Category Archives: UK

Whitehall Palace – Banqueting Rooms

Re-blogged because I have now accessed some images from Historic Royal Palaces which help flesh out the text.

To London last week with the British Guild of Travel Writers for our Annual Summer Outing which this year included a visit to the Banqueting House in Whitehall, a tour on a Big London Bus and a Cruise on the River Thames with City Cruises, the boat that allows you to get off at any stop along the route.  The open-top bus tour and the river cruise took place in blazing sunshine and although London sights are familiar, the landmarks and historic sites never fail to thrill.

London Bridge

The Banqueting House is the last surviving part of the Palace of Whitehall*.   It was once the greatest palace of its time in Europe, almost totally destroyed by fire in 1698, but I knew nothing of its history until this visit.

The Great Hall
© Historic Royal Palaces/Peter Li
A view of the great hall and its ceiling decorated with paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens at the Banqueting House. The ceiling canvases were commissioned by James I’s son, Charles I, in 1629-30 to celebrate his father’s life and wise government. They represent the only scheme painted by Rubens to remain in its original position

The Banqueting House was created for King James I in 1622 by architect Inigo Jones.  Inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Rome it was revolutionary at that time, standing it is said, head and shoulders above the ragbag of buildings that composed Whitehall Palace.  At the time of which we are speaking, a banquet was composed of little snacks and desserts, eaten after the main course when diners were waiting for the entertainment to begin, and was consumed in a separate little house or room, highly decorated and situated a short walk away from the main dining hall in order to aid digestion.  The Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace was the biggest and grandest of them all.

The Great Hall
© Historic Royal Palaces/Peter Li
A view of the ceiling of the Great Hall.  The canvases were commissioned by James I’s son, Charles I, in 1629-30 to celebrate his father’s life and wise government. They represent the only scheme painted by Rubens to remain in its original position

It was during the reign of King Charles l that the magnificent ceiling paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (which today can be viewed from comfortable leather cushions laid on the floor) were installed.  Under these ceilings over 400 years ago, royalty and courtiers, ambassadors and aristocrats took part in some of the most exuberant and decadent masques every performed; today it is more likely to be celebrities and fashionistas who parade beneath the sumptuous ceilings as The Banqueting House has proved a popular ‘Events’ venue.

The Great Hall
© Historic Royal Palaces/Peter Li
A view of the great throne in Banqueting House and its ceiling decorated with paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens.
The Great Hall
© Historic Royal Palaces/Peter Li.                                                                                                                   A view of the great hall and its ceiling decorated with paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens at the Banqueting House. The Banqueting House is the only remaining complete building of Whitehall Palace, which served as the sovereign’s principal residence from 1530 until 1698 when it was destroyed by fire. Designed by renowned architect Inigo Jones for King James I and completed in 1622.  It later became the scene of King Charles I’s execution which took place on 30 January 1649

* Whitehall Place was for many years the property of the powerful Archbishops of York, who needed to be close to the monarch.  The first was built in 1241 and was originally known as York Place, passing through time to Cardinal Wolsey who extended it greatly.  As we know, he was deprived of his properties by Henry VIII who took it over in 1530 when it became Whitehall Palace.  Two great fires saw the destruction of Whitehall Palace, the first in 1691 and the second in 1698 when it was almost totally destroyed.

Opening times: Monday to Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 (last admission 16:00).                Admission:  Adults £5. 50   Concessions £4. 60:    Children 5-15  £0

What follows are images of London taken from the top of the Big Red Bus.

The following are pictures taken from City Cruises boat which carried us from Westminster Pier down to the Tower of London and beyond, passing some very innovative architecture whose positioning evoked some heated argument amongst us, as well as the always sombre Traitors’ Gate leading into the Tower and almost certain death.

 

Dr Samual Johnson said, “…..when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”   Even after the long gap in time, I agree with him, every word.

 

COWES WEEK – The Regatta

It’s called a Regatta, but that’s an understatement if ever there was one, for this yachtfest is Cowes Week, the time of year when the inhabitants of the English town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight, rent out their houses, kennel the dogs and cats, and disappear. The ‘yachties’ are about to descend on the Island for what the glossy magazines call ‘the week of the year in the sailing calendar.’  

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Cowes Town

Although the town will never again play host to the reigning monarchs of four countries as they did in 1909 when King Edward VII of England, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, the Tsar of Russia and the King of Spain visited with their yachts, there is consolation in the whiff of serious money that comes with today’s royally rich. Oil barons and City whizz kids crowd the pavements of the narrow streets and swig vintage champagne from bottles as they stagger from one party to the next. Old salts and wannabe ‘yachties’ dressed with impeccable regatta cred. stroll the narrow streets with polished brass telescopes under their arms, as the bemused local population looks on in wonderment. Cowes6

During the Regatta, over 800 boats and around 9,000 crew members will descend on this small town in the south of England. Cowes is not just for international yachtsmen, however. Non-sailors also flock to the island to enjoy the atmosphere, to sit on the beach and gaze at the coloured spinnakers that dance on the waters, to join the pleasure boats that sail around the competitors, and to gawp at the great, glossy yachts of the world’s billionaires, anchored offshore. Nor is boating on the stretch of water that separates the Island from mainland England, the Solent, confined to just these few highlighted days in the year: the number of sailing clubs tucked away in every harbour and cove has led to the south coast being dubbed Marinaland.

Boats at Seaview
Boats at Seaview

For the visitors who decide to join in the spirit of Cowes Week, dressing to look the part is easy. Stalls line the pedestrianised streets during the eight days of the Regatta and are on hand to sell overpriced tee-shirts, navy sweaters sporting capstans and anchors, and peaked caps festooned with enough braid to satisfy a Ruritanian General. Blue and white are still the colours of choice, but wannabe sailors should beware of the striped matelot look much favoured by minor celebs.

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The genuine articles are available in the somewhat old-fashioned local shops that make no effort to look stylish or enticing, favouring instead a turn of the century faux ‘ships chandlers on the quayside’ look as befits Queen Victoria’s island.

Boats on the Sea, People on the Beach
Boats at Sea, People on Beach

But Cowes Week is about more than dressing up. It is an exhilarating mix of world-class sailing, jazz, rock n’roll, and brass bands, clowns, unicyclists, and street theatre. For the people who want to take a break from watching the more than 200 races during the Regatta, there is constant entertainment in the Yacht Haven where there are food stalls, a huge beer tent, and music from live bands that play day and night.

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‘The diamond in the Solent’ is how this 23×13-mile island has been described, not only because of its shape but because of its safe, sandy beaches, great pubs and restaurants and a range of resorts to beat anything Continental Europe has to offer. And with an excellent transport system, everything is within easy reach.

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Sandown, Pier and Beach from Cliff Top

The beauty of the Island as a venue for sailing events is that there is so much to see and do away from the coast. There are a wealth of activities on offer and whether by car, bike, public transport or on foot over the miles of bridle paths and downland walks, the island is easy to explore.  With ultra-fast catamarans and jet-propelled boats making the crossing to the mainland in 10 and 25 minutes respectively, if the need for a faster pace should arise, day trips can easily be made to places like Portsmouth, Brighton and the great cathedral cities of Winchester and Salisbury.Cowes11

Away from the main yachting town, messing about in boats is best indulged on the six-mile stretch of sands at Ryde or the glorious crescent of golden beach between Sandown and Shanklin. In the classic villages of Bembridge and Seaview you will still see and hear the sights and sounds of long-forgotten English summers as children play cricket, tennis and deck quoits, for this is an island where families with children feel comfortable, where the swimming is safe and the beaches are clean.  It boasts not one, but two, dinosaur museums (it’s not called Dinosaur Island for nothing and fossil hunts are a regular occurrence), Blackgang Chine claims to be the oldest theme park in the country, and there is a wonderful zoo at Sandown where rare tigers are bred and the cubs are a great hit with children.Isle of Wight from the Sea

The Island from the Sea at Sunset

The Isle of Wight has now firmly established its reputation as the venue for the premier pop Festival which takes place in June. It was the venue in 1970 for the first major pop festival in Europe when, for a few days, 600,000 young people with bells around their necks and flowers in their hair lived the dream of the dawning of Aquarius. They had dance-ins and love-ins to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, The Doors and just about every other rock and folk musician who could get to the Island. It is said that this was the final break with the influence of Queen Victoria who spent a large part of her life on the Island at her Osborne House home, from 1851 until she died in 1901.

Modernity is found in the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, fitness centres, surfing, canoeing and body-boarding at many beach venues. For the adventurous, there are hang-gliding schools, bungee jumping and flights in small ‘planes around the island. Half the island is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty and its 80 miles of trails and 60 miles of coastal paths are perfectly laid out for walkers. There are forests, downlands, medieval villages, valleys and shady creeks, and enough museums, Roman villas, castles and manor houses to keep culture vultures happy for weeks.

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Red Funnel Ferry Southampton – Cowes

But if you come for the sailing and to mix with the ‘yachties’, if you want to be considered one of the sailing fraternity you should be wearing a team shirt – preferably one of last year’s. So, if you are thinking of coming back for the celebrations in 2019, make sure that you get hold of one of this year’s shirts.

Copyright www.visitisleofwight.co.uk
Cowes Fireworks: Copyright Isle of Wight Tourist Board

And if you manage it right this week, if you manage to look the part, to walk the walk and talk the talk, you might get invited to one of the yacht clubs to watch the fireworks on the last night. But if not, you can watch them from the beach with the rest of the happy holidaymakers, join in the last night celebrations which may go on until the wee small hours or just sit it out in one of the great eateries on the Island. For despite its social cachet, this yearly celebration of England’s sea-faring heritage is for everyone.

 

Lendy Cowes Week 2018:  August 4th – 11th.   Official website: www.lendycowesweek.co.uk/

Information:  https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/whats-on/lendy-cowes-week-p1464171

 

The Garden Museum, London

The recent death of gardener and plant collector, Beth Chatto OBE, and her mention on Monty Don’s gardening programme on Friday reminded me of the retrospective to her work at the Garden Museum at Lambeth in London (formerly the Museum of Garden History) which I visited a few years ago.   I was actually visiting the Tate at the time, just across the river from the Garden Museum, but on the spur of the moment decided to pop in to see what it had to offer.

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This national resource for plants and garden history is situated on the South Bank of the Thames and sits right next door to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s London residence, Lambeth Palace and, as mentioned, is just across the river from Tate Britain.

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Lambeth Palace, London

It owes its existence to John and Rosemary Nicholson who, in 1976, discovered the neglected and forgotten tomb of the John Tradescants (1570-1638), father and son gardeners to Charles I and the first gardeners and plant hunters in British history.  They introduced many of the flowers, shrubs and trees we grow today.

The centrepiece of the tranquil Sackler Garden designed to reflect Tradescant’s life and spirit is John Tradescant’s magnificent tomb, erected in 1662 and sculpted with images of the gardeners’ travels and collecting.  Before the founding of the Garden Museum in 1977, the church was earmarked for demolition and this masterpiece of funeral art had lain neglected for many decades, the sculpted images unrecognisable beneath the soot that covered it.

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Tradescant’s Tomb

On its rescue from demolition over 40 years ago, the church was deconsecrated and subsequently converted into the world’s first museum dedicated to gardens and gardening.  The neglected graveyard which adjoined the church is now part of the museum and contains not only the tomb of the Tradescants but the tomb of one whose name most schoolboys will recognise, Captain William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, himself a native of Lambeth.

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Captain Bligh’s Tomb

The garden has as its centrepiece, a 17th-century style knot garden designed by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury of Hatfield House in the traditional geometric style enclosed in a square.  Knot gardens had been popular in Britain since the Tudor period, usually formed of woody herbs clipped in geometric designs but in this case dwarf box (Buxus sempervirens) was used rather than herbs.

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The Knot Garden

Exhibitions of various kinds take place in The Garden Museum, but a Permanent Exhibition runs throughout the year.  Among the permanent exhibits is one that charts the development of gardening from pre-historic times to modern day.  The on-site library has a fine collection containing information from the Landscape Movement from Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton in the 18th century, to the 19th-century innovations that changed gardening thanks to travel (heated glasshouses and the lawnmower to name just two) and the gardens influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement pioneered by William Morris.

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Aerial View of the Knot Garden (Copyright Garden Museum)

We tend to forget sometimes how much we owe to the adventurous plant hunters who brought back to these shores the azaleas, jasmine, rhododendrons, clematis, camellias, magnolias and lilies, but here the plant hunters are given due credit for their determination and zeal in seeking these out.  Planters like the John Tradescants, Ernest Wilson, William Dampier, Frank Kingdon Ward, Joseph Banks, David Douglas, George Forrest and Francis Masson are names only the dedicated gardeners are familiar with but they are responsible for much of what we love about English gardens today.

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Unlike most museums, the Garden Museum is a quiet, tranquil place, the restaurant/cafeteria a delightfully cool and pleasant place in which to have some light refreshments.  Take time after a visit to sit contemplatively in the garden for a few moments listening to the birds, or the drone of the bees, as they burrow into the vivid blue agapanthus and the sweet smelling lavender.  The hustle and bustle of London seem far away.

I am planning a return visit sometime in late summer as I understand the gardens have had a makeover and there is an added attraction in that they have now opened the on-site medieval tower from which there is an amazing vista over Lambeth Palace and the River Thames.

This magical place is located right in the heart of the capital, just a ten-minute walk from the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Tate Britain, and Waterloo and Victoria stations.

 

Nearest Underground:  Lambeth North or Westminster.

Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7LB.   Tel: 020 7401 8865

Open Sunday–Friday  10.30am–5.00pm

Saturday 
10.30am–4.00pm

Adult: £10:  Senior citizen: £8.50:  Student/Unemployed/Art Pass: £5

Family (1 adult, 1 child): £12.50: Family (2 adults, 2 children): £25

Children under 6 years: Free

A Sunday Lunch Time Walk

Looking-down-to-Beach-from-Cliff-Path.-SandownI thought I’d time my walk today for lunchtime and, as I thought, I had the place to myself.  Being Sunday, I presume most people are eating out or at home tucking into ‘le rosbif’ or even pasta or pizza.

So this is Sandown, Isle of Wight, on a beautiful sunny day in April, looking down from the Cliff Path that runs between this town and the next town, Shanklin, then down a steep path on to the beach.   I walked through to the Cliff Path from the main road, it looks quite woody and yes, it is, with hidden niches, wild flowers, primroses and bluebells sheltering under gnarled old trees, and the inevitable folly.

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Cliff-Path,-SandownLooking-down-to-the-Beach-from-Cl;iff-Path

 

By now, the beach will be full of walkers, the ice-cream kiosks will be doing a roaring trade, and the Pier will be packed with children on the bouncy castle and various other amusements.

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The tables that were empty at lunch-time will be occupied with people drinking teas and coffees, snacking on home-made cakes, and perhaps sitting back reading the Sunday papers.  Soon-to-be-filled-with-happy-eaters!

Culver Cliff, the massive white chalk cliff that curves around the edge of Sandown, hiding Whitecliff Bay and Bembridge, catches the light when the sun shines, and out on the horizon are cruise liners and cargo ships bound inward for Southampton, or outward for foreign parts.

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Lobster-Baskets

Some have been here with me before, but the beaches around the island never fail to please me, and walking on the sands, or on the revetment that runs under the cliff, or even on the pavement where convenient benches make stopping to take in the view even more of a pleasure, makes this my favourite walk – always.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Walk on Isle of Wight

A walk along the seafront at Sandown, Isle of Wight, with my friend Steve from London, a brilliant photographer who has brought his camera with him, produced some great images that I’d like to share with you.  Sandown shares with Shanklin, the next town, a marvellous crescent of golden beach, perfect for safe swimming –  one of the reasons why both towns attract families with young children.

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Sandown also has the Dinosaur Museum, this being Dinosaur Island, and Shanklin has a wonderful Chine that leads from the centre of the old town, down through ferny green walks, to the beach and the sea.

But Sandown has something more frivolous – beach huts that make one smile, because the custom here is to give them all peculiar, funny names, a play on the word ‘hut’ more than ‘funny’, clever, quirky, and guaranteed to make one smile.

Steve took these photos for me.   I hope you like them too.  You may have to click on the images to enlarge the name plaques.

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So there you have it, Sandown Esplanade beneath the Cliff Path and along the beach on a delightful walk that leads to Shanklin (well lit during the evening as well) with cafes, life-guards, invigorating breezes and views of giant ships leaving Portsmouth and Southampton for foreign ports, as you walk along.

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And for the last photo, well, it speaks for itself.

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Flowers in Springtime

I admire the many photographs of gardens and flowers other people post on their sites and walking around my minute plot this afternoon I thought I’d do something similar.  I think it’s a sort of displacement activity as I haven’t been in a writing mood for some time now, nor have I remembered to take my camera when I’ve gone out walking.  If I did I could post something on Jo’s Monday Walk which I’ve been meaning to do for some time.

So here goes.  First up is something I’m thrilled about, a blossom laden branch of my damson tree, one of my favourite fruits but one that is very hard to come by these days.  The amount of blossom still on the tree after the March winds makes me think I may be blessed with a decent crop of fruit this summer.  It’s only in its third year in my garden so, fingers crossed ….

A-blossom-laden-branch-of-my-Damson-tree

Next up is a planter of tulips just struggling into the light and behind them is an azalea which is almost finished now.  It was tempted out by a burst of almost summer weather a few weeks ago when it, along with my early lavender, gave pleasure to some bees who appeared to be in a drunk/druggy state as they careered into each other and tumbled from blossom to blossom.

Tulips backed by a pink AzaleaNot far from this is this rampant yellow flowering bush/shrub whose name I have forgotten.  I know it started life last year as a small cutting and like Topsy, it just growed and growed, now I shall have to take the secateurs to it as my garden is really small.  But for now, its cheerful yellow colour brightens up my day.

I can't recall the name but it's a lovely spash of colour in the garden

I liked this last one while I was taking it, but looking at it now it appears a bit sad.  Definitely, an end of something, winter I hope, with the urn lying on its side, the background of dull containers without their jewel-like summer flowers, the lone crocus and the forget-me-nots struggling for a place.  It’s even a bit blurred as I have a back problem and cannot position myself to get the best photographs, so am apt to aim the camera haphazardly when I can’t do ground shots.

The last of the crocus and the first of the forget-me-nots

Anyway, a glimpse of some flowers in my garden, in lieu of a travel piece.

Oh, and an out-of-focus Camelia

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Mirror

My photograph this week pretty basically depicts the challenge word, Mirror, and shows just a reflection.  It is, however, one of my favourite photographs from a fondly remembered day spent recently in lovely St. Albans in the UK, formerly the ancient Roman city of Verulanium.

The picture was taken in the grounds of a hotel in the town where I was attending a wedding.  I’d escaped for a few moments to wander through the 20-acres of beautfully landscaped gardens and as I came upon the quiet waters of this lovely lake the symmetry of the trees reflections had me reaching for my camera.

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The Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s Lost Ship

To Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on England’s  south coast for the unveiling of the last stages of the restoration of Henry VIII’s favourite ship, The Mary Rose, after the Museum’s six-month closure to the public.

The date is especially significant because today, July 19th 2016, is the 471st Anniversary of the Tudor ship’s sinking off the coast of England.   Over the years since her discovery on the bottom of the seabed and her subsequent raising from this watery grave in 1982 (an event watched by 60 million people worldwide) she has attracted and thrilled people in equal measure.

During the excavation project  27,831 dives were made, and 22,710 hours of marine Archaeological work was needed on the seabed.  The struggles and hardships endured by all who worked on this modern project is a story all by itself, but after decades of hard work and 437 years under water, the Mary Rose is now finally on view to the public in a spectacular Museum inside Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, home also, to Nelson’s ship The Victory.

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The newly unveiled wreck of the Mary Rose in Portsmouth. Today is the 471st anniversary of the sinking of the ship in The Solent in 1545. The ill-fated Tudor warship was raised from the sea bed in 1982. Picture date: Tuesday July 19, 2016. Photograph by © Christopher Ison for the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN). 07544044177 chris@christopherison.com http://www.christopherison.com

It took 600 trees, mainly oak but some elm, to build the ship in 1510 and now one can see displayed, some of these wonderfully preserved timbers.  The Mary Rose sank on the 19th July 1545, as it left Portsmouth with 500 men on board (of which only 35 survived) to take part in the 3rd French War, and it sank to the bottom of the Solent within sight of King Henry who was watching its departure from Southsea Castle.  It lay there, at an angle of 60ᵒ, until excavations began in 1971.

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Cannon Balls – Mari Nicholson

 

Since it’s recovery, The Mary Rose has been undergoing continuous conservation.  First, the hull was sprayed wth a mist of fresh chilled water and then, from 1994 to April 2013 when it entered a stage of controlled drying, with a water-soluble wax.  Thanks to these methods, the hull is now in a stable condition which means that the black drying ducts which provided the necessary conditions for this, can now be removed and visitors can now have a clear and uninterrupted view.

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Close up of timbers of The Mary Rose –  Mari Nicholson

To date, 19,000 artefacts have been recovered from the site, including

  • 6,600 arrow bits
  • 9 barrels containing bones of fully-grown cattle
  • 1 full skeleton of a dog aged between 18 months and 2 years old.

The new look Mary Rose Museum provides stunning panoramic views of all nine galleries of the ship through floor to ceiling glazing on the lower and main decks, while on the upper deck visitors will enter via an airlock and are then separated from the ship by only a glass balcony.  On the floor are glass panels through which they can view ‘below decks’ which holds cannon balls and work-rooms.

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Gun from The Mary Rose – Mari Nicholson

 

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Plaque on the gun boasts Made in England, because most guns were made in other parts of Europe and imported.

 

A walk around the Museum gives food for thought as you see how life was lived below decks in the 16th century.  Whole cabins can be seen, the carpenter’s cabin, the surgeon’s cabin, the captain’s cabin, the archers’ quarters and those of the deck-hands, as well as the everyday things that made life bearable for these sailors, dice (for illicit gambling), purses, sewing-kits, belts.  It is a fascinating insight into history, and a couple of hours spent here can impart more knowledge than reading a treatise on naval life in the days of Henry VIII.

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Long Bow Archers with Flaming Arrows

 

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TV crews at Mary Rose Museum for the Unveiling, 19/06/16

 

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Mary Rose Timbers

 

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Baker’s Oven (all Brick)

 

 

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Cook’s Utensils

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: ABSTRACT

Truly abstract I think.  Love the subtle muddy colours and the starkness of the image.

This is a piece of graffiti on a wall in London’s East End (Brick Lane area).  It’s a wonderful place in which to make artistic discoveries.  This one comes from the camera of London photographer Steve Moore who has given me permission to use it.

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