BeenThere-DoneThat Blog

Life and Travel in Great Britain

A step too far.

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When Marie was last over here she had a pedometer with her and that sowed the seed of an idea. We now have a pedometer each which tells us how many steps we make and, having calibrated them appropriately for the lengths of our steps, what distance we’ve covered. I shall be interested to see what sort of distances we cover when we’re at home, when we go on a day trip and when we go away.

The average person, so I understand should cover about 10,000 steps every day; that’s about 5 miles. Some hopes! 😯

It’s ‘B’ time again!

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‘B’ is for Bluebells. We went to a local wood last Sunday to see these.

Snaking through Epping Forest

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Today was a lovely sunny day so we took ourselves off to Epping Forest. We went to an area known as Almshouse Plain and after a little walking we arrived at Cuckoo Brook which snakes its way along the bottom of its shallow valley. The rather tortuous route is known as meandering and the individual curves as meanders.

If you look carefully you should be able to see two complete U-bends in the picture.

After following the stream for a while we moved off to the Cuckoo Pits. Why ‘Cuckoo Pits’? Gravel was extracted here many, many years ago on a small scale and the pits left by the extraction were near the Cuckoo Brook – so …

Some of the pits are now water filled and have become established ponds. We were walking near one of these when Amanda said “Did you hear that noise – it sounded like a snake going into the water” and then we saw a small Grass Snake swimming away from the bank and into the cover of some reeds. Then, about a hundred yards further on, we came across this:

How’s that for another set of meanders on a fine specimen of a Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) and not at all venemous.

We had an enjoyable day altogether and returned home in the late afternoon.

P.S. After lunch, post snake, we went to another area of the forest known as Mount Pleasant and walked through Little Monk Wood to Court Hill and this old tree rather caught my eye – I think it must have been that root system and I just had to add a picture of it.

We walked back to our car via Bell Ringers Hollow and Great Monk Wood. All these ecclesiastical terms won’t surprise you when you realise that this area of Epping Forest was used as a major route by monks travelling to and from Waltham Abbey.

Six tired legs.

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Marie and Lisa’s trip to Great Britain didn’t go according to plan. A short while before departure Lisa contracted an infection but decided she was well enough to go and they both arrived in Colchester on Wednesday 1st April as planned.

On Thursday Amanda and I travelled to Colchester and all four of us walked round Colchester and saw the castle, Timperley’s, the Balkerne Gate and the roman wall, the timber-framed cottages by the river and Castle Park. Our final location was the ruins of St. Botolph’s Priory. I haven’t included photographs of the places that we visited as they can be seen on the web site Colchester pages however just to prove that Marie and Lisa were really there I’ve included this picture.


We arrived in Colchester next morning, Friday, expecting to take them both out for the day only to find that Lisa’s infection had flared up again and she’d had very little sleep. She had decided to go back home the following day, Saturday, and to stay in their rented cottage while we took Marie out. It was such a shame that, having come all that way, she was having to go home because of some rotten ole bacteria.

We took Marie to Finchingfield and Thaxted and tomorrow, Saturday, she was going to London with Lisa and was going to do some shopping before returning to Colchester. We arranged to take Marie to Dedham Vale on Sunday.

We heard that Lisa arrived home without problems and is, apparently, on the mend. The three of us went off to Dedham on Sunday, walked to  Flatford then up to East Bergholt and back to Dedham. As we had some time to spare we decided to explore the nearby villages of Stoke-by-Nayland and Nayland and both turned out to be picturesque little villages with some very interesting old buildings including this one in Stoke-by-Nayland.

After looking around Stoke-by-Nayland we moved on to Nayland.

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That person on the pavement desperately trying to look like a local and failing dismally is, of course, Marie. After leaving Nayland we took Marie back to Colchester and Marie decided that tomorrow she’d like to see Cambridge.

On Monday we collected Marie and drove to one of the Park & Ride sites around Cambridge. They do have a very well organised Park & Ride service in Cambridge with buses leaving the car parks very frequently.

Most of the places we visited are listed on the Cambridge page but one view that isn’t listed is this one:

A spy-in-the-sky view of Marie and I taken by Amanda from the top of the tower of St. Mary’s Church. We were all quite tired by the end of the afternoon and had agreed that Marie would come over from Colchester by bus to our house to do a little local sightseeing on her final day in England.

On her last day, Tuesday, Marie came over to us and we all walked on public footpaths to Layer Marney Tower. On the way we saw a lot of Wood Anemonies in flower and heard a Skylark in the distance. After looking at Layer Marney Tower and exploring the local Tudor church we came back to our house for lunch and then, after lunch, we drove the short distance to Tollesbury.

I’ll leave you with this picture of Amanda and Marie about to be run down by a very large lightship.

That was our last day with Marie, leaving 3 pairs of very tired legs, after which she went back to Colchester on the bus and left for home the next day. She arrived home without problems albeit after a long and tiring journey.

Chaos reigns

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I did warn you some time ago that Marie and Lisa, two of our American friends, were arriving in England on the first of April and that chaos would result.

It seems that the Americans sent their president over one day in advance so that he’d be there to greet Marie and Lisa when they arrive this morning. Half this country’s police are in London to make sure that things go smoothly and there are also going to be thousands of protesters and who can blame them.

After all that fuss on their behalf Marie and Lisa should be arriving in Colchester later today. I’ll let you know what happens (If I’m still sane 😯 ).

Another beautiful sunny day saw us back near Aldbury but, this time, on top of the nearby ridge. This is the Ashridge Estate – a large area of woodland and downland forming part of the Chiltern Hills. We parked near the Duke of Bridgewater monument which we hoped to go up but were out of luck as it didn’t open until April.

We didn’t do a lot here – just a pleasant wander around the woods until we decided it was time to go home. Our return journey was straightforward so I’ll leave you with these woodland scenes.

Until next time.

Thomas Gray said "Tis folly to be wise" – so how wise is this then?

That is just one of over 40 ornamental 'follies', or monuments, in Stowe Garden just outside Buckingham.

On our first and only full day on this short trip we cheated and, although still in Buckinghamshire, travelled 30 miles away from the Chilterns to Buckingham and Stowe Garden. First, though, we stopped in Buckingham which is a pleasant old town with some interesting old buildings of which this, the Old Gaol, is probably the most prominent.

Having walked up to the churchyard we saw this view from just inside the gates looking down Castle Street towards the town centre.

We stopped for a brief lunch before continuing to the main purpose of this day's trip – Stowe Garden. Stowe is one of the National Trust's properties consisting of over 400 acres of garden with over 40 ornamental follies such as the one shown above.

In the time we had we could only see a part of this huge garden and March, it has to be said, is probably not the best time to see it. The garden landscape with its lakes and monuments were beautifully lit on this warm sunny day as the Temple of British Worthies illustrates.

There were numerous surprising vistas and secluded corners and this little corner with its cascade, between the Octagon Lake and the Eleven Acre Lake, obviously made a good picnic spot for somebody.

On the circuit that we had chosen this view of the Palladian Bridge with the Gothic Temple beyond was one of the final scenes that we saw before making our way back to the entrance.

An uneventful drive saw us back at our hotel until our final half-day tomorrow after which we return home. :unhappy: