This is to let you know that I am continuing with the story of our special holiday that started on Christmas Day in 2014 and ended in February 2015 after visits to Australia – Perth, Sydney, Cairns – and New Zealand – Auckland, Waiheke, Rotorua and Lake Taupo. So lots of writing for me!
A little time has passed since I started dianesdaysout with details about our first stop-over. As a reminder, I have up-dated and am re-publishing the three posts about the Dubai desert trip. Currently I’m working on Part 4, the Dubai Creek area.
Leaving Dubai, we continue to Perth where we were amazed by the ancient trees and plants in Kings Park botanical garden and the funny creatures living on Rottnest Island – not the humans!
Thank you for following dianesdaysout Comments or suggestions are welcome and noted, and adjustments made where relevant.
Our friends in Swanage gasped in disbelief when they heard a restaurant called ‘The Pig’ was opening in the area. ‘We wondered who would possibly want to eat there,’ they told us. ‘But we were wrong, it’s so popular we haven’t been able to get a table since it opened last year.’ Luckily they had reserved a table well in advance for our lunch together.
We met with time to look around the kitchen gardens in the sunshine, noting the well-tended vegetable, fruit and herb beds from which – we later learned – the chef uses as many ingredients as possible. Anything not locally grown or reared is sourced within a 25 mile radius, giving rise to the name: The 25 Mile Menu. Dotted about the grounds quaint buildings offer boutique accommodation and, nearby, free range chickens were having fun scratching around a cliff-top field.
Wooden tables and benches, and more comfortable seats, faced out to sea. We paused a while, looking across to our right at the Old Harry Rocks located at the most easterly point of the Jurassic Coast. A few thousand years ago the chalk of the Old Harry Rocks was part of a seam connected to the Needles on the Isle of Wight, to our left. The seam gradually eroded. Today the chalk stacks of Old Harry Rock and the Needles are divided by the sea.
Feeling hungry, we made our way towards the main building where our table was laid ready in the Greenhouse restaurant: the mis-matched white handled knives suited the shabby chic country style. Dishes change daily and available ingredients offered plenty of choice. The scallops were especially tasty, available as a starter or main: our New Zealand Marlborough 2013 Sauvignon Blanc a superb accompaniment.
After lunch we walked through some of the ground floor rooms of the historical building that was built as a gothic fantasy in 1825 for the local Tory MP George Banks and his family of fourteen children. Today the Grade II listed building is leased from the National Trust who oversaw the year-long restorative work. We had to look carefully at the outside of the building to find the new wing before taking the path towards the beach.
The view over Studland Bay probably encouraged Churchill, Eisenhower and King George VI to come here in June 1944 to watch the troops practice the D-Day landings. Real ammunition was used and mined booby traps, that had been laid against invasion, had to be cleared. Being thirty metres in length and having concrete one metre thick all round, ‘Fort Henry’ is the largest and strongest observation post built during the war.
May 2015. The threat of removal has frightened our wisteria floribunda into flower. Located in a prize position in the corner of our raised patio for the last six years, it had produced no more than three flowers a few years ago. The prized plant was in full bloom when purchased as a birthday gift from my eldest daughter, twining happily around its supports. It was all downhill from there.
I provided it with a tall metal support (in anticipation) and several bags of John Innes and top soil were dug into its allocated area. This plant was to fulfil my life-long dream of owning a beautiful flowering wisteria. I loved and nurtured it, watered it profusely through summer droughts, applied granules and liquid feed and checked it anxiously through snowy cold winters.
Each spring its progress was monitored, every new shoot closely watched. But it looked nothing like the happy flowering wisteria we saw growing up complete fronts of buildings with thick stems entwined in loving hugs. Our Wisteria had many leaves and long thin tendrils that waved this way and that in an effort to find another plant or tree to grab: like a wayward child it was difficult, untidy and unruly.
Acknowledged experts in the pruning and growing of wisteria, having one that covers the rear wall of their home, our friends from Derbyshire arrived to assist. Plastic ties were obtained and Paul joined the happy band of enthusiasts, carefully following advice as to which tendrils to attach to the purpose-built trellis and which to chop: how to arrange the growth to ensure a good cluster of blooms that surely would grace us the following spring. A vain hope. I lost enthusiasm but Paul dutifully followed our friends’ directions for two years, last year telling it ‘You have one more spring, if you don’t flower then you’ll be dug up, you’re such a waste of space!’
Many plants in our garden have been presents and remind me always of the givers so, not wishing to give up on this present from one of my daughters, I checked its label and realised that the floribunda variety of wisteria is not as vigorous as the sinensis type. Perhaps we were spreading its energy too far. With little hope that the following spring would be any different to previous ones, in desperation I removed all growth on the east fence, leaving only that on the south facing fence. Thereafter we gave the wilful wisteria little attention.
You can imagine our surprise and delight when we returned from our winter holiday to find buds appearing on all parts of the remaining plant. These photographs, taken with my Canon Ixus 155 compact camera, show the result. Yippee!
We found a charming teashop in Poole. For a change to travelling by car, we had taken the bus from Bournemouth Square that brought us to the bus station on the outer edge of town. Heading towards Poole Harbour through previously undiscovered areas we came across a small teashop: so inviting, we could not pass by.
Tea was brewed in small individual teapots, also used to adorn the walls. The scones, made by Marie a joint owner of the teashop, were served with jam and cream and tasted as delicious as they looked. Paul opted for his favourite – a large slice of Victoria sponge cake, declaring: ‘It’s every bit as good as my Mum used to bake.’ Praise indeed!
Marie and Lara were attentive and friendly, without being invasive. We learned that ‘The Little Teapot’ is family owned and run. Marie is delighted when holidaymakers find her traditional shop with its speciality teas and home-baked cakes. But excellent coffee and savoury dishes that include a mezze sharing platter, salads, paninis and toasties, all made fresh to order, make it more than a teashop. Open all year round, it is not surprising that it attracts local people as well as visitors to the area. A framed award on the wall is well deserved:
5 stars Tripadvisor – 2014 Winner – Certificate of Excellence
‘The Little Teapot’ is located at the waterfront end of the High Street, opposite the Antelope Public House, just round the corner from Poole Quay. We thoroughly recommend a visit.
We left our timeshare apartment and turned right towards the five metre high sculpture situated high on the East Cliff overlooking the sea: three planes in red glass, their stainless steel smoke trails having glass discs in the Red Arrow colours, red, white and blue. The sculpture was designed by pupils from the Kinson Primary School in Bournemouth, in memory of Flt Lt Jon Egging, who sadly crashed after the Red Arrows display at the Bournemouth Air Festival in 2011.
Walking towards Bournemouth town, we passed the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. Its unusual design, visible from Bournemouth pier, reflects the style of its owners, Annie and Merton Russell-Cotes, who worked closely with their architect John Frederick Fogerty. The result, in 1901, was a unique yet comfortable home providing an ideal backdrop in which they could display artefacts collected during their world-wide travels, including Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Japan. Following their tour of Japan in 1885, the objects shipped back to England filled over a hundred cases and are recognised by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (V&A) as one of the most important Japanese collections in the world.
The ‘Urban Renaissance’ café (no admission charge if you are visiting only the cafe) provides some of the best coffee in Bournemouth. Whilst there, sample one of the absolutely excellent freshly baked croissant supplied by their sister café in Boscombe. Finally ladies, whether or not you have a need, be sure to visit the quirkily decorated toilet said to have been used by Lily Langtry, actress and Mistress of King Edward V11, known as the ‘Lily Langtry Loo.’ Check opening hours: http://www.russell-cotes.bournemouth.gov.uk
Approaching Bournemouth pier, we were disappointed to find the building work due for completion in Spring 2015, was not finished.
‘It will be a vast improvement on the building monstrosity here previously.’
‘At least we can weave our way around to reach town.’
Despite the on-going use of machinery in the Lower Gardens, spring flowers were pushing out, encouraged by the tardy sun appearing late in the afternoon. Sunshine encouraged tourists into the balloon that was anchored in the Lower Gardens, now high above us, affording its occupants a fine view for twenty miles around.
Hungry and seeking to eat before returning for a quiet evening in the apartment,we discovered Harry Ramsden’s fish restaurant open for business on Undercliff Drive, East Beach. Its location overlooking the beach, friendly greeting and interesting 1920’s décor with black and white Charlie Chaplin film playing on the far end wall, encouraged us to relax over a glass of acceptable house white. The meals were equally fulfilling, light and tasty batter perfectly complemented our large cod with mushy peas and well-cooked chips. We had no space for desert. On the return we were glad of the uphill walk to our apartment, thinking it might help keep our weight down!
I do plan to continue blogging about our holiday earlier this year, to Dubai, Australia and New Zealand but – new to blogging – it is taking me a while to get to grips with the mechanism. Also I would like to blog about current activities, so here is my first blog about one of the Healthy Walks organised by Elmbridge Borough Council. There are walks on every day of the week: short walks for people recovering from illness; longer 8 or 9 mile walks for the fit and energetic, and distances in between: 3-5 miles particularly suits my ability and time available.
My favourite walks finish at a café for coffee or small lunch, almost mandatory! Leaders plan the route, bring first aid equipment and ensure the necessary health and safety forms are completed. Louis and Gillian became leaders on the Elmbridge Borough Council Walking for Health programme specifically to offer walks that include dogs. Louis is the leader and Gillian brings up the rear with their rescue dog Shayner trotting alongside.
In mid March I joined Louis and Gillian’s Towpath and Desborough Island walk. We met at the Riverhouse Barn in Manor Road, Walton-on-Thames, where Louis and Gillian noted everyone present and any health issues. The weather was crisp but dry as we set off, a group of about twelve walkers.
We walked by ‘River House,’ at one time the home of Sir Arthur Sullivan, the composer who became famous through his collaboration with William Gilbert. Their best known compositions include ‘HMS Pinafore,’ the ‘Pirates of Penzance’ and ‘The Mikado.’ The landscaped gardens of ‘River House,’ with established trees and shrubs, were left in Trust for local people, so we followed Louis along the winding path and down the steps to reach the towpath. Just past the historic Anglers pub I noticed swans near the jetty, giving credence to the name of the nearby Swan public house.
The day was brightening as our group continued along the towpath towards the new Walton Bridge. JMW Turner painted the river looking towards the Walton bridge in 1805 and a ferry is known to have worked at this crossing in the 17th century. Five bridges followed, with over thirty years of debate taking place before the latest, sixth, Walton Bridge was opened in 2013. This is a tied arch, single span bridge. The removal of the piers of the previous bridge allows wider river views and enables easier navigation for boats, rowers and other river pleasure seekers.
Opinion is divided as to the choice of the bright cream colour for the new bridge. Someone said that it is a colour easily seen by flying swans and birds, to prevent them flying into the structure, in which case it is a good choice: whatever the reason, I like the colour and the new one is a vast improvement on the old dilapidated bridge.
We continued past the marina, under the bridge, pausing to admire a pair of proud ducks and their ducklings on the river bank at Cowey Sale, an old river crossing site before the first wooden bridge was built.
Desborough Island was created when the Desborough Channel was cut in 1935 by the Thames Conservancy, who named it after Lord Desborough the Chairman of the Board. This cut made the river journey much shorter by avoiding that part of the Thames that wound around Shepperton and Halliford.
Today members of the Shepperton sailing club and other pleasure craft may be seen in fine weather, cruising around these meandering bends. There are two narrow bridges from the towpath to the Island. We crossed over the bridge farthest away, continuing along the footpath beside a bend, taking us close to the Shepperton side of the Thames.
We paused to look across at the sailing club yachts. Nearby a beautiful white house is set on a sloping lawn. Whenever I pass this house it appears empty so I daydream about who might own such a property but spends little time there. We chatted as we walked, making new friends: in twos or threes, some solo, as we progressed along the footpath, on to an overgrown section where the path gets little sun and is often muddy. Eventually the path opened onto a narrow tarmac road that led us back to the second bridge where we took the steps down to the Walton side of the river.
The sun was stronger on our return: geese, swans and ducks waddled about on the grass beside the river bank, the occasional ‘quack’ telling their friends to move, as they proudly showed their brightly coloured plumage in the bright sunshine.
Returning under the bridge, we passed beside the marina where I noticed a haze of green at last appearing on the willows, usually the first in leaf, buds now plumping out.
We arrived back at the Riverhouse Barn, ready to change out of our walking shoes before ordering coffee and toasted sandwiches for lunch, that we ate whilst sitting at tables outside in the sunshine.
Ten Land Rovers drove into the desert each carrying between six and eight passengers in Arabic headgear. The drivers took different routes up, down, round and through the sand dunes. We saw no more than the occasional vehicle, giving the impression that the desert belonged to us. Arabian Oryx lifted their heads as we passed, unperturbed by the dust cloud flowing out behind.
Reaching a rendezvous point, we left the vehicles to clamber up the steep sides of sand dunes, the better to gaze across the desert as shadows lengthened and the sun settled lower towards the horizon. Desert shrubs and trees indicated the presence of water beneath the surface and later, on our way to dinner, the driver stopped to show us various examples of native vegetation.
Barely giving us time to clamber back into our Land Rover, the driver roared off. ‘He’s in a hurry. I’ll bounce out in a minute,’ I mouthed into Paul’s ear, clinging to the side of the vehicle in an effort to steady myself. The driver took us up dunes so steep we feared we might tip over, then pointed the Land Rover and accelerated up the next one, taking our breath away as he turned the wheel from side to side. We gasped and gripped whatever we could to ensure we didn’t spill out into the sand. But we arrived safely outside the remaining walls of an old fort. Here dinner was to be served in an area made up like a Bedouin camp.
The soft drinks offered on trays were very welcome as Paul and I settled on rugs laid over the sand.
A falconer stood in front, a bird on his arm. A falcon’s sight is ten times better than a human and it can see many things in a short time. The falconer explained that a hood keeps the bird quiet during transport and ensures it is alert when required. This bird was young, only two years old, but appeared well trained as its hood was removed and it flew up and away over our heads. Then the lure the falconer was swinging in a wide circle over his head proved irresistible and the falcon returned with a swoop to his trainer’s gloved hand.
Afterwards we sat a while watching the blue sky turn red – beautiful – a romantic moment.