Thursday, September 26, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Relationship Talks

It occurs to me that "shoot first and ask questions later" is probably not the best strategy if you're actually hoping to find out how the other person feels.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekend in Review

By far, the highlights were (in chronological order) watching "The Machine" with Emi et al., a behind-the-scenes tour with U-chan, and a visit to the Concorde and the Intrepid with Sal.  It was good to spend time with everyone - it's been far too long.

I also made some inroads on outstanding household chores (e.g., getting my suitcase out of the living room, doing two loads of laundry, and some other items), and finished The Moonstone (I really only meant to read the first part, but I found it too enthralling to put down).

And I also (ahem) worked a bit on something that has an actual deadline.  Not as much progress as I'd hoped.  But still, bit by bit...

Sunday, September 08, 2013

South West Coast Path Hike (Padstow to Clovelly)

N.B. To see pictures day by day, start here:  [Day One] 

We did a section of the SWCP in north Cornwall and Devon, from Padstow to Clovelly, over a six-day period.  The official breakdown of this section is: 4% easy, 7% moderate, 38% strenuous, 51% severe.

Here are the details for the "official" route, along with my pedometer's estimate of what we actually did over the course of each day.

My pedometer's distance estimates are automatically converted from the number of steps taken.  For what it's worth, I'm a little surprised to see less mileage than expected for Day 1.  To the best of my recollection, we did not take any shortcuts that day, and instead we should have logged some additional mileage because we started our day with a significant detour.  (We went to the main ferry site, then up and over a hill to the alternative ferry site, and back again.)

By way of comparison, here is the route profile of the Cleveland Way, which we did over a 9-day period in 2010:
Distance: 105.4 miles
Elevation Change: 4,997 meters
Maximum Height: 448 meters.

N.B. To see pictures day by day, start here:  [Day One] 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

London / Travel Day

We traveled together as far as Exeter, and then Bill and I had to sprint off to our respective trains, and the fellowship was broken.  

I checked my luggage at Paddington, and then set off for Kensington Gardens, where I enjoyed a light but leisurely lunch outdoors at the Orangery.

Then I decided to head over to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I had not visited before.

The grey-blue stone stripes of the
science museum looked like slices of sky.

Since I didn't have a huge amount of time at the V&A, I decided to start with the galleries devoted to Britain 1500-1760.   One of the first things in the gallery was a writing box believed to have belonged to Henry VIII.  It was really cool - though you had to watch the video to see all the cool compartments open.

The Dacre Beasts (ca. 1507-1529)

Taper Stand (1650-1700)

Ship pendant

Detector lock (ca. 1680)

Bed curtains (ca 1700), British (L) and Indian (R)

Detector Lock (ca. 1680)

Wedding Suit of James II
The Ironworks area was pretty cool too:

"Armada Chest"

They had a really cool collection of biscuit tins too.
Biscuit tin - looks like a stack of plates!!

Biscuit tin - "pillar box" style (ca. 1926)

Another gallery I wish I could have visited....
It was a little more stressful than I'd have liked to get back to Paddington via the Tube (rather than walking), but I retrieved my baggage, hopped on the Heathrow Express, and made my flight.  On the airplane, my over-friendly seatmate eventually moved elsewhere, but I still didn't really get any sleep because I had to watch all of the remaining episodes of Game of Thrones Season 3.  (Yes, "had to" - it was a compulsion.  Resistance was futile - or, at least I'm sure it would have been futile, if I'd made an effort to resist.)  And then of course I had to play some jewel-themed video game the rest of the time.  (Again, totally mandatory.)  Since I was getting in really late, I arranged in advance for a car service to pick me up from Newark.  Sadly, that journey proved to be a very unpleasant experience - I will not travel with them again.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Day 6: Hartland Quay to Clovelly

N.B. This is the last of six posts about my trip to the north coast of Cornwall and Devon to walk a portion of the South West Coast Path.  [Trip Overview] - [Start of Trip] 

Our host at the B&B recommended that we stick to the SWCP and give Clovelly a miss - a bit of a tourist trap.  However, we figured we'd already done the SWCP a lot over the past five days, and we were, in fact, tourists.  Since we were unlikely to come this way again, why not see Clovelly?

So we gave the SWCP a miss, instead, following back lanes and strolling along wide forest roads.  We came to an area where they raise grouse for hunting.  The grouse could conceivably fly away - they are not actually confined - but although they were shy of us, they were numerous and apparently quite comfortable with being well fed.

They weren't grousing about their lot in life.

We crossed an open field which had a gate standing alone in the middle of it -- sans wall.  Wonderfully surreal. I thought about taking a picture as we approached it, but thought I would have another chance from the far side of the field.  Unfortunately, due to the local topography, the gate quickly disappeared from view from the other side.  It was almost magical - but unfortunately it meant that I'd missed my photo opportunity.

We paid admission to the greenhouse/gardens associated with the Clovelly Estate (on the honor system).  Later on, Sarah and I were somewhat sorry we had honored the request for payment, because when we briefly exited the gift shop at Clovelly proper to make sure we understood where the bus stop was, we were charged full admission to re-enter.  Oh well.

Bill & the Honeybee



There is just one street in Clovelly, and all the buildings (both residential and business) belong to the estate.  Everyone is a tenant.  It was pretty, but very limited - and the food and service was somewhat less than stellar at the establishments we patronized.  But the scones were good at the tea shop.

After we finished our tour of Clovelly, we caught a double-decker bus to Barnstaple for the last night of our trip.

Sarah wasn't able to book all three of us into the same B&B, and Bill was a little worried about the one he was going to stay in solo.  He had just picked up a funny vibe about it somehow, and we all hoped it would be OK.  When we went to meet him for dinner, he wouldn't say a word about what it was like, but insisted we come see for ourselves.  Our hearts sank.  Just how bad could it be?

We followed him over to the entrance.  He opened the door.  It was amazing.  Clean, modern, spacious, elegant, and comfortable.  A beautiful sofa, with a good sized television and a nice array of DVDs to watch.  An espresso machine.  (Bill explained that he had already eaten the wonderful slice of home-made cake that his host had graciously left for him.)  A beautiful bathroom.  We were relieved and delighted to see that he had fallen on his feet.  But wait - would we like to see upstairs?  Of course we would!  Our delight was slightly tinged with envy by this point.  Upstairs was a good sized loft style bedroom with a large, comfy-looking bed and a master bathroom (we had merely seen the guest bathroom downstairs).  Just as downstairs, everything was immaculate and tastefully decorated in a manner that was simple, warm and welcoming.  If you ever need a place to stay in Barnstaple, Weirholme-Annexe turned out to be a great choice.

We went into town and found a nice Indian restaurant (hooray!) then returned for movie night chez Bill - we watched episode 1 of season 2 of Sherlock, a show none of us had seen before.  It was really good. Tomorrow would be a travel day and the parting of the ways.

N.B. This is the last of six posts about my trip to the north coast of Cornwall and Devon to walk a portion of the South West Coast Path.  [Trip Overview] - [Start of Trip] 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Day 5: Bude to Hartland Quay

N.B. A six-day walk on the north coast of the South West Coast Path (Padstow to Clovelly).
Cornwall Navigation: [Next Day] 

The place we stayed in Bude featured a rather untrustworthy proprietor and indifferently clean rooms, so I got up early on a quest for cappuccino.   I'd seen several coffee shops the night before, so I was optimistic.  

Unfortunately, the streets were deserted for a reason - none of the coffee shops were open!!  Finally, I went to a general store which sold me an instant cappuccino.  I've had worse.  When I returned to the B&B for breakfast, the hostess saw my cup and said they could have made cappuccino for me.  I smile wanly, but honestly I think I'd have wanted to look at their espresso machine first.  

We were soon out of there, and we took a taxi to the start of the day's walk.  It is theoretically possible that  by doing so, we managed to skip a particularly steep ravine and hill (she said, all wide-eyed innocence), but fear not -- we got in a few ups and downs nonetheless.

Along the way, a bit of shipwreck was visible on the rocks.  A plaque on the bench overlooking the remnants explains:

This bench is made from part of the wreckage of the tanker 'Green Ranger' 
which went aground in a force 10 gale on the evening of 17th November 1962.  
Some of the wreck can still be seen on the rocks below.  
Northern Devon Coast and Countryside Service, July 2003"

Remnants of the "Green Ranger"

Another angle, as the tide is going out
The quality of the light made everything luminous

As I dawdled with my camera and various adjustments, Bill and Sarah got far ahead.  But I still had to take a picture of this sign for Sarah.  (She's not keen on cows - let alone bulls!)  Happily, she did not see the sign - and we did not have to cross this particular field, in any event.

We walked along a little ridge, then descended to a bit of a creek or stream which we were supposed to cross.  (There were acorn signs behind us and acorn signs on the other side of the water, so it was Official Path.)  But we could not see any obvious, user-friendly way to get across.  No sign of a bridge - or even a former bridge.  Ultimately, we climbed over a fence, scrambled down a very short and crumbly cliff (maybe 18-24"), and picked our way across on rocks.  We were not setting challenges for ourselves; this was the easiest way across that we could find. 

On the other side, we encountered a walker (going the other direction) who asked us if we could confirm which way the path went.  We did.  She managed to get across the stream quickly and adroitly - making it look very, very easy.  Then she started sprinting up to the ridge.  Alas, it's athletes like that who make the rest of us look bad. 

We soon saw signs indicating that we were passing through some sort of nature reserve.  

I liked this little fold of land, almost like a skateboard ramp

The path became very hard to miss as we headed toward the Hartland Quay Hotel.

I liked the sag in the roof, and the lichen.
We enjoyed lunch outdoors at the pub, and went to a viewing point to look at Lundy Island.
The sign on the wall says "Strictly no dogs beyond this point"
We actually continued on beyond Hartland Quay, as we were staying in Hartland.

The "Pleasure House" folly
According to British Listed Buildings, this ruin is a "Folly known as The Pleasure House":

Folly. Possibly late C16 in origin remodelled in later C18. Coursed roughly square rubble walls. Roofless. Square on plan. Now partly ruinous tall structure, western wall has gone. Large roundheaded arch with dressed stone voussoirs and projecting imposts on east side. Signs of extensive alterations include traces of windows built up and there is also evidence of a fireplace on the 2nd floor and a staircase. 
The Pleasure House is first mentioned by that name in a letter of 1738 and is first shown on an early C18 map of the Abbey drawn to show the estate at the time of the 2 William Abbots in the later C16. The second Paul Orchard (1739 - 1812) is reputed to have altered the building so that he could back his carriage in and admire the view. 
Sources: The Book of Hartland - R. Pearse Chope; Hartland Quay - The story of a Vanished port - M. Rix and M. R. Meyers; Hartland Abbey, Devon II Richard Haslam:
[Country Life September 15 1983.]

A last, lingering look at the folly...
Narnian imagery: Puzzle (from The Last Battle) and the
cracked Stone Table (from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe)

Black Sheep
We passed a sewage treatment plant (pew!) and came to St. Nectan's.

St Nectan's

Sarah and I approached from the tower side (i.e, the east) and walked around 3 sides of the church only to find the doors locked.  Sarah retraced her steps to join Bill, and I decided to walk by the fourth side (the south) ... and the door was open there!!  St. Nectan was, according to the church's walking guide, "an early saint of Welsh or Irish origin."  Apparently the church tower is "the tallest in Devon at 128 feet and is known locally as 'Peeping Tom.'"

Inside St Nectan's - the "Devonian waggon roof"
In Hartland, we stayed at one of the two nicest places on the entire trip, Two Harton Manor, and had an outstanding dinner at the nearby Hart Inn, followed by serendipitous entertainment as we followed the sounds of music and sat in on a rehearsal session of the town band.  It was really lovely.  

The aesthetic of Two Harton Manor is clean and simple (almost zen), and very quirky and artistic.  The proprietor, Merlyn, is indeed an artist.  And also an excellent cook - we had a lovely breakfast.  Sarah naturally befriended the cat as well.

Close-up of the bookshelf in my room.

It is difficult to overstate the emotional impact of seeing these Penguin editions, grouped by color.  Among other things, it brings back the English classroom (my refuge and my home from home) at Le Verseau.  I so very much wanted to drop everything else, curl up in the armchair, and read! And it awoke in me a yearning to possess such a collection of Penguin editions myself.  They all seem very much worth reading.

N.B. A six-day walk on the north coast of the South West Coast Path (Padstow to Clovelly).
Cornwall Navigation: [Next Day]