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







Outing to Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey 19th March 2018

It was a very crisp morning with a biting wind when we gathered outside the Beehive.  Our EXECUTIVE coach arrived early and was nice and warm inside.  Everyone was on time and we were soon on our way to London.  Traffic was very slow on the journey to Oxford, but after that we had a reasonable drive.

Arriving in London we were dropped off in Tothill Street on the opposite side of Parliament Square from the Houses of Parliament. We then made our way to the Houses of Parliament.  We had to enter as one group, the queue was quite long and the wait was approximately 20 minutes outside in the cold. Once through an airport style security check, we made our way to the Jubilee café, for a hot drink and cake.   Our guides and our local MP (Robert Courts) were waiting for us in Westminster Hall, from where our tour was to start.

Robert was quite surprised at the large group from his constituency. He welcomed us all with handshakes and a short speech.  He told us about the Hall, and what we would see on our tour.  He was very keen to have a group photograph with us.  Our guides then separated us into two groups, and away we went.  The guides were very thorough describing the history and functions of each part of the building that we visited.  These included, The House of Lords, the House of Commons, the Queens robing room, the Divisions Lobby (the NO’s), and the original house of Commons where Parliament used to meet before King Charles II had the present chamber built and made available to the common herd.  The present House of Commons is a rebuild as the chamber was destroyed by a bomb during World War II.  What was complete news to many of us was that at the time of the Queen’s Speech, a hostage is kept in Buckingham Palace until the Queen returns safely.  This is usually the deputy chief whip of the governing party and is a throw-back to the times of the Gunpowder Plot.  The history, statues, busts, paintings etc, cover the entire history of our nation from long before parliament was formed until the present day.  A most interesting visit and well worth the time for anyone to visit at their leisure.

After our visit, it was free time. We could either visit the shop, go visit Westminster Abbey, or have lunch.

Westminster Abbey was amazing. It appears very different to when we see it on TV for special events, as the red carpet, chairs, fancy bits and bobs are only brought out when needed.

The Abbey is steeped in more than a thousand years of history. Benedictine monks first came to the site in the middle of the tenth century, establishing a tradition of daily worship, which continues to this day.

The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066.  The first King crowned in the abbey was William the Conqueror on Christmas Day 1066.  The Abbey is also the final resting place of seventeen monarchs. The present church, begun by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country, with the medieval shrine of an Anglo-Saxon Saint  (Edward the Confessor) still at its heart.

A treasure house of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles and other artefacts, Westminster Abbey is also the place where some of the most significant people in our nation’s history are buried or commemorated. Taken as a whole the tombs and memorials comprise the most significant single collection of monumental sculpture anywhere in the United Kingdom.

We left for home at 4 p.m.  The journey was trouble free, reaching Carterton just after 6.30.  I think all agreed, a very interesting day out, enjoyed by all.  Henry and Pam


Visit to Birmingham Museum and Cadburys World

On Wednesday 21st February we set out on another U3A outing, this time to The Birmingham Museum to see the Staffordshire Hoard and then on to Cadbury World.

As usual with our outings, despite being February the weather was dry and fine, although quite cold. Having left Carterton at the ungodly hour of 7.45 the rush-hour traffic was a lot less than expected. We had not realised that it was Half Term in the Birmingham area, which no doubt helped a lot.

The museum was due to open at 10 but having arrived early, some went for coffee whilst the remainder admired the buildings around the central square or just stood around chatting.

The Staffordshire Hoard needs to be seen to be believed. The hoard was discovered near the village of Hammerwitch, South Staffordshire in 2009, and consists of some 4,000 objects amounting to over 11lbs of Gold and 3.3lbs of Silver. The hoard is Anglo-Saxon and dates from around 650 to 670 i.e. after the Romans had left Britannia and before the invasion of the Vikings. This area at the time was the heartland of the Kingdom of Mercia. Not all of the objects are displayed but those that are, are nothing short of spectacular. There are pommels from Swords, Seax’s (large fighting knives), dress pins, decorative buttons and much much more including a Christian Cross. Many of the artifacts are decorated with Garnets and show influences of Celtic Art from central Europe where the Anglo-Saxons originally came from. Scientific analysis of the Garnets suggests that most originated from either India or what is now the Czech Republic; showing just how extensive trading was throughout Europe and the known world at this time. What came, as a great surprise to the conservationists was the amount and superb quality of the items of Filigree. All in all a visit to this museum to just view the Hoard is well worth the time.

The museum also includes many other treasures, Art, Ceramics, Roman and Greek artifacts and a whole area devoted to the people and history of Birmingham, once our greatest industrial city and the cradle of British Engineering that is admired throughout the world. The building itself is spectacular inside, beautifully kept and well laid out.

Just one downside. In the display of Roman & Greek cooking utensils and crockery, the bottle of Olive Oil still has its Morrisons label! Oops!!

The afternoon visit to Cadbury’s World was quite a contrast to the Museum visit.

We were warmly welcomed and soon ushered through the entrance, but not before receiving a selection of 3 bars of Cadbury’s chocolate.

We then entered the Aztec Jungle where we were transported back 1000 years in time to Mexico and through the tropical rainforest of the Mayan Indians. It showed the origins of the cocoa bean, amidst trees and waterfalls, deep in the ancient tropical rainforest; and how the cocoa tree was central to their culture.

A short film show told an inspiring story of John Cadbury’s struggle to establish the business and introduced us to his sons Richard and George. They told of their Quaker beliefs that led them to build a better kind of factory, in a green-field site away from the smoke and grime of the city. Next we walked through Advertising Alley displaying numerous advertising posters of their products through the ages. A special-effects cinema presentation, told us about the ingredients of milk chocolate and how they are combined to make a unique Cadbury taste. Here we were given a bar of Oreo chocolate.

The first Cadbury products could be seen in the principal shop opened by John Cadbury in 1824, in Bull Street. Many of the group enjoyed a Cadabra ride. We sat in small cars and enjoyed a gentle ride through a chocolate wonderland full of familiar characters.   Before exiting to the shop, we saw ladies decorating large chocolate Easter eggs. Then we were given a treat. A half-cup of warm chocolate with a choice of toppings to eat before visiting the huge shop. Before going back to the coach most visited the cafe.

There were numerous inter-active areas, circus skills, and an outdoor play area for the children.

A most enjoyable day out. Henry and Pam




Outing to Waterperry Gardens on 17th February 2018

This was the first outing of the year. It was a lovely morning, slighty cool but the sun was shining.

We had a very quick journey to the gardens and our coach was met by a guide who came on board and told us little about Waterperry. We were all given a bright pink sticker and then we were able to go and explore. Many made their way to the café, which was very busy all day. Some went to the gardens and the snowdrops first. There were not as many snowdrops as some venues we had been to in the past. We understand that they are nurturing them and that in 3 years time they will have a very splendid show.

Waterperry has more than beautiful gardens, it is a magical place, with a walled garden, garden shop, gift barn and potting shed, an art gallery, real life museum, Saxon church, and the house which is open on certain days of the week.

The museum was fascinating and had many items which we could relate to from our youth.

They now have a good sized Amphitheatre where they put on productions such as The Magic Flute and Pirates of Penzance.

Several of the group bought snowdrops and other gardening utensils.

We had a good journey home and all said they had enjoyed the visit. Pam



Outing to the Royal Albert Hall Christmas Carol Singalong 16 December 2017

This was the final outing for 2017.

It was a cold day but the coach, when it arrived, was nice and warm for us; everyone was early so we were able to depart on time. The journey’s there and back were very good. We reached Kensington in plenty of time to have a meal or a coffee. One of our photos shows 2 members standing outside a hotel and this is how they plan to decorate the outside of their homes!! The concert was a sell out; people were even standing in the top balcony. Jonathan Cohen was the conductor and he encouraged us to raise the roof of the Royal Albert Hall by clapping our hands, stamping our feet and singing our hearts out through a jamboree of fun filled much loved carols. He welcomed back his special guest Louise Dearman and the London Concert Chorus and London Concert Orchestra accompanied them. Many of the audience were entwined in Christmas lights and tinsel. The atmosphere was full of enjoyment and laughter. We all got our exercise with the 12 days of Christmas rising from our seats on “5 golden rings”; and standing swaying arms for several other carols. The afternoon was very pleasant and put us in the Christmas spirit mood. Pam

Visit to Richmond and Kew Gardens Christmas Lights 29 November 2017

It was a cold morning for our visit today. When the coach arrived it was warm inside and we had a good journey to Richmond. The town is on a meander of the River Thames; it has a number of parks and many protected conservation areas. Many of the buildings are listed architectural or heritage status. Although cold several visited the parks and enjoyed a walk alongside the riverside. In the summer it would be very appealing to spend longer relaxing and watching the boats sailing by. Many enjoyed the shops and were laden with bags when they got back to the coach. It was only a 15-minute drive to Kew. We were a little early so we sat on the coach in the warm until our allotted entry time. The sparkling trail had over one million twinkling lights illuminating heritage trees and buildings through the Gardens. It was fairy-tale meets fantasy in a world of singing trees, larger-than-life flora, ribbons of light, giant baubles, and a flickering Fire Garden. The Palm House leapt into life with a dazzling show of laser beams, jets of light and kaleidoscopic projections. A very creative 11 metre tall Christmas tree made from 365 illuminated wooden sledges made a “sledgetree”, this had a cycle of changing colour, soundscape and motion. The children caught a glimpse of Santa and his elves at the North Pole village and a vintage fairground ride could be enjoyed. The adults could warm up with some mulled wine or hot chocolate and toast marshmallows around the fire. The shop was well stocked with plants and Christmas gifts. Our journey home was good with plenty of chatter on board. Pam

Outing to Windsor and Windsor Castle 11th October 2017

We left Carterton on time and our journey to Windsor was comfortable and without delay. When we arrived at Windsor we were very surprised to see so many yellow jackets, being worn by both the police and stewards. (The police were carrying firearms). The pavements were edged with barriers and there was a feeling that something important was about to happen. Normally the passengers would make their way to a café, but on this occasion it was to the Castle entrance.  There was to be a parade of a Band made up, of Life Guards and Blues and Royals; and Scots Guards for the changing of the Guard. Changing the Guard, also known as ‘Guard Mounting’, begins with the Windsor Castle Guard forming up outside the main Guard Room. In due course, the new Guard will arrive, led by a Regimental Band. At the conclusion of the change over the old Guard returns to Victoria Barracks in Windsor town.

After the parade, as there is not a café inside the Castle grounds, it was time for refreshments before entering the Castle.

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It has been the family home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years.

Among the highlights of a visit to WindsorCastle is Queen Mary’s Dolls House, the largest, most beautiful and most famous dolls’ house in the world.

The State Apartments are furnished with some of the finest works of art from the Royal Collection, including paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto.

St George’s Chapel within the Castle Precincts is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, the oldest order of chivalry in the world.

Windsor Castle was so interesting, and as expected, steeped in history. The rooms were well maintained and some had exquisite chandeliers.

After visiting the castle, some took an open topped bus tour, others walked by the river and then, of course, there was shopping. The old station is the scene of an attempt on the life of Queen Victoria. It has now been largely converted into a shopping and refreshment complex, though there is still a local service from short platforms at the far end. On display in the station is a replica of the engine once used to drive the Queen’s train.

Feedback of the visit was that the day had been enjoyed enormously but tiring. Our driver took a slightly longer route home but we arrived back in Carterton without any traffic delays.


Outing to Stoke Bruerne and Canons Ashby 15 September 2017

At 9 o’clock we set out from Carterton on a dry typical Autumn day, and praying that the forecast showers would not spoil our day.

Stoke Bruerne is the home of the Canal & River Trust and is just a few miles to the south of Northampton, on the Grand Union Canal that runs from London to Birmingham. Luckily for us although dull the day was still dry. The locks are about halfway along the canal, and although only one operating lock and one redundant lock are to be seen, within a short walking distance are a series of 14 locks descending a total of 55 feet and in the direction of London. To the north is Blisworth Tunnel and we all took advantage of the canal boat ride that took us to the tunnel and a short way inside to experience what it would have been like in days gone by when boats lacked lighting. In its heyday, Stoke Bruerne was a very busy place with many thousands (circa 15,000+), boats passing per annum. During the early and middle 1800’s, horses on the towpath hauled all the boats. As horses could not go through the tunnel, boards were placed on the top of the cargo on which men laid their backs and then using their well-studded boots on the tunnel roof and walls, walked the boats through the tunnel. At 1¾ miles long, this was hard and exhausting work.

The museum was very interesting with much of the history of canals on show, including models, pictures, artifacts, storyboards and much more besides. As you would expect from our members much use was made of the rather nice café.

Soon we were off to Canons Ashby. This country house is the ancestral home of the Dryden Family who were Puritans originally from Ulster. The house is built from the ruins of Canons Ashby Priory, built by the Black Monks (Augustinians) and destroyed by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the Monasteries. The church still survives and was well worth a visit. As Puritans, the Dryden’s were supporters of Cromwell and the Parliamentarians and during the Civil War was a Roundhead Base. A battle with Cavaliers took place around the church and shot holes can still be seen on the walls. A reminder of those days can be seen in the house gardens, as the flowerbeds are all edged with Orange Marigolds. In the heat, smoke and mess of battle, the roundheads wore armbands or scarves of Orange to help distinguish them from the Cavaliers, many of the uniforms of both sides being of similar style and colour.

Unfortunately, at one point the heavens opened and we all dashed to the café for our included Cream Tea, which was very nice indeed. The house itself was very interesting, being homely but rather dark. Whether this was because the Dryden’s were Puritans or the furniture was uniformly dark, who can say.

All in all we had a very good day, and our thanks again to Pam for a well-organized trip. Henry Howard


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