Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Eve

A rather slow start as we did not have to be at Windsor to collect the girls until after lunch. A few household chores and a walk to the shop for a paper took us until well after noon.

Christine started to bake off the loaf we had bought from Morrisons a few days ago when she discovered that the screws holding the oven in place had come loose. It seems that the holes provided were not really in the best place but when it was installed earlier this year the fitter had not taken extra time to make new holes that would match up against stronger woodwork! So it was out with the tools to fix the problem . . .

We arrived at Windsor and both Jess and Alice were nearly ready to leave - we had a little wait whilst their bags were packed - they are only staying one night this time!

The morning had been very wet and it was still raining as we drove to Windsor so we were not suggesting the walk we once had thought about! We called at Sainsbury in Slough (conquering the missed turnings of previous attempts!) and by then the sky had cleared but it was almost dark.

As a result we headed straight to the boat and unloaded bags. Alice quickly disappeared inside the pages of her latest book by David Walliams whilst Jess was keen to do some baking. With Grandad's help she made some pastry, proving exceptionally skilled at rubbing-in. This was then made into a mixture of mince pies, jam and lemon curd tarts.

By the time they had been cooked and cooled it was rather close to meal time so tasting had to wait. We had all opted for fish and chips from the nearby chippy - although Alice preferred a sausage instead of fish. She was rather taken by the wooden forks for eating the chips straight from the wrappers!

Later, Jess had to make sure that she tried out all three flavours of tarts!

Monday, 30 December 2013

British Museum

Christine spent the day with Joanna and Alice to look for clothes for the latter. They decided to go to the large Westfield shopping centre in West London. They had lunch at Wagamama - Alice's favourite place to eat out.

Although some items were bought it was perhaps not the best of experiences (a pickpocket and a lost car did not help!) and most of the shops are the same as in any out of town shopping mall.

Meanwhile, Mike and Jessica went by train (from Slough) into London to visit the British Museum. It has been promoted on children's television and she was clear about what she wanted to see. 'Orrible 'Istories provided some of the background.

As soon as they arrived they headed for one of the food stalls and just managed to find a place to sit and eat. The new roof makes a very impressive space. The whole museum was very busy indeed so it took some effort to find a way around.

The Mostyn Tompion table clock, made for William and Mary, impressed Jess, with its spectacular ornate decoration and ebony veneer.

However, the main interest was with the Egyptian mummies and the ornate decorated coffins.

Etruscan pottery attracted Jess's eye and she pointed out which was her favourite.

Of course, they took a look at the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles and the Rosetta Stone (no room to get a photo). By this stage Jess was sufficiently clear about hieroglyphics to understand the stone's importance in working out to read this once forgotten language.

By the time they left the museum it was becoming dark and near the Underground station they could see some of the seasonal lights.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

St Mellitus and Windsor

It was a bright sunny and cloudless sky that greeted us as we awoke. Our plan was to go to church in the morning and then go over to Windsor for a short visit at lunch time to sort out more details of what we are expected to do in the coming week.

We took the opportunity to drive over to Hanwell and to St Mellitus Church from where the new Rector of Wadebridge has just moved. We were not sure whether we would be welcomed or lynched!

Our departure was from the marina was a little delayed as we had not allowed for an iced up windscreen but fortunately we did have some de-icer in the car and the special defrost facility on the air conditioning soon had it sorted.

Inside St Mellitus Church
 We were warmly welcomed - the service was taken by several members of the congregation as no priest was available. As we know in Wadebridge, this is a growing experience during vacancies - we were told afterwards that there are 14 vacancies in the immediate area. In any case, it seems  that this congregation is beginning to discover that such situations are also opportunities and they clearly do not intend to lose the chance for trying new things.

After coffee we set off to drive to Windsor and a mobile call on the way meant that we knew that lunch would be ready and waiting for us when we arrived.

We had a good chance to catch up on family news and to plan (sort of!) the next few days. Well, we do know some of tomorrow and one or two other days but there is plenty of room for new ideas!

Mid afternoon we returned to the boat. We had meant to call at the large Sainsbury supermarket on the edge of Slough but missed a turning and ended up well to the north. Still Tesco just around the corner from the marina did at least stock washing up liquid!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

And so back to the boat

Andrew left early to go on a walk organised by the local LDWA branch and we were on the road well before 10am. It took just over an hour and a half to arrive at Packet Boat Marina where we unloaded the car onto the boat.

We needed bread for lunch so, after a cup of coffee (it had to be instant as we had failed to bring any real coffee with us - now another item on our shopping list) we drove the short distance to Morrisons in Yiewsley.

It was again a bright sunny day with a clear sky and pleasantly warm although the temperature soon dropped as the afternoon came towards its end.

Mike set about fitting the new charging points which he had bought since last on the boat. This involved two trips to the small chandlery by the marina - fortunately they had both items needed and the second visit was just in time as they were about to close. They will not be open again until next Saturday!

One of the points now works properly but the other is only partially successful. It will have to be investigated another time!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Imber and Edington

An even slower start today and we had lunch before setting off on a shorter drive than yesterday, to Imber village in the middle of Salisbury Plain.

At one time, Imber was a typical small farming village - five farms as well as the manor house along with a parish church and even a Baptist Chapel. However, the Plain gradually developed as an important military training area with the War Department gradually buying up much of the land and many of the houses. Apart from Imber, there were very few other dwellings.

As the D Day landings were being planned, the need for a large space for training with the American forces was needed and the whole of the village was compulsory purchased. Although there was originally a possibility that it would be returned after the war, the difficulty in clearing the area from explosive material meant that it remains military property and is still well used for many training exercises.

Imber Church
However, the public, normally excluded, can visit for a few days after Christmas and the Churches Preservation Trust, who look after the church, open it as well.

We parked and walked up to the church which was looking especially well in the sunshine with a cloudless bright blue sky as background.

No Go to Imber Court Farm!
Afterwards we wandered a little further along the road - off road excursions are definitely not advised! - passing the buildings built during the war for training activities. Almost all of the original village buildings have now been demolished although the main house still stands, albeit behind a high wall!

Imber Court

Training Village
We continued on the access road to the far side of the Plain. As we headed back to Devizes, a wrong turning took us through Edington. We spotted a large church and opted to stop and find out more. Turned out to be Edington Priory Church which accounts for its unusual size. Internally, it is divided by a Victorian screen with the chancel area almost a large as most parish churches. When Imber parish was finally closed in the late 1990's, it was combined with Edington parish.

Edington Priory Church
Each year a special music festival is held in the church which draws some of the best church singers and musicians to perfom in the context of liturgies. The church is also used for many other concerts and dramatic productions, including a jazz concert and a Murder Mystery!

Inside Edington Priory Church
The Music Festival decided that they wanted to have a better quality organ and offered a new Harrison and Harrison instrument which is to be installed shortly so that it can be used in the 2014 festival in August. The former organ is to be dismantled and transferred to a music college in Tallin.

Edington Priory
Alongside the church is the former Priory house, long since converted to a private dwelling.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day - Stourhead

Boxing Day and the usual slow start! However, we did have plans for going out walking and Andrew suggested driving down to Stourhead, a National Trust property although we could park near King Alfred's Tower and walk for free through the forest estate.

 It was a brilliant day, cloudless and reasonably warm and the car park was quite full but still space for us. We set off down hill with delightful surroundings.

Stourhead ornamental lake panorama
 Eventually we reached the main area closer to the entrance where there are walks around the artificial lake. There are also the usual features of a large estate: grotto, several temples, ornamental bridge and several former lodges and other buildings.

Pantheon from opposite side of lake
We sat overlooking the lake on the steps of the Pantheon (the garden's largest building) for our lunch. Andrew had also packed a thermos with a hot drink.

We continued, passing a small building that opens for hot drinks in the winter, and then through the grotto. After that we came to the collection of houses around the church and pub. In the courtyard, a side of Morris dancers was just completing a session.


On again and we were now heading uphill back to the car park. We first walked through the walled garden and then passed in front of the main house which is closed to visitors in the winter - not that we wanted to go in anyway!

Stourhead Mansion
The mansion, one of the first to be built in the Palladian style was opened in the mid Eighteenth century. It belomged to the Hoare family, wealthy bankers.

The last section followed the Fir Walk, a wide grassed route - part way along we passed a tall obelisk which is also said to indicated the head of the River Stour.

Finally we arrived back at the road and drove back to Devizes.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Day

We travelled up from Wadebridge on Christmas morning, leaving as soon as we could - well, just after 8:30 seemed early enough after the efforts of the past few days. The motorway was quite clear to begin with but never became as busy as most days.

The promised rain held off, indeed the sun shone for most of the time. We arrived, as expected, just after mid day, at Andrew's house in Devizes.

After refreshment we went for a short walk along the canal, down to the top of the main Caen Hill flight. There seemed to be fewer boats moored than we have seen here before over winter. The main stretch is not marked as Winter Moorings as in previous years. CaRT have been experimenting with Roving Permits this year which give live-aboard boaters a little more freedom as they can move around yet still stay at some places for more than the usual 14 day limit.

Back to the house and soon time to finish preparations for our Christmas dinner - quite a lot of it we brought with us so that there was not much more than veg prep before putting everything on to cook either in the oven, on the hob or in the steamer!

After we had eaten, not much else happened!