You wouldn’t believe it but we managed to leave our lovely Red Cottage in Broadwell by 10:00am! It was a good thing we did because we had a 3 or 4 hour drive ahead of us and before we hardly started we stopped to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon. Although it was only a 35 minute drive from Red Cottage we enjoyed Red Cottage so much that we just didn’t feel like making the drive in our last few days but I thought we had to at least drive through the birthplace of Shakespeare. Amazingly this town of just 25,000 people receives around 3 million visitors a year! It was definitely worth the small effort to visit this 800 year old town. It always amazes me how old these places are in England compared to the youth of New Zealand towns. Here are a few photos of the town beginning with Shakespeare’s house. He was born in 1564 so the house is almost 500 years old, remarkable to me that it is still standing.

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And a photo of each of us there for the record:

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There were other interesting buildings besides Shakespeare’s house of course:

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We began our journey again. Nothing much to report except traffic was very slow going and in some places on the M1 we were stationary. I can’t understand how traffic engineers can fail to keep the main motorways and auto-bans moving. Perhaps if they charged tolls like in Spain they could afford to have the motorway system as efficient as it is in Spain. The motorways in Spain had twice as many lanes and a fraction of the cars on them. I don’t recall one traffic jam in Span but on Saturday our three hour trip must have taken us about five hours. Of course we had a coffee break along the way:

Eventually we made it off the motorways and on to the country roads again. We arrived at our farm cottage, which is near a small village named Ulleskelf, around 5pm. Not having the energy to go grocery shopping, usually our first task upon arrival, we had canned food for dinner and got the house set up. We were extremely pleased with the accommodation. It’s large, there are no doorways to bang our heads on, it’s new, and well set up.

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The next day, Saturday, I knew I had to face up to a run. I decided it would be remarkable if I could make a short half-hour run so aimed to run to nearby Ulleskelf which I worked out should only be about 15 minutes away. After delaying the inevitable about an hour I finally headed off. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn and the village never arrived! I did reach a small settlement and desperately looked for a toilet with no success. Up until then I didn’t want to look at my watch but upon doing so I was surprised or maybe not surprised, to find I had run 34 minutes already. That’s nice but I still had to turn around and make it back home. The return journey required a fair bit of jumping quickly off the country road onto the farmland verge and the stop and starting ended up reducing my motivation and energy. After perhaps 40 minutes of running and walking I made it to our unsealed road and began walking the last mile near the end of which I was greeted by Karen and the kids who had begun to worry about me. Here is a pretty tired Pete after his run. Notice the rural background. This is our driveway, it’s about a mile long:

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And these are the slugs that live on our driveway:

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A close up of the big black one:

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Sunday afternoon we decided to take a quick look around Tadcaster and find a café for a coffee. We drove around , took a photo of the brewery, see below, and realised there was nothing to see so drove on to York.

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I thought York would be about 15 minutes away but it was more like half-an-hour and then we drove around looking for a carpark. It’s a much larger city than I had anticipated. We found the National Rail Museum which we plan to visit another day and then eventually found a carpark. We only planned a quick visit this time to scope out the city so I only put an hour on the parking meter. After a short walk we discovered a small yet delightful café which served up a fabulous Hot Chocolate for Karen and a Mocha for myself. At the café was also a guy from Australia who had a unique job in the field of sub-sea construction where they built structures underwater and at times lived in a pressurised chamber for up to 28 days at a time.

So much for seeing York – we must have spent half an hour chatting with the owners of the café, and particularly the kids enjoyed telling them about our traveling adventures. We then raced along the street to the medieval wall that surrounds the area of the old city. We hadn’t intended to walk along the wall very far but we bumped into a couple, initially from Canada, but had spent the past 7 years in various African places working for the UN in development projects. They had a boy around Daniel’s age and I was relieved to see him also shooting with imaginary guns as he raced along the wall just like Daniel and Amy were doing. I think his guns we pretty ordinary cowboy pistols so were no match for Daniel’s futuristic GI Joe guns. They were near the end of a seven month tour around the world which included spending a couple of weeks in New Zealand earlier in the year. Like everyone we have met, they were suitably impressed with New Zealand to the point where they wished they had cut back on their Australian travels so they could fit in more New Zealand travels. We must travel around New Zealand sometime ourselves … We could have chatted for ages but we had to make a quick exit to try to prevent getting a parking meter ticket which was now way overdue.

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After a rest day we went into York again for a busy sightseeing day on Tuesday. It started with the York Castle Museum which displays Victorian history featuring a recreated Victorian Street. Here is the grand building nearby the museum which looked impressive to me:

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It also had displays of toys from over the last hundred years, weapons and armour, a 1960’s exhibit (including a snippet from a very old Dr Who’s episode) and the old York prison (a bit depressing).

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That took us a few hours and then we had a quick look over the nearby Clifford’s Towel before racing along an old city pedestrian street.

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A sign at Clifford’s Towel – an impossible challenge:

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About that time the kids insisted on a toy shop visit so I went next door to get a massive sized Costa Coffee. After dragging the kids out of the toy shop we continued on to the York Minster Cathedral (a very grand building) for a brief look in the doors and quick exit when we saw the entrance fee notice. Outside the cathedral we enjoyed listening to a lady playing a see-through electric Violin. Then we walked along a section of the city wall hoping to stumble upon the National Rail Museum. Unfortunately we were heading in the wrong direction so had to retrace our steps and walk even faster. Amy and I pretended we were a train and that allowed us to race on to the museum way ahead of Karen and Daniel. Our visit to the train museum was interesting but rushed as we wanted to catch the last train back to the city centre.

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It was a frantic day but pretty enjoyable. There is so much to see and go to around the area.

Inspired by our neighbours who were visiting from Saudi for two weeks and seemed to be out sightseeing from sun-rise to mid-night each day we decided to head towards Leeds to visit the National Media Museum in Bradford ( ) and National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield ( I am trying to keep this blog short so I will be brief in telling you about these (I hope). The National Media Museum is one of a kind and a fabulous place to visit and learn about things media. We started with the history of television with where I seemed to get stuck in a time tunnel and was oblivious to the fact the Karen and the kids had moved on to the “hands-on how-TV-programs-and-films-are-made” area. I was amazed at the early film recorder cameras and at how fast this field has progressed. Below the photos show early cameras and also an early TV set.

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On the other side of town the rest of the family were already making movies. There was a movie set with two cameras that you could use while someone else acted out a character. Nearby was a blue background set where you could act and be merged into a different background. Daniel below doesn’t seem too impressed to be filmed in front of 10 Downing Street.

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In the next photo Karen and Amy each read the news with an autoscript:

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There were displays explaining how various animations and cartoons were created. The week before we had just watched Wallace and Gromit, so we were impressed with the set for this film where Feathers McGaw (you can only just see him on the left side) controls the sleepwalking Wallace (hanging from the roof) to steal a diamond.

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Of course a museum on media and TV series would not be complete if it didn’t show a real live Dalek from Dr Who!

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On another floor you could encounter the world of gaming along with a dozen arcade games you could play. My favourite was seeing the old Pac Man table top games!

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It brought back memories of school days when we tried to create really simple games on computers. These were the days when a school might have only two or three computers and they were probably Apple IIe’s. It is incredible to see the way games have developed over the past couple of decades.

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Another exhibit, “Life Online”, showed the rapid expansion of power and size of computers with under floor displays:

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Amy enjoyed creating a web page:

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You could read about the invention and development of the internet. There were interactive opportunities, one I really liked where you could invest in start-up dot com companies and then see how your investment grew over following years and through the dot com bust. The examples were real life companies that people invested in e.g. Yahoo and Amazon (without using the names directly until the end). Of course most of the start-ups went broke.

We could have stayed all day at the media museum but we needed to leave to go to the coal museum as we had an underground tour booked. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take cameras, or any other electronic device such as a watch or phone on the tour so I do not have any photos however the tour was excellent. Once we had our hardhats and lamps on we descended about 140 meters rather quickly. Apart from our lamps it was very dark and a little scary at first when the lift (an old cage) jerked into action. It was a relief to reach the bottom as the lift didn’t have sides, apart from the cage itself, so you could see the brick walls of the shaft as you whizzed past them.

I was fascinated to learn that before fans were used for ventilation they use to have a fire at the bottom of a furnace shaft, like the one we had travelled down. The fire would draw air down into the pit through the lift shaft. Once out of the lift we were all moved into an air lock and then on into the tunnels (pit). Our guide, an ex-miner with a bad sense of humour, described the history of mining as he showed us through the tunnels and explained how the miners of different eras would mine the coal. I was left with no doubt that it would be terrible to work in the mines in any age! Although we reluctantly left the media museum it was definitely worth the effort to go on the underground coal mine tour.

The next day, Friday we left Tadcaster to head north in search of Hadrian’s Wall. The story continues at

(Week 20: Friday 29 June – Friday 6 July 2012)