Friday, October 5, 2018

Idyllic England - The Cotswolds

We are wrapping up about 3 weeks in the Cotswolds Region of England
and I think its safe to say that we have a winner!

Unless Cornwall turns out to be something really super special,
it is going to be hard to beat the Cotswolds for its beauty and pure idyllic charm.

Sudeley Castle


For 15 nights we have called the Gatehouse of Sudeley Castle our home.
And it really felt like home.    We did not want to leave!
Sudeley Castle Gatehouse
Our friends Mark & Karen from our Eastbound Crossing on the QM2 came to visit with
us for 3 nights.  
Mark & Karen Visit
We had a nice patio at the back of the gatehouse with a peaceful view and
nothing but sheep as neighbors.

Our Back Patio
Our first night, the 4 of us went to one of the local pubs for dinner.
One of the great things about the Gatehouse was that there were several pubs and restaurants
and a great village, within about a 10 minute walk.

Corner Cupboard Inn & Pub in Winchcombe
The next day we walked further into the Sudeley Castle Estate, and took a tour of the
Castle and the gardens.
The castle is open to the public, and one of the perks about renting the gatehouse is that we
have full access to the Castle and grounds free of charge.

Path to Sudeley Castle

The Castle dates back to the 14th Century and earlier.
It was owned by King Henry VIII and he and Anne Boleyn spent time here plotting the
dissolution of the monasteries.

Sudeley Castle Garden 
It is now owned by Lady Ashcombe and her children who live in the castle.
It is open to the public from the spring into the fall.
Sudeley Castle
We had a lovely fall day to explore the castle gardens in the rear of the castle.

Sudeley Castle
The gang.
Behind us lie the ruins of the great hall, and beyond that, the surviving part of the castle.


The Castle's St Mary Chapel.

Sudeley Castle St Mary Chapel
King Henry VIII's 6th and final wife, Kathryn Parr, survived him, and upon his death
in January 1547 took up residence in Sudeley Castle.

It wasn't long till Kathryn rekindled an old flame in Thomas Seymour.
Thomas Seymour was the brother of  Jane Seymour (Henry VIII's 3rd wife).

Henry and Jane had a son, Edward - who became King Edward VI
That made Thomas Seymour Edwards Uncle.

When Kathryn and Thomas married (about 5 months after Henry died,
  if I have my family tree right,  that made 
Kathryn, Edwards Step-Mother and Aunt 
and Thomas his uncle and step-father.

Got all of that?

Kathryn and Thomas got busy and soon she was pregnant.
Unfortunately Kathryn died 8 days after giving birth to a daughter Mary.
And.. Thomas Seymour fell out of favor at court and was beheaded for treason about 2 years later.

Kathryns tomb is in St Marys Chapel at Sudeley Castle.
She is the only English Queen buried on Private land.
Katheryn Parr Tomb



The Sudeley Castle Estate is about 1200 acres and we had all of it to roam freely!
Below is the road leading back from the castle, to the Gatehouse
 which peeks out between the trees on the right.

Path from Sudeley Castle back to the Gatehouse

Not far from our Castle home was the delightful town of Winchcombe.

Winchcombe Village - North St
Winchecombe was large enough to have the essentials, but was not overly touristy so
we were always able to find a free table at a pub for a pint.



Above are the other cottages located on the Sudeley Castle Estate.
Special about the gatehouse is that it sits all alone with lots of room around it.

Like all of the English Countryside that we have visited...
The homes and farms here are all very clean and well manicured.

Cotswold Cottage
The public footpaths are an interesting English feature.

Since way back, the land has been crisscrossed by footpaths.   These footpaths run thru
farm fields and private land on rights of way.   Open and close the gates and you are free to proceed.
Just don't let your doodles chase down the sheep or the farmer can shoot your dog!


Kate & Doodles under the watchful eye...
These are the Almshouse in Winchcombe.   Low income housing.
Occupants could be a family or elderly.... the only requirements are a certain income
and "good moral character"
Almshouses Winchcombe
Midway thru our stay at the Castle we had visit from other shipmates of ours.
Craig & Vicki and their two dogs Belle & Poppy.


They are another great couple that we met on our Eastbound Crossing.
The best part of it is that we will be sharing the Westbound back to the US with them too!

Shipmates all.

Craig & Vicki introduced us to a proper afternoon tea on the verandah.

Afternoon Tea at the Castle

We had learned that on Weds nights, the local Church of England Church (St Peters)
has practice sessions for the bell ringers.
They invite the public to come and see and hopefully can recruit a few to help out
as I guess its getting harder to find people who are willing to devote the time.

So on Weds night the 4 of us set off into town and up the steep spiral staircase into
the St Peters Bell tower to observe and learn about ringing the bells.

Spiral Staircase up to the bell tower at St Peters

Finally up to the ringing room.


There are 8 bells but on this night they were using 6.
First they must ring the bells, getting them to swing in ever wider arcs until they get them
to stop upside down.   It is from this upside down position where they can ring the bells and
stop them at will.

Bellringing at St Peters Winchcombe
The video below shows them first getting the bells into position,
then ringing the bells,
then Kate gives it a try.
Notice how the rope is pulled in the first session, vs how it is pulled in the next two.


Returning to the castle we have the friendly welcoming committee.

Waiting for dinner.
One of our favorite things was to take drives thru the idyllic countryside.
Each day it seems the scenery changed as the trees and their colors changed more and more
in anticipation of fall.

Beautiful Cotswolds
I've found the colors here are not as dramatic as in the US,
but the countryside makes up for that shortfall and then some.


Autumn is knocking on the door  in the Cotswolds

Just a special place on this earth.

Idyllic Cotswold Scenery

Another day trip was to the nearby village of Bourton on the Water.

Bourton on the Water

Another storybook location in a beautiful place.

Bourton on the Water
Some video of our drive home from Bourton on the Water thru The Cotswolds


Spending time here is pleasing on so many levels.
There is of course, the gentle countryside.
The beautiful scenery seems to calm and nourish the soul.

Then there are the people.
The English are a kind and gentle lot.
Polite almost to a fault.
Always with a smile and a cheerful hello.
Its a super dog-friendly country.
It is easy to feel at home here.

A Peaceful Cotswold Country Lane
Before we got off of the ship I had asked Craig for some driving tips.
One thing he mentioned is that the roads are much narrower than in the US.

When I first hit the road I found out immediately what he meant.
At first it was a very stressful experience.

Driving on the left, trying to judge clearances from the right seat,
and not clipping the cars or the curbs on these tight roads proved to all be challenges.
I missed the cars but not all the curbs.

Once I became accustomed to it - I started to really enjoy these roads.
You must drive them.

But you are paid back for that with something that is hard to put a finger on.
The Germans call it Farfegnugen.

Meanwhile there are the Pheasants....    I mean - they are everywhere.
Scurrying about - they remind me of Roadrunners.

They are not in any particular rush to get out of your way
 and many of them pay the ultimate sacrifice.

We fortunately missed them but one barely managed to
spring into the air and over the car as we rounded the corner.

Pheasants on the road

September - having turned into October - our 15 days at Sudeley had quickly come to an end
and it was time again to pack up and move on to our 30th home of this trip.

Stonehenge


On the way to this new home - we made a side trip to visit the ancient stoneworks at Stonehenge.
To get to the stones, you must walk about 2 miles from the parking lot up a paved road,
or alternatively thru the fields.

There is an option to take a shuttle bus - but dogs are not allowed on the bus and
we wanted to take the Doodles, so by foot it was.

While the main attraction is the stone monument below - I did not realize that it is a large complex
of several hundred burial mounds, ancient earthworks, and even roadways.

Stonehenge

We arrived at our new home - a converted barn on the side of a hill with a great view overlooking
Bath England.  It is part of a whole little village perched on a mountain top.
Very cool indeed!

We only had two days on the ground here, and with that short a time I decided to take
one day to get caught up on work and stay home.
Then on Friday - our second day we would see what we could.

The view from our mountaintop.   To the right is the barn next to our home.

Overlooking Bath, England
Looking down our road - our house is the second one on the left.


Our country lane above Bath

Castle Combe


Early Friday Morning we took a drive to see the village of Castle Combe.

 Castle Combe has been used as the setting for numerous movies such as Stardust in 2008,
 The Wolfman in 2009 and Steven Spielberg shot scenes for War Horse here in 2010.

Part of the fun in any Cotswold visit is the drive getting there.
Below is one more video.
This time we are driving down a single lane road named "The St"



Right after the video above ended - we arrived in Castle Combe.
We parked at the car park at the top of the hill, and walked back down into town.

Like so many places in the English Countryside... its like being in a fairy tale.

Castle Combe - The Cotswolds England
 The little "square" in town where the road forks.

Castle Comb - Square
 The village is just so beautiful and peaceful.

Castle Combe - West St
We drove back on the same road we came in on.   Named  "The St" 
Castle Combe - The St.
 If you've ever wondered where Tiddleywink was located...
Wonder no more.   We found it!
Tiddleywink
Finally back home, we put the Doods back in their corral.
They are getting some practice being in jail once again as its only 12 days till we
are back on the QM2 and they go into the Queens Prison.


Tomorrow we are back on the road for a 3.5 hr drive
Next stop Newquay in Cornwall where we will hook back up with our friends
from Switzerland and begin the 12 day Bon Voyage Party.

The house there is on the cliffs overlooking the estuary and should be quite luxurious.

Hope you are enjoying riding along with us.
If so...give us a shout out.   We love to hear from you.

Till then.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Wales


My wise friend Hayden once said "the hardest part is leaving the dock"
Those words have stuck with me as they rang so true....

He was talking about the sailing lifestyle.
So many people spend so much time trying to get their boat 100% ship shape
and ready for taking the plunge - that they never leave the dock.

Sooner or later you need to say "good enough"  cast off the lines, and head out
for that distant shore.

I've found that those words apply to so much more in this life.

Whether it is:

leaving the dock,
taking off in the RV,
changing jobs,
moving,
heading off to Europe for 5 months, 
or any other of lifes adventures.... 

the hardest point indeed IS simply leaving the dock.

Once you do cast off the lines and take the plunge - what follows is so much easier!
You figure it out as you go - and fix the problems as they appear.
That becomes your new normal.

But in the interim...  you are sailing!

And sailing we are!

Our last cruising ground was Wales where we left you last.
We only had 4 days to spend there, so we tried to make the most of our short time
before we headed South to The Cotswolds where we are now.


Travel Map Conwy Wales to The Cotswolds
From our base home on the Marina in Conway we took a day trip to visit
Along the way we crossed the interesting Menai Suspension Bridge.

Menai Suspension Bridge
Built around 1300, Beaumaris Castle was built by Edward I to strengthen his grip on Wales.

Arriving at the castle, you must first cross the moat while the defenders would protect
the castle from the outer wall.

This was the first line of defense for the castle.

Beaumaris Castle Moat & Outer Walls

After the moat, an attacker must make it thru the outer wall.
The picture below is taken from atop the outer wall.
On the left you can see the moat - on the right the inner wall.

Beaumaris Castle Outer Wall Ramparts
If you are able to successfully negotiate the moat, the outer wall, and then penetrate the inner walls
you will have make it into the castle courtyard.


The inner wall contains the living/working areas of the castle.
We were able to walk all throughout the inner walls.  It was quite impressive.

The view below is taken from atop the inner wall.


Inside the inner wall lies the Chapel

Beaumaris Castle Chapel
After leaving Beaumaris, we decided to take a Saturday afternoon drive and tour
Snowdonia National Park which lies just south of where we were staying in Conwy.

The scenery was varied from thick green forests...

Snowdonia National Park

To higher rocky terrain that is reminiscent of Alaska.

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park
As we crossed the park from west to east we again descended to the lower
elevations and the greens began to reappear.

Snowdonia National Park


On Sunday we took the dogs and walked a few miles into town along the waterfront.

Conwy Castle from across the waterfront
Conwy is a medieval town which was protected by a wall which encircles the town.
one end of the wall ends at Conwy Castle - the other end in the sea.

Conwy Medieval Town Wall
We climbed up on the walls with the dogs and walked the ramparts around the town.
Below you can see across town to the castle (center) in the distance.

View from Conwy Wall into the Old City

Inside the wall lies the Smallest House in Great Britain. 

The Smallest House - Conwy
Like so many towns we have visited...
Its a beautiful quaint village.

Conwy Wales
Monday morning we were back in town, this time to tour Conwy Castle.
Like Beaumaris Castle, Conwy Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
and considered one of the finest examples of 13th & 14th Century Military Architecture.

Conwy Castle Walls
Looking into the courtyard from the walls.


The view below you can see the remains of the great hall (right) where the archways
supported the roof that covered the main banquet hall.

Conway Castle Banquet Hall




A view of the castle from the top of the kings tower. 


On Tuesday morning our quick visit to Wales had come to an end.
Our next destination, in the Cotswolds, was about 3.5 hrs away, but I wanted to stay on the
smaller roads and see more of Wales on the way, so we took A470 south thru
Snowdonia National Park which gave us another taste of this beautiful and varied area.

Traveling on A470 Snowdonia National Park Wales
We arrived at our home for the next 15 nights after about a 5.5 hr drive.
The Gate House of Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe, England.

Sudeley Castles prior residents include Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and his final
wife Catherine Parr who outlived King Henry VIII and is buried here.


Our Current home:  Sudeley Castle Gate House
Our current home is one of our favorites this trip.

We have the place to ourselves, we've had a few wonderful visits from
friends of ours that we met on the QM2, and its been a great place to
take some walks and enjoy the country life as our time in England
starts to dwindle down to just a couple more weeks.

More about our time here and in the Cotswolds in our next post.