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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.


May 24 / Administrator

April 2017 Back Home

After just over five weeks in hospital, Gerry returned home after his stem cell transplant. The stay in hospital had not been without problems.  Annie spent many hours each day sitting with Gerry including two very difficult weeks when she was with him for up to twelve hours a day.

Recovery is now underway with exercises to try and rebuild strength and stamina.

Many thanks to the brilliant and patient staff at the Dove Unit in Great Western Hospital. The care and attention Gerry received was second to none.

Mar 13 / Administrator

March 2017 – Another Impasse

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.

Feb 25 / Administrator

18th to 25th February – Devon

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 270-20170224a.JPGMonday 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 270-20170224g.JPG 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.

Feb 15 / Administrator

13 February 2017 – Oscar Visits

Jon and Jess270-201702spec.jpg 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 once270-20170213b.JPG. 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.