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From Iron to Copper – Day 1

From Iron to Copper – Day 1

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.

I went 220 miles to Devon for 30 minutes – Wednesday.

I went 220 miles to Devon for 30 minutes – Wednesday.

This is my last breakfast at the Royal Lion and my last morning in Lyme Regis. After breakfast, having re-packed my case, I wander up to the bus stop, catch the bus to Axminster Station where I wait for the London train.

So am I homeward bound? Well, yes, but it has occurred to me that one of the stops on route is Sherborne, still in Dorset, and my ticket permits me to break my journey if I so choose. I decide to get off at Sherborne and see if the Tourist Information Centre can find me a bed for the night.

It is only a five minute walk to the TIC, and just before I go in, I can hardly fail to notice Sherborne Abbey in front of me; the stone glowing golden in the sunlight – can't wait. The ladies who run the TIC are very nice and soon fix me up with B&B for one night. I go straight to the B&B so that I can leave my case but the room is ready and I'm soon settled in.

I walk back to the town centre heading for the abbey along Long Street so called because it's, well, long. Near the end of Long Street I can see the tower of the abbey church and, just across the road, another interesting little structure.

This little structure, I discover, is called the Conduit; a 16th century building once used as a washing area by the monks of Sherborne Abbey and after the dissolution of the monastry in 1539 was moved to its present position at the lower end of Cheap Street.

I walked past the Conduit under the 15th century Bow Arch

and soon arrived at the abbey church. Now that is a church and a half!

Next to the abbey is the St. John Almshouse built in 1437 and its Foundation Deed provided for 'Twelve pore feeble and ympotent old men and four old women' the inhabitants to be cared for by a housewife whose duty was to 'feeche in and dyght to the victaill wash wrying make beddys and al other things do'. Got that?

The Almshouse is open to the public between 2 PM and 4 PM but not on Wednesdays (today) so I couldn't go in but I can go in the abbey.

Now that's what I call a nave ceiling. What a lovely bit of fan vaulting.

There are numerous tombs and monuments and there are two Saxon kings buried here. I also saw this broken tomb in the floor complete with bones but I don't know who it was. There is a sheet of glass across the top so there are some reflections.

I left the abbey and walked up Cheap Street and saw this obvoiusly ancient building.

I dicovered that, in 1994, the 19th century facade was removed to expose and conserve the original 15th century structure. This shop has been used as both a candle makers and a shoemakers.

At the top of Cheap Street I found Greenhill with its high pavements. It reminded me a little of Old Hastings.

In The Green itself was this rather nice thatched house and further down is the stone-built Hospice of St. Julian next to the timber-framed building.

There are two castles in Sherborne – Sherborne Old Castle, which is medieval, and the new Sherborne Castle built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594. I shall not have time to see both so I'm going to look at the medieval ruins of the old castle.

That was the end of my final day. Whew! What a lot of walking.

Tomorrow I go to the station to catch my train to London and thence to home. It turned out to be straight forward, no more cancelled trains, and Amanda met me at our local station. We both arrived home around 4:00 PM.

There will, of course, be more pictures and detail on the main web site in due course.


I went 220 miles to Devon for 30 minutes – Tuesday.

I went 220 miles to Devon for 30 minutes – Tuesday.

I got out of bed this morning and tried to encourage my legs to move and by the time I'd got down to breakfast they were just about usable again (but only just smilies ).

Breakfast is fairly late here, at eight o'clock, so I first wandered out into the town towards the church. It was very quiet as I passed through the back streets and emerged near the church.

The church is quite old with parts dating back to Saxon times. The interesting part is in the churchyard on the seaward edge.

That wire fence is to stop people from dropping off the edge of the cliff and you can see that the path shown goes nowhere. This church, when it was built, was a long way from the cliff now it can't be more than 50 feet. It is hoped that the new sea defences below will stop the erosion.

Back for breakfast then onward.

I'm going to hop on the same bus again this morning but I'll be going through Chideock to Burton Bradstock this time which is about a 60 minute journey.

I get off the bus just the other side of Burton Bradstock and walk down Beach Road. High tide was about an hour ago so the tide is going out and it's safe for me to walk along the beach as far as West Bay. I say 'safe' because there are high cliffs on my right all the way.

The cliffs, as you can see, are made up of alternating bands of hard and soft rock giving them a striped appearance. The rocks are Inferior Oolite and Fullers Earth from the Middle Jurassic.

As I walked along the beach I could hear a sound which might be described as a cross between a crack and a knock. This sound occurred regularly at intervals all the way to West Bay and was definitely coming from the cliffs. It sounded rather ominous but there were no rock falls whilst I was there. I can only assume that it was the hard bands expanding and contracting with changes in temperature.

These cliffs are dangerous and rock falls are not uncommon. This shows a recent fall and that crack in the cliff above doesn't look particularly safe. Staying away from the cliff, as I am, is the safest thing to do and needs to be done when the tide is going out so that more of the beach is exposed.

The hard rock bands are certainly fossiliferous as this picture of one of the fallen slabs shows. There are many molluscs and belemnites.

I continued along the beach towards West Bay until I reached the River Bride. That means I either paddle or go inland a little way to use the bridge.

I decided to do as the person in the picture did. The water at its deepest didn't reach my ankles nor was it particularly cold and to prove that I did get to the other side:

There are other people on the far side, who were behind me, preparing to do the same.

I finally reach West Bay which is the seaside part of Bridport.

The Bridport Arms used to be the Ship Inn and dates from the late 17th century and is partly thatched. The town of Bridport is a bit of a long walk from here so I decided to catch the bus which set me down in the town centre. The main roads in Bridport, West Street, East Street and South Street form a 'T' with South Street being the leg of the 'T'. This is from the top end of South Street looking south.

A short way down South Street is the town museum housed in this Tudor building.

Further down South Street is the parish church of St. Mary dating from the 13th century.

In the lower part of South Street is the Chantry; the oldest building in Bridport dating from before 1300.

Further on by the River Brit is Palmer's Brewery dating from 1794 and the water wheel, forged in 1879 at a Bridport foundry, does still turn.

From Easter to the end of October a guided tour starts at 11.00 am on every weekday (excluding Bank Holidays) and lasts for about two hours. No I didn't.

I made my way back up South Street to West Street where, after a tiring day, I caught the bus to Lyme Regis. Tomorrow I leave Lyme Regis. smilies

(Tomorrow, Wednesday: I leave for home – or do I?)


I went 220 miles to Devon for 30 minutes – Monday.

I went 220 miles to Devon for 30 minutes – Monday.

Today is the big day! My most ambitious day of the whole trip. I plan to get the bus to Chideock (pronounced 'Chidock') and walk back to Lyme Regis via Golden Cap. What's Golden Cap? It's the highest point on the south coast – that's what. smilies

After breakfast I walked a couple of hundred yards to the bus stop to wait for the bus which is supposed to arrive about 9:35 which it did. Thirty minutes later I was standing by the roadside in Chideock looking for Mill Lane on the opposite side of the road. As it was close to the bus stop even I couldn't get it wrong and I was soon walking down the lane towards Seatown.

You can probably see that the sun is out but that there is plenty of cloud. It was only about three quarters of a mile to Seatown so it didn't take long to get there and I walked a little in the wrong direction so that I could get a view of Seatown.

I don't know why it's called Seatown because it's not even big enough to be a village let alone a town. smilies

This view from the beach shows Golden Cap ( the big lump in the centre of the picture) and I don't have to tell you why it's called Golden Cap do I?

I am foolish enough to start from here, at sea level, and climb to the top of that lump and then walk on over the hill to Lyme Regis. That's the plan anyway. So I set off the short distance up Mill Lane to find the start of the footpath and here it is.

The figure is probably difficult to read but it says 'Golden Cap 1 1/2' (1.5 miles) and 4.5 miles to Charmouth. Here we go.

It starts off inocuously enough to lull one into a false sense of security along a gently climbing path then, when it thinks it's got you into a good mood, it starts to get steeper. The path is now steep enough that steps have been cut into it. This is done to alleviate erosion by walkers and to deliberately aggravate my old leg muscles smilies . The steps are cut into the ground then wooden risers are set at the front of each step to stop them collapsing. Here the steps are quite far apart so it's step up then walk a few steps and step up again.

You can see a couple of steps in the photograph above and you can also see that I have gained some height since leaving the lane. smilies

A bit higher now with the summit visible some way ahead. You may not be able to read the distances on the signpost but it says 'Seatown 3/4' and 'Golden Cap 1/2' (miles). So far I've walked 3/4 of a mile from Chideock to Seatown and another 3/4 of a mile from Seatown to this point – a total of just 1.5 miles and I'm already puffing and blowing. Still, the views are nice.

That's Seatown down there. It looks a long way down. I have still a good way to go yet and all of it steep. There are long stretches of path with lots of steps packed close together that seem to go on for ever. I finally get to a steep grassy slope with a bench seat at the top. Just what I need but I have to get there first. I didn't make it in one go and had to stop and rest part way but I did eventually make use of that seat.

Then there is another short uphill stretch, with steps, until I arrive at the summit at last. The top view below is to the east and the bottom picture is to the west.

In the bottom picture Lyme Regis is the cluster of buildings in the centre of the picture with Charmouth on the right. Charmouth is my next target.

After a short sitdown to eat lunch I set off again and pass some locals who are admiring the view.

 So is it now all downhill? If only! The path goes steeply down hill to the bottom of a valley and just as steeply up again to the next ridge and then down and up again ad infinitum. I am, however, slowly leaving Golden Cap behind.

These repetitive steep slopes are making me very, very weary and I'm beginning to realise that I'll be lucky to make it to Charmouth let alone Lyme Regis so I decide I'll have to stop at Charmouth and get the bus back. smilies smilies smilies So much for ambition.

I had walked about six miles but the ups and downs would effectively double that in terms of energy used. What a wimp! Perhaps I should modify that a little. What an old wimp!

I finally reach Stonebarrow Lane and set off down towards Charmouth.

I finally reach the village but still have to walk uphill for some distance to reach the bus stop where I took this photograph looking back to where I'd come from.

I clambered wearily onto the bus and finally arrived back at my hotel for a rest. I'm going to need that rest for tomorrow.

(Tomorrow, Tuesday: Musical cliffs, a water wheel and a Tudor museum.)


The Good, the Bad and the Ugley

The Good, the Bad and the Ugley

Yesterday we were thinking of going on a day trip but in the end we decided not to. Why did we not go? Because we had worn ourselves out the day before on another day trip.

We had decided to go shopping. We wanted a mower lift, a coiled hose that stretches to 100 feet and a drill bit sharpener plus some other items. Those every day items that everyone needs. smilies

These were to be purchased from a shop in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire. It was only 33 miles from us so it didn't take long to get there and we duly purchased our items and stuffed them in the car.

We walked off into Bishop's Stortford to have a look around. As we were walking away from the shop we noticed the unusual roof.

Shops don't normally have what appear to be strange tapering chimney pots. The reason for those is that the building used to be used for malting. Malting is a process that converts the starch in cereal grain, usually barley, to alternative forms of sugar used in brewing. The conical chimneys of these distinctive buildings emitted a rich aroma of roasted malt, a smell not unlike that of roasting coffee, that permeated the air for miles around.

Those days have long gone but the buildings remain and this one has now been converted to a shop.

We were now in Bridge Street with the 16th century Black Lion Inn just ahead and to our left. This looked to be a fine timber-framed building. There were other nice old buildings in this street.

After walking up Bridge Street we found ourselves in the Market Square with the Corn Exchange on the right and the church tower and steeple showing above the buildings in the distance.

 We wanted to see more of the church so headed in that direction. The continuation of Bridge Street westward is High Street and we spotted a very nice timber-framed building.

This local tailors was one of the oldest businesses in the world until 2013 when it closed. Part of the building dates from about 1360, with modern additions around 1545.

A little way up from here, near to where High Street changes to Windhill, we found the church. A rather large, impressive building in a rather small churchyard making photography difficult. It is unusually long at 170 feet with a spire 180 feet high.

Although there was probably a Saxon, and later, a Norman church on the site, the only surviving fragment of those times is the font. The church seems to have been completely rebuilt in the early fifteenth century and it was altered and restored in both the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

Immediately opposite the church is the Boars Head Inn dating from around 1420 (Tudor).

Samuel Pepys frequented this inn and is recorded as having dined here on 26 May 1668.

Just above this point High Street changes to Windhill a wide and attractive street tree-lined on one side.

You can see evidence of the malting industry again in the form of that tapering chimney and the fact that the house is called 'Oast House'.

So, back down Windhill then High Street to this junction where we turned left into Basbow Lane.

We had spotted some colour-washed houses at the far end when we were on our way up the hill and decided to investigate on the way back. This is what we found.

A nice group of old, pretty houses. At the end of the lane there were some steps down to Hadham Road and an interesting building at the bottom of the steps. The building is, apparently, timber-framed covered in plaster and dates from the 17th century with alterations in the 18th and 19th centuries.

We went back down Bridge Street and crossed the road into Castle Gardens where we saw all that's left of Waytemore Castle – the mound on which it was built.

The River Stort runs through the park and the southern part is navigable.

We followed the riverside path for a while and saw yet more evidence of malting in the form of those tapered chimneys.

We had had enough walking by now so headed back to the car having seen most of the interesting parts of Bishop's Stortford and it wasn't until we were headed out of town that we realised we had missed a bit. A group of old buildings on the junction of Dunmow Road and Stansted Road. Oh well, next time perhaps. That was the 'good'.

We headed north into Essex, through Stansted Mountfitchet, and this is when our situation turned Ugley. In fact it was precisely at this point.

Ugley is a very small village just a few miles south of Widdington. It has a lovely little church which unfortunately was locked.

The road to the church was narrow and they don't come much narrower than this. No hope of seeing out to the sides either.

There was a group of attractive thatched cottages and a few modern houses round about and that was 'Ugley'.

We decided to travel the few miles to Widdington. Remember Widdington? We visited that village in July 2010 and wrote a blog report. We saw a medieval barn there but were unable to see inside because it wasn't open but today it was open.

Now is that impressive or is that impressive?

We had come to the end of our day out and so headed home. Most of the journey back is on the A120, a fast dual carrigeway that is rarely busy, but suddenly we found ourselves being diverted off the road near Braintree with no signs to offer an explanation. We had to make our way through Braintree town centre and eventually to home. That was the 'bad'.

The other day trip I mentioned at the top of this post will happen another time. Wait and see. smilies



Cow Gap

Cow Gap

Day One

The weather forecast for the next 3 days was cloudy but dry. Well, we can handle that so off we went to Eastbourne. Why Eastbourne? We'll get to that later.

We decided to travel by train. We don't have to drive and we don't have to find somewhere to park (the hotel doesn't have its own car park) – can't be bad.

I looked at the train status on my smartphone and saw, with some dismay, that an empty train had derailed earlier and would be causing a delay on our journey. Bummer! smilies The delay was reported to be 20 minutes and we had 45 minutes to walk across to Stratford International Station to make the connection. We were going to Stratford International not because Eastbourne is considered to be exotic but because we can use the high-speed line to get to Ashford and thence a local train to Eastbourne. That delay would still leave us with 25 minutes for the change which should be plenty.

We caught our 'usual' train, which was on time, from our local station and although there was a small delay we arrived only 10 minutes later than planned leaving us oodles of time for the connection. Having alighted at Stratford, in Greater London, we walked across to the International Station with plenty of time to spare. The train arrived on time and 30 minutes later, after an uneventful journey, we arrived at Ashford in Kent.

The Eastbourne train was waiting in the platform and we were soon headed for Eastbourne where we arrived at around 12:40 and after a short walk we were at our hotel at lunchtime.

Driving time would have been about two and a half hours and the train journey, including waiting times, was 3 hours so not really much difference.

Having arrived at lunchtime we had a brilliant idea – we could have lunch and so we did. After lunch we wandered off towards the pier. The last time that we were on Eastbourne Pier the steps up to the Camera Obscura level were closed off and I was hoping we might be able to get up there this time but, no, the steps were closed off. That's two bummers in the same day. smilies

We didn't do a lot today and went back to our hotel to prepare for dinner. Tomorrow is the big day.

Day Two

After breakfast at about 9:30 AM we left the hotel and walked down to the seafront. This view is looking in the direction in which we are headed.

We followed the coast road westward until it reach the grass downland where it bends sharp right. We bent sharp left along a track going towards the cliffs. When we reached to edge of the cliffs we could see back to Eastbourne.

You may just be able to see the end of Eastbourne Pier sticking out beyond the promentary where the beach disappears from sight. The weather is better than forecast this morning but the sun is watery and it's not very clear. There is also a strong wind of about 15 mph gusting to 21 mph which we could do without. Looking in the opposite direction we can see our first target – the shore. Do you think that the sign is trying to tell us something?

You may notice that the shore is covered in rock fragments caused by erosion and we are planning to walk on that. smilies

We still have a way to walk along the top of the cliffs yet. We follow the footpath until we see a path forking off to the left and we follow that fork.

We start heading down. That shore looks nearer but it doesn't look any better. More steps to go down.

Can you read the name on the sign? It says 'Cow Gap'. 'Gap' around here is a point in the cliffs which is low enough for it to be practical to build some steps down to the shore. There aren't many gaps. We have visited the other two and have been waiting for an opportunity to visit this one so we've made it at last.

There is Amanda at the foot of the steps and we are now on the shore. Take a look at the shore because we are proposing to walk over a half mile on that. After a while of scrambling it was nice to reach some solid rock to walk on for a while and just showing at the foot of the cliffs on the horizon is our second target – Beachy Head Lighthouse.

We eventually ran out of solid rock but after yet more scrambling we came across a nice large patch of sand. Woo Hoo! That was a welcome relief.

Unfortunately that nice flat sand didn't last for long and we were back to scrambling once again. We did reach another relatively small area of flat rock but there was more loose rock ahead.

The next picture shows how the shore looked further on. That's not going to be easy to walk on.

That cliff on the right is Beachy Head. We realised at this point that we wouldn't make it to the lighthouse because the tide had now turned and was coming back in so this is as near as we got. smilies This is not a good place to be caught by the tide.

On the way back to Cow Gap we had a good look at the rocks and saw many old fossils. (Waits for obvious comments. smilies )

The pictures above, in order, starting from the top are:

Ammonite shell impression
Turitella type shellfish
Section of a Brain Coral
Section of a sponge

We also came across two plants which are typical of this environment.

Sea Kale which looks rather like cabbage.

 and Rock Samphire which looks like, well, Rock Samphire.

On the way back to Eastbourne I managed to sneak up on this Speckled Wood butterfly.

We went back to our hotel to change and were out again in time for afternoon tea. Yum yum. Tomorrow I'm doing another walk and Amanda is going to a museum.

Day Three

Amanda decided after yesterday's walk that she didn't want to do more walking today so she is going to visit the 'How we lived then' museum, packed with nostalgic items from the past, and I am getting on the bus.

My bus, the number 126, leaves from a stop near the railway station at about 9:45 and I walk up to the stop with time to spare. Whilst I'm waiting a lady asks me if the 126 goes to Alfriston. I explain that I hope it does because that's where I'm planning to go. We share a seat on the bus and chat. It turns out that her name is Nicky (Nicola) and she is on holiday from Switzerland and someone here suggested that she would probably like visiting  Alfriston.

We arrive in Alfriston after about 30 minutes and she decides to join me on a visit to the Clergy House. Amanda and I have stayed in Alfriston before but were unable to visit the Clergy House because it opens only on some days and wasn't open when we were last there.

The Clergy House is a 14th-century Wealden hall-house and is owned by the National Trust. It was their first ever purchase in 1896 and cost the princely sum of £10.00.

This picture shows why it is called a hall-house.

It has a hall-like room which goes right up into the roof. Very impressive but, I would imagine, a devil to heat in the winter.

This shows the kitchen with all mod. cons. Well it does have a sink and water pump.

There were also some nice gardens.

Nicky was apparently going to spend the whole day looking around Alfriston so I said goodbye and made my way to the river.

Not much of a river I grant you; more like a stream at this point. However I plan on following the river down to Exceat where I hope to catch a bus back to Eastbourne so I set off.

I soon came across a group of locals having a meeting and there's one on the extreme right that's right on my path.

We shall see what she will do when I get closer. Well I walked close by her right-hand side and apart from a brief glance at me she got on with her eating. They must be used to seeing people.

I passed the little village of Littlington part of which is shown here. Pity the weather isn't better.

Soon after I passed littlington I had my first glimpse of the white horse, on High and Over, seen across the reeds on the edge of the river to the right.

A little further on and there is a better view of the river with the white horse beyond.

The banks of the river look muddy because the river is tidal at this point and the tide is low so the river level is down. Incidentally High and Over is the name of a hill between Alfriston and Seaford and is the hill directly ahead.

This is about as close as I got to the white horse then following the river takes me further away.

At one point I walked past these Canada Geese who seemed to be honking away most of the time. There were also some other white birds in the distance which I couldn't identify. They all sounded as though they were having a honking good time.

It didn't take much longer to get to the bus stop at Exceat and a little while later along came my bus back to Eastbourne.

After an uneventful ride (front seat, top deck) we reached the top of the hill down to Eastbourne with a good view of the town laid out below. That probably would have looked nice in good weather.

I got off the bus at Eastbourne Station where Amanda was waiting for me with our luggage and we got the train back home. It was a short but enjoyable trip. We will probably be back.


Our trip is at an end.

Our trip is at an end.

… and to be more precise it's at Audley End. As you all probably know (Who am I kidding?) 'end' is the Saxon word for 'home' and this was Thomas Audley's home.

Not a bad home eh? These Jacobean piles are two a penny around here (Essex and Suffolk) and this one is on the outskirts of Saffron Walden in Essex about a 70 minute drive from us.

There are also a number of other 'ends' around here. I remember coming past Cole End on the way; there is Sparrows End a little south of here near Wendens Ambo (of which more later) and there is a Duck End in Finchingfield.

Audley End was originally the site of a Benedictine monastery (Walden Abbey), granted to the Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Audley in 1538 by Henry VIII but was later converted to a domestic house for him, known as Audley Inn. That dwelling was later demolished by his grandson, Thomas Howard (the first Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer), and a much grander mansion was built, primarily for entertaining King James I.

The layout reflects the processional route of the King and Queen, each having their own suite of rooms. It is reputed that Thomas Howard told King James he had spent some £200,000 on creating this grand house, and it may be that the King had unwittingly contributed. In 1619, Suffolk and his wife were found guilty of embezzlement (oops!) and sent to the Tower of London. However, a huge fine secured their release, but Suffolk died in disgrace at Audley End in 1626.

Sir John Griffin, later fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke, introduced sweeping changes in 1762, in particular, the commissioning of Capability Brown to landscape the parkland.

The house is now only a third of the size of the original and is in the ownership of English Heritage although the contents are owned by the current Lord Braybrooke.

We arrived about 10:30 in the morning on a fine sunny day. The first thing that we noticed was this astonishing topiary hedge grown from Yew and Box. It's really quite, er, lumpy.

I don't know why it's been trimmed this way but I'm certainly glad that I don't have to maintain it.

As the sun was at the back of the house we decided to start there. Those bright blue flowers are Forget-me-not and, I assume, a cultivated variety rather than the wild one as the wild ones are a paler blue.

On the high ground behind the house is the Temple of Concord built in 1790 in honour of George III.

After coming down off the high ground we went back to the front of the house and beyond into the parkland then down to the River Cam, which runs through the estate, where we saw the Adam Bridge designed by Robert Adam who also remodelled a number of the reception rooms in the house. Ducks? What ducks? Oh, those ducks. They were making their way towards a lady with a pram hoping that she might be a provider of food. They were out of luck. They obviously didn't like the look of me.

At this point we were very close to the Old Stables and yet another bridge.

That person lurking on the very right-hand edge of the picture is Amanda. She does a very good lurk. You may also notice that there is a black swan nibbling grass on the bank.

These are the Old Stables. Quite fancy for stables.

We continued along by the river until we reached the Victorian Kitchen Gardens and they were vast.

That is Amanda disappearing rapidly into the distance being 'pulled' by the attraction of two very large greenhouses.

See, I told you, she couldn't wait to get inside but I managed to get to the larger of the greenhouses first with its pretty amazing display of Schizanthus (the poor man's orchid).

Ater leaving the Kitchen Garden we found ourselves in the Pond Garden.

That figure is Amanda trying to get away from me as usual. Is she trying to tell me something?

There are two rectangular ponds with, in the dark shadows at the end, a large vertical rockery of ferns and shamrocks. There was also a solitary duck in the far pond and the water level was quite low down and we did wonder if the duck would be able to take off and fly as there wasn't much room but we were also sure that the staff would be used to that sort of occurance and would rescue the duck if need be.

After leaving this garden we emerged into the Elysian Garden with a number of very large trees of which this mighty specimen was one. Amanda thought it was an Oriental Plane.

The little building over the stream is the Tea House Bridge designed by Robert Adam.

We had managed to choose a day, unknowingly, when entrance to the house was by guided tour only. They apparently also have what they call 'free flow' entry which means that you can wander round at your own pace but not today. In either case photography in the house is prohibited and, needless to say, that annoyed me greatly.

It will probably annoy many other people as well. We got just 30 minutes for our tour which is not a lot for the entry charge. At one time it was possible to pay to enter the gardens only but that does not now seem to be available so bear in mind that almost half the charge was for the house and you may get only 30 minutes for your money. There is nothing on the English Heritage web site, that I can see, about Audley End that mentions the two types of access to the house.

So once again we have no interior photographs.

After we left Audley End we travelled the few miles to Wendens Ambo. The name originates from the joining of two villages, Great Wenden and Little Wenden to form Wendens Ambo where Ambo means both Wendens. There is a railway station within the village, Audley End, which is the nearest station to Audley End House two miles away and habitation here dates back to Roman times.

This is the view from just inside the churchyard.

and this is the church. A rather cute little church and quite old. It seems to have been built about the time Domesday Book was written (1086 A.D.) with later additions in the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th centuries.

There was a fragment of a wall painting dating from about 1330 in the Chancel.

The church organ casing dates from the late 1700s

and the Chancel Screen dates from the 15th century.

Amanda, shown on the other side of the screen, does not date from the 15th century.

We went home.