Sherwood Forest, Thoresby Abbey, Rufford Country Park and Wellsby Abbey


August 13, 2014
Sherwood Forest, Thoresby Abbey, Rufford Abbey Country Park and Wellsby Abbey
It is Wednesday our wedding anniversary so we have planned to catch up with Ingrid and John Pears plus revisit Thoresby Abbey. Ingrid is a world renowned glass blower with her furnace and shop at Thoresby courtyard and past President of the Nottingham Rotary Club. Thoresby is now a Warner Hotel but Warner has restored the Abbey magnificently. It is about 55 minutes north of Long Eaton.
On the way (as usually happens) we were distracted with a sign to Newstead Abbey but the Abbey building is closed during the week. This diversion meant that we approached Thoresby from a different direction and we ran into Rufford Abbey Country Park. Rufford is now a ruin but has an interesting history. The Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in 1147. Henry VIII closed the Abbey and it ended up in the hands of the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury and converted to a country house. Now remember Bess of Hardwick. One of her husbands was the Earl of Shrewsbury so the Abbey might have ended up in the hands of the Cavendish family except that it passed along the female line and ended up in the hands of the Saville Family until sold to Nottingham County Council in 1952 and became England’s first country park. It is 150 acres in size and regularly frequented by families.
Below you will see photos of the Abbey as is today showing
• The interior ground floor of the monks quarters
• The base of a corbel (support for the upper floor) and its grotesque
• One part of the under croft with displays of abbey furniture and
• The other part showing the lay monks quarters and
• What is now called the Orangeries but started life as a bath house with a swimming pool (in 1740 this was quite unique) and the view from the Orangeries to the grounds.

You can read more at website:

We then moved on to the only remnant of Sherwood Forest remaining. Mining and logging over the years has decimated the forest and the Brits are desperately trying to hold on to this little bit. It is near the village of Edwinstowe and includes a visitor centre and various walks in the forest. We took the walk to Major Oak said to be the tree Robin Hood and men used as a hiding spot because the trunk has a cavity which can hold 13 men. All of the good oak trees have been cut out leaving the stunted and diseased but even these have grown to enormous proportions over 800 years. In Robin’s time the forest was a Royal Hunting Forest made up of villages open heath woodland sunny glades and farmland. I was surprised to learn that the ecology of the forest is quite unique and includes 200 different species of spider and 1500 species of beetle.
I have given you below photos of
• The entrance to the visitors centre
• Major Oak (11m in circumference and longest limbs being 28m)
• An eagle and a hawk at the visitors centre

• The Robin Hood supply wagon

• and us enjoying a cuppa

You can read more at website:

Finally we made our way to Thoresby. Having been there before we went straight to the Courtyard (the former stables turned into a retail centre for the hotel) in the hope of catching up with Ingrid and John. We had heard that Ingrid had been ill so it came as no real surprise that her studio was closed. So we went to the hotel to have lunch but ended up visiting the restored abbey because it is so outstanding. I have attached photos of the:
• the entrance to the courtyard
• the abbey in the distance
• the grand hall
• the blue room restaurant and the hand-made silk wall paper costing 500 pound per metre
• a carving of “major oak” and
• examples of towel art

You can read more at website:
There is reference in the tourist guides to the “the Dukeries” which is a reference to the 4 great ducal estates in the region south of Worksop. The Duke of Newcastle (Clumber House – no longer there) Duke of Portland (Welbeck Abbey – questionably there) the Duke of Kingston (Thoresby Hall) and the Duke of Norfolk (Worksop Manor). To find out more about the Dukeries and to get some lunch we went to Welbeck Abbey. We were puzzled by the crowds of people visiting this former abbey which is now just a group of shops selling plants to produce. Not worth the visit unfortunately and no photos.

Peaks district – Blue John Cavern and the Chestnut Centre

August 14, 2014
Peaks district – Blue John Cavern and the Chestnut Centre
Sunrise Thursday the weather looks clear and cool but the TV forecasts rain for everywhere else in Britain. Therefore a good time to visit the Peaks District. This is about 1 hour 15 mins north-west of Long Eaton by car travelling out through Chesterfield. We have two objectives the Blue John Cavern and the Chestnut Centre both near the village of Chapel en le Frith (Yes we are still in the UK but in the 12th century when this used to be royal hunting forest King Stephen established the chapel and from there grew the town. These royals of course were Normans and spoke French not Saxon so it became known as the Chapel in the Forest or Chapel en le Frith).
The drive was trouble free and when we started to climb the hills the scenery changed dramatically. Suddenly the hills were the colour purple with heather flowering everywhere. We stopped by a public walkway (these paths are all over the UK allowing the public to walk across most open fields and hills) and took the photos below. Tres pretty and this is where we got the first inkling that cool really meant very cool. We continued the drive and the scenery just got more and more picturesque. It is hard to pull over to take photos so I just snapped them from inside the car. I also took a video which I am not sure if I can put into my blog but I will try. It will give you some idea of the extraordinary beauty of this region.
We came into the Blue John cavern region through Castletown and to access the cavern we had to travel through this pass in the hills which looked like a giant sword strike in the hills (see photos below). As we travelled up the crag sheep hung precariously off the slopes grazing but I wondered how many had become road kill over time – how they hung on I don’t know. Once we reached the top and made our way to the turnoff to the cavern another extraordinary vista opened before us. Just pretty country.
The cavern looked pretty tired. The visitors centre looked more like a military bunker and the entrance to the cavern looked like a cell. It did not help that we were dressed for a summer day and it felt like the middle of a Brisbane winter day. Even in the cavern it felt like a fridge.
Blue John (or as the nobles of the 17th century referred to it “Bleu et Juene” [French was still the language of the nobility] – hence the locals misinterpreted it as Blue John) is a semi-precious fluor-spar mineral formed in the limestone and mined for the last 300 years. It is the only hill in the world where this mineral can be found so the clever miners have reduced production to simply top up use of the product annually thereby holding its value as a semi-precious mineral. I have included some of our photos going through the cavern and some of the veins of the mineral and the entrance to the current cavern where the commercial deposits can be mined (not allowed in there). I have also taken a photo of a yellow stone/deposit in the gift store window as there was none of that evident in the cavern.
After surfacing from the cavern we travelled on to the Chestnut Centre (Otter Owl and wildlife-park). We stopped for a coffee from our new flask courtesy of our friendly bus driver Robert and then ventured into the park. We arrived at feed time for some of the animals. We saw a martin, some European polecats (looked very much like the martin) various owls from little ones to big ones and otters from little ones to big ones. Kerry was put off that they were feeding them dead day old chicks but none of the kids seemed the least bit worried. I have given you a variety of pictures below. As we arrived at the Giant Otter pen it started to rain and rain and rain so we made our way back to the visitors centre but on the way stopped under a tree to watch the deer being feed hence the rain drops on the lens.
It was time we were fed. So we decided to shout ourselves lunch instead of the boiled eggs we had planned to eat. We found the Roebuck Pub in Chapel en le Frith in the ancient part of the town (the pub had been there in some form since the 12th century and the food tasted like it was from that epoc). Rested and fed we travelled home via Ikea town where Kerry solved a problem with the curtains in our bedroom – bought new curtains. So ended another successful adventure.
I have attached photos of:
• the heather over the hills
• views of the picturesque country side
• the gorge and the visitors centre
• the trip down the cavern
• “blue john” in the face of the wall and cut and polished and
• The pole martin and his friends at the Chestnut Centre.

Derby – the industrial city

August 11 2014


We have been redecorating the flat now for almost a week (repainting and replacing some of the worn out and broken furniture – 6 years of tenants) and whilst we are within sight of finishing we decided it was time for a break (and to acquire some further bits and pieces to finish off). Close by Long Eaton is the city of Derby and Westfield has constructed a large shopping centre just on the fringe of the CBD. So it is a little bit of home I suppose but there is parking and on a rainy day you are warm and dry.

Derby has quite a history. It is both a city (approx. 250,000 people as at 2011 census) and the name of the county in which it is located. It is the home of the Industrial revolution with the first mechanised factory in the world having been constructed there in 1721. The entrepreneur was a fellow named John Lombe (died 6 years later rumoured to have been poisoned by an Italian “Mata Hari”) who was one of the first industrial spys in the world taking technology from Italy for the spinning of silk and patenting the process in the UK and thereby breaking the China/Italy strangle hold on silk. The remnants of his factory remain today as Derby’s Industry Museum.

Derby is the home of Rolls Royce but many of the industrial engineering industries for which Derby became famous have closed. Royal Crown Derby makers of fine bone china has gone through a metamorphosis to emerge as a specialist manufacturer of porcelain and bone china.

There is evidence of Roman settlement and later Anglo Saxon records of a settlement that has grown into Derby. The origin of the town name could be Anglo Saxon (Djura-by), Roman (Dervinto) or Danish (deor)


In the Civil War (Cromwell times 1642 – 1646) Derby had a turbulent history but was on the side of Parliament against the Royalist Armies but 100 hundred years later it played host to Bonnie Prince Charlie where he planned his assault on London to regain the throne of England for the Stuarts. As you all know Charlie backed away from the fight and faced his “Waterloo” at Culloden in 1746, which saw the House of Hanover replace the House of Stuart on the thrones of England Scotland Wales and Ireland. (I will have a little more about Cromwell and his connection with Long Eaton/Attenborough later on).

Derby is built upon the Derwent River and many mills were establish in the Derwent Valley to make use of the water power generated by the river. There is a whole system of mills along the valley but the most interesting to us was the mill at Darley Abbey. We have not made it to the Abbey this time but when we do I will show you all that remains of the 12th century abbey and the industrial weir providing the power for the mills along the Derwent.

In the photos following you will see

• the symbol of Derby the Ram located in the Mall,

• the Book Café (the home of the largest scones known to man) – we stopped for a cuppa and I had an enormous cheese scone and Kerry a sultana scone; the premises were so popular it seemed no one was able to walk past it without coming in,

• the Tiger Bar (a pub which is built over the entrance to the Derby Catacombs – regular ghost tours are conducted where the tourists disappear into a trap door in the floor of the dining room in the bar and reappear later) – we may return for the ghost tour ourselves,

• Derby Cathedral dating from the 12th century and where Bess of Hardwick (a famous identity from Elizabeth I’s reign, one of the wives of the Lord Cavendish and she starting as a 15 year old had 4 husbands and 11 children herself [the family are now the Duke of Devon and much of the privately owned land in London belongs to this family] and gaoler of Mary Queen of Scots) is buried along with all the family members since the 17th century

• Bonnie Prince Charlie on his horse to commemorate his plotting at Derby,

• the Old Silk Mill Pub (no connection with the original factory other than it is close by)

• Derby’s oldest pub Ye Old Dolphin,

• the catholic monolith St Mary’s (it replaced an older church destroyed by Henry VIII)

• the remnants of the first industrial factory (the Silk Factory) now the Derby Museum of Industry

• a painting by an unknown (and not very good) artist of Derby showing the Silk Factory, Exeter House and the town of Derby circa 1725 – they purchased this from an auction because it is the only record they have showing what the town and factory looked like and it shows Exeter House where Charlie and his co-conspirators met – this was later used to entertain visiting industrialist checking out the factory

• a 3D printer in action at the museum – we saw it produce a whistle which worked and two feathers usable as book marks – amazing to see an image turned into a solid, and we saw kinetic sand which is remarkable because it only sticks to itself and therefore is perfect for model making

• remarkable premises of a local law firm “Flint Bishop” occupying this whole building – have a look at their website they have people for just about every letter of the alphabet

the Ramthe Book Cafethe Tiger BarDerby CathedralBonnie Prince Charliethe Silk Mill HotelYe Olde Dolphinthe Silk Factory18th century Derby 3D printerFlint Bishop offices DerbyThe Abbey - the remenants of the Darley AbbeyWhat a place of worship - The Abbey

I have also included some older photos of Darley Abbey from previous visits. All that remains of the Abbey is a former church turned into a pub. Somewhat of a miracle turning water into wine women and song.

Attenborough Nature Reserve and the Canal

Sunday August 10
Attenborough Nature Reserve and the Canal
There are a lot of places of interest around Long Eaton and in the shires generally. Last Sunday we visited the Attenborough Nature Reserve (not named after Richard Attenborough but named after the community in which it is located between Long Eaton and Nottingham). This area now 250ha in size started as a gravel pit and dumping ground for the fly ash from the nearby power station. It is now Britain’s second largest and second most popular nature reserve with over 50 species of bird living / visiting the water ways created by the extraction of gravel and return of the surface clays to create the ponds. There are long walks through the reserve and a conservation centre with information on the site. We took a free guided tour through part of the reserve and here are some of our photos.
Photo of the centre and our walk.

Within 100m of our flat is the Erewash Canal. Built in 1776 by a consortium of local merchants (collieries brick works and engineering workshops) it was the transport for all of the produce of the area until the railway started in 1846. It is approx. 13 miles long and joins the River Trent which flows to the North Sea. The locals chipped in 100 pounds each to cover the cost of 23,000 pounds to build and the cost came in under budget. There are 9 locks along its course raising the height of the canal 109 feet.
After the railways were developed the canals gradually lost commercial value and fell into disrepair. In 1969 the community formed a preservation group to restore the canal for recreational purposes. Today there is a fabulous walk down to the River Trent and there is a variety of wildlife and hedgerows along the way (about one and one half hour round trip flat to the pub [not allowing drinking time] and back). The canal is full of swans with their goslings and many other water fowl. It is also home to a canal boat industry with many variety of boat and industry supporting the boats along the canal. Here is a collage of the scenes I have viewed on my walk.

Long Eaton Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire

Date August 5
Long Eaton Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire
Long Eaton is a town in Derbyshire but lies just north of the River Trent about 7 miles south-west of Nottingham and is part of the Nottingham urban area but not part of the city itself. Long Eaton is referred to in the Doomsday Book as Aitone and is located at the lowest bridging point of the River Erewash. In 1228 the town gained the “Long” prefix due to the length of the town. In 1694 “the Great Fire of Long Eaton” destroyed 14 houses and several other buildings. The town developed around lace making with many old lace factories abandoned or converted in the town. It also had a railway wagon industry. (Source Wikipedia)
These industries were probably the influence for the construction of the Erewash canal which runs immediately behind our flat building.
One of the notable buildings in town is the Parish Church of St Laurence which local tradition dates from the 11th century (built by King Cnut) but it is more likely 12th century Norman. It is now overlooked by the eyesore Tesco Extra behemoth. There is some surprising architecture in town including the old Glitter and Dance UK headquarters at Harrington Mill built in 1885 with one and a quarter million bricks and is 167 meters long. There is also some pretty ordinary architecture from the 60’s and 70’s.

Our flat is in an old mill converted to the use and has retained its original chimney.

Photo of the building, entrance gates and chimney along with

• St Laurence Parish Church,
• The monstrosity Tesco store,
• Its companion ASDA,
• The old cinema showing some of the more acceptable 60’s architecture,
• The beautiful flower beds in the Main St,

• the High St which has been decimated by Tescoe and ASDA

• Market St/Tamworth Rd

DSC00082 DSC00077 DSC00076 DSC00073DSC00071



July 30 2014 – The Retirees Go Abroad

Date July 30

The Retirees Go Abroad

Well the day has arrived. After all the farewell parties I’m glad to get away and return to my usual routine. Cassandra and Lilly came to the International airport as our final farewell wishers and Lilly had a ball “surfing” on our suitcases.

We have moved up the ranks in EVA to where we are now Gold Card members and even though we are flying economy we get the “benefits” – use of the lounge in Brisbane and Taipei and priority boarding. They even gave us 4 seats as the plane was not full and Kerry made full use of three of them.

We arrived early morning in Taipei and for the first time we boarded a bus from the plane to travel to the terminal. It was muggy and overcast and our jackets for the UK were a pain to carry. Transist at Taipei requires that we go through the scanners once again but this has now become familiar. So familiar that we entered the international terminal and walked directly to the EVA lounge and lined up for the showers.

The showers are something to behold. A shower head spraying over your body whilst three jets massage your back. I did not want to get out and it seems the lock on the shower door did not want me to leave either. After a bit of a tussle I won my freedom. The lounge is pleasant and the food very Asian.

Inside the Terminal/Hello Kitty


We have a two and one half hours layover, so we catch up on emails and Kerry plugs in all her contacts for video links via google hangouts. I send an email to Phil as the first job is to pick up our “new” car and we have a rendezvous at the Black Lion at Patcham to meet Phil.

Its now about 1 hour from our London arrival, breakfast has been served and Kerry and I realise that we are not arriving midmorning as we had thought but rather 7.00 pm – our bus to Brighton had departed at 11.00 am. Oops! One thing we have learned is never panic there is always a solution it just costs money.

We land at Heathrow terminal 2 (the Queens Terminal) which has been newly renovated and get to the luggage hall of Terminal 2 and our priority luggage is almost the last off the belt (so much for our gold class status) and I cannot contact Phil. Our UK prepaid mobile is working but Phil is not picking up. Decision time. Do we overnight at Heathrow or catch a bus to the Black Lion? In the UK (as with much of Europe) it remains light much longer than home so we decide on the bus and set off for Terminal 4. We were stiff from 28 hours in the air but soon worked this off as we walked through underground tunnels to the Terminal arriving at the bus station (I had been here previously when travelling from Nottingham to Heathrow some years ago and little had changed). I guard the luggage and Kerry pleads our case to amend our tickets. Success for $5 Kerry gets us tickets on the bus to Brighton at 8.50 pm.

Now I had not mentioned that our luggage consisted of two large suitcases two ordinary size suitcases two small suitcases and various bits of hand luggage and coats. So here we are

How many bags?

How many bags?

The time went by fairly quickly and the bus arrived on time. Only a few passengers so maybe a quick trip. I had rung the reception at the Black Lion and it closed at 11.00 pm. Our ETA – 11.30 pm. So by arrangement they would wait for us to arrive. All seemed well. But when the bus spent the first 40 mins just getting out of Heathrow and then 40 mins going around the terminals at Gatwick I was getting nervous. These airports are small cities in their own right. The actual trip from Heathrow to Brighton is only an hour (provided the M25 doesn’t play up) and the rest of the trip is spent travelling through the two airports.

We caught some sleep on the bus and arrived at bus stop down the road from the Black Lion Hotel Patcham around 11.20 pm. Kerry stood guard over the luggage whilst I transported it to the hotel (I use that word loosely – it is a pub with rooms attached). We booked in searched for and located our room (the number of stairs was ridiculous and I found myself lumping these suitcases up and down till midnight). [note to self – think twice before moving to another country]

Showered we both fell into bed but neither of us could sleep, so we tossed and turned til morning got up at an unearthly hour waited til the kitchen opened (no dinner the night before) and went for a walk through Patcham.

Victorian Houses in Patcham note the height of the front doorDSC00030DSC00031

Brambles by the footpath Blackberries


Our Hotel The Black Lion


Phil had rung and arranged to pick us up and take us to Newhaven to sign the paperwork for our car, so when Mick arrived he decided to play a trick and pretend he was Phil. (Mick is my cousin in law who is married to my cousin Terri and they live in France at Dampierre and Phil is his identical twin brother) I was expecting Phil and notwithstanding my instincts telling me this was Mick, and Kerry having the same feeling I went along until we arrived at the car yard at Newhaven where the trick became very apparent. Bastard I will have to get even – so we have arranged a prolonged stay at Dampierre sur Boutonne (Mick and Terri’s “gites” are located here) so that I can plot my revenge. They are renovating a house at St. Leger and I have been promised hard labour when we visit. Phil has also offered accommodation at his home at Seaport on the English Channel – an offer we will certainly take up.

We went for a cup of tea at a harbour side cafe (a caravan with some tables and chairs) and then left Newhaven with our new car. Kerry is very excited about our mint green Hyundai (yet to be named).

Cup of tea at Newhaven


COMPETITION – what is the name for our new car? Give me your ideas and we will let you know when we “christen” it.

It is very spacious and a bit like a 4 wheel drive as it is taller then most cars. It held all our luggage and three adults.

Our Mint Green Hyundai Matrix


We decided to visit the Devil’s Dyke on the way to Long Eaton (our home for the next few months). I can recall growing up my father who was born in Brighton Hove telling me that he and his brothers (there was quite a lot of them) would slide down the sides of the dyke on card board or tinThe Devil’s Dyke is a 100m deep “V” shaped valley near Brighton Hove and a serious tourist attraction during Victorian period of England. Wikipedia reports:

“The hills surrounding the valley offer views of the South Downs, The Weald, and – on a clear day – the Isle of Wight. It is the site of ramparts, all that remain of an Iron Age hillfort, and a pub. It is a popular local beauty spot for the Brighton and Hove area (though it is actually in West Sussex).”

“Local folklore explains the valley as the work of the devil. The legend holds that the devil was digging a trench to allow the sea to flood the many churches in the Weald of Sussex. The digging disturbed an old woman who lit a candle, or angered a rooster causing it to crow, making the devil believe that the morning was fast approaching. The devil then fled, leaving his trench unfinished. The last shovel of earth he threw over his shoulder fell into the sea, forming the Isle of Wight.”

I have included some of our photos of the Dyke, the Weald and the panorama from the top .




We then set off for home and unfortunately the M25 was not in a good mood (the M25 is the 8 lane ring road around London and the access to Heathrow from the north south and west of England and access to Gatwick Airport from anywhere so the traffic can simply stop as the off ramps fill to capacity). It took us 6 hours to travel what should have been a three hour trip.

After finally arriving after 6.00pm we unloaded and settled into our flat reacquainted with our neighbours John and Pat and sorted the remnants from 6 years of tenants in the flat. We had already had dinner at one of the many “services” on the M1 highway (the main highway north up the centre of England) rather than trying to cook when we got to the flat so we started the work of re-organising which carried over into the next morning when we again rose early (bloody jet lag) and completed the work – disposing of rubbish cleaning floors disposing of broken furniture unpacking etc). We took a trip to Derby to get a new sim for Kerry’s phone (NEW PHONE NUMBER [International code, area code 44 then 0747 6006656] and get other supplies, a visit to our local Tesco and a walk around the High St. It will take time but we are settling in. One of the worst jobs was cleaning the oven which required that we soak it over night but I think we will need to repeat the process to get it clean.

Domestic bliss cleaning the oven together