Category Archives: Georgian

The Lady In Grey. 12th January


2.24m up 24cm from yesterday

Hunting round for some envelopes I bought before Christmas I ventured into one of the front cupboards this morning. Here we store Christmas, the white sheets from the summer, spare covid tests and extra wine glasses. I noticed that a corner of the wine glass box was wet. This was on the bottom shelf.

Had the damp trap in the cupboard filled up and over flowed? I’d refilled it with crystals not very long ago and today it was still empty. As I removed things from the cupboard I found a small puddle that had been sucked under a plastic bag on the middle shelf. At the rear of the cupboard it looked like moisture had been getting in at the corner, the holes for the shelf brackets showed signs of damp too.

Getting a good airing

Everything was removed, including the shelves. Dampness mopped up and then we set the heat wave fan blowing at it to help dry it out. Just where was it coming from, or was it condensation collecting in a far corner from the stove? With the recent downpours it could be rain water that had been driven in by the wind. Mick ventured outside to have a look.

Yes I know the roof needs a good wash!

First possible was the starboard nav light, although this was a touch low on the cabin side. It was however half full of water. Mick emptied it, dried it off then reattached it adding a new layer of black tack to the outer edge to help seal it. After he’d tightened the screws he popped a drop or two of Captain Tully’s Creeping Crack on them. The port side nav light was also emptied of water.

Could it be coming from the poppers from the cratch? Some of these are on the overhang, so unlikely to be them. Another couple are quite high up on the cabin side. They also got a drop of the creeping crack. The cupboard was left airing with the fan on or the rest of the day until we needed the space to go back to bed. The contents were edited and then returned to the cupboard, hopefully there will be more air in there this time.

The Lady in Grey

This afternoon I headed out for a walk down to Derwent Mouth Lock to see what the levels looked like today. I took the route by road to start with and walked past The Lady in Grey.

Back in it’s day

The house was built in the 1770’s for the Soresby family who moved to Shardlow when the canal was proposed. Their land spanned the cut giving them two areas for wharfs and warehouses for their canal carrying business (More info on the Soresby family can be found here on the Shardlow Heritage site, which is filled with information on the area).

When it was the hotel and restaurant

The Lodge was transformed into a Hotel The Lady in Grey with it’s restaurant it was highly regarded. The name came from the ghost of a headless young lady said to be hunting for her mothers lost jewels that her wicked sisters had hidden. Then it was a Thai restaurant which closed in 2008, this sadly was when the decline of the building is thought to have started. In 1967 it was awarded Grade 2 listing. In 2012 it is said that planning was sought for the buildings demolition and the site to be used to build three houses, this was refused. 2015 it received listed buildings consent for change of use back to a single dwelling with 5 bedrooms, things were looking up. However permission was refused to build eight dwellings in the grounds alongside the canal. Most probably the proceeds from these new dwellings would have afforded the restoration of The Lady in Grey.

The building is now in a poor state, the council seeking action from the owners, a s215 notice has been served on them requiring them to deal with the poor quality of the building. Such a shame. Most of the windows are smashed, wooden boards cover many of them. Photos from the local facebook page show the interior in such a dilapidated state. Here’s hoping that this once handsome house can be saved before it falls down.

Photos on the left are from yesterday, right today.

The towpath to Derwent Lock is now very muddy, slippy slidy muddy. The lock remains empty, well empty to the level of the river. I guessed about 14 inches lower than the canal today. The lock landing is now under water the edge of the river only noticeable by the tops of the ladders. The red level markers, one now is no longer visible, the other only a few inches away from being submerged.

Flooded fields

The parallel path that runs a little bit lower than the towpath is now submerged for lengths. I walked along it for a while relieved to be off the muddy towpath, only to find another length submerged and having to back track to the towpath. Two new boats sit above the lock awaiting levels to drop and there is one space available in front of the pubs.

Overnight the levels are forecast to rise more. Will the car park by our mooring get flooded? Will the EA flood gates be closed on the canal, if this happens we’ve been told that Shardlow Lock will be padlocked and it’s bywash blocked off too to protect the properties in between.

One day it will stop raining.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 more leak or is it condensation? 2 drowning nav lights, 1 house with great potential, 1 more lodger booked, 1 hour of numbers for next year, 11 Dreamies, 9 inches, 14 to go, 1 vat of bolognaise.

The Big Shop. 13th December

‘Avecoat Marina

A phone call just before 9:30am, Sainsburys. Mick quickly put on his shoes and coat and headed to the car park, they were early. He and the delivery chap arrived with five crates of goodies for us. These were all put in bags and carried onto Oleanna. The fridge and veg bag both put out the back under the pram cover, well it’s as cold out there as in the fridge! The stowing of everything could wait for later as it would take time and we were wanting to head into town.

Wine delivery

Mick headed across to the marina office on the other side of the canal. We’d originally booked in until today. We didn’t think they’d have a problem with us staying a few more days! Mick was told to settle up when we eventually leave. Bags of coal were ordered for delivery to Oleanna on Friday and a 24volt water pump would be ordered for us.

Front doors wrapped up for Christmas

It’s a fifteen/twenty minute walk to the bus stop from the marina and with a bus only every two hours we really didn’t want to miss it. Over £11 return for the two of us, not quite as expensive as a taxi both ways, but far chillier!

We’ve not really explored Tamworth before, it’s set just that little bit too far away from the canal. There are many big smart buildings about the place. Today we’d come to do some Christmas shopping and hoping to find a small tree as it was market day.

Green grocer with wreaths

Town seemed to be buzzing, maybe due to the market. No suitable tree to be found, only those six inches high sprayed with white stuff, not recommended if you have a cat. Mission Christmas tree failed. Mick and I went our separate ways to do secret things.

The usual cheap shops, Wilko, Home Bargains and numerous charity shops, but nothing to inspire Christmas shopping proper. I picked up things to plug present gaps but sadly didn’t find any nice independent shops.

A great tool and hardware shop

It turns out that the Peel family had a lot to do with Tamworth. Robert ‘Parsley’ Peel moved here from Lancashire where his textile mills had been damaged in riots, he set up mills in Burton on Trent around 1790. His son, Sir Robert Peel, established cotton mills in Tamworth, one inside the castle. Textiles became Tamworth’s main industry, Peel established several banks and moved into Drayton Manor, he became the areas member of Parliament from 1790 to 1820.

His son also Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet is the one we’ve all heard of. He served as the towns member of Parliament from 1830 to 1850 becoming Prime Minister in 1834-35 and 1841-1846. In 1834 he unveiled his Tamworth Manifesto which created the modern Conservative Party. Whilst serving as Home Secretary he helped create the modern concept of the Police Force. A statue stands in front of Tamworth Town Hall.

Sir Robert Peel and a pig

In amongst the flower bed stands a pig wearing a policeman’s helmet. Tamworth pigs are also famous. The breed of ginger pigs also known as Sandy Backs or Tams, are a vulnerable breed in the UK with only 300 registered breeding females. But this is not why they are famous. Back in 1998 two pigs being taken for slaughter in Malmsbury escaped, squeezing through a fence and swimming across the River Avon. They became known as Butch and Sundance as the media followed them during their week of freedom before recapture. The Daily Mail paid for them and their upkeep until they reached old age, 13 and 14. This explains why there is a pub called the Crafty Two whos logo is of two pigs.

Just what was needed

After a couple of hours I was in need of a sit down and something to eat, so Mick and I reconvened at Cosy, a cafe that seemed to be popular. Thankfully they had an upstairs and jacket potatoes on the menu. Collections of 70’s Spanish paintings, telephones and typewriters adorned the walls as we tucked into our lunch.

We’d maybe have explored a little bit more but the next bus back was due to leave shortly. Back on the same chilly bus we hopped off early in Amington. Here a shop was looking after two deliveries of yoga mats for me. The man really didn’t understand that the parcels would be quite big on matter how many times I told him. But he got there in the end!

An Ikea bag of yoga mats

Outside we summoned a cab via an app and were soon on our way back to the marina.

The Sainsburys shopping still needed stowing which meant finally getting to put away my paint brush bag under the back steps, well the wine cellar was about to be filled right up! Stocks of mince and sausages were repacked to take up less room in the freezer. A large chicken was jointed and bagged up for four meals, the carcus left in the fridge to make a stewy something in the next few days. The larder drawers were reorganised and an amazing amount added to them. Considering we’d had five crates arrive in the morning you could hardly tell where it had all gone to. This should last us a fair few weeks and we’ll only need milk and fresh veg to keep us going till the new year.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 marina well and truly frozen, 5 crates, 6 boxes wine, 6 bottles wine, 25% off couldn’t be missed! 2 chickens, 3 lots of sausages, 500g mince, 2 bags potatoes, 6 wraps not 4, 2 buses, 2 pigs, 0 Christmas trees, 2 jackets, 2 mugs tea, 5 bright green yoga mats, 100g neon green wool.

Chips! 18th June

Rockery Railway Bridge to Wheelock Visitor Moorings

I believe that is a toilet tent

If you are already out and prepared for rain, it’s not so bad when it starts. But starting the day knowing that as soon as you walk out the door you will start to get soggy around the edges and that it won’t stop all day, does put you off somewhat, especially when you had planned to do a section of the Cheshire Locks, which today would have been justified in being called Heartbreak Hill.

A couple of boats passed us and eventually we made the move ourselves as we needed water. Mick valiantly pushed the bow out and cruised the mile and a half to Wheelock where we found a boat moored on the first section of the water point, good job there are two taps!

All rubbish was dealt with as the tank filled and Tilly’s pooh box got a good clean and new litter.

The water point is right by Barchetta Restaurant and the smell emanating from their open doors was of garlic butter, I could almost see a plate of seafood drizzled with it. The restaurant is doing take aways from their menu every evening. We quite quickly decided to find ourselves a mooring for the remainder of the wet day and have a look at their menu.

White bits

Tilly was none too impressed with the soggy world we’d tied up, but she still made the most of it, although it did necessitate extra visits home for Dreamies. During the afternoon Mick and I chose from the menu and placed our order over the phone.

What to do on a very rainy afternoon? Well as we were going to be eating out (but in) this evening we decided to go to the theatre and sat down in our seats (our sofa) to watch The Madness Of George III just before time ran out. This was a production of Alan Bennett’s play that had been produced at Nottingham Playhouse. The title role of George III was played incredibly by Mark Gatiss of The League of Gentleman, Dr Who, Sherlock fame amongst many others.

Parliamentary discussions

The set involved revolving walls and windows, a huge painted front cloth and a backdrop of a Canaletto painting of St Pauls Cathedral. Lots to fill the space and move us from location to location. Wonderful props and costumes, it was well worth watching. Here’s a link to the scenic artists painting the backdrop if you are interested.

On last nights news the theatre industry was highlighted, well after the football and horse racing. The government are going to look into a road map for reopening theatres. Cameron Mackintosh will not be reopening his theatres this year as most of his audience is made up of tourists. Several theatres have already closed their doors for good and others are looking at restructuring and down sizing their staffing with the hope that they will be able to sit out and wait before they can reopen.

Photo from 100 years ago

With staff furloughed and the furlough scheme ending before most theatres think they will be able to reopen, then social distancing reducing capacity to well under the 50% which for most venues is the minimum they need to remain open, the theatre world as we know it could easily be lost forever. It’s not just the small theatres or the big West End shows, but every theatre and company across the country that will be affected. Even The National Theatre and The RSC are looking at reducing staffing levels and making a proportion of staff redundant. Add to this the number of freelance staff who also work in theatre, like myself.

There is the Self Employed Income Support Scheme helping many, but this runs out at the end of August, long before most theatres will be able to reopen. Then there are people like me who do not qualify for the scheme, my small income from renting the house out has exceeded that from my self employment, so I don’t qualify.

Anna in Puss in Boots last Christmas

Many companies in all sectors will not survive the pandemic. British Theatre could be wiped out without support from the government. Last night I sat watching the news concerned that I may have just made the wrong decision about Vienna. Then Anna Tolpott appeared on screen, she is an actor, director and the wife of the Artistic Director at Chipping Norton Theatre!

If you have ever been to a theatre; boo’d at the panto baddie; cried at War Horse; laughed through Bouncers; listened to a Shakespeare history play; watched Pepper Pig with the grand kids; marvelled at the quick costume changes in The Audience; watched multi role play beside the canal by Mikron; seen Fleetwood Mac live in concert; got muddy at a festival; been part of the guffawing audience watching Peter Kay; or enjoyed one of the plays, musicals, dance pieces that are being broadcast into your homes right now, helping to keep you entertained, please will you add your name to this petition to Government.

As we pass the COVID-19 Peak, the Government should: State where the Theatres and Arts fit in the Coronavrius recovery Roadmap, Create a tailor made financial support mechanism for the Arts sector & Clarify how Social Distancing will affect arts spaces like Theatres and Concert Venues.

In their plan to restart the economy, the government has addressed hospitality sectors such as restaurants and cinemas. They’ve stated how the sports will be resumed after the lockdown period. But there has been no mention of the arts. On 13 May Robert Jenrick was directly asked to pledge to protect this industry, which could be without income longer than other sectors, but he failed to give a clear answer. This further shows how the arts are being overlooked. The Govt must show more support for arts.

I don’t often get onto a soap box here on the blog, but right now I feel the need to. Tomorrow I will be adding my photo on social media to the ever growing number of freelancers who work in theatre, both on and off stage. The masses who keep the lights on, tread the boards, hammer them down and paint them.

What’s in the boxes?

After the play, Mick popped over to the restaurant to pick up our food. His a pizza, mine steak and chips! I got some eventually, just a shame I think they came from the chippy and had been kept warm for a while. The steak however was very good and cooked just how I like it, glad we were only a couple of minutes walk away.

Yummy steak

0 locks, 1.41 miles, 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish, 1 soggy moggy, 1 pizza, 1 steak, 1 portion of chips! 20% take away discount, 1 industry on the brink.

Views Across Bath. 20th September


Another day on the trains for Mick, heading to York for our friend Mickle’s funeral. Tilly and I stayed put, two train fares would have been too much or hiring a car too far to drive there and back in a day. Mick left suitably attired in a baseball cap, apparently there were lots of remarks that everyone should have worn one. It was a very rare sight, Mickle without his cap on.

Can I really go out?

Tilly’s mornings for the last couple of months have consisted of sleeping whilst we move the outside, so it wasn’t until Mick was about to leave that she realised that the back door was open for her. At two hour intervals she returned as requested.

Puss in Boots needed some attention this morning, lists, contacting the set builders and prop maker. I’ll be heading off to do a weeks painting soon so needed to check that supplies were on order and how my accommodation would work.

Then I revisited my Houdini model. Various ideas had been chatted about yesterday and extra details like the blue doughnuts needed to be added. Monday is the first deadline for the design, I need to send photos to Vienna and hopefully get the thumbs up from them.

Sneaky peek of the model

Mid afternoon I needed to leave some glue to dry, so instead of sitting watching it I decided to go for an explore. Tilly returned home so was left in charge. Friday is obviously a day when most hire boats are returning to base as the moorings here were just about empty and not that many boats passed all day.

I walked down to the lock, crossed the bridge and headed up to the road above. Straight on was a footpath, so I followed it up the hill. A kissing gate and National Trust sign invited me into Bathwick Fields, I’d stumbled onto the Bath Skyline walk without knowing it.

Pretty good views from up here

Within minutes of leaving the boat I was high above Bath with fantastic views across the city. The curve of the railway, the spires of the churches and the Bath stone rows of houses lined up along the hills.


I dipped down to an orchard where you could pick the fruit, but sadly I didn’t have long enough arms to be able to reach the top most branches, everything else had long since been picked.

Community Nuttery

Across more fields alongside Jacob Sheep and many squirrels busy collecting nuts. Maybe they had emptied the nuttery I came across. A road that led to Smallcombe Garden Cemetery. For £3 a decent burial could be afford by artisans as well as rich Victorians, over 7000 of them until the plot was full. In 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund gave support to preserve the cemetery and you are invited to look round the grave stones for locals who left their mark on Bath.

One of two chapels

Up through another field, I seemed to be walking in the opposite direction to every one else, but then I didn’t know I was on a recognised walk. The path led further up hill and by now my glue would be dry and I wanted to return home. Eventually there was a gate not marked as PRIVATE and I started my steep descent back down to Bath, then back up the locks to the boat.


An evening of worked followed which actually finished ten minutes before Mick stepped back on the boat at around 11:30pm. A Regular Little Houdini is now ready to see what the producers in Vienna think on Monday, fingers crossed.

Lines of Bath stone

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 miles walked, 4 trains, 3 tubes, 1 bus, 1 final farewell, 1 cap and guitar, 1 weeks work sorted, 3rd props list, 1 sad gits tea, 1 plant pot headed statue, 1 not 2 bottles of wine, 7 hours shore leave, 1 long day for everyone.

The Natural Theatre Company

Terraced Houses, Bath Style. 18th September

Dundas Aqueduct to Walcot Visitor Moorings


Before we set off I rinsed down the gunnel, today looked like the weather would be good, so if there happened to be a suitable mooring in Bath then I’d be one step ahead. Tilly got fresh litter and we emptied the yellow water, then we were ready to cruise. Straight across the aqueduct.

Dundas Aqueduct

Out from the shade of the trees and into the bight sunshine. It’s a shame that the walls on the aqueduct are so high as it restricts your view down the valley. A few photographers were milling about, was there a steam train due?

Fresh Produce for sale

We turned right and continued on our way towards Bath. The views across the valley stunning with bright blue sky, that cyclist yesterday had been right, it is the best bit. At Millbrook Swingbridge there is a little hut where you can buy jams, eggs, apples and tomatoes. We don’t eat that much jam so I refrained from any purchase, but I’ll see what’s available on the way back.

A hire boat had just come through Bathampton Swing Bridge and closed it behind them, we could see there was another following it. Their crew got off and cross to open the bridge so we waited to see if we’d be waved through, we were and continued on our way.

An interesting 1hr mooring not long enough for a very long boat

The canal starts now to become more urban, but in a very stony way. More and more Bath stone. We paused at Bathampton Bridge to dispose of rubbish, discovering there was glass recycling here meant another trip to the boat. Then we were on our way again.

Cat Health and Safety
says NO

By 11:45 we approached the first stretch of 48hr moorings. There were a couple of gaps so we chose the one nearest the city. We pulled in then checked our surroundings. A wall bordered the towpath, over it a 25ft drop to the railway. Tilly would have no difficulty getting onto the wall, but we felt that the buddleia bushes would tempt her to climb them. If she fell, there would be noway she’d be able to climb back up. Health and Safety verdict, NO shore leave today, we’d see what places were like further on.

Cleveland House Tunnel

Tilly being locked in meant we’d be able to go out exploring instead. A walk down the canal had us walk through two short tunnels each reminiscent in shape of the Macclesfield Canal bridges. Beckford Road and Cleveland House Tunnels, each has a head carved on them. A lady and man trying to look at each other round a slight bend and through a couple of footbridges. The next stretch of towpath is under major work. The bank is being reinforced with armco, back filled , then the raised towpath will be improved with a 6ft wide path.

Relaxing by the locks

We walked down the locks, several hire boats negotiating their way with the help of some volunteers and one lock was having a fresh coat of paint. A group had made themselves comfy on the grass by a lock, with chairs and an ice cream each.

That’s much better

Where was the chilled medication? It was in a hut a little further on, so we treated our selves to a salted caramel each which we enjoyed on our walk to the river.


Bath Weir is only as Bath could make it, curved steps with the water flowing over in ordered lines. Above the lock a trip boat takes you up to Bathampton, we watched as one of them winded in what space there was between the wall and weir, good job there wasn’t much fresh on the river today.

I’ve not been inside, maybe one day

Meandering around the streets we came across the New Theatre Royal, I’ve not been but my shows have. Street signs painted or carved into the walls worn with time. A chap sat in a doorway asked if we were from Canada, Ontario in particular. Mick stopped to chat, I walked on, both of us seeing an opportunist wanting a hefty tip. He soon realised he wouldn’t be getting anything from two Brits who live on a boat.

The Royal Crescent

We walked up through the Georgian Garden and onto Georgian Avenue, then on up to The Royal Crescent. I was last here in 1975 at the age of 8.

My Dad’s photo of somewhere in Bath
My photo

I remembered the crescent, the uniformity and going into a house that was laid out how it would have been in Georgian times. The only thing is I’d remembered it being at the other end of the crescent from where it is today.

Yellow door
Green beard

What a gorgeous day to take the view in. Neither of us felt the need to pay to go round No 1, we just walked from one end to the other. Each terraced house almost identical. One had a cream door, one a pale yellow door, another scaffolding (which spoilt the curve somewhat) and another had a very bushy beard. If this is the only sight seeing we get to do in Bath that is fine.

Chicken in a basket, now those were the days!

I don’t need to relive the chicken in a basket and my Dad getting covered in pigeon poo.

Over the railway

Sydney Gardens gave us a break from the traffic at standstill around the city. Ornate bridges stretching across the railway brought us back to the boat. We were back in time for me to do a bit more prepping on the gunnels, but after yesterdays exertions with the starboard side my body rebelled, preferring to sit down instead.

Same holiday, in Wells. A rare photo of the Leckenby’s all together. Andrew, Me with Fincks on my knee, Mum and Dad.

0 locks, 2 swing bridges, 4.44 miles, 25ft to sure death, 0 shore leave, 2nd space available, 5 miles walked, 1 tub, 1 cone, 30 terraced houses, 1kg porridge, 1 brick house, 1 git gap pulled back into and removed, 4 turkey schnitzels , 1 too many, 4 aching limbs, 1 blue ikea bag packed, 7 years.

It’s Only Taken Us Four Years. 3rd September

Beale Park to Fobney Lock, Kennet and Avon Canal

Our Thames licence ran out today so we had to take one of three options. Seriously get a move on and catch the tide at Teddington (18 hours cruising so not possible), wind and head back up stream to Oxford to hop onto the canal there (10 hours, so possible) or carry on down stream and hang a right at Reading (3 hours, the preferred option).

Blue blue blue

We pushed off at 9am the sky and river bright blue behind us.


Ahead I managed to get pictures of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’.


Each one unique, the one currently for sale the plainest.


Have to say I’d quite like one with towers and balconies, but the road and railway would still put me off. The fifth one along (Three) is really quite shy, the trees in front of it giving it good solid cover from the river.


At Whitchurch Lock we descended on our own a narrowboat arriving just a touch too late to join us. I bobbed below to get some alterations done to my model as we cruised towards Mapledurham Lock.


A hotel wide beam was coming up in the lock and we joined the queue to go down, the lock being on self service meant it filled slowly. In front of us was a rather beautiful Humber Keel, Daybreak. We’d passed them at Wallingford on Sunday, moored up with their mast upright and plenty of bunting about the place. Today her mast was horizontal with a long red ribbon dangling to the water.

Made in Thorne

Mapledurham being just over 200 ft long meant we’d fit in the lock behind them. They may be wide, 15ft 6″ but only 61ft 6″ long. So once she was in the lock we followed, being joined by the narrowboat that had been following us. There were three crew on board Daybreak so one chap operated the lock as the chap at the helm adjusted the stern rope and kicked the tiller arm and throttle.

Following slowly into Caversham

It was with relief once the lock was empty to see a boat arrive wanting to come up, nobody would have to stay behind to close up.

They have to fit

Caversham Lock is that bit shorter. Would we fit with Daybreak? The lovely lady volunteer came to ask how long we were, ‘Sorry’ the lock’s only 110ft long, ten foot too short for the both of us. There were only a couple of feet spare width wise, the crew holding very fat fenders to keep the pristine paintwork away from the lock gates.

Fenders at he ready

They gently nudged their way in, tiller a touch that way, then corrected, then the other way.

The same procedure was repeated as they exited the lock, fenders moved along to where they were needed most as they inched their way out. Once the boat was clear there were high fives from the crew, no touching up required!

Our last button operated Thames lock for a while

Some fresh supplies were needed, but the last big enough space at Tescos was just being taken by a narrowboat, they kindly offered for us to breast up to them. A quick shop and some lunch before we both wanted to be on our way. Their shop and lunch were a touch quicker than ours, but as they headed off the moorings were empty, so we just pulled along to let them out. By the time we’d finished our break the moorings were filling up again.

New waters

Not far until we turned right. New water again. Under the numerous bridges and along to Blake’s Lock, our last EA lock for a while. A match stick lock which works in the opposite direction to those I’d worked further up the Thames. It was full with the top paddles open! No poles to help open and close the other gate, so we opted to only open one, there was plenty of room.

A match stick lock

We could have pulled in on the Jail Loop but wanted to get a touch further if we could today.

Back onto C&RT water

Ahead signs welcomed us to The Kennet and Avon Canal, back on C&RT water, along with telling us of a boat traffic light ahead. We’ve seen pictures and heard of this and at last we were here.

Just like a road crossing

Mick brought us in towards the button, just like those on a pedestrian crossing. I wondered if it would light up the WAIT, but we got a green straight away. A newish shopping and restaurant complex surrounded us, one tightish bend but the rest of the controlled length of canal seemed far wider than a lot of places we’ve been. Were the lights put in when the new complex was built? Was the cut narrowed? Well it’s actually a length of river, so the levels and flow can vary, so one way traffic stops the possibility of coming across a boat that can’t stop coming down with the flow.

Very flowery

Plenty of people to say hello to, the schools in the area can’t have gone back today.

Waiting for the lock to empty
Four paddles

We soon arrived at County Lock, all of 1ft of it. All four top paddles were open, were we following a serial paddle leaver?

Narrow houses

Now we were back onto the River Kennet, heading upstream. The houses totally different to those on the Thames. Here we’d need about four back gardens to have enough length to moor Oleanna, their width about 15ft wide, the houses the same.

Silenced by a lion

One rowdy woofer came and woofed at us. Stupid thing! Maybe it thinks it’s managed to see us off, works every time, so just keeps on woofing at boats. A bit further along there was another woofer who’d been fitted with a lion silencing device. It worked very well.

One big deep lock, we’ve got deeper to come!

Fobney Lock 105, a touch different from County Lock with it’s 8ft 7″ drop and much longer. Luckily we’d just passed a couple of hire boats so the lock was more or less in our favour. We roped up using the centre line and Mick loitered towards the back of the lock. On each new canal you wonder what will be different. Here we only had gate paddles, would the water go down the side of the lock, or diagonally to hold the boat into the side. Luckily it was the latter. We rose up and then looked for a mooring.

Paddle gear, the break lifts the opposite way to other canals

Past the line of boats there was still armco, we pulled in. Now where did I put that nappy pin?

Four years ago we’d intended to come this way, not having managed it on our first year afloat. But things kept making us head northwards, new boat builders to chose, then boat builders to meet, the end of a finger to be lost, if only we’d headed south instead of up the Trent!

It’s a canal Tilly, do you remember them?

6 locks, 12.46 miles, 1 right, 1 big bummed boat, 2ft 5″ to spare, 0 wine bought, 1 licence expiring, 1 button to press, 1 lion silencer, 2 windlasses, 2 nappy pins, 0 river bank to pounce from.

There Is No Such Thing As A Free Cup Of Tea. 2nd September

Beale Park


The ‘Next Time’ list got a little bit shorter today. After a leisurely cuppa in bed followed by a sausage sarnie ( those sausages were nice), we walked upstream to find the nearest church, St Bartholomews.

St Bartholomews

Built in flint with stone dressing in the late 13th Century it is Grade 1 listed and owned by the Churches Conservation Trust. It is a simple building with a brick bell tower that was added later. Surrounding the alter are tiled walls. The church is open daily but the next service isn’t until mid October. We weren’t really here to see the church but to visit the resting place of Jethro Tull.

Looking up the aisle
Jethro’s headstone

Jethro Tull was born in Lower Basildon in 1674. His life work was key to major developments in the agricultural revolution which took place in the early 18th Century. He invented the first mechanised seed drill which was horse drawn. Rows of seed could now be cultivated reducing waste and enabling an amount of weed reduction. His innovations didn’t make him a wealthy man and nobody knows exactly where he is buried in the church yard. A modern stone donated in the 1960’s marks that the church yard is his resting place.

From here we walked up the hill, over the railway and along the busy road to the gate houses of Basilson Park, a National Trust property sitting high above the valley now surrounded by trees. We showed our membership cards and got a note to use in the tea rooms for a free cuppa, these are given out if you arrive by public transport, bike or on foot. The walk up to the house is through a thick yew wood which a week ago would have been a wonderful place away from the searing heat. Today kids climbed through the branches pretending they were caught in a maze of lazers.

Basildon Park

On the drive we got our first view of the house. A Palladian Mansion, possibly one of the finest in the country. You are directed up one of two curved staircases to the guests entrance. Here a guide introduced us to the house with a quick bit of history. The estate was acquired in 1771 by Francis Sykes who had made his fortune with the East India Company. He commissioned the architect John Carr of York (the founder of my Fathers architectural practice) to build him a splendid mansion with neo-classical interiors.

Two grand staircases to enter by

The Sykes owned the house until 1838 when it passed onto the Morrison family. During WW1 it was used as a convalescence home for officers and in WW2 it was requisitioned first by the Americans for D-Day training and then by the British and used as a prisoner of war camp for the Germans and Italians. The house didn’t fair well during this time. During the 1930’s it’s owner had wanted to sell the house to America, hoping to make a fortune. Doors, fireplaces, mouldings were removed and taken to the States as examples of the craftsmanship to try to entice buyers but the depression put paid to that and the house remained firmly on the hill above Lower Basildon.

The library

In 1952 Lord and Lady Iliffe bought the house and set about restoring it to its former glory. Other John Carr properties were visited at one in Lincolnshire they were able to buy doors, frames, fireplaces etc from the house as it was about to be demolished. Here the detail with which John Carr gave to his buildings meant that fireplaces just slotted in at Basildon and doors didn’t even need new screw holes drilling for the hinges as everything fitted perfectly.

Reused curtains decorate the walls

Not many of the rooms are as they would have been back in the 18th Century. In the green drawing room the original ceiling is still there, untouched other than by some water damage from a leaking washing machine above and a fire detector. The walls however have been covered with green damask curtains which were found by Lady Iliffe in a ballroom. You can make out where the fabric used to hang in pleats due to the fading of the cloth.

The dining room, the frocks upstaging the room a touch

As you enter the dining room columns of faux marble cut off the servants end of the room, large paintings and details on the ceiling look down on a very long dining room table with a fantastic broderie anglaise table cloth. The paintings from the ceiling were one of the elements that ended up in America, the ones there today were painted only a few years ago. They are good but nowhere near as good as they would have been in the original house.

The Octagonal Room with red baize walls

Around the first floor is a collection of dresses from the 1950’s. Two in the entrance hall were made and worn by Lady Iliffe, the others are on loan from the Fashion and Textile Museum. the displays are not as intrusive as we’ve come across at other NT properties, but because of the dresses the curtains in each room are closed and spot lights highlight the clothes. This does mean the lighting is very dramatic, no chance to see outside to the views from each room and details in the rooms are hidden in dim corners. Quite a shame in the Octagonal Room.

Decorative panel on the wall made from shells
My favourites, Argonaut shells

Up the stairs to first the Shell Room. Lady Charlotte collected shells, vast quantities of shells. She wasn’t interested in them for scientific reasons, she just loved their shapes. Whilst on holidays she would leave her husband to socialise so that she could be down on the beach collecting shells. Her collection not only sits in display cabinets but also adorns them too.

The panelled door has been rehinged
part way through it’s panels

The Iliffe’s added modern conveniences to the house, heating and plumbing. One bathroom has a wonderfully deep bath which necessitated the door to the room to be altered.

Quite a bed

The Crimson Bedroom has 1950’s wallpaper, but central to the room is a very ornate red Georgian bed that Lady Iliffe bought for £100. This was one of their guest bedrooms with a huge vast wardrobe which may at one time have been used by Disraeli.

Quite odd in such a house

At the top of the family staircase we could smell cooking wafting up from below, so we followed our noses. First into the houses kitchen, decked out with worn 1950’s units. A drawer full of familiar kitchen utensils sat out on the long kitchen table opposite a fake Aga. The aromas hadn’t been coming from here. Down more steps and we reached the ground floor and the tea room.

The guest staircase

Time for our free cuppas and something to eat. Mick chose a sandwich and a roast veg frittata took my fancy. We handed over our hand written chit for tea and the young lady then asked us for £12! ‘Er don’t we get free tea?’ ‘Oh Yes, £8’.

An original study for the tapestry in Coventry Cathedral

Quite a few of the tables were occupied, but we found one and put the tray on the table along with our number for food. A waitress said ‘Is that number 13?’ Yes it was. She lifted the number from the tray onto the table to one side, I thought that was a touch too helpful. She then proceeded to pick up our tray. She was clearing it all away before we’d even sat down! ‘Excuse me we’d like to drink our tea and eat our food!’ Oh, right! She did apologise briefly when she came through with my frittatta, which was very tasty.

Free tea!

A look around the gardens, plenty of fushia out and wilting roses. The front lawn looks out across the valley. We tried to work out just where Oleanna might be behind all the trees. Then we made our way back down the hill and across the railway. A permisive track took our fancy so we climbed the style and followed mowed pathways through wooded areas. We guessed we were heading in the right direction, cut across a road and then into more fields.

From the front lawn

Oleanna should be just about there, but the path took us this way then back on our selves. Eventually we popped out on the river bank a few hundred feet away from our bow.

It had been a good day and well worth stopping to look round the house, ticking off another John Carr building, but they certainly didn’t want us to have that free cuppa!

More outside time!

0 locks, 0 miles by boat, 5 miles walked, 1 gravestone, 1 Jethro, 1 Carr house, 3 staircases, 18 frocks, 26 preparatory paintings for a tapestry, 2 Japanese lamps, 1 red bed, 5m table cloth, 732579 shells, 2 cups of tea, 1 ham sandwich, 1 frittatta clung onto for dear life, 2 repeats in wallpaper, 1 crumbling balustrade, 3 hours for Tilly, 1 woofers ball.

More Kings And Queens. 5th August

Hampton Court Palace

Fountain Court

The Palace isn’t just Tudor, it was a Palace for other Kings and Queens too. When William III took the throne in 1689 he asked Christopher Wren to design a new Baroque palace . Originally the Tudor Palace was to be demolished, but the cost was to be too much for the Royal purse. Instead a third of the palace was replaced.

Pistols and daggers, who needs wallpaper

A grand staircase with small steps and huge painting takes you up to William’s state apartments. This was and still is an impressive way to enter. As with Henry VIII, visitors were vetted before being let through to the following rooms. The guard chamber is almost encrusted with weaponry showing Williams hunger for war. These were not just for show, but could be used by the army should the need arise.

Possibly the first chandelier of it’s kind in the country

Next follows a succession of chambers each with a throne and canopy. The further on you got the less fancy the canopy, but the chair beneath got comfier. Large paintings cover the walls and other than the throne there is little furniture in the rooms, instead they would have been filled with beautifully dressed courtiers. By the time you reach the Privy Chamber the chair is fluffed up and plump the canopy has disappeared, a wonderful crystal chandelier hangs in the centre of the room which lines up wonderfully with the Privy Garden outside.

Ginormous bed just for show
A very busy ceiling that would keep anyone awake

A huge bed sits in the Great Bedchamber, this is where the King was dressed in view public, an incredible painted ceiling above faces the on looker not the king. This was all for show, which the King would rather have lived without.

Padded toilet on a chest. Maybe a precursor to a Kilwick

Below the grand rooms are the more private apartments where the King really lived his life. Here his collections of favourite paintings hang on ropes, many of them night time scenes now hard to distinguish their content. The Orangery houses the orange and bay trees during the winter months, gives a great view down the Privy Garden.

The private dining room

These are less flamboyant rooms, cosy and homely. In his private dining room he surrounded himself with full length portraits of the Hampton Court Beauties. The serving area could be closed off after the meal leaving the king and his guests in peace.

Queen Anne followed doing a touch of remodelling herself. The Royal Chapel which had stained glass and a fantastic blue and gold ceiling from Henry VIII’s time was altered. The window frames left in place, but the glass depicting Henry, Katherine and Wolsey are long since gone. Much of the lower walls are now wood, vertical parquet covers the wall behind the alter and huge wooden columns attempt to hold up the Tudor ceiling. Sadly you’re not allowed to take photos here, the ceiling is great.

The Queens staircase

Then came the Georgians. George I built a set of rooms for his son in which he and his wife entertained lavishly. A new kitchen was also built which you can now stay in as it is one of the Landmark Trust properties, The Georgian House.

What a ceiling

When George II succeeded his father in 1727 the palace entered it’s last phase as a royal residence. The Queens staircase had a make over by the architect William Kent with Roman niches and trompe l’oeil panels below another great painted ceiling.

Two jolly chaps

The Queens Guard Chamber has quite a fireplace. Two men, possibly Yeomen of the Guard have the huge mantle piece resting on their hats. Here as else where in the Palace visitors would be vetted before being let further into the rooms.

Napkin artistry

The Public Dining Room is decorated with more impressive painting and a large table shows off a display of napkin artistry.

Wonderful costumes

Stood in the room are white costumes made from fibrous paper, these represent members of the court and have a small resume on their bodices or cuffs.

The period detail sewn into them is wonderful. There is a more sociable feel to these rooms than those of earlier periods. Courtiers would play games, gambling, loosing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A bit more painting, anyone would think this was a palace!

By 1737 George II no longer wanted to use Hampton Court as a royal palace so it was filled with grace and favour residents. The accommodation not the best, some residents didn’t have access to hot water. Many residents were widows who’s husbands had worked for the monarch. This continued until the 1960’s and there are still a couple of elderly residents still living in the Palace.

A modern addition

In 1838 Queen Victoria decided to let the public see inside the palace and opened up its doors, this proved to be very popular.

Looking back to the house from the Privy Garden

The Privy Garden needed a closer look, especially as there was a nice boat moored just outside the Tijou Screen (a shame they still haven’t finished painting it!). After a fire damaged the palace in 1986 the decision was taken to restore the privy garden back to how it had been in William III’s time. The trees were kept clipped at 7 to 8 ft high and a view of the Thames was possible. This in later years had been left to grow and had got quite out of hand, no longer could the palace be seen from the river.

Mum feeding her not so small chick

During August there is plenty happening. The King Henry VIII’s sporting academy is taking place throughout the gardens. Real Tennis is played on the indoor court, there is fencing and sword fighting, wrestling, crossbow and falconry displays.

Royal Medication of the chilled variety

After quite a busy day we deserved some chilled medication and a good job we got it when we did as the stand closed soon afterwards. Mick had Chocolate Brownie and I had a very good Raspberry Sorbet, no gluten free cones today though!

From the rose garden

Other areas of the grounds are open to the public. The Rose and Kitchen garden were worth a wander around, plenty growing in the vegetable beds, they even had some Royal Blackberries!

Royal Harry
and his mate Dwain

Even though we’d been a touch reluctant to buy two full price tickets to the palace we were amazed at what we got for our money. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, so much to see and do. We didn’t quite manage to see everything so we may come back another time to look at the galleries and go round the maze, however, we’ll try to time that with a two for one offer.

This one was built by it’s current owners and has three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

£1,295,000 no chain and it’s detached!

Sorry Ade, at least you were only a million out this time!

Trees, Medication, Waters, Trains, Gardens And Poles. 13th to 16th September

Leamington Spa to Radford Semele
The Heritage Open Weekend has been keeping us busy. This year it has actually stretched over two weekends and a few days in between. Sadly we only remembered it after the first weekend had passed, missing out on a few things that appealed to us. But there was still plenty to choose from.
Archie Pitt of the Civic Society
On Thursday we joined a tour of The Pump Room Gardens and Jephson Gardens. Meeting by the Royal Pump Rooms our first guide, Archie Pitt (Chairman of the Friends), has been involved for many years in raising funds to restore the Gardens back to their heyday . The gardens were used for gentle exercise by Victorians who came to the town to take the waters.
Not much of the bandstand to see at the moment
Paths are being moved back to their originally intended positions, the Linden Arches have been restored with new lighting, these date back to 1875. The band stand has been removed for renovation leaving a low wall that has seen some work. New flower beds, the river bank tidying up and works done to York Bridge which spans the River Leam in the park. The Band Stand is due back in November when there will be a small celebration, but a bigger party will be held next year when all the flowers are in full bloom and the gardens look at their best.
Many varieties of trees to be seen
Next we walked across the road to Jephson Park. A very posh park originally created in 1831 as an informal garden with walks along the river. In 1846 they were redeveloped into more formal gardens for the seriously rich and given their name to honour Dr Henry Jephson who had promoted the town as a Spa. Formal flower beds and a collection of trees were planted. Tennis courts laid (Lawn tennis was invented in Leamington), it was a place to be seen.
Public right of way with the Grand Park above
When it was being laid out there was a slight problem of a right of way which ran straight through the park. This had to remain, but be disguised and the poor kept out from the formal garden. So a hill was built over the top of the path and planting added so that it is almost invisible from above.
Fencing round the flower bedsFencing round the pondThe fancy flower beds were eaten by Canada Geese, so a small fence was erected around them, which did the job. However this didn’t stop them from leaving their poo everywhere. It was then realised that Geese can only take off and land on water or very soft mud, so putting a fence around the pond would do a better job. Have to say there was very little if any goose droppings. Whilst we were there something startled the geese and a group of them took off, a few aborting at the last minute. One poor bird missed the pond, clipping it’s legs on the fence and landing on the wrong side. It then spent a long time trying to return to the water, the fence being just as effective in stopping birds from entering the water as exiting!
Many........... differing............ treesOur guide walked us through the gardens pointing out the interesting trees and telling tales. A very informative walk, I never knew there were so many oak trees, including evergreen ones without the typical leaves. At the far end the walk ended by a gate house now used as artist studios. The majority of people headed back with the guide to enjoy tea and biscuits , but we thanked her and went to look at the art on display. Better than your usual gallery, some work very good indeed including a photographer who specialises in close ups of natural textures and colours, these were stunning.
Chilled medicationWe’d passed the rather ornate building which once housed the Aviary and went back to have a better look. Outside was a menu for chilled medication, we had to oblige in partaking of some. White chocolate and Raspberry and Chocolate Brownie and Marshmallow. My gluten free trial may have to exclude chilled medication! Very tasty it was too.
Royal Pump House
Friday we joined the tour of The Royal Pump House. A small group was guided round the building expertly by Alan a very jolly chap who knows his stuff about Leamington and its inhabitants through the years.
The Royal Pump House was the only spa north of the river, numerous other establishments had grown up on the south side where the original town was sited. Waters flowed at the southern spas, but the geology to the north was different and the salty waters were hard to come by. Plans to build other pump rooms were stopped and soon afterwards the fashion for taking the waters at such places switched to visiting seaside resorts such as Scarborough, where you could also take of the waters.
The Ballroom
Built for the seriously rich there was a large ballroom which was used to dispense the waters, a large well on one side and table and chairs to sit and sup your water. People would come and stay in Leamington for several weeks staying at the grand Regents Hotel nearby. They would come to the Pump Rooms and drink their water in the morning, partake of gentle exercise in the gardens, have plain food at lunchtime (fruit and veg were bad for you), swim a couple of times a week in the waters and return to their hotel to indulge for the remainder of the day. The amount of food in an average meal at the time would last most of us two whole days! They would then return home, boasting of their well being having lost maybe a few pounds and having bathed the grime off their bodies. Leamington waters have been found to have no medicinal benefit whatsoever!
The Marble CorridorSwimming pool roofThe pump rooms housed boilers to heat the waters, two swimming pools (male and female) and rooms of slipper baths for the upper working class to have a dip at less expense. We were shown into a marble corridor (now tiled as the marble had deteriorated before the restoration) easy to wipe clean and resistant to fire should the boilers get out of hand.
Gents swimming pool. Now the libraryLadies swimming pool now the art galleryThe gents swimming pool now houses the library, the ladies the art gallery and where the slipper baths once were is now office space.
Original tiles in an officeRich glazing in the Turkish roomBefore the renovation works were done to the building it was used as a location for Mick Jaggers video for Sweet Thing. The swimming pool is shown off along with the marble corridor. Woman meld into the tiled walls and Mick struts his stuff around the Turkish themed room. It’s worth a look at the video to see what lays behind the modern interior of much of the building.
On Sunday there was an opportunity to have a tour around Leamington Spa Railway Station and gardens. About twenty people turned up including a couple we’d seen yesterday in Warwick. Two ladies showed us around the Deco station which opened in 1939. Built from granite and Portland Stone it is a very fine building. As with many buildings in the 60’s a lot of the building was covered up to make it look modern, but luckily back then this meant that the good things that laid underneath were preserved.
PosterRunning board and lampsThe first station had been opened in 1852 by the GWR, it was added to through the years and the LNWR built their own station next door. In the late 20’s unemployment was very high and the Government introduced the ‘Development Act 1929’ which provided financial assistance to public utilities for capital expenditure in the form of low interest loans. Great Western set about with a scheme of improvement works, quadrupling the Birmingham Main Line approaches and the rebuilding of Leamington Spa Station being two of them. The building was made from a prefabricated steel framed structure, sheathed in brickwork and then clad with stone and granite. There is an interesting article about the station  here if you want to know more, it includes a lot of very interesting photographs taken through the buildings history.
Lovely doorsWaiting room furniture fitting the billWhen plans to revamp the cafes were suggested, action was very quickly taken by the friends of Leamington Spa Station, the building becoming Grade 2 listed. In 2008 the booking hall was sympathetically refurbished original tiles being revealed and in 2011 the two waiting rooms were also restored.
Mirrors and fireplacesCurved ceilings tooThe deco doors into the cafes are particularly fine. Two running boards have been placed on the platforms to help announce your arrival at the station.
At the end of platform 2 is a garden, which in 2009 gained the title of Best British Garden. Volunteers work hard to keep it and the terraced gardens leading down to the front of the station in good order. Sadly the grass has suffered this year with the drought and most of the planting is now past it’s best. The star attraction though is the topiary hedge. An engine and two carriages with a plume of Pampas grass as steam. This can be seen from most of the station and is a treat.
The GardenRestored painted advertFree tea  was on offer at platform 3, but we decided to head on to our next visit, The Polish Centre.
The Polish Centre
Originally the Town Hall the Polish Centre sits on High Street south of the river where the town centre originally was before the town spread northwards across the River Leam. The building housed meeting rooms, a ballroom, magistrates court, police station and cells.
The building through the yearsThe view Queen Victoria would have seen
A lot of the building was built with Queen Victoria in mind. A small balcony was constructed at the front of the building where her short stature was catered for with the view of a smart building opposite, a high window frame so she wouldn’t have to see the poor people who’d come to see her. However she never visited.
The chapel
When the Town Hall was moved to the Parade north of the river the building was taken over by the police. Most of the interior was gutted to make better use of the space for offices, the ballroom was split in half height wise and only the main staircase remains as an original feature. Eventually in 1968 the building was sold to the Polish Catholic Mission, Monsignor Jozef Golab loaned his own money for the purchase, funds he received after successfully suing the German Government for the years he’d spent in concentration camps during WW2.
Much of the building is now rented out as a dance school, the top part of the old ballroom now being the chapel for the Polish community of Leamington.
Polish cakes
We had a very warm welcome with tea and coffee and some very tasty looking cakes before we were given the full history of the building and the Polish community. I think we could have spent all weekend drinking tea and eating cake at various locations around town.
Bye bye Leamington
Back at Oleanna we decided to move to give our second mate some quality time ashore. She really hadn’t liked it here and watching the rats on the off side had become boring. So we pushed off as soon as we could and made our way back out of town mooring up by Radford Semele for the night. Once our grid reference was noted and the trip computer turned off the back doors were opened and Tilly disappeared straight through the sideways trees. A much happier cat now.
0 locks, 1.22 miles, 4 more Heritage day venues, 3 gardens, 1 pump room, 1 station, 1 evergreen engine, 2 terraced gardens, 1 ex town hall, 4 pairs pants returned, 2 chilled medications, 1 roast chicken, 1 curry, 1 happy cat in the undergrowth.

Apples, Flowers And Bells. 15th September

Leamington Spa

Choo Choo!

The Heritage Open days are keeping us busy. Today we got the train over to Warwick as there were a few things there that appealed to us. Handy hint, if you want to do this journey without your boat go by train, not by bus. My train fare was £1.80 return compared to £5.50 on the bus, only downside is that the bus takes you closer to the town centre than the train, but not by miles.

We’d selected three places to visit, Hill Close Gardens, The Court House and St Mary’s Church. Starting off at the furthest we found our way to the Gardens. Just by the race course hidden away (there are brown signs to it) we came in through the visitors centre. We expected to only be there for an hour tops, but found ourselves weaving through the gardens for two.

RobinHill Close Gardens are rare survivors of Victorian gardens once used by townsfolk who lived above their businesses, to escape the busy town. Back yards were full of wash houses, workshops and privies, no room for flowers or grass. So these businessmen rented a plot of land on the outskirts of town. In 1845 Hill Close pasture land was divided up into plots that Warwick people could rent. In these Detached Gardens they planted apple trees, grew fruit and veg, kept pigs and chickens and built small summer houses from which to enjoy their gardens. At a later date people could buy their gardens and  by the early 20th Century parts were sold off for housing, but what remains today has been saved and restored by volunteers.

View from a summer houseParsley, sage, thyme, chives and moreBy the 1990’s most of the gardens had been sold off, but 16 remained, 2 still tended, the other 14 in very bad shape. By 1993 the council had bought much of the land and planning permission had been granted for 30 new houses to be built, the locals were stirred into action researching the site, one of only four left in the country. By 1994 local activists had managed to get four of the summer houses Grade 2 listed so the development was halted. The gardens themselves became Grade 2* listed shortly afterwards. By 2000 the council had helped to set up a trust to manage and restore the gardens for all to enjoy.

Wonderfully laid out

Heritage Lottery Funding in the mid 2000s enabled major restoration and by 2008 the gardens were opened up to the public frequently.

History of owners

Each garden has a short history about its owners and has been laid out how it once would have been.

Ruby redHumoungusMasses and massesWindfalls60 varieties of apples grow here, some ruby red, some huge, some abundant on their trees, all producing many windfalls.

Beans in every gardenFantastic vineGrape vines, figs, pears, beans (how are yours Frank?), courgettes, all sorts.

PurpleOrangeRedMore purpleWe were also taken aback by the amount of colour still in the flower beds, oranges, reds and purples shouting out at us.

Bra malfunctionPig styCosy summer houseSunny spotThe summer houses, small with their fireplaces, look out over lawned areas all hedged in for privacy from one another. These are very smart posh allotments lovingly cared for and so worth a visit.

We left by the town entrance hidden away behind a modern development and made our way into town. Hungry we decided that we’d have lunch before looking at The Court House. The Market Place Pantry had a free table so we enjoyed toasted cheese and ham sandwiches of full gluten and non gluten varieties followed by a slice of cake each, all very tasty.

The BallroomWhat was Ruth doing here?

By now we’d missed the start of the tour, but went to have a look at The Court House ourselves. The tour was just finishing and they must have been given access to other areas that we couldn’t get to see. The ballroom upstairs was open but that was pretty much it, we’d seen the display downstairs last time we were in Warwick. So we walked up the road to get in line for the tour of the Bell Ringing Chamber at St Mary’s.

Just a small amount of what's already there

The church is being filled with poppies at the moment. A huge community project to mark the end of WW1 is underway. Panels everywhere are already covered in knitted, crocheted, paper, felt and tissue paper poppies. The main columns have been covered in black fabric and poppies are starting to be applied to them too. By November the whole church will be a riot of red. Intermixed with all the poppies there is the occasional white and purple ones. The white are for conscientious objectors. The purple for animals. The other day I came across a poppy I’d made for my friends in Scarborough that must have got away from the others, so if we end up coming this way I’ll drop it off to be added to the thousands.

The chamber

Shortly before 4pm we were allowed up the circular stone staircase to the bell ringing chamber. St Mary’s bell chamber is built at the West end, added on, as the ground wasn’t thought to be stable enough to carry it over the main church. We were joined by about twenty others along with four of the bell ringers. There are ten bells, the oldest dating back to 1701, the current clock from 1901. The clock in recent years has been electrified saving a twice weekly job of winding it up, but this has meant that the quarter hour chimes are just slightly out at the moment due to this summers hot weather.

A model of how the bells work with their wheels was demonstrated to us and then a bell was rung. Large boards around the room celebrate the peals that have been rung for certain occasions and under a box (used to stand on) there is written a note to mark Queen Victoria’s death. Much history has been marked by the ringing of the bells.

BellsThe towerAfter we’d had everything explained to us we then took our time to climb the next 40 or so steps to see the bells. I’m not too keen on heights and Mick normally does such things on his own, but I felt today the official photographer should be on hand. The floor a metal grid was a touch unnerving for me, but once the ringers started to explain about the bells  and point out the hammers etc I felt a lot better. Our visit here was timed so as not to coincide with any bells ringing! Then we all made our way up another 50 or so steps to the top of the tower.

The castleThe roof

From here we could see for miles. The race course, the castle stood out very easily. Leamington Town Hall and church too. We tried to spot the Hatton flight of locks, we knew where it should be but it was being shy amongst the many trees. We’ve only done the flight in spring or autumn and wondered if you still get a good view of the church at this time of year.

I still don’t understand how people can stand leaning against the bars looking over the edge of such buildings, I can not get closer than two foot away. But I did my best and took photos at arms length.

Dong dong

Back down the stairs, much easier to descend backwards, there was chance for people to ring the bells. Mick held back, but I could tell he really wanted a go and in the end he succumbed, not having to jump into the air as much as the younger members of our party.

A very good day had by all. Except me!

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 trains, 16 gardens, 60 varieties of apples, 2 hours around the gardens, 2 toasties, 2 pots of tea, 2 slices of cake, 1 tour missed, 10 bells, 1701, 1901, 150 steps, 1 big boy bell ringer, 4 fantastic views, 1 rat to watch all day!