Two Days On The Essex Way

As Luke’s aunt and uncle live in Dedham we decided to incorporate a visit with a leg of the Essex Way, a long distance walking trail that stretches from the English Channel to the eastern edge of London.

Dedham sits close to the middle of the Way. We decided to walk from Great Horkesley to Dedham on the first day, stay the night then walk from Dedham to Manningtree the next as it would be easy to catch the train back to Cambridge. Also the part around Dedham is considered one of the prettiest on the Way as it’s an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

We left Cambridge mid morning and caught the bus from Bar Hill into town then a train from Cambridge to Ipswich then another train from Ipswich to Colchester. The train to Colchester was supposed to go on to London but due to a fatality on the track it was delayed in Colchester indefinitely.

From Colchester we caught a bus to Great Horkesley where we shared a steak and ale pie at the amusingly-named Half Butt Inn.

I had about a quarter and Luke had the rest, primarily because I’d weighed myself at Andrew’s and been mightily displeased with the results.

Anyhow, a little bit of pie was just as delicious as a lot and it’s good not to set out with a bursting stomach.

We set off up the road looking for the Way markers and were soon on the right track.

The Essex Way turned out to be much, much better marked than the Cumbria Way. Almost every time there was a turn it was clearly signposted. We only missed one marker and took two wrong turns, each of which only cost us a few extra minutes. I wouldn’t recommend doing it without a map but we coped quite well with a combination of a printout from from the website and google maps. On the Cumbria Way I would recommend the full OS maps but they weren’t necessary here.

A lot of the Essex Way seemed to be through fields.

A lot of them weren’t particularly scenic.

Maybe it wasn’t the best time of year to do it? We saw a lot of onions and beets, anyhow.

Essex is also very, very flat. We only walked up and down perhaps three small slopes in the two days of walking. This would make it an excellent walk for people with little experience doing long walks, plus you’re always within sight or sound of a road so it would feel a lot less daunting than being out on the moors or up a mountain. The trade off, off course, is that it’s nowhere near as beautiful. If the Lake District was a ten then most of what we saw on this trail (which admittedly wasn’t much) rates about a two. There are some pretty vistas across gently undulating fields with church spires in the distance but half the trail is between hedges and you can’t actually see anything.

Also not great if you’re a bit nervous of cars. Good for snacking on blackberries though, of which there was an abundance!

The little villages are very picturesque and if you like that he’s cottages you’ll be in heaven.

I particularly like all the churches and their fancy lych gates. Lych gates originated in the medieval period as a place for mourners to bring the corpse (litch) to be accepted by the priest. The lych gate was a covered place for them to wait.

This part of England is known for horse breeding and racing so we saw a few horses along the way too.

As we neared Dedham our feet were aching so we stopped for a drink at Milsom’s, the fancy restaurant that we’d visited on our previous visit to Mark and Sue. They didn’t bat an eyelid at our sweaty clothes and red faces, which was awfully good of them.

After a half pint and a rest we felt slightly refreshed and didn’t find the last kilometre too taxing. We walked nearly 19 kilometres on our first day, a good effort after a number of weeks of slacking off. We also managed to get in just before the clouds opened. Lucky!

The following day we had a delicious cafe breakfast that was as good as anything you’d get in Melbourne and had another look at the renovations of Mark and Sue’s place. It’s really come along since we were last there! It’s all going to look amazing when it’s done and there’s lots of neat little aspects, like windows that close automatically when it starts raining.

I took a few photos of Luke with his cousins Alice and Isabel. Luke is the oldest of his generation of cousins as his mother is the eldest of nine Dempsey children. Luke’s uncle Mark is the youngest of the nine (and only four years older than me!) so his children are the youngest of that generation of cousins. Does that make sense?

It was lovely to see them all again!

Our second day of walking was from Dedham to Manningtree. It wasn’t anywhere near as far as the first day but that was probably just as well as we were a bit stiff. The views on day two were a bit better and we only went off track once right at the end. It did mean climbing a fence and crouching through some trees but we emerged on the footpath only a couple of hundred metres from Manningtree station.

We stopped off at the surprisingly nice Station Hotel in Ipswich for lunch (surprising because hotels that are next to train stations are often rubbish) and then continued on the Cambridge.

All in all, a good walk for our level of fitness and experience but not terribly scenic. Perhaps it would be better in Spring? It did seem like a walk that wouldn’t get too muddy (unlike the CW) and is much more accessible. That being said we only saw one other walker in the whole two days and he was also doing the Essex Way. We stopped for a moment to chat and he expressed surprise as well that we were the first people he’d seen and he’d been walking all day. I’m glad we saw at least one other walker so Luke could have a small taste of what I’d experience on an hourly basis in Cumbria. Often chatting to other walkers took up several hours of my day! How strange that, this close to London, we only saw one person.

A few more photos to finish with – and could someone tell me what plant this is?

Crabapples?

Here Comes The Planet 68 – England 01 (2018)

The first video in our 2018 trip! After spending two months in the UK by herself, I join Amanda in England for a few days prior to the two of us heading off to start our travels over in Europe. This video recounts just a few of the things we’ve done over the past few days.

Over the next few months we will be going to Croatia, Italy, Switzerland and France, as well as spending more time in the UK. We’ll also be stopping over in Thailand as we head towards home. More videos of our adventures to come!

Special shout out to the Team Toto crew! 😉

Click here to read Amanda’s entry about this part of our trip!

Canada and Alaska: Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay National Park was the turn-around point for our cruise and the visual highlight. The weather had been almost unremittingly foggy and grey for the whole trip up to this point and so we were all a bit concerned we wouldn’t actually see anything.

Fortunately some sun did appear, and there was no rain. The weather was cold, but because the ship did a loop up the channel and back, we could see everything from our balcony. I did go out on the prow though and took photos from a few different spots around the ship.

It was also a day when the ship’s crew celebrated 77 years of Alaskan cruising with a serving of pea and ham soup (it’s a Dutch thing? Or something) that I thought was very nice but not many others seemed to enjoy it.

The scenery was spectacular, and the onboard tvs had documentaries on the wildlife and the formation of the bay that were quite interesting. They also had a park ranger do a voice-over as we went past the different glaciers.

No big icebergs were to be seen, but lots of little one made the water look like a styrofoam boat had exploded. Although not all of the icebergs were white – many were a dirty brown and you could watch them float along shedding clouds of rock flour that clouds the water and makes it that milky turquoise shade.

Next: Grouse Mountain and Vancouver for a day before heading home.

Canada and Alaska: Whistler and a Float Plane Ride

Whistler rivals Banff for prettiness and the mountains, dare I say it, are even more spectacular. Here’s Mum and I at the float plane dock.

Although who can really say which place we’ve been is the best? I’m reaching that stage of travel where I can’t honestly recall precisely what Banff’s mountains looked like. Lucky I’ve got five million photos!

The float plane was fantastic but slightly wobbly. The scenery was a ring of mountains with glaciers and lakes. The colour of the water was really stunning from the air.

As always, I felt my stomach lurch when the plane bumped up and down, but it was worth it! The other good thing about doing the flying options is that they’re quick (20 minutes this time) and so there’s time to do some walking around afterwards. Whistler town centre is a pedestrian mall and the town is set up for lots of summer sports. BMX and mountain bikers we catching the chair lifts up and riding down the mountain right to the middle of town. I got a free gondola ride and watched them from above.

I didn’t go up the mountain until late so I just did a little walk around, enjoyed the scenery and then came down. The gondola is one of the longest in the world and takes 20 minutes to go all the way to the top. Dare I say it even got a little boring? The views were great though, when it wasn’t rocking in the wind.

After having lunch at a cheap pasta place, Mum and I had enough leftovers to heat up for dinner in our room, which had a microwave. Imagine being able to eat what you wanted, with only a one minute wait and not have to make conversation with a waiter or try to work it tips! Luxury!

How one’s priorities change when traveling, hey?

Next: we go to another place and do more things.

Hoi An Day One

It’s 4am and I’m sitting by the pool at our hotel listening to the occasional boat putter by on the river. After a very early start the day before yesterday, and no sleep all night, I was pretty impressed with myself for having enough energy to hang out at the bar for a few hours before flopping into bed at about 5pm. No caffiene along the way either! 

My very first impression of the hotel was a cement stairway on a dirty side street (to be fair, all the streets here a pretty dirty) but then we climbed up to the airy, flower-filled reception and a view over a long pool to an emerald lawn leading to the river – it was gorgeous. The grounds are full or orchids and frangipani trees in flower. I met a staff member, Nu, who showed me that if I dipped a finger in the little pond around the dining room, little goldfish would come and nibble my finger. 

  

  
The hotel has a four hour Happy Hour, which started just before we arrived. Two for one cocktails, which made them around $2 each. 

They also do a street food tasting on the lawn at 4:30 every afternoon. We tried a bunch of tasty fritters, rolls and noodles and I failed to pronounce ‘that was delicious’ in Vietnamese. The only consolation, when trying to pronounce Vietnamese words, is the obvious difficulty Vietnamese people have with English. Even people with big vocabularies are barely intelligible.  

  After being shown to our rooms, Luke and I had a quick, much needed shower, then went for a wander down to the pool and found Matt and Michael already on first name terms with Tin (or Super Tin, as he is now known). Although I try hard to be friendly to everyone, being with Michael and Matt is like being with two Crocodile Dundees – if Crocodile Dundee spent all his time looking for bars.

The weather is looking like being very warm today (and always sticky-humid) but possibly cooler after that so we’re thinking of having a day by the pool to relax then getting our tailoring underway the next day, plus signing up for some cooking classes and tours. Or maybe we’ll just sit by the pool or the riverside bar, which we seem to have commandeered.

  

Country Victoria and Road-Tripping With My Mum

These school holidays I’m spending time with my mum. We’re doing a six night road trip through north western Victoria and seeing places I’ve either only driven through or not been to before.

We met in Albury, where Luke’s parents live (located, rather conveniently, halfway between Orange and Melbourne) and will be spending two nights in Echuca, two nights in Swan Hill and two nights in Castlemaine before heading back to Melbourne.

Yesterday Mum arrived in Albury and Luke drove us out to the Hume Dam. It was a beautiful day and Luke’s mum, Lea, had informed us that Luke’s great-grandfather had built the dam himself with the help of ‘one or two people’, so we should go see it. I seem to have neglected to take a photo of the dam itself, but there’s footage for the video and it’s a pretty standard looking dam with a road across the top you can walk over. The lake was quite lovely though, ringed with low green hills and people out on boats. No nasty jetskiis ruining the serenity, either. Perfect!

hume dam

The next morning we had a coffee at the lovely Noreuil Park in Albury with Luke’s sister Erin and her ridiculously smiley baby, Evie. Then Luke, Lea, Mum and I drove to Rutherglen to visit a few wineries before Mum and I headed on to Echuca.

Rutherglen is a very popular wine region about three hours north of Melbourne. It’s a small historical town that’s very well presented. There’s dozens of wineries in the area and many are open for tasting. We first visited All Saints, one of the most prestigious wineries in the area. You can tell because it has a frontage that looks a bit like a miniature Hampton Court.

all saints winery

I think castle-style buildings in Australia  look either comical or tastelessly pretentious, but this one wasn’t all that bad and the large elm-lined driveway into the property was quite grand, even without any leaves on the trees. We tried some samples of food in their cheese shop then tasted some wine. I always feel like a fraud when wine tasting – I know I’m not good at it, and I also know that it is definitely possible to be good at it as my friend Nikkii can taste a wine and guess pretty accurately what the label will say regarding flavours. I find this ability to be verging on magical. How can someone genuinely taste chalk? Or pencil shavings? Or white (not yellow!) nectarine flavours? And yet she does. Without any training. I’m not sure anyone I know has an ability that leaves me quite as awestruck.

Fancy produce in the cheese shop.

Fancy produce in the cheese shop.

After All Saints we trundled into Rutherglen to visit Parker Bakery, which Erin assured us was well worth a visit.

parker pies

I opted for a vegetarian pie as I have been in contact with too many vegetarians and vegans lately and feel guilty about eating too much meat. There was only one vegetarian option available but the range of meat pies was pretty impressive, including venison, emu, kangaroo, prawn and buffalo. The gourmet pies were $8 each, which I thought was a bit steep, especially for the vegetarian one, but it was indeed very tasty.

parkers pie

beechworth menu

Last stop was Pfieffer’s Winery, which Luke remembered from his childhood. It was a typical country establishment that was in equal parts quaintly humorous and disturbing.

pfeiffers

scarecrows

Apparently there was a scarecrow-themed event coming up. Possibly for another chance to use alliteration.

scarecrow poster

Inside the shed we tasted some wines and saw people collecting picnic hampers to take out to the bridge. Luke had talked about it being a nice bridge to have a picnic on. I’d been imaging something pretty small and tacky, but it turned out to be gorgeous.

pfeiffers bridge

A proper wide wooden bridge over the river. How lovely! We spotted turtles and fish in the water and wished we’d eaten here instead of in town. Next time.

After Pfeiffer’s Mum and I said goodbye and headed off towards Echuca, using Mum’s tomtom GPS unit (at seven years old it was possibly their very first model) for the first time. ‘The Man’ (as the tomtom will hereafter be called) pointed us in the right direction and we only stopped once as Mum had to put a bet on. Being with my family is so different to being with anyone else in my life. No one else I know bets on horses, eats in bistros, drinks wine with lunch or watches news on television. It’s so familiar and yet quite foreign. I’m not complaining though… except about the news on tv as it’s just so darned depressing.

I’ll leave Echuca until the next post as this one has ended up much longer than I expected. Suffice to say that Mum and I have continued drinking wine and went to bed at 9:30pm and we both woke up around 5am. Lucky you’re not with us, hey Luke? 😉

A New Mission!

Here Comes The Planet is being repurposed like an old milk bottle. But instead of cutting it into a funnel or a mini greenhouse for my tomatoes, I’m going to use it to promote my People Projects. There’s going to be a new project every so often (I’ve been doing lots of thinking on my drives to and from work) and the first one is my campaign to help my brother and his fiancee get married! For FREE! They are finalists in a radio competition and to win they need to get the most votes. People vote by sending an sms (only one per number) to 191300 reading ‘Wedding Michael Nikki’.

My goal is 1000 votes (apparently 713 won last year) and I’m going to do it by harrassing everyone I know – and lots of people I don’t know. Tonight is White Night, a festival in Melbourne where all kinds of things happen all over the city all through the night. I’m figuring the crowd will be in the mood for interacting with strangers and that stranger should be me. I’ve made a cardboard sign and I’m ready to roll. If you can help by sending a text please do so (and get every phone in your house busy!) and leave a note here so I can keep count!

My brother, years ago, helped me out when I was low on cash and got me started with enough money to buy my first sewing machine and so this is how I can help him out and do something he’ll hugely appreciate. He and his fiancee Nikki are raising a family, building a house and running their own business. They are wonderful people who deserve to win!

 

Photos to come tomorrow of me humiliating myself in the city!