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COUNTRY HOUSES
The weather in January’s been pretty bloody awful mostly with our snowbound weeks but there has been the odd day that’s been bright if a little chilly. So I have had the chance to go out with the camera for a wander, down to Salisbury and then Beaulieu in Hampshire with Andy’s friend Laurence, who is a qualified tourist guide. He takes people on those walks you sometimes see in London and he is also qualified to drive people to places near London. So it was a bright Sunday about two weeks ago that he suggested we take a trip to Salisbury in Wiltshire and I suggested that, since Beaulieu (pronounced ‘Bewley’), where the car museum and the country house is located, isn’t too much of a drive from Salisbury, we should stop off there as well. Salisbury was a strange place, with parts of it very pretty but some of it filled with that horrible Sixties and Seventies architecture. It was a very pleasant lunch and we wandered around the town centre which was very pretty, including the Cathedral. Then we headed off to Beaulieu via the New Forest, past the gardens at Exbury. We walked through the motor museum there and then had a quick look at the Palace House, which has been home to the Montagu family since 1538. The majority of the building is Victorian and it’s a really lovely structure especially with its mill pond situated in the village next to it. So here are a few photos I took in both places…

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CATCHING UP
I got back from the West Country on Monday night and since I took about 1000 photos, I haven’t had time to sort through them in order to post full entries. So while you wait for that, here’s a few photos to tantalise you. The fields with hay are just off the road to Salisbury in the middle of nowhere, the cliffs are at the Valley of The Rocks in Lynton, north Devon and the bridge made of rocks is the Tarr Steps in Exmoor…






















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…










THE MANE ATTRACTION
The weekend of 10th to 11th of this month was spent down in Bristol at the retooled Bristol Comic Expo. I shall post a small report on the show but, as is my tradition, I left London on the Friday, 9th May, and took the motorway to a certain point and then came off. In the car were Andy Colman and Leon, and we got off the M4 at Chippenham because I had a fancy to see Longleat House. Now Longleat is more popular as a Safari Park because it has a huge one there but the house dates from 1580, so it was supposed to be a spectacular example of Elizabethan architecture. The weather was changeable but we were mostly lucky and when we hit Longleat around 4pm on the Friday, we weren’t disappointed. Set in acres of land, you drive for miles from the sign at the roundabout until you come upon this glorious place set in its own lush surroundings. This is why I like driving aimlessly around England, stopping off at different hidden gems. We didn’t go into the house properly because we had to get cracking and move onto Bristol but here are a few pics I took around the house and in the grounds. The headline refers to the fact that Longleat is famous for its lions, hence the lion figure here…