Outing Reports 2021

Three outings were held in later summer and early autumn as coronavirus restrictions were eased.  Take a look at the photos taken by members on these three outings.

22nd July - RHS Wisley
We were all looking forward to the first outing for 21 months.  I wondered how the new entry arrangements at Wisley would work but they were excellent.  The shop and plant shop by the entrance is now massive.

It was a wonderful sunny summer's day but so hot one dived from shade to shade.  The enormous, air-conditioned glasshouse was mostly cooler than the outside.  There is a mixture of the 'wild' - meadows, woods - and the immaculately cultivated lawns, beds, well-brushed paths and specimen plants.  But hardly a weed in sight:  how many gardeners must they employ!

Everything at Wisley is on a huge scale.  Their borders are as wide as many suburban gardens.  There were enormous areas of lavender and thyme.  There are many exotic areas as well as native plantings.  There were also several surprises.  Their 'ordinary' fuchsias were in the glasshouse, although they do as well outside in Upminster.  Their orchards must have suffered from an untimely spring frost because many trees, apples and pears were devoid of fruit.

Eventually, after exploring many and varied areas, I sat down in the shade exhausted, enjoyed the view across the water-lily garden and rested before the journey home.  Of course, we ran into a traffic jam on the M25 before the M20 junction, but that was a  minor inconvenience after a glorious day out.  Thank you Diana for organising it and John for looking after us.

17th August - Stamford and Belvoir Castle
It was quite apt that, having endured 18 months of Covid, our first full coach trip for 2 years was to a town built on Roman Ermine Street that had thrived for centuries despite invasions, plagues, wars and even film crews.

Having disembarked at the bus station we gradually descended meandering past beautiful Georgian buildings, medieval churches and a glimps of the river.  Stamford (Stanford in Domesday) means stony ford so we continued our downward journey, went over the bridge, admired the almshouses - originally Lord Burghley's hospital - and their beautiful flower displays and entered the ancient George Hotel, thought to be 1,000 years old.  Fortunately the cakes, coffee and hot chocolate were fresh and delicious.  Suitably sustained, we returned uphill and enjoyed window shopping and admiring the architecture en route to the coach to continue our journey.

At the site of Belvoir Casltle was originally chosen in Norman times for its lofty strategic position to quell the natives, it has an amazing panoramic view - hence the name - we were fortunate to have Stuart as our driver to negotiate the narrow lanes and the twisting drive.

The Manners family, who have lived here since 1508 and also own Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, chose their staff wisely.  We were warmly welcomed - even the fire had been lit - and everyone we met was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable and had a sense of humour.

We loved the beautiful state room and art work displayed.  Afternoon tea was invented here by Anna, Duchess of Bedfored, who felt a snack was needed in the long afternoon before dinner.  Or was it that she needed the energy to leap onto the very high beds for her afternoon nap?  We enjoyed the house and conversations with the staff so much that we never made it to the gardens.  However, I can vouch for the view but I'm actually rather pleased that the locals rejected the French name and stuck to "Beaver" Castle.

15th September - Norwich and East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden
We reached Norwich on time but then spent an exciting half hour Grand Tour exploring the many road works, road narrowings, one-way systems and impossible tight turnings in the town centre maze in an attempt to reach the stopping place near the castle.  It reminded me of the children's games such as The Great Game of Britain in which one tries to prevent your opponents reaching their destinations by rail or road by inserting road bloacks, cancellatoins or other obstacles.  Consequently, time allowed only for a meal before setting off through the tranquil rural scenery characterising east Norfolk to the gardens.

The gardens are unusual, probably unique, in being a set of dozens of gardens separated by high hedges with arches, gateways and other entrances between.  They are also separated by avenues with vistas of East Ruston church and Happisburgh church and lighthouse (locally pronounced as 'Haseboro' - Carol spent childhood holidays on a farm there).

Many gardens begin to look shabby in September, with dying vegetation and little colourful bloom, but not this.  Despite having no autumn borders and not many late summer or autumn plants such as fuchsias or chrysanthemums and dahlias, the gardens were still attractive with very late blooming summer plants such as hydrangeas plus some unusual plants.  The most spectacular of these were daturas, but also many that I could not name.  There was also much topiary giving year-round interest to the gardens. 

The tea room was replete with delicious cakes, so afer a naughty tea, we set off around the gardens again.  32 acres defeated the stoutest hear, probably it needed a whole day to go round everything.  Clearly Victorian vicars did themselves proud although the present gardens are a recent creation.  We had a smooth journey home, so it was well worth the long trip;  several members commented that it was the best garden they had every visited.