Monday, November 30, 2009
Today's title is from a London Timeout magazine's walking route, which seemed the ideal way to start the day. Although the magazine was 18 months old, nothing changes, and the walk took us past places of historical interest where various riotous events took place over the last 350 years.
The walk started in Kennington Park, where 50,000 chartists held a protest march in 1848 for workers rights, and ended in Trafalgar Square, where we were passed by an actual march, also workers and non-workers concerned about the rising unemployment in Britain, marching as always, down Whitehall.
There were many points of interest along the way, of particular interest to us as antipodeans, was the pier where prisoners were transported to Australia.
The Banqueting House on Whitehall is an absolute masterpiece with a real link to radical history. The building was commissioned by James I in 1622, and in 1629 Charles I paid Reubens £3,000 to paint the 9 canvasses which make up the ceiling. But only two decades later, Charles I was beheaded on the balcony here.
The day was completed with another Daily Mail afternoon tea deal, this time at the National Gallery. Apart from the usual sandwiches and small cakes, the tea had a huge delicious scone, straight from the oven. We would have to say this was the best cream tea we have had. Following afternoon tea, we spent a very pleasant time wandering the galleries. In particular we were impressed with the new Hoerengracht exhibition, which is a walk through the Amsderdam red light district. A film about the exhibit explains how the mannequeins were made from clay models of real women. This exhibit is free to visit and well worth the trip into town.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The Lord Mayor's Show dates from the 13th century, and every year the new mayor rides in the 18th century golden coach at the end of a three mile long parade, to be sworn in as the new mayor. We braved gale force winds and showers to watch this ritual. Sadly the fireworks which normally complete the day were cancelled, due to the high winds.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The BBC weather forecasters are an invaluable tool for planning a day's activities. Yesterday they accurately predicted that the morning misty drizzle would clear to sunny spells by mid-day, and we based our day out on that information. Today, heavy rain in the morning was predicted to be driven away by strong winds by early afternoon. So although we drove out of London in heavy rain (and wondering if we were mad), by the time we had finished with indoor activities, the rain had cleared.
The first indoor activity was Clandon House, home to the Onslow family. The interior (of the outwardly boring brick 'box') is quite sumptuous, with wonderful ceilings in every room. We found this house particularly interesting, as it was the home to New Zealand's 11th Governor General, his term starting in 1889. Only 34 years old at the start of his term, Lord Onslow was the first Governor General to have a baby born in New Zealand. This child was given a beautiful kiwi feather cloak, in which he was presented to the Maori elders. The cloak on display, along with many artefacts of his time in New Zealand. But the most interesting 'souvenir' is a Maori meeting house in pride of place in the front garden. This particular house stood in the Te Wairoa village near Rotorua. When Mount Tarawera erupted, it was one of few buildings which survived, and saved many people's lives.
When Lord Onslow found it, it was standing empty and derelict and he purchased it for £50 and shipped it home.
The town of Shere is nearby, and a very picturesque stop for a Sunday pub lunch. After a delicious shared platter and desert, we set off along country lanes covered in leaves, to Friday Street. This is a perfect autumn destination, with the golden trees reflected in the lake.
Our route home took us through Brockham. This is a lovely village built around a large green, but the really interesting feature, was a huge bonfire stack, which appeared to be the work of the whole village. We were told that they used to build one twice the size, but current health and safety restrictions have limited it to what seemed to us an enormous and very well constructed pile of tree clippings and branches. We were told that the bonfire would burn a week after it is lit next Saturday. We have seen signs in villages, before, advertising their bonfire night, but never actually witnessed a bonfire in construction before and certainly didn't realise what a spectacular sight it must be.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
October ended in the UK with an autumnal heatwave, caused by warm winds blowing directly from the Sahara. So we enjoyed the intense autumn colours on a surprisingly warm day. A circular drive from Berkhamsted, took in the wonderful woods near Wendover, and the pockets of woods all the way to Princes Risborough. The colours have developed to an intense bronze, despite the week of warm weather. The drive was stunning, although unfortunately it seems impossible to accurately capture the autumn colours with a camera.
Thame was on the route, and we did a town trail walk picked up at the local free museum. The town has many attractive historic buildings, and was once a bustling coaching inn town.
The tour continued to several 'hidden gems' - villages which were just off to the side of routes we have travelled often. Mentmore has a stunning 'Rotheschild mansion', not far from other ex Rotheschild homes we have visited in Buckinghamshire. But our favourite new discovery was Haddenham. This is a large sprawling village, and the more we explored, it seemed to have more and more narrow streets of lovely old houses, and several grass greens. The largest of these was in front of the church.
After using the current Daily Mail afternoon tea coupons in a surprising tea room in a village we have never visited before, we ended the day at the Ashridge Estate. There are two roads running through the forests here. The lower road passes through the Golden Valley and past Ashridge House. This private road, was just stunning, with golden foliage in all directions. The road along the ridge passes through National Trust land, and we stopped at their car park for a walk through the forest at the end of this balmy afternoon.