Anglesey Abbey

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Down the Garden Path

Anglesey Abbey is a  former priory about five miles outside of Cambridge. With the closure of the monasteries, the house was robbed of stone and roofing, but was later bought and restored.  and it became the estate of the Fairhaven Family.  The house and its grounds are now owned by the National Trust.

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Approaching House

We have made a few trips to the gardens over the years and usually they provide a variety of beautiful blooms.   Some trails in the right season are covered with bluebells and early spring has daffodils.   Our most resent visit was a little disappointing as it was post daffodil (mostly wilting heads) and pre-bluebell.

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Bluebells from previous visit

The gardens also have a large number of statues which make for some interesting explorations in their own right.  So, despite the seasonal variations on the blooms, the statuary is a constant to enjoy.

The shop and snack bar are in a modern annex near the entrance hall, and most all of the usual National Trust fare and gifts can be found there.

Padre

The Vyne

 

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The Vyne

This week’s Travel Tuesday takes us to The Vyne in Hampshire.  This estate was originally built by Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain, William Sandys.  The First Lord Sandys of the Vyne house was a Tudor mansion, and the Tudor chapel and glass still remains.  Most of the rest of the house has undergone change in the subsequent centuries.  The main building is in the School of Inigo Jones, and there is also an Eighteenth Century Palladian staircase.

When we visited The Vyne we found it to be a really well run and maintained National Trust property (It having been bequeathed to the trust in the 1950s). The grounds were lovely and well kept, and spring flowers highlighting the features on the house and outbuildings.

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Grounds

There was a very long walk from the reception (ticket) office and the main house, and the shuttle facility for disabled people was out of service. The staff arranged for us to park nearer the house, and staff members were in place to open the requisite gates for us. This level of conscientious service was shown throughout the estate, with staff and volunteers showing a real concern for our welfare, and making our visit enjoyable.

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Tea Room

The tearoom is comfortable and the decor fitting for the property. The scones were a little dry, but otherwise the expected good quality associated with the National Trust.

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Overall, another wonderful National Trust visit.

 

Padre

 

 

Wimpole Hall

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Hall

It was a pretty early Autumn afternoon, and we had errands to run near Stansted, so decided to make a visit to National Trust’s Wimpole Estate. We have visited before (back in 2013) and while some of what we took in this weekend was “re-visited” much of what we saw this time were portions we had missed before.

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Entrance to Stable Block

The Hall is the largest house in Cambridgeshire and is the former residence of the Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and later of Elise, the daughter of Rudyard Kipling.

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Clock Tower Detail

There are hundreds of acres to the estate and paths, fields, and follies are all part of the experience.  Parking is near the old stable block where the national Trust has its ticket office, a small takeaway cafe, and shop.  A restaurant is a short distance away towards the formal gardens.

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Garden Shop

On the recent visit there was a vendor selling locally produced honey and bees’ wax products in the stable block area.  There was also a small garden centre, and a woman using a spinning wheel and selling woolen knit products.

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Spinning

The gardens include areas by Capability Brown and other noted landscape artists and gardeners. I found the formal beds absolutely beautiful.imageedit_33_2660688225 (1).jpg

 

The house itself is huge, and extremely grand. At first glance I assumed it was Georgian, but it is cited as being 17th Century in its construction.

It has libraries, a lovely chapel, and many other “must see” features inside.

As is our custom we had a couple cups of tea and a scone at the cafe. In this case it was takeaway in paper cups, and a cheese scone which we had in the stables courtyard.  Later we went to the restaurant where we had a Stilton soup  which was thick and tasty and some very nice granary bread with butter.

This is a splendid place to visit, and well worth making a day of.

 

Padre

National Trust Site

The Firs: Elgar’s House

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Firs

It was a couple of seasons ago that we visited Elgar’s house, and its accompanying museum and archive. At the time it was administered by the Elgar Foundation, and it has since entered into the joint care of the Foundation and the National Trust.

The National Trust’s site notes that the contract gives the Firs “a new lease of life,” and this is to be appreciated by anyone who values heritage, and musical history.  The cottage is the birthplace of the composer, and his home through much of his life. The gardens are quaint, and in them you can find the burial place of his beloved dogs.

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Pets

The grounds also have a modern museum, performance area, and archive.  On our visit we (and especially my wife who is a musician) found the information and atmosphere inspiring.  Since the National Trust has taken on operation there has been a new tea room established, and walks around the grounds have been enhanced.

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Museum

I have to admit that I was late in coming to an appreciation of Elgar.  My first “knowing” experience of his work came with the Pomp and Circumstances march at my undergraduate graduation.  Since them I have come to admire the Enigma Variations (one of the things to check out at the museum), with its fourteen variations each representing musically one of his friends or loved ones.

While we have not been back since the National Trust began its involvement, I look forward to doing so soon (as a Trust member) and as an enthusiast for Elgar’s music.

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Cottage

This is a worthwhile destination for anyone travelling in the west of England, and especially for those who love music.

Padre

 

Link to National Trust Pages

 

 

 

Visiting Dover’s White Cliffs

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White Cliffs

It is ironic that one of this “Green and Pleasant Land’s” most iconic symbols are the “White Cliffs” of its Southeast corner.  The White Cliffs of Dover stand as an emblem of the defiance of “fortress Britain” against the potential invasions of both Napoleon and Hitler, and they have been beacons of safety to returning air crews and mariners alike.

Today, the cliffs are one of the great landmarks of this island nation.  Much of this area of coast is maintained by the National Trust, and the trust provides a very good visitors’ centre for those taking in the natural and national wonder.

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Tea Room

We  started our visit by stopping at the National Trust’s White Cliffs Centre for a look around and a hot drink. The Cafe overlooks the Port of Dover, and it was nice to sit in the cafe and watch the ferries coming in and out of the harbour. The service was attentive, and the coffee and tea good. The fruit scone, was a little dry, but not bad, and the clotted cream and blackcurrant jam more than made up for it. The Trust shop has the usual souvenirs, and the Centre provides a good base for walks along the cliffs and to just watch the sea.

Dover Cliffs

The National Trust provides miles of footpaths and trails to view the scenery, wildlife, and historical sites within the White Cliffs area.  On clear days the French coast is visible, and the various vantage points allow the cliffs themselves to be taken in.  There is also a wheelchair friendly short path which leads to a viewing point as well.

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Watch Ferries from Clifftop

The iconic cliffs are well worth seeing. Whether from sea (on ferry or boat tour), or from land looking from Dover or the National Trust site, these spectacular chalk cliffs are a must see. The National Trust cafe is a good starting point for these views.  As I have noted, there a loads of trails, and a convenient walk runs from right above the Dover Port to the Lighthouse near the cafe. The Dover Castle is also nearby, and history and nature are all there to take in.

Positioned above the port, stands Dover Castle.  The fortress, from its Medieval heart to the World War Two tunnels complex, is a sign of England’s defiance of invasion. It, unlike the surrounding cliffs, is maintained and administered by English Heritage. Whether the Great Tower, the WW2 tunnels, or the Operation Dynamo exhibit, the castle has much to offer a visitor.  There are also several cafes and eateries within the complex.

The Port of Dover sits below the cliffs, and boat tours and day excursions to the Continent (via the ferries) are available for those wanting to go further afield.

Dover’s White Cliffs and attractions provide a full and rich experience whether for a day, or even a longer stay.

Padre

 

English Heritage Link

National Trust link

 

A Visit to Newton’s Woolsthorpe

Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire is the birthplace, and home of Sir Issac Newton.  It is a 17th Century yeoman’s holding, and is now a property of the National Trust.

This is a relatively small Trust property, and it can be taken in fairly quickly.  That said, there is a small tea room and gift shop, and there are several interesting feature such as the coat of arms, and the famous apple tree to take in, and take one’s time with.

Plague temporarily closed Cambridge University in 1666, so Issac returned to Woolsthorpe and continued his experiments on light, optics, and refraction.  It was while here that he is said to have witnessed an apple falling from a tree in the orchard.  This chance encounter, led to him to develop his law of universal gravitation.

This as noted is a yeoman’s house, and while not grand, it gives wonderful insights into life in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries.   Exhibits include a short film about Isaac Newton, science displays and activities for children, and the historic house and preserved apple tree.   The staff are friendly and helpful, and the small size of the manor makes even a quick visit easy and informative.

Padre

National Trust Link

Exploring A La Ronde House

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A la Ronde

The National Trust property, Al la Ronde House, is an 18th-century, 16-sided house located near Exmouth in Devon. The house was built in 1796 for two spinster cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter. The house with its diamond shaped windows, sixteen external walls, and general octagonal character is a wonderful piece of architecture.

 

A la Ronde Tea Room

Tea Room

We arrived before the house opened to the public, so went to the tea room which is very lovely, and the service friendly. The hot chocolate was good, and the coffee as latte okay, but the filter coffee was a bit bitter. This said the smell of baking, and general atmosphere made the tea room portion of the visit pleasant.

When we went around to the main entrance (a word to those with mobility issues there is an uneven path from the tea room) our problems began. We were treated like unruly children. We were instructed how to carry handbags (as “not to damage the wall hangings”), and we were told in what I thought were quite rude tones not to take flash photography (though we had yet to take a single picture). As we started to view the house we discovered that the “tour route” led up a narrow curved stairway (which was more than we could handle with mobility issues), so we asked if there was another way around. We were told we would have to go back the way we came. There was no offer for barriers to be raised for us the move on as has been done at other Trust properties (notably Wimpole Hall). So, we reversed direction and were soon challenged by another member of staff with “You are going the wrong way.”

Here we had had enough, I explained the situation to the staff member, we looked at one or two more downstairs rooms (we were never offered to go “the wrong way” up the straighter staircase), and then left.

The positives: The house itself is pretty, if a little quirky.  The architecture is amazing. The wall hangings and craft work of the spinsters is creative, and are very talented. Among the fascinating features are room surrounds made of feathers, and wall hanging art made of cut paper silhouettes.  The upper area has a gallery made of 25,000 sea shells, all of which are unique and captivating.

The negatives: It would have been wonderful to see the house without what seemed constant admonishments to alter our ways. The shell gallery because of its fragile nature is viewed by using a touch screen virtual tour.  The exterior areas are a bit rugged for some with mobility issues.

I never thought I would write a bad review for a National Trust property.  So, despite the house and grounds being pretty, and the house itself having very interesting features (though we did not see all of it), I must say it was a somewhat disappointing visit.

I would still suggest it to be something to take in if in Devon, but with a consideration of the negatives to inform your visit.

Padre

National Trust link

 

A Visit to Blickling Estate

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Blickling Hall

The Blickling Estate was gifted to the nation via the National Trust by Lord Lothian. It is a beautiful hall and gardens, and it has been a pleasure for me to visit it on a few occasions.

The gardens are extensive and very well maintained.  The give a wonderful foretaste of the luxury of the hall itself.

Entry to the hall is via a grand frontage with a classic lawn.  These too give a feel of what is in store.

Once inside there is a grand stairway with a tremendous amount of art including portraits of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. This leads you upstairs to a phenomenal library and a room of beautiful tapestries.

The bedrooms are luxury itself, and and ceilings, fireplaces, and fittings are opulent.

Even the kitchens are first rate, and the National Trust (while unintentional) has really given the Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton feel.

The music rooms and instruments are also wonderful to see.

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This being a National Trust property there is also the tearoom and shop one would expect, and a museum dedicated to the air base which operated from the property in WW2 is also on site.

If in Northeast Norfolk this is a “must see” location.

Padre

Oxburgh Hall: Our Second Moated House

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We visited the National Trust’s Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk. The grounds, moat, and house are picturesque and we got to enjoy the views both in and outside “the castle.”

The Hall is actually a moated manor house, but it was constructed considerably after Igtham Mote.  Most of the construction is Jacobean, but the “fantasy” of castle grandeur is there.

The house is approached by way of a single bridge which takes you into a central courtyard.  The towers and general size are larger than its Kent cousin, and does provide more of a sense of the Medieval than its actual Medieval counterpart.

The National Trust run a small shop and tearoom, and there are a few bench seats in the courtyard to “take it in” from.

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Tea Room Window

We went to the tearoom in the main hall and sat in a dining area with some views of the grounds beyond. The service was a little unusual as we were asked to order outside the dining area, then were shown to a table and seated, and the order followed shortly thereafter.

The Assam tea was good, as was the hot chocolate (with a very generous helping of cream). The scones were a little on the crumbly side, and rather average in size. The clotted cream was good, though the jam was rather ordinary (even if National Trust branded).

Outside the moated area there are wooded walks, and well tended gardens.  It is well worth a visit just for the scenery.  The property also has outer “fortifications” which enclose the garden areas and main house, and there is an orchard with a variety of apples and pears.

This is a great place to visit, whether to chill in the gardens, or to explore the historic house.  It is also really interesting to compare with the experience of Igtham.
Padre

Sunshine and Felbrigg Hall/Gardens

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Felbrigg Hall is a 17th Century country house near Cromer in Norfolk.  It has a Jacobean exterior and a Georgian interior, and is administered by the National Trust.  It is surrounded by pasture land and a large number of sheep and cattle roam the outskirts. The formal gardens, and especially the Walled Garden are worth seeing, especially on a sunny summer day.

We arrived around mid-day and made our way to reception.  We were given our ticket, and a map of the estate. We then stopped into the courtyard area for a drink and a nibble.  Fresh scones with clotted cream were on offer as were Cromer Crab sandwiches and salads.  A tasty local treat to be sure.

The library in the Hall is atmospheric and what many people would see as the archetypical English study.  The house also abounds with beautiful fireplaces.

 

The gardens are a real treat.  We spent much of the afternoon in the Walled Garden. There are quiet corners to enjoy the colour and sunshine, and garden benches seem abundant.  The outstanding features to my taste, however, were the dovecot which had white doves rousting on the tiled roof, and a circular fountain with multi-coloured waterlilies and flittering dragonflies.

 

This is a great alternative or addition to a Cromer beach-holiday, and well worth the trip inland.

Padre