First Visit: The National Memorial Arboretum

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Today, a planned day out with David and Valerie to the National Memorial Arboretum.

A bird's-eye view is needed to appreciate the scale!
Click for a larger view

It was a return visit for David and Valerie, but it was our first! Thank goodness then, that the rain has stopped, as a month’s worth fell in a day yesterday over the UK! (although it did belt it down briefly on more than one occasion during our journey there).

Click for a larger version and a live map

It was pretty straightforward to get there, located north-east of Lichfield, Staffordshire, and about a 85-minute drive for us. We arrived just before 11am and thankfully, the Sun was out – and that’s how it stayed! πŸ˜€πŸŒž

On its website, the Arboretum is described as:-

“The UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice, and fosters pride in our country”.

More specifically, The 150-acre site is a maturing woodland area, featuring over 30,000 trees and a vast collection of Memorials. It was originally opened in 2001, but had a massive refurbishment (courtesy of the National Lottery) that was completed back in March 2017, when the Arboretum’s new award-winning Remembrance Centre was officially unveiled by the Duke of Cambridge.

First impressions did not disappoint – airy and spacious, and it certainly lived up to its 150-acre size! It felt massive – but also intimate at the same time – with memorials to hundreds of individual/associations/organisations and regiments all in their own individually designed spaces.

What to do first? There’s a lot to cover and impossible to see everything in a single visit. Thoughtfully, to ensure that visitors got the most from their time here, there were guided-walks, buggy-rides and a Road-train too! Or, you are free to just wander around, if you prefer. Entry is free, but you pay for anything organised.

We all agreed that the Buggy-ride was to be our first stop. Steve, our driver/commentator did a superb job in explaining in great detail, the Memorials on the route (we reckon only about 20-25% of the total).

The whole area was immaculately clean too!

Our Buggy-tour lasted just under an hour which led perfectly to lunch-time! The Restaurant turned out to be excellent too! Spacious, with a sensible menu at sensible prices! All vegetables were free (which was a pleasant surprise).

After lunch, we split into our matrimonial pairs and did our own thing. Ann and I headed for the Road-Train. There was only a slight overlap between the memorials covered on our initial Buggy-trip, but we were soon seeing the other 80% of the site.

Again, there was plenty to see. Although the Road-Train was a bit slow for us, at least it gave us the opportunity to ‘hop-off’ at strategic points (but note, no hopping back ON!).

We hopped off at (for us) the star of the site: The Armed Forces Memorial.

Probably the largest Memorial I’ve ever seen in this country, it honours those members of the Armed Forces (Regular and Reserve) who were killed on duty or died while deployed on operations or as a result of terrorist action.

Wow! This left a lasting impression! After this, we were all ‘memorialed-out’ and we finished our visit with a cuppa and cake back in our foursome!

David continued his chauffeuring for the day and we were home inside 90 minutes. I feel a return visit for us before too long, in order to look at some of the Memorials in more detail.

An excellent day! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

First Visit: Farnborough Hall

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Another one of cultural days out, meeting up with Ian and Ann along the way, heading for National Trust’s Farnborough Hall.

Located off the M40 between Banbury and Gaydon, the Grade I listed property (and its gardens) has been owned by the National Trust since 1960, when the Holbech family endowed it to them.

Opening times are quite limited here, so best to check before you go. At the time of writing, it’s operating on Wednesdays and Saturdays – and only from 2pm until 5pm. This is because the House is still lived in by the owners: Geoffrey Holbech’s daughter Caroline Beddall and her family. For the same reason, no photographs are allowed inside, which was a shame (but understandable) because there was plenty to see, it had all been restored beautifully (especially the plasterwork!) and where everything made it feel like a home that was not only lived-in, but loved too!

The House itself was a sort of Reverse-Tardis (it seemed bigger on the outside than the inside. There’s just the ground floor and the staircase to see (as the rest is off-limits to visitors, lived-in by the family, naturally!). Consequently, it didn’t take long to get around. We all felt that because of its ‘manageable size’ it was easy to imagine actually living in it.

Unlike a lot of NT properties, it doesn’t have a Tea-Room, but we had a cunning plan to compensate for that! Today’s more-or-less continuous rain meant that it wasn’t the sort of day to enjoy the Gardens, so we had a quick walk round outside before heading for Farnborough’s Tea-Room located in the nearby Village Hall.

And the Village Hall didn’t disappoint. After a quick five-minute drive following the home-made signs from the Hall, we were soon inside, where home-made cakes and fresh tea (served in proper china including a sizeable teapot) awaited us! The range of cakes on offer included ‘a ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ cake (worth trying, just for the novelty value). This was a building lost in time – and that suited us perfectly! All-in-all, it turned into a very enjoyable ‘tea-break’ – so typically British, and about as close as you can get to Midsomer Murders without the murders!

But before all that, there was the all-important question of lunch! After some research beforehand, we settled on The Moon and Sixpence in the High Street nearby Hanwell.

And if the food was to be as good as its flower display outside, then we were in for a treat! 😁 We were! The food was excellent!

A great day out, but slightly spoiled by the biblical levels of rainfall! β˜”β˜”β˜”β˜”