Once again, as in our tour of The Rockies, Margaret did the writing while I supplied the (so called) art work! A real family collaboration.
England - June 2006
We visit friends and never seen before places. Plus - do some family history research.
We arrived at Watchet later in the day, where Bob's aunt Mollie made us so very welcome, and revisited Uncle Jack and Aunt Kath.
Landing at Gatwick in the morning of June 6th we collected an Alamo-National car, and hit the M25 for the trip to West Somerset, taking the usual M3, 303 route westwards. Once the pressure of the motorway was behind us, we turned off to sample our first English pub lunch at the Swan Inn, Barton Stacey.
Whilst in West Somerset, Bob busied himself with stuff in readiness for the Minehead Grammar School (MGS) reunion as well as revisiting and photographing Melbourne House, now much changed from the days when he had known it as his grandparents' home.
I took the car to Minehead. Eileen (Hequet) kindly came in from Dulverton to meet me in Blenheim Gardens where we sat drinking coffee, viewing the Haven Holiday flats where I had stayed last December, and catching up on each other's news. At other times, I met up with Jean (Beaver), called on the Spring Gardens neighbours (all of whom I was lucky to find at home) and visited Malcolm & Grace who have recently moved to a convenient ground floor maisonette nearer to the centre of Watchet.
Scrumptious tea was taken in the Hall of the former MGS building in Ponsford Road, and amid the chatter of old friends meeting, Bob distributed booklets of photographs he had prepared from excerpts of old school magazines. Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was a DVD movie Bob had compiled from old school photographs adding music and commentary. An evening dinner at the Kildare rounded off the day's events after which everyone somewhat reluctantly returned to the present day.
We visited Dorothy & Eric, in their delightful barn conversion home in Williton, to thank them for the very special paintings of Watchet and the Quantocks.
In Stogumber, another lovely village, Margaret chatted intermittently with Anne & Cicely while people wandered through as part of a local garden tour. Bob explored "downtown" and had a pub lunch!
At Wootton Courtney village hall, we said a quick hello to Jo & Mike Collins who were celebrating their Golden Wedding.
The Minehead Grammar School Reunion of those who sat the last of the old School Certificate exams way back in 1950 (Bob's year group) was a great success. For us, the celebrations kicked off with a superb dinner hosted by Daphne (Bryant) in her home to which she had invited the organisers/doers of the following day's events. Here we met daughter Sarah in person, rather than by phone or email, and reacquainted ourselves with Rachel (Simons) & Philip Pope and Mary (Mockridge) & Keith Roberts.
Saturday, June 10th was a day of big eats: lunchtime at the Britannia where I spent much time talking with Gill (Hole) Bowden who had come as a friend, but happened to be in the year between Bob & myself, and whom I had known very well as we were both part of Walter Parker's VI form Maths girls in the early-mid '50s.
Promising to come back some time in the future, we headed towards Oxford and beyond to spend the night at Blacks Head Inn in Bletchingdon; the new owners were not prepared for guests but took us in anyway! Parts of this pub building date from the 1300s and Bob took a photograph of an ancient window frame. The following morning, we walked around the village to discover that it is split, part named Bletchington and the other Bletchingdon, dating from Civil War times we gather.
Saying our goodbyes to the Watchet relatives, we drove back up the 303, but this time calling on some friends: to see Ann (met at Exeter in 1955) & Jeremy in South Petherton, and a bit further up the road, Margaret Waters (of Christ Hospital staff - 1984/5) who has been living in (or around) Castle Cary for some years.
Driving a cross-country route via Northampton, Kettering, Corby, Spalding, and Boston, we stopped off at the small village of Croft where Bob's grandfather was born circa 1865. Regretably, despite diligent searching, we found no relevant family tombstones in the churchyard.
By late afternoon we found ourselves in Burgh le Marsh, so decided to stay at the Bell Inn in the High street, and it was here that we tasted real Lincoln sausages - oh so good!