Thursday 19 May
A short drive to Sheringham Park, a National trust property on the North coast of Norfolk. Over 1000 acres of wonderful parkland with a whole section filled with glorious rhododendrons. We enjoyed wandering through the park for over two hours and then moved on to the town of Sheringham for lunch. The afternoon took us to Blickling Estate, another wonderful National trust property. The breathtaking mansion and ancient yew hedges sit within a magnificent garden and historic park, whilst inside the house is one of the most important book collections in the country. An excellent day for all of us.
Friday 20 May
Today we travelled to Stratford upon Avon and on the way stopped at another excellent National Trust property, Anglesey Abbey. Wonderful gardens again with a variety of different landscapes. Our first stop was at a working flour mill where we were able to see the old mill in operation producing a wonderful fine flour, which was immediately for sale. Progressing to the house which was last owned by Lord Fairhaven, who had renovated the home with many American ideas which included the first series of modern style bathrooms. A collector of clocks there are 37 situated throughout the house. A most worthwhile visit.
Saturday 21 May
A short trip into Stratford upon Avon and we had the morning to explore the town famous for William Shakespeare. The city dates back to the 11th century and has many older style buildings dating back to the 1500's. The Avon River was busy with pleasure craft and we were able to see a lock working effectively with some of the long boats. The city is one of the busiest tourist places in England and by the time we had finished there were about 30 coaches in the parking area, from zero when we arrived. The afternoon was spent in the local National Trust property adjacent to the hotel. Again something different and a large number of deer on the expansive property. Another interesting and informative day.
Sunday 22 May
A short trip this morning to Hidcote gardens, a world famous Arts and Crafts garden in the North Cotswolds. Created over 30 years by Lawrence Johnson, a wealthy American horticulturist. Plants grow in a jumble, flowering shrubs mingle with roses, climbers scramble over hedges and seedlings come up wherever they chose to sow themselves. Plants from all over the world were to be found throughout the gardens. The afternoon took us to a few of the Cotswold villages with a stop at one of the most favourite ones, Bourton on the Water, with a stream running through the middle of the village and several low bridges enabling the hundreds of visitors from all over the world to move throughout village. Another good day.
Wednesday 18 May
Rain forecast today so we changed our itinerary. We drove to the riverside village of Wroxham to take a 90 minute cruise on the Norfolk Broads. Originally swampy land which created extensive areas of peat which was used for fuel. The peat was cut out in wide channels which are now channels know as broads which are used by leisure boats throughout the year. On the cruise we passed many wonderful homes with thatched roofs and a variety of bird life and some of the older boats used to move goods in the area and along the coastline. After our leisurely cruise we drove to Norwich to see something of the main city in Norfolk. The city developed initially in the 1500's and has gradually grown to be a major commercial city in the East of England.
Tuesday 17 May
An early farewell to the Barn guest house where we were treated so well. A long drive to Norfolk where our first stop was Sandringham, the holiday home of the Queen. The house, built in 1870 has been passed down through the royal family as a private home and the ground floor is open to the public when the Queen is not in residence. Everything is left as used on an everyday basis by the family, so we were able to see how royalty lives when on holiday. The house is surrounded by 60 acres of glorious formal gardens which we were free to wander.
Pride of place in the Museum goes to the vintage Royal motor vehicles which were especially enjoyed by Robin, and the others in the group looked enthusiastically at particular models. At the end of the wander we were able to visit the 16th century Sandringham church which the Royal family attends at Christmas each year.. Then on to our countryside accommodation North of Norwhich.
Monday 16 May
Our last day based around York took us first to Harrogate, a large wealthy city with some wonderful buildings and large areas of parkland. Then on to Harlow Carr, one of the Royal Horticultural Society gardens, which provided us with another exposure to a wide range of English plants and gardens. We finished the day visiting an excellent Folk Village which provided an insight to events in rural Yorkshire, right back to the Iron Age.... Fascinating.
Robin taking a photo of what you can make with the left over junk for Velma birthday
Sunday 15 May
A full day in York gave some of the group an opportunity to attend worship in the Minster - the large cathedral in York, while some of us found the York Baptist church and enjoyed fellowship there. The rest of the day was spent exploring the city centre. York is one of the few cities with almost a complete city wall, which you can walk around and view both the activities inside and outside the wall. The Minster certainly dominates the Northern part of the city and the bells sounded wonderful as they rang several times whilst we were wandering. The Shambles, a market area and an area of narrow lanes with quaint shops was also explored. We finished with a visit to a 19the century Merchants House, a large imposing place with some wonderful furniture and history dating back even further to Queen Elizabeth 1st. Another interesting day.
Saturday 14 May
We set off across the North Yorkshire Moors with a light drizzle in the air and arrived in the small village of Goathland, the base of filming for the Heartbeat to series. It was good to see some of the actual settings used in the filming and a couple of the old Ford Anglia vehicles used. In spite of the rain everyone enjoyed this brief exposure to the tv series. On to Whitby, a coastal fishing village which was crowded with weekend visitors. The weather improved and the rest of the day was very pleasant as we explored the picturesque town. We then travelled South along the coast to Flamborough heads with its white cliffs and very strong winds, but we enjoyed the wonderful scenery and the opportunity to go down to the beach, where some of the group saw a seal playing in the sea. A great day of exploring different scenery and places.
Thursday 12 May
A longer day travelling today with an interesting stop halfway to York at Hardwick Hall. Developed in the 1500's by an aristocratic family who were able to design two wonderful houses on the site, the first of which is now in ruins but the second is now well furnished with many of the original tapestries and furniture. In the attic we were fortunate to be able to see many of the extra furnishings which are kept in storage, I guess for future use as further developments take place. The tour through the house finished with the wonderful kitchen at the back of the house. Our journey to our hotel "The Barn" in the foothills of the North Yorkshire Moors was through beautiful countryside. The village looks interesting and will be great to explore over the few days we are based here.
Friday 13 May
Much colder today so we rugged up with more clothing than on previous days. We made our way to Fountains Abbey which was established by devout monks after a simpler way of life in the 13th century and gradually developed to a magnificent property with over 400 monks based on the property. This was the wealthiest Abbey in the country with many farms run by the monks providing considerable income. Additional property was added over the years so that there are now wonderful landscaped gardens and lakes. The whole area is now a World Heritage site.. On the way back to the hotel we stopped on Thirsk, the area in which the stories on James Herriott and the tv "series "All creatures great and small" we're based. A typical English country town. As we topped the range of hills as we returned the scenery was quite spectacular.
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Photo by Norman Pressey
Wednesday 11 May
A bit of a rest day after a lot of travelling on Tuesday. We found a National Trust property just South of Worcester which proved to be a great morning activity for us all. We explored Croome the remains of a secret airforce base during World War 11 where thousands of personnel were based. A huge property which was the first garden developed by "Capability" Brown who eventually developed gardens though out England. The large property on site is still very much in disrepair but is in the process of being refurbished with the concept of showing different parts of the building through the various owners of the property. In the afternoon we explored Worcester and found one particular street which is narrow and has several traditional houses dating back into the 1600's, including a charming timber framed merchant's house. The city has a pleasant river running though the centre of town with a special swan sanctuary with hundreds of swans lining the banks. Had dinner in town before returning to our accommodation at the "Boot Inn".
Tuesday 10 May
Following an excellent breakfast we travelled to Rosemoor Gardens, the original of the Royal Horticultural gardens in England. In beautiful weather we enjoyed the variety of woodland and formal gardens. Then on to Bath to see something of the original Roman Baths and the Georgian architecture of the area. Again we enjoyed good weather in spite of the fact that we encountered some rain whilst driving. Our hotel just outside Worcester is based in a 13th Century farm. We have taken all the rooms available and enjoyed a wonderful evening meal.
Friday 6 May
After a good breakfast we travelled South to a small village, Ipplepen, where we investigated some of the background to Velma's family history. Found a couple of landmarks of her great grandfather and wandered the village to get a feeling of the place. Then a drive through Dartmoor National Park where we saw some of the wild ponies which roam the moors and observed from a distance the maximum security prison on Dartmoor. A break in Tavistock for a snack and then on to the Eden Project where we were able to visit a couple of atmosphere controlled domes and other gardens. The rainforest area in one of the domes has been developed extremely well and certainly gives those visiting a wonderful exposure to the rainforest environment .... something which is not available in Europe so a very popular venue for locals and European visitors. Our day fished in the county town of Cornwall, Truro.
Saturday 7 May
This morning took us to St Ives, a pretty seaside resort on the North coast of Cornwall. Narrow, winding and steep streets with many tourist shops, the town is very popular during the summer months. The narrow streets with non existent parking meant we had to walk into town so a different type of exercise today. We then drove around the Northern coastline of SW Cornwall towards Lands End. Many small villages constructed of the local stone along winding a winding road gave us a picture of the area in the 1800's when tin mining was the main industry. Abandoned mines were evident everywhere. We stopped at a small village, Zennor, for morning tea, and then moved on to one of the National Trust properties where we were able to explore an old mine site. Amazing. Apparently many of the mine shafts went well out beneath the sea. Then on to Lands End, a commercial set up which was not at all attractive.....at least we made it to the end of the country. On to Penzance and a look at St Michaels Mount, which is accessible across a narrow causeway at low tide. We finished the day at Trelissik House & Gardens with beautiful views across an estuary and extensive typical English gardens. A varied day enjoyed by everyone.
Sunday 8 May
Following a visit to the local Baptist Church we made our way to the Lost Gardens of Helligan, a 200 hectare series of gardens with a broad variety of woodlands, jungle and flowers. A rope bridge in the jungle area proved a challenge to some of the group. A number of plants were new to our tour, in spite of the many wonderful gardens we have already visited.
Monday 9 May
A day with a difference. No gardens on the itinerary. Our first port of call was Port Isaac, the port used as a base for the Doc Martin TV series. Narrow winding streets with plenty of recognisable buildings made it a most interesting visit. On to Tintagel, the base of the legendary King Arthur. We visited the "Old Post Office" a National Trust property dating around 1380, a rare sample of a medieval house. The castle ruins, on the cliff top, were just a little too far to walk. We then made our way to Boscastle, another small fishing village, which was nearly swept away by heavy flooding back in 2004. Rain kept us in the van for the rest of the afternoon and we made our way to our next hotel in Barnstaple.
Sunday 1 May
Across the road to the hotel is the Singapore Anglican Cathedral and we attended a contemporary service in a beautiful new sanctuary, and air condition too, which was a pleasant relief as the main Services in the Cathedral itself is not air conditioned. An excellent service with a very good sermon. An early lunch the off for a river boat cruise around the local canals and inner harbour which was interesting as it gave us a broad outline of the historical development around the waterways. A relaxing ride on the air conditioned hop on bus to the Singapore Flyer, with spectacular views over the main city.
Finished the day with a visit to Raffles, just to see something of one the historical masterpieces of the city. Then to the airport for out late night flight to Amsterdam
Monday 2 May
An early morning arrival in Amsterdam and transfer to our hotel in the city centre to find our rooms ready, which was great after an overnight flight. A shower and a bit of a rest then off for a city tour, which was mediocre, but at least gave us an overview of the city. Pleasantly warm during the day, though we were expecting it to be much cooler. Need a good rest ready for a busy next day.
Tuesday 3 May
Keukenhof Gardens. What an amazing place. 32 hectares of gardens with over 7 million tulips, daffodils and other precious flowers from around the world. The variety, size and colours of the various flowers were impressive and the garden layouts were exceptional. In other words we had a great day exploring these wonderful gardens.
Wednesday 4 May
An early start to our day so that we could visit the Aalsmeer Flower auction site. What an experience, and one that visitors to Amsterdam should not miss. Difficult to follow the auction process because everything happens so quickly, but the results prior to and following the auction were fascinating....we watched amazed as dozens of small red trolleys pulled carts of flowers around the huge building. We could have watched for hours.
A late breakfast then a bus took us to the seaside village of Volendam, a real tourist spot with picturesque houses and shops and the usual boats of a small port. Beautiful weather so we enjoyed the time relaxing amongst the tourists.
Back to Amsterdam and finished the afternoon with a canal cruise just to keep everything in perspective....Amsterdam is certainly the Venice of the North with so many canals and waterways. An enjoyable and busy day.
Thursday 5 May
An early train from the hotel to Amsterdam airport and the usual hassles of checking through security and customs followed by a 40 minute flight to London Heathrow. Arrival procedures completed we were met by Jean and Ron who are our English companions for the tour around England. Ron is driving us in a Mercedes Sprinter mini bus which is spacious and ideal for the group. En route to our first stop at Stourhead Gardens, one of the top gardens in the UK, we passed Sonehenge, one of the great heritage sites. England. Stourhead covers over 1000 hectares of woodland, lakes and wonderful gardens. The trail around the lake provides an insight into the history of the family who developed the whole area. Our drive through the English countryside on a beautiful day gave us a picture of England which is different to that expected - with a population of 60 million in an area the size of Victoria one would not have expected the amount of rolling countryside with the occasional village. A great day finishing off in Exeter and an excellent meal at a Toby's Carvery.
Friday 29 April
Up early for all of us as we had a 9 am flight. Check in was a breeze and so was customs.
Our flight from Brisbane to Singapore was uneventful with Singapore Airlines. Plenty of leg room and entertainment unlimited. Picked up our Singapore packages and and on to the hotel to find very pleasant rooms. Across the road for a snack - did not require much as had plenty of food on the flight. Then a couple of trains and a short walk to the Gardens by the Bay to see a spectacular light show. Everyone enjoyed this experience and retuned to the hotel for a good nights rest.
Saturday 30 April
After a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel we took the train again to the Gardens by the Bay, a 102 hectare wonderland of vegetation and flowers from around the world. Our package included entry to two climate controlled domes which were inspiring. Lunch in the gardens then a bus to the Botanical Gardens and a visit to the local orchid garden, which is one of the best in the world.