Friday, 9 October 2015

Birds and Canals

Birds and Canals

Monday 5th October 2015

Well, not much to say - it rained, then it rained harder and then it rained harder still - pretty much the bad weather  lasted all day, so consequently we were confined to barracks the T4rdis (Ben's spelling for our new home).  However, it wasn’t really a problem, we found plenty to do even though we only have VERY slow internet! Having said that, we're very much looking forward to getting out and about tomorrow and  we're keeping everything crossed that the weather will be better. This is where we are - another ACSI site that's only cost us about 10 quid

Tuesday 6th October 2015

To start with, Happy Birthday to Me, and it was made extra special by a video of Thomas sending me a big sloppy kiss over WhatsApp.

Sadly the weather wasn’t any better to start with, but by now, we (but mostly me) had a bit of cabin fever so despite the rain we went out anyway to explore Woodlands Theme Park.  At the moment the T4rdis is sited on their campsite and this allows us free entry, so even though the park is aimed at children we thought we'd have a nosey round anyway!😁  

And we're very glad we did.  The park is partly zoo and partly activities that are divided into themed zones with exciting areas for outdoor and indoor play - I know 2 little boys who would have loved it! 
I think I mentioned before, there are no roller coasters but there is a Pirate Ship that I couldn't resist - but it did make me scream!

We spent a good hour wandering in and out of the reptile house, the bunny house, the nocturnal creature house (we saw fruit bats), the deer park (where there were only alpackers and emus), and we met Mr Peacock.

At Least They Had the Sense to Stay inside out of the rain!

Then we wandered a bit further and discovered the Falconry Centre - it was fantastic.   The birds included owls of all shapes and sizes, kestrels,  hawks, a vulture, and a very comical raven who knew to ring his bell for dinner.    At times the sights were a bit grisly when the birds were being fed but fascinating all the same.  

Apparently his head and neck are bold so he doesn't get his feathers
 dirty when he eats!

I told him to chew his food but he didn't listen!

And Boris wouldn't eat at all while we were watching 

However, we were a little disappointed because the demonstration flights of the birds had been cancelled due to the bad weather 😞,  however later when we got chatting with one of the falconers, he thought it likely that flying would take place tomorrow so we decided to pay a return visit especially to see them.

Following our excursion we returned to the T4rdis and no sooner had we closed the door than the heavens opened again with another torrential downpour - I was very glad we missed that.

Wednesday 7th October 2015.

Today we woke up to lovely but breezy sunshine.  The flight times for the birds were scheduled for 12.30 and 3pm so we had a slow get up and then strolled over to the Falconry Centre for just after mid-day - only to be met with initial disappointment because there were signs saying that flying had been cancelled again because to was to windy for them to fly safely.  We went into the centre anyway with the intention of taking more photographs, and I soon got chatting to another of the Falconers.  I told him how disappointed I was and also mentioned that it had been my birthday yesterday, and he very kindly said he could arrange a very special treat which turned out to be a close up encounter with several of the birds.  I was overjoyed as you will be able to tell from the photos below.  

First it was Whisp who is a European Tawny Owl.  He was so tame he give me a cuddle and even a kiss goodbye.

Then it was Plop! (think children's story - the owl who is afraid of the dark). He's a British Barn Owl who was bred in captivity and sees the falconer as a friend.  Apparently he also flies regularly in the flying displays and will fly to people so that they can see him up close and personal.  His feathers were super soft and very deep, and his markings provided fantastic camouflage as well as being beautiful.

Next came Dallas who is a little North American Kestrel, who again has been bred in captivity at Wrangaton.  The Centre  have had him since June when he was only 6 weeks old - so he is really still only a baby - however, he was very tame and happy to sit on my arm and on my head, (and luckily he didn't do a plop) and although his beak was quite sharp when he nibbled my finger it didn't do any harm - apparently it's his talons that he uses to kill his prey.

Finally came Inca - the big one!!  Inca is a female Mexican Harris Hawk - one of the most popular hawks used in falconry because there sociable with other birds of their own kind.  Apparently they will hunt in packs (or should that be flocks), and will set up ambushes to acquire their prey.  Her talons were sharp and her beak looked wicked but she was quite  friendly and magnificent to see with her wings spread.

Our visit lasted about an hour, and afterwards it was back to the T4rdis for lunch and then off out for a bit of exercise in the form of a quick bike ride.   However, it turned out to be anything but quick - on this ride John managed to find every bloody steep hill in the area - and some of them twice!  Because of the hills our average speed was down to 6.7miles per hour, and the best bit was 'what went up had to come down'  very quickly on the other side - I think we got up to about 25mph!

On this ride our first destination was ‘Blackpool’, - that’s Blackpool nestling between Strete and Stoke Fleming on the South Devon Coast just outside Dartmouth.  The beach was fine shingle, and the surrounding vistas were stunning, with views out to sea and over the craggy rocks that rose steeply on either side.  

Onward from there we picked up a little side road that led down to The National Trust’s Little Dartmouth, and then onto a bridleway that finished just before the mouth of the River Dart.  From there we descended down a very steep and gravelly road that spat us out near Dartmouth Castle and the entrance to the Estuary, and it was here that we paused for hot chocolate and cake before continuing on into Dartmouth itself. However, just before entering the town we stopped at the top of the hill where we had a spectacular views into Dartmouth Harbour and  the brightly painted houses that lined its banks, and also the little ferries that chugged backwards and forwards across the estuary.


The cottages were very reminiscent of Tobermory on Mull,

We eventually arrived on the quayside where our attention was taken by the ‘lower ferry’, which on investigation seemed to be nothing more than a pontoon pushed and pulled about by a tug.  Our intention was to cross this estuary tomorrow with the T4rdis but I think we'll be taking the more sturdy ‘upper ferry’ - or at least I hope it’s more sturdy!

Now it was time to turn our tyres towards home, but before we got there we had a lot more hills to conquer - they were long and steep and in the hot sunshine quite challenging - but only the one with double arrows on John’s map managed to tip us off!  

We'd gone out with the intention of getting some exercise after 4 days abstinence, I think maybe we got a little more than we bargained for (that’s the penance for avoiding the main roads).

Thursday 8th October 2015.

Another moving day.  We left Woodland’s Campsite and headed for Dartmouth and the ‘Upper Ferry’ which is the mode of transport across the estuary for larger vehicles.  Happily, it did prove to be a sturdier affair than the ‘lower ferry’, and this time it was pulled from one side to the other by a dual cable winch.  The trip only lasted a few minutes but it saved us quite a few miles so we thought it a bargain at £5.20  (which was the same price as cars).

Once across the water we proceeded to Aldi to do shopping and then through Paignton and Torquay. Both were places we think we would like to return too some time in the future, but we didn’t stop on this occasion because our journey to Devizes campsite in Wiltshire was going to be about 120 miles.  
We eventually arrived about 5ish and soon settled in at the Devizes Camping and Caravan club site, and as an extra bonus the fish and chip van followed us in so tea was soon sorted.  

The site is quite pretty but very busy, however, it is right on the Kennet and Avon canal so bikes out tomorrow we'll be off exploring.

However, there is always a down side, and here it is the fact that we've got no phone or wifi signal, and to add insult to injury I tried to buy their wifi package for 24hrs but as soon as I’d paid it told me my time was up!  I will be having WORDS tomorrow!

Friday 9th October 2015

Well, I think I’ve sorted the wifi - but we’ll see.  I went to the campsite office and they rang the provider who gave me a new code.  I've just entered it and managed to log on - but it’s very slow and I will be surprised if it will load my photos (it did but it has taken about an hour and a half so I don't think I'll buy it again).

Anyway back to today.  We cycled along the Kennet and Avon canal towards Bath for about 15 miles.

The choice of this cycle way was John’s - he was keen to ride some of it after reading about it and seeing Timothy West and Prunella Scales’ ‘Great Canal Journeys’.  However, sadly it didn’t quite live up to his expectations for several reasons - the track surface was quite poor and very lumpy bumpy in places, and the water of the canal was very murky! 

Also, while some of the barges were spectacular and would have made excellent homes, some were like Steptoe’s yard - piled high with all manner of junk.  And then there were others that were derelict with notices served on them to say they were a hazard and would be removed and classed as fly tipping if the owners failed to do something about them.

I think it would sink if anyone tried to move it!

Having said all that we had a very pleasant ride in lovely bright sunshine, but at  times the nip in the air made itself noticed - you can definitely tell Autumn has  arrived.  The trees lining the canal side were changing colour and leaves gently floated down as we rode along, and additionally, there were still plenty of birds - herons, swans with this years cygnets, ducks and moor-hens to name but a few. 

It was also mostly very peaceful, and because for a good part of the way we  were forced to ride in single file there was plenty of time for quiet reflection. For me this was mostly about our new life style - so now I'm fairly sure this is the way I want to live for quite a long time to come.

Our total mileage today was 31 and when we got back to the T4rdis we did a bit of experimental cooking.  We made Halloumi cheese Curry accompanied by rice, nans and saag-aloo - and very nice it was too.

Click to see our UK camping spots