Southern Comfort: Bristol, Brighton and beyond

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Our sweep across the Southern Counties took in Bristol (see above), Southampton, Brighton, Overton and Staines. From Southampton we visited the New Forest (not new and mainly not forest but heathland) and Beaulieu, where donkeys guard the entrance to the pub/hotel:

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What kind of clients are they expecting? After Brighton’s bracing promenade, we were refreshed at the White Hart, a lovely pub in a beautiful setting. You can see the old stone bridge in this Google Earth photo:

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Warm Southern welcomes everywhere, plus good food and drink, of course!

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Helmsley and Hampton Court

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Helmsley Castle as seen from the Walled Garden.  Even in October, the garden is great to explore and has come on a long way since our previous visit a few years ago. The cafe there is another attraction – so good we came back the next day for more!

In November, most gardens are losing their zing but at Hampton Court the formal gardens are still interesting and attractive. The Great Vine is worth a visit on its own; it must be quite something when it’s grape time. This just shows its starting point…

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All the way to America

IMG_8285And here we are, minus photographer Joe, at the Ships, Clocks and Stars exhibition in Mystic, along with two of the key organisers, Jeff and Elysa. Nice to see John Harrison celebrated all the way across the Atlantic. Mystic Seaport is a big heritage site with everything from coopers and smiths to ropery and repair yard – as well as two fully rigged sailing ships. From Mystic, we visited the Catskill Mountains and on the way in a little place called Norfolk…

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…which just happened to have one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever seen:

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Burgundy

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Guedelon – the making of a castle. Having seen it on TV, we happened on the site almost by chance – it was a few miles from La Catanque campsite at St Fargeau. What an amazing place: the castle is slowly and painstakingly being constructed using medieval methods, funded by visitors and staffed by paid workers, apprentices and volunteers. The ‘squirrel wheel’ really does its job of hoisting heavy loads of stone up the towers. This is a one-person version. There is another two-person wheel. Among the working areas for masons, carpenters, rope-makers and potters we were particularly taken by the dyer’s cottage.

So many other things to see… the amphitheatre and mosaic at Grand, for example, the pottery at Ratilly, the chateau and gardens at Joinville…  And some beautiful campsites, our favourite being La Forge de Ste Marie near Joinville, seen below at night.la Forge 5

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Picardy

IMG_7856Here’s a nice peaceful picture from a nice peaceful garden near Montreuil, visited after we found that our intended garden in St Valery was closed on Mondays. So, this newly discovered gem was a delightful surprise. Just a private garden that happens to be open to visitors for five euros.  A few days earlier we returned to Maizicourt, a very much larger place but also very relaxed, rather like the geese in one of the many areas that are there to explore.

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Amsterdam Open Gardens

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Looking across the canal towards our apartment – somewhere behind the trees. Two flights of steep stairs but worth it when you get there! The open gardens also included a lot of art, especially sculptures, and sometimes something unexpected:

DSCF8564The hidden gardens were a bit formal for our taste – and we felt they needed some more splashes of colour – but they were fascinating nevertheless.IMG_7677

 

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Bempton Cliffs

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Swoop, swirl, glide, dive…    Sweeping over the waves or clinging on the cliffs, seabirds are everywhere! This is Bempton Cliffs on the coast of Yorkshire just north of Bridlington. Gulls, gannets and guillemots; razorbills, fulars and kittiwakes all circle around these sheer white sides and manage to find a ledge, a niche, to nest and lay eggs.  It seems precarious and counter-intuitive but they’ve been doing it successfully for years so I guess they know what they’re doing. Puffins are about – but none visible while we were there. The bird above is a gannet, by the way.

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