Archive for category Gap adventure
After returning from Manchester on 1st October, we kept ourselves busy. The analysis and reporting for Sutton Trust occupied most of our time until the report was submitted late last Friday. We have had problems with our Slough flat, and began to consider if this was a good time to sell. Discussions, research and meetings took up a lot of time. And Sandie got involved in a Young Enterprise event, helping Caroline with a presentation to the young people who are to be managing directors of their various companies.
Still, there were opportunities to enjoy ourselves, such as meals with friends, and visits to pubs or restaurants. We went to the local cinema twice, to see the film Kingsman: the golden circle (quite entertaining) and the NT-Live Encore screening of Hamlet, with Benedict Cumberbatch. We went to our folk dance club; the first time since May that we’d been able to go, and the last time for quite a while! And we had two days out, to celebrate special occasions.
Our wedding anniversary
On Tuesday 10th we celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary with a day out in London. It followed the usual pattern of our ‘London days’, with perhaps some extra treats along the way. We went first to Leicester Square and were amazed to find there was no queue at all at tkts. After coffee, and a visit to Stanfords, we walked the final stretch of the Thames Path (for the third time). In August we completed a short walk on the Isle of Dogs, so we started from there this time. Walking from Crossharbour DLR station to the river, we stopped for a drink at a pub called Pepper Saint Ontiod. We’d never heard of any Ontiod, saint or otherwise, but an online search next day showed that there was no such person. The address of the pub was Pepper St On The Isle Of Dogs – they’d decided to abbreviate to Ontiod and make him a saint!
We followed the Path to the end of the Isle of Dogs and then through the Greenwich foot tunnel, emerging by the Cutty Sark and the Royal Naval Museum. The painted ceiling was closed, but we had a quick look in the chapel and lunch in The Old Brewery, an interesting place which (luckily for Sandie) had some American-style IPAs. Then we continued our walk along the river. It was years since we were last in that part of London, and we were amazed at how much building was going on. We paused for a drink at the ‘Anchor and Hope’ pub, where we remembered stopping before. Having only discovered Aperol Spritz in June while in Italy, we now find you can get it anywhere – Gt Yarmouth, the east End of London…..
We reached the Thames Barrier at 5pm, and needed to get back quickly to the West End. The Underground does not extend that far, and there was no obvious bus. We asked a man to confirm that we were heading in the right direction for the nearest railway station, and he kindly gave us a lift. We reached Charing Cross with just enough time for a pub dinner and a cappuccino on the way to Drury Lane for the 7.30 performance of 42nd Street. It was brilliant – wonderful costumes, great sets, and fantastic tap dancing. It made Sandie keen to be back at her tap class in Sarasota, though she knows she will never be anywhere near that level!
A special birthday
Ellie’s 40th birthday was on Friday, and as part of the celebration we were invited to a family tea on Sunday 15th. Claire, Ant, Charlie and Oscar were going too, so they kindly detoured to pick us up on their way from Bussage to Faversham. It was a long journey for them, especially as there were hold-ups on the motorways.
We reached Andrew and Ellie’s house at 1.15pm. Ellie’s mother and sister, her brother and his family were already there, so 16 of us sat down to lunch. Ellie did a great job of seating and feeding us! Some of us had not seen Hope since her birthday last month, so there were presents for her too – and congratulations for Isobel, who just a few days ago heard the good news that she’s passed the Kent test, and will be joining Hope at grammar school next year.
After lunch was cleared away, we all went out for a walk at the Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park. The children enjoyed running around, and we all collected edible chestnuts – we’ve never seen so many! Sandie regretted having bought some the day before. Back at the house we had cake (made by the girls), and then Ellie’s family moved on to Rebecca’s house, leaving more manageable numbers for tea.
We left at 7pm, and (after more hold-ups on the M2) reached our flat at 9.15. Claire and co did not stay, as they still had a long way to go. We relaxed and watched TV – while eating plenty of roast chestnuts!
Following our return from Norfolk, we had another weekend away, this time ‘up north’. We decided to combine two things: visiting Paul and Alexa, and taking part in an anti-Brexit protest march.
To Bury via Alcester
In fact, we were able to combine three things, because on our way to Bury we met up with our friends Jenny and David. They live in Redditch, just south of Birmingham, which makes a convenient stopping point when travelling north. This time we met them in a hotel in Alcester, not far from their home. We enjoyed lunch and a good catch-up.
Unfortunately, the traffic was bad when we continued our journey round the M42. We took the M6 Toll road which speeded things up, but later it was very slow going through some roadworks which stretched for miles. It was 7.15 when we finally reached Paul and Alexa’s house, but we were revived with drinks, food and chat.
On Saturday it was raining, so we did not go far – just walked into the centre of Bury, had coffee, looked at shops, had drinks and a very nice light lunch in one of Paul’s favourite pubs, then looked in more shops. We had an early evening dinner at another pub, this time a few miles out of town. When we were in the house we passed the time playing Oh hell!, a family favourite card game.
Brexit wrecks it
On Sunday morning we said farewell to Paul and Alexa, drove into the centre of Manchester and parked. We made our way to All Saints Park, where the first of two ‘Stop Brexit’ rallies was held. It was well organised, with huge TV screens so that you could see what was happening even if you could not see the stage. There were several speakers, most of them loud, clear and inspiring. The final speaker was Alastair Campbell: although we were never fans of his, we thought his speech was good, but were less impressed by his rendition of Ode to Joy on the bagpipes.
When we first arrived, there were only a few hundred people around, but when we set off to march, at 1.30 pm, the crowd was enormous – it was estimated at 50,000. We paraded through central Manchester, draped in EU flags and carrying banners or placards, often with quite entertaining slogans. The march was held in Manchester because the Tory conference was there, but we were not allowed to get too close. It had been pre-arranged with the police where we would disband. Officers lined the streets, which seemed unnecessary as the marchers were the most peaceful, polite and good-humoured protestors we’ve ever seen.
When the official march ended, many continued walking to Cathedral Gardens, where a second anti-Brexit rally was held. This was rather an anti-climax, as it was much smaller and less well-organised than the first. When we arrived, a succession of people were performing rude and not terribly funny songs. However we did enjoy the performance of a Boris Johnson lookalike – he really was uncannily like Boris in appearance.
At 3.30 there were speakers. It was beginning to rain, so we were not keen to stay long. There was only was only one speaker we really wanted to hear. Stephen Dorrell is Chairman of the European Movement UK, to which we belong, and he was also our MP long ago when we lived in Loughborough. Luckily, he was one of the first to speak, and his speech was brief and to the point. So when he had finished, we set off on the long journey home.
It was great to be in Manchester, among so many people who feel strongly, as we do, that Brexit will be a total disaster for Britain. It made us feel hopeful that – as the impact becomes more and more apparent – we will be held back from the brink. However, since arriving home, listening to the news and reading comments on Facebook, our optimism is beginning to fade.
After returning from Portugal, we got started on the work we’d undertaken for Sutton Trust. This and other things kept us pretty busy, but we had a couple of evenings out at the weekend. We did our usual Friday evening pub walk, this time aiming for the Crown at Penn, where they do Sandie’s favourite ‘vegetarian fish & chips’. When we left the Dolphin (our first stop) the rain came down heavily, and after walking through the woods we were soaked. This necessitated stopping at another pub (shame!) to shelter and drink port to warm ourselves up. The following evening we went to see the film Victoria & Aqbal – Judi Dench was wonderful as ever, and it was a great film.
Off to Yarmouth
The next weekend we were off again, this time to Norfolk. It was our first trip there for some time, and was arranged to coincide with Sandie’s cousin Mike’s golden wedding anniversary. We wanted to combine this with a nostalgic visit to Great Yarmouth, Sandie’s home town. We collected a rental car on Thursday afternoon, so we could make an early start on Friday. On our way we decided to have a coffee stop (as we always used to do) at ‘The World Famous Comfort Café’ (yes, that really is what it’s called) but to our disappointment it had not yet opened when we arrived. We ended up at the ‘Waffle and Pancake Shack’: the location was familiar but the café was not. We discovered that it had changed hands (and names) twice since our earlier visits!
In Yarmouth we parked near the far end of the Pleasure Beach. (Those who do not know Yarmouth may want to skip this paragraph, as it won’t mean much to them.) It was that time of year when the Pleasure Beach and some other places open only at weekends, but although the place was quiet there were still visitors around. We strolled along the seafront, noting lots of changes since our last visit. The Big Wheel that used to stand in the Pleasure Beach has disappeared, and a new wheel has been erected in a different location. The jetty has been demolished, and the Wellington Pier no longer reaches the sea. The Winter Gardens is in desperate need of some TLC – a shame, as it is (or should be) such an attractive building.
The other great change was in the weather. It was actually warm and sunny – miraculous for Yarmouth at any time of year, let alone late September! We ate our lunch sitting outside one of the many beachside cafés. Later we walked up Regent Road to the town centre, and couldn’t resist some Yarmouth market chips. Back on the seafront we had a drink (again sitting outside) and walked north to the Waterways, due for complete restoration nest year. We just had to have some hot donuts (another seaside treat) on our way back to the car.
On to Ormesby
A few miles outside Yarmouth, we stayed two nights with our friends Una and David at their home in Ormesby St Margaret. On Saturday we all went for a walk in the woods near Acle. In the evening we all had dinner at the Filby Bridge restaurant, where we were joined by our other friends Linda and Don. We recalled being there in 2012, for their ruby wedding celebration. Sandie, Linda and Una were at school together – many years ago! – and it was great to meet up for the first time in some years. The food was great, and certainly plentiful, more than even Ian could eat, and that doesn’t happen often!
And then Sheringham
On Sunday morning we said goodbye to Una and David and drove across to Sheringham, on the north Norfolk coast. There is a steam railway which runs between Sheringham and Holt; Mike (a real railway buff) and Jane had chosen to celebrate their golden wedding with lunch onboard. About 40 of us filled two railway dining carriages. From Sheringham to Holt is a short journey (only about six miles), so it doesn’t take long, even by slow steam train. But there has to be a longish wait at either end while the engine is moved to the front of the train. We did two round trips while eating lunch: a starter on our way to Holt, and main course on the return, then pudding on the second trip to Holt, and coffee on the return. The food was excellent, and the portions very generous. The service was brilliant. And the weather was amazing – again!
When we finally arrived back in Sheringham, lots of us went to Mike and Jane’s house (quite close) and enjoyed a cuppa sitting in their beautiful garden. There was food too, but nobody had any appetite left!
And finally Ely
We’re cheating a bit, because Ely isn’t in Norfolk – it’s in Cambridgeshire. But we’d reckoned it was about half way between Sheringham and Wycombe, so decided to stay overnight on our way home with our friends Robert and Teresa, another couple whom we hadn’t seen for years. Another opportunity to have a long chat and catch up with each other’s news!
On Monday morning we visited the magnificent Ely Cathedral, accompanied by Robert who is a voluntary chaplain there. The weather wasn’t so good, and there was even some light rain while we were driving home in the afternoon. But we couldn’t complain, as the weather had been so remarkably good for the past three days. We’d had a great weekend – the golden wedding party, the nostalgic wander around Yarmouth, and seeing so many old friends – but it was definitely not good for our waistlines!
Saturday 9: Breakfast was delicious – a change from the standard buffet. Unfortunately, the weather was ghastly when we set off for our circular walk: very heavy mists, as well as strong winds (though not nearly as bad as on Wednesday). There were no views, but most of the time we were on forest tracks, so it didn’t matter too much. Several times we felt sure it must be raining, but it was just water dripping off the trees.
After two hours we reached the ‘Cork Convent’, which made for a fascinating visit. It acquired the name because it was inhabited by Franciscan monks whose only concession to comfort was to have the walls, windows etc lined with local cork! But (ahead of their time) they were also concerned for the environment, and the building blends perfectly into the landscape with its large boulders.
The weather had slightly improved when we returned to our accommodation (by a different route). Tonight we went to a Vegan restaurant we’d heard about, but it was rather a disappointment. The food was good but the service was very slow, and we were sitting alone in a kind of big conservatory which was very cold.
Sunday 10: Blue skies and sunshine made a pleasant change from yesterday! We headed for Sintra, and after two hours we reached the Palace of Monserrate. We explored the grounds and the palace itself – all very picturesque.
Then on to Sintra. The last part of the walk was on a narrow road – barely enough room for two cars to pass, but it was crammed with traffic. The town itself was packed with people; we knew it would be busy, but had not expected such crowds. Brighton on Bank Holiday Monday could not compare!
Monday 11: The last day of our walking holiday – and this meant walking around Sintra, visiting more of the sights in and around the city. First stop was the Moorish Castle, perched high on a hill, so it was a steep climb, but worth it. There’s no central building left, but the walls – interspersed with towers – stretch quite a way. From there we could see the Pena Palace, our next destination, also on a hilltop. Not far as the crow flies, but we are not crows!
Pena is probably the most important – and certainly the most popular – of the Sintra palaces. It reminded us of Neuschwanstein, which we visited less than two months ago. Another fairytale castle, with lots of turrets, but even more colourful – red and yellow, and today we had the advantage of bright blue sky as background. The crowds were amazing – we had to queue for a full half-hour to get inside the palace itself, and then shuffle through the rooms with everyone else. Afterwards we explored the extensive grounds. We walked up to the ‘High Cross’, on the highest point of the Sintra Hills. We saw various other statues etc, and got good views of the palace.
We went down to the Valley of the Lakes, and left the park by a different exit. We followed a footpath down to main road, and on our way into Sintra we passed the Regaleira Palace, which was also on our list of places to visit. But by then it was 5.30, and we decided we’d done enough sightseeing for one day!
Tuesday 12: We walked back to the Regaleira Palace, and explored the grounds, complete with follies, grottoes, fountains, tunnels, and a very deep well with stairs all the way down. Unlike the ‘romantic ruins’ we’d seen elsewhere, these were deliberate creations by an owner who clearly loved the fantastical! The house itself is also ornate, but much smaller and less colourful than the Pena Palace.
After lunch in the city centre we visited the Royal Palace – the rooms were interesting, but there was little to see outside, so our visit did not take long.
We collected our luggage and went by train to Queluz (half way between Sintra and Lisbon) where there was yet another palace to visit. Our accommodation was an apartment above a restaurant. The owner spoke no English, and we do not speak Portuguese, but we managed to communicate in French!
Wednesday 13: This morning we visited the Royal Palace. The interior was well worth seeing, especially the elaborately decorated ceilings. The formal gardens were beautiful, with the palace as background – rather similar to Versailles. But when we explored further afield, we found the grounds rather disappointing. A lot of TLC was evidently needed; it was sad to see that many of the decorative tiles were cracked or broken.
After lunch we returned by train to Lisbon. We’d discovered that the simplest connection was at Oriente station – on a direct metro line, only three stops from the airport. We had some time to spare, and were able to find a luggage locker, so we were able to look round the area. In a way it’s similar to Docklands – apparently it was run down, but redeveloped for World Expo 1998. As well as the ‘futuristic’ station, there is a flash shopping mall, and a long waterfront with many restaurants, gardens and an aquarium. Europe’s longest bridge extends across the Tagus, and a tower with an observation deck is the highest structure in Portugal. Unfortunately it was closed when we were there, but we did manage the short ride in a cable car along the waterfront.
We took the train from Oriente to the airport, and checked in for our evening flight back to Heathrow, where a taxi was waiting for us. We were home soon after midnight. Another walking holiday ended, and another place to cross off the bucket list!
On Monday 4th September, we were off on our travels again, but it was just a short trip this time. Way back in 2001, we spent a weekend in Lisbon. We hoped to do a side trip to Sintra, but didn’t have enough time, so Sintra remained on our bucket list. And we love walking holidays – so when we found a walking holiday which majored on Sintra, that seemed perfect for us. It was a week’s holiday, but we added on a night at each end, making it a ten-day trip.
Monday 4: Taxi to Luton Airport, where we met our friends Ian and Martin for coffee. Ian is a part-time chaplain at the airport; he wasn’t on duty that morning, but he and Martin came to the airport especially to meet us, which was really nice as we hadn’t seen them for two years.
Our flight to Lisbon was on time; we took a bus into the centre and checked into a cheap hotel. We walked down to the main square, had drinks and went for a stroll along the riverfront. Then we walked up the main street. We intended to go up the Elevador de Santa Justa, but when we saw the length of the queue we decided to walk instead. We enjoyed the views towards the castle in the evening sun, and had dinner in the restaurant on the floor just below.
Tuesday 5: We took a lift and walked the rest of the way up to the castle. Great views from there over the city. Had coffee at another viewpoint, then back to our hotel via the cathedral. Checked out and walked with our luggage to the Cais do Sodré railway station. The queue for the ticket office was impossible, but the queue for machines was almost as bad – it took us 30 minutes to get tickets for Cascais. There we checked into the hotel which was the starting-point for our walking holiday. It was an attractive old house, with a beautiful garden where free port was available in the evening.
Cascais is a seaside resort (‘Yarmouth with sun’ said Sandie) and there were plenty of people on the beach there. A path stretches for miles along the seafront; we walked one way to Estoril, and the other way to the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell), although the spouts of spray were not much in evidence while we were there.
Wednesday 6: We were to be collected at 11, which gave us time for another stroll around the town in the morning.
We were driven just a few miles, and then dropped while our luggage continued to our next destination. The notes for our walk had warned us that it was wise to take a fleece, and Jonathan explained that the temperature was likely to be 10 degrees cooler a few miles further on. Nevertheless, we were amazed to emerge from the car into a howling gale. We walked a mile or so along the cliffs, battling against the strongest wind we’d ever encountered. Cascais is in a sheltered bay, but now we had the open Atlantic on our left – no sunbathers here!
It was already past our usual time for morning coffee, but more than anything else we longed for shelter from the wind. After a while we came to some restaurants, but they were not yet open for lunch. Then a hotel, which looked incredibly posh, but we reasoned that it must be open (for resident guests) so we ventured inside. The receptionist called a suited underling who escorted us to the bar. We commented on the weather; she said it was ‘a bit windy, but not the worst’. We both made a mental note not to visit during the worst weather! We sipped our cappuccinos while sitting on luxurious sofas and watching the Atlantic rollers crashing against the shore.
Later we came to a beach which was surprisingly sheltered, so we had a snack lunch at a beach bar. Then we went inland – and encountered fierce winds again. We were quite glad to reach our destination, a former convent now a kind of hotel which caters mainly (though not exclusively) for walkers. Meals are served in what used to be the chapel; there is one long table, so you get to know your fellow guests. We met a couple on the same holiday as us, but they had started a day earlier, so they were able to tell us about the next day’s walk!
Thursday 7: The wind had dropped, and the weather was bright and sunny. We did a circular walk, or rather a figure of 8. There was a steep climb up to the Peninha chapel, a derelict and frankly ugly building, but the views were good.
Back at our accommodation, we checked emails and did not get good news. Ian did not get the job he tendered for last week, although he continued to work on the proposal for a major international evaluation project which ERA will be involved in, if successful. And we had worrying messages from our Florida friends about Hurricane Irma!
Friday 8: Problems with wifi this morning meant that we could not access emails about the proposal – and today was the deadline for submission. Phone calls were impossible as there was no mobile signal where we were staying!
At 10 we were driven to the Cabo da Roca – the most westerly point of continental Europe. It was very windy there, but nothing like as bad as on Wednesday. On leaving we did a detour up to a picturesque village, then down to a scenic beach: a very few sunbathers here, and we watched a few brave surfers. As we continued our walk along some sandy cliffs, Ian had a phone conversation about the proposal. Everything was under control, but I was strange to be discussing business in such a remote place!
Our new accommodation did not provide dinners, but the hosts will drive guests to any of the nearby restaurants. Along with six others, we went to the small café in the nearest village. It was packed, and there were two fado singers performing. Luckily the music was not as miserable as we remembered from our earlier visit to Lisbon! With good food, good wine (plenty of it) and good company, it was a very pleasant evening.
Claire and Ant collected the boys on Monday 21st August. Two days later we went to London for the day, just the two of us this time. We tend to have a ‘London day’ about once a month when we are in the UK. But this one was arranged at short notice, when we heard that Paul would be passing through on business.
Another London day
As usual, we caught the first ‘cheap’ train to London, and went to Leicester Square to get cut-price theatre tickets. The queue at tkts was longer than we’d seen for ages – we had to wait 45 minutes, but we did get the tickets we wanted. After a coffee and a quick visit to Stanfords, we walked to the Embankment and took the tube to Tower Hill. We then headed east along the Thames Path, stopping for a snack lunch en route. We’ve been doing bits and pieces of the Path for the third time, as and when we have the opportunity.
This stretch of the Path goes slightly inland, passing wharves and warehouses, as well as along the river. Although we had no rain, the day was very grey and gloomy – hence our photos are not great. And our time was limited, so soon after passing Canary Wharf we headed for the nearest DLR station, and returned to the West End. By now Leicester Square was packed, but we managed to find a pub with a few spare tables, and Paul joined us there. After drinks, dinner and chat, he took the train back north, and we went to the Haymarket Theatre. We saw Queen Anne, which was brilliant like all RSC productions, although we would have benefitted from knowing more about the historical context.
A sunny day
Charlie and Oscar were back on Thursday 24th, for just two days this time. The forecast for Friday was warm and sunny – and just for once, it was right! We decided to walk our favourite stretch of the Thames once again. So we got the bus to Henley, and the boys explored the playground there. Then we had coffee and headed east.
It was only two days since we’d been on the Thames Path, but the scenery on this stretch is very different from the East End of London. And the weather was completely different too, with hardly a cloud in sight. The boy enjoyed watching boats go through Hambledon Lock – at least we did not have to wait this time! We stopped for drinks at the Flower Pot, sitting in their large garden. Then it was on to Hurley Lock – more drinks and snacks – and finally Marlow. Another playground to visit, followed by dinner in the George and Dragon, and then the bus home.
The boys left us on Saturday 26th, but the warm weather continued through the Bank Holiday weekend. We decided to go to the Notting Hill Carnival on Monday, for the first time ever. We’d been to the Rio carnival, and Mardi Gras at New Orleans, yet we’d never been to one that is (relatively speaking) on our doorstep!
We spent some time trying to work out the best way to get there. As Notting Hill is west London, we thought we might be able to get there without going into central London and out again. Ian pored over bus and tube routes; he even found a way we could get there totally free (using our bus passes). The problem was, we couldn’t get home again – bus services tend to stop early on Sundays and Bank Holidays. So we had no alternative but to go into central London by train. Not cheap… but as the trains run late, it meant we had another opportunity of going to the theatre.
Arriving at Notting Hill earlier than expected, we saw plenty of individuals in carnival costume – lots of feathers, but little else! But there was no sign of any floats. We’d got a map from the Internet which showed the carnival route, but not where the parade started or ended. We asked two of the many police officers who were on duty, but were still confused. Finally, a third officer explained. There is no set time when all the floats set off in convoy – each group parades as and when they wish. More casual and chaotic than other carnivals we’ve been to.
The costumes were gorgeous, but the floats we saw were not much decorated – mainly lorries carrying some of the participants. There were some bands, and some groups danced, but it was not the highly organised dancing we’ve seen elsewhere. Indeed, some individual dancers paused in the midst of the ‘action’ to eat, drink, chat, or use their mobile phones.
As in Rio, many of the shops and cafés in surrounding streets were not just closed, but boarded up. There was certainly a lot of drinking, and incredible piles of rubbish later in the day, when the crowds became so large it was difficult to move. But we saw no sign of violence, although we read reports of arrests the next day.
In the evening we went the Dominion Theatre to see the new version of An American in Paris. The dancing was brilliant, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
After the excitements of the past week, we anticipated a quiet few days at home: just as well as we had a lot to do. Ian made a start on some analysis for one project, and wrote a brief proposal for another. We put the finishing touches to our book, and signed the contract for self-publishing. And we heard that the paperwork relating to the extension of our leases was at last ready to sign – good news which involved a day trip to Slough.
So on Friday we were off again. We had coffee with a friend, signed the new lease at our solicitor’s office, and walked along the High Street, marvelling at the number of major stores that had closed down very recently. After lunch we bought flowers and went up to the cemetery. Although the hot weather last weekend had not lasted (down to 12°C on Weds!) today was quite sunny and ideal for a walk. We walked along the canal (the Slough Arm of the Grand Union) to Langley, then up to Langley Park and down (by different footpaths) to the Red Lion where we had dinner. This was our regular Friday evening excursion when we lived in Langley, so it was a nostalgia trip as well as an enjoyable walk.
We really enjoyed visiting friends and family, but after a week spent mainly driving or sitting and chatting, we felt the need to stretch our legs. The weather on Friday 11th August was bright and sunny, so we had an early lunch and set off on a walk, which gradually morphed into our Friday night ‘pub crawl’.
We walked up through Keep Hill Wood, took the footbridge over the M40, and explored footpaths and country lanes that were new to us. In Little Marlow we found the King’s Head – a pub with a large garden, where we remembered having a drink on our silver wedding anniversary – but it had since closed. But just around the corner we found the Queen’s Head, and slaked our thirst there. We walked down to the river – by this time sadly the sun had disappeared – and along to Marlow, where we had a cup of tea/coffee in a café and something stronger in a pub we’d seen many times but never visited. Then up to the Harvester (on the southern edge of Wycombe) where we had dinner and took the bus home.
Since there was nothing interesting on at the cinema, we did another, shorter pub walk on Saturday. The following Tuesday we went to the Marlow Folk Dance Club’s annual dinner – good food and good company. And then it was time for another visit from our grandsons.
The boys are back!
Charlie and Oscar arrived on Wednesday morning. They were to stay with us until Monday evening, but the weather forecast for the next few days was not good (just for a change – when will we ever get anything that could be called summer here?). Still, we found plenty to do. We went bowling, swimming and to the children’s cinema, where we saw Diary of a wimpy kid – quite entertaining. When it was at least fine, the boys played on the green outside, with some friends they have made here. When it was raining, we played games indoors – chess, scrabble and other board games – and made a start on a 500-piece jigsaw, though we did not get very far.
According to the forecast, Saturday was to be the best day during the boys’ stay. We thought a boat trip might be a nice change, so we took the bus to Maidenhead and then a boat to Windsor. We know this stretch of the river well, but we had a different perspective from the water, and going through two locks was an interesting experience. We landed in Windsor at 12.35, and walked along the river bank to a picnic area, where we ate our lunch. Unfortunately, the weather did not live up to expectations – it stayed fine, but the sun often disappeared and there was a cold wind blowing much of the time.
We briefly explored Windsor and Eton, and then caught the boat going back. This time we sat inside, so at least we were warm. BUT there was a long queue to go through Boveney Lock, so we landed in Maidenhead almost an hour late, and had missed the last bus back to Wycombe. Thank heavens for taxis!
We’d tentatively scheduled an outing for Monday, since the weather was supposed to be reasonably decent then. But on Sunday morning it looked unexpectedly bright and sunny, so we decided we’d better go then instead. We took the bus to West Wycombe – not far at all, but we don’t often go there. First stop was the Hellfire Caves, which we’d visited once before, many years ago. Our vague memory was that they were not very exciting, but we thought the boys might be interested. The caves were dug out in the 18th century, when chalk was needed to build a road between West Wycombe and High Wycombe. They were later used by members of the Hellfire Club, hence the name. You walk down a passage looking in individual small caves where there are model figures illustrating the caves’ past history, and stories of ghosts. We were not terribly impressed, but the boys enjoyed it.
Emerging from the caves, we walked up the hill above them. We ate our lunch by the mausoleum and the boys had fun rolling down the hill. We then went round to St Lawrence’s Church, and climbed the tower. You can no longer go up into the Golden Ball on top, but you do get to see it close up, and get great views over the surrounding countryside.
Next we went to West Wycombe Park, which strangely we’d never visited before, despite having lived in the area for many years. We explored the grounds, walking around the lake and detouring to see the various small temples scattered around. Towards the end of our walk, we came to the house; we did not go in, but discovered there were lots of people sitting on the grass listening to a brass band. We joined them – Sandie and Ian sitting on the grass, Charlie and Oscar perched in a tree behind us – and enjoyed the music until it was time to go and catch the bus home.