Results for category "UK Travels"

A Lovely Day

Saturday morning! We awoke to bright sun and joyful songbirds, the grey dullness of the week already a distant memory. Not only was today a break from the monotonous routine that has come to pass for our WWOOFing experience, but the opportunity to have a day by the sea with K’s Mum and Step-dad, David. First things first, though… a morning walk.

With all the facilities being over 200m away, we have become used to a stroll for food, washing or computer access. On this occasion, it was time for all three. Our work clothes had become quite dirty over the past couple of days, so K made his way to the washing machine. After going through the rigmarole of unloading someone else’s washing, which had been in there for over 24 hours (a most unsociable habit to have in a shared washing facility) we were able to wash our clothes clean whilst preparing our favoured winter breakfast!

Starting work at 7am, we don’t usually feel like eating so early and have no time/opportunity to cook on our tea break or lunch hour, so a warm satisfying breakfast is, for now, a weekend treat. After large bowls of steaming porridge and brown sugar, we caught up with a few things on the computer until it was time to hang the washing in the warm sunshine to begin drying.

Now it was approaching 10am, time to return to our pod to prepare for the day ahead. A quick pack and spruce up later, the phone rang and K’s Mum announced their arrival. We walked to the main car park to welcome them before giving a short tour of the farm, taking in the polytunnels, packing shed and our homely little pod. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to offer tea, so we decided to push on and head for the sea.

First stop was Brixham – a small fishing town to the south end of Torbay. This was where Dave remembers his first holiday, so thought it would be lovely to visit again. After parking the car just outside the town we started to make our way along a small lane towards the harbour. As we walked, present and past came together and it was soon clear we were standing at the actual location of the holiday park they stayed at on that first holiday. We stood for a moment letting all the memories flood back before walking down the steep slope to a small cove which he and his sisters would run down every day to make their way to the turquoise sea. Now, as the sun shone overhead and the waves gently rippled up the beach, it was time to reflect on childhood memories.

We made our way along the coastal path into the main town, the harbour looking splendid in the morning sun and providing a bright contrast to the days which had preceded it. With Mum and Dave not having eaten much that day, it was time for a snack and in true hobbit style, we were ready for “second breakfast”. With a beautiful view of the harbour, we sat outside a lovely little cafe, warm enough in the February sun, and enjoyed a full veggie breakfast as Mum ate a cheese panini and Dave a sausage sandwich. Yum!

We finished our meals and spent some time soaking up a few rays and chatting before continuing with our walk of the harbour out towards the lighthouse. On the way, we passed the full-sized replica of the Golden Hind, the ship which Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the world.

Drake had official approval to benefit himself and the Queen as well as to cause the maximum damage to the Spaniards. Setting sail in December 1577 with five small ships, manned by 164 men Drake’s flagship, Pelican, which he renamed Golden Hinde, the expedition took over 2 years, sailing into Plymouth Harbour with only 56 of the original crew on 26 September 1580.  A pirate to the Spanish, but a hero to the British, Queen Elizabeth I herself went aboard Golden Hind and personally bestowed a knighthood on him. Her share of the treasure came to almost £160,000 – enough to pay off her entire foreign debt and still have £40,000 left over . Her return and that of other investors came to £47 for every £1 invested, or a total return of 4,700%!

After another brush with history, we continued our walk out towards the sea, the wind grew stronger and the day grew overcast, so we pulled coats tighter as we made our way catching up with news and relaying our WWOOF experiences. As always, when one is happy, the time passed quickly walking and talking and before we knew it we were back at the car, ready for the next part of our weekend adventure.

After a quick tour of Paighton, we made our way to the English Riviera, Torquay, birthplace of the famous writer Agatha Christie. Keeping our eyes peeled for Basil Fawlty, we again went for a walk of the harbour (with K & R picking up a few essential WWOOF supplies on the way). On the return journey, Mum, K and R took the steps (189 of them according to Mum’s count) through the Royal Terrace Gardens to take in the view of Torquay and the bay.

After meeting up with Dave in town (although he did give us the slip once 😉 ), we made our way to a Wetherspoons pub for a late afternoon/early evening meal. As England beat Ireland in the Five Nations Rugby on large TV screens, we enjoyed our meals; Mum and Dave had burgers, R a “superfood” pasta and K a five-bean chilli with Quorn.

All too soon, it was time to make our way to our temporary abode and so we drove back through the early evening darkness, the sights and sounds of the day still vivid in our minds. We exchanged gifts – for us a selection of clothes including some warm winter tops and for Mum and Dave some fresh farm produce and it was now time to say goodbye. After a warm shower in the peculiarly-perched shower shack, we settled in for the evening and a good film.

Sunday was a low key affair, including a few chores and old TV shows under the again grey Devon sky. The weekend soon came to a close. As we rested in bed, we held tightly onto the happy thoughts of our weekend and prepared ourselves for our last week WWOOFing at Shillingford Organics.

Happy New Year

Christmas holidays are traditionally a busy time and if the spiritual meaning has become somewhat convoluted over the years, it can at least be appreciated as an opportunity to meet friends and family one might not usually be able to make time for in our busy lives. After four months WWOOFing, we were looking forward to spending some time with loved ones and to a very special event.

Our Christmas holiday started on Friday the 20th in the early afternoon. With the car loaded up to the brim, Stuart, Imogen, Oliver, K and R , as well as luggage galore, pulled out of Maddocks Farm and began the trip to Bristol. Stuart and the children were heading to London for some shopping and family visiting, so their luggage and presents accompanied us and our many bags. A short hour later, we met K’s Dad at ASDA and were soon speeding towards his house where we would spend much of the holiday season.

The next few days were filled with shopping trips into Bristol center and several errands of our own. We had decided it would be special to create homemade gifts for K’s family to be shared on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the celebrations. Jan from Maddocks had allowed us to gather several herbs before our departure from the farm and so we spent an entire day in the kitchen preparing herbal oils with sage, rosemary and lavender along with a double batch of extra fudgey chocolate brownies and later in the evening, creating specially crafted body sprays and bath oils.

The bath oils were made using a base of sunflower oil. Chopped herbs were added and heated for an hour, strained and then the herbs removed and refreshed with a second batch, which heated for another hour before being strained again. The double-infused oils in sage, rosemary and lavender were mixed to create herbal blend bath oils and bottled in hand-labeled jars. The body sprays were made with a base of distilled water and a couple of tablespoons of witch hazel to which we added special blends of essential oils based on the recipient. These were also bottled and hand labeled with the mixture identified. Some of the blends included: cinnamon, vanilla & lavender; sage & vanilla; and lavender & lemon.

In early afternoon on Christmas Eve, we made our way through the flooded Wiltshire countryside to Trowbridge with K’s Dad and Jan, meeting up with K’s sister, Jessica, and her boyfriend, Ian, at a pub in town before departing to K’s Nan’s for the family gathering there in early evening. As we sat with K’s Nan, others started to arrive and eventually everyone was there: K’s aunt Teresa and uncle Nick, K’s uncle Ray, aunt Elena and cousin Natasha, K’s sister Jessica and boyfriend Ian, K’s brother Alan and girlfriend Caroline and K’s Mum and husband David. A traditional Polish meal followed but all too soon it was time to leave for the train station to make our way back to Kingswood.

Christmas Day, Jan prepared a large dinner for the four of us, complete with seven different veggies and a wonderful nut roast! YUM! After our ice cream sundaes, we were all certainly sufficiently stuffed.

Following Christmas, we had to move into high gear on the rest of our errands to prepare for our special event. We were able to spend a weekend with K’s aunt Teresa and uncle Nick in Frome, which included a day visit to Glastonbury for a special purchase there. It was lovely to spend time with them in their home where we were shown so much consideration and warmth. They even took us on an afternoon visit to the quaint little village of Lacock, a very old and beautifully preserved village now often used as a film set for period pieces.

Before we knew it, the New Year was upon us and on the 2nd, R’s Mom and brother Brian arrived for their visit. We met them at Bristol airport in the rental car we’d picked up for the several days of their stay. After spending a restful evening at a hotel not far from the airport, the next day we traveled to Bowlish House and checked in for the weekend. That afternoon, we all headed into Wells for some Cornish pasties and a visit to the cathedral before some afternoon downtime and our evening meal with the four of us and K’s Dad and Jan and Mum and David at the Camelot Inn.

On Saturday the 4th, our families gathered together at Bowlish House in celebration of our marriage. Early that afternoon, in the company of K’s family and R’s mother and brother Brian, we became husband and wife. Following the ceremony and a reception/photo session, we all sat down to a candlelit meal as the sun set. After our dessert, cake and coffee, K’s Dad set up his speaker and sat down with his guitar to sing us a few songs as the evening drifted away. The next morning, after sharing a breakfast with our closest family, we all headed our separate ways again.

We went to the West side of Bristol, near Ashton Court, with R’s Mom and brother, Brian. Sunday was a quiet afternoon and evening, though. After the excitement of the past few days, we all felt we needed it. Monday we ventured into Clifton village across the suspension bridge and then on to Bath, before returning for a restful evening once more. Tuesday was a day of travel, making our way to Glastonbury for a walk along the High Street before hiking up The Tor with Brian and then driving all the way to Stonehenge for a peek before the sun set.

Early Wednesday morning it was time already to head back to the airport for R’s Mom and Brian to return to the States. It was a sad day after having been able to spend several days in their company. But, our holidays were drawing to a close and everyone needed to get back to their normal day to day. After returning the rental car, it was time for our WWOOFing adventures to begin again, now as husband and wife.

A Christmas Break

Against a backdrop of grey skies and a bitterly cold wind, we prepared our belongings for the journey. With Christmas fast approching our luggage seemed to have grown somewhat. So despite accepting Jan’s kind offer to leave our non-essentials at Maddocks, we still found ourselves hobbling to the car ready for our trip to Bristol.

The previous few days had also been poor weather, so after a small amount of work outside, it was agreed our time would be better utilized inside, continuing to work on Maddocks Farm new web site and social media. Punctuated with our daily walk, a sprinkling of festive cheer and much Christmas preparation, our last few days at Maddocks passed quickly and it was soon time to leave for the holidays and join K’s family for Christmas.

Stuart was travelling past Bristol, so he had kindly offered us a lift, saving us much time, expense and a great amount of inconvenience trying to navigate the public travel services at Christmas time. Soon we were sweeping up the M5, leaving behind the green chattering of the countryside and approaching the grey roar of the city. Upon arriving at K’s Dad and Jan’s house, we settled in and started some preparations for a few Christmas goodies for the family (no spoilers 😉 ).

That evening, sat comfortably with hot drinks and snacks beneath flickering Christmas lights, we began to unravel our previous 4 months, reflecting on our experiences WWOOFING, and recalling the things we had learned and adventures we had had. We also cast an eye forward to more adventures when we resume again in a couple of weeks time, beginning with our return to Maddocks. Before then, however, there is the opportunity to relax and spend precious time with some family … and, of course, a very special event… Merry Christmas!

Quiet Weekend

We awoke Saturday morning to a grey drizzly sky, a wonderful day to be inside! After a rather busy week, including a change of location, Saturday and Sunday offered the much needed opportunity to catch up on a few outstanding jobs and to take the time to adjust a little more to new surroundings. Certainly, with Christmas just around the corner, there is much to think about and do!

As we sat in the little annex talking and planning, behind the cover of thick clouds, the sun surreptitiously moved across the sky and Saturday came and went. As the night drew in, we did enjoy a brief walk around the country lanes before taking our time to cook a lovely dinner including spinach, garlic, carrot and tomato over pasta with a cheese topping, after which we settled in for an evening of inspiration with some Tales from the Green Valley.

Sunday was a drier, milder day and after a hearty brunch of omelette, fried potatoes and beans we decided to go for a longer walk, including some investigation of the nearby town of Cullompton. Donning our comfortable footwear, warm clothing and rucksack (in case we happened across essential supplies), we set out on our Sunday walk.

Cullompton is a small town, locally known as Cully and situated on the River Culm from which it derives its name. The earliest evidence of occupation is from the Roman period – there was a fort on the hill above the town and occupation in the current town centre. Columtune was actually mentioned in Alfred the Great’s will. It now finds itself situated close to the M5 and as we approached, the roar of traffic broke the tranquil afternoon and ensured we could never lose our sense of direction for too long on the winding country lanes.

It was really quite a warm December day and as we began the return journey, the setting sun shone brightly. This together with a bulging rucksack from acquired supplies and a steep incline, led to coats, hats and gloves being removed, as we made our way back home across the gently glowing countryside.

Pleased with our walk of over six miles, we were soon rustling up another lovely dinner, this time with a few added treats for dessert, before settling in for an evening of more planning and inspiration.

Trip to Tavistock

In marked contrast to the changeable, but mostly dismal day preceding it, Saturday was bright and cheerful throughout. We awoke to find the sunlight streaming though our curtains and were soon downstairs enjoying a quick muesli (and cheese) breakfast. Today was a day off and we were going to be exploring the historic market town of Tavistock in West Devon.

Situated on the River Tavy from which it derives it’s name and near the secure high ground of Dartmoor, Tavistock was an ancient stannary (tin mining town) and traces its recorded history back to at least 961 AD when Tavistock Abbey was founded. It is actually thought to have been inhabited long before the historical record began as the surrounding area is littered with archaeological remains from the Bronze and Iron Ages. Its most famous son is Sir Francis Drake, one of the great champions of Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1105 a Royal Charter was granted by Henry I to the monks of Tavistock to run a weekly “Pannier Market” (so called after the baskets used to carry goods) on a Friday, which still takes place today. The market has been extended to run everyday now, and on this glorious sunny day, we along with many others were drawn to the historic market to look for Christmas gifts, treats and simply enjoy investigating the varied and wonderful wares of the current market store holders.

Our journey began with a beautiful walk along the nearby cycle way to Sourton, the path we had unwittingly almost completed on the two previous days. This time radiant sunshine and clear skies accompanied us as we made our way alongside Dartmoor National Park, the scenery even more exquisitely illuminated in the morning sunshine. We arrived at the small village just after noon, in plenty of time to catch the bus, and it was not long before we were whizzing through small country lanes towards Tavistock.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a bustling little town with Christmas decorations in full display on the high street, although not so attractive in the daylight, as people scurried form shop to shop. For some, no doubt, the frowning faces may have suggested a Saturday ritual, for others their demeanor indicated a special opportunity to look for objects to delight or excite their nearest and dearest. As we made our way through the crowds, lunch soon beckoned in the form of traditional (vegetarian) Cornish pasties and (slightly less traditional) Costa Coffee. Sitting by the river, we enjoyed a tasty lunch before continuing on an early afternoon stroll.

Upon concluding our short walk, we were soon browsing through various shops and exploring the sights, sounds and smells of the Pannier Market. Here we found an array of wonderful gifts for Christmas, or anytime, including some lovely jewelry, artwork and soaps, not to mention more practical things needed in any household. After all too short a time, we had to depart to catch the bus back to our temporary home, our journey filled with regret that we couldn’t carry more around with us on our WWOOFing adventures, as objects seemed to beckon to us from every corner of the market.

We returned to Keasts to find our supper being cooked outside beneath a beautiful blanket of stars. Anita, Dee, Catherine and Rich had done a marvelous job of preparing a fire, food and comfy seating. Supper included falafel, baked potatoes and coleslaw, with bread and butter pudding and whipped cream for dessert. As the stars grew brighter, our fire faded and the cold seeped into our bodies, prompting a return to the house , and hot drinks, before we were able to join R’s family via the modern miracle of an online video call, just after their Thanksgiving meal.

As the evening turned to night, we settled down to relax and reflect on our day of exploring and fine feasting. As we sat warm and cosy, it was not long before we again entered the land of dreams.

Loving Simplicity