Monday, 30 May 2011

Britain 2011: The Photos

Finally got my pictures labelled and they are now ready for viewing at:

I'm not the photographer that Dave is but I probably have a few more "human interest" shots. Enjoy!

Britain 2011: The Walks

Yesterday, Dave and I went across the lake to have our "season opener" which was pretty much a lakeside trail with a bit of distance. I couldn't help comparing it to my walks in Britain. Here, we have endless forest with unusual rock formations, often some pretty little woodland plants, fallen trees and stumps with glimpses out to the mountains. There, we had endless stone walls, fields of sheep, blooming gorse, unlimited views, and lots of manmade structures. This picture was taken on my favourite UK walk when I hiked from Tintagel to Boscastle. It's along the Southwest Coastal Path and you can see that I had a perfect day for it. This hike was probably the most "challenging" as well, because it went up and down a fair bit compared to other hikes that I completed. It's lovely to see how many people are out walking in Britain - we rarely see other hikers here in the Koots. The British are very friendly when walking, too; I felt like I said hello even more than in America! I love how they keep their dogs under such fine control. I feel a bit out of shape from my trip because the walking was easy and mostly flat. I covered good distances, however, and it's always fun to see the castle and abbey ruins as one covers the trails.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Britian 2011: Fresh Flowers

In the UK this is a common site - fresh flower stalls - and I was delighted to see how many times I noticed someone rushing through the streets with recently purchased fresh flowers in hand. In North America this is a relatively uncommon sight. While travelling the busy roads, I noticed fresh flowers placed in front windows - what a happy thing to see! I love having fresh flowers and usually only treat myself to bouquets during the summer when I can collect them from the garden. I'm always thrilled to have them. The lesson that I can learn from Britain is to purchase fresh flowers during winter - it'll probably make it much more bearable. Many of our campgrounds had flowers in the washrooms, too - not always fresh but the thought was there!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Britain 2011: The Allotments

Here's a picture of the community gardens in Berwick-upon-Tweed, more commonly referred to as an "allotment". Just before leaving the UK I read an article stating that 90,000 people are on waiting lists to get allotments throughout England and the waiters may have to be patient for 40 years before their turn will arrive! I have no idea how much one must pay to "rent" the land in these community gardens. I recognize how lucky I am to live in Canada with vast amounts of empty space and I have had the joy of looking after pretty good-sized gardens for the past 20 years. It was wonderful to see the British dedication to gardening and I hope that people will have shorter "wait times" because everyone deserves the right to grow food.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Scotland 2011

This was the favourite part of our trip. We liked the fact that it was so much quieter than England, although the north of England was definitely quieter than the South. The skies in this picture stayed with us for most of our 8 days in Scotland. We spent a couple of days in Edinburgh and then decided to travel north along the coast to John O'Groats. From there, we took a very quick trip to the Orkney Islands, spending a couple of hours at Stromness. The very best part of our journey was the drive along the north coast of Scotland and then revisiting the Highlands. It was there that I felt that I could walk forever. I'm perking up whenever I hear anything about Scotland on the news. It's a beautiful country with a long legacy of gifts to humanity. Let's hear it for the Scots!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Britain 2011: Along the Penine Way

I know that this isn't the greatest picture - we tended to have lots of haze in the distance while in Britain, but considering we are less than an hour from Manchester, this is pretty clear, I think. We spent about 4 hours walking one afternoon along the Penine Way through the Peaks District. We did another similar hike in Yorkshire Dales National Park. This picture is pretty typical of what we saw in the few hours of walking that we did. The weather was lovely, the breeze fine, the birdsong melodious. Neither of us were inspired to ever think we'd like to walk the whole thing at any time in the future. Compared to Canadian mountain hiking it seemed a bit monotonous. Don't get me wrong - we loved our hikes in Britain. But I gotta say, I think I live in the right place for me when I consider long, scenic hikes.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Britain 2011: Camping

This picture is pretty typical of many of the tents we found in the UK. They are enormous! It also takes the owners several hours to "pitch up". We'd laugh because our tent takes less than 10 minutes to put up and we never had to pay for additional awnings, guy wires, kitchens, etc. I noticed in 2003 - the British bring the entire kit to the campground, including the table. That's because they need to do this. We found a few places that offered tables to every camper, but I noticed that most of the tables seemed to be situated in the vans and caravans area when I feel it's the tenters who really need them.

Campgrounds throughout the UK are privately owned and with one exception, I'd say that they were all in excellent condition. The only luxury that is provided is the toilet block, but these were always clean (with one exception) and well maintained. While we travelled through NZ, we used a camper van and had kitchens, tables, toilets, showers, etc. provided. We didn't HAVE to have them. In Britain, we camped in a small car and could have used tables and kitchens and they were rarely provided. We had 3 camps with microwaves and we went back to one at Berwick-upon-Tweed just because of its excellent kitchen facilities.

Most of the time, we camped in a big farmer's field. I got to be pretty good at identifying campgrounds on the map which were close to major walks. I think I only had two occasions where we camped when I wasn't really handy to a public footpath which could take me all over Britain. I only felt "too close to a road" at one camp and this surprised me. Even in Oxford we could hear the busy highways as a background "hum", but the farmyard we stayed at was relatively quiet. It was great to be camping during most of "low" season because it could get crowded. I heard tents are to be pitched 3 metres away from another - it was only Easter weekend where we felt someone violated this "rule".

We probably averaged 17 GBP/night for camping. It was a little more expensive than B.C., I'd say and although we have the most beautiful parks in the world, it's now about $24/night for a really nice and private site with only a pit toilet, a picnic table and probably a shelter. The British would probably be aghast at our lack of toilet facilities.

Camping in Britain was a good experience. The great weather made the experience very bearable. Our first night out was April 3rd and many campgrounds were still closed but by the next week, most camping spots were on the radar. There are popular places to avoid if you don't like crowds, but overall, I'd recommend it as a way to see Britain. A small complaint would be that the "washing up" area was always adjacent to the caravan area, not the tenting area, and this seemed a bit idiotic to my mind. Overall, a great experience and we had 32 nights out to prove it!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Britain, 2011: Westminster

We had a fabulous trip to Britain this spring. This picture is taken on Day One, one of the very few days we had cloud cover for most of the day. We camped out for 32 nights all over England, Scotland and Wales. The weather was incredibly dry, warm and sunny most of the time. Our major focus was walking, castles, cathedrals and ruins so I didn't spend a lot of time birdwatching or going to museums.

Reflecting back on the trip, a big highlight for me was our tour of Westminster (pictured here), set up by our London host, Julie. It was really interesting to compare this historic building with its newer counterpart in Canada. I loved being inside Westminster - the actual House of Lords and House of Commons seem quite small - but the statues of Prime Ministers, Kings, Queens, and important political figures is special. As we look forward to voting changes in future elections it was grand to see the place where so many of the laws which have improved our lives got their start. I'm really grateful to have had the chance to tour this life-changing building. Thank you, Julie!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Home and Happy

It's been a long while since I posted and have to report that seeing my spring bulbs in bloom in the perennial border was a wonderful way to arrive home. We spent 6 weeks in the UK and had wonderful weather the entire time. B.C. didn't fare so well. It sounds as if spring sort of arrived at the beginning of May so we got home just in time to enjoy pretty much all of the spring bulbs. It's probably odd to see the daffs, tulips, lungworts, bergenia, forsythia, etc. all blooming at the same time - we didn't even miss the skunk cabbage along the highway near our neighbourhood road entrance. I'd say that all I missed were the crocus. My impatient waiting for seeds to germinate didn't happen and the germination seemed to be pretty good with all those things that I planted on March 29th. It's taking me longer to get over jet lag than I anticipated and have had a very busy 10 days since our arrival back here. It is good to be home and I plan a series of posts about the trip to Britain. Time to get the rhubarb pie out of the oven!