We returned from Scotland to a whirlwind of social engagements with family and friends – Anna’s mum observed it must be nice when everywhere you go, everyone is pleased to see you!
We spent a few days in London with Anna’s parents where we were royally looked after as usual. Uncle Phil (British Free Range Egg Producer of the Year 2015) came to visit, and we did a quality test on some of Chiswick’s free range eggs. Sadly, while some of them passed muster, others were denounced as suspected battery eggs by Uncle Phil. So choose your free range eggs carefully everyone! Warning signs to look out for are very runny whites (this also happens with old hens) and very dark orange yolks, which indicate that the hens’ diets are being supplemented with colourings – not necessary in well cared for hens!
My brother Dan came up from our hometown of Bexhill for dinner and drinks with our friends, missed the last train home but managed a mammoth multi-stage, five hour journey home to the south coast, arriving home at 5 am, then getting up at 7 am to go on a training course. Anna and I had a more leisurely journey south on Saturday, arriving in time for a chat with the family before we all headed out for delicious Nepalese food at The Gurkhas (Bexhill’s finest restaurant!).
On Sunday we went to visit my friend Adam’s family and say hello to their new baby, very exciting times! Then we headed up to the local fruit farm where my Dad keeps his bees, to check their progress coming into Spring. We found mostly healthy colonies, but one had been invaded by a mouse which had eaten all the honey while the bees were huddling in the middle of the hive through winter; the poor old bees had then starved to death! Dad blamed himself of course, he really loves those bees!
Monday was a visit to the Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest with my sister Kathleen and three year old nephew Casey. We had planned to find some snakes; unfortunately the snakes didn’t want to be found, but luckily Bedgebury has loads of amazing adventures for kids, you can’t go 200 yards on the “Play Path” without encountering dragon-infested castles to be conquered and intricate pyramid mazes to be explored! Casey also showed a great aptitude as a naturalist, pointing out moorhens and coots to his mum after just a few minutes learning! After that it was delicious homemade dim sum at mum and dads with our friends Andy and Yubin. The aunts came round as well to have a chat and see us off. Finally our friend Jo made it down to Bexhill from London, arriving at about 11 pm and staying up chatting with us till 2 am. What an effort, especially as she’d only got off a flight from Florida that morning!
On Tuesday we headed down to Portsmouth to catch the ferry to Santander. Anna isn’t a natural sailor, and didn’t really enjoy the trip, but I managed to spend a few hours outside failing to see dolphins. The Picos de Europa (the Peaks of Europe) mountains are so called because they were the first thing sailors saw when arriving into northern Spain. The weather was excellent this time round, and I was treated to a view of them rising out of the sea as we approached the coast.
We spent our first night in Santander with Silvia and Carlos, an amazing Spanish couple who put us up the first two nights of our cycle tour last year, as well as taking us climbing in the mountains. It was great to see them again; we were sad that it was a week night and they had to go to bed early, but we are hoping that we will get to see them again soon!
On Thursday morning we got in the car and headed towards Basieda, a hamlet in the Picos. Here we met with Suzanne and Richard, friends of our extended family who have kindly offered to host us for a week in their amazing restored manor house and apartments. I can’t do the place justice as it is just incredible, we can’t believe our luck being able to stay here! The house and grounds were pretty much ruined when Suzanne and Richard came here in the late ’80’s, but everything has been lovingly restored, and the guys now welcome lucky visitors throughout the summer months. We had a good look through the manor house today; I was ogling the hand-hewn floorboards and the giant trevidé oven, while Anna was checking out the views across the valley from the top floor bedroom. After that we went on the “short circuit” walk up into the hills, wandering though mixed oak and beech forest, across streams and through meadows full of daisies and orchids. We feel like we’re making the right choice moving out here!
When we got back there was just time to get changed then it was round to Suzanne and Richard’s place for drinks and tapas so they could tell us a little bit about the area and their experiences here. There wasn’t enough time to take it all in of course, so hopefully there will be chances for more chats in the coming week. We will be helping out in the gardens and the outbuildings for the next few days so plenty of opportunities for informative discussions coming up!