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Vagabonding Our time being 'of no fixed abode'.

Dorset, Devon and Cornwall

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 1 October 2007 | Views [1118]

After a rest for a week or so at our favourite campsite in Glastonbury (including a visit from Bill and Amanda and an epic walk through neighbouring Somerset countryside one day), we headed down to Dorset for the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival. The weather was superb, the cheese sublime and the ale, as always, delicious. They also have a fantastic shop in Sturminster Newton that has what has to be the largest range of quilt fabrics I’ve ever seen!

The following day we had a nice trip through the Dorset countryside to the coast at Eype. We set ourselves up at a great campsite there, overlooking the cliffs of the Jurassic coast. Fossils abound there and on our third morning there we took ourselves fossil hunting. We found all sorts of fossilised bits of sea creatures and convinced ourselves we’d found a dinosaur bone!

We also did traditional fish and chips on the beach for lunch and soaked up the English sunshine that can present itself at opportune moments! The weather that day was great and a couple of people were parapenting at the cliff face, swooping right over us and Vinnie.

When we finally convinced ourselves to leave that lovely spot we headed towards Exeter via A La Ronde, a crazy 16 sided house built by two spinsters after their 10 year grand tour of Europe. Unfortunately it was closed but I can jump ahead a few days and tell you we made it back there later and had a look around. They even have a shell gallery where they constructed massive murals from shells and feathers in the ceiling mezzanine.

As we headed southward we detoured into a village called Ashburton, (I have to say it’s a bit nicer than our Ashburton) to find a picnic spot. A winding trail led us to a picnic spot that turned out to be a great campsite, so that was us sorted for the night. Right on the river Dart, the site had amazing adventure playgrounds, flying foxes and the like. Nick went nuts while I observed – my toe was playing up again so I had to be nice to it. They also had a great hydro scheme to generate power for the site, a pirate ship, sandy beach and a load of other things. Being term time and more or less the end of summer it was really quiet too. We met a lovely lady, Ruth, who does fantastic stained glass work in High Wycombe and has a super cool van she has ‘girlied’ up.

Exeter excluded us from their Park and Ride facilities (Vinnie to too high for their barrier) so we excluded Exeter from our sightseeing itinerary this time!

We dropped into Totnes to have a look around (nice place) and start trying to get airfares sorted for the next leg of the journey – to Asia. Not too far from Totnes we found a campsite down numerous narrow lanes and it turned out to be so cheap and quiet that we had two nights there, giving us a bit of time to start planning our itinerary for Asia.

The Lizard is the most southern point of mainland Britain and a gorgeous, wild spot. The National Trust guy there was super friendly and we learned a few things J We went to Land’s End a few days later, which by comparision is nasty! The National Trust leave things all nice and natural but unfortunately they were outbid by some guy for Land’s End and he built a big commercial complex there to extract money from tourists.

At The Lizard we stayed at one of those big campsite complexes with evening entertainment, pools, 10 bin bowling, bingo etc. It was quite a hoot although we didn’t really participate in any of it. That night was COLD, and we knew this part of the trip was drawing to an end.

The next day we visited St Michael’s Mount – a great castle on an island near Penzance. We took the boat across, but the tide was low enough on the way back to take the causeway. It’s an amazing spot.

After the previously mentioned visit to Land’s End we went into Penzance and actually had a bit of a nightmare trying to book some airfares with Emirates. It turns out (after a week or two of frustration) that there’s now a process called Verified by Visa near the end of the transaction and of the three Visa cards we have, none can be registered for it. Grrrr…. It means that we can’t use our Visa’s for online purchases with any company that uses Verified by Visa. And both airlines we’ve been trying to book with, use it! We got around the problem with Emirates by arranging to go to Birmingham to pick up manual tickets.

Before heading northward we had a couple of nights at a campsite overlooking St Ives Bay. For only 7 quid a night it was an incredible spot. We had a great view of the dunes, beach, sea, light house and there always seemed to be people out surfing or windsurfing, despite the cold. The beach is enormous and just beautiful and it now has to be one of my favourite places.

We’ve also been doing the rounds of a few National Trust places and Killerton House was one of the highlights. It’s an enormous Victorian house with lots of Arts and Crafts type décor. And being rebuilt after a fire in the late 1800’s it’s a contemporary of many of New Zealand’s oldest homes so there was a certain nice familiarity about it. One of its features is that it clearly shows the behind the scenes aspect of running the house – servants quarters, kitchen, dairy etc. We really enjoyed our time there.

We then headed back to Bristol to visit The Boys – Harry had been on the Trans Mongolian since we’d been there last and we wanted to chat to him about Mongolia etc. Despite our intention to stay only one night, we ended up there for three as Paul (former flatmate) was having a housewarming and then a street party was held in his street the following day. The weather was miserable for it but the few hardy souls that ventured out were pretty interesting people. It’s a very multicultural street and we met Ali who’s a Kurdish guy, Pearl from Jamaica (who’s lived in the street since 1957), another lady from Botswana and of course a few English people! Unfortunately it was Ramadan so many of the people on the street were fasting and couldn’t/didn’t join in.

Next we headed across the Welsh border for a brief catch up with Andy (see Wychwood blog). He took us to a cool pub that does excellent food and we totally blew the budget that day!

We passed through Hay-on-Wye on the way, which is known for having a disproportionate number of second hand bookshops. It was great! If only the budget and the backpacks were a little bigger….

We totally blew the budget the next day when we went to Birmingham for the air tickets! It was a bit of a hassle but we also had to apply for travel visas for India and this can only really be done in Birmingham or London, so we combined the two. That also turned out to be a hassle and we ended up paying a travel agent a bit extra to do it for us (107 quid all up). They were great too and gave us a much needed cup of tea, some books on India to look at while we had it (to make it all seem worthwhile) and some top tips for travelling in India (e.g. no water but plenty of tea for the first 2-3 days)! The guy that ran the place was so nice that we left feeling pretty great and looking forward to India.

After a couple of nights hanging around in the Stratford-upon-Avon area, not really doing the things we should have been doing!) we headed across country to stop in on people in Tring (family of friends of my family!) before heading to Cambridge again. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way, as Vinnie started to make horrible noises, the steering became heavy and when we stopped at Morrison’s supermarket, we were unable to get going again. Panic ensued as on a Saturday we found it really hard to get someone to come and have a look at him. After much flapping and phone calls to Guy (Cambridge) and Jules (Tring) we joined the RAC at the roadside which costs exactly one arm and one leg! We did a lot of waiting but the eventual outcome was an assessment by the RAC guy that the ball joint in the front suspension/steering had worn through and was about to collapse completely (which would have been a bit nasty) so Vinnie went to hospital on a huge flat deck truck. It was all a bit traumatic and exciting (and expensive), all at the same time. Fortunately we had calm words from Guy and Jules on the other end of the phone and Jules and Nick (her husband is Nick also – don’t get confused!) very kindly offered us a refuge with their family (including Ellie and Matthew) while we waited for Monday and the mechanics to have a look at it. Now we just wait to hear when they can look at it and get the part – fingers crossed it’s soon! In the meantime the Wake Family keep extending our Tring visa’s so we don’t have to camp in the van in the mechanic’s yard!

While here though we’ve been able to look around Tring a bit. It’s a nice quiet town and has an interesting history. Once owned by the Rothschild’s there’s obviously been wealth here, and where’s there’s wealth, there’s often eccentricity! We like eccentricity! One of the Rothschilds like to collect stuffed animals, which sounds rather low key – but he gathered the greatest collection of animals species ever collected by one man and many of them are in a small museum here. It was fascintating! Its not nice to think that these were once living animals, but the damage is done now and it really is an amazing and interesting collection. The first you see are lions, polar bears, thousands of birds, followed by monkeys, gorillas, just about every thing you can imagine. My favourite was the Tibetan Lynx, such a beautiful creature – I want one! (So I’ll no longer be hassling for a pony!) And I’ve also identified what I want to come back as – a Sportive Lemur (see photos!). Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild also had a park here with Zebras and he trained them to pull a cart! (google Tring National History Museum and you can see some pics). There’s even a photo of him, in local books, on the back of a giant tortoise here dangling lettuce in front of it from a stick, like the proverbial carrot and donkey. Apparently when he went up to Cambridge he took 30 live kiwis with him! It all seems a little cruel, but the whole thing was inspired by a love for nature and a desire to set up resources for scientists to study and understand animals and evolution better.

Well that’s it for now -  a rapid summary of a month of travel! I’m sure I haven’t done it justice and there will be things I’ve missed – you’ll have to wait for the book to hear about those!

Now we just sit with our fingers crossed that Vinnie gets better quickly….



Tags: On the Road



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