The recent spell of warm sunny weather had deserted us for our first outing of the summer. We set off northwards under grey skies to be dropped off at the coach park in the previously-visited Lincolnshire town of Stamford. No planned visits had been arranged so most members chose to wander freely around the shops, putting into practice knowledge from earlier visits of the compact layout of the town. I personally made a bee-line for a music shop to top up on piano and organ music, bemoaning the absence of such an excellent shop in Chelmsford! Most members had seized the chance to have coffee or similar refreshment in one of the many attractive outlets.
It was a further hour’s drive to our next venue - Belvoir Castle (pronounced “Beaver&rdqup;). Several had opted for a previously- booked lunch, which was served in a somewhat crowded upstairs room of the “Fuel Tank” restaurant. The walk to the Castle itself was up a steep slope but the building was impressive on the outside and didn’t fail to impress on the inside. It was the ancestral home of the Duke of Rutland and was still lived in. The rooms were spread over two floors but there were not many volunteer guides around. To compensate, each room had a board by the entrance door with a detailed explanation of its history, use and contents. The huge number of paintings and portraits included recent ones of the family. The family chapel included a white marble effigy of a son of the 7th Duke who had died tragically at the age of 8. There was a nice tea room available before we boarded the coach which many took advantage of. Word had been passed round that our driver, Tim, had been given permission to bring his coach up to the courtyard. He then drove it carefully down the narrow road to pick up the rest of the party, which included Paul, who was duly thanked for organising our first outing so successfully. Several remarked that the venue was worthy of a whole day on its own as there were extensive gardens and woodland walks which were still to be seen - preferably in sunny weather!