Trip to South-West England, May, 2015
Wed. May 6th. We are up early this morning with transport to the terminal and check in for the 7:40am nonstop Virgin Atlantic flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. Lunch will be served on the flight and a fast 7 hour flight has us arriving at 7.15pm local time. The same coach company I used in 2011 will be awaiting us for the short journey west to the magnificent Great Fosters Hotel, a Grade 1 Listed Building dating from 1550 and probably once a royal hunting lodge. Dinner will be awaiting our arrival. We will spend two nights at Great Fosters.
We drive through the charming riverside town of Marlow and late morning arrive at Waddesdon Manor, a sumptuous mansion in the style of a French chateau, built in the late 1800’s by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to entertain his guests and display his vast collection of art treasures of every description. After lunch there it’s a self guided tour of the house and with time to explore the beautiful grounds. You can also buy Rothschild wines from the Wine Shop, ranging from a few pounds to a small fortune for famous vintage years.
Having checked out of Great Fosters we head west, and enter late morning the County of Wiltshire, arriving at the Avebury Stone Circle, an immense ring of huge stones that has never attracted the same interest as Stonehenge, but is every bit as interesting and just as impressive. It was completed about 2400 BC and we will be given an explanatory tour. We will have lunch there and then have time to visit the excellent museum.
The Devil’s Seat – 5820. Run around it fifty times, in the nude, and the devil will appear! Nobody in our group tried it. Probably needs a full moon anyway.
Following lunch at the hotel we shall be picked up by Barnaby, an authentic early 1950’s bus which will take us the 45 minute journey to Greenway House, the beautiful holiday home of the much loved author, Agatha Christie which she purchased in 1938. There is very much a 30’s atmosphere pervading the house and it contains a great deal of Agatha Christie memorabilia. There are lovely grounds with views over the River Dart below. You almost expect Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple to appear at any moment. In fact the final TV episode of Poirot with David Suchet was filmed at Greenway
.On our final full day in Cornwall we head across the County to the Atlantic Ocean and the dramatic coastline at Bedruthan Steps. We look down from the cliff edge onto the beach and ocean with the huge rocks shaped by wind and water that emerge from the sea. Bedruthan was a giant in Cornish mythology, who it is said to used the rocks as stepping stones to cross the cove.
Some say, that of all the great English medieval cathedrals, Wells is perhaps the finest, maybe in all of Europe. Building began in 1175 and took three centuries to complete. We shall be given a guided tour without which one can miss so much. Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Bishop’s ancient moated Palace, set within delightful grounds where we shall have some free time for a stroll around before meeting for a light lunch in the old undercroft of the Palace.
Following breakfast our coach will take us into the centre of Oxford and leave us for seven hours of free time in this lovely old City. There is so much to do in Oxford, perhaps visit a famous college of which some will be open to visitors, walk in the Botanic Garden, the oldest in the country dating from 1621, and being sure not to miss the great Ashmolean Museum, which after the British Museum in London its probably the finest in Britain. Walking tours are available and having a good look at Oxford’s Tourist Information website would be productive. Beautiful buildings abound in Oxford, many built of the local honey coloured limestone. A few hours of course only scratches the surface, but will almost certainly be an incentive to return again in the future.