Hurrah! After a month “at home”, it was high time to move back into Kampington and set off to explore. This one is a solo trip, Mark having been left at home working hard. It’ll also be a bit of a whistle-stop tour as I have agreed that I’ll be back by the end of April (let’s call that the 30th shall we?) to assist with some more decorating….. I’ll have to keep posting updates or I really will forget where I’ve been!
After a night’s stop at Little Roodee on Thursday night (a Kampington tradition) I drove up to Carsington Water Caravan Club Site in Derbyshire on Friday to meet up with Yvonne and Lynn for the weekend (Yvonne in Adriana the Adria Twin, Lynn having hired a VW California for the weekend). Aware of the need to make maximum use of the National Trust membership this year, I stopped at Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire on the way. It’s a very wonky-looking Tudor (16th Century) manor house. The clue was in the name – apparently the “More” in “Moreton” means marsh…. Adding the long gallery on top, which wasn’t originally in the design and added a lot to the weight, clearly hasn’t helped either…..The interior is pretty empty.
We had a great weekend in Derbyshire. On Saturday we visited Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood (not my idea – this was another one that had never jumped out of the book at me – but I can now tick it off as visited and the Museum of Childhood did have things I remembered from my youth… I was pleased to see that they also had Harry Potter, so the presence of Weebles in a museum doesn’t necessarily imply that I am now ancient). Mark would have been disappointed at the surroundings the billiard table had been left in….. On Sunday we went for a short walk at Dovedale, which was pretty but horrendously busy.
Monday dawned, and I started my trip South. I detoured to Isaac Newton’s birthplace, Woolsthorpe Manor, near Grantham. This was where he made most of his major breakthroughs during the period 1665-1666 when he returned home from Cambridge on account of the University having been closed due to an outbreak of plague. The apple tree is there (with the wicker fence round it in the photo – to stop people walking too close and compacting the roots) and has been tested and confirmed to be of the correct age. I was slightly disappointed to learn though that the apple didn’t actually fall on his head…. I really liked this place; the history wasn’t dumbed down and they had a science centre for kids with experiments based on Newton’s work that didn’t seem dumbed down either. The experiments themselves were mobbed with small people, but I did read the first board over their heads, which was about calculus and how it’s important for calculating the trajectories of spaceships and all kinds of other things…… The cafe and shop were both tiny and crammed into corners of the ticket booth and science centre respectively. Just as it should be!
From Grantham I drove South and went to Ickworth near Bury St Edmunds, which I didn’t feel was anything to write home about though the second hand bookshop provided a good haul. From there it was overnight at the Caravan Club’s Cherry Hinton site (very nice and apparently a bus into Cambridge passes the site. Journey time anything from 25 minutes to over an hour. The best time to visit for traffic is when the Colleges are closed ie in the University holidays. Possibly also safest if you don’t want to get squashed by a cyclist. There was a noticeable proliferation of them even out at Cherry Hinton, though in Kampington I did at least have the upper hand…).
The savings continued on Tuesday at Wimpole Estate near Cambridge. I hadn’t expected this one to be a highlight from the description in the National Trust book, but it was fantastic. The book hadn’t mentioned that it had been extensively “done up” internally in the Victorian period, so it was really interesting to wander round mentally ticking off the items that “normal” folks’ houses like mine also have (it’s all the same stuff, even in a mega-mansion like this one).
The volunteers at Wimpole were supremely chatty, so I did find out all kinds of things. The official National Trust line is that the last owner, Elsie Bambridge (daughter of Rudyard Kipling) hated all things Victorian so had carpeted over the encaustic tiles in the hallway. Very odd – the whole place was so Victorian she’d have had to walk round blindfolded to avoid it all. Surely you wouldn’t buy a house that was empty, needed a lot of work, and was as Victorian internally as a house can be if you really did hate all things Victorian (or if you did buy it you’d immediately rip everything out internally and start again)?
My suspicion was that perhaps Elsie Bambridge just had the same reaction as I did to the encaustic tiles in the hallway. They look great in a normally-proportioned hallway, but when you do the whole ballroom-sized entrance hall of a stately home in them, they really are a bit too much. I think I’d have covered most of it up too, much as I love encaustic tiles. (One aside – the colour scheme is exactly the same as mine and I note that their white tiles have worn much more than the other colours, just like mine. The room guide didn’t know why that was and the conservator wasn’t in that day, so the reason will have to remain a mystery for now. There must be something in the materials or production process that makes the glaze on the white tiles much less durable…).
From Cambridge I travelled down to Maidstone, crossing at Dartford for the first time since they brought in the charges. I was amazed at the lack of clear signage on the motorway. If you didn’t know you had to pay online, you could easily miss it, particularly if you were an overseas visitor (though how they catch up with them isn’t clear). There were signs with “Dartcharge – find it at …..” and separate signs with “pay by midnight tomorrow”. In design, these were what I would call “non-important stuff” signs rather than “do this now” signs. No sign with a big £ symbol and a list of charges….
Today (Wednesday) was my first archives day of the trip. Parking in Maidstone turned out to be a bit of a faff. There were height barriers on Maidstone East station carpark that weren’t visible on Google Earth or mentioned on the council website, and nearby on-street pay and display spaces were limited to 4 hours…. I ended up nipping into the library with my street map and a huddle of helpful librarians did manage to identify a car park about a 15 minute walk away that would be Kampington friendly.
After a long hard slog in the archives I have double checked a lot of stuff but have had no Eureka moments. Vicars down here don’t seem so good at making helpful additional notes in the margins of the parish registers. One thing that did stand out that I haven’t seen elsewhere is just how many Strangers seem to get buried in Kent. The lack of extra notes by the vicar is a bit frustrating here as there is no indication of what these strangers were doing – maybe you get more folk travelling through down here given the proximity to London? Or maybe they had a lot of itinerant salespeople wandering around? I shall have to make enquiries….
I’ve got some National Trust “savings” planned for the next couple of days, then I’m going to head a bit further south into the heart of ancestor territory…