There was no grand adventure last year, nor will there be one this year. As much as going on a 1200-mile pub crawl is fun, the real world of babies and children does make them that bit harder. However, May 2013 will see the return of the Grand Adventure when Richard and I take on the 82-miles of the Dales Way. This is a walk across the Dales from Ilkley to Windermere. It starts by following the river Wharfe up to its source and then crossing the Dales watershed, through Cumbria into the Lake District. We’re taking five days to do the walk. One stopping point will be Ribblehead, where we’ve managed to book the only twin room in the only pub for miles around, just beside the awesome Ribblehead Viaduct.

Can’t wait!

The photo is from when Sarah and I drove past Ribblehead in 2010.

Bradford Garden of Light

We went into Bradford at dusk on Sunday for a look at the Garden of Light. It was a spectacular light installation by French light artists T.I.L.T (who don’t seem to have a website that I can see).

There were massive green blades of grass, blue dashes of light, purple explosions of neon, jugglers, stilt-walkers, lots of people, and the obligatory purveyors of plastic tat.

Bradford Garden of Light

Ted and Charlotte loved it.

Bradford Garden of Light

The fountains were lit up and despite the cold, children were wading across the city lake to play in the massive jets of water at the centre.

Bradford Garden of Light

It was a good way to spend an hour on Sunday night.

Bradford Garden of Light

I decided to take the 50mm prime lens to give myself a bit of a challenge, and so that I wasn’t being too bulky in the crowds in Bradford. Since I didn’t take a tripod either, I had to make do with a stupid ISO of 32,000, but the photos have turned out quite well, I think. There are more on Flickr in my Bradford Garden of Light set.

Lion at Longleat

Michael Scott, his wife Sarah, and their three children were driving through the Wiltshire countryside on Thursday when they saw what they believed was a lion lying beside the road. The shocked and frightened couple stopped their car despite the danger and grabbed this fuzzy photo, which experts have been unable to verify as a genuine lion.

“It was a lion, alright”, said Michael (35), “I grabbed Sarah and said to her to look at that and she said it was a lion, definitely a lion, like, innit. I was lucky to be travelling with my camera on my lap. I pointed it out of the window and just grabbed a shot. My hands were shaking, I was sweating. It was surreal. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

The sighting of the beast, with a “shaggy mane like a lion” sparked a massive hunt but this had been called off by tea time. One of the couple’s children reported hearing a “roar like a tiger”, but this was later revealed by police to have been a cruel hoax by Ted (3) sitting in the car with the rest of the family.

There have been no confirmed sightings of the animal, despite an intensive search that spread all the way to Essex this weekend.

Experts are divided on what the animal was. “One problem is that of perspective”, said Richard Towriss, lion expert at Shipley zoo, “there’s just no way to tell the scale – it’s probably a ginger moggy sitting in some short grass.”

Whatever the animal, Michael remains convinced that it was a lion that he and his family drove past that day.

“It was a lion. I believe it was a lion now, and I’ll believe it was a lion the day that I die”.

Home for two weeks - Clanville Manor, Somerset

After the washout that was Ibiza in June last year, we decided to stick with somewhere guaranteed to be sunny and warm, and chose Somerset in the south-west of England. We wanted two weeks in which to relax, spend time with the children, and to recharge. Having used the Farm Stay website to browse for places, the two weeks we spent in the Tallet cottage at Clanville Manor was perhaps the best holiday I’ve had.

On a working farm, the small cottage a mile or so from Castle Cary and in the middle of nothing but open fields, was to be home from home for a fortnight. With a large lawned, walled garden, climbing frame, swing, slide and wendy-house, it was lovely to be able to see the children playing safely whenever they wanted to. Through a locked gate was a heated swimming pool that we used almost every day, and which Charlotte and Ted thought the highlight of the whole holiday.

The cottage was far enough from any kind of urban area to give beautiful displays of stars on clear nights. It was even possible to see the faint smudge of the Milky Way spanning the sky. We’d sit out in the dark until very late watching satellites go silently by, and see the occasional shooting star.

Starry clear Somerset night

Our host Sally, and her farmer¬†husband Rob, made us all feel so welcome, invading their home and workplace as we did. Sally made a big fuss of the children, taking them to collect the eggs from the farm’s resident chickens every evening, and engaging them in friendly chat whenever they saw her. On the final day, Rob took us on a walk around his beef farm. He took us to meet the cows, and entertained us with his enthusiastic stories and anecdotes. Charlotte and Ted loved being so close to the giant animals. Sarah and I were touched by Rob’s personal insights and the obvious care and that he takes with his cattle.

The middle of Somerset is a wonderful location for a holiday. It’s easy to get to the coast in two different directions in less than 90 minutes’ drive. It’s spoiled by the abundance of English Heritage and National Trust properties, and the number of unspoilt pubs serving fabulous local ale and cider was a specific highlight!

It wasn’t a lazy holiday. We went to:

Longleat was a highlight, although it was terribly expensive. There was so much to do there, and I grudgingly accepted that it was good value for money.

Rhinos in Wiltshire

There was more to the holiday than just the places we went, or the place that we stayed. It was the first time for over a year, and the first time since Stan was born, that I have spent more than a few days in a row with the children. The holiday was most special therefore as it gave me a chance to be with my family both relaxing and having fun.

Holiday family portrait

All that remains is to say once again a big thank you to Sally and Rob. You really did make our holiday – it would not have been the same without your welcome and enthusiasm, or your beautiful cottage on your wonderful farm. We will be back!

Ibizian sunshine, summer 2011

We went to Ibiza earlier this month and this is the weather that we found. For one whole week it rained! We had fun nonetheless and it didn’t rain constantly on each day, but our overall impression of Ibiza in June was one of rain and damp and chilly winds.