One month in a car with Fat Freddy's Drop
07.07.2008 - 02.08.2008 21 °C
Arrived at Heathrow and negotiated Hertz ok .. got a complimentary upgrade of vehicle. it was supposed to be a Ford Mondeo but I ended up with a VW Passat, fancy thing took me about 10 minutes to work out how to start it ! the key isn't even a proper looking key ! negotiated the M25 and A21 plus a lot of country lanes in heavy rain to get to Rye my starting point, funny to be driving again after 3 months. I went to visit a small neighbouring village walled Winchelsea where dad's grandfather (I think it was that generation) left from in 1841 to come to NZ. the countryside and villages are pretty, pity the weather didn't co-operate, but I may still be on some of those roads taking photographs if it had.
Observations on driving in UK after not driving for three months :
Driving has been interesting. I tend to concentrate a lot when driving which is fortunate. The roads around villages are so narrow and vehicles parked on streets that there is a lot of stopping to let opposing traffic go by. The biggest problem is that if you make a wrong turn or choice on these country roads it can be a while before you find a suitable turning place ! And the number of Lorry's on them are ridiculous
Of course wouldn't you know it, In my car at home I just got used to windscreen wipers and signal stalks being around the opposite way to all my previous cars, and now this one is back to the old configuration, so occasionally the windscreen wipers go on instead of the blinker ! And reverse is on the left of the gear box instead of the right as it is in my Vectra ! I'll get used to it in a few days, it's amazing how muscle memory takes over still though.
I only have 3 CD's, I will find a cheap second hand store to increase my library but at the moment enjoying cranking up Fat Freddy's Drop as I'm tootling down the M20 this morning going to Leeds Castle.
Leeds Castle was very picturesque, great to see something built almost 1000 year ago.The entrance fee was 15 pounds which I think is exorbitant, I'm hoping to visit many more so the 65 Pounds I spent on a Great British Heritage pass which allows me access to over 500 heritage buildings will pay for itself very quickly.
The drive from Rye to Salisbury Plains was in constant rain, but I decided that wasn't going to deter me from crossing off Bodiam, Pevemsey and Arundel Castles
The day dawned a little brighter and I decided to take the opportunity to see Stonehenge before it rained again, and got a "Stonehenge Rocks !" T shirt to prove it :-)0
Salisbury cathedral has the tallest spire in the UK and the oldest working clock (apparently) in Britain
I was also interviewed in the street about UK tourism,
A lot of driving for not much today .. well in saying that I really mean only two venues not the actual attraction (flagged Stourhead when I saw the queues on A303 - I can do that the following morning on the way to Bideford).
The stone circle in Avebury is impressive for it's size alone!! dwarfing Stonehenge And there is some excellent archaeological information in the museum there ... built 4500 years ago it is just impressive with it's earthworks and stones.
I received a military escort for 10 miles from Salisbury to the motel, lots of Tank & ATV training on the Salisbury Plains
Off to Bideford to meetup with Fotothing member Thor who has offered to show me around some of North Devon. Managed stops at :
1 - Stourhead (got lost in some wood up the back of the grounds ... muddy tracks and stinging nettle !
2 - South Canterbury Hillfort - site of Camelot apparently ... muddy steep track up steep hill, I'm guessing there weren't many castle deliveries in those days !
3 - Tiverton Castle ... disappointing
After arriving we went for a walk around charming Bideford, a lovely provincial town and also had a look at Appledore and the famed Westward Ho ! beach. Lots of great photo op's including kite buggies on sand and the famed sunset. We missed the grill at a pub so got some chips and washed it down witj a beer at Thor & Kath's
Next day off to Buck's Mill, Clovelly and Hartland Point.Highlight was Clovelley (ADD LINK) very picturesque but certainly a fair hike up and back
Interesting to do some people watching of tourists as well.
Dinner back with Thor & family - all in all a delightful stay - grand hospitality and Fotothing members come up trumps again. I forgot to mention stunning blue skies all weekend :-))
Monday I drove down to Penzance, picturesque Cornwall was a bit grey for the visit, but I also got some admin stuff organised while here. The hotel promised free internet in rooms but apparently a storm had knocked it out so I had to resort to a data cord at reception, that seemed to work ok and I must say as with everywhere else I have stayed he was most accomodating. Possibly didn't make the most of the sight seeing here .. but occasionally you need some down time.
Had some offers of a room for a few nights from FT members and when it was convenient and on the track I was pleased to ... I noticed Pam's photos when she was posting some of her NZ trip and we have been on each others friends lists for a long time so a stop at Stourbridge in the Midlands was next on the list. Trip up the A 30 and M 5 was supposed to take 5 hrs... I must have taken a short cut because it took 4 !!!
Arrived and talked about a lot of stuff and went to had an authentic English pub experience complete with Steak & Guinness pie and Baileys ice cream (& a pint of course).
The following day we caught a train to "Town" (Birmingham) met up with FT'er Mary99 and Chris and I was guided around some main points of the city. Symphony hall was a highlight ...
But all in all a lovely tour and a few laughs.
Bid farewell to Pam & family and off to Chester to look around. It is a "walled" city I think the walls date back as far as 1200 AD, there is much outside the walls of course now as the city has expanded, but it is kind of neat to be able to walk around it all. Apart from the walls there is a lot of interesting architecture but I think one day was enough. heading on to Manchester, Stuboy from Fotothing was the main reason for the visit we have been friends online for a couple of years and share a love of Man Utd, along with another FT'er Lynn we visited a major park there. When you are with Stuart you acan prepare to be stared at .. he is a 40 something 6ft plus punk with spiked and often coloured hair, but the nicest of guys. After the park adventure during which anumber of deer had an unhealthy attraction to Stu emded up at the "Tavern" and a great night was had by all. A funny coincidence Stu was the first to stay in the motel !!!! illegally he was dossing down while it was being completed after a night on the booze but got rumbled by the cops
Off to the Lake District next, which everyone was telling me would be beautiful especially if it was sunny. There was a warning from Pam however that if I had seen New Zealand's South Island (and I have seen much of it) then I may be a little disappointed and not to believe all the hype. The South Island was the Lake Dstrict on steroids she said. Anyway the first day I arrived around 1 PM in beautiful sunshine, it's pretty much all broke up for school holidays here so any holiday spot is pretty packed. Missed the hotel the first time and ended up driving another 6 miles or so, which was Ok because I found a little park to look around.
The drive to Whitby started off in glorious weather and stayed that way until 5 miles from Whitby when deep cloud and fog rolled in ( ...ohhh well that's life ! I was pretty pleased with the navigation, about quarter of the way thru the trip I realised the Google Map directions I had must have been wrong, I must have typed in one of my other stops because looking at the map the planned route was too far South ... so navigating on the fly ... I managed to get there in less than three hours with no wrong turns ..
Spent four nights in Whitby with side trips to York one day ... Castle Howard, Pickering, Helmsley & Riveleux another, Whitby Abbey & Robin Hood Bay and around Whitby town most other times.
Then off to Nottingham to stay with a lovely FT couple Joan & Barry after stopping at Bolsover Castle on the way through. A lovely walk at Woolerton House Grounds the first afternoon, summer was warming up too !
We visited Nottingham City "or own" as it is called, plenty of history to see and a lot of personal memories shared by this lovely couple (where they met, were engaged etc) a fascinating tour with a personal touch
Bourton-on-the-Water is a lovely town in The Cotswolds. I arrived on another particularly warm sunny day, with school holidays in full swing it was particularly packed - people wading down the stream that runs down the middle of the town, very picturesque setting. Day two here dawned overcast and there were a few drops of rain late in the day. In the morning I went on a cross country hike to Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter I was reasonably keen to try for Stow on the Wold from there but I hadn't written the directions down and wasn't too sure on whether to risk it, so returned from there was gone a couple of hours .. visited the Cotswold Motor Museum. I'm not a motor nut but it was certainly interesting. The rest of the time both days I just people watched and of course spent the obligatory time on the net with Fotothing and checking upcoming travel plans.
Having access to the internet at most places has been a godsend, not for keeping up to date with home, I'm strangely uninterested in events at home, which surprises me a lot. Being able to keep in touch with travel plans and arrangements has been essential, especially when doing things on the blind like I have to some degree in England. But the main benefit of having my laptop has been saving and organising my photos and also the Fotothing Community. Spending time there fills in the quite moments in the day or night, I can keepin contact with the wonderful friends I have met along the way,
Starting to catch up a bit on this blog .. it was almost two months behind at one stage, now only just over a fortnight