Visit to Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery and Whitchurch Silk Mill on 6th March 2019

Waiting for our coach was not very pleasant as it was a damp morning but thankfully the coach was early and we were able to board before getting too wet.  After a short local detour to avoid traffic queues on the A40 we had a good journey to Laverstock.  Time was built into our visit to allow for refreshments on arrival.  The temporary café, a double decker bus, was quite a novel sight.  Suitably refreshed we were split into two groups. My group guide was Helen, who was witty, funny and very knowledgeable.  She made the point that of the normal shop price of £22, the Government took £12, so it was in our own interests to “keep on drinking”. Part of the tour was to the Aroma Room, where there were 22 glass jars with lids.  We were asked to smell the contents (called Botanicals) of each jar and any that we liked mark on a card that we had been given;  from this Helen was able to suggest which Gin based cocktail might suit us, when we reached the bar at the end of the tour. There was a choice 10 alcoholic and 2 alcohol free, and all agreed that whatever they tried, they were very nice.  

In the Doomsday Book it shows that Laverstock Mill was a corn mill. In 1719 the mill was converted into a hand-made paper mill.   The site was later expanded and was used to manufacture bank notes. Laverstoke Mill has been under the ownership of William the Conqueror, Henry VIII and enjoyed four royal visits, most recently Queen Elizabeth in 1962.  Bombay Sapphire is now part of the Bacardi group of companies.

Bombay Sapphire’s heritage begins in 1761 when distiller Thomas Dakin purchased a site in Warrington, with the intention of distilling gin. In 1831, having moved to Laverstock, the Dakin’s purchased a second still, and adapted it so that instead of adding the botanicals to the still they were used to flavour the Gin by capturing the flavours in the vapour as it passed through a second chamber – this is known as Vapour Infusion, and still faithfully used by Bombay Sapphire today.

At Laverstoke, every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the processes and buildings are as ecologically sustainable and efficient as possible. In recognition of this the distillery has been awarded the highly prestigious BREEAM Award for Industrial Design in 2014. 

The second visit of the day was to Whitchurch Silk Mill.  There being only a very limited café facility, we were nevertheless able to enjoy our packed lunches in a private room where we could also get Coffee and Tea. After lunch, we were split into 2 groups and taken round the site by tour guides.

Whitchurch Silk Mill was built on land owned by the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral. We know quite a lot about the different owners of the Mill but, unfortunately, the Mill records were destroyed by fire in 1955, making it very hard to know much about the number of employees, their wages and conditions through history.  What we do know, is that during the troubles in Europe in the early 17th Century many Huguenots’ came to England a few of whom came to Whitcurch and set up this mill. We were shown how the raw silk was turned into cloth and the various patterns, thickness of material, and colour combinations could be used to produce the very fine silk goods that we see today.  The cocoons are initially imported through Sudbury in Suffolk and distributed to this and other mills in UK.

The weaving machines are original ones that have been in use for well over 100yrs. The whole manufacturing process is very labour intensive which accounts for the high cost of Silk products.  The only cheap bit is the use of the waters of the river Test which drives the Water Wheel and through a system of gears, and belts etc the machines them-selves.

The journey home was trouble free, and despite a poor weather day, a good time was had by all.

Thank you to Henry for the article and to Janice, Martin and Frank for the photographs. (There are several similar but they are inclusive to those that submitted photographs).

Outing to Waddesdon on 5th December 2018

Visit to Waddesdon Manor Christmas Carnival 5th December 2018

Waddesdon was purchased in 1874. Since this time members of the Rothschild family have taken it in turns to improve and develop the estate. On arrival we were met and given badges (instead of tickets) and maps and then transported from the car park, by buses to the House. Unfortunately, it was not good weather for our trip to Waddesdon.  We are normally so lucky with the weather and have often wondered what it would be like to make a visit on a wet day.  Today we found out; we were all dressed in our wet weather clothes and enjoyed and made the most of the day.  Apart from visiting the Manor House  with its Festive decorations we went to see the Winter Lights and explore over 80 Christmas market stalls.  There were samples to taste of mulled wine, cheese and caramel to name just a few.  There were plenty of opportunities to sit and enjoy the festive foods.  From dusk there  was a light trail full of movement, sound and light.  The front of the Manor house was bathed in lights of changing colours.  By the stables was a tunnel of light and a projected light show onto the walls. Inside the Manor the rooms were decorated from floor to ceiling with dazzling lights and Christmas trees.  The East Wing and Bachelor Wing were most impressive, while some rooms were closed for cleaning. Fortunately, our driver stayed on the coach so that we could return and sit in the dry.  Some did this while others stayed until the return time home. Both journeys were good  and quite quick.  In spite of the weather the visit was enjoyed.  Pam

Visit to Classical Extravaganza at The Royal Albert Hall Thursday 22nd November 18

As usual, the trip to the Classical Spectacular at the Royal Albert Hall was looked forward to with excited enthusiasm, especially those who had not been to the Royal Albert Hall before let alone  the Classical Extravaganza.

The journey to London was good.  The driver was able to drop us off and wait right outside the Albert Hall.  This was so convenient and eliminated the hunt for the coach in the main road after the concert, as so often happens.  The journey home was a different matter, roads works etc making the journey over 2 hours.

The members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by John Rigby, were their usual brilliant selves and ably supported by the Royal Choral Society and a band of retired Military Musicians.

The atmosphere inside the Albert Hall was exhilarating as we enjoyed an evening of good music culminating with the usual patriotic music and songs that we all love so much.

We were treated to a plethora of well-known, and popular music from Grieg, Rossini, Sousa, Bixet, Holst, Pachelbel and Suppe.  The Orchestra and choir really excelled with their rendition of Finlandia. There was a standing ovation for Peter Auty (tenor), after he sang Nessun Dorma.  The highlight was the Benedictus by Jenkins which was first performed in public in this Hall in 1999.  The Cello Soloist was particularly good.

The 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, brought to an end an evening of  superb musical entertainment.  Despite knowing that the cannons and firearms would burst forth at a certain point in the music, many were caught out and jumped at the suddenness of the of the muskets and cannons being fired. Many were amused at being startled by the noise from both sides of the auditorium.

As an encore the Classical Spectacular Dancers brought a smile to our faces, as they danced the Can-Can .

After the finale a large net released many hundreds of red, white and blue balloons on to the audience.  Not many survived the popping frenzy that followed.

Without exception we all had a great night out with Carterton U3A,  and many thanks to Pam Howard for her impeccable organisation. 

Henry Howard

Outing to Avoncroft Museum and Webbs of Wychbold 30th October 2018

The morning was cold with a biting wind, which was not ideal as our first visit was mainly in the open-air.  Sensibly we were all wrapped up warm. We had a very good journey to the Museum and arrived before they opened.  The staff however were very pleasant and allowed us to enter the booking office and shop to stay in the warm.  By the time we had used the facilities the café was open where we enjoyed pastries and tea or coffee which had been ordered before the visit.

Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings is an open-air museum of rescued buildings which have been relocated to its site in Stoke Heath in Worcestershire. All of the buildings were threatened with demolition or neglect. In moving them to the Avoncroft Museum grounds, every effort has been made to retain as much of the original structure as possible.  It now has over 30 different structures and buildings which have been salvaged and re-built.  The Museum is spread over a large site and includes period gardens, a wild flower meadow and a Perry orchard. A mission Church, Threshing barn, Windmill, Ice house, Showman’s wagon, a Spire, and a Cottage and Forge, were are just a few of the buildings and structures to be seen.

Our second venue was Webbs of Wychbold which was only a 5-minute journey away.  This is where most people queued up to buy and enjoy lunch.

Webbs is one of the biggest garden centres in the UK. They cater for all garden and home needs; and at this time of the year they have a fabulous and extensive Christmas range of goods and Christmas displays.  Everything for an inspirational visit. Situated within and adjoining is a large Lakelands and Hobbycraft.  They were in the process of constructing a Christmas Grotto and ice-rink.

For half-term, at both venues, children were well catered for with pumpkin trails and competitions things to find Halloween related items. The gardens alongside the river, at Webbs, although not a lot of colour left were pleasant to walk through. 

Returning to our coach at 4pm it was an opportunity to rest our feet and legs on our very good journey home.  Two very different locations visited which had something for everyone.  Pam

Outing to Tewkesbury and GWR Toddington 20th September 2018

The morning was wet and grey, most unusual for our day trips as it is usually sunny and warm.  Our coach was early and we were able to  board quite quickly and start our journey to visit Tewkesbury. Our driver did a good job with the lashing rain and mist.  Near to our destination we were held up for about 20 mins in traffic; this was probably to our advantage as by the time we reached Tewkesbury Abbey, the rain had all but stopped.  We spent three and a quarter hours looking round the cathedral and town, taking morning coffee and having lunch.  Tewkesbury is an extraordinary riverside town; with a rich, vibrant history and a beautiful waterside setting with a lot todiscover.  There is a lovely riverside walk alongside the River Severn, Victoria Gardens still with plenty of colour, boat rides, museums, chapels and so much more to visit.  The Battle Trail  takes you around the ancient fields where the Battle of Tewkesbury was held in 1471. Walk the  Heritage and Alleyways Trail around the town centre to see some of the historic buildings.  Every summer there is a displaydisplay of medieval banners that brighten the streets of Tewkesbury. Each is based on the arms of a person who was involved in the Battle. They are made from cotton ‘duck’ and then hand-painted using modern acrylic paints.  During the winter months they are part of a rolling programme of refurbishment, to keep them looking fresh. Tewkesbury Abbey is world-renowned for being one of the UK’s greatest examples of medieval architecture. Its striking Norman tower and long nave have dominated the Tewkesbury skyline for nearly 900 years. Our members found Tewkesbury to be very interesting and many will go back to explore more of the town.

At 2.30pm we boarded our coach, allowing time for hold-ups, we made our way to Toddington to have a journey and cream tea on the railway. Our train arrived, the steam engine was named Foremark Hall, pulling 8 coaches.  We were booked into carriage B and our places were set out at the tables.  Once the journey had begun we were served two scones each, with jam and cream, and tea or coffee.  We spent a very pleasant journey to Cheltenham, eating, chatting and laughing. After arriving at Cheltenham whilst the engine, watered and ran round the train, some stayed on the train, some walked the platform and entrance pathway to view Cheltenham Racecourse, and the enthusiasts took photos of the engine.  At the end of the journey we climbed back on our coach and had a very good journey back to Carterton, before the rain started again.  A great day out.  Pam

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Visit to Hereford and Eastnor Castle 20 August 2018

The morning was overcast as we set off on our journey to Hereford.  The only hold up was an RTA on a crossroads where road works were being carried out. Hereford is a Cathedral city, and county town of Herefordshire. It lies on the River Wye, and borders Wales with Worcester and Gloucester close by.

The  market town has a warm friendly atmosphere and for hundreds of years has been  a commercial farming centre.  It has a prestigious new shopping centre built on the site of the old livestock market.  The livestock market has been moved to a modern home just outside the city.

The Cathedral is stunning and has many unique features with heaps of history. The  shrine of St Thomas of Hereford with a stone and marble tomb is one of the best medieval shrines in England.  The corona depicting the crown of thorns was exceptional.  There are two new stained glass windows which are very intricate and  the subject is the writings of Thomas Traheme and his association with Herefordshire. It is the birth place of the world renowned Three Choirs Festival.  A new lighting scheme was made ready for the Festival which includes a pair of magnificent pendants that hang in the transepts. 

The current Cathedral dates from 1079. Its most famous treasure is Mappa Mundi, a medieval map of the world dating from the 13th century.

The Chained Library contains 225 illuminated manuscripts with the earliest dating from the 8th century, and over 1,200 early printed books. The books are chained to the 17th-century cases where they were housed and read.

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Eastnor Castle

Eastnor Castle is now the home of the Hervey-Bathurst family, and is surrounded by a beautiful arboretum and lake. Its decorated interiors containing medieval armour, fine art and tapestries.

We were able to visit the magnificent state rooms including the Great Hall, State Dining Room, Gothic Drawing Room, Octagon Saloon and a number of bedrooms.

In the Red Hall sits a medieval knight’s helmet which visitors are invited to try on!

Each room had well informed guides to answer our questions.  It was a pleasant afternoon to take the 45 minute walk around the lake.  Holiday events for children were taking place. Most used the café and sat outside to enjoy the fresh air.  An ice cream stand was doing a good trade.

We arrived back in Carterton at approx 5.30 after an excellent day out.


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Outing to Knebworth and Jordan’s Mill 31st July 2018

On a lovely morning, the group boarded a coach for Knebworth.  Our journey, as far as Wycombe, was amazingly quick with hardly any traffic on the roads. At this point our driver had notification that there was an obstruction ahead of us, and so we diverted.  Unfortunately, when we got back onto the M40 we had not passed, what turned out to be a RTA.  However, the traffic began to move again and we were back on the planned route.  Arriving at Knebworth we were greeted by a member of staff and given maps and a few general tips.  We used the facilities and café and then it was time for the first tour to begin, whilst the remainder started to look around the gardens.  Both tours had incredibly well-informed and friendly guides who had a wealth of knowledge to share with us.  After the tours there were various gardens to visit . The Gardens at Knebworth were delightful. The 28-acre formal gardens include a maze, colourful borders, fine trees and a wilderness area with an exciting Dinosaur trail. There is also a walled vegetable garden planted with colourful and unusual vegetables. In the gardens was a Matombo Garden Sculpture Exhibition, which had sculptures with many interesting shapes and designs. 

The romantic exterior of Knebworth House with its turrets, domes and gargoyles silhouetted against the sky does little to prepare the visitor for what to expect inside. The House has stood for many years longer than the Victorian decoration suggests; the stucco hides from view a red brick house dating back to Tudor times.

Knebworth House first achieved fame in Victorian times as the home of the novelist, playwright and politician Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton; author of the words “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Other notable family members include Lady Constance Lytton, a well-known member of the Suffragette movement.

Every generation of the Lytton family has left something of its style and taste; making Knebworth an extraordinary walk through 500 years of British history. Stories and heirlooms reflect the family’s contribution to literature, politics and foreign service; alongside visits by characters as diverse as Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill.

Within Knebworth House there is a fascinating display and video presentation telling the story of the Lytton family’s connection with India. Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl ofLytton, the Viceroy of India who proclaimed Queen Victoria Empress of India at the Great Delhi Durbar of 1877.

There have been gardens at Knebworth House since at least the 17th Century, but the present layout dates largely from the Edwardian era. The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, who married into the Lytton family, simplified the ornate beds and statuary of the Victorian garden with lawns and avenues of pollarded lime trees. Lutyens created ‘garden rooms’ with each area having a different feel depending on the planting. The Herb Garden was recreated in 1982 from Gertrude Jekyll’s 1907 design. Each generation has enhanced the gardens and the recent wood carvings around the garden are particularly interesting.

Jordans Mill

The Mill tells a fascinating story about the people and the events behind the last working flour mill in Bedfordshire, which has been tucked away on the River lvel, for over 150 years; a story of innovation and survival as Holme Mills continues to keep our food heritage alive to this day.

The Williams family who own the Mill have kept the mill operational through good times and bad. The family firm away from milling flour has its own range of breakfast cereals and cereal bars including Ryvita.  The Mill is one of the last rollers mills in the country and a fine example of Victorian technology preserved for future generations to see.

The gardens were very interesting and divided into many different sized plots showing what could be grown pn very small plots; including many herbs, vegetables, fruit and flowers.  A children’s trail went all round the grounds, we saw a few interesting items for them to find.

The café which overlooks the River Ivel, had tables and chairs outside which made it very pleasant to sit in the sunshine with a hot or cold drink.

The journey home was uneventful and we arrived back in Carterton at approximately 6.15pm.


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Outing to BBC Gardeners World and Good Food Show 18th June 2018

Our coach party left Carterton on a rather dull morning heading for the NEC.  We were fortunate to have a good and quick journey without any hold-ups.  When we reached the event, we had a short walk before presenting our tickets and entering the compounds.  As usual most made for refreshments and the amenities and then it was “wander where you will” time, until we met at the theatre, and afterwards back at the coach. The sun did shine in the middle of the day and it was reasonably warm.  Most of the Flower Show was held outside and in large marquees where the Food Show was held inside in a number of  the Halls.  Our journey home was a little slower due to the volume of traffic; I think some were glad to be sat down after walking round for several hours.

BBC Gardeners’ World Live hosts one of the largest floral marquees in the country. With an abundance of colour and scent, it is the destination for all gardeners and plant lovers. From orchids to lilies, dianthus to alliums, it is a spectacular sight packed with award winning nurseries and displays.   An exciting collection of Show Gardens come to life in a celebration of how imagination and creativity can transform any type of outdoor space.  It’s an ideal way to get ideas for your own garden. It is one of the UK’s largest flower shows which has been running for 26 years, attracting a unique audience that would be hard to find at any other event. Our tickets gave us seats in the Alan Titchmarsh theatre who spoke on Natural Health gardening and then Q & A’s followed. Co-located with the BBC Good Food Summer Show , the event offers an exciting opportunity to hold 2 diverse disciplines in one show. Various food and drink outlets had plenty of tasters to offer. Packed with seasonal produce, ideas for al-fresco entertaining, the UK’s top chefs cooking up fresh recipes live on the numerous stages across the Show, and Pimm’s and picnics galore; providing a variety of seed to plate inspiration, a vast range of grow your own ingredients and plenty of ideas to get your garden entertaining-ready!

Another enjoyable day. Pam

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Visit to Stratford upon Avon and Charlecote Park 29 May 2018

It was a dry morning, a little misty and cool when a group of members boarded the coach bound for Stratford.  We had a very quick journey and arrived at approx 10am.  We had 3 hours to explore and have lunch.  The medieval market town has more than 800 years of history. The most well-known, of course, being Shakespeare well known for his plays and sonnets such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet”.  It was enjoyable to be able to wander to the River Avon and watch the boats and barges, some going through a lock.  Many swans, geese and ducks with their young were around this area.

We were back on the coach at 1pm and made a 20-minute journey to Charlecote Park which is a splendid 16th-century country house, surrounded by its own deer park.  The house is owned by the Lucy family who still reside in one wing. 

A five-minute walk down a wide driveway took us to the house. (There was a shuttle) for those that needed it. We were able to explore the centre of the house and discover the Victorian interiors created by George Hammond Lucy and his wife Mary Elizabeth.  Entry to the house was through the porch built to impress Elizabeth I.  The visit began in the Great Hall, surrounded by 400 years of Lucy family portraits, through the Drawing Room, Library, and Billiard Room. Upstairs was the Ebony bedroom and the Orange bedroom, all with stories to tell.

Outside in the courtyard was the scullery which was used for washing huge quantities of vegetables and crockery. Across the courtyard was an immaculately-preserved laundry, brewhouse and tackroom which were so vital to the efficient running of the house. The comprehensive carriage collection of vehicles used by the Lucy family was fascinating, lovers of romantic historical fiction – here you can compare the merits of a phaeton, a barouche or a brougham.

Charlecote’s tranquil parkland is the perfect place to picnic, play or wander all year round. The herds of deer were a sight to be seen.In the grounds, is the Church of St Leonard, which was originally built in the Medieval period but was completely rebuilt in 1851 by John Gibson. It contains Lucy family memorials from the 16th and 17th centuries, and there is also a 12th century font.  We were unable to visit as a service was taking place.

Several bought plants in the small garden centre which we passed through on the way back to the coach.

The journey home was good and we reached Carterton approx 5.30pm just as it started to rain.

Another enjoyable day out.  Pam

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Visit to Brooklands Museum 19th April 2018

It was a warm and sunny morning as we made our way to Brooklands.  The journey was good and took about 2 hours.  Arriving at Brooklands we made our way to the entry and were given our tickets and maps.  Surprisingly there was not a mad dash to the cafe; instead buildings were visited as they were passed.

Brooklands at Weybridge, was the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, with work commencing in late 1906.

It was a major centre for aircraft design, construction and flight testing for most of the 20th century.  Some 18,600 new aircraft of nearly 250 types were first flown, manufactured or assembled at Brooklands. In 1915 Vickers started manufacturing aircraft at Brooklands and progressively extended their premises with the growing demand from military contracts. Women increasingly replaced the men in the factory who had been called away for war.

When World WII began in September 1939, the Vickers-Armstrongs and Hawker aircraft companies had exclusive use of the Brooklands site for military aircraft production. The Wellington was built here and was the world’s most advanced bomber aircraft at the start of the War, and bore the brunt of the Allied bomber offensive in the early 1940s.

In September 1907, a 100-mile massed start cycle race was held at the Brooklands. At this time, even cycle racing was not approved of on the open roads and the track proved to be a safe haven for cyclists.

Motorcycle racing started at Brooklands in 1908 and the British Motorcycle Racing Club – known as ‘Bemsee’ from its initials – was founded in 1909. Sidecar outfits joined the solo machines for racing from 1912.

Because Brooklands was the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, there were no established rules to follow. To begin with, many of the procedures were based on horse racing traditions, partly in an attempt to attract a ready-made audience to this new and curious sport. Cars assembled in the ‘paddock’, were ‘shod’ with tyres, weighed by the ‘Clerk of the Scales’ for handicapping and drivers were even instructed to identify themselves by wearing coloured silks in the manner of jockeys.

The London Bus Museum houses a remarkable collection of around 35 buses and coaches, the largest collection of working historic London buses in the world. Some buses have been fully restored and many have won awards, while others are under restoration in the workshop.

The Aircraft Factory Floor is designed to evoke an authentic factory atmosphere and is packed full of activities, enabling visitors to try out aircraft-building skills for themselves,

One of the attractions that held a lot of attention was Lewis Hamilton’s 2007 Formula One car. The car was set up to a simulator of the Brooklands Track.  Husband and wife Viv and Ken were the first to have a go – Viv triumphing and Ken missed a bend and crashed. The Concorde and Red Arrow Simulators were very popular.

There were picnic areas and the Sunbeam café where we were able to get a light lunch and the usual beverages and cakes.  We spent 5 hours there and still didn’t see everything. 

The journey home was not so good, there being an accident on the M25 from which we diverted only to find the other major roads were so busy that it took us 3 and 3/4 hours to get back to Carterton.  Several of the group enjoyed the scenic drive home and were able to see Windsor Castle as we passed which is as near as any of us will get to the Royal Wedding.

A most enjoyable day out.  Pam