Southward bound

1 Jan

Before leaving London I have a few photos that I wanted to include:

There’s a road tunnel under the Thames, which I always find a bit creepy and admire as well. It’s quite a long tunnel and it has two lanes, one tall and one short. (The short one has yellow bars that you can see on the righthand lane) And it has bends in the road, I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to dig it out!

Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames

"In the beginning..."

Outside St. Martins in the Field Church in Trafalgar Square there is a beautiful sculptor of a newborn baby lying on top of a large square with the quote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was made flesh.” As usual the photo does not do it justice.

I've forgotten the name of this building but it looks great. On the banks of the Thames

We thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas Carol service at St. Helen’s the night before we left London.  The church was absolutely packed, probably almost 600 people singing their hearts out.  The usual services have a contemporary band (bongo drums, piano, violin and cello) but this special service we were treated to the pipe organ.  Magic.  When the service was over we were all given mince pies and mulled wine.  An excellent tradition to follow! 

London, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall

After clearing out Rob’s place of all our stuff and packing up the motorhome, we made our way out of London heading south.  Our van travels slowly, 50 miles per hour when the speed limit is 70 miles per hour.  But if we stick to the slow lane, along with the larger trucks, we don’t get in the way of others.  And it’s a great speed to really see the country side.  On the whole English drivers are so patient and forgiving!  And the truck lane is slightly wider than the other 2 or 3 lanes on the motorway, an added bonus.

We pulled off the motorway when we saw the sign to Tolpuddle.  I thought it was because the village name was so unusual but no, Dennis recognised the name from a book he’d read about the Tolpuddle’s Martyrs!  The things he knows…. The story is about the beginning of trade unions in the UK, the leaders were sent to Australia not actually martyred.  What was more interesting to me was talking to a man who was thatching a new house.  The reeds come from Turkey nowadays, although Britain does grow some as well.  He told me that the Turkish thatch will be replaced in 20 years but the British stuff only needs the top half replaced as  the thatch closest to the ceiling would still be dry!

Turkish reeds for thatching In Tolpuddle

Oh dear! the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Museum was closed

A typical main road in the countryside

Our plan for travelling around was pretty loose.  We thought it would be more exciting to stay off the motorways, unless we were in a particular hurry or it was dark anyway.  So we took many roads that on the map seemed like decent sized roads, remembering that our vehicle is somewhat larger and wider than an ordinary car, but most of these roads are so narrow!  So many of them are virtually one lane only, with passing bays here and there.  We often have to back up to allow others through!

We are members of the Caravan Club of UK which has its own motor camps scattered throughout England and Scotland.  They are all beautifully presented and maintained, although not all of them are open at this time of year!  We have to choose carefully and check that the village or city has a motor camp that is not padlocked!  In fact, we have been to so many tourist sites that also close down until Easter 2012, it seems not too many people view the sites in the middle of winter around here.

The first campsite was in Hunter’s Moon and it was in a lovely setting in the countryside.  England really is a beautiful place, with gentle, rolling hills with loads of either hedges or stone fences between very small paddocks.  Anyway, this campsite was lovely and we got there just as dusk was falling.  We settled ourselves in just fine and had begun to eat our dinner when we heard what sounded like thunder initially.  We were quite close to the sea so we figured that the thunder must have been out to sea somewhat as we had remarked how it was likely that we would have a frost during the night being cold and very still and we had  enjoyed seeing some stars out.  (I have only seen a couple of stars in London twice – both times after rain had cleared the smog away)  Within a short time the noise sounded again, and this time we realised it was too pronounced and succinct for it to be thunder.  “Ah,” says I, ” they’re putting on a fireworks display for us!”  The explosions happened irregularly, maybe once or twice every ten minutes or so.  So I was popping in and out of the warm camper van, trying to catch the fireworks display.  We couldn’t think what they might be actually celebrating but I wanted to see the display!  Well, this went on for quite some time, maybe two hours, before I happened to coincide with being outside at the same moment an explosion sounded!  Dennis thought I was completely nuts and kept telling me, “It couldn’t possibly be fireworks!  The explosions were too infrequent and irregular, and it had been going on for so long….”  And they weren’t connected to any fireworks after all!  Just a loud explosion that you feel vibrating beneath your feet!  Very strange!  They went on and off until midnight and in the end I had convinced myself it must be something to do with mining.  We didn’t find out until the following morning when the proprietor of the camping ground told us that the British Army have a live ammunition practice range nearby for TANKS!

Dornafield campsite on our second night

Cyclist with the sore right buttock

Weymouth is a beautiful seaside town.  We followed a cyclist for quite some time along the narrow road into Weymouth.  He wasn’t wearing a helmet (they are not compulsory here) but he certainly did amuse us.  Every few metres he lifted his right buttock off the seat, maybe to give it a rest.  It looked like he had the hiccups, but only in his right buttock!

The Dornafield campsite we stayed at was in Devon. The present owners developed the camping site 25 years back and use the rest of the area as a working farm.  The farmhouse where the people still live was built in 1238!  Being winter all the trees were bare and the garden areas devoid of flowers but looking at the photos in the brochure the scene in summer would be quite the opposite.

Weymouth - yah beautifully coloured houses! So much better than all brick ones as in London

Next to one wharf at Weymouth

A cross-channel ferry tied to another wharf in Weymouth

Sand sculptors

Saves me writing this all out - they have been doing this since 1920's

We took a wander around Dartmoor and admired to yachts, fishing boats, etc moored around the town in various places.  When we first got there it was between high and low tide, it wasn’t until  we walked past the same marina a couple of hours later that  we took a photo of the boats all sitting on the seabed.  When we first admired this little marina the boats were only a little way down from street level!  The tide range between high and low tide is so vast, it’s hard to get used to it.  It wouldn’t do to make a spontaneous decision to go out for a sail as we so often do at home.

Tudor style building at Dartmoor

Notice the difference between the tides...

When we arrived at the campsite in Plymouth, the gate had a big padlock on it.  It was already around 6p.m. and was completely dark so we decided to “rough” it for the first time and just found a suitable parking place for the night.  We are fully self-sufficient in our van, having a complete bathroom, so we put it to the test on this occasion.  We were suitably impressed and after that decided to only stay at a motorcamp every second or third night from then on.  Really mainly to use their laundry facilities.  So we really have turned into modern-day gypsies!  The following morning when I was polishing my glasses one of the lens fell out but worse than that the actual frame snapped right by the bridge!  Oh no, I ended up with a bad headache peering out into the world, without my prescription glasses.  I happened to notice a sign for an Optomitrist while driving, so we called in to fix the said glasses.  But, oh no, it would probably three days!  They didn’t have the facilities to solder the frame and they would need to send them away.  “No thanks, we’ll try somewhere else” but she assured me that I would never find anybody to do it in Plymouth.  We then went off to find an Information Centre and they were so helpful.  They ended up suggesting a manufacturing jeweller and he fixed them with just a couple of hours wait.  I was so thankful for that!

Our first fo at freedom camping in Plymouth

In between the bigger towns and cities, you come across the most gorgeous villages, every couple of miles or so.  I can’t figure out why there are so many!  Most are so close to each other, with farms in between but no other signs of other industry.  I wonder what all the people do for employment?  They are all so pretty as well, with the front doors opening directly onto the main road.

Next stop was Looe.  Another gorgeous wee seaside town with a busy little fishing port.  This village was actually divided in two by the river and was originally two separate towns, East and West Looe, having two Mayors, Councils and two MPs each!  Sensibly they have amalgamated them now.

Once again look at the tide....Looe

The following day we called in to see The Eden Project.  The site was pretty impressive but after reading all the information dealing with why it was begun and what they are trying to achieve we enjoyed a coffee in the cafe there and then moved right along.  The educational information was clearly aimed at 12 year olds which put us off a lot.  And the photos of plants growing inside the hothouses looked remarkably like NZ and Australian scenes, which we are somewhat familiar with.

Typical education panel

The Eden Project

Made out of driftwood

So we carried on making our way through the very narrow lanes (also known as the main road) down to Falmouth.  We were so surprised to see so many cabbage trees!  The Council had planted them in the burns and the public were using them in their front gardens as well.  Dennis remembered that there was a Maritime Museum here in Falmouth and as we had not stepped into a museum for oh, about five days, we couldn’t resist it!  And it turned out to be such a good one, that I had to dash out to refill the parking meter.  Outside the Museum there was a huge marquee set up for a Falmouth Christmas Festival.  We took a look and enjoyed listening to a male voice choir singing Christmas Carols, really lovely.   It so reminded me of my Dad and brothers Dick and Ron, who all are or were members of Choirs.  They had had all sorts of things going on in the marquee during that day, including a cooking demonstration by Rick Steins, held earlier in the day (which we had missed by several hours).  But we did treat ourselves to mackerel and chips from his very own Fish and Chip shop along the waterfront!  And very tasty they were too!  I had tried having English fish and chips in London but they were disgusting!  They all seem to cook the battered fish a few hours earlier hoping for a lunch time rush, and leave them under hot lamps so when you finally do get them they are revolting and very fatty!  Rob had warned me but I did still want to try….  The chefs at Rick Stein’s Fish Shop did not do this but cooked them while you waited. Yummy!

Cabbage trees in Falmouth!

There's a castle on St Michael's Mount

Looking towards Penzance not far from Lands End

And so on to Land’s End.  Oh, but it was cold and windy, probably about 3 degrees and we had trouble staying upright!  Very rugged, very beautiful, the southern most part of the mainland.  They had a very tacky amusement parlour here, which was actually closed for the season, along with the cafes, hotel and shops!  Obviously too cold for tourists.

There was at least 1 other tourist at Lands End

Gorse and heather only grew 3-4 inches high due to high winds. Notice also no trees



2 Responses to “Southward bound”

  1. John and Maria January 2, 2012 at 12:26 am #

    Hello again Janette and Dennis. Thank you so much for the “good read”. Keep travelling safe. We in New Zealand are now ‘counting the days’ until our reunion in Nelson. The earth is still shaking in Christchurch where we are going to be from 6 February the Lord willing.
    Till next time, Maria & John

  2. Chris and Richard January 2, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    Hi do love reading your travel document, what a great diary it is.
    Happy New Year to you both hope the London fireworks were as good as ours as ours were AMAZING the best I think i have seen in ages.
    Love to you both Chris and Richard

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