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Killerton, Broadclyst, Devon.   With nothing in my diary for the day, and having noted long ago that I wanted to catch an exhibition there before it closed, I took myself on Friday to this National Trust property a few miles north-east of Exeter.  It is one of the county’s largest estates.  The house was originally intended to be temporary, but the grandiose mansion planned was never built. The late 1780s Georgian property was extended twice, early in the nineteenth century and again a hundred years or so later.  I came across this description of the estate at one point.


It was donated to the National Trust in 1944.  P1000236001After the obligatory coffee on arrival, I left the elegant Georgian stable block, which now houses café, shop and plant sales, and took a backward glance at it.

At the end of the drive lay the house itself, presently housing three exhibitions relating to the long campaigns for votes for women. A stark reminder of how the campaign could divide members of the same family, aunt and niece in this case, each living on the estate, greeted visitors. P1000243001The first exhibition was a collaboration between the NT and the National Portrait Gallery, London. P1000245001P1000247001P1000249001


Octavia Hill.  Octavia Hill! Against! Social reformer! She who had so much to do with the founding of the National Trust!


Ellen Terry – pro women’s suffrage

I had not previously realised just how strongly some women felt that they should not get the vote, and I felt uneasy all the time I was in this small exhibition, very conscious how another political debate today, on which I feel so strongly, is dividing households and friends. (My cats are totally apathetic on the matter, so my household is tranquil.)

The other two exhibitions, fashion related to the suffragette/suffragist movement, and more about the two Acland women, left me less emotionally troubled. I could not have been a suffragette, but am equally sure that I would have been out there marching with the non-violent suffragist movement.


The music room



I was very tempted to sing this out loud, but I didn’t quite dare.  I’m pretty sure though that onlookers and volunteers would have been delighted!


A set of playing cards laid out on the console table, with pro and anti themes


A House of Commons with not a woman in sight …


The drawing room


The Pastor’s Fireside, by Henry Singleton, the 19th Baronet Acland reading to his family


The library, somewhat spoiled in my view by all the panels of quotations



The dining room



The movement had a long history

P1000285001None looked like achieving anything, until the World War I when women proved their worth in ‘men’s’ jobs. I actually got a little angry inside as I looked at the changing pictures , some of which are in the slideshow below, showing just what work they had done. P1000296001


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Why did they have to do ‘men’s’ jobs to prove they were sufficiently responsible to vote?


This map showed that New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote (1893), and Saudi Arabia (2015) has been the latest


A delightful respite in one of the bedrooms from all that politics

On emerging from the house, I went looking for a snack in the Dairy Café. P1000313001P1000317001But it was closed, so I went back to the entrance café, not wishing to take a meal in the main restaurant in the house. After having my soup, I went off in search of the old 1950s Post Office, but reading the notice saved me the tramp over there, though the path looked enticing.


I’m glad the fence was strong!


This was Friday

So I went back to the house and started exploring the gardens, which, as this slideshow proves, still had plenty of colour, this early October day.

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From there I went further into the grounds.  P1000342001I came across a granite cross, which I have since learned was erected in 1873 in memory of the 10th Baronet who did so much to develop the estate, by 40 of his friends. But for me the main interest was that it was swarming with harlequin (i.e.  non-native) ladybirds, scurrying about, never still and occasionally flying off and returning.  P1000347001


Harlequins come in many colours

Were they enjoying the warmth that the granite had absorbed during the morning?  Were they preparing to swarm together to find a place to hibernate?  My researches have not got me very far… But some of them came far with me.  It was a good fifteen minutes and several hundred metres away before the last one emerged from my hair.

I was keen to leave Killerton in time to avoid Friday evening traffic, but still had time for a gentle stroll in a small part of the parkland, where I met scarcely a soul.  P1000370001P1000374001P1000382001P1000386001P1000387001P1000388001P1000389001


A glimpse of the Victorian chapel


Lovely spot for a romantic picnic


Autumn rolls on

This post has been very long, but here is a slideshow for any reader with stamina for 12 more pictures with details.

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Forde Abbey


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Forde Abbey.  Until a few weeks ago, when friends took me to a most enjoyable summer fair there, I had never heard of this lovely house and gardens complex on the Somerset/Dorset border, I immediately decided to return before too long to see the place in more peaceful circumstances, and it seemed the ideal focus for my friend, Mary’s, recent visit to the west country from London.

The Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in the 12th century, and, because at the dissolution the Abbot went quietly, many of the original buildings remain (though, curiously, no longer the abbey church, which is the reverse of what usually happens). In 1529, the house and grounds were initially leased by the Crown, for the princely sum of £49 6s 6d a year. Most of the subsequent occupiers have looked after the buildings extremely well, and some developed them. The same goes for the gardens.  The ancestors of the current owners moved in in 1905. The family celebrated their first 100 years there by installing  the Centenary Fountain in the Mermaid Pond. It is the highest powered fountain in the country, and it plays for 15 minutes three times a day.  One room in the house is entirely devoted to the remarkably well-preserved Mortlake Tapestries, based on the Raphael Cartoons in the V and A.

Photography is not allowed inside the house, which is perhaps as well for the length of this post. First, here are some angles on the beautiful Ham-type stone buildings. P1000171001

P1000122 copie001

The café is in a vaulted room in this oldest part of the house.

P1000134001P1000137001P1000135 copie001P1000203 copie001P1000138001P1000213001Details. P1000207001P1000204001P1000205001You could see the house from nearly everywhere in the extensive gardens. P1000164001And this was a view from the kitchen garden (of which more later). P1000221001Now some views of the beautiful gardens.  P1000127001P1000141001P1000146001


The Long Pond



The Great Pond is the only monastic structure remaining in the gardens. It was used to power a mill.


The Rock Garden



The Spiral Garden



The Centenary Fountain in the Mermaid Pond

A closer look at some of the flowers P1000142001P1000144001P1000145001


The choice was under- or over-exposure, and the camera chose the latter. No doubt manipulation in Photoshop beyond my capacity would deepen the pink to reflect it more truly.

P1000153001P1000158001P1000168001P1000176001P1000178001P1000214001Exit was through the kitchen gardens, bordered by flower beds. P1000216001


Getting ready for Hallowe’en

P1000219001P1000220001P1000222001And even the plant sale area was a feast for the eyes.  I resisted this time.  P1000223001I’m told the gardens are wonderful in spring, at snowdrop and crocus time…

The Mid-Somerset Show, 2018


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It would not normally have occurred to me to visit the Mid-Somerset Show, but as a volunteer at the Somerset Rural Life Museum, I had been invited to help on their stand for a couple of hours.  So I arrived some 50 minutes early to take ‘a quick mooch around’ beforehand.  Ha! Quick? – it was vast!

As I arrived, there seemed to be an awful lot of dogs around.  P1330402001P1330404001P1330408001I soon understood why.P1330409001I moved on after a few minutes. The Somerset willow/wicker industry is still thriving, (and indeed we display a wicker coffin in the museum).  P1330412001There was dry stone walling, P1330413001and timbercraft. P1330415001I particularly liked the bench which could be moved around like a wheelbarrow. (A wheelbench? Or a benchbarrow?)

I had seen that there was to be a cider pressing at 10.30, so I made my way to the marquee where it was to take place.  P1330421001I saw no pressing, perhaps because judging was still taking place, but was delighted to discover the Rural Life Museum’s stall nearby, as I could now stop worrying that I would never find it.

There were things to entertain children, P1330423001and  dozens, if not hundreds, of stalls selling things to consume, to wear, and to play with, and offering services, commercial, voluntary and public, (no photos of any of these).  There were horses, P1330432001and ponies, P1330433001sheep, P1330434001P1330435001young (and older) shepherds dispensing advice, P1330436001sheep judgings, P1330437001sheep products, P1330447001small goats (and large), P1330448001alpacas, P1330449001pigs, P1330450001P1330451001P1330452001and a judge getting down to things. P1330453001 Cattle big and small,P1330455001


This animal was so huge, I thought it to be a bull, but another photo has shown me that it is a cow

P1330462001I had wandered about the huge showground so much that I was a little concerned that I’d never find the cider and Somerset heritage marquee again. I was just about on time. P1330463001 One of the children’s activities we offered was stick weaving, which I had never heard of. P1330464001Custom was slow to begin with, but it picked up, and it was useful that there were two of us to chat with both children and grown-ups.  A few had visited the Museum before it  closed in 2014 for refurbishment, and some had already visited after it had reopened last year.  Some children had already visited in the last few months with their schools, and were keen, and primary school teachers took an interest, as did grandparents.

I had intended to leave the showground when my two-hour stint was up, but I was conscious that there was a lot more to see, and also I hoped to find a leather belt to buy from a craft stall (which I did in due course).  As I emerged from the heritage tent it was very sunny and warm – not forecast – and teeming with people. P1330466001 I saw more horses, P1330470001bees and bee products, P1330472001P1330473001bantams,



It’s true there was something of a breeze, but I suspect this beastie had its feathers permanently ruffled.

P1330481001golden goose eggs (?) P1330482001and other kinds, P1330484001and Egg Sheeran.  P1330483001Just when I thought there couldn’t be any more kinds of animals (and was pleased not to have seen cats in cages) I came across a few rabbits. P1330486001Human exhibits changed every hour. This is the Barnacle Buoys, who often sing in support of the RNLI. (Apologies for the words clipped at the beginning and end.  The latter is ‘ago’, and is sung one tone up followed by one tone down – for those concerned.)

The essence of a country show is its produce and homecraft competitions. P1330489001


Upcycled denim competition


Fewer people made it to the far end of the marquee

More child’s play. P1330497001Well away from the main dog classes was a ring where some kind of obedience test was happening.  I didn’t stay long enough to understand what it was all about, but this apparently obedient dog is here being persuaded by the ring master – in vain and for the third time – to retrieve a ball and take it back to its owner.   P1330521001


Its owner is in the blue shorts

Beginning to get hungry, and not keen on any of the fast food on offer, I made my way back to the car park at 2 pm.

P1330525001The dog classes were continuing.


Some dogs were more co-operative …


… than others.



All had been amazingly well-behaved.

I was so pleased that the SRLM had appealed to its volunteers for help, and intend to go again another year.

Two days in London – Saturday


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Kew Gardens. This time Mary and I went together to Kew Gardens, known more formally as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  We arrived fairly early, after an obligatory coffee near the station, and decided to make straight for the Temperate House, recently reopened after refurbishment, before the crowds arrived.  P1330244001


En route, a sideways look at the Pagoda. How parched the grass is.

It happened to be the first day of Gnomus’s residence there. He is ‘a font of knowledge, and caretaker of the earth’, hanging around the Temperate House to share with children special stories about the plants there, until the end of the summer holidays. P1330248001


As Mary pointed out, the poor chap at the back is having difficulty making the movements of Gnomus’s feet look realistic!


One corner inside. P1330261001Views from the balcony.




and inwards

From the balcony I also admired elements of the ironwork.

And ornamentation outside.

And I focussed on plants from above.

The story behind the leucospermum conocarpodendon below is interesting. In 2005, a Dutch researcher found 40 small packets of seeds in a leather notebook in the National Archives.  The notebook belonged to a Dutch merchant whose ship was captured by the British navy in 1803.  Kew’s Millenium Seedbank propagated this plant from one of those seeds. P1330281001 We moved on to the Great Pagoda, also recently refurbished.  When it was built in 1762, it had dragons on every corner of its roof, but they only lasted until 1784.  Thanks to donors, the original designs have been used to recreate the dragons, the lower ones carved from wood, the higher ones digitally printed. P1330287001P1330288001While Mary stayed down and worked on a crossword, I climbed to the top, 253 quite shallow steps. Access was by a broad central spiral staircase. I counted the steps between each floor, 33 to begin with, reducing to 21, so I suppose this was to give the impression, with perspective, that the tower is higher than it really is.  Around the outside of the staircase is a broad landing in every floor, with considerate benches (that is a figure of speech!) on every second landing.  At the top, the windows are glazed, and you cannot get out on to the balconies.


Richmond Lawn Tennis Club from the second floor. They’re only playing on the hard courts.


The Japanese Garden from the top



Central London skyline


There was a small exhibition on the ground floor. This automaton represents a royal visit to the Pagoda during construction

On our way to lunch:


The central section of The Temperate House gleamed in the sun


A different chap at the back has worked out what the handles on Gnomus’s calves are for.


The Palm House, now by comparison revealed to be in need of a clean-up

After lunch we wandered down the Broad Walk.  P1330329001P1330332001P1330333001P1330335001P1330336001Then around a parkland area.


I loved the bark on this deep-cleft Pyrenean Pine

We sat for a while, both working further on the crossword (my part really just marvelling at the solutions Mary found).


Like my small pond at home, the lake has far too much duckweed etc on it. A result of the extreme heat we have been having?


Aeroplane after aeroplane…


Close to a bench


Daddy swan seems much more concerned by the Egyptian goose than by us.

P1330369001A speedy passage through the sweltering Palm House, P1330388001P1330391001and out the other side, P1330394001back to the café to pick up something to drink. This we consumed sitting on a bench nearby, reflecting on the day, and counting the intervals between the planes which were going over our heads to land at Heathrow Airport (every 60 to 70 seconds, poor residents).  User commentsA lovely day, during which sunshine and cloud had appeared at totally convenient intervals for our comfort. We parted at Kew Gardens station, I for my Underground (which was largely over ground) for Paddington Station and the West Country, and Mary on her Overground (which was partly under ground) for North London.

Two days in London – Friday


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I spent two days in London last week, and, quite apart from social time with my friend, Mary, I had three very different experiences.  The timing of my trip was determined by the fact that the ‘Monet and Architecture’ exhibition at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, was very soon coming to an end. Moreover, I was very glad that I had pre-booked my ticket as there would have been no chance of a walk-in ticket.


Pavement entertainment outside the Gallery

P1330088001 The ‘fourth plinth‘ in Trafalgar Square is currently occupied by ‘The Invisible Enemy should not Exist’.   It is built entirely of the packaging of Middle Eastern foodstuffs (some sources say date syrup cans) and Arabic newspapers, and is a commemoration of the artefacts stolen from the National Museum of Iraq, in Baghdad, in the aftermath of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. It represents a determination to recover the more than 7000 objects still missing.


The Sainsbury Wing, temporarily showing the 77 Monet paintings


Looking back from the entrance

No photography inside the Monet exhibition itself was allowed, but I did manage to get these pictures at its entry and exit.  I thought a better title would have been ‘Monet and Landscape’. But perhaps they’ve done that already.P1330092001P1330095001My other visit that day was to the Postal Museum, including a short trip on its Mail Rail, the underground post transport system, which opened in 1927 and closed in 2003.  As there was no really convenient public transport between the two places, I decided to walk, and the 35 minutes estimated by online research turned out to be very accurate. I walked fast but made stops for a few photos and to check that I was on the right route.


More pavement entertainment in Trafalgar Square


I had a crush on Tommy Steele back in the   … ties, but I’m a little young to remember Glenn Miller.


Paris? No, London.

It was a noisy walk with much traffic and many people, but once I turned off Grays Inn Road into Mount Pleasant (the road), it was totally quiet.  P1330103001P1330104001I have tried to find out more about the Panther Building, and it seems that it is currently workshops and studios.  Planning permission exists for the redevelopment of part of it.

Two big surprises awaited me just before I got to the Postal Museum in Phoenix Place:  the beauty of the 1929 Mount Pleasant building, and that, while much shrunken, there is still considerable Post Office activity on the site – a great deal of redevelopment is going on there also.  P1330105001I had a bite of lunch in the café at the Museum, P1330108001then crossed back over the road to Mail Rail, where likewise I had a timed ticket. This rather blurry picture shows the size of the ‘wagons’, ideal for postal parcels, packets and letters, but only just large enough for tourists to sit in! P1330112001


There were four stops on the 15 minute ride, at which there were projections on to the walls about Mail Rail’s history.  P1330125001


It very much resembles the London (passenger) Underground of course – but it’s on a much smaller scale.

P1330139001After the ride, the exit was through a small further exhibition about it.  P1330143001P1330148001


‘Ulysses’ banned – by mail as well!


‘…ever needed again…’

And at the end I watched a short film which I had not had time to see beforehand, from which the above is a still.

I then crossed back over the road to the award-winning Postal Museum, which opened in 2017.  It was very well presented, with plenty to keep both adults and children interested. Here are just a few of the dozens of photos I took there.  Firstly, why do we call it ‘the post’? P1330167001P1330169001

P1330173001 copie

“It is not the cause of faction, or of party, or of an individual, but the common interest of every man in Britain.” Yes, well. (Junius was not, by the way, a Roman philosopher, but the nom de plume of an 18th century writer.)


Rowland Hill introduced the penny black, the very first postage stamp in the world. This exhibit was not lit, perhaps for fear of fading, so a decent photo was difficult to take.  I shudder to think how many millions of pounds this exhibit is worth, though apparently it’s a plate proof so doesn’t count as real stamps.

Post boxes have not always been red.  They started – in the Channel Islands in 1852 – painted green, but people in the countryside thought that dreary, so from 1874 they were painted red. P1330188001P1330216.1P1330235001I think that splendid mail coach was the best, but here are some other forms of postal transport.P1330194001P1330202001P1330216.2P1330234001I rather fancied this tunic, but my attempt to try it on reflectively was foiled by the height of its plinth. P1330201001Is nostalgia the same as feeling old? I felt both as I recognised the famous ‘Press button B’ telephone booth.P1330203001Near the end there was the chance to sit and watch an hour’s-worth of short PR  films made by the Post Office’s Film Unit (founded 1933). The most famous of them all, ‘Night Train’ was just about to start as I passed, so I sat and watched it.

On leaving the Museum, I took a backward look to the splendid Mount Pleasant building. P1330238001Then I wandered through quiet back streets to the bustle of King’s Cross, and took a bus back to Mary’s place.  We had a very nice meal at a French restaurant in Camden Town, though I could have wished that the moules marinières I ordered for my starter had arrived instead of the spicy moules provençales!

12th time lucky!


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12th time lucky! Two years ago, Barbara was given a voucher for a balloon flight for her birthday. She suggested that her daughter, that is my cousin Teresa, and I join her, and as I had been longing to go up in a balloon all my adult life, I was thrilled to agree, as was Teresa. So for two years we have been making reservations on flights, and 11 times these flights have been cancelled, either for bad weather conditions, or, once, because they had not enough passengers booked for the flight.

This morning, at last, it happened!  It was perfect weather.  Arriving at 5.30 at a field belonging to the Berkshire College of Agriculture, in Burchetts Green, the sun was rising over the horizon, and there was a little mist around which burnt off over the next couple of hours.  After a short briefing with us all actually in the balloon basket, we all clambered out and watched the balloon being inflated. This didn’t take long and we all climbed in again.  P1320903001P1320905001P1320906001P1320908001P1320909001P1320913001P1320916001


To begin with, just hot (I presume) air is blown into the balloon. (Later edit: I now understand that the balloon is filled with cold air to begin with.)


Then the burner comes into action

P1320921001P1320923001Take-off was imperceptible and we were up and away before we knew it.


“It’s actually happening!”


Before long we were at our maximum height of 900 feet plus.  It didn’t feel like it – though how would I know?

We saw animals. P1320957001


Mostly I didn’t use zoom on my camera, to retain the impression of height, but this is an exception. I loved the early morning shadows of both animals and trees.


P1320965001P1320966001P1330012001P1330021001At last some wild animals – running deer, tiny specks here.

We saw expensive properties (this was the Henley area).


I really was not leaning out of the basket to take this.



Presumably a dressage arena




P1320997001P1320998001We saw fields with patterns.



We three were facing the sun.  I think we got the best of the deal.






Why was this field so exquisitely green, when all around had been affected so badly by the lengthy drought?


Perhaps this aircraft is the clue.



A golf course


The greenkeeper?

And of course we saw views.  P1320946001P1320949001P1320961001P1320963001P1320978001



The Thames with Henley in the distance



P1320986001P1320991001P1330006001P1330011001P1330012001P1330013001P1330015001P1330019001After some 50 minutes it was time to start descending. P1330023001P1330024001P1330026001


I didn’t turn round to look at the views behind me much, for obvious reasons.






We have landed, in a field at Sonning Common.


The ‘plughole’ at the top is opened to let out some air

P1330048001Once the balloon had deflated sufficiently we were allowed to get out.


83-year-old yoga-loving Barbara didn’t really need help,


but she seemed delighted to accept it.


Teresa and I used the same method as each other.

P1330057001P1330058001We were invited/encouraged/cajoled to help push all the remaining air out of the balloon, then to roll it up and put it back in the basket.  P1330060001P1330062001


Barbara helped squeeze the air out…


… by rolling in the hay with her young man.


The balloon was tied into sections


All helped lift it towards and then into the basket

P1330083001It was some time before a minibus arrived to pick us up. The interval was very pleasantly spent sipping champagne and chatting with fellow passengers. P1330084001P1330085001P1330086001It had been worth the two-year wait!  Thanks Geoff for kicking off the whole adventure!  And Adventure Balloons, we’re sorry for all the evil things we said about you every time you cancelled – we really do understand that you couldn’t take the risk.  And you served up perfect weather today.


Madeira Revisited 7


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Madeira Revisited 7. Last full day. By the way, my memory was playing me up.  It wasn’t on Day 5 but today that we went to Cabo Girâo, at 580metres/1900 feet the highest cliff in ‘Europe’. Here’s the view eastwards, towards Funchal, from the glass platform.  P1320637001From there, we continued along the coast to the west, and then turned inland to another upland, very different from what we had seen, a plateau heathland, once more above the clouds.  P1320881001They were building a huge reservoir where we made a brief stop (in the middle of the left-hand brown area on the map), but we were there to see more of this magnificent native plant, called Pride of Madeira, echium candicansP1320659001P1320661001I’d liked it so much the first time I saw it, on the first day, that I’d bought a t-shirt.  The flowerheads really are this big. 20180627_094406[1]The label says it was made in Madeira.

Next we descended in our minibuses to a place called Rabaçal, (on the left-hand edge of the brown bit on the map), within the clouds. Indeed it was difficult to tell whether we were in mist or whether it was actually raining.  Fortunately, the longest part of our subsequent walk was downwards on a long, quite narrow, very quiet, wind-y road, and out of the clouds.


Good to see this natural stream, after all those levadas



We were all spread out, and, uncertain as to whether we should continue on the road or take this steep path, Christine, Richard, David and I stood here for a long while nattering. It turned out we could have taken either.

When the tarmac came to an end, we continued on a further steep path downwards, but this fortunately became a flat levada walk shortly afterwards.


Madeiran chaffinches were everywhere, and very friendly. I have resisted posting photos of them every day.  This one, like many, had a deformity on its feet.

P1320693001P1320694001At the end – a place called Risco – there was a long, but narrow, waterfall, to which I found it difficult to do justice in photos.  P1320702001





The walk was a there and back one again.



There was no doubt a fantastic view behind the cloud…

It was with great pleasure that most of us, when we got back to the tarmac road, took a little bus provided by the local authority (at 3 euros each) to get back to our own minibuses.  All this took much longer than anticipated, and it was rather late when we had our lunch in what was no doubt a beautiful spot on the heath, picnic tables and all, but sadly we were once more in the chill and damp of cloudland.


Our final stop of the day was in what was formally designated ‘cloud forest’ (warmer here because more sheltered), where we were able to see how plants just absorbed water from the atmosphere, and indeed were growing on each other.  P1320717001P1320723001P1320725001Back at the hotel, it was time to pack, then go down one last time to a restaurant near the seafront, and climb back again.

The following morning, it was time to say good bye to the hotel (the Residencial Pina) and its friendly staff.


My room right in the middle, over the breakfast room. That’s a dragon tree.


That had come into harbour overnight


We gather at the main building/bar awaiting our lifts to the airport

When I visited Madeira in November 2016 on a regular tourist holiday, which I did much enjoy, I had sensed that there must be wilder areas, where it was possible to look around without the view being interrupted by rooves and cables.  This holiday proved to me that this was true, and showed me just how beautiful deeper Madeira is.  There are still some things I would like to explore there…


Madeira Revisited 6


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Madeira Revisited 6.  Free day. I definitely wanted to go up to Monte on the cable car, and I definitely wanted to go out on a cetacean watching boat trip, as I had enjoyed both so much in November 2016.  Naturetrek, the wildlife travel company I was with, had reserved a place for me on a boat trip they recommended, in a fast RIB (rigid inflatable boat), and that sounded fun.  (I had been on a catamaran on my previous visit.)

When I got down to a later breakfast than usual, everyone had been and gone, bar our leader and his assistant. Most were planning to visit the Monte Palace tropical gardens which I had so enjoyed before, and then go on to the Botanical Gardens afterwards, and one had even a further garden in mind for after that. I was planning to take things more leisurely.

In due course I walked down to the seafront,


Just a little reminder of how steep it was.


The Bonita da Madeira again

and made my way gently to the cable car base.  At the bottom was a small exhibition showing how the local embroidery was made.  I was pleased because I knew that one of my companions, who had been disappointed that the embroidery factory was to be shut on this (Sun)day, would have seen it on her own way up to Monte.

I was not disappointed in the cable car ride.  P1320404001P1320406001P1320408001


It was pleasing to see the regrowth after the disastrous arson that had taken place two years previously.  P1320413001Four people had died, and last time I was there a young man was awaiting trial.  I learnt this time that he is now serving ten years’ imprisonment.

Once up at Monte, I wandered around and had a look at the church, P1320417_modifié-1001and examined this statue in its forecourt of Charles/Karl/Carlo Hapsburg, the last reigning (until 1918) Austro-Hungarian Emperor, nephew of the assassinated Franz Ferdinand of Austria. He died in Madeira in 1922. P1320416001And I noticed that the toboggans weren’t running.  (One ride on them in a lifetime is enough.)P1320419001I then went to the café hoping to have a pastel de nata (custard tart), but had to settle for a large portion of just the custard itself.  It was good!  At the same time I watched the cable cars, and tried to see the mechanism by which the pods switched to another speed.  P1320423001Even once back in the cable car I failed miserably to do so, though I could feel the change of gear.  P1320425001The ride down was just as enjoyable, and there were no blue shirt reflections to mess up my pictures this time.  The ride is so quiet you can hear birds!P1320432001


I walked along the sea front towards the boat companies’ outlets.


Sea defences…


…hopefully more effective than this, facing out to sea.

I had 90 minutes to spare before my boat was due to leave, but something told me to go to check in and pay well in advance.  I’m glad I did. They had been wanting to reach me to tell me that they had had to cancel, because they had had a big party cancellation themselves.  They suggested an RIB with another company, but said that even that was not certain to happen, so when they than suggested the catamaran trip I had done 18 months previously, I seized upon it.  More hanging around, but I spun my lunch out, saw and greeted four of my companions returning from a different boat trip, and in due course it was my turn.  P1320445001


Yet again the Bonita da Madeira

After a while we headed for where a pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins was said to be hanging out, and for 15 minutes we were entertained by at least 20 of these small cetaceans, surrounding the boat near and far, some of them bow-riding. P1320480001P1320536001P1320502001P1320559001


My favourite photo of course


Showing why these are called Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

Later on, we made for where a (Bryde’s) whale was thought to be (there is communication between the boats throughout these trips) but despite our hanging around beyond the time needed to return to the harbour on time, it did not surface.  But I much enjoyed watching the sea birds, and I was told  that these were mainly Cory’s shearwater. P1320585001



As we made out way past Cabo Girâo, where we had been the previous day, we saw  another kind of bird up in the sky, taking advantage of the thermals. P1320613001Some of them accompanied us, or we them, back along the coast, P1320618001and two landed on a beach.  P1320620001This final picture is of the celebrated Reid’s Hotel in Funchal. Four of our number had splashed 155 euros a head on dinner there one night!P1320626001As I would have been late meeting up with people I had arranged to eat with, I spent 7 euros on a taxi back up to the hotel, feeling guilty as I did so, but made up for a it later after a delicious meal, when once more, I trekked back up on foot with my friends.

Madeira Revisited 5


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Madeira Revisited 5. I don’t know what the weather was like on the southern coast of the island on the Saturday, but for some of our varied experiences elsewhere on the Saturday it was cold and/or damp, though things did get better from time to time. There were several elements to this long day.  We were first taken to Cabo Girâo, the highest sea cliff in ‘Europe’. (Being Portuguese, Madeira counts as Europe, though geologically it is part of the African plate.) I had been here before, and ‘thrilled’ once more to standing on a glass platform with nothing below that.


Photo taken on previous visit

Then we moved on to Encumeada in the middle of the island (1007 metres/3303 feet), where the chill was really felt, especially as some of us had decided that we did not need to carry or wear as much weather protection as previously.  We had been warned, so had only ourselves to blame!  Anyway, we had a mile-long walk along a levada, the borders of which were not entirely by natural vegetation but included some attractive planting.  P1320149001P1320157001P1320164001P1320167001P1320168001P1320170001At the end of our walk was a tunnel, through which the levada continued, and along which we had been intended to walk, but I was glad that that thought had been abandoned – it would have meant uncomfortable bending over for 800 metres.  P1320171001I did venture a very little way into it, and if this photo is viewed on a big enough screen, the light at the end of the tunnel can just be seen.


(Photo artificially over-exposed. It was really much darker than this.)



For some reason this cockerel was hanging around.

Back the mile to our minibuses, and we moved on to Sâo Vicente on the north coast.  P1320178001My memory of this place in November 2016 was of a meal taken in a revolving restaurant.  This time our stop was for coffee, and then for a very short exploration of the local geology.  I nipped off at one point to buy some cherries from a stall, and when I rejoined the group they were all staring at the beach.  I could see a tern or to. P1320192001P1320201001And I liked these contrasting grey textures. P1320206001 Only on looking more closely did I see that some of the stones were in fact terns, roseate terns I was informed. P1320208001From here we were taken just a very short distance westwards, and deposited to walk along the old coastal road (closed to traffic) for about a mile.


I really would not have cared to have driven along that old road!

I really enjoyed this walk.  It was easy walking (as had the levada been), the sun was now out, and the plants growing on the vertical cliff wall were spectacular.  P1320215001P1320218001P1320220001P1320221001P1320222001P1320231001P1320235001P1320236001P1320241001P1320242001Two of us were ahead of the others, so we were the first to venture in to this tunnel, which we could see was dripping wet for the first and last several metres.  P1320243001P1320244001It was fun, once emerged from it, to see the others noticing the ‘hazard’ and then venturing in.  P1320252001P1320263001


Indian/Macaronesian Red Admiral


Speckled wood

P1320280001P1320281001From here we were taken via Seixal to Châo da Ribeira, where there were picnic benches. The sun had gone in again, and it was again a little chilly.  We were joined by 5 feral cats and a kitten, all very wary, but won over by gifts of ham and cheese.   P1320287001P1320296001From here we went for a short walk in the laurisilva, laurel forest, of which Madeira has the one of the few surviving remnants in ‘Europe’.  It once flourished around the Mediterranean, but the Ice Ages did for it nearly everywhere there. Our botanist leader was very excited at being in this rich and rare spot.  P1320317001Lunch had been late, and we were running later.  We made just one more stop on the way back to the hotel, to see the rare Madeiran saxifrage.  Here it is: P1320324001and here are some of us looking at it.  P1320331001Another lovely dinner in a Funchal restaurant, another fitness session back up to the hotel. Then watching a fireworks display taking place back down in the harbour, an event which the town of Funchal lays on every Saturday evening in June.P1320366001P1320355001P1320382001P1320356001P1320361001


Madeira Revisited 4


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Madeira Revisited 4. A very different landscape on Friday. We were at the far eastern tail of the island, on the Sâo Lourenço peninsula, dry and arid and very windy. P1320881001The usual pattern: a there and back walk, botanists behind, better walkers in front, me taking pictures of flowers and views, and many walkers of many nationalities. Lots of up and down, but not as much as the day before.P1320061001


Looking south. The smudges in the sea are a fish farm.



More layers of volcanic ejecta



The sea to the north

P1320082001Unfortunately I was beaten after an hour or so. By the wind.  Not having had full sensation in my feet for a couple of years now, passing over a high and very exposed spot, unbalanced by camera and binoculars round my neck, and wearing a wide brimmed sunhat, I was actually terrified that I would be blown over by a gusts of the (pleasantly warm) wind onto the hard stony ground.  Very reluctantly I had to turn back and reach a more sheltered spot, where I sat for a while.  P1320093001


Maximum zoom on the fish farm and a small boat tending it

P1320098001P1320100001After a bit, I moved further towards the car park, and found an almost suitable boulder on which to sit. For a long while.  I confess that I did get a little bored, but amused myself taking more photos.P1320103001P1320111001P1320113001 And a video.


I was on a mini peninsula at the side of a bay, the Baia d’Abra.  The other side of the bay was a long way off, and it was impossible to make individual people out.  But I suspected that some people sitting down way across above the multi-coloured cliff were a few of my companions, so I took a photo on maximum zoom, and enlarged it as much as I could in my camera. (I really was quite bored by now! There was nowhere to lie down and have a snooze, nor was it warm enough.)P1320110001 I could indeed identify people from our party.  I assumed they were sitting to have their lunch (which I took to as a cue to have my own) but I learned later they had been birdwatching and had seen, among other things, canary and rock sparrow. Oh well, I had watched grasshoppers … P1320104001and a rather elegant wooden tourist boat, the Bonita da Madeira, following the coastline of the bay. P1320116001Together once more, we went back along the south coast towards Funchal, and stopped at Ponta da Garajau, P1320146001for liquid refreshment and what was intended to be a further walk down a cliff path to find a particular plant. P1320118001P1320122001P1320124001P1320126001P1320128001P1320130001P1320140001However, the authorities had roped it off as too dangerous.  This did not stop our leader venturing just a few metres into it to collect this insect from a cactus. P1320142001He then passed it to  a volunteer who agreed to crush it in her palm. P1320143001This was the cochineal insect, much prized as a very expensive trading item centuries ago, and which set me off singing to myself an extract from a madrigal by Thomas Weelkes (1575-1623), Thule, the period of cosmography. This includes the line, ‘The Andalusian merchant, that returns laden with cochineal and China dishes,…’.

Another delicious meal in a downtown Funchal restaurant, and the obligatory exercise afterwards (taxis were available for those who wished) ended the day.