Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Much more walking

Charlie not feeling she's getting enough attention makes her presence felt!

We spent Saturday cooking up a storm which was great fun, in preparation for Denise and Paul (B’s sister and b-in-l) coming to visit on Monday, it was a little early possibly but we were meeting up with Helen, Ian and Monty dog on Sunday. So steak and kidney pie, chili, refried beans and guacamole for a Mexican extravaganza, millionaires slice and lime mascarpone desert later, oh and dinner for ‘tonight’ later, we finally stopped!

Sunday dawned bright and early and off we went to meet the guys. First guest entry from a dog below!

This is me, Monty Dog, a very lovable labrador!
Monty Dog: What a fun day we have all had with my new friends Jackie

and Brian.  The morning started early for a Sunday - though I never

complain about an early breakfast!
We (me, mum and dad), set off in the car just after nine, with promises of a lovely day ahead.
In no time at all we had pulled into a pub carpark in Beckford and two

lovely smiling people greeted me. Mum and Dad had said they were

friendly, so even though they smelt of cats - lots of cats, I responded

with a wagging tail and friendly lick. 
Ian, Brian, Helen, Jackie and Monty Dog
Then off we went on our big walk.
I had quite a bit of off lead walking early on, up lanes and around the

edges of fields.  At one point I got put back on a lead when I kept

eating dried muck that had been spread on the fields. Shame really as it was delicious!
I did get a bit over excited when I met some huge animals called horses. I didn't know if I needed to protect everyone from them or if they wanted to play.  They went past without stopping so the problem passed.  We saw sheep with their lambs too, but they were far enough away to not bother me.
I was just starting to get really tired about 9 miles in, when we reached a resting place called the Star Inn. They all sat around the table and ate yummy smelling food, while I rested. To be fair I did get some treats and a chewy stick too.
Jackie and Helen enjoy a catch up chat in beautiful countryside
After a little snooze we set off again for the last 3 miles back to the first pub and then decided to sit in the sunshine for a chat before going

home. Whilst they all ate and drank a bit more, I sat politely while

random children fussed me.
I was really too tired to do much more than politely wag and have a big refreshing drink, oh and snooze a bit more!
Sheep and little lambs looking on as we pass by
Then everybody decided it was time to go back into the cars and go home. I

was happy to get in and settle down for the journey home.
I am looking forward to further adventures with Jackie and Brian soon! Zzzzzzzz

Monty Dog says 'bye-bye' till next time!
We felt the same, zzzzzzz, so for the second Sunday we crashed in front of Indiana Jones on the telly!

It also meant I rebelled on Monday (that and I had slept really badly for the first time since being here) and put off  our ‘big walk’ with D&P, though they were easily persuaded when I pointed out that the pub,  although open every other lunchtime was shut on a Monday……

Brian, Jackie, Denise and Paul at Yat Rock lookout
This is guest writer Denise Williams here (Brian's sister)

We spent a couple of fabulous days with B & J this week in fantastic very warm spring sunshine! The house they are sitting near Ledbury is really fabulous- we felt like we were in a hotel really! The rooms are all very spacious and of very high quality with an upstairs conservatory which has amazing views over the beautiful countryside!

Ice creams at the Log Cabin Cafe, Symonds Yat
We arrived on Monday morning to be greeted by 5 affectionate cats and be served tea in the conservatory while we had a nice catch up. We then went off on a 4 mile walk around Symonds Yat - mainly in the forest followed by a welcome ice cream at the top of the 'Yat rock' at the end. The views and the weather were spectacular - it was so good to be out in the countryside just as all the trees are sporting their new spring green. We then returned home to more tea and homemade cake and lovely heat in the conservatory.

'After walk' beer and wine in the conservatory
Jackie, Brian and 'sis' Denise
Jackie produced a lovely Mexican inspired dinner on the evening, washed down with plenty of wine. We all went to bed tired but very relaxed.

The next day we set off on a walk that started from the house called the Poets walk- it was apparently inspired by the work of 6 poets who gathered near Ledbury to write poetry just before the outbreak of the Second World War. The walk was 8 miles, so just at the upper edge of my comfort zone but was thankfully very flat for the most part! It was very scenic and interesting too as we saw two wild daffodil meadows full of narcissus pseudonarcissus - our native wild daffodil and lots of other wild flowers just coming out on the hedgerows. It made us realise just how lucky we are with the rolling green hills of the English countryside and on our Queens birthday too!

Jackie and Denise among the yellow dandelions
St Marys Church Dymock
It is St George’s day on Thursday and we all felt we English should be making more of this- although I doubt we will. Our walk was broken half way with a half in the Beauchamp Arms pub followed by sandwiches in the nearby churchyard- eaten whilst enjoying the lovely view from the top of the hill, the site of the lovely St Marys Church at Dymock.

Jackie, Denise and a Massey Ferguson 35 tractor!
We returned home to a homemade steak & kidney pie cooked by Brian before reluctantly saying goodbye to them with a promise to meet up again when they are house sitting again in Solihull in May. We both felt like we had enjoyed a lovely little holiday- it was lovely to have a change of scene for a couple of days and somewhere so beautiful too. Thanks!

Paul stepping off a footpath bridge (the rest of us walked through an open gate 10m away!)
The very high rapeseed (actually Jackie, Paul and Denise are crouching down!)
Jackie, Denise, Paul and Brian enjoy a lunchtime beer
Denise,Paul and Brian in a scenic spot...
...Jackie, however, was finding the going a 'bit tough'!
The little robin says 'hello'!
Ginger also says 'hello'
As does Fred
And Molly (Lottie was out)!
And Brian enjoys the warm April sunshine

Friday, 17 April 2015


The weather is still bright and sunny and although a little bit cooler is still 16-17⁰C and pretty much ideal for getting out and about.

The medieval bridge over the River Wye in Hereford
On Wednesday we decided to have a tourist day and went off to Hereford, just 16 miles away from where we are staying. It’s a cathedral city which used to be a walled city, being in its old strategic position on the River Wye at the border with Wales. Although England and Wales are now one big happy family (!?!), it used to be a major border between the Welsh Celts and English Anglo Saxons and Hereford was right in the ‘firing line’, hence its old fortifications, which are sadly now all but gone.

Hereford Cathedral with its Norman tower
It is, however, a splendid city with many of its old Norman and Medieval structures still (partly) standing, but most interesting of all is the Mappa Mundi and one of four original Magna Cartas on display.

The original Mappa Mundi in its dimly lit cabinet
The Mappa Mundi is a map of the world as it was then known, drawn in 1286AD on a single sheet of vellum measuring 64” x 52” and reflects the thinking of the medieval church with Jerusalem at the centre of the world. The British Isles is drawn in the bottom left hand corner in a shape we wouldn’t recognise, China is top left, India at the top, the Red Sea top right, Africa bottom right. Sorry American continent, Australia and New Zealand, you hadn’t been ‘invented’ then! Most fascinating is that until 1997 it had no special treatment and was just hanging somewhere in the cathedral. Due to shortage of cash Hereford Council were proposing to sell it, but donors managed to stop the sale and keep it in the place where it was originally created. It is the oldest complete medieval religious  map in existence and although it is believed much of it was copied from an earlier map drawn in Lincoln, that map no longer exists.

A copy of the Mappa Mundi with English translations
In the same building is exhibited one of four original Magna Cartas in existence, originally created to try to limit the powers of King John, but re-issued by his son, Henry III in 1217. It represents the nearest the UK has to a constitution and much of it has been used as the basis of democratic constitutions around the world including the American constitution. It’s a small document written in a shorthand Latin language and we understood nothing looking at it, but of course it has been translated many times for easier understanding. Apparently, last year it was loaned to the USA to display in a museum there, with people flocking to see it and paying $20 a person (our entrance fee for both the Mappa Mundi, the Magna Carta and the ‘chained library’ containing many ancient books was £6 each!) The lady there told us that it was sent to the US by normal transport in no special packaging in order to not attract attention to any prospective thieves!

And this is the bit in the bottom left hand corner showing England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland
An original Magna Carta
Plenty of other old buildings including the ‘Old House’, which is a black and white half-timbered house in the market square built in 1621, now a free museum. It stands at a peculiar angle in the square, in its original place, but it was moved while building took place around it and then moved back!

Museum, gallery, old church, old medieval bridge over the River Wye and great old city views, it’s all here! We had a great day.

Today we walked over May Hill which is the hill with the little thicket of trees on the summit we’ve been looking at for the last two weeks from the conservatory window in the house we’re staying. The thicket of trees standing in a clearing atop a prominent hill of 296m was planted in 1977 to celebrate the Queens Silver Jubilee year. Standing alongside the views are expansive and, to the south a grand view of the River Severn meandering across the plain through hills towards the sea with few buildings in view, it could be anywhere. The Butcombe real ale in the afternoon sunshine in the beer garden of the Glasshouse pub at the bottom afterwards was an added bonus!
The chained library (didn't realise until after I'd taken this that photos were not allowed!)

Hereford Market Square.We have outdoor dining in England!

The 'Old House' museum in the market square

The thicket of trees on top of May Hill as seen from our conservatory window
Approaching the thicket of trees with (just visible) the Trig Point summit marker in front
The plaque commemorating the tree planting in 1977
View from the summit. The River Severn meanders through the plain towards the sea

Jackie finds some friends!

Approaching the Glasshouse pub, flying the English flag (Flag of St George). The hedge trimmed into the shape of a house on the opposite side of the road we found quite amusing

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Redmarley D’Abitot and around

St Marys Parish Church at Dymock

It’s week two of our visit back to the UK and the weather is really good, sunny with mainly clear skies, little wind and temperatures close to 20⁰C, absolutely ideal! So far it looks to continue, although it may be a little cooler by the weekend.

Our housesitting at Richard and Judith’s splendid house, looking after five cats is proving to be a great stay, the house is large and beautifully furnished, the country views fabulous and all cats a joy to have around, it just couldn’t be better!

Inside the ancient church
Even goats like a bit of fuss!
After our hectic weekend with Charles and Caroline, Jackie’s nephew and niece, we’ve had time to ourselves and, yesterday took ourselves on a local country woodland walk of 10 miles called the Daffodil Way, starting and finishing at the nearby village of Dymock in Gloucestershire. It’s a small village of 1200 people that is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086AD (, along with its parish church of St Marys. Not much of the history of the church is known, other than it’s Norman, its approximate age is nearly 1000 years, it was restored in 14th century and it is believed it became almost a ruin before being restored once again ( . It made a pleasant start to our walk after parking outside the Beauchamp Arms pub, hoping to stop for a beer at the end.

Spring lambs amongst the sheep parents
Armed with our walk leaflet of the Daffodil Way (borrowed from Richard and Judiths house), we set off around 11:20am, took four hours to complete the walk only to find the pub closed when we got back – what’s the use of parking outside a pub if it’s closed when you want to use it, particularly as the anticipation of real ale at the end drove us on! We had to return home, crack open a bottle of IPA and drink it in the hot conservatory instead!

A fine example of a weeping willow tree
Anyway, the walk took us through some fabulous countryside and woodland and we can thoroughly recommend it, even though we did add about half a mile to it when we went slightly wrong, even now we can’t understand how that happened, we followed the directions to the letter, following the brook and not going over the bridges as stated, so we think it was badly worded.

The very splendid Norman church of St Marys in Kempley
We re-found the route and continued on, stopping at another ancient church also called St Marys, this one at the village of Kempley. It is much better preserved than the one at Dymock and is described as an Exquisite Norman Church. It was built in 1130AD and has, on its internal walls, some of the most important and well preserved Medieval wall paintings in England. They were discovered in 1872 hidden behind layers of whitewash and are among the most complete 12th century religious paintings ever found in England and are of international significance. 
Inside the church showing the wall paintings
The church is believed to have been built by Walter de Lacy, who fought with William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and gained land in England and Wales and the original wooden roof is the oldest most complete wooden roof structure anywhere in the British Isles and is amongst the oldest in Europe. Not bad for a small parish church we just happened across!

Close up of one of the walls showing the paintings
Original paintings in the church
I suppose the warm sunny weather helped us enjoy the walk, but the rolling green hills, the woodland just coming into leaf and the green undergrowth dotted with white and yellow flowers, the odd bluebell opening early, the first smells of wild garlic, the friendly goats and horses coming over for strokes, the pheasants making a break for it through the undergrowth as we approach and the spring lambs bouncing around made it a typical but fabulous British country scene.

One of the oldest doors in the British Isles
Today? Taking it easy, baked more cake and mowed the lawn. There is supposed to be a gardener, but so far he hasn’t turned up, so I got the petrol mower out and did it myself. It’s a big lawn! Took nearly two hours in the hot sun so I felt I had earned the tea and a big slice of freshly baked cake!

Friendly horses come over for strokes
This one followed us all through the field wanting more fuss
Our lunch stop in the woods. I am trying to break the apple in half as we only had one between us. Jackie says that when she was a student she could hold an apple in two hands and break it apart! I tried and failed (do I believe her?), here I'm biting round the outside to create a weak point. I eventually did it, much to her amusement!
A pleasant woodland walk
Me 'n Er in the afternoon sun
Boyce Court
The end-of-walk beer and crisps. No walk is complete without it!