Coast to Coast

For the last couple of weeks, my next door neighbour’s have had the builders in and due to the noise and materials that have spread over onto my driveway during each working day, I have been taking myself off on a few trips on good weather days.

One of the many benefits of living in the middle of the country, in North Leeds, is that it’s so easy to get to the East or West coasts as they are only 60-70 miles away. Last week I went East to Whitley Bay and yesterday I went West to Morecambe, a new destination for me. But first up…….

Whitley Bay.

My first visit there was back in the early 80’s just before I bought my own house and was lodging with a family in Leeds. They’d booked a week in the Whitley Bay Holiday Park on the outskirts of the town, close to St. Mary’s lighthouse, and as they had no transport, I drove them there and back.  As such I didn’t see much of the place but I have been back a few times since those days, most recently in March 2013 when I was on my way up to Scotland on the road trip that would eventually take me to the Scottish Highlands and John O’Groats.

So last Thursday I tootled 100 miles up the A1 through Newcastle to the pretty seaside town. My route took me across the famous Tyne Bridge, a smaller version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, both constructed by the same company around the same time, in the 1920’s.

The first of these 3 photos was taken on my 2013 visit as it shows the bridge in situ. Not quite as picturesque as the one in Sydney !  The others were as I crossed it yesterday and as you can see, the weather was much nicer !

Just don’t ask how I took them !!

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On arrival in Whitley Bay, I parked at the Waves Sports Centre along the promenade. The lovely long promenade is dominated at one end by the lighthouse and at the other end, close to the town, is an area called Spanish City.

Erected as a smaller version of Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, Spanish City opened in 1910 as a concert hall, restaurant, roof garden and tearoom. A ballroom was added in 1920 and later a permanent funfair. By the late 1990s the building and the area had fallen into disrepair, and in the early 2000s it was closed to the public.  A regeneration project was announced in 2011 and the building re-opened as a dining-and-leisure centre at the end of July 2018.

When I stopped off in 2013, it was in a sorry state so last week it was good to see the whole area was a vibrant tourist spot again and there was even a local radio station broadcasting in front of the rejuvenated domed building.

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Not a great photo but it was taken looking into the sun and at that time, the overcast sky didn’t help with the view.

Needing to walk off a traditional fish and chip lunch, I set off along the promenade towards St. Mary’s lighthouse. When the tide is in, the lighthouse, the small number of houses around it and the causeway out to it, are all cut off from the mainland.

As I wanted to climb it, I timed my visit so that the tide would be out !

It’s a 2 mile walk along the promenade and half way along I decided to leave it and go down onto the beach. Can’t be at the seaside and not go onto the beach !

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It was lovely to see so many kids with their little nets exploring the numerous rock pools around the lighthouse, mostly looking for crabs.

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Finally I arrived at the causeway out to the lighthouse and was glad that there weren’t too many people going my way. I assumed that the steps up to the top would be narrow, with little room for passing, and so it would be a case of waiting in line if people were coming down.

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Once inside, I was quite surprised to see I was on my own. It seemed that visitors were happy to get TO the lighthouse but no one wanted to climb the 137 steps to the top.

Great !

I paid the very reasonable fee (senior £1.70) and started up the steps. There were a few “passing places” but it was mostly a case of up or down but not both at the same time. The final few steps were the killers as the slope became extreme, almost vertical, and there was a very low headroom to negotiate.

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Once at the top, it was a little underwhelming. This was mostly due to not being able to get outside because of health and safety and so the views had to be enjoyed through thick, and quite unclean, glass. These views were pretty unspectacular although on the view out to sea we could spot a dozen seals basking, and sometimes fighting, on the rocks.

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I took a photo of the last few steps on the way back down to try and give some impression of both their narrowness and their steepness. I was really glad to have the handrails !

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Back on dry land, I had a rest on one of the many benches at the base of the lighthouse and then walking around the back, I came upon a seal/bird watching shelter which had several chained binoculars available for visitors to use. It was a bit upsetting to see kids trying to have a look but being unable to get to grips with focusing the binoculars and their parents not bothering to help them.

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Crossing over the causeway I took one last photo before joining the promenade and making my way back to the car at the sports centre and setting off back home.

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As a funny aside, I forgot to stop the MapMyWalk app on my return to the car and so it recorded my drive home, giving me a VERY impressive walk report when I did finally stop it. Just take 100 miles off the distance and I did a 5.6 mile walk.

Gotta love that steps count though !!

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It had been a grand day out although I didn’t actually go into the town itself as it’s like most other seaside towns and as such, the lighthouse and Spanish City are the only worthwhile locations to visit.

I did like that the promenade has no built up amusement type arcades along it which I absolutely hate about most UK seaside towns and this was also the case with the even better promenade I walked along yesterday………….at…………..

Morecambe.

There are several routes from Leeds across to the West coast seaside town of Morecambe but I decided not to take the faster motorway route and went on the A65 instead. Leaving at 9:30am to miss the rush time traffic, I had a lovely drive up into the Yorkshire Dales with no hold ups at all.

It had been overcast when I left but as I approached Ilkley, the skies cleared and for the rest of the day, I had almost clear blue skies and 17c temps (63f) – not bad here for 5th September.  Of course in the constant sunshine it was much warmer and so, although bringing it in the car, I had no need for my fleece and a polo shirt was all that was needed.

As I mentioned at the start, I’d never been to Morecambe before and knowing there was a statue of its most famous son, the much loved comedian Eric Morecambe, along the sea front, I put that into the Waze phone app and arrived there at 11:20.

After cruising along Marine Road to find a parking place, I spotted a Gala Bingo venue with a large car park that was, given the time of day, almost empty.

Sorted.

Across Marine Road, I was immediately at the start of the awesome promenade which runs for 3.3 miles South towards the ferry port at Heysham.

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I’ve never been on a UK promenade like it as it was so wide, so well maintained (100% litter free) and so uncrowded that it was a joy to be on.  I did speak with a resident at one point and was told it had only recently been updated and what a superb job they made of it. The main traffic on it yesterday were cyclists (it must have been wonderful to ride on such a flat, smooth surface), a few pedestrians like myself and loads of mobility scooters.

I assume that with the school holidays over, the elderly residents of Morecambe were reclaiming their promenade and good luck to them.

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One point to make about Morecambe, and indeed that whole part of the West Coast, is that when the tide goes out, it goes OUT.  In the top photo above, it looks like the water’s edge is shown on the left but that’s just where the water would come to if the tide was in.

The bottom photo shows just how far out tide goes and as a result, how much beach you get for your money !

And the middle photo shows the promenade and just how empty it was yesterday, how clean it was and how the main road, Marine Road, is kept separate from it with that wall on the right.

Less than half a mile from the Bingo Hall car park, I arrived at Eric’s statue and was pleased that it was mostly free of tourists like myself who wanted to take photos of it and selfies with it.

I had a free time to take several of both.

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For the non Brits, Eric Morecambe and his partner, Ernie Wise (best known as Eric and Ernie) were the most popular entertainers of their time and regularly top polls to this day. Their trademark end of show “dance” was to turn to the back of the stage and skip off, as captured perfectly by the statue.

It was great to see people keeping that “sign off” alive by being photographed doing it alongside the statue, as in the bottom photo. Eric would have loved that.

One of Eric’s other famous mannerisms was to wiggle his glasses up and down when saying something mildly suggestive to Ernie and with my selfie, I tried to recreate that but having to hold the phone didn’t help and anyway, it was a motion and not really capable of being replicated in a still photo.

Another half mile or so along the promenade, a 250m jetty jut out into the bay.

Stone Jetty was built in 1853 to serve as a railway terminus for Irish and Scottish ferries. In 1990, with its original function no longer needed,  it was updated and now seamlessly leads off from the promenade and the station near the end is now a lovely cafe.

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Back on the main promenade, I kept going although I was a bit worried that I’d have the 3.3 miles to walk back to the car at a time when my legs would be aching.

I finally got to the end, literally a dead end, at the ferry town of Heysham and climbed up some steps to explore the town. It didn’t take long as there isn’t much to the town, indeed village, but what there was, was quite interesting with many pretty houses, pubs and cafes.

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A local suggested I visit St. Peter’s Church and beyond that the ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel and its stone coffins.

I was intrigued.

First up, St. Peter’s Church and what a lovely location for a church and its associated graveyard, overlooking the bay. Even with the tide being well out, it was still a great view.

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There was a church on the site in the 7th or 8th century and then a Saxon church was built in 1080. Parts of this church still exist in the current Anglican version and the dates on many of the grave’s headstones bear testimony to this history.

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On up the hill lay the ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel, now maintained by the National Trust. There isn’t much left of the chapel but nearby were the  11th century stone coffins which were truly underwhelming.

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Those of us who were there discussed how it was very unlikely that any bodies could’ve fitted into the narrow stone graves (when they still had their stone lids fitted, I guess the name stone coffins applied more than now) but then someone found an info panel that explained that it’s thought that the graves held “disarticulated bones” rather than complete skeletons, possibly of saints and other important Christians, perhaps even those of St. Patrick himself. The chapel would therefore have been a place of pilgrimage.

Just a few metres on up the hill I came upon a bizarre landscape as shown in these photos………..

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From a distance I just thought it was a small camp site but as I got closer I noticed that the people weren’t campers but visitors like myself and the tents weren’t tents at all.

The three 4 sided reflective structures were supplemented by several cut out figures, also reflective but it was all a mystery as to what they represented and why were they there.

So as my blog is nothing if not informative, I’ve just contacted the National Trust (who own the land) and spoken with a lovely young man from N. Ireland who told me all about it.

It seems it’s a temporary display (for 9 days ending this Sunday) by the artist Rob Mulholland and put on by the Morecambe Bay Partnership. It’s supposed to represent an Anglo Saxon settlement in a modern way but it all appeared to be a bit hippy dippy to me.   As the web site says……

Inspired by early Anglo-Saxon designs, three mirrored dwellings aim to encourage viewers to consider the influence of people of the past on Morecambe Bay. Six mirrored human-shaped figures complete the idea of the structures and sites as places as human settlement, reminding the viewer of the people working the land and the sea in centuries gone by. By using mirrored surfaces Mulholland brings literal reflection into being, making the viewer and a distorted landscape and sky integral parts of the work. By catching glimpses of themselves, viewers see an image not only in the present, but a hint of those who may have walked in the same landscape in the past.

Yeah, like I said……hippy dippy !

Anyway with at least a 3.3 mile walk back to the car ahead of me, I felt it time to leave and by the time I reached the Bingo Hall car park, I was whipped.

As this screenshot shows, I’d walked 8.16 miles and although, given all my stops to take photos etc, it wasn’t a fast pace, it was still 8.16 miles and my body knew it.  That’s why I’ve taken the time today to do this post and apologies for it being a bit on the long side.

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And that’s it……till probably next week if next door’s builders are still here !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Senior Moment Close Shave

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a hair and beard trim which I do myself as I’ve precious little of both.

I set the trimmer guide to a No.2 for my beard and then a No.1 for my hair and afterwards, I removed the guide and cleaned the trimmer ready for the next time.

Then I made the mistake of doing something else before glancing at the bathroom mirror and noticed I’d somehow missed a few hairs on my chinny chin chin. I picked up the trimmer to complete the job and, due to it not having a guide on it anymore, I left a lovely bald track along the ridge of my chin !

Initially I thought I might get away with it and when that didn’t seem like an option, I played with various beard styles in order to incorporate the bald strip into a desired hirsute statement.

Not wanting to look like a Mexican bandit and seeing that I was too old, fat and talentless to be a George Michael lookalike, I resigned myself to having to shave the lot off and start again.

As there was no need to go the whole wet shave route, I settled on a No.1 and hoped the bald strip would merge in as the rest of the beard grew back and I’m happy to report that it has. After almost 2 weeks all is well and my bare face is no longer being shared with the outside world.

To try and ensure that this stressful catastrophe never happens again, my policy will be to always replace the No.2 guide on the trimmer after cleaning it.

Senior moments are often mentioned when we oldies do things like that….although I’d argue that it could happen to anyone.  Well anyone who has a beard I guess. I’m not quite at the stage where I stand in the kitchen wondering why I’m there but it’ll happen soon enough.

Talking about kitchens, I did screw up again last evening, the 2nd time this month in fact. You see, I prefer to heat peas slowly in a small saucepan on the hob rather than blasting them in the microwave and tend to put them on the burner about 5 minutes before the rest of the meal is ready to plate. I use a low flame and after a few minutes, once I see the first traces of bubbling, I turn it down to the minimum to just keep things warm for the last couple of minutes.

Then last evening I made my mistake.

I started to plate everything and finally lifted the pan off the hob and used a plastic holed serving spoon to scoop the peas out of the juice and onto the plate. I then poured the juice down the sink and filled the pan with water to make for easier washing up later.

Now you might think – at what point did I turn off the burner ?  Well last evening it came over 4 hours later when I stopped watching tv and took my empty plate into the kitchen before going to bed !!  As the kitchen was initially dark, the flame around the burner was pretty obvious and I was left to berate myself once again for my senior moment and having to pay a financial penalty for it in terms of my next gas bill.

Having done this once before a few weeks ago, I decided something had to be done – so I’ve now got a post-it note on the hob to remind me to check all burners are off before leaving the kitchen to eat my meal.

I fear that more notes may litter my home as I get more experience in forgetting things.

Whilst not exactly in the senior moment category, I do often watch a whole movie and then wonder why I stuck with it but although that is certainly not age related, it does seem to happen more frequently the older I get. So much for wisdom increasing with age and experience.  If that was true, I’d never watch ANY movie starring Adam Sandler, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell or Melissa McCarthy.

( actually that particular wisdom came to me a LONG time ago ! )

I watch a lot of movies and although I have my personal preferences bar set quite high, I still get the occasional rotten tomato and yet I’ll sit through it in the usually forlorn hope that “it’ll maybe get better”.

On such occasions they only got better when the end credits rolled.

But I’m getting better and that may be down to not having as much time left to be wasting any of it watching a crap movie and so I’ll stop before my brain starts hurting. That’s what happened recently with Black Panther, a classic case of superb special effects failing to overcome a dreadful script and even worse dialogue.

But I digress.  I’m a pensioner.  It’s what we do.

In a way I’m looking forward to many more senior moments as that’ll mean I’m still alive to have them, just as long as I don’t harm myself or others.

Which reminds me – I’d better get a smoke detector for the kitchen !!

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Fashion…A Cut Above The Norm ?

With the record temps this week melting roads, buckling railway lines and making lots of people just nasty to stand next to, I decided to buy a new pair of shorts.

Now I have several pairs of shorts but only one pair has fitted me for the last couple of years as my waistline has expanded somewhat.  The others I keep, in the mostly forlorn hope that one day I may be able to “climb into” them and get the top button to actually go into the top hole……or come anywhere close to it.

This fitting pair work for me as they have an elasticated waistband, a boon to those of us with the accepted medical condition known as obesity !  The problem recently has been that, as with most of my clothing, I’ve had them years and have worn them almost daily since the start of the month. A few days ago I discovered that the material on each side of my precious bits has worn away and I risk being done for exposure if I wear them outside again.

Personally I’d just call them “designer ventilated” but I doubt that the police, fashion or otherwise, would agree.

So much as I hate shopping for clothes (I know, who’d have thunk it !), I went to buy a new pair earlier this week. I just wanted a similar kind, you know, the ones you see spectators wearing at golf matches (not in the US though, oh dear me no).

Like these……..

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Now I admit I probably shouldn’t have gone to Tesco but it was nearby and I felt had a good range of clothing.

Just not for my age or size as it turned out.

They had NO shorts of the type above and so not wanting to go elsewhere, I lowered my expectations and just looked for any shorts that wouldn’t cause me to end up in the magistrate’s court.

At this point I have to say that despite having spent a lot of time in the US of A where oldies like me can wear just about anything and not be stared at or carted off to a rest home, we just aren’t like that here in the UK.

Or probably anywhere else for that matter.

So no shorts that were light blue, bright yellow, green, pink…..you get the picture, for this senior citizen.

Somewhat out of desperation and feeling slightly intimidated by being close to so many new items of clothing, I plumped for a pair that looked like sweat pants that had been cut off just above the knee. The label didn’t mention waist size and checking others of the same type on the rack, they only came in S,M and L.

As my days of being S or M ending in my twenties, I chose L and they seemed baggy enough for me. Stretchy too. They also came with a draw string method of tightening which I took to be a good omen.

Not bothering to try them on, I fairly scampered to the self checkouts and left the store with slightly raised blood pressure and a tightness in my chest.

I HATE CLOTHES SHOPPING.

Fast forward to a few hours later when I decided to try them on in the privacy of my bedroom. With only one leg in the shorts, I already suspected that I’d made a mistake. With the other leg in the shorts, suspicion gave way to certainty.

With movements akin to a trainee limbo dancer I managed to get them over my hips, at which point I noticed the ends of the draw string rapidly disappearing into the waistband material. I also felt the blood flow being constricted in my thighs so I stopped and despite knowing what I’d see, I checked myself in the mirror and, well lets just say if I did manage to get them a bit higher, my lack of Jewish ancestry would be clearly evident !

As there hadn’t been a choice of XL, 2XL, 3XL etc, I’d assumed L (with the draw string remember) would fit my fuller figure effortlessly.

Ha ! Big mistake. Big.  L mistake in fact.

And so it was that I found myself at the Tesco Customer Service desk the next day and after explaining to the lady that I’d no intention of taking part in the Tour de France in those shorts, I got my refund and went up to the clothing floor to try again.

As the forecast was for the hottest day of the year, if not of all time, I now was looking at shorts that I’d discarded the previous day as being unsuitable for my age group and without too much deliberation, I went for a pair that I believe are classed as “distressed” in modern fashion parlance but this time I also picked another pair, a size bigger and trotted off to the changing room to try them on.

Fool me once…and so on.

The first pair (again elasticated) fitted nicely and with no zip or buttons to mess with, just pulled on like swim shorts. I liked them.

But in the interests of comfort and increased air flow, I then tried on the larger pair and therein lay the conundrum. With the elasticated waistband and draw string, they were the dogs bollocks, as Gok Wan was never heard to say. Although they permitted a free flow of movement, albeit a bit too much freedom, I just couldn’t bear to accept the fact I’d be getting shorts that big.

No, no, no. I’m at the start of a diet and exercise program to reduce my HbA1C level to below that which currently labels me as being type 11 diabetic so I’m determined to reduce my waistline.

I replaced the larger sized shorts (you may have noticed I’m not mentioning any sizes here – I’m fat, not stupid !) and left the store with a spring in my step as I’d bought clothing and survived the experience.

So….distressed.  What’s that all about ?  Why the need to buy something new that looks like something old ?  Given time and wear, they’ll be old soon enough.

God knows I know THAT feeling.

But as well as being blotchy, these shorts have multiple built in creases around the precious area that give the impression that I’ve slept in them for a month or more.

Again…….that would happen naturally over time so why introduce it when new ?

Oh it’s fashion you’ll say.  It’s bollocks I say.  I want my new clothes to look new. At least to look new till the first wash.

I saw a photo of multi millionaire F1 driver Louis Hamilton this week and he was wearing white shorts, somewhat in the style of the photo I added earlier.

But they were slashed like he’d come second best in a fight with Neil “Razor” Ruddock and the hems were more frayed than my nerves when clothes shopping.

This is fashion ?

Oh well, with my new distressed and pre creased shorts, I can go walking knowing that I’m almost on the edge of being fashionable….and decent.

If I want to go full Gok Wan, I’ll need a pair of scissors and that’s not happening. There may be one or two differences between me and Louis Hamilton but I’m happy that MY shorts don’t look like they were on the outside of his F1 car doing over 200mph.

By the way, if you’re wondering about my use of the word “precious” when referring to my old (very old) family jewels, it comes from an episode of Gogglebox I watched this week. The families and friends were watching a show about lifelike human models with artificial intelligence that, if the show’s facts were to be believed, will soon be all the rage.  Clearly at this stage in their development, these models were being bought by, lets call them, lonely men with needs (and women, as there were male models too) !

Yes, lets leave it at that.

Anyway, being anatomically correct, the (male) creator showed us how, when he used his fingers in a certain place on the (female) model, it would make realistic sounds of pleasure or whatever.

One of the 3 elderly Caribbean ladies who were watching the show said “oh he’s touching her precious” which, despite putting a completely different slant on my enjoyment of Lord Of The Rings, I thought was a rather lovely way to describe that area, male or female.

Or in my case, semi precious I suppose !

A Walk From Burnsall To Grassington

On June 29th I had my long term illness review (or LTC as it’s called now – Long Term Care) which I’m supposed to have annually, if not more frequently.

The fact that it’s not always annually is down to me as I tend to ignore the appointment letters as over the years I’ve found it’s a bit of a waste of time. When it started I was seen by a doctor but as the years have passed, it’s been “downgraded” to a nurse and this time I was seen by a young healthcare assistant.

Next time I fully expect to be seen by one of the receptionists.

These days, during the review, I’m asked questions from a checklist and the healthcare assistant was straight in with “do you ever find yourself sad or depressed ?”

You mean apart from right now“, I felt like replying.

So she took my bp, weighed me and took my height……all things I could do myself at home. Then she took my blood which, fair enough, I’m not great at doing myself at home unless I’m running with scissors, which I try to avoid.

Looking at the results online a few days later (I’m jumping a bit ahead here so will get back on track asap), I could see all my answers to the questions. So I was a bit surprised to see “Does not complain of erectile dysfunction” !!

I was surprised because I was never asked about it and I assumed this was due to the healthcare assistant being a young girl who was too embarrassed to ask. Maybe next time she’ll have had more experience and be ready with the tape measure.

Right, back on track.

I won’t go into the other disturbing aspects of the review and go straight to the results. I was never told them. I went online a few days later and found them on my medical records and was horrified to see my Haemoglobin A1c level had gone from 47 mmol/mol to 69 mmol/mol.

As a level of 48 and over is classed as being type 2 diabetic rather than the borderline diabetic I was before, I was naturally concerned to say the least.

So I made an appointment to see the specialist nurse to discuss these results and also complain about not being told about them (to be fair that had NEVER happened before) and what a wonderful 65 minute session I had. I told her I’d been walking 3-7 miles a day since seeing the results and eating a bit healthier (come on……I’m only human) and after some discussion, she recommended I go onto Metformin to help with reducing the 69 score way back below 48 as quickly as possible considering my heart disease history.

The meds were delivered today and I took the first one after breakfast.

I really hope I can discontinue taking them and I’m encouraged by a snapshot reading taken last Friday with my friend’s blood glucose meter which showed a level of 6.1mmol/L which equates to 36mmol/mol.

Much better than 69 so I seem to be on the right path.

Anyway all this medical stuff is to explain why, yesterday, I took myself off to Burnsall for my favourite walk along the banks of the River Wharfe. I planned on a gentle walk to Grassington and back which I reckoned could end up being 6-7 miles on yet another lovely summer’s day.

It’s a stunning 1 hr drive from my house to Burnsall and I got there at 11:30. My first port of call was to the village cafe for some fuel for my walk and so at 12:11, after putting on my bluetooth headphones and lining up some tunes and starting the MapMyWalk app, I was off.

I’d parked on the road by the bridge and this was the view back to the cafe which you can see between the 2 biggest trees and behind that blue car. A delightful location and a highly recommended cafe which is under new ownership.

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I only had my phone with me as I’ve taken many photos of the walk already and didn’t want to bring my heavy main Lumix bridge camera.

And yes, don’t let the name fool you….it doesn’t only take photos of bridges !

It was soon obvious that the continuing heatwave we’re experiencing in the UK had given the landscape a huge contrast between public grass which only gets watered by nature and grass in private hands, so to speak.

This was a typical view looking back the way I’d come……..

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….compared to a view across the river to a house with a well watered garden.

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After a couple of miles I was delighted to come upon Linton Falls from a different direction than on previous walks as I’d really only ever seen the turbine building and the weir that still powers it.

I’d never seen the falls themselves and actually thought the weir WAS the falls by another name !

Despite not quite being on a par with Angel, Victoria or Niagara Falls, Linton Falls is still a pretty location despite the low water levels as a result of the aforementioned heatwave.

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Then it was on to Grassington which was as busy a Dales town as you can get. To add insult to injury, the last 1/4 mile to the town involves a very steep road to climb followed by an even steeper main street once you’ve got there.

Right at the top is a quirky shop called Ashton House selling hand carved furniture and all things crafty. I needed a rest after the climbs so spent some time exploring the shop and admiring the many items on display outside.

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The shops and houses in Grassington are very pleasing to the eye and obviously play their part in making the town a very popular stopping point for Dales walkers, cyclists and general looky lookers like me.

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My less than speedy walking and the numerous stops to enjoy the views and take the occasional photo meant that despite completing almost 4 miles, I’d taken nearly 2.5hrs to do it.  It was time to return to Burnsall.

Having already seen the falls, I approached Linton the way I always did before and that meant going through the graveyard of St. Michael & All Angels parish church.

Now if, after death, you’re going to be buried, and I’m not, it would be hard to find a prettier location for your earthly remains. I did come across a stunning one in Ireland when on my Wild Atlantic Way road trip a few years ago as it bordered a lake which helps any graveyard, but this one near Linton was still a nice place to rest your weary bones.

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And speaking of weary bones, as I was, my living bones were starting to realise I’d walked 5 miles already with the prospect of another 3 to go to get back to the car !

Ay caramba !!

It had been a bit overcast to this point but suddenly the skies brightened and the sun broke through, making me even more sweaty.

The up side was that with partly blue skies, the scenery went up a few notches and I took a lot more piccies on the return trip.

Here are a few……..

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I particularly like the last two as one shows how the path is so close to the river edge and the other one is just a nice composition, if I do say so myself.

Still on the path and approaching the road bridge at Burnsall, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of it from a location that has become a favourite of mine over the years. The colours change with the time of year but the view itself is timeless.

It was my final photo of the day.

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As I approached the end of the path by the bridge, I took my phone out of my pocket to check how far I had walked and how close I was to 8 miles and it showed 7.88 miles. Looking up along the bridge I could see the top of my car and though that if I wanted to be a saddo and walk exactly 8 miles, I might have to walk past the car and come back to it.

At the start of the bridge it was 7.92 miles and I couldn’t believe it when it ticked over to 8 miles as I got to the car boot. Walking around the front to get out of the way of passing cars registered another 0.1 miles before I stopped it recording and saved the route and stats for my records.

 

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So it had been another great, if leisurely, walk along the River Wharfe in the glorious Yorkshire Dales and best of all, it should help towards lowering my blood/glucose level so that I can come off these damn Metformin pills asap.

And then when I have my next review, the receptionist won’t have to ask me about any  erectile dysfunction issues !

Win/win.

Golf Is A Good Walk Spoiled.

Yesterday I played golf for the first time since 2012 when I was in Florida.

6 years is a long time when you’re in your 60’s and your body is fading like a £5 note in a Scotman’s pocket.

The weather WAS Floridian but that was the only comparison with my previous outing. I was using a trolley rather than a cart to carry my clubs, I had no companions to urge me on and worst of all, the course was ex-farming land that was just missing a few cows to still BE farming land.

Putting was a lottery although I did get excited when the ball dropped in for a 4 on the first hole – till I realised it was a par 3.

Then I 4 putted on the 2nd to make 7 and that was when I decided to class anything around 1-2 ft from the hole as being IN the hole. I know this sounds a bit cheat-y (although not on the same level as a Colombian player at the World Cup) but my reasoning was that the greens, being more patchy than my front garden, would cause me to score well over 100 if I tried to putt out on every hole.

Brandon Golf Course near Shadwell, Leeds is an 18 hole pay and play course which was created out of local fields with very little done to them since. Well not quite, but you’re constantly aware you’re not on a “proper golf course” like Augusta National.

Not even close, but then, where is ?

Any time I’d hit a decent straight drive, it would invariably land in a ditch or roll into a clump of trees in the middle of the fairway. With the blistering temps we’ve had over the last 2 weeks and the greens not having any sprinklers, any ball landing ON the green would roll into the next postcode before stopping.

Still, using my scoring system and a few kick outs from the extreme rough (a local rule I believe !) I went round in 88 and more importantly, due to the heat, I lost 2lbs as well as 2 balls.

Oh behave…..I mean golf balls.

I also found 3 balls which made me inordinately happy as they were better quality than the ones I was using !

Unlike my last game, I didn’t have to worry about gators or snakes or even geriatric cart drivers so those were pluses.

But the main difference was that that last game was when I was a few months shy of my 60th birthday and yesterday I was 9 days past 66. By the time I stumbled off the 18th green,  I was more than ready for a cool shower and a rub down from a Thai masseuse.

I had to settle for just the cool shower as the Thai masseuse didn’t work on a Wednesday.

Losing the 2lbs was important as I’m trying to lose (a lot of) weight as the results of my annual critical illness checkup last Friday showed that I’m definitely a type 2 diabetic now.  Seems the top “score” is 48 above which you’re no longer borderline. I’m now so far over that border (at 69) that I could be classed as an illegal immigrant !

I’m hoping that diet and exercise changes will bring that down as I don’t want to add even more pills to my daily regimen but I may not have a choice.

I’ve been out walking 4-5 miles every day for the last 2 weeks or so as the great weather has encouraged me to do that instead of using the treadmill. As a result I’ve lost 4lbs in that time so I’m off to a good start.

On a totally unrelated subject, I’m currently watching a Netflix series called La Casa De Papel which literally translates to The Paper House but in their wisdom, Netflix has called it Money Heist.  Maybe Google Translate was having an off day but actually, Money Heist is quite appropriate as the series is about a heist on the Spanish Mint.

But the point is that I have a choice of audio tracks to listen to – the original Spanish with subtitles or an English dubbed option. I usually watch it at night when I’m too tired to read subtitles so I pick the dubbed version and it’s just not working for me. It’s bad enough that words coming out of lips aren’t in sync, obviously, but the “actors” saying the dubbed lines are clearly phoning it in.

I’ve heard more enthusiasm in a Shackleton’s advert. Even in the dramatic scenes with loads of shouting between the police and the heisters (I may have made up that word) it’s like the dubbers are just reading from the script while reclining at home on their laz-y-boys.

I’m only 4 episodes in but I think I’ll switch to the Spanish audio and make do with the subtitles.

Or I could just learn Spanish I suppose !

On the subject of tv, when I returned from Florida in 2012, I treated myself to a new tv and made it a 3D tv as I thought that was the future.

Hmmmm.  Seems not.

The great British public didn’t think so and after a small uptake in tv shows being broadcast in 3D, it died a death and for the last few years, you haven’t even been able to buy a 3D tv.

So it’s a minor miracle, and a good one for me, that many movies and documentaries etc are still produced in 3D.  I have about 80 in my collection and really love watching them from time to time.

Facebook memories reminded me that I published a post on this day in 2013 that the BBC had broadcast the Wimbledon men’s semi final in 3D.   I wasn’t a fan. This was because the angle they showed was on a level with the net rather than from above so that once the ball went over the net, I’d no idea where it landed. I had to do my own “hawk-eye” tracking to try to work out where it had gone based on where it had crossed the net !

I also missed out on ever seeing a football match in 3D as Sky Sports had that sewn up and didn’t grant Virgin Media access to the broadcasts.

I was and am a Virgin Media customer so boo hiss to Sky.

I think I’d have enjoyed footy in 3D as long as the cameras weren’t at pitch level.

As for movies, I love animated ones in 3D.

Favs are Frozen, Despicable Me, Ice Age, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo……oh any animation really. The first 3D movie I saw at home was Hugo which at the time was rated as the best 3D movie going but the one that really blew me away was Rise Of The Guardians, especially the opening scenes.

It’s such a shame to me that home 3D never took off.

Moving on, it’s been a while since my mini road trip to Wales and with the end of the World Cup on the horizon, thoughts, my thoughts at least, are turning to a proper road trip before these old bones give out.

Yes I know a road trip is by car but one still has a lot of walking to do at each location and I’m not as sprightly as I used to be. Not quite ready for a zimmer frame and on the level I can, and do, walk for miles. But the world is not flat, no matter what some people would have us believe and I do love exploring continental hill towns.

My current thinking is either 3-4 weeks around Spain as I’ve never been below Barcelona which leaves a lot of country to explore or a shorter time in Ireland, especially Co. Donegal as despite coming from N. Ireland, I’ve rarely been to Co. Donegal.

If I do that, I’ll also complete the Wild Atlantic Way as when on it in 2016, I stopped at Bundoran which was just a mile or so into Co. Donegal and after that I went across to N. Ireland and so I still have a couple of hundred miles to go to say I’ve done it all.

If you aren’t aware of the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s a 1600 mile coastal route around the western (Atlantic) side of Ireland starting in Kinsale near Cork and ending in Derry in N. Ireland. From there you have the equally stunning, if not more so, Causeway Coast route down to Belfast. I blogged about it all as part of my Ireland road trip back then and the Wild Atlantic Way part starts with Day 8.  

The next few weeks should firm up my plans and who knows, maybe do both.

I love being retired !

By the way, the title of this post, popularly attributed to him, was not in fact uttered (or written) by Mark Twain. Just so you know.

A Trip to Welsh Wales. Part 6.

Bet you thought (or hoped) that part 6 was never coming…but here it is.

A lot happened between posts and with the World Cup in full swing,  blogging was put on the back burner till today.

I had a cancer scare, found I’ve the beginning of cataracts and am probably diabetic. On the up side, my back is a lot better and I’m still loving my new wok !

So on with Part 6 of my short trip to Welsh Wales and really it’s a bit of an anti-climax as I just spent my last afternoon on Tenby beach. After all the walking and climbing that went before, I really needed a restful afternoon before the drive back to Leeds the next morning.

By the time I’d had a shower in my Cottage Court hotel room and walked the half mile down Narberth Road (A478) to the beach , it was almost 3pm.

This was the view that greeted me and considering how busy Tenby gets in peak season, it was a different story in mid May. Brilliant. It’s the perfect time to be there, unless you want to actually swim in the water as that was a tad cold for all but the most hardy of swimmers……and kids.

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Before hitting the beach, I walked along the promenade and bought a meal deal at the Tesco Express in town – a bottle of Cherry Pepsi Max, a sandwich and a slice of cake.

Healthy stuff.

Then I went down to beach level and found a sheltered recess at the large rock you can see better in the first photo. I set up my camping chair and tucked into my snack. As you can see, there wasn’t much happening on the beach to keep me amused so after finishing the sandwich and cake, I got out my Kindle Fire to have a read.

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It quickly became clear that reading wasn’t going to be an option as, no matter how I tried to shield it, I just couldn’t see the text on the screen.

I gave up and as there was no one around to annoy, I listened to the Radio 2 app on my phone and chilled in the warm sunshine for a couple of hours.

Now and again I’d hear voices as people strolled past along the shoreline but for the most part, I felt like Robinson Crusoe on a bus man’s holiday !   I may have nodded off for a while as it was my nap time after all and by 5pm I was ready to leave my rock and get some exercise before supper in town.

I decided to walk to the far end of the beach where I knew that there was a steep (semi) private path up to The Park Hotel as I’d stayed at the hotel with friends a few times in the past. A casual beach walker would see the wall to the left in this photo and think that the beach ended there with no option but to return the way they’d come.

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As I approached the wall, I came upon this fisherman who seemed to be letting his rod, line and the water do all the hard work.

My kind of fishing.

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Continuing my walk, to my left was the start of the path up to The Park Hotel. I wasn’t going to include this photo but as it does kinda show where I was at the time, I’ve added it.

It’s a panorama shot and if you can imagine that the “end of beach wall” shown in a previous photo was at my back, this is the view looking towards the town. The rising concrete area to the right is the start of the path but as you leave it and start the climb, it becomes a single forest type track , almost overgrown in places.

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And VERY steep !  When I first used this path a decade or so ago, I could manage it with little effort. Not so now !

Back in the day, staff from the hotel would bring drinks, snacks and even full afternoon tea down to guests on the area of the beach near to the path. I can’t imagine the staff members liking this task much as even young ones would soon tire, literally, of going up and down the path carrying food and drink for those pampered guests.

Once on the concrete starting point, I noticed someone had etched the town name onto the sand and thus created a sort of postcard photo opportunity – which I took.

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After several stops along the climb, I finally got to the top and was badly in need of oxygen, a drink and a team of paramedics.

Still breathing heavily, I took a short video of the Italian looking seating area before me and here is a still from that video. I’d dumped my stuff and pulled a chair forward so that after the video, I could collapse onto it to both have a much needed rest and also to enjoy the stunning view back down to the beach and beyond.

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Once rested, I walked the last few paces to the hotel and went in to have a few words with the receptionist who I’d spoken with on my arrival in Tenby days earlier. Ok so I really wanted to use the hotel’s wifi to send the video clip to my friends in Leeds who have stayed at the hotel every year since 1896 or something and will be there again in August !

By now it was close to 7pm so there was little point in returning to MY hotel only to go back down into town for a meal, so I headed off into Tenby for some traditional fish and chips again at Fecci’s …..here it is in a screen print from Google Street view.

Fecci's Of Tenby

There were tables set out where that red van is on the left so I got my meal as a takeout and ate it out in the fresh air. Can’t beat fish and chips at the seaside.

It was a lovely evening so after the meal, I wandered around the town as it would be my last chance to do so on this trip. When I finally decided to call it a day, I still couldn’t resist a couple more shots of the beach area as it’s just so damned picturesque, especially when the tide is in at the harbour.

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The rising tide had already covered my rock cove so it seemed a good time to head back up to the Cottage Court hotel to prepare for the after breakfast start home in the morning.

I watched a few shows on the laptop before bedtime and 10 hours later was down in the breakfast room to fill up on a full English before setting off.

As I wanted the most direct route home, I just let Waze direct me and as I already knew that the route would take me only a mile or so from friends in Wrexham, I’d arranged to drop in.

So I set off at 9:45am and as it was a Saturday, the roads were quite clear. By 1pm I was at Keith & Jen’s house for lunch (thanks guys). Initially their dog, Toby, wasn’t too happy to see me but after a while, and with some treats, he stopped barking and we’re now friends on Facebook !

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The rest of the drive home was mostly on motorways and so I was home at 4:50pm, 25 minutes before the start of the FA Cup Final which had been on my mind when I set off from Tenby, 253 miles earlier.

All in all, over the 5 day trip, I’d only driven 790 miles but then, it wasn’t my usual type of road trip as most of it was spent in and around Tenby.

I’d highly recommend the Cottage Court Hotel to anyone spending time in the Tenby area and just about everywhere around the Pembrokeshire coast is stunning. Once again I’d been very fortunate with the weather considering the time of year and the short time away has encouraged me to plan for another Euro road trip this summer…….after the World Cup of course.

Cefais amser gwych yng Nghymru a gobeithiaf ddychwelyd eto’n fuan.    

 

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.

View From Great Tower 1View From Great Tower 2

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………………..