Sunday, 30 April 2017

Hedingham Castle - Essex

The manor at Hedingham was gifted to Aubrey de Vere by William the Conqueror in 1086. He immediately set to and built himself a small castle. Some 100 years later his descendants tore the original down and built a new castle. This was completed in 1140 when the keep was finished. That is the only part of the castle that remains.

The De Vere family retained ownership until 1625. In 1713 it passed to Sir William Ashhurst and in 1720 it passed to his granddaughter and it remained with the Majendie family for the next 250 years.

The castle was besieged twice, in 1216 and 1217. Both times it surrendered, but the family was allowed to remain. The destruction of much of the castle had nothing to do with the attacks, it was more that the stones and bricks could be better used elsewhere.

In 1970 the impressive 4 storey keep passed to the Lindsay side of the family, and they are still there. The keep is very popular and stages a wide range of events throughout the year. Weddings are common and the general public can visit from Easter until October.


My week - Sunday 23rd to Saturday 28th April 2017

Sunday 23rd April 2017

We had another nice breakfast and then Fran and Alan got on the road back to Woking just after 10am. They had nice weather for the trip.

Pauline took Rita to church and then found that she hadn’t eaten properly since Tuesday because her microwave oven had failed. Pauline took her to Tesco and bought a new one. After dinner we took her back to plug in the new microwave. The old one was unplugged.

Monday 24th April 2017

The forecast was for bad weather on the way. Our front lawn hadn’t been cut since before my accident, so I set about doing it. The magpies have destroyed swathes of the grass, so I ordered grass seed and top soil. That’s a job for another day. Just doing the lawn wore me out.

Pauline took Rita to the knitting club and Dave Pomroy called round for a chat about next Saturday.

Tuesday 25th April 2017

Much of Staffordshire had experienced snow overnight, but our skies were blue, although it was only about 2 degrees.

Pauline had an appointment at the surgery and I called in at Prince Accountants for the Talking News books.

Pauline drove us up to Ashby de la Zouch to meet with Jackie and Brian. We hadn’t seen them since September and Brian has been in the wars, also falling over, but he broke his ankle.

Normally we eat in one of the pubs on the High Street but decided the meals were not to our hopes, so today we met at Ask Italian, three times more expensive but five times better foodwise.

On the way back we called in at John Lewis and bought ourselves a new television. The man assured me I would be able to set it up myself.

The man was wrong, though we could watch Netflix. So we did.

Wednesday26th April 2017

I drove today for the first time in three weeks. Not far, down to the Sorting Office and back. Sue came round and helped Pauline with the returns. I downloaded all the news and (eventually) all the magazines.

Pauline took Sue to Boundary Mill. They were gone four hours. I did some paperwork and then had a couple of hours off.

Pauline took me in to the studio with everything for tonight. Peter O’Brien was there with Jane, so we left them to it and came home and watched ‘PS I Love You.’ Lovely film and very well cast.

Thursday 27th April 2017

Sleeping better and feeling more real, though my leg still pains me in the night. Still, anyone can make excuses and there’s still such a lot that has to be done.

The Stevenage Talking News for a start, my first for three weeks. My inexperience showed and I lost 31 minutes of recording. Still I was finished by lunchtime.

No Live at Home Scheme today, and that made quite a difference. I was at the studio for 6pm to finish off all the various recordings and with Keith arriving half an hour later we had it all finished by the time the readers all arrived.

Friday 28th April 2017

I made my first loaf of bread for months. Pauline has been buying gluten free bread from the supermarkets, even though I say I prefer my own. So I pre-empted her and was pleased with the end result.

We needed a new hole in the lawn to take a clothes line post. Unfortunately the ground is like concrete and hammering a post in only got it half way. I had ordered an auger but when it turned up, it was too big. So I trawled the DIY shops looking for a hole borer.

In the end I opted for a long handled trowel and spent over an hour hammering my way to the required depth. All that banging must have brought the creepy crawlies to the surface because as soon as I moved away, flocks of birds descended, including 13 starlings. I have never seen a starling in our garden before.

All birds are welcome, except for magpies (cowards and bullies) and the heron (takes more than one fish, if allowed).

I cooked tonight. There was nothing wrong with the end result, but nothing startlingly good either. Probably because there was no wine in the gravy!

Saturday 29th April 2017

Barton under Needwood Lions (Dave Pomroy) had organised a Walk for Sight at Barton Marina, so I had to go, whether I was up to it or nay.

It was quite cold with a wicked cross wind that destroyed the gazebo in minutes, but there was a good turn out with a Lord Mayor, Age UK and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Back home I found we were both exhausted, so we lazed around all afternoon just reading and then grabbed a very early night.

Got to get back to firing on all cylinders.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Ashridge House - Hertfordshire

Ashridge is quite remarkable. The 5000 acre site that includes gardens, woodland and parkland, started out as a priory in 1283. In common with a great many other religious estates across the areas ruled by King Henry VIII, Ashridge Priory was surrendered to the Crown during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Ownership passed to Elizabeth before she became Queen. It remained the property of the Crown until 1604 when it became under the ownership of Sir Thomas Egerton.  The house remained in Egerton hands for several centuries and in 1800 the priory was partly demolished and a new Gothic Revival house was built during the period 1808-14.

In 1921 the house was split away from the estate. The National Trust took over the running of the park and woodlands whilst new owners debated what to do with the house. In 1929 it became a college and in 1959 became a management college, and that is the main use still today.

The church which sits close to the house was built to replace the original church in 1817. The spire was deemed unsafe and was demolished in 1922. However, it was considered that the church without its spire had lost its character, and so a replica was constructed in 1969, made of fibreglass.

The Historic Houses Association became involved with the house and, as such, visits became possible, though on a limited basis. The house has also become a popular venue for high society weddings.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Wilton House - Wiltshire

The earliest known building on this estate was a priory. This flourished from 871 until King Henry VIII came up with the idea of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1542 the estate and everything thereabouts was gifted by Henry to William Herbert. William shortly afterwards became the first Earl of Pembroke, and his successors still own Wilton.

In 1551, William had the priory removed and a new Tudor mansion built in its place. This lasted for 80 years and today only the great tower survives. In 1631 the 4th Earl brought in the renowned Inigo Jones and the house was totally rebuilt, retaining only the original tower.

In 1801 it was modernised again, this time by James Watt, and it is his design that is the basis for what we see today. There is a lot to see at Wilton and we advise checking the website for visit details.



Monday, 24 April 2017

Shugborough - Staffordshire

This is the story of two brothers. I didn't realise that, and we've been going to Shugborough for 40 years. To anyone living in Lichfield, Shugborough was the home of Patrick Anson, known to the world as the photographer Patrick Lichfield, fifth Earl and cousin to the Queen.

Shugborough sits within a huge estate on the edge of Cannock Chase. For a couple of centuries it was owned by the Bishops of Lichfield, but they lost possession through the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540. Henry VIII tended to give monasterial lands to all and sundry, providing they were not clergy, and Shugborough changed hands a few times until 1624, when it was bought by William Anson.

In 1693 the house that had stood since the times of the bishops was demolished and what is now the central area of the Shugborough Mansion was built. In 1697, George Anson was born. He was a confident young man and an inspired leader of men, once he had matured. He joined the navy (Shugborough is as far from the sea as you can get, so it wasn't an obvious choice) and rose first to the rank of Admiral and later to become Admiral of the Fleet. During his time as a mere Admiral he captured a French fleet, but more importantly he captured a Spanish galleon that was so loaded with treasure that it took 32 carts to haul it into London.

Anson received a large share of the treasure, and he invested it in Shugborough. He had an older brother, Thomas, and they were very different characters, but nevertheless staunchly supportive of each other. George was the adventurer and Thomas the more creative and both travelled the world and saw sights that few would have dreamed of at the time. George turned his wealth into expanding the buildings at Shugborough and Thomas turned his attention to the estate and the gardens.

Patrick Anson never owned Shugborough. When the 4th Earl inherited, the Death Duties were so high that he gifted the estate to the National Trust, in 1960. They immediately leased the land to the Staffordshire County Council, and they ran the house as we have always known it, with some mention of the Ansons and a lot of emphasis on Patrick.

The one concession was that Patrick Lichfield could have one corner of the main house for his living quarters, and he lived there until his death in 2005.

In late 2016, the Staffordshire County Council decided to cut losses and paid the National Trust to take the estate back. They immediately closed it down and began alterations. The estate reopened in February and we have now been back to see what is happening.

A lot! There is a five year programme of restoration and change and we will return regularly to see the effects of those changes. Already there are walks that didn't exist before and the Tower of the Wind that no one realised was there, but in the house there are many bare patches on the walls where paintings have been removed for cleaning and restoration. Upstairs is currently closed and Patrick gets just one small room, but the history of the place is already more evident and the story of the two brothers is more clearly defined.

Even in its current condition, Shugborough is worth a visit. The next year or so should make it even more so.


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Sunday, 23 April 2017

My week - Sunday 16th to Saturday 22nd April 2017

Sunday 16th April 2017

Today I felt I had turned the corner properly. My pains had reduced to simply aches. I’m taking longer to bounce back than usual, but it was a good fall.

We didn’t race over breakfast but we were all ready around 10am. We went in two cars over to the Kingsbury Water Park. This is run by Warwickshire County Council and they have missed a few tricks. If the National Trust had it, it would be a much more enticing place to visit.

We met up with most of the Whitehouse clan. Gerard, Margaret, Louise, Neil Emma and baby Molly. The twelve of us meandered slowly around the different lakes, catching up on each other and enjoying the outdoors.

We got to lunchtime and it started to rain, so back we all went whence we had come.

Monday 17th April 2017

The boys were in no rush. Another lovely, friendly breakfast and then they began to piece themselves together. Fully loaded, they were on the way just after 11am.

We know they stopped at Oxford Services for lunch and were back in Hove Actually just after 3pm. That’s good progress.

Pauline was completely drained, but there was the house to get straight, so I vacuumed upstairs and down whilst she dusted, polished and replaced items where they should be. Then I wouldn’t let her do any more.

Tuesday 18th April 2017

I’m still taking it easy, because though I feel I’m getting better, not everybody agrees. I had some cheques to pay into the bank and Pauline came with me again. We did a quick shop for the weekend and then it was back home to enjoy the sunshine.

It was chilly out of the sun but lovely in the back garden, so we both found outdoor activities that took care of the afternoon.

Pauline has been running herself ragged, looking after me, so I took the pressure off tonight and cooked an Irish stew that I was more than happy with.

Wednesday 19th April 2017

Sue came quite early to help Pauline with the returns, though I went with her to the Post Office to get them. I left the ladies alone whilst I downloaded all the Scottish and Welsh news.

It took me a lot of the day to ge5t everything ready for tonight, but I did it without too much hassle.

Pauline drove me up to the studio about 5.30pm so that we could have the rest of the evening to get ready for the next few days.

Thursday 20th April 2017

It was a wet day for the morning and early afternoon. When it stopped, I walked down to the shops to get the Lichfield Mercury. A sign I am on the mend.

Fran and Alan arrived just before 5pm. We settled them in and organised a meal. Once it was underway with the cooking, Pauline took me up to the studio to meet Keith and the readers. We discovered the Wednesday session didn’t take place. Nothing I could do about it.

Back home for a nice Mary Berry chicken dish, a chat for an hour or so, then bed not too late.

Friday 21st April 2017

Everybody was ready in good time and we set off for Grindley, just outside Uttoxeter. Alan drove and we picked the scenic route.

Robert had bought Fran and Pauline a gin making experience. This turned out to be a brilliant day and well worth the cost of the venture. Although we were only bystanders in theory, we were very much part of the whole day and we came home, with the ladies clutching the gin they had made and the men clutching the bottles they had bought, and then it was another very sociable evening.

Saturday 22nd April 2017

Finally Pauline is believing that I am getting better, though I still can’t drive! We loaded into our car this time and Pauline took us up to Shugborough.

This has changed very much in the past few months and is a work in progress, so it will be another four years till we see the finished result, but for Fran and Alan, never having been before, it was a successful visit.

I guided Pauline through the middle of Cannock Chase so that Fran and Alan could get a feeling for just how big the area is, then we stopped at the Red Lion at Longdon where we were treated to a gorgeous meal.

Back home there was the gin to try, nibbles to snack at, and a game o0f Hollywood Dominoes to round off the day.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Let the fun be gin - Uttoxeter, Staffordshire

If this is deemed to be an advert for the Nelson's Gin Experience, so be it. I'd recommend it to anyone.

The gin making experience was a gift to both Pauline and Fran from Rob and Sheri. Along with Alan (doing the driving) we set off on the 40 minute trip through the beautiful Staffordshire countryside up to Grindley, just outside Uttoxeter, and found Nelson's Gin on an industrial estate.

Inside the main room were, for the experience, fourteen people, with 8 actually making the gin and the others helping by sampling every possible combination.

Our leader for the day was Neil and he is incredibly well versed in the art of gin making. Each of the eight were asked what kind of gin they would like to make. There were 27 botanics that you could choose from. All 8 chose something completely different and as each spoke their preferences, Neil then suggested other herbs or spices that should be added to bring out the flavours and the desired result.

All of the gins started with Orrick root, angelica root, coriander seeds and juniper. Pauline wanted a floral effect, based on lavender and liquorice. Neil then made his suggestions and ultimately elder flower, lemon zest, pink pepper, rose, grapefruit zest and tonquin beans were added.

All the stills were operated and we sat patiently and learned a lot more about gin, including how to drink it, plus we enjoyed a tasty and substantial lunch. The final result for Pauline and Fran each was a full bottle of their very own gin. In Pauline's case 50.2 proof.

As each person's gin was completed, a sample was passed for everyone in the room to taste. There were also three of Nelson's own gins to enjoy. Lucky really that Alan was driving!

The whole event took 4 hours. The level of instruction and information given was excellent, and gin will always be seen in a different light at Chez May.

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Thursday, 20 April 2017

Moggerhanger Park - Bedfordshire

The first house built at Moggerhanger Park was of Georgian style. Eventually the area came into the possession of Godfrey Thornton, a director of the Bank of England. Over the period 1790 to 1793 he had the house completed remodelled and extended.

For the next hundred years or so the house functioned as a home of significance, but hard times came and immediately after the First World War the house was turned over for use as a hospital, in particular as a TB Isolation Unit. As TB was brought under control the house then operated as an orthopaedic hospital, from 1950 to 1987, when it closed.

Once closed the house fell rapidly into disrepair with crumbling brickwork and overrun gardens. In 1994 the estate was offered for sale at the princely sum of £1.

Isabelle Hay, Countess of Errol was attracted to the house and was determined to restore it, if possible. She helped establish the Moggerhanger House Preservation Trust and some £7 million was raised from various sources and the house recovered.

Today it functions mainly as Conference and Training facilities, but is also a popular venue for weddings. The gardens were restored and are open to the public all year round. House visits are limited to the period June to September, but guided tours take place twice a day.

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Abbey House & Gardens - Wiltshire

My brother in Law bought a house in Malmesbury adjacent to the Abbey. It was a delightful town to visit, full of quirky stories concerning flying monks and the like. It took a few visits before we found the Abbey House and it was only in the last 25 years that the house and grounds have been open to visitors.

The first known house on the site was built in the 11th century. This was replaced in the 13th century, but in 1539 the land came into the possession of William Stumpe and in 1542 he built a Tudor styled house that is the basis for what we see today.

In 1920 the house became the property of Captain McKirdy and he enlarged it by adding a wing, in the same style. In 1968 the house was bought by the Deaconess Community of St Andrew as a retirement home for its Sisters and accommodation for visitors. They gave up ownership in 1990.

The house languished for a few years but the it was bought by the Pollard family in 1994 and they set about restoring the gardens to their original glory. The Pollards became quite famous for a while, not least because they did their gardening in the nude. The Historic Houses Association was brought in to provide funding for further restorations, and that brought with it the 'open to the public' aspect, though it is best to c heck the website to ascertain opening times and dates.


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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Mottisfont Abbey - Hampshire

An Augustinian priory was established at Mottisfont in 1201. It operated without too much trauma until 1346 when its inhabitants contracted the Black Death and many did not survive. Having overcome that horror they next fell foul of the Dissolution of the Monasteries of 1536-41 when King Henry VIII gifted the priory to Sir William Sandys.


The pattern elsewhere had been to tear the Monasteries and churches down, but Sir William kept the priory more or less as it was, converting it instead into a home, in particular the nave of the church.


Over the next century or so the priory was actually expanded to close to what we see today. However, in 1934 the priory - by now know as Mottisfont Abbey - was bought by Maud and Gilbert Russell. Maud fell in love with the place and was fascinated by its history. She set about reshaping everything to try to recreate what it had looked like and re-establish its history.


In 1957 the Abbey passed into the control of the National Trust, although it was still lived in until 1972. The NT has made great efforts to ensure the Abbey appeals to all, especially children. There are 1600 acres of woodland and parkland and beautifully coiffured gardens that reflect the passage of the seasons. The short walk to the tributary or the longer walk down to the River Test is peaceful and family activities are encouraged.


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My week - Sunday 9th April - Saturday 15th April 2017

Sunday 9th April 2017

No hiding that I am still hurting. This is taking longer than I had hoped.

Pauline took Rita to church and then brought her back for her Sunday roast. Meanwhile I sat outside in the best sunshine of the year.

So pleased that the weekend has been so good for all the kids, especially those down in Brighton, but also those helping Rober5t celebrate his birthday.

Monday 10th April 2017

I did my first place visit for my blog for over a week. My head is getting there but my body hurts. I’d thought I would be over it by now.

Pauline wrapped 9 media players for despatch. Didn’t like to tell her that we needed twelve.

Dave Pomroy came to visit this afternoon, just after I had blood tests up at the surgery. We went twenty minutes early for a 3.15 appointment and were on the way home by 3pm.

Sunny today but ten degrees cooler.

Tuesday 11th April 2017

My back and spine still hurt, but otherwise I’m good to go. Pauline went to church to move some flowers around, then came back and took me into Lichfield to drop money at three banks.

Still much cooler, but I coped!

Gill and Paul came for us at 1.15pm and took us over to the Vinery at Burton on Trent for a leisurely three course meal.

I was happy with the service in the main, though fast food outlets have led to some people bemoaning the wait for food to be prepared fresh.

I thought the quality and taste of all three courses that I experienced was excellent.

Afterwards we drove up to Anslow to avoid roadworks traffic on the A38. Paul took us to a free range egg outlet. Take a look at what we got compared to a supermarket Large egg.


Wednesday 12th April 2017

Woke from a restless, sometimes painful night. The sun was shining early but the tree tops told their own story, bending sharply in the cutting wind. Keith went to the Sorting Office for us and brought the returns round at 7.45am.

All pleasures incur some pain, even if it’s just the pain of the pleasure ending. I’d thoroughly enjoyed yesterday. I enjoy the company of friends and Gill and Paul always have something different to add to discussions, but today the pain was in my body. It was saying “pay back time.”

There is a lot to do on a Wednesday. Pauline went and did a flower arrangement for the altar. I downloaded the news for Scotland and Wales. I processed two more new listeners. Sue came after lunch and the ladies handled the returns whilst I downloaded the magazines and worked out the programmes for the link men.

We took everything to the studio, and that was enough for one day.

Thursday 13th April 2017

I’d taken paracetomol but my aches still woke me three times in the night. Can’t remember the last night of unbroken sleep. Certainly not in the last year.

Still, we made it through the night – to a grey and cold start to the day.

I behaved myself and didn’t do the Stevenage Talking News. I don’t like to let the listeners down but I’d rather them have to make do with the Lichfield TN for a couple of weeks than lose their own TN permanently. I trust they understand.

Friday 14th April 2017


It’s a little disappointing that I am not really feeling much different after nearly two weeks. I know these bones are 75 years old but my head is still that of a teenager.


I helped Pauline get the house ready as much as I could and then Dan, Gary, Reece, Roan and Jackson the dog arrived.

All was well until dinner time and Roan had one of his moments. I suddenly found I couldn’t cope with it. Daniel said he thought I was having an anxiety attacjk, which is weird because my whole working life was one of total stress, and my strength was that I could cope with it.

Saturday 15th April 2017

I woke feeling disappointed with myself and took it really easy today. When everyone went into town, I stayed behind. The only thing I did was my blog.

I coped much better and this was an enjoyable family day, but I can’t wait to start feeling better.

Saturday, 15 April 2017


The Times reported today on the ten streets that had been voted the best street views in Britain. The poll was quite limited and I certainly don't agree with most of the choices, though Kings Hill and The Shambles would definitely be on my list. Also, only one street outside of England featured and I can think of many in Ireland, Scotland and Wales that deserved to be there.

So maybe soon I'll review my own top ten. Meanwhile, here is what the voters thought:

The Shambles - York

Royal Mile - Edinburgh

Royal Crescent - Bath

Steep Hill - Lincoln

Gold Hill - Shaftesbury

Waterside - Stratford on Avon

Kings Parade - Cambridge

Elm Hill - Norwich

Eastgate - Chester

Market Place - Dervizes