November 2013

It’s been a number of months since I last updated my site mainly due to the glorious summer we have enjoyed. As an active retired person it would seem a shame to waste opportunities for outdoor activities. Following an early holiday in Spain, this summers weather has proved one long opportunity for visiting and exploration.

One little gem my wife and I came across almost by chance was a medieval National Trust property called Great Chalfield Manor near Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire. The manor house originally built about 1465 was a moated property with part of the moat still surviving. The estate itself goes back to Norman times and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as the property of Ernulf de Hesding, Comte de Perche. It was quite surprising when we were told by the N.T guide that through entrepreneurial skill, at one time the estate covered about 50 percent of Wiltshire and 25 percent of Somerset. Apart from the buildings the garden is also well worth a visit on a warm day with one noticeable feature being four tree houses enveloping pathways. The tree houses were each grown from four yew trees that merged into each other and then hollowed out on the inside. The small local parish church of All Saints which can only be accessed from the forecourt of Great Chalfield Manor is also well worth a visit .


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I find one of the simplest but nicest summer time pleasures is to go for a picnic in the country as a way of relaxing. Although we tend to go to various locations often seeking out new places there are two locations we hold more dear in our heart. Both are on Dorset’s Jurassic coast and both are National Trust Land. One location is Burton Bradstock and the other is Stonebarrow adjacent to the well known Golden Cap. Excellent views of Lyme Bay are afforded by both locations and I usually take a good pair of field glasses with me for viewing water-borne activity in the bay itself.

Bristol Garden Zoo proved to be another delightful excursion on our summer itinerary. It’s somewhere I have always wanted to visit but for various reasons getting there has always eluded me. We did look at going “green” on our travel to the zoo using a combination or rail and bus travel. However the high price of even off-peak rail travel and inconvenient train times meant we drove there in the end at a fraction of the time and cost it would have otherwise taken us. How on earth the Government expect people to use public transport while at the same time it presents discouraging and deterrent obstacles to its use I shall never know.

The zoo itself I found to be quite relaxing and well laid out as we ambled at our whim hither and thither to and from the various enclosures. I was impressed by the layout of the Water World and its seals and sea lions. A meandering pathway has been built spanning the enclosure from above before eventually doubling back under the water through a plexi-domed tunnel allowing good views of the seals from all aspects of their environment. I also found the butterfly house quite stunning with butterflies of all sizes in vivid and ornate colours. I was advised by one of the keepers the natural life cycle of the butterflies once they have emerged from their pupae varies between three to four weeks. This means the zoo has a large and on-going import programme of various pupae to keep the butterfly house stocked all year around.

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We are also fortunate enough to watch the annual International Air Day at R.N.A.S Yeovilton from the comfort of our garden made even more pleasurable this year by the heat wave conditions prevailing at the time. For my wife and I it is also a day for enjoying the company of a large group of friends invited to visit us on the day as I play Mein Host with lashings of food and drink freshly cooked on the barbeque.

The Air Day is always provides a fine example of flying skills in both modern and historic aircraft and this year was no exception. Some of the aircraft in use were the latest Apache and Lynx Wildcat helicopters as well as the ever reliable Seaking helicopter soon to be phased out by its replacement the Merlin also at the Air Day.

The Red Arrows display team opened the show arriving out if the blue to the second to provide a stunning display of tight formation flying and aerobatics. Traditional favourites from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight also provided flying displays and I always find the deep throated roar from the Hurricane and Spitfire mellowed by the drone of the Lancaster bomber in some way comfortably reassuring. Another popular favourite was the much loved Vulcan bomber which sends vibrations reverberating through the body as well as the renowned Swordfish that proved so decisive at the Battle or Taranto and the sinking of the Bismarck in WWII.

An estimated crowd of 35,000 people attended the show with contributions to charity coming from the proceeds.

I have added a selection of photographs below which I took from my garden.

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