Sunday 30 June 2019



‘Oxfordshire Heritage meet French flair’

So proclaims the website of the Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. This stylish Cotswold B and B and restaurant are a legend and we got to see the gardens. Le Manior has been celebrating its Michelin two stars since it was opened by culinary boy wonder, Raymond Blanc in 1984. 

Link We were unable to afford +/- £850 per night for bed and breakfast, which does include a free newspaper and bottle of spring water. However our wonderful daughter Megan signed Sian and I up for the garden tour.

Although the weather was dull and overcast the gardens were bright wonderful and all explained by a charming Italian of four gardeners who must work incredibly hard. She showed us the mushroom valley, water gardens, extensive orchards of heritage fruit trees wonderful flowers, trees, statuary, fruit and of course, vegetables plots everywhere. Verdure ti amiamo così tanto

My favourite plot was the wildflower garden by the redoubtable Chris Bradshaw.

We were shown the greenhouses one of which is devoted to the culture of micro veg  (Micro veg is another term for the harvesting of seedlings. They are really easy grow and tasty to eat). The redoubtable gardeners wipe a hefty pounds £60,000 of the man’s was food bill with micro veg endeavour.

It was a great couple of hours, preceded by coffee and tea in the muted elegance and pin-drop silence and one of the hotels lounges. Six biscuits were included.

Monday 17 June 2019


Until 26 August the British Museum is drawing and exciting crowds of youf and crazy rich Asians to a show that is full of graphic goodness.

Manga is a visual narrative art form that has become a multimedia global phenomenon, telling stories with themes from gender to adventure, in real or imagined worlds. Immersive and playful, the exhibition will explore manga’s global appeal and cultural crossover, exclaims the BM’s exhibition blurb 

This is definitely another must-see“ exhibition in London, for there is masses of material dating from C19 and actually tracing this graphic art further back in Japan’s artistic heritage. Do go!

And I am going to have a go at doing some mango graphics myself!

Having a go!

Sunday 16 June 2019



May 2019

Big bold and beside the Thames
ST HELEN, ABINGDON is a whopping as far as parish churches go, right on the River Thames with all the confidence that the town once had as a trading post for river traffic and agriculture. 

St Helen Abingdon
The church boasts five aisles in its nave. The Lady Chapel’s painted ceiling is a gem (1391) the colours and costumes are from a time when England was at peace and wealthy.

Just down a lane next to the school 
ST JAMES RADLEY is tucked away from the main road and the sounds of the school yard drifts across a churchyard strewn with wild flowers and guarded by stocky yew trees. 

St James  Radley

This is a special church as the arcade between nave and south aisle is constructed from complete trees, their trunks darkened with age.  In its customary place, near the entrance is a charming, daintily worked Norman font.

Big Norman in Iffley
St Mary Iffley
Simon Jenkins* describes this wonderful place and “chunky, barbaric” certainly it has all the swagger of late Norman building with some Transitional work and early English starting to show.  *England’s 1000 Best Churches

Lionel Wall’s website GREAT ENGLISH CHURCHES the loveliness of the south door ‘the south door is a joy to behold, with every conceivable figure of fantasy and legend. Fortunately there was once a porch here, which has preserved the carvings in all their glory’.

I’d recommend a visit to Lionel's website when planning a churching expedition.

Wednesday 12 June 2019


We bought tickets for the Koblenz Cable Car.  With ‘kombitickets’ the cable car whisked up and higher still plonking us down near the huge castle on a cliff. Suffering from vertigo I had my eyes close for most of the ascent. In the castle grounds, lovely meadows of wild flowers and perennials, there was a viewing platform providing great views across the whole city, both the Rhine and the Mosel rivers and far into the distance of industrial NW Germany.

Have I got views for you...

We could not quite figure out the attraction of the castle, except perhaps the coffee shop terrace with views across Koblenz. What was interesting was the Archaeology and Antiquities Museum; full of marvellous Roman bits and bobs!

And so we slid back down on the ‘Seilbahn’ and after a short walk to the station and we were at the station for the train back to Frankfurt Airport.

A good tour, company, wine and food, keeping company with the broad languorous Mosel.

Tuesday 11 June 2019



Cochem town has its full quota of early morning traffic, I begged a pot of coffee from the Frau doing breakfasts and caught up with notes and colouring in. High sun again and as we headed out so did the tourists, swarming on cobbled streets, craning necks and enjoying the exhortations of tour guides in several Asian languages. 

This was our last day in the saddle and not without its challenges. Lovely cycling and quiet-ish roads until mid afternoon about six miles from KOBLENZ, our final stop, Dave the pilot contracted a puncture!

There was nothing for it but to pull over, and luckily right outside a bakery coffee shop Backerei Alsbach. We all enjoyed apple juice and wurst, a real tonic as we considered the situation. Meanwhile the Baker hopped in his van and drove home for his bike pump.   We quickly inflated Dave’s rear tyre and he peddled off immediately intending to reach Koblenz before the tyre was again flat.

The Barbara Cartland Suite
He made it! 

We all meet up at Deutsches Eck (German Corner) an area of parkland and statuary where the Mosel meets the Rhine, our journey’s end. We walked with Dave and his bike to our hotel. The Hotel Brenner. 

Across the tour all accommodation was very good. I was especially lucky that evening. My room overlooked quiet gardens and in the morning there was much bird song. Everything in my room was white with swags and swirls on every available surface – Baroque Ikea. I dubbed my quarters the Barbara Cartland Suite

Monday 10 June 2019


Early in the morning and the town of Traben was stirring itself for another week. There was a peel of bells just before seven, which I managed to record.  I went up to see the church, which was all clean and cream surrounded by grand gravestones and monuments.

Traben Church

Soon we were off along the river, again sun, the naughty headwind and all the scenery we could possibly want; another litany of vineyards with a high sun shining through foliage. 

Young vines growing well

Our lunchtime stop was ZELL whose Riesling wine is known far beyond the local area as Zeller Schwarze Katz, enjoyed coffee and cake. I bought postcards and stamps.
Festive Zell

Drama of the day was an impossibly large tree that has fallen across our path. A detour was not an option so we hauled each bike up along a small track above ours and manhandled each bike  over the tree’s trunk and down its other side through the foliage and undergrowth.

We helped an elderly couple perform the same manoeuvre and had the grace not to accept their proffered twenty-euro tip.  

We cycled into the town of COCHEM. This was our stop for the night at the Hotel Karl Nossover looking the river and the tour boats moored alongside by the bridge. The entry into Cochem was impressive, looking up at the Reichsburgcastle. 

into Cochem

It was perched high above us on the opposite bank, almost in silhouette against an early evening sun.  Less impressive, we all agreed, were there being no stock in each room’s minibar.

Sunday 9 June 2019


Up early and there was a fab view across the town of Trittenheim to the slopes on the other side of the river. Vines clearly in view. Birds going gangbusters with morning songs and aside from an occasional vehicle noise the place was Sunday-quiet. Every hour and quarter mark the church clock bought me closer to breakfast.

Super-sized Sunday view

Each day there was the great German breakfast including creamy bierwurst. We were away in good time along the river, tracks and trees a feature and we crossed from the West to East banks of Ms Mosel several times.

Lunchtime stop has us in Bernkastel. Bernkastel-Kues (Kues is its other brother, a borough on the West bank). Now we are about 50 km (31 miles) upstream from Trier. Within this area, vines are managed strenuously and precariously on steep-slopes. 
A stop for Currywurst

Vertiginous slopes heavy with vines were the leitmotivof our travel along the river. 

The afternoon, post – Currywurst– was a charm of churches, small towns, tall spires, wild flowers and sun toasting slate roofs.  We arrived at TRABEN TRARBACH (it sounded like the name of a car from the former DDR).

Traben is in fact a delightful town on the river. My room looked over a confection of steep slate and the bells from Peterkirche (visited the next day early morning) rang a lovely peel for ten minutes, which I caught and now hold tight on my iPhone.

Supper in the museum Traben Trarbach
Supper was taken in a curious barn-like place strewn with many many old farm antiques, gadgets of all description covered in dust and strips of vine leaves. It was a curious cross between a restaurant and agricultural museum.

Friday 7 June 2019


As promised and right on time and as we set off, it was pouring. Rain continued as we cycled for four hours. We stopped for a moral-boosting cake and coffee towards the end.  

Coffee and Cake

Arriving at our billet for the night in TRITTENHEIM we actually stayed over a winery, the Rheinhaus Hermes Hof) wine making below – gasthaus above. We readily agreed that none of us had slept on top of so much wine hitherto.

Rain on the roof tops of Trier

Several hours were spent working out the best clothes drying strategy as aside from a pannier all we had was all we wore.

Balance of Saturday sampling the charming output from Herr Hermeshof’s labours including a smooth, curvaceous red called Dorfleder, more than lovely. 

Everyone a winner everyone a gem

Across the street we enjoyed a late lunch and returned for supper. As were leaving for the evening the immediate vicinity of our table was serenaded by four men of a certain age from the NE of England. We had seen them in Trier and were to come across them and their colourful lycra several times in the next couple of days.

Wednesday 5 June 2019


Friday May 10 was all about getting there. ‘There’ being Trier, on the Mosel River, about 200 km downstream from Koblenz, where the Mosel joins its big sister, The Rhine.

We had four days ahead of us on electric bikes, a modest 50 – 60 km each day! We had flown to Frankfurt, and caught the train to Trier with one change. Our train journey follows the Rhine and then the Mosel so the three hours was a good primer for what to expect.

Arrived in Trier and it looked like rain. This promise was fulfilled the next day.  Humphrey had ‘done’ Trier that day so we saw his pictures and decided an early supper should take precedence over touring the town.

Trier does have lots of nice bits; Roman 4C, solid Germanic looking ruins as far as I could gather, from my favourite book of learning, Wikipedia. (Must donate some more € to them).

We have the Roman Empire’s emphatic colonisation of this part of Germany to thank for the Mosel wine growing. They thought vines and wines were worth a dart, had a go. So folk in these parts have been at it ever since.

Washington Post, Bert Archer, March 16, 2012
 'In Germany’s Mosel Valley, though beer is usually on tap, you see almost no one drinking it. It’s wine, wine and more wine, served in stemware, tumblers and mugs.' Full piece

On tour, L - R: Humphrey the financier, Iain the driver, yours truly, Davy the pilot and Mike the fishmonger

Sunday 2 June 2019


White City: A brave new world?

London May 1st 

I visited White City the other day to  see good friend Frank Harrison who works in Television Centre.  The BBC TV Centre is now a swam swanky offices for media folk. Getting out at Wood Lane Tub Station there was building work everywhere.

Perhaps not since the early 1900’s are when they built the Olympic Village in Shepherds Bush, as there been such a frenzy of construction.

The breathless prose from on of the developers described what I was looking out.

‘White City Living is located in the heart of West London. This is the highly anticipated next chapter of the White City opportunity area, offering over 1,800 new homes including suites, apartments, penthouses and duplexes. Designed by Patel Taylor and set among eight acres of green open spaces, all within 15 minutes of Central London.”
Link for more

There was additional enticing prose from CBRE* 

White City Living is rising up from a whole new London landscape that has nature at its forefront. It's West London's brightest new neighbourhood, an area of wide-open spacious parkland and secluded gardens with refurbished railway arches which will provide connection to Westfield as well as new bars and boutique shops creating a humble yet exciting new place to live.

Set to complete 2020 so not long to wait and prices start from £725,000

*CBRE are experts in prime London homes. We offer a range of stunning properties to buy or let, as well as investment, management and consultancy services.   More on

Brave New World in the White City