Friday, March 28, 2014

Wild March

This month, I have been enjoying the wild side of life......

Spring is early.
Colour in the garden. 
Tomato seedlings getting a breath of fresh air. 
Very cute lambs.

I've seen - 

Butterflies in the garden.
A rabbit hopping about on the patio.
3 roe deer springing across the field behind the bungalow.
2 red legged partridges poking about in my herb bed.
3 gold finches on the fence.  

But best of all - 

I shrieked when I saw a huge red kite hovering above us on the valley road.  Sarah tried to take a peep, whilst driving, and the Land-rover nearly ended up in the hedge.

Some wild animals need to conserve energy.

Our first crop of purple sprouting.

Big Dog likes having longer walks in the evening.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that it was high time I explored and found a new walk.  It was very 'Hound of the Baskervilles' when I started out.

I'm not scared, honest.

We walked through the village, Big Dog and I, to find a footpath which ran alongside the road.  I'm not easily spooked, but being in an unfamiliar field - I was a tiny bit worried that a bull might suddenly emerge from the fog......

Even Big Dog looked nervous

The fields were extremely wet still from the floods and smelt very sea-weedy.  I began to wonder what I was doing squelching through the fog in the eerie silence.  Once we found the village church, I knew I was on the right track though.

The 13th Century church.

We had a look at the clapper bridge nearby.  It consists of three large, limestone slabs and is probably 17th or 18th Century.

The clapper bridge

I stopped outside a mid 18th Century manor house to ask directions as the footpath went straight through the middle of the farm.  Luckily the owner was there to ask.  We eventually found ourselves in the next village and in completely new territory.

This church is also 13th Century.

I found a fork in the path and with a lot of head scratching and squinting at the map I decided to just go with my gut feelings.

We walked up what seemed like a never ending tree lined path.

The hill started to flatten out but I was so disappointed that there was still fog on the top!

Walking in to more swirling fog and wondering whether I took the right path!

All I could hear were lambs and birds.  Occasionally the mist would clear in a tiny pocket and I would have a tantalising peep at the amazing view down in to the valley and over to the hills that I have walked before on the other side.  The sun started to burn away the mist as we found the footpath back downhill.

Solid chalk footpath.

It was very exciting to be out in the middle of nowhere, although we were both flagging at this point.  A break was needed.  We dragged ourselves back past the manor house and along the road to a suitable spot where rooks cawed in their nests above us.

Big Dog had a well earned dip.

I found a very inviting tree to climb and rest my aching legs.

I ate my chewy bar whilst Big Dog acted as look out.

Luckily, no one around to see a mad, middle aged woman sat in a tree......

We slowly carried our weary bones home, along the sunny lane. 

My hay fever inducing nemesis returns, the rape seed.

The evil one.

 Back through the deserted farm buildings

Beautiful blossom by the Dovecote - nearly home.....!

3 hours and 7 miles later I collapsed on the sofa.

I think I have killed the dog!

Another (shorter!) walk with my mum.....

A very handsome house with a monkey puzzle tree in it's front garden

We admired the views of the Wiltshire countryside from the top of the hill.

My mum about to be teleported on to the bridge Captain.......

Broadleas House and gardens

We walked down Jacob's ladder to Drew's Pond, a beautiful nature reserve with a rather grisly history. 

Notice near Drew's Pond

There is a memorial in the local church to the victims that drowned.

The site of the hostelry.

Drew's Pond

Gateway to the asylum cemetery, where it is said that some dogs fear to tread.  The psychiatric hospital opened in 1851 and closed in 1995.

Bungalow bake off -

My swiss roll.

Sarah's wholemeal loaf.

I am so happy to see colour again.

I can't wait to go on some longer walks when the clocks change!  

There isn't a free window sill anywhere in the house as Sarah is planting seeds like her life depends on it - but I don't care.  Even Frank doesn't mind that he can't get on the window sill anymore.  He's found an even better place.......

Frank warming himself on the propagator.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Auld Reekie

Birthday weekend in Edinburgh.  

We hopped on the train with just a holdall each.  Mine was a lot heavier as usual and I nearly took several people out on the London underground with it.  

Wonderful views all the way - Durham Cathedral, Newcastle, Berwick upon Tweed.  We saw the Angel of the North, wind farms, windmills, cliffs, coast, ruins, lighthouses, yellow gorse.  Then further north, blue tinged fir trees, the odd Scottish manse, and the red brick being replaced by dark, stone buildings.  I can't believe I spent 7 hours on a train and didn't even open my book!

Towers, turrets and the one o'clock gun at the castle

Thursday -

We emerged up out of the railway station straight in to the hustle and bustle of Princes Street.  Our hotel was just across the road.

The Old Waverley Hotel

Sir Walter Scott's monument is the largest memorial in the world, dedicated to a writer.

The Scott monument

We found our favourite pub on the first night, just around the corner.  It had a beautiful ornate plaster ceiling, a square, dark, polished bar and large round lamps hanging from the ceiling.  We ate haggis, neeps and tatties, delicious washed down with some Scottish real ale.   We met a Glaswegian man called George who worked for the BBC, laying cables for outside broadcasts.

The Abbotsford -

Friday -

Opposite our hotel - Jenners department store, opened in 1838.  

Jenners department store

We explored Princes Street gardens on the way to the castle.  The gardens were formed in the hollow of a drained loch.

Princes Street gardens

Edinburgh castle is built on a 340 million year old volcano

Edinburgh Castle

This tiny little chapel in the castle is the oldest building in the city, built 1090.

St Margaret's Chapel

The castle origins date back to 900BC.  In 1566 Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI here.  I imagined her walking through the panelled rooms, her skirts swishing.  

Mary Queen of Scots

The Great Hall, opened 1511 with hammerbeam roof

We shuffled along with all the other tourists to see the Scottish crown jewels which are the oldest surviving regalia in Christendom and had a nose around the freezing cold dungeons.

Statue of Earl Haig

Up some steep steps (so many steps in Edinburgh!) from the Grassmarket is the Royal Mile.

Opposite this piper was what looked like a church but on closer inspection it turned out to be the home of the Edinburgh International Festival and a cafe called 'The Hub'.  The building was originally opened in 1845 and called Highland Tolbooth St John's Church but was never consecrated.

Great photo exhibition inside 

I forced Sarah to have lunch in the cafe even though she had had a cooked breakfast (every morning I might add) but I was starving and it looked right up my street.  Had delicious chickpea and sweet potato soup whilst listening to jazz.  Nice....

Cafe Hub -

Further down the Royal Mile we had a look around St Giles Cathedral whilst listening to the the organ.  We chatted to two lovely ladies in the shop, shook our heads and tutted about the awful floods down south.

St Giles Cathedral

The Royal Mile

After a trip to the huge (and free) Museum of Edinburgh we were absolutely pooped.  

Useless fact - Edinburgh is the only city to have a dog on the list of citizens given the freedom of the city - Greyfriar's Bobby.  We saw his collar and bowl in the museum.  

We visited The Guildford Arms that evening, stunning inside and obviously very popular.

The Guildford Arms -

Saturday - birthday.

Another cold, crisp, sunny day. Had porridge for breakfast, Sarah had haggis with her cooked breakfast - ugh, too early.  Had a lovely stroll up George Street with it's fantastic views towards the sea and all the inviting shops.  The Georgian buildings reminded me of Bath.

I am drawn to Cathedrals, I always have to have a look inside.  

St Mary's Cathedral - This cathedral is gothic in style but actually not that old.

It has a Father Willis organ, as does Salisbury Cathedral.

The very prestigious financial district of the new town.

Unfortunately, this park was not open to the public but I could admire the crocuses through the railings.

We had a desperately needed hot chocolate in a tiny cafe, down some steps below street level - great for people watching.

Wellington Coffee -

41 foot tall Melville monument - St Andrew Square

We stumbled across this light installation in St Andrew Square.  Little balls on long sticks that light up and change colour by using miles of glowing optic fibre.  We went back at night to see if it glowed.  It did.  I found out that the artist, Bruce Monro lives in Wiltshire and once had an installation in Salisbury Cathedral. Small world.

'Field of lights' by Bruce Munro

On to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the Queen's Scottish residence) past this very strange building.

The Scottish Parliament building designed by a Catalan architect

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

The palace was not what I expected.  It was so cosy and lived in.  There were old lamps, tapestries, tiny doorways leading to narrow winding staircases - the highlight of the whole weekend.  And to see Mary, Queen of Scots chamber - well!  We saw the Queen's dining table and where she sits - no cat paw prints, piles of unopened post and over ripe bananas on her table.

The ruins of Holyrood Abbey

The gardens

Salisbury Crags from the gardens

Hard to believe you are still in the city

I thought afternoon tea in the hotel would be nice on my birthday, whilst looking down at Princes Street.  At least it was the only disappointing thing all weekend.  Doorstep sarnies, heavy scones and we had to put our own teabag in a pot of hot water!  Shocking.

Jam in packets and crusts on the sandwiches?  Oh dear.

Still, we made up for it in the evening by visiting Deacon Brodie's.  Again, it was heaving but being a bit of a ninja, I quickly leapt for a table as soon as someone's bum started lifting off the seat.  So much beer though, so little time.  We tried 13 different real ales over the whole weekend, I hasten to add.  Unfortunately, I can't remember which one I liked best, they've all blurred in to one! 

I love some of the names of the beers -

Wild Cat
Happy Chappy
Highland Island Hopping
Bitter and Twisted

Deacon Brodies -

Sunday - Sarah's birthday

We took the train back a different way this time - along the western side of the country.  The Trans-Pennine Express gave even greater views.  The Pentland hills, Tinto hills, Lowther hills, Forest of Ae, Eskdalemuir Forest, Lockerbie and then Carlisle.  We saw brown/purple hills, snow on top of the mountains, fir trees, marshes, bogs, rushing rivers....  To have the Cumbrian mountains one side and The Pennines the other was a feast for my little eyeballs.

Two days was not nearly enough time in Edinburgh.  The people were so friendly and there is still so much we did not see, so I will definitely return.  Anyway, we haven't tried all the beers yet........