Standen in the springtime

Now that the sun is (sporadically) here, the days are getting longer and flowers are starting to appear, we’ve decided it’s officially springtime and time for us to start exploring again! And where else to start but Standen House, a National Trust property near East Grinstead in Surrey.

An Arts and Crafts property, the house was designed by Philip Webb, a friend of William Morris. It was designed in keeping with the Arts and Crafts aesthetic, where the everyday domestic object was exalted through thoughtful and pleasing design, and thus William Morris’s Golden Rule: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. This stunning coffee table showed this perfectly [I love the geometric patterns].

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The Golden Age: a trip to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre

Although we do love a steam train, this wasn’t actually our choice of trip, but a family birthday celebration. It was also exceptionally cold, so I wasn’t sure what to expect on a freezing and grey Sunday morning! However, the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre turned out to be a great place to visit, for all ages – and conveniently close to London too.

There is so much to see, but if you like a map with suggested routes, a list of attractions or a guided tour, you won’t get it here. There are trains [and more] everywhere, at varying stages of repair and restoration, some open to visitors, some in use and some looking like they’ve been forgotten about. There is obviously a large team of committed volunteers working to bring these huge machines back to their former glory, which is great to see.

There were some truly sumptuous carriages, showing just how possible it was to truly travel in style [a far cry from a modern commute…]. Also on display was the specially-designed carriage used by Winston Churchill as he travelled across the country during the War; the intricacies of D-Day might well have been planned in that train.

There was even a working steam train, though its route was limited to a few hundred yards and back [they go back and forth twice to make you feel like you’ve had more of a trip]. The interior of the train was fascinating though, making you feel like the heroine of a WWI film, featuring compartment carriages with blinds to pull down and seating facing each other; perfect for a romantic rendezvous, if super awkward in the wrong situation. [You can also treat yourself to the added comfort of First Class!]

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A restorative visit to Polesden Lacey

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.

Polesden Lacey

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!

Taps at Polesden Lacey

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The ashes of Clandon Park

Today we’re coming to you with a bit of a different post. You know how we love our days out to National Trust houses; beautiful furniture, textiles, cups of tea in the café and walking amongst gorgeous gardens. But this time we made a pilgrimage to a place that, very recently, had all the above. Now, however, it has none.

On 29th April, 2015, Clandon Park was struck down by a devastating fire, which moved through the house more quickly than anyone thought possible. The fire destroyed the entire interior of the house; walls, floors, staircases, leaving a shell.

Clandon Park

The fire spread from the basement, and is thought to be an electrical fire, although no-one is entirely certain. One room in the house survived relatively intact; there are no photos online, and we were unable to get that close, but miraculously it looks to be nearly as it was (save extensive water damage from the hoses).

Clandon Park

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A Sunday at the seaside – day trip to Brighton

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.

Deckchairs on Brighton beach

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!

Punch and Judy in Brighton

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Chichester Cathedral 

With J still away in Durham this weekend, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me again as I share some pictures from another weekend away singing, this time in the beautiful Chichester.

Chichester cathedral

Chichester Cathedral is adorned with some stunning artwork, including this vibrant reredos. 

Main altar at Chichester cathedral

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Cambridge at night

By the time we reached Cambridge itself, had done some wandering and had a pleasant late lunch at Harriet’s (great food, less great service) [they have a pianist though!], it was starting to get dark. An excellent opportunity to practise some night photography techniques, including some long-exposure shots of the Cam – punts included…

View from Magdalen Bridge at night

He even managed to capture some beautifully soft light quality (I think, anyway!) in this shot, taken of Mathematical Bridge at Queens’ College.

Mathematicians Bridge at night

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American War Cemetery, Cambridge

So we decided another trip to Cambridge was in order, to give us a bit more time to explore. First on our list, and a rather sombre start to the day, was the American War Cemetery. Commemorating a large number of Americans killed in the Second World War alone [almost 4,000 people are buried here, and many more whose bodies were never found are memorialised on the Great Wall], it was exceptionally peaceful, beautiful and immaculately-kept – a fitting tribute to the surprisingly (for me, at least) huge sacrifice that country made.

Leaves amongst crosses at American War Cemetery

It was also a wonderful time of year to visit, with the brightly-coloured autumn leaves adorning the gravestones. Inside the Chapel, there was a concept map of the various air and naval attacks the Allies undertook. Although interesting in content, it was the execution and craftsmanship of this enormous map that really stood out.

Air Operations model in American War Cemetery chapel

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A rea-Ely pretty cathedral

As we’ve mentioned before, we’re musical types. This is great, because it takes us to some of the country’s most gorgeous cities and cathedrals. Last weekend, we were in Ely – not somewhere I’d ever been to before [I’d sung there once before when at university, although I’d forgotten just how stunning the cathedral is]. It’s one of those places that isn’t much of a city beside its cathedral; nonetheless there were some great pubs and places to while away our (limited) free time.

More noteworthy, though, was the cathedral. Oh wow. I have a book on the world’s cathedrals (yup, I’m cool like that) and this place makes the cover. We went on a tour of the roof and up into the Octagon tower, so were lucky enough to see the views from above as well as below. To anyone visiting Ely, we’d definitely recommend the tour – £8 well spent, with a fascinating and lovely guide, and access to some breathtaking parts of the building.

The main quire, with rood screen and altar behind:

View into Ely cathedral quire

Quite a colourful cathedral, apparently the Victorians restored the original colours – amazing to think all cathedrals were this vibrant when newly completed!

Ceiling of Ely cathedral nave

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Bekonscot – a model day out

We headed to Bekonscot Model Village with some family last weekend. Ever been? It’s well worth a visit if you’re into small-scale, intricate and seriously detailed…

Dating back to the 1930s, Bekonscot feels like a wonderfully traditional day out that hasn’t changed much since it was originally conceived. Apparently a much more widely-spread and popular pasttime, the idea of the model village was brought to Beaconsfield, Hertfordshire by a wealthy accountant with a very large back garden, who intended it merely to amuse him and his guests. He opened it to the public a number of years later.

Bunting

There are six model villages within the miniature landscape, all built to 1:12 scale. They include wonderful details, some great punning names and a very English approach to life.

Cricket

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