Friday, April 30, 2004

Cistercian Monks

On to Wales and M was really looking forward to visiting Tintern Abbey. It was only the second Cistercian monastry in Britain, and the first in Wales, and was founded on 9 May 1131 by Walter de Clare, lord of Chepstow, although the present ruins date from the 1300s. We were totally blown away by the Abbey. I just can't believe the workmanship. The stonemasons were true craftsmen, the detail in the carvings is spectacular. Henry VIII, in the mid 1500s, brought about the demise of the monastries mostly to gain from their riches than from religious conviction I suspect

We briefly dashed back into England as the quickest way to North Wales, seeing some spectacular scenery on the way especially looking toward Criccieth Castle which sits high and majestic on a rocky promontory which juts out into Tremadog Bay. The earliest mention Criccieth Castle is found in the Welsh chronicles, the Brut y Tywysogyon, in the year 1239 and there is a combination of both Welsh and English ruins.

The land is, once again, very lush and green, so different from Australia. We found a delightful bed and breakfast within walking distance of the station for the The Ffestiniog Railway (a must on M's list) so are staying overnight at Bod Hyfryd in the village of Minffordd, between Penrhyndeudraeth and Porthmadog. Iris runs the place although sadly is off to Cornwall soon - maybe we can catch up on our next visit to England as we won't make it to Cornwall this time!The place is very luxurious, similar standard to Bradle Farm, the china is superb and made locally at the famous Portmeirion pottery.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

From the Pearl of Dorset to Drake's Haunt

We reluctantly set out from Bradle Farm to continue our adventure and, on the advice of Gillian, headed for Lyme Regis a small coastal town famous for its shops selling fossils from the Jurassic cliffs. The pearl reference in the title is from something I read about Lyme Regis! The beach was what I imagined English beaches would be, where is the sand - the stones would be very uncomfortable to lie on!

We weren't very interested in the shops and were keen to get to Clovelly. Thank goodness for M and all the preparation reading she did but after doing this blog and searching the web for reference I think next time I will be better prepared!

Clovelly was incredible, it must have been so isolated way back when. The 'road' down to the beach is so steep, everything is carried in on sleds that are pulled over the cobblestones either by donkeys or people. The harbour is wild, you can sense that it was once the haunt of smugglers, pirates and wreckers. The colourful cottages line both sides of the narrow cobbled street winding down to the fourteenth century harbour below. Traffic has been banned from this village and it is quite a climb back up from the harbour.

M and I spent a lot of time taking in the scenery, walking on the harbour wall and looking at the incredible gardens virtually clinging to rock. Charles Kingsley is said to have written Westward Ho! while staying in Clovelly in 1855 (his father was the vicar of Holne which is also in Devon) so we also had a look through the Kingsley museum.

To round off the smuggler experience we set off to stay the night at Hoops Inn a picture-book 13Century thatched Inn not far from Clovelly and notorious as the haunt of smugglers and well as being the meeting place for seafarers such as Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Grenville.

The Inn was beautiful but the accomodation was motel-like, not quite the experience we expected.
We will both be sad to leave the Devon area of England.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Stonehenge and on to Dorset

Today was the most incredible day. M said we wouldn't have time to go to Stone Henge so I told her that I was perfectly happy for her to miss but I was going there and it was just ..... don't know how to describe but we were both blown away with it even though the day was miserable, cold and rainy. Stonehenge

Here is a poem I found that has been attributed to John Dryden

Nor is thy Ston-Heng a less wonder grown,
Though once a Temple thought, now prov'd a Throne.
Since we, who are so bless'd with Monarchy,
Must gladly learn from thy Discovery,
That great Respects not only have been found
Where Gods were Worshipp'd, but where Kings were Crown'd

We the went on to Salsbury Cathedral, another fantastic experience, I don't know how many photos I took, so many.

Then on to Church Knowle in Dorset where we were spending the night at Badle Farm, and no we didn't book ahead!

We went down to have a look at Kimmerridge Bay. The coast is magnificent and the little town of Kimmerridge has so many beautiful houses with thick thatches.

We are covering a lot of territory each day but oh what experiences we are having, I love it and am having such a good time!

Bradle Farm, with hosts Gillian and John Hole, is a working farm and is in a valley three miles west of Corfe Castle. The Purbeck Hills surround the farm and part of the farm has been officially recognised as a of a natural World Heritage site which includes the Purbeck coast.

The original farmhouse and land are mentioned in the Doomsday Book before being destroyed by fire in the early 1800's. The present farmhouse was built in the 1840's with local Purbeck stone, still retaining much of the character and style of the original.

M was very interested in the farm, they farm 550 acres and have two dairy herds, sheep and corn.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Shakespeare Country

Immersed ourselves in Shakespeare today. We went out to Anne Hathaway's house at Shottery first. All the houses are so different from home. Next to Anne Hathaway's was another house with a beautiful cottage garden.

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Having the car is so good, we can wander where we want. Stratford-upon-Avon is a beautiful place, with the canal, lovely park and the streets are full of flowers.

Just to make the day we decided to take off for the White Horse Hill at Uffington, and then would stay the night at Winchester. The image on the hill could be a stylised drawing of a dragon and dates back to 1000BC in the late Bronze Age.

Arrived in Winchester to find it pretty booked out, narrow streets with cars parked everywhere. Thank goodness for mobile phones, we managed to find a lovely place just out of Winchester.

Monday, April 26, 2004

The Cotswolds

Picked up the car this morning and after reading the contract nearly had a fit as we were not supposed to take the car out of UK - decided not to say anything and risk it! This is my favourite photo, don't know why but I love it.

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We went on a great walk from Bourton-On-Water to Upper-Slaughter via Lower-Slaughter. Lovely day even though I nearly trod in a cow pat! Staying the night at a Youth Hostel near Stratford-upon-Avon.

Bourton-on-the-Water is called 'the Venice of the Cotswolds' you can read all about it.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Blenheim Palace

M and I caught the bus out to Blenheim Palace which is at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Winston Churchill was born there and it is owned by the Duke of Marlborough. (Check out Blenheim Palace.) We used the trip to scout out where the car hire place was as well.

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Blenheim was amazing, the grounds were so green and lush, with a beautiful lake, pheasants, bluebells, trees - you name it - even a cricket game on the green. Inside there were beautiful tapestries, china, furniture and it was all very organised.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Off to Oxford

Walking around London is addictive. We saw so many exciting things today. I love the parks and all the narrow streets. We saw the new ANZAC memorial today and picked out a few towns like Wolseley and Adventure Bay. Loved the Ritz and the window boxes and the parks, I could spend more time here. But..... off to Oxford. M and I caught the bus to Oxford, the driver let us off near our B and B (Nanford House)and we walked up the road to it. Looked reasonable outside but when we booked in we were very hesitant and decided to stay only the one night. We booked it from the internet and if you read:

Period guest house located 5 minutes on foot from the University of Oxford. Wide variety of rooms available: quadruple, triple/family, twin, double and single at budget prices. All rooms en-suite.

what would you think?
We walked into Oxford for a look around and had out tea there, went down to the Youth Hostel and decided that it was MUCH better than Nanford. We are doing so much walking and travelling!


Walked around London today, saw my first squirrel in Hyde Park and of course did the "changing of the guards" at Buckingham Palace. I love London (for a visit) we are so central in Piccadilly Square. M and I have walked and walked, it is so exciting to see everything that we have 'known' all our lives.

We were on Tower Bridge when it opened and a boat went through, there were a heap of men on the deck all singing "Land of Hope and Glory",

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it was very stirring and you could feel the power of the song and the way it would raise patriotic fervor. Oh forgot to mention today is St. Georges Day. (England's National Day) and the flag was flying on the boat as it was all around London.

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