Monday 28 June 2021

Milton Keynes loop

Today we drove to Ikea at Milton Keynes, parked the car and set off for a walk. I can't tell you how impressed I am with the place, and the whole day was lovely, with well tended paths and beautiful rivers and lakes everywhere.

We walked for 23 kilometres, but it was easy walking as there doesn't appear to be a single hill in MK.

We walked along almost deserted paths, but that might be because it was a very overcast Monday, and the only busy section was through a field of sheep who insisted on walking along the path just in front of us. 

Towards the halfway stage we reached a large lake and followed the waters edge and reached the Peace Pagoda. MK is a very modern town and the Pagoda dates back to 1980, and apparently there are 1,000 flowering cherry trees around it that were donated by Japan.

On the other side of the lake we found a big wheel, a toilet (whew) and then a pub where we stopped for a coffee.

Nice route back along the Grand Union canal in the rain, 

then through a housing estate with a lake and fountain, and on along another river towards Ikea.

A bit of shopping then including some cacti and a giant pack of Daim bars for the journey home. I have never tried these before, although I have seen them in the shop many times. Absolutely fabulous, I can't stop eating them. 

Thursday 24 June 2021

Heyford loop

Today we decided to drive a few miles to the nearby canal and walk a 16 kilometre loop along the canal and back via roads and pathways.

The canal was lovely with lots of narrow boats, locks and even a lift up road bridge.


It was an easy walk along the canal and then we briefly walked along a road before turning off on to a footpath. It quickly became obvious that no one had walked along this particular footpath for a long time, and we were faced with a large field and no path at all. Darren has an app on his phone that works out the route and then tells you the way as you are walking, so we set off following the app through the middle of the field until we came to a gate.

It stood all on its own in the field with no fence or hedge in sight, but the app said that we needed to go through it and straight ahead. We did this and eventually came to a wood with a style, but on the other side the nettles were waist high, so we decided to go round and meet the path again at the end of the wood.

We were met by a footpath sign through a field, but it was full of big, scary bullocks that were quite interested in us. There was an electric fence keeping them in one part of the field so I decided to crawl underneath it and follow along the other side. Darren soon decided to follow, but he didn't duck as low as me and I had to shout out a very quick warning as his back was almost touching the fence.

Eventually we did find a little path, got back to the road and then to a Yurt Cafe for lunch. It was actually a very fancy yurt and we had to eat outside because we hadn't booked. We paid a fortune for  butter bean bruchetta followed by a scone with jam and cream. The very nice and posh waitress then appeared behind Darren just as he was saying that a Tescos meal deal would have been better, but she politely asked if we were enjoying our meal, and he politely told her that we were.

We then got back on the route for the last section and walked along country lanes and fields. We passed an amazing ruined building which I thought might have been a ruined monastery, but I can't find it mentioned on any map, so that is probably completely wrong.

Finally we got back on to the canal past lots of parked narrow boats, some with imaginative decorations, and then back to the car.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

The fourth plinth

I haven't written about it for a while, but our fish lawn is now finished.

When I first turfed it I was too embarrassed to put any pictures up because it looked so bad. I bought the turf from Homebase and it was cheap, but had also been rolled up outside of the shop for way too long, which I only realised when I tried to lay it.

At least its all almost one colour now. I have also put a brick in place for the fish eye that for some over the top reason I am calling the fourth plinth, to copy the one in Trafalgar Square. That one has temporary exhibitions on it, and today I have put in a temporary eye which is actually a half price buy, again from Homebase, but they haven't ripped me off so much this time. It also looks a bit like lovely fake eyelashes on my fish.

Other things of interest in the garden is my giant Canary Islands echium which is currently growing by a few inches every day.

I have planted a sunflower next to the pergola and it is looking very good, but it is a bit disconcerting when I sit with a coffee because it feels as if it is checking up on me, and looking over my shoulder all the time.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

806 years ago today

In 1215 King John signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede and 806 years later we were in that exact same place. Spooky!!

And that was one of the highlights of our day today.

We set off from Kew and cycled to Richmond, then caught a train to Staines with the idea of cycling along the river Thames. It does appear that this isn't possible, and we spent a frustrating day seeing the river very occasionally, but mostly cycling along busy roads very near to it, but not actually seeing it.

The Magna Carta section was particularly busy, but the history was interesting and the weather excellent, so it was all good really.

We then cycled to Bray where Heston Blumenthal has his restaurant called 'The Fat Duck' that we couldn't find, and a coffee shop called The Post Office that was closed because the weather had been too hot. Or so the notice on the door said when we tried to stop for refreshments.

Later I was looking forward to a cycle up the Great Walk at Windsor, but that wasn't allowed, neither was even walking with a bicycle! See notice on photo and Windsor Castle in the distance. 

We cycled into Windsor Town though and enjoyed our leftover pizza from last night in front of the Queen's windows. If she happened to look out then I am sure that she would have been jealous. 

Saw a nice model of a Hurricane along the route, and then cycled back to High Wycombe and caught the train home.

Still can't believe how fantastic fun the Brompton's are.

Monday 14 June 2021

Kew Gardens

 A full day out at Kew Gardens today. Beautiful weather again and we were amongst the first people inside.

The first thing that we went to see was the giant water lily in its own house.

We have seen it here at Kew before, and a couple of times in the wild, but it is always spectacular. Especially today because we were the only visitors so had it completely to ourselves.

Then we went from amazing plants to yet more amazing plants, some in giant greenhouses, and some outside.

We also found time for a sit down.....

and this seat was actually much more comfortable than it looks.

We followed a peacock around hoping for it to open it's tail, but it didn't,

and sat inside the giant hive before getting ice creams and hearing back to our hotel.

Sunday 13 June 2021

Ride on the Bromptons

Took the Brompton for a quick test ride on the street this morning and couldn't believe how lovely it was. Speedy, comfy, twisty, turny, not to mention super stylish.

We nipped down to the station and caught the train to High Wycombe ready for a bike ride.

We set off through a big park and after a few miles came to something called the Jubilee River. It is a man made river that is about seven miles long and is designed to help reduce flooding around Windsor and Eton. It takes water from upstream of them, sends it along the new river and then joins up with the Thames further downstream.

On this beautiful day it had loads of people swimming in it, paddle boarding and canoeing or just sunbathing on the banks. A cycle path runs along the whole route too.

Reading up about it on Wikipedia, it seems that it doesn't take as much water as expected, locals think that it causes flooding downstream and the Government sued the designers...... but it was lovely today.

We then rode through Eton and Windsor which was very busy. A flag was flying on the castle so I think that the queen might be at home.

After that it got a bit boring as we were on a cycle path next to the A4 for ages. We went around Heathrow, which didn't seem busy and checked in to our hotel at Kew.

Premier Inn, good location, good room and nice telly to watch the tennis.

Friday 11 June 2021

Rousham Gardens

Today we cycled to Rousham Gardens to look around and have a picnic. I heard about it because Monty Don included it in his 'Around the world in 80 gardens', so I was hoping that it would be good.

First impressions were amazing as we cycled down a gravel path towards the house.

The house isn't open to the public and there is no shop or tea room, and an honesty ticket purchase at the gate. Monty likes it here so much because the gardens were laid out in the early 1700's and have remained almost the same ever since.

In hindsight, we saw the grassy areas, the river and ponds first which was really only a build up to the best bits.

After our picnic we walked along the river to see a 'classic seat' which was really only a slightly tatty bench, and we were starting to think that Monty was making a bad mistake, but then we opened a door into the wall garden. A magical place awaited us.

And on the way out we had a very close view of the long horned cattle in a nearby field.

Thursday 10 June 2021

Two day's out

Yesterday we had a lovely bike ride with Susan to Haddenham for lunch at a garden centre.

It was a long way and I was worryingly tired by the time we got there. A decision had to be made, did I have an refreshing sounding bottle of cider with lunch or resist? Thinking that it might affect my efforts on the way home I decided to resist, but then Darren ordered one so I immediately changed my mind.

Was it the cider or would it have happened anyway, but on the way home we were both shattered. Susan shortened the route back and kept waiting for us, and we just managed to drag ourselves home. Once back I went straight for an afternoon nap and wasn't back to normal for hours.

All good this morning though, so we caught the train to Oxford for a walk around the river and the city. Another beautiful day and a nice 13 kilometre stroll.

We left the river and did a loop around the town, taking in the sights.

The students were having a big boating event on the river and they had shut the paths along the river, so we did quite a detour and eventually got back to the station.

Back home and tired again so I had another nap. I hope that this isn't going to become a regular event, but yet again too tired to keep my eyes open.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Blenheim Palace, the sequel

We bought an annual ticket to Blenheim Palace, so keen to make the most of it, we went again today. This time on our bikes and for some reason I assumed that we were going straight there, but Darren who is in charge of directions, decided to take the scenic route.

I had already been out for a run so was flagging a bit towards the end, but we got there and it was a perfect day.

This time we had tickets to get in to the Palace, but the queue was a bit slow.

Lots of huge ornate rooms to see inside including one with a two storey library and massive organ.

We then went on a longer than expected stomp around the grounds. Unfortunately I had the map and we went in completely the wrong direction, and took ages to get back to the bikes. 

It all worked out well in the end and we had a lovely afternoon tea with a glass of prosecco before heading home on the direct route.

Ps, wish I had seen my hair before this photo was taken. Cakes look good though. 

Wednesday 2 June 2021

Blenheim Palace

We have bought annual passes to Blenheim Palace and today was our first of hopefully many visits. Unfortunately, they didn't provide us with a map so we spent a lot of time walking around in circles, although that didn't matter much as it is a beautiful place.

We couldn't go inside the Palace today because it was fully booked, but we did see the Winston Churchill exhibition, and around the final corner who did we find? 

Very lifelike and extremely patient.

The grounds were enormous and we didn't get to see much of them, and we came across the maze. I thought that it was going to be really easy....

.... but we were lost in it for ages and it was extremely frustrating. We did get out eventually and Strava managed to capture our route perfectly.

Afterwards we visited the butterfly house and a new exhibition by Ai Weiwei that only opened today. It is called the Gilded Cage and I can't say that I loved it, although I think that is the point.

Finally I decided to have another attempt at a cartwheel. I do at least one most years, and unless Darren missed the crucial moment when my legs were straight and elegant, then I have to assume that this year's effort is worse than usual.