Tumbledown Mountain

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One thing Maine is loved for is the plethora of mountains to hike.   As you head North, there are plenty to choose from.   As the Fall is coming to a close, and mother nature gave us a reminder with 12″ of snow in the mountains this week, we opted to get outside for possibly the last hike this year.

We headed to Tumbledown Mountain.  Just near the town of Weld.

As we headed North, we began to notice a temperature drop…hoping we were going to be warm as we walked!   The access road to the trail is closed as of Nov 1st for the winter so we were just in time but another reminder that old man winter is too close for comfort!

The mountain itself is not huge.  An elevation of 3068ft (935m) but the views are gorgeous and worth the climb.   A novelty to the mountain is the pond that is almost at the summit. I’ve heard that in the summer, those that make the climb reward themselves with a swim in the pond.  Not for us today though.  By the time we reached the top, it was bitterly cold.  Before we reached the top, we encountered snow…more as we gained elevation.  Made for a challenging ascent and subsequent descent.

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The trail is very rocky…initially easily passable but soon became boulders and streams. Steep ascent and strenuous climb.  The kids took it in their stride but glad we didn’t take the dog…it would have been too much for his ageing joints….almost too much for mine!

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We tackled only the Brook Trail.  The easiest but still classed as moderate.  I would agree…some banged up knees as we scrambled up to the pond.   The pond is at 1600ft elevation from our starting point.  Not quite the top but due to the length of climb and 5 kids in tow, we opted not to go further.   We stopped for a snack and to enjoy the view before we took the trail back down.

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Lake en route to the summit

London -Tower, London Eye and Southbank

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We have had a visitor from the USA for 12 days so we spent a few days in London.  There is so much to see and do in London that we did a mix of classic tourist things but also some more off the beaten track/ more unusual attractions.   As the time spent in London was with 2 teens, I geared the days to their age group.

For day one, we opted for classic London.  It was also the best weather forecast for the next 3 days so working with that, we went for mostly outdoors attractions.

So as soon as we departed Heathrow airport, we ventured into the city.   First stop, the Tower of London.

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Tower of London

I LOVE the Tower.  Perhaps its because I have vivid memories of visiting with my mother as a child.  Even as a child, the history of the Tower was fascinating and still today, I could listen to the stories all day.

As we traveled into London by train, I had picked up a leaflet of 2 for 1 offers at the station (only valid with a rail ticket).  I highly recommend this as it has 2 for 1 offers for a lot of major London attractions.  With this, I was able to get one free entry to the Tower!

We started with a Yeoman tour.  I recommend this as it give a great overview of the Tower and also more of the history.  There may be an audio tour too but i don’t recall seeing this…perhaps worth checking out if you visit.  Anyway, the Yeoman tour was perfect.   Right length and level of content and also filled with humour.  Yeomans – What a job and also the option of living in the grounds of the Tower…not sure I would be brave enough, with all that grisly history, but they do!

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Yeoman tour

 

We exhausted all that there was to do at the Tower, grounds, Ravens, Chapel, Torture chambers, Crown Jewels and of course afternoon Tea!   The sun was out  and as much of the beauty of this iconic London Landmark is outdoors, it was great to spend the time outside.   Also – make sure you visit the actual beheading site of days past.  Just across the road in some gardens.  History all around!

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Gardens and memorials across from the Tower

On leaving the Tower, we wandered down towards St Katherines Docks.  Lovely and peaceful and not many folks exploring this area.  My brother has docked here in the past and they thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of staying in the heart of London.  I can imagine that in peak summer, it would be buzzing.  After a brief walk back along the River Thames and enjoying the view of Tower Bridge, we were ready for our next adventure!

We hopped on a tube and headed down to the London Eye.  Alighting at Westminster, as soon as you leave the station exit, you have an amazing view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  Another iconic landmark to show to our visitor.   I absolutely love this area of London too.  The architecture is amazing and again, steeped in history.    So we headed over the bridge to the London Eye.   A must for the teens so I was happy to go along for the ride despite having done it before.

Again, we had a 2 for 1 voucher with the train ticket but we also have been collecting the Kelloggs coupons on cereal boxes – adults go free.   Yes – this also applies to the London Eye!  So i used the free adult voucher from Kelloggs and saved a swift £25!   So the Eye is the Eye.  Its fun and almost obligatory for any visitor to London now.  The teens enjoyed it and it was another attraction for our visitor to cross of her list.    My teen had done the 4D experience (indoors) prior and said it wasn’t really worth it, so we opted to skip this.

Views from the London Eye…

So most of the day was done but were looking for somewhere to eat.  We headed along towards Southbank area.  I am not familiar with this area of London at all and became pleasantly surprised with what we found.   As the weather had been nice, there were tons of riverside bars and eateries offering al fresco dining and drinks and the atmosphere was great for a midweek Spring night.  We opted for Wagamamas as it it lively and fun for the younger crowd.   Noodles had by all!

The walk back to Embankment tube (on the opposite side of the river) was lovely.  We got to cross one of the Golden Jubilee bridges and as it was all lit up for the night, it made for a pretty walk after a long day.

We covered all of the above in about 9 hours so a long day and our traveler was tired so we headed back to base for the night!

Puzzle Wood

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Bridge walkway through the woods

We’ve had a US visitor over the last couple of weeks so we’ve been out and about a lot!  I have a lot to share so running  a little behind!

We headed over to Gloucester this last weekend.  I have family that lives there and we like to visit often to spend time with them before we likely leave in September 😦

During this last weekend, we opted to go back to Puzzle Wood.  We tried to visit in July but got turned away as they were filming the The Huntsman at that time.   This time, no film crews and they honoured a free entry as we had been refused entry the last time!

Nestled in the Forest of Dean, Puzzle Wood, an ancient woodland site, is famed for its unique beauty.  It’s not a large attraction, just 14 acres, but you can easily spend a few hours here.   We walked all the trails through the woods and they have done a good job in providing more things to do, especially for younger kids.   Some farm animals, an indoor maze and playground.  There is also a small cafe/ shop and plenty of picnic spots.

The woods are used frequently for movies and TV filming.  Having been through, its understandable why.  They are fairytale in look and feel and magical.  The woods date back decades/ centuries and some 40 years ago, they were open to visitors but it was little known and donations would be taken through an honour box system.   This was after being left ‘abandoned’ for many years.   Now, it is a family owned and run affair.  Turned into a business but thankfully left unspoilt and they have done a great job of keeping the woods true to their original state.

Due to the unspoilt nature of the woods, heed the advice of sensible walking shoes.  Paths are uneven and very slippery.  Also, to warn you, no strollers or dogs allowed!   If you are ever in the area, well worth the visit for a stroll and if you love fantasy TV and movies, its great fun to be on set!

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Stone pathways through the woods

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Hidden doorway in the woods

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Hidden seats through the woods

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Nature in the woods

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Glastonbury Tor 2

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Glastonbury Tor

I have written about our Tor walk before (here) but wanted to add a follow up st as we went back last week.

This visit was different. It was early evening and would recommend this as a time to visit.  It was free from crowds and at times, we were the only people atop the Tor.   This allowed for peace and quiet to take in the view and also afforded some lovely photos….enjoy!

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The path up

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Solitude and views at the top

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Enjoying the ruins

 

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Used a landscape filter on the camera to pop the color…long path ahead

 

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Uninterrupted views

 

And we’re off….

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We embarked on the travel, well organized but with much trepidation (well, on my part anyway).

We split into 2 groups..  I knew I wasn’t up for moving 3 kids, 3 animals and 2 adults, across the Atlantic on the same day and leave the house spotlessly clean.

Animals (2 cats and 1 large dog) left a couple of days prior along with an adult and a child.

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Charlie opting for a suitcase vs. a crate

The process of moving animals to the UK was a laborious task but manageable (and expensive) in the end.  The first move day was filled with anxiety but we chose Virgin Atlantic for animal travel.  Mostly due to the fact they have a phenomenal track record with moving animals and they offer a pre-flight document check to offer peace of mind and also expedite clearance in the UK.

I did, at first, consider using an Agency to help with the all the paper work and process.  After an initial quote of around $4000, i decided i was smart enough to figure this out alone.   With a couple of phone calls/ emails to airlines and the DEFRA contacts, i knew exactly what needed to be done and how.  While I did a good job with all the paper work and process, the UK government did want one additional piece of clarity for clearance of which i was able to provide before we even got to Boston.  Better to deal with it during working hours vs when they land, in the middle of the night.

The pre-flight document check was worth it.  It allowed 100% peace of mind and was confident handing over the animals at Boston.  Note – Virgin technically only offers the pre-flight check if you are on the same flight as your animals.  We weren’t.  I emailed all docs anyway and followed up with a call.  No-one questioned it and we moved through the process anyway. Always worth trying if you are booked on Virgin and they were incredibly helpful and friendly.

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Loaded up and ready to go….

For anyone that has never shipped animals before, the process and handling wasn’t as traumatic as i thought.  I admittedly got upset loading them into the crates at the house.  By the time we got to Boston, I was more confident with the hand off.

Animals are not allowed to be sedated for the journey.  I forgot to give the cats additional Rescue Remedy but was able to get the dog to chug another dose before I handed him over.  Not sure if it works but was prepared to give it a shot.  In my haste i also forgot to spray the kennels with lavender spray.  I asked the big burly cargo guy to do the honors….he obliged and it was amusing to watch him spritzing the crates.  Again, no idea if it was calming but I gave it a go 🙂

The animals flew direct.  A swift 6 hours so not too bad.  I did wonder what they thought of the flight experience…..a sensation they’ve never had before.  It broke my heart when I flew a couple of days later, knowing the noises and motions they would have gone through.

The good news is, by the time my husband and eldest arrived at Heathrow, all 3 animals were relaxing in the Animal Reception center.…fed and watered and ready to travel to their new home.

Just 3 days later, i think we can safely say, they are settling in nicely….

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I followed on with the twins, 2 days later.  Allowing for final packing and cleaning of the house.

The ‘people’ of the family all traveled with Icelandair.  A decision driven by cost.   Less than half the price of a Virgin ticket but it does require a change in Reykjavik.  A good decision.  The kids are all old enough to cope with the change and adds only an addition couple of hours to travel time.   My biggest challenge was handling 6 large suitcases…almost solo….as the twins didn’t have the strength to haul them around.  They became pretty savvy with a luggage cart by the time we passed through customs at Heathrow!

So we have arrived in England.  We are now settling into life as an English family.  Currently we are in Yeovil, Somerset while we look for a rental in our desired town of Sherborne, Dorset!

A little bit about us…

Before we get started with our journal, here’s a little bit about the family.

Family walk at Wolfes Neck Farm April 2015

Family walk at Wolfes Neck Farm April 2015

We are a family of 5 (excluding furry friends), that resides in the beautiful coastal town of Freeport Maine.

Freeport is more famously known as being the hometown of a famous Outdoor retailer…..we prefer to know it more as an idyllic coastal setting for a few lucky folks.  While it boasts high tourist traffic in the summer months, its home to just 17,000 (or thereabouts) year round.

Before we were 5, we were 2…..Two ‘professionals’ looking for a new adventure.  Recent graduates from Coventry University (5 years post), living and working in Central London (UK).  Broke and realizing this was it, life, we embarked on a temporary move to New England (New Hampshire) as part of a relocation package for my spouses job.

Almost 16 years later, 3 children, 3 pets and a different State, we are still in the USA….

While very happily settled in the USA we are looking for a new adventure.

As a full time working mother, feeling a little burnt out (more about that later) some of the change is inevitably going to impact on my career….so to take stock and consider what I want to do when i grow up, we have opted for a ‘year out’, do something different, and spend time with family.

So, with lots of consideration, I am quitting my job, packing the house and shipping the animals and family back ‘home’. Thankfully, my husband’s company will support him working remotely for the year so it lessens the risk with such a reckless move!
So, 2 adults, a teenager, twins, a golden retriever and 2 elderly cats are packing their bags!