Retirees Go Abroad – Ordinary Lives living in the UK – Poole’s Cavern

One of the things that Kerry misses over here is the grandchildren. But she now has time to knit so all of those having children (Ben and Phadera, Damien and Barbara, Robert and Dana) are the beneficiaries of her cluckiness as she knits shawls for all of these new borns. We purchased the pattern (and the first lot of wool) in Sheringham in Norfolk. Then having pulled her hair out over the difficulty of the square shawl she decided to knit the round pattern, ran out of wool bought more wool in Buxton in Derbyshire only to find it was not the same shade of white and the pattern seemed to be inaccurate and she abandoned the trial. Purchasing more wool she set sail into her second shawl.

Now all this is to tell you how we ended up back in Buxton visiting Poole’s Cavern. She needed more wool for the third shawl.

Poole’s Cavern can be found in Buxton itself. The Cavern has been known about for centuries but only really became a tourist Poole’s Cavern attraction in the 19th century. The cavern has been sculptured by water over the centuries and archaeological finds show it has been used by pre-historic cave dwellers, romans and highway men like Mr Poole who has given the cavern his name. The first explorers would have trekked through forest and climbed through a narrow opening into the cavern where they would have used candle light to climb over the rock strewn floor of the cavern to marvel at the stalactite and stalagmite formations. Then an inventive Victorian opened the cavern entrance and paved a path through the cavern installing the first gas lamps as he went. This work no doubt interfered with the natural environment but it also gave us the access to the cavern we enjoy today.

The cavern is home to various types of bat but they are shy creatures and are rarely seen by visitors. There is a feature of the cavern which has the scientific population in a stir. Certain Stalagmites which are phallic in shape are growing in decades not centuries and there is argument as to how that can happen. Above the cavern is Grin Low hill which over the 18th century was home to Lime burners. One theory is that it is the accumulation of this lime in the soil which activates the fast growth of the stalagmites. Whether true or not it is spectacular to see a forest of penises all with a yellow head poking their heads to the roof of the cavern.

Now once again we had the pleasure of an exclusive tour due to the time of year and the weather. Notwithstanding the weather, the guided tour and the visit to the cavern is well worth the trip.

While we were on tour the guide informed us of some of the dignitaries who visited down the ages and told us they had all stayed in a particular hotel in Buxton – The Old Hall Hotel, claimed to be the oldest surviving accommodation hotel dating back to the 17th century. So we visited the hotel (which backs onto the baths) and at the same time looked over the Opera house. On the way home we stopped at Ashbourne for afternoon tea. Photos of Buxton and Ashbourne follow.

Kerry did get her wool so all orders for a shawl will be fulfilled.

Retirees Go Abroad – Ordinary Lives living in the UK – Svein’s Day Tour

Our day started completely differently to yesterday. Yesterday was very wintery but today the sun is shining and although the air is cool it is comfortable. I was determined to show Svein the grand tour of Long Eaton. So scarves on and beanies pulled over our ears, we strolled off to the High St.

Long Eaton has been invaded by a Tesco Extra, and an equally big ASDA store. Beside Tesco is a large Aldi Store. All of these stores have been constructed on the fringe of the central business district so it should come as no surprise to learn that the Long Eaton High St has been decimated. The High St, once the centre of commercial activity in the town, is now a ghostly mall with mostly charities and vacant shops. But there is one unlikely survivor, Rowells, a 19th century haberdashery shop. On entering the shop I am reminded of the haberdashery shops my mother visited in Stones Corner and Bay St Wynnum in the early 60’s. Perhaps because of Tesco and ASDA, Rowells continues to survive offering old time service and selections.

At the end of the High St where it joins Main St. we turn right and proceed to an abandoned building which must have once been the tallest in town with its clock tower above. Pasted on the grime and dirt covering the building is a hopeful notice of a planned renovation. I have no idea whether this is current or past history. We walk along Main St passed Bank St where once Glitter and Dance had its warehouse. The street is largely unpaved and derelict. Access to the warehouse was from the car park of another merchandise shop. It looks sad without the colourful posters inviting customers to drop in. We walk around past the Duchess Theatre which always looks closed but the advertising assures that a local theatre group will be putting on a show soon. Then past the “antiques shop” which apart from its contents is advertised for sale or lease. We walked on to the library and into Tamworth Rd. We followed the road around through Market Place back into Regent St and home. I have included photos of two icons of Long Eaton – Rowells, and the “antiques” shop.

Our next stop was the Attenborough wildlife centre. There are some new visitors, a flock of black and white tufted ducks (these are here all year round apparently but I don’t recall seeing them) and a porchard duck – all on his own. Some Canada Geese goslings were there in their teenage plumage. I showed Svein the bird hide but with everything else we wanted to achieve we could not go walking through the wetlands.

We drive into Nottingham stopping at the DH Lawrence centre in the grounds of the University of Nottingham where we have morning tea and check out the ice on the lake and how the birds are handling the cold weather. I had hoped to show Svein the George Green display but it has finished so we must go to the windmill.

On to Nottingham which sits on top of a sandstone shelf which has given the people of Nottingham the resource for caverns and tunnels under the city. We find a park below the place where Nottingham Castle once stood and park the car. Some of the tunnels and caverns are immediately apparent but the best thing we could do to show Svein how this rock shelf has been used was to visit the UK’s oldest pub – Ye Olde Trip to Jeruselum said to have been founded in 1187. We could not pass the Olde Trip and its rooms in the base of the Castle rock. A glass of mulled wine and an inspection of the pubs interior gives you a clear idea of how the locals used the sandstone shelf.  Pictures of the excavated sandstone and some of the caverns follow.

We head off to Sneiton and the windmill. This is the windmill where George Green Nottingham’s famous but almost forgotten mathematician started life and raised his family. Uneducated beyond primary school Green developed theories on physics and magnetism that are still in use today.


Then onto Southwell Minster and Arch Bishops Palace. A magnificent cathedral it has seen some of England’s more tumultuous events. From the tiles for the former Roman villa to the Saxon foundations the Norman nave and transepts with its gothic extensions it really is extraordinary. Some different photos of the Minster are set out below.

To end the day we went to Thoresby Abbey where Warner Hotels has brought the old Abbey back to life as part of one of its leisure hotels. Some different photos of the Abbey are below. The sun has now set as we warm ourselves in front of the fire with a beer in hand. It will take us an hour to drive back home but we have had a pleasant day.

Retirees Go Abroad – Ordinary Lives living in the UK – Winter Wonderland in the Peak District

The Peak District is west and north – west of Derby. It is comprised of hills and valleys covered in heather and green during spring, summer and autumn but in winter it is covered in snow. Svein’s wife Diane had visited Kerry in September whilst I had returned to Australia for work and she was so taken by the Peak District that Svein needed to see it for himself.

Now Svein is an artist and lives in the old town of Brugges in Belgium. Painting landscapes is not his style but he has a keen appreciation of nature and it’s beauty. We decided we would visit Matlock then visit Chatsworth House and move onto Buxton and then home. Here in Long Eaton we had seen snow flurries and felt the chilling winds but the snow did not last and fortunately neither did the ice that follows the snow. But it was a different story as soon as we started climbing the rural roads outside Chesterfield to travel to Matlock. Upon arriving in Matlock the temperature had dropped significantly there was slush in the street with black ice and we decided it would be good to visit in spring.

I set Tommy (our gps) for the quickest route to Buxton and we would pick up signs to Chatsworth on the way. However at one point Tommy told us to turn left and clearly that was not going to happen. In front of us there appeared a narrow village street with both sides lined with parked cars both street and cars covered in snow (no snow plough here). Thistle has front wheel drive and after we had travelled about 4 metres, Thistle started to slip and slide up the hill in front of us. We had another 200 metres to go to the top of the hill when I made the decision to slide back down to the intersection and find another road to Chatsworth House. However it was so pretty I was directed to stop for the photo gathers to snap pictures.

We found our way to Chatsworth House under snow. Now I expect Diane will be envious but it cannot be helped. We have been here numerous times but we were still not ready for the Christmas card scene. The house was not open for visitors but the stables were and it was nice to get out for a walk and shelter from the wind. Inside the stables we found the local Peak District Artisans had a display. Fantastic promotion of the artisans and their work which included jewellery, silverware, ceramics, art, furniture photography and textile design. Svein was jealous that there is no similar promotion for the artisans of Brugges.

We moved on to Taddington. As we drove to Buxton through the snow and frozen trees of the Peak District a sign on the edge of the road pronounced “Food – next mile”. Svein was looking for lunch at a country pub and you don’t get much more country that Taddington. So we left the road for the track that led to Taddington and the Queens Arms Hotel.

After parking Thistle in a down – hill position to ensure we could leave we went into the hotel where we were the only patrons. The fire was alight and warm a small space in front of it. Otherwise the bar was as cold as a witch’s elbow. Sitting beside the fire we ordered lunch and it was just what Svein wanted – a large plate with lashings of chips and ale pie. An hour or so went by and still no other patrons came into the pub. I awakened the barmaid sitting prone in front of a two bar electric heater messaging on her phone. As we paid our bill the barmaid announced that the road to Buxton was closed due to snow and we may need to rethink our route.  We decided to risk the journey and set off.

The snow had stopped and we made it safely into Buxton. We had read about the world’s largest unsupported dome being in Buxton. With a diameter of 44 m (144.356 ft), larger than the Pantheon (43 metres (141 ft)) and St Peter’s Basilica 42 m (137.794 ft) in Rome, and St Paul’s Cathedral (34 metres (112 ft))it was created for the 7th Duke of Devonshire between 1780–1789 from the Great Stables formerly part of the Crescent. The Crescent was modelled on Bath’s Royal Crescent along with an irregular octagon and colonnade of the Great Stables. The Dome became the Devonshire Royal Hospital (now the Devonshire Campus of the University of Derby). The record was surpassed by space frame domes such as the Georgia Dome (256 metres (840 ft.). The building and its surrounding Victorian villas are part of the University of Derby.

After a visit to the Dome and a hot chocolate at our favourite chocolate shop we agreed we were cold enough to call it a day and headed home.

The retirees go Abroad – Living ordinary lives in the UK – Royal Crown Derby Porcelain

We have been coming to the UK now for over 6 years and each time we have agreed that we must visit the Royal Crown Derby Porcelain factory. Sounds a bit boring so we managed to skip it time and time again. At this time of the year when very little is open and the weather is cold, we could not escape so on a grey day we tripped over to Derby and the Royal Crown Derby Museum and factory for the tour. The factory is in the inner suburbs of Derby.

“The Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company is an oldest or second oldest remaining English porcelain manufacturer, based in Derby, England (disputed by Royal Worcester 1751 year of establishment). The company, particularly known for its high-quality bone china, has produced tableware and ornamental items since approximately 1750. It was known as ‘Derby Porcelain’ until 1773, when it became ‘Crown Derby’, the ‘Royal’ being added in 1890. The factory closed down in the past under Royal Doulton ownership, but production was revived under the renewed ownership of Hugh Gibson and Pearson family.” (Wikipedia)

Upon arriving at a plain looking factory we entered into a reception/ Museum. Whilst waiting for the tour to begin we looked around the Museum and as I did not see the sign prohibiting photography I took these shots, so you are very lucky to see this lovely display of porcelain. First thing I spotted was the Zepplin marked service which is the contents of the furnace when the factory was hit by a bomb dropped by a Zepplin in WW1 (there are very few of the pieces still remaining and if you see a piece marked with the Zepplin then it is very rare) Then there is the settings for the SS Olympic and SS Titanic. RCD made the settings and of course had to replace the settings for the Titanic. There are also copies of specific orders for the Royal family, middle-eastern potentates and American millionaires.

In the centre of the museum is a very special piece which was the last photo I snapped before I was informed about the prohibition. We toured the factory and saw everything from the throwing of the clay to the hand painting of special pieces. We even learnt how to distinguish seconds from first pieces. Certainly interesting and worth doing. We then visited the visited the general museum with pieces from 1750 through to the present. It included a special exhibition from a private collector which basically filled a room 15m x 7m. Then as we left there was a special exhibition of vases. So I took some special photos of these very precious vases.

As usual we ended up in the gift shop and noticed that there was a special on certain firsts but just as we started selecting our pieces this other chap started taking the pieces off the table by the armful. It turned out that he is a retailer who grabs all these things for his shop. We got away with our few pieces before he swooped.


Retirees Go Abroad – Ordinary Lives living in the UK – Erewash Canal


Well it is now three weeks since we returned from our Xmas New year tour with the Bishops and apart from hosting a short visit by Svien Koningen, we have been conserving our resources. In this period we have walked our canal, visited Crown Derby Porcelain Factory, toured the peak District to see it in snow, a day tour commencing with a walking tour of Long Eaton, followed by visiting Attenborough Wildlife Reserve, University of Nottingham St Lawrence Centre, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Southwell Minster and Thoresby Hall. Then we tripped down to Thornton Reservoir, and Boswell Field Battle Visitors centre.

Walking the Erewash Canal

One of the only things flowering at this time is in the garden of our flats. Apparently it is a Himalayan bush hence the cold weather makes it flower. On this day I took a series of photos of our canal (Erewash Canal). Trent Lock (the canal junction with the River Trent) has two pubs, the Steamboat and Trent Lock. I have included some photos of places things and inhabitants of the canal.  I have been playing with the settings on the camera so you will see some different effects.

We have previously always walked toward Trent Locke in the east, but on a particularly nice day we walked in the opposite direction toward Langley Mill in the west. I did not take the camera because we were just going for a walk. Next time I will get some shots.

What started out as a bright cloudless day turned a bit sour when the wind lifted and with the ambient temperature hovering around 1*C the wind had a real bite.

Despite the cold, we walked for about an hour arriving in Sandiacre yet another nearby village. Kerry spotted the Red Lion Pub and wanted to warm up so we crossed the road to find it was permanently closed. There are a lot of abandoned hotels throughout these villages and this one presented an interesting building which appeared to have the old stables still in the back of the hotel. She spotted the White Lion Pub 100m up the road but I was not interested and so we turned around and walked home. There are two further locks in this section. In all the canal has 14 locks and is approximately 11 miles in length.


Bishops Visit – France and More – Gay Paris and New Years Eve

Some years ago, 1990 to be exact, we spent New Years eve in Paris in our hotel room. We had planned to be on Champs Elysees for all the excitement but when bus loads of Gendarmes turned up and all the shop keepers were boarding up as though a cyclone was about to hit the town we thought better of being there. This year we are older (much older) and wiser so we thought that we would position ourselves to take best advantage of the fireworks we expected for New Years Eve.

We had to visit American Express office to collect a new card. Amex had detected some use of Kerry’s card in the USA and cancelled it. So Kerry arranged that we would go to Rue Scribe in Paris and collect the card. So after breakfast we caught the metro to Place de l’Opera. As we surfaced we saw the wonderful building giving its name to this square and then called upon Kerry’s IPhone to direct us to this unknown street. After a false start we found that Rue Scribe is at the rear of the Opera (this makes sense as a “Scribe” is a writer). We walked in and were told that there was no card awaiting us. This led to Kerry calling Amex in Sydney and whilst waiting on the phone in walks a bloke form DHL and he asks the receptionist beside us to accept delivery of a letter to Madame Young. Of course it was Kerry’s new card.

Fate had intended to delay us at Amex. We then visited Galleries Lafayette Maison; a new 5 story addition providing the best in a food hall and homewares. After going around salivating we exited the shop for a breath of air and ran into Mike, Kate and their family.

After that chance meeting we headed to Galleries for a coffee (very nice and expensive) and view the extraordinary Xmas decorations and visit to the roof top patio to take in the views. There was an exhibition of Chinese artefacts which seemed a little strange so much so that we could not work out if a post in the store was part of the exhibition or not. Anyway I have included a picture of the sculptures or at least I think they were sculptures.


We then meet up with the Bishops had lunch at the cafeteria (more affordable and cheaper than our coffee) and went back to GLM to buy provisions and then to the hotel to prepare our picnic for that night – Bishops went via the bottle shop. Packed and ready for the new year celebrations, we had a nap.


Bishops Visit – France and More – Gay Paris and What happened to New Years Eve

December 31, 2014, five o’clock we walked out of our hotel with backpack, thermos, box of liquour chocolates, champagne (Verve Clicquot of course), AND most importantly two blankets kindly (but unknowingly) supplied by our hotel. These blankets were to prove essential.

We entered Monmarte from the north and came up through the village and its square. The place was alive with tourists and particularly walking tours. Our goal was to get a strategic positon on the steps of Sacre Coeur.

When we arrived there were still tours going through the church, so we took up a position on the western side of the steps near a sign board which every bloody tour wanted to view. We ducked and weaved many photo opportunities.

The crowd waxed and waned. Sometimes it appeared the forecourt was filling up and then the crowd would drift away. We had a group of musicians playing Spanish style music for a while – we even shared our liquor chocolates with them. There were the ever present Africans selling shit and scampering whenever the local police turned up but never afraid of the squad of armed Gendarmes that regularly patrolled/strolled through our area.

Bu 11.00pm more people started to arrive. Our blankets were proving invaluable to protect our bums from the cold of the stairs and to provide extra warmth as the thermometer dropped to -1C. The crowd became noisy and restless so that by 11.50pm someone decided to send up Chinese hot air balloons. At first they rose successfully and floated behind us to the north over Sacre Coeur then one got caught in a tree threatening to set on fire the tree and the street performer beside it doing the worst statue impressions ever.

11.55pm others below the forecourt got impatient and decided to launch their own fireworks and a few rockets went skywards and others went off course into the crowd. That heated things up a bit. Of course no Gendarmes nor any police appeared. Then the magic moment, 12.00 midnight NEW YEAR – NOTHING! NOT A BLOODY THING! No evidence of any celebrations in Paris not even at the Tour Eiffel. The pyromaniacs had a few rockets left but a miserable show of a water fall of coloured balls is all we got and that was probably courtesy of tourists who had bought up fireworks for the occasion. Ah well, we had an interesting night, met some new people, drank champagne after sitting 6 hours in the cold and all now had a desperate need to pee.

We set off the way we had come except that we had found a set of steps that appeared to offer a short cut (or so said Nerida). We headed down then around then down more stairs and Nerida appeared to be uncertain and now guessing as to the way home. Kerry in particular now needed to get back to the hotel so we set our own course and left the others. Kerry and I must have made it to the hotel in record time fortunately.

And so to bed, to dream of fireworks everywhere else in the world but Paris.

Thus ended our tour of Scotland, the Midlands and France. The next morning we headed for Calais and our ferry home to Long Eaton. Back at Long Eaton, over the next few days, Doug and Nerida caught up on their washing, repacked, regrouped said farewell and then we dropped them at Manchester for their return flight. It had been a very full tour as my many blogs attest.

Bishops Visit – France and More – Gay Paris

We arrive at the traffic chaos of Paris around 3.00pm. Thus far our joint effort of navigating and Kerry’s driving was working well. But the Parisiens have an annoying habit of creating lanes where there are none. One knot actually had six lanes of traffic (where there should have been two) trying to push through an intersection where the crossing traffic was trying to do the same but our lanes reduced to one lane on the other side of the intersection. This is not a time for politeness and courtesy apparently as every other driver asserted an apparent right to pass through the intersection ahead of the crowd. Meanwhile the traffic lights flicked from red to green to red ignored by every vehicle choking the intersection. As with passing trucks on the highway during heavy rain and fog – you hold your line and keeping moving. Kerry toughed this out and the traffic spat us out into the relative calm on the other side. We made it to the Hotel amid many sighs from the back seat.

The Hotel Mercure Montemarte is well located between the metro stations of Place de Clichy on the blue line and Lamarck-Cauliancourt on the chartreuse line. It also has “parking available” which means there is a parking station nearby – something we learnt after getting there. It has a modern reception (there is no desk between you and the receptionist who walks around with an IPad and distributes keys). After booking in while Kerry battled her way into the carpark we met (by accident) on the footpath collected the luggage and retired to our rooms. We had been on our bums nearly all day and Kerry and I were itching to get out and walk.

With no particular goal, we walked to Place de Clichy, bought a 2 day metro pass, and caught the metro to Saint Michel. On surfacing from the underground we headed across Pont Michel along Rue du Palais and Pont Change. We could see Notre Dame on the eastern end of Ile de Citie and off to the west Tour Eiffel and the dome of the Grand Palais. We decided to check out the Musee du Louvre. It was not open but still a vision by night. We then travelled west through the Jardin Tuileries onto Place de Concorde and the Obelisk. We sighted the Xmas lights of Champs Elysees and straight away Kerry wanted to walk through there.

Both sides of the Champs Elysees was alight and bubbling with Xmas stalls and food. We enjoyed a truly unusual French delight – Baked potato with various toppings – far more a Midlands/ Yorkshire dish.

Nevertheless on we strolled, passing children’s rides and umpteen shops until we reached the commercial end of Champs Elysees. We were starting to tire so we called it a night outside of the Lido and caught the Metro at George V metro station to Charles de Gaulle Etoile metro station which got us back on the blue line to Place de Clichy, our hotel and bed.

Bishops Visit – France and More – Orleans

Our tour was fast coming to an end. We intended to spend the last two days in Paris and see in the New Year in that gay city. To break up the journey from Limoges we decided to stop in Orleans. Orléans is a city in north-central France, about 111 kilometres southwest of Paris. It is located on the Loire River where the river curves south towards the Massif Central.

“In the Merovingian era, the city was capital of the kingdom of Orléans following Clovis I’s division of the kingdom, then under the Capetians it became the capital of a county then duchy held in appanage by the house of Valois-Orléans. The Valois-Orléans family later acceded to the throne of France via Louis XII then Francis I. In 1108, one of the few consecrations of a French monarch to occur outside of Reims occurred at Orléans, when Louis VI of France was consecrated in Orléans cathedral by Daimbert, archbishop of Sens.” (source Wkipedia)

We stopped for lunch and to see the magnificent Cathedral. We had an unexpectedly nice lunch (the soup was probably 3 parts cream 1 part pumpkin) and our stroll through the ancient streets led us to the cathedral. Now anyone who has been reading my blogs knows we have seen a few cathedrals, however I was not prepared for the enormous height of the nave and dome in this building. To emphasis the height clear glass windows ran all the way around the building just below the vaulted ceiling.

The city is service by trams. Around the cathedral something just did not seem correct. The trams were operating and passing the cathedral but no overhead power lines to despoil the view. Answer, there is a third rail between the tram tracks and the tram picks up the power by a foot under the vehicle. We also spotted the original Mc Donalds – see below.


We had very little time here as Kerry wanted to avoid rush hour in Paris to get to our hotel in Monmarte. In the words of that famous general MacArthur – we shall return – at some stage to further investigate Orleans.

Bishops Visit – France and More – Limoges and the Tradgedy of Oradour sur Glane

We left Dampierre on the morning of December 28 with much sadness that our time there had ended. With a fair wind we set sail to Limoges in the Central Massif. On the way however we called into Oradour sur Glane. It was a bitterly cold (below zero with some snow flecks) and misty day. The memorial was closed but the gate to the remains of the WW2 village lay open and beckoning. To me it looked like a village where a devastating fire had rushed through catching its inhabitants unprepared. In fact the fire was War and the result one of the all too familiar atrocities of War – the massacre of non-combatants. I have given the web link to the official site and the opening paragraph from the site. I have also added a few photos of what I saw.

“This website describes the history, background and events leading up to the Nazi war-crime of the attack upon the martyr village of Oradour-sur-Glane. This atrocity was carried out on Saturday 10th June 1944 by soldiers of the Der Führer Regiment of the 2nd Waffen-SS Panzer Division Das Reich. On that day, without giving any explanation, they killed a total of 642 men, women and children, leaving only a few survivors. They then destroyed the entire village and to this day there is no universally accepted explanation for the massacre. The narrative, “In a Ruined State”, gives a full description of what happened on the 10th June 1944 and reviews all the current explanations offered by different authors for the attack on the village. In addition there are over 200 photographs in the Picture Gallery and much supporting information in the Appendices, including advice on how to get there and places to stay during a visit. If short of time, read the Summary and browse the Picture Gallery, but for a fuller understanding it is recommended to read all of, In a Ruined State and the Appendices, as they contain much relevant detail about the background to the affair and what happened afterwards to all those involved.”

I also recommend that you look at the Wikipedia history as a preliminary to reading more if you wish to do so.  Note the words from the official site “and to this day there is no universally accepted explanation for the massacre”