BeenThere-DoneThat Blog

Life and Travel in Great Britain

They are taking over the world!


This is just a part of a larger area of these fungi in our garden by the brook. I think that they are planning to take over the world. Look out for a patch near you.  😯 Their colloqial name is Fairies Bonnets and they belong to the Inkcap group of fungi but, unlike most Inkcaps, they are not deliquescent.

If you submit a correct count you’ll win a free fungus.  :banana:


Two days later we were walking by the river at home when we spotted these.

If our identification is correct (it wasn’t) these are edible and known as ‘Chicken of the Woods’.

UPDATE: After a second look Amanda has decided that they are not ‘Chicken of the Woods’ but are Giant Polypores. ‘Chicken of the Woods’ are polypores and unlike those these are unpleasant to eat but not poisonous.

The wet foot waterfall.

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When Marie, our friend from the U.S., came over on her annual trip to this country in early May I forgot to blog about it so when we revisited one of our previous venues today I decided to combine both visits into one post.

We revisited Hampton Court. If you are thinking of Hampton Court Palace in London then I should point out that it wasn’t that Hampton Court but if you are thinking of Hampton Court Castle in Herefordshire then, yes, it was that one.

We first visited Hampton Court Castle at the beginning of May this year and we were accompanied by Marie who was on her annual Great Britain trip. This time, in the middle of August, we were on our own.

This is the front of Hampton Court Castle and it is not a real castle but a stately home. It was, however, built in the 15th century.

Visitors see the house by guided tour only at set times. When we went here with Marie we didn’t go into the house but just toured the gardens.

This next picture, as you may guess, is the Library.

However, what you may not guess is that the part of the bookcase facing us in the corner is a secret door.

The section immediately to the left of the corner is the secret door. What gives it away is the little door handle on the right-hand edge just below centre and the fact that the ‘books’ are an amazingly good fit.

This next picture was on our first trip with Marie and you can see Amanda and Marie discussing what mischief they can get up to. This part of the Walled Garden is the first area reached after passing through the entrance.

The next two pictures show the Dutch Garden. The first picture is in early May when Marie was here, you can see both Amanda and Marie in the picture, and the second picture is on our recent trip in the middle of August when the potted plants have developed and was also taken slightly later in the day.

In another part of the garden, but still water related, are the Island Pavilions. The next picture shows one of the two pavilions seen from inside the other. The picture following shows the source of the water where the water bubbles up in the centre.

We next found ourselves in the Sunken Garden with its pool and waterfall. The path, from which the next photograph is taken, loops round to our left and up to the level of the wooden fence. The dark space behind the fence is the entrance to a large tunnel which goes underground to under the base of the Gothic Tower at the centre of the Yew Maze.

Having arrived at that wooden fence the aforementioned tunnel, shown in the second picture, is on our immediate left. On our first visit with Marie we groped our way through the completely dark passage to the far end but this time I used the torch facility on my smartphone and the photograph was taken using flash.

I don’t know how but we completely missed the other passage. Looking at the picture above the photograph of the tunnel you will see a small, narrow, dark opening at the end of the fence. That narrow passage drops a little, care required, and goes behind the waterfall as shown in the picture below.

There is quite a bit of splashing from the waterfall and I didn’t want to get my expensive camera wet so moving smartly was the order of the day. Unfortunately in the dim light I missed seeing the small puddle on the far side of the waterfall which turned out to be deeper than the thickness of the soles on my sandals. Result – one wet foot.

We did eventually arrive at the base of the Gothic Tower and climbed to the top.

The view from the top is quite good showing the ‘castle’ the island pavilions and a general overview of the walled garden.

Directly below us was the Yew Maze.

There was plenty of colour, although in our May visit a lot of the plants had yet to grow and in our August visit some of the borders were looking tired, and this gives a small sample of some of the flowers.

There is a lot to see here at different times of year so perhaps we may come again.

On the road to ruin.


Travelling around the country, as we do, we expect to see both the usual and the unusual – but not together on the same site. This place is only an hours drive from home.

The earliest building on this site was a Jacobean brick built house. After the civil war it was sold and the new owner erected two towers on the north side of the house and his grandson added the wings which enclose the entrance courtyard. Later a new private chapel was added to the west of this courtyard.

Around 1805 the owners employed John Nash, a well known English architect, to carry out a major reconstruction of the house which included the addition of huge ionic porticoes to the north and south fronts.

In 1837 serious debt forced the sale of the estate to the 11th Baron Ward, later 1st Earl of Dudley, who had inherited a great fortune from the coal and iron industries in the Black Country.

In the 1850s, Baron Ward engaged the architect Samuel Daukes, who had already altered his London house to remodel the house in Italianate style using ashlar stone cladding over the existing red brickwork and this is the result – Witley Court near the village of Great Witley in Worcestershire..

What a very grand house it is with the very impressive fountain behind it.

However you may not have noticed something odd about the house in the first photograph. There is no glass in any of the windows and the sky is visible through some of the windows as seen in the picture below.

In 1920 Witley Court was sold to Sir Herbert Smith who maintained only a skeleton staff to manage the house whilst he and his family were away, and many areas were left unused. A major accidental fire broke out in September 1937 whilst Sir Herbert was at another of his houses and although it did not destroy the whole house the estate was sold as separate lots with the house being bought by scrap dealers who stripped what they could from the house leaving it an empty shell. So we have what appears to be the usual stately home but is, unusually, just a shell. A rather sad ending for such a grand house.

The ruin is currently managed by English Heritage.

The picture below is the main reception hall with the main staircase through the arch in the far wall.

The picture below is in the main stairwell and the angled plaster follows the line of the original staircase.

There are numerous decorative carvings around the building of which this doorway is an example.

This picture shows the main entrance to what was the Conservatory and the picture below it is the Conservatory interior.

The church is still attached to the main house but is not maintained by English Heritage as it is now the parish church.

But what a parish church. It was built in the mid 18th century and, at that time, the interior was rather plain. Just 10 years later stained glass windows and the oil on canvas paintings on a new curved ceiling were added together with  moulds for the wall and ceiling decorations and the organ.

What an astonishing result! If you are ever in this area don’t miss seeing the church interior.

From Iron to Copper – Day 4


We appear to have another sunny day and another breakfast. Do we have any special plans for today? Well yes we do. We are going to the top of that limestone lump in the distance on the far side of the bay but we are going to cheat.

We set off walking along the sea front eventually taking an upward path and after a short climb we look back to this view of the Llandudno sea front.

A bit higher still we get this view with the mountains of Snowdonia showing beyond the town. However, have you noticed anything? There is less and less blue sky – the cloud is building.

A bit higher and we get a nice view of Llandudno Pier but now with a cloudy sky.

Looking in the opposite direction we can see the Great Orme (the limestone lump) that we are going up and some lingering blue sky.

However before we go up any higher we have come to look at the 19th century Happy Valley Gardens. This area was a quarry before being developed and landscaped as rockery gardens . These gardens are generally sloping and a bit steep in places but worth visiting if you can cope with the slope. There were a few sculptures scattered around and we particularly liked these.

There were plenty of flowers but there should be even more later in the season.

They even have their own Laburnham Arch which is not going to compete with the one at Bodnant but it is already looking very pretty.

We walked a little way back into town to catch the tram to the top of the Great Orme. I did tell you we were going to cheat.

This is where we passed the tram which was coming down. The ‘driver’ doesn’t actually do anything, as the tram is moved by a cable worked by a winding engine, but he is there in case we need emergency braking.

We didn’t need any emergency braking after all but we are not impressed with the weather up here. We now have total cloud cover and it is rather cool which is made worse by the strong wind (cloud+cool+wind=dismal). Still it shouldn’t worry us where we’re going – underground.

We are going to visit the pre-historic copper mines re-discovered in 1987. These mines date back 4,000 years to the Bronze Age and, before you ask, that is before my time. The mine is thought to be the largest prehistoric mine so far discovered in the world.

We started by having a look around the surface workings.

We could see various dark holes going down vertically but luckily for us we won’t have to go down those. One of the shafts here goes down 437 feet 😯 . There were obvious spaces on the surface where they would have extracted the ‘easy to get to’ copper ore but that would have run out fairly soon so it was a matter of giving up or tunnelling and they chose the latter.

The entrance is between the path in the foreground and the steps on the right-hand edge in the picture above and this is it. Not very big is it?

The tunnels turned out to be just wide enough to walk along carefully. Amanda is somewhere ahead in the dark!

It was also essential for us to be wearing hard hats otherwise we both would have ended up with bent heads.

There were also steps in a number of places going both up and down. These steps have been installed for visitors and the original miners didn’t have that luxury.

The passage takes one on a U-shaped journey and eventually emerges a short distance from the entrance. I would have liked to show you some of the other features that we saw but the lighting is very dim and my little flash was too small to cover the larger spaces. It was, however, a very interesting and unusual trip.

What visitors see is just a small part of the total mine workings. There are, literally, miles of passages; some so small that they must have been excavated by children around 6 years old.

We went back down on the tram, of course, and that was the end of our day.

We were originally planning a visit of some sort on the journey home tomorrow but as the weather forecast is much the same as today but with rain we went straight home so no ‘Day 5’.

‘Day 5’ did turn out to be a cool, cloudy day and we did have rain on the drive home.

Better luck next time.   🙄

From Iron to Copper – Day 3

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Another morning. Another breakfast. Another sunny day. Another day trip. This is getting boring. Can I cope with all this good weather?

After breakfast we set off on a 30 minute trip to Penrhyn Castle near Bangor. This is another National Trust property and a rather unusual one at that. We arrived at the entrance without mishap and it looked a normal enough gateway.

When we caught sight of the castle it looked like a rather impressive Norman castle.

We knew, however, that this castle was built in the 19th century as a family home and not a military building at all. When we started out we were dubious that we would like a ‘fake’ norman castle but we enjoyed it very much and you will, hopefully, see why.

Penrhyn Castle was built between 1820 and 1833 for George Hay Dawkins Pennant by the famous architect Thomas Hopper. Known for his unorthodox style, Hopper opted not to follow the fashion for Gothic architecture but went against the grain choosing a neo-Norman design. Hopper’s hands-on approach also meant he oversaw the designing and building of the castle’s furniture, made by local craftsmen. In 1951 the castle came into the care of the National Trust.

Before we went inside the main building we went into the Courtyard first. The courtyard is very large and has been turned into a railway museum.

The Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum is dedicated to local narrow gauge railways. In the 19th century, Penrhyn Castle was the home of the Pennant family owners of the Penrhyn slate quarry at Bethesda. The quarry was closely associated with the development of industrial narrow-gauge railways, and in particular the Penrhyn Quarry Railway, one of the earliest industrial railways in the world. The railway ran close to Penrhyn Castle, and when the castle was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1951 a small museum of industrial railway relics was created in the stable block.

The first locomotive donated to the museum was ‘Charles’ from the Penrhyn Quarry

and this is the driver.

The rather impressive locomotive below, ‘Fire Queen’, is one of the older locomotives in the museum having been built in 1848.

This next picture shows another of the locomotives together with a gawking bystander. You can also see how they have squeezed many locomotives into this narrow gallery. The width of the gallery makes photography difficult but I managed to photograph some. Amanda is actually trying to work out how we are going to squeeze this one into our garage.

This is the actual courtyard with the locomotive gallery on the right. When we had seen enough we went through the archway at the end and walked round to the front entrance of the house.

We went into the front entrance and found ourselves in a small, short, unpretentious corridor with a door at the end. We went through that door and emerged into an entirely different space – and I mean SPACE. The first picture of the reception hall is taken from the ground floor level and the second picture from the gallery which is visible in the first.

That should give you an idea of the scale of this place. Everything is larger than life.

The main staircase is pretty amazing with just about everything featuring carved stonework. This chap must have had money to throw away.

There were some very long corridors on the upper floor like the one above which disappears off into the distance. All in all this house is extraordinary and we would quite happily visit again.

Having seen round the house we trotted off to the walled garden and on the way saw this view with lots of buttercups. Nice!

The first part of the garden is formal in design which includes this area with the pond and box hedges together with a rather strange woman who looks as though she’s about to get up to mischief of some sort.

This Azalea shrub looks spectacular.

Further down the garden it becomes informal with a natural looking pond, an observation deck and a little summer house of sorts.

That was the end of our visit to Penrhyn Castle near Bangor but it wasn’t the end of of our day. Our next destination is Anglesey; an island off the north coast of Wales.

After a short journey, which included crossing the bridge over the Menai Strait to Anglesey, we arrived at the National Trust property of Plas Newydd, parked our car and started to walk up to the house. Along the way we couldn’t help but notice this row of rather fine cedar trees with interesting fluted trunks.

The house is in a rather nice position overlooking the Menai Straits but is not as imposing as the one we have just come from but it is still bigger than ours.  😳

This next picture shows the Menai Straits with the bridge that we used in the distance (You can just about see the bridge on the horizon).

There is plenty of parkland but not much in the way of gardens except for the small Italianate Terrace.

As far as the house goes it is a fairly standard stately home with the usual rooms.

Lord Anglsey’s study below has been left exactly as he left it and I have to say that it does look a little on the untidy side. How on earth he could find what he wanted beats me.

From here we went back to Llandudno to prepare for yet another day.

From Iron to Copper – Day 2

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Day 2

Tuesday morning. Woke. Levered eyelids open to look out of window. Another sunny day.

After breakfast we drove all of 15 minutes to Bodnant Gardens, which is managed by the National Trust, and we have been here before about 30 years ago before this web site was even thought of so no photographs from that trip. It is not an old garden having been created around 1874 and there is a house but it is private and not open to the public. Bodnant means ‘dwelling by a stream’.

The garden was gifted to the National Trust in 1949 when I was 13 years old which isn’t really relevant but I thought you’d like to know.

A map of the garden

One of the things that we came to see was the Laburnum Arch.

How’s that for a show stopper? This is very near the entrance so was an obvious first and I was lucky to get a photograph with so few people in it. The one trouble with Bodnant is that because it is world famous it is very popular and very busy.

Although the house is not open to the public it is visible.

I’d like to be able to have a look inside that conservatory.

A short way from the house we saw the occasional Rhododendron and at this time of year they seemed to be everywhere. It didn’t seem to matter where we were or which direction we looked there would be rhododendrons. This garden houses one of four National Collections of Rhododendron forrestii, named after the plant collector George Forest, so that might explain it. Bodnant raised their own Hybrid Rhododendrons of which the garden has a mere 350.

As the garden is very large, at around 80 acres, and is on a slope, there is plenty of structure to it.

Above shows the Lily Pond with the Pin Mill building on the Canal Terrace. The building was added in 1938 having been built in 1730 in Gloucestershire; it was rescued from decay by Henry Pochin, the original founder of the garden, who dismantled it, brought it to Bodnant and rebuilt it brick by brick.

We plodded onward down the slope passing numerous rhododendrons on the way and caught sight of this cheeky chappie eating the flowers!. He certainly wasn’t timid and if he eats them all he’ll end up the size and shape of a pumpkin.

We could see from the view in the next picture that we were, at last, getting near the bottom of the valley and the river. Rhododendrons? What rhododendrons? You don’t expect to see them everywhere do you? Oh! Wait!

At the bottom of the valley is the old mill and Amanda showing the way. Nobody mention rhododendrons!

The building is the old mill, a Grade II listed building, which was built around 1837 and was used to turn the wheels of the estate flourmill and then the estate sawmill. There is also a small refreshment kiosk here (it’s a long uphill walk back to the main tearooms).

So that’s the end of the garden then? You have to be kidding! There is now a greater distance to  the ‘Far End’ than we have already covered. So lets’s not waste time – just follow us. Keep up and don’t dawdle.

Off we go then and I’m not going to mention Rhododendrons.

I think that the poor chap above was just stunned by the amount of colour and in the next picture Amanda must have spotted something interesting (no it wasn’t me).

Stepping stones across the River Hiraethlyn. The disappointing part, for you, is that Amanda didn’t fall in. In walking along the valley one can walk on either side of the river and cross at any of the frequent bridges as shown below.

There are a number of lakes along the valley.

Finally we reach the ‘Far End’ BUT we now have to walk back and it’s all UP. 😕   On the way back we popped in to have a look at this – The Poem. Perched on a steep bank overlooking the mill pond this beautiful building was built by Henry Davis Pochin, the original builder of this garden, as a last resting place for his family.

After all that walking we staggered out of the exit and slumped into our car. So was that the end of our day then? Well no. It was about the middle of the afternoon so, even though we were tired, we decided to travel the short distance to Conwy.

We have been to Conwy before and there are pictures on the main web site of that visit but there some things that we hadn’t seen on that occasion. One of those was the suspension bridge built by Thomas Telford now owned and maintained by the National Trust. When we visited Conwy for the first time there was an entry fee and we thought that it wouldn’t be value for money so we gave it a miss. This time, however, we were National Trust members so could get in free. When we arrived we found that there was now no charge and the bridge was open to all.

It is an impressive bridge and very attractive so it was a worth while visit. From here we walked down to the Quay to see something else that we had heard about.

A house can’t come smaller than that surely unless you know better?

By this time our legs were worn down to the knees so we went back to the hotel. Another dinner, another sleep. Another day. What will the new day bring?

From Iron to Copper – Day 1

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Day 1

Monday morning. Sunny. Leap into car. Drive north like a bat out of hell to try to get to the first destination before the sun goes in. We just make it. Cloud has started to appear but there is still plenty of sunshine.

We started this trip, after driving north for an hour and a half, with these early 18th century wrought iron gates at Chirk Castle which we thought were very impressive. They must have been very expensive to make but, I suppose, if you can afford a home like Chirk Castle then a couple of gates wouldn't make much of a dent in the family fortune.

Visitors cannot get in this way but we had to stop and have a look before we went in the visitors normal entrance.

Chirk Castle is near the town of Chirk (no surprises there then) which is halfway between Oswestry and Wrexham. The castle is now owned by the National Trust and when approaching from the car park the castle looks pretty impressive.

Chirk Castle is similar to Beaumaris Castle which suggests that building work may have started as late as 1295 and was completed in 1310. It has over 700 years of history being the last castle from this period still lived in today.

Now this is what you call an entrance. This very imposing arch leads into the courtyard in the centre of the castle.

This courtyard is enclosed on four sides and, as you may deduce, refreshments may be obtained here. That Wisteria on the left-hand wall is a sight to behold.

The interior has had extensive modifications over the centuries and it is now nothing like the medieval fortress it used to be leaving it as a very comfortable home. We could tolerate that. These are some of the rooms.

The staircase is relatively small but rather attractive as is the upper landing.

Coming out of the castle we are confronted with this view. One can see why the castle was built here.

Then we went into the garden and what a garden! There were plenty of Rhododendrons in bloom, which certainly helped to add a lot of colour, but there were plenty of other flowers and plants too.

We rather liked the little thatched summer house.

Having seen just about everything at Chirk Castle we continued our journey to Valle Crucis Abbey just a little north of Llangollen . The abbey ruins are managed by Cadw ( the welsh equivalent of English Heritage). The abbey was built in 1201 and was dissolved in 1537 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

It is an impressive ruin although it has to be said that these welsh and english abbey ruins are very much alike. However we did enjoy looking around and it is one of the best preserved abbeys in Wales.


We took our leave of the abbey ruins and continued our journey to our final destination.

After driving for a total of 2 hours 30 minutes (that's from home to here) we arrived at Llandudno on the north coast of Wales, which is where we were staying, and this is our hotel on the sea front.

The picture below is the view from the seaward side of the road outside our hotel,  that limestone lump on the skyline is the Great Orme,

and this is the view out of our bedrooom window – can't be bad.

We did have a mostly sunny day after all but it is now time for dinner and then to bed to be ready for whatever tomorrow brings – I have my folding umbrella to hand.