Well, not strictly Cornwall, but Devon. Monday 4th July. I had sadly from my patio to say goodbye to the birds on the RSPB Hayle Estuary reserve, and start making my way home.
I was not going to be able to pick Bella up from her cattery until 4.30, so had plenty of time to make one last visit, and chose the National Trust’s Castle Drogo, near Exeter, a 20th century castle. I saw a robin in the grounds, and realised I had not seen one all week.
Castle Drogo was built by Julius Drewe, founder of the hugely successful Home and Colonial Stores . (He retired on his fortune in 1889 aged only 33.) He was convinced that he was descended from a Norman baron called called Drogo de Teigne, from Drewsteignton, and bought land there, overlooking the River Teign, to build a castle. He asked Edwin Lutyens to be its architect. Lutyens would much have preferred to design ‘a delicious loveable house’, but Drewe insisted. Construction started in 1911, but in the event, he lost heart after losing his eldest son in the First World War, and started to dislike the cost of it all, and only about a third of the original concept was realised by the time construction was completed in 1930. Drewe died a year later, but had been able to live there since 1925. It is the last castle to be built in England.
I just loved its Art Nouveau Tudor style. (That’s my description; I’ve not seen it elsewhere, and Wikipedia calls it ‘mixed-revivalist’.) It is entirely built in granite, and was given to the National Trust in 1974, its first 20th century acquisition.
The building may have been twentieth century, but the collected pieces were authentic.
To reach the undercroft, which became the chapel in the revised design, it is necessary to go outside. A chance to see the wonderful granite blocks again.
After some lunch in the recent visitor centre and cafe building, I spent an hour or so wandering in the gardens. The rose garden was outstanding, and would have been even more stunning had it been brighter and warmer. (It seems strange to be saying that at a time when UK all-time heat records have just been broken by a considerable margin.)
My final stop was at the circular lawn, where a mesmerising robot lawnmower entertained me for a few minutes.
But let my final picture in this series of posts about this so enjoyable holiday in Cornwall – and Devon – be of the class of animals which had given me such pleasure all week, the birds. Much more entertaining on the lawn than the robot was a pied wagtail, a species which, as with the robin, I hadn’t seen all week.
Tuesday, 28th June. The first full day of my holiday, and the weather forecast for Cornwall, especially for the afternoon, was awful. But I’d known this for days, so was well-prepared not to do much.
It was high tide at 5.45 a.m.
I zoomed in to the cranes – of the mechanical kind – way across the water, to the north.
And went back to bed. By the time I was ready to have the breakfast awaiting me in the fridge, the tide was well on its way out.
Feeling I shouldn’t stay in all day, and with the weather forecast only for possible showers in the morning, I decided to do a little exploration locally, and just to take a walk into Hayle town, along a tiny part of the South West Coast Path (SWCP). As I set off, the play area of The Old Quay House was to my left. (My room is furthest away, behind the smaller tree.) The weather was definitely not such as would encourage other residents to sit out.
The SWCP route took me along The Causeway, beside the estuary. This was very busy, and I remain puzzled as to why so many would take it, as it leads through Hayle town, when the A30 bypass was so near. They can’t all have been wanting to end their journeys in Hayle can they? Fortunately there was a footpath all the way along, even if it did mean crossing the road a couple of times. Plenty of wildflowers along the way, including these orchids.
I was amused at the footprints left by the Shelduck.
I learned later in the week that Hayle has a very interesting history, and I must find out more, perhaps by visiting its Heritage Centre, if – hopefully when – I return to the area. This Wikipedia entry confirms!
The SWCP leaves the main road leftwards, briefly to take a path by Carnsew Pool, said to be of ornithological interest. (This map shows much of my walk.)
However, the path was very tricky at some points, due to erosion, especially for someone whose balance is less sure than it used to be, and who had not bothered to take her walking pole with her.
I resolved to stick to the road on on the way back – the sighting of one solitary Little egret not being sufficient enticement to risk the path again.
The SWCP returned to The Causeway, which itself went right then immediately left under the mainline railway viaduct.
Along the quayside, there followed a sequence of indications of Hayle’s past innovative and industrial importance.
I now had the choice of following the SWCP, along North Quay, or turning right along the main road. I decided on the former, but now know I made the wrong choice. Following the road would have taken me to some more mudflats and the possibility of seeing some more waders and other birds.
Between South Quay and North Quay was East Quay.
In deciding to follow the SWCP, I had basically decided sadly to walk alongside what turned out to be a huge building site, the controversial North Quay Development. (Incidentally, looking at various estate agents’ windows during the week, I was horrified at property prices in the area. No wonder local people have such a housing problem.) I walked along it for about 15 minutes, but it was clear that there was to be nothing of interest for a while more,
so I turned round, given also that time was passing.
When I got back to East Quay, I noticed a footpath to Hayle Station. Reckoning that this would be much quieter than the main road, that the station would not be far from the viaduct, and that there must be somewhere to get coffee near the station, I took it.
There was coffee. In a place which also sold second-hand clothing and tourist trinkets. A bit noisy as behind me there were two pairs of women, each putting the world to rights (in ways which I would have disputed) rather loudly. But there was coffee.
I retraced my steps back to The Old Quay House, entirely along The Causeway this time. Not too many photographs – the rain promised for the afternoon (it was indeed by now just midday) was starting.
Back in my room, I looked out across the estuary. The building works are scarcely visible in this zoomed photo through the teeming rain.
I ventured out again in the rain, first to a nearby wine shop – I had forgotten to buy a bottle at M and S the day before – and then to The Old Quay House’s dining room for a seafood kebab and a lemon cheesecake.
The afternoon was spent tucked up in my room, watching Rafa and Serena (her last Wimbledon appearance?), while simultaneously knitting, or listening to Steve Richards’s latest ‘Rock&Roll Politics’ podcast. (I found that triple-tasking was beyond me.)
I did just peek out of the doors around 3 p.m., to see Great black-back Gulls and Herring Gulls looking pretty miserable.
By the next high tide, around 6 p.m., the weather was beginning to clear up.
At 8 p.m. all was calm, presaging a much better day tomorrow – and that was very important to me. I had grand plans for it …
The purpose of my trip to London was to see the Stonehenge Exhibition at the British Museum, but it would have been impossible not to be aware that a rather significant jubilee was about to be celebrated, that marking 70 years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Just in time for the festivities, (but five years late) the Elizabeth tube (metro/subway) line had been opened just three days before my trip. The driver of the mainline train bringing me up from the West Country had helpfully said that access was to be found to the side of Platform 1 of Paddington main line station. Just as well, since there was no signage until very near to the entrance.
Movement was among airy, cavernous stations throughout, and what felt like natural daylight everywhere.
The trains are light and airy as well, open end to (very long) end. Like certain sections of the Circle Line.
My goodness did the Elizabeth Line make a difference to my own movements around the capital! Just 3.5 minutes from Paddington main line station to Tottenham Court Road underground station, (which will increase marginally when the the line’s Bond Street platform opens in the autumn. Meanwhile its roundels read alternately, as we whizzed through, ‘Station Closed’ and ‘Opening Soon’).
Once I had arrived at Tottenham Court Road, my saving of time all evaporated. Even though I had the assistance of the sun’s shadows to determine points of the compass, I still managed to set off in the wrong direction, and what should have been a 6-minute walk turned into a 20-minute one. Thank goodness for texts/SMSs. Mary was able to go and have a coffee while she waited for me.
Once I’d made it to the museum
we made use of Mary’s membership of it, and had a coffee in the members’ cafe.
I’ll cover the exhibition itself in my next blog post.
Mary knows London bus routes inside out, and after our visit to the excellent exhibition she confidently had us walking past Bloomsbury Square Gardens,
to the stop we needed for the bus to get to her home in Kentish Town,
where I was invited to join in a Zoom call with Mary and her siblings,
before her eldest, Susan, top left, who lives very near, joined us for a meal.
The following morning, Saturday, was Mary’s regular get-together for tennis in Regent’s Park. It was a little chilly to begin with, but this did not detract from enjoying the wonderful display of roses.
I took many photos of them, of which here are a very few.
At the tennis courts.
Zooming in on the far end of the courts, I could make out a tennis lesson for youngsters.
I had seen a photo of a flag-lined Mall, and had a yen to reproduce it myself. After we had had sociable coffee with the other tennis players, Mary’s unerring knowledge of the routes soon got us to a bus which would take us to Trafalgar Square. Oxford Circus was not very busy (she said).
Regent Street more so. The yellow sign warns of road closures for the following day to enable Ride London to take place.
I hoped to take my photo of the Mall through Admiralty Arch, but this was as near as I could get, as a very polite policeman directed me back round the outside of the Arch. (Ride London also was inconvenienced by the Jubilee preparations as it usually finishes in the Mall, but did so this year at Tower Bridge.)
I post this photo only to show another, very cheery, policeman.
More zooming in, and this was the best I could do for my hoped-for photo. Crowds (and clean-up lorries) prevented me from getting dead centre.
We had alighted on the tail end of a rehearsal, for, as we soon learned, Trooping the Colour, part of next weekend’s Jubilee celebrations. Did the crowd know of the rehearsal, or had they, just like us, stumbled on it by chance? There were absolute hordes there, making photographic opportunity very random.
Two young Grenadier Guards were selling programmes for the ceremony. (I have no idea what is in the mind of the fellow to the right.)
Statues of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother that I’d never seen before.
I was hoping to take a photo of the front of Buckingham Palace, but we were diverted by solid barriers before getting there. We skirted round to the right, and at one point I could see the whole of the roof of the building over the barriers. Two men from a private security firm were standing by, and one of them (the other held back all the time) told me “No photos, security.” “Ridiculous’ I thought, and said, ‘this is the UK!’ I was quite riled, especially as it called to my mind an incident that had occurred to me on my first day in Uganda in 2013, when a corrupt young soldier (again with his companion holding right back) tried to get my camera from me because I had taken a photo of an enormous bird (a Marabou stork if I remember correctly) in a tree next to some kind of military establishment. I was quite sure he was only going to let me have it back on payment of a ransom, so I wasn’t going to let it go. I won. Anyway, I was quite sure that this security man, whether misinformed or just plain bossy, had got it wrong. There were no notices of any sort forbidding photography, nor could there be any possible reason to justify what he said.
In due course I gave up, and a few steps further on was able to take his photo, with, though it does not show up, a corner of Buckingham Palace in the background, and no-one objecting.
And just a few yards further on, I got this corner of the Palace.
where Mary notice the interesting functional ceiling, à la Pompidou Centre,
and we had a very nice meal, chosen from a very wide menu.
Emerging on to Piccadilly, we saw that it had flags too, though not at such frequent intervals as we had seen elsewhere.
Regent Street had lots.
Back in Kentish Town, we called into a cake shop, and bought a celebratory ‘Queen’s Jubilee White Chocolate Chip Cookie’ each, which we had with a cup of coffee, or half a cookie each anyway. It was very sweet and very enormous.
A game of ‘Upwords’, at which Mary, as usual, beat me, and it was time for me to leave. Again the Elizabeth Line helped speed me on my way to Paddington, and this time it was quite crowded. Today the news tells us that in its first five days, a million journeys were made on it. Mine contributed two to that total.
Yesterday was the second of my resumed monthly walks with my friend Zoe, though sadly the pub lunch at the end will not resume until next month – hopefully. We started from my house, and followed a route I had done once before, many years ago, but which I had not felt able to do more recently as I didn’t want to venture alone along that part of the route which lines the River Brue. It is now populated with somewhat scruffy residential caravans, past which I would not wish to go alone. There were many more caravans than shown here.
The walk was a little longer than planned, as what we did for a time clearly did not fit with what was on the OS map. I had had no problem with this when I had previously done the walk. Perhaps we were just chatting too much. I think I know now what went wrong, and am tempted to go and check it out sometime, but…
The walk was on a very local patch of the Somerset Moors, a.k.a. the Somerset Levels, though technically those are off to the west, bounded roughly by the M5 motorway. Over the centuries from Roman times they have been progressively drained, turning from marshes into pastureland. (The Draining of the Somerset Levels, by Michael Williams is fascinating on the subject.) They abound in ditches and rhynes (pronounced ‘reens’) and if you can help it you don’t set off across a field unless you know for sure that you will not be cut off at the other side by a water course too wide to leap across. (Moors, levels, rhynes explained here.)
A much enlarged clip from the above picture will show how the local authority is meeting the obligation placed on it by the government to provide sanitation for the caravan dwellers during the pandemic, as part of its campaign to get the homeless off the streets. This is to end after 17th May.
Glastonbury Tor accompanied us throughout.
Having passed this caravan I turned round to take a photo of the mattress lying among the branches of the tree, and the solar panel.
No wonder the road patches had seemed fresh!
Difficult not to stop and watch little lambkins. West Pennard Hill in the background.
When we caught sight of this swan it was way off, but when it caught sight of us it swam purposefully in our direction.
And swam purposefully away from us once it saw we had nothing to give it.
It was around here that we started to suspect we weren’t quite sure that we were where we thought we were. Still, it’s a nice bridge, of sorts.
We stood looking at this flock for quite a long time. After all, we had to make sure that each of the four lambs dispersing from playing together managed to find its right mother.
It this point I thought we were on Ponters Ball, a local earthwork of unknown age and purpose. Glastonbury is, in effect a peninsula, surround by Moors, formerly marshes. This earthwork marks the fourth, non watery, side of the peninsula. The earthwork did not particularly impress Zoe, who had not heard of it before I drew it to her attention as we made our arrangements.
In any case, I was wrong. This was Ponters Ball, reached ten minutes later. Looking southwards,
and here northwards. Zoe was a little more impressed. And from here on we knew exactly where we were.
Some furry creature has come to a sad end, at the hands – or more probably claws of a feathery creature
We were well and truly on the homeward stretch now, here entering the grounds of Millfield Preparatory School.
Tennis practice. And we also saw equestrian practice, but were too close for comfortable photography … and the battery of my phone – I had not bothered with my camera as I didn’t expect to take any photos – was running out.
Just enough juice to take one last picture of the Tor.
On Saturday, I realised that I had not been further than my garden for a whole week. The weather was forecast to be lovely on Sunday, so I looked for an NGS garden which would be open, with not too far to drive. (I feel so guilty environmentally if I have to drive more than an hour each way.) I found Coleford House, about 35 minutes away, in the eastern Mendip Hills. As it happened I was singing (in my garden, socially distanced), with three friends on Monday, two of whom knew or had known the previous owners. These had moved out in 1999.
I parked my car at 11.00 in the designated field down the road, and walked a couple of hundred yards to the house.
Met and greeted at the door of the Studio,
I was handed this map, prepared by an artist friend, not credited, of the family. (Some of her work was on sale.) I have added the swimming pool and the tennis court, not marked officially.
This is part of Coleford House.
Round in the herb garden:
Past the cottage into the walled garden,
where there were refreshments to be had in the orangery, though I didn’t partake. I had just had coffee in the car, and also I’m still being very wary about unnecessary people proximity, particularly going indoors.
I did let my camera zoom in approvingly for me on the green roof.
I was intrigued by the bat house. I tried to duck in under the roof, but soon withdrew. It was boarded in at lower than my height. On the roof outside I could see a couple of entrances for flying creatures.
Over the other side of the orchard bridge was the kiln, but there were too many people there (more than in this picture), for me to think of joining them.
However, it soon thinned out, and it is very difficult to resist going over a bridge.
A delightfully curious kiln
was accompanied by a more conventional one.
Talking of convention, whoever heard of a crocodile defending a tennis court?
A sneak look at the swimming pool,
and a walk along what is called the river with no name on the plan, but which my OS map clearly labels, if I’m reading it correctly, the Mells Stream.
The pretty garden bridge was not for crossing,
not even for closer examination of the weir.
I did wonder whether I was missing out on something at the cottage, perhaps some info from an owner of the House. But then when I saw one out of and one in the door on the right, I realised what it was being used for.
Wandering on, I looked back along the river, and made my way back to the entrance, looking down at my feet by the copper beech.
Out on to the road and back to my car, by way of a road bridge.
I’m wondering whether there will be another garden visit this year?
When the Fed Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup, comes to the UK for the first time in 26 years, and it takes place at the Bath University Sports Training Village, just a (theoretical, but we won’t dwell on that) hour’s drive away from me, well I have to go for at least one day, don’t I? I did so yesterday, 6th February, for the first day.
Having allowed an enormous amount to time to get there, I arrived at my seat on the Centre Court, my re-usable travel cup filled with coffee, just as the first singles players, from Georgia and Serbia, were warming up. There followed in the ‘morning’ session, which finished at 3.30 pm, another singles match and a doubles between the two countries.
The ‘afternoon’ session started at 4.30 pm. I took a few photos on my way back to the courts.
Many more camera operators in this session, because it was between Great Britain and Slovenia.
I rushed off, not staying for the media interview. It was 10.10 pm. And I was home in 55 minutes. Some people go for all four days. I don’t think my heart could cope with the stress, especially if Jo Konta were to do that again!
PS, 4 days later. Great Britain went on to come top out of all eight of the countries in this group, and a play-off in April will determine whether they are promoted to the next tier.
After visiting the Fashioned from Nature exhibition, I made my way to Westminster and walked up Whitehall, stopping at the Cenotaph which had been the scene just four days previously of the remembrance service, 100 years to the day after the ending of the First World War.
I was particularly moved by the text of this African wreath:
“Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die….. but that is what you came to do…. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers. Swazis, Pondos, Basutos, we die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war cries, brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais in the kraal, our voices are left with or bodies.” Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha – Address to the doomed men of the SANLO, aboard the SS Mendi, sunk on its way to France 21 February 2017.
Continuing up Whitehall, I was pleased to see that this gathering of Brexit supporters standing opposite the Cabinet Office, where (yet another) crucial Cabinet meeting was about to takes place, was nothing like as numerous as 700,000.
I was aiming for Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery
where I met Mary for lunch. Afterwards we went to the Lorenzo Lotto (c1480 – 1556) – no, I hadn’t heard of him – portraits exhibition there.
I had been pleased that the Fashioned from Nature exhibition had not restricted photography, (it was my failure to ensure there was a memory card in my camera that had) but was reprimanded after I had taken a few at this one, so I shall content myself with sharing just these pictures I took during an introductory video.
In the evening I went to a very interesting talk at the offices of The Guardian, where one of the newspaper’s editors interviewed William Davies, Reader in Political Economy at Goldsmith’s College, University of London. He had just published a book, Nervous States – how feeling took over the world.
His explanations around the rise of populism and fake news in politics were extremely interesting.
The next two days were spent at the O2 watching the tennis, so I was not looking for too much activity in the hours remaining on Saturday. Mary and I went for a gentle walk in Regent’s Park.
Then we joined four of her tennis club friends for a coffee in the club’s café in the Park.
My London visit was completed by watching, with Mary, the first of the ATP tennis semi-finals on television. Then it was time for me to make my way to Hammersmith for my long-distance bus home. Somehow I managed to stay awake all the way, catching up on downloaded radio programmes through headphones. That had been quite some four days!
Less than four weeks from my previous visit, I was up in London again, this time the principal object of my visit being to attend two days of the ATP (that is, mens’) world tennis finals. I had been for one day (which means two session) in 2017, but failed to see Roger Federer. So this time I booked for the last two consecutive days of the round robin stage, Thursday and Friday. All that RF had previously to do was to qualify in the top eight ranked in the world, which of course he did easily. And keep fit, which he also did.
That said, he had had played abysmally on the Sunday in his first round robin match, and lost to the bottom seed of the eight, Kei Nishikori. I started to worry about my investment in the expensive tickets. However, he did better and won his match on Tuesday against Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, leaving himself with a chance of reaching the semi-finals. Even if he won his round robin match against Anderson (who had stormed through his first two matches) on Thursday, it could still depend on how the remaining match, Nishikori/Thiem, worked out.
Approaching the O2 in Greenwich, London
Before I took my seat in the front row of level 4 on Thursday, I was offered an upgrade to level 1. (Levels 2 and 3 are hospitality boxes, from which, annoyingly, more party noise than was acceptable sometimes emerged. The umpire tried his best to reduce it, but of course the culprits were not listening.) I declined the upgrade for the first match, a doubles involving Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, but was fortunate still to be able to change before the singles match of that first session, as I preferred not to have my nose assailed by the fatty fast-food smell wafting in from the concourse surrounding this level.
From the front row of Level 4, waiting for it all to start
Murray and Soares
Murray has just served
The singles match was between Nishikori and Thiem. The fact that the latter won meant that Federer only had to win one set in his against Anderson later in the day to qualify for the semi-finals. Or so I was informed by a neighbour who understood the round robin scoring system much better than I did.
Nishikori arrives, with young mascot
View from my Level 1 seat. The ring of lights goes off during play!
Up there, in the front row, was where I had been for the first match
Ooh look, directly opposite, there’s Sue Barker, presenting for the BBC
The evening session started with a match involving two Frenchmen, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, seeded eighth of eight pairs, but who made it through eventually to the finals. Then came the Federer/Anderson match, the one I had paid all that money for eight matches sessions to be sure of seeing. I took an awful lot of photos of Federer. Those here is just a small selection from the match…
The coin toss
Federer is 6ft 1in (1.85m) Anderson 6ft 8in (2.03m)
You could almost hear the sigh of relief round the vast arena as Federer won his first set against Anderson, fairly convincingly.
Acknowledging the crowd after winning in two sets
Not only was Federer through to the semi-finals, along with Anderson, the scoring system meant that he would be the top-ranked of the two.
Before moving on a brief account of the two Friday sessions, this is what you see, accompanied by a great deal of noise from the amplification system, at various points in the proceedings.
Entertainment between the games
Measuring crowd noise and egging it on
Also ‘set point’, ‘match point’, and, in doubles matches, ‘deciding point’ at deuce, all accompanied by a thunder clap.
On Friday I was again able to have an upgrade for the first session, but not for the second.
The doubles match
Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev (German, of Russian parents) arrives
Zverev is 6ft 6in (1,98m), John Isner 6ft 10in (2,08m)
I was back up in Level 4 for the evening session. The singles match was between Marin Cilic and Novak Djokovic
Being on the spot, one is more aware of what else is going on around the court, and I was just full of admiration for the ball kids. (Sorry, that is what they are called these days.)
Spotlights on them as they arrive
I was amused to see this ‘ball kid cam‘ recording on Facebook later.
So I have now achieved my ambition of seeing the GOAT, Roger Federer, in the flesh. I shan’t book for these world finals again, though we are privileged to have them in London for at least two more years, on top of the ten we have had them already. But I shall buy myself an annual subscription to Tennis TV to be able to watch them all and many other matches in the comfort of my armchair. Which is how my host, Mary, and I watched the Federer/Zverev semi-final on the BBC the next day, sadly seeing the 37-year-old Roger go out to the 21-year-old, a win well merited, though it was a narrow thing. Djokovic not surprisingly beat Anderson 6-2,6-2 later in the day, while I was travelling home, and I am expecting, but not wanting, him to beat Zverev later on today in the final.