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
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
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
While I head towards
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
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
The oldest known story is of the Saxon Thegn Aelfric, who had a fort
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
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
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
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
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,
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
I do a few more loops around the stilled closed centre, but fail to
find the interesting aspects. Anyway, I got other interesting things
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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