Thursday, July 17, 2014

And so the journey continues

We are travelling back down the Thames stopping at places we didn't get to see on the way up and generally taking it slower than the upstream journey. All in preparation for the Channel crossing, weather permitting, on the weekend of 26th July. Till then we will be moored at Penton Hook marina doing last minute chores and sorting out the inventory for what we require in France. We, however, does not include me as I get really seasick so will be driving across and meeting the boys on the other side. I certainly don't feel like I will be missing out on anything, particularly throwing up!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Have Car will Travel Part 2: 1st - 7th July

We have decided to stay at Thames and Kennet Marina in Reading for a nearly a week to get our new deep cycle batteries fully charged and also to collect some things that have been sent to Ryan's (our son) address while we have been travelling around. So once again we hired a car but the only problem with this marina is it is so far from public transport. Fortunately Gary from Leesan was delivering some items to us so we cadged a lift from him to the car rental offices.
We also decided to order some sun loungers for our deck for those lazy days when you just want to sit and sip a glass of wine and read a book. The new zero gravity sun loungers/deck chair caught our eye so we placed our Amazon order and several days later this arrived (but ours are blue)

Also while we had the car we once again decided to check out a couple of National Trust places in the Reading area. The first was The Vyne, a palace built by for King Henry VIII's Lord Chamberlain, Lord Sandys and it is a good example of Tudor architecture. The original palace was huge. It is believed that many of the outbuildings that housed servants, grooms, horses etc were made of wattle and daub and as time went on and it became no longer fashionable or affordable to have such a large number of retainers, this part of the palace fell into disrepair and eventually disappeared. What remains of the palace has been renovated over the centuries and the interior design reflects those periods. There are still some interesting aspects of the tudor period with the stained glass window in the chapel depicting a scene with Katherine of Aragon and carvings in the oak gallery of pomegranates which were apparently Katherine of Aragon's heraldic symbol. Imagine how Anne Boleyn must have felt when she visited with Henry to see such blatant images and reminders of Katherine of Aragon! It is also believed that Elizabeth I visited this house. This is another example of a property where you could spend the whole day as there are extensive gardens, woodlands and wetlands.
Garden Rotunda

Outbuilding converted to tearooms
Tudor Brickwork with some rather wonky windows

Chapel window with Katherine of Aragon depicted in left hand window bottom middle panel

Lovely wildflowers in the woodlands

The Vyne looks imposing when viewed from the other side of the lake
While travelling back to the marina we decided to meander our way through the back lanes and came across a sign directing us to Silchester Roman ruins. This was too good an opportunity to miss so we followed the signs, much to the distress of our GPS, to the remains of the Roman city walls. Unlike most Roman towns, it was never re-occupied or built over after its abandonment in the 5th century, so archaeological investigations give an unusually complete picture of its development. There is still an ongoing archaelogical dig here conducted by Reading University. It was a bit disappointing as it was touted as the best preserved Roman town in England - all we managed to see were some quite impressive town walls and I couldn't convince Kevin to walk the extra distance to view the amphitheatre. I had seen remains of a large house north of Cirencester several years ago and what we saw at Silchester wasn't anywhere near as impressive.
Roman walls at Silchester

Basildon Park was another National Trust property close to us. In fact we passed close by it while we where on the boat but there wasn't any access from the river. Basildon park is an 18th Century Georgian Mansion that was rescued and renovated by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the 1950s. Lady Iliffe was a bit of a scavenger and managed to salvage appropriate decorations from other houses to use at Basildon to recreate the feel of the Georgian period. The house is surrounded by 400 aces of parkland with amazing views from the house and garden.
Most recently Downton Abbey has been filmed here. It has been used for the internal shots of the Crawley's London home in the 2013 Christmas special and there are plenty of promotional stills showing what rooms were used in what scenes. 
The entrance to Basildon Park

Walled garden

Library and where filming of the card game took place

This dining room was converted into the ballroom for Downton Abbey

Originally the walls were lined with red silk. Lady Iliffe found some felt to replace the silk with surprisingly rich results.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Goring and Pangbourne -- 27th-30th June, 2014

Just a couple of short cruises down the Thames to two small villages. Goring-on-Thames and Streatley are on either side of the Thames and are both very different. Goring is the "commercial" town while Streatley is more residential although it does have a couple of the obligatory pubs and a church. Further downriver we came across Pangbourne and Whitchurch-on-Thames which are set up in a similar manner - Pangbourne is commercial and Whitchurch residential.
Mill House and Pond Goring
Goring Lock
Goring was awarded the best small town in Southern England so we figured it was worth staying the night - plus it was the Goring Streatley festival. There wasn't a lot going on but we did manage to see one of the artist in residence exhibitions and there was a jazz concert on in the town hall. Apparently Goring's other claim to fame is that George Michael of Wham fame lives in the town. Didn't find this out till after we left but I wasn't terribly upset that we didn't see him! We did find a little antique/second hand shop that benefitted from our visit to town. There are some nice walks in the area and the town does have a lovely feel. Streatley across the river was attractive but different. The locals were friendly and filled us in on a little history. The tower of the Church was built in Saxon times and there is a record of a church in Streatley in the Doomsday book. Various additions have been made with the last makeover happening during the Victorian era. As we walked back through Streatley we noticed that they still deliver milk to the house!

The Swan Pub Streatley
Milk Delivery

front door of the old school house

Georgian front door
St Marys, Streatley
Pangbourne, while not big, has a train station, a supermarket, and two exclusive car dealerships - Bentley and Lamboghini!! We also found a butcher, Greens of Pangbourne, that had won quite a few awards. We had to try their game pie and it was extremely tasty.

My new Car??

On the other side of the river is Whitchurch. This is one of the few toll roads we have seen in England and it has obviously been a toll road for some time. Current toll is a tad more than these prices and I don't think they charge for animals anymore!
Original Toll Notice
The rest of the town was quite quaint with some rickety buildings, a lovely mill house and pond and a serene church.
Whitchurch Mill house and Pond

rickety house Whitchurch

Another St Marys - Whitchurch this time

St Marys and graveyard
We have wandered around a few graveyards in this area and have noticed, surprisingly, that in the 1700 and 1800s many people didn't die in their 30's and 40's like we have been told. A lot of the ages were in the vicinity of 75-85 years. When we asked at one of the churches, they said that diet played a big part. This was considered to be quite a wealthy area plus many people grew their own food so were guaranteed a good nutritionally balanced diet.