March 2015

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Burton Bradstock

With the infamous Ides of March fast approaching, the past week has proved far from any ominous omens, quite the reverse. The last few days have regularly alternated between wet and welcome warm days as Winter starts to give way to Spring. The warm days are almost like the tendrils of a yet unborn Summer stretching backwards in time to act as an advance messenger of leisurely outdoor days that lie ahead.

Our daffodils have now started to appear and grass that has been lying dormant for months has begun to stir. It is almost like a slumbering giant has awoken as the emergent Spring shakes off the remnants of Winter.

We took the opportunity last week on the first really sunny day to go to Burton Bradstock in Dorset. This is part of the Jurassic Coast which provides a good vista of that huge bight of the South Coast known as Lyme Bay. From Burton Bradstock it is possible on a clear day to see all the way from Portland Bill to Exmouth and even Torquay. This view always conjures up in my mind that just a few miles beyond that distant coast likes both the mysteries and beauty of Dartmoor.

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A distant Golden Cap

Nor far beyond nearby Bridport lies Golden Cap, the flat topped hill that dominates this part of the coast. Golden Cap like much of this coast belongs to the National Trust which should help preserve the beauty of this area for future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

Lou Lou digging holes in the sand

Lou Lou digging holes in the sand

It was also the opportunity for our new puppy Lou Lou now some five months old to see the sea for the first time. One never quite knows how a dog will react to this new environment for the first time. As it turned out, Lou Lou appeared quite indifferent apart from when an incoming wave suddenly took her by surprise as it swirled around her paws. Finding she could rapidly dig holes in the wet sand appeared to be more enjoyable to her.

I also took the opportunity to drive to West Bay on the way home as I had not seen it for some time. West Bay might be better known as the location of the TV series “Harbour Lights” that was screened some years ago. It is a location I have always liked for its unspoilt  non-commercialised appearance but I found a new monolithic block of residential apartments built directly alongside the harbour does little for myself in enhancing the ambience of this small seaside town.

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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April 2012


Update 06/04/2012

Queens Arms, Wraxall, Somerset

My wife and I are part of a group of friends in my village which has become known as the “Birthday Group” so called as each month we go out to lunch to celebrate an individuals birthday. Fortunate as we are in Somerset to have a large number of village pubs which serve excellent cuisine are modest prices, like most people we do tend to have our favourites. Our last outing however we went to a pub most of us had never visited before except for one member of our group whose birthday were were celebrating and for who our venue had more than special memories.

The pub was the Queens Arms at Wraxall in Somerset with extensive views over the local countryside. It is located on the only crossroads at Wraxall with the The Fosse Way, an important major Roman Road of it’s time, and part of the A37 road network. I think we were all very impressed at the extensive menu, well prepared and delicious meals, coupled with good service that we received at the Queens Arms, that it will certainly go on our favourites list. I would personally recommend a visit there to anyone who has the opportunity.

Our companion took great delight in explaining he was born in a house located adjacent to the pub which has been subsequently demolished and replaced by a newer building. He was the son of a dairy farmer, a career he also pursued in later life and where as a boy, he helped his father make their own farmhouse cheese for public sale. Our friend recalled how each weekday he would walk along one country lane from the crossroads to go to school at the village of East Pennard. He also suspects that particular walk with modern traffic would be rather dangerous today as most country lanes are unpaved. East Pennard is close to the now internationally renown Worthy Farm where the Glastonbury Music Festival takes place.

Our friend reminisced how as a lad during the war years, he would stand fascinated on the roadside watching convoys of military vehicles going about their business. During the run-up to D-Day, of which they were unaware at the time, he would see seemingly endless columns of military vehicles and troops making their way along the Fosse Way towards the south coast in preparation for the invasion. It was also during the war years due to manpower shortages his grandmother was also the landlord of the Queens Arms.

It is strange how that same European conflict set a chain of events that led to him meeting his wife who is also a good friend of ours. She was born in pre-war Germany, the daughter of a Jewish doctor. Clearly her father was a very erudite man with a good sense of political nous who could foresee likely future events unfolding in that country. Wisely he was able to get his family out of the country to England before the tragic events that befell most of his fellow German Jewish countrymen. Although for given circumstances he could not immediately join his family, he was able to follow later before the full force of the Holocaust was unleashed.

Our friend would certainly not describe herself as a writer but she is more than conscious that her personal memories do form an important period in history. Consequently she has been busy consigning all her memories to paper so that someone in the future can make good use of them. Her memories should prove interesting reading.


Burton Bradstock, Dorset

April arrived not to the normal slow but gentle warming of a departing March but on the tail end of a mini-heat wave. Unseasonal as this advanced and unexpected outburst of Summer may have been, it was never-the-less welcome following a dreary winter. In some ways, I feel pulled between two directions at once. On one hand is the longing for the future Summer sun, tempered by the need for good rainfall on the other hand as warnings of future drought conditions become increasingly stronger. I placate myself with the thought there is nothing I can do about the weather anyway, I might as well enjoy or endure whatever the weather may bring.  Que Sera Sera as the Italian’s would say, whatever will be, will be.

Burton Bradstock, Dorset

We did however take a trip to Burton Bradstock on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. From our home it is only a 45 minute trip and the coastline and countryside are so beautiful in this part of the country. Burton Bradstock is an un-commercialised village nestling between surrounding hills. The short road from the village to the beach terminates in National Trust property and from there the coastal path stretches in both directions to Portland Bill to the east and through Golden Cap to Lyme Regis and Exmouth in the west. This large distinctive semi-circular stretch of the English coast is known as Lyme Bay. The shoreline and cliffs of the Jurassic Coast continue to yield a seemingly endless supply of new fossil discoveries. I cannot help but wonder how much the Earth has changed since these long extinct creatures left their imprint in the sands so many million of years ago, that the sand has since become a rock face.

The Easter holidays are now only a few days away and like migrating flocks of birds, it will be the signal for the annual tourist season to begin as once more droves of traffic  makes the trek westwards for people seek the respite of the much loved West Country. I think it has been estimated that during the peak season, the population of the West Country more than doubles due to visitors.

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