Tuesday, 26 November 2013

68-70 - Nottingham and Nottinghamshire - 20th September 2013

On my last blog post I had visited Whipsnade zoo and Dunstable downs (the highest point of Bedfordshire) with Nathan. it now it was time to continue our Journey north along the M1 until we reached Nottingham which was to be our home for 2 nights. We checked into our hotel and settled in ready for our short visit.

The Major Oak
The next day we were not going to be visiting any highpoints, instead we had a day in Nottingham, we headed into town on the Tram. Nottingham is quite a nice place, we walked to the castle in the torrential rain and looked around that, then we headed to the caves of Nottingham, a rather cool collection of underground rooms that have been used as housing, taverns and as an air raid shelter amongst other things. Next we played crazy golf, went to the cinema and finally had some dinner in the most amazing restaurant finishing the day with a tram ride back to the hotel ready for the next day when we would tackle some of the local high points.

Silverhill from a distance
The first thing we wanted to do when leaving our hotel was to head north out of Nottingham and into Sherwood forest, we headed straight for the town of Edwinstowe where we visited the Sherwood forest visitors centre. After a 20 minute walk into the forest we arrived at the Major Oak, This large English oak was said to be the meeting place of Robin Hood and his band of merry men. The oak is said to be 1000 years old and weighs in at 23 tons, it is huge, it is so big and heavy that it has to be held up by various supports. After a visit to the tree we headed back to the visitors centre for a look around the shop and information centre.


The top of Silverhill
 It was now onto our first highpoint of the day, it was going to be a tricky one as there was some confusion as to which hill was the highest point, I have several ways of checking out my highest points, firstly there is an online database listing all of the locations, secondly I have a book written by a guy who has visited them all, anyway the online database had the highest point as Newtonwoood lane near Mansfield and the book has it as Silverhill which is also not too far away from Mansfield, the problem with these locations is that one of them is an old man made hill, the other is a dull and boring, in the end I decided to visit both.

 First up was Silverhill, it sits on the site of the old Silverhill colliery which was closed in 1993, the hill here is actually a mine spoil heap and therefore man made but it is such a nice hill I think it is becoming classed as the highest point in Nottinghamshire, The walk to the top didn't take too long, we spent most of the time dodging the dog poo sadly, however when we reached the top we were greeted with a monument to the miners of the past and some amazing views. When admiring the view we noticed a huge building in the distance, after a little research we discovered it was a National trust property and as both Nathan and I are NT Members we decided a visit was the way to go so we headed back down Silverhill (or what we now affectionately call it Dog poo hill) to the car and headed off to our next destination.

Hardwick Hall
Hardwick hall is an amazing collection of buildings and gardens, the main building is Elizabethan but there are much older ruins on the same site, The property was built by the richest woman in England after Queen Elizabeth, Bess of Hardwick. We spent a good amount of time here viewing the house and seeing all the fabrics and tapestries, we later found out that the house was used as Malfoy Manor in the Harry Potter films. If you are even in the area it is well worth a look around the huge estate.

Newtonwood Lane
Our next point of call was the second highpoint of the day, Newtonwood lane, this was just a 20-30 minute drive away and was rather unimpressive as it is the site of a reservoir. we didn't stay here long, we decided it was time to head off home to Portsmouth as it had been a rather full few days. There was one more highpoint I had to visit on the route home however and this one could have proven difficult but I decided to make it easy and cheat a little. 

The highest point of the Unitary Authority of Nottingham can be found on the M1, not next to or near the M1 but actually on the M1, this is not going to be one I could stop at and get out for a walk around so as we drove over the highpoint on the way home I got Nathan to snap a photo of me driving. After this we continued our journey home to Portsmouth after a rather nice few days away.

Driving over the highest point of the UA of Nottingham

Monday, 25 November 2013

67 - Dunstable Downs - Bedfordshire - 18th September 2013

Dunstable Downs is the highest point of Bedfordshire and it overlooks the town of Dunstable which lies to the north, this highpoint was going to be a really easy visit as the very top if the hill sits right next to a National Trust car park, What this means is that rather than just drive straight to the car park I wanted to make the visit a little bit more exciting, I could have parked at the bottom and climbed up but in the end I opted for a much more fun thing to do, just a small distance down the road is Europe's largest wildlife conservation park, Whipsnade zoo, I don't think I could visit the area without a visit to Whipsnade. Dunstable downs was also going to be the first of several highpoints over the next few days.

I left Portsmouth with Nathan by my side and drove the 2 hour journey, up the A3 through Petersfield and Guildford, and then around the M25 and up the M1 to Whipsnade zoo. We entered the zoo and headed straight for the walk through lemur enclosure, we were immediately pointed in the right direction by a member of staff and we found the lemurs all cuddled up next to a rock. after this we headed further into the park towards the sealion pool. we soon came aware of something sitting on the grass ahead of us, I first thought it was a dog but it was the wrong shape, it was sat really still so I thought it was maybe a statue, as we approached it became apparent that it was one of the zoo animals, had it escaped? was it loose? did we need to run for our lives screaming with terror? no, it was fine, we found out later that there were several types of animal who were free to roam the whole park, we later found out that this animal was called a Mara, a larger relative of the guinea pig from South America.

We continued around the park seeing the sea lion show next followed by a steam train ride around the park. From the train we saw Elephants, Camels, deer, bison and all kinds of other animals, what was so impressive about this was the huge amount of space the animals had to move around in, it was like looking out across the Savannah. After the train ride we saw so many more animals including Zebras, 2 types of bear, Cheetah, Lions, Rhino, Giraffe, 2 types of hippo, wolves, moose, reindeer, penguins, wolverine, Chimps, mongoose, wallaby and so many other animals, I really was impressed with the amount of space the animals had to wander around in.

Towards the end of the visit to Whipsnade we were wandering along one of the roads when suddenly we saw a herd of elephants out for a walk, the amazing thing was the fact that they were not in an enclosure, they were just wandering around the park with a few keepers to stop the visitors getting too close, how very cool is that? free roaming elephants.

After having such a cool day at Whipsnade we left and made our was the short distance to the top of Dunstable downs, the highest point in Bedfordshire. We parked in the car park and walked the 20 meters to the trigpoint for some photos. Just a small walk from the car park was a visitors centre and then beyond that there were some amazing views to the north. We stayed for a while to admire the views and then it was time to head off to out next destination 2 hours drive north along the M1.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

66 - Whitehorse Hill - Oxfordshire - 11th September 2013

On Monday the 9th of September I headed up to Wolverhampton for a non high point 2 day related event which turned out to be a huge waste of my time and a total disappointment, so on the morning of Wednesday the 11th I felt the need to do something to cheer me up, I searched my maps and found a high point and headed off from Wolverhampton down the M5 towards Gloucestershire and then eventually arriving at Whitehorse Hill, the highest point of Oxfordshire.

Whitehorse hill as the name suggests has a White horse on it, the hill lies to the east of Swindon near the village of Uffington in the south west corner of Oxfordshire, the land is owned by the National trust so I parked in the NT car park for free and headed off for a walk to the top of the hill.

I left the car park and headed east for a while, from the very start the views across to Swindon were amazing. While walking I noticed a bird hovering over the path ahead of me and when I approached I saw it was an amazing bird of prey, it just stayed hovering above me for ages and was quite an amazing sight. I continued along the past and crossed a small road but now the path rose a bit more steeply and I was soon approaching the top of the hill where a trig point marked the spot.

I stopped around the top of the hill for a few moments to admire the view and take a few photos and then I headed off to explore more of the area, the top of the hill is dominated by an ancient iron age hill fort called Uffington castle. You can make out the location of the castle from the huge banks and ditched carved into the top of the hill and as I walked around I found the location of some of the gates into the fort. After walking around the edge of the castle I decided it was time to head back to the car and continue on my journey home. It was just a short walk back to my car, I was so pleased I had stopped off on my way home after such a disappointing 2 days in Wolverhampton.

Whitehorse hill is worth a visit if you are in the area, it has some beautiful views and very interesting features.