Another University Get-together

This year we stayed at the Greetham Valley Golf Club which, as well as 2 and a half golf courses, is a hotel and conference centre in Rutland.  I decided it was too far for me to drive, so went by train and was very kindly picked up at Peterborough by a couple who were going.

When we arrived we went to our rooms to unpack etc.  The rooms were quite large and had a view over the lake and golf courses.

View from my window.    We later spent time watching golfers hitting the ball over this lake to the greens beyond.

View from my window. We later spent time watching golfers hitting the ball over this lake to the greens beyond.

View in the other direction.  I never did work out what the white things on the water were.

View in the other direction. I never did work out what the white things on the water were.

After a rest, I went down to the bar to join those who were there and have a pot of tea and catch up on the news.  Others gradually joined us as they arrived, although some people didn’t arrive until quite late in the evening.

I got quite tired, so eventually went to order a meal from the bar as I needed to go and rest.  The others then ordered from one of the staff who came to where we were sitting.  They also set out a long table where we could eat and the others came to join me as their meals arrived.

Dinner on Friday evening

Dinner on Friday evening

I stayed for a while and then retired to rest and sleep.

After breakfast on Saturday morning most of us gathered near reception and organised ourselves to take cars to Stamford for a “Blue badge” guided walk.  There were some problems with parking tickets at the car park – first in finding appropriate change between us and then because the ticket machines were playing up.  We found our way to the Arts centre to meet up with our guide.

Introduction - the guide is the lady with the red folder.

Introduction – the guide is the lady with the red folder.

Listening to the introduction

Listening to the introduction

Apparently quite a lot of the town was built in Georgian times.

I think we were told this was the first Georgian house in the town

I think we were told this was the first Georgian house in the town

Not all of the buildings are from that era, of course.

One of the older buildings - a coaching inn and the gate into the courtyard can be seen on the left.

One of the older buildings – an inn with the gate into the courtyard seen on the left.

The “great north road” runs through the town – what was the major route from London to the north (where does “the north” start?).

The great north road.  The arch in the distance marks "The George" a major coaching inn on the route, I think.

The great north road.  The bar above the road in the distance marks “The George” a major coaching inn on the route, I think.

We then went down and walked a short way along the River Welland and the flooding was discussed.

The River Welland

The River Welland

We went passed what was one of the earliest public bath houses – apparently the water was changed once a week!  I don’t think people really believed in baths in those days.

The public bath house

The public bath house

Near the bath house were three arches – all that is left of the original castle/fort in the town.

Arches from one side.....

Arches from one side…..

.......and from the other.

…….and from the other.

The most prominent church in the town - I can't even remember its name now, let alone the details of the spire added on to the tower - an early example of this?

The most prominent church in the town – I can’t even remember its name now, let alone the details of the spire added on to the tower – an early example of this?

As Stamford was a wool town, there were lots of rich wool merchants at one time, so they built lots of alms houses, many of which remain.  We were shown one quite attractive one where there was room for about 12 men (I think) and 2 women – to look after the men!  As part of living there they had to go to the chapel to pray for the soul of the benefactor 5 (I think) times a day.

These alms houses today.

These alms houses today – attractive but too many steps!

The guide was good and had quite a lot of interesting information, but she was rather quiet so I didn’t catch all she said, especially when there were other people or traffic around.  I thought Stamford was a very pleasant town with character and I can see why one of our group is buying a house there.  Wouldn’t much like to drive through some of the streets though.

After the tour, most (but not all) people went on to Burghley House where we started by having some lunch in the Orangery.  I think we took up 3 tables with extra chairs on some.  Some people then did a tour of the house, others went back to Stamford and I had a bit of a rest!  Three of the others then joined me for a pot of tea back in the Orangery, before we went back to the hotel where there was time to rest before getting ready for the evening meal.

We met in the bar ready for the 7.30 meal and were shown to our own room.  Instead of the usual long table we had 3 smaller ones, which for some reason meant that we had less interaction with everyone (and were perhaps quieter?).  Maybe we should have swapped tables after each course?

Table at dinner.....

Table at dinner…..

......on Saturday evening.....

……on Saturday evening…..

....starting at 7.30

….starting at 7.30….

.....with lots more chat.

…..with lots more chat.

I left a bit early (again!) so as to have a rest and sleep – not very successful.

On Sunday morning we saw most people at breakfast and some went off to do various things, whereas I got a lift to Peterborough station and the trains home.  Many thanks, as always, to this year’s organisers, who did an excellent job.

Question of the year:  what was the most fun thing have you done this year?  I think that everyone I asked (and I am afraid I didn’t manage to get round to asking everyone) was able to tell me about something they had enjoyed doing during the year.  Many of the things I was told led to some interesting stories – which was at least part of the purpose of asking the question.

I wasn’t sure that all of them were “fun” though.  Doesn’t fun include laughter, at the least, and possibly a bit of risk or silliness or exhilaration or excitement as well?  I was starting to think that we have forgotten how to have fun and can only watch it in children or grandchildren, but then I changed my mind and was sure that some of us do still know how to have fun (as well as enjoyment).

So which of these were really “fun” and which just enjoyable?  Some of the suggestions were:   watching tennis – in Birmingham;  the French open;  going to Greenwich for the day;  taking the grandchildren crabbing for the first time and seeing even the 19 year old get excited;  going to the Boomtown festival;   walking behind a waterfall in the Brecon Beacons and getting soaked (with a daughter);  going on a wine tasting trip to France and bringing back the results (fun for months to come?);   going to Royal Ascot;  white water rafting;    a walking holiday – not especially for the walks but for the (fun) company.

Thanks for the other suggestions, too and I hope we all have a fun year.  Different question next year – but who is organising the event?

Try to make the most of the last warm days

As I can’t do much while I have still got shingles (I get too tired) and I have a friend who also is not too well and can’t do much, we have been having a few pleasant hours together trying to enjoy the (last of?) the warm weather.  We get in my car and I drive to one of the local(ish) pubs and have a drink sitting out in their gardens.  We have mostly been to the Victoria and Albert in Netherhampton, but have also been to the Fox and Goose at Coombe Bissett.

One pub

One pub

Mostly my friend has iced water and a lager or two and I have coffee (if we go soon after lunch) or a lime and lemonade.  I have even been known to have something to eat if we go in the early part of lunch time and I haven’t yet eaten.

The other pub

The other pub

The whole idea is to sit in the garden so we can enjoy a peaceful time and make the most of any fine weather while it is still warm enough to do so.  We have a pleasant, gentle chat – not saying anything of great note but just enjoying each other’s company.  Well, I enjoy hers and hope she enjoys mine!

So is this a good thing to do?  At the moment it feels like it, as it is about all I can manage.  I can enjoy it without ending up exhausted.

Get Shingles

This started with a pain on my right side on a Monday afternoon/evening which I assumed would go away overnight – as many things do.  It didn’t.  So I gave it another night then phoned the doctors on the Wednesday and they phoned back.  After discussing it they said come in at about 3.30, which I did.  A good examination later, there was no firm conclusion, but a possibility of gall stones, so I was to be sent for a scan.

On Thursday a rash/spots appeared, so I phoned the doctor again and after they phoned back I was again called in and shingles were confirmed (and the scan cancelled).  I was prescribed some anti-viral tables to take for a week and told to continue with the paracetamol for the pain.  Everyone I mentioned it to said I should also take things easy as that should speed up recovery – I hope.

Initially there were shooting pains along the nerves, but that subsided into stabbing pain where the spots were – waist at the front and where the bra strap goes at the back, but only on my right side.  This changed into more like a soreness of the skin, most of the time.  The skin is also very sensitive and clothing rubs, which is a bit of a pain!

After nearly 4 weeks, it still hurts – but most of the time it is just sore with a few stabbing pains.  I also feel really washed out and get tired very quickly.  How can I sleep for over an hour in the afternoon and still sleep at night?  I am also getting bored, fairly fed up and just want to get better!  I have been doing as I was told and taking things easy, too.  And I was just starting to get up my fitness at the gym and that has all gone – it will be like starting again.  I keep thinking that the spots are fading, but I fear that is wishful thinking……  It is now 4 weeks and I am fed up……

So?  Definitely not recommended.  I would avoid it at all costs!  Not that you can catch it – it just can appear if one has had chickenpox in the past.

Another 50th Birthday

One of my newer friends had a 50th birthday and invited me to join her and others for a meal in town to help her celebrate.  She had booked a table at Wildwood and we met there at about 7.30.

As we arrived

As we arrived

We were introduced to those we didn’t know, had drinks and……

......presents were opened......

……presents were opened……

……and we selected our food from the menu, while……

......and we selected our food from the menu.


I think we all chose something different.  Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals…….

......well, not much was left!

……well, not much was left!

Most people then has desserts.

Dessert for the birthday girl!

Dessert for the birthday girl!

Even though I only had sorbet for dessert I still was very full!

So was it a good evening?  It was very pleasant and I hope the birthday girl enjoyed it.  I probably ate too much.

“Let’s go fly a kite”

Having failed to get to my great-niece’s birthday – so I still had the present – and as my niece has been talking about bringing her children to Old Sarum for over a year, we eventually planned that.  The aim was to have a picnic there, with both of us providing different food.  She sent me a text when she left (a bit later than planned) with an eta and surprisingly we arrived within 2 minutes of each other.

It seemed that I had told my niece that it is always windy on Old Sarum (it is!) so she brought 3 kites that she has had for some time and which hadn’t been used.  So we found a large grassy area and put the kites together and then (attempted) to fly them.

Getting the kites flying

Getting the kites flying

Great-nephew was quite good, and improved; great-niece had more difficulty as she is smaller and started with the more difficult kite, but she did get the hang of it fairly soon and also improved with practice.

The orange kite from Vietnam flew more easily

The orange kite from Vietnam flew more easily

The bat kite was pretty good once it was up

The bat kite was pretty good once it was up

Once we were all tired out and starting to get hungry, we put the kites back in the car and fetched out the picnic.  We went to a different part of the hill to eat it.  Too busy eating to take photos……

.....but this is after packing up!

…..but this is after packing up!

We then went back to flying kites, but on the way the children were playing at being dogs (interesting as they, especially great-niece, are nervous around them).  I think it was because there are so many dogs there – a very popular dog walking area.  They were also…..

....irritating each other....

….irritating each other….

......and fighting a bit.

……and fighting a bit.

Boys always seem to show friendship by fighting and the boy is the oldest…..

The kites were flying very well by this time and the….. one went really high.

……orange one went really high.

I had a chance to fly the…..

.....the bat kite.

…..the bat kite.

The third kite was the small yellow, blue and red one in the corner above, but it didn’t seem to want to go very high and tended to spin and dance in circles and then go down.

When it was time to leave I passed the birthday present to my niece so it could be opened at home – LEGO on Old Sarum would not have been a good move!  The present was apparently a success.

Playing with my new LEGO

Playing with my new LEGO

I had to be sent photos of the first things that had been built!



Teddy bear (I think with Daddy's help)

Teddy bear (I think with Daddy’s help)



So was it a success?  I think so!  I enjoyed the kite flying – never having done it successfully before and the present seems to have gone down well, too.

Yet another holiday at Haytor

This was the holiday I booked when ‘hf booking’ said that none of the ones I wanted were available!  They didn’t tell me then, or in any of the information that was sent, that that the hotel – Moorlands – had been sold and hf would be using it but with different management and ideas about food.

I arrived on the Monday and we did get the cream tea promised, although rather later than planned.  This enabled us to meet the leaders and the other people who arrived on Monday.  I didn’t do the walk up to Haytor, though, as I have done it several times before.  The meal in the evening was OK, but there weren’t enough vegetables and it was a bit “fancy”.  That was true of all the evening meals during the week.

The next day we had to be ready for the coach at 9.15 which took those of us on the easier walk to the village of Easton from where we walked through….

.....what had been a deer park.....

…..what had been a deer park…..

……. set up in Tudor times. We then passed…..

.....over a stile.....

…..over a stile…..

……and through woods and down into the Teign Gorge.  We crossed the river…. a bridge....

… a bridge….

……. where we played “Pooh sticks” – before continuing beside the river in woodland.  The day being sunny and hot this was a lovely walk with……

......with the sight.....

…… the sight…..

……and sound of the river.

We reached…..

......the Fingle Bridge....

……the Fingle Bridge….

…….and stopped at the pub there for long, cool drinks – well, that is what I had anyway.  From there we climbed up an initially steep path……

.....still in woods....

…..still in woods….

……and stopped at…..

......Sharp Tor....

……Sharp Tor….

… have a look at…..

......the view.....

……the view…..

…..and then continued on to…..

.......Castle Drogo.

…….Castle Drogo.

This was built in the 1930s, I think, but I can’t say I was impressed as it is under repair and had scaffolding round it.  We had lunch there and more drinks – but I didn’t pay to go in.  This seems to have been a sensible move as those with National Trust cards said there wasn’t much to see as so much of it was under repair.

After lunch our route took us back down to the Teign Gorge, along this and then…..

.......across fields.....

…….across fields…..

……and eventually to…..



……..which had some interesting buildings, including…..

......a thatched bank!

……a thatched bank!

We had drinks in a pub there before the coach picked us up and took us back to Moorlands.

In the evening we did some origami – starting with making a jumping frog from a train ticket.  The idea then was to try to get it to jump into a glass or cup!

Jumping frog

Jumping frog

We were then given a sheet of newspaper and were shown how to make it first into a GI cap, the adapt it into a printer’s hat, change this into a mortar board and finally into a bishop’s mitre.

The final Bishop's mitre

The final Bishop’s mitre

While I could probably make another frog, I doubt if I could do the hats.

The following day the easier walk was dropped at Wembury, where we had a quick look at the church before going onto the coastal path.  Near the star we passed this field….

....of flowers....

….of flowers….

…..which didn’t seem to have any agricultural purpose.  Maybe it was conserving something?  The path continued by the coast (!) and after passing…..

.....this island.....

…..this island…..

…there was very little view, except of the hedges with a few gaps where we could see…..

.....the shoreline...

…..the shoreline…

…and eventually a view…..

.....of Plymouth.

…..of Plymouth…..

……not the nicest of views.  We did see one or two warships going into or out of Plymouth and passed a few places with coastal “cottages” and cafes and such like, but it wasn’t a terribly interesting walk.

When we reached Plymouth sound we just missed the ferry across, so had a drink in the hotel there and caught…..

....the next ferry......

….the next ferry……

…….across to….

......Plymouth Hoe

……Plymouth Hoe.

We then had time to admire the steps where the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from, have an ice-cream and other such things until the coach collected us.

In the evening it was the hf quiz. The team I was in came 2nd out of 3, so respectable!

On the following day the coach dropped the easier group near Dartmeet, although we didn’t actually go and look at it.  We followed the East Dart river passed…..

.....a broken clapper bridge....

…..a broken clapper bridge….

..and then…..

.....along the river....

…..along the river….

…….which was lovely.  There were…..


…..ponies with foals….

….near part of it.  After a while we followed a smaller stream which had a…..

.....complete clapper bridge....

…..complete clapper bridge….

……and headed up onto the moor.  The last part was through bracken and was a bit of….

....."Where is the path?"....

…..”Where is the path?”….

……up to Yar Tor, where we had….

.....a view and....

…..a view and….

.....lunch among the rocks.

…..lunch among the rocks.

We continued on passed a…..

.....stone circle...

…..stone circle…

…..(not quite up to Stonehenge!)  and this…..



……up to…..

.....Corndon Tor.

…..Corndon Tor.

We continued across the moor, doing some road walking, and came to….



…..which was the remains of a deserted medieval settlement.  The…..

.....outlines of some of the buildings....

…..outlines of some of the buildings….

…was clearly seen and there was a board and map to help us to interpret it.  Some people suggested that after it was excavated the stones had been moved to….

.....make the outlines of the buildings....

…..make the outlines of the buildings….

…..clearer.  I suppose they might have been.

From here we continued across the moor and eventually down to….



There was time for a drink at the pub – where they had ducks and hens (some all yellow and fluffy with fluffy legs) wandering round the garden, where we were sitting.

The coach picked us up and it was only a short drive back to the hotel, for dinner and to pack ready to leave the next day.

So was it a good holiday?  Yes;  the weather was good and on the very hot day we were mostly in shade and stopped at 2 pubs and a cafe.  The walks were pleasant and parts of two of them, beside the rivers, were lovely.  The hotel lunches were not up to standard, but were just about OK, so we didn’t starve!  The company was also good, but I suspect that was partly because there were not too many people, so everyone mixed in.


Holiday Part III – Walking

From the Tuesday until Thursday I was (supposed to be) on the walking holiday from the same location – Abingworth Hall in Sussex.

The walk on Tuesday took us first to the viewpoint at the Devil’s Dyke…….

The view point

The view point

……where we enjoyed the (slightly misty) views.

The view

The view

Those of us on the easier walk then got back on the coach, which took us to the “Jack and Jill Inn” in Clayton village.  Here we first admired the railway tunnel where there was apparently a train accident in the 19th Century.

Railway tunnel

Railway tunnel

I am not sure that I would fancy a house above the line like that, but apparently someone does!

We then went to look at……

.....the church of St John the Baptist.....

…..the church of St John the Baptist…..

….because it had wall paintings on three walls inside.  These were rather unusual as they were painted in a style with men wearing a fez, which we could just about make out in some of the pictures.  They were not in very good condition, but it was possible to make out some details.

Part of the wall paintings

Part of the wall paintings

From the church we walked up to the Jack and Jill windmills (Jill is white and in good condition, Jack is black and has no top) where we had elevenses.

Jack and Jill windmills

Jack and Jill windmills

The walk continued…..

......along the South Downs Way....

……along the South Downs Way….

……which we left after passing Ditchling Beacon.  We stopped for lunch on a bank beside the downwards path which had……

The view

…….a view……

………and was full of flowers, including orchids.

Where we had lunch

Flowers where we had lunch

The walk continued down to the roads and……

......passing this site....

……passing this site….

…..into Ditchling, where there was time for a pot of tea and a toasted tea cake before we got the coach back to Abingworth Hall.

Sign in Ditchling

Old sign in Ditchling


On Wednesday’s walk the easier group were dropped at the wrong place and had a fairly long road walk to reach the  place where we headed into some woods.  We were fortunate enough to see a fallow deer run off as we went along the path.  We then found the route along a field edge, with difficulty and followed a not very clear path through very long, wet grass.  This was quite hard for some people, especially as part of it was down a quite steep hill.  We did eventually reach the village of Singleton, which was quite attractive.

House in Singlrton

Thatched building in Singleton

We had drinks in a cafe and then had lunch by the church.

Church at Singleton

Church at Singleton

As we were supposed to be visiting some gardens at the end and had been very slow through the previous part of the walk, our leader suggested a “short cut”, which turned out to be mostly road walking and I don’t think was much shorter.  It led us up to a point where we had views over the Goodwood Estate.

View over Goodwood Estate

View over Goodwood Estate

From there we walked down to the Lavant valley and followed the Lavant stream for a bit.

Bridge over Lavant stream

Bridge over Lavant stream

We then headed for the West Dean gardens, which turned out to be much further than described and involved more road walking.  Having got there we then had to pay if we wanted to go in – and that was quite expensive for about an hour, even with the reduced rates organised by our leader.

West Dean gardens map and ticket

West Dean gardens map and ticket

We were also not happy to find the middle group had got there first, especially the people who had chosen the easier walk so they would have more time in the gardens!  I went to have a look round the walled garden…..

Part of the walled garden

Part of the walled garden

……and the Victorian glass houses, which were quite pleasant.

Inside one of the glass houses with air plants etc

Inside one of the glass houses with air plants and succulents

Being tired and also longing for a cup of tea I made for the cafe and sat down and had a pot of tea.  I decided there was just time to have a look at the sunken garden and pergola, if I hurried.  On reaching the sunken garden the first thing I heard and then saw was…..

.....a wren....

…..a wren….

……singing it’s heart out.  The sunken garden was also attractive…..

Part of the sunken garden

Part of the sunken garden

…….as was the pergola.

The pergola

The pergola from the sunken garden

I walked through the pergola……

Part of the pergola

Part of the pergola

……which had a good variety of climbing plants on the pillars.  I think the gardens would have been enjoyable if we had half a day there to explore them.  It was then time to go and get the coach, which took longer than expected, as I got a bit lost.  I need not have worried – we had to wait 20 minutes before it arrived.

In the evening it was the hf quiz, and though our group didn’t win we weren’t last either.

The next day was the Seven Sisters walk, which I have done before.  The Seven Sisters bit is quite nice, but the part at the end wasn’t and as the weather forecast was for heavy rain and thunder later, I opted out and decided to go to the Amberley Museum instead.

Museum leaflet and ticket

Museum leaflet and ticket

The museum contains buildings rescued from the local area and is really about the local industry and work.  There are apparently some craftsmen there each day, but the ones who were there were packing up by the time I found them, except the printers, who I found near the start.  A volunteer there explained the old ways of printing newspapers and showed the machines used.

Ticket produced in the printing workshop

Ticket produced in the printing workshop

There were various buildings, including lime kilns with explanations of their working, one about electricity including a fascinating display of electrical appliances through the decades, one on road building, one on communication and several others.

Do you remember the old phone boxes?

Do you remember the old phone boxes?

Other exhibits included an…..

......hardware shop....

…..ironmomgers shop….

…..and a bus garage with old buses some of which gave rides.

Bus the children went on with a garage in the rear

Bus the children went on, with the village garage on the left and bus garage to the right


There was also a village garage and cycle shop with petrol pump and old cars inside, a cafe moved from elsewhere (but only used when the museum was busy), a fire station, a wheelwrights’ yard and other fascinating places.

I took a ride on the narrow gauge railway.

The train

The train

One gets issued with a real ticket…….

The ticket for the train

The ticket for the train

…….although it is actually free (but there was a box for donations).  This was similar for the bus ride which I took…..

.....on this bus....

…..on this bus….

……being given…..

.....this ticket.

…..this ticket.

It was an interesting place to go and there was a lot to see and do.  An added advantage was that there were very few children there, except for one school party, so I got a chance to press all the buttons and try the telephones etc. myself, instead of watching children play!  I left about 3.30 or thereabouts, when it started to rain quite heavily.

The walkers had only got wet at the end, but there had been problems as the cafe and information centre both shut before their coach came.

So did I enjoy this part of the holiday?  The first walk was quite good, but the second was terrible (except for seeing the deer and the wren) and the museum was fascinating.  That makes it a bit of a mixed bag!

Holiday Part II – Free Day

On the Monday, when some people went home and others arrived, those of us who were staying had a free day.  After writing my postcards I went into Storrington to buy stamps and post them.  As it was pouring with rain and I still had some time on the parking ticket, I also found a cafe/bakery and had a coffee.  By the time I had finished the rain was a bit less, so I set off for my intended target – Bignor Roman Villa.  This was reasonably easy to find but the last part was along a lot of narrow and winding roads – with a fallen bush partly blocking one of them!  I did manage to get passed that and arrive in the rather muddy car park.

The building was under the care of a young lad – although there did seem to be one or two others – almost equally young, I discovered later.  He sold me a ticket and directed me in the right route to take.

The ticket!

The ticket!

There was a model of how the villa had (probably) been; it was very big by the end of its life, with a large enclosed courtyard and buildings on 4 sides with a gateway.  Most of this is now back as farmland but the original bit has been enclosed and is in a building – which I was in!  There was a display of some of the pottery and other finds and I found it very interesting to look at the difference between the fine ware and the course ware.  This was something I had read about during two of my online courses and looked at the pictures, but seeing the real stuff made the differences come alive and was very interesting.

I then moved on through the rooms, which had their mosaic floors.  We were walking on the edges, where there were no pictures, but still where the original owners would have walked. Wow!

One mosaic floor

One mosaic floor

Can’t remember what the pictures were supposed to represent – they did have signs to say, so I didn’t get a guide book.  You can see the sign on the picture above, but I can’t read what it says!P1010346

This one was not a mosaic, but one can just about read the sign (well, the main title).

Part of a larger floor mosaic

Part of a larger floor mosaic

I liked the men across the bottom of this – I think they were warriors or maybe gladiators?

Top of the previous mosaic

Top of the previous mosaic

This is just a bit more detail from the top of the previous one.  The blue on the birds was apparently blue glass.

After looking round the main building, including seeing some of the original lead pipe-work and parts of the underfloor  heating system, I saw a coach full of children arrive.  (Glad I didn’t meet the coach on the approach roads!)  I therefore decided it was time to have lunch and as it had stopped raining, went and sat outside on the picnic tables provided.  I then saw that there was another enclosed building and after lunch went to have a look – it was part of the bath house.

Sign by the bath house mosaic

Sign by the bath house mosaic

The mosaic

The mosaic

I then went to the cafe area of the building and the lad made me a pot of tea and I chatted to the coach driver and another couple who were there.

It was then time to make my way back to Abingworth Hall so I could join with the new arrivals for tea and cake.

After dinner, there was a “village fete” type activity.  We either were in teams or were put in a team as we arrived and then we played games like roll-a-penny (the old pennies!), how many pegs can you collect from the line before you drop one, hoopla, bouncing a ping-pong ball into plastic cups etc.  We got a score for each and these were added up – our team apparently didn’t win, but we weren’t last either.

So was it a good day?  Yes – I really enjoyed the villa and looking round at my own pace and relating it to the on-line courses I had done.  The evening activity was fun, too.

Holiday Part 1 – Jane Austen, Life and Times

As a change from a straight walking holiday I decided to do something different – although still with hf holidays.  I chose a Leisure Break from the Heritage section on “Jane Austen – Life and times”.  This was a good excuse to re-read all six of her major novels.  I spent the previous few months doing this, fairly slowly and saw and understood quite a few things that I hadn’t done earlier.

On arriving at Abingworth Hall, I found a pack of information on the bed.  This included a quiz and a booklet for each day including readings relevant to where we were going.  After the usual cream tea and briefing about the house there was time for a short guided walk and then dinner before we had a talk explaining what we would be doing in the next 2 days.

After breakfast and collecting lunch we had to be on the coach by 9.30 for our fist day.

Folder for the first day.

Folder for the first day.

We headed first for Chawton and the cottage where Jane Austen wrote or re-wrote her major novels.

Chawton Cottage

Chawton Cottage from the road

We had some time there to look round and although there have been alterations it was interesting to see the size of the rooms where she lived and slept (sharing a small bedroom with her sister).  I especially liked seeing and touching the table where she wrote and seeing the amber cross that a sailor brother brought back for her – using some prize money c.f. William bringing Fanny a topaz cross in Mansfield Park.

Chawton Cottage from the garden

Chawton Cottage from the garden

Sadly we did not have enough time, so I couldn’t spend as long as I would have liked or explore the gardens properly.

We then went on to Steventon where she was born and her father was rector.  The rectory was pulled down and all that is left is a field, but there is a steepish bank behind where the rectory was, so maybe Jane used to roll down that as a child, like Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey)?

What remains of the rectory where Jane Austen was born!

What remains of the rectory where Jane Austen was born!

She would have worshipped at the church, but I believe this has also been altered, with the steeple an addition since Jane’s day.

Steventon Church

Steventon Church

We then went on to Oakley Hall, where we had cups of tea or coffee as it is now a hotel.  In Jane Austen’s time it was the home of the Bramston family, friends of the Austens.  Jane apparently walked there often and she and her sister Cassandra were often invited to share the Bramston’s  carriage when invited to balls.  She also enjoyed dancing at Oakley Hall.

Oakley Hall

Oakley Hall

One of the other places where she was invited was Deane House, then owned by the Harwood family who were also friends of the Austen family.  She danced there with Tom Lefroy, a young man who was called home to Ireland by his parents as they feared an engagement – neither Jane or Tom had enough money for that to be a realistic prospect in those days!

Deane House

Deane House

Tom was staying with his uncle, the Rev. George Lefroy and his wife Anne, at nearby Ashe Rectory – another place where there were private balls which Jane and her sister attended.  Mrs Lefroy was apparently a close friend of Jane’s, even though Mrs Lefroy was over 30 years older – maybe a model for Lady Russell (Persuasion)?

Ashe Rectory

Ashe Rectory

Having visited all these places, we drove to Winchester, passing through Overton (Jane was sent to a wet nurse there as an infant) and Whitchurch (the Austen family did shopping there).

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral

In Winchester we went to the Cathedral to see the tomb and memorial window.

Memorial sone over jane Austen's tomb

Memorial sone over jane Austen’s tomb

Some of us also went on to see the house where Jane and her sister stayed when Jane was very ill and being treated by the doctors.  She died there.

House in Winchester where Jane Austen stayed when she was very ill

House in Winchester where Jane Austen stayed when she was very ill

Blue plaque on the house

Blue plaque on the house

There was again not much time in Winchester, before we had to get the coach back to Abingworth Hall.

After dinner our group leader gave an illustrated talk:  “Jane Austen’s Shin Bone – 10 facts about Jane Austen”.  The illusion comes from a quote from Mark Twain – “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone”.  It was fairly amusing, as you might guess from the title!

The second day, Sunday, we again had to be on the coach by 9.30.

Folder for the second day

Folder for the second day

We initially drove to Westhumble to see the house where Fanny Burney lived.  Jane Austen was supposed to enjoy her books, so that was the link – too tenuous for most of us!  We then drove on to Leatherhead to see Thorncroft Manor – now used as business premises.  This was possibly the model for Hartfield in “Emma”.  Jane Austen is supposed to have told her nephew that Leatherhead was the model for Highbury, but our leader was suggesting Great Bookham instead.  Leatherhead has changed so much it is hard to see it, but it is possible if I look back 50 or so years as I knew it then.

We then drove up to Box Hill, as that was the setting for a scene in “Emma”.  As I know it fairly well, I did my own thing, which was mostly do “The Hill Top Stroll”.  This took me passed Peter Labilliere’s grave (he insisted on being buried head downwards), to the top of the Burford Spur, up which Victorian tourists walked to visit Box Hill.

The Burford Spur

The Burford Spur

Then on to the Old Fort, apparently built in the late 1880s as one of 13 supply centres for tools and ammunition storage in case of invasion by the French.  I don’t remember seeing it before.

The Old Fort

The Old Fort

I then went back to the view point and on a bit for a quick and early lunch – we were leaving at 12.00!

View from Box Hill

View from Box Hill

We drove on to Great Bookham, to the church, as Jane Austen’s godfather was the rector there and so it was somewhere she visited fairly often.

Church at Great Bookham

Church at Great Bookham

The rectory from Jane’s time has been pulled down, I believe.

Memorial to Jane Austen's godfather

Memorial to Jane Austen’s godfather

Our leader’s theory that Great Bookham was the model for Highbury is based on of The Crown there, which is the name of the Inn in “Emma”.

The Crown - Great Bookham

The Crown – Great Bookham

We then drove on to Loseley Park, as the BBC used it to film parts of Sense and Sensibility (Barton Park) and Emma (Donwell Abbey).

Loseley Park

Loseley Park

We were provided with tea and excellent cakes there and had time to admire the gardens.  The rose garden was probably nearly at its best and the scent was amazing.

Rose garden, Loseley Park

Rose garden, Loseley Park

Our final stop was at Chawton House, where Jane Austen’s brother Edward Knight had one of his homes.  He had been adopted by the wealthy Knight family as they had no children.  It is now a library for women’s literature, I believe.  We had the chance to look round and see some of the places where Jane and her sister would have been when visiting their brother when he was staying there.

Chawton House

Chawton House

It was surprising to see how short the “Long Gallery” was, especially as this is where women would have taken their exercise in bad weather.  Apparently women were not supposed to take much exercise!  Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) walking to visit her sister would (probably) have been unusual for someone of her class, hence the comments of Bingley’s sisters?

Part of the garden at Chawton House

Part of the garden at Chawton House

It was then time to drive back to Abingworth Hall where, after dinner, we were told the answers to the quiz.

First page of the quiz

First page of the quiz

I got most right, left out a few and got a couple wrong!  The leader had got one of the questions wrong and, looking it up on the internet and in the novels when I got home, gave two incorrect answers!  However I did better than most people, many of whom had not attempted any of it.  I must admit I enjoyed the challenge, though.  Our names were all then put in a hat and one drawn out to win “Jane Austen’s Ring”!  It was my name that came out – so I won the ring – or rather a fridge magnet with a picture of it.

Jane Austen's ring (fridge magnet)

Jane Austen’s ring (fridge magnet)

So was it a good holiday?  Yes, I enjoyed it and the scope it gave for my imagination.  Also seeing the links between Jane Austen’s life and some of the things she wrote in her novels.

Celebrating a 50th Birthday

A friend reached her 50th birthday on the Friday and she had been planning a party for months.  She has not been at all well, so her sister took over most of the organisation – putting the plans into action.  As the sister lives near Cambridge, a few of us who live locally were also involved in the local parts.

So on the Friday, there was a lunch at a local pub for some of the close family and 3 friends who had done local organisation.

Family at the birthday lunch

Family at the birthday lunch

Unfortunately, one brother and his family didn’t make that part as they got totally stuck on the M25!

Friends and family that did make it at the lunch

Friends and family that did make it at the lunch

The younger members of the party went outside to play in the garden when they got bored – supervised by their older cousin.

After the lunch, the birthday girl was taken home to rest, and most of the others went to “granny’s house” for a swim and to meet up with the very delayed family.  The rest of us gathered at SP2, where the party was to be held and prepared the rooms for the next day.

Upstairs rooms for initial drinks and nibbles

Upstairs rooms for initial drinks and nibbles

That included moving tables and chairs, arranging the balloons and banners and setting the tables for the meal…….

Tables prepared on Friday evening

Tables prepared for the meal.

…….and the table for the bar.

The party day several of us were there quite early to finish setting out the tables, with flowers (arranged by some of the family) and water……

Tables ready

Tables ready

………set up the “bar”……..

The "bar"

The “bar”

……and prepare some food and collect and set out more.  As some people arrived they brought food, which was also set out, with some kept in reserve to replace what was eaten.

Food set out

Food set out

When people arrived they were directed to the top floor for drinks and nibbles.

Some of the "bar people" (nieces and nephews) were quite young - but father/uncle/brother was supervising!

Some of the “bar people” (nieces and nephews) were quite young – but father/uncle was supervising!

Drinks, greetings and chat

Drinks, greetings and chat

When the last people had arrived and had time for a drink and to greet the birthday girl, the food was served – starting with the disabled, then the frail elderly, then the children and finally others!  We put out replacements as plates were emptied – notably the salmon, the meat platter and the Coronation chicken.

Everyone sat down to eat and chat – collecting seconds as required.

The children.  Where was Alice?  Collecting more food?

The children. Where was the other one? Collecting more food?

Church people

Friends, mostly from church



Church people and family

Church people and family

Again when the youngsters got bored their older cousins took them back upstairs to play.  I am very impressed with these older cousins and the way they take this responsibility.

When everyone had eaten enough of the first course, we cleared it away and tidied up and started the dishwasher – brother in law was noted as being very helpful!  The cake and desserts were then put out.



It was decided that it wasn’t safe to light the “candle” on top of the cake, because of the proximity of the balloons, so it was placed by the side and lit there, while everyone sang “Happy Birthday”.

Lit "candle"

Lit “candle”

My friend’s father then gave a short speech and we drank a toast to her.  She then did manage to reply, without getting too emotional.  Everyone enjoyed desserts and more chat, then people gradually had to go, especially those who lived some distance away.

That left the clearing up to do!

So was it a good and successful party?  Yes, I think so.  People seemed to enjoy it and the birthday girl was very tired, but seemed to think it had been good.  Big sister is especially to be praised for ideas, decorations, hard work, ordering and collecting food and especially organisation – bet she is a really efficient administrator!