Sunday, November 25, 2007

As high as a Kite - 25 November 2007

The area where today’s walk was based is a success story in terms of the restoration of the Red Kite population and it is not really a matter of whether or not you may spot one, but how many you can see at any one moment.

Japanese Larch coneJapanese Larch at Twigside Bottom

As we crested the ridge by Cobstone Mill there were three or four Kites cavorting in the valley below us: they really are quite magnificent flyers, having a wingspan of almost two metres.

Red Kite over IbstoneOther wildlife spotted were the deer. For the first time we saw two deer crossing the road as we drove in, while on the walk we spotted at least another six. Unfortunately their sense of our presence is so much keener than our sense of their presence that we do not have any photos to prove they were there. However, we did manage to get a snap of a Kite soaring over the school at Ibstone as we finished the walk.

Turville ChurchBelow Cobstone Mill is the attractive village of Turville where the TV series The Vicar of Dibly is set. It is also frequently used as a set in Midsummer Murders.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Stile styles - 17 November 2007

In the six years that we have been doing country walking in the UK we have used hundreds of stiles: ladder stiles, squeezer stiles, standard wooden stiles, stone stiles, in fact we thought we had seen every stile style there was. And there in the woods ...However, today we came across our very first clapper stile. It appeared to be a standard 4-bar gate and it was not at all obvious how one negotiated it. The bars are counterweighted with blocks of wood and pivot at one side of the stile. As you put weight on the bars they simply press one another down until it is easy to step over. As you release the bars the counter-weight blocks of wood make a clapping sound as they return to their rest position.

Kenet and Avon CanalOvernight fisherman

Our circular walk from Hungerford, started along the Kennet & Avon canal. We passed two fishermen in tents, who told us they had spent the night braving sleet and snow. The temperature wasn't that great when we passed them: after the beautiful weather all week, it was disappointing.

Euonymus europaeus 'Red Cascade'Euonymus europaeus 'Red Cascade'

After the walk we drove through Savernack Forest. This was the central reason for the weekend away in this part of Wiltshire. Savernack ForestWe last visited in January and discovered the 4-mile beech avenue, originally laid out in the 1790’s, which is the longest avenue in Britain. We wanted to see it again in the autumn. Although the autumn leaves have had a bit of a battering, the avenue still looked lovely.

From there we travelled south to Pewsey another pretty little town then back up to one of our favourites in the area; Marlborough.

Sunday was a total washout - so we went home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

If you go down to the woods today ... - 11 November 2007

Grayswood Church

We must have been focusing on the colours, rather than the track and instructions, as we got ourselves hopelessly lost about a mile into today’s 7-mile walk. Further on the instructions talked about the summit of Gibbet Hill so we figured we if we kept taking tracks that went uphill we would arrive at the summit. We did, but could find nothing that indicated we were there or anything that suggested this spot may have once had a gallows. Some passing cyclists told us we were not quite in the right spot, the summit of Gibbet Hill is slightly lower Gibbet Hillthan the part of the ridge we had climbed to. A little further on we found Gibbet Hill and the concrete pad that marks the spot where the gallows were.

From there we worked backwards and found the trail we should have been on. Once we had aligned ourselves with the instructions we set off downhill and in less than 10 minutes were hopelessly lost again. - Must be time to hang up our boots!

Winkworth ArboretumPerhaps we had not actually found the track again, who knows? Fortunately the GPS was happily bread-crumbing our trail allowing us to see the direction we were meant to be heading to return to the start point so we abandoned the instructions and headed for the car. By this stage the trail on the GPS looked as if it had been made by a drunken three-legged ant.

Winkworth ArboretumOut in the middle of the woods, we came across a house and the lady there confirmed that we were headed in the correct direction to return to the village where the car was parked. By the time we were back at the car we had walked 4 miles and seen very little of our planned route. Next time, maybe?

Sussex scenesThere was little chance of getting lost at our next stop, Winkworth Arboretum, as the paths were well marked with numbered posts that corresponded to numbers on the leaflet we were handed as we entered.

Saturday in Sussex - 10 November 2007

Sheffield Park

NymansThe autumn colours should still have been looking great this weekend, but unfortunately a big storm swept through the UK on Thursday, and a lot of leaves must have ended up on the ground. Despite this, we still went ahead with plans to revisit several National Trust properties, in Sussex, which are known for their autumn colours.

NymansFirst stop was at Sheffield Park Gardens. There was still plenty of colour, which always looks good reflected in a lake, a number of which features in Sheffield Park.

Wakehurst PlaceOur second visit was Nymans, which has gardens surrounding the ruins of the house. Finally we spent the rest of the day, walking around Wakehurst Place. These extensive grounds are looked after by Kew gardens, and include water gardens, and many trees. Wakehurst PlaceThese were also looking colourful. Adjacent to the grounds is the Loder Valley Reserve. They only admit 50 people per day to walk around this reserve, and we were fortunate to be able to add this to our afternoon.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Dickens of a time - 28 October 2007

Dickens World
Today we visited a different sort of ‘copy’, which is actually very successful. Dickens World, at Chatham, is a ‘theme park’ based on the life and works of the most famous local – Charles Dickens who lived at nearby Rochester. We thought they had produced a very attractive Victorian town, with cobbled streets and quaint buildings. Attractions include a 3D history of Dickens life, Haunted House of characters from his books; theatre presentation; school room quiz; and a ‘log-flume’ ride through a sewer (complete with smells), roof-tops, back-yards, and a cemetery.

We thoroughly enjoyed our morning there. It was a totally miserable day outside, but the whole attraction is undercover, making it a perfect winter attraction.

Peninsular perambulations - 27 October 2007

Maldon harbour

We set out to explore the Essex peninsular between the Crouch & Blackwater estuaries. We had passed through Maldon previously, and returned to see it with the tide in. Maldon is lovely, and the waterfront park seems especially geared towards children, with inviting play areas.

St Peters-on-the-WallAt the very tip of the peninsular is one of the earliest churches in England, near the very attractive town of Bradwell-On-Sea. St Peters-on-the-Wall, a Saxon church, built in 654 on the site of a 3rd century Roman wall.

Mangapps sign collectionWe started a circular walk from Southminster. The walk passed near Mangapps Farm Railway Museum. We decided to break the walk there, and had a look at their extensive collection of railway relics.

Our route then passed through Burnham-On-Couch, a very attractive town, whose busy harbour has been in use for centuries. Burnham-On-CouchThe final stop was South Woodham Ferriers. This is a 20th century town, built with a square surrounded by traditionally styled buildings. Although it must have looked good on paper, the reality just doesn’t quite come together. There is a real difference between the real & the attempted copy. Despite this, we enjoyed an excellent Persian meal at one of the many restaurants in the town centre.

Mangapps Railyard