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Wet, Wonderful, Wales

Wow, what a holiday! Tim and I have been in Wales for the past three weeks with his parents caravan (thankfully!) and what an amazing time!!

I meant to write up blog posts on Tim’s laptop while we were there, but of course, I never seemed to find time, so here’s what you will get glimpses of in the coming weeks…

~Multiple visits to the Talyllyn Railway and Llechfan Garden Railway….including Have-A-Go where I drove a steam train!

~Massive walks…Dolgoch Falls. Nant Gwenol and Dolgellau to Barmouth

~Vale of Rheidol (still too wet to do Devil’s Bridge!)

~The Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railway….NINE HOURS of travel by steam!!

~Welsh place names with no vowels

~Machynlleth Market, Aberystwyth, Portmeirion, Harlech Castle

~LLangolen Railway, Bala Lake Railway, Llanberis Lake Railway, Fairbourne Railway

~Snowdon Mountain Railway

and much, much more!!

I personally have over 2500 photos to go through, who knows how many videos, and whatever Tim has that he wants me to publish…

This could take a while!!!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Computer on the Fritz!

Our desktop is on the fritz for sure, and we aren’t sure what’s wrong with it. On Thursday I got up to get a cup of tea and when I got back to the desk, the monitor was displaying loads of funky colours and the computer appeared to be frozen. So, I hit the power button to restart. I did this about three times and finally I got to Windows Recovery. Followed a half an hour later by a message that Windows could not recover itself and the recommendation was to restore from a previous auto-backup. I didn’t want to do this, since Tim had just moved all his Wales photos onto the computer and I was worried the auto-backup would be from before the transfer, so I started downloading Knoppix on my laptop to make a DVD so I could pull the files off onto an external like I had to do in 2009 when we came home from a weekend away to a broken computer.

My laptop has recently been reformatted and fixed, so it doesn’t have any of my files on it. I wanted a file off my external, so I unplugged it from the desktop and on a whim, restared. The computer started up, and my friend falnfenix advised to always unplug the external before a reboot. Even though the problem had never happened before, it appeared as though the desktop had been trying to boot from the external, which of course doesn’t have an OS.

Problem solved, right? Uhm, no. We were away for most of the weekend staying with N and P at their place and doing various things (shopping for their new addition to the family, celebrating birthdays, taking the girls out for the bank holiday). We were home on Sunday, and the computer acted up once, so we restarted it right before we walked out the door and it hadn’t fully loaded by the time we were ready to leave so we just left it on.

When we got back yesterday evening, it was to a colourful screenful again. We attempted to restart several times with no luck, but at one point we discovered that Windows was in fact still loading (we heard the start up music), so the problem wasn’t with the OS. Next thought was the cables to the monitor were loose, so Tim unplugged, re-plugged, and jiggled things around. Still nothing. We were just trying to decide what we wanted to do and suddenly the problem was fixed. Again.

It didn’t last long.

So now we’re stuck. It’s either the monitor that’s gone or the video card, but either way it will involve a trip to a shop and it’s not something that will happen soon as Tim’s just started his round of late shift with on-call and doesn’t switch to the early shift until Thursday next week. We just aren’t organized enough to get out in the morning before his shift starts!

So I’m on the laptop for now. I have my Wales photos on my external, but I don’t have photoshop on my laptop (I’m not even sure if my laptop can handle photoshop) and I can’t watermark anything, so I probably won’t be posting any more photos until I either get photoshop sorted or get the desktop sorted.

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Wales Photographic Preview

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Welcome to Wales. Our vowels are A,E,I,O,U,Y, and sometimes W

And, we’re back! I have loads of photos to sort through (over 1000 of my own, not counting Tim’s or the video) before I can really start posting, but I thought I’d post quickly to say that we’re back and mention a few things.

Welsh Language
You would think that with all the time I spend in Wales, I’d be picking up Welsh, but no. Though I can tell you that a microwave is called a Popty Ping (a word Tim and I want to start using at home). And some of the place names looked like they had no vowels due to Y and W. Even the town we were staying in, Caersws, isn’t pronounced anything like how it looks. For one thing, the second R is silent. And the WS makes an “oo” sound.

Camping
Camping was great. We stayed at Maesmawr Farms, a small family-run camping site in Caersws. We used our large Halford’s tent again this year, but we’re wondering how many more years it will be good for as it started to fade a lot in colour this week. But I think I can get some spray to re-waterproof it and re-sunproof it. The campsite was great, and I’ll write a full review of it later.

Railways
We visited a lot more railways than we probably should have. We actually re-visited three of the railways twice because of bad weather the first time we rode them or because we had plans to do them with different people, but it all worked out. I had more fun on the trains than I would have walking around castles getting soaked.

Weather
It’s Wales. It rained. A lot. Apparently I slept through a really bad thunderstorm on our last night, too. Most of the rain during the day was all light drizzle, but we did have a major downpour on the one day which left us soaked from the hip down, including squelching trainers (US: Sneakers). Most of the rain kept to night time, which made me need the loo about 5 times each night. The nights it didn’t rain were a lot colder than the nights it did.

Friends and Family
We spent part of our holiday with friends and family. For the first three days, Tim’s brother and his girlfriend were camping with us in the in-laws caravan. We had the rest of the week to ourselves, and then met up with Helen and Mark on the first Saturday.

Unfortunately, while we were away, Tim’s best mate’s dad passed away and we got a call asking if we could come to the service. So we did. 11 hours of travel in a single day because we first had to take the train up to Lincoln to pick up appropriate clothing (we debated buying new things for the funeral, but in the end it would have been expensive). We were home for 2 hours and then got back on the train down to Brighton. On Wednesday after the service we took the train from Brighton back to Wales, where we kept our tent and car sitting while we were away. In the end, while it took two days away from our holiday, we were glad we went.

Welsh Wildlife
…and farm life. Our campsite was on a working farm, so there were sheep grazing in the next field over. We never saw them, but we could hear them at night. We also had to stop in the middle of the road for a few sheep that had escaped and were trying to cross the road! From the various trains, I also saw sheep being herded by sheepdogs and shepherd’s riding quad-bikes. Pretty interesting things. In other wildlife, Tim saw a badger for the first time ever, we watched loads of Red Kites hunting for food (even have brief video), and on our last night, we were treated to a dance by two bats swopping just inches away from our heads!

And that about sums things up for now. I will be writing more detailed posts later, as time permits and after I sort through my photos. You might catch photos on facebook and video on youtube before I get to the posts about things!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Annual Camping Trip

So we’re off soon for our annual camping trip — this time, it’s two weeks in Wales. I’m working on Tim to see if we can book in a day trip to Dublin, too. Maybe. I found that as foot passengers on Stena, it would only be £58 for the two of us, but it involves a really late ferry back to Holyhead and then an even later time getting back to the campsite which would potentially shatter us for the following day and we might lose a day, so it’s still in the air. If the ferry back were earlier, it’d be no problem. So we’ll see.

We really wanted to go back to Austria or Germany, but with my visa in December due, we felt it was more affordable to stay in the UK. A bit disappointing, but we’ll still have fun. Hopefully next Summer we can plan for camping in Austria or Germany, when we don’t have visa fees dangling over my head (only citizenship fees, but I can apply for citizenship anytime after three years of residency, so if I can’t do it right away in January 2013 it doesn’t affect anything as my permanent residency is valid forever…technically, I don’t need citizenship if I don’t want. (but I do want!)).

Not a thing is packed. I feel like this holiday has completely creeped up on us unaware, even though that isn’t the case. It’s been on the calendar since January and we have had our plans in place since about March….we’ve just both been really busy lately and so now it’s all of a sudden “we leave soon!”. eek.

Fortunately, I still have plenty of time, but I hate when I’m not prepared!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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2010 in Review

Sitting down to do a 2010 review seems so weird….didn’t the year only just start? But then, when I look back on things…wow, January 2010 was so long ago!

We’ll start the year out on December 31, 2009. Tim and I were waiting on my spousal visa to be approved, and I received one of the most important phone calls of my life shortly before midnight GMT. We had been approved and my visa was on it’s way to me! My boxes had already been shipped, so the next three weeks were filled with me trying to pack my remaining suitcases, visit places “one last time”, and see as much of my family as I could. I left the US on January 21, 2010 and entered the UK on January 22. The immigration officer asked me nothing beyond “Where is your husband?” when I went through immigration. He stamped my passport and said “Welcome home, Mrs. Lockley”.

Tim picked me up, and we headed to the hotel he had booked for the previous night. Since my plane was getting in at 6 in the morning, Tim went down the night before, and we had decided he would pick me up and we would go back to the hotel to get more sleep, stay the night again, and begin our trip back home on the 23rd. I remember bits and pieces of the hotel stay. I remember watching an episode of Doctor Who on BBC3 while we sipped champagne and celebrated finally being together.

Tim went back to work and I busied myself unpacking my suitcases and getting things ready for our late Christmas celebration. On the 28th, we had Tim’s parents and sister over to celebrate Christmas…complete with putting up the tree!

My boxes finally arrived in February and it took me a while to get them all emptied….I finally emptied the last book box on our anniversary in November! Tim’s aunt found a local chorus for me to get involved in, and I started volunteering once a week at the Cancer Research UK shop on the high street. I was starting to get myself established!

March was fairly uneventful. Tim had a week of leave and we decided to stay at home and began working on our garden – we were going to try our hand at growing our own vegetables this year. We also began work on extending the garden railway…a project that had a deadline of August 31! I adopted the area under the lilac tree as “mine” and began clearing it of weeds. I soon discovered that there is something wrong with the soil under the tree, as nothing appears to want to grow on the sunny side. 🙁 Oh well, Rock garden for next year!

In April, we held our reception for Tim’s family and our friends in the UK. My mom flew over for it, and he trip was only supposed to be a short one….but due to volcanic ash, we wound up with an extra week!

May brought my first choral competition with Lincoln Sounds…and we came home with a Bronze medal and the highest score the chorus had ever gotten! What a fantastic introduction to the competition.

June and July were both quiet months. Mostly filled with more gardening and garden railway building.

in August, I went with my friend Helen and her son, Mark, to Wales for a week. We spent the week visiting castles and railways, and I had a great time. I loved Wales, and loved being near mountains. The end of August brought my birthday and Tim’s birthday. Tim was hitting a milestone this year, so we decided to have a party and officially open the upper circuit of the garden railway.

September was our big holiday. Honeymoon part 2. Tim had wanted to take me to Germany and Austria for our honeymoon, but it wasn’t going to work out right after we got married, so we decided to take the trip when Tim had his two weeks off. We spent our time camping in Zell am Ziller and Nußdorf, making day trips to castles and railways and Tim took me to see “my castle” – Neuschwanstein. We had a great trip. Blog posts about it are coming, I promise!

in October, I took the train down to Southampton to visit a friend I hadn’t seen since college. We re-connected through Facebook and I found out she had also married a British man and was living in the UK, and she invited me to come for a visit. We had a great time. It was really nice to be around someone who I have known for so long and to catch up with her. We have plans to get together sometime soon.

November marked our one year wedding anniversary and we celebrated it by attending the fireworks at the showgrounds. We also celebrated Thanksgiving and I cooked a full Thanksgiving meal for Tim and my in-laws.

Which brings us to the most recent month past, December. I spent most of the beginning of the month preparing and cleaning because my mom arrived on the 16th! Our plans for Christmas involved going over to Tim’s parents house, so I cooked my Christmas dinner on the 23rd. Unfortunately, my MIL wasn’t feeling well and on the 24th decided to cancel dinner at hers and rescheduled it for the 26th. Tim and I had to brave Tesco on Christmas Eve to get all the fixings for our dinner. I didn’t cook a turkey, but we made do with a nice roast chicken. Mom left on the 30th, and Tim and I watched DVDs last night and flipped to BBC1 about one minute before 12….and went to bed shortly after the fireworks.

Bring on 2011!

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Last Day in Wales: Ffestiniog Railway

The last train we visited in Wales was the Ffestiniog Railway in Porthmadog.

The Ffestiniog Railway runs for 13 and a half miles from Porthmadog to Blaenau Festiniog, where it meets the standard gauge lines of the national rail network. The Ffestiniog is gorgeous; the train winds around spirals, horseshoes, and tunnels,and climbs over 700 feet along the way.

The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest railway in the world and was created by an Act of Parliament in 1832, however it has not been in continuous service the entire time. Traffic on the line ceased in 1946, and it wasn’t revived until 1954. In 1990 the railway became involved in reviving another local railway – The Welsh Highland Railway. Plans were to connect the two railways in 2010, and while we saw the completed connection on our visit, they were unable to run trains at that time. They have since opened the connection, and this past weekend was it’s first weekend in service!

We still managed to experience a first, though. I was taking photos of the shiny, black engine bringing in the passenger cars and I was curious as to why it did not have a name plate, so I texted my husband. He was quick on the response and wrote back “I’m jealous, that’s their new engine”. The engine would come to be known as Lyd, but we were watching the engine’s FIRST EVER APPEARANCE on the Ffestiniog. It was being run in and tested, but would not be pulling out train. Instead, we rode behind Blanche, whose sister engine shares my mom’s name.

The ride was fantastic. Despite the chill in the air and the drizzle, I rode in the open car so I could stick my head out and take photos. Boy, was it cold! I was glad I had brought along gloves and a scarf. I wish I had remembered the tunnels before I picked the open car, though – inhaling the smoke wasn’t very pleasant!

We decided to explore Blaenau Festiniog, but it was a very small town and there wasn’t much to do. Once again, we managed to find a small hole in the wall tea house to have some Lunch before heading back to the station….where to my great joy, we got to go behind one of the double fairlies!

I love the double fairlies. They are incredible machines with TWO boilers that meet in the middle with two separate smokeboxes – one facing forward and one facing backwards. At first glance, you might even think that there are two locomotives back-to-back instead of it being just one. I spent most of the return trip with the camera out the window trying to catch the engine.

Unfortunately, it started to pour once we got back to Porthmadog. Helen and Mark wanted to explore the shops of the town, but since I was carrying Tim’s rather expensive camera I chose to spend my time reading in a cafe. We returned to our camp site later that evening and began packing for our trip back to Lincoln the following morning.

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A Day on the Welshpool and Llanfair

…And we’re back to the Wales posts. Followed by the Austria Posts. And a bunch of other posts I need to make….

Wednesday was a fantastic day for all of us. A friend of ours from the 16mm crowd, Dave, volunteers as an engine driver on the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway, so we decided to time our visit with when he was volunteering so we could get to ride behind a train he was driving. An extra added bonus was Dave offering to take all three of us on a tour of the “behind the scenes” (behind the steam?) areas after his last train for the day – disposing the engine, a walk down the track, and a glimpse in the workshop and engine shed! Dave even took us each up into the cab to show us what it looked like and gave Mark a short cab ride.

For me, it was the second time being in the cab of a narrow gauge engine while it was actually steaming (and not in a museum setting!), but it was still exciting. I know Helen and Mark enjoyed their turns as well.

We arrived at Llanfair station quite early. Dave was driving the second train of the day, and we timed our arrival for right after the first train had departed, so the station was relatively deserted. While Helen and Mark enjoyed a cup of tea, I took a wander down the platform taking photos. My favourite photo of the day will appear below, of the three fire buckets. While I was taking photos of the fire buckets, the signaller popped his head out of the signal box and asked me if I wanted to have a look around since it wasn’t busy. Did I? Of course I did! After all, Tim is a signaller. I managed to get photos of the frame and the diagram (drawn by the signaller I was talking to) before I needed to leave the box in preparation for the engine coming through.

To our surprise, Dave wasn’t bringing the engine in! There was much confusion, until we actually saw Dave and he explained that they have different people run in the engines from who will be the ones to put it to bed in the evening. Whew.

We had a pleasant ride down to Welshpool and waited while Dave and his partner for the day, Dan, did their midway maintenance work before running the engine back round to the front of the train to take it back. Dave showed Mark what he needed to do every step of the way – I hope he was taking notes! Since Dave was driving the second and fourth trains of the day, we decided to walk into Welshpool proper (about a mile or so) to get some Lunch and then head back to the station to take Dave’s second (and his last for the day) train back to Llanfair.

Welshpool isn’t much to talk about. Other than the railway (and let’s be fair, a lot of towns in Wales have narrow gauge railways!), it’s a typical town in Wales. Lots of shops, both unique and chain, dotted the main street along with restaurants and pubs. We travelled off onto a side street and found a small eatery called the Lunch Box that had reasonable prices.

Since we still had time, we did a bit of browsing and shopping before heading back to the station, and we managed to get to the Welshpool station as Dave was bringing the train in, so once again, Mark went to watch Dave do all his routine maintenance and Helen and I got on and found seats. Mark came rushing up to us to tell us that Dave was going to give him a cab ride up to the front of the train, so I ran down the platform to get some photos of Mark in the cab, then ran back up to try to get photos as he went past.

After the return to Welshpool, we browsed in their gift shop and headed back to the car to drop off our shopping while the rest of the passengers departed. We went back in and Dave called Helen and I over and asked us if we’d like to join him while he gave Mark a tour. Of course, we agreed!

We had to wait while Dave and Dan serviced the engine for the evening, and Dave was kind enough to explain everything he was doing step-by-step. I’m sure it took Dave and Dan twice as long as it usually did, but we surely appreciated it!

Our tour started with a walk through the sheds, where Dave showed us some of the other engines they regularly use. We also got to walk through the workshop, where we saw several engines that were being worked on, engines in pieces, and what the volunteers did to amuse themselves! Farther down the line, there was another shed, and this one contained some engines awaiting servicing, and several passenger cars.

It was fantastic getting to walk down the tracks, and getting to see things most visitors don’t. We’re all really grateful to Dave for taking some time out of his free time to show us around!

I can’t wait to go back and ride it again – Every time I ride a railway again, I see new things that I hadn’t seen before.

If any of the photos don’t resize properly for you, please let me know so I can fix them!

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Llandudno and the Great Orme

Our first full day in Wales was spend visiting the seaside town of Llandudno, the largest seaside resort in Wales. Llandudno is located on a peninsula between the Great Orme and the Little Orme. There are four ways to get up the Great Orme – drive, walk/hike, take the Great Orme Tramway, or take the cable cars. We chose to take the cable car, since Helen and Mark had ridden the Tramway in previous years and I knew I’d ride it with Tim in the future (Tim doesn’t like heights, so I knew he wouldn’t go on the cable car). Before we headed up the Great Orme, we split up to explore Llandudno.

I chose to visit the World War II Home Front Museum, as one of my specific interests is life during World War II in the UK of everyday people. Things like the child evacuation and the Ministry of Food initiatives fascinate me. The museum is hard to locate. It’s off on a side street, behind a church. I felt as though I was entering a residential area, but most of the homes that line the street are bed and breakfasts. I finally found the museum and paid my £3.25 admission. I was handled a WWII era torch to use in case I wanted to take a closer look at anything.

I was disappointed. It’s a very small museum, and for someone who is interested in this era and has been to lots of museums/exhibits on the subject, there wasn’t anything “new”. The museum contains a collection of war-time toys, gas masks, food products, and mock-ups of a grocery store, kitchen, and police station. If I hadn’t stopped to read everything, I would have been done in about 20 minutes. I stayed for about 45 minutes.

I still had nearly an hour before I was to meet back up with Helen and Mark, so I rang Tim for a few minutes, and then did some charity shop browsing (always fun to do in a new town!). As I was walking back up the high street, I noticed a parade going on, so I stopped and watched the majorettes for a bit before meeting up with Helen and Mark for lunch at a Wetherspoons. It was so busy, we had to wait 45 minutes for our food to arrive, but we were pretty impressed with the portion sizes once it did arrive!

After Lunch, we headed on over to the cable cars and had a long wait to get on one! The cable car is £6.50 for a single (one way) or £7 for a return (round trip), so we paid for returns. The cable car is the longest cable car ride in the UK and is over a mile long! The views going up were spectacular! Absolutely breathtaking and well worth the £7. We got to the top and had about an hour before the last return trip down, so we set off to explore the surrounding area and to do some shopping in the summit center. We also walked over to the tramway to get some photos of it. I also had what I have to call the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Whether it was because I don’t eat a lot of ice cream any more, or because I was eating it at the summit of the Great Orme I don’t know, but it was delicious!

We then headed into the queue for the return trip. There was a long queue! A man came by to make sure we had return tickets and assured us we would get a ride back down. After about 45 minutes, we finally boarded a cable car to begin the descent, and once again, the views were spectacular. We saw Llandudno from above, and I loved the way the houses all curved away from the shore.

Back at the bottom of the cable car ride, we wound our way down a footpath through the bottom of the mountain and headed back to the car to return to our caravan.

Later that night on the evening news, we heard about a crash that had happened a year ago on the Great Orme Tramway and the results of the investigation. Made us glad we had opted for the cable cars after all!

A selection of photos:

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Return from Wales

I’m back from a week in Wales with my friend Helen and her son, Mark. Tim was unable to come with us due to his work schedule – he had the overnights this week – so I went without him. Our trip had it’s ups and downs…a major down being the camera (I took Tim’s big fancy Cannon EOS 300D) lens getting fogged up at the Pili Palace and me worrying that I had broken Tim’s camera (I hadn’t), and the rain. It rained one night so badly it was shaking our little static caravan! We had mostly good weather during the day, but then it all let loose on Friday afternoon and made it pretty miserable and wet in Porthmadog. But, a good time was still had by all and I will have several updates, hopefully before I head off to Austria with Tim 🙂

a few photos (highlights, really) are up on Facebook. I still have to pull the pictures off my regular camera (an Olympus SP 320)

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Trip Itinerary

We leave on Monday for our trip across the pond, so I thought I’d share our rough draft of plans with you –

Monday – Depart PHL
Tuesday (AM) Arrive DUB (with a layover in CDG). Check into hotel (Fleet Street Hotel), relax, Guinness Store House
Wednesday – Writer’s Museum, Trinity College
Thursday – Dublin Castle, Cathedral
Friday – Stena Ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, meet up with Tim. Welsh Highland Railway
Saturday – Lancaster in AM, Beamish in afternoon
Sunday – North Yorkshire Moores Railway & Howard Castle
Monday – York
Tuesday – Coastal drive (lighthouses), to Tim’s house
Wednesday – Lincoln
Thursday – London
Friday – open
Saturday – open
Sunday – open (but Tim’s day off, so possible stratford?)
Monday – Rail and Sail from Lincoln to Dublin via Hollyhead
Tuesday – depart DUB 🙁

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