27th September 2018

We caught the 9.30am train to Bath from Cardiff; as we passed through Newport, we waved to our friend Bill's relatives as we went by. Our arrival in Bath saw us transported into a world of Georgian and Regency architecture, streets and laneways reminiscent of London and Paris, and of course, the Roman baths. We began our visit with a casual stroll up to The Circus and Royal Crescent. The Circus is an historic street of large townhouses, forming a circle with three entrances. Designed by the prominent architect John Wood, the Elder, it was begun in 1754, completed in 1768, and is regarded as a pre-eminent example of Georgian architecture. It has been designated as a Grade I listed building.


The Crescent

A short walk from The Circus, The Royal Crescent is a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent. Designed by the architect John Wood, the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774, it is among the greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the United Kingdom and is a Grade I listed building. Although some changes have been made to the various interiors over the years, the Georgian stone facade remains much as it was when it was first built. We could hardly escape the fact that we were in Royal Crescent, judging by the number of expensive cars. No show-off Ferraris or Lambos here - just the snooty, pure thoroughbreds - Bentleys, Rolls Royces and Aston Martins. All very British.



After this we had a brief look at No.19 Bennett Street, where Arthur Phillip, New South Wales's first Governor, lived (and eventually died) after his Australian adventures. On our way to the Roman baths, we had a friendly encounter with a "Mr Knightley" (maybe Kiera's dad, maybe not), the doorman at the Jane Austin Museum, as "Mr Bennett was on holidays". Mr Knightley is one of those unique characters who can charm the legs off a donkey, though he failed to entice us into the Museum.



The Roman baths could only be described as brilliant. The original baths, which were uncovered and restored in archaeological excavations, have been cleverly highlighted in a more modern setting, and we were able to weave our way through the various areas and gain an insightful understanding of the place's rich history. The Brits centainly know how to showcase their history. We were treated to expert commentaries, clear and informative signage and well thought-out, detailed displays, videos and showcases.


Pulteney Bridge

As today is Stephen and Rona's 43rd wedding anniversary, we had a nice celebratory lunch before resuming our exploration of Bath. We came across Great Pulteney Street, a grand thoroughfare that connects Bathwick on the east of the River Avon with the City of Bath via the Robert Adam-designed Pulteney Bridge. Viewed from the city side of the bridge, the road leads directly to the Holburne Museum of Art that was originally the Sydney Hotel where tea rooms, card rooms, a concert room and a ballroom were installed for the amusement of Bath's many visitors.

They say time flies when you are having fun, and we must have been having a ball, because before we knew it, we were catching our train back to Cardiff for our last night in Wales. That evening we sat back and relaxed, admiring the view.

28th September 2018

"Taking a trip up to Abergavenny, hoping the weather is fine ... "


Abergavenny

Fortunately for us the weather was fine. We said goodbye to Cardiff and our lovely view, rang our hosts and thanked them for looking after us so well, and we were then on our way. First stop was brekkie in Abergavenny. Our knowledege of the place was limited to what the song says about it, so we took a stroll along the main street and checked it out. We then embarked on an "around the world" tour, as we somehow managed to drive from Abergavenny, Wales, to Llangollen, Wales, via England. We had instructed Google Maps to take us through the middle of Wales, but try as we may, we couldn't get it to co-operate.


Llangollen

Nearly three hours later we hit Llangollen, a very pretty little town built on a canal and a fast-flowing stream with its very own rapids right in the middle of town. We had a bite to eat in a tiny cafe next to the bridge, right on top of the rapids, before visiting the Llangollen Canal. As well as boat hire, there is a horse drawn narrowboat which takes passengers for rides along the canal. As we were running well behind schedule, we took our photos then moved a little further along Llangollen Canal to Pontcysyllte (literally, "bridge in the sky"). Here the canal runs through cast iron troughs atop a massive aqueduct high above the River Dee and its valley. This historic bridge has 18 stone columns, took ten years to design and build and was completed in 1805. Standing 38 metres above the river, it is the oldest and longest aqueduct in Gt Britain, and the highest in the world.


Pontcysyllte aqueduct

As the sun resolutely made its way towards the horizon, we wended our way to Wilmslow, near Manchester, to the very nice home of Andrew and Sue Bolt, friends of Stephen and Rona, from Perth, who now live and work in the UK. We arrived at dusk, and were warmly welcomed and settled into our accommodation for the weekend.


Pontcysyllte aqueduct

28th September 2018

We enjoyed a very relaxed start to the day so our hardworking hosts could enjoy a very well-earned Saturday morning sleep-in. We were then treated to a hearty English breakfast - eggs, bacon, pork sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast with a cup of tea or coffee of course. Our hosts suggested we might like a little drive around the area that afternoon, so around 12.30pm, we set off to visit Jodrell Bank Observatory. The Observatory was established in 1945 by Bernard Lovell, a radio astronomer at the University of Manchester, to investigate cosmic rays after his work on radar during the Second World War. It has since played an important role in the research of meteors, quasars, pulsars, masers and gravitational lenses, and was heavily involved with the tracking of space probes at the start of the Space Age.


Lovell Telescope

The main telescope at the observatory is the Lovell Telescope, which is the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. A guide gave a very interesting description of what the telescope does and its role in the world of astronomy. The telescope became operational in mid-1957, in time for the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite. The telescope was the only one able to track Sputnik's booster rocket by radar, first locating it just before midnight on 12th October 1957.

As 29th September is Stephen's Birthday, we headed home, where Sue whipped up a batch of scones for afternoon tea with cherry jam and cream. We then had a beautiful roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner, followed by a number of choices of sweets.

Stephen Yarrow and Debbie Hall

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