I spent a pleasant 48 hours over Christmas with relatives in Berkshire. I failed to take any photos, though this one was taken of me by my cousin, Teresa,
she of the boutique Wokingham estate agency, Quarters, for which I am very happy to give a plug, was taken during a rare moment when it wasn’t raining.
I was originally meant to be making music with ten others in South Wales from 27th to 30th December but, concerned about Covid, I withdrew. I was worried that I might have been a party pooper, but was pleased to see from a Facebook post that it had gone ahead with everyone else.
Instead I took up a couple of opportunities (my first) to be a vaccine steward, for a pharmacy in Wedmore, where there were six vaccinators and a couple of volunteers. Fortunately I was indoors, on the damp, though warm, days, and for the most part was kept well and satisfyingly occupied.
The music-making in was only 40 minutes or so from a hotel I had visited back in 1975, in a town which I had first visited in 1961. Both visits had been pony-trekking holidays. The first had been as a mid-teens schoolgirl, with my friend Diane, (when we stayed in a guest house), a trip no doubt cooked up by our respective mothers.
The second was as a woman in her late 20s, accompanied by her then eleven-year-old cousin, Mary G, (not the same person as my friend Mary H who appears in these posts from time to time).
So in October last year I had planned to go on from the music-making to spend three nights at that same hotel, especially knowing that there was to be a Mari Lwyd procession in ‘the smallest town in Britain’ to see the New Year in. With Omicron and all that I did wonder whether my stay would be cancelled by the Welsh government, or should be by me, but in fact, because of the greater eventual restrictions in Wales than those pertaining in England, I felt reassured, and a few days beforehand I confirmed that I would be turning up.
It was a soggy, soggy drive on 30th December. I stopped in Abergavenny for a coffee at the Angel Hotel, the first place I came to, and where service appeared to reflect the problem that all of ‘hospitality’ is reported to be suffering at present. But I was pleased to sit down quietly, and then spend a few minutes exploring the charming high street. (I had left my camera – and my phone – in the car. Grrr.)
It was nearly dark when I arrived at the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells. Apart from its exterior, and one view of the bar, I could remember nothing of it from 1975. It is a somewhat quirky, comfortable three-star hotel, grade II listed, also apparently suffering from staff shortages. Agreeable enough for three unhurried days.
The following morning, Christmas Eve, I went out for a short walk to get my bearings. LLanwrtyd Wells grew as a spa town in the 19th century but, to quote Wikipedia, “the area is now better known for recreations such as pony trekking, mountain biking, walking and birdwatching, and for its annual Man versus Horse Marathon, Beer Festival and World Bog Snorkeling Championship”. It took very little time to explore each of the radial roads.
The Neuadd Arms is listed Grade II, and I learned later is for sale. The present owners have been there for 20 years.
I had tried in advance to book my departing Sunday lunch here at the Drover’s Arms, as it had excellent reviews, but it was going to be shut until 22nd January. I learned in due course that this business also is for sale, and has been for some years.
… multi-purpose building…
…. next door to which was a coffee place which I had been intending to patronise.
But it was shut for the holidays.
This 19th century Congregational Chapel, which closed in 2009, is now…
Yesterday I posted about the early music course I did a couple of weeks ago, mentioning that I had been taken to the Emergency Department of the Royal Gloucester Hospital on the Tuesday. Here is the write up I have prepared about it.
MY TGA, TRANSIENT GLOBAL AMNESIA
Transient global amnesia is not actual loss of memory, but the failure to lay down memories for a certain period. Meanwhile you can continue to function physically and intellectually at quite a high level.
It happened to me on Tuesday, 3rd August, 2021. I was at Rendcomb College, on a music-making course with the Gloucestershire Academy of Music, known as the ‘Beauchamp’ course for historical reasons. At 4:30, we were in four different groups, and a few minutes after that an appeal came to the group I was with for a tenor to move to another one. No male tenor offering, I did. Once I had found the room, I was greeted by the tutor there with a considerable degree of scepticism. Knowing full well that I could sing tenor, and well – I wouldn’t have volunteered otherwise – I was determined to prove to him that I could do so, and perhaps oversang throughout the session.
I am told that in fact you could see on the tutor’s face from the outset that I was doing fine. Unfortunately I did not register this, and, had I done so, life might have been rather different for the next 12-15 hours. I think the TGA must have started around 5:15, because when the session ‘ended’ I remember thinking how very short it had been. However that thought must have come to me at about 6:30, when I ‘came to’ (i.e. started laying down memories again) and found myself in the rehearsal room with three other people: Jill C, the only person on the course who knew me at all well – thank goodness she had been in the same session, and it’s only by chance she had hung around to ask me something – and the two administrators of the course, Jane and Anne. I recognised who Jill was, but I couldn’t place the others, politeness stopping me asking.
Apparently, when all others at the session had dispersed at 6:00, I had just sat there, not knowing where I was or why I was there. They told me they had called an ambulance, because of my bizarre behaviour. Later on, Jill told me that I had been asking, over and over again (because, I now understand, I was not laying down memories of their answers) where I was and how I had got there. Jill had asked me the names of my cats, which I was able to give, and where they were, which I was not able to say. And apparently, I also thought that I still lived in France, from where I had returned 10 years previously. (Ah, so I did have some loss of actual memories.)
They had first called 111, but poor telephone network had severed that, and they had also called the registered GP for the school, who did not want to know, so they just called the emergency ambulance, though they had no idea when it would arrive. I heard Anne or Jane say that they would ask for dinner (normally 6:30) to be put aside, and I insisted that I was fine to eat it then, by now 6:45. I needed help to find my way downstairs and through to the dining room, but I had no difficulty remembering that I needed to take the vegetarian option, and I also remember saying, ‘But I haven’t got a mask on’, to be told that that really didn’t matter in the circumstances. Though later I recall being puzzled that people were wearing masks at all. Dinner finished, we went through to sit in reception for the ambulance to turn up.
I was accompanied by two of them to my room to pack an overnight bag. I felt very confused and concerned that I wouldn’t remember to take everything, but in the event I did, even surprising myself when I unpacked it again at some of the things I had remembered. No doubt I had been helped by the two women.
When ambulanceman Phil ( from the Southwestern Ambulance Service) came, at about 8:15 I think, he asked me lots of questions and did a few tests. I can’t remember everything, but I can remember him asking whether anything like this had happened before, to which I answered no. At that stage, I did not remember the TIA I (may have) had in March 2016, but I did tell him, or possibly Shaun, who arrived around 10:30 in his ambulance, about it then. Phil saw this as evidence of my having much improved, and indeed, I think I was in fact pretty well back to normal by then. (Of course TIA and TGA are nothing like the same. I did not lose any memory, or rather fail to lay it down, at all during the TIA. But I’m sure I would have mentioned it had I remembered it when asked at the outset if anything like this had happened before.)
The reason that a second ambulance had to come is that Shaun, normally Phil’s partner, had not been able to come with Phil at the outset because he hadn’t had sufficient break. (I am impressed that two ambulances were even available, given the current circumstances.) Shaun was needed for two reasons. Apparently, it was above Phil’s grade to decide whether or not I should be taken to hospital, especially if the decision was negative, and also if I were to be taken to hospital, one ambulance person must be in with the patient.
While Phil would have been inclined not to insist that I went to hospital, Shaun said that once an episode had lasted for more than an hour, it was always their recommendation that the patient should in fact be checked out at the hospital. My own main concern was to be back in time for proceedings the next day, for fear that I would not be included in the various groups as they were planned for the Wednesday. Jill undertook to make sure that I would be!
Meanwhile, Jane and Anne were debating whether one of them should follow in a car to get me back again, but I insisted that neither should come. We had no idea when that would be, and I could get a taxi back anyway.
Shaun’s firm recommendation was that I should go, so I agreed reluctantly. By the time we left the school, at about 11:00 pm, I was feeling fine and my memory for everything outside that hour or so was complete, other than a bit of fuzziness, which remains to this day, about the order of things that I’ve just been describing.
At the hospital all things all seemed very calm in Emergency, nothing like those programmes on television, but I was told that they were having a very busy night. After a few minutes standing, I was led to an area where I was laid on a gurney, where in due course nurses started doing tests on me, and on which I was moved to another area, still in Emergency, later on, for more tests. It was to me chilly – not like hot hospitals I had experienced previously. I was told it was because it was still the Emergency area, and also because they were maintaining deliberately a good flow of air, presumably for Covid reasons. They gave me more blankets.
At no stage did I have any worries, or in fact even think, about Covid, although I was wearing an FFP2 mask of my own throughout after dinner. I had already had a lateral flow test before the ambulance set off with me, (the other ambulance had to be left to be collected by Shaun and Phil later) and another, PCR, was done in the course of the night, along with blood tests, temperature, blood pressure, and an ECG, and, once the doctor – for whom there was a waiting time of six hours, for non-emergency emergencies, (my phrase) – saw me at 7:00 am, various questions to test my mental acuity. She apologised for the “stupidity” of them. Anyway, among other things, I knew my name, my date of birth, what a pen was, what a pen nib was and where I was, (including the full name of the hospital because I had asked that as I arrived). She also asked a lot of other questions, which, as I now recognise from my reading, were designed to eliminate other things that might be going on. She wanted to contact Jill to get a full description of exactly what had happened while I was ‘absent’ but unfortunately network at the school was very poor, and Jill could not be reached. When the doctor came back from trying to do so, said she was going to take a ‘pragmatic’ view of the matter, just telling me not to drive until I really had to (which would be Saturday), and let me go back to the course, which I did, £60 the poorer for the taxi.
At 10:00 pm the night before, when the debate as to whether I should go to hospital was on, I said I just wanted to go to bed because I was feeling very sleepy. Now, I don’t know whether that would been better for me. I got only about an hour’s sleep in Emergency and still, 11 days on, feel that I have not caught up fully with that sleep. On the other hand, yes, I do know it was the right thing to go to the hospital just to have everything checked out.
I have done lots of reading on this phenomenon, which was not given a name by any of the medical people. But googling ‘temporary memory loss’ has led me to the clear conclusion that I had an attack of TGA. The symptoms are identical. Fortunately, all the literature indicates that it is pretty rare, and that it’s incredibly rare to have a second attack in a lifetime. I am just at the top end of the age group which is most susceptible to it: about 25 in 100,000 in that age group may expect to have one in a lifetime.
Why did it happen? Given all my reading, (Wikipedia and various mainly American articles) I can put it down to three possibilities, perhaps in combination:
– hyperventilation, as I forced my voice to sing tenor, something I do regularly, but not in circumstances where I’m doubted and thus perhaps forcing;
– the stress of trying to prove that I could sing tenor (if so, where are my priorities?!);
– abnormal breath pressure on the closed glottis.
I am immensely grateful to the medical services, and the three women, for all the care they took of me. It must have been pretty frightening for Jill, Jane, and Anne, more so than for me, as I was just confused, (though also a little worried, as I gradually returned to normal, that true normality might never return). Of course I thanked Phil and Sean as they said goodbye at the hospital, and at the same time I asked them what their favourite charity was. I fully expected them to name some medical charity, but Phil, looking at Shaun, said “Animals? Little fluffy animals?” at which the latter nodded. So I have made donation to the PDSA, which is both animals and medical.
I cut the first session of Wednesday, to tidy up and snatch some sleep (unsuccessfully), and was very careful in any further sessions for the remainder of the week when I sang tenor!
Firstly, a note for non-England* readers. Since early January we have been in lockdown, which has meant we have had to stay at home other than for: work, where it cannot be done from home; essential shopping; local exercise, by household/’bubble’, or with one person from one other household maximum; and medical appointments. From 8th March: the outdoors meet-ups as described could include sitting down for, say, coffee or a picnic; schools have been back (though are now on holiday); and those in care homes can receive one named visitor.
*For non-UK readers: Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all have their own regulations, but some English live in those countries, so I couldn’t write ‘non-English’.
As of last Monday, 29th March we have been able to meet up outdoors in groups of up to six (or more, as long as this only includes two households) and outdoor sport has been allowed. The definition of ‘local’ has now explicitly been left to discretion. I have had a happily rich week as a result of these small relaxations, (though some of the ‘activities’ would have been permissible earlier, including, obviously, those happening on Zoom.)
Much of last weekend was spent assembling four garden dining chairs, in time for Wednesday. Given that the instructions came entirely with illustrations, and no words, they were not too difficult to understand. The quality of the chairs was good, all the parts were there (with four Allen keys because the lot was of four chairs!), but assembly was very fiddly, and it took me a long time and some sore fingers.
Monday evening I attended a Zoom meeting of the local (Mendip) branch of the European Movement. These have been monthly for some while. Not much campaigning is possible at present, but it is good to be in touch.
It had been lovely weather all day, and a friend, Linda, had told me during an afternoon phone call that she and her husband had just been to The Newt In Somerset, and among other things had much enjoyed the Snakes’ head fritillaries (of which there is one stray in my garden!). On an impulse late that night, I ordered myself a picnic lunch from The Newt for the next day, and, once my organic fruit and veg box had arrived in the morning, I made my way there, not having visited since October.
As I start writing this, it is my intention to write one consolidated blog post for the entire week, but I have so many reasonably decent photos that this may not be possible. Anyway, here are some of those I took at The Newt.
I picked up my pre-ordered lunch from the Cyder Bar, and moved to avoid the crowds around and at the tables nearby. I was pleased to see that there was plenty of empty seating in the Parabola, looking bare at present as its hundreds of apple trees are not yet in blossom.
The vegan spring vegetable pasty was divine. Really. I have never had pastry like it, and the copious filling, of which I could just identify the spinach, was delicious. I can really recommend the apple juice as well, a blend of James Grieve apples and another I can’t remember.
I did not linger, but moved on to an area that was inaccessible the last time I was there, next to the Garden Café.
It overlooks the Kitchen Garden. I wonder what is being developed beyond.
Then I went in search of the Snakes’ head fritillaries, which come in mauve,
I then went a bit mad taking photographs of reflections of trees in various watery areas.
I can’t wait for the Museum of Gardening to be allowed to open. I’m told it’s good for a two-hour visit.
I strolled into the Deer Park, but sadly saw no deer, unlike Linda and her husband the day before, who saw both roe and fallow deer.
I had not been able to venture down this slope previously as it had been shut off as too muddy and dangerous. There is now an easy, sandy, gravelled pathway – I’m sure there’s a technical name for the substance.
Plenty of quirky seating.
Oops, another one.
I felt I deserved an ice cream after all that exercise.
I limited myself to one scoop of the lemon curd flavour, enjoying it on the way back to my car.
And on the way home took care to avoid this leaping horse. I’m sure that wasn’t there before the pandemic…
Hmm, I can see this is going to be a bit long. Part 2 will follow…
Yes, that way round. Yesterday morning I had to take my car to the garage for its MoT. I was not looking forward to the walk back. Only 15 minutes, but at 8.15 it was cold and damp, with that chill that gets into your bones, as they say. So I took my camera with me, which made the walk pass more pleasantly, even though it also made it last 5 minutes longer.
They called me at lunchtime to say the car was ready, and I decided to take my camera with me again as I walked back to the garage, in case I regretted not doing so. I would have done.
The garage has a very small showroom for second-hand cars. This MG reminded me of the Midget I used to drive in the mid-1970s.
I looked up towards St Benedict’s.
But didn’t go that way, turning off right into a cul-de sac. ‘That reminds me – I must put my recycling out when I get home.’ The houses in the distance are on Wearyall Hill.
The panel says ‘Keep out. This area is liable to flood’. The squirrel was unconcerned.
Across Morrisons’ car park next.
From the car park I could see the top of the RC St Mary’s church, and its hall, which I know now has a lift and, it appears, perhaps a new roof as well.
Faced with the first of many inclines where I live. That feature was something I considered hard when deciding whether or not to move here ten years ago.
Many businesses round here use the word ‘Avalon’ or ‘Tor’ in their trade names.
A pretty corner on a very busy and noisy road.
The next incline, and the Globe Inn next to the park on the right.
I haven’t walked alongside the park for a very long time. I’m sure this wasn’t here before. But perhaps the whole tree was.
When I drove to the garage at 8.15, I noticed how little traffic there was. 20 minutes later certainly not the case. A misty Chalice Hill in the background.
At the top of these steps is…
… a small green space.
But I’m walking downhill now.
Fortunately I don’t need to turn left.
Instead I’m going to walk up a path between the houses.
Another reminder that it’s recycling day.
A once-in-two-hours chance to see the little bus which goes along the principal road through the estate.
As I walk through it, I have had various glimpses of the very misty moors, the Polden Hills beyond having totally disappeared.
Chalice Hill can be made out.
But much of Glastonbury Tor, including its tower at the top, cannot.
Because I have my camera in my hand, I take three photos in my garden.
The frog spawn is nicely turning from dots into commas.
And these ridiculous primroses have been flowering, though not this floriferously, since October.
As I set off to collect the car in the early afternoon, I was pleased to find that the chill damp had gone, (though it was still very cold), and that the tower had returned to the top of the Tor.
The Bristol Water people were still hard at work. I should try to join a gang like this to find out why it is that ‘work’ so often consists of just standing around.
What goes up must go down if you’re walking in the opposite direction.
The swings in the park were in use.
And the bird had not budged as I took a closer look. Ah, so it’s made of wood, not metal.
I took a more interesting route for the last part back to the garage, and had glimpses of the Abbey.
Seeing this mural on the side of the Globe Inn …
… and its signature, gave me an idea for a possible future blog or two. I found later that there are 26 murals on the trail.
I believe this water flows from Chalice Hill.
And that it used to be the source for the Pump Room on the other side of the road in its short life as such.
Now I could see the Abbey’s octagonal kitchen.
The citation on this plaque – the lost adult glove gives an idea of its size – says: “PRESENTED TO THE PUBLIC BY J HRY BURGESS ESQ RESIDENT SURGEON IN THIS TOWN 50 YEARS AND DURING HIS SIXTH MAYORALTY 1864…1865” And what is it decorating? Very appropriate for a surgeon – public conveniences, still, in ‘normal’ times, in use.
From a car park, an even better view of part of the Abbey. And another idea for a future blog.
I knew there was a Glastonbury community ‘fridge’ (not limited to chilled foodstuff) but not where it was, next to the Town Hall. (I am going out very, very little these days!)
This time I go past St Benedict’s church and the Mitre Inn.
And, very close by, The King Arthur.
Finally, a pretty row of houses opposite the entrance to the garage.
My car had passed its MoT with flying colours – but then it had only done 2000 miles in the last 12 months, and much of that was done in the two weeks before lockdown, as I drove to and from Gatwick Airport for my trip to Morocco, of blessed memory.
Going out just once a fortnight for my Click and Collect shopping and any other essential bits and pieces, there hasn’t been much to blog about since Christmas. How I long for restrictions to be lifted and to visit a garden or some such!
But I did have an extra outing yesterday, late afternoon Friday. I went for my first Covid-19 vaccination at the local Minor Injury Unit, the West Mendip Hospital, a few minutes’ drive away in north Glastonbury. My doctors’ surgery had called me three days previously and gave me not only this appointment, but that for my second jab, 12 weeks forward – to the very minute. (Then on Thursday I received a letter from the NHS inviting me to book an appointed online, to be ignored if I was already fixed up.)
I thought people might object to my taking photos, but not at all. The atmosphere was great, the many volunteers all very cheerful, and the one professional I met, a nurse from a surgery in Street, likewise.
told me where to park, a task taken up a few yards on by Rob.
Then this lady, whose name I didn’t get, directed my reversing into the very nearest spot to the hospital entrance.
She told me I could go straight in. (Twelve days earlier a neighbour had had to park a long way away and was told to wait in the car until she was collected, and that they were running 15 minutes behind.)
I had arrived early deliberately because I had unrelated business with the normal hospital reception. This lady told me to explain that to the specially set-up desk.
I did so, had my hands sanitised, carried out my task, and returning to that special desk took this photo.
I was given a form and directed along this corridor This cheery gentleman is not blocking but welcoming me!
He made sure I turned right, and that I went along a corridor, where there was a row of about ten socially distanced chairs. My neighbour had had to sit on the nearest, and gradually move up, a chair at a time, each chair being sanitised after each movement. (The organiser in me would have done that bit differently, but in my case only the first (= furthest away) was occupied, and I sat on the second.)
I had just started reading the form,
when Nurse Emma came up to me and invited me into her cubicle.
She went through the form with me, and left the cubicle for a few seconds.
I’m kicking myself for not taking a photo of her actually drawing the vaccine from the vial when she came back, but I was too engrossed in asking her how much liquid she was going to put into me. The answer was 0.3 millilitres. ‘Is that all?’ I said, thinking of Tony Hancock in a reverse situation.
Having done the necessary (another photo-op missed) she gave me a very detailed leaflet, from which I later learned that I had been given COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT 162b2. I left a box of chocolates with her, and she directed me to a waiting area, where I restored my left arm’s clothing, and took this photo. All were (unsurprisingly) intrigued as to why I would want such a thing, but they gave their permission.
15 minutes later I was on my way out.
This lot at the entrance insisted (well, it was the man on the right again) that for completeness’ sake I should record them as I left in both directions,
and that was that.
Today the top of my arm is quite sore but not at all red, and that tells me that the antibodies are getting on with their work nicely. In 11 weeks and 6 days’ time, to the minute, I shall, all being well, be back there again.
It was Stressful Wednesday, and I had been obsessing with the rolling news half the night (less than four hours’ sleep) and all day until lunchtime. It was gorgeous outside, and I hadn’t done my little there-and-back walk from my house for a very long time. I wondered if it was possible to distract myself for an hour or so.
It was. I can honestly say that I did not give the US presidential election a single thought all the time I was out.
Down to the end of my road,
through a small passageway to my left, up the lane to the main road where the prep school is situated, and back again. Views and details.
I spent a few minutes trying to capture hedge reflections in the puddles at the side of the road. This is the only vaguely successful image.
So I raised my eyes to the lane ahead, and thought that they’d soon be flailing the hedges.
Time to turn round.
From now on, I was facing the low autumn sun.
I was intrigued by this very new fencing on either side of this track, which on first glance appeared to be creating two paths. A closer look made me realise that in fact it was protecting new hedging. I waited for the sheep to be ushered into the right-hand field, and for the ‘shepherd’ to come back to his van, to my left. From him I learned that in fact this was his project. Living in town, he owned nine acres, and was putting native hedging around the three fields, for the benefit of wildlife. 600 metres so far. Brilliant!
I started this post early on Saturday afternoon. I broke off about three pictures ago to watch CNN, and caught the moment the result was announced. Stressful Wednesday was worth it!
Yes, there was another garden to be visited in September, last Sunday, but I didn’t think I had sufficient material for a blog post. So I didn’t even look at my pictures until a couple of days ago, and changed my mind.
Cannington Court was first known as Cannington Priory. For that was how it started life, in about 1138, home to a community of Benedictine nuns. Henry VIII put paid to that though, in 1536. He and subsequent monarchs subsequently granted tenancy of what became known as Cannington Court to various followers. In 1807, it reverted to its original purpose for about 30 years, when a body of French Benedictine nuns moved in, expelled from France following the French Revolution.
Since the mid-nineteenth century the Court has always been used for educational purposes, and for the last 100 years, in various guises, for agricultural and horticultural learning. Most recently it has been part of the Cannington campus of, and owned by, Taunton and Bridgwater College, who in 2015 leased the Court buildings to EDF. That company is using them as a training hub (Hinkley Point is very near), and has invested millions of pounds in their project, from which the Walled Gardens have much benefited. These had been approved in 2009 as a tourist attraction, and are maintained by students of Bridgwater College, part of their studies.
As I entered, I was little disappointed, and felt cheated of even the very modest sum I had been charged by the National Gardens Scheme. The walled garden was not large and was dominated by a plant sales area. There was no map this time, so I only gradually discovered just how big, how many, and how varied the Walled Gardens, plural, were.
There were masses of flowers!
Geologically/building stone-wise, Somerset is mainly known for its blue lias limestone, coveted for new house-building. It is in fact is a rather dullish grey. But there are many examples of buildings in a rather rich red sandstone. (I should know whether its Old Red or New Red, but I don’t. I’ll look it up one of these days.)
I looked for ferns in the plant sales area – none.
Why did I think I hadn’t enough material for a blog post? Was it that there had been a few shabby areas – autumn, possible neglect by absent students? Was it the two passing ladies who had moaned at me, exaggerating the neglect? Was it that I’d not been able to take a picture of a wicker dragon because there was someone taking his time doing so and blocking my way? That I felt pressed for time as they were closing shortly? That I’d not used the tea room because of my own uncertainty about doing so and in any case said shortage of time? Whatever the reason for my disgruntlement, it was reinforced as on leaving I saw these notices for the students (I’d had to give Track and Trace details as I entered the garden, because it had meant going through a tiny gift shop.)
I don’t know why, but in any case I was wrong, as this collection of photos has reminded me, and I must go back there again. As a tourist attraction it is open for most of the year under the auspices of the College, who had just made it over to the NGS and its supported charities for this day.
With a 55% chance of rain forecast and quite a long drive ahead, I probably would not have set off had I not, obligatorily under Covid arrangements, already booked and paid for my ticket for this garden visit on Saturday, 25th July. And, truth to tell, I nearly turned round about five minutes from my destination, having been diverted twice for road closures, been held up by cows on the road, and was now depressed by rain on my widescreen. But stubbornness made me continue to this garden in Wrington, near Bristol Airport.
I was not the only mad person. There were perhaps eight others wandering around these gardens in the rain, and in the course of my visit I was able to chat separately with the owners of the cottage and a gardening trainee. The proprietors had bought the cottage, which came with an adjacent field, some 27 years ago. Mrs Park Cottage was self-taught, and had designed the garden essentially for children to enjoy. I learnt this as I was leaving, when I commented that more than once ‘Alice in Wonderland’ had come to my mind as I went round. She told me that I was not the first to say the same thing.
I first explored the patches in front of and behind the house, which together alone would have been sufficient to satisfy most house owners. Only two photos here though, as there’s so much else to see.
I then moved to the ‘field’ area. This is just the beginning.
I didn’t go inside the greenhouse, which housed carnivorous plants among other things. I had also seen some similar plants through the windows of the conservatory attached to the house.
From now on visitors were asked to follow the directions from signpost to signpost, numbered 1 to 8. This was because pathways were far too narrow for people to be able to cross in opposite directions while also meeting Covid guidelines. As far as I could tell, with hindsight, this had involved walking one circuit inside and touching a larger one, with a small amount of pathway in common, through a jungly area.
I wasn’t planning to visit The Newt in Somerset again this month, but the meet-up rules had been relaxed, and I was due to pass over my previous camera to my bridge partner, Daphne. It had been she who had told me about The Newt when it opened in 2019, but my one planned visit there in August had been thwarted by bad weather (which led to my London friend Mary and I going to the nearby Haynes International Motor Museum instead).
Daphne and I had not seen each other since 5th March, the last bridge club meeting before my Morocco trip. Greeting each other with a socially distanced hug, we exchanged carrier bags via the boot of my car, and started up the entrance path.
The Newt is now charging again, but Daphne and I were already members, so we were able to bypass the ticket building to get in.
Near the top of the path to the ‘Threshing Barn’, it was sad to see that a magnificent beech tree was being removed. It was diseased on the inside apparently.
There is still a theoretical one-way system, and we were channelled through the barn.
Along withe the charges have been restored the gift shop, and the ability to buy beverages and ice-cream.
We partook of neither, and indeed our intention was to avoid the most frequented parts of the gardens. We turned off left therefore to the Marl Pit and the Marl Pit Copse.
On a day that was to become very hot indeed, it was wonderfully fresh, with the sunlight trickling down through the trees. I hadn’t explored this area on my two previous visits.
We continued into the deer park with no real expectation of seeing any deer, but we did just get a glimpse.
We went on to the walkway to Museum of Gardening, itself closed of course. In any case I’m told you must allow at least two hours to do the museum justice. It has a refreshment area to keep you going.
From the museum, we walked to the end of the grounds of the Newt, though beyond is still part of the whole estate. I do not recall this dovecot (if that is what it is) beyond the boundary being there in January. It is built in the same style, stone and roofing as the rest of the new build at the Newt.
We ambled back. (Ambling is now allowed as ‘The Rules’ no longer require that you be outdoors only for essential shopping, and exercise.)
Returned from the Deer Park, we ventured a little into the more crowded ‘pretty’ areas, but did not plunge in.
Finally there was the ‘Woodland Walks and Mound ‘ area, which I had not seen on previous visits.
We climbed The Mound, of which I forgot to take a photo. It’s basically an upside-down pudding bowl with a gentle spiral path to get to the top.
It was time to go – once I had bought my Newt in Somerset cyder (sic) – leaving by the one way system exit, which meant passing the diseased beech on its other side. It had lost a few more branches, which were being removed one by one. No ‘Timber….!!!!’ was to follow i was told when I asked. It might have been worth staying to watch if so!
Daphne and I had had much digital and telephone contact in the twelve weeks since we had seen each other, but there is nothing like actually being with a friend and together doing something you both like. And now restrictions are to be relaxed further as from tomorrow, another bridge friend is immediately taking advantage of that and has invited three of us round to her garden, not of course for bridge – which would not be within guidelines, sensible, or practical – but for a good old chinwag, socially distanced of course. We will even each take our own beverages.
Having visited the ancient Anti-Atlas on Thursday, on Friday 13th March, our last complete day, we were off to the High Atlas mountains. These were much younger – formed by uplift over only the last 60 to 10 million years! We only went into the ‘foothills’, but they seemed pretty high to me, and they were certainly beautiful.
But first we stood in the garden of our temporary home, as some had heard the Black-crowned Tchagra. Sadly, we didn’t manage to see it at this time, but I took a picture of a Common Bulbul, (they’re everywhere), possibly the one which sang outside our windows every morning.
Our first stop revealed some extraordinary folding, caused, as for the Anti-Atlas, by the crashing of the African plate into the Eurasian one. (That is still going on – the Alps are still getting higher. My 2007 OU geology course taught me that the Mediterranean will in due course disappear!)
The next stop involved a short upward stroll.
The next, a longer stroll along a nearly dried-up river bed, in Paradise Valley. First a few steps downstream.
And then upstream, the flow having transferred to the other side of the road by going under it, and then apparently either diverting under the geological feature or just drying up, the rest of our walk being alongside a dry river bed.
There followed a long, climbing, drive to our lunch place.
We ate our packed lunch in the Café Restaurant Le Miel. (Again they were happy for us just to buy drinks.) We were meant to wonder at the Cascades of Imouzzer. But they have not had the slight trickle of water for at least two years. (Here is a 3-minute video I found on YouTube about the Imouzzer region, made in 2015 when there were still trickles of water over the Cascades.)
Having eaten, we were driven up to much nearer them, for botanical reasons, but it gave a chance to look at the rocks more closely. From this angle, to me they look like a bearded old man, sitting with his wide sleeves dangling, his hands resting on his knees.
Two flowers were particularly sought.
We moved on to this rather unprepossessing spot, at 1300 metres altitude, (whose whereabouts we were told never to reveal, even were we able, because hordes of twitchers would drive away the bird we had come to see).
Which we did, at a great distance:
Finally we moved to perhaps the most beautiful spot of the whole week (though that’s a difficult pick), high, high, high, at 1550 metres, in the (still only) foothills of the High Atlas. First our attention was drawn to several examples of the Moroccan Day Gecko.
And in due course to this dwarf iris, the Barbary nut (the tubers used to be eaten).
How’s this for a rockery garden? All natural of course.
And for the rest of the time, at this our last stop, we just enjoyed the views, and a slight, cooling breeze.
On the next day, Saturday, 14th March, we did not need to leave the Atlas Kasbah for Agadir Airport until late afternoon. Half the group had a cooking lesson in the kitchens, and the others went out with Philip and James, to review the first morning’s sightings, and to see some more. (They saw a Black-crowned Tchagra at last.) I did neither. I had not yet managed even to read the hotel’s own information folder, and really wished to do so, nor had I had a chance to wet the new swimsuit I had bought a few days before coming away. So, having achieved the former, I was then obliged to spend time here.
With its views outwards
For a long while I had the whole pool to myself. (In the event the water was too cold for me actually to wet the swimsuit.)
We ate the tagine our colleagues had prepared in the morning at lunchtime, and the afternoon whiled itself away. In due course we said a reluctant goodbye to those who had been looking after us so well, the more so for knowing what we were going back to.
I had a window seat again on the plane.
I feel so blessed that I was able to take that holiday, for which I had been longing for months, before the clampdown enforced on us by this horrible virus, Covid-19. As I said in the first post in this series, Morocco had already banned flights to and from 25 countries the day before we left. (We ten travellers knew about France, but not about how many countries the ban extended to. Our leaders did. Philip was looking at his screen constantly for news.) Two days after our return they added the UK and others to the list.
Now the Atlas Kasbah is shut down, like pretty well the whole world. Here on my own, thankfully with the company of my felines, I’m grateful for the telephone, and all the media, which allow me to be in touch with friends and family and the wider world. I have this extraordinary sensation of fellow-suffering, not just with those I know, in the UK, family on both coasts of the US, friends in France, the company both employed and holidaying which I so enjoyed in Morocco, but also with every single one of the world’s 7,800,000,000 people. Every single one of us is having to contend with the same fears and concerns and ignorance about the future, most of our fellows without even the resources that we have in the first world. I’m going to avoid a cliché, but this is something we do all, every single one of us, face together.