Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Exeter Quay


We went to Exeter Quay on Saturday with Rosie and Mike and had lunch there – the best chips we’ve had in many a long year.

DSCF4262-1 It was made prosperous by the wool trade and had the inevitable decline in the 20th century but has been very well restored. The two large buildings are warehouses, well restored and converted.

We spent a couple of hours wandering round the area, soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the views. Highly recommended – and not just for the chips.DSCF4275-1

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There are a few more pictures at Picasa.

Travelling to Devon

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We set off in good time, last Tuesday, 7th Sept, to drive to Devon.  We could have done the journey in a day but it only takes one hold up and we could have ended up driving down narrow lanes in the dark – not much fun with the caravan attached.

We stopped to eat our packed lunch at a motorway service station. Some of these provide a special parking area for caravans (of varying quality). Otherwise we park in with the trucks. Oddly enough, we like that!  The bays are big and wide, the trucks park neatly within their bays and are quiet. We have strict laws which limit the time in any 24 hour period which truck drivers may be on the road so there are always a few trucks with curtains drawn round the cab while the drivers sleep and the rest are eating or cleaning their windscreens.  It’s fun to recognise trucks from all over Europe.

In the main car parking area, people are often careless about parking and we are spared the loud domestic arguments about choice of stopping place and/or choice of food and/or general outbursts of bad temper. As for the children, released for the first time in hours to run free – I can’t blame the kids but they can be a loud and unpredictable menace, running wild. I can’t see why some people travel if they find it so stressful.

DSCF4240-1 DSCF4249-1

We stayed a night in Gloucestershire at a tiny place called Ham. We chose it for it’s location but were delighted with the site and the surrounding countryside. We could just see the River Severn and there are lots of places worth a visit nearby. Next time, we will spend a few days there. We’re stopping there for a night on the way home at the end of September and will take photos then.

The next day we drove on. The only event worth mentioning is the torrential downpour we drove through. It was the worst rain either of us have ever driven through and we couldn’t even see the road markings. The only thing to do was drive slowly and pray – I think Poseidon did well out of that!

We arrived at Elburton in good time to get set up with (hopefully) an unobstructed view of the appropriate satellite for TV reception.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Doing a double take

I think I’ve finished sorting photos – all 12,000 of them! That’s what digital photography leads to.  Anyway, I found some odd signs to share.  Yes, I know – I’ve got a twisted sense of humour.

Chillingham At Chillingham, we parked in an area reserved for the cattle.

Middlesburgh transporter bridge

Seen at the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge – look carefully at the little sign at the top for an explanation.

Road sign - bunker

The not-so-secret Nuclear Bunker in Essex.


A road sign in Warrington. Watch out, the Welsh are coming!


I feel sorry for the person this addresses!

But it’s all right if you have a history of back problems or are pregnant or have had recent surgery.

Velocity is a ‘jet boat’ at Whitby, in case you are wondering.

I hope you have a chuckle.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Happy Memories of The North York Moors Railway

IMG_0127 - cropped

Those who were on the family holiday in Scarborough in 2006 may remember posing for this photo. We were travelling on the North York Moors Railway to Whitby.  Note that Dan has his fishing rod and bucket ready.

When we passed through Goathland on the recent trip to the area we were lucky enough to see no less than two steam trains in the Station. A quick right turn and a desperate drive to the other end of the small (and very full) car park was undertaken and Alan was away, camera at the ready.

DSCF4006 DSCF3997 DSCF3995 Getting out of the car park took something like a 12 point turn and a bit of breath holding but was worth it.

Saturday, 4 September 2010



Staithes, on the North Yorkshire coast, relies now on the tourist trade for its existence. Once it was a thriving fishing port and mining area with Alum, Ironstone and Jet being extracted locally.  Today, potash is still mined nearby.

The line of houses clinging to the sides of the valley in the picture above follows the only road down to the harbour – a narrow lane and very steep. Visitors have to park up at the top of the hill near where the old railway crossed the valley on a tall viaduct. The building of this was delayed after the Tay Bridge disaster – you’d need a head for heights to ride this line.

800px-North_yorkshire_moors_railway_mapMap reproduced under a GNU Free Document Licence 

A railway ran all along this coast. Now, all that remains are the stations, converted into private houses and the occasional buttress where a bridge was anchored.

There are a few more pictures on Picasa.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Where are we now?

This year, we were unable to get away till April due to the long period of snow and freezing conditions – unusual for the UK.  Since then, we have spent 56 nights away.

Since we returned from North Yorkshire, there has been a mad rush of dealing with house maintenance, catching up with friends, preparing for the next trip, a couple of business meetings, and dealing with our various other interests and commitments.

I haven’t caught up with all the posts about North Yorkshire, sorry. I have been too ambitious in thinking I could keep up with fairly long posts as we go along. The main problem has been  dealing with the sheer quantity of photos we are taking!  Sorting them and a little post-production work – cropping, straightening (!), compressing the ones we decide to use, uploading . . .

In other news:

As Selfridges announced Christmas shopping 145 days before the big day, Alan decided to send his letter to Santa early.

P1020617-1Yes. That is a weather station and here is Alan playing with it testing it at the caravan store.

P1020620-1He’s got to make sure it works.  Now he needs to write his thank you letter and stay a good boy so Santa won’t take it away.

In other Alan related news, we’ve heard today that his airfare is covered for travelling to present a paper at a conference in Cuba in November.  We’re delighted!

We went to see Joy last week (family will know who I mean, for anyone else, she is Alan’s Mother’s cousin). She’s still as sharp as ever, though getting around is an effort. Alan is in touch with her most days as they play Scrabble (though they are not allowed to call it that for legal reasons) via the internet. Joy plays with several people and has about 20 games on the go at a time.  I said she was still as sharp as ever!

So, to answer the question in the title, we are at home for the moment but leaving on Tuesday, 7th September, for Devon where we will meet up with Rosie and her family and hear all about their holiday with Vicky and her family in Kentucky.

My next mission (should I choose to accept) is to clear a large shelf above the basement stairs. It is an extremely useful place to put things for our resident lodger, Justin Case, and I think he needs evicting from there. That will probably mean Alan making yet another trip to the grandly named ‘Household Waste Recycling Centre’ – colloquially know as ‘The Tip’. I think I’ll have another cup of coffee first.

I’ll leave you with a gorgeous sunset from our caravan site in North Yorkshire.


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

And I thought changing a light bulb was simple. Wrong.


It sounded so simple. Our main kitchen light decided it didn’t like me any more when I came down this morning – no, I wasn’t up THAT early but we had dark cloud and heavy rain.

Of course, we didn’t have a spare. The empty box sat on the ‘landing strip’, AKA the top of the shoe rack in the hall where we couldn’t possibly miss it. It had been there for some time, muttered over when dusting, forgotten when going to the hardware store.

So, this afternoon, Alan set off for the hardware store and wandered round, empty box in hand, looking for a replacement. I should point out at this point that light bulbs in the UK have an option of two fittings – as above, screw thread or, as below, bayonet fitting.

BCincandescentlampSorry for the quality.  Not my photo but posted under a  GNU Free Documentation License, Our bulb was a screw thread, one of at least two sizes that I know of!

We had forgotten that a new EU (European Union) directive has come into force that incandescent light bulbs can no longer be sold.  They use ‘up to’ five times as much energy as the low energy bulbs.

1. save electricity – thereby saving fossil fuels. According to experts they will save 60% of the energy used by light bulbs in the EU.

2. A low energy bulb lasts ‘up to’ 10 years.

1. Low energy bulbs cost something like 6 times as much as the incandescent ones.  This is a cost no one can avoid.

2. The low energy bulbs contain a small amount of mercury and under new regulations for hazardous waste, councils are obliged to recycle low energy bulbs at a cost to the tax payer, over and above the cost of the bulbs.

3. The EU has now admitted that the claims for equivalent brightness have been overstated –  On a website intended to answer consumers' questions about the switch to energy saving bulbs, the European Commission states: "Currently, exaggerated claims are often made on the packaging about the light output of compact fluorescent lamps. For example, a 11-12 Watt compact fluorescent lamp would be the equivalent of a 60 Watt incandescent, which is not true. The light output of 15W compact fluorescent lamp is slightly more than the light output from a 60W incandescent."

We already have low energy light bulbs in most lamps in the house – we do TRY to be green – they vary in brightness and time taken to warm up.


1. I like being as green as possible. I do believe we have a very short time frame for stopping climate change.

2. I object to the cost of low energy bulbs.

3. Perhaps this bulb – if it really lasts 10 years – will ‘see us out’.  I’ve tended to see light bulbs as consumables and have never thought about their life spans.

4. Mercury is a nasty element in any quantity.

5. I hate and distrust any claim which is ‘up to …’.

Tall Ships – Hartlepool 2010

DSCF3578-1We’ve seen the Tall Ships leave harbour twice before, from South Shields and from Liverpool, but it’s always such a grand sight that we timed our trip to North Yorkshire to see them again.

Each year, the ships visit four European ports and race the first and third legs of the journey and sail in company for the middle leg. Hartlepool was the last port the 67 ships visited this year.

DSCF3438-1In the ‘Historic Quay’ – worth a visit in it’s own right – the ships were moored along the side. The picture above, taken from the landward side, shows just how tall they are.

DSCF3428-1There was lots going on with many people in costumes but the real attraction was the ships themselves, thronged with young sailors, 50% of whom were 15 – 25. Some of larger ships had crews of 200.


The first event was held in 1956 as a farewell to the sailing vessels which were obsolete. 20 ships raced from Torbay in Devon to Lisbon in Portugal.

Alan has written about the developments after public interest was stirred by the event here.

Alan went alone as those sorts of events are not suitable for small elderly dogs and I spent the day relaxing on site in sunshine (coffee and a book = heaven) while Alan got wet several times and took over 250 lovely photos for me to enjoy when he got back.

I’ve posted more photos at Picasa – but not 250!


DSCF3575 - smaller Perhaps, when the oil runs out, we will see more of these elegant vessels being commissioned and be glad that the skills to sail them have survived.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Travelling north again – The North York Moors


We’re off again, this time staying on a site near Stokesley in North Yorkshire – though I don’t think I should say the name of the county too loudly as this is one of the many areas in England which was slotted into a ‘new’ county during a reorganisation in 1974.  That was Cleveland (pronounced kleevland). Cleveland was an ancient name for the area but, in true bureaucratic style, the new county didn’t cover the old area exactly.

In 1996, the county was abolished and Stokesley is now in North Yorkshire. In common with other areas, some of the people who live there feel a little annoyed about having their identities changed by politicians!  Some people would still like to call North Yorkshire ‘North Riding’, which was the old name for the county.

We’re right on the edge of the hills and have a lovely view from the caravan.  Today, we went up the Bilsdale valley and visited two lovely sites.

DSCF3222Claybank had a viewing platform, complete with little plaques which were memorials to people who had loved the place and several indicated that their ashes had been scattered there.  Far from seeming morbid, I thought it was a lovely idea.

P1020454-1  The couple in the car next to ours had scattered seeds on a wall on the edge of the car park and several chaffinches were happily enjoying the gift.

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Lost Book

They say curiosity killed the cat so it’s a good thing we’re human and not feline or we surely would both have used up our nine lives years ago.

I’ve heard the groans from Librarians when they tell tales of requests for a book, vaguely remembered. “I’m looking for a book I read once where the hero was Fred, or it might have been Ted. He was a soldier or something, perhaps a cop. It was set in a town somewhere – I think.”

Alan has been looking for such a book for, literally, years. All he could remember was that it was set in Malta in World War II and featured 3 planes known as Faith, Hope, and Charity. He read it when he was a boy (many years ago) and it disappeared in some clear out or house move.

He scoured bookshops in Malta, searched online, asked Maltese friends. I checked with a Children’s books forum I belonged to. No one had heard of it. Then a few weeks ago Alan put the right query into Google and up it popped – ‘Island on The Beam’. With a title, he searched again and found 2 copies available for sale.

Island on the Beam

You will not be surprised to hear that he ordered both. One is now on a bookshelf and the other went off today off to a friend in Malta.

Alan tells the whole story at his website.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Down House: Charles Darwin’s Home


This is a small island, as Bill Bryson says, and we had an example of that on our trip to Kent. A few weeks ago we were near Shrewsbury where Charles Darwin was born, now we were to visit Down House where he lived for 40 years from 1842 till his death.

He wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’ here  We tend to only hear about his Darwin, the scientist and, especially, about his voyage on The Beagle but there was obviously much more to the man.

I love the notes he made when he was deciding whether to marry his cousin, Emma Wedgewood. On a scrap of paper, with columns headed "Marry" and "Not Marry" he listed his thoughts. Advantages included "constant companion and a friend in old age ... better than a dog anyhow", against points such as "less money for books" and "terrible loss of time."

Despite this logical approach, the marriage was happy and they had ten children. Unfortunately, two died in infancy (not unusual for the period) and he was grief stricken by the death of his daughter, Annie, when she was ten.

The upstairs of the house is devoted to a very fine exhibition about his work and family. He was a devoted father and spent more time with his children than most men of his time, including them in his observations of butterflies and providing them with a large wooden slide which attached to the stairs.

DSCF2399-1DSCF2405-1  DSCF2424 Outside, a lot of work has been done to restore the gardens to their plan in Darwin’s day – though that is an ongoing scheme.

There are more pictures at Picasa.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Brook Bungalow CL


This lovely orchard was our home for the two weeks we spent in Kent. Like all Certificated Locations, it only takes 5 caravans or motorhomes and we had it to ourselves for most of the time we were there.

The owner and two young couples live there, running a small holding and they have made it an idyllic place to live or stay.





As well as the orchard (which is old but is having some trees replaced with young ones), there were several separate areas with seats, one by a pond and one by a large aviary – which didn’t photograph well, sadly.

We tucked ourselves well away at the back of the orchard, put up the awning, without the walls, and virtually lived outside for the fortnight. The site’s location was perfect for us, only 14 miles from Maidstone where Jon and his family live and near Sissinghurst, not far from the coast and only a few miles off the A21 straight down from the M25.

We will make it our base whenever we travel to that part of the country.  Oh, and the real bosses of the enterprise are these magnificent cockerels who are the product of a small Bantam father (who was camera shy) and a rescued battery hen. They are twice their Dad’s size and strutted around the orchard several times a day, crowing proudly. I’d never realised that cockerels have different voices. We could tell them apart by their call.

DSCF2161-1 DSCF2164-1 A few more pictures are at Picasa.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens


Sissinghurst Castle Gardens are claimed to be the most visited in England. Certainly they were incredibly busy on the Monday we went along. Visitors from many countries and all ages thronged the garden with cameras and notebooks – this is a ‘Gardeners’ Garden’ and has been influential, not just in designing stately homes but for many small gardens.

Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson found the property derelict in 1930. Harold wrote in his diary that they found a vast accumulation of rubbish: ‘rusty iron, old bedsteads, old ploughshares, old cabbage stalks, old broken-down earth closets, old matted wire and mountains of sardine tins, all muddled up in a tangle of bindweed, nettles and ground elder’.

From this unpromising beginning, they created a beautiful garden. Harold was a classicist and laid out the structural scheme of the garden, dividing it into a series of compartments which could each be viewed separately.  The lime walk was his pride and joy.


DSCF1925-1 Vita was a romantic and the planting which fills the flower beds shows it. Possibly the most famous ‘room’ in the whole garden is the White Garden.

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The couple first opened the garden to the public in 1938. The proceeds raised £25.14s.6d and Vita nicknamed the visitors 'shillingses', as one shilling (5p) was the admission price. There are accounts of visitors encountering Vita working in the garden and chatting to her.  She gave cuttings to visitors and enjoyed correspondence with some of them.

Vita died in 1962 and Harold and her two sons decided that the best way to preserve the garden was for ownership to be transferred to the National Trust. This was completed in April 1967.

We took 183 usable photos between us and a few are up on Picasa.  I wish we could share them all with you.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Biggin Hill Airshow 2010


The picture above says it all!  A Spitfire from WWII with the latest Eurofighter Typhoon maintaining formation while doing circuits and manoeuvres over the airfield. It was quite awe inspiring to see the two aircraft from such different eras flying together.

The visit was part of my birthday treat on reaching my three score and ten. I didn’t know where we were headed until we were on our way, though I did know we were going somewhere with my children and their families.


P1010962-1 DSCF1416-1 It was a great day with a wide variety of displays of aircraft, old and new, and glorious weather into the bargain.

DSCF1425-1Ten people made for a serious encampment and a serious amount of catering (Thanks, Kerry).

P1020034-1The finale was a flypast by a Lancaster Bomber as we headed off to Allington Lock for dinner and a walk by the river.

DSCF1792-1   Of course no birthday is complete without a cake and one was duly provided.

DSCF1779-1More family pictures on Picasa and also more of the airshow.

Thanks to Alan for the liaison, Mike, Rosie and Dan for driving all the way up from Devon and Jon, Kerry, Layla, Tariq and Kalif for organisation and the picnic. Thanks also to everyone for making it a memorable day and being willing to miss the last episode of Dr Who in the current series!

All pictures, here and on Picasa were taken by Alan or Tariq – credit where it’s due.

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