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over the moors...

Monday, July 11, 2016

...on Sunday. After a night in a real bed, though still in possession of confused brain from time zone travel. We all packed  into the car (they are all very small in the UK: small country, narrow roads, high gas prices, tiny parking paces, wee little garages) and went on a tour of the hills in south-western England. I'm not knowledgeable about landscape in UK, though I have read several books referring to wind-swept moors,  or rough, rocky, infertile hills, or craggy mountainsides. And seen Youtube videos of amazing dogs herding sheep across the unfriendly pasture lands, rough terrain that does not seem to slow them from their appointed tasks.

The views were stunning. Beautiful, wide open spaces. Gorgeous hills and valleys, with tiny dots of grazing sheep on distant green fields. And in between, along country roads so narrow two cars from opposite directions cannot pass. The highest points on the hills are remnants of funnels of volcanic rock, eroded over time, into lichen, moss-covered stones. The dividing lines between pastures look like hedges, mostly stacked rock from the clearing of fields. But they have shrubs, small trees that have grown up over time along those rock fences, so that all the separate pastures are outlined with hedges, kept neatly trimmed by livestock: cattle and wild ponies as well as the roaming sheep.

There are lots of domestic farm animals. Loose to graze the moors. We crossed over a couple of cattle gaps, but mostly they just roam.  Barely contained, with little fencing to control their wandering. Crossing the roads at will, standing there blocking traffic, or stretched out on the warm tarmac, snoozing. Vehicles are expected to give way, and there are times you just have to wait them out.

The landscape, when you are at the pinnacle of a winding road, from the vantage point of a hill overlooking miles of scenery, appears to look just like the postcards. Well, yeah. That's where the photos on the postcards came from. I bought, wrote and mailed a dozen or so, with stamps that have Her Majesty's Regalness on them. And as expected, beat them all back to the US.

After driving over the moors, we stopped to visit a little country stone church with an overgrown grave yard and markers so scoured by time, grown over with mosses and lichens, you could not read the engraving on the stones. Then back in the car for more of the beautiful countryside. Where you can see nearly forever from the highest hills: all the way to the English Channel twenty-five miles distant. Bleating sheep, marked on their backs with colored paint for easy identification by owners, meandering cattle browsing across the fields, and little wild ponies dozing in the sun.

On to the town of Exeter, where we went into the cathedral. I don't know when it was built. but it is definitely Old. Partially destroyed in bombing raids of WWII, my cousin pointed out a huge stained glass window made to replace one that was destroyed by German bombs. And replaced by one that showed the devastation of the times, with search lights in the heavens and flames blooming from the homes set ablaze by Germans. A beautiful old building, lots of people buried under the time worn floors of marble, with much traditional, medieval type architecture. I could have spent the day craning my neck enjoying the detail, carefully and painstakingly done over the centuries by gifted stonemasons and skilled woodworkers. We were shoo'ed out of the building by a man in a long red robe, I guess nearly closing time. But enjoyed the resounding voices of the boy choir as they had rehearsal while we poked though numerous small chapels, little vestibules, odd corners with monuments dedicated to long dead bishops, dukes, military heros.

Lunch in a pub, overlooking cobblestone streets, and across the lane from the Cathedral.

Monday, July 4, 2016

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