Monday, December 31, 2012


After lots of good family time, Heidi and I headed down to my sisters place, close to Oxford. We of course explored the prestigious city.
We started at the Saxon tower, which has a nice view of the city skyline.
The architecture in the city is outstanding. So we put on our best tourist outfits and walked around taking plenty of pictures. Stopping in a few of the famous drinking establishments.

Connected to the Museum of natural history, the Pitt Rivers Museum has a collection of many worldly things. The gun collection, was quite fascinating from an engineering evolutionary stand point. The notes and historical explanations are quite thorough.  

Another attention grabber is the shrunken heads exhibit. I always wondered how this was achieved. Of course the bone is removed, and wood ball inserted to keep the form, skin stitched back up again and treated.Of course this info is all available on wikipedia these days -not that I am planning on having a go ;) It is a little creepy knowing these heads were once an alive person.
The villages around Oxford retain much of their history. In my sisters village, the row of cottages next to the local shop (for local people), has a thatched roof.  

And while the flood waters were receding, the Thames was still about 7 feet higher than normal, making this guys floating house a little inconvenient to reach.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Old places on the Welsh border

Close to the Welsh border with England, a 3000+ year old bronze age settlement site resides. The remaining recognizable man made feature is the Mitchells Fold stone circle. It was a nice reason to go trounce around some pretty landscape in some appalling weather. We found the Miners Arms a good place to warm up and the best pint of the trip.

Across the border into Wales we visited Montgomery castle and town.
I was hoping to hear someone speak Welsh or at least hear a Welsh accent, but even in the local pub the dialect was very middle English. A conversation we struck up with someone, found us talking to a musician that used to play with Deep Purple and another band out of Houston, Tx. Still, the town of Montgomery does have a good dose of history and atmosphere.

Inside the Church of St. Nicholas, is the tomb of Sir Richard Herbert. The entire interior of the church is quite intact, unlike almost all other churchs in England. On the way home we stopped in Bishops Castle, a funky little town, great place to eat and home of my favorite beer of the trip. Three Tuns 
Sterling. It boasts to be the oldest licensed brewery in Britain established 1642.
The next day, Ludlow Castle received our visit. Heidi and I took along my Nephew.

Who doesn't like to explore castles ?

We were a little dubious as to where the little fella might end up, so we decided against firing him out of the cannon.

Medieval castles are great for hide and seek.

Ludlow castle is one of the more extensive castles I've visited.
I think we were in there for the best part of 4 hours !

The views are outstanding, Even on a rainy day. The castle is quite photogenic. Would be fun to be at one of those medieval fairs in the summer.

The town of Ludlow is fun too, although with the jetlag, we were caught out by the closing times, well almost every day ;)
The rains continued and the town got a good wash.
Next up on the history visits was Iron Bridge the town which takes its name from, the famous 100ft cast iron bridge that was built across the river here in 1779. It was the first of its kind symbolizes the dawn of the industrial age. There are many museums in the town, we settled for the museum of brewing, which stayed open a little later and had an awesome cider ;)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

England for Christmas

This Christmas, Heidi and headed back to my homeland to catch up with my family. It has been way to long since my last visit and Heidi had never even met Mum and Dad.
Tamsin and Fabrice kindly picked us up from the airport and whisked us up north to Shropshire, stopping for lunch in Ludlow.
Our Christmas cottage was like the movies, quite a culture change Texas to England.
We had time for one last shop before Christmas, and went up to Shrewsbury. Home for Darwin when he was alive.

We walked around the old town soaking up some historic architecture. The Castle and Museums were closed however, so we settled into a nice Pub, for a swift half.
It had been raining more than usual the last few weeks. The lower parts of the town were quite flooded.

All so soon it was Christmas! Family fun around the tree.

After a massive meal, it wouldn't be Christmas without a nice long walk in wellies. This is Cardingmill valley, east side of the Long Mynd flying site. Quite a bit of water gushing down the hill in all directions.

Boxing day, we popped around to the neighbors place, on a stroll around 'hood.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I noticed a pair of Cardinal birds visiting the garden and tried to get some pictures of them. Standing there with the camera didn't really work, so I set up a remote camera on a tripod but it was too noisy. So I tried the GoPro (taking a picture every 0.5 seconds) right next to the feeder. I got some pretty fun results.
FLARE !! this one is a Titmouse landing on the feeder.
Mr Cardinal, full of things to say.
Mrs Cardinal, she likes her privacy.

water 2 wine

The local town (for local people) is all dressed up for Christmas. Last week Heidi, myself and her co-workers went and bottled some wine made a few weeks earlier.

After tasting a selection of wines (to choose one). A grape juice concentrate is used with water and yeast (and a few other things) to start the process.

After a good mixing of all the ingredients, it ferments in the bucket until it's ready to be bottled.

And off Heidi goes with the bottling.

Holly's putting a cork in it.

Onto the labeling.

And here is the finshed product. A fun way to spend an evening. Black Raspberry Merlot though, that will be a dessert wine.