This year I finally managed to cross something off my bucket list. After years of talking about it and never getting around to it, usually being in England at the wrong time of year anyway, we made it to RHS Rosemoor gardens in Devon. That will be a whole post in itself as I have loads of photos, as you can probably imagine!
Our first few days staying at my Mum's in Somerset were quite warm and sunny - now that made a nice change as it usually rains when I'm in England! Of course the weather did turn, and it did rain, but overall it wasn't too bad. I made the most of taking photos in Mum's garden whilst it was nice and sunny. However I was most disappointed at the lack of butterflies, even when the sun was shining. I saw one Peacock in Mum's garden and hardly saw anything anywhere else, only a few Small Whites.
One big difference between home and this part of England is the sheep everywhere - at home it is cattle and hardly any sheep farms, just smallholders keeping their own few sheep for personal consumption. Another thing I really noticed were the amount of Hawthorn bushes due to all the blossom - the countryside seemed absolutely covered in it. We have Hawthorn at home but only here and there, which is a shame as it looks so wonderful en masse. And the third big difference is the beautiful wildflower Red Campion - it was everywhere, yet I've never noticed it here in Brittany. We only have the white variety which isn't very exciting and I think of it as an irritating weed when it appears in my flower beds!
Down the road from Mum's house - this is Dorset. She lives in the corner where Somerset, Devon and Dorset converge. We managed a few walks in the lovely countryside.
Looking towards the back of Mum's cottage.
Clockwise from top left: Japanese Maple, the pond and my brother, Geraniums that we potted up for Mum, Brunnera and low growing Phlox. We helped Mum in the garden as she can't do much any more, weeding and potting up geraniums and summer annuals.
Aquilegia taken using the in camera effects, this is High Key.
The Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum) in flower, although this isn't the most amount of blossom it has had before. High Key again, because the blooms are pinker than this.
A Common Red Damselfly came to say hello when we were sitting at the garden table and seemed quite settled on my fleece.
A slow worm living in the compost bin. It has what looks like an old injury, a chunk taken out of it which looks healed up. The gardener was by at the time doing some preliminary work prior to replacing a rotten fence, and he said it was probably rat damage as there was a rat living round there. Fascinating to see as I have never seen one so close up before.
We got out for an afternoon birding at the Seaton wetlands on the Axe estuary. It was only half an hour from Mum's house and a good place for birding, with many hides, and good marked tracks and signposts, so easy to find. However the weather left a lot to be desired and by the end of the afternoon it had started to drizzle so we got fed up and called it a day. It wasn't the best birding day I've ever had out but was nice to go somewhere different, and what birds you see is usually luck anyway.
Clockwise: A friendly Robin, think that's a Curlew (or a Whimbrel?), a Greenfinch on a feeder right next to a hide, and a Pheasant underneath the feeders.
A Reed Bunting was singing on a cable in front of the hide.
It's really true what they say about British Robins being more friendly than their European counterparts. I have never got a photo of a Robin before, other than distant blurs. Yet I had about five Robins coming close enough whilst we were in England to get reasonable photos of them!
Even the Mallards are tamer.....
Swans with cygnets at the Borrow Pit, a freshwater pond near the estuary.
A view of the estuary later on when the tide was coming in.
At the other end of the scale we did things like this - went shopping! This was in John Lewis at Cribbs Causeway near Bristol - but we both decided that apart from John Lewis there wasn't anything here that there wasn't in Taunton, so not worth the extra travelling time. However I do like a wander around department stores as there are none in north west France (unless they have any in Nantes). Rennes has a small Galeries Lafayette in the centre of town but we'd have to go to Paris for a proper department store fix.
I got to eat at the all you can eat buffet at Pizza Hut. How I miss deep pan pizza!
Finally it was time to head home - driving into the bowels of the ship (Bretagne), behind a classic car of some sort? No I don't know what it is!
There was a delay leaving Portsmouth so I was able to get this sunset shot over the harbour.
And to finish off, a meal in the 'posh' restaurant of the Bretagne. Nice food but I'm not happy with the silly face I am pulling!
So that was Angleterre 2016. Soooo much better than going in the autumn! We really had a great time and staying put in one place for two weeks made a difference too, as we had time to do more things with less of a rush. I plan to go back in the autumn to see Mum as she is not well (breast cancer), but I'll go on my own and fly over.