20 June 2019 - 20th July 2019
Arriving in England from Spain we picked up the car from Essex and managed to have a lunch with an old school friend, Charlotte organised the reunion with Daryl, who I had not seen for 50 years who joined us for lunch. We had a great chat catching up on news about people I had not seen for 50 years. We were all quite reluctant to say goodbye.
Ross and I set off the next day for Northants and our next adventure.
We arrived in Northants as the GPS failed on us, this appears to be an ongoing problem from now on. We saw a place with a similar name to where we were going and drove up. The main house was unattended, so I walked around to what turned out to be the housekeepers place and asked the way. She was a bit snippy saying they put the sign up at the gate so people staying at other places do not bother them!! Then she became really nice and told me about the property and how to get to where I needed to go, just a short way back up the street.
We still could not find it so stopped to check our details and a man came out of the house and said are you lost Australians!! Hurrah we were found. The accommodation was small only one bedroom but gorgeous. Everything works really well, and the arrival care package had enough food and other stuff to keep us going for days.
I was very surprised how beautiful this area was, lovely rose covered villages, sweet cottages and winding country lanes just as one imagines England to be. Our local pub was the Witch and Sow and did a very good meal. The local shop was in walking distance and had everything one could need.
We set out one day to visit some of the famous local house like Althorpe house - Lady Di’s home, it was closed as were a couple of other places. Eventually we found Cotton Manor Gardens. They were so lovely all the roses smelt like roses it was a wonderful experience walking in the gardens. They had a couple of live flamingos in the lake. I thought they were fake until they moved. The house was not open as it is a home and not large.
We were invited to Neighbourhood drinks, which were great fun and we met lots of people including a man who recognised us from the Queen Mary 2 crossing, he had been on board and seen my “who do you think you are” amazing in a small village (650 people) to meet another QM2 traveller. We were invited to a quiz night that was great fun and our team came 2nd quite pleased with that.
A visit to Market Harborough for shopping, not a very exciting town, but the trip took us past Nasby battlegrounds were a series of battles occurred on 14.6 1645 between the roundheads and the Royalists. The Royalist were totally out maneuverer and the decisive loss was instrumental in them losing the war. One of Lady Di’s ancestors lost his life leaving a very young son as the next earl.
We managed to visit Althorpe House and see the Lady Di memorial, although the whole place seems like a Lady Di memorial and I felt it was a bit over the top. After all they have some very famous ancestors who died in brave ways and they do not have memorials. The Spencer's are related to heaps of people including Churchill via his mother. The 1st Earl gained the title in 1603 when he was an ambassador for the king. The 3rd Earl the Red Earl founded the Royal Agricultural Society and breed bulls unusually as the Hall normally just runs sheep and deer. We saw the Present Earl (Lady Di’s brother) signing his book at the shop. One of the ladies at our quiz night was from Althorpe village and told us lots of gossip, which I promised not to repeat.
A quick trip to London was in order for me to renew my passport. It cost an extra £75 to have it processed outside Australia. The lass serving me told me smugly that I should have renewed it before I left to save the £75. She was not so smug when I said I had not needed a new one 3 years ago when I left.
On a sunny classical English day, we took ourselves off to Foxton Locks, we had been told they were worth a visit and they were. Building work on the locks started in 1810 and took four years. There are 10 locks in two staircases with 18 gates and form one of the longest ladders in England. I help open and close a few of the gates, which reminded me of doing the same thing on the Norfolk Broads as a child.
The Steam and Heavy Horse festival came to town, this meant a fish and chippy was set up in a field not far away. The whole village went out on Friday night for Fish and Chips. The queue went on forever. Good fish and chips, we sat in the beer tent and listened to live music on a balmy summer evening. The next day the festival opened, and we had a fun day checking out the steam trains, automobiles and other contraptions. The heavy horses were huge and so well groomed, they shone in the sun and seemed proud to be on show.
We are in this area for a wedding celebration. The wedding was in Australia, but this is a celebration for all of us on this side of the world who could not make it to Australia. We had a couple of lovely meals with Leigh and Philip and thoroughly enjoyed the celebration meeting up with a few people we had not seen for a long time.
An overnight visit to see 2 of my cousins took us to Kent another beautiful area, a fabulous house and gorgeous gardens, we had a lovely time and were reluctant to leave. We had breakfast in Rye which it very close to France in fact we were told they are only 3 stops on the train from Paris.
I found Rushton Triangular Lodge extremely interesting. It is on the Rushton estate; the manor house is now a hotel, the lodge was designed by Sir Thomas Tresham (father of one of the Gunpowder Plotters) when he was released from prison for being a Catholic and constructed between 1593 and 1597. It is a testament to Tresham’s Roman Catholicism: the number three, symbolising the Holy Trinity, is apparent everywhere. There are three floors, trefoil windows and three triangular gables on each side. On the entrance front is the inscription ‘Tres Testimonium Dant’ (‘there are three that give witness’), a Biblical quotation from St John’s Gospel referring to the Trinity. It is also a pun on Tresham’s name; his wife called him ‘Good Tres’ in her letters. It is said that the gunpowder plot was plotted on the ground floor. I am now also told that the brains behind the plot was the wife, who was never suspected so lived on.
Another old stately home (Tudor manor house) is Canons Ashby the house is set in rare terraced gardens. It was built by the Dryden’s using the remains of a medieval priory, the house and gardens have survived largely unaltered since 1710 and are as they were during the time of Sir Henry Dryden, a Victorian antiquary, passionate about the past. The warm, welcoming house features grand rooms, stunning tapestries and Jacobean plasterwork, contrasting with the domestic detail of the servants' quarters.
The house has the green cloth baize from the Board of Green Cloth, a board of officials belonging to the Royal Household of England and Great Britain. It took its name from the tablecloth of green baize that covered the table at which its members sat. The Board of Green Cloth audited the accounts of the Royal Household and made arrangements for royal travel. It also sat as a court upon offences committed within the verge of the palace. While it existed until modern times, its jurisdiction was more recently limited to the sale of alcohol, betting and gaming licenses for premises falling within the areas attached to or governed by the Royal Palaces, licenses were given out by the board and Publican’s had to front up to a Board meeting to be granted a license. The Board of Green Cloth disappeared in the reform of local government licensing in 2004.
It seems Queen Mary (Queen Mother) was upset that the cloth was not at the palace but as the person who had brought it to the House was the last Lord Steward of the Board there was nothing she could do.
With that last visit we say farewell to lovely Northants and make our way to Loftus in North Yorkshire.