To Devon and back
Having realised that at some point we are probably not going to be up to lugging piles of books up and down stairs, we are futureproofing and getting a lift. But I felt that probably Theo would be very enthusiastic about Helping With The Lift, and that this might not be the fastest way for the work to get done, so I collected the hounds and invited myself to visit my mother for a week.
On the way down, I stopped at Margam Park, basically because it's just off the M4. We used to visit there when I was a kid living in Swansea, and I was curious to see what it would be like. I had to book in advance, because Covid, and I thought that was probably unnecessary, but I was wrong. There were a LOT of people! Fortunately it's a vast place, and the estate is well able to absorb a significant percentage of the population of South Wales.
I had forgotten that you could hear the motorway from the Gothick Manorhouse. You can also look out from the Gothickness and see the grim industrial vista of Port Talbot which is an interesting contrast.
A weird sculpture which looks like it's escaped from Torchwood.
Theo and a Dragon
Hounds practicing their Posing. This was a very MOWED sort of Estate.
I don't remember the medieval Abbey at all, but I liked this bit better.
Did remember the Orangery, currently an enormous Covid 19 vaccination centre. I wonder if the Oranges are still in there.
And I definitely remembered these trees! I snapped this just before I left, but most of the time this was thick with small children climbing on the low branches, and that's exactly what I remember doing 40+ years ago too.
I don't remember the mulberry tree either, but since it was in full fruit and there were no signs telling me not to, I had a nice mulberry snack there before we drove on.
It feels like I've barely left Devon & Cornwall yet, at least when I'm back there visiting. Since I had the hounds with me, we were a bit limited to dog-friendly things, but it was good to have a walk along the river at Grenofen in the summer sunlight: not too hot in the shade. This is on the edge of Dartmoor, and it's one of my favorite walks, though there were very obvious and fresh signs of deer about, so Theo & Rosie were strictly on the lead.
The drive back. Oh dear. I foolishly decided to go on a Friday, and one should never ever try to drive East from Devon on a Friday. I had planned to break the journey around Bristol, and have a wander along the river Severn, but after four hours, I was still stuck in traffic travelling at about 5MPH, surrounded by caravans and camper vans.
I abandoned my plan and stopped at Sedgemoor services instead, to find it HEAVING. The carpark was full! The overflow carpark was nearly full! People were parked on verges and paving areas, wandering vaguely about in pursuit of food in vast numbers, often maskless and quite undistanced. I gave up hope of getting coffee, ran in briefly to the toilet as quickly as I could, and then came back to collect the hounds. But then! We discovered that Sedgemoor is one of the motorway services where you can just walk out of the place and out into the neighbouring landscape! So we went off to the Somerset Levels, a place of susurrating reeds and wide empty grassy fields, to wander along quiet lanes to Rooksbridge and East Brent.
I particularly liked this cottage and the view to Brent Knoll beyond it. I've driven past Brent Knoll so many times, and have always had my eye drawn to the strange hill surrounded by extreme flatness. I didn't walk all the way to the Knoll itself, but on another day, perhaps? It's a pity that you get two hours of free parking at the services, and after that it's a flat £13. I wouldn't mind paying a few quid to park for a bit longer and walk to the pub in East Brent rather than the services, but I'm not sure that 2 hours is quite long enough.
Anyway, I got home in the end at half past nine! Next time I shall not travel on a Friday afternoon.