From the Blog

Milton keynes 02The excavation of Caldecotte Lake unearthed the fossilised remains, of an Ichthyosaur, approximately 150 million years old. The same area also provided signs of early human activity when gravel deposits exposed by the construction of the lake produced evidence of the manufacture of flint tools around 6000 BC.
At Heelands, the discovery of an occupation site of 2000 BC dates the earliest known settlement in Milton Keynes and there is evidence of other activity shortly afterwards in the Stacey Bushes area.

Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples hunted and settled in the Ouse Valley and its tributaries. Stone and bronze axes have been found at Olney, Ravenstone, Chicheley, Newport Pagnell and Bradwell. Bronze Age burial sites have been excavated at Ravenstone, Wolverton and near Milton Keynes Village, whilst in the meadows near Tyringham a cemetery of this period has been identified by aerial photography. The remains of a nationally important large circular timber house dated 1000 BC were excavated at Bancroft.

From then on, the local population expanded and from 500 BC Iron Age settlements began to develop in several locations around the borough. At Danesborough, near Bow Brickhill, the remains of an Iron Age camp enclosed with a massive bank and ditch are visible.

By the time of the Roman conquest in AD 43, it is thought the area was extensively settled and farmed. A major Roman villa, containing some of the finest quality mosaic floors, was excavated at Bancroft Park. The occupants erected a large stone mausoleum on an adjacent hilltop, on the site of an earlier cemetery. The remains of the villa have been preserved and on-site interpretation panels give a good impression of the building and account of life in Roman Milton Keynes.

There were other Roman buildings in various parts of the borough and several areas such as Haversham, Stanton Low, Emberton and Olney were extensively settled.

To the south of Fenny Stratford, in the Southeast of the borough, the Roman town of Magiovinium was established on Walling Street, the famous Roman Road which passes through the Borough. From Magiovinium a road ran north to the Roman town of Orchestra, near Wellingborough, and this passed through a major Roman settlement which existed just north of Olney.

mk1 - 300x200 The first Saxon settlements in the area were at Pineland, Milton Keynes Village, Great Linford and Bancroft. These date from the 6th and 7th centuries, and a cemetery of this date was discovered at Newport Pagnell. By the 9th and 10th centuries the villages and parishes now encompassed in the borough were established. Excavations at Great Linford, Walton and Woughton have shown how the size and location of the villages has varied over the years, largely as a result of economic changes.

In the 9th century the borough area was contained within the Saxon Hundreds (a Hundred was an administrative area made up of units of land known as hides) of Bunsty, Moulsoe and Secklow. The elders were entitled to gather outdoors at a special meeting place, usually a specially-constructed mound, to discuss land management, collect taxes and dispense justice. The Secklow mound was thought to have been located on what is now Bradwell Common, but in 1978 it was reconstructed on a site behind the Central Milton Keynes library to be preserved as an Ancient Monument. Later these Hundreds were combined to form the Newport Hundred which, coincidentally, covered roughly the same area as the current borough.


Pete had booked us into Crossways House just out of Cowbridge and we had to find this in the dark - coz it gets dark at 4 pm these days.  Finally found it down a narrow lane no better than a farm track but in actual fact, it is a designated road.  The lane was a series of muddy puddles since it has rained constantly for over a month but the house, when we found it, was terribly impressive.  John greeted us like long lost friends, showed us to our luxurious room, got our breakfast selection and time that we'd like to eat, then recommended various restaurants in Cowbridge  in which we might dine.
Cowbridge lights
  The name isn't very inspiring but the small township of Cowbridge is so picturesque, even in the rain.  Added to it's normal charm was the colourful display of Christmas lights adorning the main street; all the shops were open late for Friday night and being the start of their Christmas season, most were offering a free glass of wine while shoppers browsed.  Out on the street, shoppers could have a cup of mulled wine for a £2 donation to a children's charity. Our kind of place - wish you had been there too!
Late that night, back at the manor house, we were just about off to sleep when the other 2 couples booked into the remaining rooms arrived from London.  Both NZ couples.  Next morning we were first down to breakfast where we met Mandy, our hostess and chef. After breakfast, I asked about the house and she was most forthcoming with facts and stories surrounding its 400 year history, showing how convincingly the house has captivated her (John is the principal renovator).  She drew a map of how to get to a car park in Cardiff not far from the Millennium Stadium and without that we would have no doubt driven around for hours looking for a suitable place to park.  We had 2-3 hours to kill before taking our seats in the grandstand allowing plenty of time for a wander around the Cardiff shopping centre.  We could not get over the vast numbers of kiwis dressed in black rugby jerseys thronging the streets.  We ventured into a pub called the O'Neils Bar to have a pre-match drink and take in the excitement.  Like every other bar in Cardiff, it was packed with people in red or black jerseys; the blacks had silver ferns painted on their faces and the reds had dragons on theirs .  As we made our way to Gate 6 around 1 pm, locals stopped to ask us how we were enjoying their city and to wish us luck in the game.  The hospitality was faultless.
Ab Haka3
The atmosphere within the stadium was as electrifying as hoped for.  To be honest, I didn't take in the game as much as one does when watching it on the telly, complete with commentary and replays.  There was just so much else going on as well as the game.  We were 14 rows back from the side-line, on the try-line, and with my small pair of binoculars I had very good close up views of the play and the sexy masculine bodies fighting it out on the field.  It came as no surprise to the Welsh that the All Blacks won although they had reason to hope in the first half that they might break the drought of no victories since 1952 (I think). We estimated that of the 100,000 strong crowd, approximately 20,000 were kiwis.  Therefore, when 80,000 Welsh supporters sang their hauntingly beautiful traditional anthems as one, it made me feel quite defenceless against their composed but united force.  
Cardiff was swamped after the game so after walking around in search of a reasonably sane place to go over our recent experience with like minded people, and finding such a place didn't exist, we headed back to Cowbridge. An aperitif at the Duke of Wellington pub seemed like a good idea but there was only one small table vacant at the end of a booth where an older couple and young lady were eating.  With drinks in hand I went up to them and asked if they minded if we sat at the end of their table.  They nodded assent but after swallowing his mouthful, the silver haired gentleman said, "But you can take that bloody jersey off first".   We spent the next half hour amiably  chatting nineteen to the dozen, mostly about the game but also about our two country's relationship and their dis-relationship with England.  They didn't mind losing to the All Blacks so much but what did stick in their craw was the English having 18 successive wins at Twickenham.  After a lovely dinner at Farthings, we crossed the road to The Bear Hotel for a nightcap.  From there, we did not think we would ever get away, after the barmaid initially said she couldn't serve us (with a twinkle in her eye).  As Pete says, it was as if we were All Blacks ourselves as they fell over themselves to talk and invite us to meet all their friends ("Come and meet the gang, they're just in the other bar").  It was so touching and so special.
All in all, our visit to South Wales has been one of the highlights throughout the past 2 years, primarily due to the warmth of the people. And it was least expected even though my brother Peter said they nearly killed him with kindness when he went to live up one of the valley's to work and play rugby some 11 years ago.
Just before kick off
Mel Std Kath (WinCE)
Wales Tickets (Small)

To help create the necessary nostalgic atmosphere at the NEC the stage was framed by velvet drapes and chandeliers hung from the rafters. As we were a distance from the stage the two large video screens were a help too so we could see him and band.
As well as acoustic and steel guitars there were banjos, fiddles, an accordion, a tuba, trombones, trumpet, double bass and even a washboard.

Bruce delivered an energetic show, including Old Dan Tucker and Mary Don't You Weep and the whole band seemed to having a good old time onstage. The band members all had a spot up front during the show, showing their talents with solos or duets but always very tight and enjoying the crowds appreciation. The best we thought was Further On (Up The Road) with vocals from most of the band - a haunting, gospel feel.

Opening with Blinded By The Light (a very different arrangement), a buoyant and fine-voiced Bruce, at times unable to contain his excitement, dancing across the stage, encouraged us all to join in, at one time saying "it's time for the british ass to get off the british chair", mixing up folk numbers with recent material such as Devils and Dust and My City Of Ruins with more poignant fare When The Saints Go Marching In and Ghost of Tom Joad.

We saw a man who knows how to please an audience and were thanked for "taking a risk in coming out to see us". I wasn't sure that the folk direction would be our "cup of tea" but at the end we thought that we had had our moneys worth. He wound up the show with 6 songs and finished with Froggy Went A Courtin’! The fact that the song had the whole Arena on its feet and singing along speaks volumes for the power of The Boss. Not bad for a 56-year-old rocker.

Set List.

Blinded by the Light
John Henry
Old Dan Tucker
Further On (Up The Road)
Jesse James
O, Mary Don't You Weep
Bobby Jean
Erie Canal
My Oklahoma Home
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Mrs. McGrath
How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?
Jacob's Ladder
Long Time Comin'
Jesus Was An Only Son
Open All Night
Pay Me My Money Down *
My City of Ruins
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
When The Saints Go Marching In
This Little Light of Mine
American Land
Froggie Went A-Courtin'


Peter Gabriel live on his Growing Up Live Tour - absolutley f*#king great! Now that's what we call a show, great songs done well, interesting stage that revolved, a set that did all sorts and that ball too.

If ever there is a chance to see this man, do it, you won't be dissapointed, we weren't. plus the bonus was the Blind Boys of Alabama - brilliant

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Set List:

 Here Comes the Flood
    Red Rain
    Secret World
    Sky Blue
    Downside Up
    More Than This
    The Barry Williams Show
    Mercy Street
    Digging in the Dirt
    Growing Up
    Animal Nation
    Solsbury Hill
    Signal to Noise
    In Your Eyes
    Father, Son

Our first visit to Ronnie Scotts in London was to see Stanley Clarke (virtuoso electric and acoustic bass player) and though I had seen him before back in New Zealand this was a first for Kath.

A small and intimate club is Ronnies, you are close to the stage and can see and hear everything. Stanley was on fine form and his band were very tight. Two sets were the evenings fare and we were not dissappointed, he showcased music from his vast back catalogue and amazed everyone with what he can do with various bass guitars. Warm responses from him for our applause and he talked back to the crowd showing good stage presence.

At the end we had to say that it was excellent value and we must return.