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June 5th 2017: Grimsthorpe Castle
30 members set off from Burgess Hall carpark at 09.30am on a Monday morning in early June. There was a slight frisson as the early birds in the car park found a Dews coach half filled with people and waiting to set off. A small sign indicated that the coach was taking Friends of the Norris Museum on a day trip to another venue! Our coach arrived some 20 mins later and we set off with a new driver, Colin, who quickly calmed any remaining anxieties about our trip, as he knew Grimsthorpe Castle well.
It was a straight forward run of just under an hour to the Castle. We were surprised and delighted to be greeted first by a welcome sign on the gate to Hunts DFAS, and then to have a detailed one hour drive through the extensive estate in the company of the Head Forester, Ray. It was a pleasure to learn some of the history of this great estate which has been in the hands of the Willoughby family for over 500 years. He explained the approach to the ancient, mostly oak woodland, where trees are allowed to stand and slowly decay after death, providing homes for birds, insects, flowers and other wild life. The trees provide a stunning backdrop to the Castle itself which eventually appeared, outlined against the lake and approached by several miles of avenues of oak and horse chestnut.
The rain stopped for our lunch stop, efficiently provided by the Castle tea room and preparing us for an excellent tour of the interior of the Castle. The castle is still a family home and felt 'lived-in' if rather grand! There was time for a short exploration of the magnificent gardens and the wonderful topiary before we headed back down the A1, returning to St Ives by about 5pm.
An excellent day out, unfortunately without much sunshine, but enjoyed by all. Thanks to Sue Denney for organising and Colin for a comfortable and smooth ride.
May 15-19th 2017: Art, Architecture and Gardens of West Coast Scotland
30 members of the Arts Society set off at 6.30am on a chilly Monday morning for the long drive to Scotland. The weather forecast was not promising and we soon ran into some rain. Two short stops at service stations and six hours later, we arrived at Dumfries House, famously saved for the nation by the intervention of the Prince of Wales, where we were greeted by the Head Guide with a cheerful welcome accompanied by tea and shortbread. The sun peeped out and life felt better. An excellent guided tour took us through the house, admirinA proportions of the Robert Adam architecture and the wonderful collection of Chippendale furniture, designed for each room. Much of the restoration work required after purchase of the house has been completed by local artisans, trained or re-trained in traditional methods and providing much needed employment to this area of Scotland. Refreshed and enthused by the tour of this remarkable house, we made our way into Glasgow to our excellent hotel in the centre of the city: Double Tree by Hilton.
Tuesday saw an early start to catch the ferry from Wemyss Bay to the Isle of Bute. A short walk from the port, but a rather longer drive for the coach through a narrow one way system, brought us to the ruined castle of Rothesay. Sunshine and a brisk breeze emphasized the strategic position the castle commanded when built, overlooking the approaches to the Clyde. Now somewhat bizarrely placed in the small town centre after extensive land reclamation to provide anchorage and factory space for the fishing industry, it is noted for its circular outer wall and moat. A popular day trip for tourists from the late Victorian days, the Harbour Trust built a public toilet (men only!) of extreme grandeur. The mosaic walls remain a tourist attraction today.
We moved on to the treat of the day, the spectacular Mount Stuart Castle and gardens, also property of the Rothesay family, now one of the titles of the Prince of Wales.196 The castle is a spectacular gothic extravaganza of many coloured marble, stained glass windows and family portraits.
On left: great staircase at Mount Stuart.
On right: rock garden
Wednesday saw us off along the Ayrshire coast to the spectacularly situated Culzean Castle, overlooking the Clyde estuary. We were surprised to find ourselves sharing the castle with the film crew of Flog it!, preparing for public valuations of sale items on the following day. The crew were friendly and willing to provide the occasional autograph or selfie!
The gardens at Culzean benefit from the warm gulf-stream effect and support unexpectedly lush and semi-tropical plants. A glorious day in warm sunshine, enhanced by hearing of continuous rain at home!
Thursday morning we were free to explore Glasgow. Some took the tourist bus trip which gave an audio-guide to the notable features of the city and a useful speedy introduction for those new to the area. The Kelvingrove gallery and museum would have kept us busy for a week with its splendid and well displayed treasures. We will return to see Glasgow properly another time.
The high-light of the day was a visit to the amazing technological feat of the Falkirk Wheel (photo on left), where a full canal boat of about 50 people is transported in a few minutes some 30 meters height to the upper canal level, replacing an all day exercise negotiating a flight of 11 locks! The view from the upper level was spectacular and included a preview of our final stop for the day to admire the huge equine statues of two horses known as The Kelpies (photo on right).
Then time to pack and return home, but one final treat remained on our way home; a guided tour of Drumlanrig castle near Dumfries and one of the homes of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensberry. An amazing art collection (with an audacious theft story), was enlivened by an excellent guide, a memorable conclusion to a very enjoyable few days.
Thanks to Dews coaches and Dave, our driver, for comfortable and reliable transport and Brightwater for efficient arrangements behind the scenes. Thanks also to several members of the group for introduction to some of the sites.
24th January 2016: Fabergé and the Egg
33 members made a visit to the Royal Fabergé exhibition in the Sainsbury Centre in UEA in Norwich. The day started well as Chris from Dews took the scenic route which gave everyone a chance to relax after the hassle of the local traffic.
The Fabergé exhibition was one part of a larger display of Russian art and artefacts demonstrating links between art and politics in post-revolutionary Russia. But the star of the exhibition was an exquisite Fabergé Bassket of Flowers egg (see photo on left), loaned from the Royal Collection.The flowers and grasses are incredibly delicate and beautifully enamelled. Other parts of the exhibition shows several other examples of Fabergé flowers, boxes and many delightful enamelled small animals and birds.
There are various pictures and other exhibits relevant to the time of Fabergé and showing connections to the Royal family. The exhibition is of a manageable size and it was not crowded during our visit. The three guides were really well informed and enthusiastic.
The catering department had set tables aside for us and there was a good choice of appetizing food. The Sainsbury Centre also has a permanent exhibition of considerable interest, which displays the Sainsbury family’s passion for collecting art from many cultures and periods from ancient times to the modern day.
The journey home was uneventful and so completed a very enjoyable and informative day.
The illustration on right shows a cigarette case in enamel gold and diamonds.