Friday, 31 March 2017

Fotheringhay - Northamptonshire

I was born with this desire to travel down a road I've never experienced before. I've always done it and sometimes it ends in disappointment and other times in delight.

I had been to a meeting in Peterborough that had gone quite well, and had finished early, so I was in no rush to get home. Instead of taking the main road out of Peterborough to drive west, I took the first side road I could see going in that direction, and there was Fotheringhay.

I knew the name. Fotheringhay Castle was connected to King Richard III, but when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Fotheringhay began to suffer.

The first recorded mention of Fotheringhay was in 1060 and it featured in the Domesday Book some 35 years later. This was a rural village that boasted a castle and the church of St Mary & All Saints, which had been built in 1430.

The fall out following the death of Richard was not immediate, but it was relentless and by 1627 the only sign that there had ever been a castle was the motte, which is still there today. Fortunately the church remained intact and was extended later and shaped in the Perpendicular style.

the river Nene

St Mary & All Saints


Fotheringhay village

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Wakehurst Place - Sussex

A week or so ago I featured our recent visit to Wakehurst Place. I did say that we had only chance to see one third of the site. The following pictures were taken from a different part of the park land about four years ago.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Sheffied Park - East Sussex

So far I have been to Sheffield Park five times, and have never seen the same scene twice. That is one of the beauties of this large estate, just five miles from Haywards Heath.

The park certainly existed at the time of the Domesday Book, though not too much is known about the earlier days. We do know that the deer park was created in 1700 and that Capability Brown was brought in to construct and manage the four lakes and beautiful parkland that was once part of Sheffield Park House.

The house is still privately owned though the grounds are now run and controlled by the National Trust. There were other landscaping operations after Brown, particularly by Humphry Repton. The house was remodelled in the Gothic style around 1775.

Sheffield Park is designed to reflect the changing of the seasons, and this it does with sometime gorgeous effect.

Sheffield Park House

TN22 3QX

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Coughton Court - Warwickshire

Coughton Court is worth a visit. We got there to find it very popular. Visits to the house and walled garden were scheduled. We wandered the gardens in glorious sunshine, examined the churches on site, admired the new born rare breed lambs and watched jackdaws building a nest in a church tower.

The house has seen better days but given that it was the home of the Throckmorton family since 1409 and the fact that they were fiercely Roman Catholic when it was prudent not to be so, plus half of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot were family members, it's amazing they hung on to it as long as they have.

The following is taken from the website of the National Trust:

The name Coughton (pronounced "Coat-un") suggests a settlement or farm known for the hunting of woodcock or game birds. It is believed that there was a medieval house on the site when John de Throckmorton arrived in 1409 to marry into the de Spiney family. Since that time, Coughton Court has been home to the Throckmortons, one of the UK’s oldest Catholic families.  This year the family is celebrating its 600th anniversary of residence at Coughton Court.

Through its rich and varied history, the house has witnessed some of the most defining moments in British history – from the court of Henry VIII to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Coughton Court still has many of its original features including its flamboyant sixteenth-century gate tower. It is one of the last remaining Roman Catholic houses in the country to retain its historic treasures: it houses one of the very best collections of portraits and memorabilia of one family from the early Tudor times.  Alongside family items on display, there are pieces such as the chemise reputedly worn by Mary Queen of Scots when she was executed and a bishop’s Cope, with intricate needlework, believed to have been worked upon by Catherine of Aragon.

Coughton Court was gifted to the National Trust in 1946 by the Throckmortons, with a 300 year lease to the family.  The Throckmortons continue to live at Coughton Court, continuing six centuries of unbroken tradition.

After inheriting the estate in 1992, it was Clare McLaren-Throckmorton's intention, together with her daughter, the acclaimed garden designer Christina Williams, to create a garden that provides this beautiful house the setting it deserves.


B49 5JA

Monday, 27 March 2017

Crich Tram Museum - Derbyshire

There is far more than just trams at Crich and you should allow a good half day for a visit.

The parking is free and the entrance ticket allows readmission for the rest of the year, should you so desire, which makes it a reasonable charge if you are local.

With your entrance fee paid you are given a penny to pay for your tram ride. If you choose first to head for the Glory Mine (actually lead, not gold) and then back down into the town you will travel for 20 minutes for your penny, and your ticket lasts all day.

They've made an effort and you can easily spend three hours touring the old shops, George Stephenson Discovery & Learning Centre, the workshop where you can watch them rebuilding old trams that were short of TLC, through to the tram depot and the Great Exhibition Hall. There are also walks, play areas and picnic spots.

A great day out when the sun shines.



Sunday, 26 March 2017

Matlock - Derbyshire

The formal name for the town is Matlock Springs. People have been living in the area for close to 2000 years, but the springs were hidden until 300 years ago.

Matlock has a population of 20,000 people, yet it is the county town of Derbyshire. The town was large enough for a mention in the Domesday Book but it remained fairly insignificant until 1698, when the first of the healing water springs was discovered. That led to a population explosion and Matlock becoming renowned for its spas and healing powers.

That situation remained for quite a long time, but began to wane over the second half of the last century. However, other attractions began to take shape. The River Derwent is still quite lively as it passes through Matlock and that brought power to the mills. The most famous – Masson Mill – is still there today, but is now a shopping and outlet centre.

Today the most popular attractions are Gulliver’s Kingdom and the Heights of Abraham, sitting high above the tower and accessible by cable car.


Heights of Abraham

My week - Sunday 19th to Saturday 25th March 2017

Sunday 19th March 2017

The weather forecast had been grim so it was a bonus when it didn’t look too bad first thing. Pauline packed for an over night stop and we were off heading north up to Ashbourne.

We went to Ilam, which is on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border, just inside the Peak District and we had a lovely time exploring the park and the village, and a spot of lunch.

We hadn’t been in the car ten minutes when the rain started and it came down heavy for the rest of the day.

We drove up to Buxton and checked into the Palace Hotel. This is a place that was grand – once upon a time. It was OK for our very short break, but I wouldn’t want to spend a week there.

Tonight, though, we had a pleasant meal and shared a bottle of wine and talked of many things, especially our 48 years together as married.
Monday 20th March 2017

The rain was coming down in sheets when we woke, and it stayed that way until we got home.

We had a leisurely breakfast, checked out and made our way across to Bakewell, hoping the peaks were dividing the weather.

Not so.
We passed down through Matlock, where it seemed strange because the hundreds of motorcyclists who gather there every weekend had all gone home and back to work.

We were home by lunchtime. Pauline went to see Rita – and the sun came out.
Tuesday 21st March 2017

I worked hard this morning. There was a lot to do for the Talking News and I did as much as I could. Pauline went off to Ventura Park to meet up with Gill.

This afternoon was the AGM for the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance. The SNA badly needs funds, and that is currently down to me.
Wednesday 22nd March 2017

Another wet and nasty start. It’s a good job it is now officially Spring or it might have been less pleasant!

Pauline dropped me in town and I went to a meeting hosted by Support Staffordshire at the Wade Street Church. I forgot to take my phone, so was a drowned rat when I got back.

Pauline and Sue had done the returns, which I fetched before going into town. I downloaded all the rest of the Welsh and Scottish news plus the magazines.

Peter O’Brien sent a message to say he has Man Flu, so I did the recording with Jane and Jean.

There was a terrorist attack at Westminster. Sadly four people died (though one I accept – the perpetrator) and dozens were injured, many very badly.
Thursday 23rd March 2017

Early morning rain. Had to get on with things a bit more determinedly today.

I got the Stevenage Talking News finished a little earlier than usual, but it didn’t gain me much in the end.

I took three ladies to the Live at Home Scheme, went to the studio to finish and duplicate Wakes, Scotland and Stevenage, then took the ladies home again.

Tonight Peter helped get my new lap top started once we had finished recording the Lichfield Talking News.
Friday 24th March 2017

The weather is slowly improving. I took everything to the Sorting Office and then went into Lichfield. I deposited two small cheques and then walked round to Sandford Street to Prince Accountants and met Marie. This was to do with the Talking News and she proved to be a lovely and very helpful lady. We chatted for quite some time.

After lunch we did our weekly food shop and then I dismissed Pauline to the lounge because she has hurt her back. She wanted a risotto for dinner. We’d bought leeks this afternoon and then I found we still has some, so I wondered if they would go in a risotto.

Big time. I sautéed them in butter for seven minutes, then added four ounces of rice, then a big slurp of white wine. When that was absorbed I started ladling in chicken stock, adding jumbo prawns half way through, then some salmon flakes and finally a dollop of parmesan cheese.

Knock out.
Saturday 25th March 2017

Pauline was still suffering, so I kept a close eye on her.

I wrote fourteen begging letters for the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance. That took most of the morning, by which time the frost had gone and beautiful clear blue skies meant I could walk to the shop without my coat for the first time this year,

This afternoon we went to the Whittington Arms to meet up with Rita, Gerard, Margaret, and Emma who has been head-hunted by Morgan Stanley and so is on three months gardening leave.

We brought Rita back with us and I did a quick jacket potato with cheddar cheese and baked beans, and a glass of wine because we like to think posh.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Bakewell - Derbyshire

There has been a town at Bakewell for 1300 or 1400 years. It is known that the original Parish Church of All Saints was founded in 920 and the town is featured in the Domesday Book.

Some of the original Saxon origins of the church remain, but it was partially rebuilt in the 12th century and then altered more structurally in 1840.

The architecture is typical of the Peak District and this is another of those places that transform under the glow of the sun. The hill around Bakewell fall quite sharply and rivers combine just before entering the town, so the water is lively and therefore far more interesting. The 5 arch bridge that crosses the River Wye was build early in the 13th century.

Bakewell is mis-known across Britain and abroad for the Bakewell Tart. However, locals would argue that a tart is something different altogether and the true name is the Bakewell Pudding. There are some interesting old shops in Bakewell, two of which claim to be the home of the original Bakewell Pudding, and one the Bakewell Tart!

The town comes alive in the tourist season and particularly on Market Day. There has been a continuous market in Bakewell since 1254.

Church of All Saints

a pudding not a tart

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Buxton - Derbyshire

Fortunately this wasn't our first visit to Buxton. We had seen it before in a much better light.

Buxton is another of those gateways into the Peak District, this time for those from the North West. It is a spa town and was famous for its waters. It is also a clearly old and well established town with most of the building well in keeping with each other.

It was those buildings that make all the different, dependent on the weather. On a grey day with rain hammering down the limestone buildings seem hard and unwelcoming. Change that to a bright sunny day and the whole town lights up.

Buxton Opera House

Fortunately, if it does rain, you can visit Poole's Cavern.

The limestone caves under Buxton have been known for more than 2000 years, but easy access is relatively recent. The impressive caves were eroded by the River Wye as it disappears below ground before re-emerging to make its impressive descent towards the east.

What was pleasant about this experience was that the visit was friendly, the guided tour was informative and humorous at times, and the prices in the gift shop were gentle - not the rip-off charges of many other attractions.

As Buxton began to flourish as a spa town, the lame headed for the waters and the curious went to crawl into the atmospheric cavern. With only candles to light the way, exploration would have been fraught, especially as there is a steady stream of water droplets that would have challenged any candle holder. The Victorians added gas lighting but today there are strategically placed electric lights that focus the attention on the more interesting of the features.

The temperature in the cavern is a constant 7 degrees C (44F) but the steady flow of information and apocryphal stories, coupled with the intriguing sights meant that an hour on the tour flashes by with no realisation of the fact that it was no warmer inside that it was outside, except for the lack of wind.

You get plenty of chance to see the fledgling river as it burbles over the rocks, flashes of white water hinting at what the river does when once again free of the gloom and tumbling down to meet Bakewell.