A Travellerspoint blog

United Kingdom

Bath, Somerset and the Wye Valley

Route: Gunnerside - Farrington Gurney - Whitebrook (Wales) - Portsmouth

semi-overcast 20 °C

JUNE 2021

Our journey now took us from Northern England down to the South West. We were prepared for a long drive, Google Map indicated around 6 hours. What we hadn’t expected was the volume of traffic and the nine and half hours it eventually took us. On the up side the weather was good all the way and the new accommodation very nice.
We were now staying in village called Farrington Gurney, on the edge of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and only 12 miles from the historic city of Bath. Therefore our exploration would concentrate on these two locations.

Our first day consisted of recovering from the drive, watching a bit of Rugby on the TV and visiting the local Farm Shop. The produce in the Farm Shop were so good there was no need to shop anywhere else.

The following day we felt recovered enough to check out what the Mendip Hills have to offer. With the sun shining and a walk selected we headed off to East Harptree Woods. The woods are managed by the Forestry Commission so the paths were well laid out and easy going, just what we needed. The dense tree cover made quite a change from the more barren landscape that we had been used to over the past month. It was good to stretch our legs and loosen up, ready for a greater challenge the following day.

Smitham Chimney, the last of its kind

Smitham Chimney, the last of its kind

Chimney history

Chimney history

The famous English landmark of Cheddar Gorge (see below) was next on our list to explore and a circular walk around its rim was the plan. The day started with a drive across the Mendip Hills finishing with the spectacular decent through the gorge. Part way down we parked and got out to better appreciate the sheer cliffs that rose either side of the road, as high as 137m in places. Photo’s taken, we continued our drive down the gorge, into the town of Cheddar (where the famous cheese originated, a style of which is now produced all over the world) to the start of our walk.

Cheddar gorge view from the road

Cheddar gorge view from the road

Road through the Cheddar Gorge

Road through the Cheddar Gorge

Our route began with a steep 250m climb through woodland eventually emerging at the rim of the gorge. Even though it was a bit hazy, you could see for miles, all across north Somerset and as far as the Bristol Channel. We now followed a path close to the cliff edge and with views down into the gorge. At the half way point we descended down to the road before climbing up again on the other side. We were now on the opposite side of the gorge with more great views to take in. Every so often we would spot a small herd of goats munching at the foliage. These had been introduced to aid the biodiversity of the area. Our walk ended at a steep set of steps, known as “Jacobs Ladder”, which took us back to where the car was parked and the end of the circular walk.

Start of the Cheddar Gorge walk was quit steep as you can see on the photo

Start of the Cheddar Gorge walk was quit steep as you can see on the photo

Cheddar Gorge views from the other side

Cheddar Gorge views from the other side

We walked both side of the Gorge

We walked both side of the Gorge

Looking down the gorge

Looking down the gorge

Anne was due her second Covid-19 vaccine during our stay, we had arranged for this to be done locally. With that sorted, we switched our attention to a bit of sightseeing. Not far from the vaccine centre was the city of Wells and that’s where we went.
Wells has the distinction of being the smallest city in England. Although not being much more than a village it is designated a city due to its cathedral. The whole city has retained its period buildings making you feel that you have stepped back in time.
The 13th century cathedral dominates the city and that where our self guided tour started. Renovation scaffolding restricted our view and a film crew limited our access, but we were still able to appreciate what a magnificent building it is. Once we had finished admiring it from the outside we ventured inside. What struck you first was the amazing vaulted ceiling followed by an admiration of all the other stone work on display. The interior was an amalgam of almost 800 years of alterations and additions whilst the exterior courtyard had relics dating back to roman times.

Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral

Stone work on the outside of the Cathedral

Stone work on the outside of the Cathedral

Wells Cathedral Ceiling

Wells Cathedral Ceiling

A short walk from the cathedral is Vicar’s Close, and our next stop. A magnificently preserved medieval cobbled street, reputedly the oldest purely residential example in Europe. Vicar’s Close dates from the mid 14th century and, interestingly, the street narrows towards the end which makes it look longer from the entrance. Many of the residences were originally built to accommodate the chantry priests and are now Grade 1 listed buildings. Entry to the close is via a stone gateway, big enough for both pedestrian and wagon evidently, and once inside you feel cut of from everything outside. With very few tourist in town on our visit, we had the place almost to ourselves which made it all the more impressive.

Vicar's Close, Wells

Vicar's Close, Wells

Vicar's close

Vicar's close

At the end of Vicar's Close

At the end of Vicar's Close

From Vicar’s Close we skirted the old city, returning to the beautifully intact Market Place. Then past the famous conduit, originally a gift from Bishop Bekynton in 1451, and on to the Bishops Palace.
A stone gateway leads from the Market Place to the grounds of the Bishops Palace. A moat surrounds the palace and provides a pleasant waterside walk when we leave the city. A drawbridge gives access to the palace and a grassy courtyard. This was as far as we went before recrossing the drawbridge and heading back to the car. Around the corner from the drawbridge is a small bell which, historically, the swans of the moat were trained to ring when they required food. Charmingly this tradition continues and two of the resident swans are able to call for food service when ever hungry.

The Bishops Palace in Wells

The Bishops Palace in Wells

The bell that the swan ring to get food

The bell that the swan ring to get food

Bishops Palace resident swan

Bishops Palace resident swan

We thought Wells would be interesting but it exceeded expectations, we were so glad we made the visit.

The following day it was back into the Mendip Hills for another countryside excursion. A bit more energetic than planned but enjoyable all the same.

View from one of our many walks in Somerset

View from one of our many walks in Somerset

Any visit to this part of the world would not be complete without a day in Bath. We booked a couple of activities in advance, then planned our sightseeing around them. As with Wells we decided to do a self guided tour and started with what is probably Bath’s most famous landmark, the Pulteney Bridge (see below) over the River Avon and its crescent weir beneath it.

Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge

From the bridge we walked east to Bath’s 15th century Cathedral, built on the site of a 7th century abbey. Bath’s Roman Baths are right next to the cathedral but we left these as we were returning later for a detailed visit.

Bath Cathedral

Bath Cathedral

Moving on, passed the historic “Sally Lunn’s Eating House” (see below), down Bath Street, in front of the Theatre Royal then up hill towards the posher part of town. Half way up the hill we passed by the Jane Austin museum with people in period dress outside. Finally arriving at the top of the hill at the “Circus”.

Bath street

Bath street

Originally called the King's Circus, it was finished in 1768. The plaza consists of three large townhouse buildings, all forming a perfect circle at the meeting of Brock, Gay, and Bennett Streets. The name "Circus" comes from Latin and means a ring or circle.

King Circus (from the internet)

King Circus (from the internet)

It was a brief stop to admire the architecture and take a photo, then on to our next stop just a short walk away. We were now in the Royal Crescent. The buildings were originally only known as The Crescent, but "Royal" was added in the 18th century when Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany stayed here. This moon-shaped semicircular row of houses faces a sprawling lawn. The Crescent was built from 1767 to 1774 by John Wood, the Younger, who also completed The Circus. It is 500 feet long and contains 114 ionic columns and many other decorative and distinctive moldings. It is said to be the most stunning views of Georgian architecture that Bath has to offer.

Royal Crescent in Bath

Royal Crescent in Bath

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

Our route now took us back to the banks of the River Avon and the most leisurely part of the day. We had booked a river trip on one of the original vessels that plied these waters. Our thirty minute trip took us from Bath’s old industrial area up to Pulteney Bridge and back. We were the only cabin guests onboard so we received a personalised commentary from the guide.

Old Industrial Bath

Old Industrial Bath

View over Pulteney Bridge

View over Pulteney Bridge

Lunch followed the boat trip, then it was our last visit of the day, the Roman Baths (see below). The baths are housed in a victorian building and our visit was dictated by a one way system (to aid social distancing in the current climate). Numerous information boards explained the baths functionality as well as their history. A fascinating look back into times gone by.

Entrance to the Roman Baths but now the entrance to the Pump Room

Entrance to the Roman Baths but now the entrance to the Pump Room

Inside the Roman Baths

Inside the Roman Baths

Hot spring inside the Roman Baths

Hot spring inside the Roman Baths

It was now time for a change of country, as our next location was across the border in Wales. The journey was fairly short so we took the opportunity to visit Goodrich castles en route. The castle dates to the 12th century but was altered and modified during the subsequent 500 years. It was badly damaged in 1646 during an English Civil War battle and has remained a ruin ever since. There were very few other visitor when we were there, which made exploring all the more enjoyable.

Goodrich Castle

Goodrich Castle

Medieval Goodrich castle, a stop en route from Somerset to Wales

Medieval Goodrich castle, a stop en route from Somerset to Wales

one of the finest and best preserved of all English medieval castles: Goodrich Castle

one of the finest and best preserved of all English medieval castles: Goodrich Castle

Following the castle visit we continued into Wales and to our accommodation in the Wye Valley. Home for the next seven nights would be a rustic cottage just on the outskirts of Whitebrook village. The cottage sat on land owned by our friendly hosts, plus Rocket the dog, Brian the cat and Gypsy the pig. The Whitebrook River flowed by the edge of the property which in turn nestled in a wooded valley. With our own garden to enjoy the sunny weather, it was hard to motivate ourselves to explore the surrounding area.

Our Accommodation at Whitebrook

Our Accommodation at Whitebrook

6 month old Pet Pig

6 month old Pet Pig

However, we did manage to move ourselves on most days with walks in the local area. The Wye Valley is designated an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”, which our walks confirmed to be true. The walks normally comprised of river side paths and steep wooded hillsides with beautiful views from every vantage point; all the time being immersed in greenery and serenaded by bird song. There was also history to be learnt as each walk encountered reminders of industries long since gone but not forgotten.

River Wye (one side is England and the other Wales)

River Wye (one side is England and the other Wales)

Devil's Pulpit: Local myth states that the Devil created the Pulpit to preach to the Monks of Tintern, in the hopes that he could tempt them away from their religious ways

Devil's Pulpit: Local myth states that the Devil created the Pulpit to preach to the Monks of Tintern, in the hopes that he could tempt them away from their religious ways

View down to Tinten Abbey from the Devil's Pulpit

View down to Tinten Abbey from the Devil's Pulpit

Tintern Abbey and the Wye Valley

Tintern Abbey and the Wye Valley

View of the river Wye

View of the river Wye

Bridge between England & Wales over the river Wye

Bridge between England & Wales over the river Wye

Old industrial bridge across the river Wye

Old industrial bridge across the river Wye

Walk in the Wye Valley

Walk in the Wye Valley

Mill Stone

Mill Stone

The seven days flew by and we were now on our way to join friends and sample the delights of the Isle of White.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Cheddar Gorge
Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills, near the village of Cheddar, Somerset, England. The gorge is the site of the Cheddar show caves, where Britain's oldest complete human skeleton (“Cheddar Man”), estimated to be 9,000 years old was found in 1903. Above ground the area attracts both walkers and rock climbers.

Cheddar Gorge panoramic view

Cheddar Gorge panoramic view

Pulteney Bridge
Bath is a city of unique landmarks, and none are more recognisable than the Pulteney Bridge. Depending on who you trust, there are only one, two, or three other bridges in the world that are lined with shops. Whatever the exact number is, there certainly aren't many others like it.
The bridge opened in 1774 and was designed by Robert Adam. It was the brainchild of William Johnstone Pulteney, who named it after his wife, Frances. His vision was to create a new town nearby, but he needed a grand bridge to connect it to Bath. Adam's design was drafted in the Palladian style, harking back to the 16th-century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio.
The Pulteney Bridge is a World Heritage Site and an English Grade I Listed Building. You will find restaurants of various cuisines, independent shops, and Bath Rugby Club's official store along the bridge.

Pulteney Bridge from the boat

Pulteney Bridge from the boat

Sally Lunn’s Eating House
This is one of the oldest houses in Bath. As the story goes, Sally Lunn was a French immigrant who arrived in Bath in 1680 and established this bakery. The house was built around 1482, but the masonry oven and other elements on the ground floor date from around 1137.

Sally's Lunns House

Sally's Lunns House

The Roman Baths of Bath
The baths at Bath are fed by a natural spring system. Rain falls on the nearby Mendip Hills, and it flows down through limestone aquifers until it is more than 4,000m (13,100 feet) below ground level. Geothermal energy heats and pressurises the water, which rises to the surface and escapes through natural fissures. The 46 degree Celsius (115 degree Fahrenheit) water bubbles up at more than a million litres (250,000 gallons) per day.
This natural spring has attracted visitors to the area for more than 2,000 years. The Celts worshiped here, and the early Romans dedicated the springs to the goddess Sulis. As such, the Roman name of the town was Aquae Sulis. It is also believed that pre-Roman British king Bladud built the original baths here and that their healing powers cured him and his pigs of leprosy.
Between 60 and 70 AD, the Roman temple was built. The Baths, or thermae, were created over the next 300 years or so. After the Romans withdrew from Britain, their complex fell into disrepair and was gone by the 6th century.
Today the spring is housed inside an 18th-century building designed by John Wood, the Elder, and John Wood, the Younger. The buildings were further expanded during the Victorian era in a similar style. The main entrance is currently through the Grand Pump Room, where visitors drank the waters and many social functions were held.

Ground view of the Baths

Ground view of the Baths

Posted by MAd4travel 13:06 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

UK Summer in Lockdown

In and Around Hove

sunny 23 °C

JUNE/JULY/AUGUST 2020

As June progressed and the number of UK cases began to fall, the Coronavirus restrictions began to be eased. The first noticeable change happened mid-month with the opening of non essential shops. This was followed in early July by the re-opening of restaurants, pubs, hotels, guest houses, camp sites, hairdressers, etc, but all with strict social distancing and hygiene rules in force. Social distancing now had been reduced to one meter +. The question was: “what does the government mean by one meter + ?” This was never answered and the public were left to make up their own minds.

The other three nations (Scotland, Wales & Northern Island) took a more cautious approach allowing an extra few weeks to pass before they followed suit. Their governments also provided a much clearer set of rules regarding the loosening of restrictions. In fact, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, was handling the Covid-19 outbreak far better than her counterpart in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In fact, it seemed that what ever Nicola did Boris would follow. A good example of this was when Boris and his team said the wearing of face coverings in shops was voluntary. Then, when Scotland made it mandatory, Boris changed his mind and England did the same.

By mid July we finally got the notification we were expecting: our flight to Canada had been cancelled. This, of course, meant that our three month trip to Canada and USA was off. What followed was the exercise of cancelling all our North American accommodation and transportation bookings and seeking refunds for the money we had paid. This kept us busy for some while.

With no trip to North America to look forward to, we had to decide what to do instead. We debated whether to visit Europe. As with the UK Covid-19 seemed to be under control and flights were now available to many destinations. However, there were still isolated outbreaks and local lockdowns occurring, so we thought it would be better to remain in England for a few more months. Having made that decision we started planning a UK road trip to run from the end of August to the end of October.

In the meantime we kept ourselves busy by going for local walks as frequently as possible. This reminded us just how much natural beauty we have on our doorstep.
But it wasn’t all leisure, we still had our cooking, cleaning and chauffeuring duties to take care of, albeit a small price to pay for Rob’s generosity during this Covid-19 period.

Knepp Castle Estate

Knepp Castle Estate

Knepp Castle Estate

Knepp Castle Estate

Red Deer at Knepp Castle Estate

Red Deer at Knepp Castle Estate

Knepp Castle Grounds

Knepp Castle Grounds

Kneep Castle

Kneep Castle

Sussex Downs

Sussex Downs

Sussex Downs

Sussex Downs

Willow tree in Sheffield Park

Willow tree in Sheffield Park

Sheffield Park

Sheffield Park

Family of ducks at Sheffield Park

Family of ducks at Sheffield Park

Bridge over the river Arun near Greatham

Bridge over the river Arun near Greatham

River Arun

River Arun

Old telephone Box now a Telepoem box

Old telephone Box now a Telepoem box

Lockdown Poem in an old telephone box

Lockdown Poem in an old telephone box

Footpath going through corn field

Footpath going through corn field

Thatch cottage in Sussex

Thatch cottage in Sussex

One memorable walk was on a day out to Runnymede. The main purpose for going there was to meet friends for a picnic in a delightful place right on the bank of the River Thames. Runnymede is just on the outskirts of London and is a site steeped in history and most famous for the signing of the Magna Carta, see PO & IF below. Our walk was circular and took us from one historic point to another, with a suitable length and elevation to build up a good appetite for the picnic.

Runnymede river Thames

Runnymede river Thames

Picnic by the river Thames

Picnic by the river Thames

Reflections in the Magna Carta Pool

Reflections in the Magna Carta Pool

Monument to the Magna Carta

Monument to the Magna Carta

River Thames where we had our picnic

River Thames where we had our picnic

Runnymede Air Forces War Memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from air forces of the British Empire who were lost in air and other operations during World War II.

Runnymede Air Forces War Memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from air forces of the British Empire who were lost in air and other operations during World War II.

By August we were all in the swing of the “new normal”. With the wearing of face coverings mandatory for all indoor establishments, although that was something we were already doing voluntarily.
Anne was able to have her hair cut and we both visited the dentist for a check up. Both very straight forward activities under normal circumstances but somewhat different in the world of covid-19. At the dentist we were required to wear masks right up until the inspection began, our temperature was taken when we arrived and the seats in the waiting room were all two meters apart.
Pubs were now open, so it was great to be able to have a pub lunch after one of our more lengthy walks. It was a beautiful day so we could dine in the garden, thus avoiding the more restricted arrangement that were in force inside. All the garden tables were numbered and two meters apart. You socially distanced whilst queuing to give your food and drinks order, you then collected your drinks at the bar and the food was subsequently delivered to your table by a waiter wearing a face mask. A little different to normal but a great pleasure to be able to partake again in one of my favourite pastimes.

First pint at a pub since lockdown

First pint at a pub since lockdown

Outdoor dining at country pub

Outdoor dining at country pub

Our first pub lunch since lockdown

Our first pub lunch since lockdown

We were now ready to return to our travelling life style. Plans were in place to leave Hove for the first time in five months and on the 23rd August start a UK road trip. Our route will take us up the western side of England and into Scotland. Stops of 5 to 7 days will be made at places of interest until we reach the Scottish Highland, at this point we will start the North Coast 500. The NC500, as it is known, is said to be one of the most scenic drives in the world and traces a route that hugs the coast right at the very top of Scotland. This time we will make shorter breaks, enough to see the places of interest, before continuing on our way. Once the NC500 is complete we will continue down the eastern side of Scotland and England, but at this point our plans are more fluid and we will make decisions as we go along.
We are both very excited to be travelling again and will cautiously plan further travels as time goes by. All the time we will be keeping our fingers crossed that the situation with Covid-19 continues to improve and that our future travel options expand.

BBQ at Friends House, corn caught fire

BBQ at Friends House, corn caught fire

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Statistics

By the time August had arrived, Covid-19 seemed to be under control in Europe, although there were still a few isolated outbreaks which required more stringent local controls to be put in place.
However, this was not the case in other parts of the world. In particular, the USA, Brazil, India, Russia and other central and south American countries were still suffering.
As of the 17 August the statistics were as follows:

World: 22,043,560 cases & 777,073 deaths

USA: 5,612,027 cases & 173,716 deaths
Brazil: 3,363,235 cases & 108,654 deaths
India: 2,701,604 cases & 51,925 deaths
Russia: 927,745 cases & 15,740 deaths
South Africa: 589,886 cases & 11,982 deaths
Peru: 541.493 cases & 26,481 deaths
Mexico: 522,162 cases & 56,757 deaths
Colombia: 476,660 cases & 15,372 deaths
Chile: 387,502 cases & 10,513 deaths
Spain: 382,142 cases & 28,646 deaths

Magna Carta

In the 800 years since it was first sealed, this milestone of individual rights and freedoms has provided inspiration for many important constitutional documents. The 1791 United States Bill of Rights, the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many more owe a huge debt to one summer's day at Runnymede many years ago.

In 1215, England was in political turmoil. King John had become vastly unpopular, thanks to bitter disagreements with the church and a series of high taxes to fund ongoing war with France. An alliance of disgruntled barons and important members of the clergy had been mounting pressure on the king for years. At the start of 1215 the barons seized control of London - giving him no choice but to negotiate.

Events came to a head in June, when King John finally met with the barons to hear their demands. By 15 June he had agreed to seal the proposed 'Great Charter of Liberty (Magna Carta)’ during a ceremony at Runnymede near Windsor England, thus enshrining their rights in law.
 
The Magna Carta was special because it held the king accountable to the rule of law, just like his subjects. In total it was made up of 63 clauses, covering law, liberty and the church.The most famous and important of these clauses enshrined to the rights of "free men" to justice and a fair trial. Although at the time "free men" only referred to a small number of noblemen, this passage has taken on symbolic significance over the years. Today it is one of three original clauses that still survive in British law.
 
At the time Magna Carta had very little legal impact. At King John's request it was repealed almost immediately by the Pope, who emphatically declared the document "null and void of all validity forever".
It was only later that the 'Great Charter' began to have real consequences. King John's successor King Henry III released three revised versions of Magna Carta during his reign, and over the years it began to take on symbolic status.
 
The Magna Carta, original document

The Magna Carta, original document

Magna Carta Translation

Magna Carta Translation

Posted by MAd4travel 06:40 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Travels on Hold in Hove, UK

Route: Brighton & Hove area

sunny 20 °C

MAY 2020

Now into early May and the Coronavirus lockdown continues. Boris (Boris Johnson the British Prime Minister) says we are past the worst and restrictions could be eased soon, we wait with bated breath. Our trip to Northumberland had been cancelled, so we are focusing on South Africa in June to kickstart our travels, even though this seems more doubtful as each day passes.

Our routine remained pretty much the same as it had been for the previous four weeks. Generally staying at home and only going out to exercise and shop. Although frustrated by the situation we were all grateful to be virus free and able to spend the lockdown in comfortable surroundings.

On Sunday 10 May the much anticipated announcement on lockdown easing was delivered by our Prime Minister Boris Johnson. And what a disappointment, as it was not much more than an almost incoherent pile of drivel from which no one was any the clearer as to what was changing. That was followed, the next day, by a 50 page document aimed to provide some clarity but which failed miserably. Rather than providing a clear road map it just made things even more confusing with endless contradictions imbedded in a new set of rules. For us, all that appeared to have changed was that we could go out more often and can exercise further from home, provided we returned the same day.

The Grand Hotel, where the UK Prime Minister have stayed and famous for the Brighton Bombing in 1984

The Grand Hotel, where the UK Prime Minister have stayed and famous for the Brighton Bombing in 1984

Lockdown easing, Brighton & Hove beach very popular

Lockdown easing, Brighton & Hove beach very popular

The Band Stand on Brighton Seafront

The Band Stand on Brighton Seafront

Brighton Pier, closed due to Covid-19

Brighton Pier, closed due to Covid-19

Duke of York Cinema Theatre where we go see movies when we are not world nomads

Duke of York Cinema Theatre where we go see movies when we are not world nomads

Regency Architecture in Hove Actually, where we take our exercise during the lockdown

Regency Architecture in Hove Actually, where we take our exercise during the lockdown

Preparing to shop

Preparing to shop

The media was full of jokes about the announcement and document but also scathing of the UK government as to how they were handling the situation. The conclusion drawn was that this government had proven themselves to be incompetent and their policies a shambles, overall not fit to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. If they had only be honest about their failings I am sure the public would have been more sympathetic and applaud the things they had achieved.
Frontline workers continued to do a fantastic job, even without the full support the government had promised, and the infection rate had begun to fall. The only consolation is that it could have been worse, we could have Donald Trump in charge. We do feel for our friends, and everyone else in the USA.

At the end of May there was a new announcement from Boris, “restriction are to be relaxed”. With the number of new Covid-19 cases and deaths continuing to fall the government decided the time was right to loosen the restrictions. This meant that form the 1st June the following would now apply:

Schools for certain age groups could re-open, but it wasn’t compulsory for parents to send their children back if they didn’t believe it to be safe;
Two households could now socialise but numbers were still restricted. A total of 6 people could meet at any one time. However, that meeting should only take place in a private garden or public open space;
Open markets and car showrooms could open from the1st June followed by all other retailers on the 15th June;
The process of moving home could resume on 1st June;
Time spent outside was now unlimited;
People were actively encouraged to go back to work if they couldn’t work from home. Those returning to work were asked to walk, cycle or drive to get there and if that wasn’t possible only then take public transport. For those taking public transport face masks must be worn;
The government issued strict guidelines to businesses as to how they could create a safe workplace and if they weren’t implemented resuming operations would be forbidden; and
Restrictions would remain in place for hairdressers, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, hotels and places of worship until at least the 4th July.

However, in respect of all of the above social distancing of 2 meters still remained. It is also worth noting that these measures only applied to England, the rest of the UK followed a similar route tailored to account for their own unique situations (the first minister in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland made those decisions).
This news was broadly welcomed by the general public, but with a degree of trepidation. The general view in the scientific community was that it was a bit too soon, they would have liked the number of cases to be lower before loosening the restrictions. However they did appreciate that the effect on the economy also needed to be considered when coming to these conclusions.
It was also at this time that a track and trace system was introduced as a further measure to combat the spread of the virus. This meant that from now on people that contracted the Coronavirus should provide details of anyone they had been in contact with (Contact means closer than 2 meters and for a combined period of more than 15 minutes). A team of tracers would then contact those people and ask them to self isolate and provide assistance in achieving this.

For us, not a great deal changed. Rob continued to work from home, our walks were a bit further afield and we had a few small group get togethers with friends (abiding by the 2 meter rule all the time).

One of Anne's creations, Coffee and Walnut Cake

One of Anne's creations, Coffee and Walnut Cake

Another one of Anne's creation, spicy ginger iced biscuits

Another one of Anne's creation, spicy ginger iced biscuits

One of the Jack and Jill windmills, another walk close by from where we are staying

One of the Jack and Jill windmills, another walk close by from where we are staying

Jack and Jill windmills, don't know which one is Jack and which one is jill, but this one is now a private house

Jack and Jill windmills, don't know which one is Jack and which one is jill, but this one is now a private house

Thistles in bloom on the Downs

Thistles in bloom on the Downs

Sheep sheltering from the sun on The South Downs National Park

Sheep sheltering from the sun on The South Downs National Park

Different location for our walk, along the River Adur

Different location for our walk, along the River Adur

By now our June/July visit to South Africa had been cancelled and we were focusing our thoughts on the trip to Canada and USA in August. We were also hoping that the new international travel restrictions issued by the UK government, effective from 8 June, would be lifted by then (currently anyone entering the UK from abroad would be required to go into quarantine for 14days). This enforced quarantine was unique to the UK and its implementation was considered far too late to have any meaningful benefit. Its announcement was also delivered in the usual confused manner. First the Prime Minister said that it would only apply to air travel, then later realised his mistake and added land and sea. Travel from Ireland and France were initially excluded but later revised to Ireland only.

The other big story around this time involved the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings. Against the general rules of the government lockdown he travelled from London to the North of England with a potentially Covid-19 infected family. This serious breach created calls from the public, the opposition parties and even some members of the ruling party for him to resign or for the PM to sack him. Neither happened, much to the dismay of the majority of British people. Especially as other members of parliament that had broken these rules had either resigned or had been sacked immediately.

We remain optimistic that our travels be able to resume soon, even if the format is more restricted. Our plan is to do in 2021 what we weren’t able to do in 2020. But for the moment we are keeping our fingers crossed that we will be able to go to Canada in August and restart our travelling lifestyle from then. We usually like to plan in advance but with current uncertainty this has not been possible.

Views across the South Downs NP, in the background is Brighton & Hove

Views across the South Downs NP, in the background is Brighton & Hove

Downs Views

Downs Views

More Downland views

More Downland views

Wind directional tree on the Downs

Wind directional tree on the Downs

Top on the Downs on one of our walks

Top on the Downs on one of our walks

Walking on the Downs

Walking on the Downs

Another walk on the Downs

Another walk on the Downs

Brighton to London Railway Viaduct

Brighton to London Railway Viaduct

Underneath the London to Brighton Railway Viaduct

Underneath the London to Brighton Railway Viaduct

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Statistics -May

At the start of May the world had registered 3.5 million cases and 245,000 deaths. At the end of the month this had risen to 6.2 million cases and 372,000 deaths.
Worst hit were the USA (1.8m cases & 106,000 deaths), Brazil (500,000 cases & 29,000* deaths) and Russia (406,000 cases & 5,000* deaths). Worst affected in Europe were Spain (286,00 cases & 27,000 deaths), UK (272,000 cases & 38,000 deaths), Italy (233,000 cases & 33,000 deaths) and France (189,000 cases & 29,000 deaths).
By the end of May it was South America that was being hit the hardest with cases increasing fast especially in Brazil, Chile and Peru. In contrasts, the Caribbean islands had been relatively lightly effected due to strict lockdown rules being enforced before the outbreak could take hold. There also seemed to be a correlation between the quality of leadership and the number of cases, Donald Trump in the USA, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Boris Johnson in the UK.
The picture in the UK at the end of May did appear to be improving. The weekly number of cases and deaths had been falling constantly throughout the month. However, now the concern was for the elderly in care homes where the majority of the cases and deaths were occurring.
The world was also making progress in the fight against Covid-19. Vaccines were being tested in a number of countries around the world and detailed studies were providing us with a better understanding of how the virus works. One interesting fact revealed from a study undertaken in China was that only 0.3% of cases are transmitted whilst being out in the open air. This supported the easing of UK restrictions in private gardens and public open spaces.

  • It is believed that not all deaths are being recorded.

Posted by MAd4travel 03:15 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Lockdown in Brighton and Hove, UK

London Heathrow - Brighton & Hove

semi-overcast 17 °C

MARCH-APRIL 2020

We weren’t sure whether this period of time should constitute a travel blog as we were unlikely to do much travelling. But as this document also serves as our diary and we were in the midst of a historic world event/horror, we decided it was important to record it.

Over the years we have flown into Heathrow Airport on many occasions, but this time was very different. Usually one of the busiest airports in the world, this Thursday afternoon was spookily quiet. The only ground movement appeared to be our plane with all the rest of the aircraft parked with nothing going on.

Our airplane, the only activity at T5

Our airplane, the only activity at T5

It was a similar scene in Terminal 5 where a skeleton staff directed us along almost empty corridors to immigration. Usually passing through immigration can take a while, even with the e-gates in use, but today there were no queues and you had a choice of gates to pass through.

On our way to immigration at T5

On our way to immigration at T5

Empty escalator in T5

Empty escalator in T5

All this meant we arrived at baggage claim early so had to wait a bit longer for our bags. Arrivals were no different, very few people and only a handful of shops open. It was the same outside, almost no one milling around, hardly any taxis and our car rental shuttle bus was waiting for us.
This theme continued at the rental car offices where we were the only customers and the whole process was very quick. Away from the airport the slow moving traffic jam known as the M25 was a dream to travel on, almost unheard of for this time of day.

M25 with no traffic, unheard off

M25 with no traffic, unheard off

We had entered the UK on a repatriation flight and had arrived back into a country very different to the one we had left at the start of February. The Coronavirus had taken hold and the country had gone into a state of lockdown. This meant that with effect from 23 March 2020 there was a government directive in force that stated the following:

1.People should stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection;
2.People should stay at home except for very limited purposes: travelling to and from work (if you can’t work from home), essential food shopping, one form of exercise per day and for medical needs;
3.All non-essential shops and community spaces would be closed;
4.Gathering of more than two people in public would be forbidden;
In addition to these measures, people must stay two meters a part when in public spaces, except for members of the same household.

We first encountered these measure when arriving at the supermarket on our way back from the airport. Customers were required to stand at least two meters apart whilst queuing to enter the shop, with a maximum of 60 people in the shop at anyone time. We would see this procedure being enforced over the coming weeks at all of the establishments that remained open.

Social distancing

Social distancing

Of course we were not like most people, we had returned to the UK as instructed but had no home to go to. Our house had tenants in it so wasn’t available for our use. Fortunately our very good friend Rob offered us a place to stay until some sort of normality returned, which in our case was to continue travelling, something we had been doing continuously for the past four and a bit years.

Our first day back in the UK was the start of a period, length unknown, of following the government rules and hoping these would be effective in the fight to eradicate the Coronavirus.
A routine soon developed for the three of us. Rob was working from home. Anne adopted the role of chef and I did what ever I (Malc) could to help out.

Lemon Drizzle Cake for Malcolm

Lemon Drizzle Cake for Malcolm

100 Ginger biscuits for Anne

100 Ginger biscuits for Anne

Coffee and Walnut Cake for Rob

Coffee and Walnut Cake for Rob

One of the lockdown dinners

One of the lockdown dinners

Anne and I also took on the role of doing the food shopping, planning in advance to limit this to once a week. We tried to go for a walk each day, keeping at least two meters away from any other person we encountered and stayed locally as per the guidelines.

Sunset at low tide

Sunset at low tide

The West Pier and Brighton Pier at sunrise

The West Pier and Brighton Pier at sunrise

Sunset from Hove Beach

Sunset from Hove Beach

Sunrise over Hove Beach

Sunrise over Hove Beach

Sunset

Sunset

West Pier

West Pier

Street Art in the street where we are in lockdown

Street Art in the street where we are in lockdown

Trees blossoming in the streets of Hove

Trees blossoming in the streets of Hove

Confined predominantly to the apartment our entertainment was provided by each other together with the TV. Dining together was of great enjoyment especially the devouring of Anne’s delicious creations, often washed down with a nice wine or a spirit or three. There was plenty to watch on TV if not the usual offerings. No sport as that had all been postponed (a major disappointment for me), no live shows because of social distancing but a lot creative alternatives, pre-recorded programmes and a chance to catch up on those things you missed the first time round.
Novel ideas were used to keep in touch with friends and family. The usual phone calls, texts, emails, etc. were complemented with such things as a virtual party. Our good friend Hayley was hoping to celebrate her 50th birthday with a meal and party, unfortunately this had to be called off due to the lockdown. Instead we had a virtual party where all the guests remained in their homes and were linked by video using phones, tablets, laptops, etc.

Every Thursday at 20h00 the nation stops what ever it’s doing and clap in support for the front line workers. This is done from front gardens or by hanging out of windows (which we do). It is a way to show our gratitude to those in the National Health Service who were caring for the sick and the other essential workers who are keeping the country ticking over. In every case, these people are putting their lives at risk to keep us safe.

By the middle of April the original three week government “lockdown” period had come to an end. However, this was quickly extended for a further three weeks, as although there were a few signs of improvement the situation was still serious enough to require these tight controls to continue. The new directive did come with more clarification as to what people could and couldn’t do. But it didn’t deflect the criticism the government had been coming under due to the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front line workers and the low number of tests that were being carried out.

South Downs with Brighton & Hove in the background

South Downs with Brighton & Hove in the background

Devil's Dyke

Devil's Dyke

South Downs National Park, 10mn drive away

South Downs National Park, 10mn drive away

Stanmer Woods bluebell display

Stanmer Woods bluebell display

Stanmer woods

Stanmer woods

Bluebells

Bluebells

Stanmer Woods

Stanmer Woods

Bluebells

Bluebells

Having now been back in the UK for over a month it is clear that our travels are not going to start again for some time yet. There are signs of improvement in the situation across mainland Europe and the UK has stopped getting worse, but the situation in the USA is still very bad.
As to when we might resume our travels, it’s still unclear. We have cancelled everything up to our South African trip in June, but that now looks very much in doubt. There is a trip to France in late July but realistically we are hoping to resume travels in August when we are due to visit Canada.

We will continue blogging but don’t expect any exotic locations any time soon.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

COVID-19 and other Pandemics
A pandemic is an epidemic of disease that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of people. A widespread endemic disease with a stable number of infected people is not a pandemic. Widespread endemic diseases with a stable number of infected people such as recurrences of seasonal influenza are generally excluded as they occur simultaneously in large regions of the globe rather than being spread worldwide.
Throughout history, there have been a number of pandemics of diseases such as smallpox and tuberculosis. One of the most devastating pandemics was the Black Death (also known as The Plague), which killed an estimated 75–200 million people in the 14th century. Another notable pandemics was the Influenza Pandemic (also known as Spanish flu) between 1918-20, which infected 500 million people and killed an estimated 20-100 million.
Current pandemics include HIV/AIDS and the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and now a new strain (SARS-CoV-2) or Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) - declared a pandemic by the WHO on 11 March 2020.

Source to the Coronavirus & Future Implications
What we do know to date is that the epicentre of the disease was in the Chinese city of Wuhan, an important hub in the lucrative trade in wildlife – both legal and illegal. The outbreak is believed to have originated in a market in which a variety of animal-derived products and meats are widely available, including peacocks, porcupines, bats and rats. It’s also a market where regulatory and welfare standards are rudimentary at best.
Some of this trade is legal under Chinese domestic law but the existence of a parallel illegal trade – often within the very same market or stall – allows some traders to launder illicit wildlife products into the system. This situation is very difficult to regulate and control.
We are also reasonably certain that the spill-over event involved the crossover of the virus from animals to humans, similar to the situation with previous contagions like the Ebola and SARs viruses. In each of these cases, the existence of large, unsanitary and poorly-regulated wildlife markets provided an ideal environment for diseases to cross over between species. In a country like China, where wildlife consumption is so deeply embedded in culture, such contamination can, and did, spread rapidly.
The Chinese government has long advocated a “sustainable utilisation” approach to the country’s wildlife. It nonetheless responded to the current crisis by enacting a temporary ban on such markets, effectively closing down a significant sector of its domestic wildlife trade.
In the longer term, the pandemic may provide the impetus to properly address the issue. This is because, while the illegal wildlife trade was once criticised almost purely in terms of conservation, it is now also being considered in relation to broader themes of biosecurity, public health and economic impact.
It is only in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak that the full scale of China’s industry is emerging, with the temporary ban covering some 20,000 captive breeding enterprises and 54 different species allowed to be traded domestically. A report by the Chinese Academy of Engineering estimates the wildlife farming industry is worth around US$57 billion annually. These breeding centres are allowed to operate under loopholes in Chinese domestic law, arguably against the spirit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The parallel illegal trade is less easy to quantify, but globally it is valued by the UN at around US$23 billion. Given the resulting pandemic could cost as much as US$2.7 trillion, even on purely economic grounds there is a strong case for increased regulation.
There are compelling arguments for dismantling the trade anyway: animals are kept in abject conditions, and the trade hastens their demise in the wild. But in China the temporary ban remains just that – temporary. Critics argue that we have been there before with SARS and once the dust settled on that particular outbreak, China resumed business as usual.
What would seriously tackling the wildlife trade actually mean in practice? First, breeding centres for endangered species like tigers or pangolins would be permanently closed. This would make it much harder for their products to be laundered through legal channels and sold as more valuable “wild-caught”. Enforcement agencies currently need to monitor these centres closely to check against laundering, and shutting them down would free up resources to disrupt the supply of illegal products entering China from outside.
Such a move would also help reduce demand. Public education campaigns tell people about how the wildlife trade (both legal and illegal) harms endangered species, but the message is mixed: the presence of a parallel legal market still provides such products with legitimacy and sends a message that it is OK to purchase them, thereby increasing rather than decreasing demand.
In any case, the new Chinese ban excludes products such as tiger bones that are used in traditional medicines. Some conservationists and activists are concerned that this exemption will lead to legalised trade under the assumption that better regulation will protect against future outbreaks. This argument is extremely difficult to validate, and most conservationists continue to favour blanket trade bans.
Another worry is that, given humans have short memories, once the danger has passed, public concern will turn to the next big problem. COVID-19 clearly represents an unparalleled opportunity to combat the wildlife trade and ensure that animal-borne diseases do not mutate and cross over to humans. But only time will tell whether this opportunity will be taken or put off once again until the emergence of the next – perhaps even more virulent – pandemic poses an even graver global threat.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Statistics
Below is a comparison of the Coronavirus impact between the time we left Mexico to return to the UK, (25 March), and the situation one month later, 25 April:

There are now 2,919,404 (551,246 @25 March) cases of coronavirus confirmed around the world since the outbreak began, and 203,164 (24,915 @ 25 March) people have died.
The USA has the highest number of cases, 960,651, and the greatest number of deaths, 54,256.
The other worst affected countries are as follows: Spain 223,759 cases & 22,902 deaths; Italy 195,351 cases & 26,384 deaths; France 161,488 cases & 22,614 deaths; Germany 156,513 cases & 5,877 deaths; UK 148,377 (11,658) cases & 20,319 (578) deaths; Turkey 107,773 cases & 2,706 deaths; Iran 89,328 cases & 5,650 deaths; China 82,816 cases & 4,632 deaths; Russia 74,588 cases & 681 deaths.

However, these figures should only be used as an indicator as each country has a slightly different way of recording their data. It should also be noted that the severity of the numbers are affected by the proportion of at risk members of the community (the old, the BEMA community, etc) in each country.

Social Distancing
Part of the fight against the Coronavirus was to adopt social distancing. Social distancing in this instance required people to stay at least two meters apart, except for the members of the same household.
From what we witnessed, this worked reasonably well when instructions were on hand to advise everybody such as at supermarkets. However, when the general public were left to monitor themselves it didn’t seem quite so good. To be fair most people understood what two meters meant and would take a wide berth when passing in the street or queuing outside one the few shops that were open. But as usual a few spoilt it for the majority, either not knowing how much two meters is or just refusing to abide by the rules. This resulted in the government threatening tougher restrictions which seemed to have the desired effect.

Furlough
It was estimated that millions of workers would be "furloughed" (put on leave) because of the government lockdown. In response to this the UK government introduced a pay scheme to keep employees on payrolls despite not working. Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, for the period from the start of March to the end of June, the government covered 80% of workers' wages, up to £2,500 a month, if they were furloughed.
Jim Harra, head of the UK's tax authority, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that the system had dealt with 67,000 claims in its first 30 minutes of operation and can accommodate “up to 450,000 claims per hour”.

Posted by MAd4travel 07:47 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Suffolk, UK

Route: Hove – Kersey - Hove

semi-overcast 17 °C

MAY 2019


Between returning from Scotland and heading off to South Africa we managed to see a bit more of England. Although there were medical appointments to attend and travel admin to take care of, we did have time for a brief visit to East Anglia.
Our destination was a tiny Suffolk village of Kersey and our accommodation was a barn conversion just outside the centre. The property was in a very rural setting, but not as peaceful as you might think, because the owners kept ducks and hens. But a nice place to stay none the less.

Georgy the pet rooster

Georgy the pet rooster

Kersey is situated in east Suffolk, not far from Ipswich. This gave us easy access to both the coast and the rural interior. Suffolk is very flat, making it ideal for crop growing and livestock farming. So most of our walks away from the coast was on cultivated land and through pretty, and often historic, villages.

Walking in Kersey area

Walking in Kersey area

Kersey

Kersey

Kersey high street

Kersey high street

Suffolk pasture

Suffolk pasture


The village where we stayed at Kersey

The village where we stayed at Kersey

Tudor house in historic wool town

Tudor house in historic wool town

Wool Town house

Wool Town house

Leaning house

Leaning house

The area also seemed to be drained by a lot of little rivers. Many of our hikes included a stretch along a part of these, which offered us a complete change of scenery.

Swan and Cignet

Swan and Cignet

These slow moving rivers all seemed to empty out into the North Sea, at a mud bank lined wide estuary. Our coastal walks were at such places and made another environment for us to explore. We did want to do a boat trip in these coastal waters, but our selected vessel never arrived when expected, so that never happened.

Orford Town in the background

Orford Town in the background

Coastal scenery

Coastal scenery

Coastal harbour

Coastal harbour

Our week seemed to race by and soon it was over and time for adventures further afield.

Posted by MAd4travel 07:06 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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