Lundy

Lundy

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The MV Oldenburg

The sea was “moderate,” which, on a ship like the Oldenburg, is another way of saying that people puked. There was sick everywhere but not, happily, spewing forth from the mouths of a party of school kids whose teachers had the good sense to sit them out in the fresh, de-nauseating wind. Ilfracombe to Lundy doesn’t look far on a map, but it takes longer than sailing to France. We arrived to rain and wind, so there wasn’t much to do other than sit in our quarters in Castle Keep North and, in dad’s case, listen to short-wave radio (there was no TV).

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Listening to the radio in Castle Keep North

The weather was brilliant the next day and so dad and I set about exploring the southern end of the island. On Lundy, one walks.

I had vaguely heard of the “Lundy Letterboxes” before we arrived, which are a series of physical caches containing a logbook and a stamp. It’s somewhat akin to geocaching except you follow clues, not coordinates. After finding the first one outside of the Castle, I was hooked. Over the two days we were on the island, we found 14 out of the 27. All the more reason to return!

 

 

Walking around Lundy is a delight. The seascape is beautiful and there are loads of interesting things to see, from the lighthouses, church, and battery, to animals such as goats and sika deer (as well as birds, birds, birds).

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Old Light
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Down to the Battery
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Landing beach, flag . . . and a goat!
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Capra aegagrus hircus

Lundy is owned by the National Trust and is managed by the Landmark Trust who rent out the very comfortable properties on the island. Lundy is a wild place but one can quite easily drop back into civilisation. Dad and I stayed in the Castle Keep and ate in the Marisco Tavern (winner of Best Lundy Pub every year since 1925!). The one property truly away from it all is Tibbetts. Next time?

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Castle Keep
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Castle lawn
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Marisco Tavern
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Next stay: Tibbets?

I had been promising dad a trip to Lundy for years, so I’m glad we finally did it. If you like the idea of a break where bimbling around with binoculars by day and reading by night sounds like heaven, then Lundy is the place. I’m not sure the trip over would be to everyone’s taste (in the winter months, you can take the helicopter instead), but I suppose it’s Lundy’s price of admission and helps keep the place remote.

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Radnor Forest

Walkers in the Radnor Forest will no doubt head to the highest point — the Great Rhos — although to be honest there are better hills here (e.g. Whimble). Still, it’s a historic county top, which means it needed to be bagged (15/63 now complete).

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We parked near Water-break-its-neck waterfall near Old Radnor, a place right out of the enchanted forest in Princess Mononoke.The path went through Warren Plantation — we missed the main path, though, which led to the usual heather-and-bog bashing that my kids think always characterises dad’s walks.

To the east of the Great Rhos is an army artillery range at Harley Dingle. The valley looks gorgeous so it’s a shame it’s out of bounds. A red warning flag suggested firing was in progress but I highly doubt it. No squaddie is going to walk up and down from here just to manage the flag.

The summit is a flat plateau with trig point.

To the south-west is the amazing Mithil Brook. I have been here before and count it as one of my “secret places.” Total Middle Earth.

Bald head sunburn factor: 6/10. A bit chilly out of the sun but still lovely.

Cotswold break

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“Headlife” album cover

This was my fortieth birthday week and as usual — because I am a lucky git, I suppose — my birthday fell during half term. And so it was off to the Cotswolds for a few days to stay at Lower Mill Estate, part of the Cotswold Water Park mega-complex.

Our first outing was the National Trust property at Chedworth which has the remains of a pretty large Roman villa complete with some lovely mosaics.

We had two other outings: one to Cirencester where the cold rain dampened our spirits and to Malmesbury where the warm sunshine took the edge off our annoyance at finding the Abbey — where we had hoped to visit King Aethelstan — full of skateboarders. To the Church of England: no-one goes to church on a Sunday because they were allowed to skateboard in the nave during the week.

I have reviewed our holiday property on Trip Advisor (short version: unimpressive). On the up side, the house let us relax as a family by a lake and enjoy the spa, the best part of which was the outdoor eco pool that allowed a freezing post-sauna plunge.

Only a few metres from the house was the entrance to a nature reserve that connected with the Thames Path and the lagoons and fens which make up the Cotswold Water Park. The recent heavy rains and floods made a full circuit impossible unless you had tall wellies and did not mind breaking ice. That would be me.

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Hunters ftw

The reward was a view of Somerford Lagoon and a very young Thames.

 

Ragged Stone Hill

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We call it “Billy Two Peaks,” although we’re not entirely sure why. It’s really called Raggedstone Hill and features in a wonderful local legend: if the shadow of the twin-peaked Raggedstone falls on you, you are doomed. The curse dates back to a monk from Little Malvern who, after an illicit dalliance with a local girl, was forced to climb the Raggedstone every day on hands and knees. He eventually cursed the hill and the legend was born (told in Charles Grindrod’s novel, The Shadow of the Raggedstone).

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Dad walking through the ash woods on the eastern flanks

The summit of Raggedstone is marked both with Red Earl’s Dyke and the prehistoric works that are common on the southern hills.

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On the eastern peak looking west

The hill features in a song by Britpoppers Dodgy and in a poem by Wilfrid Gibson.

As I was walking with my dear, my dear come back at last,
The shadow of the Ragged Stone fell on us as we passe

And if the tale be true they tell about the Ragged Stone
I’ll not be walking with my dear next year, nor yet alone.

And we’re to wed come Michaelmas, my lovely dear and I,
And we’re to have a little house, and do not want to die.

But all the folk are fighting in the lands across the sea,
Because the King and counsellors went mad in Germany.

Because the King and counsellors went mad, my love and I
May never have a little house before we come to die.

And if the tale be true they tell about the Ragged Stone
I’ll not be walking with my dear next year, nor yet alone.