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ENGLAND     INFO and DIARY   2016   

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 Diary 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10
 

                                WALES

I been home in Denmark for more than two months after three months in southern Africa. Despite it is days from May, I am freezing! I did NOT come home to experience 4C and snow! It is time to go for another drive to somewhere warmer. I've never been in England, and apparently, it is not only a bit warmer, it also offers a lot of interesting sights, among them many botanical gardens. I thought I could combine an exploration, search for work and ad a bit to my professional knowledge.
Due to the climate, I restrict to the southern part along with Wales. The plan is to connect a lot of dots, following the southern coast west-on, then head inland and back though the central part.

Some facts about the country. (Jump to diary)
England is part of Great Britain, and after the Romans left around 400, seven kingdoms slowly became one in 927. Then the Danish Vikings had some fun when they were bored, resolving in a death sentence to all Danes in England by Ethelred 2. Quite stupid, because it only made the Danish king Svend 1. aware of England. He became king in 1013. Several Danish kings ruled until 1042, where the death of Hardeknuds left the English part to his half brother Edvard Bekenderen, and England once again became an independent kingdom. Several wars and civil wars cut it in parts, but it has been pretty stabile since 1707, where it was joined with Scotland.

The population is around 56.000.000 of which 72% are Christians, 23% atheists, 3,1% Muslims and 1,1 Hindi.

It covers 130.395 km². Read more on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England

MONEY: The currency is  Pound Sterling (BWP). 1 DKK=0,10 GBP. 1€=0,775 GBP. 

CLIMATE: It ought to be the dry time of year, but it could be warmer.

ANIMALS and PLANTS:
Coming from Denmark, England does not offer that many "new" animals. Well, some are new to me, but only because they are so rare in Denmark  - and England. I would love to experience the otter and beavers.
Botanizing will offer considerable more. Beside from many orchids, the southern part have plants that don't appreciate frost, and I hope to find many interesting species.

DIARY
(Hoover over the photos, to enlarge them and see the text)

10/5 The weather is beautiful in Denmark, and it is almost a pity to leave it. At seven, I head south through the cosy landscape of southern Zealand, Falster and Lolland. I get in time for an earlier ferry, and are able to enjoy the sun and a steeply prized cup of tea at the deck. The first of many, it turns out.
I find it a bit cool; the ferry is the first in the world to be a hybrid; Both fuel and electric. Batteries equals those of 600 cars.

This is a first for me; not flying out to new adventures, but driving. I have rebuild my tiny and very economic Lupo to what might be the world's smallest camper. Despite it is 13 years old, and have driven 291.000 kilometres, I am confidant it will do the tour - in contrast to my mechanic's predictions...

The part of Germany I passes through is very much alike Zealand, although I have to admit: The rivers are wider, the stau more plentiful and here are significantly more White Storks. I make a few, short stops to awake my body, but it is the stau that slows me down. I find it appropriate to listen to some traditional German music: Rammstein, Scorpions, Einstürzende Neubauten and Accept.
After 700 kilometres and ten hours, I reach the Dutch border. I cross it with 100+ Km/h, and reach Eindhoven and my pre-booked hotel after additional 50 kilometres and one hour. Considering I have to pass Antwerpen and Gent in the morning, I figure I better gas the car now, to get an early start.
I ditch the car at the cosy hotel, and the backpack in the room. Then I head into the sleepy and dull centre of town to find a vegetarian meal. I end up with a overpriced and under tasty pizza, but it fills the hole. The local supermarket have a surprisingly large collection of UHT milk, which seems to be unknown in Denmark. 1/4 and 1/1 litre cost the same, and I will see how long I can keep it alive without cooling facilities.
The driving I done the last few days (1200 km) have been a good training, and I don't feel tired. I start on the diary and the few photos. I have too good time this evening, but I fear I will lack it in the morning due to endless queues, Belgium and France in general, before I reach the pre-booked Euro Tunnel.

11/5 I'm up real early, and leave the hotel a bit after five. It turns out the gas station is closed - but what do I care? At six, I reach Belgium, which is just like Holland: Flat, dull and with a light drizzle. The traffic is lighter than I feared, and even around Antwerpen, it almost floats smoothly. I guess that will change, when all the trucks, lined-up at the truck-stops joins in!
The choice of music causes me problems; I can't recall a single Dutch or Belgium ban in my limited collection for this tour. I get a head start on the French with Jean Michelle Jarre.
The French border is crossed at seven, but the landscape changes very little. I reach Calais and the tunnel a bit passed eight after the first 305 kilometres of the day. I can pay €13,50 extra, and get the 9;20 train, but I rather wait one hour and use €7,50 on a huge egg panini and a mug of tea. As no surprise, I fail to get a single English word out of the lady selling it to me. After all, only half her customers are English speaking.

The entire tunnel area is fenced in like a jail, but here are no refugees to see. The tunnel train is a smooth operation, and we leave on schedule. I spend most of the 35 minutes sleeping on my car-bed, nicely dozed by the gentle rolling of the train. We arrival 25 minutes before we left, and I set out for the first site: Dover Castle. A mist soon turns into a heavy fog, and I can't talk my self into paying 20 pound for the visit. Guess the entire coast will be covered in fog, and I skip the nearby sites. I will get back! Music is no longer a problem; England have fostered so many great musicians, and I got most!
I head south through huge, green hill with numerous sheep. Many of the roads are real narrow and lined with hedges. The speed limits are ridiculous: No chance anyone can drive that fast on these roads! Some fine, ancient houses are found scattered around the area. A few small villages make some great motives - if here were some sun. The entire day, I keep wondering; how comes here are only ancient houses, and no new at all? Danish villages tend to be hidden away in new villas.

The next sight is Dungeness with an old light tower and a especially the Dungeness National Reserve. Well, I might have expected a bit more, but here are some nice, yellow Fabaceaes with thorns and some "beach cabbage". The entire area is made up by dunes of rolling stones, and I head out to the sea on a board-walk. Here, the mist keep everything in a mysterious atmosphere - and rather impossible to photo. Further inland, a few ponds are the home for some noisy green frogs, and birds sings in the surrounding bushes. Nightingales, finches, larks and other voices mix with the frogs. A few orchids, the famous Bluebells Flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta?) and little else in combination with the fog make it a short visit.
The next stop is in the little village of Lydd, where the ancient church causes me to stop. The lichen covered gravestones surrounding it seems to be several hundred years old, but the lack of light sends me on with no good photos.

Then I get to the cosy town of Rye. I park next to Robe Marked, but neither the food, nor the second-hand items caught my interest. I head into the centre, and here are so many narrow, roads, lined with the most fantastic, small houses. Some are build in limestone, and it have been severe corroded through time.
It seems like most shops are second-hand - or rather fifth-hand shops and the rest cafes. I find a ATM and then a local power-plug.
At the canal, it is low-tide, and the boats lie on the mud. Another loop through town offers a toasted sandwich with cheese and tomatoes in a local favourite place. I guess the youngest - beside me - is way pass 70.

I head a bit inland to try to avoid the fog, and here I pass through some of the famous "blue forests", where the entire floor is covered in Bluebells. Well, except where the white stars have taken over. Another fine, old church; St James The Great caught my eyes, and I do a short stop.
The the ancient Bodiam Castle appears way out in the country side. I pay three pound, and enter the parking-lot. The castle is fare from as huge as I had expected, and with the fog on top of that, I refuses to pay additional ten pound to get closer to it. And it is not that old; build in 1385.
On the way out here, I passed some real strange houses. Due to the narrowness of the road and the hedges, I can't get a photo, but I guess they might turn up again - along with the sun. Here are some huge yucca/dragenblood trees in front of many houses along with some palms which actually look a lot like the frost prone we got at home.

Out at the coast again, Beachy Head and Seven Sisters offers a glimpse of the highest white cliffs. As no surprise, the path up to the top is lined with flowers, among them; orchids. The fog is just a light mist in some places, and there is a clear view to the impressive walls of limestone. A short light tower sit at the highest point. I do the walk to the top along with a botanist, who fill me in on the local (invasive) flora. Here are numerous Bluebells again, but I fail to get a Latin name.
A stairway tower leads down to the rolling stone-covered beach, and I do a walk underneath the cliffs. It is a tough walk, and I got it all to my self. The cliffs are either too tall, or the beach too narrow: I can't get a proper photo of the tallest part.

The huge, green hills continues along the coast. Some are tall enough to have tunnels dug through them for the road. Besides from the numerous cheep, I see some rabbits and a few cows. 19 kilometres before Arundel, I spot what look like Hogwarts, and I guess it is the castle I'm going to see. Right now, it is getting late, and I'm more interested in a campsite.
 I find one five kilometres out of Arundel, and expect some luxury for the eleven pound. And I get disappointed. The "kitchen" turns out to be a sink within the toilet, and dinner is going to be at the nearby restaurant. The fried vegetables turns out to be enchiladas, and real tasty. The lack of any common facilities at the camp is made up by the hospitality of the restaurant. I get to sit and work at a table next to the bar.
I get rite of half the photos quite fast, but then everything take time. It turns dark a bit passed nine, but I work on, gambling on I can assemble my "camper" in the dark.
I decide I'm done at ten, except I haven't read up on tomorrows adventures. It ought to be the Southwest England with more cosy towns, castles and some botanical gardens. But first Arundel and the awesome castle I glimpsed in the mist.
The car is rebuild in minutes with blinds in the windows and a full sized madras.

12/5 It is a perfect campsite for sleeping; not a single sound during the night. Well, except from a single shower, which make me close the window. I have sleeps so much better than in the Dutch hotel, but the morning shower is a challenge. It is hot, real hot. If not, it is cold, real cold. Despite my efforts, it seems to be either on or off - like so many of these "geysers". The car is slightly moist inside, but despite the misty morning, it dries out fast.
Besides from me, only the numerous birds and a few rabbits are awake on the site.

The huge Arundel Castle is just around the corner, but unfortunately, I have to wait three hours for it to open. I make several loops around the real cosy Arundel town, and enjoy a cup of tea at a an early opened cafe. Once again, it seems like most shops are either cafes or second-fifth hand "antiques and good junk". And again, here are no new buildings at all. Does all Englishmen rely on used stuff and houses? No wonder the have immigrated that much in the past!
I find the ancient post office, the raging river and a lot of vintage houses. Many are covered in Wisteria and other flowering plants, their walls made by bricks, flint or limestone. Many houses in the area have tiles on the upper half of the walls. Again, I find some real tall yucca/dragenblood trees, but nothing else special botanical vice.
The cathedral is not big, only room for 500, but because of the architecture, it look real huge. Despite a few glimpses of the sun, it remains rather cold due to the wind. After a hour and a half, I decide I have seen enough, and won't bother to wait additional a hour and a half for the castle to open. The first photos can be found in this slideshow.

The road leads through an area dominated by huge Copper Beech and enormous hills. Most are grassland, but also raps and other crops are farmed here. Milking cattle and a few others are found in smaller numbers than the cheep. I try desperately to capture the huge, green hills, but fails.
Next stop is the cosy town of Winchester. Again, here are old shops and other houses, a castle and a cathedral. One house is from 1450, but here might be even older ones. The latter is real impressive! I ditch the car in a parking house, and loos sight of the cathedral. Figuring I'll catch up with it, I head into the walking-street area. Loads of cafes, but less second-hand shops. I try a couple of the Mark & Spencer and alike shops, but strangely enough, it seems like their smallest trousers is 30" - too big for me.
A bursting river runs through town, making the garden even more lovely. Here are several old churches, and eventually, I find Winchester Cathedral. It seems even larger close up. Actually, it is too large for my camera.
I see the basement of the ancient King's Palace, the Great Hall with the 1300 edition of the round table and the Queen's Garden. All from around 1250. Next to it is the large Kings House and other massive buildings. I do another loop through the centre of town, and find a cafe for a sandwich and a cup of tea. Something must have gone wrong in translation: I get the tea, but instead of a veggie-sandwich, I get a yummy chocolate-biscuit cake with thick caramel topping. The sun have finally broken through, and it is a true pleasure to sit outside.
While I reflect over how many, how massive and impressive building England have, I also figures:  If someone have been that rich (church, king, lord), a lot of people must not only have been poor, they must also have suffered a lot. Back side of the medal, I guess.

On the way to Salisbury, I pass a huge plant mall, and give it a try. The outdoor plants are in general familiar, but also a lot which most likely won't stand frost. The inside plants, on the other hand, is a disappointment.
Salisbury is smaller, but just as lovely. The cathedral even more impressive. Here should be an ancient, working clock, and I do find a clock tower and some clocks on old buildings. Exactly which one is the old
one remains a mystery, as I left my memory and guidebook in the car - which I only have a flimsy recollection on where I parked. It seems like the only way to park in these towns are a parking house.
Within the Cathedral, four original copies of the Magna Carta is displayed. I get a breath look, and they look surprisingly ordinary.

As I rather optimistic try to walk back to the car, I passes even more marvellous houses. Just the walls surrounding them is a work of art. Different materials mixed, and covered in flowering plants. Just as I'm about asking for directions for the parking house, I find my self right in front of it.
Here, like everywhere else I been in England, most crosses are turned into round-abounds. Many just by painting a white circle in the middle. But it work smoothly, and so much better than the 4-way stops of Africa!

Nearby, a collection of stones form several circles within each other, and the perfect weather make me go there, right away. Stonehenge receive a million guests a year, and the visitor centre is impressive. After buying a ticket, a shuttle bring you to the actual site. It is not as crowded as I feared, but of cause, you won't get real close to the tall stones. Some light clouds passes in front of the sun, and I try to capture the scenery. Despite they only are about one third of the size I expected, they are impressive. The entire area is scatted with human constructions, although they only are faint markings in the surface. The oldest one is believed to be 10.000 years old. Some are just the holes from huge poles, some are walkways, some hills but all thought to have some religious purpose. Or a UFO landing site. Or a calendar. Maybe the ancient people just had a wicked sense of humour?
Back at the visitor centre, I find a symbolic metal casting, resembling one of the arches of the circle, and it is going to be my England souvenir - I think. Then the sun make me slowly sip a mug of tea before I see the small but real interesting and well made museum.

Next on the list is Longleat which is both a safari park and a castle. I guess it will be too late, but I'm only interested in the castle and the gardens anyway. The large African animals ought to be observed on the African savannah anyway - which I just did some months ago. It seems like it is one ticket for it all, and I don't feel like paying 33 pound. 
At the entrance, I saw a sign pointing to the Caravan Club's site. It is a long and narrow road, leading way out in the lovely countryside. Cows, willows, ponds and huge hills make up a great mosaic. When I finally make it to the Caravan Club, I am bounced: Despite I actually sleep in the car, I lack a kitchen. And they are strict about their roles. But a private, nearby campsite might be more tolerant, I'm told. I get their calling card, but my GPS won't negotiate. I have to gas anyway, and get some directions. A road worker give some more, and I find this little place, just as it start raining cats & dogs.
No reason to get out in that; I just start on the diary. Twelve pound for a parking lot and a hot shower. The owner directs me to the local pub, and despite I still have fresh? vegetables from home, I try it out. 20 minutes to opening, but I still have several experiences from the day to write about.
When they open, I get a fantastic meal: Three different "fake minced meat steaks", vegetables and fries with several dips. I bring the computer, and work till after dark, hoping I find back to the campsite. I had a plan about making this diary breath - I still have to work on that!

13/5 I sleep fantastic; in a mater of fact, I sleep eleven hours completely undisturbed. I guess I have made the blinds a bit too good, and the sun is up before me. The first site of the day is The Stourhead Garden and House. It is all created by a banking family, the garden by the "second Henry", known as the Magnificent.
It is a waste romantic garden with all it takes, in huge amounts. Here are several lakes and ponds, a large cave, a pantheon, a gothic cottage, a temple of Apollo, a cascade, a temple of Flora, a obelisk and a Palladian bridge. All scattered over a large, hilly area, filled with flowering bushes and trees. And many like the Rhododendron are flowering right now. I almost have it all to my self, along with the warm sun. The wind, on the other hand is real crisp in the mornings.
It is an amassing experience, and all the trees and plants in general are as pretty as they get. Now I kind of understand what the intentions with the other gardens around the world I have seen was. It is a bit strange to see the "real thing" here. Both the buildings, the gardens and more, which I only have experienced in the former colonies.
On the way out, the old church offers some great motives.

After having seen the garden in the recommended anti-clockwise direction, I head back to the entrance to have  look at their plant sale and get a cup of tea along with a coffee-walnut cake. Then the huge house has opened, and I give it a go. It is completely original with all the furniture and especially the paintings. Some are from the dark Dutch period, and one need the light from a torch to reveal the actual motive.
The furniture is exclusive too. One piece was made for a pope in 1500, and contain 150 secret draws. The exterior is made by leaf gold and semi-precious stones. That pope really knew how to be humble...
The library contains over 6500 books, and most is first edition. The oldest are stored in a safe, but Doway's Bible from 1582 are displayed. I try to find Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species, but fails.

Completely overloaded with impressions, I head on to Shaftebury, just to see a steep street; Gold Hill. As so often, it is not the end of the trail, but the way there, which give the thrill. At one place, I have to cross a dip, where the river crosses the road. The huge green hills along the road are teaming with sheep and diary cattle, although hard to spot through the everywhere present hedges. Some roads will be way to narrow for even a small lorry, and one even have grass in the middle.
One town look slightly more cosy than the other villages I've been driving through, and I make a stop. It turns out to actually be Shaftebury, and besides from the Gold Hill, I find other interesting sights. One is the Shaftebury Abbey from 888, build by King Alfred the Great. They have a herb garden in the ruins with over 100 different species.
The Gold Hill it truly steep, and the houses gorgeous. The nearby museum display a bit from the area, from the ice age to 1900.

It is almost four, and I recon it will be too late for the next site. I just head that way, looking for a camp site. I try to follow the smallest roads, and passes so many wonderful sights. One is a garage for old cars, and two chaps are working on a old sport car.
I do a stop in a small village, and see their church, water mill and cosy houses. I feel just like being part of a Barnarby crime. Then I find a campsite, and as I paid 11 pound at the first, 12 at the next, I kind of expect 13 here. But it is 14,50. The lawns are beautiful, being the remains of a castle's park. I head back to the town to buy some dinner. Cabbage, houmous and a buffalo mozzarella should form a meal with the vegetables I brought from home.
Back at camp, I park at my spot, and walk the 200 metres to the common room and kitchen. I bring both computer and food the long way. Well, except for the computer not being in the bag. And then I have to return for my reading glasses. And then for a jacket. The room is less than 15C in big contrast to the warm sun outside. It have internet, and I download the British map for my smartphone. It might be better at finding places by their zip-code?
I get frozen to the bone, and head for the kitchen. I would have expected an electric kettle, but here are only washing machines and an iron, all with coin slots. And the draft make the room even colder. I chop up my food, and return to a bench in the low sun. Not much of a help, due to the cold wind. I retire to the car, and start working on the pictures. In the future, I will prefer the warm pub and bar-meal to this!
Some large, grey squirrels inhabits the big trees, and some moron have a peacock nearby.
Somehow, I get to work to after ten, but it does, of cause help; I get to delete the entire Stourhead slideshow. Pressing Ctrl+z does turn time back - also where you are NOT looking. Prepping and tagging the photos a second time is no fun.
The temperature have now dropped even more. I'm glad I'm heading south by now, but will Wales warm up till I get there?
A bit a against my wishes, I have to head back to the cold room to upload and exchange emails. Have I, after all, brought too little of my winter robe? The photos from the second part can be found in this slideshow.

From here, I head even further down the coastline towards the southwest. All about that in Diary 2.

                    

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