Cookham  Dean

24th June 2018 - 20th July 2018

We are living in Berkshire in a converted garage, to say it was small would be no exaggeration. The bathroom is miniscule, it is in the bedroom, so although the place is supposed to sleep 4 it is extremely difficult with a creaking floor on the stairs and in the bedroom. One awake, all awake. 

Having said that this is the most beautiful area. Quaint villages like Henley, Marlow and Cookham itself; add to the charm of the area. The villages are exquisite with hanging baskets, duck ponds, village greens and everything else quintessentially English. The hedgerows are studded with wildflowers and of course we are having weather to go with this. Trees along the roads dapple the sunshine and make travelling the very narrow roads both a joy for the beauty and a nightmare as it is difficult to see oncoming traffic. Naturally in the narrow roads, sometimes one or the other car has to move off the road. The villages have cars parked everywhere causing chaos for me, parked cars facing me means I do not know if they are moving or not!! We play a game of pop in and pop out to traverse the villages. 

We have wandered around many of the local villages. Marlow is lovely but much too busy with tourists. Henley the same. Cookham is a lovely village, although the pub on the Thames looks across to a shipyard; a bit ugly. 

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Visited Hughenden House, when we got there we realised we had visited before, but it was a different season, so the gardens were in full flower unlike last time and the house was again a great visit. Benjamin Disraeli lived there and Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor as not only was her her Prime Minister but they became friends. She gave him lots of gifts, mainly things she liked.

We travelled up to London and had lunch with a friend and her family. Very pleasant, sitting on the canal with good food and great conversation. The next day we tried to watch of daughter of and Australian friend sing at St Clements. A small problem there are 4 St Clements in London, the one that looked correct was a short 30-minute walk and as the weather was super we set off. 2 ½ hours later we got to where the church should be, to find it was not the right church and the correct one was another 45 mins away. We gave up, she will be singing in Oxford we will try to attend there. 

Another disaster, off we went to Henley regatta. We saw the parking signs and followed to find ourselves in a queue that lasted for 45 mins until we gave up and returned to try the train station. Queues for the parking and huge queues for the train. We looked at each other and went to the pub!!! 

Our third and final disaster was the day we planned to go to Windsor. Trump got there first. We decided not even to try we can go another day and will. Just the day we had planned had a good changing of the guard band. Still, with Trump there, we could not have visited the Castle. 

We have visited a few stately homes in the area. Woburn Abbey, a place I went to as a child was wonderful. The deer have many more rights than when I chased them around the park. People now have to keep to a path and no wandering across the deer park. The house has been much improved, and money spent on it. They have a new tapestry replacing one that fell to pieces. It is the history of the Russel family since 1547 when the fourth Duke of Bedford was bequeathed it from Henry VIII after the reformation to now and shows the safari park.  When I was a child the 13th Duke had only just opened the house to the public to make money to pay death duties. The Duke and Duchess could be often seen around the place working in the shop or the grounds. The 15th Duke is in charge now and can sometimes be seen around the place.

I did not get to take a decent photo of the deer; the best photo was at the entry and it was difficult to park. I decided there would be opportunity later, there was not! The only answer was to go back to the entry, it was nearly closing time. I illegally parked and straight away got accosted by the man locking up, he demanded I drive out immediately. I told him I had to take a photo of the deer and got out of the car - he was not happy (neither was Ross). I quickly took a couple of not very good photos and we left.

Nuffield House is a small but lovely home of William Morris of motor car fame. He was later made Baron Nuffield but did not move into a stately home. He was given the freedom of the city during the abdication of King Edward VII, so his certificate has been corrected “Edward VII” crossed out and instead of the new kings name written in it has “the King, his heirs and successors according to law”, this is probably the only one written like this. Morris used his car plants to make Iron Lungs when he realised how much this could help people. He then donated them to the hospitals. They had no children, so the house was donated to a local college and then became part of the National Trust. It was a large but very comfortable house very humble for a Baron.

A trip to Oxford saw us in Christ Church Cathedral listening to Evening Song. We were watching Marion who we had missed in London. The 12-person choir from Monash University Melbourne, gave a great showing lovely voices. Oxford is a nice university town. We walked around a lot of the places we have walked before. I think Cambridge is a prettier town, but I am biased as we lived just outside Cambridge in Duxford.

I segue to Duxford and the Air Museum. We did not go to the Vintage air show but arrived the afternoon it finished. We sat in a beer garden and watched the planes fly over, good planning. Geoff Zuber a good friend from Sydney joined us for dinner. The next day it was a visit to my old stomping ground when we went to the museum on the airfield. Some of the vintage planes were still there which was a bonus. I found a bloodhound which was the ground to air missile my Dad worked on. I also identified the hanger we used to play in, back then it was full of cars waiting to go to showrooms! Now there are lots of old planes and a Concorde. The man with the Concorde told us that the museum does not pay its way and has to sell planes every year to exist. Last year they sold 6 vintage planes, at this rate there will be none left in 20 years. The Concorde is a museum within a museum and as such is self-funding (also in trouble). They also have an independent group rebuilding and selling Vintage Planes. They need to have a % of old parts, to be classified as vintage. So if you want to buy a vintage plane Duxford in the place to go.

While we were having a drink (it was very hot on the airfield), I was trying to identify what was on a cap a man in front of me was wearing. It had an Aussie flag and some writing, the cap got closer and closer and then the man under it said “Clare!!” It was Phil Clarke who I worked with at Qantas. A small world indeed. We were leaving the museum when the man on the door asked me did I know Mrs Foster from Sawston Village College, it turned out that he was at school with me and we had friends in common another great coincidence. (Oh! the cap was the Aussie tour they were on of great airfields and air shows!)

We at last got to Windsor Castle, tip for young players buy your ticket online before going and walk straight in, we stood in line for 45 mins. The weather was lovely, waiting was not too difficult. When we got in I was knocked off my feet by how magnificent the Palace is. The damage from the fire has been almost been repaired. The chapel where it started is now a beautiful entrance hall with armour and crests, it is made of the most wonderful wood so warm and gorgeous. The man in charge of the room showed us a wall that the fire had uncovered it is an original part of the castle from 800 years ago. I touched it!! The next room was all gold leaf replaced after the fire - it took them 5 years. The lady there explained how the tapestries had all been saved as they are Velcroed to the wall and can be easily pulled down. The carpet in the main hall was saved by the army garrisoned in the town, it took 60 soldiers to carry it out after 50 of them rolled it up.  the lovely wooded parquet floor is the original. They just turned it over and the burnt part is underneath, how clever is that? She also showed us a huge malachite covered urn it was taller than me. She said the fire brigade had filled it with cold water to stop the lead lining from melting, that had caused it to expand and contract and the malachite had fallen off in small pieces. The people fixing the palace had put it together like a jigsaw and we would not have know if she had not pointed out all the hairline cracks. I was astonished that’s a jigsaw in 3 dimensions with no help. 109 rooms were damaged and most are back in action. No paintings were damaged. Everyone had a piece of art or furniture to save and everyone grabbed their piece as they evacuated. That’s a well-oiled fire plan.

Our last visit was to Cliveden house pronounced Cliff-dene, we met Monica and Stephen and the 4 of us did the tour. The National trust owns the building but has leased it to a hotel (£450 to £1,500 a night if you are interested, I hope you get breakfast for that). We joined a tour and was told the history of the estate from 1666, when the first property was built by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, in 1660. It's thought the Duke built Cliveden for his mistress, the Countess of Shrewsbury. In 1668, on hearing of the affair, her husband challenged Buckingham to a duel and was fatally injured. Successive owners sculpted the gardens and landscape, sparing no expense to create a magnificent summer retreat. The current house owes its elegant architecture to Sir Charles Barry, famous for designing the Palace of Westminster. His decadent masterpiece, created for the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland in the 1850s, is the third house here, the other two having burned down.

Cliveden has always been at the centre of political and social life. However, it was while Nancy and Waldorf Astor lived here during the first half of the twentieth century that Cliveden became famous for its lavish hospitality and glamorous guests. The Astor’s entertained a diverse mix of people from Lloyd George and Winston Churchill to George Bernard Shaw, Ghandi and Henry Ford. There are rooms where Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Amy Johnson and a host of other celebrities stayed while enjoying Nancy Astor's hospitality during the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

Cliveden hit the headlines in 1963 when it became known that John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, first met call girl – Christine Keeler – by the swimming pool. This chance encounter ignited a controversy that challenged the 1960s establishment and had major ramifications for British political history. Profumo’s affair caused concern for national security as Keeler was also involved with a Soviet naval attaché. It was the end of Profumo’s career and nearly brought down the government. It also allowed Ross’s friend Lewis Morley to become famous for the Christine Keeler photo.

No photos were allowed, I wish I had tried one of my pocket shots as the staircase was amazing Purchased by the Duke of Buckingham it has his ancestors carved into the levels as newel posts and himself at the top. I have never seen anything quite so grand. The ceiling is painted like the Sistine Chapel with his daughters as the seasons.

When we were walking around the famous Parterre garden laid out in 1855 by John Fleming we saw a man doing gold leafing on the gates, turns out his company had done the work in Windsor Castle. He was having trouble with the gold leaf blowing away in the wind, he was doing a lovely job even with the wind.

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This is all my own work, any mistakes are mine please let me know if you think I should change anything or if I have added a photo of you that you would like removed. My apologise if I offend anyone. Please send me a message using the box above and I will action immediately.

Writer: Clare - Retired Traveler

Editor : Ross Lyon

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