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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.