Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Petworth House - West Sussex

The Percy Family occupied the grounds at Petworth from around 1110. They built a fortified manor house in 1300, but their main residence was in Alnwick in the North of England. As Mary Queen of Scots began her plotting against the Queen, Elizabeth I deemed the Percys too close to Mary and confined the whole family to Petworth.

In 1688, Charles Seymour, Duke of Somerset, had Petworth rebuilt. There were other additions a little later and Capability Brown played his part in designing the deer park. The servants quarters are larger than some stately homes we have seen, and Petworth began to take shape.

There are 700 acres of parkland and the largest Fallow Deer herd in Britain. One walk around the grounds takes two hours and covers five miles. The house and park were gifted to the nation in 1947 and are now administered by the National Trust.

The house today is largely a gigantic art display. There is so much on show that it is worth waiting for one of the guides so that you get the full story. The whole of downstairs (some 12 rooms) is open to view and there are a couple of other rooms that only get seen by those being guided, but are seemingly well worth tagging along.

Henry VIII

GU28 9LR

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Laines - Brighton

We ha d never visited the Laines in Brighton at Festival time. Neither had we properly seen the North Laines. We now know what we have missed.

The North Laines are a little wider than those closer to the sea front, which is useful because of the number of people trying to funnel their way through. Think of the exodus from a major sporting event and you get an idea of the size of the throngs.

The atmosphere was electric and the crowd was eclectic. There was every race, colour and creed (except an Eskimo - though I didn't see every nook and cranny. The weather was kind, the streets rang with the bells of Morris Dancers, street entertainers collared every spare space, an

There are no chain stores in the Laines. the time passed far too quickly. There is every other kind of shop that you can imagine, including Pysychic, if you want your palm read (the sign announced that it isn't rocket séance). Between every shop there is a street café and finding a seat would have been a challenge, otherwise we might just have sat and watched the world go by.

All those people and only the sense was that everyone was there to make the best of what was a very pleasant day. A lovely experience.

The Laines


Saturday, 20 May 2017

Arlington Court - Devon

A Georgian style house was built on the site in 1790. This was eventually bought by Colonel John Palmer Chichester, who had it demolished and commissioned the building of a neoclassical replacement. Work on this commenced in 1820. Colonel Chichester died in 1823, just as the building was completed.

Over the next 100 years there were further additions to the building and it expanded considerably. Eventually ownership passed to Rosalie Chichester, who remained unmarried. Having no one to leave her home to, Rosalie gifted the house to the National Trust in 1947, two years before she died.

Today the house displays antique furniture, and the National Trust also runs the National Carriage Museum on the site, with more than 50 horse drawn carriages on display.

EX31 4LP

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Acton Court - Gloucestershire

The Poyntz family owned what is now known as Acton Court from 1364 to 1680. They lived in a moated manor house until 1535. King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had been invited and it was decided to build a new East Wing in honour of their guests. Ironically, this Tudor style addition is all that remains today, and it very nearly didn't.

Once the family moved out the house began to fall into disrepair. The original building was razed and the bricks used elsewhere. The Eastern Wing was just left to deteriorate, until it reached a very dilapidated condition.

Then along came English Heritage with a determination to see the house saved. Add in extra help from the Historic Houses Association and the building was revived. The are hints inside of how grand it all must once have been, and the gardens are worth a visit and are interesting. They include wild flower meadows, a kitchen garden and displays of wild roses.

Acton Court will open to the public from 5 July to 13 August 2017, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Guided tours can be arranged, plus there are several historically-based events throughout the year.

The challenge



BS37 9TL

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Castletown - Isle of Man

Some years ago Honda took a group of motoring journalists to the Isle of Man to test drive a new model. One of the delights of that trip was that Honda had arranged for us to drive a considerable part of the famous Isle of Man TT course.

We were only on the island for two days, but did get a chance to see some of the sights and learn something of the local history.

We didn't stay at Castletown but it is close to the airport and so it was not a problem to divert in and take in the picture. The town is dominated by Castle Rushen which overlooks the harbour on one side and the market place on another.

The earliest record of Castletown comes from the Domesday Book in 1090. In around 1265 a Norse king decided to build a castle and somehow it has survived. Castle Rushen is one of those castles that were easier to attack than to defend. Robert the Bruce made a habit of taking the castle every time he visited the island, which was three times.

Mostly the village thrived on the fishing industry and fishing boats can be seen leaving the harbour to this day.

the harbour

market place


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Sundon Hills Country Park - Bedfordshire

The Chilterns is a lovely area to visit and many organisations are working to ensure that the Sundon Hills Country Park remain an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). Mainly controlled by the National Trust, there is also involvement by the Woodland Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

This is an area to visit if you are seeking peace, rolling landscape, attractive woodland and evidence of wildlife.

Fly orchids tend to favour alkaline soil but the hills of the Chilterns around Sundon are mainly chalky, but these interesting flowers can easily be found. Foxes and badgers can be seen by the quiet observer, as may woodpeckers, particularly the Greater Spotted.



Monday, 15 May 2017

Beaumanor Hall - Leicestershire

There aren't many places in Britain that have changed as often as Beaumanor.

Located on the edge of Charnwood Forest, the area passed into the hands of Hugh D'Avranches after the Norman Conquest. Sherwood Forest received most of the attention at that time and so it was not until the 34 acres site passed to the Despencer family in 1286 that accommodation was built, in the form of a hunting lodge.

The lodge lasted until 1230 when Beau Manor was built, and in 1338 a church was also constructed. The manor lasted until 1596 when it was torn down and replaced by a more stately affair. This lasted until 1726 when a fresh start was made, the manor was demolished and the smaller building was raised.

It didn't stop there and that home was also demolished. The current building, of the Jacobean style, was built between 1842 and 1848. It served as a family home for the next hundred years, but then events overtook it. It was commandeered by the military during the Second World War and became Leicester's answer to Bletchley Park. In 1970 it was taken over by Leicester County Council and they continue to run it.

Today the house and grounds are available for weddings and other outdoor attractions. It is also used as a Conference and Training Centre, accommodation for young people and runs courses and events for local schools.

LE12 8TX

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Playing with pictures

Sheri took the time to show me how to produce watercolour pictures. These are my first attempts.

The Apple Orchard

Avenue of trees


Hughendon Manor

West Wycombe

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Fradley Junction - Staffordshire

Just three miles from home is a wild life sanctuary and a watering hole for mankind. It isn't the kind of place where you would plan a day's outing, but for anyone in the area it is a slice of peace.

Fradley Junction marks where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal. On the one side is a very popular café and on the other side is an equally favoured pub, Also hidden from view is a wild life sanctuary, mainly for birds.

Step off the tow path through the hedge and you are alongside the water known as Fradley Reservoir. Stop to let your eyes adjust and you are instantly aware of bird song. We didn't see all the birds because some people in the hide where you are most likely to see kingfishers were so loud I doubt there was a bird in 200 yards. But I did see a lot of birds, mostly common, such as sparrow, tree sparrow, mallard, Aylesbury Duck, moorhen, robin, coot, heron, Canada geese, kingfisher, scaup, coal tits, blue tits, wren, blackbirds, wood pigeon and pied wagtail.

We stayed long enough for a pot of tea, a quick circuit of the reserve, and a rum & raisin ice cream.


DE13 7DN

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Highcliffe Castle - Dorset

Highcliffe Castle has had a short but turbulent history, yet survives. The land was bought by Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay and he had the castle built in the Gothic Revival style between 1831 and 1835, mostly from stones taken from a Norman Abbey and a Grande Maison in France. The gardens had been designed by Capability Brown and were retained.

For the best part of a century the castle passed through family hands, but from 1916 to 1922 it was rented by Henry Selfridge. Starting to fall into neglect, it was sold in 1950 to be used as a children's convalescent home, but a major scandal saw it quickly close down.

The castle languished for a while and was then bought for development, but fires in 1966 and again in 1968 caused much devastation. It fell into ruin, but English Heritage and others started a campaign to see it restored and eventually the project was taken on by Christchurch Council, assisted by a grant from the National Lottery.

Today it is open to visitors and also available for weddings and other sociable events.

Castle opening times
1st February – 31st October

Sunday – Thursday: 11am – 5pm
Friday and Saturday: 11am – 4.30pm
Open daily at 7am and close at:

6.30pm – November to March
7.30pm – April and October
9pm – May and September
10pm – June, July and August

BH23 4LE

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Deans Court - Dorset

Set in 13acres of gardens, Deans Court is on the site of the original house, built for the Abbess of Wimborne in the 8th Century. It became family owned in the mid 16th century and the current red brick house was completed in 1725.

The house received financial assistance from the Historic Houses Association and as such is open to the public for guided tours over the four months of summer. The gardens are also open to the public through association with the National Gardens Scheme.

Deans Court was built around the original Saxon hall and there are also fine examples of Renaissance stained glass windows. It is available for weddings and other public events.

Opening times 2017
House & Garden - Guided tours only:
May 1,3,10,17,24
June 7,14,21,28
July 5,12,16,19,23,25,26,30
Aug 2,6,9,13,15,20,23,27,28,29,30

Tues & Weds tours start at 1pm, 2.20pm, 3.40pm. Suns & BH Mons tours start at 10am, 11.20am, 12.40pm. Meet at gate on Deans Court Lane. 20 persons max, first come. No dogs. 

BH21 1EE