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The Stonehenge Adventure (Part 1) – Avebury Stone Circles

By Adventures, Friends & Family, Happiness & Joy, PaganismNo Comments

At the weekend my good friend Simon and I went on an adventure to see Stonehenge and other ancient sites nearby. Throughout the weekend it was gloriously sunny and hot. It was so hot that being the car was like being in an oven. Our first stop was at Avebury Stone Circles.

Avebury is a series of three stone circles, one large one with two others within it. The outer stone circle spans the size of a village. Here are some photos:

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The Dovecote – Built in the 16th century to house doves (or pigeons) which were kept as food.

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Avebury outer stone circle stones (1).

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Avebury outer stone circle stones (2).

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Entrance to inner stone circle.

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The Sanctuary an inner stone circle (from a distance).

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The Sanctuary entrance stones.

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The Sanctuary stone circle.

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A stone nicknamed The Crown, because of its likeness to one.

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An outer stone (to show the size of the stones.)

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A photo of me with an outer stone (to show the size of the stones.)

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The wishing trees.

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Ribbons and other things tied on to the wishing trees.

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Sheep in the shade under a tree.

Avebury stone circles were amazing. I felt the tingling of energy on my head and fingers as I entered and left the boundary of the outer stone circle. It felt like static electricity.

Essential Info:

  • A series of three stone circles (managed by English Heritage), museum, manor house and garden (managed by The National Trust).
  • Highly recommended.
  • Admission Fees & Opening Times: The stone circles are free entry and open at any reasonable time in daylight hours. For the museum, manor house and gardening admission prices and opening times click here.
  • Car Parking: Charged at around £4.00.
  • Gift shops: There are two gift shops. The first is a National Trust one. The second is a private gift shop that is extortionately over priced and makes the National Trust shop look cheap in comparison.

In Part 2 of The Stonehenge Adventure, I’ll be blogging about our stay in a Travelodge, the pagan commercial mecca which was Glastonbury, the beautiful Chalice Well and the city of Wells.

Write soon,

Antony



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A Visit to York and Knaresborough

By Adventures, Friends & Family, Happiness & JoyNo Comments

Yesterday my good friend Simon and I visited York and Knaresborough.

York is a brilliant place to visit. It is architecturally splendid and has more push bikes than I have ever seen in my life. The great thing about York is that it has both indoor and outdoor things to do.

The weather was great, considering the time of year. High temperatures and dry. So Simon and I saw York’s Abbey, York’s Museum Gardens and the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey. We walked along York’s wall, went shopping (York has a wide range of shops, selling a wide range of things) and generally explored York.

Here are some photos from our visit to York:

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Simon and I visited York for the day.

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York Abbey (from a distance).

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York Abbey (close up).

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A York Church with an interesting bell tower.

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York’s Museum Gardens. There were loads of squirrels in these beautiful gardens.

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The ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in York (from a distance). You can read more about St Mary’s Abbey here.

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The ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in York (close up). You can read more about St Mary’s Abbey here.

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Simon and I walked along York’s wall.

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Simon with a funky statue we discovered.

Then Simon and I travelled on to Knaresborough. Knaresborough is a small town with ruins of a castle. We walked around the ruins of the castle, took in the spectacular view and then went shopping. The shops in Knaresborough were mildly disappointing, however there was a pagan/witchcraft shop and spirituality shop.

Here are some photos from our visit to Knaresborough:

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We drove on to Knaresborough.

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Ruin of Knaresborough Castle wall.

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Ruin of Knaresborough Castle (1).

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Ruin of Knaresborough Castle (2).

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Stunning view from the Knaresborough Castle ruin.

Here are some other fun photos of me that we took:

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Me racing on a wooden sheep.

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My arrival at Knaresborough Castle.

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Quite a nice photo of me sat on the wooden sheep.

Write soon,

Antony



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The Hadrian’s Wall Adventure (Part 1) – Lanercost Priory, Banks East Turret & Birdozwald Roman Fort

By Adventures, Friends & Family, Happiness & Joy, Life, NatureNo Comments

Recently my good friend Simon and I went up to Cumbria to visit Hadrian’s Wall and places of interest nearby. We planned to follow Hadrian’s Wall from Cumbria to the beginning of Northumberland. We deliberately missed out Carlisle Castle, as we felt that this would probably take up most of the time on our day trip and wanted to see as many places as possible. It was great weather and we set off at 07:45am, completing the drive from home to Lanercost Priory in about two and a half hours with a service station stop.

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Hadrian’s Wall Sign

Before I write about Lanercost Priory and the other places we visited, I want to say that most places were well sign posted and on Google Maps (providing that you could get a mobile phone signal). Two things should be noted:

  1. Romans like to build things on the top of hills – so good mobility is required. Carparks are short or long up-hill walks from places of interest. Some places have free car parking whereas others you have to pay. Once you’ve paid for parking in one carpark, you are covered in most others using the same ticket. But I would still encourage you to check that you are covered with your ticket. If in doubt, ask English Heritage Staff who will be able to tell you.
  2. Most sites are looked after by English Heritage, with some places being free entry and other places being paid entry. English Heritage don’t do an all-day ticket that covers the admission fees to all charged places of interest that they run. So you have to pay per place, and this means that the cost can quickly add up.

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1. Lanercost Priory

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Lanercroft gate entrance remains.

Lanercost Priory is an architecturally beautiful Priory complete with traditional working church. The Priory’s beauty is increase by the sunlight.

Inside the church I didn’t take any photos out of respect. But in the centre of the room is a ginormous plane-glassed window which gives a superb view of the priory.

Essential Info and plenty of photos below:

Essential Info:

  • A Priory & Church. Priory dates back to the 13th century.
  • Highly Recommended.
  • Admission Fee: £4.60 with gift aid (£4.10 without)
  • Opening Times: View Here
  • Cafe: It has a Cafe but it is expensive, so avoid.
  • Toilets.
  • Gift Shops: It has plenty of them which were overpriced.
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Lanercost Church

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The Priory (1).

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The Priory (2)

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The Priory (3)

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The Priory (4) – A Small Door with Lovely Brickwork

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The Priory (5) – Tomb

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The Priory (6) – Roof.

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The Priory (7 – Tomb Carving (close up).

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The Priory (8) – Another Tomb.

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The Priory (9) – Hand Carved Baby’s Tomb.

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The Priory (10) – Another Tomb.

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The Priory (11) – Another Tomb Carving.

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The Priory (12) – Door to ruins.

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The Priory (13) – Simon in a doorway.

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The Priory (14) – Courtyard remains.

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The Priory (15) – Side building that would have been the kitchen.

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The Priory (16) – An outside view.

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The Priory (17) – Rectory Undercroft from the 13th century.

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The Priory (18) – Me being silly with an open gate (1).

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The Priory (19) – Me being silly with an open gate (2).

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The Priory (20) – Inside the kitchen building, which would have been four floors up. The Ivy growing up the ruins of the building were beautiful, so I just had to take a photo of it.

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2. Banks East Turret
Along Hadrian’s Wall at each Roman mile was either a Turret, Milecastle or Fort (written in order of size from smallest to largest).

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Banks East Turret gives you a feel for how wide the wall was (about 8 feet wide).

Bank East Turret gives a good indication of the width of Hadrian’s Wall, being approximately eight to nine feet wide. Hadrian’s Wall would have stood at sixteen to twenty feet tall, but unfortunately there is no place where the wall remains intact. People took it down to build smaller walls and other buildings sometime after Hadrian had built it.

Out of all the turret’s we came across, Banks East Turret is the Turret that had most to see. It has free admission and parking and has an exquisite view of the landscape.

Essential Info and photos of Banks East Turret are below:

Essential Info:

  • A Turret that would have been on Hadrian’s Wall.
  • Has a exquisite view of the landscape.
  • Highly Recommended.
  • Admission Fee: Free
  • Opening Times: all days & times.
  • Parking: Free
  • Gift Shops: It has plenty of them which were overpriced.
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    Banks East Turret remains (1).

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    Banks East Turret remains (2).

    [
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    Banks East Turret has free parking and an exquisite view of the landscape.

    From Banks East Turret we drove to Birdoswald Roman Fort. Along the road were a few tiny turrets that aren’t worth stopping for, just slow down the car and take a glance out of the window on the way past.

    3. Birdoswald Roman Fort & Museum
    At Birdoswald Roman Fort & Museum is were we saw Hadrian’s Wall at it’s tallest. It’s a good opportunity to get a good photo of the wall. It costs £6.80 with gift aid (£6.10 without gift aid) for entry to a tiny museum that we walked around in 5 minutes and is totally overpriced. It has a paid carpark, but the ticket can be used at other sites throughout the day. It has toilets and a reasonably priced Cafe. The place features foundations and although they are mildly impressive, they are nothing when compared to Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum.

    Rather than paying for entry, you can walk around the outside of the fort for free and see the foundations over a small wooden fence. Below are Essential Info and photos:

    Essential Info:

    • Remains of a Roman Fort, mostly foundations only.
    • Cautiously Recommended: We would recommend walking around the outside of the Fort and looking in. Admission fee too expensive and not value for money.
    • Admission Fee: £4.80 with gift aid (£6.10 without)
    • Opening Times: View Here
    • Car Parking: Paid, but can use ticket across other sites throughout the day.
    • Cafe: Reasonably priced. Well worth stopping here for a drink and cake.
    • Toilets.
    • Gift Shops: One small gift shop.
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    Hadrian’s Wall View at Birdozwald Roman Fort.

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    Birdozwald Roman Fort – Photo Opportunities, especially on the outside of the fort.

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    Another View of Hadrain’s Wall.

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    Birdoswald Roman Fort (1) – The Foundations, which for price of entry were disappointing.

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    Birdoswald Roman Fort (2) – The Foundations, which for price of entry were disappointing.

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    Birdoswald Roman Fort (3) – Remains of gate entrance.

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    Birdoswald Roman Fort (4) – Remains of gate entrance house (1).

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    Birdoswald Roman Fort (5) – Remains of gate entrance house (2).

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    Birdoswald Roman Fort (6) – A beautiful view from outside of the fort.

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    Another view of Hadrian’s Wall.

    In Part 2, I’ll be writing about and sharing more photos of: Bridge Over River Irthing, Milecastle 48, Poltross Burns Milecastle, Walltown Quary & Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum.

    Blog soon,

    Antony

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    My India Adventure (Part 2) – The Wedding

    By Adventures, Friends & Family, Happiness & Joy, Inspiration, Love & Relationships, TravelNo Comments
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    Robert & Neha’s Wedding 🙂

    Robert and Neha got married on Saturday 25th July 2015. The day before the wedding we’d had henna done followed by great family meal at Neha’s parents apartment.

    In this post I shall only write about the Wedding, aka main event and not any pre-marriage customs, rituals or traditions. I will write what I witnessed and my interpretation as a someone who has never attended a Hindu wedding and who doesn’t speak Hindi. So please forgive any misinterpretations or misunderstandings.

    The invite had said an 8pm start. But when Robert, Michael and I hadn’t been picked up from the Guest House at 8pm Robert was understandably anxious. He was dressed in his fabulous outfit (see photos below) pacing back and forth.

    I explained to Robert the concept of Indian time. Indian time means that for social events Indians are loose with their time keeping, so always arrive after the official start time. I explained to Robert that his and Neha’s Wedding invite had said it was due to start at 8pm, so most of the guests would probably arrive for 9:30-10pm.

    But by the time 10pm had come and gone, even I was starting to get worried. Luckily, shortly afterwards one of Neha’s brother-in-law’s turned up. The brother-in-law explained that Hindu’s only get married on certain dates dictated by astrology.

    Indian weddings the brother-in-law explained are big affairs, with around 300 guests on each side. Therefore Delhi’s already congested roads were practically grid locked with everyone trying to get to Hindu weddings at the same time. He added that a rain shower had also delayed the start of the wedding as the Hindu ceremony involves a fire outside.

    After a short car journey, we arrived at the wedding venue the Marigold Banquet Hall. We were met by a camera man and photographer, who would continue to take video footage and photos throughout the night. Robert with Michael, myself and some of Neha’s borrowed family members behind him were welcomed at the threshold of the Banquet Hall by Neha’s mother and father.

    Once over the threshold Robert, Michael and I were directed to a stage. Then Robert received greetings into the family, introduction to family members and envelopes with money in – which apparently is the traditional Hindu wedding gift. While all this is going on Robert was waiting for his bride.

    Neha walked into the room and all eyes turned to her. She lit up the room, which you’d have thought impossible to do at a colourful Indian wedding. She looked stunning and incredibly beautiful (see photos below). As she walked towards the stage, music playing in the background, I thought: Robert is a very lucky man.

    Once Neha reached the stage, Robert greeted her. They posed for many, many photos. They were photographed together and then with immediate and extended family members. While this was going on, food was available for extended family to get as they wanted. Then there was some dancing. Indian’s know how to party and without the aid of alcohol.

    Then the immediate and close family came together around a big centre table for a family meal. The food was truly scrumptious food. The company was great, I met many fascinating family members.

    By this point I’d realised two things. Firstly that I get a little anxiety about meeting and interacting with large groups of new people. Hence the cigarette breaks. Secondly that my shoes were more about show and style than comfort. The shoes were already doing a great job of shredding my feet.

    Here are some photos from this part of the wedding:

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    Robert in his Wedding outfit.

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    Me in my Wedding outfit.

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    Robert and Michael (his father) at the Banquet Hall.

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    Robert & Neha posing for many wedding photos (1).

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    Robert & Neha posing for many wedding photos (2).

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    Robert & Neha posing for many wedding photos (3).

    After food was a traditional Hindu marriage ceremony, which took place outside. Neha had been up at 4am that day, gone to a local template and undertaken some pre-marriage rituals. The ceremony started with the Archaka and Neha’s parents. Then Robert joined them and after a short time Neha joined the trio. I didn’t take any photos of the ceremony, as I would have felt rude to do.

    I felt honoured and privileged to be invited to share Robert & Neha’s special evening and for being allowed to witness the beautiful Hindu marriage ceremony. I can’t thank them enough for their friendship and love. It is something I hugely appreciate.

    The ceremony was completely in Hindi and Neha’s sisters kindly took it in turns to translate for Robert. The ceremony was approximately an hour and a half (which had been shortened) with family members, Michael and I sitting to watch. During the ceremony Robert made seven vows to Neha, which were:

    The Seven Vows made by Indian Grooms to Their Wives

    1. In the first vow, the groom makes a vow to his bride that he will, for his part, provide the money and means to run a happy household and family. He also promises to avoid any of the things that were likely to harm his wife and family.

    2. The second vow that the groom makes to his bride is to remain committed to her forever. He promises he will love her forever and provide courage and strength.

    3. The groom then makes the third vow to his prospective wife, and in this vow he prays to God and asks that the be blessed with prosperity, wealth and the ability and means to take care of their children, educate them and look after all their needs.

    4. The fourth vow has the groom thanking his bride. He thanks her for bringing love, happiness, auspiciousness and sacredness in his life. He thanks for all the good things she brings to his life.

    5. The couple then prays together in the fifth vow. They pray to Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, to grant them with prosperity and her blessings for the rest of their lives.

    6. The groom makes the sixth vow to his wife, and promises that he will keep her happy forever. He also tells her that he promises to make her joyful and provide her with peace time and time again.

    7. Finally, only the seventh vow remains, and the groom now tells the wife that with this last vow and walk around the fire, our relationship is firm and we’re inseparable. He also tells his wife that now you are mine forever and I am yours and may we live happily together.

    (From: BollywoodShaddis.com, Last Accessed: Friday 7th August 2015)

    The ceremony ended with Neha’s head dress tied to a scarf given to Robert. Probably symbolising this last promise, being inseparable forever.

    The ceremony ended in the early hours on the morning, by this point I was exhausted. While we waited for taxis to the final event of the evening Neha’s father explained that Hindu’s worship the sun. That fire is the purest of all the elements as it has the ability to give life through growing of crops, but also the ability to destroy life too. I didn’t realise this at the time, but the sun would become a permanent symbol of my adventure in India.

    The final event was at Neha’s parent’s apartment. The women of the family blessed the couple, some gave more envelopes with gifts of money and then waved them off. Here’s some photos of the wave off:

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    Neha’s parents apartment lit up to celebrate the marriage.

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    Close female relatives wishing the couple well as they leave Neha’s parents home.

    Neha, Robert, Michael and I then headed home to the Guest House where I slept exceptionally well.

    The Wedding was an exceptionally good time. Everything was about love, kindness and hope for the future. Which is exactly what a wedding should be about. I wish them many happy and healthy years together.

    I have deliberately excluded photos of the family and extended family in this blog post, as I haven’t asked their permission to post the photos of them here.

    In the next blog post of the series titled My India Adventure (Part 3) – Shopping, it will be all about how I got on shopping in Delhi. Keep checking back for updates as it will be published soon.

    Write soon,

    Antony



    I aim for posts on this blog to be informative, educational and entertaining. If you have found this post useful or enjoyable, please consider making a contribution by Paypal:


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