Category Archives: Days Out

The Lost Village of Imber

Imber, a tiny village on Salisbury Plain, is one place I’d always wanted to take a look at but had never got round to it. With access denied for most of the year due to it being in the middle of one of the largest army training areas in the country the village is only open to the public for a few days mainly over Christmas and Easter.

There has been a settlement at Imber since 967AD but the village was evacuated in 1943, to provide an area for American troops to train for European invasion during WWII, and it has been deserted ever since. Villagers were given 47 days notice to leave which must have been a huge wrench as some families had been there for generations. In recent years the village was used for urban warfare training with the army erecting a number of shell houses for training purposes. These, along with the church and one or two other buildings, is all that remains of Imber.

I also wanted to see what the roads were like for cycling as I plan to come back later in the year on the bike. The main access road is between Gore Cross (on the A360 just north of Tilshead) and Warminster and is a decent tarmac surface, no problem at all for bikes (mountain or road), cars and motorbikes. The MOD obviously spend more money on roads than the County Council as it was in a better state than our local roads.  The tracks from north (Bratton) to south (Heytesbury) have unsurfaced sections and are unsuitable for road bikes.

Warning Signs

There are plenty of warning signs as you enter the plain past the checkpoint. The roads are accessible over Christmas with today being the last day of access.

Imber Church

The churchof St Giles has been restored and is kept going by work of volunteers and donations. It will be next open again at Easter.

Imber Village 2

Imber village

There are various army training houses dotted around the village.

Military debris

Tank

On the road between Imber and Warminster there were a number of tanks and vehicles along the road which have been used for target practice. We didn’t have any great views as the Plain was shrouded in mist giving it a very enclosed, eerie feel but, despite this, there were quite a few people about making the most of the last day of access.

Hopefully there will be one or two days of open access over the summer as this would be a great place to spend a few hours cycling.

Bristol

We’ve just come back from a wonderful weekend away with friends in Bristol. We had glorious weather, the end of an Indian summer, and travelled up on the train on Friday morning staying for two nights in the Royal Marriott and Spa hotel (thanks Mr Tesco!). The hotel was perfectly located close to the harbour in the city centre and we enjoyed a lovely room and a great breakfast.

The photos are just a few of the things we saw. The famous Bristol grafitti artist Banky’s work on Frogmore Street, Bristol Cathedral, the harbourside, Brunel’s SS Great Britain and Cabot’s ship The Matthew.

We had great views over the city from Cabot Tower and excellent shopping at Cabot circus. Food at Jamie Oliver’s Italian and the Nepalese restaurant Kathmandu.

With loads to see and do I’d recommend Bristol to anyone wanting a weekend break. We’ll be back!

Harrogate

We were up in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, this weekend for my friend Adam’s 40th. We stayed at a lovely guest house which we highly recommend for anyone staying in the town. Saturday was spent looking around which included tea and cake at the world famous Bettys.

Harrogate is a lovely place and well kept; the flowerbeds, packed with summer bedding, are all over the town and its open spaces and parks are treasured. Harrogate also plays host to some great horticultural shows, the Autumn Show is September 17th-19th.

And that night we dressed up for a Medieval Feast at the Priest’s House near Bolton Abbey, Skipton.

It was a great party with 30 of us in full medieval fancy dress, a traditional banquet served in a bread bowl, (which you ate after the last of the main courses was served), in an amazing medieval setting. We had soup, salmon and prawns, lamb shank, chicken & pheasant, the King’s stew, poached pear & ice cream and cheeseboard (I think there was also a vegetarian option!). More food than we needed really with large jugs of ale, cider and wine on the table. Fantastic night courtesy of our hosts.

And by popular demand here we are in our medieval garb!

In the garden you turn your back for a couple of days and courgettes become marrows!

In the flower bed the asters are now in full bloom.

And my last variety of Gladioli, Mexico, are finally out. Thank you to all who entered my free giveaway competition, prizes will be despatched soon. Have a great week!

Firsdown Music Fayre

Glastonbury, Reading, Isle of Wight and now………Firsdown! 25 years on from Live Aid the 5th annual Firsdown Music Fayre was rocking. We didn’t have to go far, about 500 yards, to the end of the village where a neatly mowed field with a stage erected at one end played host to around 500 local revellers. The festival started on Saturday evening with bands and fireworks and then from midday to 7pm on Sunday with more bands, BBQ, bar etc.

There was an ecclectic mix of music, mainly rock and pop with a bit of blues thrown in and a Shadow’s tribute band, “Vintage Echoes”. Other bands included “22nd Street”, “Tramps & Amps”, “Stiff Joints”, “The Livery Road Blues Band”, and an amazing 4-piece of 13 year olds called “The Jalapenos”.

The crowd enjoyed some great music under clear blue skies, a glorious afternoon. The girls loved it, a great family day out!

Are you the Farmer?

Today we were at the River Bourne Community Farm Open Day in Salisbury. The girls loved all the different animals and activities.

Here’s the piglets enjoying the sun.

And the baby ducks with their own little pool.

The Shire Horse looked great parading around the field.

There was also a Falconry display with a Saker, Harris Hawk, Pergrine Falcon and African Sea Eagle. The Peregrine was particularly impressive swooping low over the crowd back to the handler.

The Sea Eagle in action.

There was also facepainting.

And tractors to sit on.

A great day out.

Brownsea Island

Brownsea Island lies in the heart of Poole Harbour, the world’s biggest natural harbour (or second biggest if you listen to the Aussies). We took a picnic with us and caught the ferry from Poole to the island. Brownsea, which was host to the BBC’s Autumnwatch in 2008, is owned by the National Trust and famous for two things, the first ever Scout camp in 1907 and red squirrels, one of the few places in the South you can see them.

The island is 1 1/2 miles long and is a great place to stroll around for the afternoon with a mixture of pine and broadleaf forest, heath and wetlands that are home to a variety of wildlife. With only 250 red squirrels we’d be lucky to see one. It happened within 5 minutes with one scurrying along a wall just behind the castle. Then no more all afternoon, we were lucky as most visitors don’t see any. It was too quick for my camera though.

During our picnic we were visited by this Peacock who put on a fabulous display for us.

This is the Baden Powell stone commemorating the first ever Scout camp.

The views from the southern edge of the island were glorious.

Chloe was worn out by the time we got back to the ferry, we saw about half of the island so there’s plenty to do for a day, we didn’t go to the Nature Reserve. Then it was back to Poole Quay for fish and chips and home. A great day out!

Portsmouth

38 years old today meant I’d earnt a day off work. We dropped the girls at nursery for the day and drove down to Portsmouth to do some shopping round Gunwharf Quays, take a look at the Spinnaker Tower and the Historic Dockyard. About 45 minutes from home means we don’t normally go to Portsmouth, unless we’re catching a ferry, so it was good to find quite a bit to do for a day out.

The weather was great, a lovely sunny day and Gunwharf Quays was a good place to wander round for a couple of hours with a mix of shops that both Rachel and I were interested in. We had lunch on the waterfront courtesy of Pizza Express (those Tesco Clubcard vouchers again!) and then went to visit the Spinnaker Tower.

I remember this being one of those doomed Millenium projects but I was impressed by the structure of a sail right on the water’s edge near the harbour entrance. Fraught with problems the tower finally opened in 2005 and stands at 175m high. There are 3 viewing decks the highest being the Crow’s Nest at 110m and from here you can see around 25 miles an area covering Chichester to the east, the Isle of Wight to the South and Southampton and the New Forest to the west.


From the Crow’s Nest there’s a good view of the historic dockyard home to HMS Warrior, Victory and the Mary Rose.

Just across from the tower is this building in the shape of the funnel.

Some people couldn’t bring themselves to look down through the glass panel.

This is HMS Warrior.

And HMS Victory famous for being involved in the Battle of Trafalgar.


There were also a few modern ships in dock.

Another great day out. Now I must get back to some gardening!

Newmarket Races

This weekend I met up with friends in Cambridge and took a trip to Newmarket races for the first time. The home of horse racing Newmarket is world famous and hosts the classic races the 1000 and 2000 Guineas in early May. This meet was not quite as important but still a great day out for anyone who likes horse racing. The Rowley Mile course, named after King Charles II’s favourite horse ‘Old Rowley’, is perfectly kept and was well attended with punters for the 7 race event.

We studied the horses as they were walked round the paddock and then over to the bookies to place our bets before each race. We pooled our money and each chose a horse per race and by the end of the day we’d doubled our money which paid for the entrance fee and taxi, not enough for the beer though! One of our winners was Klammer who is now bound for Royal Ascot later in the season.

Back in Cambridge we went to the Kingston Arms a great little pub serving real ales and, by coincidence, a great Perry (7.5%) from Broadoak in Bristol which I’d first tried last weekend in Bath. We reviewed the days winners and losers over a few pints of Perry and the odd bag of Pork Scratchings. Just about able to walk by the end of the night we staggered down the road to get a taxi back home. A great day out!

Bath

We had a lovely weekend away in Bath, our first weekend together without the girls since Chloe was born nearly 3 years ago. If you’ve never been to Bath before it’s a great place to visit, a beautiful city renowned for its Georgian architecture and Roman Baths.


One of the most famous streets in Bath is The Circus.

But the premier address must be The Royal Crescent.


Just behind the Royal Crescent was the Georgian Garden, not many flowers but you get the idea of the formal Georgian structure.

Right in the centre is Bath Abbey.

Pulteney Bridge is one of the few bridges in the world with shops built into it.

We stayed at the Francis Bath hotel which has a great location right in the city centre. We ate out courtesy of Tesco Clubcard points in Strada, Cafe Rouge and Pizza Express. On Saturday night we ate at Jamie’s Italian to celebrate Rachel’s birthday and had a fantastic meal. It’s the first time we’ve queued up to get into a restaurant but it was worth it. Whilst we waited for our table the cocktails went down well and then we were guided past the kitchens through to the back dining area which was really bustling with a lively atmosphere. We had the Anitpasti Meat Plank to share, Rachel had steak and I had lamb for main followed by Tirimasu and Chocalate Brownie for dessert washed down with a bottle of wine. A great evening.

Bath is great for shopping with all the big high street stores you’d expect plus loads of quirky smaller shops such as Vinegar Hill, The Granary Trading Company and Grasse.

There are loads of restaurants and cafes in Bath but the oldest is Sally Lunn’s where a pot of tea and a Sally Lunn bun is the done thing. We shared half of one, toasted with jam and clotted cream which was more than enough for late morning bite.

We had a fantastic weekend in Bath and being just an hour away by train I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

Choo Choo!

The plot has been a bit neglected last weekend. On Bank Holiday Monday we were in Surrey for our nephew’s birthday party at Surrey Steam Model Engineers in Leatherhead. We had a great time with lots of rides on the different trains, not sure who enjoyed it more the children or the Dads! It rekindled a few memories for all of us and the old boys who maintain and drive these minature trains where in their element. A great day out!