London to Skye and back in Five Weeks. – Mark Pedlar

picture4When migrants return to the land of their birth they run two risks. The first is being expected to spend the bulk of their time with relatives and friends who haven’t spent the time to travel the 18000 k to see them in Oz. The second is visiting places of high emotional interest – maybe childhood haunts – they’ve changed!

So when Jenny and I planned our June/July trip to the UK these two caveats were at the top of our minds. Our itinerary included known places of interest where we could accept the changes, selected friends and relations and places we’d not seen before.

Dr. Johnson said that “He who is tired of London is tired of life.” So, we started with a week there.

It’s amazing how much more you see when you walk everywhere. From our studio apartment within a stone’s throw of King’s Cross we could walk past the British museum and through the Inns of Court to the Thames. Hidden in the Inns was Ede and Ravenscroft – wig and gown makers.  Further south into Trafalgar square, you can go down to the river and Westminster along Whitehall and past the horse guards, or west along the Mall to Buckingham palace.  If you’re really enthusiastic you can climb the 500 or so stairs to the very top of St Pauls and view the capital’s skyline.

Our week over, we picked up a Mini Cooper SD and set off to seek our fortune.

First south, to visit a friend in Sussex and a quick pass by Cowdrey Park with this grain store on staddle stones amongst its ancient buildings, and the timbered buildings in Godalming.

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From here we headed into the midlands to the Stratford on Avon area. About half way between Stratford and Birmingham is Wooton Wawen, home of Warwickshire’s oldest church where this old dog  appeared to be patiently waiting for his master. A little further west near Worcester we found this Bumble Bee. This insect, iconic to the UK is said to be a flying impossibility. Aerodynamic theory demands that the bee’s design would prevent it flying but the bee being blissfully unaware of this continues to fly anyway.

Then north to Heysham on the west coast just at the southern end of Morecombe Bay. Here, near the ruins of a Saxon church are these coffins or ossuaries carved in the bedrock on a cliff top.

We were gradually heading north to the Isle of Skye for a week in a croft with my brother and sister in law.

We decided to break the journey at Keswick in the Lake District And walk for a day. In fact we stayed three nights and got in two magnificent days walking on the fells. You can see Keswick and Derwent water in the background.

Remember those “Lakeland” pencils you used at school. This is where they’ve been made for centuries. The locally mined graphite and available timber spawned an enduring industry. The weather wasn’t all it could have been but it certainly didn’t deter Cumberland’s cricketers.

The other long term residents of the fells are the sheep. It is local custom/law that when you lease one of these farms the sheep come with it.

North again to Fort William to climb Ben Nevis. The UK’s highest peak is no Himalaya at 1344m, but you do start the climb at 5m above sea level. The cloud base was 600m but we made the summit and back, 17km in 8 hours. At about 100m we crossed a minor snowfield – a big change from the 25oC and sunshine down in Fort William.

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Geary, at the northern end of Skye is another 4 hours north. The distance doesn’t appear too great on the map but there is a significant distance on single track roads. However, before we get there we pass one of the best known castles in Scotland. Despite the fact that most of Eilean Donan, on the way to the Kyle of Lochailsh is largely a 1930s replica, it is recognisable worldwide.

Our croft with its view down over Loch Snizort was virtually at the end of the narrow metalled road. We spent the week making several of the beautiful walks on the island and of course taking in the Talisker Distillery. There was a wealth of wildflowers in bloom in the local croft pastures. These included a range of orchids. On the western coast of the island is Hallin, a straggling small hamlet. The gravestones in the disused cemetery go back centuries.

We left the Cullins for a later trip.

After that we flew the Cooper south again to Heathrow visiting Hadrian’s Wall, the Peak District and Chesterfield on the way. It was summer, real Summer with daytime temperatures around 30oC. So, England had its shirt off and was paddling, beer in hand in Buxton. Also in Derbyshire is one of the most outstanding of stately homes. Chatsworth is a magnificent marriage of house and grounds. Even the local river was re-routed to feed its ponds and fountains. This staircase in the main house is a work of art.

Finally, before we head for the plane there was Chesterfield with its twisted spire.

 

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