Archive for June, 2019

Narrowboating part two

June 28, 2019

I found a few more photos to add to the narrowboating experience, This blog entry comprises of lots of pictures and few words.

Boats in the marina

Playing cards in the bow

A visitor

At Tardebigge early morning

Boats along the canal

Rolling countryside

Sign along the canal

Lock number 58

Boat entering the lock, then going down, down down until it disappears before emerging from the bottom gate

Emerging from a tunnel

That’s us, the furtherest away boat on the left

Boats moored

Canal side accommodation

Waka Huia on the left, moored in the Alvechurch marina

And to finish off, here is the label from a wine we purchased for Marilyn & David. We thought we were doing so well finding a NZ Chardonnay, until Marilyn read the label only to discover that Gisborne had suddenly been moved to the South Island!! NB. For those of you who do not know, Gisborne is on the East Coast of the North Island.

Gisborne has moved since we’ve been away

Narrowboating

June 25, 2019

Before we left New Zealand I was in contact with Marilyn & David who;

a) had read our blog and contacted us regarding a place we had stayed

b) live in NZ and also motorhome extensively

c) have a Narrowboat called Waka Huia which they travel the English canals during NZ winter/English summer (ok, we won’t talk about the weather).

I have also been a follower of their blog for some time. I must add here that I found their blog through following another nz blog, Romany Rambler, so thank you Jenny & Robin for you may not know it but it’s how I ended up following Marilyn & David’s travels through the links on your blog!! And no we haven’t met Jenny & Robin either as yet however we have communicated many times and I’m sure our paths will cross sooner rather than later.

Through a multitude of emails back and forth with David & Marilyn, ok lets be honest, between Bernice and Marilyn, we finally sorted a time to meet up which suited us both and they graciously, or should that be with great trust?, invited us to stay with them on their boat for the night.

With plans in place, we arranged to meet them at Alvechurch Marina where they were moored on Thursday. You will have to read their recent blog entries to gain an understanding of the serious issues David has recently had with his eyes and the surgery he is about to undergo. With that in mind we arrived on Thursday afternoon and met Marilyn & David for the first time.

Waka Huia

Their narrowboat is named Waka Huia which is Maori meaning treasure box. The weather by now looked like it was going to play ball for a day, so with that in mind the decision was made to go for a little cruise up to the next set of locks called the Tardebigge flight. The Tardebigge set of locks are the longest set of locks on the UK canal system and two long tunnels to get through before the start of the flight. We were not going to go through any of the locks as there are 30 (yes, you read that right], 30 locks in succession that requires you to go through all of them before you can turn around and return. Just to go one way would take us many hours and by this time it was late afternoon plus David had a hospital appointment to attend on Friday night, another reason that we did not have time to do the locks.

Picturesque waterways

Off we set being expertly guided out of the mooring and set off on a leisurely cruise. This is the life, meandering through the picturesque waterways with sunshine dappling on the waters as we made our way along the tree and hedgerow lined canal.

Roy at the helm on the way to Tardebigge.

David tying up

Roy took over as helmsman for most of the journey until we reached the top of the Tardebigge flight where there is a winding hole so we could turn around in the morning. You can read Marilyns version of events here.

Tying up on the side of the canal, we first had a few drinks and nibbles with some friends of M&D before Roy, David and I took a walk down to the first set of locks to see just how close together they are placed before returning to the boat for a delicious dinner that Marilyn had prepared.

Looking down the first flight of locks

Church spire along canal

We spent the rest of the evening playing cards until late, a new game for us, called Five Crowns, a good fun game and evening was had by us all, especially by moi as I did win!

Roy doing the dishes

After a good nights sleep it was time to head back to the marina so D&M could head off for the first of David’s appointments on Friday evening and we could continue on our travels.

Entering a tunnel

I had my turn at the helm on the return journey including negotiating a couple of long tunnels.

Another boat coming toward us

Bernice at the helm

Cruising down the river

Halfway through the tunnel

Countryside

We returned to the marina where Marilyn expertly manoeuvred us into our mooring.

Interesting boat name

Marilyn & David then offered us the boat to stay on for a few more nights including a couple of nights by ourselves whilst they head into Birmingham for David’s surgery on Sunday morning. Of course we accepted their wonderful offer, you don’t want to miss out on these opportunities, sometimes they come along so rarely in life.

But first we all went to the local pub at the marina for lunch.

Checking out the options

What about this brew?

David & Bernice

Ploughmans platter, the remainder returned with us to have for dinner

Mediterranean platter

The meals were generous, so generous in fact that the remnants were packed up to take back to the boat for our dinner later that evening.

But not before David showed off his best side!

David’s best side???

D&M we’re away for just a few hours on Friday evening before returning. We then set about having a cards rematch.

David’s surgery was scheduled for early Sunday morning, however they are going into Birmingham by train on Saturday afternoon to stay the evening and will also stay over Sunday evening as well which means we will be home alone! I can’t reiterate enough how generous they have been toward us, it really does restore ones faith in humanity.

And not to be outdone…

Not to be outdone, Marilyn showing her other side!!!!

We explored the local area including the shopping centre in Redditch to get a few essentials but mainly spent our time relaxing on the boat.

Sometimes in life you meet up with people whom you instantly get on with, have lots in common, enjoy their company immensely and this is exactly the case with Marilyn & David. We are so fortunate to have met them and I’m sure we will meet up again either back in NZ or in the UK. We cannot thank Marilyn & David enough for their hospitality, kindness, and sharing their lovely narrowboat with us. It will remain a special memory for us.

Welshpool & Shrewsbury

June 23, 2019

We set our next destination as Welshpool which is near the border with England.

The planned route

We both agreed that we would take a route less travelled rather than sticking to major motorways and A roads, so with this programmed into the sat nav, off we went. Initially it went well, we were quietly enjoying the scenery and countryside when all of a sudden we were on what I could only describe as a track/lane.

Narrow windy road

It was definitely becoming more and more narrow the further along we went with the hedge rows and trees becoming closer and closer the further we travelled. With absolutely no opportunity to turn around, we continued on with thoughts of should we have a hedge trimmer with us? Should we pull the side mirrors in?

Oops!

That was until we met a car coming in the opposite direction. Luckily for us, they reversed along the road until we had the opportunity to inch past each other at snails pace.

We were soon back on slightly wider roads/lanes but when “she” – the Sat Nav – told us to turn off again, we ignored her and continued on until she had worked out a new route on a major road.

All was back on track, until we came to the brow of a hill, we had obviously climbed up a lot higher than we initially thought and spectacular views down over the valleys. However, the navigator decided this wasn’t the best place for him to be and he just wanted it over with as quickly as possible, we were in fact going over the hills of Snowdonia. Due to the photographers lack of desire to take pictures, these few are from later on and will have to suffice.

Rolling hills

Waterfall

Sheep

Our arrival into the outskirts of Welshpool was a welcoming sight, now we started to look for somewhere to stay. Our first choice of hotel was unfortunately it was fully booked but the very helpful receptionist rang a couple of other places for us and we were soon booked into a lovely B& B a few hundred metres up the road.

Buildings across the street from the B&B dating from around the 16th Century.

The Royal Oak

Canal through the town

Stones in a circle

These circles are called Gorstedd Stones and used for the celebration of Eisteddfod, a welsh tradition of celebrating literature, music and performance. Some stone circles are very old, dating back centuries, but we suspect this may be a later one, dating from when there was a revival of the celebrations in the 1800’s.

The Mermaid Inn was just a few doors away from our B&B

The Stone House B&B where we were staying had parts of its building dating back to the 1200’s, amazing stuff.

We had a little time to explore the town and get some washing done before we went back to our original choice of lodgings, the Royal Oak Hotel, where we had a wonderful evening meal.

Yummm, liver and bacon!

Again we had great service from the friendly staff, before we returned to our B&B for a good nights sleep.

The following morning we decided to have a day off driving, instead taking the train into Shrewsbury. We had read about a scenic boat trip on the River Severn which we thought would be a fun way to see the sights.

View from the train

The train trip was quick and pleasant, and we were there in no time at all. It was a short walk to the river where we were told the boats would be leaving. However, in usual fashion our luck was not on our side and we were greeted with this sign.

The sign says it all

Oh never mind, instead, we found a very nice looking pub across the road that looked very busy with lots of happy punters, so we headed off to drown our sorrows. The food looked fabulous too so instead of a boat trip we stayed on for a late lunch, which again was amazingly good fare.

The following are a few sights from around Shrewsbury.

River Severn

Street view

This sculpture, named Quantum Leap, was erected on the banks of the Severn to celebrate the the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, who was born in the town in 1809. It also celebrates Shropshire’s diverse geological history which covers 10 of the 12 geological eras. Soon it was time to retrace our steps and return to Welshpool.

Allotments along the train tracks, on the return journey

Our time in Welshpool was coming to and end, but the next adventure is all rather exciting!!

Caernarfon Castle and Moelfre

June 22, 2019

We left Betws-y-coed for a days outing, we thought we would venture toward Anglesey for the day. Who knew that there were three different routes that we could take in and out of Betws-y-coed, and in the space of a day we inadvertently used all three. We are trying not to venture over the same road twice and today we mostly managed it.

The route

The countryside is very reminiscent of parts of New Zealand, and although the navigator is also supposed to be the photographer, he has to be reminded often!!

The picturesque route

We passed through many quaint villages before we stopped for morning tea at Glynllifon, purely by chance, as we saw the impressive main gates before taking the opportunity to turn around further down the road to head back through the gates.

Morning tea and a rest stop was in order before a quick look around the complex.

Stonehenge in miniature?

Whilst looking through the on site shop, we got chatting to one of the staff who then proceeded to write out a list of places for us to see and visit on our days travels. She was brilliant, told us of good places for parking, places to eat and things to see. We heeded her great advice which I must add was spot on.

Off on our journey again, the next stop was purely a quick rest stop in a little village called Clynnog-Fawr, but it did have an impressive church which was apparently burnt by the Vikings in 978AD, so it has been around for a wee while.

Church at Clynnog-Fawr

Onto Caernarfon next where we were told there was a castle.

Caernarfon Castle

We had parked the car away from the castle entrance and enjoyed the walk up to the main entrance through cobbled streets.

Entrance street to the castle

Interesting sign on pub wall.

The weather wasn’t looking too promising for wandering around for any length of time so it was soon back to the car and off to the next point.

We traversed the Menai Bridge, the main bridge which links Anglesey Island to mainland Wales. It was a very pleasant drive from there through to Moelfre, a pretty little fishing village.

Our first port of call was to the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) Museum where we were to discover a link to New Zealand.

Boat on display in the RNLI centre

But why is there a toy kiwi sitting on the bow? I went into the shop to ask why and we were directed to take a short walk along the coastal walkway to the Lifeboat Station.

At the lifeboat station we went inside where sitting on the slipway was –

RNLB Kiwi

The very nice volunteer told us all about the background to the boat.

Mr Clark, a New Zealand merchant seaman, was torpedoed three times during the war, and on one occasion was rescued by the RNLI. He must have never forgotten that experience.

After the war he moved to the UK and farmed in the south of England, when in 2004 it was revealed that he had left the RNLI £2.2million in his will. The Moelfre station was the fortunate recipient of a new lifeboat. The Lifeboat is self righting, which means it is watertight allowing it to self right with up to 60 persons on board with the capability of taking 120 people without the self righting capability.

As a nod to Mr Clark, all the staff wear black polo shirts with a gold kiwi embroidered on the right sleeve and the emblem of the RNLI Lifeboat “Kiwi” on the front pocket.

After a good hour or so at the station we walked back along the coastal walkway into the village to have some lunch at the local pub.

Moelfre

View from the village

Time to head back to Betws-y-coed for our last evening here. We enjoyed a fabulous pizza in the village before settling in for the night. Tomorrow we are off to…? Well, we are not sure as yet. Watch this space.

Onto North Wales

June 19, 2019
We left Selby on Saturday morning, heading somewhere into North Wales, although we weren’t really sure where. After travelling for a while, trying to avoid the main roads and motorways as much as possible, it was time for a rest break and a bite to eat. We found a pub near Penistone and Hoylandswaine where we stopped for lunch. Pie, mushy peas and chips were on the menu, but why do they insist on putting everything into little dishes, you then have to empty them onto your plate to eat them!

Pea, pie and chips

It filled the gap quite successfully and we were soon on our way again, this time with a destination in mind – Colwyn Bay in North Wales. It was an unadventurous drive but a good way to get used to the car and the controls – think lights, windscreen wipers, sat nav, indicators etc.

Colwyn Bay

Our first task was to find somewhere to stay the night, we settled on a hotel within a short walk to shops and the beach etc.

Wind farm out in Colwyn Bay

By the time we got into our room and settled ourselves in, neither of us were particularly hungry so we had a quick trip across the road to the supermarket for a bit of cheese, fruit and crackers as a light snack. The following morning we walked up the road a little to a local cafe for breakfast. Nothing flash, but good honest food with very friendly and helpful staff. So far we have found Welsh folk to be friendly and helpful, many going out of their way to assist and partake of some good banter. We were soon on our way again, this time we decided to head inland a little, just to see what we can see and find.

First stop was not too far away, Bodnant Gardens, we had fun reading the sign!

We had fun trying to pronounce Welsh!

Lovely gardens, cafe, bee displays and farm shop complete with more helpful staff. We asked at the shop if we could buy some ice as we had a few bits and pieces in a chiller bag we needed to keep cool. No, sorry no ice we were told but just a moment sir, soon he was back with a frozen ice pack perfect for our needs, and no there wasn’t a charge.

As an interesting aside, we noted that one of the plaques on the main buildings noted that the complex was established with assistance from the European Union Regional Development Fund, we were to find a number of these properties along our travels.

EU plaque

We wonder if those who voted for Brexit realise that a number of these developments would not be flourishing without funding from the EU.

Along our route we spied a familiarly named hotel – this is the name of the Lodge we owned in Oamaru – so we just had to stop for a photo.

Another Pen-y-bryn

That’s where we are heading.

View from the B&B

Once settled in, we went for a walk into the village following a path along the rivers edge

Walk into Betws-y-coed

Before crossing over the railway line where locals also run a children’s train.

Child sized train

Looking across from the main station to the small gauge track

On the station platform we came across this metal formed rhino which you are asked to place plastic bottle caps. Apparently this raises funds for a rhino sanctuary in Africa.

Roy and the rhino

We had no sooner begun our exploration of the village when the skies darkened and the heavens opened. Sheltering in a shop doorway for a while as by now most shops were closed for the day, we waited to see if it was a passing shower. It soon became evident that it wasn’t so what were we to do? Oh ok, head into the local hotel for a very late afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea or early dinner?

It was delicious. By the time we had enjoyed our afternoon tea the rain had dissipated a little so we made the dash back to our abode for the evening.

Oh and did I mention we were staying at the old Courthouse?

The Courthouse

We were in the Handcuff Room 😱.

On the road/rail north

June 18, 2019

We had to drag ourselves away from Callum….oh, and Alex & Ian too, so that the new family could have some good quality time together. As Ian gets just two weeks paternity leave it was time to leave them on their own to find their feet. The day before we left, Ian’s parents Chris & Barry came to get in a few cuddles.

Nana and Grandad Denny

And it looks as though Callum is going to be a thumbsucker, just like his mum was and his dad too.

Callum

The following morning Ian took us to the train station at Abbey Wood, a bit further away from the local station in Erith as Abbey Wood has the direct train into Kings Cross Station where our next train heading to Yorkshire would be leaving from.

We were soon on the train heading north and even though the weather wasn’t exactly screaming summer, the skies reminded us of paintings by Constable over the farmland.

Oh and have we mentioned before how much we enjoy travelling by train??

We wizzed through many small towns, stopping at just a few larger cities including Doncaster, which was where my Grandpop lived.

Before long we pulled into Selby, our destination for the next couple of days to stay with my lovely cousin Pauline and her husband Pat. Those of you regular readers will remember that 18 months ago we met up with Pauline & Pat in Lanzarote where they were living. Since then they have moved back to the UK (bloody Brexit!).

We went out for a drink one evening before dinner where Pauline and I took up position in the Naughty Corner.

In the naughty corner

We mostly behaved ourselves, honestly, we did!!

This was at a lovely pub, which Roy tells me he is going to write an entry on the pub so you have that to look forward to.

We then took a short walk to a nice restaurant for a bite to eat, along the way we had to walk past Selby Abbey.

Selby Abbey

The Abbey celebrates its 950th anniversary this year. It is one of the few surviving Abbey churches of the Middle Ages. An Abbey is defined as a complex of buildings used by members of a religious order under the governance of an abbot or an abbess. It provides a place for religious activities, work, and housing of Christian monks and nuns. Many abbeys were self sufficient with monks and nuns having a multitude of skills from stone masonry to gardening.

We had a lovely meal before heading home for a nightcap – yes John, we’ve introduced Pauline & Pat to Pedro Ximinez😉.

Earlier in the day we had picked up a rental car as we are heading off on a bit of a road trip, not sure exactly where as yet but northern Wales looks like a good contender. I am the driver for this part of our trip around so I will be avoiding all large cities and metropolitan areas as much as possible. We will be returning he car to Selby and staying with Pauline & Pat before training back to London.

Welcome

June 15, 2019

It’s with much love that we welcome into the family Callum Jacob Denny, born on the 11 June 2019 weighing in at 9lbs 8oz.

Callum just a few hours old.

Alex and Ian returned from the local hospital just a few hours after he was born where he was quickly settled into his new surroundings.

Callum chillaxing

And just so that he knows where he’s from

Kiwi clothing

It’s hard to believe where Alex hid him, he must have been tightly curled up, as the day before we went out strawberry picking.

Roy, Alex and Ian in the strawberry patch

Out and about a couple of days after he was born, Roy and I went into a Hamley’s Store (a children’s toy shop), where we had a look at this

It’s never too early to start with LEGO, right?

We are sure that when recommended for ages 2+ means 2 days plus doesn’t it?

And following his parents in more ways than one

Thumb sucking must be hereditary

We have now left them to have time to themselves to do a bit of exploring but will be back in a week or two.

D Day

June 6, 2019

Today is the 6th June, 75 years since the D Day landings on the Normandy beaches and both here in the UK and in France, commemorations are taking place with people from all over the Commonwealth and USA (including the orange blimp) are attending.

Here in Erith, it’s D Day plus 5.

What will be, will be.

Meanwhile, we are still keeping ourselves busy in the garden. We have put in trellis on top of the back fence. One; for a bit more privacy and two; for the climbing plants to clamber along.

Regular readers will know that when we were here 18 months ago, Alex and Ian had the back garden landscaped which included removing a stand of very large conifers and having two terraces built.

Before and after the landscaping

Now with plants planted and the trellis work up plus a small wooden fence around the top level hiding the raised vegetable beds, it’s all coming together.

Two trellis panels in place

The completed work

it’s all looking rather good, so much so we had a BBQ the other day.

Alex and Ian inspecting the BBQ

We have planted up the veggie raised planter boxes but then realised we needed to protect the seeds and plants from birds having a nice time eating all the seeds and the foxes digging up our hard work. So at the moment we do have bird netting in place but I am about to make cloches to cover the planters. However I am just awaiting for some supplies to be delivered so I can make a good job of them, otherwise I may get fired!!

Planters

The new addition

June 1, 2019

We have a new addition to the family, he’s named Lawrence.

He was born this week and is growing nicely…

Lawrence, the sourdough starter

Yes, Lawrence is a sourdough starter that I’ve got on the go. We named him Lawrence because with his covering he looks a bit like Lawrence of Arabia, well if you squint a bit he does!

We have struggled to find a decent loaf of bread here, even the so called sourdough from Borough Market didn’t come up to scratch so I decided to start a bug and make it myself.

I make sourdough bread in the RV regularly and have a good bug growing that I’ve carried around with us for the past 8 years. He’s in hibernation mode at the moment though ready for our return. I usually make bread once or twice a week in the motorhome and we really enjoy it so why not make it here in the UK as well.

Oh, were some of you thinking that we were announcing the arrival of baby Denny? Well, it’s gone from this

To this

Yes, it’s due day today but so far it looks as though it’s quite comfortable where it is, hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer as we are all very keen to meet this baby.