Sunday, 22 August 2010

Summer Holiday

This year it was the turn of the USA branch of the family to come here. So The Daughter (TD), The Son in Law (TSIL), The Granddaughter (TG), The Son (TS), The Daughter in Law (TDIL), The GrandSon (TGS) and The Better Half (TBH) and I all went off to North Devon in three cars. We had to all meet at our house and TBH collected the USA contingent from Bristol Airport very early on the second morning. Despite the two young cousins not having seen each other for about three years, they hit it off straight away and were inseparable most of the time.
Because cell phone services are patchy around the British countryside, I had bought a set of four two-way radios and gave one each to the kids and made sure there was at least one in each car.
These proved very useful and the two children took to them 'like a kid takes to new technology'.

They were able to keep us in touch and pass on instructions to each car if we were going to stop or take a detour or whatever. The range was not very far when they were inside the cars and we lost touch from time to time on the Motorway travelling down when the lead car got too far ahead but for the rest of the time they worked just fine.

At our holiday cottage, there were some animals that could be fed by the children and five trampolines of various sizes. There was also swimming pool that we could use, so the kids bounced and splashed and generally had a great time when ever we were back at base.

Each morning and evening several flocks of geese flew over the cottage, flying from their sleeping place to their feeding ground and back.

Two quite different scenes from walks we took around the area

The days were taken up with trips to different parts of the area and one day we went to Clovelly. Although I have been to this part of the world quite often, I had never been there before. North Devon is in my opinion better than Cornwall, for two reasons. One it is closer so you are not worn out by the time you have wended your way there and secondly the views are better and more frequent. In Cornwall, the roads are narrow and often deep within embankments with hedges on top of them so that you cannot see much at all.

Clovelly is more like Cornwall in as much as you see nothing until you are there. The village is centred on a small fishing harbour that is traditionally reached by a very steep cobbled track, suitable only for foot traffic, donkeys or the wooden sledges they use to slide goods down to the harbour. These days it is extremely commercialised and you cannot enter the village without paying a fee. I recall some of my aunts and uncles visiting Clovelly in the fifties and they did not have to pay to walk down to the harbour then
It is a very long way down and you can get a lift back for one pound to get almost to the top and two punds to go all the way, which two of us decided was worth the fee to go nearly to the top whilst one opted to go all the way.

A typical view of Clovelly

The days went by very fast and we visited several familiar places I had know from earlier holidays with my two sons when they were children.
One place we went to was Woolacoomb, which has a wonderful beach that seems to stretch for miles.

We did the usual sandcastle thing and I took the children down to the waters edge where they splashed and dodged the rollers coming in. TG managed to trip me at one point and down I went right on top of her whilst she managed to knock TGS over too so we were all in a heap in about eighteen inches of water with TG at the bottom. I rolled off her and pulled her out as quickly as I could in anticipation of some tears but instead, she shook herself like a dog, spat a few times and then could not stop laughing. Of course I had not go shorts on that day, jeans and a shirt, so I was soaked and we trudged back up the beach dripping and laughing. The others who had remained safely in the dry had not been able to see clearly what happened but were soon laughing too at the sight of TG with her bedraggled grandfather. We then demonstrated the English technique of changing small wet children into dry clothes in public whilst retaining their dignity under a towel.
You can see from the picture that being England in the summer, whilst sunny, it was not a hot day, so speed was essential.When we returned home, we still had a couple of days to go before the USA contingent’s flight home so we decided to go out to Stonehenge. This is not very far away from where we live and for the last eighteen months of employment before I retired, was on my route to work and I commuted past the monument every week. Once parked, we went through the turnstiles and each received a little audio guide that talked you around the site. Time was when you could wander at will amongst the stones but due to the vast numbers of people who visit each year and the wear on the site, they are fenced off, which means that I am a member of an exclusive but diminishing group of people who have actually touched the stones themselves.

Typical view of Stonehenge

After we had all listened to the guides and then wandered through the souvenir shop, we had a picnic lunch sitting by the cars. We then drove off home via an even closer but less well known stone circle, Avebury. This circle of stones is much larger than Stonehenge, being large enough to contain an entire modern village. Modern that is in respect to the stones.
The stones are less spectacular because they are isolated and smaller but nonetheless impressive. The whole site is surrounded by a mound and a ditch, which was dug out with deer antlers for excavation tools and must have been a monumental task, literally.

Some of the stone circle with TG and TGS walking around them.
Here you can touch the stones.

This area of Wiltshire abounds with Neolithic remains and there are stone avenues, the remains of woodhenges and several barrows, (burial mounds) in easy reach of both Stonehenge and Avebury. Close to Avebury is also a huge mound called Silbury hill that was built, it is believed, as a burial mound for someone thought to have been considered important enough at the time to have had the largest artificial mound in Europe raised over their grave.

Silbury Hill
The next day was packing and preparing for our visitors to go their respective ways which resulted in floods of tears from the children, (of all ages) and lots of hugs from TG for me.
Finally we were on our own in a very empty seeming house and summer holidays are over for another year.


  1. Sounds like you all had a wonderful time! I didn't know there was a US side to your family. I haven't been to any of the places mentioned -- something we planned to do 'one day'. But the years are slipping by too quickly and I honestly don't know if I will get to the UK again. Maurice Smith, who was our best man and lives in Pocklington, is very ill -- heart problems.If he passes away I may try to go over for his funeral, depending on a number of things. Great, and very interesting post, Snafu.

  2. Chris, These are TBH's son, daughter in law and grandson who live in Lawrence Kansas. I also have some relatives on my mother's side living in Florida but we don't get to see them very often, so including you there are three families in the USA, two in Canada and three in Australia. It's a small world. My maternal grandma was born in New York and lived in Washington DC for her early years so there must be some relataions still around there too, but we have lost contact.

  3. What a grand gathering of relatives you had, Snafu - and what lovely adventures. I am sure they all went home with lots of photos and wonderful memories!

    I especially like the photos of the lighthouse and the boat, and I love the fact that you fell in the water (sorry for loving that but it just brought some funny pictures to mind!) -- jeans just take forever to dry, don't they? Perhaps that's how you ended up with a bad cold.

    I remember that my parents loved Cornwall and visited quite often in the early years of their marriage I think.

    Thanks, snafu, for taking us on the trip with you!