Saturday, August 31, 2013

White Horse Hill

The head, eye and ears of the White Horse.
There are white horses carved in the chalk of the mountain sides in Oxfordshire.  They are as recent as the 1800's to as ancient as the Bronze Age.  We had to find the one that's the oldest, of course, near the village of Uffington.  Getting there didn't seem like a problem.  The roads were all major highways, although not the M roads.  What we should have known after driving here was, if BiB says it will take 1 hour and 15 minutes, you will be lucky to get there in 2 hours.  The "highway" was two lane, sometime narrow, that had everything traveling on it from cars to semi's.  The average posted speed was 60 mph, the actual speed was 30 mph.  Then we turned off onto the next size down road.  Posted speed 40 mph, actual speed, if you were very lucky, 25.
The two rear legs, part of the body and two front legs, kinda showing.
We did find the horse.  It is carved onto the side of the hill, very stylised, almost, modern art in it's design.  For the best view, one needs to be flying.  There was a parasailing club from Oxford who was doing just that.  Oh how we wished we could join in!  People have been working at keeping the horse chalked since the mid-1700, when the land owners would get their workers to spend a day, complete with picnic and a party, re-chalking the horse.  This is also when the newer horses were carved elsewhere in the county.

These rolling hills down to a plain were caused by glaciers.  If you look closely at them, they are ridged sideways across.  This island is still feeling the effects of the last ice age; there was an earthquake in the past week that was blamed on the change in weight from the ice melting.  Guess is just took the land a long time to realize it was gone.

Friday, August 30, 2013

It is Alderholt!

There was some confusion as to where we were going to be housesitting next.  I thought it was Alderholt, but someone suggested Aldershot.  We really can't blame them for the error, several towns have very similar name.  Also, Alderholt is very tiny. Thank goodness for postal codes and GPS.





Trevor and Friday are our hosts here.  Trevor is an English Bull Terrier.  Friday is a black and white cat with yellow/green eyes.  Both are extremely friendly, loving and well mannered.  Both are also rescues; Trevor on the day before he was to be put down, Friday from the mouth of a farm dog when she was 3 weeks old.




One of the big surprises is how close we are to Salisbury, Southampton, the Isle of Wight, and many other places we are pleased to be able to visit.

A big thank you to Helen and Alice for trusting us with their home and wonderful animals!  We really enjoyed our stay in Wernerth Low.  Now, if we can just find the pictures we took of the two of you to put on the blog!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Romans Close to Hadrian's Wall


Birdoswald.
Chesters.
Housestead.
Vindolanda.

What do they have in common?  The Romans built them, lived in them, moved away and left them.  They are each in a different state of research, discovery and reconstruction.  They are each unique and interesting. We visited all of them.

The section of Hadrian's Wall at Birdoswald is in the best condition.

Birdoswald was a farm with several buildings built from the wall's stones.
Chesters Fort looking across the river to the old bridge supports built by the Romans. The bridge is gone but the supports remain.

The Baths at Chesters Fort were large and very elaborate.

Raised floors for underfloor heating  in the Prefect's house at Chesters Fort.


Model of Housestead when the Romans were there.  They are fairly sure how it looked, as all forts were built along the same plans and architectural style.
A collection of objects found at Housestead.

Housestead today, this is the granary where enough stores for the entire garrison for 6 months were kept.
A young Roman fighting his way though Vindolanda!  He was quite dramatic, even "impaling" himself on his sword, followed by lying very still while dead.

Vindolanda has been excavated and rebuilt for the past 40 years.  This year they are celebrating the 1800th anniversary!

Volunteers work every summer at Vindolanda, digging and sorting the next area.
Also not to be missed, but they didn't allow photos, so.....is the Roman Army Museum, associated with Vindolanda.  The information is superb and presented in a very fun and interesting way.  They also have models of the tools and weapons that you can pick up and play with.  Some of the weapons were incredibly heavy!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hiking Hadrian's Wall

The first part of the wall after leaving Homestead's Fort, one is allowed to walk on.

Bill farther along in our hike.


I can not remember when I first knew of Hadrian's Wall.  I would bet it was from National Geographic magazine, which I read from cover to cover every month as a child.  Before I learned to read, I would looked at all the pictures and asked my siblings to read the text; one of the perks of being the baby of the family!
Looking East from Homestead, where the wall goes up to it's highest elevation.

The land on the side we are standing on was Roman territory, the land on the other side, barbarians.

Milecastle 39.  There were milescastles every Roman mile the entire length of the wall.

Hadrian's Wall is amazing on several levels.  It was built over extremely rough land and in harsh conditions, by hand.  After nearly 2000 years there is any of it left.  Ok, there has been rebuilding on it in the last two centuries, but in some places it is completely gone.  This should come as no surprise as humans are very good at recycling the old into the new.  As we walked the area, there were houses, walls and barns that were definitely made out of the stones from the wall.  
Some sections of the wall are in much better conditions than others.  This is one of the better ones.

The uplift of the land with the wall built on top.  The lake at the bottom is incredibly clear.

The Lone Sycamore growing on the wall.  

We started our walk on the first day, at Housestead's Fort, going west to Steel Riggs, then down to Twice Brewed Inn.  The second day's hike was a loop from Cawfield Quarry, where the wall is completely gone, as well as a lot of land, to Caw Gap then down the road looking for Shield in the Wall (which we didn't find) then back to the quarry.  We drove to Twice Brewed Inn this day.  Both days we missed the rain showers.  Both days we had excellent brews at the inn.
Another Milecastle. 

Valums, ridges dug to slow down any attackers, are still easy to see.

One of the amazing things about meeting folks walking the Wall?  Every one had a smile on their face!  This isn't a place you can just drive up to.  You have to get out of the car and walk, walk, walk!  Some of the climbs are very steep.  Thanks to the volunteers who added the stepping stones to these climbs.

There were two sections where I really wished I had my hiking poles.  This one was on day 2.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester

Museum of Science and Industry's unique sign.

Mural on the side of a warehouse at the museum.

We considered taking the train into Manchester, but decided instead to drive in on a Sunday morning, since traffic would be lighter.  It was a good idea.  The museum is in a old part of town.  The buildings were originally 4 warehouses and a train station.  The area around them is being renovated into housing and shops.  On the whole, it's looking good!

The old train station on the right and one of the warehouses that are now part of  MOSI.

The Great Western Warehouse, now the main building.

The Air and Space hall looks very 1890's.

Street plantings are easier when it rains this much!

Our favourite part of the museum was the  Power Hall.  It was full of working steam engines and locomotives.  One of the docents gave a demonstration of this huge steam engine that was originally used in a woollen mill.  Lots of noise and steam and movement. 




The Air and Space Hall is an odd assortment of aircraft mixed with cars and motorcycles.  It was still interesting to look at.  Did you know that several of the aircraft companies in England used Rolls-Royce engines?
One of the first Rolls- Royces.

The prototype of the Vulcan, a bomber.

A home made airplane, built from plans originating in France.

A Walk in Manchester

The Beetham Tower, the tallest building in Manchester.

Manchester was a pleasant surprise.  We knew it had once been a center of industry, which had seen better days.  While there was a grittiness to parts that we drove through, a lot of the area is being spruced up, renovated and brought back to life.

Walking under a bridge, you can see the old red brick bridge next to the newer metal supports for the railroad.

These two boxers were very friendly.  This picture is for JP!

Lunch was Super Nachos, which were amazingly tasty.  They even had Chalula to put on them. 

We walked followed a sign for a Roman fort.  There wasn't much there, but a bit farther was a market under a bridge.  We grabbed some lunch, then walked along the canal.  A barge was using the lock, so we watched.  Then there was another one and another one.  The area which was once warehouses is now apartments and businesses.

Family working the locks so their barge could move upstream.

These folks were waiting their turn at the lock.

The foot bridge over the canal.

The bridge is supported only on one side.

Looking at the engineering of the many bridges was inspiring.  There was a combination of old red brick and modern steel.  The footbridge was a bit unnerving; it bounced when walked on!  The entire area was teeming with people enjoying the beautiful weather.  Everyone seemed surprised that it wasn't raining.

The canal was full of barges, some going, some staying.

I really liked the look of this bridge., an older one made from both red brick and painted steel.

A heron at the edge of the canal.  There were also several ducks and geese.  

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was rebuilt by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany, a man who was the power behind the throne as Regent for James I of Scotland,...