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ENGLAND     DIARY 6   2016   

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 Diary 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10
 

                                WALES

From Cornwall and Devon, I now head into Somerset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Cotswolds.

27/5 A light rain during the night, but dry in the morning. The sun peeks out a few times, but not for long. I head for the highest point in Exmoore, the 519 metre high Dunkery Beacon. Here should be a fantastic 360 degree view, and it is in the centre of one of the largest patches of heather.
A roadwork blocks the road from one side, and I have to drive a rather long detour, to find the other end of the access road. Especially because my GPS insist on taking the closed road. Despite the fog and mist, it is a great tout through tiny villages, narrow rods and real steep hills. The road is twisting madly, and several times, I have to back a bit, to get around a corner in a road intersections. I stop a few times to walk a bit in the beech forests, which have quite some Rhododendrons mixed in. That does make them look so park-like.
When I finally make it to the parking-lot for the peak, it is real foggy. The sight is at best 20 metres, but I set out on the long walk anyway. It is low heather, mixed with a few other plants. A few sheep flies from me, else, I only see a few slugs, a caterpillar and hear a few birds. One unknown, a lark and a coo-coo.
When I reach the top, the 360 degree outlook is there, but only a few metres out. A few times, the sun almost break through, but in tiny patches. After some time, I give up on the view, and ahead back down. It must be fantastic to see this area a clear day, and when the heather is flowering!

While I head towards Dunster village, castle and garden, the sun get more and more strength. However, I don't trust the rain to have given up, and when I reach the site, I start with the garden. The first part is the rough area with huge trees, a creek, and a bit surprising to me; banana plants. It does look a bid odd between Rhododendrons and giant Red Woods.
The Keen Garden is where the first fort was. Now, it is just a large, round lawn with flowers around. The low wall surrounding it allows a view to a waste area around, from the village to the huge hills.
The Lovers Bridge leads to the watermill, still turning. Inside the rather large building, a museum show and tell about the mill functions. A tour up the terraces of the garden is slightly disappointing. It is not neglected, but only the more hardy plants have remained.
The oldest known story is of the Saxon Thegn Aelfric, who had a fort here. Wilhelm Eroberen gave it to a supporter in 1066. The gatehouse is from 1320, and look impressive. So do the main building, and the inside is complete, like it was used a hour ago. Many of the paintings are portraits of people who died in 1650-1750. The heavy furniture are in real dark oak with carvings. The house have been used until recently, but the youngest items seems to be Victorian. Well, with the exception of the kitchen, which look a bit 1950-like. It is "new", as the original have turned into a billiard room. The staircase must contain several tons of oak, and the carvings are fantastic.
One room is practically a greenhouse, forming a real cosy winter garden. The view from here covers the valley and the huge hill on the other side, all with a pleasant mix of huge trees and green grass. Another glass house have been turned into a tiny cafe, and I enjoy a cup of tea and shortbread-caramel-chocolate sandwich.
The dungeons are open, and here the food were stored, the bats have a day resting-room, and under one tower, the place where prisoners were left for eternity is found. The stables are pretty much intact, although they dates back to1680. One part have been turned into the shop, which look a bit strange, but works. 

It is only a short walk down to the Dunster village. A huge wooden gate marks the castle's precessions. A strange looking house was originally the nunnery, while a round construction on the square is the 1609 market for broadcloth and homespungs. Many of the houses are just as old, and some have a rather "Hobbit" impression over them.
The city garden is open, but not really that interesting. The new Dream Garden, next to the priory is becoming way nicer. I do the streets, but the wealth of the city have made them paint the houses, and then make them look significantly newer.
On my way out of the village, I pass a huge herd of what appears to be medieval cattle. The rain that started on the parking-lot picks up, but I try Clevedon Castle once again. It is still closed, but the owners live there, despite the National Trust have been given right for some days.
Just a few kilometres down the road, Tyntesfield is found. It dates back to 1800, and is made from a fortune created by guano from South America.  It is too late so get inside and see this Victorian masterpiece, but the garden is open.
A small Victorian garden right next to the house, and way out on the fields and beyond the wild part, the flower garden with huge greenhouses and walled kitchen gardens are found. A funny little detail in the Victorian garden is: The little tea-house that always is present in the romantic gardens is simply doubled, making it pleasant symmetric.
The kitchen gardens are filled with vegetables. The greenhouses a bit barren with only the fruit trees and some Pelargonium. A Sandstone-glass house from 1890 is real impressive from outside, but also a bit empty.
On my way back, I find yet another glasshouse, but different. It turns out to be the aviary, where colourful and sinning birds were kept.

It once again start to drizzle when I head for the car, and this time is means business. It is around 75 kilometres to the next sight, and I'm pretty confident; I will find a camp along the way. I almost reach Bath, before a roundabout have one out of each rood. The first, however have been changed into cabins. The next is full, the third don't accept anything but campers.
I get a list of five others, but only dammed zip-codes, which my GPS refuses to deal with. It only accept the first out of five digits, leaving me in a 25 square kilometre area. Due to the heavy rain, I can't find even a dog-walker to ask for directions.
I find another campsite, but they are apparently full too. After more than three hours of searching, heavy rain and dense traffic, I give up, and pull into a rather large parking-lot at a minor road. I might have to pay attention during the day, and loop back in the future, due to the holydays and vacation period. My next four sights are within 35 kilometres, and I would have wanted two nights.

28/5. Despite the "campsite" I get a good night's sleep, but do awake a bit early. I drive straight to the old and large Bath (Bit of a joke actually: The first time I don't get a morning shower, since the Kalahari Desert, I head straight to Bath!), and find a parking lot neat centre. Two hours, 3,10 pound - no shorter stays can be bought. Well, I have heard it is a nice city, and I start exploring. It is still a bit early on this Saturday morning, and the sun is low.
I passes the Roman bathhouse, the Cathedral, the city garden and see the large river Avon, running through town. One bridge called Pulteney Bridge is from 1769, and on both sides of the road, shops are found. I do a few more loops around the stilled closed centre, but fail to find the interesting aspects. Anyway, I got other interesting things to see.

Well, so I thought, but The Court Gardens in Holt don't look that great from the outside, and I will not wait two hours for them to open. The next on my long list is Lacock village, Abbey and Gardens. Figuring they can't have closed a village for the night, I head on.
It is a lovely medieval village with the ancient, flower-overgrown cottages is real nice - if it wasn't for all the parked cars! It is nearly impossible to make a photo of a house without getting several cars, blocking the view. They have something going on; large figures are placed the strangest places, and retells are placed nearby.
One street is crossed by the river, and only the pedestrians have a bridge. The road run under the water for quite some distance.
The 14th century tithe barn, where the tax to the church was gathered is huge. No wonder the king took over... The abbey and its gardens are still closed, and I'm forced to have a pot of tea and a brownie - sandwiches are only served after noon!
The botanical garden is a disappointment, although it does look all right. It even have a small greenhouse, and here is an interesting feature: The automatically opening of the windows in the sealing. After I have figured them out, I notes the poster, telling their story.
I find the abbeys working yard, and the brewery. The abbey was founded in 1232, and many of the buildings remains. However, after it was taken over by the Henry VIII, and sold, it was turned into a private home in 1539. Where some of the other castles have been fully equips - at least the open rooms, this one is not. Part of it is just the barren walls, and I actually like this. The sacristy and the warming house only have a few objects, like the cauldron, made in Antwerp in 1500. I fain to figure the purpose of three stone coffins, looking like they were mend to drain the bodies. 
From here, I walk the long gallery, which reminds me of Harry Potter. And around the corner, a poster tell that story. Actually, the abbey have been used in many movies. From here, the rooms are with their last furniture and paintings. Some modern things like typewriter and electric lamps are mixed with 14-15th century paintings. One of the last owners is known as the inventor of the photo - along with a Frenchman. The big hall is impressive. Terracotta figures in the niches and family shields in the entire sealing. The most recently use was for some tennis-like game.
Around the buildings, other gardens like the rosery and the walled kitchen garden are found. Like the botanical garden, they have see better days, but also worse.

The narrow country rods are calling, and they leads me over old bridges, pass cosy-looking old houses with some sort of huge, round roofs of stray. Most are partly overgrown with flowering plants, and it look fantastic. As always, I have a problem ditching the car every time I feel like walking or taking a photo. Despite here are fewer walls and hedges and the hills are significantly flattered out, parking can't be done.
I pass a huge, white horse on a hillside, and can't really make its purpose out. I have seen quite some like that in Argentina, but ancient. Well, this one is too: 3000 years old. I should have taken a photo...

Then Avebury turns up with a manor, gardens, circles and church. It seems like the gardens have just started being restored, and a bug or fungus is real hard on the figure-cut box hedges. But the walled garden is here, so are the pond, the kitchen garden and the lawns.
Inside, it have a story of its own. When it was left quiet empty, and BBC was looking for the place to "makeover" a manor, it all fell into place. Each room of the 16the century house is made with its time-style. They used original techniques and materials, even the huge painted wall-papers from China. Those are, by the way, the only thing you are NOT aloud to touch, It smatters off, just like the original. The gardens are on each side of the house, and it is not that time-consuming to see them.
Then I get a pot of tea and a baked potatoes while I talk with a pair of Englishmen, doing their own country in the long weekend.

Next to the manor is a small museum, showing how life was 4500 years ago. And that is because; it was the time when the stone circle outside was build. It is the oldest and biggest circle, and it sure is impressive. 348 meter in diameter. Well, only 30 of the originally stones are in place, but some are huge! Here was original 98 standing stones in the outer circle, some up to six metres tall, weighting 20 tons. Within the large circle, two others were build, one with 27 the other with 29 stones. The church did it best to get rite of this Pagan monument in the Middle Ages. It was partly restored by Alexander Keiller - rich from his father's marmalade business. I do the circles.

Even more impressive than the circles - I think - is the bank and ditch outside the circle. Nine meter deep ditch, five meter high bank. So many man-hours must have gone into this achievement!
After having seen it twice, I head out, and passes a cricket mach. It is not top-league, and I head on. The roads from here is lined with different white flowers, but pretty soon, I'm at the larger roads. This way, I hope to come across a camp site. I have 80 kilometres to go, before I reach tomorrows sight; The botanical garden of Oxford, and then some of the city.
After 70 kilometres and Oxfordshire is reached, I give up, and head for the smaller roads. That pays off, and I get the last lot on the huge caravan and camp site - but only after talking a lot about my mini-camper and its facilities. I got to find a cheep tent!
While working in the car all evening as usual, I realises; I won't make it home this summer, if I see too much of the National Trust's sights. I have to stick to my own, pre-planned ones. Looking out my car, I realises; The three nearest cars are brand new Jaguars. I can also see a Prious Hybrid and a Lotus 7, a BMW 7-sceries and a huge Mercedes. And this is the tent part!
I end up with a new slideshow: The General Somerset.

29/5 I now head into Oxfordshire and Oxford it self. I intend to reach the botanical garden as the opens, because it is located in the centre of town. I find a parking place on the corner of High Street and Longwall Street, less than 100 metres from the garden and the main sights. But the meter want five pound for three hours!
The greenhouses are not open yet, and I have to do with the grey and cold garden. Here are beds with families, beds with medicinal effects for groups of diseases and beds with plants from i.e. South Africa. It is well maintained by six gardeners, although it is more a collection than a show - which is fine with me.
When the greenhouses opens, I have a long talk with the attending gardener of the day. I see, they use long, dried sphagnum moss for orchids and other epiphytes. A commercial material I have been looking for, a long time. I get to see the bag, and the supplier.
Then I do the rainforest, the desert, the carnivorous, the water lily, the alpine and the fern house. Small, but well packed and maintained by three gardeners. They have around 5.000 different plants in total, most are well marked.
I give up on the sun, and head into the central part of Oxford. Endless lines of yellowish sandstone buildings with quite some carvings. I see the boats on the canal, Queen's College, the 1263 Ballion College and a few others.
Some of the shops are in raw sandstone, others more colourful. All are narrow. A few of the houses seems to predate the sandstone, and their oak skeleton have seen better days. The Saxon Tower from 1040 are better maintained.
I find the Covered Market, where most shops are open. They now look a bit more like normal shops, but I can imagine it like the markets I have seen around the world. After a hour, I figure I better get back to the car, and grab a bread with Cambert to go. And that was lucky, the meter-man is waiting for the last minutes to ring out, at my car.
It only take a few minutes to be out in the countryside. Then a two kilometre queue take 45 minutes to get through. At least, the sun is getting through by now.

The next sight is Bibury, a cosy little village - if it was not for the annual Open Garden arrangement. The town is scattered over a large area, with a river running through. I see some of the gardens from outside, but despite I kill some of the waiting time until they opens at two at a little teahouse, I give up. The gardens that are not open are beautiful, and I seen enough.
I have reach the Cotswolds, which is highly priced for its beauty. Might be, but to me, it just look like average Danish countryside. I had planed to do some of the walks, but think by now, I see enough from the car. I do several stops to enjoy and capture the endless white lines of flowers along the road. One field is covered in yellow flowers, and I just have to walk it.
The small villages I pass are real nice, and I do a few walks within them. The old, overgrown houses never fail to please me. Again, I have to drive within the river to cross it.

I have been looking out for a campsite all day, and just before The Slaughters, one finally turn op. It is located way out on a field, and the office is just a shelter. But they still charge sixteen pound, and the showers have slots! Well, I better take it, considering it is almost full.
The Slaughters is two small villages. The Upper is closest, and the smallest. It is also real open, and here are patches of fields and nature along the river, which runs through town. I see the nice church, but frankly, the overgrown stone walls fascinates me more.
I though I had seen enough, and head on, but as I pass through Lover The Slaughters, I have to stop again. Here, way more people are visiting, and I spot what look like a old, beaten-up and dirty meter-man. But I did not see any machines. I follow him right back to my car, which he claims is parked on double yellow lines. Well, so are all the others, and the yellow lines are buried under years of dirt. Never mind, I find another village. Actually, I rather find a bigger one, as I'm running out of diesel and food.

The GPS suggest Bourton-On-The-Water; "Venice of the Cotswolds"! They do have a gas station, but the Co-Operative apparently closed at four. Back to check at the gas station, but only meat dishes. Then I try the big Inn, announcing Good Food. But they are out!!! The recommend trying in major village; Bourton-On-The-Water.
I find the centre, and even a place for the car. But I have never seen that many people gathered in a village! It is insane, but what takes the price is: The cafes and restaurants closed on four, just like any other Sunday. But this is not any other Sunday. Tomorrow is bank holyday, and people want to enjoy, what have turned into a perfect sunny and warm day.
I do a walk around town to see, what it is all about - but don't get it. Then I find a convenience store, and buy a a small bag of lattice, two bananas and a box of crackers. With the leftover dressing and a few other things, it turns into a meal. I had expected internet at the camp, but not even if I pay! Well, the world just have to wait for me. I feel people are looking at me. Could it be because I haven't left the car since I came, four hours ago?

The route now head back west again, towards Wales. It leads through Buckinghamshire in Diary 7

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