Wales, Bath& Cornwall
Day 33 October 31stBala, Wales to Worcester
Mornings are dull in the UK, especially in Autumn. The park manager had told me on arrival that a woodpecker was about but that he hadn't seen him for a couple of days. As this bird is considered common albeit flighty it was a good enough reason to get me up and looking about fairly early.
The caravan park is on the edge of a town in typical country lane country. I wasn't too hopeful as in the four weeks we’d been in the UK not one woodpecker had been seen. My first sighting for the day was a new one for the trip, a Long-tailed Tit. This too is supposed to be common but it obviously hadn't been reading its own rhetoric. I managed a photo or too but they weren't particularly inspiring.
A Nuthatch at a feeder
I stopped by a feeder near the manager's motorhome and noticed a Nuthatch fly in amongst the predominant Sparrows at the feeder. This was a definite sighting following a possible back in Scotland so now I had two new birds for the day.
At last a Great-spotted Woodpecker
I decided to wait for the Nuthatch to come back to get a better photo and began to twitch frantically when a Great-spotted Woodpecker flew in and took over. It was if I was meant to wait there! Chalk up another special moment in birding.
We’d given up trying to pronounce the Welsh names as we left Wales. There is so much of this area yet to see.
We drove down to Shrewsbury and celebrated our entry into England by taking a photograph of the Welcome to Shropshire sign (Shropshire is a family laugh courtesy of a Daffy Duck classic). We shopped briefly and I managed to get a haircut during our brief stop.
It was early afternoon so we headed on, making our way finally to Worcester in Worcestershire. Rain began soon after our set up and tonight we're catching up on some internet time, posting some photos of our recent travels. I must admit it was good to be set up and relaxing by 5 p.m. for a change. It was Halloween but no one came visiting.
Name? "Shropshire Slasher.
Occupation? "Shropshire Slasher.
Day 34 November 1st
When you turn the wrong way out of the caravan park you know it’s going to be an interesting day. Two wrong turns later and we were on our way down towards Bristol and on to Bath.
It was a mostly overcast day and rain settled in steadily mid afternoon. Our caravan park was difficult to find but turned out to be a pretty spot by a river called Newton Mill. It's not far from Bath where we planned to head the next day. They offered 15% discount for seniors which is over 55 years of age for them. That made it £12.25 per night. It almost felt good being a senior!
Magpie - a totally different species to the Australian Magpie
Lots of Magpies were about but the rain made enjoying the place a bit difficult. Despite seeing Magpies in Hong Kong and every day since our arrival in the UK it took until today to photograph one reasonably close up. Hopefully tomorrow things would be settled.
Day 35 November 2nd
The rain was heavy for much of the night but there was some hint of blue sky when we arose around 8.30. Showers persisted for most of the day but there were some clear moments. The air was chilly but generally not too bad.
We drove from our camp at Newton Mill to the Park and Ride spot nearby at Newbridge where the council operator said they catered for motorhomes. They didn't as it turned out but we managed to find a spot next to the main road where other trucks and larger vehicles had stopped. For £3 each we had a return ticket to the centre of Bath, about 15 minutes away and well worth the break from the hassle of one way lanes and dead ends.
The walls and floors were covered with testimonials
First stop was Bath Abbey which had free entry and breathtaking architecture. The history of the building is fascinating having evidence of being once a Roman site before Saxons captured Bath in 577. The Normans built a cathedral at the present site around 30 years after their invasion in 1066. In 1499 the cathedral was in ruins and the present Abbey Cathedral was founded....it goes on. We were impressed by every aspect of it from its high, ornate ceilings, huge stained glass windows to the people buried there in crypts and under the floor where we walked.
A plaque to Gov Arthur Phillip
A plaque on the wall under an Australian flag was dedicated to Captain Arthur Phillip of our First Fleet.
The Roman Baths
Next was a step back nearly 2000 years to the Roman Baths. These ancient ruins date back to the first century AD and were built by the Romans over Britain's only natural hot spring. This was superb despite the large crowds.
The top of the roman Baths with the cathedral in the background
Audio sets gave insights into every nook and cranny plus described the many artefacts and remains on display. Projections on different walls showing actors going about their life in and around the complex were sensibly done and effective. That the baths still operate over this natural hot spring reflects well on the building and planning of this ancient culture.
The main outdoor bath
I jogged down to the river to get a photo or two of the Pulteney Bridge and buildings of old Bath before we hopped onto a tour bus that took us around the city where Jane Austin lived and other writers were inspired. A second tour a bit out of the town was equally informative. By the time we bussed back to the Park and Ride we had seen all we could take in about this intriguing place.
The Pulteney Bridge on the river
Tonight the sounds of fireworks interrupted the silence periodically. We are in a valley so there is no visual display to be seen. It’s disappointing in a way as was Halloween as no one knocked on our door. We had to eat all the Cadbury Roses ourselves.
Day 36 November 3rd
We narrowly missed a huge hail storm as we headed down towards Cornwall. With no idea how far we would get we decided not to worry about booking a park site before we left. This was to prove a costly mistake.
Port Isaac (Port Wenn in the TV show)
By one o'clock we were in striking distance of Port Isaac where the television series, “Doc Martin” was filmed. It is an historical town of some significance so we hoped to get in for a good look. As the roads narrowed so did the opportunities to park so we decided on a largish one on the outskirts of the village for £3.
Inevitably cars heading in the opposite direction met head on in the narrowest of streets
The walk down into the village was steep but the views were just as we had imagined them to be. A tourist market has certainly built up around the sites used in the filming of the show and apparently the locals aren't too impressed with the increased traffic. We had a great time!
The Doc's cottage
After taking some memorable photos we stopped at one of the local pubs for lunch. We both had pan fried Base which was fresh as. The beer for me and wine for Glenda almost made the climb back out of the village manageable. We made it into the motorhome just as a lightning storm hit but unfortunately there wasn't a place to stop and photograph it.
Inside an old pub in Port Isaac
The guy serving us lunch estimated we could reach Helston in two hours so we decided to head there to save the drive tomorrow. By the time we reached it it was after 5 p.m. and getting dark. There were no parks in Helston, so Glenda phoned one on the Lizard called Henry's Camp. Henry had a pitch for us so we headed down in the increasing darkness.
I couldn't raise Henry on the phone to ask directions as our ipad was flat and there were no signs. A girl at the Fish and Chip shop said it was about a hundred metres further down a tight lane way. After two attempts to find it I parked in an empty lawn area and walked down the lane with the torch. Henry seemed puzzled that we had trouble finding his place but showed me the pitch where we could settle. It was basic but in the dark weren't going to complain. Tight manoeuvring we were home.
There was a fireworks display going off soon after we had hooked up so I wandered up the lane to a large field where hundreds of locals had gathered. It must have been for Guy Fawkes Night but I mused that as this was the place where my ancestors came from then it was fitting that we claimed it for us. I didn't tell anyone that of course. Tomorrow will be special.
Day 37 November 4th
It was very windy today and we felt it in the motorhome as our pitch is exposed to the sea. Not that we mind as the position and views are quite good.
how I managed to drive in in the dark is beyond me!
Daylight revealed very old buildings crammed in together. The owner enjoyed his chooks and geese and these added to a certain idiosyncratic feel for the place.
Looking west from The Lizard
The ocean was about a kilometre away and I soon found myself hopping over puddles as I guessed my way down to the cliffs along muddy laneways. The peninsula is very much farmland amidst moorland with tall cliffs overlooking the coast. It can be very windy as we found last night but equally on a calm day it would have much to recommend it.
The owner of Henry's Camp said that Oliver's
rented this cottage from the Harris family for many years
I did a big walk around the town which my ancestors lived in or near such a long time ago. Old brick walls and cottages made me feel privileged to be here and almost within touching distance of my forebears who share our name.
People have talked about bursting into tears on entering the places of their forebears but while this didn’t happen to me there was a very real feeling of presence and family...whatever that means. Emotions can be so elusive.
The rain came in sporadically but I managed to get some photos of the town which is a typical village with a dog's breakfast of streets and lane ways. The manageress of the local store couldn't recall any of her customers with the surname of Oliver but I told her I was looking for someone who resembled me. We both laughed as did the small crowd of customers waiting to be served.
The most souterly church in the UK
I walked down the Church Cove Road to the church of St Wynwallow, Landewednack. The cottages and old stone walls called to me in that my ancestors walked these lanes or may have even helped build them.
The church is where John Oliver married Sarah Chittock in 1809. Their story is taken up in another writing but I was stoked to be the first of our line to return here after five generations. What amazed me was the short distance (maybe 100 meters) between The Lizard and the next village, Landewednack.
The interior of the church where John & Sarah Oliver exchanged vows
The church was a typical Church of England design but was founded in 600 A.D. The oldest part of its present design dates to the Norman Era circa the 12th century (the doorway) while the tower was added in the C15th. As I arrived three ladies were leaving and welcomed me in. They asked if I'd turn the lights off when I was finished. Now that's what a church should be.
I took lots of photos and walked about the graveyard looking for head stones that had our name but none were found.
The only meaningful tombstone I could find was for one John Chittock, (Sarah’s maiden name). He lived from 1820 – 1870. It was a link to their time and our ancestry.
The church at Wendron
After lunch we drove to Wendron to the church there and did a similar search as this place was the Parish centre during the Oliver's time. The architecture of the church was the same as those of churches all over the Lizard Peninsula; each village seemed to have its own church tower.
The remains of once very active mine sites near Cambourne
From there it was typically perilous lanes through old copper mining ruins to Camborne. This place was where Caleb Oliver lived in 1851 according to the census of that year. It was recorded that he and wife, Elizabeth Oliver lived in Tuckingmill. I parked precariously in Pendarves Road which is the main road into this township. My research suggested that this was the street where he lived and that the census of 1851 stopped referring to the street name and just recorded house numbers, that is, “113 Tuckingmill”. I got very excited at finding the cottage where Caleb Oliver, my Great, Great Grandfather and the first of our Australian line lived. Unfortunately when I checked my notes back at the park I had photographed the wrong residence! I’d looked at 32 which was Caleb’s age at the time of the census!
The wrong cottage in Tuckingmill.
These buildings lined both sides of the main roas into Cambourne
Still, it was one of over a hundred miner’s cottages built along this road in the late 1840’s and 1850’s to cope with the huge number of miners brought in for the mining boom. The conditions must have been appalling according to the local history which tells of the army being brought in to quell the drunkenness.
The church at Sithney
On the way back we stopped at Sithney where Caleb was born and again I photographed the church. St Sithney is the patron saint for mad dogs....probably a connection! By this time the Oliver's per se had changed from Church of England to Methodists so records from about this time need to be looked for in Wesleyan parish documents.
We are both churched and castled out but today has been a very important one for me as an Oliver. We are what we make ourselves but to have this connection over seven or more generations is special.
Day 38 November 5th
Last night's storm was probably the worst for the trip. The rain was heavy but the wind gusts buffeted the motorhome substantially, resulting in a restless night. When the sun rose this morning it had all but abated and we had good sunshine for most of the day.
We wanted to photograph a special little cottage in a forest on the way to Helston but an accident up ahead had us diverted through Mullion. This wasn't too bad because we saw countryside we would have ignored, including a beautiful beach area at Poldhu Cove. Our first stop was St Michael's on an islet off Marazion. This wasn't too far away but the sun was coming strongly from the rear so our photos suffered from too much backlight.
St. Michael's has a thousand year history and is the home of the St Aubyn family and about 30 islanders. It can be reached at low tide across a cobbled causeway or at higher tide by boat or army duck (a local tourist attraction).
Buildings in Marazion, Cornwall
A Brent Goose in the shallows was a surprise as were a number of waders. The town of Marazion was very interesting with the usual old buildings, narrow lanes and a diverse range of pubs and shops. If we do Cornwall again this place deserves a good stay.
I had to find Caleb Oliver's residence from the Census of 1851 so we drove to Cambourne
once again. I parked next to the Tuckingmill Hotel and began to look for number 113. The cottage next to the hotel was 107 and as you moved up the hill the numbers decreased. Where was it? I chatted to an older gent named Brian who had lived there all his life. Talk about enthusiasm, he had me following him at a pace to a number of spots where the numbers might start again. He even pointed out the home of an Oliver who he grew up with but who had since gone (whatever that meant).
Cottages next to Tuckingmill hotel
Similar cottages across the road
We had no luck so in the end all I could do was photograph some typical cottages that the mining company had built for its workers, one of whom was Caleb. So close but so far.
The Jamaica Inn on Bodmin moor
Glenda wanted to visit the Jamaica Inn, scene of Daphne Du Maurier's novel. We travelled through some beautiful country through the Bodmin Moors to find the place. It was well preserved and set up for tourists but was closed for the Winter. Disappointed we pushed on to the town of Tavistock.
Francis Duke of Bedford had built this imposing place and most of the old buildings were occupied and still being used for municipal or public things. It was a beautiful setting with a river running through the town like so many other places for the same obvious reasons. The statue of the Duke lends itself for some ridicule. In his day being a member of the Order of the Garter would have a significant difference to that of today. His bare leg showing a garter had me grinning.
Our camp for the night is on the outskirts of the town in a formal park. I managed a close up photo of a Long-tailed Tit before the chilly afternoon sent me indoors.
Day 39 November 6th
A beautiful clear sky with no wind gave us a great start to the day although we are tired. My early morning walk enabled a close up photo of a Goldfinch and sightings of a Goshawk and a Short-eared Owl. This was very exciting!
A Guy from Cornwall revealed that he was a Councillor from Camborne. He recalled that about 40 years ago some old miners cottages were demolished behind the Tuckingmill Hotel to build the park that now lies there. Of the park he was disappointed saying that it attracted drug users, drunks and was unfit for children to play in. Perhaps that is what happened to Caleb and Betsy's cottage.
We drove through the Dartmoor National Park which was quite hilly in parts. Old stone fences bordered pasture areas which contained not just cattle and sheep but wild ponies. I'm not a great lover of horses and the concept of these being wild wasn't comfortable, especially as they will come up to humans to get apples and sandwiches. A bit like the bears at Jellystone in North America and some of our birds in Australia I supposed. Stopping to take photographs wasn't easy given the narrow roads but we managed a few.
A RSPB site near Dawlish attracted our attention. It was a significant marsh area with a very narrow single lane to a regimented parking area. Several people advised to park in the designated spots as the parking officers were ruthless. A good search netted a definite Wigeon duck but overall not much else. On the way out I had to reverse a substantial distance to let another driver through. By the time he was passed I was pretty much passed small lane ways.
The rest of the day was pretty much driving through small towns and more one way streets. England is full of small villages and towns which expand to form larger places. I am very impressed with the way the local councils protect their heritage and their older buildings despite the pressures brought on by increasing populations and demographic changes. We'll be glad to get home and drive in what is normal for us as driving a big motorhome is exhausting even though 95% of drivers and pedestrians have been very patient and helpful.
Eventually we reached Salisbury and a small farm stay around 4.20 p.m. The lady manager had just returned from her mother’s funeral which was sad. We set up for £10 with no toilets or showers but that is okay as we've got power.
Day 40 November 7th
I was awake early and walking about the motorhome. We were on the edge of a field and it was typically surrounded by hedges and trees. The day looked promising but we needed to decide on our final destination for the day. We both admitted our readiness for home so the decision to head for London rather than Oxford speaks heaps about our frame of mind.
First stop after a couple of detours was Stone Henge. At £7 per Senior (Glenda insists on one adult and one Senior) we were allowed to walk around the perimeter of the construction and listen to an audio headset. It was interesting despite the bitter wind and yes, there is a lot of misinformation out there about its origins.
It is very old and its construction boggles the mind. It evolved between 3000 BC and 1600 BC. It is aligned with the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunrise but its exact purpose remains a mystery. It predates the Druids who tended to have their ceremonies in forest clearings rather than building edifices anywhere like Stonehenge.
We took many photographs of the edifice and returned to the motorhome and the drive to London. We settled on a park in Denham which is okay but not much lies within walking distance. I spent an hour in the woods nearby but precious little was about. This will be an okay staging point for our preparation for the return home. We are looking forward to getting there!
Day 41 November 8th
Today was all about cleaning the outside of the motorhome and planning for our departure. I walked the forest next to the park which was very overgrown and sloped dramatically near an old chalk quarry. The tracks were probably marked but the leaf litter covers everything that hasn't been overgrown.
I did the 20 minute walk down to the local shops in 25 minutes and substantially longer on the way back. Yes, there is real work to be done when we get back.
An older lady knocked on our door around 8.30 p.m. and came in for a chat. This is unusual but she was an aussie from Sydney and she and her husband were travelling about in a bought motorhome which they parked in Holland during the times they returned to Australia. It was a quick chat but she turned out to be quite the intriguing character.
Day 42 November 9th
Julie dropped by mid morning and invited us for a meal that night in their motorhome. This was unexpected but we accepted their invitation as this was our last night in the UK.
I walked down to the shopping centre and looked for a nearby lake which ended up too far away. The overcast and drizzly conditions didn’t inspire me anyway and in truth I wasn’t too enthused for photography anyway. We packed our cases during the afternoon and marvelled at the additions to our luggage accumulated over the past six weeks.
Our evening rendezvous with Warrock and Julie was great. Both were accomplished in their own fields and had been on the road for a number of years. They had all sorts of advice for us re travel in Europe and I get the feeling we will meet up again down the track.
Day 43 November 10th
We were up fairly early emptying the toilet and the grey water from the motorhome as this is a strict requirement of our hire agreement.
Warrock and Julie came over to say goodbye and I was pleased when Warrock asked for a copy of my book. He later emailed and congratulated me on it which was again pleasing.
We headed off one last time to return the vehicle. A stop to fill it with gas and fuel and we arrived late morning. The company were very pleased with the condition of the motorhome and after a quick inspection we were driven to the Lutin airport by a young lass who was interested in birds.
The bus trip to Heathrow passed through the same small towns we’d travelled through on the first day, their narrow streets not so intimidating as on that first occasion. On reaching the airport Glenda joined a queue to regain some of the tax we had paid on items bought during our stay. Quite rightly we shouldn’t have to pay these government taxes as visitors.
It was 9.30 p.m. when the plane finally took off for Singapore. We had shocking seats in the middle of the plane despite Glenda pre booking window seats the day before. Consequently we both had miserable sleeps during the 13 hour flight. It seemed like the adventure was over but we still had three nights in Singapore, an exotic location and a real contrast to the last six weeks.