South East to South West
01.08.2007 - 07.08.2007 20 °C
Start - 1 August
At no extra charge our car (Vauxhall Holden Astra 4 Door) for the next 5 weeks was delivered to NZ Avenue and arrived at around 11 am. Without delay we vacated the loungeroom floor and returned it to its original state, stocked up at sainsburys ready for the British touring trip of a lifetime. Heading out we made it all of 10 km (or approximately 6 miles) to our first stop at Ham House and gardens managed by the National Trust (NT). Liz and Ken / Mum and Dad bought the membership as a Christmas present prior to our trip which we already realise will be a great asset during the trip. Ham House was of interest as we watched a documentary on the NT and Ham House which certainly added to the experience in real life. Unfortunately the kitchens were closed due to flooding in the recent rains but we are told the damage was minor.
Next stop was Canterbury with its fabulous cathedral which we were all of 1 minute late for entry however the outside and grounds were worth the visit, not to mention some of the old town houses and a quick walk along the fortifications.
Our morning started with a 2 hour walk through the NT managed White Cliffs of Dover coastline. It was great to be up before the rest of the daily visitors to this section of coast as we could enjoy the morning sea breeze alone together.
We continued through Dover, Flokstone and stopped in Rye watching the tide advancing over lunchtime, a quick poke around the antique shops and until we could not restrain ourselves any longer and bought lots of little items (chocolate covered sultanas from the lolly shop next door). Touring through the old fishing village of Hastings we turned right towards Battle to visit the site of the infamous clash of 1066 AD.
The theatrical audioguide and light sunshower left us with a real impression of the battle which shaped British history when William the Conqueror (formerly William the Bastard, truly) fought King Harold and won. At the cost of almost 7000 men in one day, including King Harold, the battle ground below our feet held more anguish than we will ever know. We valued the history lesson and our visit so much that we joined English Heritage on the spot to compliment our NT membership, now England is our oyster to discover all her treasures FREE.
Camping at Castle View Campground we could see Peversby Castle (funnily enough) and planned our visit for the morning.
Before the crowds associated with opening times wallked in we walked the grounds of Peversby Castle (admiring our campsite from the previous night) where William the Bastard (he hasn't won the battle at this point) and his army landed and prepared for the fight.
Our next stop was sunny Eastbournewith the beautiful early 19th century pier. We quickly became the source of amusement for the passing parade of locals as we had set up for a full buffet breakfast on the wall of the promenade. Muesli, fruit, tea, spreads and fresh bread was the order of the day and we are sure to have made those in the expensive restaurant behind us very jelous as we had the better view. Having reviewed the Lonely Planet commentary on Eastbourne we certainly agree that octogenarians choose this delightful town for thier holidays as evidenced by the embroided floral cardigans for sale and more park benches per mile of promenade than anywhere else on earth, we LOVED it.
Touring the coast with a stop at Birling Gap (NT) and the 7 sisters peaks we would argue that the white cliff views and beach access outshine Dover.
A short shopping stop in Seaford for camping repair supplies before perching on the cliffs for a hot self catered curry lunch. After lunch something came over Camilla which compelled her to take the drivers seat. In retrospect cruising through busy holiday spot Brighton and Hove was not as relaxing as the country lanes to follow. We had planned on going to the Isle of White for a day however when we found out that the ferry alone would be twice our daily budget and most of the campsites were already full due to the Cowes regatta we had to change our plans.
Feeling a little disheartened we made excellent use of our time in Portsmouth historic wharves before driving to Winchester campground. After a tiring day the last thing we needed was 4 semi-retired camping managers (yes it takes 4) to work out if they had any space for us we had to remain calm regarding the near empty paddock we passed on our way to reception. In the end they carefully guided us to our pitch with a smile.
A short stop at Northington Grange was all that was required to see the parklands and acropolis style columns at the front of the 18th century house, then onto Winchester town. We visited the city mill which is in full working order after NT took over management. Greeted at the door by the flour grinding manager complete with a spot of flour on his nose we learnt more in the subsequent 10 minutes about where bread comes from than we thought possible. It was great to see how they used to harness the rivers energy and a little sad to note that of the 90+ mills in the district only a few remain standing, and only this one still works. A beautiful walk along the river took us to Wovesley Castle (EH) ruins then past Jane Austen's final home opposite the spectacular Winchester Cathedral.
Leaving Winchester we made our way for lunch in the gardens of Mottisfont Abbey founded in 1201. In such a stately home there is no more fitting meal than baked bean sandwiches and tea, although a pan fried trout such as those in the river would have also sufficed.
As if today had not been busy enough it seemed logical to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine at Stonehenge. Fasttracked through long queues is one of the great benefits provided by NT or EH membership and once through the door we giggled at the audioguide speculations as "we really can't be certain", or our favourite "we don't know but...". Moments after we had left our speculations seem far more likely anyway. It is unfortunate the site has been overrun by tourists (shame we fall into the same category) as it would be far more fulfilling to have peace during a wander between the stones in reflection of the ancient past.
Our morning commenced at Kingston Lacy (NT) in the superb grounds before entering this impressive house. In particular the story of Corfe Castle siege and subsequent destruction made the viewing of the castle keys over the fireplace even more symbolic of the courage of one lady. Notable aspects of the house include the collection of Egyptian artefacts, working 16th century grandfather clock complete with original cat gut weight strings, and an extensive art collection including Rubens and Titian.
So, today is Sunday therefore nothing would be more fitting than a full roast lunch complete with trimmings in a dinky pub. Phelips Arms Hotel offered the perfect selection of yorkshire pudding, beef, pork, leek and whitesauce, home made apple sauce and super hot horse radish cream. After lunch we went into the Phelips family home (next door) called Montacute House. Built in 1588 and modified over the coming 300 years the key points of interest included a National Portrait Gallery collection on loan showing the royal lineage through the ages, Steves first attempt to write with a feather quill (no improvement noted) and THE RACE.
Camilla stood with the crowd eagerly watching as she clasped her lance and steadied her stead. Lauren dug her sparkling pink heels into the soft lawn and looked at her opponent with all the savagery and determination a 5 year old can muster. As the course fell behind in their wake, their trusty stallions pressed on as fast as their wooden rollers allowed, and their lances now burdened with the weight of straw rings glinted in the sun, it was Lauren by a nose in the end. Camilla commented in the stables after that her achilles was a lack of sparkling pink stilletos.
Our evening was spent at an adventure camp on the river Dart, where we swung through the trees on a big kids jungle gym complete with flying fox.
Camilla took the wheel with gusto thismorning as Steve navigated the way through the back lanes of Devon, past the steam railway to Berry Pommeroy Castle (EH). Although the castle is in partial ruins the audio tour was of great interest with detailed descriptions of life in the 15th and 16th century, and tales of the lingering ghosts from the family.
Munching on carrot sticks we delayed the hunger pains until after the Dartmouth car ferry to Dartmouth Castle (EH). After 2 minute noodles (please assume tea follows all main meals) we explored the cannon battery and now realise how much time is consumed in preparation for firing a cannon. Back in Dartmouth we wandered town, admired the harbour, watched the steam train depart across the estuary and realised how big the tides in this area really are as we saw yachts moored standing on thier keels in the mud.
Dartmouth is beautiful of course you already know that from the photo above.
No trip to the south of England is complete without a stop in Modbury (???). Camilla was drawn in to the local butcher by his broad smile and good looking rump. After receiving advice from Mr Butcher who has probably lived here for the last 70 years, and all the locals in the store, we were finally set on our way in search of the best Devonshire cream tea in town. Finding a spot in the sun we researched the matter of scone-jam-cream vs. scone-cream-jam fully and can report with little hesitation that we are equally happy with either option.
On the scenic tourist drive to Kingsbridge we saw nothing as the 8-10 foot high hedges are far taller than our car. Our destination was Lanhydrock House (NT), one of the finest examples we have come across depicting the sheer decadence and wealth of some families during the Victorian era. Before entering the house we walked alongside the vintage car shuttle taking visitors down the drive and set ourselves up in the cow paddock for rump steak sandwiches and unfortunately didn't make friends with Daisy.
National Trust has preserved and presented every room of Lanhydrock House with attention to the finest details, in particular the childrens wing complete with toys and bear skin rugs, fabulous 8 room kitchen taking up the majority of the downstairs, and the son's bedroom as he left it before going to war.
Near the end of the day we arrived at Cornwall's greatest fortress, Pendennis Castle (EH), developed by Henry VIII in the 16th century. Playing soldier saving damsel in distress (Steve doesn't make a very good damsel) we explored the keep, gun battery and war shelters on this sunny windswept peninsular until closing time.