I think I can say that it was very successful, thanks to the beautiful weather, scenery and the fact that everyone, including Richard our driver remained hale and hearty for the whole five days.
We set off on Sunday morning, bathed in sunshine. This had been almost too much to hope for, as up until then our spring weather had been disappointing to say the least. The coach was full and the passengers were in good spirits. We were blessed with a very personable driver who’s driving skill was to be put to the test on the narrow winding Lake District roads
Our first stop was for coffee in Aberystwyth, then lunch in Chirk. The gardens were looking pretty and the rhododendrons and azaleas glowed in the sun. Our destination was to be an hotel just outside of Lancaster- the Lancaster House Hotel and we arrived in good time. The check in process was a little chaotic when we found that we had to make our menu choices for dinner at the same time. The chaos continued into the dining room as too few waiting staff tried to cope with our varied menu choices, but everyone was good natured and spent the time renewing old friendships or making new ones.
Monday saw us heading off for Coniston Pier to board the Steam Gondola, run by the National Trust after spending many years in a state of dereliction. It was as good as new, almost silent in its operation, and despite a touch of oil on pair of favourite trousers, everyone marked the trip as one to remember. A small splinter group disembarked at John Ruskin’s landing stage, where they were able to enjoy an interesting poke around his house, the stupendous views across the lake, strolls around the garden and a pretty fine cafe. The larger party went on to Grasmere, where a goodly number made a bee line for an unassuming NT property- Allanbank- and enjoyed a restorative hour or so -again enjoying views to remember. By now the splinter group had rejoined the majority and after boarding the coach we headed off for the last treat of the day- Holehird Gardens
Run by the Lakeland Horticultural Society, it is perched on a hillside with incredible views. The walled garden and its environs had many enthralled and would be sure to get a good rating on trip advisor!
Day 3 saw us Blackwell an arts and craft house standing above Lake Windermere. Split into two groups we learned the history of its coming into being, thanks to the architect Baillie-Scott and the first owner of this impressive holiday cottage, the wealthy Manchester brewer Sir William Holt. Everyone was struck by the attention to detail, the maximisation of light and the craftmanship.
A short journey brought us to Sizergh- a fortified house that had been in the Strickland family for over 700 years. Lunch, a tour of the grounds and house, brought the day to a peaceful end.
Day 4 saw us going back to Windermere, boarding a Launch for a trip to the southern end of the lake at Lakeside, counting the islands as we went- still in the sun and still counting our blessings. We finished the day at Holkham Hall- once the home of several Dukes of Devonshire -not .a NT property but highly recommended both for its house and amazingly varied garden. By now the small cubby hole in the coach that Richard had kept clear of any luggage, was overflowing with plants that had been purchased, by a very few members of the party. For this reason only it was just as well that this was to be the last proper day of the holiday.
Back to the hotel, nerves were
jangling in anticipation of the post prandial quiz.
A good three quarters of our number nailed their colours to the mast and in the end it was a close run result (- if only the rest of the team had accepted the Sahara desert!)
Too soon our little holiday was at an end- back on the coach the next morning with a final flourish in Powys Castle. We were treated to more wonderful gardens, some trying hard to avert their eyes from the plant sales. Another refreshment stop in Aberaeron and abracadabra we were home.
Bountiful thanks to Andrew for all his meticulous planning and ensuing insomnia and to Richard for bringing us safely back through tiny lanes filled with occasional would- be marathon runners, caravans and coaches. Those 5 days have filled our memory boxes with good humour and pleasing images to treasure until the next time.
At the AGM, Chairman Andrew Weaver reflected on a variety of well supported events.. From monies raised during the year and using some of the carried over financial balance, a donation of £5050 was made towards Pembrokeshire NT projects. £1750 of this will go to Tenby Tudor Merchants House for dolls and the herb garden. £1800 will fund an interpretation board to tell the story of the winch wheel from mining days that is being brought to the Little Milford car park in Hook. Colby will utilise the remaining £1500 for additional bat detectors and bug hunting and identification kits.
After the formal meeting, Ranger Sarah Jones gave a talk about Dinefwr NT, concentrating mainly on the Fallow Dear herd and the White Park cattle. We look forward to seeing her work in action on our Day Trip to Llandeilo on 21st June 2018.
David Dando told us the 18th century story of Englishman Thomas Paine, son of a corset maker, who followed briefly in his father’s footsteps, but later took to writing pamphlets such as “Common Sense” and “The Rights of Man”. These often struck a chord with the general populace, and sold widely, but often irritated the establishment.He travelled and had influence with the leaders of the Independence Movement in the USA, and later moved to France as the Revolution progressed.
On Thursday 4th January 2018, at Crundale Hall, Martin Roberts told us the reasons for construction of the first Smalls Lighthouse, in the late eighteenth century and how it was brought about on the challenging wave cut platform 23 miles west of Solva.
He went on to describe in dramatic fashion the drama of the death of one lighthouse keeper and the drift to insanity of his work partner as the dead mans’ finger tap tapped at the glass window.
Following his January talk on Costa Rica, Julian made a welcome return, on 7th December 2017, to tell us about his expedition to Madagascar. As well as showing us fine photographs of the wildlife, he included geographical information plus social and political details of the island, to put the ecology in context. He was helped in finding animals to capture on digital media, by experienced locals who would smear branches with banana and send text message to his guide when creatures showed up.