Just a walk away…

So you might have expected a couple of Siberian Border guards but the weather today has been so good that they have melted away. They’ll be back soon. Off for a walk through the town and came across this gem of a house, and yes it is a house, here in Cheltenham.

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Then up to Pitville to meet my walking companion for the afternoon stroll. Pitville is a super park area that was at one time only available to the residents that surrounded it, but is now thankfully open to all. Here we came across a wild planting area that could have been from deep in the countryside but was right there in front of us, and today looked at its very best. Teasels and all sorts of wild flowers that were a bit of a mystery to me and on the very sunniest of afternoons. This is a bit of a change from of late where we’ve had rain wind and very cold days, so the opportunity to get out and enjoy the sun was just a little too much to resist.

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Quite a few of these local residents of the park were out as well also enjoying the teasels.

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Down in the docks someone’s hammering chains

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This is the working end of a ship in the dry dock of Gloucester Docks where I had an afternoon out the other day. It’s worth a trip if your in the area. I like Gloucester, used to live there and miss it’s friendly atmosphere and the rough edges. This place is a gem and is Tommy Nielson’s boat yard in the docks. They are in the middle of a complete refit of the tall ship Kaskelot which is also being renamed to some strange Scandinavian name. It’s one of the largest tall ships around these days and you can see from this image what they have to do to refit the below water levels. Rope or perhaps it’s hemp ( I’m no expert on these things, just an onlooker ) is hammered between the wooden boards. No doubt it is then tarred to make it watertight. There’s no automatic way of doing this so the men working on the ship just have to hammer away.

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Whilst I was there I also saw a couple of the men working on the chains, which seemed to just be getting a couple of hammers and bashing them. Together with the blokes doing the ship’s sides they made for quite a syncopated sound. Take a look at my little movie of the scene. I’m at a loss to know what they were doing to the chains. Perhaps they were trying out “Unchained Melody”

Kaskelot inyard

To those of you who might be wondering what happened to my two border guards series, then please forgive me, they have taken a short break but will be back in the next posting hopefully.

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What’s wrong with this picture? Almost everything.

Breakfast disaster

First of all one should not take pictures of your meals. Well I don’t think so.

This one is placed merely as evidence of major breakfast criminal activity. I go for a FEB ( Full English Breakfast ) every now and again with chums. We arrive as the cafe in question opens and choose from the varied menu. I’m hoping to persuade said chums go go somewhere else in the future as I pick major faults in the above.

First of all the beans are not separated from the rest of the items by any sort of barrier when there are 2 perfectly good sausages that are the normal bean barrier. Actually the sausages were not perfectly good, distinctly average. This is a major error as bean juice is likely to invade other areas of the plate uninvited.

Second, the bacon is flaccid and fatty when it should be crisp.

Third: fried bread, positioned reasonably well close to the egg, but it was cold and greasy.

Last and perhaps the most unforgivable factor was: the egg was BROKEN! You cannot under any circumstances serve a fried egg with broken yoke and it’s lodgings next to the beans where yoke and bean can intermingle is frankly unforgivable.

It’s time to move on.

Urban walking in the sun…

Too good an evening after a dull day to miss out on a bit of a walk, and the sun showed off certain parts of Cheltenham in a good light. I used to have an office many years ago in Imperial Square right here in the middle of the town, opposite the Town Hall in fact and remember well working in summer evenings there with the sun streaming in through the windows. In fact I experienced one of Britain’s hottest temperatures in these very buildings. None of that at the moment and it’s a wonder to me how I could afford to have an office. It was right here in the top of these buildings and looked no different tonight than they did some 20 years ago or more.imperialsquare

If you look very carefully at the photograph you’ll just be able to see one of the new tenants, urban gulls are a bit of a problem hereabouts and there seems to be one on the roof here.

At the other side of Imperial Square is this monument to soldiers who fought at Sebastopol. It’s been lovingly restored and looked brilliant in every way tonight.

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Striding back to base camp home I came across this yellow shop. There are all sorts of planning laws and conservation rules in the Cheltenham area, so it’s a relief when someone paints outside the box.

Yellowshop

Orkneys, weather or not.

I don’t normally post about holidays but this is the exception. The Orkneys with a group of fellow walkers was the plan and a good plan it was too. It rains a lot in the Orkneys and for those of you not familiar with where I’m talking about it’s north of the very north of mainland Scotland and consists of many islands. We got there by flying to Inverness and then transported from there by fine ‘minibuswalkercarrier’ vehicle to the top of the country.

It was raining, and grey, all day. It got more and more bleak the further north we went. On the way we stopped in the middle of nowhere for a cake and a cuppa at what seemed to be the only café in the land. Kind and attentive, super tea and cakes and then onwards and upwards to the ferry across the sea to Kirkwall.

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Tea and cakes in a little cafe on the way complete with discreet fashionable lighting.

Our leader Ken briefed us on the activities of the week and we all got to know one another on the ‘minibuswalkercarrier’ as we headed for the very end of mainland UK.

We were: a former firefighter now probation chap from London whose boots seemed to fill almost all available floorspace, a primary teacher from Yorkshire who helps the Nigerian Government sort out their education, a couple from Connecticut who were both lawyers and were confirmed Scotofiles ( if there is no such word; then there is now ) a woman of vision from Yorkshire who worked for Specsavers, a former teacher from leafy Kingston on Thames, and my other half and me. All led by Ken our guide for the week and driver of the ‘minibuswalkercarrier’.

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How wet can you get? Here’s the complete walking team, I’m behind the lens.

As you can tell from all the smiling faces we were all having a jolly good time, and as you may also be able to tell it was wet from the drips on the lens. It was a little breezy too.

 

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On this day we saw seals, a sea otter, and more brilliant birds than you could count. Curlew, oyster catchers with their wonderful carrot beaks, ‘bonxsies’: which are large sea birds which are frankly not the sort you want to be too near. Ancient burial grounds and these wonderful landscapes.

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The Italian Chapel

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The forecast was reasonable for day 2 but grim for day 3. Day 2 we saw the Churchill barriers, built by Italian Prisoners of War and the little Italian church built by them too. Painted like an Italian Church, all in a nissan hut. Plenty more walking and then for day 3 which was supposed to be the trip to the Old Man of Hoy. Put it into Google and you’ll see what we were going to see. With a grim forecast of very heavy rain we swapped days and for day three got wet looking around Skara Brae ( look that up too and educate yourself like we did )

So day 4 was the trip to see the Old Man and what a good day it turned out to be. A ferry trip to the island with a load of Norwegians. Teacher John and I mused on why the Norwegians, with amazingly similar landscapes on their doorsteps chose to come here, a sort of busman’s holiday, or as we now call it, a Norwegian holiday. The Old Man did not disappoint, great walk in great light and the odd bit of rain to give it some atmosphere. Some people actually climb up to the top of this thing, must be because it’s there.

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Spot of rain on the way to see the Old Man

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The Old Man himself

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The Northern Marsh Orchid, these things were everywhere on Orkney. The blue background bright blue sky was not quite as frequent.

Back to base and one last day to go. Gentler stuff the next day and a day out in the Stromness area, where exists the most amazing collection of modern art that I’ve seen outside London, all in an understated lovely building. Not only that but you can buy Japanese smoked twig tea from the local delicatessen.

9julyshedAnyone who’s familiar with my postings will know my liking for sheds, and Orkney did not disappoint in that regard. It would seem to me that the good gardeners of Orkney like their sheds. I suspect they keep state of the art grass cutters in there so that they can keep that grass cut finely after each rain shower, as this is all they seemed to grow in their gardens: grass.This was a fine example in Stromness. I’d have loved to know what was inside here.

Whatever next? A holiday in Siberia?

 

 

Would you put your washing out on a day like this?

Yes, I was on holiday and walking a fell ( that’s a roundy type hill to those from outside the UK ) and it was wet, very wet. Walking through a boggy field littered with sheep and marsh orchids and dozens of other interesting, but to me, unknown wild flowers, we passed this hillside cottage farm.

It was not entirely unexpected, after all the Orkneys is not well known for unremitting sunshine and high temperatures, but a wonderful place to visit despite that.

It’s a joy to see washing out on a line in weather like this. First of all on a line, none of your fancy rotary clothes lines here. I suspect they would take off like a helicopter in the winds they get out there, secondly the hope inherent in the act of putting the washing on the line on a day like this.

It says “the weather will get better”, it did, now and again, and I’ll tell more later.