Trip to La Belle France

We were up early for a 09:50 shuttle to France, in fact early enough to just miss the 08:50, but have enough time to grab a coffee before the 09:20. The terminal was very quiet unlike it suspect it would be during the holiday season. Our destination was Cap Gris Nez to have a look at the gun battery and take a walk, then to Wissant a little seaside town with a lovely beach.

It always seems like a bit of a barrier to travel the channel, in the sense that when you are on the continent you can just get in your car and drive to anywhere, even as far as Beijing, from England there is a stretch of water in the way and no easy way across it. You have to book ahead then drive to a place then wait for a while get loaded onto a boat or train then wait till you are delivered to the continent. It would be a bit different if the tunnel was a drive through one because the while booking ahead and loading would not be necessary. In reality you spend 30 minutes being shaken, while you talk shit on you blog.

It did not take long to get accustomed to driving in the gutter. We headed down the lovely smooth autoroute and got off following the signs Cap Gris-Nez, where there is a car park and awalk to some viewing points. Unfortunately the wind was cold so we did hang about. We did notice what we thought were Meadow Pipits and then a Marsh Harrier quartering a field. Next we headed to a museum in a gun battery, however it was shut till 14:00, so we went to Wissant, and parked up on the town square. Lunchtime was approaching so the town was shutting down, so we grabbed a coffee in the loacl bar, before heading down to the beach, where again we did not spend too much the fighting the elements, but headed back to a cafe for some lunch. I had a cheese sandwich and Helen a  cheese gallette.we were in the conservatory so it was nice and warm with the sun shinning in.

After lunch we went to the Twist build battery, where a very big 380mm gun was built by the Germans, opened by Hitler, and surrendered to the Canadians. Now it is quite a good museum with displays of  WWII artefacts and exhibits. In the museum shop you could buy antique war memorabilia, including done genuine Russian and Swiss baynettes!

Next was a drive along the coast towards Calsis., Which was enjoyable withe sweeping vistas as the road ascended and descended valleys. We planned to turn around before we got to Calais but there were road works so we had to go into Valid before turning around and heading to Cite Europe shopping centre.

At the shopping centre we stocked up on food we never normally buy, some wine for Hrkrn and i got a couple of local beers and a box of Cidre doux which is only 2.5% and is quite quaffable. By the time we had shopped Helen has seen enough of France so we headed back to the tunnel terminal and managed to just miss a train but ended up at the very front of the queue for the 17:19 delayed by 5 minutes.

We were back in blighty just a few minutes late, and feasted on out supermarche purchases for dinner.

Sissinghurst and Canterbury

Rain day so we decided to use the car, and do a tour for the day. Main stops would be Cranbrook, Sissinghurst and Canterbury. Whilst having breakfast iIbooked the tunnel for a trip to France on the Tuesday, then we left and drove through thick drizzle, to Cranbrook where we had a coffee and a look around the church and graveyard looking for Helen’s relatives.

By the time we got to the National Trust property at Sissinghurst, the rain had stopped, but it was a bit windy and damp. We had a look at the garden which I image would look fantastic in a months time. There is a tower in the middle of the property and I took the opportunity to trapse up to the top for a look at the view. It allows you to get a good overview of the whole garden which is very extensive, There is a cottage in the grounds where the most recent owners used to live, and we got on the 13:00 tour.

With some time to spare we had some lunch I had some lovely pea, lettuce and mint soup. The tour of the house was very interesting, just a few rooms but they were covered in book shelves and looked lived in. Next we had a look at the library in the main building where they had book conservators demonstrating their work.

We decided to return back via Canterbury where Helen got some Euro’s for tomorrow and a pair of shoes she hoped would be less slippery that the ones she was wearing. There is a great eclectic museum in the centre full of art, artefacts, stuffed birds and other random stuff, just the sort of museum Helen and I like.

We had burgers for dinner and had an early night as we had reasonably early start to get to France,

A Sandwich Deal walk

We made a leisurely start and headed out the house at 10:00 destination Deal train station, the plan was to get the train to Sandwich and walk back to Deal, via the local coastal path. We arrived early for the 11:00 train so we took a still around town and grabbed some supplies. The train was waiting for us, it was the London train to Start Pancras, I guess it takes a loop around from London via Margate.

The journey was only 6 minutes, and we headed in to town then turned right at the car park by the river and headed out towards the sea. We had a golf course cross and just before we spotted a Ring-necked Parakeet flying over. Once we had crossed the Royal St George golf course with its appropriately red crossed green flags, we to the sea where there was a gathering of Dachshund owners and their hounds. We stopped for a sandwich fittingly overlooking Sandwich Bay.

We walked past Sandwich Bay Estate which was by the sea and made up mainly of houses with more than 10 bedrooms. Apparently one was once owned by the Astor’s and another by Jonathan Aitkin. We noticed one had a robotic lawn mower not sure if that meant they could not afford a gardener. The wind started to pick as we passed another golf course, luckily it was not exactly again us it was coming from the land, and eventually we were able to descend from the sea wall to a path somewhat sheltered by dunes.

The seats on the edge of Deal were a welcome rest, especially for me who had decided it was time to take up running again. My first run in the morning had been 1.5 miles and taken me 17 minutes, not a four minute mile but you have to start somewhere. I used to do sub 10 minute miles for four miles. My aim is to be able to run for 30 minutes.

We stopped for a coffee on the seafront and then wandered back to the station to get the car and Helen booked at table at the Zetland Arms it seemed to be the best pub in the village so we thought we would try it first. On the way back we managed to find the “Ham Sandwich” sign at Finglesham. It was hard to park up but we managed to get a few shots before any traffic came.

Kingsdown – a bonus holiday day

It is holiday time again, in March because we both took a weeks holiday over from last year. We had plans to fly to somewhere warm but when you failed to organise something we ended up booking a cottage in Kingsdown near Deal in Kent. The night before we got a call from the cottage owner explaining that the cottage was ready and we could turn up any time. That meant we could drive straight there and not have to waste time finding somewhere to visit on the way. Essentially we could gain a days holiday, so we got up at 07:30 and headed out at just before 09:00.

The trip around the M25 was traffic free, but one unexpected task was to have to pay for the crossing at Dartford there are no longer pay stations you have until midnight the day after to pay up online. We missed a couple of sat nav instructions and ended up going via the port of Dover, but the detour only added a couple of minutes to the overall journey.

We arrived at the cottage at 11:00 and quickly unloaded the car. The approach to the village has some very tight roads, and there was a lot of giving way to other cars. We soon found the cottage for the week, an end of terrace on an unadopted road that leftover the sea.we were just over the road from a freehouse called​ The Rising Sun, and a hundred yards from The Zetland Arms a Shepherd Neame pub literally on the pebble beach, which after a quick look at the beach we sampled it’s wares. We has a cheese sandwich and a drink each, before taking a drive to Deal for a look around.

We chose Sandwich instead, and before that Pegwell bay, which is mud flat just outside Sandwich. We arrived at a good time as the tide was starting to come in, pushing the waders, closer to the hide. The pictures on the hide wall promised lots of waders but we were happy with Redshank, Curlew, and a start Avocet amongst some ducks.

Sandwich is a nice little town with old buildings that over hang the streets. It seems ytgat Saturday afternoon was notthebest time to visit as some of the shops were shut. We as a wander around then headed back to the car. On the way back we detoured via Finglesham where there is a sign with both Ham and Sandwich which I hoped to be pictured by, however we had not done enough research and would have to return another day.

Back at the hut i watched the Rugby which England lost to Ireland meaning they failed to break the record for consequtive wins and also the Six Nations Grand Slam, they did however win the Six Nations overall.

We were in bed early as the TV at the hut was tiny and we had to use my laptop to watch Amazon Prime.

St Agnes – The journey there

St Agnes beach view
St Agnes beach view

September is a traditional late year holiday, and this year unusually the the family get together was not happening so rather than two weeks we are only taking the one. We were off to St Agnes in Cornwall. We have never been there before but we have been further north and further south up the Cornish coat before.

We planned to leave about 08:00 but I was up earlier than anticipated and we got away at 07:30. I had been saving Archers episodes for the journey so we had the hour long special and the 5 following episodes to watch. We weren’t that impressed with the trial episode probably because with the Archers you get to know the characters but this episode was with a jury of unknown characters, even if some of them were familiar actors. We decided taking the A303 because it avoided the M4/M5 junction at Bristol. We were happy with out decision because we got to Killerton National Trust without any traffic issues.

Wheal Coates near St Agnes
Wheal Coates near St Agnes

Killerton is a smallish house and had an exhibition around the craft of weaving and making wool, which has links to the property. We had a look around the house then some lunch in the cafe and made our way on to Cornwall our planned destination Trelissick on the south of Cornwall.

Things however did not go to plan when we got to the A30 there was a sign suggesting that we should take the North road to North Cornwall instead. Helen did not feel that that was the best course of action, and convinced me, so I turned back and got on the A30 which  looked OK with light traffic. We made good headway until we got to the road works for the new dual carriage way across Bodmin, where we  spent 45 minutes in queuing and very slow traffic. It looked like we would nboit be able to take in Trelissick and in fact Helen needed to phone the people and let them know we would be later than anticipated.

Sea view near St Agnes
Sea view near St Agnes

We stopped off in Truro for some provisions, we got some great salads from Waitrose Cornish section. Strangely you have to pay for the Cornish stuff in the Cornish section, we did not know that and at the till we were told we needed to go back and pay for it.

We got to the cottage at about 16:45 it was fairly easy to find, and the owners who live next door were very welcoming. We unpacked and then went for a walk down to the sea, where we found a fish and chip shop as well as a pub that sold real ale. There was no beach to see but the tide was fully in. Everything looked good for an excellent week on holiday.

Osprey at Weston Turville reservoir

Osprey Weston Turville Reservoir
Osprey Weston Turville Reservoir

Since the first week of our holiday I had seen reports on Twitter of an Osprey at Weston Turville reservoir, a local to home reservoir. It is pretty small as reservoirs go there is a sailing club but they sail small boats like Lasers. I would say it is about 200 metres by 300-400 metres. I thought I should check it out, so I dropped Helen off at her folks and popped round.

The signs were good there were bird watchers there with scopes and binoculars. I enquired about the Osprey it had apparently made an appearance earlier and caught two fish, but had not been seen for a while. Time lapse and birding are quite complimentary as you can set the camera up and use the waiting time to watch for birds. That is exactly what I did, I tried out my new panning device bought on Amazon for less tgat £20, basically a good quality kitchen timer.

Osprey Weston Turville Reservoir
Osprey Weston Turville Reservoir

I had done one sequence and popped over to start a new one, taking in the sailing rave tgat had just started and noticed that the other bird watchers had got all excited. The Osprey was back, it circled over the water for a while, giving me a chance to get some shots, as it passed over the bank end of the reservoir, then headed off towards Stoke Mandeville. Mission accomplished, next I popped up to Coombe hill to get some more sequences, there was s nothing like doing something to get proficient at it, the old 10,000 hours theory.

Laser Weson Turville Reservoir
Laser Weson Turville Reservoir

I put the GoPro on the panorama plinth at the monument, at the top of Coombe hill, it got some funny looks and some questions but I managed to do 20 minutes which equates to 120 degrees of panning. Some people were I view at times but I hoped that it would add to the final video, remember every day is a school day.

The rest of the day was spent processing photo’s and videos and catching up on missed TV especially “This is England 90”

Body boarding in Croyde Bay

Relaxed start to the day for me but three of the party went down to the beach at seven in the morning for a swim. Well I say seven but in reality even though Helen had prepared her stuff, she was still ferreting around and rustling about in our bedroom at 07:30! I got up at about 08:30 and made myself some breakfast, black cherry jam on toast and a mug of coffee.

The other came back at about 09:00 they had managed to get wet up to the ankles (ed: it was above the knee!) and complained that the water was cold. We sat around deciding what we should do with the rest of the day and someone suggested some body boarding. Great idea, so C & T and I got into our swimmers and headed down the lane to find an establishment that would rent out the kit. Our first stop was Baggy Lodge Surf Hire but there seemed to be no one on duty, so after trying to get some attention we headed down to the Croyde Surf school.

The surf school did not hire out kit without lessons but they kindly pointed us in the direction over the other side of the road where the caravan park shops are. We headed over and were soon kitted out with wetsuit, boots, gloves and a bodyboard each. We used the shops changing rooms to squeeze ourselves into the wetsuits, then wandered back across the road to the beach. We left Helen looking after the kit on a handy rocky outcrop and headed to the waves.

Surprisingly in a wetsuit the keeps you warm in the sea, unless you put your back into the wave then the water goes right down the neck and through the wetsuit giving you an all over chill. Being novices we took some time to figure out how to catch a wave, but after about half an hour we had figured that you needed to be not too far out, and wait for the wave that sucks you in before you launch yourself forward using the purchase you get from your feet on the sea bed.

Rather than go back to the shop we walked back to the hut to have a shower and extract ourselves from our wetsuits. Then I drove down to the shops with Helen and dropped off the gear. We had also decided to stay in and I had volunteered to cook pasta for dinner.

I had seen a recipe in the Tesco magazine for baked chick peas and J had purchased some while they were out for a walk near Appledore. You bake them with a teaspoon of olive oil and smoked paprika to which you add honey and seeds for the second part of the bake. It took a lot longer than the recipe but I think it was a combination of the oven and the fact I did double the quantity. I will try again at home, with my own trusted oven. They tasted fine with extra time in the oven.

I had a portion of the cheese cake I made earlier in the week. The middle was not divine but the edges were still split, so the fridge is not the answer. We watched the bake off then went to bed, C, T & J were going on a Lundy boat trip on Thursday the rest of us were undecided.

Pirate golf at Woolacombe and a long walk back

Grey start to the morning and another leisurely preparation for the day. We left in two cars to drive to Woolacombe for a round of Pirate golf. We took the really small lanes via Georgeham to Woolacombe, I suspect there may have been a longer but takes the same time route further in land. We had to do a lot of giving way, and had to reverse once. Confusion with  a cyclist meant we had to sit behind them as they cycled up the road. The cyclist waved us past but in the confusion we missed the opportunity to pass and then the road narrowed, the cyclist shook his head in disgust!

At Woolacombe we parked up they have a car park where you pay £3 if you leave before 13:00 and £5 if you leave after 13:00, which means if you turn up at 16:00 and park for even 5 minutes it will cost you £5, is that the most  expensive parking around? The pirate golf is an unusual 15 holes, and although it has a pirate theme that is more the surroundings than the golf itself. Each hole is basically a straight forward rolling patch of green carpet, some of the holes are in dips which makes getting a hole in one fairly simple and keeps people moving on. T was winning most of the time, until C awarded him a 7 on one hole, then I got a hole in one at the penultimate hole and pipped everyone for the win.

We grabbed a pasty from a little bakery on the front then headed down to the sea front benches to meet the non-golfers. Next activity was either the slot machines or a walk back. I opted for the walk back. We wandered down the beach along Woolacombe Sand towards Putsborough Sand. On the way we saw a dead young seal washed up, and a plastic crate that had what looked like mussels on stalks, they were still alive and were putting out tentacles as if they were trying to taste the sea. A look on Google when I got back but could not figure out what they were. At the Putsborough cafe I had a coffee and a slice of Banana Cranberry and Orange cake which was nice. At one point a squall passed over so we waited for the rain to stop, people taking shelter by returning to the cafe.

Next was the slog up out of the bay and onto the coastal path towards Baggy Point, about half a mile round we were hit by another squall and I had to get the poncho out, but it has seen better days and only managed to keep the worst of the rain off, luckily it was windy so we dried out quickly once the rain stopped.We decided not to go right round the point and took the route over the top that comes down into the national trust car park, but we sneaked over a field and came down just above the hut. The others got back an hour later. T ran back to Woolacombe to pick up his car!

For dinner we grazed on the contents of the fridge, most of it healthy.

Walking to Baggy Point and cooking dinner

Early but slow start with a leisurely breakfast. Some of us left the house at about 10 for a walk to Baggy Point and round to Putsborough Sands for a coffee before heading back over the top. The weather was a bit grey so I put my 50mm on the camera which forces you to think a bit more, rather more than I do when I have my favoured wide angle lenses. Part way round we lost two of the walking party as they headed over the top to get back to watch the Davis cup matches.

At the Cafe there was a rush on and it took some time to get J and I a coffee and a portion of chips each. The trouble with going to the Cafe us that it is a long descent so to get back over the top we had a fierce hill to climb, however once tackled the rest of the way back to the north end of Croyde Bay is level or down hill. The path follows old farm tracks where you can see the way carts have worn ruts in the bedrock just below the surface. We also had to follow the path of a stream which had been paved with breeze blocks to make walking dryer.

The tennis finished Murray won but not without making it look difficult, then we turned over to watch rugby world cup matches. I had volunteered to cook and spent the afternoon in and out of the Kitchen. On the menu was my usual tomato pasta sauce, my new favourite roast cauliflower and hazelnut carbonara, and a BlackBerry baked cheese cake, with the berries coming from the bushes just up the lane from where we are staying. There were plenty about but not at the edges, they grow low so it was easy enough to kind of walk on them without getting too scratched by the brambles.

Timing for dinner went well with everything ready within 5 minutes of of the predicted 19:00. All the dishes went down well, I was pleased with the  cauliflower dish I seem to have cracked it, so it will now be part of my small repertoire. The cheese cake was not as good as I thought it might be perhaps it was still a bit warm but it seemed a bit split. Not sure what I need to do to fix it?

Downton starts again tonight so it will be a late night all of 22:30 before it finishes, so a lay in tomorrow will be the order of the day.

Holiday centre change from Cornwall to Devon

Holiday change over day, from Cornwall to Croyde in Devon, and from just me and Helen to Helens family and hangers on. We were up early and ready to leave the hut at 09:30 without any trouble at all there was not much to tidy, so we had time for a leisurely breakfast.  Helen prides herself on leaving holiday properties tidily, today was no exception, ensuring the mantle piece items were repositioned where we had found them.

We took the coastal A39 which winds through the Cornish and Devonshire countryside, the sun was shining and the atmosphere pretty crystal clear, so the drive was a pleasure. We passed through quite a few familiar places from holidays past. At Bideford we passed the turn off to Croyde but we had planned a detour to the National Trusts Arlington Court where our first priority was coffee and cake in the Cafe. The gluten free lime and coconut cake went down a treat with a large americano.

Arlington Court was or is home to the Chichester family which are related to Sir Francis Chichester who sailed around the world single handed at a time without GPS. (ed: bloody good book). The house itself is full of shells, stuffed birds and model boats, it seems that they were a family that liked collecting stuff. The last of the house even had a museum wing to store all of it that somehow there was no room for on the house itself. We left Arlington Court at about 13:00, time for a supermarket sweep before our anticipated arrival at the new holiday venue in Croyde at 15:00.

I hadn’t banked on the amount of shopping that would be required at the Braunton Tesco we needed provisions for 7 for a week, almost £300 and a trolley full. The very helpful store manager asked if we had picked one of every item they sold! The shopping took about an hour, we wondered why people bothered doing that every week, we get Tesco to deliver which is far more convenient.

C&T were already at the hut when we arrived and five journeys later I had unpacked the car of luggage and shopping. Everyone was accounted for by 17:00 and we all settled in, some resting on the lawn others taking a stroll on the beach. Dinner would a simple affair preprepared salad stuff from Waitrose. Bring Devon on.