England 2004 Archives

July 2, 2004

Week One - London

Photos of the highlights of our two weeks in London (21 photos) are posted here.

Hello to everyone who may be checking in on our blog. It's actually now near the end of our third week of our trip, and I'm posting this from the Public Library in Penzance on the coast of Cornwall. Today I'm posting a pretty detailed accounting of our first two weeks in London. We don't necessarily know from week to week how we will be able to access e-mail or whether or not a facility's computers will enable me to work with a disk. So, bear with us... we may not post every week but will post whenever we can. I also suspect that my approach to the blog will change over time (perhaps become less of a daily diary)...

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Week Two - London

Photos of the highlights of our two weeks in London (21 photos) are posted here.

And now the luxury of a second full week in London! We are settling into somewhat of a routine and feeling very comfortable in this city. Every morning I am up first, fix myself some tea, and work on my journal or on the computer until Charley gets up. He makes coffee (using the French press), then goes down the street to the bus station and brings back breakfast breads and a newspaper. We eat our breakfast, drink coffee and read the paper, then take our showers. At that point, we try to rouse Sleeping Beauty! It is difficult for us to get out of the flat much earlier than 10 am. How we managed to get off to jobs and school each morning before 8 am, I now have no idea!

We bought the seven-day travelcard for the underground last week, and so we focused on London itself to try to maximize the benefit of our travelcards. This week we plan to do a couple of daytrips outside of London, likely traveling on the train. The weather is not expected to be as good as our beautiful first week, and so we will watch the weather in making our plans.

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July 9, 2004

Week Three - Cornwall

Photos of the highlights of our week in Cornwall(17 photos) are posted here.

We spent the third week of our Grand Tour on the southwestern tip of England…. in the small fishing village of Mousehole (pronounced “Mouzel”) in Cornwall, about three miles from the larger town of Penzance. This was our first visit to Cornwall, and we absolutely loved it—especially Kelly. I wish that we had somehow planned the trip to spend two weeks here… there was so much to see and do. (This would be the ideal way to feel about every place we just spend a week!)

Cornwall is one of the most ancient parts of Britain… and one of the most scenic. About 75% of Cornwall is dedicated to farming. Mousehole dates back hundreds of years—it was invaded and then virtually destroyed by the Spanish Armada in 1595 (only one house survived), but was then rebuilt. The village is clustered around a large stone circular harbor that’s almost dry when the tide is out. It’s strange to see many of the boats sitting on the mud at low tide! Mousehole is situated at the western end of Mount’s Bay, just a few miles from Lands End, the western point of England. From the village you can see St. Michael’s Mount in the distance and the far tip of Lizard Point to the east.

The houses are made of granite, and many are built up on the steep hills. Most of the houses have brightly colored trim and are decorated with window boxes and pots filled with colorful flowers. The streets are extremely narrow—if two cars meet in the village, one has to back up to let the other by. We enjoyed exploring the twisting alleys where smugglers once hid their goods. Mousehole has several restaurants and cafes, a couple of tourist shops, a bookshop, some art galleries, and a newsagent that sells a few groceries. Other than the newsagent, there really aren’t any shops to serve the residents—you have to go to Penzance for any major shopping. The village was on a regular bus run (imagine the buses navigating the narrow streets!), and we were interested to see quite a few residents using the bus. After our two weeks in London, this was a very big change of pace and lifestyle. I think the change was good for our family too, as we continued to settle into a positive rhythm for our 14 months together.

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July 17, 2004

Week Four - Gants Mill (Somerset)

July 3 - July 9

We spent the week in South Somerset, a lovely part of England that we've visited briefly before. We stayed on a farm with an old restored mill and beautiful gardens and were really happy with our cottage and the location. Kelly enjoyed the dog Bramble, the cats and the sheep, although she never did see a badger.

The weather took a strange turn during the week... chilly, rainy and windy a couple of days. I actually bought a coat in July! We came here thinking we'd probably visit Bath, Salisbury and Lyme Regis and didn't end up doing any of that. Instead we visited Winchester and Wells, two interesting smaller cities with beautiful old cathedrals. We especially enjoyed our couple of visits to the Stourhead Estate, about 20 minutes from Gants Mill. Once again, we wished we could have stayed another week.

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July 23, 2004

Week Five - The Cotswolds

July 10 - July 16

We were eager to return to the Cotswolds, our third visit to this beautiful part of England that we love so much. We stayed at Michaelmas Cottage in the village of Blockley, near the market town of Moreton-in-Marsh. We loved our week here—we explored the countryside, did a couple of good walks, visited Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford, and toured two beautiful gardens and a unique old home. We liked being part of village life and met some people here—Kelly found the park was a good place to connect with other kids and a highlight of our week was meeting a wonderful couple who gave us a complete tour of their beautifully-restored home and garden. We had a wonderful week.

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July 31, 2004

Week Six - Birstwith, North Yorkshire

July 17 ? July 23

Our week in North Yorkshire was an unexpected delight. We had never been to Yorkshire before and really didn’t know much about it. We loved the beautiful countryside… lush hills and valleys and the contrast of the desolate moors. We visited the historic city of York and also had a special day at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. This is “James Herriott Country,” and we experienced first-hand why James Herriott loved Yorkshire so much.

We were so happy with our location for the week… a perfect cottage on a 500-acre estate. We became part of the estate community for the week, and everyone was very kind to our family. It was Kelly’s birthday week, and she especially enjoyed the opportunity to help take care of three horses who lived in the stables next to our cottage.

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August 18, 2004

Coast-to-Coast update

We have completed 117 miles of the 190 mile Coast-to-Coast walk... with the hardest sections (across the mountains of the Lake District) behind us!

The walk has been harder than I ever imagined... but we are getting stronger every day. We had only 11 miles today, but have done as much as 18 miles on a day when we took a long route due to fog on the mountain-top.

We have really enjoyed the camaraderie among the other walkers on this journey... on the trail, over a beer at the end of a hard day, and over breakfast in our small hotels.

Late on Day 2 we found ourselves stranded on the top of a mountain in dense fog... and could not find the route we needed to follow. We found our way to the Black Sail Hut, a tiny youth hostel... the most isolated in all of England. Fortunately they took us in for the night and fed us a warm meal. The people were so friendly, and a couple led us out over a mountain pass the next morning so we could get back on our route.

I just wanted to let everyone know that we're over halfway on this journey across England. Thanks for your wishes and prayers... we'll post a more detailed report once we're settled in France.

August 27, 2004

Coast to Coast - We Made It!

This is just a quick update to let everyone know that the Wood family successfully completed the Coast to Coast walk late Tuesday afternoon! 190 miles across England, including almost 20 miles on the last day! We arrived at Robin Hood's Bay about 5:15 pm and made the traditional trek down to the sea to dip our toes in the water and toss in the rocks we had carried all the way from St. Bees.

After last year's heat wave, England has been hit this summer with rain and even floods in some places... we saw our share of bad weather and sometimes our trail turned into a stream, but we also had some beautiful sunny days... especially while we crossed the North York Moors. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. What a beautiful country England is! We met so many wonderful people too-- there was a true camaraderie among people on the walk. We had 16 friends who finished the walk on the same day we did.

Kelly did really well on the walk... she actually led the way on our most aggressive day on the Moors. After a difficult beginning, we all got stronger and more confident as the walk progressed. We ate hearty English meals in the pubs each night, but we're all more fit and trim than we've been in years.

After almost 11 weeks in the UK, we took the overnight ferry from Hull, England to Zeebrugge, Belgium on Wednesday. We have two days in Brugge (beautiful place!!!) and travel to Paris tomorrow. That marks the beginning of our 7-1/2 month stay in France.

Sometime in the next few weeks I?ll post an update to my blog with an overview of our C2C experience. It was truly a peak life experience.

September 16, 2004

Week 9 - Coast-to-Coast Part I

August 7 - 13

In 2002, when Kelly was eight, we did a 55-mile circular walk in the Cotswolds region of England. We really enjoyed this different approach to travel and the opportunity to intensely experience a beautiful area of England. We also enjoyed the physical challenges of this type of vacation. The following year we did a 50+ mile walk in the Alsace region of France, along the Vosges Mountains and the Route du Vin.

When we began to plan our Grand Tour of Europe, Charley and I decided we wanted to include one or two long distance walks… ideally the types of walks we would not be able to do on a typical vacation from work. We read about the190-mile Coast-to-Coast walk across England and decided this would be a great way to conclude our summer in Great Britain. We didn’t tell Kelly for some time that she would be walking 190 miles across England!

The Coast-to-Coast walk was developed by Alfred Wainwright in the early 1970s. Wainwright was a noted walker, guidebook writer and artist who lived in the Lake District of England. He designed a route across northern England that began at St. Bees on the Irish Sea and ended at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea. A pure linear route across England between these two points would be about 125 miles. Wainwright’s route was 190 miles… planned to incorporate unique and sometimes challenging environments, not always the shortest route. He also designed his walk in segments that allowed for overnight stays in or near specified towns or small villages. About two-thirds of the route is through national parks: the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. The Coast-to-Coast walk isn’t an official path like some other well-known walks in England like the Pennine Way or the Cleveland Way. The Coast-to-Coast Walk takes advantage of existing footpaths, bridleways, tracks and roads that have public right-of-way. It’s estimated that approximately 7000 to 8000 people a year complete the Coast-to-Coast Walk.

Although some people plan their own walk and some even carry full backpacks and tents, we did what’s called a “self-guided tour.” We worked with a tour operator (Sherpa Walking Holidays) who made our accommodation arrangements and transported our luggage each day to the next destination. Sherpa also provided us with maps and directions. Since Wainwright (now deceased) developed the walk some 30 years ago, various aspects of the route have changed. We had a small guidebook with an updated version of the original walk, special Coast-to-Coast ordinance maps, and supplemental information provided by Sherpa. I also had the original Wainwright book, which I read at night—it provided great perspective on the natural and historic features that we passed on the walk.

The “pure” Wainwright walk is designed in 12 segments of 11 to 23 miles a day. We opted for a less-aggressive version of this program. We walked 16 segments of 8 to 20 miles a day with a rest day in the middle.

We haven’t been a very physically active family… although we live near the mountains, I’m sorry to say we rarely go hiking. We’re not very interested in camping out in a tent. But we have enjoyed these walks—and especially the Coast-to-Coast walk. None of our walks have been easy, and all of them have included the unexpected. We’ve liked the feeling of purpose and of accomplishment. And we enjoyed the ultimate in slow travel… walking through another country in places that most tourists never go. Charley and I were especially proud of Kelly for doing the C2C walk… such an achievement for an eleven year old! And not bad for a 48 and a 59 year old either!

Continue reading "Week 9 - Coast-to-Coast Part I" »

Week 10 - Coast-to-Coast Part II

August 14 - 20

We were much more confident on the second week of the walk… we settled into a comfortable routine and really began to enjoy the experience—even Kelly! I liked the sense of purpose and accomplishment associated with each day, especially in good weather! We were seeing beautiful scenery and experiencing aspects of English history in a very unique way. We all enjoyed the interaction with other walkers.

In Week Two we transitioned from the Lake District to the Yorkshire Dales and began to make our way towards the North York Moors.

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September 25, 2004

Week 11 - Coast-to-Coast Finale & Bruges

August 20 - 26, 2004

This week represented a major transition in our trip… the completion of the 190-mile Coast-to-Coast walk across England and also the end of our summer in the United Kingdom. We were in England and Scotland a total of 74 days and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The Coast-to-Coast walk was definitely the grand finale… and much more difficult than we envisioned when we planned our trip. The difficulty wasn’t so much the distance, but the need to press on every day regardless of weather. The conditions during and after rain were especially challenging. Despite eating enormous pub meals every night, we all ended the walk in much better physical shape. We enjoyed the physical challenge, the opportunity to intensely experience several beautiful areas of England, and the people we met along the way. The Coast-to-Coast walk is definitely one of the highlights of Our Grand Tour… I know it’s something I’ll always remember!

We finished the walk in Robin Hood’s Bay late Tuesday afternoon and had a fun evening with other walkers celebrating in the hotel pub. The next day we took a train to Kingston-on-Hull, a large city in northern England, and boarded an overnight ferry to Zeebrugge, Belgium. We enjoyed spending the night on the ferry, a new experience for Kelly. We concluded our week with two days in the beautiful town of Bruges, Belgium, where we stayed in a very special B&B.

Saturday, August 20 - Osmotherly to Clay Bank Top (11 miles)

This turned out to be one of the very best days of our Coast-to-Coast walk…. great weather and amazing scenery as we crossed the Cleveland Hills. We all hiked well in terrain that would have been very difficult for us earlier in the walk. Kelly had an especially great walk today.

Kelly turned on the Olympics while we were getting ready. The British sports channel is focusing on sports where Britain is expected to do well, so we watched sculling and yachting this morning… probably not the sports Americans are watching at home! Last night we had watched some equestrian events. Unless there are Americans competing, we are rooting for Great Britain.

We had a good breakfast at the Vane House and chatted with the Group of Eight. We still haven’t quite figured out how they are all connected, or which of the Two Men is Melanie’s “partner” Chris. I told Geoffrey and Bill that the use of the English term “partner” is quite different than in the USA. In the USA (at least where we live), “partner” could mean business partner or gay partner. In Britain—in conversation and in the press—“partner” normally seems to mean a steady boyfriend or girlfriend. It isn’t quite clear to me if this is always a “live-in” partner. I actually think that for adults, I like the term “partner” better than “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.”

We got two packed lunches from Mr. Abbot (shocked to find they were five pounds each, although they did include a box of juice) and stopped at the post office/shop to get some candy for Kelly. We then hiked back up the main street of Osmotherly to the forest road… back the way we had come into the village yesterday. Osmotherly is actually about a mile off the route of the Coast-to-Coast walk, but definitely a much more interesting village than Ingleby Cross, the official stopping point for yesterday’s segment. The Cleveland Way and the Coast-to-Coast walk intersect outside of Osmotherly, and our entire walk today was on a stretch of the Cleveland Way. The Cleveland Way is a very popular long-distance walk… 108 miles. Unlike the Coast-to-Coast walk, it’s an official National Trail and is signposted the entire way.

When we reached the top of Beacon Hill, we also intersected with another famous walk—the Lyke Wake Walk. We had learned of this walk from our C2C friend Bill, who has done it several times. The Lyke Wake Walk is a 40 mile walk that must be done in 24 hours…. it supposedly replicates a walk that was done hundreds of years ago when corpses were carried as quickly as possible over the mountains for burial. The symbol for the Lyke Wake Walk is a little coffin, and Bill said that when you completed the walk in the allotted time, you get a little pin with the coffin emblem. His best time for completing the 40 miles was 19 hours—I can’t imagine! I read in my North York Moors guidebook that some years ago as many as 20,000 people a year did the Lyke Wake Walk. This resulted in the trail becoming seriously eroded, and large group walks were discouraged. Today perhaps 3,000 people a year do the Lyke Wake Walk, and this section of the C2C walk is very nicely maintained as a result… with big wide paths, paved in stone in some places. We didn’t see any Lyke Wake walkers… Bill said they start at Beacon Hill at midnight, which probably explains why we didn’t see them when we passed there at 10 am.

The views from Beacon Hill were fabulous—we ran into some local walkers on a circular hike, and one of the men pointed out to us where we’d be walking today… across the moors, up and down over several peaks in front of us. Our walk today wasn’t long but included five different hill climbs and a total elevation of 2700 feet… up then down, up then down…

This section of the walk was almost totally through the moors… treeless plains covered with a low scrub, most often heather. We are fortunate to be walking when the heather is in full bloom… today the moors were simply covered with the beautiful purple plants. As always, sheep were grazing here and there, seemingly miles away from any farm. Because of the lack of trees and the clear day, we could see for miles and miles. Geoffrey passed us early in the day and pointed out the distinctive peak of Roseberry Topping in the distance and nearby Easby Hill with the monument that recognizes the famous explorer born in this region, Captain James Cook. We could also see the industrial mass of Middlesbrough, the most populated area we’ve seen on the walk. Ahead of us we had a clear view of the peaks we’d cross later in the day. Bill was walking on the road again today, but Geoffrey hadn’t walked here before and wanted to see the scenery on the moors.

It was a beautiful Saturday in August, and we saw quite a few day-walkers out enjoying the countryside. We talked with one retired couple who told us they had hiked the Appalachian Trail a few years ago. The woman had also done the C2C. From Beacon Hill we crossed Scarth Wood Moor, then walked through woods at the base of the moors for about a mile. We saw Paul and Sue at a phone booth when we crossed an intersection—but where was Tammy? In the next section of woods we had to read the directions carefully to make sure we were on the right path. We stopped to sit on a bench at a viewpoint and the Two Men came by, immediately heading off on the wrong path. Charley asked them, “Are you sure you want to go that way?” and we showed them the map and they went off in the right direction. They told us they often just follow their instinct and end up going the wrong way!

Not much later, we met an elderly lady coming on to the path from a nearby village, walking with an elderly dog that could barely move. Kelly stopped to pet the dog, and Charley (who has a soft spot for older ladies) initiated a conversation with the lady. We ended up talking with her for maybe fifteen minutes… learned about the dog, her hip operation, and the walking trips she had made as a girl with her father in the Lake District. As we were saying goodbye to her, Geoffrey, the Two Men, and Paul and Sue all appeared from down another path. They had all taken a wrong turn back in the woods. Paul and Sue said Tammy was taking a day off—she had problems with her feet, and when she took the band-aids off, one of her toes had “exploded.” She was catching a ride with the Sherpa Van and will hopefully continue the walk tomorrow. We let them all pass us… it was a beautiful day and we wanted to enjoy it. After we came out of the woods, we climbed onto Live Moor and began what our guidebook described as “the start of a long and unbroken march over the crest of the celebrated Cleveland skyline.” We stopped to eat lunch at the cairn at the top of Live Moor and said hello as the women from the Group of Eight pass us… we watched them go down Live Moor and then head up Carlton Moor. We ended up walking among them much of the day and enjoyed the interaction. There is a gliding club at the top of Carlton Moor… we would have liked to see some gliders, but didn’t see any today.

Continue reading "Week 11 - Coast-to-Coast Finale & Bruges" »

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