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Charlie and Judy Visit England
September 1 - 23, 2010



Judy with Tardis-style phone boothCharlie and I spent a bit over three weeks in England this fall - and we took more than 2000 pictures (digital cameras are wonderful!). We are planning to post some additional pictures as time permits - but I thought I'd start things off with a few of the many things that caught my eye. We did manage to visit quite a few different places - and I apologize in advance for the many wonderful things I won't be able to include here.

Being a bit disorganized as we were preparing for the trip, I didn't get a lot of sleep for a couple of days before we left - so Charlie almost managed to convince me that we'd traveled by Tardis as in Dr. Who - but I rather suspect a rather more traditional airplane was involved - though I come from a fairly rural state, so the collection of trains, underground and light rail that we took to get from Heathrow Airport on the west side of London to Greenwich on the east side seemed almost as exotic to me. (With a bit of luck, all of the pictures should be clickable to a much larger size.)

Charlie spent a couple of days doing nautical research at the National Maritime Museum (one of the buildings at the foot of the hill) below) - our primary reason for choosing Greenwich as one of our destinations. While he was doing that, I hiked up to the Royal Observatory, which is where time begins (in a manner of speaking) - all other time zones are described in relation to Greenwich Mean Time, and the prime meridian, which runs through the middle of the observatory, is used to define East and West, much as the equator defines North and South. The first picture below not only shows the museum, but provides a nice view of London - and shows that there is a commitment to keeping open spaces and parklands around and in the city; the other shows a bit of "official" line between east and west.

view of London from Royal Observatorythe Prime Meridian at Greenwich England

Next we went to Wimbledon for a day. I must confess that I didn't visit the tennis courts - but I did have a lovely time walking around the village and visiting Wimbledon Commons (another large open area - I think there's a theme here!). Among the highlights of our trip was getting to spend a bit of time with friends we've never met before - and one of those was Laura, whom I've "known" online for several years through our shared interest in eagle cams and the techie side of managing web cam forums, and actually got to meet live and in person! Bemused spouses in tow, we shared a glass of wine in their beautiful garden, then went off to a wonderful dinner in one of the most fun restaurants I've ever seen!

In the morning we picked up our rental car, and headed north. (You might notice that we appear to be driving on the opposite side of the road than we do in Maine - fortunately Charlie has become quite good at that - and fortunately this time we were able to rent a car with an automatic transmission, so at least he didn't also have to shift with the other hand!)
driving north from Wimbledon driving north

We ended up in the town of Buxsworth (formerly known as Bugsworth - which is still the name of the Bugsworth Basin, a well-known part of the canal system in England). I've just done a quick scan of Wikipedia to refresh my memory, and learned that the canals were used to transport goods before the coming of the railways, being both faster and more gentle to fragile goods than wagons and similar transport. Canal boats were (and are) a maximum of 7 feet wide (the width of the canals) and 70 feet long (the length of most of the locks that help them go up and down hills). The canals began to disappear once the railroads were established - but are coming back to life as a feature of a growing vacation/tourist industry.

We met another pair of online friends - Ian and Estelle - and spent the day with them on their canal boat Moonlight Shadow. Charlie originally "met" Ian online because of a shared interest in music and water transport - Ian has a website Songs of the Inland Waterways which Charlie discovered - and they invited us to experience the canals first hand. It's a very different way of seeing the world - I'm not sure what the mile-per-hour rule is, but canal boats are basically not allowed to go faster than the horses that used to pull them, so very much a change of pace from our rush-rush modern world. I think it took us the better part of a day to go somewhere we could drive in a half hour - and it was marvelous! We did stop from time to time to look at the scenery and to watch another canal boat go through a series of locks (it takes a long time for each lock to fill, raising the boat to the next step up the "stairs" to the level of the canal they wanted to join). We spent a couple of nights at the Navigation Inn, which might be the one written about by C. (for Cicely) Fox Smith (one of Charlie's favorite nautical poets) in her poem The Jolly Bargeman - and which Charlie set to music (link to Charlie's website) - and which we sang for the owners after dinner at the inn.

In the first picture below, I'm chatting with Ian while he pilots the boat, and in the second I'm helping hold it while Ian gets some stakes to drive in the ground so we can tie up for a while. Ian offered to let us run the boat - and Charlie did for a while - but you steer by moving a tiller. I'm not quite sure which way you push the handle to make it do what you want - but was very sure that I'd double-correct and head the wrong way! And when your boat is almost as wide as the canal, there's not a lot of margin for error. The other pair shows a canal boat in a lock; you can see the tiller clearly in the first picture - and see how it's gradually coming up to the level of the water beyond the gates in front of it.

Ian and Judy on canal boat canal boat in lock boat higher in lock

There are a lot of old stone bridges over the canals - but also a lot of newer bridges that need to be opened. This pair of pictures shows us coming up to a bridge, and then Charlie and Estelle getting ready to swing it open so Ian can bring the boat through. I think it would be very difficult for one person to run a canal boat, though there are some who do go out solo, according to Ian and Estelle - but it does seem easier if one person can get off and open the bridges while the other goes through.

bridge over canal Charlie and Estelle

The first picture below is Ian waiting to be picked up after walking alongside opening a series of bridges, and the second is of me helping to "park" the boat by holding it steady while Ian gets the stakes to drive in to fasten the ropes. It's a bit different than taking our boat out - we tie up at public docks which generally have railings where you fasten your ropes. Here you can "park" the boat anywhere the canal is wide enough to let a second boat pass, and you need to bring your own stakes to fasten it (though there were standard docks in the marina where they keep their boat).

Ian under an old bridge me holding the boat


~~~ I'm going to jump ahead because I want to upload some pictures from our visit to the Birds of Prey Centre in Thirsk, near York ~~~


the van from the Birds of Prey Centre in Thirsk

snowy owl vulture