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May 19 / Administrator

May 2018 – Wine Tasting in Looe

A week after we returned from Scotland we headed for Looe in Cornwall for six days.  Our old wine tasting group had rented an apartment for the week. We took David and Anne Bowman with us whilst Freda and John Lang and Tim and Ruth Mowat made their own ways down.


The weather for the week was nigh on perfect. 




On the Monday some of us travelled to Mevagissey to meet old friends Pam and Dave Nelmes (who now live in Falmouth) for a long and very pleasant lunch.



Tuesday was our annual champagne tasting followed by steaks (and salad) cooked to perfection by John.   The next day, we enjoyed a blind wine tasting laid on especially for us by The Jolly Sailor, David and Anne’s local during their frequent holidays in Looe. It was a great afternoon and confirmed that after twenty four years of wine tasting we still don’t know a very much.



On Thursday Annie and I drove to Lanhydrock for a three mile walk through the gardens and then through woodland before returning along the river. The bluebells, Rhododendrons and wild garlic were beautiful.


We did come across a gate wedged open which shows the slope of the path. The second photo is of the same gate taken over three and a quarter years previously – it looks as if the wedge hasn’t moved!


Following270-20180514g.JPG our return to Looe we were sitting enjoying a glass of wine when Freda and John joined us. The weather was brilliant and we enjoyed our wine sitting in the early evening sunshine before heading inside for what turned out to be a superb meal!

Sadly our time in Looe was over and after a great few days shared with great friends we returned to Fairford on Friday.

May 8 / Administrator

April 2018 – Scottish Adventure

The 270-20180425a.JPGend of April saw us head to the north west of Scotland for a week based at Lochcarron.

We took three days to travel up including a stop to see Martin, Louise and Archie, who has of course changed a lot since we saw him in January. 


We also visited a very fine Tudor house, Little Moreton Hall and Brougham Castle sitting beside the River Eamont in the Eden Valley (Cumbria).

The final part of our journey north included driving down the length of Loch Ness (we didn’t see any monsters) as well as stopping at the Eilean Donnan castle near Kyle of Localsh.


During the drive we were treated to some amazing views of snow covered mountains




The weather was glorious as we arrived at our apartment and we quickly settled in and relished sitting on our patio with great views of Loch Carron.

The weather for the first few days was lovely and we enjoyed some wonderful views on the 60 mile drive to Inverewe Gardens (National Trust). 







We had a very pleasant time walking around the gardens before heading back ‘home’ via the coast.



270-20180425n.JPGThe following day saw us drive to The Isle of Skye. However, we didn’t spend a great deal of time there as we preferred the scenery on the main land!

In fact we ended up finding Plockton a gem of a town on the edge of Loch Carron. We spent quite some time strolling along the edge of the loch and walked to an island as the tide was out.  We so enjoyed Plockton that we revisited it twice during our stay.

We then spent a day saw travelling by train on the “Kyle Line” from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness. The scenery was magnificent and every bit as good as the guide books said.  In Inverness we visited both the Cathedral and Old Town before taking a stroll beside the River Ness. Our return rail journey rounded off a long but wonderful day.

On270-20180425j.JPG another day we spent the morning at Attadale Gardens about 1.2 miles as the crow flies from our apartment but a six mile drive.  The Gardens were quite something and certainly worth a visit. After visiting the gardens, which were at the loch end of a glen, we walked a mile up the glen marvelling at the sheer rock faces and steep mountain sides on one side and the green of the valley on the other. We picnicked in the grounds before driving on the 28 mile nail biting single track but direct route over the mountains to the coastal village of Applecross. It was worth the journey but we did decide to take the much longer coastal route back. During our drive back we came across deer beside the road and later some fairly young highland cattle. 270-20180425k.JPG270-20180425l.JPG


270-20180425m.JPGOur final full day was spent driving the 70 miles to Ullapool thoroughly enjoying the scenery en route and town itself.

The port was quite quiet as a ferry for Stornoway had just left. We had a picnic overlooking the sea before heading back to Lochcarron.

Our journey back to Fairford was over the early May bank holiday weekend and we were so pleased we were heading south as there seemed a continuous stream of cars and motor cycles heading north! We made an overnight stop in Cumbria at the Nent Hall Hotel near Alston.  The hotel provided a lovely final night of our holiday – the room was spacious, the food very good and the service was outstanding.

We arrived home having driven a total of 1760 miles with many great memories of a brilliant holiday.


Apr 16 / Administrator

April 2018 – West Wales

We have just returned from a few days visiting Cardiff (Gerry’s home town) and West Wales. Our first stop was to meet with Gerry’s school friend Richard and his wife Janet in Cardiff Bay.  We took a bus to the centre of Cardiff where we walked to the Castle and civic centre before walking through Bute Park to catch a water taxi back to Mermaid Quay.  It was fascinating to see just how vast a redevelopment has taken place. So much has changed and the regeneration of the old docks and dry docks has been amazing. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch before saying goodbye to Richard and Janet and heading to Carmarthen.

We awoke on our first day in West Wales to glorious weather and headed North West to the village of Cilgerran and its Castle.  The Castle stands on a promontory overlooking the river Teifi and270-20180412a.JPG270-20180412b.JPGwas ideally situated to control both a natural crossing point and the passage of seagoing ships.

It seems the area was fortified in the 12th Century but the present buildings date from a couple of hundred years later.

There is a very impressive wicker statue of a knight in the grounds.

Our next stop was the village of Cenarth, the centre for coracles. 100-20180412c1.JPG 270-20180412c.JPGThe Photo shows a typical coracle (courtesy of Wikipedia). We did not see a coracle on the river but we did see the beautiful Cenarth Falls.

We headed next to the city of St Davids and enjoyed a visit to the magnificent Cathedral before driving to Narberth Castle.  The castle remains are thought to date from the mid-thirteenth century but by the end of the 20th century it was completely derelict and overgrown. The ruins were renovated and opened to the public in 2006.

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Our final destinations of the day were the seaside towns of Tenby and Saundersfoot. Both were quite crowded with tourists enjoying the Easter School holidays and the sunshine.

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We had a lovely meal at the Cinnamon curry house in Carmarthen. We had failed to get in the previous night and if we had not booked we would not have got a table when we wanted it. The food and service were really good and we returned the next night (after booking).

The 150-20180412h.JPGfollowing day was Castle day!

Our first stop was Llansteffan on the estuary of the River Towy (at 75 miles, the longest river flowing entirely within Wales).

We enjoyed a walk along the sandy shore before climbing the hill to the Castle.

I rather liked the wall with the cross shaped window which showed up so well in the misty light!



270-20180412j.JPGWe enjoyed our visit but soon headed off to the ruins of Laugharne Castle overlooking the River Taf estuary, The Castle and environs have been the inspiration for artists such as Turner, and authors such as Dylan Thomas who wrote ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog’ in the gazebo in the castle garden.

We certainly enjoyed walking around the castle which was in a much better state of repair than any of the others we visited. 

That said, our next stop Kidwelly Castle 270-20180412k.JPGwas also well worth a visit and very much a castle for children to explore!

Our final visit of the day was to the Dinefwr Estate (National Trust).

We were quite tired by now and decided against the walk to the castle settling for a trip around Newton House.



All in all a splendid couple of days leaving us with a wish to return and explore more of the history and culture of West Wales.

Mar 24 / Administrator

March 2018

March arrived with a really cold and snowy spell as the Beast from the East (Weather from Siberia) met Storm Emma (coming from the West).  Fairford had a good few inches of snow and a lot of drifting but escaped any of the major problems experienced in other parts of the country. It is at times like that we are grateful we are retired and didn’t have to go out in the extremely cold and snowy conditions.

270-20180311.JPGOne Saturday morning, we had a lovely morning walk with Jenny, Mark, Bethany, Callum and Elsie in the grounds of Greys Court (a National Trust Estate near Henley on Thames).  After a lovely walk, we headed for lunch at the Maltsters Arms in Rotherfield Greys (The food was really good).  During the month, we also visited Hannah, James, Rosie and Ptolemy on Mother’s Day, as well as a visit to Jon, Jess, Oscar and Felix and then Lucy and Emma came to stay the night at The Nook. It was lovely to catch up with the UK based children and grandchildren. It is just a shame that Martin, Louise and Archie don’t live just a little closer!!

After good consultations with kidney and thyroid specialists in February, we were hoping for similar good news when we visited the haematology specialist in mid March.  One year on from the stem cell transplant, Gerry has made excellent progress and, apart from not wanting to see him for three months, the specialist has cleared him for Long Haul flights. This is amazing news and means we can start planning to visit Jo and the children in California later this year or early next.

We had more snow 270-20180320a.JPGon the weekend of 17 and 18 March. Nothing like earlier in the month but we woke to a few inches of snow on the Sunday morning. However, it started thawing almost immediately which was good as we were heading to Bala in North Wales the next morning. The roads were reported as clear so we set off and had a great journey to Bala, As usual we were staying at the White Lion Royal Hotel (Royal because Queen Victoria stayed there).  Although there was quite a bit of snow on the hills around us the roads and pavements were all clear despite six inches of snow the day before! The high hills of Snowdonia were something special to see.


During our 4 night stay we managed to do several walks to Bala Lake, as well as visiting Bodnant Garden near Colwyn Bay.  The Garden was really lovely and we enjoyed a long peaceful walk around the estate.


270-20180320d.JPGFollowing Bodnant, we visited Plas Newydd (National Trust) just over in Anglesey.  Once again we enjoyed a long peaceful walk through the grounds and woods before touring the house. The following day we took the train from Blaenau Ffestiniog along the Conwy Valley to Llandudno. It was a nice enough trip through the countryside but not perhaps the most memorable of train journeys.

Our third complete day in North Wales saw us walking at the northern end the beach at Fairbourne a village on the coast of Barmouth Bay to the south of the estuary of the River Mawddach. We walked around the end of the low lying land to the terminus of the Fairbourne narrow gauge railway and where one can get a ferry across the estuary to Barmouth – a matter of a couple of hundred yards but nearly 14 miles by car and then crossing a toll bridge. 

However, 270-20180320i.JPGthere is a railway bridge across the Mawddach Estuary with a footpath attached. We drove the couple of miles from Fairbourne to the railway halt at Morfa Mawddach and walked over the bridge to Barmouth and had a wander around the seaside town before walking back over the bridge to the car.

On both crossings we were passed by a train!

The walk was bracing to say the least as the wind certainly blew as we crossed the estuary!


270-20180320g.JPGFeeling very pleased with our walks we drove down the coast and then headed into Machynlleth to wander around the town and see the lovely clock tower.  

The following morning we woke to quite persistent rain but as we set off to return to Fairford the weather brightened up so we decided to visit Attingham Park near Shrewsbury.270-20180320j.JPG

We could not believe how busy the car park was when we arrived but we were then surprised at how few people we met during our two mile stroll around the park.  (Apparently they expect about 5000 visitors a day over Easter). During the walk, we came across the Repton Oak which is at least 650 years old as well as a herd of deer who seemed unphased by the proximity of humans. 


What a wonderful few days.

Feb 28 / Administrator

July 2017 to February 2018 – A catch up entry


I had thought that people had lost interest in the goings on of Annie and Gerry Willis and so decided to let the Blog wither on the vine so to speak.  However, I am assured that people do read it and wish for us to continue.  So a long catch up entry to bring us up to 28 February 2018.

Jon and Jess presented us with our eleventh grandchild Felix Montgomery Henderson on 31st July (the same date as our grandson Callum’s birthday). A week later in an unplanned gathering the five youngest grandchildren at the time were all sitting with Annie at Jon and Jess’s home. It was a magic occasion for Annie. The second photo is of Felix, Jon and Oscar taken in January 2018.



Early September saw us head off to Uzerche in France for a week’s walking. The weather was pretty diabolical with much rain! However, we did manage a few of our favourite walks and felt the long drive there and back was certainly worth it.


270-201705.JPG Later in September we headed to Pickering for three nights. As creatures of habit we went for a walk in our favourite Yorkshire Dale, Farndale, as well as visiting Whitby for a walk and lunch. Our favourite restaurant, The Magpie, was still closed following the major fire earlier in the year. We enjoyed a good meal at another restaurant but the food was not as good as at the Magpie.

In October we stayed for three nights in Bishops Lydeard. We travelled on the west Somerset Railway to Minehead where we bought lunch in a cafe and were allowed to take the food and cutlery etc 270-201706.JPGon to the train for the return journey to Bishops Lydeard.  Not quite like the old British Railways dining car service but nevertheless, very acceptable. During our stay we managed a circular walk from Stogumber railway station. The station is really lovely and a great place to sit and enjoy a coffee and cake which of course we did at the end of our walk.

270-201707.JPGOctober also saw another indulgence. We had to replace our garden shed and so had one built that incorporated what we call the bus shelter. It will allow us to sit (where we used to) and catch the evening sun whilst enjoying a glass of wine. Importantly we will be able to sit in the dry without bird droppings everywhere!


Gerry finally managed to get Annie to go and see Jo and the children in California for a week during November. She thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Jo, Alexander, Oliver and Sienna although Jo was working and the children at school for most of her stay (the photo was taken nearer Christmas).  588-201708.JPG

Annie also managed to see our friends Sharon and Cliff Watts who drove from their home in El Sobrante to have lunch with Annie in San Jose.

Three days after Annie returned from California, we set off for a week in Malta. We stayed in the same hotel as previously and used local busses to travel all over the island. We managed lots of walking and some lovely seafood meals. The weather was good270-201709.JPG for walking and we only had rain on one day and it did not spoil our enjoyment. 270-201710.JPG


For his birthday, Jenny and family had given Gerry a pie making evening in Melton Mowbray. We went and stayed the night and then had a wonderful day exploring Melton Mowbray, Cattle Market and a Christmas Tree Festival in the parish Church. 588-201711ab.jpgWe were very impressed with the town and the farmers market and street markets and concluded the town was well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Our next break was to Devon for three busy days early in December. We had dinner with Annie’s sister Pam and husband Neil, visited Pam and Dave Nelmes in Cornwall, had pasties sitting on the edge of Mevagissey harbour, visited a Christmas Tree Festival at Bodmin Church 588-201711b.JPGas well as the National Trust site at Lanhydrock. The grounds were decorated for Christmas – the photos show the flowerbeds and the pots made to look like Christmas puddings. 270-201715.JPG270-201714.JPG


275-201716c.JPGOn 16 December 2017, Louise and Martin presented us with a new grandchild Archie James.

He was born on his due date and mother and baby both did very well!!  We visited early in January.260-201716d.JPG260-201717.JPG270-201718.JPG




Before our visit to Cheshire we had enjoyed a lovely Christmas. We visited Lucy, James and Emma in Bath for lunch on Christmas Day, James, Hannah, Rosie and Ptolemy, and Jon, Jess, Oscar and Felix stayed with us at The Nook after Christmas. We also had a visit from Jenny, Mark, Bethany, Callum and Elsie.  After a long walk around the lakes at Fairford we had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch at our local Italian Restaurant.


January also 270-201720.JPGsaw us visit North Yorkshire for three nights. 

As usual we stayed in Pickering and went for various walks in the 4 inches of snow that greeted us one morning! Farndale was as beautiful as ever.

We also managed lunch at The Magpie in Whitby. The restaurant had recently reopened after the terrible fire last year and the food was as good as ever!

We have also enjoyed recent trips to Montreuil-Sur-Mer and (yet again) to Devon. France was not brilliant weather wise but we did manage a couple of good walks and plenty of excellent French cuisine to make the journey well worthwhile. Our trip to Devon was a short one staying just two nights but it enabled us to have Lunch with Pam and Neil and to accomplish one of our favourite walks to Brentor Church. It was bitterly cold but sunny for our walk and it proved most enjoyable.


We arrived back in Fairford to flurries of snow and bitterly cold temperatures with the threat of more snow to come.  However, the relatively mild autumn and winter have enabled us to get out and about an incredible amount.

Health wise, Gerry’s recovery continues to go better than expected with kidney and thyroid functions recovering such that the consultants are very pleased. Annie had a terrible bout of polymyalgia rheumatica in late autumn but has responded well to medication. Both of us therefore feel on track to make the most out of 2018.

Jul 18 / Administrator

July 2017 – Gerry’s Health Update

Gerry has now had the results of the 100 day scan. That is, the scan done one hundred days after the stem cell transplant.  We were so pleased to hear that the scan was clear and he is now in remission. It has been a long and often hard three years since emergency stomach surgery revealed his lymphoma.

We will now be transferred back to the care of the original haematology team and begin returning to some sort of normality. So far we have clearance to go swimming, to the theatre and also to book a holiday (by ferry) to France. Childhood inoculations and flying come later.  Apart from that we are back walking reasonable distances, and enjoying the relaxed living regime. The only downer is that Gerry has ‘put his back out’ and it is taking time to get better! Talk about frustration but on the other hand we are so grateful for where we are today.

Thank you to all our friends and relatives for their prayers and support and a special thank you from Gerry to Annie who has been my rock, constant companion and nurse for the last three long years. I could not have done it with out her love and unquestioned devotion to meeting my every need. Words cannot express how much I appreciated everything she has done.

Jul 4 / Administrator

July 2017 – Severe Self Indulgence

We have finally taken delivery of our new cars. A major self indulgence but one that should see us through until we decide to go down to one car.


Jul 2 / Administrator

June 2017 – Devon and Northumberland

Mid June arrived and we decided to book a couple of days at the Woodford Bridge Country Club in Milton Damerel. It was one of those amazing deals that could well have been too good to be true. However, it was brilliant at £42.50 a night for an apartment with full kitchen. Furthermore, it was only a few miles from where Annie’s sister Pam lives. It was a great chance to catch up with Pam and Neil who came over for supper in the Club restaurant on our first night. The next day we set off for Morwenstow and a really pleasant walk along part of the coastal path ending up at the Church.


We then headed for Bude and enjoyed a wander around before meandering back your accommodation.  A great value stay.


Towards the end of the month, we had a week free of appointments and Annie’s new car to run in, so we headed for Northumberland via Bridget and David Lindley’s home in Thorner. We had a lovely meal with Bridget, David and family at a very smart Italian Restaurant.

270-20170626.JPGThe next day we headed north to visit Cragside a wonderful house and garden and a must for anyone with an interest in engineering! Built by Lord William Armstrong, it was the first home in the world powered by hydroelectricity and is still full of many technical innovations introduced by Armstrong. The grounds and the beautiful bridge were a joy to walk around.

270-20170626a.JPGFrom there we travelled to Warkworth Castle. With its origins dating back to the 12th century, the castle has had an interesting history. Including resisting a siege by the Scots in 1327 which earned praise and reward from the English King Edward III. The King granted the castle to Henry Percy, 2nd Baron Percy.  The Percy family continued to use the castle until 1987.

Our home for four nights in Northumberland was a mobile home on a large site at Wooler. The caravan represented great value and was an ideal base for the sites we wanted to visit. Our first day out was to Alnwick Castle and Gardens – a must for anyone visiting the area. Alnwick Castle, as was Warkworth, was connected to the Percy Family and since 1309 has been owned by the family, the Earls and later Dukes of Northumberland ever since. The current occupant is Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland. 588-20170626c.JPG


The Castle is large and in good order with so much to see.  Not surprisingly the location has been used for various films and TV series including Harry Potter and Downton Abbey.  The gardens water features were quite something and very impressive when the fountains ‘performed’ on the half hour.

The following day we travelled to Lindisfarne. Holy Island had long been on Gerry’s to do list (Annie having visited with Bridget some years ago). It is quite a place and I suspect I would have got a lot more of the atmosphere and spirituality if there had not been so many tourists!

270-20170626i.JPG270-20170628.JPGWe were disappointed to find that the castle was closed and covered in scaffolding and even the church attached to the Abbey ruins had scaffolding as well. Nevertheless, a very special place.


We headed back to Wooler via various towns but also the castle at Etal. Built by Robert Manners as a defence against Scots raiders in the mid 14th century, it fell to James IV’s invading Scots army in 1513, immediately before their catastrophic defeat at nearby Flodden.  Whilst at Etal we came upon the Heatherslaw Light Railway and happened to see the train arrive and the engine turned around on a manual turntable. 


We actually travelled on the railway from Heatherslaw the next day. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty grim and there was not a lot to see! But it was still great fun. Earlier in the day we visited Kelso and the ruins of the Abbey. Kelso was a nice place and one to go back to when it is not raining so hard!

We returned to Fairford the next day – a long but uneventful drive with no hold ups.


Jun 6 / Administrator

2017 June – North Wales

With 270-20170601.JPG another few days free of commitments we set off for 4 days in North Wales. Our first stop was Welshpool and a trip on The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. The 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge railway is about 8.5 miles long and runs westwards from the town of Welshpool to the village of Llanfair Caereinion. The return journey was very pleasant with time at Llanfair for coffee and a sandwich.

270-2017060.JPGWe then carried on to Bala and the Royal White Lion Hotel. This was our third stay at the hotel and the first since it was refurbished (not surprisingly the prices had increased).

The weather was not brilliant but we enjoyed a walk to the northern end of Bala Lake before dinner.

The next day we set off early to drive to Porthmadog and then to take the Welsh Highland Railway to Caernarfon. We had done this trip one way last year and decided to travel both ways by train this year.  As with last year, we decided to upgrade to first class; this time it was in a beautiful observation car rather than a Pullman coach. The extra comfort and outstanding view made the extra expense very well worth it even if on one of the journeys the engine was in front of the coach.


We thoroughly enjoyed the views and the engine hauled the ten coaches effortlessly up the many steep gradients.


The following day we visited Bodnant Gardens near Colwyn Bay. We had previously visited last year but slightly earlier when the rhododendrons were in bloom. However, although the rhododendrons were well past their best, the colours were still vibrant and there were many other plants and trees for us to enjoy, even if we had to intermittently use our umbrellas to keep the drizzle off us.


One of270-20170601f.JPG the high spots of the visit was to walk under the 55 metre-long Laburnum Arch. The arch was created in 1882 and 145 years later, the display of golden flowers at the end of May and beginning of June is possibly the most photographed event of Bodnant Garden’s calendar.  Bodnant gardens is certainly a must  for any tourist in the area.


Having 270-20170601d.JPGenjoyed our visit we headed back to the southern end of Bala Lake and the village of Llanuwchllyn where we very much appreciated a cup of tea and piece of cake at the railway station.270-20170601e.JPG The station was previously a main line station (before Beeching) and now serves the Bala Lake Railway that runs along the eastern side of the lake from Llanuwchllyn to Bala.  

We didn’t travel on the railway on this visit but thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere as a train arrived and was prepared for the journey back to Bala.

We also discovered a brilliant use for a disused phone box.

270-20170601i.JPG We left Bala the next morning and headed north east to Cheshire to visit Martin and Louise in their new home.

En route, we visited Beeston Castle. The Castle must have been very large and imposing with a steep climb to the outer walls and then another long climb to the Inner Keep. We didn’t make it that far as time was against us.

When we next head up to visit Martin and Louise we shall make sure that we leave our selves time to visit the castle properly.

We arrived at Martin and Louise’s home in time for a cup of coffee before Louise’s mum, Lynne, also arrived. The five of us then walked to a pub where we enjoyed a lovely and leisurely lunch together.  

We returned to Fairford later in the afternoon arriving in time to enjoy a glass of wine!





May 25 / Administrator

May 2017 – Travels

Gerry’s recovery is going well and we have been able to get away for a couple of days on two occasions this month.

The first visit was to Norfolk, an area neither of us knew. We had a great time using the George Hotel in Swaffham as our base.  National Trust and English Heritage provided us with some stunning destinations.

First there was Oxburgh Hall surrounded by a wide moat.


Then on to Castle Acre Priory.


Our 270-201705d2.JPGnext port of call was the magnificent Felbrigg Hall and Estate.


The walled garden at Felbrigg is large and we spent an enjoyable hour wandering around the beautifully manicured flower and vegetable beds where the labelling of plants was brilliant.


Between the garden and the Hall there was a statue of Mother Nature.


Visitors were encouraged to bring a branch or some foliage found on their walks and place it as part of Mother Nature’s skirt.


The final destination for the day was Blickling Hall.



Our visit to Norfolk would not have been complete without exploring the Heritage Railways. We travelled on both the Mid Norfolk and North Norfolk Lines. The first was on a two car diesel unit and the second was hauled by a very shiny steam engine.


The mid Norfolk line ran from Dereham to Wymondham where we discovered Wymondham Abbey.  270-201705g.JPG

The Abbey is one of the grandest religious buildings in East Anglia and was established in 1107 as part of a monastic foundation. The building suffered as did many during the dissolution of the monasteries but has recently seen some modern building work.

The blend of old and 21st Century architecture is, in our humble view, fantastic and well worth a visit.


We decided to get the kitchen decorated during the month. The first phase was to have the ceiling replastered and new lights fitted. There was going to be a lot of mess so we elected to go away for a couple of nights to Symonds Yat.

En route we stopped at the National Trust gardens at Westbury on Severn.  Westbury Court Garden is the only restored Dutch style water garden in the country and is magnificent and very peaceful.

The view across the lake to the church was interesting because it looked like the spire was covered in plastic (It probably was as they are clearly doing a lot of work on the building).


We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Tintern Abbey and meandered to Monmouth where we walked to the Monnow Bridge. The bridge is the only remaining fortified river bridge in Great Britain with its gate tower standing on the bridge.



Once at Symonds Yat we wandered down to the river and were amazed how quickly the pleasant area around the Old Court Hotel (our base) changed to a tacky amusement arcade and buildings in need of much TLC adjacent to a massive caravan site. We retreated quickly to the hotel gardens!

The following day we visited Raglan Castle which was truly magnificent and would rival Goodrich Castle as a place to take children to for the opportunities to explore and play hide and seek etc.


We followed Raglan Castle with the White Castle, Skenfrith and Grosmont Castles which were just ruins but very pleasant to walk around. The weather then broke and we went from walking in T shirts to driving through water covered roads as the heavens opened. However, by the time we got back to the hotel we had gone through the rain and were able to sit out in the gardens and enjoy a glass of wine before dinner.

We returned to Fairford to find the plasterer had finished his work and, despite his warnings that it would be dusty for some time to come, were amazed how clean everything was. Well done to the plasterer and electrician.