Ross on Wye. August 8th to 11th 2016.

This was, technically, our holiday. Spent one day driving down, another day driving back meaning two days.

For a laugh I decided to count Stobart trucks on the way down. Total 82 ticks on arrival at destination. That’s being a real geek, I know. It passed the time when stuck in various traffic hold ups.

We had stopped at Westmoreland services for tasty  sandwiches and leg stretch.  Weather not bad. There were a few interesting things to notice en route: registrations for one. For example who drives LEo5EGO, V8BRA and BA51COO? Leo’s ego and basic oo, with a V8 bra.

There was a low loader carrying a steam engine. Then I noticed that there were rail wheels on the “platform” under the engine.  Machinery for track electrification? That was on the M5, so was getting a tad jaded. We were so much later than we had anticipated by that time. Arrived after eight hours on the road, ready for a meal and a few drops of wine.

After a grand sleep and breakfast we headed further south to go to Wildlife and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge. Summation of the day? Hot and huge.It was a good day and would be difficult to suitably describe what was there and what was most interesting. My highlight of the day was spotting a kingfisher as it landed on a branch over the water. It stayed for ages then popped over to another vantage point. (I saw another one later on.) The hides were long  with a generous number of windows for peering out onto the various interesting areas of wetland. The place was swarming with kiddiwinks( still school hols down there) but we did manage to find ourselves in fairly quiet spots. The cranes were rather shy but a joy to behold. Aye, they’re grey, but they have stiking red crowns and are soooo elegant. We had met with an identification problem. There were geese wandering around, snoozing in cool spots among the plants and shrubbery which were very pretty and sounded not unlike a contended hen.Could find no reference to them anywhere until we finally saw the chap who was “the mammal man, in charge of otters and all things furry.” He was able to give us all the low down on these beautiful HAWIIAN geese, known as nene, supposedly the sound they make. There were a mere handful surviving when Peter Scott first saw them. He brought two back to Slimbridge, discovered they were both female and had to go back for a male. Since then they have flourished and been reintroduced to their homeland. What struck me firstly was the fact that they looked rather like barnacle geese but were the wrong colour. Their heads are black but the necks are more like coffee and cream with dark streaks leading down to a dark “necklace.” They are a great favourite.

It was at this point that I was beginning to feel a bit odd. I was desperately needing a drink. Downed a bottle of water in one. We watched the otters for a while. They are so comical. We then began to wend our way back to the Centre and on to the waiting car. By that time we had been there for six and a half hours and Derek had dropped the lens of his camera when changing from the big one to the smaller one. He was very lucky it is undamaged. I wish he would go to the GP and tell him about these shaky hands of his.

Derek had chatted to lots of people on the way round and about, I had been rather quieter only getting into a conversation with someone in the hide where I saw the kingfisher. He was telling me about the Crane project in the south of England. When I said I’d seen it on Springwatch, he dismissed it with “Never watch it. Can’t stand Packham.” We all have our cross to bear.

Travelled the short distance to Stroud where we ate at a Brewer’s Fayre. (had vouchers for two free sweets and a free bottle of wine) It was a Beefeater at our Premier Inn. Toddled home weary of foot and head!

I had one moment of utter horror when I went to the loo. I was so dehydrated my urine was brown.

Wednesday was equally warm but a shorter day We were back at the Forest of Dean at a place called Symonds Yat, Very lovely, naturally enough there are a lot of trees there blocking the view to the river, which I’d thought I could sketch. Nae chance, where I could see it it was a slow  flowing easy oazy beautiful river……dull. Picturesque but just picturesque nothing standing out, except a couple of lovely little grey wagtails.

After our walk we sat watching smugly as an eedjit who had taken a large Mitsubishi with and even bigger caravan up a very narrow road cause an amazing stand off. He couldn’t move forward or reverse and the queue of vehicles trying to come up to the canoeing base and the hotels couldn’t reverse either. Eventually one of the employees from the canoe office set off and had to get as many vehicles as possible squeezed into passing places, a couple of vans trying to go down got themselves into the canoe car park, where we were and watched the performance. It took some considerable time to a) get him moved in far enough for cars to get past him, then when the road was clear, he drove off, no doubt with many rude words echoing behind him. Then b) we had to wait until the log jam worked its way up so that we could make our merry way down.

The wonderful viewpoint was almost an anti climax after all that.There is an amazing panorama of the Wye, the surrounding woodland, the cliffs where the peregrines nest and for a fair distance beyond. A very tranquil Turner- like scene, though much grander than the river Lune. Derek took lots of photos while I watched birds at the bird feeders the RSPB have put there. Counted a nuthatch, robin, blue tit,. great tit,coal tit. I sat quietly at a picnic table with my sketch book about to draw a particularly interesting tree when a juvenile robin  came hopping by. I sat very still and watched as it popped up onto the end of the picnic table. I waited before hopping across to where I was sitting. There were obviously picnic crumbs there which it ate, came right up to the edge of my bag, turned making for the end of the table. It popped down out of sight. A few seconds later I turned slowly to see it right beside me on the seat before it left to go foraging somewhere else.

That was enough excitement for my day. We had said we’re going to Ross on Wye, but hadn’t actually been there. We had by passed it twice. We stopped and had a wee wander. Quaint little place. Huge cathedral church whose spire can be seen for miles. Again Derek had the camera out.

Dinner and packing up ready for the morning.

Thursday. Some pub signs: the Axe and Cleaver, the Horse and Groom, the Nag’s head, the sun and slipper,The Land Oak.

One notable street name:Scholar’s Walk.

One Inn we passed was called the Peacock Inn. In front was a huge buddleia in full bloom looking rather like a peacock’s tail.

Between Ross and Hereford going north there orchards by the score all heavy with fruit, possibly apples, pears, plums. One orchard had pigs in it. I’ll bet that will be tasty pork. One area had huge poly tunnels I’d guess that was soft fruit. Many fields of grain were quite ripe. Looked like wheat to me.

We stopped at place we’d been eight years ago. It is a lovely tea room with yummy baking and artisan cheeses made on the premises. The village is called Monklands, the cheese is Monklands Cheese. Going towards Leominster I noticed lots of small gardens with at least one fruit tree.Autumn must be on its way, I noted that the haws on the hawthorn bushes are beginning to turn red while the rowans are gloriously orange.

We crossed the Severn at Kidderminster which has several impressive churches. We were now close to the M5 and the homeward trek. We were making good time, dropped in to the Windermere Centre to pay my deposit for the art course next month. Got shopping for tea at Booths supermarket .

We were still well south of Penrith when we ground to a halt and stayed there for an hour. There had clearly been an incident ahead of us. Eventually we began to move. Three lanes of nose to tail vehicles.  the accident looked pretty bad. A single car apparently lost it, went straight over all three lanes, up the high banking and rolled down. Only one appeared to have been involved. Yet again we were home much later than we had hoped but we were, safe and sound.

Here endeth ” holiday” 2016.