The wettest April and a murderer on the loose!

Trip Start Sep 03, 2011
Trip End Jun 04, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Just advising you we are here in the UK experiencing the wettest April in England and Wales on record since they started keeping records. Our time on the Internet has been limited so the blog inevitably has suffered.

We have had to cut our trip in the UK short to 2 weeks. After 3 days exploring London we hired a car and began a whip-around tour of England, Wales and Scotland. That was 8 days ago. We have seen so much but missed out even more but we are grateful for what we have seen. We set off from Reading, then through Hampshire, Salisbury, Bath, Wales, the Lake District, Scotland (the rain stopped for us for 2 days), then back down the east coast, currently staying in Bury Green in Hartfordshire. Today we went down to Dover and hung out at the White Cliffs. Tomorrow is our last day before we fly to Stockholm for an overnighter before we head back to Brisbane on Saturday night via Singapore, arriving 6.40 am this coming Monday. We have seen some amazing scenes and sites and met some wonderful people and some odd ones.

I just wanted to let you know we are alive and kicking and traveling through at light speed and that there is more to add, I have just run out of time and steam, but just hold on!

In our travel trail we have been roaming around where a man hunt has been on for a dangerous murderer, adding to our bigger than "Ben Hur" tale which is to come.

Till then, bear with...!
OK finally got the entry finished.

Our departure from Madrid on Saturday 24th May was pretty easy, we stayed the night at a hotel near the airport that had an Airport shuffle service, thank goodness! That night we also managed to find ourselves a reasonably priced accommodation just out of London but we still had to confirm that she would have us but she gives us directions to get there. 
We arrived  into Heathrow around 2pm and tried to figure out the trains to London. We make it to London Bridge station to be confronted with the daunting Tube and London rail system and the amount of people at the station and the decision whether we should use oyster cards or just buy day tickets. We opted to use day tickets and just buy the tickets to Grove Park out towards Bromley and Croydon (at this stage we have paid from the airport then to Grove Park about $100AU/63, mammoth expense!). We then had to figure out from the 100s of stations which line Grove Park was on let alone which board to look at. Needless to say we figured it out and made it to Grove Park hungry and tired to find our next hurdle: our accomodation, the lady who owns the house is not there and the tradesman tells us to come back, something is up. So we head down to the local chip shop we passed on the way and grab some chips and chicken and eat our dinner at the  corner  on a park wall, quite the sight with all our back packs and bags! A Jamaican lady who lives on the same street as the expected accommodation stops to talk to us and offers us a warm place to wait and access to a phone and the internet should we need it (it had started drizzling, it was cold and getting dark). We tried our place again after our dinner and the tradesman is still there and tells us that he has rang Sophia and she said she is not expecting us and is at a party and that she would not be back tonight ....what??? It turns out we had discussed a reduced price with her and  because of this it was not possible to pay on Air BnB, so we thought we would pay her on arrival, ultimately we thought by messaging her to say we would be there was sufficient to book  but as things turned out obviously this was not the case. It looked bad, we are in London on a Saturday evening and NOWHERE TO stay! We then decide to take the neighbour up on her offer and squeezed into her terraced home kitchen where it is warm and out of the cold. We are amazed at her kindness and hospitality. Her name is Lola, she is a nurse and had only just come home that weekend before heading off to another job. She has lodgers so that her home doesnt get burgled while she is away otherwise she would have put us up. She is lovely and just the help we needed.
With the use of her and her neighbour's phone and  internet we find another hotel two train stops and a bus ride away in St Mary Cray at the Mary Rose Hotel. We thank Lola and her neighbour Donna they are legends. It is late and we are exhausted. Our bus driver from Orpington Station is also helpful and friendly and gets us to our hotel at about 10pm . It had been a rough afternoon and evening but the people we met along the way even our takeaway guys and the Mary Rose Hotel staff that offered us a room at a reasonable rate made us realise how blessed and looked after we are.
The Mary Rose Hotel it turns out is an old pub and hotel with the original part of it dating back to the 1400s. It had been added onto and is a maze like rabbit warren to get through to the rooms. The next day Hannah and I manage to get to church (we spotted a chapel the night before on our trek near Orpington Station) and organised to meet Andrew and the boys there at 12.00 to head off to London to look around
The London marathon is on and down along the Thames it is packed with the cheering crowds and runners. Once again we are greeted by iconic sites and can not believe we are here in London. The Thames, London Bridge, St Paul's Cathedral, big Ben, the London eye, the bridge that gets twisted and destroyed in one of the Harry Potter movies, Westminster, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery (to get out of the rain for a couple of hours) and Buckingham Palace and once again we can't believe we are here in another place that you see in movies and on TV. The National Gallery we find the Van Gogh paintings on our way out and I have an incredible moment at "the Sunflowers" it is beautiful and I am almost in tears.

Monday we moved hotels in the morning as the Mary Rose was booked out so we headed over to the Travel Lodge in Croydon by bus. That afternoon we did the British Museum, Picadilly Circus, Samuel and I rode the double decker buses, Hyde Park, Harrods and Kings Cross Station and platform 9 and 3/4. Hannah spent the afternoon with a friend from Hobart, poor Campbell had to catch up on some school work and Andrew left Samuel and I early to organise a few things.

The next day we picked up our hire car in Bromley and then headed off to catch up with an old friend from Brisbane, Wendy Mills Robinson who is in Reading. Wendy shared lunch with us and impressed the kids with her food and friendship. It was good to see Wendy, it had been over 9 years since we had seen her. We were able to leave our big bags at her home and organized to meet her family and share a meal on our return 10 days later.

Well after a quick stop at an ASDA for some supplies we were off on our whirlwind tour of the island. On the motorway we passed Windsor Castle and again waved to the Queen.
We headed to Sherfield English in the  Hampshire area where some of Andrew's ancestors were from and found some family names at a couple of the old churches in the area. We were going to head down to the South East coast but decided to head to Salisbury where we had a look around the old Cathedral there, had some  dinner and  grabbed some pillows and doonas from Tesco. We thought we might spend a few nights in the car to save some money. We continued onto Bath with a twilight stop at Stonehenge . We got to Bath at about 10 pm and had a night walk around Bath amazed at the Georgian terraced homes on Great Pulteney Street.  We spent the night at the park and ride just out of Bath City Centre.

Wednesday we made our way into Wales - Llangiwg (more McGown family History places), Aberswyth, had curry dinner out on the waterfront under shelter in the rain. Headed to Caenarvon.

Due to time and space I have switched to a diary entry format. There is so much to fit in and alot of days to cover.

Thursday 26th April
Caernarvon, Chester via Conwy, Wrexham and the Lakes District - we drove into the national Park area and decided we were going to find beds for the night - we found a Hostel in Ambleside right on the Lake at half price, we were good! Showers, beds, kitchen and laundry. The hostel was in a big hotel looking building that had over 260 beds and amazing views of the lake.

Friday 27th April
Did we mention it had been raining in England and Wales and there was even hail at one stage. But as we approached the Lakes District the rain began to lift and we were greeted by the sun (though it was still a wee chilly).We explored Ambleside and Keswick. They were very picturesque and beautiful towns/villages and lakes.
Made it to Scotland in the late afternoon - via Glasgow, Paisley. In Paisley we met a Mr and Mrs John Stewart at Church Hill while looking for Middlechurch where the McGowns were christened back in the early 1800s. They explained that the Middlechurch and called so because on the hill it was in the middle had been converted into apartments. So they showed us around the the low church and showed us the renovations and took us past the old Middlechurch and High church which is also still in use.

Saturday28th April
Stayed just out of Stirling the night before then drove into Stirling at 6am to climb up to the Wallace monument and viewed brilliant sunrise views of Stirling and the snowy mountains off in the distance. We found the Rob Roy cemetery/memorial on our way out of Stirling. The Scottish highlands and lakes provided some spectacular and breathtaking sights with snow on the high bits, green valleys with stone cottages lining small lochs and misty crags.
We then pulled into Fort William to have lunch along the Linnhe Loch and enjoyed the sun that had decided to grace us with its warmness for our Scottish visit. On our way through to Inverness we skirted the around Loch Ness looking for Nessie, Andrew and the kids were looking hard while we trdie to stay out of the way of snooty old English ladies on the narrow roads who wouldn't pull over into their shoulder of the road so we could get past. In Inverness we pulled in to use a public phone to call ahead to Benny's parents (Andrew's sister Beth's partner) to see if we could stay a few days with them in a place near Hertfordshire. We managed to organise the stay but discovered the phone we chose to use may have been the local drug dealer's business operation centre. While I was on the phone a dodgy looking "gentleman" started signaling and gesturing at Andrew so we smiled and waved and jumped into the car in case he came back with some goodies for us! We then headed into Perth and stayed at the Scotia B&B, a cute, comfortable terrace B&B with beds and showers.

Sunday 29th April
We left Perth to make it to church in Edinburgh. It seems as we began our trip back south the sun decided to hide and we were back to grey, cold and freeeeezing conditions. After church we warmed ourselves in the Scottish National Museum looking around at their Scottish history exhibit before we gathered the courage to brave the cold to find where another McGown ancestor lived in Edinburgh and the Castle and the historic streets of Edinburgh
Afterwards we decided to drive as close to the coast and scenic route as we could as we headed down towards the Scottish and English border. We stopped in Coldingham to have some dinner then continued onto Whitby where the annual Goth weekend was wrapping up. So between the Goths and the double murder suspect that was the subject of a huge manhunt that week in Whitby and Scarborough, Whitby was a perfectly safe place to sleep in the car. Whitby is the town in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula where Dracula arrives into England on board a ship that had been rendered crewless hence the Goth/Vampire connection.

Monday 30th April
We checked out the atmospheric Whitby abbey on our way out then drove through Scarborough, Ravenscar stopping in Bridlington to have lunch along the waterfront in the sun.
We drove through the city of Nottingham before we headed out to King's Lynn, Norfolk a seaport market town where we had some dinner and watched the sun go down  over the Ouse River. We decided to find somewhere to sleep so we tried a couple of pub/hotels in town but being spotted as not local and 5 being a tad too much to fit in one room so we tried the Best Western Knights Hill hotel and spa where they let us have this huge room and brought in 2 fold out beds and a mattress from another room.

Tuesday 1st May 
After a good nights sleep we continued onto Bury Green. Hill Cottage  was in a tiny little hamlet down this gorgeous country road, this pink cottage with a thatched reed roof, cottage and vege gardens and chickens where we were welcomed by lovely Judy, Benny's mum.  We were made to feel at home. Andrew and I took a stroll down the road while Judy was at Brownies we passed an old red phone box that was now a book exchange, other quaint cottages and country homes and a pub restaurant. Mick, Benny's dad arrived home after work and then we had a lovely dinner of  homemade shepherds pie and rhubarb crumble. 

Wednesday 2nd May
Our last full day of exploring and we decided to drive to Dover and check out the White Cliffs. The motorway down there was pretty busy with the trucks and traffic heading to the tunnel and ferry's to France. We spent the afternoon just wandering and walking along the top of the cliffs and then headed back to Mick and Judy's in time for dinner.  We managed to miss the bulk of the peak hour traffic but did catch a turned over car being attended to which looked serious on one of the "M"s.
We had another lovely evening at Hill Cottage with Mick and Judy.

Thursday 3rd May
Before we left late morning we spent some time with Benny's active and cute granny Audrey who lives in the converted cottage next door called "Snug". Judy took us in for our local village pub experience in the  Little Hadham pub, the Nags Head for refreshments. Next stop was Reading, with the Robinsons. Wendy, Ken, Callum and Kyra had pizzas ready for us all to help prepare for dinner. We caught up and had a great night. We bunked down on mattresses in their living room (thanks guys!) and had a comfortable and warm nights sleep before we had to get up at 5am for our drive to Heathrow to make our7.45am flight to Stockholm.

By this stage we were exhausted from the car travel and just really tired overall from travelling.
Thanks England, Wales and Scotland!

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Maria Shadwick on

Fabulous to hear you are returning to Aus. Will be glad to have you back at NTHS!

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