Monthly Archives: June 2014

Some wildlife of Britain

Wildlife is a particular passion for us and we actively seek out experiences which will (hopefully) bring us up close and personal with a range of local animals. I’m going to jump around, both chronologically and geographically to share with you some of the awesome wildlife encounters we have had.

I have a thing for puffins! They are comical looking birds with brightly coloured beaks, short wings and sad expressive eyes. When they fly they beat their wings extremely rapidly, resembling clockwork toys. They are very amusing to watch. Wherever we travelled where puffins were known to nest we made attempts to see them. We had an abortive trip in July 1984 to the remote island of Røst off the coast of northern Norway. When we arrived after a very long-boat trip, an immensely dense fog descended and it was not safe for the puffin tour boats to go out! Røst is very small and flat and positively reeks of drying fish, so we left.

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Day trips from Gloucester

The Royal Forest of Dean is a great day out from Gloucester.

It is an area of more than 110 square kilometres of mixed woodland and is one of the surviving ancient woodlands in England. A large area of The Forest of Dean was reserved for royal hunting before 1066.

We visited The Forest of Dean in winter – probably not the best time – but, despite the cold, misty weather, it was a beautiful place for a walk. The fog actually added an eerie atmosphere to the forest which just added to its character and beauty. We found the best place to play Poohsticks. So, of course, we did.

Forest of Dean: beautiful, even in winter.

Forest of Dean: beautiful, even in winter.

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“Pooh-sticks”                                                                

Taking a trip up to Abergavenny
Hoping the weather is fine
If you should see a red dog running free
Well, you know he’s mine
                        
                                                                                                                                    Marty Wilde

The lyrics to this song inspired my husband to take us on a trip … to Abergavenny, naturally. What a wonderful name for a place.

Sadly, I can’t remember a lot about Abergavenny. It is a market town and, true to form, we found ourselves in the midst of a cattle auction. Being city folk this was curiously intriguing. We could, however, tick it off our list of places to visit that had been inspired by a song. In 2012 we did the same in Winslow, Arizona – made famous by an Eagles song. Winslow was considerably less interesting than Abergavenny.

_15_0256This trip also took us into Wales via Ross-on-Wye and Hereford.

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Gloucestershire – more than The Cotswolds

Tourists are familiar with Gloucestershire because of the much touted beauty of the Cotswolds. The villages of the Cotswolds, with wonderful names such as Lower Slaughter and Stow-on-the-Wold, are indeed, very quaint and picturesque, but, unfortunately mass tourism has discovered them. Bourton-on-the-Water has become a frenzy of tour buses and gift shops, spoiling its tranquil beauty. It is still worth a visit, but in summer especially, when the days are long, wait until late afternoon when the buses leave and you can stroll the village in peace and quiet and really appreciate it. The gift shops might close, but really this only makes it better as you don’t need to waste your time perusing mass-produced knick-knacks.

Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water

Gloucestershire holds many other attractions though. Cheltenham is a spa town; not old, but established in 1716 when mineral springs were discovered. Attractive Georgian architecture and parks make it a very pleasant place to visit. See the fish clock in Regent Arcade in the city centre. As it strikes the hour bubbles float forth. The clock is, in itself, intriguing, but watching the reactions of small children to the bubbles is just as fun.

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Forbidden words and other pet peeves!

Some recent snippets in the newspaper recently started churning ideas around in my head so, despite the fact that this is essentially a travel blog, I had to collate these thoughts and create a miscellaneous category. Maybe this will spawn some ‘pet peeves’ of your own.

Not long after starting high school my son had to write a field report for a geography excursion where they had had to analyse some soil samples. He wrote: ” I got some dirt …” I rolled my eyes with exasperation and said: “You can’t write dirt!  You need to make the language more sophisticated. Think of another word for dirt.” And so ‘forbidden words’ were born. Words such as got, dirt, thing, nice and a swarm of others that elude me at the moment were banned. Throughout their high schooling both my children were strongly encouraged to come up with more creative alternatives.

On 29 May, there was a letter to the editor of  The Sydney Morning Herald bemoaning the use of the word ‘gotten’.

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Day trips from Stamford, England

The nearest substantial town to Stamford is Peterborough, which is actually in Cambridgeshire.  I had never heard of Peterborough but, since visiting, it has popped up in historical references on many occasions. It is really lovely to do the trip right at the front of the top of a double-decker bus as it winds through some truly picturesque villages.

Although you may have had your fill of cathedrals, Peterborough’s is worthy of a visit. It houses an excellent display explaining cathedral construction methods and the daily life of the monks who lived there. The monks of Peterborough made very important contributions to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Peterborough cathedral also houses the tomb of Katherine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife) and was the original burial site of Mary, Queen of Scots before her son had her reinterred at Westminster Abbey. There was something about this cathedral, with these tombs of such historical significance, which made me acutely aware that I was treading the same path as so many others throughout a long and eventful history.

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