Tag: days out

Days out: Sudeley Castle

I hadn’t even heard of Sudeley Castle until we started researching places to go for our first day out in Bodhi Bongo. We wanted somewhere not too far. A place that my Mother in Law would also enjoy. Somewhere we could have a wander round before making tea and cooking bacon sandwiches in the campervan.

Remembering my Gardeners World 2-4-1 card which I hadn’t yet used this year (last year we visited Wollerton Hall gardens using the card) I came across Sudeley; just over an hour drive away in the Cotswold village of Winchcombe, with lots of associated Tudor history. It looked perfect for our inaugural voyage!

What a place!

Entry to the castle is down a long winding driveway to the main car park. From here the castle isn’t visible; enter through the gift shop then take the wild winding path down to the ruins of the old 15th century banqueting hall. You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve wandered off the beaten path; it’s very informal – almost like you’re trespassing!

A cross between a museum and a stately home

Sudeley charts some of it’s 1000 year history through exhibitions, short films and original artefacts, while also opening a handful of rooms lived in by the owners when they’re in residence.

Elizabeth I’s christening gown hangs in one of the exhibition rooms, as does a waistcoat belonging to Charles I (he took refuge in the castle during the civil war).

In another room is an ornately carved wooden bed, adorned with bed covers made for and slept in by Marie Antoinette.

The artefacts and storyline of the history of the castle, like everything, is wonderfully done but largely informal; making it a pleasure to just wander and soak in everything this gem has to offer.

Sudeley is also famed for being  the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within the grounds. The tomb of Katherine Parr – final and surviving wife of Henry VIII – is situated in St Mary’s Church within the castle grounds. This was not her original burial place; her body was discovered some 200 years after her death and reinterred within the church in the late 1700s.

The whole of the castle is surrounded by beautifully tended gardens, including the Elizabethan Knot garden. The Secret Garden is accessed through an archway in a hedge to the side of St Mary’s Church. Being October the gardens obviously weren’t in full flower, but still very lovely to wander around.

Wander at will

One of the things we found very surprising, and refreshing, about Sudeley Castle and the grounds was the feeling of openness. There were no designated paths to follow. No arrows telling you in which direction to walk around the building or, signs telling you to keep off the grass. It felt like everywhere was accessible and welcoming; like the owners really want visitors to be there, to immerse themselves, and to enjoy Sudeley in their own way.

Sudeley Castle is a truly wonderful place; beautiful, well looked after, true to its history, educational, informative and a joy to visit. Do go there if you can!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Days out: Warner Bros. Studios Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter

When I bought tickets to the Making of Harry Potter for my sister’s 21st birthday, I hadn’t seen any of the films or read any of the books. I was never part of the Harry Potter phenomenon, as I was 19 when the first book was released, so it kind of passed me by.

In fact, up until a few days before we went, I still hadn’t seen any of the films. We established that I’d probably need to see the first three in order to appreciate anything about the studio tour, so I binge watched them over 3 nights and off we went.

I must admit I didn’t have high hopes for the tour; I expected it to be OK but not brilliant, and probably overpriced for what there is on offer. How wrong I was! There’s so much to see and do, with interactive attractions, photo opportunities and lots of different scenes and props.

It’s your birthday!

Excitingly for my sister, they asked if anyone was celebrating their birthday before we went into the Great Hall, and she was the only one, so she got to open the famous huge wooden doors!

I felt super poorly on the day, having the WORST cold, aches and pains, snotty nose and looking dog rough, all topped off with a 2 hour drive that took over 3 hours, but I couldn’t resist a couple of cheeky poses!

Diagon Alley was my absolute favourite – the lighting colours changed and it was really atmospheric. Just like the real thing!

The tour finishes with a model of Hogwarts, which was absolutely beautiful and mesmerising. The level of detail was incredible, with tiny lights and trees all the way round.

As I said earlier in my post, I didn’t have overly high expectations, and thought the tour wouldn’t be worth the cost of the ticket, but I was wrong. I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the Harry Potter series, because it’s so well done. The prop photos and videos which you have to pay for are expensive for what they are (standard for this type of attraction), and the gift shop is extortionate, but there are so many opportunities to do your own thing with photos, and staff dotted around to take pictures for you too.

Have you been to the Making of Harry Potter? Let me know in the comments!

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DAYS OUT: 100 years of the RAF at Cosford Airshow

RAF Cosford hosts a huge airshow at their base in Shropshire every year, but this year’s was bigger than ever as it celebrates the 100 year anniversary of the RAF. It fell on the weekend following my Mother in Law’s birthday and, as she loves flying and planes (she always says she wishes she’d have been brave enough to join the airforce in some capacity, but it wasn’t the done thing when she was young) we bought tickets as part of her birthday present.

The event was sold out and the motorway was very busy on the approach, so the journey took us longer than expected. We set up our camping chairs and rug just as the flying started at 11.30am. The weather was absolutely glorious, the atmosphere was chilled and relaxed, and we saw some great displays, including some Top Gun type fighter jets (the roar of the engine was deafening!) and, of course, the Red Arrows.

There were also lots of static aircraft on display, some retro cars, lots of food and drink stalls, memorabilia stalls, simulators, personnel ready to answer questions, and planes you could queue up for and climb into the cockpit (I didn’t – I thought I might get stuck, can you imagine the shame?!)

 

 

 

It was fun to do something different and there were moments of sheer wow – the jet fighters gave me goosebumps. For such a big event (there were apparently 60,000 people there) it still had a small event feel; everyone was just out to enjoy themselves, it was well organised, good toilet facilities and plenty to see.

Have you ever been to an airshow? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading, x

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A visit to Wollerton Hall Gardens

Ever since my garden has become my new favourite thing, it’s fair to say I’m obsessed with all things horticultural. I spend at least one lunchtime each week in the garden centre, I like nothing more than potting up pretty plants for my patio and I’ve started collecting shrubs for my newly cleared borders which are a wonderful blank canvas for me to start planning.

So when I saw that Gardeners World had a 12 month 2 for 1 gardens entrance card in their May magazine, I was all over it.

I’ve only used it once so far, when I went to Wollerton Hall Gardens last weekend.

The entrance fee is £7, or just £3.50 each with the 2 for 1 card. It’s probably quite expensive, for what it is, if like me you just wanted to have a meander and a bit of a nose. It’s certainly not a whole day out, but there is a nice tea room so you could probably get a couple of hours out of it. It’s a shame the (grade II listed, timber framed) hall isn’t open to the public but it’s beautiful to look at from the outside, and everything is immaculate.

The gardens are separated into “rooms” – each one with a different theme and/or colour scheme.

Poppies Wollerton Old Hall

Topiary Wollerton Old Hall

Lessons from our visit:

a) I need some poppies

b) I need some alliums (the purple ball shape flowers, top left)

c) I need to train my climbing roses

Are you a garden fan? Visiting, doing? I’m already looking for places to visit next!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

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DAYS OUT: Cardiff Castle

This week I had some emails telling me that Friendsfest tickets are on sale for this year. I guffawed loudly and remembered how crap it was last year – so overpriced and underwhelming (you can read about it, with pics, here). It didn’t help that we’d driven 100+ miles, from Birmingham to Cardiff, for the “privilege” and that it was one of the husband’s birthday presents.

Huge fail!

In an effort to make the day less of a fail we also went to Cardiff Castle, which was 10 minutes walk from Bute Park where FF was hosted. And honestly? That was a disappointment too! As a castle lover I was very much looking forward to visiting but I felt that it was overpriced (£12.50 per adult, for basic entry, plus an additional £3.25 for the house tour). Much of the castle has been rebuilt in more recent years, so it feels like it lacks authenticity (I like my castles gnarly and ruined and grand). The Norman keep was the best bit, in my opinion, as that’s what my idea of a castle is, and it’s a bit of a rip off to charge extra for the house tour considering how little else there is to see and do compared to other Welsh castles that charge much less for entry (we didn’t do it on principal and because it struck us more as entering into stately home territory, which isn’t really our bag).

It’s fair to say I wouldn’t recommend it unless you happen to be in the area (don’t make a special journey); there are much more interesting and striking castles in Wales.

On that note, here are some pics!

 

 

 

 

Have you ever been to Cardiff Castle? What did you think? Am I doing it a disservice?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Days out: Black Country Living Museum

It was my Mother-in-Law’s birthday last Sunday so I suggested a trip to the Black Country Museum. M-i-L is in her 70s so has memories of some of the things there and, from a selfish point of view, I haven’t been for years and really fancied it!

The museum recreates life from the 1900s through to around the 1950s in the “Black Country”, which is the part of the West Midlands in the UK that was dominated by heavy industry during the industrial revolution and became known such because of the black layers of soot and coal dust which settled over the area. Legend has it that Queen Victoria drove through and lowered the window blinds on her carriage so not to have to look at the grimy landscape. Despite all that, people from the Black Country are known as “salt of the earth” – hard working, straight talking, down to earth people with no airs and graces.

I’m originally a Black Country girl, born in West Bromwich, although now I live in South Birmingham and have done for the past 10 years.

The museum has a range of “living” exhibits; houses reclaimed from demolition or clearance that have been painstakingly rebuilt brick by brick within their grounds; a working mine to demonstrate the conditions of miners during the industrial revolution, chainmakers, old cars, a running tram, an old fashioned fairground, chemist, bakery, sweet shop and general stores. Many of the buildings are manned by volunteers in period dress who will chat and answer questions and show the history of the time. Two of the main attractions are the pub (The Bottle & Glass) which serves traditional ales and the fish and chip shop which serves traditional fish and chips cooked in beef dripping and served in paper. I can confirm that they are very very good indeed!

There’s also an 1800s school where visitors can partake in “lessons”, a canal boat trip which takes visitors through the canal tunnels and into open caverns which were mined in years gone by, and horses being led along the street!

I think it’s so important for places like this to exist, and I do wonder what the future of them will be when the generation of people that remember some of the details first hand are no longer around. Considering a lot of kids these days don’t even remember time before mobile phones, I can imagine this is quite mindblowing for the younger generation!

Here are some pictures from the day.

The museum is great value at £16.95 for an adult ticket (or £15.95 if booked online in advance) and the ticket is also valid for a whole year, so you can return as many times as you like, which is ideal if you live not too far away, like me.

Have you ever been to the Black Country Museum? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Days out: Glastonbury

One of the things I dislike about winter is not being able to get out and about. Sure you can still do stuff, but it’s not much fun when it’s freezing cold with the threat of rain or snow and your extremities feel like they’re going to drop off.

The husband and I have been craving a change of scene and some fresh air, so with the promise of a dry and bright Saturday, we headed off to Glastonbury.

I’ve never been to Glastonbury before, and only know of it due to the music festival. I’d heard that it was hippy and mystical but knew nothing else about it. A quick Tripadvisor search told us that Glastonbury Tor and Glastobury Abbey were must sees.

Off we went down the motorway, getting super excited as the car temperature gauge crept ever higher, at one point reaching the heady heights of 10 degrees! It started to drop as we neared our destination, and was no more than 6 degrees and overcast as we parked up in Glastonbury and prepared to climb the Tor.

Glastonbury Tor is a bloody big hill, 525ft high, steeped in history and legend. At the top is what’s left of St Michael’s tower, dating back to the 15th century. Stuff like that blows my mind. It’s just so old!

national-trust-glastonbury-tor

There seemed to be multiple approaches to the Tor, and we settled on the one we were told was a gentle approach.

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Ha! Either someone was having us on, or I’d hate to see the none gentle approach! Despite the helpful addition of a well trodden path and man made steps, the ascent was challenging at times (remember I’m a non healthy, non exercising, non flexible person). Calves burned. Cheeks burned. Skin flushed from pink to purple. There were multiple stops, huffs and puffs as we powered on through. But we made it!

The views from the top are 360 degrees – apparently you can see 3 counties. It was pretty cool, but still just a view of countryside (I appreciate this makes me a heathen). Maybe because it was cloudy and dull, maybe because we were so high that the wind was howling and I was afraid of falling off and tumbling down the hill, or maybe because I had such bad earache from the blowing gale that I couldn’t properly concentrate, but it wasn’t worth staying up there for very long.

view-from-glastonbury-tor

So I snapped some piccies, marvelled (and not in a good way) at the man who had carried a babe in arms which was howling through it’s pink blanket, wondered why on earth there were names and initials carved into the stone of the historical St Michael’s church (seriously, who does that?!) and headed back down.

Feeling exhilarated and proud of ourselves we walked towards the town to check out the Abbey.

Glastonbury Abbey in it’s current guise dates back to the 1530s, and again is steeped in history. It’s the final burial place of King Arthur (like, wow!) For just £7.60 each (including the optional gift aid donation) we wandered around at leisure looking at the ruins, the history, the grand floorplan, the grounds, the flowers and the museum. It was magnificent. So much history.

The size and scale of the ruins is amazing, and trying to picture it in it’s full glory is mindblowing in itself. The ruins that are still standing are majestic. To think they were built all those years ago, without machinery, scaffolding or architects is fantastic.

The level of detailed carving and sculpture, purely for decorative purposes, must have been such a long process.

Here’s an impression of what it would have looked like before it was ruined.

glastonbury-abbey-artist-impression

Glastonbury town is surprisingly small, but very quirky. Outside of the main street there isn’t really much to see or do, it just kind of drifts off into ordinary nothingness! There are lots of crystal shops, stores selling books about witchcraft and the occult, hippy clothes shops and jewellery shops, with bright frontages, candles, mirrors and fun names.

Through this archway was a little courtyard with some quaint bookstores and a café.

glastonbury-experience

Such a pretty approach and shop.

This wooden face carving was a bit eerie!

glastonbury-wooden-carving

The sculptures were lovely.

See the guy in the blue fleece on the bottom right photo? He was randomly doing some form of tai-chi on his own in the middle of the courtyard. The kind of thing you’d expect in a place like this. Then he stopped and got his mobile phone out! Checking your emails isn’t the height of zen!

After marvelling at all the colours and craziness, we headed home; contended and happy to have had such a great day.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

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Pretty Portmeirion

This one’s a little bit of a cheat because it’s not actually from my most recent Welsh trip; it’s actually from the year before but I figure I can call it a #WayBackWednesday post (I don’t even know if that’s an actual thing, but I can’t wait until #ThrowbackThursday because I have other things I want to be posting about) and shamelessly shoehorn it in; if only because it’s too pretty not to share.

I mentioned that we spent a weekend in Wales last year for my Mother in Law’s birthday, and one of the days we went to Portmeirion. It’s about an hour’s drive from Betws-y-Coed, not a particularly scenic journey (apart from driving through Dolwyddellan with it’s green valleys and castle ruins) but it’s well worth the trip.

It was designed between 1925 and 1975 and pays homage to the Mediterranean and Italy. 60s TV series “The Prisoner” was shot largely on location there. It has a huge beach (which is actually an estuary) and is set in acres of gardens which you can take a little land train journey round.

The colours are magnificent – all of these pictures are point and click; no filters or improvements at all.

Pastel building Portmeirion

Portmeirion 2

Portmeirion

Looking back to PortMeirion

Every year, in September, they host Festival No. 6, and many of the cottages and rooms can be rented overnight or for a longer stay throughout the year. There are shops, a tea room, and a restaurant on site.

Gorgeous, right?

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Dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum

I thought I’d post some topical pictures (as topical as they can be, when they’re about a subject matter that’s millions of years old!) But with Jurassic World being released at the cinema (which, incidentally, I’ve been told is rubbish) it reminded me of my brief but interesting visit to the Natural History Museum.

A couple of months back I had a meeting in London which finished waaaay earlier than expected, but I’d got a pre-booked cheap return train ticket so I had some time to kill.

Embarrassingly, I’ve never actually been to the Natural History Museum. So I decided to poke my head in and have a quick look at the dinosaur exhibition.

My initial surprise was just how fabulous the building is. Wow!

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I love decoration for decoration’s sake. Look at the detail on those pillars around the entrance.

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Of course the big thing as you enter the Natural History Museum and what I really wanted to see is the model of Diplodocus. So big I could barely fit it all on one photo!

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Absolutely amazing and well worth dropping in for that alone.

Look at the size of its feet.

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The inside of the main entrance hall is a huge cavernous space, bathed in light from the big windows. Such a fabulous building.

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The dinosaur exhibit is free, and I imagine will be getting a whole load of visitors following the release of the film. Plus, with summer holidays coming, it’s a great place to entertain and educate the kids.

I’m slightly child phobic (the noise that they make, especially as a collective, goes right through me) and, despite it being after the Easter holidays, there was quite a large number of them there with parents and schools. Time constraints were therefore not the only reason my visit wasn’t of the lingering variety! I did get to see some cool stuff and snap some pics though.

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Some days I feel like I’m having a T-Rex growth spurt!

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There was a life size moving model that was rather atmospheric.

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And so my brief but box ticking visit was over. Short but good!

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