Wednesday, June 30, 2010

30 June 2010 Winchester

House doorways about 2'6" wide - try to get a Harvey Norman lounge suite in here, no way

Welcome to Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, Hampshire

Interior Winchester Cathedral sans kids

Winchester Cathedral with kids

Sculpture of the Virgin Mary

Karaoke Screen for the kids.

Paving in High Street - check out the size of the paving stones

Winchester Guildhall with park and ride bus.

Lyn by the River Itchen

Lyn doing retail therapy in Winchester.

Mick eating dinner at the Running Horse

AMG C63 Merc which pulled into the car park - rather him buying the petrol than me at £1.20 per litre

We had a quiet day today as you would after all the racing around we have been doing. We drove into Winchester to check the town out and get some petrol.

Mick located the Tesco (Tesco is like Coles and Woolies in Australia) service stations via the Internet before we left so we went there first to get petrol. Again the streets in the town were very narrow as the tourist brochure warns: "This town was built before the invention of motor vehicles so the roads are narrow."

We learnt from our experience in Bath that the best way to prevent Lyn freaking out is to use the Park and Ride. This involves parking at a parking station on the outskirts of town and paying a cheap fee, compared to the parking cost in town, and catching the bus into the city centre.

The parking fee which was £2 here, includes the cost to and fro in the bus. In fact you can have as many to's and fro's as you like as we found when Lyn left her Mobile Phone prominently displayed in the windscreen mount in the car for everyone to see (and steal). So having arrived in town, it was back to the parking lot on the next bus to retrieve it. Oh sorry, it was Mick's fault. It was only a 5 minute bus ride.

Anyway, domestic over, we decided to go to the Cathedral first. Big mistake as the place was packed with school children and you know how these old churches echo. Anyway we decided to wait until they had gone by filling in time in the mandatory gift shop.

Kids gone, we went back inside. What a special place it was and we spent much of the morning standing in awe looking around us.

The Cathedral was built in 1079 not long after the battle of Hastings (you know the date of the battle of Hastings don't you Joyce?) and is one of the largest cathedrals in England. We did a guided tour and the crypt was especially interesting since it regularly floods when the groundwater level is high and had only reopened 2 weeks ago. Between 1906 and 1912 a lot of under pinning work took place using a diver to reinforce the foundations as large cracks were appearing in many of the walls.

Whilst we were inside the school children returned but were quiet as they returned for a short church service.

Then the organ struck up. Mick reckons he has never heard bass like that before. The organist was playing Amazing Grace which sounded fantastic. He reckons the hair stood up on the back of his neck. It was quite moving really.

So the children could sing the words, they had a large screen placed at the front of the church and a lady hidden behind the screen was operating a laptop which projected the words onto the screen.

After the Cathedral visit, we went to do a bit of retail therapy, well Lyn did. Checking out each store to see if it sold anything related to Chuggington. Those of you with children or maybe grand children will know what that is.

Anyway she came out of the Early Learning centre grinning so she must have had some success.

Mick then decided with Lyn's help that he needed a haircut and as there was a shop called Chaps with 3 girly hairdressers he decided to get a haircut while Lyn went off grocery shopping in readiness for our 8 day stay in Bogner Regis. Another reason was that it was only £6.50 for old people compared to £14 in a previous town. Mick lied and told them he was an old person to get the discount.

It was then off to our lodgings at The Running Horse at Littleton where Mick is sitting outside under a shade umbrella typing this whilst Lyn does her Sudoku.

(The owner just drove in in a C63 AMG Mercedes station wagon which sounded like an SS Commodore so we must be paying too much to stay here. It has what look like 20" rims. I'll take a picture.

See you next time....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

29 June 2010 - Stonehenge, Hawke Recovery Centre


Lyn and Mick at Stonehenge

The Hawk Conservancy centre near Thruxton

Bald Eagle


African Fish Eagle

Today we awoke to a dull wet morning, however the forecast said it was going to clear. We headed off towards Winchester (I feel another song coming on as it has a Cathedral). We left Bradford-on-Avon and travelled to Trowbridge on the A363 then onto the A350 and A36 turning onto the A303 to get to Stonehenge.

When we arrived the weather was very cloudy so the monoliths looked very dull and uninspiring, but then the sun came out and they came alive. The carpark was absolutely chokka block with cars and coaches but no charge to park there. Entry fee for "Seniors" was £5.90 each. We were each given an Ipod type machine which looked like a mobile phone and we were able to listen to a commentary by pressing a number and the play button corresponding to a number on the ground.

Lyn met some Australians on the way round so we didn't see much of it from then on as she kept yacking so we missed half of the views so Mick insisted we walk round again. This was a good idea because the sun came out of the clouds and the pictures look much better. After circling Stonehenge twice we went back to the car to have a coffee. We bought a thermos flask so we don't have to pay 3 quid for a cuppa any more. We did this partly because they have no idea how to make coffee. All the cappuccinos are made from water and come out of a push button machine and are soooo strong. Rubbish.

After an enjoyable visit we left Stonehenge and headed off down the A303 to the the Hawk Conservancy Trust centre near Thruxton which is a few miles out of Andover. We had seen several raptor flying displays before but this one turned out to be something quite different.

The display started with a Fish Eagle flying overhead and diving into a pond to pick up a fish which was thrown into the water. Then they released 4 Buzzards which flew over the heads of the audience skimming the tops of their heads with their wings which sent them ducking for cover. They even landed on the backs of the benches right next to people sitting there and looked them in the eye. Quite confronting but the handler said they were harmless!

They then had a flying display by a Peregrine falcon which is the fastest living animal. They can reach speeds of up to 200mph and this one didn't disappoint as it came screaming out of the sky chasing the lure that the handler was swinging around.
The Bird did this several times.

Next display was free flying by 14 Black Kites which swooped backwards and forwards over the audience. They seemed to enjoy this despite there being no food on offer. The handlers then threw food into the air for them to catch it on the wing. And as a finale fired 2 lots of meat from a catapult several times high into the air for them to catch.

What was interesting was that when they released the birds some of them flew off into the distance and disappeared completely until they were seen again sometimes several minutes later as specks in the sky, miles away and riding the thermals.

When the Bald Eagles (2) were released they flew over the trees into the distance and were also missing for several minutes. The female was first back for her dinner, and while waiting for the male, 2 large grey raptors flew overhead very high up in the sky and the handler was excited to announce that they were 2 Hobbies, one chasing the other out of its territory. After an exciting day we drove down the A303 to the A34 and found B & B at the Running Horse Pub in Littleton. £85 per night including breakfast.

The Running Horse has WIFI 1Mb/s but we have to sit outside in the beer garden which is just outside our door to get a good signal. Lovely barmy evening about 25 degrees. Think we will sit outside and have dinner.

Monday, June 28, 2010

28 June 2010 Bath

View of Brecon Beacons from Abergavenny city centre

Second bridge over the Severn Estuary

Chevrons on the road to help you keep a safe distance from the car in front - the sign says "Keep 2 chevrons distance"

Girl carrying a dog in Bath (no idea why - must have been tired!)

View inside Bath Abbey

Many shops had a lion outside. Just for a talking point I suppose - cute though. This is a Lion, Leopard and tiger in one.

Another lion - Scrabble, and all the letters make up words bothways.

Another lion - Elvis themed

Bath Abbey

What some of the English people did with their flags when England went out of the world cup! The yellow thing is a bin.

Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon in Bath - Very Historic and old.

Us on the tour bus around Bath reflected in a window.

Today we took a trip out of Abergavenny hoping the weather was fine...and it was. The weather has been superb for days which is great. Got a bit sunburnt though.

We drove down the A40 then onto the A449 before joining the M4 motorway across the Servern Estuary. The bridge was pretty spectacular although difficult to photograph since we were crossing it. At this point we decided to go to Bath so turned down the A46 into Bath. What an unusual city it is, it was like stepping back into the Victorian ages and before. It would have made a great setting for those all films you see on TV.

We took several of the "hop on hop off" bus rides around the city so we were able to get a good idea of Bath. Lyn didn't like it that much as the traffic was horrendous, but Mick thought it was great. After the bus rides we strolled the city area looking at all the sights. Bath Abbey is a lovely building with beautiful stained glass windows. We saw the outside of the Roman Baths, but didn't have our towel and bathers with us so no use paying £11.50 entry each.

We wandered the streets of Bath enjoying the architecture and took lots of photo's. We were able to use our Stratford-upon-Avon bus tickets to claim a discount on the sight seeing bus in Bath. Mick had carefully saved them to test whether the buses in other places would accept them as the bus driver in Stratford had said. Lyn didn't think they would. It turns out the sight seeing buses all appear so far to be run by the same company. Mick is going to try the same trick in London.

By 4pm ,as it was a very hot day, we were exausted and headed off to find a B&B for the night. We ended up finding a private B&B in Bradford-on-Avon which had a large back yard with squirrels feeding on the bird table. Cost £60 with breakfast.

It rained a little overnight and we awoke to heavy cloud.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

27 June 2010 Took a trip to Abergavenny

Our Hotel in Abergavenny

Brecon Beacons from Abergavenny city centre carpark

View from farm

Beautiful Welsh countryside

Narrow roads in the countryside - this is not a joke - there are miles of them

More narrow roads

Lyn with pony at farm accommodation

Llanfihangel-Nant-Bran where farm accommodation was

Further farm views

Taken at 6am out of window on farm

Taking a trip down to....

More narrow roads

Farm house with open door to where we lived

After a great stay on 'the farm' at Llanfihangel-Nant-Bran we set off to drive south down the A40 and ended up at Abergavenny (I think I feel a song coming on).

Lovely little place so we did some shopping (Lyn bought a top) we also bought a toaster (to make brekkie when nothing else available), vacuum flask (as we are fed up with spending $3 for a cup of tea) and some other bits and pieces from Wilkinsons which is a store that sort of sells everything.

Since the Formula 1 race was on and Vettel and Webber were 1, 2 on the grid in their Red Bulls we thought we would book into a hotel for the night and watch the race.
So we had a quiet day watching the race and England get flooged by Germany in the Soccer. We went for a meal at the pub restaurant. I'll include a couple of pics for those who can't read (I know how you like them).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

25, 26 June 2010 Owls, animals, Elan Dam, Red Kites

Hotel Commodore Llandrindod

Lyn with owl

Great looking Owl

Lyn with Tawny Owl

Great Grey Owl

Small animals part of park

Wildlife at animal park

Lake Elan

Elan Dam spillway

A few Red Kites

A few more Red Kites

And a s...t load of Red Kites



B&B at Llanfihangel-Nant-Bran Wales

On 25 June sadly we left Overton as we had had a great time there. It's always better when you go to a place where you have friends/relatives living as they have so much information about the surrounding area that isn't available in any of the brochures.

A place we went to several times whilst we were staying with Mick's cousin in Overton was called Llangollen which was a beautiful town on the River Dee.

The Welsh seem to have an obsession with "LL" to start the names of places. "LL" is pronounced a THL so Llangollen is pronounced Thlangothlan, try that without spitting over everyone. After you practice for a while it eventually comes.

Anyway we had a leisurely drive to Llandrindod (pronounced Thlandrindod) Wells down through Ruabon onto the A5 then onto the A483 for those of you following with a UK map! Go Margaret.

We booked in the Hotel Commodore for the night (cost £59 incl brekkie) as Lyn wanted a bit of luxury. It turned out the hotel had 0 stars but it was a very large room with a very large bed, an ensuite bathroom and digital TV so it suited us fine. It was also on the 3rd floor so we thought it would be quiet. We didn't notice that there was a pub/club as part of the imposing building and the whole of Wale's young people arrived and kept drinking until 3am. At 2.23am the fire alarm went off as one of the drunken yobo's had smashed the glass and activated the fire alarm, we had to evacuate the hotel so we were not happy and the noise continued, but we managed to get back to sleep.

We vowed that the next accommodation we had would be out in the country.

We got up at 8am went down stairs and had a good English breakfast and headed off up the A483 and onto the A44 to Kington to visit The Small Breeds Farm Park and Owl Centre which had the largest diverse collection of Owls in Europe. It also had many other animals all of which could be patted and stroked including the owls. We have never seen so many owls in the one place and all displayed beautifully.

Amongst the diverse range of animals were Red Squirrels, Chinchillas and Chipmunks. Mick had often heard Chipmunks records when the kids were young and he knew they had a high range singing voice but had never actually seen what they looked like. Unfortunately he couldn't get them to sing at all so was very disappointed. They were so cute although the prize for cuteness must go to the baby owls being reared in incubators.

After a long chat with the owner about Australia mostly and getting information on more attractions in the area, we complemented him on the cleanliness of the park and headed off back down the A44 to Ryayader the location of the the Elan Dam.

The Elan Dam in on the River Elan and provides water for part of Wales and the West Midlands including Birmingham. It travels 250 miles in Aqueducts and pipes to get to these places. (I spelt aqueduct incorrectly in previous posts - sorry). Thanks Margaret.

Then it was on to the display of wild Red Kites being fed daily just out of Ryayader at The Gigrin Farm. The farm owner had built a number of hides where people could observe the Kites feeding. We didn't know quite what to expect and thought maybe a nesting pair had adopted his place. Boy, were we in for a shock.

Just before the allotted feeding time, the sky began filling with Red Kites. They came from everywhere and there were hundreds of them, wheeling around and around overhead. It was like the movie 'The Birds'. Also arriving and waiting patiently in the surrounding trees were Carrion Crows and several Buzzards.

Then the farmer arrived with his tractor bin full of meat and he just shovelled it out and down they came, swooping in and snatching it up with the crows waiting patiently for their turn. There were about 6 buzzards who sat on the ground eating their share. We were amazed at the total number of birds.

As the meat was consumed they gradually dispersed and went back to riding the thermals as it was quite a hot day.

We then had to find somewhere to stay and after our experience the previous night we went for a country farmhouse for our B&B. We picked one at Llanfihangel-Nant-Bran (there's that Ll again) outside of Brecon.

We headed out down the A40 and turned off at the sign to Llanfihangel-Nant-Bran and drove on and on and on and on. The winding road got narrower and narrower and Lyn got more p'ed of as we crawled along roads which were good bitumin but only about 3 feet wide with hedgerows about 10 feet high on either side. Occasionally (about every kilometre) there would be a a spot which had a turn-in in case someone came the other way. This was where 2 cars could pass but one or the other would have to back up.

Fortunately, no one came the other way and we arrived at Llanfihangel-Nant-Bran.

By this time Lyn had a splitting headache and I needed a Bex and a good lie down. Anyway, we are certainly not going to be bothered by drunken yobs from Llandrindod again.

The landlady (Audrey Jones) welcomed us to "Penpentre Farmhouse" a 4 star 2 bedroom loft. It is beautiful, everything you need is here including a washing machine. There is no terrestrial TV reception here (Sky satellite dish) and no mobile phone reception either. Fortunately she has lightening quick Wi-Fi so Mick was able to hook up to it and do the blog.

We both need a good nights sleep.

Andy Murray has just beaten Simon of France in straight sets. It was a very good match. Go Andy, but we really want Lleyton Hewitt to win go, Lleyton.

Time to for bed.