Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: The ‘why’ of FI. (Page 1 of 19)

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 6.)

This picture was taken at Stokes Bay at 8:01 in the morning. I woke up that morning at 5:30 and remembered what the guy in the Sculpture Walk told me about the beach. I needed to be at a gin distillery at 11 – no way I was going to miss that! – so I had plenty of time to spare for a drive.

Besides, I thought it might be nice to be on a beach soon after sunrise. I can’t do this at home. The little woofs bark so much as they’re getting ready for a walk that I’d wake the neighbours.

The drive was a little over an hour and I was a bit worried I’d skittle a wallaby, but that didn’t happen. Though I DID see one bounding beside the road as I was coming out of American River, so that was exciting.

The top photo is of the beach that the Sculpture Park guy said that people assume is the real beach. It’s pretty enough, but over to the right, just in front of the cliffs, I saw a yellow sign.

When I got out of the car I met a man coming back from that way. I asked if that was the way to the beach.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, ” you gotta go over there through the tunnel. It’s a bit hard to know where to go at the moment because there’s no one here . Normally it’s swarming with tourists.”

“Ah, tourists. Hate those guys!” I said.

Then, like the tourist I am, I set off towards the tunnel.

I thought you might like to come through the tunnel with me, so I snapped shots as I went along.

Here was where I took off my sandals.

I’m short.

It was fun squeezing through and under the rocks.

This walk went on for a while…

… but could it be???

Yes!

This is what I saw as I emerged from the rocks. A secluded stretch of beach.

And not a soul in sight.

I began walking. Slowly, just drinking it all in.

Look at the colours!

I looked back at where I’d emerged from the rocks. Just as I did, the clouds parted and the sun shone.

All I could hear was the waves rolling in.

It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know what time it was, so I grabbed my phone and saw that it was 8:01.

If I was still at work, I would be driving along the freeway. I would have been aiming at that time to be at the end of the freeway, ready to turn right onto Warrigal Road. My car wouls be surrounded by hundreds of other cars, their drivers all intent on gettig to work as fast as possible.

Instead, I’m on this beach. By myself, in total peace and quiet.

It’s glorious.

I’m the only one on this beach. It’s crazy. People are driving to work right now, and then there are other people doing things like this.

To be fair, I suppose I couldn’t have been here if I didn’t drive all those years to work. But walking along the sand, watching the waves roll in and the clouds floating along the sky, it made all the frugal sacrifices I made in years gone by absolutely worth it.

I’m glad I played the long game of delayed gratification.

This is a real treat. It’s something really special. I’m really glad I stopped to talk to that guy in the sculpture park otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered coming here. As you know, I can go to the beach near me anytime I want.

I’m glad I came.

I created a memory.

As I was driving back to town towards the gin distillery, I saw a sign and turned off the main drag. Kangaroo Island as its own painted silo!

This angle shows the Glossy Black Cockatoo

… while this fearsome-looking bloke is wholly appropriate to the island.

Next stop – GIN.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 4.)

Today’s first stop was just a few metres from my door. I went to the oyster farm.

I didn’t realise, but the bay that my hotel is on is also where they farm the oysters on the island. When I saw how close it was, of course this was the first stop for the day. There are big advantages to being retired. The only people on my tour were a Danish tourist family and me. Everyone else is back at school/work.

The first stop, after meeting at the oyster café, was to walk across the road to the bay and feed the pelicans. We weren’t given the chance to have a go, and I could see why when one of them tried to swallow our guide’s entire hand in his eagerness to snare the oyster.

Look at those weird eyes! It doesn’t seem that there’s a lot going on behind them…

While we were here, we were directed to look out to the mouth of the bay. There was a dark line along half of the bay opening. These were the oyster cages.

You can’t get fresher oysters. They bring them in from the bay, sort them in the shed directly on the beach, and then bring them across the road to the café.

On our way into the shed, we passed these scrappy-looking trees called She-Oaks. The seeds are a staple food for the island’s endangered Glossy Black Cockies, and the oyster farm also uses them to smoke their oysters.

 This is an intertidal bag which will be filled with baby oysters. They roll around with the tides. A baby oyster takes around 2.5 years to grow big enough to harvest.

They start off with hundreds of tiny baby oysters in bags like this, with small holes, enough to let the sea water in and keep the oysters from falling through. Around twice a year, the bags are hauled up and the growing oysters are decanted into bigger crates with larger holes. as of course the oysters need ready access to seawater to thrive.

Each time, fewer and fewer oysters are put into each crate to allow them enough room to grow. If they’re too crowded, the poor things grow into each other, which would probably feel horrible.

Interestingly, spawning baby oysters swap genders throughout their lives.

There are two types of cages – the deep sea ones which lie on the sea bed and get very little disturbance, and the intertidal ones that get buffeted by the tides every day.

The deep sea oysters develop thin shells and have to be manually graded.

The intertidal oysters, on the other hand, have developed massive thick shells and so can be graded by machine to save time.

Normal oysters can stay in the fridge for 7 – 10 days.

The indigenous variety – the Angasi – only lasts 3 – 5 days. The fridges are run at warmer temperatures than we’re used to, at around 9C. This is because the oysters are still alive and if the temperature is too low they’ll die.

Any that aren’t sold by the end of this time are put back into the sea again.

The Angasi oysters used to be plentiful along the coastal regions of Australia, but of course the white settlers nearly foraged them out of existence. They’re slowly making a comeback, but they’re more delicate than the usual oysters farmed here.

After this, we walked back across the road to the café, where we had a tasting.

The shell on the right is an Angasi shell. It’s a milder taste than the oysters we usually have.

She shucked those oysters right in front of us and we dived in.

Seriously, the best oysters I’ve ever had.

It was almost lunchtime and I saw that the café had marron on the menu. When I was in Adelaide, Jenna’s uncles told me to be sure to try the Kangaroo Island marron. It’s between the size of a crayfish and a yabby and it’s freshwater.

I decided to try one for lunch.

 So good. It was served on a bed of coleslaw, with a slice of garlic bread. The marron was the perfect size for lunch. I enjoyed every bite.

Then I had to decide where to go. The girl behind the counter recommended Clifford’s Honey Farm. There was a different honey farm that allowed you to get all suited up and harvest honey from the bee hives and I definitely would’ve been up for this, but unfortunately they weren’t open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which were all the days I had left.

So Cliffords it was!

This was where I discovered that Kangaroo Island has many, many roads that are completely unmade. You certainly don’t want to be precious about your clean car when coming here! After a sometimes jaw-rattling ride in my trusty Golf, I arrived at the farm.

Apparently, their claim to fame is their Honey ice cream. I decided that dessert for a lunch on holiday is almost obligatory, so I grabbed a sample. It was ok, but seeing as I’m a person who doesn’t like milk or cream, it was a bit too creamy for me. I’m guessing most other people would love it.

They had three different types of honey to try and surprise, surprise! They had all three in a pack to buy.

Which I did.

I don’t use a whole heap of honey in my kitchen but hey. It’s never going to go off, is it? I also bought a bottle of Honey Mead. I have no idea what it tastes like but I figured thousands of Vikings can’t be wrong.

At the back of the shop they had a working hive, with the queen bee marked with a white dot. I looked for ages but couldn’t find her. The hive was open to the outside and it was interesting to see all the bees flying back into the hive.

The following paragraphs are from the Clifford’s Honey Farm leaflet.

Before the 1880’s there were no honeybees on Kangaroo Island. When importations were made between 1881 – 1885, the intention was for them to breed up and provide a future source of purebred queen bees for the beekeeping industry. These bees originated from Italy in the province of Liguria, and are known as Ligurian bees.

In 1885 the South Australian government proclaimed Kangaroo Island to be a bee sanctuary for these bees and no more importations have been made. So today we are believed to have the purest strain of these bees left in the world. The island is out of range of bee flight from the mainland.

There are big signs at the ferry terminus telling people that they can’t bring any honey products onto the island. This is obviously to protect this pure strain of bees.

Here are some handy hints and tips for you. Never say I don’t give you anything.

Fortified by the honey icecream, I decided to take a look at something that I read about on the ferry coming into Kangaroo Island: The Sculpture Walk.

More on this tomorrow…

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 3.)

The Remarkable Rocks!

Here’s the first time I caught sight of them, as I was walking along the boardwalk from the car park. You can see the people all around them… these babies are HUGE. Even from this far away, they looked interesting.

I’ve lived in Australia all my life and have never heard of these rocks, so I was going in cold. What can I say?

Going to Kangaroo Island is worth it for these rocks alone.

Halfway along the boardwalk I snapped this shot…

… and soon I was scrambling up onto the hilltop and walking around these incredible shapes.

Whoever named these rocks, the “remarkable” rocks knew what they were doing. They’re amazing. Surreal. Stunningly beautiful.

I think it was good that I came without knowing anything about them because they surprised the hell out of me.

Oh! By the way, there are no filters on these photos. These are the actual colours.

The Remarkable Rocks are all the result of erosion. They had these granite lumps on top of the cliff, covered by a whole dome of soft rock. Over aeons, the wind and rain have gradually worn away the soft rock, leaving the granite rocks exposed.

I tried not to include many people in these shots, but here’s one to give you an idea of how big these things are.

Enjoy the rest of the photos!

Just to prove that I was really here.

This was the end of Day 1 of Kangaroo Island.

Already I felt like I’d got my money’s worth!

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 2.)

WHAT A DAY!

My first full day on Kangaroo Island started slowly. I read a few chapters of my book, did some laundry, wrote a blog post and left my room at 11AM, which was far later than I envisaged.

Anyway, I decided to stick with my original plan, which was to go to the farthest end of the island to the National Park and see what there was to see. So I set off in my trusty little Golf.

Turns out that the National Park was a 2-hour drive from where I was staying, so I settled into some lengthy podcast listening. This wasn’t a problem… I let all the episodes of Trevor Noah’s ‘What’s Next?’ bank up and I’ve been listening to them for most of the trip. The conversations are so interesting – I can highly recommend.

As I was driving, mostly on unmade roads with quite a few bumps and potholes in them, I saw a sign for ‘Seal Bay.‘ On a whim, I turned left and drove 10 km or so to reach it. Why not?

They have 2 types of tours. There’s a self-guided one for around $20 that lets you observe the beach from up on a boardwalk, as well as a guided tour for around $40 where you get to go down on the beach for 30 minutes or so.

I nearly cheaped out but I’m really glad I didn’t.

(I included this board below because it has a lot of information on it. I didn’t realise how rare the Australian sealions are.)

Our guide had a couple of rules for us before we set off for the beach. 

  1. Stick together! Seal ions have bad eyesight, so if we stick in a group we look like a big blob, which they’re unlikely to attack.
  2. If the guide says “Move!”, then there’s no hanging around for just one more picture. The sea lions can run much faster on the sand than we can, so a strategic retreat is definitely the way to go.

I was really pleased that I arrived so late, as I saw some groups from a tour bus come back from the beach before we went down, and the groups were huge. Ours was only 8 people.

As we walked down towards the beach, the guide showed us the little rooms that the sea lions make under all of the scrub. 

“They swim out to the Continental Shelf, which is anywhere from 70 – 100 kms away, they stay for a day to hunt, then swim back, avoiding sharks along the way. They’re 3 days away on average, and they’re exhausted when they get back. Unlike seals, which have a double coat, sea lions have a thin coating of hair, like us, so they can get cold. They move up on land to find shelter from the wind.”

They’d need to. It was a beautiful day but the wind was definitely blowing!

“Sometimes, if the weather is really bad, we find them up in the car park!” said the guide.

When the mothers leave the babies to go hunting, the babies are left alone. They’re vulnerable to predators. If a female comes back from hunting and her baby is gone, she won’t adopt an orphaned pup. Instead, she’ll call for her pup from the previous breeding season, who would now be 18 months old. She then feeds that pup again.

“The babies that are fed for 3 years are HUGE!” said the guide.

Predators aren’t the only things that the babies are vulnerable to. The females are fertile for only 24 hours every 18 months – which is usually around a week after they give birth. Pups are sometimes crushed by adults in the throes of passion, particularly the males, who don’t care anything for a random baby that might be in their way.

The path snaked down to the beach. It was a glorious day.

We were headed to a flat platform with two staircases down to the beach, but first we had to walk over a see-through bridge.

“Sometimes some of the pups crawl under the bridge for a snooze,” said the guide. “If you see one, please don’t stand right over the top of it… they’ll get a fright.”

If you look just above the yellow line, you’ll see that a sea lion is blissfully sleeping on the step.

Suddenly the reason why there are TWO sets of steps was obvious!

We walked down to the beach. There were sea lions scattered all over the place.

This video starts on its side but quickly reverts to high-quality viewing.

How lucky are we in this country that we get to experience being in the same place as these animals?

Halfway through, you’ll have to tip the screen to its side. But it’s worth it – this follows the sleeping staircase sea lion as she comes down to the beach. 🙂

This colony has around 800 sea lions, with around 200 pups born each season. There’s a 12% mortality rate, which means I don’t know how many pups survive because Maths.

The Australian sea lion is endangered, with numbers gradually decreasing as time goes on. This species stays close to its colony spot all year round, so if something awful happens to the colony, it’s basically wiped out forever.

98% of this colony are microchipped.

The tour lasts for 45 minutes, which was over in the blink of an eye. It was very special to be on the white sand, just a few metres away from these gorgeous animals.

Though the girls sound as if they’re much nicer than the boys. Just saying…

Anyway, once I finished the tour, I jumped back in the car and drove to the National Park, which was the original plan for today.

I was a little bit worried that I might have left my run too late, but I was hopeful I’d be able to see everything that I wanted to and still get home before dusk. There are so many signs on the island, warning about travelling at dawn and dusk and skittling wildlife. Honestly, I have seen more dead kangaroos or wallabies beside the road than I have seen live ones so it’s clearly a problem, and I’m in a little car so I really didn’t want to have a wallaby suddenly landing on my bonnet. That would not be a good holiday!

It took me an hour, I’d say, to get from Seal Bay to the national park.

There were 3 things I wanted to see here. This was one of them.

The lighthouse has some groovy red steps, which, considering it was built in 1909 was very hip and happening of them. It’s still in use today, though now no one lives there… it’s all solar and LED lights.

I walked around here for a bit, then drove down to the Admirals Arch.

There’s an extensive boardwalk leading from the car park down to the cliffs. Look at the colour here! I wasn’t expecting this.

As I reached the cliff face, I saw an enormous sea lion, scratching himself like a dog. I watched him for a while, then realised that there was another one in the swirling waters around the rocks:

He was just being tossed around and leaping around, having a lovely time.

Then, as my eyes became attuned to the rocks, I realised that the place was practically seething with them! They were sunning themselves, bathing in the rock pools, which were probably warmed by the sun, and ducking in and out of the sea as if they were popping out to the shops to get a snack.

I stayed there for ages, just watching them. I freaking loved it.

I took photos, but unfortunately, the sea lions blend in with the colours of the rocks. Not worth showing you.

The stairs were still under construction at the very end. It was funny to see the sea lions so unconcerned about the noisy drills, saws and loud music playing.

Though this was a sobering sight. In 2020 most of the National Park was burnt out by ferocious bushfires. Sheltering here would be pretty terrifying…

The next stop was the Remarkable Rocks. I’ll save this for tomorrow, as it’ll be a very photo-heavy post.

Dad joke of the day:

 

Little Adventures #17: Werribee Open Range Zoo – and a surprise.

(When I retired at the end of 2020, I decided that each month I’d go and do something or see something that I never had before, just to keep life fun. And so the “Little Adventures” were born.)

Three Christmases ago, David30, Izzy and Evan27 gave me a voucher for $136 to take a walking tour for myself and a friend. It had a loooong expiry date, so I naturally put it in a safe place and pretty much forgot about it. Every now and then I’d pick it up, look at the expiry date, nod and think, ‘I really should do something about this…’

A couple of weeks ago I found it and saw that the fatal date was DEC 23, 2023.

Ok. The time to procrastinate was done. So I sat down on Saturday, pulled up the website and had a good look. I booked a ghost walking tour for my sister-in-law Eliza and myself in December.

But I still had money left on the voucher.

I saw a trip to Werribee Open Range Zoo. Funny. I’ve been to Africa and done three safari days, but I’ve never been to Werribee Zoo. So I booked a ticket.

I still had $14 left over, so in the interests of ‘waste not, want not’ I found another activity in the city that was $15. I think that 3 activities for $1 is pretty damned frugal!

I arrived at the zoo just after 10 AM and was surprised to see that it was right beside Werribee Mansion. I remember going there YEARS ago… I was still married so that means that it was in the last century! As I walked into the zoo, I saw a tourist info office and thought I’d pop into this on the way out. Maybe the mansion is a National Trust place and I could get in for free. (I still have to make back my money on my membership. England helped a bit, but I’m not there yet.)

As soon as I entered the zoo grounds, a helpful lady escorted me to where the zoo safari tours leave from. They’re free, included with the price of admission. I joined the 10:30 one, which in hindsight was a mistake. There weren’t all that many people at the zoo on a Monday, but the people that were there were mainly mothers with toddlers.

The bus was full of them. Loud toddlers. So loud that I couldn’t hear most of the commentary that the bus driver was saying. When we pulled back to the loading area after an hour spent driving around, the next bus-load had far fewer toddlers on it.

Just an observation that may help someone else in future. Go after the mums have taken their kids before nap time.

So we spent just under an hour driving around massive paddocks, looking at African animals. Of course it was interesting. Who doesn’t love a giraffe or a hippo? But having been on three African safari days in South Africa, this just wasn’t in the ballpark. It was ok, but…

When I saw the ostriches, I had a flashback from South Africa of turning a curve in the road when we were driving in a minibus and seeing an ostrich loping majestically along the side of the road, just going about its business. It was amazing. Say what you will, it’s a little less magical when the animals are penned up in an enclosure, no matter how big that enclosure is.

Plus the kids screaming in my ear didn’t help, either.

The giraffes were good, though. You can see that there are smaller ones in a cage in the background. All of the giraffes here are male and they just had some adolescent males brought down from Dubbo zoo. The three giraffes who live here were incredibly interested in the new arrivals, who will be in the separate enclosure while they all get more familiar with each other.

The zoo is divided into three main parts: the Australian trail, the African trail and the safari tour. Once I got back, I headed off along the African trail. I wanted to see where the gorillas were because there was a keeper’s talk at 1:45 so I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss it by getting lost.

After that, I ducked back to the café area for an early lunch. I thought I’d get in and out before the toddlers descended on it.

There’s an extraordinary number of birds who hang around this place, but I’ve never in my life seen so many Blue Wrens. They were everywhere. Tiny little chonks with such vivid colouring.

There were 3 encounters with animals that were fantastic. The first was the lions.

I rounded the corner on my way around the African trail and there they were. The whole family was up near the glass.

There was Mum, Dad and 3 cubs. So close!

We all got excited when one of the cubs sat up, but then it thought better of the whole idea and lay down again.

I mean, look at this.

It’s like he’s posing.

The camera doesn’t do justice to the range of colours in this guy’s coat and mane. Just beautiful.

I walked further along. The place is very kid-friendly, with cutesy little signs like this all around.

The sign didn’t lie. Three of them, having a nap after breakfast.

Fair enough. I like a good nap, too.

In the wild, hippos prefer to eat at night, but obviously this doesn’t happen here. The keepers feed them just before they leave for the day and then again at 7 AM when their shifts start.

I managed to hear this information on the bus before the kids started yelling.

The ‘giant’ tortoises are in the indoor play area. They’re funny creatures who were surprisingly lively.

I had 45 minutes to kill before the gorilla talk, so I ducked into the Australia trail exhibits.

These are Tamar wallabies. They were listed as extinct in the 1920’s, but then a small population of them that people had taken over to an island in New Zealand were found and brought back to Australia. This zoo is part of the breeding program to bring their numbers back.

I liked how the mob of kangaroos was casually hanging out with the emus, while the cassowaries were close by on the other side of the fence.

Just chillin’.

And then I had close encounter #2.

I accidentally walked a little off the beaten track and noticed a few emus at the back of a fence. I quietly walked over, not wanting to spook them, and one came right up to stand beside me.

Checking me out.

My phone just couldn’t properly capture the iridescence of his face and neck and the texture of his feathers.

I don’t mind admitting that I was glad the fence was there. He was HUGE. That beak could do some damage if he wanted. No wonder they won the Emu War.

However, it was something special to be standing so close to this bird, able to look into its eyes and really observe him. He was standing there of his own free will for several minutes before I slowly started to move away.

I had gorillas to go and hear about!

I got to the gorilla enclosure just in time to see them barrelling out of their house and across the ground to get to the food the keepers had put there. For an hour beforehand, the keepers had been inside with them, doing enrichment activities and health checks.

There are 3 gorillas here – a father and his two sons. One of the sons is now the dominant one, and this is the one who came and sat right before the window, claiming all of the goodies.

Close encounter #3.

For a while, he turned his back on us as the keeper spoke.

The thing I found most interesting is that the gorillas communicate not only by vocalising and body language, but by smell. She said that it smells like fried onions, so a Bunnings sausage sizzle is like having a group of gorillas walk through a patch of rainforest.

Having these 3 close encounters made this whole trip worthwhile. The beauty of these animals is incredible.

As I was leaving, I remembered the Tourist Information Office.

I went in and the guy was very helpful. I got the impression that he’d had a slow day. I asked about Werribee Mansion, (NOT a National Trust property, to my chagrin) and then he mentioned that the State Rose Garden was right beside it.

I didn’t even know we had one! I said this and the guy said, “So many people who live here don’t even know it. It makes me angry, because I’m the president. It’s at its absolute best right now. You really should go and see it.”

When he went on to say that it was free – my favourite price – and was only 500 metres up the road, I told him that I was sold. So off I went.

It was stunning.

I thought I’d only be there for 5 or 10 minutes, but I was there for ages, just wandering around and looking at the blooms.

And blooms there were.

I wandered around the outside of the garden, then entered through this arch.

Stunning.

I loved the look of this – like a bridal veil on the ground.

My Gran loved red roses. Every time I see one, I think of her.

I was thinking about her a lot in this place!

The garden beds are laid out in a Tudor-style formal garden, with heritage roses in a border around the perimeter and a section that David Austin himself came out from England to install.

It was mid-afternoon on a cloudy day, as you can see. There were a few family groups finishing off picnics, and a few other people like me, wandering around and just soaking in the atmosphere.

Speaking of the atmosphere, the air was perfumed. It was almost intoxicating.

As I walked around, I came across the David Austin section.

This bee was really enjoying herself here. She was embedding herself within the billowy petals.

Most of the roses in this part of the garden were named.

The guy in the Tourist Information shop said that a year after David Austin came and planted all of the roses, he had to come back and revise the whole garden plan because they didn’t realise how well roses grow here in Australia.

They had to rip around a third of the plants out.

I really liked this one, even though it doesn’t look like a rose. Though I suppose the leaves give it away.

Here’s a similar one in pink.

The pavilion sits in the middle of the garden, with four paths leading straight to it.

This was a totally unexpected thing to see but I’m glad I did it. Anyone in Melbourne who has a few hours to spare should hop on over and take a picnic. What a lovely place to take someone to sit under a tree, drink some wine and just enjoy.

Dad joke of the day:

Travelling for 5 weeks with only ONE dress.

Hands down, this is a wonderful outfit to travel in. The dress is Sierra, a swing dress that can easily be used as a pinafore, meaning that it would never actually touch my skin, thus cutting down on washing.

The real beauty of this dress is that it’s made from merino wool, which means that it’s odour-resistant, easy to wash, crumple-free and absolutely comfortable to wear.

This makes it stellar for travel, especially if, like me, you choose to only take carry-on and so space is at a premium. Having just one outfit makes carry-on travelling a breeze.

Obviously I was very protective of Sierra, being extra-careful where messy foods were concerned. Before my travel I had to spot-clean a few times, but while I was travelling it was never an issue.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How and why did I choose to wear just the one dress – not just for my 5-week holiday – but for a full 100 days?

For those who don’t know, I began a 100-Day Challenge run by Wool&, an American company that makes merino clothing. What interested me in buying one of their dresses – after I thought about it for 2 years – was that merino is an excellent fabric for travel.

I went to Antarctica last year and bought merino long-sleeved tees to travel in, wear on the ice and on the ship, and those tees were absolutely brilliant. Due to this, I decided that I was going to take the plunge and invest in a Wool& dress and do their 100-days challenge.

Because after all, why not? I love a challenge and a US$100 voucher is nothing to be sneezed at. Having two dresses would make a perfect travel capsule.

I also decided that the easiest way to succeed at this would be to schedule my end date to be the day I got home from my 5-week trip to England and Ireland. If I gave myself no alternative outfits to wear, I’d have no option but to succeed! I counted back the days and the 100 days began on July 1.

Before my trip, I treated the dress as I would anything else. I was protective of her – I wore an apron when cooking to eliminate any oil spots and I was careful with sauces and such. Spot cleaning is easy – I just used a bar of Velvet soap and handwashed the area.

Just before my trip I washed the dress by using the velvet soap, immersing in water and then rolling her into a towel and standing on it. I hung her up in a well-ventilated spot and the dress was dry by morning!

Incredible.

What was also incredible was that before I went on the trip I was teaching secondary students. Not one of them noticed that I was wearing the same dress every day.

While travelling, I was very protective of the dress.

“Not near THE DRESS!” I’d say if any ketchup or creamy sauces were handed around near me, and it became a running joke. I didn’t have to spot clean once and I only gave her one full wash towards the end of the trip, not because I thought she needed it but because I thought that it was a good thing to do.

(The merino tops were hung up every night and spot-washed in the armpits every 3 or 4 wears, usually when I had 2 nights in a room, just to make sure that they’d be dry when I needed to pack my case again.)

Merino is definitely the best fabric for travel.

Right at the end of my 100 days I noticed a couple of pills on the fabric where the strap on my travel bag was running against it. You can see the size of my travel bag in the photo above – it’s large and was quite heavy some days.

I don’t think this is a problem – I worked the dress hard and if there a tiny bit of pilling at the end of the challenge, then so be it.

The clothes I took on the trip were as follows :

1 x Wool& dress.

4 x merino tees.

3 x undies.

2 x bra.

2 x black tights.

1 x walking boots.

1 x runners.

1 x woolen cowl.

1 x woolen beanie.

1 x light raincoat.

1 x warm fleece jacket.

That’s all I wore for 5 weeks and, to be honest, I only needed the fleece jacket once when we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I’d think about leaving it home next time, depending on where I go next.

I really enjoyed just having carry-on luggage. It was so good to simply get off the plane and walk straight to the exits. Wheeling it around on the streets was also very easy.

At the end of my trip, when my carry-on case was stuffed to the gills, I had to walk up 3 sets of stairs to get to my room in an old hotel in England. I don’t think I would have been able to get up there if I’d had a traditional 30KG suitcase!

So all in all, I’m loving the Sierra as a travel dress. Having the one outfit that I could dress up or down as I pleased made the whole trip so easy.

Will I wear her in my ordinary life? Maybe. I’m actually liking the thought of folding her up and putting her in my carry-on case, ready for the next trip next year.

Alaska and Canada – I’m looking at you!

Days 34 and 35. Homeward bound – plus souvenirs for light travel.

Here am I at Market Harborough station, waiting for my train to London.

The morning was spent trying to get my carry-on case to close. It took me ages to cram everything into the tins and around sculptures and artwork lying flat. For a few minutes it looked as if my beloved flannelette pyjamas were going to have to be sacrificed, but some creative packing saved them. (In fact, I’m wearing them right now as I type.)

After I checked out of the hotel, I wheeled myself over to Scott and Mark’s, where I spent the next few hours having lunch and getting my tarot read. I’m never getting my tarot read again because this reading foretells a future that’s so TERRIFIC. Scott kept turning over the cards and saying, “Oh my god, Frogdancer!” and I’d be like, “What? What?” and it would always turn out to be good.

Well, except for one card, but you can’t have a life without something going wrong at some stage, so that’s ok.

Ruby came and lay on the cards for a while, just to be involved. Fortunately, it was on the section that we weren’t reading yet, so by the time we got to it she’d moved away.

We walked to the station and Scott stayed until the train came, which was nice of him because he has his brother from NZ arriving tomorrow so he must have had a million things to do.

I’d booked a room, on Scott’s recommendation, at Heathrow terminal 2. It was a little exxy but so worth it when the alarm went off at 5:30Am and al I had to do was walk across the car park to get to the airport.

My flights went flawlessly and I was able to bring all my souvenirs home in my slightly heavier than allowed carry-on case and handbag.

So what did I bring home?

Keep in mind that I only had carry-on, so my space was limited. Weight was also a consideration. They don’t tend to weigh carry-on, but if I was unlucky and was asked to pop my bag on the scales, I would have been in trouble. For most of my trip, I reined myself in with regard to size and weight, but in the last few days I went. a little crazy.

I could have bought a bag and checked it in, but to be honest, I didn’t want to clutter up my wardrobe with another bag. Plus, I was already really enjoying the sensation of simply walking off the plane without having to wait for luggage.

My souvenirs from Kinsale in Ireland. I’m calling them Molly Malone and Sean. Molly had airport security in Dublin wanting to go through my bag with a fine-toothed comb. She was wrapped up in bubble wrap and a tea towel and they couldn’t make out on the x-ray what she was. I had to describe her before they’d let me through.

For the rest of the flights, I just had her in my handbag so I could unwrap her if they wanted. She was easily the heaviest thing I bought.

Note to self: steer away from pottery items in future. She made my handbag pretty heavy.

When I travel, I like to bring home art and also practical souvenirs. Here’s my soap holder from the Tiptree Jam museum. It’ll stop my soap from sitting in a pool of water and so it’ll last longer.

This is the huge framed print I bought at Windsor Castle. It’s now hanging at the end of my hallway. I had to pay duty on it before they’d let it into the country!!

This is the little Toby jug that Deana’s friend Kathleen gave me on the drive into Stansted airport before I flew over to Ireland. It fitted snugly into a tin and is now in my china cabinet.

My Belfast earrings. I wanted to buy a pair of earrings that were small enough to wear every day. I ended up buying 2 pairs. Oops.

A few days later I bought these. They have Connemara marble in them.

A sketch of Yates.

I bought this little card – and it’s tiny – at the town where they shot “The Quiet Man’ movie with John Wayne and Maureen O’Sullivan. It’s off getting framed.

I love it so much.

This little one comes from Wimpole House, along with a couple of garden ornaments. He was surprisingly light for his size and I just love the shape of him.

Postcards and magnets.

These are excellent souvenirs to buy when you’re worried about size and weight. The magnets fit into tins and the postcards are stored flat with your artwork.

Every day I can see souvenirs from my trips to Europe, Antarctica, Ireland and England.

An ironing board cover from Maldon. Hey – it provided handy wrapping for a breakable item in my case!

I saw this in Cork and had to buy it. This was the only tin that kept its contents because I was curious as to how shamrocks taste.

Spoiler alert: these teabags just taste of green tea.

These are two flat garden ornaments that I’ll be nailing up somewhere in the backyard. These came from Wimpole House, along with the rabbit. Really easy to transport. I just popped them in with the artwork.

A coffee mug. I loved this place!

I’ll be showing all of the Christmas tree decorations but this one deserves its own photo. It’s so intricate, so silver and so expensive. The buyer’s remorse is still struggling with this one…

Christmas tree decorations!

My Blarney Stone hat! The cowl I’m wearing around my neck travelled with me the last time I was in England and Europe in 2015.

I went home with this fully-framed and glassed print in my case. I was worried that the glass would break but it came through unscathed. It was nearly the straw that broke the camel’s back though — I only just managed to get my case zipped up after I put this into it!

Ken the climbing man. Not too sure where he’ll go, but it’ll be somewhere that hands won’t make him chip my newly-painted walls. Again, he wasn’t too heavy and his rope was folded up so he could fit in the case.

Tea towels! So handy for wrapping around breakables and stuffing into corners.

I bought the bright yellow one because 3 of the boys have names that are on this tea towel. Maybe Ireland is my spiritual home because I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, yet I named them Irish names.

Anyway, more useful souvenirs.

Speaking of useful souvenirs, look at these babies! These were great for fitting smaller souvenirs into and also for providing a flat base for me to lay all of my artwork down so it wouldn’t get creased. I didn’t think of that before I left, but it soon became evident that it was a smart way to go.

When I’d pretty much covered the bottom of my case with tins, I decided that I was finished. Until Scott pointed out the tin with the three Westies on it in the last few days of our trip. This tin travelled home in my handbag with my wallet, cough lollies and tissues in it.

I ate the shortbread for dinner on my last night in England.

My rescued Cavaliers. I’ve always had Blenheims and one tricolour. Maybe this is a sign that I should get two whole colours for my last pack?

My Antarctica souvenir that I found in Ireland! Being framed and will live in the Man Cave along with the other pictures.

I love this for two reasons. The first is because my friend James told me about fairy trees when we were driving around and the memory makes me happy. Secondly, the fairy tree that we saw when I was on the bus a week later looked almost exactly like this.

This print of Derry isn’t as pretty but look at this:

This is the view from the bridge. I found the walking tour around Derry deeply moving. It’s not something I want to forget. The stories of a city tearing itself apart over something as stupid as religion were searing.

Especially with what’s going on in Gaza and Israel.

And finally – the little sheep in the Irish colours that James gave me.

All I want to do now is to post something separately about the experience of wearing the same dress for the whole trip – and the two months before it. Yes, I wore the grey sack for 100 days.

I’ll send it, along with my selfies for the whole time period, to the company who made it. They run a 100-day challenge.

But now? Time to get showered, get dressed and get to Bunnings.

I want to buy a fuschia as another little souvenir from the trip. I saw them everywhere along the streets and gardens of my trip.

Thanks again to Scott, Deana, James and Corinna. What amazing friends you are to me and I love you all. There’s a spare bedroom here in Melbourne… just saying!

Days 33: Market Harborough, Kirby Hall and Bede Almshouse.

Here is the building that graces the middle of Market Harborough. It’s a grammar school built in 1640, with the open-air structure underneath used for markets and the occasional raging flood sweeping through the town in the olden days.

For this reason, the church that stands beside it doesn’t have its own churchyard. No one wants to be sitting listening to a sermon only to see Granny’s coffin bobbing around beside them. The church was given space in St Mary’s, which is wisely placed on higher ground.

In 1569 the town was briefly in the news as the Privy Council debated whether a local girl Agnes Bowker had given birth to a cat.

I thought that this quote underneath the grammar school was very appropriate for a single woman wearing a grey sack on her voyage across the world. No man was going to give me a second glance wearing this!

Scott wanted a sleep-in now that he was back in his own bed, so we’d agreed to meet at 11. I decided that rather than staying in and writing a blog post, I’d get out and about and have a look at the town.

Plus I could find that gift shop and have another look at the depressed cow vase I’d spotted in the window the night before.

I set off.

I saw this disgusting-looking overcoat in an op shop.

Finally, I got to the gift shop and although the depressed-looking cow vase was lovely, it was just too expensive. Also, I couldn’t see how to make it fit in my overburdened carry-on case.

But then I saw this…

I’m calling him Ken because he doesn’t have a penis. He’ll be a fun little addition to a wall somewhere, though it’ll have to be where people won’t try and move him. I don’t want my new paint being chipped!

On the way back I decided to get Scott a little snack for our trip today. (By the way, I patted those dogs.) I decided to harken back to my visit to Dublin with James and so I bought him a couple of little Bakewell tarts.

Then I dived into the church.

It was full of toddlers having a dance class or something. I looked around for a bit, then went back to the hotel, passing an op shop on the way. I found two whole-colour cavalier ornaments there for only £1.50 each.

Cavaliers in an op shop for such a basement price? This is the best breed in the world!!! This is OUTRAGEOUS!

Not on my watch.

So I bought them. They could easily fit in one of my tins, I reasoned.

It was a really good idea to use tins as souvenirs when I had so little space. I gave away the biscuits/tea/fudge the tins contained and as I went, they filled up with souvenirs or clothes.

Now I have them as decorations and storage for my sewing room.

When I was in the gift shop where I bought Ken the climbing man, the owner asked me where I was going that day. When I said that I wasn’t sure, but I thought there was an almshouse involved at some stage, he gave me the hot tip to go to Kirby House, an Elizabethan manor house nearby. He also mentioned that the village of Rochester was pretty. It has a castle but it was closed for the season.

So when Scott picked me up, we headed off to Kirby Hall. We’d heard it described as a ruin, but on the strength of the gift shop man, we decided to give it a go.

I’m so glad we did. It was one of the most evocative places I’ve ever seen.

Kirby Hall was one of the great Elizabethan houses of England. It was built for Sir Humphrey Stafford beginning in 1570. In 1575 the property was purchased by Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I. 

For. acouple of hundred years it was maintained and renovated and kept beautiful. Henry VIII stayed there for a few days with his wife, Katharine Howard. It was either from here or from Lincoln Castke (which we saw on my last trip), that poor Katharine Howard wrote the love letter to Thomas Culpepper that was used in her trial against her.

They weren’t the only royals to stay here. Eighty years or so later, James I and his wife Anne of Denmark stayed here 9 times. Must’ve been good hunting here!

Unfortunately for Kirby Hall, the family built another mansion at Eastwell park in the late 1700’s and the family moved there, leaving this place as a holiday house.

THEN the 11th Earl of Winchilsea sold off the lead from most of the roof to pay his gambling debts. Can you believe it?!?

From then on the place fell steadily into ruin, with only the Great Hall and the rooms above it, which include the Royal rooms, being still as they were.

It’s such a shame, because the place would have been stunning. Still, the ruins now have a beauty all their own.

The details of how the building was put together were all there in front of us.

Little things like how the fireplaces are stacked one on top of the other, because they used the same chimney. With a floor in between them, you wouldn’t notice it.

Even back in 1786, some idiot was carving his name into the building.

With so much gone. there were still details remaining, like these elaborately carved friezes over the doors.

After exploring the ruins at the front of the house, we made our way to the intact rooms. Look at all of the little Tudor windows! They didn’t know how to make glass windows bigger then.

As I went in, I took a look back. Imagine how stately and beautiful this house would have been? Fit for royalty to come and visit. And don’t forget that James I was the king who threw the owner of Audey End into the Tower when he saw how amazing his house was. Just how much bigger and more expensive was Audley End when it was complete?

This is what is left of the great Hall. You can see the minstrels’ gallery above.

After the place began to fall into ruin, the local farmers moved in. They used to welcome parties of the getry who would pop in to have. apicnic and mourn at the state of the house. One shepherd’s child was actually named ‘Kirby’, so he was probably born here.

Here’s a model of what they think the grounds would have looked like in its heyday. They’ve restored the pretty waking garden at the side of the house. I’ll show you later.

Ignore the person vacuuming. Look at those windows! This would have been such a pleasant room to hang around in. It’s huge!

The room next door has windows just as impressive. This was designated as the library.

This is the view from the King’s Room. I leaned on the windowledge for quite. awhile, touching the exact same ledge as Henry VIII and James I. Looking out onto the type of view they would have looked at.

It’s just amazing that these places are still around. In Australia, it would have been knocked down and the stones. carted off to be reused elsewhere.

It’s nice to see how we would have looked had we been born back then.

Because naturally, we would have been nobility.

The Long Gallery was where major entertaining was done and where the lord of the manor and the King, if he was here, would greet people.

Even in its state of neglect, you can still almost feel what it must have been like.

Here is where the Long Gallery was. It has a window in front of it now, but there was a grid underneath the window that, when placed correctly, you can see what the hallway would have looked like.

Fortunately, I had Scott with me. He’s a details man. I held the grid in place and he took the photo…

After that we went outside and wandered around.

I liked the look of the decorations at the top of the building against the sky.

I felt that the gardens, while pretty when looked. atfrom the house, would have been pretty dull to walk around in. Still, if I were encumbered by all those skirts, a walk around these paths might be all I could manage, who knows?

We walked around to the back of the house.

See how bumpy the lawn is? Do you know why?

Mole hills!

I was excited. I’ve read about them, but never seen them. I can understand why people don’t like them – they were really making a mess of the lawn.

Then we walked around the side of the house to find the ruins of the kitchen area. These were so beautiful and interesting.

Look at the size of the fireplace down here! There would have been many a pig, cow or goat roasted on the spit here.

On the way to the Bede Almshouse we passed through the village of Rockingham. Scott was able to get a park for the car, so. Iran back down the street taking photos.

Look at how thick that thatch is!

Talk about a chocolate-box village!

Sometimes it’s just the details. I’d love to have a doorway like this.

Look at how one half of the house is thatch while the other isn’t.

My god. It’s so ENGLISH!

Imagine living in a fairy-tale cottage like these ones?

Amazing…

After I’d scampered up and down the street while Scott ate the Bakewell tarts I’d bought earlier, we headed off to visit a vastly different place – Bede Almshouse.

But first there was the church.

The medieval paintings on the walls were covered by whitewash at the time of the
Reformation, but in 1937 some areas were cleaned and the surfaces treated
to preserve them. The most interesting painting is that behind
the pulpit, which consists of a king in ermine cloak and cap, holding an orb. He is thought to be Edward the Confessor, who bequeathed part of Rutland as an
endowment to Westminster Abbey on his death in 1042.

This was the clearest one.

I forget what the wooden divider is called, but it’s genuine Tudor.

Then we walked over to the building huddled next to the church… the almshouse.

Basically, an almshouse was where you went if you were too poor to feed and house yourself. It was better than going to the Workhouse, but not much.

This place was built 300 years ago.

It housed 12 men and 2 women. Once you got in, as long as you followed the rules, you had a place for life.

It wasn’t as kind as it sounds.

Before you got a room, you had to be free from lunacy, leprosy and french pox. Naturally you had to be of good character, so people had to vouch for you to the priest.

Once you were in, you had to attend church A LOT and pray A LOT and do general work around the place. The women were were up in the second floor, away from the men, and were expected to look after the mens’ laundry and basic cooking and cleaning. As well as go to church and pray A LOT.

The doors were small. Maybe they were shorter than us, or maybe it’s a ploy to keep the heat in.

If it was the latter, they were wasting their time. These rooms were COLD.

Zoom in on the corner of the fireplace. It’s a Tudor rose!

The gift shop was where the kitchen once was. So. I bought a tea-towel. Seemed appropriate.

These rooms were basic. And they were so very cold. It was a clear autumnal day outside. It was not raining but it was still pleasant to wak around in. But as soon as we walked into these rooms, the cold slapped us in the faces.

This is how they think the rooms would have been set up. The church is just 100 metres away, so the sound of the bells would have punctuated every day.

Men over 30 who could no longer support themselves, either through age or illness, could apply to the Cecil family for a vacant place at the bedehouse. Two spaces were also reserved for widows over 45. Many applicants had connections to the family estate; others hadworked as craftsmen, tradesmen, or labourers in thesurrounding villages.


The residents received clothes (a blue gown and black cap) and an allowance of 3 shillings a week, and had to apply themselves to a handicraft, unless they were too
blind or old. They assembled in the bedehouse every
day for prayers and attended church every Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and holiday.
Places at the bedehouse, which provided respectability and security for the residents’ final years, were keenly sought after. The Cecil family and their descendants, the earls of Exeter, continued to support the bedehouse
until the 20th century.

It wasn’t just poor people who lived here. This place was also home to the bishop of the area. He lived in the upper floors, away from the riff-raff. They also entertained important people. Wen Henry VIII stayed here in the summer of 1541, he brought around 4,000 men with him. It was. ahuge burden on the estate to feed and house so many people.

Beyond that big room was this room – a private room for the bishop to be alone.

The bishop withdrew to this room to hold his most private conversations, and probably slept here. With its ornamental fireplace and handsome ceiling, this would have been an impressive room, furnished with a canopied bed,
rich hangings and decorated chairs.

The information board says “Bishop John Longland (in office 1521-1547) was possibly the last bishop who occupied this room. He was King Henry VIll’s confessor and was caught up in the king’s struggle against the Church:
while he supported Henry against the Pope, Longland also spoke up for the power of the bishops. The king’s visit to Lyddington in 1541, just after the suppression of the monasteries, would have been a particularly delicate time for him.

I like the words “particularly delicate”. The king wanted to destroy the Catholic church in England – a catholic bishop would have had to choose his words very carefully, whether he was the king’s confessor or not!

These old stone steps – look at the wear in them. How many feet have stepped on them over the centuries?

Up in the roof. See how the roof tiles are slate?

I love the angles.

It’s never occurred to me to wonder how they get flat pieces of slate to hold together on. aroof. Here’s how. See how each slate has a nail punched into it that hangs on the wood slats? I found this really interesting to see.

How beautiful is this?

And just look at how this door was put together.

After that we drove back to Market Harborough. I was going to dinner at Scott and Mark’s place and I was really excited to see their ‘new’ apartment. (I put that in quotes because they’ve been there for years… it’s just the first time I’ve seen it.)

In the gap between getting dropped off and going to theirs for dinner, I went to an art gallery. There I saw the perfect “England” print. Their houses are all tall and skinny and jammed together. It screams ENGLAND to me.

Then I walked the 5 minutes to Scott and Mark’s.

Mark cooked while Scott showed me around. They’ve got a fantastic place on the top floor of a converted warehouse. It was a really fun, relaxed evening and I got to renew my acquaintance with the cats. Oliver and Ruby took to me like ducks to water, but Rose wasn’t too sure.

Tomorrow I have to pack my suitcase to make my way home. I hope that the glass in my new picture won’t break. Scott suggested taking it out of the frame to get it home but no way! I paid for that frame and by god… I’m going to try my best to get it home.

Day 32: Wimpole Hall.

Today was primarily a travel day to get from Maldon to Market Harborough, where I’ll be staying for a couple of days to catch up with Scott’s husband Mark and their 3 cats.

We walked around Maldon on the last morning, and I bought an ironing board cover and a salt pig. You all know how I like to buy useful souvenirs. When I got home, Ryan28 was rapt about the salt pig. “I never thought you’d buy one, but they’re so handy!” he said.

Anyway, back to England.

To break the trip up, Scott had selected a stately home for us to look at along the way.

It’s easy to forget how tiny England is compared to Australia. We were driving along the motorway when I saw a sign for an exit to Cambridge. I was like, “WHAT??” I went to Cambridge on my last trip.

Scott looked across and said, “You know England is small, Frogdancer.”

It’s true. The whole of England can fit inside the state of Victoria.

Along the way, we saw this truck which is basically a giant whipper-snipper. This is how England and Ireland keep their narrow streets free for cars. He very kindly backed up to let us through, otherwise, we would’ve been there for ages.

This place was very popular. It had a huge car park which was pretty much full when we got there. It was the middle of the day on a Wednesday! This building was the old stables, which is now being used as the gift shop.

I went a bit mad, buying a couple of flat garden ornaments, a model of a hare gazing soulfully upwards with his ears pulled back, (he was very light), and another Christmas tree ornament. I knew that there was going to be a reorganisation of my carry-on case when I got to the hotel room tonight.

To have this on the top of your stables isn’t flamboyant at all…

As we walked closer to the house Scott said, “Look at the rose!”

He said it didn’t smell. But I think we can all agree that it looks beautiful.

Here’s the house again.

The estate was held by the Chicheley family for over 250 years, beginning in 1428 with Henry Chichele, who was Archbishop of Canterbury. The last of this family to hold the house was the politician Thomas Chicheley, who was responsible for the “new” house that was completed in 1650.

I love how the word “new” describes things that are hundreds of years old in this country!

 Chicheley established the formal gardens and architectural landscape of the estate. He enjoyed the house for 36 years until, weighed down by financial problems, he was forced to sell it to Sir John Cutler.

In 1689, Sir John gave it as a marriage settlement to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Charles Robartes, 2nd Earl of Radnor.

On the death of Elizabeth in 1697, without an heir, the estate passed to Edmund Boulter, nephew of Sir John Cutler.

Poor old Edmund didn’t have a title. What a commoner!

In 1710 it was in the possession of John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who left it to his daughter Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles upon his death the following year.

Upon Henrietta’s marriage, in 1713, it became the possession of her husband Edward Harley, the 2nd Earl of Oxford and he was also Earl Mortimer.

Sounds like a good match, hey? Two Earl titles with the one man? But notice how when she married, it “BECAME THE POSSESSION” of her husband. Can’t have the little woman owning an estate!

In 1740, Edward sold Wimpole to Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke, in order to pay off his debts. Wouldn’t you want to kill him if you were Henrietta???

On 27 October 1843, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the hall. They listened to speeches by local politicians including the Earl of Hardwicke, and dinner was served for 26 people. A ball was held in the evening. On 28 October 1843, Her Majesty visited the farm in the morning before departing for London.

There is a portrait of her in the dining room, which she was reported as saying was “a perfect likeness”. So much is made of her visit, but she was only there for one night.

In 1938, Capt. George Bambridge and his wife Elsie, daughter of Rudyard Kipling, purchased it after having been tenants since 1932. They used the inheritance left to them by her father, and the royalties from his books, for the long-needed refurbishment of the house and grounds. During the War, for instance, the house had no running water or electricity.

omg.

During her time at Wimpole Hall, Elsie was known to become irritated by members of the public gathering too close to the house for picnics, so much so, that she once returned to the offending couple’s property and had her own picnic on their lawn.

Haha. Good for her! How funny.

Here is a view of the backyard, with the fake ruined tower that someone in the Victorian era put in. Nothing like a fake abbey in your backyard to impress your friends and neighbours!

But what rocked me back on my heels was a single line on one of the information boards, saying that the architect John Soane had worked on the house in the late 1700’s.

Do you remember? On my first day in London, I visited his house!

This picture shows the yellow dining room, which is one of the rooms he worked on. There was a large skylight and a couple of BIG mirrors that would have cost an absolute fortune when they were put in.

John Soane also put in a rather large “plunge pool” tucked away at the bottom of the house. You have to wonder what it was used for and if there were any kinky parties going on back in the day.

This painting has hung here for around 250 years. Imagine the people who have walked past him in that time? The plaster mouldings were also really impressive.

After we visited the house we ate our lunch in the car like we did yesterday, but this time we were looking at the building where the toilets and entry were.

Somehow, it just didn’t have the ambience of the decommissioned nuclear power plant.

Then we drove the rest of the way to Market Harborough.

The three of us went out to dinner that night. It was lovely catching up with Mark again. He and Scott make a great couple.

On the walk back to my hotel we passed a gift shop with lots of interesting things in the windows. Scott and I were planning a late start to my last day of exploring England tomorrow, so I vowed to get back there in the morning to have a look through.

Surely my carry-on could squeeze another souvenir or two in? I can still do up the zips…

Day 31: a picnic at the decommissioned nuclear plant.

Today was the day that Scott went to explore his roots. His family is from England and we were near the place that the family went to visit Grandpa at the caravan park. He used to go here for his summer holidays and Scott has a few faded photographs of them in a boat on the beach.

Here he is, back at the beach.

And here he is, having crunched his way over the pebbles.

This beach doesn’t have sand. It has pebbles. Just imagine…

Scott took away two pebbles, one for him and one for his Mum. I’d like it if, down the track, the boys would do something like that for me one day.

Even though the caravan park had gone, it was a successful trip down memory lane.
On the way back to the car I saw these two signs. They amused me.

We were getting a little peckish after our walk on the beach, so we headed to our next destination… the decommissioned nuclear power plant.

Nothing says ‘picnic’ more than the smell of polonium!

The plant looked very different when it was working. It turns out that our B and B hostess, Kim, used to work there back in the day. She said that once it was all built and operational, it only required 4 workers to keep the whole plant humming along. I thought that was amazing.

Once they decided to shut it all down, they took away all the external parts and encased the nuclear reactors in concrete. That’s what were looking at.

A man in hi-viz was looking at us suspiciously as we loitered in the car park, so we drove a little way away, parked the car and ate our lunch. What a picturesque sight to whet our appetites!

In 2083 these buildings will be demolished.
I guess the hi-viz guy has job security up until that point.

Once our salad rolls had been consumed, we were off again. Scott had heard of an ancient church that was called the most isolated church in England. We went off to find it.

It was quite the drive. The satnav sent us along all of the back roads. It turned into a pilgrimage of sorts by the time we actually found it.

St Cedd sailed down from a town a few hundred miles further up and founded the church, introducing Christianity to the area. This was in 654.
The church is still standing.

But they make you walk a long way from the car park to see it.

We walked. And walked. The wind stepped up and the windmills to the right of us were spinning merrily.

I began to wonder if the church was moving further away, rather than getting closer.

After what seemed like an age, the church appeared.

Finally, we were there. The hutch is just a short walk from the beach, and there’s a secretive Christian commune a little way away who offer bed and breakfast.

But otherwise it’s all alone in the fields.

Scott opened the door, we went in and I fell in love.

Sadly, the pictures can’t convey the sense of peace and serenity that was here in this old stone building. I stood and gazed, breathing it all in.

They’ve left it all so simple. A few wooden benches, a crucifix on the wall, and a pulpit. That’s pretty much it.

It was utterly beautiful.

Someone before us had left a candle burning, even though a sign at the door tells people not to do this. Scott blew it out before we left, but I was secretly glad that it was there when we walked in.
The tiny flickering light was lovely.

I could see where walls had been altered and repaired over the 1500 years that this place has been here.

This was true for the outside as well.

Look under the window. Roman tiles!

I absolutely loved this place. I think it was the whole package; the long walk to get there, the utter purity and simplicity of the place and the isolation. If I was a believer, this would be the perfect place to pray.

We left, but a little way down the track I turned around. If any place needed me to buy a postcard to put on my fright, this one did.

Scott gave me some pence (all I had in cash were euros) and I walked back.

Scott took this photo of me walking back.

I was walking back alone when I looked across at the windmills. If people from St Cedd’s time could have a window into the future, what would they make of these?

I suppose they’d recognise them as windmills, but the scale of them would probably be terrifying.

Enlarge the next photo.

Pheasant on the road!

I’ve never heard of these before…

Thatch!

More thatch! See how thick it is?

Scott decided that he needed a tea room.
Honestly, never get in between this man and a tea room! He loves them.
We drove from town to town, with no tea room in sight. From a country that seemed to be littered with tea rooms, suddenly this place was like a desert.

We got lucky in a little place called Burnham on Crouch.

After Scott had his coffee and cake, we walked along the sea front. It took 10 photos before I could get one with the flag fully out.

It also had a little clock tower with a tunnel through it.

After we got back to the B and B, I could hear lots of bird noises outside my room. A flock of birds had decided to take a rest on the rigging of the barges.

On our last night in Maldon, we decided to go to the restaurant with the cheesiest name.

It turned out to be a very good meal.
At the end, we had fortune cookies.

I was incredibly happy with mine!

Scott was less so with his. Though it does give permission to have naps if he wants them…

« Older posts