A cruise around the British Isles.

A cruise around the British Isles

I  have been lucky enough to have travelled quite a lot in Europe but there are still many places in the British Isles that I have not visited yet.

So when my husband saw an advertisement for a cruise going right round the British Isles departing from Avonmouth, our local port we thought it was too good to miss.   We booked with CMV, cruise and Maritime Voyages.  The ship used was the Marco Polo.  This liner has an interesting history having been built sixty years ago for the Soviet Union.  I had never been on an ocean cruise before and was not sure what to expect.

We were very lucky to be given a cabin high up on the 11th floor well away from the noise of the entertainment and the bars.  I had wondered whether I would be bored being on a boat for a week as I normally enjoy walking but in fact there was plenty to do with lectures and shows. Some of the entertainment reflected the age of the passengers who were mainly elderly with games like throw the bean bag and rock and roll evenings.

I had booked walking tours at our various ports as I thought I would get cabin fever but instead I found I was surprisingly tired when I came home.  This might have been something to do with the amount we ate.  There was a lot of good food provided.  If you wanted you could have six meals a day, breakfast, eleven o’clock snacks, lunch, four o’clock tea and cake, dinner and even a midnight feast.

I certainly needed those walks.  My favourite places were the Scottish Isles which I had never visited before particularly Tobermory with its colourful houses instantly recognisable from the children’s television show, Balamory and Kirkwall in Orkney with its whitewashed stone houses.

A photo of the womble Tobermory outside a shop in Tobemory
Tobermory in Tobermory wombling free.

I also enjoyed my first visit to Dunfermline where we saw the birth place of Carnegie and learnt something of his life story:  How he went from Weaver’s son to one of the richest men in America.  He did not forget his native city and endowed it with a concert hall, library, park, swimming pool and technical college.

A statue of Andrew Carnegie
This statue is of Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist in the park which he bought for the city after not being allowed to play in it as a child.

   The homeward leg

We then sailed south visiting Honfleur, a well preserved seaside town at the mouth of the Seine  in France and Jersey the largest of the  channel Islands.

Bronze cows wandering through St. Helier
Realistic statues of cows in St. Hellier Jersey.

 

Our last port of call was my  favourite Tresco in the Scilly Islands where we were lucky enough to be taken on a tour of the Abbey Gardens by a retired gardener.

A picture of chocolate colour succulents.
Succulents in the Abbey garden in Tresco

Two National Trust properties to visit near Bath.

Two of my favourite  National Trust properties near Bath.

My husband and I are members of the National trust.  For any one who is unfamiliar with the National Trust it is the organisation which looks after many stately homes and gardens as well as large swathes of countryside in England.  It is a charity and membership fees help pay for conservation and upkeep of the property and land.   It is also possible to pay an individual admission fee to each property.

I thought I would share two of my favourite local gardens for a relaxing afternoon walk .

Dyrham Park

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Deer relaxing in the Park.

This house was built  in the early 17th century by William Blathwayte who was a friend of William of Orange  and  had worked in the Netherlands so it has a decidedly Dutch feel.  It is particularly noted for its Delft china and Spring Tulip festival.  It is on the edge of the Cotswolds and is an ancient deer park.  The deer are quite tame and let visitors get close.  It has a good play area for children.   Dogs are not allowed in the deer park but there is also a separate dog walking area.  The roof of the house was recently replaced and last year visitors were able to walk round the scaffolding and see how the house was constructed.  As well as a large park there is a lovely well maintained garden with a lake and newly opened terraces to explore.

The lake with the church in the background #Durham Park
The garden at Durham Park in Spring

A free shuttle bus takes people from the car park to the house or you can enjoy walking through the parkland though be warned there are steep hills.   It has a good café with out door seating and a large gift shop. The basement also houses a second hand bookshop.

Dyrham Park  

This is a link to the National trust website with more details.  You will also find details of special events throughout the year.

Prior Park Landscape Garden

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This garden is on a hill above the city and has wonderful views over Bath.  The Bath skyline walk starts close by.

As there is not much parking nearby  we catch the number 2 bus from Bath bus station.  It is also served by the hop on hop off tourist bus.  The house was owned by Ralph Allen who was associated with the introduction of the 1d post.   The landscape garden was partly designed by Capability Brown with some suggestions from the poet Alexander Pope.  It has plenty of shady woodland and lake side walks and a small café.   The original house is now a college and not open to the public.

It is on a steep hill so not suitable for disabled visitors.  It is most famous for its Palladian Bridge which is listed on a website as one of the ten most romantic places to propose in the west country.  The last time we were there a bride and groom were having wedding photos taken.  If you plan to do this make sure you bring suitable footwear as the paths are steep and can be muddy.

Prior Park Landscape Garden click the link to find out more.

A grand day out. Gromit unleashed 2 in Bristol

The Horn Bridge at Night

A Grand day out in Bristol

Gromit from the Gromit trail as one of the paw patrol characters.
This Gromit was designed by the Paw Patrol team and is at Chew Valley lake.

 

Wallace dressed as a space man sitting with a cup of tea
Wallace raising money outside Bristol children’s hospital.  Payment can be made here using a contactless card.

There is a brand new Wallace and Gromit sculpture  trail, Gromit unleashed 2 running in Bristol from 2 July to 2nd September with over sixty sculptures dotted around the city and surrounding areas  to raise money for the Wallace and Gromit Grand appeal for Bristol Children’s hospital and the St. Michael’s hospital special care baby unit.  Bristol children’s hospital treats more than 100,000 patients every year and cares for patients from Bristol and the South West of England.

Many of the figures have been painted by well known artists and represent famous Bristol characters like W.G. Grace, the cricketer in my photo.  The Lego design team have created a model using over 30,000 bricks and the Paw patrol team have also painted a Gromit.  Aardman animation which produced Morph, Creature Comforts, Shaun the sheep and Chicken run as well as the Wallace and Gromit films is based in Bristol and Nick Park , a founder of Aardman studios is a patron of this appeal.

New for 2018

For 2018 Wallace and Gromit are joined by their arch enemy Feathers McGraw and are positioned in iconic locations around Bristol and surrounding areas. The detect-o-gromit app is available to purchase from app stores for both iPhone and android for £1.99.   It has both short and longer trail routes and includes a pedometer which rewards you for 10,000 steps and has more details about the work done by the children’s hospital. A trail map is also available from the Bristol tourist office and Bristol museums. More information can  be found on the Gromit Unleashed facebook page.

The first Gromit unleashed trail and the Shaun the sheep trail raised £6 million for Bristol children’s hospital and this time they are hoping to do even better. Sculptures are  auctioned off at the end of the season and many end up at well known locations.

If you live near Bristol I think it would make a grand day out for you and your  family.  It will also help you all to get fitter while having fun and discovering new parts of the city.

A sculpture of Wallace dressed as W.G Grace
A figure from the Gromit trail, Wallace dressed as the Cricketer W.G. Grace by Downend Cricket club where he started his career.

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First bus have a day family ticket for £8.00 if purchased through their app which allows a family of five to travel throughout the Bristol Inner zone and includes a 10p donation to the charity.

Roman Londinium: A London walk in the past

A bronze statue of the Emperor Trajan
A bronze statue of the Emperor Trajan by Tower Hill underground station.

A walk in the past Roman Londinium

I belong to a meetup  group called “A walk in the past “.  This combines two of my loves history which I studied at University and walking.   Normally we meet in Bristol or surrounding areas but last week I  ventured further afield to London in search of Roman Londinium.  I was able to combine this with a visit to see my son who was happy to join me on the walk.

Our group met  at a suitably classical location, Trajan’s statue by Tower Hill tube station.  This is close to a surviving section of Roman  town wall. Roman walls can often be spotted as they have a tile level every couple of feet.  We were able to follow the wall for some distance and I was surprised by how much survives. We even found one section in a car park  with the brown tile levels clearly visible.

A section of Roman wall found in a car park clearly showing the tile levels.
A section of Roman wall hiding in a car park.

Roman London is buried under modern London and much of it remained undiscovered for centuries.  However during the second world war the blitz destroyed many buildings revealing Roman  remains.  One such building is the London Mithraem, the remains of a temple to Mithras. It has been  lovingly preserved and  is now in the basement of the Bloomberg building, the European headquarters of the American corporation.  It is beautifully present with a sound and light show.  It can be visited for free by prior arrangement. The London Mythraem They also have an interesting display of Roman artefacts found at the site including part of a collection of over 400 wax writing tablets. Another important building in any Roman town was the amphitheatre.  The London amphitheatre remained hidden until 1988 when developers rebuilding the Guildhall discovered unusual curved walls.  The remains can now be seen for free in the basement of the Guildhall.

Originally Colchester was the capital of Roman Britain but Londinium soon became more important.  Boudica led the Iceni on a raid which resulted in many wooden building being destroyed and it was decided to build a fort and walls to strengthen the town. Londinium  became more important under the emperor Hadrian who used his own money to build civic buildings.    The Romans were able to build a bridge across the Thames near the site of the modern Tower Bridge and it became an important trading port.  Lead from the Mendips and copper and tin from Cornwall were traded for olive oil , wine and other luxury goods. I was  shown the site of the London arena, where soldiers would have trained which was discovered about forty years ago and the enormous forum basilica. which is now under Leadenhall market. We ended our walk by looking at Roman artefacts in the excellent museum of London.  This is also free and is well worth a visit.  I particularly liked the model of the original London bridge.

My book recommendation

 

If you want to find out more about a walk in the past:  A walk in the Past