Cheshunt

EXPLORING LONDON GROUP 4

We have a planning meeting usually on the second Wednesday of the month. The next meeting will be on Wednesday AWAITS 2020 from 11.00am at St. Clements Church Hall. Parking is in the adjacent Lea Valley Park or Hillview Gardens opposite.

GROUP CURRENTLY FULL

Future trips:

ALL SUSPENDED
Wednesday 1st April – Highlights Guided Tour of the National Portrait Gallery before it closes for 3 years

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MARCH 2020

We did manage to visit Southwark Cathedral earlier in March and it was a very informative and enjoyable day taking in both the Cathedral and the local Bankside area.
Monies paid for trips cancelled will of course be refunded or carried forward to re-arranged trips or new excursions when we are able to meet again hopefully in the not too distant future. I hope this is acceptable in view of the circumstances.

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JANUARY 2020

On 2nd January we filled a coach for an enjoyable visit to Kew Gardens for the Christmas lights. A change in the route of the trail this year taking in the refurbished Temperate House and a spectacular cascade beneath the tree-top trail. The old favourites were still there with new twists (fire garden, cathedral of lights and the Palm House finale). Add to this the excellent use of seasonal music, new and old. Our coach returned through central London .

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NOVEMBER 2019

In November the group enjoyed a visit to Kensington Palace where we were able to walk in the footsteps of royalty in two interesting exhibitions about Queen Victoria:
Victoria: A Royal Childhood included remarkable objects relating to Victoria’s early years including a poignant scrapbook of mementos created by her German governess, Baroness Lehzen and Victoria’s doll house.
Victoria: Woman and Crown which looked at the real woman behind the public monarch.
At the end of November, the group enjoyed an atmospheric visit to the house created by Dennis Severs who hailed from California in USA. He made his home in a dilapidated property near Spitalfields Market. Woven through the house is the story of the fictional Jervis family, originally Huguenot silk weavers. The rooms are arranged as if they are in use and the occupants have only just left.

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OCTOBER 2019
In October we broke free of London for a visit to Oxford. After meeting our three ‘Green Badge’ guides 54 members enjoyed a morning guided tour of Oxford starting at Christ Church Meadow. We ended at the Bodleian Library Divinity School in time for lunch. In the afternoon our guides took us on a tour of an Oxford College and we followed in the footsteps of Inspector Morse, Lewis and young Morse. Afterwards most members decided they either needed to explore the Morse books and TV series for the first time or to catch up on them all over again.
Future trips:

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AUGUST 2019
In August we took the Thameslink train to Brighton. We strolled down past the Dome and the Pavillion, then travelled on the Volks railway to the harbour, back for fish & chips and out on the pier for ice-cream.

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SEPTEMBER 2019
In September we enjoyed a tour of Spitalfields with John Halligan. This was a very interesting tour about the French Huguenots that lived in the area.

The following week we visited Buckingham Palace State rooms. The centrepiece of this year’s Queen Victoria exhibition was the Ballroom where the grand Victorian Ball of 1856 was brought to life using digital projections and a Victorian illusion technique called Pepper’s Ghost. Our garden tour was in bright sunshine with a very amusing Yorkshire lad taking us round the Palace gardens.

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JUNE 2019
In June, 22 members were guided around old Kensington by Adam Scott and Corin Mellinger. An enjoyable guided tour courtesy of London Walks. The walk took in Kensington Square thankfully saved from development planned by Barkers Department Store years ago. Then onward to the street named after William Thackeray of Vanity Fayre fame and a lovely old mews. Crossing the busy Kensington High Street there was more peaceful surroundings behind St.Mary’s Church Kensington and the charming state primary St.Mary Abbots Charity School that was attended by David & Samantha Cameron’s daughter Nancy. Over the doors marked ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ are two Bluecoat statues. Nearby was a fine mural and a street of charming old cottages (now apparently very expensive) and interesting little shops. We finished the walk in Kensington Gardens at the entrance to the Palace. Hence the visit inside planned for November.

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APRIL
At the end of April, we took a river trip from Westminster pier to Greenwich and enjoyed a very informative commentary on the one-hour cruise down the Thames. After a bite to eat at the Greenwich Wetherspoons we spent the afternoon on the Cutty Sark. We self-toured the lower decks before joining the free 2.30. talk on the Main Deck. By the end of the talk the whole of the Explore London group had joined, and the few remaining members of the public had drifted away. We all ended up sitting in the Captain’s quarters; the group was so enthusiastic that every time the costumed guide tried to wind up someone asked another question. I think the guide was pleased to have such an attentive and interested group to talk to. It just goes to show what a spirited U3A we have in Cheshunt!

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MARCH 2019
On a windy March day, we visited the Tower Bridge exhibition. Our very knowledgeable guides brought the experience to life with entertaining stories of those who designed, constructed and maintained the bridge. We learnt about the way the traffic was stopped prior to a bridge lift in early days of the bridge.
Our guides told us a very entertaining story about the December day back in 1952 when driver Albert Gunter found his Number 78 double decker bus caught in a surprise bridge lift. There was a fault with the warning lights and without any notice, the bus became trapped on the North arm of the Bridge as it started to lift. Gunter had two options; slow down and face falling into the Thames, or speed up and attempt the jump. Luckily the South arm wasn’t as high, so the bus was able to make the jump, falling onto the lower side and staying upright!
We enjoyed spectacular views from the high-level walkway with many of us able to look down through the glass floor onto the traffic and the tidal waters of the Thames below; there was a sticker for those brave enough to stand on the glass! The tour finished in the Victorian engine rooms with lots more anecdotes from our guides.

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FEBRUARY 2019
In February we visited the Science Museum in South Kensington. In the morning we entered the free exhibition entitled: ‘The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution. This was very interesting. It explored the huge influence of medicine on the imperial family at the beginning of the 20th century; from the young Tsarevich Alexei’s haemophilia B—a rare blood condition passed down from Queen Victoria—to the Tsarina’s mental health, and the influence of doctors as well as spiritual advisers including the infamous mystic Rasputin.
The exhibition enabled us to discover the private lives of the Tsar and Tsarina and their children through unique artefacts, documents and photographs never before on public display in the UK. The royal family mysteriously disappeared in 1918 and finally there was an examination of the crime scene and more about the advances in medical and forensic science which transformed the investigation into their brutal deaths.
After lunch we met our Blue Badge guide who took us on an interesting tour of some of the museum highlights; through the Energy Hall with James Watt's preserved workshop, ‘the making of the modern world', the history of flight and the excellent new mathematics gallery. Everyone agreed that our guide made the afternoon very enjoyable.

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JANUARY 2019
In January we visited the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth. We travelled to Liverpool Street station and from across the road we used the very convenient 344 bus direct to the museum. As with all museums the tendency is for them to be busy and noisy with school parties in the morning. We had a blue badge guide arranged therefore for the afternoon, so everyone made their own choices in the morning. Many in the group visited the sobering adult only Holocaust gallery which tells the story of the dreadful Nazi persecution of the Jews and other groups before and during the Second World War.
Those who also visited the First World War gallery or took the curator led guided tour equipped with headsets were able to discover the story of that war through the eyes of the British people and the Empire, both on the home front and the fighting fronts. What impresses is that the exhibit reveals stories not only of destruction, suffering and loss, but also of endurance and innovation, duty and devotion, comradeship and love.
Our afternoon guided tour started with a brief history of the Imperial War Museum and the building’s origin as Bethlem Hospital. We went on to discover the exhibits from the First and Second World Wars and in contemporary conflicts. Our guide told us some of the everyday and exceptional stories of people whose lives have been impacted by war. We finished our tour at the top of the museum in the Lord Ashcroft gallery; this display houses a large collection of Victoria and George crosses. It tells stories of men, women and children who performed extraordinary acts of bravery to help other people in desperate need and who acted with courage and bravery.

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DECEMBER 2018
In December we visited the Postal Museum at Mount Pleasant. Arriving late morning we first spent time in the exhibition and enjoying refreshment in the café. The Postal exhibition tells the history of the mail from its early days. There is currently a temporary exhibit called ‘Voices from the Deep’; in this is displayed a selection of over 700 personal letters that have been trapped at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in a sunken ship for nearly three quarters of a century. A merchant steam boat the SS Gairsoppa was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by a German U-Boat in 1941. From soldiers writing to loved ones, to businessmen and missionaries, the letters offer a unique insight into the lives of ordinary people, living in extraordinary circumstances in the Second World War.
Before we headed across the road to the Mail Train the museum staff encouraged the group to join the afternoon talk about the mail coach that is on display in the museum. We were glad that we did because the talk was very interesting. Then it was on to the Mail Train; it was a tight squeeze into the little carriages as the original trains were designed to carry mail bags. Because it was December the interactive displays were given a seasonal makeover which was a bonus.

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NOVEMBER 2018
In November we visited the British Museum. In the morning everybody explored the galleries on their own. Some of us joined the volunteer tours that were available taking in the Roman Britain, Greek and Age of Enlightenment galleries. After some lunch we met our guide Jan Poole for a very entertaining tour of the many highlights in the British Museum. Jan first explained how the collection came together; she then went on to show us the Great Court which was transformed from an open courtyard into the spectacular glass roofed central feature of the museum in 2001. Then it was on to the Rosetta stone, key to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The group were especially taken with the huge human headed winged lions taken from the Nimrud gates, complete with the scratched game of Ur at their base played by bored guards that would have been on duty at the gates. Then there were the lion hunt stories behind the Assyrian Palace reliefs, the controversies and background to the Parthenon marbles taken from the Acropolis of Athens, the Egyptian galleries and the fantastic Anglo Saxon discoveries at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.
This week we enjoyed a very seasonal stroll through the city from Tower Hill to St.Pauls exploring delights such as Leadenhall Market and the narrow passageways frequented by Charles Dickens and fictional characters from his ‘Christmas Carol’ Along the way we discovered St.Olave’s dedicated to the patron saint of Norway in recognition of the Norwegian king who fought against the Danes alongside the Anglo-Saxon king Ethered the Unready. The Norwegian connection was reinforced when King Hakkon worshiped here while in exile during World War 2. Using the Norway link our guide explained that it was Britain’s support in the war that led to the annual Trafalgar Square tree donation. It was also interesting to learn that the famous diarist Samuel Pepys was buried here as was ‘Mother Goose’ (the noticeboard states this) - now famous as a pantomime character.

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OCTOBER 2018

At the end of October 49 group members took a Golden Boy coach to Windsor. After negotiating security, we were led round to the Winchester Tower where we enjoyed a talk entitled ‘Restoring Windsor – the castle after the fire’. With extensive use of slides, we learnt how it is believed that a spotlight being used in restoration work to a private chapel ignited a nearby curtain and then spread too much of the Upper Ward of the State Apartments.
The fire lasted 15 hours and 1.5 million gallons of water were used to put out the fire. In fact, the amount of water used complicated the restoration work more than the fire damage itself. Luckily many of the rooms near to the fire had been emptied to carry out the original renovation so that much of the collection was not damaged. However, there was significant damage to the rooms themselves and most of the roofs were destroyed. It cost £37 million pounds to carry out the restoration work and much of this was paid for by opening Buckingham Palace to visitors every summer. The rooms were generally restored back to their pre-fire architecture but with some modern modifications. This was demonstrated in the slides we were shown.
After our talk we were given audio guides and armed with these together with the knowledge we had gained from the talk we explored the state apartments up until lunchtime. In the afternoon we were met by our Blue Badge guides Amanda and Laura. They took us into St. Georges Chapel and explained the architecture and history. Notable for many royal weddings including the two recent ones this year. It is also notable for many royal burials and interments and we spent some time looking at the memorials to the likes of Edward III, Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville, Henry Vi, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour together with more recent royals like George V, George VI, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Mother) and Princess Margaret.
We finished off our guided tour with a walk around the precincts of the castle out into the historic streets of Windsor and round to the Great Park and the Long Walk. We returned to our coach as it was starting to get dark well exhausted but having had a very interesting day out.

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SEPTEMBER 2018
In September we travelled to Euston and negotiated our way past the HS2 works and down a side road. We were treated to a voyage of discovery in a very inconspicuous building in Stevenson Way. On selected Monday mornings, they produce ‘History and Mystery at The Magic Circle’; this is an introduction to their work, a tour of the HQ and their small museum, some excellent close-up magic and a short show in the small theatre. All the group 4 members attending had a great time.

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AUGUST 2018

In August we travelled by coach to Cambridge on one of last very hot days of this Summer. Our tour guides for the day, Steve and Cathy, met us at Queens’ Green. They both did their best to keep each group out of the sun for most of the day. Fortunately, there was plenty of shade inside Queens College which we visited first. Following this we explored the very different grounds of Kings College and inside the spectacular Chapel, together with the view that inspired lyrics from Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ Our guides told us about the relationship between the University and its colleges and student life in general.
Finally, we spent some time exploring the city of Cambridge passing by several other colleges and leaning about their colourful history as well as seeing the Corpus Clock, the Eagle and the Senate House. Afterwards, there was free time, but most people ended up having a cool drink back at the Eagle tavern.

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JULY 2018
In July we took a guided tour of Hampstead Village. Despite the previous day, Thursday being forecast with record temperatures the media had promoted Friday as the day to avoid and therefore we had a rush of cancellations. It was warm however and there was a rush for a cool beer at the Flask Inn at the end of the walk. Because of the weather we started the day in the air-conditioned British Library before moving on to Hampstead for an afternoon walk. With our numbers depleted we benefited from smaller groups with our two guides Jan Poole and Laurence Summers. The latter seemed familiar; he reminded us that he had been our speaker at the May meeting on the Victorian Age. Hampstead was delightful; lots of famous residents’ past & present, a Mary Poppins inspiration and great views. We returned home as it started to rain followed by the long anticipated thunderstorm.

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JUNE 2018
In June we visited Strawberry Hill House. We had a slightly later departure from Cheshunt than usual and then we travelled by the fast train from London Waterloo to Twickenham station. Lunch was at the William Webb Ellis (alleged inventor of rugby) Wetherspoon pub. Then a short 5 minute bus trip to Strawberry Vale.
The house and garden at Strawberry Hill benefited from a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from a number of other organisations, Trusts and Foundations. It won awards for the restoration work carried out ahead of public opening in 2010 after being vacated by the adjoining St. Mary’s University College (although the university still owns the site).
First, we enjoyed a guided tour of the gardens including the Shell seat, the Lime Grove and the lovely Chapel in the Wood. We were then treated to an afternoon tea with plenty of tea, cakes, scones and cream! Ready then for a guided tour of the house built in the gothic style for Horace Walpole, politician son of the first British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. He was also the author of the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. We were shown around the house by the Trust’s Director; his enthusiasm and knowledge were impressive, and the house surpassed everyone’s expectations.

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MAY 2018

At the end of May we travelled by tube and bus to Kenwood House where members enjoyed touring the house and taking lunch in the nearby café on a very warm day. The weather forecasters had threatened thunderstorms and flash floods and several times the sky turned very dark; luckily it by-passed North London. This was very fortunate because in the afternoon we met our guide for a tour of Highgate.
Highgate is a very desirable part of London where many poets, pop stars and other notables have either lived or are still living there now. Indeed, Ray Davis was spotted out for a stroll and one of our group went over for a chat about the school that they both attended. We finished by passing the famous cemetery, a tour of which will have to be included in a future trip. Next door is Waterlow Park, a little gem that is not very well known; the tea room in Lauderdale House offered most of the group well-earned refreshment before we headed back to Cheshunt.

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APRIL 2018

We had two trips in April. By popular demand 15 of us visited the special exhibition of works collected by King Charles I that ran until April at the Royal Academy of Arts. Everyone agreed that this was an excellent exhibition. A couple of days later a group of 24 visited the Charterhouse in Clerkenwell. Our tour was conducted by London Town Tours guide Julie Chandler and it included much on the work carried out in the area to construct Crossrail. The gardens outside the Charterhouse had only recently been restored following major excavations. We learnt about the tunnelling, station design, the trains, the archaeology, and how Crossrail impacted life at Charterhouse. We learnt that the land was originally used as a burial ground for victims of the Black Death, with the Charterhouse – a Carthusian monastery, being built in 1371. Remains of this plague pit were unearthed by the Crossrail works. With the dissolution of the monasteries, the Charterhouse became a mansion for wealthy noblemen and a refuge for royalty. In 1611 Thomas Sutton bought the Charterhouse and it was then used as a home for needy ‘brothers’ (they were no longer monastic). It has also been used as a school until that moved to Godalming in Surrey. There was graffiti on the pews in the Chapel from those days. The Charterhouse still houses ‘brothers’ and we decided that we would return in the future for a tour with one of the ‘brothers’.

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MARCH 2018
In March we enjoyed a visit to Westminster Abbey. Everyone agreed that our guide Jan Poole was excellent. The Abbey was very busy, and it restricts groups to 30 people, so we have another tour planned for May. We learnt that construction of the present church began during Henry III’s reign but that its history goes back to Edward the Confessor and much has been added over time. Jan started in the precincts of the Abbey and explained the significance of Westminster School and Westminster Choir School before moving into the Abbey itself and taking us through the various Coronations and Royal weddings that have taken place there including the most recent of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge. Until the death of George II most kings and queens were buried in the Abbey and we visited their tombs.

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FEBRUARY 2018
In February we visited the Houses of Parliament during the Half-term recess. As 48 members had signed up for this trip a coach was arranged. Fortunately, with it being the school holiday our journey into London was not as long as it usually is by road and we enjoyed time for a stroll across Westminster Bridge and refreshments before going through the security process.
We were separated into two groups for our tour around the Houses of Parliament. Our guides were very lively and full of enthusiasm such that the tours over ran the expected time. As well as exploring the Lords and Commons chambers we admired the elaborately decorated rooms which the Queen passes through at the State Opening of Parliament. We were able to appreciate the history of the building; it’s role as a Palace and the seat of Parliament.

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JANUARY 2018
In January we visited the National Gallery with our blue badge guide Jan. She took us on a highlights tour starting with the oldest exhibit the ‘Wilton Diptych’ which we discovered was painted as a portable altarpiece for the private devotion of King Richard II who ruled England from 1377 to 1399. A diptych is a painting, carving or piece of metalwork on two panels, usually hinged like a book.
We then explored the most notable paintings in the collection in the order that they were painted. Most notable amongst these were those by Titian, Bellini, Claude, Rubens, Gainsborough, Monet, Seurat and Cezanne. Particularly interesting is the painting by Hans Holbein the Younger during Henry VIII’s reign of the Ambassadors. Jan explained the symbolism in the picture reference to the religious turmoil at the time. The distorted skull in the foreground is notable as a symbol of mortality. When viewed from a point to the right of the picture the distortion is corrected.
Of course, there are the notables like the ‘Fighting Temeraire’ by Turner, the ‘Haywain’ by Constable and one of many paintings of Sunflowers that Van Gogh did. We finished our tour with a demonstration of pointillism; a technique developed by Seurat, where tiny dots of pure colour placed in close proximity to each other. When viewed from a distance the human eye fuses these into solid colour.

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NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2017

In November we enjoyed a close-up visit to the Albert Memorial. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert who died of typhoid in 1861. The memorial was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and opened in 1872 by Queen Victoria. After some lunch in the Albert Hall café across the road we were split into two groups for an extended tour of the concert hall. We learnt about the history of the Hall, some of the legendary performances, royal visits, backstage stories and gossip. The Youth Orchestra were performing that evening and we had the opportunity to sit in the auditorium and listen to them rehearsing.
In December we met our guide Richard at Goodge Street station and followed the criss-crossing paths of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson as they solved their only original Christmas-time case. We learnt about Arthur Conan Doyle as he reached a crisis in his professional life and where the famous detective acquired his famous Stradivarius violin. We finished the walk at Covent Garden where the story concludes. Then there was time for refreshment and enjoyment of the Christmas lights and smells at the old market before we boarded a bus to Trafalgar Square, Regent Street and Oxford Street to see the Christmas lights there.
December was in fact a busy month for the group; before Christmas we enjoyed a lovely Christmas Dinner at the Bulls Head in Turnford and after Christmas we visited Kew Gardens. After a very fresh afternoon stroll around the gardens in daylight we returned after dark for the Kew at Christmas presentation. The spectacular trail started with a sea of glowing globes changing colour to ‘The Carol of the Bells’, a huge Christmas Tree constructed from wooden sledges, the singing trees, a tunnel of bubbles, a flickering fire garden, a tunnel of lights and a grand finale on the lake in front of the Palm House of music, lasers and projections!

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OCTOBER 2017
At the end of October we enjoyed a guided tour of the Duke of Wellington’s Apsley House, popularly known as Number 1 London because of its prominent position in the heart of the capital at Hyde Park Corner. It is London’s only surviving aristocratic town house still in use today. Apsley House was originally designed by Robert Adam for Baron Apsley from whom it takes its name. After our visit to Apsley we had a lovely stroll through the Rose Gardens in nearby Hyde Park. We had lunch in a very busy café by the Serpentine. In the afternoon we returned to Hyde Park Corner and crossed the busy roundabout over to Wellington Arch. Our lively host Clive began by commenting that when he was first asked to take responsibility for tours of the Arch (previously working at Kenwood House) he thought what on earth can I tell people about an arch for 45 minutes. Like our guide at Apsley we found Clive had really come to love the Arch and he gave us an absorbing tour lasting well over an hour. We then made our way up by stairs or lift to the third and fourth floor exhibition ‘Waterloo 1815: The Battle for Peace, which included a pair of Wellington’s boots and the sword he carried on the day of the Battle. At the very top we entered the balconies just below the sculpture where there are glorious panoramas over the Royal Parks and central London. It is also possible to see into the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

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SEPTEMBER
We visited Clarence House; now the London home of Prince Charles, Camilla and Prince Harry. It was previously the Queen Mother’s home but since her death Charles has made several alterations in both the house and the gardens.
Before visiting Clarence House we spent the morning on a walk around the surrounding area (‘the Old Palace Quarter’). Our Irish actor/ director guide Liam Clark was very friendly, informative and highly amusing. We were taken down secret passageways revealed naughty stories from the 16th century and later. We discovered courtyards that you wouldn’t have known existed. We learnt about the gentlemen’s clubs and why the tiniest of windows needed a bar to stop the little urchins of old from crawling through.
In September, we visited Hampton Court. We enjoyed a 3-hour tour of the Palace and gardens and then only really touched the surface. A couple of the group even upgraded their entrance ticket to a Historic Royal Palaces annual membership. Despite the long tour, after a well-deserved cup of tea half the group were still up to getting lost in the maze. We never found our way to the middle of the maze the hard way but we had lots of laughs trying. The staff took pity on us and let us use the gate giving us a short cut to the centre in the end!

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AUGUST

'Recently we visited Buckingham Palace and after negotiating past the crowds for the Changing of the Guard we took a self guided tour around the Palace using the headsets provided. The special theme this year was based around gifts provided to the Queen over the years from all corners of the globe including a section on those from visits in the UK (there was part of the ribbon cut to open the Channel Tunnel). The contrast between the lavish expensive gifts from Arab countries and China compared with simpler yet often touching gifts from less wealthy places.
After lunch on the terrace we were taken on a garden tour. By this time it was raining heavily so our guide took us from tree to tree for some shelter especially as a number of people had not come prepared with suitable coats and brollies. We also sheltered in the summer house briefly. Half way round we were asked to move off the path and to our amazement two cars passed; the first carrying Prince Philip on his way to his last public engagement with the Marines and the second with Prince William!

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JULY 2017

In July we visited Greenwich. We took the train and tube to Westminster where we boarded the Thames Clipper service down to Greenwich. Initially we could see the sights of central London. Once past Tower Bridge the Clipper went into high speed mode. The power of these vessels is amazing and the efficiency and speed with which they negotiate each stop is impressive.
After lunch at the Greenwich Wetherspoons we were met by our two guides who took us on a very interesting and informative tour of the Cutty Sark, the Old Royal Naval College, the Queen’s House and the Meridian line. We learnt about the history of the College site; the Greenwich Palace in Tudor times, the hospital and it’s use as a university. We were unable to visit the Painted Hall because it is going through a renovation. However our guide used photos to show us how it looks. We did however get into the Chapel and we witnessed filming for a WW2 movie.
After our tour we took the bus to North Greenwich and crossed back to the North side of the Thames by way of the Cable Car. Some excellent views of the Thames, Lea, Excel Centre and City Airport.

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JUNE 2017
In June we joined our two guides Andy and Richard at Warwick Avenue tube for our interesting walk ending at Little Venice. This was certainly an area of contrasts. It is mostly a very affluent area with some of the finest early Victorian domestic architecture. Many famous names have been residents here in the past – Freud, Browning, Edward Fox, Ruth Rendell, Marc Bolan etc. Alan Turing spent his childhood here; his house is now a hotel. Our guide saw Earl Spencer getting into his car – he apparently bought his town house from Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame. Despite this it was interesting that the Paddington Green area had smart housing on one side of the road and council flats just across the road.
We continued to the lively part of the Regents Canal around Paddington known as Little Venice full of house boats, wildlife and restaurants. After a spot of lunch we embarked on a pleasant canal trip past Regents Park and ending at Camden Lock. Then it was a stroll along the canal to Camden Road Overground station for our return journey.

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MAY 2017
In May we had a tour of the area behind Kings Cross Station taking in the nicely refurbished Granary Building now used by the University of the Arts (Central St. Martins), the Skip Garden and viewing platform and Gasholder Park. We finished with a walk back along Regents Canal passing Camley Street Nature Reserve. We were impressed with how this area has been transformed over recent years. There is still more to be done but it is now nearing completion.
After lunch, we were taken on a tour of the British Library. We were shown how books are stored, accessed and delivered. Then we went to the viewing gallery to look down on the immense reading rooms. We were shown the second largest atlas.

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APRIL 2017

In April we travelled to Westminster pier for a 2 hour journey up the River Thames on the ‘Cockney Sparrow’. Our guide on the boat was a real cockney geezer; he pointed out all the sights along the way. Among the landmarks we passed were the Houses of Parliament, Lambeth Palace, the MI6 building, Battersea Power Station, Battersea Park, Chelsea Hospital , Hammersmith Bridge, Fulham Football Stadium and Kew Gardens.
We reached Richmond in time for a quick stroll across to the Poppy Factory. There we enjoyed a two course lunch followed by a talk about the Factory’s origins and then a tour of the factory. We were given the chance to make our own ‘No.1’ poppies and buy poppy mementoes of our visit. Then it was the quick way back on South West Trains from Richmond Station.

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MARCH 2017

In March we joined our guide Margaret at South Kensington tube station on a very sunny Thursday. She walked us to the Victoria & Albert Museum entrance in Cromwell Gardens and we admired the imposing façade in the sunshine. Margaret then took us inside the museum and we enjoyed a couple of hours touring some of the more notable exhibits such as the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries, the Raphael Cartoon designs for the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the Cast Courts and the Great Bed of Ware. Margaret’s interesting commentary brought these and other exhibits like the stained glass and jewellery that we visited to life. She also explained how the Museum evolved and was added to pointing out the interesting architecture. After our guided tour we made our way through the gardens to the refreshment facilities before spending some time wandering the galleries that took our fancy in the afternoon.

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February 2017 part 2
In February we joined our guide Richard at the Monument for a Darkest Victorian London tour across London Bridge, around Borough market, the paupers graveyard ‘Crossbones’, and Octavia Hill’s cottage, We finished at ‘Little Dorrit’s Marshelsea Debtor’s prison and the last remaining galleried London George inn. After lunch we visited the oldest surviving operating theatre in the UK, used in the days before anaesthetics and antiseptic surgery. We were given an hour’s talk explaining how the building evolved from a church and how the operations were performed. Despite its issues this really made us appreciate the NHS of today.

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FEBRUARY 2017

This month we met our guide Tim Wood outside the Royal Courts of Justice and after passing through the airport style security, we walked through the immense Main Hall, through the costume display and down the corridors passing the courts where civil cases are heard. Tim explained that barristers here can earn substantial amounts; up to £2,000 an hour. He showed us the Bear Garden, so called because this is where solicitors, barristers and their clients meet to discuss cases; on one of her visits Queen Victoria said the noise from their discussions sounded like a ‘bear garden’.

From the RCJ we walked via Lincolns Inn to the Old Bailey. We were told that part of the present building stands on the site of the medieval Newgate Prison. Tim spared little when he told us about the hangings that were a public spectacle in the street outside until the middle of the 19th Century. Old Bailey is the Central Criminal Court and as such it deals with major criminal cases from within Greater London and in exceptional cases, from other parts of England and Wales. After lunch, armed with our list of cases sitting that day, we sat in the public gallery on the trial that we had selected.

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JANUARY 2017

This month we visited the Museum of Water & Steam at Kew Bridge. We enjoyed a guided tour of the steam machines originally used to pump the water. The museum kindly operated one of the smaller engines during our visit. The impressive larger engines are called ‘Cornish’ engines because they were built to a design developed for the Cornish mining industry (think ‘Poldark’) by the great Richard Trevithick. We also enjoyed the interactive Waterworks Gallery telling London’s water story with interesting reference to the New River.
After a fine lunch in the Stokers Café we wandered up the road to the Musical Museum. This was an absolute treat. Our 87 year old guide Roy was very well received and so knowledgeable about the mechanical instruments which he explained and operated for us. This was followed by afternoon tea and biscuits and almost an hours’ demonstration of the mighty Wurlitzer in the top-floor Concert Hall.

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DECEMBER 2016

In December we enjoyed our medieval banquet in the vaults beneath Ivory House in St Katherine’s Dock which is named after the hospital sited here 900 years ago dedicated to St. Katherine. She was a fourth century saint who was martyred by the Roman Emperor Maximinus. We joined King Henry VIII and one of his wives as royal guests and were entertained with nearly three hours of songs ancient and seasonal, jugglers and hand balancers, a glamorous acrobat and contortionist and sword fighting knights. It was a very interactive show and we were encouraged to join the cast and wenches in medieval dance.
The four course banquet was delivered in style by the serving wenches. We were encouraged to shout for our wench and to bang our table in appreciation. We drank our soup from the bowl (no spoons!) and went on to enjoy a savoury strudel, turkey and the trimmings and chocolate torte followed by mince pie.
The following week we enjoyed a walk from Tower Hill taking in a number of London landmarks that feature in Charles Dickens’s famous story “A Christmas Carol”. We were treated to appropriate extracts from the story read by our actor/director guide Richard together with appropriate spooky sound effects from Len Matthews! We were reminded how Scrooge was visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come and how this led to Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning a much changed character. Richard interspersed Dickens with warming seasonal stories of Christmas puds, mince pies and pantomimes; cards, crackers and Christmas trees.
After lunch below St. Pauls Cathedral we took in the view of St. Pauls from the Roof Terrace on One New Change. Then we walked across the Millennium Bridge to enjoy the Christmas market outside Tate Modern and followed this with a No.23 bus trip to Marble Arch taking in the Christmas trees and lights in central London.

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NOVEMBER 2016

In November we visited the Whitechapel Bell Foundry where the Great Bell of Westminster ‘Big Ben’ was cast together with many other notable bells: The Liberty Bell and bells for Westminster Abbey, St. Pauls, Montreal Cathedral, and Lincoln Cathedral. Owner Alan Hughes took us on a very informative tour of the factory. Since our visit we have learnt that sadly the foundry is to close in May 2017 after being in business for over five centuries.
After lunch in Docklands we visited the Museum of London Docklands. This was enjoyed by all who were on this trip and we agreed that we will revisit at a later date and spend more time there.

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OCTOBER 2016

Visit to the Maritime Museum, Visit to the Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory & a Planetarium show -----

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AUGUST 2016

This month we had an interesting trip to the Cabinet War Rooms, the secret underground bunker hidden beneath the streets of Westminster. We were able to walk in the footsteps of Churchill and had a glimpse of what life would have been like during the Second World War. We saw where Churchill and his War Cabinet met and the Map Room as it was left at the end of the war.
The War Rooms now contain a huge Museum about the life and legacy of Churchill. It is very interactive and engaging. We finished our visit with a nice stroll through St .James Park nearby where we enjoyed the gardens and wildlife and some of us indulged in an ice cream.
With August being busy with tourists and as a pleasant change, we took off by train to Southend rather than visiting London. Fish and Chips and seafront or pier strolls were the order of the day.

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JULY 2016

Mark Fox our guide; provided a very informative backstage tour of the London Palladium. Mark enthused about how the Palladium site was originally occupied by Argyll House, and then used as a circus arena and a skating rink.
Originally designed by Frank Matcham in 1910, Mark took us through the variety years, the big-name American acts, to the acquisition by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and the big musicals like The Sound Of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Sister Act. We toured around the theatre visiting the recent Val Parnell bar refurbishment and the auditorium. We went on stage and below the stage. A nice twist to the tour was that two of the original Palladium Tiller girls held the doors open as we explored.

The following Friday we visited Drapers Hall which was built on the site of Austin Friars, the home of Thomas Cromwell. The Drapers Company acquired the site from Henry VIII in 1543 after Cromwell’s execution. Originally, the organisation was a trade association of wool and cloth merchants. The Drapers Company is one of the 110 livery companies in the City of London. Nowadays the company operates as a charitable, ceremonial and educational institution. It derives its income from the hire of its beautiful rooms for grand business and social events. It is also an important film location. It was used for the Kings Speech and Goldeneye.

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JUNE 2016

On 13th June we visited the British Museum. We joined a talk on Roman Britain illustrated by some of the interesting finds that have been uncovered around our country. We then joined a talk in the former Kings (George III) Library to appreciate the architecture, the formation of the Museum and the early collections from the time when people in Britain were looking to understand the world. After a pleasant lunch we explored other galleries including the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo discoveries, the Egyptian sculptures and tomb treasures and the Parthenon sculptures (Elgin Marbles).
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MAY 2016

On 24th May we had an interesting tour of the Newsprinters site off the A10. The site covers 40 acres, the size of 23 Wembley football pitches. It is the largest of its kind incorporating 12 massive press machines. The tour took us through the print process from the huge paper rolls through to the finished newspaper stacks. We learnt that the site is responsible for printing The Sun, The Telegraph, The Times, The Metro, The Evening Standard and other regional and independent newspapers.

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----- Exploring London Group 4, Trip to the BBC Studio's, 8th April 2016.

14 of the group assembled at Cheshunt Station for the trip organised by leader Rose.
Remarkably and with all due credit to rail transport, we were at Oxford Circus having changed at Tottenham Hale in under 35mins! The group then went its separate ways to peruse Oxford Street for a couple of hours before meeting up at 1.30pm outside BBC Television Centre.
Having gone through security, we met our guides for the afternoon, Nick and Maddie. Looking down over the news room, a familiar site at the start of news bulletins, the layout and workings of the room were explained and we observed the weather forecaster of the day giving her bulletin. From here we were taken into the ONE SHOW studio with the famous green couches. We were all surprised at how confined the room was and how good lighting can make a rather scuffed floor and tatty perspex coffee table look so pristine on the TV. Moving out onto the plaza ,we were informed of some of the BBC history and its first Chairman Lord Reef, this led us into mock up News Studio, where a couple from the group presented a news clip using the auto cues etc. This was followed by a further member presenting a weather forecast. ----- We were then taken to the Radio theatre and its history and operation explained. The finale of the visit was going into a radio studio and a six of the group reading a short play along with sound effects and then hearing the recording played back.
A very interesting and entertaining afternoon was had by all. After having a relaxing cuppa in the BBC cafe, we made a swift return to Cheshunt.

Click on a picture below to see it full-size with more details.

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