We left Noss Mayo fairly early with a last minute rush as the house cleaner arrived at 10:30am. I frantically arranged the car while Karen finished off packing up the kitchen. It was sad to be leaving Noss Mayo which was among one of our favourite places. On our way out we popped across the road to say goodbye to our neighbours, Trish and Brian, who had kindly invited us around for dinner during the week. It was Amy’s birthday and they surprised her with a birthday card (the cover photo was a copy of one of Trish’s paintings) and a packet of chocolates.

The drive was pretty straightforward and predominantly north along the M5 and then near Bristol east on the M4 motorway. Our cottage was rural so eventually we had to leave the fast moving motorway and head on to the slow lanes of country roads. Surprisingly we were without mobile phone and internet coverage so found ourselves near our destination but unsure exactly where our destination was. I pulled over and tried knocking on a few farm cottage doors but everyone must have been out milking. I was looking for Manor Farm in the rural community of Slaughterford but the directions I had been told weren’t too helpful as I had inadvertently approached our destination from a different direction, so they made no sense to me. I turned back to a nearby pub and sought help. The bartender and his patrons were happy to help and delighted in telling me that I had to just follow the narrow road up a hill and take a left and the farm would be on my right. They warned me that the road was narrow and a little rough on the edges. Well they weren’t wrong. It seems that every week I discover new meaning to the word “narrow”.

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We had arrived early and the owners who we were to pick up the key from were not home. After a while of walking around enjoying the very farm-scented fresh air we decided to head down the road a little to see if we could find anyone. Not far away we came across a gentleman and a young boy who it turned out was the son of the cottage owners. While Daniel and Amy talked to the boy the gentleman (his granddad) jumped over a barbwire fence and into a paddock where his son was driving a tractor. Not long later the boy’s mother was located and we all walked down the road toward the cottage we were to be staying in. Our cottage, Carters Cottage, has an adequately sized lounge with kitchen off to the side of it. The furniture is dated but comfortable enough. The lounge has a large open fireplace and there is plenty of wood. The only problem is my fire lighting skills are lacking so I haven’t successfully started a fire. If only I was more like Bear Grills! Upstairs are two bedrooms. Daniel and Amy’s bedroom is perfect for them and they have good single beds to sleep in. Karen and I have a small double bed which apart from its size is not too bad however as the floor is uneven the bed also slopes. Overall this is a pleasant place to stay and the heating keeps the house as warm as would want it to be (so we don’t really need that fire after all).

Our house is at the centre of this photo:

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And this is a little church over the road from our house:

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On Monday I decided it was time for another run. I hadn’t gone out for about two weeks partly because the weather had been bad but also at Noss Mayo there were almost no flat roads, just hills. There are slight hills here as well but not enough to keep me at home. I am feeling unfit, tired, lazy and fat so my goal today we just to get out the door and I didn’t really care for how long. Unfortunately the most of my track on the outward journey consisted of inclined sloshy mud covered road, obviously shared with beast. I found it hard going and in fact broke my number one rule “never stop and walk”. Some of the hills, and they weren’t too big, I had to walk up … I justified it by admitting that if I pushed myself I’d probably never go on another run so I may as well enjoy the sun with a run/walk than nothing at all. I made it all the way to the main road, which was my goal, and then I ran the majority of the way home.

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We are still busy arranging accommodation for phase three of our trip, the last three months, so because we don’t get mobile internet service out here, we required frequent trips to McDonalds where we have a table booked for us most afternoons. We do buy something but not enough to justify the four of us sitting at the table for more than an hour with our laptops. It’s a little stressful trying to make mobile phone calls to our bank to arrange payments while listening to hip-hop or similar blaring out the ceiling speakers. The first day we had fairly nice jazz but now I think they are trying to persuade us not to stay so long.

On Tuesday we spent the day visiting Bath. The big attraction of course is Sally Lunn’s House, just joking, as significant as the Sally Lunn House might be to me the main event of a day in Bath is a visit to the Roman Baths. Even after arriving at the town we were not sure if it was worth paying the 35 pound (NZD $70) entrance fee for the Roman Baths but after a quick look on Trip Advisor we decided we had to go around them. Before I talk about that however I would like to say that one of my childhood memories is my father buying Sally Lunn buns. For those of you who have missed this glorious treat a Sally Lunn is a fruit bread bun about six inches wide covered in creamy icing and usually with a hint of coconut flakes on top. Have you ever wondered where the name came from and who ever invented them? Probably not but nevertheless I am going to tell you. Well, in 1680, Sally Lunn, a refugee from France began working at a bakery in Bath. The name Sally Lunn is the anglicised version of her name Soli (Solange) Luyon. She introduced French brioche type of breads to the bakery which were later to become famous. Sally Lunn’s House has a small, no a tiny, museum and you can even see the old ovens that were used to bake the bread.

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In the past some streets in Bath were raised a level because of problems with flooding and this made the ground floors of buildings become cellars. As was the case of the Sally Lunn kitchen some of these cellars were disused and forgotten. I am not sure when exactly they rediscovered the Sally Lunn kitchen but in the 1930’s the recipe for the Sally Lunn bun was found in the house in a secret cupboard! Where would we be without that! Sadly, a few minutes after we arrived, a lady came in and purchased the last two Sally Lunn’s – I was devastated! Disaster was averted by the shop staff rushing upstairs to the now new kitchen to fetch a large bag of buns from yesterday. Surprisingly she put them in boxes to sell. Who would be silly enough to buy stale bread? You guessed it – I couldn’t resist. It was regrettable incident as I was to find that these buns were not like the realSally Lunn buns we have in New Zealand – there was no icing and no sultanas – it was just a lump of bread! Oh well, all was not lost, there was a fudge shop around the corner.

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Back to the Roman Baths, what can I say? Picture a small outdoor hot pool with green water, an uneven worn out stone pathway surrounding it and some old Romans remains scattered around the place. It wasn’t that bad actually. It was a lovely sunny day; you could hear a brilliant street performer playing classical music on his guitar in the nearby courtyard and the remains of the ‘Great Bath’ are in extremely good condition considering its age. The buildings are a combination of Roman, medieval, and Georgian architecture, not just one pool but a spa complex of half a dozen pools and related rooms. The audio guide and displays present an excellent account of the history and use of the facility. Although it wasn’t anything startling like the Roman Coliseum it was fascinating. Overall I would give it a 4 out 5 rating, apart from the exorbitant price, they are really presented well.

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Other days we visited small villages and towns around where we were staying. Our favourite small town would be Corsham about 15 minutes away. I liked the feel of it. Little in-your-face modern buildings, most dating at least several hundred years old. The first mention of the town (a slight variation of its present name) is recorded 1000 years ago! Corsham, with around 10,000 population, has a nice small shopping area, lots of cafes and charity shops (with newish DVD’s for just 2 pound).

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On Thursday we decided to go into Bristol to look around a museum and attempt to swap our rental car with a smaller one. It rained. Again! The museum was okay and then when we called the car rental co they said they had no cars available. The next day, Friday, once we had loaded the car with our stuff we headed into the city. I should mention that for the next few weeks we had to change over houses on Friday rather than Saturday. After fairly heavy traffic on the motorway, we found the car rental yard. They had smaller car ready for us, looked brand new but I was a little concerned about how we would fit everything in. Fifteen minutes later I had no doubt – I knew we could either fit all our gear in the car by leaving one of the kids behind, or we would need to keep our larger car. So we headed off (yes, we took both the kids and the larger car) trying not to feel like the past hour of traveling was a waste of time. Fortunately our next week’s accommodation was only about two or three hours away. The kids were happy watching a movie on their netbooks and at last we were moving in the right direction.

(Week 18: Saturday 16 June 2012 – Friday 15 June 2012)