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. Its is very picture orientated as Steve loves to take pictures, especially of wild life. Sometimes he has his arm twisted by Rosemary and takes the odd snap of a weed.
The start of the festival season, and I was off to Download on the Thursday evening. Never been to Download before, possibly because it was always close to Glastonbury. No Glastonbury this year, so no excuses. The weather looked passable for the weekend with sun and maybe a small smattering of rain on the Friday morning. This is exactly how it panned out.
I arrived at Download in good time, and went to the Rest In Peace entrance, where I was directed to the Sleepy Hollow campsite. The Sleepy Hollow campsite was a new operation for the year, Google Maps showed it as a freshly grassed field, and that is how it was; I could see the rows of grass with soil between. The field is also on a slope, so pot luck whether you end up on a level area. The wonderful thing about this campsite is you park the car next to your tent, no lugging stuff around. You also have a reasonable sized pitch. If I had been thinking straight I would have taken the camper. I regretted not taking Morrison by the end of the weekend, (Just have to get it past the co-owner.) Cold nights and the inflatable bed sprang a leak, so I was sleeping on the hard, cold ground.
The Rest In Peace (RIP) option has several different price levels, including cabins, Tepees and pre-erected tents. There are also proper loos and showers on site. They also have a bar and entertainment on the Wednesday and Thursday night. I watched a band and some comedy acts before heading to bed. Unfortunately, the quantity of beer drunk soon before going to bed needed more than one trip to the loo during the night.
During the night it rained, and in the morning there was still moisture in the air. Breakfast bap from the nearby van, which I did every day, and then over to the Arena, a pleasant walk through the RIP village and through the Guest Area and then into the Arena. The Guest Area gives a pleasant spot to get away from the masses and sit down at tables and benches to eat and drink. I used the Guest Area for my meals, becoming a Vegan during the day, eating some delicious wraps with salad, humus and falafel. They were distinctly more flavoursome than the pale coloured meat burgers you could get elsewhere.
So in the arena I went for a wander around, checked out the four stages, and the events arena. Looked at the food offerings, bars and shops. There was a real ale bar selling a few beers including Wherry Ale from Woodforde’s in Norfolk. I was all set for the bands,
On the main stage I watched all the bands to some extent, though left Bullet for My Valentine early to go and see Bad Religion
- Boston Manor
- Bullet for my Valentine
- Bad Religion
- Avenged Sevenfold.
Avatar, Marmozets, Bad Religion and Avenged Sevenfold all provided great performances. Avenged played a cover of Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here”, which was repeated by GnFnR in their set. Coincidence or planning?
Cloudy day to start but cleared up and became gorgeous. I stayed on the main stage, but sometimes spent time back in the Guest Area eating and having a Bulleit cocktail. (BLT)
- The Pink Slips
- Whiskey Myers
- Monster Truck
- The Temperance Movement
- Black Stone Cherry
- Guns n Roses (GnFnR)
GnFnR played for three hours. There were some long drawn out solos from Slash. Overall it was excellent, Should be, rumour has it they were paid £5,000,000. Despite there being 100,000 there, it was easy to get close to see them. The area between the front crush barrier and back crush barrier had a large amount of free space. I was amazed. I have been at Reading festival where I have been crushed at the back by the force of people pushing me against the rear crush barrier from the front.
I was beginning to feel my age, muscles were cramping up. Festivals are challenging work, lots of walking, lots of jumping up and down. Anyway another great line-up I hoped, and I was not disappointed.
- Cradle of Filth
- In this Moment
- Black Veil Brides
- Marilyn Manson
- Ozzy Osboure
I think the most disappointing was Marilyn Manson. Ozzy was his predictable self, singing all the old Black Sabbath songs. Again I was surprised by the amount of space at the front.
On the Monday morning I was up and out very early and back home before 8, much to Rosemary’s surprise. I was feeling worn out and stiff from the exertions of the festival. Added to that I contracted a cold.
The campsite was not bad, the showers and loos worked well and were not dirty. The late night and early morning flights into East Midlands were rather annoying. They were noisy enough for me in the RIP area. Those camping in the general campsites would have been directly under the flight path. I was also surprised at the time the main acts ended. I was expecting 11.45, it was more like 10.30.
Another predicted warm week, so we were away again by 10 in the morning to drive to Wales to one of our favourite campsites, Fforest Fields. We arrived by 13.00 on the Monday and checked-in. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun and walking around the larger pond trying to photograph some wild life. There were damselflies and Four Spotted Chaser dragonflies in evidence. The pond also has the largest number of tadpoles I have ever seen in my life.
In the evening we were entertained by a couple of Paramotors who performed some aerobatics over the field and even the pond. It was quite spectacular.
Yes, this was a relaxing away stay, because on Tuesday we wandered about the pond again, and around the campsite grounds and woods.
On Wednesday we headed into Hundred House for lunch at the Hundred House Inn. The path crosses some fields and goes through various woods with ponds and ditches alongside. We noticed that this time the fairies have installed at least one window in one of their woodland homes. The fields were in uproar as sheep were being moved around. They are definitely very noisy when they are disturbed and herded. We had hoped to see other odonata on the walk. It seemed to be damselflies and not a lot more. Though we did spy a few banded demoiselle.
Ate at the Hundred House Inn, good basic pub fare and beer. Wish they would import some Adnams.
Rosemary found some crosswort(a weed) near our pitch and proceeded to tell George, the campsite owner, so he could note it down for their next botanical inspection.
In the evening we tried out the bat detector. Not a single squeak. We were though entertained by wagtails performing their mating dances. I had earlier been confused by a bird fluttering around, it seemed to fly more like a New Zealand fantail than a native UK bird. Turned out it was a wagtail.
Thursday our time was up, and we headed back. First tried Builth Wells, but could not park. Their parking machines have not gone cashless yet ☹. So next we went to Bettws where R had spotted a nice house on Rightmove. Not sure we found it, but she did decide it might not be the best place to move to at our age. The roads were steep, narrow and probably impassable in winter.
A stop at Shobdon to look at the St John Church, and the arches which had been removed from the church and erected elsewhere. Nope, we never did find the arches, and the Church, though accessible, is on private land. The church is very white inside with white painted pews; v Strawberry Hill-like (I am told). There was meant to be a visitor centre, but that too eluded us.
It was then on home again, with a quick stop at Starbucks where we crossed the A49. We had used the place as a loo break before, and this was no exception.
Our first outing in Morrison this year, the delayed start was caused by our trip to New Zealand. The weather looked good for a few days, so we booked a space in the campsite at Southwold in Suffolk for three days from the Tuesday. We have packing the van and getting away down to a fine art. No preparation until the day of departure and we are normally away by 10. Today was no exception.
We arrived and parked in the campsite, the same pitch 330 as last year. We soon headed out on foot along the harbour, stopping at the Harbour Inn for some liquid refreshments.
Watched a chap cutting the verges using a remotely operated large machine. Looked very exciting, even better than a ride-on.
Refreshed we headed across the fields, then the golf course to Southwold town where we looked for Fat Face to buy me a new top. It had gone, the shop had been demolished, though there was a sign pointing us to the temporary location. Phew. Fat Face purchased, it was time for more liquid refreshments at the Sole Bay Inn, and then back to the campsite along the sand dunes.
Wednesday was another bright and Sunny day, so we though about catching the foot ferry to Walberswick. We had not thought this one through, but we did land on our feet. The notice at the ferry said it was operative only at weekends, though a chalked notice showed that the previous day (Tuesday) it had run. We lurked and sure enough a man arrived on the far bank and rowed across for us, updating the notice board to say it was open today.
At Walberswick we happened to bump into some Kingswood villagers in the car park, Ian and Judith who were having a week in the area birdwatching. Exchange of birding notes. Went down to the beach which both of us remember, from 35 years ago, as being sandy. It isn’t now, with patches of sand & shingle. Lunch at the Bell Inn, very nice, and then we continued our walk along bridleways, (where Rosemary found an “exciting” plant) and across the River Blyth, returning back to the campsite.
Thursday was Adnams Brewery Tour Day. I was booked in, on my own, for a tour and beer tasting. A small group of around 12 people were shown around. The highlight at the end was a beer tasting where we sampled 6-8 beers. Well worth the trip. Adnams brewery is now pretty high tech, with the most energy-efficient brewery in the UK, all German technology. We then stocked up on some beers at the shop, two suitable mugs to use with our new (to us) chrome-plated New Zealand teapot, and headed for lunch at the Sail Loft.
Friday was our last day, packed up, again this is so easy in Morrison, and so we were soon away after breakfast. We headed to the RSPB at Minsmere, where we walked around the main hides overlooking the scrapes, and were impressed by the badger fencing. The Sandmartins put on a great display as they gathered insects and returned to the cliff to feed their young. On the way back from the scrapes we encountered a Tawny owl perched in a tree, and an adder wandering across the woodland floor.
Very early morning rise to catch our flight to Sydney. The airport bus arrived on-time and we were soon checked in. All baggage and hand luggage checked.
At Sydney, hand luggage checked again, and Rosemary small pair of scissors from her Swisscard were confiscated. I got scanned for explosives residue. The next flight was to Singapore where we had to get off and back on again. Here R lost another pokey thing from the same gadget. The security at Singapore was dire, and so slow. It must have taken well over an hour to board the passengers.
The long haul now to Heathrow where we arrived early in the morning, quickly through passport control and then baggage. (Last bag off?) Smooth bus trip to Lucknor, where Kiera and Neil were waiting for us. But odd to see spring flowers and new leaves.
Today we locked up the bach as we weren’t coming back and headed over to Collingwood. On the way we passed Peter and Nic’s old properties where we saw the present owners were still harvesting olives and selling olive oil on the roadside.
In Collingwood we stopped at the old Courthouse, now a café, for coffee. The café was busy for seemingly a small place out of season.
The Collingwood beach had an array of driftwood wigwams built at the high-water mark.
Back to Takaka where we looked around the shops. Lovely furniture in one shop made from the roots of driftwood trees with glass table tops. I would love one of those at home. There was a group of South African singers who were touring. They presented an impromptu busking in the market place to build up some support for their performance. We took a look in the local art centre where local artists exhibit. Some pretty good photographs from a young photographer.
For lunch we ate at the Wholemeal Café. Huge busy café.
Now it was back in the car to Nelson and over the hill again. The traffic lights were now working, and were green for us all the way through. Packed our bags and left for Nelson airport where we flew to Auckland for the night. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, used the airport bus to get to the hotel. Embarrassment as I had to get the driver off the bus to help me purchase the ticket. Seems I was placing the credit card into the machine upside down. Had a final meal in the hotel.
Today we drove to Golden Bay in Peter’s Mini. Nic stayed behind because she was working and our visit was only for the night. The drive is along the only road to Golden Bay up, over a mountain and down the other side. This road had been badly damaged during a cyclone with parts of it washed away. There were long sections of one-way where we had to wait for our turn. Traffic controls were being installed, and they seemed to be concreted in, so looks like they will be there for the long term.
At Peter’s bach, the removal lorry soon arrived, and furniture was quickly unloaded. Beds were erected so there was somewhere to sleep for the night. Heating /cooling was also tested. Peter’s bach is in easy walking of several restaurants and bars.
We drove along the coast to The Abel Tasmin park and parked at Tata beach. This is also a DOC camping site and looks well worth staying at if we were here again. The beach is a huge long sandy beach coloured Golden. Going back we took a look at the Abel Tasmin monument which is due to be upgraded with commemoration to the Maori side added to it.
We then drove into Takaka for a meal at the Roots bar. Several ales on tap and a great menu to choose from. No band was playing tonight, but you could see they often had people playing there. Takaka appeared lively, and a shop selling vinyl and other items appeared to be a meeting place for many.
Dogs taken for a walk on the beach where there were some Variable Oyster Catchers. There was a one-legged Variable Oyster Catcher, yes a real one legged one and not a bird hiding a leg under its wing. Pete says this bird has been around for several years.
We said goodbye to Betsy who was off to Christchurch on the bus from Nelson.
We went out to visit the Rutherford birth place in Brightwater. (We had been past there on the 26th, but had failed to stop.) On the way, we saw the interesting spectacle of a house been driven down the road. We had been told that they do this, often at night, but here we actually saw one being transported during the day. We even saw water coming out of the plumbing as they jacked up the side of the trailer to pass over some parked cars. Some of the street signs in the middle of the road are just popped into sockets and so were easily removed to allow the house around a roundabout.
During the afternoon the furniture van arrived to collect the furniture for Peter & Nic’s newly purchased bach in Golden Bay.
In the evening we went to Isel park to dog walk. It is in Stoke, has some magnificent trees. There were stalls selling food drinks etc. This evening there was a magnificent sun set over Nelson.
We were sleeping in the garden sleep-out. Casper the Rag Doll cat visited us, coming in through the cat flap, and proceeded to purr loudly and attempt to force himself to get between our heads. A great cat. [Ed’s note: since returning, we learnt with horror that he was run over and killed in the cul-de-sac. A very sad & unnecessary end to his life.]
Today, another lovely day. Dogs walked on the local beach, and then a drive through Nelson and onwards along the coast. First stop was the sewage site, this happens to be the land connection of the shingle bank. The shingle bank is some 13 km long, shingle is a misnomer, more a boulder and stone bank.
Next stop was Cable Bay, named Cable Bay because this was where the undersea Telegraph lines originally landed. Pete had wanted to try the café there, but it had closed for the Winter. Instead we stopped off at Cable Bay Adventure park for lunch and to feed the eels. The Park runs quad bike events, has a huge Skywire ride. We contented ourselves with feeding the “pet” eels.
Next stop on the tour was the cemetery, where we stopped to look at the monument put up for the miners who had been murdered. The inscription says: This monument was erected by public subscription in memory of five late residents of the province of Marlborough who are interred here. They were waylaid, robbed and barbarously murdered by a gang of four bushrangers on the Maunoatapu mountain, in this province, June 12 and 13 1866. The cemetery was fascinating with areas designated for burial by faith.
Next stop were the Japanese Gardens before we arrived home.
Supper was at the Free House Pub where we sampled several beers. The Pub had a large selection of beers to try. We also ate there, sending Nichola out to the Indian restaurant across the street. The meal duly arrived in the pub. The pub supplied plates & cutlery. When he had finished the pub cleared away the remains. Interesting concept, designed to keep you there drinking more beer.
It didn’t rain today, dog walking in the morning and then to the SPCA to change a dressing on the paw of a dog. Silly dog tries to climb out of its compound. In Nelson we stopped for lunch and managed to pick up a parking fine. The parking meter was not working, but apparently that is no excuse.
A walk with the dogs up the hill which is designated as the geographical centre of New Zealand. The views of Nelson and the coast were very good.
Rained in the morning. There was a brief spell of sunshine which Peter took advantage of to take the dogs for a walk. The rain came back with a vengeance. (But, after lunch the rain disappeared, and the sun came out.)
We visited the local SPCA (like the UK’s RSPCA), where Nic was hard at work, to admire the rescued cats and dogs.
On to Nelson town centre for lunch at Comida, an Italian deli specialising in European foods and wines. Pete bought a ginormous jar of pickled artichoke hearts.
After lunch, we viewed the exhibition of 50 iconic National Geographic photographs at the Nelson Museum. Did remember having seen some of them.
Dogs taken for a walk, along with Casper, the Rag Doll cat.
Peter rushed out to collect friend Rob from Nelson airport.
BBQed vegetables & trimmings for a convivial supper.
Up really early to catch the Bus to Nelson. We were worried as to whether there would be an Uber taxi, so factored in walking to the bus station. Should never have worried, the taxi was with us in a minute. A long wait at the bus station, and predictably the bus was 20 minutes late. A replacement bus had to be found as the original Intercity apparently would not start.
The bus took us along the East coast which had only recently been opened for traffic. There were several long single-track sections in places where the road was having to be rebuilt after the 2016 earthquake. In sections there were long rows of shipping containers protecting the traffic from further slips.
We stopped at Kaikoura for 30 minutes. This is the location for whaling and dolphin trips. We should have visited this location on our trip.
We continued on the Blenhein to transfer to the Nelson bus. Again this bus was late. The bus stop is on the rail line where there is a station. This Station was called the wine tasting station where I had a few sample wines before buying my favourites.
Arrived at Nelson where Katy picked us up and took us to Peter and Nic’s house. Peter & Nic were soon back after attending a funeral in Golden Bay. We renewed our acquaintanceships with all the family pets, but this time there were an additional three orphan kittens for Rosemary to coo over. Obviously, they were a perk of Nic’s job with the SPCA, and had to be syringe fed special pet milk at intervals. Once on solids, they will be found homes. R decided she could not stuff them all in her suitcase.
An excellent supper of Pete’s vegetarian lasagne & salad.
During the evening and night, it poured with rain.
Walked across the park again but on a different route, ending up at a restaurant called Strawberry Fare. Here I had eggs Benedict and a delicious Avocado Salsa. Rosemary ate Pancakes & berries.
Walked back to town and caught the tram at stop 13 on the corner of Armagh Street and Rolleston Avenue. The tram is well worth it for the commentary. We went around totally once and a bit more stopping off at the Oxford Terrace again to have lunch at the Craft Embassy there were 21 beers on tap, and another 6 hand pulled flat, warm, English-style beers.
Back on the tram again for a final tour getting off at the DX postbox to post a final three Post Cards, for which we had DX stamps. (Strange postal system here.)
Enjoyed our repeat visit to the Canterbury Museum where this time we viewed the Antarctica exhibition.
Walked across Hagley Park through the rose garden again and a good section which has native New Zealand plants. R spotted a California Quail in the undergrowth.
Stopped at the Hagley NightnDay to pick up pies to eat for supper.
Today the van was going back. So a bit of cleaning and repacking our belongings. Left all our excess food and beer in the kitchen. It soon disappeared. Next, we went to the dump station and cleaned out the sink tank and then left for Tui Campers out near the airport. Handed over the van which was inspected. Used Google Maps to call an Uber cab which was with us in 3 minutes and headed off to the Towers in the Park hotel. Obviously as was early we just dumped the bags before walking across Hagley Park to what we assumed would be the main city centre. Despite it being Friday, the city was a ghost town. Hardly anyone around.
We visited the old cathedral and the cardboard cathedral. At the old cathedral there was a man singing. He was still there in the afternoon and was there the next day. Talking with my bro later, it appears he is a permanent feature. Cathedral Square had a food market running which is there every Friday.
We admired the new car parks and the new buildings which had gone up. There though were large blocks which were empty, and unsafe buildings boarded up.
Lunch was at Original Sin, on the Oxford Terrace overlooking the Avon River. There are a series of new buildings along this stretch which are all restaurants and bars. New ones were still being fitted out on the ground level.
Afterwards we walked around a bit more and then visited the Canterbury Museum to look at the stuffed birds. A cup of coffee in the restaurant where we bought a couple of sandwiches after they had been removed from the cabinets at closing time. This was to be our supper back at the hotel.
Long walk back to hotel across the park and through the rose garden. Did spot an interesting moving statue at a water fountain.
The hotel room was large, with a kitchenette and electric blankets on the bed. Despite being out opposite the park, the city still sounded noisy at night.
We drove North towards Christchurch. The road was becoming steadily busier as we progressed. Long straight sections, fairly easy to overtake. I have noticed a reluctance amongst NZ drivers to overtake, even when they can see the road is clear for a mile or so. I also see some drivers still treating major highways as a country lane and pulling straight onto the road right in front of traffic driving along it a 100kph.
We turned off and drove to Birdlings Flat, where we expected to see birds. Not sure why as Jonno very explicitly says the beach is all pebble and has semi-precious stones. We then tried the road along the spit. This is a wide spit and seems fairly impossible to get to the sea or inland lake and mud flats. Both sides had sheep rearing. We did stop and photograph of some Australasian Harrier Hawks fighting over a bone. While we were parked on the verge a farm lorry drove at us to intimidate us.
The grass areas were covered with flocks of Goldfinches, who also sat on the road but kept their distance no matter how slowly we drove up to them. Now, to find a camp site. This proved harder than expected. The first place we found was on a gorgeous position on Lake Ellesmere, but the clouds of mozzies put us off. We headed for some more inland sites, marked on the atlas, but these did not seem to exist. We ended up driving into Christchurch for the night, staying at a Top-Ten. Was expecting it to be expensive because it was a Superior site, but no. The facilities in our area were not particularly plush.