Through Dartmore to Fowey – May 2, 2018 (18-43)

Day 7 – Road Day – Through Dartmoor to Fowey

Happy Birthday Dan! We had his celebratory birthday dinner the previous evening in Lyme Regis. We were as close as we may ever get to the Isle of Wight, he does not seem to be losing his hair, and we were very glad to be sharing this wonderful adventure. Onward to Cornwall, where Dan had planned several hiking adventures for us.

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Dartmoor National Park

We chose a slightly roundabout way to Fowey by driving through Dartmoor National Park. The moors are broad uplands bisected by river valleys. Rocky ‘Tors‘ cap the high points, and much of the landscape is divided by walled and treed hedgerows. Most of the land has or is being grazed and/or farmed at some point in history. This is not a USA style National Park, with wilderness and limited access. There are roads, villages, farms and livestock as well as walking paths (hiking trails). The land is being conserved in partnership with the farmers.

Our road wound up and onto the moors. We reached a parking area at what seemed to be the top of the moor and stopped to look around. There was a trail heading off to the nearby Tor – Mel Tor. We walked along the hedgerows, around the sheep and cow enclosures, and up a path to the top of the rocky promontory.  From the summit we could see moorland in every direction, and the River Dart to the south.

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View across Dartmore

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Nearby Bel Tor

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Our path to Mel Tor – sheep ahead

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Another sheep

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Up the hill

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Mel Tor

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Birthday boy at the top

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Views across Dartmore

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The River Dart below

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Another view on the way down

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Looking back to Mel Tor

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Another sheep

We continued our drive west, over the moors, planning to stop at the National Park Visitor Centre at Princetown for more information about the park.  But first we had to drive through a herd of wild Dartmoor wild ponies? Apparently they range freely over the moors, and we were lucky to see them before we knew that we should look for them.

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We stopped in Princetown for lunch and a visit to the National Park Visitor Centre.

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Sherlock Holmes tableau in the Visitor Centre

We stopped again at a picturesque viewpoint over the moor before leaving the National Park. The landscape reminds me of  the Land of Counterpane illustration from my childhood copy of the Robert Louis Stevenson book A Child’s Garden of Verses. I keep looking for that edition in used book stores but have yet to find it. The boy’s patchwork bedquilt was transformed to a land of hedgerows and fields, similar to my view here, and nothing like I see anywhere in the US. I think my love for British literature makes all the typical British scenes seem so magical to me. The western US is much different – dryer, wilder, more expansive, beautiful, but not ‘British’.

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Land of counterpane

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Hedgerow

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Gorse

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Our rental car

In Saltash we bought groceries for four days of home cooking at our self catering cottage in Fowey.

Fowey

Fowey is a Cornish village that is draped down the cliffs above the harbor on the estuary of the River Fowey. Our rented cottage was in a row of dwellings about a quarter mile above the harbor, not too far from the community carpark. The streets and lanes are very narrow and steep, and individual homes do not necessarily have car parking. We were able to park in a construction zone long enough to offload our luggage and groceries, then moved our car to the carpark and walked back down the hill via the scenic route, to the cottage.

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Narrow lane down to the harbor

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Upstream view of the River Fowey

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View across the estuary to where we would walk tomorrow

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Polruan, across the river

We walked all the way down to the harbor

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Upstream view from the quay

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Downstream toward the mouth of the River Fowey

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Local history

We walked past this church

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and around the maze of buildings and lanes, trying to get a feel for the locale. We were glad to have prepurchased our groceries – there were restaurants and Cornish pasty shops aplenty but I did not see any grocery stores. We enjoy eating out while traveling, but after a few days we miss our own cooking –  simpler, cheaper and healthier. We returned to our cottage for the evening.

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Our cottage

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View from the window

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Local artwork  depicting Fowey Harbor in our cottage

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Charmouth Fossils and the Lyme Regis Cobb, with another glimpse of Jane Austen/ May 1, 2018 (18-34)

Tuesday, May 1st. We left Chawton and the bad weather behind and drove to the Dorset coast in search of fossils, views, and another peek at Jane Austen.

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Canola fields through the car window

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Canola field

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The sea comes into view

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and sheep! with lambs!

Ammonites, Charmouth Beach

Charmouth Beach is flanked by eroded cliffs that shed fossils. The Coast Heritage Center at Charmouth had excellent displays about the geology and the fossils to be found in the cliffs.

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I always appreciate a good location map.

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Geologic overview

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Large ammonite

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We didn’t see any of these, but we didn’t stay very long.

We had timed our visit to coincide with low tide. We walked both the east and west beaches.

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Walking down to the west beach; Lyme Regis in the distance.

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Beach huts

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Shale cliffs along the west beach

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Lots of beach glass in the sand

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Walking back toward the River Char.

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One of Her Majesty’s swans near the bridge over the river.

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Dan walking along the east beach

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Dan with his camera

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Low tide

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The cliffs above the fossil beach.

With a tip from a local collector, I learned to spot the cylinders of belemnites, and spirals of pyritized ammonites.

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A bit of pyritize ammonite in the sand – about a half inch long.

I kept just a few tiny bits for my collection, and otherwise enjoyed a beautiful beach day.

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Bits of beach glass and rock – the little snail shell is about half an inch long.

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Bits of belemnites and ammonites, plus a small polished ammonite I bought at the shop near the beach.

Lyme Regis

In nearby Lyme Regis, we checked into a B&B on the hill above town, then walked down the path to the seafront. There was a great view over the coastline – where we had been in Charmouth, and where we wanted to go on the Cobb.

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Lyme Regis

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Lyme Regis Harbor and Cobb

The Cobb is the local name for the curved manmade breakwater around the harbor.

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The walk along the Cobb has been immortalized by Jane Austen in her novel Persuasion.  Teenager Louisa Musgrave flirted with Captain Wentworth by having him jump her down from the steps on the Cobb – could have been these steps,

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The first set of Cobb steps – not too scary….

these steps,

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The second set of Cobb steps

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A little more precarious…

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Looking down from the top

or these steps.

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The third set of Cobb steps

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The pavement at the bottom was equally hard when she jumped too soon, landed on her head, and was taken up lifeless. She recovered slowly with the help of a different sea captain, learned to appreciate poetry and curb her impulsiveness, and left Captain Wentworth free to marry our heroine Anne by the end of the story. Jane Austen lived here in Lyme Regis for a time, and must have walked along the Cobb, maybe even seen a boisterous teen be jumped down the steps.

We walked along the Cobb, on the lower, wind shielded side, to the end. I went up the steps to see the view, but the wind and sea spray made staying on the high path feel unsafe.

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Looking west from the top of the Cobb

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Upper Cobb views

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From the far end of the lower Cobb we looked back across the harbor to the town and to Charmouth beach where we had been earlier today.

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The far end of the Cobb path

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Looking back to Lyme Regis

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Looking across to Charmouth

After retracing our steps, we walked around the shops and gardens near the Cobb, including the rather run down Jane Austen tribute garden.

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An interesting old door

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Slate tiles

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Persuasion gift shop

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Later, we went to the lovely Harbour Inn for a delicious early birthday dinner for Dan. I had the gurnard, a local fish, and he had the vegetarian special.

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As we walked back up the hill after dinner, we took in the views again, punctuated by silhouettes of the charming ammonite light posts.

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The Cobb

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In the morning we set off for Fowey on the southern coast of Cornwall, where we had reserved a cottage for a four day stay.

Jane Austen Day! Part 2, Winchester (18-25)

Winchester Cathedral,       April 30, 2018

We drove the 20 miles from Chawton to Winchester to see the cathedral. After finding parking in the narrow winding streets of the cathedral town, we walked a few blocks toward the cathedral.

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Walking toward Winchester Cathedral entrance

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Interesting wall in the courtyard

The enormous size and architectural details on the outside of the cathedral are amazing:

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North side of Winchester Cathedral

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Closer view

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Passage under the flying buttresses

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Main entrance, Winchester Cathedral

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Exterior stonework

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Gargoyles

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Entry detail

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Entry detail

Once inside, we continued to marvel at scale and detail beyond comprehension: the high ceiling, the carved stone and wood, the arching windows.

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The main aisle

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Detail of upper windows

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A side aisle

As a quilter, I was especially drawn to the patterns in the medieval floor tiles.

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The Jane Austen exhibit had placards describing her life and the monuments that have been installed in her honor near her grave.

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Jane Austen window and monuments in Winchester Cathedral

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Jane Austen’s grave

 

Building stone:

Walking back toward our parking space, I particularly noted the texture and stone in the walls along the street –

which brought to mind the chalk and flint cliffs we had seen at Seven Sisters:

Chawton

Back in Chawton, we stopped for dinner at the local pub, The Greyfriar,

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then spent another night at the Garden House B&B, formerly a gardener’s cottage on the Chawton House estate, though thoroughly modernized since that time. The setting up on the hill was lovely, the gardens were flowering.

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Garden House B&B

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Sheep!

We just happened to be here during a storm so didn’t get to explore much of the outdoor beauty, but all in all it was a satisfying day! Tuesday we were off to our next stop – Lyme Regis, to see fossils and the steps on the Cobb where Louisa Musgrave fell.

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Jane Austen Day! Part 1, Chawton (18-24)

Day 5, Part 1:  Monday, April 30, 2018   Chawton

My top goal when planning this trip to England was to see Jane Austen’s house and quilt. The plan was to walk around Chawton to see her house, the large mansion and church at the center of her brother’s estate, and the gardens and paths in the area where the Austens would have regularly walked while living here.

Jane Austen’s House Museum

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This red brick house in the heart of Chawton holds many items that belonged to Jane Austen or her family members, as well as other pieces from the Regency period that create the ambiance of her daily life. Signs explain what was original and what changes have been made since her time. The tour is self guided, with knowledgable docents that answer questions.

Timeline and Family Tree:

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Furnishings:

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Jane Austen’s writing table

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Jane’s Father’s desk

Wallpaper:

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Portraits:

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Quilts:

Seeing the original quilt was a highlight of the entire trip. Having spent the past five years making a reproduction of this quilt, I really appreciated being able to sit in the room and admire the colorful though faded fabrics and tiny stitches, and think of the three pairs of hands that sewed this masterpiece. I considered the many hours involved in choosing fabrics, cutting, stitching, and keeping track of the quadrilateral symmetry of placement of all those tiny diamonds (more than 2500). More detailed information is available on the museum website.

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Center medallion

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Two community-made tribute quilts completed in 2018 are on view – a paper pieced patchwork quilt placed on a bed,

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and an appliquéd topical quilt honoring aspects of Jane Austen’s life and work:

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It was difficult to get a good photo of this quilt because it is hanging in the room showing the video of Jane Austen’s life, but thorough documentation can be found on the museum website blog.

Jewelry:

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Kitchen:

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View out the bedroom window:

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Gardens:

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After making a few purchase in the gift shop, we went on to:

Chawton House

We walked up the long drive to Chawton Great House,

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now used as a museum and center for women’s literature and writing workshops. We had a delicious lunch in the tearoom,

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then walked through the house. The textile furnishings in the dining room were colorful.

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The upstairs docent showed us this nook where Jane Austen used to sit and write while visiting family.

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From the windows we could see the surrounding land and the adjacent church.

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St Nicholas Church

The church next door is where the local families attend services. Jane’s sister Cassandra and mother are both buried in the churchyard here.

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St Nicholas Church

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Graves of Jane Austen’s mother and sister, both named Cassandra.

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Unfortunately, the weather continued blustery and rainy, so we abandoned our plan for a walk and drove twenty miles to visit Winchester Cathedral and Jane Austen’s grave. To be continued in the next blog post…

England Part 3 – White Cliffs (18-21)

Day 4 – Seven Sisters/Birling Gap April 29, 2018

We took a train from Victoria Station to Brighton, and there rented a car for our next two weeks of adventures.

Our first stop was Birling Gap, East Sussex, on the English Channel. We took a short walk along the South Downs headlands toward Belle Tout Lighthouse, and had good views to the west of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs.

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Belle Tout Lighthouse

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Walking back to Birling Gap

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Seven Sisters chalk cliffs to the south

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Half of the near building has fallen into the sea due to cliff erosion.

We went down the cliffside staircase to the beach along the white cliffs.

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Bluebells!

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To the north – cliff edge with half missing building above

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South view from staircase

The cliffs are composed of Cretaceous chalk with flint bands and nodules. They weather to a gold color, but calve so often that they appear a beautiful stark white from a distance.  Up close, the texture is flint nodules in a chalky substrate, and the beach itself is composed of wave washed nodules.  I would notice these nodules later on our trip in the local building stone.

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Chalk/flint cliffs

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Nodules on the beach

We managed to stay just ahead of an impending storm. From Birling Gap, we drove back west to a B&B in Chawton, Hampshire. Tomorrow would be Jane Austen history day!

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