Monday, 19 March 2018

Stotfold Mill - Bedfordshire

According to the Domesday Book, there were four mills in Stotfold some 1000 years ago. Now there is one, and that only because local volunteers decided the history was too great to lose after a huge fire destroyed the mill in 1992.

It is testament to those committed to the rebuild and refurbishment that the mill today reflects how it would have been 100 or more years ago, but that took around 14 years to achieve.

In addition to the mill, the area has been turned into a nature reserve. Access to the nature reserve is unrestricted, but it is wise to check the opening times of the mill. It wouldn't be a wasted journey, because of the nature reserve, but it is rewarding when both can be combined.

Stotfold Mill


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Leighton Buzzard Light Railway - Bedfordshire

Even before Harry Potter and his Hogwarts Express there has been a long interest in the railways of yesteryear, when children stood on railway bridges or on platforms, taking note of the engine number or name of every passing train. The advent of diesels and electric took away the individuality of the engines, with many looking alike, apart from the nomenclature.

The Leighton Buzzard Light Railway is narrow gauge, and runs for just three miles, but there has been an interesting build up of old railway stock and the venue is very popular.

Built in 1919, just after the WW1, the railway was constructed to carry sand & gravel from local pits to the construction industry. That lasted until the 1960s. Faced with the closure of this little railway, local volunteers banded together, saved what was there, and then expanded the stock to the point it is at today.

Leighton Buzzard Light Railway


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Kathy Brown's Garden - Bedfordshire

I think the official website tells you all you need to know:

The Manor House Garden extends to four and a half acres.
It has been developed and almost entirely looked after by owners Simon and Kathy Brown over the last thirty years.
To celebrate this great creativity they have published a garden guide called Painting with Nature
The garden has many different areas of interest
•formal garden with clipped jury,
•cottage garden with honeysuckle, rose and clematis pergolas,
•wisteria and laburnum walk underplanted with alliums
•various herbaceous borders,
•tree and herbaceous peony border, plus exciting new Intersectional Peonies
•major climbing rose displays for end June/early July followed by
•major clematis displays in July and August
•exuberant container garden displays with workshops/demonstrations***
•a dedicated edible flower border with themed classes/demonstrations***
•a wild flower meadow
•avenues of white stemmed birches, metasequoia, eucalypts and gingkos.
•a snaking winter garden 
•a prolific orchard with themed classes***
•Three art gardens using naturalistic planting schemes, a fourth with living Rothko murals and a new room inspired by Henri Matisse's The Red Studio which Rothko so much admired.

You have the basis for a real treat whatever the time of year you might choose to visit.

The Edible flower border has lots of tasty flowers according to the season.....sweet ciciley, bonze fennel flowers with pink, white and blue lavenders, daylilies, marsh mallow, bronze fennel, dianthus, pink thymes and marigolds! Lavender and lemon drizzle is one of my most popular cakes, but raspberry and elderflower is even better! Lavender flapjacks with lots of seeds and dates are excellent too. Carrot and marigold cake has now become one of my late summer favourites whilst a classic Victoria sponge (photo) with strawberry and rosewater jam partnered with rosewater cream is brilliant!  My Tuesday afternoon visitors enjoy different ones each week! Group visitors can arrange demonstrations on edible flowers.

Kathy Brown's Garden

MK43 7QR

Monday, 12 March 2018

Elstow Moot Hall - Bedfordshire

King Henry VIII has a lot to answer for, not including head counts. His Dissolution of the Monasteries destroyed much of England's heritage. Many once beautiful places are now just ruins.

Not so Elstow Moot Hall.

Elstow Abbey was established in 1078 and became one of the richest orders of nuns in Europe. The Abbey prospered and the grounds were expansive, so the Moot Hall was built in the 15th Century, originally in wattle and daub.

Less than 100 years later came King Henry. The hall was lost to the abbey, for which it had been acting as a court house. It was built more solidly and became a market house for the village.

Elstow had a famous son. John Bunyan came from close by to the hall, and his Pilgrim's Progress is still read today. Thus the hall became a museum, with much commemoration of Bunyan, amongst a good many other things.

Elstow Moot Hall

MK42 9XT

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Dunstable Downs - Bedfordshire

England doesn't really do mountains. Dunstable Downs are the highest point in Bedfordshire, at less than 1000 feet. Yet, they are a definite Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Rising and falling over a large area of chalk grasslands, with the occasional wood as a diversion, the Downs are home to wildlife, wild flowers, and fresh open spaces.

Managed by the National Trust, there are a lot of activities throughout the year, and there are downloadable walks to suit every kind of outdoor enthusiast. May brings a burst of colour as a variety of wildflowers and wild orchids spring up, sometimes in profusion.

July brings the Kite Festival.

Dunstable Downs


May at Dunstable Downs

Cardington Sheds - Berkshire

Also known as Cardington Hangars, No 1 Shed began life in 1915. The land was bought by the Shorts Brothers, and they established Shortstown to house their workers. The object at that time was to build two airships, The R-31 and R-32.

With successful trials behind them, the Royal Air Force looked at the project, which then became the Royal Airship Works. The Number 1 Shed had to be raised to 170 feet and lengthened to 812 feet in order to accommodate the R101.

This was successful and highly impressive for a while, and that brought in Shed No 2, which was relocated to Cardington in 1928. Everything seemed set for great expansion, but then came the disastrous demise of R101, and that put an end to airship building in Britain.

That was not the end of Cardington. In 1936 and 1937 the hangars became the production base for Barrage Balloons. Then from 1943 to 1967 it was used to house and produce Meteorological Balloons, and it is still used today for Meteorological Research.

Cardington Sheds

MK42 0QL

The R101

Monday, 8 January 2018

Donnington Castle - Berkshire

There are countless ruined castles in Britain that do not attract our attention, but there is something about Donnington Castle.

Donnington Manor was bought by the Abberbury Family in 1292. In 1386, Sir Richard Abberbury decided to build a castle. In 1398 it was bought by Thomas Chaucer, son of Geoffrey. However, the family (by thern known as the Dukes of Suffolk, fell foul of the Tudor monarchs and in 1514 the castle became Crown Property.

The castle experienced some neglect, but in 1644 it was held by Sir John Boys, who withstood a siege for 18 months at the start of the English Civil War. When the castle eventually surrendered, Parliament voted to raze the castle, and today only the Gate House remains. It is now under the care and protection of English Heritage.

Donnington Castle

RG14 2LE