Friday, 28 January 2022

Exploring :: Bletchley Park

Hi there everyone 😀

Before I dive into our early December break in Northumberland I just wanted to share this week’s big day out with you.

The last few weeks have been a bit stressful ... with trying to help out elderly neighbours, who are having a real rough time. I felt like we’d not really been anywhere other than next door for weeks and Martin and I were both ready for a change of scenery.

After lots of 'Googling' and not being able to find a National Trust property that took our fancy, was close enough and open … and not fancying driving all the way to the coast … we opted for a visit to Bletchley Park.

It’s somewhere I’ve fancied visiting for a while, having watched and read lots about the amazing work that was done there during the war, and whilst it wasn’t the seaside or the countryside, it just seemed to fit the bill.

We had a great journey, hardly any traffic, and It took us about an hour and a half to get there. I was definitely surprised by where it was … in my mind I assumed it would be in the middle of the countryside, away from prying eyes. That was definitely not the case … the location was not what I was expecting at all.

There’s not loads of on site parking but it was lovely and quiet and there was plenty of space for us to park close to the entrance.

Within no time we’d got our tickets, which allow revisits for the next 12 months, were in and sitting with sausage rolls and a cuppa in the cafe, having a good look at the map to see what was on offer ...

We started off with a wander round the visitor centre …
… before heading outside to follow the suggested route, which took us past some of the ‘huts’, which we would be exploring more of later …


… round the lake …


… past the gate house …

… and to the mansion house …

Even though the setting wasn’t rural it did all look kind of lovely in the sunshine … especially the mansion house …

Inside was very plush …

… especially the ballroom … which would have been filled with desks and equipment back in the day …

Back out into the sunshine we wondered round to the back of the mansion house to find the old garages, housing some of the old vehicles that would have been used around the site in its heyday ...

… and the old stables …
From here it was time to visit some of the ‘huts’ ...

... which were a lot less plush than the mansion house …

There are a good number of huts open for visiting and lots of interesting stuff to see …

There is a also an immersive cinematic exhibition in one hut dedicated to telling the secret part that Bletchley Park played in the D Day landings ...
There are more huts due to open later this spring so it could well be on the cards for a revisit ...

We decided it was time for lunch and headed back towards the mansion house and hut 4 for refreshment. Lunch wasn’t the cheapest, but it was very nice.

After lunch we left the mansion house ...
... for a walk back round the lake ... 


... with a pause for one last look back ...

... before heading into the last place left for us to see, which was the museum housed in Block B. 

In here we were able to explore different cypher machines and codes used during WW2 and got to find out more about Alan Turing's life and work, including his posthumous apology from Gordon Brown PM, in 2009, for the way he was treated after the war ... purely as a result of his sexuality, which was actually very sad.

We were pretty much back to where we'd started our visit and after a quick visit to the gift shop we headed back for the car ... but not without just having a little wander up the road to have a look at, what we can only assume, were more old huts that hadn't been included within the renovations of the site ...


We spent about four hours in the park on our visit, including a lunch stop. If you wanted to read absolutely everything on all of the displays you could easily spend longer and on a warmer day there are plenty of places to have a picnic.

On certain days of the week it's also possible to book an afternoon tea in the mansion house, which would be a real treat, but sadly we visited on the wrong day of the week ... maybe next time 😀

If you get chance for a visit both Martin and I would certainly recommend it ... it was definitely worth the trip 😀

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Sunday, 23 January 2022

Exploring :: A Birthday Adventure at Clevedon

Hi there everyone 😀

It's a cold and grey Sunday afternoon in January and I've decided to spend an hour or so trying to catch up with some blog posts that I still want to share from the back end of last year ... starting with my birthday trip to Clevedon.

Back in August 2018 Martin and I had a lovely day out at Weston-super-mare, driving back along the coast road through Clevedon on our way home. It was too late to stop then but we both said that it was somewhere that we definitely wanted to go back to for a proper visit.

For one reason or another, Covid being a big one, we didn't manage to get back there for quite some some time but we did manage a trip for my birthday back in November last year.

We knew it would be a bit of a trek but we were lucky with the traffic and had a really good journey and parked up along the front, not far from the pier, at about 11.00am. As you can see it was more than a little bit murky, with the coast of Wales having disappeared into the gloom ...

Excited to be out and by the sea we were undeterred, got dressed for the weather and headed along the prom for the pier ...


It really is a beautiful pier and we couldn't wait to explore. You do have to pay a small charge to visit the pier and this does include entry to a small museum sharing the pier's history ... we didn't visit the museum, preferring to stay outside for this visit ...
It was still pretty grey and very breezy but the pier did not disappoint. It is beautifully kept, spotlessly clean and it was easy to imagine the old paddle steamers docking on the end dropping off their Victorian passengers in years gone by ...
We took a very steady amble to the end of the pier and it looked like the cloud was beginning to clear ... we could even now see across to Wales ...

We had a good look around at the end of the pier ... where it was more than a little breezy ...

... before making our way back ... and look ... a little bit of blue sky put in an appearance especially for my birthday visit ...


There is lots of information about the history of the pier on line but ... in a nutshell ... it was officially opened on Easter Monday in 1869 and for 20 years provided a new, fast route over to South Wales. The opening of the Severn Railway Tunnel in 1886 began to snatch away the steamer passengers and business faltered, with the pier being transferred to the ownership of Clevedon Council.

The sum of £10,000 was borrowed from the town, to pay for a new pierhead and a landing stage. These consisted of twenty-four massive iron columns and forty-two green-heat piles, 25 feet long. The new landing stage was built at an angle to the pierhead, in order to align with the prevailing Bristol Channel current. The re- habilitated pier was re-opened on 3rd April 1893 by Lady Elton.

Just a year later, the Japanese style pagoda and two shelters were added to the pierhead. The style of these beautiful structures owes much to John Nash’s Brighton Pavilion built several centuries earlier. The Town Surveyor oversaw this work which was undertaken by McDowell and Stevens of the Melton Iron Works. 26 tons of ironwork was thus added to the pierhead.

In 1913, the timber landing stage, which had deteriorated, was replaced by the present pre-cast concrete structure. Even this work suffered temporary disruption by a gale which wrecked sections of the newly installed concrete and ripped up decking.

As time went by disaster struck the Pier at 10:20 on the morning of Friday, 16th October 1970, when under load testing for insurance purposes, the two end spans failed and collapsed into the sea.

It was 1998 before the pier was restored to her former glory and went on to be voted as the pier of the year in 1999. In 2001 it was awarded Grade 1 listed status and the future secured.

Back on dry land for us and, with a bit of blue sky, the view was looking much brighter ...
... and look how clear we could see Wales now ...
We decided to walk back along the front to the other end of the bay to see what we could find ... hopefully somewhere nice for lunch ... stopping to look back at the pier along the way ...

We stopped at The Little Harp Inn for lunch ...

... and very nice it was too. It was also lovely to get warm and toasty ...
Refreshed we continued our walk along the front, ending up at The Marine Lake, another piece of Victorian history brought back to life ...
I can imagine that it would be a lovely spot to spend an afternoon in the sunshine but even on a cold November day there was plenty going on ... there were even a few brave swimmers ...

We walked right to the end so we could take in the view looking back across the lake to the pier ...

Time was getting on so we decided to head back, dropping down onto the beach to get some different views of the pier ...

Back at the car and this was the view ...

... which was just a little bit different from what we'd been greeted with on arrival ...

It was time to head for home, but we decided to carry on along the coast and call in to see what was at Portishead on the way back to the motorway.

We parked up by the lido on the edge of the Bristol Channel and had a bit of a wander and got some fabulous views of the Channel ...


It was a fabulous view of the bridge looking up river, but I was looking right into the sun so my photos are not that good ...

We'd spun the most out of the day and still had a pretty long drive home so headed back to the car for the off ...
I just went to crop out the signs on the top left of this photo and then realised it was a 'do not climb' sign ... which made wish I'd actually got it all in 😂

We'd had a lovely day. Clevedon was a real treat and is somewhere we will definitely go back to. It will be lovely in the summer, though then I guess it will be busy ... and it was nice visiting whilst it was so quiet.

We had another good drive home with a cracking sunset to round off the day ...


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