A Travellerspoint blog

October 2010

Butlins for Crumblies

sunny 14 °C

We’re now on our way to Delhi and spent our last night in England in this enormous Tudor mansion just west of London.
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But we were not the only guests this time. You don’t need a gilt-edged invitation from the Lord of the Manor to get in here; just a pension and a fat wallet. This great house, where King Henry VIII wooed Jane Seymour in 1536, has been converted into an up-market holiday camp for crumblies, (Britspeak for seniors). It’s just like a Butlin’s holiday camp of the 1950s, without the redcoats, the camp beds and the crappy food. How things have changed! The grey-haired oldies staying here today are probably the same people who stayed at Butlin’s, but now they have four-poster beds, haute cuisine and ballroom dancing. We would have stayed longer but worried that we might get used to it. Anyway, India awaits – please meet us in Delhi in a few days.
In the meantime, here’s one of the great oaks in the grounds – quintessentially England.
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If you would like to see some lovely photos of Britain, check out this web-site:
www.britainfromtheair.com

Posted by Hawkson 02:50 Archived in England Comments (3)

Ship Shape in Bristol

sunny 14 °C

Last week’s maiden voyage of the luxurious Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth, marked a milestone in Britain’s naval heritage and follows in the wake of such historic vessels as: The Mayflower, Beagle, Victory, and Cutty Sark. Yet this is actually one of the world’s greatest maritime marvels and we bet you’ve never heard of her.
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She’s the SS. Great Britain and was the largest ship in the world when she began regular service to Australia in 1845, but she wasn’t carrying shackled convicts - no gruel and hardtack here. The food was said to be as fine as any served in London’s greatest restaurants. Here’s the first class dining room…
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The Great Britain was an incredible leap forward in maritime innovation at a time when wooden sailing ships had changed little for thousands of years. Not only was the Great Britain made entirely of iron plate, but she was powered by the biggest steam engine in the world. Here’s the propeller…
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She had many incarnations in her lifetime and was finally abandoned in the Falklands in 1937. After many ignominious years as a coal hulk she was refloated in 1970 and returned to the dock in Bristol which had been built specifically for her construction. Now, restored to her former glory, she is a wondrous reminder of Britain’s maritime history.

Posted by Hawkson 02:48 Archived in England Comments (0)

Cast in Stone

sunny 13 °C

From the giant stone pillars at Stonehenge, the Roman baths in Bath, and the elegant Georgian squares of London, five thousand years of English history has been carved in English stone. However, on our travels across southern England we’ve come across some smaller, but equally significant, stone artifacts that have survived as reminders of life in a bygone age.
Do you know what these buildings and objects were for?

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All small towns had one of these, usually in the middle of a river bridge.
Answer - It is a lock-up where prisoners and drunks were held till the magistrate arrived.
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There were many of these roadside buildings – a few are still in use.
Answer - a tollgate.
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This could be a tight squeeze in Jersey.
Answer - an apple press for cider making.
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This is a “squint” but what was it for?
Answer - Squints were let into the wall high above the main rooms in medieval houses. The master, or a guard, could look down on the guests through the squint's mouth to make sure that no enemies were present. Hence the term, "Take a squint'"
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Thirsty? Neigh!
Answer - a horse trough.
This week’s prize is tea in Tiverton with a Tiller Girl - airfare not included. (Sorry we can’t arrange lunch with a lord).
The winner is Roy with the highest score - get packing Roy... tea awaits.

Posted by Hawkson 01:16 Archived in England Comments (3)

Tea in Tiverton and Lunch with a Lord

sunny 15 °C

We've been to Devon - "God's wonderful country" according to the locals. And it is certainly beautiful. The warm Gulf Stream air sweeps in off the Atlantic and turns the fertile red soil into lush pastures for dairy cattle. Devon is famous for its cream and here is Sheila enjoying a real Devon tea of scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam in a Tiverton Tea Shoppe, circa 1678.
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But we were not in Tiverton to enjoy ourselves. The ancient country town is the childhood home of actor/director Antony Holland, so we were meeting people from his past, including Dorothy, a delightful 92 year-old who played opposite Antony in a 1940 production of Emlyn Williams' "Night Must Fall." Such a meeting would have made our trip worthwhile in itself, but there was more - much more. In the annals of unforgettable moments it might not come close to having a baby or winning the lottery, but we had tea with a Tiller Girl and lunch with a lord.
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This is Irene , together with Antony Holland’s youngest brother, Kaye, her husband of 58 years. Irene used to be a Tiller Girl … and she made us some very tasty cheese on toast. For our Canuck friends: The Tiller Girls were a glamorous troupe of dancing girls who dominated British variety shows in the 50s and 60s. Their home was the giant stage at the London Palladium but television regularly brought them into every living room in the country. They could have been the girls next door … only with much longer legs, figures of angels and looks to die for … and they set millions of pulses racing as they high-kicked their way across the nation’s TVs week after week.
So, we had tea with a Tiller Girl in Tiverton. And, if that wasn’t enough, it was followed the next day by lunch with a real English Lord. This is his splendid stately home…
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This manorial mansion was built in 1420 and it is reputed that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn watched bowls being played on this lawn…
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… while William Tyndale translated parts of the Latin bible into English here in the early 1500s.

Many of England’s great country estates are open to the public, but don’t expect a welcome if you turn up here without a gilt-edged invitation. However, Sir Victor, Baronet Killearn, son of the British Ambassador in Cairo during the war, rolled out the red carpet for us. He gave us the grand tour – here’s the splendid great hall…
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…and showed us around the extensive grounds.
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Then his staff served us a wonderful lunch of pork in mustard sauce with fresh garden vegetables, plum crumble and cream, and a decanter of vintage wine. What a day!!
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Thank you Victor, (we’re on first name terms now we’ve been to lunch).

Posted by Hawkson 02:51 Archived in England Comments (3)

Life on Dartmoor

sunny 17 °C

We only spent a day on the desolate, mist-shrouded, moors of Devon, while many have been trapped for life behind these imposing granite walls...
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This is the infamous and supposedly inescapable prison at Princetown on Dartmoor. It was built in 1809 to house “Yankee” prisoners from the War of Independence in America and “Froggies” from the war with Napoleon in France.

Few men have ever escaped from this prison and those who have scaled the thirty-foot walls have been faced with miles of treacherous bogs and bone-chilling winds on the high moors. But, for us, the Devonian moors offered a starkly beautiful landscape criss-crossed by rushing brooks and meandering streams. This simple stone bridge at Postbridge has carried men and their beasts across this river since medieval times...
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…while this wild pony is perfectly happy to paddle in one of the cool spring-fed ponds that dot the stony landscape.
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Almost every moorland structure here is stone and most are very old. These beautiful colonnaded almshouses in Mortenhampstead were built in 1637 as a Lepers' hospital…
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…and this ancient stone bridge was built long before Canada was a word.
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We are now headed for Plymouth to put the locals right about the Mayflower! So much history …and so little time.

Posted by Hawkson 03:31 Archived in England Comments (2)

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