Welcome to our little home on the net. We are Steve & Rosemary and live in Buckinghamshire, UK. This is a blog of our life, sometimes interesting, but mainly boring. It is very picture orientated as Steve loves to take pictures, especially of wildlife. Sometimes he has his arm twisted by Rosemary and takes the odd snap of a weed.
We had been invited to stay in a B&B in Keswick with friends, as part of the 70th birthday celebrations of one of the ladies. Her choice of B&B, Appletrees, was taken on the unusual selection criteria of being where a particular author and blogger stays, see Wendy Mitchell’s blog at Which Me Am I Today?
I was looking forward to the days away for multiple reasons – I have never been to the Lakes, I could go walking, and this would be the longest journey in my electric car, so I would need to charge somewhere (excitement).
We set off with a fully charged battery. On the way to Keswick, we were all meeting up at The Midland Hotel in Morecambe for an early afternoon tea. This could be done with 1% remaining in the vehicle, but there was a BP Polar rapid charging station just off the motorway at Morecambe with several chargers. I could also get free electricity (donated by Polestar as a thank-you for being an early adopter of their car). Still 1%, and R’s range anxiety would kick in big time. So, we did a quick loo break and a small charge at Knutsford Services. Imagine our surprise to see Bill, and then Viv there.
We left and proceeded on for our lunch/tea at Morecambe. We were going to be early, so did our long charge before heading to the hotel. This was a bit fraught, most of the Polar chargers did not recognise my RFID card. The one that did recognise the card, gave up charging after a few minutes. But, eventually we were back up to 86% and headed off for our tea.
We parked at the hotel, and were soon ushered into tea, where we ate with Valerie, Norman, Bill and Viv. The hotel was built in 1933 in the Art Deco style with some interior decorations by Eric Gill. After falling into disrepair and closing in 1998, the hotel was restored to open its doors again in 2008.
After the excellent tea, Rosemary and I had a walk on to Stone Jetty, and then along the front to admire the Eric Morecambe statue with a slight detour by R to buy a couple of books in a charity shop. Back on the road again we headed to Keswick, following the scenic route along Lake Windermere. We arrived and parked behind the guest house, unloaded and made ourselves at home.
That evening we ate at the Thyme Bistro, I was going for the Lamb Shank, but their specials listed Pork Belly. So, Pork Belly it was. I must say it was excellent.
Norman, Bill, Viv and I drove in the Polestar to park at the foot of Catbells to walk to the summit and back down. The weather was very windy, the path was wet and slippery. A far more demanding walk than the hike on Kilimanjaro.
After our walk, we met with the others to sample some beers in the Dog and Gun, which soon became our regular watering hole. A Greene King pub, but thankfully having a large range of guest beers. Then some culture at the Pencil Museum. An excellent trail through pencil history along with a question sheet which made you look hard for clues. (Now we know the reason for Q’s name in the James Bond books & films.) Our answers were marked at the end, and a reward was given to us for a completely correct set of answers.
Tea at the Wild Strawberry before heading back to the B&B. The Wild Strawberry provided an excellent tea, so some of us went back to it on another day for lunch. For supper we headed out to the Dog and Gun for a pre-prandial and then to the Old Keswickian Fish & Chips Restaurant for some traditional English fare. Outside the restaurant it was Christmas, shops decorated for Christmas, and a Christmas tree in the square. Very festive, but surely it should be Easter? There was a film production in progress, a sequel to “The A Word”, but no actors were to be seen.
Today the weather looked stormy, patches of sun breaking through the clouds, heavy intermittent showers, and a strong wind. We all went on a boat trip around Derwentwater, slightly delayed while the boat owners checked the lake was suitable for a cruise. Good to be on the water, and luckily in a cabin as the rain came down.
After this trip, we walked back to Appletrees, where Bill, Viv and I prepared ourselves for a walk, rushing out to catch the bus to Borrowdale, to walk back. These OAP bus passes are useful. We did indeed walk back to Appletrees, stopping for a beer at the Grange Café in Grange. The walk was14.5 km and took us 4 hours 9 minutes, of which 40 minutes was relaxing with a beer each. We were lucky with the weather. All the rain fell while we were on the bus on the way to the start. Nothing significant fell while we walked.
Back to Appletrees, and then out to the Dog and Gun for a libation. Tonight, we ate at an Italian, Casa Bella. R suggested a bottle of prosecco which was duly ordered. When the bottle arrived, none of us had seen a prosecco bottle like it before with its an old-fashioned ginger beer type cap.
Bill and I headed out on the bus to Buttermere. The bus took us on the west side of Derwentwater, through Borrowdale, Seatoller, Honister Slate mine and down the Honister Pass which has a gradient in some parts of 25%. All the roads were narrow. There is a bus which does the reverse route, ours had enough problems getting up some of the roads. The driver even stopped at one stage to let the engine cool down. At Buttermere we dismounted and started our walk up to Red Pike. This starts with an unrelenting path straight up the hill, levels, and then climbs again until it reaches a small lake, Bleaberry Tarn. We then headed on up towards Red Pike. We gave up when the weather came down. Cloud made visibility poor, the snow was like hail and blown hard into our faces, it was uncomfortable. We made it to 681m, which was short by 74m of the peak at 755m of Red Pike. We headed down on a slippery path, in the cold and snow, then rain as we descended. Both of us at one stage unceremoniously fell on our arses.
At the bottom, there was just time for a coffee before the bus arrived, on-time of course, to take us to Keswick. Back at Appletrees, I dried off, recovered and rested before we went out for dinner at the Merienda. The Merienda is a small restaurant. Our waiter, or the waiter for the upstairs, was from the Czech Republic and very amusing. His English was extremely good. He would correct himself and debate different words he should be using. I ate Devilled Whitebait, followed by a Classic Falafel. All particularly good.
After breakfast (we ate a cooked breakfast every day, a good choice pre-ordered the day before), we said our goodbyes and left for home. We stopped just outside of Keswick at the Castlerigg Stone Circle. Here I took some photographs of the circle and the snow dusted hills in the background on a bright sunny morning.
On the way home we stopped at the famous Tebay Services where we bought lunch. Lo and behold we bumped into Valerie and Norman. Next stop was at Morecambe to charge the car again. This journey should only require one charge, we could have delayed it for many more miles. Additionally, we were going to stop in Manchester to say hello to one of Rosemarys friends. The opportunity of a free charge at the Polar charger at Morecambe was too much to ignore. We charged up to 80 plus and headed off to Manchester. Disaster, there was an accident on the M61, Google rerouted us, and this added many miles to the trip. We made it to our appointment for a light lunch. Chatted for over two hours and headed off. Good for Rosemary & Judy to meet up.
I must admit the traffic on the M6 was not bad, our trip North and South had no delays, other than the M61 accident which closed the motorway. Google in the car, coming to the rescue and rerouting us before we were anywhere near to the chaos. Heading into Birmingham, we took the toll road and elected to do a quick charge at the services station there. The charge was quick, we needed only a few percent to see us home, but the wait was interminable. We need more chargers. We were there an hour, most of the time waiting to get connected. Presently everyone is polite. When it’s your turn, but you are not at the correct charger, everyone moves around to allow you your turn.
We had booked Thorington Hall, a National Trust holiday house in Suffolk, for the week. We’d originally booked it for 2020, but….. We headed over there on Monday afternoon, unloaded and moved in. The house was bordered on one side by a host of golden daffodils.
The Hall has Tudor origins, wonderfully sloping floors, large rooms and a quirky layout. Some doors were locked; we suspected this was cos stairs were just too uneven for safety. Previous owners had left their mark in graffiti on one window’s panes and witches marks on the nearby staircase. A magical place to daydream.
The weather was amazing – wall to wall sunshine every day. You could look up at fantastic blue skies and then be quite astonished at the lack of leaves on the trees. Was this to be the summer of 2020??
The next day, first thing, we headed to Tesco in Colchester for a big shop. I dropped off Rosemary and Selina there, while I went over to a BP garage to charge the car. (I was at 40% but wanted a charged car for trips during the week.) It was reported back to me that this was the largest Tesco Rosemary has ever been in, with a whole section in one aisle dedicated to grated cheese! After lunch we took a walk along the river and across fields to Stoke-by-Nayland, returning to Thorington Hall to welcome our first guests.
Magnificent magnolias were spotted on our walks, but we never saw the rumoured otter in the v local river. It did not look like otter country. Perhaps it had been a mink?
The kitchen was well equipped and suitably large with two dishwashers, fridges and freezers and four ovens. The 6-slice toaster came into its own very early on. We didn’t however use all the kettles, nor the urn. Steve served a cooked breakfast every morning, bar our last. Each couple cooked one evening meal during their stay. Standards were very high, and tummies very full!
The Wednesday activity for the walkers was an eight-mile walk to Stoke-by-Nayland, then down to Nayland with lunch at the Anchor Inn and back to Thorington Hall. Those electing to stay in the Hall settled for chatting over a quick lunch of snackrells & a bottle of Cava.
Thursday was the turn of Dedham where we dropped a car off, so that those not wanting to walk the whole route would be able to drive back to Thorington Hall. The walkers split into two groups, the fast and the slow (ie Rosemary & her supporters). When the fast group reached Dedham, I picked up the car and drove to Stratford St Mary to pick up the slow group and delivered them to the Sun Inn in Dedham where we all had lunch. After lunch and a look around the village, the walkers returned to Thorington Hall, while I drove the others there.
Friday, we drove to Flatford Mill, where R was excited at seeing her first cowslip of the year, and from there we walked to East Bergholt for lunch at the Lion Brasserie. We managed a table outside in partial sun. The loos (along a corridor from a very impressive wine storage area) were particularly good; the men’s toilet had a showcase of old shotgun paraphernalia. After lunch it was a return walk to Flatford and then back to Thorington Hall for supper. Our doggy guest turned up with her owners so was able to open her special box of NT goodies. She thoroughly approved of them.
Saturday, we travelled to the coast, parked in Frinton and walked to Walton-on-the-Naze, where lunch was at The Victory. Walton-on-the-Naze appeared rather run down. I have also never seen so many beach huts. We walked back to Frinton and then home.
Sunday was spent driving to Shotley Gate and admiring the Marina and the container ships across the estuary at Felixstowe. There was an Evergreen container ship, the Ever Aim, the same length as the Ever Given which had become infamously stuck across the Suez Canal. If we had stayed until the early hours of Monday, we would have seen Ever Given arrive. A snack lunch was drunk and/or eaten at the Marina Cafe.
Monday, we packed up and left by10.00. The cleaners had all arrived promptly, one in her BMW. It was sad to leave a beautiful house which had given us all a great deal of pleasure.
Today I was flying home. My two travel companions left at 4.00am for their flights. They were flying by Kenyan Airways, flying to Nairobi and then on to the Heathrow and would be home today. I had a 6pm flight with Ethiopean Airways to Addis with a 7 hour stop over before continuing to Heathrow, arriving on the morning of the next day.
A lazy day, a limited number of beers, reading a book, taking photographs of the weaver birds and ear wigging on the next group of Kilimanjaro trekkers who had arrived yesterday. Jimmy appeared and told me that I mustn’t leave it long before I attempt the climb again. Not sure if he meant that I mustn’t wait years, or months. If I did attempt again, I must do some strenuous practice trekking in the French and UK hills.
Elvis appeared at 2pm to take me to the airport. At the airport, I had some lunch and then boarded the flight. Addis was a pain, 7 hours waiting, and the flight was a little delayed. The duty-free shops did not sell the alcohol I wanted, so I was unable to take advantage of Boris Johnsons, ‘most generous duty-free allowances in the world’ of four litres of spirits. There was also only one terribly busy food outlet, so I was bored, bored and more bored.
Airline meals were fine, along with their wine. Arrived in Heathrow, not enough of those passport scanning machines, so long queue in the immigration hall. At least the luggage was waiting for me. The Piccadilly Line was good, so much cheaper than the rip off Heathrow Express, and gets you where you want to go. I was wondering if the Heathrow Express will disappear. The Elizabeth Line will get you into London as fast as the Heathrow Express. Will there be a premium on the Elizabeth Line? Heathrow passengers will pay a premium, but those Heathrow passengers who continue to use the tube on the same day will not pay more than the daily Zone 1-6 cap.
Arrived at Bicester village where I was met by Rosemary.
All good holidays must come to an end, and today we were heading back to Weru Weru River Lodge. On the way, we were going to visit Lake Manyara National Park for a morning game drive. This area is renowned for the tree climbing lions. Unfortunately, the cool wet weather ensured the cats were not in view. Like all cats they prefer a warm snug hideaway during the wet. This game reserve is also forested, no large open vistas. The animals and birds must be close to the track to be seen. But plenty of Elephant were seen; they tended to prefer a walk along the tracks.
We saw Baboons, Elephant and Buffalo. Birding, I snapped a White-browed Coucal, Southern Ground Hornbill and a Silvery-cheeked Hornbill. So, not many sightings. It was worth seeing the Southern Ground Hornbill. Striking red coloured face and neck. Looking closely, it has some fabulous eyebrows.
The tracks in this reserve were muddy and did require some skill to navigate. Elvis was asked if he had ever been stuck. Yes he replied, he had had to be towed out several times. This conversation occurred as we seemed destined to the same fate. No problem, we made it out. Some of the muddy tracks seemed to below the level of the Lake Manyara.
Packed lunch was eaten as we were leaving the reserve, and then the four-hour drive home. We stopped at a huge art emporium. I spotted it on the way up. This place had security fence, gates and guards. Here you could watch ebony being carved, with an explanation of the process. The pictures and carvings ranged from the huge, costing thousands of dollars to the small with affordable prices. Here the staff did not appear to apply pressure on us to buy. Shipping of large carvings could be arranged with DHL.
On the way home we spotted an overturned lorry. The cab totally crushed; would the driver have survived? The ex-policeman on the trip pointed out that many of the buses and lorries were poorly maintained, and many could be seen ‘crabbing’ along the road, previously having been involved in serious accidents.
A few Kilimanjaro beers, steak for supper, and the administration of completing the UK Passenger Locator Form and bagging my seats for the flights home.
Breakfast was at 7.00am, fruit, fried egg, bacon and sausage. I have never seen so white yolks in an egg, the white and the yoke were virtually indistinguishable. Breakfast over, packed lunches in their square cardboard boxes collected, we were soon in the Landcruiser.
We drove to the park gate and checked in, then up the road to the Ngorongoro Crater rim at 2,200 metres. Here we stopped at a viewing point and looked down into the crater. You can see the whole crater wall, the lake and flat crater floor at about 1,000m below. Elvis spotted some Rhino on the floor below us; this is where we headed off to. The road down to the floor of crater was narrow but paved. It would have to be paved, there would be serious issues when driving out of the crater during the rainy season. We rushed along the floor road towards the East, and South of the lake, passing the other Landcruisers, the Zebra, Antelope, and Wildebeest. Rhinos were our number one priority.
We spotted the Rhino in the distance, so no good photographs of them. They seemed to be heading towards the East at a steady trot, pausing every now and again. We followed them, stopping as we drew level to photograph them. Unfortunately, the road we were on would soon start to head away from them. I have not seen Rhino in the wild before, this for me completed the Big Five. I would also see the complete Big Five on this three-day safari. The Big Five are: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhinoceros.
We turned around and headed back where we came from, this time pausing for the Zebra and Wildebeest. The guide spotted a Lappet-faced Vulture beside the road. One of the largest vultures. It appeared to be ineffectually gathering sticks for a nest.
We headed North along the lake where we spotted Flamingo, very pink Flamingo. Then onto the Hippo pool. One large Hippo (they are all large), pooed. It used its small stubby tail to break up the faeces in the water. Did a bad job of this because after getting out its backside was a dirty green colour.
We drove on, almost completing a circumnavigation of the take, and stopped at the Ngoitokitok Picnic Area. This is by a small pond with Hippo, who provided us with an entertaining display of ‘yawning’. Quite a few birds around waiting to be fed: – Superb Starling (that is its highly appropriate name), Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Masked Weaver and Helmeted Guineafowl.
Back into the Landcruiser we spotted a Hyena with a kill, being stalked by a Golden Jackel. On the way back to the exit, we were given permission by the ranger to go off road and get up close with a male lion.
The day started off dry but became wet as it progressed. Not a great day for viewing cats. We headed home to the Bougainvillea for drinks and supper. Tonight, I did manage a Negroni. I stood with the bar tender and guided him through the recipe, writing down the name of the drink and ingredients. He commented on the name Negroni, saying it as Negro-ni, not Neg-roni. I offered him a taste, but he didn’t drink alcohol. I had one Negroni, and a few bottles of the Kilimanjaro beer.
Supper was large, putting back some of the weight I had lost on the climb.