Baddesley Clinton and Packwood

6 September

An overnight with Elizabeth after an event free crossing to Liverpool and a visit to Dunelm to get our replacement bedroom curtains – good service, thank you.IMG_4550A morning drive to Baddesley Clinton Stately home and just in time to catch a fascinating talk by “Richard” about the house’s history followed by a visit to the wonderfully restored house.IMG_4559

The gardens are renowned for their Dahlias but sadly this year, following a move to a different supplier, the show wasn’t as good as previous years.

Nevertheless, some were still in full bloom and with their vibrant colours presented a good display along with some interesting scarecrows.IMG_4576IMG_4573

Afternoon at neighbouring Packwood House, another National Trust property with lunch in their café followed by a walk around their gardens and lake and before venturing inside.

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The Yew trees are a feature here and are so manicured, it is just as though from a distance they look as though they have been ironed.

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Inside, there are tapestries and the usual type objects in a stately home but some of it has been erected recently and is not as old as the rest of the house.  Still, an interesting afternoon.

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Late in the evening we are told that Sarah pulled out of buying a particular house for a the quite acceptable reason of their being a registered paedophile owning the house next door. Not something you want with a young child. He has at least enjoyed going back to his new School after his summer camping.

It’s off to Italy tomorrow.

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Hidden London

Highgate ticketsStraight after our visit to Jersey and Brittany, I used my birthday present by going on a tour of the old disused part of Highgate Underground station under the auspices of TfL’s “Hidden London” programme.

First though, after a train ride from Gatwick to London we met up with Flic, Gary and Cody for a lunch, Sal’s birthday present, at Brasserie Zédel, a little gem hidden away near Piccadilly Circus.

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Art work in Ham Yard

We were a bit early arriving and with Flic & Gary’s train being cancelled, we sit and watched the world go by in nearby Ham Yard, another place I had not been to before.

Lots of through traffic of people and a few shops and cafes popular with nearby office staff.

One guy was wheeling a trolley with cartons of what looked like publicity material for a forthcoming film release (Victoria & Abdul) although it could of course have been copies of the film for cinemas – who knows.

Having put back our reservation by an hour to accommodate the cancelled train, we meet up with Flic, Gary and Cody and descend into the restaurant, all underground with appropriate lighting and décor that seems to transport you back in time to a up market 1960s type café.

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Brasserie Zédel

Our French waiter was interested to hear of our holiday in Brittany and kept us in conversation for some time before we ordered food and drinks.  Food good, ambience good but what about Cody you ask?

Well, Cody was not asleep for all of the two hours we were there, but he made no sound at all and I think the other patrons probably didn’t even know there was an infant in the room.

Gary and I now go off to Highgate whilst Sal, Flic & Cody walk up to John Lewis before setting off for Paddington to meet up with us later.

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1940s Tube Map

Many, many moons ago we had commuted into London from Highgate, having driven there from where we lived at the time in Harpenden and for some reason I even have the tickets to prove it!

Car parking then was very limited so I am guessing we only tried it for one week but in all honesty I can’t remember.

Highgate is the deepest tube station on the network lying, as it does in what is known as the Northern Heights.

Back to this year and we assemble at the bottom of a steep ramp, which I seem to recall was the car park, to await our other 20 or so fellow visitors.

Once assembled we retrace our steps and up an escalator  – the longest in the Underground system we are told – to the A1 road (Archway Road) and walk around the top by the Woodman pub and down a path towards Priory Gardens and a locked gate  to reach the site, don our hard hats (there have been a few bits of roofing falling of late) and high vis vests.

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Highgate Station in 1868

The station was opened in 1867 and redeveloped in the 1930s by architect Charles Holden in the expectation of improving rail services to London’s northern suburbs. The line itself started at Finsbury Park on the outskirts of Kings Cross and ran to Alexandra Palace, Mill Hill East and High Barnet.

A number of factors saw this dream never realised, the line was never electrified and closed in 1954 although the tracks were not lifted until 1971 being occasionally used for freight and stock movements.  Nowadays, the route of the line from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace is preserved and forms Parkland Walk.

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Highgate station with the northern tunnel portals just visible

Much of the infrastructure remains almost untouched though, which allows visitors to view what was and what might have been an integral part of London’s Underground Railway system.

The station sits with tunnels at both ends one of which was totally inaccessible due to 4 foot high stinging nettles but the southern portal can be reached but is fenced off and locked as it contains homes for protected species of bats including Natterers and Daubenton’s thus probably meaning the route can never be used again as a commuter rail route for London.

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Southern portals at Highgate

We are escorted along the island platform for talks on a few of the posters put up explaining what happened at the station – more than just catching a train it seems – and that the two side platforms were replaced with one island platform sometime before 1911.

Then a walk down to the southern end of the platform and the gated tunnel; no bats to see today but that is probably not surprising as they are nocturnal creatures.

Back out, after a speedy hour’s tour and get back to Paddington to meet up with Sal, Flic & Cody who was still wide awake and taking in all that was going on around him.

A lovely and informative talk supplemented by one tour member who had during his working life, driven (or had been a fireman on) a steam train through the station before it had closed. Thanks kids for a lovely set of presents.

Say our fond farewells, we get back to Victoria for our trip back to Gatwick and our early start the following day to get home in time to get the house ready for Jon, Pete and Dave’s visit for the Manx Festival of Motorcycling / MGP.

Next up is a visit to Sorrento next month.IMG_4532

 

 

Jersey and Brittany

imageSunday 6 August 2017

Thanks Flybe!! Your flight from IoM to Manchester this afternoon was over 3 hours late leaving resulting in my daughter missing her Flybe connecting flight to Jersey!

Not at all a good service which means a child minder will be needed for her 5 year old nephew she was supposed to be looking after in Jersey.

Compensation will be claimed, especially since she was, as a result, routed to Exeter for an overnight stop, to catch an early morning flight to Jersey from there to Jersey.

I think I will try and avoid flying at the same time as her again, as on top of the 3 hour delay in the flight to Manchester, there was another 3 hour delay in the flight to Exeter and another 2+ hours delay the following morning due to staff illness. 21 hours it eventually took her as opposed to 5 and a half. Shambles!

Well, that was Mel’s attempt to get to Jersey, now, on Wednesday 10 August it is our turn and we were flying Easyjet to Gatwick, late in the evening, overnighting there and a lunchtime BA flight to Jersey from Gatwick the following day – what could possibly go wrong?

Well, we made it, but our journey to Gatwick was very near the cut off time for keeping the IoM airport open, leaving something like 80 minutes late.

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Sarah & Ali’s kitchen for the summer!

Sarah & Ali have sold their house in Jersey and are camping whilst they find another house – a difficult task at the moment in Jersey.

We are well past our camping days and had sought help from our friends Laura & Jim for accommodation whilst Mel had joined Sarah & Ali for a week in self catering above Big Verns.

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Suitably dressed in his IoM T Shirt

Harry was pleased to see us.

By all accounts, the experience at the self catering unit was not good and certainly not worth the £1500 they had paid, having to call out Environmental health over some issues.

We started off on Friday with mini golf at nearby Les Mielles, followed by a visit to the Elephant park, boy was it windy at both but the 2 coffees and a cold drink at the Elephant park kiosk for £3.20 was a bargain, and dinner at Roccos at Les Mielles Golf club house; excellent value at £88 for 5 + Harry, including drinks. http://lesmielles.com/roccos/general-info-opening-times

Saturday 12 August

Early ferry to St Malo in appallingly cold and wet weather; crowded boat and an expensive coffee kiosk. Passport control not too bad and we head off south, Sarah driving her van, to Decathlon in Rennes by which time the weather had partially improved.

Lots of heavy showers on drive to our gite at Rose cottage near Langudic via a food stop. Finding the cottage wasn’t too difficult although neither of Sarah’s Sat Navs really worked properly.

Cottage is one of 3 – a converted barn in traditional Breton style. The other two are occupied by two German families who are related to each other. Mel was likened in age to the eldest daughter who is 18 – she was chuffed.

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Pool & cottage

Harry wants to be in the pool all the time but it is time for bed pretty soon, he is absolutely zonked.

Very well stocked cottage with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, dishwasher, washing machine and all clean crockery and utensils.

Sky TV has the basic British channels which helped in catching up with the first Premiership game results of the season, a 3-3 draw at home to Liverpool and Match of the Day.

The chairs are comfortable, the water hot but the one thing it lacks is an Internet connection and whilst there is electricity, running water and sewage disposal there is no phone reception for about half a mile.

A lovely clear sky tonight but only one shooting star visible.

Sunday 13 August

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Auray Town Hall

A short journey to Auray and a walk through a deserted town and down a steep hill to the riverside which was vibrant with locals lunching outside in the sun.

Lots of quaint streets and old buildings in a town not dissimilar to Dinard near St Malo.

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Auray riverside

Lunch, after an ice cream and a cake, in a children’s playground, as you do, and an attempt to get the sat nav to get us back to the house, having previously set it to the cottage as “home” – it failed miserably – sending us to totally the wrong village.

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Colourful canned fish shop

A long session for Harry in the pool again and a meal outside, temperatures have risen today, it was shorts weather.

Another late night watching football and one with a fantastic smattering of stars with a shooting star but not the promised meteorite show.

Monday 14 August

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Carnac standing stones

Visit planned under a cloudless sky to Carnac for the standing stones, The Carnac alignments, and then on to Quiberon. Luckily managed to park near the standing stones for a walk around the perimeter fence.

A bit underwhelming we thought but nevertheless, impressive when you consider when they were built (Neolithic era) and what tools they had at the time.

Onwards to Quiberon we get stuck in an almighty traffic jam, we think it must be a public holiday today, so turn off and abandon that idea, opting for a picnic on the way to Port-Louis and then diverting to a very sparsely populated beach at Plage du Magouero.

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Anyone for muscles

Loads of baby muscles on the rocks here and three lifeguards in attendance which is good as they watched anyone venturing into the sea in their immediate vicinity, not that there were many.

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An inflatable 2CV

We end up at the Decathlon and Carrefour at Lorient which is surprisingly well found by the Sat Nav.

The Internet at Decathlon was not able to download the Manx.net emails but this was resolved in Carrefour, as was the downloading of the Kindle books from the Cloud onto Sal’s kindle.

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At least I went in

Once again, the Sat Nav sends us to the wrong destination when we attempt to return to the house but we now know the way!

Into the swimming pool somewhat gingerly as it appears to be colder than we thought it would be.

Once in though it was good for half an hour’s messing around.

Tuesday 15 August

Sal decides a rest is in order today so the rest of us head for the market at Etel which we thought would just be around a square in the centre of the village – another error, this was huge, spreading from the church to the river front on one way and at least half a mile the other way.

All sorts of stalls, shoes, clothes, ice creams, fruit, veg, meat, crockery etc. Although we arrived just before 10, it was quite crowded but by the time we left about 90 minutes later it was absolutely heaving.

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Port du Vieux Passage

We had spotted a broken ship the other side of the river and headed off for this in an effort to have lunch there.

However, we found Port du Vieux Passage to stop for lunch followed by a walk around the coast admiring some lovely houses and locating the isolated house on the rock in the middle of the river although not able to take a good photo of it.

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L’ile du Nohic

From the internet it appears it has recently been renovated from a very dilapidated state and may now be holiday accommodation.

Further along the coast we find the wrecked boat, maybe a pirate ship we told Harry, but in fact there were five wooden ships altogether, slowly rotting in the salt water and probably covered by the low tide twice a day.

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Pirate ships?

Some very interesting shells and rocks on the sea front by the mouth of the estuary.

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T Rex in stone?

Shops closed this afternoon, it appears to be another bank holiday, so back to the cottage and a swim, slightly warmer than yesterday, and a BBQ.

Let us make the best of the warm and sunny weather, we are hardly ever able to sit outside at home.

Wednesday 16 August

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Enjoying the sun

We manage to get to Quiberon today, far less traffic but somehow miss the main part of the town, heading to the sea for a walk along the granite coast and a delicious crepe.

Loads of people stopping by the heart stone so getting a picture was quite challenging without people around.

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Heart Stone, Quiberon

Leaving the coast we head back inland for a drive towards Port Louis and its fort on the opposite side of the river to Lorient.

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Fort @ Port Louis

This fort is built in a strange position as it is surrounded by a moat but the water in the moat recedes at low tide so somewhat useless to keep out marauding pirates, however it is an interesting fort to walk around with some stunning views of the river and its water traffic.

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Sea Rescue olden times in France

Inside, there is a museum including a history of the East India Trade as well as shipping in general and a large section on the French equivalent of the British RNLI, the voluntary organisation dedicated to saving lives of people in distress on the sea.

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View from Port Louis

Thursday 17 August

A dull and wet morning , so we delay our visit to Pontivy, although arrive at lunchtime when everything, even the tourist information boat on the river is closed.

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Bridge at Pontivy

A bit of a struggle to find Decathlon without a proper up to date and working Sat Nav and no internet access other than McDonalds where we stopped earlier for a coffee – you have to order by remotely on screen and pay with a card – no cash accepted, but once fed and clothed (we found Decathlon and bought waterproofs) we headed to Poète Ferrailleur, near Lizio.

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Poete Ferrailleur

Poète Ferrailleur is an interesting place all created by one person and with items salvaged entirely from scrap metal, wires, wood – you name it, it is there.

Lots of interactive things for the kids to do including a number of simple board games and many work by a push button.

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An exhibit at Poete Ferrailleur

Quite a small site and just outside the village of Lizio where there are a few other activities although we didn’t have time as we had to get back for a swim

Friday 18 August

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Pontivy shops

A slightly better morning, and whilst no rain we slightly delay our departure and again for Pontivy for a proper sit down lunch, our first one out as opposed to picnics we have been having.  The café was chosen even before it’s name was found.

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Cafés Richard from Maison Richard

 

with a walk around the old part of the town with it’s fascinating buildings.

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La Balade du Pere Nicolas

Internet obtained in the car park of McDonalds before we head for Parc De Loisirs, a sort of mini adventure playground, called La Balade du Père Nicolas with lots of go karts, slides, more board games, a train ride, of sorts, and many small and medium animals.

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A big slide for big kids

The brochure advertised a giraffe but where it was is anyone’s guess, and the brochure from both last year and this year advertised a steam engine but the engine was off the rails and probably hadn’t been moved for years so the train was pulled by a tractor. Harry didn’t seem to mind though.

The big slide was a hit however and the zip wire certainly was being used consistently but was being abused by a few larger children as it had a creaking and cracked support but there were not too many other queues, just a few local children pushing in.

Leave in time for a last swim in the pool before we head for Jersey tomorrow.

The Parc is aimed mainly at children from age 4 to 10 there were a few families with older children who still seemed to be enjoying themselves. Harry certainly liked this attraction and at €7 entrance it was good value for money.

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Last swim

Saturday 19 August

Last day and a pack up, clean and tidy the house and set off at 10am. There was a cleaning charge of €65 if we didn’t clean so Harry was put to task hoovering – he enjoyed it, we think.

More by luck than judgement we find IKEA in Rennes (neither Sat Nav could help). Whilst we didn’t buy anything, Sarah did for a friend; prices seemed higher than in the UK.

Onwards to the outskirts of St Malo and we spend more time before the ferry, this time in Cora and then in the new nearby Decathlon passing the old site now occupied by gypsys.

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Harmony Men on Condor ferry

Condor ferry an hour late from St Malo and on the boat are some members of the Harmony Men, Jersey’s leading male voice choir, who I sung with when I lived in Jersey all those years ago – thanks for the free wine, Les.

Shattered, we get back to Laura & Jim’s for a well earned rest after dropping Mel off at a house for a comfortable bed, rather than camping and a meal at Pizza Express, St Brelade’s Bay.

Sunday 20 August

Take Mel to airport (she was only 30 minutes late this time) and then head for Elephant Park with Harry who now has a bike with him. It is strange having to return him to a campsite rather than a house. Harry is loving the experience though.

Too late for Sunday papers by the time we get to the shops.

Monday 21 August

Sarah brings Harry to Laura & Jim’s as she has hurt her back and is off to the chiropractor. We take Harry to Colleen’s for breakfast, a play on the beach and then a cycle around the park at Quennevais.

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Harry on Greve d’Azette

For some strange reason, the cafe at Quennevais sports centre was closed for refurbishment, despite it being the middle of the summer holidays’ so back to Elephant Park again for some drinks and a little play.

Meet up with Sarah & Ali at a house in St Lawrence for a viewing, a fantastic opportunity if they can get it, but there are some issues in this unfinished house which would need to be resolved first, like a retaining wall that needs building.

Tuesday 22 August

Collect Harry from Sarah’s work and back to Laura & Jim’s where he manages to scrounge another breakfast and samples the trampoline.

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Trampoline exercise

A hot day but not at first, so we opt for a morning cinema visit with Harry to watch Nut Job2, he didn’t like the mice!

Now off to Milbrook station café for, a play and paddle in Milbrook park, he did enjoy that although it was very noisy and crowded.

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Somerville hotel

Out tonight with Laura & Jim to Somerville, always a good meal and with stunning views over St Aubin’s bay.

Wednesday 23 August

Our last day with Harry and after another go on the trampoline and another breakfast we head off to St Catherine’s for a look at the sand sculpture and a ride along the breakwater before heading off to the park at Gorey, and a paddle in the sea.

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Sand sculptures at St Catherine’s

Ali is off this afternoon, so he collects Harry whilst we head back to Laura & Jim’s to pack.

Late (in the evening) BA flight to Gatwick although it was about 15 minutes early leaving, and overnight at the Sofitel.

Tomorrow is a day in London with a lunchtime meal and a visit around the old Highgate Underground station which is long disused before a flight home just in time for the arrival of some biker guests for the Manx Festival of Motoring.

Sarah, Ali & Harry have another three weeks under canvas before settling into a short term let whilst still searching for a suitable house.

 

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Bye bye campsite

 

Re-visiting Norfolk

IMG_4158Thursday 13 July

It is at least 10 years since we visited the North Norfolk coast having been there regularly from 1985 to 2008 whilst Sally’s parents were still alive. Early ferry from home, calm crossing and no trouble getting out of Liverpool.

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Boudecia cruise ship

Fred Olsen’s cruise ship, Boudecia, in the cruise terminal.

Stop at IKEA Leeds for lunch and of course you have to buy things – well it is things we wanted anyway.

Next stop was Great Heckington on the A17 between Newark and Kings Lynn where we had stopped before when we were regularly plying this route on our way to Brancaster.

A bit surprised though by the Penguin Pie on sale there!

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Penguin Pie anyone?

Our destination tonight is Norwich and we are in an older style Holiday Inn Express on the northern outskirts of the city. This has definitely seen better days and is in need of some TLC.

Receptionist thinks we are not members of their loyalty club which is somewhat surprising bearing in mind we have been members for over 15 years and amassed several thousand points.

Not a good start as we also took the last parking space and he had no idea on suggestions for an evening meal tonight.

We chose the Reindeer, a pub on one of the roads out of the city; a good choice although a bit alarming as we were the only customers for a meal to start with and it was about 7pm.

Friday 14 July

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Old Hunstanton’s unique rock formation

Woken at 05:45 by what sounded like drilling or sanding followed by banging. This lasted a good 30+ minutes but we did manage to get back to sleep before being woken by our alarm at 8.

Day out to the North Norfolk coast to reminisce from when Sally’s parents lived there.

First stop is Old Hunstanton, meet up with John & Deirdre for a walk along the beach to introduce their dog, Lucy to the sea and to marvel at the unique rock formations.

Windy and overcast, so it was not really the weather for shorts and t shirts and Lucy was not impressed at first with the waves, but soon gets accustomed to it and manages to get somewhat wet which does wonders for her recent doggy perm!

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John & Lucy nearly in the sea

I am not sure I had ever walked on this beach on the North Norfolk coast, so crumbly and the difference in colours is somewhat amazing.

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Windsurfers taking advantage of the weather

Lots of windsurfers struggling with the wind, all wrapped up of course but there were some hardy kids in the sea.

Lunch as a picnic was not allowed in the car park so we eat in our cars instead! Jobsworth!

Next stop was at Brancaster where Sally’s mum & dad had lived for 22 years before their house had to be sold for nursing home fees.

We parked up and walked around a local footpath, what a change but we understand many of the houses are now holiday homes and not lived in permanently.

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The “old” family house

It was interesting to see the changes made, especially to the “old” family house.

Wells-next-the-sea was the last stop of the day and although we debated going to the end of the causeway on the little train, we opted for a walk along the causeway instead stopping half way along just to sit and stare, just so peaceful.

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Wells-next-the-sea breakwater railway engine

Now that the sun had come out and the wind dropped, photographs were looking good and we took more than we normally would as hopefully Gary can turn one or two of these into a painting for us.

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Boats at low tide

After walking up the high street, the hairdressers, Jenny was still there, we head back to the car park and the fish and chip shop for a classic evening meal of fish and chips on the harbour wall and surprisingly not bothered by seagulls.

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Taking Lucy for a walk

 

 

After our farewells, we head back to Norwich for a much better night’s sleep tonight.

Saturday 15 July

Drive to Earley for a visit to Flic, Gary and Cody. The traffic was appalling, where does everyone go?

Gary called out for work so we entertain Cody before we head to our hotel and then to a meal at Prezzo in nearby Woodley with them and Gary’s mum, Barbara. Cody was so good allowing us to have a virtually uninterrupted meal.

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Clearwell house

Sunday 16 July

After lunch with Flic and Gary, we head off to Clearwell. Some great comments in our visitors book, one guest has been there 7 times, so we must be doing something right.

The garden is in need of some TLC since our Gardner left at the end of May but the new gate looks good.

Monday 17 July

Of course, most times we come here, work is required on the house but this time, we thought we would do some touristy things, so head off towards Wales.

Our first stop, using our Manx National Trust cards, is the nearby National Trust castle at The Kymin. A castle on the hill above Monmouth which has connections to Nelson who, in 1802 dined at The Round House at The Kymin having sailed down the River Wye 3 years before Trafalgar and is probably the most famous guest to have dined at the Round House.

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Monmouth from The Kymin

Allow an hour to look around the grounds but for those who are of reduced mobility, it is not really accessible inside the Round House but the view from the grounds are fantastic.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-kymin

We drive on to Abergavenny for a coffee, we last were there at Christmas in 2003, and then on down some narrow lanes to Llanthony Abbey, a 13th century monastery sacked after the dissolution of the monasteries by the Henry VIII administration in the mid 1500s.

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Llanthony Abbey and hotel

The Abbey is surprisingly intact after all these years with some of the rooms still recognisable.

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Llanthony Abbey ruins

Retracing our tracks down the narrow Welsh lates, we head for Skenfrith, a village on the border between England and Wales for afternoon drinks at The Bell, whilst we watched youngsters wandering around in the river Monnow.

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Tower inside Skenfrith castle

A walk around Skenfrith castle, which was built in the 13t Century on the banks of the River Monnow to help keep the English and the Welsh apart!

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The Bell at Skenfrith

This brought back memories of a Scout camp I had gone to, possibly when I was 14 or 15, and whilst I had not visited the Pub then (I am sure the Scout leaders had!) we had visited The Bell a couple of times recently, once with my Mum about 12 years ago for afternoon tea and once on New Year’s Day 2014 when torrential rain had raised the river Monnow to virtually flood level.

Much more civilised weather today.

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The Bridge at Skenfrith New Years Day 2014

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The Bridge at Skenfrith on a summer’s day in July 2017

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 18 July

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Westbury Gardens

After meeting up with our caretaker and his brother-in-law, Paul who is now going to do some limited gardening for us, we head off to Westbury gardens close to the Severn River.

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Westbury Gardens

This is a National Trust property so using our Manx National Heritage cards we were able to get in free to view these gardens modeled on a Dutch garden complete with canal and very hungry fish.

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Hungry fish

The one building remaining, a tower, had some very ornate wood panelling and there were many differing species of flowers, plants and fruits in evidence including the most enormous 400 year old oak tree and a somewhat larger than normal thistle.

A brief tidy up of one of the hedges on our return from food shopping and pack up ready for our journey home tomorrow.

Wednesday 19 July

A stop at Labels near Ross-on-Wye for some clothes and we head off northwards taking A roads rather than Motorways.

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Houses at Brockhampton

Our route took us via Ledbury, Malvern and Brockhampton where we stopped for our lunch and had a brief view of the extremely ancient house again using our Manx National Heritage cards to get in.

What a wonderful house this is, just wish we had more time to explore it and the area around.

Back on the road, we get held up by 3 sets of traffic light controlled road works and a broken down Lorry on our way towards Shrewsbury and are at the ferry in Liverpool with plenty of time for our crossing home.

Now for some home time, garden time and preparation for our next visit – this time to Jersey and France.

 

 

 

The Dalesman

The Dalesman brochureThe Dalesman is a Steam train ride between Settle and Carlisle in northern Britain across what has been described as “the most scenic railway journey in England”.

We had booked for a Tuesday at the end of a few days in the UK and had stayed overnight in Chester both beforehand and afterwards.

After the heatwave and wall to wall sun of the previous week, we are presented with wall to wall cloud and the prospect of rain all day which wasn’t ideal as it curtailed some of the splendid views across the North Yorkshire and Cumbrian moors.

The taxi to the station arrives on time and drops us off at Chester station in plenty of time for our scheduled 08:23 departure.

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Wooden train at Chester station

Confusion reigns as staff and electronic board say we depart at 07:48 so there is the prospect of lots of people missing the train and we walk down loads of empty carriages before settling in to our comfy seats.

However, departure time is altered to 08:20 and the two Class 37 diesels that are taking us on the first part of the journey make easy meat of the start and first part of the journey.

Mickle Trafford junction is soon passed and by the time steam engine No. 48151 is attached at the rear of the train, just outside Carnforth, the rain has stopped although the temperature has fallen.

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Yes, we splashed out and went 1st class

Breakfast served between Frodsham and Carnforth, a full English and served well, timely with good quality food.

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Hellifield South Signal Box

At Carnforth we turn right and follow the Bentham line towards Settle and Hellifield with rolling green countryside, dry stone walls, many streams rolling by, sheep grazing, cows scared of the steam engine and the clickety clack of the train as it passes over the joints in the rails.

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Hellifield Station, photographers, service train to Carlisle and onlookers

No continuous welded rail here, it is a rural route with few trains.

Hellifield reached on time and we pull onto a side line and reverse to head North, stopping adjacent to the station to fill up with water whilst a few hardy souls stand on the overgrown platforms to photograph our train.

My late father worked for the railways and possibly about 90 years ago, he spent some time at Hellifield so a picture of the station and the signal box was required as somewhere in the archives is a picture of him outside the signal box.

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Leaving Hellifield

We have now reversed with the Steam engine at the front and we are now near the front with the evocative smoke smell which sadly cannot be captured on a video.

Disappointed that the extra coffee was chargeable we make do with one only and make a mental note to bring our own in the future.

Our Steward for the journey was a guy called James, who didn’t seem particularly happy in his job with not a particularly sociable personality which was a shame. The food however was very good.

Across the Ribblehead viaduct with many photographers on the ground below and we sedately go into Blea Moor tunnel with the smell of the smoke from the engine even more prevalent.

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Our engine for the journey – 48151 – at Appleby

Lots of cuttings and embankments – passing Dent where I had held a Scout camp back in 1972 and remember seeing all the trains passing by on an embankment high above the campsite.

Thank goodness the land around here remains undeveloped.

We have a water stop at Appleby, a chance to stretch legs but it is cold.

Cross bridge along with a few other fellow passengers to get a better view of the engine.

Weather has closed in and we have even more misted up windows. Still, there are a few linesiders braving the weather for the photo opportunities a steam engine presents even though this is a weekly event during the summer.

Still raining when we reach Carlisle for our 3 hour walk around. Coffee in M & S but the rest of the time dodging rain moving from shop to shop rather than seeing the sights.

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Carlisle Station under renovation

Back at Carlisle Station we await our train South watching some crowded service trains pass by and prepare for departure into Scotland.

Now being at the back of the train it afforded some fantastic views of the whole train passing over the Ribblehead Viaduct on the way back.

I must admit I did hog the window a bit during this time but “I got there first”.

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The Dalesman steaming over the Ribblehead Viaduct

I think the next time we are in the area during summer we must try and stop to view the train from the land, especially if the sun is shining in a cloudless sky.

The Dalesman Menu

Food, glorious food.

The Dinner service begun as we leave Carlisle on time and is extended until just before Hellifield where our steam engine is detached and after manoeuvring around it’s support coach heads off to it’s home base of Carnforth whilst the two diesels are reattached and we await our path over the line to Clitheroe which is only normally used once a week.

Still there are people waiting on the platform ready to photograph or just stand and stare at the old coaches and engine.

By now, it was becoming dusk so photographs, especially from a moving train were not going to be good.

The whole trip was a wonderful experience with many thanks to West Coast Railways Limited, and the Caterers, The Gravy Train Catering Company.

The one downside was the sudden jerk as we arrived at Chester in the evening which caused at least one passenger to fall over and Sally to hit her arm.

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Engine on its way back to Carnforth

It is now back for a couple of weeks before a trip planned to Norfolk.

 

 

New Grandson

20170519_1408325 May

Afternoon ferry under a beautiful blue sky albeit a tad breezy and an opportunity to watch another Episode of Rake with an overnight stay at HIE Bromsgrove.

6 May

20170717_100943Our house in the Forest would have needed cleaning but the last few days were not occupied so Rob was able to do this before he went on his Skittles tour.

Nevertheless, we visited anyway to ensure all was well and to say our farewells to the gardener who is leaving the area at the end of the month.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t speak to Ken the neighbour who fixed our door for us in an emergency so head off to Flic’s who is still heavily pregnant, before venturing to our friend, Viv’s house who has volunteered to have us as house guests for a week.

7 May

Not a significant family birthday but nevertheless, a meal out at the Black Boy followed by a gentle stroll around local ponds.

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Elvetham ponds

8 May

Viv off on a holiday with a friend and I am taking them to the station in Fleet for a train just after 5AM.  Not surprisingly, not a lot of other traffic.

9 to 13 May

Various trips helping Flic who is getting frustrated about still being pregnant.  She is now overdue and we have a ferry tomorrow.

Collect Viv from railway station after her French trip about midnight – she had a great time and we of course are so thankful for the stay.

14 May

We are coming back to the UK later in the week anyway so try and get ferry changed but at a cost of over £200 it is not financially viable so head up the motorway for a couple of days at home.

17 May

Ferry to Liverpool and overnight at HIE Shrewsbury but can’t wait to get to see the new arrival.

18 May

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New Grandson

Flic is staying in hospital due to complications with the birth – and of course we head straight there for our first cuddles.

A very contented little boy but Flic is understandably very tired so we head off early to the Holiday Inn at Reading for our stay.

19 May

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Mel’s cuddle time

 

Pick up Mel from Wokingham and spend about an hour with Flic, Gary and baby in the hospital before we leave for our trip to London to watch the Beach Boys at the Royal Albert Hall.

Another fantastic performance preceded by a meal which was very good value for money at the Elgar Restaurant.

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Beach Boys in concert at the Royal Albert Hall

The train to London from Winnersh Triangle was surprisingly busy as was the return train from Paddington to Reading.

Flic had kindly arranged for a taxi to pick us up and return us to the Hotel.

20 May

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Laura’s cuddles time

A bit of shopping and then off to hospital for more cuddles – Laura joins us as well and managed a pose in front of a suitably painted wall in Flic’s room in the hospital!

Many thanks to the staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

Another trek up the Motorway to Liverpool for a ferry journey back home.

29 May – 3 June

Flic had a C Section and as Gary has returned to work, we are off to Reading to help Flic as she can’t drive.

EasyJet flights this time to Gatwick with train to and from Earley and a week of helping her (as she can’t drive) and we stay this time at the Crowne Plaza using some points from previous stays.

We have to get back home on the Saturday morning as we have visitors arriving the following day for the Annual TT races in the IoM as we offer a Homestay facility.

It is so hard to say goodbye to such a contented little grandson al though we will be back after TT near the end of June.

 

Catch up with friends

ReadRigney kidsSaturday 17 June

Another ferry crossing with old cars leaving after a rally and an extraordinarily empty road south to an overnight in a Birmingham hotel.

Sunday 18 June

Visit to Flic, Gary and Cody outside Reading; it is getting hot and the temperatures here are approaching 30C.  Cody in particular is suffering in the heat.

Monday 19 June

Train to London with a change at Reading, the trains are all disrupted because of the heat that might buckle the rails so we arrive about 90 minutes late into Paddington.

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Intercontinental hotel, Mayfair

Too late for a visit anywhere other than to our hotel as we are meeting Phillip & Sylvia at the Goring Hotel for pre dinner drinks so chill out at the Intercontinental Hotel Mayfair using our free night using the points we had collected in the past.

Bus down to the Goring following the perimeter road around Buckingham Palace and some pre meal drinks with Phillip & Sylvia before we set off for an Indian meal at Quilon at Buckingham Gate.

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After meal drinks at The Goring

An interesting Indian restaurant  which generally has good reviews although I will say it wasn’t anything special in my opinion  (see comments later!!).

Back at the Goring, we had a after dinner drink in their seaside themed garden, an oasis of quiet in the middle of London.

Tuesday 20 June

We managed to stay in Central London without spending a penny on accommodation or food in the hotel we stayed in as for breakfast I went out to a nearby Pret at Green Park for a croissant rather than the £20 or so breakfast in the hotel – not sure they will let us back in again at the hotel!

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Down Street Tube Station (now closed)

I’m off to a Hidden London tour in August but not to this one, Down Street Tube Station – perhaps another day – it was just around the corner form the Intercontinental Hotel, Mayfair and near the Pret at Green Park.

Back to Reading (it was too hot to stay in London) and then we set off to Essex for a few days, staying a couple of nights at a Crowne Plaza holiday complex near Maldon.

Wednesday 21 June

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If only I could remember where this was taken! (the wine and beer were good though)

Explored a few interesting and not so interesting areas around the area, including a vineyard and a walk along the coast at Clacton.

The lowlight of this was a drive through Jaywick – certainly a place to avoid although some of the house architecture was interesting!  A place to be avoided.

By now, the effects of the Indian Meal had begun to bite and with a vengeance. Too cut a long story short, we had to stay pretty close to some public conveniences for the next 7 days and learnt later that Phillip had to return home early from London due to what he was told was food poisoning.  Think that is what we had as well – not good Quilon, which is why my marks for the restaurant would be somewhat down the scale.

It was still very hot, so even a drive was exhausting so we headed back to the hotel for a rest and a meal in the hotel. Meal pretty good for a hotel.

Essex

Queen’s Road, Buckhurst Hill

Thursday 22 June

Drive up to the NE London/Essex borders to Pete & Lorraine’s for a get together. Pete is still working silly hours on the fruit markets and Lorraine is still working but plan their week so that they have at least Thursday off.

A lovely meal in Leonardos in nearby Buckhurst Hill and a photo opportunity on Queen’s Road which is well known to “The Only Way is Essex” fans.

Back to our hotel in deepest Essex for a restful night.

Friday 23 June

A country drive towards Cambridge for a catch up with Sally’s brother, Nick and his wife Ute. Peter, eldest son, had just sat an A level so arrived after an hour or so, Paul was on holiday with some friends so we never got to see him.

A great, as always, meal cooked up by Nick and a good catch up before we head off for an overnight with John & Deirdre in Bedford.

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Lucy

A new addition to the family in Bedford is Lucy, a cockapoo who is a lively little creature that seems to be causing a bit of havoc to the garden at least.

Deirdre was adamant when we were on the cruise that she was getting a dog and had her heart set upon a cockapoo.

John however, well that is another story – at least his medical issues have gone away

Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 June

More of the same with Lucy, whilst John & Deirdre are helping at the church for a function.

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Garden destruction

Monday 26 June

Sett off for a long drive to Chester stopping off at a few shops for some supplies we can’t get at home but not before a sneaky photo of our 5 (between us) children taken a very long time ago – the one at the top of the blog which was taken c 1989.

Tomorrow is of course a steam train trip from Chester to Carlisle across the famous Ribblehead Viaduct  – only the 2nd time I have been across this famous landmark and unfortunately the weather appears to be about the same as it was the last time, some 30+ years ago.

Look out for my next blog.