This stunning coastal walk explores some of Britain’s highest chalk cliffs from Flamborough Head https://www.yorkshire.com/places/yorkshire-coast/flamborough to Bempton.What better way to welcome the Spring than with this moderately challenging walk.At a distance of 6 miles in the sunshine along the East Yorkshire coast, there are wonderful views… and the arrival of some our Summer sea bird visitors for company.
Best Foot Forward
Start from Flamborough Head Lighthouse, a well-maintained and imposing beacon with a lot of history. The original lighthouse was first built in 1669 https://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/lighthouse-visitor-centres/flamborough-lighthouse-visitor-centre This is an opportunity for refreshment and toilets at the Lighthouse Cafe, before starting out.Take a walking-pole, you may need it and, depending on the weather, sturdy walking boots.The walk starts off with some fairly narrow, steep, steps.Look out for skylarks, corn buntings, stone chats, wheat ears and of course, many butterflies and an abundance of wildflowers.
Bright Yellow Gorse in Full Bloom
Skirt the Flamborough golf course, edged with vibrant, yellow gorse in full bloom at this time of year.The only problem with this walk is the many stops that need to be taken in order to drink in the views and take photographs.The North Sea is at its best along this stretch of coast.It is surprisingly blue.There are lots of places to just sit and stare.
Follow Your Nose
It is difficult to go wrong, just follow the coast path up through Thornwick, leaving the bay down below.There are not many opportunities for paddling.The cliffs are steep drops to the sea below.Sadly, there is some coastal erosion in parts.Great care must be taken.
The walk ends at the visitor centre of the RSPB’s https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/bempton-cliffs Bempton Cliffs nature reserve.Here are viewing platforms to get better sightings of the nesting birds. And there possibility of seeing a Puffin. Refreshments are available here too.The cliffs are a temporary home to razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, fulmars and puffins – a cacophony of screeching seabirds.This is one of Europe’s busiest seabird colonies.Be prepared though, the smell of the guano can take your breath away.
The Stunning East Yorkshire Coast
This has to be one of the most stunning coastal walks in Britain, it’s certainly one of my favourites.This particular route was voted 50th in an ITV poll to find Britian’s favourite walk. If you’re even mildly interested in wildlife, Bempton Cliffs is the place to be.
I was recently taken on a surprise trip to a lovely little B&B, Throstlenest Farm, https://www.throstlenestfarmbandb.co.uk/ just outside Skipton in the the Yorkshire Dales. A good base to stay when you want to visit Bolton Abbey.
The market town of Skipton
On a gorgeous summer’s afternoon in February (yes really!) we arrived in the lovely market town of Skipton. Busy market stalls, independent gift and craft shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes with a canal-side walk not too far away from the town centre adds up to make a very nice place to visit. http://welcometoskipton.com/ There’s a castle, museum, historic church and a vibrant high street.
As I said, Bolton Abbey really is nowhere near Bolton
Bolton Abbey is about 6 miles from Skipton in Wharfedale, North Yorkshire. As you might expect there is an abbey in the grounds although the 12th century Augustinian monastery is now in ruins. It fell victim to King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. It is actually about 60 miles from Bolton in Lancashire.
Open all day
As a rule of thumb the grounds are open from 9am to 6pm – longer in the summer. We arrived at the Strid car park at around 10am and left at about 3.30pm. It is dog-friendly although they must be kept on leads. https://boltonabbey.com/your-visit/admission/
You will need £10 to park
The park is open to visitors for most of the year and there are miles of walking routes. We chose one that included Strid Wood. This stretch has one of the largest remains of sessile oak trees in the Yorkshire Dales. The cost to park is pretty steep – £10 per car which can be used at other areas in the park – but then the area is immaculately maintained with excellent paths. A lot of it is pushchair- friendly. An easy-to-use map with discounts for the various tea rooms makes the parking fee a bit more acceptable.
Take your binoculars, you’ll need them
The walk follows the banks of the river Wharfe with some inclines that give way to magnificent views. There was evidence of acres of faded snowdrops, plus the green tips of imminent bluebells and the faint aroma of new, wild garlic. Spring must be truly stunning in these parts. Dippers, woodpeckers, grey-wagtails and more were spotted and it seems there are kingfishers and even otters to be seen too.
Part of the Cavendish Family
If you have ever visited Chatsworth House in Derbyshire you will see that Bolton Abbey clearly belongs to the Devonshire family. There is the same immaculate attention to signage and customer service. And the name Cavendish pops up everywhere. The 6th Duke of Devonshire and the Rev William Carr created the walks in the early 1800s with strategically placed seats to drink in the views.
The Strid, a natural wonder, where the river suddenly narrows forcing the water through at great pressure. It was formed by the wearing away of softer rock by the circular motion of small stones in hollows. Clever eh?
A seven mile circular walk
Our walk along the riverside took us to Barden Bridge, over it and along the opposite bank. We crossed the river Wharfe at one point to visit the Pavilion for coffee to cross back again and on to the stepping stones. I preferred to take the bridge, only having little legs, to the abbey ruins and back along to the river bank to complete the circuit at the Strid.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could visit London with the grandchildren. A day trip? But there’s too much to see in a day! Too much to plan! A lot could go wrong!
This will take some careful planning
A small package of ‘clues’: an ‘I Spy London’ book; a children’s map of London; a London sticker book; a Union Flag wallet, pen and notebook – plus a ‘golden ticket’ – all parcelled up to make a unique and memorable Christmas gift which caused huge excitement.
Save the date
As soon as we decided with our daughter that we could go on the ‘Inset Day’ before the February half-term holiday, we looked for appropriate travel, visit and stay deals.
The first great deal was with LNER https://www.lner.co.uk/. Booked in advance, seats reserved and for just a little extra First Class wahay! So that’s brunch sorted!
Easy to get around
Transport for London TFL https://tfl.gov.uk/make it easy to get around London with an Oyster card, or even more easily, cost-effectively and efficiently with just a debit card. It can be tapped at the entrance and exit of every underground station – no faffing about with ‘real money’.
Evie eight-and-a-half, and Jack 6 (and their Mum and Dad too) were beside themselves with excitement. We arrived at Retford Railway Station in time to pick up a Costa https://www.costa.co.uk/ and see some high-speed trains flash through the station. And then it was our turn. It was a special treat and worth the extra to have a late breakfast and unlimited tea and coffee served to us on the train. Wow! Did we feel posh!
A call at the visitor centre to pick up an activity pack for the children which included a free badge and pencil and we’re in. We managed to get onto the 1.30pm guided tour… and met Bill, the Yeoman Warder. This man imparted so much in a very entertaining and engaging manner – if not a bit scary, he is not a man to be messed with. The children warmed to him and were thrilled to have their picture taken with him.
The icing on the cake
Earlier planning had bagged us a couple of rooms at a very good rate at the Premier Inn https://www.premierinn.com in Greenwich – if you book breakfast and why wouldn’t you eat-as-much-as-you-want-buffet-style – the kids eat free. Yes, Greenwich is a bit far out but there’s much to see there. The Cutty Sark https://www.rmg.co.uk/cutty-sark, the maritime museum, the naval college, the market AND best of all… for a modest fee you can get there via the Emirates Airline cable car https://www.emiratesairline.co.uk/. Truly amazing views and we were blessed with a glorious sunset too.
Let’s tick some more boxes
After a comfortable night and a good breakfast we hit the road again. I had no idea that there is a tunnel under the Thames for walkers from Greenwich to Canning. This was a novelty.
The Docklands Light Railway
The DLR took us to ‘Bank’ then the tube to Westminster. Eyes popped at the sight of Westminster Bridge, Big Ben (clad in scaffolding unfortunately) the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. A fifteen minute walk to see Buckingham Palace was rewarded with the sight of the Household Cavalry riding by. Another fifteen minute walk (those poor little legs) to Trafalgar Square to see Nelson and the lions… then China Town still decked out for Chinese New Year and finally Covent Garden which did not disappoint.
This is the place to go if you are on a very limited budget – it just keeps on giving. We saw performances by a West End dancer, a juggler and his bed of nails, street artists, musicians, a string quartet, an acrobat and a man with a Diablo. Crikey.
Memories that will last forever
Exhausted but we still managed to visit Hamleys at St Pancras and of course the Harry Potter Shop at Kings Cross. A monumental trip but so worth it!
Plough Monday can be traced right back to medieval times.It traditionally saw the return to work after the break for Christmas, especially in northern and eastern England.The traditions for Plough Monday varied from village to village.Plough Monday was originally the first Monday after the twelfth day of Christmas, 6 January. Epiphany.
A unique tradition
The tradition very nearly disappeared during World War 1 and then again in the Second World War.Credit is due to the players and the landlords of both village pubs for upholding this unique tradition.
Naturally, the day before Plough Monday is not surprisingly known as Plough Sunday.This tradition more often than not, now takes place in Clayworth, North Nottinghamshire, on the third Sunday of January.
The death of the earth
In medieval times and in the dead of winter it was thought that the earth ‘died’ and there was a possibility that nothing would ever grow again. It was difficult to believe that the earth would ever wake up and again provide food..
A battle between Light and Dark, Good and Evil, Life and Death
I am lucky enough to live in the village of Clayworth in north Nottinghamshire, England where the most well-known of these plays still takes place.The ‘script’ is usually a bit of nonsense but has a hidden, topical message somewhere within. A pretend battle is fought between Light and Darkness.Darkness is killed and then brought back to life by some miracle. The death of the Old Year and the arrival of the New Year is symbolised in this tableau.
The village pubs
This year the play was performed as usual in the surrounding villages on the Friday before Plough Sunday.
The bar at the Brewers’ begins to fill from 12.15pm and by 12.45pm when the players arrive, it is absolutely heaving. Get there early, get a drink and a seat… and if you think ahead book for Sunday lunch, you won’t be disappointed.
A fiddler and an accordionist enter the pub, followed at different times by the players: the Clown, the Plough ‘boy’, the ‘Horse’, the Soldier, Old Eezum-Squeezum (sometimes known as Beelzebub), and the Doctor.Sounds bizarre and yes it is, but highly entertaining and amusing with rhymes and short songs which have been passed down through the years. There is even a sword dance!
It was once common for those who took part in these plays to blacken their faces as a disguise.They might also include something to associate with nature in their costumes such as a flower or feathers.
The climax of the play is the fight between Light and Dark,Good and Evil, Life and Death. It culminates in the slaying of Darkness (Old Eezum-Squeezum) – who is usually brought back to life by ‘the Doctor’ – and everyone lives happily ever after – with a pint in hand!
Good luck, fertility and wealth
The play brings together farmers and villagers. The purpose of the play is to bring luck, fertility and wealth. You need to be there in order to get your share, so put the date in your diary for 2020!
I have wanted to witness a murmuration ever since I saw Bill Oddie on tv conducting starlings over the Somerset Levels about ten years ago. Yesterday gave us the perfect opportunity. We needed to take our two grandchildren home and it was good to share the spectacle with them. A minor detour on the way home and a stop-off at Attenborough Nature Reserve http://www.attenboroughnaturecentre.co.uk/. It was a cold, greyish afternoon. Not what was forecast – crisp and clear.
A murmuration is a mass, aerial display of thousands of birds which swoop and dive in unison. Starlings in particular, do it for a variety of reasons: they fly together to provide safety in numbers, they roost together for warmth, and of course they have a chance to have a natter together – also predators find it hard to catch a particular bird in a flock of thousands.
Foreign starlings swell the numbers
The numbers of birds swell as the winter deepens. The amount of starlings in one roost can rise to around 100,000. Large numbers of starlings visit us during the winter months from overseas, to take advantage of our warmer climate!
Just as the sun sets
The optimum time to see them across the UK is around dusk in winter. Binoculars are not usually required as, if you are in the right spot, the aerial display will take place directly above your head – although you may need an umbrella! Seaside piers, reedbeds and buildings are favourite congregating places as the sun sets.
Sadly, starling numbers are in decline
Forty years ago starlings would gather in great numbers over city rooftops but now the numbers are fewer and they are more likely to be seen in rural areas.
Flocks of starlings arrive from all around, they come together in the sky above the roosting site. As the numbers of starlings swell the murmuration creates shapes in the sky, the shapes grow as the flocks merge together. And then, when the light fades, they seem to decide as one that it is time to settle in for the night. They descend and that’s it, the performance is over.
The children saw a banana, an avacado, a fish, a worm, a motorbike…
I like gin and so was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Plymouth Gin on a recent visit to Devon. I discovered everything I ever wanted to know about gin.
A visit to Plymouth Gin Distillery
The cost of a tour of Plymouth Gin http://plymouthgin.com/ is £7 (no concessions) and it is worth every penny. There were about 18 others on the tour too. We were asked to lock away our bags and cameras and switch off our phones.A strict ‘no photography allowed’ policy is observed. Which is a shame, Iwould like to have iincluded an image or two of a Victorian copper vat or perhaps a few ‘botanicals’.
The tour lasts for forty minutes and is finished off in the bar with either a complimentary gin and tonic or a miniature gin or sloe gin to take away with you.
The oldest distillery in England
Plymouth Gin has been on the Barbican near the famous harbour since 1793.Parts of the building date back to the 1400s when it was a monastery inhabited by the Black Friars… and their distillery – it is now the oldest working gin distillery in England.
A link with the Pilgrim Fathers
Plymouth is renowned for its associations with the navy.One of its most famous sons being Sir Francis Drake. It was also the last port of call for the Pilgrim Fathers before they set sail for the New World in 1620 https://www.mayflower400uk.org/visit/scrooby-babworth/notts-attractions/mayflower-pilgrim-visitor-centre/. A wooden plaque in the upstairs cocktail bar lists some of those who boarded the Mayflower on their way to lay down the foundations of what we know today as the United States of America.An image of the Mayflower, the ship on which the Pilgrims departed these shores, is on every bottle of Plymouth Gin.
From its earliest origins in the Middle Ages, gin has developed from a herbal remedy to a major player in the spirit industry. Gin was based on the Dutch drink known as jenever. It became popular in Britain when William of Orange became King William III of England.English soldiers who fought in Holland in the 17th century, drank jenever to calm themselves before battle.It soon became known as ‘Dutch Courage’ which we know today as drinking alcohol in order to steady the nerves.
Gin was also known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’. In the mid eighteenth century the effects of gin on the family and economy were disastrous. Gin was the poor man’s drink because of its affordability. Drinking it had started out as a medicine but as it was cheap and readily available, men became impotent and women became sterile. This caused the London birth rate to drop. Also, drinking a pint of gin and having an extremely hot bath was recommended as a way to induce a miscarriage during the 1950s and 60s.
Botanicals are the core flavouring agents for gin. They can be roots, fruits, herbs or spices.The botanicals used vary but all must contain juniper berries by law.
Juniper is the most important botanical in gin. In the 16th century it was used as a remedy for indigestion. The juniper is a hardy bush and grows wild all around the globe. And it is juniper that gives gin its pine aroma and bitter(ish) taste.
When dried the essential oils obtained from coriander seeds provide an unexpected citrus top note to gin.
Cardamom is one of the world’s most expensive spices.It is from the ginger family and is often found in the rice portion of your Indian takeaway.Not much cardamom is needed.It can provide gin with a distinctive, spicy flavour that works with juniper and coriander.
Orris root is from the rhizomes of the Iris plant and has a faint, sweet aroma. If you are old enough to remember Parma Violet, then it is very similar to that.However, it is not used for its scent but for it’s fixative powers.
Angelica root, which we know as the crystallised green streams used in cake-decorating and trifles, adds another earthy note to the gin and marries the other botanical ingredients together.
The oil derived from lemon and orange peels is used as flavouring in gin. Different brands of gin use varying blends of botanicals which gives them their individuality.
The alcohol that carries the botanicals in Plymouth Gin is wheat-based and comes from Yorkshire.
Exit through the shop
Three types of gin are on sale in the shop at the end of the tour: Regular Plymouth Gin is 41% and is generally used for a standard gin and tonic. (Tonic water originally contained quinine which was used to protect against malaria in the tropics.The gin was added to disguise the bitter taste of the quinine).
And Navy Strength
Navy Strength Plymouth Gin which is 57%. It seems that ordinary strength gin – if leaked onto the gunpowder on board ship – would render the gunpowder useless. But they found that the higher proof gin, if accidentally spilled onto gunpowder, would enhance the properties of the powder.And so Navy Strength was provided for officers of the Royal Navy, which they drank with water.Ratings, however were still issued with their rum ration.
And Sloe Gin
Sloes are harvested locally from Dartmoor. They are stored in sugar and gin for four months to make a delightful, slightly almond-flavoured liquer.It goes well with Stilton as an alternative to port.
Copa Balloon Glass
I also purchased a Copa glass.This is the type of balloon glass that has a stem, a bit like a red wine glass. The Copa de Balon glass dates back to the 1700s – so not as modern as I imagined.
A Gimlet is gin mixed with lime cordial.Again, this has its roots in the Royal Navy, the lime provided the vitamin C and is where English sailors got their name ‘Limeys’ (from the Yankees).
A Pink Gin is again thought to have originated from the Royal Navy. Plymouth gin is a ‘sweet’ gin, as opposed to London gin which is ‘dry’, and had angostura bitters added as an antidote for sea sickness.
A typical pink gin is one part gin and one dash of angostura bitters.
So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about gin. Drink anyone?
My Grandpa was in the Royal Navy during the First World War. He was injured and ‘invalided out’. He suffered ‘brainstorms’. As a young child my memories of him are that I was not allowed to ‘run around’ near him, or make too much noise.
The war to end all wars.
…and Dad 1939
My Dad was also in the Royal Navy throughout the Second World War. My sadness is that he is no longer here to talk to about it. I can’t say much about his war as he never spoke of it. Although I do know that he was ‘shelled’ and suffered injuries but that’s about it.
The Tower of London
In November 2014 – we visited ‘The Weeping Window’ at the Tower of London. It was poignant. https://www.paulcumminsceramics.com/ This was the beginning of four years’ of commemoration.
This set the tone. The country remembered the huge sacrifice paid by so many. We have so much to be grateful for – freedom and democracy.
The Tower by Night
And in the morning…
It was an emotional atmosphere as visitors filed, quietly along the walkway. Night fell on the poppies.
And in the morning, the sun shone on the vibrant, red artwork. The impact was magnified.
The entire country caught poppy fever
Later in 2014 we visited St Mary’s church in Whitby and saw the Christmas Tree Festival. It had a thought-provoking, poppy-themed tree. It outshone its neighbours.
And poppies in 2018…
Now poppies are appearing everywhere and rightly so. All along the highways, on cars, dogs, houses and shops.
There are many thoughtful and creative ways to pay tribute to all those who did not return home from conflict. Nottinghamshire village signs and lampposts are particularly vibrant as they catch the low, autumn sunlight.
Even our house wears a poppy
As this four year period draws to a close, there will be many more commemorations. Although when we think of poppies we generally think of the British Legion but it is not just poppies, for which https://britishlegion.org.uk
It provides support for the Armed Forces community – serving men and women, veterans, and their families.
I actually made it.I did run the whole programme of Couch to 5K https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/43501261. Graduated and everything.Running was going to be my new thing to stop me from becoming a blob.But then a holiday got in the way.Yes, that meant not even one run for over two weeks.There was a lot of walking and healthy eating too but no runs.So I should have been right back into it but I hadn’t reckoned on the battering that jet-lag would give me.Many times I was wide awake at 3am and then solid-gone at 8am, couldn’t seem to get back into the circadian rhythm.
Up and running
The jet-lag faded eventually and I made it, up and out at 8am but it was so hard! My legs felt heavy, it was like running through treacle.I managed two runs before I was knocked back again.This time it was the ‘mother and father’ of all head-colds. It robbed me of a week of my life – and running!
Take a step back
Back with the programme again. The run this morning provided me with a moment of clarity.It came to me in a flash.Just start again.Well, not quite at the beginning but right back to week 5 of ‘Couch to 5K’.A major step backwards but it makes perfect sense! Take the pressure off, build it back up again.
Draw up a plan
However, it’s important that I stay focused as it is the local ‘Pilgrim Fun Run’ in six weeks. I rashly suggested to my daughter and daughter-in-law that we all do it together, we might even enlist the grandchildren.There are approximately 50 days to the ‘run’ – it is possible that there could be at least 20 training runs between now and then.This is a positive event to work towards.Although I do have more holidays that ‘might’ get in the way.I must try to incorporate some training into those periods too.
I was intrigued when I received a letter bearing the portcullis logo. I have no real political affiliation, I just know that I must vote whenever there is an election. So, it was a surprise to discover that I had been invited by John Mann MP http://www.mann4bassetlaw.com/ to visit the Houses of Parliament.
An opportunity not to be missed
It was an exciting prospect, especially as I would be in London the day before. (We had tickets for the Paul Simon and James Taylor concert in Hyde Park. But that’s a story for another day.) Of course I wanted to go, this was an opportunity too good to pass up.
I arrived at the appointed place with enough to time to clear security which, as you can guess, is rigorous. A group of women from Bassetlaw in North Nottinghamshire began to gather in Westminster Hall. The vast, cathedral-style space dated back to the very beginning of our demoncracy.
Votes for Women
Within the Great Hall was an area set aside for a special exhibition https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/vote-100/. The story of the suffragists and the first women in Parliament was completely absorbing. I could have spent a lot more time here but we were on a tight schedule.
We divided into groups and a tour guide took us, at speed, first to the House of Lords. Our guide was a bit of a character with a lilting Scottish dialect who explained that when seen on TV, the lords were not really asleep but in fact, ‘listening very intently’. From there we moved swiftly to the House of Commons. It was quite busy by now and I saw a few familiar faces in the crowds: Dame Tanni Grey Thompson, Iain Duncan Smith, Dennis Skinner and Diane Abbott.
Before very long we were back in the Great Hall and were taken to the Speaker’s House. This is a great privilege – not afforded to many. Canapés were served and the fizz flowed freely.
The Speaker’s Bedroom
It was a delight to see John Bercow enter the room. He addressed the group and amongst several anecdotes, he invited us to visit the Speaker’s Bedroom which although unused, housed a huge four-poster bed.
Rose Josephine Hudson-Wilkin, (Chaplain to the Queen) Laura Keunssberg,(Political Editor of the BBC) Yvette Cooper (Labour MP), and Rev Kate Bottley from Bassetlaw, all addressed the group with some inspirational words on the role of women in today’s world.
With just enough time to spare, John Mann gave me his last ‘entry to the House’ form. I was in awe. As I sat in the public gallery I saw the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, stand in for the Prime Minister. It was our democracy in action and an absolute privilege to be there, I enjoyed every second… and it all went by too quickly. To cap it all I was caught on camera which was shown in BBC Look North that evening.