Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hanging Out in Northhamptonshire

We went down to visit Rachael, Paul, and Hetty in the autumn. They always have cool things to show us and this trip included a visit to a nearby 16th century ruin. The building was begun in the mid 1500s, but never completed.  
Livened New Bield
It was a part of Sir Thomas Tresham's manor and was intended to be a garden lodge, basically a party lodge (and place of secret worship, but I'll get to that in a second) that the family and friends could walk to from the manor house by way of orchards, terraces, and canals. 
Graffiti circa 1792
Sir Thomas Tresham was a very wealthy landowner during the Tudor period and a devout Catholic. After Henry VIII separated from the Catholic church it was very dangerous to continue practicing Catholicism. The Tresham family did not want to change religions, so the garden lodge was also a place where they could privately worship. 
Graffiti circa 1824
For many years historians didn't know what happened to the home owners or why the garden lodge was never completed. But in 1832 someone found notes and letters concealed in the walls of the manor house that detail the fall of the Tresham family. 
Catholic Images
Using the found notes, historians have been able to piece together the fact that Sir Thomas was a threat to the crown and suffered financial setbacks before his death in 1605. After his death the tradesmen put down their tools and never worked on the garden lodge again. A few years after his death Sir Thomas' son, Francis, was identified as a conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot (AKA Guy Fawkes debacle) and all of the lands were striped from the Tresham family. 
Three distinct stories
The garden lodge has sat, unfinished, since the fall of the family Tresham for over 400 years. As you can see, in photos above, people have been hanging out in the abandoned, half-built building throughout that time. Some of them even carved graffiti in the stone. I'd imaging many a teenage kegger (or whatever the equivalent was back in the day) has taken place within this shell of an almost building. 
Gorgeous views
Paul, Rachael's husband, is a archaeologist and helped many years ago uncovering some of the garden features that had once been prominent during the Elizabethan era. Things like the canals, terraces, and mounts in the photos below. 
Planned canal and garden house as seen from the top of the mount
Purpose-built canal
Planned terraced mount
And we had sweet Hetty there to keep us all in check. Bill took the last photo below, but he was there, too!
Sweet Hetty
Me and the Stampers

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Queen's Dresses

Every now and again I get to go to the big city and pretend I'm all fancy. Last Autumn my friend Julie asked me if I wanted to go down to London, tour Buckingham Palace and see their special exhibit on the queen's gowns. I said yes. Duh! 
In Green Park
We went down on the morning train, arriving in time to grab lunch take-away in the train station and heading to Green Park for a little picnic. When the sun's out in England, you make the most of it!

How Green Park got its name: 
King Charles II was quite a cad. He loved women and was rather flamboyant. One day he and his entourage, including his wife and her ladies-in-waiting, took a stroll through what is now called Green Park.  One of the men gathered a bunch of flowers growing in the park and gave them to the king and told him he should present them to the loveliest woman in the park. Everyone looked at the king and queen, standing next to one another and smiled, expecting a lovely little scene. But the king took the bouquet over to one of the other ladies, bowed low, and presented her, not his wife, with the flowers. The queen was furious (as anyone would be in such a scenario) and demanded that every flower in the park be ripped out and never be re-planted. To this day, Green Park is a gorgeous, grassy park… with not a single flower. 
In the Queen's backyard
The dresses on exhibit were absolutely fantastic! Sadly, no pictures were allowed, but we not only saw many of her dresses from diplomatic events, but also her wedding and coronation dresses. She is a tiny woman and was super-thin when she was younger. I don't think I would have ever been able to fit into any of her 'younger days' frocks!   
Buckingham Palace's back patio and garden
We left Buckingham Palace with 30 minutes to get back to Kings Cross station to catch our train. We exited the palace far from the entrance and had to hoof it to the closest tube station. It was rush hour and we had to ride the tube for 6, painfully slow stops. When we arrived at Kings Cross tube station we had six minutes to run from the platform, up several escalators, over to the trains station, find our train platform and get on. We made it with two minutes to spare, sweaty and out of breath. But we made it!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Harwood House's Steam Rally

Some friends of ours asked us if we wanted to go to a steam rally at a local manor house. Having never been to a steam rally (in all honesty, I didn't even know what one was), we agreed to meet them there for the afternoon. 
Steam engine calliope
A steam rally turned out to be an event where steam engine enthusiasts from all over the country (and the continent) bring their beloved machines to show them off to other steam engine enthusiasts. 
Another view of the calliope
The steam engine in the first two photos ran the calliope machine in the short video below.

There were lots of steam-powered vehicles. Tractors,

A bevy of steam powered vehicles
saw mills,
A steam powered lumber mill / saw thingy
and even steam rollers!
Steam powered roller
They certainly aren't the cleanest environmental machine, but they were still pretty darned cool. Bill and our friend Nick, both engineers, really got a kick out of talking to a few of the people about the mechanics of the steam engines. 
Yet another steam engine
At one point Bill started up a conversation with one of the people showing this traditional traveler wagon. They talked for so long, I thought for sure Bill was going to become a mark for one of the infamous traveler long cons. But it turns out they were just really friendly people :-)  
A traditional travelers wagon. 
The rally was in the gardens of the famed Harwood House. The house's interior (which I've been in, but didn't go on this day) is currently being used for filming of the ITV / PBS series, Victoria. I actually want to go back there sometime this summer as they currently have season one's costumes on display. 
A few of our friends with steam engines in the background
Even more steam engines
But I digress. This day was all about steam engines and the steam rally. Some of the engines had incredibly details, like the brass below. 
Brass detail 
I had to include the photo below of Portsonachan. If you are ever tempted to buy a weekend at Portsonachan, don't. There is a reason they sell cheap vouchers at fairs, rallies, and markets… it's an old, run down resort. The people there were nice enough, but no. Just don't. 
And what's a steam rally without a visit with a wee owl?! Whenever I see birds of prey available for holding, I just can't stop myself. This little guy was super cute. He had lots of friends hanging out with him, too. 
My new buddy
A wee owl
But I was too chicken to hold any of the hawks. Their beaks are a little too sharp for me, thankyouverymuch!
And last, but not least… Apparently you can't go to a steam rally without watching a death-defying, Evil Knievel-style super bike show before heading home for the day.
Motorcycle jumping

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Dad Plays Non-Mini-Golf

One of Dad's bucket list items was to play golf (real golf, not the mini kind) whilst in England.
Moor Allerton Golf Course
We called around and found two courses nearby that were happy to lend a set of golf clubs for a round of golf. We visited both of them, and by far the Moor Allerton course was the friendliest, most accommodating. They were happy to give him a tee-time from the next day, and so back we went, bright and early for a round of golf!
Cafe first thing in the morning
I am not a golfer and my Dad enjoys puttering around by himself, so I brought my kindle and iPad and parked myself in the pretty little cafe and awaited his return. 
My window view from the cafe
After about an hour the cafe was busier and lots of friendly golfers were enjoying the sunshine. Because we arrived so early, I had a terrific corner window view and people watched almost as much as I read my book!
Add caption
Earlier that week the Moor Allerton gold course had hosted a PGA tournament of some sort. Clearly not a major one as we had never heard of it, but a PGA tournament is still a PGA tournament! 
The PGA leaderboard still on display
My Dad had a great time! And the next day he had to fly back home to California. 
The happy golfer
I can't wait until he comes back out for another fun visit! 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Food and Drink Festivities

Dad's last weekend in Yorkshire was a bright and sunny one. Save for that flash rain shower… but you know, England…

Our first stop was to the Masham (pronounced Maa-sum) institution, Theakston's! We took a brewery tour before using out tour token for pints. We each chose to get three 1/3 pint samples so we could try several of their fine ales. 
Theakston's - It's Yorkshire for beer!
Dad enjoying a wee pint!
We then walked over to the Masham town centre for lunch before heading to another institution - Brymoor's Ice Cream! It's on the Brymoor dairy farm, and their ice cream is freshly made and always delish! 
Bill's wee ice cream sundae
Dad's ice cream cone
That evening we met folks at our local outdoor space called Valley Gardens. The garden was hosting a food truck festival boasting more than 50 different types of food trucks. While we had a fantastic time, the sky opened up and the rain came pouring down. 
The eastern European band
However, it was a three-day weekend and the trucks were there all weekend. So, the next day Bill (sadly) had to go to work, but Dad and I walked back down to the food truck festival. What a gloriously, sunny day! 
Soaking up the rare Yorkshire sunshine
Pasty white Brits getting their tan on!
The ground was still quite muddy in places, but the festival provided lots of lawn chairs. Dad and I couldn't find any unoccupied chairs, so we simply walked around for hours. We saw… 
A mobile kid's tub
Kids taking 'baths' (wearing bathing costumes, as they say in the UK)…
Waffle cart
and sampled Greek food,
Bar cart
Sunshine in Valley Gardens
More food trucks
and sun! lots and lots of sun!
The popular gin bar
Sadly, the foot traffic and rain made a muddy mess of the garden. The Valley Garden folks were quite miffed that the grass had to be re-planted in many spots and vowed never to let a big event like this take place again. However, it was such a HUGE success and brought in so much money, I'm hoping they change their minds over time and host the Food Truck Festival again this year. 
The coffee car
My fingers are crossed, anyway! 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Leeds Royal Armories

Okay, so it's been a while since I posted anything. My bad…

Let's start where I last signed off, with a visit from my Dad last summer. I took him to the Leeds Royal Armories, a free museum that may or may not have lots and lots of scary, murder-y and war-y things. 
Hall of steel
My Dad got to pretend he was a famous jouster!
The Dad in shining Armor
We also got a very good look at the famous painting depicting the battle of Waterloo.
Lady Butler's Charge of the Scot's Greys at Waterloo in 1815.
And a famous portrait of Henry VIII. I am pretty sure this was a replica of the famous 16th Century portrait, but it could have been the original. If it was the original, it certainly didn't have much in the way of security.
16th C portrait of Henry VIII
Last, but not least, we tried our hand at shooting crossbows. Dad was the clear winner, but I at least eventually got my arrows to stick into the target after a few tries. 
Crossbow Practice
Crossbow winner
I even forgot to put on my protective eyewear. So… yeah. I'm not going to become crossbow champion any time soon. 
Crossbow novice
Upon departing Leeds we hit the end-of-work rush hour Leeds traffic, Leeds is not a city I enjoy driving through in the best of circumstances (crazy one-way roads, illegal bus lanes that sneak up on you, parked cars you have to slalom around, etc.), but leaving the city centre during rush hour was definitely not fun. I caught my Dad pumping his foot on a non-existant break peddle (he was in the US driver's seat in a UK car, so he was fairly stressed) on several occasions. I'm pretty sure that hour-long drive was the reason I received a dash cam for Christmas a few months later :-)