Sunday, July 17, 2011

Brett’s UK Travel Blog – June & July 2011

Sunday 19th & Monday 20th – Long flights & not getting lost

These were really long days.  We left home around 8am on Sunday with Reece dropping us off at the station for a trip into Sydney International Airport.  It was a fairly uneventful trip and we were actually there not long after 10.30am.
Brett with a pre-flight drink.
We wandered around and got hot drinks and a ham & cheese croissant each.  We needed to warm up as City Rail seems to be reducing the heat this year on most trains.  The ones we caught were no exception.  We shopped for a gift for Charlotte and chose a nice little Wombat soft toy as something uniquely Australian.  Then we toddled back to the check in counter as it was due to open a bit before midday.

Much to our surprise the check-in – unlike QANTAS – had opened early and we were ushered along quite promptly.  That was nice!  Then off to immigration and security screening.  Beth forgot she had half a bottle of water from the train in her carry-on bag and whilst she was sorting that out I was standing around minding my own business.  So the guy that scans for explosives in one’s bag decided it was my lucky day (again).  Honestly I get picked out for this 2 times out of every 3 that I travel.  If it was still back in ICI days mind you I would be a serious security trigger as I used to visit the explosives factory on most visits to Auckland, New Zealand.
All that was over with and Beth exclaims that her watch strap on her cheap Rolex Bangkok knock off had broken.  What timing just as we enter the Duty Free Store!  She now has a nice Lorus watch that looks quite functional and dressy all at the same time.
They have tarted up Sydney airport quite nicely.  I would say it has to be one of the better ones in the world with heaps of casual seating, coffee shops, restaurants (good ones) and gift shops.  We sent our time browsing and sitting before heading around to sit at the gate and read for a while about an hour before take-off time.  We had only been there 10 minutes and they started boarding the flight!
It was the most relaxed boarding time I have experienced.  It was like, okay folks let’s get on the plane.  No hurry no rush just efficient people handling and we were all there too.   It was a Airbus with 2–4–2 seating and we had a window and an aisle seat.  They make those seats a bit narrow for two biggish people but your mother commented that she fitted so much better than last February when she flew to New Zealand.
Flights were both smooth.  Food was surprisingly well above average.  Qantas really lowers your expectations in that regard.  Lots of snack stuff handed out in the long first leg to Abu Dhabi too.  Abu Dhabi is a big modern airport and we had a couple of hours to kill which is not too bad as you walk from arrival to departure gate, go through security at the transfer point and so on.
We watched different movies on the flight.  Your mother tended toward the chick flick end of the range while I watched the westerns.  Rango is really funny.  True Grit better than the original and one called The Last Swordsman is uber cool Japanese Samurai meets Carnivale in the dry desert west of the USA.
We arrived on time in Manchester.  As we flew in over the Netherlands and the North Sea our UK landfall was over the top of Norfolk and lower Yorkshire.  As Beth pointed this out to me I just said  – COAST!  She might have hit me I do not recall, but I thought it was funny.
We found the car rental up on level 13, the roof of the car parking building that doubles as Manchester Airport Terminal 1.  We sorted our rental car which is a brand new – never rented before Golf TDI.  We found the car sorted some gear and pack the big bags in the car and headed out to find the shower facilities I read about on the net.  The rental car guy was great and gave us some extra directions so we found the Airport Radisson and for £6.50 ($10) we had really good showers and freshened up.  Then back to the rental car.
First discovery was that the iPhone adapter that plugs into the car power outlet would not fit as the Golf has it below a shelf that holds the airbag.  Second thing we found was that I muffed up the route selection each time I tried to find a way to get things to fit.  We did jury rig something and drop out of the car park only to find the route selection had dropped out again.  Onto the motorway and found a sin pointing to Southport.  That’s the right direction said I, so let’s go! Then I suggested we would pull over to reset Navwoman.  I found an exit and off we went tile we found a side street where we could fiddle with Navwoman.
Beth figured we should use Navwoman handheld and I agreed we stick to the major route to get to Blackpool.  A few U-Turns later we were back on track and found our way here right to the hotel door.
Best Western Carlton Hotel, Blackpool.
Enroute we stopped by Macca’s but could not get a Wifi link. It confused the HELL out of Navwoman though.  Mind you she (Dianne the Australian voice) was using metric distances while the display was all in miles and yards.  But we knew the right way and she sorted herself out.  Hotel staff checked us in at the Carlton best Western and could not be friendlier.
Blackpool Tram, notice the L plate.
We dumped our gear and used the loo then headed out for a walk.  We were directed to the town square and walked almost a mile down the promenade.  We took some photos of the trams and old hotels on the way.  It all looks a bit worn out by the sea very much like the coast facing streets of New Plymouth or around Island Bay in Wellington, New Zealand.  The architecture is a lot like New Zealand too when you look at these about 100 year old buildings.
But the amount of rebuilding and renovating that is going on is huge.  Very soon the old town will look really nice with many old buildings restored.  We found a market and will go back there this morning to buy Bananas at £1.08 ($1.70) a kilo!  So cheap compared to the $9.00 a kilo they are at home. 
Wintergarden, Blackpool.
The Wintergarden is a huge building that looks like it grew progressively in Victorian times (I think its core is even older).  It was bought by Blackpool Council in 2010 and is undergoing complete restoration with different bits closed to the public as the work through the building.  Nearby is the Blackpool Tower Ballroom at the base of the Tower – that is completely closed as the restoration is more of a complete reconstruction brick by brick.
We had dinner in the hotel last night, nice simple pasta meals sitting by the window overlooking the Irish Sea.  Couple of glasses of wine, back up stairs and hit the bed.  We slept really well not too much traffic noise even with a roundabout just outside our window.

Tuesday from Blackpool to Windemere

I spent time programming Navperson before we set out and used Google to identify towns I wanted us to pass through.  I finally figured out how to set the first point to visit and then add more waypoints until we finally get to Thornbarrow Road in Windemere.
North Promenade, Blackpool
We got away from the hotel by 9.30 only to discover that “Simon” (I changed his voice to a pommy and got him to speak in Miles and Yards) had lost my first way point which was the nearest WH Smith to buy a map book.  Never fear my perfect photographic memory would get us there it was only 0.6 miles south of the hotel just on the south side of the town centre.  A bit of complication with the fact the Promenade was closed to traffic southbound so we would need to take some backstreets.  I am a Male with perfect navigational senses.  Bugger they failed me!

We eventually found Houndshill shopping centre and followed the signs to the parking building which must have taken us via half the width of the UK and back again.  I exaggerate – but it would have been a good mile out and back via 1-way roads to get to something less than 100 yards from where we started as the crow flies.
We did not find a WH Smith but we did find a bookshop and a book map which is excellent.  Then I got us lost trying to find the way back to the car park….
Finally we were on the road and headed on a coast hugging journey around Morecambe Bay.  We followed the Blackpool Tramway which is also being massively rebuilt.  Trams currently run only as far as Bishpham but track renovation is underway all the way to Fleetwood at the northern tip of the peninsula and the entrance to Morecombe Bay.
North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood
We stopped and photographed a massive lovely old hotel called the North Euston at Fleetwood.  It was built by an Italian fellow who had been an aide to Napoleon Bonaparte.  He built the hotel before the trains ran through to Scotland and for several years people journeyed to Fleetwood by train, stayed at this hotel then set out by ferry to the Solway around the Cumbrian coast and resumption of their train journey in Scotland.
Back in the car we doubled back a ways to cross the river Wyre and head for Morecombe.  Neat countryside with narrow lanes, old stone and brick farmhouses right at roads edge.  In fact, the roads often seemed to turn around the house or barns and then head off to the next corner where there was another farmstead.
We drove on to Lancaster which is a really ancient town with an awesome university building that looks like it could house wizards from the Unseen University.  Out to Heysham where the roll on – roll off ferries come from the Isle of Man.  Coming the other way was a brace of late model Jaguars from a road even on the Isle of Man.
Onward to Morecambe and it was time for lunch.  I muffed it all a bit and did a dad by overshooting some parking spots close to the shops while Beth was adamant we should just stop where we found a park and walk back.
The Morecombe Wintergarden (nice restoration)
We had a rather average onion soup at a café in the Morecombe Wintergarden.  I was pleased to see that the grand 1930s hotel we saw as semi derelict on an episode of Coast was fully restored and open for business.
On the road again and feeling much better we drove on via Arniston and Silverdale.  We spotted our first Norman Keep ruin as we headed into the southern end of Cumbria.  You mother calmly pointed out through clenched teeth that the hedge rows on either side of the increasingly narrow roads were in fact dry stone walls with just as inch or two of growth clinging to the outside.  Her big concern was the number of times as we moved over a bit for an oncoming car or van, was that she could hear some of the plant growth brushing the car.  That meant we were often 100mm or less from a stone wall whilst travelling at 40 miles an hour.
Our first Norman Keep enroute to the Lake District
Onward  and upward past some very early mills and even a furnace ruin right at road edge, through Newby Bridge and 15 minutes further we were in Bowness and Windemere.  We drove a loop around the CBDs of both towns before navigating to 3 Thornberry Terrace – the Invergarry Guest House.
We were greeted by Steve and Vicky, the owners.  It is a very welcoming place and we had booked the Garden Studio which is rather classy.  A cup of tea and some Ginger cake then we went or a late afternoon walk down the hill into Bowness to find a somewhere that sells stamps.  Lesson – any bookshop that sells postcards also sells stamps.
Main street of Bowness, Cumbria
We wandered back up the hill and stopped by the Beresford Pub about 200 yards from the guest house for an early evening meal.  I tried the Venison steaks with seasons vegetables while Beth had the Lasagne with a side salad. The veges and salad were nicely done, I found the Venison to be more bland (less game flavour) than I am used to and Beth wonders if the English have discovered Garlic yet.  Finally back to the guest house and in bed before 7pm!  Lights out and asleep before 7.05pm only to be woken by a rogue calendar alarm for a work meeting (midday in Sydney) at 2.30am UK time.  But we had a great sleep.

Wednesday 22nd – Beatrix Potter, Hawkeshead, Conistan & a Steam Train

We stuck around Boweness till late morning to call Jessica.  That did not happen as planned but a short walk to the village to buy some LMS poster reprints and a coffee saw us ready to drive off.  We planned a 31mile loop across the Lake at a place called the NAB on a cable ferry then over the hills about a mile to Near Sawrey and then Far Sawrey.  Between the two Sawreys we found Beatrix Potter’s Hilltop Farm with all car parks full and closed off.  These country lanes are so narrow.  I places two cars cannot pass and those road edge hedges you see in the movies are in face stone walls with just 100cm of overgrowth to cunningly disguise them!
Onward to Hawkeshead but I did catch a view of Hilltop Farmhouse out my side window and in the rear view mirror.
Village Church, Hawkeshead Cumbria
Hawkeshead is a village established in about the 11th or 12th century.  Its centre is closed to traffic (mostly) and is full of little café’s pubs and shops.  Hawkes Head has two claims to fame.  The biggest is that William Wordsworth attended the Grammar School there and boarded with an Anne Townsend in a 15th century cottage within the village.  The Grammar School was established in 1358 and the clock above the door is in fact a sundial canted just so.  It was about 10 minutes out by my reckoning though.  It was an amazingly big building for its day, 2 storeys with high ceilings and must have had a capacity for 40 or 50 students at least.
How do we know that Wordsworth went to this grammar school?  The blighter carved his name on the furniture didn’t he!
Anne Townsend's House (Wordsworth boarded here during his schooling), Hawkeshead Cumbria 
The village’s other claim to fame is that it was the market town on the western side of the lake and was therefore a short walk (2 miles) from Hilltop Farm.  Beatrix Potter married the local solicitor in Hawkes Head and the building that was his office is now the Beatrix Potter Gallery.
Onward to Conistan but Simon (Navman) got dreadfully confused and so therefore did we.  But we found our way the old fashioned way – with maps.  The roads got narrower and narrower to the point where you could hardly pass two micro cars in the passing bays!  You have got to use your imagination to call them passing bays however.
We found a lake called Howe Tarn.  It was man made by a fellow in Victorian times to create a nice setting for his family holidays.  Beth got out and took a few photos but we did not stop as the rate for National Trust Car Parks gets a bit excessive.  Apparently Beatrix Potter bought the lake and land around it in 1929.  We drove on the Coniston where Donald Campbell was killed in 1967(?) while attempting to break the world water speed record.
Haversthwaite Railway, Haversthwaite Cumbria
Then on down the eastern side of the lake to Haversthwaite Railway where we caught the last return train trip of the day along the Levern River to Lakeside on Windemere and back.  It was a very scenic 15 minute trip each way.
Lake Windermere Ferry, Lakeside Cumbria
Finally back to Boweness and up the hill to Windemere for some Indian food (for a change).  Did battle with the Pay and Display which did not like my £1 coins but loved Beth’s only Australian 20cent piece!  It gave use 12 hours parking for that!  As we spanned it’s charging hours when it saw 20c Oz as £2 UK!  If we had only known in advance I would have packed a bag of 20c coins!
The Indian food by the way did not agree by 2.30 am as indigestion kicked in.  It was the same problem as my last two Indian meals from the takeaway in Wyong and come to think of it also to some degree for many years past. I am not sure but it seems to be with the butter and mango chicken type dishes.  So I had better consider curries in future?

Thursday 23rd – Pencil Museums and Stone Circles

It was less wet this morning but more bitter.  The weather forecast was for things to clear and they did.  We breakfasted then went for a walk to the shops for some Vitamin C and some water.  Then back to the car and off for a drive north about 23 miles to Keswick.
Keswick is a nice old market town and was home to pencil manufacture in the UK through to 2008.  We arrived about 10.30am so first stopped by a bakery that was wafting out the most scrumptious smells of hot fresh breads and buns.  Coffee and a sponge roll with fresh cream (you only live once).
Then we walked about 10 minutes up the street to the Derwent Pencil Museum.  It is on the site(s) of their past factories as the Cumberland Pencil Company and its predecessors.  Three or four factories were on the site dating from about 1830 to one built in the 1950s.  In 2008 they moved to a new factory in nearby Waterton.  They had considered rebuilding and updating in Keswick but the conservation and green movements in the town pretty much prohibited them from updating to the processes they wanted to use.
I never thought that pencils could be so interesting.  They originally started making them as cottage industries a part time activity for local farmers.  Graphite, also known as Black Lead and some other names) was discovered in the hills around Keswick in 1590.  It was of a uniquely high quality for writing so was in some demand.  The bad news was that the King wanted most of it for himself as it was used to make moulds for cannon balls.  By today’s standards it was valued at something like £1,500 per ton.
The locals used to scavenge graphite off of the mine tailings to make pencils and a good trade in illegal graphite smuggling followed with Flemish buyers being regular customers.  After some years the French discovered a process to mix poorer quality graphite with clay and this substitute product proved superior to the pure Graphite pencil leads then in use.  Local production switched to blended Graphite and by the turn of the 1900s mining of high quality Cumbrian Graphite ceased in favour of cheaper and poorer quality graphite from Ceylon and Africa.
The museum also explains that they use Californian Cedar for the wood than encases the lead, this is apparently a highly sustainable use of the cedar.  Development of coloured pencils, ink quills etc. are also explained as is how maps and a compass were hidden within bomber crew’s pencils in WWII, in case of capture.
After spending far too much on specialist colouring pencils (less than buying them back home at Eckersley’s though) we wandered back into the township for lunch.  We did one lap around the market square checking out the restaurants and market stalls before setting on something claiming to be the home of the Cumbrian Lamb Pastie.  This was another forgettable culinary experience.
Stone Circle, Castle Rigg Cumbria
Back to the car and off south retracing the drive north but with a few stops on the way.  Castle Rigg is a stone circle on a hill just outside of Keswick.  It was apparently the first historical monument protected by law in England and it was uncommon in that it was free to visit (donations encouraged mind you).  We took many photos as the light and shadow through the clearing clouds made the scene quite something.
Back on the road south and we drove to Ambleside on the northern edge of Lake Windemere.  We walked around the town shopping area itself – about a mile from the Lake.  An interesting little house built on top of a stone bridge about 300 years ago is a feature of this town.  It once was a family home in the mid-1800s to a furniture maker, his wife and their 6 children.  The must has all slept standing up as the place is so tiny.
Bridge House, Ambleside Cumbria
In the 1930’s or 1940’s it was bought by Beatrix Potter’s husband with its surrounding land and donated to the National Trust.  It became their first ever visitor information centre and is free to enter.
For our last evening in the Lake District there was blue sky dotted with a good portion of cloud and plenty of sun shining through.  Beth chose to try a restaurant in the Craig Hotel.  This is a big stone hotel I had almost booked for the stay here and is very Victorian/Hercule Poirot posh in the same style as the Hydro Majestic in the Blue Mountains. 
The Hotel is only 5 minutes’ walk from our Guest House accommodation.  It is set on grounds, facing west sloping down to the lake with car park below the hotel, parkland with a rugby field below that and finally paddocks with sheep and mature forest trees over which you can glimpse Windermere lake.  Surrounding the scene across the lake are the tall hills and further back the taller mountains which I understand have some pretty hair-raising single lane roads traversing their passes.
Value for money though is with the Guest House accomodations with nice ensuite, king size bed, friendly owners restocking the tea and coffee supplies and bring us our own cooked breakfasts each morning, all for $200AUD less over the three nights.
The food at the Craig manor was alright though.  In fact the vegetables were lovely the entries were very tasty vegetarian dishes.  The ambience of the hotel and service were great.
Tomorrow we move on to Yorkshire.

Friday 24th – Ullswater, Roman Forts & the Dales

We said farewell to our hosts at Invergarry Guest House this morning.  Steve and Vicki were great hosts and really looked after us.  They hail from North London and bought the guest house just 1-year ago after having been regular visitors to the Lake District for the past 20-years themselves.  They said that they decided to relocate from the rat race of London and as far as employment opportunities ranked in the Lake District, trying their hand at running a B&B was a good option for them.  They were keen for feedback and like other recent guest I give them 10 out of 10 or better.
Kirkstone Pass, Cumbria
On our way out of Windemere with Beth and Dianne (GPS as I got tired of Simon’s confusing directions) we wound our way up over the Kirkstone Pass and down to Ullswater.  There were some absolutely stunning views and we pulled over several times for photo opportunities.
Finally near the top of the lake Beth pointed out that a Roman Fort existed nearby.  On passing the parking area for the fort it seemed like a bit of a climb so we drove on to a little village called Pooley Bridge.  It is another Miss Marple village with all the trimmings and we stopped briefly for morning tea before heading on out of the village.
Dianne our alternative GPS system voice (bless her) rerouted us away from our first waypoint – a supermarket in Penrith but not to worry in every other way she chose a solid route to Heydon Bridge in Northumbria that Beth seemed to approve of.  As you pass the top of Ullswater the Cumbrian mountains are replaced with gently rolling countryside and the odd deep valley.  The roads were wider two lane affairs, once outside of the villages and the up close stone walls stepped back to give a bit more road verge.
View from atop the Penines back toward the Lake District
Aliston was our last village in the Lakes District it is well away from the Lakes and like Penrith and Carlisle has a history back to Roman times.  We sort of drove along the river valley and bypassed Aliston which runs up a small side valley no doubt along its own small Beck.
The climb up over the Pennines was long and gently winds 1998 feet from the base of the climb.  We stopped at the summit of the pass for a final photo of the countryside across o the mountains of Cumbria then set off down the Western Slope for another 30 minutes or so to the town of Heydon Bridge.
This was as far as we told Dianne to navigate as we had decided to see what time we got to this town which is just a few miles from remnants of Hadrian’s Wall.  She got quite concerned as we drove on but that is what the volume button on the iPhone 4 is for…
We drove by road signs and paper maps for a few miles before espying some ruins on the hillside a few hundred metres off.  A wrong turn, pull over and review of the map set us up to get to the B road which is partly atop the Roman military road that services the wall forts.  As we drove over hill and around the corner we came across our second lime kiln ruin of the holidays.  Like the first if the ghost of the fellow operating the kiln has been there we would have run him over – it was that close to the road!
Onward to Housesteads Roman Fort, apparently it is the best existing example of a Roman Fort in Britain.  We drove into the car park and decided a toilet stop and sandwich was called for before trekking the ¾ mile over the paddocks and up the steep hill pathway to the fort itself.  Whilst having a sandwich a fellow from the National Trust spruiked he benefits of joining.  For a start all the Pay & Display car parks are free as is entry to their sites, many shared with English Heritage.
Houseteads Fort ruin on Hadrian's Wall
We did the math on what we plan to visit and besides (Beth said) it is a great donation to preserving this history for the future.  So we joined on the spot and have a ton of books and leaflets to prove it.
The fort was educational and is another tick of our respective bucket lists for this holiday.  Beth said see always wanted to stand on Hadrian’s Wall even as a child.  I have a photo to prove she has now achieved that dream.
Hadrian's Wall
2pm and it was time to hit the road with 85 miles to cover to get to our cottage home in Bagby for the coming week.  The drive took about 2-hours and was fairly uneventful.  We did spy one of Mr Stevenson’s viaducts not far north of Darlington and again passed through many a quaint village with equally quaint names.
We traversed the outskirts of Darlington as the first schools were finishing so met our share of Lollipop Ladies (and men) and the traffic backed up a bit.  A short while later we were in North Allerton which is a large market town and the 4WDs and smaller cars with Mums were in force in the main street as they had collected the kids from school and were now doing the afternoon shopping.
Then into Thirsk, home of Alf White who was better known as James Herriot – author of the vet books.  We stopped off for initial supplies in the market square then drove the last 4 miles to Bagby and Wren Cottage.
It is a three storey cottage (after Attic conversion) and is over 200 years old.  Fortunately for us it has been updated a few times since then.  It would originally been just 4 rooms over two floors.  Downstairs is the lounge room in front and a dining room behind, which was the original kitchen.  Up some very narrow steep stairs is a bedroom (front) with good queen size bed and a large bathroom to the rear.
Wren Cottage (door on the right), Bagby Yorkshire
One further flight of stairs takes you to a small attic bedroom with bed and rollway.  Back on the ground floor is a modern kitchen extension. It is all nicely furnished and to the same standard as our time share units if not a little nicer.
Beth cooked up pasta for dinner and we wandered the 70 metres down to the pub for a quiet one.  I am still in two minds about this English beer though so will need to sample a few more brews over the coming weeks before I decide I do not like it…

Saturday 26th – Thirsk

We decided to have a restful day and only ventured as far as Thirsk.  I drove past the Saturday markets intending to backtrack then spied the sign pointing to the railway station.  We are considering catching the train into York so I drove on.  Around the next corner was Tesco’s and a big service station so plan B went into effect where we planned to buy what we were unlikely to find in the markets.  I initiated plan B1 upon entry when I spied the coffee bar (a touch that would work well in Australian supermarkets in my view) and left Beth to wander the aisles without my supervision.  Beth initiated plan B2 where she bought pretty much everything we needed and bugger the markets.  I closed the operation with plan B3 which added a few bottles of wine to the shopping trolley.

Then over the road for fuel at £1.36 for Diesel and just 32 litres and about £45.00 later we were read for the coming week of travel.  So far we have driven about 360 miles and used half a tank of fuel in 6 days.  Our opinion is that you are paying the same in pounds and we would in dollars for fuel here but the distances to travel are so much smaller here that the real cost to our wallets is the same if not cheaper than in Australia where distances are so vast.
It was 11am as we drove back into the town centre as found a parking spot (just 40p for two hours).  We did the small market and Beth found a nice top which lets her wash the light top she packed.  Again we had a nice chat with the stall owner; everyone in the north of England has been so friendly and informative.
We decided to try lunch at a local pub and we found a gem with great service, good food and real old pub ambience. I tried the Cod and Chips and Beth tried the Yorkshire Pudding with Sausages and Gravy.  They asked us to sign a petition as the brewery owners want to refit the pub with a chain style restaurant which would be crap in our view, similar to going to an Olde English Pub in California.

Sunday 26th – Scarborough and a piece of the East Coast.

How English,Donkey Rides on the Beach, South Bay Scarborough
It was always going to be a big driving day, 43 miles to Scarborough then up the Coast to check out Robin Hood Bay, Ravenscar and Whitby then back to Bagby by the most direct route.  All up it should have been about 110 miles round trip.  We woke to a fine warm day with forecast temperatures into the high 20s. It got as high as 28 degrees

We drove off at 8.30am without GPS switched on as we figured (more me than Beth) that we could do this by book of roadmaps and dead reckoning. 
The drive to Scarborough was almost relaxing as was passed through many picture postcard small towns and villages and the roads were fairly quiet.  We arrived in Scarborough with no real idea of where we were navigating to and after a lap through town, up to the castle gate then down a steep winding road to the foreshore roadway of the South Bay then back up into the town I finally pulled into the ubiquitous UK Pay & Display.
From the town centre at the top of the cliff it is a few hundred feet down the cliff.  I had parked nearby the “Lift” as it was named at the top, or “Tramway” as it was named at the bottom.  It is a very old Funicular similar to that in Wellington NZ and Orvietto Italy but 100-years older and more rickety.  70p each got us down where we found toilets (40p) and had an ice cream and stroll along the white sand beach.
View to Scarborough Castle from North Bay, Scarborough
I snapped a few photos of the scene and of the donkeys.  It was all very English seaside really but even by 10.30am the crowds were not too great.  Then back up the Funicular and off to the North Beach.  This is where things first started to go a bit wrong.  I had a pamphlet for the North Bay Miniature Railway and we failed pretty much completely to find it based on the pamphlet map.  At this point we found that street signs in this part of the UK were optional and signage around attractions certainly random in Scarborough.
In the end we found it by a bit of luck at its northern terminus in yet another Pay & Display.  It was also 11am and time to try and call Jessica back home to say hello.  We rode the train which winds along the North Bay a ways then through a small park nestled between small hills.  It was a pleasant enough trip of 7/8ths of a mile each way.  We wound up leaving messages for Jessica on the answerphone and said we would try again same time Tuesday.
We decided to drive on and next on our bucket list was a look see at Ravenscar as we were curious about the site of the Alum Works – England’s first chemical factory.  The route was well signposted and we drove on past the National Trust Information Centre to the end of the road.  End of the road was the old Ravenscar railway platform and a neighbouring old establishment that is now the Ravenscar Tea Rooms. 
The Tea Room menu had another story about Ravenscar – the Town that never was.  It was a Victorian entrepreneur’s attempt to create a coast Spa town at the southern end of Robin Hood Bay.  Roads and drainage services were all laid for the town plat but few lots were ever sold and even fewer were ever built upon.  Today it is a small village with a few 100 year old buildings around and a number of post WW2 houses in one area, plus of course a pub.  The Ravenscar Hall, originally developed as a place for prospective land buyers to stay, is still in business as a hotel.
Alum Quarry, Ravenscar
Beth and I had seen a segment about Ravenscar on Coast.  We had also seen a segment in a different episode of Coast about the Peake Alum Works but had never realised they were in the same place.
The Peake Alum Works commenced production in the times of Henry the VIII.  Alum is a mordant used to “fix” the coloured die in fabric.  If you do not fix the dye it will was out in the first wash and share its colour with the rest of the items in our laundry wash.  From the earliest times Alum was imported to the UK from Europe (Turkey and around the Mediterranean) and therefore supply was under the control of the Pope.
Henry the VIII had ordered that only the wealthy could wear brightly coloured clothes.  With Henry’s divorce the Pope first doubled the price of Alum from £100 per pound to £200 per pound then cut off the supply of many things including Alum.  Apparently a local Lord recalled that his grass in this part of Yorkshire was the same shade as he recalled from his visit to the Vatican states.  Some prospecting found several possible sources of the raw minerals from which Alum could be extracted but Ravenscar was the best area.  Two Italian’s with experience in refining Alum were persuaded to come to England and they established the factory at Ravenscar.
The NT Information Centre had a great museum that explained the history and the process in quite some detail and Beth picked up the explanatory booklet for our library. A short walk on a pathway down the hill opened up a vantage point with a good view across the valley to the site of the works and the quarry above it.  It also provided a lovely vista across the bay to the town of Robin Hood Bay on the northern end of the bay itself.
Alum processing finished here in 1860 as a synthetic process to make Alum had been discovered.  But the factory had been in operation from the mid-1500s for about 300 years.  In about 1885 with the great Ravenscar Spa scheme the factory site was reused as a brickworks for the new town and bricks were initially used for the drainage and sewers as well that the few 100 and a bit year old houses standing today.
We drove back out to the main road which was more-busy with cars than earlier in the day and the first of many hordes of mad motorcyclists.  We detoured down to the village of Robin Hood Bay and drove through the upper section where you could loop back out.  It was crowded with many cars parked in the most ludicrous places well away from the heart of the village.  As we drove out we found many more cars parked in a field where the famer was charging £5 per vehicle.
On towards Whitby and as we approached from the south we spied a ruined Abbey on the hillside.  This proved to be immediately above the southern side of Whitby and we found a huge Pay & Display car park there about 300 yards walk from the town down a rather steep pathway.  The heat was building toward 30 degrees and we agreed that the walk down the hill was far from ideal as was the £6 per head fee for the ruined abbey as it was English Heritage and not National Trust.
On down into Whitby we drove, rather unwittingly actually as we later discovered the car parking was well away from the town itself and also all except the more remote Abbey car park we had stopped at earlier were full.  We drove through the town centre which was seething with humanity.  Note to selves – never visit the English Seaside on a warm weekends day unless you are visiting the most remote parts!
Ruin of Whitby Abbey
We got out of Whitby and back up the cliff top and decided, rather than retrace steps we would drive further north a short way perhaps find a cup of tea then drive by the most direct route back to Bagby.  The next village was called Sands-End (aptly named) and not much further north we turned back inland.  A few miles later and we turned a more southerly direction onto a country lane that Beth figured would cut across to another B road that would take us across to the main road to Pickering.
The B road wound uphill and down dale as it kind of followed the Esk River valley inland.  We made our final climb out of the valley near a place called Goathland.  This is open Dale country so it is not fenced but unlike Australia the Black Faced Sheep seem to have some road sense and are not at all skittish.  The area is all part of the Duchy of Lancaster and as we drove into Goathland, Beth observed the English tradition of sitting on a deck chair beside your parked car in the middle of nowhere sipping tea out of a Thermos and admiring the view.
We stopped for tea at a neat little tea shop in Goathland.  We actually managed to find a (free) carpark right beside the doorway to the tea shop and took “tea” with jam and scones in the garden to the rear.  It was a fine sunny and warm afternoon.  The other half of the business is a gift shop and here I spied the postcards that identified Goathland’s claim to fame as Aidensfield or the Heartbeat TV series.  The countryside surrounding the village all made sense (as did the 1960’s Anglia police car parked on display in the village.
As we departed Goathland we cross a bridge over the railway yard made so famous in that TV series.  It is a through station on the Yorkshire & North Moors Railway and quite an assortment of vintage freight rolling stock stored in the sidings.
A few miles further and we rejoined the A Road to Pickering and on through to Thirsk.  Beth remembered we needs to buy some milk and a short stop in the town of Helmsey sorted that plus some French Brie and something called the Stinky Bishop cheese.  These were really nice cheeses but not something you would want to have regularly if you intend to fit back into an economy class seat for the return flight to Australia.
A few miles further and we turned off on a side road that Beth had spotted earlier in the day signposted for the White Horse.  We drove along the road and down off the escarpment below the gliding club where we found a carpark (my god it was a free one!).  It was at the base of the White Horse and while you could not get a full view of the horse we did learn it was carved by a local farmer in 1857.  Apparently he awoke one morning and decided that the hill opposite his village needed a chalk horse on the hillside and went at it.
The horse is maintained every three years to keep it in good order.  As we drove onward down the road we wound back toward Bagby and I spotted a couple of bench seats facing the hillside right at roads edge.  Sure enough it was a perfect view of the horse – photos were duly taken then we returned home for a well earned rest.

Monday 27th – Yorkminster & Treasury House

Yorkminster Cathedral, York
It is only a 19 mile drive south on the A19 to York.  Actually it is about 26 miles to the city centre but they have a service called Park & Ride at the outer ring road.  It is free to park in a secure area and there are buses every 10 minutes and it was just £4.60 for the two of us for a day return ticket into the heart of the city.
It is pretty easy to find the Park & Ride on the map and by signposts but do not trust Navwoman as she tried to send us to the overnight lorry parking area instead.
We trotted off toward Yorkminster to find we were at the West Wing while the entrance is on the South wing.  We wandered around the Cathedral to Treasury House to find that it did not open until 11am so went off to find a Tea Shop to gather our thoughts for the day.  As Beth & I seemed to have different thoughts we cleared the air a little then agreed that after morning tea we would seek entry to the Cathedral first and then visit Treasury House having lunch there before a wee wander through the old town of York itself.
Entry to Yorkminster was £18.00 plus £2.00 for the small souvenir guide book.  We paid our money and learned that a free guided tour was about to commence (included in the admission fee mind you) so joined that tour.  The tour proved to be excellent value and we learned a lot about the cathedral including the difference between a Minster and a Cathedral.  A Minster is a church established as an outreach to seek new Christians whilst a Cathedral is the home church for an Archbishop.  Yorkminster Cathedral is both.
We learned about the history of this church from the time it was first established as a Saxon Church, in fact we learned about the earlier period when the location was the administration centre of the Roman Fort at York.  This was also the location where Roman Emperor Constantine was first proclaimed Emperor.  He was touring Britain with his father when he (the father) fell ill and died.  It took a further 12(?) years for the Roman Empire to fully accept Constantine as Emperor and it was before the last clinching battle that he had a vision to fight under the sign of the Christians and so become the first Christian emperor.
We also learned much about how the building itself evolved over the centuries about many of the stained glass windows and some of the unique features in the building.  Yorkminster has suffered 3 major fires since the mid-1800s and restoration after each one has seen minor changes to the stonework.  A full time group of Masons and Stained Glass restorers are employed by Yorkminster and they steadily move throughout the church restoring the fabric of the structure.
In recent years the tower of the cathedral was noticed to be slipping sideways and engineers were called in.  They had to underpin the original foundations as they were never really big enough to hold the weight of the tower.  The work involved was massive but a side benefit is that it exposed earlier building phases on the site right back into Roman times and these are open for viewing beneath the tower and also within the church crypt.
After more than two hours it was time to find lunch.  Our heads were spinning with newly acquired information and understanding not to mention it was about 30 degrees (a UK heatwave).  We walked over to Treasury House, waved our membership receipt and were duly welcomed.  We asked where the tea rooms where and down in the cool of the basement level sampled more excellent Yorkshire fare.  I had the Wild Mushroom Pate and Beth tried Hominy Pie which is a sort of potato and cheese pie with herbs.  The meals came with an excellent side salad as well.
Treasury House, York
After our meal we proceeded to explore Treasury House.  The house itself was combined from 5 adjoining houses that date from the 16th century.  In turn these housed had been built upon the foundations of an earlier complex that had once included the Treasury and possibly the Treasurers residence for the cathedral.  The position of Treasurer and his Treasury had been abolished by Henry VIII and the house changed and rebuilt many times after that.  In 1897 a Henry Green bought up the properties and combined them into one.  He was an avid collector of antiques and treasury House was (as Beth puts it) his 1 to 1 scale dolls house for some 30 years.
The Green family made their fortune in engineering with a device called Green’s Economiser.  It was a feedwater heater for stationery steam engines.  The family company of Victorian times developed into a modern large corporation.  When asked by the Prince of Wales what the economiser produced, Green answered that is produced Fox Hunting, Mansions and Parties.
He changed things in the house many times over this period and finally negotiated to gift the house and its contents to the National Trust in about 1930.  He made very strict rules that the furnishing should not be moved or altered after the handover and before he died in 1943 he threated to haunt the National Trust management if they did not put things back where he had left them.  In the 1990s the National Trust finally took that message to heart and restored the location of all the furniture and colour treatments to the walls.  
Mind you Treasury House is supposedly the most haunted house in York!  The ghost of a Roman Cohort haunts the Roman Road in the deep cellar.  A spinster (earlier owner) haunts the front entry foyer and they say there are several other ghosts that people have experience.  With so much history it is not surprising.
From Treasury House we wandered some of the narrow old streets where houses were often 500 years old and one really interesting looking group of shops were actually built in 1345!  We entered the Shambles (butchers market) and found a small tea shop where we had tea and cream scones before walking across the town to the Post Office to buy post card stamps.  Fortunately this was general direction as the bus stop to take us back to Rawcliffe Bar Park & Ride as we were both knackered!

Tuesday 28th – Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal

A good night’s sleep was broken and some early hour by our smoke alarm false triggering a couple of times giving 3 loud beeps.  It might have been the heat as it was also a warm night, or perhaps a bug crawled inside to meet its maker – the windows were opened even wider after that and the fresh air sent us and the smoke alarm back off to sleep.
A gentle start to the morning was called for and we left about 9.45am for the 20 mile trek to Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal. This is a large site managed by the National Trust and it is a full days outing at a minimum.  The Abbey was established by Cistercian Monks in 1136 after a bit of a falling out with the Abbot of St Mary’s Monastery in York.  The Abbott disposed of his 13 troublesome monks by giving them a piece of land beside a river just north of Ripon.
Ruin of Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire
The monks developed the land and gained income through farming and exchanging prayers for the souls of their “guests” (the royal and wealthy) in exchange for gifts.  These gifts were usually in the form of lands across a large area of Yorkshire and beyond.  These lands were managed by the lay monks who usually lived away from the Abbey whilst the Choir Monks (the literate ones) lived a silent and cloistered life permanently within the Abbey.
Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire
Fountains Abbey grew to be the largest and richest in England before the dissolution of the Abbeys by Henry VIII.  With its lands confiscated and lead roof removed and melted down, by the King, the Monks were dispersed (mostly pensioned off) and the Abbey fell quickly to ruin.  With 100 years it had been bought by wealthy owners who build Fountains Hall, robbing much of the stone for the Hall from the Abbey and turning the Abbey into the largest garden folly you might ever imagine.
Contemporary with the Abbey is Fountains Mill.  This was built in the 1200’s and was in constant use as a mill up to 1927.  It is the best standing example of a Cistercian Mill in Europe apparently.  It was certainly big!
Studley Royal was the land of the neighbouring family and they in turn built a great landscaped garden from the boundary of the abbey downstream through the valley.  The two families married in the 1700s(?) and the properties were merged.
View back to the Abbey fron Studley Royal Garden, Yorkshire
Studley Royal is a great piece of 17th century garden design with woodland, artificial canals and lakes, statues and garden pavilions but no great Manor House.  In fact the Manor House was situated away from the garden deliberately by the owner as he did not want the garden vistas marred by the great house.  The Manor House also burned to the ground in the 1940s and was not replaced.
The walk from the information centre to the Abbey ruin is ½ a mile, we probably walked a further ¾ mile around the Abbey and associated Mill then we wandered off to walk the mile down the gardens before turning back up hill the half mile to St Mary’s church a 140 year old country church build in best Victorian Gothic fashion.
Finally we walked back the final half mile (or is that staggered) to the information centre and car park.  Another day well spent.

Wednesday 29th – National Railway Museum, York

Great Hall, National Railway Museum, York
Another drive the 17 miles to the Rawcliffe Bar Park & Ride and £4.60 for two on the Green Line route to the city, this time we alighted at the National Railway Museum for a shorter day of industrial archaeology.
Admission to the museum is free which is a nice touch. A large section of the museum is closed for reconstruction but their was still heaps to see with the Locomotive Hall based around the turntable where locos such as Lady Hamilton, a Shinkansen, and an original Festiniog Double Fairley are displayed.

Nice driving on a sunny day but in the rain or winter?
Off from the hall is the Wharehouse which is a viewable stack collection and it is amazing what is stored including masonry wall sections from stations, waiting room chairs, signs and many large scale models.  Amongst the platform signs there was Platform 8, Platform 9 and Platform 9¾ and Platform 10.
Up close with my first Double Fairle (I found where the kept the coal)
Duchess of Hamilton toured the USA in 1939
I took many photos of Locos including the Evening Star, the Double Fairlie the Golden Arrow, Winston Churchill and many others.  But in the end the concrete floors got the better of us and we were tired after 5 hours and called it a day.
This famous Platform Sign is now part of the national heritage?




Thursday 30th – Bagby near Thirsk

We decided to make our last day one of rest.  We spent the morning sorting laundry, updating our travel journals and generally taking it easy. About 11am we headed in to Thirsk to top up our cash reserves, fill the car with Diesel and grab a bite of lunch.
We had a nice stroll around the Thirsk CBD (takes 15 minutes max). We found a small house labelled as the birthplace of a Thomas Lord who was the founder of Lord’s Cricket Ground.  Today the house is the local museum which was unfortunately closed on Thursdays.
We decided to revisit the same pub for lunch.  This time Beth had the Cod & Chips and I wound up with the all-day breakfast as the roast beef with Yorkshire pudding was off the menu.  My meal included a slice of Yorkshire Black Pudding which is a kind of blood sausage.  I tried it, ate it and never ever need to try it again.



Friday 1st of July – Bagby to Burton on Trent

Salt's Mill, Saltairre, Shipley, Bradford, West Yorkshire
We had a light breakfast then bade farewell to our abode for the week.  After much negotiation with NavWoman (or is that NavBitch?) we headed off on our chosen route to Saltairre via Ripon.  It proved to be a simple and pleasant drive most of the way and only the last 6 or 7 miles  was built up as we drove through the town of Shipley to get to Salt’s Mill and the planned village of Saltairre.
Saltairre and Salt’s Mill became a World Heritage Site in 2001.  It is considered to be the best and most intact example of a Victorian industrial factory with associated planned village for the employees. A fellow by the name of Jonathan Silver saved the mill from demolition in the mid-1980s and opened it as a tourist shopping location and manufacturing park.  A technology company called Pace International is currently the major tenant. They manufacture modem, satellite dishes and similar technologies.
Canal Boat, Saltairre
We wandered around Saltairre town for a while before visiting the mill for a coffee and to gain more of an understanding on the story of Titus Salt.  I bought a couple of books in the bookstore one about the site and the other a biography on Sir Titus.  My research indicates we were distantly related to Titus Salt as cousins 4 or 5 times removed many generations ago.
We left Saltairre around midday and NavWoman took command directing us through the middle of Bradford before throwing a ring road, one way system and motorway at us but we finally escaped the heart of Yorkshire’s industrial revolution history and made our way south into Derbyshire and around the western side of the Peak District via the towns of Glossop and Buxton and on into Staffordshire.  The town of Ashbourne was our last major market town as we drove onward past roadsigns indicating villages I understand my ancestors came from including Ellastone.
We arrived at our hosts for the next two nights, Paul & Sharon Swan and were immediately welcomed as old friends with so much news to catch up upon, from both sides!  After a few hours of conversation we headed out to a hotel called the Bell for dinner and to sample one of the local Ales.
Burton-on-Trent is historically known for its Malting and Brewing history.  Originally making Ale was the domain of the monks but after the dissolution of the Monasteries several brewers started up in business.  Burton-On-Trent became known for its exceptionally hard spring water that was excellent for brewing beer and Bass was one of the first brewers.  There were 5 or 6 other brewers but over the centuries many merged until there were only a couple left standing and they in turn owned a huge chunk of the brewery industry across the UK. Most recently these local businesses giants were consumed in their own turn by international interests in the form of Molson-Coors which is a Canadian company.

Saturday 2nd of July – Around Burton-On-Trent

After a huge breakfast of cereal, toast and croissant Paul gave us a guided tour of his workshop/gym.  It is currently a Gym but perhaps when son Tom leaves home it will be Paul’s workshop again.  It originally had a flat roof but as the roofing felt was ageing and leaking it was time to replace it.  After shopping on Ebay, Paul acquired most of the materials he needed for a proper gable roof as leftovers from other peoples building projects.  The funny part was that after using the small amounts he needed he resold his leftovers and recovered pretty much all the costs of building the roof.  As for the high class wood floor – it came from a commercial centre where it had been incorrectly laid and had to be replaced.  He got the flooring for free.  All told Paul is quite the DYI handyman and opportunist!
Old Inn. Tutbury Staffordshire
Our hosts Paul and Sharon proposed we take a drive together around the area surrounding Stretton, where they live.  First we visited Tutbury. Tutbury is a medieval town with Castle Ruin on the hill and a small retail area running down into a valley.  The Castle once hosted Mary Queen of Scots when she was travelling to a more permanent prison where she could be watched. 
Tutbury has also been known since Georgian times, for its crystal glass-making industry and we visited a small glass work factory as well as a couple of crystal ware stores.  The glass works had been in business since Georgian times.  Beth was very taken with a Water set and we may just use the internet to order one once we complete our kitchen renovations.  This part of Staffordshire is also known for its Gypsum and Tutbury housed an Alabaster Works until the 1970s.
As we wandered the township we found a Model Railway shop. Whilst Beth and Sharon checked out a craft shop, Paul and I looked over the Model Railway store.  Fortunately (for me) we did not buy anything!  A few days later I was reading an article in a copy of Railway Modeller that I picked up at Tesco in Thirsk.  The article was about a small exhibition layout based loosely on a line called the Tutbury Jinny that once ran in this part of Staffordshire and the author’s local hobby shop was the very one we had visited in Tutbury.
At the Burton Marina, Staffordshire
We then visited something a lot more modern; the Burton Marina was built within the last 10 years alongside the Mersey & Trent Canal to service the growing recreational use of the canal.  A range of new buildings house shops, bars and restaurants aimed at the passing trade both from the boats and from land travellers including locals.  We visited a toy museum which brought back memories for all of us as so many toys in New Zealand in the 1950s, 60s and 70s were more of British origin that America or Japan. I was particularly taken with a model of Supercar that came in two versions, the bright red and yellow one you saw in the comic books and a two tone monochrome version exactly as seen on your TV set.  I want both!
Fradley Junction, Staffordshire
We lunched at a very nice Thai restaurant at the complex before driving out to a spot on another pair of canals called Fradley Junction.  Fradley Junction is where two canals the Mersey & Trent and the Coventry Canals meet.  The junction is in the midst of a sequence of locks.  We spent some time wandering the banks of the canal admiring the long canal boats and watching the action as the passed through the locks.  The canals were older and much narrower than the one that passed through Saltairre.  In comparison I would estimate the Saltairre boast to easily be 3½ to 4 metres wide whilst the ones at Fradley would be 2 metres wide.
We drove on to the village of Yoxall where Hannah Woodhouse, wife of Richard Eli was born (Great x3 Grandparents).  All here siblings were christened in Mavesyn Ridware (where Hannah and Richard were married) but parish records show that Hannah was christened at the local parish church in Yoxall.  Yoxall is still a small village not that far from Burton-on-Trent which today is the administrative centre for the area.  I mentioned that Hannah was a Woodhouse and that I have noted that a farm called Woodhouse Farm was within a mile of Yoxall in 1840.  Sharon replied that indeed Woodhouse Farm is still there and is known by that name.  This seems to be something to do follow up research on.
We finished our stay with a pleasant evening chat about our lives up to now, house renovations and the history of the malting industry in Burton-on-Trent.  On piece of trivia I discovered was that Burton-on-Trent, Barton-upon-Trent are not different spellings for the same place but are in fact different towns.  Burton developed into a modern city while Barton remains a village.  Also the “Under-Needwoods (Neidwoods)” mean below the New Forest and there are several towns –Under-Needwood.

Sunday 3rd July – Staffordhire to Ysbyty-Ifan via Ironbridge

We set of on a lovely clear morning after beating Navwoman into submission on our preferred route avoiding motorways.  Paul and I had figured out the route, largely via the A5 the evening before.  We took our leave of the Swan’s around 10am and headed west about 40 miles to Ironbridge.
Indstrial Ruin, Coalbrookdale
The roads most of the way were comfortable two lane affairs until we wound down into the Gorge itself.  Even then they were wider than in parts of Cumbria.  We passed slowly by the Ironbridge in the midst of the town of the same name.  The town was full of cafés and pubs as was a heaving mass of midday Sunday humanity.  We followed our noses a bit further and turned up a side road to a village called Coalbrookdale.  Here we found the Museum of Iron.  This was the site of the original foundry taken over by a fellow called Abraham Darby in the late 1600s.  He perfected the process whereby Coke rather than Charcoal was used to produce higher quality iron in 1709.
Industrial Revolution Started Here!
The area around Coalbrookdale is where the Darby family established their business in the early.  The business evolved over the centuries possibly to a high in mid-Victorian times with cast-iron and wrought-iron products and also the famous Coalport Chinaware.  Indeed, the business still exists today but not at this original site.  Today the make the cast iron components that go into Rayburn and Aga cooking ranges.  You can buy these famous ranges fuelled by coal, wood, gas or electricity and it is really strange to look at a product from 100-years ago and realise that in its current form digitally controlled – just as high tech as a stainless steel oven from Italy.
This site is considered to be the birthplace of the industrial revolution.  Cast iron cylinders for Newcomenn, Trevithick and Stevenson where cast here.  The method for accurately boring a steam cylinder was also pioneered here.  Everything that developed in advancing agriculture and then industrial factories seems to have its roots in products pioneered at Coalbrookdale including the Ironbridge built in 1779 over the Severn River (the symbol of the beginning of the Industrial revolution) as-well-as the constructions of Thomas Telford, Stevenson, Brunel and others.
It was awe inspiring to visit the ruins of the original furnace where all this began.  The furnace was shut down for the last time in 1818.  At peak blast it would run for 24 hours a day producing two pours of about 4 tons each per day.  By 1818 the furnace was obsolete but it was almost 100-years old by then.  The original owner of the furnace and lands was an English Lord who went bankrupt and absconded to Russia it was bought by the Derby family about 20 years later. 
The Darby family were Quakers and believed in the rights and care of their workers in a similar way to that believed by Titus Salt of Saltairre.  As an extended family they owned the Coalbrookdale mines and foundries along the valley across the generations.  Perhaps uniquely in Victorian times the business was run by the women of that family in partnership as the male line had died early and the future generation of men were too young.

Monday 4th of July – Penrhyn Castle

Penhryn Castle built 19th century
We woke to another fine day and our plan was to follow Telford’s road (the A5) further west as far as Bangor and to visit Penrhyn Castle.  We decided to not use Navwoman and for the first part of the journey that worked out just fine.  The drive is really scenic with alpine countryside reminiscent of the Wairau Valley in Marlborough New Zealand.  Our carefree drive only disturbed by a couple of RAF jet fighters that rocketed past at 100 or so feet above our heads and turns sharp right into the next valley.
Slate Railway Trackage Display, Penhryn
We found our way to Bangor but initially missed the turnoff to Penrhyn castle and wound our way through Bangor instead.  Just before deciding to turn around and backtrack we spotted the two famous bridges across Mennai Straight: Thomas Telford’s great suspension bridge and Stevenson’s railway bridge.  We took a drive over Telford’s bridge before turning around and with the help of GPS found our way to Penrhyn Castle.
The castle is only about 160 or so years old.  It was built by the Pennant family based on their fortune made from the Sugar, Slavery and Slate Mining Industries.  It is a Victorian’s dream of what a great Medieval Castle might have been and is in fact many times larger and fitted out internally with all the modern conveniences of the Victorian period.
Penhryn Slate Rwy Loco & Family's Private Car
At its peak the house ran with about 70 or so servants.  It was a country estate visited by the family only twice a year for the different hunting seasons.  Their other houses were in Warwickshire and  London.  The house is fitted out with family furnishings of which only one or two pieces are still in family ownership.  There is a Welsh saying that if you steal a sheep you will be hanged but if you steal a mountain they make you a lord.  Penrhyn became a lord and was one of two families that owned a large chunk of the slate mining industry in North Wales.
Gravity Passenger Car (with handbrake...)
The house is quite opulent and features such oddities as a solid slate billiard table and a solid slate bed made to demonstrate to Queen Victoria that slate could be used for much more than roofing tiles.  In addition to the fine house there are other exhibits including a fine industrial railway exhibit that features slate mining railways and locomotives and also some other industrial railway locomotives owned by the National Trust.
Fire Queen built 1848
The lands once owned by the Pennant family include Ysbyty-Ifan which is the village we are staying in.  As taxation laws finally hit the wealthy the Pennants were assessed for significant death duties in the 20th century.  They wound up paying in kind as they did not have the cash reserves to pay such large bills and this has been the case several times as family members pass-on.   This land has been handed over to the National Trust who have invested in restoration of the farms, villages and properties.
Interesting Hand Powered Car
Ruston Diesel Slate Loco
The National Trust Industrial Railway Collection at Penhryn is worthy of a few hours study in its own right.  It includes some examples of industrial railway items from across the UK but the majority of the collection is about the Welsh Slate Quarry Railways.  These were built to several different gauges ranging from 1ft 10in up to what appeared to be to be 4ft 8in gauge.  The Fire Queen is the oldest preserved loco in Wales and served on the Padam Railway a line from the Dinorwic Quarry near Lanberris down to the port at Y Felinheli.
She was built by marine engineering firm A Horlock & Co and is a rather unique Crampton style loco with no frame, the wheels and cylinders were attached directly to the boiler.

Tuesday 5th of July – Llanberris

1920s Hunslet Loco, Lanberris Lake Railway
Llanberris is a slate mining town in the heart of the mountains.  The largest mine closed in 1969 and its workshops house the National Slate Museum.  It is well worth a visit and is free but do not let that put you off. 
The museum is house in the Dinorwic Quarry Workshops, original home of the Fire Queen mentioned above.
Llanberris is also the lower end of the Snowdon Mountain Railway a narrow gauge line to the top of Snowdon that it very popular with tourists and you should book in advance if you plan to go in peak season.
We chose the easier approach of the Slate Museum.  The workshop museum is well laid out starting with the restored Workshop Manager’s house decorated as it would have been in 1910.  The next range of rooms includes a movie on slate mining in one Theatre, a sheltered area we might call a Canteen in English but the Welsh call it a Caban and an exhibit about the history of industrial action in the Welsh mining industries.  Every hour there is a live demonstration of slate splitting, we attended a demonstration along with a class of Welsh high school children.  It was quite entertaining.  Good quality slate can be split to as thin as 4mm for roofing tiles and down to 1mm for other purposes.
At the top end of the complex are four quarry workers houses.  These were came from Blenau-Festiniog and were carefully relocated in the early years of this century.  Each of 3 cottages has been restored and finished to represent a different time in the mines with the first set as it was in 1860, the second in 1910 and the third in 1969.  The cottages are tiny and in fact identical in original floor plan to the one we stayed in at Ysbyty-Ifan. The 1860 house has a large open grate fireplace with cooking pots to the side and a slate floor.  The 1910 house has a coal range built into the fireplace and a laundry come kitchen preparation room behind the kitchen-living room.  The 1969 house is the most familiar feeling to me.  It has a 1960’s classic console stereo by the front door, the coal range is now a smaller traditional lounge room open fireplace while the room had been opened out into the storage pantry area to make a open plan kitchen space with electric range.  And of course it is all carpeted.
The quarry was owned by the Asshton-Smith family and like the Pennant family on the other side of the mountain they stole the mountain for over 100-years.  The slate workers were only paid a fraction of the price per slate for this material so the family became obscenely rich.  They owned the mines, they surrounding lands, the houses their workers lived in that railways to the ports, the ports themselves and the ships used to carry the slate to customers all over the world.
We finished our afternoon with a ride on the Lanberris Lakeside Railway.  This is a 1ft 10” gauge line relaind on some of the roadbed from the original line from the quarry.  It runs for about 4 miles around the edge of the lake then returns to the station beside the museum.  The locomotives on the line are not original as all those were scrapped in 1961 when the quarry moved to road haulage.  Instead they are examples from the Hunslet works from the 1920’s that are in keeping with the originals.

Wednesday 6th of July – Conwy Castle and the Great Orme

Conwy Castle
Next we head north up the Conwy Valley to the towns of Conwy and Llanduddno and the Great Orme.  A pleasant 26 mile drive gets us to the coast and after just 5 miles from our cottage the valley widens out significantly all the way to the coast.  On reaching the coast we turned left to visit Conwy and Conwy Castle.  This ticked “real ancient medieval castle” off of the bucket list.
The castle was built by Edward 1st in his strategy to pacify the Welsh.  Conwy is a medieval walled town with completely intact walls around the old town and attached castle.  We set off to explore the castle first, and to be different I decided to try the path along the top of the castle walls, Beth was not impressed by the rickety wooden stairs, the height of the narrow uneven pathway and the bird poo she discovered in one of the places she used as a hand hold. 
We paid our money and wandered the ruins for over an hour.  With a building ruin this old there is not that much to see unless you know what you are looking for and have imagination to find it.  In this case we did as had had learned quite a lot from episodes of Time Team and our earlier visits to Fountains Abbey and Yorkminster.  The basic layout of buildings within the castle are well signposted and if you understand what to look for you can identify the different wood floor levels from the beam slots in the stone work also the different fireplaces within each room as they are built into the stone walls.  Some fireplaces one level up would have been grand affairs while the ones on the ground level where we stand today are much simpler affairs – often surprisingly intact.
The Royal Family or there caretakers would have used grand wooden staircases which are long gone from the ruin.  In each tower there are narrow spiral staircases and ropes to hold onto.  These stairs would have been used by troops or staff working around the castle.
In its hey-day the castle was apparently coated in whitewash which would have made it look very impressive and it would have stood out from a great distance.  I am not sure when it was abandoned but painting on display indicate it was intact and possibly in use into the 16th century.
One thing I did learn was about castle chapels.  There was a large formal chapel at Conwy at one end of the Great Hall structure in the lower bailey.  In the upper bailey there was also a more private chapel built for the King or Lord and his immediate staff.  At Conwy this is very well preserved and one level below within the same tower is an exhibit that explains how they were built and used.  Before canon fire these tower chapels would have also been very secure and defendable within the castle as well.
Telford's suspension bridge to the left. Stevensons railway bridge to the right.
At the far end of Conwy castle lie two more modern contrivances that make the location famous to some.  The railway passes through an iron tubular bridge built by Robert Stevenson complete with end abutments built in the style of great gothic castle towers similar to those of the castle.  Right next to this is another iron suspension bridge built by Thomas Telford and preserved today by the National Trust.
We walked back through the castle and down into the old town of Conwy for a bite of lunch.  We tried the Cod and Chips special deal (with tea or coffee) at a restaurant called the Galleon for £7.50 each.  The lightly battered cod was quite nice the chips were well done too but of a different potato that kind of made then melt in your mouth rather than crunchy.
After lunch we cashed up at a Barclays ATM then drove across to Llandudno to take a look at the Great Orme.  This is an ancient promontory with much history with ancient bronze age copper mines, a roman well, 7th century church (still standing) as we as more modern features including a Victorian built tramway from the town up to the summit, a tea rooms that was a WW2 radar station and prior to that was a relay station for the optical telegraph from Holyhead to Liverpool in the 1700s and 1800s.
Tranway up the Great Orme
We found a spot to park on the street at the base of the hill and walked a short distance to the tramway station.  The Tramway is a cable car similar to the San Francisco Cable Car for the first half of the journey then like the Wellington NZ funicular system for the top section.  We rode the car to the top of the Great Orme and then wandered around taking photos before “taking tea” inside the old pavilion.  To say it was windswept up there was an understatement!
On our return to the base of the hill we drove along the Llundadno Promenade which is very Georgian in style and beautifully maintained with a garden in front of each Hotel.  It was far swankier that either Blackpool and Scarborough with stylish establishments and no cheap casinos or bingo halls.
Madame Nav Witch caught us when we programmed in the Llandudno Tesco’s supermarket for a wee shop before my brother Peter, Janet his wife and 9-week old daughter Charlotte arrived Thursday.  She mercilessly navigated us to empty paddocks at the edge of town!  We doubled back and found an Aldi and stocked up only to find that they will not accept foreign Debit Cards!  That cash came in useful.

Thursday 7th of July – Ysbyty-Ifan, Peter, Janet and Charlotte

Thursday was a rest up day.  We had done a fair bit of travelling and site seeing and were starting to get travel weary.  We were expecting my brother Peter, his wife Janet and new born daughter Charlotte around 2pm and they were to stay with us for our remaining time at Ysbyty-Ifan.
We spent time that morning sorting washing and making a bit of space for the three additional people.  The drizzle eased off around 11am so we went for a good walk around the village.  The village predates 1066 but was renamed in about 1135 when Crusaders from the Knights of St John set up their western-most hospital here.  It stood on or near the site of the existing church just across the road from where we were staying.
The village back then was at a key junction so it became quite important and gifts of surrounding lands from early Kings and Lords made the order quite wealthy.  All this fell apart when Owain, the claimant to the Welsh throne led a revolt and the hospital fell into disuse at this time (1400?).  The area became quite lawless and a band of Outlaws settled in Ysbyty-Ifan soon after as they believed the location was beyond the reach of the law.
Several years later a new lord took over a castle several miles distant and became frustrated by the criminals, who were also said to be the remnant of Owain’s defeated army.  This lord assembled his own force from neighbouring areas and attacked the town  clearing it out and re-establishing law and order.
Unfortunately for the knightly order reconstruction of their presence was somewhat limited.  A medieval church was built on the site of the hospital but Henry VIII’s dissolution of the order came about along with the Abbeys and Priory’s across the country. The village continued to thrive as a major crossroads until Thomas Telford built his highway across north Wales to Holyhead as the primary route to Ireland in the 1700s. This road, now known as the A5, passes 2-milest to the north of Ysbyty-Ifan.
After the Dissolution the village and surrounding lands where bought from the crown by the Pennant family.  This is the same family that built Penrhyn Castle a few centuries later.  As new tax laws came into being during the late 19th and early 20th centuries such titled people as the Pennants fund they could no longer avoid taxes, especially death duties.  Their circumstances were such that they and others like them traded away their lands, mansions and furnishings in lieu of death taxes.
Mill, Isbyty-Ifan
In this fashion the Pennant family holdings including Ysbyty-Ifan moved into the ownership and care of the National Trust.  The farms have been re-organised often with the same tenant families that rented them in earlier times.  The village is also largely National Trust owned with buildings such as the 13th century Mill complete with waterwheel being restored as a kind of living museum.
The church of today was actually built in 1858 on the same site and to almost the same floor plan as the medieval church.  Several features including early effigies of people buried at the church have been preserved.  Ornate stained glass windows are preserved above the alter and as several side windows.  One new window was added in 1993.  It commemorates the founding of St John’s ambulance in the early 20th century, this being the final legacy of the St John Knights Hospitalier.
Peter and Janet arrived at 2pm as planned and a great catch up conversation ensued as they always do when absent friends and families meet.  As freshly minted parents they are very proud of their baby daughter and to be fair see is a cute wee gem.   

Friday 8th of July – Port Merion in the rain

We awoke to occasions of drizzle and showers but in the hope they would clear, and they did briefly, we set out toward the coast in a different direction.  I was unsure what we were going to do for the day as it would depend on the weather.  As we approached Portmaddog and the sun broke through I spotted the signs to a place called Portmerion.  Peter and Janet had expressed a desire to visit this place and so we did.
Port Merion view

Portmerion was the work of a self-taught Welsh architect.  He started this project in the 1920s and created a village built largely in the Italianate Style plus a few oriental quirks.  It is a village where much is not as it seems and in reality it is a huge garden folly.  Many of the buildings are in fact small cottage bungalows or rooms associated with the hotel at the bottom of the village by the shore.  From the get go the cottages were designed as guest accommodations for well to do holiday makers and you can rent them today for around $1,200 a week.
Port Merion
Portmerion is also famous as the location used in the 1967 TV series “The Prisoner” and many of the photos and collectables around the village are based on that event.  The series itself is a cult series that is still shown on TV periodically to this day.
We lunched at the Pizzeria restaurant in the village.  As we lunched the weather closed in and after a walk back through the village we hoped in our cars to drive onward.  It did not take long before we decided to call it a day and retreated back to our cottage at Ysbyty-Ifan.  

Saturday 9th of July – The Festiniog Railway

Leaving Port Maddog
One thing I had my heart set on was to ride the Festiniog Railway.  Its status as a preserved narrow gauge railway is world renowned and Saturday dawned with a fairly clear blue sky.  Beth and I had decided to let Peter and Janet do their own thing as they had expressed an interest in some of the other attractions of the Conwy Valley or perhaps the Mt Snowdon Railway.  As it happened they decided they would join us for the day on the Festiniog and off on a great extended family outing and Charlotte’s first steam train ride, we went.
Fueling Up at Port Maddog
We caught the train from its inland end at Blenau Festiniog.  This village nestled in the mountains is the destination of trains that start each day from the coastal town of Portmaddog. So our trip to the coast started on the first return trip of the day at 11.50am sharp.  The ticket office did not open until 10:30am and we had no trouble obtaining tickets.  In fact the lady behind the counter went to great lengths to give us discounts and I have two 10% discount tags we can use if we ever return to ride the Festiniog or its sister line the Welsh Highland Railway.  By the time she had finished with us we had saved over £5 on the full £38 cost.  
Our train was hauled by a 140 year old Double Fairlie loco called David Lloyd George and it was pulling a train of 14 carriages.  This was not an effort for the loco and it fairly belts along at what can only be termed mainline speed for a 1ft-10inch gauge mainline.  The journey down to the coast takes 1 hour and 15 minutes and the train pulled into Portmaddog right on time.
We and many others that started from Blenau Festiniog planned to return on the next train after its 35 minute layover for water and fuel.  That was ample time to shop and the souvenir store and to by a bite of lunch before heading back up the mountain.  Of course this s not just any train service as it includes full buffet service onboard with tea, coffee, light snacks, beer and wine and of course at the ¾ point they come around selling ice-cream.  What a day – we were bloated.
It was a very scenic ride and we have many photos to tell the tale of the scenery and these small locos that once made their living hauling slate from the quarries down to the port where it was then exported all over the world.  This is definitely a fun and scenic ride, the tight curves and steep grades make for plenty of stack talk from the locomotive and from half way back in the train we got some great photos of the train.
All too soon the ride was over but as a half day outing it was great.  Suckers for punishment can combine the Festiniog with a trip on the Welsh Highland Railway which travels from Portmaddog northward across the mountains to Caernarfon.  This is a longer journey and is also a reconstructed narrow gauge line.  Looking at the goings on as we approached Portmaddog there may be a new (3rd) line being relaid into another part of the Welsh mountain side.  This is rapidly becoming one of the biggest garden railway projects in history – if you consider that 1ft 10” gauge is toy like!
We finished the evening back at our cottage with a farewell BBQ laid on by Peter and Janet.  Peter and I chatted into the late hours of the night.

Sunday 10th of July – Off to Manchester via Ryhll and Port Sunlight

Sunday and time to depart Wales for the last short leg of our holiday – two nights at the Chancellor Hotel on the Campus of Manchester University a few miles out of the centre of Manchester.  It was a short drive of 120 miles even after we diverted along the north Welsh coast via Ryhll and Port Sunlight.
Carousel, Rhyll North Wales
Rhyll is another seaside holiday town and as we had morning tea there we reflected upon the fact we had visited nearly all of the famous resorts in the middle of the country on both coasts: Blackpool and Morecombe in the west, Scarborough and Whitby in the east then Llandudno and Rhyll in North Wales.
Ryhll is not as run down as Blackpool but it is also smaller and has undergone some rebuilding which is clearly continuing and the refurbishments to date look promising.  Each side of Rhyll are other coastal towns that reflect suburban growth perhaps mostly post WW2 and very similar to coastal towns of that period in New Zealand (without the seaside amusements of Rhyll, Scarborough or Blackpool).
Port Sunlight Tea Shop - ex-Post Office built 1891
Port Sunlight is a factory town built by Lord Lever of Unilever fame and is named after his great creation of the time, Sunlight Soap.  Again we found we have explored the development of company towns where the employer cared for his workers with the earliest being Coalbrookdale near Ironbridge built by the Darby family in Shropshire (1750s), then the Welsh Slate Quarry towns of Llanberris, Blenau Festiniog and Port Maddog (1820-60s) and Saltairre to the north near Bradford (1860-70s) then finally Port Sunlight (1890s).
It is an immaculate town and we took tea in the tea house that started life in 1891 as the Port Sunlight Post office.  The streets and front gardens are immaculate and reflect the original intentions of the townships design.  All the houses are preserved and we took a number of photos again.
It was quite a contrast to think back over the architecture of all these company towns that were all built on a similar process of concern for the company employees.
When built the town stood next to a purpose build harbour that once took delivery of massive imports of palm oil for Sunlight Soap.  Unilever’s main manufacturing plant was also located here.  Today the R&D department of Unilever remains at Port Sunlight.

Monday 11th of July – Manchester

Today we planned a simpler day.  We found out how the bus system worked and travelled the short distance into Manchester to take a look at the city centre.  We must have walked two miles in search of a Post Office only to discover the town map billboards and Nav-Witch mark a derelict building at the edge of the city.  We walked back to the city centre at Picadilly Gardens found a better bill board and then the Manchester Tourist Information Centre.  We also found a news agent where we bought the envelopes we needed to post some books to Beth’s dad in New Zealand and several historical books on places we have visited to Jessica as research material for a story she would like to write (they are boomerangs Jessica).
Chancellors Hotel, Manchester

As luck would have it 5 minutes later we found a Post Office Agency but it didn’t matter anymore.
We decided to visit the Manchester City Art Gallery and spent several hours enjoying works of art we would otherwise never get to view.  It is a very nice gallery with a good collection of 17th and 18th century art and an interesting selection of modern art to contrast.  We learned about the pre-Raphaelite period and the difference that Tempura Paint has compared to watercolours and oils.
We also learned how landscape painting was the poor cousin to portrait work until the likes of Gainsborough perfected his techniques.  Originally landscapes were about documenting what people owned rather than simply painting a scene.  On the other hand portraits were supposed to be accurate portrayals of the subject however the purchaser who was also often the subject would require rework of the portrait into how the imagined themselves rather than how they really looked.  This also applies to the clothing they wear in the portraits these clothes could be accurate or perhaps stylised into something romantic that might reflect Greek or Roman legend.  In short, do not use portrait paintings to validate period fashions of the gentry or the poor.  

Tuesday 12th of July – Quarry Bank Mill, Airport and Homeward Bound

Our final day and we found a Post Office to send off the packages mentioned above. Then we drove on to visit Quarry Bank Mill a short distance south of the airport.
Quarry Bank Mill
Quarry Bank Mill is a working museum owned by the National Trust.  The mill was constructed by a fellow named Samuel Greg.  He was Irish born but was sent, at the age of 8 years, by his father to live with his uncles in Manchester in the mid-1700s.  His uncles were successful merchants in the cloth trade.

At this time the method for cloth making involved the merchant importing raw cotton or buying wool fleece and then supplying it to people (out workers) who would prepare it and spin it into yarn or thread.  These same outworkers, or others, would then be provided this thread and make it into a course cloth on hand looms.
Samuel Greg started working as a salesman in his uncles business about the time that newer looms were developed with a mechanism to shoot the shuttle across the width of the fabric.  This both increased productivity and also allowed for the production of wider fabrics.  It also placed more demand on the production of yarn and threads.
Quality of manufacture was also becoming an issue so the first factories for weavers started to come about.  These were really a row of adjoining houses with a single attic or top floor level running the length of the entire building. The top level being used in this way provided better light for the workers who, coincidentally, tended to be tenants of the cottages on the lower levels.  Samuel Greg’s uncle built a weaving factory such as this in Derbyshire.
By the mid-1780’s one of Samuel’s uncles had died and the other had retired, so he took on the business and was thus independently wealthy.  He also married well, into a Liverpool family who were importers and bankers.  The industry of banking only really starts in the UK in the mid-1700s as well!
It was the advent of banking that really provides the where-with-all that facilitates the industrial revolution.
The development of Spinning Jennys in the late 1700s meant that outworkers could produce more yarn and threads with the first machines capable of spinning 8 – 10 spools of thread at a time.  Quality became more of an issue as productivity increased and the capability of these machines grew up to 100’s of bobbins powered by water.  Arkwright invented the first water powered Spinning Jenny in the mid-1700s but as he held the patent he demanded a goodly license fee.
Arkwright’s patent expired around 1795 and this time saw a boom in clones of the Spinning Jenny and many new factories were built, including Quarry Bank Mill.  Initially they only used this site for spinning the cotton thread but the factory grew in about 3 stages and capacity to spin thread grew and a capability to weave the cotton cloth was added by about 1835.
Greg family home
The Greg family owned the mill for 5 generations and literally lived in a small Georgian style mansion next door to the factory.  The mansion windows do face away from the factory and take in the view downstream where the family’s gardens are situated.
The employed up to 1,400 people at the factory and developed a reputation as fair employers providing low rent housing and generally caring for their employees with the likes of general schooling for child workers and interested adults.  The set up something they called the sick club, a sort of medical insurance scheme that was compulsory but it provided medicines and also half pay for up to 12-weeks for a sick or injured employee.
As the site was in the countryside the climate was better and the Greg’s also believed that a healthy balance lifestyle for their employees generated better productivity than at similar factories in the city.  This was borne out by some statistics of the period that indicated mortality rates in the city of Manchester as 33 in 1,000 whilst at Quarry Bank Mill the figure was only 7 in 1,000.
Greg Family Garden
The mill tour takes in most facets of yarn or thread production showing the different forms of spinning from pre-industrial home spinning through to the factory machines.  Weaving is also demonstrated from the earliest hand looms to the great machines on the factory floor.
Outside of the factory you can walk through the family gardens and twice a day there are guided tours of the Apprentice House.  You can easily spend a full day here and still not see everything.       

All too soon 3pm came around and Beth was keen to get to the airport.  We refuelled the car and returned it to Avis then made out way to the terminal to check-in for our flight.  Wed took off at 9.05pm on the dot for our 7 hour flight to Abu Dhabi. A 3 hour wait at Abu Dhabi and of on the 14 hour leg to Sydney arriving Thursday morning about 7.15am.  We were met at Wyong Railway station by Reece about 11am.  Holiday over and we had a good time.

A final railway photo from York.  This Deisel & I shared the same birthday!