After leaving Clandon Park, we headed to Polesden Lacey nearby for a restoring burst of National Trust normality. An Edwardian country retreat, it was home to famous society hostess Mrs Margaret Greville, and is presented as it would have been in her time, with her collection of furniture, paintings, porcelain and silver.
The house was completely rebuilt by Thomas Cubitt in 1824, and remodelled for the Grevilles by the architects responsible for the Ritz – hence the luxurious bathrooms!
We’re north Londoners, it turns out [for the moment at least]. I’m not quite sure why, but what it does mean is that we have the joy of Hampstead Heath on our doorstep. Every time we go we ask ourselves why we don’t go every week – I guess those National Trust properties won’t visit themselves…
After a short walk from Gospel Oak Overground station, you end up here at the top of Parliament Hill, looking out over London. Spottable are the Shard, St Pancras station, St Paul’s and other highlights of the London skyline.
Facing the other direction, though, was another popular activity – kite flying. Ostensibly for children, there were a fair few parents not too keen to give up the reins…
Fancying a day out of central London but nearby, we used our hardworking National Trust membership and headed to Osterley Park, in Isleworth. When built, Osterley was surrounded by rural countryside, but is now dissected by the M4 and the Heathrow flight path [which you’re unfortunately reminded of fairly frequently] – probably not something Robert Adam had to bear in mind…
We’re big fans of Robert Adam (as you can tell from here and here) and he remodelled this Elizabethan house in 1761 for the Child family.
The garden is typically pretty, with a very lovely Adam “garden house” in keeping with the house itself.
We took another trip to Cambridge… but this time for a wedding! Two friends, who had met while studying there at the university, decided to get married back at Magdalene College in their college chapel – understandably, as it’s really rather pretty. We decided to make a weekend of it and stayed with another member of the group nearby.
On the way to the wedding we took a quick detour through King’s College, which was looking fairly spectacular in the sunshine.
After a pretty hectic Saturday, we headed to Brighton for a day of relaxation on the beach. With the cost of the train under £15 from central London [if you go on Thameslink – there are quicker Southern trains from Victoria but they cost more], we took a morning train with croissants, strawberries and apple juice, and were ready to go by the time we reached the coast.
We avoided the stag and hen parties and walked along the pebbly beach towards the famous Pier.
We passed a Punch and Judy show, but by the time they came out to play we had continued on to discover the next excitement!
Our birthdays are six days apart, which in effect means about three weeks of continuous sociableness and fun. We thought we’d share with you a little snippet, though, of each birthday – the bits that you might like to do for yourselves (rather than have a barbecue/camping/mini-festival with my friends, which you might enjoy less than I did, for example [oi, stay on topic – this week is my birthday]).
First, it was his birthday [better]. Given our (his) [definitely our] slightly geeky propensity for transport, I booked a canal boat trip along the Regent’s Canal, from Little Venice to Camden Lock. Simply called Jason’s (both the boat and the enterprise), it trundled up the river while the owner gave us a fascinating historical commentary.
We passed lovely boats, old factories, beautiful houses, and ended up at the love-it-or-hate-it Camden Lock.
To road-test my fancy new pay-monthly National Trust membership [previously you had to pay for the full year in one go, but now you can pay by monthly direct debit: currently £5/month], we paid a long-overdue visit to Avebury in Wiltshire. You may know Avebury for the prehistoric stones, in the manner of Stonehenge – some would say Avebury is far superior! Although less impressive as a photo-op because they are more widely spread, the stones at Avebury cover a [much] bigger area and are many more in number. It’s also a wonderfully cute village [partly encircled by the stones] and contains a manor house which is also worth a visit.
Avebury Manor was chosen in 2009 by the BBC for a restoration project (The Manor Reborn) with the NT. They restored each room from a different era of its life and ownership, making it the first ‘hands on’ house – everything is touchable, which makes it a great place for children (and adults! [it’s amazing, you can even try out the beds…]) to visit. The dining room (above) is a Georgian recreation, where it’s entirely possible to sit at the table as though you were taking part in that excellent cheese course… Featuring real port too, judging by the smell! [Real, yes, but I wouldn’t advise drinking it…]
Below is a detail from Alexander Keiller‘s sitting room, in rather garish 40’s style – he was the archaeologist who excavated and restored the stones, and made Avebury the site it is today. We may have played with this camera for a fair while…
Maybe this particular weekend we were missing the countryside, or maybe we just wanted to see the more natural parts of London, but we decided to fill our weekend with flowers [urgh] and animals [better]!
We started at Hackney City Farm, which neither of us had been to before. It’s free, so definitely ticks the frugal box, but there isn’t too much there to see so not worth a long trip. With the help of the camera zoom, though, we did find some bunnies… (Common theme, we know)
We also spotted some very peaceful-looking donkeys, who were proving to be pretty popular!
I had a “fun” weekend of flat hunting, so unfortunately we didn’t have time to go anywhere this week. Instead, here are some pictures from a trip I made to Lotherton Hall while I was at home visiting my parents over Christmas.
The hall is an Edwardian house and country estate, which is also home to a bird garden with an impressive selection of over 130 different species.
This was an unexpectedly fun day. With no real plans, we checked a few of our favourite sources for inspiration (we’ll do a post on these soon).
We found a series of sessions called Daylight Music at the gorgeous Union Chapel in Islington. From 12 noon, they have an eclectic mix of up-and-coming artists. This was our first visit, but we imagine it encompasses quite a range of genres, and also features a pretty amazing café at the back, with proceeds going towards a homeless charity. They serve endless cups of tea, home-baked cakes and bacon sandwiches [!!!], with an informal atmosphere. We saw the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment‘s Experience ensemble perform Haydn, a slightly too intense guitarist/singer/songwriter, and The Swingles (previously the Swingle Singers), in an amazing line-up (which, to be fair, isn’t a typical weekly occurrence!).
The OAE performed brilliantly, but the Swingles were the real highlight. They sang some of their well-known material and some new, but they interestingly described their technique of live looping, where they sing something once and their sound engineer instantly records it and replays it. This enables them to layer their vocals even further and develop their rich sound.