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Beginnings:

Welcome to Richard & Colleen’s excellent adventure blog.

This blog has been created to document our RTW (Round The World) trip which is planned to start sometime in June or July of 2018.  As Col is the literary giant in our partnership she will be providing the majority of the blog content, but of course I will chime in from time to time with my own input.  We ask for your patience as we learn and navigate through the world of blogging.  Our hope is that through this blog our family and friends will be able to take part in our journey, participate in our ups and downs and be with us as we set forth on our adventure of a lifetime.

  • IT’S THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION.
  • CARPE DIEM

Moors and Lochs (It Doesn’t Get Much More Scottish Than That!)

Every since I was young I have read about Bonnie Prince Charlie and his failed attempt to take back his crown. I always wondered where things went wrong. As I grew older and read more about it, it did seem quite tragic and sad. So, when Diana Gabaldon came out with the Outlander series based on the Scottish Highlands, I was hooked. I read her books, did more research and was excited when we decided to come up to Inverness. Culloden Moor is where the final battle of the Jacobites (Scottish rebels and supporters of Prince Charles Stuart) and the English (the government) took place on April 16, 1746. Our BNB is only three miles from this historic battleground!! The battle was doomed from the start. Though the rebels had won battles against the English at Prestonpans and Falkirk the previous year, the English army greatly outnumbered them in men and artillery. The Jacobite army consisted of clansmen which were mainly farmers. On the morning of April 16, as the English army advanced towards Culloden, the rebels were disorganized and confused due to an aborted raid on the English troops the night before.  Many were sleeping in ditches and outbuildings while others were out searching for food. They quickly reorganized but orders from commander in chief, Prince Charles came too late or were not followed and the Jacobites were defeated within an hour. Over 1500 of the 7000 men were killed and many others captured. From then on the English government banned the display of tartan or the use of Gaelic speech. It was the last armed conflict on Scottish soil. We parked our car at the front gate and started walking through the battlefield. Flags and flagpoles illustrate where the both the Jacobite and the Government front lines were. There are walkways, storyboards, and memorial stones throughout the grounds. The moor is rugged and covered in heather, small brush and trees. We spent a couple of hours wandering about and were saddened by the tragedy of it all. Of course, Charles Stuart, for whom they all fought for, escaped to France and lived for another forty years, never to return again to Scottish soil while his countrymen paid the price. To me, that is the real tragedy.

After Culloden, we headed into Inverness for lunch and some shopping. Other than the very ultra modern mall, the town is quaint and fairly touristy.

We couldn’t come all this way and not check out the legend of the Loch Ness monster! We headed down the Loch to the Information and Visitor Centre. They had a very informative and interesting media exhibit showing the history of Loch Ness monster sightings, subsequent research and left us with the question – myth or reality? I think that we both agreed that the monster is a myth but the Loch itself is very interesting. The largest freshwater body of water in Britain, it runs from the North Sea at Inverness to the Irish Sea at Fort William. We decided that we would like to see the Loch close up, so we took a one hour cruise.  Though it was rainy and overcast, our cruise director was informative and witty. We travelled a couple of miles up and down the Loch, past the ruins of Urquhart Castle, the largest castle in Scotland, and listened to stories of the research being done on the lake. Though as mentioned, it is the largest freshwater lake in Britain, the water is not used for drinking. In fact, the Loch is really used for nothing except for recreational boating and fishing. It is too cold to swim and there are very few fish. The biggest attraction here is “Nessie” and there have been 16 reported sightings of her already this year. Maybe not the myth that we think?

We head off to the Doune Castle near Stirling tomorrow. Many movies, including the Holy Grail and episodes of Outlander have been filmed here. Stirling is where the statue of William Wallace stands as well as the Stirling Castle. Should be another great day of entertainment and history!!

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The British front line with red flags and the Scots with the blue flags.  There were about 400 meters apart.

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Memorial stones and a picture of the battlefield.

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Loch Ness

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Our boat cruise on the Loch…

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Here is some English Gaelic to try out.

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Scotland is a beautiful country and the people are so friendly and welcoming, but sometimes it is a bit difficult to understand them.  Col manages better than I do.  More than once in a restaurant I have given the server the deer in the headlights look after she or he asked me a question.  Apparently they even have that problem in the Scottish Parliament.

 

 

Off to the Highlands – with a quick stop at St. Andrews Golf Course!!

Well, the lengthy title sort of sums up the day. We left Edinburgh at about 10 AM and after some finagling through the city, we were out in the Scottish countryside and headed to St. Andrews. The GPS lady didn’t take us on any crazy detours on unidentified roads so the drive was fairly easy and we arrived there around 11:30. Across from the carpark we found the famous members only clubhouse, watched some people tee off on Hole 1 and others putt out on Hole 18.  I think that I should let Richard take it from here….

Anyone who golfs or is a sports fan has heard of St. Andrews Golf Club.  It is the oldest and arguably the most iconic course on the planet.  Golf has been played on the Links at St Andrews since around 1400 AD, and the Old Course is renowned throughout the world as the Home of Golf. What was one simple track hacked through the bushes and heather has developed into six links golf courses and four other courses in the immediate area.  By 1764, the Old Course consisted of 22 holes, 11 out and 11 back, with golfers playing to the same hole going out and in, except for the 11th and 22nd holes. The golfers decided the first four holes, therefore also the last four holes, were too short and that they should be made into two holes instead of four. Thus the number of holes per round dropped from 22 to 18, and that is how today’s standard round of golf was created.  In 1754, the Royal and Ancient Club was founded under its original name of the Society of St Andrews Golfers. This club, originally composed of 22 noblemen, professors and landowners, has become the foremost golf club in the world and now governs the rules of golf everywhere except in the USA.

I was not that excited as we were traveling to the grand ol’ course, but once we arrived and starting walking around it was quite exciting.  So glad we took the detour to stop in for a visit.

The celebrated clubhouse of St. Andrews.

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The Swilcan Bridge.

It’s not a particularly imposing bridge, but the Swilcan Bridge on The Old Course’s 18th hole is one of the most famous golf course landmarks in the world.

Everyone who crosses it stops to have his or her photo taken, even the pros. And this gallery of Swilcan Bridge images includes some of those famous pros who’ve posed on it. Even a trio of greats who said their goodbyes to St. Andrews from atop it — plus another legend of the game who once tap danced across it.

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Jack Nicklaus.

Some of the course and those hated bunkers.

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I snuck on to the course to take the bunker shots and figured I might as well take a selfie while I Am On St. Andrew’s Golf Course!!!!

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St. Andrew’s Ale at St. Andrews.

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The picture below was in the club house where we had lunch.

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Before we reached Inverness we stopped for a coffee and Col managed to get the Highland Cow to stand still long enough for a photo.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

The day looked pretty rainy and miserable but we are in Scotland now so it is either tour in the rain or never see Scotland. Or so we have been led to believe. When we arrived in Edinburgh the day before, there was no rain. Our BNB is just down the block from the North Sea so, though it was windy and a bit chilly, we walked the promenade from one end to other.  The sea was wild and choppy but there were still people on the beach, in the water and spending time with friends and family. We decided that they were much tougher than us as they were in shorts and t-shirts while we were bundled in our winter jackets. That doesn’t happen very often!

Anyways, on Day two we jumped the bus and headed to Old Edinburgh. Though we have the car, we thought that it would be much easier to ride the bus and given all the construction downtown, we were right about that. We got off in front of the Scott Monument, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, a writer. The monument is quite impressive and is the second largest in the world dedicated to a writer. The other is in Havana, Cuba.

We joined all the other folks with their umbrellas heading towards the Edinburgh Castle. This historic fortress dominates the skyline of the city from its position on the volcanic Castle Rock. Though the Rock has been occupied since the Iron Age, King Charles I was the last sovereign to stay there. He slept there on 19 June 1633, the night before his Scottish coronation. The Castle has played a prominent role in the ongoing battle between the Scottish and the English and has had many facelifts as a result of war and destruction. It now houses the Crown Jewels and is the number one tourist spot in Scotland. We took a few pictures and then headed down Royal Mile to see the historic buildings and the shops.

We did some shopping, had lunch at the McGregor (can’t get much more Scottish than that!!)  and when the rain finally stopped, we headed up to Calton Hill. Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh’s main hills, set right in the city centre. It is unmistakable with its Athenian acropolis poking above the skyline. The acropolis is in fact an unfinished monument – originally called the “National Monument”. Initiated in 1816, a year after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, it was meant to be a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, as a memorial to those who had died in the Napoleonic Wars. However, funds ran out during construction and it has never been completed.  The panoramic views of the city and the craggy volcanic hills that surround it are amazing. I can only imagine what you could see on a clear day!!

We headed back down the hill and satisfied with a day well spent in the capital city, headed back to our BNB to get ready for tomorrow’s adventure – a trip up to Inverness to see if we can catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster. Wish us luck!!

PS…  Richard had his first taste of Haggis today.  He actually like it.

The sign sums up what it is like to drive in Great Britain.

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The Scott Monument.

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Edinburgh Castle.

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Around Edinburgh

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Hadrian’s Wall

Today we walked on Hadrian’s Wall! Built by the Romans in AD122, this 84 mile defensive fortification spanned the northern limits of the Roman Empire and ran from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. Hadrian, the emperor of Rome, decided that there was no value in pushing the territory any further north and had the wall designed to repel attacks from the northern tribes. It was built by Roman soldiers in a span of about eight years and it is believed that they used very little local labor. The original design had lookout turrets every few miles along the wall. However, a few years into construction, Hadrian decided that forts should also be built into the wall. Many portions of the wall had to be torn down and rebuilt to accommodate the new design. As the years went by, many soldiers were called back to Rome due to an ever increasing threat to the city. Most did not return to Britain. The forts and the wall were completely abandoned by the Romans around AD410. In the years that followed, much of the structure fell to ruin or the stone was pilfered for other construction projects. Today, a number of the fort ruins and portions of the wall have been excavated and are open for visitors to explore. The Hadrian’s Wall Pathway is a walking trail that runs along the entire length of the wall. So, if you have five to seven days of free time, this is a fun thing to do. Unfortunately, we do not have that kind of time at this point of our journey, but we were able to walk on the wall for about a kilometer. It is pretty amazing to think that this structure, built 1900 years ago, has stood the test of time. We visited two forts and it should be noted that the views from them were fantastic. Beautiful countryside – both north and south.

Following our walk back in time, we headed home for supper and reflected on another perfect day in England. Tomorrow we cross the border and head up to Edinburgh, Scotland. I wonder what kind of adventures we’ll find there.

PS. I probably do not thank you, our friends and readers, nearly enough for your support. It is always great getting feedback on something I’ve written or pictures that Richard has posted. We got two comments on our Lake District blog that I would like to pass along. The cattle with the bangs are most likely Highland cattle and the stone fences are called Dry Stone Walls. Thank you Cathy and Janet for that information. We appreciate it!

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The Lavatory…img_5457img_5481img_5490img_5491img_5495

Col looking over the Northern frontier checking for Barbarians.img_5466img_5463img_5474img_5471

The Lake District

We packed the car and sadly said goodbye to our hosts in Wales and headed north towards Scotland. Though we were excited for the rest of our journey, I couldn’t help but think that I had left a little piece of myself in the beautiful hills around Welshpool. I can understand why my Gran always spoke of this place with so much reverence.

The three and a half hour drive turned into about six as we decided to take a detour and have lunch in the Lake District. I have read many novels that have their setting at this area and I wanted to see for myself if it is as beautiful as I have read. What we noticed first of all was the stone fences. You may recall that the fences in England and Wales were thick hedges at about shoulder height. As we entered the Lake District, the fences were all stone – along the road, though the pastures and fields and around the houses. It was absolutely amazing!! Richard had picked a spot for lunch called the Drunken Duck and the winding road took us through the countryside filled with sheep, through a number of small touristy, villages and past some pretty magnificent homes along the lake. The Drunken Duck is known for its views and we weren’t disappointed. The sky was clear, the sun was shining and we could see for miles. The waiter told us that we were very lucky as most of the time it is raining and you can’t really see anything for the clouds. We had a fairly basic lunch, walked a bit to stretch our legs and got back in the car for the rest of our journey. Richard was driving now and rather than go back out the way we came in, we decided to just keep driving north. Though the road got even more narrow, windy and hilly, the scenery was fantastic! Cute, little bungalows. Rocky hillsides. Green pastures. Beautiful valleys. Large lakes. Thousands of sheep. Even a pasture of long, horn cattle with bangs!! And all of this scenery encompassed within those magnificent stone fences. We stopped a couple of times to take pictures and though we will post some, I am sure that they will not do them justice. We both agreed that the scenery was well worth the nerve wracking drive!!

We arrived at our BNB in Carlisle, England about 4 PM. We settled in, went for a walk to get a few groceries and hunkered in for the night. We are about a half hour drive from Hadrian’s Wall and plan on a fairly long day tomorrow as we explore this historic Roman architecture.  Another amazing day in jolly Old England!!

The Drunken Duck and the views from where we ate.

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The winding road out of the Lake District.

I am not too proud to say it was a bit of a nail biter.  The going was slow due to the narrowness of the road and a lot of it was lined with the stone fences which were sometimes inches from the car.  I was quite happy to get back on the motorway.

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The black lines in the field below are the rock fences.img_5435img_5440img_5448

Another Lovely Day in Wales

Our first stop today was in Guilsfield at St. Aelhaiarn Parish Church, about a twenty minute drive from our BNB. I was looking for my Gran’s grandparents. My problem was that I couldn’t remember if I was looking for her maternal or paternal grandparents. My mom, sister and I had been here in 2007 so I just had to remember where the gravestone was. After about 20 minutes of wandering around and listening to my husband saying “Who are we looking for? Shouldn’t you have done more research?”, I actually found the headstone!! Richard and Ann Jones, paternal grandparents of my Gran. How cool!!

From there we headed off to find Gran’s childhood home. When I was young, Gran had told me many stories of her Welsh home of Pembryn. She was only 14 when her family emigrated to Canada in search of a better life but I feel that she yearned to return to the place of her memories. Though we had been here in 2007 and I had a general idea of where it was, I would never have found it without the GPS coordinates supplied to me by David, my Welshpool cousin. But, find it we did and today we were in luck – the current owner was out in his garden. Though he was a little wary at first when he saw two strange people walking up his driveway, he was very friendly and was as interested in us as we were in him. He has only owned the property for a few years but is in the process of tracing the history of it. He was able to tell us that in the 1970’s the farm had been broken up and sold off and was no longer a working farm. The buildings on the property were also divided with the main house as one property and the barns as another. Over the years, both properties have been renovated but both still display the name “Penbryn”. We walked around and while taking pictures, I imagined young Sally playing with her friends and doing her chores in these ancient buildings. After exchanging emails and saying goodbye to our new friend, we walked back to our car that we had left further up the hill, enjoyed a homemade sandwich while looking over the Welsh countryside. During our journey people have asked us “what is your favorite place?”. It has always been a tough question to answer but I think I have it now – This is the place that tugs the most on my heart.

I was finally able to break myself away from these beautiful hills and we headed down into Welshpool to meet some family from my Gran’s side. As a kid, the Joneses had always been part of our lives. To me they were exotic because sometimes they lived in Wales and sometimes they lived in Canada. My young brain could not even comprehend how that was possible!! Of course, over the years, I was able to understand but I have always admired them for their ability to move between both countries with ease. Alex, my Gran’s cousin, and his wife Margaret are now permanently living in Welshpool. They are 90 and 88 respectively but both are amazing. We spent a pleasant afternoon  catching up on family news and I peppered them questions about their life on Vancouver Island, Though they miss Canada greatly, they are close to most of their family here in Wales and that is really what counts. Speaking of family, David, their son, who I mentioned briefly a few sentences earlier, also stopped by for a visit. We have not seen each other for years but were able to easily pick up the thread of conversation with childhood memories of Gran’s farm and family adventures since then. All too soon the afternoon was over and we were heading back to our BNB. Such a beautiful day as we meshed past and present together. My heart is full.

The Headstone of Col’s great great grandparents and the Parish Church of the Jones.

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We don’t know for sure, but it is quite possible that Col’s Gran went to this school.  Guilsfield old School.

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Penbryn Farm

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The owner of the the house stated that the Granary was not where grain was stored, but it was the place where the Grannies lived.img_5415img_5419

Gran’s relatives in Welsh Pool.

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David, Alex, Col and Margaret.

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Exploring Wales

After the excitement of the last couple of days, we decided to take it easy, catch up on the blog and some laundry and enjoy the quiet, country life. After our laundry was hung up to dry and the blog was complete, we headed out for a walk around the farm. The cottage that we are staying in is dated around 1700 while the main house next door is dated around 1400. How cool is that?!?!? We wandered around the yard and the hills, petted some of the baby sheep, and basked in the sunshine and the amazing beauty of the area.

We needed to go to town to get some groceries so thought that while we were out and about with the car, we would do some exploring. We didn’t have to drive far to arrive at Lake Vyrnwy. This reservoir in the county of Powys, Wales, was built in the 1880s for Liverpool Corporation Waterworks to supply Liverpool with fresh water. It flooded the head of the Vyrnwy valley and submerged the village of Llanwddyn. (much like the Shellmouth Dam and Lake of the Prairies). There is a little convenience store and gas station that is still called Llanwddyn but I’m not sure if this would be on the original site. The dam itself is quite impressive. It was the first large stone-built dam in the United Kingdom, and is built partly out of great blocks of Welsh slate. It is 355 metres (1,165 ft) long and has a road bridge running along the top. It is decorated with over 25 arches and two small towers (each with four corner turrets). We drove across the dam, parked the car and walked along the lake, back across the dam and down into the sculpture park in the valley below the dam. The park is quite beautiful and there are several totems carved into standing trees and re-erected fallen trunks. At the little restaurant near the car park, we had a cream tea (finally!!) and a cider. As we headed out we stopped the car at the straining tower which looks like a miniature castle.  Its purpose is to filter out material in the water with a fine metal mesh, before the water flows along the aqueduct to Liverpool. This whole area is absolutely beautiful and so very peaceful. It is a bird watchers paradise and we enjoyed our walk, listening to the different bird calls and the gentle waterfalls coming through the dam. The peace was only disturbed by six fighter jets zooming through the valley on what I can only assume (and hope) was a training exercise. A pretty awesome first day in Wales!

Tomorrow we are off to meet relatives on my Gran’s side and hopefully track down her childhood home. Can’t wait!!

Our Airbnb…

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We even have a wood stove…img_5385img_5342

 

 

Lake Vyrnwy.

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The Straining Tower

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Wood carvings out of trees…

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This one is called the Pecking Order…img_5349

Tried some traditional Welsh Cider…

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Here is some Welsh for you to learn – all the signs here are in both languages

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Farewell to Family, Hello Wales

We packed up our bags in Cheltenham, said goodbye to our BNB hosts and headed back up to Tamworth. We arrived at Ron and Glenys’ at about 10:30 and we headed out to explore the town. For us history buffs, Tamworth is a wealth of interesting facts. It has roots back to the Middle Ages and was made into an important place by King Offa of Mercia (a Saxon kingdom that roughly corresponded to the Midlands of England). Offa reigned from 755 to 796. He built a palace at Tamworth and it could be said that Tamworth was the capital of Mercia. However it was burned by the Danes in 874. Tamworth was rebuilt in 913 by the Ethelflaeda,  King Alfred’s sister. She was called the Lady of the Mercians. Anyone who has watched “The Last Kingdom” will know these names well. Tamworth was destroyed again but a fortified castle was built by the Normans and this castle is still standing today. We wandered through the rooms and up the staircases of the castle and were able to get a very good glimpse of how life was during the ages. The town was destroyed by fire in 1345, visited by the plague in the 16th and 17th centuries and was home to Sir Robert Peel, who was the Prime Minister during Queen Victoria’s reign. Because of Peel’s Manifesto which laid down the principles upon which the modern British Conservative Party is based, there has been some talk of moving Parliament to Tamworth and declaring it the capital city.  Based on the restoration project that is taking place on the Parliament buildings in London, my opinion would be that it will not be happening anytime soon.

We stopped for a Sunday carvery lunch at the local pub – roast pork and roast turkey with yorkshire pudding and all the fixings before heading off to meet Glenys’ sister Elayne in Polesworth. On the way we stopped at the house where Glenys and her sister grew up and where their father lived until his death. Another 10 minute drive brought us to Elayne’s. We had a wonderful visit and the five of us chatted like old friends. Before we knew it, it was time to leave. We had a two hour drive to our BNB in Wales and thought that we should get on the road. We said our final goodbyes and I believe that we will definitely see each other again – either back here or maybe even in Canada. So wonderful connecting with family!!

Though most of the drive to Wales was uneventful, we did run into a little bit of a problem navigating some of the narrow, winding roads that Wales is famous for.  However, we arrived at our BNB about a half hour west of Welshpool at about 8 PM. We are staying on a working farm with cattle and sheep. It is so peaceful and so very beautiful. The weather promises to be very nice for the next few days so we are very excited about wandering through the Welsh countryside. I hope that the pictures will do it justice.

The Enigma..

In Tamworth you will find a monument to the Enigma Code and to Colin Grazier who was from Tamworth.  Colin helped capture enigma code books from a German U-boat.  Before drowning he and his companion from Scotland were able to hand the code books to a young seaman who was able to deliver them to naval intelligence.

The day before we took this picture we were at the cemetery where Colleen’s great great grandfather is buried and Gleny had noticed a headstone with another connection to the enigma code.  How interesting that two people who lived so close played such a vital role in the cracking this code.  If anyone is interested there is a great movie that came out in 2014 called The Imitation Game which chronicles the group lead by Alan Turing and how they broke the code.

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Tamworth Castle..

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Col sitting in a seat carved out of rock – The Wishing Stone. What do you suppose she wished for?img_5308

Queen Ethelflaeda..img_5323img_5294img_5295

Col meeting her cousin Elayne for the first time.

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From left to right.  Richard, Glenys, Col, Elayne and Ron….

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Tamworth and the Lost Family

Today was the day that I had been anticipating for a very long time. Today I was going to meet my second cousin that I did not even know existed until just a few years ago. The story goes that my great grandfather Wilmot I (on my Dad’s side) moved to London and married Charlotte Edmonds and they had four children. Tragically they both died when the children were still quite young and the children were taken in by some relatives which did not treat them very nice. When my grandfather (Wilmot II) was old enough, he emigrated to Canada and started a family there with my Gran (who had emigrated from Wales with her parents). My dad (Wilmot III) is the result of that union. The rest of the children scattered and we have been able to track down some of the family (remember way back when we met Norman in Australia?). However, we have since found out that our cheeky great grandfather had originally married a young lady from Liverpool and they had a daughter Louise.  Louise consequently had a son Joe who married and had two daughters Glenys and Elayne. Once they started digging into their family history, they connected all the dots that lead to us.  My mom and Glenys have been corresponding for some time and I could hardly wait to meet her.

We drove the hour and a half up to Tamworth from our BNB in Cheltenham and were greeted at the door by Ron and Glenys Bagley. They were as excited to see us as we were them. We swapped some stories, watched a short video that Glenys and Ron had made documenting some family history, had a little lunch and then they took us around the Tamworth area. Our first stop was the little house where Glenys’ dad grew up. She remembers playing there as a child and thinks that she was allowed to run quite wild while she was there. We then stopped at No Man’s Heath, which is where Wilmot I’s parents lived and farmed and where he was born. There is a town there now but none of the original buildings from the 1850’s still exist. We continued on to the small village of Chilcote and stopped at St. Matthews Church. Wilmot’s parents are buried here and it was very emotional for me to see the headstone of William Wileman (died January 23, 1884 aged 71) and Mary Ann Wileman (died March 4, 1895 aged 79) – my great-great grandparents. How absolutely amazing!!

Next to Chilcote is the village of Netherseal. It was here while working as a governess at Netherseal Hall, Louise, Glenys’ grandmother met her husband, a coachman. Life was not kind to Louise and she lost her husband while her children were very young. Poor Louise succumbed to TB only a couple of years later leaving her children orphaned.  The children were placed with an elderly aunt until they were able to make their way in the world. Joe, Glenys’ dad, joined the Navy at the start of WWII while her Auntie Mary married. Both lived long lives, with Joe dying just a couple of years ago at the age of 102.

We headed back to the house and after having some tea, we decided that we will go back tomorrow to meet Elayne and spend a few more hours with our “new” family. How wonderful!!

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The area near where William and Mary Wileman farmedimg_5271

Netherseal Hall

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Glenys and Col in front of the school attended by Wilmot I and his brothers. It is still in use as a nursery school.

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St. Matthews Church

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William and Mary’s Headstone

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