On the following day, we explored the North Norfolk Coast. We braved the wind and took a short walk on the beach at Hunstanton but, with the best will in the world, couldn’t persuade ourselves that it had the same appeal for us as Forster’s Main Beach. Our plan for the day also included visiting as many of the sights that Denise had kindly listed for us as among their favourites when they visit this corner of Norfolk.
We just loved the villages of Old Hunstanton and Burnham Market and were able to find the cottage R&D rent each year – and have photographic evidence to prove it.
We were successful, too, in finding the “Humble Pie” they recommended but, as it was closed for the day, will have to postpone our sampling of that famous delicatessen’s wares to another visit.
We had better luck with the “Stiffkey Red Lion” and found a sunny spot – more or less out of the wind – to enjoy a “half ” of Wherry – and wherry nice it was too.
Believing that we would not be able to fit it on our way from Norfolk to Oxfordshire we made a special visit to Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill. Apart from its lovely garden and grounds the old abbey undercroft that is now the dining room is a must see.
On the way to our next staging post in Oxfordshire, we called in at Saffron Walden to visit a church that friends of Carol had visited and recommended. “Simon” – our GPS guru had no difficulty finding it but his expertise didn’t run to finding us a parking spot nearby. After finding one in what we understood was a nearby car park, Norm’s in-built GPS let us down and it was only with the help of a “local lad” – with cricketing interests and a kind word or two to say about our (Australian) cricketers – who pointed us in the right direction.
And what a beautiful church “St Mary’s” turned out to be – not just because of its appearance but more the feeling we had that this was a truly loved and cared for place of worship. As Carol’s friends had done, we “too” lit a candle.
Our next stop was Audley End House and Gardens. We are not usually fans of tours – preferring to make use of audio-guides when they’re available – or to do our own thing at our own pace. Here we had a very good guide, Sara, whose knowledge and enthusiasm added significantly to the appeal of our visit. We spent considerable time in the grounds and gardens but made a brief visit to the newly-restored stables where the two residents “Duke” and “Jack” are lodged in some comfort.
Home for the next six nights was the “Falkland Arms” in Great Tew a tiny village near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire.
We were warmly welcomed on our arrival and shown to our well-equipped room on the first floor. All creaky floors and dark beams – it was a quintessentially old English pub bedroom – and we just loved it.
The quiet country location lived up to our expectations, but the sense of being residents – albeit temporarily – of a just gorgeous Oxfordshire village was a real bonus.
While one of us, at least, continued to manage those hearty English breakfasts, both of us really enjoyed our dinners in the bar/restaurant – and sharing that convivial space with both visitors to the village and “locals” (of both the human and canine variety) made it just that much more enjoyable.
And the hospitality we were shown during our time there was also special – one example of which was that they found a way of fitting us in over the busy Bank Holiday weekend, for what was a special “family reunion” Sunday lunch with Norm’s niece Kathy and her two daughters, Hayley and Rachael, who drove up from Portsmouth for the occasion.
On the Saturday, we paid what was to turn out to be the first of two visits to Waddesdon Manor. Waddesdon Manor was built in the style of a 19th-century French château by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in 1874 to display his outstanding collection of art treasures. No wonder then, that we spent nearly three hours in the house alone. That this was so was largely the result of one of the best audio-visual guides we have ever come across. Not only were there audio and visual overviews of all the rooms, but the facility to drill down for further spoken and pictorial information of the important items in each room. Being as crowded as it was for the Bank Holiday weekend we didn’t get to see the garden or the special exhibit in the stables and postponed that until the holiday Monday.
On the Sunday morning – which, for once, was not bone-chilling cold and had the promise of being a fine day – we took a stroll through the village and, later, up the road to the village church. As there was a service in progress and our “reunion” lunch called, we didn’t get to see inside the church.
And as this photo testifies, we had a lovely lunch – with lots of reminisces, recollections and laughter.
Not surprisingly perhaps, this took more than an hour or two, but we still managed to fit in a post-prandial recovery walk through the village to admire some fine examples of thatching and some more refreshments in the “sunny and warm” backyard of the Inn to sustain them on their trip home.
Thank you, Kathy.
Monday had us returning to Waddesdon to complete our visit there.
A highlight was the “Cantus Arcticus” exhibit in the Coach House of the old stables. It was inspired by the shimmering curtains of the Northern Lights and by a piece of music of the same name by a Finnish composer, which in turn was inspired by the landscape and bird song of the Arctic tundra. Light cascades over the curtains of fibre optic, casting soft pools that change colour in response to the music. We spent a deal of time there just absorbing the changing mood of the display. Regrettably, our photographs failed to catch the mood.
We happily filled in the rest of our time there in the beautiful gardens and visiting the small but apparently important aviary.
On the following morning, after an unwanted but necessary visit to the Medical Centre in Chipping Norton for Norm’s monthly INR blood test, we were off to Hidcote Manor Garden. We had seen and heard something of it on a DVD we have of some of the National Trust Gardens, but were delighted that it was so much better in reality – as the following photos, we trust, will show: