Friday, 23 June 2017

Another Memory.......

Following on from my last post and my memories of the cycle touring trip I made when I was fourteen years old....here is another memory from that same trip............

The penultimate night was spent in a town that I had always wanted to visit since I had first heard it's name...... It sounded mystical and spiritual....soft and beautiful.... that town was Saffron Walden  in the county of Essex..

Unfortunately the reality I found at that time did not match up to my expectations.....
I don't know exactly what I had expected to find but I think it had something to do with my serious interest in Buddhism even at that age..... Perhaps I had thoughts of 'Saffron Robes'.

Now don't get me wrong Saffron Walden was a nice town but it just wasn't the place of spiritual mystery I had wanted it to be....

So what is it like these days..... Well Anne and I took time out to pay it a visit and I must say that we both enjoyed our visit very much.....

This is what we found......

The Church of St Mary the Virgin...... This is the parish church of Saffron Walden and is the largest non-cathedral church in Essex. The overall length is 183ft with a spire of 193ft high which is the tallest in Essex... it really is a pretty impressive sight...


St Mary the Virgin - Saffron Walden
We visited Bridge End Gardens which is a real gem of a find and amazingly is free to visit...
The gardens are a group of linked ornamental gardens which are listed Grade 11 on the register of Parks and Gardens. 
There are a number of walled gardens and also a maze that Anne and I got totally lost in. 
I have to say that the gardens are pretty stunning - just take a look at the image of the Dutch gardens below.....also the gardens have the cleanest public toilets that I have ever seen..they were better than many hotels....

The Dutch Garden at Bridge End Gardens.
We visited the building at Myddlyton Place that used to be the Youth Hostel  that I stayed at on my first visit to the town during that cycle tour all those years ago......

As with Houghton Mill it is no longer a Hostel having closed in 2011..... 
The property was acquired by the YHA in 1956 and was believed to be Saffron Waldens oldest inhabited property....
Timber framed and Grade 1 listed it covers some 6.000 sq ft....

It was often said that it was the most photographed buiding in Essex...
I don't know what the building is used for now...
The Youth Hostel (Now Closed Down) at Saffron Walden.
In the buiding across the road from the hostel at 'The Close', is a rare oval Spider Window.... Just another of the little secrets that Saffron Walden has that I didn't see on my first visit....
The 17th Century Spider Window
Back to Bridge End Gardens - A peek into the Rose Garden
So Saffron Walden might not have measured up to my expectations as a fourteen year old but it definately pushed all the right buttons all these years later.....


Friday, 16 June 2017

Going Back 55 Years........

I mentioned on this blog a few years back that when I was 14 years old I set off on a touring bike ride around East Anglia.....
My family were living in Feltham near Heathrow airport at that time and I talked a friend into doing the trip with me..... I have to say that I am amazed that my parents allowed me to set off on that mini adventure but it does highlight the difference between attitudes then and now....

At that time it was still the golden age of the Youth Hostel Association (YHA)... 
In those days you could link up a number of Youth Hostels in order to complete a walk or a cycle ride...nowadays it would be impossible to do those trips and rely on a Youth Hostel for an overnight stop.. So many hostels in the YHA network have now been closed and those that do remain seem to aim at families, students and school parties as their core customers....

Back in 1962 when I did that trip the objective of the YHA was to "help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside, particularly by providing hostels or other simple accommodation for them in their travels and thus to promote their health, rest and education."

Sadly the needs and expectations of young travellers has changed over the years and the YHA has struggled at times to adjust..... I ended my membership a number of years ago when I felt that the changes to the organisation had altered it beyond recognition and it no longer suited my needs....

Having said that the YHA (along with the Scout movement) was fundamental in helping to foster my desire for travel and adventure and is probably one of the reasons why I am currently doing what I am doing....

Going back those 55 years.... the Youth Hostel that had the biggest impact on me during that trip was Houghton Mill near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire....
This was our second nights stop....our first night had been at St Albans....

I've always remembered the smell of the interior of the mill ....... beauty of the location.... the sound of the water.... 
For the 14 year old Trevor the place was just magic and I have always wanted to revisit Houghton..... 

Well the other day after 55 years I went back.....

Anne and I visited the mill for a day out and it was everything that I had remembered....
It is no longer a Youth Hostel (that closed back in 1984) and is now maintained by the National Trust but I was so surprised to see a corner of the mill had been dedicated to it's YHA history with a display of membership cards, badges and hostelling magazines... also they even had a bunk bed exactly as it would have been back when I visited all those years ago.... there was even a classic Roberts style radio playing music from the 1960s.....

It's not often that you can revisit somewhere without feeling a little let down but this was total magic.....it was a magic carpet ride whisking me back to when I was 14...... Perfect.


Houghton Mill
Bunk Bed straight from the 1960s

YHA Membership Items

A View From a Lower Floor of Houghton Mill
Entrance to the Mill

Thursday, 15 June 2017

This post is for Chandra at 'Green Comotion'.....

A few months back Chandra from the GreenComotion Blog in the USA mentioned in a comment that he had started watching 'Grantchester' on Acorn TV . 
Chandra has had a bit of a rough time lately as one of his furry family members has moved on to his next great adventure....

A few days ago Anne and I visited Grantchester which is only about a mile or two from Cambridge and I took a few photos in and around the village....

The images below are for you Chandra and Choko.........








Monday, 12 June 2017

I've acquired swivel eyes.......

We have been here in Cambridge for a week now....
The campsite is kept very neat and tidy with good facilities and really friendly and helpful campsite managers and assistants.... 
It consists of two quite large and flat fields and being in the east of the country it has been windy ever since we arrived.....
Initially after our arrival we had two days of solid heavy rain but since then the weather has been mostly stunning......

We have been into Cambridge centre for a look around the various colleges and I must say some of the architecture is fantastic.....

Having said that I felt that I was going to get run over by 'flatout' students on bikes...They are everywhere and they make no adjustment to their speed as they approach pedestrians... 
Even speaking as an experienced racing(many years ago now) endurance and touring cyclist I would never travel at that speed around pedestrians...crossing roads in Cambridge proved to be a bit of a nightmare but I have now acquired eyes that swivel thriugh 360 degrees......

As to be expected this has been another place where tourists are everywhere....It can make taking a picture of some of the streets and buildings a bit of a waiting game...waiting that is for the Japanese and Chinese visitors to move out of the way.....

The first image below took ages as I waited for a clear street..... I wanted to take the picture with just the bike and one person walking along the pavement..... Waiting paid off as in the end I got the image that I wanted......

A long wait for this image ...but worth it. I just love those chimneys

The entrance to one of the many colleges..(plus tourists)

The courtyard at one of the colleges...

Just some of the many bikes...luckily these are just parked up.....

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Hitting the Road Again.....

We have now come to the end of our stay here in the Cotswolds....
This is the third time in three years that we have visited the area although we have stayed at a different place each time....
After three visits we have still only touched a small part of the Cotswolds experience....

For this year we thought that we would stay at some places for a short (for us) visit of fourteen nights for a change and our visit here was the first of these shorter visits...
However Anne and I have agreed that we like to immerse ourselves in an area to really explore it properly and this takes time... 

It's obviously still early days in this years tour but we are both thinking that fourteen days is probably going to prove to be too short a time for us....
By the time we have visited some tourist traps...done some walking...fitted in some decent cycling etc and slotted all of this in between any bad weather that might occur the fourteen days is up all a bit too quickly... 
We will see how it all goes this year and then review it again at the end of the year.... Our next four stops are all going to be visits of just fourteen days.... 
How do people manage with just a two week holiday??  It's not long enough.

Anyway...on Monday we head off to Cambridge....

Below are just a few images taken during our stay starting off with a couple off 'bike lean' images...
As a keen cyclist I have always liked this genre of photograph mixing the image of a bike with small glimpses of the countryside that it has just been ridden through.... 
During our stay here I've managed to accumalate 300 miles under the wheels of my Felt so a couple of images are pretty valid......

Then an image taken at the Rollright Stones which are a circle of  late Neolithic standing stones which as long term readers of this blog as well as my other blog 'Aura of Past Shadows' (currently on hold) will know are something else that I have an interest in....

.....and then finally an Outdoor Natural Art Installation that we found not far from the Rollright stones..... Most tourists rushing around trying to see everything would have missed this but it was really quite stunning....we even stopped there and had a picnic in the middle of the woods surrounded by the various natural installations and the wildlife all around us.  
For lovers of the natural world it really was a terrific experience.......

A 'Bike Lean' Image with a glimpse of Cotswold stone.....
Another 'Bike Lean' Image with a glimpse of Cotswold countryside

The Rollright Stones

Part of an outdoor art installation
Another view of the Art installation..
One last view of the Outdoor Natural Art Installation