Monday, April 2, 2012

Day 6 - Sandringham and on to Stamford

Palm Sunday 1st April 2012

It’s a very slow morning today. Breakfast is at 8:45 so journaling fills the early morning hours. Then it is a last minute scramble as the bells call the faithful to the Sunday service.  The adrenaline rush period of the trip is over.  That always lasts three days for me then it’s time to pace yourself a bit.  I stick pretty much to the light buffet items for breaky. Hubby goes for porridge this time and then some french toast, which I sample. Lovely. Though it would be convenient to rush off the conversation is again a highlight and we’re slow to drag ourselves away.  How fortunate we’ve been these last three days to have coincided with such lovely friendly fellow guests.
It’s nearly 11 oclock by the time we’re driving away.  Our stay at the Old Pump House has been really great and they certainly do deserve their 5* rating.
We’ve seen two pheasants before the clock gets to 11 am. The brooding grey clouds of yesterday are a thing of the past. Drought does have its up side I suppose, although I do love the colder cloudier weather. Rain is such a luxury.
Scooting along Briston Road we see another squirrel scamper into the safety of the hedgerow. This is our third squirrel, but I can’t for the life of me remember where we saw the others. Perhaps it was from the coach. In any case each time it has been somewhere that we couldn’t just stop and admire them.  I do so love squirrels with their jaunty little tails that have every hair arranged precisely to give best effect. I do hope we see lots more on our trip.
There is some variation in the scenery as we drive across to Sandringham, for quite a while as we approach Little Snoring the roadside is bordered with dense woodland trees and behind those there is a pine forest.  We emerge from the wooded area and there is a sudden change in character to the buildings. Rather than the flint that is such a feature in other places here the construction is more a dry stone look using narrow stone in a beautiful rich orangey brown. Very striking.  We pass a dead hare on the road who has gone to a better place leaving jaunty ears flapping in the violent eddies of passing cars.  A representative of quite a lot of road kill we’ve seen over the trip.  All of a sudden many people ahead of us are turning.  All of us heading for Sandringham.  We are travelling alongside a magnificent high dry stone wall in the same beautiful stone we have observed in this area.  There are signs that most of the cars follow to a food and craft fair. We go straight ahead.  Then, WOW look at those gates!  That is clearly the residence of the Queen.  When we come to it,  I don’t at first notice the visitor centre as I’m looking the wrong way. I’m puzzled by the many many people who are parking on a wide grassy verge and pulling out folding chairs and sitting in the sun.  What the?  What a strange thing to do right there by the road. …and yet everyone’s doing it.  Hubby pipes up. Yeah, they encourage people to bring picnics.  Hmm. Odd spot for a picnic.. oh well, each to their own I suppose.  We have done with our aimless exploring and head back to the car park.
There’s a lot of cars already parked but we have no difficulty finding a space. Hubby’s a bit anxious about the luggage in the car, but there is a police car loitering in the car park and I point this out. I think this is probably the last place we need to worry about leaving luggage in the car.
We walk through to the visitor centre and have a brief browse around the many and varied tempting preserves and a wide range of souvenirs.  For now we just pay our entry fee and concentrate on getting the sightseeing out of the way.
Across from the entrance hut there is a large stone cross.  Most people are ignoring it and heading into the grounds.  There are a lot of names listed on the various panels of the memorial. I think I know what this is about and the inscription confirms it.
This cross was erected by King George V and Queen Mary to honour the memory of the officers and men of the Sandringham Company 5th Battalion Norfolk regiment and those on the estate who fell in the Great War. Their name liveth forevermore. 

From what I understand those of the Sandringham company who survived the actual battle were taken prisoner and are believed to have been massacred. I later note that this is not noted in the museum material though.  Just one of so many tragic stories of that war. As I contemplate the memorial, hubby points out the seriously nifty heavy chain in the low fence that marks the ceremonial ground.  Now that is a cool chain!
We head into the grounds and consulting the map provided decide we’ll start by walking over the lake it’s gardens.  The house is visible in the distance across broad lawns and specimen trees underplanted with daffodils. 

There’s not a lot happening in the garden at this time of year.  Large clumps of ferns are just beginning to send up fronds but these are not yet unfurling.

Further along the hellebores are making a lovely show, but it’s clearly not the optimal time of year to be coming here especially for garden appreciation. 

Nonetheless we enjoy a pleasant walk through the grounds, past a thick planting of what I guess are heaths and/or heathers in vibrant pinks, and up to the house.  We decide we will get this out of the way in case there are more people to deal with later on.

Many of the trees in the grounds are very large and clearly very old.  Hubby provides scale to a huge conifer. We marvel and move on.
At the house a lady on the door takes our tickets and we wander in.   The first room is now used as a family room. Furniture has been moved aside to enable placement of “visitor carpet” and rope barrier.  Personal Objects and old family photographs abound.  Apparently this is wear the family watch TV.  There’s a fabulous set of Italian armour on the wall.  The attendant comments that there is a lot of armour in the house and it was mostly given to Albert Edward Prince of Wales / Edward VII in this travels.  Until we walk through the door to leave this room I don’t appreciate jus how much armour we are about to see.  I love it.  Set after set of armour from all sorts of exotic places by the look of them. Magnificently arranged on the walls in the corridor and later around the large ballroom.  They really are quite stunning. Another favourite for me were the two little cannons given by Napolean III to Prince Albert Edward when he was a child. How awesome is that. Never mind the little match stick firing cannon hubby had as a kid. How’d you like a real miniature one like those on display! Awesome!
Hubby’s favourite element of the tour follows as we move through a broad corridor past display cabinet after display cabinet of guns. Antiques. Some extremely valuable. Some inlaid with gold. What a collection!
The touring route takes you through a bright airy room that looks out over the “front” gardens where the Queen apparently enjoys taking her afternoon tea also the dining room with table to seat 28.  I enjoyed seeing the portraits of King Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark. Parents of Alexandra.  And the poignancy of the portrait of “Nicky” who was of course Tzar and was executed by the revolutionaries.  Hubby asked me at one point before going into the house, if I could believe I was actually here.  It’s a strange feeling when it comes to it.  Sandringham wasn’t a main draw for me, more convenient for the other things on our plan. You know, may as well seeing as we’re passing.  I appreciate the opportunity to admire the fabulous armour of course, but on the whole I don’t know that I’m entirely comfortable with traipsing through someone’s private home like this, especially people who lead such public lives and who work hard providing leadership and encouragement to people.  Most of what we’re looking at is historic so perhaps not so much an intrusion on the current family’s privacy in that respect. No doubt the tours bring income for the estate which is important too of course, so I wouldn’t say don’t come and don’t regret visiting at all. It just feels a bit weird. Certainly making ones own home a public gawking place for a price is not a necessity most of the rest of us have had to adopt. There is a price for the privilege of having such an estate, clearly. 
We head out to the grounds and on to the museum and café. No plain scones available so we are once more foiled in our desire to have a cream tea. We opt for a slice of cake, hot chocolate for hubby and an apple juice for me, this time cox apple juice from the Sandringham orchards…delicious.. loooove the apple juice... 

Then we’re in to the museum. What a splendid collection of vehicles! Easily my favourite is the first royal vehicle bought by Edward VII.  That is way cool. 

 There were a lot of panels talking about the house in the eras of different monarchs. Another panel about the loss of the Sandringham Company.  I was interested to learn about the schools set up by Queen Mary for carving etc after the Great War.  We spent about an hour in the museum. 
We a take a walk through the woodland and back towards our car. Luck is with us because the woodland walk brings us to the main gates. The incredible piece of workmanship that is the main gates. They are simply spectacular.

We check whether we can make Clare Cottage today, but as it is 2.45 and last entry is at 3pm. We’re too late for that today. On the upside we have time to have another look in the gift shop.  Some excitement when I notice the sign that says a full range of varietal apple juices from the estate are available at the plant centre… I say what!  I’m out the door and over to the plant centre quick stix.  Sure enough there they are, but the other varieties , though good value are only available in the large bottles. We choose only two :o( conscious of limitations on what we can both consume and carry.  We then head back and pick up the book on Sandringham £5, some eccles cakes to try (hmm… not bad.. probably nice warm with custard) and some jelly meerkats for daughter even labeled “a gift from Sandringham”.
As we walk back to the car we notice the abundance of families in the large area of parkland adjoining the visitor centre. There’s a large playground for kids and a tractor with passenger wagon attached for tours of the estate.  This certainly seems like a popular destination even if you’re not going into the house or grounds.
We’re done with Sandringham and instruct tomtom accordingly.  It’s a fairly uneventful drive from Sandringham to Stamford across the fens. Scenery is fairly underwhelming along the way on the route tomtom is taking us, though at one point we drive along a rise that gives expansive views across the countryside.The highway is briefly congested then returns to free flowing and a quick trip.
Stamford on entry provides quite an impact. Lots of stone buildings in a beautifully consistent honey colour. Very atmospheric. We miss the entry to the Bull and Swan at Burghly and are obliged to take a spin around the town which reveals that the consistency of building material and style is widespread.  We’re looking forward to exploring. Helped out by tomtom to bring us back to our destination.
 We rest up and journal on arrival at the  The Bull and Swan at Burghly  and head down for dinner.  We again show some mild restraint here and skip dessert.. thought they did try to tempt me with apple and blackberry pie.. hmm.. apple pie.. anyway.. Hubby opted for sampling a scotch egg. Though I won that course with my selection of fish cake with house tartare sauce. Very tasty.  For mains there was much procrastination (evidence of fatigue level) before hubby requested the pie of the day which was beef and Guinness with pearl onions (very tasty).  Having been tempted to try the sausages I ended up going for the crisp pork belly with dauphinoise and a sort of bacon coleslaw concoction on the top. Nice but the pork was a bit tough and the top, while crisp was not tender. The dauphinoise with the slaw topping was very yummy.  Tonight Hubby has adopted a new beer selection strategy.  Just ask for something local.  An Ale. Light. This time it’s Oakham’s JHB (Jeffrey Hudson Bitter) which is pronounced  “good”.  Ah.. the days of “lovely” beers have passed. Is this significant? Does this reflect any difference in the appreciation of the beer?  Hubby seems bemused by the question… and smiles.. then explains in more detail how he’s finding the beer.  Excepting the beer at RH in Norwich the beer is cellar temperature, which is cool but not really chilled. It’s good but tonight’s drop would be better if it were colder.  All in all perfectly a satisfactory meal.
I’m completely over spending all my spare time journaling. Not tonight. We sleep.

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