I had planned to get this second post out yesterday, but I got distracted into the Laver Cup. Having taken out a Eurosport subscription specifically to see Federer’s final, historic match, it seemed not to take advantage of the chance to watch other matches.
Angela joined us on Monday, 12th September, as she did most. This was the day we went off the map to the north-west, via Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and the south west part of Loch Ness. We soon left the famous home of Nessie though, and went along a road parallel to the loch, to its east. (On the way we learned that almost every loch has its resident monster, or suchlike. Jon told us about kelpies, though he didn’t mention the steel ones at Falkirk.)
Our first stop was at Loch Tarff…
… where, despite appearances, it was very cold at the top of a small hill. We saw no kelpie, there or in any other loch that day. But we did see a dor beetle, the Scottish dung beetle.
On route to our next stop, no distance problems to see these sika deer.
Nor they us.
Our next stop was Loch Killin, where we hoped to see a big bird or two. We saw a couple of buzzards, but no eagles.
I got a better picture than yesterday of a dipper though.
It brightened up during our pre-lunch stroll.
We rejoined Loch Ness. Directly opposite was the second most visited tourist attraction, after Edinburgh Castle, in Scotland. Hmm.
It became a little more recognisable when I zoomed in.
Jon told us we would next visit Loch Ruthven, which rang bells with me, and joined up some dots. I had visited it in June 2019, during my first stay in Grantown-on-Spey, on the eastern side of the country. I had then hoped, in vain, to see a Slavonian grebe. We did so this time, though right across the other side of the loch, only visible in a telescope. But we did see two kinds of fungus, shown here along with one we had seen during our walk along Loch Killin.
I forget the name of the first, the others being birch boletus and fly agaric.
From here we moved on to our last loch of the day, Loch Mhor. On the way we saw a lapwing,
and a red kite accompanied by two ravens.
Once at Loch Mhor we saw a hare, though it was rather distant.
Finally, on the way back to Glenloy, the sun going down, we passed through this lovely view, which, we were told, is called ‘Cumins Seat’, presumably with reference to the Clan Comyn/Cumming, which according to this article can have 18 different spellings.
After a pleasant ‘first Friday’ walk with my friend Zoe, starting and finishing in the village of Wrington in North Somerset,
on Sunday I visited Milton Lodge Gardens, just north of England’s smallest city, Wells. It is open to the public three times a week, but this time it was in aid of the National Gardens Scheme.
The weather was lovely, and the outing was popular, so I had to use the overflow car park, from which this was the view, with Glastonbury Tor, whence I had come, a pimple on the horizon.
Right near where I had parked, was this curious depression, explained in a note nearby to be a ‘triple entry pond’, unique to Mendip, and likely to date from the late 1700s. It was constructed to capture naturally draining water from the Mendip Hills, and used to channel water underground to nearly stock fields.
According to Wikipedia, “Milton Lodge was built by Aaron Foster in 1790 and descended in his family until it passed, by marriage, into the ownership of the Tudway family in the mid 19th century. The Tudways had lived nearby at a house, known as The Cedars, which was built in the 1760s by Thomas Paty, and had bought up much of the local land. In 1909 Charles Tudway moved the main family residence to Milton Lodge, with The Cedars being used during World War I as a military hospital and later by Wells Theological College and Wells Cathedral School” [which it still is].
The same source goes on to say that, “The garden was laid out in 1903 by Capt Croker Ives Partridge of the Alfred Parsons garden design company for Charles Tudway. It consists of a series of terraces planted with mixed borders including a collection of roses and climbing plants. The terraces include Yew hedges, ponds and fountains. The traditional English vegetation is supplemented with Mediterranean plants which are able to flourish due to the microclimate of the site. The upper terrace includes four canons from the Napoleonic Wars are on display.”
My Candide app suggested that this, of which there were several examples in the Gardens, might be a Flowering maple, (which is not a maple at all but an abutilon), but I’m not quite convinced, while failing to find a better suggestion…
The Gardens go just beyond the big hedge.
As I had walked from the car park, the way was lined with wild garlic, ransoms. I did not take a photo, but need not have worried about there being no further opportunity.
I was tempted up this tiny path to my right, (the terraces being to my left),
and was rewarded with this.
I returned to the main path, went down a few shallow steps, and found a few more ransoms.
As I said, the Gardens go down to just beyond the big hedge.
At the end of this path was a large area of wildflowers.
On the edge of the wildflower area was this knobbly tree, which I have failed totally to identify,
even given the clue of its leaf shape.
Just by the tree was a bench, one of several in the Gardens. I partook for a minute or two, surveying the lowest terrace
As I stood up, something made my eyes turn skywards, and I was thrilled to see this red kite. It is now some 30+ years since they were reintroduced into the Chiltern Hills. I had seen some in Scotland in 2011 following their reintroduction there, and I knew that they had spread westwards from Oxfordshire into Somerset. But this was the first I had seen here.
I walked through the tea area to explore the middle terrace.
Turning round I spotted a bench hidden on the other side where I thought it would be nice to take a cup of tea.
Tea and cake duly bought, I found ‘my’ bench still unoccupied, with this to my left,
this to my right,
and this ahead.
As I returned to my car, it was all too tempting to take an arty photo of the Cathedral, where I shall be singing at a memorial service in a week’s time.
New Year’s Day, Saturday. After a leisurely breakfast, I made my way to the home of my new friends from dinner the evening before, Pete and Marion, a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, on the edge of the countryside.
They have enviable views – and lovely animals.
They also had chickens.
Coffee and chat partaken, I walked back to the Neuadd Arms, not sure whether in fact I could be bothered to go out for a walk, or whether I would spend the rest of the day in my room with knitting, reading and TV – but that would have been to waste an opportunity.
The weather was brightening a little, rain did not seem to threaten, and I had really no excuse not to complete the eastern circuit proposed in the Town Walk leaflet I had used the previous day. I would have a choice of lengths at one point, and I took my walking pole from my car this time!
The route took me first past the station. Llanwrtyd Wells is fortunate still to have stopping trains, running on the Heart of Wales line between Swansea and Shrewsbury. “The railway crosses two impressive viaducts at Knucklas and at Cynghordy and goes through six tunnels, including one on the magnificent run up to Sugar Loaf. Over 30 stations are served by the line, some of which are request stops.” (Website.)
The next train from Platform 2 will depart in two hours’ time.
Four stopping trains a day in each direction, Monday to Saturday, two on Sunday
The old board must have been there in 1961 when Diane and I used the station.
The walk leaflet instructed, ” Carry on past the station, following the road as far as the entrance to the Abernant Lake Hotel on your right, now operated as an outward bound centre for children.” The centre was barely visible though the trees. At this point that I had to decide whether to do the additional loop to the walk. As otherwise that would have made for a very short outing indeed, I chose to go on. This involved leaving the road, and taking a path towards a railway crossing and Glan Irfon Farm. As I struggled with the gate into the field a couple happened along and asked me if I was looking for the path. I wasn’t at that point, but they helpfully pointed out the correct direction, which was not what I would have taken, so that was very useful. I was meant to head for the very middle of this picture.
I stopped, looked and listened as instructed. With only eight trains a day along the track, the risk was low.
‘Soggy’ was yesterday’s word. ‘Squelchy’ was today’s. At one point the waymarked path invited me to climb over a very rickety ladder stile, sloping away from me, and then to cross a small fast-flowing stream, probably a dry ditch usually. I was not sure that I would be able to do the latter, even with my pole, and having done the former, climbing back over would have been attempting to straddle a rickety ladder stile which would then be sloping steeply towards me. Discretion being the better part of valour, I sought another way to the farm, which fortunately proved not to be too difficult, other than much more squelch, and to involve opening a civilised gate.
Sheep were everywhere I went in this part of Wales. Cows were rarer.
Around this time I saw a couple of Little egrets flying around, but was unable to capture them with my camera. No trouble doing so when it’s sheep.
I became aware that the sun was trying to break through and took this photo over my right shoulder.
I passed through and by Glan Irfon Farm. Its courtyard had some interesting accommodation units, residential I think.
These black-faced sheep seemed much more interesting, and interested, than the others, as I made my way towards another railway crossing to return to the road.
No stiles this time, but a gate to get to the line, with a catch which definitely required a GCSE equivalent in engineering.
To leave it having crossed the line, I reckon you needed an ‘A’ level equivalent! OK, you can – once you know – easily see that the thing blocking the horizontal slider can be slid itself…
A few feet away was this curious object. I have no idea what it is, but I have found (when I was looking for more information on the accommodation) that the railway crossing has its own web-page!
Brilliant sunshine for a minute or two.
And a beautiful tree.
But the sun didn’t last, as I approached the road and looked back.
From now on – and I had a good 40 minutes yet to do, entirely on roadways – I was concerned about rain, as strong winds, those harbingers, came and went, and came and went, accompanied by dark grey clouds.
But I did stop for a few minutes as I saw one, then another, Red kite soaring high in the sky. This is the best photo I could get, of just one.
Which, being enlarged as much as I dare, gives:
I was quite pleased to enter the built-up area of town,
after which the road crossed a tributary of the River Irfon, the Nant (stream) Cerdin.
After the jollifications of the previous evening, I was almost alone in the restaurant for my evening meal (though others were having a meal in the bar).
I slept really late the following morning, two hours longer than I normally do. Although this meant I left for my drive home later than I had intended, I was pleased as it must have reflected my relaxed state.
I thought that I had been in the Brecon Beacons during my stay. I have since realised that in fact I was between the Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains. My drive took me back over the Mynydd Eppynt part of the Beacons, which I had not really appreciated on the outward journey, rain, greyness and dark just making me want this long, winding road to come to an end. But it was an altogether different story on my return. It was amazingly beautiful! I could have taken so many photos if the road (which incidentally is through the largest military training area in Wales) had allowed me to stop. Eventually I came to a breezy viewpoint where I could take these two from the same spot, at about 90 degrees from each other.
An otherwise uneventful journey had me home, despite the later start than planned, by lunchtime. It was, as ever, so good to see the cats again.
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…
Outside an art gallery there was a sculpture which reminded me of that by Harriet Mead which I had seen at the Somerset Rural Life Museum in June, but after a little research I think it may be by Tom Hill, who specialises in sculpting using horseshoes.
We were planning for a quiet Monday walk, but when we got to the woods, and took a while to park because of all the crowds, we were a little apprehensive. No need to worry. The vast majority of people remained around the café and children’s play area.
We scarcely saw a soul in fact. We took the ‘Firecrest Trail’, 4.5.km/2.8 miles, and its official description proved to be accurate, ‘surfaced tracks and unsurfaced woodland paths… a great way to explore different habitats.’
Chalk soil and flints, underfoot for some of the time
There were plenty of wildflowers to be seen. (These identifications are subject to any suggested corrections.)
Cushion calamint, clinopodium vulgare. The leaves certainly had a minty smell
Lady’s bedstraw, Galium verum
Wayfaring tree, viburnum lantana (I’m least sure of this one)
A convenient bench about two-thirds of the way round enabled us to rest and debate the patterns before us, especially that of the broad field in the middle distance.We knew we were nearing the hub once more when we passed Go Ape – and were not tempted to join in. (Unlike some I know – sorry, private joke.)
Despite the large numbers of visitors, lunch at the café was peaceful in the open air.
After all those activities, my visit finished with a quiet afternoon in the garden, where I was able to get some better pictures of red kites.
I stayed with friends in central Buckinghamshire, on the north-west edge of the Chiltern Hills, recently. They laid on a great programme of visits for me, mostly at National Trust properties. (We are all members.)
The first was to Hughenden, the home of 19th century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, later Earl of Beaconsfield, (1804-1881). Images, in two and three dimensions, of Disraeli abounded throughout the house. I have no idea whether this one was added in his lifetime.This was the first we saw inside the house. in the porch.But I stopped taking photos of them after that.
Dining room. The chair with its back to the fireplace has especially low legs, for Queen Victoria. (Won’t she have needed a lower table as well?)
John Tenniel was a great cartoonist (in Punch Magazine for over 50 years) and illustrator, perhaps most well-known for his work on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It is thought that Disraeli may have been the model for the Mad Hatter.The feud between Tory Disraeli and Whig W S Gladstone (1809 -1898) was one of the great political confrontations in British 19th century history. When the latter succeeded the former as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he refused to pay for the furniture of 11 Downing Street, so Disraeli refused to hand over the Chancellor’s robe. It has been at Hughenden ever since.
This Trust volunteer seemed to fit the library so well.
Over the mantelpiece of this bedroom is a double portrait of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, given by the Queen to Disraeli in grateful recognition of his securing funding for the Albert Memorial.
Political insult ain’t what it used to be.
Disraeli was a prolific novelist throughout his life. (He wrote a novel, not as well-known as some of the others, though still available, called Venetia.) Here is one of his better known, Sybil. A whole room was devoted to his writings.During World War II, Hughenden was known as Hillside, a secret target map-making base, and there was an exhibition about this in the basement.
Reconstruction of the resident family’s sitting room
It was good to go outside to the rear garden.I noticed these original hinges on the stable doors Buckinghamshire is red kite country, and, back at my hosts’ house, I was pleased to see the birds swooping overhead, though less pleased with my photographic efforts. However, one kite kindly settled in a tree some way away. Not one, but two National Trust properties the next day, (though one did not allow inside photography).