The perfect picnic spot . . .

It’s been a perfect picnic spot since Georgian times in the 18th century. And where’s this ideal place? Why, The Kymin, of course.

On a steep hill overlooking the town on Monmouth in the Wye valley on the English-Welsh border, The Kymin has a number of features that you wouldn’t associate with an inland site (although it’s not that far from the Severn Estuary).

There are two buildings at the top of the hill: the Round House (which is open only on certain days, and not when we visited) and the Naval Temple, constructed in 1800 to commemorate the British naval victory at the Battle of the Nile, but also British admirals who had played major roles in confronting the French leading up to that date.

Admiral Lord Nelson and his mistress Emma, Lady Hamilton visited The Kymin in 1802.

On a clear day the views from the top must be spectacular to the south and west, towards the Brecon Beacons and the Welsh valleys. On the day we visited it had been overcast in the morning, and the cloud was beginning to burn away only by early afternoon when we arrived. But it was still very hazy and we couldn’t see many miles beyond Monmouth itself.

It’s a very narrow and winding road (but with passing places) from the main road A4136 up to The Kymin. But the climb is certainly worth the effort – if you can find the exit from the A4136 (traveling east to west towards Monmouth would be much easier, since the road leading up to The Kymin is on a sharp bend).

Clickety click!

66Clickety click? You play bingo, don’t you? It’s the 66 ball.

And yesterday was my 66th birthday. Another milestone. It has been a busy year, what with the 4th International Rice Congress in Bangkok three weeks ago (and the months of planning that went into that event).

But yesterday, I could indulge myself for a while. Our weather has been appalling recently – windy and wet, and getting colder. But yesterday dawned bright and sunny, so I took myself out for a 5 mile walk along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. There were a couple of boats coming down the Tardebigge Flight (that’s 30 locks), and I got chatting with one of the boat owners. Seems they were traveling in tandem – two sisters and their husbands – since June! All over the country, and were now heading for winter quarters at Droitwich, just a few miles down the canal, for the next four months. They are live-aboard boat owners.

Then a little further up the towpath I stopped to chat with a surveyor from the Canal & River Trust who was checking out the brick and stonework in some of the locks. I discovered that this canal will celebrate its bicentenary next year. And thinking about that is really quite remarkable. Here was this canal being dug – by hand – over a period of 20 or more years, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars!

Anyway, it was a wonderful walk along the towpath, as usual.

And then in the evening, Steph cooked my favorite meal: steak and kidney pie, with a puff pastry crust (accompanied by potatoes, carrots and sprouts). Delicious! And, of course, the ‘mandatory’ bottle of wine, in this case a Rosemount Diamond Collection 2013 Shiraz – the perfect accompaniment to this delicious meal.

What a perfect – and peaceful – day.