The Last Afternoon

Exploring England #45

The last day of a holiday often seems a little flat. All the planning, the sense of anticipation and the days of nothing but enjoyment are over and the only thing left before arriving home is a very long flight.

Not for us! Our last day was as exciting as the first day. After spending a thrilling morning with Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour we had one last lovely afternoon. My friend Elaine, author of I Used to be Indecisive, took us for a walk around the park which so often features in her beautiful photos.

Cassiobury Park is a peaceful green space encompassing 77 hectares of woods and public amenities. We entered through Langley Way, one of many entrances with enticing glimpses of the woodlands beyond. In early October, the first touches of Autumn were already beginning to transform the trees.

We wandered along the wide path beside the Grand Junction canal, a branch of the larger Grand Union canal, stopping to admire Iron Bridge lock and the narrow boats moored by the bank.

There was no sign of inhabitants on the boats or at the lock keeper’s cottage, and the only wildlife we saw were curious moorhens who came up close, perhaps hoping for a few crumbs of bread.

A notice jokingly warned of the presence of other wildlife, more familiar to us than to Elaine!

Outside the cottage I spied some pretty hanging baskets, and I was inspired yet again to create some of my own at home.

As we turned back we spotted another path leading up into Whippendell Wood, where Elaine often sees drifts of bluebells in spring.

It was tempting to discover what was round the bend, but there was no time to explore further – we had a plane to catch. Like all good things, our explorations in England had come to an end.

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Beyond the Window

Exploring England #44

While we were in England, we spent a lot of time inside. We visited many beautiful buildings, some with elaborate interiors and others with fascinating histories. Often, glimpses through a window reminded us to look outside as well.

Abandoned lifeguard station, Polpeor Cove, Lizard Point

Bramall Hall, Stockport

Beatrix Potter’s home Hill Top, Sawrey

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Windows

A Loo With a View – The English Edition

Exploring England #43

Most English loos don’t have a view. They’re discreetly tucked away.

We found some loos with lovely views where you could sit all day!

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A medieval garderobe which felt a little airy

Brougham Castle, Penrith

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A neat Victorian bathroom – it was revolutionary

Bramall Hall, Stockport

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A tidy woodland toilet with a devilish reputation

Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale

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A functional facility at the edge of the nation

Lizard Point, Cornwall

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For him a motor bike museum, for her a café and craft shop

Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum, New Milton

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It’s quite a climb right up the stairs to reach this comfort stop

Charmouth, Dorset

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Finally, in Liverpool, behind the toilet door,

No view! Just John’s message…

We’ve all heard it before.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool

 

London Walking

Exploring England #42

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I do love London! On our second last day, we made the most of the fine weather with a walk in the city, where we found monuments, memorials and M&Ms!

After leaving the Jewel Tower, our destination was the Prince of Wales Theatre for a performance of  The Book Of Mormon. With a few hours to spare and not far to go, we had plenty of time for sightseeing on the way.

From Abingdon St, we turned into Great George St where we paused while the bells of Big Ben rang out on the hour.

At Westminster Bridge, we admired the mighty Boudicca on her chariot, charging into battle against Roman invaders.

Modern battles are also remembered along Victoria Embankment. The Royal Air Force Memorial is dedicated to Air Force members who were casualties of World War 1.

Further along, the dramatic Battle of Britain London Monument commemorates British airmen who took part in the Battle of Britain in World War 2. The monument also acknowledges those from 14 other countries who joined the Allied Forces.

Just before the Golden Jubilee Bridge, we turned onto Northumberland Avenue which leads to  Trafalgar Square and Admiralty Arch, commissioned by King Edward VII in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria.

Trafalgar Square is dominated by Nelson’s Column, dedicated to the memory of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was killed during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Four Barbary Lions surround the column while a statue of King George IV dressed in Roman regalia overlooks the square.

Leaving Trafalgar Square we walked around the National Gallery into Charing Cross Road. The small restaurants lining Irving Street reminded us it was time for lunch. After a break for pizza at Il Padrino, we walked into Leicester Square, the entertainment hub of London.

A kaleidoscope of colour greeted us at M&M’s World, where we stocked up on sweet treats for later.

Even after stopping at all these places we were still early for the theatre, so we continued on to Picadilly Circus and the Cool Britannia store where we bought some last minute souvenirs.

Finally it was show time, so we joined the crowd waiting to enter the Prince of Wales Theatre on Coventry Street.

That’s another thing I love about London – so many theatres, so many shows.

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Waiting in London

Exploring England #41

Waiting to board the special shuttle bus from Watford Junction to Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden…

Waiting for the traffic to move across Westminster Bridge before continuing on our walk…

Waiting in anticipation for the theatre to open…

All these were worth the wait!

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Waiting

Out the Window

Exploring England #40

Even with careful research and diligent attention to the details on booking websites, there’s no guarantee that what you see is what you will get when it comes to accommodation. On our journey around England, we stayed in eight different places and fortunately all were exactly what we expected. What we usually didn’t expect was the wonderful view we had out the windows of our vacation homes.

Our first night in England was spent in a small family-run guest house in Cranford, a few kilometres from Heathrow. The building was surrounded by a pretty cottage garden, filled with late summer flowers and apple trees laden with ripening fruit.

The only hotel we stayed in was in Portsmouth. As its name implies, the Royal Beach Hotel is located on the seafront. From the top of the shingle beach we could see across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.

Our Airbnb studio near Bridport was the top floor of a converted barn, on farmland owned by the same family for more than a century. The walk up Colmer’s Hill was tempting, but we couldn’t fit it in this time.

We knew from the photos on the website this Airbnb apartment in Falmouth had wonderful views. That was partly why we chose it and we weren’t disappointed. Looking out over the waters of Carrick Roads to the village of Flushing, we were intrigued by the constantly changing colours before us. We weren’t the only ones enjoying the view one morning!

We knew our Airbnb apartment in Manchester would have neither rural nor ocean views, but we weren’t expecting to see a worksite. From our living room we looked into the backyards of the Victorian terraces in the next street. We were fascinated by the renovations over the fence and wondered what the final outcome would be.

Every morning we watched the antics of this hungry little fellow, who helped himself to breakfast from a bird feeder in a tree.

Our next Airbnb home was in Holme Mills, just outside the Lake District. Once again we had beautiful rural views, this time accompanied by the rich rural aroma only cows can provide. The millpond lay behind our cottage and, at the top of the hill, was Lancaster Canal.

On the outskirts of York, our Airbnb cottage was a one in a modern complex located in the grounds of a plant nursery, so it wasn’t a surprise to find a beautifully landscaped formal garden on our doorstep.

While we admired the carefully tended garden beds, it was the local birds who kept us entertained every morning.

In London, we were back in familiar territory. From our studio in Cartwright Gardens, we could see the top of BT Tower above the neighbouring apartment block and, if we looked down, the tiny patch of lawn behind our building.

It would have been tempting to stay home all day in every place we stayed, but after travelling more than 15,000 km to get there we had more to do than look out the window!

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Hello Harry

Exploring England #39

It’s been 20 years since we first met the boy wizard Harry Potter and his magical friends in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. Six more novels completed the series and eight films brought Harry’s adventures to the big screen.

At Warner Bros. Studios at Leavesden, just outside London, Harry Potter fans can relive all their favourite cinematic moments. The studio where all the films were made has been preserved at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter. This fabulous walking tour takes visitors, at their own pace, through the original sets filled with costumes, props and displays showcasing the films’ amazing special effects.

The tour begins at the grand entrance to the Great Hall, where the sense of anticipation is infectious.

Inside, two long refectory tables are set for dinner and, at the front of the room, the teachers’ table, Professor Dumbledore’s lectern and the mind-reading Sorting Hat are ready for another school year.

Elaborately detailed sets come to life in the two purpose-built sound stages, including Dumbledore’s mysterious office, the Weasley family home and the tiny cupboard under the stairs where Harry’s story begins.

Gryffindor colours feature prominently in their common room and dormitory and bubbling concoctions are brewing in the potions classroom.

On Platform 9¾ the Hogwarts Express, steam billowing from its funnel, is waiting to transport students to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Diagon Alley is lined on both sides by all the familiar shops, their windows full of enchanted wands, wise owls and flying broomsticks. It’s tempting to write a shopping list!

Outside in the backlot, the magical Knight Bus is parked near Number Four Privet Drive, home of the dreadful Dursleys.

The final section of the tour displays the production team’s own technical wizardry. White card models and detailed drawings of sets and locations are evidence of the hundreds of hours of work which went into each film before production began.

The best is left to last – a magnificent scale model of Hogwarts Castle, complete with miniature gardens, turrets and towers.

Of course, the tour ends in the souvenir shop where all that wizarding regalia for sale in Diagon Alley can be purchased. Is anyone in need of a magic wand?

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