Outing Reports 2023

Another new season of outings to towns and gardens to explore.   Members' reports on these outings are given below.  Also take a look at some of the photographs taken by some of our members.

Bressingham 19th April

The first trip of the year I think would be very hard to beat going to Bressingham. Starting when a very modern and comfortable coach turned up with the driver Phil who was a pleasure and as usual Martin full of information and fun

As soon as we arrived the sun came out for the day which is always a bonus. The gardens were so beautiful and would be so worth a second visit in the summer when more flowers would be out also the visit to Foggy Bottom with the tall trees and pond and seats to enjoy the views.

I was also so happy on the (126 year old) carousel with some of our club members which made us feel like kids again. When was the last time anyone was on one?

The two steam train rides were wonderful going around the gardens (ideal if you cannot walk far) and the driver told me that Alan Bloom, who started the gardens in 1953 and who died aged 98 in 2005, had long grey hair and earrings being a proper hippy.

The exhibition of very old steam trains included one which was used by members of the royal household and Prince Charles and was furnished out with bedrooms, a bathroom and lounge and I was pleased to see a youngster on top of a train cleaning it whom I praised. Another was an old mail carriage with the old post shelving.

Another bonus was the Dad’s Army Museum with the beautiful and perfectly maintained vehicles including Corporal Jones butcher’s van and the fire engine and army car. You could watch a TV episode of Dad’s Army if you had the time.

We also had a very good bunch of club members and had some good laughs. I would like to praise the club for the way it normally splits the trips into two but today at Bressingham was an exception; we needed the whole day to enjoy it.  Also praise the tipping of the driver and raffle being included unlike other clubs.

And as usual a big thanks to lovely Diana for all the work she puts in organising the outings.

Maldon and Hylands Flower Show 19th May

With the coach park at the bottom of a hill we had a steep walk to get to the town but it was worth it. Maldon was an Anglia in Bloom’s Gold Award winner & Most Improved Entry 2015 with some beautifully colourful front gardens keeping up the standard. Today Maldon is probably best known for its salt and red sail barges. Back downhill towards the Hythe is St Mary's church sometimes called the fisherman’s church or the Mariner’s beacon. The white steeple was a navigational aid for sailors returning from the open sea as they sailed up the river Blackwater. Maldon was once a busy port with up to 2,000 barges taking goods along to England’s east & south coast & abroad to France, Belgium, the Netherlands & Scandinavia. The last working barge sailed in the 1960s.  Blackwater is the largest estuary in Essex. Where the sea water & freshwater river meets, up to West Mersea, is a 5,538 hectares biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Promenade park (opened in 1895) runs along one side of the Blackwater estuary. After a quick stroll to see the formal garden & lakes it was time to get back on the coach.

Our second stop was the National Flower Show at Hylands House. What a treat! In the house there was a wonderful display of flower arrangements on the theme of Dr Dolittle. Displays featured a parrot, cat, orangutang, flamingo and many others.

On such a sunny day it was pleasure browsing the outside stalls selling alpines, bedding plants, bulbs, shrubs, palms, fruit trees, house plants, herbs & more; something for everyone. With hot tubs, an enormous range of garden furniture, accessories & statuary to admire you could have spent a fortune. For me the most remarkable was a BBQ cabin. Complete with cooking equipment, crockery, cutlery & reindeer skin throws the smallest one was a snip at around £6,500 up to over £10,000 depending on the size - you could choose your own roof colour; bargain!

Thanks to Diana for another well planned lovely day out.

Lewes and Arundel Castle 20th June

We woke the morning of the outing to thunderstorm, lightning, and heavy rain. Not what you want for a coach outing after all the beautiful weather we had been having. However the coach driver promised sunny weather when we arrived at Lewes and he was not wrong. Because of the narrow roads in Lewes it was difficult for the coach to get to the coach park. However after a drive round the town with various items pointed out, such as Anne Cleves Museum which was unfortunately closed, we arrived at the coach park. The old town of Lewes has medieval streets and tiny “twittens” which is a Sussex word for alleyways that run between the roads. The streets are quite steep and the town is dominated by the remains of a 1066 Norman castle. However we managed to find refreshments before boarding the coach to go to Arundel Castle.

The Castle stands high above the sky line and is a very impressive castle and grounds. The castle was commenced in 1067 but between 1870 and 1890 the house was renovated and newly rebuilt in the Gothic style and is considered to be one of the great works of the Victorian era.

Surrounding the castle are beautiful award-winning gardens. As you walk up to the castle there is a fragrant rose garden to your left and other formal gardens to wander around within the grounds. The gardens included the Collector Earl’s Garden, Tropical Garden, Flower Garden, Kitchen Garden and the very unusual Stumpery Gardens. A wonderful collection of gardens for everyone to explore. If people were brave enough to walk to the top of the castle keep, they could see a marvellous view of the gardens and surrounding area including, in the distance, Littlehampton. However the staircase up to the top was very narrow and not easily accessible.

We left Arundel at 5pm and had a good run home until reaching the M25 carpark. However this did not deter everyone from having a great day out with sunny weather.

Grantham and Grimsthorpe Castle and Gardens 19th July

Cloudy skies but a warm welcome as we boarded the coach. We headed north to Lincolnshire and the start of our tale of two destinations.

As we approached Grantham, John gave an interesting introduction to the town from its medieval origins into a thriving town. There was so much to see in our 1½ hour slot and the dilemma was where to start. However as we alighted from the coach there was such a deluge of rain so an immediate decision was to dash into the nearest café for coffee and planning.

Braving the elements, we spotted the dripping statues of famous people of the area notably Isaac Newton who had attended school in Grantham and the local grocer’s daughter Margaret Thatcher. Heading for the High Street there were glimpses of period properties that were well restored with some signs and blue plaques of their history. Then the climax of our walk back in time was reaching Saint Wulfram’s Church. A church has stood on this site for over a thousand years. The current edifice dates back to 15th century with a magnificent 286ft tower. The interior is vast and filled with light from ancient and modern stained glass windows. From pilgrims of the past to worshippers and visitors today it maintains its description as “the Glory of Grantham”.

A short onward journey and we arrived at Grimsthorpe Castle and its extensive parklands . The sun shone so it was a wonderful opportunity to explore the beautifully maintained gardens. The intricate parterre formed with box hedges and planted with flowers attracted bees and butterflies. There are formal flower gardens, a topiary garden and swathes of herbaceous borders give views to the lakes. The ornamental vegetable garden deserves a special mention for its produce, colour and combination planting but sadly not being picked and eaten. We resisted the inviting walking trails so there was time to explore the magnificent house.

Grimsthorpe Castle has been occupied by the descendants of the Willoughby family for hundreds of years. In 1516 King Henry VIII gifted the 11th Lord Willoughby the hereditary title of Barony of Willoughby de Eresby to mark his wedding to the lady in waiting to Katharine of Aragon.

The royal connection continues with the family granted the office of Lord Great Chamberlain as the Monarch’s representative at the Palace of Westminster. This explains the unusual collection of thrones displayed in the sumptuous rooms. In the long gallery there are paintings and portraits recording coronation events such as King George 1V coronation ceremony in 1821. The current owner was a lady in waiting at Queen Elizabeth II coronation in 1953. We were shown the bedroom where Prince Charles and Camilla had stayed whilst attending Prince William’s passing out parade at nearby RAF Cranwell.

The stewards in each room were most knowledgeable about this historic house and its amazing collections but also sharing with visitors that it remains a family home.

Our thanks to Diana Pennell for introducing us to Grantham and Grimsthorpe.

Oxford and Waterperry Gardens 10th August

The weather was perfect for our day out. Unfortunately, the M25 was very sluggish so we arrived at Oxford a bit later than anticipated. Our drop off point was the Ashmolean Museum, which was founded by Elias Ashmole in 1683. It boasts the title of being the world’s first public museum. As tempting as it was to look around we decided to find somewhere to eat. We passed so many wonderful old buildings; every street was a delight with something interesting to look at. Eventually we found a pub and was served an excellent lunch, then it was time to go back to the coach.

From there we travelled to Waterperry Gardens, which is located seven and a half miles from Oxford city centre. The gardens were made famous by Beatrix Havergal who established her School of Horticulture for Ladies back in 1932. It was in existence up to 1971. However, students concentrated on food production rather than growing flowers.

We came across a beautiful 200-foot-long herbaceous border, crammed with plants of various heights and colours. Another border was packed full of different varieties of dahlias, they looked absolutely stunning. I particularly liked the walled garden, as it included many types of fruit and vegetables. There were lots of areas to explore and the river walk was very peaceful and relaxing.

I was disappointed with the rose garden as some of the beds seemed a bit sparse, and many of the rose bushes didn’t have many flowers in bloom. Who knows, this might be attributed to the weather conditions last year?

After taking a look at the orchards (five acres), we paid a visit to the lovely Saxon Church in the grounds. It still had its original 13th century stained glass windows and there was a wooden board on the wall listing the clergy from 1235. We were pretty worn out by now so stopped for some light refreshments in the tea shop before wandering around the garden shop and museum. Then it was time to get back on the coach to head home. A lovely day out.

Eastbourne and Herstmonceux Castle and Gardens 19th September

A visit to Eastbourne is usually very enjoyable, but on the day of our visit, it seemed that autumn was here with a vengeance. Consequently, the cold wind and threatening rain drove most of our group into the cafés for a warming beverage.

In the event the rain held off, and the subsequent visit to Herstmonceux castle proved to be a delight, particularly to people such as myself who had not been before.

The first view of the moated castle is quite arresting. Unlike many castles in England it is in good condition, but surprisingly is built almost entirely in brick, with just the crenellation in stone. Upon arrival, we were met by a member of staff who gave us an interesting and informative talk about the history of the castle. We learnt that it was originally the large fortified home of Sir Roger Fiennes. After being dismantled in the 18th century, the castle remained abandoned and derelict before being restored and extended in the 1930s.

Sadly, we were not allowed access to the castle, as it is now the UK arm of Queen’s University in Canada, but of course, our main interest on the day was the gardens. The timing of the visit was perfect, as the vast majority of the flowers, shrubs and trees were still in full bloom. The variety, moreover, was exceptional, with the estate made up of about eight themed gardens, such as the rose garden, Shakespeare garden, apothecary garden, magic garden, and a wildflower meadow. The apothecary garden was fascinating, in that each plant was described as being beneficial in the treatment of everything from gout to sciatica - enough cures to make doctors and pharmacists redundant.   An unexpected attraction was the number of unusual statues dotted around the gardens.

As on so many previous occasions, thanks must go to all those who organised the outing, to John Clay for leading us, and to Warren, our friendly and dependable driver.

RHS Hyde Hall 'Glow' - 8th December

What a magical evening. Our journey to Hyde Hall passed smoothly and an RHS young lady boarded the coach on arrival to detail all of the facilities of the Glow experience. 

After a leisurely beverage in the café, we joined a gentle stream of visitors ambling up the easy slope to the hilltop, stopping frequently to take in the eye-catching lights and to photograph the wonderful shapes and myriad colours. At the summit some warming meals were being offered for those needing sustenance. What a perfect night we enjoyed with clear skies and hardly a breeze which allowed such good views for the descent. With the majority of mature trees, with their impressive framework, up-lighted against a dark night-time background and many of the grasses and shrubs also bathed in so many colours it was truly a spectacle to observe. Even the open areas adorned with rows of coloured lights changed seemly at random to different hues. Pleasant background music could be heard approaching the outside seating area which offered warming snacks and drinks. 

On the way back to the entrance beautifully woven living willow stems were observed moulded into wonderful shapes. Returning to the café for some more hot drinks it was good to share our experiences of the evening with some of the other members of the group. Everyone, without exception, was enthralled by this winter experience.