Meeting Gilly

Who do you know that’s crazy enough to sit on a coach for 8 hours in a day just to meet me?  Why, Gilly, of course!  My lovely Lucid Gypsy friend. She of the luscious poetry and the lust for life.  Crazy, but so lovable!  Warm-hearted, impulsive, prone to hugs and tears, yet a lady of very good taste.  Didn’t she ‘follow’ me to Tavira, and like what she found there?  (Just the right mix of shabby and chique)  All this I knew, but not the lady herself.  If you’ve never ‘met’ Gilly, you’re in for a treat.


Doesn’t that smile say it all?  Of course, there were the charms of Birmingham on offer too.  It’s not every day you’ll find charm and Birmingham in the same sentence, but I absolutely loved the city.  Even though on arrival I thought I’d come to a demolition site!

It was Gilly’s suggestion to meet in ‘Brum’ (didn’t I say she was a lady of taste?).  A ‘midway’ point between Hartlepool in north east England and Exeter in Devon.  We actually managed 8 hours together, which in the circumstances wasn’t bad.  A week might have been better.  What did we actually do, you’ll be wanting to know?  Talk!  Laugh!  Share stories.  Exchange hugs.  But not enough!  Never enough hugs.  I’ll give you a quick glimpse of our day.

It was raining gently when I got up, and this steadily increased to a deluge.  But Gilly brought the sunshine with her.  First stop, coffee, of course! No, don’t get over excited!  Gilly had an Eccles cake to keep her going till lunch.  Nothing more exotic, for now.  I had booked us on to a guided walking tour (well, you know me!) at 1.30pm.  So, after talking, and talking, we set off in the direction of the Library, for the start of the tour.

Not just any library, you understand.  Birmingham Library is a monolithic yet beautiful structure, and I suspect we could have spent most of our day there.  Built over 10 levels, with garden terraces on floors 3 and 7, with a Shakespeare Memorial Room in the Rotunda at the top.  Need I say more?


Look- blue skies too!  We raced back down from the 9th floor just in time to join Jonathan and Dawn from Positively Birmingham Walking Tours. Jonathan, a history buff, and Dawn his apprentice.  I’ll spare you the details but it was quite useful for orientation. Our visit had coincided with graduation day for the Law students at the university, and as we headed into the ICC we were awash with gowns, mortar boards and excited faces.

For me, the best bit was Gas Street Basin and the narrowboats, and exchanging smiles and small asides with Gilly.  The tour was to last 1-2 hours, but time together was precious for me and Gilly.  And hunger pangs were setting in.  Back at the Library we tacitly agreed to drop out, made our apologies and headed back to the canals.  We sat outside the delightfully quirky Canalside Bar and let the world of water entertain us.  And talked, around eating and drinking, of course!

All too soon it was time to head towards separation.  I walked Gilly back in the direction of the Bull Ring and there we found a sunny seat outside Bill’s.  Apparently also a favourite of Gilly’s down in Exeter.  Bramble mojito was a very lovely way to round off our day.  Gilly had Peach Bellini.  Ah, bliss!  I wonder when we can do it again?

For Gilly’s version of events, have a look at A Gypsy and a Restless One.

Jo’s Monday walk : Spanish City


‘Girl you look so pretty to me, like you always did

Like the Spanish City to me, when we were kids…’

I don’t know for sure what holds me in thrall with those words from Dire Straits, but as I walk along the seafront at Whitley Bay they play over and over in my head.  The Spanish City takes me back to my childhood, when it was a funfair.  It all looks very different these days.

A £36million renovation plan is in operation to restore the Dome and create an attractive seafront promenade.  Currently it still has a few rough edges, but progress is underway.  Come with me, and we’ll do ‘the walk of life’?

If you look off into the distance you can dimly see one of the purposes of a walk along this shoreline.  Remember St. Mary’s Lighthouse?  She sits at the end of a causeway that attracts the crowds, whatever the weather.  What are we waiting for?  Let’s get down among the rock pools.


Did Meg say she was collecting feet?  No, it’s no good!  I need both to balance on these slippery rocks.  Let’s hop back up on the promenade. There’s a skate park up ahead.  The kids love those.  The beach is full of dog walkers, and the odd warning sign.


I stop to read a sign about Tide Wrack and Rock Pipits.  Apparently the latter feed on the insects, crustaceans and snails found among the seaweed and rocks.  Conditions are so good here that visitors pop over from Scandinavia in the winter months.  You’ll be pleased to know there’s no waste. Leftover seaweed is used to line the local pipit’s nests in spring.  We’re much closer to the lighthouse now.



You can see already the numbers St. Mary’s attracts.  It’s an overcast day, but warm by north east standards, and whole families have come to play in the rock pools.  Not forgetting the dogs, of course.  It’s essential though to keep a close eye on the tide times.

There is another attraction here, aside from the obvious charms of the lighthouse.  St Mary’s Island is a grey seal haul-out- an area of land that the seals use regularly to rest and digest food.  Seals come onto the rocks and, if undisturbed, will remain there until the tide floats them away.  Grey seals are amongst the rarest in the world, and 40% of them live in UK waters.

Seals are normally solitary creatures, but they often haul-out in groups.  At just 3 weeks old, a seal pup is independent.  Many of the seals on St. Mary’s are youngsters, and it’s essential that they have time to restore their energy levels undisturbed, whilst learning to fend for themselves.

St. Mary’s do their best to educate about and protect the seals.  I have to admit to a great fondness for this lighthouse, which was built on the site of an 11th century monastic chapel.  The monks maintained a lantern to warn passing ships of the danger of the rocks. Sadly the current lighthouse no longer maintains this function, but it’s still a very welcoming space.  A variety of activities take place here, including Fossil Frolics, Rock pool Rambles and even Extreme Rockpooling!  Not quite that brave? How about the Lighthouse Bake Off party?  Set Sunday, 2nd October, aside.

If you’d like to see inside the lighthouse, this post will take you to the top of the 137 stairs.  Opening times and other useful details can be found on the website. (including where to find cake, naturally)  Which reminds me- time to put the kettle on!

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Thank you once again for your generous support.  I have heaps of great walks to share again this week.  Impossible to pick a favourite. If you have one you think I might like, why not join in?  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.


Ice Age!  That’s a wonderfully cool image after the hot weather we’ve been having in the UK.  Thanks, Drake!

Hidden history

Caught between a rock and a hard place with Anabel?

Dumbarton and the Denny Tank

Jackie’s on a mission to find the post office museum in Toronto :

Return to Sender- Address Unknown

Welcome back Violet Sky, and nice to meet you Big Bruce!

The nicest town around

Wine anybody?  It’s totally taken for granted in pretty French villages is :

La Couvertoirade Village

Ruth is taking us for an adventure with bears (or without!).  Don’t miss her superb blog :

Sequoia National Park : Tokopah Falls

I do try to bring you an interesting mix of walks, and am delighted to invite Sartenada here, from Finland :

White bridges

For those of you who prefer to ride to doing too much walking, Jaspa has the very thing :

The Funiculars of Valparaiso, Chile

My lovely mate Cathy’s not afraid of a bit of walking.  And she has an eye for beauty :

Philadelphia Gardens : Chanticleer

More beauty, from NYC this time!  Don’t you just love a meander?

Meandering through the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Denzil’s taking it slowly too this week, after a back injury.  But not too slow :

Bierbeek and Mollendaal Forest

I’m sure there must be a Dire Straits song to fit this one, but I really can’t think of it.  Thanks, Susan!

Walking the Cruise Ship

More cruising, with Carol this time.  I’m going to jump ship in the Whitsundays.  Can you blame me?

At the Beach

All good things come to those who wait, right?  Absolutely!  Please welcome Madhu back :

An Amble through a Storied Park- Lodhi Gardens

Did you ever have a really, really good day?  I just did!  Badfish came to town.  Loud fanfare!

Prague : Up Close and Personal

Many thanks for keeping me company again this week.  I wrote this walk with my friend, Viv, in mind.  I think it’s one she would have enjoyed.  Have a great week, and take good care of yourselves.

Six word Saturday


Said goodbye to a dear friend


Vivienne Frances Blake

1.12.1937- 5.7.2016

We met through Six Word Saturday, and so I thought it would best to say goodbye this way.  I had no idea that, when I returned from the Algarve, the vital force that was Viv Blake had already departed this life.  I posted my six words last week and waited for the response that inevitably came, but this time it didn’t.  I can’t begin to describe the feeling that washed over me when I went to Viv in France to ‘tap her on the shoulder’, and found her daughter Sally’s message.  It was an invitation to the funeral, in Newcastle-on-Tyne, this Wednesday.

I went, with not a little uncertainty.  There I finally met warm and welcoming Jock, whose creativity Viv always celebrated on her blog. Abba played us in with ‘Thank you for the music’ and a very personal service began.  Sally read ‘The poetry of every day’, chosen from the hundreds of poems written by Viv.  I’ll share a snippet :

‘Agenda similar, routine unvaried

until I’m out there,

eyes everywhere

glorying in small shy hedgerow flowers

or exuberance of roses round cottage door… ‘

Just a fragment of the poetry that was Viv’s daily currency.  She could conjure a poem for any given situation, and that included her own epitaph. Not morbid at all, she’d had her health issues and was impatient with the frailties they imposed (especially if ‘that quilt’ wouldn’t turn out quite the way it ought, by Viv’s high standards).  It was read for her by close friend, Linda, who I know best as Tillybud.  Handel’s ‘Let the Bright Seraphim’ and then an emotional performance of ‘Send in the Clouds’ by Judi Dench brought the lump to my throat.  This is her resting place.

I met Viv only once, at Northumberlandia one bleak March day, but it’s a day I’ll never forget.  Those bright eyes twinkled at me with a fierce intelligence, but a love of laughter and of life.

Viv was a constant support and encouragement around my blog. Though she lived the latter part of her life in France, she knew and loved so many of the places I’ve written about in the north east of England.  Places like Hareshaw Linn and Middleton-in-Teesdale recalled fond memories for Viv.

I was in awe of her facility with words, and her desire to go on feeding her brain.  Music, I knew, was one of the loves of her life.  It wasn’t easy to write this but, as I did, what should be on TV last night?  ‘Strictly at the BBC Proms’.  Like myself, Viv was an enormous ‘Strictly’ fan. How Viv would have loved it!  It seemed fitting to watch on her behalf.

God bless, Viv!  RIP.  Six words won’t be the same without you.


Come into the garden, Maude


I found the most wonderfully old-fashioned garden at Burton Agnes the other week.  It will be the subject of a future Monday walk, but I don’t want to get too repetitious.  So, as the month is ticking by and I need to find some vegetables for Jude, I thought I’d give you a swift appetiser.


Everybody needs ‘a man that does’, don’t they?  I played hide and seek with this one.

What was he planting?  Oh, I don’t know- the odd brassica and such, I suppose.  I thought I might write an ode to a brassica, purely because I like the sound of it.  But then I thought I’d better find out what it is.  Wikipedia can be so useful at times.

Not really my thing, veggies, but just wait until you see the ornamental gardens!  For now I’ll leave you with some fully stuffed borders.


Jude can do so much better.  Check out her Garden Challenge.  Lovely word, ‘potager’, isn’t it?

Jo’s Monday walk : Newby Hall, Ripon

Those of you who saw my Saturday post will know that it was much too hot to do any serious walking on holiday in the Algarve last week.  English summertime is, however, the perfect time for gardens, and I visited a flurry of them before I went away.  Perhaps you remember this young lady?


The last time you saw her she was upside down in the water, making a bid for freedom.  I had almost forgotten my Water Nymph.

Newby Hall in Yorkshire was built in the 1690s, under the guidance of Christopher Wren.  The 25 acre gardens feature Europe’s longest double herbaceous borders, and the National Collection of Cornus (dogwoods).  Do you fancy a wander?  If you get tired there’s a miniature steam train to toot and puff you around some of the grounds.  But first, that lily pond.  I can never walk past a water lily without pausing.


It was a lovely, somewhat hazy, summer day and too nice to be indoors.  In case you’re wondering about the house, why not take a peek?  It’s another English ancestral home with a mighty history.  Robert Adam decorated the Tapestry Room and some of the interior.  For me, I was happy to be in the grounds, with its gentle urns and statuary.

I hadn’t gone far when a sign caught my eye- Sylvia’s Garden.  I thought at once of a certain lady in America, but Sylvia was the wife of Major Compton, whose family live in Newby Hall still.  This garden was planted to be at its best in May, to coincide with York Races.  It was late June.

A sequence of interconnecting garden rooms follow, which can be taken in any order.  An alluring bloom or a fountain easily distracts me, and my eyes were on stalks when I saw the wonderful display of peonies, threaded through with star bursts of allium.


I was a little too early for the Rose Pergola and a little too late for the Laburnum Pergola, but the Cornus were in full, joy-packed bloom.

Apparently there are over 100 individual specimens of Cornus represented.  I failed to collect the Cornus Trail booklet from the Entrance Pavilion, so I cannot elaborate further.  Obviously, a black mark!  But you can tell I enjoyed my wandering.

Suddenly I heard the blast of a whistle and I stood, holding my breath.  With a rattle and a clank, the miniature Royal Scot steam locomotive clattered over the bridge in the Rock Garden and sped away.  In time honoured fashion, I waved.  Wouldn’t you?

I had no idea of the breadth and range of this garden.  My previous visits had been accompanied by a small boy, whose chief interest had been the snorting beast that roared through the canyon.  As I meandered on I came to the Woodland Garden.  It was season’s end for the rhododendrons that I love, but how very poignant.  Debbie, does this remind you of anything?


And I still haven’t taken you down to the river, via the herbaceous borders for which this garden is so rightly known.  Burgeoning with delicious irises and yet more peonies!  A toot and a bustle as the train scurries past again, disturbing the stillness.

Not far back to the Garden Restaurant from here, or you could pick up an icecream at the kiosk.  Before departure I really must show you the Water Garden, and then you can simply subside with cake, or something more substantial.

I hope you’re not too weary?  There really is so much to see in these gardens, and when I mention that there is also a Dollshouse Exhibition, Adventure Gardens with a water play area and even an exhibition of Teddy Bears, you’ll know that this is a good place to take the grandkids in these upcoming school holidays.  Have a look at the website.  There’s something for everyone.

Now I really must go and put that kettle on!  I think I’ve earned it.

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I really enjoyed my break, but I’m back with another great collection of walks to share.  Thank you so much for your support.  It wouldn’t be half so much fun without you.  Join in at any time.  I’m usually around.  Click on the logo or visit Jo’s Monday walk page for details.


Isn’t there something magical about Corsica?  Certainly there is through Drake’s eyes :

Touch of yesterday

Anabel’s castle is a whole different ball game.  Check out these views!

Drumlanrig Castle

Jackie supports Gay Rights with some great scenes in Toronto :

Toronto Pride

Liesbet cheats a tiny bit, but nobody said the walks had to be all uphill, did they?

Climbing Mount Greylock the easy way

How about a little shopping In Berlin?  Lady Lee will be your escort :

Strolling at Kurfurstendamm

Susan brings fragrance and a smile to our walks this week :

Walking along fields of lavender

Kathrin found something quite unusual and rather wonderful on her recent road trip :

Water towers in Mendocino

Jude has a few chips to share.  No, don’t all rush!  Her OH has probably eaten them by now.  Gravestones will have to do, but they’re not so tasty :

Ludgvan Churchyard

When Cathy’s not meandering in Myanmar she still likes to keep an eye on the oriental :

Philadelphia gardens : Shofuso Japanese house and garden 

And while we’re in ‘Japan’, share a little beauty and serenity with Rommel :

Goshiki-numa, Five-colored Lakes in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

Fabulous, aren’t they?  Have a great week everybody.  I hear the temperatures have followed me here from the Algarve, but don’t worry- they’ll only last a day or so.  Enjoy!  See you next week.  Don’t forget Monday Escapes if you have a minute or two.

Six word Saturday


The devil is in the detail


Mistress of the beach

Drifting, swirling on the tide.

Fronds that tease tiny fish

Then lie stranded on the shore-

A frothy, green petticoat.


Jen’s photo in the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is a real beauty.  I can’t hope to compete, but I did want to share with you a few of the details of my recent trip to the Algarve.  As half expected, it was unbelievably hot, and much of the time was spent with my toes in the water.

A weekend at home in the UK will be an entirely different prospect.  Perhaps I shall relish the cool.  Whatever your weekend brings, I hope it’s a good one.  Join me on Monday and we’ll find somewhere to walk.  But first, pop in on Cate with six words?


Jo’s Monday walk : Boa Vista Trail


Becky will recognise this little chap straight away, but I’m not going to take her advice and walk the Boa Vista Trail the ‘other way round’.  I would, however, suggest that you pay close attention to her post, if you one day find yourself up in the Algarve hills, with a little time to spare.

It was one of several grey days I encountered in April this year, not ideal for a trail named beautiful view, but pleasant enough for walking. From Vila Nova de Cacela in the Eastern Algarve, we left E125 and headed north on a minor road, EM509.  A goatherd and his enthusiastic dog caught my eye as we headed for open country.  At the village of Corte Antonio Martins, our 9km circular trail began.

There was a slight, blustery wind, setting the flowers to shiver and shake.  As it died down, a spatter of heavy rain drops hit the ground. Up went the umbrella! (the other half, ever prepared)  This is just like an English walk, you’re thinking!

But the flowers on the hillside told a different story.  Cistus beamed at us- mostly the Montpellier variety, with their welcoming ‘face’, but large, plain white ones too.  Tiny pink ones, and others resembling potentilla.  Wild lavender and vivid yellow broom.


Looking over a cottage garden wall I tried to guess at some of the mysterious planting.  Carobs and apricots, figs and aloes, I managed.

Just occasionally the sun peeped out, transforming our world.  Well-marked paths rolled gently up and down the hills.  Reaching a crossroads, we continued on past countryside wholely at ease with itself.  Houses dotted the landscape, some, sadly neglected shells, others full of life.  A cat gazed, unblinking, as we rounded a corner.  A challenge in that glare!

The trail crosses the Ribeira do Rio Seco in a couple of places, ‘dry river’ a not entirely accurate description.  Rather, a shallow stream, at this time of year, the surface liberally sprinkled with tiny white flowers.  They seemed to link arms, reaching across the water.


Gently uphill again, cistus pointing the way.  A sign for Pomar confirmed we were still on track.  At a ramshackle old hill top cottage we came unexpectedly upon a family of small, brown goats.  Engrossed as they were in giving a ‘short back and sides’ to the overgrown shrubs, suddenly we were eye to eye.  After the slightest hesitation, we were dismissed us as unthreatening.  Back to the job in hand!

We carried on, with huge smiles on our faces.  Not far to go now.  This is agricultural country, the hills green and vibrant with colour.

Our second crossing of Rio Seco produced still more delight.  A shimmering green pool among the rocks.  And more of those little flowers, holding hands as they stretch out on the cool water.


Over the hill and heading for home, that sky still looked very dark.  I never did see a Eurasion jay, as the walking guide suggested I might.  I think I’ll leave that to Becky.  She’s so much better at that kind of thing than me.


This walk is on p. 156 in the Walking Trails in the Algarve guide, with a map and further details.  If you saw my Saturday post, you’ll know that blue skies are more the norm in the Algarve.  I’m off there, just to make sure, on Wednesday, so there won’t be a walk next week.  Heaves sigh!  Never mind- let’s put the kettle on, shall we?

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Thanks everybody for your company and your great support again this week.  I still have a fistful of gardens to share, but they’ll have to wait a little while.  Meantime I have some wonderful walks to share with you.  If you’d like to join me, you can post a walk at any time.  I’ll catch up when I’m home again, because I don’t have Internet in the Algarve.  Details are always on my Jo’s Monday walk page, or just click on the logo above.


I hope you all have one of these.  Drake does!

Nice life

Or you could take a nice old-fashioned walk on the prom with Lady Lee :

Along the Promenade

Miriam’s a lovely lady but I’m so not ready for Winter yet!

Winter in Maldon

A Canadian brewery tour with Jackie?  Now that’s a different proposition :

Distillery District 

I hope you’ve got your money handy?  We’re shopping with Biti this week :

The Market

Or we could go looking for bluebirds and butterflies with Geoff.  Hint- there are White Cliffs :

Bluebirds and Butterflies

Carol’s been living it up again, in that delicious Hawaii place!

Friday Night in Waikiki

The big city beckons Jaspa.  Look out for the graffiti fish!

A Stroll around Montevideo, Uruguay

I owe Susan humble apologies.  She’s been diligently walking and I never even noticed!  Not one small walk, but three!

Walking Brasov, Romania

Walking with Pelicans (sorry to show bias, but this is my favourite)

Walking with Sea Gulls

Kathrin is spending some wonderful beach time too.  Watch out for the spray!

A walk along 4-mile beach

There you have it, for now.  I hope you can find time to visit because I’ve included some wonderful walks.  There’s really something for everyone. I’ll be back walking on Monday, 18th July.  Take good care till then.