This is the long-overdue third (and final, thankfully) installment about our UK holiday in the summer of 2012. I had some picture uploading issues, and there wasn’t much point without the photos, as you’ll see below. If you’d rather read in order, part one is here and part two is here.
On Tuesday, we drove to Oxford. We collected a friend of mine who is lecturing at Oxford for the summer and needed to get to Exeter to give a conference paper the next day. We were glad to get to spend a couple of days with her by driving her down to Exeter, my partner’s old university. (Picking her up in Oxford involved getting soaked with dirty water by a passing vehicle and a hair-raising illegal drive through the controlled part of the city trying to pick up dry clothes from her rooms. Definitely an adventure, but not one we care to repeat.)Once we got out of Oxford, we had a good drive, albeit in intermittent rain; we went off the road for a good view of Glastonbury Tor and a decent tea at the Abbey barn, home of the Somerset Rural Life Museum. That evening we stayed at on old favorite place, the Nobody Inn in Doddiscombsleigh, a tiny village just outside of Exeter in the gorgeous Devon countryside. We had by far the finest meal of our whole trip there, although we had to miss their famous breakfast the next morning in order to get to the conference on time. During the conference session, my partner and I wandered around Exeter. We did a quick tour of the university to see how much it has changed and then parked the car while we walked along the city wall to the cathedral and some of the older sections of the city. After the academic duty was discharged, we made our way back to Oxford by a leisurely and roundabout route. We had a nice lunch at a favorite pub, another King’s Arms, this one in East Stour, Dorset. We visited Cerne Abbas and saw the Giant, and we climbed the hill at Uffinton to see my favorite White Horse.
After saying our good-byes, we headed out of Oxford as far as Woodstock, where we found a warm late welcome at the Duke of Marlborough.The next day was a highlight of the trip, a visit to the Cotswold Falconry Centre. This is a working falconry and non-commercial breeding facility, located on Batsford Park Estate. They have a variety of demonstrations during the day, along with actual hands-on falconry experiences; the staff are incredibly friendly and knowledgable, and the birds are just amazing. I could go on and on about our day there, but mostly I’ll just post pictures.
The falconer pictured in some of these shots, Mike, was wonderful about showing the different birds, explaining the work involved, and answering questions. Lots of questions. He was eloquent about the relationship between the handlers and the birds; the birds are only caged or restrained for their own protection, since the smaller birds are prey for the larger ones (as he said, there would be only “one large, overfed Golden Eagle” on the property.) He let one young peregrine falcon, Leah, fly away for several hours, and then when he called to her (with an offer of food), she came down from a height of about three thousand feet in an incredible dive.
The centre has an active breeding program, and we enjoyed peeking in at the breeding pairs as well as viewing some owl and vulture chicks.
After our day of falconry, we decided to drive some of the roads marked on my map as “scenic.” We drove to Hereford, because I’ve never been there, and then headed back in the general direction of Gloucestershire. We stayed for the night in Monmouth, so technically we were in Wales for part of this holiday — the border down there is extremely convoluted. This time our inn was the King’s Head, a Wetherspoon’s hotel where were pleased to find it was curry night.
On Friday, it rained. All day. It was the wettest day of our entire fortnight-plus in the country, and we got extremely wet. We spend the day in Slimbridge at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, which is a fabulous, mostly outdoor, refuge and conservation site. They have amazing birds from all over the world, as well as some other wetland creatures. Ducks like water, so the residents were very active and visible; we had an umbrella and decent waterproof jackets. What we didn’t have was a charged battery in the camera, so I only took a few pictures, several of them of indoor amphibians.
The rest of our holiday was spent with very good friends in Gloucestershire. This is the only photo I took. Everyone involved preferred it that way, but rest assured that we had a good time.