Monday, 6 July 2015

Dreaming Spires, Wolves, & a Train to the Seaside.

After a hard day sightseeing we had a day to recuperate, lazing around, reading the weekend papers and lounging around before the next day setting off on a sight seeing trip to Oxford.
We caught a bus through the Oxfordshire countryside, little villages and the quaint town of Wallingford.
  We met up with John and Pauline who had driven to the 'park and ride' outside Oxford, they were familiar with some of Oxford and led us on a little tour, taking in some of the famous Colleges, the Radcliffe Camera and The Bridge of Sighs (the Oxford version). 

We went into the courtyard of the Old Bodleian Library. An amazing place, it just oozed calm and learning. How could anyone not learn and do well in these surroundings? Just this little square had a wonderful feeling to it, and this is just a tiny part of the city. Michael bought a copy of Alice in Wonderland for me from the library shop, a lovely souvenir as this year marks 150 years since the book was written, Lewis Carroll (and Alice) lived in Oxford.

We walked a little more, stopped for lunch near the main street and the Martyrs' Cross.
This cross in the road marks the spot where the Anglican bishops, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, were burned at the stake under Queen Mary in the 1550s.
(Ridley and Latimer in October 1555 and Cranmer in March 1556).
The spot is marked by a cross, in the cobbles of the old road.

Then we caught a 'sightseeing bus' around the town. We sat up on the top deck and enjoyed the tour.
Traffic in Oxford is horrendous, and it's mainly buses and commercial vehicles (white vans). Most cars stay out of the city, parking at the park and ride stations. At one intersection, a traffic light, we were in grid lock. The tour bus completed the left turn against a red light and we left the gridlock behind us.

Oxford is also famous nowadays as the film setting for Inspectors Morse and Lewis or Harry Potter. All relevant locations were duly pointed out to us.

                              (The police station - Morse and Lewis)

After the tour we visited the New Bodleian Library where there were some very good exhibits, one covering the Magna Carta and one covering Geniuses. We had a cuppa and then had another little walk around. We visited 'Alice's Shop' - the shop where the real Alice used to buy sweets, it was portayed as the Old Sheep Shop in Through the Looking Glass and now sells Alice merchandise. Lewis Carroll was a scholar and teacher at Christ Church, which is across the road.
After the shop we decided to catch the bus back to Reading.
John and Pauline, who drove in would be spending a little longer in the city as Pauline would be going to the theatre that night. We probably would have been more comfortable hanging around with them as we stood on the street waiting for the bus for 55 minutes!!! 
At least, being a British queue when the bus did arrive there was an orderly rush for the door.
We got home about 30 minutes before John arrived.

The next day we went off, by bus, to spend the day with Michael's sister who lives on the other side of Reading.
We actually spent longer there than we'd planned, and were running late so when we arrived back we immediately all left to walk around the corner to the Pack Saddle pub for dinner. A lovely evening sitting in the beer garden – and as it's Europe it was daylight until around 10.00pm.

The next day was my day to tick off another item on the wish list – we had a lazy morning and in the afternoon, after lunch drove to the little village of Beenham. We were going to Butlers Farm, home to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust.
Not many people have heard of it, not even those living in the area.
It is home to 10 wolves and it aims to provide education and information to the public about wolves.  
"To enhance public awareness and knowledge of wild wolves and their place in the ecosystem"

The wolves live in 4 groups -
The Arctic pack - Sikko, Pukak and Masssak.
They came as cubs from Parc Safari in Quebec in June 2011. (They were born in a snow storm and were wrapped in silver / baking foil to keep them warm and alive.

Mosi and Torak -Mosi arrived in 2006 from Dartmoor, she is Mai's sister. Torak arrived a few days later, from the Anglian Wolf Society.

Mai and Motomo - Mai arrived in 2006 and Motomo arrived as a companion for her in 2010.

The Beenham Pack -Nuka, Tala and Tundra. These were born to Mai and Motomo in 2011. 

We planned to arrive in time for feeding time – 2.00pm.
The temperature was creeping up towards 30 degrees C so in their heavy coats the wolves were not active. Except for jumping into the water troughs and splashing about, and then eating.

 Once they'd had their feed they did what follows naturally, lay down to sleep.
Michael followed their example.

That evening we were meeting up with some dear, old friends and going to a pub nearby so John and Pauline left us at the farm gates where Ed picked us up and took us the pub. It was a pub that we'd stopped at when we were last in Reading and had gone for a walk along the canal, the Rowbarge in Woolhampton. We sat in the garden, on the canal banks and had a couple of drinks while we waited for the others to finish work and join us.
It was a great meal and great to see them again, it's always so easy to just pick up where we left off, no matter how long the period in between is, be it 2 weeks or 2 years. Lovely, lovely people.
As we were car less Ed drove us home.

The next day we were off to the coast, by car and train. We left after the morning rush hour had passed and drove westwards along the M4 and then headed south towards Bournemouth and then set the SatNav to get to the “Park and Ride” at Norden, where we would get the train to Swanage.
We had travelled on this railway a couple of years ago, when we stayed with our friend who lives in Dorset.
Then we were on a train with a Battle of Britain Class locomotive pulling the carriages. Today we hoped to have a Steam loco in one direction and a Diesel loco in the other.
We drove straight to the station and were delighted to find that we had enough time for a coffee before the train departed, and that train would be a steam engine.

The only damper on the whole thing was that it was raining. We hoped that it would give us a couple of 'atmospheric' photo shots of Corfe Castle, but it didn't .
When we arrived in Swanage, it had actually stopped raining and after a walk along the promenade the sun came out as we sat outside to eat our lunch.

The rain came back after another little stroll along the prom, giving us a 40 minute wait for the next train. That train was a diesel so things worked out quite well. 
Once we'd collected the car, back at the 'park and ride', we drove around to Poole and checked into the Premier Inn, our hotel for the night. The sun came out and it looked as if it was going to stay out so we took a chance and walked into Poole, well 3 of us did – Michael had a nap.

We walked to the High Street and then down to the Quayside. It was a lovely sunny evening and the quayside was lovely. We followed the waterfront around, walking along West Quay Road which took us past the RNLI college and associated buildings. (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).
We spotted a sculpture across the road, in the distance and as we got closer realised what it was depicting – a sea rescue. What a delightful piece of work, the artist's name is Sam Holland. Around the base of the work are the names of those men from the RNLI who have given their lives to rescue people in danger at sea. The sculpture is in 316 stainless steel, the boat is 4.5m long, and the figures are 2.7m long.
It's visually stunning but not on a main road or in the town centre, I'm glad we wandered along the W Quay Road or we would have missed it.

We ate dinner at the restaurant next to the Inn that night, it was very busy so it took a while for our meal to arrive but my curry was definitely worth the wait, and Michael said that his beef and merlot pie was delicious too.
The next morning we checked out of the hotel, left the car in the carpark and were delighted to see the bridge across the bay in lift mode - a very interesting sight. 

We walked along the quay to the harbour side and then up the High Street. 

                        (Michael sitting with Sir Baden Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts)

We stopped for a cuppa and then were delighted when the barrier came down at the level crossing, the shoppers stood and waited and the train crossed High Street.

We walked back to the hotel and were surprised to see a group of hotel staff standing next to the car, then we realised that there was an alarm bell ringing – the fire alarm- and they were standing at the assembly point. (There was no fire, they suspect a guest had been smoking in one of the rooms).
Then we were on the road again, back to Reading.

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