Day trip to Buckingham Palace, Monday 5 September

In this historic Platinum Jubilee year, we will be travelling by coach directly to
Buckingham Palace, leaving Seaford at 8.15 and returning around 7pm.

We will begin at 11.30 with a multi-media self guided tour of the following
magnificent State Rooms, which takes around 2 hours.

The Picture Gallery which was designed as a setting for George IV's collection of Old
Masters and still displays some of the finest works in the Royal Collection. Central to
the Throne Room designed by John Nash, is the pair of throne chairs used for the
Coronation ceremony in 1953. The beautiful White Drawing Room with gold decor
and secret door. Last but not definitely not least, the Ballroom. This is the largest
room in the Palace, opened in 1856 to celebrate the end of the Crimean War and is
used for State Banquets and Investitures. There will also be a special Jubilee display
marking Her Majesty's accession with photos and some personal jewellery.

After the self guided tour at our own speed, the itinerary allows roughly half an hour
to take in the panoramic views of the lake and eat our own sandwich in the garden
area - but not in the café.

The private Garden Highlights Tour starts at 2pm and explains the history of the
garden. We will see the Herbaceous Border, the summer house, the Rose Garden,
the enormous Waterloo Vase, and the Palace Tennis Court where George VI played
in the 30s.

After the tour we will take time to visit the café, have a cup of tea, cake etc. and of
course there is the Garden Shop!

There will be a little walk after the coach drop off and pick up and it is a half mile
walk through the gardens to reach the exit when we leave at 4pm.

In the Palace there are 47 steps up the Grand Staircase and 41 steps down the
Minister's Staircase. For those wanting further mobility information please call me.
Depending on the coach size, the cost of this trip will be around £66 to £68 including
travel and gratuity, entry, and the private garden tour. I appreciate that these trips
are expensive, and I’m sorry, but the increased cost of fuel and the ULEZ charge for
central London do not help.

If you would like to sign up, please call Heather on 07549054613 or 897239

Visit to Glynde Place, Friday, June 24th

After a bit of confusion as to where to park, we all arrived in front (which was originally the back) of
the imposing Elizabethan Manor with its far reaching views across the South Downs and the Weald.
This was an early indication that the whole trip was going to be confusing, a test of memory skills
and comprehension to keep up with the facts, stories and asides of this place which has survived for
over 500 years in the same 3 families by intermarriage. In 1569 the house was built on the site of an
earlier building and lived in by William and Ann Morley. It passed to the Trevor family by a Morley
widow marrying a Trevor and then the Brands by birth. On the death of his father Francis Brand, the
current 7th Viscount Hampden inherited the house and title.

His father had sold a sketch by Rubens to Tate Britain for £5 million, The Apotheosis of James 1,
which had been on loan to the National Gallery since the 1980's. This enabled the major renovation
of Glynde Place which took place over 5 years, bringing the house into the 21st century and
discovering along the way old hidden doorways, rooms and fireplaces which had been lost through
generations of remodelling.

A fascinating tour of this Grade 1 family home was similar to walking through a museum, listening to
our guide telling the family history but at the same time trying to assimilate all the wonderful
objects.. paintings, period furniture, photos, rugs, china, silver....and the views. No photos allowed ,
no labels or signs, no time to scribble notes, too much information!

To begin with we walked across a courtyard into the old entrance hall with the original oak door
pulled open as a sculptural display and admired an enormous modern watercolour of Venice which
continues the family tradition of collecting works of art through the ages. It was purchased with an
insurance pay-out after the theft of 2 silver candelabra. Also pointed out to us was a very modern
collage of metallic looking flowers and shapes which all the current members of the family had
contributed to.

We looked around the family sitting room with an impressive drinks table ( the choice, not the table)
an Italian masterpiece above it , the artist's signature delicately painted on the sitters jacket. On
googling I found the family had also sold a Canaletto at auction for close to 4 million.
An interesting piece of silver was a huge solid silver item presented to liberal politician, Sir Henry
Brand (owner of the house for a lot of the 19th century) upon his retirement as Speaker of the
House of Commons along with the revived title of Viscount Hampden. It was made by Garrard, the
then Crown Jewellers and standing at 2 foot tall, was topped with a statue of a young Queen

In the long panelled gallery where classical concerts are occasionally held, there were some amazing
oil paintings, and a his and hers bronze in fantastic detailed picture frames. These were obtained by
Richard Trevor in the 1700's who was also Bishop of Durham ( family tradition of the second son
entering the church). He bought up more land for the estate, remodelled the church, designed
parkland and had the Wyvern gates installed . Busy man as he also lived at Auckland Castle, his
official residence.

More rooms, more paintings and artefacts relating to the Morleys, Trevors and Brands, items of
interest, anecdotes and hearsay. By the end of the tour( and feeling overwhelmed ) we headed to
the Coach House which has been converted into a lovely tea room. Here we had tea, coffee and
biscuits ( no champagne sadly) which revived us and I thought what a fascinating place, easily one of
the grandest houses so close to home

Poppy Factory and Kew Gardens.

Our visit to the Poppy Factory was fascinating and a sombre reminder that one hundred years on from the formation of this inspirational organisation, nothing has changed. War with its death, mental and physical injury, trauma, destruction and devastation is still present in today's world.

We heard how in 1922 Major George Howson MC had the vision of employing injured veterans returning from The Great War, the war to end all wars. He founded the Poppy Factory and started making the iconic poppies for the British Legion.

After the talk we were invited to make poppies to wear this November and have a go at attaching others to the wreaths still made at this site.

The icing on the cake, literally, were the delicious cakes made and served by a patisserie chef plus proper barista coffee and tea made by a veteran. They were definitely well worth the wait!

Moving onto Kew Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was also fascinating. Taking the train around the 300 acre site to familiarise ourselves, some of us still got slightly lost afterwards !

From the Grade 1 listed architectural glass houses to Georgian Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s cottage.... the tranquil, manicured Japanese garden with its raked gravel, Minka House and resident male peacock looking rather bored. Wild areas with tracks and walks, the beautiful Rhododendron Dell, towering redwood trees in the Grove. Stunning walks with beautifully designed planting, a huge, calming lake, an arboretum with 2000 species of trees. Dotted around were temples and follies, various places to eat and a wonderful adventure playground for kids.

The tree top walkway was worth the hike up to the top. Looking across the canopy of trees I could see the Post Office tower at least 5 miles away and the City in the distance.

The Great Pagoda built in 1760 as a present for Princess Augusta (who founded the gardens ) has 80 restored dragons on it and stands at 50m height with more panoramic views.

Following the Thames as we began the journey home I reflected on our 2 visits. The horror and futility of war symbolised by the distinctive, enduring symbol of the Poppy as a sign of remembrance, sacrifice and survival which had sprung up amidst the barren battlefields.

Kew which had introduced charging 1penny entry as a means of raising money for WW1, remains a calm, nurturing oasis with all the benefits to health, a positive and tranquil place where one can be at peace in this chaotic world.

Kew Gardens (Slide Show)

Behind the Seams on Monday, March 14th

We arrived at Ikea with plenty of time to wander the twisting path that led us past items we never knew we needed but thought we couldn’t manage without .. freezer bags, storage baskets, glasses and all those candles to name just a few ! Lunch in the cafeteria was also tempting and many of us had the famous meatballs followed by blueberry cheesecake.

Later, the coach deposited us at the end of a very narrow suburban road in Croydon for the much anticipated “Behind The Seams” tour of DSI, the company that makes costumes for anything dance or show biz related.

Up some steep narrow stairs into a room where we were invited to sit down and meet Carole who was going to dazzle us with facts, figures and stories followed by the tour to see the production process...once we had sipped our champagne to put us in a sparkly mood !

The company has grown from a dance school with its newsletters, books and DVD’S expanding to selling shoes, accessories and jewellery but it wasn’t until 2000 that the dressmaking department was born. Supplying the costumes for Strictly Come Dancing (which are hired by the BBC) is only a small portion of their turnover, they make costumes for worldwide dance competitions, films, West End and cruise ship productions. Working hours can be long and even when SCD is all consuming, other orders must be fulfilled.

We were shown dozens of swatches in different colours each containing about 10 different fabrics from voiles to velvet . Apart from the fringing, we saw boxes and rolls of laces ( who knew there were so many types), ribbons, beads, feathers, all of which have to be sourced abroad. Each order of fabric can cost up to £10,000 and needs to be ordered 6months ahead, again from abroad due to our lack of UK manufacturing capability.

Tailor's dummies are covered in bubble wrap which can be removed as contestants lose weight or tone up and each outfit is sewn onto a stretchy leotard which also helps with size fluctuations. Vicky Gill, the designer, meets each contestant beforehand to discuss their preferred styles and although they can’t choose what they wear, the aim is to help them feel comfortable.

On our tour we visited many of the workshops and no one failed to be impressed by Ash the embellisher who sews the rhinestones onto the dresses . Packets contain 10 gross, there can be up to 8 packets on a dress and Ash takes 50 minutes to glue 1 packet. He made it look so easy, forming the patterns with dots of glue then attaching the stones with a sticky bees wax tipped pencil, turning the ordinary into the stunning.

We saw eight layers of fabric being cut at once for an outfit for a film with a dangerous looking electric blade and we were not allowed to take photos of the design, very secretive! A dummy being padded with bubble wrap, in another room men's dance trousers being cut using huge scissors and the revolving blade, the pattern being held in place with weights. We peeped through doorways, rooms with many sewing machines, up and down stairs, big rooms, little rooms, fabric and accessory storerooms with rolls and boxes, some tidy, some not......

Leaving the premises , we realised it was more than “the place that makes pretty dresses”. DSI is a complex, global operation which in a couple of hours had taken us on a journey from simple roots via design, styling, making, embellishing along with astounding skills in logistics, storage and organisation, ending in a room with racks of the sensational, stunning, shimmery dresses. Sadly no souvenirs, much as we coveted one of those gorgeous gowns !

Behind the Seams (Slide Show)

Westminster Abbey, November 2nd 2021

Covid 19 had put this trip on hold but finally we were able to forget about all that and board the coach to make the journey under sunny skies for our long awaited tour around the Abbey.

Even crossing the Thames via Chelsea Bridge with familiar buildings, landscapes and icons along its banks was exciting ! Battersea Power Station, famous landmark and Grade II listed building is coming back to life after being put on the Heritage at risk register and everywhere looked bright and shiny. Ian met us and before long we were making our way to the Weston Tower to visit The Queens Diamond Jubilee Galleries, funny how the mention of the lift encouraged everyone to join in !

With views over the main body of the church from its high vantage point, this 13th century triforium has been reborn and houses hundreds of items celebrating and telling the story of the Abbey's 1000 year history. Displayed as four themes, with effigies, wall monuments, architectural features, we all
found it a beautiful space and fascinating.

After a quick bite to eat in the Cellarium, where the wine list was more interesting than the food (some picnicked outside) we met up again with Ian. This proved to be a packed 2 hours filled with the long history interspersed with asides and anecdotes which made it all the more entertaining.

Beginning in the Nave by the West Door we learnt about the Catholic Benedictine origins of the site dating back to the 960’s . In around 1042 Edward the Confessor, the last of the Anglo Saxon kings of England, began building a new church in the Romanesque style which was consecrated in 1065, a week before his death and where he was buried a few days later.

Two hundred years later Henry III pulled it down (apart from the Nave) and rebuilt it in the new French Gothic style as a shrine to venerate Edward the Confessor. The wonderful Cosmati pavement in front of the High Altar was ordered by him, abstract and unlike the traditional floors elsewhere. The inscription says it will last for 19,683 years !

We heard how the Abbey became the coronation site of all British sovereigns apart from Edward V and Edward VIII who were never crowned. Looking at the ancient wooden coronation chair known as St. Edward’s chair, it's hard to believe it will be used for all future coronations.

Moving around the abbey hearing about royal weddings and burials, looking at the many tombs and memorials of famous people was staggering. With 30 kings and queens buried here, Edward the Confessor and Henry III behind the High Altar, Queen Elizabeth I with her Catholic half sister Mary I in the Lady Chapel. This chapel has been beautifully cleaned and it is absolutely stunning, my favourite part of the Abbey.

There are around 3000 memorials or tombs to the good and the great. Statesmen, scientists, poets, writers, warriors, musicians. We quietly observed the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the only one forbidden to walk across. A new stained glass window by David Hockney called the Queens Window is a contemporary addition to the Abbey, not much admired by our guide!

Tumultuous times were experienced by the Abbey, changing from Catholicism to Anglican and back again depending who the sovereign was. During the dissolution of the monasteries it was given the cathedral status to spare it from destruction, attacked by Puritans under Cromwell, an earthquake in the 18th century, bombed by a Suffragette in 1914 and damaged during the Second World War.We then discovered a Covid 19 vaccination centre at Poets Corner in the South Transept had been set up in 2021, reminding us that there is no getting away from our current troubles after all.....

Westminster Abbey (Slide show)

Trip to the Royal Courts of Justice, 5 December 2019

Descending from the calm of the coach into the hustle and bustle of the Strand, we crossed over the road beside St. Clement Danes’ Church and found the little lane leading from Fleet Street to the Temple Church. The noise receded and the medieval lane opened up to show the round church, modelled on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and built in the 1100s by the Knights Templar. The church has an exhibition displaying the history of the church and the Templars, the negotiations in the Temple that led to the Magna Carta, and the church's continuing connection with two of the Inns of Court, Inner and Middle Temple who maintain the church. Two statues on loan from the House of Lords and a facsimile of membranes from the Statute Roll of 1297 in which Magna Carta was enrolled, were part of the fascinating exhibition. The church is beautiful in a simple way and felt eerie with someone playing the organ and the many stone effigies of some of the Knights Templar.
After lunch in various places, we reconvened with our guide at the RCJ with its gothic spires, towers and pinnacles, all built in Portland stone. This building took 8 years to build, the architect George Street (who had been a pupil of Charles Barry, the architect of the Palace of Westminster) sadly died before completion. It was moved from Westminster Hall for convenience; closer to the legal quarters of the 4 Inns of Court, Lincoln’s, Grey’s, Inner Temple and Middle Temple, the self contained precincts for barristers’ chambers and solicitor’s offices.
The great hall is an enormous 238’ long, 48’ wide and 80' high. With loaned paintings decorating the walls, a statue of Queen Victoria and one of G. E. Street, it is very daunting and intimidating, an indication when one arrives to the seriousness of the civil litigation carried on here perhaps. There are big wooden boards with the “daily cause” list....imagine our surprise to see Leslie Fothergill on one of them! The masons went on strike half way through building so German masons were brought into finish which didn’t go down well and there are two highly carved pillars which were carved by the bored masons!
Queen Victoria opened the building in 1882 and on entering a beautifully decorated room upstairs in the style of Pugin with the painted shields of the Inns of Court, a room next door was serving as a meeting area. She commented that the noisy barristers reminded her of bears and it is now known as the Bear Garden! With over a 1000 rooms, 19 court rooms, there were several renovations and extensions in the 20th century, updating during the last few decades to accommodate computer technology (difficult in a grade 1 listed building), even the basement has been converted into courtrooms to accommodate the growing need. It is one of the largest courts in Europe and it is here that civil issues are, family disputes, asylum, deportation and libel to name but a few.
Stan was the perfect guide, knowledgeable, amusing and interesting; he filled our heads with stories and facts pertaining to the long history of the beautiful cathedral-like building. After the tour we were allowed to (try and) find a court to sit in on a hearing but to remember to sit only in the back 2 rows, no bowing and sshhh! Some of us did and although an interesting experience, it wasn’t what I expected. No banging the table, long speeches or clever retorts, no historical robes, horsehair wigs and gavel thumping. Absolute silence, a ticking clock, turning of pages, clearing of a throat and a question asked at length followed by a nervous reply! Not very glamorous or dramatic. But we did see fleeting glimpses of barristers in quiet corridors, wearing their flowing robes and wigs, sometimes in what I imagined to be confidential talks with others. So understated drama!

Reports from earlier trips

If you didn't go, we hope you find them interesting.
If you were there, maybe these accounts will bring back some happy memories.

Wiston House
Dover Castle
Farleys Farm Report
Hever Castle
Chichester Planetarium
St Pauls Cathedral
(I am aware that this should be St Paul's but the website does not permit an apostrophe in a link. David)

Newhaven Fort
Clarence House
Christian Dior
Michelham Priory
Chelsea Physic Garden

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