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Posts Tagged ‘England’

 With all the interest in the upcoming royal wedding I got to remembering our visit to Althorp last summer.  Althorp is Princess Diana’s family home.  It has been in the Spencer family for 500 years, 19 generations. It was built in 1508 by Sir John Spencer.  Diana’s younger brother Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, the 9th Earl Spencer,  lives in the house which is only open to the public in July and August.

 It is located about 1 1/2 hours driving time outside of London in the countryside. To get there we had to first take the tube to the train station.  We had booked our train tickets on line before we left.  When we got to the train station to pick up our tickets it was all very easy.  It is just like picking up your movie tickets that you booked ahead of time.  You use your credit card and out come your tickets.  Of course it took a lot of advance research to find out how to go about all this.

 You take a train to the Northampton train station and then you can take a public bus to the main gate.  We had picked our train departure time  to get us there in plenty of time to catch the bus.  However, when we got to Northampton no one knew anything about a bus or where to catch it. Then someone else said the bus had already left so we took a cab.  On the return trip we thought we would try the bus.  We found out where to catch it and the estate’s mini-bus took us to the entrance gate and pointed out where to go.  We were told you would have to flag it down because this wasn’t a normal stop.  So there we are standing on a desolate corner out in the countryside waiting for a bus.  They only run every couple hours and we didn’t want to miss it because we needed to get back to catch our scheduled train.  The bus did finally come and we made it in time to catch the train back to London. It all went well and we made it.

 Diana wasn’t a commoner by any means. The Spencer family has been at the center of social and political life in England over the centuries. Touring the house we found it to be fabulous with many priceless paintings, furnishings, porcelain, etc. We were able to tour 19 rooms in the house, including some of the Spencer Family’s private apartments. Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed inside the house. The Spencers began as sheep farmers, coming to prominence in the 15th century.  

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

The estate now covers 14,000 acres of beautiful countryside and emcompasses cottages, farms, woodlands and villages. At the time a conservation project was in progress as much needs to be done to maintain the house.  A lot of the house was covered in scaffolding

Conservation work in progress

Conservation work in progress

but there were pictures showing how the exterior looked.

ALTHORP -Spencer Family Home

ALTHORP-Spencer Family Home

 The stables are in the palladium style and far larger and fancier than most houses. 

STABLE AT ALTHORP

STABLE AT ALTHORP

 They now hold a display commemorating Diana, pictures from childhood, home movies, and best of all her wedding dress and several other dresses she wore.

 After touring the house and having lunch in the courtyard we walked to the lake to see the island

ISLAND

ISLAND

on which Diana is buried and the memorial they have to her. 

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

 

It is a very beautiful and peaceful setting.

An interesting thing is that I always thought Winston Spencer Churchill that Spencer was a middle name but it turns out it is a family name and there is some connection with Diana’s family.

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The time seems to be going very quickly.  I guess because our days are pretty full and we don’t have any down time, which is fine by me.

Today we woke up to a lot of wind and rain.  By the time we left the hotel the rain had stopped but the wind kept up pretty much all day.  Our guide had a saying.  Goes something like rain starting before 7 stops by 11, and that is what it did.

We had about an hour bus drive to our first stop, which was Great Dixter, someplace I have been wanting to see for a long time  It is the house and garden of one of  Britain’s most revered horticulturists, Christopher Lloyd. 

HOME OF CHRISTOPHER LLOYD

GREAT HALL

His garden consist  of eclectic mixed borders, sunken gardens, topiaries. There are many garden books out there written by him.  He did such things as tear out a rose garden and replace it with an garden of exotic plants.  Well in England to tear out a rose garden is really unheard of.  His garden consist of many so called garden rooms.  Each one would  be different, depending on the area in the garden it was.  It was very interesting but there is no way I could reproduce anything I have seen in my own garden.

GREAT DIXTER

GREAT DIXTER

The great thing about touring these gardens is we always have a guide who provides a lot of insight into the planting, the why and wherefore.  Not just telling us what each plant  is.  Some of these gardens are public gardens however they are not open daily or open later.  We are able to go when the public is not there which is a big plus.

Christopher Lloyd died just a couple years ago but his head gardener is continuing to experiment with color and form in the garden as Christopher did.  Next we toured his house which was as interesting as his garden. It was built in the early 15th century with some slightly later additions.  It’s sort of a combination of a 3 different houses, from different periods all combined together.  So part of it is a half timbered type house and the last part is from 1912.  It gives the apparence of a very lived in comfortable house but the interior true to its original roots.

We spent a few hours at Great Dixter an then headed to Rye where we had lunch at the Mermaid Inn.  The sign of the front of the restaurant reads Mermaid Inn, rebuilt 1420. It also was a really neat place and allegedly haunted. 

WHERE WE HAD LUNCH

MERMAID INN

The whole town of Rye is very scenic with timbered houses,

RYE

RYE

the city gates

RYE CITY GATES

and an old fort.  After lunch we saw the church in Rye and then toured Lamb House.  This is where the novelist Henry James spent the last 18 years of his life.   Then we had time to just walk all around the town and shop, take pictures, whatever.  It is a very picturesque town with funny names on some of the doors.  One said “the other side”, another house had 2 doors and above the doors was the sign “2 front doors.”

Finally back to the hotel about 6.  We went to dinner with 3 of the other ladies in the group.  We walked about 15 minutes into an area of town where they had colonnaded shops, and lots of restaurants.  By now the sun was out and all the restaurants had their tables outside.  In the center of the area was a jazz band playing.  We had a good time with these ladies, lots of fun conversation.

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