Posted in Travel

The Lochs

BY YON BONNIE BANKS AND YON BONNIE BRAES

Early in the morning I walked up to the nearest ‘Passing Place’ above Inversnaid hotel to enjoy the view across Loch Lomond and the forest where feral goats were grazing. I then explored the other side of the hotel walking up to the bridge where it crosses the stream and the waterfall flows into the Loch. On the bridge was an ‘In memory of’ plaque of someone who had ‘crossed over to the other side’ so fitting.  It was difficult terrain to reach the last few steps to get level with the bridge to cross over the deep ravine, a reminder that the last stage of life can be the most difficult. This was where William Wordsworth penned “The Highland Maid,” a love poem to a woman he was smitten with in this place.

 

Nor am I loth, though pleased at heart,

Sweet Highland Girl! from thee to part;

For I, methinks, till I grow old,

As fair before me shall behold,

As I do now, the cabin small,

The lake, the bay, the waterfall;

And thee, the spirit of them all! (At Inversneyde, upon Loch Lomond)

Sweet Highland Girl, a very shower
Of beauty is thy earthly dower!
Twice seven consenting years have shed
Their utmost bounty on thy head:
And these grey rocks; that household lawn;
Those trees, a veil just half withdrawn;
This fall of water that doth make
A murmur near the silent lake;
This little bay; a quiet road
That holds in shelter thy Abode—
In truth together do ye seem
Like something fashioned in a dream;
Such Forms as from their covert peep
When earthly cares are laid asleep!
But, O fair Creature! in the light
Of common day, so heavenly bright,
I bless Thee, Vision as thou art,
I bless thee with a human heart;
God shield thee to thy latest years!
Thee, neither know I, nor thy peers;
And yet my eyes are filled with tears.

 

With earnest feeling I shall pray
For thee when I am far away:
For never saw I mien, or face,
In which more plainly I could trace
Benignity and home-bred sense
Ripening in perfect innocence.
Here scattered, like a random seed,
Remote from men, Thou dost not need
The embarrassed look of shy distress,
And maidenly shamefacedness:
Thou wear’st upon thy forehead clear
The freedom of a Mountaineer:
A face with gladness overspread!
Soft smiles, by human kindness bred!
And seemliness complete, that sways
Thy courtesies, about thee plays;
With no restraint, but such as springs
From quick and eager visitings
Of thoughts that lie beyond the reach

Of thy few words of English speech:
A bondage sweetly brooked, a strife
That gives thy gestures grace and life!
So have I, not unmoved in mind,
Seen birds of tempest-loving kind—
Thus beating up against the wind.

 

What hand but would a garland cull

For thee who art so beautiful?

O happy pleasure! here to dwell

Beside thee in some heathy dell;

Adopt your homely ways, and dress,

A Shepherd, thou a Shepherdess!

But I could frame a wish for thee

More like a grave reality:

Thou art to me but as a wave

Of the wild sea; and I would have

Some claim upon thee, if I could,

Though but of common neighbourhood.

What joy to hear thee, and to see!

Thy elder Brother I would be,

Thy Father—anything to thee!

 

Now thanks to Heaven! that of its grace

Hath led me to this lonely place.

Joy have I had; and going hence

I bear away my recompense.

In spots like these it is we prize

Our Memory, feel that she hath eyes:

Then, why should I be loth to stir?

I feel this place was made for her;

To give new pleasure like the past,

Continued long as life shall last.

Nor am I loth, though pleased at heart,

Sweet Highland Girl! from thee to part;

For I, methinks, till I grow old,

As fair before me shall behold,

As I do now, the cabin small,

The lake, the bay, the waterfall;

And thee, the spirit of them all!

 

Paddle steamers were the mode of transport in the old days so the original roads around20170511_161019-1 (1) Loch Lomond were very busy; there was a stage coach service from Inversnaid in those days when Queen Victoria travelled by paddle steamer. The steamer “Princess May” in 1812 built by David Napier and the “Marion” used to chug their way up and down the Loch. General Wolfe and the Duke of Montrose both had stayed in this area.

Not far from Loch Lomond is Lake Katrine which we visited. The first steam powered boat on Lake Katrine was the “Rob Roy” followed by the “Sir Walter Scott” in 1901. Queen Victoria had opened the valves of Loch Arklet which is the header tank to Lake Katrine which has been supplying water since 1851.

We chugged our way down Lake Katrine, the throb of the engines and lapping of water in the wake of the “Sir Walter Scott,” which still had its original engines, fuelled now by diesel and not wood. We stood gazing at the highland cattle grazing on the open hillsides as the sun briefly lit up the dark rolling hills with their forest fringe and grey granite rocky outcrops. We chugged the length of the Loch from Stronachlachar to where the coaches were waiting for us at the Trossachs Pier. A variety of pines and birches and grew down to the water’s edge with luxuriant moss and ferns growing on the trees and on the banks.

This area is full of stories of the legendary Rob Roy who was held a prisoner on one the islands. Sir Walter Scott wrote “The Lady of the Lake” and “Rob Roy”, making this area famous.  The original Drovers Route was made into a toll road by the Duke of Montrose and is now called the Duke’s Pass. We drove past Loch Achray, the cottage gardens along the route ablaze with colour and perennial borders.  The slopes down to Loch Venachar had open fields dotted with clumps of sedge grasses with sheep and cattle grazing 20170511_160955-1 (1)amongst them.  The Rob Roy and Trossachs Walking Trail are in this area and walkers often overnight at Inversnaid. We stopped at Callander which meant, ‘road to the beach’ our driver told us, according to the geology of the area: the Highland Boundary Fault is near here. We stopped for lunch at a small café where we ate soup and bread. The High Street was very pretty with a river at running at the bottom with a lovely bridge and picnic area.

We drove through the bracken clad hillsides of Strathshyre where foxgloves poked their head out of the greenery on the verges and hillsides.  In the past villages were built to discourage the clans from living in the hills and to make them a community in the villages where it would be easier to have control over them. We passed the viaducts of IMG_4382 (1)the old railway which was closed due to a rock fall, the site was declared unstable by geologists and was not repaired.  We drove through open meadowlands with buttercups and daisies, then on through LIX, which was named after the Roman 59th Legion which was stationed in the area.  A lot of the roads in Scotland were military roads, to enable troops to move quickly from one area to another.  We went past the old tollhouse on the way to Killen and the Dochart Falls, where we stopped off for a while to view the falls IMG_4395 (1)and the grave of the McNab family. The couple who sat at my table were McNabs so they took some photos and were obviously interested in this piece of history.  The old water Mill on the river (see photos) still turned as the waters flowed through it. The bridge over the river Dochart was a very narrow stone bridge which would only take traffic one way at a time.  I walked over the bridge to see a long stretch of very pretty rapids and falls as they chattered over the rocks and flowed away under the bridge.  I stood there meditating on the water that flows under the bridge which cannot return, I thought one has to keep going with the flow, not to try and swim upstream again; you can only cross over the bridge and move on.

Rob Roy was a cattle drover, he became very successful and owed three properties along Loch Lomond.  The drovers used to travel great distances, so there was a system of Drovers Inns along the route. Not only did they drive cattle, but also carried money and documents (same idea as couriers today).  They were able to carry weapons to protect themselves so they would stay at a Drovers Inn, the one on the main road along Loch Lomond was built in 1705. Everybody behaved like Rob Roy in those days, it was not just him and his clansmen, one must not judge the past by today’s standards. He died in his house at Inverlochlarig Beg, Balquhidder,   We also 20170511_161034-1went past the Pulpit Rock, which was a large rock with a niche cut out of it.  The law required that people had to attend Church on Sundays, and the nearest church was at Tabor, which took about 7 hours to reach, so the people made this an outdoor church in 1850.  There was also an entrepreneur who set up a stall at the back of the rock to sell whiskey and cheese!  There were probably as many people on both sides of the rock! The narrow road was upgraded to Arlui, extending over the Loch in places.  A new church was built at Arlui, to replace the Pulpit Rock but this also fell into disrepair and was later turned in to a home.

We arrived at Inveruglas in time to catch the “Loch Lomond” back to Inversnaid for dinner after an interesting day exploring Rob Roy country.

 

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I’LL TAKE THE HIGH ROAD AND YOU TAKE THE LOW ROAD

Continuing the story of my trip to Scotland……

Our coach driver Eddie told us the origin of the famous song ‘Loch Lomond’ which was pretty sad.  It was written by a Jacobite highlander in the Invararey gaol at the time of the 1745 uprising when Bonnie Prince Charlie was fighting James II of England’s grandson. The Jacobites were part of the political movement that aimed to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart King James II of England and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Jacobite Rebellion was an important time in Scotland; this ended at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the final confrontation which was primarily a religious civil war.  These Jacobite highlanders were taken prisoner and were systematically being killed; ten hung per day. One son in each family was allowed to be spared. There were two brothers in the Invararey gaol, one brother said to the other, “you must go home to the family, and I will stay to be killed and buried. I am taking the high road and will be in Scotland before you.” His meaning was his soul would be in Scotland. This song is sung when a person gets very melancholy at the end of Hogmanay and reminisces over the past. Listening to the words of Loch Lomond will never be the same for me after hearing that story of familial sacrifice.

Industries

We passed the forestry region of Dumfries as we drove along the M74 towards Glasgow.  BLTR6Pine Trees The hillsides were clad in native Scots Pine, a tree that adapted to climate change over the previous centuries; it has a natural range confined to the Highlands, covering about 17,000 hectares, mainly growing on north-facing slopes. Forestry is a big industry in the area. Thirty five years after the trees are planted they are cut down and two more planted in their place. There is an enormous demand for trees worldwide and Scotland is the third largest producer of wood in Europe. Running under the A73 is the Longannet Coal Mine, now closed. This was the deepest coalmine in Scotland. – The mine shafts run for 9 miles in all directions, the area is now landscaped where it was built over and beautified by  roadside sculptures; the ghostly Andy Scott’s ‘Arria’ metal mermaid sculpture, overlooking the M80 motorway near Cumbernauld and the Clydesdale Horse, facing Glasgow with its backside towards Edinburgh on the M8.

Another major industry is whiskey, manufactured from the abundant supplies of barley and the pure, clear spring water from the peaty burns, an environment rich in the highest quality ingredients which have made this liquor magic and a top export. Each distillery has its own distinctive handcrafted characteristics with £8billion of whiskey sold per annum.

Scottish Terms

The boundary between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland is at the town of Comrie which sits on the Highland Boundary Fault where the tectonic plates butt against each other. To the north are the mountains which are called benns or tors, Ben Nevis is the highest at 4409 ft above sea level. A loch is a stretch of water, a glen is a narrow valley, and a strath is a wider valley.  A munro is a mountain over 3000 feet named after Sir Hugh Munro, (1856–1919) who listed all the mountains. ‘Bagging a munro’ is a mountain climber’s ambition, and each year people die trying to achieve this. There are 282 munros in Scotland.  Clans are tribes or children and Mac means ‘son of’.

Spikes of purple wild flowers poked through the white daisies and Queen Anne Lace as we bypassed Glasgow onto the Stirling Road, we skirted Bannock Burn where Robert theBLTR6 Callendar Bruce won the battle against the English 700 years ago.  We past Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, and turned off to Callendar.  This area was quite flat and was at one time under the ocean, where the Oceana Germanica or North Sea covered the area.

Sheep stood watching us showing off their newly clipped fat bellies as we past the lake near Monreith. The game of Curling was a very popular game similar to Ice Hockey which was played on this frozen lake, although health and safety do not approve of it these days as the ice has to reach a certain thickness before you are allowed to play.

Eddie asked us all to disembark and go to the loo at Aberfoyle to make sure we had empty bladders before we drove down the winding narrow road to the hotel at BLTR6Inversnaid HighwayInversnaid. This road is called the ‘Inversnaid Highway’ and wound its way alongside Loch Ardon on the one side and lovely stone houses lining the way on the other and inbetween were clumps of purple heather on the open hillsides. We drove along the valley floor on a very narrow road with few squeeze places for cars to pass each other.  It took an hour to drive the 15 miles as we had to stop at times to let other vehicles pass. At one stage Eddie tried to pass a wide bodied truck and it took several backwards and forwarding and holding of breaths to pass with a hairsbreadth between us.

We were all relieved to arrive at the hotel at Inversnaid and settle into our cosy rooms and enjoy a very welcome cup of tea.

To be continued Loch Lomond………

BLTR6 Inversnaid Hotel

Posted in Travel

The Road to the Isles

THE ROAD TO THE ISLES

bltr5-heatherOur coach driver was a Glaswegian named Eddie who kept us entertained and informed throughout the trip to Scotland. How I loved the feel of the coach wheels turning under my feet and watching the fields with their cattle and sheep flashing by. I love that movement of going forward, of going somewhere, a new adventure, to see what is around the next corner, who will I meet, and what will I experience?  I must keep on going forward, forward, like Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘The Explorer’

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes         
  On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated—so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges—
  “Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

What lies behind those mountains?

bltr5scotlandSitting behind me were two women who never stopped talking the entire trip. I thought I was listening to teenage girls in a high school corridor gossiping about their friends instead of women in the sixties and seventies. It was next best to a soap opera.

Our first break was at Wetherby, Eddie said “You have all passed the first L&G bladder test!” After a three quarter hour break we headed off to the border.

The wheat was in the process of being harvested, with great bales of hay lying in the fields bltr5gretnagreenhandsdrying out for winter.  We drove through light rain, the windscreen wipers squeaking as
they scraped the raindrops off the glass. We passed Leeming where on a previous trip we had stopped. I felt sorry for Eddie as he negotiated roadworks with a lot of heavy vehicles blocking the way, but he made good progress and we felt quite safe with him.  We headed off on the road to Penrith and turned off at Richmond.  This was a lovely drive across the Yorkshire dales, where white sheep dotted the green hillsides. I imagined that Bach could have been inspired by a scene such as this to write his Cantata “Sheep may Safely Graze.” Ponds settled in the hollows and fields of oats and barley were ready to be harvested.  We passed Thorpe Farm with tree lined driveways and stone walls – sparse hedgerows bisected the hillsides. A shepherd was on his quad bike hustling the sheep, quite a far cry from the days of sheep dogs.  We passed ruined cottages with greenery draped over the vacant panes, looking decidedly neglected.

bltr5scotsbridgeThe overcast skies with sagging grey bellied clouds ready to burst at any moment, accentuated the bleakness of the dales, as they became more sparsely treed. We then headed into the Lake District. Eddie stopped to fill up the tank with diesel, it cost £365.78 to fill the coach; he had to fill it twice for duration of the trip.

Eddie told us a bit about Scotland as we headed across the border.  The Outer Hebrides (a Gallic word for a group of islands) are the furthest reaches of Scotland. Lewis is the largest and oldest landmass in this archipelago. The Romans called Scotland, Caledonia, Bretton or Britannia. The Pict tribes that lived there wore tattoos and spoke the Pictish language related to the Brittonic language of people living in the south both of which originated with the Celtish language. If the Roman scribes had not written these things down very little would be known about the early inhabitants of this region, they lived north of the rivers Clyde and Forth. Scotland was also known as Alba. The languages now spoken are Scots English, Polish, Urdu, Gallic, Welsh and Irish Gaelic, and on the west coast of Scotland and Edinburgh and Glasgow a Doric or Brettonic language is spoken.

BRIEF EARLY HISTORY

The Romans built the original border, Hadrian’s Wall, to try and keep the Picts out of England, they only spent forty six years in Scotland as they could not cope with the conditions or the Caledonians. They also built the Antonoine Wall between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde, It was started in AD142 and was built with turf and wood with a ditch on the northern side. It ran for 63 km across Scotland and was 5 m wide and 3m high. After only eight years the Romans retreated back to Hadrian’s wall.

br5scot-flag-large888In the 13th century, the famous warrior, Robert the Bruce, ( 1274-1329) was known as the head of this Kingdom and fought to maintain Scottish independence against English claims to the Scottish throne.  He was crowned King of Scots in 1306 at Scone. He defeated Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314, a great milestone in Scottish history. The Scottish flag is the St Andrews white diagonal cross on a blue background, it is also known as the Saltire, and forms part of the Union Flag.

We arrived at Gretna Green, one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations. It bltr5gretnagreenbecame famous for its “runaway marriages”. In Scotland sixteen year olds were allowed to marry whereas in England the laws of the land required parental permission to marry under the age of twenty one. Marriages were officiated by the blacksmith over an anvil. Gretna Green was the first village over the Scottish border where the local blacksmith could perform the ceremony over his anvil. This is now a symbol of a Gretna Green wedding.  Today it is a poplar venue for second and third marriages.

Watch out for next month’s post for the continuation of this story……..

Posted in Travel

DOING THINGS FINNISH STYLE

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF DOING THINGS FINNISH STYLE

I was visiting my son’s new in-laws getting to know the family who lived in the small town of Rantesalmi in Karelia, Eastern Finland in May 2008. Sirkka (Phillip’s mother-in-law had previously visited me in South Africa to learn our culture, now it was my turn to experience theirs.

The day started with a breakfast of oats porridge with berries, rye bread and cheese/ham bl4trfinland2-001with cucumber and tomato and a cup of coffee after which we set off for the summer cottage. This cottage is built on the edge of Lake Haarpaselkä in a lovely forest setting with birch trees and various pine or fir trees growing right down to the side of the lake. Upstairs the wooden cabin had space for two single beds and two sets of double beds under the eaves.  Downstairs the living room was equipped with sleeper couch, a sink, a gas and wood stove.  The entrance hall led into the anteroom of the sauna where buckets of water from the lake were stored.  There was no running water at that time, but the cottage has since been renovated and now has a kitchen with running water.  Through the anteroom was the sauna which consisted of wooden seating racks and a wood fired stove, with stones on top and a water cylinder to the side. (This is used for hot water purposes in the household as well).  The sauna has also been replaced with the upgrade to the cabin and is now in a separate building about thirty meters away.  There was a front porch running along the length of the house with steps leading into the garden.
The outhouse some 10 meters away from the main cabin consisted of a bio-toilet and storerooms.  There was no running water in the toilet either and it had a container at the back filled with ‘forest floor’ material and a scoop, so after using the toilet you just put a scoop of the biodegradable material on the top and eventually it turns into compost.

blg4trfinland1-001The other structure near to the cabin was a wigwam-like building which was the outdoor cooking area used in bad weather. It had a fireplace in the middle of the floor with a chimney that went up through the middle of the structure to let out the smoke.  There was seating around the perimeter of the fire and a table at the side for working on. There was an open hearth (braai) area near the lake for better weather. This too has been replaced with a more modern but similar structure.

After settling in and looking around we had coffee/tea on the front porch served with delicious Karjalanpiirakka, a rye pastry filled with baked rice porridge, which is a traditional Karelian snack.  Such a beautiful environment enticed to do some exploring and sketching.

We ate a cold lunch of smoked bream and salad as well as a baked potato, onion, cheese bl4trfinland5-001and asparagus dish which was cooked in foil over the coals in the wigwam.  Later we went into the wigwam whilst the coals were still hot to cook pancakes on the open fire. The pan is on the end of a long handle and the pancakes are made individually by each person.  We then ate them with homemade raspberry jam.  Delicious!

MY INITIATION INTO THE SAUNA..

After the meal we rested and I did some drawing and painting in Sirkka and Osmo’s visitor’s book. Later, Osmo cut some vaasti (leafy birch twigs) for the sauna.  He then had his sauna after which we ate rye bread, salads, cheese/ham and a cup of tea before Osmo went home.  After he had gone home it was Sirkka’s and my turn to sauna.  The water had been carried up from the lake and the fires lit.  First we had to strip in the anteroom and take a plastic sheet to sit on.  We entered the sauna room and sat on the top wooden rack.  The procedure was to wet ourselves all over with cold water. Sirkka just went and jumped in the lake, I wasn’t that brave so used water in a basin that was there for that purpose.  Sirkka then threw water on the hot stones which sent a wave of steam through the room.  She held the vaasti over the stones and again threw water over them.  This had the effect of wilting the leaves and sending a up a lovely aroma of green tree into the closed room.  We then sat and slapped ourselves all over with the vaasti (not hard) which was quite nice001 as it was reasonably soft and stimulated the circulation.  After a few more scoops of water onto the rocks the room was VERY hot and Sirkka said it was now time to jump into the lake.  I went down to the lake, but it was very cold, so I only went in ankle deep. I have since got braver and enjoy swimming in the cold water!  We went back to the sauna where we steamed some more.  She went back to the lake a few more times, but said I should get washed and dressed as I was not yet used to this!

bl4tr-finland6-001After enjoying the sauna and getting dressed we then lit the outside braai fire and had a glass of wine (it was Sirkka’s birthday) and toasted sausages over the fire.  We sat and watched the sun setting over the lake with its rays turning the lake to gold – it was magnificent.  God sent a special birthday gift, a rainbow appeared and was reflected in the lake, this was really a remarkable occurrence and we commented on the fact that it was God’s promise to us.  The sun set around 11.00pm (but the sky was still light as it does not move far off the horizon at this time of the year.  We went to bed and I was woken at 4.30 am with the sun shining brightly in my window, ready for another day of learning Finnish culture.

Posted in Travel

Right Royal Adventures

RIGHT ROYAL ADVENTURES WITH DAVID

David an avid follower of Her Majesty, subscribes to the Daily Mail, gets the latest Royal gossip, news and checks the Court Calendar.  He can tell you anything you might want to know about Balmoral, Sandringham,
Windsor and Buckingham Palace.
Every year he books tickets in January to attend the Ride into Ascot in June.

David has a heart of gold, using these tickets to give elderly folk from Bedford the opportunity to see the Queen. I was thrilled when he invited me to attend the event this year as well.

bl3queens-ticketWe set off early on Thursday 18th June 2015, an appropriate day, as it would have been my Mother’s 100th birthday had she lived another 7 months. It was also the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

On arrival we stopped at the Windsor Farm shop for a cup of coffee and comfort break. The security officer at the gate into Windsor Estate remembered David from his visit on Tuesday. We drove along Dukes Road watching the Queens Derbyshire cattle grazing in the open fields on either side of the road.

We found the designated fenced off area and bagged our picnic spot opposite a specific oak tree where David said we would get a good view of the Queen getting into her carriage about six meters away.

Security officers walked up and down talking to the small crowd of about a hundred people. While we were waiting David interrogated the police officers regarding their equipment and the sniffer dogs.   They told him they spoke to the crowds, wore bullet proof vests and wore equipment on their webbing belts. They showed us a pepper spray, whistle and heavy fold up truncheon which we were allowed to hold. I think they also wear a small camera these days that can transmit pictures whilst they are chatting to the crowds. David asked a policeman whether there was a special unit to guard the Queen. He said they could apply to be on the Queens Guard duty and security but it had no more monetary value than regular policing.

bl3footment-2Once the scarlet decked footmen arrived in their vehicle David chatted to them. He asked the tall one what job he did and was told he walked the corgis. He stood right behind the Queen on the coach. We chatted to another group of footmen, one was a girl, another a young man from Switzerland. The third one recognised David from previous years so they chatted about his duties, he said it was just like any regular job he did not have very much spare time. They have special livery for Windsor and other colours for Balmoral and Sandringham. Their uniforms are quite old and refurbished. Their black hats are quite heavy; some of them have had a number of owners whose names could be seen on the inside lining.  David was not shy to ask the security officer about risk, he was told it was not the crowd, but rather the open areas. A helicopter circled overhead searching the surrounding areas with infra-red heat to detect anyone hiding in the bushes. Several private carriages with people dressed to the hilt drove by before the Queens procession; apparently you can get a package deal which includes all the frills, champagne and carriage, if you can afford it at about £1000.00 per ticket!

bl3carraige-2The Queen’s cousin arrived dressed in mauve to supervise the order of the horses and carriages. Magnificent grey horses pulled the Queens’s carriage, the other two coaches were drawn by brown horses. Eventually the car containing the Royals arrived and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen wearing an aquamarine outfit, Edward and Eugenie alighted and climbed into their carriage. Princess Anne, Sophie and Beatrice followed in the other two carriages. Thebl3carraige-1 two front outriders faced the Queen’s carriage while she transferred from the motor, once she was in the carriage they turned around and the procession was off.   We had an excellent view from our vantage point.

bl3queen-getting-into-carraigebl3the-queens-grey-horsesOnce the procession had gone, we headed back down the road past the Lodge where Prince Edward lives. David drove up to a gate that leads into the Estate; it suddenly opened. David said he had never been there before so decided to explore and we drove through. The road wound up to the Bronze Horse where we stopped to take photos. From this vantage point we looked at Windsor Castle which stood in all its glory at the end of a very long ride. We returned to the Windsor Farm Store for a cup of tea on the way back and had a meander around the Store where we could have bought meat and produce from the Estate before heading home.

18th June 2015

Deryn van der Tang©

Posted in Travel

A Day at the English Seaside

I was privileged to join the Christ Church Bedford, Beach Party group who left at 9.00am trseaside4by coach for Hunstanton on the Norfolk coast, some 90 miles from Bedford. We drove through fields of ripening corn dotted here and there with red poppies.  Swathes of white,
yellow and magenta wild flowers brightened the roadside verges.  Wild cherries ripened
trdaseaside12 and dog roses spilled out of the hedgerows in places, between the cream panicles of elderflowers and brambles and crab apple were starting to fruit.

We turned off towards Kings Lynne and drove through the flat farmlands; lone homesteads and barns squatting amongst the flat acres of ripening wheat. Irrigation ditches and canals bisected the fields with the arms of windmills standing sentinel over the ripening crops of potatoes, spring greens and barley.

Norfolk is Nelson’s country; he was tr2daseaside1born in Burnham Thorpe in 1758. We passed Kings Lynne, a market town and seaport originating in the 14th century as a port of trade. Wisbeck Chapel founded by non-conformists in 1638 was also along this route. We drove alongside the River Ouse, which exits into ‘The Wash’, a rectangular bay on thetr2daseaside2 North Sea where the estuaries of the Nene, The Great River Ouse, Witham, Welland and Glen all come together and pour out into the sea.

Hunstanton, welcomed us with a bright stand of poppies, yellow and white daisies and blue cornflowers as we tradaseaside6entered this coastal town on the banks ofthe ‘Wash’. They reminded me of the artificial flowers my Granny Smith used to put on her straw hats. The majority of folk wanted to get to the seaside, but three of us wanted to go to the Norfolk Lavender Farm, so when everyone was offloaded we continued another 10 minutes to the Farm.

This was a wonderful sensory experience with the heady scents of the herb and lavender trdaseaside-5gardens.  Magnificent heads of scented roses almost two feet across smelt divine. After our fill of these refreshing smells, we headed back to join the Beach Party who had pegged their claim on a section of the pebble beach.

The tide was out and the sea was incredibly far away, you could hardly see it for all the sandbars as the beach is so flat. People could be seen paddling about a mile away. trdaseaside3There was an Amphibian boat to drive far out to the open water if you wanted to get right out to sea. It was a beautiful, still calm day. This was a strange experience for me who is used to the crashing waves along the coast off Cape Town.

trdaseaside7I walked along the Promenade up to the Coloured Cliffs,a geological feature where the exposed strata of the reddish brown Carstone, the brick red Hunstanton Red Chalk and white and grey colours of the Fernby Chalk formation showed
their distinctive layers.  This richly fossilerous formation dates from the Cretaceous period. I slowly meandered back along the promenade, I was determined to do the seaside thing and have fish and chips.  They were exceptionally greasy and tasted like they had been fried in diesel oil; I left most of them to the seagulls. I walked back past the shellfish wagon, which had an array of sea ‘goggas’, that would have offended my Zimbabwean trdaseaside-11
taste buds, jellied eels, whelks, cockles, crab sticks, ocean pinks, peeled shrimps and prawns. Another sea side ‘must do ‘ is to have an ice cream, so we found one of the many ice cream vendors and had a delicious, chocolate biscuit ice cream cone, the best food of the day!

There was a sandcastle competition for the children back at the beach party. The vicar, trdaseaside-10Richard Hibbert told us the legend of evil King John who after signing the Magna Carta and escaping from the barons lost the crown jewels whilst crossing The Wash. King John then ate an oyster that was off and died of dysentery two weeks later!trdaseaside9

A tired, hot and sunburnt, grumpy group of people and fractious babies climbed back on the coach for the 3 1/2 hr journey home. We were surprised to see hundreds of families of rabbits feeding and frolicking in the late afternoon sun in a traffic circle; as we passed Sandringham Estate the rhododendrons were just fading. We arrived back in Bedford around 8.30 pm. This was quite a different experience from the glorious open and sandy Cape beaches with crashing waves, but I enjoyed it and better understood the English culture of a visit to the seaside described in literature and paintings!

Posted in History, Travel

Exploring the Navajo National Lands and ‘Valley within the Rock’

My son and I went to visit his Navajo family in Arizona. Our flight landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico from there we drove through to Gallup along Route 40 which follows the old Route 66. After booking ourselves into a Quality Inn we visited the family who lived in Window Rock. They welcomed us warmly and treated us to a traditional Navajo meal of ‘fry bread’ with mutton and white corn stew.
The reservation is dry and arid and the houses sit in the open scrubland with little shade to protect them, img_2756 it is hard to see how people can exist in this harsh environment. We drove some way along a sometimes steep and winding road where the scenery changed from very dry arid low scrub to wooded areas of juniper and piñion trees. The piñion nuts are harvested by the Navajo and sold for a good price as they are extremely rich in protein and minerals and have a high calorific value.
We arrived at Canyon De Chelly img_2758 and decided do the “White House Trail” to view the ruins at the bottom of the canyon. We walked down the 600ft narrow trail path that wound its way down through arched rocks and narrow ledges. A dry river bed ran through the canyon floor. The Anasazi people ingeniously built houses of clay the same colour as the rock face so it was not easy to distinguish it from the rock at a distance. Some houses were built on a high ledge in the cliff face above the other houses. We then began the long, slow ascent up the same path img_2772.
We drove on to Monument Valley via Rough Rock, a town with its original Trading Post where the family had once lived. We arrived in Monument Valley and checked into Goulding’s Lodge, a place where actor John Wayne stayed when making movies in the area. Our suite was at the bottom of a large sandstone butte. img_2792
Our Navajo family explained a lot of their culture and customs as we explored the area. The traditional Navajo dwelling is called a Hogan, a rounded wooden hut. The Navajo belief system is to work in harmony with nature, so the entrance faces east; they say their prayers in the morning asking for help each day on all their activities and for protection. They walk from east to west inside a Hogan, the left hand side is for the women and the right hand side for the men, the back of the Hogan is the ceremonial area and the stove and the cooking area is in the middle. The framework of the Hogan is logs and the outside is packed with mud. If someone dies inside a Hogan they will remove the body through a hole cut in the north side signifying the end of life season. It will usually be razed to the ground, so no one will live in that Hogan again. img_2789
The sandstone buttes are all named, usually with Navajo spiritual significance. We then drove onto Mexican Hat which is a formation of balanced rocks which look like a Mexican Hat, img_2817 followed by Goosenecks with well developed horseshoe gorges of the San Juan River Canyon. We then went onto The Bluff in Utah; we looked at an Artist’s Fair at Bluff Cow Trader’s Post. The nearby Sand Island had petroglyphs , which are images chipped or scratched onto the surface of the rock, they hold the sacred messages and stories of an ancient people.img_2820
It was a long drive back to Gallup via Shiprock. That evening we ate at El Metate a Mexican food and tamale factory which Jamie Oliver featured in his programme ‘Jamie’s American Road Trip’. I had delicious vegetarian tamales, made from cornmeal with vegetables rolled up in a maize husk parcel and steamed, served with Mexican cheese on top.
The following day we drove to the Petrified Forest National Park. We stopped at the Painted Desert with its glowing earth colours and patterns in the valley below. Next stop was Agate Bridge, img_2839 a fallen petrified tree that the earth had slowly eroded from underneath. The colour of the earth gave names to places like Blue Tepees, where the earth was blue, purple and white. At Newspaper Rock there were more Petroglyphs. In Jasper Valley, petrified trees had fallen out of the sediments as they were eroded away and had landed on the valley floor. We had a close up view of the petrified trees at Crystal Forest. The Rainbow Forest Valley Museum had crocodile-like dinosaur skeletons and plant eater skeletons, giving an indication of the geological environment at the time.
We then proceeded to Meteor Crater where NASA had practiced moon landings. img_2851 We then drove on to Flagstaff, a large town in the lee of a mountain. The scenery changed from open plains to wooded areas at an altitude of 7000’. We took a side route to Sedona, this was a magnificent drive through the mountain pass. It was well wooded with deciduous trees changing into their fall foliage. About 30 miles out of Flagstaff we arrived in Sedona, a busy, small town with a Wayside Bible Chapel and lots of Arts and Crafts shops. We drove back to Flagstaff and on to Williams about 25 miles to the west, the gateway to the Grand Canyon.
Next day we set off to see the Grand Canyon, we started at the west side, Mather Point, on the South Rim, and looked down on to this amazing wonder of the world where the Colorado River deeply etched the canyon, showing the layers of sediments. img_2863 We stopped off at the Tusayan Ruins where Pueblos had lived and saw the types of plants they would have eaten. Next was the Desert View which had a Watchtower and Trading Post with a panoramic view across the canyon, we then exited at the Eastern Gate.
We drove to Cameron, a large Indian Trading Store selling local hand crafted goods. We returned to Gallup via Flagstaff, a very long drive of 180 miles. Dinner was at El Rancho, on the old Route 66, img_2885 it is an old western style hotel which sometimes served as headquarters for the movie stars and directors who worked on the cowboy films. Autographed photographs of all the stars that had stayed there decorated the walls. Our Navajo family told us when the movies needed Indian extras they asked the locals and they sometimes used to play a part. After dinner we drove another 198 miles through to Sante Fe. img_2889
The architecture in Sante Fe is Pueblo style. After admiring paintings, wind sculptures and rock quartz fountains at the galleries and artist’s mile of Canyon Road, we drove through to Albuquerque. We hiked for two and a half miles at the Petroglyph National Monument, a sacred site, to look at the rock ‘paintings’ with their strange symbols. It was very hot and heavy going through the sand, but worth the effort.

img_2894Mon
We learnt so much about the Native Indian culture and their deep spiritual attachment to their land. The expanse and the scale of these natural wonders made this an unforgettable trip.