Tuesday 20 March 2007

Day Trip to Nottingham

Back in March, Stephen and I had three of our dearest friends were in town from the States, and being the devotees of Robin Hood, we decided to take a break from London and head out to the midlands and Nottingham with a view to see Sherwood Forest.

So we hop on the 8:30 train from Kings Cross (after the obligatory visit to Platform 9 3/4) and in what felt like no time at all, were in Nottingham. We decided to head first to the castle, spend our morning there and then head out to the forest itself.

So off we trek and on our way, what do we spot, but one of the oldest pubs in England

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn

which actually butts up against the base of the outcropping the castle itself sits on top of. As it was still quite early in the day, it wasn't yet open, so we continued around to the front gates. But first we passed through a neat sculpture garden depicting the various characters from the Robin Hood tales - including Robin Hood himself

Tracie with Robin

Then - into the castle with us! Unfortunately, the original castle was torn down after the civil war (Nottingham supported the wrong side you see) and the late Duke of Nottingham built a palace in it's place, which was later also burned down during a set of unfortunate riots in the Victorian times. As a rebuff to the population, he left the burnt out shell. It's now a visitors center and small museum. Quite nice really, with some lovely views from the top.

Some of the outer ramparts, including the main gate

The park grounds

View from the top over the main city

View from the top looking the other direction

Kati, Tracie and Tony in the gardens looking back toward the castle

From there we discovered our tickets were also good for the local museum rather oddly called The Brewhouse Yard Museum, presumably because of the proximity to the pub. It was actually quite big and laid out very well.

From there we grabbed lunch and then headed over to the main city visitors center to see about the bus to the forest. Unfortunately, as we weren't in prime tourist season, the bus only ran every two hours. Not exactly ideal, and we had just missed the last bus that would have given us any time at all in the forest. We were rather disappointed, to say the least. This did give us more time to explore the city properly (and have a relaxing lunch) and get in a tour of the caves beneath the castle. This turned out to be quite neat - tales of plotting and revenge, treason and counter-treason - fun stuff. We had a great guide as well. In the civil war they actually carved the cliff equivalent of gun ports for cannons, which gives the cliffs a bit of a riddled look.

as you can see here.

with the union jack flying above it

and on the left, our guide - really nice guy who could tell a great ghost story.

From there we wandered about the town, seeing what we could see, gradually making our way north.

One of the unique things about Nottingham, was the really cool tram system they had set up. It's one of the few times I've seen a light rail system that didn't cause a huge disruption to traffic. That and it was extremely well kept, as you can see here.

a view of city hall (they were in the middle of some fairly heavy construction at the time, so getting good pics of the center of town was quite difficult)

An interesting side street, complete with arch

And of course in good European style, plenty of narrow alley ways to lurk in

Sculpture outside the main dramatic theatre - quite cool I thought

how in the heck did the graffiti artists get up there? For reference, it's a good 8-10 stories above street level

A view of the Church of St. Barnabas, the Roman Catholic cathedral

From there we decided to head over to the historic cemetary. It took us a while to find out exactly how you were supposed to get in, fortunately, some creative exploring eventually got us there

It's that way, don't ya see

And looking across the cemetery at the local chapel

By this time of day, however it was quite late and time to head back to the station to grab our train - on the other side of town. We did make it in the end, but wow were our feet tired!!

So a pretty good trip all in all, even if it did mean missing the forest - it just means another trip!!

Naturally, I took tons more pictures - all of which you can see in my flickr gallery

Monday 19 February 2007

First Trip to Wales

Friday afternoon, Stephen and I both took off early to catch the train to Wales out of Paddington. The trip went smoothly - so smooth in fact that we ended up arriving an hour early! Almost unheard of on public transport; and possibly a first ever for British Rail. The others coming by train arrived in dribs and drabs and before we knew it, Luke had arrived to take us all up to the Big House. By this time it was dark, so no pictures, but the next day was to prove a wonderful day out - and a proper look at our surroundings.

Country House
the house itself with a few of the outlying buildings - almost like a castle! And the grass is still green - in February!

Country House 2
a view of the front of the house itself

front lawn
a view from the front door - I love the look of the tree. There's a little river just over the rise in the background

River Wye
speaking of the little river

river pebbles
with a nice, pebbly bottom.

Stephen and Lief
Stephen and Leif debating the flora

little yellow flower
that was covered in little yellow flowers

old man river
looking over the edge of a little bridge at a stream feeding into the river

moss and wire
an artsy inclination

little bridge on the Wye
the little bridge and stream itself!

River Wye 2
flowing into the river

boys walking
boys walking over the bridge and into the woods

mossy tree
a fabulous mossy tree

and another little rivulet. No wonder it's so green here!

and heading back to the house

Later on that afternoon, another group of us headed off to watch Welsh Red Kites at a nearby feeding station. We all hid in blinds so that the birds would feel less threatened and settled down to watch the show. We were prepared for there to be fewer birds and perhaps less activity since it was winter, but we weren't disappointed. The birds were incredible.

kites 1
a kite (left) coming in behind a flock of crows

kites 2
circling. . .

kites 3
getting closer. . .

kites 8
and so it begins

kites 7

kites 9

kites 10
we weren't the only ones watching the show

All in all it lasted just over two hours, and it was quite fantastic. I highly reccomend it for anyone who finds themselves in Wales.

From there it was back to the Big House for Sally's birthday party followed by a lazy Sunday and the train back to London. Not a whole lot to report, but a really wonderful taste of Wales - we'll definitely be going back!!