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Rural ramblings

At the end of June with Greek lessons finally finished for the academic year, Sheila and I set off for two weeks in the UK. At Gatwick we separated, with Sheila taking a flight to Inverness to do her own thing for two weeks and me meeting up with Dave Kendall, an old friend from school days, for ten days in deepest Dorset. Sheila will be writing separately about her time in Scotland and northern England, so what follows is an account of my trip with Dave and a few days at the end in Wivenhoe, Essex with another old friend, Pat Marsden.

Dave had booked us into an AirB&B cottage in the village of Marnhull which is situated more or less in the middle of the Blackmore Vale in North Dorset and which also happens to be the location where his paternal ancestors originated.

It is also just a few miles from the village of Templecombe, over the county boundary in Somerset, where he and I spent our formative years!

So as can be imagined, in addition to a lot of catching up (he lives in Sweden and we don’t see each other that often), there were some trips down memory lane planned as well as a gentle degree of ancestor hunting.

Our cottage was originally the barrell store for an old brewery which closed in 1919 apparently and may well have brewed the ale for the local pub where one of Dave’s ancestors was the publican.

 

This gave us a perfect excuse for an early visit to sample the local brew! However, our first day simply involved a scouting visit to the local Family History Centre in Sherborne to enable us to plan a longer day there, later in the week. The weather was beautiful and in the afternoon we took a walk around the straggling village to get our bearings.

Over the following week or so, we visited a number of churches and abbeys (a particular interest of Dave’s), went sight-seeing to a number of beauty spots both in Dorset and Somerset and checked out the ancestors:

Churches and Abbeys

Dave was very keen to see the now de-consecrated Norman church at Winterborne Tomson so one fine day, we set out on a quest. It took a bit of locating even with a map and directions but find it we did and what a gem! Take a look if you are ever that way, I guarantee that you have rarely seen the like!

Another day we visited the ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey. This must have been a wonderful building before the Dissolution and the hour or so we were there, was one of the highlights of my trip. It was just so peaceful. Later we saw Muchelney Abbey in Somerset and again, I was struck by the sheer beauty of the location. Here you can see my contemplative but scary Benedictine friend:

Hitherto, I had always thought that breaking the power of the Church was, on the whole, a good thing but having now seen what at least two of these buildings would have looked like, I now have to admit that we lost so much of our heritage to Henry’s greed and sheer vandalism.

Sherborne Abbey was saved from his avarice by being purchased for use as the parish church by the townspeople, with the monastic buildings eventually becoming Sherborne School.

Beauty spots

For old time;s sake, we decided on a visit to Swanage on the Dorset coast and had the obligatory paddle to prove to Sheila that the weather in the West Country really was much better than Scotland!

Then it was off for a pub lunch before we went to Durdle Door

and then to Portland Bill for a breezy selfie!

Another day, we climbed to the top of Cadbury Castle, a Bronze and Iron Age hill fort, which is thought by many to be the site of King Arthur’s Camelot. Difficult for two old fogeys to make the top and even more difficult to get a photo which does it justice – nice views though and a lovely path up!

And a highlight of the trip was visiting the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum in Dorset.

Steam Railways

One morning we visited the Shillingstone Railway Centre on the old Somerset & Dorset line and whilst there was not much that related to the old S&D (on which my grandfather and uncle were drivers and on which Dave and I used to go to school), we enjoyed the experience and saw some interesting old WW2 steam locos from the US.

And then unexpectedly, we saw a Southern Railway ‘Battle of Britain’ class 4-6-2 at Swanage which brought back happy memories of childhood  trainspotting at Templecombe!

Family History

At the Family History Centre, Dave managed to locate records from our old school dating from the early 1950’s, which fortunately did not include either of us but did have my Dad, who also went to Sexey’s Bruton.

And this was where we lived in Templecombe.

We also visited Almer Church in Dorset where my namesake, John Burt, my 4x great grandfather, married Jane Terrell over 240 years ago and I stood on the spot where he would have taken his wedding vows – quite a moving experience!

We also visited the village where I think said John was born about 1754 – the son of Benjamin Burt and Mary Newman. They were married in Child Okeford Church in 1730.

We had a day in Mells, where I lived as a child and where my parents and sisters are buried, meeting Dave’s brother and his wife for lunch at ‘The Talbot’ just round the corner from where the house where we stayed.

It was a great trip.

Thanks for your company, navigation (in your own inimitable style), general good cheer, all round knowledge of the area and for making the arrangements for the Air B&B, Dave!

We had a very pleasant lunch with Liz Turner in Wiltshire, took the car back to Gatwick and went our separate ways.

After a night in London with James, I spent three days in Wivenhoe with an old friend, Pat Marsden. It was good to spend some time with her, catching up with our lives and on what has been happening in Wivenhoe in my absence.

The weather continued to be generally fine so we managed to take in a number of walks along the river, although we did get stuck in ‘The Black Buoy’ for an extended lunch one day, which was no great hardship as they were serving a very pleasant dark ‘Mild’ which took me back to student days at Keele.

We also had a meal out at a Syrian Vegan restaurant which has opened up recently. I hadn’t realised that it was vegan but have to admit that the platter, of what was in effect a selection of meze, was delicious and very reminiscent of Cretan starters.

Pat also cooked  a number of tasty meals on the occasions when we decided to stay in and continue the long discussions on a complete range of topics, from family history through to community action, gardening, books and films and then back to Wivenhoe ‘characters’. I can’t remember when I have talked so much for so long! Thanks Pat.

Then it was time to return to London, meet up with Sheila and spend one last night with James in Battersea, before we returned to Crete for the summer.

It was a memorable two weeks, with England looking at its best.

John

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Oops! October’s Over

Welcome to the new Blog!

It is the last day of October and the rain is falling. We now have a proper stream here, not just a dry bed.

Apart from one day in September, this is the first rain since May and it is to be welcomed by all who live here. My summer clothes have been transferred to the spare room wardrobe and fleeces and socks have been resurrected to a more prominent position. Our house is small and despite a lot of ‘de-cluttering’ over the last few years, there is still too much ‘stuff’ around.  But the clothes are easily managed as there are really only two seasons here – summer and winter. I did wear a pair of jeans to go out to the taverna the other night and they have not been worn for a long time. For me, this 2 season wardrobe is simple and that suits me fine!

While John was away in the UK at the end of September, a friend of ours, Susan, came for a day. She used to live in Siteia but went back to Scotland where we met her in Kirkcudbright and she was our Greek tutor. She popped in to see us last year and this time there was time for a walk to Azoria and to the old olive tree.

It was nice to be with her and I am hoping when she comes back again, she will come and stay for longer and we could do more walking.

I also walked up the Mesona Gorge with Brigitte and all the way round to Kastro.

Such a beautiful walk.

I had a pleasant social time when John was away and I felt very safe because my neighbours kept an eye on me. Food was delivered and in the morning and evening, someone would come and check I was OK. Fortunately I didn’t need help but I knew it was there, which was wonderfully re-assuring.

After John came back, it was my birthday time. which is always worthy of celebration!  John gave me a mountain bike, which had previously belonged to Jann, our neighbour but she didn’t want it and so I  became the proud owner. It has 27 gears and is a lot lighter and of much higher quality than the one I had before.

Now I am very positive about cycling down to Tholos beach and back and have even cycled to the ancient Olive Tree.

John still gets back before me but I feel very good on this bike. He gave me a computer for it too so I am able to know my highest and average speed and distance. I even learned these words in Greek so that I could tell the Greek class that my highest speed one day was 44 kmph!

My actual birthday was spent at the Siteia Beach Hotel and was a great treat.

Siteia is only 42km away from Kavousi but takes 53 minutes (so says tripadvisor) to get there along a very twisty road. So it was good to spend a bit of time there without thinking of the journey home!

Because it is low season, our room was upgraded to something near the size of our own house and the balcony went round a corner, so we could choose to admire the sea or the mountains.

One of the days was beautifully hot so I couldn’t resist the temptation of going to one of my favourite beaches at Itanos to lie in the sun and read a book by William Boyd. We also went to the excellent archaeological museum in Siteia, which resulted in us then visiting Petras, a small Minoan palace

and to Tripitos which is a Hellenic town right by the sea.

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Both are close to Siteia and very interesting.  The town has a choice of tavernas and those that we chose were very nice, including one for lunch on a roundabout!

 

On the way home, we did explore a little bit more of the beautiful Crete coastline.

So ‘When I’m 64’ has now happened and it has been a very positive start to what always seemed a rather unlikely event!

October has been a good month weather wise (except for the last day!) and this has been good as we have had family visits.  I do like to get the credit if the sun shines but I don’t like to be responsible for bad weather!  My niece Claire, her husband James and their two children, Matthew and Rory stayed for a week in a villa in Istron while John’s cousin’s son David, his wife Alyona and their daughter Emily stayed in a hotel in Elounda.  Then, last week, our son Graham, stayed with us here in Kavousi.  They all came on different weeks (with a slight overlap between David and Graham) and we enjoyed seeing them all. The common theme was making sure that everybody  had a meal at Bobo’s in Pachia Ammos and that a day was spent at our house.

so that we could show off our new bathroom, Kavousi, the old olive tree

and Tholos beach.

What a joy to see children in the sea and making castles on the beach!

The water was still pretty warm.  The added bonus from my  point of view was spending some time in Istron and Elounda. We also went to ‘new to us’ tavernas

and found out a little about tourist accommodation locally.  Claire and James’s villa was part of a complex with a swimming pool so I could relax on a sunbed and watch Matthew and Rory enjoy the delights of a lilo.

In Elounda, David and Alonya had a view to die for of Spinalonga

and they had their own swimming pool. Very nice!

Graham was looking for rest and peace and the week went by too quickly but it was a treat too. He came cycling with us to Tholos and I was a bit shocked to discover how fast he went uphill on the way back. I knew I had speeded up on my new bike but within seconds of starting the upward journey, he was far ahead of me and I reflected that whilst I am quite fit for my age (walking, cycling, tennis, swimming), I have to accept that the age difference could be a factor here! John found a number of jobs for Graham to do

and we enjoyed having an evening with our friends Walter and Brigitte and their friends Jens and Annie. Graham, John and I watched a number of films including most of the Indiana Jones ones which I hadn’t seen before!! Graham said that the holiday was just what he wanted

and that’s what matters!

One Sunday, in the middle of the month, Kavousi was the centre for athletes from all over Crete to compete in the 23K mountain run. It starts from the plateia in Kavousi,

and then they run past our friend Maria’s house

and then up the local gorge and beyond. No temptation to participate in this but John and I were there at the start. There was also a 6K run and something shorter for small children.

Yesterday, with a few others, John and I went to archaeological site of Azoria which we see above our house. We have been many times before but this time we were privileged to be shown round by the local archaeologist, Melissa. The site is still being excavated and each year, more is unearthed.

It was a sizeable town in the Archaic period (about 600 BC) and Melissa brought it to life as she described what some of the buildings were used for and the contents of the various rooms (all of which have of course now been removed); the excitement of locating a road in the town this year; and showing us a game played by soldiers that was scratched onto a rock.

She also pointed out a Tholos tomb which she had personally opened this year and showed us a room which they could positively identify as being where they made olive oil because of the contents which they unearthed there.

She remarked that the town had been destroyed by fire which was good from an archaeological point of view because they have retrieved so much stuff that helps to build a picture of life in this city in post-Minoan Crete. However, it appears that the inhabitants must have known that there town was to be destroyed because they seem to have had time to collect their personal belongings and leave before arrival of the enemy, whoever they were (possibly from ierapetra – nothing changes then!).

The only sadness of the month has been that I’ve broken my camera again and will have to buy a new one. I have a new smart phone so I am using it but it is not quite the same. So I think a new one is required, even if  I am supposed to be tightening my belt due to the state of the pound!

Sheila