New Year Ramble and catch up for 2023
First things first, thank you for your cards and best wishes for 2024 and your support during 2023.
Hard to believe you are now well into the New Year, don’t even go down the road of asking where 2023 went but just to remind you what we did I have had to look back in my diary, of course the year started off with Panto, oh yes it did. So sorry but you just can’t help it can you, still in January there was a trip to Plymouth again to see the musical The Commitments.
Beginning of February we were down at Plymouth again for Strictly Ballroom the musical, then at Gloucester to see the Knife Man, a sculpture, made from over 100,000 seized blades, that was specifically created to highlight the negative effects of violent behaviour, I believe it is due to go to Barnstaple in March, Taunton in April & Plymouth in August and it is well worth going to see.
March we had a two night break in Bournemouth, going up enjoyed a Blue Badge guided tour around, Weymouth & Portland, the second day we went by hovercraft to Isle of Wight and had a private talk and demonstration of what a hovercraft can do. I think the young pilot enjoyed doing the demo as much as we did. Did wonder what any of the yachts around thought as we did doughnuts, nought to sixty is so many seconds and spray everywhere and yes we cheered and clapped. It was a special treat for Moira being her birthday. Last day was spent in Poole with most going to the RNLI for tour while others couldn’t resist some retail therapy. The following week we went to Royal Albert Hall for the Royal Marines Festival of Music. We had the added bonus of HRH King Charles attending and actually waving to some of us as he passed in the royal car whilst we were standing in the middle of the road. That is another story. Next day we went to Hampton Court Palace. We finished March by going to Barnstaple and onto Arlington Court & Bristol for the King & I.
April started with a make your own way to Torquay for the musical Fisherman’s Friends, an excellent show with plenty of the feel good factor. After Easter we had an overnight trip going up stopping at Winchester, with some taking the opportunity to enjoy a guided tour of Winchester College. We stayed overnight at the Police Federation, with secure parking – what else would you expect. We won’t be staying again, although good if you were sharing a double or had a single room but they seemed to think it was fine for twins to be a single bed and a put u up and didn’t really understand dietary requirements. Next day in the morning was a visit to Brookwood Military cemetery which is the largest military cemetery in the UK. We had excellent guides and could have stayed all day listening to them, without them it would not have been so good at all. In the afternoon was a gentle canal boat trip. End of the month was a mystery trip which was to Minehead then Lynton/Lynmouth.
May of course the Coronation and its still seems unreal that I was there. It seemed surreal at the time and still does and that I had a good seat even if it was on behind the pillar but up the front and not at the back, behind a pillar and drafty door. I could actually look across and see the heads of the royals + we had tv screens to see as well. The following week was a guided tour of Hinkley C, a trip that had been postponed from dear covid. No rest as next day it was our Cotswolds gardens trip, with a visit to one of my favourites Highnam Court at Gloucester, they are now only doing charity openings and not private visits so we were lucky to have gone when we did, I still might organise a day trip there. The owner is very generous and donates entry fees to charity. We stayed overnight in Swindon and next day visited Barnsley Open Gardens. A lovely Cotswolds village, a hotel, pub, church and no shops. It was very cold in the morning but warmed up later and we had a good time catching the mini bus around to the gardens. As I said no let up a busy following week first with our ‘Diamond Cream Tea’ @ Livermead Cliff Hotel in Torquay. As the name suggests a cream tea and a Neil Diamond tribute by Allan. Excellent, hard work orgainsing with over 120 and draw etc. but we raised £300 for Devon Air Ambulance Trust & £300 for Parkinson’s. Just a day off before Richards King Richard III trip, first day was a visit to Stoneleigh Abbey, stayed 2 nights at Warwick, next day was to Leicester and Richard III & Bosworth, good fun here with the talk and guide. Final day was spent in Stratford. Time to come home and do some washing before our Chelsea Flower Show trip. We had a nice relaxing boat trip on the first day, stayed in Reading and next day Chelsea. I had been talked into running a trip as over the years I had refused as it is known for being crowded as boy was it. I am sorry but we won’t be running a trip again. As the tickets are £90 odd, there is very little seating, Pimms in a plastic glass was £16.50 and I am 5’4” so saw very little over the Roman Legion of crowds. Queues for everything and there seemed more things unrelated to gardens to actual gardens + it was boiling hot. We left early and went to the Army museum which was cool, no queues for food or loos and joined in a very interesting talk on Laurence of Arabia. I would say unless you just want to say you went to Chelsea watch it on the box with your feet up sipping your Pimms and spend the money on plants you can enjoy for years. Home a day then off to The Mint outside Cardiff and strike our own coin. I have been many times but it’s always interesting and this time it was a Behind the Scenes tour they were trialling and has proved so popular it is now added as a permanent tour on Sundays.
Following week we are into June and off to either Monkey World or Tank Museum, they are close together so this enabled people to choose. Of course there were more men at the Tank Museum. Those that went said it was excellent with special displays on. No time for housework as day trip to Ilfracombe for a trip of the paddle steamer Waverley. The Devon Air Ambulance hovered over the harbour and landed at Ilfracombe we couldn’t see why but I did say a thank you letter would have sufficed. One day at home before off again, this time for the Colonels Review, first day we visited Cliveden staying overnight at Reading and next morning up to go into London to take our seats on Horseguards Parade for the ceremony being taken by the Prince of Wales. It was extremely hot over 30 degrees and I think it was 9 soldiers on parade that circumed + one of our group. I read an email when I got home they sent either late at night or in the morning advising it was going to be extremely hot sat in the sun for 3 hours and take water and sun hat, I had taken extra Newton Abbot Travel Club baseball caps and dished them out to those that hadn’t taken anything but on reading the email further it said, baseball caps and any form of logo advertising is NOT permitted, well they know who not to allocate tickets to in future. A stop off in Windsor on the way home for a gentle boat ride to cool off. Off again this time for two NT in Somerset, Montacute & Tintinhull and still very very hot. The weekend it was our trip to Ireland, I always worry about traffic and catching the ferry etc. but all went ok even after two emails from the ferry company telling me about road closures and diversions. Nice crossing and onto hotel. The people in Southern Ireland are so nice and food is always good and plentiful. Monday we went to Russborough House and a sheep dog demo at Michaels Farm, brilliant and he is an absolute character. Next day to Cobh the last place the ill-fated Titanic sailed from. Wednesday it was a narrow gauge train ride and visit to New Ross and the Dumbrodie, a replica famine ship. Around New Ross & Enniscorthy where we stayed were wonderful street art around the town. Regrettably next day it was time for home but a lovely crossing. Following week it was Richards’s mystery trip and guess what nobody guessed not surprising really as we stopped at Athelhampton for coffee, they were so well organised and coped beautifully and on to Weymouth then Portland where we had to change to two mini coaches to reach our lunch stop. Still nobody guessed as we climbed up to the top of Portland and then Verne Prison with the Jailhouse Café. After lunch and some good laughs be stopped by Portland Lighthouse then came back the scenic route past Abbotsbury, a great day out.
Half the year now gone and into July. The 1st was to Princess Theatre Torquay for That’ll Be The Day, we have been going to that show since it first came to Torquay about 30+ years ago. Following week a day trip to Tresslick Gardens in Cornwall. A place I think we will be visiting again. At the weekend it was nice to see quite a few members at Denbury supporting their Flower Festival. Blakes were busy then and didn’t have coaches available but this give us a chance to catch up a bit. We did fit in a trip to Wells which is always a favourite, the Cathedral had a visiting choir from Buffalo America at Evensong on the Sunday so most attended.
The beginning of August we were due to go to Evesham for a medieval re-enactment but we had plenty of rain and the fields were saturated so unfortunately we took the decision to cancel rather than the coach get stuck or someone slip in the mud. Following week first it was to RHS Rosemoor and the hot borders were looking stunning, then to Plymouth for 42nd Street. Weather was HOT again as we went to Falmouth for the Tall Ships lucky we hadn’t booked for the Parade of Sail on Friday this time as it was cancelled due to bad weather. On the Saturday it was off to Warminster for Imber Bus Day, it was an experience again one that won’t be repeated. Apparently they usually get about 2,000 but due to it being on tele over 4,500 turned up. You can imagine my face as we took the corner and saw the queues to get on the buses. After some negotiations it was agreed we would be allowed to take the coach instead if we could pick up some people waiting at the top of the Ministry of Defence check point. Agreed but just as we got there another vehicle came and took them. Imber is one of the villages that the MOD took over during the war and the villagers were never allowed back in. It is now used by the Army for exercises. The bus enthusiasts were obviously out in force so many where taking pics of us and the coach it was like being famous. Any rate off over Salisbury Plain we went, the queues for any of the refreshments stops was out of the question. Beware of land mines signs up so no stopping we did seem to get a bit lost and made our way to civilisation of Devizes by which time we are all requiring substance needless to say a Wetherspoons was quickly found. The end of the month saw us go up to Northumberland, stopping off the National Memorial Arboretum on the way up, next day we went to Beamish and of course the children came out as we had to go upstairs on the trams, next day was Alnwick including a guided tour of the poison garden, as we suddenly realised that we have most in our gardens so it’s a wonder we are all still here. Saturday we were hoping it would be dry and highlight of the trip a visit to Kynren but first a trip to the National Glass works & demonstration and coach trip around area. Early dinner and off to Bishop Auckland & Kynren an outdoor experience and you have to see & experience, pictures don’t do it justice. The 1,000 odd players are all volunteers, then there are horses, cows, sheep, goats, ducks you name it all rolled up in an epic tale of England depicting vital moments in British history. Yes we had a perfect evening for it. Next day on the way home we stopped off at Coventry.
Now in September and couple of days to do washing before off to Kew Gardens on the hottest day of the year. Richard found a new friend in the gardens a fox who wanted to jump up and sit on him. Next day off to RHS Wisley for their annual flower show. Guess where the hottest day of the year was Wisley!. Ron our driver took a reading of 36 in the coach park. We went in the conservatory usually hot but it was cooler than outside and I could have easily jumped, well not easily might have made an idiot of myself trying to get over the barrier to stand under the waterfall. I am sure if I did others would have followed before we got escorted off the premises & banned from visiting again. Sunday was Heritage Day and at Dorchester Keep & Northe Fort was free entry to both attractions so we only had to pay for coach. An interesting day out especially at the Fort with the gun firing. Next day it was up for train trip to London & Buckingham Palace. Another nice day. Some took advantage of our senior rail cards and booked first class.
October A bit of a rest and catch up with garden & house etc. before our second cream tea event at Livermead Cliff Hotel, Cream Tea & Magic. We had Peter Baffles the year before and so many requests for him to return and baffle us again and he did. We raised £350 for Devon Air Ambulance & £350 for Rowcroft. @ Home I will trying to arrange another event in the spring/early summer. Next day it was Ursula’s funeral & one of the reasons donations for Rowcroft @ Home who had helped Ursula and others that we have known over time. Sunday was our autumn in Wiltshire, postponed from the previous year. Sunday we went to NT Avebury Manor, we good laugh, Richard was caught in bed with Marion and I have the photo’s to prove it. I become Rogers wife No 5, worrying if it was going to be off with my head or if I survived. We stayed at Swindon then next day went to Bradford on Avon for a canal boat trip before stopping in at Stourhead on the way home. Although end of October still plenty of leaves on trees and just starting to change colour.
November Peter Baffles was appearing at the Babbacombe Theatre for their Christmas show and we were offered discounted tickets for afternoon performance and so we couldn’t resist and so it was lunch at one of the pubs before the matinee show and home. Next evening quite a few members & friends where at our local store Austin’s for their beauty evening supporting McMillian Cancer. Following week we went to Truro, stopping at Tamar View Garden Centre for coffee then onto Truro, some doing retail therapy others going to the musical Bodyguard. It starts off with a very loud gunshot, not sure if that caused the gentleman in the circle to have a heart attack but the show had to be stopped for about 45 mins whilst he was attended and taken off by ambulance. Personally I wasn’t impressed with the show, I thought the main character ‘Whitney’ in the film was being played by a white actress & not the same figure, it just didn’t feel right. I have seen the show before and it’s always been a coloured person playing the main role and I believe in the evenings it was. I hope I am not sounding colour prejudice. Any rate the following week it was to Bristol with some seeing the show Annie and others including myself going to Bristol Aerospace Museum where Concorde is on display. To mark the 20th Anniversary of the last flight they offered groups just for the anniversary a chance to visit the museum, galleries, restoration workshop (which it seems is a great way for the retired personal to spend their retirement with ex colleagues with I am sure their wives blessing) a talk & visit to Concorde and finishing off with a cream tea under the wings of Concorde. An offer of course we couldn’t resist. After we left they were then going to set up for a special anniversary dinner for 500 under the wings next day. I have been before but this time found it really interesting with the guides and the experience of cream tea under the wings. Now it’s the end of November so the Christmas things are starting, first the That’ll Be the Day Christmas show at Torquay on Monday and Thursday it was up the Waddesdon to see the house decorated and the lights around the grounds. Just to add to the Christmas feel the temperature with freezing and glad to get onto a warm coach to take us to the hotel.
Next day 1st December we visited Windsor Castle, a good time to enjoy without all the crowds and it was the first day the Dolls House was back on display. Time for a quick look around and lunch before heading home. Saturday catching up at home then Sunday off to Wells to see the Bishops Palace decorated for Christmas & the gardens illuminated. Most also went to the Advent Service at the Cathedral where you are given a candle as the service is darkness into light. The choir as you would expect were very good and they even had a harp. When we came out, text from our coach driver to say problem with water pipe on coach and engineer and replacement coach coming but stay inside together in warm. As the cathedral were locking up and had already closed the loos, it was raining so where could I take nearly 50 people to keep warm & dry – answer Wetherspoons. The manager was obviously delighted to suddenly have all these people on a Sunday evening especially as it was easy just drinks. It was also a nice chance for people to have a chat etc. so it was another adventure as we call then when things perhaps don’t go according to plan. The following week all went to plan a visit to Cardiff with most going Christmas shopping whilst others went to the Disney musical of Aladdin. Saturday it was to Barnstaple for some retail therapy and it was nice to see the town so vibrant and quite a few bags coming back on the coach before going onto RHS Rosemoor for their illuminated gardens. We were lucky it was a lovely evening to stroll around the grounds. They had a set route covering about 3 miles and it certainly had the wow factor. The following week was our last trip of the year to Sidmouth for lunch/look around and then to Exmouth for the Royal Marines Christmas Concert. I have already reserved for 2024 as this trip is usually very popular. Unfortunately I was unable to attend but my wonderful helpers took the trip for me and I am told did a wonderful job.
As regulars know we try to raise money throughout the year for charities and thought you might like to know where the money went so you might be surprised how much we raised almost £3,500 this is due to your continued support and generosity especially in draw prizes etc.
£650 Devon Air Ambulance Trust
£600 Rowcroft + donations in memory of members deceased
£250 Devon Stroke Assn
£100 RNLI Teignmouth Branch
£100 Help for Heros
£100 Bales Buddies therapy dogs based at Kingskerswell
£100 Hearing Dogs for the Deaf requested for use in Devon
£100 Animals in Distress
£100 South Dartmoor Search & Rescue
£100 Marie Curie Devon
£100 Salvation Army Newton Abbot Christmas lunches
£100 FORCE (Cancer Charity)
£100 Torbay Samaritans
£25 Teign Heartbeats
+ a cheque has been sent recently to Shelterbox for £150 & £50 Hectors House (animal charity in Torquay) these being requests from members who have requested refunds etc go to these charities.