and walked in procession through the tunnel to the stone circles of Stonehenge for the Dawn ceremony. The sky was already light and with mist swirling all around us and the stones, it truly was a mystical experience [no pun intended].
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We processed to the 4 points of the compass where items that represent the 4 elements - fire, water, earth and air - were collected.
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The procession then entered the inner circle of stones, from the east, with everyone forming a circle. The Dawn ceremony which is meant to reflect spring, symbolising new beginnings, ended a few moments before the sunrise. It was incredible to feel the energy and warmth radiating from the stones themselves, even though the air was cold [and we expected the stones to be cold too].
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Then the sun, a glowing red orb, rose up through the mist exactly over the Hele or Sunstone in the NE. As it got brighter and cleared the mist, its rays shone through the gap between the stones in the circle, falling on the Stone of Measurement. It was quite mesmerizing and very beautiful to watch. Unfortunately we could not take any photos as our hands were firmly attached to the banner throughout!

We proceeded back to the base park, arriving at 6.00 am, feeling incredibly energized and not sleepy at all! Ebu needed to get back home, but we banner bearers were expected back to participate in the High Noon ceremony. We drove back to Holton, had breakfast with Ebu, then headed back to Stonehenge. Jonathan, who was in charge of equipment, asked Sandi to decorate a fresh floral crown for one of the 2 maids, which was great fun.
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A procession again formed at 12.00 noon, but with the inclusion of a Lady [one of 4 French visiting Druids from Brittany] bearing a horn of wine, accompanied by two Maids.
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The procession was similar in its route around the periphery of Stonehenge to collect the 4 elements, but the difference here was that we were observed by hundreds of curious tourists, who were kept behind the usual barriers to the stones, by security guards. As we were carrying the banner immediately behind the Lady and her Maids, we had hundreds of cameras pointed at us. Our photographs have probably made it to the far corners of the Earth by now!

We then entered the inner circle of stones from the south for what was to be a 2 hour summer celebration.
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By now it was really hot with the sun baking down on us. Amazingly, this time the stones felt cool! A long ceremony commenced, interspersed with a wreath of oak leaves being passed around from head to head, to show that all are equal in honour. The ceremony continued with a ritual sharing of the fruits of the summer harvest.
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Then it was all over,
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and we disbanded, disrobed and headed for a nearby campsite to shower and collapse in the van, the exhaustion finally catching up with us.

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We learnt that the Druid Order is a revival of an ancient order founded in Oxford in 1245. It was reconstituted in 1717 from Druid groups existing in various parts of Brittany and the UK. It recognizes its origins in all systems, which express the 3 great traditions of Power, Wisdom and Love. It embodies 3 fundamental principles of wisdom: Obedience to the laws of Nature, effort for the welfare of humankind, and heroically enduring the unavoidable ills of life. It is concerned with the evolution of humanity in harmony with the Universe, using the techniques of meditation and ritual, following the path of the sun.

A few days later, while visiting Winchester Cathedral, we found a beautiful window decal depicting the sunrise through the stones at Stonehenge.
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It now resides on the back window of our van, as a wonderful memory of that enchanting experience. In the mornings, on waking at dawn, looking out of the back window, there is the sun, rising through the oak trees, twinning with the Stonehenge sunrise decal. Stunning!

Posted by davidsandi 11:04 Archived in England Comments (0)

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