Sunday 23 February to Sunday 1 March
We flew from Barcelona to London with British Airways; let’s just say I prefer not to repeat the experience; the seats were uncomfortable, the food not enjoyable and the amount of legroom was non-existent. We were delayed at take-off; once everyone had boarded the captain announced we could be sitting there for an hour before being cleared, fortunately that turned out to be 20 minutes.
After collecting our luggage at Heathrow, changing currency and buying phone chips, we caught the bus around to the Alamo Office. It did not take long to collect our car and join the traffic on the M25 to Kent – there were no wrong turns in the whole journey.
We eventually found the right property and gained entry; a delightful little cottage on the edge of the village of Smarden. Our unit was in the grounds of a 15thC Cloth Hall; through our glass doors we could see golden daffodils growing wild across the property, lots of trees with bare limbs covered in buds ready to burst into bloom and a pond with lots of reeds where the ducks swam and foraged. Much to our delight, there were welcome gifts in the unit: fresh scones, jam and cream, daffodils, milk as well as fresh garden vegetables and herbs.
I wanted some cooler weather and the UK obliged; cloudy skies, cold winds with rain showers intermittently all afternoon and then persisted for the remainder of the week – John was not impressed at all.
The church bells rang out every quarter hour of the day and night: four, eight, twelve and sixteen chimes, but the hour never sounded.
“Smarden is a civil parish and village west of Ashford with the Anglican parish church of St Michael the Archangel clearly visible throughout the village and because of its high scissor beam roof, is sometimes known as “The Barn of Kent”.
The earliest known date for Smarden is 1205, when Adam de Essex became the Rector of the parish. The area was covered by the forest of Anderida; when clearings were made, the River Beult (a tributary of the River Medway) formed the drainage channel. The local woollen industry was encouraged by King Edward III who brought craftsmen weavers of from Flanders to create what was to become one of England’s largest industries. Edward in recognition granted the village a Royal Charter in 1333 permitting them to hold a weekly market and an annual fair thus elevating the status from village to “Town”. Elizabet I, en route from Sissinghurst Castle to Boughton Malherbe, was so impressed by what she saw and ratified the previously granted Charter. A copy of the Charter hangs in the village church.
Smarden became very prosperous and some fine houses were built in the 15th and 16thC, many remain today. The Cloth Hall (1430) is an example of a fifteenth-century yeoman’s timber hall house. Built as a farm it became the central clearing warehouse for the local cloth industry; the broadcloth taken from there to the port of Faversham. During World War II, houses in Smarden were used to relocate evacuees from London.
A trip to Ashford to the Sainsbury store for supplies was a hair-raising journey; lots of traffic travelling too quickly in the heavy rain, lack of clarity about road rules and mileage signs as well as many wrong turns. After spending quite some time shopping and just browsing in the enormous supermarket we headed back to the unit to recover.
Exploring the village was a pleasurable activity; the ages of the pubs, the houses as well as the church gave a really quaint vista to it all. The first Rector for the St Michael the Archangel church was appointed in 1202, the font looked as though it had been there all those years as well as the pavers on part of the floor.
Driving and walking in Kent has been gloriously enhanced by the profusion of flowers growing wild wherever we go. The flowers have been predominantly daffodils and coccus’ as well as pots of colour around the villages; most houses had garden plots as well as pots of brightly coloured blooms.
We sampled meals from two of the pubs; Wednesday for lunch, John thoroughly enjoyed his Steak Pot Pie with vegetables while I had the best local vegetable soup. Friday evening, we had take-away fish and chips – enjoyable as well.
Our trip to Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens was a delightful day of exploration and just wandering. We began with a guided tour of the Summer House with interesting insights to the people who lived here in the 1930s to 1950s. The steep staircases were a challenge but worth the effort to see the wonderful spaces created for the members of the family. We then spent quite some time in the various garden rooms. After our time in the gardens we found the café and had a delicious lunch before driving back to Smarden.
“Sissinghurst Castle Garden, at Sissinghurst in the Weald of Kent was created by Vita Sackville-West, poet and writer, and her husband Harold Nicolson, author and diplomat. It is among the most famous gardens in England and is designated Grade I on Historic England’s register of historic parks and garden
Vita Sackville-West began transforming Sissinghurst Castle in the 1930s with her husband, Harold Nicolson. Harold’s architectural planning of the garden room and the colourful, abundant planting in the gardens by Vita, reflect the romance and intimacy of her poems and writings.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden was the backdrop for a diverse history; from the astonishing time as a prison for French prisoners of war in the 1700s, to being a workhouse in the 19thC and home to the women’s land army during WWII.
The site of Sissinghurst is ancient and has been occupied since at least the Middle Ages. The present-day buildings began as a house built in the 1530s by Sir John Baker. In 1554 Sir John’s daughter Cecily married Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, an ancestor of Vita Sackville-West. By the 18th century the Baker’s fortunes had waned, and the house, renamed Sissinghurst Castle, was leased to the government to act as a prisoner-of-war camp during the Seven Years’ War. The prisoners caused great damage and by the 19th century much of Sir Richard’s house had been demolished. In the mid-19th century, the remaining buildings were in use as a workhouse and by the 20thC, Sissinghurst had declined to the status of a farmstead. In 1928 the castle was advertised for sale but remained unsold for two years.
Vita Sackville-West was born in 1892 at Knole, the ancestral home of the Sackvilles. Sackville-West, an only child, did not inherited Knole on the death of her father in 1928, because of primogeniture, the house and the title passed to her uncle; this was a loss she felt deeply. In 1930, after she and Nicolson became concerned that their home Long Barn was threatened by development, Sackville-West bought Sissinghurst Castle. On purchasing Sissinghurst, Sackville-West inherited little more than some oak and nut trees, a quince and a single old rose. Sackville-West planted the noisette rose ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ on the south face of the South Cottage even before the deeds to the property had been signed. Nicolson was largely responsible for planning the garden design, while Sackville-West undertook the planting. Over the next thirty years, working with her head gardeners, she cultivated some two hundred varieties of roses and large numbers of other flowers and shrubs. Decades after Sackville-West and Nicolson created “a garden where none was”, Sissinghurst remains a major influence on horticulture thought and practice.
Monday 2 to Monday 9 March
We caught up with Chris and Ginny for a couple of hours at Chichester Tennis Club on our way to Hampshire. It was lovely to see them again after five years, the conversation still flowed as easily with the time passing all too quickly. Hopefully we will see them again before the next five years have elapsed.
The Summer House was in the grounds of the main house, but completely private with our own automatic gates opening onto Sandy Lane. The unit was very cosy with no wind able to find its way in under thatch. The weather remained cool and wet for the week. The ground everywhere super-saturated from all the rain, but at least they did not have the floods as in the Midlands.
While there were not as many flowers surrounding the unit, we did see a number of robin red breasts hopping over the lawn and several squirrels dashing between trees.
Shopping in Lymington was a wander through history; several buildings in the main centre looked as though they had been there for centuries. Parts of St Thomas Church at the end of the main street date from 1250 and the stained-glass windows were just beautiful; not as colourful as some we have seen, but any lack of colour was compensated by the exquisite detail the glass artisans achieved.
The was a large supermarket behind the smaller buildings on the High Street; we were able to buy all that we needed and there was no signs e,g, empty shelves as a result of the panic buying reported in the media; although the staff mentioned there was no sanitiser left in town. This part of the country appears to be functioning normally; hopefully that is the way it will continue for the reminder of our time in the UK.
Drove to all the way to Salisbury to go to the Cathedral only to find it closed at 12md for major electrical work; in future, it might pay us to do the research before we make the drive. From Salisbury we drove down to Poole to have a look around, but the rain made sight-seeing too much of a challenge. We found the shopping mall, had lunch (could have been pension day by the number of “oldies” having lunch) and then wandered around the shops before driving back to the Summer House. The scenic coast road turned out to be a bit of a nightmare; rough roads, raining and too much traffic for it to be enjoyable.
We caught the ferry from Lymington to Shalfleet, Yarmouth Quay on the Isle of Wight to have lunch with Tom and Jane (we had stayed overnight with them in 2015). After lunch, Jane and Tom had an appointment, so John and I went for a wander around the port area and called into St Michael The Archangel Church.
There had been a church on that site since 11thC, but the first two churches were destroyed by the French, with the current building dating from 1614 and the Bell Tower from 1831. The stained-glass window above the Altar was understated, but quite lovely in its simplicity.
The tiny churchyard contained numerous tombstones, some dating back to the 15thC – nearly incomprehensible trying to understand what we experience every day. The return ferry trip was quite smooth even though the wind had picked up and the rain continued unabated.
The origins of the church are not precisely known, its original dedication lost. It may indeed have been dedicated to a Saxon saint. It had always been assumed that a Saxon church, probably a timbered building, existed on this site. Excavations by County archaeologists in 2003 and 2005 revealed the remains of Christian burials, some in the existing churchyard and some in the Old Vicarage garden across Church lane, which are of proven Saxon origin; one of the skeletons was carbon dated to belong to the late 7th or early 8th century. These remains were re-buried in a new grave by the path to the north porch in July 2008. The finds confirmed the existence of a Saxon churchyard, larger than today’s, stretching eastward as far as the west bank of the Caul Bourne. The condition of the skeletons also indicated the existence of a Christian farming settlement in Shalfleet rather earlier than thought.
The existing Norman Church was founded sometime in the years between 1070 and 1086. Percy Stone was of the opinion that it was built after the death of William FitzOsbern (1071), who gave six other Island churches to his Abbey of Lyre, and it was probably built by his son, Roger de Breteuil, who was banished for rebellion in 1075; it was recorded in the great Domesday Survey which William the Conqueror ordered to be compiled in 1085.
The Norman Tower at Shalfleet
The tower is the oldest part of the church and is remarkable for its massive structure, the walls being over five feet thick. Built in the later eleventh century, it may in fact have pre-dated the church and served from the start as a stronghold for local inhabitants when threatened by invaders or piratical marauders. It must have been almost invulnerable as there were no openings at all at ground level and access was gained only by climbing an external ladder and scrambling over the parapet. The structure may occasion comparisons with the strongly built tower keep of Chepstow Castle, the stronghold of William Fitz Osbern who had responsibility for the Welsh border area.
The need for such a stronghold is made clear by the vulnerability of the Newtown River and the surrounding area and its attractiveness to seaborne raiders over the centuries, in particular the Danes at the end of the tenth century and culminating in the frequent French attacks of the fourteenth century – especially in 1377 when Yarmouth, Newtown and Newport all suffered much destruction. Defence of the Island against invaders remained a constant preoccupation, hence the provision of a 3-pounder gun, inscribed ‘Schawflet’, which was kept in the tower until 1779, and must have been ready for use when the Spanish Armada threatened the Island in 1588.
Apart from the tower the only existing portions of the original church are the north door and the foundations of the north wall of the Norman nave, built in 1150. The north wall was once lit by a fine Perpendicular window in whose stained glass appeared the arms of William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, who gave the advowson to his Convent of Bisham in Berkshire in 1414.
Over the north door is the quaintly carved tympanum, whose subject of a bearded man apparently resting his hands on the heads of two affronted lions has exercised many scholarly minds: Adam naming the animals beneath the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden; Daniel in the Lions’ Den; St Mark with lions; or David overcoming the lion and the bear?
A narrow south aisle may have been built in 1190 as there are some signs of a widening in the west wall.
In 1270 a great remodelling, and therefore enlargement, of the church took place when the present south aisle with its fine arcade of slender Purbeck piers was added as a vicarial church – probably to accommodate the manorial tenants, whereas the original nave would have been for the exclusive use of the lord of the manor and his family.
The aisle is remarkable for being the only one on the Island, apart from at Arreton and the domestic chapel at Carisbrooke Castle, where Purbeck stone was used, and for its south windows which have a possibly unique oval tracery in their heads. As late as 1796 the arms of Isabella de Fortibus appeared in one of these windows; Lord of the Island from 1283 to 1293, she may well have commissioned the work herself.
Slightly later, in 1290, the chancel was built, apparently by the same architect who shaped the chancel to the church of St George at Arreton. The great arch was also opened at this time in the east wall of the tower, but because of the lack of foundations for the latter, built as it was on clay, serious subsidence was caused in the wall above the arch
There are few traces of fourteenth century work, but a western buttress was added at the south angle of the tower and the original round-headed windows in its massive walls were filled in with Transitional Decorated perpendicular tracery.
In the fifteenth century, probably during the tenure of the manor by Thomas, Earl of Salisbury, the south porch was added, as also the south buttress to the east of it, while the church was re-roofed throughout and square heads inserted to the south-east and east windows of the south aisle.
The North Wall
The north porch was built in 1754 and the door has that date roughly cut on the inside of it; in the same year a cupola was added to the tower. At a meeting in June 1796 a committee of five gentlemen was appointed to ‘Get an estimate of the Expense of Building a Singing Gallery and to Proceed to raise a subscription for Building the Same’. The bill for its erection was paid between Easter 1798 and 1800. However, this may have created too much strain on the west wall and it was later removed.
In 1800 the cupola was replaced by a wooden, tile-hung steeple, the subject of a well-known rhyme about Shalfleet people: ‘Salfleet poor and simple people Sold their bells to build a steeple’.
No strengthening of the tower was carried out at this time to help bear its weight and this was to lead to later troubles.
In 1812 the north wall was rebuilt, on its original foundations, the work unfortunately being shoddily effected, using a mixture of brick and stone and its windows being given makeshift wooden tracery, some of it subsequently replaced by stone mullions.
In 1889 a general restoration of the church was carried out. The tower arch – closed up since its medieval construction – was, perhaps mistakenly, unblocked; a door was cut in the north-east comer of the tower; the east window of the south aisle was re-headed; the plaster and the whitewash were removed and the fifteenth century roof timbers were exposed.
In 1912 the steeple was removed because of the obvious strain imposed on the tower structure beneath it. In 1914 the north-east comer of the tower in fact collapsed and so in 1916 a certain amount of underpinning work was carried out, while the ivy was now stripped from the tower walls.
1931 saw further restoration of the roof, woodwork and the columns. In 1952 the chancel roof was restored and in 1964 woodwork in the nave and tower was treated for woodworm.
A major repair of the fabric took place in two phases in 2003 and 2006, with grants from the Heritage Lottery fund and the Historic Churches Preservation Society as well as other bodies and donations from individual persons. Repairs were made to the tower roof (re-leaded) and stairway, the bell chamber floor, the nave and south aisle roofs and the south porch; new stainless-steel ties were inserted to stabilise the church and tower arches; the east window of the chancel and the chest tomb were repaired. The tenor and sanctus bells were re-furbished and re-hung.
The font is a made-up affair with a late sixteenth century bowl placed upon a Doric cap and is similar to one at Carisbrooke.
The oak pulpit, with its carved designs and a bookrest on brackets all round, is of the time of Charles I.
The altar rails are of the eighteenth century and the reredos, designed with the help of Percy Stone and installed in 1908, incorporates the Elizabethan communion table with its inscription and the panelling includes oak from Arreton church, St Nicholas Chapel at Carisbrooke Castle and HMS Nettle.
The box pews with their H-hinges are of the eighteenth century.
The rood screen was erected as a memorial to Thomas Hollis, the sexton from 1854 to 1909.
The two-manual organ, built in 1866 by H.C. Sims of Southampton, and until 1920 placed at the east end of the nave where the pulpit is now, was replaced in 2009 by a two-manual and pedal pipe organ of 1885, the work of celebrated organ-builder, “Father Henry Willis” for a private house in Scotland.
The thirteenth century piscina remains in the wall of the south aisle, to the right of the altar.
Just outside the south door there is scratched on the east jamb of the doorway a mass clock, but the later addition of the south porch must have rendered it useless.
Two bells are hung: the Tenor is 35 3/4″ diameter and 9 cwt in weight; its note is B flat; cast in 1815 at the foundry of Thomas Mears in Whitechapel, London; inscribed – ‘May all whom I shall summon to the grave the blessings of a well spent life receive’. Thos.Way ]as.Street Churchwardens 1815. The Treble was cast in 1807 by Mears; J.Jolliffe G.W. 2.0.3 J.Cooper
Although in the early years of Edward VI (1547-53) much church plate was sold off in accordance with the beliefs of the Protestant Reformers – and Starfleet’s sale of this realised £3. ls.4d – the church still possesses two patens dated 1594 and 1705 and a chalice of 1798.
Above the north door is the Coat-of-arms of George IV (1820-1830) and the names “Jas. Whittington and Thos. Way”, who were Churchwardens from 1824 to 1833.
At the west end of the south aisle there lie two sepulchral slabs. One of these was originally thought to have covered the remains of Pagan Trenchard, the twelfth century lord of the manor, but it seems more likely to be the resting-place of a thirteenth century Trenchard. Carved in low relief on the upper surface are a pot-shaped helmet, lance and pointed shield. These slabs were, probably in Georgian days, put out in the churchyard but were later rescued, though with some damage incurred during their movement.
In the east wall of the vicarial church is set a nameless mural tablet, dated 1630, possibly to a member of the Worsley· family.
In the chancel are several tablets by Jones and Willis, in memory of members of the Wilkinson family, who in the 18th and 19th centuries occupied Parsonage Farm on the site of what is now the New Burial Ground and were the lay rectors.
The Kindersley memorial, next to the pulpit, has lettering by David Kindersley, a pupil of Eric Gill, on welsh slate.
Way Window: in the north wall adjacent to the door; of 19th century stained glass, it commemorates William Way, owner of Calbourne Mill and Dodpits House, who was churchwarden and benefactor of the church and of the new Shalfleet School of 1850, and his wife Fanny. He died in 1859 and his wife in 1886.
War Memorial Window: by Jones and Willis, the notable church furnishers; dedicated in 1920; St George for soldiers and St Nicholas for sailors are depicted.
Wyndham Cottle Window: at the east end of the chancel. Memorial to the former occupant of Ningwood Manor who died in 1919. A former Army surgeon and later Island physician, he was a generous benefactor to the church. The window, by Jones and Willis, depicts Christ inviting the sick to come to be healed, with St Luke on one side and the Good Shepherd on the other-themes evidently chosen to reflect Dr Cattle’s profession and his interest in animals; a small oval picture of him was included at the bottom.
Pennethome Window: Nativity scene by Ward and Hughes (1888) on the south side of the chancel; the family were the ‘adopted’ children (his wife’s second cousins) of John Nash, the architect, who rebuilt the Hamstead farmhouse as a shooting-box; the Pennethome children are buried in the churchyard.”
Beaulieu National Car Museum
“The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu (originally the Montagu Motor Museum) is a museum in the village of Beaulieu, Hampshire. The Museum was founded in 1952 by Lord Montagu as a tribute to his father, who was one of the great pioneers of motoring in the United Kingdom, being the first person to drive a motor car into the yard of the Houses of Parliament and introduced King Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales) to motoring during the 1890s.
At first, the museum consisted of just five cars and a small collection of automobilia displayed in the front hall of Lord Montagu’s ancestral home, Palace House; but such was the popularity of this small display that the collection soon outgrew its home and was transferred to wooden sheds in the grounds of the house. The reputation and popularity of the Beaulieu collection continued to grow; during 1959, the museum’s “attendance figures” reached 296,909.
By 1964, annual attendance exceeded half a million and a decision was taken to create a purpose-built museum building in the grounds of the Beaulieu estate. A design committee, chaired by the architect Sir Hugh Casson, was created to drive the project.
By 1972, the collection exceeded 300 exhibits. In a ceremony performed by the Duke of Kent, the new purpose-built museum building in the parkland surrounding Palace House was opened on 4 July 1972: the name was changed to the “National Motor Museum”, reflecting a change of status from a private collection to a charitable trust and highlighting Montagu’s stated aim to provide Britain with a National Motor Museum “worthy of the great achievements of its motor industry”. The opening of the museum coincided with the UK launch of the Jaguar which made it an appropriate week for celebrating the UK motor industry. The museum is run by the National Motor Museum Trust Ltd, a registered charity.
An unusual feature of the new museum building in 1972 is the National Motor Museum Monorail passing through its interior. This was inspired by the light railway running through the US Pavilion at the Montreal World’s Fair, Expo 67
Today, in addition to around 250 vehicles manufactured since the late-19th century, the museum has a collection of motoring books, journals, photographs, films, and automobilia of the world and is affiliated to the British Motorcycle Charitable Trust.
An exhibition of James Bond vehicles appeared in 2012.
The “On Screen Cars” exhibit has a display of TV and film cars including Del Boy’s Reliant Regal as featured in the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses, Mr Bean’s lime green Mini and Doctor Who’s Bessie.
The exhibit “World of Top Gear” has cars created by former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
The museum also hosts a collection of the well-known Rolls-Royce radiator mascot – the Spirit of Ecstasy – also known as the Flying Lady. The collection includes The Whisper, a figurine sculptured for the bonnet of Baron Montagu’s Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.
Attractions include the National Motor Museum Monorail, veteran bus ride, playground, restaurant and a substantial part of the Palace House and grounds, the partially ruined Beaulieu Abbey. Among the monastery buildings to have been preserved are the domus (now used for functions and exhibitions), and the refectory, which is now the parish church.
Haynes International Motor Museum
“Haynes International Motor Museum at Sparkford, Somerset, contains over 400 cars and motorcycles and a collection of other automobilia.
The museum was established in 1985 as an Educational Charitable Trust chaired by John Haynes, OBE.
The museum is divided into fifteen exhibitions:
- The Dawn of Motoring includes exhibits dating from 1886 including a replica 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen.
- Veteran and Vintage includes 1903 Darracq Type L and a 1922 Rover 8hp.
- Wheels around the World includes a 1975 Bricklin SVI and a 1967 Citroen DS.
- Minis and Micros includes a 1964 Trojan 200 and a 1965 Morris Mini MK2.
- Great British Marques contains a 1965 Jaguar E Type and a 1977 Lotus Elite Type 75.
- Custom and Bespoke includes a 1941 Chevrolet ½ton Custom Pick Up and a 1958 split screen Morris Minor van (ex-Post Office)
- The American Dream includes in pride of place a 1931 Duesenberg J Derhambodied Tourster, one of only eight built. (This car is now worth $20million)
- Motorcycle Mezzanine is in two parts: Part 1 – British and World Motorcycles, containing a 1914 BSA Flat Tank and a 1965 Honda CB72 and Part 2 – The Forshaw Speedway Collection.
- Supercar Century includes a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Convertible and a 1995 Jaguar XJ220.
- Hall of Motorsport depicting varied disciplines of motorsportincluding a 1999 Ferrari 6 Formula 1Type F310 (DC) and 1950 Healey Silverstone.
- The Morris Story includes 1917 Morris Cowley and a 1955 Morris Minor Convertible.
- Memory Lane contains a 1965 Ford Cortina Mk1 and a 1950 Rover 75.
- Travelling in Style: Luxury Cars includes a 2007 BentleyContinental GT and a 1957 Bentley Series 1.
- Ferrari: The Man, The Machine, The Myth containing a 2000 Ferrari 360 F1 and a 1980 Ferrari 512 Berlinetta Boxer.
- The Red Room contains red sports cars from around the world including a 1966 Ford Mustang Convertible and a 1959 Austin Healey Sprite.
The museum also includes the Autogame Experience including penny arcade games of the 1950s and 1960s, retro 1980s classics and 1990s favourites such as ‘Sega Rally’.
In April 2014 the Museum completed an extensive £6M redevelopment.
Solent Sky Museum
Solent Sky is an aviation museum in Southampton, Hampshire, previously known as the Southampton Hall of Aviation.
It depicts the history of aviation in Southampton, the Solent area and Hampshire. There is special focus on the Supermarine aircraft company, based in Southampton, and its most famous products, the Supermarine S6 seaplane and the Supermarine Spitfire,designed by RJ Mitchell.
There is also coverage of the Schneider Trophy seaplane races, twice held at Calshot Spit and the flying boat services which operated from the Solent.
In December 2019 the Calshot Spit lightship was relocated next to the museum in order to be converted into part of the museum’s cafe.
In 2017 an exhibition by the Hampshire Police and Fire Heritage Trust was added to the museum.
I finished at the Sky Museum around 3pm and decided to drive to the other side of Lymington to the car park on the sea front and walk to Hurst Castle. The history of Hurst Castle goes back to the Beaulieu Abbey which was founded in 1204 by King John as a Cistercian Monastery. It was closed in 1538 by King Henry VIII and most of the buildings were demolished. The granite blocks were used to build Hurst Castle, another one on the east bank of Lymington River and the third one on the Isle of Wight. The purpose of these castles was to protect the Solent (waterway between Isle of Wight and the mainland) from French invasion.
I parked in the sea front car park and began to walk towards the castle as there is no formal road available. Rather chilly with a stiff breeze coming off the water, however there were many people just out for a stroll and some with dogs. About half way along the walk I met a ranger heading my way and thought that he may be finishing work as it was around 4pm. I carried on and when I reached the draw bridge I was welcomed with a sign that said the castle was not opened until April 1st. A bit a letdown after a 3km walk on loose rubble, but all was not lost as I took a number of photos and rounded the lighthouse before heading back to the carpark.
Tuesday 10 to Wednesday18 March
We packed up at the Summer House and headed off to our new abode in southern Devon; we had one stop on the way at the Tank Museum.
The Tank Museum
The Origins of the Museum
“The Tank Museum is based at Bovington, the main training centre for tanks in the First World War. Tanks were returned to the fields around the current Museum at the end of the war and some were saved as examples to teach new Tank Corps soldiers about vehicle development.
There is an early and often repeated story of Rudyard Kipling visiting Bovington in 1923 and suggesting more should be done to preserve these important vehicles. A shed was found to house what was to become the Museum collection. Vehicles were added to the collection as they came out of service, or trials and experiments concluded. Other tank-related memorabilia was collected and an Archive and Library begun.
The Museum told the story of the Royal Tank Regiment and its predecessors, and from 1939, the Royal Armoured Corps: comprising of the cavalry, the Royal Tank Regiments and certain Yeomanry units.
The Effect of the Second World War
In 1940 a number of the tanks in the collection, including Little Willie, were dragged out to act as static defences in case of a German invasion. Other vehicles were scrapped to help provide material for a new generation of weapons and munitions.
In 1947 the current main WW2 Hall was used as the Museum – and opened to the general public; 2500 people visited that year. In 1951 a large collection of captured and experimental vehicles used by the School of Tank Technology was gifted to the Museum. Later, examples of the captured material were gifted back to Germany to assist in the formation of their own tank museum at Munster.
The collection remained fairly stable for the next thirty years, growing slowly until, in 1981, it numbered about 120 AFVs in all.
A Period of Growth
A new phase of expansion came in 1981, with the arrival of George Forty as Curator. Vehicles were obtained, mainly through exchange, with other museums or as gifts, from all over the world. Work began on the restoration of vehicles in the collection, and for the very first time, a small conservation workshop was established in 1984. The first purpose-built workshop was erected in 1990/91 and subsequently the workshop staff have grown in number and the involvement of volunteers in this area has been key to its continuing success.
The need for new space to house the growing collection led to the erection of the British Steel Hall (an ex-factory building placed over a car park – now the Tank Factory Exhibition), the Tamiya Hall (funded by the founder of the model making company) and a new entrance hall. Following the Gulf War in 1991, the collection was further increased by captured Iraqi vehicles mainly of Soviet and Chinese origin.
The creation of The Trench Experience in 1998 brought an immersive experience to the Museum displays for the first time. It has remained hugely popular with the Museum audience and was refreshed in 2016 with the Tank Men Exhibition, telling the story of the first tank crews.
Building a Modern Museum
The next phase created the most marked physical change to the site with the successful creation of a new 50,000 sq.ft. display hall and entrance – the Tank Story Hall, opened in 2009. The project was a major undertaking for the Museum which remained open throughout the building phase. The costs of the project – £16m – were met with a £9.6m HLF grant with the balance of the costs being funded by the Museum.
The remaining halls have now been re-displayed with more in depth thematic displays including The Battlegroup Afghanistan exhibition and Warhorse to Horsepower.
The Museum has built up relationships with other organisations worldwide, resulting in loans of vehicles and whole exhibitions. In November 2016, an Elefant from the US Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center arrived to complete the Tiger Collection, running until the end of October, 2018.
The exhibition, supported by World of Tanks, featured the Museum’s Tiger I, both Tiger IIs, a Jagdtiger and the Elefant, which was on public display in Europe for the first time since it was captured in 1944. The Sturmtiger was represented by its formidable weapon and an augmented reality version pioneered by World of Tanks.
Spring 2018 saw the Museum’s first travelling exhibition – ‘Tank, Back to the Future’ – from the National Military Museum of the Netherlands. The principles of firepower, protection and mobility are represented through a series of models, showing 1000 years of armoured warfare. It is also the Museum’s first exhibition which doesn’t feature any real tanks!
Conservation in Action
The Museum is entering the fourth stage of redevelopment – ‘Conservation in Action’. With the assistance of HLF funding, a new state-of-the-art workshop will be built adjacent to the Vehicle Conservation Centre (constructed 2013). The next step, beginning in 2019 is redeveloping the Second World War Hall. Seen by many as the heart of The Tank Museum, this is the final exhibition to be revitalised since the Tank Story Hall was opened.
The collection continues to grow as vehicles are still being sought and occasionally ‘pruning’ occurs as better examples of a vehicle appear, or the significance of an item is re-assessed. Some vehicles are collected just to demonstrate and run, and duplicates are welcome of classic vehicles so one can be kept for reference whilst another might be restored to running order.
Now a major tourist attraction with over 200,000 annual visitors, the Museum still has a teaching role for the modern Army. With an outstandingly comprehensive Archive, Library and Supporting Collections the Museum also engages with a wide variety of other audiences and users such as industry, academia, designers, filmmakers, family history researchers, model makers, computer games creators, school groups and has an online audience of millions.
Our accommodation was in the quaint village of Buckland Monachorum, near Yelverton. The unit we booked had stairs that we had not noticed on the booking site; our hosts Andrew & Carol offered us the other unit that was all on one level and it turned out to be just perfect for our stay.
“Buckland Monachorum is a village and civil parish in West Devon, England, situated on the River Tavy north of Plymouth.
The Doomsday Book (1086) records Buckland Monachorum as having 46 households, land for 15 ploughs, a salt pan and a fishery. It was in the possession of William de Poilley, one of 17 estates he held in southern Devon as a tenant-in-chief of William the Conqueror.”
Our first outing in the village was to have lunch at the Pub, the Drake Manor Inn, a popular 16thC public house, situated in centre the village. Sitting in the Snug for a delicious meal, you could image that things had not changed a lot since it first opened and perhaps Sir Francis Drake calling in for a quiet ale.
The cottage across the street from the Pub had the unique address 23 The Village
We also visited the St Andrew Church that has stood in the same spot for at least 700 years; the list of Rectors dates from 1271, but the Saxon font indicates an earlier church foundation.
“The church records state that in 1305, the Abbot of Buckland was ordered to build a house for the Vicar at Lovecombe, near the village and to annex 40 acres of land for his use. Before the Reformation, the church enjoyed a close relationship with the Cistercian Abbey at Buckland; the vicar would have been appointed by the Abbot. The present church dates from 1490, except for the tower which is part of the earlier cruciform church.
A restoration was undertaken in 1868-69 under the supervision of Mr. H. Elliott, architect of Plymouth. The west end gallery was removed. The roof was restored. The old pews were replaced with new pews of oak. The medieval bench ends were preserved where possible and new ones carved in a similar style. The walls were plastered, and the windows were re-glazed with plain cathedral glass. A stained-glass window by Heaton and Butler was installed at the east end with a representation of the Good Shepherd. The church reopened for worship on Thursday 8 July 1869.
The church is noted for the monuments in the Drake aisle on the south side derives its name from Thomas Drake, the brother of Sir Francis Drake who had bought Buckland Abbey from Sir Richard Grenville. Descendants of Thomas Drake are buried in the vault underneath the chapel.
Two fonts are unusual. The ancient Saxon / Norman tub font is made of Roborough Stone. The late Medieval font has the initials JT, thought to be a reference to John Tucker, the last Abbot of Buckland Abbey and eventually became Vicar of Buckland Monarchorum.
The mosaic reredos on the east wall depicts St Andrew and the feeding of the five thousand from the small boy’s loaves and fishes was crafted in 1891 and cost £50.
The seventy feet church tower is thought to have sacrificed strength for elegance and created difficulty with the installation of the bells. Two bells were added to the original four in 1723, necessitating a major repair in 1735. In 1947 the bells were re-hung and the tenor bell re-cast on an iron and steel frame and two more bells added. The increased vibrations weakened the tower; extensive renovation with added support was undertaken in 1980 using traditional materials. It is wonderful to hear the bells ringing out across the fields and calling people to worship Sunday by Sunday.
The Queen Victoria diamond jubilee memorial 1837 – 1897 stands in front of the church and has a more recently constructed cross at its summit, replacing an earlier four-sided canopied head. The three stepped base is very old and made of Roborough stone.
The organ was installed in 1849. It was playable either by a person on the keyboard, or by a barrel. It was expanded in 1920 when a second manual was added. Subsequent rebuilding and enlargements have resulted in a two-manual organ with twenty-four speaking stops. A specification of the organ can be found in the National Pipe Organ Register.
We took one day to explore Dartmoor and surrounds as well as drive to Exeter Cathedral; driving across the moor was a vista of wide-open spaces, green grass, low shrubbery, the small Moor Ponies as well as sheep and cattle. The Dartmoor National Park is fenced as one large area with the animals grazing across the entire site. There are several small villages across the moor that are unfenced as well, although most of the houses have stone fences to protect their gardens.
“Dartmoor is an upland area in southern Devon, England. The moorland and surrounding land has been protected by National Park status since 1951and covers 954 km2.
The granite that forms the uplands dates from the Carboniferous Period of geological history; the landscape consists of moorland capped with many exposed granite hilltops known as tors, providing habitats for Dartmoor wildlife. The highest point is High Willhays, 621m above sea level. The entire area is rich in antiquities and archaeology.
Parts of Dartmoor have been used as military firing ranges for over 200 years. The public is granted extensive land access rights on Dartmoor (including restricted access to the firing ranges) and it is a popular tourist destination.
Dartmoor is known for its tors, hills topped with outcrops of bedrock; it is in granite country, usually rounded boulder-like formations. More than 160 of the hills of Dartmoor have the word tor in their name but quite a number do not; this does not appear to relate to whether or not there is an outcrop of rock on their summit. The tors are the focus of an annual event known as the Ten Tor Challenge; around 2400 people aged between 14 and 19 walk for distances of 56, 72 or 88 km between ten tors on many differing routes.
River Erme at Ivybridge
The high ground of Dartmoor forms the catchment area for many of Devon’s rivers. As well as shaping the landscape, these have traditionally provided a source of power for moor industries such as tin mining and quarrying.
The moor takes its name from the River Dart, which starts as the East Dart and West Dart and then becomes a single river at Dartmeet. It leaves the moor at Buckfastleigh, flowing through Totnes below where it opens up into a long ria, reaching the sea at Dartmouth
Much more rain falls on Dartmoor than in the surrounding lowlands. As much of the national park is covered in thick layers of peat (decaying vegetation), the rain is usually absorbed quickly and distributed slowly, so the moor is rarely dry. In areas where water accumulates, dangerous bogs or mires can result. Some of these, topped with bright green moss, known to locals as “feather beds” or “quakers”, because they can shift (or ‘quake’) beneath a person’s feet. Quakers result from sphagnum moss growing over the water that accumulates in the hollows in the granite.
Some of the bogs on Dartmoor have achieved notoriety; Fox Tor Mires was supposedly the inspiration for Great Grimpen Mire in Conan Doyle’s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, although there is a waymarked footpath across it.
Inside Wistman’s Wood in summer. The legendary home of the infamous Wisht Hounds which roam Dartmoor for lost souls and weary travellers .. also the home to several thousand midges with a thirst for human blood!
Wistman’s Wood is one of the old sessile oak woods which contribute to the listing of Dartmoor as a SAC and is possibly a surviving fragment from the earliest Neolithic woodland clearances. It is home to exceptional epiphytic mosses, liverworts and lichens. Nearly 50 species of moss and liverwort are found in the wood along with 120 types of lichen, including Smith’s horsehair lichen, speckled sea-storm lichen and pendulous wing-moss.
A large variety of bird species can be found on Dartmoor including ones that have declined elsewhere in the UK, such as skylark and snipe, or are even rare nationally, such as the ring ouzel and the cuckoo. Woodland birds include a number of migrant species. Mammals found here include otters, hazel dormice and nearly all of the UK’s 16 bat species. Two shrimp species can be found on Dartmoor. The world’s largest land slug, the Ash black, is also found. Reptiles include common lizards and adders. The farmland in the wet valleys around the edge of the moors is the most important habitat for insects; areas of bracken are home to the high brown fritillary and pearl-bordered fritillary. Insects found in the heathlands include the emperor moth, green hairstreak and the bilberry bumblebee. The old oak woodlands have a distinctive group of insects including the blue ground beetle and Heckford’s pygmy moth, a species found nowhere else in the world.”
Numerous prehistoric menhirs (usually referred to locally as standing stones or longstones) stone circles, kistvaens, cairns and stone rows (longstones), are to be found on the moor. The most significant sites include:
There are also an estimated 5,000 hut circles still surviving although many have been raided over the centuries by the builders of the traditional drystone walls. These are the remnants of Bronze Age houses. The smallest are around 1.8m in diameter, and the largest may be up to five times this size.
Some have L-shaped porches to protect against wind and rain; particularly good examples are to be found at Grimspound It is believed that they would have had a conical roof, supported by timbers and covered in turf or thatch.
There are also numerous kistvaens, Neolithic stone box-like tombs.
Our first off-the-main-road excursion was into Princetown to have a look at Dartmoor Prison, a really cold and forbidding stone building standing behind solid walls and locked gates:
HM Prison Dartmoor is a men’s prison, located in Princetown, high on Dartmoor. Its high granite walls dominate this area of the moor. The prison is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
In 1805, the United Kingdom was at war with Napoleonic France, a conflict during which thousands of prisoners were taken and confined in prison “hulks” or derelict ships. This was considered unsafe, partially due to the proximity of the Royal Naval dockyard at Devonport (then called Plymouth Dock), and as living conditions were appalling in the extreme, a prisoner of war depot was planned in the remote isolation of Dartmoor. Construction started in 1806, taking three years to complete. In 1809 the first French prisoners arrived and were joined by American POWs taken in the War of 1812. At one time the prison population numbered almost 6,000; by July 1815 at least 270 Americans and 1,200 French prisoners had died. Both French and American wars were concluded in 1815, and repatriations began. The prison then lay empty until 1850, when it was largely rebuilt and commissioned as a convict gaol. After originally being buried on the moor, due to the establishment of the prison farm in about 1852, all the prisoners’ remains were exhumed and re-interred in two cemeteries behind the prison.
From the spring of 1813 until March 1815 about 6,500 American sailors were imprisoned at Dartmoor. These were either naval prisoners or impressed American seamen discharged from British vessels. Whilst the British were in overall charge of the prison, the prisoners created their own governance and culture. They had courts which meted out punishments, a market, a theatre and a gambling room. About 1,000 of the prisoners were black.
Dartmoor was reopened in 1851 as a civilian prison, but closed again in 1917, when it was converted into a Home Office Work Centre for certain conscientious objectors granted release from prison; cells were kept unlocked, inmates wore their own clothes and could visit the village in their off-duty time. It was reopened as a prison in 1920 and has contained some of Britain’s most serious offenders.
The inscription, taken from Virgil’s Aeneid, reads Parcere Subiectis (Trans: Spare the Vanquished)
On 24 January 1932, there was a major disturbance at the prison. The cause of the riots is generally attributed to prisoners’ perceptions of poor quality of the food, not generally but on specific days prior to the disturbance when it was suspected it had been tampered with. There had also been other instances of disobedience prior to this, according to the official du Parcq report into the incident, such as a model prisoner attacking a popular guard with a razor blade, rough treatment by prisoners of a prisoner being removed to solitary. At the parade later that day, 50 prisoners refused orders, and the rest were marched back to their cells but refused to enter. At this point, the prison governor and his staff fled to an unused part of the prison and secured themselves there. The prisoners then released those held in solitary. There was extensive damage to property and a prisoner was shot by one of the staff but no prison staff were injured. According to Fitzgerald (1977) “Reinforcements arrived, and within fifteen minutes these ‘vicious brutes’, who for some two hours had terrorized well-armed prison staff, and effectively controlled the prison, had surrendered and been locked up again”.
Dartmoor Prison received a Grade II heritage listing in 1987.
In 2001, a Board of Visitors report condemned sanitation, as well as highlighting a list of urgent repairs needed. A year later, the prison was converted to a prison for less violent offenders.
In 2002, the Prison Reform Trust warned that the prison may be breaching the Human Rights Act 1998 due to severe overcrowding at the jail. A year later, however, the Chief Inspector of Prisons declared that the prison had made substantial improvements to its management and regime.
Dartmoor still has a misplaced reputation as being a high-security prison that is escape-proof. Dartmoor now houses mainly non-violent offenders and white-collar criminals. It also holds sex offenders and offers sex offender treatment programmes intended to make the offender realise their behaviour is unacceptable. Some subsequently volunteer for behaviour-changing treatment with medication under a scheme being piloted at HMP Whatton, which has had encouraging results.
Education with qualifications is available at the prison (full and part-time), and ranges from basic educational skills to Open University. Vocational training includes electronics, brickwork, carpentry, painting and decorating, industrial cleaning as well as desktop publishing. Full-time employment is also available in catering, farming, gardening, laundry, textiles, Braille, contract services, furniture manufacturing and polishing.
The “Dartmoor Jailbreak” is a yearly event, in which members of the public “escape” from the prison and must travel as far as possible in four days, without directly paying for transport. By doing so they raise money for charity
Back on the main road, we arrived at the Two Bridges Hotel in time for morning tea – this was the suggestion of our host, Andrew, that we had to try a Devon Cream Tea. Having a lovely scones (nearly as good as Auntie Mary’s) with jam and Cornish Clotted Cream with a pot of tea in the lounge of this wonderful old hotel; all very pleasant indeed.
“The famous Two Bridges Hotel in the heart of Dartmoor National Park has been welcoming weary travellers for centuries. There are crackling log fires, ticking clocks, cherished antiques, and the captivating hubbub of good conversation over a traditional cream tea, a hearty lunch, or a perfectly presented pint of Jail Ale from the hotel’s own Dartmoor Brewery.
A map dated 1765 suggests the origin of the name Two Bridges, for in those days the road crossed both the West Dart and the River Cowsic, just upstream from the point where they meet, and required two separate bridges.
In the 18th century, Two Bridges was best known for its potato market; this would have been an open-air market where growers from the Chagford and Moretonhampstead area brought their produce to be sold. The location of this venue could not have been better situated as it gave both producers and buyers access to a convenient convergence of is the primary roads across the moor. The market appears to have been at its peak around about 1770.
In 1792 Sir Frances Buller built a coaching inn and called it the ‘Saracen’s Head’ simply because a Saracens head appeared on his family crest.
In 1803 the inn changed its name to the ‘Saracen’s Head Hotel’, and in the early 1900’s the hotel finally changed to its current name – the Two Bridges Hotel.
In 1907 the Devonia handbook carried the follow advert for Two Bridges: “Two Bridges is a favourite resort for fishermen who love the Dartmoor streams, and for those who desire to get the invigorating influences of Dartmoor air, nothing is more restorative.” The railway station for Two Bridges is Princetown; the hotel can also be reached by coach from Moretonhampstead and Totnes or by a very beautiful drive across Dartmoor.
Not too much has changed, except the railway station at Princetown is now the home of Dartmoor Brewery, where the famous and original Jail Ale is produced
After our delicious morning tea, it was time to join the main road for the remainder of the trip into Exeter. After finding what we thought was the Cathedral, we parked the car and headed towards the steeple we had seen. We then asked directions and found we were headed the wrong way. We then spent a wonderful three hours wandering, reflecting, sitting and gazing in awe at this magnificent edifice.
“The construction of a cathedral in Exeter on the present site began in 1114 and was built in the Norman (Romanesque) style. The two towers and the lower part of the Nave walls survive in the present Cathedral. A major rebuild, in Decorated Gothic style, was carried out under six Bishops between c1270 and c1350. The Norman towers were incorporated into this enlarged building as the North and South Transepts.
During restorations they found fragments of paint on the front which lead them to believe that the whole front section had been painted.
The Cathedral’s ceiling (or vault) from the Great West Door to the Great East window is approx. 96m and the longest, continuous medieval stone vault in the world. This style of vaulting is known as ’tierceron’; the round stones (or bosses) act as keystones locking the vaults of the Cathedral in place.
Exeter Cathedral, properly known as the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter in Exeter, is an Anglican Cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of Exeter in the city of Exeter. The present building was complete by about 1400 and has several notable features, including an early set of misericords, an astronomical clock and the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England.
Prayers in the early medieval church were said standing with uplifted hands. The old or infirm could use crutches or, as time went on, a misericordia (literally “pity of the heart” to create an act of mercy). For these times of required standing, seating was constructed so that the seats could be turned up. However, the undersides sometimes had a small shelf, a misericord, allowing the user to lean against it, slightly reducing their discomfort. Like most other medieval woodwork in churches, they were usually skilfully carved and often show detailed scenes, despite being hidden underneath the seats, especially in choir stalls around the altar. The earliest set of misericords date from the middle of the 13th century. The vast majority of English misericords date from the 14th and 15th centuries and are curiously most often depictions of secular or pagan images and scenes, entirely at odds with the Christian iconography and aesthetic that surround them.
The woodcarvers came from Lincoln in the late 14th century and moved on to Westminster Hall when they had finished the choir three years later. It is said that it was the apprentices who were allowed to carve the seats, while the masters did the more impressive works.”
The day we drove to Plymouth was cool and showery and very cold as we walked along the waterfront. Our first stop was at Plymouth Hoe, the headland overlooking the bay; there were lots of people along the top, all rugged up, walking their dogs. Along the headland, there was a statue of Sir Francis Drake, Boadicea as well as Memorials to each of the Military Services.
After walking along the headland, we went for a drive around the waterfront. The drive was a step back in time; two story buildings along both sides of the road, probably built in the 14th or 15thC, all joined together, painted white in between the timber beams. There was a profusion of pubs, inns and hotels that may have been in operation there since they were built. The area was filled with tourists frequenting the local hostelries as well as the many cafes and restaurants.
We then drove to a shopping centre for John to update phone chips. That turned into a marathon effort, walking from one area to another trying to find what we needed. The whole area looked sad and neglected as though no one has cared for some time; it was good to leave the area and drive back to Buckland Monachorum.
“Plymouth is situated on the south coast of Devon. Enclosing the city are the mouths of the river Plym and river Tamar, which are naturally incorporated into Plymouth Sound to form a boundary with Cornwall.
Plymouth’s early history extends to the Bronze Age when a first settlement emerged at Mount Batten. This settlement continued as a trading post for the Roman Empire, until surpassed by the more prosperous village of Sutton founded in the ninth century, now called Plymouth. In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers departed Plymouth for the New World and established Plymouth Colony, the second English settlement in what is now the United States of America.
Throughout the Industrial Revolution, Plymouth grew as a commercial shipping port, handling imports and passengers from the Americas, and exporting local minerals: tin, copper, lime, china clay and arsenic. The neighbouring town of Devonport became a strategic Royal Naval shipbuilding and dockyard town. In 1914 three neighbouring independent towns, the county boroughs of Plymouth and Devonport and the urban district of East Stonehouse were merged to form a single County Borough and took the name of Plymouth and in 1928, achieved city status. The city’s naval importance later led to its being targeted by the German military and partially destroyed by bombing during World War II, an act known as the Plymouth Blitz. After the war the city centre was completely rebuilt; subsequent expansion led to the incorporation of Plymton and Plymstock along with other outlying suburbs in 1967.
The Garden House was another of our visits while in Devon; it was just up the road from the village and an absolute delight to spend a couple of hours wandering and seeing all the wonderful plants and trees the Garden had to offer.
“The Garden House began as the home of the vicars of Buckland Monachorum. The first house was built in 1305 by the Abbot of Buckland Abbey. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the abbot became the parish priest of Buckland Monachorum. The house was enlarged to create a large 3-storey building, complete with a tower.
History of The Garden House
The Garden House is the elegant former home of the vicars of Buckland Monachorum; built in the early 19th C, the house accommodates the current tearooms and offices.
The history of the 10-acre garden is closely entwined with that of Buckland Abbey and the local church. In 1305 the Bishop instructed the Abbot to build a house for the parish priest and this site was chosen. At the dissolution of the monasteries, the Abbot became the vicar of Buckland Monachroum and by the early 1700s, the vicarage consisted of a substantial 3-story dwelling. The remains of this building, a tower with spiral staircase and a thatched barn, formerly the kitchen, are now the romantic ruins on the lower terrace in the walled garden.
The modern vicarage was built in the 1920s and the Garden House was sold as private dwelling. The house came onto the market again just after the Second World War and was purchased by Fortescue, a retiring Master at Eton and his wife Katharine. Lionel was the son of a Newlyn school painter and had a good eye for colour as well as being an exacting plantsman. Lionel and Katharine set about renovating and developing their garden while running a thriving market garden business, providing stock plants for growers in the Tamar Valley and managing a herd of Jersey dairy cattle.
Fortescue Garden Trust
Over 40years the Fortescues created a garden which is viewed as one of the finest gardens in Britain.
The Fortescue Garden Trust was established in 1961 as a registered charity, to which they bequeathed the house and garden to ensure the survival of this beautiful place for future generations. After their deaths in the 1980s ownership passed to the charity, that maintains the Fortescue’s legacy. A team of employed staff and volunteers look after the garden.
The British Government, as well as the population, were quick to respond to Coronavirus with a range of measures in place. Infection control measures were already well established, but now enhanced. The Government announced that all people over 70 should self isolate for three to four months. Time for us to alter our plans and book our flight home – leaving Saturday night.
Our second last day in this area of Devon was spent at Buckland Abbey. After Henry VIII closed all the Catholic Monasteries, Buckland Abbey was purchased by Richard Grenville who converted the church into his home that was known as Buckland Manor; the property later became part of Sir Francis Drake’s estate. We had a lovely time exploring; reading and talking to the guides who were happy to share the history of the Manor.
There were many wonderous items on display; we took our time to reflect on the items as well as their role in history – history brought to life. The house was built over four floors and that involved climbing all those stairs, but I couldn’t miss out on any aspect of the property.
Buckland Abbey was founded as a Cistercian abbey in 1278 by Amica, Countess of Devon and was a daughter house of Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight. This was one of the last Cistercian houses founded in England. The remains of the church are about 37.6 metres long. The width across the transepts is 28 metres. The nave and presbytery are 10.1 metres wide.
In the Bishop of Exeter episcopal registers show the abbey managed five granges at Buckland plus the home farm at the abbey. A market and fair at Buckland and Cullompton were granted in 1318. In 1337 King Edward III granted the monks a licence to crenellate (fortify).
The Grade I listed Tithe Barn
In the 15th century the monks built a Tithe Barn, 55 m long and survives to this day. It is Grade I listed
It remained an abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII. At this time the revenues were placed at £241 17s. 9d. per annum (equivalent to £163,500 in 2019). The Abbot was given a yearly pension of £60 (equivalent to £40,600 in 2019), and the remaining 12 monks shared £54 10s. 6d.
In 1541 Henry sold Buckland to Sir Richard Grenville the Elder (Sewer of the Chamber to Henry VIII, poet, soldier, last Earl Marshall of Calais who, working with his son Sir Roger Greynvile (Gentleman of the Privy Chamber of Henry VIII, Captain of the ill-fated Mary Rose, began to convert the abbey into a residence, renaming it Buckland Greynvile. Sir Roger died in 1545 when the Mary Rose heeled over in a sudden squall while the English Fleet was engaged with the French Fleet in the Narrow Sea off Portsmouth. He left a son aged 3, also named Richard Grenville, who completed the conversion in 1575–76. After being owned by the family for 40 years, Buckland Greynvile was sold by Sir Richard the Younger to two intermediaries in 1581, who unknown to Grenyvile, were working for Drake, whom he despised. The abbey is unusual in that the church was retained as the principal component of the new house whilst most of the remainder was demolished, which was a reversal of the normal outcome with this type of redevelopment.
Drake lived in the house for 15 years, as did many of his collateral descendants including the Dowager Lady Seaton, Born Elisabeth Fuller-Elliot-Drake, who died on 9 May 1937. She left a life interest to Captain Richard Owen Tapps Gervis Meyrick. In 1946 he sold it to Captain Arthur Rodd, who presented the property to the National Trust in 1947.
Following a restoration between 1948 and 1951 which cost around £20,000 (equivalent to £630,000 in 2019), largely funded by the Pilgrim Trust the property has been open to the public since 1951 and is operated by the National Trust with assistance. The collection is noted for the presence of “Drakes Drum”.”
After lunch I decided to take a walk up the Public Footpath that begins at the church and headed towards the moors where Andrew and I had been walking his dog each morning. Just above the church another path turned off to the right and over to the Garden House, but I continued to the moors.
On the left is the local cemetery which contained the headstones of ten servicemen who were killed during the second world war on the airfield that was built on the hilltop of the moors. Six from the Royal Air Force, three from the Royal Canadian Air Force and one from the Royal NZ Air Force. These graves are maintained by the War Graves Commission like all other war graves throughout the world.
The Footpath is well used and runs up the side of each paddock until it breaks out onto the moors. I took a rest on one of the bench seats and admired the view.
Next morning Andrew & I walked over past the Moors and down to the local stream (Tavy River) which runs from Tavistock and joins the River Tamar before flowing into the harbour at Plymouth. The park alongside the river is used by mountain bike riders and canoers and then we walked up onto the Drake Trail which joins Tavistock to Plymouth. A very enjoyable two hour walk.
After morning tea I took our laundry into Tavistock to process for the last time. While waiting for the machines to complete their cycle I walked around town taking photos of the Hotel, Town Hall, Banks and the local Church. Tavistock is a World Heritage Site.
Around 3pm I drove for 20 minutes to the National Trust site of Lydford Gorge. The staff at the entrance said that they were closing all National Trust sites at 5pm today and they would all be stood down for the foreseeable future. The gate to the park will be left open for dog walkers at this stage but how long that last is anyones guess. The walk along the top path to the bird hide and back via the waterfall and river path was estimated at around two and a half hours. The top path was rather wet from recent rain but I had my Redback work boots and made good time along that section.
Around stage 15 I took the zig zag track down to the base of the river to observe the waterfall. The next 12 stages followed closely along the river with one rope bridge to the other side at stage 16 and a return bridge at section 26. I just got back to the carpark on dark and had rain all the way home. The British love their walks and I sure enjoyed this one.
Wednesday 18 to Monday 23 March
Southern Cornwall was our last area to visit this trip. We began with the Lost Gardens of Heligan. After a challenging trip down some very narrow lanes, we eventually found the Gardens and spent a lovely time wandering along the paths that led you through tree-lined spaces to open into delightful garden beds or specimen trees of many glorious colours. The magnolias, azaleas and rhododendrons were just magnificent, planted in clumps or swathes along a hillside. Some of the trees were hundreds of years old, their gnarled trunks covered in moss and roots that wound around in all directions. After lunch in the Garden Kitchen John went for a walk down the steeper slopes to the bottom of the property.
“Heligan is one of the most mysterious estates in England; lost to the brambles of time since the outbreak of WW1. Thirty years ago, the gardens were unknown and unseen; it was only the chance discovery of a door in the ruins that led to the restoration of this once great estate. This Sleeping Beauty was re-awakened in 1990 to become Europe’s largest garden restoration project. Today Heligan’s Lost Gardens have been put back where they belong: in pride of place among the finest gardens in England with the 200 acres a paradise for the explorer, wildlife, plant lover and garden romantic.”
“The Lost Gardens of Heligan (Lowarth Helygen, meaning “willow tree garden”) is a botanical garden among the most popular in the UK. The gardens are typical of the 19thC gardenesque style with areas of different character and in different design styles.
The gardens were created by members of the Cornish Tremayne family from the mid-18th century to the beginning of the 20th century, and still form part of the family’s Heligan Estate. The gardens were neglected after the First World War and restored in the 1990s.
The gardens include aged and colossal rhododendrons and camellias, a series of lakes fed by a ram-pump (over 100 years old), highly productive flower and vegetable gardens, an Italian garden, and a wild area filled with subtropical tree ferns called “The Jungle”. The gardens also have Europe’s only remaining pineapple pit, warmed by rotting manure and two figures made from rocks and plants known as the Mud Maid and the Giant’s Head.”
The drive from Truro out to the farm was along country lanes (usually wide enough for two cars to pass each other) overhung with trees that were beginning to burst into their spring blossoms, predominantly white and pink. Our accommodation in Cornwall was in “The Old Stables”, a lovely unit on a small farm, that overlooked the verdant countryside to the hills beyond. A one-bedroom unit with a slate shower-room as well as a large, open kitchen and sitting-room that held everything you could possibly need – including a lovely “Welcome Gift” that included brioche rolls, milk and a chocolate orange.
John spent many hours trying to cancel booking that had been made up to Easter; chasing contact details for each property proved challenging.
We spent a lovely time having a long lunch with Bernine (John Furner’s sister) and her son Jeremy in her home in Truro. It was lovely to catch up with them again and hopefully it will not be too long before we visit them next time.
After the visit, we decided to go to the Truro Cathedral for a look. The streets had very few people about and there was no one else in the church so we were able to take our time until we were asked to leave so they could close for the day.
“Since at least 1259, the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin has been located in the centre of the busy port of Truro. It had been rebuilt twice, first in 1504 in the fashionable Perpendicular Gothic style, and then it was re-modelled in 1768, in a Georgian style with a 39metre tall spire.
When Truro was chosen to be the cathedral city, it was assumed that the Parish Church would be completely demolished to make way for the cathedral. However, the architect John Loughborough Pearson, argued and eventually gained permission to keep at least part of it. The final services in St Mary’s were held on Sunday 3 October 1880, and it was soon after demolished, leaving only the south aisle, which would be cleverly incorporated into the design of the new cathedral. ‘St Mary’s Aisle’ still serves as Truro’s central parish church.
The site available for the cathedral was cramped. St Mary’s was already an irregular shape with a small churchyard. Several buildings and properties on the northern side of the church had to be bought and demolished. You can see the results of this in the cathedral today as the choir and nave are on different axes.
Two foundation stones were laid. As well as the traditional North East corner foundation stone, another was laid in what was the churchyard of St Mary’s. The second stone was an act of faith and gave people something to aim for; if sufficient money were raised, it would be incorporated in the cathedral as the granite base of the column in the nave. You can see this today.
Between 1880-1887 a temporary wooden building was constructed where the west end of the nave now stands. This acted as a temporary cathedral during the building works.
However, in 1898, the money did indeed run out, although not before the completion of the quire, transepts and crossings. Fortunately, fund-raising re-started almost immediately, and eleven years later work re-started leading to final completion in 1910.
Different stones were used in the cathedral’s construction; Mabe granite, St Stephens granite, Bath stone, and Polyphant (Cornish soft) stone. Stone has been used for the roofs of the famous three spires, whilst slate has been used for the rest of the roofs of the cathedral except at the west end of St Mary’s Aisle where a copper spire sits over the bell tower.
The architecture of the cathedral is often likened to that of Lincoln cathedral and French cathedrals like that at Caen: a mixture of Early English (Lincoln and Salisbury) and French Gothic. Pearson had been appointed architect of Lincoln Cathedral to design and restore the north transept, part of the south-west tower, the chapterhouse and cloister. While the three simple spires are reminiscent of a French cathedral. Truro is only one of four cathedrals in the UK with three spires.
The cathedral is vaulted throughout, its magnificent gothic arch drawing your eye up to the roof on entering the building. British sculptor Nathaniel Hitch created the decorative sculpture, including the exceptional reredos.
Truro Cathedral was finally completed in 1910. John Loughborough Pearson did not live to see the completion of his masterpiece, dying in1897, although his son, Frank Loughborough Pearson, saw the project through to completion.
The architect’s original plans show that he would like to have been able to create a ‘proper’ cloister in the style of a medieval monastic cathedral, but the money was not available. The south side of the cathedral has a number of exposed joints which both hint at his ambition and act as a conceit that the cathedral has medieval origins.
A chapter house, which opened as a restaurant in 1967, was designed by John Taylor In the architectural style of the day
For our final tourist activity in Cornwall we went to the Trebah Garden (on two previous visits to Cornwall we had planned to visit and finally managed it this time). Another glorious garden; you might think we should have had our fill of gardens by now, but each one is unique and special and pleased we had taken the time to visit. What a pleasure spending the day just taking time to discover an amazing array of plants. The day was cold and windy with light rain falling intermittently but that could not diminish the joy achieved by being here.
The gardens were arrayed over many acres, down steep slopes to the beach with pathways wending their way through beautiful shrubs and trees, underpinned with glorious annual and perennial flowers. We hired a “Tramper” mobility scooter and that enabled me to explore the gardens rather than sitting and waiting while John did so.
Trebah Garden is a uniquely beautiful, wooded 25acre sub-tropical ravine garden that descends to its own beach on the beautiful Helford River.
It is the wild and magical result of 160 years of inspired and dedicated creation. The natural spring at the top of the garden drops 10ft into the Koi Pool and cascades through drifts of brightly coloured waterside plantings.
Mediterranean and southern hemisphere plants intermingle with Trebah’s groves of huge Australian tree ferns and palms. A giant plantation of gunnera and clumps of huge bamboos give this garden a unique and exotic wildness matched by no other garden in the British Isles. It has been rated as one of the best 80 gardens in the world.
Many of the plants, such as the azaleas and rhododendrons, selected for their fragrance, have been planted in drifts on the ravine sides.
The award-winning Visitor Centre houses a distinctive restaurant with a Mediterranean-style terrace, plant and gift shops.
Trebah offers the visitor a year-round experience. In early spring, Trebah comes alive with a colourful array of 100-year-old rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias; in summer, the giant gunnera is a must see for young and old. In autumn, Hydrangea Valley casts clouds of china blue and soft white across Mallard Pond and in winter, our spectacular champion trees dominate the landscape, the Bamboozle looks striking, whilst plants from the southern hemisphere can be seen flowering.
In 1831 Trebah was acquired by the Fox family and Trebah was first laid out as a pleasure garden by Charles Fox, a Quaker polymath of enormous creative energy, who paid meticulous attention to the exact positioning of every tree. His son-in-law, Edmund Backhouse, MP for Darlington, took the work further.
In 1907 Trebah was bought by Charles Hawkins Hext and inherited on his death in 1917 by his wife, Alice, who died in 1939. From 1939 to 1981 the garden fell into decline; the substantial Trebah Estate was sold off in small packages, of which the house and garden was one.
During the Second World War, Trebah was used for military purposes; the assault on Omaha Beach in Normandy was launched from Polgwidden Beach, at the foot of Trebah Garden.
Inscription on Memorial Slab at the foot of Trebah Garden: “To the officers and men of the U.S. 29th Infantry Division, who embarked from Trebah in June 1944 for the D-Day assault on Omaha Beach. We will remember them.”
One of the subsequent owners was Donald Healey, the motor car designer, who removed some of the concrete military structures and provided a boathouse on the beach.
In 1981, on their 64th birthday, Tony and Eira Hibbert bought Trebah as their retirement home and were persuaded to give up the first three years of retirement to restore the garden. Indeed, when Major Hibbert agreed to three years, little did he know it would become a quarter century. The decision, he eventually wrote, “has given us the happiest twenty-four years of our lives and had we not taken up the challenge we’d have been dead long ago of gin poisoning and boredom.”
The garden was opened to the public in 1987; by 1989 visitor numbers had reached 36,000 and the Hibbert family then gave the house, garden and cottages to the Trebah Garden Trust, a registered charity, to ensure that the garden could be preserved for future generations.
In 2000 visitor numbers had exceeded 105,000 and a £1.94 million Grant allowed Trebah to build the new ‘Hibbert Centre’, to rebuild Alice Hext’s seat, restore the nursery and carry out major landscaping and garden improvements.
We spent hours wandering and admiring the vistas that opened up before us as well as imagining how each aspect would look in the different seasons. With few visitors that day, we had most of the Garden to ourselves. The wind became quite bitter down as we moved closer to the beach, but we soon warmed up again having lunch while overlooking the Garden. A lovely way to spend our last day of this trip before catching our plane out of Heathrow tomorrow evening
Saturday, we had a smooth trip to the airport with little traffic about and that flowed smoothly. There were very few places open along the way and after trying to find somewhere to stop for lunch we ended up with an ice cream from a service station when we stopped for petrol.
We arrived at Heathrow early afternoon, returned the car, waited the bus to take us to Terminal3, checked-in and headed to the lounge for a cup of tea and a scone. At 5 o’clock it was time for a drink or two before our flight was called at 7.30pm and we took off at 8.35pm – right on time.
The flight to Singapore was smooth with most passengers settling soon after dinner (not the best meal) and then sleeping for the trip. Breakfast (again, not the best meal) was served before we landed. We were taken to the lounge for a few hours and then back to the plane for the flight to Sydney. Again dinner, sleep, breakfast; finally, we were back in Australia where Immigration, was followed by Customs and transfer to the Domestic Terminal for our flight to Canberra.
Once in Canberra we quickly located our hire car, drove to Jillian’s to pick up the groceries she had collected for us and drove straight to Buckajo. What a beautiful sight as we drove through the gate; long green grass had replaced the drought we left in December. It was great to be home – even the 14 days of isolation could not dampen the joy of being here.