Owen and Julie in the UK

Lauren and Gareth's Wedding

Owen and Julie in the UK

France 2013.


UK Pics 7

UK Diary 3

I have added a video page. There are an assortment of videos, descriptions attached. Download before trying to view, it will avoid buffering issues. See the link above.


AN ONGOING MAP OF OUR TRIP, THE RED LINE (the blue line been added for the 2016 visit to UK)

NOTE: If you have trouble reading this text, try holding the CTRL button and pressing the "+" key. You can use either + key, the one near the backspace or the number pad one. This will magnify the page. You can do it again to make it larger still, or use CTRL and "-" to reduce the size.

A preamble. Just to give an idea of the terms used here, England uses the metric/imperial system of measurement, which means its a dogs breakfast. Distances and speeds are in miles and MPH. Milk is in pints, fuel is in litres, temperature is Celcius. Fortunately, time is in hours and minutes. One mile is 1.6 Km. Also, I will talk in GBP (Great Britain Pounds) because I don't have a pounds sign on my keyboard and I have better things to do than look for one. 1 GBP equals A$1.50 in round terms. (STOP PRESS: I have found a £ sign. How good is that. I will commence using the £ as of 23 May.) Our motorhome is 6.7m/22' long, 2.3m/7'6"wide (thats very wide on 6'6" roads) and 2.76m/9'1" high. It can sometimes be a tad scary to drive when tiny laneways have no speed limit! The home is a 2.2l diesel Ford Transit that surprisingly gets 30mpg/9.4l/100km fuel economy. Now that's out of the way, enjoy the read.

Finally, we got away early morning Sunday 1st April. Left on time at 6AM Perth time, 11 hour flight to Dubai with an hour stopover which meant about 20 minutes between gates. 7 hour flight then to Heathrow. No problems, but by the time we got to our hotel in Marble Arch, we had been up for over 26 hours and starting to feel a tad on the weary side.

Monday, we organised our UK Sim cards, along with a portable 3G wifi hotspot for the iPad and the laptop so we are totally connected again.

3 April. Went to Cranham Motorhomes, an hour away on the train. Had a choice of about 25 in our price and needs range. Took 4 hours, but we singled it down to a Burstner home on a Ford Transit chassis. Only a 2.2 litre diesel, but should cope with the load. Pick it up next Tuesday so it will cost us another night at Marble Arch. It doesn't help that the Monday is Easter Monday.

4th April. Had our personal walking tour of London courtesy of Peter and Margaret Sinfield (Kate's parents). We were amazed at how close everything was and how much we could see in such a short time. Almost everything really needs more time, but we now have a good idea of our way around London. Saw Hyde Park again (it IS close to here) Buckingham Palace, Whitehall, Big Ben, Westminster Bridge, St Pauls Cathedral (amazing) and a whole lot more. Wonderful day, thanks Peter and Margaret.

5th April. A freezing cold day with gusty winds, almost reminiscent of Melbourne in winter. Took in the Tower of London and managed to escape with my head, but no crown jewels.

6th April. Another very cold day, but no wind. Went to Leicester Square to get tickets to "We Will Rock You" tonight and "The Mousetrap" tomorrow night. Carnaby St, Soho and the West End are all pretty cool. Headed to Kensington Palace in the afternoon, followed by a stroll back to the hotel via Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. We Will Rock You was a great show. As most would know, it is based on the music of Queen. Very slick production.

7th April. Down to Knightsbridge and popped into Harrods. A fascinating store where you can buy a 50,000 pound watch (that's pounds money, not pounds weight) or a 50 pence apple. Bought a tin canister of 50 Harrods brand tea bags for 8 quid (need a pound sign on my keyboard) just to get the tin! From there to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Excellent museum, but huge. Took in a fraction of it. Bit of shopping at Marks and Spencer, a quick rest then into the West End again for a Spanish tapas dinner and then to St Martin's Theatre for The Mousetrap. The show was OK, somewhat dated now, but had to go as it is a London theatre icon. Like not going to Tower of London if you miss "The Mousetrap". Amazing that it has been going for 60 years. Walked home through Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, the latter particularly spectacular at night.

8th April, Easter Sunday. Went to St Pauls Cathedral for the 1130 service. The trains were not running on the central line, so we had to catch a bus. Wasn't sure we would make it in time but got there with 10 minutes to spare. Wasn't a bad service, and is a great way of seeing the cathedral from the inside. Gave Julie her Easter spiritual lift. Walked home stopping along the way to see the sights.

9th April. Did a tour of Westminster Abbey. What an amazing place. Parts over 1000 years old and the detail and intricacy is stunning. Highly recommend this one.

10th April. Checked out of the Marble Arch Thistle Hotel. Finally got the call I was waiting for reference our insurance cover on the motorhome as we walked out of the door of the hotel on our way to pick it up. Took the train to Upminster to collect the van. Finally got away about 3pm, after getting 2 new batteries (the old ones were a tad suspect) and a few essentials for the van. Hit Ikea so hard, I think the Swedes will wonder what hit them. Got all the bedding, cutlery, crockery and incidentals, then some more from other stores. Checked in at Abbey Wood camping area for 2 nights, now extended to 4, and had our first night in the van !!!

11 April. OK, we froze. It was nice under the doona but it was cold as hell out of it. Our van has gas heating, but we have to pay for the gas. Today, we bought an electric fan heater so if we are paying for a powered site, we might as well get some value out of it. All we did today was shop for more necessities and did some washing. It is amazing how much is required to set up a home from scratch. I think we have just about got everything we need now.

12 April. Took the train to Elephant and Castle station (gotta love the names) and wound our way to the Imperial War Museum. I had heard a lot about the museum and only when we got inside (it's OK, it was free admission) did I find out that it was really the Duxton annex of the IWM that I wanted to see. That's the one with with all the aircraft in it. Despite that, it was very interesting.

13 April. Our last full day at Abbey Wood. Caught the train to Erith, 2 stations away, to do some shopping for the van. We find shopping here unusual. For instance, you can't buy an extension cord, unless you want a power board on one end of it. To get an extension cord, you have to buy the cable and plugs and make your own. Hardware stores don't seem to exist though, like home, they have B and Q, very much like Bunnings. They didn't have what we wanted either!! Managed to buy most of what we needed. I'm sure there will be more, but for now, we have all we need.
In the afternoon, we went to Lesnes Abbey Ruins on the side of the hill about 500m from the caravan park. No doubt, this is just the first of many ruins we will see. They dated back to 1147, so pretty old.

14 April. Made the move from Abbey Wood to Theobald Park which is in Waltham, north of London. We stopped in at Greenwich Observatory which was not on the way, but thought we should see it. Heading back from there, we stopped at the Thames Barrier. Don't go there if you have anything larger than an average car. The drive from there via the M25 to Waltham was very very tiring. Motorway stuff with Tomtom giving us vague directions, poor signage etc, and when we got to the park, I was knackered. The reason for being here is to be close to Peter and Margaret. Once we catch up with them again, the plan is to head towards Dover and start the real open road adventure. Have 3 nights here. Nowhere near as nice as Abbey Wood, but it is cheaper, so I guess everything is a trade off. Went to the local pub for a drink before dinner. A classic old English pub called the Pied Bull. Had the ceiling where you have to duck under the beams. Met a couple of local guys, Scott and Andrew, who were very entertaining Quiet night in the van tonight.

15 and 16 April. A couple of lay back days. Walked into Cheshunt one day, Enfield the next. Caravan park is almost deserted, but then, it's not near anything, so not surprising. Had a pub meal which was pretty good. Wines I am not so sure about, but there are plenty of good Aussie wines at almost the same price we pay at home. The Italian reds are pretty good, but we need to sample a few more to make a decision. Only had the one French red and that was very ordinary. It has been very cold for these 2 days, now we look forward (?) to a week of rain. Julie thought she was going to be missing winter but she's not.

17 April. Left Theobald Park and headed for Margaret and Peter's place in Buckhurst Hill. Miserable weather but it brightened up enough to do a walk through Epping Forest with afternoon tea at a new tea house on the edge of the forest. Two excellent meals with great wines and great company. We took the opportunity to pick their brains working out a route to follow. We did that, and decided we are going to run out of time. 5 months just isn't enough. Spent the night in the Sinfield Manor.

18 April. Left Buckhurst Hill after launching the Queen Mary (we "docked" her last night) and headed for Cambridge. Weather was still decidedly ordinary and Julie was stressed from the drive so we checked in at Cherry Hinton Caravan Park. Then walked a mile to the Tesco Extra Superstore and bought a few more things for the home.

19 April. Caught the bus into Cambridge. You don't drive anything into Cambridge, least of all a motorhome. We discovered that yesterday. Did some bike shopping, and while I really wanted electric bikes, at $1500 each for decent ones, we opted for one foldup pedal bike. Then went into central Cambridge for a look around and found Kings College. The chapel is amazing. Took 90 years to build, much like the Perth Arena. Leaving there, I rode the bike back, Julie caught the bus and I won by 20 minutes.

20 April. My turn for sightseeing. Did the Imperial War Museums Duxford branch. I can't think of enough superlatives to describe this display. So very well done on every level. Spent about 6 hours there, saw everything, and even Julie wasn't bored for a moment. Even if you are not an aircraft nut, this has to be up there on the "must do" list for UK.

21 April. Went to Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge. An amazing place that was restored and added to by a very wealthy man, Lord Fairhaven. He had an art collection that many major art galleries would kill for. We have never seen so many John Constable paintings in one place. We estimate between 100 and 200 masterpieces, and that's just the paintings. There were other significant artifacts as well. The Abbey sits on 100 acres of gardens. The estate was bequeathed to the National Trust (which we are now a member of, to get free entry into other NT sites) and had a condition that it be kept exactly as left. The Queen Mother used to stay there when she went to the races at Newmarket. Well worth the visit.

22 April. Left Cherry Hinton caravan park and headed north to Ely. The cathedral there is the only one in UK that is part of the 7 wonders of the medieval world. The main reason being the octagonal tower in the centre. We did the tour of the tower and it was very spectacular. A few photos here of it. To be standing on the roof of the cathedral and then inside, being able to look down into the interior from 100 ft up, was excellent. Apparently the experts in engineering can not work out how they managed to build it. It was started in 1073, and like most of the catholic cathedrals, had to endure the destruction of Henry the 8th and Oliver Cromwell. Those two men destroyed more history in Britain than any other means combined. It is still awesome as it is though and was again worth the trip. Later that afternoon we drove to Hythe, near Dover, where we intend to start our slow tour of the south coast.

23 April. A day off. The weather is disgusting anyway, so we are relaxing with the kindles and doing a bit of tidying up. This afternoon we have a mobile tyre fitter coming to fit new front tyres. The originals are barely legal and have lost most of their grip which is not a pleasant sensation on wet roundabouts.

24 April. Off to Canterbury, and who shall rid me of this turbulent priest?? What a wonderful city, or large town really. The original part of the city is walled (only partially now) with the cathedral taking pride of place. Another example of mind blowing architecture from such an early period. It was started in 597AD. We have trouble comprehending those sorts of dates. The original town has kept a lot of its character and has a wonderful feel about it. We could have walked around the streets for hours. Getting there in the motorhome was a breeze for a change. They have a "park and ride" facility about 2 miles out of town with a special area for parking motorhomes YES!!! On top of that, it is 2.5 pounds to park, and bus for up to 6 people. What a bargain. To get the bus in to Cambridge when we were there was 2 pound each, one way, and didn't include parking. All up, another great day. Having done more cathedrals than I can poke a stick at, tomorrow we start the castle campaign, beginning with Dover castle.

25 April. Anzac Day. We didn't make the dawn service. Had planned to go to Dover Castle today but it was pouring rain and windy and cold, so we thought rather than not enjoying it, we would have another day off. Did a few things around the van that needed doing, did some shopping, bought vegemite, YAY. Marmite is just not the same. Went to the local pub, the Botolphs Bridge, for dinner and saw the new born spring lambs in the paddocks on the way.

26 April. A nice day, but very windy. Went first to the Battle of Britain Memorial in Capel-le-Ferne, a few miles from Dover. An impressive, though basic memorial. On to Dover Castle. The view from the town driving towards it was awesome. White cliffs showing and this huge castle complex sitting on top of the hill. Postcard stuff. The tour included the secret World War 2 tunnels which were well worth seeing. Left Dover to go to Rye where we found that caravan parks shown on Google Maps don't exist, Staying at a Certified Site tonight, meaning a farmers paddock. Too wet to get to the normal parking area, so we are staying in the driveway without mains power. First time "roughing it". Just as well we have gas and 12V power, not to mention an ensuite!

27 April. Left the farm with the intention of seeing the town of Rye. After a lot of frustration trying to park, we finally parked on the side of the road near the harbour where another motorhome had parked. Rye is not motorhome friendly. In fact, I don't think a town could be more unfriendly. Every carpark had height barriers set at 2 or 2.2 metres, ours is 2.76 high. Other outer parks had signs saying "no motorhomes". There was not one legitimate place to park in the entire town. Being as there are literally thousands of motorhomes in the UK, we found that quite unsociable. Driving the motorhome around these towns is bad enough on its own! We did walk from our remote parking area into the town and had a look, but we didn't feel inclined to contribute to their economy by having morning tea there. Pretty little town really, it's just a shame they made us so unwelcome. From there we went to Hastings, of 1066 Battle of Hastings fame. It is now a large seaside resort town, what we expect to see in Brighton. We did manage to park in a motorhome friendly area on the beachfront and had a look around, but not really our cup of tea. We had booked 2 nights at the Caravan Clubs site in Battle (yes, that's the name of the town 5 miles north of Hastings) so we headed there mid afternoon.

28 April. Walked the 3 miles into Battle, a bit of drizzle but not too bad. Visited the Battle Abbey which was built by William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The battle was actually fought in Battle, just north of Hastings. I suspect the town was named after the battle, otherwise the coincidence would be far too great. The Abbey is built alongside the actual battlefield where 7000 men were slaughtered in one day. The history here is fantastic. Battle is also a wonderful village. We were planning on getting a taxi back to the caravan park anyway, but this was confirmed when the weather turned nasty. Arguably the coldest we have felt since we have been in England with lashing winds and driving rain. The cab fare cost 6.40 GBP, we would have paid many times more!

29 April. The weather started terrible again, but the rain was not so hard, so we left Battle and went the 7 miles to Bodiam Castle. Another National Trust site. We joined both the National Trust and English Heritage with an annual membership, and we will get our money back in spades on admission prices.. Bodiam was ruins, but parts have been preserved such that you could climb a couple of the towers. Saw some raptor birds there, including a vulture, a hawk and 2 different owls. Got to hold the big owl, he was really a pussycat! From there, we went to Rudyard Kiplings place in Burwash only 8 miles from the castle. The distances here are nothing like home. You can even have 2 villages 2 miles apart, but they are quite separate, and almost all the housing is still medium density. Rudyards place was pretty much as he left it. Magnificent gardens which will be far more stunning when spring actually arrives. We are a month away from summer, but spring has not yet hit properly. Finished there at about 3pm, so made a booking at the Caravan Club site in Brighton. It's a funny world, we could not get through on the phone, so we pulled over, fired up the laptop, booked online, and continued to Brighton. Quiet night in van tonight but no doubt a big day tomorrow.

30 April. Caught the bus into Brighton. Saw this incredible building that looked a bit like a mosque and a bit Taj Mahal. Checked google maps on the phone and found it was the Royal Pavilion. That was it, there was a "Royal" in the title and we had to see it. It was King George IV's pleasure home, for want of a better description. The place is amazing, almost everything is chinese in the fixtures, dragons etc. It is an example of gross self grandiosement and showing off that one could witness. The extravagance is stupendous. Having said that, what an awesome place to see. We then went through the the "Lanes" which are the original part of Brighton. They are beautiful little laneways filled with shops, most of them jewellers. We found Coccywoccydoodah in Duke St, especially for Hayley. We were a little disappointed there. While they had wonderful products on view, the range was very limited. Not to worry, we told Hayley we would get there, and we did. From there, it was off to.... Brighton Pier, that world famous attraction. OK, we are not teenagers anymore, but I'm afraid the pier did nothing for us, as did the beach of stones! Considering the pier is what Brighton is famous for, we would consider it to be a blight on what is otherwise quite a beautiful city. Dinner at the marina tonight.

1 May. A beautiful sunny day with blue skies. Still didn't get above 14C, but we are NOT complaining. Left Brighton and headed to Bognor Regis. Another south coast holiday town. Sadly, they all look a bit the same though at least here we could park the motorhome on the seafront road. Quick check of the markets there and I bought a new wallet (I had been looking for one for many years without success, and here, I find one) and a backpack for when we get serious with our walking. Then to Fishbourne Roman Palace near Chichester. This place dates from about 48BC. What can I say? I wasn't even born then. An interesting site. Staying 3 nights at Sunnydale Farm Caravan Park, between Portsmouth and Southampton. This gives us a chance to use public transport to get to both towns to do some exploring over the next 2 days. There is a ferry leaves here for Spain. 1050GBP return with the vehicle (well, car and caravan, might be less for motorhome) and it was SO tempting. One of the few days we have managed to not buy any meals, including morning and afernoon tea. I think we just saved about 30 quid!

2 May. Portsmouth. We took the train from Netley to Portsmouth and walked to the harbour area. We toured the Maritime Museum, saw the Victory and the Warrior, but the Mary Rose exhibit was closed for refurbishment, so we missed out on that one. Took a ferry tour of the harbour and was quite amazed at the number of warships there, including the Ark Royal. I knew Portsmouth was the main naval base for Britain, but was still surprised at the number, which I think was around 18 to 20 large warships. Walked around more of Portsmouth before taking the train back. I was impressed with the trains, they are the quietest and smoothest I have ever travelled on.

3 May. Southampton. We took the bus into Southampton, Britains largest commercial port. We had been told there was really nothing to see as the place had been bombed to hell and back in WW2, but were pleasantly surprised to see quite a few remnants of pre-war Southampton, including parts of the original city wall. We tried to get to the wharf area, but it was restricted, so we settled for seeing it from a distance. Managed to do some shopping, buying some things that we had trouble finding beforehand. Dinner at the Millhouse pub down the road from the park.

4 May. We had managed to book in to a caravan park in Salisbury for what here is a long weekend (bank holiday to the locals). Left Netley Abbey and had a casual drive to Salisbury, though got caught in a traffic jam at midday! Had plenty of time to spare and Salisbury is walking friendly, so we walked in to the cathedral. What a place. I would have thought that a cathedral is a cathedral is a cathedral, but even knowing that Salisbury cathedral is special, is was well worth the visit. The main thing is the spire, and we did the tower and spire tour, getting us to the top if the main tower, where the spire itself starts. This was all behind the scenes stuff. The building practices that were used, the 750 year old timbers, the repairs that have been done, it was incredible. Couldn't ascertain the number of people who must have died building something as grand as this back in the 1200's (it was started in 1220), but it would have been many. Arrived at the cathedral at 2pm, left after 5, so that gives you an idea of how intriguing it was. Back to the van for a home cooked meal.

5 May. Walked back to Salisbury Carhedral, because we ran out of time yesterday to do the lot. Showed the ladies our ticket from yesterday and put on my pleading eyes, they let us in again! Our main item to see was the Magna Carta. Written in 1215 on a preborn calves skin (apparently that was the best parchment) there were 12 to 15 copies made. Only 4 remain, and the best one (so they told us at Salisbury Cathedral) is the one at Salisbury Cathedral. I asked if I could buy it for Mat Stone as a present, seeing he is doing law, but my offer of 5 pound was rejected. Seriously though, the script on this parchment that is almost 800 years old is quite unbelievable. The quality is such that it could have been printed yesterday. Besides the fact I can't read medieval latin, it is entirely legible. The artistry of the script only proves that since 1215, handwriting has gone downhill. It may sound odd, but seeing a single sheet of printed calf hide has been a huge highlight. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed, even without flash, so no pictorial record. The rest of the day was casual, shopping at the weekly market and doing general chores. Julie also took in a National Trust house near the cathedral. Dinner at Waitroses Cafe (thats like K Mart) where you can even have a wine, a bit of shopping, and back to the van. One thing about today, it was COLD COLD COLD. Apparently we are approaching summer, but it seems to get colder every day!! We are looking forward to double figure temperatures.

6 May. Walked up the hill to Old Sarem Castle and Cathedral. All ruins, but you could easily see how impressive they would have been in their day. The Sarem Cathedral was the forerunner to Salisbury Cathedral. Back into town again in the afternoon. I needed to sort some problems out with "3" mobile and we did some wandering as well. Julie decided she would stay for the evensong service at Salisbury Cathedral and was not disappointed. Extended our stay here for another night. This weekend is a long weekend here and we were due out on the Monday holiday. Bad idea, so we are now leaving on the Tuesday.

7 May. Started off with miserable weather again, so we took it easy, catching up on our reading. Went back in to Salisbury in the afternoon and the sun actually came out long enough for us to have an alfresco afternoon tea on the banks of the Avon River. A bit more shopping and back home. Nothing really touristy today.

8 May. Stonehenge. We had made up our minds that we would probably be disappointed with Stonehenge before we got there. Fortunately, it was completely the opposite. The place has a majesty and mysticism about it. It almost has a presense. Quite stunning in a 5000 year old way. Very glad we went. The to Devizes, home of nothing in particular. The caravan park is 3.5 miles from Devizes but has a local pub around the corner at least. The park backs on to the main canal from somewhere in the east and goes through Bath to Bristol. It a navigable canal and there were quite a few canal boats moored close by. Dinner at the local pub, The Three Magpies, tonight, where I tried my first real English Beer! Tried 2 different ones from Wadworth, the local brewers here in Devizes. Quite drinkable really, and far more appropriate to the climate than a cold lager.

9 May. As if Stonehenge wasn't enough, we had to check out Avebury Henge. Avebury is a village about 12 miles north of Divizes which is built on top of a very large stonehenge type of site. This one dates back to around 4000BC. A couple of pictures soon to be posted that really don't show the scale or scope of what this is all about. To have a village where the people work and live amongst this sort of history is staggering, given that the village is right in the middle of this henge. On the way back, we bought a pair of wellington boots each. The mud here is worse than Windy Hill on a wet July day in 1976 (that is Essendons old home ground for the uninitiated, and for the initiated, I should have said Moorabin, but what the heck). Having the wellies will make life more bearable. To try them, out, we checked out the Caen Locks on the Avon Canal, where there are 29 locks in 2 miles of river that takes between 5 and 6 hours to negotiate. The ground was muddy, but we didn't care!! Interesting place. Going to rain cats and dogs tomorrow and there is no mobile coverage here, so time to move on.

10 May. Went in search of a White Horse. Wiltshire has quite a few "White Horses" which are horse outlines carved in chalk hills. They are huge and can be seen for many miles. Now days, they are also painted white to improve the visibility. Saw the one near Westbury today which dates back to 1770, the same year Captain Cook discovered Australia. The day turned out to be as forecast, terrible weather with rain gettting stronger the farther south we went. Tried to have a look around Shaftsbury town centre, but as usual, parking for a motorhome was nonexistant, so we kept heading south to Swanage. Passed Corfe Castle ruins on the way to the park and they looked worth a visit, so hopefully we will get there tomorrow. Could only book one night here so tomorrow depends on where we plan to stay tomorrow night. Went for a walk in and around the park this afternoon and decided the wellies just paid for themselves!

11 May. I tried to have one of the other people at the caravan park in Swanage evicted due to bad behaviour. Unfortunately, the woman at the desk saw right through me and there was no extension to our stay available. Julie was chatting to another woman at the washing up area and she suggested, well, highly recommended really, a caravan park at Eype, west of Weymouth on the Jurassic coast. We called them and they had plenty of places, so we visited Swanage, did the tour of Corfe Castle, again well worth the look, and then off to Eype (pronounced "eep", unlike Eyre which is pronounced "air", but thats an aside). We tossed up whether to take the A road via Dorchester or the B road via the coast. Often difficult to know what you are in for, but we gambled on the B3157. What a win. This road has to go down as one of the greatest scenic drives that I have ever done. Sure, a lot I haven't done, but this was wonderful. The camping site we have for the weekend of R and R is set on top of the cliffs. Just amazing. After we arrived, we walked into a neighbouring village for a drink at the pub before having dinner back at the parks restaurant.

12-14 May. Saturday sunny but cool, as good as we have had, a magic day. Sunday, sunny but windy and got stronger as the day went on. Monday, rain rain rain, and we were supposed to leave but decided to sit it out here another day.
The weekend of R and R was just what the doctor ordered. Walked into the village of West Bay and met a couple of locals that we spent about an hour chatting with, nice folk. Wandered through the village and it is so picturesque here that you can't help but feel at peace. Sunday, there were many paragliders flying from the cliffs at the back of the park. Looked like a lot of fun. That evening we went into West Bay for dinner, being as it was Mothers Day back home. Fortunately, it was not Mothers Day in UK so we had no trouble getting a table at The George pub. Monday, decided to chase up the option of buying a motor scooter to attach to the back of the van. Well, forget it. Non UK resident status bites us again. Could not get anyone to insure it so we could register it, very frustrating. We may go back to the idea of electric bicycles as a way to get around. The lack of access to places in the motorhome means we are unable to see many things we want to see, so we need alternative transport.
All in all though, this place is stunning. The views, the cliff walks, the beach (even though it is pebble) and the villages have made for a special weekend.

15 May. Travelled to Exeter via Lyme Regis. We would have liked to have seen more of Lyme Regis but we missed the parking area that said it included motorhomes and couldn't turn around after that! Went through the town with the usual panic of "how the hell are we going to fit through there?" but found closing the eyes still works a treat. At Exeter, we had previously discovered that the Matford Park and Ride had a special area for motorhomes (you bloody beauty) so we went there and then to the city to pick up the repaired wireless 3G modem that we had repaired with 3. Found them OK and picked it up (so far so good, but I reserve judgement just yet) then had lunch at a pub in the city. Then off to the local Honda Motorcycle dealer to harrass them. We finally found a way to get the insurance, which is to state that we have been UK residents since 1 April !! Technically correct... legally? not quite so sure. Picked out a nice little 110cc stepthrough similar to the one we had in Bali, but it was on the condition that we could get a scooter rack for the back of the van. That was the next hurdle. After visiting two different places, the result was that we need to get on to the manufacturer of the motorhome in Germany. All getting too hard, so we may just resort to the electric bikes after all. Staying at the Kennford International Caravan and Camping site. Not quite as good as it sounds, but good enough. We will probably be here for 3 nights.

16 May. We bought the bikes. They are pretty impressive how they work, and it really comes down to the fact that we can ride a lot farther than we would otherwise have been able to, and all at significantly less effort. The scooter would have been better but for the drawbacks. Practice time for Julie to get her skills on the bike up to a standard where we can take on longish rides. Then it was into the city via the park and ride again and to the Cathedral which I let Julie go to by herself. I spent the 5 pound I saved on not going inside on a couple of coffees. She only had 20 minutes and we had to head off to the Exeter underground passages. These are tunnels built in medieval times to house piping for water to the city. Long story there, but suffice to say that it was impressive. We had a tour guide and a following crowd of 2, Julie and me, so the tour was very personalised. Dropped in to 3 store, because we have had issues with our UK Visa Debit card being refused online by 3 because our postcode was not a UK one, even thought the account is. He suggested we sort it out with HSBC, so we did. Organised to "go green" with no paper communications, then changed our address to Peter and Margaret's place (sorry Peter and Margaret, but you shouldn't get anything from them and we can change it back when we leave). Hopefully that will solve another issue that has arisen. This trip has been a huge learning curve. Finished the day by coming home for a riding lesson.

17 May. Our 32nd wedding anniversary. None of our children remembered... did they! That's OK though, we can live with that. We took the A380 to Torquay for the day, not the aircraft, though I couldn't resist it sorry, but the A380 highway.We caught the bus so I could enjoy the view. Weather again was showers and cold but we battled on regardless. Torquay was an interesting place, nothing like Brighton or many of the other south coast holiday towns. The main difference was the coastline, being a series of bays that at least had mud beaches rather than pebbles, but also, the terrain was very hilly. All over, a very picturesque town. I should note that we would hate to be in these tourist towns in the tourist season. It was busy enough in the off season, it would be utter chaos in the peak season.
Had our special anniversary dinner at the hotel in Kennford and opted for the restaurant, rather than the bar menu. We had a very enjoyable dinner, much better than we have had so far, and it was half the price we would have paid at home. A good night. They also had a fantastic aquarium there. I chose to sit facing that. When I get old(er) and infirm(er), I want one like that!

18 May. Left Kennford and headed towards Lydford where we were booked in tonight and the following 2 nights also. Didn't quite do all our homework on the route we were taking, so when we saw the sign "Castle Drogo" I just wrenched the wheel for the exit. You can never have enough castles, we all know that. Well the drive was exciting again. Narrow lanes and villages with buildings 7'8" apart when the van is 7'6" wide, you just have to love it. Got to Castle Drogo (if you want it's entire history, google it) and found that it was built between 1911 and 1930. After all the other ones we had seen, we expected it to be pre 1200AD. It is the last "castle" (not sure what the legal definition is) built in UK. A magnificent example of how extravagantly one can live if they have enough money. The setting was brilliant but sadly the weather was hazy, no rain, but the visibility was poor. It is the sort of place that would inspire the saying "on a clear day, you can see forever". We did appreciate the view, but no way were we going to do it justice with a camera.
We checked with the people at the National Trust counter on the suitability of the road through the centre of Dartmoor moors for a motorhome and found it quite OK. Took that route, and although there were still moments of adrenalin, it was pretty good. The vista is stunning through the moors. The normal farm land and forest just stops dead, there is the moors, then it's back to farm and forest. Quite exceptional to have the landscape change so drastically in such a short distance. Also stopped at Postbridge to see the old bridge there. Not sure how old it was, but I am sure the engineers in the family will choke over it. In my limited knowledge of engineering, I would suggest that it was designed on the hope that the big rocks wouldn't break. Arrived at Lydford (did someone have a cold when they named it) late afternoon.

19 May.Took the bikes out for a spin. There are parts of cycle paths here just waiting for the connecting bits. Enough for Julie to try out and hone her skills. Got about 4km away and the gears on her bike wouldn't mesh properly and I was unsure what the solution was and had no tools anyway. Managed to get it to stay in 3rd, so adjusted the electric assistance on the way to make up for it. On to google to find out how to adjust them and had it perfect in no time. Problem was Julie had strained her back at this stage so she had a quiet afternoon taking it easy. I took mine into Okehampton, a 28km round trip, and found that both my legs and bum are out of condition for cycling. The electric assist is very nice though. Had dinner that night in the local pub. Chatted with a local couple there and got a bit of history about the village.

20 May. Walked about a mile to the Lydford Gorge. We expected to just walk there, have a look and walk back. Wrong, two hours of walking up and down steep slippery slopes later, we got back to the start point. A spectacular gorge and forest/river walk. Then another 30 minutes walking to Lydford House for a cream tea (Devonshire tea to us, but in Devon, it's just cream tea). Delightful setting in the lounge room where we were the only ones, very relaxing after walking for 3 hours. The rate at which the scenery changes in this area is quite dramatic.

21 May. Went in search of Tavistock Caravans to get some spare parts for the van. Drove past it twice even with the GPS trying to help. Finally rang them and got directions. Got most of the bits we needed from a bloke with no personal skills at all. So far we have found everyone here incredibly helpful, but this one has tried to ruin the image. Headed south to Plymouth and Riverside Caravan Park, a nice park but a tad pricy.

22 May. We needed to get some keys cut to replace some that we misplaced (lost?) in Lydford. Fortunately found a local locksmith who had the suitable blanks, so that problem was solved. Took the Park and Ride to Plymouth city centre. We have discovered that if a city has a Park and Ride, we use them, no questions asked. Walked to the Plymouth Hoe (an unfortunate name, but is saxon for "high place") which is where Francis Drake played bowls waiting for the Armarda to get closer. Also checked out the Barbican, the old port area, where there are so many plaques to the history of the place. The Mayflower left from there, as did the "Tory" which was sent to colonise New Zealand in 1839. So many historic moments began here. Lunch was a local crab sandwich. Toured the Royal Citadel in the afternoon. It is a fortress overlooking Plymouth Harbour and is still used as a military base for the 29th Royal Artillary. Plymouth is mostly post war modern as it had all hell bombed out of it in WW2, much like many of the ports and harbours on the south coast. I suspect Southampton and Plymouth suffered the worst. The weather has been so good, that Julie and I even got sunburnt, despite wearing coats and jackets which of course do not cover our faces. You can still get sunburnt in 17C.

23 May. Left Plymouth and went via the Tamar Valley to Launceston. To those Aussies who have been to Tassie, I think that one must ask why Tasmanians do not have a sense of originality. Kept going to Bodmin where we stopped at Lanhydrock to visit Lanhydrock House. This was a 1700's place that was handed over to the National Trust in the 1950's, complete with over 300 acres of land and an endowment to maintain the property in perpetuity. If only people were so generous to us! A very impressive snapshot of life in that era. Headed to St Austell in the afternoon and Carlyon Bay Caravan Park.

24 May. The Eden Project. Difficult to describe this in a short script, so to find out more, check out the website. The place is quite incredible, including the largest rainforest held in captivity in the world. Their words, not mine. We could go to great lengths to describe this place, but better that they do it. We did ride our bikes up to the site which gave us £4 off each ticket, but Julie lost her pendant on the way, so that blew the £4 out of the water. We searched on the way home but to no avail. Back to the Eden Project, it is famous enough that I remember seeing a TV show on it back home that left a mark on my memory, so when it came up, it became a "must do" item.

25 May. Left Carlyon Bay without ever finding out how to pronounce it. Went to a caravan park near Falmouth that sounded good in the brochures but was on a slope that we would normally have to descend in a low gear. We have the side to side level OK, but we keep falling towards the front. We were thinking of staying 2 nights but that made up our minds that one is enough. Took a leisurely (Julie says BRISK!) stroll to the beach, only got lost 4 times, and turned left to go to Falmouth along the coastal walk. The locals were out in force because the weather has been very warm, but swimming in water 11C really doesn't come across as smart. A pretty walk but the coast here is so familiar to Aussie coastlines that we almost felt at home. Lost another hour talking to the locals, but that was all good.

26 May. Drove into Helston in the hope they would have a decent size store to do some urgent shopping. Found a Tesco Superstore with a huge car park, vital for berthing the ship. Got everything we needed and a bit of what we didn't, then headed for Lizard. Lizard is the most southerly point of mainland England. Rugged coastline and a pretty little village. Tried to get to the lighthouse but it was a narrow road again, not suitable for wide loads. Walked some of the coast walk anyway. Considered our options at that point, and decided on a Caravan Club park at Hayle, near St Ives, north of Penzance. Made it there before 5pm and set up camp. Julie cooked Gammon steaks for tea. It is like a steak sized bit of bacon. I loved it. Only booked two nights, but now will make it 4 and use it as a base for this end of the Cornwall peninsula.

27 May. Leaving St Michaels Mount until Monday as the gardens are not open weekends, so we started at Mousehole Village south of Penzance. A quaint seaside cum fishing village that was filled with narrow alleys and galleries.We had parked along the road about a mile out of town and walked in. After Mousehole, it was off to Land's End. Quite commercialised, but there were no problems parking, and you didn't need to get involved in the touristy things anyway. Again, some pretty rugged coastline. It is surprising here to see lush plant life almost up to the waters edge, where in Aus, you would have barren scrub for at least a km before. Off to a local pub for dinner, Julie wont be ordering the roast Gammon.

28 May. The day started windy and heavy overcast, very grey indeed. We checked the tide times, and found we couldn't use the causeway at St Michael's Mount until about 3pm, so we took things casually until midday, then headed to Marazion. A wonderful carpark there that even catered for motorhomes. Took the ferry across to the castle of St Michael's Mount. Built on top of a hill, it was quite a climb up to the castle. Brilliant location, being an island that is sometimes joined to the mainland via a causeway and with spectacular views. Also did the gardens walk and were amazed at the number of exotic plants that thrive in what we would consider a hostile environment. Walked back across the causeway and drove the 6 miles across the peninsula to the caravan park. Walked down to the beach adjacent to the park and it reminded us of Cable Beach. Big tidal movements resulting in a very wide beach at low tide. At least it was sand! Today is an AFD (alcohol free day). Thought we should have at least one while we are away.

29 May. Taking it a little easier today. Julie wasn't up to much, so I rode into St Ives, about a 20-25km round trip with lots of hills. Lovely town on the side of the hill that is almost amphitheatre like, all looking down on the harbour and beaches. Wouldn't have even come close in the motorhome, it was even tight on the bicycle! As I said though, a pretty place, and if you were wanting a place to have a weeks holiday, it would be it. Fish and chips from the mobile vendor tonight.

30 May. Drove along the coast from Hayle, destination Padstow. The coastline of northern Cornwall is rugged with steep cliffs and craggy rocks and the occasional bay. The road from Newquay to Padstow was a "B" road which is always a toss up as to whether it's wide enough for us, and this was one that wasn't. Had fun negotiating some passes, especially the guy in his new Mercedes who didn't want to risk scraping his left side on the hedges, but eventually he got past us. One big problem with Cornwall hedges along the roadside is that the hedge is a 2cm coverage of the rock wall behind. In some places, you can move a little into the hedge for extra room, not here. The other problem is these walls are the edge of the pavement, so in some places, there is nothing more to give. Anyway, we did survive, but it was a tad stressful. Got to the caravan park in Padstow which is about a kilometre walk through the fields to Tesco's supermarket where we bought stuff for lunch. On the way, we saw our first wild pheasants. Like other times here, sorry I didn't have my gun with me. The other times are when we see so many rabbits. The caravan park in Hayle had a population in the 100s just sitting around eating the grass, no fear at all. Oh for the 22!

31 May. Wandered around Padstow. Like many of the port villages around Cornwall, it's as pretty as a picture. Some call the town "Padstein" because Rick Stein, the chef and author of many cook books, owns half the town. There is the Rick Stein Deli, RS fish shop, RS restaurant, RS Bed and Breakfast, it does go on and on. Probably doesn't do the town any harm, might even do it good, but it does come across as a bit crass and self serving. Other than that, utterly delightful.

1 June. Time to move on again. Headed to Port Isaac, home of Doc Martin TV show, one of Julie's favourites. Again, a Cornish port village that oozes so much character and has a more than typically rugged terrain. We found most of the important landmarks, like Doc's house, the local restaurant, Louisa's house etc. Many Doc Martin fans there, all looking for the same things. One thing we did appreciate at Port Isaac was that they had parking for motorhomes within walking distance of the village. Excellent. We were leaving at about 2pm and a sea fog was rolling in that would have ruined the visibility. The drive to Camelford was only about 15 minutes from there. Checked in at the caravan park (also walking distance to the town) and filled the gap in our booking, so 5 nights uninterrupted here for the Jubilee weekend.

2 June. Walked into Camelford to check out the local market. Camelford trades on "Camelford, the historic market town" as it's slogan. We can only say that the market is history. Was the smallest village market we have ever seen, about 4 stalls that would not have looked out of place at a car boot sale, and that was it. Nice enough village but I wouldn't put it on the bucket list. After lunch, rode the bikes a lot of the was to Tintagel, but decided to cop out about 65% of the way. The wind was coming up with a few drops of rain so we wimped. Good exercise though, even with the electric assist. Have decided to make the scooter plan come to fruition. We really do need a reliable alternative form of transport to see everything. We are missing too much simply because we can't get there easily. Watch this space.

3 June. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations start. Today is the Thames Pageant. The weather is disgusting. Rain, wind and cold. Time for another down day and catch up with the reading. Watched the BBC broadcast of the pageant from 1330 to 1800 then walked into Camelford town for dinner. By then, the wind had dropped and the rain eased so it was nice to get out of the van.

4 June. As they say in the classics, "What a difference a day makes". I am sure the world saw the worst of English weather yesterday with the Thames Pageant, only to have a wonderful day today. We took in Tintagel Castle, the alleged birthplace of King Arthur (I think it was Glastonbury, but never let truth get in the way of a good story) and if we were after decent castle ruins, we would have been disappointed. As it was, we knew better. The location of the castle is nothing short of exceptionally spectacular, being on a rugged headland on the northwest Cornish coast. Hard work on the hamstrings and knees but well worth it. Took a quick look at Boscastle village on the way back to Camelford. Chatted to some locals at the park before having dinner at home. Set up the laptop to record the jubilee concert and went to the local golf club for a couple of drinks. On the way home, saw our first wild deer on the golf course. Got home before 10:30 so probably missed a few of the beacons we may otherwise have seen, but did see one a little to the west of us. Mixed emotions about not being in London for the Jubilee. Would have liked to be part of the history, but equally would have hated the crowds, so I am content to have been in the same country.

Time to change pages. The diary continues here.

UK Diary 3

Photos on these pages.

b1 b2 b3 UK Pics 7