From Colwyn Bay to Preston and on to The Lake District

Before we made to beautiful Kirby-Lonsdale,  we experienced another miracle. We had no GPS (too expensive) so we relied on prayer and luck. We can’t be sure which played the bigger part but by “hook or crook” we wound up in the lap of where we needed to be. Over email and  the phone I had connected with old friend, S.V. His security requirements will not allow me to mention his name or where he works. I can say, however, that he is a chaplain in a prison. S came into our lives thirty years ago when he took an interest in our son Sky during a very difficult period of Sky’s life (and subsequently our lives as well).

S met Sky when he was about fourteen years of age. S was a counselor at hockey camp. When Sky returned home he continued to talk about S and what a neat guy he was. S stayed up with Sky by calling and writing notes of encouragement. Even though Sky went through a very dark time he never forgot S.  Later, after Sky came to the Lord, he found S on Facebook and reconnected, finding out he was now situated in England. We owed him a big thank you and wanted to stop around to see him in the Liverpool area.

Finding the Starbucks in the center of Preston was no easy task, but we didn’t miss it by far first time around. Racing through the mall to meet him at one o’clock, we looked through the window to see his big frame straddling a small chair next to a little round table. He looked up and immediately flashed his big smile. S is one of the cheeriest guys I have ever met. He always has praise for God upon his lips. With hugs we gathered around the table telling our life stories. Jeanne ordered up a little pastry called “Eccles Cake” (recommended by the son-in-law). After a visit that was entirely too brief, we (without a GPS) made our way back on to the highway on the way to Kendal. After a brief look at Kendal  we went on to one of the most beautiful villages in The Lake District, Kirby-Lonsdale.

Once you get around Liverpool and if you drive in the proper lane at the proper speed you will finally make it to “The Lake District” without the sound of horns honking and people giving you dirty gestures. I finally figured out the rules and you will too.

I won’t spend much time on our old friends, the Usserys

Looking toward Colwyn Bay

I already talked about them in earlier blogs. One of our great pleasures is to drop in and encourage former students and missionaries by taking them out, listening and praying with them. In this case, Jeanne was particularly interested in the visit because she really appreciates Ali. Not that I don’t, but there’s something special about women and relationships. Men just tell stories to one another while women connect on some level that leaves me utterly bewildered.

I was just in Rhos on Sea and in their home last fall where they gave me a free bed. They and their three children share the home that faces the sea with Ali’s mother and father.  You can learn more about them if you scroll back to October of 2011.

The smallest house in the UK

Nate and Ali live in Wales but Nate’s ministry takes him to the Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia) where he works in reconciliation and leadership development.

We had a short but good visit. The first night we went out to The Queen’s Head for supper (can’t beat it) and then on the next day, Nate drove us around as we talked. Later in the day we left for Preston to see Canadian friend and Chaplain, Shawn, before reaching the Lake District (England) for the night.

I came close to expletives until Beddgelert emerged!

No photoshopping this one

Okay, we came across some wild landscape of hills dotted with more sheep than Wales has people. This is likely an understatement.

Then I got lost. I came off of the main, well-marked road on to a country road that took me through one small hamlet after another, most of which were not on the map. I suppose I could have turned around but going one direction would be as purposeless as going the other, so I just kept moving forward into the dusk hoping to wind up in a town of some consequence. I knew the name of most towns I would not be able to pronounce. Finally, we popped out of the mountains, cliffs, and hedge rows at a “T” with an arrow pointing toward Beddgelert. I should have known, Beddgelert is not far from other memorable places like Rhyd Ddu, Plas Gywnant and not far from the ever popular, Penrhydeudraeth and the town we were shopping for in the first place, Portmeirion where there was purported to be a good place to eat (what else) according to our guide book.

Thinking it couldn’t be far and besides a rather scenic drive, I betrayed my good sense and went toward Beddgelert. Once I crossed over the bridge, I’m glad I did. There were a number of good places to stay and I was attracted to The Royal Goat (who wouldn’t be?) but they were full. So we booked into the Saracens Head Hotel, something more like a youth hostel than a hotel. It catered to hikers, who look for an inexpensive place to sleep, but we were off season and so the accommodation was sparsely inhabited and quiet. Nevertheless, I can assure the reader that there was nothing glamorous about it.

Castell Deudraeth

We settled and then drove to Portmeirion for supper at the Castell Deudraeth, notable for a rather “know-how” chef. This being said and while the interior of the restaurant was first class, five star dining, the food wasn’t spectacular and we were disappointed at the price. For us, the only “spiff” we look forward to in our travels is jointly discovering memorable cuisine. This was not one of those occasions.

We were scheduled  to arrive in Colwyn Bay at our friends the Usserys’ place at four on the next day and with a good deal of driving ahead of us, I jumped to my feet early and ran out with my camera before the sun had pulled itself over the hills to the east. I waited for an hour with camera in hand but in so doing captured some beautiful shots of the town where some of the movie, “Inn of the Sixth Happiness” (the story of missionary to China, Gladys Aylward) had been filmed, starring Ingrid Bergman.

Off we went through more of Snowdonia in North Wales. Having a little time before going to the Ussery’s we went over the bridge to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch… located on the isle called Anglesey, where Prince William and Kate live. Yes, that’s right, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, otherwise known as, “Saint Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near to the Rapid Whirlpool of  Llantysilio of the Red Cave.” Lovely. It would be hard to miss, wouldn’t it? Since time was short, we headed on down the road towards Nate and Ali’s and didn’t get to explore the rest of the island.

Trekking through Snowdonia National Park of Wales

Out of our window

I wanted to get on the road, thinking that it might take more time than it did to reach Wales. We briskly swung up the M4, around and then across the Bristol Channel. Turning up the A449 we went off for the night at Ragland and found the Beaufort Inn. Jeanne loved the room with a nice view of a church out the window. After settling in we went downstairs to the dining room for supper.

The night that followed proved to be interesting. The lovely room turned out to be a challenge. Somehow the room tilted from foot to head. So, what looked like a good night’s sleep left us feeling like drunken sailors. In the morning we both awoke with the same complaint, “Didn’t you feel like you were sleeping upside down?” As we investigated we found that repairs had been made to the floor but it did slant at the foot. When we asked about it, we were given an explanation that this was a historical building and there were certain things they were not allowed to change when they remodeled the hotel. One of those things was the curvature of the floor. The floor curves.

It just isn’t so anymore!

A BREAK(fast) from the standard fare

There was a time when one would be hard pressed to find a decent meal from any kitchen in England, but that isn’t at all true anymore. Though good food might be more costly than in the United States, one can have some of the grandest meals they’ve ever eaten when they visit in the UK. At least this is my opinion. I am not talking about Fish ‘n Chips, Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s or Kidney Pie. We sat down in the dining room at the Beaufort next to a couple just about our ages. It was her birthday and they had come back to where they had grown up and met to celebrate. In fact, the fellow told us that he had worked in this very hotel as a lad in the days when it was rundown. He never thought to see the day when the hotel would be restored to its original style. They recommended several dishes, and we ordered up. He promised we wouldn’t be disappointed and we weren’t.

In the morning we joined them for breakfast (which is always included in the room price) and for the first time, there was something beyond the “Full English Breakfast”! After four in a row, Jeanne leapt on the yogurt, fresh fruit, and berries. I took her lead and gave it a try as well.

After packing we drove out and made our way across the southern half of Snowdonia, taking pictures of the  beautiful countryside and stopping at the occasional tea room in a small village here or there. I say it in this way because there were many marvelous photo ops we passed up  simply due to the fact there was no safe place to pull off the road. In fact, it was along one of these narrow roads that I entered a bridge at the same time as a semi trailer truck, going at about sixty miles per hour. I had no choice but to drive onto the sidewalk at my left. He didn’t so much as bat an eye.

Enjoy the picture that we did manage to get.

From Plymouth to Marazion and Mousehole

Since they had other visitors, it would be several days before we could visit with Bethany Fellowship missionaries Nate and Ali, who live at Rhos on Sea, Colwyn Bay, Wales.

So we took a couple of days to explore the southwestern tip of England. We had been told by Jeanne’s brother, should we ever get the chance we should pop into the small port of Mousehole (from what I could tell pronounced Muss Hul), we should check it out. And we did.

On the way, we attempted to get closer to the coast and made the delightful mistake of driving through Seaton. This might work well if one is a Morris Minor but it took everything I had to wrench the VW van through the one ways, around the tight corners and overhangs. I figured, “If buses can do it, I ought to be able to.” In retrospect, it was worth the squeeze as we saw a beautiful seaside village that is in many ways (except for the traffic) just as it once was. The downside turned out to be that it was the last weekend of the seaside holidaying season, so it wound up being a real challenge to negotiate the crowds and cars. We got through it all with a huge sigh of relief.

We had booked a hotel at Marazion, which is a short distance from Mousehole and just aross the bay from Saint Michael’s Mount, a Benedictine monastery that dates from the mid 1200’s.  I was excited about this, not only from the historical point of view but also because I had seen a large number of amazing watercolors of this location and now I could see it for myself! I later learned that there are two of them (almost identical). The other St. Michael’s is in (Normandy) France and perhaps the one with the greatest notoriety.

We booked a nice room overlooking the street. Though chilly, I deaked out for a few photographs in the evening light. In so doing, I saw the evidence of a strong Wesleyan presence in the area with a Wesleyan Church and a Methodist Church on the main thoroughfare.

I rose early in the morning to catch the light for more photographs. I returned within the hour and treated Jeanne to her second “full English breakfast.” All of this food seemed really great…  so far.

In spite of the cold we made our way in the boat taxi across the bay to St. Michael’s and once there, huddled together on a bench in the sunlight out of the way of the brisk wind. Deciding it was too chilly to wait for the monastery to open, we rushed back across on the next boat, checked out of our hotel, and drove on to see the charming village of Mousehole.

We took the advice of the big “P” and parked the van on the edge of town, then walked in the additional twelve hundred meters into the harbor area. I began snapping every image that I thought might be paintable. The scenes were just as great as Jeanne’s brother had promised. Jeanne found a gift for Clara our granddaughter in one of the shops. We ended our time there in a cute little tea shop, where we enjoyed tea, scones, and clotted cream, and then drove on toward Bristol and finally Raglan, Wales.

Bere Ferres is much farther away than it looks on a map…

Finally

“Killing time.” Not something anyone should do after the age of sixty.

Jeanne had this idea of doing encouragement visits. She thought that since we were going to be in England, it would be really fun and good ministry to drop by and visit some extended family members like Elizabeth (our daughter-in-law Noemi’s sister) in Brixham along the coast then spend the night in Plymouth with a visit to Jeremy (our son-in-law’s) grandmother in the little village of Beres Ferrers. Good idea and easy enough, I thought! We had missed a connection with Elizabeth because of time constraints, so we really wanted to make this second connection if we could.

After saying our goodbyes to Suzy and James, we drove off to Plymouth where we found a nice little Bed and Breakfast, “Mia Casa” which is located only blocks from The Barbican, a famous waterfront area from which the Mayflower sailed to America.

It was raining when we arrived in Plymouth, so we spent the evening mostly in our room. Invigorated, the next morning we were up and ready, and after Jeanne’s  thrilling first encounter with “the full English breakfast,” we were out the door.  After several hours of walking and taking in the quiet Monday streets, we loaded up and raced off for Bere Ferres, only what appeared to be a “hop, skip and a jump” away. Surprise! True, it may have been less than twenty-five miles away. But there was no simple and straight way to get there. I tried the most sensible route but wound up having to back track, go across a six pound round-trip bridge twice, drive across a hedged in, single road surrounded by hedges for ten miles, to wind up where I started three hours earlier. So I made a decision! I was going to go the long way around or give up on the idea completely.

After another thirty minutes of pretty sensible driving we saw the sign: “Bere Ferres.” What a relief! We were going to make it to Jeremy’s grandma’s house after all! Here is some advice. In all of England, there may be no such a thing as a “short cut.” It pays to go the hard way.

Jeremy’s grandmother, Betty

Arriving at around noon we were surprised to find this ninety-year-old gal not at home. We had met Betty on several occasions, so, especially after this investment of time, emotions and petrol, we were pretty intent on seeing her. Now in Bere Ferrers there are no addresses. You find where you are going by the name of the cottage. Once we had asked around and found it, we went on to the pub to wait for a while.

After a half an hour or so, I suggested that we just drive on. So Jeanne wrote a note of regret that we’d missed her and we drove by to put the note in her mailbox. But this time we saw a car in the driveway! Happily, we jumped out of the car, went to the door, and were warmly received by Betty and her sister, who also lives in Bere Ferres. Once inside, we enjoyed a good visit over a cup of tea in her cheery little house. It was definitely worth the anxiety to get there.

Photos from Plymouth and “The Barbican.”

In the heart of Cornish Pasties… a Greenhouse favorite.

The Mayflower passenger comemorativ
e

On to Susy and Jame’s near Totnes in Devon…

Stopping at pretty spots along the way to Totnes

Trust me, you can miss the turn off and find yourself miles from where you intend to be. It all looked so easy, but we did go about twenty miles too far, parked the van, found her cell number but, guess what? My cell phone was about out of battery and I was left with time for one desperate call. If I missed, I would be on my own trying to find Susy who lives in the country. I had been warned ahead of time that I would likely need her help to come and meet me. I suddenly felt like I was on the Apollo 13 space shuttle and running out of vital support systems and, in my case daylight, very quickly.

Totnes, finally

I made the call and connected long enough to be told what to do and where to go. She would come and meet us there in about forty-five minutes. We fumbled our way back to the main highway, found the right turn-off, and finally made it to Totnes with time to spare. Along she came and after exchanging hugs and “howdies” we got in behind her and followed her some ten miles along a very narrow road to their small farm. As soon as we arrived we were hustled off to a neighborhood barbecue  across two fields dotted with manure droppings and Suffolk / Hampshire blended sheep.

Susy and Jame’s place

We met a lovely and welcoming group of folks who made us a nice supper on the grill. After a good visit, we retired with Sunday on tap. James would go up to the village church and the rest of us would get ready for a trip to an elegant historical home, Dartington Hall.

Dartington Hall

James, Susy, Jeanne and me…

From there we would all go together for fish and chips along the coast in the village of Brixham, where our daughter-in law Noemi’s sister Elizabeth and her husband live.  There we would part company with Suzy and James, who would head back to Totnes, while Jeanne and I would travel in the opposite direction, along the sea. We would spend our second day on the road in Plymouth.

Our first day on the “round abouts”

Though it was Saturday, my anxiety caused us to rise early and get on the road.

I let her rest up for a day before subjecting her to mind boggling signage we were about to encounter. Now it’s all quite different in America. Everything is so far apart that “Mapquest” makes some sense. I turned down the offer of a GPS at 140 pounds for the twelve days! So, in lieu of “Virtual Margaret”  (the British female GPS must be Margaret… the American female voice is more likely a Roxy) telling me every move to make, I foolishly choose to print off the “Mapquest” directions.

The pictures will get better

Jeanne had done a great job deciding how to go to get to where we were going. But you know how it goes… “the best laid plans of mice and men often go array.” In ten minutes I was fed up with “Mapquest.” I ask, “how can anyone follow something that has five instructions within a mile?” Worse yet, how does a person turn right on to Victoria Road when there is no sign for Victoria Road or most other roads, for that matter? Right away, we knew we needed to be praying. The other maps we had with us, the one in the back of the twenty-four dollar book, “Touring England” and the other given to me by the people at Avis were sufficiently vague enough to be useless. Within an hour we had gone past Petworth, one of our planned stops and were rushing headlong at breakneck speed toward Portsmouth. Portsmouth is not on Jeanne’s first day agenda.

It was still early when we pulled off of the road at Arundel and took in our first -howbeit unplanned – English village. It was charming with a beautiful cathedral and castle, neither of which we went into. We walked up the hills and along the streets taking in the newness of it all. At the main cross streets we found a tea room where, in honor of our son-in-law, Jeremy, Jeanne ordered her first steak Cornish pastie. After an hour or so we were on the road again with my fair share of being honked at.

In the end, it is our hope to make to a town called Totnes where we will meet up with a former Bethany College of Missions student, now married, Susan L. Part of my work is what we call “Opportunity Development” so this allows me to mix some pleasure with my work. I never know where we will connect in the expansion of ACCI’s ministry.

Right hand driving and freaked out

From Portofino Emile rushed me to  Rapallo where I caught a train. I would like to express my thanks to the very public conscious Trenitalia who failed me once more and then I had to pay the penalty for their ineptitude. I arrived behind three people at the biglietteria but no matter. What should have taken a matter of three minutes –uno biglietto di solo andata a Milano – took thirty minutes as the single ticket master dealt with two older people who were attempting to exchange their tickets. People would come, express exasperation and go but I stayed at my post thinking it couldn’t be more than another few minutes. In so doing, I missed my train and had to finally take the next. I managed to buy a ticket, board the train and then was penalized eight Euro for being on a non local train. Anyhow, I finally got into Milano at about eight found my two-star hotel, got something to eat up on Strada Buenos Aires, went to bed, awoke early and grabbed the shuttle to Linate and a flight to London Gatwick arriving at eleven in the morning.

Now the scary part…

VW Sharan… a lovely automobile for Montana

 All along, for about three weeks, I had been dreading the moment when I would finally get behind the wheel of an English automobile. I had promised Jeanne that regardless of the terror involved, I would give her the convenience of driving right to the doors of our friends and hotels. Trains would’t take us where we need to go so this was the most economical and frankly, the most sensible way for two people to travel when having to cover the full length and width of England in twelve days.

I had been to England several times before so I knew something of what to expect.  With this in mind, I was clear in reserving a small Peugeot . My son once did a similar thing only to be given the only car available, a Jaguar XF. Well, guess what? My worst nightmare came true. I went to the counter as nervous as a rabbit to have the girl fumble through her bulging envelopes to finally pull out one with my name on it at the same time apologizing, “Mister Hedrick, I’m sorry but we are in short supply of the car you requested but we do have something available, quite nice and at the same price. Would you be willing to drive a Volkswagen Sharan Van?” What could I do? I finally had myself braced for this. I made a face of displeasure and discouragement . I put up a weak complaint telling the young lady that I didn’t really want to drive some BIG car all over England.  At this point, a young man interrupted suggesting that he would find someone to track me down and change cars with me when one became available. I thought, “What a nuisance this would turn out to be” so against my better judgement, I gritted my teeth, took the key, signed the papers, got the instructions and went to the car like a man approaching the galley.  I located it, got in, turned the key and roared out of the lot  repeating to myself, “Remember, keep yourself on the center line and you’ll be alright.”

The safety of my room

I drove like a madman toward the M-23 in the direction of Crawley. Praying all of the time, I managed to land (completely surprised!) on the right round about spitting me out toward Crawley. After some instructions from several people, none of whom I could understand, I followed the pointing of their fingers and eventually, four frightening round-abouts later, wound up in the parking lot of my hotel, “The George.” I parked and secured the Leviathan, checked in, went to my room and with a sigh of relief fell on the bed. Fortunately, the story improves – at least for a while.

Jeanne at “The George”

I had a splendid, well thought out strategy. I would just park the car and leave it until after I had picked up Jeanne at the airport only two train stops and two pounds eighty pence away. I would collect her and her things then train her back to the hotel. I would give her a day getting rid of jet lag and then we would venture out on the roads together. So this is what we did.

Karen’s idea of “something light.”

Karen is not known for going off half cocked…. 

After all, it was mostly vegetables.

A person would be hard pressed to match this blueberry pie.

When we arrived at their home in the Kanata area, Rob stepped off his porch to warn us about the barking dogs that would signal our arrival for supper. Rob and Karen have three very cute Chihuahuas who ferociously try to protect the Sargent home from the confines of their cages in the living room. The little brown one soon joined us, proving by his sweet face and desire to lick my hand that he posed little real threat. Rob and Karen love animals it seems (also having in their kitchen a beautiful gray African

Carrie

parrot with an amusing way of talking) and have passed on their love to their oldest daughter Carrie. Now 22, she works at a nearby horse farm, cheerfully shoveling and cleaning up after them, riding, and teaching others how to ride as well. Coming in from work just shortly before we were leaving, Carrie is just as beautiful and sweet as we remembered her from so many years ago when we were serving as pastors at Chapel Ridge. Carrie’s younger sister, Katy (whom we didn’t get to see except in pictures) is working part time at Starbucks and also plays bass guitar in a band. She adopted her parents’ love of music it seems.

Karen, Rob and Graycee

When we were at Chapel Ridge, I worked with Rob and Karen on the worship team. It was such a joy to see them share their musical gifts and talents with the church. I appreciated how graciously they put up with my lack of musical training as I led the team. Karen was also very involved in children’s ministry at that time. I’m glad to report that they are both still involved in worship at another church in the area. Karen is currently teaching a large number of piano students from her home and especially enjoys teaching them how to play Christian worship songs.

After enjoying a wonderfully fresh and filling meal of salads, homemade dill bread, and grilled chicken, we caught up with each other’s lives before enjoying one of Karen’s amazing homemade pies – blueberry this time, which is one of my favorites. Served with generous amounts of whipped cream, it was delightful. Thanks to Katy (who supplied the Starbucks flavors), we also had a special fruit iced tea during our meal… Passion Fruit I believe it was called. The best part of the evening, though, was sharing our prayer requests and our spiritual passions with one another. After a sweet time of prayer in the Lord’s presence, we called it a night. Even the dogs seemed content as we said our good-byes.