Friday, 29 October 2010

A Christian Retreat

It's Friday morning, and I have been very slack in posting since last week. The working week so far has been tough. There are three levels of gardening that I have experienced. The first involves keeping small private house gardens tidy with a little mowing, pruning and weeding, usually with a car and mini trailer. The middle level has the small van and trailer, just as I did when starting out, and involves work in large prestigious houses and small blocks of flats, with all of the first tasks, but with the addition of more hedging and power tools. The last area, of which I am among a small group of contractors, involves very large houses and blocks of flats or retirement homes, and all of the above but on a massive scale. Each day usually involves not only tea at the start, but a certain bracing of ones resolve, as work has to be done at a manic pace, and rarely in a relaxed manner as so much has to be completed in the day. Autumn of course brings a whole new perspective. Not only do all of the usual tasks have to be fulfilled, but thrown in are trips to the nurseries for bedding plants, and the planting of said plants, and of course leaves! These are now coming down by the ton. Gone are the thoughts from a couple of weeks ago, as I wandered through the New Forest with Amanda, marvelling thoughtfully at the golds and reds around us. Now they have simply become fifty tons of wet, brown pain in the backside logistical nightmare.
I am sorry if I have started on a bit of a downer, but very tired now, throat so sore that it feels like it's been slahed with a knife, and sweating......I don't get ill, I can't, too much to do. Haven't had a days sick leave in eleven years. I shall start a couple of hours late today to see if I can at least get the sweats under control a bit.

And so, I work hard, but do also play hard as a consequence. The ballet 'Romeo & Juliet' last Saturday was superb. Daria Klimentova, portrayed the part of Juliet perfectly, and the changes that had been implemented by Rudolph Nureyev many years ago added a realism that was only found in the original Shakespeare play. Passion, pain, humour and anger.....and immense love.

On Sunday we were off to Lindors Country House Hotel, one of the group of Christain Guild hotels, in the heart of the Wye Valley in Wales. It's not a particularly long drive, about 110 miles or so, and really quite pleasant as it's mostly driving though lovely countryside.

When we reached a canal side pub about half way, being a very cold and crisp morning and us not being in a hurry, we took up residence for a couple of hours with some coffee, newspapers, open fire and a lot of chatting. As you can see from the picture above, we do make ourselves at home.

We reach the River Severn, and our one of a pair of suspension bridges that cross it. Wonderful feats of engineering. The one we crossed over is the original and very old one. The one in the distance is much newer, about fifteen years old, and was bulit to handle the bulk of traffic going between England and Wales. Ever since a child, I always get excited when crossing these very, very long bridges.

Off the other end, turn right, and the last leg of the journey. Driving through the Wye valley was beautifully picturesque. The photo doesn't really show the colours of the trees on display.
After an hours drive we arrived.

This is not your average hotel. Although it is open to absolutely anyone, it is a Christian hotel, and as such has a very strong faith based agenda. Meals are eaten together at large tables for fellowship. There are prayer groups and bible study should one wish. Or if all that is wanted is quiet and private time for contemplation, then that is fine also. A large indoor swimming pool is on hand in the grounds to work off the very large and delicious breakfasts and dinners.

The large oak panelled lounge has a constant supply of coffee, loads of comfy sofas, books and a chess set for those wishing to relax.

The terrace, although much too cold to enjoy at this time of year, offered really lovely views over the gardens.

These are vast. They have their own bee hives for honey, several natural streams running through at various places, and a small lake.

We spent lots of time just wandering through, chatting and taking pictures.

Mushrooms of all types were growing everywhere.

Far too many photos were taken.

The lake below had us standing, kneeling and laying in various places, trying to get 'that shot'. Such a magical place.

Now, the fruits below were growing on a tree. I have never seen one of these before. It obviously grows well in this climate and was labelled as a Cornice. I have tried to look this up but with no luck.
Does anyone else know it's name please?

A massive Taxus had vast, draping branches displaying more berries than I have seen before on one of these.
Let me say here that we had quite a giggle as Amanda wanted the shots, but had to ask me to take them as she wasn't tall enough.....hee hee!

We had two nights here, and in the morning, after a huge cooked breakfast, we went once more into the now frosty garden.

Autumn colour in the early morning sunshine and things glowed.

Little vistas opened up all over the place, making us look like tourists from China with all of the camera clicking.

We thought it was about time to go and have a look at the surrounding area, and so cleared the ice from the van, listened to the engine shudder and chunder as it woke from it's icy slumber, and once warmed, set off.

First stop was an old riveted iron bridge spanning the Wye. Both of us had great fun taking 'arty' snaps of various things. Amanda captured many frozen cobwebs like the one above. Me, well I was doing the perspective thing and hanging off the bridge at various angles. Some great shots, but I won't drag you all through them.

I watched happily and quietly as Amanda took photo after photo of the world around us coming to life.
The early morning vapour off the river swirled in hundreds of little pointy spirals.

A little further down was the village of Tintern. Here we found a small but well stocked antique shop, where there appeared to be a wealth of treasure for my chest at home. 'At last', I thought, a chance to add to the box. But after sifting through quite literally hundreds of pieces, nothing....zilch! We did however come away with two very nice and delicate whisky glasses, not the heavy, thick and chunky kind, but fine and delicate, and knocked the guy down on the price.

Travel Ted always comes with us wherever we go on holiday, and has enjoyed some truly exotic holidays.
He spent the night in his sleeping bag in the van and so it took him a while to warm up. But he soon came round, and with his rucksack of holiday souveniers at the ready watched out of the window excitedly as we moved on to the next bit.

Just at the end of the village is Tintern Abbey.

Now in ruins, it was once home to an order of Cistercian monks.

Founded in 1131, it is indeed ancient, but magnificently preserved.

I could bore you all with the life and history of Cistercians, but I shall leave the googling up to you. It is well worth reading about though so give it a go.

A great place for photographers. Both of us leaning this way and that to get a shot.

An incredibly peaceful place.

Around every corner was a new chance to 'feel' what it must have been like.

And the last part was a walk through what was once the Abbots private quarters, the infirmary, kitchens and private chapel.

A very long, but absolutely lovely day. Time to return to the hotel for dinner and chat about the day.

And so that is it folks. A very nice way to start the week, even if the end isn't quite so good.
The wind is picking up, sore throat is worse, sweats have eased a little but been replaced with that pasty, sticky feeling one gets with a bug. Still, onwards and upwards eh?


  1. Dear Gary - I really admire the incredibly hard work you undertake in gardens of all shapes and sizes. I too am cursing the leaves right now as that means hand rake and bagging the multitudes.

    And so it was with great relief that I followed your trip to a favourite part of the UK. Such beautiful images of this Wye valley sojourn - thanks for posting so many as each was a delight.

    I do hope you recuperate soon


  2. Hi Laura,
    Thank you for your lovely comments. I am about to go and tackle a couple of big ones now. Far too many leaves for sanity. Any chance of some piccies of you garden again?

  3. Beautiful photos of an idyllic trip. It is always fun to be a virtual traveler through your photos. Hope you feel better soon!

  4. Dear Gary, I am so sorry to read that you are under the weather. Damp, drizzly days just seem so much worse when one is ill and you do work terribly hard all week.

    Tintern and the Wye Valley is so absolutely magical. The perfect place to enjoy a romantic weekend for two. the countryside is, in my view, amongst the finest in England and, generally, there are far fewer people than in other tourist spots.

    Your hotel sounds wonderful. Good food and plenty of opportunity for rest and relaxation. You thoroughly deserve such pampering!

  5. Please take care and get well soon. I know I hate being down and out. There's just too much to see and do in this world to spend it sick. And, speaking of seeing and doing, thank you for sharing your weekend trip. My husband and I would totally love visiting a place like that. Travel Ted is too cute! Be well!

  6. Ok, first things first here. I want your precious grandchildren on your sidebars, too cute and lovable they are. Secondly, I may have to stop reading this blog ( really ) as there is too much romance and spur of the moment trips , that a woman who goes nowhere with her husband , can take. Thirdly, I do hope you get well, rest, drink lots of water, and more rest. take care, Gina

  7. Hi Ginny,
    Much better now, although the throat is still very sore. Glad you liked the trip with us.

  8. Hi Edith,
    Thanks for your kind comments.
    The break away was really nice, and needed. As you say, the area is incredibly quiet and lacking in people....perfect!

  9. Hi Sherlock.
    I can't keep calling you that, have you something a bit less cheeky sounding?
    The gardening job is always so much harder when the body is burning up. You and your husband simply must go to where we stayed, really lovely. As for Travel Ted, he has been with us for years and already has his rucksack full of postcards and shells and trinkets.

  10. Hi Gina,
    You can't have them, they are mine...all mine!!
    The trip wasn't really a spur of the moment thing. My mother-in-law Celia, who lives with us, booked and paid for it all months back as a present, it's just taken a long time to get there.

  11. Some beautiful images, I so enjoyed sharing your weekend via the blog. Also fascinating to hear about your work and the different clients - hope we will get to take a peek at some of the gardens of your 'big' houses!