We enjoyed a four day break in North Wales early in September. We based ourselves at The White Lion Royal Hotel in Bala. The weather was fantastic and we managed to see a great deal of the countryside. We did several walks around Bala and a longer one (3 miles) across the estuary at Barmouth. However, our holiday started with a Sunday afternoon stroll around the Northern shore of Lake Bala to the Bala station of the Bala Lake Railway a narrow gauge line that follows the eastern side of the Lake south to Llanwchllyn – it looked an idyllic trip but we were too late to travel on Sunday.
Monday saw us head south through the small town of Dolgellau to the Dolgoch Falls and our first view of another narrow gauge railway that runs from Tywyn to the town of Abergynolwyn. It was a peaceful and gentle stroll to the falls from the car park and it was pure coincidence that a train happened to pass under a bridge as Gerry was strolling over it! From there we visited the lovely town of Machynlleth which had an amazing clock tower in the centre of the main road. We enjoyed walking around some of the antique shops (clearly a tourist town) before heading to Aberystwyth which was, as Gerry remembered from the last time he was there, rather disappointing. That said, it was sad to see that some of the large houses on the sea front were still boarded up presumably after the terrible storms of last winter. We headed home via Devil’s Bridge but did not venture to walk to the falls as there were far too many steps for Annie (and Gerry) to cope with, but we did see yet another narrow gauge railway!
Tuesday saw us head to Porthmadog and two more railways before heading to Beddgelert where we walked to Gellert’s grave. Shame on Gerry for not remembering the story in detail but fortunately there was enough information for Annie to understand why a dog’s grave should be such an historical shrine! Continuing north, we visited Caernarvon castle and spent some time wandering around before
heading over the Britannia Bridge to the isle of Anglesey to visit the National Trust property called Plas Newydd. We had a lovely walk through the grounds and enjoyed the magnificent views of the Menai Straits and the Britannia Bridge. We returned to Bala in time for a walk and dinner at the hotel.
Wednesday dawned slightly misty and the sun had to work hard to burn it off but it did by about 10 am just as we were arriving at Denbigh Castle. Whilst the Castle was lovely we decided that we did not want to visit the seaside at Llandudno and headed back to Bala for a ride on the Bala Lake Railway. It was delightful and we saw a couple of magical views of the lake. After enjoying a picnic on the platform waiting for the next train to leave we headed for Barmouth and a lovely walk across the estuary on a 900 yd wooden bridge that also carries a single track railway line. Joy of joys a train crossed the bridge as we were walking over it! It was a lovely stroll and we must have covered nearly 3 miles in total which given the pain Annie still has in her knee was good. A gentle drive back to the hotel and a pleasant evening meal brought our stay in Bala to a close.
After returning home Gerry had a followup visit at Great Western Hospital to get the results of the tests called for at his previous visit. The outcome was not what we would have liked, and Gerry will start Chemotherapy as soon as it can be arranged. The treatment is likely to last between 4 and 6 months. Thanks to everyone for their support and best wishes.
We continue our very quiet life. Gerry continues to recover well from his surgery but the underlying cause of the problem has now been identified as Follicular Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Blood tests, a bone marrow biopsy and a CT scans have followed the diagnosis and an appointment made for 17th September to get the results. A decision will be made at that time whether to embark on a course of treatment or to wait and see. The wait and see approach is considered to be the better way forward.
Annie’s recovery from her knee operation also continues and although the knee is still very painful at times she is definitely more mobile.
The month has seen several day trips and an over night stay in Dorset – all low key and far from strenuous. That said Gerry’s strength is returning (as is his weight) and Annie has been able to climb a couple of stiles encountered on our walks. We have managed trips to several National Trust properties including Great Chalfield Manor and Hanbury Hall as well as a visit to the Fairford Traction Engine Rally which is now held at a farm near Poulton. The weather was kind for the rally and it was really nice to get out and see the old engines, and soak up the atmosphere.
We also enjoyed a visit from the Jenny and the Children. As usual the children seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves and Annie’s choice of craft projects went down very well. Each had a ceramic money box that needed decorating!
If the last 2 months have been quiet July has been even more so. All travel plans came to a halt when Gerry was admitted to the Great Western Hospital in Swindon with a recurrence of the acute abdominal pains of a year ago. This time they found a problem and major surgery followed to resection Gerry’s small bowel. Released from hospital after 11 days and the loss of 14 lbs in weight, Gerry is on the slow road to recovery. We await the results of biopsies etc to determine the underlying problem. Annie has played a blinder looking after Gerry when she is herself still recovering from knee surgery.
Gerry was building a summerhouse just before going into hospital. Our very kind neighbours have completed fitting the doors and windows to make it weatherproof. Neighbours and friends have been super and Annie and Gerry are very grateful for their love and support.
June was generally a quiet month as Annie continued her recovery. We did get out and about for short walks and a couple of trips to the Country Club for a steam room and swim. Annie attended an outpatients’ clinic and was told she was making good progress (still not quick enough for Annie). On the strength of that we decided to go to our favourite campsite in Devon at Harford Bridge. Camping was out of the question so we rented a large static caravan that had plenty of space on all mod cons. We were there a week and the weather was generally very kind to us.
We managed quite a few walks building up to 3 miles plus across moorland with some rough ground and gentle slopes. We saw some lovely scenery at Noss Mayo, Dartmouth including Dartmouth Castle as well as the National Trust House at Coleton Fishacre which had belonged to the Doyle Carte Family. The gardens were lovely although we did endure a very heavy shower.
Our first real walk was a circular walk from Chagford and along the river Teign. We started from a del;ightful octagonal building called the pepperpot in the centre of the village and headed downhill to a valley where we walked through trees along the river.
It was so nice to be out in the fresh air away from people and surrounded by such lovely countryside. The fact that it rained so heavily that we had to put on our over-trousers did not spoil it.
The first part of the walk was along a lane by the estuary of the River Avon (The Devon Avon!). The lane was tidal and could be covered at high tide.
The walk then climbed up a path that went by the name of Drunkards Hill and we eventually returned across country and a gentle descent to our starting point where we enjoyed a picnic in the sunshine.
Our next walk was around the Quarry and stone tramway at Haytor. We both thoroughly enjoyed the walk and marveled at the stone tracks including points. It was a real feat of engineering when built in the 19th century. We then came across 2 deep pools well hidden by quarry spoil heaps that were a haven for wild life. Some children on a school trip delighted in showing us leeches, newts and tadpoles at various stages of development.
Annie’s sister Pam and husband Neil joined us for dinner one evening at the Mary Tavy Inn. Again a favourite eating place of ours and well worth a visit if you are in the area – great welcome, great food and great prices – what more could a man want!
Our final day saw us do part of one of our favourite walks to the church at Brentor unusually the weather was fantastic! Annie happily climbed to the church where we enjoyed spectacular views under a cloudless sky. Wondering what we could do for the afternoon we decided to head for Restormel Castle at Lostwithiel in Cornwall. It was a round castle and really worth a visit (no crowds and good weather.
We returned to Fairford via Milborne Port where we had coffee with James and granddaughter Rosie. Unfortunately, Hannah was at work.
A great week away.
May has been a very quiet month with Annie out of action for most of the time. Annie had her right knee replaced at the Great Western Hospital at the beginning of the month. She has made good progress but has suffered excruciating pain for much of the time. The pain was not unexpected but I think the severity was a nasty surprise. Annie is now able to walk a mile without sticks. Gerry has struggled through with the house work, cooking, shopping, washing and ironing. It was a good way of reminding him just how much Annie does for him!!!!!! Annie still has a long recovery period ahead.
Finally our friends, Gene and George Bland from New England spent a couple of days with us prior to their return to the USA.
Gerry took Gene and George for a walk around Fairford and came across one of the swans’ nest.
We decided to have a couple of days in Dorset visiting the National Trust house at Kingston Lacy, enjoying a 3.5 mile circular walk from Tolpuddle and then visiting the English Heritage site at Sherborne Old Castle on the Saturday. Not surprisingly, with Sherborne only a few minutes drive from James, Hannah and Rosie we popped in for a cup of coffee. We then set off to the Fox Inn at Ansty where we had stayed last year. We had a good room and a lovely dinner and a nice breakfast – in fact a very enjoyable stay.
On Sunday morning the weather was not very promising but, as with Saturday, we were lucky – we always seemed to be driving when the heavy showers hit. We visited Portland Castle before visiting our friends Richard and Bonny Shirley in Tollard Royal for lunch and the afternoon.
A really pleasant couple of days!
We had a family gathering a week before Easter. With the exception of Jon, who was working in Florida, all of the UK based children and grandchildren came for lunch. Rosie impressed with her ‘reading’ before we enjoyed a lovely lunch all sitting at the dining table. The weather was good and we enjoyed playing a new garden game called Smite after lunch. Strictly for adults, Smite involves throwing a lump of wood at wooden pins with the guile and viciousness of croquet!
We got the visitors to pose for the usual family photo but Elsie did not want to participate at that moment. Perhaps it was the Easter Egg hunt that excited her. Annie and Gerry had secreted many chocolate eggs around the garden and each adult and grandchild was provided with a small basket to hold any eggs they found. The adults were rather keen and had to be reminded that once the basket was full that was ‘your share’!!
A fun visit and thanks to everyone for coming.
The last 10 days have been quite busy. We had a lovely day out visiting Wells Cathedral and attending a said communion service. The cathedral is truly stunning! We were quite surprised to realise that neither of us had been there for about 40 years! The weather was kind to us as we strolled around the grounds and the Bishop’s Palace including the moat. It was so peaceful. We then went into the town to buy some lunch which we ate sitting in the cathedral grounds.
On Sunday we headed to Canterbury and were disappointed to find that we had missed Evensong as it was at 15:15 not 5:15 (silly Gerry). Nevertheless, we had a lovely walk around old Canterbury and along some footpaths outside of the city walls.
On Monday we went to stay with Gene and George Bland our friends from Maine in the USA. They are in the UK for a few weeks and were spending the first couple of weeks in Kent before heading to the Cotswolds.
We had a lovely couple of days with them including a visit to Dover Castle. Dover Castle is a massive site and would need a couple of days to do it justice however, we took a tour of the wartime tunnels and then an hour later emerged into the sunshine to head for the Keep. The ladies declined to climb to the top but George and Gerry did and were treated to some great views including the church and also within the Keep, the Royal Chapel which was a small austere place of worship.
After Dover Castle we headed for Deal and a lovely lunch followed by a walk on the promenade.
We left Gene and George on Wednesday morning as planned. Originally we had expected to head back to Fairford but because of the good weather and the fact that we did not know Kent very well we decided to spend a couple more days in the area.
We visited various National Trust and English Heritage sites but the undoubted star was Scotney Castle. It is a must if you are ever in the area south east of Lamberhurst in Kent. The old castle was deliberately ‘ruined’ to create a sort of folly when the new castle was built high on the hill above it.
The grounds were delightful to walk around and the new ‘castle’, which was built between 1835 and 1843 and lived in until 2006, great fun as there was much from our childhood and from our grandparents era as well as the older art and furniture. In order to make ends meet, the last owner (before the National Trust) had split the house into flats one of which had been the home for Margaret and Dennis Thatcher (who was granted a baronetcy and took the title 1st Baronet of Scotney).
We also enjoyed a couple of country walks and visits to Sissinghurst Castle, Ightham Mote, and the Roman fort at Richborough before heading back to Fairford.
It was a windy but dry day when we set out to explore Stonehenge. We entered through the new visitor centre and took the shuttle to the site. Despite the cold wind, walking around was enjoyable and made more so by the excellent audio tour. However, it was noticeable how the pleasure diminished slightly as the crowds started to arrive!!