Last Day in Sunny England

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Cotswolds

What a great two days as we’ve travelled from Cheltenham to Juan’s birthday do in the Cotswolds, and today to Chris & John in Windsor. Coming to an end of our short stay in England. Must say, again, this has been the most consistently outstanding weather we’ve had … ever? I now understand why all those great outdoor sports – tennis, cricket etc, that rely on consecutive days of great weather were developed here. Hmmm – for South Africans: Remember the Gillette Cricket ads that had a jingle that included the lines: ‘In England, summer is a break in the rain.’

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Heading North

I’m in no way critical of our journey’s Navigator (capped ‘N’, did you notice?) when I say we see some interesting things, not necessarily those that were intended. Leaving the delightful Cheddar we took a detour to Wells, specifically to see Wells Cathedral, that structure which elevates a town to a city. Had a lovely time in an impressive structure:

 

However, turned out to be St Cuthberts rather than the cathedral, and, with the day progressing and traffic obviously going to be a challenge (again), we headed off. Interesting to note the restoration of iconography found as filling behind some walls, the result of ongoing religious conflicts through the Reformation, details here.

Arrived at Lotmead pick your own farm yesterday for a lovely overnight. We may have been in some crowded carparks so far, but check this out:

Had a couple of long chats to the farm manager. Boy, if ever one feels you work hard, just spend time with a farmer! Add to this daily grind is having to deal with people who simply don’t get ‘it’. Biggest complaint about the job? not the long hours, the weather worries, the immense amounts of cash outlay in anticipation of good crops … Nope, it’s dealing with people who take it as their right to eat as much as they can without payment, kids tearing up the irrigation pipes … What should be an idyllic job made less so by dealing with downright stupid behaviours. Hmmm, what other jobs come with that? I bet your’s do too 🙂

Currently at a lovely pub in Cheltenham that’s provided fresh water, dumping facilities for our grey water, great cider, AND electricity! Absolutely spoilt! Will look to use the Cosori (pressure cooker) for a chicken & sweet potato curry for tonight and ensure the Navigator’s blood sugar is up for tomorrow’s 20km drive 🙂

And for those who continue to scoff at my observation of British Mediterranean conditions, take a look at soil conditions in Gloucestershire:

With a bit of luck, the dropped pins are working on MyMaps with Google. I’m hoping to have each night recorded with a photo & GPS. Let’s see how that goes.

Cheddar – Gorge & All

A little sweaty and tired after doing the round walk of Cheddar Gorge. Lovely walk, but in what is now becoming standard UK heatwave conditions…

A lovely change from yesterday though. Some context: I’m a bit of a Stephen King fan. I know, popular fiction and all that, and I can see some noses going up in the air. As an English Lit Major, I’m immune 🙂 We spent the better part of the day in Burnham on Sea as our wifi system was upgraded – more on that later. Anyway, as King readers will know, Castle Rock seems to breed some interesting characters, and Burnham seemed to present the same opportunities. I have never seen so many people on canes, crutches, or in wheelchairs – and no, these were clearly not athletes, unless the Tattoo Olympics was in town. We took a walk along the main road, one up from the beach front which, if you come from a coastal town, should have got the radar going. Wall to Wall plastic, cheap eateries, meal calories counted in the 10,000’s… you get the picture. Then, as (clearly) foreign travellers, we pictured a seafront that had, well, sea. Not.

Burham beachfront
Burnham beachfront … Awaiting Neptune’s Arrival

We’ve had a very nice evening at a pub stop in Cheddar, and have extended that over 2 nights.  The walk through the Gorge was amazing! Firstly, no view of the Gorge itself, but a lovely path that went up through forest, then down over more open terrain. Helpful signboards made clear just how unique the area is, and 10/10 to all those involved in the conservation efforts. Doing the walk in the wrong-way-round also saved us entry fees (why would you charge an entry fee!!) and got us down into the Gorge which was overrun with more tat, but, to be fair, as expected. It did give me a sense of achievement reflecting on cycling up here with Niki a couple of years ago while doing Lands End to John ‘O Groats.. until .. I was looking at the cave at the start of the climb, remembering having stopped there to get my Garmin sorted out. Actually, I was just knackered, and needed some breathing time before taking on a long, steep climb! To watch cyclists coming by, at pace, and at all ages, was just lovely. Good on them. One of the old guys with us, 70+ at least (apologies to all those in that age group, or feeling like they are in that age group) flew up this climb, to my chagrin, but when we spoke later it turned out he was a cycle instructor and doing over 4000 km a month! Put me in my place for sure.

Navigator is currently looking for a new site for Thursday night, heavily determined by where we can empty the loo. Ah well, every day will bring it’s challenges.

Taunton – Van Upgrades

Another sweltering day in the UK, and looking forward to cooler weather, perhaps the next time I’m in Dubai.

A long day in Taunton as we waited for various additions to the van. In general, we are looking to stay away from campsites as much as possible. We’ve budgeted about €3000 for the year, but this is part of the options we are able to reduce. Not sure if we’ve gone about it the right way…

We’ve fitted a 100W solar panel which, in good weather, should provide for all our general needs. For the larger power budget items, such as our bike batteries, we need a bit more, so we’ve also added an extra battery – which required getting rid of our old (brand new!) battery as they need to be a matched pair. We’ve also binned our Swiss gas bottle and replaced this with 2 x refillable Calor gas bottles. In theory we can now refill with gas anywhere in Europe, as well as have enough gas for 2 months in Morocco, or anywhere else that has limited supply options – read ex-Eastern Europe.

For €1918 (OUCH!!) you’d think the results would look a bit more impressive. I mean, you can’t even see the solar panel (I’ve been assured it’s there) and the big bananas at the back look al of 20 quid!

A Little Whinge

The UK, I’m finding, has an occasional understanding of the 21st C and the wonders of internet. Towns promise free WiFi (yes, Taunton, that’s you), as do coffee shops (looking at you, Starbucks), and then spectacularly fail to deliver. I’m feeling this is a national kind of failure obsession. The Brit crowd watching soccer refused to believe (hope yes, believe no) that England could beat Sweden. The country hopes for the 21st C technology on offer, but fails to believe it can deliver. I think it’s sort of that Battle of Hastings kind of thing … lots of hope, but a bit short on the belief. I’m sure that Brexit, and reverting to island status, is sure to improve matters. Watch this space … or not, depending on your connection speed 🙂

 

Cooking in England

Niki and I have now had about about 6 weeks in the UK for our Lands End to John O’Groats cycle trip, and now on our tour. In all that time we’ve had about 20 minutes of light drizzle, just off . Other than that we’ve had blue skies and temperatures that would sizzle a lamb roast!

We had another slow day on the road driving down to Blue Anchor, but then were lucky to find two pub stays a couple on hundred meters from each other. The weather just kept getting better, encouraging us to get the bikes out on Saturday morning. Had a beautiful 15 minute cycle before hitting the road to Dunster, which looked positively life-threatening! Turned around, parked the bikes and took off on foot to Minehead. So, not too much walking over the past 10 years, resulting in sore feet, sunburn, and a glimpse of Butlins close up. Hmm, British seaside culture may take some adapting on our part.

Made up for it today, leaving the Smugglers Inn in Blue Anchor, and took some time off at Dunster Castle and surrounds – what a lovely morning. Delightful village, great morning tea with scones (too large to finish) and the quaintest of colleges. Our friend Angie (perennial  hippy/craftsperson, bridal gown designer and artist) would be right at home here – Angie, choose a cottage and we’ll negotiate on your behalf.

Currently on site in Taunton, looking forward to getting the van set up with gas and solar power, setting us free from the need for any campsites in the future. Let’s see how that goes and I’ll update in the near future.

Some photos to follow – depending on internet!!

And Angela … hang in there!!!!!!