Wednesday, 29 June 2011


The 'Ocean Countess' made good headway down the Tyne past Admiral Collingwood and out to sea; 36 hours later it nosed its way up the fjords to villages on these post- glacial arms of the sea; June was good timing as meltwater from snow, above the fjords, filled waterfalls (hanging valleys) such as the Seven Sisters and the Twins (where water flow divided into two crystal clear rivers below the foss.)

Unfortunately and somehow I lost my camera at Gerainger! Was it the thrill of 37 X 180 degree bends in a coach- and another 11 on the 'sky' road up to the Dalsnibba viewpoint? Maybe I dropped it on the coach or on the tender?

Appreciating the scale of these glaciated fjords, pyramidal peaks, aretes, corries (still snow filled) and majestically high U shaped valley sides was difficult particularly on a photo so I had tried to include a feature to offer some idea of scale- Has H1 on the photos he has emailed across to me in order that I can illustrate this blog?

Being in the Land of The Midnight Sun over the summer Solstice meant we danced on deck after midnight in the light!

We were amazed, after our awful Costa cruise, to find the Countess crew were as a man (or woman) efficient, friendly and hardworking. H1 has gained 8 lbs as a result of delicious food!

The Flam railway via Myrdal to Voss, provided wonderful views and we even encountered a troll; the coach return journey's hairpin bends were indeed hairraising.

Bryggen, Bergen's old quarter, bore testament to the power and wealth of the Hanseatic League; it illustrated the links with places like Newcastle; here they traded Baltic flour, timber and coal but there the Norwegian Lofoten archipelago provided fish oils and naturally dried cod; the latter could be reconstituted eg for Lenten Fridays in a then Catholic Europe.

Norway's staple diet is still freshly caught as there is little flat ground to provide arable land along the fjords. The market in Bergen was filled with fish stalls- we think the whale meat was provided by Inuit hunters who may have a legal ok to breech the international moratorium .

Then we travelled on.......

Monday, 27 June 2011

June, June , June

We have followed up all the visits to gardens by leaving ours to England's drought never thinking it would bucket while we were away and we'd return to a jungle!

The garden is full of roses- shrub roses, tea and peace roses (so old and gnarled that they should be replaced but I haven't the heart when they are so beautiful and so fragrant),climbers, ramblers .....

I need to cut back the first crop of the various types of geranium flowers so I can get a second flush.

There are clematis crawling along the fence.

The mock orange is heavy with blossom and heady with perfume.

I sometimes wonder why I planted these wild sweet peas- my parents had them and they were absolutely wild. (the plants not my parents!) I saw an exboyfriend in his mum's garden and when he said they were my parent's sweetpeas I was hooked- aagh! they are rampant now.

Somewhere in the heat of summer I managed to bake three wedding cakes; If you ever volunteer to (or get blackmailed to) make celebration cakes- herein lies a tip- think back to which of your friends have just had their offspring getting married- and check out to see if they might have cake tins to lend you! They are expensive to buy and my friend L. was only too willing to offer- but I'd already bought and baked.

The landing is once again littered with bedding and towels after a hilarious weekend- a hen party for about 20 of us! Our London and Leeds contingents saw Newcastle on Northumberland Plate day at the end of Race Week- which also meant the Town Moor was aglow with the Hoppings. Town was heaving!!!The bride carried out some daunting 'Dares', we made delicious cocktails,ate pizza, sang at the tops of our voices in a karaoke pod, and were given some real hospitality in Martha's. No wonder we all lay on the lawn in the glorious sunshine of Sunday morning and snoozed- absolutely 'pegged' out!!!!!!!!

I have sacrificed the second set and more? of Andy Murray's match (played in 40+ degrees) at Wimbledon to catch up on this blog tonight;of course C and I have been there watching Serena and Venus and drinking Pimms.......
June is almost over, it is late, my eyes are heavy and Wee Willie Winkie must be running through the town so I need to get to my bed but I still haven't told you the most exciting things......

Durham Botanical Gardens

If I thought I was gardened out after Westonbirt Arboretum, I was wrong!

Durham's Botanical gardens are tucked away near Collingwood College (up towards Van Mildert and the Oriental Museum - have you been there too?).

I was amazed I'd never been to this lovely place! Sup at the cafe with super soup and friendly, efficient staff! Sit by the window if you can so you can see the feeding station and its attendant birds- AND a red squirrel. There are even reference books to consult on which tits, finches etc you are entertained by through the glass.

The shop may be small but it is well stocked with great gifts & smashing cards- a bit of class & out of the ordinary!

There are tropical greenhouses with orchids, cacti and horrible scorpions and tarantulas. The trees, Japanese friendship circle, water gardens

...... and lots of benches to find repose, memories and views.

At the bird hide we think we saw a jay- what do you think?

Ooh! and meadows filled with wild flowers

Blaydon Races

D3 and I stood on Scotswood Road- ''twas on the ninth of June.......' to watch L. running in this year's Blaydon Race.

We clapped and clapped as the runners streamed past us.

Towards the back of the men and (lots of) women was a blind runner- P.C. David Rathband- blinded last summer by a gunman who shot him indiscriminately. Now that is real guts!

The National Arboretum

Where to start as we have been SO busy?

The National Arboretum at Westonbirt (near Tetbury- a pretty area with some wonderful/old houseses)is extensive, beautiful and a treasure store for the future.

H1,D & myself took D3 to a wedding there and spent the day on the wander.

First there was a picnic then the wedding was held in the Great Hall!

The trees from all over the world were all tagged (if you could find the tags amid all the foliage- a good game to entertain kids!)

An autumnal visit to see the acers/maples would be a real treat.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Come away! Come away!

Finchale Priory (or Abbey) near Durham is much underestimated as a place to go yet we thought it was tranquil and pretty earlier this week.The heron fishing in the Wear thought so too!

Sited on a meander, like Durham Cathedral, it is English Heritage, has a little cafe & picnic site. Bonny!

I wonder why Blagdon, home of Lord Ridley, has white bulls over gateways? We must research we decided (if we ever get time!) as we drove under the pale bovines in the dusky moonlight after a meeting there.

I can't tell you how I felt walking in the Cheviots with friends- a realisation that we were alone, saw no one, but were surrounded by nature; curlews with long, curved beaks silhouetted against the sky, calling to us to come away from their nests on the moors. Skylarks spiralled high above twittering at us for the same affect while lambs skeetered,bleating for their mams.

We followed a stream banked with foxgloves and newly colouring heather,

up over a waterfall

and lunched on cushions of white flowers dotted with tiny, yellow tormentil, speedwell blue and white stitchwort.

How much work has the farmer had to do to cut round areas of heather then fire them so each year the ling shoots again to give some fresh, green grazing for his flock? From our stand up at the trig point we looked down on a harlequin patchwork of diamonds on the sides of Cheviot and 100 metres below that on Hedgehope.

Waterproofs on, waterproofs off; fleeces on , fleeces off; T-shirts sweating, T-shirts suntanning...... a real mix of weather. So ... to the caravan then pub for tea.

Apparently the corner turning descent of Hartside offers one of the top 10 views in Britain- today the climb was being taken by trudging horses pulling vardo up from the Appleby horse fair.

A cuppa at 'Brief Encounter' then under the line to meet the gang to board the Carlisle -Settle train via Ribblehead viaduct.

What was the beautiful house wine at the pub in Settle?

Another lovely day....