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!!
We had a lovely day at The Nook today when Jenny, Mark and children visited for lunch together with Martin and Louise. It was lovely to get them all together especially as Martin and Louise’s visit to the UK was a sad one (Louise’s dad passed away suddenly a week ago). We played in the garden, in the house and with grandpa’s trains before sitting down to a splendid lunch.
Thanks Annie for another brilliant meal.
This was our fourth time staying at the pub and so we knew where we would go to walk etc.
The afternoon we arrived we headed to Truro Cathedral. Surprisingly, Gerry had never been there before, and was quite surprised to find that a quite beautiful Victorian Church building could be constructed with the nave and chancel out of line but this was because of the adjacent old parish church that was incorporated into the Cathedral.
After leaving the Cathedral we headed for the gardens at Trelissick.
The winter storms had caused quite a lot of damage including a large tree that had fallen across our path. A local said that the tree had only come down in the last 24 hours obviously the root system had been severely weakened in the recent very severe storms.
It was quite a sobering thought for us as we continued our walk through the woods.
We saw more tree damage on our walk the next day when we were at Lanhydrock. Four out of a group of large trees had been uprooted.
We also walked along the banks of the Fowey from Lerryn to St Winnow Church (a lovely old church adjacent to the river bank) before heading back to Lerryn over the hills where we encountered incredible mud and water around some of the gates we had to go through. It seemed odd that the muddiest areas were at some of the highest places on our walks.
Our next stop was Penzance where we intended to walk to Newlyn and then on to Mousehole. However, the storm damage to the sea wall meant that we could walk along very little of the only promenade in Cornwall and were constrained to walking on pavements beside quite busy roads (certainly not as enjoyable as we had hoped). The view from Newlyn across the bay to Penzance was good though the picture probably does not do it justice.
Wednesday evening saw us return to Truro cathedral for the Ash Wednesday service of Solemn Eucharist and Imposition of Ashes. The service included the Cathedral Choir singing Allegri’s Miserere Mei, Deus. It was a lovely service and a fitting end to our time in Cornwall as we left the next morning to return to Fairford.
We have enjoyed 2 great days out this week. The weather was kind to us on both days and we relished the chance to get out in the fresh air.
On Wednesday we set out for Upton House near Banbury. Our intention was to stop off at a couple of places en route. We had a wander around Chipping Norton, Deddington, and then Aynhos Wharf where we had a short walk along side the Canal. Driving towards Banbury we then stopped at the Pickled Ploughman in Adderbury where we had a lovely lunch (If you are in the area and want a decent meal give it a try). We then drove to the National Trust property of Upton House 8 miles north of Banbury.
However, inside was very pleasant reflecting the life of wealthy people in the 1930s.
As you can see the gardens were really pleasant to walk through with lots of spring flowers brightening up the day. A big dark cloud appeared just as we set out on our walk but a short shower did not dampen our spirits or spoil the day.
Thursday morning was nice weather and so we set off for the same area as yesterday to walk the 6.5 mile Deddington Circular Walk.
The ground was quite wet even on high ground but it was a very pleasant walk with only gentle undulations and 2 stiles so Annie was able to cope without too much pain in her knee.Towards the end of the walk, we saw three groups of deer that all took flight as soon as they were aware of us.
Jenny delivered Bethany, Callum and Elsie to spend 3 days and two nights with us at the Nook during their half term holiday from school. We all had a wonderful time. The first afternoon we went to see Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy which was a great hit with the children. The next morning started very cloudy and murky but as the sun started to break through we set off for a visit to Goodrich Castle. The children had never (so they said) been to a castle before and were quite impressed that their mummy had visited some 25 years previously!
They had a great time going down into the dungeon (which was very dark) and along narrow dark passages as well as climbing to the first floor level.
They never hesitated and when they were asked if they wanted to climb right to the top of the tower there was no stopping them. They were brilliant as the stairs are a steep spiral with only a vertical knotted rope to grasp hold of. Elsie found it physically demanding because of the depth of the steps but was not deterred. They enjoyed the view from the top and waving to Annie.
Descending was more difficult but the children made it without any problem. We then set out to walk around the moat and climb on the walls just where their mother had done and where their cousins Alexander, Sienna and Oliver had also climbed on a similar visit last year. I was really impressed with the attitude to safety and the confidence they showed negotiating the sometimes slippery surfaces.
They deserved their snacks and sit down. All three regarded the castle as a great adventure and it was a shame that a second trip around the moat was curtailed when it started to rain. When we got home the children’chilled’ watching TV, playing with grandpa’s trains or playing games and doing activities with grannie.
Our final morning was spent at the park in Fairford. We all had a good time but grandpa had to clean lots of mud from everyone’s shoes when we returned!! The weather was kind to us but the ground is still very wet.
We hope the children enjoyed their stay as much as we enjoyed having them.
On the first of February we visited our friends Carly and Ian and their twin daughters Bree and Freya. The six of us enjoyed a super lunch and an afternoon chatting. The girls are growing up fast (they celebrated their 4th birthdays on 8th February). Since we returned from Malta Carly has sent us the photo below which summed up the happiness of the day.
I feel guilty that whilst most of our family and friends have been suffering terrible weather in the UK, Annie and I have been enjoying ourselves in Malta where the weather was dry and generally warm. Before we left the UK we had decided that we would use the local buses in Malta to get around the island. Even better, when we arrived we found that for 1.5 Euros we could purchase an all day bus ticket and for 6 Euros a ticket for the week. Timetables were displayed at every bus stop and with a map of Malta and its bus routes it was great fun planning our daily trips. Malta is just over 20 miles long and about half as wide so we managed to visit all of the key areas with ease. Many of the seaside towns comprised large hotels and very small flats and houses that were all crammed together (not our scene) However, in the centre of Malta and on the west side of the island it was much more spacious.
We enjoyed a visit to the walled city of Mdina the old capital and known as the silent city (lots of signs telling visitors to be quiet). Mdina is perched high on a hillside and comprises some beautiful old buildings
From Mdina there are also phenomenal views of the rest of the island as the photo with the Mosta Dome in the distance shows.
The proper name for the Mosta Dome is the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, and the actual dome is the third-largest church dome in Europe and the ninth largest in the world, with an internal diameter of 37.2 metres (122 ft). Another church perched high up was the Parish Church of Mellieha where we found a café perched on the edge of a cliff with a great view across Mellieha Bay with the island of Comino in the distance.
Some of the coastal areas were very beautiful and we enjoyed a couple of visits to Golden Bay (lots of sand!) and also to Marsaskala where we enjoyed a fish feast on the harbourside overlooking the brightly coloured boats.
Another day saw us walk along the Dingli Cliffs where we came across some goats and their handler on the side of the road. It was a lovely walk as the weather was really pleasant and there were very few vehicles and people.
Taking 3 buses that just happened to connect with little waiting time, we then headed to Golden Bay and a long lunch overlooking the sea.
Ironically, the last bus we were to use in Malta was late and completely full up before we left the first bus stop! Notwithstanding that fact, we thoroughly enjoyed using the buses. Indeed, if you visit Malta in the winter time, the buses are by far the best way to see the island – they are frequent and you have no parking problems!
On Sunday 26th of January we took part in a singing day at the Colston Hall Bristol. This was our second year having attended last year and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. This year turned out to be even better. We were part of a scratch choir of 270 and were accompanied a scratch orchestra of around 250. (up from 230 last year!!) The photo shows what it was like looking from three quarters of the way back in the choir down to the orchestra – quite a sight. Obviously, I took the photo as people were taking their places but I think it gives the impression of the size of the choir and orchestra.
We rehearsed in the morning and afternoon and then gave a performance at 4pm to an audience of a few hundred. It was a privilege to sing with such a large choir and the orchestra was amazing (it was hard to believe that they had not played together before 9:30am on the day). The day was hard work but great fun and very rewarding especially as the day also seems to have raised over £7500 for Cancer Research.