Sunday, 31 August 2008

Last weekend of Summer

The camping ground was in Mablethorpe, one of those delightful old English seaside resorts. You know the type, five permanent residents and 20,000 caravans. It was about as interesting as American Football (sorry Jayse). The camping ground was nice but we did nothing else there.
The first day we visited Louth, which is supposedly a “foodie” kind of place. - there was a little food market in the centre. We had soup for lunch from one of those old cafes - the type of cafĂ© that doesn’t have a grave accent. Had a bunch of gossiping old ladies in it and white bread.
The first of the weekend's castles was Bolingbroke. It's another of the castles that pillock Oliver Cromwell trashed in his one man culture purge. It was a squat but impressive moated castle. It was wesieged and taken by an army, then including the lowly ranked MP Oliver Cromwell. The battles around this particular castle would be the start of his meteoric rise.
We had a quick look along the waterfront/pier at Skegness. There were lots of rides and chavs. Let's just say Skegness has only marginally managed to leave Great Yarmouth with the title of England’s biggest dive.

On Sunday we headed toward home via Sibsey Mill, an old mid 19th C wind mill. You could climb right to the top and see all the working gear and the twisty roof.
Then we invaded Tattershall Castle, but the defence of one old man on the battlements shouting scared off the attacker...but not before he had a few photos and videos and decided he wanted to bring back a larger army.
Last thing, and probably Eryn's favourite thing so far in England: we found a PYO raspberry place on the way home and picked about 2kg of raspberries. Mmmmmm!
And that's us all caught up... we've got the next couple of weekends at home mostly, so it'll be nice to wake up with a roof over our heads.
K & E x

Monday, 25 August 2008

Madonna in Cardiff!

So, the Queen of Pop: a week after her 50th, prancing around stage in high boots and clothes normally donned by 20 year old strippers? Yes, please!
We took the bank holiday weekend off down to Cardiff as we had paid rather a lot for tickets to the opening night of her tour, and to cruise around South Wales.
Friday night we got no sleep, because all the little boys and their boyfriends were so excited about seeing Madonna the next day, they couldn’t keep their mouths shut all night.
On Saturday we had a quick look around the city of Cardiff and then had much of the afternoon in Cardiff Castle. It was lived in until about 1947. We had a tour round the inside of the Manor house. Typically enough it was amazing, much of the internal architecture and design was done by an eccentric Frenchman, so you can imagine it was full and bright. The castle dated from just after the Norman conquest 1080ish but was built on the site of an old Roman ruin from when they were there beating up on the Welsh between 75 and 400 AD.
We then headed to the concert about 8:30 to see Madonna.
On Sunday we went to the Blaenavon Iron Works (Eryn wasn't excited by this, but enjoyed it) which turned the rich iron ore, coal and limestone of South Wales into Iron. It was in production from about 1780 until 1860. The life of the workers was pretty fascinating - young boys started working from about the age of 7, working 12 hour shifts seven days a week and one 24hr shift every fortnight... it's making me tired just thinking about it.
Across the valley we had a look around the Big Pit coal mine. With much of the machinery still there and some of it still functioning it was also quite interesting. We should have gone down the mine but as the English prefer queuing to doing, we would have had to wait in a line for over an hour and a half.
We used an actual map (rather than our SatNav) to find Harold’s Stones. They are three stones in the ground, from about 1500BC. Apparently they got there because the Devil was playing his little games (you know, like the song, Devil Went Down To Georgia) with a dude from Kent - not to be confused with this Kent. He got beaten and threw his toys (and three big rocks) out of the cot.
We also did one better than that on the way home - we called past an old burial chamber from 2000 BC. A bit like an A-frame bivy with a 80 tonne rock on top rather than canvas.

After a quiet Sunday night (thank goodness), Monday took us to Caerphilly Castle and their middle age siege engines. It's another great moated castle that took so long to build that once it was finished it wasn't really needed. Unfortunately the genius that was Oliver Cromwell (we are starting to rather dislike him) decided to blow it up in the 17th century. Thankfully the aforementioned coal and iron made some people ridiculously rich and the 3rd Marquess of Bute (the richest man in the world in his day) rebuilt much of it.
we snuck in a quick visit to the 1800year old Roman baths in Caerleon (they needed a few repairs so we couldn’t use them) to see how clever the Romans were.

By the way, the powers that be couldn’t be arsed giving us our tickets as they didn’t want to open the ticket office they sent us to earlier in the day. Basically we paid £65.00 each and then wouldn’t let us in... so no Madge, then.
K & E x

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Camping in the rain...again!

We drove for what felt like all night to reach Coniston in the Lakes District on Friday night - it was a fair way and we only had the two days, so the tent went up in the dark for the second weekend in a row. Coniston was home to Donald Campbell, John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter.
We camped with Rod and Louise in a picturesque lakeside ground... which we weren't overly fussed about as it was REALLY busy and loud. Although, we did manage to put our tents right near the loudest, fight-iest, trashiest family in the entire country, so listening to them yelling at each other was fun.
On Saturday the four of us went for a bit of a walk. We headed out of Coniston towards the Monk Coniston Estate and Tarn How which were left to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter, who owned a lot of the land in the area. We saw a snake... although I wondered if it was a worm on steroids as it wasn't very big. Lunch was on a hill above the lake on what looked a bit like an old slate mine.

On Sunday we headed home via two of Beatrix Potter's houses. The first was the one that was used for the movie 'Miss Potter', that she owned, but never lived in. There was a farm shop and galley in it but it didn't open till 11am(!) so they didn’t get our money. We also had a quick visit to her real house, the one she owned and lived in for about 30 years. We were warned that since the movie, the wait to see the house can be hours long - so we decided a run up the garden path with the camera would do and left the hoardes of tourists to their waiting... here's her pad (and the rest of the photos):

We spotted a random car boot sale on the way back to Suffolk - Kent picked up one of those double saucepans that you melt chocolate in... a must, I'm sure!
From there we found ourselves in Morecambe on the Lancashire coast for lunch... and it has to be said, some extra-yummy local lamb - the first we've had here that's not been from NZ!
K & E x

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Power Weekends...

While Eryn has been working and I have had four weeks of non-working we have been taking Power Weekends. They go something like this: I spend all day cooking, organising and packing the car on Friday, Go to pick Eryn up, she is an hour late (because we have to hang around at meet and hear James Morrison sing), drive wherever we are going (Eryn asleep), put the tent up, get into as much as we can in a day and a half in [insert text from the next few blogs below], pull the tent down in the rain, drive home while Eryn is again, sleeping.


We bolted down to Hastings and Battle (yes, a town called Battle... it's where the actual Battle of Hastings happened. Clever, no?) It's the area William the Conqueror successfully invaded in 1066 (the last time England was successfully invaded), which was pretty much the birth of England as we know it. Plenty of history there for this pair of anoraks, then.

We had a couple of hours in Battle Abbey, which William built because he felt bad about the bloodshed from the Battle - he might have been a bit of a hardass, but he had a conscience too. Such a shame that much of the Abbey was destroyed during the reformation - thanks very much Cromwell.
The tour included the spot where King Harold of England (you can already guess this didn't end well for him) was killed... rumour has it he was shot in the eye by an archer - ouch... there's even a pic of that on the Bayeaux Tapestry.

The weather was what the locals told us to expect in an English summer - rain. It was teeming down when we left the Abbey, so we were keen to find something indoors-y. We did, in the form of Smugglers Adventure - an exhibition in an old cave in the hill on the old side of Hastings. The cave was used by the smugglers during the 1700s when they were taxing imports at sometimes over 800% of their cost (see, 17% VAT or 12.5% GST isn't so bad!).
It was still pouring, so we thought it wise to check the state of the tent... whilst Eryn has warmed to the idea of camping, sleeping in a tent full of water was an entirely different proposition. Still dry, so after dinner on our new camping stove we went back into Hastings for the carnival of the weekend:

On our last morning (accompanied by the sun, yay) we headed out of town a bit towards Tenterden. We took the Kent and East Sussex Railroad (KESR) for a 17km trip through the countryside, to Bodiam Castle, which was beautiful... we managed a short hour there before having to run down the road to get back to the train on time.

More to come,
K & E x