Heading for Scotland

In my now accustomed habit of only riding small distances, I headed for Towcester, where I was to meet on Sunday some of the LD (Long Distance) riders, to discuss things prior to the Brit Butt Rally next weekend. I learned an invaluable lesson today - don't bother trying to get accommodation at the chain motels, without a prior booking! It took several attempts at various booked out establishments, till I finally lucked upon the "Monk and Tipster", a typical English pub, located in the village of Towcester.

So are you foreigners still trying to work out the pronunciation of Towcester?? It took me a while, until I heard it spoken, actually! Try: TOASTER, yes, Toaster!

I walked into a classic English pub, cosy and inviting, large screen TV flashing on the wall. Little did I realise until later that it was the final of the FA Cup (what we call soccer, for those who don't already know). The upstairs room to which I was directed by the helpful, friendly staff was newly renovated, with ensuite and tea/coffee making facilities (complete with bikkies), and use of the owner's wifi connection, and breakfast, of course, all for the paltry sum of 30 quid! There was even a secure, off-street parking area made available for the bike, in the beer garden, under the large Fosters umbrella which had only arrived that day!

One can only wonder as to the origins of the name of this pub, the front sections of which are thought to have been built in the 1400s! That makes it a VERY old pub, I'd say!

Settled in, it was time to do some website updating while sort-of watching the closing stages of the soccer [Chelsea defeated Portsmouth - is that good or bad??], then off for a walk to a neighbouring pub, recommended for its good, value-for-money meals. Oh my! What a wonderful, perfectly cooked, rare rib-eye steak and more chips and salad than I could eat, for just £10.95!

English pub meals will be the death of me, I'm now convinced, after the lavish, full cooked brekky the next morning! There were some little black discs of "something" on the plate, but [if in doubt - just eat it!] I'd eaten it before asking Dave, the proprietor, what it was.

"Oh, that's black pudding" he said, in his strong Irish brogue.

I gulped, never having eaten it before, although I'd heard of it, and the thought of eating pigs' blood didn't sit well. What other strange delicacies and local goodies will I sample before I leave these British Isles, I wonder?

BTW, I would thoroughly recommend this pub to anyone travelling in UK, particularly if you're an Aussie! Top stuff, definitely!

But time was passing swiftly in such congenial company, and I had arranged to be at Jack's Hill Cafe, just outside the village, at 11.00am. Bikes new and old, vintage cars, loads of people standing around looking at the array of vehicles. I added the Wee, which stuck out like a sore thumb with its Aussie flag flying.

What a menu, and what ridiculously cheap prices! Unfortunately, I was unable to partake of anything except a cup of tea, after the huge breakfast I'd recently eaten. A great, old fashioned, family owned cafe, which has been on this site so close to Silverstone Raceway for many, many years, denying the advent of the American fast-food chains. It's a mecca for bikers and vintage car owners every Sunday, the kitchen staff kept busy [flat chat, actually] the whole time we were there.

The LD riders made themselves known when I walked in, so we spent some pleasant time chatting about all the things that bikers chat about when they congregate at such places.

Finally it was time to disperse, so Rob, my host for the night, took me on a tour of the local scenic attractions, and the obligatory visit to Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace.

A well laid out motorcycle specific parking area, in Stratford, with the two LD bikes, above

We wandered along to the central area, checking out the Shakespeare Theatre below and the longboats on the canal, licking our refreshing icecreams in the bright warm sunshine, stopping to enjoy the antics of a busker magician in the park.

Above: the longboat lock and below: some of the swans clamouring for tidbits from the passing tourists

Above: the bridge over the Avon River, and below: part of a circular clock embedded in the pavement

Below: the great man himself - William Shakespeare - with characters from his stories surrounding him

Then we took off for Warwick Castle, the largest castle in England. Unfortunately, there was a small incident at the first set of traffic lights when leaving Stratford, when I felt something bump against my lower back, then crunch!! my camera hit the gutter! Uh, oh, I'd broken my rules of doing everything religiously the same when getting back onto the bike, and had sat the camera on top of the backpack, meaning to hang it around my neck to hopefully take photos while on the move.

Luckily, the traffic behind was considerate, and waited patiently while some pedestrians ran over and recovered the camera for me, so that I didn't even have to get off the bike. So we finally got on the road to Warwick Castle, an enormous edifice surrounding by lush parklands bordering the river, along which people were punting. I definitely wouldn't like the heating bill of such a large "home". Ahhhh, the camera still works, fortunately.

Below: How does one park to take photos when there isn't anywhere legal to park? Like this, of course, on the roadway!! The Aussie flag flying from the bike makes people forgive indiscretions rather easily, methinks!

Below: The restored section of Kenilworth Castle which dates from the 1300s, the majority of which is now in ruins, followed by various shots of the derelict castle ruins.

Below the icons from the emblem of the Earl of Kenilworth - the Bears and Staff

Then it was on to Meriden, in times past the home of Triumph motorcycle manufacturing, which has now moved to Hinkley, near Jack's Hill Cafe. The photo below is of a cairn erected in the honour of (bi)cyclists, fallen in WW2. Meriden has long been known as the centre of England, with the lower photo showing the marker for same. But with the advent of GPS, it has now been proven that the actual centre of the country is in a field, not all that far from the marker. Which just goes to show how clever people were in times past, making such critical calculations with basic instruments.

It was time for home, and so we arrived at Rob's home, the gorgeous little Vergers Cottage which he has renovated beautifully, in the village of Old Arley, in North Warwickshire. Rob escorted me around the exterior of the very old church (1300s) out the back of his home, showing the grooves in the stone block walls and windowsills of the church where the knights sharpened their battleaxes and swords during the Battle of Bosworth, back in the 1400s.

Rob's partner, Stacey, arrived home shortly after, in time for Rob to show off his culinary skills - a great noodle dish featuring duck. Yummy!


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