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Category: Cambridgeshire

Rock and Water – Day 1

Rock and Water – Day 1

After a relatively easy drive of one hour and 45 minutes, 15 minutes less than Google's estimate, we arrived in Peterborough. We had booked one night at a Premier Inn near the Ferry Meadows Country Park so we parked our car there and caught a bus into Peterborough City Centre. This is a photograph from the front seat on the top deck of the bus just as we were about to cross the bridge over the River Nene. Peterborough Cathedral is visible in the distance with the old Customs House on the right of the bridge.

I'm surprised that it's as sharp as it is as I was being severely joggled by the bus bouncing about. The cathedral,of course, was what we were here to see. The stone from which it is made is limestone which was quarried from the old medieval quarries at Barnack.

Just outside the cathedral close is the large Market Square and at the far end is the 17th century Guildhall. The Guildhall is a typical example of Anglo-Dutch architecture and there is almost an exact copy of the Guildhall in Amsterdam. Just beyond and to the right of the Guildhall is the medieval church of St. John. When we arrived in the Market Square there was a group of elderly people playing traditional jazz in the Guildhall and they were playing very well indeed.

Looking in the opposite direction we see the entrance to the cathedral close – so that is were we go.

Once through the arch we are presented with this view of the West Front.

Just look at the size of those three arches compared with the people just in front of them on the central path. To describe them as impressive seems to be a bit of an understatement.

Time to go inside and the first thing we see is, of course, the nave.

The painted ceiling dates from around 1250 and is the only medieval painted wooden ceiling surviving in Britain today. The carved marble font is also medieval dating from the 13th century.

This next view from the east end of the nave is looking through the Quire, under the tower crossing and into the Sanctuary.

Walking through the quire stalls to stand directly under the central tower and then looking up we see the tower ceiling.

There are lots more interesting parts of this cathedral which will feature on the main web site at a later date.

After looking round the cathedral we wandered over to the terminus station of the Nene Valley Railway, a heritage railway, in the hope of seeing a steam train. We waited 20 minutes and saw the last train of the day hauled, very appropriately, by a  locomotive named the 'City of Peterborough'.

We took the bus back to our hotel at the end of the day and after our evening meal we prepared for the longer journey that we would be making tomorrow.

Red, White and Blue

Red, White and Blue

No, not our national flag but our first day trip of 2010, yesterday.


The sky. A few weeks ago we saw the last, I hope, of the exceptional cold weather and it warmed up a bit but brought with it grey skies and a generous helping of rain. Then suddenly this week we have clear skies which, of course, brings sunshine so we couldn't afford to waste it and went to Anglesey Abbey again but to see the winter garden this time.

We decided to cut across country in a, more or less, straight line because we wanted to go through Haverhill, in Suffolk, to deliver a rather old colour laptop computer to a computer museum there. The road to Haverhill meanders across the gently rolling landscape of Essex giving us views of a coloured patchwork of fields in varying shades of green and brown bathed in the bright morning sunshine. We had to take it a bit steady as this road is very winding and going too fast can cause Amanda to get travel sick.

Passing through villages such as Coggeshall, Earls Colne, Baythorne End, New England (bit of a detour?) and Sturmer we eventually crossed into Suffolk and arrived in Haverhill about an hour after leaving home. Having delivered said laptop we set off again through Great Wratting, turning North-West through Brinkley towards Lode, which is the little village next to Anglesey Abbey, and we arrived at Anglesey Abbey about an hour after leaving Haverhill.

We shouldn't have been surprised, but we were, to find that the very large car park and the overspill car park were almost full with few spaces left only 45 minutes after opening time. It's apparently extremly popular at this time of year.


Dogwood. From the entrance we headed for the Winter Garden. We had been here before, last year, at the beginning of July and, although quite pleasant, it wasn't the best time for the Winter Garden in particular. This time was different.

What spectacular colour there is along this path. This garden is cleverly laid out and as one progresses along the path so the character of the surroundings changes. The initial startling colour is provided by the different dogwoods either side of the path. Some bright red, some white, some a glowing orange and some yellow.

Later even the trees join in the colour spectacular.

We finally left the Winter Garden feeling a little dazed by the surfeit of colour.  smilies We were next headed for the Woodland Walk passing some nice winter views on the way such as this avenue guarded by what at first glance appears to be a couple of lions but which on closer inspection prove to have human heads

and this tree sheltering a beautiful patch of spring flowers much as a mother hen shelters her chicks.


Snowdrops. We eventually started down the Woodland Walk, renowned for it's Snowdrops, and yes, there are rather a lot.

There were plenty of other visitors around and that person crouched to the left of the tree, trying to look like a Snowdrop, couldn't possibly be Amanda could it? Well, yes, of course it could. There were Snowdrops all along the Woodland Walk in varying numbers and it was quite a show.


By this time we thought that a spot of lunch wouldn't go amiss so we made our way back to the entrance and the restaurant. We often don't have lunch at National Trust properties' restaurants for two main reasons. Their prices always seem to be rather inflated and because, in spite of that, their restaurants always seem to be very popular. That popularity may stem from the fact that there is often nowhere else convenient to go but it does, at lunchtime, make them very, very busy. Looking into any of the restaurants at this time makes me think that if we do buy lunch is there actually going to be somewhere available to sit and eat it?

Anglesey Abbey at this time of year is extremely popular, with visitors wishing to see the Snowdrops, for about five weeks during the Snowdrop season. Consequently the restaurant was even busier than usual but we decided to have lunch anyway and joined the very long queue which actually extended out of the door of the restaurant into the entrance hall.

The staff behind the counter were working flat out and were serving people as fast as anyone could reasonably expect. However my first gripe is that the food at the counter is nowhere near as hot as it should be so that by the time one has collected one's meal then queued a little longer to get cups of tea or coffee and paid for it, collected some eating utensils, found a table and started to eat the food is only just warm. I don't like the feeling that the food has to be eaten quickly before it goes cold. We also had difficulty in finding cutlery that was actually clean. Overloading the dish-washer, perhaps, to keep up with demand?

The only vacant table we could find was covered in plates, cups and left-overs from the previous users which wasn't very pleasant and we were wondering what to do with all this stuff when a member of the restaurant staff did appear and cleared the things away. Whilst she was doing that someone else come up and asked her to do the same to another table. There are some large stands which are obviously meant for visitors to put their trays and crockery but there are no notices asking visitors to do this and some obviously do not. Really I think that the staff were a little thin on the ground but couldn't possibly work harder than they were doing but there should be more.

My second gripe was that the beef I had in my Beef Stew was the worst quality beef I've had in many years. More than half of the pieces of beef were so tough and rubbery that it was difficult to get a fork more than a little way in without pushing really hard. I did complain to the restaurant manager who, I have to say, didn't even try to argue but immediately offered to refund the cost of the meal which I accepted.

Overall lunch here was not a pleasant experience and I'm not sure I'd want to do it again under those conditions even if the food was good. Incidentally Amanda's main course was fine although she didn't have the same as me.


After lunch we left Anglesey Abbey and went the very short distance to the village of Lode to see what it was like. It wasn't generally a particularly attractive village but it did have some very attractive spots.

Now there's a nice bit of thatch!

Once again it was time to return home. I wonder how soon our next trip will be? :cool:

Yes and No

Yes and No

Back from our recent trip the answer to the question in the title of the previous posting is ‘Yes and No’.

We were lucky in that it was sunny but unlucky because it was uncomfortably hot and humid. We were lucky to visit Houghton, Hemingford Grey and Hemingford Abbots but St. Ives was a bit of a disappointment but I’ll start at the beginning.

Wednesday 1st July

We drove to Houghton which lies between Huntingdon and St. Ives in Huntingdonshire and we were there by 11:30 in the morning. We parked the car in the Three Horseshoes Inn’s car park and announced our arrival although we didn’t go up to our room.

We wanted to look round Houghton village before we set off on our planned walk because it’s a pretty village with attractive old buildings and chocolate box cottages. We rather liked this display of Hollyhocks which is on the other side of the village square from the Three Horseshoes. The village square is called “The Green” and although it may have been green at some time in the past it certainly isn’t now.

Opposite the Hollyhocks is what is known locally as the crooked house. You can just see some of the Hollyhocks on the extreme left of the picture peeping out from behind a house.

We wandered down Mill Lane (We were now starting the route of our planned walk) passing this chocolate box cottage on the way. It just had to have roses along the front didn’t it?

At the end of Mill Lane there is, wait for it, a mill. Owned by the National Trust it is still in working order and in a lovely setting. The water wheel must be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, we have ever seen. We have mentioned this mill briefly before on our way up to Stamford.

From the mill we followed the path across the River Great Ouse to Hemingford Abbots. Hemingford Abbots, like its neighbour Hemingford Grey, is a curious village. Very attractive and well kept with a number of old buildings but the old buildings are easily outnumbered by large, relatively modern and very expensive looking houses. Although we enjoyed looking at the designs of the modern houses we were more interested in the older style buildings.

That phrase ‘Chocolate Box’ springs to mind again – I don’t know why. We soon reached the centre of the village and this view of their pub, the Axe and Compass, with the church in the background.

As Hemingford Abbots and Hemingford Grey are virtually touching it wasn’t long before we were on the outskirts of Hemingford Grey.

It didn’t take long to reach the centre of the village which is where this next picture was taken and the suspicious looking person lurking in the shadows is, of course, Amanda. On a day like this lurking in the shadows is the best place to be – it was sweltering!

Both the Hemingfords are close to the River Great Ouse and our path took us alongside the river on our way to Hemingford Grey Meadow with St. Ives beyond.

We weren’t really looking forward to the next section which would involve crossing the rather large Hemingford Grey Meadow because we thought that there may be no shade in which to to shelter for some time. One of the churches in St. Ives can be seen on the other side of the meadow together with a few other buildings.

Luckily there was a small water channel, running down one side of the meadow, which was lined with shrubs and trees and we were able to spend short periods going through shade.

St. Ives is an old town but as we approached all we could see on the outskirts were modern buildings – not an old building in sight. We entered the town near the old bridge and having soon passed the modern additions we arrived at the waterside.

This picture was taken from the old bridge which is unusual in that it has a small chapel in the centre which you can see here on the right as we cross the bridge into the main part of the town.

There was a tea shop on the other side with a river terrace where we stopped for a much needed drink and from where I took this photograph of the 15th century bridge.

The area around the bridge and river is very nice but the rest of the town has nothing for the tourist. It’s not an unpleasant place but just little else of interest to see. We weren’t particularly pleased after walking all that way on a very hot and humid day especially as we now had to walk back but that’s the luck of the draw.

We arrived back at the inn in time for a short rest, a shower and then dinner. According to my pedometer we walked exactly 11 miles today.

Thursday 2nd July

After our St. Ives experience we decided to drive through Huntingdon first to assess the place and didn’t really see much there of interest either so drove on to Godmanchester. That didn’t hold our interest either so it was on to Plan B.

We pass close to Cambridge on our route to and from Houghton so we had thought that if we had time, which we now have, we might vist Anglesey Abbey. Now you may think that that would be a gargantuan detour but Anglesey Abbey is not on Anglesey in North Wales it is just a few miles north of Cambridge and is owned by the National Trust.

So it was that we arrived at Anglesey Abbey and gardens just as it was about to open at 10:30 AM. Walking through the gardens we had a bit of a surprise when we came upon this grove of trees.

Each one of those tree trunks is silvery white and the bark is quite hard and shiny. They are a form of Silver Birch which come from the Chinese side of the Himalaya. They gave a really ethereal atmosphere like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

A little further on we arrived at Lode Mill which is a rather cute little watermill and is now part of Anglesey Abbey grounds. We were going to have a look round the inside but the mill wasn’t open today because of a shortage of volunteers. The mill site is described in the Domesday Book although the building will have been replaced, possibly a number of times, since then.

From the mill we found our way to the Herbaceous Garden. Now that’s what I call a herbaceous border and it goes all the way round this large area. Keep that lot clear of weeds if you can.

After leaving the Herbaceous Garden we followed a not so obvious path and eventually stumbled upon the house. Even with a plan of the garden showing the paths it’s easy to get slightly lost in this place. Not a bad country cottage is it? Although the name of the property is Anglesey Abbey it is actually a country house.

Walking past the house, through the Rose Garden, we managed to find the Formal Garden where Amanda took this picture of me trying to run off with one of the stone vases. This may be a formal garden but dress is informal.

The gardens are very large covering around 114 acres most of which is parkland like this.

There is a lot that we didn’t see but Anglesey Abbey is only about an hours drive from us so we will probably return at different times of the year to see the changes.

That was the end of our current trip.

  • Like the curate’s egg it was good in parts.
  • Better luck next time
  • Can’t win ’em all.

You know the sort of thing. :mrgreen:

Six tired legs.

Six tired legs.

Marie and Lisa’s trip to Great Britain didn’t go according to plan. A short while before departure Lisa contracted an infection but decided she was well enough to go and they both arrived in Colchester on Wednesday 1st April as planned.

On Thursday Amanda and I travelled to Colchester and all four of us walked round Colchester and saw the castle, Timperley’s, the Balkerne Gate and the roman wall, the timber-framed cottages by the river and Castle Park. Our final location was the ruins of St. Botolph’s Priory. I haven’t included photographs of the places that we visited as they can be seen on the web site Colchester pages however just to prove that Marie and Lisa were really there I’ve included this picture.

We arrived in Colchester next morning, Friday, expecting to take them both out for the day only to find that Lisa’s infection had flared up again and she’d had very little sleep. She had decided to go back home the following day, Saturday, and to stay in their rented cottage while we took Marie out. It was such a shame that, having come all that way, she was having to go home because of some rotten ole bacteria.

We took Marie to Finchingfield and Thaxted and tomorrow, Saturday, she was going to London with Lisa and was going to do some shopping before returning to Colchester. We arranged to take Marie to Dedham Vale on Sunday.

We heard that Lisa arrived home without problems and is, apparently, on the mend. The three of us went off to Dedham on Sunday, walked to  Flatford then up to East Bergholt and back to Dedham. As we had some time to spare we decided to explore the nearby villages of Stoke-by-Nayland and Nayland and both turned out to be picturesque little villages with some very interesting old buildings including this one in Stoke-by-Nayland.

After looking around Stoke-by-Nayland we moved on to Nayland.


That person on the pavement desperately trying to look like a local and failing dismally is, of course, Marie. After leaving Nayland we took Marie back to Colchester and Marie decided that tomorrow she’d like to see Cambridge.

On Monday we collected Marie and drove to one of the Park & Ride sites around Cambridge. They do have a very well organised Park & Ride service in Cambridge with buses leaving the car parks very frequently.

Most of the places we visited are listed on the Cambridge page but one view that isn’t listed is this one:

A spy-in-the-sky view of Marie and I taken by Amanda from the top of the tower of St. Mary’s Church. We were all quite tired by the end of the afternoon and had agreed that Marie would come over from Colchester by bus to our house to do a little local sightseeing on her final day in England.

On her last day, Tuesday, Marie came over to us and we all walked on public footpaths to Layer Marney Tower. On the way we saw a lot of Wood Anemonies in flower and heard a Skylark in the distance. After looking at Layer Marney Tower and exploring the local Tudor church we came back to our house for lunch and then, after lunch, we drove the short distance to Tollesbury.

I’ll leave you with this picture of Amanda and Marie about to be run down by a very large lightship.

That was our last day with Marie, leaving 3 pairs of very tired legs, after which she went back to Colchester on the bus and left for home the next day. She arrived home without problems albeit after a long and tiring journey.

Deer me!

Deer me!

We arrived back from Stamford last Monday after another good trip. The weather wasn't all good but we had enough sun to get some good pictures. On the way up we stopped off at Houghton – a small village between St. Ives and Huntingdon in Huntingdonshire. A very pretty village with some thatched cottages and a watermill and what a watermill.

Just look at the size of that wheel on the right-hand size. I have not seen a waterwheel of that width before and it must have some power behind it when it's turning.

The water level was quite high when we were there, which is not surprising bearing in mind the amount of rain we'd had previously, and the water was spilling out of the sluice at an alarming rate causing the white water that you can surely see on the left of the mill.

This mill, in its heyday, wasn't just any old mill – it had three working waterwheels and 10 pairs of grinding stones. It must have been pretty noisy inside when it was running. Now there is only one waterwheel but it does still work. It wasn't running when we were there but they do give demonstrations at weekends and bank holidays.

This picture shows some of the driving gears with one of the wood encased grinding stones behind the vertical shaft.

We continued on to Stamford which turned out to be a nice old town. Rather reminiscent of the cotswolds with its yellow stone buildings.

Amazingly there are four very large medieval churches in the town centre one of which appears in the above picture and there are lots of narrow passages between streets. You can't get buildings much closer can you?

Down this alleyway or lane we found Mr. Pang's Chinese Restaurant and it turned out to be one of the best chinese restaurants we had ever been to.

On the edge of Stamford is Burghley House and Park – a tudor mansion with surrounding parkland and Fallow Deer. They must be some of the tamest deer I've ever encountered especially the small herd which seems to stick around the visitors car park area. I saw a child of about 10 stroking one of them and it didn't take the slightest notice. It was much more interested in getting on with its grazing.

Most people imagine that these animals are the size of cows but these Fallow Deer are only about waist height. Two of the stags in the picture were obviously eyeing me up in anticipation that I might be about to produce food but they were out of luck.

We also visited Barnack Hills and Holes. This is an area next to a village called Barnack, just a few miles from Stamford, which, 800 years ago, was where the stone for Peterborough Cathedral was quarried. It is now a nature reserve and the passage of time has mellowed its appearance so that it now appears to be nothing more than grassy humps and hollows.

It does, however, have an interesting limestone flora including Pasque Flower which we thought we'd be too late for but we found a few that were still flowering.

This is what the area looks like and you can see a thatched roof in the distance.

I shall be putting the new Stamford pages onto the main web site showing much greater detail sometime in the not too distant future.