A Little Holiday in North Wales

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The view while riding on the Snowdon Mountain Railway.

North Wales was hosting a summer time Geocaching Mega Event, so of course we had to go along and check it out. I was excited as this was a region I had wanted to visit for quite some time. Pete said the landscape would remind me of BC, and while he was right about that (the mountains, the forested areas), it was very distinctly Welsh. I loved it.

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The Summer So Far

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The Shard being all majestic and…shard-y.

How is it August already? Yes, it still baffles me how quickly time passes. You’d think I’d be over that by now! But, really, it felt like my birthday month was just a short time ago. That’s when I was in London and hanging with the Shard, eating delicious cherries I bought at Borough Market and enjoying some of the first decent weather of the summer.

It’s been a great couple of months. We’ve gone on some enjoyable geocaching walks and we just got back from a little holiday to North Wales (I’ll hopefully blog about that!).

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“Whoooooo are you looking at?”

We also visited the International Centre for Birds of Prey. This place is truly amazing. They have a wide variety of birds, a hospital on site and wonderful flying demonstrations. They also have a family of black labs who just saunter around, completely ignoring the birds (some of which are literally out in the open!). These dogs are more interested in seeing how much free food they can get from the human visitors.

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This went into my pie-hole. It was very yummy.

Can you believe this was my first time eating poutine?? I have now had poutine and chicken and waffles for the first time in the UK, not exactly the country of origin! We really enjoyed checking out the Gloucester Food Festival yet again.

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And then…well, Pokemon Go came out and the world went nuts. More like the app crashed a lot! This was the start of us going out on very random walks in an effort to “catch ’em all”. Um, more like catching all the Drowzees. There are way too many spawning around here! Still, it’s been fun Pokemoning. It certainly makes going on a very familiar walk more interesting!

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A typical British Pokestop.

We checked out a restored 19th century bee shelter at the church in Hartpury. It was a beautiful place–I may have caught a Squirtle near here, hehee. There is also a beautiful old mill here, too. There’s a picture on the linked page that is so much better than any photo I could have managed to snap. People actually live on the property and I may be a little jealous.

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Beautiful homes in Ashton Under Hill.

So yes, in terms of outings and taking advantage of the longer days and warmer weather, we’ve done very well. We have managed to pack a fair bit into a lot of weekends. In fact, this may be the first weekend where we don’t have anything planned! It’s been nice having a bit of a break.

In my personal life, I managed to land a permanent contract with the department I support at work. Unfortunately, we were given the news this week (the day after I came back from holidays) that we would be going through a restructure. It’s early days yet and I have no idea what’s going to happen, but it sucks and there are going to be a lot of changes. I can only hope that I will continue to keep my current role as I do enjoy the service area I support and all the people I work with.

On a happier note, it won’t be long until I am back in my hometown and attending my friends’ impending nuptials. That’s going to be a good time! Pete and I have also been discussing a possible mini-cation in February. Cold? Yes. But we’re just looking at a few tentative options.

So here’s to letting the good times continue to roll on and not worrying about the uncertainty of the future (easier said than done!). Here we go.

Easter Weekend 2016

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Red cliffs and the English Channel.

I had a few days of annual leave to use up before the end of the financial year, so I decided to extend the Easter weekend a little. The huz and I weren’t planning on doing much, possibly just taking day trips and going geocaching, but then by chance I happened upon The Shepherds Hut Retreat. I thought, ‘Well, don’t that look cute?’ We checked the dates and saw that one hut was free for the Easter weekend, so we booked ‘er!

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An Update

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No, the update does not involve the fact that I appear to have shrunk to the size of most gardening tools. Nor does it involve the current state of my fruffy hat (which, in case you WERE wondering, is gently folded and kept safe in a box full of winter accessories).

Lately, life has been, well, a lot like life can be–busy, stressful at times, but fun. This month started off quite decently: I had taken a few days off from work and those days were mostly spent geocaching and attending a few caching related events.

One event–hosted by Pete’s mum–was meant to take place on a Saturday morning at the cathedral cafe, but there was one tiny problem…they weren’t open! There had been a change in opening times due to low staff numbers (darn flu season!).

Pete’s quick thinking mother relocated the event to one of my new favourite eateries in Gloucester, the Cathedral Deli. It’s run by two very friendly ladies and the looks on their faces when 20+ geocachers walked in was priceless! They happily waited on everyone and ran around making sure everyone had their food and drinks. It was great. Alas, I wasn’t able to try a toasted teacake, but I did scarf down one heckuva delicious cheese scone.

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We managed to cram a lot into that weekend, even managing to visit the Cotswold Wildlife Park for the umpteenth time. I just love going there. The lemur enclosure alone is worth the trip, but this time the red pandas were moving! They normally sleep in the trees and the most movement I had seen up until that point was a slight raising of the head. Well, this time we arrived as they were being fed and they were scurrying around and being silly. I was maybe a little overjoyed.

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The bottom one hella photobombed this pic, hehee.

It’s still quite cold outside. Yeah, I know it’s not as cold as it is in some places back in Canada, but we have entered the awkward “I don’t know what to wear anymore” stage. I’ll have multiple layers on because that wind be chilly–but then the sun comes out and when you stand/walk in direct sunlight those layers will quickly bring about a case of “the sweats”. Come on, Spring, hurry up and get here–the daffodils have been out since January!

And with that plea, I shall sign off here. I am taking in a few interesting things in Gloucester today as it’s resident’s weekend, so there are guided tours and some old buildings open for visits that are closed to the public for most of the year. Looking forward to it.

But first, I shall leave you with the picture of a shark in a roof. Oxford is a silly place.

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How to Infiltrate an Oxford College Without Really Trying

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A week ago, my mother-in-law asked if I would like to come along with her to Oxford for a geocaching and bus/train adventure. She warned me that it would be an early start (we had to catch the bus at 6:40am), but I have been itching to go back to Oxford for quite some time. I haven’t been there since my first ever visit in February 2014! So, it didn’t take much to convince me.

We ended up buying tickets called Cotswold Discoverers which could be used on certain bus lines and on the train at specific times of the day. It cost us £10 each to travel from Gloucester to Oxford and we could use that same ticket to take the train home. What?! Just for kicks, I checked how much a return train ticket would set me back had I gone my “usual route”—it was £46. Ack! These tickets were amazingly good value and I may have to take advantage more often.

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Our wanderings soon led us to the grounds of the beautiful Magdalen College (who am I kidding, all the college campuses in the city are gorgeous). We happened upon a few chaps who were installing a new gate! Look, a crane holding a gate, that’s something!

We needed to get into the grounds and cross a nearby bridge, so the workmen very kindly let us walk by once the gate was safely on the ground. The entire area in which they were working was actually blocked off, but I guess we didn’t look too much like trouble makers and they let us pass.

They probably shouldn’t have done that because this is when all our troubles started.

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Upon making our way to the bridge, we happened upon this door—and it was locked. See that bridge there? That’s the one I was aiming for! To make matters worse, there were people walking around on the other side. Gahhh, that’s where we want to be! We decided to make our way back to the workmen and sheepishly walk past them yet again. They let us pass, but not before remarking that they really “shouldn’t be doing that”. Ack!

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We ended up meandering around and going nowhere fast, but the grounds were massive, so it didn’t really feel like we were trapped. Well, trapped we were and it was incredibly frustrating! Every gate we came across was locked and every bridge that appeared on our map was inaccessible. We started to wonder if we should turn around and try our luck with those poor workmen again, but were too embarrassed to walk by them a third time. Soo, eventually we just kept on walking until a kindly young gardener took pity on us and unlocked the gate we were trapped behind.

“How did you even get in there??” Yeah, um, best not to ask that, bud, haha.

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This entire time, we were looking for a geocache and it wasn’t until this point when we were informed that our coordinates weren’t correct. Even though it got annoying at times, it was a beautiful place to walk around. There really are worse places you can find yourself locked in!

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Yes, the college has a specific area cordoned off for deer. They had quite a few deer in there. I remember seeing this last year and thinking how ridiculous it all was! Cool? Yes. Over the top fancy-ness? Uh huh!

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After this series of fails, we decided to keep riding the fail train because we struggled to find the exit now that we were on the right side of the fence. We ran into two students who very kindly told us which direction to head. This took three tries, but we got there eventually (we even used the very nice bathrooms in the auditorium, shhh!).

I’m glad security didn’t rush out at any point to tackle us despite the fact that we were walking in areas that were very clearly marked “Staff and Students Only”. We just couldn’t get out of the darn place, but NOW I know where the visitor’s entrance is, so that won’t happen again.

So yes, the infiltration was purely accidental, but thank you Magdalen students and staff for not treating us like total idiots and giving us a hand!

Over the (Easter) Weekend: Abandoned Villages & Steep Inclines

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The Easter long weekend proved to be quite eventful. We had planned on taking Brit Boy’s mum out on a cache-venture (mostly to re-visit a few sights we went to with friends back in February), so that’s what we did on Good Friday. Our journey was also an opportunity to visit the abandoned village of Imber, a place that is now solely used for military training. They have open days a few weekends during the year and the Easter long weekend is one of those times, so we decided to take advantage.

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It’s only a little intimidating driving around and seeing this kind of signage! The drive into Imber was, indeed, very odd. We were in the middle of an open field with, essentially, a single track road to drive on. Imber is nestled at the base of a slight hill, so when the church started coming into view it was almost a relief. Civilization! But, oh, it so wasn’t.

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A few original buildings remain, but there are mostly ones like this scattered about the village. The history of Imber’s abandonment is quite sad in that the entire population was forced to leave in 1943, just two weeks before Christmas, in order to make way for a place in which the military could train. They were promised that they would be allowed to return once the war was over, but that never happened. Generations of families up and left to who knows where, leaving behind the eerie remnants of their former life. It was fascinating to walk around, especially in the churchyard where a barbed wire fence now stands around the grounds. It was definitely a unique experience!

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We did a fair amount of geocaching that day and the weather managed to hold off despite it looking quite nasty at some points. We did come across more strange signage, but didn’t see any tanks (no training over the Easter long weekend, sadly). I really did want to see a tank go flying by as that would have been equal parts amusing and terrifying!

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Mohawk and Mop Top, two donkeys we befriended during our geocaching outing. I may have given them those names. They were really cute, but definitely sad that we had no food for them. Sorry, donkeys!

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Saturday was dedicated to walking up and around Chosen Hill, a place that is a mere 15 minute walk from our place, but I hadn’t gone up that hill in 7-years. I guess I couldn’t stop thinking about some previous aborted attempts, as I have nothing but good memories from my first climb up that hill. It was early into my first UK visit (and the first time I met the Brit)–I was hardcore jet-lagged, but for some reason agreed to this walk. At the end of it, I got my first real view of Gloucester and the jarring change in landscape was mind-boggling, but beautiful.

On that first climb, however, we never did make it to the church at the top of the hill, but I have photographic evidence that I have now been there. Finally! I think the scenery from this side was even more spectacular. Gotta appreciate a good view!

We also visited Spring Fest at Gloucester Quays which turned out to be a great afternoon out. There were many market stalls and food vendors. I tried chicken and waffles for the first time ever and it was delicious! I have to say, I was fully expecting to have to travel to the southern United States in order to eat that, but hey, if it’s being offered in a country I wouldn’t normally associate serving up such food, I will take it!

All in all, it was a great long weekend. With the weather getting warmer by the day, I’m sure there will be even more fun times to come in weekend-land.

Walking in the Cotswolds

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I live just a stone’s throw away from the Cotswolds, which is a surprisingly young constituency having been formed in 1997. To me, when I hear the words “the Cotswolds”, I picture something similar to the photo above: Thatched roof cottages, tiny villages, compact towns and vast amounts of farmland. Well, that really is what it’s like.

Even though I haven’t ventured too far from Southwestern England, I find this area has so much to offer and I’ve only barely begun to scratch the surface! I’ve spent the past couple of weekends in the Cotswold region going on winter walks. While it is very cold, bundling up in a billion layers certainly helps, as does “walking quickly” up those slight inclines! There are some great areas to walk around so long as the ground is frozen. A lot of these walking trails go into farmland which can quickly become Mud City. I have definitely made great use out of my hiking boots!

I think the best part of our walk last weekend were all the animals we randomly came across, like our mint loving horse friends who trotted over once they were promised a snack. I have been on the other side of the fence before, aka: sharing a field with horses, which was a slightly intimidating experience (a farm girl I am not!), so I was perfectly happy with hanging out with these three on THIS side of the fence!

These were the most glorious pigs I have ever seen. Apparently the breed is “Oxford Sandy and Black”. Such big, floppy ears on these piggies! They, too, got a snack of mints which they thoroughly enjoyed despite being dropped in the mud. We soon learned that we were walking on the premises of Scrubditch Care Farm. They had many animals including cattle, sheep, geese and donkeys (one of which was VERY vocal after my poor donkey impression!). It was just so funny to walk by this seemingly empty pen and see four massive pigs emerge from the shrubbery. So cute! Makes me feel bad for loving bacon…

There are so many nooks and crannies in this region to check out and I’ve only just begun to make a dent in my explorations, but the year is early yet and I’m sure there will be more visits to come.