Sunday, 26 May 2013

Fountains Abbey

I spend many hours surfing the net looking for places to go and things to see. I've noticed of course, that The National Trust and National Heritage look after loads of the interesting ruins, historical places and areas of beauty that we quite like having a wander around. So at the beginning of May, we joined the National Trust.

As a result, Peter has proved that he really should have been born in Yorkshire. He was over the moon when he realised we had saved money on parking at the NT site of Kynance Cove. And then, when we visited St Michael's Mount and more, for FREE, he could hardly contain himself. In fact he's started to keep tally of exactly how much we've saved, he's so excited about it all.

So, when we were looking around for somewhere nearby to visit on a day out, it wasn't a difficult decision to go for Fountains Abbey. We didn't really know what to expect, but we like ruined castles and old Abbeys, so this seemed like it was right up our street.

When we got there, the first thing we noticed were the signs directing NT members to a different car park than the rest of the masses. Feeling we were part of a select club, we followed the arrows until we eventually reached an attendant who checked our memberships cards before issuing us with tickets and a map and ushering us forward into the "members only" parking are. We were now already on the site, no need to go through any more gates or barriers - we were able to wander as we pleased. Feeling a bit privileged, we left the car and followed the majority on a path we hoped would take us to the Abbey.

As we emerged from the woods, the Abbey suddenly appeared before us, and from that point on, we were captivated. Fountains Abbey on a hot sunny day is absolutely fantastic! We loved it. Our cameras clicked constantly, and we kept grinning at each other, not quite believing how brilliant this place was, or the fact neither of us knew about it.

After a good couple of hours, it was time to move on and see more of the site. We had a very quick look at Fountains Hall, but that's because there are only three rooms open to the public.

We then made our way to the tea rooms for a tea and a very nice bit of cake before visiting Fountains Mill. The old watermill has a long and varied history, bits of which I found quite interesting. (Sorry, no pics)

We started on the walk around the Water Gardens. Wildflowers on the path side and views of the Abbey. Wonderful.

The gorgeous water gardens were created in the 1700s. I could easily imagine Georgian gentry walking the paths, the ladies with their long skirts and big hats, the gents with their stockinged legs, long hair and tricorn hats. There are several little temple like buildings with names like "The Temple of Fame" or "The Octagon Tower" and can select different routes according to fancy. We were charmed by it all and could easily have spent more time investigating the lake, the deer park and beyond, But not this time. We'll save it for another day.

We got back to the Abbey as the afternoon moved into evening and we couldn't resist a few more photographs in the changing light.

All in all, an absolutely brilliant day. I think Fountains Abbey is well worth the ticket price and we'll definitely visit again. But of course we won't have to pay. I don't know if Peter will be able to contain his excitement at saving even more money.
A last look until next time....

Friday, 24 May 2013

Belstone Tor

Continuing from our holiday in Cornwall, we'd travelled a little North to stop with some friends of Peter's on a wonderful farm in Devon.  We were very well looked after there.  So well in fact, we didn't leave till late morning.
We'd planned a short walk from Belstone to Belstone Tor and back.  Only five miles,(because we'd have a long drive afterwards),  but this would be my first experience of Dartmoor, and I was really looking forward to it.
Dartmoor didn't disappoint:

Nine Maiden stone circle
The Logan Stone and the Irishman's Wall
Higher Tor
Wind Carving
Oke Tor

More rocks at Oke Tor
This area is owned by the MOD and used for training.  As we sat at ate our lunch at Oke Tor, we heard several bouts of automatic gunfire.  The noise continued and the firing sounded quite close.  I looked around for the red warning flags that would've have told us we shouldn't be there.  There weren't any, (so we hadn't missed them), and we could only assume we were safe.  But the noise was quite unnerving, and probably hastened our decision that it was time to leave.

Looking across to South Tawton Common

<< Mulder n Scully could base a whole episode on this lot. This area is owned by the MOD.  I wonder what went on here?

Sadly, this was the last day of our holiday.  But we have had a fantastic few days, and would very very gladly do it all over again.

Map of the route        >>

Many thanks to Sylvia and Rod for making us so welcome and looking after us so wonderfully well. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Cornwall Holiday - Truro Cathedral and Lydford Gorge

Sadly it was time to pack up the tent and leave the beauty of Cornwall.  Luckily we weren't going to far, Winkleigh as it happens, to stay with some friends of Peters, and then to see the beauty of Dartmoor.  Or at least a little bit of it.

So we took a drive heading North East, but decided to pop in and see a couple of sights on the way.  First we had a quick look around Truro, and in particular it's cathedral.

We pottered in and out of  the shops, and sat and ate a cornish pasty in the High Street.  Sadly, despite the lovely sunshine, we didn't enjoy the pasty anywhere near as much as the one in Marazion.

So back in the car, and then a very brief stop (45 mins) at Lydford Gorge.   We had just enough time for a short walk to see White Lady Waterfall.  

The Gorge looked really lovely.  But we had an appointment in Winkleigh, so we've saved it for another day. 
Quite a nice day out today, and a short walk in Dartmoor tomorrow.  Wonderful. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Cornwall Holiday - Tintagel Castle, St Ives and Kennegy Beach

We'd promised ourselves that it wouldn't be all walking in Cornwall, so today we visited myth and legend in the form of Tintagel Castle

In a book by a long ago story teller/history writer, Geoffrey of Monmouth, King Arthur was conceived here. According to Geoffrey, the King of All Britain, Uther Pendragon, was very taken with Igraine (Arthur's mum).  Trouble is, Igraine was married to Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall.  So with a little help from a well known wizard (Merlin) Uther got himself transformed to look like Gorlois, and spent the night with Igraine at Tintagel.  And that was the night Arthur was conceived. The story goes on that Gorlois died, and Uther married Igraine, and Arthur grew up as the the next King of All Britain

Since then, legend had been built on myth and stories have been built on legend.  Today, Tintagel is integral to the stories of King Arthur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table.  Arthurian Legend

The castle is sort of split into two parts (see Tintagel Map)  There's a mainland entrance, with a massive ditch or moat, and then a bridge over vicious rocks to the island part.  Now I've explained that, you'll understand the photograph.

Looking across both parts of the castle from the island.
 Further away are the upper and lower courtyards of the mainland castle, and the walls in foreground make up the island castle.  between you can see the steep cliff drops separating the two parts.  Luckily, we have loads n loads n loads of steps to make it easier to get up and down.  (But they don't make your lungs feel any less like they are going to explode!)
Inside the island castle
Merlin's Cave
As it happens, the castle that you see now was built by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, in about 1230ish,  cos he wanted to be associated with King Arthur and all the mystic and power of the legend Geoffey of Monmouth had written about.   Archeologists have excavated and know this is true.    What they haven't worked out though, is all the stuff that they've found from much earlier structures and monastic buildings in the foundations and the surroundings of Richard's Castle. These finds tell a tale of  a rich and elite settlement.  Rich and elite enough to be that of the King of All Britain..........? Who knows?

Oh by the way, those steep cliffs and all them steps are killers!  Add that to the short walk from the village and back, and the leg muscles got a bit of a stretch for certain.  (And we weren't supposed to be having a strenuous day.)

After that, we had a quick visit to St Ives (well you've got to, haven't you).  I should point out that there is also a St Ive in Cornwall, and the sat nav doesn't know the difference, so you'd better check that you've picked the right one before you set off, that way you'll save loads of extra driving.  (And I ain't gonna tell you how we found that out!)

St Ives is full of galleries, icecream shops, eateries and pubs. Not forgetting the sea, the beach, the boats and the seagulls.  Nasty, greedy stealthy thieving seagulls!  I was really enjoying my peanut butter ice cream. Then there was a thwack on the shoulder and it was gone, on the wings and in the beak of a greedy gull.  I was quite miffed.  Nevertheless, St Ives is a lovely place to have a walk round.

But we didn't stay for too long, cos we knew that the tide would be going out at Kennegy Cove, and tonight would be our opportunity to go down and have a look.

Sadly the caves proved to be just hollows.  But the beach was lovely in the evening light.  Well worth the visit.
Tomorrow we pack up camp.  I'm really sad about that, tomorrow we'll be heading towards Dartmoor and Winkleigh.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Cornwall Holiday - Kennegy Cove to St Michael's Mount

Another lovely dry morning for us to enjoy our morning coffee outside on the campsite.  We had a plan to walk to Marazion from our campsite, and from there go and visit St Michael's Mount.

To start, the walk was about 4 ½ miles along the glorious Cornwall coast:

Bessy's Cove
Lovely little tumbledown hut above Bessy's cove
The variety and abundance of flowers growing along the cliffs was fantastic.  These are bluebells and thrift
Cudden Point
Cudden Point again.
St Michael's Mount from Cudden Point
And now a  little closer
A really good walk where we got to see more of the stunning Cornwall coastline, potato picking teams at work, fantastic banks and cliff edges hung with flowers.  We also got a little bit lost,  (we blame the couple who gave us duff directions), but no matter, we got where we wanted to in the end.

We arrived in Marazion around midday and promptly tucked into one of the best Cornish Pasty's I've ever tasted.  It was high tide, so we found our way to the little quay to get a boat across the causeway,  £2 each and it only took a couple of minutes.

Once on the island, there are a lot of steps to get up to the castle.  It's an amazing place, and we really enjoyed our visit.

It started as a monastery in the 12th century, and since then has constantly been added to.  It's still lived in too apparently.  It was good to get out on the top and see the surrounding views. There's also a little church and some fabulous gardens, if gardening is what you like.

More info here >> National Trust - St Michael's Mount

Peter likes beer.  I like coffee n cake.  Luckily the onsite cafe sells all three, and lots more.

Another view 
Definitely worth the visit. When we'd finished, we got a boat back to Marazion and from there, a bus back to the camp site.  That was an experience!  Not least cos the heating was on full blast, but also due to the fact that main road through Marazion is very narrow.  Add very narrow road to double decker bus, then throw in a little bit of digger truck getting loaded onto flatbed truck, and you get gridlock!
So I think the bus journey took a little longer than normal. But that was OK, we weren't in a hurry, we've more more time in Cornwall tomorrow.