Springtime in the Southwest

During lockdown, which feels interminable this time, my husband and I have explored more of the Great Western Canal as well as getting to know some areas closer to our new house.

11 miles of walking heaven

My husband and I have discovered the Grand Western Canal, running a few miles from our home, starting from Tiverton, Devon. The canal was proposed as early as 1796 to link the Bristol Channel to the English Channel to bypass Lands End.  However, the proposed canal was never completed because the railway removed the need for its existence.

The eleven-mile section in Devon that had been finished remains open, despite many threats over the years, and is now a designated country park and local nature reserve.  We have chosen to walk sections of the canal, from car park to car park, with the idea to eventually walk the entire thing if we feel fit enough one day.  The park is very well maintained and the majority of the paths are hard packed and not muddy which is a benefit for walking around here!

Here’s a few of the magnificent views that can be seen along the first five miles of the canal from Tiverton to Sampford Peverell in Devon.

Christmas in Warwick

We were very lucky in 2020 that we were able to get together with family on December 25th despite lockdown restrictions in other parts of the UK. Our daughter and son-in-law live in Warwick and we had a great walking tour of the town during our short stay.

Early days in Somerset & Devon

We’ve been in our new house in Wellington, Somerset for just over a month now, but already we have explored a lot of the outlying countryside – a good outdoor break for the lockdown blues!

First we found Wellington Park in our new hometown and it is a real gem dating back to the coronation of King Edward VII around 1901.

Next we took a walk along the Taunton and Bridgwater (yes, the ‘e’ is missing in the town name) Canal. We discovered a wonderful tea room where we can take visitors in the future plus we loved the Dr Seuss-like trees created by the balls of mistletoe in the branches. The narrow boats are much shorter than in Henley-on-Thames because the locks are much shorter.

The National Trust came up trumps for our next visit when we discovered the gorgeous property of Knightshayes Court. The Impey Trail has a lung busting hill but it is a great place to walk for building up stamina and steps.

Of course, we had to head to the coast at some point and a bitterly cold walk on Saunton Sands blew away all the “cobwebs” and gave us a new appreciation for the power of nature. Man, it was cold!

Our latest expedition took us to the Valley of Rocks in Exmoor National Park. The nearby town of Lynton has a steep chair railway that takes visitors from the town down to the beach level and brings them back up at the end of the day. It’s been used since Victorian times. There’s a narrow cliff path leading from the town to the Valley of Rocks. Nimble goats graze on the gorse bushes down the side of the rocks – how do they do that without falling over the side?

I love our new house and I think the surrounding area provides lots of scope for new adventures for a person who loves to be outdoors amidst the majesty of the natural world. I’ll keep you posted.

Fresh air therapy

It was a strange day on Sunday, November 8th with low hanging cloud and continuous drizzle. We went to Avebury to see the largest Neolithic stone circle in Europe and the grey sky provided an eerie background for the stones. Then we hiked up a very large hill to get a glimpse of the Landsdowne Monument and the Cherhill Downs chalk horse – both were visible only close up and we missed out on what should have been a spectacular view from the top.  Yes, we’re in our second lockdown but getting out into the outdoors like this, no matter how wet you are, makes it palatable.

My home town

I am one of those people who doesn’t, because of frequent moves, feel a deep connection to any particular place. However, if I had to name a home town Stamford, Lincolnshire would have to be it. I was born there as my Dad was in the RAF working at nearby RAF Base Wittering.

Just before our second UK lockdown, due to Covid-19, my husband and I got to spend a couple of days in Stamford with our daughter Claire and her husband Nathan. It was Claire’s 30th birthday and we got to have a wee party (thanks for the cake Laura) and actually went shopping in some wonderful shops. We also walked around the grounds of Burghley House which is a magnificent building. A brief respite but one that was much enjoyed!

Glorious Devon

On the long holiday weekend my family and I spent four lovely days in Devon.  We stayed at a lovely barn conversion that had a hot tub which was necessary after the active holiday we had.  We hiked the Teign gorge near Castle Drogo, cycled the full distance of the Exmouth Esturary cycle route (about 31 km) and walked around Haytor’s Rocks in Dartmoor.  We also had a lazy day at Killerton, a National Trust property, where the bees and butterflies were active in the gardens.  It was our first visit away from home since March!

San Antonio, Texas

We stayed in Texas for a few days after my week of quilting so my husband could go to the Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austen.  Lewis Hamilton became the 2019 World Champion after that race.  We also went to an NBA basketball game in San Antonio to see LeBron James play for the LA Lakers.

I was more interested in the San Antonio Riverwalk which I always pictured as being some sort of wooden boardwalk but it turns out that it goes for fifteen miles and has numerous shops and eateries along the way.  It is made up of parts of a natural river as well as connecting canals and it runs underneath street level with access stairs and bridges.  When we were there it was Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities with an illuminated parade of boats in the downtown area of the Riverwalk and painted skull decorations everywhere.

We also visited the Alamo – a historic Spanish mission and fortress compound founded in the 18th century by Roman Catholic missionaries.  It was the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 and is now referred to as The Shrine of Texas Liberty. Today it is a museum in the Alamo Plaza Historic District and a part of the San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Texas Quilt Museum

On the days off between Quilt Market and Quilt Festival we took a drive out to La Grange, home of the Texas Quilt Museum.  It’s about an hour west of Houston, and quite a small town, but it was chosen as the site of the TQM because it is situated equidistant between Houston, San Antonio and Austen, Texas.

Coincidentally, because of the Sapphire theme at Quilt Festival the TQM also had a display of historical blue and white quilts which form part of a collection of a local Texas quilter.  Next door to the TQM is a knitting/quilting shop called the Quilted Skein which was fun to browse around (although I was glad that I’m not a knitter because I might have done even more financial damage).  Outside of La Grange is a shop called the Texas Quilt Barn which also added to my baggage going home.

Short trip to Scotland

Last week Steve and I took our wee dog up to Scotland to visit my cousin who used to dog sit for Pepper when we lived in Aberdeen. In order to be fair to our 14 1/2 year old pooch we decided to break up the journey and have a bit of a holiday on the way north. We visited Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton and Blackwell Arts & Crafts House, The Quaker Tapestry and Wray Castle in the Lake District. During our stay in Scotland we went to see the Queensferry Bridge, Dumfries House (which is a renovation project of Prince Charles), the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies. It was a great trip made even better spending time with my cousin Aileen and her dog Reno!