Monday, 31 May 2010

310510 - A trip to Kent

As we get older we are both becoming more reluctant to fly so we decided a few years ago to seek out and discover more of the UK. Neither of us knew Kent particularly well so we decided to go and investigate. For the first few days we based ourselves in Canterbury. We strolled round the city in the spring sunshine and admired the quaint streets and historic buildings but undoubtedly the highlight of our stay was the cathedral itself.

In the grounds of the cathedral we found these ruins.

I think these remains maybe part of the original Augustine priory which pre-dates the cathedral. Whilst touring the cathedral we struck gold. I was chatting with a guide who told me that a visiting choir would be performing within the hour. At the prescribed time we made our way to the Quire (like a vast nave with stunning acoustics!). For the next hour we were bewitched by the angelic voices of the Concordia University concert choir from Edmonton, Canada led by Joy Burke. They were nearing the end of a performing tour in the UK and we were very lucky to be at the cathedral when they sang. Lumps in throats? – Of course!.......A very moving experience and I feel privileged to have had this wonderfully unexpected experience. I took the opportunity of switching on the movie cam for much of the performance and I have included a video clip of the first item in their concert. This is hosted by Youtube and if the video is juddery you should be able to hover your cursor over the Youtube movie screen and get a popup tab that offers to download the video for you - way to go! Here is the link:

Before checking into our second hotel in Dover we called in at Whitstable to get a flavour of the area.The town is very picturesque and old plank clad buildings particular to this area can be seen in every street. I snapped this one while standing on a board walk with my back to the Swale estuary.

Whitstable is to oysters as Cheddar is to cheese so while there I had a fishmonger open a half dozen for me. Sitting on some fishy pallets at the side of the harbour I enjoyed one of the finest marine delicacies that this country can provide. They were delicious with a piquantly bitter aftertaste not found in the normal supermarket offerings.

I can never pass a charity shop without checking out the books (and waistcoats???) and in one (an ex bakery) this beautiful old bakers oven had been retained as a feature.

Next stop was our Dover hotel – Hubert House. We liked this place very much. The young owners were very helpful and friendly and we were intrigued to discover that this hotel has a long tradition of accommodating visiting channel swimmers from around the world. The best thing though was our room – posh it most definitely was!

The next day we decided to visit Broadstairs but enroute I spotted a sign pointing to RAF Manston Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial. We spent the next hour enjoying what turned out to be a museum and memorial to the fighter pilots who operated from here in the last war. A smashing old bloke called Ron performed his role as guide and answered all my questions with an infectious enthusiasm. Thank you Ron.

Eventually made it to Broadstairs where this bird was determined to be the centre of attraction.

On the way back to Dover we decided to go and have a look at Reculver. The twin towers have always been a navigation landmark and are all that remain of a medieval church.

The church was built on the sight of a Roman defensive shore fort and the ruins of the fort can still be seen behind the towers.

Next day and we are at the cinque port of Sandwich. We were quite taken by this lovely historical town and spent some hours just moseying around and soaking up the atmos. This old toll gate adjacent to the river bridge was known as a barbican.

Another historic feature is the Fishergate circa 1384.

Imagine all the sandwiches in the world. Imagine all the countless variations of fillings possible – all the types of bread used. Where would you expect to find them? Why here of course:-)

I have always been interested in steam power and have made several steam driven models so I had been looking forward to visiting the Romney, Hythe and Dimchurch Railway. The trains are narrow gauge and the locos are about half size. The little carriages are just wide enough to allow two people to sit side by side. We decided to stay on the train until it reached its furthest limit – Dungeness. We passed through several little stations on the journey and finally we were on the last leg to Dungeness. On its way the little loco hauled us across a vast desert of pebbles and scrubby vegetation. This is a strange, surreal wilderness where people have contrived to make homes in what for the most part looks like sheds and huts. The day was grey and very cold and seemed to emphasise the isolation of the place. The brooding colossus of the nearby nuclear power station only served to cast a pall of melancholy over the area. I was beginning to feel quite sick at this point and reflected that this place had been aptly named.

We chose our visit to coincide with a 40’s weekend. Lots of folk in 1940’s civilian and military costume dressed to provide the authenticity of the period – spats and fur stoles anyone?

At one of the stops on the return journey we were treated to a dance display by the “LindyHoppers”. See'em here:

And three young ladies in American military uniform - The Clover Sisters - wowed everyone with renditions of popular wartime hits. Get a load if this:

I should have loved to have recorded our visit to Dover Castle here. Unfortunately, at this point a very dodgy packet of Marks and Spencer’s egg sandwiches laid me low with food poisoning. Back soon though – byeeeee!

Sunday, 2 May 2010


The caravan is to earn its keep this year so we have spent the last fortnight preparing it for a summer season of paying guests. It’s not all been hard work though, we have been out and about between the rain and generally just enjoying Dorset.

We always enjoy Lulworth Cove and today was warm and sunny. We were both surprised by the balmy weather.

On the way down to the cove we passed a house with this out the front. Most houses these days have a lavatory and some houses have a conservatory but this house had a bucketry.

The air was still and the sun shone and the coat came of. Still it was warm so I peeled of my jumper as well. Not to be outdone by the kids in the water I treated myself to a seaside paddle. In March? It was very cold but very, very enjoyable!

We decided to have an overnight stop at Oxford on our way down to Weymouth. I wanted to visit the Ashmolean museum but sods law decreed that it was closed on Mondays. Never mind, we had a wander round Christchurch College which is very beautiful.

The statue of a past Dean of Christchurch – Cyril Jackson met us at one point and I was mesmerised by the eyes. Wife suggested it was one of those human statues covered in paint but I dare not touch his knee in case he winked at me.

This is the fellows dining hall and if it seems familiar it maybe because it was used for the shooting of scenes in J.K. Rowling Harry Potter films.

A collection of Christchurch plate was displayed in a glass case and I was quite taken by this splendid chalice & patten. It is inlaid with pearls and is quite a pretty piece.

Out on the streets we passed a traditional albeit posh sweet shop and I had to take a couple of pics even if it was for the colours.

Closer to home I had parked the car and looking up I spotted this startling creation through an upstairs window.

I followed the path round and climbed some stairs and was invited into a shop by a very pleasant young woman. I asked if I might be allowed to take a picture of the dress and she very kindly took it from the window and allowed me to take a photo.

“One good turn deserves another” she exclaimed and asked if I could give her a plug. Here she is:

“Dusk till Dawn”
Dress hire for the special occasion – hire or buy.
Student Prom Nights 10% off.
01234 712200

Out on the street I found this lovely old Bentley parked up. It just looked so right in the setting of an old Georgian market square.

Travelled back home the long way through Tyringham estate and stopped to take this picture of Tyringham Hall. Can’t you just smell the port and cigars?

Quite recently visited one of our favourite places – St. Ives. Straddling the River Great Ouse this small, picturesque Cambridgeshire market town is closely associated with Oliver Cromwell who came to live here in 1631. Today “the farmer” stands watch over the shoppers on the market square.

Just a short walk and this lovely old bridge spans the river. The small building on the bridge is a tiny chapel.

On the way home we stopped of at Brampton. I have a keen interest in the diarist Samuel Pepys and I wanted to see the house he grew up in as a child. After a few wrong turns we eventually found it.

Pepys spent a very happy childhood here playing in the surrounding fields and woodland and delighted recording in his diary how he had spent many happy hours “playing with my little bow and arrow”.

Spring has definitely arrived and a slow stroll down to the river at Newton Blossomville in the sunshine was a pleasure. Like floral sunbursts the clumps of huge marsh marigolds shone like gold against their green foliage and the delicately pretty Ladys Smock nodded in approval.

The trees had not yet put on leaf so I was ably to stand on the bridge and get a distant shot of Brafield House at the top of the hill as it looks out over the river valley.

And swivelling round another shot upstream.

We had a day out at Canons Ashby last week. It’s a National Trust place with a lot of work going on but there was still a lot to see. Work is in progress in the gardens but parts of the grounds were awash with spring flowers.

In the orchard underneath the old fruit trees were delicate red fritillaries and something neither of us has ever seen – white ones.

The side view of the house was best and this is it.

In the kitchen we found this. Now that’s what I call a range!

Our poor old country is going through difficult times indeed and spotting this suggests that Bedfordshire County Council are having to cut back on transport costs and use alternative means of transport for their library services.

Pip-pip chaps!