House Beautiful

On Sunday, Tim and I went off the beaten track and down the carriage drive to see Houghton House, near Ampthill. This is the house referred to as House Beautiful by John Bunyan, in his famous book ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’. Bunyan was from Bedford.

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Stunning and commanding views across the Vale of Bedford, make this so wonderful to visit. To sit and just ‘be’ on the lawns is a magical experience.

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English Heritage has the task of maintaining this beautiful place and it is well looked after. The signs around the house give you a great deal of information about the house and its occupants through the ages.

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It was built around 1615 for Mary, Dowager Countess of Pembroke, in a mixture of Jacobean and Classical styles: the ground floors of two Italianate loggias survive, possibly the work of Inigo Jones.

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In 1624 the house passed to the first Earl of Elgin upon the death of the Countess, and was passed down the generations. In 1738 the house was bought by the 4th Duke of Bedford, his main house being the beautiful Woburn Abbey just a few miles away. The Duke’s son, the Marquess of Tavistock, was killed in a horse riding accident and so the house passed to his grandson, Francis Russell, the 5th Duke of Bedford. Sadly, in 1794, Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford, stripped Houghton House of its furnishings and removed the roof. This may have been due, in part, to his father’s horse riding tragedy.

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IMG_20150913_134313The house has a beautiful tree lined driveway to the main entrance with a turning circle for the carriages.

Conservation work was undertaken in 2006 to help maintain safety and improve the understanding of the site.

Well worth a visit.

The magnificent staircase from Houghton Swan Hotel staircaseHouse can be seen in The Swan Hotel, Bedford. It gives you a taste of how opulent and grand the house must have been in its heyday.

Houghton House is in the bodacious shire of Bedford.

World Book Day

Finlay, my grandson, goes to an amazing little school in the shire of Buckingham and to celebrate the fact that today, 6th March, is World Book Day, all the children were asked to choose a character in a book they enjoyed. And would they come to school dressed as that character.

Finlay as Willy WonkaFinlay loves Roald Dahl books, as did his Mummy and Uncle when they were little. His choice of book was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his choice of character was Willy Wonka. He is reading the book, has seen the film (the original and better one) and has seen the stage play in London.

Finlay lives near Aylesbury and the great co-incidence with his choice is that Roald Dahl lived in the shire of Buckingham, at Great Missenden from 1954 until he died in 1990.  In Dahl’s honour, the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery was opened in November 1996, at the Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury. There is also The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden. 

I am lucky enough to pick Finlay up from his school on Wednesdays and take him to school on Thursday mornings. Today in he went as Willy Wonka, complete with stick, chocolate bar and the golden ticket.  Apparently, all his class mates wanted to walk with the stick!

Walking into the playground is always a pleasure. The children start in the reception class and go through the primary years. There are always lots of laughing and playing children, it really does brighten your day – and these eager and hopeful children. And if you listen very carefully, you can hear the tinkling of little bells and angels’ laughter.

So, imagine how much more exciting the playground was this morning – it was just an absolute pleasure and such a joy to see them all strutting around in character. Princesses, pirates, witches, bugs, birds, aliens, Buzz Lightyear, Harry Potter, the Enormous Crocodile, Matilda and many, many more.  And the teachers were all dressed as skeletons! Such a creative and empowering school.

They inspire me and cheer the whole day – and long may they do so.

If you go down to the woods today

This is the song, as has been sung for many, many years.

If you go down to the woods today,
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go down to the woods today,
You’d better go in disguise.
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for teddy bears;
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch us catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily gad about.
They love to play and shout,
They never have any cares.
At six o’clock their mummies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they’re tired little teddy bears.

But with the horrendous news that this government, which announced itself as going to be the greenest government ever, is going to sell off all our forests, even the ancient ones, the words will change!

Have a look at this map to see the full horror and scale of where the sales of forests will be.  http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/msie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=108710524048595933746.0004966ac0873c8a36ed6&ll=52.873434,-1.608467&spn=4.787501,6.102218&source=embed

Yes, it is a huge link but then so is the sell off !

Oh, by the way, have put some new words to the song!

If you go down to the woods today,
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go down to the woods today,
You’d better go in disguise.
For every bear that ever there was
Won’t gather there for certain because
There’s nowhere for teddy bears to have their picnic.

Picnic time for teddy bears;
Can’t happen anymore, there’s no wood today.
Watch our woods just disappear,
Sold off  for cash to the highest bidder.
There will be nowhere to go,
Nowhere to play and shout,
Nowhere to lose their cares.
So straight away their mummies and daddies,
Will take them home crying,
Because they’re sad little teddy bears.

Travelling through the Shires

This is my first post on a new blog ~ woo hoo!

Yesterday I drove from Buckinghamshire, through the shires of Northampton, Oxford, Warwick, Worcester to Herefordshire.  I did the quick run rather than the scenic route ~ shall save that for the return journey when haste is not a necessary companion.

I started from my daughter’s home in Aylesbury, through to Bicester and then onto the M40.  Great motorway when not chock-a-block and Sunday evening is a good time to reap the benefits of not too much traffic.  Over the years, I’ve tried many different routes from Bedford and Aylesbury to Herefordshire ~ this one seems to give the least stress and traffic jams.  At junction 3A, onto the M42 westbound and then the M5 southbound, coming off at Worcester.

I purposely drive past the Worcester N turn and go on to Worcester S, and for good reason.  Worcester N takes you through the town, it also takes you on roads where signposts to the A44 disappear!  And where, along the roads when you are frantically looking for signposts that will give you a clue as to which way to go, there are speed cameras ~ grrrrrrr!  Didn’t even see the one that got me doing 36 in a 30 mile limit :-(  I’m usually good on 30 mph but was too busy looking at signs rather than the speedo.  Heigh ho!

When you come off at Worcester S, you go straight onto the A44 to Leominster.  At Leominster you have two routes to choose from to get to the little hamlet near Pembridge where my friend’s house is.  You can just follow on the A44 or turn right and go through the gorgeous village of Eardisland.  I always turn right ~ I want to savour the last stage of my journey to the peace and tranquillity that is Herefordshire.

Anna's home ~ Yew Tree Cottage

A shire that personifies England’s green and pleasant land.

A couple more miles and then turn onto a winding, single track road.  I turn down the by-way to the house ~ a big smile on my face.

Coming this way you don’t see all the wonderful places that you do on the scenic and slow A422 from Bedford to here, but there is still so much to take in.  On the humorous side, some of the place names you see on the signposts will make you smile ~

Brill (how quirky and good does that sound?!), Piddington, Fritwell (spooky; where I live ‘frit’ is an accepted alternative for frightened!), Bishop’s Itchington, Kite Green (Oh no, have started to sing, albeit silently, ‘Let’s go fly a kite’ from Mary Poppins!), Pigeon Green, Trap’s Green, Witheybed Green, Lickey, Lickey Rock, Lickey End, Suckley, Butts End, Pie Corner, Sweet Green, The Hundred, The Broad, Weobly (who else remembers the Weebles?), and many, many more.  All so quintessentially English.

If you travelled somewhere new everyday, you would still not be able to see all the wonder and goodness out there in this wondrous planet of ours called Earth.  What a privilege it is to experience just a tiny percentage.