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A sunny week in the UK.

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Jun 6th, 2013, 12:08 PM
  #1
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A sunny week in the UK.

We got back yesterday from a week in the UK.

We drove from the Netherlands, via Calais, and a P&O ferry, and had booked the Club Lounge onboard. Free champagne, and all other drinks, snacks and reasonably priced food, in a quiet lounge. Lovely. It was only when returning to the car that we realised how full the ferry actually was!
It was cheaper to go via Calais, even taking fuel costs and time into consideration, than to go via Harwich.
It was a good drive, with most of the jams going the other way. Even the Dartford Crossing was relatively clear going north - southbound it was solid from the bridge back up nearly to the M11.

The main reason for the trip was for DH to see the WITCH (he worlds oldest digital computer) at the national computing museum which is at, but not part of Bletchley Park. http://www.tnmoc.org/
When he was at Wolverhampton doing his degree he worked on the WITCH and it seemed like a fitting end to his working life in computing to go back and see an old friend.
He was able to go behind the barriers and have a good look at it, and a good chat with the volunteers. We also saw computer both of us worked on, so it was a good afternoon for us, plus of course we got to see Colossus and the Tunny gallery.
We intended to go back teh following day to see the rest of Bletchley Park, but the sun was shining, and it was warm, and it seemed a shame to spend a precious sunny day in a museum, so we didn't go back. Having read rickmavs report I'm glad we saved our money.
We stayed at a pub, called the Shoulder of Mutton, in Calverton, a tiny village near Stony Stratford. I wouldn't recommend it I'm afraid. The place was closed during the day, only opening at 5pm, so when we arrived to check in there was no-one there. At 5 someone turned up, and we were shown to our room, in a separate annex. It was small, with a small double, and annoyingly only one bedside table and lamp. The bathroom was minute too.
We ate at the pub, and the food was good, but it wasn't very welcoming. We hadn't booked breakfast, which was just as well as they served breakfast only between 7 and 8 am. Way too early for us, on holiday.
The pub said it had free WiFi, which it did in the main building, but not in the rooms. They also didn't give us the key to access the WiFi until the second day, when someone found the card with the number on it.
I'm glad we only booked two nights there.

Instead of Bletchley Park we headed north to Lyvedon New Bield, a National Trust property in Northamptonshire. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lyveden-new-bield/
What a wonderful place, I can highly recommend it, but you need a car to get there!
It was built by a Catholic, in the time of Queen Elizabeth and is full of Catholic symbolism. However he died before it was finished, and the workmen down tools and so it was left. It is not a ruin, it was never completed, and remains pretty much as it was left.

Pub#2 and East Anglian explorations to follow.
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Jun 6th, 2013, 12:46 PM
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You have been very lucky - we have had one of the coldest periods on record.The weather is set to stay nice for the next few days (fabulous as we are going to a wedding on Saturday),
I suspect you wont get an enthusiastic response here - Wolverhampton is not on the top of many peoples lists, tourists target London, York and Edinburgh and miss the real Great Britain. One of my favourite towns, Huddersfield was the subject on BBC 2, and the presenter made the point that the town is one of Yorkshire's best kept secrets - and I have to agree with him. There are plenty of other best kept secrets around - so long may the tourists be diverted to London, York and Edinburgh.
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Jun 6th, 2013, 01:08 PM
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Enjoying your report. Think you made the right decision not returning to Bletchley on Day 2, although it would have been fun to see the computing part through you and your husband's eyes. Agree with stevelyon about Yorkshire. We wandered through many parts of it some years ago and really enjoyed ourselves. Looking forward to reading about East Anglia.
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Jun 6th, 2013, 01:18 PM
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I suspect you wont get an enthusiastic response here - Wolverhampton is not on the top of many peoples lists, tourists target London, York and Edinburgh and miss the real Great Britain>>

well, hetismij and her DH didn't actually stay in Wolverhampton but in Stoney Stratford which sounds as if it was worse than Wolverhampton would have been! Hard cheese, hetismij.
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Jun 6th, 2013, 02:46 PM
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I'm enjoying your report!

Lee Ann
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Jun 7th, 2013, 03:36 AM
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Stony Stratford isn't anything remotely like Wolverhampton.

It's never going to be a tourist Mecca, though archaeologists will be digging it up throughout the forseeable future. Having had England's main north-south road running through it for the past 2,000 years, it's pretty humdrum above the ground, but as modest working towns go, it's perfectly pleasant to look at.

It's also got nice scenery and terrific fox hunting around it, as well as all sorts of nice villages and pretty churches. Hetismij's beef was with the pub, not the town
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Jun 7th, 2013, 04:18 AM
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hetismij2:

I grew up in East Anglia and looking forward to your comments.

Do you still have family in the U.K.?

Sandy
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Jun 7th, 2013, 06:08 AM
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club lounge is the way to cross the channel, last time we did it we could not believe how crowded the rest of the ship was.

This week is proving glorious in Yorkshire, I've had a fine bike ride to Bolton Abbey, kept the top down on the car and have worked in the garden since Monday.
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Jun 7th, 2013, 10:46 AM
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bilbo - it's lovely in Cornwall too. sadly I had to work most of the week but now have long weekend in which I too will be doing some gardening. [and some sitting around doing nothing too!]
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Jun 7th, 2013, 12:37 PM
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Ok - DH got his degree in Wolverhampton. The computer is now in a museum at Bletchley Park, which like Calverton, where the pub was, and Stony Stratford, is now part of beautiful Milton Keynes.
Stony Stratford has improved considerably now the A5 goes around it not through the middle of it. A perfectly pleasant little market town, where we enjoyed an excellent Full English for just 4 pounds.

Coming up from Dover we spent a good part of the journey on or near Watling Street. It never fails to amaze me that the old Roman road is still in use.

We have had horrible weather here in the Netherlands too, which was why we were delighted to see some sun, and took advantage of it.

SandyBrit, yes my brothers and DH's sister all live there still.

Anyway, back to the TR.

We booked 4 nights at a pub called the Jolly Brewers, in Milton just outside Cambridge. www.jollybrewersmilton.co.uk/

Originally we wanted to be closer to Ely, but everything was booked up - for reasons which will become apparent. I am so glad we ended up where we did.
We booked through Booking.com, and shortly after booking received an e-mail from the Jolly Brewers saying our first night there coincided with their first birthday party, which would be noisy as it included a live band. If we were still happy to stay we were most welcome to join the party.

We arrived in the middle of the preparations for the party, but they took time to show us to our room, explain how things worked and welcome us warmly, before continuing with their work.
We had a lovely large room with a brilliant shower room in the converted stable block across the car park from the pub. I can honestly say the bed was the best I have ever slept on, anywhere, including my own. I wanted to bring it back with me.

That evening it was warm and sunny, and we joined the party, having a barbecue, and chatting to the locals. We retreated to our room later, and were not bothered by the band, which stopped bang on midnight, nor the revellers, who we learned later stayed until 3 am.

Saturday, after a well cooked but not over filling breakfast we made for Ely. Free parking in the town, even close to the cathedral, was a huge plus. No sunshine though, grey skies, and a cold wind.
We loved the cathedral and would have liked to spend longer in it but the Open University was having a graduation ceremony there later in the day and it closed early to the public as a result. It explained the lack of accommodation around Ely too. The cathedral is certainly worth a visit. Not the Gothic drama of many English cathedrals, but beautiful, with an amazing ceiling.
We enjoyed Ely as a town, walking along the river and exploring the shops.

We then set off to explore the fens, but after a while DH decided it was too much like home so we headed off to north Norfolk. Despite the weather the coast was heaving, every town, every car park was packed. No chance of stopping to appreciate the beauty of the area sadly, so we didn't get to enjoy it much. We did however have the best cup of coffee of the trip. Desperate for a drink we had decided to move inland at Sheringham, when we spotted a sign saying Beach, Coffee at Salthouse. We went down to a shingle beach car park - again packed, but we squeezed in amongst the twitchers and dog walkers and found the coffee. A white van, with it's back doors open and a full size espresso machine in the back. It was, as I said the best coffee we had (and the cheapest!). We had a quick walk along the beach, but it was so cold we quickly gave up.
I would love to go back again, outside of the school holidays and get to enjoy that remote beauty properly.

We ate at the Jolly Brewers that night. An excellent meal, not too much, not to little all beautifully cooked, using local ingredients where possible.

Sunday the sun returned as we went off to explore Cambridge. We got there early and parked in a multi-storey car park. Many of the colleges were closed to the public, and we didn't pay to go in those that were open. We did stand outside and listen to the beautiful singing in one of the chapels.
We enjoyed the market and just wandering around, though the touts for tours and punts were a pain.
I had never been to Cambridge before, and I really liked it. I think I prefer it to Oxford, which we used to visit frequently when we still lived in the UK.

In the afternoon we decided to leave the city and visit Houghton Mill, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/houghton-mill/ a working water mill. We got to see the wheel in action and bought some flour. We had a walk through the meadows by the river, after watching some boats negotiate the lock, and on returning to the mill saw a grass snake swimming in the river. Even though it was very busy there it was surprisingly peaceful.

We had a Chinese meal that evening, which was OK but nothing special, then went back to the pub for a pint and a local cider. They had two local beers - Milton Ales and Brandon Brewery, plus a local cider - Cromwell's Oliver's Choice, and of course the usual lagers. The barman already knew our taste and asked if we wanted the usual!

Monday was our last full day in the area, and with sun shining we headed for Wicken Fen www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wicken-fen/. We spent the best part of the day there, enjoyed the informative boat trip and walked miles around the reserve, spotting birds (we know not what!), and just enjoying the day.
We did make it to Anglesey Abbey www.nationaltrust.org.uk/anglesey-abbey/ in the afternoon for a stroll around the gardens. The house is closed on Mondays, and the gardens were not at their best - spring flowers were over, summer ones not yet blooming. They allow you to walk on the grass, and I admit I kicked off my shoes and let my tired feet enjoy the feel of the soft springy turf. A rare treat and it was worth visiting the Abbey for that alone

We ate at the pub again that night, and spent the evening chatting again. We settled our bill before going to bed, even though we were to have breakfast there the next day. The bar man came round and shook DH's hand and gave me a hug and a kiss. The locals all wished us a safe journey and hoped we would return. I hope so too.

After another great breakfast we said goodbye to the chef, Steve, and to a couple of the owners of the pub before leaving for our trip south.

The pub has an interesting story - it went broke and was empty for three years. A group of villagers got together and formed a company to buy it and do it up. It is a grade II listed building so it took sometime to get the work done. They then hired in a manageress, Caroline, and Steve the chef, plus other staff. Each of the owners has a job to do at the pub - painting and maintenance, keeping the beer lines clean, the gardens tidy, etc. It is, as I said now a year old, and doing really well, despite there being three other pubs in the village!
If you are looking for somewhere to stay near Cambridge I can thoroughly recommend it. Even without a car you can get into Cambridge or Ely on the bus which stops in the village every 30 minutes or so. We were made to feel so welcome we were sorry to leave.

On our way south to Kent we called in at Lavenham for a coffee and a look at the Guildhall.
We stayed the night with DH's sister near Faversham and headed home on Wednesday. Belgium was one big traffic jam, which added over 2 hours to the journey, but otherwise it was a good trip home.

I enjoyed our week. We may not have seen things on most Fodorite's lists of must sees, but it suited us. Being a life member of the National Trust helped of course with the places we did visit, otherwise it would have cost a fortune.

I really miss having a local, a place to go and relax, have a drink and a chat - there just isn't anything like that here where I live - but on the whole England is nice to visit now, but I don't think I could live there any more.

Sorry for the long post! I hope you made it to the end .
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Jun 7th, 2013, 01:00 PM
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Great report. Thanks
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Jun 7th, 2013, 01:13 PM
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yes, thanks, hetismij. A very nice report about an area little visited by fodorites.
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Jun 7th, 2013, 03:40 PM
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Lovely report hetismij. Looks like you were over here at the same time we were over in the Netherlands!
Glad you had a good time - I always love just walking around Cambridge but visiting Kings College Chapel is always a must for me. Sounds like I must visit Ely someday too.
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Jun 7th, 2013, 04:06 PM
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Hetismij2, great report. Really interesting about the National Trust properties. So much to see....
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Jun 7th, 2013, 08:49 PM
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Great report full of interesting stuff and the kind of places that interest me. The National Trust do a great job of the properties they manage. I've been to several and have never been disappointed.
Thanks for sharing, and for the good writing.
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Jun 8th, 2013, 12:55 AM
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I wondered if you'd have more to say about Lavenham (I was born close by). It's a beautiful place - did you get chance to look around?
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Jun 8th, 2013, 01:08 AM
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Morgana, there was filming going on in Lavenham, so we didn't stay long. We got shouted at by some angry film person just for walking down the street. There were no signs to say we couldn't, but they weren't happy with us. We both thought it was a lovely town, and have put it on the revisit list.
Hopefully next time we will have a better chance of exploring it properly.
Do you know the name given to the stamped plasterwork on the houses in that area? I can't remember what it is called and can't seem to find it on the Net either.
We want to go back and see Suffolk some time as we didn't get the chance this trip.
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Jun 8th, 2013, 01:20 AM
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....Do you know the name given to the stamped plasterwork on the houses in that area?....

Pargeting. I'm from that area too ;-)
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Jun 8th, 2013, 01:23 AM
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It sometimes has the spelling "pargetting"
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Jun 8th, 2013, 02:15 AM
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Yes, it's a lovely area (Lavenham, Long Melford, Kersey, Cavendish, Clare etc) and shows that Suffolk is most definitely not a flat county.
It's an area still very much off the main tourist drag too. Most villages, even the tiny ones, have a beautiful 'wool' church, built on the proceedings of the very lucrative medieval wool trade. The churches in Lavenham and Long Melford are particularly fine examples.
The area is also rich in cottages painted the distinctive 'Suffolk Pink' colour, many with a thatched roof.
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