Posts Tagged With: England

A visit to Witley Court and Gardens

While I’m busy putting together a post for our trip to the Isle of Wight I thought I would just tell you quickly about our day out on Easter Sunday to Witley Court and Gardens in Worcestershire, while it’s all still fresh in my mind. Since the humans received a membership to English Heritage as a Christmas gift, we have been finding new and exciting places to visit at a weekend and this weekend was no exception. Witley Court is a beautiful, ruined manor house with some pretty amazing fountains in the garden and a spectacular church.

Phil and the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain at Witley Court

They had a really bad fire in 1937 which destroyed one end of the building (there are some photos on this Wikipedia page) and it was too expensive for the family to repair. After a few years the house ended up in the hands of scrap merchant type folk who stripped it of anything that could be sold including building materials and roof tiles etc. and then finally it ended up in the care of English Heritage who look after it today.

The lovely golden gates which would have stood up on the slope in the picture below, between the trees, are now at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, along with London Bridge (there are pictures of the gates on that Wiki link I put above).

Witley Court

There are two lovely fountains, though only the one in the south garden works which is the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain. That middle jet is really high and if it’s windy you can get wet! They only turn it on 5 or 6 times a day for the visitors for about 15 minutes at a time.

Perseus and Andromeda Fountain at Witley Court

The Flora fountain, next to the East Parterre, is missing a vital component i.e Flora, who I believe was damaged when they tried to move her when bits of the house were getting sold off. This fountain doesn’t work.

Flora Fountain

The church which adjoins the house isn’t run by English Heritage but you can still go in for free. It’s got some amazing paintings (she-human tells me they are baroque). And you can visit the crypt too which is pretty spooky! They do ask if you might leave a small donation to visit the crypt.  Ooh and there is a nice tea room just down past the church where you can get a drink and something to eat. We had lunch and cake and it was all rather nice. Here is their website.

Great Witley Church Great Witley Church

Here are a few pics from around Witley Court – you can click through to the full set on Flickr through any of the photos):

Witley Court

Witley Court

Witley Court

Witley Court Main Staircase  Witley Court

The East Parterre at Witley Court

The East Parterre, Witley Court

Witley Court  Witley Court

Witley Court

It really is a spectacular place. Looking from the other end of the slope where the gates used to be, she-human said it reminded her a bit of a kind of small scale, ruined Versailles. If you would like to visit Witley (hopefully you will get better weather than we had and some nice blue sky) all the details you need are on the English Heritage website.

Advertisements
Categories: A Bear Elsewhere, Bear Travels, English Heritage Bear | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A weekend in Portsmouth …and what to do with it

It was that time of year again … coming up to the man-human’s birthday and so holiday plans were, of course, afoot – or indeed, a paw, as the case may be?

We came to be in Portsmouth because we were going to the Isle of Wight but it seemed a shame to just bypass it and jump on the ferry to Fishbourne so we decided to stay for the weekend beforehand. Although I am obviously usually one for travelling on the cheap I don’t mind one bit if the humans decide to splash out a bit (comparatively) which they did on this occasion. We stayed in a lovely 4-star B&B on “Spice Island” in Old Portsmouth called Fortitude Cottage, run by Maggie and Mike.

Fortitude Cottage

A slight faux pas occurred when the humans paid £20 to park the car all weekend opposite Fortitude Cottage only to be handed a pass when they checked in which would have given them free parking for the duration of our stay. They admitted that they probably hadn’t read the B&B website properly and silently congratulated Portsmouth Council on £20 well made. Maggie gave us a helpful map of the area and pointed out various options for food and things to do and key in hand we went up to our room; room 1, a very pleasant double en-suite with a cool views across the harbour. They had even supplied binoculars so we could do some seagull spotting or ship spotting or something.  To be fair the Wightlink ferry comes so close you hardly need binoculars to see it but you could probably use them to lip read what the people are saying on the viewing gallery of the Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays. (Incidentally, Maggie says that the building site over the road has been that way now for about 7 years and it doesn’t look as though anybody will be building on it in the near future, which is good as it would ruin the view).

Our room The view from our room

This is the view back towards Fortitude Cottage from the Spinnaker Tower viewing deck (more about that shortly). You can see what a lovely location it is, right out in the harbour in old Portsmouth on Spice Island as it was known historically.

Where is Fortitude Cottage?

THE MILLENNIUM TRAIL

Millennium Trail Portsmouth

Picture courtesy of http://www.visitportsmouth.co.uk (no photographer details provided)

We didn’t want to waste any daylight so headed out straight away to explore. Maggie had pointed out a useful walking route which follows a chain motif in the pavement that would take us to Gunwharf Quays in 10 minutes and the Historic Naval Dockyard in about 20 minutes. The Millennium Trail walk went right by Fortitude Cottage on the other side of the road so, after stopping to eat our sandwiches out on the point overlooking the harbour mouth, we headed toward the Spinnaker.

Just round the corner from Fortitude Cottage

The Still & West (beige building on the right), the Spice Island Inn infront and Millennium Promenade Trail curving round in the foreground on the floor.

This is a brilliant booklet, audio guide and family activity sheet by Discovering Britain (that we only found when we came back – oh well!) that features the millennium trail and Old Portsmouth in detail with pictures and explanations of the landmarks … OLD PORTSMOUTH GUIDE. The walk is flat so it’s really easy for everyone to do and there’s lots of places to stop on the way.

A TRIP UP SPINNAKER TOWER

The Spinnaker

When we got to the Spinnaker Tower we decided, since it was a nice sunny day, to go up it to the viewing gallery. On a murky day there wouldn’t be a lot of point but on a clear day you can see for, they tell me, about 23 miles. For those of you who like facts and figures, it opened in 2005, is 170 metres high, weighs more than 30,000 tonnes and is taller than Big Ben.  A lift takes you up to the first viewing deck at a height of 100 metres. There are audio guides, interactive screens and things and most exciting; a big see-through section in the middle of the floor that you can walk across (you have to take your shoes off, unless you don’t wear shoes like me, which is useful). It’s pretty hair raising: you can see straight down to the floor below.

Phil on the Spinnaker skywalk

They have a cafe on the next floor up and then another viewing deck above that.  It usually opens from 10am – 6pm but do check their website HERE. They have a big information board by the entrance too. You can book tickets online and save a bit of money but if you want to visit any of the things at the dockyard they do a variety of joint tickets you buy on the day instead which include the Spinnaker and/or HMS Victory, the Mary Rose Museum, HMS Warrior, Harbour Tours, the Museum of the Royal Navy and Action Stations. It is a good saving if you know you want to see lots of other things and the tickets are valid for a year – a whole year! So you can come back and visit again and don’t have to pay … how great is that?

THE HISTORIC NAVAL DOCKYARD

View of the naval dockyard from the Spinnaker

Portsmouth is a working Naval base and there are lots of exciting ships there of all ages and types. If you are planning to visit, although the official websites are really helpful, my biggest advice is to ignore any suggested visiting duration times: whatever it says – double it. And if you are only 6 or 7 inches tall like me you’d better hope someone with longer legs will carry you around! If you want to see all the historic dockyard attractions properly without rushing and missing bits you really need to have 2 or 3 full days at it. So many people must just come to see Mary Rose or HMS Victory and that is a shame because you miss such a lot of other really interesting things to do and see. These are the things we managed to do in a day and a half:

  • HMS Victory

Phil on HMS Victory

We got to HMS Victory later in the afternoon and it was nice and quiet. You follow a set route round each of the decks which is helpful. There is lots of information as you walk round so take your time. Also the lower decks have pretty low ceilings so you need to mind your head – here my diminutive stature is a bonus! Look out for the small plaque up on the quarterdeck marking the spot where Nelson fell having been mortally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805.

Phil at HMS Victory Where Nelson fell

If you want to learn about the Battle of Trafalgar THIS is a brilliant animated map of the battle from the BBC History website.

  • Mary Rose Museum

On our second day we aimed to be at the gates just before opening which turned out to be a good plan as you have to do battle with queues of people coming off coaches at the nearby bus station; you really don’t want to get stuck behind hundreds of people as you still have to go through the ticket office to re-validate your ticket for the day. Many people seem to head for Victory or the Mary Rose first so if that is your plan too then you need to beat them to it at the gate. There was already a small queue by the time we had walked up to the Mary Rose museum but as it turned out we didn’t have to wait too long.

You can have your picture taken with Henry VIII just as you go in. I declined as he looked a bit gruff and probably had little time for a small bear such as I to be honest. We didn’t really know too much about the ship itself or the Battle of the Solent so the first bit is really interesting. There was a lady there who knew heaps about history and we listened to her for ages. After that we went off down one of the galleries that runs the length of the shipwreck. It has been sprayed for years with a chemical solution that will strengthen the wood and now it’s got to spend years drying out which is what the big black pipes are in the picture below. Take your time looking round the artefacts and cabinets as there’s lots of interesting things to read about. You have to be patient if it is busy as some people can be quite rude and push in front of you. Incidentally, the windows along the galleries are all set at different heights for big and small people, which is thoughtful.

Phil at the Mary Rose One of the canons from the Mary Rose

  • Museum of the Royal Navy

The museum is huge and I think spread across a few buildings; we went in the smaller building directly opposite HMS Victory. I must confess we didn’t take any pictures in here and we didn’t have time to explore all of it, but what we did see was excellent. Lots of hands on exhibits, touch screen quizzes and learning how to fire a cannon (which was fun) and videos about life in the navy. There were lots of old models of ships and paintings too. When we go back one day we will spend some more time in there and in the bigger building next door.

  • HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior is a quite beautiful looking thing.  It is powered by steam and by sail and was Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured warship. In its day it was the biggest and most powerful ship but after only a short time, technology and shipbuilding advanced and it became totally outdated. After nearly being scrapped it had a bit of a sad life until some people decided to restore it to how it would have looked in its heyday. It’s really interesting to walk around inside and you can go up and down onto all the decks.

HMS Warrior HMS Warrior

  • Dockyard Apprentice

The Dockyard Apprentice exhibition is in the large cafe and shop building near the main dockyard entrance (or exit depending on how you look at it). It shows all kinds of skills that people who worked on the dockyard might need. The people at the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical trust have put together a useful rundown of all the exhibits on this document, though there are information boards and plaques all the way round. People might have needed to be carpenters, blacksmiths, electrical fitters, painters, flag makers, been able to make and/or look after sails and rigging or rope. You can get a dockyard apprentice passport at the shop and have it stamped when you leave. Somebody once upon a time carved this rather sad looking lion!

Wood carving in the Dockyard Apprentice

  • Harbour Tour

The last thing we did at the dockyard. It takes about an hour I guess and goes all round the harbour and was really interesting. We saw a massive container ship carrying bananas – imagine that many bananas! They told us about all the ships in the harbour and the surrounding area as we sailed around on their boat, the Solent Cat. You can stay inside on the boat or you can go up and stand on the roof which is better for taking pictures, if a little windy. You can board the harbour tour either at the dockyard or, like we did, from the marina just by the Spinnaker.

Phil and the Solent Cat

Harbour Tour panorama

In the centre there is aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. She went out on manoeuvres the next day along with HMS Kent and we missed them leaving the harbour as we were sat in the queue for our ferry. Humf!

Where we had dinner and things

We were a bit spoiled for choice to be honest as to where to have dinner. There are some great looking pubs by the B&B but also the lovely shopping and leisure complex at Gunwharf Quays.  Both evenings we stopped for a drink at Gunwharf Quays because we had to walk past it to get back to Fortitude Cottage. We went up to the first floor and sat in the window at the Slug & Lettuce overlooking the marina.

View from the Slug & Lettuce

The first night we walked back toward one of the pubs by the B&B which we had been told did some impressive fish and chips, the Still and West. We had not thought to book a table in the restaurant so we sat downstairs in the pub and ordered from the bar menu. We decided to go for the large fish and chips each (which we had been told was enormous) and waited with excitement.  And then it arrived at our table, wrapped in paper like it would from a chippy. It was very nice but she-human couldn’t finish it all, try as she might.

Fish and chips at the Still and West

The next evening we had a drink in the Slug & Lettuce, then went next door (or next door but one, I forget) to Wagamama. She human had never been to a Wagamama before and spent half the evening trying to decide what to have, having sent the waiter away on two or three occasions before ordering. No idea what any of this is in the picture but it is what we had for dinner and very nice it was too.

Dinner at Wagamama

After that we walked back along the millennium trail for the umpteenth time this weekend and popped into the Spice Island Inn near our B&B for a quick drink before bed. Tomorrow we leave Portsmouth and head off on the Wightlink ferry for 5 days on the Isle of Wight and that will be the subject of my next post. Thank you so much for reading.

Leaving Portsmouth on the ferry

Categories: A Bear Elsewhere, Bear Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wimpole Hall & Home Farm

Wimpole Hall

Here I am outside Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire

What a lovely old house it is. You can find out all about it here..   http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wimpole/

Are you talkin' to me?

We went to the farm at Wimpole too and I got talking to this big fluffy cow.

Lazy piggies

Then I went to talk to the pigs but they were all asleep.

Big Sheep

So then I went to talk to the sheep but they clearly weren’t interested.

But I can still climb on the sign, right?

Then I had a walk round on the lovely gardens.

What sign?

So many rules! Seriously, what kind of harm do they think a small bear is going to do?

So many stickers, so little room

We’ve had a lovely day seeing the house and gardens and all the animals. Now it’s time to go home and try and get these admission stickers off – ouch!

Categories: Bear Travels, National Trust Bear | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bear in London

I’m playing bear catch-up a little here since I didn’t get to post while I was on holiday. We headed down to London very early on 18th November, primarily to visit the Titanic Artefact Exhibition at the o2 Arena (Eddi’s birthday present from Ben). Now I’ve never been that interested in the Titanic to be honest but Eddi is fascinated by the whole thing. Here I am outside the o2 (having already been in the car for 3 hours and 2 tube journeys!):

Photobucket

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the exhibition. They both found it very interesting butI was shoved right in the bottom of Eddi’s bag incase I fell out and got lost so I just saw a bit as I peeped through the gap.

PhotobucketWe stopped at  Starbucks on the way out for a spot of lunch.  They don’t really stock anything suitable for small bears so I just finished off Ben’s Gingerbread Latte. After that we decided to head back into central London to do some sightseeing.

I got quite accustomed to catching the tube round London. Obviously if I were alone I’d get trodden on but it’s OK to go with my “people”. We got the tube to Westminster to see the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, then headed across Parliament Square to Whitehall.

Pics clockwise starting top left: Looking up at Big Ben (although technically Big Ben is actually a bell but everyone calls the tower Big Ben too); On a packed tube; at Green Park station changing tube lines; and at Downing Street.

Photobucket

There were pretty red poppies everywhere. Ben and Eddi told me that a few days before it was Remembrance Sunday and the poppies were a symbol to honour all the people who’ve fought and in many cases given their lives in battle since, well, long before I was created.

PhotobucketJust along from Downing Street is Horseguards Parade. It had started to rain by now and this chap didn’t look too happy. And neither did the fella in the red coat! Apparently it’s the job of these fine men and horses to look after the Queen? They are members of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment I think?

Onwards we went in the drizzle. Across Horseguards Parade and through to Pall Mall, then to Trafalgar Square…. I tried to get a picture of Nelson’s Column but every time I looked up I got rain in my face.

Photobucket

After this we were going to head over to Buckingham Palace but it was so cold and wet and miserable, even for a hardy bear such as I. By the time we got to St James’s Park it was throwing it down with rain and there was nowhere to shelter so we decided to get the tube back to the car and go back to the hotel. B&E tucked me up in bed while they went out for some dinner. A tired little yellow bear!

Categories: A Bear Elsewhere, Bear Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.