3 England

Our road trip from Holyhead to Heathrow through Wales & Cornwall

Our road trip from Holyhead to Heathrow through Wales & Cornwall

Thursday 5th November 2015

We caught the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead; the trip took less than two hours to cross the St George’s Channel from Ireland to Wales. The crossing was a little rough so we spent our time seated and watched the other ferries as we overtook the slower ones or passed those going in the opposite direction.

Friday we spent the day playing tourist in Liverpool and had a lovely day – 8 hours later I was rather RS! The day was a pleasant surprise, we both had fairly low expectations of Liverpool and it has been a revelation; beautifully restored buildings, particularly around the docks area; great shopping precinct and lots of open spaces with well-maintained appearance.

The day began with the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour of the city, then a visit to the Christ the Lord Catholic Cathedral completed in 1967, a rather modern take on a Catholic Cathedral; the round building and spire, paintings, stained glass, altars and Stations of the Cross were quite different and I felt they were not as welcoming or comforting as they could have been (I must be rather set in my thinking). “The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King is a dramatic icon of faith, architecture, and human endeavour. An awe-inspiring landmark on the Liverpool skyline; the Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Liverpool and the seat of the Archbishop of Liverpool, the spiritual leader of the whole Northern Province of the Catholic Church in England.

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Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral opened in 1967 with its modern, circular design, modern works of art and glorious multi-coloured windows. Dating from the 1930s, the majestic barrel vaults of fine brickwork and granite pillars in the original Lutyens Crypt offer a sharp contrast in architectural styles. We then walked to the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral (the largest Anglican Cathedral in Europe) the first section was consecrated in 1910 and finally completed in 1978. The Cathedral’s dimensions:

  • Length: 188.7 metres (619 ft)
  • Area: 9,687.4 square metres (104,274 sq ft)
  • Height of tower: 100.8 metres (331 ft)
  • Choir vault: 35.3 metres (116 ft)
  • Nave vault: 36.5 metres (120 ft)
  • Under tower vault: 53.3 metres (175 ft)
  • Tower arches: 32.6 metres (107 ft)

The cathedral was built mainly of local sandstone quarried from the South Liverpool suburb of Woolton. The last sections (The Well of the Cathedral at the west end in the 1960s and 1970s) used the closest matching sandstone that could be found from other NW quarries once the supply from Woolton had been exhausted.

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The view to the River Mersey


The belltower is the largest, and also one of the tallest, in the world; it houses the world’s highest (67 m (220 ft)) and heaviest (16.5 long tons (16.8 tonnes)) ringing peal of bells, and the third-heaviest bourdon bell (14.5 long tons (14.7 tonnes)) in the United Kingdom.”

Our sightseeing finished with the Beatles Museum back down at the docks. “The Beatles Story, Albert Dock is the world’s largest permanent exhibition purely devoted to the lives and times of The Beatles. The exhibition is located on the UNESCO World Heritage site at the Albert Dock and guides you through the music, culture and story of the band that changed the world. You can join the Beatles on their journey; first conquering Liverpool, and then the world through immersive recreations of key locations from the band’s career including The Casbah Club, The Cavern Club, and Abbey Road Studios. With information, imagery, memorabilia and video interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono, the Beatles Story, Albert Dock tells the story of the fab four.”

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By the time we finished it was nearly five o’clock, so time for a drink or two and dinner followed by a walk back to our hotel via the shopping district to look for some knitting wool. No wonder I was RS!

Saturday I ventured down to the shopping area for some supplies while John went to purchase tickets for the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir at the Philharmonic Hall presenting Baroque Masters – Handel, Bach and Haydn.


St George’s Hall Art Gallery


Lime Street Railway Station







After lunch I headed around to Rumford Street to have a look at the Western Approaches Museum in the building, used as a control room for 1941 to 1945. Alas it closed on October 31st for the winter period.


Waterfront buildings from the rich shipping days









From there I walked down to the Mersey River water front and along the pier where the Isle of Man and Mersey ferries are docked. I continued down the pier to the Albert Dock which is a rectangle of old store building that were opened by Prince Albert in the mid 1800’s and are now used for restaurants.


Monument to the working horses around the docks


This horse is made from wire rope



A 180 view of one of the several docks with the Albert buildings on the left

The concert on Saturday night was most enjoyable; the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir at the Philharmonic Hall presented a range of work from Baroque Masters, namely Handel, Bach and Haydn. The Choir was over 100 voices supported by two sopranos and two tenors. The conductor was an energetic little man who must have been exhausted at the end of the performance from the amount of energy he expended during the concert.

When we returned to the hotel, the Remembrance Day Concert was being broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Sunday we left Liverpool in light rain that stayed with us most of the day. Once again we drove under the Mersey River (ran out of time to “Ferry Across the Mersey”) and stopped at the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Sunlight Village at Port Sunlight.

Entrance to the Lady Lever Art Gallery

Entrance to the Lady Lever Art Gallery build in 1922 by her husband William

On exhibit was a wonderful collection of art, furniture and statuary from around the globe; the only disappointment, the Jasper Collection I had particularly wanted to see was closed for refurbishment, however there were a few pieces from the collection on display.IMG_8946






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From Port Sunlight we headed into North Wales to Llangollen through the Horseshoe Pass down into Llangollen Valley with the River Dee wending its way through the centre. While it was raining, the scenery was just glorious, every shade of autumn colouring shining through to welcome us to this beautiful area.


View from the Horseshoe Pass as we approached Llangollen

We were booked into our unit for four nights on the side of the River Dee which is adjacent to the Llangollen Canal; next best thing as we were a bit disappointed not to be able to hire a canal boat. It did not take long to see that most tourist activities close down at the end of October, so time to plan our own. The river path along the River Dee was down our back steps, so was easy to access and take advantage of this beautiful walk – even with light rain it was still most enjoyable. We walked along the river, up from the village to the Canal, back through the village for a look and back to the unit; originally we went looking for the Tourist Information Office, but that proved elusive.


Upstream to our cottage just past the church spire


Downstream of the main Llangollen Bridge


Overlooking the township from one of the nearby hills

John later returned to the Museum and spoke to the ladies there and found out all we needed to know and lots of history as well.

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Knife Sharpener                           Washing Machine                      Butter Chern

Tuesday was a bright morning, so time to go driving; firstly up the hill over the Canal, but that became a Bridle Path to the Roman ruins overlooking the Llangollen Valley. We then headed east through Trevor to find the Pontcysylite Aqueduct following the instructions of Dai, our landlord and tourist information person. We walked right across the Aqueduct above the River Dee and back again – a bit of a challenge in the wind, so I stayed close to the railing and holding on as needed. From the top of the Canal we drove downstream so we could view the Aqueduct from below – an awesome sight. Telford was the Engineer to design the Aqueducts as well as the Horseshoe Falls, raising the level of the River Dee by one meter to ensure the ongoing water supply for the canal. 

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“The Llangollen Canal  is a navigable canal crossing the border between England and Wales. In 2009 an 11 mile section of the canal from Gledrid Bridge near Rhoswiel through to the Horseshoe Falls, which includes Chirk Aqueduct and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

The Horseshoe Fall to collect water for the canal

The Horseshoe Falls to collect water for the canal

In the 1980s, British Waterways took the decision to rename the surviving central sections of the Ellesmere Canal as the Llangollen Canal. As a rebranding of Britain’s industrial waterways as leisure destinations, it has encouraged usage and promoted restoration.

In the latter half of the 20th century canal use by leisure craft grew. The “Llangollen Branch of the Shropshire Union” became popular due to its aqueducts and scenery. The canal was later renamed the Llangollen Canal, becoming one of the most popular canals for holidaymakers in Britain.

A notable feature of the canal is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, built by Thomas Telford. Opened in 1805, the aqueduct is more than 300 metres (980 ft) long and 38 metres (125 ft) above the valley floor. It has 19 stone arches, each with a 45-foot (14 metre) span. Another aqueduct carries the canal over the River Ceiriog at Chirk, and there are tunnels nearby at Whitehouses, Chirk, and Ellesmere”.

Wednesday we spent driving through Snowdonia; it was a lovely soft morning, light drizzle from grey skies – I would possibly become sick of the weather if I had to live with it, but to me I couldn’t ask for much more favourable weather. The scenery lost none of its stark beauty or majesty in the damp day; fog closed down some of the distance views while driving over the mountains. All the rivers and streams were quite swollen from the rain, but were not running too far from their normal path. Not far from Llangollen we stopped at an organic Farm Shop on a Bison Farm; a cornucopia of farm-fresh produce that was hard to resist.

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The current hire vehicle (Toyota Avensis) is proving to be a challenge; its suspension and ride bring back some not-fond memories of a Ford Taurus in America some years ago.

It is amazing how reality and TV coincide at times – Wednesday night we watched Prunella Scales and Timothy West on their 50th Wedding Anniversary canal trip to Llangollen on the canal and they had passed over the side-by-side aqueducts near Chirk – where we would be heading past the following day. We had watched their canal boat journey the week before on a different canal.

Thursday morning was bright and sunny to leave Llangollen but the clouds were beginning to roll in from the west. We headed back through Trevor and on the Chirk so we could see the amazing adjacent aqueducts for rail and canal boat near there. IMG_9054From there we headed south past Owestry, Welshpool and Newtown through some of the greenest pastures we have seen for some time; the trees through this area have now nearly finished dropping their leaves or had them blown off their limbs. We stopped off at the village of Brecon for a cuppa & scones before entering the Brecon Beacons National Parks via the A470 and over the pass south. IMG_9062When we were travelling here in 2001 we were not allowed to enter the park as the Foot & Mouth outbreak had just been declared resulting in thousands of livestock having to be slaughtered to bring the outbreak under control. The clouds rolled in by mid afternoon with some more light rain for the remainder of our trip to Swansea. Arrived just on dark and had to work our way around the one way streets to find “The Dragon Hotel”.

Saturday 21 November 2015

We arrived in Swansea, southern Wales on Thursday 12th and I cannot think of anything particularly charming to say about Swansea; my observations – a dark, dismal city without many re deeming features. The night we arrived, the news showed highlights of the grand opening that day of a brand new shopping centre that was to bring extra employment and millions of pounds revenue with it – sounded rather optimistic, but maybe feeling poorly clouded my judgement.

Swansea was meant to be a place from which we could explore the Brecon Beacons, but rain and changing to a different vehicle left no time to venture out of the city. As we left Swansea on the Saturday we had hoped to drive up into the hills, but a misty, rainy morning played havoc with that idea as well.

We left Swansea on Saturday morning and decided to use the M5 to take us around Cardiff and then turn north after leaving Wales toward the Cotswold. Light rain alternated with heavier downpours most of the day and we were pleased to arrive at Westbury on Severn by 3.30pm.

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The Calf Shed was the most delightful little cottage, walls two-feet thick stone and wooden beams that probably supported the shed roof for a century or more and it had been refurbished beautifully; nothing was missing and it was the perfect spot for some R&R. Our landlord, Mark, called in later to introduce himself and ensure we were comfortable; it was not difficult to relax in such comfortable surroundings, particularly as the rain and wind persisted all the next day.


IMG_9077Sunday was the Last Night of the Proms Concert in Cheltenham that was held in a lovely theatre saved from the wreckers and restored to this wonderful venue. The program was varied and entertaining; excellent artists having their talents showcased to an appreciative audience. The audience were provided with balloons, British flags, streamers as well as noisemakers and these were supplemented by a great array of extra items brought with the patrons. The last hour or so of the concert was supplemented by balloons floating or buzzing throughout the auditorium, flag waving, streamers flying from all levels and accompanied by loud choruses of the loved songs. By the end, the entire audience were on their feet making as much noise as possible and demanding encore after encore from all the artists. The noise was almost deafening; but you could not help but participate.

We then spent a few days just relaxing in our comfortable surroundings and going for smaller excursions around the area; John also had a tour of the farm and caught up on a dairy farmer’s life in this region. We also had the advantage of great Wi Fi at the cottage that made it easy to catch up on emails and business.

Wednesday was John’s 70th Birthday and the day began with lots of birthday wishes as well as face-time calls with children and grandchildren. After all this excitement we then packed and moved further East; back through Cheltenham and then joined the Cotswold Romantic Road for a leisurely drive north to Broadway as part of our day’s drive was through the famed Cotswold. Beautiful, green, rolling hills, quaint cottages in the villages as well as across the landscape; some amazing old buildings, including churches were part of this fascinating day.

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Broadway was a pleasant surprise; a Tudor village either side of a cobblestone roadway with a mixture of several large manor houses, two coach-houses complete with large porticoes to courtyards for horse-drawn coaches, cottages and shops – all built with the local honey-coloured stone. Made me think of highwaymen and other such tales. A leisurely lunch as well as stroll down through the village, stopping to look in some of the wonderful shops and making the odd purchase. All too soon it was time to turn south to Bourton-on-the-Water where we stayed at the Cotswold Motor Museum for the next couple of days.

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Bourton-on-the-Water was a picturesque village, resplendent in autumn colours and cooler weather where we stayed in a little cottage, beautifully refurbished and very comfortable. Wednesday evening we went to dinner at Rose Cottage for John’s Birthday – we had a lovely meal in charming surroundings (except for the twit who had his phone volume up enough to be very annoying as endless texts continued).

Our accommodation was owned by the civil service motor association who owned & operated the adjoining motor museum. All I had to do was show my room key to gain entry. I spent the next couple of hours wandering through a number of sheds with everything motoring. A number of Austin vehicles, bowsers and every oil sign you could think of. One of the back shed contain the Morris Minor, a Mini and an early model Volvo. The last shed had a display of match box cars representing makes and models from around the world.

We left Bourton-on-the-Water on Friday morning to continue our drive along the Cotswold Romantic Road intending to stop at Cirencester but could not find anywhere to park so decided to go on to Stroud, which was equally as fruitless – no stops for sightseeing walks this morning as we joined the M5 toward Bristol to cover the miles so we could drive along the coast of Devon and Exeter. Mid-afternoon we stopped at Dunster Castle, but like so many other attractions, they had closed at the end of October. However, the drive through Dunster Village was a highlight.

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By this time we needed to just drive; brilliant sunshine bathed the coastal scenery for a short time and then light rain accompanied our drive through Exeter Forest and into Westward Ho just as dark began to make locating our accommodation challenging. We were booked into a unit on the fourth floor of a block of units, overlooking the Celtic Sea; Westward Ho sits within a concave part of the coast and we could see from Baggy Point in the north to Hartland Point in the south. Looking out over the coast was a continually changing vista, waves crashing onto the rocks down below with water washing high up onto the beach; when it all calmed and the tide receded, the sand was up to 500 metres wide. In the stormy weather, the kite-surfers were out on force, in their wetsuits to take advantage of the conditions; in the calmer weather the walkers accompanied by their dogs were out in profusion.

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Saturday 28 November 2015

We left Westward Ho on Monday morning and covered miles early in the day so we could spend time along the Cornish Coast; that drive certainly lived up to expectations: the Cornish Coastline was rugged and beautiful, continually changing scenery interspersed with woodlands, although looking quite stark, beautifully complemented the fascinating scenery right along the coast.

We drove into Port Isaac late morning, parked on the headland and walked down into the village – I admit to being a “Doc Martin” tragic, so this was one of the many highlights of our trip. Walking down the steep hill the village immediately became Portwenn; Doc Martin’s house visible across the bay, the school was in front of us, Alf’s restaurant, Mrs Tishell’s and the waterfront were all there as we wandered. After going around the village and taking lots of photos we had lunch in the old Methodist Church before walking back up the hill and drove on around the coast before finishing our drive to Truro where we were greeted as members of Bernine’s extended family.

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The remainder of the week passed quickly as part of a Cornish family; lots of chatting, cups of tea and just relaxing with delightful people. Bernine, John Furner’s (elder) sister, had invited us to visit her when last in Australia and was very warm and welcoming. Jeremy, Bernine’s son, took us for drive down to Lizard Point (the southern most point on mainland Britain) on Tuesday; Wednesday it was lunch at Pandora’s in the Carrick Roads before driving on to Falmouth for the grand tour as well as ice-creams on the headland and then Thursday we drove along the Truro River to Heron Point for lunch and saw just how much the tide rises and falls right up to Truro; we also saw much the boating channel winds backwards and forwards, bank to bank, making any water expedition a challenge even for experienced sailors.

Sunday 6th December 2015

Friday 27th October we left Truro and travelled eastward along the coast with our first stop at the Eden Project at Bodelva, St Austell, Cornwall – an eco-environment project commenced in 1991 with £91M; we first visited the Rainforest Biome and then the Mediterranean Biome.

Eden Project – A living Theatre of Plants in the heart of Cornwall

All life of Earth depends upon the survival of the plants that surround us – each day of our lives, we use plants from every continent on the planet.

The Eden Project is a gateway into this fascinating interactive world of plants and people, a living Theatre, exploring our global garden inheritance – revealing plants, as you’ve never seen them before.

The Eden Project is a truly unique experience, in the heart of Cornwall’s Clay Mining country – a place to explore the amazing relationship that exists between the human population and the fascinating world of plants – and the extent that we depend on plants for our very existence

The world’s largest geodesic domes at The Eden Project, contain two distinct biosphere’s for you to explore, the Humid Tropical Biome featuring a jungle environment and the Warm Temperate Biome, featuring plant species from the Mediterranean, South Africa and California. Whilst outside there is a series of landscaped gardens where you can enjoy a diverse collection of plants from the Wild Cornwall section to the terraced tea slopes.

The Eden Project is very extensive, requiring a great deal of walking, often up and down sloping terraces. A train runs a regular service from the Visitor Centre to the entrance to the domes, but once inside the biomes there are a number of slopes to be contended with.

Once in the domes, you will immediately notice the change in humidity as you enter the Humid Tropical Biome, where temperatures reach 28° Centigrade – so regardless of the outside temperature, be warned that you will need a top layer of clothing that is easy to take off and easy to carry. On hot days, sun protection is also advisable (sun tan lotion and a hat) as the transparent ETFE film that the biomes are clad in, transmit UV light.

The Eden Project has attractive outdoors spaces as well as its famous biomes

The Eden Project has attractive outdoors spaces as well as its famous biomes

There is much to see, time is needed to enjoy the sites’ true splendor; this dramatic and fascinating project will enable you to experience:

  • A fantastic range of plants from around the world.
  • Marvellous stories demonstrating the many ways in which man uses plants for food, medicine, construction, entertainment, the air we breathe and a whole lot more.
  • Information on the relationship between plants and the development of our global cultures.
  • A glimpse into the future, following the use of plants in new designs and technologies.
  • A chance to get involved; feeling, tasting, seeing and using plants on themed tours and in a wide range of workshops.
  • Demonstrations of resource use and the showcasing of local and global projects and initiatives working towards securing a sustainable future.
  • Information and simple practical ideas on how to care for the plants and their habitats, that provide for us. Working towards a sustainable future.

Plants in the Humid Tropical Biome


Plants in the Warm Temperate Biome













From Bodleva we needed to cover the miles to Bournemouth; with the “help” from roadworks, it took us till well after dark to reach our hotel. Saturday morning we were up early to drive to Lymington to catch the ferry to Yarmouth, the north-western corner of the Isle of Wight. Once off the ferry we drove through Newport to East Cowes to visit Osbourne House – the family home of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their nine children.

An excerpt from English Heritage: Osborne House was built between 1845 and 1851 to provide Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with a private family home. It was built in the Italianate style in order to fit its setting on an island whose temperate climate and panoramic views over the Solent reminded Prince Albert of the Bay of Naples.

The front porch of the demolished old Osborne House, reused as the entrance to the walled garden

The front porch of the demolished old Osborne House, reused as the entrance to the walled garden

The 18th-Century House

There is nothing significant left of the 18th-century Osborne House other than the front porch, which was reused as part of the entrance to the walled garden. The garden also dates to the 18th century.

The stables from the old house were retained, probably for economy’s sake. The building was later enlarged with a new carriage house, and then altered to provide kitchen offices and a servants’ hall.

The nursery bedroom, on the second floor of the Pavilion, has been recreated to look as it did in a photograph of 1873

The nursery bedroom, on the second floor of the Pavilion, has been recreated to look as it did in a photograph of 1873

Victoria And Albert’s House

Osborne has all the elements of an Italian house: the palazzo style, the picturesque silhouette with its pair of towers and the terraces connected by flights of steps. The terraces with their outstanding views are one of Osborne’s most successful features. 

The house is divided into four distinct but connecting blocks, arranged around two courtyards. Three of these blocks were completed in Prince Albert’s lifetime: the Pavilion, in which the royal family had their rooms; the household wing, used by senior members of the royal household; and the main wing, used initially by the older royal children and later for the principal guest rooms. 

The planning of the Pavilion combined freedom of circulation through linked reception rooms with close attention to the efficient arrangement of the domestic areas and their connection to the main rooms. The large plate-glass windows of the reception rooms on the ground floor make the rooms especially light and provide views across the terraces to the sea. The private rooms on the upper floors are more domestic in scale and have simpler decoration. 

The chimneypiece and peacock over-mantel in the Durbar Room was completed in 1892. This unique room is richly decorated in the architectural styles of northern India, reflecting the queen’s status as Empress of India

The chimneypiece and peacock over-mantel in the Durbar Room was completed in 1892. This unique room is richly decorated in the architectural styles of northern India, reflecting the queen’s status as Empress of India

Later Additions To The House

The most significant addition to Osborne in the years after Prince Albert’s death was the Durbar Wing (completed in 1892), which contained a large reception room and accommodation for Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest married daughter, and her family.


Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and five of their children


The reception within the Durbar Wing.








Externally the Durbar Wing was given the same Italianate style as the rest of the house. The Durbar Room, however, was designed by Lockwood Kipling (father of the author Rudyard Kipling and director of the Mayo School of Art, Lahore, India). His elaborate Indian design was intended to reflect Queen Victoria’s status as Empress of India. The plasterwork in the Durbar Room was executed by the Indian plasterer Bhai Ram Singh. 

The Upper Terrace planting reflects varieties that would have been familiar to Queen Victoria

The Upper Terrace planting reflects varieties that would have been familiar to Queen Victoria

The Gardens And Estate

The 19th-century gardens and estate eventually covered more than 2,000 acres (800 hectares). The current estate extends to 354 acres (143 hectares) and includes formal terraces with statuary, a walled garden and extensive parkland.

Within the grounds are the Swiss Cottage, Swiss Cottage Museum, and a miniature fort with redoubts (detached earthworks), which were all built as educational tools for the royal children. The area around them was also reserved for the children’s education, and was used by them to grow fruit, flowers and vegetables.  

Prince Albert was concerned with every aspect of the development of the gardens and estate. His planting scheme was to some extent dictated by the already well-established late 18th-century landscape. Other influences included his liking for poplars, and for the Italian fashion of lining principal drives and walks with evergreens, such as myrtle and laurel. Magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas were also planted. The prince planted many of the trees in the parkland himself, sometimes with the children: in 1847 the queen noted in her diary ‘we walked out with the children, & they helped, or at least thought they did, in planting some trees’.

The parterres on the terrace, which have been restored to their original appearance, were interspersed with statuary and were framed by formal walkways of coloured imitation lava. A rich variety of bedding plants were used: Queen Victoria writes in her journal of geraniums, stocks and heliotropes and the summer evening air scented with orange blossom and roses.] Many of these plants are used today in seasonal bedding schemes. 

Within the 18th-century walled kitchen garden the original cross-path layout has been restored, and a garden was added in 2000 to the design of Rupert Golby as part of the Contemporary Heritage Garden project. It incorporates many plants with names associated with Victoria or Albert, in a contemporary planting style.

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That night we stayed at Ryde Castle and Sunday we spent the day with Tom Fenwick (a friend of John Furner’s) as he drove us all over the Island, providing history and anecdotes all along the way before joining Tom’s friend Jane for dinner and then spending the night with them at Jane’s farm near Calbourne. The stairway in Jane’s house was the steepest I think I have ever seen – it was nearly straight up, nose to stairs while climbing on all fours, added to which the steps were narrow and deep.


A local pub on the Isle of Wight


A newly thatched roof for this house







Monday morning, after a leisurely breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to Jane and Tom; hopefully to catch up again soon. Tom and Jane were very easy to chat with – a myriad of topics discussed over meals, cups of tea as well as late into the evening.

We drove up to Cowes for a good look around the area before catching the Chain Ferry across to East Cowes and drive to Fishbourne to catch the ferry to Portsmouth. When we arrived at the ferry we found our ferry had been cancelled because of the wind; by being early we were able to join the earlier ferry and still make it to Portsmouth – thankfully our trip was quite calm.

Our hotel in Portsmouth was at the Newquay – a reclaimed area of waterfront with units, hotels, shopping precincts and lots of open space adjacent to the Historic Portsmouth Dockyard where we spent all day Tuesday exploring the HMS Warrior, the first steel hulled ship built. We were fortunate to have a volunteer to give us a great insight to life aboard this vessel, the innovations to life at sea at that time as well how the ship was utilised as navel deterrent – “No shot was fired in anger because no other vessel would engage the Warrior”.

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After two hours on the Warrior we spent time in the dockyard; a working dockyard and training apprentices on all aspects of building and repairing wooden vessels. We then stopped for lunch before walking to the Naval Museum where we browsed through the Nelson Exhibition with its amazing collection of Nelson memorabilia – both from his life at sea as well as at home. John then went on for a tour of HMS Victory.


HMS Victory


Unfortunately the “Mary Rose” closed Sunday for further restoration; there had been 10,000 visitors through on the final weekend!

That evening we went to see James Bond “Spectre” at the local movie house; John’s comment, “Not the best one we’ve seen”.

Wednesday 2nd we left Portsmouth and travelled east to Chichester to spend a couple of days with Ginny and Chris – Chris was John’s doubles partner at Tunbridge Wells in 2011 and we had met up with them at the World Seniors Tennis at Antalya, Turkey last year as well as Umag, Croatia this year.

It is amazing how much time one can spend just chatting; from the time we arrived, until we left, John and Chris hardly drew breath with Ginny and I contributing occasionally – when we could fit a work in to the chat. Tennis occupied much of the conversation with numerous other topics covered as well.

Ginny and Chris live near the Chichester canal and not far from the centre of town; they tend to walk more than drive. John and I went for a walk along the canal to the Canal Wharf before we went for a drive around the area with Chris as our tour guide. Our tour began with the drive to Wittering East and West, Itchenor where numerous yacht and motor cruisers were in the harbour and we drove right along the water line that is only accessible at low tide, then on to Fishbourne, Bosham, Bosham Hoe that consisted of rather grand (expensive) homes with many thatched rooves and finally via East and West Ashling to Chichester Tennis Club for tea.

Friday morning John and Chris went for a drive to Goodwood to find the Hill-climb site, not successful, before we headed up through the South Downs, via Privett Church to Warnford to our accommodation for our visit to Winchester Christmas Markets.

Saturday we spent in Winchester, firstly at the Cathedral and then the markets – must admit I was a little disappointed. I had expected / hoped for Christmas to be the theme where most stalls were the usual fruits, vegetables and handicrafts; my hopes are now on Europe to meet my expectations. The crowds were really dense by the time we had finished our visit, so it was time for a meal and leave town.


The best we have seen so far.


The famous Hampshire Pig Breed








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Views inside Winchester Cathedral which dates back to the 11th Century.


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Pass this carriage on the way out of town, maybe for a wedding or could it be a funeral.

Sunday was a leisurely drive towards London via Windsor common to return the car to the airport and then catch the Eurostar on Monday morning.


The Eurostar Platform with trains ready for Paris & Brussels