Hadrians Wall

This is the final instalment of our unscripted and unplanned day trip. So far we have ventured to Kielder Forest and Kielder Water. So where next. After a series of left and right turns we are driving along a road when.

Dad stop. That most be Hadrians Wall. Ok it could be a farm wall. But it looks Roman to me.

It was the famous Roman Wall and ten minutes later we were trying to find a parking place at a Roman Fort.

Dad this is really busy. Too busy.

Luckily after buying tickets (while son hid in the car) I was able to find an alternate way onto the site avoiding the crowds. Hopefully the sheep in the neighbouring field didn’t mind us trespassing too much. It would have been such a shame for our son to miss this piece of ancient history.

Housesteads Roman Fort was built around 124AD to help defend Hadrians Wall. The wall was 73 miles long and stretched across Northern England from the Tyne to Solway Firth. It marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire.

When it was constructed the wall was up to 20ft tall.

Housesteads is the most complete Roman fort in Britain. It stands on a stunning Northumberland escarpment. Can’t think of a more stunning location for a history lesson.

I wonder what the Romans would have made of me. Aspergers wasn’t even a word back then.

Before I could say anything he smiled and said.

Maybe they would have just said he’s on whatever Nero is on.

Back to the Fort tour. Son had obviously banked a considerable amount of information about this Fort from somewhere. No need for a guidebook.

As son was lost in a dream I wandered around the Fort silently with him. Trying to imagine what the site would have been like almost 2000 years ago. Good job the Romans installed steam underfloor heating. Would need it in summer never mind winter. Then another thought. All those years later and we are still trying to build walls. Put up barriers to try and protect our way of life. Have we learned nothing in all those years. Actually our PM is increasingly Nero like. A few other countries have their very own modern day Nero’s.

George RR Martin has revealed that Hadrians Wall provided the inspiration for Game of Thrones. The imagery of the book and it’s Wall are strong and echo that of a Hadrians Wall all those years ago. Romans stood on a huge wall marking the very edge of their civilisation. That view to the unconquerable northern lands must have been truly frightening.

Dad it’s funny when you think about it. The Romans would probably now be standing in the opposite direction, looking South and thinking the same frightening thing. A strange, scary land.

Yes England seems to have gone completely barking mad. Looking into England is a very scary prospect.

And with that we head back home. The road trip has been a great success. Especially as I only thought we would be having a random visit to somewhere local in Yorkshire.

Dad I’ve decided we need to have more road trips to make sure I visit the 12 new places. One needs to be to Scotland. Sorry Dad that might mean we are setting off before we go to bed.

Swiss Sunday and relax

It’s Swiss Sunday again. A time to breathe and relax.

Often we would arrive in Switzerland on a Saturday. Completely stressed out with families, work, money, life. But on that train heading towards Spiez the holiday has started. Two Swiss Beers and it’s time to forget the world for a few days. You can feel the stress levels ebbing away as the mountain scenery passes by.

Sunday was the day of Total Relaxation. No busy shops. No frustrations. No anger. Just the peaceful sound of water lapping on the shore. Cow bells in the distance. The occasional ring of church bells. A time to just stroll and take in the views.

Then a leisurely trip to Interlaken. This really is the correct pace for life.

The train could get you there within 10 minutes. But what’s the hurry. Sit on the boat and just relax for 90 minutes.

Interlaken has a wonderful little Japanese Garden. The Garden of Friendship. Another chance for peace and tranquility.

In a world where stress levels are so high. We need places like Switzerland on a Sunday. Now breathe.

Kielder Water

The last post left the unscripted day trip deep in Kielder Forest.

Right Dad it’s time to have a closer look at one of Northern Europe’s largest man made Lakes. Rutland is larger but Kielder holds more water. Don’t worry I’m not expecting you to go swimming. The water will be too cold.

That’s a good job as a I can’t swim and I don’t fancy a bout of frostbite. I later checked those facts. Apparently Kielder holds 44 billion gallons of water. That’s an awful lot of trips to the toilet. It tends to be full at all times. It has a number of natural springs feeding it plus let’s not forget the weather.

With the autumnal like wind whipping across the lake and the breaking waves – it did feel like a seaside walk.

I’m guessing it is just under York Minster deep. That’s about 235ft. I’m going to say about 70 metres as Boris Johnson will hate that. He hates everything from Europe or that is what he wants people to think. Some people will fall for that.

Ok can’t miss a bit of of annoying our Buffoon of a Leader – so Kielder holds 200 billion litres.

Wouldn’t it be great if Kielder had its very own Loch Ness Monster. Ok it’s a manmade lake built in 1982. But the monster could have migrated here. What do you think Dad.

How about a Megalodon.

No legs or wings so it’s not migrating in a hurry. I’m seeing either a Spinosaurus or a very large otter.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the monster otter concept as suddenly a large military plane swept low over us and across the lake. My ancient mobile didn’t do it justice.

Dad what time is it. Have we got time for one more place. We are on a roll now.

It’s 3pm let’s see what we can find. So back at the car. Is it Left or Right.

East.

Final part of the road trip takes us back in time.

Kielder Forest

Finally we got a break in the weather. Yes it is feeling very autumnal but it is so much better than the rubbish we have had over the last few weeks. So we seized the opportunity for a trip. Son is trying to visit 12 new places this year. That is such a big commitment for him. Especially as these are completely unplanned and unscripted visits. To avoid undue anxiety or even a meltdown we usually micro manage and completely script every trip.

So we sat in the car at 6.30am with a healthy packup. Crisps, Coke, Cakes, Waffles, Chocolate, Coffee, IronBrew Lollies.

Ok Dad where are we going

Absolutely no idea son. Looking at the road outside our house. Left or Right?

West

Ok clever clogs, left it is then. We did this for 2 hours until we found ourselves North of Newcastle. Beautiful and very remote Northumberland.

Looking at a Road Sign. It’s decision time. Is it Scotland. Is it a bit of Potter at Alnwick Castle or is it Kielder.

The Potter Castle will just be too busy. Scotland needs to be a longer trip. I’ve always fancied a bit of Kielder. Have we got time to do the Forest and the Lake.

We have as long as the Troll doesn’t eat us on the bridge.

An hour later we were walking through Kielder Forest. It is the largest man made woodland in England with 75% of its 250 square miles covered by Forest. It’s a wonderful place. It is definitely Conifer, Spruce and Pine heaven. It’s also one of those places where the car parks are full yet you never see another human. Feels like you have the place to yourself. Which is brilliant for our son.

Son also had time to launch into a tirade at our so called government. He was not happy that they had turned down an application to reintroduce Lynx into this area. Let’s hope the second application is successful. Not had these creatures in the UK for over 1300 years.

The small minded, money driven losers. They sit in their mansions, driving the earth killing sports cars. Behaving like modern day Feudal Lords. I bet if they do reintroduce them they would find a way of hunting them for sport. Well I think we should let the animals hunt Boris and his Sheriffs of Nottingham’s. That would help the planet. Dad last year they told kids to stop protesting and get back to learning. Well why doesn’t the Government get back to running the country.

I would have said the same but with many more bad words included. Good job one of us has good manners.

Going to split this post up into three parts. It’s a proper lads road trip. The second will feature Kielder Water and a bit of aviation. The third part will go very Roman with a bit of Game of Thrones feel.

Swiss Water

It’s Swiss Sunday. Which means it’s Sunday and it’s time to indulge in a bit of Switzerland.

When my partner first took me to Switzerland I’m not sure what I was expecting. Mountains definitely. A beautiful country definitely. Brilliant transport without a doubt. Chocolate. Much Swiss cheese – probably. Yodelling – hopefully. Hardly any water – surely as it’s landlocked.

Now I can confirm it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It has mountains – lots of them. The transport is beyond precise. It is Chocolate Heaven. Swiss Cheese is very nice. Yodelling does happen but Swiss Culture is so varied and puts our culture to shame. It’s still treasured.

But I was hideously wrong on the water assumption.

If water is your thing then Switzerland is perfect. Waterfalls, Lakes, Rivers, Rapids, Streams. All stunning. All with a unique Alpine Colour and Sound.

Lakes and mountains are the perfect combination.

One warning. The alpine water can be on the chilly side. Brace yourself.

Creaky World Tour 3

Currently not allowed to run due to knackered body so was in desperate need of a fitness hobby to stop me going stir crazy. Came up with the idea of seeing how far I would get around the world powered only by my stationary exercise bike and walking with Pokemon Go….

The creaky world tour left us in Rochester.

So on this leg of the expedition we have managed

Bike – 280km

Pokemon Go – 30km

So here we go.

First stop is to a little favourite of mine. Not been here in over 25 years – I hear you scream but you are only 21. We find a way to the Isle of Sheppey after a 28km trip. A small island just off the northern edge of Kent. My sister used to live here. Apparently the first Britain flew an aeroplane here in 1909. A few years later here I got chased into Sheerness by a gang of ducks after they decided they wanted more bread from me. Ended up taking refuge in a pub. To be polite I had to try a pint of the local brew from Shepherd Neame. To my Yorkshire palette it was a shocker.

Now let’s get some distance covered. A hard 90km get us to Dover. First thing that comes to mind now are the 350ft tall White Chalk Cliffs.

Thanks to TripAdvisor for the photo.

The Ferry Port now opens up our world tour. Passport is ready and in a blink of an eye and after another 190km we find our French destination. It’s the city of Lille. It’s a wonderful city. Great history, great art, great markets. It’s a wonderful place to eat as well. It also happens to be the home of a contender to the title of the worlds stinkiest cheese. Maroilles. It’s a tasty one.

On my first overseas holiday with my partner we had to change trains at Lille station. So excited to have left Britain behind us for a week. To completely forget our life’s for a while. Then a booming voice.

“Now Bonny Lad. Wat are yee doin here” – imagine deep Geordie accent – think Brian Johnson from AC/DC.

Unbelievably the guy who sat behind me at Newcastle United matches was randomly stood next to us on this faraway French Platform. He was off to Bordeaux to see his French mum.

Castle Time

Why is it that when you take the car in to a garage the words you never never hear are

Don’t Worry it’s nothing

It’s a cheap fix

It’s sorted and there is no charge

So today the car misbehaved. Took it into the garage and within minutes was told it needs a new ……. and it’s going to cost £XXX

One of the benefits of a spectacularly unreliable and expensive to maintain car is that they seem to have allocated it its own dedicated service team. We can look at it straight away. It will be ready in a couple of hours.

So we had a couple of hours to pass and luckily we were in walking distance of a castle. A fine ruin of a castle.

Pickering Castle was originally built around 1070. It is reasonably well preserved as it missed out on the carnage which was the War of the Roses and the English Civil War. I hoped that this unplanned visit would count against our sons target of 12 new places to visit. Sadly he pointed out the exact date and time of his school visit here 4 years ago.

I always think castles look better in black and white. Brings out their hidden Hammer Horror character.

It was a fun couple of hours as son explained in great detail the history of the castle. It’s linkages to wider English History and the various different structural improvements which have occurred over the years. I added important stuff like cool places for ghosts to hide.

Unfortunately the hours flew by and all too soon it was time to return to the garage. Luckily they still take cheques. That buys a couple of days to keep the bank manager happy. Son helpfully pointed out that a few hundred years ago I could just have raised taxes to pay for it – probably a Poll Tax. That assumes my role would have been Lord and not Peasant. In my all to likely Peasant role I had better start shovelling that muck quicker.

Swiss Sunday with a hint of Bond.

It’s Swiss Sunday. It’s time to be shaken not stirred.

We start again from the stunning mountain village of Murren and we are heading up to the top of the Schilthorn. A world famous mountain standing at 9744ft.

Only two ways to the top. A series of Cable Car rides. Not for the faint hearted. Once it was the longest aerial cable car in the world.

The other way is to try the gruelling 5 hour trek up a narrow mountain dirt path.

The mountain was featured in the 1969 James Bond movie – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. At the top you can visit the Bond Museum. It even has a cinema. The photo below is one of the mountains promo stills.

The Schilthorn has a wonderful revolving restaurant. It slowly turns and completes a full rotation in just under one hour. It’s a tremendous experience sat having lunch and gazing out of the window as the stunning mountain scenery moves slowly round.

There is a third way down but it’s not for me…

Suspect my butt would need a bigger chute.

Apparently you can see over 200 different summits from here. I remember son telling me

Close down the cable car and this would be the perfect place to live.

It really would be. A little chilly during winter but those views. You would never tire of them.

To Lauterbrunnen

It’s Sunday which means it’s Switzerland.

We left last week in Murren – the stunning Swiss Mountain Village. It’s time to head down into the valley and towards Lauterbrunnen. You only have three options. Train, cableway or walk it. The easy option is easy. 42 trains a day running to legendary Swiss punctuality. The walk is 5.8km and takes just under 3 hours. But it’s all downhill.

It takes you through alpine Forests with frequent stunning views of the Eiger, Moench and the Jungfrau. You cross multiple streams and are never too far away from the towering waterfalls.

Lauterbrunnen is the home to the Stabbauch Falls which is Europe’s highest free falling waterfall. A drop of 297 metres. If you like waterfalls you need to pay this place a visit. I remember being told that you can visit over 70 of them here.

Next week I think it’s time for a bit of Bond and Blofeld.

A creaky world tour – 2

Currently not allowed to run due to knackered body so was in desperate need of a fitness hobby to stop me going stir crazy. Came up with the idea of seeing how far I would get around the world powered only by my stationary exercise bike and walking with Pokemon Go….

So the creaky world tour continues. Last episode found myself camped out in Cambridge.

Since then my little legs (and they are little – size 29 inch inside leg….) have added

Exercise Bike 150km

Pokémon Go 65km

So the first stop was an overnight stay in Twickenham. Had to visit the national Rugby Stadium.

And the Eel Pie Island Museum.

Then we set off on foot to Rochester Castle, the 12th century stone keep castle. One of England’s most impressive Norman Fortresses.

Can you guess where I am heading next?