Monday, August 27, 2007

Continuing the Elizabethan theme - 27 August 2007

Borde Hill Garden

Borde Hill Garden Borde Hill Garden was the Historic Houses Association Garden of the Year Award winner in 2004. Perhaps we saw it ‘between seasons’ or something but it was not long before we were ‘Borde’ and left.

Loseley ParkA slow, lazy mosey across the Surrey countryside took us to Loseley Park where we ended our extended Elizabethan expedition.

Loseley ParkLoseley has an attractive formal garden in the old walled garden area and a mulberry tree reportedly planted by Elizabeth I.

We began at Hever Castle where Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth I was born and ended at Loseley Park where Elizabeth stayed a number of times and where they have a fine portrait of Anne Boleyn that has been coveted by the curators of the Tower of London for their exhibition. The More-Molyneux family declined to sell the picture on the grounds that Anne had never been happy in the Tower …

Loseley ParkAlong the way we saw two other fine Elizabethan mansions; and in all three cases, the descendants of the original occupants have lived in the houses for the last 450 years. As is typical of these English stately homes, they each have their special treasures: Loseley Parkthe second largest Van Dyke in the country; the only such brasses in the country; one of three such chests in the world and so on. What an awesome responsibility to be the guardians of items of such rarity and it is a wonderful thing that the public has access to see them.

In contrast to the times-past, current events were very much in focus as the gateways to these properties were still showing evidence of the recent foot and mouth scare with disinfectant mats and foot wash facilities, in fact, the countryside in this area had only just been re-opened for full access.

Sussex Stately Homes - 26 August 2007

Michelham Priory

Michelham PrioryMichelham Priory has the longest medieval water-filled moat in England. As is typical, it was another of the Priories that Henry VIII dissolved. Michelham PrioryIt spent much of it's life since then as a farmhouse and from where some tenant farmers, the Childs, emigrated to Northland, NZ. Today, it was a very tranquil spot to start our day. We particularly enjoyed the walk around the moat; it It felt as if we were the only people left on a very well groomed planet.

Long Man of WilmingtonAfter a quick coffee stop at the car park that provides views of the Long Man of Wilmington we visited two houses built over 500 years ago, each kept in a single family, although via different branches.

Glynde PlaceThe first visit was to Glynde Place. A gentleman who turned out to be Lord Hampden, the owner, checked us in. This house is in a very quiet part of Sussex, with lovely views over the weald rolling away into the distance. The tour of the house was full of interesting details from the lives of his ancestors who, atypically, fought on Cromwell's side in the Civil War. Many stately piles were confiscated from Parliamentarians and given to the Royalists as rewards, but the then owner took note of the turn of the tide and very wisely changed sides at the last minute.

Firle PlaceJust over the road (almost) was his neighbour, Firle Place. On the day of our visit it was a busy place with horse trials, dog show and all the side-shows as well. Clipped the railThe house itself has an important collection of Sevres china, second only to the Queen's. It appeared that they had developed a more sophisticated interior, than their neighbours, but both houses were lovely in their own ways.

Ringmer ChurchTo round off the day we visited the village of Ringmer as our guidebook recommended it. They must have been short of candidates for the area as it is nothing terribly special compared to many of the lovely English villages we have seen on our travels.

Kent Castles - 25 August 2007

Hever CastleAfter a couple of weeks of miserably cold, wet weather, the August Bank Holiday was promised as a return to real summer. It was certainly finely timed, as right up to the end of Friday, there was no let up in the weather: but Saturday started with a total change.

Hever CastleWe made the most of it and headed south from London. The first stop of the day was Hever Castle. We arrived just before opening time, and were at the head of a ceaseless stream of traffic entering the car park. This birthplace and childhood home of Anne Boleyn, is an extremely popular destination. It is a beautiful castle, but almost The water mazeappeared to us as a Victorian fake, as the interiors had been totally redone by the wealthy American Waldorf Astor family in the early 1900's. He imported Italian ruins and statues for the gardens, which now, a hundred years later, look like they have been there forever but in reality, are as genuine as a NZ Ming vase.

Lullingstone CastleA huge hit with the younger set is the very inventive water maze where you have to dodge unexpected fountains as you make your way to the centre.

Leaving Hever we ventured north to see Lullingstone Castle which has recently featured on two TV series about the trials and tribulations of maintaining a stately pile; and the scheme the heir, Tom Hart Dyke, dreamed up while in captivity in South America - a world garden.

Laid out in the old kitchen garden are the vaguely recognizable shapes of the continents and some islands. Tasmania, New Zealand, NZ in KentJapan and England are certainly not to scale and the NZ islands are especially impressive. We missed the pohutukawa flowering by a couple of weeks. Australia even has Ayres Rock hidden among the Eucalyptus. The plants are all growing in the continents they come from so it is most educational to wander round and discover the origins of various species. It is a fabulous feature which is getting better as each season passes and the plants grow and get more established.

Lullingstone CastleThe actual "Castle", although nowhere near as polished a production as Hever, feels real; and the heritage of years of family living there is much more tangible.

We wended our way back through the attractive towns and villages that line the A25 with the odd side trip to other favourite spots like Friday Street.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The plague village - 19 August 2007

HeatherHuddersfield is number 3 in terms of towns with the most listed buildings. We started our day with a town trail which took us around the major ones, mainly built in prosperous Victorian times and some, art deco style, from the early 20th century.

DalesFrom Huddersfield we took the scenic route over the Bradfield Moors. Despite the damp weather the hills looked wonderful, with the heather at its best.

We called by Taddington to view another well dressing. The theme was a local Derbyshire lass, Ellen McArthur, who, Taddington Well Dressingdespite growing up as far from the sea as is possible in the UK, holds many sailing records including those for solo round the world trips.

We continued on to Eyam village to visit Eyam Hall. On one of the best conducted tours we have been on, we learnt the history of the Wright family, who have lived there since it was built in 1670s. The Wrights have always been a family who worked on the land, or in industry, thus were practical people, a fact that is reflected many times in the house and furnishings.

Eyam HallThis picturesque village has a fascinating history. In 1665 a local tailor received a parcel of cloth from London. Unfortunately the cloth contained some unwelcome hitchhikers: fleas. London fleas in 1665 were not a good thing to be near and their arrival in this sleepy little hollow in the Dales lead to an outbreak of plague in the village. Eyam ChurchPlaques on the houses tell of the names of the people living in each cottage, and how many died.

The very wise vicar imposed strict quarantine on the village: no one was allowed to enter or leave; and he held his church services in the open air to assist in avoiding cross infection. Neighbouring villagers could sell food to the Eyam villagers by leaving it by a Plague cottagesrock outside the village, and the money to pay for the food was left in a pool of vinegar in a depression in the rock.

Largely due to the foresight of the vicar, the outbreak was contained in this one village and eventually died out in 1666, 14 months and 260 victims later.

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Saltaire, but not the sea-side - 18 August 2007

Nostell PrioryAfter a few fine days, summer was over once again, but despite this we headed up the A1 to visit a World Heritage Site: the village of Saltaire.

Enroute, we broke the journey at Nostell Priory. In typical style, the Priory originally a real priory, passed into private ownership after the dissolution of the monasteries.

The current owners have lived there for 350 years, although it is jointly in the care of the National Trust.

Saltaire Kitchen shopThe house was built in the Italian, Palladian, style after one of the past owners went on their Grand Tour. The most interesting thing about the house is the large collection of Chippendale furniture. It was commissioned for the house, and along with all the other original furnishings, is still placed as intended, in the rooms the pieces were designed for. A previous owner was the ‘sponsor’ of the young Chippendale and this is the reason that room after room is furnished in Chippendale furniture.

There were many suites of furniture, the largest piece was a magnificent desk and the most expensive for it's size was a beautiful tulipwood barometer on a wall.

Hockney Set design displayIn all, it is the largest collection of Chippendale furniture in the world and we would recommend this house to anyone who has an interest in furniture.

Another fascinating fact is that John Harrison grew up on the estate; his father was the estate carpenter. The house has the last of the remaining 3 entirely wooden clocks that he made. Made in 1717, it still keeps perfect time.

SaltaireThe promised rain only arrived as we left and made our way to Saltaire; a town built by Victorian industrialist Titus Salt. Like the Cadbury village we visited in July, it was a model village designed to improve the lot of his workers. Saltaire, however, is much larger than Bournville with 800 houses built over 14 years.

SaltaireThe mill itself has been converted into offices and one wing is a retail centre with shops (including a wonderful kitchenware shop), cafes and artworks. The first floor was entirely covered in art works by David Hockney. It was a great and extensive exhibition. Apparently David Hockney grew up locally in Bradford.

We finished the day with a self-guided tour around the town of Saltaire.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cheshire Halls - 12 August 2007

Arley HallArley Hall is a stunning Victorian reproduction of a Tudor mansion. The interiors are lavish period settings, but each room is also liveable and very appealing. The gardens are also lovely, and it was a great way to start a Sunday.

Lower PeoverOur next planned stop was Capesthorne Hall, and on the way we stopped at Lower Peover. This small village has a beautiful half-timbered black & white church.

Capesthorne HallCapesthorne Hall is the 17th century home of a branch of the Davenport family, whose Tudor hall we visited at Bramall yesterday. Being 200 years newer, the interiors were much more modern and more liveable.

Nether Alderley MillOur final visit of the day was Adlington Hall. On the way we happened to pass Nether Alderley Mill which was open, so made an unscheduled visit. This mill is unique in Europe; as it has two internal water wheels, one above the other, which doubles the grinding power of the mill as the water is effectively used twice.

Adlington Hall is really interesting to visit. Still lived in by the Legh family it is part Tudor and part Georgian. The star of the visit is the Tudor great hall.

Arley HallIn 1040, a Legh ancestor decided to build a hunting lodge in the Forest of Macclesfield. He came across two dead, but still standing oak trees 5 - 6 m apart and decided that they could form the main supports for his new lodge. They were hand adzed into octagonal shaped pillars and decorations were carved into them. 450 years later when the medieval great hall was built, these two trees (still with their roots in the ground) formed the basis for the end wall. The trees remain, nearly 1000 years later, still supporting the roof and the organ loft that spans between them: quite a testament to the building properties of oak.

Adlington HallThe organ they hold up was played twice by Handel and is the only playable 17th century organ left in Europe (and therefore, presumably, the world).

The hall is decorated with 17th century wall paintings, still vibrant in colour, as they were covered in plaster for over 100 years.

Arley HallThe other interesting connection was that it was 15-year-old heiress Ellen Turner that Edward Gibbon Wakefield (of The New Zealand Company fame) abducted and forced into marriage at Gretna Green. After the capture and annulment Ellen married Thomas Legh (from Adlington Hall) and bore him a daughter, before dying at the tender age of 19.

Adlington HallWe decided to cut across the Peak District again to drive home. A closed road diversion, clogged with traffic on a narrow lane, forced as to charge direction and head back west for the motorway. We then discovered parts of the M40 were closed due to a shooting. It has never taken us so long to head back to London before. A 3-hour journey turned into a 5-hour marathon.

Well, well, well - 11 August 2007

Renishaw HallThe Peak district is one of our favourite areas in the UK, and just a little over 2 hours up the M1 from London.

Saturday was a lovely day to drive through heather clad hills, and among fields bounded by rock fences.

Summer in the Peak District is a time to look at well dressings. This is an old custom of decorating town wells with floral pictures. So, after a quick look at Renishaw Hall gardens, we went in search of the first four decorated wells at Bradwell.

Well, well, wellThe next village was Great Hucklow. This small village was planning their annual village gala; all the gardens were decorated and two wells dressed. PrestburyIt had a lovely feel of a small village celebrating in a timeless manner.

Prestbury is in the Cheshire County and we saw the traditional buildings of this area. It is fascinating how building styles change in various areas.

Bramall HallA few miles north of here, and south of Manchester, is Bramall Hall. This magnificent black and white Tudor mansion is very interesting to visit. Some of the best 16th century wall paintings in the UK were uncovered here, in Victorian times

LymmWe finished our day in Lymm with a relaxing walk around the town, along a disused railway line, as far as the Manchester ship canal and then back along the Bridgewater Canal.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Staffordshire - 5 August 2007

The Ancient High HouseStafford has a very attractive town centre. We spent time wandering round the centre and looking at the country's largest timber framed building, before a brief detour to see the Castle that turned out to be just the ruins of a gothic replica castle.

Before the day got too hot Shruborough Mansionwe did a 5-mile walk though the Shrugborough Estate and Channock Chase. Shruborough Mansion is very splendid, as is the Essex bridge, an attractive packhorse bridge of 14 arches across the Trent. The bridge connects the Estate to the pretty town of Great Haywood.

Essex bridgeAfter the walk, we did a tour from there which took in several attractive towns, old ruins and two Stately Homes.

Lilleshall AbbeyFirst was the romantic ruin of Lilleshall Abbey. Following this, one of the best-presented country homes we have seen; Weston Park.

Another very handsome Country church at Tong, sparse ruins of White Ladies Priory and Boscobel House where Charles II hid, from the Roundheads, in an oak tree. Hence, ‘Royal Oak’ and thus the name of many a pub in England and a suburb in NZ.

Chillington HallThe final stop was Chillington Hall; built on a site that has been occupied for over 800 years by 29 generations of the Giffard family. Great-great-great-great …. originally came over with William the Conqueror in 1066.

The National Forest - 4 August 2007

The National Forest
Appleby MagnaThe National Forest sounds impressive, but there seems to be less forest in the National Forest than in many places in the UK. When they dreamed up the idea in 1980s, this area was one of the least wooded areas in the country. So, if it weren’t for the many signs proudly proclaiming that you had just driven into the National Forest, Breedon on the Hillyou would have no idea that it even existed. It is a bit like the “New Forest”; it was ‘new’ in 1079, nearly a thousand years ago. Perhaps the National Forest has a thousand years to grow before it takes any real ‘national’ significance.

Abbots BromleyWe spent the day having a good look at the area, and one of the most impressive features was the old and interesting churches.

We planned a visit to Melbourne Hall, and also did a walk from there. Melbourne in Australia was named after the owner of the day, Lord Melbourne.

Keeping the links between the landed gentry families straight is a mammoth task not helped in this instance by Melbourne Hallthe fact that none of the family names associated with Melbourne Hall are pronounced the way one would expect: Coke, is pronounced “Cook”; Cowper, is pronounced “Cooper”; Kerr, is pronounced “Car”; and Lamb, naturally, is pronounced “Lam”. So the Thomas Coke (pronounced Holly Bush InnCook), who landscaped the grounds, is not to be confused with the Thomas Cook of travel fame, another of Melbourne’s famous sons.

Dinner was at the Holly Bush Inn, which is apparently one of the oldest licensed pubs in the Country.

We finished the day at Stone, a pleasant canal side town.