Our visit to the Cotswolds

On our recent holiday in the UK, we spent a few days in the Cotswolds, east of London. These are a few of our pictures.

The Cotswolds are very pretty but we went at the height of tourist season so it was difficult in the more picturesque places to find a place to stop and take pictures.  Especially as the streets were so full of vehicles it was hard to get a clear view of the buildings.  The countryside is not as spectacular at all as the other places we went but as you can see from the pictures, the buildings in the yellow Cotswold stone are very pretty.

The streets in Snowshill were so narrow that there were very few parked cars, so it was easier to take pictures.

Snowshill: the church
Snowshill: the church
Snowshill: the church - detail
Snowshill: the church with Laurie and my dad
Snowshill
Snowshill

We stayed in a self-catering apartment at Broadway.  Here is Broadway Tower, a folly, i.e. built just because someone wanted to; it has no defensive purpose.

Laurie and Frank at Broadway Tower
Laurie and Frank at Broadway Tower

Laurie doesn’t have very fond memories of this place.  There is a gift shop inside the tower and a woman grabbed her by her barely-healing broken arm and re-broke it, trying to push her aside so she could get closer to the gifts.

Here is a detail from the top of the tower:

Gargoyle on Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds
Gargoyle on Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds

Here is the main street in Broadway:

Main Street Broadway
Main Street Broadway

and here is the pub in Stow-on-the-Wold where we had lunch:

Frank in front of the Old Stocks hotel at Stow-on-the-Wold
Frank in front of the Old Stocks hotel at Stow-on-the-Wold

and a couple of shots of the church in the same place:

Church at Stow-on-the-Wold
Church at Stow-on-the-Wold
Church at Stow-on-the-Wold: detail
Church at Stow-on-the-Wold: detail

We also spent a day at Blenheim Palace.  I’ve already posted some pictures from there and will do the rest next.

On our way out, we went through Stratford and stopped by Ann Hathaway’s cottage:

 

Ann Hathaway's cottage
Ann Hathaway’s cottage, Stratford

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall means fruit

Some of the more colourful fruits of the season

The fungi in my last post are the fruiting bodies.  Just like many fungi, many plants fruit in the fall as well.  Here are a few:

Milkweed seed
Milkweed seed

Of course, there are lots of berries:

High-bush-cranberry
High bush cranberry

Unlike the cranberries, the white parts of the dogwood are not highlights from the sun: the berries really are blue and white.

Dogwood
Dogwood berries

We have never had so many apples and crab apples, although the apples got a lot of insect damage.

Crabapples
Crab apples

I can’t look at the crab apples any more without thinking of poor Ashley Smith who got life in prison for throwing them at the letter carrier.

All this fruit came from record flowers in the spring, so we are doubly fortunate this year.  The thorn bushes were the same:

Thorn bush
Thorn bush

 

 

Beginning of fall

Early fall photos and as it is National Fungus Day in the UK I went down to the woods and got some fungus pictures.

Yes, we’ve had a couple of frosts, though we’re back into the warm weather.  Here is the frost on the seed pod of a pie plant:

Frosted pie plant
Frosted pie plant

The colours are starting to turn in the trees:

Home: early fall leaves
Home: early fall leaves

A few trees in particular:

Sugar maple
Sugar maple

Since today is National Fungus Day in the U.K. (Why doesn’t Canada have a day to celebrate these amazing organisms which are so essential to turning dead plants and animals to the cycle of life?) I thought I’d go down to the woods and see what I could find:

Fungus 1
Fungus 1
Fungus 2
Fungus 2

Some fungi like to get a better view than their cousins on the forest floor:

Fungus 3
Fungus 3

And some fungi do not have the “traditional” shape of fruiting body at all.  This first one looks a bit like icicles :

Icicle fungus
Icicle fungus (I made up the name – I still have to identify it)
Candelabra fungus
Candelabra fungus (another made-up name)

 

 

 

How the other 1% lives – Blenheim Palace pt 1

I don’t know if anyone is quite so ostentatious with their homes any more, but outside the royal palaces, the UK doesn’t get much fancier than this.

While on our holidays (a whole month ago! I’m getting behind on my blog posts) we went to Blenheim Palace.  It is the home of the Dukes of Marlborough and is the only non-Royal palace in the UK (and as big as almost all of those).  From the front, it looks like this.

Blenheim palace: front
Blenheim palace: front

You can see it might get a bit cramped if you have visitors, but still they seem to manage.  This is where Winston Churchill was born but as he was not the first-born, he did not inherit but had to go out and make a living.

The family was clearly well-read and musical.  This is the library.  That’s my dad at the front.  Notice the organ at the other end – as big as many cathedrals and just as ornate.

Blenheim palace library 1
Blenheim palace library 1

At the other end, a statue of Queen Ann.

Blenheim palace library 2
Blenheim palace library 2

It is hard to believe that this place cost only about half a million pounds (paid for by the state as a reward for winning some battles). That would only get you a couple of rooms in London these days.

Still, not to be outdone, I have remodelled our library.  I have converted one of our stately mansion’s state rooms into a fiction library.  There was no room for an organ, so I stuck my concertina at one end, though I now realise my tin whistle would have been better as a kind of single-pipe organ.

My Fiction library
My Fiction library

And I wasn’t going to be outdone on the statue front, either.

I have more pictures of the palace, for a later post.

My library - gargoyle
My library – gargoyle

 

 

Back from vacation – a few pictures of Arran

We’re just back from vacation in England and Scotland.  We stayed at my dad’s place in Morecambe , a self-catering place in the Cotswolds, and a B&B on the Isle of Arran in Scotland, for a few days each.  This post is about Arran.  It is a 55 minute ferry ride each way, from Ardrossan to Broddick, which looked like the largest community on Arran, though Wikipedia doesn’t agree.

Here is a picture of the ferry we returned on, taken from the outbound ferry:

Arran car ferry
Arran car ferry

As you can see, the sea was calm.  It was even calmer on the way back and sunny too.  We stayed in the next community south of Broddick, called Lamlash, at the Lilybank Bed and Breakfast.

Lilybank B&B
Lilybank B&B

The view from our room was awesome (in the pre-1990’s sense of the word).

Lilybank window view
Lilybank window view

Here is the view without the window frame.

Arran: Holy Isle from Lamlash
Arran: Holy Isle from Lamlash

We really enjoyed the breakfasts, too.  Full Scottish breakfast with haggis for me, black-pudding and haggis for Laurie and my dad had porridge but skipped the puddings.

We also tried the products of the Arran brewery (all good) and the distillery (time limited to one single malt, the Robert Burns, which was good but not great.

Arran is sheltered from the open sea by Kintyre to the West so generally has a mild climate.  Here are palm trees and fuchsias growing year round, at the back of the guest house:

Arran palm tree and fuchsia
Arran palm tree and fuchsia

We didn’t have time to see much with just 2.5 days but the island is only 57 miles around by road.  We did the circular tour and also the two small roads that go across the island.  We also had two walks of about 3 miles each (well, my dad and I did the first, I did the second).  The first was to see some ancient history.  These standing stones at Machrie Moor are among several stone circles along the trail and date back 4,000 years.

Standing stone at Machrie Moor - and me.
Standing stone at Machrie Moor – and me.
Standing stones at Machrie Moor - and my dad.
Standing stones at Machrie Moor – and my dad.

The other walk was down to the King’s Cave, on the west coast. It is said to have been the place where Robert the Bruce met his legendary spider, whose persistence in building its web inspired Bruce to try again, leading to his victory over the English at Bannockburn.

I took the route from inland and really enjoyed it.  There is a huge variation in the vegetation as you walk through spruce and larch:

Trail to Kings Cave
Trail to Kings Cave

The walk is circular – I went clockwise – above is looking back near the start.  Then you get to a clearing where you can see a bog pond and the hills in the background:

Trail to Kings Cave bog ponds
Trail to Kings Cave bog ponds

Then you emerge from the forest at the top of the cliffs with a fine view:

Kilbrannan Sound and Kintyre
Kilbrannan Sound and Kintyre

Just toward the end of the mainland, you can see a large container ship, which gives some idea of the scale.

This being Scotland, you have to have some heather – just glance back over your shoulder.

Trail to Kings Cave - heather
Trail to Kings Cave – heather

There is a bit of a scramble down to the beach, at which point you may see this large collection of stone piles.

Kings Cave stone piles
Kings Cave stone piles

Since I lugged my tripod all that way to get pictures with natural light inside the cave, I thought I might as well use it to get in the picture.  There are a series of caves and columns, with the King’s one on the far left.

Cave mouths
Cave mouths

For my money, if you want to leave your mark on a place, those piles of stones are a good way to go.  A real no-no is to carve your own initials over drawing which are hundreds of years old.  The inside of the King’s cave is ruined with recent initials; I was very disappointed.  So I drew these white arrows to call attention to what I think are some of the earlier art work. (Not, of course, on the cave walls, I just vandalised the picture.

Inside King's Cave
Inside King’s Cave

The walk back was just as impressive.  Some butterflies:

Peacock-Butterfly (Inachis io)
Peacock-Butterfly (Inachis io)

As I climbed back up, I was treated to these dew-speckled cobwebs on the heather.  I like to think the spiders were the (great-)n grandchildren of Robert the Bruce’s spider.

Cobwebs on heather
Cobwebs on heather

The sun was shining on them at an angle, so they made beautiful rainbows close up.  This is the best I could do with my camera – the sparkling effect is not so obvious with a still.

 

Rainbow cobwebs
Rainbow cobwebs

As you climb a bit further, past the headland, you get this fine view.

Machrie Bay
Machrie Bay

Even the dark forest floor has some colour.

Toadstools
Toadstools

That was the end of the walk, on the morning of our last day.  We took a late ferry back to the mainland but just to make sure we remembered our visit, we were piped on board by these guys.


Wi’ their tartan kilts an’ a’, an’ a’,
Wi’ their bonnets an’ feathers an’ glitt’rin’ gear,
An’ pibrochs sounding loud and clear.
Will they a’ return to their ain dear glen?
Will they a’ return oor Heilan’ men?
Second sichted Sandy looked fu’ wae.
An’ mithers grat when they march’d away.
Wi’ a hundred pipers, an’ a’, an’ a’,
We’ll up an’ gie them a blaw, a blaw
Wi’ a hundred pipers, an’ a’, an’ a’.

I used to sing this loudly when I was a kid. My family didn’t like it much.

Piped on board the ferry at Broddick
Piped on board the ferry at Broddick