A Trip to Welsh Wales. Part 5.

Well as sure as night follows day, Part 5 is hereby following Part 4.

Strange word….hearby.  Sounds a bit ye olde English. Verrily forsooth and all that.

While I’ve gone off topic here, two news updates :-

My new wok has been used twice now and I’m more than happy with it.

And probably more relevant to this blog, I dusted the cobwebs off my credit card and paid £36 to increase the photo space allocation from 3gb to 6gb as it had got to 97.5% usage after that last post.  Sadly I didn’t thoroughly read the T&C’s and I didn’t realise I’d be charged that every year as opposed to it being a one off payment for the 6gb.

I now wonder if I don’t pay the £36 for another year, if they’ll somehow reduce my allocation back down to 3gb and thus delete random blog post photos !

Hmmmm.

Anyway back to Wales and one important detail I didn’t put at the end of Part 4 was that on my way back to the hotel, I decided to book another night there if there was availability.  Given that the extra night would be a Friday, I wasn’t hopeful.

Looking back on it, I think my decision to stay another night was mostly down to being so tired after all the walking I’d done that I just didn’t fancy driving off the next morning to tour around and then find one more b&b before returning home. I really liked the Cottage Court Hotel, I liked having Tenby as a base and I just wanted one day to chill out on the beach. Finding that the weather was going to be great again, my mind was made up.

But as I got back to the hotel after 6pm when Joe had closed the reception desk, I initially thought I’d have to wait till breakfast time and make a very late booking plea. Then I remembered he had to return sometime during the evening to lock the outer door and so I left a note for him to come to my room when this happened. Amazingly a few minutes after getting to my room I heard footsteps and he arrived !

He said I could have my room for Friday night for the same £40 so I was a happy bunny and after a good night’s sleep, now we can get on with the day.

After passing through Pembroke on the way to Pembroke Dock yesterday, I’d seen a fantastic looking castle that I wanted to visit so as it looked like the hazy cloud cover needed time to burn off, my plan was to go back to the castle for a few hours and then return to chill out for the afternoon on Tenby North beach.

So loaded up with my 3 cameras again, I set off at 10:40 for the short 11 mile drive to Pembroke. I again approached the castle on the A4139 and saw lots of pay and display parking lots on both sides of the road and chose a small “overflow” area on the right side and just a couple of minutes walk to the castle.

I was pleasantly surprised to see it was only 60p for 2 hrs and £1 for 5 hrs, so unlike most parking charges near tourist attractions in this country. In fact, as I discovered later, if I’d turned left onto West Street, there was a free car park with spaces for 56 cars.

I thought I’d only need 2 hours to see around the castle……big mistake…..so only paid 60p. As it turned out, I’d recommend paying £1 and plan on taking 3 or more hours to experience it fully as it’s one of the best preserved and well maintained castles I’ve ever visited.

Even the entrance prices were a bargain and as a senior, it only cost me £5. I walked past the entrance to take this photo looking back the way I’d come – up over the hill where that white van is – and where you pay, as shown in the following photo, is at that castle shop.

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Through the gate on the left and then through a castle archway and I was in.

I’ll post a photo of the view before me from the next level up, from the battlements so to speak, mostly because I didn’t take one from ground level !

I’m sure the large map of Wales on the ground is very educational but for me, it detracted from the historical feelings I like to get when I visit such places. Then again, over to the right, I suspect that the cafe, its outside tables and the toilets may well not have been original either !

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Later on, on my way around the castle walls, I took this photo looking back to where the first one was taken. I’d been just above the left of those 2 white exhibition tents and you can also see the main entrance archway between them

You can also see the Pembroke River on the left which eventually reaches the sea at Milford Haven. .

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I took the anticlockwise route around the castle walls for no other reason than I did. It was a 50/50 choice after all and I’d hoped to be able to walk around the entire castle this way but I soon found that the wall came to a dead end just where the cafe complex had been built.

As the original castle had been built in the 11th century, this was incredible future planning I thought !

So I had to drop down to ground level (and took the opportunity to avail myself of the toilet) and then rejoin the battlement walk beyond the cafe.

But I’ve jumped ahead in the story because after entering through the castle archway, I went up into the first tower and came upon the first of many excellent tableaux depicting scenes or people from bygone days with educational information up on the walls. In fact, this is a good time to state that the range of audio/visual exhibits were wonderful, ranging from tableaux like this one and moving images with informational soundtracks beamed onto stone walls to 3D figures with audio push buttons to hear who they were to best of all, images of castle staff going about their chores with nearby QR r codes to be scanned on our phones to hear more about what roles they played.

But more of all that later. First up………

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So it’s not 100% sure that the future Henry VII was born here but hey, if nothing else, it may have been the first instance of fake news !

Further on, I came upon this supper scene; the table looks curved in the photo but that’s just because to get everyone in, I had to use the panorama setting and when the subject is close to the phone lens, it can distort the image slightly.

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I know that’s a lot of info to take in but there WILL be a test at the end of this post so be warned !

Next up was a depiction of a bloody slaughter, not my words !  This was a very impressive tableau with great detail and a soundtrack to place visitors right in the middle of it all.

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Back out on the battlements, I was still making my way to the cafe area but was enjoying the differing views along the way.

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Then I entered a tower that had the first of the chalk like animations that were displayed across onto the opposite stone wall. It would’ve been easier to see on a dull day as the entrance was wide open so I waited until a particularly bright character was displayed and took this photo to at least give an impression of the setup.

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At this point I reached the end of the wall in terms of walking along the battlements so I went down to ground level and on the way to the cafe, I noticed all the outside tables had informative surfaces which again, was an inspired, and practical way to pass on relevant details about the people who would have been associated with the castle.

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Near the cafe I spotted a sign for Wogan Cavern (on some web sites, even BBC Wales, it’s called Wogan’s Cavern) leading down to a dark, dank natural cave.

Visitors can access the cave from a huge spiral staircase within the castle. Fifty-five steps lead down into the large subterranean limestone room, which was created by the natural process of water erosion.

Wogan Cavern is at river level, and the castle owners blocked the cave entrance with a massive stone wall that contained a large door. It’s been proposed that the cave was used for directly loading and unloading ships on the river. It was also fortified with arrow slits.

The cavern was used even before the medieval modifications that placed a castle atop it. It’s believed to have even been visited by the Romans. I didn’t take any still photos as it was so dark so just imagine a cave and you’ve got it.

As I mentioned before, there were “QR exhibits” scattered around otherwise bare areas of the walls which again was a great use of modern techniques for giving visitors information without having to stand and listen in a group to a guide.

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You can see the QR code (SCAN) which stands for Quick Response Code which visitors can scan with their QR phone app and this then loads up lots of information about the exhibit. In fact, despite it being in a photo, you can scan this codes now and see what I’m talking about.

Such fun.

Here is another but sadly the quality of the QR code isn’t good enough to be scanned here.

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And here is an example of the last type of audio/visual technique used at the castle. In the middle of his shield there are 2 small buttons, one to hear this dude, William de Valance, speaking in Welsh and the other to hear him in English.

Probably not really his recorded voice though, given that he inherited the castle in 1247 and it was in his family for the next 70 years.

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This final set of photos (Who cheered there ?  Come on, own up !) are about the Great Tower which I would not recommend leaving till last, like I did. Exactly 100 steps spiral round the inside and thankfully I had them all to myself as passing someone coming down could have proven embarrassing at best and dangerous at worst.

Despite taking my time and stopping at several points during the ascent, I needed to take great gulps of oxygen by the time I got to the top and felt I might have had to use the air ambulance service I keep on speed dial. My heart was pounding, my legs were shaking and I was more than ready for a brandy to be hoisted up from the cafe, if it sold it.

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I didn’t take any photos from the top but here are a couple of stills from the video I took which should give an idea of what it was like.

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Being able to walk (almost) all around the tower, the views were spectacular and thankfully the descent was much easier than the ascent. Back on terra firma, here are a few of the tower in situ from further away.

It doesn’t look tall in this first photo but again, it’s a panorama and tall things look squat in panoramas. I’ve seen myself in them and I look like an Oompa Loompa.

No comments please.

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Continuing my walk at ground level back to the entrance, I realised I had to miss exploring a few places because my 2hrs were almost up and I wanted to get a good view of the castle from a distance before returning to the car.

So I hurried out, passing the castle shop and went left down Northgate Street, across the bridge and immediately left again to get good views back to the castle.

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The car park and the “shed” on the left kinda spoiled the first view and given time, I may have found a better spot but I was literally within the last of the 120 minutes and had to jog back to the car. Jogging is NOT my thing, especially as I still hadn’t fully recovered from those 100 steps going up The Great Tower.

So much for a last day chilling but at 13:00, the day wasn’t over!

Within 20 minutes I was back in the hotel room and with the sun now blazing down from a clear blue sky, I was ready to hit the beach.

I was going to carry on but I’ve spent so much time and loaded so many photos already that I’ll have to make the afternoon session a Part 6. Oh and there is no time for a test either so you’ve struck lucky on two counts.

Part 6, the finale, up soon………………..

 

A Trip to Welsh Wales. Part 4.

I bought a new wok yesterday.

But on 17 May, I was waking up in the Cottage Court Hotel in Tenby with no plans beyond having breakfast. Passing through the small bar area I came to the bright, welcoming room where breakfast was served between 08:30 and 09:15.

Each table had a number corresponding to our room number so sitting near newly made guest friends wasn’t an option. As I hadn’t met any at that time, that was fine by me. Having said that, I felt I knew some things about the couple in the room next to mine as our respective toilets were only separated by a quite thin and not well soundproofed wall !

I’ll leave THAT piece of TMI at that.

I went and got a yogurt, cereal and orange juice from the well stocked unit near the kitchen door while checking out the procedure for ordering the main course. Laura, the daughter of the family, came to ask what I fancied from the menu and I settled on almost a “full English” which was sausage, bacon, egg and hash brown.

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On the table, by the door, was a conveyor belt type toaster so when I’d finished my cereal and had time, I put two slices of bread on the rack and within 15 seconds, perfectly toasted bread plopped down on the lower tray.

Brilliant.

While munching the toast and waiting for the main course, I got chatting with the couple from the next room who obviously were now sitting next to me as well.

AWKWARD !  No, not at all.  We just never spoke of bodily functions although it was a sort of elephant in the room.

They were from East Anglia and over the course of breakfast, we learned we’d visited many of the same places both in the UK and abroad. Small world, as they say.

Except none of us said it.

The meal, when it came, was so different from the Clun cholesterol fest the previous morning that it was like night and day. Or morning. Everything was beautifully grilled, except the egg of course, and was just perfect.

I think most guests thought they had to have finished and left by 09:15 because as you can see in this next photo, only one couple was there when I was leaving and the clock shows they were into extra time !  When Joe, the son who ran reception, told me the breakfast times, I’d been told the 09:15 was just when serving might end but guests could stay as long as they wanted. Maybe no one else got that message.

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I got chatting with Laura who worked part time on the breakfast and room cleaning shift and asked about local places to spend the day. She recommended Bosherston Lakes where you could park and take various walks that circled and crossed the lakes before coming to sand dunes leading down to Barafundle Bay Beach.

All that sounded good to me and when I realised it was only 8 miles from the ASDA at Pembroke Dock where I was going to get petrol anyway, the plan was finalised.

And so it was that at 11:00 I set off from the hotel for the short 12 mile drive to Pembroke Dock and filled up for the first time since leaving Leeds, 484 miles earlier. I squeezed in a few more litres than the pump’s auto cutoff “suggested” as I knew it was the cheapest I’d find before getting home so my mpg figures for the trip so far are a bit distorted.

With a mix of motorway, and A and B roads, plus using cruise control and the a/c for most of it, I was reasonably happy to have got just over 50mpg.

Then I was on my way to Bosherston Lakes car park, run by the National Trust so my membership of the rival English Heritage cut me no discount on the £5 entrance fee. Pah. Should be a reciprocal deal, guys !

Armed with 3 cameras (phone, dSLR and GoPro on a selfie stick) I set off on a deceptively long walk mostly alongside, but three times over, the delightfully named Lily Pools and Fish Pond lakes. The walk can be partially viewed via the Street View feature of Google Maps but sadly it only shows from the car park to the first bridge across Lily Pools. The initial part of the path meanders through dense woods although with plenty of open views of the lakes.

At a bend in the path, I went a bit “off piste” to take a photo looking back as the location was a good example of the wooded area I was was in.

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Several paths ran around the lakes leading to different destinations but at some points, the paths converged so these direction signs were vital to save heading off in the wrong direction and probably ending up in Cornwall !

Eight Arch Bridge was by far the largest of the three bridges crossing the lakes and yes, once I got there, I still found myself counting the actual arches, just in case they’d got the name horribly wrong.

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They hadn’t.

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Given my level of fitness (the bar is set pretty low), I found the walk ok to start with but by the time I crossed the Eight Arch Bridge, I was ready for a sit down, a cup of tea and another full English !   Sadly no such offering was available so on I went, climbing up to open fields (as seen on the top right of that last photo) towards the promised sand dunes.

A couple of walkers I met on the bridge told me to look out for a break in the electrified fence up ahead on the right with a rope across it.  I needed to remove the rope, step through and having replaced the rope, walk down to the forest where a path would take me on to the dunes and thus, the beach.

So I climbed up the path which thankfully leveled out with open farmland on either side. I came to a gap with a rope lying on the ground and thinking this was where I needed to turn right, I did so. I walked, nay stumbled, across a very uneven cow field with associated hoof holes and “pats” all the time doubting my decision.

When I got across the field and came upon a dead end fence, I felt my instincts had been accurate. I retraced my steps and once back on the main path, I carried on….the 100 yds till I came to a another break, this time with a rope across it and, a key point this, a proper path leading across the land, not a field, to the edge of the forest.

Hey ho.

Not long into the forest, the path split – straight on to Broad Haven Beach or left to Barafundle Bay Beach. I went left and went along another lovely woodland path with some strange tree/root formations…….

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This was a short walk and soon the forest ended and suddenly I was at the edge of the sand dunes with the softest, deepest sand I’d ever had to walk over.

On the final descent down to the beach, I was up to my knees in the sand at times and when I finally reached firmerd ground, I had to remove my shoes and tip out most of it.

But the walks alongside the lakes, over the bridges, across the fields and finally down the dunes were all worth it when I saw the bay…….

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Much as I loved the sand, I needed a sit down so I walked across the beach to the far right and found a sheltered area to have a rest and enjoy the views. I was close to the rocky edge with the various colours of the seaweed and other slimy stuff that was probably covered at high tide but at that time pleasantly broke up the otherwise monochromatic colour of the sand.

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Once rested, I climbed a bit higher and used the 600mm zoom on the dSLR to take some shots of the few people and their dogs who has also found this wonderful bay beach.

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I wanted to return to the car park a different way so I went across the beach to the other side and climbed up a very long and very steep set of stone steps to the cliff top which provided great views looking back down.

This is a still from the video I took so the quality isn’t great and the sun had temporarily gone in – but it does show how steep the climb was.

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As my lungs were bursting and my legs were screaming at me to take another break, I took the opportunity to have a seat and take a few last shots of the bay before heading inland.

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Ok now that I’ve posted my photos of the bay, I can tell you that you can follow my path on Google Street View from the far end of the beach (where the seaweed covered rocks were) across the beach and up the steep steps to this point. I encourage you to “walk it” as you’ll be virtually walking in my footsteps……but without getting so out of breath !

The cliff top picked up the Pembrokeshire Coast Path (again it can be traveled on Street View) which took me on a gentle walk with lovely views of the sea to my right.

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I arrived at Stackpole Quay and was disappointed to find there was no sandy beach. It’s a small harbour used mostly for launching kayaks and has a stony “beach” which I’d not recommend for kids to play on, unless you want a hospital visit afterwards.

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But more vital to me was the fact that there was a cafe there (The Boathouse Cafe) so I was able to have a ham salad sandwich and a 7-Up, a drink I’d not had for decades and after having a sip, I remembered why !

Anyway, rested and refreshed I set off again and within a few minutes I rejoined the path I’d been on after crossing the Eight Arch Bridge nearly 4 hours earlier.

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My return pace back to the car park was even slower than the outward leg and so it was over an hour before I sank gratefully into my car’s seat.

I wished I’d used my phone’s GPS to track how far I’d walked but all I knew was I was knackered…..and more than happy to be driving the 14 miles back to the hotel in Tenby.

The day’s drive distance was only 37 miles and my feet felt like I’d walked the same. I had a lovely shower before heading down into town for an evening meal.

As the photos show, it had been a great day weather wise and I was thankful to have been wearing my floppy sun hat for most of it.  Most of it !  Ok so I had a red head.

I’d certainly recommend the area around Bosherston Lakes no matter which path is taken although I’m sure it’s much busier in high season. Board Haven Beach looks wonderful too so maybe…..next time.

My next day in glorious Welsh Wales would be a completely different experience…….

………but that’s for Part 5.

 

 

A Trip to Welsh Wales. Part 3.

This blog is a bit like a US tv series – you don’t know how many episodes there will be and it could be cancelled at any time if ratings go down.

Hell I’ve already lasted longer than Roseanne !

Then again I’m a sweet little old man who wouldn’t say boo to a goose (why WOULD you do that ?) and certainly wouldn’t say anything controversial.  Maybe I should turn to the dark side and make this blog like a biography and name names and reveal dirty deeds before I pass on.

I think my all boy, priest run, Catholic boarding school back in the 60’s would be a juicy place to start.

But then that sweet little old man says….NO.  Talk about Wales instead.

And so Wednesday 16th dawned in slightly hazy Clun in Shropshire (I know, I know. Keep your panties on…..I’ll be back in Wales soon). After a night of tossing and even more turning on that single bed, I was feeling a bit hazy too. I did console myself that I couldn’t fall out of the bed as the opposite wall would stop me !

I couldn’t face the bathroom with its thousands of tiny multicoloured tiles at that time of the day so as I’d had a shower the previous week, there was no need to go mad and have another today.

So I stumbled, literally, down the narrow twisty stairs in this old farmhouse to greet my newly found eating partners from the previous evening and we drank our breakfast together. I say drank because the sausage, bacon and eggs were still swimming in oil or lard or goose grease (or a combination of them all) from the frying pan and in 20 minutes, I’d undone all the hard work of my cardiothoracic surgeon 25 years ago.

With my stomach full and my arteries narrowed, I paid the lady £50 and went upstairs to prepare to depart. I heard the couple leaving and a few minutes later the cook lady shouted up that she too was leaving and could I lock the main door on my way out and pop the keys through the letterbox.

I decided there and then that if I had my life over again, I’d be a b&b owner as clearly you can make money without ever lifting a finger.

Back out on the B4368 heading east, the plan was to take a circuitous, but scenic, route across the Shropshire Hills and then the Malvern Hills as both were designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty – or AONB for short.

And they jolly well were.

The haze had left both me and the sky and it was another glorious morning.  The village names were delightful and even if I wasn’t passing through many of them, just reading their names on the signposts was a joy.

Aston on Clun (lazily twinned with Clun I felt), Clungunford (like Clun but with more NRA members), Hayton’s Bent (bit personal that one), Cold Weston (best avoided in Winter then),  Downton Castle (not a series yet), Neen Sollars (pass), Frog Pool (pass again) and by the time I saw the sign for Shelsley Walsh, I realised they were just being lazy and naming villages after whoever had the most amusing name !

After several hours of very pleasant driving, the sign for Lyne Down seemed like an omen so I headed for the next large town, Ross-on-Wye for a bit of a break and to have lunch.

Ross-on-Wye is in Herefordshire, another new county for me as I’d never been to this part of England before and yes, yes…….Wales is coming up soon.  Be patient.

It’s a lovely small market town (pop about 11,000) but with several steep streets which certainly stretched my leg muscles after all that time in the car. I had a good look around and despite the temptation to try a bit of yak, I decided to have a Subway sandwich and used some of the points on my phone app to get a foot long something or other and eat half there and then and have the other half along the road, so to speak.

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At this point in the post I should say I have a slight problem with WordPress. Several years ago I switched from Blogspot as I felt my text and photos were presented better on WordPress. As you know, I load up lots of photos in my posts and I found I only had a free space allocation of 3gbs before needing to pay a monthly fee to get more.

My free allocation is now at 91.8% so as each photo takes up 0.1%, I’ll have to make a decision soon.  Pay for more space or go along deleting existing photos starting with the earliest. I think it would be sad to read one of my old posts with the photos missing but then again, probably no one reads them anyway.

I’ll have to have a think about that one. Maybe I’ll start a GoFundMe page !

Back on the road in Herefordshire, I made the decision to get to Tenby (in Wales….woohoo) by the most direct yet scenic route I could find as I felt I was getting off track a bit in England. This was supposed to be a Wales road trip after all.  I “forced” the Waze app to do this for me by inputting various town names and having several mini legs rather than just a direct drive to Tenby.

Amusingly this took me in and out of England/Wales many times as the border line weaves its merry way across the map as if ye olde planners dropped it and pissed off to ye olde pub for the rest of ye olde meeting.

My journey took me along the Wye Valley, another AONB, and I just guessed when I was in Wales when the names had lots of double lls, started with Aber or were basically unpronounceable.

Lush !

I dipped a toe in the Brecon Beacons National Park which deserved a day or more on its own but I was now a man on a mission, a driven man so to speak – although really I was the one doing the driving. I wanted to be in Tenby. After all this inland driving, the sea was calling to me. In Welsh.

Time for another “squirrel” moment.

My bestie friend here in Leeds (soon to be deserting me and moving to Skipton) has been going to Tenby AND staying at the same hotel, The Park Hotel,  every summer (and a few other times) since 1897….ok 1966 when she had her 10th birthday there with her family. Marriage and senility haven’t dampened her love of Tenby and that hotel and so I wanted to turn the tables and be in Tenby and send back photos to make her jealous.

Yes I’m that kind of friend !

Approaching the town I decided it would be hard to find a b&b with vacancies (I wasn’t staying at The Park Hotel) in such a popular resort even in mid May so I stopped of in nearby Saundersfoot to try and find a room for a couple of nights.

AirBnb was as helpful as before and all the places with b&b signs were full up. Not a good start. I drove on to Tenby to try my luck there and of course my first port of call had to be The Park Hotel so I could send my first photos back to Leeds.

Wicked.

This photo of the hotel front was followed by simply turning to the left to get the view back down to the sweeping bay of Tenby’s North Beach.

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By then it was after 18:00 so I popped into reception and used the hotel’s wifi to look for b&b’s locally and finally found a place on the next street which was £50 per night via Booking.com.

(looking at the web site, it seems to have gone up to £60 now)

I thought I’d go there and see what the rate would be if I just turned up and was delighted to find that not only did they have availability, but the rate was £40 so I booked 2 nights.

It was the oddly named Cottage Court Hotel and I’d HIGHLY recommend it to anyone visiting Tenby. It’s really a family run b&b guest house as you only get breakfast but it has a bar (never saw anyone using it) and the 11 rooms are all en suite and spotless and the staff (family) are delightful and helpful.

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By now it was close to 19:00 so I just dumped my case and took the long steep, very steep, road down into the town for a look around and to get something to eat.

I’ve stayed in Tenby a few times and thanks to my friends, even in The Park Hotel so I was just revisiting all the places I knew so well.

Not as well as them obviously !

For a while I sat on a bench overlooking the picturesque harbour as the last rays of the setting sun bathed the pastel coloured houses in a warm glow.

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The tide was in and all the small boats which are left high and dry when it’s out, were bobbing about as if anxious to be on adventures on the open sea beyond the safety of the harbour walls.

Or maybe just bobbing…cause they’re just boats.

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Speaking of boats, a short boat ride from Tenby harbour lies Caldey Island and I might as well let Wikipedia take it from here………

Caldey (Welsh:Ynys Bŷr) is a small island off the southwest coast of mainland Wales, near Tenby in Pembrokeshire. With a recorded history going back over 1,500 years, it is known as one of the holy islands of Britain. A number of traditions inherited from Celtic times are observed by the Cistercian monks, who are the chief inhabitants and owners of the island today.

At its closest point, Caldey lies 0.6 miles (1 km) south of the mainland, though the usual access to the island is by small boat from the town of Tenby, some 2.5 miles (4 km) to the north.

The island’s population consists of 40 permanent residents and a varying number of Cistercian monks, known as Trappists. The monks’ predecessors migrated there from Belgium in the early 20th century, taking over from Anglican Benedictines who had bought the island in 1906 and built the extant monastery and abbey but later got into financial difficulties. Today, the monks of Caldey Abbey farm the island, chiefly raising dairy cattle, and make a range of items including cheese, shortbread, perfumes, chocolate and toiletries.

In the spring and summer, visitors are ferried to Caldey, not only to visit the sacred sanctuary but also to view the island’s rich wildlife.

So there you have it. I took a couple of photos of it from Tenby using the full 600mm of my Lumix bridge camera which as you can see, can take photos of islands as well as bridges.

A little photographic humour there.

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Closer to Tenby, just a stone’s throw in fact, lies St. Catherine’s Island & Fort and again, you can click on this wikipedia link to learn more about it.

With the setting sun giving it a golden hue, it was worthy of a few photos before I needed to head off to eat a late supper.

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Being by the sea, supper had to be fish and chips and so I asked some locals for a recommendation and all agreed that the “legendary” Fecci’s on Lower Frog Street was the place, or plaice, to go to.

Once again I was outfaced by the portion size so either these places (like the kebab house) are very generous or my stomach has shrunk over the years.

And before you say it, I know it’s the former. Pah !

And then it was back to the hotel for a spot of telle watching via the laptop and then bed.

Another long day with plenty of walking up and down steep streets so I did enjoy the meals for fuel if nothing else. My plans now were to use Tenby as a base for further short drives around the area but as they say, more of that later.

End of Part 3.

 

 

 

A Trip to Welsh Wales. Part 2.

Now where were we ?

Oh yes; I’d just started on the M62 heading to an old castle thingy in Conwy, Wales – about 123 miles to the west.

Well my decision to be on the road just after rush “hour” paid off big time as the motorway(s) were as free flowing as I’ve ever known them and I rarely had to take the cruise control off 70mph all the way to the A494 when I left civilisation and entered Wales.

Sorry Wales.  You’re lovely. Really.

The only sign that you’ve left England and entered Wales…..is the sign.

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…..and as nobody knows Welsh, the sign and all others, is/are in English too.

Sorry again Wales.  Only joshing.  Really.

The sun was hot, the sky was blue and I had my fav oldies blasting out via the USB drive so all was well in my world.

From my house to the Welsh “border” was 88 miles and I crossed over well before noon. It was another 40 miles due west to Conwy Castle but I wasn’t stopping there as I’d visited the castle a few times before and was only using the location to start my drive due south into the heart of Wales.

And what a lovely drive it was.  I was mostly on the A470 up and down the stunning scenery of Snodonia National Park and after a few final miles on the A489, I took my first stop of the day in the little market town of Machynlleth.

(I’m not sure if it’ll work, but if you click on the town name above, the link should provide a pronunciation.)

I got there at about 14:30 so as well as stretching my legs, it was time to eat.  While wandering around looking at food options, I ended up at the imposing clock tower which is hard to avoid if you are passing through as it’s at a T-junction in the centre of the town.

Built in 1874, it seems that looking at it is the 10th of 14 best things to do in Machynlleth according to TripAdvisor – so the final 4 must be funeral homes or something !

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A guy nearby was eating a kebab takeaway so as I’d passed the Town Kebab House along the main street, I decided to have one myself as it would be a first.

The eatery was one of those wonderful establishments that serve multiple food groups as you could order everything from fish and chips to burgers and pizzas to kebabs. I decided on a kebab with salad and chips although if I’d known I’d be getting enough for a coach outing, I’d have held the chips, most of the salad and half the kebab meat !

I staggered back to the car with it and having ate as much as was humanly possible with one stomach, I sadly had to throw more than half away in a nearby bin.

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The lack of depth of the container shown in the photo doesn’t help to do justice to this takeaway. Let me put it this way…….I never did see the bottom !

So in my option, the number 1 thing to do in Machynlleth is…….have a kebab. Lets face it, the clock town isn’t going anywhere.

From Machynlleth I took the Forge Road 11 miles to the junction with the B4518 which led me to Llanidloes, 8 miles further on.

The Forge Road was probably the most spectacular 11 miles of the trip thus far, although to be fair, the A470 down through Snowdonia may argue that point. The scenery was very like the North Yorkshire Moors so I felt right at home.  The only negative I can make about it is the fact it’s only 11 miles long.

I’d spent my kebab eating time in the car trying to find a nearby b&b using the AirBnb app. Whoever designed that app needs a good spanking (unless they’d enjoy that) as the filter system is crap. You enter your location (or nearby), the dates you want (15th to 16th) and then click on filters to narrow down the search. I always pick the same but sadly these choices can’t be saved so need to be chosen every time, annoying enough already.

So, in no particular order, I chose 1 adult, no kids, no infants and no pets.  Then came the filter options and I chose the price range, home type (private room), 1 bedroom, one bathroom and finally on to amenities, internet (although not a necessity in this country), breakfast and free parking.

Now you’d expect the list of potential homes would go down in number as you add more filters. Not on AirBnb. The number goes randomly up and down and once you’ve added all your filters, the location added at the very start (in my case I chose “nearby”) often became worldwide and I’d get thousands of homes !!!

Even more annoying, I’d get a reasonable choice of homes (say 28 so clearly my filters had kicked it) and I’d look at photos etc and pick one and it would say “not available on the dates chosen” or something similar.

WHAT !!!  The dates were the 2nd thing I’d entered.  Why show me choices RIGHT AT THE END that weren’t available on those dates. Grrrrrrr.

I gave up on AirBnb and just decided that a bit later on, I’d start looking for b&b signs along the route.  Unlike in Scotland and Ireland, there weren’t as many of those as you’d think, or need.  I took various minor roads east from Llanidloes and after 22 or so miles, I crossed back into England and the county of Shropshire, another first for me.

By now it was well after 18:00 and by 19:00 I was approaching the village of Clun and beginning to get the thought that I’d be sleeping in Hotel Hyundai for the night !  I suddenly saw a b&b sign on my right and pulled in to investigate.

I won’t go into the details here but basically the owner of the Clun Farm House wasn’t home (I learned later he rarely is) and after getting him on the phone, he said to go in and the 2 guests (a couple) already there could show me the 2 single rooms and I could pick which one I wanted and in the morning when a lady friend of his came to fix us breakfast, I could pay her the £50 for the night.

Well lets just say the room wasn’t worth £50 as it had a single bed and a chest of drawers and that was it.  No space for anything else. None of the bedrooms could be locked, a point made in several reviews on TripAdvisor and worse comments were made so that if I’d read them beforehand and it hadn’t been getting quite late, I’d have driven on.

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Ironically when I left the next morning, I passed a delightful looking b&b cottage less than half a mile away. Hey ho.

The photo of the bedroom is very flattering as I could almost touch both walls without moving but the outside was very nice and it was within walking distance to 2 pubs so it wasn’t all bad.

As there was just one house key, the three of us agreed to go eat together and return together, although they wanted to eat right away and I wanted to go explore Clun Castle before darkness set in. So we parted company and I made the climb up to the castle for a completely underwhelming experience. It may have been an imposing castle back in the 12th century but time hadn’t been kind to it as nothing much remained. There was a bit of a tower and 3 other bits of masonry but if it hadn’t been for the views, I’d have felt cheated at having to pay nothing to see it !

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I particularly like this panoramic photo as it almost looks like part of a model railway set and you expect to see a little train chugging from one side to the other. But this WAS the view from the castle with the scenic Clun Bowling Club green dominating the foreground.

By now it was after 20:00 so I walked back down to the Sun Inn pub on the High Street and ordered a medium rare steak that was so inedible that I left it and just ate the new potatoes and salad. When she came to take the plate away and saw the steak sitting there, the server asked why and I told her. She took it away and soon returned full of apologies as even the chef agreed it wasn’t acceptable (?!) and my bill was £0.00 which I still felt was too much !  Thankfully the lunchtime kebab meant I wasn’t going to bed totally hungry.

The b&b couple had finished eating/drinking by then so we all walked back together and retired to our respective bedrooms, theirs a decent sized double with ensuite bathroom and mine, a narrow box with a bed !  Oh sorry…and a chest of drawers.

It had been a long day.  I’d only driven 251 miles but it seemed many more.  I watched a couple of tv shows downloaded onto my laptop and called it a night.

There were better days to come, much better.

End of Part 2.

 

 

 

A Trip to Welsh Wales. Part 1.

Wales, the one without the spout and fluke, is only a 90 minute drive from Chez Mac and so, a couple of Sundays ago, I decided to go for a wee drive around it as the weather forecast was favourable….in fact very favourable for mid May.

Unfortunately I made the decision at 11pm and despite being ready to go places at the drop of a hat, I felt I’d forget to take something important if I rushed to leave early the next morning. The initial part of the drive would take me westwards across the infamous M62 motorway from Yorkshire to Lancashire, a road to avoid at the best of times and certainly at rush hour as it rivals the M25 (London orbital) for traffic and therefore traffic jams or worse.

So I decided to use Monday to investigate scenic routes within Wales and to make a list of items to take with me.

I like lists.

Over the years I’ve made lots of them when planning holidays and road trips, especially abroad. One doesn’t want to be on the cross channel ferry when the realisation that one has forgotten one’s medication hits one. For one thing, that’s not a good thing for this one.

I’ve got a few stock lists that could almost be laminated as they’ve rarely needed editing over the years. Unsurprisingly the most detailed one was from the years I’d spend the 6 “winter” months in America – you can imagine !  The next longest would be for 3-4 week road trips around Europe and finally pretty basic lists for short trips within the UK and Ireland.

This Wales trip would only be for a week or less so it wasn’t hard to compile a list.  I actually spent most of the day searching for recommended scenic drives and ones I could join up to create a week long scenic route that wouldn’t involve too much backtracking. Looking back on it now, the most scenic drive was one that was just supposed to take me from one scenic road to the next one !

By midday on the Monday, I was frustrated that I’d made the decision to make this trip so late as the weather that day was astonishing for the time of year. It was full on scorchio without a cloud in the sky and hot enough to throw a shrimp on the driveway and eat it a few minutes later.

(a bit of an Aussie/US fusion there)

But as the rest of the week was looking much the same nationwide, I was still planning to leave the next morning to miss the worst of the rush time traffic on the M62. And as I had my list and routes all planned, nothing would be left to chance. Well nothing apart from having nowhere to stay each night.

Ahhh the recklessness of youth…..and old age.

And so as dawn broke on Tuesday 15th May….ok I was still in bed.  Hey no need to get up THAT early – I had my list, remember.

A short time later, the car boot was “packed” with my one little case and I had the important items to hand on the passenger seat……man bag with manly items (!), camera, Go Pro on a selfie stick for quick photos/video, credit card case, notebook (to take notes), packs of Werther’s Originals, my floppy sun hat (optimistic eh ?) and with water and pop bottles filling the various cup holders and the phone on its magnetic holder as my GPS, I was set to go at 09:25, 35 mins early.  Wooohooo.

I locked the house door and was about to get into the car when a hunched over little old man from a few doors down who walked by my house every morning with his little bag of shopping from the local Co-op happened to take this moment to cross over and start talking to me.

I’d never spoken to him before and as it happens, never since. He talked….and talked….and talked. I really REALLY wanted to leave by 09:45 but it was looking more and more unlikely as he suddenly started asking how I was liking my “new” car after having had the Clio for so long !

What ?!  I know we have a neighbourhood  watch scheme in the street but this was borderline stalking !

Anyway I managed to say my goodbyes and promised to friend him on Facebook before he started to tell me his war time stories and I reversed out of the driveway at 09:35 which pleased me no end.

A good start.

Getting to the M62 in South Leeds meant I would pass the HQ of my old work place, ASDA House, which had its petrol station across the road with normally the cheapest petrol in the whole country. It had been a couple of months since my last fill up so I was shocked to see it was £1.17/litre but knowing it had to be more expensive elsewhere, I still filled up.  £45 later and with a topped up tank and the secondary trip odometer showing the 5 miles from home, I edged away from the pump and was all set to start my adventure.

A few hundred yards later, I was on the M62 and heading west towards my initial destination, Conwy Castle in Wales. It was 10:00 on the dot.

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle 2

End of Part 1.

 

A Sailor’s Life (Not) For Me !

Last Thursday was to be a dry, sunny day so I fancied a road trip afternoon.  Initially I was going to the East coast for a walk along a beach but the forecast was for strong breezes and with the cool temps, a beach afternoon didn’t appeal.

So I looked on Google Maps for somewhere else up the coast and saw a marina area at Hartlepool that would fulfill my two objectives of a decent drive and exercise at the destination.  I zoomed in and noticed there was a museum, in fact The National Museum of the Royal Navy so I used Google Street View to look closer and found the interest I was looking for…….HMS Trincomalee, a Royal Navy sailing frigate launched in 1817 shortly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and now restored as a museum ship.

That would do for me.

It was only 70 miles away and the drive would be mostly on motorway or dual carriageway roads so it would only take 75 minutes or so.  I noted that just 7 miles from the museum and right on my route was a Toby Carvery so that’s where I’d stop for lunch. My plan was set and so I left home just after midday………

  • cruise control keeping the car at a steady 70mph
  • climate control keeping me at a steady 70  (22.1c to be precise)
  • favourite tunes blasting from the USB player
  • Waze app keeping me on the fastest route
  • sunglasses keeping the sun glare from my eyes

Yes it was just over an hour of seriously pleasurable driving and I reached the restaurant by 13:15.

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Fully fed and rested, it was scarcely a few more minutes after leaving that I was at the enormous museum car park where only about 4 cars were already parked. I’d bought my entrance ticket online before setting off as it was only £6 rather than the £8 it would have been if I’d just turned up and paid. The museum was free and the £6 fee was for exploring the ship and when I showed my pre payment via my phone, they printed me a receipt and told me it covered revisits for a full year.

Bonus.

As I couldn’t be sure of the good weather lasting, I decided to bypass the museum and go on out to the ship to take some external photos, watch a demonstration of guns and cannon firing and then explore the decks.

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After the cannon had been fired and the barrel cleared of residue, water was poured down it and pushed out the vent/firing hole to complete the cleaning procedure before reloading. It was fun to see the water spurt out as I didn’t know this task was done.

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Then it was time to go on board the frigate and with the few other visitors elsewhere, I basically had the entire ship to myself.

I bet it wasn’t like this on the Bank Holiday !

Apparently 65% of the ship is original with the rest mostly made of replaced wood due to rotting of the original.  Only 4 of the many cannons are original but the replicas are fantastic and you’d never tell them apart.

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Then it was down to the next deck which had even more cannons than on the top deck and also had the galley with a polystyrene cook rustling up a pan full of something probably inedible for the crew.

Well when I say galley, it was really just a large stove and seemed inadequate for feeding 315 officers and men. Maybe the common crew just brought their own sandwiches and travel mugs, eh ?!

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At the far end of this deck was a board room with a large table where the captain would normally eat but could also be used for senior officer gatherings to discuss navigation issues and what movie they were going to watch that night.

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Cannons to the left of me, cannons to the right of me, wrote someone once.

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The next deck down, the third, was where the officers and crew ate, slept and spent whatever r&r time they got, which probably wasn’t much.

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Here are two crew members having a wee dram, some nibbles, playing cards and waiting for fast broadband at the next port. They all loved getting emails from home.

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With music streaming a few centuries down the line, entertainment, such as it was, seemed to be on a do-it-yourself basis. Here an ancestor of Ed Sheeran is squeezing out a tune on his old concertina. I was particularly impressed with the electric radiator keeping his tootsies toasty while he played.

A warm crew is a happy crew.

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The rows of dining tables reminded me of my old boarding school refectory with probably the same standard of food being served. Ah happy days !

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Yep the same food !

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In a “room” at the end of the deck was the dining area/table for the officers and occasionally the captain would fancy a bit of company and join them.

I’m not sure if the place settings were accurate of the time, mostly because I’m sure we had that plate pattern at home. Anyway I wasn’t impressed…..and the gravy was cold.

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The bottom (4th) deck, the hold, was very dark with several store rooms for sails, ropes, casks and all the other equipment and spares needed to keep the ship in tip top condition. It also held the serious items like cannon balls, gunpowder and the various tools needed to service the armaments.

It was from here that young crew members, usually 12-14 year old boys called powder monkeys, ferried gunpowder from the powder magazine to the artillery pieces, either in bulk or as cartridges, to minimize the risk of fires and explosions. They had to be small to run fast along the decks with their low beams and I was told that if anyone accidentally got in their way performing this vital duty, the offender would be flogged.

However this would never have happened on board the HMS Trincomalee as it never fired its guns in battle.

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Half of this deck was off limits to me as I just couldn’t get my unfit fat ass around the tight corners. In my defense I was carrying my phone, my dSLR camera and my man bag so it was all I could do to keep my head down and go around those corners built for my bulk and level of fitness.

Back up on the top deck it was still a lovely day and just before I went off to see the 4pm showing of the “Fighting Ships” audio/visual presentation – which wouldn’t have been out of place at Disneyland – I took the opportunity to have my pic taken at the helm of the ship. The young, friendly and very informative museum staff member who followed me around as I was the only visitor (that’s my story/hope anyway !) took the photo.

He was the fella in the 6th photo ramming his rod into the cannon barrel forcing the water out through the vent hole to remove any residue from the previous firing.

Honestly.  He did !

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I don’t think it had power steering as I couldn’t move the wheel but in a way I guess that back in the day it did have “crews” control !

Sorry about that. I’ll give myself a good flogging later.

I took loads of photos during the “Fighting Ships” show but I think this post has been long enough and there is still the YouTube video for you to get through. You could ignore it of course but it’s only 17 minutes long and gives a much better idea of my journey along the 4 decks.

Don’t worry, I’ve not added music to this phone video, which is why I was able to upload it to YouTube as they’re more picky than Vimeo about copyrighted music.

So you get a lot of wind noises (I blame the Toby Carvery sprouts) before I go below decks but I hope you still enjoy it, despite my rambling commentary. It was my home movie and I wasn’t intending to have it published.

Make sure you watch it in 1080p and full screen if possible.  Hate to waste the quality 😉

Feel free to leave comments on the video or this post.

A Walk On The Wild Side.

My back is still acting up so not much laptop work these days.

I’m seeing a physiotherapist tomorrow so depending on his/her mood, I may be a lot better afterwards……or in traction in A&E !

Over the Bank Holiday weekend I did much more around the house and my back felt quite a bit better. Clearly sitting in a chair for hours every day isn’t conducive to muscle strength so I guess more housework and less tv watching is in my future.

Kill me now !

Anyway, with the Bank Holiday out of the way and the roads freed up for us retired travellers again, I decided to go for a short drive and then have a scenic walk to give my back muscles a workout.

The record breaking weather over the weekend continued today but it was due to break by late afternoon. I meant to get up early and go somewhere further afield so I could enjoy using the a/c in the car (still a thrill to have that option) and maybe have a picnic on some scenic river bank up in the Dales.

Well that didn’t happen as although I woke at 8:20, I went back to sleep and was woken at 10:00 by my neighbour cutting my lawn. I’d been speaking with him over the fence (or through it to be perfectly accurate as it’s higher than I am) and when he learned about my back issues, he offered to cut my lawn which the last time I checked, housed 3 neighbourhood cats and would have fed a flock of sheep for the rest of the year.

I have to say, I did enjoy lying in bed listening to his mower trimming my lawn back to basics – no guilt at all.  When he’d finished I got up, showered and by the time I had breakfast, it was too late to think about a full day out, far far away.

So I just drove 15 minutes to Wetherby and parked in the Leisure Centre’s car park. See, exercise immediately !

I do like the riverbank walk along The Wharfe from there back to Collingham and at 1.5 miles, it’s not taxing.  Crossing diagonally over the playing fields, I joined the well worn path at the first of several gates or stiles which dot the route to Collingham. I was immediately in open field territory with sheep strewn grazing land to my left and the River Wharfe to my right.

The sheep are so used to walkers that they barely paused to glance at me as clearly the grass was particularly scrumptious today. The lambs…..a bit more timid, but as long as mummy was nearby, they didn’t have any fear either.

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The next gate was being guarded by a mom and her three babies and I expected them to move away from it as I approached.

They didn’t. The mom just stood there, right by the gate and this was so surprising that initially I thought she was trapped by something. I moved around her without actually passing her and saw she wasn’t trapped, just stubborn. Getting to the gate would cause me to get very close to both her and her lambs and I wasn’t sure if mommy sheep would protect their babies as fiercely as wild animals.

And she had horns !

With very slow movements, I edged towards the gate and mommy just moved her head slightly with each step, keeping a beady eye on me. Once safely through the gate I turned to close it and it was only then that she moved – and came even closer to the gate and lay down, closely followed by her babies.

It seems she had decided that this gate was hers to guard and future walkers would have to do more than me to get through it.   However, with the safety of the gate between us, I was at least able to get some close up photos by resting on it !

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The path then narrows and goes into the woods with frequent glimpses of the river to the right. I’ve posted photos of this part of the walk before so took no more today and after a while, the forest part ended abruptly and I was out into farm land. The sun was now in my eyes so I turned around to take a photo of where I’d come from so now the land was on the right, with the river just out of sight on the left.

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A few minutes from Collingham and the end of the path, there is a lovely little wooden bridge over a trickling stream that feeds into the river.

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Passing by some horses in fields with jumps, I came to the last hurdle before Collingham, literally. It’s a stile that forms part of the wall surrounding the church of St. Oswald and initially, its graveyard.

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People have been dying to get in here for centuries (sorry). Dedicated to Oswald of Northumbria, an Anglo-Saxon saint, this Anglican church has Saxon origins, was rebuilt in the 15th century and restored and enlarged from 1840 to 1841.

Standing by the stile, I took a photo of the rear of the church but as the view was into the sun, it was a silhouette and I had to do a bit of photoshopping to get it to this point.

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Going around the church and through a gate, I entered The Glebe Field, a lovely little park area that provides scenic views back towards the church.

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A man was cutting the grass on his ride-on mower and making short work of it.  I love the smell of newly cut grass and with the blue sky, warm temps and lovely views of the church, I sat down on one of the many benches and took it all in for a few moments.

Mower man is a bit easier to spot than Waldo.

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Passing through yet another gate, I was in an even nicer park area with many flower islands and colourful trees and gorse bushes, or whin bushes as we called them when growing up in Norn Iron. I’ve taken this view many times but it’s always worth another one.

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Before leaving home, I knew there was a band of rain approaching from the West and just as I was thinking of starting back, the rain radar app on my phone alerted me that rain was approaching so after glancing at the screen and seeing it was already over Leeds, just a few miles away, I made the return trip faster than the outward one.

I did stop to take one last photo, of a stunning tree with tendrils clinging to its trunk that I’d not noticed on the way to Collingham.

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Back at the Leisure Centre car park, I was getting into the car when the first few spots of rain hit the windscreen. Perfect timing.  Thank you app.

It was just a light shower as the bulk of the rain must have dropped over the Pennines but it did signal the end of the hot spell and temps dropped immediately.

Last night at this time it was 20c outside and tonight it’s 11c.  On the up side, getting to sleep might be a lot easier.

Given the temps over the weekend, and how infrequently we get such weather here, I wonder how many red faced people returned to work today…and not just their faces.

I wore my floppy sun hat on my walk as having a tan is no longer important to me.

I bet many people now wish they had had the same attitude over the Bank Holiday !