Saturday, 18 May 2013

A walk along the Ridgeway.

The Ridgeway is an ancient route running for 87 miles from near Avebury in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. It is thought to have been in use for at least 5,000 years by drovers and travellers.

On the way, there are neolithic barrows, iron age hill forts, ancient villages and some excellent accommodation.

The stone circle, bank and ditch at Avebury is a World Heritage Site and is a fantastic place. A big chunk of the village, including our B&B, is inside the circle making it a truly mystical and magical place to stay.

Day 1 - Avebury to Ogbourne St George.

On a cool and very windy day, we encountered our first hill fort - Barbury Castle. Fortunately it kept dry until we reached Ogbourne.

Day 2 - Ogbourne St George to Woolstone

A well earned pint at the White Horse at Woolstone. Woolstone is underneath the ancient white horse and hill fort at Uffington.

On the way, we visited Wayland's Smithy - a huge long barrow. Legend has it that your horse will be re-shod for you if you leave it and a silver coin overnight.

Day 3 - Woolstone to Wantage

We walked up to the ancient Uffington white horse and through Uffington Castle to rejoin the Ridgeway. We went into Wantage via Letcombe Castle (yet another hill fort) and through the pretty village of Letcombe Regis.

The Regis Guest House at Wantage was outstanding.

Day 4 - Wantage to Goring

We passed the half way point today. At Goring the Ridgeway meets up briefly with the Thames Path and we crossed the Thames to stay at the John Barleycorn pub in Goring.

Day 5 - Goring to Watlington

The Ridgeway runs alongside the river Thames for the first part of this section. 

We encountered our first bluebell wood. The season is late this year. On previous years at this time, we've found the bluebells to be finished, blackthorn gone and hawthorn blossoming. This year the bluebells were in their full glory, the blackthorn was still in full swing and hawthorn blossom had not yet appeared.

Day 6 - Watlington to Cadsden

To begin with, this part of the walk was rather tedious, being mostly on wide, made up farm tracks. After a picnic lunch in a glorious meadow though, the Ridgeway went through fields and we were walking on grass once more.

The route took us over Coombe hill, past another group of barrows and tumuli and on to the Plough at Cadsden for our overnight accommodation.

Day 7 - Cadsden to Aldbury

The Ridgeway runs through the grounds of Chequers - the Prime Minister's official country residence. Other than a more than normally substantial fence, surveillance cameras and signs threatening serious trouble for deviating from the route, it's just another footpath crossing a country estate.

Day 8 - Aldbury to Ivinghoe Beacon (and back to Aldbury)

The final bit. It was cold and very windy - but mostly dry. A great sense of achievement - we walked a total of 107 miles (the Ridgeway mileage doesn't take into account the extra walking to reach accommodation each day).

Day 9 - back home. We caught the 09:15 bus in Aldbury to Tring Station and were back in MK by 10:30.

There are many more photos here

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

For the Love of John

An evening to remember our friend John Edgar Mann

John was a great friend. Here he is in relaxed mood in the 70s. We would often go out to the New Forest or to the sea and John was accepted by our group of younger people. He called us the Witty Nippers and regaled us with his stories of jazz, folk, history, foreign holidays (which were often a disaster) and cinema which he loved. We miss him greatly.

Paul Marsh and Brian Hooper organised an evening of memories and entertainment at the Concorde club. We renewed old acquaintances and listened to some very good music from:

Pete Coe who accompanied himself on bouzouki, melodeon, and banjo and still sang like a gentleman;

Tim Laycock who used the doppler effect with panache to play one of John's favourite songs, The Bells of St Mary's;

Martyn Wyndham-Read who sang sublime songs in his quiet laid back style;

Some excellent New Orleans jazz from the Solent City Jazzmen;

And last, but by no means rehearsed, Gutta Percha's Elastic Band who delighted us with classics such as I'm 'Enery the Eighth I Am (in French of course) and the rightly famous Woolston Ferry with its coming for to carry me home intro.

A truly memorable evening for a truly memorable person - John Edgar Mann.

There are many more pictures from the evening here

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Sunday, 9 September 2012

Duxford Airshow, September 2012

A good airshow at Duxford on 8/9 September 2012. We went on the Saturday and were privileged to see the only Vulcan still flying.

Here's XH558 showing its bomb doors.

A Catalina amphibious flying boat

A Folland Gnat. Quite nostalgic for me as I did an apprenticeship in the factory in Hamble where the Gnat was made. The Gnat was still used by the Red Arrows in those days and we had a memorable display specially for the factory in the final year of the Gnat as the Arrows moved onto Hawks.

Another iconic historic aircraft, B17 "Sally B"

An excellent display by the Aerostars Yak-50 display team.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Illyria's HMS Pinafore

We went to see this fantastic show for the last time at Berkhamsted Castle on 1 September. It's a frantic, very funny production played with lots of life with many quick changes of costume for the actors.

Here are the members of the cast in their various guises:

Theresa Brockway as:

A sailor
A sister / cousin / aunt

Anna Brook-Mitchell as:


A sister / cousin / aunt
A sailor

A mermaid

William Finkenrath as:

Captain Corcoran

A sailor

Sophie Hall/Michaels as:

Cousin Hebe

A sailor

A mermaid

David Shorter as:

Ralph Rackstraw
A shy mermaid

A sister / cousin / aunt

Edward Simpson as:

The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter KCB
A mermaid

Bob Bobstay (Boatswain's mate)
A sister / cousin / aunt

Angie Waller as:

Dick Deadeye

A sea creature

A sister / cousin / aunt

And finally (but by no means leastly)
Ben Wiles, Musical Director as:

Himself (in a silly pose)

Here's a link to some galleries with loads more photos from Greys Court, Ightham Mote and Berkhamsted Castle

And here's a link to Illyria's site so you can keep a track on what they're up to next year!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Christine's and Darrel's trip to the UK

Our good friends Christine and Darrel visited us from Chicago. We had a great time and they saw the sights of Milton Keynes, including traffic on the Grand Union Canal (link to the Canal and River Trust) at Cosgrove Lock.

Here are some more shots from their MK visit
We went to Packwood House (Link to National Trust site) near Solihull. It had rained very hard earlier in the day and the house we had planned to visit, Coughton Court (NT link again), was flooded so we went to Packwood instead. It was really lovely and a great accidental find. here are Karin, Christine and Darrel hiding in the topiary.

There are more Packwood pictures here

We then travelled to meet up with Mike, Katy and Cath who live in Washington, Tyne and Wear. Mike is a very knowledgeable guide and he took us to Housesteads fort (link to National Trust) on Hadrian's wall. Here we are posing on the wall.

More Housesteads pictures here

Later that evening we were joined by Bob from Greenwich and the following day we went on a grand tour of the Northumbrian coast including a couple of castles and ended up on Holy Island or Lindisfarne (link to Holy Island site). It was stunning.

Northumbrian coast pictures here

And more of Holy Island here

On the Sunday, an intrepid bunch climbed to the top of the Penshaw Monument (link to National Trust) and we went to Durham where we had a look at the magnificent cathedral. Karin and I set out to drive home and Christine and Darryl caught the train to London to spend their final evening in the UK with Bob.

There are some pictures of Penshaw and Durham here