Thursday 26 May 2011

ABC Tour – Clocks, Church, Craft Shops, Canal Boats

We arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon  just before a rain storm.  As there aren’t any verandahs on their shops we went for a trip in a tour bus (not on the open top) in the rain and once the rain cleared we went for a walk.

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Shakespeare’s birthplace.

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We are enjoying finding ancient old pubs for dinner.

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And Mick is enjoying the odd pint.

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After dinner we had a stroll along the first working canal we have come across.

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The boats are really colourful.

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On Tuesday we just headed north with no particular destination in mind.  We ended up at Whitchurch, which is where many tower clocks have been made since the 1600s.  They are still made here now.

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There are lots of black and white buildings.  When we were walking along the High Street I recognised this building from our 2007 trip.  We had lunch there and I’d taken a photo of the building.  We had travelled from the north that time and I had completely forgotten being here.

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We couldn’t believe it when we arrived at our B & B yesterday, as Dave is a motorcyclist with BMW GS1200, similar to Mick’s and Lelsey does beautiful contemporary quilting.  She kindly pointed me in the direction of this little shop, which I would not have found otherwise.  Lots of Australian magazines, fabrics and patterns.  A little souvenir came out with me.

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We are staying two nights at Whitchurch so we could have a day ride into the north of Wales today.  There are lots of tractors on the road carrying grass for silage.

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We ended up at the pretty town on Llangollen, which is the home of the Eisteddfod.  There is a canal running through the town and we took a horse drawn canal boat ride.

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Stan the horse and his handler just plodded along beside the canal.

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It was very relaxing.  One horsepower.

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Then, on the advice of Dave we headed up Horseshoe Pass, a popular motorcycling road. The scenery today was absolutely gorgeous.

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At the top we had lunch at the Ponderosa Cafe – lots of motorcyclists coming and going.

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Then on the way home we came across the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct.  There are eighteen spans and is 126 feet high.  It took ten years to build and was completed in 1805.It is a World Heritage Listed site.

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The canal runs across it.  There is a narrow path and handrail on one side and nothing at all on the other.  It is only just wide enough for the boats.  We walked out onto it a bit, but the wind picked up, so we went back.

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Tomorrow we head to Liverpool ready to sail to the Isle of Man on Friday morning.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

ABC Tour – (another b****y) Cathedral, Classic Bikes, Cotswalds

We have been slowly heading north and visited Glastonbury Abbey on the way.  The story goes that Jesus visited England with his uncle who was a trader and established a tiny church on this site. It is also supposedly where King Arthur and his queen were buried. Like so many others, it was destroyed by Cromwell and Co. Glastonbury is described as “hippie central” in the Lonely Planet Guide and it is pretty spot on.  Lots of new age and witchcraft shops and the people to go with them.

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We continued on our way and ended up at Wells.  I had read on a few English blogs that it was a nice place to visit, so it worked out well.  We ended up staying for three nights.

Saturday was a lay day.  For me it was a lay in bed day, as I’ve had a cold for nearly the whole time we’ve been here and have also had the pleasure of picking up a nasty tummy bug.  I think I’m finally on the mend now.

Anyway, while I slept, Mick had a good look around the city.  Saturday is market day and the markets were excellent.  He then went on a guided walking tour which he found really interesting.

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Wells is the smallest city in England with only about 10,500 people, so it was a lovely place to visit.

Although we joke about the visiting of cathedrals, we both are so impressed with them all.  This one was no different.

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After lunch I was starting to feel a bit better so we headed out to Shepton Mallet.  This is the town featured in “Turn Back Time”.  Unfortunately, the publicity from the series hasn’t really changed much for the town in the long run.

But that isn’t why we were visiting. I have been reading Nostalgia at the Stone House blog for a couple of years and really wanted to visit Niki’s shop.  Both the shop and Niki were as delightful as I had expected.

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Once we returned to Wells Mick took me on a little guided walk.  Wells is named because of the natural spring that runs just behind the town.  It provides the water for the moat around the Bishop’s Palace, which has only ever been for decorative purposes.  The spring has never stopped and there is water running down the gutters of the main street all the time from it.

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This is Vicars Close, the oldest continually inhabited street in England.  The houses date back to the 1300s and were built for the clergy and choir of the cathedral, and still is used by them.

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The west face of the Cathedral is stunning with lots of statutes in all the little niches.  There are also holes where the trumpeters and choristers stood.

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This beautiful scissor arch was apparently to deal with sinking foundations.

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By the time we went into the Cathedral in the afternoon it was nearly time for the Evening Song service, so we decided to sit in on it.  The photo below doesn’t show it too well, but we sat just next to the pillar on the right of the photo.  The service was a true Evening Song, as the full male choir sang all the psalms and most of the service.  It was quite moving to experience in such a setting.  The young boys had beautiful voices and some were quite young.

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The reason we stayed for the third night was because we were told that there was a classic bike run taking place on Sunday.  The marketplace looked quite different to Saturday morning.  The event was the “Hare and Tortoise Run” and was the first time that the Wells Club had run this event.  We were able to enter on the day and really get involved.

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We were given our instructions by the town crier and flagged on our way by the Lord Mayor after being piped into the square.  A bit more ceremony than we are used to.

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There was a wide variety of bikes, but this one had to be my favourite.  It is a 1948 Invacar, which was developed for disabled people and has all hand controls.  It is the only one of this model remaining in the UK.  I supposed you could say it is the precursor of the scooters you see around today, except it is road registered.

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Although we were supposed to participate in the Hare section, we elected to be a Tortoise for the day, as we were in no hurry and love seeing the old bikes in action.  The run took us down some narrow country lanes that we would never have found otherwise.

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We followed the little Invacar for quite a bit of the way and it amazed us how well it poked along.

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The afternoon run took us to the top of the Mendip Hills where the view was incredible.  It was a pity that it was a hazy day.

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During the day we were made just so welcome by all the other entrants.  These two kept us in stitches.  They were great fun.

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Today we were on the move again, just wandering aimlessly in the general direction of Liverpool.  We had lunch at the pretty hamlet of Boughton on the Water.

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It has several little bridges over the river.  Unfortunately, it was a grey, windy day, so did not show it off to its best. 

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So now we are Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Not where we intended to visit, being so touristy, but the weather was looking threatening so decided it will do.  However, now that we are here we have discovered that it is a lovely spot. 

Anyway, I must off to bed, so I’ll tell more soon.

Friday 20 May 2011

ABC Tour – Cornwall, Coast, Cliff Railway

Time for me to do a bit of a catch up on our latest doings.

When we arrived in Cornwall I thought we might stay at Looe.  We have nothing booked and just play it by ear as we go along.  When we got there it was quite commercialised, so we just had a little wander around and kept on our way.

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We ended up staying at St Austell, which is a a large town in a lovely B & B.  (Jenny, the owners have a blackbird bike.)  It was only a 15 minute walk to get to Charlestown, which had a tiny harbour and a great pub for dinner.

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On Tuesday we had a bit of a tour of Cornwall.  Firstly, we visited the town of Mevagissy, which has a working harbour and lots of windy narrow streets full of cute shops.

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It is actually a working harbour, one of not many left.

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Of course, we had to get to Lands End.  We timed it well, as on Wednesday they announce that the Olympic torch will start its relay in England from Lands End and it would have been crawling with media.

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Back at St Austell we found another little pub with a great meal.

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Yesterday was our first wet day.  We had planned on visiting Tintagel Castle, but there was no point in that weather.  It wasn’t cold, just wet and foggy.

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We generally travel about 100 miles a day, so I found a motorcycle friendly B & B on the internet about that distance away at a place called Lynton on the north Devon coast and just headed there to sit it out.

Fortunately, the rain cleared in the afternoon and we were dry by the time we arrived there.

It turns out that Lynton was a great place to visit.  It  is at the top of a cliff and Lynmouth is at the bottom.  They have been a tourist destination since the late 1900s and the area is known as “Little Switzerland”.

This is “Woodlands” from the road where we parked the bike.

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To get to Lynton, you climb some steep steps at the back of the house and then walk along a gorgeous walkway.

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At the end of the pathway you go down a hill that has a 25% grade.  We were not game to take the bike down here with the old brakes.

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To get to Lynmouth, you then catch the Cliff Railway.  There are two cars and the railway works by filling up a tank under the top car with water.  The car at the bottom, lets out some water and the weight of the top car exceeding the weight of the bottom one drives it.  All too simple, when you think about it.

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Today was a glorious blue day, the first we have had for a while, so we spent the day in the area, just wandering around Lynmouth in the morning.

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The town was devastated in 1952 by a flood in which many homes were destroyed and lives lost.

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We then went back up the railway to Lynton.

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Next we walked to see the Valley of Stones.  Notice the beautiful little cricket ground down the bottom.

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Mick had to play mountain goat.

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While lazy me sat at the bottom of this rock formation, Mick climbed to the top.  There is a tiny spot showing at the top right of the picture – that is Mick.

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We then followed the coastal path back to Lynton, which was much easier.

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Back down at Lynmouth we explored the sea shore.

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And also the shops.

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Tonight our hosts showed us an English Badger that feeds in their garden, which was quite a treat.

Tomorrow we are on the move again.  Who knows where we will end up or what we will see.