A Travellerspoint blog

England

TORRID TIMES IN TRURO

overcast

With 5 days to spend in Truro, waiting for the van to be fixed, we set about planning what to do i.e. making lemonade with our lemon. On Saturday we were invited to lunch by Anton and Kay Kruger, old varsity pals of David’s, who live in a lovely country homestead, just outside Truro.
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We headed for the veggie garden and tunnel to pick lunch: fresh, organic broadbeans, French beans, chillis, white radish, new potatoes, coriander seed, courgette, carrots, raspberries and strawberries. Yum! Nothing could taste better!
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The veggie tunnel.

The veggie tunnel.

Picking raspberries.

Picking raspberries.

Lunch!

Lunch!


Sandi found the perfect raspberry to photograph.

Sandi found the perfect raspberry to photograph.


The woodpile.

The woodpile.

Kay's beautiful clematis.

Kay's beautiful clematis.


We arranged to rent a cheap car for the next four days so that we would be mobile, and managed to find one for £25 a day. The first one had a dodgy electronic lock and could not get into 5th gear, so the lady exchanged the car for us the next day, but gave us one with a dodgy gearbox instead! The joys of having only a Rent-a-Wreck budget. We spent several hours on Sunday wandering around the cute little harbour town of Falmouth. It was so nice to start relaxing without an agenda and without time pressure.
Lunch here was a pie and a beer.

Lunch here was a pie and a beer.

Falmouth harbour.

Falmouth harbour.


We then headed for Penzance, but missed a turn somewhere and ended up in the southern-most point of England, Lizard.
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How's this for a serendipitous find?


On Monday we drove to Ebford near Exeter, to visit cousin Judy and Rob, who, after 2 years are still struggling to sell their property. We stayed overnight [it felt like coming back to our old home] and had a lovely time catching up with them, before driving back the following afternoon.
Summer lilies in Judy's garden.

Summer lilies in Judy's garden.

David and Judy's post-prandial stroll.

David and Judy's post-prandial stroll.

On the way back we stopped in at a favourite antediluvian haunt: Trago Mills, a fascinating, time-warp, multi-department store, selling everything, and then some. The parking lot is full of eccentric statues.
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Stress levels were steadily climbing, as we waited for the van repairs to be timeously completed by Wednesday, as time would be extremely tight if there were any delays at all. David was just about to book the ferry crossing for Thursday evening, when an email came in expressing interest in buying the van. The couple would drive down from Plymouth that afternoon [Wednesday] to have a look, after we had picked the van up from the garage – it sounded really promising! Bob immediately phoned a friend, who offered us a reliable car for £600. So we had a buyer for the van and a car with which to travel to Ireland. Fantastic! All we had to do was to collect the van at 5pm, as we were assured that it would be ready by then, drive back to Truro in the rush hour traffic, give the van a quick wash and be ready for the buyers at 6pm. Our ferry to Ireland was a mere 30 hours away, if we were to cross the Irish Sea in time for David’s overnight shift at 6pm on Friday. Life is never dull in Nye-land!

We popped down to Truro centre to shop for the time in Ireland, as food and wine are so much cheaper in England.
Crabs in the market - which were however not on our shopping list.

Crabs in the market - which were however not on our shopping list.


The Drummer - a newly unveiled statue on Lemon Quay, Truro.

The Drummer - a newly unveiled statue on Lemon Quay, Truro.


Truro cathedral.

Truro cathedral.

But it was not to be so easy! The first blow was a call from the prospective buyer cancelling the appointment to view. This was followed shortly by a call from the garage to say that they had to order some brake callipers, which would be sent down from Exeter the next day. We both felt quite desperate with time running out. Our only option now was to take the van to Ireland and to use it while trying to sell it. An added stress was trying to find accommodation for Sandi in Waterford for Friday and Saturday, since there was absolutely nothing to be had in either this, or surrounding towns - not what were were expecting. It turns out that, unbeknown to us, David's shifts coincided with the Tall Ships Festival - an event that attracted half a million revellers to Waterford for the weekend! The decision was made that Sandi would sleep in the van, in the car park behind the Caredoc office. With that decision made we finally booked the ferry for 2.45am on Friday morning, and went to bed, praying for no more surprises. The emotional roller-coaster was however running at full throttle, and both our stress levels were stratospheric!

Sandi's Stress-Double!!

Sandi's Stress-Double!!

On Thursday morning David went into Falmouth with Bob to help him with packing up the boat, while waiting for the van to be ready. By 12.30pm the parts had still not arrived! Sandi was back in Truro stressing, and packing and unpacking to keep busy. By 2.30pm the parts arrived and they got to work on the van. We were assured that they would be finished with the repairs, and that the MOT would be issued by 5pm. This was really cutting things fine, as David still had to drive back to Truro, pick up Sandi and load everything into the van, by 6pm at the absolute latest, and start the long 6 hour drive to the ferry port in Wales. David got the key back at 5.20pm and the ferry countdown journey began. The whirlwind with which we loaded our belongings [by now all waiting on the lawn outside], was second only to the staggering blow of the whopping £627 bill [and they even forgot to do the oil change]. We hit the road in record time, leaving Bob's sanctuary at 6.10pm.
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We eventually arrived at the ferry port at 1.30am and were relieved to be able to board immediately. We grabbed our pillows, found a seat and fell asleep. The sun was rising by 4.30am and we had a greasy ferry-style English breakfast, as they stopped service at 5am. At 6.15am we disembarked in Rosslare, Co Wexford, grateful to once again be on the terra firma of this lush Emerald Isle, which has been one of our special homes-from-home during our 2-year walkabout. Although exhausted, we had made it, and the relief was beyond description!

Posted by davidsandi 06:19 Archived in England Comments (0)

MR STUBBY IN CONTROL OF OUR DESTINY

overcast 15 °C

Greetings friends and welcome to our resuscitated travel blog.

Our plans were to fly Emirates to Gatwick airport, arriving in the morning of 23 June. Then to drive down to Cornwall, MOT and sell the van, buy a cheap car, drive/ferry over to Ireland to work there for 7 weeks.

Day 1 went fairly well according to plan: we picked up our rental car and started driving. It was about the same price to rent a car for 24 hours as catching the train to Cornwall. It is mid-summer and the air is cold [8-16 °C] with patchy sunshine and showers. The winter weather is Cape Town is better than this!
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We soon noticed there was something wrong with the radio reception, and found the aerial was missing! We phoned the rental company and they knocked £15 off the price. We stopped over at cousin Ebu to pick up our post and were offered a “simple lunch” of delicious soup, smoked trout, prawns, potatoes, garden salad and strawberries and cream! All this was topped off with superb hand-made chocolates! Sandi preferred the violet cream ones, and David found the rose cream ones transported him instantly back to Bulgaria!

We were greeted in Truro by Bob, with whom we were to stay for a few days while we got Mr Stubby sorted out. Bear had already returned to France to welcome her summer guests. We were thoroughly exhausted after our long trip: 19 hours of flying and six hours of driving.
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Day 2 and things started to go pear-shaped! We found Mr Stubby in the driveway, under his winter cover, just where we had left him, except that by now the snow had all melted!
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We pulled the cover off Mr Stubby and found the interior was pretty dry, thanks to the desiccating granules we had placed inside, except for some mould growing on the front seats. He started immediately, which was amazing after 7 months! The wheels were locked at first, but David managed to free them up without too much difficulty. He set off behind Bob to follow him to the garage in Falmouth for the MOT [obligatory annual roadworthy test for those who don’t know] which was booked for 10h30. It immediately became apparent that the footbrake was not working properly….not an encouraging sign 10 minutes before an MOT!

After a 45 minute wait they started the test. An hour and a half later David was called in to be shown extensive rusting of parts of the undercarriage, disc brakes and pipes and a worn tyre. The quote for the welding needed and other repairs came to a whopping £500! The really bad news was that the job could not be done before Wednesday. That means that we have 5 days to cool our heels here with no transport, because we may not take the van on the road. It also means that we have no time to take the van up to London to sell. The recession is biting hard here, and it is beginning to look as if we will struggle to give it away. There have been no responses to our ad on Gumtree for the past week. There are much nicer campervans being advertised for next to nothing!

We have been considering our options: [a] scrap the van and save the £500. It seems such a waste! We then buy a cheap car for £500 to use in Ireland. [b] fix the van, use it in Ireland and keep it for camping in France next year. We could park it in Ireland, but it would carry on rusting and we would have the same situation next year again. We could go camping in France next year, but would have to abandon it in France before returning to the UK. [c] fix the van and try to sell it in London, but there is now no time to do that. [d] fix the van, use it in Ireland and try to sell it asap for half-price. Then rent a car for the remaining time there.

David helped Bob on his boat in Falmouth for a couple of hours. He is hoping to launch it for testing in the river and sea for 2 days, before parking it again on land until he returns from France in September.
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Posted by davidsandi 23:02 Archived in England Comments (0)

BLOSSOMS, SOAP SUDS AND MUSEUMS

Devon, London and West Yorkshire

On our return to Ebford, we spent a couple of days catching up with ourselves again and sorting out MOT, road tax and insurance renewals for the van. The country garden flowers in Judy's garden and elsewhere were gorgeous and Sandi, as usual, was entranced by the lushness of the plant life, and so much clicking was done.
IMG_2595.jpgIMG_2598.jpgIMG_2602.jpgExtravagant Clematis flowers

Extravagant Clematis flowers

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We enjoyed a wonderful meadow walk with Judy and her walking group, followed by a ploughman’s lunch under the trees and home-brewed cider [an acquired taste - not quite Hunter's Gold!] supplied by the farmer.
Sandi leading the way with our wild flower manual being put to use, and of course, many more happy snaps along the way

Sandi leading the way with our wild flower manual being put to use, and of course, many more happy snaps along the way


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Wild orchid


The organiser, David, mentioned there was an excellent cream tea to be had on a neighbouring farm, which naturally we could not resist, so off we traipsed and had tea in grand style!
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Then it was time to head up to London for Sandi’s courses. We camped at the lovely Crystal Palace campsite again, and made forays into the city with bus and underground passes.

The London courses, which took about 1 ½ hours to reach by public transport, were rather underwhelming, and chaotic at times. In general the presentations were simplistically repetitive, particularly the excessive time spent on skin diseases. On the up-side, meeting a few delightful delegates from UK, Holland, & Spain, was relative compensation.

During day-1, while Sandi was occupied, David amused himself by visiting the Tower of London.
The very entertaining guide

The very entertaining guide


The Queen's House within the Tower grounds

The Queen's House within the Tower grounds


Henry VIII suit of armour - note how he protected his family jewels!

Henry VIII suit of armour - note how he protected his family jewels!


How Elizabeth II protects her family jewels

How Elizabeth II protects her family jewels


Tower bridge

Tower bridge


We managed to get tickets for Swan Lake that evening, presented "in the round" by the English National Ballet, at the Royal Albert Hall. A real treat for us both.
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On the second day of Sandi's course David browsed through the Natural History Museum. The building itself is as fascinating as the extensive exhibits
The beautiful and intricate brickwork inside and outside

The beautiful and intricate brickwork inside and outside

Dusty monkeys climbing up the walls

Dusty monkeys climbing up the walls

Monographs of herbs on the ceiling

Monographs of herbs on the ceiling

He then spent a couple of sunny hours in Hyde Park.
The impressive Prince Albert memorial

The impressive Prince Albert memorial


The new Princess Diana memorial fountain

The new Princess Diana memorial fountain


A new statue - the Ibis

A new statue - the Ibis

On Sandi's final course day, off went solo-tourist David again, this time to the British Science Museum. However, as he was rapidly tiring of museums, he just looked at the fascinating medical history section.
An armrest for blood-letting

An armrest for blood-letting


He captured several curiosities around London.
IMG_2672.jpgShip-in-a-bottle at Trafalgar Square

Ship-in-a-bottle at Trafalgar Square

Busker at Covent Garden

Busker at Covent Garden

Pavement art on the Embankment

Pavement art on the Embankment


Elephants are all over town! Painted in many different ways, they are raising money for green causes.
IMG_2674.jpgIMG_2679.jpgThe three political leaders

The three political leaders


We then met up with Buz [old CT buddy, now living in London] for dinner and catch-up in the Chinese quarter.

With anticipated fun on the horizon we headed off for Sandi's long-anticipated 2-day workshop. After a hair-raising 90 minutes crossing London, we emerged unscathed on the A1 northbound for West Yorkshire. By early evening we eventually reached and checked into our farm campsite, which was in a meadow, with six Charolais bullocks [les blondes, those beauties from our Vendee days] grazing next door.
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It was lovely and quiet after the hustle of London, and we enjoyed our few days there - in spite of the rustic toilet facilities. We could write a Treatise on Toilets & Travels by this stage!

Sandi's bespoke soap workshop was a delight. The teacher, a really special person, was very willing to tailor the workshop to Sandi's rural soap-making interest.
Sarah in her studio

Sarah in her studio


Learning some new skills was great fun, with David enjoying his new shaving cream, even though it’s a bit gloopy! The next batch will have to be tweaked a bit, but at least it’s all natural and good for the skin, which can't be said for commercial shaving creams and foams.
Soap slices drying in the kitchen in Vendee

Soap slices drying in the kitchen in Vendee

Posted by davidsandi 12:55 Archived in England Comments (0)

THE TIN MINES OF CORNWALL

We spent the next two weeks of our winter travels with Judy and Rob in Ebford. Once again it was "re-" time with the kind cousins. Time needed to recoup, reorganise, and prepare ourselves, plus repack the van in preparation for the next 3 month’s work in Ireland. Temperatures were generally just above or below freezing, and we had another light snowfall.
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Rob and Judy's cottage

Rob and Judy's cottage

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David discovered first-hand the danger of “black ice” on the road outside Rob and Judy's cottage when he slipped and landed with an ignominious plonk on his bum! We decided he must need "grounding", so he got into the soil by working on Judy’s raspberry beds, as she was still recovering from a broken arm.

On the weekend we visited the Kruger family near Truro in Cornwall, where they've been living and working for the past 18 years. It seems forever ago since David and Anton got up to mischief at Medical School together. Apart from the arrival of sons on both sides, little else has changed! Kay produced some wonderful Cornish dinners, including grass-fed roast beef, an instant addiction!
They live in an old, granite stone farmhouse, which they have been renovating for the past 18 years. As Anton and his sons are keen surfers, they are ideally situated with North and South Cornish coastlines readily accessible to them.
Anton and Justin checking out the surf

Anton and Justin checking out the surf

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We failed to find any surf, but after admiring several stretches of the rugged Cornish coastline, we settled for a chilly walk over the cliffs from Chapel Porth towards St Agnes to the ruins of the Wheal Coates tin mine. The engine house sits high on the cliff, while the mine shaft reaches down to sea level and below.
IMG_1813.jpgIMG_1809.jpgAnton and Kay

Anton and Kay

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Cornwall is dotted all over with similar relics of a bygone, very active mining era.

The next day we strolled around the pretty town of St Ives.
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We stopped in for a pint and some hot chips in a quay-side pub, before heading back for our last night with the Krugers.
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Monday dawned crisp and clear, and we set off to explore Falmouth, before crossing the Fal river on the King Harry ferry. It is propelled slowly across the river by clanking winches drawing on 2 fixed chains, and is the oldest chain ferry in existence. It is also the most expensive in relation to the short distance [£4.50].
IMG_1847.jpgDavid up on the bridge, assisting the skipper!

David up on the bridge, assisting the skipper!

Sandi opted to stay in the van for the short (and chilly) crossing

Sandi opted to stay in the van for the short (and chilly) crossing


Many large ships park in the river for long periods, waiting for better times

Many large ships park in the river for long periods, waiting for better times


We crossed over to the Roseland peninsula, and looked around the pretty village of St Mawes. .
St Mawes castle looking across the Percuil river

St Mawes castle looking across the Percuil river


The view towards Falmouth and Pendennis Castle

The view towards Falmouth and Pendennis Castle


On the way back to Exeter, we found some healthy looking veg at an "honesty stall" on the side of the road and stocked up with leeks [Judy's favourite] and curly-leaf cabbage.
Sandi admiring Brussel sprouts on the stalk

Sandi admiring Brussel sprouts on the stalk

Back in Ebford, we did a final sort-out and attic-stack [Judy and Rob kindly allow us to store what we don't need in their attic in between touch-downs]. During this time, we were actively communicating with Locumotion in Dublin, as David’s locum for the first week in Dublin fell through, and situations changed daily. It was very stressful and unsettling, as we could not finalise any accommodation arrangements until the job was secured, and many good accommodation deals on the internet fell through due to the constant delays. To add to the stress we had awful connectivity problems with our broadband, in spite of a £15 top-up, making accommodation searches a veritable nightmare of frustration for Sandi [who reckons she deserves a sainthood for her patience and self-control]. Eventually it all came together, with only 2 days to go, but Sandi managed to secure good accommodation for us at the 11th hour.
This caricature of David's grandfather, Charles, hangs in the bathroom

This caricature of David's grandfather, Charles, hangs in the bathroom


With the Irish Ferry booked, we drove for 4 hours up to Pembroke Dock in south Wales, encountering a snow shower on the way. We then crossed the sea for 4 hours, followed by an almost 3 hour drive in the dark up to Dublin, finally arriving exhausted at the Burlington Hotel at 21:30.

Posted by davidsandi 11:56 Archived in England Comments (0)

CAMPING IN LONDON

The camp-site at Crystal Palace was as nice as the one at Charmouth, with lots of trees, grass and lovely ablution blocks. Although right on a busy road, we were never disturbed by traffic noise. The bus stop was 5 minutes down the road, and the trip into London took about 40-50 minutes by bus and tube. David disconnected the battery of the van, and we each bought an Oyster card and loaded a 7-day Travelcard onto it. For £33 each it gave us the freedom of unlimited travel for the week. Our accommodation cost £110 for the week, so all the essentials were then taken care of.
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On Monday we explored Trafalgar Square area
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and went to the National Gallery [free!] to enjoy the fantastic works of art. Sadly the JM Waterhouse exhibition Sandi was longing to see ended on 13/9, and there wasn’t really any significant Pre-Raphaelite painting in the Gallery. We ate our corned beef bread-rolls at the fountains, having decided to make lunch daily to try to avoid expensive temptations!. We could not believe that all the pigeons [barring a few old renegades] have gone; no doubt chased away by some pest-controlling hawk. We both had happy memories of feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square many years ago.
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We walked around Soho for a while and came across this arch with the meaningful inscription.
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China Town is such a buzz [super lekka], with red lanterns adorning the streets and Chinese restaurants +++.
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We stopped to buy a few supplies in one of the little food stores, but basically went in just to look at all the amazing ingredients. Sandi loved it, then back home to Crystal Palace campsite to recover from serious “Disney foot”! [A term coined by the Nye boys when we visited Disneyland yonks ago, and their feet became too tired to continue walking.]

Tuesday was supposed to be partly spent at the Indian market in Ealing, Wembley, but that was a bit of a bomb-out, as we spent hours getting there and wandering up and down the wrong end of the very long Ealing Road. Anyway, it was what it was. We then went off to meet Buz [Dave’s best man], and walked in Regent's Park with him before going back to his flat for dinner.
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It was good to catch up with him, but it was rather late by the time we finally left there, getting back to our little house-on-wheels way after midnight.

Wednesday we finally found the right section of Ealing Road and the fab pukka Indian market, filled with great fresh produce and wonderful herbs and spices [and cheap punjabi suits which Sandi couldn’t resist so bought 3 for the grand total of £17.50 !!] We passed this fabulous Hindi temple under construction in Ealing Road; it looked like an intricately carved sand-castle.
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Then, with rucksack loaded with veg supplies including juicy ginger and fresh turmeric root,
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we made our way back to the city and visited the British Museum [free too], which was so huge it was overwhelming [but very grand] – couldn’t do more than see the ancient Egyptian exhibition, but definitely worth another visit in the future. The fact that the camera battery went flat 5 minutes into the excursion meant we had to capture the rest of the memories with our eyes only.
Seated Sakhmets

Seated Sakhmets


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Then it was a much-anticipated treat of an eat-all-you-can Chinese dinner in China Town, and then the highlight treat of a live show -"We Will Rock You" at the Dominion Theatre thereafter. It was difficult choosing just one show out of the many on offer, but we had missed this one when it was in Cape Town. It was FANTASTIC!! worth every penny of the [half-price] tickets we bought. The live band played Queen's music to perfection, and the actors [singing, OTT acting, and dancing] were totally outstanding. We finally limped home, exhausted but happy, and had to lie in a bit the next day, because we were so whacked!!

In the afternoon we had made an appointment to visit the Haven Centre for breast cancer sufferers in Fulham. The director, Caroline, showed us around the centre; a beautifully appointed, converted and decorated old church building. How we would love funding to set up a clinic of similar style and purpose back home. We'll keep dreaming and manifesting!
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After that we headed back to King’s Cross where we met old pal Jonathan Shopley for a catch-up and supper.

London markets were on the cards for Friday, so we browsed Spittalfield Market, which was very plush, and Petticoat Lane [complete trash on sale there now], then Shepherd’s Bush [now nothing like the memories Sandi had of it when she last visited a few years back when Jamie was living there]. We then headed to Kew Gardens by tube. The open-grounds parts of Kew Gardens were underwhelming [compared to Kirstenbosch gardens], but in fairness, it is probably also the wrong season to visit.
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Sandi was delighted by a huge pine tree sporting little pine cones, like candles on a Christmas tree.
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The old glass house was interesting as it was filled with tropical and medicinal plants.
Bottle palm

Bottle palm


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The lily house had a selection of lovely waterlilies
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Loofah fruit

Loofah fruit


Nepenthes ampullaria

Nepenthes ampullaria


and the modern Princess of Wales House contained a tremendous variety of flora from tiny stone cacti to glorious orchids.
Colchicum autumnalis

Colchicum autumnalis


Swamp Bay Magnolia

Swamp Bay Magnolia


Stone cactus

Stone cactus


Passion flower

Passion flower


Orchid

Orchid


Orchid

Orchid


A most fascinating Day-of-the-Triffids-like plant: Aristolochia grandiflora or pelican flower from the Caribbean

A most fascinating Day-of-the-Triffids-like plant: Aristolochia grandiflora or pelican flower from the Caribbean


Variegated leaves

Variegated leaves


Little robin red breast

Little robin red breast


Underground there were some exotic creatures such as this Green water dragon
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Kew Palace is the smallest palace of the Royal family and is situated in the grounds.
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We got back early-ish (7pm) [1½ hours on public transport - aaaah London!] and Sandi made us a delicious prawn curry supper in the van, inspired by the turmeric root and Indian spices from the Ealing Road marketplace. Kitchen prep area is "pens-en-pootjies" on the bed, as there's no room for us both to stand in the "kitchen" area of the van, so when it comes to the cooking part we either swap places, or one of us has to stand outside! The joys of compact living.
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We decided to take it easy again the next morning, as the wind was howling and we were rather tired of hours and hours on buses, trains and underground. We thought of seeing a movie but decided to meet up with Buz on the South Bank, before wandering up to Covent garden for a leisurely supper at Wagamama. Seems we always end up there when in London, to which Jamie, Lissi, and Greg can attest, as we took them there for meals.
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London was great, but we were exhausted every day, suffering from Disney foot, Kew knee, Brixton toe, and Evangelist ear [black woman screeching the gospel at our regular bus stop in Brixton!]
To us it will always be a vibrant city, filled with wonderful experiences, and with so much to still see and do, we hope to return one day before the Zimmer frames get us.

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life…
...for there is in London all that life can afford."
- Dr Samuel Johnson, 1777

Posted by davidsandi 01:00 Archived in England Comments (0)

FOSSILS IN DORSET

DORSET AND SOMERSET

We finally got going on Wednesday, and, armed with a geological pick, we headed for the Jurassic coast to hunt down some fossils. We went down a steep, narrow, winding road to look at the coastal village of Beer, and stopped to pick blackberries on the way back. We had to fight our way through spiderwebs though! In spite of her arachnophobia, Sandi ventured up close to take pictures and sample a few irresistible berries.
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Just past Lyme Regis we camped at a very pleasant camp-site above Charmouth for the night. The following morning we drove down to its well-known beach, and found a swan with her brood of teenagers at the river mouth.
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The black clay cliffs which are loaded with fossils

The black clay cliffs which are loaded with fossils


David then proceeded eagerly to cleave open rocks and scratch in the shales below the cliffs for fossils, as happy as any kid bent on destruction-without-censure!
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Alas, we found none, but a kindly gentleman gave us a little pyrite ammonite he had just found in the shallow water.
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The view towards Lyme Regis

The view towards Lyme Regis


Moving further along the coast we had a good vantage point overlooking Chesil Bank, which is a beach of shingles 29km long, joining up with Portland in the distance [from where Portland stone originates]
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We drove up through the vales of Dorset [Thomas Hardy country] and stopped to take photos of the giant on the hillside at Cerne Abbas. No-one knows whether he is 400 or 1500 years old, but his outline is carved into the chalk of the hill, and he has certainly been around for a long time! Cheers to anyone who can keep it up for that long!
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Beautiful autumnal red ivy in the village of Cerne Abbas.
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We felt so welcome on arriving at Ebu and Jeremy again and spent 3 wonderful days eating, walking, and picking blackberries in the hedgerows, with Sandi capturing scores of beautiful pictures, as usual.
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Ebu in her kitchen with fresh vegs from her garden
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Snowberries

Snowberries

Old Man's beard

Old Man's beard


We also picked huge bags of damsons [similar to prunes] from the neighbour’s orchard, which Ebu turned into delicious damson puree for us. Delicious with icecream or thick cream!
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Ebu took us to nearby Lytes Cary manor, but unfortunately it was closed. We did, however have a good walk around the estate.
IMG_0133.jpgSheep eating chestnuts

Sheep eating chestnuts

Hedgerows full of blackberries, but we were surprised to still see blossoms around

Hedgerows full of blackberries, but we were surprised to still see blossoms around


IMG_0141.jpgRed currants

Red currants

Dandelion

Dandelion


We spent a fascinating hour or two in the Terry Pratchett shop in Wincanton, poring over the fantastical souvenirs for sale, chatting to the larger-than-life characters milling around the shop, and getting drawn into the complex mythology. The rotund owner and creator puffs constantly on his pipe while talking, which miraculously never falls out of his mouth. The affable ginger cat we photographed months earlier was still sunning itself in the window!
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Then it was time to head up to London; Ebu and Jeremy couldn't believe we were finally going!
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Posted by davidsandi 03:00 Archived in England Comments (0)

FRUITS OF DEVON

Devon & Somerset

We both flew back to Gatwick airport on 17 Sept via Dubai. We had breakfast at 0300, then stopped for 2 hours at Dubai, taking the opportunity to buy another Canon camera [at 0500!] in the tempting duty free hall We love it! It is much lighter and slimmer than our weighty, but faithful, old PowerShot, and the shutter speed is also much faster. We then had another breakfast at 0700 on the plane, arriving in London at midday. Fortunately we had only 15 minutes to wait for a coach to Heathrow, where we had an hour before our coach to Exeter. While in the bus terminus, a man arrived with a beautiful falcon, which proceeded to fly around the terminus, from point to point, for 45 minutes. The resident pigeons disappeared within seconds! We chatted to the handler who says that their pest-control presence there once a week is enough to prevent the pigeons nesting in the eaves, and also keeps other pests at bay. Very effective and ecological pest control.
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It was lovely to see Judy and Rob again, and to marvel at the bounty in their garden.
A bowl of raspberries and blackberries from the garden

A bowl of raspberries and blackberries from the garden


Grapes ripening in the front porch

Grapes ripening in the front porch


Crab-apples

Crab-apples


Elderberries

Elderberries


Red sunflowers

Red sunflowers


A lush geranium specimen

A lush geranium specimen


The van, a.k.a. Mr Stubby, had been booked in for a service on the Saturday; but after starting first time, he would not budge! After breakfast David got Sandi, Rob and Judy to help push, after putting planks under the wheels, but to no avail. Mr Stubby did not want to leave the orchard! We learnt that the brakes had probably locked onto the wheels, so after jacking him up and giving the rims some good hard tapping, David managed to get him moving and off to the garage - at last. When he came back after 3 days, we parked him in the orchard again for the night before our departure. Blow us down if he didn’t have a flat tyre in the morning!
While David was busy at the garage, Sandi found lovely llamas, in an opposite field, to photograph.

While David was busy at the garage, Sandi found lovely llamas, in an opposite field, to photograph.


On Sunday we all [D,S, Rob and Judy] drove up to Ebu and Jeremy to join them for their 50th wedding celebration. Their son, Dominic, wife Helen, and gorgeous grand daughter Beatrice, completed the party. We had a wonderful lunch and afternoon walk, before driving back to Ebford.
Judy baked a delicious cake for the occasion, and much mirth and merriment ensued when we stopped the car at the top of the road, to put the finishing, fresh floral, touches on - in the boot - so that the cake could be presented with the flourish it deserved!
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50 Golden Roses from a gallant gent to his gorgeous lady
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Ebu with young Beatrice
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A view over Holton village
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Dominic and Helen
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Rob and Beatrice - the oldest and youngest family members at the celebration
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Rob and Judy
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Sandi was booked to do a 3-day course in Huddersfield, but unfortunately the tutor was admitted to hospital, and had to cancel at short notice. Although disappointing, this was fortuitous, as the van took longer in the garage than the time we had allocated for the service, so we used the extra time to explore Devon.

Judy took us for a lovely amble on Dartmoor, near Widdecombe-on-the-Moor.
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We came across this ancient sheep enclosure with the ruins of the shepherd's hut. Someone had left evidence of some harvest ritual in the hut.
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Wild ponies abound, and are actually fairly tame, seeming not to be fussed by walkers.
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We enjoyed wonderful views of Dartmoor, with several hills capped by torrs, and the trees a tapestry of green hues .
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On the way back we stopped in Bovey Tracey at the House of Marbles, where we could watch glass-blowing, play with the intricate marble cascades in the museum section, and marvel at the displays of the history of marbles [while reminiscing about schooldays]. We were fascinated by the moving marble artwork on the wall.
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Janet had given Sandi a tenner, to spend on herself, so she bought a beautiful perfume bottle with a stunning marble stopper, as a memento, from the enticing House of Marbles tourist shop in the complex.
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On Tuesday we spent the day in Exeter city, and happened to pass this ornate door to the Guildhall, so out came the camera!
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David was highly amused to find the answer to swine flu in a pharmacy, and insisted on being photographed with the evidence!
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Apart from needing to do some shopping we wanted to visit the house that David's uncle, David, was renowned for moving. It is of historical value and unfortunately was sited where the new ring road was planned to go. David, the architect, had to devise a way of trussing up the house so that it did not collapse, then hoisting it onto rollers, and trundle it 300m up the hill to its current position. He did it successfully, and the house has been occupied by many differing tenants to date. In spite of achieving this incredible feat, his name is unfortunately not mentioned in the official records!
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There's a lovely little watercolour of the house in the posting [Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Yorkshire], from the 2009 Topsham Art Exhibition. If it wasn't already sold when we saw it it would have been very tempted to buy it.

The house is adjacent to the old city wall, into which many other structures have been built.
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The old clock tower opposite the House

The old clock tower opposite the House

Posted by davidsandi 06:01 Archived in England Comments (0)

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE & YORKSHIRE

We spent 2 nights with our friends the Bracchis, Sue, Kev,

and their lads, Michael and Matthew, in Newcastle, before moving down through the Yorkshire moors towards the coast.
The Bracchi clan - Sue, Michael, Matthew and Kev

The Bracchi clan - Sue, Michael, Matthew and Kev

Beloved friends

Beloved friends

We stopped off in the pretty little port of Whitby, which would have been far more appealing if it were not raining. We spent the next 2 nights at the Scarborough campsite, also mostly in the rain. Campervans come in all shapes and sizes!
The big ..........

The big ..........

and the small of campervan life!

and the small of campervan life!

Sandi had an interesting experience in the shower next morning. There were only 2 shower cubicles and several people queuing. A foreign woman went into the one cubicle then proceeded to have a long conversation on her cellphone, before even turning the shower on. Sandi eventually got into the other cubicle and showered while the woman continued to chat. The woman, eventually finishing her call, started singing tunelessly, and turned on the shower taps. Sandi had just finished drying herself in the adjacent cubicle, when her feet got spattered in warm, smelly urine from the woman next door! Speechless, she washed and dried her feet again, while the woman continued singing and showering. This was all a bit too ethno-bungo for Sandi who fled the shower, only to find that it was raining cats and dogs outside. Undaunted she put her towel over her head, and headed out in the torrential rain – in the wrong direction! After 10 minutes of running around in circles, with all the caravans looking the same to her unspectacled eyes, she found herself at the reception office, where they offered her an umbrella. “Too late” she cried, but was quickly shown where the van was - in site #13! She arrived at the van and warned David not to utter a word, but he couldn't control himself, and was in hysterics of mirth. According to him he was very sympathetic. " Bah humbug" she declares!! Drenched to her underwear, she dried off after her “second shower”, and by this time laughing herself, dressed in whatever dry clothes could be found, ready for a walk into town via the cliffs.

The cliffs were only a short walk away, so we set out during a brief spell of sunshine, skidding our way in the mud towards Scarborough town.
View northwards from the slippery cliff top

View northwards from the slippery cliff top

View across Scarborough beach, towards the town

View across Scarborough beach, towards the town

As we descended to the beach and the town itself the heavens opened, yet again, and the hail came down. Once again we were trapped by the elements! We discovered that Sandi’s jacket was not waterproof, and umbrellas do not function inside out! Remembering our Bulgarian hail-fest during the Rose festival, we just stood there in fits of laughter. After the worst had passed we squelched past all the beach-goers crammed into their colourful beach huts, drinking coffee and revelling in their dryness. With a touch of “sense of humour failure” we shopped for a more waterproof jacket - a tough, yachting, garment - and vowed to take the next bus home [to the campsite] as we were not going to squelch in our soggy shoes for 2 miles to get back. The next bus was in an hour and by then we were in a better mood, as the sun came out and dried up all the rain. We ended up walking back and stopped at the pub for an excellent carvery for £3.50. We [especially Sandi] felt we really deserved it!

Had a long drive next day to Kidderminster [near Manchester] where we met up with Jonathan Mills [Judy’s son, the Druid, who invited us to the wonderful Stonehenge experience]. We took him for supper in the pub nearby, before turning in for the night in his driveway.
Lovely rain-dappled lillies in Jonathan's driveway

Lovely rain-dappled lillies in Jonathan's driveway

Another long drive next day down to Ebford where we spent 3 days sorting out the van and packing for Cape Town. Sandi had fun capturing the summer flowers and fruit in Judy and Rob's garden.
Sunflower and Bee

Sunflower and Bee

Crab apples ripening

Crab apples ripening


Judy's beautiful dahlia

Judy's beautiful dahlia

Judy invited us to an art exhibition in Topsham, which she had organised and in which some of her paintings were exhibited. We were charmed by some watercolours of "The house that moved", since David's uncle, David, was the architect responsible for this historical feat.
The house that moved

The house that moved


A painting of a typical English countryside that took our fancy

A painting of a typical English countryside that took our fancy

David took the van to get 2 cracks in the windscreen repaired and, £40 later, got back just in time to catch the bus to Heathrow. We were each taking different flights home, with Sandi flying direct and David flying via JHB. David tried to charm the air steward into bumping him up to Business class as it was his birthday while in the air, but she would have none of it [his charm must be wearing off!] The birthday boy was however welcomed home with open arms!!
Janet welcoming David and Sandi home on 5/8/09

Janet welcoming David and Sandi home on 5/8/09

Posted by davidsandi 10:36 Archived in England 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

semi-overcast

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)

LIFE IN A CAMPERVAN

DEVON & CORNWALL

Finally, one Tuesday morning, the intrepid adventurers set forth in the van [which has eventually been named Mr Stubby] from Ebford. The curtains were hung, the cupboards were stocked and everything possible was battened down.
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We spent a pleasant couple of hours in Newton Abbot, shopping and watching some Morris dancing in the town square
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before continuing on to our selected campsite, Lemonford, in the nearby village of Bickington. It was a lovely spot, in a leafy valley, on the edge of Dartmoor, with good ablution blocks, and a peaceful air with a resident camp-kitty.
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What could possibly go wrong? First, the electric hook-up cable that came with the van had the wrong fitting, but the kind owner lent us his. Then the owner decided to cut the grass all of the next day, which was irritating as David had decided to give Sandi's troublesome shoulder and neck a good massage every hour, to try to break the spasm ['twas beneficial, but didn't end up as hourly ministrations!]. The following day it poured, and started leaking copiously through the 2 back windows; all we could do was put down plastic shopping bags and soak the water up with our towels until they were all wet. We realised that we were paying £3/day for electricity, yet we were using our own gas to cook on! How silly is that? So we decided an electric hotplate was on the shopping list, as a matter of priority. The weather then improved and we could relax for the next couple of days.
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After buying some silicone, we moved through Dartmoor to our next site near Tavistock, called Langstone Manor. Fortunately, we had really sunny weather so the leaky windows could be fixed, and the awning taken down and re-sealed. David, ever the intrepid handyman, did a stunning job on repairs. Sandi always seems to be packing and repacking.
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Several bits and bobs that seem to need doing to the van crop up at regular intervals, allowing David to don his Heath Robinson hat and come up with creative, budget-conscious solutions. These inevitably provide Sandi with mirth-fuel. For example - a GREY shelf that needed reinforcing is now proudly held up by a LAVENDER lady's belt! Said belt was found in a thrift shop, with David insisting it was grey, and would be a good match. At least it only set us back 49 pence, and since it provides daily amusement - cheap at the price!

Don't mess with the cook!
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The van trundles along the highways at a top speed of 60-65mph [even up to 70 on a good day!], but being diesel, is very noisy. Conversation above the decibels gets shorter and shorter! The radio works well, as long as the volume is turned up high enough above the noise. We enjoy tuning into the various BBC programmes - some are really funny, while others provide good general listening. Climbing hills can be a problem, proportionate to the gradient of the hill ahead; the steeper the hill, the slower we go [often down to 25mph]. As many of the country roads are narrow, the queues of cars pile up in the rearview mirror. It used to make David agitate, but as time goes on we have learned to laugh about it: C'est la vie! [or "tough"!]. As the van is 8' 6" wide, driving along these beautiful, dappled, leafy lanes is not as relaxing as one might expect. Trying to squeeze between an embankment or hedgerow on the left, and a large van, bus, or tractor careering around a blind corner on the right, is no fun for either of us. Sandi leans away from the hedgerow and shuts her eyes in case we collect a branch or hit the curb, and David leans away from the oncoming traffic, trying not to close his eyes, while still gripping the steering wheel! Somehow we've made it through everytime, but our necks are completely out. When we drive over bumps [of which there are many], invariably one of the large, super heavy, speakers at the back will bounce off its mounting and land on the bed, or one of the cupboards will pop open. If we brake sharply, all the food crates and gas barbeque slide ominously out of their storage tunnel towards us in the front. Try as we might, to batten down all known hatches, we never know what will come flying at us! Just like us, it's a work in progress.
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We are realising that being in a campervan can also restrict one's mobility. Many car-parks have a 6' height restriction specifically to keep the likes of us out. As we are longer than most parking bays, we have to be careful where we park so as not to obstruct the traffic, or attract a double parking fee for using 2 bays. Also, if one is settled in a camp-site, one thinks twice before engaging in the "packing up and battening down" routine, so that one can go sightseeing or shopping. We envy those who also have a little Smartcar or scooter with which to runabout. We do intend to acquire a pair of bicycles later.

Our next camp-site, called Mena, is on a hill near Bodmin, in the very centre of Cornwall. During the 4 days camped there, we visited St Austell, and the pretty port of Fowey [pronounced Foy, as in joy, for those illiterati among you!].
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We also shopped in Truro, and happened upon the Cathedral during a lunch-time organ recital, which at full blast gave David goosebumps, as an organ played at full blast is wont to do. Further down the peninsula we wandered around the Trellissic Gardens, just before closing time.
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Foxgloves [Digitalis] seem to be in bloom everywhere
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A fine specimen of an ancient tree in Trellissic gardens
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We became comfortable with just "being", while letting go of the pressure to always be "doing" something. There is such a lot to see and do in Cornwall, of which we merely got a taste for now. The pace of life is slowing down, and it has become rather appealing to us. We sleep very comfortably in the 8' wide bed, and are often asleep by the time it gets dark at 10pm. In the mornings, by the time we have read our books, emailed, skyped and breakfasted it is often 11 or 12 noon. Now that we have bought an electric hotplate, we often cook outside under the van awning, or just under the sky. Ablution blocks vary considerably from rudimentary and mouldy, to very nice. Twice we have had to pay an extra 20 or 50p for a shower, but usually they are included in the site fee, which varies from £14-20/night, but can climb to £30/night in high season. Electrical hook up is an extra £3-4/night.

Here is a beautiful peony, of which Sandi is particularly fond, growing in cousin Judy's garden
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Observing the behaviour of other campers can be a pastime in itself. Often we catch someone peering out of a caravan window at us, but they quickly pretend they weren't when we see them! We've seen only a few visitors from the EU; most campers seem to be British, either young couples in small tents or retired folk in large caravans or campervans. No-one has yet been seen in as unique a converted campervan as ours! David's favourite spectacle so far is that of an elderly woman with a cig hanging from the corner of her mouth, wearing bright orange bedsocks, ambling across the grass! [Wish we had a photo!]

We visited Lanhydrock near Bodmin, which was a really enjoyable and worthwhile excursion.
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It is an enormous, 400 year old manor house, with over 50 rooms beautifully decorated with original period furniture, books and copious Victorian ornaments [including fresh fruit in the dining hall!] The contrast between the "above" and "below" stairs was striking, as was the enormous kitchen with its huge open range and leading into a warren of associated rooms: scullery, bakehouse, dry larder, fish larder, meat larder, dairy scullery, and finally the dairy, where elaborate puddings were chilled by spring water piped along grooves in the marble slabs. The Long Gallery is the great room of the house and is 35m long. The remarkable plaster ceiling, which displays 24 panels of Biblical stories, was created in 1642. The gardens were beautiful with views over the 400-acre estate.
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We came across a tree that we thought was covered in thousands of white butterflies, only to find on closer inspection that it was a Cornus kousa tree.
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On our return trip to Ebford, we stopped at Looe [pronunced Loo, as in poo] - merely because the name fascinated us. This is another enchanting little seaside village on the Cornish coast.
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We bought a few different Cornish bottled beers and flat cider to take home, and some Cornish pasties to eat on the quay-side. Needing to wash the pasties down, we opened the cider, which tasted like a cross between fermented rubbing alcohol and poisonous herbal muti! Probably the first time we've not been able to finish a tipple!! Nearby we found Trago Mills, an enormous warren of old-fashioned-type departments in one store, complete with elderly shop assistants! It reminded us of how shops were in our childhoods, and we stocked up with odds and ends, as the prices were really good!

Posted by davidsandi 11:02 Archived in England Comments (0)

HUNTING DOWN A CAMPERVAN

We spent days surfing the net and Gumtree London, letting several slip through our fingers. We were trying to decide whether to buy from a business, which would mean a guaranteed buy-back and some security with regard to reliability, but usually more expensive; or to buy privately through Gumtree. One business was in Derby and 2 others in Kent, which would have mean 6 hours of driving just to have a look. What finally put us off the buy-back scheme was learning that it is only applicable up to one year. We then spent a day setting up appointments to view vans around London the next day. We set off from Wincanton at 1300 for Berkhamsted, NW of London to view the first one. 2 hours later we were grimacing at each other, while the seller was demonstrating the complex intricacies of how to fold-out, flap-down and stretch out the bed for sleeping. All-in-all too compact, and we would have gotten "cabin fever" within the first week.

Next into London itself under the guidance of Molly [our garmin satnav], who steered us through the traffic to Tottenham. This time it was a shady dealer down an alley who had a Bedford for £3900, which was so mouldy and tatty we got out of there quickly! Then through Clacton, where we spotted loads of Hassidic Jews in the streets [we felt like we were on safari!], down through the Blackwall tunnel under the Thames to Lewisham where we had an appointment for 1800. Very nice guy but the van was similar to the first one we saw, just neater. By now it was evening and we were getting despondent; are all the adverts so much better looking than the real thing?

Our last option was a van in Clapham, for which we had not set up an appointment. We left a voice message for Marty the Aussie guy selling the van and set off for Clapham. We parked in Clapham, eating our supper of roast chicken and Coke, waiting for him to return our calls. Eventually we decided to set off for home, still 2 hours away. Marty phoned before we had driven 5 minutes...he had fallen asleep! We turned around and within minutes of seeing it, we knew we had found our van!
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It is a LDV 7-seater van previously used by the army cadets, which Marty had converted and fitted out himself. Being an electrician, he has installed several innovative devices, with an overall sensible design; a big triple bed in the back with the kitchen in the front, with a minimum of folding-down and flapping-out! It is in good repair, 1997 model diesel and only £3700 with MOT and taxes for 12 months!
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We decided to leave it in London while we travel up North and will collect it on 25th May. We felt very relieved as we drove back to Wincanton in the dark; 10 hours on the road had produced a good result.

Posted by davidsandi 03:19 Archived in England Comments (0)

THE SOUTH WEST including DISCWORLD

It was wonderful staying with David's cousin Ebu and Jeremy in Holton, Somerset; a soft place to land after a stressful time.
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A visit to Wells Cathedral to examine the detail of the stone carvings under the spotlight of a friend of Ebu's was enthralling.
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Each seasonal altar cloth is a work of art
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The unique arch supporting the roof of the nave
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The side nave
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Detail on one of the pillars
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A beautifully carved crucifix
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The oldest working clock in England
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and the little man who strikes the bell every hour
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The steps to the vestry are age-worn
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and the roof is spectacular.
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We enjoyed browsing the many stalls on Saturday at the street market in Bridgport, and walking through the pastures scattered with buttercups, along lush lanes lined with nettles and delicate Queen Anne's Lace flowers.
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Hawthorn bushes everywhere are bedecked with blossom like crisp, white snow. Village gardens are brimming with opulent peonies and tulips, and whiffs of lilac blossom tickle the senses. I did not know that lilac comes in white, purple and lilac colours!
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We lunched with cousin Judy and Rob down in Ebford, feasting on Damson berry [Ebu's]
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and English gooseberry desserts. We visited Dominic, Helen and Beatrice for scones [they worked the 2nd time around....well done Dominic!], strawberry jam and Rodda's clotted cream with English tea in their cute, rose-covered cottage in the forest near Cranborne. Their garden was filled with the sounds of the woods and the heavy scent of Damascena roses. Several days were spent catching up with ourselves, repacking and planning for the travels ahead.

For those who may be avid Terry Pratchett fans, we discovered that the hub of his following is based in a shop in the town of Wincanton, near us in Holton.
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The town is the only one in all England which is twinned with a fictitious city, Ankh-Morpork,
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and some new streets are being given names such as Peach Pie Street and Treacle Pie Road [BBC 9 April 2009].

Posted by davidsandi 02:07 Archived in England Comments (0)

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