After several delays, Gerry has been admitted to Great Western Hospital for a stem cell transplant. He is likely to be in hospital for a upto five weeks and then on very limited circulation for a while.
The Blog is therefore likely to be dormant for a couple of months.
Having another week without any medical appointments, we decided to head off to Devon. We rented a mobile home at Harford Bridge on the edge of Dartmoor. It was the third time as we have rented this particular place and so knew exactly what to expect! The weather was lovely for the journey down and we stopped at the National Trust property at Killerton for a walk and a picnic lunch. Sunday morning was also nice weather and we walked along the road to Peter Tavy and back. At just under 2.5 miles it set us up nicely for lunch with Annie’s sister, Pam and husband Neil at Holsworthy.
On Monday morning we headed off to do one of our favourite walks, Dr Blackall’s Drive.The weather was just right for walking on the edge of Dartmoor and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves particularly as we met not one other walker. We were also very pleased to accomplish the walk without problem as there are three steep and long inclines. The scenery was lovely and although we have shown pictures from the walk previously on the blog this one epitomises the peacefulness of the walk.
The next morning was windy, misty and damp as we set off to do another of our favourite walks at Brentor. The Church of St. Michael de Rupe (St. Michael of the Rock) on top of the hill was shrouded in mist when we started but as we descended after visiting the church the cloud cleared and the wind dropped. We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the walk.
After a picnic lunch, including hot cup-a-soup, we drove across the moor to Chagford for a short walk down from the town and along the banks of the River Teign. Returning back to the campsite we decided we deserved a meal at the Mary Tavy Inn. Previously a great favourite of ours we were very disappointed with our supper as certain food was not available and what we had, lacked the special wow factor of previous visits. Wednesday saw us drive to Mevagissey for lunch with Dave and Pam Nelmes our Fairford friends who now live in Cornwall. We had a lovely time with them and enjoyed the drive both ways.
On Thursday we headed for Lerryn and another familiar walk to St Winnow. We started off by crossing the stepping stones and then walked through Ethy Woods and along the river bank to the church at St Winnow. The return leg took us across pasture land and over the hills. We are both amazed at the fact that the only place on the walk where we encountered mud (up to our ankles) was going through a gate at the top of a hill. After a picnic lunch at Lerryn, we drove to Fowey and walked along the narrow streets until we found a pasty shop!
On Friday we headed back into Cornwall to do a walk in the grounds of Lanhydrock House. We had done the walk a couple of times before but later in the year. However, we were amazed by the flowers, rhododendron’s, camellias and gorse; the colours made us feel that Spring had arrived.
We were back at Harford Bridge by early afternoon so decided to walk to Mary Tavy over the hills and return via Peter Tavy. It was a lovely walk and our feeling that Spring has arrived was reinforced when we looked inside a lambing shed and saw lambs that were only a couple of hours old.
What a joyous end to a great week of walking.
Jon and Jess kindly agreed that we could collect Oscar and bring him back to Fairford for the day. We got back to Fairford at 11 am and Oscar immediately wanted to play with various toys – he knew exactly where they were kept! He then asked to play with grandpa’s trains and had a great time controlling two trains at once. We had to bribe him away with the prospect of lunch. After lunch we took him to feed the ducks at the Mill Bridge. Following a nap we played some more and then it was time to head back to Bristol.
We were quite tired when we eventually got back to Fairford but had thoroughly enjoyed the day.
Following on from recent trips, we travelled to Thorner near Leeds to spend Sunday with our friends David and Bridget Lindley. The four of us had a lovely curry meal at Rajas in Leeds in the evening where we were joined by Annie’s godson Chris, his wife Lindsey and son Henry. They are all regulars at Rajas and Henry who is two years old has his own curry made specially for him.
The next day we headed off into the mist to walk around Fountains Abbey. The walk was bracing but very pleasant although the lakes in the grounds were frozen! From there, we headed to Pately Bridge, Aysgarth Falls and Aysgarth’s lovely church St Andrews. The graveyard extends to about four acres and is supposedly the largest in England. The church itself preserves a number of fittings including a large rood screen and the abbot’s stall that were rescued from Jervaulx Abbey at the time of the dissolution of the Monastries.
We booked into our favourite Bed and Breakfast (Pear Tree House) in Pickering and enjoyed our second curry meal of the trip at Spice4U (as good as ever). Tuesday was the day for the long awaited lunch at The Magpie in Whitby. Normally we would travel to Whitby on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway but it was out of season. In order that we could enjoy some wine with our lunch we travelled by bus – a great way to see the countryside especially from the front seat on the top deck.
Our lunch was terrific; Gerry enjoyed a starter of Mussels in wine sauce followed by fish, chips and mushy peas. Annie had a couple of Gerry’s mussels and followed that with fish pie. The streets of Whitby were quite empty really but both floors of The Magpie were full of diners when we left the restaurant.
The weather forecasters got it right when they said that the rain would stop at around 9am on Wednesday. We had decided to do our favourite walk at Farndale and so were pleased with the cold but dry weather. Recognising that the walk could be very muddy we asked a Park Ranger (who happened to be in the car park) what he thought. His reply was slightly disconcerting in that the first half of the walk would be fine but that the mud and surface water would be over our ankles in parts of the return leg. We decided to do the first half of the walk along the side of the River Dove from Low Mills to Church Houses and then return walking along roads. The outward leg was really pleasant despite coming across a road works sign where the path was being refurbished. We also came across a delightful small waterfall and enjoyed listening to the sound of the water in the absence of all other sounds except for the birds. Although the return leg we chose was marginally longer than walking through fields and farm yards, and despite walking on the road, the views were worth it. We came across some sheep who decided to see if they could out stare us. I think we cheated by making a noise!
We spent the afternoon visiting a couple of small towns and villages including the picturesque village of Thornton-le-Dale. We had saved a visit to Pickering Church to see the rather special frescos until last only to find a funeral in progress. Still there is always next time.
The last post referred to Gerry’s health and observed that we would be out of normal circulation for some time. That has certainly been the case as Gerry underwent three lots of chemotherapy each involving just over a week’s stay in the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. Those spells were followed by a stem cell harvest in Oxford and two further stays in GWH (totalling more than five weeks) because of infections.
The infections and chemo have caused damage to the kidneys and thyroid as well as creating abnormal levels of fluid around the heart and lungs. Not surprisingly, the risks associated with the transplant were significantly increased and the transplant has been deferred several times. Gerry has seen Renal and Endocrinology specialists and had several CRT scans and echocardiograms as well as seeing a second more experienced haematology consultant two weeks ago to review the situation. He will have another set of scans at the end of February just before seeing the consultant again. Hopefully, we will get a definitive decision then about whether they are prepared to proceed with the transplant. Gerry feels well and is wanting to get on with life!
All the while we had followed advice about no mixing with large groups, no theatres, swimming, bus trips, restaurants and pubs etc. The advice was relaxed at the end of January and we are now able to do more although pubs, theatres and other large close company groups are still to be avoided.
Within a couple of days we had enjoyed our first meal in a restaurant for seven months and travelled to Cornwall for a short stay at the Pentire Hotel in Newquay. We visited Mevagissey en route to the hotel for a Cornish pasty brunch and a walk around the port. We then met up with Pam and Dave Nelmes friends from Fairford who have recently moved to Cornwall. It was lovely catching up with them and seeing their new home before heading to the hotel. As we booked in we had a lovely surprise when the receptionist said that there was a bottle of wine for us to enjoy as a gift from Annie’s sister. Thanks Pam it was delightful!
The next day we enjoyed glorious sunny weather and went for a lovely walk at The Lizard. The Lifeboat Station built over a hundred years ago and now used by fishermen was still solid although the slipway no longer went all the way into the sea! It was so refreshing to be out enjoying the sea air and scenery. We also visited St Agnes, Padstow and several more villages before heading back to Fairford and the fog and rain. A truly wonderful break that left us wondering when we could next get away.
After a couple of days at home we decided to visit Bournemouth and stay overnight. The weather was really lovely for our journey down. We stopped at the National Trust property of Kingston Lacy and enjoyed a walk through the gardens. The snowdrops and cyclamen were providing the beginnings of a carpet of colour. Arriving in Bournemouth in the early afternoon we went for a walk on the pier. As one looked back to the beach and cliffs from the pier it was hard to imagine it was January!
The last couple of hours of daylight were spent walking around the Nature Reserve at Hengistbury Head (well worth a visit). The next morning, Sunday, saw a complete change in the weather it was wet, cold and a little misty. We headed off to Stourhead intending to walk around the grounds. We put on our waterproof over trousers etc only to find the rain stopped as we got out of the car. Half way round the walk we had a phone call that resulted in a visit to see Hannah, James, Rosie and Ptolemy over lunchtime. It was a lovely surprise and a great end to the weekend.
Who knows where we will head next but Yorkshire beckons.
A phone call and a summons to see my Haematologist in a few days time meant we had a couple of days free so we headed back to Exmoor for two nights in the village of Fitzhead staying in the delightful Inn there. We travelled down on Sunday morning and managed a six mile walk in the countryside around the town of Wiveliscombe. We enjoyed the walk and completed it just before the rain started. It was the longest walk for some time and we were pleased with our performance!
The next day was spent travelling from Bishops Lydeard to Minehaed and back on the West Somerset Railway. It was a lovely journey and we were so taken with the stations that we visited several by car once we had finished the train ride. The stations are so beautiful and immaculate!
On our way back to Fairford we visited Lytes Carey Manor with the wonderful topiary in the gardens and also the austere Barrington Court. That said the gardens at Barrington Court were quite lovely
GERRY HEALTH UPDATE
Gerry’s consultant has confirmed that Gerry has High Grade Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as opposed to the low grade which manifested itself two years ago and which has been under control for the last year. The consultant wishes Gerry to start a chemotherapy programme leading to a stem cell transplant as soon as possible. The treatment will involve several stays in hospital of four or five days and one of at least 5 weeks. Once that is all complete, it is envisaged that a course of radiotherapy will be required. The chemo regime is going to be a lot harder than the last time and will mean that we will be out of normal circulation for the next few months at least. We remain positive and look forward to resuming travel next year.
The NHS played another blinder a couple of weeks ago. Gerry was rung on a Saturday morning and offered an appointment with a surgeon the following Wednesday. The surgeon agreed to do the excision biopsy and gave us a date for a couple of days after our return from a holiday to France. Gerry then checked with the Haematologist who had by then received the results of a PET Scan done at the Churchill hospital in Oxford the previous week. As a result, he suggested that he would rather that we did not go to France and that the operation should be done ASAP. The surgeon reprogrammed and I had the surgery this Tuesday. I was offered the chance to stay in hospital but elected to be a day case and recuperate at home.
Last Friday morning having attended the hospital for a pre-op screening, we decided to go away for the night and headed off to Exmoor. We managed a lovely walk near Dunster Castle and stayed in the village of Nether Stowey for the evening. The next morning we set off to meander home and enjoy some of the Exmoor villages and towns. We stopped at the National Trust property of Knightshayes near Tiverton and enjoyed a walk around the gardens and were amazed at the colours in the trees and the lily pond in particular.
Apart from volume of traffic on the M5, we had a pleasant journey home - a short but very pleasant break.
The surgery went well and Gerry is now recovering well from the general anaesthetic as much as the operation itself. Now it is a question of waiting for the results of the biopsy to determine the grade of lymphoma and hence develop a treatment plan.
Thanks NHS for the personal touch and speedy service.
Given the uncertainties about Gerry’s ongoing investigations and treatment we continued our principle of getting away with a week in a mobile home at our favourite Devon campsite at Harford Bridge.
We did some of our favourite walks at Lerryn, and Lanhydrock to Restormel Castle in Cornwall and also Chagford, Dr Blackall’s Drive and Brentor in Devon. Restormel Castle, Mevagissey and the river at Mary Tavy were particularly beautiful.
More amazingly, 2016 is certainly the year of the bluebell as well as wild garlic and buttercups. We were amazed at the blue hue of the countryside – the bluebells seemed to be everywhere. The hedgerows were also often a blend of many colours and a joy to behold.
On another day we travelled from Gunnislake to Plymouth on the Tamar Valley railway line. It was quite an interesting trip but the most stunning part was the Calstock viaduct 120 feet above the River Tamar. Plymouth Railway Station was an absolute concrete monstrosity from the 1960’s (I assume) and, as we did not want to walk into Plymouth, we returned on the next train but then went to Calstock to view the viaduct properly.
Our walk up the hill to the Church on Brentor revealed that the church is covered in scaffolding as the roof lifted during a gale. It is quite a feat as the materials have to be taken up the hill by tractor and trailer and then the scaffolding has to be weighted down by tanks filled with water. Having completed our walk one day we returned on the Sunday evening to attend a sung evensong. There were about 12 people there with a battery powered key board and gas lighting. Gerry was asked to read a lesson which made it even more special.
Annie’s sister Pam and husband Neil visited us on one afternoon and we then enjoyed a meal together at the Mary Tavy Inn just up the road. Our week was over very quickly and we returned to Fairford via Bristol and a short visit to see our grandson Oscar.
We celebrated Annie’s birthday with a gathering of all of the UK based members of the family plus Martin and Louise who were visiting the UK from Singapore,
James, Hannah, Rosie and Ptolemy had stayed with us for the weekend but Jon, Jess and Oscar as well as Jenny, Mark, Bethany, Callum and Elsie had come for a Birthday Lunch with Martin and Louise joining us after lunch.
The weather was gorgeous and we were able to spend a lot of time in the garden.
A wonderful time was had by all.
Fresh from a few days in glorious weather in North Wales we headed for Yorkshire. However, the weather was much colder, wetter, snowier and windier. Nevertheless, we had a great time. Our first night was spent visiting friends in Thorner and the traditional curry evening at Rajas. We had a great evening with Bridget and David but the next morning headed off to Richmond Castle (on the left) which we visited last September, Mount Grace Priory (on the right) which we last visited many years ago. The reconstructed monk’s cell and herb plot certainly gave a feeling of how the monks lived 600 years ago!
Braving the elements, we were able to take a stroll along the terrace and enjoy views of Rievaulx Abbey below.
During our walk we came across a brilliant wire statue of a horse. The horse stood on the edge of the Terrace overlooking Rievaulx Abbey which was to be our next port of call.
After our busy day we arrived at Pear Tree Cottage which was our base for three nights. This was our second stay at Pear Tree Cottage which is a lovely bed and breakfast place and one we would certainly recommend it to any like minded travellers. The evening meal was a return to Pickering’s Spice4U which is probably our favourite curry restaurant. We were not disappointed.
The next day we set off for our trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway to Whitby and our (by now traditional) lunch at the Magpie.
Both railway and food were excellent but it was a shame that a heavy sleety/rain shower chose to fall just as we were walking from the station to the restaurant. Dried off and replenished we headed straight back to Pickering to visit the Beck Isle Museum. The museum is an excellent way to learn about Pickering’s rich history as a rural market town and our visit was an excellent way to round off the day.
The following morning’s weather forecast was quite specific about rain later in the day so we set off early for our walk through Farndale (we did the walk last autumn and thoroughly enjoyed it). The walk is also known as the Daffodil walk and is obviously very popular as there was a temporary car park in a field rather than the small tarmac one we used before. Of course the daffodils are largely over by the end of April so there weren’t too many walkers, indeed we only met one group and they were going the opposite way to us. We finished our walk and were just taking our boots off when the rain started. Undaunted we set off to explore the coast north of Whitby. We got as far as the delightful town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea. The photo, taken from the lovely pier, shows the funicular railway and the wonderful Victorian buildings on top of the cliff. The promenade, pier, beach huts and funicular railway were all in beautiful condition and rather impressive as was the sandy beach. We had a lovely walk along the sea front and got back to the car just before it started to rain.
We returned to Pickering and another visit to Spice4U for supper. Annie has observed that curries do not help Gerry’s blood sugar levels nor do they help either of our waistlines!
Once again we had a lovely visit to Yorkshire and look forward to a return perhaps later in the year!
We got home to Fairford in time to go shopping and prepare for a visit by grandchildren Bethany, Callum and Elsie who arrived on Saturday morning and left on Sunday afternoon. We had a lovely time together and they seemed to enjoy themselves!