Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cambridge (Punting on the Cam)

Peeking through the entrance to Kings College.

King's College, Cambridge, part of the University of Cambridge and home of King's College Chapel and Choir.




Clare College college was founded in 1326, making it the second-oldest surviving college of the University after Peterhouse.
Clare has a much-photographed bridge over the river which is the oldest of Cambridges bridges.

The inner courtyard at Clare College


The Mathematical Bridge is a wooden footbridge across the River Cam between two parts of Queens College. The arrangement of timbers is a series of tangents that describe the arc of the bridge, with radial members to tie the tangents together and triangulate the structure, making it rigid and self supporting. Hope that clears the matter up for you !


Usually referred to simply as "King's" the college was founded in 1441 by King Henry VI.
Kings College Chapel is regarded as one of the greatest examples of late Gothic English architecture. It has the world's largest fan-vault, and the chapel's stained-glass windows and wooden chancel screen are considered some of the finest from their era. The building is seen as emblematic of Cambridge.
The chapel's choir, composed of male students at King's and choristers from the nearby King's College School, is one of the most accomplished and renowned in the world. Every year on Christmas Eve the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service is broadcast from the chapel to millions of listeners worldwide. I always look forward to the Christmas Eve broadcast as part of Christmas.



Kings College Chapel and the Gibbs buildings.



The bridge of Sighs is a covered Bridge belonging to St Johns College and built in 1831. It is named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. A common myth states that it was the students who named the bridge "bridge of sighs," College grounds means that the "sighs" are those of pre-exam students.

St John's College Cambridge, affectionately know as 'The Wedding Cake'


Trinity Halls Jerwood Library.

The name "The Backs" refers to the backs of the Colleges. From the punt there were great views of; Magdalene, St Johns, Trinity, Trinity Hall, Clare, Kings and Queens Colleges.
I'm currently reading the 'Stephen Fry Chronichles', so it was nice to identify so many of the places mentioned in the book.
There are 31 Colleges, with Trinity being the largest with 700 undergraduate students. It is also by far the wealthiest, worth hundreds of millions and owning land everywhere. Trinity has a world-renowned academic tradition, with members having won 32 Nobel prizes. In contrast Peterhouse is the oldest of the colleges in Cambridge. It was founded in 1284 by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, on its current site close to the centre of the City. It is also the smallest college, housing 260 undergraduates.


A punt is a flat bottomed boat with a square cut bow designed for shallow waters. The punter propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole.
punts were not introduced to Cambridge until about 1902–1904, but they rapidly became the most popular craft on the river, and today there are probably more punts on the Cam than on any other river in England. Along 'The Backs' the river is shallow and gravelly making it ideal for punting.


Coming back from Greenwich we took the opportunity to stop off at Cambridge, famed for it's historic Colleges and museums. Amazingly this is a first for me especially as only just over 40 miles away.
We had only been in the City centre for a few minutes before we were 'pounced upon' by someone selling punting trips. After some gentle persuasion and negotiation we signed up! Apparently 'Punting' offers the best views of some of the most famous Colleges from a part of the river known as 'The Backs'.

Greenwich (London)



Just one of the stunning Flower beds.


It was wonderful to walk around the Gardens and take in the peace and quiet so close to the City chaos. The land was imparked, for deer, in 1433 and walled in 1661 which gives a feeling of safety and protection. Lots of wildlife to see including Parakeets and Woodpeckers near the bandstand as well as beautiful flower beds and lakes.

The Royal Observatory.



Behind the former Naval College are 183 acres of Greenwich Park (Royal Park).Rising towards Blackheath fantastic views across the heritage site and the City of London are offered. Within the Park is the former Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian passes through the building. Greenwich Meantime was at one time based on the time observations made at the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

The Cutty Sark is a Clipper ship and is 212 feet five inches long and was built in Dumbarton (Scotland) in 1869 for transporting tea across the world. It has been in dry dock at Greenwich since 1954 and is undergoing a restoration project and is expected to open to the public next year. On the 21st May 2007 disaster struck when it was badly damaged by fire.


The Greenwich riverfront with the O2 Arena (Formerly the Millenium dome in the background).


Sir Walter Raleigh statue outside the Royal Naval College by William McMillan. It was moved from its original position in Whitehall to this location.




Greenwich is a World Heritage Site and home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Meridian Line. Other famous landmarks include the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory, and Sir Christopher Wren’s Old Royal Naval College. Greenwich was also the birthplace of many in the House of Tudor, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The palace fell into disrepair during the English Civil War and was rebuilt as the Royal Naval Hospital for Sailors by Sir Christopher Wren.These buildings became the Royal Naval College in 1873.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Portmeirion (Setting of The Prisoner series)

Yours truly posing at Portmeirion.




The village of Portmeirion has long been a source of inspiration for writers and television producers. The most famous and well known being in 1966-1967 when Patrick McGoohan returned to Portmeirion after Danger Man to film for The Prisoner.This was a surreal spy drama in which Portmeirion itself played a starring role as "The Village". On request from Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion was not identified on screen as the filming location until the credits of the final episode of the series.
The show became a cult classic, and fans continue to visit Portmeirion, which hosts annual Prisoner fan conventions. Many of the locations used in The Prisoner are virtually unchanged from the series, 40 years after production ended.
Iron Maiden recorded a song called "The Prisoner" on its seminal album, "The Number of the Beast." In a documentary programme about that album "Classic Albums" lead singer Bruce Dickinson wanders through the avenues of Portmeirion and describes how the song was written. Then how the band's manager obtained permission from Patrick McGoohan to use dialogue from the show in the song's introduction.

Spectacular beach views from the coastal trail.


Wedding taking place at Portmeirion while we were there.


The Central Plaza




Portmeirion is an amazing tourist village in Gwynedd, North Wales. It was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village and is now owned by a charitable trust.
It was always rumoured it was based on the town of Portofino, Italy, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion's designer, denied this, saying only that he wanted to pay tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean.
The grounds contain an important collection of rhododendrons and other exotic plants in a wild-garden setting and a couple of trails to follow. I managed to complete both the Woodland and the coastal trail.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Wales trip - Betws-y-Coed & Llandudno

Llandudno has an award-winning pier on the North Shore; it was built in 1878, and is 1,234 feet (376 m) in length and a Grade II listed building.
As usual attractions on the pier include a bar, a cafe, amusement arcades and children's fairground rides. For reasons best known to myself I spent the best part of £10 on the 'grabber' trying to win a cuddly 'Peppa Pig'. Which I could probably have bought for about 50p! Must have been all that sea air that got to me...




Llandudno is known as the Queen of the Welsh Resorts is now the largest seaside resort in Wales. It was specifically built as a mid-Victorian era holiday destination.
The bay is a wide sweep of sand, shingle and rock extending two miles in a graceful curve between the headlands of the Great Orme and the Little Orme.
For most of the length of Llandudno's North Shore there is a wide curving Victorian promenade on which most of the large hotels are situated.



A cable-lift (built 1969) and the Great Orme Tramway, a vintage tram system (built 1902), transports visitors to the summit of the Great Orme, past one of only two artificial ski slopes in North Wales.

View of LLandudno from The Great Orme.


Next stop was the seaside resort of LLandudno. As it was really busy we set off for the The Great Orme, a prominent limestone headland on the north coast of Wales.
The Great Orme is run as a nature reserve by the Conwy County Borough Countryside Service, with a number of protective designations There are numerous paths for walking on the summit, including a section of the North Wales Path, a long distance route. About half the Great Orme is in use as farmland, mostly for sheep grazing.
There are some cracking views even if it was a bit breezy! It is an area of very rich flora, endangered butterflies and moths. The cliffs are host to colonies of seabirds (such as guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and even fulmars as well as gulls). The Great Orme is also home to many resident and migrant land birds including ravens, little Owls and peregrine falcons.

The Great Orme Cablecar


The Great Orme Tramway


The fourteenth century church of St. Michael, which is the origin of the name Betws (meaning "prayer-house")

There are scenic walks beside the river Llugwy, which flows through the village.This Bridge was very 'rocky' to say the least.



A trip to Wales was long overdue as my only previous trips were many years ago to do an Outward Bounds course at Aberdovey. Also some camping in the Brecon Beacons as part of my Duke of Edinburgh award.

First stop was Betws-y-Coed which was amazingly busy ! Betws-y-Coed actually means'Prayer in the Woods' in Welsh language which is quite nice.
It has a population of 534 and is located in the beautiful Conwy Valley part of the Snowdonia National Park.
The Betws-y-Coed railway station is a real throwback to previous times. A passenger station on the Conwy Valley Line from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog,and an integral part of the tourism industry.