Family Weekend

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Roger, Jane and Oliver joined us for the weekend! 😁

Saturday

The last signs of Summer 2019?

The main event for today was a picnic at Belton House and then a walk around the historic Mansion and Gardens. I think it’s our most oft-visited stately home having been there recently (ish) with with Dennis and Sandra back in May, 2018 and Chris and Gill in July, 2017.

On arrival, the weather was disappointing to say the least (Summer’s not quite over surely???) Oliver was sporting shorts and I was in a short-sleeved shirt. Consequently, both of us were woefully ill-dressed for the conditions – a plummeting temperature followed by rain! ☔ ☔

1.00pm: However, It didn’t stop us enjoying our picnic though, as we sandwiched ourselves between ‘Robert‘ and the car next door to act as a wind-break! Brrrrr! 😁

1.55pm: I think the c*** weather made us eat more quickly, and we soon made a significant dent in Ann’s extensive picnic.

As soon as we’d cleared up our bits, we headed straight for the House. Word to the wise: Since our previous visit, there’s been one major change here! ALL VISITS ARE NOW TIMED, so it’s not just a case of turning-up and hoping to get in straight away. But, as it happened, it was perfect timing on our part, as there were five slots on the very next admission – the 2.15!

2.10pm: We’re in! 😁

Given our previous visits, from a photo point-of-view, I decided to concentrate on the less well-known/seen pieces on show inside, together with less obvious views of the property and surroundings.

3.05pm: Time for a cuppa, especially as the damp weather from earlier had returned, but this time it was torrential!

A quick, but determined sprint to the nearby tea-shop got us more-or-less to the front of the queue (followed by the rest of mankind) and we were soon seated in the Stables enjoying our cuppa and cake!

3.35pm: Next stop was the Gardens where the weather, perfectly on cue turned from rain to warm sunshine! 😁 At last!

Beautiful!
Ditto!

4.00pm: Our final stop was St Peter & St Paul Church aka Belton Church.

Belton Church

4.20pm: A great visit! (again!) 😁. Even the weather didn’t really spoil our visit (even though it looked like it would!). We wandered back to the car and headed south.

Ooo, there’s creative! 😊

All of today’s photos at Belton House (with none of my chat) are HERE

6.15pm: It was a good journey home and we were indoors by 5.45. By 6.15, Ann had laid the table for a yummy table-buffet. All that was left to do was to choose a movie for the evening…

Excellent choice!
Bohemian Rhapsody (courtesy of Sky Store): Even better than I remember it the first time around in the cinema 👍
9.45pm: And what could be better than a good film to finish the evening? The answer? two films! Choice-wise, the consensus was Thor: Ragnarok (in 4k DVD). Although it’s not my favourite from the Marvel stable, it’s still a very good yarn with everyone acting their heart out, helped along by outstanding SFX and a comedic theme (that in spite of all the death and destruction, seemed to work). The day however, eventually got the better of us, and we only got about two-thirds of the way through it – still there was always tomorrow to finish it off!

11.05pm: That’s it! 😴😴😴😴😴 Nighty-night!

Sunday

A lie-in for me until the unearthly late hour of 7.15 whilst the others slept-on.

9.10am: A little bit of Queen, courtesy of Spotify to get the day started!

9.45am: Breakfast is served – Porridge with Strawberries followed by a Bacon Butty! 😁

10.30am: Jane, Oliver and I watched the rest of Thor: Raganarok, Roger caught up with the Daily Telegraph, whilst Ann put the finishing touches to lunch – this was a real family-foodie weekend, and just how we like it! 😍

12.15pm: Pre-lunch drinkies!

1.00pm: Lunch is served. Roast Chicken with all the bits!

2.30pm: Lunch over! A bit of clearing up followed by a long natter.

whilst listening to something a little more relaxing!

3.45pm: Well, where did that weekend go? It passed really quickly – a great sign of a great time! 😍😍

Bye all, it’s been great to catch-up!

First Visit: Farnborough Hall

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Another one our 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! ☔☔☔☔

A Nagging Thirsk

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The Golden Fleece Hotel

We’re ‘up north’ for a few days
and taking in the sights! This includes a visit to the Nags at York Racecourse on Thursday! (Extra shirts packed!). I’ve only ever betted on a horse twice before in my life – back in 2004 and again in July 2006 – the former returned me an embarrassment of riches (a whole £67) but the less said about Market Rasen, the better! 😁

Our new home, during our northerly pursuits is the Golden Fleece Hotel in Thirsk, a lovely ‘olde-worlde’ hotel, parts of which date back to the 1500s. Lovely!!! 👍

Tuesday

Well, it looks like the weather is on our side!


That’ll do nicely!

9.02am: We left home around 9am, dropping-off Biscuit at Valerie’s and her ‘cat hotel’ on the way out.

11.18am: A trouble-free journey north on the A1 meant that we arrived at our scheduled stop on time – Ferrybridge Services – time for a wee break (and a wee-break).

The ‘iconic’ Ferrybridge Services

12.14pm: En-route was National Trust’s Nunnington Hall – a beautiful Yorkshire manor house, nestled on the banks of the River Rye. We’d not been here before, so we dropped-in (boy, it was busy!).

It’s fair to say, it’s not the largest country-house in the NT portfolio, but it was definitely worth looking around. It’s the sort of small Mansion that looks lived-in and of a practical size! 👍

Nunnington Hall

1.40pm: Both the ground and first floors are accessible and there are plenty of rooms to see; but given that the Hall isn’t too large, it didn’t take us long to see it all. Unusually (and I think it’s a first for the NT) the Gift-Shop is on the 1st floor. The upside of this smaller-sized residence was that we had longer for our planned picnic in their Gardens!

Ahh! Picnic next to the Croquet Lawn! How English!!

2.35pm: Two Salads, a few little ‘dwinkies’, and an hour later, we were ready for nothing to move on to our final destination – our Hotel! A shame really, as it was definitely hotter than the forecast – it must have been 25 degrees C!

3.07pm: A beautiful drive through the Yorkshire countryside took us eventually into the equally picturesque Thirsk. And it was busy too! Some skilful navigation by Ann, led us to the Hotel‘s car-Park (cunningly, but sensibly, concealed round the back of the town’s bustling market-square). Ten minutes later, we were checking into our room – Room 2.

Room 2 is beautifully decorated, if a little snug in places. The bathroom especially, brings a whole new definition of the word ‘compact’! Still, as a whole, the room had been tastefully upgraded – it even had USB charging points built-in the mains sockets! 😉 A super-comfy bed and a premium widescreen TV added to overall positive experience. The creaky floor reminded us of the room’s authenticity though! 😁

7.00pm: For our first night in Thirsk, we decided to try out the Hotel’s restaurant. The Menu was pretty varied and the service, efficient. I was pretty pleased with my Lamb Burger but Ann’s Caesar Salad was ‘a bit floppy’ (Ann’s words). And “we’re not at home to Mr Floppy!” (Apparently, it was the wrong sort of lettuce).

My ‘non-floppy’ Lamb Burger

8.05pm: We finished the evening with a stroll around the Market Square…

Thirsk’s Market Square

9.30pm: No concrete plans for tomorrow yet, but we’re going to head in the direction of the North York Moors.

Wednesday

Not quite as warm as yesterday

OK, we now have a plan for today…

  • Eden Camp – a large Second World War-related museum near Malton in North Yorkshire in England. It occupies a former Second World War prisoner-of-war camp of 33 huts
  • Helmsley Castle – a medieval castle situated in the market town of Helmsley, within the North York Moors National Park, owned by English Heritage
  • Rievaulx Terrace – a site located in the North York Moors National Park, overlooking Rievaulx Abbey and owned by the National Trust

9.50am: Off we go then! Even without the benefit of any dual carriageways, it was a slower journey than we would have liked – and that was down to the car, three vehicles ahead, who obviously thought that ’38’ is the new ’60’! 😠.

10.45am: Eden Camp – We eventually arrived. First impressions, as they say, are lasting impressions – and this place certainly impressed us! All the more because this is a family-owned Museum, built inside (and around) the 29 Huts of an ex-WW2 POW Camp. It demonstrated a very imaginative use of the available space, and all credit for the sheer quantity of related bits and pieces on display.

It was all pretty varied too! Rationing, Bevin Boys, Women at War, Evacuation, Civil Defence, 1940s Fashion, RAF, Army, Navy and plenty more was on offer to transport the visitor back to a bygone age. There was so much to see here, that complemented the tremendous amount of thought that had gone into the design of the exhibits within the Huts. Not only static displays, but authentic sounds too – and in some cases the smells! A pity it’s so far away for a lot of our southern-based friends! 🤔

Plenty to see! (Click for larger view)

It’s another of those Museums that almost certainly needs a second, third or maybe even fourth visit to take it all in!

A quick wander around the town of Helmsley

12.50pm: Next, we headed for Helmsley where we took a quick walk around the town. There’s clearly money round these parts based on the types of shops and the goods displayed. Yummy!

1.15pm: We found a picnic area adjacent to the Castle, and settled down to our second outdoor lunch in two days – Summer certainly has arrived – and the temperature seemed to agree!

Picnic near the Castle

We toasted the fact that it was exactly 10 years to the day, that Ann said goodbye to Sainsbury’s! A lot has happened in that time, and we reflected on the other milestones along the way! 🙄

All about the Castle (Click for a larger version)

1.45pm: Helmsley Castle (last visited in March 2005). As usual, I had no recollection of visiting here ‘back in the day’, but Ann did, and my Blog-posts for that time confirmed we’d visited it on 29 March!

Although the Castle hasn’t changed much, English Heritage has installed a much-improved Visitor Centre – gone was the old timber hut, and in its place, a shiny ticket/shop combination.

The Tower at Hemsley Castle

2.25pm: Rievaulx Terrace was our final stop for the day!

The ‘Ionic’ Temple on the Terrace

Nope! I definitely don’t recall this either, and I’m surprised as it was as beautiful on the inside and it was on the outside! The ceiling was breathtaking! 😎

Just like yesterday, the weather forecast under-estimated the temperature. It felt like it was now mid-20s as we walked ‘the Terrace’ between the two Temples. We took in some beautiful views of
Rievaulx Abbey too! 👍😊

Pigs might, but around here, apparently so do sheep!

Our walk ended with a view of the second Temple, a 10 minute stroll away…

The ‘Tuscan’ Temple

3.05pm: And that was it for today. We had taken in some gorgeous sights, but for me, the Eden Museum was simply out-of-this world.

5.00pm: Time to get ourselves sorted for tomorrow’s racing at York! When I first better back in 2004, there was no such thing as a ‘betting app’. But there is now and after two practice wagers, I’ve enjoyed some modest returns. Maybe we’ll be lucky tomorrow? 😊👍

Thursday

11.15am: A day at the Races! Travel-wise, it all worked out perfectly. A short taxi journey to Thirsk Station (that’s NOT in Thirsk!), a 15-minute Train ride to York, and finally, the 20-minute free shuttle-bus to the Race-course.

Specifically, it’s York Racecourse for the seven races running today and the “going” is “good to firm” (whatever that means!). We’ve placed some small wagers online prior to arriving (based on my only other experiencing of betting back in 2004 and 2006 – and my brief practice-run yesterday) 😊

We were soon settling in the Melrose Lounge and we met Terry a 20-year-race-going veteran, and over the course of our visit, we learned a lot about the art of betting (but as the day progressed, not necessarily always learning about winning!)

So, here is our list of selected Nags… (there’s no science here, just a quick look at the odds and a random choice!) The results are either going to be more rocking-horse 🎠 than pedigree🏇!!!!

  • 1.50pm: Saaheq 10/1
  • 2.25pm: Rawdaa 5/1
  • 3.00pm: Japan 7/2, Surfman 4/1 Dark Vision 25/1
  • 3.35pm: Kynren 7/1, Indeed 7/1, Cape Byron 7/1
  • 4.05pm: Garrus 4/1
  • 4.35pm: Hong Kong 11/4 EW
  • 5.05pm: The Cashel Man 5/1, Carnwennan 11/2

..and this is how they did…

  • 1.50pm: Saaheq 10/1 – It came 12th! Not a great start!
  • 2.25pm: Rawdaa 5/1 – That’s better! A credible 2nd
  • 3.00pm: Japan 7/2, – Still running (somewhere!) Surfman 4/1 – 3rd Dark Vision 25/1 – Missing on the Race-Card
  • 3.35pm: Kynren 7/1, Indeed 7/1, Cape Byron 7/1 – All missing on the Race-Card. Bet on Beringer 4/1 instead (ended up somewhere towards the back) and What’s the Story 13/2 who came 1st! 😊
  • 4.05pm: Garrus 4/1 – 1st 😊
  • 4.35pm: Hong Kong 11/4 Each Way. Turned out to be an official non-runner. Replaced with When Comes Here 7/2 (it didn’t run!)
  • 5.05pm: The Cashel Man 5/1 – 9th, Carnwennan 11/2 – 1st 😊

5.15pm: Well, after today’s results, I don’t think we’ll give up the day job! – but we didn’t do too badly with three first-place wins.

Would we go Horse-racing again? If it’s as well-organised as York’s event was, most certainly! Easy transport links, excellent hospitality, great food and a fun atmosphere! A great day! 😉👍

Well, that’s it for our short stay in Thirsk. It’s been great and I’m sure we’ll be back before too long. We’re leaving after breakfast tomorrow and should be home mid-afternoon.

Worthing or Rust!

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Thursday

Well, here we are in Worthing, having enjoyed  the best journey-here-by-car ever! (maybe an over-statement) – but it was completely incident-free!
Smile

We left at 8.10am, dropped into the Health Centre at home to leave a prescription; popped-in to Peter J’s for a cuppa in West Wickham and still managed to arrive at our destination by 1pm! The Sat-Nav in combination with TMS steered us round all the jams and we were soon checking-in to our home for the next two nights: ‘Premier Inn, Worthing Sea-front’ – room 202.

And the Hotel certainly lived-up to its name as a quick stroll across the road, and we were soon munching on our pre-prepared picnic – and enjoying the view!

A lovely warm day too! and no sign of any rain for the next few days – no rust for us then!
Smile
After a short period of munching, the Seagulls spotted us (and our tucker) so we curtailed our feast and made our escape!

Suitably stuffed and free from the birds, we then took the longer-than-we-thought walk into town for some retail therapy! Beales looked very sad, and was almost deserted, whilst TK Maxx was playing host to most of Worthing!

After bagging a few bargains, we headed back to our Room for some seagull-free relaxation.

6pm: Out again and into town to meet Ian and Sharon at the Fortune Inn in Chapel Road for a cheeky-Chinese.

Great value food and good to catch-up with everyone’s news – including Ian’s new car, a very swishy black Range Rover! A perfect evening then!!

We said our goodbyes around 8.15 and took a slow, very pleasant, wander along the seafront back to base. Bizarrely, it was actually warmer than it had been in the afternoon. Lovely!!
Sun

We finished the evening with a binge-watch of two of Amazon’s new Jack Ryan series. Very gritty and very watchable.


Friday

The nice thing about new hotels is that their beds – and more specifically their mattresses – are in good shape. Consequentially, we slept exceptionally well.

A mini-binge-watch and by 8.30, we were ready for action, or at least breakfast! We could have gone ‘Full English’ but last night’s Chinese meant a ‘capacity issue’ for both of us.

So, two meagre ‘Continentals’ it was then – and we were set-up for the day.

On the cultural agenda today, was NT’s Petworth House. Apparently, we were here back in August 2007 – but as usual, I didn’t remember a thing about it!

Ian was acting as chauffeur and picked us up around 10.30, and it was therefore, a great opportunity to see his Rangey closer-up. Oh, and enjoy Petworth too!

A 45 minute journey later, we were queuing to get into the House.

This was an impressive place with room after room of pictures. And if that wasn’t posh enough, a room full of statues too! Hard to believe that we’d been here 11 years ago – and I don’t recall ANY of it!

We ended our visit with lunch outside (the Café inside was just heaving!)

A great day and we finished by dropping into I and S’s for a cuppa and a natter.

Then it was back to the Hotel for our final night, after popping into the nearby M&S for sandwiches. We finished the day with another binge-watch of a few more episodes of Amazon’s Jack Ryan!


Saturday

After checking-out, we planned on dropping in to see my brother for about 10am – so that meant we had to leave Worthing by 8.30. In turn, that meant an early breakfast at 7.45! Actually, as things turned out, we ran early! We were down for brekky just after 7am.. and heading for the A27 by 7.50. That meant we arrived at Neil’s in good time – just before 9.30am.

Our early arrival meant that we had plenty of time for a natter… check out what’s new with Alfie & Frankie… and plunder Neil’s Veg stock for tomatoes and chillies!
Smile

Our journey home wasn’t quite as straight-forward, As usual, the Sportage did us proud and attempted to steer us round any jams, but we tried tom be too clever and ignore its instructions and try a short-cut for a short-cut! We failed miserably and it put another 20 minutes on the journey. Pity the poor souls going the OTHER way on the A14 though! A caravan and a car had overturned blocking lane 2. This meant there was at least 10 miles of jams going the other way.

Jam-free, we were home by 1.30… a little later than we’d planned.
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The Wedding Belle

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It was off to Janine’s Wedding today. Her husband-to-be, Chris is from Ohio, USA, so it’s going to be a true Anglo-American event. The event is at Hedingham Castle (so that’ll please our friends from across the Pond!) and we’re making a few days of it, as the big day isn’t until tomorrow – Friday.

The Wedding celebrations are actually spread over three days and it’s going to be very American by design. We’re promised plenty of ‘theatre’ and some deviation from the Brit equivalent! First, it’s a Fish and Chip Supper tonight followed by the event itself tomorrow, and finally, a post-Wedding Brunch on Saturday.

We’re staying at The Swan, Long Melford (a Michelin listed boutique, two rosette restaurant with rooms) just down the road for a couple of nights.

“Dilly Dilly!”

Hedingham Castle
Hedingham Castle


Thursday

But before our first Wedding of the year, we planned to take in some nearby National Trust properties. First stop today was Ickworth House & Gardens.


In spite of the major roadworks on our outward journey (whilst they re-shape the A14 locally) our drive was pretty smooth, with just a couple of stop-start moments. Consequently, we were there in just under an hour-and-a-half.


I’m not sure how we’ve NEVER managed to have visited here before – and it turned out to be a real treat! The House opened at midday, and when we arrived around 11.45, it looked like most of Suffolk already knew about this gem, and was already there – clearly a very popular place!

Architecturally speaking, it was very unusual – the original House was on the left and right with a central circular part (the Rotunda) in the middle. Actually, the left hand side is now a Hotel owned by the Trust, whilst the right hand side (the West Wing) was for Visitors.

First, a bit of history to put it all into context: The estate was originally owned by the Abbots of St. Edmundsbury. The land was acquired 1432, when Thomas Hervey married. The then ‘House’ took 47 years to build and the locals held their breath as the unusual design began to take shape. The area (and England, as a whole) had never seen a design like it, and it was to become the family home for the next 500 years!

But not without some tweaks along the way…

In 1701, the 1st Earl demolished the mansion and developed plans for an even grander abode, as this modest medieval House eventually became a turreted Tudor mansion. As part of the re-building, he moved out all the locals in the immediate area to make way for the grander version of this property – understandably, he didn’t hit it off with the ‘ordinary folk’!
Sad smile 
In more recent times, power and money appeared to take its toll. The previous Marquis (No. 7) had been a bit of a naughty boy, and managed to spend his way through £7m of drugs in less than 10 years – and to add insult to injury, he lost the £30m family fortune too!

Being taken on by the National Trust probably saved this property from certain oblivion. The NT acquired it in 1957, in lieu of Death Duties, and converted part of it into a hotel as recent as 2002.

Fast forward to 2018 where the current Marquis (no. 8) have moved out and live in a nearby modest dwelling.


There was plenty to see, and it had been restored by the NT to an extremely high standard. What made it extra special were the little touches – hats and coats from the period, letters dated from the 50s on show in the writing bureau and plenty of quotes from the downstairs-staff reproduced on some of the walls.




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Superb in every sense and it’s going to take some beating!

Our second and final stop supporting The National Trust was Melford Hall, after a thirty-minute twisty-turney drive through the lanes of Suffolk.

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As we all know, during his time on the throne, Henry VIII, after a strop with the RC Church, took possession of many houses of religion, and this affected Melford. It became a royal property in 1539 and was then leased to Sir William Cordell, a member of the rising middle classes. Sir William Cordell was eventually granted the estate of Melford in 1554 by Queen Mary I, having helped her accede to the throne.


1651: Almost a hundred years later, Sir Robert Cordell became the owner of Melford, after the previous owners experienced some financial difficulties. The Hall was in a bad condition due to it having been vandalised during the Civil War. Robert was the MP for Sudbury and Sheriff of the county and he undertook a programme of refurbishment and reparation.


1786: Another century, another major development! Near the end of the eighteenth century the house was put on the market for the first and only time in its long history. It was sold to Harry Parker by the third husband of the deceased Firebrace’s wife, William Campbell.

  
But for many, the significant bit of its history was that Beatrix Potter once stayed here and there’s a very interesting book on display that shows her skills as a painter.


Superb stained-glass…

…some very interesting letters from the 50s including some around the time of the NT’s acquisition.









  
The Hyde Parkers who have modified the house through the ensuing period, still live in Melford Hall to this day and it’s a superb Tudor Pile!

But that was enough culture for one day, and we headed for our bed for the next couple of nights – The Swan at Long Melford.


Our original room (Room 3) was thoughtfully swapped for Room 4 due to the excessive heat in the former. Our new home was still warm but well-equipped with all that we needed – and more – including a posh coffee-maker and helpfully, an industrial-scale electric fan.


Just time for a short ‘feet-up’ session before heading off to the first part of the Wedding Celebrations. This was the Fish & Chip evening at The Old Vicarage, Castle Hedingham – a massive house (for a Vicar!) featuring NINE bedrooms, numerous rooms and a very large cellar that included a Pool Table and Gym.


We were introduced to many of the American guests and they made for very easy company. It turned into a superb evening, and a great way to ‘break the ice’ for tomorrow. The evening finished with the (apparently) American Tradition of the Bride presenting a cake to the Groom…


All-in-all, we all got on really well and it was a real party atmosphere. We called it a night around 9.45 and wandered down the pitch black road to retrieve the car. So far so good, but what seems to be turning into a pattern for us when we’re returning from events, we got caught up in a massive road diversion preventing us taking the direct route to Long Melford. The diversion signage wasn’t brilliant either, but after an extra 30 minutes on our journey, we arrived back in our room.


Friday

The Bed was super-comfy and we woke, bright-eyed and with tails bushed – ready for the celebrations ahead! First stop though was breakfast – and it didn’t disappoint. The Full English went down a treat, as did the fresh fruit, coffee, tea and fresh fruit-juice.


Fuelled-up, we then decided to take a walk down the High Street, mainly for a spot of exercise, but also because it’s very, very (very) long (I guess that’s how Long Melford got the name!). However, it all seemed a bit ‘Sleepy Hollow’ as most of the shops were closed, even though it was almost 10am!

Luckily, in contrast, we noticed a couple of Antique Shops with their doors open, so we took a wander round those before crossing the road, to check out the rest of the shops. Things were starting to get busier (but not by much) and we did eventually see the town almost buzzing. With our retail therapy complete, in the shape of four wooden spoons and a casual top for Ann, we were soon back in our room getting suited-and-booted for the main event.

hedingham-keep1
And at just after 1.30, we set off for Hedingham Castle. We soon arrived and the weather forecast so far, was pretty accurate – thankfully dry!

A short walk over the bridge and up the narrow staircase and we’d arrived! Strangely, the Routemaster Bus with the majority of guests on-board had NOT! We chatted with Roy’s brother Ray and his other-half Jane for a bit and when the Bus finally arrived, there was just time for everyone to get a drink before we headed down the narrow spiral staircase to where the Service would take place. This was a tricky journey for all the Guests in heels – and the Groomsmen, who, on arrival, had taken advantage of the wheelbarrow full of Beer, to aid challenge their navigation skills!
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There was an extended pause before the Service started – kicked-off by the spreading of petals along the bridal-path by one of the very young members of the wedding party – little Eleanor.

As this was an American-style wedding, there was plenty of ‘theatre’. We had the parade of Groomsmen and their respective partners (finishing with an individual man-hug from the Groom) before Roy and Janine made their entrance. Janine looked stunning (as did Roy!). Roy had to formally confirm he was giving Janine away, and as part of the theatre the Bride and Groom read out their commitment to each other. Roy kicked-off proceedings and Chris’s Dad officiated, and it all sounded, looked and felt fantastic.


With the Service over, everyone followed the married couple over to the House where there was a wide range of drinks on offer. Then it was out into the Gardens (in superb condition given the dry weather) for the official – and less official – photographs.

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Front Row: Tim, Kathy, Me, Ann, Pat & Greg
Back Row: Gerry, Mariann, Ron, Becky & Brian (Groom’s Parents) & John

A gazillion of photos followed and after a quick check of the official Table Plan, we headed for our allocated Table – Table 5 – that we were to share with a number of new-found American friends.


Wow! What a friendly group. We were soon chatting away like old friends about this-and-that with plenty of laughter along the way.

The Speeches then followed. Unlike a typical Brit Wedding, there were some extra contributors: In addition to the normal Father-of-the Bride’s (nice one Roy, it was perfect!), Best Man’s and Groom’s, we had the luxury of the Chief Bridesmaid’s (Lauren), the Maid of Honor (Scarlett) – all really good – especially Lauren’s.

Music was courtesy of a live Band (superb!) and a DJ (not so much). It was a real party atmosphere and Ann and I spent a lot of time on the dance-floor (I even got to dance with Roy!). But no-one could up-stage the happy couple – there’s was a lot of love in that room tonight!
Smile

Wow! The evening passed really quickly. The weather was briefly disobedient, failing to follow the forecast at one point, with lightning, thunder and a torrential downpour. After some more ‘dance-floor action’, we called it a night and at just after 11, we began to say our goodbyes (even though we’re probably seeing most people tomorrow!) and took the perilous walk in the dark, back the car.

Last night’s detour was still in force, but we navigated it with ease, and were soon back at The Swan for our final night.

Five-to-midnight – and we’re all partied out! What great day!
Confused smile


Saturday

A super-lazy start to the day, after yesterday’s very happy event. Next stop The Mill Hotel, Sudbury for the 11am ‘post-Wedding Brunch’ event.


It was only about 15 minutes away and although the parking was a serious challenge nearby, they did have an official car-park just up the road.

We were one to the first to arrive, but within minutes we were re-acquainting ourselves with most of ‘Table 5’ from last night – a perfect reunion!

We stayed for just a butty and a cuppa (there was plenty of traditional ‘Full-English’ food on offer!) but had plenty of time for a longer natter with our new acquaintances from ‘across the pond’.

We said goodbye to everyone around 12.30 and after a trouble-free journey home were indoors by 2.15. Wow! what a fantastic few days away. The Wedding was he highlight of the year for us, and it was good to see Suffolk again!
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A Belter at Belton!

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Wow! That’s two days in a row where the weather has been glorious!

Luckily, we’d already planned a while ago to meet up with Dennis and Sandra for a day-out (plus a picnic!) at Belton House – and the great weather was now an extra bonus! Last time we were here, back in July last year, the weather was a bit ‘so-so’, but today more than made up for it – what a belter!

In fact, I can’t recall the last time a Bank Holiday weekend was this warm!
Smile
It was great to catch-up with Dennis and Sandra, although the place was so busy, we initially had a bit of a problem spotting them in amongst the gazillions of other families planning to enjoy a day-out!

Friends located, we booked our timed ticket and then headed for the Gardens.


Then it was a quick-picnic behind the car before heading for the House.



Once inside the House, the first thing we noticed as how cool it was a – a welcome relief to outside!

An hour later, with the tour over, it was a return to the car’s rear for Dessert (where we’d left the picnic table set up)! By now, the car-park was a lot quieter, and we actually had quite a bit of room to scoff!

Then the ‘second wave’ began, and as we said our goodbyes to Dennis and Sandra, we could see the next batch of visitors coming in – and that was at 3pm! Clearly Belton House was a popular choice , no doubt helped a generous helping of today’s sunshine!
Smile
We headed back for A1 where it was surprisingly free of traffic – as a result, we were home by four o’clock.

Another great day out with friends!
Thumbs up

That Lyveden Look!

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Post Christmas, it’s always good to blow away the cobwebs and begin to get back into the routine of ‘keeping active’. With that in mind, Chris and Gill popped round and we headed off to National Trust’s Lyveden. We haven’t been there since August 2011! and blow away the cobwebs it certainly did! In fact it nearly blew the car away!!! Boy! was it windy!




After our healthy adventure, it was off to a Pub for lunch. We had the ever-reliable Shuckburgh Arms in mind, but when we got there it was closed, in spite of the web-site not suggesting any sort of special hours for this time of year (and nothing on the door either!) Bah!

Back in the car then, and back into Oundle, where we parked-up and walked to the Talbot Arms. Although we seemed to be in competition with a local wedding party, we were soon served and tucking into some tasty ciabatta rolls.

Lunch over, it was back to ours for a quick cuppa and a natter before saying our good-byes before we all get together next Saturday for the Theatre n Stratford-upon-Avon. Boy it’s tough being retired!!!