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Thats it! I'm outta here!


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Well, for a little while, anyway.  :lol:

Tomorrow evening I'll be taking an overnight flight to Heathrow.  I'll spend the rest of August and most of September living out of a backpack all over England.  There will be some sailing involved (large and small boats) so I'll try to post pics when I can.

I'll be travelling around spending time with various friends I made on that last Bahamas trip.  They're a wonderful bunch of people and I'm looking forward to plenty of quality time over a pint or three.

The brief version of the itinerary is a short stay in Blewbury (West of London, South of Oxford), Then up to a youth hostel in Clun, South Shropshire (a stone's throw from Wales).  After the hostel stay I'll travel down to Portsmouth on the South coast (Home of HMS Victory) to crew a catamaran as she wends her way East and North toward her home port.  I'll leave the boat after several days and take the train up to Durham in the Northeast.  After poking around the coast near Durham for a while I'll travel down to Suffolk for bit, then up to the Norfolk Broads where we'll be staying in cabins and messing about in small boats for a week.  Then it's down to London for a day or two and fly home.  Only to get up the next morning and drag myself back to work.

One of the benefits of a bad economy is I can look like a team player by volunteering to take a bunch of time off without pay - In a good economy there's no way an employer would allow me this much vacation.  8)  I just hope I still have a job when I return.

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  I can't help talking funny - I've done it since I was a child.

  Bob and Liz had things to do today so our friend Dick took me out sightseeing.  Blewbury is in the White Horse Valley which is named for a bronze age figure of a horse carved into the highest hill in Oxfordshire and lined with chalk (these hills are largely chalk).  The white horse figure has been maintained by the locals from its origin until the present day.  There is a trail that runs many, many miles along the main ridge that is at least as old as the White Horse.  All the villages around here are criss-crossed with footpaths.  The main roads and a few side roads run through the villages but the pedestrian paths are everywhere.

  Dick took me up one of the paths to see the white horse hear the top of the hill and the mound near the bottom that may be an ancient burial site or may just be geology.  Then we walked up over the hill and to the other side of the Ridgeway to a prehistoric barrow where some kids were gleefully absorbed in a rockfight.

  After the walk we drove down to a pub that Liz recommended and had and a nice bitter (I'll have to try to remember the full name, Hooky's something or other).

  Dick dropped me back at Liz and Bob's but I'm getting together with Dick and Trish and some of their friends later for a walk over the hill to another village and another pub :)

  I'll try to download some pictures from today before I head ot to Dick's house, but if they're not up in a few minutes you'll have to wait until later tonight.

  Tomorrow I'll be headed out to Clun, in Shropshire, for the camping trip so the posts may slow down a bit due to internet availability.  After the camping trip I'm headed with Charlie and Maggie down to Portsmouth (HMS Victory! Lots of pictures!) to sail their catamaran around some.  There's been mention of Cowes and Isle of Wight but the destinations will depend on the weather.

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I think I saw Blewbury on the Discovery channel the other day in a segment on floods.  Is this the same spot?  If its the same place, the river that runs through town flooded and washed away an 800 year old pub.  If it only happens once every 800 years or so you're probably OK though.

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I'll have to ask about the pub.  There's one in or near Blewbury that keeps burning down because of the thatched roof and it sounds like that one's closed for good, but I don't know about floods.

It is fairly flat around here (the Thames river basin).  The hills to the South of the village are capped with chalk which has kept them from eroding over the centuries but there's a pretty steep slope (called Tumbledown, I think) right near the village and because of the steepness of the slope there's a significant natural spring at the base of the hill that might be the original reason that people settled here.  Since most of the elevation is pretty low in relation to the Thames it's entirely possible that bad floods could happen.

  Blewbury has been losing pubs lately, though.  They've gone from four to two in just a few years.  There's a house right next door to where I sit that used to be a very nice pub.  Some of the pubs are owned by breweries and it turns out they don't make any money at all on the beer (and the selection is limited to a few beers from the main brewery plus a guest beer that changes periodically).  The brewery pockets the profits from the beer and the pub has to get along on the profits from the food.  The Red Lion served me a really good meal last night - White bait for starters with a main course of beef and stilton pie, but they didn't profit from any of the pints I enjoyed while eating.  This afternoon we walked over to a neighboring village to another pub and had a pint before returning to Dick and Trish's house for a nice (very nice) dinner so the pub we visited (Chequers) made zero profit from our visit.

There are "free houses" that serve beers from multiple breweries (bigger selection might mean more business) but I haven't been to one yet.  I promise to investigate the economic condition of a free house at the first opportunity.

And I'll ask around about the flood. :)

I'll try to get the camera and the computer to play nice together so I can post some of today's pictures before I go to bed.

Otherwise, I'm off to camp in Shropshire tomorrow (West of here, near the Wales border) and I'll post again when I get an internet connection.

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Okay, Here are some pics from today (Thursday).

The first one is my friend Dick standing near the head of the White Horse.  The White Horse was mentioned in a previous post.  It is a stylized figure of a horse carved into the highest hill in Oxfordshire.  It was created 3000 (yes, thousand) years ago and has been maintained through the modern day.  During WW2 it was covered up so German bombers couldn't use it as an aid to navigation.  The figure can't really be seen all at once but you can get a feel for the shape by walking along it.  The only way to see the whole shape is from the air.  Here's a link to a site with aerial photos: http://www.hows.org.uk/personal/hillfigs/uff/uffing.htm (if it doesn't come through as  link, just cut and paste)


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  I promised my friend Valerie that I'd get some pictures of sheep for her - Hey Val, Here's the first one!

  The sheep are standing in the middle of the ruins of Uffington Castle.  The ruins are at the very top of the hill that the White Horse is carved into and they date back to the Iron Age (younger than the White Horse).  The earthworks that remain are a ditch dug in a circle at the top of the hill and a ridge of earth inside it made from the earth removed from the ditch.  I think I read that there was a wood wall atop the ridge.  A pretty formidable defense for Iron Age weapons and the enclosure is quite large.  It would have taken a lot of hands and a lot of hours to move earth on this scale so this was no small, disorganized band of people.

  Do a google search for Uffington Castle since I'm only posting Val's sheep picture ;)


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