Second half of August

Dick and Irene Craig
Thu 1 Sep 2011 15:32

The sun was shining when we left Leigh-on-sea to travel to Newbury Park to get the metro to London Bridge. We had been advised that not only was this car park never full, it cost less than a fiver to park all day. We arrived late morning to find that the car park was full. Fortunately we managed to find a parking space along one of the side streets, not too far from the underground station.

Our friend Christine met us when we arrived at London Bridge. It was raining when we left her apartment, and still raining after we had eaten a delicious lunch in a nearby Italian restaurant. The whole area was buzzing with activity and is central for the buses and the trains.

Christine has just sold her house in Hartley Wintney, which she had let when she moved to London. Although still working, she is busy taking advantage of all the opportunities that are on her doorstop, in this very up and coming area of London.

It was still raining when we left Christine’s apartment later in the afternoon. The rain didn’t stop as we walked to get our car, nor did it relent as we made our way to Canterbury, where we spent the night in the picturesque Grove Ferry inn, on the edge of the river.

The inn is owned by four chaps who can often be found undertaking the general maintenance, while the staff is kept busy providing meals, serving drinks and keeping the place clean. There is a large lawn opposite where one can relax and idle away the day or if preferred, can sit at a table on the decking or the lawn, overlooking the river.

Next morning, we met with Dick’s adopted brother who lives in a retirement home in Margate. We had seen him at the beginning of July but as we plan to return home to Spain soon, we wanted to visit Charlie before we left the UK.

After lunch, we drove to Colchester to meet with Caroline. She has just returned from a two month voyage to Spitsbergen and had an amazing story to tell of icebergs and the midnight sun. It seems that when they stepped ashore at their final destination, they were handed rifles which had to be returned before they set sail. Spitsbergen is 80º north. Too cold for me but I am full of admiration for the skipper and his crew.

Next stop, St Michaels in Kent, where we met with David and Juliet who have been farming there for nearly thirty years. They run an organic farm and we were delighted to have the opportunity to sample their wares. All the food we ate while we were there had been grown on their farm or in their garden. Even the cheeses were from their own dairy.

We waved goodbye after a hearty breakfast and drove through the lanes to Tunbridge Wells and on to Silchester where Roger and Mal had already set the table for lunch. This truly is a gourmet holiday.

During the afternoon, we walked around the Roman walls of Calleva Atrebatum, still 4metres high in places. The town was abandoned in the 5th century AD. This year is the 15th season that Reading University has run a training excavation here in the summer.

Next morning we drove to Basingstoke where we left our overnight bag with Jan and Henry, then made for Brockenhurst in the New Forest, to visit my Mother who lives in a residential care home. To avoid the traffic, always heavy along the road approaching Lyndhurst, we detoured via Beaulieu, home of Montagu family since 1538 and the famous National motorcar museum.

On one of our excursions to Brockenhurst, through Beaulieu, a motor cycle rally passed us consisting mainly of Triumphs. The highest number spotted was 129. The participant who had been allotted number 121 had fixed his on his bike, upside down. A couple of bikes, circa 2nd World War, had parked at the side of a lane while repairs were being affected.

Ponies and donkeys wander along the river bank, across heath land resplendent with a blanket of purple heather, into the roads as well as those gardens not protected by a fence or cattle grid.

Cars, packed with luggage both inside and on the roof, with bikes fixed to the trunk, make their way into the campsites, already brimming with tents, caravans and RV’s.

In many places, the branches from the trees form an arch across the road. We cross a bridge and look into the forest, over the river. The scenery is stunning.

We detour to Lymington to pick up a batten box for the sails on the boat and to Hamble, to collect a water pump as well as spares for the generator.

Having left my fleece in the boot of Stewart’s car while we were staying with him and Margaret in Kesgrave, I attempted to buy a sweater at M&S but without success, not finding any to be suitable. Instead I accidentally bought a dress, a long sleeved lightweight top and a pair of shortie boots. As the cases are already at the limit, I am not quite sure how I am going to bring them back with me to Spain but I will find a way.

We spent a week with Jan and Henry, playing bridge most evenings and visiting my Mother during the day. Squirrels discovered the cob nut trees a couple of years ago and we watched delightedly, as a squirrel harvested nuts and hid them in plant pots, in the lawn and close to the garage. Tiny as is was, it could jump several feet high, in order to obtain a bunch of nuts.

Bank holiday Saturday we picked up one of our bags from Ed and Naomi’s house at Westbourne and went out to lunch with Ed and the boys. Naomi’s mother, who had been in a hospice since late July, had died the precious day so Naomi was quite naturally otherwise occupied.

After lunch we visited the local church fete, where a wizard twisted balloons into all sorts of shapes and gave them to each of the children. Then, as a special treat, we went up into the bell tower and watched the bell ringers as they pulled the ropes and made the bells ring, before climbing further up the spiral staircase to see the huge bells and watch as the wheels went round, when the ropes were pulled from below, making the huge bells ring out.

At Stoneleigh we met with Dick’s cousin John before calling John and Pip in Carshalton. Unfortunately we were not able to meet on this occasion as Pip was recuperating at home in bed, having had an operation for breast cancer only a few days earlier.

We drove to Horley where Alex and Gwen were busy decorating their house from top to bottom. Alex took us to Reigate, leaving his car in the car-park at Priory Park where we got a little exercise walking around the park. At the entrance were six graves, each with a small head-stone. Here the bodies of Lady Henry Somerset’s grandchildren’s pets had been buried around 1903.

Back again to John’s house in Ifield, where we repacked the cases and weighed them. They were both on the limit. Dick and John popped round to Halfords so that Dick could pick up a tom-tom which he had ordered on-line, thus saving 10pounds by simply reserving it. We have been so impressed with the tom-tom which John had lent us.

After lunch, managing somehow to get the two large bags into the boot of the hire car, we drove to Colchester, where we spent our last night in the UK before flying back to Alicante, from Stansted.