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England

Thames River Walk – Westminster to Tate Modern

Thames River Walk – Westminster to Tate Modern

I had arrived in London’s Waterloo Station several hours early, fully intending to head underground and resurface at one of the many museums London has to offer. Then I noticed the rare sight of a warm, clear and sun-filled vista beyond the station. The River Thames was a silver streak glinting in the afternoon sunshine. “Why,” I thought, “spend time in a museum when I could be enjoying a stroll along the River Thames.” Putting thoughts into action I left Waterloo Station and headed for Westminster Bridge. I would follow a section of the Queen’s Walk; a promenade along the south bank of the River Thames. It was created for the Silver Jubilee Queen Elizabeth II and runs from Lambeth Bridge to Tower Bridge. Westminster Bridge to the Hungerford Bridge I have always liked Westminster Bridge because of its iconic…

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Hampshire Unpacked: Bluebell Woods

Hampshire Unpacked: Bluebell Woods

Every spring something happens in the woodlands across Britain and the woodlands of Hampshire are no exception. Carpets of blue are beginning to spread out beneath the nascent canopy of green. The bluebells have arrived. In my home county of Hampshire the best place to see them is Micheldever Woods close to Winchester. This ancient beech woodland is awash with bluebells around April and May. Bluebells thrive in ancient woodlands because there is less undergrowth and therefore less competition. The plants do most of their growing before the leaves of the trees develop with flowers appear as the trees don their mantle of green. The damp, shady conditions of the forest floor are the ideal conditions for the bluebells to thrive. Micheldever Woods are managed by the Forestry Commission who have made the woods easy to access. From the car…

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Autumn visit to Exbury Gardens

Autumn visit to Exbury Gardens

Regular readers will know that I occasionally write about gardens and travel on this blog. Whenever I travel I try to visit at least one garden. Sometimes, as in the post on the Gardens of North Devon, I will visit several on one trip. It is often the case that the places near to us get forgotten or we don’t realise the hidden gems almost under our feet. I am guilty of always looking for new horizons and neglecting what is on my doorstep. In an effort to remedy this woeful state of affairs I arranged a visit to Exbury Gardens in the New Forest. Just a few miles from home they are noted for their woodland gardens and the reason I wanted to visit was to see the stunning autumn colours. As a photographer I really wanted a day of…

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Devon Unpacked: Gardens to visit

Devon Unpacked: Gardens to visit

It wasn’t planned that way but we ended up visiting a lot more of Devon’s gardens than we had on our itinerary. Two of the gardens we visited were on our quest for the perfect Devon cream tea and being plant lovers we could not pass up the opportunity to wander among the blooms. One of the gardens was a serendipitous discovery while travelling to somewhere else. Only once did we make a trip solely to visit a garden. The more you look the more gardens you find to visit in Devon. Obviously I am limited in this post but there are several books devoted to gardens to visit. Also there is the National Garden Scheme (NGS) that produces its own “yellow book” of private gardens that are open on specific days of the year to raise money for charity. There are…

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Devon Unpacked: Cream Teas

Devon Unpacked: Cream Teas

The search for a perfect cream tea I have to admit I have a strong weakness for clotted cream and an even stronger weakness for cream tea. Yes, I know the previous sentence is loaded with oxymorons but I use them deliberately because I am unlikely to pass up the opportunity to sample a really good cream tea especially in Devon or Cornwall. These two counties claim to be the home of the scone, jam and clotted cream though neither can agree on the correct way to eat it. Is it jam first? Or is it cream first? A sign outside a tearoom in Closely, North Devon says a cream tea should be…, …two warm scones fresh from the oven – a dish of strawberry jam – a dish of clotted cream and… I agree with that. Definitely the scones…

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Kayaking close to home

Kayaking close to home

I have paddled in a kayak among the islands of a Baltic archipelago off the coast of Sweden; along the Ardeche Gorge in France; in the Nitmiluk Gorge in Northern Territory, Australia; with killer whales in Johnstone Strait off the BC coast of Canada; and with humpbacks off Newfoundland. There are more places I have paddled and still more to come but my own backyard, Southampton Water, is where I hone my skills and learn new ones. All too often the places closest to home are the ones we visit the least, or in the my case write about the least. I am hoping to remedy that and this post is the start. If Southampton Water is in my backyard, the New Forest is on my doorstep. Keep a watch for posts on either of these in the future. Southampton…

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Grind Coffee Barista Experience

Grind Coffee Barista Experience

I was introduced to Grind Coffee in Putney when it had only just opened. The coffee was like no other and the flat white has yet to be beaten in my opinion. Certainly the likes of Ronan Keating, Nick Clegg and various members of England’s rowing and rugby teams think so too along with an average of 1000 customers a day. The owner, originally a drummer opened a drum shop in Putney and begn selling good coffee alongside the drum kits. He soon discovered he was selling more coffee than drums so got rid of the kits to indulge his passion for coffee. When I first discovered Grind it was a tiny little place with customers spilling out onto pavement. Now it has expanded into the adjoining building but still keeps that special coffee bar ambience. Now there are couple…

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Dartmoor: Top 10 things to do

Dartmoor: Top 10 things to do

Dartmoor National Park occupies a large portion of Devon just to the north of Plymouth. It has recently earned fame as the setting for War Horse and was the setting for Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. The granite massif that rises up from the Devon lowlands is, for the most part, a bleak and desolate moorland; a unique landscape in Britain. It was for this reason that, during Napoleonic times Dartmoor prison was built there. There are plenty of things to do on Dartmoor and, what I like to call Greater Dartmoor. Here then are my Top Ten in no particular order. How many are in your top ten? 1. Cycle Drake’s Trail Drakes Trail is a hiking and cycling route from Plymouth to Tavistock passing by Sir Francis Drake’s birth place and Buckland Abbey which he owned in later…

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Two London coffee bars

Two London coffee bars

I recently travelled to London on business and arrived with plenty of time to spare so decided to investigate the two coffee bars I knew were within walking distance of Grosvenor Square. Workshop Marylebone I almost missed this little gem. It does not announce itself other than with a small font on the shop front and a wooden A-frame sign on the pavement. It doesn’t need to be in your face as it’s reputation is excellent and those seeking it will find it and locals and regulars will know where it is. Inside it is neither cluttered nor minimalist but a happy compromise. The walls are a restful sage green with floors that are bare boards. There is a bar and stools along the window and along the wall opposite the counter. They use a coffee roasted by their own…

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Paddington Trail

Paddington Trail

It all started in one of London’s busy mainline stations. A little bear from “darkest Peru” was found with a label around his neck with a note “Please look after this bear. Thank you” Today there is a shop at Paddington Station that sells hundreds of these little bears resplendent in blue duffle coat and red bush hat. There is also a bronze statue of the same little bear who has had fame thrust upon him on the concourse. Named after the station on which he was found by Mr and Mrs Brown Paddington Bear has delighted generations of children for almost 50 years – including myself who grew up on the tales of the little bears, Paddington, Rupert and Winnie the Pooh. Somewhere between platform 8 and 9 there is a new Paddington Bear to be found. Instantly recognisable as…

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