Two coaches for one destination was an unusual set-up for our trip but that’s how the numbers panned out! Coach 1 was driven by a first-time lady driver called Dee while Richard drove the smaller group in coach 2. Paul had already divided us into three groups for logistical purposes, with groups 1 and 2 with him in Dee’s coach, while I had group 3 with Richard. Our coaches travelled in convoy and arrived at Herstmonceux earlier than anticipated. Paul had planned for group 3 to visit the observatory first, while his two groups went on to the castle. My group killed time drinking coffee in the small cafeteria while waiting for our timed guided tour. It was located in the large learning centre which contained an extensive array of hands-on gadgets and games which appealed to young (and not so young!) visitors. An enthusiastic young lad finally arrived and guided us to two of the observatory’s domes which were open, one with a refracting telescope, the other with a reflector. The differences between the two were explained and photographs shown which had been taken from them. The site had apparently been frequented by the late Patrick Moore.
The changeover between the two buildings was a little tricky in view of the walking distance between them and that the guided tours were timed. Our group eventually met up with a guide called Barry who then took us inside the castle which apparently is one of the largest brick-built buildings in England. There was a little time left for looking around the gardens but then we heard the sound of brass and pipe bands from the front courtyard. Apparently they were rehearsing for what was to be a large military tattoo that evening. This threw our two drivers into a panic and they asked that our leaving time be brought forward by half an hour in order to avoid anticipated congestion. Our boarding and departure were therefore somewhat confusing but we eventually got under way without too much trouble. The real hold-up was at the Dartford Tunnel where the congestion was the worst we’d seen for a long time. Never the less it had been another successful outing.