Archive for May, 2011

Leeds Castle and Weekend in Wales

Friday 27 May 2011 Leeds Castle – overcast, cool

Because we are going on a big adventure tomorrow, we picked up our hire car this morning. It is a Ford SMax  7 Seater – similar to the Ford Galaxy, with lots of room for Ella’s baby capsule and two adults in the back and loads of room in the boot for Ella’s pram etc.

Janet took Ella to school to visit the staff and also her tutor group students, so the two of us headed off to Leeds Castle in Kent, about an hour and a half drive from Maidenhead.

Leeds Castle has been the private property of six of England’s medieval queens and was the home of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon.  The first part of the castle was built by a Norman baron during the reign of William the Conqueror’s son, Henry I.

The two of us thoroughly enjoyed exploring Leeds Castle.  When we arrived, we were greeted by a peacock displaying its tail plume to a nearby hen, who was ignoring him.

We walked down to the castle beside the moat and entered the castle via the cellars.  We were impressed with the way each room has been preserved with furnishings and we were able to walk from room to room taking photos (unusual in a lot of these places).

After lunch at the Fairfax Hall Restaurant, we walked through the Culpeper Garden and the Lady Baillie Garden to the Aviary, where they had various types of birds including a Toucan, Kookaburra and Galahs.  In a field not far from the Aviary, we watched the World of Wings Show, which featured three Parrots, a Merlin Falcon, a Blue and Gold Macaw and four White Storks from Africa.  All these birds were untethered and were flying freely around “putting on their show” for the audience.

We had a leisurely walk back through the Wood Gardens, where we saw an albino peacock and various ducks and geese, and after an enjoyable day of exploring Leeds Castle, it was time to head for our second home.  Although we were only an hour and a half from Maidenhead, it took us two and a half hours to get home as the M25 Motorway had turned into an 8 lane parking lot for some time because there had been accidents in both directions.


Saturday 28 May – Weekend in Wales – overcast, cool and showery

At 8.00am, after packing the car with Ella’s pram, two overnight bags, and various other baby essentials, we headed off, in light rain, down the M4 towards Wales.  By 11.00am we had driven through Cardiff and Cowbridge and were on the South Coast of Wales.  We stopped at 11.00am at Porthcawl, a lovely seaside village, to feed Ella in a little café.  From there, we drove to the Gower Peninsula and stopped at Oxwich Bay for lunch.  It was quite windy and Ella didn’t like the wind (neither did we), so we sat in the car and ate our lunch while Janet fed Ella and we enjoyed the view across to Three Cliff Bay.  We enjoyed a walk at Rhossili – Janet and Adrian put Ella in her pram, which they covered with her clear plastic rain cover to keep out the wind and she promptly fell asleep.  We walked down the cliff-top path towards Worms Head – the craggy cliffs were spectacular – lots of photos were taken and even although we nearly got blown away in the wind, it was well worth it!

We continued on to Tenby, where we had booked into Heywood Mount Hotel for the night.  After checking in and depositing all our gear, we drove into the town, parked the car and went for a walk along the Esplanade, which was set high above the beach.  From there we could see Caldey Island which still houses a monastery and a working lighthouse.  Off the point at the end of the beach was a small rocky island with the old Castle ruins – apparently at low tide, you can still walk out to the island.  After taking lots of photos and enjoying the beautiful scenery, we walked through the streets and down to the old harbour.   The various small boats and the pastel coloured buildings surrounding the harbour made it look as though it had come straight from a postcard.  The town is surrounded by an old stone wall which was built in 13th Century and some of it still exists.

We had a delicious three course meal in the restaurant at the hotel before retiring for the night.


Sunday 29 May – overcast, cool

After a lovely breakfast we drove to St Govan’s Head in the  Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, with its varied landscapes of rugged cliffs and sandy beaches.  To get there, we drove through Pembroke, where there was an old castle in the centre of the town and then out into the country along narrow laneways only wide enough to fit one car at a time.  The cliffs were very picturesque and reminded us of the west coast of Ireland – the Cliffs of Moher.  Our next stop was Milford Haven, which is the biggest port in Wales and one of the largest oil and gas ports in Northern Europe.

We drove through some beautiful countryside with green paddocks that looked like a patchwork quilt – our photos will not do the area justice because it was overcast and misty.  As we came down a hill and around a corner, there in front of us was a beautiful surf beach, Newgale Beach.  It is, apparently, one of the best beaches in Wales – there were several people kite-surfing. The beach is about 3 kilometres long and is backed with a huge pile of loose rocks next to the road – we can assume this was to keep the ocean from flooding the road or entering the caravan and camping area beyond.

We drove through Solva, a pretty little village with a long, thin harbour nestled in a valley – the tide was out when we drove past and the boats were all high and dry!!

From there we drove to St David’s, which is on the south west coast of Wales and is classified as a city because of its cathedral.  We parked the car, had lunch in a quaint little café and then went for a walk through St David’s to the Cathedral – we walked through the ancient gatehouse and down the hill to the impressive and large Cathedral, which is a grey granite building built in the 12th century.  We were able to take photos inside the cathedral, which was unusual (we just needed to make a donation, which was a brilliant idea, rather than to not allow photos and try to sell postcards to the visitors).

We headed out to St Non’s Bay through many narrow roads and found ourselves at St Justinians, where we could see out across Ramsey Sound to Ramsey Island.

After a lovely 2 days exploring the south west coast of Wales, we decided not to stay overnight because Ella still wasn’t feeling 100% and so we headed back on the M4 to Maidenhead, stopping at a services along the way for coffee, tea, mocha, strawberry frappucino and a feed for Ella too!!

We have thoroughly enjoyed our short visit to Wales, exploring the diverse, picturesque countryside and seaside villages.

We found another very handy feature of the hire car was that the middle seat in the back was able to fold down, thus turning it into a change table and so the person doing the changing of Ella’s nappy didn’t have to go out in the cold or rain!!

We forget how small the UK really is until we asked the GPS to plot our trip home from St Davids, the most westerly point of Wales, to Maidenhead and it told us it was only going to take just over 4 hours.


Monday 30 May – Maidenhead – cool, raining (one of the few rainy days that we have experienced since we have been here!)

Today was spent relaxing, catching up on cuddles with Ella, sorting photos and doing our blog.  Aunty Katharine will be delighted to discover that some time this afternoon was spent taking some “Anne Geddes photos” of Ella.  See our gallery and Janet and Adrian’s blog tomorrow for photos,


Monday 16 May to Monday 23 May – Blenheim Palace

Monday 16 May to Monday 23 May

Once again this week has been spent with Ella, catching up after our big day on Sunday, and just enjoying doing the normal day-to-day things.  Ella’s British Passport arrived this week, so as soon as her Australian Visa is organised, she will be all set for her holiday with her Mummy and Daddy to Australia in August.

Blenheim Palace

On Saturday morning, 21 May, we collected our hire car for the weekend – a Mercedes C Class, so that we could all fit comfortably for a day’s outing to Blenheim Palace.  Unfortunately, by the time we put the baby’s capsule in the car, there wasn’t enough room for two adults to sit in the back seat comfortably, so we drove back to the car hire place in Slough to return the car.  Luckily for us, a Ford Galaxy had just been returned, so we were able to get it for the same price.  The Galaxy is an upmarket 7- seater, with the second row of seats having three separate bucket seats, which easily fitted the baby’s capsule and two adults, very comfortably.  With the third row of seats folded away, we had heaps of room for the pram etc.

After our false start, we left here at about 10.00am and drove to Blenheim Palace, which is just past Oxford, about an hour’s drive.  Blenheim Palace, which is a World Heritage Site, was built between 1764 and 1774 and was the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill.  The Palace is the current home of the Duke of Marlborough, the descendant of Sir Winston.

From the moment the four of us (with Ella in her pram) walked up the long driveway and under the main entrance archway and through the gold inlaid gates, we were impressed with the huge palace, which sits on 2 000 acres of land.  We looked around the ground floor of the palace before Janet fed Ella and then we had a nice lunch in the Water Terrace Café, overlooking the Water Terraces.  After lunch we went for a walk beside the lake along the Garden Lakeside Walk past the Boat House to the Dam and the Cascades, returning to the palace via the Arboretum, the Rose Gardens, the Temple of Diana and the Italian Gardens. There are many acres of manicured lawns and almost park-like areas where families can have picnics – dogs are even allowed as long as they are kept on a lead.

While Janet fed Ella again, the two of us went for a wander (to take more photos) and saw hundreds of ladies dressed in pink walking down the hill from the Column of Victory – they were walking either 10 or 20 miles to raise money for the Cancer fund.  The Column of Victory is 41 metres high and stands at the entrance to the Great Avenue in “The Park” and has a statue of the 1st Duke on the top – he is dressed as a Roman General and is holding a Winged Victory.

There is even a little train that takes you from the palace to the Butterfly House, Pleasure Gardens, Maze and Adventure Play Area, but we decided that we would leave that part of Blenheim until Ella is old enough to appreciate it.

On Sunday 22 May, we were all invited to Ella’s Godparents, Wanda and Alan’s house for lunch.  We spent a very enjoyable afternoon with them, talking, laughing, eating, looking at Ella, and just enjoying each other’s company.

On Monday 23 May, we spent a quiet day because little Ella has a head cold and is not well.  Janet took her to the doctor, who checked her over and said she doesn’t have any throat/ear/chest infections, so that is good news.  She had a very restless night last night and needs lots of extra cuddles today – there are two very eager volunteers!!

Ella’s Baptism

Ella’s Baptism – Sunday 15 May – Sunny and cool

We were all up early to get organised and to get Ella dressed in her beautiful Baptism dress and of course, to take lots of photos (see Gallery).  Ella looked absolutely gorgeous!!  We arrived at St Mary’s in time to take more photos and to say hi to Janet and Adrian’s friends, while waiting for the service to begin.  The Baptism went really well and Ella didn’t even cry when Wil, the Vicar, poured water over her head.  Janet and Adrian’s family and friends were invited to join the usual morning tea in the hall after the service, which was lovely, and gave us all a chance to chat.

After that, about 20 of their friends came back here to continue the celebrations.  Sandy was delighted that her friend, Lynne’s daughter, Chelsea, who is working in London, was able to come and spend some time with us too.  Janet had organised a lovely iced fruit cake, which Ella’s Godparents, Wanda and Alan helped them to cut.  Ella spent the afternoon, looking beautiful, sleeping and being passed around for lots of cuddles.  Janet and Adrian received some really lovely gifts for Ella from both their Australian family and friends as well as from their English friends.

We all had an absolutely wonderful day and feel very blessed that this beautiful little person has come into our lives.  We are both so grateful that Janet and Adrian were able to arrange for the baptism to take place while we were here.


Monday 9 May to Saturday 14 May

Monday 9 May to Saturday 14 May

We had a lovely week enjoying Ella – she has grown so much already and we are still enjoying doing the normal day to day activities with Janet and Adrian.  Ella is so cute – she makes lots of little noises while she is sleeping and especially when she is feeding.  On cue, she just made what Sandy’s Dad would have referred to, as an impersonation of a squeaky gate!

On Tuesday, we had a visit from Sandy’s sister’s brother-in-law, Michael and his wife, Maggie.  They spend half the year living nearby in Bray and the other half in Melbourne.  We spent a lovely morning together and it was so nice to catch up with them again as the last time we saw them was in 2009 when we were here last.

On Thursday the Health Visitor came to see Janet and Ella.  In the UK, after your baby is born, your midwife comes to the house to check the baby on the 3rd day, 5th day and 10th day and then passes your care on to the Health Visitors (attached to your local G.P.)  We think it is a brilliant idea because any issues with the baby or the mother can be picked up earl.   As well as health care, the parents receive valuable information and support in the comfort of their own home.  The Health Visitor tested Ella’s hearing, which showed no problems, which we were already sure of as she often turns her head to look at you when you are speaking to her.  She also weighed Ella who now weighs 4kg – an increase of 0.5kg since birth!!

On Friday Janet caught up with some of her workmates in the afternoon and so the two of us went for a walk.  It is difficult to walk around the area because of the golf course behind the flats, which makes the “block” quite big – it took us 50 mins, but we enjoyed exploring an area that we hadn’t seen previously.

On Saturday, we met up with some of Janet and Adrian’s friends at the local Italian restaurant, Francesco’s – a lovely time was had by all.

Over the past few days, Ella has had some issues in the evening with wind and has been unable to settle.  We have all taken turns in giving her cuddles or walking the floor with her.  Janet and Adrian have tried many things to soothe Ella including cuddles, dummy (which she hates), bathing her (worked for a while), playing the piano and singing to her (also worked for a while) and even taking her for a drive in the car.

1 to 8 May – Bletchley Park and East Wittering

Bletchley Park – Friday 6 May overcast warmish

The past week has been spent enjoying our time with Janet, Adrian and our beautiful Grand-daughter.  Adrian went back to work on Tuesday and we helped Janet with the mundane things, like the usual washing, shopping and cooking, while making sure we had lots of cuddles with Ella.  We took the VW Sharan hire car back to National – it has served us well but we don’t need it any more because it is too big!!

On Friday, the two of us headed off on an adventure on our own.  We walked to the station, caught a train two stops to Burnham and walked the short distance to collect our hire car from National Car Hire – a Ford Mondeo.  We had decided that we needed a larger car than Janet and Adrian’s

VW Polo, as we had been invited to spend Saturday with Janet and Adrian’s friends, Hilary and Andy at their beach house at East Wittering.  We decided that as Janet had a friend coming to visit on Friday, we would make the most of having the hire car and head off on an adventure.

We drove from Slough to Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, just over an hour from Slough to Bletchley Park, which was once Britain’s best kept secret centre for cipher and code-breaking during the Second World War.  The most famous of the codes and ciphers to be broken at Bletchley Park were the Enigma and Lorenz machine cipher, which was a triumph of intelligence and logistics, resulting in Britain’s brightest people inventing technology that we all now take for granted eg computers.  This all started in the Mansion House in August 1938 and as more and more people arrived to join the code-breaking operations, the various sections moved into large prefabricated huts set up on the lawns of the park – for security reasons the sections were only known by their hut numbers.  There are still 5 surviving huts, which we saw, one of which, Hut no 4, houses the café where we had lunch.

Our guided tour commenced in the Mansion House and took us to the Post Office, Sir Herbert’s Garage, the stable yard, the wartime garages of classic vintage vehicles and various other sites around the park.  The most interesting of these was the Bombe Room, where there was a mock-up of the original Turing’s Bombe.  This was an electro-mechanical machine of code wheels that greatly reduced the odds and time taken to break the ever-changing keys of Hitler and his allies’ messages. (see photos in gallery).  The other really interesting part of our visit was to see and hear the history of the working rebuild of Colossus, the world’s first electronic semi-programmable computer.  The very elderly gentleman who was the oldest geek we had ever seen, had lots of stories, including the fact that Colossus used over 2,500 valves, some of which dated back to World War Two.

We loved some of the stories that explained how the German codes were broken, e.g the German General who was stationed in the African Dessert, who sent a message every day to say “nothing to report”.  For some time it was this one constant message that allowed the British to identify that day’s encryption keys which enabled them to decode every other message that was sent that day.  Also, the story about the German who sat painstakingly writing his message to headquarters and receiving a message in return to say that not all of his message had gone through and could he please send it again.  He decided not to change the keys and redid the message, shortening words where he could, which then made it very easy for the British to decode his message.

We also found it amazing that there were 9,000 people working there, with bicycle couriers coming in and out every day, with messages to be decoded, and Bletchley Park still remained a secret.  A fellow tourist asked our guide what the locals would have thought about all the people coming and going and the guide said that we need to remember that this was during the war and the locals would not have questioned anything nor would they have discussed it with anyone!

There are many stories that will never be known because the people who worked at Bletchley were sworn to secrecy and many of them never revealed what actually happened there.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Bletchley Park.

On Saturday morning, we got up, got organised, packed Ella’s travelling bag for the day, hopped into the Mondeo and headed south to Hilary and Andy’s holiday house at East Wittering.  Their house is very close to the beach that we all went 10 days ago while Katharine and Eenie were here.  Hilary and Andy drove down to meet us at their holiday house and we had a wonderful day with them, seeing some of the things that they love about the seaside.  While Janet fed Ella, Hilary and the two of us walked the short distance into the village to the pie shop to buy a Steak and Ale pie for our lunch.  While we were gone, Andy cooked some new potatoes in their jackets, carrots and peas and prepared a lovely dessert.   Although it was overcast and coolish, we enjoyed a walk along the beach, which is two streets from their house and were surprised that the tide was in and there were reasonably large waves.  Then we walked through the village and found a sweetie shop (see photos) and bought some sweets.  From there, we took two cars and drove to Ichenor to the harbour, where we watched the sailing boats and also several boats being launched down the boat ramp.  We could have stayed there for hours, but we needed to continue our guided tour of the area and headed around Chichester Harbour to the eastern end to Bosham (pronounced Boz-m) Historical Village and the Quay area.  We enjoyed a walk along the shore road, which was covered in seaweed as this road is covered by water at high tide.  Andy told us the story about how, on many occasions, people would park their cars on the shore road to go to one of the pubs or to church and come back to discover their car covered in water!  We walked around to the park and then past the Holy Trinity Church, where there had been a wedding – lots of the male guests were in tails and all of the women were well dressed with hats etc.  We also saw where the doorways to the houses in the village have been stepped up to prevent the high tides coming into the houses.  We then drove around the harbour along the shore road, which Richard found incredible as it is a bitumen road that gets covered by the high tide!!

We returned to Hilary and Andy’s holiday house and had a cuppa while Janet fed Ella and then we headed for home at about 7.30pm, stopping on the way at a “services” for dinner, or as some of the English refer to it, for “supper”.  We had light rain most of the way home, but we thoroughly enjoyed our day with Hilary and Andy at the seaside – Ella was an angel in the car and slept most of the day between feeds.

Sunday – Mother’s Day – overcast (rained through the night), warmish

Today was spent relaxing and doing nothing really.  Sandy enjoyed chatting to Katharine, Craig, her Mum and sister, Maria on the phone for Australian Mother’s Day (the Brits had theirs a few weeks ago!)  This is Janet’s first Mother’s Day so that was special too!

In the afternoon, Janet and Adrian took Ella to have her passport photos taken for her big trip to Australia in August, while the two of us did some grocery shopping at Waitrose.

A lovely relaxing day!


Saturday 23 April – Saturday 30 April

Sat 23 April to Saturday 30 April

Most of the last week has been spent relaxing and enjoying our time with Ella and the family.

Saturday 23 April – Fine and Warm

In the late afternoon, Katharine, Eenie and the two of us went for a drive down to the Thames River at Maidenhead and then went for a walk along the river bank to Boulter’s Lock and watched the boats going through the lock. We walked and over the little bridge to Ray Mill Island and along to Boulter’s Weir.  We all thoroughly enjoyed our walk out in the sunshine.

Sunday 24 April – Fine and Warm

As it is Easter Sunday today, we had a nice roast lamb dinner for lunch – very nice.  The lamb here is quite different to Australian lamb – it is a different texture and quite pinkish (and quite a lot more expensive!)  Interestingly, the petrol here is approximately £1.39, which means that we are paying $2.21 a litre for petrol!!

Katharine, Eenie and the two of us again went for a drive down to the river in the afternoon and walked along the Thames Path towards Bray.  The path meandered along the river, under the railway bridge and under a canopy of trees, with lovely views across the river to the houses, or should we say mansions.  Richard and Katharine took lots of photos and Katharine played with her’s and Steve’s new telephoto lens, which they purchased duty free just before she came on holidays.  Richard is delighted with the zoom on his new camera.

In the evening, the two of us and Katharine went with Janet and Adrian for Ella’s first visit to their church at St Mary’s in Maidenhead.  Ella was the perfect baby and slept through the entire service as well as supper afterwards.

Monday 25 April, Anzac Day – Lest We Forget.  Fine but slightly cooler

Eenie and the two us drove Katharine over to Staines to pick Melissa up and then dropped the two of them at Marlow, where they went for one of the walks in Janet and Adrian’s “Walks in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire”. After the walk, they enjoyed the afternoon down by the River in the sunshine, where Katharine actually got a little sunburnt.  We have been on this walk when we were here in 2009 and it was lovely.   In the evening, we drove back to Marlow to pick them up and drove Melissa home to Staines, before coming back to Maidenhead – the trip took approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes using a combination of roads and motorways, including the A4 and M25.

Janet’s friends, Toby and Dave came to visit and meet Ella in the morning and Natalie, from church, came in the afternoon.

Tuesday 26 April – Overcast and coolish

We all headed off to Maidenhead in the VW Sharan – Janet and Adrian to register Ella’s birth at the Town Hall and the rest of us parked the car in the town centre, put Ella in her pram and wandered around the shops.  Janet and Adrian met us there and we bought some fresh bread rolls and headed home for lunch and a quiet afternoon.

Wednesday 27 April – Sunny, warm

Today was our big adventure day for Ella.  We all piled into the VW Sharan, with nappy bag, pram, baby carrier, assorted umbrellas, picnic blanket and 37 different cameras…. Well actually, there were 6 cameras plus a video camera and 4 phones with camera!  Adrian drove us to the Witterings, which is on the south coast of England, near Chichester, so that Aunty Katharine could introduce Ella to the beach.  We had lunch at a lovely little café called The Boulevard in South Wittering  – after lunch we walked a to the beach with Ella in her pram, but, as it was very windy, we only stayed for a short time before heading off to Brighton for another adventure.  We parked the car and walked out along Brighton Pier – Ella was in her baby carrier attached to Adrian – and we did the tourist thing, eating ice cream and looking at the various rides and entertainment booths.  The breeze had dropped and it was lovely walking along, soaking up the atmosphere and generally enjoying each other’s company.

We stopped on the way home so that Janet could feed Ella and arrived home at about 7.00pm, to a lovely twilight, which lasts until about 8.30ish at this time of the year.

We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves today and Ella seems to really love the car.

Thursday 28 April – Overcast and coolish

Katharine walked into the town centre, which takes about 15 minutes, to buy Steve a present, while Eenie and the two of us went to Waitrose for groceries.  Janet and Adrian’s church friends, Terry and John called in to visit them and meet Ella, while we were out. Eenie took us out to lunch at the Horse and Groom, which is a short distance from here along the A4. We all had scrumptious meals and some of us had dessert, like sticky toffee pudding!!  We talked and laughed our way through lunch and loved showing a beautiful sleeping Ella off to the other patrons.  After lunch, Adrian drove us to the Piggott School so that Eenie could see where Janet worked prior to her maternity leave.   Late afternoon was spent with much laughter, with us all posing for a family photo taken on Richard’s camera with time delay.

Friday 29 April – overcast and coolish – “the Wedding”

We all sat around the lounge room watching the Wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, talking (before the actual wedding), eating scones with jam and cream, and just enjoying all being together for the last day!   Late in the afternoon, the two of us drove Katharine and Eenie to Heathrow Terminal 4, for their return flight to Australia.  It was a sad time for everyone, but Janet and Adrian were so thrilled to have been able to share the past 12 days with them.

Saturday 30 April – sunny and warm

Today was spent catching up on the washing and cleaning and just generally relaxing.  Janet’s friend,

Lucy from school and her husband, Marc and gorgeous Evan, who is 14 months, came to visit us, and to finally meet Ella, this morning.  After lunch, we left Adrian in charge of Ella, while the three of us headed off to the Mother Care shop at Slough, to buy some lightweight sleeping bags for Ella.  The afternoon has been spent catching up on our blog and sorting photos.

There are more photos in the Gallery – several sets!