Monday 10th July 2006
Nothing much to report other than that we had one of our best dinners in the UK at a local Italian restaurant called “Felicini”. Norm had char-grilled lamb cutlets with Hummus, roasted vine tomatoes and couscous. Carol had grilled Tuna steak with balsamic dressing on a bed of rocket salad, roasted zucchini, aubergine and red capsicum – plus roasted vine tomatoes. On the side: roasted new potatoes with rosemary, garlic and sea salt. Dessert – a divine tiramisu of which there was fortunately enough for two!! YUM times two.
Tuesday 11th July 2006
On our way to Shrewsbury, where we are to stay the next couple of nights, we called at Tatton Park. When we arrived we found that the mansion was closed until 1:00 pm. Fortunately though, the garden was open and we were able to purchase a guided tour of the mansion for midday. The highlight of our stroll around the garden was the Japanese garden – it was just beautiful.
The guided tour was made the more interesting – and rewarding – by our guide’s feel for the history of the mansion itself. Tatton Park has much to offer. Its two historic houses – the Mansion and Tudor Old Hall – are set in 1000 acres of beautiful parkland with lakes, tree-lined avenues and herds of red and fallow deer. A really enjoyable couple of hours were spent there.
Our next stop was at “Little Moreton Hall” which, as a result of Norm’s not checking opening times beforehand, was – of course – closed today. He was however able to show Carol from the grounds why it is one of the most photographed Elizabethan homes in Britain.
From there we headed to “Albright Hussey Manor”, a country house hotel just north of Shrewsbury. The present house was built in two parts; the timber-framed half in 1524 and the stone or brick half in 1560. It was converted into a high-class restaurant in 1967. The Subbiani family purchased this moated manor house in 1988 and over a period of eight years restored and converted it into one of the premier hotels in Shropshire. Needless to say, our room – and the hotel itself – are gorgeous.
Foodie news: Pre-dinner drinks were served with complimentary black and green olives whilst we perused our dinner menu. So civilised!! Shown to our table we were served yet another complimentary dish – a starter of ducks’ liver pate on corn crisp bread with rocket garnish. For mains, Norm had seared salmon on a bed of wilted spinach with prawn butter and roasted new potatoes, and Carol, grilled kingfish with Lyonnais potatoes, pancetta and braised kale served with a red wine reduction. Norm’s dessert of raspberry crème brulée turned out to be more than a little disappointing. Carol’s choice was better – grilled fresh figs with marjoram scented mascarpone ice cream in a brandy-snap basket. Yum, figs, Carolyn.
Wednesday 12th July 2006
Today we drove into Shrewsbury. The original intent was to visit the Castle – which we have yet to find. We did however find that Shrewsbury town centre is a most attractive gabled one and reminded us of York and “The Shambles”.
On our exploratory meandering, we did visit Shrewsbury Abbey which was founded in 1083. For whatever reason, we didn’t warm to it in the way we did to say York or Bath. The brown stone from which it is built didn’t help and, it has to be said, it is badly in need of a lot of TLC! One feature that may be of interest – that has nothing to do with history or architecture, however, is that the abbey was where Ellis Peter’s “Brother Cadfael” detective stories were based.
Foodie news: We restricted ourselves this evening to a Caesar Salad each – more than ample after a lightish lunch!!
Thursday 13th July 2006
Another great day. First, to the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford. The museum houses one of the largest aviation collections in the UK. Over 60 historic aircraft (in a collection spanning nearly 80 years of aviation history) are displayed in three wartime hangars on an active airfield. The display of aircraft, missiles and aviation history was comprehensive and well presented and included a number of very good interactive exhibits designed for children but which, whilst we were there, tempted more than a few “dads”. There was also a “Black Hawk” flight simulator which, being still a Tiger Moth devotee, Norm could not be persuaded to try – and Carol wasn’t even going to think about it.
In the afternoon, we decided to check out Ellesmere, Shropshire’s “Lakeland”, with the intent of making it a full day visit tomorrow and, perhaps, taking one of the boat trips on offer. In the event, we started walking through the pretty market town with its Tudor, Georgian and Victorian buildings towards the Llangollen Canal. Our unplanned exploration of the 46-mile canal started out as a short walk along the towpath, but the signpost to Colemere Country Park – for one of us at least – was a temptation she couldn’t resist. It was, after all, a beautiful day and the good long circular walk around the mere and back along the towpath again to Ellesmere was just what we needed. The scenery on both sides of the canal was just beautiful, and in no way lessened by the sight from the tow-path of brightly coloured canal boats (some sporting NZ flags).
Although the walk turned out to be much longer than we had intended – taking us nearly three and a half hours – we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Foodie news: We both had “Noisettes of Frodesely Lamb with honey-glazed turnips, gratin dauphinoise and a roasted garlic and thyme sauce”. Outstandingly good.
Friday 14th July 2006
Given how foot-sore we could have been, but, of course, were not – all lies – we restricted ourselves to a sortie into Shrewsbury. We visited Shrewsbury Castle which houses the Shropshire Regimental Museum and spent an interesting couple of hours there. Of particular interest to us were exhibits from World Wars I and II which had Australian and NZ connections including HMAS Shropshire (a sister ship to HMNZS Achilles at the Battle of the River Plate) Australia’s representative at the signing of the formal surrender documents that ended the war with Japan.
From “Laura’s Tower on the Castle’s walls we had an expansive view of Shrewsbury and some of the surrounding countryside.
Foodie news: We both had Lemon sole with prawn butter sauce, new potatoes and green salad. YUM, YUM, YUM! Although we didn’t need it, we rounded out a really beautiful meal with shared cheese platter.
Saturday 15th July 2006
Blue skies, sunshine and 26° when we set off for Cheltenham. On the way we stopped first at Stokesay Castle. Set in a green valley amid the Shropshire countryside stands Stokesay. One of England’s most delightful manor houses, it dates back to the 11th century and its Great Hall remains unaltered since it was built in 1291.
We took an audio tour which not only explained how the castle had been developed under different owners but, perhaps more importantly, made us feel part of its history and the people who made it so.
We also paid a brief visit to the Church of St John the Baptist which is in the grounds of the castle. Unusual were the canopied pews reserved for the use of the owners of the castle. The Church also has a staunch group of bell ringers and from the photographs and journals we saw there, bell ringing is still practised much more widely than we had imagined.
Our next and last stop for the day was Berrington Hall, a National Trust property just north of Leominster. The Berrington Estate was purchased by the Right Honourable Thomas Harley – of Harley Street fame. The main structure was completed in 1781 and the interior was finished in 1783. The last owner of the house was Lady Cauley – a feisty one by all accounts – who continued to live in the house until her death in 1978 aged 100 years. We’re sure the National Trust was somewhat relieved. In our tour of the house, the ceilings were by far the most attractive feature of what we later agreed was a house frozen in time – with the lack of warmth that that implies.
Another lost hotel – this time brought about by the search for a road name rather than that of the hotel!! Needless to say, after passing it three or four times, we were finally pointed in the right direction by the staff of the Travelodge just across the roundabout!!
Foodie news: Norm had Caesar salad – as that’s how it was described – but it bore no relation to either menu description or any other Caesar salad he’d enjoyed previously. Ditto, Carol’s Tuna Nicoise Salad. Perhaps the only positive part was the pleasant garden environment in which we didn’t enjoy them.