Outing to Tewkesbury Christmas Market and Festival of Light 24th November 2019

Tewkesbury Christmas Market is a one day event.  The Christmas Lights get turned on later in the evening which we did not stay to see.  When we left Carterton it was very misty/foggy and we felt that it would remain this way for the remainder of the day.  However, by the time we reached Tewkesbury the mist had lifted and it was dry and dull.  The main street in the town had approximately 70 separate stalls, some with Christmas items and some with local crafts and a Farmers Market  From the  numerous food stalls a lovely aroma lured you to them.  As it was a Sunday some went for a Sunday lunch.  The children were entertained with small fairground rides and a visit from “Father Christmas”.  Most of the shops were open and so was the Abbey.  A walk by the river still showed the after effects of flooding.  It was a very pleasant visit and a quick journey home.  Pam

Outing to Festive Gift fair, NEC Birmingham 14.11.19

It was a horrible wet morning but as we were going to be indoors for the day it did not fill us with dismay.  The coach arrived early so that any early birds could sit in the dry. The journey to the NEC was horrendous with roads being flooded and closed, torrents of surface water and road works for miles. Our driver was amazing and got us there safely.  This year coaches were permitted to drop off and pick up right outside the Hall door which saved a long-wet walk. The atmosphere in the hall was contagious inspired by the huge range of present ideas, live music and Christmas entertainers. There were over 325 stalls flowing with thousands of unusual gift ideas, decorations, festive food and drink and lots of special show bargains!  There was a light-hearted feeling of happiness and was a great way to start Christmas with a Bang all under one roof. Cheese and Gin tasters were very popular and it would have been easy to come away tipsy.  The journey home was quite slow to begin with, traffic hold ups and then there had been an accident and we turned the coach round to follow an alternative route. Judging by the number of packages everyone was carrying they’d had a most enjoyable day.  Pam 

Outing to Malvern Show – Saturday 28th September 2019

Our coach was nice and early and we were soon all on board and ready for our journey to Malvern.

It was an uneventful and a non-holdup journey to Malvern.  Once we had been through check-in everyone went their separate ways.  It is a huge show over a vast area.  There was something for everyone; Retail of anything to do with gardening, outdoor clothes and shoes; Nurseries, Food outlets and a Food Hall; Machinery of all types including vintage machinery, a Vintage tent where refreshments were served in china cups and saucers; they also had jive demonstrations and lessons (I  know of at least one of our members who tried this).  The RHS had a marque of show flowers at competition level.  A huge marquee housed vegetables of all different sizes and weights (several records were broken).  An old fashioned fairground  for the youngsters to explore.  A number of buildings housed a World of Animals.  In the arena a dog agility course took place as did a sheep dog demonstration, parade of livestock and machinery;  show jumping; a heavy horse competition (Hook Norton Brewery) took part in  this, and a carriage driving competition . Country Pursuits Village gave an authentic taste of country sports, demonstrations of country skills and animals.

The above is just a small synopsis of what the day covered, it would take 2 or 3 days to get round everything fully.

We spent 5 hours at the show and when the party got back to the coach with their purchases they were all ready for a sit down and restful journey home; we arrived back in Carterton at approx 4.45pm.  Thank you Janice for some of the photos. Pam

Outing to Croome Court (National Trust) 30th August 2019

Our coach arrived early so we are able to board as we arrived at the meeting place.  It was a lovely morning and members were looking forward to the visit. On arrival at Croome we were met and welcomed by 2 members of staff.  After receiving maps and directions to the facilities and told where best to start our visit from we went our separate ways.  Croome Court which is the focus of the vast estate and parkland was approx 1/2 mile walk from reception.  For those that have difficulty walking a buggy ride can be taken both ways.  Croome has been the seat of the Coventry family since 1592.  The 6th Earl of Coventry worked with Capability Brown to design the landscape and remodel the old family home.  In 2016 major construction work was completed and now there is a long term programme of repair and restoration to the Court.  The house holds many contemporary exhibitions.  On the ground floor the exhibitions include watercolours of local buildings; a Tapestry of the epic Battle of Britain; Treasures of Croome; ceramic landscapes; steel and plastic chairs, are but to name a few. 

At the entrance to Croome there is another captivating period of history to explore; the restored wartime buildings of the secret airbase of RAF Defford which are now the Visitor Centre and Museum.  It was at Defford that Airborne Radar was tested, developed and proven. Airborne Radar provided a decisive factor in Victory for the Allies.

For a small fee a Walled Garden can be visited. In here talented and creative artists show off their talents and provide an inspiration for garden and art lovers.  There was plenty of space for a picnic and two cafes provided hot and cold drinks and food.

It was a beautiful day with lots of fresh air and sunshine and a relaxing good journey home.


Outing to Little Venice and Camden Lock 17th July 2019

Our full coach made its way cross country due to there having been two major incidents round Oxford and traffic was backed up for miles. We arrived at Little Venice a little later than planned but in time for the arrival of our dedicated boat to take us to Camden.  It was a perfect day for an off the beaten track venture.

Our boat was located at Brownings Pool and the start was from the pretty light blue, wrought iron bridge, overlooking the area where the Grand Union and the Regents Canal meet.  The Grand Union canal runs for 220 kilometres north-north-west of Little Venice until it reaches Birmingham.  Regents Canal is almost 14 kilometres long, linking the Grand Union Canal to the Limehouse Basin in the east, and ultimately, the Thames River.

In years gone by the boats were horse drawn along the towpaths, which are now used by cyclists, walkers, runners and people just enjoying themselves.

The boat took us through Maida Hill Tunnel which is 249 metres long and completely straight, it only took a couple of minutes to travel through. There is no towpath through the tunnel so the art of Legging used to take place. This is the act of moving a narrowboat through a canal tunnel, while lying on your back either atop the boat or—as was most common—on a plank jutting out across its bow at both sides, and walking along the tunnel’s roof or walls. It usually requires two people, one on either side of the boat and each holding onto the plank for stability.

During the journey we passed by London Zoo and several animals could be seen in their compounds.  Expensive mansions sporting large gardens, including the home of the US Ambassador line the banks.  On parts of the canal we understood that some moorings are up to £100,000 pa to moor a boat .

It was easy to tell when we had arrived at Camden with the hive of activity. The end of the journey is indicated by the sight of the Dingwall Building and the double lock system, Camden Lock.  Camden is a lively mix of markets, food stalls, antiques, crafts, pubs, cafes and restaurants.  

After 2 hours of ambling round the markets and trying some of the street food it was time to catch the boat back to Little Venice. We boarded our coach and had a remarkably good journey home considering the time of day.  Pam

Outing to RNLI Training Centre, Poole and Bournemouth 17 June 2019

It was an early start, even before the sparrows were up. This did allow us to miss most of the early morning rush hour traffic.  We were very fortunate not to get held up on our journey, reaching the RNLI in good time.  When we arrived, there was ample time to use their facilities and to sit in the Slipway Bar to enjoy coffee/tea and biscuits which had been ordered in advance. The Bar overlooked the harbour and The Twin Sails lifting bridge which is an amazing piece of engineering, and the first bridge of its type to be built in the world. When the bridge is up, the two lifting leaves symbolise the sails of a yacht and offer different views from every position along the quayside, from a sailing symbol to the spire of a Cathedral. 

The RNLI College is at the heart of the RNLI – where lifesaving volunteer crew and lifeguards from around the UK and Ireland are trained. There are over 350 lifeboats in the RNLI fleet based at stations around the UK and Ireland. Between them, RNLI lifeboats cover 19,000 miles of coastline and some busy inland stretches of water.  All the RNLI’s boats are built at Poole, and they have an engineering facility where boats from the entire fleet are serviced/repaired as necessary. There are two categories of Lifeboats all-weather and inshore.  Two highlights of the tour were to visit the simulator in which we were taken on a lifeboat rescue; and then to the Sea Survival centre which hosts the wave tank; a crew was already receiving a briefing on what to do if their boat capsized. Getting into boat the crew positioned themselves ready for the boat being turned upside; eventually they came from under the boat, one by one, went to the back of the boat and the skipper pulled a rope which inflated the buoyancy chamber and turned the boat the correct way up again, fascinating.

It costs approx £180 Million a year to run the lifesaving service.  They rely on donations from the public and revenue from hiring out teaching and conference rooms.  A 24 bedroom accommodation block enhances this facility and if not hired out to crews needing to stay for trainings can be hired out to the public.  The College can also be used for corporate events and weddings etc.

As you approach the entrance to the RNLI there is a beautiful sculpture which is a tribute to every lifeboat crew member who lost their life while endeavouring to save others at sea

After the visit to the College our coach driver picked us to transport us to Bournemouth where we had approx 3 and a half hours free time, to have lunch, sit or walk by the sea and let the world go by.  It was a long day but well worth it. Our journey home was without hold-ups and we arrived back in Carterton approx 6.45pm. Pam 

Outing to The British Army Museum and Chelsea Pensioners 16 May 2019

It was cold but a dry morning when we set out for this visit. The journey to London was reasonable but slowed once we got into the city.  Our coach driver was able to park in the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital.  It was a short walk to the British Army Museum.

British Army Museum

The National Army Museum tells the story of the British army over the past 400 years. The recently refurbished Museum has around 2,500 objects divided into 5 galleries over four floors; space for exhibitions, a study centre, café, shop and play area.

The Five Permanent Galleries of the National Army Museum in London includes:

The Soldier Gallery reflects individual experiences of soldiering.

The Army Gallery traces the origins and development of the British army as an institution.

The Battle Gallery tells the story of the army through individual conflicts. It is divided into four chronological sections: horse and musket, rapid-fire, total war and modern warfare.

The Society Gallery on the top floor provides some light relief and can be enjoyed as an art gallery, reflecting how the Army has influenced British culture.

The Insight Gallery explores the actions and the impact of the Army throughout the world from historical and contemporary perspectives.

The Museum welcomes younger visitors with interactive and hands-on exhibits.

Chelsea Hospital

The Royal Hospital is a Grade I and II listed site, a beautiful architectural legacy left to us by Charles II and Sir Christopher Wren. 

The Royal Hospital Chelsea is the home of the iconic Chelsea Pensions, who are all retired soldiers of the British Army. Their unique Scarlet tunics stand out wherever they go, making them instantly recognisable around the world. Naturally, the Pensioners often find themselves the centre of attention at events that they attend and are always happy to answer questions about the Royal Hospital as well as themselves. Some 300 army veterans live at the Royal Hospital today, including those who have served in Korea, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and World War II. Others may not have served in campaigns, but all understand what it means to be a soldier and the potential sacrifice that it entails.

 We were shown into a small room and watched a video of what we were going to see. We were split into two groups and each shown round by a Chelsea Pensioner Guide.  The Guides were very knowledgeable, humorous and told us lots of jovial stories.

Founder’s Day is the highlight of the Royal Hospital Chelsea’s calendar, an event attended by all Chelsea Pensioners, which celebrates the founding of the Royal Hospital by King Charles II. The event has taken place almost every year since the Royal Hospital opened in 1692. The Royal Hospital Chelsea’s Founder’s Day, also known as Oak Apple Day, is always held on a date close to 29th May – the birthday of Charles II and the date of his restoration as King in 1660. The Oak reference commemorates the escape of the future King Charles II after the Battle of Worcester (1651) when he hid in an oak tree to avoid capture by the Parliamentary forces, and is expressed through all Chelsea Pensioners wearing oak leaves on their famous scarlet uniforms.

The gold statue of Charles II that stands in the centre of figure court is also adorned in oak leaves for the occasion. Over the years the statue oak leaf dressing has varied from a large wreath at the base to a wreath worn on the head, and from total covering where the statue is not even visible to a discreet skirt of oak branches around the base.

A member of the Royal Family attends the ceremony each year. Her Majesty the Queen has reviewed the parade four times.

Every year the official visitors book gets prepared with the Royal Coat of Arms ready for the member of the Royal Family to sign.

The Wren Chapel

Built between 1681 and 1687 the chapel is a rare example of Wren’s religious architecture. It was designed to accommodate about 500 people, all the staff and pensioners, and rises 42 feet high. The painting of the Resurrection in the half dome of the apse is by Sebastiano Ricci, assisted by his nephew Marco. The Royal Hospital’s magnificent silver-gilt altar plate was made by Ralph Leake and is hall-marked 1687-8. One of the original service books has been preserved. The Chapel was consecrated in August 1691, and compulsory services held twice daily. Nowadays they are normally confined to the Sunday morning. 

At the end of the tour we were shown a small museum, café and shop.  

Our journey home was reasonable with only minor hold-ups.  An enjoyable day out.  Pam

Outing to Milestone Museum Basingstoke 30th April 2019

There were 36 members for this visit.  It was a lovely morning and we were able to wait for our coach in the sunshine.  We had a good run to Basingstoke and a quick entry into the museum where we were all given a wristband and then we were free to explore.  Most went to the café for elevenses and then started their self- guided tour.

Milestones is made up of a network of streets that have been recreated according to those found in Victorian and 1930s Hampshire time. From cobbled streets to vintage vehicles some from The Thornycroft collection and Taskers of Andoversford; a 1940s sweet shop selling old favourites like aniseed balls, rhubarb and custards, pontefract cakes, liquorice torpedo’s etc, to a penny arcade where you could swap new pennies for old and play on the machines. The museum is set over 3 levels with tramlines in parts of the Victorian section.  The upper floor was well equipped for school visits with a Victorian school room complete with chalk boards and desks; a school teacher walking round the streets ringing the school bell.  The Edwardian Baverstock pub was a good place to take a rest and partake of some of the old fashioned drinks. There is so much for everyone to see, do and enjoy at Milestones museum of living history.  The museum was interesting, fun, and well laid out. To complete our visit, we all sat down to a cream tea and chatted of our nostalgic memories.  Pam



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