Friday, July 13, 2012

Touring England in a Kia

This week saw us collecting our zippy little six-speed diesel Kia hire car and setting out to trip around England. After watching the Korean’s Black Eagles synchronised fighter jet routine at the Waddington International Air Show I have a newfound respect for all things Korean.

After a traditional fish and chip lunch with Gary and Donna Brooks at Cleethorpes following a tour of the 100 Squadron museum at Waltham, we hit the road for… well I wasn’t sure where but during the course of the day we went past former RAF bases Lindholme (now a prison) and Finningley (now Robin Hood Airport near Doncaster), where Edgar was based in 1943.

Saw Andy & David’s Vulcan Bomber languishing with some mechanical problems on a runway at Finningley, so we stopped to take some photos. Continuing on we eventually found some lodgings at the Chevin Inn in West Yorkshire that unexpectantly but happily turned out to be a mere two miles from the home of Margaret Berry who we were meeting the next day.

Margaret is the widow of Edgar’s good friend and fellow Lancaster pilot Jim Berry who sadly passed away last year. During the war Margaret was a WRAF (Women’s Royal Air Force) Sergeant and watch-keeper at the Lindholme control tower. One of life’s true treasures; had she not been heading over to the south of France with her family, I would have kidnapped Margaret and taken her along on our most excellent adventure.

After a lovely morning looking at photographs and lunch with Margaret, we said goodbye and headed up to RAF Leeming, the home of 100 Squadron, Squadron Leader Bruce Farquhar and his Hawk fighter jets. We spent a fascinating few hours at the base and were lucky enough to see the last Tornado fighter jet fly in; its final flight before being decommissioned.

From RAF Leeming we drove towards the Yorkshire Dales and stayed at a traditional English pub, The Golden Lion in Leyburn on the eastern edge of the Dales. Our plan was to drive through the middle of the Yorkshire Dales the next morning but our plans were thwarted due to unseasonal flooding which caused road closures.

Not to be deterred I found a (goat) track north of the main road which turned out to be part of the Pennine Way (famous English hike). For the next few hours I felt as though we were on the set of “All Creatures Great and Small” and perhaps we would encounter James Herriot around the next corner (we didn’t). All we passed in the fog and rain were hikers, stray sheep and the magnificent English countryside until eventually we came to the county of Cumbria and the beautiful Lake District.

The 18th century Brakenrigg Inn at Watermillock was our accommodation that night overlooking the beautiful Ullswater Lake. Before leaving the next day we enjoyed a two-hour ferry ride up and down the entire length of the lake. Of all the country we covered on our Excellent Adventure, the Lake District has been the most picturesque of all.

Last Saturday night we arrived at The Fountain, a 1769 inn at Ingbirchworth formerly known as The Rag & Louse. On Sunday we started heading towards Oxford and got as far as Shakespeare’s home, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Back in 1685 when William Shakespeare set out to London he was a young, twenty-one year old man, married with three children and no career in sight to support his family… I can’t help thinking he turned out ok.

Not far out of town we discovered The Blue Boar Inn near Temple Grafton. Established in the 1600s and now with free wifi (wireless internet…. is anyone else finding this amazing?!). 

After a delicious roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding we set about meeting some of the locals (Gemma, Sam, Cathy, Gerry and Chris), who were great… as was the Navy Rum which has been making a big contribution to this week’s column… hoping it turns me into a literary genius…

Tomorrow (which technically is last Monday to you dear readers), we will be staying with former “Cadell” jillaroo Sarah, who lives with her husband Tony on their farm south of Oxford.

By the time you read this we will be in Paris on the final leg of the EAAEEAE (Edgar and Annie’s Excellent Epic Adventure to England). Hmmm… I may need to change the acronym for next week’s column to EAAEEAP…

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