Loving London

Not a war time cry across the wireless but a phrase from the lyrics put together by ‘The Clash’ and with which its song leads I feel ‘London Calling’. The Clash would follow up their leading line with ‘to the faraway towns’, and this is so as I sit on the train back from this incredible city and return to my faraway town.

Some would associate London calling with the punk record or look back at memories of when it was the leading line on the wireless before the BBC would deliver reports on the darkest periods of World War II. Relaxing by letting the train take the strain I start to ponder how on earth I can write a single blog about the ‘greatest city’ on earth, that has become the laughingstock around the world recently’ apparently. I will stay away from the politics, after all this blog is about travel, London has been calling me for a while now, but though my mission to visit every city has taken a hiatus, everything now looks to be getting back on track.

A city like many others on this personal journey, it is steeped in so much of Britain’s history, which is infused through every nook and cranny of this metropolis. It was the Romans who first established this city some 2000 years ago, before many ups and downs created what is seen today. The Black Plague, the Great Fire Spanish flu and even the German Luftwaffe tried to destroy it, but she still stood firm. These are just a few periods of its incredible history that have shaped the city seen today and perhaps are reasons for so many visitors.

London lures many people to visit, to work or even to in live in, I’m included in that number. What is the reason? Politicians strive for power, investors and bankers seek their fortune, some people arrive for a glimpse of the monarchy, or others just like to find fame in that ‘Instagrammable’) location. The facts surely speak for themselves. Before the pandemic struck, some 18 million people came to visit the city every year. This is further evidenced by London being voted the greatest city on the planet on numerous occasions. This, of course, is open for debate.

Someone wise once said, ‘Why, sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ Sadly, as I write this, I tend to disagree because, on this day, I am willing to leave London. Has the world changed greatly from the day that this was said? In my opinion it has greatly! In my eyes the hustle and bustle are okay for a day or two, but full time? Not for me! That’s a rat race I don’t want to win. Perhaps many Londoners shared the same view as they flocked away from the city during the pandemic. As I see it there is a call from afar of green and pleasant lands that offer a quality of life that the city can’t match. Full time bloggers dedicate their blogs to this city. I’m just an inquisitive individual trying to learn about these lands.

It’s that thirst for knowledge that has taught me London is two cities the City of Westminster and the City of London. The City of London is surely a far cry from the small fort the Romans would have established when they invaded these lands. When the Roman Empire fell and the Romans left these shores, the city has evolved from sticks and stones into the financial hub of the world (would need confirmation that this is still the case). Now referred to as ‘the square mile’. It is adjoined on the western boundary by London’s second city, the ‘bubble’ (sorry City) of Westminster (the chaos of that City is reflected in the daily news, and I will leave that for you to follow). These two Cities combine to form the central heartbeat (downtown – if you’re reading from across the pond) of what many people associate as being London.  The gothic grandeur sprinkled throughout as modern & medieval architecture stand side by side complimenting each other is a sight to behold. London’s addictive atmosphere evokes curiosity & excitement. This is true for me as a visitor, but for those who live here 24/7 they may have other feelings. These two cities, together with 31 boroughs, combine to form the Greater London Area (GLA). Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham, Richmond, Southwark, Greenwich to name a few. Six of these boroughs do not have “London Borough” in their names: the City of London and the City of Westminster, and the Royal Boroughs of Kingston upon Thames, Kensington, Chelsea, and Greenwich. For someone living in the countryside its astonishing to think that an incredible 9 million people call London home which is more people than live in Wales and Scotland combined or the entire population of Austria. This amount of people surely gives the city its rich & diverse culture. Over a third of this 9 million were born abroad which means London is probably as international as it is British.

These cultures combine to give a mix of cuisines like no other city. Forget ‘the best of British’, as food lovers are spoilt for choice. When visiting or living in London people are spoilt for choices. There are a remarkable 87 Michelin star restaurants in the city and 3 at the highest 3* level. There are even rumours that there are more Indian restaurants in London than in Mumbai and that the food is better than can be found in that city. A quick troll through Instagram will show you some of the famous ones, normally accompanied by a rooftop view for drinks – they certainly are the craze these days. If food isn’t what you seek, then perhaps a pint maybe calling you. Pubs are part of the very fabric of Britain, and it is claimed that in London you are never no more than 7metres from one (again how true this is I shall let you decide). The capital boasts some 7,000 public houses and inns. Afternoon tea is another very British tradition, and London (where it originates from?) does it like no other. A visit to the Ritz, Claridge’s, Browns, Dorchester and The Berkeley are all worth the financial outlay.

But London is more than food & drink. It can boast an incredible 4 separate world heritage sites. It has 2000 years of history. Meaning it has something for everyone. The Romans established it, it survived the dark ages before evolving through the Middle Ages, and now as technology advances at a rate of knots who knows what she might become. The great British Isles are blessed with many castles, London incredibly only boasts one these days, The famous and much visited tower of London. At one time there were 9 castles surrounding the city, but the only one remaining is to the west, which is her late majesty’s resting place, Windsor. A town not so far away, only a day’s march back in the day is well worth a visit but shouldn’t distract you from the time that would be lost to the vast amount of museums London has to boast. You could spend a couple of weeks in London and still not visit all the museums, as there are over 170 of them. The best thing is that most of them are free! Half of the 2 millennia (of the Christian era) have been ruled by the monarchy. Westminster Abbey (along with the Tower of London) dates back to the Norman invasion. Westminster Abbey is where our kings and queens are crowned. There is a fascination with the monarchy from old to young and far and wide, and while it gives us our rich traditions, values and pomp and circumstance the whispers grow louder for its very existence. London’s more recent history has been absorbed in political infighting that has come off the back of pandemic management. As we leave the ‘pandemic’ London, like the rest of the Europe, survived as it did the great Plague and fire. During the great plague some 40,000 Londoners were wiped out in 1665 and a year later the great fire tore through the city, but she still survived. As the city evolved from the turmoil of an epidemic and then ash, it rose again. The present St Paul’s Cathedral is testament to this. It left the medieval ages and golden years and went on to become the modern masterpiece everyone seems to love now. The impression I have is that much of London’s success can be put down to the Victorians. There may be similarities with the here and now as Britain looks to carve its new place in the world post Brexit. Perhaps some inspiration can be gleaned from its great and long-standing history. London is also home to some quirky street names.

I mentioned ‘wannabe‘ social media stars flocking to the city for the perfect location for food or spending money in the city’s fashionable drinking and eating establishments. Their arrival is clearly the city’s business gains. London is also one of the 4 fashion capitals of the world and is home to more shops than Paris. Oxford, Regent & Bond Street are famous as are Harrods in Knightsbridge, Saville Row or, my personal favourite, Covent Garden.  Fashion is so popular in London that it requires two weeks and not one in the calendar year for its fashion week. The city has also produced some famous names in the fashion world – Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss to name a couple.

With many people living, working or visiting the city, it needs a transport system like no other. Green taxes and overcrowded roads mean driving in London isn’t for the faint hearted. London is served by the largest city airport network in the world. The 6 airports that form this service to the city are Stansted, Luton, Southend, City, Gatwick and Heathrow. The London Underground with its famous map is an experience not to be missed when in the city. It’s the oldest metro system in the world, 402km long and boasts an incredible 270 stops. It is reported that 1.3 billon single trips are made each year on the ‘Tube’. It is also an interesting fact that more of the underground exists above ground. How could one write about transport and not mention London’s iconic Black cabs and red buses. They used to dominate the roads of the city, but now they are competing with uber, and bicycles as alternative forms of getting round. As the world looks to green alternatives, possibly the best way to explore the city is by foot. It’s certainly my favourite way to explore the place. You’ll hopefully be able to read my blogs soon of when I completed the Thames path which took me right through the heart of the city. The City is classified as a national forest. There are an estimated 8 and half million trees in the city with over 300 gardens. This equates to 40% of London being parkland.

So, as I draw this slightly longer blog to a close, I can only apologise for its length. Hopefully you can see how difficult I have found to condense this blog about the city, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. So, as I look to explore this great city in further detail, the capital of capitals, watch out for more and more blogs on this fascinating city. I will return to that famous quote ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ I’m not tired and look forward to returning. Are you tired of London? Answers on a postcard (email) please….

Brunel’s Bristol

Bristol has been a huge part of my life, and it saddens me that it has only taken me until now to fully explore it. Probably not best to be explored by foot as its sights are widespread and it is hilly as well, I did so anyway. Racking up the kilometres I managed to visit all of Brunel’s masterpieces.


Bristol’s location is a puzzle to me as it is a long way from the Bristol Channel. Surely a port at the edge of the land would have been an ideal location for ships and transportation links. Why bring all the ships up to the harbour in the city centre? This route is a glorious passage up through the Avon gorge, as it meanders its way from the Bristol channel to Bristol’s city centre. Presumably the river is deep and wide enough to allow the size of ships that obtained in the nineteenth century to float up to the city centre when Bristol saw much traffic. This could only be achieved by the lock system. The gorge towers up on either side, and when the tide goes out leaves nothing but a mucky mud view. One of Brunel’s engineering creations is the stunning suspension bridge that crosses high above the gorge with more modern advancements meaning that lower bridges and roads have been put in place. Upon crossing these it was fascinating to discover that Brunel had built a swivel bridge and wonder at how much of the docks he built.

The suspension bridge may be viewed from a number of surrounding locations. Certainly, the Clifton side is the best viewing spot. If you can manage to drag yourself away from this wonderful view, wander through this posh neighbourhood of Bristol. I did exactly that as I went in search of Cabot’s tower. Not so keen on Cabot’s tower (some bad memories and all that) I was tour guide for my dad the day we visited, so I felt it had to be included. On arriving and passing a number of elegant buildings I was surprised to find that one could walk up the tower for free! What a shock, when just about everything else touristy in this country has a charge associated with it. Well done Bristol!

Upon leaving the park, we were in front of the SS Great Britain. What was once the largest steamship ever to be built and the first to cross the Atlantic looks nothing compared to the ships that travel the oceans these days. Its amazing to think of the number of times that I have been in Bristol and have never visited this iconic ship. Another piece of work by Brunel, but perhaps I have not visited being put off by the price to visit this ship. The ship is moored in the floating harbour, a walk around here is well worth the views on a summer’s evening. At the western end of the harbour a few charming pubs exist alongside the locks; in the centre is the massive M Shed, guarded by 4 former ship cranes. This harbour lacks the volume of boats you would normally associate with most harbours probably due to its awkward entry and exit to the channel. Perhaps the larger ships use Avonmouth. During one weekend in the summer months this place turns into a harbour fest. The city, which I deem pleasant to visit at any time, becomes a hive of activity then and really buzzes.

A short walk from the harbour in either direction is the cathedral or city centre I am not one for shopping so I avoid the shops – just like the rest of the country seems to be doing but, no doubt, for other reasons! Instead I take a visit to the city’s cathedral. Amazingly this place is free to enter as well! Double bonus points, Bristol. So many of the English cathedrals seem to charge an exorbitant entrance fee. I believe this cathedral to be one of the larger in the country and a visit inside does little to contradict that. A visit to this wonderful piece of architecture is a must for anyone. One thing that surprised me was that the stained glass windows in most of the building weren’t the normal religious depictions that one would expect. This as a result of the bombings in the war which meant that most of the windows were blown out. The church decided to replace them with memories of those who helped Bristol during the war.

Drag myself away from here and across the college green and make a way up Park Street. Normally I make my way down it in a drunken state, but this time I was drawn to what I thought was another church on top of the hill. On closer inspection I was proved wrong. This is in fact a part of the university.

After finally looking at what Bristol has to offer, rather than what has always been for previous family visits or nights of drinking this place has blown my mind. If I had more time then I would like to look at one of Brunel’s great engineering feats, the railway. There are many other wonderful places yet to discover in this fascinating city.

Bristol, England, United Kingdom

Wonderful Wells

I’m very fortunate that my job takes me to some of England’s more intriguing places. Today I was in Wells, my destination being blessed in glorious spring sunshine had to be appreciated both before and after work. I noticed it described as “a hidden gem in the heart of Somerset”. No truer words have been put on an advertising leaflet. Even though the film Hot Fuzz was filmed here, locals and tourists don’t flock to Wells to explore; their loss and my gain.


England’s smallest city doesn’t disappoint! Dominated by its grand and impressive cathedral and bishop’s palace, this city leaves the mind to wonder at its very existence. How? Why? Why here? The ‘when’ is quite clear as there are plenty of plaques to say that this or that was put up in this or that year with most reading a date in the 15th century. The two dominating parts of this city are slightly more than a stone’s throw from each other but are clearly linked through religion. It looks like bishops lived well back then!! But it is the why that remains unanswered by a casual stroll through what is nothing more than a small town but has city status. Like some of its neighbouring towns it offers no reason for its presence. It doesn’t appear to have been a strategic position in yesteryear battles, there is no castle, there are no signs of industrialism, confirmed by its lack of railway.

Bishops Palace

Firstly, the palace resembles a castle with its impressive moat. First impressions may well have confused more people than I but this is rectified upon entrance through an imposing gateway to read the informative signs. It is the home for the bishop of Bath and Wells. It’s fortifications, moat, drawbridge and portcullis wouldn’t look out of place at most castles around the country. Such a well-fortified home for a religious leader. Why? Does this highlight even more how much religion once played a huge part in this country’s history and how little it will play in its future? Step inside these fortifications and wonder where is the missing keep? Instead one is greeted with some ruins, and what looks like a stately home.

Secondly, the impressive cathedral, a spectacular example of British architecture. This cathedral gives the city its rights. Stand and admire this grand and impressive building from the greens to the front, marvel at the level of detail on the outside alone. Ponder the hours and effort that must have gone into making this cathedral

look so amazing. The western front facade is dominated by small figurines. We are so blessed in these isles with amazing heritage that it is all too easy to take these buildings for granted. Anything looks more beautiful in the sun, this was confirmed in my springtime visit as the sun waved its magic wand and lit up this majestic building. Standing there my breath was taken away.

Vicars Close

To the north of the cathedral is the charming Vicars close, a fascinating parade of similar houses and constructed way back (actually 1363 as a notice proudly displays). Walk to the end to get an impressive view of the cathedral with the forefront of the picture dominated by these ancient houses and chimneys.

My visit inside the cathedral took place back in Autumn last year. Stepping inside these buildings I marvel and wonder why they were designed this way. To have such high ceilings seems like a waste of space or was it part of an acoustic design? Perhaps a visit when this place is in full choir or song may prove the theory, not that I expect to see these places over packed with worshippers.

I would challenge anyone to discover some of these beautiful buildings and lovely locations that this country has to offer and let me know where my meanderings should take me next.



History at Hughenden

View from the main garden

I’m finally starting to take full advantage of my National Trust (NT) membership. Living my manic lifestyle, finding the time has been difficult to use it to the full. With the long Easter weekend there was an opportunity to get out and explore should the weather had been kind. Who would have thought that I’m becoming fascinated with history! In England we’re blessed with an abundance of history that we really shouldn’t ignore.

Memorial in church

Until today I had never heard of Disraeli so this trip to Hughenden Manor was worthwhile. The house and grounds (though disappointing on first appearance) were crowded as there was an Easter Egg hunt under way. I will not go off on one about commercialisation of religious festivals as there was much to learn about an illustrious, though, to my way of thinking, stomach churning, creepy, former Prime Minister. There is much evidence on display to confirm my impressions. Evidently Queen Victoria thought that he was wonderful, and this is seen in a memorial in the church. And yet, in a perverse way, it is the TV series covering young Victoria’s life that has sparked my interest. It may well be, based on the numbers in the house and grounds, that I am not alone.

The house didn’t have the wow factor that some of the NT properties have that I have visited but it did have some interesting things going for it. The inside of the house was well maintained; the ground floor was mainly family pictures; in certain rooms there were inscriptions printed on the blinds. There was also a lot of information in the house regarding politics and Disraeli.

Portrait of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the Disraelis’ Bedroom

On the upper floor there were more pictures; these were different though as they were gifts from the queen. These could be spotted by the crown crowning the frame. The first room on the top floor has a timeline of his life. When we were there a passionate West Indian man spoke about Isaac Disraeli (his father) falling out with his fellow Jews at the synagogue and getting his children baptised into the Church of England. At the time this was a vital decision that enabled Benjamin to become Prime minister in adult life. Look around at the walls to see Disraeli quotes. Two of these appealed to me as a traveller, “Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen” and “One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes”.


The final stop was to look downstairs to see how ‘Hillside’ was used in the construction of maps used in World War 2. Tight, congested and overcrowded it was time to leave. It was then time to witness an adult playing stuck in the mud by parking his car on some wet ground rather than the huge amounts of kids running around. The building and gardens looked dank but then so has been the weather of late. Wait for the summer as the gardens will look tremendous.



High Wycombe HP14 4LA, UK



Awesome Autumn!


We have been so blessed this autumn with glorious weather. Those that haven’t been out to appreciate the display that nature affords have missed a trick. The colours of this season make it my favourite of the four seasons and when the sun makes an appearance in autumn one is compelled to grab the opportunity to get out and explore.

With this in mind I took myself out to Forde Abbey. The abbey and gardens are stunningly beautiful at this time of year and so much more impressive than the display at Stourhead, a near neighbour. I had been to both sites before but the contrast between them is marked. The crowds flock to Stourhead with its reputation of beauty, its use as a film location and it being part of a National Trust (NT) property. These benefits make it a busy, popular and well-known choice of destination especially for those with annual NT membership. Many, including myself, enter Stourhead at the presentation of their annual pass but here an opening of the wallet is required. Forde Abbey is unknown to many, privately owned, off the beaten track, in an area of the country not known for its beauty (though this should be robustly disputed) but proved to display autumn in all its glory.

After eventually navigating my way to the abbey (it had been a few years since I had been there), the approach brings the visitor in along its main drive. Either side tower trees that shield from the sun and create a natural green and orange tunnel. After parking up and buying my ticket, I wander through the kitchen gardens. It is clearly evident that it is the end of the season; there are deserted flowerbeds being prepped for the winter but there still remains an abundance of flowers and colour that makes me stop and take it in.  Even more noticeable are the unexpected bees and butterflies enjoying the delights that these flowers still have to offer and the late sun burst.

Leaving the kitchen garden, I make my way through the shaded and cold courtyard, and round to the front lawn. There is no immediate wow factor at first sight of the south face, but as you walk around and get a full view from differing angles it is truly beautiful. The dew is evident and a clear sign that autumn is truly upon us. Entering at 11am the ground was still dew sodden and the effects of the burning sun were yet to take effect. The rest of my day was spent with soaking wet trainers (need to invest in some waterproof shoes).

The gardens have been designed superbly and are in close proximity to show off the house. There are ponds and their locations provide photographers’ dreams. The reflections they create are breath taking. It is as if the house basks in the autumn sunshine. These reflections are interrupted every now and again, firstly, as the house takes a little respite as a few clouds drift in front of the sun and, secondly, from the gimmick water show in the mermaid pond. This powerful eruption of water only happens 3 times a day and lasts for 15 minutes on each occasion. This disturbs the pristine, mirrored pond and draws a small audience to watch. The ‘crowd’ disperses and allows a little opportunity to get that perfect shot.

Drag one’s self away from the main focus and walk to the upper pond (the great pond) to see there autumn in all its glorious beauty. On the way catch sight of a lonely tree, almost like a bonfire with its leaves radiant red and with the blue sky behind it only enhancing its fantastic colour. Moving on from this mesmerising tree one encounters and is bowled over by the upper pond. The setting is picture perfect from whatever angle it is viewed. The winds die, and the sense of calmness is only disturbed by the odd sound from an excited child. Reflections are a thing of beauty here, and everywhere one looks autumn is still alive for a few days yet until it dies for another year. Even the wildlife can’t disturb this calm and peaceful haven.

Finishing the walk around the grounds, one is always drawn back to that pond and its reflections. The same is true for the adjacent long pond. Captured once already you feel that it needs to be photographed again and again to get that ‘money shot’. It doesn’t look real, surreal even. No angle, no skill with the camera can do it justice. Whoever designed that house and garden should have been given enormous praise. Even now, 500 years on, it still delivers; a truly remarkable achievement.


I finally tear myself away and return to normal life, still captivated by the beauty of this fantastic garden. At £10 for entrance to the garden (entry inside the house requires another £3) first impressions are that it’s a little over-priced, but for the hours spent there and that ever-lasting image one leaves with the feeling that this was the cheapest day ever.

Chard TA20 4LU, UK

Continue reading “Awesome Autumn!”

Beautiful Bath

I don’t quite know how to go about my second blog but I decided to write about a place that seems to be capturing more of my heart every time I visit. To my way of thinking I haven’t been to a more charming, peaceful or romantic place in all of England or the world. Perhaps I ought to get out more.

I had been to Bath as a youngster but just cannot remember anything about family visits. My memory of my first visit as an adult is of being distinctly underwhelmed by any beauty that the place possessed, but, slowly, mostly as a result of time spent with those who have graced me with their company when visiting, or even when exploring on my own, I have been captivated by its (unique?) charm.

The town’s small and compact footprint is appreciated best of all by standing on one of the surrounding hills which provide a stunning backdrop to this delightful town. Alternatively, a climb to the top of the abbey gives the view from the other direction. It is, without doubt, best explored by foot, allowing one to feel the energy that flows through its streets, its wonderful squares creating a sense of calm amid the excitement popping up elsewhere, usually associated with street performers of various energies and abilities. Every square is surrounded by cafes and restaurants which are normally full, have outside seating for one to feel the buzz in a detached and inactive way. Sit back, and soak up the atmosphere as the world passes by, those pockets of excitement coming from some street entertainment, more often than not a musical player or singer.

My favourite of the many is the main square though finding a suitable place to sit is often a challenge as these popular hotspots can’t cope with the demand. Seating is provided outside, but taking a place means to rely heavily on the British weather which, as Britons often remark, is unpredictable. When the sun is shining, though, it’s great to sit back and appreciate the view of the Abbey and the atmosphere it creates. This results in it becoming the main hub of activity as people flock to admire this fantastic building and the Roman Baths which are located on the edges of this square. I sit, admire the architectural lines and wonder how these buildings were ever created; how much time went into building them; the levels of dedication and devotion required; how they have managed to stand the test of time, etc. By this I mean that some people must have spent their whole lives just building them. As we all marvel at the architecture around us we are joined by street artists and buskers, trying to earn their living from the obliging tourists. They add something very special to this electric atmosphere as these musicians are generally more talented than the wannabees you see on TV. Then there is the bird man; he captures the rats in the sky; and manages to coax them down, his targets being those people so determined to have the perfect Instagram photo.

Drag yourself away from the square and wander towards the river. It is here that the only part of Bath that disappointments – I refer to the iniquity that one is forced to pay to enter Parade Gardens – a travesty. I can’t understand the need to pay to enter, so as a matter of principle I’m left to enjoy the view from the walkway above. After appreciating the gardens on a five minute elevated walk, one follows the path around to get a first view of the famous Pulteney bridge. This iconic bridge, unique and famous just adds to the romance of the town or is it a city? When one walks across it one is blissfully unaware that there is water 15m or so below such is the abundance of shops and cafes to distract. Armed with a camera means that a different view is recorded by shifting a few metres each time and then clicking. Try to freeze the water in the photo as it cascades down the semi-circular weir or, conversely, try to capture moving water by an adjustment to the settings – what joy loaded with a single regret in that a tripod has been left at home. The bridge connects the main town to the Great Pulteney Road, a superb street packed with Georgian buildings, in a straight formation leading to the Holburn museum. The beauty of this house parade is, sadly, spoiled by the large number of cars parked on either side of the street – surely there is another way? Cars are such an important part of modern life but ruin the appearance of this historic and wonderful street.

As mentioned the Holburn Museum sits at the end of the street. Free entry is claimed by the literature although, understandably, a small donation is requested and best to pay as the frowns are palpable. Paying up front was a mistake as, sadly the museum, was wasted on me. I don’t understand art! The museum is situated in Sydney gardens, a small park with not much going for it. On walking through the park, I’m not drawn to anything else other than the fact there is a closed down and abandoned bowls club, a painful reminder of the current issues facing grass roots sport. If this country has more and more elderly people living in it and is struggling to run a bowls club, how are other sports going to survive? We have more and more older people – they can’t all be sitting at home playing computer games.

Upon leaving the park and crossing the railway line, I pick up part of the canal path – well worth the walk -giving spectacular views across the town dominated by the Abbey. Again, only as a result of visiting with someone, was I introduced to this pathway; it weaves its way around the edge of the town and furnishes brilliant views. There are many locks on this canal as it climbs out of the town through the surrounding hills, further evidence of this being a relatively modern town. I leave the path and follow the signs for Prior Park. I had high expectations for Prior Park gardens (National Trust), all the pictures I had seen had portrayed a mirror lake, rare bridge and gardens. Maybe it’s the long and steep climb to get there or the dingy lake (were those pictures photoshopped?) but I was not impressed and the walk did not seem worth it (800 metres at 1 in 10). I appreciate the work that goes in to preserve these places for us to enjoy but it appeared that green algae had troubled the efforts this year.

After completing this part, I return to the Abbey and main square. It’s here that I plan my next route which is to head towards Victoria Park via the circus. As one leaves the square and wander along the high street, I’m drawn to the alarming number of ‘to let’ signs in abandoned stores. Is it a sign of the ever-changing society in which we live? Are commercial juggernauts and the internet taking over and killing this country? How many pubs and shops cannot survive anymore due to a lack of business? One only has to walk along the high street and everyone is glued to a phone, blissfully ignorant of all the beauty around them, whether it be people, shops, pubs, etc. The ability to only communicate through a phone deprives many of the beauty of both people and places that surround us as we live in a cyber world.

The high street is short enough that I don’t have to worry about it for too long before arriving at ‘the Circus’. Not formed in a square, this circular masterpiece is a gem. Houses surround a circular middle green all looking at each other like numbers on a clock face. Cars are the only caveat. Removing myself away from this circular wonder and making the final walk to Royal Victoria

Park, I am fascinated by the view of the ‘most majestic street in the UK’, the Royal Crescent. It is hard not to argue with this statement. This is the masterpiece of the younger of the John Wood architects that had such a influence on this town’s design. Sit on the green and marvel at the view in front of you and let your mind wander through yesteryear (ignore the cars).

In my opinion no visit to Bath is complete without some time spent in Alexander park, a free beauty spot which is known to the locals but not to many outsiders. It provides exquisite views of the town. I would recommend driving up to it, but walking up would be worth the not inconsiderable effort.

Perhaps its location has meant that no one has wanted to fight over it and why it has become a place for relaxation and pleasure seeking. All that is needed is for folks to wrench themselves from their phones to lift eyes, move their legs and see what is around them.


The Unexpected Bodmin Moor

This had never crossed my mind, but someone suggested that I blog about my travels / adventures. I’m little scared of this as my writing may not be of the greatest standard but I’ve decided to take the plunge.

With that in mind I was invited on holiday this past week down to beautiful East Cornwall. When I was told where I would be staying, this didn’t make my heart purr with enthusiasm. It gave me an opportunity to explore a part of my country that in my memory I had never visited. I do have memories of parts of Cornwall most recently when cycling across it as part of my Lands’ End to John O’Groats tour. I cycled across Bodmin moor on the A30. After driving this road, my heart skips a beat at how mad a thing that was. It also highlighted to me that, although I cycled through the heart of the moor, I hadn’t explored it.

On my first proper day there, I ventured nowhere near it, but took a local train down to the coast to enjoy the rare and record breaking bank holiday sunshine. My destination was Looe, a beautiful fishing town on the Cornish coast, could be described as being a typical Cornwall destination. As beautiful as this town was, bathed in sunshine and with crowds flocking to it, it had sadly lost its charm. Standing on the edge of the harbour looking back up into the town you had the beauty on one side, picturesque houses overlooking the town and down to the sea and river, but the other side of the river a commercial hub of activity that wasn’t appealing. Tourist shops overflow onto the pavements as visitors cram to get their essentials for a day at the beach, blissfully unaware of the beauty that is around them. Coming away from the Hustle and Bustle there were some beautiful narrow, winding streets, where it was lovely to walk through as you were it was great to escape knowing that you walk without getting mowed down by a car and avoid the crowds. I may have a different opinion of this town on a cooler day but, sadly, on a hot bank holiday Monday with a very hot and bothered dog I was glad to leave.

The next few days were by far my favourite; these were spent exploring Bodmin Moor. This isn’t a national Park and didn’t raise any alarm bells as a place that I must visit, but after closer inspection was stunning and that at moments took my breath away. Maybe a challenge for next year is to read an OS map so that I can plan a few more walks. Sadly, and it pains me to say it, I was left in the hands of google search and the results it delivered which were spectacular. I had a day dodging the intermittent

showers to walk the dog up Stowe’s Hill. The views from the top of this hill showed an unspoilt wilderness, stones and rocks almost camouflaged by an abundance of heather and accompanied by a lonely tree every now and again. The backdrop to this wild haven was the noticeable bits of its history dotted around.  You could actually see the history before your eyes, from the beginning of time and the ancient stones circles, to the ruins of mills used during past industrial years, but the evidence of modern industry with quarries (some of them disused) and local farm life. At the summit of the hill is “Cheesewring”, a towering formation of large rocks balanced on top of each other to provide the perfect view point. Not great with heights and with the wind blowing forcibly I managed to climb these rocks to truly appreciate the view. On returning down the hill, it was a fitting reward to indulge in a Cornish cream tea in the small village of Minions. Well deserved, and thoroughly enjoyed-did have to check with the waiter what was the correct way to eat the cream tea. He ensured us that the Cornwall way, was to spread the jam on the scone and cover this with an unhealthy helping of clotted cream.

The next day I was greeted by unexpected sunshine, going against what the weatherman had forecasted. I was not going to waste the opportunity and navigated my way to Golitha Falls. It was a pleasant surprise and great pleasure that all this was free. This put an extra spring in the step as I set off with the dog. He was in Heaven, spending a day jumping in and out of water and as for me it was likewise though I wasn’t swimming in the waterfall. As we set out the path started off naturally following the river bed, but as we got deeper into the falls it became apparent that this wasn’t going to last and that we had to make our own path. This just built up a truly wonderful experience, climbing rocks, trees, doing my best not to slip or fall over in pursuit of those perfect pictures of flowing water. It was amazing to get close and personal with this natural flow of water. Sadly, with so many waterfalls that I have visited in this country, health and safety has got involved or the opportunity to make money from it deters you from experiencing the true emotion.

The next day was an unpredictable English summer’s day which they promised to be dry in the north of the county and wet everywhere else. The best part of the day was first thing, so got the dog out and headed back to Minions to try and get a better shot of the stone circles and to allow Rolo to run around for as long as possible in the dry. For the rest of the day, I drove through the moors in search of some other ‘dry’ activities to occupy us. This lead me to find the Trevethy Quoit, Dozmary Pool, the village of St Neot, Jamaica Inn and we ended up in Bodmin. One felt the need to visit Bodmin after enjoying the beauty of Bodmin moor.

On arriving in Bodmin and being deterred by roadworks, the signs all pointed to the steam railway line. Another part of this country’s past has become a real attraction to these lands as old lines and engines are restored to give you a feel of what transport used to be like. I planned to enjoy an open-air theatre showing of Macbeth in the evening and relive some of my youth. Sadly, I never made it due to persistent rainfall.

My final day of this week, was blessed with wonderful sunshine which was surprising as we were now in the first day of autumn. I took the car, dog, camera and picnic and went off on an exploratory drive along the coast. We followed the railway line used on Monday from Liskeard down to Looe, crossed the river and climbed out of there towards Talland Bay. This was a wonderful discovery because I had followed the signs for an abbey, which on the outside proved to be disappointing. Spent an hour walking up the cliffs out of Talland bay to get a stunning view of the Cornish coastline. The picture here doesn’t do the view justice; turquoise waters; almost felt like you were in a foreign country and not England. Left here and headed towards a ferry route that was going to take me to Fowey. This was a stunning find. Immediately after the river crossing and disembarking the ferry I found a car park. Paid up, Rolo on a lead and camera in the other hand I explored, the narrow winding streets of Fowey. This was a beautiful Cornish town located on the river. I would compare it to Dartmouth in Devon, just lacking the steam train coming past every now and again. After a whistle stop tour, back to the car, and onwards towards Charlestown. On the way stopped at the top a hill to get fantastic views of the St Austell Bay and beaches whilst hoovering up a well-earned picnic. My final stop took me to Charlestown, a historic Georgian port. Beautifully maintained, although a sense of commercialism appears to be taking over. Moored in the harbour were a couple of tall ships, maybe recognisable from some TV shows. The dog didn’t appreciate the harbour as much as I did, so off we went in pursuit of some dog friendly water for him to enjoy. This gave me the fantastic view of the harbour looking down from the hill we climbed.

Any place on earth is worth exploring. This beauty, although not on my door step, was an unexpected pleasure. Cornwall is always a fantastic place if the English weather is kind to you. I managed to make the most of what weather was dealt to me. It was with a little sadness that I left to return to the daily grind. What it has done is made me appreciate more the country in which I live, and how much of it there is to explore. As someone very wisely said to me, you could spend a year’s travelling in this country and not see it all. The challenge is to ensure that I don’t leave it another year before exploring part of my country again.

Bodmin PL30 4HN, UK