Welcome back to 2020! The reason for today’s visit was an invitation to a private tour around Kelmarsh’s well-known Gardens (where Mrs P is a volunteer-gardener).
What is Shambala?
The Shambala Festival is a four-day festival contemporary performing arts. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts rock, pop, folk, world music, and other arts. Read more HERE
9.55am: On arrival, we followed the arrows to the rear of the Hall, where a member of the Kelmarsh team pointed us in the right direction. Given the tropical weather of the past few days, this morning looked like it was going to be a bit of a disappointment! There was a trace of blue in the sky – just a trace – but that was to change later to grey, accompanied by a well-needed downpour of rain of biblical proportions! Luckily, we were to miss the moisture by a whisker!
10.10am: Given the really hot weather of late – and the lack of rain, first impressions of the Gardens were excellent, with hardly a weed in sight, with a blaze of colour for us to enjoy!
…even if I didn’t know the names of some most of what I saw! 😮
Mrs P did though! 😘
10.25am: Looking at the sky, where its light blue hues had changed to a depressing mid-grey – so we quickened our pace..! 🙄
…but in spite of the deteriorating weather…
…the flora still looked in rude health!
10.30am: We could hear thunder in the distance, so we called it a day and headed back to the car
10.40am: It had been a very memorable (but slightly curtailed) visit, but the Gardens looked fantastic and it was great to see Kelmarsh Hall again after all these years. We hadn’t been in the car long before it belted it down with rain, so it looked as if our timing had been well-judged.
As usual, click on the button below to see the photo gallery with some additional photographs (and none of my chat!) 😁
9.55am: We drove the (just under) 90-mile journey to Hardwick Hall today, to meet up with fellow lovers-of-old-buildings and all-things National Trust, Dennis and Sandra. We last visited here back in October 2010 for a Murder-Mystery evening with Ralph and Karen (BTW, the Butler DIDN’T do it! 😁).
Hardwick is a spectacular Elizabethan house filled with rich furnishings and tapestries preserved by successive generations of the Devonshire family (thanks NT!) – you can read more HERE.
Although the Hall itself was still closed to everyone because of COVID-19, our plan was to look round the Gardens and surrounding land, as we’d never done that before.
We’re building up quite a ‘back-catalogue’ of our get-togethers with Dennis & Sandra, having explored the following, in the past few years…
It certainly looked like it was going to be a nice day for it! 😎😎😎😎
11.35am: When we arrived, it was already quite busy, and after bumping elbows, we were joining the short queue to get in! In typical NT efficiency, we were processed in the nicest possible way and soon examining the site-map for inspiration. Who needs foreign climes when you can enjoy days like these here in ‘good ol’ Blighty?!?! 👍👍
There is a lot to cover here and that’s without visiting the Hall, so best bring your walking-shoes. Bring a picnic too because providing it’s not too busy, there are quite a few picnic tables just inside the entrance. Not into picnics?, there’s café and an ice-cream vendor too! Yummy! 🤗
Ever tasted mulberries? Well, Ann and I hadn’t! Dennis and Sandra pointed out the trees during our walk around, and so we sampled a few! If sweetness is measured on a scale of 1 to 10 – these scored 11! 😛
After Nature’s sweetness came a call from the same source! 😣 (See what I did there?)…
…These days, the ‘new-normal’ dictates some compromises, and the Loos were having to be managed manually (so to speak!). Quite how the member of NT staff managed to do it so enthusiastically and efficiently – and with a smile, is beyond me! Her sole task was to determine which cubicles were empty and then announce them by their letter-designation – “Cubicle D, Sir please!” – a sort of Bog-Bingo without any prizes! 🤔
12.15pm: After completing our Bingo round, it was off to the walled garden. And what a delight! Given the time of year and considering the NT is probably short on garden-volunteers – it looked stunning! Full of colour and not a weed in sight!
1.05pm: There’s something about eating outdoors isn’t there? Everything tastes nicer and if the weather is good, that’s a ‘Brucie-bonus’. Today, I even ate lettuce (surely the world’s most useless salad-component – it takes up so much space on the plate for so little return!!) 😉
2.00pm: Time to walk off that lunch! Fortunately, there are quite a few to choose from here. We re-visited the map and headed off in the direction of ‘Lady Spencer’s Walk’. It all went horribly wrong in terms of the direction of travel with further signage (apart from the one above) cunningly concealed to test our natural sense of direction – and eyesight. Luckily Dennis and I were on the case, although I’m not sure I helped much, as my sense of direction only tends to work if I can get a GPS signal! After a couple of missteps resulting in us getting up-close-and-personal with a barbed-wire fence, we did eventually make it back to the car park.
3.05pm: It was time to say our goodbyes, compare elbows and our walking apps!
Not a bad distance and our speed clearly illustrated that this had been a slow stroll rather than a sweaty sprint! 😯 We had a super day catching-up, and we really only scratched the surface of the ‘walky bits’. We’ll be back again (hopefully before another ten years has passed) and maybe next time, the Hall will have re-opened as well!
You can see ALL our photos from today, and bypass my commentary using the link below…
We took a picnic to National Trust’s Calke Abbey today. Our last visit was back in May 2011 when the weather was truly atrocious! Luckily, today, it was a little kinder.
What makes Calke a bit different from most other NT properties is that its name doesn’t reflect the building itself! As any local will tell you – there’s no Abbey!
The site was an Augustinian priory from the 12th century until its dissolution by Henry VIII. The present building, named Calke Abbey is a Baroque mansion built between 1701 and 1704. Another feature which becomes immediately obvious once inside (if we were allowed, which we weren’t today of course, because of ‘lockdown’) was that you don’t see all the rooms at their best. Instead, it boasts peeling wallpaper and faded paintwork – left as (pretty much) found! It’s a novel take on presenting the past, that, based on previous visits, leaves a lasting impression.
More information on the official NT’s website HERE and Wikipedia HERE
"A novel take on presenting the past..."
It only took us just over an hour to get there and we were soon parked and ‘picnic-ready’ 😊.
But of course, under the ‘new normal’, we didn’t have complete freedom to roam, as the NT is operating a ‘timed entry’ system into the site. We were limited to Calke Park and the Gardens only. The café was open but we didn’t fancy that as we had already packed enough food for the whole of Derbyshire! 👍 😁
We began with a walk around the immediate area. Some of it was closed off so that limited our wanderings – but it was still very enjoyable, and we covered 2¾ miles…
…taking in some great views, including a very well maintained kitchen garden too!
We sat down to our picnic around 1pm – and in spite of the forecast, the rain came (but not until our last mouthful!) 😋
Still, it was a great day out – even if was a bit damp, and we didn’t get to see inside the House this time.
Castle Howard is a private residence, north of York and has been the home of the Carlisle branch of the Howard family for more than 300 years. It’s probably best known though for Granada Television‘s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and 2008’s remake for the cinema. You can read more about this stunning home on Wiki HERE.
Getting there was pretty straightforward, with part of our journey by car, and part by train. It was an early start from home though, leaving just before 7am in the dark and the damp to join our York-bound train from Peterborough at 8.18. Gosh, it reminded us of our working days! 😮 …and maybe not in a good way!
As things turned out, our journey was about as good as it gets! In spite of joining the rest of mankind on the A14 heading east, we had a straightforward journey… no queues… no jams.. in fact, it was all perfectly normal! A text-book travel experience, with only the ‘car park full’ sign at Peterborough causing a momentary ‘wtf?!’ moment (before ignoring it altogether and finding plenty of spaces!).
All aboard from platform 4, and we were soon looking for our seat for the 80-minute journey. The rail-franchise was previously operated by Virgin Trains, but they’ve fallen from grace in recent months and LNER has picked up the baton.
Ann had bagged us a bargain and bought 1st Class seats for just a few extra shekels. Super-comfy seats, a ‘proper’ full English breakfast/Bacon Butty with attentive staff were all part of the deal – OK two-out-of-three isn’t bad I suppose! 😋 where the most difficult decision for me was whether it’s ketchup or HP*???
*HP obviously! 😉
Our train slipped into York just two-minutes late, and we headed for our pre-arranged meeting point, the rear car-park, where we met up with Dennis and Sandra and their new family member — a BMW i3. Ahh, another experienced motorist joins the EV revolution! 🔌
Twenty-five minutes later, we were parked and heading for the entrance. It’s clearly a popular destination (based on how full the car-park was, even at 10.15!) and although this was my first visit Ann had been here some 40 years earlier! The extra attraction for the Christmas period in 2019 was that the House had been decorated using the theme ‘A Christmas Masquerade‘. It’s running from 16 November until 5 January 2020, and as we were to find out, it wasn’t to disappoint…
Wow! What an experience! If you like your colours, vibrant and varied (we do!) and complemented by the ‘olde worlde’ charm of an old House, this is THE place to spend time. Each room was drenched in colour either though the displays themselves or a range of cleverly positioned lighting.
Sunglasses should have been an optional extra, but it all worked beautifully! Take a look at the pics below…
It was real assault on the eyeballs (in a good way) where every successive room seemed to be bolder and brighter than the previous…
The old and the new working very well together…
…and no Christmas theme would be complete without err, a tree would it..?
…or the table set for Christmas..?
…and even in places where there wasn’t a Christmas theme, it was still very beautiful!
We were all impressed by how lavish the House looked. After a well-deserved coffee break we headed outside….
It was a cold day, and were all glad we’d packed gloves – it was VERY muddy too where we found ourselves constantly checking the ‘road ahead’ to avoid sinking! 😮
Having said all that, it was a lovely day to wander round with the winter sun, a bright blue sky and occasional breeze.
Bracing but beautiful!
It was now approaching 1.30, so we decided to have lunch at the Courtyard Café on-site. After a short wait for a table, we were soon served and tucking-in. The food was delicious and a perfect end to our visit.
We finished our visit with a brief look round their Garden Centre and then it was back to the i3 and the short journey returning to York station. We said our goodbyes and located our train back to Peterborough. Toasty-warm on of the 16.03, we arrived back at Peterborough station just after 5.30, and we were soon on our way home.
It had been a great day. The House had impressed us all – inside and out – and it was good to see Dennis and Sandra again!
We drove down to Roger, Jane and Oliver’s this afternoon. The weather was horrendous, but it was well worth it as we were going to see Oliver playing flute in the East Herts Concert Band at their Christmas Concert.
But before the entertainment, we needed to eat, and Roger had helpfully booked us in at The Star Pub. Even more helpfully, it was exactly opposite! Parking though, was challenging to say the least. We could have used the Pub car-park but due to some excessive faffing around by another motorist, we had to drive past the pub and eventually left Robert, with two wheels on the pavement in the street just up the road. Standon is only a tiny village, and the Concert tonight was therefore going to test everyone’s parking skills!
The Pub’s food turned out to be excellent, and they coped really well with the increase in trade generated by those heading for the same destination as us!
At 7pm, we retrieved the cushions that Roger had helpfully packed in readiness for the pews, and we headed inside the Church.
Unusually, the ticket price was based on ‘what you thought of it’ AFTER the event. I’ve not experienced this arrangement before!
By 7.30, the Band was assembled, but wait a mo’, there was no sign of Oliver! ‘The Devil’s in the Detail’ as they say, and a closer inspection of the programme’s cover explained it all! There were actually TWO groups of musicians — The Youth Orchestra and Concert Band — the former were on first and Oliver was performing later.
All-in-all, it looked like a great selection of Christmassy tunes — and at least the carols were ones that everyone knew!
Oliver was soon on stage! He played with confidence and the overall sound from the Band was impressive!
The final piece — Sleighride — was where both groups of musicians joined forces. It didn’t disappoint (given there were only about 40 players) and they produced an impressive full orchestra sound — it was the perfect way to end the performance.
The Concert finished just after 9.15, and we were soon on our way back to our premium B & B for the night! 😁. After breakfast tomorrow, we’re heading home to finish preparing the garden for the Winter!
11.30am: I’m off to the capital today with Ann to meet up with Janet and Carol. We’re all visiting the recently opened Tutankhamen Exhibition at the Saachi Gallery and whilst we’re in the area, home of the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’ too — the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.
For the King Tut Exhibition, it’s £24.50 for the young ones (off-peak) to get in, and £22 for us oldies. Off-peak generally means weekdays whilst peak is the weekends (obviously!) and school/ public holidays.
For the Royal Hospital, there are two choices for visitors — a guided tour or aDIY independent visit. Best of all, both are completely free (although certain parts are off-limits between noon and 2pm for the Pensioners to enjoy their lunch in peace!)
And to finish our day-out, Janet has booked us all a Chinese meal. Where else, but in London’s Chinatown! 😁
The Royal Hospital
We caught the 11.52 train out of Kettering and then it was a short trip by Tube to Sloane Square, followed by a twenty-minute walk, we were at our first stop!
After a quick stop at the on-site café (that would appear to have also doubled as the local sauna — boy, it was hot in there!) we headed back to the main building…
…by way of some very attractive garden displays!
…and a particularly attractive mobility scooter! 😁
There were two areas we were particularly interested in once we got inside the main building — The Great Hall and The Wren Chapel.
First stop: The Great Hall. What a location for lunch! It reminded me a bit of the dining scenes from the Harry Potter films. Seating 270 for lunch and 400 for drinks, it didn’t disappoint on any level — superb attractive architecture in a light, bright airy space! What a great place for the old soldiers to enjoy their meals!
Oh, and you can get married there too as it’s available for private hire!
If we’d been impressed by the Great Hall, nothing really prepared us for the splendour of what followed: The Wren Gallery. Simply jaw-droppingly gorgeous!
We were under a bit of time pressure, so we probably didn’t stay as long here as we would have liked. However, in spite of our shortened stay, I think we were all blown-away by how beautiful it all was! Add to that, everyone we passed, spoke to us and passed the time of day — it was like going back 50 years! 😁. Our verdict? Definitely the ‘surprise of the year’ in our book, and a great way to spend an hour or more if you’re in the area.
They’ve even got a museum there that traces the history of the building – excellent! 👍👍👍👍👍
The clock was ticking as we walked in the direction of our final stop for the day: The Saachi Gallery and our 3.30pm timed entry slot for the highly-anticipated Tutankhamun Exhibition.
We had already been advised on the tickets that we should allow for possible queueing whilst the security team did their thing, but as it turned out, it was all managed very efficiently. We were inside just slightly ahead of our time-slot and the entry-in-batches certainly helped avoid any sort of crush as we approached the myriad of displays
The spooky voiceover set the scene nicely for what was to come…
“According to Egyptian beliefs, they say you die twice. Once when you stop breathing and the second, when somebody mentions your name for the last time.”
Our first impressions meant you could probably hear our collective jaws dropping as we encountered the displays. Given that this stuff is close to 3000 years old, the condition was amazing… and the detail on the carvings too! How did they achieve this all those years ago — no Dremel drills or laser cutters to rely on!
Spread across multiple galleries and on two floors, it all felt very spacious. Together with the slightly subdued lighting and the ethereal music, it felt very relaxed and un-hurried.