Sunday, July 28, 2019

Bluebell Steam Train Ride ~ Sussex ~ England

The Bluebell Train is one of largest tourist attractions in Sussex.  The railway is operated by “Bluebell Railway PLC” and through the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society, is majority owned by the volunteer membership, who also supply the labor necessary to keep the Bluebell running.  We may not have arrived early enough to see the beautiful fields of bluebells in the springtime in England but I can enjoy a ride on the Bluebell train.

Welcome to Sheffield Station
We chose to ride from Sheffield Park station for a return trip, which also offers adequate parking space, not always the case in other stations.  We parked and took the short walk to the rather grand looking entrance to the station, although the food adverts are slightly distracting! Lol

Stepney Special
Steamworks is the onsite museum that houses several steam engines and their history.  We had time before our train was to leave so we spent some time wandering about and learning some history.  I must admit that Stepney Special meant nothing to me, but lesson is coming. 

Tomas the Tank Engine
Now there is a familiar face.  So the story continues……Stepney was a real steam engine and became the cartoon train who befriended Thomas the Tank Engine who entertained our kids and grandkids on Saturday mornings for years!  It would have been great had his face been mounted on the front of the engine but this is real life and not cartoon world!  I am sure Thomas comes out on special occasions but here is the idea. 

Bluebell train arrives
Our train awaits us at the Sheffield Station so we get on board and get settled into our ‘compartment’.  There were four of us in a 6 seat until ‘Steve’ joined us at our stop in East Grinstead and entertained us with his stories for the rest of the ride! 
Students on travels
Out our window we see a class of students who are on an outing to honor D-Day and dress appropriately for the 75th anniversary of that special day.  They will be on the train for this ride today, although we won’t be hearing them while in our ‘compartment’.  I think the kind porter was well aware of that when he showed us to our non-reserved seats. 

Steam hangs over the view
We are enjoying the views and the ride on this old steam engine train.  The puffs of steam are visible out the window as we ride through the countryside of Sussex.  At one point this ride crossed the line between East and West Sussex.

Friendly waves
There was a lot of clearing being done along the rails and every group we passed took the time to wave to the passengers of the train.  It is likely these men are part of the volunteer team that so willingly give up their time to keep this Bluebell going. 

Here is Steve, an obvious regular on the train, who invited himself to join us and continued to tell stories until we finished our ride back.  He was very chatty, had quite a history to share and some of the stories seemed to be a possible ‘tale’; he must have told them before and he wasn’t going to stop now.  He was happy to pose for the photo. 

Pub lunch

What day would be right without stopping at the pub for a late lunch after that train ride.  Most pubs have been added on to since the original one was built but are still very old buildings.  They are so interesting, lots of ‘things’ to look at that can go back a long ways.

For more info on the Bluebell, click here to see their webpage. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Sheffield Park and Garden ~ England

Sheffield Park and Garden is one of the many that are managed by the National Trust in England.  They are a large non-profit charity that was founded in 1895 to preserve Britain’s buildings, landscape and coastline.

Lily Pads
We are having a springtime visit to Sheffield Park and Garden to enjoy a different season than the autumn visit we had before.  We are here just a bit too early to see the water lilies that will be covering this middle lake about two weeks after our visit.  That would be stunning.  They offer a Water Lily Photography workshop, which would also be great. 

Pulham Falls
Interesting that Victorian engineering is still being used to pump the water around the garden.  They are now having Waterfall Walks this year.  They aren’t charging for it but one must book to walk along the bottom of the waterfall as it cascades down and give you a different perspective of the falls.

Although the day wasn’t sunny, as I’d love every day to be, the beautiful bushes of Rhododendrons brightened up the gardens. There were several large bushes around the Park as well as so many other trees and bushes, that visiting anytime would offer some beautiful sights.

Sheffield Park House
Privately owned, this was the home of the owners of Sheffield Park and Garden, who changed many times over the years.    One of the most memorable owners would be Arthur Soames, who is given much credit for introducing many of the treasured flowers still living in this garden.  Still privately owned, it has now been converted into several condos or flats, as they call them in England. 

Beautiful floral displays
This is a sampling of some of the flowers we saw on our visit this day.  The colors are gorgeous and they are blooming all over the Garden. There are several walking paths to follow, I am sure one could spend a week wandering the different Garden trails in order to see and enjoy it all.  This Map illustrates them and will give you an idea of the size of Sheffield Park and Garden. 

Large Gunnera plant
Granted, my sister is not very tall, but these plants are monsters.  There are clusters of them around the Garden, and hopefully I have the right name of this plant.  It is a Gunnera, which grows to incredible sizes.  There is plenty of room for these huge plants to grow here, there are over 250 acres in Sheffield Park and Garden and we have only walked a very small portion of that.

Bridge over Lower Woman's Way Pond
We eventually cross this bridge but we were waiting to see if we would see another waterfall.  We hoped that today they would open the waterworks to allow the water from Upper Woman’s Way Pond to fall down into this lake, and they have a chosen time of day to do that when need be.  As it turns out, the water level was too low so not possible, it didn’t happen. 

Canadian Soldiers legacy
The War Office requisitioned Sheffield Park during WW2 for the British soldiers and it eventually became camp for thousands of Canadian troops, as well.  They lived and trained on the grounds, which surely did some damage that took many years to bring the state of the park back to its’ former beauty, some of which the soldiers helped with.

Canada Geese and ducks

We found some immigrants who obviously came from Canada and had their young here.  The Canada Geese are part of a fairly small flock enjoying this lovely Garden.  Then a little duck decided to perform her ‘drying-off-water methods’ for me when she got out of the lake.  I’ve not spent a lot of time with ducks to know how they think so maybe she was looking for treats from me. LOL  She was in no hurry to stop, little did she know that I had no treats.

Click here to see our autumn visit at Sheffield Park.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Firle ~ South Downs ~ England

We’d been travelling the roads of The South Downs in England and after finding the Berwick Church we moved onto visit Firle.  This historic village was here in very early days then became more permanent by the 15th century and has been here ever since.   

Wisteria in Firle
The village is basically a cul-de-sac lined with homes that have been here for a very long time.  The entrance to the village has a large parking lot in the trees and once we walked from there, this walkway with hanging wisteria introduced us to Firle. 

Vintage sign and plant shop
Other than residents’ modern vehicles parked on these streets, it feels like we are once again taken back in time. The signs are old carved wooden signs, something we would never see at home and that add to the feel of history.  Firle Place, located down this road has been the home of the Gage family for over 500 years and is a great location available for special events. 

Ginko Biloba tree
The flint cottages and walls, most built back in the early centuries still stand here today.  We wandered down this road and saw a very large Ginko Biloba tree.  Had it not shown printed information at the flint wall, we’d not have known what kind it was.  It is over 150 years old and the story tells the origin of the tree. 

Sights in village of  Firle
Firle was a thriving self-supporting village during the early centuries with a bigger population than it has these days and had all the trades necessary to take care of the villagers.  One of the more famous residents was Virginia Woolf, a famous author of her day and one who has been the subject of plays, novels and films.  She died here in 1941. 

Signs of history
This was a rather unusual way to park bikes and it is permanent.  It took a few minutes but we think it might be there to prevent cars parking on this side of the street. The streets are narrow and it takes very little to create problems.

Another puzzle to ponder.  These steps sit against a commercial building so we were thinking it may have been stairs to help the ladies get into the horse drawn buggy ‘back then’. 

We assumed this red Citroen may have once been for delivery but now appears to be more like a private travel van.  This is only a guess but I would suggest this van is one of a kind. 

St Peters Church
We couldn’t come to Firle without visiting St. Peters Church.  This church was originally built in the 12th century then has been rebuilt and added to over the centuries since.   Vanessa Bell, her son Quentin Bell and Duncan Grant were buried here.  They were the artists to paint the murals in Berwick Church. 

Thank-you tree
St. Peters is a “Garden Church” which means they wish to “heal our relationship with all that lives on this planet”.  They ask you to take a ribbon, write the name of your favorite bird, animal or butterfly and tie it on the “Thank-you” tree.  Paying a small donation for this ribbon will help do the work of the church.

Preserved from old bell tower
The 17th century bells were needing replacing so the Bell Foundry that had made the original bells melted the damaged ones in 2007 and made new.  The timber of the old bell frame was in very bad shape also so the headstock and clapper were preserved and put on this display frame. 

Alabaster Effigy

Sir John Gage (1479-1556) was given manorial rights in 1501 and the Gage family has been a part of Firle ever since.  He and his wife Philippa are represented in this alabaster effigy, erected in 1595 in what was once the original stone chapel and is now part of the St. Peters church, called the Gage chapel.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Berwick Church ~ Sussex ~ England

So many beautiful old churches to see in England and although we’ve seen several on our visits, we had to see this one with the paintings.  We were on our way to visit Berwick Church with my sister and bro-in-law and it turned into a bigger adventure than first expected.   

End of the road

The ‘navigator’ was using an outdated GPS system and it took us up into the fields of old country roads.  Church gone?  Thankfully a sole cyclist appeared.  No, it wasn't gone but the road we’d need to use from here to the church was only accessible by ATV.  We were lost……lol..... left this country road to get new directions.

Entrance to Berwick Church

The countryside we saw as we enjoyed our ‘adventure’ taking the long way around to the church was well worth seeing so no harm done there and when we did get to the church, this entrance way was there to greet us.

St. Michael and All Angels Church

Berwick Church dates back to the 12th Century and been restored in the Victoria period.  It sits quietly amid many grave sites that surround the church.  We are truly feeling like we are walking back in time.

12th Century construction

The church’s exterior is built with flint, a material used from very early days as a material for building stone walls, churches, houses and other buildings, using lime mortar.  It was most common in parts of southern England as no good building stone was available nor brick making known until the later Middle Ages.  Flint is quite common to see in Sussex.

Berwick Church Graveyard

There are many unkempt graveyards that we’ve seen in England, quite contrary to what we see at home.  So many of those headstones are extremely old and we have to wonder if they are supposed to be maintained by family, who are no longer there.  Some areas are maintained, and some headstones are from current years.

Beautiful interior

As like many churches, the ones we have visited in England have stained glass windows that are featured in arched frames throughout the building.  They tell a story and are most beautiful to see on a sunny day. This church is no exception.

Painted Mural

Once inside, we see what we came to see.  There are paintings that were commissioned by Bishop Bell in 1941.  Local artists from Bloomsbury, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell adorned the walls as well as the pulpit and both sides of the Chancel Arch with their amazing talent to create these exquisite paintings. 

Berwick Church mural

The church is of national, if not more cultural significance because of the murals it features.  This is something we’d not seen elsewhere and why we made a point of coming here was to see these murals in this church that represents “a national treasure”.  

The Annunciation

This mural called ‘The Annunciation’ is deteriorating and they are now looking for support to conserve it as well as all the murals in the church at Berwick.  They hope to keep the church and the murals available for all future generations to see.  They’ve done a wonderful job so far, wishing them well.

Centuries of headstones

We visited on a weekday, and there were a few others enjoying the church, too.  The church may be unavailable to visit at times when being used for special events and services but otherwise welcomes visitors.  They do still hold services in Berwick Church every Sunday.

We are on to more adventures and will share those with you soon.  Now we visit Firle.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Green Ireland ~ Dunluce Castle ~ Antrim Coast Road

We had finished our walk to the Giant’s Causeway and while waiting to board our coach again, had the pleasure of enjoying this view.  It was in front of the Causeway Hotel that sits beside the Visitor’s Centre at the Giant's Causeway and although the rain and wind were creating havoc with taking photos, I was happy to get a couple.

View of North Atlantic Ocean
Ireland does get a lot of rain and they don’t deny that fact but looking at the lushness of their fields, we see the benefit of the rain.   I would have loved to have blue sky and sunshine for this visit but I won’t complain, the sights were still beautiful.
In front of Causeway Hotel
There is no shortage of sheep in this country.  We’ve seen many herds of sheep, far more than any cattle, although there are some of those, too, just not near as many.  It is springtime so there are likely babies in this crowd, too.

Dunluce Castle
We only stopped to see the medieval Dunluce Castle from this distance.  It is surrounded by steep cliffs, which was likely to protect the Christians and Vikings during early days.  The first castle was built in the 13th century and this one later.  There is a bridge to connect to it now, enabling it to be a location for several films.  The most recent would be for Game of Thrones, as the Seat of House Greyjoy, the castle of Pyke. 

Bushmills Whiskey Distillery
This was apparently a highlight for some.  If one likes whiskey, I can understand but not being one of those, it was a good spot for lunch so it worked.  The Bushmills does have a great reputation, and have been around for centuries, which proves just that.  They are still winning awards. 

Bushmills Whiskey shop
And if nothing else, this will show that they are serious about their whiskey.  I doubt this large vat is still used but it looks like it surely was!  They have walls lined with whiskey bottles and note the chandelier of empty ones.  One can buy a selection of four samples for ten pounds that also includes a small chat to explain the different whiskeys.  Then one takes them to a table and samples.  This ‘one’ choked on the first sip, nothing like proving I’m a not a whiskey fan, and kindly offered the rest of my share to Keith.  We enjoyed our lunch, though. 

Village in Northern Ireland
We passed by several villages on our way back to Belfast.  We were following the Antrim Coast Road most of our return but the misty wet day didn’t allow many views on that side of the bus.  It is pretty hard to say there is a typical village to show but look closer, could this one feature some Game of Throne characters?  

Farmland in Northern Ireland
The views never got tiresome.  Although the raindrops covered the window, we were still able to enjoy the countryside and I wasn’t going to sacrifice some pictures just for some raindrops!  In our own vehicle I would have had the window open but that is not an option in a coach with others.   

More Sheep
The white dots in the distance are sheep, between the rain drops on the window!   We drove through several miles of farmland like this.  It did make me think of a quilt design, might be a good idea!

Quiltwork fields
It was so impressive looking at the way the fields were laid out.  They are so neat and tidy and green.  The guide said we were in the “49 Shades of Green” country.  The sun did try to shine during a moment of time but not long enough to get a photo with it.  It was a great day, though, even without the sun.

The next day we were on our way back to England but we’d seen some beautiful sights and learned some amazing things about Belfast.  It is a special place and well worth a visit.  You’ll enjoy it, too, I’m sure.

To see more, click on here for Belfast and here for Giant's Causeway.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Giant's Causeway ~ World Heritage Centre ~ Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway……... what an interesting name.  Knowing that Ireland is one for legends and myths, this is perfectly understandable.  The giant, Finn McCool carved out the coast and left behind the ancient folklore for us to enjoy, and that we do.  We are off to see the sights.

Giant's Causeway Path

Science may have another explanation for these intriguing shapes of rocks.  Approximately 60 million years of cooling and shrinking of successive lava flows have created over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns.  The Giant’s Causeway has been designated a UNESCO World’s Heritage Site, and deservedly so.  It was amazing to see.

Amazing rock formations

There are miles of beautiful scenery that are all part of the Giant’s Causeway that we did not see, other than photos.  We were limited in time as we were on a coach tour but also the weather was making it a bit difficult.  The rain and wind made it almost impossible to use the camera, especially when the umbrella kept turning inside out!  The photos do not do it justice but hopefully you can see what nature provides in Northern Ireland.

Geological activities results

We had trails that were hills and rock steps which wasn’t making it easy for us ‘old folks’, especially fighting the wind.  They do have shuttle service for the first part of the Causeway, which took visitors as far as we were to go given the time but we chose to walk to take photos.   The Grand Causeway was a short distance from the Visitor Centre given the trails available but it could take hours to walk the complete Causeway.  

Columns at Giant's Gate

This is at the Giant’s Gate, which shows the depths of these shaped columns.  The path continues and somewhere in this neighborhood is where they film some of the Game of Thrones shows.  That can be included in the tour but we’re two of the very few who have never seen that show so no need to visit their site.

Visitor's Centre

Arriving back to the Visitor’s Centre was when we recognized the significance of the building with structure resembling the Giant’s column formations!  How clever and it also includes a grass roof.  Inside they have a large video screen that shows the mythical story of the Giant and how the Causeway happened, fun for kids to see.  A very nice gift shop, as all sights have, but with plenty of interesting information. 

Shores of the North Channel

Plenty of beautiful shoreline to see.  Another stop on the tour was the swinging bridge that I wasn’t really looking forward to crossing.  Still plenty of wind and some rain on this one kilometre walk, although it felt a lot farther than that! 

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

I’ve never been able to cross a swinging bridge easily.  I have done it but with great difficulties and maybe even some bad language.  I didn’t go to Ireland thinking I would cross this swinging bridge after seeing some promo pictures of it but once we were there, my thought was that I would make it happen.  Why would we go all the way and not cross that swinging bridge? 

Proof of crossing

And I did!!  Woohoooo!  It was worth it, and I was so glad I did it.  Keith stayed back to get this proof shot of me, and kept the others back so I didn’t get the ‘swinging’ part of the crossing which is the worst of it.  In all fairness, it is a very sturdy bridge without a lot of swing but I saw other faces that showed they felt the same as I did.  
Leading us back

I got a 'High 5' from the swinging bridge gatekeeper before my shaky knees took us back to the coach on more hills and rock steps to climb.  We had one hour when leaving the coach to do the swinging bridge and return, we were one of the last to get back, and likely the oldest but we made it!

We were on the lookout but during our visit, we did not see one leprechaun.  Where could they be? 

Click here to see the sights of Belfast.


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