Australia – Kings Park Botanical Gardens

Tree top bridge Perth Kings Park
Tree top bridge Perth Kings Park

I woke up with a slight headache, I call it my travel hangover, always the second day after travelling. I took my time having breakfast and left my accommodation just after nine. I chose to walk and headed towards the city center, grabbing a coffee on the way. By the time I had reached the Botanical park, the headache was gone. The weather was sunny, warm but there was a cool breeze.

 Pokémon Fans
Pokémon Fans

The gardens are up high overlooking the bay, on the way up I stopped to take some pictures of the view above Jacobs ladder, locals were walking up and down to get exercise. At the visitors center I got a guide to the birds in the park and then went for a stroll around. Pokémon is still big it seems on Ox, I kept bumping into groups of people tapping away on their phones, sometimes the group was as big as 25.

Spring Flowers Kings Park Perth
Spring Flowers Kings Park Perth

There were plenty of birds to spot, including a White Ibis pair flying over, whilst I sat in the shade of a large Eucalyptus. I was at the café at 14:00 so I opted for a late lunch, of fish and chips which would save me having to got out in the evening. I had a table with a view across the gardens, the bay and the Perth skyline beyond. Fish was battered Flathead fillets very handy because they form.long fingers which make it easy to eat with your fingers.

Perth Skyline from Kings Park
Perth Skyline from Kings Park

Time was getting on so I decided to head back to the apartment via a different route to see some new stuff. I passed thought a very neat area that seemed to contain the Perth parliament buildings, in the trees leading to it were the every present Rainbow Lorikeets. Then I passed through a shopping area which was like any shopping area.  Just close to my destination I discovered the Perth Mint which contains the world’s largest gold coin, unfortunately it was to close in 30 minutes, so rather than wasting £10 I chose to leave for another day.

I grabbed some supplies for dinner and retired to my room to watch the Grand Prix and process my photos.

Australia – Rottnest island

Rottnest Island FerryAs expected I was awake at some point in the night, my body needed to adjust. I checked my phone, wondering what to do on Saturday, I came across Rottnest island, only a few miles off the coast of Perth. I figured I figured I would probably be up early so getting the 10 o’clock boat would be easy, or so I thought.

I woke up quite sleepy at 07:00 so I forced myself out of bed and had a quick breakfast. The drive to Fremantle where the shortest ferry goes from was straight forward. It was the first view of Perth in daylight, it was just like the promotion photos you see clear blue sky with not a cloud in sight. Luckily once in Fremantle there was signs to the the Rottnest ferry.

Rottnest Island views
Rottnest Island views

I decided my best bet was the days bus pass, with stops all round the island I could get on and off as I pleased. At about stop four, the bus driver mentioned a volunteer was there to talk about the island and walk to the next bus stop. Mimi the volunteer had moved to Australia 44 years ago, and it turns out had lived in the Chilterns around Chartridge, an area I knew well. She was very informative, I spotted Pelicans, Nankeen Kestrel, and even saw a King Skink.

Rottnest Island lighthouse
Rottnest Island lighthouse

I walked on to another bus stop after Mimi returned to her post. I got a bus to the stop near the lighthouse, where for $10 you could climb the stairs to get a view over the island. The lady doing the tour has a distinct Scottish accent. The building was made of stone from the island, had been built twice each team by aboriginal prisoners, and took 7 years each time.

From the lighthouse I followed a trail to skip a couple of bus stops. I got to the bus stop just after the bus was due so I waited for a while, but realised I must have missed, so I carried on the purple trail, and I was glad I did. The trail eventually runs along the beach at Strickland bay, which is beautiful and with the sun shining the sea was a bright turquoise. At the end of the beach I checked the bus time table, I had 30 minutes to get to the next stop which was close by, so I got a time lapse set.

Rottnest Island view
Rottnest Island view

It was quite hot out, and I think I was a bit jet lagged so I was not up for a lot of walking so I got the bus for a few stops. Whilst waiting I saw three Osprey. The bus had to stop to let a King Skink get out of the way. I got off near a salt lagoon hoping to see some waders, I dipped on the waders but there were some Pacific Shelduck, same shape as the European ones but much darker and brown where I would expect white. A few bus stops down I got back on for the last leg back back to the settlement where I got a cheese and onion sausage roll and a custard tart for lunch. I had to watch out for the Australian Ravens and Silver Gulls from stealing my food, and the very tame Quokka hung about eager for a crumb. My next venue was the small but informative museum which told the human and natural history of the island.

QuokkaThe ferry was due in about an hour so wandered around the settlement, and stopped at the beach for a time lapse. Then headed to the boat with 15 minutes to spare. I managed to get one of the few seats outside being solo makes that easy as you just need one space. The seat was next to Linda the volunteer who had showed me round the lighthouse, which was a stroke of luck, as she put me into a couple of ideas. Beaches in the way home and imminent sunset, and in particular Cettesloe Beach where there is a Rainbow Lorikeet roost very colourful birds but noisy and a nuisance apparently. I had a mission, but before I spotted the migrating whales from the back of the boat.

I parked up at Cottesloe beach and immediately saw groups of Rainbow Lorikeet flying in and I could hear the squabbling in the Norfolk pines. Down at the beach everyone was waiting for the sunset, so I joined them and got some fine shots in the warm light. It was dark when I left, but I navigated my way back to where I started and as a bonus I got a parking space round the corner from the apartment which was free till 08:00 Monday.

Cottesloe Beach sunset
Cottesloe Beach sunset

I dumped my stuff and headed back to my new favorite Italian restaurant where I had prawn and courgette fettuccine in a light creamy tomato sauce. My Little Creatures pale ale was delivered by the chef, perhaps they consider me a local now! I retired to the apartment just before 20:00 I had some photos to process.

Australia -The journey to Perth WA

Qantas Business class
Qantas Business class

An exciting opportunity came my, a few months back I was on the phone to our FD and he asked me in passing if I could go to Australia to help out with an ERP implementation, “When do I leave?” Was my response. My wife saw it as a great opportunity, although we would miss each other for the couple of months I would be away. It wasn’t long before my departure date came round, I would be flying to Perth on a Qantas flight via Dubai.

I didn’t sleep too week the night before, as is usual when I have to travel the next day, I think it is the anticipation, that makes my mind busy. Helen had the day off so we had a leisurely breakfast together. The driver was early, so it was a quick good by. It would be really strange to be apart for so long, even when Helen was at university most weekends Helen was back.

Dubai Airport
Dubai Airport

Did I mention business class? Our company policy is that if your flight over a certain time you can request to go business class, I figured it would be rude not to. The driver was very friendly and we discussed are various hobbies and travel stories. He dropped me off at Heathrow Terminal 3, and I found the Business class check in. Once checked in I was informed that there was a fast security queue as well as access to a lounge.

The lounge had various sections, but it was a strange time to be there between breakfast and dinner so I settled for a coffee and a glass of water. We were called to the gate and I tried a timelapse, but had to balance the camera on a radiator, and the shutter was enough to make the camera move, so it did not work out well. I had a window seat, and luck was on my side as no one was in the seat next to me.

Emirates business class
Emirates business class

I settled in and sent my last emails and Facebook posts, before airplane mode was required. Champagne was offered but I resisted, settling for a glass of wine with my four course meal. Bread and a small salad starter, followed by a potato cake and salad, followed by some sort of Kufta with dhal and rice, and finally lemon tart. There was still 4 hours to Dubai when I had consumed all that.

The lie flat beds sound very appealing, but in reality in the noisy setting of an aircraft, ear plugs don’t work, so sleep is very difficult. Don’t gete wrong it is nice to be able to lie flat and change postition, but they are quite hard and the gaps between the cushions where the seat articulates are never in the right place. Give me a proper bed any day. With about an hour and a bit to go the lights came on dim, and coffee and more food was distributed around the cabin, thus making the slim chance of sleep even more remote. I sat up and smelled the coffee, and a nice coffee it was too.

The lights came on fully about an hour before we landed slightly early despite hold for a 360. The business class queue through security was short, I had my boarding card so there was no messing about. Apparently the temperature outside in the middle of the night was 35 degrees Celsius, luckily the airport was air conditioned, however you got a sense of how warm and humid it was as we walked up the gangway to the terminal building. Dubai is just like any other airport, but multiplied. The same shops, and food franchises. I had a wander round before heading up to the lounge which was massive. There was plenty of food on offer, as well as drinks you just help yourself. I settled for an apple juice, I did not need any more food.

Emirates Bar flight to Oz
Emirates Bar flight to Oz

My fellow passengers and I turned up at gate A9 at the allotted time and hung around for a bit while the airline employee took phone calls. Eventually we were told there would be a delay so we all sat down on the lounge again. There was only about a 30 minute wait and we started to board. Interestingly there was an ad-hoc bag search at the gate, they confiscated my water from the previous flight.

The Emirates business setup is better in my opinion they stagger the seats so you can get in and out with disturbing your neighbor if they are lying flat. You have your own little pod with handy shelves to stow stuff. The TV screen is much larger. I found a film I had been wanting to see for a while, The Founder, about the beginning of the MacDonalds business empire, I enjoyed it. I find it hard to watch films in planes as I am easily distracted.

The air stewards came round with a thin mattress for the seat which seemed to make all the difference, as I although I was not aware of getting any sleep I think I did doze off for a few hours. We were served a breakfast at the beginning of the flight, then the lights were dimmed for about six hours. There was a lot of activity in the cabin as I guess there was always someone who could not sleep or needed a pee.

I got up for a pee just before the lights started to go on, and ventured by accident into first class looking for a vacant WC, I was soon shooed out. I passed the bar in my search, and returned with my camera to get a picture of myself drinking coffee! The bar area is quite roomy, and bright. Sweet and savoury food items are available, as well as nuts and olives. Our lunch order was taken when I got back to my seat.

For lunch I had an Arabic Mezze which included Shanklish which is a traditional cheese, they describe it as stinky cheese. Main course for me was grilled cod with a lentil dahl and vegetables. It was all served on Royal Doulton bone china! I skipped desert, and there was an hour and twenty to go. They came round with the fother and final hot towel of the flight during which I had crossed the equator, and was in the southern hemisphere for the first time.

Getting through immigration and customs was a breeze, I had registered my passport so could use the machines, I told them I had no infectious deseases, and they wavedcme through customs. Perth is quite a big airport with 4 terminals, I would be dropping off the hire car at a different one. The car was automatic and has satnav but I was not impressed, it was already dark and every so often the arrow on the satnav had me off road so it was difficult to determine when I should turn. Eventually after a few wrong turns I found a multi-storey car park close to the apprtment that had been booked for me.

The apartment has a kitchen diner, bathroom (with washing machine and tumble dryer) and bedroom. I dumped my stuff and ventured out to get some food, settling for a really close family run Italian, I had pizza and a beer called One Fifty Lashes on the way back I stopped off at a supermarket for breakfast supplies. Then to bed for a long overdue sleep.

Blakeney 2017 – Blickling Hall National Trust

Blickling Hall
Blickling Hall

The weather forecast was a mixed bag, and there were differing opinions. I went with the met office app which does an animated rain radar, and prediction as it was the most optimistic of the options. Given the weather uncertainty we decided Blickling Hall National Trust was probably the best bet as it offered both indoors and outdoor options. We were not early getting up and left the house at about 10:30 which was perfect as the house opened at 11:00.

There was some rain during the drive there but it was much brighter when we arrived, at the car park. There is a new system in the car park and you have to present your membership card to the ticket machine to park. Some people were having trouble with one machine and a queue was forming, so Helen went off to find another machine. My card albeit not valid for entry worked first time, then Helen returned with another ticket, so I gave mine to the people having trouble. I got told off at the welcome hut for not having the right card, but you have heard that story already.

Blickling Hall
Blickling Hall

As the weather was fine we took the chance to do the long walk around the perimeter of the estate. It was quite warm and I was soon down to my t-shirt, it was a lovely walk if a bit humid, the light was great to show off the greens of spring.  Eventually we got back the house but our path was blocked by tree felling, so we had to do a detour to get around and to the cafe for lunch. We were almost the last people in the queue before they shut the doors because they had run out of tables. The people queuing got complimentary brownie cake for their trouble. I had the leek and potato soup and Helen a cheese sandwich.

After lunch we had a look around the house and grounds close to the house. The walled garden was again well tended, and the house had an Indian influence. The second hand stamp and book shops were our last port of call before heading back via Cromer and the coast road. We stopped off at East Runton to look at a surplus shop but they did not have any poncho’s.

For dinner we went to the Moorings and had a very nice meal, which we liked so much we booked a table for Friday.

 

Blakeney 2017 – Holkham walk and Cley Spy woodland walk

Holkham Beach
Holkham Beach

Up slightly earlier than usual as we had an appointment for a bird walk at Holkham at 10:00 and I also had some back exercises to do. My back was improving I’m not sure why but I was determined to do the same each day to ensure what ever was working continued. I had homework from the osteopath, hot and cold packs, walking, driving and stretches I did while walking.

The website said meet at the car parking hut, but it was not clear where it was and it appeared to have lived to make way for a repair to the culvert at the entrance. Helen managed to track down the ranger, and get the complimentary parking ticket included in the £5 walk fee. We were the only real birders so the walk was a bit light on birds but we did learn a lot about the estate, and the warden was very knowledgeable about all the surveys they do and the contributions they make to the national record keeping.

Bayfield Hall
Bayfield Hall

The walk took in both the hides the George Washington and the Jordan tower hide, from where we saw four Spoonbill, one of them flying. The route back was via the beach was became a bit of a slog, and we were glad to be back on hard standing. Back at the car we decided to head to Cley Spy for lunch.

The art cafe does some very nice lunches most of them vegetarian, I had a falafel salad, and Helen home made beans on toast. The reason for heading to Glandford what primarily for lunch, but also to have a browse around Cley Spy and do the Bayfield woodland walk.

After a lovely lunch we headed out on the walk, it was warm and humid so quite energy sapping. The highlight of the walk was Jays and Treecreeper. At Bayfield Hall we stopped off at the wildflower cafe for a quick refreshment then finished off the last mile of the walk back to the Glanford commercial centre where we were happy for a sit down in the comfortable car seats.

We decided to stay in for dinner and had salad.

Blakeney 2017 – The journey there

Cley Windmill view
Cley Windmill view

Another holiday in North Norfolk! We haven;t been for just over a year. We left the house just before 10 and obeyed the SatNav which took us on the M25 to the A1M then Cambridge way and through Thetford forest via Mildenhall and Lakenheath. We stopped and at the Lakenheath watching area but as promised by the website it was like most weekends, nothing was happening, so we stretched our legs for 5 minutes and carried on to Swaffham  where we grabbed supplies at the Waitrose.

The cottage was a bungalow just off Mariner Hill and had a parking space which is very rare for Blakeney. Parking was a challenge but a neighbour put us right, the parking for the cottage was not outside by the other side of the next door neighbour. I would have loved to see the plans for the cluster of houses, because there were parking spaces belonging to houses opposite and orphaned well kept gardens.  We unpacked and I did me Osteopath homework to sort out my back, then we went for a walk.

Blakeney harbour sunset
Blakeney harbour sunset

We walked to Cley along the sea wall the weather was warm despite the breeze, and the weather for the week promised more of the same if not warmer. At Cley we got the bus back to Blakeney, had a swift half and booked a table for Sunday evening then retired to the hut for some more back exercises and a salad dinner. We watched Babs on iPlayer which I thought was average and Helen really enjoyed. Helen then watched Graham Norton Show while I went down to the quay to get some pictures of the Sunset.

We were looking forward to the  rest of the week.

The Ridgeway – Overton Hill to Ogbourne St George

Typical Ridgeway path view
Typical Ridgeway path view

After a successful testing of my back finishing off the Capital Ring, it was time for a new challenge, The Ridgeway. I got up early as getting to the far end would take some time 1:30 to Ogbourne St George then another 1:30 of buses to get to Overton Hill. The final miles of the M4 and A346 was typical of the countryside I would be walking through, rolling chalk down which was looking great in the spring light, even under the overcast skies.

View from the Ridgeway
View from the Ridgeway

Parking in Ogbourne St George was easy, a sleepy village with a pub, B&B, and hotel. I had to walk about a mile to the main roan to find the bus stop, then had a 25 minute wait for X5 bus at 09:46. It was a good job i did not try for the earlier bus because there wasn’t one. The X5 never turned up but the 80 at 09:52 did, and I was soon in Marlborough. A coffee at Nero wash down a pain au raisin, while I considered my next move, the 42 passed through West Overton and departed in 30 minutes so I scrubbed the idea of a taxi to keep costs down.

I had to walk a mile to the start of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill, my FitBit had registered 3 mikes by that point. Just before the start I took a quick look at The Sanctuary a stone and wood circle. The beginning is a by way and as such is a series of white scars caused by off roaders, which luckily for me are banned from 1 October to 30 April. The path keeps to the ridge, as you would expect to, he views are distant, a.x there are barrows and stone circles to be seen all over the landscape.

Barbury Castle from the Ridgeway
Barbury Castle from the Ridgeway

There was a codd wind blowing so i did not hang about, the occasional breaking of the clouds bought welcome warming sunshine. The path was fairly quiet considering the status of the path I passed a few walkers and a couple of mountain bikers. I had a ack lunch and stopped at about mile 4 of the trail.

Ogbourne St George from the Ridgeway
Ogbourne St George from the Ridgeway

There were plenty of birds about and they were easy to spot because the land scan had few trees so they congregated in the odd hawthorn that edged the path. I spotted Twite, Skylarks, Lapwing, and Chaffinch to mention a few. The path rolled with the hills but stayed high all the time, one of the higher points was Barbury castle which is now just earth banks, I’m not sure what it looked like when it was first built. I stopped for my second sandwich after the castle on a long grass stretch, called Smeathe’s Ridge and used for gallops, it had stunning views all around.

Ogbourne St George Thatched Cottages
Ogbourne St George Thatched Cottages

The trial descend as it gets to Ogbourne St George and I left the path 200m before the bus stop I started at to take a look at the river that runs through, it was a bit of a disappointment because it was dry. It gave me a chance to see the rest of the village as the car was parked at the other end of the high street. In all I had done just over 10 miles of the path, so if I could keep that rate up and slightly more I should be able to do it in another 7 sections. Lets wait and see if I manage it.

Three museums for the price of one

Weather forecast was grey in the morning and sunny later on so we decided the Spitfire museum at Mamston would fill the morning till the sun was out, then we could go for a walk around the coast in the area. I got the sat nav wrong and we ended up in the wrong direction, butHrle. Soon sorted it out being the sat nav master.

We found the museum at Mamston right next to Kent International airport, which has a campaign going to keep it open smbolised by thousands of yellow ribbons tied to the fence for hundreds of yards either side of the main entrance. The museum car park is shared by two museums the Spitfire one and one relating to Manston Airfield. We did the Spitfire one first free entry and consists of a building with two big rooms each housing a spitfire, and plenty of donated artefacts in glass cabinets each with an explanation of the article plus the name of the donor. The most amusing thing was the description of how the Spitfire tank and bomb brackets had been used to fly beef over the Channel to the troops on the continent.

The second museum cost £2 to get in and was quite smatuer, but had some great displays of part and whoke aircrafts including some jets from the early days. Some of them looked positively antique compared to their contemporary craft.

We headed to Rams gate for a walk but the place looked very down on its heels and the parking was a coendive do we headed to Margate instead where we spend £6.50 on parking on the quay, which i almost lost when the wind blew it out of the machine and almost over the harbour wall, I chased it and managed to get it which was essential as we had. No more change. At the tourist office nearby they arranged a taxi to Botkny Bay Hotel at Kingsgate where we had lunch, i had a crab sandwich.

We set off and the wind was cold but when we got around the headland we were protected and even more once we descended didn’t to the beach where we spent the rest of the walk back to the harbour. On the way we saw some graffiti in local chalk on the sea wall, mentioning Ken Kaneki, #sarumi, and #karmaisa. Apparently an amine TV series called Tokyo Ghoul features they character, Wikipedia article.

The Turner Contemporary provided a nice coffee and cake before we had a look around the gallery. The heart was very modern with a special exhibition about threads, i.e. material and string. There is always done Turner on display and in the corridor leading to the toilets we found some fine etchings on display. The lift was interesting it had been lined with carpet then yogurt had been used to paint abstract designs, it smelt a bit, but apparently not as much as it had in the earlier days. Helen has a look at the museum gift shop while i headed to the amusements on the front. I never made I there but I did find a great shop selling g all sorts of s come hand camera equipment, bought some bellows for £25 after haggling, they are the wrong for bit there are plenty of adapters on eBay.

I met Helen back at the car and we made our way back to the hut for the last time. We loaded the car with the heavy stuff when we got back to save time in the morning. We had a table booked at the Zetland Arms at 18:30.

Windy walk Kingsdown to White Cliffs of Dover

We had planned to go to Chatham Maritime museumbut when we got up the weather had changed from the forecast, the sun was out and it was going to be bright all day. I hatched a plan to walk from the National Trust visitor centre at the White Cliffs of Dover, to Kingsdown. After some bad working out which way the wind was blowing we ended up driving to the visitor centre, to get a taxi back to Kingsdown.

The man at the centre was very helpful not only was he able to provide a phone number for Dover Royal Taxis he honestly up and arranged it for us. 5 minutes later the taxi arrived and whisked us away back to Kingsdown for the second time in a day (don’t ask!).

The wind was still cold but with the wind behind us it was not unfortable, and if we kept in from the cliff there was a kind of a lee in the wind. We expected a few up hill sections being a coastal path and all. We were not disappointed after half a mile came the first one it was short and steep and deposited us at the top of the cliff, where a path and track was lined by some lovely houses with impressive views over the channel.

A few miles later adter passing the Walker and Kingsdown  a golf club, we reached St Margaret at Cliffe, where the path dropped down again. We stopped at the The Pines garden tearoom and museum, where we stopped for a coffee and cake. The orange and gooseberry cake was just right. Next was an up hill plus to a high point where the South Foreland Lighthouse, which is owned by the national trust, however on this day it was shut, during the warmer months there is a tea room open.

After the hard slog out of the vilkage to the lighthouse was needed a rest and a suitable bench appeared so we rested for 10 minutes. Over the next brow in the hill i noticed some concrete structures in the hillside, and it sprung to mind that they were parabolic listening mirtorsused to detect distant aircraft before radar was invented. There was a path across Langdon Hole and a steep set of step that led to them, said to Helen that I was going to take a look, Helen bravely followed.

The structures were fenced off but you could get close enough for a good look. There were two one about three metres in diameter the other slightly smaller. The final steps backup out of the valley were very steep and we stopped to catch our breath at the top. It was not far back to the visitor centre, but we took a slight detour to take in a view from the headland, it made us realise how our decision to walk with the wind behind had been the right on, as we walked into the wind back to the path.

Back at the centre we stopped for a cup of tea before heading back to the gut via a supermarket to get some dinner. It had been a really nice walk especially given the weather.

Dover Castle is a big place

With rain threatening we thought we might have to go further afield to find something indoors, but we woke up to a bright day the rain had been delayed until after lunch. We decided that Dover Castle should be our destination, it was just a few miles down the road.

We left the hut at 09:00 and stopped off at the national trust White Cliffs of Dover visitors centre, where we attempted a walk along the coast to the lighthouse tea room, however we only got a third of the way there before the cold biting wind got the better of us. We went to the cafe to warm up and found out that but the lighthouse was closed so it was a good job we turned back, Helen would have been incandescent had we got there and the tea room was found to be shut.

After a pleasant coffee we had and enjoyable hour overlooking the port of Dover and the activities going. I tuned the scanner into the operations team choosing which lanes to load next while my camera took a timelapse of the boat loading. Next stop would be the castle.

The entry fee just shy of £20 seemed a bit steep, but Helen was paying, so i went with the flow. The wind was not letting up and the shelter of the tunnels that we looked at first was welcome. The tours of the medical wing followed by one with a multi-media show explaining the Dunkirk retreat wax very enlightening and done very well. We stopped at the NAAFI restaurant for a cheese scone and a coffee before getting the land train to the mail n event the iconic castle that you can see on top of the hill from the town.

There is an Anglo Saxon church on the highest point which is right next to if not connected to a Roman lighthouse. We had a look around the inside of the church. It was quite different and perhaps had a military influence very regimented and neat. Every pew had the allotted number of prayer kneelers and each was precisely spaced across he length of the pew. I did not spot a grave yard outside which is unusual for a church perhaps because the area id inhabited.

Finally we visited the great tower, and popped into a regimental museum which was a bonus museum on the site. The great tower was a bit disappointing for me because the place was made to look like they think it would have looked in the past but it all looked too new and colourful. We had had our time in the building because they announced it would be closing in fifteen minutes. We exited via the gift shop.

On the way home we heard on the radio that there had been a suspected terrorist attempt at Westminster, and when we got home we followed events on TV.

We went to the Zetland Arms for dinner.