Our coach, driven this time by a less-familiar driver, Michael, arrived early at the Cramphorn with one of the older coaches in the Kings fleet. Apparently the new Mercedes which they’d ordered was holed up somewhere because of red-tape!/p>
We needed a diversion to pick up members from Brentwood but otherwise we drove nonstop to Warwickshire. There was a hint of drizzle but the day improved with some unshine for the latter part. Once Paul had collected our tickets at the entrance to Compton Verney we undertook the long walk to the house across an interesting old bridge, passing a large lake in attractive grounds. As its name suggests, the house belonged to the Verney dynasty until sold off to various owners. It then became a soldiers’ billet during WWII and, unsurprisingly, was not well cared for. It became derelict in the 50s and 60s until bought and rescued by Sir Peter Moores who transformed it into the prestigious gallery we know today.
At the house we were led through to our own room for coffee and tea while a volunteer explained the history of the house and its art collection. We were then free to wander through the exhibition halls. These were not extensive but contained some magnificent paintings, explained by cards at the door to each room. One room contained a famous miniature of Oliver Cromwell he’d commissioned, asking the artist to show him “warts and all”. After our timed lunches there was just time to look at the other attractions, including the Georgian Chapel which, like the gardens, had been designed by Capability Brown.
We had a long walk to rejoin the coach but, once aboard, were driven on the hour’s journey to West Wycombe Park. By now, the weather had improved and several visitors were sitting on the lawn behind the house listening to a 3-piece jazz group playing in the portico. Although the house is owned by the National Trust, the family are still in residence and only allow the afternoons of June, July and August for visits! Just the ground floor of the house was open with cards in each room to explain the contents. Outside, there was a splendid view down to the lake. A buggy was available to take people down to the entrance gate - but no further. The main attraction in the village itself was the Apple Orchard tea rooms, which needed further walking. Several had chosen this as their first visit before coming back to see the house. After Michael had accomplished the complex task of picking everyone up, Paul explained that it was in the Apple Orchard caf&eactue; where the negotiations took place in the 1920s for the purchase of the village by the National Trust. Today the NT still has 90% ownership.
The M40 and M25 were much busier on the return home but we had no hold-ups and, after a diversion from the A12 to drop off the Brentwood members, we arrived back in Coval Lane after yet another successful day out.