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Stowing Away I stood between two facing mirrors & almost caught a glimpse of infinity, but my bloody head kept getting in the way

Ask the Leyland Brothers!

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 21 July 2003 | Views [9896] | Comments [16]

4,000 years it's been there, and it still can't fly.

4,000 years it's been there, and it still can't fly.

G'day viewers, Mike & Mal Leyland here.

We were hoping to be going travelling around our big beaut country of ours with our home movie camera and showing you, the people at home, just what it's like - so you don't actually have to go there yourself and put up with all the flies. Unfortunately, Mike spent all our money building a one-quarter scale model of Ayers Rock out of paper mache, and we don't have any money left to buy petrol for the old bus which is rusting out the back.

C'mon viewers, please get off your backsides and come and visit us at Leyland Brothers World - it's a world class tourist attraction, honestly! I'm so sick of seeing that Steve Irwin on TV, stealing our format & the prime time that we used to have. At least the crocodiles we used to film in the outback weren't inflatable!

But anyway, even though we can’t get our trademark bus moving again, we can still answer some of our viewers letters. Like this one here from 'Curious' in Sydney, which says, 'Dear Mike and Mal, can you tell me what there is to do in London & England these days'. Well 'Curious', we can't travel there ourselves, but we have been in contact with our roving reporter, Stowaway, who is in England at the moment, and he has kindly sent us the following report.
Over to you Stowaway.

Thanks, Mike.
We'll I've been wandering about London for a few weeks now, and also all over the south of England, and I can tell you these facts:

* It's Warm and sunny, which is fantastic, but the lack of understanding about the concept of air conditioning is also coupled with almost airtight buildings/busses/trains/houses, so it stays damn hot & stuffy anywhere indoors (The tube system being the worst in this regard).
* There are more people in London than there are in Perth.
* Everyone I have questioned knows who the crocodile hunter is, but have never heard of the Leyland brothers. Crikey!

Kew Gardens has the worlds fattest pigeons (and me without suitable weaponry!) and exotic plants from all over the world such as um, potatoes...
In fact I reckon they may have even more plants than my parents backyard! Incredible I know, but I guess Kew has over 700 acres to store them in, while my folks have less than 1 acre.

Kew Gardens does have a large rock garden with lots of Australian plants, but it was just missing some of those fake swans made from old rubber tyres painted white to complete the Australian feel...

I visited the British museum to catch up on all the bits I missed in Egypt when I was there. I Don't think I need to go to the parthenon in Athens now, as most of it is nailed up on the walls of the brit museum.
Elgin may not have lost his marbles, but he's long dead...

Went to Greenwich & had a mean time at the observatory, and also inspected the Cutty Sark, once the fastest tea clipper in the world, but now would probably sail a bit better if they removed the concrete walls separating it from the Thames (and maybe added a bit of water as well). A very nice looking ship.
Cutty Sark

Saw the Salvador Dali Exhibition by the banks of the Thames. For Dali, time may be fluid (or melting) but it's always 6 o clock (knock off time perhaps). He also has a thing with Elephants and lobsters. With his twirling moustache it is obvious to see that he always wanted to play the villain in old Black & white movies, though there doesn't seem to be any sculptures of damsels tied across railway tracks waiting to be rescued. The exhibition is located next to the Millennium wheel, Aquarium & bungee trampolining for additional surrealistic thrills.

We took a stroll through the old Highgate cemetery which is as overgrown and jungle-like as Angkor in Cambodia, with lots of strange shaped stone creatures and buildings poking through the thick undergrowth. Not quite as hot & steamy perhaps, but more spooky. It's absolutely jam packed with graves/tombs and barely enough room for the small dark overgrown paths winding through it - it would be quite easy to get lost in it. Well worth a visit with a camera.

Hired a gold coloured Fiat Punto to travel around the south of England in.
Most uncomfortable car I've ever driven. It seems to be designed for someone with much longer legs, with incredibly thin feet & shorter arms than mine.
oh well, you get what you pay for - I'm managing ok and haven't got (terribly) lost yet.

So I headed east, bravely battling the motorways & roundabouts. My first stop was Oxford, trying to belatedly catch up on the university life I never had (well, besides all the drinking at the Manning & Wentworth bars at Sydney Uni with my oh-so-poor uni friends). It's a bit similar to Cambridge with grand old uni buildings, churches and medieval town centre, but I think Cambridge is slightly prettier.

It's only just down the road to Blenheim Palace, a truly grand building that was built for the first Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill - ancestor of Winston, who was born there) in 1702 as a gift Queen Anne for this famous victory over the French. Has some very cute & tame ducks in the ornate gardens.

I arrived at the town of Bath fairly late one evening, but due to the fact that it's still light till about 10pm, I took a stroll through the town, which has lots of well preserved stuff from roman Britain.
Bath was clearly named after the size of the bath in the B&B I stayed in - you could have swum in it!

The romans also had some old hot bathhouses there, which probably worked in a similar fashion to a Turkish bath/massage, but without the moustache. The water was far too lime green & chunky with algae for my liking, so I used the one at the B&B instead.

Driving across the Salisbury plains, they have lots of roadsigns like the Aussie 'kangaroo' warning signs, except that theirs says 'Tanks Crossing' with a little silhouette of a tank. I don't think even a roo bar would help you much if you ran into one of them...

I found my way to Stonehenge (I'm sure you've heard of it) - At least 4000 years its been there - and it still cant fly. Not a single druid in sight, just a slowly shuffling circle of tourists moving anti-clockwise around the monoliths, paying homage to them before continuing their pilgrimage in their tour busses. Somehow I still managed to take nearly a roll of film of this bunch of rocks.

Also visited Silbury Hill, West Kennett Long barrow (Neolithic gravesite, not a wheel barrow), Avesbury stone circle, and one of the white horses carved into a hillside were also inspected amongst others to round out the ancient landscape of the Salisbury plains. Old Sarum, an iron age earthen fort built into a castle by William the conqueror(and added to by many others since) was quite interesting and also used to house the original Salisbury cathedral. It's all ruins now, just with some foundations and the massive earthworks & moats left, with a nice view over the city of Salisbury & the 'new' cathedral spire.

Don't bother going up the road from Stonehenge to Woodhenge, which is a made up of a whole pile of very modern short concrete posts arranged in a number of concentric circles, entirely lacking in any sort of wood.
Not what I would call a special site - I mean really, there are far more exciting car parks around.

That cheesed me off a little bit, so naturally the next day I drove straight to Cheddar and checked out the decent sized gorge there. They used to keep the cheese stored in caves in the cliff to keep them cool, and obviously forgot about them for about a year and voila! Smelly cheese! Anyone a bit 'ungry like? (said in broad Yorkshire accent, while waving fingers in the international sign language for "Cheeeeese Grommit!")

I just don't get how they got the cows to graze on the sides of the gorge. Maybe some of the cows tumbled down the cliffs and that's how they discovered whipped cream and butter?? (there's cream in them hills! (and where there's cream, there's scones & strawberry jam!))

BTW, in Devonshire, they don't have Devonshire teas - they have 'Cream teas', even though they don't put any cream in the tea (thankfully- or devon either)

Well anyway Mike, that probably enough for now, so i'll sign off now by saying that yep, there is plenty to see in England thesedays, and you'll be hearing more of my wanderings soon!

*With apologies to the Leylands, the Irwins, the Goodies, Nick Park, and anyone else who feels they need one.

** Disclaimer: In case you hadn't worked it out from reading my story above, I am not actually Mike or Mal Leyland. As such, I can't answer any of the comments below with questions for Mike & Mal, and can't guarantee that the real Leyland Brothers will ever read them. But it's nice to see that you enjoyed the Leyland Brothers tv series as much as I did. Apparently you can buy the series on dvd here.

Click to see Google satellite map of Stonehenge

Tags: bath, cheddar, cheese, england, grommit, leyland brothers, mike and mal, oxford, stonehenge, woodhenge




oh yeh .... happy birthday .... you'd think I'd be able to remember, since it's one day after mine! My only excuse is, every year I have more birthdays to remember (never was any good at it!) Love your travel reviews, you're like the Jamie Oliver of travel .... hmmmm .... The Naked Traveller.
There you go!
Have fun, take good care - and come see us is you can!

Love from Julie

P.S. ... we are dreaming, hoping, planning to move back to Oz one of these years (next year???) and to find a big block of land in the boondocks and grow things. Any advice?

  Julie (cuz) Jul 23, 2003 8:13 AM


I have pictures of me as a 4 year old clambering all over Stone Henge and loving it. Now you can't get to within cooee of it.

  simon_monk Apr 26, 2006 10:41 AM


I have in my posession an original spool copy of "Down The Darling" that was given to my father by Terry Quantrall ex Quintrex Boats. I need to contact The Leyland Brothers to discuss the possibility of converting this film over to current format.
Kind Regards
Paul Clarke.

  Paul Clarke Sep 29, 2006 4:07 PM


Hi, could you please tell me what maps to use on my trip to cape york, I can'nt seem to find a map detailed with places like "Fruit Bat Falls"- "Chilli Beach"- "Twin Falls" and so on. Any help would be much appreciated.
Yours Faiftfully
John Moore

  John Moore Jan 8, 2007 2:40 PM


Mike & Mal I would love to know the name and where abouts of the crater that you took the six wheel drive into in SA I think. about 1 Km diamater I think it was a long time ago int he 70's I think. I have been looking for this crater for years on maps .. and now I have to "Ask the Leyland Brothers" .
My son is 7 yo and he and I travelled around ozy for 3 years. We still live in our caravan in Sydney at the back of mums place. I would love to follow in your foot steps and would love to get some tips. I love the photography and travel and research.
Garret Krampe Sydney Australia.

  This is to MIKE & MAL - The Ledgends in hiding. Jun 3, 2007 8:39 AM


hi i just want to know where about is this and what are you called now ???

  natasha Jan 18, 2008 10:44 PM


hi mike and mal my name is slavko i am wondering if your film down the darling is on dvd or video if so how do i go purcasing it thank you i have watched all of the programs that you have made for tv .they were tops.

  slavko mamic Feb 8, 2008 7:40 PM


did the leyland brothers have a documentry of small boat to adventure about 28-30 years ago,,,,id love a reply,,,thanks jeff

  jeff hanlon Mar 8, 2008 7:58 PM


Hi Mike and Mal

We've read so much of your amazing journeys, especially the Trans-Austrailian Expedition, in which we would love to reference your names in our advertising units, but would like to get your permission first.

  Cat Chien Apr 23, 2008 9:35 AM


LMAO, that may be the most entertaining blog I have ever read!!! Absolutely brilliant!!

  Aditu May 26, 2008 4:11 PM


awesome blog! very fun to read! =)

  pinchora Jun 3, 2008 9:41 PM


hello mike and mal i grew up watching your show and wrote yous a letter ones when i was a child..i have been thinking for years were is that vally or crater some where in the desert it like a land lost in time with strange animals..please reply other wise i will be thinking of it till i die ha ha thank you.. ps or could i buy the episode somewhere

  victor nova Jun 3, 2009 8:21 PM


Hello Mike and Mal, I once saw a brilliant gliding adventure across the Nullabor on your show. It featured a song by Russell Morris, The Wings of an Eagle. How can I get a copy of that?
Looking forward to a reply, thanks,

  Robert Smoothy Jun 29, 2009 2:11 PM


R.I.P. Mike Leyland, gone to explore the very back of beyond...

" Mike Leyland, one of the two legendary Leyland brothers whose quirky travel show ran for years on Australian television, has died at the age of 68.

His family announced that Mike died of complications of Parkinson's disease this morning.

Mike and Mal Leyland, explorers and documentary filmmakers, were best known for their television show Ask The Leyland Brothers.

The weekly show, which ran from 1976 to 1984, was watched by more than 2.5 million people at its peak.

It featured the brothers in unusual or far-flung places around Australia which viewers had asked them to visit.

Mike was eight and Mal was five when they migrated with their parents in 1950 from England to Newcastle in NSW, where Mike lived for the rest of his life.

Mike Leyland is survived by his wife Margie, his daughters Kerry, Sandy and Dawn, his step-daughters Sarah and Alison, and seven grandchildren."


  stowaway Sep 15, 2009 11:11 AM


To the Leylands yes very sad times for us all we got to travel Australia with the LEYLANDS to laugh and cry from one side of Australia to the other from the top to the bottom even though we only knew them from TV we all called them mates! What i would like to know please could of been back in 1966 the Leylands took Yamaha dirt-bikes to the top of Australia think it was the start of the Leyland Brothers is it possible to see that one again or buy a copy?? RIP MIKE.........

  Merv Morrison Dec 29, 2009 1:01 PM


My condolences on Mike's passing. I have a question, the boats used on your expeditions - could you please tell me a bit more about them as it has been rumoured that one of the boats we hire out at the Sussex Inlet Marine Centre is one specifically designed and your by your team. It is a 4m runabout with the seating around the sides as opposed to bench seating and has an aluminium flooring with slots which we presume to be for a circa camera set up. Would greatly appreciate feed back on this subject. We have also been told the twin to this boat is at Santuary Point, St Georges Basin (near Nowra) NSW
Best wishes
Sussex Inlet Marine Centre.

  Louena Gain Jan 5, 2010 8:40 PM



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