I do like a map and the above map is that of my journeys around the country during 2023 either by road or rail, I did a good few thousand miles. One thing I came to realise from my travels around Australia is that the UK is really tiny, unless you are in Cornwall or the north of Scotland, everywhere is generally 2 or 3 hours away ( from Shrewsbury anyway).
I’ve always liked to travel and go places and last year was no exception. Although I’ve not been abroad for a number of years, the pandemic got in the way and I’ve been skint, I have tried to travel more around the country since things opened up after the pandemic. I’ve definitely re-evaluated things since that time and now take every opportunity I can to visit people, shows and exhibitions.
I like driving and mostly enjoy being on the road although there are a large number of potholes and an increasing number of overly complicated road junctions and roundabouts with so many vaguely marked lanes with unfamiliar road numbers painted on them, you have a brief moment to work out before you accidently go along the B4546 (or similar).
During 2023 I’ve filled in some gaps in my geographical knowledge of the country visiting places I’ve never been before and some I’d only driven past. There is a diverse landscape with some areas a bit dull and others really rather dramatic. From the South Shropshire Hills to the New Forest, the Surrey Hills to the South Downs, the Lincolnshire Wolds to the Peak District and the Yorshire Dales, the Cotswolds to the Southbank and Chelsea Harbour, the Valleys of South Wales to the Jurassic Coast, I've got about a bit.
There were quite a few towns that I visited for the first time or spent a bit more time in including Louth, Cirencester, Guildford, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Hay on Wye, Newtown, Scarborough, Lincoln and Cheltenham.
The drive on the M6 going past Kendal through the hills up to Tebay is rather spectacular. The section of the M62 up and over the moors east of Manchester is beautifully bleak. The A16 from Spalding to Boston is ridiculously flat, some of the highest things you can see are piles of hay bales. The road between Presteigne and Bishops Castle on the Shropshire Welsh border is spectacular especially in the bright autumn sunshine with the trees lit up. Driving through valleys of South Wales from Merthyr to Pontypridd, although modernised there are still hints at its industrial past.
I love a train journey too, especially when you leave the countryside and enter a city, the buildings start to appear and you see the back gardens and the backs of industrial areas flashing past, the bits you’d never see from the road. The higgledy-piggledy
nature of the architecture is fascinating.
Going back to maps again I was always fascinated by railway maps in particular as a child and used to make up my own. You can’t beat Clapham Junction for the number of railway lines going off in all directions. I was pleased I got to go through a few times last year. I could quite happily stand on the bridge and look up and down the tracks watching the toing and froing of trains, if I wasn’t in peoples' way or needing to go and set up a show or something.
You know when you look out the window and you stare at the track next to you, most of the time it’s running parallel, sometimes it drifts over a bit, sometimes it branches off, sometimes a train wizzes by, sometimes you are running next to another train going in the same direction at a similar speed and you can almost make eye contact with the people in the carriage and then it passes and you are looking at the track again. I love that! Is that just me?
Gone off on a bit of a tangent there! Haha
One of my favourite trips of the year was my big triangular road trip in the early summer. I was on the road for a week and I loved it. It was the nearest I’ve come to when I was travelling in Australia. I took every opportunity to stop off and catch up with makers where I could along the way, plus family and an air museum. It took in most of the south coast, the area where I was born and where some of my family used to live.
I stopped off in the Dorset village of Puddletown (formally Piddletown, until Queen Victoria’s visit) where my grandparents on my Dads side used to live, in a 1960’s Bungalow. I’d not been back in years and it had had a massive extension built on the side which used to be part of the garden. The area has had a lot of new houses built and it no longer felt the same.
I also stopped by my other grandparents' old house in Emsworth which seemed a lot smaller than I remembered. I’d not been there even longer than my other grandparents' house. I visited the Church where they are buried just up the road at Warblington. It’s also where my parents married and I was Christened. It’s an old church and was originally built by the Saxons and altered over time. After a bit of searching I found their grave and was reminded just how long ago they’d passed, the late 80’s and early 90’s. How quickly time has passed!
It’s always good to make diversions to see people whilst passing close by. It’s just great to catch up with people, any excuse for a natter and a studio visit! If only that was a job!
So where will 2024 take me, we shall see, definitely London on a few occasions! Hopefully I’ll see you somewhere during the year, let's make a plan :)
Happy New Year
Until next time, mind how you go 🧡
3 Jan 24