Friday, July 17th - A day in Southern England:
Jamie and I rose early and rode the Docklands Light Rail and Underground to Kensington to pick up our minibus, a 15-passenger diesel LDV. It proved to be much larger than anything I'd ever driven before, four-across seats with center aisle, and tall enough to stand up in, not to mention the steering wheel on the wrong (I mean, "right") side. A few moments on the back streets of London, with cars parked everywhere on the narrow streets, and two-way traffic, and it was quickly dubbed "Moby Dick, the Great White Whale." The Scouts shortened this to simply "Whale" when I finally made it to the Lord Amory, late but intact.
With the Scouts and gear safely picked up at Docklands, it was off to visit Stonehenge, the mysterious prehistoric stone ring. At first driving on the left was a bit nervous-making (especially when we came to the "width restriction" which required folding the side mirrors to get the Whale through), but I soon got used to the idea. I also got used to the half-smile on Pete's face when I flinched right on intersections. Don't know if any of the Scouts noticed, though. As we drove, the sun came out, but the wind was so strong across the Salisbury Plain that our sandwiches were blowing away at lunch, literally. Each Scout got a recording wand to listen to, and we crossed under the road to the path around the henge itself (picture at right). Contrary to popular belief, Stonehenge was not built by Druids - it's centuries older than that.
Then on to the British Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon, and a personal tour by a former British Motors engineer. The motor museum was fascinating, with many prototypes which never made it into production, including a twin-engined MiniMoke - four wheel drive the easy way, one engine and transmission in each end! As an MG and former Land Rover owner, I found it neat to see the complete collections of each type, plus uncountable Minis, Morrises, Wolseleys, Rovers, Standards, Austins, Triumphs and I-don't-know-whats. (Doug with Austins, at left)
The highway on-ramp at Gaydon punctured my growing self-confidence in driving on the left (oops), but I recovered neatly (thank goodness for low curbs) and it was onward and upward to Stratford-on-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare. We found a good restaurant for dinner, and afterwards went to pay our respects to the Bard. The Scouts took lots of pictures of the Gift Shop (see Andrew and the Gift Shop, at right), until redirected to the less imposing Birthplace next door.
We were walking through the deserted streets, window shopping and enjoying the late twilight, when a local Scout leader ran out of his house to give me a district patch. I didn't get his name, but "thank you" if you're reading this. From Stratford it wasn't a very long drive to Beaudesert Trust Scout Camp - on the grounds of a "great house" (now gone), with an Iron Age fort nearby. We managed to find it with only a few wrong turns, and only had to stop for directions once.
Saturday, July 18th - North Wales:
From Beaudesert, it's about an hour's travel west to the Welsh border, and the beautiful Snowdonia area. Along the way, we stopped for fuel at a highway gas station/convenience store. They had a special on 4-packs of Irn-Bru, so I bought two - enough for a bottle for each of the Scouts, Pete and Ed, and none for me. Thank goodness for small favors. As I expected, the Scouts became instantly addicted to the international-emergency-orange-colored fizzy beverage, which tastes to me like a mixture of bubble-gum, mouthwash and Gatorade. What is the attraction to the under-18's? Oh well, "it's difference of opinion that makes horse races" (Mark Twain).
A stop at Morgan's ancestral village, Dinas Mawddwy (pronounced "Dinnas Ma-ood-wee"), complete with Woolen Mill and picturesque scenery - I almost expected Roddy MacDowell to pass by on the way to film "How Green was my Valley". It was slate mining in Dinas Mawddwy, not coal, but the rest all fit. We had time for a short hike up a trail to a lookout above the village, which only improved the views. (right, Pete and Dinas Mawddwy valley, left, Morgan and the Meiron Woolen Mill)
Roads in Wales are narrow. North and west from Dinas Mawddwy we drove over roads barely wide enough for the Whale to the Isle of Anglesey - at one point I had the left mirror in the hedge, and the right wheels on the white line (and this was an "A" road!) - to pay a brief visit to Llanfairpwllgwngyll-gogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch - the village with the longest place name in the UK. The Scouts learned to say it (not). Llanfair PG's a little village just over the Menai Straits Bridge, which boasts what is surely the longest railway station sign in Europe. Although the village is old, the name is not. It was invented in the late 19th Century as an early attempt at a tourist attraction (the village was originally simply, "Llanfair Pwllg"). I guess it works, we went out of our way to be there. Unfortunately, the local Girl Guide leader with whom I had been corresponding since our last trip wasn't there - she was in the USA on vacation. (right-Morgan at the Llanfair PG gift shop - 3400 miles from home).
From Anglesey, it's not far east along the coast to the village of Conwy. Conway retains its city walls, with nothing more than tiny gates to carry the modern traffic through. I didn't expect to have to prove it, but one wrong turn and it became clear that the Whale would fit through the gates, barely, and into Conwy, and out again to the parking lot a few blocks outside the walls. Walked back to Conwy (I drove through that??) to tour our first castle of the trip (other than the Tower of London, of course, but that's so well kept up it doesn't seem "real"). Our Scouts chose it as their favorite from the MacCauley video "Castle" we saw in our pre-trip planning. Conwy Castle is nearly intact - at least the walls are complete, and most of the interior stonework - and the location, built into the city wall overlooking the River Conwy, is spectacular. The castle was built as one of Edward I's Welsh Castles, to keep the unruly Welsh in check.
Then, on to York, all the way across England from Wales. We arrived late, but found the local Scout Group Leader waiting to let us into the Lord Mayor's Own Scout Group's Scout Hut near Bootham Bar for the night.
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Days 1-2 | Days 3-4| Days 5-6
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Richford, New York 13835
Last updated January 22, 1999