Hardwick Hall with Dennis and Sandra

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Hardwick Hall

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! ๐Ÿ˜).

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…

Castle Howard (December 2019)
The Royal Armouries Museum (March 2019)
Bolsover Castle (October 2018)
Belton House (May 2018)
York (February 2018)
Burghley House (October 2017)
Hull (May 2017)
Leeds (February 2017)

(Click on the titles for more details)

It certainly looked like it was going to be a nice day for it! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž

Well, I thought it was artistic! ๐Ÿ˜
Click on the pic for a larger version

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?!?! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Pity the poor window-cleaner! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
“I’m off to mow the back lawn – I may be some time…” ๐Ÿ˜‚

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 cafรฉ and an ice-cream vendor too! Yummy! ๐Ÿค—

๐ŸŽต Here we go round the… ๐ŸŽต

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! ๐Ÿ˜›

Sweeter than a sweet from Mr Sweet’s sweetie-jar!

After Nature’s sweetness came a call from the same source! ๐Ÿ˜ฃ (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! ๐Ÿค”

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!

Lunch is served…

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!!) ๐Ÿ˜‰


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.

“Anyone seen 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! ๐Ÿ˜ฏ 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…

Calke Walk

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Calke Abbey

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!

"A novel take on presenting the past..." 
The Forecast – looks good!

It only took us just over an hour to get there and we were soon parked and ‘picnic-ready’ ๐Ÿ˜Š.

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 cafรฉ was open but we didn’t fancy that as we had already packed enough food for the whole of Derbyshire! ๐Ÿ‘ ๐Ÿ˜

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 2ยพ miles…

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…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!) ๐Ÿ˜‹

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.

Family Weekend

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Roger, Jane and Oliver joined us for the weekend! ๐Ÿ˜


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! โ˜” โ˜”

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! ๐Ÿ˜

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! ๐Ÿ˜

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! ๐Ÿ˜ At last!


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

Belton Church

4.20pm: A great visit! (again!) ๐Ÿ˜. 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! ๐Ÿ˜Š

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 ๐Ÿ‘
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! ๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด Nighty-night!


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! ๐Ÿ˜

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! ๐Ÿ˜

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! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

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! ๐Ÿ˜ We were! The food was excellent!

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

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 ยฃ67) but the less said about Market Rasen, the better! ๐Ÿ˜

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!!! ๐Ÿ‘


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! ๐Ÿ‘

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! ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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! ๐Ÿ˜

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.


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’! ๐Ÿ˜ .

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! ๐Ÿค”

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! ๐Ÿ™„

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! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜Š

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? ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘


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) ๐Ÿ˜Š

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 ๐ŸŽ  than pedigree๐Ÿ‡!!!!

  • 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! ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • 4.05pm: Garrus 4/1 – 1st ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • 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 ๐Ÿ˜Š

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! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ‘

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

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-frontโ€™ – 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!
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!!

We finished the evening with a binge-watch of two of Amazon’s new Jack Ryan<