No Everyone..!!.. We have not forgotten we have a blog to keep updated..I am just waiting for my fingers to defrost from the below freezing weather conditions we are experiencing in the north of England at present..!!!!!..That aside,in the last two weeks we have been very fortunate & lucky to have enjoyed driving through some of the most beautiful & remote parts of the english & welsh countryside.With the added bonus of becoming International YHA members it has certainly been a unique & interesting experience staying in some of the hostels on this trip.....We started in luxury by staying 2 nights at the Walton Hall Hotel (a converted English Manor) near Stratford upon Avon within the Cotswold Hills....with lots being within easy driving distances we took the opportunity to visit Warwick Castle & Cathedral on the first day, with the next day spent in popular Stratford learning all about the life & times of William Shakespeare & his family....Anne Hathaway's Cottage,Shakespeare's Birthplace,the 12th century Holy Trinity Church etc. was a lot of history & culture for us to take in for a day.....Our first night as YHA members was spent at the hostel in Stow on the Wold in the middle of town and not being as busy at this time of the year we happened to be two of only about six guests checked in & Songhi being the only female....It reminded me of my school camp & army days in dormitry accomadation & Songhi having a large six bunk female room all to herself....Obviously,with stories of the place being haunted & me being the concerned husband,I snuck in to keep her company thru the night...!!!. We headed down to Bulford in Wiltshire while visiting a few more of the little villages & hamlets like Bourton on the Water & Burford on the way....Unfortunately,most of the drive on the day was thru fairly thick mist & fog but it did result in some unique & interesting photographs....After climbing above the fog at White Horse hill for a view of Oxford & surrounding villages we spent the rest of the afternoon watching a dramatic sunset over Stonehenge.... after a few successful shots we drove down to stay for a wonderful two days with Graham & Gary (our nephews) in Bulford.It's been a few years since we last saw them so it was good to catch up again & while being treated to Graham's excellent cooking while with them, we also spent a day in the historical Roman city of Bath with Gary & his girlfriend Lara....
Postbridge in Dartmoor Nat. Park was our next stay for 2 nights at the youth hostel in "Bellever" forest(winter special of 19.95pp breakfast & dinner and even a room together)..It's the largest & wildest area of open country in southern England of which more than half is open moorland.The area is an archaeologist's dream with an abundance of sites showing hints of life from the Bronze age (4000-3000 years ago)..Throughout the moors there are prehistoric remains of Iron & Bronze Age man in the form of tombs,stone circles & monuments....Wild & untamed ponies are a familiar sight on the moors too as apparently thru research it shows they have inhabited these parts since 2000 BC. We managed to walk a couple of the more popular trails in the area even though we took the wrong turn & lost each other for ten minutes.(My Olumpus & I take the blame..!!..for straying off the marked trail for a photographic image not to miss..!!..
After driving thru the towns of Tavistock,Widecombe,Morehampstead & surprisingly Longford...(looked nothing like our Longford in Tasmania) our next stop was a couple of nights in the YHA @ Treyarnon near Padstow in Cornwall..a beautiful spot on the north coast famed for it's surf beaches,castles & filming of the popular "Doc Martin" english TV series in the tiny fishing village of Port Isaac. A six hour walk along some remarkable coastline on Saturday the 20th was a day to remember for both of us....we certainly slept well that night ...!!.Taking full advantage of our 3 days here including the good weather we fitted in as much to see as possible....from visiting Tintagel Castle where the legend of King Arthur was born in the 13th century to visiting some tiny picturesque coastal villages like Trevorne,Port Isaac & Boscastle where we enjoyed a genuine homemade Cornish Pastie for lunch..!!..Yum..!!..If time permits we would both love to return & spend more time in Cornwall before we return to Australia. From Cornwall we drove back thru the counties of Devon & Somerset with a brief stop in "Launceston" and across the Severn bridge into South Wales....we checked into our prison at the Castle in St. Briavals youth hostel,a truly unique experience we would really recommend to anyone wanting to experience something different from the usual B&B accomadation. Interestingly,it is a 12th century castle still owned by the royal family but now used by the YHA for backpacker accomadation....Between the 15th & 16th century the room Songhi & I were in,was in fact used as a prison to hold Dutch prisoners during the Anglo/Dutch wars of that time....Amazingly,evidence of this is apparent in the room with graffiti of names,initials & even the deep scratchings of windmills drawn into the walls.Fortunately,Songhi & I were in the same room & slept thru without any ghostly experiences..!!....We stayed the next three nights at "YHA Groesfford" in the Brecon Beacons of South Wales,an area renowned for trekking & walking apart from various other outdoor activities & sports.The weather here, though cold was still fairly kind to us,being dry with the odd breaks of sunshine thru the clouds....so deciding on taking the risk we took the drive & parked in a carpark nr.the village of Glyntawe and climbed & trekked along part of the 55 mile Brecon Beacon Trail to Llyn y Fan Fach lake in the Black Mtns. at a height of over 800m. .....six hours later & feeling a tad weary,we decided over a pint of Guinness & a chicken tikka dinner that the walk was worth every step. Also, we'd never have thought we would be exchanging email addresses & making friends with Richard Ball at heights of around 900 meters in the welsh mountains....Nice shots of you working on the trail with the chopper overhead Richard..!!..Hope you liked them..??..The following day was a little less strenuous with a 3 hour walk of the "Taff Trail" starting in the town of Brecon & taking us thru a couple of small surrounding villages & back along the Brecon canal..... With such an abundance of castles,abbeys & old historic forts in Wales they are certainly hard to miss, so on the way up to our last two nights in Llangollen,North Wales we took time out to visit Raglan Castle (probably still the most intact & most interesting)built in the 1430's by welshman William Herbert Raglan, it's more a statement of wealth than a fortress....White Castle (built by Hubert de Burgh,more as a military fortress thru his considerable knowledge of architecture coming from his time fighting in France)..it was later held in the hands of british royalty & in 1254 Henry the 3rd granted it to his eldest son,the future Edward the 1st....& Chirk Castle, which was actually built by a welsh family during the reign of Edward the 1st.........Driving thru Oswestry brought back memories of my years at Park Hall Camp with the Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion in the British Army.As expected, 35 years later a lot has changed in Oswestry & after IJLB moved, there are now only a handfull of buildings from our old barracks still standing.Now mainly replaced with showgrounds,the Oswestry Rugby Club & British Telecom.
We stayed at the Bryn Howell Hotel,nr Llangollen (another converted manor) & only a couple of miles out of town.Many good memories here too..!!....mainly of Pete Smith & I spending many a weekend in our army days cycling thru here on our way up Horse Shoe Pass & Snowdonia National Park.....Songhi & I managed to get a couple of walks into town & back along the canal even with the pleasant surprise of snow on the first morning.....though not quite as heavy a snowfall while we were there,we hear on the news now that Llangollen is almost snowed in....The Valle Crucis Abbey is always worth a visit..though,there's not much of the Abbey left standing now it's still amazing to think of impressive size & architecture,when it was built in the 13th century by a group of Cistercian White Monks looking to live a life of total self sufficient isolation in the Welsh mountains....and unfortunately later destroyed under the reign of Henry the 8th.
It has certainly been a trip to remember for both of us equally & with thanks to my wonderful wife I have actually seen & visited many of these areas of England for the first time......
We had planned on a 3 week similar trip thru Scotland,leaving on the 4th Dec.but have fortunately been able to postpone it to April 2011 due to the unexpected extreme snowfall & weather conditions they are experiencing at present (-21 degrees in certain parts..Brrrrrr..!!......So it seems as Song & I are grounded for now till after X'mas,which fortunately gives us time to spend with family thru the festive season. We have a Nile Cruise booked in mid Jan.2011,which will give us a break from the winter blues for a week.....We look forward to sharing that leg of our trip with all..............