Saturday 7th May, 2005
Sunday 8th May, 2005
Monday 9th May, 2005
Tuesday 10th May, 2005
Wednesday 11th May, 2005
Thursday 12th May, 2005
Friday 13th May, 2005

Saturday 7th May, 2005

Drop Cap e left Honey's Green at 09:00 after a heavy shower of rain, but made good time, even around the notorious M25 Orbital. The showers continued intermittently all day, interrupted by beautiful bursts of sunshine, very confusing.

Drop Cap e arrived in idyllic Great Hockham, Norfolk, just as really black clouds were gathering and found Mrs. Flanders at Beechwood House. She took us around the corner to the other part of her house, Old School Cottage, fully self contained but with a locked connecting door.

Old School Cottage Lounge photograph

Cosy Lounge Room, Old School Cottage, Great Hockham, Norfolk

Drop Cap his place is amazing! It is ancient, with low ceilings and exposed beams, every doorway is a step up or down with "Mind your Head" emblazoned on all of them. Downstairs there is a maze of small rooms, (Mac keeps getting lost) a dining room, a lounge room with log fire, TV, video, and two bookcases full of books, tourist info and games. Then there is the kitchen, very well equipped, stove, fridge, freezer, dishwasher(!) and lots of utensils. The bathroom is also downstairs and there is a washer and tumble drier, thank goodness as I have not been able to do laundry for a week.

Old School Cottage photograph

Old School Cottage from the Garden, Gt.Hockham, Norfolk

Drop Cap utside is a private walled garden with patio furniture etc. Maybe when the rain stops? There are two staircases to the rooms upstairs, one serving each of the bedrooms. Geoff has taken the double bedded room because otherwise we would have had to go through his room to the less steep and twisty stair. Even I have to bend over so I don't bump my head going downstairs and Geoff is in a constant state of cringe!

Drop Cap ut it is lovely, I adore it. Probably by the end of the week I will be tired of the steps because my knees are already complaining but I think the key will be to keep things downstairs and only go up and down once a day if possible.

Drop Cap opefully, the weather will give us some good days as in the previous weeks. We have to finish our Heritage cards this week, so Audley End and Sutton Hoo are on the list.

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Sunday 8th May, 2005

Drop Cap nother day of schitzophrenic weather. It started out beautiful at 07:00, started to shower by 09:00 when we left and stayed like that (i.e. alternately sunny and wet) all day.

Lavenham photograph

Market Place, Lavenham, Suffolk

Drop Cap e set off for Sutton Hoo and branched off at Lavenham for morning tea. Lavenham has not changed much, it couldn't really, although many buildings seem freshly painted. The Crooked House, which was pastel pinky when I last saw it, was quite a strident shade of orange.

Lavenham photograph

"The Crooked House", Lavenham, Suffolk

Drop Cap e had coffee and a toasted teacake for Geoff at the Swan Hotel, all ancient beams and steps up and down (one lady tripped over a step near us and fell). There had been a wedding the night before and many members of the wedding party were assembling, clutching dress boxes and suit hangers, ready to see the bride and groom away. (It's quite easy to eavesdrop in these places!)

Drop Cap fter Lavenham we cruised through gorgeous villages, full of thatched cottages, looking like film sets for Miss Marple or something, until we circumnavigated Ipswich and arrived at Sutton Hoo.

Drop Cap his is where the wonderful ship burial mound was discovered with a hoard of Ango Saxon treasure from the 600s AD. We had seen most of the real things from the mounds at the British Museum in London but the reproductions were good, particularly the burial chamber with all the stuff and the famous helmet reproduced like new.

Sutton Hoo photograph

Rebuilt Burial Mound, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

Drop Cap e walked along from the Visitor Centre and Exhibition Hall to the actual burial site. One of the mounds had been rebuilt to 7th century height but the major ones had been ploughed down in previous centuries and of course, excavated last century, so there was not much to see, just the interest of being at the site itself.

Drop Cap was pleased we had gone because it has always exercised a certain fascination for me. The thought of dragging a ship 90 metres long a couple of miles from the river, filling it with a hoard of treasure of all kinds and a dead king, and then burying the lot in a mound grave is very intriguing. I thought they burned their warriors and boats.

It was a very interesting day, all up.

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Monday 9th May, 2005

Drop Cap oday came the first problem with the car - hope it will also be the last!

Framlingham Castle photograph

Framlingham Castle, from the Walls

Drop Cap ut first, we drove to the lovely little market town of Framlingham, where we found the ruins of Framlingham Castle. This was enormous! A curtain wall joined thirteen towers and there was a wall walk all around it. It was bitterly cold up there (round and round an ancient spiral staircase - oh, my knees) but the views were spectacular and the audio tour which complemented it with a wand you pressed according to numbers on the way, like at Battle, was really great.

Chimney Framlingham Castle photograph

Twisty Tudor Chimney, Framlingham Castle

Drop Cap hen we left, we had lunch in the 16th century Crown Hotel at Framlingham, which was very genteel in the lounge, and all exposed beams and plaster, lovely. It also had the cleanest, brightest Ladies I have found since coming to Britain!

Drop Cap t was after we left Framlingham that the problem started. We had intended to visit Saxstead Green Historic Post Mill but could not access it, they only had pedestrian access and we drove round and round these tiny country lanes looking for parking or vehicle access and eventually giving up. We turned around in a deserted farm looking yard where there were no fewer than ten black cats, just looking at us. One must have walked in front of us!

Drop Cap e began to hear ominous noises from the brakes when we had to put them on - a graunching, hollow sort of sound. It did not affect the driving or the handling but any brake problem is worrying.

Drop Cap e went past Great Hockham to Watton, where we did some shopping at Tesco and found a garage which didn't just sell petrol. It was a road recovery centre and MOT testing place and one of their mechanics looked at the brakes and said the brake pads had worn down to the point where it was dangerous and could score the discs.

Drop Cap o we came home, rang Peter Waugh and got his sanction to have the work done at the garage, charged to him. We would have had it done ourselves anyway if he hadn't. Mac took the car up to them this evening and it looks like we have a rest day tomorrow. That's good - God send all goes well.

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Tuesday 10th May, 2005

Drop Cap e had a rest day today while the car was fixed. I did two loads of laundry and Geoff took a bus into Thetford where he found an Internet Access place so did his email and bought a pair of cargo pants.

Drop Cap ac and I had a walk around the village after lunch - it is tiny and very cute, lots of thatched cottages and a triangular village green. But no shops, post office or anything except a pub which only opens after 6 p.m. You really have to have transport out!

Drop Cap t 5 p.m. Mac went to pick up the car, which is fine, he thinks, so that is good. Tomorrow we can get back to touring.

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Wednesday 11th May, 2005

Drop Cap e ventured intrepidly out in the repaired car, heading south. We detoured through Newmarket at just the time of the second string return to the stables. We saw lots of horses and a flashing "horse crossing" light. In Newmarket horses have right of way. Most of them would be worth more than the car which might hit them.

Concorde photograph

Concorde at Duxford Air Museum

Drop Cap e travelled further south to Duxford, a WWII air base, which houses the Imperial War Museum Aircraft Section. We were rather shocked at the twelve pound entry fee, even though Mac and I got in for senior cits prices of nine pounds. The collection of planes is very extensive and growing. They had a Concorde, which was open to view. It was one of the first Concordes, which was used for test flights, so had acres of instruments but not much seating. It is really small inside, I don't really think it could ever have been financially viable.

Small aircraft photograph

"It followed me home, can I keep it?"

Drop Cap ut we saw Bristol fighters from WWI and Spitfires, Lancasters and Flying Fortresses from WWII and Russian Hind Helicopters from Vietnam and Afghanistan. We had lunch there after really only seeing a fraction of what is there, then drove on to Saffron Walden and Audley End.

Arch Audley End photograph

Portico Arch, Audley End, Essex

Drop Cap his was the one English Heritage property I really wanted to see, I have been reading about it for years. We saved eight pounds each with our Heritage cards, which was another bonus.

Audley End photograph

From the Parterre Garden, Audley End, Essex

Drop Cap he house is a lovely Jacobean mansion with wonderful decoration and furniture, only half or less the size of the original building which James I said was "too big for a king, but could well suit a Lord Treasurer". It turned out that the Lord Treasurer had his fingers in the till and was slung in the Tower for embezzlement. What is left is really lovely and has extensive grounds landscaped by Capability Brown. It even has a ha-ha! There were pretty parterre gardens, little temples and a lake full of ducks, swans and moorfowl.

Peacock at Audley End photograph

Resident, Audley End, Essex

Drop Cap e had a terrific tour around the house with a guide who was really good at her job. We all enjoyed it. We didn't really have time to go and look at the Organic Kitchen Garden, designed by the Henry Doubleday Organisation (to which our friends Graham Roberts and Richard Phillipps belong) but it was mentioned on the tour. Henry Doubleday also helped rebuild the parterre gardens, supplying old fashioned plants to provide the same sort of flowers, colour schemes and plantings as was traditional.

Drop Cap t was an enjoyable day and the car (touch wood) seems to be OK.

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Thursday 12th May, 2005

Drop Cap lovely sunny day today so we got off earlyish (about 08:30) heading for Aylsham, the start of the Bure Valley Narrow Gauge Railway. After a lot of problems navigating around the town of Dereham (we ended up in the Bowling Alley carpark twice ) we finally made it to Aylsham station.

Bure Valley Rail photograph

Turntable, Bure Valley Railway, Wroxham, Norfolk

Drop Cap e were just in time to get combined return tickets to Wroxham and a boat tour on the Broads. This was great. The train journey (nine miles each way) was very enjoyable with attractive scenery and several little stations (at which people got off and on - it is a real service, not just tourist). The little engine was lovely and the carriages more comfortable (a bit wider, I think) than the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch.

Wroxham Broad photograph

Tour Boat, Wroxham Broad, Norfolk

Drop Cap hen we reached Wroxham we walked into the town, approximately ten minutes, and boarded the "Queen of the Broads". We had a very enjoyable hour and a half cruise through the Bure River and a couple of the navigable Broads, which our chatty captain explained used to be medieval peat diggings which then filled up with water. The water table is very high and any house built here has to sink very deep piles to build on, like Venice, and even then they have to keep building them up as they sink! There are some lovely thatched houses, quite modern ones, very expensive too.

Drop Cap he birdlife was amazing and most of the ducks, moorfowl, coots, swans and great crested grebes either had new families splashing behind them or were still sitting on the nest. Great crested grebes are interesting. While their chicks are still very small the mother carries them on her back. We saw several of them.

Wroxham Birds photograph

Birdman Geoff at Wroxham Broad, Norfolk

Drop Cap hen we returned to Wroxham we had quite a large lunch at the Wherryman's Restaurant, (very nice), causing us to miss the first train back but that was not a worry. We wandered through the town, made a couple of purchases and Geoff caused a bird furore by feeding swans, ducks, geese and pigeons with handfulls of the wheat he had bought at the Weald and Downland Museum Watermill. A swan ate out of his hand (and tried to bite a hole through the plastic bag the wheat was in) and pigeons gathered all over him like St. Francis of Assisi (or the Birdman of Alcatraz).

Drop Cap e caught the last train back to Aylsham, got lost again going through Dereham but managed to find our way home.

Drop Cap t has been a relaxing, warm and enjoyable day.

Last day tomorrow, we plan to visit her Maj at Sandringham!

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Friday 13th May, 2005

Castle Acre Priory photograph

Castle Acre Priory, Norfolk

Drop Cap till fine, although the wind was much stronger and rather icy as we made our way to Castle Acre Priory, a ruined Cluniac monastery near Swaffham. This was very interesting, with English Heritage providing audio tour wands. The remains of the priory were very extensive with the Norman facade of the front being fairly complete and the Prior's house still largely intact. We were able to climb the steep 12th century spiral stairs to the upper floors. There is usually very little left beyond the foundations.

Drop Cap ut we all enjoyed it and we found two cats there, one who belonged to the custodian and slept on a chair by the heater and one ginger tom who came with a family who live on the adjoining property. He was quite prepared to be patted. Mac keeps a tally of days with cat sightings. He is pining for Carrot.

Sandringham House photograph

Sandringham House, Norfolk

Drop Cap fter this we went off across country to Sandringham, Norfolk retreat of the Royal Family. We thought this would be very expensive but it was only six pounds. We had lunch in the restaurant near the entrance then caught the free "land train", a tractor pulled train which took us to the house. It was rather a long way otherwise, through lovely gardens.

Sandringham Stables photograph

Stables Museum, Sandringham, Norfolk

Drop Cap he bits they show tourists are only a fraction of what is there but it was quite interesting, Edwardian style. The house was built by Edward VII and Alexandra and is still furnished in the same way. I don't think I could live with a lot of it, not my style, but interesting to see.

Drop Cap hen we got home we started packing and cleaning, then went for a delicious Chinese meal at the China Cottage in Watton.

Tomorrow we head for the Midlands first to have lunch with Olwen and Lawrence, then on to the Peak District.

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