It’s all about Trust and Heritage

When I fell over last January and broke my leg, and was incapacitated for almost three months, I never thought that we would be able to get out and about for National Trust and English Heritage visits as we had in previous years. How wrong I was!

Once I’d been given the all clear to drive, around the end of March—and relying on my trusty walking stick—we managed to visit eleven National Trust properties (including four times to our ‘local’ Hanbury Hall), and to five run by English Heritage. I have indicated the distance from my home in Bromsgrove, although we visited some properties while we were on holiday in the south of England in July.

National Trust
During our holiday in the New Forest we made a day visit to Corfe Castle, and on the way home a week later we stopped off at Kingston Lacy. Further on, we passed the entrance to Dyrham Park, north of Bath, but didn’t have time to visit then. So we decided to return later in August.

Not long after I gained my mobility, we visited three properties that are quite close to home, not to visit inside the houses, but to enjoy the gardens, and relax with a cup of coffee or a bite to eat for lunch. The restaurant at Packwood House, renovated over the past couple of years or so, is particularly nice.

If I wrote a specific blog post about each of these visits, I have included a link below.

Hanbury Hall (10 April, 4 May, 29 August, and 18 November) 6 miles
Hanbury is our local National Trust property. I think we’ve been inside the house only once, several years ago, but during the year we did pop over there, in about 15 minutes, to grab a cup of coffee, and walk through the gardens. Of particular interest for me is the glorious parterre, kept immaculately by the resident gardeners and volunteers.

Packwood House (20 April) 17 miles

Baddesley Clinton (12 May) 19 miles

Shugborough Hall (22 June) 53 miles
One of the things we particularly liked about Shugborough was the number of rooms open to the public. As always the volunteers were most helpful in pointing us towards items of interest.

Read about our visit here.

Avebury (2 July) 81 miles
We stopped in Avebury on the way south to our holiday in the New Forest. It was a good halfway place to have coffee and lunch. There’s much to see, with the stone circle and the house (with each room decorated in a different period).

Read about our visit here.

Corfe Castle (5 July) 176 miles
We visited Corfe Castle on a day trip from our holiday home in Dibden Purlieu on the east of the New Forest. The drive west was about 47 miles, on quite busy roads.

Read about our visit to Corfe Castle and Kingston Lacy here.

Kingston Lacy (10 July) 134 miles
Kingston Lacy was owned by the same family as Corfe Castle, about 19 miles to the north. This must be one of the National Trust’s premier properties – it’s full of treasures. Well worth another visit sometime.

Claydon (19 July) 67 miles
Our visit to Claydon was a delight. Normally, photography is not permitted inside the house, but when I explained that I write a blog about our National Trust visits, they gave me permission to photograph many of the architectural aspects I am interested in. And I have to say that the volunteers at Claydon were some of the most helpful and friendliest that we have come across.

Read about our visit here.

Dyrham Park (12 August) 77 miles
It’s quite a walk from the car park to the house and gardens. Thank goodness for the shuttle service. On the day of our visit the weather was beautiful, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Read about our visit here.

Brockhampton Estate (26 August) 25 miles
We made our first visit to Brockhampton in September 2012. It was great to see that other parts of the medieval house had been opened to the public.

Greyfriars’ House and Garden (14 December) 12 miles (by train)
This was our last visit for 2016, and we hopped on the train from Bromsgrove for the 20 minute ride to Worcester Foregate. From there it was a less than 10 minute walk to Greyfriars’. Nice to see the rooms decorated for Christmas, and we had an excellent tour guide.

Read about our visit here.

English Heritage
This was our second year as members of English Heritage, and we didn’t visit as many properties as we would have liked. But that will be rectified in 2017!

Buildwas Abbey (27 May) 36 miles
We had tried to visit Buildwas in 2015, on our way from Wenlock Abbey to Ironbridge. But it was closed. We had the place to ourselves when we visited in May. Peaceful!

Read about our visit to Buildwas and Langley Chapel here.

Langley Chapel (27 May) 11 miles from Buildwas Abbey
Standing isolated in a field, this is a delightful example of a 17th century chapel catering to a Puritan rural population.

20160527 007 Langley Chapel

Calshot Castle (9 July) 136 miles
Calshot was just a few miles south of our holiday home in Dibden Purlieu. We were amazed to discover how well it had been maintained over the centuries. I guess this is not really surprising considering the active defensive role it has taken on all that time.

20160709 009 Calshot Castle

Read about our visit here.

Bolsover Castle (17 August) 90 miles
Bolsover Castle sits on the skyline to the east of the M1 motorway in Derbyshire. Whenever we travel north to visit our younger daughter Philippa and her family, we have to pass Bolsover. And for years we were intrigued by it, and what it might offer. We had also seen in the past few years a BBC program about the castle presented by historian Lucy Worsley. We were not disappointed in our visit.

Read about this interesting visit here.

Witley Court and Gardens (26 August) 16 miles
Witley Court is one of our local visits, just a few miles west of Bromsgrove on the far bank of the River Severn. We have been visiting Witley Court since the 1980s when you could just wander into and around the ruins. We had last been there in July 2015.

Silent witness to centuries of history

In Friar Street, close to the center of Worcester, and a couple of hundred meters or so north of its magnificent cathedral, stands a half-timbered building built around 1480 (the birth year of my 13th Bull great grandfather) that has been a silent witness to some of England’s pivotal moments in history, such as the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII in the late 1530s, and just over a century later when King Charles II (although not yet crowned) was defeated at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the last battle of the English Civil Wars.



These photos show the double gateway looking into the garden, and from inside to the street, as well as views of the rear of Greyfriars’ from the garden. Building a half-timbered house was, according to our guide, a little bit like piecing a jigsaw together. Which pieces fitted where? Well, symbols were embossed on matching pieces of timber and these can be clearly seen in one the photos in this gallery.

Greyfriars’ is a late medieval merchant’s house that has survived the ravages of time—but nearly didn’t make it. Greyfriars’ is now owned by the National Trust. We enjoyed a visit to Greyfriars’ House and Garden yesterday, where many of the rooms had been decorated to celebrate Christmas during various times: a Tudor Christmas in the entrance hall, a Puritan Christmas (or lack of it) in one of the main bedrooms, and a wartime Christmas in the library.


Just 13 miles of so south of our home in Bromsgrove, Worcester is the county town of Worcestershire. But for one reason or another, and despite having been residents of Worcestershire for over 35 years (albeit with a break of almost 19 years in the Philippines) we have only rarely visited Worcester. I think the last time I was there was in December 2013 when I was called for jury service at the Crown Court (but never actually made it on to a jury).

Since becoming members of the National Trust in 2012, in the lead up to Christmas we have visited one of the Trust’s properties in our ‘neighbourhood’ – Hanbury Hall, Croome Park, Packwood House, Baddesley Clinton or Coughton Court – since there is always a special festive display to enjoy.

This year we decided to visit Greyfriar’s, making the short journey by train, not wanting to have the hassle of finding convenient parking in the city. In any case, it was also an opportunity of experiencing Bromsgrove’s new railway station¹.

We stopped off for a coffee at M&S before walking on to Greyfriars’ and arrived just in time, a little after 11 am, to take advantage of the excellent first house tour of the day. We were just three visitors, and I had full opportunity to use my camera to the full, even though light levels were extremely low. So the set of photos I came away with are certainly not my best, by any stretch of the imagination, but I hope I did capture something of the beauty of this interesting property.

Saved from demolition
Greyfriars’ was destined to be demolished but was saved by members of the Worcester Archaeological Society. In 1943, military dental surgeon M Matley Moore and his sister Elsie took on the refurbishment of Greyfriars’, eventually taking up residence in 1949.

These photos show the main entrance hall, one of the main tapestries, and some of Elsie Matley Moore’s handiwork above the fireplace.

Apparently the house was in a dreadful state when the Matley Moores began their refurbishment project, and this was not something undertaken lightly during the Second World War or its immediate aftermath when building supplies were hard to come by. Nevertheless, they were able to salvage panelling and other decoration from other buildings, in addition to keeping what original features that were still part of the building’s fabric. Elsie Matley Moore was an accomplished seamstress, and lovingly restored a number of the seventeenth century tapestries that are still on display, as well as adding features of her own, such as ceramics and a set of particularly rare Georgian green (from arsenic? – not so) wallpaper panels in the downstairs living room.

These photos show the main bedroom (apparently occupied by the man of the house), the parlour (and its William Morris tiled fireplace), and the library. All the rooms had magnificent grandfather clocks, several manufactured in Worcestershire, and at least one designed with just a single hour hand. In the fireplaces in two rooms were cast iron – and painted – door stops that Elsie Manley Moore collected. These are quite rare today. Above the fireplace in the parlour is some original carved woodwork frieze with carved dragons (there’s a close-up in this gallery), and indicating that Worcester is not that far from the Welsh border country.

Downstairs, the dining room was refurbished in a Georgian style. These photos show the majolica tiles above the fireplace, and one of the green wallpaper panels.

The garden was obviously dormant yesterday, but National Trust volunteers told us that during the summer months the garden is a haven in the center of Worcester (although traffic noise from the close-by ring road did unfortunately intrude as we explored a few of the garden’s nooks and crannies).

Each year Greyfriars’ is host to Shakespearean players who perform in the garden. I think we should look out for that event for 2017.


¹ After the Rio Paralympics 2016, the Bromsgrove station signs were all painted gold, recognising the rowing gold medal won by local sportswoman Lauren Rawles.


Dyrham Park: a tale of two architects

20160812 154 Dyrham Park

A few miles north of Bath, and to the east of Bristol, Dyrham Park is a National Trust property that was built in the late 17th century on the site of a former Tudor manor house.

20160812 123 Dyrham ParkIt was the creation of William Blathwayt, a senior civil servant who rose to become Secretary at War among other posts. After leaving government he served as a Member of Parliament for a number of years before he died in 1717.

Completed by 1704, Dyrham Park is an interesting combination of architectural features because it was designed by two architects, the west wing by Samuel Hauduroy, a Huguenot, and showing distinct French influences, and the east by William Talman, who also designed Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and Hanbury Hall close to where I live in Worcestershire. Parts of a pre-existing Tudor mansion at Dryham were demolished as the two wings of this house were completed.

William Blathwayt married heiress Mary Wynter in 1686 whose family owned the Tudor mansion at Dryham. Mary died in 1691, leaving William with three children, and she never saw the building of the house we see today.

From the outside, this is a magnificent building in quite an extraordinary setting.

20160812 002 Dyrham Park

The view from the east facing front door.

The estate lies to the west of the A46 (that connects Bath and Stroud), and the car park is close to the entrance. There’s a shuttle bus to the house (which I was very grateful for yesterday) or you can walk down a winding and rather steep road to the house, or across the park. It’s remarkable because Dyrham lies at the bottom of a valley, almost in an amphitheatre, surrounded by the most magnificent mature trees. From up above in the car park you would have no idea what lies over the brow of the hill. And looking at early drawings of the site, and seeing the park today, you have to wonder at the imagination of the creators of estates such as Dyrham, for they would obviously never live to see their creations as they had planned them.

20160812 009 Dyrham Park

It was the home of the Blathwayt family until the 1950s; however, Dyrham Park has been owned by the National Trust since the 1960s. Last year there was a major project to repair the roof and make the property water-tight once again. There is only access to rooms on the ground floor, but there are plans, budget permitting, to restore the house to its former glory. Most of the rooms do not have furniture, although there is a selection of oil paintings on display in many.

Unlike many houses we have visited, the Orangery is connected to the left side of the house (to the south on the east facing wing).

But, stripped of their interior decor finery, your attention is drawn to many of the fine features that exemplify 17th and early 18th century design: the fireplaces, the doors and their beautiful hardwood frames, and the two magnificent staircases. A couple of pieces of information caught my eye during our visit: the house was constructed from local materials in the main, but finished off using imported woods from around the world, marbles from Italy, and slates from Cornwall. Also, it seems that Blathwayt financed the construction of the house from his own resources rather than borrowing the money. He thus left his estate unencumbered by debts on his death.

Outside, there are quite small landscaped gardens leading down to two pools, and original 17th century iron gates at the far (west) end, and in need of some TLC.

St Peter’s Church is much older than the 17th century house, and has a beautiful stone tile roof. Actually three roofs, for the central nave and side aisles. William Blathwayt is buried in the churchyard.

Above the church are ‘Mr Blathwayt’s Lost Terraces’, now mostly overgrown.



20160812 052 Dyrham Park

Next to the terraces lies the deer park and, with advice from other visitors to Dyrham yesterday, we tracked down the large herd of fallow deer that was resting nearby.

20160812 083 Dyrham Park

20160812 082 Dyrham Park

Dyrham Park is on a trajectory to former glory. We look forward to visiting again in a couple of years once further restoration has been completed, and more rooms (fully furnished) are once again open to the public. And hopefully by then I’ll be able to take full advantage of the walking opportunities through the park once my leg is fully healed.


Homes fit for a king (or queen): one slighted, the other opulent . . .

Corfe Castle, standing on a conical hill in gap in the chalk Purbeck Hills, commands a stunning view north over the rolling hills of Dorset, and guards access to the Isle of Purbeck to the south. Today it is a glorious ruin.

20160705 035 Corfe Castle

20160705 036 Corfe Castle

Looking north over the rolling Dorset landscape.

20160705 108 Corfe Castle

South towards the village of Corfe and the Isle of Purbeck.

It was built by William I (The Conqueror) in the 11th century, underwent significant changes during the following two centuries, and remained a royal possession until the reign of Elizabeth. She sold it in 1572, and it was later purchased by Sir John Bankes in 1635. And it is through the Bankes family that the histories of Corfe Castle and Kingston Lacy House, some 18 miles to the north, are linked.

During the English Civil War, Lady Mary Bankes led the defence of Corfe Castle when attacked by Parliamentarian forces. Corfe was one of the last bastions of royalist support in southern England. Lady Mary was permitted to leave the castle unharmed, but it was soon demolished by the Parliamentarians (yet another castle slighted), and these have proudly dominated the landscape ever since. Corfe Castle is now owned and managed by the National Trust.

So, what is the link with Kingston Lacy House? Having been turfed out of Corfe Castle, the family moved north to their estates near Wimborne Minster and built this sumptuous country house, rather modest but very attractive on the outside. However, what an Aladdin’s Cave inside! It must be surely among the top three of all National Trust properties in terms of the treasures on display. One of the National Trust’s ‘jewels in the crown’.

20160610 001 Kingston Lacy

Construction of Kingston Lacy House began after 1663; the family had regained its prosperity when Charles II was restored to the throne. Rather than reconstruct Corfe Castle, Sir Ralph Bankes, the eldest son, chose to construct a family home on their estates near Wimborne Minster. What is particularly interesting is that the Bankes family occupied Kingston Lacy House continually from the late 17th century until 1981, when the house and its fabulous contents were bequeathed to the National Trust.

The entrance hall and stairs are solid marble. Statues of Sir John and Lady Mary Bankes can be seen on the first floor landing (alongside one of King Charles I). There are large windows looking out over the parterre, and the stairway leads up to some magnificent (but rather gory) paintings of hunting scenes. The plaster ceiling and paintings are magnificent.

But it’s in the sitting room, the library and other salons that the magnificence of Kingston Lacy House is shown off to its ultimate best. The walls are adorned with paintings by the Old Master including Van Dyck. The ceilings are decorated in the most opulent manner.

On the top floor are the nursery rooms, but even here are opulent paintings depicting the whole family originally from Corfe Castle (including those children already deceased—with angel wings), a painting of the Circumcision of Christ, and bedrooms under the eaves painted like tents.

Even the servants’ dining hall has old paintings!

Outside there are extensive gardens and parkland—a real pleasure to explore.

There’s so much to see at Kingston Lacy House that it’s definitely worth a second visit if we are ever back in that part of Dorset. It’s a veritable feast for the eyes.

We visited both properties during our summer break in the New Forest. Our eldest grandson Callum (who is from Minnesota) told us that he wanted to see a castle during his holiday over here in England. His disappointment was evident when he first saw the ruin. “That’s not a castle,” he exclaimed. But it wasn’t long before he and his sister and two cousins, Zoë, Elvis and Felix were having a whale of a time exploring the whole site, and dressing up in medieval costumes.

Here a henge, there a henge . . .

On 2 July we set off from home just before 10 am, heading south towards the New Forest in Hampshire, where we stayed for a week with our daughters Hannah and Philippa and their families.

The trip south was about 143 miles, on the route we took. That was south on the M5 motorway, over the Cotswolds to Swindon, then on south via Salisbury to our destination.

We broke our journey at Avebury in Wiltshire, a World Heritage Site, a dozen miles south of Swindon.

Avebury has two attractions: Avebury Henge and stone circles, and Avebury Manor, once the home of Alexander Keiller (of the marmalade family) who spent many years in the 1930s discovering the archaeology of this ancient Neolithic site.

aerial-avebury (eng-heritage)

Avebury village and stone circle.

There is something enchanting about stone circles and , lost in the mists of time, it’s hard to imagine why and how ancient Neolithic people erected these thousands of years ago.

Entering Avebury you certainly do not get an impression of just how big the earthworks are. It’s only when you are on the ground, and see the massive ditches (the henges) that the full impact of their construction—by hand—using the most rudimentary of tools like antlers, really hits you. Of course there are other henges in the vicinity: Stonehenge and Woodhenge, to name just a couple. But this Wiltshire landscape for some reason is an area of considerable Neolithic activity. Due to my current disability, and not wanting to spend too much time walking over uneven surfaces, we did not explore the henge and stone circle as much as I would have wanted.

20160702 055 Avebury

20160702 004 Avebury

20160702 005 Avebury

20160702 009 Avebury

Avebury Manor is a 16th century building, that was restored by Keiller. But in 2011 its refurbishment was the subject of the BBC TV series The Manor Reborn, by a group of experts in collaboration with the National Trust. There is no consistent theme throughout the manor’s decoration, each room representing a different period in its history. It’s an interesting concept, but from my perspective this doesn’t allow a visitor satisfactorily to develop a solid impression of the house and its worth. There’s no doubt that it is a beautiful building in a rural setting. I thought the mishmash of historical themes was inappropriate and it would have been better to have chosen a single era for its decoration. nevertheless I do recognise that the BBC’s and experts’ involvement in this way have probably helped save the building in a better state for the future.

Light of foot, nimble of finger . . .

Luke Lightfoot. Never heard of him? Neither had I until just over a couple of weeks ago when we visited the National Trust’s Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, south of Buckingham, east of Bicester.

20160719 110 Claydon House

20160719 112 Claydon House

Claydon House is close to two other National Trust properties, Waddesdon Manor and Stowe, perhaps more illustrious, and probably they receive far more visitors.

So how does Claydon compare? I think that anyone who visits Claydon House will come away with a sense of wonder of what 18th century master carver and stonemason Luke Lightfoot achieved for his employer, Ralph 2nd Earl Verney who rebuilt the family ancestral home between 1757 and 1771. The Verney family still occupies the red brick wings of the house.

The building standing today is just part of what was originally planned, and at least one wing was demolished. Although the exterior of the building is often described as austere, I think it has a charming symmetry and simplicity.

The interiors however, are something else—a riot of rococo wood carving of the very highest standard. Perhaps the most exquisite examples of 18th century carving to be seen anywhere in the country.

Luke Lightfoot, born in London in 1722, is somewhat of a mystery. Here’s what the National Trust has to say about him: Luke Lightfoot was a brilliant and talented stonemason and carver, but not an architect. However, Sir Ralph Verney engaged him as such at Claydon where Lightfoot used his skills to make impressive carvings, most notably in the north hall here at Claydon. He was a very talented carver but not a very trustworthy one and he swindled away a lot of Sir Ralph’s money before being dismissed. 

Most of the work done by Luke survives today, including the painted wooden carvings in the Chinese Room. All of the wood was painted white, which is believed to be because it was all carved in pine which comes in many shades and discolours over time. Due to the preserving coat of paint you can still see the unique and amazing craftsmanship of the carvings today.

The main entrance of the house leads into the Saloon, a beautifully proportioned room decorated in blue and white. You can’t fail to be impressed by the ceiling decoration, or the papier mâché reliefs high up on the walls.

But it’s in the North Hall that some of Lightfoot’s best carving is to be seen.

In the library there is equally fine carving high on the walls, but the ceiling was completed by Joseph Rose.

The Grand Staircase is in a class of its own. Can there be a finer example in England?

In the Pink Parlor, the door lintels are surmounted by other carvings depicting Aesop’s Fables, and the ceiling of the Great Red Room immediately above has some impressive ‘domes’.

Florence Nightingale was the sister of the second wife, Parthenope, of Sir Henry Verney (1801-1894), and she visited Claydon many times. On the second floor is the bedroom she used. Next door is the Gothic Room in which the only decoration that is not made of wood is the marble fireplace. Can you imagine such carving?

Next to the Gothic Room is the Chinese Room, where the rococo decoration has ‘exploded’. And more impressive ‘domes’ in the Paper Room.

Close by the house, no more than 50 m away is the Church of All Saints, with many memorials to the Verney family, and especially one to Sir Edmund Verney, Standard Bearer to King Charles I, who was killed at the Battle of Edgehill in October 1642.

Don’t miss Claydon. You won’t be disappointed.

I have only shown photos here of the decoration and architectural features, and I’m grateful to the National Trust for giving me permission for photography in the house. Photography is not normally permitted, and certainly not of any of the Verney family personal effects such as masterpiece paintings and furniture. In the Salon there’s an impressive Van Dyck painting of Charles I for example, and throughout the house there are many more examples of such quality.

Claydon House is not the easiest National Trust property to find. Thankfully we had detailed Ordnance Survey maps to guide us there; signage leaves something to be desired. Road signs petered out in several places, and I did overhear other patrons mentioning this to staff on arrival. That’s something the National Trust needs to improve upon, not just here at Claydon but elsewhere around the country.

I can’t finish this particular blog post without a mention of the volunteers at Claydon, some of the friendliest and most informative we have come across in all our National Trust visits.

Two years in the planning . . .

Steph and I have two lovely daughters.

20160711 244 New Forest holiday

Hannah (on the left), the elder, lives in St Paul, Minnesota, and is married to Michael. They have two children: Callum, who will be six in mid-August, and Zoë, who turned four last May.

Philippa (on the right) has stayed in the UK. She lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, and married Andi in 2010. They have two boys: Elvis will be five at the end of September, and Felix will be three on 1 September.

But until this past week, we had never all been under the same roof. And the grandchildren had never met each other.

20160711 514 New Forest holiday

L to R standing: Michael and Andi. L to R sitting: Callum, Hannah, Zoë, me, Steph, Elvis, Felix, Philippa.

Two years ago, Hannah and Michael had planted the idea of coming over to the UK for a summer holiday. But where to stay, and what to do—apart from enjoying each other’s company? With us living in the Midlands south of Birmingham, and Philippa in the Northeast, it seemed logical to plan a holiday somewhere nearby to either of those locations. Unfortunately our home is not large enough to host everyone. Northumberland to the north of Newcastle is a beautiful county, but was eventually ruled out as probably not enjoying the warmer weather everyone hoped for.

So we eventually focused on the New Forest, west of Southampton, an area I know well having family links with the area, as well as from my undergraduate days at the University of Southampton. But apart from a week’s holiday there in the late 1980s, I haven’t been back since.

For various reasons the 2015 plans fell through, and even this year nothing was settled until quite late. Originally we had said that if Hannah and family came over to the UK we wouldn’t plan to take our usual break in Minnesota this year. As a trip to the UK didn’t seem to be in the offing, we went ahead and booked flights in early September for a three week stay in Minnesota. Then, Hannah and Michael confirmed that they would fly over here after all, and the search was on for a holiday home that would accommodate six adults and four small children. Thank goodness for the Internet. Hannah quickly zeroed in on three properties, and we eventually chose a five bedroom house in the village of Dibden Purlieu on the eastern edge of the New Forest National Park.

Our holiday began on Saturday 2 July, and we planned to get to the holiday home by about 5 pm, in time to be there when Hannah and Michael arrived from Southampton Airport. However, we decided to make something of the trip south, calling at Avebury in Wiltshire to visit two National Trust properties: the 16th century Avebury Manor and Garden, and the world famous Avebury Neolithic henge, comprising three stone circles. We spent just over two hours exploring the manor house and garden, but because of my current walking limitation, were not able to walk the length of the stone circles.

Sunday was a rest day. Hannah and family didn’t emerge from their beds until after noon, so we decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing around the house.

Phil and Andi didn’t arrive until Monday evening, so we decided to make a short excursion before lunch down to the coast at Lepe, just a few miles south of Dibden Purlieu. Callum and Zoë had a blast on the shingle beach, and afterwards in the play area above the cliff in the main part of the country park. Just what was needed to flush away the remnants of jet lag.

After Phil and Andi arrived, it didn’t take long before the newly-introduced cousins were playing together and running round the garden having a grand old time.

Tuesday was a very bright and sunny day, hot even, so we set out to cover the 40 miles plus drive west to Corfe Castle in Dorset (another National Trust property). Visiting a castle was on Callum’s list of things to do over here in England. So he was somewhat unimpressed—to begin with—when all he saw was a ruin. But once inside and we had the opportunity to climb on to the walls, peer through the narrow windows, imagine what life would have been like centuries ago, and even dress up in medieval clothes, then all the grandchildren had a whale of a time.

Wednesday saw us at Exbury Gardens just south of Beaulieu on the Beaulieu River, purchased by Lionel Nathan de Rothschild in 1919, and where he developed a world collection of rhododendrons and azaleas (which had mostly passed flowering when we visited). But there were many other features to explore, such as a very large Rock Garden, a steam train ride, and all the space the children needed to run around.

On Thursday, we set off for a walk from Beaulieu Road Station across the heath at Shatterford Bottom towards the southwest edge of Denny Wood, then on for a picnic on the edge of Matley Heath. After lunch we headed to the coast at Barton-on-Sea where the children could get their feet wet; the water was too cold for any swimming. And to watch the paragliders. We had hoped to have a fish and chip supper in Barton, but we’d finished on the beach by 4:30 or so. We therefore decided to head back to Hythe and had a pub meal at The Lord Nelson overlooking Southampton Water, where we could watch the huge container ships and cruise liners pass by.

Friday was a lazy day, and we didn’t head out into the forest until after lunch. Fritham was our destination, for another walk through the forest, and hopefully grab a bite to eat for dinner at The Royal Oak, a small pub I first visited in 1969 when I was Morris dancing with the Red Stags Morris Men (University of Southampton) and we joined the Winchester Morris Men on one of their tours.

Just south of Fritham, we visited the Rufus Stone where the killing of William II (William Rufus) in August 1100 is commemorated. I first went there as a young boy with my elder brother and mum and dad in the 1950s. It was great to be able to take my grandchildren there.

After a walk of a mile or so, we returned to The Royal Oak for a welcome pint. The pub, although modernised, still has all the kegs of beer lined up behind the bar, just as in the later 1960s.

20160711 507 New Forest holiday

L to R: Felix, Callum, Hannah, Elvis, Michael, Andi, Philippa, Steph, and Zoë.

There was no food to be had at The Royal Oak, but we found a child-friendly pub, the Coach and Horses, at Cadnam.

On Saturday, the children were desperate to have a pony ride. So while they all headed off to a petting farm near Ashurst, Steph and I decided to visit an English Heritage property nearby. Calshot Castle, constructed by Henry VIII in 1539, guards the entrance to Southampton Water at the tip of Calshot Spit. For many decades it was an RAF base for flying boats and seaplanes; the original hangars are still there.

On the Saturday evening, Philippa and Hannah prepared a lovely roast chicken dinner that was washed down by several bottles of wine, and preceded by not a few G&Ts.

20160711 512 New Forest holiday

L to R: Steph, me, Zoë, Michael, Callum, Elvis, Hannah, Andi, Philippa, and Felix.

We departed for home on the Sunday morning, leaving Hannah and Phil and families to enjoy another week together. And from all accounts they have had a wonderful time.

But we didn’t head straight home. First we went due west about 45 miles, to Kingston Lacy, a 17th century country house and estate built by Sir John Bankes after the family was expelled from Corfe Castle during the English Civil Wars (between 1642 and 1651).

Kingston Lacy must be one of the jewels in the National Trust crown. It is sumptuous. In fact the only property that we have visited that can rival it is Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. But Kingston Lacy is several centuries older. The Bankes family apparently never threw anything away, and amassed a magnificent collection of works of art by several masters, furniture and porcelain. What a feast for the eyes!

From Kingston Lacy it was a direct, but rather winding, route north towards Bath and the M4 motorway, before joining the M5 motorway near Bristol, and covering the last 80 miles or so to Bromsgrove in much less time than I had feared. I think many people had stayed at home to watch Andy Murray win the Wimbledon Men’s Championship, or the British F1 Grand Prix. Or maybe they were settling themselves to watch the Euro2016 final from Paris between hosts France and Portugal. In any case, we did not have any hold-ups, thankfully, and were home not much after 5 pm, to enjoy a welcome cup of tea, and reflect on a wonderful week’s holiday with the family.