Tag Archives: Countryside

Glen Etive

Buachaille Etive Mor

Glen Etive

People who visit Glen Coe for the first time will invariably miss a small turning opposite the Kingshouse Hotel, and even if they knew it was there would probably give it a miss anyway, because this narrow single track road comes to a dead end after 14 miles, which means that you have to turn around and come all the way back – so why bother?

The answer is simple – the breathtaking scenery makes it, in my humble opinion, one of the best short scenic drives in Scotland.

As with all scenic drives, it’s best done outside of the peak holiday season. Fans of James Bond come here to see where some of ‘Skyfall’ was filmed, and it’s also popular with kayakers – and of course, climbers and hillwalkers.

Fortunately, when I drove down here one winter’s day, apart from one notable exception, we never saw a soul.

Several streams provide the River Etive with its source on Rannoch Moor, but for most people their acquaintance with it starts at Buachaille Etive Mor, the pyramid shaped mountain at the top of the glen.

The road follows the river down through the valley, at first underneath Buachaille Etive Mor, and then Stob Dubh before widening out as it flows into the head of Loch Etive.  Continue reading

Hadrian’s Wall through Northumberland

Hadrian's Wall country at Steel Rigg

Hadrian's Wall through Northumberland

This blog is not intended to be an in-depth historical account of the most important Roman monument in Britain, but if, like me, you have an interest, but not a degree in Roman history, and want to explore some of the more fascinating parts of this remarkable feat of engineering, then perhaps this tour will be a good starting point.

To put things in perspective, Hadrian’s Wall marks the extent of the Roman Empire in North-Western Europe, but unlike most of the other Roman borders, which used natural features, a man-made structure was needed to protect Roman Britannia from the ‘barbarians of Caledonia’.

Work started on building the wall in 122 AD and finished 10 years later. It ran for 73 miles (80 Roman miles) between Wallsend-on-Tyne and Bowness-on-Solway and did what it was meant to do for nigh on the next 300 years.

The wall also consisted of protected gates every mile (known as milecastles) with two observation towers in between (turrets), and at least 13 forts (the exact number depends on different factors).

Those people who walk the entire Hadrian’s Wall Path will get to know it intimately, but for those who can’t or don’t want to, then it has to be worth knowing where to start.

I think even the experts would agree that the Northumberland section of the wall offers the most interest, and for this post this will be the area I’m going to cover.

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The Somerset Levels

The Somerset Levels

It might surprise some people to learn that one of my favourite areas of the West Country is the Somerset Levels – that flat, wet landscape between the Mendip, Blackdown and Quantock Hills which people tend to ignore on their way to somewhere else.

Come to think of it, that’s probably one of the reasons I like it so much, but there’s more to it than that. Metaphorically speaking, the more you dig under its surface, the more you’re likely to discover – not just about the life and history of the Somerset Levels – but more about yourself as well. It’s a land that time has largely passed by and the perfect antidote to today’s modern stressful living: It’s also a land that is full of character and characters, myths & legends and somewhere that is completely at one with nature.

So how have the Somerset Levels and Moors (to give it the proper name) developed into the place it has: The answer is water – or rather, the control of it.

The general height of the land is just 3-4 metres (10-12 ft) above mean sea level, which when you consider that tides in Bridgwater Bay have peaked at over 25 ft, you can imagine what sort of problems can be created if they’re not managed properly.

After the last ice age this landscape was covered by the sea most of the time and punctuated by the odd island here and there: Glastonbury Tor is the most famous, but there are others such as Burrow Mump and Brent Knoll: In the drier months when the water subsided, the fertile grasslands were accessed from these islands on wooden tracks by people to an area the Saxons referred to as Sumorsaete, or “Land of the Summer People”.

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St. Nectan’s Glen

St. Nectan's Glen

A Magical, Mystical Valley in North Cornwall

We’re now at that time of year when everyone, it seems, is travelling around – everyone, that is, except me.

I’m not a great one for heading off into the summer traffic, but for anyone who has little choice, and prefers somewhere peaceful, perhaps St. Nectan’s Glen may just be the place for you.

Many people travel down to Cornwall for a summer break, and quite a few beat a path to Tintagel. It’s easy to see why; it has a magnificent coastline and a castle that lures people who have a fascination for King Arthur.

The town is a bit too touristy for my liking, but just a 5 minute drive out of town along the road to Boscastle is a car park where you can leave the car behind, and head up through St. Nectan’s Glen to somewhere that is so magical that it could easily be home to Merlin himself.

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Iddesleigh and the War Horse Story

Iddesleigh

Iddesleigh and the War Horse Story

Iddesleigh is one of those delightful little cob and thatch villages that lies hidden amongst the rolling hills of the West Devon countryside.

It’s not somewhere that you just stumble across, and even in this modern age where everywhere is near somewhere, thanks to the ever-increasing ability of motorists to seek out the most obscure places, it still takes a bit of finding – but it’s worth the effort.

The home of less than 200 people, Iddesleigh has a church and a pub but not much else, and were it not for a nearby farm I don’t suppose too many people would bother to seek it out at all.

Between 1830 and 1836 Parsonage Farm was the home of the Reverend ‘Jack’ Russell, the curate of St James’ Church. He was the first breeder of the terriers to which he gave his name, but this isn’t the reason why people come to take a look around the farm. They come here to find out more about another animal – Joey the War Horse.

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A Walk in the Park

A Walk in the Park

Anyone who has read my previous blog about Cockington Village will already be aware that there’s more to Cockington than just a few thatched cottages and a pub, and so today I want you to slip your trainers on, and come with me for a walk in the park.

In this context ‘park’ means Country Park, which in the UK refers to a recreational area which I think of as a half-way house between an urban park and the open countryside.

The idea was conceived in the 1960s to encourage people in urban areas to get up off the sofa and out into the fresh air without having to head off into the sticks and trample all over farmers’ fields.

The Country Park at Cockington, like others throughout the country, was initially set up with central government funding through the Countryside Commission, but surprise surprise, the baton has since been passed over to the local council to foot the bill for the upkeep and provide free access to all.

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Cockington Village

Cockington Village

Just a mile or so from Torquay sea front, a country lane leads to a small picturesque village that is a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Torquay Harbour.

The village centre harks back to a bygone era when it was part of the Cockington Manor Estate: It has all the quintessential ingredients of what every visitor’s idea of an old Devon village should look like; a place where thatched cottages with hanging baskets entice people into their gift shop or garden for the obligatory Devon ‘Cream Tea’, but there’s more to Cockington than that, and in a separate article I will be describing the estate that surrounds the village which is now a 420-acre Country Park. In this blog though, I’m going to give a short introduction as to how the ancient manor became what it is today and what the village has to offer.

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