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 : A Garden Extravaganza

This isn’t a walk so much as a wallow in flowers at an Open Garden event last weekend.  I did propose a walk to nearby Witton Castle, but ‘someone’ was feeling lazy, so we opted to loiter instead.  Hillside Cottages are in the quintessentially English village of Low Etherley, a few miles from Bishop Auckland, in County Durham.  A look over the garden wall will show you the lie of the land.  Calm and pastoral.

I love nosing around a garden.  My plant knowledge isn’t huge, but I do enjoy identifying a friend or two.  Small explosions of colour lure me into the borders.  Rich plum, ‘poke you in the eye’ orange and soft pink mingle with the green.

There are two gardens, side by side, quite different yet so harmonious that the division between them is little more than a gap in the adjoining hedge, which I initially fail to spot.  The first swathes gently down the hillside, beds and borders speckled with colour.  The lady owner is obviously a lover of tulips, with all their nuances, subtle or flaunted.  Poker straight or curling seductively.

I can hear the sound of pipes, and rounding a corner I come upon the culprits.  I don’t pay them the attention that I should, because I am beguiled by the rhododendrons.  In the most glorious colours, the sun sparkles through them, bathing me in radiance.

This is the very best time of year, and life burgeons all around me.  I almost miss the delicate lemon magnolia, opening to the sun’s caress, high above my head.  Tea is brewing, alongside an array of homemade cakes, but first we must round the pond and slip through the fence to next door.

A sense of humour prevails in next door’s garden, where another pond winks at me in the sunlight.

This garden feels much more enclosed, and you wander beneath tall pines, seeking out quirks and fantasies.  By a summerhouse the owner lounges benevolently in a deck chair, chatting to some older ladies.  Probably they supervised the baking.

Don’t you just love the dog’s expression?  And what might these two gardens have in common?  Wait for it…

Scintillating rhododendrons, of course!  I’ve never been able to resist them.  I hope you didn’t mind me taking it easy this week.  This is the time of year when traditionally I share a few gardens with you.  I have a much more energetic one lined up for next week.

Wait a moment, I can hear you saying… what happened to the cake?  I can assure you that my rhubarb cake was moist and delicious, but there were no seats left, so I had to eat it perched upon a wall.  Not conditions that are compatible with cake photography.  Sorry!

Join me next time on Jo’s Monday walk?  It will be a Bank Holiday in the UK, but I’ll still be out and about.  After that I’ll be taking a break for my visit to Poland.  Many thanks to you all for your walks and for your great company.


Although I’m a sun worshipper, I love a moody sky. Enjoy a cliff top walk with Suzanne :

Standing vertical in the storm

Jackie never needs any encouragement to eat and drink.  Join her for a cuppa?

Coffee Break

I’m offered all kinds of walks.  Janet has some beautiful sculptures to share :

Monday walk… sculpture in old Scottsdale

And Drake, often one to surprise, takes us to a tobacco museum!

Smoke in the mountain

Adventures in sand, water and caves with Liesbet.  This lady likes variety :

Highlights in Southern New Mexico – A Long Weekend Away

Or take a stroll with Pauline and Jack.  They make such delightful company :

Out and about in Stanthorpe…

And speaking of delightful, a certain Mrs. Farrell has been busy on our behalf :

Following in the Footsteps of the Green Man

Denzil offers easy walking, not far from Brussels.  Sounds good to me :

A walk around Leefdaal

It’s surprising what you can do, if you really try.  Georgie was walking in a good cause :

Walking the Wight – how I walked 15 miles…

Meanwhile Eunice has taken a leaf out of my book this week, with a really beautiful Open Garden :

Hornby Castle Gardens

Finally, an Australian Autumn, where Rosemay finds what it takes to tire the grandbairn out :

Autumn at Araluen

Yet another lovely morning here!  I’m starting to take it for granted.  Let’s see if it holds for the Bank Holiday.  Meantime, have fun, and take care.  See you next week!

Six word Saturday

Spinning and spinning and spinning around…

There’s always Liquid to be found when you live on the coast, but it’s not every day you find a jet ski showing off inside the lock gates.

This view is a constant, though… so long as the sky is blue!  Wishing you a happy day, whether you spend it watching Harry and Meg, outstanding tennis, the FA Cup final or none of those.  The one thing you must do is share Six Words with Debbie.

The Roman Army Museum

Night watch

Here I am again!  In this god forsaken place.  Standing on the wall, staring into the darkness, and just waiting.  Watching and waiting.  Mind numbing, waiting.

Always this wretched cold!  Biting into my bones and nipping my knees, a woollen cloak no defense against the real enemy.  Boredom.  Oh, for some action!  Something to warm me up.  I’d put paid to a barbarian or two.  If only they’d storm the fort, like real men, instead of hiding in the trees.  They wouldn’t stand a chance, against us trained soldiers.  Training!  That’s all we do.  Day in, day out!  Pitting our wits against each other to stay sharp, in the service of the Empire.

It’s fine for the Centurion with his fancy house.  He never has to stand out here, shivering.  I’m just an auxiliary.  A slave to Rome.  25 years I have to survive this dog’s life, before I can become a Roman citizen.  The days are not so bad.  No time to think.  At least you can have a hot bath and decent food.  Maybe get out on a hunting party for some fresh meat.  Even have a skirmish with some of those savages.  Makes you feel alive, alright!  Anything’s better than this creeping death from the cold and damp.  The mocking whisper of the wind.  Deathly stillness!

From Vindolanda we drove 15 minutes to the Roman Army Museum, close to the village of  Greenhead, to learn a little more.  A joint ticket can be purchased for the two, which compliment each other.  A highlight of this visit is ‘Edge of Empire-The Eagles Eye’, an atmospheric 15 minute film, for which 3D glasses are worn.  ‘Night watch’ was written in response to the film, of which I can only share the trailer.

At the museum I learn that it is Rosalia, the Roman festival of the rose, traditionally held in May.  Curiously, the Romans believed that Mars, god of war and protector of Rome, was born from a rose.  The blooms were worn to honour the fallen.

The displays and information add to my knowledge about the Romans, and their surroundings.  They were very serious about the business of ‘conquer and defend’.  Training was done with weighted weapons to add to the strength and skill of the soldiers.  In battle, wielding a sword would feel so much easier, and inspire confidence.  Training could be brutal, with little quarter given.  The armour and weaponry engendered huge respect for the skill and craftsmanship of these people.

I learnt that discipline was very strictly enforced.  Falling asleep on sentry duty in the long, dark nights was a crime punishable by death, often at the hands of your fellow soldiers, while the garrison looked on.  A background video, running on one wall, told the story of a bunch of young soldiers and how they felt about life in the Roman Army.  Wine and gambling were happy diversions from the training schedule.

A timeline and Hadrian’s interesting story completed the exhibits.  I doubt I would make the journey especially for the Roman Army Museum, but it works well in conjunction with Vindolanda.  When we had left the fort there was a freshness in the air and we were glad to be indoors.  By the time we left the museum it was spitting on to rain, and the skies a dull grey.  The iconic Sycamore Gap looked a little ‘all forlorn’.

I’m adding this post to Cathy’s collection of Prose, over at Wander.essence.  I hoped to give you a flavour of life on the bottom rung of the Roman Empire.  Not always a comfortable place to be, but with its own rewards.  The 3D film made quite an impression on me and I feel like I’ve been living alongside those Romans.  I’m glad you could keep me company.

Jo’s Monday walk : Vindolanda Roman Fort

Knee deep in history this week, I spent a fascinating day out at Vindolanda, on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.  Come and walk with me, in Roman footsteps.  Can you believe, this tiny child’s boot, found here on this site, is from Roman times?

At the edge of the Roman Empire, the Wall was to stretch 73 miles across Britain, from coast to coast.  A formidable undertaking!  The garrison at Vindolanda was the first of a series of bases enabling the Wall to be built, and then defended.  The name means ‘white field’ or ‘white moor’, and I can testify that freezing conditions are often to be found at the border in winter.  On a warm Spring day, the beauty of the surrounds was what struck me first.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s build the suspense a little.  What might I find here?

I had, of course, heard all about the Vindolanda Tablets– telling scraps of bygone lives, written in ink on wafer thin slivers of wood, they are the oldest surviving hand written documents in Britain.  But what would they look like, and how did they come to be still intact after almost 2000 years?  This UNESCO World Heritage Site has ongoing live excavations, and it was incredible to watch history being unearthed before my eyes.

Meet Graham, and his merry team, and let him enthrall you with tales of some of the finds from the 14 years he has been helping to excavate this site.  The twinkle in his eyes can’t disguise the passion he has for this very special place.  The stories will give you goosebumps.  It was from Graham that I first heard the explanation as to how well preserved everything was.  The first 4 forts here were made of wood, but over time they were demolished and 5 new stone forts were built over the top.  Each layer of new building sealed the previous levels, creating anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions, effectively preserving them from decay.  An unbelievable 6000 items have been recovered so far.  As they continue down they hit further pockets of discovery, adding to the already amazing haul.

Throughout the site information boards help you to reconstruct what once stood there.  The Romans were very resourceful, channelling water from nearby streams in stone aqueducts or timber pipes.  They had underfloor heating systems, steam rooms and communal but comfortable toilets.  It was a well-ordered society with a recognised chain of command and luxurious, for the times, quarters for the Governor and his guests.  It is believed that the Emperor Hadrian himself once stayed here.

On the Vindolanda website there is a detailed timeline and enough information to keep you reading for a considerable time.  I can only skim the surface here.  The Romans arrived in the mid AD70s and were here for more than 300 years, building and rebuilding a sequence of forts and, from AD120, Hadrian’s Wall.  When the Romans withdrew from Vindolanda it continued to have a life for a further 400 years, before falling into decay.

It is a spectacular site, built on a hill, and would have been easy to defend.  Follow me down to the reconstructed Temple of the Nymphs, in the valley below.  The Romans worshipped a number of gods, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Neptune among them.  The wall paintings inside are based on examples at Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The museum is in a beautiful setting, in what was formerly Chesterfield Cottage.  It was purchased by Vindolanda Trust in 1974 and has been extended and modernised, and includes a very friendly little restaurant.  If you can make it here, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  One of the collections that I found extraordinary was the shoes.  I had no idea that the Romans had so much choice in the range of footwear available to them. (especially if they had plenty of money)  Coloured socks are believed to have been worn with the latticed style, to highlight the pattern.  The soles were studded to prolong wear, children’s shoes being a smaller version of adult footwear.

Whatever attracts or interests you, I’m sure you can find something to marvel at, be it fine bronze armour, worn by the legionaries, oyster forks, a range of keys, painted glass from the Rhineland or the military standard and horse brasses of a cavalry troop.

Goods were made locally by craftsmen but were also trafficked throughout the mighty Roman Empire.  Leather for clothes, shoes and tents for the military was produced at Vindolanda, and woodworking was an essential craft.  A workbench belonging to ‘Atto’ bears his carved name and the punch marks from his tools.  Another compelling recent find is a pair of ancient ‘boxing gloves’, probably used by a soldier during fitness training.

In a darkened corner I finally find what I’ve been looking for.  Described as ‘postcards from the past’, the Vindolanda Tablets inspire awe.  I peer into the illuminated cabinets, trying to decipher the writing from a world 2000 years ago.  Defeated by language, I gaze numbly through the glass.  Many hours have been spent transcribing these events from everyday life, and many more could be spent reading them.

Finally I pull myself away, and head back outdoors.  Clouds have scudded in and I feel the chill that must once have settled on Roman bones.  I linger just long enough to climb one of the wooden forts, hoping to find a degree of shelter from the wind.  Looking down on the remains of a bathhouse, I shiver and then march briskly, back to the car.

I hope you enjoyed this venture back in time with me, and can only urge, if ever you have the chance, that you visit.  The rewards are rich.  Full access details for Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum (to follow) are on the website.

Another bumper crop of walks to share with you this week.  Many thanks to everyone for their efforts, and for many hours of pleasure.  Join me any time on Jo’s Monday walk.  You’ll be very welcome.  Definitely time to put the kettle on!


Drake was swift off the mark with a bit of fun this week :

Garden party

Closely followed by Lady Lee, with a garden of her own :

The moon, apple blossom and our garden

And then Lisa took us all the way to Israel :

From Crocodiles to Tarantulas

Always fascinating to see where someone lives.  Let Suzanne be your tour guide, with quiet atmosphere:

Morning walk

And, not to confuse you, a very different Suzanne takes you on a forest walk :

A saunter down GRAND AVENUE

Grab a coffee next, and go look at some books with Janet!

Monday walk…book walk

Then check out life with Jesh :

Between bricks or rocks

And a few thoughts on life from Geoff and friends :

Walking Talking Reminiscing…

My good friend Pit takes you on two, quite different, sculpture walks :

Sioux Falls/SD : A stroll along Sculpture Walk

Galveston 2017 – Impressions #2 (Tree Sculptures)

Wonderful to find yourself alone in one of the world’s most popular cities- a lovely photo walk with Jaspa :

The Calli, Campi and Canali of Cannaregio, Venice

And talking of popular cities, I wish I could join Susan in this one :

Walking Lombard Street in San Francisco

Two Susans this week, and it’s so nice to have this one back :

A Jane’s Walk in Douglaston, Queens

I love a lady with wanderlust, and you can certainly describe Pauline that way :

Reasons to return : Preview…

It’s always pleasant to see a bit more of Belgium with Denzil (and a daughter too!) :

Walking around Lavaux-Sainte-Anne

And what is it about villages with a stream running through?  Join Eunice on a sunny day!

Bank Holiday walk round Barrow Bridge

It’s another sunny morning here in the north east, and I shall be making the most of it.  Have a great week, everybody!

Six word Saturday

Still in an English country garden

The warm spell has left us for a little while, but I have the loveliest memories of my visit to Thorp Perrow Arboretum.  I had too many photos to share in just one post, so I thought I’d treat my Saturday readers to some sunshine too.

The lake meanders off into a stream here, skirting a couple of islets as it goes, and creating wonderful reflections.

What do you think?  I make no apologies for a second post.  It was glorious!  There’s some great food on offer at Debbie’s place this weekend.  Pop over with your Six Words, and have a happy time!

In an English Country Garden

At the weekend I was at Thorp Perrow Arboretum, near Bedale in Yorkshire.  No need for words really.  Just wander with me, in the warm sunshine.

Many of the daffodils are past their best, but an army of compatriots leap to attention behind them.  I’ve seldom seen such variety in one place.  Arum lilies quietly stand guard over the pond.  The soft colours of Spring are all around me, pierced by the vibrance of Japanese acers.

At this time of year, and with such weather, my Place in the World would have to be in an English country garden.  Ask me in Winter though and I suspect you’ll get a different answer.  Revelling in my surrounds, my intention had been simply to capture an armload of beauty for Cathy’s photographic challenge over at Wander.essence.  But I’m sure she won’t mind to share.


Jo’s Monday walk : YSP revisited

Not sure that I’d want to meet this tribe on a dark night, but on a semi-sunny afternoon at Yorkshire Sculpture Park they seemed harmless enough.  I had hoped to find some Spring colour and a whole heap of rhododendrons, but it didn’t look too promising on my arrival.

The sheep were oblivious, despite the antics of a small boy.  I was happy to find that many of the sculptures had been replaced since my previous visit, so off we went, on a mission of discovery.  Over the bridge and upwards, a carpet of bluebells cheering us on.

The ‘rather cool’ tree sculptures, nourished by decaying leaves, had obviously been there for some time.  Up on the tops it was cool and breezy, but you could see for miles, rapeseed fields lighting the horizon.  And then it was down to the Longside Gallery, and a coffee stop.  No, I’m sure you don’t want to see a photo of my chocolate fudge brownie, but I’d earned it.

The small boy was worried at the appearance of a shaggy Highland Cattle beastie, directly in our path to the gazing head.  With scarcely a glance in our direction, it lumbered into the mud and better grazing.  The head, eyes closed, I found very beautiful.

The lake was huge, families strolling peacefully in pursuit of culture.  I could have wished for more information on the sculptures, but it wasn’t until our walk was over that my husband offered the leaflet he’d picked up.  What was that, lurking on the field?  Unarmed warriors, it appeared to me.

I was sure there was meaning.  Fortunately the YSP website explains all.  British-Trinidadian sculptor, Zak Ové, is responsible for Black and Blue : The Invisible Men and the Masque of Blackness.  He seeks to “reignite and reinterpret lost culture using new-world materials, whilst paying tribute to both spiritual and artistic African identity”. In this work, the sculptor uses graphite to explore what he describes as “future world black”.

Ai Weiwei’ s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads has been touring the world since May 2010.  The 12 bronze heads have a historical reference, but Weiwei intends them to be playful and accessible.  I ceased my perusing to head for the Camelia House.  Their beauty was easy to understand.

I kept looking for that telltale splurge of colour, but green predominated.  Returning to the entrance, I was sorry to see that the reflective silver sphere I loved last time was being replaced.  But there’s often light at the end of the tunnel, and so it proved to be.

A dazzling display of soft pink, rhododendron wonder.  Exactly what I was looking for.

Have you been following Cathy’s extraordinary new venture at Wander.essence?  More energy, enthusiasm, attention to detail and pure determination to get it right you will not find in the world of travel blogs.  I have Cathy’s permission to include my walk on her Photography Invitation.  I hope she likes it.  Do join her on one of her many adventures!

It’s a Bank Holiday here in the UK, so hopefully you’ll have time to read and share my walks this week.  Many thanks to all of you for taking part, and for your continued support.  Join me any time- the details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.


Janet is delighted to lead us into Spring this week.  It’s been a long wait in her part of the world :

Spring walk

I usually have to force my brain to come up with poetry.  Frank makes it seem effortless :

Round the lake (rtl)#1: sea above

Seems Jackie had a bit of a narrow escape the other week.  But, undaunted, she shopped, and ate :

Love food

Drake shares some captivating street art, this week.  A walk in the Black Forest :

Streets with inspiring content

While more of Warsaw’s fascinating history is revealed, in this post from Meg :

I don’t know everything

If you’ve never been there, be guided by Andrew’s wonderful descriptions.  Or even if you have!

Naples, Walking The Back Streets

Another place I’ve been to on my travels, Candy takes a whistle-stop look at Beja, in the Alentejo :

A walk through Beja in Portugal

And here, a sculpture walk very different to mine, from Cady Luck Leedy :

Last Day in Columbus, Georgia

Another poetry walk, and an ‘out of this world’ experience with Suzanne :

Walking in two worlds 

Memories of my son’s childhood recreated for me by Irene :

Railway Garden

Jude, you might enjoy this?  Your neck of the woods.  3rd of 3, with Ceri at Woman Walking :

To the Lighthouse, and other stories

And Emma, simply not letting PTSD affect her progress around the Gower coast :

Gower Coastal Walk: Tor Bay & Oxwich Bay

Another glorious morning here!  I would tap dance my way into the garden, but it doesn’t work with carpets.  Have a wonderful week, all!