Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday 30 May - Errands

This back bacon from the market is at least 1/4 inch thick while the eggs have bright red yokes.
A very lazy day today, being a bank holiday.  The weather was fine and we managed to get reservations for our return to London.  The Three Fishes was very quiet at lunchtime.  The Coach and Horses is our closest pub - 26 paces.  The bar is good and the beer prices reasonable. Best of all there is no music, tv screens or games.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday 29 May - Special Day

We had to exercise care leaving the apartment this morning as we are on the route of the Shrewsbury Grand Prix - cycle racing.  The cycling started around 1200 with a free for all after which the serious racing started.  The weather was very good and the entire town was in a good mood.  The flowers in the Quarry Gardens, particularly the rhododendrons, were beautiful. A mother mallard was proudly displaying her ten small ducklings and keeping them under very close control with just a few quacks.

At the start of the final race

Along the straight

Past our apartment

Dinner this evening was at the Lion and Pheasant.  I had Jacobs Ladder which was a form of pulled beef
Mary had fish - grilled Cornish Brill

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday 28 May - Welshpool and Llanfair Railway Fish and Chip Train

Saturday morning in Shrewsbury was quiet although the town gradually filled towards noon.  The weather was fine.  We were surprised at how quiet things were last night given that we have a pub as immediate neighbour on both sides.
The apartment is on the ground floor immediately through the arch of the old Police Station
The Admiral Benbow is adjacent down Swan Hill
The Coach and Horses is next door towards the city walls
There was a wedding party in the street outside the Three Fishes but it was business as usual inside where I enjoyed my first pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord.

Charles Spencer organized a Fish and Chip Train on the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway. He planned for 50 people, 100 would be good and 150 was the absolute maximum.  It turned out to be a sell out at 150 and the locomotive "The Countes" was loaded to the maximum, seven cars with a full train of people.
The laast regular train if the day arrives at Llanfair while the diesel waits to add additional coaches to the special
Charles and Lizzy Ann with Roan who has grown enormously since we saw him a year ago.
The train is strengthened while The Countess is taking coal and water,
The weather co-operated and everybody had a great time.  We left Llanfair Caereinion at 1800 and ran through beautiful countryside to Welshpool. The sheep and lambs were happily grazing with the lambs jumping around.  The fields were full of rabbits and pheasants.  The rabbits would stay still then suddenly break cover and dash madly for the nearest hedge. The pheasants were very smart in their colorful plumage yet were well camouflaged in the tufts of grass.

At Welshpool the local fish and chip shop provided fish (or sausage) and chips for the passengers and crew and there was a pause to allow everybody the opportunity to eat while sitting on one of the platform benches or in a stationary train.  

At Welshpool we picked up our food, ordered in advance, and chose a place to eat

The climb out of Welshpool was achieved without any slipping on a dry rail but it was evident that the engine was working at the limit.  There was a pause at the top while we admired a billy goat and a longer stop at Castell Caereinion to allow us to get out and admire the view.
Castell Caereinion
Everybody was well satisfied.  Megan, a volunteer from Llanfair went through with a survey asking people to rate the experience on a scale of 1 to 5 - several gave it a 6!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday 27 May - Travel Salisbury to Shrewsbury

The train to Newport was very full indeed but we had seat reservations.  There was a change of direction at Bristol Temple Meads and then the big climb up to Pilning and Patchway for the journey through the Severn Tunnel.  I remember vividly a nasty experience I had here when I was doing my training on the railway. I was on a steam locomotive helping a failing diesel train to get through th tunnel and up to Pilning.  The engine was in poor condition and we came very close to stalling in the single bore tunnel near Pilning.  A stalled steam hauled passenger train in those tight conditions would have been very unpleasant indeed.

Today our train made good time through the tunnel without any problems at all.  Newport station is very difficult to navigate but the train to Shrewsbury was not too full  and we arrived on time.  This was one of those silly things where we had tickets that were only available on this specific train and we had seat reservations but no seats were assigned

The apartment seems quite good and is centrally located.  The shops soon provided us with everything we needed to set up house keeping.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursday 26 May - In Salisbury

Sign outside a butcher's shop - looks like a lot of (only home killed) meat

We leave for Shrewsbury tomorrow.  The Tourist Office has a guided walk around the town centre which proved to be very interesting.  The guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and this helped to fill in some of the blanks for us.  The interiors of a number of the buildings have been preserved and give a good idea as to how they were built.

Woolgrowers house showing wattle and daub construction

Woolgrowers house - all wood construction

The courtroom in the guildhall - an exact reproduction of the Old Bailey
The doom wall in the parish church of Thomas Beckett.  Believed to be the only one now in existence, it was painted over and forgotten for several hundred years
 Lunch was in the quiet garden of the New Inn which backs on to the cathedral close.  A family of rooks have made a nest in a chimney close by.  Pretty convenient until you need to light a fire.
The stones from the cathedral at Old Sarum were used in the walls of the new city
A walk this evening to the Old Mill gave us an opportunity to admire the cathedral across the water meadows.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday 25 May - Marlborough and Salisbury Cathedral Organ

The bus to Marlborough was a great ride through the country.  The double decker was fitted with roo bars and we set out north through Amesbury and Pewsey. Much of the ridge was in high chalk country but we saw plenty of sheep, cattle and horses.  Many of the villages have retained their old character with many thatched roofs.  Marlborough is an unfortunate town which has been destroyed by the automobile.  It has a wide High Street which has a market today but the rest of the time is used as a parking lot, like Easingwold.  At one end there is a church and the prestigious Marlborough school while there is a church and the town hall at the other end.

Brinkworth Blue is a Wiltshire cheese made locally from Fresian milk. It is made in the Stilton style but is more crumbly.and maybe a little sharper.

Private fishing.  But he was in the wrong spot.  We saw several large fish just below us on the bridge.

A Pimms provided the fruit course at lunch
This evening we went to an organ concert held monthly at the cathedral.  There was a good screen set up to shown the keyboard and pedal operation and the program was chosen to demonstrate the organ rather than to provide fireworks.  The pieces were well chosen and well played.  The location was impressive with the subtle lighting emphasizing the wonderful stonework. A drink at the small bar in the Haunch of Venison rounded out the evening.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday 24 May - Bournemouth

The weather forecast was fair today and so we took the bus to Bournemouth via Fordingbridge and Ringwood, new territory for both of us.
"My brain hurts" - Monty Python
In spite of the sun, there was a cold wind but I decided to dress the part using a reasonably clean handkerchief.  

We walked down an exquisitely gardened chine to see the pier, passing a family of four ducklings which were being eyed hungrily by several large gulls.  It was early in the season and very little was open.  I was really disappointed in that the zip line to the beach was not in operation.  We went into the dinning (sic) room and had a coffee.  Bournemouth is a "higher end" seaside resort, definitely not the sort of place pictured by the Pythons in their Hilter, Bimler, Ribbentrop sketch (this was Minehead). 

We watched the RNLI life savers launch their jet boats and race off beyond the end of the pier - possibly one of the intrepid fishermen at the end of the pier had died of excitement from actually seeing a fish.  There was just one surfer in a wet suit in the water, looking in vain for a wave but everybody else was sensibly well away from the water.

There was a Rock Shop on the pier which sold several varieties of Bournemouth rock.  My favorite was always the traditional peppermint.  Rock shop employees are always happy. One employer went out of business when a disgruntled employee made two miles of rock with the words "Bugger off" running through it.  

In order to work up an appetite for Harry Ramsden's World Famous Fish and Chips we decided to walk along to Boscombe Pier which turned out to be closed so they could set up miniature golf.  The English speakers seem to be outnumbered by people speaking European languages, very loudly.

We passed the site of the East Cliff Funicular which was destroyed a week or so ago when the cliff collapsed, also destroying a block of toilets.  It was rumored that an old man was inside when the disaster occurred.  The rescuers quickly found him.
"You alright Dad?"
"I pulled the chain and the roof fell in".

After the world famous fish and chips we were ready to tackle the other seaside staple - the soft runny ice cream in a cone.  A few of the municipal beach huts were occupied and several residents had staked their claims on pieces of roadway beyond the curb.

The sun was now shining brightly although the east wind was still strong and many had set up colored plastic wind breaks to shelter behind.

The West Cliff Funicular had been brought out of its winter slumbers and was running frequently.
The main attraction of Bournemouth is the well manicured gardens and chines and the seven miles of golden sand beach and we decided to return early. A lot of school children used the bus to get from the Downton area into Salisbury.  Although the bus was crowded they were very well behaved indeed.

On the approach to Salisbury from this direction the cathedral is very prominent indeed. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday 23 May - Devizes and Caen Hill Locks

We took an early bus to Devizes today, passing through several small villages, many with thatched roof cottages.  Our double decker bus came equipped with roo bars and it quickly became apparent why.  Once out into the country the tall hedgerows formed an arch over the road.  Every so often there has a crack or a bang as we hit a branch.  The bars collected a few leaves which gradually fell by the wayside.  At one point we approached a low, narrow arched bridge and there was only clearance for us in the centre of the road. There was a slight delay while waiting for an oil truck to finish topping up a house set on a narrow stretch of road.

The impressive entry into Devizes was through a sunken roadway which climbed through very tall trees covered in ivy and other parasitic growths.  At Devizes we walked out along the Bath Road to reach the Caen Hill locks.  The Kennet and Avon Canal has some 29 locks just west of Devizes of which 16 are set out one after the other to drop down Caen Hill.  The canal was opened by John Rennie in 1810 and one of the features is the large lagoons at each lock in order to control and conserve the amount of water used.

The Kennet and Avon Canal was closed in 1948 and was only restored in the 1990s.  The Caen Hill Locks are spectacular but it is very difficult to get pictures which give a proper impression of the work.

Maybe we hit Devizes at the wrong time but it seemed unattractive and we returned earlier than anticipated.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday 22 May - Sunday Roast and Cygnets

The Sunday roast at the Haunch of Venison was good last week and we decided to return to try the chicken and beef this time.  Both were excellent as were the vegetables.  The Courage bitter has traditionally come from Reading and this went down very well.
The all wood construction of this ancient building is really interesting
There was a short shower during lunch after which we walked around the town centre a little.

Very ornate stone carving above a window.
We walked along by a branch of the River Avon.

The second of a pair of swans came slowly past against the current and we were surprised to see four cygnets being carried high and mostly dry on its back under the protection of the wings.  The young were having a bit of a struggle to stay on and one trailed into the water at one time. 

This evening we had a short walk along the water meadows to the Old Mill at Harnum for a pint, a glass of rose and a packet of roast ox crisps. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday 21 May - Flying Scotsman in the Rain

We had breakfast at the Kings Head in the main street by the river.  There was a group at tables close to us evidently locals come into town on a Saturday.  The strong Wiltshire accent was very difficult to understand.  I heard the word "darling" several times in the market, a typical West Country term of address as well as endearment,

There was rain in the forecast for this afternoon.  As we walked around the Saturday market the drizzle started and this continued throughout the rest of the day.
The number and range of New Forest mushrooms is quite amazing
The Flying Scotsman passed through on a trip from London Paddington to Eastleigh and return. There were a lot of people at the station and good views were difficult.

This evening we had a Wiltshire Pasty - stuffed with ground beef, potato, swede and gravy