It’s a dog’s life on the Levels.

So we (LWD and I) continue to investigate our new surrounding in terms of finding suitable off lead dog walking, and I have to report that we are a little overawed by the amount of choice. We have trekked several routes along or near the banks of the R. Parrett, we’ve found a route into town by going around it, and a route on the disused rail line to Yeovil, not that we’ve gone quite that far yet, we stopped at the medieval abbey at Muchelney.

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We’ve discovered The Hanging Chapel in Langport, a 15th century chapel built on top of a 13th century archway at the eastern entrance to the old town. It was a fairly common practice in the middle ages to have a chapel at the entrance of a town so that merchants and other travellers could give thanks for a safe arrival or pray for a safe journey on leaving. It is a Grade 1 listed building and a scheduled ancient monument. The chapel is still in use today as a Masonic lodge.

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East view

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West view

Today we climbed the steep banks of the highest hill in this neck of the woods.

Burrow Mump is a 79 ft high tor standing near the confluence of the River Tone and the old course of the River Cary, joining the River Parrett at Burrowbridge, surrounded by the low lying land, maximum 25ft above sea level, of the South Somerset Levels. Thought by some to have been used by King Alfred, he who according to legend let the cakes burn whilst on watch for Danish marauders, as a lookout point across the levels. Today the views from the top are 360° of drained farmland, in Alfred’s time the views would have been of swampy marshes. A medieval church was built on the hill in the 15th century. The current ruined church on top of the hill was built in 1793. The land and ruin were donated to the National Trust in 1946 as a war memorial to the men of Somerset.

 

All that and I haven’t even had to unpack the wellies – yet …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Where the river ends …

(My regular reader will have noticed my penchant for alphabetising frequently used names; Huish Episcopi being a long-to-type place name will forthwith be added to that list.)

So, we are celebrating our one month anniversary in HE, and what a busy month it has been. I have unpacked and flat-packed, tip runned and charity-shop runned, curtain hung and picture hung, shopped and dropped and finally have come nearly to the end of the list. It has been (mainly) great fun.

We welcomed our first visitors last week J & B came for a couple of nights and gave their seal of approval to the new house and area. Their journey to see us takes half the time it used to.

So with the moving and settling in over with and K and The Smart One about to start at their respective new schools, I can start to explore my new surroundings and decide future plans. At long last I have the new rear corner panel and grey water pipe so that R0X can be repaired. Once that is done she will have a service and MoT,  deep clean and de-personalise and be advertised for sale. Hopefully I shall be able to sell her privately, don’t see why a dealer should make a mint out of me just because I’m downsizing. I’ve had a very brief look in one motorhome centre and quite am taken with the Autosleeper Duetto so far, we shall see. Long conversations to be had with The Bezzies methinks, after all they’re the experts on all things campervan.

I’d like to think that I can be back on the road early next year for a quick trip to Spain and then Holland, Germany and Denmark in June.

Meanwhile here are a few more Somerset views …

Where the river ends

This sign near the river in Langport reads “The River ends at the Sea with mud flats – which can swallow you up!”; a humorous reminder that where the R. Parrett flows into Bridgwater Bay there are 4 miles of mud flats with the second largest tidal height change in the world. Unfortunately there have been drownings with the unwary being caught out on the flats when the tide comes in. The bay itself has much more ominous and serious warning signs.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Winds of Change

I’m still “enjoying” lots of face ache. It turns out that it’s entirely possible to have toothache concurrently with sinusitis. I’ve cured the toothache part of it by having the offending molar removed yesterday. It remains unfortunate that the sinusitis has settled into the opposite side from the offending tooth socket so both sides of my face remain sore – thank Waitrose for fish crumble and mashed veg last night, and mashed bananas and strawberries with yogurt for breakfast this morning.

Last week was half term and we took the Smart One to one of his favourite haunts, Didcot Railway Centre. We always go by train as the centre is on the old marshalling yards adjacent to Didcot station. We picked an “in steam” day but surprisingly the place was the least crowded we’ve ever seen it. This year there is an ongoing exhibition covering the part the railways, in particular the Great Western Railway, played in the first world war, in commemoration of the centenary of it’s end. I found the inclusion of two of the GWR locos and a couple of the coaches used as ambulance trains during that war particularly interesting. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to provide treatment to the wounded whilst in a moving train.

The GWR ambulance train

 

In the field.

These days the Smart One is allowed to roam the large site unsupervised, he had a hoot availing himself of several free rides on both “in steam” trains.

 

The two “in steamers” for the day

 

A few days later and totally unconnected to our day out, following a long family discussion, K handed in her notice at her current school and sent out her first applications for posts advertised in Somerset. Rents in Berkshire are horrendously high and becoming unaffordable for a single-parent teacher’s salary. In the area we are looking at we will be able to get a 3 double-bedroomed house for less than the rent on the current 2 bedroom flat. Apart from the rent issue there are other advantages to the move. We shall be closer to J&B, who are delighted that they will only have a 45 min drive to visit and to quite a few old friends of mine and K’s, including my Bezzies. We know and love the whole of the south west and for K and I it will be going home. The Smart One is a little apprehensive but there are several “outstanding” secondary schools in the area, he will be closer to his Uncle and to his maternal Grandfather and only an hour and a half’s train journey from his Dad. He’s delighted that we shall be close to the West Somerset railway, a heritage line which ends at Minehead beach (!), and is already putting forward towns and villages with stations on the line as potential areas for me to house hunt! K will be doing the hard bit, applications (two already sent) and interviews and I’ll be doing the fun bit – finding us somewhere to live.

Watch this space …

🙂 🙂 🙂

The rain in Spain

I’m getting a little fed up with wind, rain, thunder storms and gloomy skies – this is not what I signed up for.

Despite the weather gods’ tantrums Merida proved to be a delight. Following my recce of the first afternoon, I determined not to let the elements spoil my sightseeing and the frequent heavy showers didn’t dampen anything other than my clothes.

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The Roman amphitheatre and the theatre stand side by side at the top of the hill …

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The Temple of Diana is half way down one of the main streets …

The Alcazaba which started life as a Roman fort, took a new life after restoration by the Visigoths and finally became a Moorish citadel before falling into ruin …

The Roman bridge, adjacent to the Alcazaba, across the R. Guardiana (the very same that forms the border between Spain and Portugal further south) has not suffered from flood damage as has the bridge at Avignon and is therefore superior at 732 metres long …

Lusitania as it was called in Roman times boasts two aquaducts of which the St Lázaro (tho’ it wouldn’t’ve been called that at the time) is the better preserved …

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Storks (not butter) nest on pillars all along the aqueduct Los Milagros.

 

Spot the sunny snap – there is one!!

Well it’s sou’westers and galoshes on for another LWD walk then …

🙂 🙂 🙂

West of the border, down Portugal way …

I now know that the leisure battery will give me four nights 12 amp as long as I don’t do any photo editing on the MacBook; the poor old inverter struggles with that. I may have to reconsider the solar panel issue as I’m finding I’m wanting to spend more and more time off grid. The Aire I’ve been at for the past few nights does 24hrs electricity for €2.50, which is very good but not that many places do it at all let alone that cheap, so today I’m treating myself to power and charging every battery I can find. And as today’s weather is not as warm and sunny as it’s been the last week I’m catching up with aforementioned photo editing and blogging.

First night in Portugal was in Castro Marim, tiny place with an interesting medieval castle and an exhibition of torture tools from the Inquisition. I must be getting squeamish in my old age – the heavy wooden chair with leg, arm, waist and neck straps was studded all over the seat, back and armrests with large iron spikes and was my unfavourite; of all the torture instruments I found it especially gross. All in the name of Christianity … yesteryear’s terrorists if you ask me. I decided to spare you dear regular reader, and didn’t take photos of the exhibition.

Castro Marim

Second up is Vila Real de San António a quiet, well in January it is, border town. The Aire is riverside to the Guardiano with Ayamonte (Spain) on the other bank. VRSA as it is known locally, in its heyday was a busy port and fishing town, catering now mostly to tourists. I met and spent a lot of time over the weekend with convivial companions Sharon and Matt who are in the process of giving a forever home to Rrrita (short for Señorita – don’t forget to roll the R). She’s an indeterminate breed of around LWDs size with the prettiest of faces and light brown velvety fur. Daize and Rita hit it off, had a great time together on the tiny beach here and both were very tolerant of the frequent wine-o’clock stops!

Vila Real de Santo António

Matt and Sharon are off to the rescue centre today to sign the adoption papers and get Rita’s passport. I’m off tomorrow after I’m fully charged, for a side trip up to the the lakes before heading to Luz at the end of the week.

🙂 🙂 🙂

A, B or S?

On Monday I dragged myself away from Pinar and my amazing social life. I was out nearly every afternoon and/or night for wine or gin o’clock most of my stay there, and that hasn’t happened in a couple of decades.

Drunken Pinar People

So what could follow that? Well Seville could. I now find myself tossing up which city I prefer Barcelona or Seville … and then there’s Amsterdam …

Unfortunately I saw an unpleasant incident yesterday. I was waiting for several horses and traps with tourists aboard to trot past before crossing a narrow street. Suddenly there was a bit of a commotion and I looked over to see another horse and trap with only the driver on board approaching at what seemed like breakneck speed – probably only a canter rather than a full on gallop – the driver whipping his horse like blazes. Overtaking the other traps to the startled looks of their drivers, passengers and onlookers, he entered a slight bend, the poor horse slipped on the cobbles and fell to it’s side. The driver just hauled at the reins and whipped the horse again until it got up, and with that he was gone. Everyone around me looked as shocked and upset as I felt.

Apart from that Seville has delighted me once more. LWD has suffered several forced marches around parks, along riverside walks and city streets. It’s a hard life for her!

Ancient

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and Modern

Tomorrow’s route takes us into Portugal. The weather is settled fair tho’ it’s cold at night and the mornings are chilly.

 

Maria Luisa Park

🙂 🙂 🙂

P.S. I think it’s Barcelona by a whisker (simply because of Gaudi) with Seville and Amsterdam in joint second.

Beach ban and convivial company

Silly moo LWD is not a happy puppy; she does not learn.

Despite me politely suggesting she stop, she’s been rubbing her head around on the beach, grazed her ear on the sand and the inevitable has happened. Luckily I have some ear drops and, bribed with treats, she’s not making too much fuss about their administration . This morning her ear is not as red and hot. Hopefully we won’t have to make a trip to the vet for antibiotics.

So the beach is banned and yesterday we had a wander round the streets of Conil-de-Frontera. Its another white Andalucian hill town but with the added attraction of being a seaside town too. Temperature was in the 20℃s – what I have to endure whilst my family and friends in UK and northern Europe have Storm Eleanor to delight them!

My regular reader may have spotted that I’ve recently acquired a busy social life. Since arriving at Pinar San José, as well as the obvious socialising with the Bezzies whilst they were in residence, I’ve made new campals by the dozen, or more. I’ve joined small parties for dog walks, larger gatherings for afternoon drinks, live music, lunches etc. – in fact staying on here for a rest has turned out to be quite exhausting!

Last nights outing was to see the Christmas lights in Vejer. I wasn’t too keen on being the thirteenth member of the party but thankfully I wasn’t the unlucky thirteenth. We had a good wander and admired the shops (all open ’til eight/nine p.m. – this is Spain!) and the lights were beautiful. The Thirteen then popped into a bar, rearranged all the tables and chairs to their own satisfaction and flummoxed the poor barman/waiter/cook who was on his own, expecting a quiet Tuesday evening no doubt. After ordering 13 drinks, we considered, to great mirth, ordering 13 different meals but decided that might be a joke too far.

🙂 🙂 🙂