Friday, 30 January 2015

My assignment is over, I'm headed home.

I haven't posted anything for a few weeks because, well frankly I didn't have anything new to post.  I must admit that walking in the rain, not taking any pictures and generally just working most of the time isn't something folks want to read about.

As some of you who know me know, my assignment here in the UK is coming to an end.  When I walk onto the airplane it will have been 3 weeks shy of 2 full years for me. Looking back I didn't think I'd be here that long, and while it sometimes doesn't seem all that long believe me, it felt like it.

My return is bittersweet.  I'll miss all the folks I worked with, the new friends I've made and of course the beautiful countryside here in Cumbria.  I'll also miss good pub food and my favorite ale, Pied Piper, served only at the Strand in Nether Wasdale.

The sweetest part of my return is being back with family.  Suzanne and Tucker miss me as much I miss them; the littlest things are actually quite significant.  Like walks in the neighborhood or an outing for ice cream.

I've certainly grown during this assignment.  In addition to learning about the English countryside, I've also gotten to understand key bits of British culture.  Politeness goes a long ways no matter where you are, but it seems to be especially important here.  Some things I've learned:

- Blackpool rock is not music, but it sure is sweet.
- Proper Chips are not french fries.
- Custard is better than ice cream on Sticky Toffee Pudding.
- Bacon doesn't have to be full of fat.
- Brown gravy works just fine on everything.
- There is more than one kind of mash.
- Fish-n-Chips isn't complete without mushy peas.
- Yorkshire Pudding can be easy.
- I've yet to see the English eat an English Muffin.
- If you wait for dry weather to go for a walk, you'll never walk.
- Dogs are mandatory; Terriers are preferred.  Extra points for multiples.
- If your ale isn't a cask ale, it's not really an ale.
- There are carriageways, and there are fell roads.  The latter make the former look wide!
- Don't let the barmaid serve your ale with a head of foam.
- Haggis is actually quite good, especially when served in a pie with venison at the Gosforth Hall Inn.

Dominic, Danielle (both), Caroline, Mags, Richard, Rob, Phil, Kenny, Geoff, Ian, Chris (both), Ernie,  Tom, Dave, Michael (both), Helen (both), Stuart and many other folks all made this assignment work.  My hat's off to them!

And finally, Allan and Vera, without whom I would not have learned the difference between regular sheep and fell sheep, and why the Border Collies are so important.

This is my final post on this blog.  Goodbye to all.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Highclere Castle

While in London this time Suzanne and I decided to visit Highclere Castle.  Sharp readers will recognize it as Downton Abbey, a very popular TV show on ITV and PBS' Masterpiece Theatre.

Our initial impression was how small it was.  On tv it seems so much larger.

One thing we realized that photos have been altered, they have added an extra window here and there.

I like the architecture, it essentially was a core house at one point and outer areas added later.

We had tickets to tour the house, and it is very nice inside.  Typical "old" English manor in that it really looks like a money pit.  The Lords of the manor are owned by the home, they don't own it.  

We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but it's fun to watch the show now and be able to say "been there" in each of the rooms.  

found this flower.  Never seen one of these!

We spied a pheasant in the high grass.  It flew off shortly after I snapped this picture.

The trees are beautiful.  Nothing I've ever seen in the US.

An herb from their garden.

This is the classic view you see on TV.  but the angle is such you don't see the cars.  

Until next time...

Sunday, 26 October 2014

St Pancras Station

While waiting for Suzanne to join me at St Pancras International -- the train station in London where you embark for trips to Europe -- I walked about a bit and snapped some pictures. 

 I'm not sure what church that is.

 A mixture of the old and new.  St Pancras has been around a while and sometimes the architecture just shows through.

Suzanne finally arrived about 3 hours later than planned.  Her flight from BWI took off late for starters.  I changed our tickets on the Eurostar twice, luckily my accent made it obvious I was sincere.  We missed the second train due to a problem on the train line from Heathrow airport to St Pancras, and Suzanne showed up just as the next train was leaving.  So we waited another hour and then off we were to Paris.

That does have a nice ring to it...

Until next time.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A nice greeting on my return...

2 August 2014

After spending some quality time back in the US with Suzanne, I got back to the cottage and found the following waiting for me:

This is the blue Hydrangea

And this one is the purpley-red one. Definitely my favorite and I need to get some of these planted at home!

My apples are also ripening. I've had quite a few already. I still can't get over being able to walk out back and pick some apples. I'm eating at least one a day. Today I zapped one in the microwave with some raisins and a bit of brown sugar...mmm!

Until next time...

Friday, 11 July 2014

Castle Crag

22 June 2014

Up in the north of the Lake District is a pretty valley that looks upon Castle Crag.  Castle Crag is just an outcropping of rick up at the top of a hill (while called a fell, it has trees about so is technically not a fell).

As I headed up the below view started to form.  

Looking out on the valley at a nice switchback.  It was very muggy that day and as I was headed up my shirt got soaked; by this time I was drinking lots of water.

About two thirds up the full valley was visible.

I could now start to see to the north east.  That trail is what I'll follow back as I go around the other hill. to the left.  But first I have to keep going up the fell.

Behind me is Castle Crag at the very top.  That pile of spoil is from slate mining that used to occur here.  The trail up actually follows the to the left and on the spoil pile.

Whew!  Finally at the top and looking south towards Derwent Water.  The river flowing into it is the River Derwent.

Of course, I saw these flowers along the way.  Each one is about the size of a pea.

Over towards the next fell (I have to walk the tail around it on the right to get back) I could hear a Coo Coo.  A classic coo coo click sounds just like them!  And for all these years I just assumed it was a sound chosen because it was different and easily recognized.  Obviously our Brown Coocoo (I've seen them near home in Maryland) sound quite different.

Not much special on that trail out in the open, other than it was quiet.  Below is some rocks in the forest as I neared the end of the walk that are covered in moss.  Lot's of moss around here...

More moss covered walls.  I can't get enough of the beauty here.

The "river" Derwent.  Well, at least before it gets to the water also named for it.  Below the water it really is a river, albeit not a large one.

A simple rose...

The end of my walk is a crossing of stepping stones across the river.  Probably more useful on a wet day with more water flowing in the river.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Levens Hall

5th June 2014

Levens Hall is another one of those British aristocracy homes that are open to the public.  Well, parts are anyway.  Suzanne and I decided we wanted to see the gardens; they are supposed to be the oldest continuous topiary gardens in the UK.

 Lots of strange shapes to all the bushes and trees.

 This little flower garden is lined with tiny little English boxwoods.  That's an idea I may have try at home...

 It was all very pretty and we loved walking amongst the flowers and topiary.  We both had lots of fun!

This flower was on the lily pond.  I'd never really seen a real lily pond before.

These are stones marking the graves of the landowners' dogs over the last hundred years.

Until next time...

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Local Walk

15th June 2014

It was a nice day and instead of heading off as I usually do along the River Bleng I instead ducked behind the Gosforth Hall Inn and headed up the Gosforth trail in the opposite direction.

Once past the homes I had to walk up the hill.  Very easy walk in the tall grass. 

The view from the top.  Those two houses on the right are just behind Gosforth Hall. 

 While it was nice in Gosforth, over to the south towards Scafell and Wastwater it looked a bit wet.

 I don't get enough of the fox gloves.  They grow everywhere.

Buttercups and purple grasses.  It looks much better in person!

Some wild roses along the way.

 There was bee on this but he flew off as I snapped...but the flowers are pretty anyway.

 Until next time...