Monday, 25 September 2017
Forty-six of us were picked up outside the Civic Theatre at 8:30 am by our coach from Kings Coaches, ably driven by Mark, who was also our driver last year.
Our first port of call was the National Trust property Moseley Old Hall. This is reached down a narrow country road. It was wide enough for the coach but Mark had trouble turning into the road from the equally narrow road it adjoined. He finally managed it after what seemed like ten minutes of carefully reversing and going forward again until the coach was finally lined up. Fortunately the car drivers waiting to get past were very patient.
Moseley Old Hall is described as “The home that saved a king”. After his defeat at the Battle of Worcester, Charles I’s older son (later Charles II) took refuge at the Hall with the Roman Catholic family who lived there. We were shown the priest’s hole in which he hid when Parliamentary troops visited the Hall during their search for him. It is indeed very well hidden, being reached through what was a clothes cupboard at the time. The story goes that the owners maintained an appearance of normal life at the Hall to fool the troops, who actually never went inside.
I was impressed by the knot garden (see photograph). This has a newly built framework for an extension of the rose walk. So far as we could see, no metal had been used in its construction.
Mark was able to reverse the coach in the Moseley Old Hall car park and got back to the main road without any problems. We arrived at the Cumbria Grand Hotel in Grange-over-Sands in time to wash and change before dinner at 7:30 pm. The hotel is set in wooded grounds of some 20 acres and is probably one of the best hotels we have used for our Group holidays. (I can’t recommend the gammon steak but the rest of the food we had there was very good.)
Tuesday, 26 September 2017
On Tuesday we started by visiting Dove Cottage in Grasmere, William Wordsworth’s first family home, and the nearby Wordsworth Museum. It would have been a very cosy place to live. At the time it faced on to what was then the main road with uninterrupted views of the lake. Other houses have been built in front since. After we had finished going round the Cottage, Pat and I went into the steep garden behind it, which still has commanding views from the top. As we came back down again we stopped to listen to a young volunteer, who read two of Wordsworth’s poems about inscriptions and another by a contemporary writer who had stayed locally. She was a good reader and the poems were evocative of the area.
Wordsworth moved from Dove Cottage when it became too small for his growing family.
The museum housed an interesting exhibition on Wordsworth, his family and friends, particularly the other poets he attracted to the area.
In the afternoon we went to Sizergh Castle, the home of the Strickland family. It is now owned by the National Trust but the family still live in part of it. The family have lived there for over 750 yeas, which will tell you just how old the oldest parts of the castle are. The rooms open to the public include a number which are wood-panelled and contain old furniture and paintings. Our visit coincided with a week when some of the exhibits had been opened or uncovered so that visitors could get different and better views of them. One of them was a large Victorian dining table which has five removable leaves that can be used to lengthen it but is supported on just four legs.
After looking round the castle Pat and I spent some time in the grounds, which have a number of different areas. On the Wooded Knoll we noticed that the low willow arches used to delineate the edges of the path had taken root and sprouted.
Wednesday, 27 September 2017
Wednesday was a “Victorian Day” which started with a trip on Lake Coniston on the Victorian steam launch Gondola. This was restored and is now owned by the National Trust. While on board we were told about the restoration, which reminded me of the description of boat restoration given by David Tournay at the Group evening meeting the previous week. The steam engine is fuelled by blocks made from sawdust from sawmills and is surprisingly quiet. Even those sitting in the open area at the front could hear nothing but the lapping of the water against the bow. The cabin is luxuriously appointed. If you are sitting in the forward part it is well worth looking up to admire the ceiling. The lake was completely calm.
We then visited two places associated with Beatrix Potter, the village of Hawkshead, which houses the Beatirx Potter Gallery, and Hilltop, a house she bought but never lived in.
The Beatrix Potter Gallery is in what used to be the office of her husband, who was a solicitor. It contains a number of her very charming watercolours which illustrate some of her books. It also has a few things dotted around, such as old company seals, to remind one that it was once a solicitor’s office. They reminded me of my time training as a chartered accountant in the 1960s and I found myself wishing that one room had been restored to something like it would have been as an office. All the rooms were quite small.
Hilltop is not far away. Although she never lived there, Beatrix Potter was obviously very fond of it and it appears in many of her illustrations. We were able to compare her illustrations with the actual places and artefacts they were based on. One upper room, now furnished as a bedroom, contains three large paintings by her younger brother.
We got back to Grange-over-Sands by about 5 o’clock, allowing those who wished to get off at the railway station to explore the town. Pat and I returned to the hotel, where we dumped our things and made ourselves cups of tea before walking down the drive and along the promenade. It started raining when we got to the railway station so we turned round and made our way back.
Thursday, 28 September 2017
On Thursday we went to Bowness on Lake Windermere for another boat trip. We had enough time before the boat left to look quickly round the town. Pat and I went into St James’s Church. The roof beams and the pillars, which are painted white, all bear Biblical quotations.
This time our lake trip was on the 1930s boat Swan, which is apparently licensed to carry 550 people. The weather was very calm and Pat and I sat on the open upper deck. It was very relaxing to sit there and watch the shores slip by on our short voyage south to Lakeside.
From Lakeside we took to the preserved steam railway for the 3.2 mile journey to Haverthwaite. We travelled in carriages that dated from the end of the steam era, reminding me of my childhood and teenage years.
The coach met us again at Haverthwaite to take us to the privately-owned Holker Hall. (You can get a combined ticket for the lake and train journeys and the Hall.) Much of Holker Hall burned down in 1871. It was deliberately rebuilt with larger rooms to impress visitors. We were indeed duly impressed. The large rooms contain much fine furniture and paintings but I was particularly struck by the wood panelling, which is very beautifully carved.
After looking round the Hall, Pat and I spent some time admiring the gardens, which have many different areas. We also wandered out into the parkland, where we walked the labyrinth through (recently erected) standing stones.
Friday, 29 September 2017
Amazingly we had our first heavy rain on Friday morning, when we started our journey home. Unfortunately there were severe traffic problems, which delayed us by over two hours. Nevertheless, we were able to spend enough time at Sudbury Hall either to get something to eat or to look around the Hall and grounds. Pat and I opted to look around the Hall. There is one room which has been kept in its condition before restoration, which makes one realise just how much work the National Trust does with the properties it takes over.
We arrived back in Chelmsford just before 8 pm.