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Gad's Hill Place

By Barry Riley - 15 November 2011

I travelled from the other side of the world to see the famous literary shrines of Britain and Gad's Hill Place was the most important on my list. Imagine my frustration then when the place wasn't even signposted. It took some time and the aid of locals to locate its position but even when I knew I must be standing within fifty metres of it, there was no indication of its existence. Please, this was the home of arguably the world's greatest ever novelist. How many thousands of fans must be frustrated and disappointed yearly?

Ashleworth Tithe Barn

By Graham Ovens - 10 November 2011

A fine old building, dating from c.1496, to hold the harvest tithes due to the Abbey of St Augustine - payable by tenant farmers working the Abbey's large tracts of ecclesiastical land. A simple massive structure, built in blue lias stone, with a heavy roof of thick Cotswold slate, using recycled timbers in the roof trusses. This barn has a timeless air, set in a quiet location, adjoining Ashleworth Court, and the nearby Ashleworth Quay. It has stood for 500 years - a functional building of simple beauty.

Kiplin Hall

By Jill - 31 October 2011

We visited Kiplin Hall for the torchlit Ghost Tour in October 2011. Not only was it very interesting to hear the stories of several of the ghostly inhabitants, but the Jacobean interior is amazing too. Well worth a visit.

Eltham Palace

By Kris - 30 October 2011

We visited Eltham Palace today and enjoyed it immensely. It's really nice to see something out of the ordinary. Easy to find and good "free" parking which was a bonus. We had lunch in the tea room and the food was excellent and well priced, the staff throughout were helpful and friendly. Overall, a very enjoyable and informative visit. Will strongly recommend it.

Croxteth Hall & Country Park

By John G - 29 October 2011

Halloween Events at this property in recent years have been brilliant - Children's Ghost Hunts, Paranormal Events, Fireside Tales, Spooky Tours - highly recommended! I just wish my old favourite events would return.... the Shakespeare Outdoor Theatre Plays.

Highclere Castle

By Jessica - 24 October 2011

I visited Highclere Castle for 'Heroes at Highclere'. And what a Fabulous Time I had, The Castle is so beautiful and full of character and the grounds superb, The Cafe is well catered with China cups and saucers and real cutlery not the polystyrene cups and plastic knives/forks that you get catered with everywhere else, I had a really enjoyable tea with delicious cream and jam scones, in the most tranquil of surroundings. I will definitely return, well worth the visit!

The Grange

By Robert Yorke-Starkey - 18 October 2011

This was my school from 1963 for 8 years. Under the main stairs is a chalk tunnel leading to the cliffs. Several times I went into this smugglers tunnel. It is no longer mentioned, but it is still there. In the conservatory room I first learned of Keith Richards, someone who kept me alive through the most unbearable period of my life. Thank you. I know why Pugin died so young, that place has an effect that can drag you down. There is a negative energy there that is tangible. Something is very wrong there. Pugin had problems other than mercury, that place is alive with something awful. Thank you Keith for getting me through this. Pugin built this tunnel and the lookout room, in the tower, for reasons that HMRC would not appreciate. An interesting story is waiting to be told! (I claim copyright)

Highclere Castle

By Mel Sawyer - 16 October 2011

We went to Highclere yesterday (Saturday 15th October 2011) and were amazed by the number of people queuing to get in to the grounds. They came in their thousands to the extent that they were turned away as the castle could not cope with the sheer volume of people. We were very lucky as we managed to get to the ticket office just as they were announcing the castle's closure so we gambled and paid for tickets anyway managing to eventually get inside. We were so glad as we had travelled all the way from Lancashire. Please pre-book your tickets if you are travelling from afar as due to its current popularity because of Downton Abbey you may not get in. Be warned! It was well worth the wait though and a very beautiful building and home. A great day out in the end with beautiful weather too. Result!

Copped Hall

By Odette - 11 October 2011

I am surprised the archaeology work currently being undertaken has not been mentioned in the articles on Copped Hall Essex. The Tudor foundations on the older Medieval Manor are undergoing excavation by West Essex Archaeology Group with Copped Hall Trust. The digs are open to the public in the summer, with opportunities to dig.

Wentworth Castle Gardens

By Stuart and Mary Clifford - 09 October 2011

We visited the gardens on October 9th 2011 and was pleasantly surprised by what we found. The gardens were magnificent and the heritage was very interesting. The staff were extremely polite and helpful. The cost of entry was excellent value for money and the entire facility was a joy and well worth a repeat visit.

Stratfield Saye House

By Karen - 09 October 2011

Interestingly, the stables at Stratfield Saye were built out front on purpose. The house we were to visit was intended to have been demolished and replaced by a grand “Wellington Palace”. Knowing this one fact explains a lot about this house and its interesting history. Entrance to the house is by guided tour only and Neville, dapper in blue blazer and pink trousers, took us around. In short, this Jacobean/Stewart H-shaped house (probably built circa 1630 by Sir William Pitt, Comptroller of the Household to James I) was modified and extended in the 18th century, given a coating of render and lived in ever since. The garden is mainly lawn, though to the front left corner is a domestic-scale fenced garden with herbaceous borders. Not really a plantsman’s house. The house was originally red brick, showing the owner had the wealth to afford such a building material. Pitt, 1st Baron Rivers, however, decided stucco was more suiting and a white icing was applied to the exterior during a programme of extensive work to the house and park in the 18th Century. Today the colour is more golden honey. After Waterloo, Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, had the enviable task of choosing a country house for himself – a gift from the State. He wanted somewhere close to London and Windsor, with good land. He rejected Uppark Park (poor land) and settled on Hampshire. The estate, accumulated by the Pitts, was sold for £263,000 by George Pitt, second Baron Rivers, to Parliamentary trustees for the use of the first Duke of Wellington in 1817-18. The estate remains vested in these statutorily-appointed trustees (who include the Prime Minister, ex-officio) rather than in the Dukes themselves; the Dukes pay an annual rent of a flag, presented to the sovereign on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Location Location Location was the key. ‘Waterloo Palace’ would be built in the grounds in the north-east of the park and Stratfield Saye demolished. This explains the location of the stables. Wyatt’s plans for Waterloo Palace are framed on the walls of Stratfield Saye. It would have resembled Blenheim and then some. In the events that happened, Wellington seemed to have had more lust and resources to purchase the furniture for his intended palace than he did building it. In 1821 the plans were eventually abandoned as being too expensive, in favour of extending and improving the existing house: turning the entrance hall into a double-height space (creating a rear wing with new bedrooms above) and adding a conservatory (1838 – now housing an indoor swimming pool) and outer wings (1846). The house has a very ‘Regency’ feel. Wellington certainly took advantage of the French furniture that was going cheap during the late 19th century and he built quite a collection. He also received over 200 pictures from the Spanish Royal Collection, which had been looted during war. At the Battle of Vitoria in 1813 they were captured from Joseph Bonaparte: some had been ripped from their frames and used to protect horses from the rain. They survived remarkably well but the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, thought it more befitting that Wellington took them. 80 are sited at Stratfield Saye (including a series of reproduction Van Dycks), the rest at the Wellingtons’ London home, Apsley House. Rooms on the tour are limited to the ground floor: ¦entrance hall: ¦library: with elaborate, gilded paper mache ceiling; ¦morning room: now the study with a very well-used Chippendale desk; ¦breakfast room: ¦print gallery: ¦dining room: added circa 1775 by Lord Rivers and housing pictures of many ladies who took the eye of old Arthur; ¦sitting room: with the ‘stolen’ Spanish Royal paintings and original wallpaper. Part of the stable block houses the 1st Duke's hearse and an exhibition, which shows some effort has been put in to create an attraction here. The visitor reception/cafe and toilet block are found in the grounds near the field where cars park. On offer is quiche and potatoes, cake and a pot of honey. Given their limited opening, it’s nice to see they go to the effort of producing hot food, though I’m sure they’d do better offering really good scones and clotted cream with a pot of tea for £5. I certainly would have bought that.

Charlecote Park

By Fi - 07 October 2011

We visited Charlecote Park earlier this year. It is absolutely beautiful inside! Some of the guides chew your ear off a bit... (seem to find this at a lot of NT properties though!) Although the (we think) head gardener, was fabulous, he let us go into the 'staff only' greenhouse and showed us all the plants he was bringing on ready to go into the main gardens! It really was a lovely experience! The gardens at the time we visited were at the end of a season and so slightly delapidated, but there were a lot of volunteers on site working hard! Definitely worth a visit! Also.... do make a detour to the little garden centre over the road! Not your run of the mill garden centre, but something rather beautiful about it!

Ashridge Estate

By Christine Reid - 02 October 2011

Intent on making the best of the unexpected mini heatwave this weekend I headed to the ever popular National Trust Estate of Ashridge in Buckinghamshire. There is free parking, a National Trust shop and information centre as well as Brownlows café which is open from 8am till 6 pm and sells the most wonderful homemade cakes. The Duke of Bridgewater Monument is open to the public for a small fee and after mounting the many steps the view is stunning across the Herts and Bucks borders, toilets and drinking water for dogs is also available. I decided to park up and head towards the Ashridge Business College which was once Ashridge House which is a less busy route and ideal for walking at a leisurely pace. The warm sunshine was drying the still damp grass from an early morning shower that had washed everything clean. On this walk you cross the edge of the Ashridge golf course and head towards the cricket field that stands facing Ashridge House which is (now the business college). Today it was school boy footballers packing up after a practice sessions that covered the edge of the grass field. The cricket session finished for another year. Fallow deer darted through the dense trees and hid once again amongst the oaks leaving me still looking for the your camera. Red kites also nest here but I seen none today and the woodpeckers were quiet today. I walked to the far edge of the cricket field and sat in the shade to enjoy an hour with a book and my picnic. My dog lay dozing amongst the fallen acorns, although he kept one eye open hoping for the return of the deer. Autumn is such a lovely time to visit Ashridge, the gold and maroon tints are only just painting the trees but enough leaves litter the ground to walk through and feel the childish delight of the crunch underfoot. It will be another few weeks before the full effect of the golden archways of trees on the drive through the estate is at its most colourful and dramatic. There were plenty of people enjoying Ashridge today and although I stayed on the quiet paths it was nice to see families enjoying the sunshine. I left feeling envious of the people who live nearby and have access to the estate as their back garden.

Longner Hall

By Hugh Johnson - 18 September 2011

We were most fortunate to be in the area on the one day a week that this property opens to the General Public [Tuesday]. It is only open for conducted tours and not free flow visits. We were welcomed by the custodian and spent the next hour on a detailed tour of the four ground floor rooms. There is so much to see in the Hall, Library, Lounge with Conservatory attached and Dining Room, that we could easily have spent a lot longer there. The house was rebuilt on the site of the previous one in 1803 to a design by John Nash, who did a lot of work next door at Attingham Park. At around that time the Park was landscaped by his colleague Humphry Repton,who was also involved in Attingham Park. The Burton family have lived on the site since the 14th Century and everything in the house originates from the family. The style is Tudor Gothic and the interior has Plaster Fan Vaulting in beautiful condition and the stained glass windows are magnificent. Nothing was too much trouble for our very knowledgeable guide who then took us outside to admire the circular Game Larder and Ice House. We also visited the Chest Tomb of Edward Burton who died in 1558, but was not permitted to be buried in Shrewsbury Church as he was a Protestant. What a memorable visit we had!

Berkeley Castle

By Hugh Johnson - 12 September 2011

We spent a most enjoyable day here and were very impressed with the knowledgeable Guide that took us on a tour of the house, which lasted around 70 minutes (optional0. If you prefer you can wander around on your own. The Tea room is very good and with reasonable prices, a pot of coffee is £1.90 and freshly made sandwiches £3. We spent time in the Gift Shop which had a good choice of local items. The gardens are extensive and well kept and one can spend a whole day at the property very happily. Do not forget the Butterfly House, which is included in the Admission Charge and will particularly appeal to children.

Spains Hall

By Anne Rudy - 10 September 2011

I am an American descendant of the Ruggles family who came to Boston in 1634. We have been to Spains Hall twice, both times honored to meet Sir John, who has since died. The home and grounds are beautiful, the 5 acre rose garden is exquisite. It is truly an English treasure. We took the train from London to Braintree, and rented a car. Taxis are also available. The village of Finchingfield is like a picture postcard, and the local church and pubs are well worth a visit. Everyone friendly and welcoming.

Cragside House, Garden & Estate

By Stuart - 10 September 2011

The house is truly amazing for a number of reasons. Firstly it is almost in 'as new' condition. Obviously some soft furnishings are showing signs of wear but otherwise the house is as it would have been and would, in fact does accommodate residence, albeit in a caretaker manner. The ingenious contraptions that are evident and the extravagance of a very wealthy owner, abound. It will take at least 1 hour to visit the house, much much more if you examine every room in detail. The gardens, or to be more realistic, estate could occupy all day. On our visit the weather was less than clement, but a 6 mile drive around the perimeter, on a one way road gives an idea of the vastness. Coupled with around 40 miles of footpaths to explore would take days not hours. May and June are recommended to appreciate the extensive Rhododendron display, which I will return to experience. An amazing house and well worth a visit, especially if you are a National Trust member and therefore get in for free, otherwise quite expensive but probably worth the cost for the opportunity to spend a whole day.

Kenilworth Castle

By Maryan - 08 September 2011

I went on a visit to Kenilworth Castle on Saturday the 3rd September. The site was absolutely amazing it was like being taken back in time, I just wished that it was not ruined so I could see everything but I loved it and the garden especially was great, to me it was history back to life. Thanks to my teacher and the English Heritage, who showed us around.

Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, Mansion and Gardens

By Paula - 06 September 2011

My husband and myself went to Port Lympne on a wet showery day. We were unable to see the elephants as one was poorly and the safari ride had to go on a different route. There were a lot of steep hills to go up,so wear walking boots when you go. A good day out, but not the best park we have been to by far. We wont be going back again.

Woodchester Mansion

By Ceri - 06 September 2011

A unfinished mansion in the valley of Woodchester with huge parklands surrounding including 5 man made lakes. On open days the mansion is run by volunteers with tours of the mansion regularly usually lasting an hour and a half. The mansion was left halfway through building and the workers just downed tools. The mansion includes its own Chapel which was almost finished when left but weather has tarnished this very interesting throughout. It is owned by Stroud District Council and leased to Woodchester Mansion Trust. There is a minibus shuttle operating on open days with no extra charge.

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