Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Cusworth Hall - Yorkshire

The land where Cusworth Hall stands has been occupied since Anglo Saxon times. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book and we know there was a hall there in 1327.

The park and Old Hall were bought by the Wrighton Family in 1669 and they retained ownership (albeit under names changed by marriage) until 1952.

A new Georgian styled house was designed and built over the period 1740-1745. Twenty years later the 250 acre park was also redesigned. A serpentine river was widened at points in the grounds to create three lakes.

The house continued to prosper and was further expanded and modernised during the period 1901-1909. But the war years brought difficulties and Death Duties meant that the house could no longer be maintained by the family. In the end it was sold to pay those duties and became the property of Doncaster Council in 1952.

Today it is well maintained and is popular with tourists, and is a considerable museum.

Cusworth Hall



Diary - Monday 30th January 2017

Well, I'm keeping to my plan to work hard in the morning and tackle all of my daily tasks, and then try to shift a few others. It certainly worked today and I've been able to work on the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance Directory just about every day. I also fired off five requests for funding this morning, two of them for the SNA.

I don't know how it's happened but I've made a breakthrough on my exercise bike. Since New Year I've struggled but this last two days has been totally different. Pauline went shopping for some odds and ends and I got on the bike. I only got off a few minutes before she got back.

Tonight I went to the Riverside Hotel at Burton on Trent and met the local branch of the MS Society. When they asked if I would speak to them they warned me that at this time of the year numbers would be low. There were 16 there and I only stopped when the food came in. The talk went down well, with quite a few laughs.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Fursdon House - Devon

We are used to visiting stately and grand homes across Britain that were once proud possessions of influential families, but which either fell into decline or were surrendered as Death Duties, but since we joined the Historical Houses Association we have found limited access to homes that are still lived in, sometimes by the same family for hundreds of years.

Fursdon House is a prime example. The family has been in residence for more than 750 years. Now, in order to help with the costs of maintenance, you can stay as long as you like in one of the holiday homes in the 750 acres of arable land and woodland, or you can visit the gardens from Easter Monday until the end of September, or visit the house itself for a guided tour on limited times and days in June, July or August.

William de Fursdon took possession of the estate in 1259. The first house was not at all grand and was thatched, but it served the family well for several centuries. In the late 1700s there was a major rebuild and in 1815 the Library wing was added.

If you are planning a visit, check the website and hope for nice weather because the drive to Fursdon is very pretty.

Fursdon House



Sunday, 29 January 2017

Tyntesfield - Somerset

Tyntesfield is to be found to the north of Somerset, close to the village of Wraxall and not fqar from Bristol.

The Tynte family took possession of the land around 1500 and built a hunting lodge. They lived there for the next three hundred years (the family, not the original purchasers). A man called Gibbs amassed a fortune dealing in guano, which he turned into fertiliser. He bought the grounds and property around 1830. A Georgian mansion had been built to replace the hunting lodge, but Gibbs wanted something far more grand.

In 1860 he had the house expanded and completely remodelled into the Victorian Gothic Revival style. The grounds and gardens were developed and they currently occupy 540 acres. In 1870 Gibbs had a chapel built in the grounds. His family maintained possession until 2001, when the last survivor passed away. In 2002 it was bought by the National Trust and has been turned into a great place for a day out, whether young or old.


BS48 1NX

Diary - Saturday 28th January 2017

We woke to heavy rain. That meant that, at least, it was not so cold, but Pauline was off for a day in Birmingham, shopping with Helen.

She caught the 9.15am and met up with Helen at 10.15. By then the rain had stopped and for the next five hours the sun shone beautifully. By all accounts they had a lovely day. They are great together and at least Pauline was not subjected to 'shopping like a man!'

On my part, I had a most relaxing day. I caught up with a lot of paperwork, not worried that I was ignoring Pauline, and I had my longest session yet on my exercise bike. I don't know if it was a fluke but it was four times longer than usual.

Pauline and Helen dined out in style. I had the meal that Pauline had cooked yesterday and another 16 hours of the flavourings influencing all the ingredients made this a really gorgeous meal.

Pauline was home by 5.45pm. by which time the rain was well and truly back.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Pendennis Castle - Cornwall

When King Henry VIII fell out with Catherine of Aragon he fell out with a lot of other people as well. Initially it was just the whole of France and the Vatican City, but later he also rattled Spain.

Henry had never shown any interest in sea fortifications until he saw how much of a ruckus he had stirred up, so he began to look more closely at coastal defences, clearly expecting retaliation from France.

A fort was built at the mouth of the River Fal and this was equipped with artillery designed to keep unwanted ships at bay. When Spain also became a threat the fort was further reinforced and classed as a castle. It was initially completed in 1542 and upgraded a few years later.

The castle remained important for quite some time and it was besieged during the English Civil War. It did not fall but some damage was inflicted. In 1660 King Charles II ordered that the castle be restored. It continu7ed in use for military purposes right up until the Second World War, after which it fell into rapid decline and was decommissioned in 1956.

Originally under the control of the Ministry of Works, it was realised that Pendennis would become a popular tourist site and so the control and running of the castle was passed to English Heritage.

Pendennis Castle


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Diary - Friday 27th January 2017

I do like my Fridays. Pauline insists that it is our day off.

I did five of my Must Do tasks and I made a loaf of bread. That was it.

I took everything to the Sorting Office in sub-zero temperatures. It did improve and by the time we went into Lichfield town centre it was a balmy 4 degrees.

I had an appointment at the surgery. It seems that although I gave up smoking 45 years ago, it is now catching up with me. When I got back, Gerard and Margaret had called in for a cup of tea.

Pauline cooked Wiltshire Pork for tonight and for me tomorrow, we watched some gentle TV, and that was it. Very relaxing.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Brassington - Derbyshire

I was born in Warwickshire and the Cotswolds were within easy reach, so it was natural that if we wanted a pleasant day meandering through the sights, the beautiful golden houses of the Cotswold villages were always first choice.

When we married we moved to Lichfield in Staffordshire and began to widen our circle of interest, but for some reason Derbyshire only captured us in parts. Until recently.

The villages of Derbyshire are more likely to be built of limestone rather than sandstone and can look very grey on a damp, dull day. But when the sun is shining they are a delight. What's more they are gateways into the gorgeous Peak District.

We have visited a number of places now in Derbyshire and plan to revisit and find more attractions as this year unfolds, including going back to Brassington.

Brassington was inhabited back in the days of the Domesday Book, but never grew much in size. Today it has around 600 inhabitants, and at one time it seemed there was a pub for everybody. There are still more there today than most towns can accommodate, and that is down to the walkers and tourists.

The church is by far the oldest building. St James is of Norman origins. The oldest house in the village is dated 1615 and most are between 200 and 300 years old. The town made its living from lead mining, but that has dwindled to nothing and agriculture and heavy goods transport seem to be the main sources of income for those who don't travel to the big towns for their employment.

Brassington is well placed. Not far from the lovely Matlock, not too far even from Derby itself, and with lovely views down the valley towards Carsington Water.



Carsington Water

St James

Diary - Thursday 26th January 2017

What tends to happen with me, since I retired, is that I know what needs to be done but when other demands come along, I get deflected. So I've compiled a To Do list with the 9 daily requirements on the top, and they have to be tackled first. It's working. I'm doing what I really have to first and then what I think I should do next.

Thursday is the most different day to all the others because I have to get the nine out of the way well before ten o'clock. I did this and then recorded the Stevenage Talking News. There was a lot of news in there today and so it was lunchtime when I finished.

I took three to the Live at Home Scheme, in bitterly cold weather. Zero on the clock but about minus 4 in reality. From there to the studio and I finished Wales and Scotland whilst I ran off Stevenage and I had all three finished by 2.30pm.

I picked up the Lichfield Mercury copies, cut them up and was back to pick up my three by 3.15pm. We dismantled the furniture, ferried everyone home, and that was 4pm.

I was back at the studio for 6.15pm because I knew that Keith was in Germany and we would be at least one reader down. In the event there were four readers, Ben did a great job in sorting the faulty USB sticks, and Peter was there for the website and to help me with the duplicating and packing.

It was bitterly cold and we were home by 9pm.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Westwood Manor - Wiltshire

At this point we don't know too much about the history of Westwood Manor except that it was built in the 15th century, extended in the 16th century and plastered in the 17th century, so someone cared for it up to that point. Three of the rooms have decorative ceilings that have been dated 1490.

Throughout the next two centuries the manor was allowed to decline and it was not until 1911 that Edgar (Ted) Lister bought the manor and decided to restore the place to its former glory. This he did. He cultivated rather formal gardens and tried to find what the original building had looked like. Stripping back plaster he found well preserved panelling underneath.

He then started to fill the house with fine furnishings, tapest56ries and rare musical instruments, many of which are still there to be seen.

After Lister reached the end of his tenure on Earth the house passed to the National Trust and they have been maintaining and running the property since 1956.

 Westwood Manor


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St Mary the Virgin

Diary - Wednesday 25th January 2017

Time was when we would be looking forward to the party tonight in the Parish Hall. Burn's Night was always a favourite. There was a strong Scottish contingent in Lichfield and someone had to stab that haggis. Now some of them have passed to higher service and the bagpipes have been shelved.

I really cracked on this morning. On top of my normal activities I downloaded all the magazines for this week and applied for funding for the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance. I went to the Sorting Office and picked up all the returns and then Sue came again and helped Pauline process everything, leaving me to get on with paperwork. The important thing was that everything had been achieved by 1pm.

Pauline went with Sue to help her choose a new bathroom. I got lunch ready and then we went over to Ventura Park. I left Pauline to browse and I went up to Dosthill to see Fred Meddes. Fred had his aorta valve replaced a couple of days before Christmas. He is older than me so recovery will take two or three months - though he did seem to be getting a spark back.

I took everything to the studio for tonight's recording. Then got a call from Peter O'Brien to say he wouldn't be able to make it. I tell everyone that Family comes first, the job comes second and the Talking News is there if 1 & 2 allow. Besides, Peter is there most weeks, so he's entitled to the odd night off.

Jane joined me and we recorded the Welsh and Scottish talking news and I was home just after 8.30p,.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens - Dorset

Whilst you are in the region of the Jurassic Coast you might find a trip to Abbotsbury would fill a day.

A kitchen garden was created at Abbotsbury in 1765 by the 1st Countess of Ilchester. The intention was to supply the kitchens at their nearby castle. The 1st Earl took a shine to the location and built a house. The family stayed there quite content until a major fire in 1913 burnt the house down.

The 4th Earl elected to move to the family's current home, but decided the garden was too good to be allowed to go wild and fade away, so he orchestrated the development of the 20 acre site at Abbotsbury into something much more appealing. He established the subtropical garden because the area has a micro climate and can support plants that would not grow elsewhere in Britain.

Sat in a valley that runs down to the Chesil Brach, a number of very rare plants were introduced, many of them the only examples in Britain. All went well until the great storm of 1990 when much of the garden was destroyed. Once again the decision was taken to rekindle the garden, and this has been achieved most successfully.

Apart from the walled garden there are nature trails through both structured and informal gardens, and the ever changing greenery makes the venue popular all year around.

Close to the gardens, for those who want to explore the area, is the Abbotsbury Abbey, Swannery and children's farm.


Diary - Tuesday 24th January 2017

My new regime seems to be working. By saying that I will only do 'work' work until lunchtime I appear to be more focussed. The main things that I did this morning were to write to the South Wales Argus asking them to help me establish the Gwent Talking News as a local production. I also applied for funding to the Postcode Lottery and processed two new listeners.

After lunch we went into Lichfield. I had a cheque to bank and Pauline had a mini shopping list. Tonight I addressed the Arthritis Care Group who now hold their meetings at the new Fire Station. They seemed to enjoy the talk about the Talking News and other issues and I came home with a pot of roses and £100.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Milton Keynes - Happy Birthday

Ordinarily Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire would probably not appear in my top one thousand places to visit in Britain, but if you are in the area you might want to drop in.

The official birth day of the new 'city' is 23rd January 1967.

I first started to visit on business during the eighties and my initial opinion was how American the place was in lay out and design. The roads are built on the grid system, whereas most roads in Britain were marked out after watching cattle meander from place to place.

My first reaction was that this was a bland place, very much lacking in character, but as time progressed and some of my visits involved longer stays I began to see some charm to the place. For a start there is room to breathe - for everyone. The roads are straight but wide and there are miles of broad walkways and wide open spaces, mostly grassed or treed.

Milton Keynes was a village that grew to swallow the likes of Bletchley (worth a page on its own sometime), Stony Croft and Wolverton, plus around 15 local villages. The original intent was that Milton Keynes would become a city of some 250,000 people. The last time I checked it was at 230,000, so something must be working.

Milton Keynes homes

the A5

wide open spaces

roomy shopping arcades

handy for the M1

everything on the square

Diary - Monday 23rd January 2017

We are going through a very cold spell. The frost was evident first thing and we had fog lingering, so I was happy to stay indoors for a while.

I have committed myself to start work as soon as I can in the morning - 8am if possible - and crack on like in the old days until 1pm. Then the afternoon can be for housework or us time. I did well this morning a wrote eight letters to Trusts around the country hoping to secure funding for the Talking News. I also processed another new listener.

Pauline took Rita to the Knitting Club. I went to the Post Office for stamps for my pleas and then I visited a listener who was having trouble with her media player. When I got there I soon found that the stick was working fine, so it was the player, which I replaced.

Tonight was Lichfield Lions and this didn't go too well. Perhaps we are all getting too old but there is an inertia. Several of our group now have holiday homes in France or Spain, and quite understandably want to use them to full advantage. We have few younger members and those we do have don't seem inclined to subject themselves to our current meeting styles.

The last time I was president, Robert made me read the book Death by Meetings. It was brilliant and I adopted all of its recommendations. This meant that the agenda went out three days before the meeting and contained all of the important information that everyone needed. They were expected to read it and only bring up anything extra that had occurred late. The result was that one meeting was over in 35 minutes and the rest of the night was spent being sociable.

Tonight's meeting closed at 10.30pm with a few items not touched!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Jurassic Coast - Devon & Dorset

Probably the most photographed sight on the south coast is Durdle Door in the middle of the Jurassic Coast. This remarkable stretch of coastline runs from Exmouth in Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, a distance of 96 miles.

The coast line here represents 185 million years of history and although it is called the Jurassic Coast it also features the older Triassic period as well as the relatively younger Cretaceous period of history.

If you love fossils you will find many places along the coast where they are on display, including a brand new £50 million Lottery Funded showcase of the work of one man - and that us still ongoing.

The coast also boasts some stunning cliff top walks, beautiful coves and works of nature, and is a designated World Heritage Site. The main problem that the area faces is not the tourists and their pick axes, it is the weather.

Durdle Door

Lulworth Crumble

Lulworth Cove

Old Harry Rocks