Bristol vs the world

A travel (and sometimes fashion) blog about exploring Bristol and the rest of the world, one post at a time.

Category: Walking & Cycling

Walking Copenhagen

Christianshavns
Copenhagen harbour

Copenhagen is best seen from the pavement. It’s a city where your journey could take you down a street pock-marked with foosball tables. Where a riverside walk leads you past moored boats painted with happy murals and bursting with flowers on their decks. Where the suddenly slow-moving traffic you pass by is the result of a sausage cart vendor dragging his stand to work.

Copenhagen

Assistens Cemtery, Copenhagen
Assistens Cemetery Copenhagen

We wandered through Assistens Kierkegard, final resting place of Hans Christian Anderson and exactly the lively sort of place you don’t imagine when you think of cemeteries. A sunny afternoon, locals (families, friends, couples) were scattered among the graves – reading, talking, kissing, sleeping – with their bikes at their feet.

Frederiksberg Gardens

We strolled through Frederiksberg Gardens, whose grass stretches for miles, past post-work runners. We climbed its hill and looked down over the city we for which we fell, instantly, head-over-heels in love.

Tante T, Viktoriagade, Copenhangen
Tante T tea
We were typical Brits; in a city known for coffee, we sheltered from the rain in Tante T on Victoriagade, a tea shop filled with chintzy chairs and black and white photographs on the wall. (John, to be fair, did then order a coffee.) They provided an egg timer with different strengths marked at different points, to make sure my coconut-flavoured tea would be just right.

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Illums Bolighaus

We discovered the beautiful Illums Bolighaus, which feels more art gallery than designer furniture shop. We spent an hour drooling and planning which sofas and chairs and lights we’ll buy when we make our first few million.

Lego Nyhavn

We found ourselves in the Lego shop a few streets later, marvelling at their models of Nyhavn and other landmarks and making plastic versions of ourselves. We even managed to represent the almost-a-foot height difference. By giving me a Lego child’s legs.

Copenhagen Latin Quarter by
Latin Quarter by Ania Krasniewska

We took right turns and left turns at random in the Latin Quarter’s bright backstreets full of vintage clothes shops and studenty bars. One of the city’s many cyclists passed us, eating an ice cream.

Copenhagen botanic garden

We slowly circled the lake in the (free) botanic gardens and found ourselves in one of the greenhouses, surrounded by cacti and other spiky, wonky, jutting, alien-like plants.

 

torveshallerne

We resisted eating everything in the Torvehallerne, glass-walled markets with stalls selling coffee and spices and vegetables and larger meals from around the world.

Karriere cocktail bar, Kodbyens

We explored Kodbyens, the meat-packing district, come nightfall. We passed al fresco diners making the most of free blankets (they – the blankets – are a common site in Copenhagen), neon lights flashing from dimly-lit bars and a bonfire outside Karriere cocktail bar. We walked through its plastic flaps, left over from its former life as a butcher’s shop, and sipped a rum cocktail.

We meandered past the large ponds behind the planetarium. Down side-streets full of independent shops. Past small artists’ galleries, prints tempting us from the windows.

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We breathed in the coffee and the hot dogs. We sat on benches and the sides of harbours, not because we were tired, but because we wanted to watch the city go by.

We walked slowly (Copenhagen does not rush). Hand-in-hand. Happy.

Summer graffiti Copenhagen

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Copenhagen
Copenhagen botanic garden

Photo Credits
Assistens Kierkegard (x2): Open City Project
Tante T: Tante T website
Latin Quarter Photo One: Euroshop
Latin Quarter Photo Two: The New Diplomat’s Wife
Torveshallerne: Heather Spalling via Flickr
All others my own, please credit if using.

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Not-so-lonely goatherders: A weekend at Woodspring Farm

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Not counting festivals or nights in caravans, I have only camped once. It was a practice trip for a school expedition to Vietnam and we were forced to go to Buxton in January. (Quite how pitching a tent on snow prepares you for trekking in the rainforest I’ll never know.) One night I woke up and was shaking so much, I genuinely considered waking my tent-mates and asking them to tell my parents I loved them should I freeze to death. Let’s not even get started on the trauma of putting on new underwear. Overall, not a life highlight.

So despite John’s repeated suggestions that we should invest in a tent, I’ve been avoiding any ‘real’ camping ever since. That was until last Christmas, when I happened upon Canopy & Stars. The ‘glamping’ arm of Alistair Sawdays, the website lists a number of unique, and quite appealing, camping hideaways in the UK and Western Europe. They seemed like the perfect Christmas present: enough outdooryness/nature for John and a proper bed for me (also part of making this a perfect present for him, as it meant that I wouldn’t wake up grumpy after a bad night’s sleep on an under-inflated air mattress).

Kewstoke Wellspring Farm walk

After searching through options in the South West, I eventually settled on Crook’s View Shepherd’s Hut on Woodspring Farm, Kewstoke. Situated between Weston-super-Mare and Worle, Kewstoke’s less than an hour from Bristol by car, which meant we could spend more time enjoying being there and less time driving/getting lost.

The hut turned out to be perfect in so many ways. From the moment I booked, the owner, Victoria, was incredibly friendly and helpful, sending an email full of information about the hut. This continued throughout our stay; she and her partner, Andy, made us feel welcome and were more than happy to chat and offer recommendations, but they also gave us plenty of privacy, too.

Middle Hope, walk near Wellspring Farm, Kewstoke

The location, too, was ideal. Although described as being in Kewstoke, Woodspring Farm is very much in the countryside, close to walks through picture-perfect green fields overlooking the coast. It’s the ideal combination: a peaceful escape, yet close enough to towns to be able to get hold of amenities (and takeaways) easily!

And then there’s the hut itself. When we arrived – on a very wet January Saturday (date chosen because it’s our ‘anniversary’, and I’m a masochist) – the stove was already burning. This and the abundance of blankets kept us cosy throughout our stay. Victoria and Andy provided everything we needed (and more), from utensils, plates and mugs to marshmallows for roasting over our wood burning stove. A handy folder gave recommendations of walks, restaurants and other nearby attractions. And if the weather had been better, we’d have loved to have tried out the storm kettle and outdoor fire pit.

Worn burning stoveInside Crook's View, Wellspring Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you do want to cook for yourself, but it’s not quite outdoor-cooking weather, there’s also a ‘guests’ section in Victoria & Andy’s farmhouse which contains a small kitchen (as well as a toilet/bathroom and space to hang up soggy clothes to dry overnight – very much appreciated!). As it was a Christmas present (and we’re lazy), we instead decided to treat ourselves and order in from the local Indian, who deliver to the farm. Delicious, and exactly what we needed on a stormy January night.

We also ate out for lunch, at the Sand Bay Tea Rooms in Kewstoke. Excellent grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes, and really friendly owners. We popped in on our way to the farm, but it’s also walking distance from the hut.

Talking of food, the breakfast (included in your stay and delivered to your door at the time you request the previous night) was amazing – and very filling! Even we couldn’t finish it all, and packed some of the snacky bits for our morning walk and journey home.

Breakfast @ Crooks View

But although everything about our stay was lovely, there were two stand-outs. The first was the resident mischievous-but-friendly goats! We had a good giggle watching them try and break into our hut and, later, out of their field! They also seemed to like the taste of my waterproof.

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The second was waking up in in the hut. Hut’s windows and doors open, we clutched mugs of tea and watched as the goats devoured their breakfast and dawn broke over the hills. There is no better way to start a morning.

Goat feeding in the morning, crook's view

Admittedly our shepherd’s hut experience isn’t exactly what many would consider ‘proper’ camping. It’s certainly not roughing it – not that I’m complaining. But if you want to get away from it all and back to nature but with some home comforts, it’s the perfect way to do so. We’ve already booked our next Canopy & Stars getaway, and were planning to go back to Crook’s View before we’d even left. Perhaps in the summer next time, though; I want to use the fire pit!

Photo Credits
Top photo: Courtesy of Canopy & Stars website
All other photos my own – please credit if using

The details
Crook’s View Shepherd’s Hut
Pricing starts at £160 for two nights (we actually only stayed for one, but I don’t know if that’s an option any more – and I’d highly recommend staying longer, anyway!)
Near Kewstoke, South West England
Nearest train station: Worle (about 3 miles). You can cycle from here, or Victoria will pick you up from £2
Parking on-site

Shepherd's Hut morning view 2

Goats

Sheep

Johninhut

 

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johntea

Bako National Park, Sarawak

Bako beach

I have mixed memories of Bako National Park. On the one hand, it was probably the most beautiful place I’ve been lucky enough to visit. On the other, it did give me a distrust of monkeys – or at least macaques – after one made a leaped onto our table and made off with my much-needed chicken leg dinner.

One thing’s for certain: it knows how to make – and leave – an impression (generally for the right reasons).

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Getting to Bako

First thing’s first, you need to get to the Park. Although quicker to grab a taxi or hire a mini-bus with a group, the public buses are by far the cheapest way to get there at RM3.50 one way (around 65p) – and they still only take 35-45 minutes from Kuching (catch it towards the end of Jalan Bazaar/further from the bus station and you’ll save yourself a bit of time). They come once an hour.

However road transport can only take you so far and you’ll be dropped at Kampung Bako. From there, visit the ticketing office to charter a boat to take you on the 30-minute journey to the National Park, past stilt-houses rising out of the water, fishermen, foliage-covered mountains (I told you Bako knows how to make an impression).

Boats cost just under RM50 – about £9 – return. They can fit up to five people so the cheapest thing to do is club up with others on your bus to share one. However your boat driver will ask you for a return journey time so you need to make sure the others on your boat have similar plans for their trip to you. For a bit more flexibility, go it alone (or at least, alone in your group).

Also check the tides before you go – or at least take some waterproof sandals. Although we got dropped off at the National Park’s jetty, the time we wanted to go back happened to be low tide, so the boats couldn’t get up to it. Instead we were picked from the park beach – well, the sea by it. Trousers rolled and bags held above us, we waded back to our boat through the (Singapore bath warm) water and dried our legs in the sun as we were taken back to the bus stop – it may not be glamorous, but it was certainly a memorable way to leave!

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To stay or not to stay

If you’re short on time – or not too bothered about undertaking lots of treks – Bako can be done in a day. Get one of the earliest buses from Kuching and ask your boat driver when the latest is that they’ll pick you up.

But I’d highly recommend an overnight stay. The accommodation is basic and the food isn’t anything to write home about (and that’s if it doesn’t get stolen by cheeky macaques). But it really allows you to make the most of your time in the Park. You can relax with a drink in-between walks, watch the sun set over the beach at park HQ or get up early and enjoy one of the trails before the next day’s visitors really get going.

You can also go on their night trails for a small fee, where a guide will point out wildlife you might not see during the day.  We were exhausted and didn’t, but part of me regrets that decision now.

We booked our accommodation online and confirmed our reservation with the Kuching tourist office when we arrived in the city. Despite this, we did have some problems on checking in, the people working at the Park HQ reception seemingly not being able to find our reservation. However they did honor it. So I’d recommended taking a print-out of your reservation and also phoning to confirm – at least then you know a room should be allocated to you, even if they’re not sure quite where you’re supposed to be saying. This all said, it looked like we were the only people having trouble so I don’t think ours was a common experience – don’t let it put you off!

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Treks and trails

On arriving at the Park headquarters, you receive a paper map detailing the 17 walks on offer. This includes a list of how long they are and a rough idea of how long they should take to complete one way. I’ll admit it, we had a good chuckle at that at first. 45 minutes to go 1km? Maybe for someone who’s seriously out of shape…

Turns out, the people who put that map together know what they’re talking about. The trails may not be particularly long, but on many of the routes you’ll find yourself clambering over, up and down steep paths laden with tree roots and rocks. You’re also in the middle of a hot, sticky jungle. And let’s not forget that occasionally you might want to stop to look at some of the plants, wildlife or stunning views (or just to catch your breath and have some water – though I highly recommend a Platypus or similar).

Don’t be put off by this though – we’re of average fitness and probably found the heat and humidity the hardest element to deal with, rather than the treks themselves being hugely difficult. If you’re not a confident walker, you could pack a walking pole (I am a huge fan of walking poles). But there were plenty of people do the trails in flip flops and – in some cases – swimming costumes. I wouldn’t recommend following their example, mind.

There are also some slightly easier trails too; the first one we undertook, to Telok Delima, was often along boardwalk and mostly flat. The park guides at reception should be able to offer advice if you’re not sure what will suit your fitness levels.

And the trails may have been tiring, but absolutely worth it. I’ll let the photos in this entry speak for themselves as to why.

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Telok Delima trail, Bako

What else is there to do

Not content trekking through mangroves and spectacular jungle or relaxing on stunning, secluded beaches? The Park also has an abundance of wildlife. As well as the macaques, we also saw Proboscis monkeys (best looking animals ever?) and silver leaf monkeys also call the area their home. The Park HQ and nearby beach are home to bearded pigs, who you might see snuffling around the cabins or snoozing in the shade. And then there’s the many other insects and small mammals that you might spot. We saw some groups on trips with guides who were pointing out these animals to them, so if you’re a wildlife buff then this could be a worthwhile investment.

Macaques near Bako Park HQ

Wild boar, Bako

In short…

If you’re visiting Kuching, Bako National Park is a must-visit. It’s hard to describe how visiting here makes you feel. I haven’t made it sound like a hugely relaxing experience and yet, despite the sweat, the stickiness, the tricky trails, it somehow is. Probably something to do with getting to the end of a trek and being greeted by almost-empty beaches surrounded by tropical trees, with views of endless water or mountains rising from the sea. Simply breathtaking. (I told you it left an impression!)

Just make sure you eat your dinner inside – or at least away from the sides of the canteen!

Bako Park HQ beach

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Telok Paku trek

Telok Pandan Kecil trekTelok PakuFalling coconuts...947129_10100215658532607_897540613_n

Basildon Park, Berkshire

This weekend we made the most of the National Trust Free Weekends and visited Basildon Park, situated near Streatley and about halfway between Didcot and Reading.

Set in over 400 acres of grounds, Basildon Park is a Georgian country manor house which was restored in the 1950’s by Lord and Lady Iliffe; it fell into disrepair following a chain of unfortunate events in the early 20th century which culminated in property developer George Ferdinando selling off many of the fixtures and fittings. It was then used by troops in World War II, and following this lead was stolen from the roof and a fire blitzed the principal floor, all of which seemingly marked the house for demolition.

Fortunately that didn’t end up being the case. And now you can not only explore the mansion and its gardens, but there are also three signposted walks of varying lengths which allow you to explore the grounds.

Undertaking one of these walks was my favourite part of the visit. Even on the free weekend they were really quiet (albeit at 11.30am, not long after the grounds opened). Although obviously looked after, and featuring strategically placed benches for rests and taking in the scenery, the grounds still felt natural and, well, like the countryside. It was also just really relaxing. Sat on a bench overlooking the main manor house, we were completely in the open yet felt like we were alone; it was a really lovely, peaceful experience, if a little surreal – something that seems more common to ‘reflective’ scenes in films and television programmes than a Real Life Sunday Morning! (Perhaps this is why the house has starred in the films Marie-Antoinette, Pride & Prejudice and Dorian Grey, according to Wikipedia.)

I’d definitely like to go back armed with my walking boots and a flask to do one of the longer walks (we only completed the second shortest on this occasion, which took us just under an hour at what was a leisurely pace for us). You can find out more information about these walks here.

The manor itself was also pretty interesting. In their restoration, Lord and Lady Iliffe were faithful to the manor’s 18th century origin, the fixtures and fittings all reflecting what might have been the house’s original features. Each room comes with a written guide to tell you a bit more about the features inside. I don’t know whether we would have paid the extra to go in normally, so it was good to have the opportunity to see what we would have been missing. I particularly like the grand piano that visitors are encouraged to play – it definitely adds something to the atmosphere, even if the tunes we heard probably weren’t quite the same as the ones I imagine the Iliffes were entertained by!

That said, much as the grandeur of the rooms is interesting, I think my favourite part had to be the 1950’s kitchen – mainly because I’d be quite happy to have a very similar one of my own one day (a girl can dream!).

I also have to mention the second-hand bookshop attached to the gift store. Manned by just an honesty box, and featuring a big wooden table in the middle of the room, the shop invites you to browse the reasonable selection of titles on offer (better than the selection in most non-book-specific charity shops, anyway). Even better, unless marked all books are £1, or 50p for children’s. I came away with a barely touched copy of The Beach, which I’d been meaning to buy my own copy of for some time – bargain!

Would I go back to Basildon Park? To the grounds, definitely. Sure you can go for walks in the local woods for free, but it is nice to do something a bit different occasionally. And these walks offered really spectacular views, both of the surrounding countryside and of the bluebell-carpeted floors. Also, the woods don’t serve cream teas (which I will definitely be treating myself to next time – they looked amazing!). I probably wouldn’t pay the extra £4 to go inside the manor again, but definitely appreciated the opportunity to have a look at something we wouldn’t normally be able to justify paying for.

That said, we are now very tempted to join the National Trust. An annual membership for 13-25 year olds is just £25 (a little over £2 a month), and cheaper if purchased online by direct debit. You essentially pay for it with three – four visits to sites a year. Not bad at all, especially considering that until recently we were paying £9.99 a month for a LoveFilm membership we barely used! (Membership for over 25s (for the National Trust, not Lovefilm) is a bit steeper at £53 a year, or £88.50 for a joint one – paying by direct debit will get you 25% off – but that’s still a pretty reasonable deal when you think about just how much you get for it).

Still not sure whether National Trust sites are for you? I’m pretty sure we’re not what you’d consider to be a typical member, especially based on the demographics of the others visiting on Sunday. I’m 24, would usually choose a city or beach break over a countryside holiday and enjoy city living. John usually has to be coerced to museums, and tends to be much more interested in the present than the past. But we both equally enjoyed our day at Basildon Park. A lot. I think I could pretty safely say that both there, and other National Trust sites, offer something for most people (I daren’t say everyone, though it may well be true…).

The other thing the trip did was remind us how lucky us Brits are to have so much history on our doorsteps that is being kept alive by the National Trust. After a week of rain and hail and sitting on your 40-minute train home very, very damp, it’s pretty easy to get down on Britain and vow to move to Australia at the next possible opportunity. This weekend, and browsing through the huge variety of places participating in the Free Weekend for this blog, made me remember how much we actually do have going for us on our little island. More than enough to make the occasional soggy train journey home worth it, that’s for sure.

Visit the Basildon Park website for more information on opening times, prices, activities and events.
More information on National Trust membership can be found here.
A few more photos available on Flickr.

Weekend wanders

One of the best things about living in Didcot – especially in summer – is how close you are to the countryside. Within a 10 minute cycle of our house there’s some lovely cycle/footpaths which lead to nearby villages via endless fields boasting gorgeous views. More importantly, both East Hagbourne to the south and Long Wittenham in the north are home to some great pubs, complete with beer gardens – the perfect (arguably essential) accompaniment to any country walk or cycle. The Fleur de Lys in East Hagbourne does particularly good baguettes and has incredibly friendly staff. Long Wittenham’s Vine & Spice is more of a restaurant, offering Indian food, but its large beer garden is perfect for enjoying a mid-walk pint.

Didcot Power Station from Route 44. Hazy glow courtesy of Instagram.

Another great thing about these paths is that they are mostly flat (or at least the bit from Didcot to Upton definitely is) – perfect for a relaxing cycle or walk regardless of your ability or age. The majority of them are off-road too, so great for families or less confident cyclists – and just in general (there’s no denying that no cars makes for a much more pleasant journey!).

The Fleur de Lys, East Hagbourne. Photo Credit: Oxfordshire Churches on Flickr
Mid-walk treat in the Vine & Spice beer garden.

This weekend we took on Route 44, an 11-mile route south of Didcot. Although we only ventured as far as Upton this time we’re already planning our next adventure down to The Ridgeway, a trail along one of the oldest roads in Europe. Though judging by my slightly red palms today, I might just have to invest in some cycling gloves first!

Your Spirits Will Sour, on Route 44 (Sorry..!) Photo Credit: Visit Oxfordshire

The Details

Cycle Path Information: Sustrans provides information on routes across the UK and free maps. South Oxfordshire & Didcot information can be found here.

Getting Here: First Great Western run regular trains to Didcot Parkway run from London Paddington (45 minutes), Oxford (15 minutes) and The West (Bristol Temple Meads is 1 hour away). Visit First Great Western for more details, and information on which routes allow bicycles on board.

Staying here: See TripAdvisor for information on local B&Bs and hotels.

Fields of green on Route 44