Having survived another Christmas blogging can start again in earnest! This year I and other members of the family had been invited by my youngest brother and his wife to share Christmas with them at their new home in south east Dorset. In 2006 I stayed in my own village over the yuletide and back then wrote "travelling over the holiday is for me the stuff of nightmares!". There were really two options for me: to drive up to Wimborne Minster from Cornwall or to pay a little more and let the train take the strain. I opted for the latter having looked at the practicalities of the journey on the internet.
I am an enthusiast for rail travel but the thought of late and overcrowded trains filled me with dread! However I needn't have worried. The particular service I got from Gunnislake goes on east part way up the main line and I changed at Newton Abbot to get on the Waterloo train that took me without any other changes to Salisbury. At this point I met my eldest brother who had come down the line from Herefordshire and from Salisbury we were picked up by yet another brother whose normal route passed within a mile or so of Salisbury station. Each of these trains was reasonably empty and ran close to time. Similarly on the way home, with just one change at Exeter St Davids, the journey was uneventful. Although there were more people on the return trip there were still more than enough seats to accommodate everyone. I had used part of this Exeter to Waterloo line before and never had problems with it to be honest.
Scenically though I have to say that once east of Exeter there is a certain lack of drama in what you see out of the window and that the view is much of a muchness all the way to Salisbury. In fact this lack of drama and lack of variety in 'Middle England' is one of the downsides to this part of the country for me. I don't doubt that there are subtleties between the various counties that make up this part of England but they can't compare with the glories and individuality of Devon and Cornwall. You can see I'm not at all biased!
One of the things that happen when my family gets together is that we have lively discussions about all subjects under the sun. There is often a divergence of opinion but my views are always the best ones of course!! I'm glad to say that none of us are slaves to the TV and that the weather on boxing day morning was good enough for a 5 to 6 mile walk. We drove out to 'Win Green', a National Trust spot just over the border in Wiltshire and from there had a downland walk taking in typical scenery of Cranborne Chase. Win Green itself is high up with really extensive views and, although only approachable by a rough track, seems to be popular with visitors. Little did we know at the time but this walk took us very close to the country estate owned by Madonna and her husband!
I had toyed with the idea of bringing walking boots with me but instead wore a trusty pair of Dr Martens shoes with a pair of lighter footwear for indoors. Just as well I did have spare shoes as my docs got plastered with mud from the walk! I remember from a Christmas stay at Lewes in East Sussex a few years ago how messy paths on the chalk downland can get - I think boots on any Christmas visit will be the order of the day from now on. Although on chalk there doesn't seem to be the very deep mud that I'm used to back home it does seem to take an age to get one's footwear clean again after a cross country walk.
All in all a very enjoyable and relaxing Christmas. A great chance to meet the family and to see our hosts in their new home in Wimborne - many thanks to them for their hospitality.