Category Archives: Travel

Wetherby Services

I have so much material from the last few days, I’m struggling to get it all down. However, as promised, I am having a rest from scones.

I need more time for the Harlow Carr post that I’m going to move to the next day. The first stop on the way to the Yorkshire coast was Wetherby Services.

On looking it up for the link I was amazed to find that it’s now ten years old and scores highly for customer satisfaction. I’ve always found that it scores highly for being crowded and uncomfortable. I don’t know why, I just don’t feel relaxed there. The crowds, I suspect, are evidence that other people like it. On Wednesday a lot of the crowds were university sports teams.

We had coffee there, and the barrista put a heart in Julia’s coffee. I got a blob.


Coffee at Costa

Then we bought a vegan sausage roll on the way out and photographed it. Last time I had one I didn’t get a photo. It was equally as good as the last one and, like the last one, I ate it in the car. I am very predictable.

We would have had one each but they only had one left. Yes, massive service station – just one vegan sausage roll. Strange.



These are some photographs Number One Son took on his recent trip to Vietnam. It’s a relief to Julia that he’s back safely because some of the airlines he flew with are more notable for cheapness than safety.

I’m not sure what they are of, but they look quite good, particularly as they are taken with a phone. I took some photographs on my phone today.  They weren’t as good as these, but wet ducks in Lincolnshire drizzle were never going to compete with the spleandour of the orient.

Looks like time for me to move over and make room for the next generation.

Learning Welsh

I’ve recently been toying with a vague idea of learning Welsh. To put this into perspective, it’s one of a long line of vague ideas to do things which I have had over the years. Do not be surprised to learn, in ten years time, that I still have the same vague idea.

Actually, after reading my list of medical adventures, you may be surprised to see that I am thinking that far into the future. I don’t blame you for that, as I did nearly write “five” and “next year” before deciding to use the power of positive thinking.

After reading a couple of translations of the Hedd Wynn poem I became interested in knowing which translation was more true to the original. There are two here and another one here. At that point I used Google, which produced a version that fitted in with the translations. As time has gone by I’ve started thinking I really out to do better than Google. There are internet language courses, so my only excuse is indolence.

I’ve made a start with some road signs.


I’m clearly going to have to expand my vocabulary if I’m going to make any inroads into translating poetry.

Apart from sloth my only other problem is that Welsh is the most foreign language I’ve ever seen written in the Roman alphabet. It’s even more foreign than languages written in the Greek or Cyrillic alphabets.

In fact, the more I read about Welsh, its dialects and its counting system, the more I feel that it may be beyond me.

The Welsh Toilet Championships

It’s not an exhaustive list of toilets, and we didn’t have clipboards with us but it gives you some idea of the challenges the traveller faces.

Those of you under 40 will probably wonder why this sort of thing is important. I won’t explain it now, just give it a few years and all will become clear.

We used the facilities in two McDonald’s, at Llandudno and Mold. They were both bright and clean, though we did feel we had to buy drinks to justify using them, which was sort of counter-productive.

In Rhayader we used toilets in a car park by the town centre. They were very welcome after a long drive, though architecturally there was more than a suggestion of military bunker about them. However, they were clean and tidy, and that’s more important than being aesthetically pleasing.

The toilets at Gigrin Farm, were predictably excellent, as was the whole farm and Red Kite feeding experience.

In Trawsfynydd, just off the road as we travelled to Bangor in the evening, we were glad to find toilets as things were getting a bit urgent (see my comments on Dolgellau). As with Rhayader, the building is stark, but clean and tidy. There was a touch of serendipity about the visit, but that’s a story for a later post.

I think I may have mentioned the lack of decent food outlets at the Bangor Services. We had breakfast at Little Chef and, as you may have predicted, visited the facilities afterwards. I seem to be turning into a Victorian there, as “used the toilets” seemed suddenly unacceptable. They are nicely tiled, but badly maintained and not very clean. Judging by the dirt and graffiti the cleaner only inspects the cubicles with the doors open. That’s basic cleaning, close the door, turn round and look at things from the customer’s’ point of view. Literally. Then wipe the part of the wall that is covered by the open door and wash the graffiti off the back of the door.

RSPB South Stack, was excellent in many ways, which will be detailed in a later post. However, the gloomy, cramped and smelly toilets (sorry about that, but there was no nice way to put it) were a low point in the visit.


Tourist sign in Llandudno

So that’s it. Clearly South Stack and Bangor Services aren’t in the running.

McDonald’s and Gigrin are all commercial operations, so you expect a higher standard . This standard was met, as they were all excellent, but it seems unfair to compare them with council toilets.

That leaves Rhayader and Trawsfynydd. If I was standing on stage opening an envelope the award would go to Rhayader, as I don’t have a clue how to pronounce Trawsfynydd. To be fair I don’t have a clue how to spell it either, I’m relying on cut-and-paste.

Whilst I think of the final result I’ll mention the toilets at Dolgellau.

I can’t tell you how good they were because at just after six in the evening they were locked. And barred. Maybe they have gold fittings. Or maybe they just don’t like visitors. It’s not unusual to find toilets locked in the evening, but it is frustrating.

There’s a website listing the public toilets of Gwynedd, and if you follow a link on that site the are details of community toilets made available for public use by the owners.  If you are travelling in the area it might be useful.

And the winner is…

… Rhayader.

It’s just a little brighter than Trawsfynydd, which will be getting a mention in a later post.

So, give them a try and see the kites – it’s a good day out.

Sandsend – an Old-Fashioned Resort

We went to Sandsend last Saturday. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s an old-fashioned sort of place just north of Whitby, with a couple of cafes, some car parks, hotels, toilets and probably some pubs (though I’ve never really noticed as I’m usually too busy looking at the road and avoiding caravans). It also has a small river, cliffs, a great beach and wonderful views.

Yes,I know what you are thinking, as a reviewer of travel destinations I leave something to be desired.

It wasn’t originally part of the plan, but Whitby had been rammed with cars when we tried to find a parking space so we drove north. That’s the problem with travelling to the coast on the first nice Saturday in Spring – everyone else decides to do the same thing. We’d known that when we set off, and the queues around York (which seems to be at least 50% retail outlets these days) had confirmed the presence of large numbers of cars.

We weren’t able to get into the cafe by the beach, where I used to eat Yorkshire Curd tart. We haven’t been for a few years, and the cafe has been done up, so they might not even serve curd tart any more. That’s the trouble with time – you look back at something you used to do regularly and find it was ten years ago. I like curd tart, but as with liver and bread and butter pudding, which I also like,  I find out I can live without it for years at a time.

It’s not that I go short of food (far from it!) but there’s so much food and so little time.

People were fishing from one of the car parks, which seemed a good way of securing a supply of fresh fish, though experience with a rod suggests it’s actually a good way of wasting a day. Even without fish, it’s a good way to get out into the open air.

There seemed to be a camera club about, as small groups of people with cameras were wandering about taking pictures of an ancient mounting block. I took photographs of Herring Gulls, Starlings and Pied Wagtails on the chimney pots of the hotel. Each to his own I suppose.

Finally, there was a microlight that flew across the bay a couple of times, even landing on the beach after the first pass, which seemed a bit dangerous. The engine note had sounded a bit ropey as he approached, but I’m not sure why he needed to land as he didn’t seem to have any time to fix anything whilst on the ground. Maybe he just wanted to expose beach users to heavy machinery and a moving propellor.

After ice creams we looped back to Whitby, but I’ll leave that until later.

Four days in October

We’ve had a lot on over the last few days, including illness, a 450 mile trip, a funeral and  a lack of internet access (I decided not to take a laptop).

None of this is particulalrly interesting, but I didn’t want you to think I’d been slacking.

There were a few points of interest – wondering what they were doing to the stand at Epsom racecourse; watching a buzzard being mobbed by a crow (if one crow can actually “mob” something); adding more to the family history; seeing a parakeet fly over Leatherhead Crematorium; seeing mistletoe growing at a height of only six feet (it’s amazing how it grows straight from the branch – even though I know it has an enzyme that allows the seed to get through the bark, I was half expecting to see roots of some sort), and going round the Royal Worcester Museum.

We could have done more in Worcester, as the Cathedral (which houses the tomb of King John, who died in Newark 800 years ago this year) and The Commandery are both very close to the Royal Worcester Museum. However, it was raining, it was mid-day and it was Saturday. The car parks were full, the streets were busy and we were thinking of home. In other words, I’m getting old.

Final photos are of my tea on Thursday night.  We set off after Julia finished work and got straight on the M1. We stopped at Leicester Forest East services and went to Burger King. Note that the burger on the [poster has loads of crisp bacon protruding from the sides of the bun, whereas mine struggles to reach the edge of the burger.

I will make no further comment., apart from to say that those rashers came from terribly small pigs.




Not quite a Grand Tour

Sunday was a bit of a rush because there we a number of things to fit in, including shopping. Due to a late start and roadworks we didn’t quite manage all we intended.

The intention had been to breakfast before nine and get off early. In the end we didn’t have breakfast until after ten, but this was supposed to be a holiday it didn’t matter. If you’re going to rush breakfast you may as well stay at home.

We selected the “All you can eat Continental Breakfast” for £2.99 and turned down the offer of drinks at near enough the same price. After two substantial breakfasts in previous days, and eating out in the evenings with family , we wanted something lighter. Cheap is also good at times.

The man sitting on the next table had the unlimited cooked breakfast – sausage, bacon, mushroom, hash browns, beans, chips, black pudding, tomato and eggs – and then poured tomato ketchup all over it. It was piled so high it looked like you might need oxygen to get to the top, and with all that cholesterol it’s likely that oxygen administered via a mask will figure somewhere in his future.

Note on etiquette: The author of this blog does not condone the use of tomato ketchup before midday, and even then only on chips. It should not be used on breakfasts, and never on bacon, whatever the time. 

So, for £2.99 I had shredded wheat, banana, toast, muffins, butter and marmalade. There were other cereals, other fresh fruit, tinned fruit, things I didn’t recognise (maybe granola?), yoghurt, crumpets, margarine and jam available.

The problem with the system is that you have to do a lot of self-service, including doing your own toast by feeding it through a toaster. You had to do it twice, once to warm it and once to actually brown it. As you can imagine, that could cause some hold-ups, particularity when someone is there doing all the toast for a table of six.

Once that was finished, we got on with the trip. I wanted a picture of Nelson’s column in Lowestoft. It was originally built at a time when this part of the coast was undeveloped, but over the years it has been surrounded by an incongruous collection of commercial buildings. It’s an interesting thing – but not as interesting as the story of its first keeper – which is detailed here.

Coming back from that we managed to get a picture of the old Victorian gasometer.

A detour to Gorleston produced the picture of the onshore lighthouse and the notice that looks like what you would expect if Banksy did a dog fouling notice.

After that we set off for Dunwich – stopping for toilets in Southwold on the way (Yes, I’m getting older!). We didn’t have time to go round Southwold as we had plans for Dunwich, followed by a visit to the St George’s Distillery. The pictures show beach huts and the pier at Southwold and the beach at Dunwich – with Southwold in the north and the Sizewell nuclear power stations to the south.

In the end we got to Dunwich, but had to leave before the museum opened (2-4 pm if you are interested) to get to the distillery. We ended up stuck in roadworks on the way, so by the time we had shopped our day was ended.

That’s the problem with trying to rush round – you miss out on doing things in order to do something else and then find you can’t do that either. Next time we go away we’ll have to make sure that we plan better.







A day in the sun

As we’re away for a few days I’m converting to travelogue mode for a few days.

It’s been a pleasant day today, with the sun being bright and warm as we drove through Cambridgeshire. By the time we reached Suffolk it was genuine shirt sleeve weather.

We’d started later than I intended but the A1 was relatively uncluttered and we made good progress until we passed Peterborough and took the A14. By the time we reached Huntingdon the traffic was already slow, and things really took  a turn for the worse a short while later, as the queue slowed to a crawl and several white vans flung themselves into my path in order to overtake a funeral cortège.

I hadn’t really planned where to break the journey but decided on Thetford – I haven’t been there since the late 70s/early 80s and thought, after looking it up on the web, that it merited another visit. The earlier visits, to see a friend who moved there for work, seemed to revolve around spartan pubs and grim takeaways.

It has changed over the years,  they are building an ambitious new complex by the river, and the town generally looks brighter. Some of the pubs have been painted and a few new food types have crept in (chilli dogs and Lebanese) – but I managed to avoid the temptation to test any of them out.

It’s a struggle for small towns these days so it’s good to see some optimism and an absence of empty shops.

The charity shops have multiplied over the years, as they have everywhere, and there’s a Polish grocer and a Bureau de Change, which I’ve seen before but not in a town so small. It’s not the first time there’s been an infusion of foreign culture into Thetford. The Vikings gave the town a tough time in the 900s and 10,000 Londoners arrived from the 1950s onwards. I don’t want to offend either Scandinavians or Londoners, but I’m not sure which I’d rather have.

Thetford has three museums, we tried to visit the Dads Army Museum but it isn’t open until next Saturday. Poor planning on my part. Jones’s lorry is exhibited in another museum in town and there is a J. Jones butcher in town – offering Walmington sausages and chilli dogs. What with one thing and another (including looking in charity shops and taking pictures of the Tom Paine statue and St Mary the Less we ran out of time.

In case you were wondering, as I did, why the Tom Paine statue is gilded, it is because Napoleon said that every city in the universe should have a golden statue of him.