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A Letter From the Committee

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Rugby National Trust Association

November 2020 Bulletin

Three months on from our previous news bulletin, we hope that you are all keeping safe and well as these strange and unpredictable times continue. One thing seems to be certain – a return to our “normal” lives before the pandemic feels to be a long way off yet. So it will probably come as little surprise to you that after the enforced shutdown of all our Summer and Autumn activities, we have regrettably decided that our Spring 2021 programme of talks will also be unviable, including cancellation of the January AGM. To attempt to run meetings with a smaller audience, due to social distancing, and without refreshments, would be impractical, unfair to members, and financially unsustainable.


A similar gloomy forecast hangs over attempts to provide our usual full programme of visits for next Summer. Due to the continuing Covid-19 crisis and Government Guidelines, any proposed programme for 2021 has to be put on hold and so we are unable to give any lists of visits. As an alternative, we hope to offer visits on a one-by-one basis when we know what might be possible. So much will depend on how they can be managed and how we can contact members.


However, despite this “gloom and doom”, we are by no means “down and out”!

A full and comprehensive Newsletter for Spring 2021 will be published and distributed to everybody in January as in previous years. As well as including the current RNTA news and business, it will contain items and news about the National Trust in general, and about some local NT properties in particular. There will also be further information about the possibilities of organising Summer outings.


All the talks that were to have taken place this Autumn will now be presented next Autumn in 2021. We are grateful to all those speakers for kindly agreeing to return then, and some details of their talks will also appear in the Newsletter. We are also planning to have the usual full programme in the Spring of 2022, and that will include our next AGM. 


In the meantime, we are happy to see that membership renewals have been coming in well, as always, and that the new database that Michael Turner has put so much time and effort into, is working most efficiently.


For your information, a statement received from the National Trust following the new lockdown states:


“Following the announcement of a lockdown for England from Thursday 5th November until 2nd December, we intend to keep our gardens, parks and countryside sites open but will close our houses and shops. Where possible visitors will still be able to get takeaway food and drink and outdoor play areas will remain open in line with government guidance”.



So, even though RNTA appears to be a little dormant for the time being, we are still very much functioning. We will keep you up-to-date with developments as 2021 progresses, especially via our website.  We are looking forward to a complete restart next October, and in the meantime if you have any questions about any of this before you receive the next Newsletter, do please contact


Anne Turner  01788 519935,   or  George Brunavs  01788 811701,  or David Knapp  01788 817346.


We extend our best wishes to you all, and once again keep safe!

                                                                                                                      The RNTA Committee

A Letter From the Committee

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August 2020


To All Members of The Rugby National Trust Association (RNTA)


Hello everyone,


Firstly, we hope you are all keeping well and safe!


What a strange and testing year 2020 has turned out to be! As you will all know, our RNTA summer visits were clearly going to be unsafe in the current circumstances, and regrettably had to be cancelled.


Although the coronavirus threat may be very, very slowly receding, it is probably going to be with us for some time yet. Consequently, we at the RNTA Committee, have decided that it would be wisest to cancel all this Autumn’s scheduled talks at Dunchurch Village Hall and, disappointing though this is, we hope that you will agree that it would be too risky to carry on as normal. We shall try to re-arrange all 5 talks for dates in the 2021-2022 season.


We hope (providence willing) to pick up on the talks which have been arranged for Spring 2021, with the meeting on Thursday afternoon January 21st  2021, which as usual will start with a brief AGM.


Another consequence of the curtailment of our activities is that we are unable to publish our normal Autumn Newsletter this September. As with the talks, it is our hope to resume normal service with a full Spring 2021 Newsletter in January. Another short briefing will be sent out later in the Autumn, to update you with how things are progressing.


Keeping in Touch


To keep everyone informed, it will be much easier and save costs, if we can send out information by email. Unfortunately, we only have email addresses for about half of our members. If you have received a paper copy of this bulletin, we do not have your email address. To resolve this situation could you please send an email to: and just put your name and the first line of your address in the message and we will then be able to update our records. This will then make it easier to keep you informed as the situation develops. Do not worry if you do not have an email account, we will ensure you are kept informed by either post or phone.


Membership Renewal

Your membership renewal is vitally important to the association. Whilst the financial assets of the association are currently healthy, it is clear that the National Trust at local, regional and national level, is going to need the support of local associations, as well as individual members, more than ever before if they are to continue with their declared aim of promoting and protecting beautiful places for ever, for everyone to enjoy.



RNTA membership renewals for the year 2020/21 are payable from 1st October and remain at the same level as last year: £10 per member or £15 for joint members living at the same address. Many of you already pay by standing order but if you don’t, then you can renew your membership:-

- By making a bank transfer to the RNTA account at NatWest Bank - sort code 544100;     account no. 43070566.


- By sending a cheque, payable to RNTA, to David Knapp, RNTA Treasurer, 44 Orson Leys, Rugby, CV22 5RF.


Which National Trust properties are open?


Up to date reopening information can be found on the website:


 At the time of writing:

  • More than 135 gardens and parklands are open but visits must be booked in advance via the webpage for the property you want to visit. New tickets are released every Friday for visits in the following week


  • Many of the cafés at these places are open for takeaway refreshments. There are often tables outside and places to picnic.


  • Hundreds of coast and countryside car parks are open and most do not need to be booked


  • Seven houses in England and Northern Ireland have opened as part of a pilot to welcome back visitors to the houses and buildings the National Trust cares for.



Finally, as mentioned above, another briefing will be published around late October or early November, and in any case you can all keep up to date with everything at RNTA via the website (


As ever, you can always contact any Committee member about anything – their contact details are in your Spring 2020 Newsletter.



If you have a query, do please contact

Anne Turner                  01788 519935

George Brunavs             01788 811701

Dave Knapp                   01788 817346



All good wishes

The RNTA Committee

A Journey through the History of Attingham Park


Work started on Attingham Park in 1785 and the house remained in the hands of the Hill family until it was gifted to the National Trust. Saraid Jones gave an excellent presentation on the history of the family, the development of the park and the ongoing restoration. We discovered how the fortunes of the family changed as successive Barons of Berwick inherited the title. We then learnt about the various uses the house had been put to in the 20th century and the current projects being undertaken. Saraid illustrated the talk with numerous anecdotes and her enthusiasm made the presentation both informative and enjoyable. 


Attingham Park from the Air

©James Humphreys - SalopianJames / CC BY-SA (

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Head Gardener retires from Canons Ashby

Chris Smith has retired after 35 years as Head Gardener at Canons Ashby. He was in charge of the redesign and was very grateful to RNTA for donating the topiary trees which made such a difference. We shall miss him as he was so easy to approach but we are very pleased that Nadine Bayliss who has been Senior Gardener working under him and knows and loves the garden will be an excellent replacement.


Chris and Nadine taken at Chris’s leaving party.

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The Womens Land Army

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Following the Annual General Meeting Helen Frost gave a  very enjoyable talk on the Women's Land Army during World War I. We learnt how their contribution to forestry and food production saved Britain from disaster, when supplies were almost exhausted and production was falling behind demand. The talk was illustrated with numerous statistics that brought home the magnitude of the issues facing the country and showed how women, both in the land army and in the general population, toiled under difficult circumstances to provide food and timber.  Helen's enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject was much appreciated by the audience as she took us back to the dark days of the war and the difficult period that followed. 


At the Stables ©ImperialWarMuseum

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Christmas Lunch at Rockingham Castle

Members were gifted with a beautiful, if cold, sunny day for the Association’s annual Christmas outing. The coach arrived at Rockingham in time for morning coffee, taken in the Walkers House Restaurant. Following refreshments there was a tour of the castle. The tours were led by guides, assuming the roll of characters who would have worked in the castle at Christmas time in 1849. The commentary, that was both informative and amusing, brought to life the experience of visiting the castle for a Victorian Christmas.

Following the tour, we returned to the restaurant. It was beautifully decorated in the appropriate style for a Victorian Christmas. Lunch was then served with most members enjoying traditional turkey followed by Christmas pudding.

After lunch there was an opportunity to explore the grounds, that offered magnificent views across the countryside, made all the more attractive by the late afternoon sun.


Table laid for Christmas Dinner

Christmas fayre laid out in the kitchen

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New Carpet Fitted at Canons Ashby

After 7 years of use and the passage of approximately 400,000 pairs of feet, the time sadly came to replace the Staircase carpet. We worked with Grosvenor Wilton, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious carpet manufacturers, to design and make a new carpet.  Grosvenor Wilton still operates from their founding Kidderminster location, using historic looms. Their oldest loom is 120 years old and, whilst it has been converted from steam to electric power, it otherwise remains unchanged from its late nineteenth century design. 

 Grosvenor Wilton specialise in recreating authentic historic designs and they have been very pleased to work with us to create a design that is historically appropriate for Canons Ashby.  We have used Clara Dryden’s watercolours of the Staircase as a starting point for our research into patterns and, as per Clara’s paintings, the new carpet  features a strong pattern with a border and is primarily composed of blues and greens.

 Our Curator has conducted further research into patterns that would have been found in a house of Canons Ashby’s style and status. We worked with Grosvenor Wilton to draw up a number of potential designs to choose from with the intention to install the carpet in the spring of 2019. 


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The replacement carpet extends further through the ground floor of the Staircase to mirror the layout on the first floor landing, with one section running between the Dining Room and Book Room doors and another running between the Great Hall and South Front doors. This will act as protection for our floorboards in this area which are amongst the oldest and most vulnerable to damage in the house.  The new carpet has a cut pile, rather than the closed pile of the original carpet, which will better absorb the movement of footsteps and will, therefore, be more robust. It is anticipated that the new carpet will last for at least 15 years and, in this time, will protect the Staircase from the wear of over 1 million pairs of footsteps!

Helen Roadnight

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A Tour of Norfolk

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Roger Hailwood gave us a delightful tour round the county of Norfolk. We started at Cromer and took a circular route, seeing many places of interest along the way. The sights seen included ancient barns, interesting churches, a variety of windmills, as well as the broads and rivers themselves. Roger described many of the unique features associated with these buildings and accompanied the description with interesting anecdotes, bringing the history of the buildings to life.

Roger also talked about his own experience's sailing on the broads, illustrated with amusing stories.

Cley Windmill ©TourNorfolk

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A Norfolk Broads Scene ©TourNorfolk

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The History of the Willans Works in Rugby

Alain Foote, Chairman of the Willans Retirement Association, gave an absolutely fascinating and deeply researched account of the origins, development and fortunes of the Willans engineering works from its initial foundation at Thames Ditton in Surrey to its move to Rugby by the main London and North Western Railway’s network. He gave a vivid account of the various principal personalities involved in the running of the works and described examples of the firm’s products, many of them huge engines from the steam days through a period with steam turbines to modern diesel engines. All this was set into the context of Rugby town, and how this vibrant concern was interlinked with the town’s economic geography and history. The talk attracted another large audience, who were evidently engrossed and highly appreciative. A true labour of love by Alain, to whom we extend our warmest thanks.  

Thanks to George Brunavs for providing the above report.

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Willans Works ©Our Warwickshire

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Willans Workforce ©Our Warwickshire

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The Latest Supporter Group Newsletter is now available.

Click below to view the whole Newsletter

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The Englishman's Castle is his Home


Arundel Castle: The Shell Keep 


Caernarfon Castle


Pembroke Castle: The Circular Keep 

Keith Cattell gave a fascinating talk describing the development of the castle, from the earliest known example through to recently built homes designed to imitate castles. He showed how their design changed to cope with changes in military technology and how, once the need to withstand attack had receded, they became comfortable homes. He finished the talk with examples of wealthy men building mock castles, to enhance their status and suggested that people will never stop building castles. 


Beaumaris Castle

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Sudeley Castle and Gardens


Thanks to Mark Furber for these pictures taken during a very interesting and enjoyable visit.

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We all enjoyed the visit to Barnesdale but, I think, some people found it very hot. There were shady places to sit in the garden which was delightful, as the pictures show. However, the upper deck of the Rutland Belle, which most of us chose, was quite exposed and we were glad of our hats and even umbrellas used as sunshades. Many headed for the ice cream queue to cool off before setting off home.

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Thanks to Isobel Palmer for letting know about this trip and supplying photos showing what a lovely day was had by all.


And also thanks to Pauline Springett for these additional photographs.


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Burghley House on a Beautiful Day

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The weather was lovely for our trip to Burghley House. We had a superb driver giving us a very smooth journey.

Coffee in the Orangery Restaurant or Garden was welcome on arrival with scrumptious, large cookies that set us up for a look round the interesting house at our leisure. The Surprise Garden was a variety of water features in which children could play which was great on such a hot, sunny day. If you still had energy, there was the sculpture park to explore set among the trees and supplying plenty of shade if you wanted to linger.

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Thanks to Isobel Palmer for the pictures and telling us how much the trip was enjoyed.


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Also thanks to Pauline Springett for the additional pictures below.  Pauline was particularly taken with the sculptures scattered around the grounds.



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Many members enjoyed Derek Clarke's interesting talk about the repair and restoration of Tyntesfield back in 2017.  This trip provided an opportunity see the improvements to the house and grounds in a house that has changed little since Victorian times.


Thanks to Pauline Springett for providing pictures. 


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Visit to Kew Gardens and Palace

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As you will notice, it was a dull day but it didn't stop us from seeing so much. Many of our party took the 'train' to see a large part of the gardens with a very good commentary. All over the gardens we found glass artworks which were part of Dale Chihuly's 'Reflections on nature' which definitely brightened up our views! I'm sure there will be lots of photos of them in the February review of 2019.

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Thanks to Isobel Palmer for providing pictures and letting us know how much the visit was enjoyed

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How to make a Pork Pie

The visit to Melton Mowbray and Belvoir Castle started with a demonstration showing how to make a traditional pork pie. Following the demonstration members enjoyed exploring the town on a lovely sunny day. Beside the normal attractions it was the day for both the street market and the cattle market to add to the interest.

Following lunch in the town the party moved on to Belvoir Castle.



St Mary's Church

On arrival at the castle the group enjoyed an interesting and informative guided tour followed by the opportunity to enjoy the gardens at their leisure 



Thanks to Pauline Springett for the pictures and information about the trip



Making a traditional Melton Mowbray Pork Pie


Belvoir Castle

Thanks to Tony Smith for these additional pictures of Belvoir Castle and the surrounding landscape


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Another Wet Walk From Hatton Locks

Unfortunately, for the second year running, the weather was not kind for the walk. Five of us joined Mark and walked mostly in the rain, although it did stop for a short while. It was very wet underfoot but we enjoyed it - good company - followed by lunch in the Canal Café.

Thanks to Isobel for letting us know about the walk and for the pictures.

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Visit to the Richard III Centre and Leicester Cathedral

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King Richard III Tomb

The visit went very well with a tour of the Cathedral in two groups. We then went across to the Richard III Centre where we had a soup and a sandwich lunch (very good value). After that we went our separate ways to view the exhibition. The staff and volunteers were brilliant - so helpful.

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Thanks to Isobel Palmer for the report and pictures

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Canons Ashby in Bloom

Thanks to Isobel for these pictures showing the magnificent floral displays at Canons Ashby. Isobel tells me the flower bed near the house is particularly spectacular.

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A Camera in the Cotswolds

Holmes 20.03.19 - Castle Combe (Daily Ma

After spending many years photographing the Cotswolds, Keith Holmes is able to present a fascinating story, illustrating the beautiful but ever changing landscape. On his many visits Keith has not only taken evocative pictures of the region, but has also talked to local people. Passing on the stories and history he has discovered really brought the Cotswolds to life. 

Castle Combe (Daily Mail)

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We have now purchased the terracotta pots, benches and materials to improve the wild play corner. Using yours, and another donation, together we have bought 3 wheelchair accessible picnic benches and one normal bench, to replace and increase our current seating in the paddock.

Helen Avery Clarke

Programming and Communications Officer Canons Ashby

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Discovering the Spirit of Place in the Gardens at Packwood

Having served his 'apprenticeship' at Powis Castle in Wales and Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens in Kent, Mick was appointed head gardener at Packwood House some 20 years ago. Under his leadership, the gardens at Packwood today take the form of a contemporary mingled style garden with herbaceous borders, wildflower meadows and a beautiful orchard, as well as the magnificent yew garden and a recently restored kitchen garden.

In his fascinating and beautifully illustrated talk to more than 100 members, Mick explained in some detail how he had gone about transforming the raised terrace borders, as well as re-establishing the parallel borders and developing a drought resistant garden; all in keeping with the original 'spirit of Packwood'. The borders that Mick has created at Packwood are renowned for their distinctive 'mingled' style which consists of small groups or single plants being repeated at intervals to create a vivid tapestry of plants crammed closely together.

Mick's most recent garden transformation at Packwood has been the restoration of the kitchen garden which we hope will be the subject of a future talk.

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During the talk, RNTA Vice-Chair, George Brunavs, presented Mick with a cheque for £1,000 to support the work of Mick and his team in developing the gardens at Packwood.

Thanks to David Knapp for the pictures and report.


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The King Under the Car Park

Iain Gordon, from the Richard III Centre in Leicester, gave an informative talk telling the fascinating, and seemingly improbable, story surrounding the discovery of King Richard's remains. We learnt how research, rumour and even mistakes eventually led to the dig in the car park. How, amazingly, the body was discovered almost immediately. Iain then took us through the complex scientific and historical research needed to establish this was really King Richard's skeleton.

Facial Reconstruction: Based on three dimensional scan of Richard's skull, contemporary descriptions and portraits. 

King Richard III's Coat of Arms


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Thanks to the generous support of our members, a total of £2,460 has been donated to three local National Trust properties:


Canons Ashby - £960

  • Large frost resistant terracotta pots.

  • Wild play equipment for the family area in the paddock.

  • Additional wooden bench for the formal garden


Farnborough Hall - £1,000

  • Information boards to reflect the new park plan and local walks


Stoneywell - £500

  • Additional/replacement china for the tearoom

  • Additional/replacement gardening tools (lopper and secateurs)


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Christmas Lunch and visit to Waddesdon Manor

Forty six members enjoyed  a Christmas lunch at the Five Arrows Hotel prior to visiting Waddesdon Manor.  The Manor was beautifully decorated for Christmas based on the theme "Animal Menagerie". In the grounds was a Christmas Market selling a wide variety of products, many hand crafted, and a wide selection of foods and drinks. After dark the front of the house was magically transformed with a Son et Lumiere display and the grounds were dotted with art installations.

Illuminated dragon in the grounds at Waddesdon Manor

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Capability Brown at Compton Verney

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Compton Verney 1  Uploaded by tm) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Gary Webb, the Head Gardener at Compton Verney, gave a very interesting talk illustrating how Lancelot Capability Brown moulded the landscape of the Park, and how his influence can still be seen to this day. We were introduced to Capability Brown, learning about his career from his humble upbringing to his death when he was mourned by the highest in the land.  We also saw what the Estate was like before Brown arrived, how it has changed since and what is planned for the future.

Lancelot "Capability" Brown

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Stormy clouds on arrival

Hatton Locks walk transformed into a visit to Charlecote
Due to torrential rain and flooded roads the walk around Hatton Locks had to be abandoned.  However, determined to make the most of the day, some members opted to visit Charlecote Park where they enjoyed lunch and an interesting guided tour of the house. 

The sun breaks through later in the day

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Sir John Turner Dryden’s Waistcoats now on display at Canons Ashby

Historic garments are notoriously difficult to display as they are so easily damaged by adverse environmental conditions.  These waistcoats have, for their own protection, been kept in safe storage, unavailable for public viewing.

With the aid of a donation from Rugby National Trust Association, Canons Ashby are now able to display these waistcoats in a protected environment so visitors can enjoy  viewing these historic garments.

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Visit to Renishaw Hall and Gardens

Members enjoyed beautiful weather for their exclusive visit to Renishaw Hall.

Pictures kindly provided by Pauline Springett

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A Beautiful Day at Cottesbrooke Hall

A perfect sunny afternoon greeted members on an enjoyable and interesting visit to Cottesbrooke Hall and Gardens. The guided tour of the house showcased the amazing collection of equestrian art. Tea and cake was provided following the visit to the house, and this was much appreciated on one of the hottest days of the year. Afterwards there was time to explore the gardens and enjoy the beautifully landscaped park 

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A Slow Coach to Stoke Bruerne

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It was a very good day. We enjoyed the novelty of the old fashioned coach but I think we were all glad to know we will be reverting to a speedier, modern, air conditioned coach for the next trip. 

We had an excellent lunch at The Boat Inn followed by a boat trip through the Blisworth Tunnel with a super commentary about the canal and the tunnel. Aileen organised an outing that was a bit different and much appreciated by all of us who went.

Thanks to Isobel for the story and pictures

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Visit to Hartlebury Castle
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Pictures kindly provided by Pauline Springett

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A Day Out in Windsor
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Pictures kindly provided by Pauline Springett

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Our Victorian Architectural Heritage

Keith Cattell gave a fascinating lecture illustrating the huge variety in the building styles adopted during the "Victorian" era.  To guide us through this period he used bridges to establish a clear timeline. Unlike the myriad of architectural styles, bridge development progressed steadily as engineering capability improved.   


The Iron Bridge over the Severn Gorge. 

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A Journey Requiring a Sense of Humour and a Cast Iron Stomach

Butler 17.10.18 Silk Road - Taldyk Pass

Butler 17.10.18 Silk Road - Taldyk Pass (Gustavo Jeronimo)

Roger Butler brought to life his exciting journey through Nepal, Tibet and Western China, eventually reaching Pakistan. The people he met and the places he visited were illustrated with slides and stories allowing the audience to enjoy spectacular landscapes and culture, without enduring the hardships suffered along the way.

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A Beautifully Illustrated Guide to the Wildlife in Our Gardens

Chris Ward delivered an information packed talk beautifully illustrated with spectacular photographs. Many of the images were received by gasps from the audience, as the close ups of birds and insects revealed a level of detail normally impossible to see. 

We also learnt how to create an environment, in our gardens, that will encourage and support a diverse range of wildlife. Chris also explained the importance of gardens to endangered species, as their natural habitats shrink.


Seven-spot Ladybird - College Lake, nr.

Seven Spot Ladybird    Copyright Chris Ward

Waxwing (no.7) - Woburn, Beds Dec 2010 4

Chris has his own website displaying his considerable skill as a wild life and landscape photographer,  To visit this enjoyable site click on the link below:


Waxwing    Copyright Chris Ward

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Christmas Lunch at Ragley Hall


Members experienced a most enjoyable start to the seasonal festivities with a visit to Ragley Hall. We received a warm welcome as we arrived, with coffee waiting for us in the restaurant.

 Coffee was followed by a tour of the House. We  learnt about the history of the Seymour family and their long association with Ragley Hall. As the Hall is still occupied by the descendants of Henry VIII's third wife it was fascinating to see so many historically significant items remaining. Unusually, we also saw how recent owners continue to make their impression with additions to be enjoyed by future generations.

Following the tour Christmas Lunch was served with good food and good company being enjoyed by all. Finally there was time for a walk in the grounds before boarding the coach for the return journey.


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