Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye 2011 Hello 2012

I'll have a piccy break today as the last day of the year is traditionally a time for reflection, more Oxford pics tomorrow. Matt asked how Oxford compares to Cambridge, I can't answer that question yet, as I haven't been to Cambridge. I am looking into it, and hopefully a trip will be on the agenda soon. The Youth Hostel has a cheap offer on but no car park, so I need to look into cost of public transport to get there. Rail prices are rumoured to be going up, so it might be cost effective to drive, so much to consider when trying to organise things on a budget.

Anyway, I'm feeling quite chipper as we say goodbye to 2011, and hello to 2012, I much prefer even numbers, ha ha. On the whole it's been a pretty good year for me, mainly due to the fact that I like to make things happen rather that wait for them to happen. I know you have to plan big projects, things to consider are budgeting your money, and finding a slot in the diary to fit everything in. I also like to fill in the gaps with last minute ideas, a quick trip here and a short visit there. Being flexible helps, it's great to have my freedom now that I don't have to go to work any more.

My 2012 calendar has been on the wall for about a month now. It's next to the phone and computer in the office, so I can tell at a glance what dates I have free when I plan my trips. I used to print it out month by month, but now I tend to buy a cheap calendar for around £1, makes the job easier. Here are my calendars, they are all in order from 2004.

The question I ask myself is did I do my best this year, and could I have an even better time in the next year. Let's have a look at what I did and where I went.

January.9th. Day walk around Spurn Point. 8 miles.
21st Local walk. 7 miles.
26th - 28th Three day hostel walks in Edale. 29 miles.
20th - 23rd Four day hostel trip to Liverpool.
5th Day walk Lincolnshire Wolds. 7 miles.
14th - 17th Four day hostel walks in Windermere. 43 miles.
28th - 31st Four day hostel walks in South Lincolnshire. 65 miles.
11th - 23rd Holiday in Scotland.
11th - 13th Camping and hostel in Blackpool and Yorkshire. 30 miles.
15th Local walk 13 miles.
23rd - 30th Walk from Blackpool to Humber Bridge. 137 miles.
12th Local walk 10 miles.
15th. Hull to Humber Bridge 11 miles.
16th Local walk 12 miles
17th Misterton day walk 14 miles.
18th Local walk 10 miles.
2nd - 4th Camping in Derbyshire 25 miles.
9th Day walk in N E Lincolnshire 13 miles.
19th - 25th walk Burton to Burton 119 miles
8th - 10th three day hostel walk in derbyshire 28 miles.
27th Local walk 10 miles.
29th - 1st Dec three day hostel walk in derbyshire 28 miles
10th Local walk 14 miles.
23rd - 28th Holiday in Hampshire and Oxford.

I make that a total of 634 miles, but added to the trips where I didn't record the miles, and all the dog walking, and walks to and from town, I reckon it might be nearer 1000 miles. Next year I would like to do more :o)

My other activities which keep me busy are blogging, litter picking, watering friends garden, delivering newsletters, dog walking, giving lifts to friends, fund raising for cat rescue, foraging in the supermarkets and shops for the cheapest food, craft work (sewing crochet etc), visiting family, growing veg, and reading.

How many blank days do I have on my calendar for the year? Days when I didn't have anything arranged, no appointments, no nothing.
Jan = 11. Feb = 9. Mar = 10. Apr = 8. May = 8. June = 12. July = 3. Aug = 6. Sept = 11. Oct = 13. Nov = 18. Dec = 18.
Total of 127 days, that's far too many, I need to get out more, ha ha.

After all this deliberating what do these figures tell me? What plans do I need to put in place for next year, and what resolutions should I be making? Well, I think the answer is, get off my backside and do more of everything, because the longer you sit around procrastinating the more time you waste when you could be doing something usefull. So, starting tomorrow I will give myself jobs to do to fill the gaps, and write it all down on the calendar, so there are no gaps at all in a years time. My goodness, aren't I a genious to think of that :o)

Happy New Year to all my bloggy friends.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Tales of the riverbank

Here's a nice walk you could do if you have 2 - 3 hours to spare in Oxford, it's about seven miles. I joined the River Thames at Folly Bridge, on the A4144 Abingdon Road, and went north. The pub, Head of the River, marks the spot.

If you fancy a boat trip instead you can always catch a boat there as well. Not today though, maybe it's seasonal, or private hire only.

It's not long before you leave the built up area of the city behind, and get out into the countryside.

Approaching Osney Lock there is the control box which the boat people use to open and close the lock gates.

It's a self service lock, no one here to help today.

I am not sure when the lock keeper is in attendance, probably only in the season when it's busy. There is a nice little cabin to sit in and keep watch.

This part of the Thames path is called The Shakespeare's Way.

Some boats moored up and ducks in abundance. Over on the opposite bank is a vast grassy area known as Port Meadow. It's very popular with dog walkers.

Look at the deep ruts on the bark of this tree. I wanted to hug it. Very tactile and rugged.

I wonder how old it is.

And here we are arriving at Godstow Lock, and another lock keepers cabin. How nice to put a Christmas message on the blackboard.

It all looks very well maintained, grass neatly clipped and no rubbish about.

I came off the river at the Trout Inn, and headed in an easterly direction along a minor road to Wolvercote. This thatched cottage on a bend in the village really has bright yellow shutters. I wonder if it is to stop vehicles crashing into it.

It wasn't long before I came to the Oxford Canal, I turned right along the towpath and headed back to the city. It really is a pleasant walk, there are quite a lot of other people out enjoying the nice weather.

There are lots of narrow boats parked up, some of them are quite colourful, and some with signs of life within, the chimney smoke gives it away. There are also some which look abandoned and in a poor state of repair. They all seem to have their little pile of belongings on the path opposite the boat. Most have got bicycles, there's bags of coal, and stacks of wood. Some have been growing veg in plastic boxes on the roof, some have aerials and solar panels, and some have a 'for sale' notice on them. I wonder what it's like to live on a narrow boat.

Almost back now, I've just crossed this bridge to get on the right side of the water, to return to the city centre via Hythe Bridge Street.

It's been a really nice walk, and I've still time to get a few more snaps of the city. Catch you later. Toodle pip.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The rooftops of Oxford

Good morning, lets make a start on the Oxford photo's. There's such a lot of them so I will split them between three posts, don't want to bore the pants off you with one massive long rambling post. I hope you will forgive me if I do not go into a lot of detail about each individual building, truth is that as I went round and round in circles in the city centre, I got a bit confused as to which I had seen and which I hadn't, and they all began to look the same after a while.

My overall impression was that it isn't as big as I thought it was, everywhere is easily reached on foot, and as the main A34 trunk road isn't far away there is often the humming of traffic in the background. I found this quite irritating when I did a walk northwards along the river.

There are nine million bicycles in Oxford, well it seemed like it anyway. Bikes are chained to fences, gates, signs, trees, in fact anywhere, even when there was a sign which said 'bikes chained to these railings will be removed'. Most of them looked like complete wrecks, bent and buckled wheels, wheels missing, battered and scratched, they were dumped anywhere and made the place look so untidy.

The buildings are magnificent, the colleges are spread out through the whole of Oxford. I recognised some of the names from when I was a keen fan of Bamber Gascoigne on University Challenge many years ago. It would have been nice to be able to walk around the grounds of the individual colleges, but there was no public access to snoop around the back. I don't know if it's like that all the time, or because it's the Christmas holidays, but all the gates were locked. Some had closed signs at the entrance, a bit disappointing. The Museum was also closed. There was one open, Christ Church college, but it was £5.50 to go in, I took photo's from the outside.

I went to the Museum of Modern Art in Pembroke Street, thinking I had a treat in store, wrong! Big gallery, all white inside, with a collection of paintings from one artist, mounted sparsley around the walls, didn't do anything for me. Smaller room showing a film about the artist, and a coffee shop. Bit disappointing.

Here we go then, and I don't know what this building is, good start eh, ha ha. Note the bicycle.

I think this is on Cornmarket Street, a lovely old timbered property. Reminded me a bit of York.

A little courtyard off one of the main shopping streets.

Next I climbed the Carfax Tower, on the corner of Queen Street and High Street. On the blurb it said 'Best view of the Dreaming Spires', maybe worth paying the £2.30 and climbing the spiral staircase for some good photo's. One or two good views but I wasn't overly impressed.

Lots of roof tops to look at. I spot a Dreaming Spire amongst the tower cranes :o)

That looks nice over there, should have cropped the roof tops out of the picture.

Looking in a westerly direction you can see the green hills beyond the A34.

I quite like this view looking down High Street, an assortment of interesting buildings.

Back down to earth and this lovely old fashioned wooden post box, outside the main post office.

This is a gate into Christ Church college, St Aldates Road, main entrance down the road. No entry here.

More later. The sun is shining and I'm off out to play.

Sharing a walk with my best friend.

Good morning. I am sitting here with Lily on my knee as usual, and back to wearing lots of layers in my central heating free zone. This mild weather means I can live with the absolute minimum of heating, only putting it on for an hour in the evening if it is really cold. I'm on target for a relatively cheap gas bill in February.

Loads of photo's to wade through, here are a few of my last morning with Carol, on Monday. I managed to get her out for another walk, albeit quite short. Frensham Common is 1.5 square miles of open heathland midway between Farnham and Hindhead on either side of the A287. There are two ponds known as Frensham Great and Frensham Little ponds, and they are surrounded by coniferous and mixed woodland. The ponds were built in the 11th century to provide fish for the Bishop of Winchester's estate. The Great Pond was drained during the second world war to prevent enemy aircraft using it as a landmark.

We set off from the visitor centre car park to walk around the Great Pond in a clockwise direction. Part of the waters edge here resembles a sandy beach, children were enjoying themselves playing at building sandcastles and a moat.

A bit further on and we came to the Sailing Club. There were quite a lot of boats out on the water, a slightly warm breeze made it ideal conditions. Although I don't fancy having a go myself, I like to watch people busy enjoying themselves. Preparing to set sail.

Pushing the boat out into the water.

Rows upon rows of boats, all in their allocated parking slots.

Once out on the water the trailers are left along the edge for the return. People are sitting out on the deck of the boathouse enjoying the mild weather.

A life boat is on standby in case anyone gets into difficulty. A bit further round we stopped to watch the sailors as they grappled with the sail to keep themselves in an upright position. Throwing themselves from one side of the boat to the other as the wind changed direction. Several times we thought someone was going to flop their boat over, but they managed to heave ho and pull it back again, with the whole of their body leaning over the side. No wonder they all looked in peak physical condition, you need to work every muscle for this. A great sport if you like water and want to keep fit. This non water babe will stick to walking thank you ;o)

The Frensham Pond Hotel is right on the side of the water. This attracts a few ducks and swans, in the hope that a few morsels will be tossed their way.

Sorry mate, I have no bread today.

This is a Best Western Hotel, and prices range from £65 per night for a single, to £100 for an executive suite. It looks very nice but I will have to stick with Youth Hostels for the time being. One can dream, ha ha.

Aren't swans so very beautiful. They make a place feel very tranquil and fabulous. I love them.

After lunch back at Carol's I was ready to leave for Oxford. It's been a fabulous break, smashing to see my friend again, indeed Carol is the bestest friend anyone could have. She might poke fun at my quirky ways, but she is never condescending and she never looks down on me. Throughout our lives she has always earned more than I have, she had the brains to chose a lucrative career path, I just bimbled along doing what I loved best, driving a truck. Our lives have been completely different, the only thing we have in common is that neither of us had any desire to have children. So for more than 50 years we have remained friends, I hope we have many more years as best friends.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Snuggling up with the cats tonight

Aye up me ducks, I'm back at the homestead. Cats all pleased to see me, especially when I got the 20p chicken slices out of the bag and gave them one each. Lily is now in his favourite place, on my knee. It was such a surprise to get out of the car at Tesco car park and find the wind nearly took the door off. There wasn't any wind at all when I left Oxford at 11.15am, and no wind when I stopped by to visit my uncle Stan in Burton on Trent. I can hear the letter box clattering now on the front door, the wind is whipping across it.

Did I mention stopping at Tesco, of course I had to, just to see if there was anything reduced. I found a trolley parked at the veg department and picked a few items which were a good price. Then the nice lady with the ticket machine came along and took them off me and said she was going to take the trolley in the back and reduced them even further. I didn't argue, ha ha, they know me there. So, I got my next weeks veg plus six bananas and a carton of soya milk for £2.69.

I've just finished off the 20p bean salad, the lettuce, and the garlic piza bread for my late tea, I suppose you could call it supper. A big chunk of 20p coffee cake to follow, it was £2.25, well you have to have it at that price don't you. This is my Sainsbury's haul, eleven items £2.20. I gave the young lady on reception at the hostel a pack of four muffins, she was well chuffed.

I've checked my mileage, as Joyful was asking, it was 479. I'm not sure how much fuel I used, about £50's worth at a guess. I don't work out the mpg, not much point, I bought the car, it's supposed to be economical. I drive at 55 - 60 mph on the motorway, no harsh acceleration and no harsh braking. Nice and gentle on the gas pedal. I stopped once on the way down there for about 20 minutes, and had a two hour break at my uncles on the way back. Probably about five hours driving each way.

Thank you for the translation Christy, I wondered if it had anything to do with fishing. Sorry Sft, I didn't take any photo's of the hostel. It wasn't anything special, looked a bit like a modern office block from the outside. Reception desk as you go in, with snacks and drinks for sale. A big lounge area with computers, TV, and cafe style tables and chairs, and sofas. Another lounge with TV and pool table. The members kitchen was too small for the size of the place. When you have cooked your meal you eat it at the table in the same room, a bit cramped. The restaurant wasn't very busy as most people seemed to cook for themselves. There was a quiet study room with books, but they were all fiction, not enough time to read a whole book if you are only staying for one night. I was in a six bed room, en suite with toilet and wash basin, and a seperate shower room. There was quite a lot of young foreign student types there, mainly Chinese.

I'll get the pics sorted tomorrow, goodnight.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Hampshire to Oxford

Hi, just checking in from not very sunny Oxford, I arrived at 4.30pm. Me and Carol went a walk this morning, round a lake. It was lovely, watching people sailing, and watching the ducks and swans. I think her legs have recovered from the last walk. Joyful asked how far away from home I am. My drive from home to Carol's was 233 miles. Now I am a third the way back, so not so far to go home on Thursday. My plan is to call in to see Uncle Stan on the way through.

I've had a little bimble round Oxford tonight, to get my bearings and look for some good photo opportunities for tomorrow. I shall be up nice and early to get the most out of the day. I have one room mate, not met her yet, but it looks like she has been living in the room for about six months, she has that much stuff. The nice lady on reception says it took her ages to bring all her bags in.

I happened to come across a Sainsbury's during my bimble and noticed that the staff were marking down the goods in the chiller cabinet. I couldn't resist taking a peek. I came out with a bag full of food, everything was marked down to 20p, I just couldn't resist it. Enough food for tomorrow and the next few days. I walked a bit further and blow me down another Sainsbury's. I went in to have a look and came out with three more 20p items, well you just got to have it haven't you.

Sorry no photo's tonight. Must go, time up

Sunday, 25 December 2011

A Spring walk on Christmas day

Christmas day and all is well. A Merry Christmas to everyone, it's like a sunny spring morning here in Hampshire, I have to go for a walk. Carol does not want to join me today, I think I wore her out yesterday, besides she likes to enjoy her time off work relaxing at home. I set off with my map in hand to bimble around the local area. Turn right at the end of the road and take the footpath on the left over the fields. It wasn't long before I was walking through some woods and crossing the River Wey by this little stone bridge. A dog turned up and had a paddle.

I continued towards Headley Park.

Through the wood.

Which is part of Broxhead Common.

At Pickets Hill I came across the Headley Park Hotel, and went to have a look because I didn't understand the word Sodyba on the sign, and wanted to know what it meant.

Along the driveway there was a sign pinned to a tree, in a language I didn't understand.

The hotel looks very grand but also looks very tired and in need of a face lift. It is set in acres of parkland with it's own lake.

A sort of monument in the garden, looks kind of religious.

Carol says it is run by Lithuanians so I did a search, and indeed it is. However it has several not so favourable reviews on Trip Advisor. I noticed it is closed for refurbishment untill the new year, possibly to put right the complaints from the guests.

I walked into Hearn and turned right to Arford, and continued to Headley Down. At the end of the houses I turned right down a path onto Ludshott Common.

It was a very pleasant walk, a few people were out with their dogs, no doubt walking off the effects of a large Christmas dinner. Mine will come later.

Miles of green trees and brown bracken, it was like a spring day, very mild, and little breeze.

I came to where several paths met and was a bit confused as to which way to go. I thought the best plan would be to backtrack a bit and take the path which I was sure would take me in the right direction.

I walked down some narrow roads past some very big posh houses with long driveways. This made me smile. What do you do when you want to put a fence up and a couple of trees are in the way? Build the fence around the trees of course, and leave them poking through it :o)

I got back at 4pm, a lovely bimble at 8.85 miles. Carol made a lovely dinner, lots of veg again and a piece of salmon. Tomorrow I move on to Oxford. I may not be able to post till I get back, so I'll save up the pics for you. Toodle pip.