Instead, The Sealed Knot (the re-enactment group) are in attendance, bringing the sights and sounds of the English Civil Wars (relevant, because ‘back in the day’, Deene Park was seized by the Parliamentarians).
We’d also brought the sights (and sounds?) of a picnic, so all we needed was some good weather and we’d got a good day in store! 😁
Well, the forecast looked good(ish) but unfortunately, that’s not how things turned out! We arrived just after 2pm, easily parked and then found a really good space to pitch our chairs. We’d just unpacked our picnic – and then the heavens opened! 😒
Still, with the Battle now in full-swing, it distracted us (temporarily) from the crap weather…
…and as you’d expect from the Sealed Knot, they were all taking it very seriously!
The Battle must have last around 45 minutes and when it was all over, as the ‘players’ left the field, they all looked thoroughly exhausted! A pity the weather kept a lot of people away, but still worth the visit!
4.10pm: So, here we are at ‘2 Dix Cottages’, courtesy of Norfolk Hideaways in the village of Thornham. It took us around two hours to get here (10 minutes of that was the last 20 yards trying to find the place) and we’re staying here until the 2nd, seeing-in the New Year.
Jo, Janet and Carol arrived just ahead of us and were in the process of unpacking when we arrived.
First impressions were good: a spacious cottage with everything we needed, although parking was a bit, ahem, tight!
With the priorities sorted – drinks, cake and wifi password – and bedrooms allocated, we were all soon settled in.
8.00pm: We had booked our table literally next door at The Orange Tree, Norfolk’s Dining Pub of the year for five years running! Sadly, Jo wasn’t feeling 100% and opted to remain back at base.
We arrived early at the Bar for our 8.30 Table – and found ourselves competing for attention with two other customers and a dog (yes, really!). The latter had two paws on the Bar and seemed to be doing a better job than us in getting served!! We learned that the Pub actually specialises in Menus for our four-legged friends (yes, really!)
We became a close second to the Pooch and a quick word by Janet with the Restaurant staff saw us shown to our table ahead of of our scheduled time.
It was a varied Menu and the variety didn’t disappoint. We all fancied a Dessert, so we skipped the Starters. Whilst Janet and Carol opted for the Fish & Chips and Ann for the Halibut, I chose the Thai Chicken Curry. The Service was appropriately attentive and we waited just long enough to feel assured that the food was being created rather then simply re-assembled or (even worse) thawed-out. Desserts followed – and they were equally yummy!
9.55pm: We skipped beverages, preferring instead to make a dent in our alcohol stash back at the House. A short stagger across the road and up the kerb back to Base and we were soon slurping our fave night-cap.
We spent the rest of the evening round the TV watching/enjoying/suffering one of the Fast & Furious films on ITV2 – pure escapism and not a bit of it based on anything approaching reality!!
11.15pm: That’s it! Another Saturday night, another fine meal with friends!
Tomorrow, weather permitting, we’ll probably explore the local area on foot.
Day 1 (Sunday, 30th)
In bed until 8.45? Surely some mistake?
After a lazy breakfast, we decided to keep it local today. We’re on a mission to locate some wood for the wood-burner (as the central heating is on a go-slow).
11.05am: Out and about heading for Thornham Beach and Holme Nature Reserve. It looked like a lot of other people had the same idea too! It’s obviously a popular pastime on Sundays round these parts.
The weather got warmer…and so did we. After a brief stop for the loo, we headed along the Beach and slowly headed back towards the Cottage. All-in-all we reckon we walked almost 5 miles!
But all that walking had made us a bit peckish! Thank heavens for Thornham Deli that just happened to be on our way back.
It seemed that the whole of Norfolk had the same idea and consequently, the place was packed, the car-park was full too! There was no chance of us getting a table INSIDE so we braved the elements outside and grabbed one of the tables around the perimeter of the Deli itself.
1.15pm: Their prompt service meant we were soon tucking into teas and coffees helped along with their own homemade Sausage Rolls!
2.45pm: The temperature in the Cottage had been a little on the cool side before we left this morning, so luckily the Deli also sold kindling and wood. I say ‘luckily’, but once we were back inside, even with Jo and I exercising our best fire-lighting skills, the wood-burner was having none of it!
3.00pm: So, whilst Carol and Janet prepared drinkies, Ann prepared the Veg, Jo and I gave up temporarily and watched the ground-breaking Bandersnatch on Netflix. Well, at least the heat from the oven heated up the room!
4.05pm: Movie time! We’ve got plenty to choose from here and after a bit of techy-bashing by Jo and me, we hooked up her PlayStation to the TV and we were all set for the film Christopher Robin on DVD…
A cute film and just right for this time of year! It was also an opportunity to try out Ann’s homemade Apple & Blueberry Crumble, BEFORE the main meal!
6.00pm: At last, after Jo had another go, the fire ‘took’
..a cosy evening ahead promised!
7.00pm: The main meal of the day! A full roast! Janet had slow-cooked a beef joint, for about 8 hours. Keeping it company, a vast array of Veg all washed down with a bottle of Red!
7.50pm: A fab meal… with minimal washing-up too! (thanks to the Dishwasher!)
10.05am: Breakfast (including a political discussion)
11.05am: Off to Hunstanton…, that sophisticated and refined resort on The Wash, marginally more up market than Clacton sur Mer…
11.25am: It was only a ten-minute-or-so drive and we were soon manoeuvering into position for our first stop: Le Strange Old Barns (after me over-shooting the limited parking right outside!). It was great inside – a real variety of ‘this-and-that’ shops with plenty of locally-produced creations from paintings to pretty jewellery.
12.15pm: Next stop was just half-a-mile away along the Cromer Road for some free-parking that put us in an ideal place to walk down to the beach.
As expected (perhaps for a cold-but-dry new-year’s-eve) it was pretty busy – plenty of locals and visitors braving the biting wind! You could tell the locals as they were ones in t-shirts!
After a bit more wandering, we agreed on a pit-stop…
…a quaint looking tea-shoppe of the ‘old school’ type: no fancy coffees, just proper table-cloths and a big smile! Unfortunately, there was no cake either, as their delivery was late – and the slices we saw on show were ‘reserved’. It wasn’t a great start, but 15 minutes later, all was forgiven as the delivery had arrived. We now had a hot beverage AND a slice of cake each – perfect!
2.05pm: After a wander round some more of the gift-shoppes, we took a last look at the views of the town before taking the drive back to the Cottage – but not before picking up a few essentials to help with the celebrations tonight from the local Sainsbury’s!
3.15pm: Movie time again! Whilst Ann took a nap to recharge her batteries for tonight, we dived into the stash we’d brought with us…
5.00pm: Film over, it was time to get prepared for the main event for today: The Lifeboat Inn’s New Year’s Eve Meal…
6.50pm:Time to brave the elements and head for our destination…
7.05pm: We’re here! And it’s certainly well supported. We were shown to our table and once we’d got rid of our coats, we chased-down the canapés! Yummy!
Well, six courses later, what did we think of the meal? Well, the seaweed was an acquired taste – and I really wish that someone else had acquired it! Yuk, it tasted just like err… seaweed! The Cucumber lollipop didn’t taste much of cucumber and it was minus the statutory stick that’s a feature of all the lollipops I’ve seen! Other than that, the rest was actually quite delicious! we couldn’t fault the service either – in fact, I thought our Waitress was going to take me home!
10.15pm: With the meal over and the DJ springing into life, the girls took to the dancefloor, whilst I, err, looked after the table! A few tracks later, it was getting progressively noisier on the nearby tables as the alcohol began to ‘do its thing’.
10.30pm: We decided to see the new year in back at the Cottage, so we took the ten-minute return walk back along the pitch-black lane with only our phones as torches.
11.15pm: To fill the time until the chimes of Big-Ben, we chose our next DVD from the batch…
We lasted until just after 1.30am (that’s VERY late for us two!) and then decided to call it a night!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
We may go to Holkham Beach tomorrow, depending on how we’re all feeling.
Day 3 (Tuesday, 1st)
10.30am: After a relaxed start to the day with a late breakfast, and after checking the weather, we decided we would visit Holkham Beach.
11.30am: And in keeping with all the Beaches round these parts, it was popular destination! So much so, we were discouraged from turning into the official parking area and had to park a short five-minute walk away (using Janet’s local knowledge) from the official car-park.
If you’ve not been to Holkham Beach, its a longish walk (a mile/20-30 minutes) from the parking area to the sea, but worth it. It has the largest expanse of sandy Beach I’ve ever seen in this country! Amazing!!!
..and once we were there, as is the law round these parts, an obligatory selfie followed…
After getting as close to the water as we could get, it was ‘about turn’ and the walk back to the car. However, that didn’t stop other visitors actually take a dip in the water – it must have been freezing!
We took a short pitstop at The Lookout – a sophisticated water-hole for humans and pets alike… yes, by now we had every shade of wet Labrador and yappy-snappy terriers galore, overlaid by the fragrant top notes of gently ripening pooh bags and fractious two-legged offspring.
…and then it was back to where we’d parked…
…and we reflected on our travels!
2.00pm: After discovering that the Adnams Shop near where we parked was closed over the Christmas break, it was back to the car and time to head back to the Cottage. Twenty-minutes later, we were ‘home’ and whilst Ann weaved her magic in the kitchen adding more life to yesterday’s Apple & Blueberry Crumble, the rest of us played to our strengths and headed for The Orange Tree across the road for a ‘swift one’!
2.50pm: Predictably, given its reputation locally, and farther afield, it was packed inside. The service levels weren’t helped either by the Pub’s card machines being unable to connect to the outside world. The result was a temporary ‘cash only’ situation, sending post-Diners scrambling for alternative forms of payment.
Our needs were simpler – just liquids! But it was cold, very cold! – we survived until our glasses were empty (just 45 minutes) and then it was straight back to the Cottage for the Crumble-fest! It didn’t disappoint and Jo even managed to master the Wood-burner that was now doing what it should!
Today has been our last full day here and we have to vacate the property by 10am tomorrow. That’s going to necessitate us getting up a lot earlier than we have been during this special break. We’ve eaten (and drunk) well – we’ve also travelled around quite a bit and visited places that (Ann and I) haven’t seen for a good many years!
It was a very pleasant drive up to our good friends Ralph and Karen (Best Man and Maid of Honourback in the day). This time though, with a small difference – they’ve moved house, literally just down the road!
It was good to be catching-up again, as the last time we were at theirs was the May-Day Bank Holiday last year. We enjoyed a quick tour of their new place and then settled on the patio for some stunning views across the Derbyshire countryside.
…and some light refreshment!
Then it was of out for our evening meal – somewhere we’ve not been before in Matlock – the Herd Restaurant. Not surprisingly, it catered mostly for meat-eaters with a wide range of steaks on offer, including a mighty 32oz variant!
A lovely leisurely walk through town and over the Bridge…
Looks like Herd is in the old Midland Bank building…
The food was pretty good. The set up is that you choose your Steak and with it, two ‘free’ accompaniments, plus a Sauce. I opted for the Fillet with Chips and ‘Herdslaw’ (simply a rebranded coleslaw) together with one of their super-spicy sauces – Mexican Chimmichurri. It was all yummy, but with a few minor issues (my flat Coke, Karen and Ralph’s Kevlar-coated cheesecake base and Ann’s peas). Their Menu is HERE.
As expected, for a Saturday night (especially a Bank-Holiday one!) it was a busy place and towards the end of our meal, it became pretty noisy due to the sheer volume of people and the slightly weird acoustics.
When the meal was over, we took the longer walk back to the car via the ‘restaurant-side’ of the High Street that also took-in the local (temporary) Fayre.
We slept well but woke-up really early (I think it’s the light mornings). After a healthy fruit, yoghurt and nuts brekky, we settled down to the priority for the day – looking at the various options for a possible Cruise for the four of us in 2020!
With the serious work for the day completed (it’s a tough life!), we headed out for Lunch out through the very busy Matlock Bath, full of ice-cream eating pedestrians, serious bikers and everybody in between! Some 40 minutes later, we arrived at the very quaint (and busy) Biggin Hall Hotel.
The promised thunders-storms hadn’t arrived as forecast, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather, sitting outside for our pre-lunch drinks, perusing the Menu and admiring the scenery!
Half-a-Guinness and a quick chat later, we were invited to our table…
It was a long leisurely affair – just how it should be on a Bank Holiday Sunday! We had the perfect spot in the restaurant (suitably ventilated and near the Bar). The verdict? All three Courses were simply delicious!
The Menu offered a variety of three courses of ‘good English grub’ from Roasts to Sausage and Mash, and with the Staffs’ brisk but efficient service, we were soon tucking into our chosen fave!
Smoked Mackerel with a Horseradish & Potato Salad
Sausage and Mash followed by Peach Sponge
We didn’t even have room for Coffee, and just after 3pm, we paid our bill and headed back to the Tesla. And then, just as we left, much later than planned, the Heavens opened. Luckily, we were only a very short distance from where Ralph had sensibly parked, so we kept dry. Amazingly, less than a minute later, the rain stopped, and the Sun came out – and that’s how it stayed for the rest of our return journey.
We took the long, more scenic route, firstly, taking in Carssington Water. It looked like most of Derbyshire was there before us, so we didn’t stop and instead, just took in the views.
Our final stop of the day was Middleton Top on the High Peak Trail. This was also pretty busy, however, between the four of us, we couldn’t even locate enough cash for the car-park, so we weren’t able to stay long! 😁
Still, don’t tell the Car-Park Attendant (who initially was nowhere to be seen, but re-appeared just as were leaving), but we left Karen in the car, whilst the three of us headed for the main attraction – Middleton Top Engine House – a really impressive bit of ‘steam history’. Restored in 1829, it’s a winding engine built by the Butterley Co. for the Cromford & High Peak Railway and (unbelievably) in use right up until 1963 hauling wagons on cables up the 708 yards of the 1 in 8¾ Middleton Incline!
Carefully not trying to attract the attention of the Car-Park Attendant, we exited in the most graceful of fashion (much easier in a near-silent Tesla!) and headed back in the direction base – and a welcome cuppa.
Ralph and I watched the Grand Prix, whilst the girls, err didn’t!
Another good night’s sleep was followed by a very leisurely breakfast before packing-up our stuff and heading home. It’s been a great short-break and good to see R and K’s new home. The journey back was almost trouble-free (apart from an ‘incident announcement on the overhead boards coupled with a deserted northbound carriageway. By the time we got to the supposed ‘spot’, it was all clear on our side and the opposite carriageway was flowing. Weird!
We were home by noon and then it was straight off to Sean’s to tidy-up his garden.
On arrival, it was ‘spot the Costello’ as John, Trish, Sean and Trish’s Mum were there all involved in essential garden maintenance! That made our job a lot easier and within a couple of hours, we’d done all we could and said our good-byes.
Wow! Another busy, but enjoyable Bank Holiday! 👍👍👍👍👍
Wow! Another busy, but enjoyable Bank Holiday!
Here we are then, all set to enjoy a Gambles Weekend… and then some…
Saturday The extended weekend began with us travelling down to Stevenage Station for 11am to pick up Denis. Then it was off to Roger, Jane and Oliver’s for the Bank Holiday weekend. Bev was unable to join us because of her nursing duties for Lincoln FC.
We arrived at the station with about 10 minutes to spare, and after some juxta-positioning to find a parking space (the drop-off/pick-up point was busy!), Ann headed for the Platform to meet her Dad.
Mission accomplished, as although Denis’s train for a few minutes late leaving, it made up the time during the journey, and on the stroke of 11, the Train pulled-in. Staff were on hand to assist (Well done Stevenage Station!) and they both were soon heading in the direction of the car’s boot!
Although the weather had been wet when we left, it was actually quite sunny by the time we got to Ridge House.
And that’s how it stayed for the rest of the day. The dinner table was already prepared for the banquet that was to follow (always a good spread when we’re here!!) – and we weren’t disappointed. Moroccan Lamb followed by individual Trifles, all finished off with a Cheese Board. Scrummy!
After a lunch like that, there was only one thing to follow – a snooze in the Sun!
Snoozing over, it was then a joint effort on the current jigsaw that Roger and Oliver had already started. I contributed just one piece – others did a lot better!!
We finished the day by watching the 2015 film: Woman in Gold starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Gosling. Roger had recorded it back in May (from BBC2) and I’m not sure how I missed it back then! Even more bizarrely, Ann said she had seen the film recently – but I definitely hadn’t !!! Weird!
It turned out to be one of the best films I’ve seen this year…
Sunday A lazy start to Sunday consisting mostly of a lie-in and a late breakfast.
..and after a fab brekky, it was a strict case of do-nothing-until-lunchtime!, taking advantage of the gorgeous weather here.
..and that’s how the weather stayed for the rest of our time there. So very unusual for a Bank Holiday – gorgeous weather that lasted more than an hour!
After a few more games of Swingball and some more extreme jig-sawing…
…it was time for lunch.
Again, yummy all round and fit for nothing afterwards!
After a bit of a chat, it was time to pack up our stuff and head for the A1! It was probably our best journey home for ages – just under an hour-and-a-quarter (as the roads were empty).
Monday We spent the day mostly getting ready for Roger, Jane and Oliver’s return tomorrow, but we still had time for a walk and a bit of sunbathing in the garden – I think it was even hotter than yesterday! Some BBC weather reports suggested it was ‘the hottest late August Bank Holiday Monday since records began’. In fact, the evening was pretty warm too, and we sat out in the garden with all the lanterns lit until around 9.30.
Tuesday Our turn to do the hosting with Roger, Jane and Oliver staying over for a couple of days. After dropping Denis back at his, Roger, Jane and Oliver arrived at ours just before 5pm. They’d had a good journey all the way to Denis’s and took in some local sites on their way to us. Oliver was navigating, and he did a good job getting through town at peak time.
Ann had spent the day removing the final specks of dust that had had the cheek to land since we cleared-up yesterday, whilst also preparing the evening meal.
Vegetarians look away now!!! You can’t really go wrong with Steak and we weren’t disappointed with the feast that followed (including Claverty and/or Cheese for dessert!)
We finished the evening round the TV watching the 2016 movie – Allied starring (the-not-so-hunky-these-days) Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. A bit of a slow burner this one, but it turned out to be a really good story – with a very in-American-movie ending. Worth a watch, but keep the Kleenex handy for the final scenes!
Off to the ‘land-of-nod’ around 10.30 forgetting to swap the cars round and put out the wheely for Wednesday morning!
Wednesday Ann and I were both out today doing our volunteering. Meanwhile, armed with a picnic and a not-so-nice weather forecast, the Gambles headed out to take-in the sites of Rutland and the surrounding area, getting back just before 6pm. It had been a full day for them exploring Stamford, Oakham, Pitsford – and probably everything in between!
We gave the dishwasher and Ann a rest from the kitchen chores and headed out for a return visit to the nearby (ish) Thornhill Arms for our evening meal.
You really can’t go wrong here! Usain Bolt levels of service – always with a smile – followed by super-generous portion sizes always mean it’s a great place to go for nosebag (three courses for under 15 quid!). In fact, the volume served clearly beat some of our guests tonight – even though we all opted for the TWO-courser!
We finished the day with a cuppa back at ours accompanied by some Apple Pie!
Thursday Time for Roger, Jane and Oliver to head home today. It’s been great seeing them all again and the best thing of all was that we all had plenty of time to catch-up and chat. As they left at around 10.15, so did I, heading for Cambridge and a meet-up with Sally.
It was off to National Trust’s Canon’s Ashby today to meet up with Ian and Ann. With a communal picnic arranged and a pukka parking spot for their motor-home just outside the main car-park, we had all the ingredients of a perfect day!
We haven’t been here since (we think) since the early 80s, and (my) Ann thought it would be a good idea to recreate the photograph of me sitting on the steps in the Garden in nineteen-eighty-something. It took a few attempts to get the pose right, but we didn’t do a bad job!
The weather was just perfect and combined with the fact that it was also a Bank Holiday, it didn’t take long for the place to start to fill up. It was quite simply perfect wandering about weather.
As the House didn’t open until 1pm, we started off looking around the Gardens…
…and it didn’t disappoint! Everything was maintained to a very high standard!
Then it was lunch-time. Both Anns had co-ordinated the components of the picnic and we were soon tucking-into pork pie, potato salad, sausage rolls, prawns and much more – all washed down wine, ginger beer (lashings of), sparkling water and Beck’s Blue. And if that wasn’t enough, it was all followed by Profiteroles and Fruit Salad. The gorgeous weather combined with the perfect seating area just to the rear of their motor-home meant that this was an pit-stop before the afternoon session – but it was also the perfect combo for maybe lazing in the sun and falling asleep! – Ah well, maybe next time!!!
Suitably stuffed, our afternoon’s activities took us on a short walk to Canons’ Ashby Church – St Mary’s. Once a Priory, it suffered in the hands of Henry VIII’s (ahem!) ‘review’ and now is a lot smaller in size having lost the majority of its original structure. It still looked solid enough as a Church and there was plenty to see inside.
Our final stop was obviously the House itself. Built in the 1500s from the masonry from the fallen Priory, it was inherited in the 1800s by by John Dryden aged just 19! – lucky bugger! (good article HERE) but was eventually acquired by the National Trust in 1981 after it had lay, deteriorating, through much of the 20th century.
After the grandeur of the Gardens, I was expecting the inside of the House to be similarly impressive (I certainly couldn’t recall any detail form my trip here in the 80s!). As it turned out, the interiors were mostly quite lack-lustre. They were still interesting to look at, but they were mostly all very ‘ordinary’ – no highly decorated ceilings, no massive chandeliers nor impressive paintings.
Not that there’s anything wrong in this, but it wrong-footed me a bit where the most impressive room, by way of exception, was the Library with its gazillions of books (all arranged with enough precision to keep anyone with any degree of OCD very satisfied!).
We finished our day, as we did with lunch, positioned behind the Motor Home and enjoyed a well-earned cuppa. After another hour enjoying the sun, we said our goodbyes and headed for the now almost still completely full car-park.
It had been a great day, although I’m surprised/disappointed that I didn’t recall more from our first visit. I was more than pleased to have re-created the 80s photo though!
Another great day out with great friends!
All the above photos and more without any of my chat are HERE.
We don’t normally do ‘spontaneous’, but this afternoon was a very enjoyable exception!
Tom and Julie invited us round for an afternoon, ‘first sitting’ BBQ in advance of their son, Lewis (and his legions of loyal followers) arriving later for the gentlest of invasions – and also food! Lewis was DJing at the local Aqua nightclub tonight in Kettering from 3am! (Oh, to be young again!!)
We picked up Karen and arrived just after 4.30. Rosi, Rhiannon and David joined us later.
Good old Tom, in spite of the atrocious – but typical Bank Holiday – weather (it had p***** it down ALL day), it didn’t stop him firing up the barbeque and cooking enough chicken, sweetcorn and sausages to feed the whole of Northamptonshire! With Julie on oven duties, and Ann providing a variety of breads and a lemon drizzle cake for afters, together with Karen’s legendary Pavlova, ‘first sitting’ got underway, with the ‘feeding of the 5000’ coming later.
By comparison, we had quite a leisurely meal, but it changed dramatically when the rest of Kettering turned up! T and J’s place was packed – maybe not 5000, but there must have been 50+ people there. And with only seating for around 8, it made things interesting with every corner of the house becoming occupied.
Us adults retired to the corner of the kitchen, whilst the youth tucked-in! Ann and I just people-watched! And, like our stomachs, the house got fuller… and fuller! At around 9pm, we decided to call it a night, and retreat to the sanctuary of home with just two humans + two cats. Well, almost human!
Thanks Tom, Thanks Julie – I don’t know how you managed to cope with the numbers, but you did a cracking good job.
I picked up Lee on Sunday and Nicki joined us today for a lazy Bank Holiday. We’d quite forgotten that Nicki still had our Christmas presents so that got the day off to a great start! I’ve now have some high quality cleaning products for the XKR, so they’ll be put to good use in no time! – and a rather appropriate kitchen apron!
We took Nicki and Lee though the photos form Cuba before eating in where Ann had prepared a delicious Chicken Salad. We all sat down to watch Rush, (a DVD I’d bought back in April 2014, but never got around to watching) and actually, we all thought it was a great movie, and much better than we thought it was going to be!
We spent the afternoon chatting and not doing very much at all, before I dropped Lee home and Nicki went onto Northampton.