2002 - Trip Journal
|Day 1 Thursday - Newton-Harcourt (Leicester): Arrived at Heathrow in the early morning and drove to our friends, Diane and Cyril's house in Newton-Harcourt. Spent the day visiting, going for a canal-side walk with Cindy (pictured left), and ending with a lovely dinner in, with all the trimmings, including "pudding" (generic in England for dessert) and a cheese course at the very end.
Day 2 Friday - Dovedale: An outing to Dovedale in the Peaks District National Park. We all took Cindy (Diane and Cyril's darling Bichon-Frisé) on a very nice, easy hike through a river canyon in the woods. This was the river the author of The Compleat Angler frequented. The scenery was idyllic, with great rocky outcroppings popping up now and then on the wooded canyon walls, and ducks paddling along in the gently flowing river. In the evening, we went out to dinner at a pub called the Yews, in Great Glen, the village next to Newton-Harcourt. As this pub is supposedly the "local" of Engelbert Humperdink who lives nearby, we brought home two souvenir placemats for a friend in our choir who is probably Engelbert's biggest fan. She was thrilled to get them. All in all it was a really nice day.
Day 3 Saturday - Foxton Locks: Another full, wonderful day, which started over a very lazy breakfast and a nice chat with Diane's brother and niece. After lunch we took a walk along the Foxton Locks - a series of locks close together that canal narrow boats have to maneuver through. It was fascinating to watch. Then, after accompanying Diane to her church in Oadby for Saturday evening Mass, we returned home to add some warm layers to our clothing and set off for a local men's choral concert in a nearby farmer's barn. It was a great concert, and during the intermission we had our very first Bacon Butty from the food vendor, along with John Smith's Ale. Both were excellent. We learned that a butty is anything on a buttered roll. The second half of the concert was even better than the first, ending with a rousing sing-along similar to the last night of the Proms. They even passed out British flags which we all waved, and lyric sheets for some of the songs, including Jerusalem and Rule Britannia. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Day 4 Sunday - Stratford-Upon-Avon: We got a fairly early start and headed out to Stratford-Upon-Avon for a day of sight seeing. We had planned to stop at Warwick Castle on the way and tour the gardens, but they had a "No Dogs" policy and we had the ever lovable Cindy with us. We didn't really mind (we're not really castle people), so we moved on to Stratford, where we found it wasn't a very dog-friendly place either. We walked around, saw the old buildings and lovely scenery, had lunch outside at the Pen and Parchment (one of the few places where dogs WERE allowed) and then went home. We had a nice supper, then sat down in the lounge and watched some British television before retiring. That's when the rain started.
|Day 5 Monday - Hawes: A driving day. We left Leicester under gray skies and headed for The North, stopping for lunch at a pub in Ripley. We had thought about doing some sightseeing in that area after lunch, but while we were in the pub, the rain started in earnest. The pub was full when we arrived so we asked a couple if we could share their table. They agreed and we had an enjoyable conversation with them. From there we went straight to Hawes in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, arriving around four in the afternoon. After a short walk to the village, we spent the rest of the day relaxing in our room, then had a wonderful three-course dinner plus cheese and coffee at our B&B, and took a short walk afterwards. It was changeable weather all day (sun - rain - sun) and very cold after dinner.
Hawes is a lovely old market town and has a beautiful falls that you can see from two bridges spanning the river. This is James Herriott country, and you can see signs of him all over, including the Herriott Hotel in Hawes and Mrs. Pumphrey's fudge shop in Leyburn. There is also the King's Arms pub in Askrigg which played the role of the local pub in the television series, and the house that was used to depict Skeldale House.
Day 6 Tuesday - Hawes and environs: We started the day by going to the market in Hawes, and buying a warmer jacket for me and a rain jacket for Les. It was lucky for us that Tuesday is market day in Hawes because we got a much better deal than we would have gotten in the shops. We then took off for a hike across the dales to Hardraw and Sedbusk, starting out on a section of the Pennine Way long-distance path.
We found it convenient to park in the "Pay and Display" lots, where you purchase a parking ticket at a coin-operated machine and display it on your windshield with the expiration time visible.
Some of these are "Long Stay" lots where you can get four hours for less than a pound - sometimes free, and others are "Short Stay" lots (usually closer to the town center) where you can get up to four hours, but for a little more money than the Long Stay. Some of these don't allow you to come back and get another ticket for a longer stay, and others do - be sure to read the rules.
We found these lots in all but the smallest of the villages we visited
|We stopped at the Green Dragon Inn in Hardraw for tea, just as it was beginning to rain. It stopped when we were finished so we hiked up to Hardraw Force - a tallish but narrow waterfall. On our way back from the waterfall it started raining lightly. We headed out to Sedbusk from there and about halfway across a field it started coming down in buckets. We took refuge in a small, stone hay barn until the worst was over. It was only a tiny place and we had to bend over if we tried to stand, but there were a couple of bundles of hay left over from the winter and we were able to sit on them and wait out the worst of the storm in relative cozy comfort. As soon as it let up a bit we continued on. By the time we got back to Hawes I was soaked through (my water resistant jacket was no match for the Dales rain) and we headed straight back to the market to buy ME a waterproof jacket, and both of us waterproof pants. We had sandwiches in the village, did a little shopping, then went back to our room for a hot shower followed by tea. We then went down to the lounge to relax before another wonderful dinner, and a brief walk into the village afterwards until it started raining again.|
Day 7 Wednesday - Swaledale: Another on-again, off-again rainy day, which we spent seeing villages and sights in the Dales. We started by driving over the Buttertubs Pass to Swaledale. We drove right past the Buttertubs formation (a deep, rutted depression on the side of the road) - it was so small we missed it.
|We continued on through Swaledale villages from Thirsk to Leyburn, stopping for lunch in Leyburn. As soon as we got out of the car, of course, the rain started. We found a pub and had lunch, chatting with some other holiday makers also having their lunch. Then we did a little shopping and were on our way.
We took a wrong turn (my fault) and ended up on a small, one-lane road that went from bad to worse, with frightening turns - always wondering if someone was going to be heading right at us around the next bend. We finally got back to the main road and made our way to Aysgarth, to see the waterfalls.
There are three sets of falls in Aysgarth. It seems that in England, broad, shallow falls are called "falls" and tall, narrow falls are called "forces". These were the former, but much more spectacular than the Hardraw Force. It sprinkled a little as we walked along the path from the Upper Falls to the Middle Falls and finally to the not surprisingly named Lower Falls.
Back in Hawes we had tea in our room, relaxed, had dinner, relaxed some more, then went to bed. The sun came out brightly right after dinner so Les ran out with his camera (no jacket, hat or umbrella) and of course it started raining again right away.
Day 8 Thursday - Bolton Abbey and Wensleydale: A morning drive on backroads after breakfast brought us eventually past the town of Skipton to Bolton Abbey and Priory. We toured the grounds and the ruins - it was spectacular - and we even had a little blue sky here and there. On the way back north we stopped in the little village of Burnsall and treated ourselves to lunch at the posh Devonshire Fell Hotel and Bistro. The meal , although not quite what we expected based on the menu description, was excellent (albeit a bit expensive), and the view out over the river and fell was superb. We enjoyed the whole experience immensely.
We meandered back to Hawes after lunch, parked our car at our B&B, and walked through the village to the Wensleydale Creamery, where Wensleydale cheese is made. Then we continued via footpaths to the next village, Gayle, which has a lovely falls of its own over wide, long limestone steps. Rather than walk back the way we came, we took a different road out of Gayle that was on a hillside above and parallel to the main road through Hawes, hoping to find a public footpath heading down through the fields. Just when we were ready to admit defeat and turn back towards Gayle, we went around one last curve and spotted the familiar wooden sign poking out over the wall on the roadside, indicating the footpath we were hoping to find. It was a very short walk across the field, putting us at the far side of Hawes, just a few yards from the road leading out to our B&B.
It was "chef's night off" at Brandymires so we decided to try the Indian restaurant in the village. After we ordered we started noticing an incense smell that got so strong, Les couldn't breathe. He went back to get the car and I told the waiter to change our order from "dine-in" to "take-out". We brought it back to Brandymires where they very graciously set us up in the dining room with plates, utensils and napkins. The food was quite good but there was so much of it - enough to feed an army - so we ended up throwing at least half of it away (except for the salad, which the dogs ate voraciously). Afterwards it was up to our room to pack for the next leg of our journey
|Day 9 Friday - Hawes to Hay: A travelling day with a little sun but mostly rain. We skipped the sightseeing we had planned to do on our way and instead did some scenery-seeing, driving on the smaller back roads through the countryside. We arrived in Hay-on-Wye around four, had tea in the village, bought a few used paperbacks, then made our way to our B&B, York House, just on the outskirts of Hay over the English border in Cusop (Hay is in Wales).
The B&B is in a beautiful house with a gorgeous, large back garden. The proprietors, Olwyn and Peter, are warm and very helpful, and the breakfasts excellent.
The hiking paths in Britain were closed for the most part during 2001, so many of them are heavily overgrown this year, and some have completely disappeared.
Our experience showed that the recognized long-distance paths were generally better maintained than the smaller paths, as would be expected.
If you have a chance to check with a local Rambler's club before you embark on a hike, it could save you a lot of frustration.
An Internet search for "ramblers association" and the name of your destination area is likely to come up with a good source.
|Day 10 Saturday - The Hike from Hell: It seems that on every trip we end up taking one Hike from Hell, and today's was to be it for this trip. We'd decided to take a nice hike up to the Hay Common and back, starting on a portion of the Offa's Dyke long-distance path. It was supposed to be a moderate 4 1/2 miles according to the Circular Walks from Hays book that we purchased at the Tourist Information Center. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that the lesser trails were overgrown, unmarked, and nonexistent. We ended up hiking 7-8 miles altogether through mud and muck, battling flies and bugs at least half the time. The bright side was that there were several kissing gates to be traversed and we took the opportunity to do just that at each one.
When we finally got back, having given up on finding the path ahead and taken our original route backwards, we had a late lunch in Hay, did some browsing for books, had tea in our room, relaxed, and went to bed early, glad to be back in the comfort of York House.
Day 11 Sunday - Brecon Beacons: A much better day today, thank you. We started with a morning drive through the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. It was beautiful - hilly and green mixed with moorland. We would have liked to do a hike there, but after yesterday's fiasco we really weren't up for it physically or emotionally.
We stopped for lunch at the Traveller's Rest Inn in the village of Talybont-on-Usk, picturesquely situated overlooking a canal. They had an interesting menu but the food was a bit bland for our taste, and not what we expected. We ordered the "Shrimp and Salmon Wrap," expecting a burrito-type thing. Instead we got a plate with several slices of cold smoked salmon, covered with cocktail shrimp and Thousand Island dressing, with a bread roll on the side! I don't know how that could be considered a wrap. Of course it came with chips as well. Everything comes with potatoes. At one restaurant later in the trip I ordered spaghetti, and the waitress asked if I wanted jacket potatoes or chips with it.
After lunch we stopped at a garden center outside of Hay and bought some flower seeds to take home for our own English garden. Then we went to a garden at a nearby farm open for charity through the National Garden Scheme. The farm was called Pen-Y-Maes and the garden was delightful. We had tea there with homemade cake and Welsh scones - delicious.
For dinner we went to the Black Lion Inn in Hay - supposedly rated one of the top 100 pubs in England for food. Our appetizers and desserts were delicious (especially good was the citrus cheesecake Les had for dessert) but our main courses were again very bland. Next trip to the UK, we're bringing our own bottle of Tabasco® Sauce.
Day 12 Monday - Hay-on-Wye and the Cusop Dingle: We took our laundry to a launderette, and while it was being washed and dried we did some shopping in Hay, then took a walk along the river and had lunch at Oscar's - good sandwiches and desserts. After lunch and a little more book shopping we dropped off our packages, put on our hiking boots, and took a nice hike up the Cusop Dingle, suggested by Olwyn, our landlady.
Some of the paths were overgrown, but there was a lane nearby and we managed to find our way fairly easily. At one point there was a sign, but no stile, so I climbed the gate. As soon as I was on the field I saw a whole herd of cows heading directly at me. Being a city girl, I quickly did an about face and scrambled back over the gate to safety. The cows kept coming, then, when they were about 30 yards away they stopped - that is, the ones in the front of the group stopped, but the ones farther back kept coming until they were all grouped together in a bulging line, as if some invisible, magnetic wall were holding them back while pulling them to it. After a while they got bored, turned around and ambled off.
Back in our room we had tea as we sat in the bay window looking out over the garden, watching the doves. York House has a flock of about 15 white doves that live on their roof and the roofs of nearby houses. Sometimes they line up on the diagonal gutter of the roof of the barn next door - it;s quite an odd sight - a line of white going up the roof, with the occasional wing sticking out. In the morning, when Peter (our landlord) feeds them on the lawn, it's an impressive sight, especially when they finish all at once and fly up in a cloud of wings.
Later, we went to the Blue Boar in town and I had another dinner that wasn't what I expected. I ordered the King Prawns in teriacki sauce (sic), thinking they'd be sautéed and maybe served with rice. Wrong! They were deep fried in various batters and shapes. My espresso cake however was delicious after I added some of the double cream from Les's dessert to it to moisten it a little.
Day 13 Tuesday - Hay to Lacock: A travel day with steady rain again, so no sightseeing stops along the way. It was a fairly short drive to Lacock in Wiltshire, and we arrived at our B&B, The Old Rectory, around 11:00. It's a beautiful mansion with some stained glass windows and a gorgeous old grand piano in the lounge. I played Stardust on it - it was in tune but a few of the keys were sticky.
After unpacking, the rain had subsided to a gentle mist so we walked into Lacock (about 2 blocks) for lunch at a tea shop called King John's Hunting Lodge, then we walked around the village - not difficult as it's only one block square. It's really a beautifully preserved medieval village, under the protection of the National Trust.
We went back to our room to rest a bit (I napped), then once again into the village for dinner at the George Inn. They had quite an interesting menu and we both enjoyed our meals. Afterwards we walked down past the Abbey and back. There was a beautiful double rainbow and the sun was shining brightly (at 9:15 PM) as we made our way back home.
|Day 14 Wednesday - Salisbury, Stonehenge, and environs: A sightseeing day, despite the rain. Our first stop was Salisbury, where we toured the cathedral and had lunch. The market square and surrounding area is very charming and we spent a little time window shopping, then headed back to the car and up to the ancient village of Old Sarum in the hills above Salisbury. We toured the English Heritage site of the ancient city, with its castle and cathedral, then drove to Stonehenge. Rather than pay to join the throngs milling around the stones, we continued on to the less-visited Avebury, timing our arrival to coincide precisely with that of the rain, which came down in buckets.
No problem - we drove back to Lacock and had a proper cream tea instead. Lovely. Then we went to a nearby "superstore" (i.e., supermarket) and roamed the aisles, looking at all the interesting and different things they offered.
Back in Lacock for dinner at the Carpenter's Arms. The food was okay, with crisp veggies, but again rather bland.
In Salisbury, the Royal Bank of Scotland didn't charge us a fee to change our traveller's checks (which were in Pounds Sterling) into cash.
Day 15 Thursday - Exmoor National Park: We got up early for an 8:00 breakfast and experienced the small world syndrome by discovering that another family staying at our B&B was from the same town in California that we're from.
When we finished eating we went into the village to take some photos while the sun was out, then took off for the west and Exmoor National Park. Our first stop was the beautifully flowered village of Minehead, where we stopped at the Tourist Information Center and received some very helpful advice from the friendly people there, including a couple of suggestions for good lunch places. We went to one of these, Mr. Micawber's, and had a delicious hot lunch looking out over the town from our "first floor" (the one above the ground floor) window seat before moving on.
We drove along the northern coast of England (the section below Wales) and pulled off at County Gate where there was a parking area and another Tourist Information Center. Again, the man there was very helpful and showed us a nice hike to take over the moor that returned on an eyebrow path skirting the rim of the canyon below. It was fairly short, albeit tricky in some places, and soon we were on our way again. At one point as we were driving over the moor, a farmer on a tractor and his large herd of sheep burst out of a field and onto the road right in front of us. Luckily we were able to stop in time, and we waited while the farmer and his dog herded the sheep into the next pasture.
Our next destination was Lynmouth, a picturesque and very heavily touristed fishing village at the base of a cliff. We had initially planned to take the cable car up the cliff to the village on top, Lynton, and walk back down along the path, but there was a large group of school children in line waiting so we decided to skip it. Instead we drove to Lynton, the village at the top, and parked there. We took a very nice and varied hike into the woods, along a cliff, down to the Valley of Rocks, along the coast, then up a lane back into the village. It was only about four miles but really enjoyable.
From Lynton we drove back to Lacock, starting out over the moors through a different section of Exmoor. This time a small group of young sheep on their own were meandering down the road ahead of us. Two young males towards the back of the group were shoving and butting each other. We finally honked and the group ambled off into a field on the side. As soon as they were off the road we saw the two go at it again - just like two teenage boys getting tough with each other. We had a good laugh at that.
While we were driving over the moors, the clouds had started gathering again, and the sky was an incredible mixture of colors. There were bits of bright blue behind dark slate horizontal clouds, with bright white clouds peeking out lower on the horizon, and a lighter gray cover higher up. It was beautiful. Then we got back into the lush English countryside and were once again enthralled with the hedges in this part of the country that take the place of the stone walls in the North. Here, the hedges alongside the main roads grow tall and blend in with the trees that are planted down the center of the hedge row and that cascade over the tops of the hedges. Sometimes the trees from the two sides of the road meet to form a dark, green tunnel. With the hedges it's much more eerie than the tunnels formed only by trees meeting over the road in other parts of Europe.
Back in Lacock we returned to the George Inn for dinner. It was pretty good, but I'm really getting tired of the food in England.
Day 16 Friday - Bradford-on-Avon, Malmesbury, Lacock Abbey: Today was another drive and sightsee day. We started off in the morning headed for Bath, thinking we'd get a jump on the crowds. WRONG! We reached the exit from the A4 for Bath and came to an abrupt halt. As we inched our way down the road leading into Bath we imagined what it would be like in the town itself, with all the other tourists crowding in, and after 15 minutes we turned into a side street and found our way out, heading instead for Bradford-on-Avon.
This is a charming little village. We parked in the short stay "Pay and Display" lot, and walked to the thirteenth century Holy Trinity church which was very beautiful, then across the road to an ancient Saxon church from the early 8th century - the church of St. Lawrence. From there we walked along the Avon to a park that contained a grouping of ancient buildings, including a Tithe Barn, where the farmers of old would bring their livestock and crops to pay their tithe, or taxes, before it was paid in coinage. It's a huge building with an intricate network of crisscrossing wooden beams supporting the roof.
We then walked back into the main part of the village and had tea and scones at Mr. Salvat's 1700 Coffee Room. It was a delightful place, and we sat in the back garden which was very pleasant. I watched a bird catch a fly in mid-flight - really fascinating! Then we walked to Bradford's shopping area, called The Shambles, and listened to the mixture of languages coming from the assorted tourists before returning to our car to head for Corsham.
Our main reason for going to Corsham was to see the gardens at Corsham Court. The estate wasn't open until an hour later, so we walked around the village a bit. It was completely deserted, like a ghost town. The tourist information people were again very helpful and suggested we visit Malmesbury Abbey if we really wanted to see nice gardens, so we left Corsham and headed north.
The gardens at Malmesbury Abbey were stunning, to say the least. We spent a good hour roaming around and could have spent much more time there. I could see going there at least four times a year if I lived anywhere nearby, to see the changes that the seasons bring. But that day we wanted to get back to Lacock to see the Abbey there, which is only open for a few hours in the afternoons, so we cut our visit a little short and headed back.
Lacock Abbey is a beautiful manor-type house built on top of abbey ruins. The cloisters remain intact from the original (they were protected from destruction during the Reformation by a clever owner), and they were used in many of the scenes of the Harry Potter films. It's a beautiful building, but too big and cold for my taste.
Okay - I guess I could live there if you forced me to ;-)
Day 17 Saturday -Cheddar Gorge, Burford (Cotswolds): Our last day! It's been a very full vacation and in some ways it feels like we've been gone for months. We're both ready to go home, rested and fully relaxed.
The day started off with beautiful blue skies (our last day, of course), but as we drove west towards the Cheddar Gorge, they turned to white and then gray. By the time we reached the village of Cheddar it was completely overcast. We planned to hike the path that leads up to the top of the gorge and along the rim, but we had a difficult time finding it. When we finally agreed that we had found it, we also agreed that it looked too overgrown and was too buggy for us to want to continue. We'd had one hike from hell and didn't want to try another. The air was very moist as well, and by the time we got back into the gorge basin it was starting to mist.
We stopped for lunch at a promising restaurant and decided to order bacon and egg butties, with images of that first bacon butty we'd had in Newton-Harcourt - nice crisp bacon on a buttered roll, but with the addition of a nice fried egg like you might get in an Egg McMuffin. Wrong again. This time it was two slices of cold, untoasted, soft buttered white bread with a slice of fatty and not very well cooked bacon and an egg cooked sunny-side up. I ate mine with my knife and fork, but could only down one of the slices of bread. Les ate his egg and bacon only. We left there disgusted.
We decided to head for the Cotswolds instead of sticking around Cheddar, I was still hoping to get in a decent hike on our last day in the UK. As we drove through the gorge we thought it was very pretty, but so overly commercialized that we were glad to be leaving. The drive to the Cotswolds was long - it was in the opposite direction from Lacock that the gorge was, but we didn't mind - it got sunnier the farther east and north we went.
Les chose Burford as our destination village which technically isn't in Gloucestershire, the main part of the Cotswolds, but is a bit farther east, in Oxfordshire. But it was a cute town, with all the requisite flowers on the lovely golden buildings that typify a Cotswold village. We stopped at the Tourist Information Center and were again given very helpful advice on a good hiking route around the village. Before we left on the hike, however, we stopped at a jumble sale for the local church and did a little shopping in the village, storing our purchases in the trunk of our car before departing.
Our hike took us over fields, stiles and a footbridge to a small church, then through another field in a valley that was so long we thought surely we had gone the wrong way until we popped out onto a small lane. This led to a larger road that eventually landed us back in Burford. Once back, we stopped in at the Cotswolds Arms for our last dinner in England.
I had one last chance to order something that was entirely different from what I expected and I did not fail. This time it was the Turkey Escallope with a lemon and dill sauce. For some reason I pictured baked turkey breast slices arranged on the plate with a nice lemon-dill sauce over them. The sauce was right, but the turkey was one large breast slice that had been pounded, breaded and - you guessed it - fried. I picked off the breading. At least our desserts were both delicious - a berry crumble and an apricot strudel, both covered with a hot custard sauce.
We finally headed back to Lacock around eight. On the way we saw thirteen hot air balloons a little ways off in the distance - a pretty sight. We got back to our room exhausted, but we had to pack. It wasn't so bad because they were having a Proms concert at the Abbey - a really big thing with names like Julian Lloyd Webber among others - and we could hear the music through our open window as we packed. Then when we were finished we sat looking out the window as the concert was reaching its grand finale and for the last three numbers there was a spectacular fireworks display for which we had front-row seats! Not a bad send-off to a really fabulous vacation.
One funny thing happened - when the concert was completely over we could hear the cows in the nearby fields all lowing quite loudly. They were probably upset by the fireworks, but it sounded like they were booing.
Day 18 Sunday - Return trip home: We had a smooth trip home after the early fog lifted. As we approached Heathrow we were startled by a British woman's voice coming on suddenly from the radio, telling us which exit to take. It was the built-in GPS system in our rental car. Unfortunately, it was programmed to get us back to the airport terminals rather than to the car rental return, so we had to ignore her after awhile and it kept resetting itself and telling us to make a U-turn at the next roundabout. It was quite humorous, actually. Again we enjoyed the First Class treatment in both the airport lounge and check-in facilities, and on board the plane. We only wish we could travel that way ALL the time, but I doubt we'll ever be that rich. It's a life I could decidedly become accustomerd to.
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Last modified: 06/24/2004 10:28:01 PM
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