Monday 31 May 2021

Final day of cycling, Stratford-upon-Avon to home

We stayed overnight at Stratford upon Avon and went for a wander around the town this morning. Everywhere you look William Shakespeare manages to appear, and here he is with me clinging on to his ankle. 

We then walked along the river and I wondered out loud 'which river do you think this is?', Darren thought this a trick question, but I was thinking of the Thames. As he then helpfully pointed out, the answer is in the name of the town. 

Thicko of the day prize for me, and I then proved it again by having a very strong opinion of the route out of town, even though I didn't have a map. Everyone nicely humoured me and we set off down my choice until it became obvious that it was actually completely the wrong way. 

Once we were on the right route we made good time and rode 25 kilometres before the first coffee stop. 

After the stop the route became very undulating, and then we found a ford that cheered us all up. 

We stopped for lunch at Great Tew, which is a beautiful and very expensive village in Oxfordshire. It is also the home of the very famous and celebrity filled Soho Farmhouse. Non of the others had heard of it, obviously I haven't been to it, and I don't have a photo of it, so a bit of a non story really. 

The lunch was great though and we had a picnic on the grass overlooking beautiful thatched roofed cottages. 

We decided to have an ice-cream on the final ride back home but we didn't find a shop until we had only a mile left. So we sat on the pavement steps in Bicester town centre, had our cornets and then headed home for a much needed lie down. 

Sunday 30 May 2021

Sutton Coldfield to Stratford upon Avon

 Day three of our cycling trip. This was another almost 70 kilometre epic ride, however,we met a fellow cyclist by a canal who had cycled from Leeds this morning and was hoping to reach Stonehenge tonight, or so he claimed. This rather put our efforts in the shade.

Anyway, we had a great start by cycling along a canal under Spaghetti Junction.

We then joined up with the Birmingham Canal network and headed towards the city centre. The towpaths were immaculate, there was dozens of bridges to navigate and quite a few gates.

Great historical architectural scenery, topped off with a few modern buildings, and a dusting of excellent graffiti.

The city centre was spectacular too, this is the library...

We then followed a route down the middle of the A38 out of town...

... and a few problems with a missing coffee shop and the wrong route for a while, before we got back on track.

In the afternoon we cycled over the longest aqueduct in England and watched a canal boat sail along it.

Then along the canal to the hotel in Stratford upon Avon. I managed to fall off my bike on a bumpy bit of towpath, but unfortunately no dramatic looking bruises to show off.

Saturday 29 May 2021

Hard day of cycling

This morning we were joined on our cycling trip by Susan and Paul. 

We started with a nice easy ride to Warwick and then played a game of find the castle. We passed the entrance quite early on, but we didn't want to visit, we just wanted a nice view from a distance.

Darren's cycling app led us on an undulating journey to a bridge in a park, but we could only just see the very top of it behind lots of trees 

See very disappointing photo and two tiny turrets.

We then headed nearer to it and went down a cobbled street that turned into a dead end. This time we were right under the castle.

Strange angle on this picture, but definitely the castle,but again not a great view.

Losing interested, we cycled along the Grand Union canal and the incredible Hatton Locks. 

There are 21 locks in quick succession, and today there were lots of canal boats going both up and down them.

We also found the Knowle locks, and by then the sun was beginning to come out.

After the canal we stopped in Knowle for a long, calorific lunch before heading to another highlight - a cycle path to the end of the Birmingham Airport runway.

Surprisingly it was busy with lots of picnickers and benches.

Only one plane landed while we were there and the big disappointment was that it didn't come in low overhead, but landed right at the other end of the runway, coming to a stop well before the end.

Even more disappointingly, a few minutes after we left a plane took off and it must have been really low over our bench, and we saw it climb from a few streets away.

It was then a bit of a slog to our hotel with the highlight being a trip to Halfords for a spare inner tube for Paul. 

We arrived at the Premier Inn at Sutton Coldfield at about 5.30pm and the lovely receptionist was so impressed with our 70 kilometre long ride that she gave us a box of chocolates each as a present.

Excellent day and hopefully S and P will be up for much more of the same tomorrow.

Friday 28 May 2021

Cycling across there counties

Exciting day today as we are actually on a mini break. And a cycling one too, with panniers and hotels!

First it was an easy ride across Bicester to a village called Aynho. It turns out that there is very little there, but just down the road at Kings Sutton we found a lovely pub selling cappuccinos.

Nicely refreshed we then headed off down a very muddy track with a ford at the bottom.

I should really have cycled through it but I have my excuses ready. My bike is new and clean, and the water was quite speedy and possibly deep, so instead I carried the bike over the little bridge.

After that we found the canal to Banbury. The path was very narrow and close to the edge in places, so a bit of concentration was needed.

Not in this picture though.

We stopped for a glamorous lunch of a Tesco's meal deal round the back of the shop in the smokers corner, and then headed to Chesterton windmill.

Another coffee stop and then the final slog to the hotel. Just under 70 kilometres.

Sunday 23 May 2021

Oxford isn't as bad as Elaine thought

A lovely weekend with Elaine and Mark, the first overnight visitors to our new house.

This morning we parked at Wolvercote near Oxford, and set off on a bracing Sunday morning walk. We walked along the water meadows and saw the wildish horses relaxing around the footpath ahead of us.

I am always very wary around animals, particularly large ones, but horses don't have sharp teeth and look pretty gentle, although I did stay at the back of our group just to be on the safe side.

They weren't interested in us so we made it safely out of the meadows.

We walked along a beautiful canal and into Oxford. Elaine has already seen Oxford on a hen weekend about 15 years ago and didn't manage to find any nice bits that time, so we set off to try to find some for her. 


She took lots more photos of incredible buildings, but these are the only ones that she sent me. And why do we all have such huge feet in front of Trinity College?

The good news is that she has changed her opinion and now Oxford is better than she expected.

After a happy hour or so wandering around the dreaming spires we joined the river Thames on its Path.

We saw some nice nature and then back to the car with over 13 kilometres showing on Strava.

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Gravel delivery

So, after Darren had cleared all of the clay from behind the greenhouse I spent a morning building a little foundation wall, and shuttering it in place with bricks and plastic liner. The weather forecast was for light rain showers, but before I had finished, it suddenly started hailing with torrential rain thrown in. Twice. 

Once it had stopped we went to investigate and lots of the foundations had been washed away under the fence and into the plot next door. The moral of this story is never to trust the weather forecast. 

Today was a good day though as we had a delivery of two tonnes of gravel. 

It was a busy day and some nice little jobs got finished. Darren had levelled all of the slabs to the pergola and we filled in all of the gaps with gravel. 

I saw a lovely bog garden on the TV and was quite inspired by it, so we have made our own in the boggiest part of the garden instead of ignoring the problem and watching ordinary plants struggle in the mud. 

It doesn't look much yet but give it time. Also don't walk on it if you don't want to lose a boot in it. 

Darren spent the morning rebuilding my foundation wall and substantially fortifying it, and it didn't rain until a few hours after he finished, so it is still looking good. 

I wore myself out digging soil out of the fish shape, then filling the hole with clay, then a layer of gravel, then finally putting the soil back on top. Phew. 

 Not ready for the grass yet, but not far off. 

Saturday 15 May 2021

Beyond the call of duty

 Top marks today to Darren who threw himself enthusiastically into the task of improving the drainage behind the greenhouse and the back of the garden. It is a shame that there has been so much rain recently, because it turned it into a nightmare job.

He kept smiling all day though, even when his boot got stuck in the mud and he had to dig it out in just his sock!

Below is the photo of the garden this morning, and since then he has dug out tonnes of clay and carried it in to the middle of the fish.

The hole is quite deep and we are going to fill it with gravel and a drain pipe, but I can't take an 'after' photo because it started to rain really heavily and it is now totally full of water.

I think that tomorrow he might have to buy some wellies, but first I am going to try to bail out the water with a bucket.

He has also moved the water butt, and done a bit of fancy pipe work so that the back and half of the front of the greenhouse drain in to it.

Friday 14 May 2021

Fish in water

 The weather was supposed to be okay yesterday, so I had high hopes of finishing the fish. It started to rain a bit, but I decided that it was only a shower so mixed up a good sized bucket of mortar.

The weather had different ideas though and it started to pour down. Getting soaked I rushed to put in some bricks and then raced quickly down the path. Foot in mid air, I rememberd that Darren had put in an extra step on the path and there was wet concrete under the slab.

I tried really hard to avoid stamping down on it, but it was too late and I hit it near to the edge. Even worse, Darren was watching from the kitchen so I couldn't even deny it.

Today I relaid it and there is now a bucket on the top so that I don't do it again.

Anyway yesterday, it then rained constantly for about six hours and now our fish is almost surrounded by water.

Slight exaggeration, but his head is definitely very wet.

Fortunately today it was dry from about 11am onwards, so I have finished the brickwork on the fish and the path up to the pergola.

Monday 3 May 2021

Bank Holiday project

We have been looking at the lawn in the garden and it is not really very good. The section near to the greenhouse gets very waterlogged and the grass is very poor. Also, it is not very level and quite a narrow straight boring border along the fence.

We have decided to create a soakaway next to the greenhouse and make the lawn smaller. We started to think about the overall shape with more curvy edges. Darren then suggested that we make a fish shaped lawn! 

We started yesterday by digging out the grass around the edges and saving the turf to rot down for use as soil in the new flowerbeds. 

This morning Darren dug out and levelled the ground while I emptied the plants from the soakaway area, and either put them into temporary pots or replanted them around the garden.

I am very pleased that a daisy was growing in the lawn so I dug a deep spadeful of grass and soil up with it and moved it in to the grass near the greenhouse, I hope that it survives its change of address.

Bad weather this afternoon so we went shopping for sand and cement for the mini foundations. Unfortunately there appears to be a national shortage of cement so we only found the sand. Hopefully the local builders merchants will have a couple of bags, and I will be on the phone to them first thing tomorrow morning. 

Sunday 2 May 2021

Progress on the site

There is loads of work going on all around us, and every day something new happens.

There are still a lot of gaps, but they are filling up rapidly.

This is quite a recent aerial shot, and the red squares are all new plots in progress.

Just along and behind us is a plot that is having a huge basement. We have watched the hole grow daily and when they were putting the metal pilings in to the ground our whole house shook, and all of the glasses in our cupboards clinked and clattered together.

The builders have just started the filling in process and have put in a concrete base that is drying over the weekend.

The plot next door to the giant basement has just had it's scaffolding put up and the frame is due to arrive in two days time. The plot behind the house with the turquoise roof is just being dug out, and just out of sight on this photo is another brand new house. 

All quiet today though on Bank Holiday Sunday.