Author: restlessjo

Hi! I’m Jo! Johanna when I’m feeling posh, Jan to my Dad, and Joasiu to my Polish family. A bit of a mix-up, that’s me. The one constant, however, is my restless nature. I love to travel and to explore our world. It doesn’t have to be the big wide world. I can be ridiculously happy not too far from home, so long as I’m seeking new horizons. Of course I have a wish list, and it was to help me fulfil my dreams that I started to write travel guides for a venture called Simonseeks. I’d always kept a travel diary, and it was hugely satisfying to share my experiences and to make new friends who shared my passion for travel. Alas, Simonseeks hit a few troubles, but I still find myself writing about my travels. I’ve become addicted. I’d love to share them, and to make more friends. So, it has to be a blog- right? Or do I mean- write?

Jo’s Monday walk : Belsay Hall and quarry

If there’s anything in life that gives me a kick, it’s a rhododendron!  Find me a quarry full of rhododendrons and perhaps you can imagine the effect. So I was very happy to make a return visit to Belsay Hall in Northumberland, a week or two ago.

Managed by English Heritage, the Belsay estate dates back to 1270, when it was first bought by the Middleton family.  Heritage on the grand scale, it comprises a medieval castle and a Greek Revival mansion from the 19th century, linked by some truly wonderful gardens.

As you can see, it’s not only rhododendrons vying for first place in this beauty contest. Bypassing the more than stately hall, I cannot wait to feast my eyes.  Frilled tulips and those with plainer frocks, delicate iris, and a shy magnolia are just some of the blooms that greet me. The grounds are the very essence of grandeur.  There’s even a croquet lawn, for that most refined of pastimes.

Tree heather lures me on and I find myself shoulder to shoulder with these beauties. Don’t they just sing with colour?

Even looking at them in photographs, I am mesmerised.  But this is only a beginning. Next, the quarry, with its magical patterns of light and shade.

The colours are rich and mellow, and the quarry towers above you.  It’s like a fairy glen, scaled up for a friendly giant.

Are you speechless yet?  I don’t know where I’ve ever seen a better display.  The castle is close by, approached through a bluebell wood.

In this serene and pastoral setting it’s hard to credit that a family would need a castle for protection.  When it was constructed, in the 14th century, conflict and border disputes were commonplace between England and Scotland.  The castle has one of the best preserved examples of a pele tower- built by rich families in this area in the Middle Ages for self defence.

From past experience, castles make a good subject for Paulas’s After and Before in Black and White Sunday.  What do you think?

The Middleton family lived in the castle, with modifications, until the completion of their mansion, at Christmas, 1817.  Inspired by a honeymoon in Greece, Belsay Hall was built with rock carved from their own quarry.  Let’s stroll back round there now, past the lake and the grazing sheep.  I try to get a close up of a cluster of cygnets, but they’re too far away to be more than a splash.

There was an exhibition of quilts taking place inside the hall, but I’ll save that for another day. Let’s adjourn to the tea rooms.

Directions on getting to Belsay are on their website.  I hope you enjoyed our visit. Many thanks for your support and the wonderful contributions I have received again this week.  Details of how to join in are always on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Let’s settle in for a good read:

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Almost missed Eunice last week, so she’s starting us off today :

A reservoir ramble

Can there be anywhere lovelier for a dawdle?  Thanks, Drake!

Wet wet streets

Budapest has a lot to recommend it too, as Anabel can show you :

Budapest: Margaret Island and Obuda

Jackie gets up to some strange things, doesn’t she?

Dirty laundry

Geoff, Dog and a lighthouse- I’m happy!

A wander about#sundaywalks

Ann Christine takes us back to terrible times in Irish history, but with a happy ending :

A Peaceful Walk in Belfast

A whole heap of lovely photos from Lady Lee :

Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

If ever you’re needing a beautiful view, or three, tap Debbie on the shoulder.  She’ll have them :

Moorish to more Moorish

Becky uses that eagle eye of hers to good effect in the Algarve :

The Military Stairs of Alcoutim

That lass Jude knows how to make me smile.  A splash or two of azalea in a National Trust garden:

Garden Portrait: Coleton Fishacre

SO excited to be sharing this from Madhu!  A small part of her beautiful Indian heritage :

Kashmir – Afoot in Shehr-e-Khas

How would I describe Gabe?  Warm and whimsical, I suppose.  Go and see for yourself :

Hiking in Venice

So lucky and privileged this week!  Another wonderful share from Paula.  Don’t forget to listen too!

Light Catcher

What do you know of Peru?  Not much?  An interesting read here from Jill :

Ollantaytambo at dusk

And, much closer to home, Carol finds me some stone circles :

Walking in Circles

That’s it for another week.  All gems!  Hope you enjoy your long weekend (if you’re having one). Take good care!

 

Six word Saturday

Light fades on another lovely memory.

It’s more than 6 weeks since I got back from Tavira, in my lovely Algarve.  Time to round up a few of those photos I never got around to sharing, and move on.   A new roof top bar provides a great overview of this beautiful place.

Up on the castle walls

Until next time…

Don’t forget to share your six words on Debbie’s little bit of fun, and have a great weekend.  I’ll be back on Monday with a very English walk.

Later that same day…

For those of you who feel sorry for me, getting nibbled by insects in my quest to bring you an interesting Algarve walk… this is what came next.

It was surprisingly breezy at the coast that day, which gave me an opportunity to pull up a seat in a sheltered spot and watch the waves.  You understand that I only did this to show you the diversity of the Algarve, not purely for enjoyment.

I can never sit still for too long and I soon needed to get a little closer to the action.

Armacao de Pera is far from being my favourite Algarve resort, but there’s a time and a place for everything.

What’s more Evanescent than a wave as it pounds the shore?  But there is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back for more.

Jo’s Monday walk : Sitio das Fontes

Time to return to the Algarve for this week’s walk, on the estuary of the Rio Arade.  It’s a good distance from my normal stomping ground, but I had reason to be curious about Sitio das Fontes.  Earlier this year, Dave Sheldrake began to conduct photography walks, for a donation to charity.  I haven’t managed to go on one yet, but my interest was piqued when he went to this particular site.  I had to take a look for myself.

Sitio das Fontes is an area of wild parkland formed around natural springs (or fontes).  Sitting in tidal salt marshes, it’s a wonderful place to explore the diversity of nature.  The tidal mill overlooks a wide stretch of nature in the raw, with birds and bees aplenty.

Captivated by the tiny frogs, I’m getting ahead of myself.  The parkland lies just north of the village of Estombar, and on a sunny weekday in early March I had the place almost to myself. An old waterwheel lethargically guards the entrance to the park.

Follow the path round to the tidal mill, or dally by the spring.  There are plenty of good sized rocks to sit on and contemplate nature, or simply daydream a while.  A new-looking bridge crosses the spring and you can take the long view or gaze deep into the clear waters.

The map at the entrance to the park wasn’t very clear, or maybe I hadn’t been paying enough attention.  It didn’t seem to matter in the stillness of the lovely morning, the snail suspended somnolently on his stilts, and bee on blossom.

Beyond the tidal mill, a path leads off around the estuary.  The water was very low, exposing vast tracts of salt marsh and sludge, but still it was a pleasure to follow.  Shrubs and all manner of plant line the path, so progress is slow as you stoop to identify or smile in admiration.

Incredible to find two different types of bee orchid within feet of each other!  The path ends on the edge of the Arade.   Looking across the estuary I wasn’t sure if it might be possible to cross over the mud flats with the water so low.  Good sense prevailed.  I didn’t really want to end up floundering, but I was curious about the ruins on the far shore.  No great hardship to retrace my steps.

A less obvious path runs along this shoreline, but with the bonus of more orchids, some tiny iris, not yet open to morning, and a large cricket who made me jump.  Beyond the ruins the path begins to ascend quite steeply.  I climb high enough to appreciate the view.

But it’s not apparent where the path might lead.  It’s getting warm, the insects are buzzing and it feels like a good time to head back.  There are picnic tables, a children’s playground and a visitor centre, still closed at the time.  Best of all, the tranquil and lovely spring.

How very different from the thermal springs in Bath, that I wrote about last week.  Yet all part of our strange and wonderful natural world.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s walk.  Details of how to get there are contained in the links, and of how to join me, on my Jo’s Monday walk page . Now for some sharing.  You’ll have your work cut out, because I have heaps of walks!  Please make sure to visit anyone that you don’t know. Many thanks to all my contributors, and to you folk in the armchairs, it’s time to put the kettle on.

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You might like to compare Alison’s walk from a couple of years ago?  Your secret’s well and truly out now, Aly!

Our secret Sitio das Fontes

The most beautiful rainbow and frescoes from Drake this week :

Cruise through idyllic city

AND the bonus of a trip to Monmartre :

On the edge

Lots of garden shots and a cute little bug from Lady Lee :

How does your garden grow?

Sunny California, sunny Jackie!

Day 7 So Cal Bakersfield CA to Las Vegas

Becky always knows the way to my heart, and to some lovely places too.  This one’s in the Alentejo :

A short stroll around the beautiful city of Serpa

This, much closer to ‘home’ :

Thank goodness, a cloudy day

Did you ‘walk’ with Vanessa last week?  This one’s not for the faint-hearted, but shows off Majorca’s true beauty :

Soller, Mallorca, Spain/The ‘Sa Costera’ Hike along the remote and picturesque coastline…

Sue, meanwhile, is tootling gently down Memory Lane.  I hope you’re well now, hon?

Postcards from my Past/3- Cornwall’s Old Mines

Cathy is still busy making memories.  This is fabulous!

Sankei-en Garden & the Shanghai Yokohama Friendship Garden

While Mari shows us how to live a long and happy life in a little known but beautiful part of Andalusia :

Walking in the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes Natural Park, Spain

Exquisite prose and the nostalgia of the end of Spring, from Susan :

Park Ridge Trail, Morro Bay State Park

And an English version, with lambs and wild garlic.  Please visit!  This lady is new to me :

Late spring hike in the Manifold Valley

Miriam triumphs in adversity!  You can, too!

Toolangi Trails

And Paula proudly shows off some of her lovely heritage.  Go on- take a look!

Istrian Heritage

Jaspa seems to like our English heritage.  What’s more British than Tower Bridge?

Sam’s Ses Challenge #18: Bridge 

And I bet Woolly is a fan of those famous Austrian tortes.  Double rations this week :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk20_ Vienna

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk21_Vienna-2

Andrew has been striding out in Valencia.  Not like him at all!

Travels in Spain, Valencia City of Arts and Sciences and a 12 Mile Walk

You might wonder what the natural world looks like in Israel.  Take a walk with Lisa to find out :

Nahal HaShofet

That’s it for another week!  It’s a Bank Holiday in the UK next Monday but I’ll still be walking.  I hope you’ll join me.  Take care till then!

 

Six word Saturday

Bath Abbey, from top to bottom!

Impossible to ignore Bath Abbey, so central is it to this lovely city.  Coming out of the Roman Baths, I knew that I would have to take a quick look inside.  How glad I am that I did.  The delicate laciness of those celestial arches, like a cobwebby entrance to heaven.

As I admired the stained glass windows, a sign caught my eye.  Tower Tours.  I can never pass up the opportunity to climb a tower.  A bird’s eye view of Bath beckons, in the hands of a cheerfully smiling guide, who climbs these stairs numerous times a day.  A narrow circular stone stairwell leads upwards.  Up 50 steps and through a door. A slim strip between the turrets and the sloping roof gives a first glimpse of the rooftops of Bath.

Then into a surprisingly large space where the bell ringers perform,  And an array of bells, mostly obsolete but fascinating.

Up here it all feels melodramatic.  We squeeze into a narrow space behind the clock face, and are encouraged to peep through a tiny hole in the floor.  The stomach churning view all the way down to the aisle below is to enable the bells to be rung at a precise stage in a procession.

The tower is home to a ring of ten bells, dating back as far as 1700, and ordered from highest to lowest, anticlockwise around the ringing chamber.  Bath is a noted centre of change ringing in the West Country.

Did you spot the rooftop open air pool of the new thermal spa?  A nice place for a healthy cocktail?  And then it’s back down to earth again, a tired but happy 212 steps and 161 feet later.

I can highly recommend it, but not for anyone with a fear of confined spaces or heights.  The Abbey website will give you all the details, including a virtual tour of the tower.  This concludes my visit to Bath.

Yet again I have far exceeded my six words, but lovely Debbie is very forgiving.  I hope you’ll share yours.  Happy Saturday!

The Spectacle of the Roman Baths

It’s the strangest feeling to be surrounded by senators and looking down on Roman baths, and probably the only time I’ll be in the company of Julius Caesar, Hadrian and Constantine the Great, simultaneously.

Aquae Sulis was the Roman name for Bath, named for the waters of the goddess Sulis.  This natural phenomenon has caused 240,000 gallons of hot water, at 46C, to rise on this spot daily for thousands of years.  Spa water has been used for curative purposes for 2,000 years, originally involving bathing, and then in the form of drinking water from the late 17th century. This Walkthrough will take you step by step through the complex.

The Roman Baths are below modern street level and comprise the Sacred Spring, Roman Temple and Bath House, with finds from the baths carefully preserved and displayed in the museum.  After the ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen…’ moment on the imposing terrace you descend stairs to the interior, glimpsing the Sacred Spring through glass windows.

The Romans identified Sulis with their goddess Minerva.  It is likely that her gilt bronze statue would have stood within her temple, beside the Sacred Spring, and may well date back to the first century AD.  Gilt bronze sculptures are very rare finds in Roman Britain.  This head has six layers of gilding, two by a process known as fire gilding and the later four applied as gold leaf.

The Temple pediment and Gorgon’s Head is likely to date from the same period.  It would have been supported by four large, fluted columns. Another fascinating detail of Roman life are the 130 curse tablets, which would have been rolled up and thrown into the Spring.  They were petitioning the goddess for justice or revenge for petty crimes, including theft of their possessions from the baths.

Every effort has been made to turn the Roman Baths into a Spectacle .  Animated projections bring to life the cold plunge pool and the heated rooms.  Evidence of the hypocaust system the Romans used is clearly visible in this amazing subterranean world.

The spa waters contain 43 minerals, and are said to have a distinctive taste.  You can sample them from a fountain in the west baths, or from the Georgian Pump House, next door.

Pop over and see Debbie’s extraordinary owl, and don’t forget that Thursday’s Special.  This week Paula weaves her magic on Venice.

Jo’s Monday walk : Beautiful Bath

I love a bit of drama in a photograph.  This is me, not quite falling over the parapet into the swirling waters of the weir at Bath.  I didn’t start the day with any intention to go to this beautiful city but, a few minutes after I’d been dropped off at Yate bus station, what should appear on the stand?  A 620 bus heading directly for Bath.  I didn’t need to be at the airport for my return trip home till the evening.  Irresistible temptation!

A 40 minute ride through gently green and rolling Somerset and I was there.  It’s many years since I was in Bath, and I never did get to visit the famous Roman Baths, so I was almost on a mission.  But first, a little exploration.

Who’d have thought to find a Tardis as I exited the bus station?  Bath is obviously popular with tourists and backpackers, as several places offered luggage storage, including an opportunistic barbers.  Grand Parade is just that, with its elegant balustrade looking down upon the Parade Gardens. I was tempted to go in, but there was a small admission charge, unusual for public gardens.  In any event, I could see most of the garden from where I stood, and I was drawn like a magnet towards the weir.

Pulteney Bridge, which crosses the River Avon, dates back to 1774 and is one of Bath’s iconic landmarks.  It didn’t strike me at the time but it has much in common with Ponte Vecchio in Florence.  Both have shops built into them.  ‘The Bridge’ cafe caught my eye, along with the view through to the river, as I crossed to the other shore, noting the rhubarb and cherry slice in the window.  Maybe later?

Steps led down to the river, and it was a glorious and warm day.  I had picked up a visitor guide at the bus station, and a bench right beside the weir gave me the perfect surroundings for a browse. With the wonderful distraction of a boat coming in to dock.

No doubt about it, I was tempted, but the next departure wasn’t for a precious half an hour.  The riverside walk needed to be undertaken first.

As always, the boats and the watery reflections filled me with delight, and there was a wonderful sensation of peace.  In the very heart of the city, and yet enfolded by nature, I had not a care in the world.

I had forgotten that the Kennet and Avon Canal flows into Bath.  This 87 mile long canal links London with the Bristol Channel and had its heyday in the early 1800s.  With the advent of the railways it went steadily into decline, but happily restoration has turned it into a wonderful leisure facility.  I paused for a while to watch the activity at Widcombe Lock, before crossing a narrow footbridge back into the city.

The walk carried on, along the River Avon, but I wanted to make the most of my limited time. Stall Street led me conveniently towards the Abbey and the bustling heart of the city, where I had a date with the Roman Baths.

An event that I’ll share with you another day.  For now I’ll lead you past the Baths and the beautiful Abbey.  Yes, I know you’d like a look inside, but that will have to wait.  Instead we’ll walk all around the Abbey, admiring the statues, and into irresistibly pretty Abbey Green, with its leafy shade.

Just around the corner you can sample Sally Lunn’s buns, in Bath’s oldest house, dating from 1483.  You might find ‘bun etiquette’ amusing.  Hiding in these streets you will also find Bath’s indoor market, a wonderful melange of craft and food stalls. Too nice to stay indoors for long, I made my selection and headed for a nearby bench.  And yes, that rhubarb and cherry slice was simply scrumptious.

Just time to admire some Bath glass and at 2pm present myself back at the Abbey for the Tower Tour.  Look away now if you don’t like heights.

I think I made the most of my short time in Bath, but left still feeling that there were things I’d like to do.  Next time!

Thanks for your company, everybody.  I have a bumper collection of walks to share this week. Please do make time to visit them.  If you’d like to join me, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  You’ll be very welcome.  Popping the kettle on now, and wishing I had a Bath bun to share.

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Not strictly a walk post, but a composite of many enthralling moments.  This is a must read from Gilda :

Discoveries Down Under Part 4- Sydney and the Blue Mountains

I’d never heard of Jane’s walk, but trust a New Yorker like Susan to tell it in style :

East Harlem Jane’s Walk 2017 (Part 1)

Few people are better traveled than Debbie, so if she invites you for a walk, go!

Wandering through District 5

Jackie likes to hoof it a bit, too :

Day 6 So Cal – Solvang to Bakersfield 

Innsbruck is a city I’ve only dreamed about.  Drake brings it beautifully to life :

Between river and hills

Woolly is in the same neck of the woods, but I’ve been to Salzburg.  It rained! :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk19-Salzburg2

I’ve made lots of good friends in the blogging world.  Becky was kind enough to share a place that has captured my heart :

Something unusual in the Algarve

And speaking of friends, this is pure delight from Jude :

A Woodland Walk

My lovely Meg pootles on a beach- a most delightful occupation :

Eurobodalla Beaches : Billy’s Beach

While our Cathy shops her way around Tokyo, between shrines.  That girl loves a bargain!

Meiji shrine and Harajuku : Takeshita-dori and Togo shrine (part of walking tour 18)

Geoff, meanwhile, takes us on a fascinating exploration of ‘lost’ rivers :

Losing its Rivers : following careless London #londonwalks#lostrivers

Shazza has an interesting (and dog friendly) walk in the Yorkshire Dales :

Clapham Nature Trail and Ingleborough Show Cave

Eunice has some lovely reflective blue skies, and 2 more dogs :

Canal walk – Radcliffe to Bury

And Carol goes hunting Romans in the Lake District.  They can be elusive!

Searching for Romans

Vanessa demonstrates a love for and knowledge of Majorca.  This is the start of a series :

Soller, Mallorca, Spain/A walk past the Orange Groves of Soller to the pretty village of Fornalutx

Finally, here’s Paula.  As near to perfection as you can get in a post.  Turn the music on and feast your eyes!

Canon of the Spaces

That’s it for another week.  Hope you enjoyed, and have a happy week tootling about.