Mom's visit: Beatles Tour in Liverpool, Devon, & Misc. other destinations

March brought Gabi's mom for an Easter visit. The weather was not at its best but we had a wonderful visit and as usual explored many new areas of England. The primary motivation for this trip was to track down the Worth House in Devon. The Worth's (Susan's mother's side of the family) emigrated from Devon to the US in the late 1600's and this endeavor turned out to be surprisingly successful.

Susan flew into Manchester Airport and as always, we try to do something lively on the first day to keep visitors alert and awake. Since Liverpool is so close to Manchester and Gabi's mom is a Beatles fan, we booked a private Beatles tour for the day. Philip Hughes, owner of Tour Liverpool, was our guide and chauffeur for our trek through the city's streets and suburbs. Philip is a terrific guide, is extremely knowledgeable, and not just about John, Paul, Ringo & George, but Liverpool itself as well as Liverpool football - specifically Everton. We had a great day and learned so much from Philip. Anyone wishing to see the real Liverpool should give Philip a call. It's wonderful to see someone with such passion for their city. We would also recommend taking some time to walk through The Beatles Story at Albert Dock. Since Mike was unable to join us on this trip, we think another visit to Liverpool is a must - maybe this time we'll check out some of the nightclubs where the Beatles played and hung out like The Cavern and The Grapes.

Our main outings were a day each at Holy Island and Beamish Open Air Museum in Northumberland, Devon & Cornwall which included the towns and villages of Tiverton, Exeter, Buckfastleigh, Tintagel, Clovelly, & Appledore, Tetbury (looking at antiques), the Black & White Village Trail, and a couple of days touring the western coast of The Lake District. When we began our Devon trip, we were only concerned with seeing Tiverton and Exeter so the others were a bonus especially Tintagel - the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. I think it was particularly pleasant because we were just about the only tourists there! Also in Tintagel, we saw the Victorian Old Post Office, which is a National Trust site. After wondering around Devon & Cornwall and having finished our genealogy research, we needed to find a route back to Hartlepool. We still had a couple of days and decided on taking the Black & White Village Trail of Herefordshire & Shropshire. Actually, Philip from our Beatles tour suggested Shropshire and since we were already so far south, we were able to see most of the villages. This route runs north along the England/Wales border and is known for the many black & white timbered buildings sprinkled throughout the villages of Ross-on-Wye, Hereford, Leominster, Ludlow, and Shrewsbury.

We spent the Easter weekend in Hartlepool, where Gabi received the sacrament of Confirmation and became a member of the Catholic Church. It was a beautiful ceremony with lots of new friends close by. To top the evening off, we enjoyed a very nice celebratory dinner at Kremo's, a local Italian restaurant.

The next day we set off to the western Lake District. We made our first stop in the cute market village of Keswick and learned there was a prehistoric stone circle nearby called Castlerigg. It's not Stonehenge but it's quite amazing. We drove along the coast through Cockermouth, Workington, and Whitehaven finally settling down for the night in the quaint village of St. Bees where we had a lovely Fondue dinner at Platform 9 in the old train station. From St. Bees we drove through the countryside and visited Wast Water, England's deepest lake. There were quite a few people at the lake - apparently, Wast Water is a gathering place for scuba divers. One diver told us that there is a gnome garden at the bottom. The lake was dark, but the reflection of the mountains in the water was gorgeous. After leaving Wast water, we headed to Muncaster Castle. The castle was nice but what we found so unusual and unique was the Heron Happy Hour, which takes place daily at 4:30. Muncaster is also home to the World Owl Trust. This quote is from the Muncaster Castle website:

The heronry at Muncaster is one of the oldest in the UK, dating back hundreds of years. By the early nineties the number of Grey Herons nesting at Muncaster had fallen to only three. However, thanks to a Heron Happy Hour where the birds are fed by staff from the World Owl Trust, which is based at Muncaster, numbers have steadily risen.

Last year there were more than 20 birds nesting in the heronry. The herons normally return to the same nests year after year but about two thirds of the nests were destroyed in the storms which hit Cumbria in January.

Staff at Muncaster now have a nervuos wait over the next week or two to see if the birds rebuild thier nests. Tony Warburton, the Director of the World Owl Trust, says:

'We have taken great pride in rebuilding the heronry at Muncaster. At this time of year, with the start of the breeding season, the herons are very sensitive to changes in their environment.'

'We were hoping to see even more herons nesting at Muncaster this year. I am still hopeful tht it will happen. We are currently feeding abour 20 birds daily during Heron Happy Hour. It is a good sign, but we won't be sure its worked for another week or two.

We had no idea what was awaiting us at Muncaster Castle and it was awesome to see the Grey Herons feeding and so many owls up close. We spent our last night at The Grange Hotel an Italianate style old hotel in Grange-over-Sands and finally had a much needed pub meal in Cartmel, another cute village. On our way home, we drove by Coniston Water, Ambleside and Ullswater, which is known for a fresh water herring-type fish called a skelly, that lives in its deep water. I think we've now seen most of The Lake District but that's not to say we won't return!

Entrance to The Beatles Story at Albert Dock in Liverpool:

Gabi & Mom posing at Penny Lane:

The gates of Strawberry Field:

"Mendips" 251 Menlove Avenue where John Lennon lived with his Aunt Mimi:

Mom & Philip (guide) in front of St. Peter's Parish Church where John & Paul met July 6, 1957. John's band, The Quarrymen, were playing at the village festival:

Holy Island - In the distance is Lindisfarne Castle seen from the ruins of the Lindisfarne Priory:

Sign at the back entrance to Worth Estate:

Mom standing in front of Exeter Cathedral:

Standing atop the Headland looking back to where King Arthur's Castle is thought to have been:

The best way to get your groceries down the cobbled hill in Clovelly:

The Old House in Hereford built in 1621:

The Castle Gates in Shrewsbury:

Mike & Gabi at Castlerigg stone circle near Keswick in the western Lake District:

Georgeous reflections of the mountains surrounding Wast Water in the Lake District (& scuba diving area):

Country house near Eskdale Green in the Lake District:

Overlooking the valley from Muncaster Castle - Ravenglass, Lake District:

Heron Happy Hour at Muncaster Castle:

Muncaster Castle -World Owl Center and Trust:

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