Thursday, 25 August 2011

Dartmouth - England - 25th August 2011

Visit to England - Dartmouth – August 2011

Dartmouth is a small town on the mouth of the River Dart with a population of around 5,512 people. In its past Dartmouth was of strategic importance as it has a natural deep-water port that was suitable for naval sailing vessels. During the 2 crusades of 1147 and 1190, the port was used as a sailing point, and a small creek nearby was named as "Warfleet Creek" in recognition of the purpose of the harbour.

During the reign of Edward III, Dartmouth was home to the Royal Navy, however during the "Hundred Years War" with France, it was twice surprised and sacked by the French. After this a huge chain was installed in the water across the mouth of the estuary, and this was drawn up every night to secure the harbour.

The narrow mouth to the harbour was protected by 2 fortified castles, Dartmouth Castle, and Kingswear Castle. These are still looking out across the harbour, and are a tourist attraction for the many visitors to the town
Dartmouth Castle

Kingswear Castle

In 1373 Geoffrey Chaucer visited the town among many pilgrims, and this can be read in his "Canterbury Tales".

Dartmouth sent many ships from its harbour to join the English Fleet that attacked the Spanish Armada in 1588.

During "World War II" the town became a base for American forces, and was one of the departure points for the Utah Beach in the D-Day landings. Much of the surrounding countryside was closed to the public whilst it was used by US troops to practice for the landings and manoeuvres.

We took the coastal route going west from the town, this is a route of outstanding scenic beauty, and you pass many pristine orange sandy beaches and coves. We also found an ancient mile marker used in the days of horse and carriage to advise travellers how far the nearest towns were from this point.

Mile Marker

On the outskirts of the town is the Royal Navy's officer training college (Britannia Naval College), where all officers of the Royal Navy and many foreign naval officers are trained.
Dartmouth Royal Naval College
 During our visist we were fortunate enough to see the "Royal Regatta" founded in 1882. The town is able to use the term Royal as during an early regatta in 1856 during the reign of Queen Victoria, the Queen and Prince Albert visited the docks due to bad weather.

 The Queen came ashore at 6 pm and was met by the borough mayor. The Queen then drove in a carriage over 'The Ridges' to the 'Black House' at the junction of Jaw Bones/Swannaton Road/Stoke Fleming Road. She was accompanied by Sir H.F. Seale on horseback. That night there were special illuminations both ashore and afloat. The Queen donated £25 and Prince Albert gave £20 for three rowing races to be competed for by the sailors of Dartmouth and this was done on the second day of the regatta. The Queen the next day sailed on to Plymouth but before leaving bestowed the title of 'Royal' on the regatta.

During the regatta the Royal Navy Helicopters performed some amasing ariel displays. We used the ferry to cross from Dartmouth to Kingswear where we watched and recorded some of the displays. We were in the competitors tent, and the view looked out across the bay which was a mass of sailing vessels. In the centre of the bay was a Royal Navy War Ship.

In the evening there was a huge firework display to celebrate the regatta. We were fortunate, as the B&B in which we were staying had a balcony off our room, overlooking the harbour, and we were able to sit outside on the balcony enjoying a glass of wine whilst we enjoyed the fireworks.

The town has many odd signs posted around that make you think they have some thing against children. Some of them are in the pictures below along with other signs that we thought were unusual.
The Butterwalk

Winning Sailing Team

London - England - 25th August 2011

Notting Hill Carnival

 The Notting Hill Carnival started in 1964, and has taken place on the streets of Notting Hill London every year since over a 2 day period.
The Carnival can attract up to 2 million people making it the 2nd largest street festival in the world after the Rio Carnival held in Brazil.
The Carnival was originally introduced as a measure to improve race relations in the area

We were very lucky on our trip to London, as we did not know the Carnival was taking place until we arrived. We decided to attend the 1st day known as Children's Day (We were flying back to Peoria on the main day). This was held on the 25th August and most of the Carnival events were organised specifically for children.

We walked to the event past thousands of other spectators and police, however the atmosphere was friendly and every one was in party mood (Even the Police).

We found a good spot to watch the event, and just before the first parade arrived and the heaven's opened up, there were umbrellas everywhere, but fortunately the rain let up before the parade got to the point at which we were standing

Photo's from the Carnival.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cheddar Gorge - England - 23rd/24th August 2011

Visit to England - Cheddar Gorge – August 2011

After Stonehenge we drove to Cheddar Gorge in the County of Somerset. This is a cutting through the mountains in the Mendip Hills.

There are several caves in the gorge, and it is the site where Britain's oldest complete human skeleton was found in 1903, known as Cheddar Man, and estimated to be 9,000 years old.

The maximum depth of the gorge is 137 metres (499 feet), with a vertical cliff-face on the south and grassy slopes to the north. Wild Old English Goats roam the slopes and acts as a natural environmental control to maintain the wild flowers; which otherwise would be consumed by trees and small bushes. This also helps to stabilise the cliffs as it prevents tree roots breaking open the rocks.

The gorge was formed by melt water floods during the periglacial periods which have occurred over the last 1.2 million years.

There are 2 natural caves in the gorge, Gough's Cave and a smaller Cox's Cave. A Man made cave called the Crystal Quest was made for children's entertainment.
We visited Gough's Cave, below are some of the pictures we took. When you enter you get an audio guide so you understand what you are looking at. This cave is prone to flooding so is only open when the weather is suitable. It also contains a cavern of local made Cheddar Cheese which is allowed to age naturally in the cave environment. (We tried the cheese during a tour of the factory, it is super).

The local cheese factory (Actually in the gorge), is the only factory remaining in Cheddar that makes the famous British Cheddar Cheese. We took the tour and were able to watch the cheese making process. This is a very complicated and a long winded process that involves creating the whey, cutting it frequently, pressing the cheese, heating it and pressing it multiple times before putting it into storage to allow it to mature. Below are some images from the factory

The gorge has many interesting shops and bars, and the Gin and Tonic was to die for. Below are some images from the commercial area of Cheddar.

We stayed in a local bed and breakfast called "Gordon's Hotel". It was very quaint, with narrow corridors, but very clean rooms. The garden had a swimming pool and was brightly decorated with flowers. It also had many apple tress, which is very fitting as Somerset is the cradle of 'English Cider Making' known locally as "Scrumpy", and of course I could not resist a glass of this traditional beverage. Unlike commercial ciders, it contains no gas, and has a distinct fruity taste.

This was a wonderful place to visit and I had many childhood memories of past visits. It was nice to see that it had not changed too much over the years, and still kept its appeal.