Monthly Archives: May 2014

York City Adventure – Part 2

Bank Holiday Monday promised a day of sunshine and dry weather, this was the reason for deciding not to pack a jacket with me on our second day exploring York. I cooked us a couple of sausage sandwiches to ensure we started the day with a full stomach, the sun was out as we left the campsite to head back into the city.
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Today was going to be another day of new adventures, one that started by walking around the first part of the city walls. 75% of York is surrounded by the original Roman walls and these have been modernized in parts and repaired to allow walking access along them. The turrets with arrow slots paint exciting Images in my mind as I could see the Roman Army defending York from these points in history. This is when the weather decided against following the forecast and the first light showers hit us. I was determined not to allow these showers put me off as we left the City Walls and headed towards York Minster.

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York Minster is an impressive building, whose walls contains a lot of stories and historical events. Richard the Thirds young son was buried within these walls decorated with numerous examples of breathtaking interior design work. We decided not to visit the tower but that didn’t dampen the experience. There is a display that shows the work that is currently being undertaken with one of the largest stain glass windows. They are removing the panels one by one and cleaning them and resetting the panels. Each panel can take up to 1,000 hours with a cost of over £10,000 to repair. York Minster costs £20,000 per day to run and operate which is hard to imagine but after exploring it you can understand why these costs exist.

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York Minster has had to have some major foundational restoration work carried out. The East wing started to sink with cracks appearing in it. The Minster was saved with hard work and over £250,000 raised to carry out the emergency work required. Some of the bolts driven into the foundations are visible as we walked under the basement of the Minster.

We grabbed a drink in the Guy Fawkes Hotel bar which is another historical landmark in York. Guy Fawkes stayed here before his involvement in the failed gunpowder plot. I learnt so much about the story of what happened, I didn’t realise he was Catholic and wanted to lead the revolt to put a Catholic head of the monarchy in place. We “plotted” our next part of the day before deciding to head into Stonegate.

At 35 Stonegate there stands another haunted house. This place has had some convincing reports and reviews so with some gentle persuasion I managed to persuade my Fiancé to join me. The woman who managed the place gave us a brief introduction before our tour started and we were left alone.

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The tour lasted around half an hour as we were led around by audio commentary around the rooms. Some of the rooms were in darkness as I tried to take photos with my phone. There were a couple of instances where I felt a strange sensation. When I sat down on the bench in a room surrounded by old masks and various artifacts I felt a sharp cold sensation on my back.

The tour carried on up narrow stairs and darkened rooms. In the attic I thought I saw a golden sparkle in the corner of the room where a child’s cot sat. It was very obvious and something else that added to the feeling I was being watched. The final room had a large table with leather seats positioned around it. The table was set up for a seance with a glass globe positioned centrally on it, this room felt wrong. As we left Lisa my fiancé felt a bit faint as we made our way to The Punchbowl pub to grab some dinner. A couple of delicious cheeseburgers later and we were back on our way to explore York Gardens.

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York Gardens have some amazing ruins and colourful plants within the grounds. We had a lovely walk around and couldn’t help but be amazed by how some of these arches were still standing. The sun came out as we enjoyed the calming atmosphere that these gardens brought us. We walked through them to the other side before we rejoined the City Walls to finish off our day in the city.

The final night chilling at our Campsite was enjoyable as we ate cheese and crackers whilst finishing off the film American Hustle. The weather during the night was terrible as the heavy rain bombarded our tent, fortunately for us this stopped in the morning. Getting the tent packed up in dry conditions was a relief and we were soon off on our way home.

Thank you York for a truly amazing long weekend, we did so much but have so much more to come back and do.

DarcyB

York City Adventure – Part 1

We decided to take advantage of the late May Bank Holiday break and packed up the tent for the first camping trip of 2014. The Destination was York, to revisit a city I fell in love with in my early teenage years. I’d hoped to study at Askern Bryan in York for my Diploma before a change of events put that dream to bed. Despite this disappointment I have always loved this city and couldn’t wait to explore it properly with my fiancé.

The weather forecast was mixed which suited us perfectly. This kept changing as we drove up the M1, M18 and finally the A1 as we were greeted by Wagtail Park and the hardest of grounds to pitch our tent on. We were asked to bring Rock Pegs which on first inspection seemed like overkill. It wasn’t until I cockily hit a standard peg into the lush green grass that I discovered it was merely a topping. What lay under this welcoming layer was a silt filled, rocky mixture of quarry type material. After a dash to the local camping shop we had enough rock pegs to erect our tent and canopy securely.
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By the time we’d pitched the tent and got camp set up it was too late to wander too far away. There was a lovely fishing lake close by which we walked around and after we’d cooked some chili and drank a couple of beers we watched a film and called it a night. It wasn’t the coldest of nights, however as it was our first camping trip in nearly 9 months we needed to acclimatize. We survived the night and after a late breakfast which comprised of a bacon roll we headed into York.

The Park & Ride is quite simply excellent value for money. To park the car and get a return ticket cost £2.70 each which is far cheaper than parking in the city centre. We used the Sunday afternoon to explore the streets of the city as well as sampling some of the local food and ales. We walked up the Shambles which is a quaint cobbled narrow street lined with shops on both sides. The hustle and bustle of the bank holiday crowd evident and we were caught on a wave of visitors.

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We had our Sunday Beef Roast at The Golden Fleece which is the oldest pub in York. It is also the most haunted pub in the city, a claim backed up by the Most Haunted crew, who spent a weekend filming here in the pub/hotel. The place itself is typically quirky and feels very welcoming. There are a couple of skeletons that sit at the bar on a stool and also in the pub garden. All of the floors are wonky and slanted, so much so that my pint of ale was slanted and the gravy was trying to escape from my plate. A quickly constructed defensive wall using my mashed potato prevented any casualties. When we sat for dinner my fiancé did feel a cold sensation next to her side which hung around for a few minutes. It certainly backed up the claims of the owners and many guests who have stayed there.

We had a walk around Parliament Street which is the widest most open street in York and also had a tour of the York baths. This was conducted by a very knowledgeable Canadian historian by the name of Ryan, who not only told us about the Roman Baths in York, but also covered wars, deaths, Christianity and many other topics. By the time we left this small room which gathering heat the longer we stayed down there we were gasping the fresh air to celebrate our freedom. Joking aside it was well worth the £3.50 it cost plus a small contribution to Ryan’s education costs!

By a friends recommendation (thanks Aimee) we went to an off license called The House of the Trembling Madness. Above this there was also a bar which quite simply oozed class and style. The decor comprised of stuffed animals and randomly placed gothic designs framed by some stunning timber open framed roof trusses and beams. The place was busy and the small number of chairs and tables filled. The bar was small and quaint and the food smelled delightful. We helped ourselves to a couple of IPA’s and shopped till we dropped as I was reunited with some of my favourite Australian beers imported in their shop.

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We returned to camp just before the forecasted rain and had a very chilled out Sunday night. We ate some cheese and crackers and watched Taken 2 and the first half of American Hustle. Following on from last nights shock chill factor I put on an extra layer in an effort to get a warm comfortable nights sleep to get me in good stead for Mondays day of adventure. Historical visits, walks, haunted sightings and more local pubs awaited us, we certainly had a lot planned!

One final York related story before I bring this 1st Part of the blog to a conclusion. There are cats all over the city on various buildings. It is said that any building that is graced with the presence of a cat, is a happy place. We spotted a couple of these cats with one been on the front of The Golden Fleece Pub. Based on this story, I think it’s safe to say that my fiancé encountered a good happy spirit!

To be continued…….

DarcyB

Saints stun Tigers in Epic Semi-Final

Friday night rugby is something I’ve discovered since moving to Towcester and being fifteen minutes away from Franklin’s Gardens makes it even more accessible. I was one of the 13,491 lucky people to be in the ground this Friday just gone (16th May 2014) to view an amazing spectacle of full blooded fierce rugby union between two massive East Midlands Rivals.

Leicester Tigers are a modern day giant and the success they have had this last decade is a true testament to what has been built at the club. Northampton Saints are a team who are coming good, a side who tasted defeat to this Tigers side in last seasons Premiership Final. Some will argue that if it wasn’t for some poor discipline on the day, then it could very well have been Saints taking last seasons show piece. One thing is for sure, Northampton Saints can make the big finals, they just need to start winning some, to start what could be a period of success.

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Northampton Saints headed into this Semi Final with home advantage after finishing 2nd in the seasons campaign. Leicester Tigers were 3rd after another typical strong finish after the 6 Nations campaign which strips them of their internationals for 6 weeks of the season. Leicester had beaten the Saints in the previous 9 contests, so it was going to take something extremely special to win this battle.

The game was played in a passionate atmosphere with both teams in full voice. Chants of TIGERS were returned with choruses of “when the Saints go marching in” it was a vocal bombardment from the sell out crowd. Leicester took control in the first half and scored a couple of tries in the process. A couple of sin bins were also dealt out as both sides demonstrated full bloodied play. The Saints could only score a couple of penalties as they went into the break 6-17 down to a Tigers side in control, it was going to take something special to turn this around.

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The second half continued with the hard plays and Leicester had another player sin binned to which Saints tried to take advantage of. It became apparent after the break that the Saints had found another gear and suddenly possession was being kept into phases of over ten plays. A penalty brought the game back to 9-17 as Saints kept plugging away.

A tangle between Tom Youngs and Salesi Maafu saw Youngs sin binned but Maafu red carded. The Saints were suddenly down to fourteen men with memories of last years final back in everyone’s minds. The crowd were feeling it and as the game headed into the final quarter, George North found a way over the Tigers line to bring Saints back to within a score at 16-17.

The Saints didn’t let the numerical disadvantage put them off despite a penalty giving the Tigers a 20-16 lead. As the clock headed into the last five minutes, Saints kept turning the possessions into plays and were knocking on the Tigers line, asking their defense a lot of different questions.

Heading into the final 2 minutes, Tom Wood found a way over and the solid Tigers defense was breached again. Franklin’s Gardens was celebrating, everyone both on and off the pitch in Green and Gold jubilant. As the clock ticked into the final minute the conversion hit the post, Saints had 20 seconds to hold onto a 21-20 lead, their first lead of the night.

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And hold onto it they did, as the clock ticked past 80 minutes the ball was kicked out in front of us as the referee brought the game to an end. Northampton Saints are going to Twickenham and boy did they deserve it, there is now a real opportunity to end this season in style, starting next weekend in Cardiff in the European Final against Bath.

Well done Saints! We are all extremely proud of you.

DarcyB

Tragedy at Valley Parade

I am a fan of Leeds United and if there is one thing that’s built into fans of our club, it’s the passion and tenacity to keep on going. There are also times in Football when the majority of supporters regardless of their teams colours stand together in support of each other when that time comes around.

Today (11th May) marks the 29th anniversary of the tragedy at Valley Parade. 56 supporters who were enjoying the match between Bradford City and Lincoln City never returned home. If ever there was a more poignant and harrowing reminder of how fortunate we are when we return home after each game we watch, this is sadly it.

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This blog post is not for the sake of going into all the details or how, what and why it happened. This is to serve the purpose of remembering the tragic event and to make sure all people (fans of football or not) who didn’t know about it do so.

Watching the video footage of this event still brings tears to my eyes as what started as a small fire in the stand quickly erupted into a fiery inferno. Police and fans united in helping those frantically escape from the heat, flames and black smoke. Within a couple of minutes the stand was fully engulfed in flames with the stand starting to collapse.

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The 56 who lost their lives included children and elderly people, normal everyday fans watching their team. Where the publicity of Hillsborough is always in the press for those determined to get the justice they deserve, it’s also important that we remember this disaster at Valley Parade. So please join me in taking a moment today to remember those who lost their lives in the most tragic way, just doing what the majority of us football fans do, watching their team.

Thank you.

DarcyB

Natures surprises

There have been some strange sights and also some wonderful sights in our garden these last few days. We decided to clear out the old pots and get our garden in some shape ready for this Summer. Where we have grown our own vegetables in the past, this year it’s a lot simpler with focus more on plants and nature. We have had our fair share of birds in the garden, but sadly following on from my previous Blue Tit update I am sad to confirm that our nest boxes are empty this year. Despite this there have been some interesting developments within our gardens walls.

Last year there were no end of stories in the UK’s press relating to False Widow Spiders. These stories now seem to have died down, probably because of the colder months. I joked that it would be typical if my first encounter would happen as soon as they were out of fashion. Whilst emptying out the soil I had bagged to fill up the troughs I saw my first False Widow Spider. It was about the size of a 50p piece and the body was dark with a light pattern across it. The legs were quite muscular and the shape something similar from the film Arachnophobia. I managed to be brave and removed it from the garden, however a couple of days later another one appeared in our house by the front door. My fiancé duly sucked it up with the vacuum and I disposed of the evidence once returning back from work. I do have a photo below, I wonder how many more will appear now the weather is warming up. From first appearing in Devon, it’s safe to say the False Widow has made it to Towcester, much to our annoyance.

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Moving onto a more pleasant story, the one involving our Solitary Bee. On Sunday whilst out in the garden this bee was flying into a hole on our Garage Wall. It kept returning and because of the obvious reservations of it nesting within the mortar, I blocked the hole up. The bee then tried to unblock it to no avail, it then turned it’s attentions to elsewhere. The bee flew into our conservatory and made a beeline (excuse the pun) to some bamboo we have and flew into the hollow innards. After removing the bee again we decided to read up on what it was trying to do, what we discovered was quite fascinating.

The bee was trying to find a place to collect pollen and lay eggs. The bee will create chambers within the nest area so each one contains enough pollen for the egg to hatch and grow from. Because of this frantic behavior demonstrated we created our own nest and placed it near the hole in the garage. This needs to be South facing as Solitary Bees are cold blooded which makes sense as to why it had chosen these places. The sunlight that hits the nest during the day will keep
It warm during the night.

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We used three pieces of Bamboo and glued them using a glue gun. They were then wrapped tightly in twine and the bamboo smoothed out on the inside with a file. This was secured in place so that it couldn’t fall down. Within 5 minutes of hanging this up our bee returned. Since doing this there are five chambers with obvious signs of nests in them, at least we have something nesting in our garden. Let’s see if these hatch safely, one things for sure we have helped our Bee, who still remains unnamed.

Once the pots start growing I will post some photos. I’ve decided on planting a couple of tomato plants as the corner on our patio is a sun trap. This will hopefully see us grown some red toms this year after a couple of disappointing years attempts.

DarcyB

Towcester Beer Festival 2014

This weekend saw the much anticipated Towcester Beer Festival return to Towcester Rugby Club. The annual event is into it’s 5th year and the weather didn’t disappoint for those joining in. The event has grown in popularity because it gives those keen to try new real ales the opportunity to do so and with over 60 types on offer it is unmissable.

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Crispin “The Festival Man” Slee brought 60 real ales to the table with the addition of 30 real ciders. There was also an opportunity to try some local bottled ciders on the Saturday and Sunday. There was a fine selection of Food on offer as well and the Gurkha Curry once again went down a treat. The Sausage Sarnies and Burgers were also a success as those requiring some ballast to keep them going were looked after in style.

Friday evening generated a real buzz of excitement amongst the crowd there who were keen to start early. Despite the nip in the air as the sun went in there were those brave enough to sit out on the open area neatly laid out with tables and benches. By Saturday this area was awash of people all enjoying the combination of drinks and sun.

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Saturday and Sunday also saw live music from local musicians including the Rock School as well as bouncy castles and face painting. There was a lovely atmosphere with those enjoying the sunshine that graced the Rugby Club.

Back to the Ales and our friends at a Towcester Mill Brewery were showcasing their Blonde number Mill Race. This 3.9% ABV Ale is brewed using Pilsner malt which gave it a pale blonde appearance whilst delivering a grapefruit and herbal finish. We started with this and it didn’t disappoint and ensured the tasting session started in a positive fashion. Towcester Mill Brewery opens in May so it’s not long until we can grace their new bar to try some of their other Ales.

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There were many different breweries to try from, some local and some not so local. We enjoyed in particular Crazy Daze, a Golden 5.5% ABV ale from Potbelly brewery in Kettering, Northants. The Local Whittlebury brewery also had a presence and my favourite Amber Ale was called Green Dragon 4.4% ABV which offered a strong bitter finish created using a combination of Sovereign and Challenger Hops. Silverstone brewery offered a lovely Golden Ale called Skidmark which delivered a fruity, floral aroma with a citrus taste. This came in at 4.2% ABV using a mixture of three hops, which was very nice.

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In conclusion the Towcester Beer Festival has once again been a resounding success. I am truly grateful that as locals we have the opportunity to attend something this exciting on our door steps. The venue was well set out and the variety available was so diverse. It was clear from the 2,000 + people who attended over the three days that it was enjoyable and the sunshine capped it off well.

Please add me on Untappd my username is markyjb to check out my reviews of Ales tried so far.

DarcyB