Category

UK Tour

Category

Shrugging off Sunday morning hebetude for a rare scrap of sunshine, we’ve headed up higher than the current average height of the water table to the not quite nose bleeding heights of Robin Hood’s Stride and the Nine Stones Close stone circle.  Any chance to escape flooded and boggy ground has proved futile, each step is a slog through cloying mud, a 50/50 chance of your boot coming off with involuntary slips that could easily be mistaken for an avant-garde dance craze.  Eventually we looked like a cross between tramps and mud splattered yokels, finally understanding why all those hardcore walkers (not the zombie kind) wear gators.

Nine Stones Close stone circle and Robin Hood's Stride
Nine Stones Close stone circle and Robin Hood’s Stride

Nelson’s amazing ability to sniff out ancient monuments and wee on them is unparalleled.  It’s as though he looked it up on google maps.  Today he’s dragged us past Robin Hood’s Stride through farmers fields suitable enough for the world bog snorkelling championship to be contested, eventually arriving at Nine Stones Close stone circle.  Immediately apparent to anyone who can count up to 10, you only see 4 stones.  I didn’t need to use the fingers on my other hand after all.  This bronze age monument had more stones in the past, at least 7, and they stand against the backdrop of Robin Hood’s Stride as the tallest stones in the Peak District, some up to 2 metres high.  The stones, according to local tradition, are also known as the Grey Ladies, so called because they are supposed to represent ladies who dance at midnight.

Finally trudging our way up the limestone way to the knee jarring Robin Hood’s Stride.  A tor of gritstone rocks and boulders with tower like stones at each end that give a commanding and pretty view of the countryside.  Legend has it that Robin Hood could stride between these two ends despite them being 15 metres apart.  These formations also give rise to its other name of Mock Beggar’s Mansion.  From a distance its easy to see why as they look like tower fortifications.  Nowadays it’s chock-a-block with walkers, hikers, scramblers and crag-hopping rock climbers.  There was a 4 year old kid free climbing his way up like he was auditioning for the role of Jack in the Giant Beanstalk.  Mind you, I don’t think his parents liked it, he was embarrassing all the hardcore climbers who had all the gear and no idea.

Next time we’ll come back in the summer when it’s not so muddy.  Nice walk and climb, sit on the rocks with a picnic and take in the view, lots of bronze and iron age enclosures, barrows and other formations to see from the stride.

Nothing screams murder like shopping near Christmas. So either through sheer idiocy or a blatant disregard for our sanity or the safety of others, we decided to visit Lincoln’s Christmas Market held in and near the grounds of the castle. I always find a Taser handy at this time of year for crowd control as its quite likely that by the end of the day I would want to murder someone, starting with Dick Turpin in charge at the park and ride who laughably thought that I would stump up 15 whole English pounds for the convenience. Nothing like encouraging people to support local business in these hard times eh? Instead, we took our chances parking in the centre of Lincoln. Easy peasy, £5 for 4 hours and no queue to get in.

Steep Hill in Lincoln
Steep Hill in Lincoln

 

So off we march up the famous Roman road, Steep Hill of Lincoln. Aptly named as all those puffing red faces will testify to as they clamour to grab the handrail. Feel free to quench your thirst on the way up or taste some traders nuts as they roast them on an open fire. There’s plenty of them about. There’s also 1 billion people jostling for position seemingly coming at you from the opposite direction, like a salmon swimming upstream, you hope that at least one of your party makes it. Judging by peoples faces its either very hot in December or very hard work.

The streets around Lincoln's Christmas market
The streets around Lincoln’s Christmas market

Finally reaching the top, Lincoln Cathedral dominates with its shadow casting down. Nothing like a massive and mighty medieval building to subjugate your peasant population. Passing the castle’s main gate and shuffling slowly beneath the murder holes, you get the foreboding feeling that the traders are about to make a killing. As though wallets and purses mysteriously open where money magically disappears (its that magical time of year remember). The only defence to this is to forget to go to the cash point in the first place – like us, or be robbed for the park and ride. Now inside and at the mercy of the traders at which point you notice the castle walls are clad in scaffolding. I’m sure it’ll look nice when its finished, its only been a thousand years in construction.

Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral

Sights, sounds and smells bombard you with pretty looking stalls and a barrage of bratwurst and beer tents to bemuse you. Of course, the traders located inside the grounds of the castle have misinterpreted prices, converting the euro symbol straight to a sterling symbol or they’ve added an extra 0 at the end. Your wallet finally assaulted as much as your senses. No wonder the queue to exit the castle grounds was enormous, the traders outside the castle walls significantly cheaper than the Santa hat your purchased inside. The only place to escape the madness is inside the Cathedral or a pub or your car back to home.  i have a sneaky suspicion that we may attend next year by train with cash in hand.

Inside Lincoln Cathedral
Inside Lincoln Cathedral

Links:

Lincoln Christmas Market

Nottingham Goose Fair 2013
Nottingham Goose Fair 2013

Well it might be over 700 years old with a layout as lawless as an open plan prison riot, (let’s not forget the funfair free-for-all fisticuffs of the Great Cheese Riot) but the Nottingham Goose Fair can still show a bit of fun despite its age. Only bubonic plague and world wars stop the fair from happening. The geese that were originally gathered for the fair may be in short supply, the thrills, shrills, smells, bellyaches and bag snatchers aren’t.

 

Cocks on Sticks
Cocks on Sticks

Mushy peas and mint sauce aplenty, the fair has what posh restaurateurs would call ‘street food.’ Food fried in front of you from four comers of the globe with more sugary snack stalls than you can count. Brandy snaps, candy floss, toffee apples and only at the Nottingham Goose Fair can you get (schoolboy snigger) cocks on sticks. As you can see from the photo on the left, boys were lining up for it. A cock on a stick that is (snigger).

Photos from our holiday on The Lizard in Cornwall including Lizard Point, Mullion, Sennen, Goonhilly, Maen Cliff, St Michael’s Mount, St Ives, Land’s End, Zennor, Mousehole, Penzance, Coverack, Porthleven. It’s got cream teas, clear beaches, Cornish pasties and copious amounts of rain. It took some convincing, but we’ve finally camped it up in a caravan in Cornwall on The Lizard. A static caravan at that, just so you know we’re not bloody gypo’s. Fed up of camping and treated like second class citizens that campers often are, we decided to get classy. I say classy, I mean I want to sit somewhere dry with the TV on for when it inevitably chucks it down with rain when we’re on holiday. Still something pretty unnerving about having a toilet in a cupboard though. Better than dashing for dock leaves I suppose.

Based on the Lizard in Cornwall near the not so watchful gaze of Goonhilly Downs Satellite Earth Station (still no sign of the Vogons), we are ideally placed to explore Britain’s most southerly point from The Lizard peninsula to Land’s End. These people actually believe there isn’t any land after here even though they operate flights to the Scilly Island nearby. Probably believe in a Flat Earth as well. If only they’d look round the corner they might have seen St Michaels Mount. That’s difficult though when you’ve got rain and seawater stinging your eyes and winds Uranus could be proud of.

Still, when its clear its lovely and unlike Devon, it’s generally void of the usual kind of tourist trap tat that confirms the demise of humanity.  The exception is Land’s End which does its best to trap tourists.  You’de do best to avoid it, you’re better visiting the village of Sennen up the road), far prettier and atmospheric.

Sam decided we would have a romantic picnic at Land’s End. Attempting to eat a sandwich while being battered in 300 mph winds with enough sand whipped up to strip the flesh off your face and see the bread erode in your hand is very over rated.

Imagine coming all this way to end up at Zennor, where fellow Eastwood resident DH Lawrence stayed at the Tinners Arms with his German wife Frieda von Richthofen, a distant cousin of Manfred van Richthofen, The Red Baron.  Mind you, we felt more welcome that they did, but then again we weren’t suspected of being German spies.   A cracking pub and lovely countryside as is most of what we saw in Cornwall and The Lizard.

I’d move here but couldn’t ever imagine being able to afford to, the price of some of the holiday cottages alone is frightening, in some of the more remote parts like Mullion, many are empty, presumably because they are too expensive for people to afford.  Something fascinating about the power of the sea, at Mullion especially, there seems to be an awful lot of sea. Cornwall is worth coming back for.

It’s the annual 10th DH Lawrence festival, a set of events in and around DH Lawrence’s birthplace of Eastwood to celebrate the sights and sounds of the local area. This is also the 100th year anniversary of the publication of Sons and Lovers, his third and semi-autobiographical novel. Surprisingly to some, I am semi cultured and I’ve actually read this, often considered to be on the top 100 books of all time. So with this in mind, we visit the Steam Heritage Day at Bestwood Winding Engine House. Looks like I’ve finally turned into my dad, I’m pretty sure nobody under 40 would consider attending such an event.

Engine Lane Mural at Eastwood
Engine Lane Mural at Eastwood

I’m trying to enjoy local heritage, I really am, but Christ it can be bloody grim, well Bestwood is anyway. Complete with a brass band blowing hot air. It’s as if that brass band only exists to intensify the experience of the grimness. Dour lot these Victorians, marvelling in their mechanical masterpiece, engines spewing out steam and smoke everywhere. Miniature steam engines trundling along piggybacking people around the place like medieval mobility scooters. The day finishes with a community choir at Colliers Wood, formerly Moorgreen Colliery and renamed as Minton Pit in DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. More to follow after our holiday. In-between time, I’m busy perfecting my regional accent in-between time to fit in wi’ locals (see what I did there?).

Bestwood Winding Engine House Steam Heritage Day 2013
Bestwood Winding Engine House Steam Heritage Day 2013

Living midway between two large East Midlands towns, I can count on one hand the times I’ve been to Derby. It doesn’t sound like the most appealing place, yet another homogenised high street but full of Derby County supporters with an alarming affection for sheep.

Viking sword from Repton at Derby museum
Viking sword from Repton at Derby museum

But I thought it may worth a look, after all, the Great Heathen Army (not Derby County fans this time – even if they are the great unwashed), that band of Vikings, decided to stop in nearby Repton for Winter in 873 AD. Turns out that some of them stayed far longer, 249 were found in a mass grave at Repton Church. Derby can do that to people.

Several graves were found, one, the Repton Viking Warrior, was 6 foot tall, aged 35-40 and killed in battle, he may quite possibly be Ivar The Boneless.  Buried with his sword and other items after dying from spear wounds on his skull and a massive cut to his upper thigh which may have removed his genitals.  Buried with things he needs for the afterlife, including his sword, jewels and a necklace with Thor’s Hammer.  Also in the grave was a boar’s tusk placed between his legs, a substitute for his penis to make his body complete for his trip to the viking afterlife in Valhalla.

Thor's Hammer and bead necklace from the Repton Viking Warrior's grave
Thor’s Hammer and bead necklace from the Repton Viking Warrior’s grave

He’s also had a facial reconstruction. You can find out more about this reconstruction and the Repton Viking’s by watching the BBC documentary ‘Blood Of The Vikings’ on YouTube. Granted, I now know more about swords and other stabbing weapons than is probably healthy for a man. Among the other items at Derby museum: a gold noble coin from Codnor Castle found when Time Team filmed there, The Repton Stone, flint arrowheads and tools dating back 300,000 – 40,00 years old, Egyptian mummies and the bronze age Hanson log boat. All to see for free.

Links:

Derby Museum

Great Heathen Army

Dovedale from Thorpe Cloud
Dovedale from Thorpe Cloud

Although its on our doorstep, there’s nowhere as remote as Derbyshire for a daytrip. Though its not as remote as to remove the dragnet of surveillance but enough to give the Sat-Nav a bit of tizz trying to find Dovedale and Thorpe Cloud. We’ve been extreme dog walking, or in Nelson’s case, extreme human dragging, up that huge hill called Thorpe Cloud. It was difficult enough getting Nelson onto the stepping stones. As predicted, he took a short splash in the Dovedale river. So off we climb with trembling knees and thighs of fire to the top. Sam celebrates at the summit with a sandwich, scotch egg, a swig of pop and smashes the camera after collapsing from exhaustion.

Hemlock Stone
Hemlock Stone

The idyllic English countryside, gentle rolling hills, lush green grass, a great British picnic of heavenly delights with serene and peaceful retreat. In reality, a pre-packaged sandwich and bag of crisps from the Spar shop, lying on the dog blanket from the boot of the car while it chucks it down and dog tries to nick your food. But at least its got a view, the Hemlock stone at Stapleford Hill. I don’t quite believe the myth it was thrown there by a giant or that the devil tried to throw this big rock at Lenton priory but missed. Quite what the Druids and Celts got up to there is their own business. More likely this was caused by the erosion of sandstone. It is also featured in DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers where Paul Morel organises a walk.

Trip to York and the Battlefield of Towton.

A long weekend but no lazy days for us. Time to pound the pavement with a visit to the wild barren northern frontier, or York as most call it. Rampaging Romans, bearded Vikings, Norman knights, conquest castles, whippets, flat caps, York has it all. Even got their own gallows at Tyburn on the Knavesmire. Just the place to hang Scottish rebels, horse thieves (Dick Turpin) and other rapscallions. So with shield-maiden Sam in tow, we trudge around York’s tourist traps. Just hope the locals have already had their fill of pillaging, plunder and bloodletting.

Firstly, lets talk about York Minster, that famous house of God but with some unholy prices. Suffice to say we didn’t stick around. You’ll find many places in York where you wont stick around, not because of Viking warlords or rampaging Romans but pretty ridiculous prices putting you off. This includes the dungeon, minster, castle, museum, all as guilty as Dick Turpin, but at least he wore a mask when he robbed people. Perhaps the heads of these attractions should be exposed on the city walls at Micklegate Bar. Nice to see they’ve removed the heads that were put up there in the past, it might have put visitors off.

So we trundle along to Coppergate and the Jorvik museum. Step inside to see a reconstructed excavation of exposed 1000 year old timbers and other artefacts below your feet. Dirty lot these Vikings. Then onto the ride for the reconstruction of a smelly street of the age complete with realistic creepy life-like animatronic waxworks. Its a bit like Westworld without Yul Brynner running wild. Now you’ve got a chance to view some skeletons, one male and one female from the Coppergate dig. There are also skeletal remains with battle wounds to see how viciously men can slay each other. Yes its short, sweet and not cheap but at least you get a years entry with your ticket.

As if to emphasise the point about slaying each other with sharp swords and stuff, on the way to York we pass the battlefield of Towton. On Palm Sunday in 1461, during Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster, the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil resulted in the reported deaths of 28,000 men. Any romantic visions of the Wars of the Roses should be dismissed as men fleeing over the fields at Cock Beck and Bloody Meadow were slaughtered in the rout. If you’ve got any doubts about the lack of chivalric niceties, check out the BBC documentary Secrets of The Dead – Blood Red Roses (easily found on YouTube) that shows you the coup de grâce delivered to some unlucky victims. Brutal.

Links:

Jorvik Viking Museum

You Tube – Secrets of the Dead, Blood Red Roses, Towton 1461

 Towton Battlefield Society

For my birthday treat, I have dragged Sam to Nottingham Castle and Mortimer’s Hole. Well, it used to be a castle, its now a ducal mansion, although fragments remain of the old castle. I suppose that’s what you get for being the place where the English Civil War started. Charles I raised his royal standard near here on August 22 1642. Of course, the castle may also be known for its clashes with Robin Hood and The Sheriff of Nottingham. The present day ducal mansion now has a museum and art gallery and the regimental museum of the Sherwood Foresters. Very nicely presented.

Then there’s Mortimer’s Hole. A 98 metre tunnel, a secret passage, from the foot of the castle rock to the upper bailey in the castle grounds. Reputedly the place where King Edward III stormed through up to the castle to seize Roger Mortimer, the lover of King Edward’s mother Queen Isabella, where he was later hanged at Tyburn. Roger and Isabella were widely believed to have arranged the murder of Edward II. Medieval propaganda would have us believe he was killed by having a red hot poker shoved up his bum. Must have stung a bit. More likely he would have had a sword stuck through him. That must also have stung a bit.

OK, so this may be my county town but it does have some historical significance and things to see. In 1067, William he Conqueror built the first castle here. In 1194 Richard The Lionheart (who only spent 6 years in this country) returned from the crusades to reclaim the castle from his brother Prince John, during the Robin Hood era. In 1330, King Edward the 3rd captured Roger Mortimer, the lover of Edward’s mother Isabella, for assuming royal powers and disposing of Edward’s father, Edward the 2nd, by supposedly shoving a red hot poker up his jacksie. He was hanged at Tyburn. No fair pity on gentle Mortimer their then. In 1485, Richard the 3rd rode off to Bosworth to be the last King of England killed in battle. King Charles I raised his royal standard here (on Standard Hill) marking the start of the Civil War in 1642. It all happens round here you know…

Nottingham Castle is always a good starting point, has commanding views of the south of Nottingham showing Trent Bridge Cricket ground, Nottingham Forest and Notts County football grounds as well as the setting for various films and novels including Alan Silitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Robin Hood, Mortimer’s Hole, the caves, the oldest pubs…..

Nottingham’s most famous resident, Robin Hood.

Leeds Royal Armouries – They’ve got knives, knights, sharp sticks, boomsticks, falchions, flintlocks, helmets, habergeons, mail and men-at-arms. Or as the Royal Armouries at Leeds say themselves, examples of arms, armour and artillery. The Hall of Steel displays 2500 pieces of mainly 17th century armour including steel breast plates, pikes and poleaxes to 19th century military equipment.

Horned Helmet, a gift to Henry VIII from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillan 1 in 1514. This, as part of a suit of armour, was purely ceremonial, it never saw battle.
Horned Helmet, a gift to Henry VIII from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillan 1 in 1514. This, as part of a suit of armour, was purely ceremonial, it never saw battle.

Do you remember from school history that our Henry VIII was more of a lover than a fighter, chicken drumstick in one hand, the other up his next wife’s skirt? Well, his striking Horned Helmet is here, a gift to Henry VIII from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian in 1514. This, as part of a suit of armour, was purely ceremonial, it never saw battle.

Henry VIII's foot combat armour which was originally to be worn at the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament in 1520, but a change of rules meant this was never used. However, it did come in handy for the space program when NASA examined this all enclosing armour when they were developing spacesuits.
Henry VIII’s foot combat armour which was originally to be worn at the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament in 1520, but a change of rules meant this was never used. However, it did come in handy for the space program when NASA examined this all enclosing armour when they were developing spacesuits.

Step into the War Gallery and you are immediately confronted by a stunning one piece Corinthian (Greek) bronze helmet from 650 BC. A Roman Gladius, a short stabbing sword for a Roman foot soldier, Viking axes that may be a little rusty but still have a very sharp edge. No wonder people rather paid tribute with Danegeld. The Early Middle Ages, or The Dark Ages, were certainly gruesome for those on the receiving end of the axe.

Now we’re looking at medieval warfare and the Middle Ages, things are starting to improve for protection, chain mail and padded haubergeon for us serfs and for well to do knights and men-at arms, plate armour (Gothic style armour on the image to the left). If you’re fighting at Agincourt or in the Hundred Years war, it best pays to be equipped when you’re in the midst of action. Even horses could get armour. Didn’t see any longbows, but you could see arrowheads and bodkins designed to penetrate armour and mail. The sheer range of edged swords and blunt weapons is staggering, Rondel daggers, bastard swords, hand-and-half swords, war hammer’s and mace’s.

Turns out that spacesuits and armour have a common connection. In the Tournament Gallery is Henry VIII’s foot combat armour which was originally to be worn at the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament in 1520, but a change of rules meant this was never used. However, it did come in handy for the space program when NASA examined this all enclosing armour when they were developing space suits and looking to help provide solutions in astronauts mobility. Never seen a cod piece on a spacesuit like that though. Nice to see all those centuries of warfare finally came in handy for something good.

Links:

Royal Armouries at Leeds

Photos from the National Space Centre in Leicester. We’ve been twice now to the National Space Centre, once when it first opened and more recently in June 2013.  First the bad bits. This might take some time. Forget any thought of it being a cheap day out, talk about a captured audience, you have to stump up for parking and then the admission charge of £13 per adult. The galling thing is that there isn’t that much to see and far too many exhibits were “temporarily not working.” Also one million kids are present at any one time, usually screaming. Anyway, near the entrance is The Pioneer statue showing astronaut Ed White performing the first American spacewalk during the Gemini 4 mission. Ed White later died in a cabin fire during a launch pad test for Apollo 1 at Cape Canaveral.

Inside, the main attractions include a Zvezda (Russian Space Agency) Soyuz Spacecraft, in the 42 metre rocket tower is one of 15 British designed Blue Streak rockets and a US made Thor Able rocket, a moon rock from the Apollo 17 mission and a Russian Orlan DMA EVA spacesuit. Despite these exhibits, there isn’t really that much there. We managed to kick the arse out of it for 2 hours. Granted it’s aimed at kids but I can’t see anything that would inspire people. Feels like a missed opportunity in all honesty.

 

Lumsdale Valley
Lumsdale Valley

Another trip into the deep dark hilly badlands of Derbyshire, this time to a hidden little gem called Lumsdale Valley. A wooded gorge of crumbled stone ruins from industrial remains, waterwheels, ponds and waterfalls. Tucked away above high above Matlock, under the shadow of Riber Castle and near Tansley, the site is owned by the Arkwright Society and open to the public. Its a lesser known site of a bygone age kept in frozen romantic decay.

 

Lumsdale Valley waterfall
Lumsdale Valley waterfall

You get the feeling that this place is meant to be hidden and not broadcast to the world for a throng of visitors. No signage, no indication, no cosy tea shops. Park yourself at the Highfields School and follow the footpath to the stone wall down towards the Bentley Brook and the lower dam. Now it becomes a natural path to explore the deep wheelhouses, old buildings and waterfalls from the power of the rushing water.

Clipstone Headstocks
Clipstone Headstocks

On this weeks extreme dog walk, a trip to my first home village of Clipstone or more precisely Clipstone Colliery, itself now part of Vicar Water Country Park. It’s fair to say I’ve spent many times gazing over at the pit heap at Cook family clan gatherings in Granddad’s house opposite the pit, wondering what the view would be like from the top of the spoil tip. Now I’ve had a chance, you know what there is to see? Europe’s tallest headstocks still dominating. There’s currently some debate as whether to keep them or not. I’m as yet undecided. Not sure if they are an industrial eyesore of a bygone era or an important heritage to preserve. While they maybe the 3rd largest headstocks in the world and Grade 2 listed structures, it might be time to wave goodbye to the golden hand that once fed a village.

The North East Yorkshire coast, Whitby, Scarborough, Filey, Bridlington.  Ah yes, that time of year, to get away from it all, leave the rat race behind, enjoy summer, supposedly summer anyway, and the annual pilgrimage out of the county to visit exotic locations, enjoy a real outdoor experience appreciating nature’s finest.  Exotic as in basing ourselves near Scarborough, outdoor as in camping and nature as in wild weather.  In other words, we went camping, relegated to the muddiest waterlogged field, like a leper colony as most tent campers are treated on camping and caravan sites, given sea views which we err…couldn’t see because of the weather, to act as windshield for the already protected caravans on the perfectly manicured pitches below us.  We did phone up the place prior to make sure they hadn’t been washed away by floods.

It’s a pity that the entire concentration of rain in North East Yorkshire focused its attention and attempted to punch fist sized drops of rain consistently through our canvas shelter and follow us around.  One can only assume that the Viking raiders who settled here thought the weather was far better here from whence they came.  I will also assume they didn’t have flat caps and whippets.  I will assume that’s why everything was shut despite being high season (Vikings and/or weather).

Now Scarborough is supposed to be the oldest resort in the country, parts of it at times look like it.  Even the Timelords were hit by austerity as you can see from the TARDIS they abandoned at the seafront.  Couldn’t even afford to give it a lick of paint before they left it.  To be fair, Bridlington, Scarborough and Filey do have nice beaches though that Nelson enjoyed bounding along on.  Even ventured to get his paws wet a couple of times, alerting us to a stranded fish in the rocks at Thornwick caves, Flamborough.  A couple of squeals later, mainly from me, and fishy was chucked back in the North Sea doing fish things.  This makes us heroes.  Hopefully it didn’t die from brain damage of being smashed against the rocks or being chucked back into the ocean.  Couldn’t bring myself to order fish and chips that day despite it being my 41st birthday, I’d have felt guilty.

It’s a shame they didn’t let dog in lots of places up there.  Our dog, Nelson, is better behaved and cleaner than some of the middle class Jemima and Jeremys terrorising the tourist traps.  Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay do get a thumbs up for allowing dogs in pubs.  Good job really considering the ridiculously steep roads in Robin Hood’s Bay and the heart stopping prices of fish chips on the seafront at Whitby at £13 for two of us.  Needed a drink to recover, obviously in one of the dog friendly pubs which wasn’t where we were camping. At times, due to the weather, I believe the term used is ‘bracing,’ we were forced to retire to the airbed.   Spooned by the dog who craftily could not be budged using his evolutionary equipped advantage of sandpaper like grip on his pads that prevented him from being moved, the same evolutionary advantage that makes him the right height to head butt me in the balls when I walk in.  Still a holiday is a holiday even if you go mad from inhaling seawater and is the wettest summer on record.  Time to choose the next destination.  Looking forward to it, rain or shine.

Nine Ladies Stone Circle
Nine Ladies Stone Circle

Stanton Moor overlooks the Derwent and Wye valley, lying 300 metres above sea level, has been used for thousands of years. In the Bronze age four thousand years ago, people settled here using this place for farming, funerals, ceremonies and other activities. Nowadays its filled dog walkers and hikers seeking a peaceful retreat from the crowds, to view bronze age relics, barrows, cairns and stone circles of which the most well-known and visible is the Nine Ladies Stone Circle which lies at the centre of Stanton Moor.

A 4000 year old stone circle of low grit stone blocks less than 1 metre high.  Legend has it that nine ladies were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath and that the King Stone was a fiddler.  The King Stone is isolated outside the circle 40 metres away, for which purpose we do not know.  All people do on it now is sit on it.

Links:

Nine Ladies Stone Circle at English Heritage

A London city break, tea with the queen, expensive hotels, Big Ben, the tube, pearly kings and queens, jellied eels and cockney wankers.  The cockney wanker in question was in fact some tosspot in a pub just off Trafalgar Square banging on about being nicked 23 days after his 7 year stretch  for robbing the Royal Mail.  Twat.  Aside from that, at least the hotel was in a nice convenient location (Kensington High Street).  Plenty to see on a slow walk down on a London city break.  Walked down past the Iranian Embassy, last time I saw this place it had even more police than it did now.  The next day it was guns blazing as the SAS smashed in through the windows.  Nice to see they’ve given it a lick of paint since.

Not quite tea with the Queen either, but did pop in for a quick photo call. Contrary to Sam’s insistence, Queen Lizzie wasn’t hanging out one of her many bedroom windows hollering down to someone below asking them to nip to the shop for 20 Bensons and a Cadbury’s flake. Whilst on our London city break, we popped down to Downing Street but it looks like the Prime Minister has put up a few security measures since. He doesn’t like my views on fox hunting scumbags. No wonder the Queen wouldn’t see us either. Again, we decided to take on another hop on hop off open top bus tour. On the coldest day of the year.  It was city break that nearly broke us.

No London city break is complete without visiting any number of the surprisingly free entry to museums. Being sophisticated and the need to thaw out we decided to whittle away a few hours in the National Gallery. Now I’m not normally one to make a judgement about someone’s paintings especially considering mine may look they were completed by an ape with a brush, but this was my first chance to see Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ paintings and that one with the chair. To be fair, the best way to describe these is that they are quite frankly shit. It is of no surprise to me that he only sold one painting within his own lifetime. Considering the quality, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was his mum who bought it out of sympathy. Staggering to think that someone paid £25 million quid for this in 1987 (£40m in adjusted prices).

Monet and his lilies didn’t do much for me either. The impression (get it?) they left on me was really rather quite amateurish. Especially when you compare them to other works in the gallery. Botticelli’s ‘Venus and Mars’, Michelangelo’s ‘The Entombment’, Caravaggio’s ‘The Supper at Emmaus’, Rembrandt’s ‘Self Portrait at the Age of 34’, Velázquez’s ‘The Rokeby Venus’ and of course Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’. In fact the only other disappointing thing about the National Gallery was that I didn’t get to see Fiona Bruce talking about paintings (even better when she wears that yellow dress speaking Italian). Although there was some other filming going off.

A little trip to Stratford upon Avon and Warwick Castle.  In true rip off Britain fashion, this pretty chocolate box place also knows how to charge (even the campsite).  Want to visit William Shakespeare’s birthplace?  You can’t miss it, it’s in the middle of town, trouble is the buggers will want to rob you £12.50 for getting in.  Only slightly less each for Anne Hathaway’s cottage and Mary Arden’s working farm.

Pop along to Warwick Castle, you’ll be handing over a king’s ransom, quite apt really.  While the castle is quite enjoyable, it can be best described as a mini theme park i.e. pricey.  Don’t believe any price you see advertised while you’re there, it’s always the kids ticket price not including VAT.  You don’t get any extras for that entry price, everything else is extra.  Also seems wherever you exit from a room in the castle, it always leads to a gift shop.  If you are thirsty, have a can of coke at £1.80.  Want to exit the car park at the castle?  That’s another £5 you need to cough up.  Not that you have a choice of parking anywhere else.  Who said ransom fell out of favour with the middle ages, no wonder there are men walking about in plate armour and big swords.

Links:

Warwick Castle

A holiday in Devon to Torbay taking in Torquay, Paignton, Babbacombe.  Strange weather, had its own little micro climate going off, this is supposed to be the English Riviera.  Steep steps down the cliff at Babbacombe, but they were kind enough to let us on the cliff railway back up with our blind dog Lucky.

 

Pictures form a short camping trip to Weymouth and Portland September 2009.  Famous for its World Heritage Coastline known as the Jurassic coast with its fossil remains.  Stopping at a fantastic site with dog friendly owners and our tent on the edge of the Fleet Lagoon Nature Reserve, its a great place to relax and unwind. Weymouth is a stone’s throw away, and there are plenty of stones on Chesil Beach. Portland blows a mighty wind.

%d bloggers like this: