Borough Market, London
England was a country of market towns where people sold, bartered or traded their wares. Most cities had a central square where the markets were held. This was central to daily life and a necessity in order to survive. Many towns and cities in the UK still have market days once or more each week and these are normally held in the town or market square. Despite having supermarkets these days, people still throng to markets. This is where you can still get household goods at a reasonable price as well as fresh local food of all sorts. Vendors come from the Continent to some markets in England and these products are well loved.
In a large metropolis such as London, there are markets in many areas of the city. Some specialise in a certain product such as the Columbia Road Flower Market. Many run along the streets and others are held under cover of a building. Some markets are well known such as Borough Market which is known for its wide variety of food. The variety of cheese, breads, ethnic foods, meats, vegetables and everything in between is mind boggling. You could indeed spend many hours here. You can snack, find a spot to sit or take food home. A market was close by at the foot of London Bridge one thousand years ago but the Borough Market moved to its present site by Southwark Cathedral in 1756. Many restaurants have sprung up around it which has expanded the foodie vibe. It is now open 7 days a week. Another popular market is the Portobello Road Market in the Notting Hill area of London. It is known for antiques, silverware, leather and clothes. The market runs along the street and there are indoor shops there as well. There are always food stalls and many ethnic food stands are at the top of the Portobello Road. The amount of people walking up to and along Portobello Road is often quite astonishing, The market itself is not there on Sundays but the shops along the street are open. Another large London market is Camden Market which runs along the Grand Union Canal. It can be reached by 3 metro stops. It covers a very large area. This market has a cross section of food, clothes, and collectibles and is open 7 days a week. All of these markets are crowded on Saturdays and are a joy to be part of. Other notable markets are Old Spitalfields (under cover with lots of clothes, food, books, gifts and designers), Covent Garden ( under cover with homewares, restaurants, jewellery, and often musicians from the Royal Opera House singing), and Greenwich (150 outside stalls on weekends - mostly artisans).
In smaller cities you will often hear a cockney accented individual calling out their wares. This makes going to a market in a small town just as much an experience as being part of a large mass of people experiencing the wonders of what a large market has to offer. If you haven't been to a market, make it part of your next journey to the UK.
Summer is a great time to think about an adventure in Wales and particularly on the Pembrokeshire Coast. Here you can walk the 186 mile Pembrokeshire Coastal Path or sections of it, enjoy any of the 58 beaches, learn about the history of the castles along the way or visit one of the quaint towns and villages. And the scenery is spectacular!
I started my visit in the medieval town of Tenby. Complete with castle ruins and 13th Century walls, this ancient fishing village is now a tourist hub. There are long sandy beaches on both sides of the town and there are lots of very good restaurants. I enjoyed an excellent evening meal every night that I was there!
My friend and I took a bus from Tenby centre up the coast to Manorbier which boasts a castle and an old church above the very popular beach there. You can pay to see the castle in its entirety or enter the grounds to eat at the cafe. It was such a treat to have a snack inside the castle grounds and the food is very tasty too!
We chose to walk in the direction of Tenby which was on Manorbier's left side. This section is on the southern part of the trail and has some of the most picturesque scenery on the entire path. Some of the more famous sites along this route are Church Door Cove, Sprinkle Haven and Proud Giltar Blowhole. The trail wound along the tops of some very steep cliffs at times but just had a few steep ups and downs. You pass by a Ministry of Defence Rifle Range but it wasn't in use the day we were there. The temperature was perfect and there was no wind! It is always wonderful to find a cafe for a break and past Lydstep is a sign that a farm shop and cafe is just 300 feet off the trail so off we went to find it! If you want to stop your walk here, there is a bus stop just 100 feet up the road.
Pembrokeshire has many other castles. We chose to go to the city of Pembroke to see its grand castle. There we were inspired by the excellent tour guide who was very theatrical and painted the history of the castle with aplomb. In the castle courtyard is a map of Wales and on it are placed all the castles in Wales and these are colour coded as to their origins. Many of the castles were build by the Normans who came to Wales soon after the Norman conquest of 1066. They visited and left only to come back later to conquer the lands. Castles, which before this time were not known in Wales, were ordered to be built at this time. Pembroke Castle was started by Arnulf de Montgomery in 1093 who built a bailey and a few years later the people inside the castle withstood a long siege despite being close to starvation. The castle was enlarged by William Marshall, son in law of Strongbow. Both of these names are well known in Welsh history and these men have connections to other castles Wales. Pembroke Castle was built over a cavern and this past two summers, archeologists have been busy digging up bones and flints which date back 10,000 years. A bone, which may be from a wooly mammoth, has been sent away for testing. The archeological team is very excited about this find.
My sojourn in Wales was by no means long enough. I plan to return to walk another section of the coastal path and explore more of this beautiful area. I hope that you will plan a journey here too!
The photo above is of Tenby.
The two photos below are:
Top: Manorbier Beach and Castle
Bottom: Pembroke Castle's inner courtyard and the map of Wales
The UK is a country full of great walks. One of the most popular is the walk along Hadrian’s Wall.
When walking in the countryside one has to go by the Country Code. Basically this means that you leave gates and property as they were found and that you take your litter out with you. It is imperative that dogs are under close control as you will pass lots of farm animals en route. In the UK one has rights to cross private property. It is suggested that when walking Hadrian’s Wall path that you have respect for where you are walking and that you don’t walk on well worn sections and that you cross the wall only at recognized rights of way.
Hadrian’s Wall dates from AD 122 and there is an AD 122 bus that runs along the route. So this is an alternative way to see the wall if you don’t want to walk it or just take some time out from your walk.
Hadrian’s Wall is a remarkable monument from the time of Roman rule in Britain. The Romans wanted to protect the land to the south from the Barbarians in the North as there just weren’t enough military personnel to guard this area. There were already forts at Carlisle and Corbridge which were linked by a road. Other forts were established at Vindolanda and at Nether Denton. In AD 117 Hadrian decided to build a wall north of the Stanegate in the east as far as the new bridge Pons Aeluis across the Tyne and in the west beyond Carlisle to Bowness.
The height was probably 5 metres with milecastles at regular intervals and in between these a pair of turrets. Eleven more forts were built at 7 mile intervals. The wall was stone for about 43 modern miles but was often of turf. The base was initially 20 feet wide at the base. The width changed to 7.5 feet later probably due to practicality. At one point the limestone could not be dug through and the crags were left to act as the wall.
The walk now has parts of the ancient wall, some turrets, milecastles and temples along part of the route. As well you can discern where the ditches and vallums were dug alongside the wall that were used for protection. Close to the route various forts have been discovered and you can walk through the encampments where the Romans lived and view the items from their everyday life that have been found.
The wall runs from Bowness-on-Solway in the west to South Shields in the east. One can start at either end or just take in sections at a time.
You can spend a week or more walking the entirety of the wall and is you wish, you an engage a company to arrange your accommodation and to move your luggage as you go. Many people drive to certain sections or to the forts for a day out or a weekend getaway. Popular destinations along the route are the forts that have been discovered. These include Corbridge, Vindolanda, Great Chesters, Vercovicivm (Housesteads) and Birdoswald. Close to the Wall Lanercost Priory is a popular visitor’s spot. There is also the Roman Army Museum near Gilsland
A good place to see a section of the wall is at Heddon-on-the-Wall close to Houghton. The Brunton Turret is the best example of a turret that remains on the wall.
Some of the best scenery is at Housesteads. In this area can be found the often photographed Sycamore Gap.
A suggested walk would be to start from the Segedunem Fort at Wallsend just a short metro ride west of Newcastle. This fort has a viewing area and museum. There is a map of the Wall so is a great place to get an understanding and an overview of where you will be going.
Get a guide book that explains where to walk. The first day follows the bank of the Tyne River until you are away from Newcastle. It will be time to make it a day so I would suggest leaving the walk and heading west to Wylam for the night.
Get back to the Hadrian’s wall walk in the morning and head towards Heddon-on –the-Wall. This is the first substantial piece of wall since Wallsend. There will be much to see today. The Temple of Mithras and the best remains of a turret , The Brunton Turret are on this route. There are lots of remains of vallums and ditches. You can end your day in the village of Wall which is a bit off of the Hadrian’s Wall walk or you could choose to walk south to the fort at Corbridge first.
The third day is a long walking day but there is the best scenery and landscape including the most photographed site on the walk - the Sycamore Gap. You start the day passing Chesters Fort and a Roman bridge. There is the fort at Housesteads to see this day as before a well deserved rest at Twice Brewed or at the hostel next door where there is a brew pub.
For the fourth day there is lots to choose from. Firstly, the fort of Vindolanda is a mile or so from Twice Brewed. Then Great Chesters is on the walk today and the Roman Army Museum as well. The day ends at Gilsland. The fifth day has Birdoswald fort as a point of interest and a detour to Lanercost Priory for which stones from Hadrian’s Wall were taken to build it. Newtown can be the end of this day. The sixth day will take you to Carlisle. This is a short day – only about 4 hours. There is not much in terms of the Hadrian’s Wall to see on this section but it is very pleasant through fields and villages and is quite flat. It is strange to see a city again after not having seen too much civilization for a few days. Be sure to visit the castle and Cathedral there.
From Carlisle to Bowness it is about 14 ½ miles so it can be done in one day. You will see an entirely different landscape today as you view the Solway Firth. It is very flat for the most part but there is a steady climb up a hill at one point. You do see where a fort was at Drumburgh and the road passes Drumburgh castle which was really a fortified house. Part of the walk goes along where the vallum was. The walk ends at the sea.
My companions and I took the train to Newcastle where we spent the night at the Thistle County Hotel across from the train station. Other hotels were the Bistro En Glaze Guest House in Wylam, the Hadrian Hotel in Wall, Twice Brewed Inn, Bardon Mill, Hexham, The Samson Inn in Gisland, Orchard House in Newtown and Hallmark hotel in Carlisle.
The luggage was moved every day for us. Arrangements by Let’s Go Walking.
I would highly recommend this walk and do it with friends or family.
Spring in the UK means flowers starting first in the south of England. People's gardens are in bloom and all the countryside becomes green. People flock to parks, commons and green spaces. It is a joyous time of year.
There are festivals all over the UK in Spring from art, music and flower shows to sport and a plethora of things to take part in. National Trust properties offer festivities and other agencies such as Bletchley Park widen their availability of events.
This Spring is no exception. On April 16th, during Easter weekend, the Betfred World Snooker Championships begin in Sheffield at the Crucible. They continue until May 2nd. Other sporting events include the FA Cup Final on May 14th and the Women's FA Cup Final on May 15th (both at Wembley Stadium), The European Taekwondo Championships in Manchester from May19-22 and the FIH Hockey Pro League from May 21st until June 19th in London. The Betfred British Masters Golf tournament will take place at the Belfry in Sutton Coldfield from May 5th - 8th.
Art Festivals are popular around the UK. Two of these in May are Upfest in Bristol on May 28th and May 29th and the Norfolk/Norwich Festival from May 13th until May 29th. The Norfolk Festival takes place all around the area in public places.
Music Festivals this Spring include Cheltenham's Jazz Festival April 27th-May 2nd and Liverpool's Sound City from April 30th to May 1st. Salford's Day Festival Sounds from the Other City is on May 1st. The Bath Festival, a celebration of literature and music, runs from May 13-22nd.
An event celebrating history is the Jorvik Viking Festival in York. It takes place from May 28th until June 1st.
Hastings celebrates May Day at the traditional Jack in the Green festivities from April 30th until May 2nd.
Other types of Festivals include Padstow's ancient festival called Obby Oss on May 1st, Photo London at Somerset House in London from May 12-15th, the Plymouth Pirates Weekend (May 7th and 8th), and the Brighton Fringe and Festival from May 6th which lasts for 3 weeks.
Long running festivals include Tom Kerridge's Pub in the Park on selected dates from May 12th - Sept 18th which is a national foodie festival and the Birmingham Festival which runs from the end of May until October 31st.
A famous but long lasting unusual tradition is the Cooper's' Hill chase of the Double Gloucester cheese wheels down a hill. You can participate or watch this event.
When it comes to flowers, the UK's most famous flower show, THE RHS Chelsea Flower Show, takes place this year from May 24-28th. Anyone who enjoys looking at gardens or creating them will enjoy this event. Last year it took place in September due to the pandemic and it was attended by so many with so much enthusiasm after not taking place since 2019.
In Scotland there is Bonfest near Dundee at Kirrriemuir. Go to Bonfest.com for information re: tickets and camping options for the weekend of April 29-May 1st, 2022.
In Northern Ireland in North Antrim at Ballycastle, the locals expect to have the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival at the end of May each year. The dates have yet to be announced for 2022. Events are for boating enthusiasts as there is a sailing regatta, curragh racing, and Tall ships and Viking ships to see. There is always lots to tempt foodies on the shore.
Go to one of these events, walk in the outdoors or just enjoy new blooms as you are out and about this Spring!
Above: Belfast City Hall
As we have just passed the Hallowe'en and All Saints Day celebrations, this is an ideal time to discuss haunted Britain.
The UK has the most visitors of anywhere in the world in normal times (other than a pandemic such as in 2020). People go to see the historical sights that are part of our shared cultural heritage, to get that old world feeling and to visit those places which have an old world charm. The small villages are quaint and cozy and the countryside is uniquely beautiful.
The reality of the past is much different. There was much poverty, dirt and disease coupled with brutal murders, tortures and other grisly deaths. For these reasons, it was thought that many people would have unfinished business on the earth that they left behind due to sudden and unforeseen ends to their lives. The ghosts of these people are thought to continue to roam around the place where they were killed or was a special spot for them.
There are an abundance of places in the UK that are famous for ghost sightings today. I will discuss some of these below.
From people being murdered and sold to the medical school for experimentation to a very sordid past in a poverty stricken and disease filled area, Edinburgh has the ingredients for an infatuation with all things ghostly. There is also THE CASTLE on THE ROCK where people have lived since 850 AD (photo above). There have been wars fought there such as the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th Century and the Jacobite Rising in 1745. It has the reputation as the most besieged castle in Great Britain. Not surprisingly there are reports of being touched or pushed, sudden cold temperatures, the feelings of unseen beings being present, and apparitions being seen by staff and visitors alike. Another popular tourist attraction in Edinburgh is the ghost walk through the vaults where there were at first businesses but later these were taken over by very disreputable people and even body snatchers. You can even spend the night from midnight to dawn Thursday to Saturday nights during the Edinburgh Festival in August each year. Tourists have reported seeing or feeling strange activity in these underground caves.
Other places in Scotland include:
-In Glasgow at the Necropolis, there is still a rumour today that a vampire killed and ate two local boys. It is known as the Gorbal's vampire. This rumour comes from the 1950's when hundreds of children, armed with knives and sticks, were patrolling the graveyard after saying they heard the vampire
-At Crathes Castle there have been reports of the sighting of a green lady. This was even reported by Queen Victoria.
-St Andrew's Cathedral is haunted by two ghosts. One is a friendly monk who is seen on the stairs and the second is a beautiful lady in white. There have been reported sightings of her for over 200 years.
-At the field of Culloden, where the massacre of the Jacobites occurred, there are reports of cries, sword clashes and gunfire as well as a Highlander who is said to be heard saying 'defeated.'
-There have been many sightings of ghost figures at the Skaill House on the Orkneys which was built on a Pictish burial ground.
There are sightings at various spots in Wales, notably at Inns, small towns and castles such as the following:
-The Skirrid Mountain Inn in Monmouthshire is said to have been a court where 180 criminals were found guilty and hanged many years ago. The Inn sees ghostly visitors.
-The Newton House in Carmarthenshire was built in Medieval times on a site which has been known to have people on it for 2000 years. There was a murder here of Lady Cavendish who was strangled by a suitor. Films have been made here and a cameraman once felt an invisible pair of hands squeezing his throat in the very room where the murder is said to have happened. There have also been reports of lights switching on and off, muffled voices, cold spots and cigar smoke when no one was smoking.
-The Town Inn in Llanrhidian has had reports of the ghost of a coachman sitting in his favourite spot at a table ear the front window.
-In Rhossili, a small village in the Gower Peninsula, a mysterious couple in Edwardian dress is seen walking around. A phantom is also seen galloping across the sand who is said to be the spirit of Rev John Lucas who lived in the area long ago. In the rectory, an overnight visitor felt a sudden chill, heard footsteps and a mocking voice saying 'Why don't you turn around and look at me?'
-At Swansea Castle, there are sightings of a woman in blue.
-In Pennard Castle a shrieking banshee is frequently seen in the ruins there.
The Irish are well known for their beliefs in visits from people from their past and messages being sent from the beyond. Their stories and songs often feature ghosts and banshees.
One spot to visit is at Springhill in Londonderry where the ghost of Olivia roams a house where she died. She loved children and during the day her ghost can be often seen standing on the stairs and strange knocking noises are heard coming from the nursery.
There is SOOOOO much history in England and as such there are many places known for visits by past residents or those who suffered violent deaths. They are in many of the counties such as the following:
Pendle Hill at Lancaster Castle is a Hallowe'en spot due to the renowned 12 Pendle Witches who were hanged there in 1612.
Berry Pomeroy Castle is said to be the most haunted castle in Britain. There is said to be a blue lady who lures people and a white lady who haunts the dungeons.
At Buckland Abbey, Sir Francis Drake's ghost has been seen.
The blue boy is the famous ghost who haunts the Pink Room in the Chillingham Castle.
In the village of Pluckley, which has the reputation of being the most haunted village in Britain (according to the Guinness Book of Records), there have been 12 reported ghosts. Some of these reported ghosts are a highwayman, a phantom of an old woman and that of a school master.
At the Vyne, a National Trust property, there have been lots of stories from staff about hearing a man's voice and footsteps. One volunteer said that she was pushed. A mysterious woman in grey has been seen in the chapel.
Strange apparitions have been seen in Dunster Castle which include a man in green walking through and then disappears without a trace.
Anne Boleyn, who is thought to have been born at Blicking Hall, is said to appear headless every year on the anniversary of her death (May 19).
There is said to be a phantom in the library at Felbrigg Hall.
At Corfe Castle, Edward the Martyr was murdered on the order of his step-mother. Also there were 22 French prisoners starved to death in the prison there. It is said that a headless woman in white, who betrayed a royalist family who were living there, stalks the halls.
Borley Rectory is said to be the most haunted mansion in Britain. There are ghost stories about this place that stretch over 100 years. Apparitions are seen around the grounds as well.
Ham House is a really haunted mansion. In the 17th century, the occupant of the house, Elizabeth Murray Maitland, played both sides of the political divide, being friends with both Cromwell and Charles the second. She and her second husband lived there. People who volunteer at this National Trust property talk about an oppressed atmosphere on the main floor and a woman in black screaming from time to time.
The Treasurer's House in York is said to be haunted by ghosts of soldiers. A few years ago, a man was installing a central heating boiler and heard a sound of a trumpet and saw the top of a soldier's helmet emerging from the wall. He leapt from his ladder and then saw a horse and 20 soldiers going 2 x 2 carrying lances, round shields and swords. A curator said "Oh you have seen the Romans." It was found that there was a Roman road in the 4th Century under where the treasurer's house is. There was a dispute as the Romans were thought to have square shields but it was found that in the 4th Century, the Roman shields were round.
1. Highgate Cemetery
From the 1970's until 2013 there are reports of a Victorian dressed man floating through the park.
2. Hampton Court Palace
Catherine Howard and Jane Seymour, two of Henry the 8th's wives who died in the palace, are said to be seen walking in the courtyard and walking with a candle.
As you can see there are so many interesting places to visit if you are looking for a haunted place.
When we all can go travelling again these fabulous places can be visited
At the moment, people are looking for what to do at home during unexpected free time or during their holiday leave this year.
Being outdoors is safe so why not GO WALKING!
Walking is a great national past time for Brits. There are trails everywhere so one is spoiled for choice!
There is so much history around the UK that you can walk following historic paths or you might just happen upon places of historic interest.
There are National Trails, National Parks, National Forests and Coastal paths. You can go for an afternoon or for a week or longer if you wish.
National Trails include the Hadrians Wall Path which has its own Post on this site already. There are many more National trails to choose from including the Yorkshire Wolds Way, The Cotswold Way, the Thames Path and the South Downs Way. Other National trails are also Coastal trails such as the South West Coast Path, the Pembroke Coast Path and the Causeway Coast Way.
Other Coast Paths include the Norfolk Coast Path, the Northumberland Coast Path, the Cumbria Coastal Way, the Fife Coastal Path, the Pembroke Coast Path, St Oswalds Way, the Somerset Coast Path, the Hebridean Way and the Solent Way. Jersey has its Coast Path as do the Isles of Scilly.
Some paths are along canals such as the Oxford Canal trail or the Grand Union Canal walk.
You can follow paths named after writers such as the Coleridge Way, Heriot Way or Shakespeares Way. Some are after Saints such as St Cuthberts Way or Saints Way. These are all Moorland or Countryside walks. Others in this category include Dartmoor Way, Jubilee Trail, Leland Trail, Two Moors Way, White Horse Trail, Peddars Way, Pilgrims Way, Richmond Way, Tarka Trail and Yorkshire Wolds Way.
There are some very popular walks such as the Rob Roy Way, the Great Glen Way, the Loch Ness Circular and the West Highland Way in Scotland. In Wales, Glyndwr's Way, the Wye Valley Walk, the Severn Way and the Offas Dyke path are classic walks.
There are certain areas that some people go to just for the walking. These include the Lake District and the Peak District. Both of these are National Parks.
For a National Forest Walk, try the National Forest Way which is north west of Leicester and north east of Birmingham. It is a 12 stage 75 mile walk.
You can go to a site such as LetsGoWalking.com to get further inspiration. They will organize a walking holiday for you if you so desire.
There are mountains to climb too. These will be featured on another blog post.
Until then, Happy Walking!
Mother's Day takes place in the UK and Ireland on the fourth Sunday in Lent which usually falls in March. In other parts of the world such as in the United States and Canada, it falls in May.
The history of Mother's Day in the UK is somewhat different. It was initially Mothering Sunday which related to a person's "Mother Church." The tradition of returning home to your Mother Church (the church in which you were baptized) started in the 16th Century and was strictly a religious tradition and had nothing to do with mothers. The return home to the Mother Church was known as 'going a-mothering.' This was an event to look forward to as many workers such as domestic servants had few holidays. But on this day, they were given the day off to return to their mother church where they would visit family as well. This would have often been one of the only times of the year for many to have had the opportunity to do so.
Traditionally, a Sinnel Cake was baked on Mothering Sunday. This cake is a rich fruit cake with layers of marzipan. To keep to the religious purpose of the event, the cake usually has 11 balls of marzipan on top that represent the disciples of Jesus minus Judas. At the earliest time of this tradition, around the year 1600, sweet buns topped with 'hundreds and thousands' called Sunday buns were served in much of England whereas in northern England and Scotland a pancake made from steeped peas fried in butter were served.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Mothering Sunday was no longer observed. A daughter of a vicar, Constance Penswick-Smith, thought this to be a shame and worked hard at restoring the tradition. She wrote a book on the subject and founded a society with the aim of bringing it back.
She was helped in this regard by an American Anna Jarvis who wanted to create a formal Mother's Day in the USA. UK merchants saw the benefit of this and promoted the idea. By the 1950's 'Mother's Day' was celebrated across the UK but at the same time as Mothering Sunday had been - the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Today families still get together to celebrate mothers and grandmothers. Cards, flowers and chocolates are commonly given to show appreciation and a hearty Sunday roast lunch is widely eaten by many.
In 1938 the British Government quietly bought a Victorian mansion built in 1883 complete with 58 acres of grounds. The best mathematicians came here and most notably Alan Turing. Initially there were only 200 workers but these numbers steadily increased following All Turing's plea directly to Winston Churchill in 1941. Churchill immediately asked that they get all the resources they needed. As well as better equipment, many outbuildings called Huts were added to the grounds to accommodate increasing staff and operations.
The workers were primarily women and included those with excellent chess and crossword puzzle skills. The staff worked around the clock. For the most part they did not know what the purpose of their work was. However they were all sworn to secrecy to such an extent that a couple, who both received an invitation to a reunion at Bletchley Park about 50 years later, had not told each other that they had worked there until after receiving the invitation. All information was classified until the 1970's. It was only after Frederick William Winterbotham received permission to publish his memoir 'The Ultra Secret' that the public finally knew what went on there.
During the war, when employees increased to 9000 in 1944, the local residents must have wondered what their work was. They knew it was for the war effort. There wasn't room at Bletchley Park to house everyone and many lived in neighbouring properties. The employees did go to church and to dances in the area on days off. One woman's remembrances was of changing from her work clothes into 'glad rags' in a barn between Bletchley Park and the hall where the dance was.
Work at Bletchley Park was monotonous for many and some became exhausted and/or depressed. One former employee spoke of becoming ill and being put to bed where she slept for days. She had wanted to quit but that gave her a boost. It was cold in the winter and too hot in the summer in the huts. Nearly everyone smoked during the war and the smoke hung in the air, particularly in winter, making some employees ill.
The administration knew that the work was having a negative affect on some employees' mental health and met to make a plan of how to improve things. A social committee of sorts was formed and the employees became involved making their own fun including putting on plays. The brochures for the theatrical events can be seen at Bletchley Park today.
What was going on was decrypting of German codes so thus their intelligence. The codebreaking operations led to the building of code breaking machines called Bombes. An early electronic computer, Colussus, was constructed in 1944. Alan Turing was in Hut 8 when he and his associates solved Enigma. British intelligence has said that the work at Bletchley Park shortened the war by 2-4 years.
The decoders worked on patterns to decipher the German intelligence. Initially this was done with pencil on paper. EVERY DAY there was a new code. The staff were helped in this by knowing, for example, that each piece of intelligence ended with Heil Hitler. At one point the decoding method changed and Bletchley Park staff were unable to figure out the decoding. Luckily, within a short time period, a German in their armed forces happened to be caught who had information on his person which showed the staff what the new pattern was.
The staff also decoded Japanese. The Japanese were allies with the Germans. Some staff knew some Japanese and others studied it. A letter was intercepted that had been written by a prominent Japanese man who had met with Hitler. This letter outlined the plans of the Third Reich and this letter was decoded In full. This was prior to the planned D-Day landings and this letter confirmed what the allies thought - that Hitler believed that they would land much further north than where they were planning to. The D- Day landings set the course for the downfall of Hitler and the Third Reich and the end of World War Two.
The Post Office took over Bletchley Park after the war and it was used as a management school. By 1990 the huts were being considered for demolition but a Bletchley Park Trust was formed in 1991.
Bletchley Park is open to the public now. There has been a renaissance in recent years - possibly since the movie about Alan Turing featuring Bletchley Park (The Imitation Game) that came out in 2014 featuring Benjamin Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly. The huts have been restored and you can see how they decoded and you can have a go yourself. Bletchley House features different exhibits which follow the history of Bletchley Park, the operations and the people who worked there.
Bletchley Park has family events over school holidays and other special days such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. In 2020, the 1st May Bank holiday has been moved back one week to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Bletchley Park will be celebrating with a special themed weekend.
And there are afternoon teas at Bletchley Park some Friday-Mondays and there is always an open cafe.
Getting there by public transport is easy. The train station is just across the street.
If you have hot been to Bletchley Park, consider going. It is a very interesting day out for the whole family. Go to their website for information about all of their programs and entrance fees. One thing that I don't see on their website is that there is a reduced entrance fee when coming on the train. Consider not buying a ticket on line if going on the train as you will save on the entrance fee at the door.
The website is bletchleypark.org.uk. There you will find interesting podcasts as well. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter
German like Christmas markets have become more and more popular and more and more plentiful in the UK. In London alone, there are new ones every year. The market at Hyde Park is still the number one site to visit. Unlike most markets this one includes a skating rink. There is also an observation wheel and circus shows as well as a huge Christmas market selling a variety of things including wooden toys and hot chocolate. Usually there is a carousel and of course Santa's grotto.
Kingston in south west London has had a Christmas market for a number of years. Buy a bratwurst and a mulled wine and then you can wander around the town. Being from North America this was great as where I come from, you have to stay in a fenced in area when you consume alcohol.
Christmas markets have sprung up on London's Southbank, beside London Bridge in the City and at Leicester Square. At Leicester Square, as well as the traditional stalls selling hand made goods and Santa's grotto, there are a lot of activities including shows for adults and children. Children can make a radio show, attend a dance workshop or direct their first play! There is stage box and Shlomo's Beatbox Adventure of Kids as well.
Throughout England, there have been terrific Christmas markets for years in Bath and Birmingham. There you can purchase typical German Christmas ornaments such as hand painted carousel that turn around by the candles in them. Other markets that are well worth going to are in Manchester, Winchester, Portsmouth, Lincoln, York, Rochester, Norwich, Skipton, Padstow, Leeds and Stratford-upon-Avon. Rochester also has a Dickensian Christmas Festival during December where people dress up in Victorian dress and do carolling.
Some of the markets are open for just a few days (as the one in Portsmouth) and some from a date in November until just before Christmas or into January.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all take part in this newish Christmas tradition. Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Inverness all have markets but the one in Inverness is just for a few days whereas Aberdeen's runs from November 21st until December 31st. Cardiff's Christmas markets runs until December 23rd but Llandudno's finished already (November 14-17). Swansea's also runs until January 5th. Belfast enjoys in the festivities until December 22nd. They have French crepes, Dutch pancakes, Belgian chocolates and exotic burgers! At Portstewart, there are handicrafts to view and buy. The market here runs until December 19th. Dromore's Christmas Wonderland ends on December 12th. There are various other markets that are just for a day or two throughout the season.
The Christmas markets are free to go into and go along way in making dreary November and December a cheerful season! Enjoy the food, go on some rides, and buy a few handicrafts. It is such a fun activity for one and all. Happy Christmas!