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PICTURING THE COUNTRY
So as promised, because I’ve not posted much in the last couple of weeks, here is a selection of photos I took first at Warwick Castle, which is an amazing place, then at Stonehenge and at the Long Barrow at West Kennet in Wiltshire. Stonehenge was alright but it was mobbed with tourists but the Long Barrow at West Kennet was amazing. Situated opposite the manmade Silbury Hill on the A4 in Wiltshire a little bit west of Marlborough, the Long Barrow was first used around 3500 BC and then sealed up in 2200 BC. It’s on an amazing high point at the top of a hill there and you get some pretty amazing views. The light was pretty good too as I was up there late afternoon with that fantastic late winter light. So here’s a selection of my shots…

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN (PART FIVE)
Sunday was also very entertaining as we left Taunton in the morning and stopped off at a place called Barrow Mump, in the Somerset Levels. It was where Time Team excavated near a church on the top of a hill and we walked up the hill to take a closer look. The weather was a little bit grey but it made everything look quite gothic. took off towards Priddy, which is just North of Wells to track down a field with a series of Barrows. We found them and wandered around for a little while with me getting a series of midge or mosquito bites that I didn’t discover until I got back to London. Then we jumped back in the car and drove to Wells where we visited the Bishop’s Palace, a fantastic Medieval building and the Bishop of Bath and Wells was even there when we visited. It has a fabulous moat and is fairly intact architecturally. We could also see the Cathedral from the Palace gardens and we also found the springs that give Wells its name Then we had lunch in Wells and headed back to Taunton, making one small detour to Athel Ney near Barrow Mump to see the memorial to King Alfred, who spent some time in the Somerset Levels after he was driven out of Hampshire. The Levels include King Sedgemoor’s Drain, a huge piece of reclaimed land dating from Charles II’s time. On Monday, I left Taunton and drove back East to Bradford-on-Avon to see my friend Jaspre Bark and then tried in vain to find the country house Stourhead near Warminster. So I gave up and drove back towards London, stopping off to take a couple of shots of the Cherhill White Horse. Here’s a selection of photos including a couple from Porlock Weir, some from Wells, a few from Priddy and from Barrow Mump…

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN (PART TWO)
On the Saturday, we went from Taunton west to Exmoor, which straddles Somerset and Devon and is amazing. I’ve never been to Exmoor so I thought this was a great opportunity to go there. Exmoor is incredible because you can go miles without seeing towns or houses which is uncommon in England and you drive through forest, gorseland and open grassland. We spotted a deserted house on the edge of Exmoor and we stopped briefly to have a quick look. It looked eerily gothic standing by a field. Then we made our way to the first place we wanted to visit: the Tarr Steps, near Dulverton in Somerset. The Tarr Steps is a bridge of sorts across the River Barle and is made of stones sitting on top of each other. It’s not a large bridge or even what we would consider to be a bridge these days but it is in a very pretty setting. Legend has it that the bridge exists because someone made a bet with the Devil. Its age is uncertain with some people claiming it dates from 1000BC while others say that it is actually only as old as 1400 AD. Regardless, it was interesting to visit and the weather was absolutely perfect. Once we left Tarr, we made our way up north, through Exmoor, past people on a hunt and hunt saboteurs a little further from them. I was struck by how open this part of Exmoor was with huge swatches of open ground, looking sweeping and dramatic. It was such a contrast to the part of the moor down near the Tarr Steps. We even passed a few Exmoor ponies. I am going to save the second part of our day on Saturday for the next post because our trip to Lynton/ Lynmouth was also amazing, so here are a few photos of Exmoor and the Tarr Steps…

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN (PART ONE)
Last year in August I went down to see Dave Morris in Taunton in Somerset and I got to see the stone circle at Stanton Drew, the hill fort at South Cadbury and I popped into Wells on the way home. Because it was a very enjoyable trip, I thought I’d do something similar this year. It was a month later and September is the last month before the clocks go back that I could make such a long journey (long in English terms anyway: about 160 miles from London to Taunton a distance that I know some Americans commute:)). So I set off on Friday morning on the M4 motorway, the road that takes you West from London to the West Country and made it to Bristol around 1pm where I had lunch with my brother Matthew who lives in Clifton in Bristol (although he’s leaving there the beginning of next week). After I had lunch with him and his wife Sally, I drove a little way and left my car briefly at Clifton by the suspension bridge. I have visited the bridge before and I have taken photos there before but the light was great and it was en route to where I was going next, so I took some photos there. Then I got back in my car and drove over the bridge heading towards the M5, the motorway that goes west of Bristol, to Taunton and eventually to Exeter. I then drove to Portishead, which is west and a little north of the town centre and where the band of the same name come from. There’s only one single track road into the place and I almost came unstuck when I had a tractor coming towards me. I then met up with comic writer Rob Williams and we chatted about writing while wandering around the marina in Portishead. The weather was perfect: bright and a bit windy. So after spending a little time there, I got back in the car and drove through the northern bits of Bristol (Clevedon, Weston in Gordano) which was very interesting and then I came out on the M5 where I headed for Taunton. Here are some photos I took in Portishead and Clifton…






















A PAGAN PLACE
In my final post about the day after Bristol, after we left Jaspre at Bradford-on-Avon, we headed south a little bit towards Westbury in Wiltshire. Now Wilts has tons of White Horses carved into its hillside but Westbury looked impressive as I saw it from the train a little while ago and we actually drove near it on our way to Longleat the Friday before. So I was curious to see if close-up. And I admit that it is amazing when you get closer to it. However, unlike the horse in the Vale of The White Horse in Oxfordshire, it’s not that old. Probably dates from the 18th century because the white horse was the family animal of the Hanoverians, so to commemorate George III, lots of them were carved. But you do get a great view looing across the county from the top so it’s well worth a look. The other place I took Andy too was Avebury, which is a little further east of Westbury. He had never seen the stones and the weather was perfect, so I took him there. It’s the third time I’ve visited it and it still looks amazing. Julian Cope lives in the village and there are lots of modern-day ‘witches’ who are located there too. Apparently a friend of mine in the States, Mark Berry, tells me that the pub there the Red Lion is supposed to be haunted. I’ll have to check it out the next time I am there. After Avebury, we picked up the M4 at Swindon and we were hoeme by about 8ish in the evening. Wiltshire is a fantastic, beauty, spellbinding county. So here are a few photos at Westbury and Avebury…












WILTSHIRE’S HIDDEN BEAUTY
For the past few years, once I have left Bristol and made my way back to London, I have stopped off to see my friend, the talented writer Jaspre Bark at Bradford-on-Avon. 2009 was no exception and my friend Andy Colman, who came back with me in the car had never been to Bradford-on-Avon so I dragged him along to see Jaspre. Bradford-on-Avon is such a fantastic place: small enough to walk around but big enough so that there’s enough to keep you occupied. Unlike Bath, you can park easily and it is off the trail for most tourists. I hope it continues to be one of these places that you have to know to visit. Anyway, the weather was perfect and I took a number of shots, so here’s a selection of a few for you to enjoy…
















WHAT DID THE ROMANS EVER DO FOR US
About ten days ago, I went to Bath by train which takes about an hour and a half from London Paddington. It’s the first time I’d been there and wandered around properly and I could see why it’s so loved by tourists who come over here. The weather was perfect: crisp blue sky and feeling very Springlike. I met my brother for lunch and I met Jaspre for a coffee near the station. I didn’t go into the Roman baths but I probably will do next time. It was a very nice day except for the fact that the greedy twats at First Great Western wouldn’t let me get on an earlier train (unless I wanted to pay £48 for the privilege) so I spent an hour waiting at Swindon. But that didn’t mar what was a very pleasant day. The only upside to not having any freelance subbing is the fact that I can choose to sod off for the day out of London. So here are some photos of the stunning Bath Abbey, by the Avon and a few general photos from the city…






















GO SOUTHWEST YOUNG MAN PART 4 OR WELLS ALRIGHT
So I left Taunton on the Sunday morning and meandered my way back to London. I took several A-roads which skirted through Glastonbury and Street and through the spectacular Somerset Wetlands, a huge area of reclaimed land that looked beautiful in the semi-sunlight compared with the pitch-black rain of the night before. Leaving Glastonbury, I saw signs for Bath and for Wells. Now there was no reason to visit Wells for the pagan book but I had heard it was a stunning place and I wasn’t in any real hurry so I thought ‘Why Not’ So I made my way out of Glastonbury and onto Wells. My brother took my folks there for the afternoon back in July and I have to say it is a really beautiful place. Forever associated for me with the evil Bishop of Bath and Wells played exquisitely by Ronald Lacey in Blackadder II, Wells is a small city a little bit west of Bath and it is home to a spectacular Gothic cathedral, which dates from around 13th century, and a Bishop’s Palace complete with its own moat, which also dates from the same period. I admit that I didn’t go into the Cathedral or the Palace, partly because I didn’t want to spend all day there but also because I was conserving my money but they look incredible from their exteriors. So I’ll have to go back to Wells properly someday and I really need to go back to Somerset and explore it further…






















GO WEST YOUNG MAN 2008 PART FOUR
Okay, so Bristol was over two weeks’ ago now but it’s been a crazy month what with the Studio Space book, trying to polish off the Annual and keeping up with my regular film-related writing (like the Indy review last week) so I’ve let this last part of my Bristol online diary slip. So the show went very well and on Monday morning, I crammed Louise and Walter Simonson into my Nissan Micra and we left the Ramada. I say crammed because my car had rather a lot of boxes in it from the weekend plus my bags and I had suggested they could grab a lift back with me to London because they were going back that way and so was I, so I thought it might have been fun. So we left Redcliffe in Bristol with Louise crushed in the back and Walter sitting with two boxes in the front and headed for Clifton, because I promised I would show them the suspension bridge, which I have only ever seen once and it was in Winter. The weather was perfect (crisp blue sky with sunshine) and so it seemed to be the ideal opportunity. We got to Clifton, met my brother briefly, who lives in Clifton and walked across the bridge and even went up to the Observatory and got a great view of the gorge.
I had planned to go to Salisbury because I had never seen Stonehenge or the Cathedral there but I decided instead to take Walt and Weezie to Bradford-on-Avon, where my friend Jaspre and his partner Ronnie and their two daughters live. Bradford is a great place and people don’t seem to know about it, unlike Bath, so it’s pretty quiet. So I made our way to Bradford, getting slightly lost and driving through Bath but we made it just after lunch and met Jaspre, who took us on a walking tour of the place, up through an area called the Tory, which is located above Bradford-on-Avon, past a Saxon church, a tithe barn and to lunch by the canalside. I have visited Bradford a couple of times before but hadn’t seen this bit so that was a lot of fun. Jaspre, Walt and Weezie also seemed to hit it off, which was good. Then, leaving Bradford at 5.15pm, we headed towards Avebury, and the way there I pointed out the White Horse at Cherhill to the Simonsons. So we stopped at Avebury where the weather had gotten a little cloudy but we still had a bit of a wander around the standing stones as Walter remembered the place fondly from when he was last over here. The rape seed fields look like they have been added in in Photoshop and it is a really fantastic place. No wonder Julian Cope likes it. So we left Avebury and ended up in Marlborough in Wiltshire for dinner, which we left after eating and continued the circuitous route back to London. I had to drop them off at Egham, a place I am not familiar with, so we got lost and their friend Richard Burton had to come and find us. So I eventually left the Simonsons at Richard’s house at about 11.45pm and then didn’t get home until 1am because I got lost in Egham trying to find the motorway again. So that is the end of my epic Monday after Bristol but I really enjoyed the day as Walt and Weezie are great company and I enjoyed showing them places they didn’t know and wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. Here is a selection of photos from that day including lots of Clifton, Bradford-on-Avon and one of Avebury…