2013


As usual in January, quite quiet. Did however spend some days at Brixham, during which we took Sylvania for a 'spin' across to Torquay. Later in the month another four days was spent at Sherborne. This was in a period of snow, but no undue difficulties from that. Hotel was really well patronised even at this time of year. Two coaches of tour groups, one from North West Wales, the other North East England. Such an excellent hotel, well  deserves the custom.

Turn of the month, and Muriel took a quick trip across to Ireland. Purpose being to visit a friend, then travel with her to the North and attend Memorial ceremony of  the "Princess Victoria" disaster. It being sixty years since this ferry had foundered on its crossing from Scotland  to Larne in Northern Ireland. Geraldine's dad was one of the many who drowned in this terrible event.

CCS - The Ordnance Survey "fan club" as I often term it, has been a bit quiet recent years, but it arranged for members to participate in a visit to the OS's brand new 'high tech' Offices at Southampton in mid February. I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent there. We'd booked a couple of nights in the Central 'Premier'. Being that we travelled down on a early train, resulted in us finding time enough for a quick "flip" across to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Sea very calm, but general weather not good otherwise.

Just two days later, we motored to Oxford, where the Nimbus Owners Club held a gathering in the Four Pillars Hotel, a little outside of that city. Next morning, found I'd somehow caught a cold, so we curtailed somewhat our walk round the city. That night was spent in the Central Oxford Premier. A leisurely drive home the next day.

Sunday 3rd March, drove down to our now very favourite hotel, only six weeks or so since the last stay! I had two dental appointments this the main reason. Following the first, we toured off towards East Devon, driving down really narrow roads. Considerable difficulties in this, in that a vehicle driving towards you, is rarely able to reverse, so this we have to do! Not easy, I usually try by using the wing mirrors. We really do get right into the 'depth' of the country though, plus the fact that in large areas of West Dorset and East Devon, wide roads are not an option.
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 Problems on Sark - read here:
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brecqhou   
And here another link: http://www.sarknewsletter.com/Sark_    Read the latest issue - if you can get through it! For another  side to this story, please look at this site: http://ebenezerlepage.blogspot.co.uk/
More about Sark, from the BBC:
The tiny Channel Island of Sark has a unique constitutional position: part of Britain, but not the UK, it is still held as a fief on behalf of the Queen. It only became a democracy in 2008 but islanders have told us that that democracy is now under threat.
They say they are being bullied and intimidated by representatives of Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, the owners of the Telegraph, in the local newsletter. The two brothers now own a third of the island and local people told us they think they're trying to take control of it.
Sark decides its own laws, sets its own taxes and with only 600 inhabitants is small enough to be taken over. The Today programme's Sarah Montague went to the island to find out what they were complaining about.
The Barclay Brothers declined to be interviewed but their lawyer emailed to say the allegations we put to them were "unsupported by evidence and, indeed, false". The same lawyer said he separately acted for Kevin Delaney, the owner, publisher and editor, of the Sark Newsletter. He also denied the allegations and said people often complained to him that they felt intimidated and unable to speak out against the feudal establishment and the newsletter was the only effective political opposition on the island. The Ministry of Justice also declined to be interviewed and gave us a statement saying: "Sark has its own elected democracy; is not part of the UK and is not represented in the UK Parliament, although the Crown has ultimate responsibility to ensure good governance."

As may be deduced, we took a trip down to Sark, the island to which we'd visited for a single day last July. I'd got interested on seeing John Sweeney talking into a camera for a BBC 'Panorama' programmer, about the problems on it, as indicated in the links and BBC "Today" item set out above.

To me, this little Island has become of much interest, 3.5 miles by 1.5, with a population of around 600. Islands are of interest to so many of us, and we ourselves have visited a considerable number. Sark is by far and away the nicest we've ever been on. Just at the moment, it still shows signs of prosperity, but like many I fear this could  change, very much for the worse. Up till recent years, many occupants managed their own land, and would have done it well. Most unfortunately "big money" has somehow purchased much of this land, and it would seem that these people feel the need to demonstrate "ownership" by completely altering land management. This is being done by ploughing many fields, and planting vines, thus completely altering both the economy and character.

Not only is the general ethos and appearance being destroyed, but this same "big money" has taken control of a group of hotels, likewise the island estate agent, also it would appear the main building firm on the island. Obviously we took very good care not to give any of our own 'business' to these people. We stayed with long term "sarkees" as they term themselves, and eat at other 'independents'. Excellent service by all.

Living on an island can be costly; for example, I learn't the each unit of electricity costs 29 pence! One can understand the reason why. Quite close to the harbour is the generator station, which on Sark runs 24 hour a day. Fuel has to be brought in by boat, then a tractor drawn bowser would take this on up the hill for the storage tanks. If one is wise - and on our first visit we where not, it is best to ride on the "toast-rack" pulled by the tractor up the hill, this being quite a drag. Tractors are the main means of transport round this lovely little place.

Very easy to get the gist of issues the people on Sark have to put up with, by just reading a few lines of the "Sark Newsletter". Regarding the so termed "Feudal Lord". We happened to be in the "Island Hall", when some of the residents where enjoying  get-together. Mixing in with them, also his wife, thankfully recovered from a stroke, though in a wheelchair, was Michael Beaumont - the awful "feudal lord" of the "Newsletter"!

The ferry which returned us to Poole was due in very late, so we decided to get a room at the Life Boat College - most excellent place, most certainly we will use this again.
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15th April. We have taken a trip across to our French cottage. First a drive down to Plymouth, reached in 2 hours,15 minutes. Then overnight to Roscoff, actually we slept well on the boat, but roused earlier than needed. Not the best drive to Josselin however, raining all the 120 odd miles. We have not been here since early October, so I was really pleased to find all familiar comforts still in operation! Satellite television, also the internet, so we enjoy a relaxation in comfort. It could be debated if a 'holiday cottage' is preferable over paid for accommodation. In our case I consider it is. Plenty of property for sale in rural France, so we are not 'hogging' a house, as would be the situation in England. Having to move on can be tiring, plus easier to take a rest in ones own abode. By getting to know an area, and seeing changes over years, is likewise interesting.
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21st April, just a week after our arrival in France, we drove up to St Malo, and got on a ferry to Portsmouth, reached at six in the evening. From here we drove home, reached at 9PM.

Three days later, on Thursday, we caught a train in Bath, first 'leg' down - again - to Portsmouth, then on to Brighton, a 'leg' to Ashford, finally on to Dover.  Night in the 'Premier' before the ferry across to Calais. Train to Hazebrouck and another on to Lille, here up to Tournai, change for train to Brussels. where we managed to catch the train from Paris, which took us on to Amsterdam.

Two very pleasant days in this really interesting city. First morning exploring streets in the famous "red light" district. Back again in the evening for an organized tour round it. Educational regarding something which could be regarded as "difficult" but dealt with in a constructive and adult way. I was expecting women to be interested in this tour, turned out by my estimation, 70% female and 30% male. Rather more surprising was the make- up, at least one Muslim lady, some persons in the tour said they where from Kuwait, and also Kuala Lumpaur, so from round the world really!

On the Sunday we joined a group riding in a really large double decked coach, which carried us out to the gardens of Keukenhof - this we were told translated as "kitchen garden" - more in this Wikipedia link As this notes, these gardens are only open for two months in the year. Little wonder therefore that the 32 hectares were absolutely heaving with visitors..





The tour indicated  we'd  pass  the famous  Dutch  bulb fields,  fact we just passed through, not stopping.  So the first  'photo had  to be  taken  through the coach window,  still the gardens  where  outstanding.

Monday morning, we caught trains which carried us to Hamburg, via a change at Osnabruck. Early next day we visited the famous miniature Wonderland - main purpose for our trip here. We reached this ten minutes after morning opening - at 09.30! Yet despite this it was already crowded.  Amazing, specially this could hardly be peak season.





Layout is pretty comprehensive - top two 'photo's. Bottom left, would be Hamburg Hbf (main) station. Above right; There is a group of controllers managing the layout, sitting in front of monitors, some of which appear to show the view in front of of the trains - amazing!
Following this, we found a really enjoyable two hour boat trip through the fascinating Hamburg Port, this a much larger than I had assumed, specially considering that this large city is so far upstream from the open sea.




Spectacular engineering, both of the bridges, also the 'box' unloading cranes. Even large cruise liners can be dry docked here.

1st May - arrived in Quedlinburg (Harz mountain area of Germany) Town that is brimfull of character - claimed to have over 1300 properties in half timbered mode. Thus photo opportunities galore. Next day, walked along to the "Bahnhof" to catch 08.30 train on the metre guage tourist Harz railway, expecting a diesel powered train to turn up, but was surprised when the steam loco appeared. Puzzled by the carriages  - no obvious entry doors! Turned out these were at the ends, i.e. where they are linked together. Moreover, as i was to find out, there was no objection should a passenger wish to ride on the open walkway between the carriages - no worries regarding "health and safety" here!




It was approaching the weekend, so as we prefer not to travel at that period, we picked on the city of Bonn as being perhaps a good place to to stay. Long way away though, so we thought Lippstadt to be good for an over night stop, Knowing it was a nice town, having stayed on a previous motor tour round Germany. Bonn turned out to be a good choice, nice in itself, but also on the Rhine. We found we could take a cruise up this lovely waterway - better still, to another delightful little German town - Linz.  A most pleasurable day, and  weather to enjoy with. Pictures below:






Our return route was Cologne - or 'Koln' as we really ought to term this city, then a bus to get us over the border into Belgium (should have been train, but we did not properly read the route printout that accompanied our tickets!) Then to Liege. Lucky here, found a train that would carry us all the way to Lille, with no change needed. This train not made clear in the Timetable we carried, moreover it was to travel on a route avoiding Brussels, thus being new to us - not so attractive though it turned out however.
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Weather for the first six months of this year, not good at all. We really were hoping to use our boat. Unfortunately much too windy and rough to venture far. One really enjoyable 'voyage' though was to Dartmouth, then up the River to Totnes, a first for us. We did not berth nor stop the engine in fact but loved the scenery viewable from the river.





Near the end of June, we got so fed up with waiting for a settled period, we decided to try to get down to Plymouth, sea was still rough, but we did it. Setting out directly after driving down to Brixham from home. Rather "put out" on our arrival at QAB to find we were not very welcome. Visited many other marinas, and virtually all will fit us in, specially nowadays being much less pressure on berth space. Never the less,  they did find us a berth in which we were allowed to stay a fortnight. We enjoyed our visit to Plymouth. Taking days out with the car, also walks into the city - we reckon we know this lovely area really well! We had planned on another 'cruise' up the Tamer, but weather did not turn out pleasant enough, so I had the notion "how much would it cost to take a rail trip to Looe" - far less the I could have envisaged, just 3.55 for a return ticket!

I'd never visited Salcombe. Managed to do so on our way back to Brixham. Lucky we were allowed to berth on the town pontoon long enough to enjoy a pot of tea and a snack. Nice little visit.




Top left; Fowey Harbour from Polruan. Cruise ship on a visit, while at the top of the harbour this ship would be loading clay. The three other 'photo's where taken in the Salcombe Estuary.     

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        Although Torquay is just across the bay from Brixham - only four miles, weve visited but never for over night stay's. At the end of July, we did this, the marina making a pleasent change for us, plus giving the boat a "run".
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7th August, out of bed really early - 4.30 AM! By 5.25 we were driving out of our yard to start our drive down to Poole, reaching the ferry port after an hour and a half drive. "Barfleur" was due to leave at 8.30, so we were in plenty of time. We had obtained a cabin, intention being to make full use, once we reached Cherbourg, we would be faced with a long drive - roughly 175 miles. We have not in the past done anything like this, crossing timings previously such as to necessitate an overnight stay at some point, either in Cherbourg or sometimes Avranches, then we would have had a full day to complete our journey down to Josselin.

That though was well in the past, and we get no younger! Vast difference on French rural roads, to those of Britain, these being used for almost the entire drive. Doubt I could ever have contemplated such a drive in England. After Muriel had set up the bed we drove to the "Marine" where we enjoyed a good meal. I ordering a Gallete, a dish common in Brittany but not in England. Really excellent it was too.

We often do a trip away, this time a long one down to the "Lot" region. Starting off on the Monday morning and as usual driving on 'local' roads, we crossed the Loire by the massive great bridge at the mouth of this river, and aimed for the town of Niort, reached following a drive of just over two hundred miles. Next days drive onto Brive adding another 160 miles. We stayed in this town two nights while exploring the  Dordogne region. Our prime aim had been to visit the village of St-Cirq-Lapopie calling at Rocamadour on the way. The village was reached at around midday, but we felt before the visit we should make sure we had a bed for the night. Checking locally those offering rooms where all "complete" i.e. "full" , so we had to drive a dozen miles to the east before we arrived at Cajarc, yes they had a room - only €40 too!

We'd made sure of the room and thought we should eat before driving back to the village we'd come to see. Problem here though, cars cannot travel into village, yet it is not close and a really stiff climb to negotiate. Not so good following a heavy lunch! Slight problem next morning - our hotel was still locked up - we could not get out!! Eventually Muriel found we could get out via a side gate, and a cafe in the village sold us an excellent coffee and croissant. This village of Cajarc interested me, it was so isolated, must be at least twenty miles from the nearest town of any size, walking round we found the mail office with five or six delivery vans outside, the chaps inside sorting prior to delivering. Amazing what isolated places some people live!

We then had to return to the North. This was Friday and the miles driven so far being just 600. Leaving Cajarc on the D17, sparse but scenic. Lunch at Argantat in a "posh" restaurant - really slow service yet three serving staff. Halting for the night at St.Leonard, due east of Limoges. Really heavy traffic between Tulle and here, miles of halting cars - never had this before in France, perhaps due to being Saturday, and August. We still had to cross back over the Loire, thought the best point would be St.Florentine, where we found a really lovely hotel who gave us a room overlooking this iconic river. We'd motored another 206 miles that day. Next morning another hundred miles got us "home". We'd driven over a thousand miles in six and a half days.




Top left, our room over looked the River Loire. Right: The village square in Cajarc. Left: The church of the high village of St.Cirq.Lapopie, River Lot to its left and below. Right: We came upon this more recent building achievement while driving on a side road to the north of Tulle. The bridge carries the E70/A89 Motorway.
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In September we took a trip down to South West Wales, first stay being in the town of Merthyr Tydfil. The Tour of Britain was due to pass through, and we found a really good vantage point near the pass of the A470 in the Brecon Beacons. We'd viewed many stages in the Tour-de-France, and
as compared, noted just how well this race was organized. We then moved off to see if we could find and view the water falls in the area of Ystradfelde. Though I'd known of them for a long period, yet to view any. I was prepared for muddy terrain, but found track was dry. viewed just one waterfall.

Next day toured round the Gower peninsula, staying the night at Pembry. Final day to stay at Tenby, previously visited many years ago, must admit I could not recall the layout of the town.
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8th October - and we slept in our new home!! Really, really nice it is too. We really are well pleased with it. We had been looking for a house in Bradford-on-Avon for some time, small town, very handy for visits to where I'd spent my entire working life, large enough for a decent library, plus importantly to us - a really active rail station. Our house itself is in a group of ten that  were only constructed as recently as 2006, so new build which brings the benefit of modernity and warmth. We have our own off street car park, and just through its fence is the car park of a Sainbury's supermarket. It all suits us down to the ground!
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Towards end of November, I needed to visit a dentist, as the one I use is in Sherborne, we decided to combine the job with a stay at our very favourite hotel As their website indicates, unfortunately they are under administration, however they are part of a small hotel group, so we really do hope they continue to trade, very certainly they really deserve to. Virtually all staff are English - in itself not common these days. It really is the most perfect place to stay. Great comfort, great food, great staff, great area.

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Mid December, MDL - the ultimate owners of the marinas we use, where set to organize a cruise trip to St Malo, this by use of one of the largest of the Brittany Ferries fleet. We had tried to book for this trip last year, but gathered it was fully booked. We booked long in advance this time. However just a few days before the due date, we were notified that the intended vessel had had to be removed from service due to a technical fault. We were offered a full refund, but decided we would take the trip anyway. So a drive to Portsmouth, over night to St Malo, then drive off ship. We decided to tour westward across the "Barrage de Rance", then turn right to Dinard, along the coast for a few miles. Then return to drive outside the east of St Malo. It was the fields of vegetables that I found interesting - as below:  Over night return that evening.