Saturday, August 18, 2018

Milestones, canals, gardens and fretwork.

How can three months seem like a long time and yet a short time at the same time ?

My England trip was way back in May.  That really wasn't that long ago, but it seems like like ages.  

Given the nature of my quirky memory I need to see pictures before I can recall events.  However I don't need to see a photo to help me remember WHY I visited England just one year after going there.   

How could I NOT be there  for Audrey Swindells' 90th birthday !

Almost 50 of us joined her on for a five hour tour on a canal boat on the River Avon.    There were speeches and songs and much love as we endeavored to show our affection and respect for this remarkable woman.  

And there was a wonderful surprise.  Copies of a book Audrey had written were picked up from the printer and brought aboard as an extra special birthday surprise.  I'm sure her hand must have cramped from autographing copies for us.

The younger generation gather on the back of the boat with Audrey for a group shot.

Oh my it was a wonderful day, and the partying continued at her wonderful home in Bath.  

Audrey and her wonderful "children".

I felt so privileged to represent the Canadian relatives at this marvellous event.


Knowing how much I love nature and the English countryside I got taken for a couple of magical rambles.

Josie took me for an wonderful walk  through pastoral country fields that looked too bucolic to be real...

While Sylvie treated me to a visit to 

these are community gardens but not like any I've seen in Canada.  For a small annual fee folk have access to their garden plot year-round.  The gardens are much bigger than any I've seen.

And people don't just garden them.  They put up structures and include little ponds.
Notice there's even a garden on the roof of this delightful quirky shed.  


I had left behind a Spring in Canada that hadn't really arrived and found the full-fledged lush Spring of England over-whelming.


The most surprising event of my trip was making a connection with a certain S.M.

S.M. had contacted me a while back on my account.  He'd written to me out of the blue to ask if Elizabeth Dodge was a relation ?  She was my great grandmother who married my great grandfather, James Tupman.  He wondered if I had a photo of her.  And I was happy to oblige.  

We chatted a bit on-line and S.M. revealed to me that he had an interest in memorial pieces.  He said he'd found a fascinating item in an antique store in the mid 1980's and had bought it.  It had been his treasured possession since then.

This memorial piece was created by her grieving husband, James whose hobby was doing fretwork.
What an amazing piece of family history.

But the most amazing thing of all is that S.M. generously offered to give me this priceless family treasure !  I live in Canada and he lives in Wales.  Hmmmmm.   On a particular day he said he'd be travelling back from London while I was staying in Bath.  We arranged to meet in a tea shop on the Pultney Bridge in Bath; and magically we met up.

You can tell from the look on my face how thrilled and amazed I was.  What a generous thing for a complete stranger to do.  It now hangs on the wall of my bedroom where I can look at it every day.

Getting it back to Canada proved to be not as problematic as I'd thought; as the flight attendants allowed me to tuck it into a special compartment at the front of the plane.

Lucky me !

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

I promised I'd show you our visit to the newest castle in in England; hope you didn't get too excited waiting.  If so, I apologize as the newest castle in England wasn't really worth waiting for; or visiting with one unexpected exception.

Castle Drogo is a country house / castle constructed between 1911 and 1930 for Julius Drewe a self-made millionaire.  Pretty much from the time it was built the roof leaked !   

There is scaffolding and plastic up the side of the castle hiding it from prying eye.  For the sum of around $18 each we got to climb 58 steps to gaze upon the work being done there.   I had the naive thought that once climbed I would see more than an unfinished roof.   

I certainly didn't expect a 20 minute detailed talk on the making of shingles and waterproofing of same.  Perhaps if I was an engineer I would have found it scintillating; but I'm not and I didn't.

Having wild ADD I just couldn't pay attention to the talk of tar and seals and shingles, but giggled like a naughty schoolgirl with Louise while her daughter tried to pretend she was not with us.  Those hard hats that we had to wear had a dial that you could turn and tighten on the back.  That proved to be too much of a temptation for me ...

After climbing down from the scintillating talk on the roof we did get to tour one open wing of the castle.

Inside I was impressed by this lovely piece of artwork.  

It represents the first leaking drop that fell from the leaking roof; I kid you not.

This piece of art in the basement next to the private chapel was quite touching.

It represents workers vanishing as they go off to war.


But it was the grounds and gardens that dazzled me.     After all, Spring in Nova Scotia with blooming flowers and sweet scents in the air was still a month away.

The formal gardens and stunning views were stunning to these Winter-weary eyes.

From there Phoebe and Louise took me to visit a pub located next to the ancient Fingle bridge.  Just driving around the country lanes is a feast for the eyes.   

Of course I had to follow that intriguing trail.  I wasn't disappointed.


Even the drive home along country roads was magical ...

Friday, June 15, 2018

Onward to Exmouth ...

I had bought all my train tickets before I'd ever left Canada; doing it that way can save you a lot of money.  The only catch is that the tickets are for a set day and a set time and not changeable. 

The ticket doesn't have a gate number on it.  Upon arriving at the train station passengers park themselves in front of a large board listing upcoming departures waiting for their train to arrive, get cleaned and be ready to go again.

Be warned -- you must be on the train 40 seconds prior to the departure time as the doors will be locked.   And yes, the trains do run on time.

The train ride from London to Exmouth was just over three hours with a couple of changes


Exmouth is toward the bottom left of England situated at the mouth of the tidal River Exe on the Atlantic.  

Walking from the train station to the guest house where I would be staying, I took photo after photo to help me recall  first impressions of cross walks ...

of roof lines, 

and wisteria,

and flowers growing in impossible places.

Once at the guest house I was in for a bit of a surprise; my en-suite bathroom didn't include a toilet !  Apparently in England "bathroom" does not equal "toilet".  The toilet was down the hall.

After I settled in,  I met up with my Exmouth family and they took me to the shore of the River Exe for the quintessential  English welcome dinner;  

Phoebe, Louise and Kieran

fish and chips by the sea !

It was a wonderful start to the visit.

My cousin Louise and her daughter Phoebe both had taken time off work to show me around.  

Visiting a castle was #1 on my go-to list.   This is Powderham Castle and it fit the bill quite nicely.  We weren't allowed to take photos inside as it is a private home.  Well lah-dee-dah !

I love castles but am coming to understand that they are emblematic of a very well-defined class system that exists to this day.

The Earl of Devon, his wife (a former "Baywatch" babe) and their adorable entitled children live in another building on the 9,000 acre estate so that we commoners can tour the castle and help them cover the cost of keeping up appearances.   

The map of the grounds was a bit ambiguous and the trail I went to explore proved to be much longer than I expected.

Nevertheless the scenery was stunning; birds chirped, butterflies flitted and the scent of Spring was heavy in the air.

These roots on an old wall look like they could be hiding a Hobbit hole.

Hard not to just walk and walk and walk ... heck there weren't even any mosquitoes to spoil the day.  

Even the drive back to town on one of England's typical country roads was an adventure;

with barely enough room for two cars to pass.

Our next outing was to visit was the newest castle in England.   But that story is for another day.