Greetings from England!
We arrived safe and sound March 31st at 6:30am to Heathrow airport, took a bus to Woking and then a train to Crewkerne, where we were picked up by Sanford’s friend, Sylvia, who took us the rest of the way to our first European stop, a bnb in Bridport.
Our accommodation is a stone cottage which was built in the 1700’s. It is cool here now, about 7 to 10 degrees during the day and about 2 degrees at night. The cottage is heated with a coal/wood fireplace in the living room/dining area. The heat from the fireplace gets piped to a radiator located on the second level where the bedrooms are. It is surprisingly toasty warm. The cottage ceilings are quite low and the rooms small. The owners love gardening and the cottage is situated on a nice piece of land with a wonderfully large garden out back that attracts all kinds of birds and squirrels. Occasionally horses go clip clopping down the narrow, winding lane behind the home. The cottage is totally lovely and totally English.
During our time in Bridport, Sylvia is our tour guide and she is keeping us busy with a wide variety of varied and interesting things to do. One of the highlights was a visit to the Abbottsford Swannery. The Swannery was established by Benedictine Monks, who built a monastery at this site during the 1040’s. The monks farmed swans to produce food for their lavish banquets. The Monastery was destroyed in 1539 during the dissolution by King Henry VIII and the swannery was then purchased by the Strangways family who have maintained ownership through fifteen generations up to the present day. I was thrilled to find out there was an opportunity to feed the swans (I love that kind of thing). There are up to 600 swans present for the feeding. Anyone, up to the age of 96, is allowed to feed the swans, but the children got to feed them first. I’m not sure if it is common for adults to want to feed the swans, but once the kids all had their buckets of feed, I pushed my way to the front of the entry gate to ask if I too could have a turn. Sanford and I were the only two adults to feed them. I loved it!
Another interesting thing we did was a fossil walk in the village of Charmouth located close to where we are staying. In this area the cliffs are rich with fossils of sea creatures that swam in the seas 199 to 145 million years ago. That time period is known as the Jurassic period and this part of the English coastline is known as the Jurassic Coastline because of the thousands of fossils being left on the beaches from the landslips in the surrounding cliffs.
We were given a small lecture on what to look for and then spent about an hour and a half combing through the mud between the rocks next to the sea looking for fossils. We actually found lots! There were about four different types you could find and we found two; belemnites, which are usually found as cylindrical pieces of ancient squids, and ammonites, which are spiral shaped fossils which somewhat resemble tightly coiled rams’ horns. The area is also loaded with iron pyrite or fools’ gold. It was surprisingly fun to dig through the mud and find these treasures.
One of the activities Sanford and I were really looking forward to was taking walks along the South West Coast Path. We were very disappointed that many of the routes we were considering were no longer accessible due to landslips along the cliffs. We did take a small 5km walk, however much of it was diverted from the original path and for the most part we ended up walking along streets and through a golf course. We walked from Charmouth (where we did the fossil walk) to Lyme Regis. Lyme Regis claim to fame is for their harbour, which was constructed in 1313 and is called “The Cobb”. In the film “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” Meryl Streep was shown walking to the end of it in stormy weather.
Sylvia also took us to a night of Opera at her church. It was a production put on by students of the Piccalilli Opera Company and featured a number of arias from a variety of famous operas. One of the arias was from Carmen, where the provocative gypsy, Carmen, sings “Habanera”, an enticing song to fascinate the men around her. The performer singled out Sanford and sang to him! …. Thankfully Sanford did not chase after her and came home with me. Phew, honeymoon not over yet!