We’re in France, and to get further southwest, we’re going north?
Yup, we’re going north…
Thursday-Monday, May 16-20
Our original plan for reaching the Channel Islands was to follow the French coast from Boulogne sur Mer to other French ports until we reached Cherbourg. Then cross to Alderney, the northernmost of the Channel Islands.
But, after speaking with other cruisers and considering the tides, we changed countries (and courtesy flags) and headed straight across to New Haven, England.
With decent winds and a favorable current, 10 hours later we pulled into a small marina in New Haven for the night. At a local pub we recovered from our docking (strong currents and wind on the stern created a ‘fun’ time) and made plans for an early leave-taking the following morning.
We hoped to stay in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. You may know of this as being the location of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s summer home, Osborne House. Maybe more noteworthy for sailors: it’s the site of the original race leading to the America’s Cup. However, we discovered two regattas had fully booked the marina. Quickly perusing the chart we noticed a port opposite the island and found an open berth there.
Again, currents and tides dictated our ETA as this area, known as the Solent. The currents flow at significant strength and require diligence and careful timing.
Another full day’s sail and we landed in one of the poshest marinas we have ever been in, the Lymington Yacht Haven (the marina in the bottom, right-hand corner below).
When checking in the friendly, young staff member handed us a welcome bag (four-color, marina brochure, floating keychain, and two bottles of water) stating, ‘…and, the showers are luxurious.’ That intriguing endorsement ensured I’d be holding them up to a high standard only to discover that, indeed, the shower facilities were jaw-dropping to die for. First, you walked into a bathroom you would be happy to find at a pampering spa…
only to enter your personal shower stall featuring
not one, but TWO shower heads…
a teak changing bench and sink complete with sweet-smelling soap and lotion…
and, drum roll here: a towel-warming rack (!).
I later discovered Max wasn’t as careful and almost singed a body part….
When delicious hot water gushed from the heads my joy increased: I felt my hair leap with happiness as I purged it of the shampoo build-up from five weeks of tepid, spitting showers. Plus, a convenient hair dryer and curling iron, if needed, resided in the shared sink area.
Adding to my high rating of the facilities was the laundry room with two washers and two dryers (and an ironing board with iron available at the front office).
The only downside came from trying to hook up to the free WIFI, but in all other areas–easy stroll to town, access to chandleries and groceries, bucolic scenery, and helpful staff–this marina earned its hefty nightly fee.
Taking the weekend to enjoy our surroundings we walked into town, a leisurely ten-minute stroll. With its cobble-stone roads fronted by small cottagey-stores,
we felt as if we stepped back in time to August 2014 when we first landed on England’s SW coast after our nine-day passage from the Azores. Then, Max, our crew member Steve, and I soaked up the yachting heritage associated with Falmouth.
And, similar to Falmouth, you’re never far away from someone plying the waters.
One boat’s captain exited a wheelchair to take a disabled passenger for a ride on the water. From the passenger’s huge grin we knew he was anticipating a lovely morning on the river.
Walking back from town we noticed a large pool stocked with floating apparatus. This was the Open Air Baths filled with sea water and waiting for customers to enjoy a chilly (refreshing?) swim.
It seems any town on this side of the English Channel reflects centuries of livelihoods earned from the sea. Lymington’s economy depended on four industries: shipbuilding; smuggling; salt; and, sailing.
From the medieval times shipbuilding played an important role in this town. During the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) nine ships built here contributed to the defense of the country. Just up the river from our marina, the Berthon Boat Company founded in 1877, continues that trade.
Like many of the towns situated on England’s southern coast, smugglers found plenty of ways to ‘import’ wine, bandy, silks, coffee, tea and other goods into the country. Support from the local community here ensured a steady flow of goods (and revenue), especially at the end of 17th century.
Salt created Lymington’s wealth in the 1700s with this town and surrounding area being the largest sea salt industry in England. This dominance eroded when Cheshire mined it for less causing Lymington to close it’s saltern in 1865.
Finally, sailing and yachties provide a good source of income for the locals; and, based on the fee for our two nights, it’s a very rewarding business.
The marsh served as the backdrop for the marina, and on Sunday we joined other walkers and stretched our legs along one of the many paths. It was here Max found some jetsam that he quickly rescued.
He managed to return it to spiffiness with a wash; and, after scraping off the algae grime he proudly added it to our flotilla of fenders. I have to say it’s a handy souvenir of Lymington :)
Knowing how much we enjoyed history, our friends Anne and Peter had planned an early spring road trip for us. The adventure would be a combination of visiting Anne’s mum, Shirley, and touring one of Britain’s most imposing homes, Chatsworth House.
Off we zipped with Peter, a former motorcycle racer, at the wheel to Derbyshire where both Shirley and the the Duke of Devonshire resided.
In spite of a gray day of chilly drizzle we couldn’t help but be impressed by the size and magnificence of the ‘house’ of 297 rooms and a mere 35,000 acres as we neared our destination. Anne had grown up in this area, so she and her mum were well-versed in the history of the Chatsworth House; and, they filled us in a bit as we began our long winding drive up to the parking lot.
But, first things first, which meant a spot of tea and some coffee to warm ourselves.
The cafeteria and shop were located in the former stables;
and, if were a horse, I’d want to live here. Even if I weren’t a horse, I’d still want to live here. There not too many ‘stables’ with views like this out their front gate where one pretty much owns everything as far as the eye can easily see.
Fortified with our British libations we decided to begin our drive of the estate. We were fortunate in that we were ahead of the usual crowds because the main house was closed; yet, it didn’t matter. Just seeing the exterior fueled our imagination. Plus, there’s an excellent documentary on the BBC with the current Duke serving as the tour guide. Quite an endearing chap, I might add.
The history of this house began in the 16th century when Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608)
married her second husband, Sir William Cavendish (1505-1557). Cavendish became wealthy due to the lands he had acquired helping King Henry VIII dissolve (read plunder) all of England’s monasteries in the mid-1500s. With Bess’ urging her husband sold the monks’ lands and stockpiled a ton of money. In 1549 they purchased the Chatsworth manor for £600, and the fun begins.
Thanks to Bess’ business acumen and excellent husband-picking (she married twice more after Cavendish bit the dust), she amassed a fortune, which subsequent generations used to generate even more wealth.
But, it’s not just fortune that defines Chatsworth House. Which brings us to another influential woman, Lady Georgiana Spencer (1737-1806).
You may recognize her name from the bio-pic THE DUCHESS starring Kiera Knightley. The beautiful socialite Lady Spencer married William Cavendish, now the 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811). The marriage was a disaster with Spencer running up huge gambling debts and Cavendish making one of his wife’s best friends his mistress. (To this day people compare this 18th-century marriage to that of the 20th-century one between Prince Charles and Lady Diana, whose ancestor was Georgiana. At least Camilla wasn’t Di’s confidante.)
By the 20th century Chatsworth House was becoming more of a burden than a luxury due to some poor business decisions by earlier dukes and the instituting of England’s death duties.
Once again Chatsworth House becomes associated with yet another famous woman, the Honorable Deborah Mitford (1920-2014).
Some years ago I had read a biography about the glamorous Mitford sisters known for their beauty and outlandish behavior.
Growing up in the rarefied air of England’s aristocracy, these six sisters captivated and entertained the world with their antics and relationships, some of the latter falling into the seriously ugly type. You may recall the life of Diana Mitford who married Britain’s leader of the fascist party, Sir Oswald Mosley? Their wedding was in Joseph Goebbels’ house with the couple’s friend, Adolf Hitler, in attendance.
Yet, Deborah seemed the most normal of them all. Maybe most of the quirkiness had been depleted by the time she came along. Whatever the reason, it’s due to Deborah’s vision and hard work that enabled the Cavendish family to retain their family home.
Another famous female was associated with Chatsworth: Kathleen Kennedy who married the oldest son who was heir apparent. Tragically, he died in WWII soon after their marriage and she, in a plane crash in 1948. So, back to the second son who now had Chatsworth with his Mitford wife.
Over the years Deborah, or Debo as she was known to family, converted the aging property into a successful entrepreneurial venture with a farm shop, historical tours, and event rentals. Operating as a charitable trust since 1981, Chatsworth House now welcomes over half-a-million visitors a year, five of whom were us as we looked in awe at the expansive fields and gardens and buildings, all of this possible because of one determined woman who refused to stand by and let a piece of Britain’s history crumble into oblivion.
And, I must say I enjoy the fact that it began with a woman who had gumption and continues on due to another.
Ending our tour with a stop at the farm shop, we purchased some goodies then headed for a delicious lunch at an old pub Anne and her mum use to frequent.
The next morning brought a promise of spring as we said our farewells to Anne’s mum and started the trek back to the marina.
On the way home we made a bit of a detour to another estate located in Sherwood Forest in Nottingham. I’m not kidding. There is such a place only I didn’t see any men running around in green tights and a feather in their hats. Although, that would have been nice.
Welbeck dates from the 12th century when it was a Premonstratensian monastery (a Catholic religious order which combined the contemplative life with a more socializing one–I had to look that up) to a Cavalier residence in the 17th century to a working farm in the 21st century. This registered historic park (originally designed in 1748) is chock-a-block full of ventures: organic food items, a tasty cafe menu (where we ate lunch), small craft shops, artist studios, offices, a School of Artisan Food, and residences both for sale and rent.
And, it’s mesmerizingly lovely, just like Chatsworth, only on a more manageable scale.
As we drove around the various buildings, including the stables and natatorium complex, Anne shared her childhood memories. Her parents had rented one of the homes on these forested grounds, and Anne pointed out where she waited for the school bus and how she would take off on her bike to meet up with her friend Jane in the next village over. To have grown up in these surroundings would have been like living in a wonderful storybook setting.
I have to say JUANONA felt a bit smaller after our road trip with Anne and Peter. And, the history! I loved how the unfamiliar sites touched on the familiar knowledge of what little I had known about Lady Georgiana Spencer and Deborah Mitford.
Best of all we a brilliant road trip with Shirlee and our good friends off of SACRE BLEU :)
A future reunion is a must! But, now back to Norway…
We left Stratford-upon-Avon and headed to Bath, another historical city. On the way we noticed an English Heritage sign touting the Roman Cirencester Amphitheatre. Thinking it’d be worthwhile to stop, we did, but not before driving right past the poorly-marked location. However, it was worth the hunt just to chuckle at the site’s opening hours.
By the way the only remnants were literally the earthwork.
So, back in the car towards our original destination. Locating a parking spot in this crowded city was quite a feat, but find one we did and began our brief tour of Bath.
While waiting for the Bath Abbey to open with its angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder:
we wandered around the square off of which stood the Roman Baths (expensive so we looked at the posted diagram and called it good enough)
and the Christmas shoppers (jam packed through the holiday stalls).
Soon the Abbey opened its doors and in we went.
Like many of these church buildings the present Bath Abbey (dating from 1499) actually stands on a former religious site, a Norman cathedral. A plaque lists not only the Christian leaders from the 11th century but also those from as early as the 7th century when abbesses led the local community.
One of the key historical events that took place here was the 973 C.E. crowning of the first king of “All England”, Edgar, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, an event depicted in one of the stained glass windows:
Must say of all of our Bath touring the most fascinating was a busker posing as a silver-clad, wind-blown cyclist.
Returning to the car we saw a notice stuck on the windshield. Sure enough, the parking space we gleefully squeezed into was evidently not a valid one. We had checked the other cars to see if any paid & displayed parking stickers (no); checked any parking signage (yes, touting no fees for Sundays).
Evidently we don’t know what to look for because, in spite of our scouting out parking requirements, we still got a ticket. Anyhow, Max as a Bath (Maine) native son has emailed Bath (UK) parking powers-that-be to plead our foreign innocence. We’ll see what comes of it as we were able to get another ticket earlier this year revoked.
Then we were off further south to Salisbury where we landed, once again, in a parking lot scrounging for a spot only to discover it was for day trippers only (no overnighters, which is what we needed). Great.
This time, however, parking gods bestowed upon us a gracious and kind shop owner. He must have noticed our frantic ‘what-now?!’ looks when he said the lot was truly only for day trippers for he then told us to use his personal space behind his shop (he was leaving for the night and would return at 9a the next morning). A true gift.
We lugged our backpacks to our hotel and settled in.
Monday, December 14
Knowing it’d be a good time to view Stonehenge due to fewer visitors at this time of year we hopped in the car for the thirty-minute drive north.
Too late we realized guaranteed entry was only via online, advanced booking; but, since it was off-season, we lucked out. And, with our English Heritage membership entry was free. (FYI: this is a great organization to which we belong. By visiting just a few sites your membership fee is easily covered and then some. There are even short-term membership fees available depending on the focus of your visit to the UK)
The first mention of Stonehenge or “Stanenges” was in a 1130 C.E. archaeological study by Henry of Huntingdon. By 1610 “Stanenges” morphed into its current name “Stonehenge”. By the beginning of the 20th century more than ten excavations had occurred. Fortunately, an effort was made to ensure the protection of this historical site with the lobbying of the site’s owner, Sir Edmond Antrobus, by the Society of Antiquaries. With funds for preservation, this landmark was ensured longevity; and, a new visitor center opened in 2013 hosted us as we wandered through the various exhibits.
There’s a jitney taking visitors to the actual stones 1.5 miles away; so, we hopped aboard for the short jaunt. We probably should have gone the full ride so we’d be the first of only four tourists at the site; but, we opted to walk the last half of the trip.
However, the bonus of walking (through what turned out to be a cow field) was our gaining a broader view of the area’s offerings via a large plaque.
Neither Max nor I realized the existence of extensive earth and stone structures built in addition to Stonehenge. During the Mesolithic period (8,500 to 7,000 B.C.E.) pine poles had been erected in the area, possibly used as totem-poles. These holes are called Aubrey holes after the 17th century antiquarian who found them.
During the Neolithic or New Stone Age (4,000 – 2,300 B.C.E.) and Bronze Age (2,300-800 B.C.E.) people used this location for both burials and pilgrimages, with Stonehenge being the most prominent.
Archaeologists defined the constructions as cursus (rectangular enclosures with an external bank and internal ditches) and barrows (earth-covered burial mounds). I won’t go into the definition of henge except to say, when applied to this monument, it means hanging – as in suspended – thus ‘hanging stones’ or Stonehenge.
Their chosen location, now called Salisbury Plain, would have provided a prominent view of any monuments due to the wide open space.
You can see the red dot positioning us on the map below.
We walked through the cow field that contained some of the Bronze Age burial sites called the Cursus barrows.
This is how historians believe these burials appeared when in use:
The first and last time I had visited this iconic formation was in 1971. This 4,500-year-old site happened to be part of an American Youth Hostel biking tour, which a high school friend, Annie Bommer, and I joined (it was during that trip I envied dogs whose heads stuck outside their owner’s four-wheel vehicles as they whizzed by our two-wheel mounts). Forty-five years ago one could picnic on the stones, which we did along with tossing frisbees about.
No more. After reading about the limited access I feared we’d be peering at these monolithic stones from way far away; but, happily we could get to within 100 feet or so. And, due to being winter, we were some of the first and few people there compared to summer traffic when as many as 5,000 visitors daily tour this site.
During its use as a monument, Stonehenge went through various reshufflings of two types of stones: smaller blue stones from the Welsh Preseli Mountains (150 m. NW) weighing about five tons each; and, larger sarsen stones (local sandstone blocks, 20 miles north) weighing over 27 tons each. What we currently see is the last of three stages of stone formations at the site.
By zooming in we could see how the lintels (horizontal pieces) joined to the standing ones with ‘bump’s to hold them in place:
A 1.7-mile road called Stonehenge Avenue connected Stonehenge to the River Avon.
Although we didn’t walk it we saw faint outlines of it once we arrived at the stones themselves.
The Heel Stone (formerly upright) was part of the sight-line for the winter solstice sunset and summer solstice sunrise:
With only a week to go until December 21, winter solstice, we checked out the markers supposedly used for celebrating the lengthening days.
By the time we had finished touring the site and the center the sky was beginning to spit rain, so we scurried back to the car for a picnic lunch prior to returning to Salisbury.
Whatever the purpose of these megaliths, staring at those huge stones sitting in the middle of a hilly, windswept plain is pretty awe-inspiring.
As a darkening, overcast sky began sweeping across the plain, I recalled again my visit 45 years earlier in the sun and warmth and realized how today’s weather felt more like the true dressing for these majestic stones.
With Rudy leaving from Heathrow on Friday we decided to book some berths at the Cruising Association located at London’s Limehouse Marina.
We joined the CA last year and have taken advantage of their inexpensive rooms and warm welcome by Jeremy Batch whenever we’ve needed to spend the night in London in order to catch an early morning flight.
The three of us took the train in after planning what sites to see over the day and a half we’d be in London, similar to our Road Trip approach the previous week. Rudy then researched locations along with opening-closing times, and we mapped out our itinerary and associated routes beginning with our train ride into London.
Our first afternoon was spent poking around the British Museum
where you see a lot of artifacts ‘borrowed’ from their original sites, such as those from Sutton Hoo:
First we poked independently, scouting out various exhibits of personal interest, then as a group joined a guided tour through the reconstructed walls of an Assyrian king’s palace dating from 800 BC. We were all very impressed by the carved scenes, many of which highlighted the King’s triumphs in war.
From there we walked to the British Library’s collection of rare literary items, one of Max’s favorite sites, and perused various items, from one of the four original Magna Cartas to a letter from Galileo prior to his trial to Scott’s diary from the fatal South Pole expedition to Paul McCartney’s scribbling of lyrics for “Yesterday”.
A dinner at the Prospect of Whitby pub, built in the 1500s and frequented by pirates, politicians, Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, and many others, ended our night with all feeling happily sated culturally and gastronomically.
Thursday, September 24
Full steam ahead the next morning beginning with Rudy’s visit to Churchill’s War Rooms located underground (a site both Max and I said should not be missed).
Max and I filled some time touring England’s Supreme Court building followed by St. Margaret’s Church, both of which were close to our rendezvous point at Westminster Abbey.
While Rudy and Max were touring the Abbey
I walked to Kensington to scan the Victoria & Albert Museum until 3p when I’d meet up with them
at the Natural History Museum.
Both Rudy and I were keen on seeing the Treasures Room in this cavernous museum, another of Max’s must-sees. We understood why after circulating around the fairly small gallery hosting 22 specimens, each one selected based on its contributions to culture, history, or science. Amongst the items on display was the original fossil which first proved a link between birds and dinosaurs, and one of the three Emperor penguin eggs collected after a horrendous journey in the Antarctic winter during Scott’s expedition (and later described in the book “The Worst Journey in the World”)
From there we headed to Diana’s Memorial in Hyde Park,
then home to Limehouse for some drinks and OH HELL games in the Cruising Association’s bar/dining area.
While playing our first round a couple entered, ordered drinks and sat at the bar. They asked us where we were from and then we invited them to join us. As the introductions continued we discovered we had actually met one another (via email correspondence)! Both Daria and Alex (Blackwell) are authors and Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) folk. Max had reviewed their book HAPPY HOOKING (it’s not what you might be thinking, trust me–it’s about anchoring), and I had done some work on OCC’s website of which Daria’s the webmaster. Happy shouts in exclamation marks all around :)
After sharing stories about sailing, Ireland (where the Blackwells live), and travel we decided to go to dinner together and left for a pub Daria and Alex had heard of. Without reservations we couldn’t squeeze in, so we set off in the other direction and found another eatery close by. On the way I pulled Daria aside and mentioned we were planning a surprise celebration for Rudy’s upcoming 21st birthday.
Dessert time came and the waiter who was in on the surprise convinced Rudy to try the tiramisu versus some gelato-type concoction in which candles (we had snuck some to the wait staff) wouldn’t disappear in goo. It arrived (a humongous slab) , Rudy was shocked, and the entire restaurant broke out in a rowdy version of “Happy Birthday”.
Thankfully, Daria had a camera to document the event. It was a fabulous way to celebrate Rudy’s last night with us. Daria and Alex enhanced our evening ten-fold, making it even more memorable. There’s nothing like sharing a meal and laughs with new-found friends.
Friday, September 25
The next morning Max and I travelled with Rudy as far as Earl’s Court tube stop.
With tight hugs and good-byes, he boarded the correct train to Heathrow Terminal 3, and we watched the train depart full of thanks for the time spent together.
But, before I end our adventures with Rudy, there’s just one more group of photos to show.
In 2004 Max snapped a photo when Rudy was aboard for a sleep-over…
so, Max took another one 11 years later in our traditional pose.
Then, we decided to add another pose featuring two adults:
We were sorry to leave the East Harting cottage that was quickly becoming ‘our’ cottage after two wonderful nights, but onward we went, this timea couple hour’s drive away to Hastings where, you guessed it, the Battle of Hastings occurred on October 14, 1066. Again, we walked outside in glorious September weather. The battle field sits below an Abbey constructed by William the Conqueror a few years later as a monument to the 8,000 who died (to put the number killed in perspective 2,500 represented a typical town’s population back then).
The actual site was dotted with plaques explaining the battle and the two primary antagonists: William, the Duke of Normandy, and Harold Godwinson.
What both Max and I found interesting was seeing panels using the Bayeux Tapestry, which we saw in Normandy, to augment the text on the plaques.
In spite of the tapestry being biased towards William’s view (it was commissioned by him and his Bishop brother, Otto, as propaganda), the pictorial panels complimented the audio guide’s detailed description. I required the modern description because I definitely couldn’t interpret the woven little guys’ actions.
Having been slightly prejudiced myself towards William (de Bruses/Bruces came over from Normandy), a first cousin once removed from King Edward the Confessor, I was pleasantly surprised to see Harold Godwinson, a powerful noble, gifted politician, and brother of Edward’s wife, portrayed in a more objective manner. He was well-loved by the nobles and easily could have made a great king.
Unfortunately, Harold was impulsive, which resulted in his marching his tired troops from York (over 250 miles away) after they had just won a battle with the Norwegians on September 25. If not for that–OH, and being killed in the battle–he easily could have won, one reason being he held the better terrain – the top of the hill where the Abbey now stands – whereas the Normans occupied the bottom of the hill.
Yet, William successfully employed a tactic that initially occurred by mistake. Basically, some of his troops turned and ran causing a contingent of the enemy to follow. In doing so, the enemy’s line became broken, and the pursuers became isolated, and easily cut down as they were surrounded by the Normans. Unusual at this time, the battle lasted all day ending with William becoming the conqueror of the Anglo-Saxons.
During our stroll we noticed blackberries scattered around. Pretty soon a big clump captured our attention, and for a bit, battles and historical figures were forgotten as we succumbed to berry picking.
A quick stop-in at the abbey, noting where a guesthouse had been constructed for a possible visit from Elizabeth I, then
a cup of take-away java from an old house across the Abbey’s entrance
put us back on the road again, this time to a small village north of Dover.
Our second airbnb was also difficult to find not the least due to directions being a bit confusing (there were two gates to the place and the one to the coach house was located on a lane with no sign). However, this place, too, was lovely. And, it had a T_U_B!!! It lacked a proper kitchen but a grill served us just as well, especially since it was the first one we’d used since Max’s and my stop atHelnessund in July with Betsy. No s’mores, though :(
Friday, September 18
The next morning we headed to Dover where we had two missions: for Rudy to see Henry II’s castle, and to tour the headquarters hidden in the cliffs where Operation Dynamo (the Dunkirk rescue) was run…
and, for him to meet the family on s/v LEANDER who may have a possible crew position available.
Since this was a repeat visit for Max and me, I opted, once again, to tour the castle and associated Military museum then head for a coffee shop on the premises. And, yes, it was raining… NOT that I’m a fair-wather tourist… Okay, somewhat, yet, fresh water coming down is a heck of a lot better than that salt stuff.
Just an aside, touring with someone who’s excited about what they’re seeing opens my eyes even wider to appreciate the significance and/or beauty in which I’m immersed. I also tend to experience something new from that site. And, Dover’s repeat visit fell into this category.
Two interesting facts I picked up during this visit were: (1) during Henry II’s and subsequent kings’ castle stays, it could be one big sleep-over for guests; extra mattresses would be flopped down on the floor all over the royal bedchambers to accommodate guests; and (2) England’s army was established after Charles II (1630-85 ) was convinced by the Duke of York that professional soldiers (versus everyday residents) were necessary to defend the establishment.
After a few hours Max and Rudy returned with Rudy wanting to see one more area, the medieval tunnels; so, Max and I lounged in the returned sunshine.
We then left to meet up with Sima andPaul and their two little ones in the Dover Marina. Paul, originally from Lynn, MA, and Sima, from Turkey, had met in Boston and are on the last legs of a circumnavigation. It’s always interesting hearing other cruisers’ thoughts on passages and sailing, and this time was no different.
After an hour or so, we left for Hawkhurst and to prepare for our last day on the road.
CHARLES DARWIN’S HOME
Saturday, September 19
We had located several other sites to explore on the way back to Ipswich, one being Charles Darwin’s home, Down House in Downe, Kent.
I won’t go on and on about this man and his family but, if you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely well-worth a visit. Be warned, allow at least two to three hours because the exhibits throughout the home and the gardens are fascinating and very informative.
The home on the ground floor (1st floor to us) had rooms furnished the way the Darwins had lived in them, including his study, sitting room, and fabulous dining room. I say fabulous because of the huge table, comfy chairs, and sunlight streaming in floor-to-almost-ceiling windows. We left this site full of Darwin’s personality and accomplishments. Unfortunately, you weren’t allowed to take photos indoors, so the following are pulled from the Internet only to provide a sense of the home.
The upstairs rooms were filled with displays on his HMS BEAGLE voyage (he suffered from seasickness, poor guy), his discoveries, and his family life. As we traipsed from one room to the next, I realized just how large this home was (he and his wife had added a separate wing, much needed, no doubt with all those kids).
Some interesting bits:
His family didn’t think he’d amount to much. Both he and his wife (whose father was the famous founder of Wedgewood china) came from wealthy families, which meant he had plenty of resources and time to indulge his curiosity about nature.
He was a very affectionate family man, unusual for the Victorian times, and, subsequently, well-loved by his wife and children (they had ten with seven surviving childhood).
He achieved his discoveries using very simple instruments.
He was a famous hypochondriac possibly begun when he was bitten by a Benchuga bug from his time aboard HMS BEAGLE (1831-36), which left him debilitated at times. There was also a small foot-tub in his study where Darwin would soak his feet to help alleviate his eczema.
He was agnostic while his wife was very religious.
He weighed everyone who visited him as well as his relatives. Why, I don’t know, but I do know I wouldn’t want to visit after one of our pasta passages.
He and Alfred Russell Wallace, who also devleloped a theory of evolution similar to Darwin’s, actually became lifelong friends. Wallace shared his idea of evolution in a letter to Darwin. Alarmed to learn someone else was working on a similar theory, Darwin hurried to finally publish his “Origins of Species” in 1859. However, in 1858 both of these naturalists’ ideas were presented to the Linnean Society in London, the world’s oldest active biological society ; yet, not much was made of their theories of evolution. (On a side note, Darwin along with three friends persuaded Prime Minister Gladstone to put forth a proposal to Parliament to grant Wallce a much needed pension of £200 a year.)
After touring the greenhouse and gardens
we headed to our last stop of our Road Trip:
LULLINGSTONE ROMAN VILLA
This surprise site is one of the best examples of an English Roman villa. Constructed in roughly 100 c.e. and renovated over the next two hundred years, the foundation and associated mosaics are housed in a museum with simple wall exhibits explaining the history and layout of the house.
One of the most significant features of this site was a room deemed a house-church with artwork representing some of the earliest evidence of Christianity . Interestingly, underneath was a hidden room dedicated to the pagan gods and goddesses and only accessible via a ladder.
The museum descriptions were pretty simplistic (geared towards children), which only meant I was in my element when we hit the gift shop. What’s that saying? When in a Roman gift shop, do as Romans would do?
After five full days of touring this part of England, we were happy to be heading back to JUANONA.
But, wait! A mini-road trip occurred the next day (Sunday, September 20) when we piled into our road warrior vehicle and headed to…
Another beautiful day and another repeat visit for Max and me, resulting in Rudy heading into the museum housing artifacts and displays from this early medieval burial site (assumed to be the burial site of Raedwald, the Ruler of East Anglia (560-620 c.e.). But, before the three of us figured out who was going to do what, we had to check in at the ticket office.
Remember when I mentioned how miraculously entrance fees disappeared when with Rudy, e.g., Warkworth Castle at the beginning of his visit? Well, we approached the young man at the counter saying we’d like to purchase a ticket for Rudy who was an adult. The young man asked if we were going in, and we said, no, since we had visited earlier and now wanted our nephew to see it. However, when the transaction was completed and we were exiting the building, Rudy exclaimed he had received not one but three tickets (in the form of stickers) for the price of one child. Hmmm… as I said, there’s something about Rudy!
Max and enjoyed the sunshine as Rudy toured the small museum for the next hour or so. He seemed entranced by the history, enough so we went looking for him and found him asking questions of one of the staff. We finished the visit by walking up the path and through the field to the actual burial sites where we spotted humongous mushrooms whose necks were bent/broken due to the weight of the caps.
And, where, once again, Max proved why he’s married to such a goofball as I.
NOW, we had completed our Road Trips and were ready to stay on JUANONA doing boat errands and R&Ring prior to heading for Rudy’s last tour of his voyage,
After arriving that morning and settling JUANONA into a temporary berth at our winter marina, we were already planning our next adventure: watching the second-to-last stage of the UK’s highest ranked cycle race. Anne had mentioned it the day before when we met at the Pin Mill, and she followed it up with an email asking if we wanted to join them at the finish line and see some ‘hunky thighs’. I could do that, no problem.
So, early afternoon we headed towards the center of Ipswich with Anne and Peter and some other boaters, Ange and James and their daughter Gracie. We had arranged to meet up with Helen and Gus Wilson as well, bringing our group to ten amidst 100s of other spectators.
It was a zoo, but a fun one in spite of the yelling and nudging as everyone attempted to reach the barriers next to the finish lane.
Fortunately, they had a screen so everyone could follow the cyclists as they paced themselves.
Not knowing anything about cycle racing except it’s hard and, yes, it requires those hunky thighs, I was happy just observing everyone and absorbing the high energy of the crowd. It helped that it was a beautiful day and that there would be hunky thighs to view.
Sure enough, I saw heads turn from left to right, which was the only indication of racers crossing the finish line. Then the awards were given out of which I had no idea who was who and which prize was which; however, I did see hunky thighs:
And, I felt really bad for the poor soul who raced his heart out only to receive a stuffed doll. I felt almost worse for the unfortunate guy who had to dress like the doll and present this ‘prize’.
Upon the crowd dispersing we headed to a local pub to enjoy some quiet and pints on the back terrace. It’s also where Rudy showed his affinity for youngsters, and Gracie must have reminded him of his spunky little sister, Acadia. Must say it was a wonderful Ipswich welcome for Rudy.
Road Trip: BLETCHLEY PARK
Tuesday, September 15
Because this was Rudy’s first time in the UK and he had a couple more weeks to enjoy it, we wanted to show him a bit of the historical sites. Finding meaningful places to visit is easy here. From Roman times to post WWII we’ve toured some amazing places; so, we made a list of some we had seen and thought he’d enjoy then asked him to check out those plus any others he might like to see. The list then was culled down based on geographical area (primarily SE England) and time (back by Saturday night), and a road trip became a reality starting Tuesday.
When we do this, we find staying in an airbnb or VRBO-type place allows us to not only economize (generally less expensive than inns or hotels, sometimes even hostels) since we can cook our own meals and easily make lunches, but they’re also more relaxing (generally room to sit around after being out all day and don’t have to suss out any restaurants). So, Rudy and I researched plenty of apartment/condo/cottage offerings including homestay.com and other UK-focused sites, and we hit upon two places that would be fairly equidistant amidst the six or seven sites we’d been visiting over the next five days.
First we drove counterclockwise from Ipswich landing at Bletchley Park, located N/NW of London.
We began in the main museum where Max and Rudy tried their hand at code-breaking.
Next, we picked up audio guides and started our tour of the grounds.
Due to the movie “Imitation Game” released last year I had some familiarity with what Bletchley Park meant to the Allies during WWII; yet, seeing this site in person really made one understand the scope of the code-breaking operation.
It’s a huge area: it began in the mansion and quickly grew to take over the stables/cottages, then expanded to huts; over 9,000 people worked there with 131 daily buses bringing them in. Actually, it was a good opportunity for women to get good jobs. Unfortunately, the pay (of course) wasn’t commiserate with the men and jobs reverted back to the men post-war.
I had mistakenly assumed everyone lived on-campus but only one family did. All others stayed in the nearby towns, many boarding with local families. Yet, absolutely no single person could tell anyone what they did at Bletchley Park. They all had to sign the Official Secrets Act and it wasn’t until 1976 that they were released from that agreement. Many of them were astounded to learn the scope of what had gone on around them.
I also wasn’t aware of how important code-breaking was during WWI. Two separate organizations, one established by the War Office–‘MI1(b)’–and another one–‘Room 40’ were set up under the auspices of the Royal Navy. It was the intelligence gathered by Britain that led to the US getting involved in the war thanks to an intercepted telegram (see description of the Zimmerman telegram below). Prior to WWII Room 40 and MI1(b) evolved into Government Code and Cyper School (GC&CS), and in 1939 the codebreaking division took up residence at Bletchley Park.
Churchill’s appreciation of code-breaking was evident during WWI when he followed the work of Room 40 closely. In WWII when the head of Bletchley Park sent the Prime Minister an appeal for more resources, Churchill immediately signed off and made it a reality. Matter-of-fact he requested all important translated messages to be sent to him daily. And, trust me, there were a LOT of messages with thousandsbeing derived daily to Bletchley Park from the radio interceptors located all over the UK and beyond.
What was truly mind-blowing to me was the code-breaking exercises and thought patterns used by these code-breakers. Even they (except for a few) appeared humbled by the magnitude and importance of their work.
Some were rather eccentric such as Dilly Knoxwho cogitated best when soaking in this tub.
Eisenhower said the codebreaker’s work shortened the war by two years; and, a German said thank god the war didn’t drag on, otherwise, Germany may very well have been hit with an atomic bomb like the one which horrifically decimated Hiroshima.
Thanks to the Poles who cultivated a German spy after WWI, the Brits were given a head start to some key elements of the Enigma machine. To see a sample machine used to break the code was mind-numbing. Especially when the staff started to explain what was what. [It was called the Bombe, so named because the Poles had built a precursor and called it after some ice cream they were eating (bomba); the Brits changed it to Bombe.] By the end of the war there were about 200 Bombes, mostly operated by Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service) and most of them at two other locations. Even the Americans had built some.
Unfortunately, all of us felt the suggested touring of the campus could have been better. For instance, at the end of our three hours of walking around, we reached Block B where there was an excellent display on the wall explaining the Bombe. We should have gone there first as the exhibits carried the clearest explanations of Bletchley Park’s work. Just to recap that linear display:
1. Y stations (located elsewhere in case of bombing) intercepted and listened to coded enemy communications.
2. The transcripts of the messages were all sent to Bletchley Park by teleprinter, underwater cable, and motorcyclists.
3. When received at Bletchley Park each message was meticulously logged and cross-indexed in the Registration Room.
4. From each batch of messages received from the Registration Room, one or more were selected to identify, if possible, the message’s topic. The messages were scanned looking for “Cribs” – frequently-used salutations or headings such as “To the Group” or “Weather Forecast”. The codebreakers were greatly helped by the fact that no letter could be encrypted to itself–in retrospect this was a fatal shortcoming of the Enigma machine.
Max observing Alan Turing’s tiny office in hut eight.
5. From the crib, electrical settings were derived and ‘plugged up’ on the back of the Bombe machine by the WREN operators. The Bombe would then test thousands of possibilities and stop whenever a possible rotor setting was found. One of these settings would be part of the Enigma key. The others were due to the effects of chance.
6. A separate machine called the ‘checking machine’ was used to test whether the possible solution worked (its rotors were set to the possible solution to see if messages typed in translated to German). The wrong rotor settings had to be identified first and rejected (are you confused yet? and, trust me, this is the simple explanation. I won’t even go into the addition of a fourth rotor…)
7. After the complete Enigma key had been found then all of the messages in that corresponding batch could be decrypted (by hundreds of women) using the British Type-X cypher machines, which had been modified to emulate Enigma machines.
8. The deciphered messages came from the machines in five-letter groups. The letters were divided into individual words so they could be translated into English, assessed for level of importance, and then forwarded to the appropriate people.
9. Before these intercepted Enigma messages could be passed on the information had to be rewritten and attributed to another source (reconnaissance plane, or a spy, for example) so the enemy didn’t realize their coded messages were being deciphered.
Max, who’s currently reading a book about the code breakers has even more information: “Since the Germans changed their Enigma rotor settings (the Enigma machine began with three, then the Germans added a fourth) every 24 hours, the entire codebreaking exercise had to be repeated daily. The codebreakers were often under tremendous stress, knowing that breaking the day’s code a few hours earlier or later could spell the difference between say allowing the RAF to intercept a German bombing raid, or having a city bombed with the corresponding loss of life. For more information go to https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombe.”
Before I sign off on my laborious description of the codebreaking, one last panel that I hope helps explain the Bomba:
At times like these I wish for a mind like a friend’s daughter named Amy who would probably have been one of those figuring out a crib if she’d been born way back when.
Max generally asks after we tour a site, a city, a region, a country (I’ll stop here) what was/were the highlights each of us carried away. This exercise enhances the memories of a particular time we’ve shared. The answers also remind me of a particular, acute informational nugget I may have forgotten when overwhelmed by a site. Rudy mentioned one that I felt was particularly poignant: The guilt individuals felt at not being able to express how they were helping the war effort. Some said their parents were ashamed to tell others that their children were sitting (safely) at a country house doing office work of some sort (standard job description when a Bletchley Park staffer was asked). Hard to imagine the regret not being able to share such an important mission, one that helped thousands survive the ugliness of war.
Still, it was a beautiful day (only a few sprinkles) and a fascinating glimpse into the efforts of many who kept a secret. Oh, what a secret.
By the time we arrived at our airbnb several hours away it was dark, which meant we had a couple of missed turns before we actually found where we were supposed to be staying for the night. We were met by Chris who welcomed us warmly and ushered us into a fairytale abode.
The little home was charming (not the least due to some wonderful artwork adorning the walls,
along with a poster commemorating Chris’s wife’s father, the late John Crittenden, a well-known British sailor who competed in numerous around-the-world races–in both directions)
and perfect for the three of us to drop our bags and cook our frozen pizza (it was late, we were tired, and, hey, pizza can be wholesome :) and nosh on a fresh salad. But, not before we had received an email from our sailing friends Helen and Gus asking if Rudy would be interested in a possible crew position aboard some friends’ boat setting off for a winter’s crossing to the Caribbean from England. Can you tell what Captain Max thought of this? :)
Wednesday, September 16
The next morning we breakfasted on our usual yogurt/fruit/cereal and coffee with Max performing culinary geometry by building symmetrical lunch wraps…
then headed to Portlsmouth on the southern coast a half-hour away.
Max and I had visited the Portsmouth Historical Dockyards when we were working our way up the southern coast last summer. With Henry VIII’s flagship, the MARY ROSE, and Horatio Nelson’s HMS VICTORY and associated exhibits and museums, taking Rudy here seemed like a no-brainer.
Rudy was in his element with his knowledge of different ships and battles. He and Max went off to visit the two ships after the three of us had perused the Nelson museum (where we snapped a shot of Nelson’s chair from HMS VICTORY. He had difficulty sleeping and often napped in this chair).
I ensconced myself happily in one of the several coffee shops leaving the boys to their boats as I enjoyed a lovely hot cup of coffee and read. Oh, it had started to pour rain, so you can imagine I was doubly happy not to be out and about. Fortunately, most of the exhibits involve inside tours so they didn’t get too wet either.
One notable fact (out of many) I’lll mention here is Nelson’s inventing a new signalling system using flags. He assigned each flag a number associated with a word noted in a special code flag. The most famous message is the one he sent prior to the famous Battle of Trafalgar located off of Cadiz, about two hours west of Gibraltar. The message “England expects that every man will do his duty” is flown even now.
An excellent exhibit in the museum covered the British attempt to halt the slave trade. The true horror of this evil business is difficult to portray, but it’s always a strong reminder of how prejudices and racism twists human souls and minds to the nth degree.
The obligatory “Nelson died here” photo
and, those from Henry VIII’s flagship:
Max and Rudy also did a quick tour of M33, the last remaining ship of its kind from WWI.
The docklands are still in use today for current naval operations, which is why some gates are guarded by police with guns. Although, when we were there, the gates were being sandbagged, which left us with a bit uneasy feeling. But, all turned out fine.
Back to our English cottage for our second and last night, we arrived early enough for Rudy to put on his chef hat and prepare an amazing, and, I mean AMAZING, homemade Ragu alla Bolognese sauce.
We gorged ourselves and just writing this makes me wish that was our dinner for tonight. Afterwards, we enjoyed the lit fire and played our nightly OH HELL game. Life was brilliant :)
Ever since we landed in England I’ve wanted to go for a walk the way the English seem to do. They appear tireless in their pursuit of an outdoor stroll. It’s no surprise, then, to discover Tourist Information offices selling colorful printed maps for their county’s area, which is where I purchased for £2 at set of seven all within an hour’s drive of Amble.
Since we’re where King Oswald of the Northumbria managed to get himself killed and sainted, there’s a walk called St Oswald’s Way; however, that one being 97 miles, I convinced Max on a beautiful Friday morning to take a stroll based on one of the “Short Walks Around St. Oswald’s Way”. At 7.5 miles this one began and ended in at Rothbury, 40 minutes from Amble.
To make a 3-1/2 hour tale short, the first hour was delightful as we walked along a country road and then through a forested path.
Interestingly we saw posted ‘Farm Watch’ signs,
which did wake us up from thinking we were immersed in a storybook countryside complete with a gaggle of geese
and spotted ponies (or, with those sonar tubes maybe donkeys?).
But, we quickly stepped right back into our reverie as we walked in the beautiful, sun-lit day.
That was the first hour. The second hour, not so hot… as we discovered the route was taking us through a ‘rough field’, one full of sheep, their leavings, and really no clearly defined path.
Finally making it through one ‘rough field’ we found we were only in the warm-up of crossing unmarked fields as the third hour found us trying to discern the difference between a sheep hoofing a trail and a human (and Max tends to get lost anytime he loses sight of the ocean).
At this point this Bo Peep was not quite enjoying the scenery or exercise; and, if a lousy, flea-bitten, mutton-chop, baaa’ing, four-footed, cud-chewing creature had crossed my path, I’d be envisioning it laying on a plate with a big branch of rosemary. Good thing they kept their distance.
At last we came to a spot where we gratefully spotted our destination from a hill top and
stepped over our last stile.
Cue the music: once more our heads filled with lyrical tunes as we poetically gazed upon the wind-swept, heather-bedecked moors. Now, this was much more to my liking.
The final thirty minutes was a cinch, especially since it was downhill.
As we peered at luscious, English gardens hidden behind elegant stone walls
and watched some little girls play in the babbling stream,
I thought it wasn’t so bad after all, this walking venture. Matter-of-fact, there just may be another “Short Walks Around St. Oswald’s Way” in our future; but, this time I may carry some rosemary.
Thursday, September 3
Max had read about Melrose being where Robert the Bruce’s heart was buried, and, as you may know, he’s keen on disaster tours. If they include a desiccated body part, all the better (if you’re unlucky, one day I’ll relate the tale of the thumb in Sienna). To be fair, Melrose Abbey played a significant role in Scotland’s medieval history, so even if it was heartless (bad pun), it would still be worth a visit.
We were heading to Edinburgh airport and a stop at Melrose place would only add another twenty minutes of driving; so, it seemed like a no brainer to tour the Abbey, or ruins of the Abbey.
The drive, alone, along country roads was beautiful as we made our way up and down and around fields and through towns. Landing in Melrose I realized, once again, how many quaint settlements there are in Great Britain, and we were fortunate to, once again, find ourselves surrounded by a lovely town.
We made our way to the reception area where the woman asked if we were members of Scottish Trust. We said no, so she charged us the full ticket price. After we had paid Max casually mentioned that since we were based in England, we had joined English Heritage instead. (We had joined last year thanks to some good advice from cruising friends, and the membership has more than paid off due the many sights we have visited.) The cashier immediately said there was an arrangement between English Heritage and Scottish Trust and we get 50% off the admission fee. Hmmm, I think we should have read our membership brochure more carefully.
Out through the ticket office/gift shop we stepped into the imposing ruins of Melrose Abbey, at one time the wealthiest abbey in all of Scotland.
Melrose Abbey actually owes its initial glory to the Scottish King David I, the same guy who got Max’s ancestors up from France and northern England to support his rule. In 1136 he invited a group of Cistercian monks to settle on the border between England and Scotland. The monks, who strictly followed the Benedictine Rule of poverty and manual labor (evidently, more so than the Benedictines themselves) founded this Melrose a mile from where St. Aidan and later St. Cuthbert had established a monastery in the mid-600s. (FYI: Not being very well educated in monkville terms, I finally looked up the difference between an abbey and a monastery: an abbey is a monastery that has evolved from just living a monastic live to actually being part of a religious community, led by either an abba, for monks, or by an abbess, for nuns.)
The white monks, so-called due to their undyed woolen robes, secluded themselves from the outside world, and they were able to do so in large part because of an in-house group of manual laborers or lay brothers. The latter lived alongside the monks but prayed and worked separately, with an emphasis on work. Between being a monk or a lay brother, I think I’d pick being a wooly sheep as I imagine there wasn’t a whole lot of fun going on behind the abbey’s walls. And, I sure as hell wouldn’t be doing this:
The abbey thrived, peaking in the 14th century thanks to ownership of the largest sheep farm in the region and the rise of the wool trade; but, then this community began to decline due to the Bubonic Plague (a diminished labor pool meant lay brothers found higher wages elsewhere), the Scottish Reformation (1525-60 when the firebrand John Knox’s protestant preaching coincided with influential nobles’ interest in weaning themselves from the age-old Scotland-France alliance), and Henry VIII’s dissolution of monasteries (1536-41). In 1590 the last monk died. Melrose Abbey lingered on but finally ceased to be in 1810.
But, back to the earlier days… Originally starting out with very simple lives and surroundings, the monks eventually became richer and richer thanks to the ‘pay-for-pray’ business (nobles paying for a better afterlife) and those ubiquitous sheep. Consequently, the buildings became more elaborate resulting in some of the best stone masonry work from those times.
We saw evidence in the delicate tracery of some of the windows (horizontal iron bars were only added during the 20th century for additional support)
and the whimsical carving adorning the exterior walls and roofs,
including the famous flying, bagpipe pig.
Not only was the masonry exemplary but also, in some instances, signed by one of the masons who worked on the Abbey around 1400:
We also saw one of the Abbey’s patrons who is possibly related to some friends back home in Virginia Beach:
Unfortunately, the little museum was closed but the audio guide provided plenty of information that helped us follow the history and lifestyle of those who had inhabited these grounds all those years ago.
It was becoming just a bit crowded (a bus must have dropped off a group) as noon approached but the grounds were large enough to accommodate those of us walking around with our ears glued to the audio guide.
Just outside the cathedral’s walls we were directed to a stone marker where the infamous heart resides. The heart had been found in 1921 buried under the floor of the Chapter House, the abbey’s administrative office, and then excavated again in 1998 where a plaque identified it as Robert the Bruce’s; however, it’s equally likely it belonged to one of the abbots or a rich nobleman as the king’s heart probably would have been entombed at the high altar. Since no DNA exists for Robert the Bruce there’s no way to test if it’s his or not. But, it makes for a good story and a nice marker.
Regardless of whose heart is buried at Melrose Abbey, it’s definitely worth touring. Just getting another glimpse of life way back when is fascinating, and, by now, you must realize I’m a history junkie. :)
and AMBLE MARINA itself
Tuesday, August 25, to Sunday, September 6
When we landed with Iain and Sarah last May, We really enjoyed the people and the area; so, we had been looking forward to making a return visit on our way south to our winter port in Ipswich.
Heading into a familiar port means the mental list of questions you may have had prior to your first visit (from ‘how’s the docking?’ to ‘where’s the washing machine?’) are checked off so all that remains is watching weather, winds, tides and ensuring there is a berth.
The 24-hour passage was rough but what a great place to land. It was nice being back and listening very, very carefully to Ben and Mick in conversations conducted in Geordie accents, accents derived from the ancient Germanic and Scandinavian language of the Angles.
Some memories of Amble will be…
The marina folk make you feel truly welcomed, even hoisting the country flags for all visiting boaters.
The place is loved by birds, as well as boaters, as we discovered when waking up to a scene from Hitchcock’s movie THE BIRDS.
And, the tide was truly something to watch. The sill marked by the red-and-white pole at the marina’s entrance (on the left in photo below) kept water in during low tide, keeping the boats inside the sill afloat as if they’re in a bathtub,
while high brought us fairly close to parking-lot height.
One regret was not seeing some Orr’s Island friends, Cindy and Brad, who were in Ireland and later Scotland. Meeting up with folks from home makes our travels that much richer. And, their wanderings will be pretty spectacular considering the connections to Ireland and Scotland.
As we watch for weather, winds, and tides for sailing south we’re getting closer to our winter home, Ipswich; and, just like we had some great sailors heading north to Amble (Iain and Sarah), we’ll have another one aboard (Rudy) heading south to the Orwell River.
Soon we’ll be off pause and on play… after we check weather, winds, and tides… :)
East Coast from Hartlepool to Amble with some road trips inbetween
Saturday, May 23 to Sunday, May 31
When Iain joined us on our last passage to reach Orr’s Island ending our first Juanona voyage, he said he wanted to buy a boat and go sailing. He was still in school and this was his first blue water sailing. I’m thinking that’s a nice thought but…
Fast forward to today and he’s happily married to Sarah who also loves to sail. After selling the first boat he purchased (a Sabre 28), they bought their second boat in 2011 (a Niagra 35). They live on her (s/v BLUE) during the summer when they can rent out their home to fellow beach goers in Nags Head, NC. Working and saving and enjoying life, they also love to travel; so, when they expressed interest in joining us, we said of course!
They arrived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne late afternoon where we picked them up and returned to Hartlepool. The sun was still strong and bright thanks to being so far north, so we enjoyed some evening time in the cockpit.
It was quite special having these two young people aboard. Now, if only the weather would cooperate for sailing!
We had been checking the weather and it seemed the best time to go was mid-week. But, it wasn’t just wind we needed to take into consideration. To enter Amble, our next port of call, we had to arrive 2-3+ hours on other side of high tide thanks to a sill that kept water in the marina. Outside of the marina in the channel it could get as low as 3 feet. Fortunately, we had all the info aboard in charts and books.
While waiting for weather we used the car to take them to several of our favorite haunts, the first being Whitby where they experienced a crowded Sunday stroll around the priory and down in the cobble-stone town. It was Sarah’s first time in Europe, and Iain’s first time in England, so the humongous ruins of the abbey required some photoshops.
We headed out along one of the jetty and passed others out enjoying their Bank Holiday weekend.
I couldn’t resist this pic of a family eating their fish & chips. They’d make a great ad for whomever sold them those take-away meals. We satisfied ourselves with ice cream cones.
We stopped by the James Cook Museum but only to look around outside.
We then headed back to Hartlepool for the night where mixologist Max did the honors
and, I pulled out cheese bits.
Then, we toasted having them aboard with Juanona glasses they had given us several years ago.
Monday we left for Hadrian’s Wall, where we all enjoyed just being outside stretching our legs.
Use to living in a confined space, they quickly fit into JUANONA’s routine, even taking over the nightly duty of dish washing and drying.
Wednesday was the day we could leave, but it had to be at 4am in order to get out of the lock in Hartlepool. Fortunately, it started getting light at 3:45am; and, the four of us got up, untied from the pontoon and headed just around the corner to the lock. After waiting for the water to fill, we exited motoring slowly as we made our way out to the harbor.
But, all of a sudden we all felt ourselves stopping a bit. Sure enough, JUANONA was hitting the bottom. Max told Iain to unfurl the jib while Sarah and I held our breaths as we untied the fenders and lines in prep for stowing.
We made it past the shallow parts and into the open water. Thank god we left 30 minutes earlier than originally planned. The marina guys had mentioned we might want to do that because the high pressure we were in actually lowers the water below the charted tide levels. If we had left any later, we’d probably have been sitting there for a good while as we waited for the tide to go all the way out and then start back in again. Not a good feeling.
The winds were perfect and lasted beyond the forecasted time. We had a great sail
arriving at Amble almost three hours ahead of our ETA thanks to the winds maintaining their strength.
The marina people are extremely welcoming, just like in Hartlepool. It’s filled with both pleasure boaters and fisherman, and the camaraderie is immediate.
We walked around town with Max in search of a boat part, which he found at a candy store.
Since it had some remaining lollipops in it, the crew obediently began to empty out the container.
Now, to modify it to ensure the perfect fit.
And, voila! Janona’s new ice chest…
As I mentioned, Sarah and Iain are boat people, so they didn’t mind the usual hanging laundry lines used when rain instead of sun appears.
The next day Iain, Sarah and I walked to Warkworth Castle, just a mile from the marina. It was typical showery-sunny day, and Sarah saw her first castle, which happened to belong to the Percy family, the Earls of Northumbria. This was their second home, the first being the larger Bamburgh Castle where the Kings of Northumbria had held court (we briefly checked that out on our coastal-route drive the next day).
Friday we headed to Holy Island or Lindisfare where St. Cuthbert (the guy finally buried in Durham Cathedral) landed after being inspired by St. Aidan. To provide some background: Aidan was an Irish monk who lived on the island of Iona in southwest Scotland. However, this monk’s fame really grew thanks to a young boy. This young man, Oswald, the second son of the Northumbria king Aethelfrith, fled to Iona after his father was killed in battle in 616 c.e. Oswald embraced Christianity; and, when he became king in 633, he established a mission on Lindisfarne under Aidan’s care.
Unlike other monasteries, Lindisfarne was only for men and boys, the reason being women wouldn’t have been able to do Aidan’s type of missionary work (walking the streets and accosting strangers, which is how Aidan knew to convert folk to his religion; at least Aidan recognized the importance of female leadership since he is credited with placing Hilda as the Abbess of Hartlepool and Whitby.). At this point it was the Irish Ionian monks who were spreading the word; so, to ensure the mission wouldn’t die out once they died off, Aidan set about establishing Lindisfarne as a place of learning. He died in 651 at King Oswald’s Bambrugh castle.
While Aidan was busy with the Priory of Lindisfarne another monk, Cuthbert, was gaining a reputation for devotion and sanctity. He became Prior of the Melrose monastery (in southern Scotland) in 664. That same year the Synod of Whitby (held under St. Hilda) settled whether the Celtic Rite or the Roman Rite was right. Turns out the Roman Rite was agreed upon. Cuthbert was then assigned to Lindisfarne to transition that monastery from Celtic to Roman.
This island is also where the famous Lindisfarne Gospels (to define a gospel, for those, like moi, who weren’t sure, it’s the story of Jesus and his faith) was created. Unusually, one monk, the Bishop of Lindisfarne (698-721) Eadfrith, created this beautiful medieval manuscript. Its historical significance is how he blended both the Celtic and Roman churches’ traditions to reflect a growing ‘Englishness’. (It’s now part of the British Library’s revolving display of historic literature.)
Soooo, a long explanation on how these two saints’ lives intertwined and why they are so important to Christians of England.
To reach this holier-than-thou island you had to wait for the tide to clear the causeway, which meant we had lunch (notice pickle jar on car roof :) while waiting for water to drain off the one road on/off this island. No Moses arrived to part it, just Mother Nature.
There were warnings in the car park, too, about watching the tides and not getting caught out.
The island was beautiful with the ruins of the monastery perched on one side of a small harbor overlooked by a castle across the way. (Below, we’re facing the castle.)
We walked around the bottom of the castle, built in 1550 during Henry VIII’s time after the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-40).
Around the castle cairns and sheep covered the marshy expanse, and the sun came out in between showers. Opportunities for selfies with sheep occurred as we strolled back to the harbor.
In just our brief time spent going to and from the castle, the harbor had started to dry out.
We also saw a beach of seals basking in the shallow waters as well as a cross on a small island looking towards the mainland.
Climbing a hill at the head of the harbor we looked down at the priory. The priory was constructed in the 11th century next to where St. Aidan’s Irish monastery stood.
We recognized the typical Norman archways and saw a sketch of what these ruins would have looked like way back when.
The little museum had some surprising finds, such as how brightly colored some of these stone works would have been. Below are replicas of two, rare Anglo-Saxon stones. These are rare because they named two people, Osgyth and Beannah, who lived and worked at the community when the Lindisfarne Gospels were created. These colors were found through x-ray fluorescence and magnification. So strange to think of these ancient sites in full color when we’re only seeing them way past their heydays in muted beiges and grays.
We left the island and headed back timing it to ensure we crossed without any water under the car.
Saturday dawned clear and bright with Iain and Sarah taking a long walk, and Max and I hanging out. Sunday we dropped them off at the station to catch the train to Edinburgh.
A short visit but filled with a wonderful time together with our niece and nephew :)
Having made the decision to stay in Hartlepool to await our nephew Iain and wife Sarah’s arrival, we decided to explore a bit further. This time we headed north to the magnificent Roman ruin, Hadrian’s Wall.
Begun in 122 c.e. and built over a six-year or so time period, this stone wall ran 73 miles from the Solway Coast in the west to Wallsend near Newcastle upon Tyne in the east and incorporated 17 forts and 80 milecastles (these were much smaller buildings placed roughly one mile apart housing anywhere from 12 to 30 soldiers).
Emperor Hadrian (76-138 c.e.) built this wall as a defense against the wild and wooly ‘barbarians’ whom he and his predecessors didn’t have any luck taming. So, instead of expanding the Roman Empire, he consolidated it.
He was quite a guy. When Hadrian’s father died, his father’s cousin Trajan became his guardian. Lucky for Hadrian, Trajan later became emperor (98-117 c.e.), and when he died, Hadrian followed in his footsteps. Although, some say he set himself up better for getting the emperor title by saying he had been adopted by Trajan and his wife. Whatever. It worked, and Hadrian left his governor’s post in Syria to rule the Roman world.
This emperor is considered one of the good ones due to his belief in the philosophy of stoicism. In trying to find a concise definition of this ancient Greek philosophy, I stumbled across one on the Internet that says stoicism is learning to enjoy what you have and not crave what you don’t. I guess taken further this philosophy evolved into enduring pain without showing it. I like the first definition better.
Hadrian, I gather, was a realistic guy who was strongly influenced by the Greeks, hence the stoicism. He was the first emperor to grow a beard, which was a Greek thing to do. He loved building (no surprise there) with one of the most memorable landmarks in Rome, the Pantheon, in existence today thanks to him as well as his villa at Tivoli.
He travelled through his empire extensively (all the places in orange are places he visited) and he came to Britain to inspect his wall in 122.
Not being a dummy he married his guardian’s great-niece, Vibia Sabina, in 100, yet loved a young male Greek named Antinous. His lover tragically drowned, and they say Hadrian never fully recovered from this loss.
This stone barrier snaking across the top of England offers a wonderful glimpse into the lives of those Romans who built and defended this stretch of the Roman Empire. Knowing we only had one day to do view this structure, we selected three sites to learn about Hadrian’s Wall.
The first was Houseteads Roman Fort, touted as the most complete Roman fort in Britain. It’s also where you can actually see the wall and even walk on part of it.
The fort was a half-mile from the visitor’s center, so we trekked up spotting sheep spotting us as we climbed to the little museum and the fort itself running along part of the wall.
I must say you have to use your imagination to envision the way it must have been back in Roman times, but the displays both in the little museum and explanations on site were excellent educators.
Having explored the fort we went to the wall and slowly travelled a bit with Max perfecting his Roman soldier stance and his one-foot-down-one-leg-up pose.
He also checked the stones to ensure they were properly set.
It was a beautiful day so the stroll both on and beside the wall was spectacular, including a visit from a welcoming puppy eager to share her sheep poo.
Peering down one side of the wall we found ourselves once again in awe of the engineering prowess in building something so substantial without the benefit of the mechanical tools and construction aids we have today.
They would build an envelope of well-placed stones and then fill the middle with rubbled stones and used lime stone to cement it.
Our next stop six miles away was a twofer: The Roman Army Museum and Vindolanda. To reach the museum you enter through the remains of a settlement outside the fort, then through the fort itself. What’s really cool about this site is that you can watch archaeologists find items as they continue to excavate this fort.
We stopped to chat and were there when they pulled out a nail that hadn’t seen the light of day for over 1800 years. We were the first people to hold it since some Roman had used it for construction. The archaeologist who showed it to us said the reason for finding such excellently preserved artifacts was due to the aerobic soil. Since the fort was built atop eight previous ones, tons of items were stuck in the mud keeping them safe and sound until dug up and help by folk such as us.
Reaching the museum we were in awe of all that had been recovered, from a full set of broken samian ware from the late 80s (they concluded this was the date because the same potters’ stamps appeared on an unopened crate at Pompei (destroyed 79 c.e.)
to pieces of glassware
to leather shoes
to the most important of all, writing tablets.
It is because of these slim, wooden tablets that we know so much about the actual daily lives of the Romans in Britain. Besides finding descriptions and tallies of the number of soldiers and their assignments, they’ve also discovered tablets relating to every-day life. One of the most famous is a birthday invitation, one of the earliest examples of Latin penned by a woman translated below:
‘Claudia Severa to her Lepidina, greetings. On the third day before the Ides of September, sister, for the day of the celebration of my birthday, I give you a warm invitation to make sure that you come to us, to make the day more enjoyable for me by your arrival. Give my greetings to your Cerealis. My Aelius and my little son send their greetings. I shall expect you, sister. Farewell, sister, my dearest soul, as I hope to prosper, and hail.’
To me it’s fascinating to imagine this woman sitting down to ask a friend to join her for a birthday celebration. In spite of the language being both flowery and formal, the warmth of this friendship is apparent. Can’t you see her? I could.
First discovered in 1973, many of these tablets are now housed in the British Museum and listed as one of their top ten treasures. Fortunately, for us, Vindolanda were able to keep some for display.
Another unique find in addition to the writing tablets was the actual fringe you see illustrated on Roman helmets. They came this is the only one to-date found fairly intact.
Having sated our desire to experience Hadrian’s Wall, we headed for the car and started looking for an inexpensive place to stay while driving these windswept moors.
After checking out several pub accommodations in small towns along the way, we found one that came with bathroom en-suite, a full English breakfast and a friendly pub-keeper. Pretty wonderful way to spend a night and morning break.
Thursday, May 22
Next day we headed due south, back to The North Moors National Park where we first travelled through to get to Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay. Only this time we’d be on the far SW corner at Ducombe Park.
The reason for heading to this park in Helmsley is that it featured the International Centre for Birds of Prey. I had read about this organization in one of the many pamphlets we’d picked up and I was curious to see the flying demonstrations they touted.
I’d never forgotten one I’d seen in Scotland over 14 years ago. It was a friend’s (Marci’s) birthday, and Joanna, her partner, had arranged an amazing party. My sister Betsy and I went. It was spectacular. And, one of the optional events was seeing the bird man with his birds. So, when I saw I could show Max something similar, I persuaded him to go.
In spite of two roadmaps, an iPad GPS, and our own eyes, and with 2.5 hours to make a 1.5 hour journey, we barely made it to the first showing at 11:30. Thankfully our navigational skills at sea seem to be better than our shore based ones.
Two trainers alternated flying several different types of birds.
The demonstrations were filled with lots of swooping birds but also time spent gazing at the sky or a tree in search of the free-flying object. The trainers were excellent, though, at keeping up an educational patter as we all strained to see a little birdie. Lots of practice, no doubt.
One of the interesting displays was how they eventually got the birds back to the demo area. The trainer would swing around a line (baited with a meat item since these are birds of prey… one of the trainers said you may not want to look too closely at that end of the rope)…
the bird would swoop down and catch it…
the trainer approached very carefully while winding up the rope…
finally getting close enough to switch out the baited line with another piece of meat…
resulting in both emcee and actor being content.
After the first show we toured the facility where these birds of prey are captivity bred for conservation. This northern branch was opened in 2013, and the site is both lovely and engaging. We walked among all the pens (each bird is flown every day) and I snapped photo after photo. Unfortunately, it was through mesh screens for most of them; but, don’t worry–I’ll only post a few!
The profiles were so regal it was as if these birds were used to posing for photographs.
And, the owls were wonderful. I mean, look at these faces. The first one below has a wreath of feathers that are amazing in their exactness. The face appears to have been shaved with the underneath part being the tiny white feathers.
The wee burrowing owl (so small it can’t carry the weight of a radio transmitter like the larger birds have, so it gets its own carrying box) was a comedian as the trainer explained how they couldn’t fly that fast so to escape predators they burrowed. He told us they can sometimes share prairie dogs’ homes, and the dogs actually appreciate these little fellows because their whistle will alert everyone to danger; and, if a snake tries to come down, the owl can imitate another snake’s hiss scaring off the approaching menace.
Of course, there was the comical moment or two.
How could you not love a guy who sees the following…
then does this? :)
We found a spot for good cell coverage and called Eileen,
then took in one more demo where we saw the largest bird being flown, the Sea Eagle. The trainer said he grew up around here and, when he was little, he pleaded with his parents to take him to see the birds. They did so and he saw a sea eagle. From then on he fell in love with the majesty of birds.
Twenty years later, he’s back and training and flying the son (!) of those same birds he first saw so long ago. Karma.
What is so exceptionally clear is the devotion these people have for these birds. That emotion came through with every bird they flew.
Happy to have experienced this intriguing center it was time to return to JUANONA, and so we set off, driving through the beautiful English countryside to Hartlepool.