1068-1098: Where Time Gone?

 We are both doing the Prostate UK March on Sunday 17th June in Bristol.  If you have a few spare pennies, please do sponsor one of us.

https://tinyurl.com/jamesprostatefundraising

https://tinyurl.com/katherineprostatefundraising

There is just a small amount of rivraly as to whom will raise the most!

Thank you.


1068-1074 – Wednesday 10th – Wednesday 16th May 2018:  A Mini Trip to Scotland

Drive to Scotland.  Overnight near Moffat at National Trust Grey Mere’s Tail car park.  A little damp so no stars.  Scenic walk up the stream to the lake the next day and J watched ospreys in a nest through the ranger’s telescope.  Joined the SNT, as cheaper than England and as we will be in the UK for a bit …

We spent the night on the coast west of Edinburgh by Blackness Castle.  In the morning, just as I was getting dressed we heard the fish van arrive.  A scramble into clothes, hair awry, and fish cakes, trout and sea bass purchased.

We spent 5 nights in a lovely campsite in Roslin, famous for the chapel that features in the the Da Vinci Code.  Very good friends Margaret, Shirley and pooches were on the neighbouring CL, so we walked lots and dined with them several times.  We also got to meet two sons and wives; lovely to see Chris and Mary who’d we had such frolics with two Christmases ago in Lagos.

Coincidentally my very good friend Kerstin the Kraut (actually she is a Professor Frau Doctor Doctor – you know how the Germans love titles!) flew into Edinburgh on their way to Plockton, so she and her mother came to supper.  She is completely mad … I’ve agreed to do a  Rhein swim with her in November!!!  That makes me mad too.  And she is spend 3 weeks this summer cramped up in a boat sailing from the Azores to Norway with strangers and having to work … and she is paying for the privilege!

It was a social time as Meg, from whom we bought the awning popped in too.  We had managed to get it up, after some head scratching and a few expletives …. I reckon myself to be an expert tent erector!  A founding member of the Girlie Camping Errection Committee!  Finally worked our that the side adjacent to the van should be higher!

We stayed an extra night here, as the weather was so good, the site so chilled and quiet and the walking from the site excellent.  Each day we managed to do a different off road walk.  We’d not explored this area of the Borders before, although I lived in Edinburgh for a 6 months ages ago, but we really liked it.

We found a lay-by just west of Birmingham for our overnight and wandered into the local pub.  A real locals pub with old fashioned pub fare.  I asked what red was available and was offered a tasting, YUK.  So I tried the other red, double YUK.  The locals were all on ale.  J managed to drink the least offensive of the two, I managed 3 large gins!  One of which was Gordon’s summer Pink Gin with strawberry and raspberry … pleasant but more suited to a summers lunchtime.  Pink gin to me is with angostura bitters … but I am a publican’s granddaughter!

We nipped into a caravan supplies place just south of Birmingham to purchase some more bits for our new-to-us awning, such as connecting to van bits, a hanging shelving unit, pegs, shorter EHU cable etc.  We have certainly spent more on awning equipment than on the actual awning, but we loved the extra space, especially for entertaining.  Three of the sides unzip, so we get a breeze but the dogs are contained.

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Grey Mere’s Tail overnight car park.

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The Grey Mere’s Tail waterfall.

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The lake at the top.

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Blackness Castle.

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Great view of the Forth Bridges.

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Oscar wisely getting out of the way.  Neither Margaret, Shirley or I attempted this. 

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One of the walks from the campsite was along the river that had formally been the home of a large gunpowder factory.

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Post walk snuggle.

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Roslin Castle.

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And we hit bluebell time, just lovely.

 

1075-1098 Thursday 17th May – Saturday 9th June:  Sorting Out Stuff

Back at Coxbridge Farm CL and awning up until 3rd June.  This site really is our home from home.  We chat to people coming to nurture their horses and some of the other regulars.  During this time we did a little socialising but mostly sorting … inside all the van cupboards and the Aged P’s attic.

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Our pitch at Coxbridge …

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… with extra space … 

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… that the dogs think is their play room!!!

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New nick knacks and shoe hanging.

I did a trip overnight to Brighton with Maddy … loaded with cleaning fluids and my rubber gloves.  She and Kitty, the flat mate and friend, had a flat inspection.  Kitty had a university paper to finish, so Maddy and I set to.  Maddy eventually declared that she was not really designed for cleaning, so I set to!  We passed with flying colours!  By the time I’d paid for a couple of meals, the cleaning stuffs, a belated B’day jacket and was persuaded to buy a new handbag and trousers, it was a rather expensive, as well as tiring weekend.

I headed off solo the following weekend too.  For over 30 years we’ve had Girlie Camping weekends. However, Gill doesn’t ‘do’ canvas and all my kit is in store (was offered loans, but feeling soft), so Gill found a stunning barn conversion near Winchester.  We raised a glass to Nicky, whose birthday it would have been on the Friday we met.  We nattered and hooted.  Walk and pub lunch.  Ate royally … Greek, Turkish, Persian and good old English for a breaky.  Gill introduced me to Negroni … equal parts of Campari, Gin and Sweet Martini … I managed 3!  I missed it, but the rather sexy host entertained Gill and Bron, by walking outside wrapped in nothing but a towel, apparently the house shower was broken and there was one in another barn.  

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Bron, Gill and Al in Winchester.

For both my trips, J stayed at home.  One of his daughter’s and partner popped over for a BBQ, but I left him at home with the dogs to walk and more cleaning stuffs! 

Medical news.  James had had two scans to judge if the prostate cancer had spread … we saw the consultant on the 18th.  Really good news … it has spread but is contained to the prostate and the consultant said twice that he was going for a cure.  James has been on hormone tablets since   and will be on injections as of tomorrow.  So far the only side effect has been deep seated fatigue, but we expect more side effects with the injections.  We attended a Prostate local superb talk about how hormones can increase fat around organs and reduce muscles … we are already on a mostly Mediterranean diet :), James has upped his running, resistance bands purchased and the 2nd pilates mat out of attic.  

We’ve also both had dental check ups, sorted out online repeat prescriptions and the car passed its MOT.  The dogs have been to my say-it-how-it-is vet and got a clean bill of health. I even got my first ever GOOD on the state of their teeth!  

Just a word of warning for dog owners.  The UK mandates that rabies jabs should be every 3 years, the rest of Europe is annually.  Whilst in Crete both dogs had bloods sent off to the national laboratory for their Titer Test.  Corrie has the requisite antibodies.  Oscar did not!  His UK rabies jab is valid until 2019, but actually with no antibodies, so I guess he is not protected.    This may only affect anyone wanting to take their pets to High Rabies countries.

A little socialising ….  James bumped into Caroline and Terry at the running club … later I joined Caroline with two old school friends mums of Maddys, that I used to know quite well … 12 years ago.  We trained up to London to see J’s eldest who was in London form Doha for a few days.  Whilst walking on the South Bank, two extremely handsome young ladies fell on Corrie … they were Greek and recognised her instantly as a Greek dog.  A BBQ with my sister, cooked by her 18 year old son … one of his life skills sorted!

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Corrie’s first trip to the old smoke.  Oscar had been as far as Ealing before.

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Simon.  Family resemblance?

We’ve had some issues with Jez.  On our return trip from Greece the indicators were flashing fast.  On our decent from Scotland they stopped working altogether.  We drove to Fiat Southampton … they worked for them so nothing to fix, and fortunately Fiat did not charge us.  We took in a National Trust property on the way home and then … the indicators stopped working again!  We booked Jez in again.  In the meantime, a mechanic on the Farm where we stay called in his auto electrician.  £60 diagnosis that the indicator relay was not working …. but not able to fix it!  Fiat disagreed with the diagnosis, it was something in the EMU … fixed.  Here we go again then …. they stopped 5 mins from home.  Fiat wanted the van for up to a week … if it was the computer, and worst case, if it had to come from Italy, it would take a week on the slow boat via China!  Mum, Dad …can we stay with you?   

We stayed in Eastbourne for two nights to attend a very dear family friend’s funeral on Monday 4th June.  Gladys was 95 and ready to go; the lunch after was pleasant with her long term cleaner and two cousins.  At 95, and having been unmarried, there were not many friends left.  On the Tuesday we dropped the van into Southampton and then moved in with Aged P’s.  We’d already emptied the freezer and fridge, plus dropped off car loads of stuff … we weren’t sure how long Fiat would keep Jez. We went to the cinema, I went to RHS Wisley with Mum.  Far too much booze with suppers, but we did manage one dry night!

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Beautiful sunny Eastbourne afternoon.

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The funeral suit came down from the Aged P’s attic … first time in a tie for over 3.5 years.  There’s a wedding suit up there too … any takers?

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RHS Wisley.

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J collected the van on Friday.  All sorted – poorly positioned wires under the chasis during Adria build which had eroded and caused short circuiting.  Adria agreed to cover the cost instantly … I had thought we may have to pay Fiat for the investigation labour and then move Jez to an Adria service centre.

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The broken wires.

So Saturday 9th June saw us back on the road again in Jez.  Very happy to be so.  It is good to have the comfort of a house, but we kept loosing things as it is too big and far too much to clean!

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 Kongs all lined up, waiting to be filled with dog food and frozen.

 

 

 

762-778: Meetings Up and Sortings Out

762 – Thursday 29th June 2017:  Dan the Man

Tesco in Perth – we stocked up on the essentials….. gin and tonix, etc.

Dan the man greeted us at a wilding site on the shores of Lochwinnoch – excellent wine and food – classic rock and soul music….. another lovely evening with Dan. He showed off his new Rapido.  The  Kwalking was very wet, but that’s Scotland the Brave for you…  

 

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763 – Friday 30th June:  Driving, Driving and more Driving

Down to just S of Birmingham to a National Trust wood carpark after a detour to avoid slow M6 traffic  … why detour to avoid holdups always seem to take longer than seeing it through?

Stop at Cranston’s Food hall just off M6 in Lakes…  I used to order online … amazing meat and deli.

It was a semi peaceful night as boom boxes and kids in cars, but harmless.

764-766 – Saturday 1st to Monday 3rd July:  Bristol Blessings

We are using a new to us Camping and Motorhome Club CL at Aust …  recommended by fellow motorhome bloggers … https://thewanderlings2013.wordpress.com.  Roland is published author – if you like thrillers, check out his books.

A fair amount of socialising for the next couple of days … We attended a Saturday afternoon rock theme garden party in Bradley Stoke.  Had a Sunday pm supper at pub with S&K, followed by interesting cheese, including Gouda with pesto and Pine nuts and Goats cheese Brie from Cranston’s. Then on Monday we were Double Dating … K lunch with Thelma and J lunch with Sylvie and then onto repairs in FLT … moving onto Alison’s for a yummy roast chicken dinner.  Slept kerbside outside her house.

767-771 – Tuesday 4th to Saturday 8th July :  Farnham Frolics

Tuesday:  slight detour to fetch J’s hat from Stephen’s car, then up to Coxbridge Farm, our usual CL in Farnham, Surrey.  

Independence day BBQ:  Aged P’s delivered car and eBay 4th July paper plates and table cloth – my £8 festivity spend, compared to Brad’s tales of what people spend to decorate interiors of marquees … his holiday job is erecting and dismantling massive marquees.   Mutt finished my Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Clare the Number 43 …

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Bradi (Brad and Madi) wearing matching shoes … so well suited!

Wednesday:  Hinton Ampner Aged P’s picnic … left overs from BBQ so very easy.  Mature planing and harmonious house as last owner removed his father’s Victorian decor and reinstated the Georgian.  Supper was left overs too – cheese and salad.

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Hinton Ampner National Trust.

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Mature Planting …Oh No, that’s another photo!

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This is Mature planting!

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A perfect picnic spot – under a tree. 

Thursday:  K took Bradi (Madi and Brad) to Gatwick .. Naples.  Just on M23 and a call to say she’d left all the docs in my car!  A 20 min turn aorund to reach a motorway junction.  She apparently left them in a taxi too when changing hotels!  Bear in mind this is the girl who took charge when we did a fleeting trip to Spain a few years ago and I put the passports down in the airport!  J’s driving license application has been returned for the second time …. another doctor error!  So J delivered the papers to the surgery in the hope of collecting them this afternoon … not to be, they will be ready tomorrow.

Friday:  J drove Jez back to Bristol to the dealer, as they wanted the auto electrician to check the wiring to make sure the reason the rear view camera blows a fuse was nothing to do with the post build motorhome wiring.  So Jez was there for all of 10 mins, before he turned around and came back to Farnham.  I grabbed the opportunity to go to RHS Wisley with Mum, who is a member.  Wisley is the reason I am often left disappointed with other Botanical Gardens … it is just vast, varied and stunning.  Knowing it so well, Mutt guided me around her favourite areas for this time of year.   A couple of morning phone calls to chase up the DVLA medical form … the office staff were very helpful in that they kept nudging the Doctor … it was ready to pick up at 2.30 and was in the post back to the DVLA by 3.00!  But now we have another 2-3 weeks for the DVLA medical team to scan the form onto the system before they even start analysing it!  Ho hum.

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RHS Wisley:  3 of the Famous Five.

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Young planting – The Bowes Lyon Rose Garden.

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A small part of the best rockery, I’ve ever seen.

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Saturday:  Train up to London for lunch with Simon and Ai in a dog friendly pub.  any likeness between father and son? Not sure….

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772-776 – Sunday 9th to Thursday 13th July: Cotswold Capers

“Adventure before Dementia” is Frances and Edward’s van logo – excellent.  We met at a CS site near Moreton -in- Marsh – the only vans there – really quiet – we supped well and dined with BBQ and haute cuisine.  We toured Batsford Arboretum and the local market – Frances and K were drawn to the local gin stall – and cheese. Any changes here?

The brewery tour was the best we’ve had – all original machinery and an excellent guide.  Lunch –  massive sandwiches with Hook Norton beer at a pub where the original dray cart and horses were making a delivery.

A short four days before we parted – to meet again in September, hopefully.  

 

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The Brewery still has the the steam engine (powered by oil and now electric) machinery in place and working.

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This is where the rye is ground.

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777-778 – Friday 14th July to Saturday 15th July:  Maddy Munchkin Moments

Bradi over Friday and invited themselves to our BBQ on Saturday.  Ty for Limoncello from Sorento.  Odd jobs, including a wild abuse of the Aged P’s washing machine, they’re in France (again) so we do not have to book machine time with them!  A few more items in and out of the attic.  And a shopping trip to Guildford … new pillow £60!  

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It was half price!

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Oscar was given all these treats … not to be consumed all at once!

Jez was delivered at 7.00 (we were earlier than the rush hour traffic!) to Guildford’s Fiat Professional to have the wiring issue for the rear view camera sorted.  When they plumbed in the diagnostic computer, they identified that we’d missed a few recalls, which they sorted.  Wiring not down to Fiat after all, but thankfully the motorhome dealer agreed to pay Fiat to do a bypass fix so that our camera works.  Impressed with Fiat Guildford and again with Family Travel Centre.

Jez’s V5 has arrived with the new reg; we put the private plate on Jez which has been on retention since we changed motorhome … as we’d bought Jez on one day and travelled to France the next day, we’d had no time to sort this.  But the good news is …. we can travel to France on Monday 17th …  won’t have to delay our departure whilst we wait for it to turn up … if only J’s driving license were as quick!

 

Oscar’s Diary.

Here I am again, then (Panto line?).  Now England is like Scotland – but with too many people – probably the correct number of K9s, though.  My owners are progressing quite well with their training – I give them treats to encourage the little blighters – gin always works!   I went along with the Arboretum, market and brewery fandangos (guess who gets to stay in the van – moi!!!).  I suppose if I went out galivanting and they stayed – they would get up to no good – I know when they have that ’certain’ look in their eyes… but that’s for after the watershed – I know young folk read my diary.  

Well, before you could say “Nuclefuchen” (more of that later – and it’s not a swear word), we were in La Belle France…. after the usual GB motorway madness.

To my intimate surprise, Kensie was waiting for me – oh and Robin too…  Well, Missie was in fine form – inviting me in for a snog – but ‘Great Balls of Fire’ – I discovered ‘earwigging’ was just the ticket!!!  No, I was not snogging Robin’s ears!   Kensie and I  got along fine.. – she doesn’t have ear wax – unlike James…

The “Nuclefuchen” is a word we saw on a German caravenette (old fashioned for motorhome). It means “I want to snog your knuckle” – strange habits in Deutschland.  I’ll stick with Kensiearsnogsland. (En route from Ecosse – I’m well into the old Franglais now – we passed “Eclefeckin” which is Gallic for snogyerecclecakes, I think.

Me brain is steaming – I’m off to whisper in James’ ear – “aves vous mon dejeuner, sil vous plait, Monsieur Jacques”

Adieu, mon amis, for now…..

Whew…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

757-761 : Orkney Part 2

We have got so far behind with our posting … Blame it on the Boogie!

757 – Saturday 24th June 2017:  Trying to Shelter from the Wind

Fond farewell to our lovely friends at the Ness Meet – “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but….”

The wind was – Scottish islands quality….. robust – which means rather strong!  We manoeuvred Jez for a better angle, and slept. The wind had abated during the night and we set sail towards Loons Hide. We didn’t see lots but plenty of birds and waders – we managed to catch one in flight – a seabird/Common Gull?  The remarkable thing is – several pairs of expensive binoculars on the desk – not chained down and an open door. Could that happen in the south of England – no. But I’m being hard – there are many more millions of people down south…and it is our ‘home, generally. 

Warwick Head was even more robust in the wind so – walking aborted after J blown against the barbed wire fence and we all risked a sudden decent over the cliff edge.  Nanny naps much needed after the recent festivities….

Overnight at the Sands of Alikeness overlooking the Isle of Rousay – lovely…

 

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Loons Hide:  Others had told us they’d seen otters … we just saw common birds, like gulls, ducks and coots …. but it was very windy.  The hide was furnished with not only bird and flower books, but a couple of binoculars, which were not even chained down.  What a different world we live in up here.

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Marwick Head:  the pic does NOT show how windy it was.  We were OK until we started up the cliffs at the far end of the bay … J was blown onto barbed wire and my flared jeans acted like sails so I had no idea where each foot would land.  We aborted a fair way up. The dot on the hill top is the Kitchener Monument.  Despite high seas, Kitchener and hundreds of sailors set sail with a hold full of gold bullion to bribe the Russians to stay in the war.  The ship founded here and Kitchener and 600+ men died.  The gold was not recovered (!).  Although Kitchener was popular with the masses, he was a bit of a sod … he created concentration camps in the Boer War and was harsh in Ireland following the 1916 Uprising.  Local Orkadians put up this monument.

758 – Sunday 25th June 2017:  Geo Birdsong

A slow morning start – Mull Head walk – rain/sun – amazing echoing birdsong and steep gorges.

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The Gloop:  a sea cave that caved in … pix does not show how long it is.

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More sea stacks and a great coastline on our often very wet walk.

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We hoovered over this geo (natural chasm in the cliff) as it was sheltered from the wind and the sound of the nesting birds echoed up to us.  Quite magical.

759 – Monday 26th June 2017:  Sitting Pretty

We had planned to sail to Hoy for one day but – our spot was so pretty and sun shining that – we stayed put for a whole day – what luxury….

The “K” factor produced fresh fish for supper… her dog walking explored some Viking remains – real human bones – she resisted giving Oscar some bones to chew on!!! 

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I got to sit and knit as we’ve been too busy … and the sun came out to I even divested one of my many layers.

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I blagged a cod and small haddock from a fisherman, he refused to take any payment, but seemed surprised I was happy to gut myself.

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Guess the body part.  A local dog walker told us that there was Viking mound, remains of a monastery with its cemetery slipping into the sea at the other end of the beach.  I was going to bring a fibia (Ithink) back to James but Oscar seemed to think it was a stick for him … seemed wrong somehow to allow Oscar to play with a person’s bones, so I left it behind.  Think J was relieved.

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Northern Lighthouse staff had commissioned this boat to take them out to and island to service the lighthouse.  The boat’s alternator failed and they had to get a tow back to the mainland from a passing leisure craft.  Whilst they tied to get the motor going they did not notice the tide going out … there was no way they could get the boat up onto the trailer and the van’s real wheels were just spinning.  About 6 hours later the tide was back in enough for the boat to float and the poor chaps got off … we did offer them a drink.P1140536

Whilst the stranded boat waited, we BBQ’d.

760 – Tuesday 27th June 2017:  In Search of Wool and Washing

St Margarets Hope village is pretty but the wool K wanted was too expensive. Campsite back at Stronmess again – oven baked cod, washing and cleaning. 

761 – Wednesday 28th June 2017:  Starting the Journey South

Huge sadness at leaving the Islands but – “haste ye back”… and we definitely will return… and do some island hopping.

Arrived at the ferry to find that our booking was for tomorrow – ooops! (K:  And I pride myself on my organisation!)  But they were not busy, fortunately.  When our friends left on Monday the 1.5 hour trip took 3.5 gale force hours!  Pancake flat for us 🙂

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Sromness with Hoy in the background.

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The Point of Ness Campsite.

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The ferry passed the Old Man of Hoy.  We will definitely do some island hopping when we have more time.

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Huge hand dived scallops with the small haddock …

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… served with Stornaway black pudding, bacon, onion & cabbage mash and a sherry sauce.  Neither if us managed to finish ours … such a shame.

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Margaret and Shirley – do you recognise this?  We stayed at the RSPB Loch of the Lowes.  There was a beaver talk and apparently an obliging beaver swam past the group.  

 

746-751: Lewis, Harris and onto Brin

746 – Sunday 11th June 2017:  Dead ‘Ard in Uig 

Aird Uig campsite – managed by Finn – we conversed in a mixture of Gallic and Gaeilge ! We also talked about 1960s music – Bob Dylan et al – top man – he only charged us £10 per night instead of £15!!!  (K:  Being of a certain vintage and Irish has some benefits!)  Walked to Gallan Head – cafe unmanned – with honesty box… we are truly in God’s country…

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Over 200 service men stationed here during WWII.  The RAF left in the 1960’s and some of the buildings have now been bought and turned into small houses.  The Head was recently bought by the community who want to preserve it and make it more accessible.

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746 – Monday 12th June:  Valtos and Reef Beaches

Slightly later start to Monday – a good brisk walk to Valtos village and Reef Beach – showers in Jez and BBQ – a good life (again) ?

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Reef beach – the campsite is in the dunes just off to the right.  Completely made up of shells and Oscar and I collected some, including some unusual small bright pink ones.

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Valtos beach – all white sand here.

747 – Tuesday 13th June:  Back into Harris and Distillery

Why do ginstilleries draw us inexorably? Harris gin distillery visit in Tarbert – tours all booked up but a nice tasting and appropriate purchase, of course…. Seaweed is used as a botanical but K used a pink grapefruit instead.  Jez was pointed to a nice small overnight beach spot near the Sealam Museum Centre – another quiet evening…

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Our overnight at the edge of a slipway … busy with people collecting rope and wood, presumably to decorate their gardens.  K had a good chat with a local artist, wife and two small girls.  They try to grow their own food as much as possible but the winter winds kill their crops and they’re thinking about home ed. for the girls.  

748 – Wednesday 14th June:  Inclement in St Clemments

Sealam Centre – lots of information about families who emigrated to Canada, USA and Australia the – dreaded ‘clearances’. The town of Leverburgh brought rain and we considered a pub lunch but not at £15 per head, just for J’s scampi! It hd been recommended to us, but must have been an ‘ on-budget’ day!

Coming up to the east coast of Harris, called the Bays, the scenery changed to rocky and barren – not unlike Connemara – evidence of more ‘clearances’ people forced off their land to here to make way for landlords with large profitable sheep farms – fishing was an extra income option but it was barely subsistence living – and then the potato blight arrived to force more emigration – so Ireland wasn’t  the only country to suffer…  

Full wet weather gear on to give O a quick walk and visit St Clement’s Church in Rodel – 1520’s

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Stairs up so far in the tower, but the final level is only accused by a step ladder, which was missing.  Not that the views would’ve been much in the rain.

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Lots of tombs to the MacLeod clan.

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 St Clement’s church graveyard contained a headstone marking the last resting place of Mary MacLeod who asked to be buried face down – ’to stop her lying mouth’ – why?   And only aged 16!

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Unfertile rocky land where families tried to scratch a living.  This side of S Harris is now more notably home to artists and craftsmen.

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748 – Thursday 15th June:  Back to the Mainland

Back to Skye across the Kyle of Lochaish Bridge – CL on the west bank of Loch Ness – services complete before a Wildcamping meet near inverness. Excellent morning run to a waterfall…. 

 

749-751 – Friday 16th-Sunday 18th June:  Brin Motorhome Meet

Shopping in Inverness and then to Brin motorhome meet – lots of old friends including Shirley, Margaret, Poppy and Boo…. Escoffier evening – top food – campfire late into the evening/early morning – K managed to stay late-ish……

Weekend pilates for K and both Margarets – and running.  A group of us walked uphill (a lot) to meet our group from the other direction at the halfway point.  Evening saw food and music – harpist and Adrian from Holland playing Scottish bagpipes – and the combo of moi, Shirley and Margaret singing along to some old classics – my chords were OK after a 50 year absence form the guitar!  Another ‘late’ night…. (K:  Funnily enough, J seemed to slope off before me!)

Lunch at the Dore’s Inn – Scampi and chips for me and soup for K, followed by most excellent puds.  K and Shirley walked to Flichty House to check out brother Tim’s garden – impressive.  A lovely meet with some top people and over £800 raised for the Neil MacKenzie Trust.

As we faced a 4.5 hour drive tomorrow, west off at 5:00 pm to make most of the journey tonight – Lybster Harbour welcomed us for the night – peacefully, as always….. zzzzzs 

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Walk … clever mini bus manoevering … drop one lot of walkers at the start and the second lot at the end.  We weren’t sure if we’d been given all the uphill!

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Still going uphill as we passed the other party and remembered to hand over the mini bus keys.

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Great Views at the top and then it was finally downhill :).

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Celtic Harp came to entertain us.

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A Dutch Scottish bagpiper.

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And our very own James, Margaret and Shirley.

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Our overnight at Lybster Harbour.

 

 

752-756: Orkney Part 1

752 – Monday 19th June 2017:  Start of Orkney Meet

Our ferry from Scrabster was loaded with wild camping.co.uk motorhomes bound for our week long meet – 50% discount on fares for wildcampers 🙂 – we saved £117!  On site, we met people from the meet at Brin and new friends Jim & Pat and David & Sanchia + Ross, the family K9…  We’d hooked up through the forum to join the tour guide Jim and Pat had booked for two days.  As a get to know each other and see if the entire male dogs would get on van sharing for the tours we went for a walk and then drinks in our Jez.  Evening came and evening went, more gin and wine – cheese and biscuits for supper – a late evening – why not?  Dogs did not play nicely, just like children … you want them to get on and they don’t … Oscar was very grumbly.  

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So many ‘vans on this crossing they had to corral us on the quayside.  A sense of excitement … another adventure.

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Oscar ready to drive on board.  Little does he know, this is Northlink Ferries, not Calmac of the Outer Hebrides … he has to stay in the van for the crossing.

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Turn right, then left out of Stromness and straight onto the Ness Campsite, which has been taken over by the wildcamping happy campers.  Excellent facilities with a free washing machine (I was not the only one to make good use of it!) and good off lead dog walking.

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View from the campsite across to Stromness port.  You feel the ferry’s vibrations before you see it pass.  Lots of seals in the other direction.  

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The two day tour crew .. David, Pat, Jim and Sanchia.  We spent every evening, two full days and consumed a LOT of booze (fellow gin and whisky drinkers) with these guys and got on really well.

753 – Tuesday 20th June 2017:  Day One Tour

We are being “Neolithicised” big time and loving it!  Helen our tour guide is amazing and lives every story … she comes from Portsmouth, has an archaeology degree, is a Druid High Priestess, used to be a teacher and now a tour guide … with a difference.  She weaves landscape, fact and her own spiritual interpretation into what went on.  Did you know that hunter gathers used what nature provided and took only what they needed … they had lots of leisure time and created jewellery and art.  The farmers came along and invented a high workload and stress, and farming started here in Orkney … it was warmer and less windy then!

A full day and weary on our return.  Pat Dalton to the rescue … what can you do with corned beef?  Chilli of course – yummy.  K has bought a tin as a standby for us … so versatile.  

The Rolling Stones of Stennes carry no moss but beautifully crafted in 3000 bc.

 

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The Standing Stones of Stenness – 3000BC:  originally 12 monoliths surrounded by a ditch 2m deep.  This hearth like stone is in the centre and the two upright align with a mound … the green hump you can just make out.

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A view across to the mountains of Hoy … the landscape plays a large part in where these spiritual / religious sites are built.  The Hoy mountains look like a pregnant woman; as you move around the island she seems have given birth.  Valleys lead to this site too and it is very fertile.  There would have been 12 standing stones, but the local farmer was fed up with tourists disturbing his sheep, so he blasted a number of them – he was removed from the island!  Only 4 remain and one stone still has the plug where the dynamite was to go.

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Nearby is Barnhouse village:  15 houses with central hearths and beds.  Two larger structures may have been used for worship as at midsummer the setting sun shines directly down the entrance passage way.

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The Ring of Brodgar:  of 60 stones only 27 remain upright and is a perfect circle 103.7 diameter.  Again a large ditch surrounds it.  Work is being done to improve paths so there was some fencing up.

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The area is a also a RSPB nature reserve so a lot of ground nesting birds.  The bog cotton just glows.  The relationship with the landscape with water, land and sky is very strong.

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Skara Brae neolithic village, inhabited from 3100BC to 2600 BC:  this is a reconstruction showing the central hearth and stone wells that would have contained water for storing fish and keeping food cool.  Each house has a dresser or alter.  A small side room was probably used for storage. 

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Discovered in 1850 when a storm removed sand dunes.  Not sure how long nature will be kept at bay before the rest of the village is destroyed … the site is on UNESCO’s at risk list.  The houses are joined by a street. They had drains, stone dressers, beds, cupboards and water tanks.  Some cells with drains may have been toilets.  It is not known how the roofs were made, but conjectured that whale bones or wood supported straw and turf.  They found bones, tools, jewellry and grooved stone where … it could have been decorated with finger nail markings.

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These two houses were the original ones and a newer village was built on top, using the midden (compacted waste) as footings.

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There was a place for everything.

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The wind seems to always be strong here and this little fellow had moved in!

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So well preserved.

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I had a hat from Lewis, and J has one from Orkney.

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Yesnaby Castle and a rocky coastline walk.

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754 – Wednesday 21st June 2017:  Summer Solstice & Kirkwall

Abed at 1000 hrs – and alarm went off at 1:30 am!!!  We had never been to a summer Solstice Druid ceremony – and a wedding – at 3:00 am in a field! But what a field of magic and spells (Harry Potter, where are you?).  Helen and her husband Mark performed the ceremony and service – hand fastening and then ale and honey cakes for all – the moon and the sun made an appearance although the sun was a little late.  A great shame about people at the back who disrespectfully talked all through!  The spiritualism was all pervading regardless of one’s religion… 

5:00 a.m. nightcap in Jez – and zzzzzs… followed by a cooked brekkie for J.

Kirkwall in the p.m. – St Magnus’ cathedral – more soft sandstone a la Petra – lovely again – a glass of cider and meeting a lady from Washington DC and her partner from Orkney.  

Campsite bonfire and beef cooked by a wild camping.co.uk crew – K was a little late-ish to slumber….. (K:  I was chatting, not drinking though!)

The Highland Park Distillery provided the tour and tasting – with (you’ve guessed it) – whiskyurchases…. (PS – don’t tell Grahame Leslie…) 

A surprise visit by a piper band through the campsite – amazing music again…

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Mark, husband to our tour guide is a Druid Priest at the summer solstice … he blew a horn to call on the spirits, but this one contained beer which we shared, as well as honey cake.

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A lyre and drum: the ceremony is bardic.  I refrained from nudging J into reciting one of his poems.

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We did not see the sun come over the hills until we were back on the bus.

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Beware cooks with cleavers!  Kirkwall St Magnus Cathedral built from 3 stones including red sandstone which gives it such a warm glow.  Construction started over 875 years ago, by the nephew of Magnus Erlendson.  in 1103 Magnus and his cousin succeeded to the Earldom, but by 1117 they’d fallen out and they agreed to meet on an island with two ships each … the cousin pitched up with 8!  A no contest and the cook was ordered to kill Magnus with a meat cleaver … Magnus’ relicts were buried on Birsay and miracles were said to be taking place.  The church was paid for by local farmers under some duress and the architect came from Durham.  Magnus’ remain were eventually brought to the cathedral and a new pilgrimage walk, St. Magnus’ Way runs across the island; we’ve seen lots of the way markers.

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My 2nd cousin and godfather has been investigating the family name … I need to read through his notes and see if this Leslie is mentioned; we know they were in Scotland.

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Key dates at the Highland Park whisky distillery:  founded in 1798 and currently (about to be challenged) the most northerly Scottish distillery.  The original owner was a church officer and on hearing that the excise men were about to pounce, he put all his barrels into a coffin, called the locals to the funeral and muttered ‘smallpox’ to the customers men, who hot footed it away.

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Whilt 80% of the barley is imported from the mainland, 20% of actually still peat smoked here.  No longer turned by hand and shovel, a machine now does it.

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The kiln fires start with peat fires to imbibe the malted barley with the flavour and then with smokeless coal to dry it out.  We could smell the peat as we approached the distillery.

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The stills:  twice distilled.

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A lovely surprise – a local wildcamper had organised  the pipers whilst we ate a communal beef stew and apple pie.

755 – Thursday 22nd June 2017:  Day Two Tour

Helen guided us again – the intrepid 6 – to St Magnus’ pilgrimage path – forest and kissing gates – and the earthouse with short steep ladder down…

At Birsay, the sky opened up and was the most spectacular blue! 

Puffins, ice cream and the farm museum – then to “Twattsville”!  

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Binscarth Plantation.  Kissing gate … has to be done!

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Orkney is pretty treeless due to the wind, but the Laird had had a small wood planted.  This is also on the St Magnus Way.

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Communing with nature.

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Rennibster Earthhouse in the middle of a working farm … and yes we were climbing down there. Once down there was a small room, probably an iron age house’s subterranean cellular with a tunnel, but it could have been a spiritual room, devoid of outside noise and light.

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 Is Pat going to drop the lid on David?

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Tomb of the Dogs, so called as dog bones were found within.  Amazing – no entrance fee and a metal gate to pull open and then crawl inside.

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Beautifully evenly built.  There were chambers off and apparently the acoustics between them were superb. 

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Birsay a tidal island off the NW. 

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Pictish engravings.

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C12th Nordic Viking church. 

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The church is surrounded by figure of 8 Pictish houses.  There are drains and a bath house.

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We lifted a slab to see a perfectly formed round stone well. 

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Great rocky cliffs on the other side of the island and the sun had come out 🙂

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The reason for walking round the island … to see the Puffins … I had to lean over on my tummy (J’s vertigo kicked in, so he kept back with Oscar), but only had J’s wide angle lens :(, but you can make out one on the right stood on the rock and one under use bronze lichen rock.  Kerstin – this one’s for you … hope you saw them in Northumberland!

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Rock pools so clear.

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The Earl’s Palace late C16th.  Built by Earl Robert Stewart (half brother to Mary Queen of Scots) using local conscripted labour.  So sumptuous, it even had toilets.

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Orkney ice cream is pretty special.

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Kirbuster Farm Museum:  Two brothers worked here until 1960/70’s (we think) and it was another special moment being sat in the amazing Orkney chairs (driftwood and straw) talking about and touching the items. The central peat fireplace was offset from the roof chimney so the wind and rain did not put it out.  The brothers had put plasterboard over the alls and papered them.  

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A heather hearth or washing up brush.

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The date on the lintel is upside down to ward off evil spirits.

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Whale bone gate entrance.

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It had to be done … not a twatt in sight!

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Some of the skies have just been amazing.

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Broch of Gurness:  Iron Age to Pictish times.  The Broch is similar to the one we visited in Lewis, although less well preserved, BUT it has a small Pictish village around it AND defensive ditches.

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756 – Friday 23rd June 2017:  Maeshowe, Churchill Barriers, Italian Chapel & Tomb of the Eagles

Friday, is it, already?  Only 1 day left of our meet…  Maeshow House tomb – crawling on all 4s for 10 metres and Sarah our lovely guide who ‘sparked’ the story…

PM and the Tomb of the Eagles – eagle bones and human remains – most informative museum and talks…

The Italian Chapel built nearby by Italian POWs – their country transported to Orkney – hand painted stained glass windows – how to make a chapel from 2 Nissan huts.  En route, we crossed the Churchill barriers – made to join the small islands with the mainland – some WW2 wrecks to remind us of the courage of the soldiers and seamen form both sides – the futility of war…

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Maeshowe Tomb – no pics allowed inside.  Similar to other tombs, with side chambers, but with massive slabs of stone making the walls.  Some Viking engravings.

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Iron Age house at Tomb of the Eagles.

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Inside the Tomb of the Eagles.  The Museum was the star here, as there were talks in two of the rooms and handling experiences for some of the artefacts found.

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Amazing glow of buttercups everywhere, as well as so many species of wild flowers.

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Crossing one of Churchill’s Barriers and a sunken vessel.

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The St George and the Dragon was fashioned by an Italian prisoner out of barbed wire and covered with concrete; both materials had a plentiful supply – one to keep them in and the other to build Churchill’s barriers!

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The Italian prisoners had a theatre, built paths and planted flower beds, but lacked a church.  In late 1943 two Nissan huts were placed end to end; one to be a church and the other a school.  It was lined with plasterboard and coated in concrete.  

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The interior is painted to look like brick.  Restored in 1960 by the original artist Chiocchetti and later in 2015.  Another inmate created the wrought iron candelabra, rood screen and gates.

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Chiocchetti painted the Madonna and child from a card his mother had given him when he left for the war.

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I just found this concrete face of Jesus really soulful.

 

Oscar’s Diary:

Well now…  I’ve been corralled in Jez for museums, archyfax, toooombs and a wedding at sunrise…!  Who wants to be weddingfried in the middle of the night? Blinking Nora indeed. Beds to go to?  If Kensey and I get wed – we’ll do it in daylight and she can carry me across the chessboard and have her way with me – oops, too much detail? I could be knight to her queen…. then checkmate!

As Hagrid would say “there’s something very right here, Harry…..

Yakky-da for now (that’s Welsh you know…).  The GB Lions need Hagrid and Tom Jones in the scrum for the next test and Harry with his Quiddich broomstick, too…..