For day 27 of #blogjune we go to Brighton
We had originally planned to stay at Virginia Woolf’s garden studio as a base for exploring the area around Brighton, which we had to cancel, but we did still have a day at the seaside by taking the Southern Railway train down to the coast – sustained with a picnic of drinks and sandwiches from the Marks and Spencer food store at Victoria station.
It was cold and gloomy as we left London, but the weather improved with sunshine and bright blue skies. I think I even returned to London a little red from the sun.
After a walk along the pier we headed back into town to the Clifton district where we met Wayne’s friend Lorraine Bowen.
Lorraine is a music teacher, singer and cabaret performer who became famous through being a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent singing the Crumble Song, and being sent through to the semi-final by David Walliams.
Lorraine was lovely and so generous with her time and took us on a tour of parts of Brighton we’d never seen.
Then down to the beach for some excellent chips…
…and ice creams.
For day 26 we arrive in London
What glorious weather greeted us for our week’s stay in London!
We stayed at the Citadines apartment hotel in South Kensington which is a super location – just a short walk to Gloucester Road tube station, and a little further to Kensington Gardens and the museums along the Cromwell Road.
We spent our first couple of days mooching around with a bit of shopping. I bought some new shoes at Lambretta near Carnaby Street…
…and we had to visit Liberty, having watched the reality television show. We didn’t spot anyone from the telly but I did get a Rowan knitting book. Wayne was tempted by a Liberty needlework cushion which they had on display on a reupholstered chair. He asked the sales assistant if he could take a photo of the chair – “You can sit in it if you want!” – at least the staff here weren’t snooty at all unlike some other stores.
We also went to the V&A Museum, and the wonderfully eccentric Sir John Soane’s Museum – no photos permitted but here’s a postcard I bought of Mrs Soane’s dog Fanny.
For day 25 of #blogjune, in which our plans are put off for another day… and just as well
When planning our trip through England I had booked a three night stay at the garden studio of Monk’s House in the village of Rodmell near Lewes. The studio is set in the garden of Virginia Woolf’s country retreat, Monk’s House, and I’d discovered it while looking for a base to visit Brighton and Sissinghurst. In the end we had to shorten our trip a little and so a stay at Monk’s House has been put off for another time.
(Also, in one of those Monopoly “Bank error in your favour” moments in life, due to the Australian dollar improving in value against the pound, when I cancelled our booking with the National Trust I made a small profit even after paying the cancellation fee. Score!)
It was while exploring the area around Monk’s House that I thought of a little day trip to the Ashdown Forest, the real place that served as inspiration for the magical world inhabited by Pooh, Piglet and their friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.
(Pooh and Piglet aren’t there any more but you can visit them at the New York Public Library.)
I didn’t think much more about this little part of our trip until I spotted this wonderful book at Kinokuniya in Singapore on the way home. The Natural world of Winnie the Pooh, by Kathryn Aalto is wonderful – a must for any Pooh (or Piglet) fan!
I’m now pretty glad that we didn’t get to stay at the Monk’s House, at least just yet, because a visit to the Hundred Acre Wood will be much more special after reading this lovely book.
For day 24 of #blogjune, another white horse
White horses were a theme of our holiday. We stayed at White Horses Cottage at Portmeirion, and then we saw a little pamphlet of the Wiltshire white horses in the village shop in Avebury. There was also a story on the television news of a white horse at Westbury being cleaned as part of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations.
We checked the white horses pamphlet and found that there was one not far away from Avebury, along the road to Devizes…
The figure at Cherhill was first cut in 1780 by a Dr Christopher Alsop, of Calne, and was created by stripping away the turf to expose the chalk hillside beneath… Dr Alsop, who was Guild Steward of the Borough of Calne, has been called “the mad doctor”, and is reported to have directed the making of the horse from a distance, shouting through a megaphone from below Labour-in-Vain Hill.
For day 23 of #blogjune, a daytrip to Bath
Avebury turned out to be a perfect base for exploring south-west England with so many day trips to choose from. On our last full day, under overcast skies, we headed towards the beautiful city of Bath.
The Park & Ride facilities in British towns are pretty neat for keeping the town centres free of traffic. We’d used the Park & Ride in Oxford, although a mistake in entering the postcode sent us off towards Woodstock before we realised something was wrong. We got the right postcode for Bath but the GPS sent us through the centre of town – but we got there in the end. At Bath the car park was free and we just paid for the bus ticket, and got the couples discount, and also the world’s friendliest bus driver on the return trip.
And, although it was grey and drizzly through most of our little visit, we did get a spot of blue sky in the afternoon…
For day 22 of #blogjune, part 2 of our stay in Avebury…
By staying at a National Trust cottage we got free admission to Avebury Manor, and they threw in a beautiful day with clear blue skies to enjoy the gardens as well.
I’d known of Avebury Manor long before our visit from having watched the BBC television show about its restoration, hosted by Penelope Keith.
(…and I’ve loved Penelope Keith since her role as the appalling but wonderful Margot in The Good Life back in the 1970s. In a another bit of The Good Life synchronicity, we later saw spotted Felicity Kendall having tea in the Bibendum Cafe in London.)
In another connection with yesterday’s post and Alexander Keiller and his marmalade fortune, Keiller procured a lease on Avebury Manor in the 1930s and one of the rooms there has now been restored in art deco style.
The other rooms have all been decorated in a variety of styles to reflect Avebury’s history over the years, some of it was a bit controversial – which you’ll know if you’ve watched the TV series – and some of it isn’t very successful, such as the “marbled” bedroom. But overall it’s a lovely experience, all the more so having seen how it was created.
For day 21 of #blogjune, we get to walk around the ancient stone circle
While our first day in Avebury was so wet and gloomy that we fled to Oxford, our second day was glorious with bright blue skies, perfect for a walk amongst the ancient stones. To begin though, it was a very frosty view out of our front door.
The stones were erected between 4500-5000 years ago and stood here in Wiltshire for thousands of years, until the Middle Ages when the Christian Church ordered them to be removed. Luckily, and probably because removing them would have been too difficult, the villagers buried most of the stones rather than removing them, although later some were broken up and used in buildings.
The stones are reputed to have mystical properties, and the Red Lion pub, in the photo below, is reputed to be one of the most haunted in Britain.
Alexander Keiller was a pioneering archaeologist, also heir to a fabulous marmalade fortune (true story!), who came to Avebury in the 1920s and set to work excavating many of the stones. This marmalade connection also led to my most favourite Tripadvisor review of all time, of the National Trust Tea Room at Avebury Manor:
Enjoyed two cream teas at the tea room but to my absolute chagrin, they have no marmalade.
A raised circular bank runs along the south-east and north-east quadrants with lovely views towards Avebury village. That’s our little cottage at the far left in the photo below.
On our last night we went for a spooky night time walk around the stones – it was quite peaceful actually.