Monday, July 10, 2017

Canal locks and some reflections

We are safely home in North East now and as usual I offer some reflections on our trip. But first, here are a few photos of a canal boat going through a lock which we visited on our way to Birmingham Airport to pick up our exchange couple.

This is the Tarbigge set of locks which are the longest in England with 30 separate locks that stretch over two miles.

The locks have to be operated manually so it helps to have three people, one to drive the boat and two poor sods who have to wind the crank handles and then push on the huge beams to open or shut them. Incidentally, you don't push the beams with your hands and arms. You put your backside against the beam and go backwards pushing with your legs.

We've done canal boating twice quite a few years ago with our friends from Whitby and enjoyed the experience. I particularly enjoyed steering the boat which truly is a barge. You have to start pushing on the tiller well before you want the boat to change direction, but eventually you get used to it. The advantage of steering is that you get to be the one who relaxes in the lock.

We spoke to the driver and told him how we had done this before. When I asked who had the nasty job of reaching into the water to clear weeds from the propeller each morning, he offered to give us a short ride through the next set of lock gates. We had to decline because we needed to head off to the airport. If you are interested in doing canal boating, take a look at this site.

One of the reasons why we like to do house exchanges is that each exchange gives you a chance to find out for yourself if you would actually like to live in that particular location. In this case, we really loved this area of England and Upton was a lovely town. There were some other towns and villages in the area that were attractive as well, but as Marianne said, Upton was a town where you could live without having to own a car.

Speaking of driving, this area is not as busy as the areas closer to London. I quite enjoyed driving around the little country roads. It helps to have a narrow car because of the very narrow roads and you always have to be on the lookout for on-coming traffic. Except for our trips to Stokesay Castle and Wales, all of our other destinations by car were less than 20 miles in a straight line from Upton. By the way, a GPS really helps but take along a map as well.

We were blessed with mostly fine weather but not too many hot days. June is a good month to visit England because the flowers are in bloom and the events of summer such as the Jazz Festival are being held. And of course, it is no hardship to go into a nice old pub to have a pint of ale or a cider.

The supermarkets were good, even the Aldi which I thought was better than the Aldi in our county. A few times I made fried eggs and bacon for breakfast and the English eggs were much tastier than the US eggs. Of course, the English bacon was much superior to the fatty US strip bacon. We did not go out to eat much, but except for the dismal fish and chips in London, the pub meals were very good and relatively inexpensive. I think that in general, ingredients in the US (except the west coast) are not as good as ingredients in Europe or Australia. 

You might remember that the Immigration Officer at Heathrow Airport gave us a hard time and asked what we planned to do that would take almost six weeks. I wish I could show him the 38 blog entries for this trip to England ( and Wales ). If you ever get the time and have the money and health, make sure you go to this wonderful country.

Finally, a couple of photos of the cats who were our bosses while we were staying in the house. Dixie who is about 20. He is very active for his age.

Daisy who is about 12. She was timid to begin with but eventually decided we would be acceptable slaves. We may be Airedale lovers, but they were good cats as far as cats go.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


Even if you have not seen the TV series called The Prisoner, there is a good chance you have seen Portmeirion in photos or in other TV series or films. If you don't know about this place, make sure you read the Wiki article to understand what you are about to see.

If you have the time, watch some of the first episode of the Prisoner.

The entrance. We paid about 10 pounds each.

Even the toilet building looks like it belongs.

If you watch the video, the 6 makes sense.

We had a cup of coffee at the cafe and then wandered into this fantastic village.

An old fashioned Post box.

This is just the pathway to the village.

The estuary in the distance.

Bottle brush from Australia. This little nook of the Welsh seaside is protected from the elements so exotic plants can grow here.

And now you start to see the unusual colours of the buildings.

And I will stop commentating for a while. Just gaze in rapt admiration.

Disneyland has nothing on this place. The inspiration is Portofino.

Notice the little statue to the left, half way up.

Down by the estuary. 

This is low tide and there are warnings about going out on the sand just before the tide comes in.

I went briefly out onto the sand but the 'big white ball' didn't get me.

We walked back to the village via an inland path through the forest.

We took the train ride which was fun.

The Castell.

It took the owner about 50 years to build this magical, quirky village. You can read about him here.

I am so glad I was able to come here. As the Coastal Walker says, there is something slightly bonkers about this place.