Since stepping onto terra firma in Southampton on May 5th we’ve been busy catching up with family and friends. Our travels have taken us to London, Devon, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Hampshire.
Our first pleasure was to to take up an invitation to join friends Andrew and Frances for Frances’ birthday bash in The Fox at Hanwell on the banks of the Grand Union canal. That day (and sadly we could not have joined them) members and friends of the St Pancras Cruising Club took their narrow boats for the annual jaunt on the tidal Thames from Limehouse basin to Margaretness and back up through the City to Brentford and onto the Grand Union canal. A trip we’ve had the pleasure of making with them before. Here are some of the “crew” that day – all enjoying and celebrating Frances’ birthday. Frances, in green, next to Doug and Andrew sitting rear, right. It was a tremendous joy to be part of the evening.
From London we had a day at home (the washing and ironing has to be done sometime!) then we were on our way to Devon to see James and Clare and their “cool kids” Flossy and Jonny. We met in India in February and this was our first opportunity to meet up again. We enjoyed a lovely home-cooked Indian meal (made with spices brought from India) in their home where we stayed for the night.
With Jonny and Flossy bundled off to school, the next morning saw us being taken by James to Dartmouth for a woodland walk above the delightful setting of St Perox church ………
……….. and Dartmouth Castle.
Above the castle on the high land known as Gallants Bower spring was definitely in full bloom.
The views from the top out to sea were limited by the mists but splendid all the same.
On the way down there were bluebells all the way.
At the castle tea rooms (stretching the imagination a bit) we were joined by Clare for a very tasty bacon butty (James had a egg butty – it wasn’t on the menu but they would make this an exception!). We weren’t in the car park – just on the edge of it! All great fun.
Saying a reluctant farewell to James and Clare we made our way to the ferry to cross the River Dart. A panoramic pic of this very pretty estuary was a must before we descended to river level.
The ferry has been upgraded since we were last in Dartmouth – it’s now much bigger with posh blue ropes which it uses to haul itself across the river. We were heading for the east side of the river to make our way along the coast to ………..
…… Budleigh Salterton. We spent many happy years living in this unique seaside town. The beach has the most unusual flat, and very colourful, pebbles. This is the view from Steamer Steps towards Otter Head and the mouth of the River Otter.
The pretty town is a hotch potch of splendid little cottages (and much larger houses!) ……..
…….. and the high street has a lot of nice individual shops and, sadly, rather too many charity shops these days!
We popped in to see as many friends and old neighbours as we could over the two days we spent there ……….
……. but the high light was spending time with Doug’s parents, Derek and Vilma – especially as it was Vilma’s birthday! We had an excellent celebratory birthday dinner, at the Royal Beacon Hotel on Exmouth seafront.
Leaving Devon we headed to Trowbridge in Wiltshire to look in on some dear friends - Bex and Craig. Bex has a made a remarkable two year recovery from something which nearly claimed her life and we were delighted to visit her at home this time where she’s now making good progress with walking. We have huge admiration for her and it was lovely to sit in the garden and drink beer with her and Craig.
Our next port of call was in Gloucestershire to be with daughter Vicki and partner Ian (and their amazingly photogenic dog Ernie) for the weekend. Across the fields from their home is the River Thames and the Trout Inn at St John’s Lock. As the weather was so nice the walk just had to be done.
Next to the Trout Inn the water was flowing fast over the weir, hence the many “red boards” along the river’s length.
Even though the river was running fast the lock environment is usually peaceful and the pretty St John’s Lock is no exception.
Walking back across the fields Lechlade and the church spire is real ‘chocolate-box’ stuff.
After the visit to the pub there was time for Doug and Ernie to relax on the lawn in the sunshine before daughter Frances and her partner Kel came over to join us for a BBQ.
Leaving Vicki and Ian’s on Sunday we made a short detour to Little Coxwell near Faringdon in Oxfordshire to see James’ birthplace and the flowering cherry tree planted in memory of his parents.
And, of course, it was only right to visit the village church of St Mary to visit the family grave.
Facebook is a marvellous thing sometimes and, on our journey back home, we discovered that “boaty” friends Richard and Linda on their narrow boat (“Mary H”) were having lunch at the Cunning Man on the Kennet and Avon canal. We really had to call in and surprise them! and a lovely time we had with them too. Thanks Linda and Richard for the coffee on “Mary H” afterwards.