Heading north

A few days ago the sun shone. Dizzy with excitement we climbed into the car and set off over Mynydd Llangattock on a shopping trip. I know, it’s disappointing…we should have been out rambling the hills. But the weather’s still bitterly cold (especially a few hundred feet above sea level) and frequently there’s stuff falling from the sky. We stopped in a layby at the top and when I got out to take some photos I was almost blown off my feet.april 2016 36The view north from the top of Mynydd Llangattock

april 2016 32Mother and very young baby at the side of the road

Once we’d entertained ourselves for half an hour in the DIY superstore and I’d bought yet another sample pot of paint for the dining room walls, we set off on the return journey across the mountain. On the way back we drove down through the hamlet of Ffawyddog, not the route we usually take but we though we’d treat ourselves. april 2016 30

april 2016 29 The descent into Ffawyddog, with the Sugar Loaf (Pen y Fal) in the distance

april 2016 24Pheasants are not the most intelligent of creatures and they do startle easily but at least this one took to the air instead of trying to outrun the car!

We were reluctant to go back indoors and decided to make the most of the gaps between showers of rain/sleet/hail and snow to tackle some jobs in the garden. Michael took down the rotary line and put up a proper old-fashioned washing-line (otherwise known as somewhere else to hang bunting). My (extremely important) task was to provide the scarecrow with a new outfit – clearly he deserves publicity of his own, so here he is.

2016-05-15 09.17.41.jpg

I hope you notice he’s wearing his Monmouth cap, like all good bowmen from this area did in the middle ages (alright, it’s a Trilby with the brim trimmed but it looks the part).

The following day the sun was shining even more and so we were tempted outside again. Michael applied himself to planting out sweet peas and various vegetables, and organizing some strawberries for the summer. And just look at that blue sky!

april-2016-18

My other half has also been exercised trying to keep birds off the newly seeded patch of the lawn. I think he’s fighting a losing battle – these two look pretty determined to me.2016-04-10 16.54.53

 

Grass seed thieves excepted, Michael is very keen on our feathered friends, and has built several food platforms for them to visit (which unfortunately means that there’s a plastic bag full of desiccated worms in the utility room). The birds are very entertaining, particularly when they perch on the window frame and tap at the glass with their beaks. We’re not sure if they can see their reflection or if they want us to change the television channel.

2016-5-robinA robin stopping by for a snack

Birds, of course, mean birdsong. I’m no expert but I do know a blackbird when I hear the sound of one – because it’s exactly the tune of ‘I’m a Barbie girl‘. Someone told me recently that blackbirds are great mimics and that if you whistle a tune they’ll chirp it back to you. Which leads me with infallible logic to the conclusion that whilst I’m at my weekly Welsh class in Brecon Michael is wandering around the garden whistling dodgy 80s hits. Unfortunately not all the birds are so melodious: the owl family (baby included) that is nesting in a large tree outside our bedroom insist on hooting and squeaking their way through the night; the crows and jackdaws regale us with the most awful cawing, though thankfully only during the daytime. They’re a nuisance in other ways though. Recently one of them found its way down the chimney of the house next door, resulting in a terrified bird and a very sooty carpet.

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All this blue sky has turned our thoughts to holidays and trips away. A few months ago I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. Waiting until Michael was settled on the sofa with a cup of tea and his iPad I floated the suggestion quietly then waited to see if he’d heard me.

“Why don’t we drive around the coast of Britain?”

Nothing. Not even a sniff of a reaction, so I let it go… for then. A couple of days later, this time when he was able to pay attention:

“You remember I suggested that we drive around the coast?”

“Did you? Which coast?”

“The coast of Britain. I asked you about it the other day – you seemed to agree.”

“Did I?”

“Well you didn’t disagree. So I’ll get the road atlas out later and we’ll have a look. I think I’ll make a cake…what type do you fancy?”

Distraction is always a good thing.

The plan, such as it was, got off to a reasonably good start with three basic assumptions: that we’d be happy to drive for four or five hours a day in total; that we’d travel anti-clockwise around the country (widdershins is always the way to go if there’s a choice) and that we would avoid all motorways. Then I sat down with Googlemaps, the Collins Essential Road Atlas of Britain (Googlemaps and other devices are useful but I love maps and there’s no substitute for holding one on your lap in a car – it keeps your knees warm for one thing) and a large notebook, ready to do the groundwork and make lovely lists.

My initial plotting showed that a four hour drive from home would take us halfway along the North Devon coast and a probable overnight stay in Croyde. Day 2 would end around Penzance somewhere, Day 3 at Torpoint and so on. What I really wanted was to eke out interesting places along the way: historical sites such as Cotehele House or St Michael’s Mount; beautiful natural spots like Sennen Cove; the unique Minnack Theatre built into the cliffs at the furthest tip of the Cornish peninsula or Buckfast Abbey where the monks still make and sell fortified wine. And this is where the problems began – too many places to go and things to see!

It wouldn’t have been fair to make these decisions on my own and so with mugs of tea and slices of cake at the ready, I put the information beneath Mr B’s nose. We tried to be ruthless – a quick glance at a map showed that Cotehele and Buckfast Abbey are inland, so they would be shunned. Exeter was dismissed for being too time consuming … we had to draw the line somewhere. And although this was supposed to be a coastal route we would ignore the Jurassic Coast on the grounds that we’d been there in 2014.

lyme-regis-september-2014The beach at Lyme Regis

But then, whilst inspecting the route along the A31 we could see that we were going to pass temptingly close to Salisbury, less than 20 miles out of our way. We folded on that one and agreed that we’d visit Salisbury and of course, stay overnight. The following day Winchester would be firmly ignored (really? whispered a little voice in my head. How can you miss Winchester and the Great Hall?) in favour of catching the ferry from Southampton to the Isle of Wight, where we’d stay for two nights.

By now we were up to Day 7; we’d bypass Portsmouth (what – not see the Mary Rose?) so that we could get to Arundel Castle, conveniently located alongside the A27 and reach the essential stops of Pevensey Beach and Hastings before finding a bed for the night in Rye. Then Day 8 would give us plenty of time to explore Dover Castle…you can probably see a theme developing here. Then the decisions became more controversial…should we stick to the coast and the seaside towns of Ramsgate, Margate, Herne Bay and Whitstable…or should we do what I really wanted, spurn the coast and cross inland to Canterbury? As the itinerary progressed so it became more and more unwieldy until in the end I got really fed up and went and had a glass of wine.

I’d asked for suggestions from friends and facebook history groups that I belong to, hoping that there’d be some sort of consensus that would help shorten the list of must-sees and get us back on track. Fat chance! Too many very helpful people – thank you all – with personal favourites. Eventually  and somewhat sadly (well, I was sad – Michael was relieved) we came to the conclusion that the scheme was too ambitious. To do justice to everything  we wanted to see would take months and cost a fortune in hotel bills. So instead of the coastal tour of Britain we have decided to drive to Scotland.

Working this out has been almost as fraught because there are so many beautiful and fascinating spots. In the end we’ve kept it fairly simple and we’re first of all heading for Edinburgh. I’ll try to post something from each place we visit but I can’t guarantee it! It looks as though it’s going to be cold there as well so I’m preparing for it.

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The north wind doth blow

and we shall have snow…

…probably!

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