Conkers at the Quay and Coffee by the Castle

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I had the best day yesterday, as we took a rather impromptu trip from my home in Cheltenham (The Heart of the Cotswolds) ostensibly to go to the seaside, but as we didn’t leave until 1.30 pm that made reaching the coast a bit of a tall order if we were to get home at a reasonable hour.

If you know your geography you will understand that we are pretty close to the Welsh Border, so set off from Cheltenham, via Gloucester and headed toward The Forest of Dean and headed toward Chepstow, which lies literally just over the border in Welsh Wales.

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En route we passed through Lydney, in the heart of the forest – a vital town for serviced, having a great river access as well as rail service to support the miners and crofters of the forest in days gone by. The day was turning into a history lesson and I found it all quite enthralling.

We passed a sign for Lydney Harbour so turned off to explore what we could find. Its interesting to note that , in Cheltenham we feel very landlocked and have little to no relationship with either coast or rivers, but only a few miles away, there are thriving towns which were built up on the river trades they accommodated: Think of Gloucester Docks, and Tewkesbury harbours – rivers and canals played such an important part in the history of this area; although motorways have taken over (hello M5) we can still see the evidence of a bygone era in the immense warehouses alongside the docks and the rows of workers cottages which line the approaches to the water.

We passed The Severn Bore Public house- a favourite place to watch the regular tidal bore event which happens around the full moons – with surfers riding the high tide up the river, much to the amusement of onlookers on the side. The pub happily facilitates those onlookers, offering refreshments as they stand to watch the spectacle. I have yet to attend a Bore Event myself – but it is on the list of things to do.

We  parked at Lydney Harbour after crossing a rather bumpy level crossing – observing again the link between rail and water; and strolled along to the edge of the breakwater. Signage told us of the history of this harbour and its role in both bringing supplies to the foresters, but even more importantly, taking the coal mined in the forest across the country.

the water was muddy, evidence of the sediment present, which makes the Severn such a mecca for wildlife. That muddy water contains an immense food source for birds, as well as containing an incredible amount of fish and eels which are still harvested today. We also met a rather gorgeous 4 month old Newfoundland puppy of indescribable fluffiness, which made me smile. (Yes I am that crazy dog lady!) and observed a rather bright golden retriever who steadfastly refused to go anywhere near the edge of the breakwater – and barked concernedly at his owners as they walked too close to the edge: My guess is he has had a dunking that he has never forgotten – either that or he could see the ghosts of sailors past working away unseen by human eyes – anything is possible!

I collected acorns from the laden oak trees as we walked back to the car – (I’ll admit – the conkers in the title were already in my bag from a previous nut-gathering-expedition – but I like the alliteration) I find great joy in seed collecting and consider it a gift from nature – also I once grew eight glorious little oak trees from acorns and gifted them for Midwinter Gifts the following year – but sadly my puppy chewed my two saplings and I lost them both. Sad times.Those were discovered partially sprouted in loamy soil – oddly enough in the forest again at The DIck Whittington Farm Park, Longhope, Gloucestershire, when my daughter was younger.

One of the glories of driving through Gloucestershire is the copious amounts of native orchards to be seen. Resplendent in shiny red apples, they are plentiful and bring back memories of childhood stories. The houses set into little orchards, goats, chickens, ponies, all enjoying the lush grass, fields and fields of crops border these oasis of fruitfulness and the magic is palpable. Such a joy and a reminder of the true meaning of Harvest Time (Mabon). This truly is a time to reap what we have sown – and planting my little acorns or conkers is a way of planting new seeds for the future. Symbolic of the inner work we all must do at this time of year, as we round off the old year and prepare for the next.

On entering the city we saw the old castle standing resplendent on the banks of the River Wye, a strong relic of times gone by. we drove through the town to get our bearings and decided to head into the centre to find a cup of coffee. WE were rewarded with the site of a Costa Coffee shop (my personal brand of preference because they do not charge extra for soya milk – unlike their competitors!!!)

We parked up close by and settled in for coffee and cake – my boy – 17 – offering to load us up on goodies if I paid for the coffee, which seemed a fair deal! WE enjoyed sitting at the bench in the window watching the passing traffic, or ‘car porn’ as my boy would see it. There were certainly some rather lovely vehicles on the road that day. Incidentally he has just passed his driving test – first time, I might add, with a note of pride – and is desperate to get behind the wheel. Sadly finances mean we are unable to get him a car or – more importantly – insure him to drive, so he is at the  moment limited to drooling over the vehicular scenery and enjoying the thrill of the waiting game.

After finishing our coffee we headed back to the car to drive up to the castle. It was too late to go in, but we enjoyed the view from the outside, took a few shots and my boy – with his brand new Apple Iphone 6S took some magnificent pics in black and white.

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It was soon time to head toward home and we relaxed into the journey with a quiet road and autumnal colours to entertain us – along with some rather dodgy tracks on digital radio. There is nothing like a car full of people with highly diversive musical tastes to create an interesting journey: I’m all about Absolute 80’s, while my boy loves a bit of KissFM and my bloke would be happy with Radio6music on all day. So we spent a good deal of time channel hopping to find good tunes we could all enjoy.

We took a quick detour into Gloucester Docks after hearing of a terrible Warehouse Fire which happened on Saturday night. It was a derelict building, but a local landmark, held in fond regard by locals, as all the dockside buildings are. The docks are a very special place, both for history and heritage, but now also as a place of regeneration,

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I’ve said enough and now must stop – but be assured I had a great weekend, and if you have enjoyed some surprise trips and visits recently how about commenting at the bottom and sharing your news.

Big Love

Roberta

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