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1 Trip, 2 Bays, 3 Waterfalls

1 Trip, 2 Bays, 3 Waterfalls

We had to go to Swansea recently and decided to add a couple of extra days for amusing ourselves. We had rented a flat for this stay overlooking Swansea Bay and this was the view from our balcony. It’s a pity it was cloudy.

The weather on the third (last) day was better.

The morning of the second day was when our trip began to get interesting. We drove to Rhossili Bay at the end of the Gower Peninsula. The weather was cloudy but dry which was not good for photography but there was little we could do about it.

Having parked the car we walked to the cliff top and we couldn’t really miss seeing Rhossili Bay could we?

We started walking roughly west along the cliff top (that’s left out of the picture above) but not too near the edge you understand. These cliffs are fairly high and the rocks are steeply bedded. It is very unlikely that one of those figures in the picture below is likely to be me.

As we walked along, on our left away from the sea, there were some meadows which were covered in Dog Daisies but, looking a little closer, one could see that there were a variety of wild flowers growing in among the daisies. Lovely!

A little further along we had our first sighting of Worms Head which is accessible only at low tide and for a limited time so if you get it wrong you’ll be spending the night there.

There were a lot of wild flowers around, which attracted butterflies, and I managed to sneak up on this Painted Lady without frightening it away.

When we reached the coastguard lookout station overlooking Worms Head there was a path which wound down to beach level so, of course, we had to follow it. We did end up on the shore and had a different view of Worms Head. I suppose I should call it the shore rather than the beach as it is all rock here – not a sign of sand.

We huffed and puffed our way back up the path and thence back to our car. We arrived back at our flat in the late afternoon and, being so near the beach, we decided to go and have a look at the sea.

As you can see we had to fight our way through the holidaymakers packed onto the beach but we did manage to make our way down the beach towards the sea. On the way we passed a number of bands of shells which included Oyster shells and I thought that they looked rather attractive so I picked some up. We finally arrived at the waters edge and I found myself carrying about 12 Oyster shells. Those shells are now at home and all I need is to think of something to do with them. The following photograph is a sample.

Just to prove that we finally reached the sea.

That tower is the Meridian Tower and we had dinner there in the evening in the Grape and Olive restaurant on the top, 29th, floor. This is supposed to be the highest building in wales.

The following morning dawned fine and sunny – well it would wouldn’t it because today is the day we go home. However we may be going home but we are planning a few visits on the way and our first stop was Neath a short 15 minute drive from Swansea.

Here we are by the Tennant Canal in Neath. But, wait, what is that peeking over the trees at us? It’s Neath Abbey of course; yet another ruined abbey, one of many that litter this country, under the stewardship of CADW.

Founded in 1130 this is not a small place and along with Llanthony Priory and Tintern Abbey, the ruins of Neath Abbey are the most important and impressive monastic remains in south-east Wales.

There was some restoration in progress when we were there and a large part of the abbey was covered in scaffolding so I didn’t photograph any of that.

Just as we were about to leave Amanda spotted a swarm of bees on one of the walls.

Having had a good look around we set off for our next destination which, again, was only a short drive away.

This is Aberdulais Falls owned by the National Trust and, although the falls are very picturesque, it is more that just a waterfall.

This narrow gorge at the mouth of the Dulais River outside Neath has been at the heart of the Welsh industrial story, thanks to its bountiful supplies of coal, timber and, of course, water.

It all started with copper-smelting which gave way to ironworking, the milling of textiles and grain and, most significant of all, the manufacture of 19th century tinplate. It is a truly picturesque scene now and it is difficult to imagine the heat, dust, noise and dirt that must have dominated the scene back then.

There is a very large waterwheel which can often be seen running but they had had to stop it before we got there, naturally, because a blackbird had decided to set up its nest in the wheel.

The waterwheel can be seen in context with the remains of some of the old furnaces and the smoke stack.

This is the highest (up river) of the falls and was quite spectacular even though it hasn’t been particularly wet lately and just below it are the next waterfalls.

There is a tea room and toilets here which is rather handy so we made use of both and left for our next destination which, you may have guessed, was just a short drive away. This was the village of Melincourt and we parked in the sign-posted car park (free) and followed the sign-posted path for about 15 minutes. This is what we came to see.

The path up follows the stream valley and makes a pleasant walk to the falls but, having seen the falls, it was time to walk back to the car and proceed to our final destination. This time it was more than a short drive so lets get on with it.

After driving along a narrow lane, one cars width, for what seemed like forever we finally spotted the National Trust car park. Although this is owned by the National Trust entry is not controlled and one can come and go as one pleases. We parked and started off down the path which turned out to be nowhere as near straight-forward as the previous destination.

The path was steep and one eventually arrives a a point where it seems to level off and gives one hope that this must be near the bottom – but no. We had to climb a bit and then descend again and the route included these steps and a bridge.

That’s Amanda down there on the bridge – wait for me!

We did get there in the end.

This is Henrhyd Waterfall and that tiny figure on the ledge behind the water is Amanda.

This was our last call of the day so it was time to go home but first we have to go back UP that path. It wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be and we arrived at the car without having to crawl the last few yards.

We were still south of Brecon so we still had an hour and fifteen minutes to drive home. We got there. Until next time.

An elephant’s tentacles and some pickled moles.

An elephant’s tentacles and some pickled moles.

On Tuesday the weather forecast for Wednesday was sun and clear skies up until lunchtime and then sunny intervals for the afternoon. Sunny intervals can be anything from one quick flash of sun in the whole afternoon to frequent sunny spells. However I planned to be indoors for most of the afternoon so that didn't matter. I decided to go.

Amanda wasn't coming this time because she had a dental appointment and wasn't particularly interested in some of the venues I was planning to visit.

When I left for the railway station I made allowances for some minor traffic hold-ups. There weren't any! So I arrived at the station much too early which, as it happened, turned out to be a boon.

When I went into the ticket office I discovered it was shut. The shutter was down and padlocked. Nothing to say why. I went around the corner to the automatic ticket vending machine to find an extraordinarily long queue. One look told me I'd be very lucky to get my ticket in time to catch the train.

I joined the queue which was moving very slowly and, as we got nearer my trains departure time, I heard an announcement over the station speaker system that said the train was running 10 minutes late so there was still hope. I did get my ticket and got onto the platform just in time to see the train appear in the distance which then pulled in a few minutes later.

Missing that train wouldn't have been a disaster but it would have chopped 30 minutes off my day.

I arrived at London Liverpool Street Station around 10:30 and went out into Bishopsgate and turned left. A little way along Bishopsgate I turned right into Middlesex Street. Middlesex Street, as you probably know, used to be called Petticoat Lane and the market there is still known as Petticoat Lane Market but the name was too much for the prudish Victorians who thought that streets shouldn't refer to undergarments and so changed it.

A short way along Middlesex Street I forked left along Widegate Street which brought me to one end of Artillery Passage; my first 'target' of the day. The sun is shining brightly off to the right but there isn't going to be much sunlight in this narrow passage.

I walked through and out into Artillery Lane, on to White's Row, across the busy Commercial Street and into Fashion Street. I was now in my next target area – Spitalfields/Shoreditch – and I was looking for 'Street Art'. This is becoming very popular with tourists looking for something different from the usual run of things and there are walking tours which go for the street art. I did come across one of these tour groups whilst I was walking around.

This was one of the artworks that I first saw.

I continued along Fashion Street and emerged into Brick Lane. I had heard that Brick Lane was known for its Curry Houses and I must admit that I have never seen so many Indian Restaurants in one street. Unfortunately I had also heard that most of them are overpriced and mediocre. I haven't been in to any of them so I cannot say if that is true or not.

Continuing north along Brick Lane I soon arrived at Hanbury Street and turning east into Hanbury Street I found this:

Someone has a vivid imagination.

I saw quite a varied selection of these artworks more of which will appear on the main web site in due course.

I went back into Brick Lane and crossed over into the western part of Hanbury Street which brought me to Spitalfields Market. We did visit Spitalfields Market on our last trip to this area but there were some large empty areas with hoarding around them. However, this time, there were lots more stalls.

You want stalls? We can do stalls!

After look round I made my way into Bishops Square and thence into Folgate Street to see Dennis Severs House at number 18.

Dennis Sever was an artist who lived in this house in much the same way as the original Huguenot occupants might have done in the early 18th century. It is not open every day so you should check their web site before you go. It wasn't open when I was there but then I hadn't intended to go inside.

I walked to the western end of Folgate Street and turned right towards Shoreditch High Street, which is effectively an extension of Bishopsgate, where I intended to catch a No. 8 bus to High Holborn near Tottenham Court Road underground station. I arrived after a 30 minute ride and headed south down Shaftesbury Avenue. After a short distance I reached a 3-way split. Fork left for Neal Street, fork right for Shaftesbury Avenue and the straight on, my intended route, for Monmouth Street.

This brought me, very quickly, to Seven Dials. I visited Seven Dials once before but was unable to take a good photograph of the monument because it was surrounded by hoarding as it was being cleaned. So I rectified that.

You should be able to see three of the seven roads that converge here and you should also be able to see the cloud appearing which now doesn't matter as I've done most of the exterior photographs that I had planned.

Now it's time for lunch so I walked off along the eastern part of Earlham Street towards Cucumber Alley. I was heading for the Euphorium Bakery in the basement of the Thomas Neal's Centre who provide sandwiches, cakes and hot and cold drinks in modern pleasant surroundings. I had a nice sandwich and coffee but certainly not cheap at £5 for the sandwich and £2 for the coffee.

Now that I was re-fortified I headed up Bloomsbury Street and then Gower Street just north of the British Museum. I was first planning to visit the Grant Museum of Zoology at the junction of Gower Street and University Street.

The Grant Museum of Zoology is the only remaining university zoological museum in London and houses around 67,000 specimens, covering the whole Animal Kingdom. The museum consists of just one large gallery.

There are numerous cases so most of the specimens are relatively small.This jar of pickled (preserved) moles illustrates the point.

Why would someone want a jar of preserved moles? Ah, well, I'm glad you asked that question because I can tell you the answer. As this is a teaching establishment it was the case that many years ago students had to learn dissection in order to observe how animals were constructed so numerous specimens of particular species were required. Hence the jar of moles that were never used for their intended purpose. I also remember seeing a similar jar of lizards.

Some of the specimens were, shall we say, a little bizarre.

However all of the specimens were interesting. Being a half-term holiday for schools it was obviously interesting for children.

Being fairly well preserved I thought I fitted in rather nicely. It was, however, time to move on to the Petrie Museum of Archaeology nearby. This museum houses an estimated 80,000 objects, making it one of the greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology in the world. It illustrates life in the Nile Valley from prehistory through the time of the pharaohs, the Ptolemaic, Roman and Coptic periods to the Islamic period.

 William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) excavated literally dozens of sites and most of these specimens are the result of that work.

There are a number of galleries with many cases of artifacts.

One could be driven potty in here.

More pictures in this museum and of the Grant Museum will, eventually, appear on the main web site.

That was the end of what I thought was an interesting day and all I needed to do was to get myself home without incident. Yes I did manage that.


Rock and Water – Day 5

Rock and Water – Day 5

After breakfast we are walking, not driving, out of the village. Weather is cloudy but dry. I do like scrambled egg with smoked salmon for breakfast – yum, yum!

We set off along one of the numerous footpaths around here heading north parallel with Scandal Beck (a beck in Yorkshire speak is a stream) intending to go as far as Smardale Viaduct and returning via the old disused railway track which has been converted into a footpath.

We hadn't gone very far when we saw this lovely group of Meadow Cranesbill (blue) and Meadowsweet (white) and a little further on there was a view of part of the village including the church tower.

We were walking uphill, not a particularly steep incline, and we could see some reddish brown cows on the brow. As we got higher and nearer we could see that there were also plenty of calves and we were going to have to disturb them because our route took us right through them. The cows and calves that were laying down stood up as we approached and moved to the side. We didn't want to come between a cow and its calf as the mothers can get a little uppity under those conditions and will sometimes charge.

Just as we were nearing the far side of the herd I noticed a very muscular beast staring at us and that was when I realised that it was a huge bull. It watched us for a while then lost interest. I couldn't help wondering which of us would be able to run the fastest.

Coming down the other side of the hill we had a good view of Smardale Bridge; a 17th century packhorse bridge.

Just beyond the bridge we reached a junction where various paths meet and turned east for a very short distance until we reached another path which continues along Scandal Beck towards Smardale Gill Viaduct (not to be confused with Smardale Viaduct).

We took that path and after a short time caught a view of Smardale Gill Viaduct.

As we made our way along the path above the beck we saw this butterfly; a fritilliary of some sort. As soon as I had taken a picture it flew away so I wouldn't like to say, with any certainty, precisely which species it was.

This is the path we've been walking on, in single file as it's not very wide, looking back the way we've come. You can see the old disused railway track over on the right.

The path has been climbing slowly for some time and we are nearly level with the top of the viaduct with the beck now a long way down.

We finally reach the old railway track and walk along the track towards Kirkby Stephen looking at the flora and fauna on the way. I managed to sneak up on this butterfly, a Common or Holly Blue, before I frightened it away.

We turned round and started back along the railway track, across the old viaduct and on towards Smardale Bridge. But before we left the railway track we saw a lot of orchids of which this is just one.

Then a final look back as we set off towards Ravenstonedale.

That was a nice day's walk. Tomorrow we go home.  :bawl: :bawl:

Oxon-Hants-Wilts: Two rings and a spire.

Oxon-Hants-Wilts: Two rings and a spire.

Day 3 – Tuesday 18th August 2009

Today is Salisbury day. We head off to the Park & Ride Car Park on the outskirts of Salisbury but just before we get there we find ourselves at a junction with the entrance to the Old Sarum site opposite so we elect to go in This is our first ring.

Car parking turns out to be free but entrance to the central part of the ring is chargeable so as it is now cloudy overall we decide not to go into the central area. There is a good view from where we are, allowing for the cloudy conditions, and we can see Salisbury Cathedral with its very prominent spire.

This is the central, raised, area which we didn't visit on this occasion which was the original site of the City of Salisbury including a castle, palace and cathedral. I gather that there are some remains of the old Normal Castle but nothing particularly spectacular and I believe that the original cathedral was completely demolished leaving just the foundations laid out like a floor plan.

The mounds and ditch were built during the iron age then adopted by the Romans and subsequently taken over by the Normans. The defensive ditch around the central area of Old Sarum is pretty deep and steep.

On to the Salisbury Park & Ride then a short bus ride into the city. As it was a cloudy day we went straight into the cathedral which we found, on first glance, a little disappointing. It didn't generate the same levels of interest that we found in, for example, Winchester, Wells and Norwich. The nave looked rather empty with little in the way of stained glass in the windows.

They did, however, have the oldest (Medieval – 1386) working clock in the world which has no face and only strikes the hours.

This view shows one of the arches around the crossing under the tower looking through into the Quire which had some remarkable medieval wood carving on the stalls which date from 1236 – the oldest complete set in England.

Looking from the Quire, past the Audley Chapel, towards the East Window which was designed in 1980.

We rather liked this next view around the tower crossing. It reminded us a little of the Scissor arches in Wells Cathedral.

The Cloisters are rather nice and are, in fact, the largest of any British cathedral. They are also unusual in that they have never been part of a monastic foundation which is normally the case.

From the Cloisters one gains entry to the Chapter House which holds one of the four surviving original Magna Carta, written on vellum in abbreviated medieval latin, sealed in 1215 by King John. Photography is not permitted in the Chapter House.

We finally ventured outside and managed to capture a five second spell of sunshine lighting up the West Front of the cathedral. The sky gives a good idea of what it was like generally throughout the day.

We left the cathedral precincts by this gate and were back in the surrounding city. As it was around lunch time we started to look for somewhere that would provide a substantial lunch to substitute for the meal we weren't going to have back at the Danebury Hotel in Andover.

Wandering around we stumbled across 'The Polly Tea Rooms' and liked the look of the menu. We were both glad that we chose to go in because the prices were reasonable and the food and service was excellent. Recommended! It's near Bridge Street not far from here.

We didn't really have as much time here to explore as we would have liked. This was one of the streets we wandered through where we noticed this old timber-framed building.

And we eventually found the old market cross complete with a little market.

It was getting late in the afternoon now, 5:30 PM, so we decided to call it a day and headed back to Andover. However on the way back we noticed that we would be going past Figsbury Ring, our second ring of the day, and as the weather was now taking a turn for the better, we thought we'd pay it a visit.

Figsbury Ring, like Old Sarum, is a prehistoric Hill Fort and the evening light up here was absolutely wonderful. Here is Amanda standing on the outer bank looking back towards Salisbury and we could see the spire of Salisbury Cathedral in the far distance.

On our way around the ring we spotted an Adonis Blue butterfly. Not a common sight although there is a colony known to exist here. Very pretty.

So back to our palatial lodgings and tomorrow we leave for home.

A grey day

A grey day

At the end of last week we were thinking of going away this week, because of the weather forecast, but by Saturday the forecast was changing again and we decided not to risk it. I’m glad we didn’t go as yesterday and today is grey, overcast, gloomy and not at all warm.

During the weekend, before the sun disappeared, Amanda photographed another butterfly in the garden. This time it was a Red Admiral. That name is actually a corruption of the original Victorian name of ‘The Red Admirable’.

Red Admiral butterfly

I don’t know if anyone has actually noticed but putting Smilies in your comments is now very much easier.

Also I have made two additions on the Wells pages. Next to the picture of the clock in Wells Cathedral is a link to a short video sequence of the clock in action and next to the picture of the swans on the Bishop’s Palace moat is another short video sequence of the swans doing their thing. Both sequences are courtesy of that famous film producer ‘Amanda’. :)

Oliver Cromwell in a hurry.

Oliver Cromwell in a hurry.

No not that Oliver Cromwell. This Oliver Cromwell is a steam locomotive hauling one of the ‘Cathedral Express’ trains that run from London to various cathedral cities in England throughout the year.

This was the ‘Norfolkman’ which runs from London Liverpool Street Station to Norwich in Norfolk and passed through our nearest station, Kelvedon, in Essex today at around 11:30 AM. So off we went to try and get some ‘visuals’.

Oliver Cromwell

I was busy trying to get a good still photograph, of which the above is the result and I had only a few seconds in which to do it because the train was travelling very fast, whilst Amanda took this short video which is on YouTube. After processing by YouTube the resolution is not as good as the original.

All that preparation for sixteen seconds of video.

In complete contrast Amanda photographed this Comma butterfly in our garden later in the day.

Comma butterfly

A visit from the Admiral

A visit from the Admiral

Yesterday’s weather was dismal but today we have sun again. Now that we are in October it is not as warm as it was but there are plenty of insects still around such as Dragonflies and Butterflies. Amanda took this photograph of a Red Admiral butterfly in the garden today.

That reminded me that about a month ago we had a lot of Latticed Heath moths coming into the house after dark attracted to the lights and I had taken a photograph of one but I had forgotten about it until now.

Quite a pretty moth even though it doesn’t have vivid colours.

Both photographs were taken with the new little Casio camera and Amanda likes it so much that she wants one. So we are going to get another one and since I bought mine prices have dropped by nearly 25% which can’t be bad!

I’ve seen some large Dragonflies in the garden but I don’t stand much chance of getting near enough to photograph one. They have very good eyesight and are very wary of any movement.