Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Around Redmarley D’Abitot

Two days have passed since our last entry and they have been interesting days out for us worth, I think, an extra entry.

On the way to the obelisk. There it is in the distance
So after I was told by my dear wife that we can’t go out on the bikes every day, yesterday we went out for a walk instead. I’d never walked to the obelisk on a side hill from the main line of Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, so we constructed a walk on public footpaths starting in a car park on the A438 by Midsummer Hill and taking in the obelisk, Eastnor Castle, back across the A438, over Howlers Heath and High Wood and back past Ragged Stone Hill to the car park. 

Looking back twards the main line of Malvern Hills
Edible? Our friend Bev thinks its got eyes and looks evil. Poison fairy mushroom!
Good plan we thought, but after crossing the A438 it seemed as though the public footpaths had not been used for years, with some sections so overgrown they couldn’t be used. Good job we had a good 25,000 series map with us, as we had to use it and a GPS to locate our exact position for several bits of tricky navigation. The bit over the monument and through the grounds of the castle were good, but not the rest!

A distant Eastnor Castle
So the obelisk we finally found out is dedicated to the Somers and the Cocks family, whose descendants still own and run Eastnor Castle. Lord John Somers (1651 – 1716) was an important figure in the history of England, arguing in the House of Commons that the Catholic James II had abdicated the throne of England by fleeing to France and that the Protestant William of Orange should become King after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. 
The grounds of Eastnor Castle were full of pheasants
He was also instrumental in bringing about the union of England and Scotland in 1707, but he died a bachelor, his sister marrying into the Cocks family (who ran the Cocks Biddulph Bank, now part of Barclays). They owned the land on which Eastnor Castle now stands, combining the wealth of the two families. The castle was built between 1810 and 1824 as a Stately Home and was occupied by the family until 1926 when Lord Somers was appointed Govenor of Victoria and moved his family out to Australia. His widow came back in 1945 and it was gradually refurbished by the family to its present glorious state. An interesting story we thought, just a pity the castle has just closed for the winter, not opening again until spring next year.

That's not a real cat on that roof, but Jackie didn't like it
Lounging in the garden with tea and cake after getting back
So we fought our way through the second part of the walk on trackless ground, save for the odd faded footpath sign, but with good views over the surrounding countryside, eventually coming upon a footpath sign pointing downhill through thick impenetrable undergrowth and decided we needed to make a detour, wandering along forest tracks not marked on our map. ‘ She is not going to be happy’ I’m thinking, but actually we navigated our way out quite successfully and got back for tea and cake, followed by a beer in plenty of time for cat fussing, so it ended well. Don’t recommend that half of the walk though.

Oh, it's beer 'o clock!
The smile is actually a grimace!
Today we were back on the bikes for a slightly different cycle loop. We’d got details of the ‘Newent Loop’ cycle route, which passes through Redmarley, but it’s 29 miles and I was told in no uncertain terms that we were not doing all of it! However, we did a section of it, taking in the villages of Lowbands, Gadfield Elm, Upleadon and Compton Green. It was 20km along narrow lanes in lovely countryside, with some great views and we probably did about a quarter of the ‘Newent Loop’, so plenty more for next time!

The Gadfield Elm Chapel
The loop is designed to take in some historic sights and we passed one of them today, the Gadfield Elm Chapel which was a small building that we almost went straight past. Glad we stopped though as its history is quite interesting. It was built in 1836 by a small religious group known as the United Brethren. They joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) and in 1840 gave the chapel to them. Many members migrated to America where Salt Lake City was founded and the chapel sold to raise funds to enable poorer church members to emigrate. The building eventually became derelict and at an auction in 1994 was acquired and restored by members of the Mormon Church.

And here's the questions to get in. Can you solve them?
We couldn’t get inside the building as it was locked by a combination door lock, but in the window a notice saying anyone is free to enter the chapel as long as you can work out the combination by answering questions concerning the Mormon Church – very clever! Since getting back I’ve researched on the internet and believe I now know the combination, can’t wait to go back and see if I got it right!

The weather is still fabulous here, blue skies, little wind and warmish (20 C), but a little cool at night. The forecast is for it to stay like this until probably Saturday, when the high pressure is expected to gradually break down allowing lots of rain to move in. Let’s hope they get it wrong and the good weather stays for a bit longer!

Approaching Richard and Judiths house from the back. Theirs is the one on the right
Ginger cat - isn't she handsome!

Fred and Ginger. Do they secretly practice dancing together we wonder

Charlie cat would have helped herself to my tea if it hadn't been too hot!

Prowling through the wilds of the garden

Monday, 28 September 2015

Back full circle in Redmarley

Back to THE view from the upstairs conservatory

Can't believe we've been here more than a week, and written nothing, you'll have all gone off and left us! Now I have sat down to write it's not easy as Fred bear has decided to sit on me!

It felt like coming home, pulling up back at Richard and Judith's, hugs from them, wagging tails from the dogs and purrs and snuggles from the cats. As ever, too much to say and not enough time to say it despite arriving at 'beer o clock' having dinner and breakfast before they set off with the caravan to stay overnight at Richard's brothers going out for a jazz lunch to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

We shut the doors and hibernated, it wasn't that cold, we just pretended, cats, jigsaw and tea and cake. And the fab view of course.

Views on Brians walk
Thursday I went up to Alvechurch for the excitement of the dentist, who really made my day by replacing a filling, followed by a trip to the beautician for waxing and eyelash dying and much more pleasantly lunch with Helen and Monty Dog. Lovely to catch up, also raided her wardrobe for a cardigan to go with the dress I was planning to wear to the Christening on Sunday. I think it could have been the first bit of motorway driving I have done on my own in the last three years! All very strange. B went for a walk which was ok, he was back in time to cook dinner for me!

Some of the paths didn't have much view!
On Saturday he decided he couldn't live without his bike any longer, well with running being off the cards with his knee and my Achilles' tendon and the free Birmingham gyms being a bit too far to go, plus the great forecast it seemed to make sense, so back up to Alvechurch again, it's only 50 mins away and a really easy journey, stopped in at Mum, twice in three days, lucky her and back.

Steph with Rory on his baptism day
Only to get up on Sunday and best bib and tucker, back to Solihull to celebrate the baptism of little Rory, born a week before we got back in the country, now six months old. Brian's great nephew. Lovely party, good to catch up with the family, and the weather was great, to enable Sam's family to see the church in sunshine as it had poured down at their wedding! No photos yet as B was joint ‘official photographer’ along with granddaughter Abbie, so all photos are with Steph and Sam until they make some available to us. We’ll post some with the next blog entry.  

We thought we'd make the most of being up for the day so had planned a Sunday Tea Club with Crystal and Manu, Helen and Ian and Pete and Hilary. Crystal as usual doing all the hard work and ordering for everyone, this restaurant did actually have English in the menus unlike many in Chinatown, but it's the routine now, and wow, was it yummy, she really excelled herself. Feeling very full and happy to have caught up with so many people we came home wondering if all the cats would have starved to death, they didn't seem that bothered that we were many hours late for dinner, "just don't do it again" ok, not till next Monday anyway!

On our cycle ride today. Apparently the circumflex over the 'O' is incorrect, according to official Redmarley historical accounts. There is no French connection
This baby donkey was wondering what we were doing
So today, out on the bikes, not too far and I have to say he found a route where the roads weren't too narrow or hilly, just as well, as it's a long time since my bottom has been on a serious bike ride. He has his sights set on bigger rides next, I just have to convince him we are not going out every day!

But he and his mum came over for strokes anyway
We've had a plague of insects on the lounge balcony for the last few days around 6:00pm....
...No idea what they are, but we've kept the door shut!
This is very shy Lottie cat in her bed on the car roof in the garage, with big Fred bear
Little fluffy Charlie cat likes to snuggle onto Jackies lap
Breakfast one morning in the conservatory. Fred thinks 'I don't like toast!'
Yoga practice for Fred - 'I need all this sofa to myself, no dogs to share it with - ha!'
Molly cat in her usual chair in the conservatory. Ginger, where are you? We'll get a photo of her for the next entry!

Friday, 18 September 2015

More Anglesey

It’s the end of our second week on Anglesey, much cooler (15 C daytime temperatures) and changeable but with good spells of sunshine, so we’ve been out again exploring as well as thoroughly enjoying all the animals we’re looking after.

Jackie with Lloyd, her old university friend
During our time here things are changing in the world, the Syrian refugee crisis is in full swing with Europe seemingly unable to reach any agreement in how to tackle it, Jeremy Corbyn has been elected to leader of the UK Labour party, causing a huge interest in politics, which can only be a good thing, our friends Simon and Diane, who we met in Vietnam last November have returned from their year away and, on a more personal level, we have arranged a Solihull Mountaineering Club ski trip to St Jean D’Aulps for next March, staying at our friends Simon and Cassie’s chalet, just down the hill from where we’ll be staying for the next ski season. Things are coming together and, tomorrow we leave Anglesey without seeing Ken and Angela and drive down to see Richard and Judith for our month or so stay at Redmarley D’Abitot.

Ginge and Tomas
We’ll be sad not to see Ken and Angela return from their holiday in Scotland, but they don’t expect to be back in Anglesey until about 5pm and, by then we need to be down in Redmarley, so need to leave here about 1:00pm, leaving dogs dozing on the sofas, Bobbie chatting away in his cage and the cats in and out through the kitchen window as they want. It’ll seem strange not seeing them and we’ll be really sorry to leave here, despite the full house. 

Bobbie carefully takes a piece of pear from Jackie
Not only have we met many very friendly locals who have made us very welcome, we’ve become quite attached to all the animals here. Minnie had to come on the bed a shivering wreck in the middle of last night following a clap of thunder, Jackie found the way to Bobbie’s heart when she found how partial he is to apple and pears, taking a piece gently from her hand when she happened to walk in with a piece and she has really bonded with the cats, particularly old Ginge, who just wants fuss and strokes and for Jackie to brush him.

And thoroughly enjoys it!
Caernarfon Castle
Since last weekend the high pressure moved away, we had some rain over the weekend and on Monday so Jackie decided the time was right to contact her old university friend Lloyd and drive into Bangor to meet up with him. I went along to keep her company, hear all her reminiscences as we drove round town and to give her an ‘out’ just in case the conversation didn’t flow freely with someone she hasn’t see for nearly 30 years. In the end it wasn’t a problem, we met in a pub in the town, drank coffee, had some lunch, Jackie had a good catch up with her old friend and we learnt a lot about travelling Europe in a campervan, which is what he does a lot of now he has retired.

Inside the castle, showing the circular platform of the investiture
Better weather from Tuesday onwards meant we were out every day, but back around 3:30pm each day to take doggies for their daily walks over the forestry. We had a plan of things we wanted to see and now the weeks over we haven’t seen them all, but we’ve had a good stab at it, we’ll just have to come back again, maybe even stopping here again next year if Ken and Angela ask us.

The Eagle Tower at the castle
On Tuesday we visited Caernarfon castle, just across the Menai Straits on the mainland and what a great visit that was. The town is fascinating in itself and the monumental castle, build by Edward I in the thirteenth century is fabulous and well worth a visit, the additional benefit for me was that I got a senior citizen discount. The circular platform used for the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969 is still in the open area in the centre of the castle and we had great views from the tops of the towers of the town, Anglesey and the mountains of Snowdonia, the many climbs of spiral staircases gave us the added benefit of a good workout too!

At the ruined windmill on Parys Mountain
On Wednesday we visited Parys Mountain, just inland from Amlwch, north-east Anglesey, which is a huge old copper mining area, both open cast and deep mines. Doesn’t sound appealing, but it was very interesting, the wild scenery of brightly coloured acidic rock, equally bright lichens and acid tolerant purple heather growing in abundance, the ruined mining buildings, rusting machinery, even an old windmill and vast open cast holes in the ground. It’s really ‘other worldly’ and, apparently an episode of Dr Who was filmed here, depicting him landing on an alien planet, as long as you get the angles right and keep out the blue sea, green rolling hills and modern wind turbines in the distance we can quite see it!

One of the old open cast mines at Parys Mountain
The bay near Pentraeth
Had a quick chat with a couple who turned up in a campervan of the type we envisage buying at some point and quizzed them about their van and their experiences and then we headed off east along the coast to a place called Pentraeth to follow part of a published circular walk to the coast and back. Met more friendly local people who told us about an excellent 12 mile coastal walk from Amlwch to Cemaes that we should do (have to leave it until a future visit), before returning to get sleeping dogs excited for their walk!

Coastal walk at Pentraeth
The WI building in LlanfairPG, formed on 16th September 1915
We had seen the building where the first Womens Institute in the UK meet, but never actually stopped to take a photo, decided we would, just as Steve Wright on Radio2 announced it was the 100th anniversary of the first meeting today, just as we were passing, so it seemed only right to pop in for a chat and a look at their museum. Was disappointed not to be offered tea and biscuits despite the plate of biscuits on the table! Perhaps we are just not the right sort!

Some old WI memorabilia in their museum
Waiting for our boat (in the distance) at Beaumaris quay
For yesterday we had planned a visit to Beaumaris castle and a drive and walk out to Trwyn Du, the point in the north east of the island overlooking Puffin Island, but when we got to Beaumaris our plans changed. Instead we took a 1.5 hour boat trip on the Island Princess boat to and round Puffin Island after speaking to someone in a kiosk at the harbour. Jackie got me another senior citizen discount while I parked the car and we joined quite a few others at the quayside for a great trip with two very knowledgeable and able guides. We managed to see seals, shags, cormorants and many other birds (but no puffins) on Puffin Island, now a bird sanctuary, plus a couple of porpoises swimming around the Perch Rock lighthouse.

Seals on the beach of Puffin Island
Puffin Island
Instead of visiting Beaumaris castle (once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all – but it did look really good) we visited the old courthouse and the old gaol on recommendation of the guy in the kiosk (that was after going for hot chocolate in a tea shop and bumping into the couple with the campervan we’d seen the day before), both really interesting and well worthwhile. We’ve come a long way since the mid 1800’s, life was pretty cruel and hard in those days!

Perch Rock lighthouse
Today is a day in with all the animals to catch up with things, write the blog and start packing and cleaning ready for our trip out of here tomorrow. See you in Redmarley D’Abitot…

That there is a porpoise swimming close to the lighthouse

Jackie listening to the audio commentary in the old courthouse at Beaumaris

Sionyn and Tomas sharing a moment, showing dogs and cats can get on

Minnie sitting on Sionyn, who doesn't mind a bit

'Old girl' Cassie showing that she can still act like a puppy!

Tomas decided the new towels provided for us were much more comfortable than his bed. We used different towels! By the way, that's not a real duck!