Buscot and Cirencester – 5 September

Thank you Judy and David for organising this trip to the National Trust property and it was really sad that Judy was unwell on the day and unable to come as we had a great day.

The first stop at Cirencester gave us the opportunity to look round the town centre, do some shopping, have a coffee and visit the wonderful parish church. This is a real gem with its fine fan vaulting, remains of wall paintings, the Anne Boleyn Cup, and it is all so beautifully kept. There was an added bonus of a painting exhibition of works by local artists.

The weather was perfect and we enjoyed the drive through the Cotswolds to Buscot Park. There is something special about a property where the family actually live; it has a different feel. Lord Farington maintains and develops the house and garden to a high standard. Everything looks so cared for and new features and artefacts continue to be added.
Items from the Farington Collection are displayed in the rooms, staircase and passages. Some rooms are imposing and others almost cosy and the view of the grounds from the house is stunning.

Good information boards allow visitors to take their time on a self guided tour. The luxurious wall coverings, the chandeliers, the furniture and the ceramics are magnificent. For me, the collection of art works was almost unbelievable. Pictures by Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough, Botticelli to name a few, and Burne Jones’s series illustrating the Legend of Briar Rose were just some of the collection. That was the house, and the grounds are equally impressive and beautifully kept. There are views in all directions, fountains, statues, a delightful walled garden with espalier fruit trees, roses, borders with vegetables inter-planted among the flowers and plenty of seating. Harold Peto’s water
garden is another highlight. Interesting, if slightly incongruous are seventeen replica terra cotta warriors. (see picture)

Consulting the website, I realise how much that I didn’t manage to see and am determined to revisit so that I can do the park and garden justice.

Claire Osgood

Quenington – 2 July

Swing Bridge at Quenington

Quenington, a quintessentially Cotswold village, exemplified by its vernacular architecture constructed in honey coloured oolite Jurassic limestone with a precisely manicured and precious appearance, is situated about ten miles east of Cirencester. We drove there in balmy weather, from Bradford towards Holt and then due north on the A350, around Chippenham, over the M4, passed the jumbo jet mortuary at Kemble, passed Malmesbury and on from Cirencester.

Two Gulls at QueningtonOur exact destination in Quenington, a straggling village, was the Old Rectory built alongside a parallel wide mill leet and the river Coln, one of the delightful streams running south east from the Cotswolds into the Thames. Here in its generous grounds, for the past fourteen years, Lucy and David Abel have put on ‘ Fresh Air Sculpture ‘ an exhibition of contemporary works which are for sale. They also provide educational activities and workshops for both children and adults, run by artists. This year there were over one hundred and fifty pieces displayed and, although not generally to my taste, there were some very striking items in the array of craft work, using textiles, wood, metal, glass and ceramics. There was an air of tranquillity pervading the place, enhanced by the presence of water, hot summer sounds and the provision of refreshment.

My immediate attention was drawn to two of the permanent displays, a triple fountain in the leet by Alison Berman erected two years ago and the swing bridge across the same stretch of water which reminded me of Van Gogh’s paintings of the ‘ Pont de Langlois ‘ over the canal at Arles. From there on I was intrigued by Derek Elliot’s ‘Puck Seat ‘ inspired by Japanese timber houses and the Arts and Crafts works of Ernest Gimson,’ Wildcarrot Stems ‘ by Ruth Moillet, a representation of umbellifers in stainless steel with flower heads of yellow anodised aluminium, a lovely maquette in chiselled oak of an elderly couple called ‘ Til Death Us Do Part ‘ by Simon Conolly, a pair of sculptural benches by Waywood Furniture Creation and a ground level piece, mostly in chicken wire, by Henrietta Bud called ‘ Colouring the Grass Orange ‘. There were a considerable number of other bizarre creations. One final joy was the circular library designed by Michael Gold in 2008. It was a long walk back up hill to the coach, which was somewhat surprisingly parked with others on the beautiful triangular village green.

By now it was 13.30 pm and the final destination north to Stow on the Wold was south initially via Fairford and Lechlade rather than through Bibury, where Bob, our coach driver, informed me that there was a weight restriction on the bridge over the Coln. The last part of the journey from Burford to the Fosse Way was spectacular, with hedged fields of ripening corn and swathes of poppies, much more abundant than normal, and flax. Stow on the Wold is peculiarly sited at the side of the Roman Road, so you have to turn off it to get into the town, which has a large market place, many antique shops and charity outlets together with the usual Estate Agents and Public Houses. It was the ideal place to break, gather thoughts and imbibe much needed refreshment. There was also a distinct air of opulence about it.

The return journey in one hop was initially down the Fosse Way, fosse meaning ditch. A ruler drawn Roman Road between Exeter and Lincoln passed uninterruptedly by and the memory of the whole day was nothing by pleasant. Well done Claire.

Ian Stevenson

Exbury Gardens  – 8 May

Though I have visited many gardens, Exbury was unknown to me until its Coach Outing listing. So without any expectations, the two hour journey south east from Bradford, which started in rain and murkiness, pleasingly ended up in sunshine and sheer delight. The two hundred acre woodland garden, one of the large Rothschild family’s numerous bolt holes, forming part of the New Forest National Park, near Beaulieu, was an enthralling experience.

I had decided to ignore the narrow gauge railway and the Four Seasons Art Exhibition, but, with everybody making a bee line for Mr Eddy’s Tea Room, armed with a camera plunged directly into the hidden delights of nature. The almost immediate impression was one of wonder and delight, with the original forest of magnificent oaks, beeches, pines, cedars and chestnuts, being very sensitively manipulated to create breathtaking vistas, glades, meadows and water features at the same time being under planted with maples, magnolias and then smaller rhododendrons, azeleas ( twelve hundred new varieties of which have been raised at the garden ) at their peak in May with white, peach, apricot, orange and gold-coloured flowers. Swathes of daffodils were all but over but there were bluebells, bugles, umbellifers, ferns, irises, gunneras and surprisingly vast areas of ground covering grasses and mosses. The sound of the first cuckoo of Spring could be heard in the distance.

It was surprising to find a long way south on the river a memorial for the naval crews who had lost their lives at Arromanche.  Having stood on Gold Beach eighteen months before it reminded me of listening at school to Alvar Lidell announcing the D Day landings on the 6 June 1944.

Although extremely tired, having to leave was a wrench.

Words and photographs: Ian Stevenson

Oxford – 27 March

Botanic Gardens (photo Lewis Clarke)

Another highly successful trip to Oxford.

On a beautiful Spring morning our new 57 seater coach arrived, the largest we have ever used because the trip was quickly fully booked and had a long waiting list. So we were able to accommodate 7 extra people.

Another first: on discovering that it was Judy Lanteigne’s birthday she was treated to a full throated rendition of “Happy Birthday” from the coachload of people! Judy is a new and valued member of the visits committee. Others interested in being on the committee and/or leading trips would be most welcome. Please contact one of the full committee members.

One reason for the popularity of Oxford is the diverse range of places of interest. At the end of the day I discovered that everyone had enjoyed the day in numerous different ways. Many had found that using the internet beforehand meant that they had been able to plan ahead to decide the use of their time.

Two popular locations visited were the Botanic Garden (the oldest in the UK, founded in 1612) and the Pitt Rivers museum.

The Garden was beautiful and shown at its springtime best by the sunshine and blue skies. The show of spring flowers and early blossom was magnificent. The variety of plants, shrubs and trees was amazing. Many found the stunning, huge magnolia tree in full bloom to be the highlight. It was also interesting to see the burgeoning growth of the plants and shrubs that will soon be in full colour and evidence of the careful planting and redesigning being undertaken by the gardeners. The unobtrusively placed labels gave useful information to those interested in discovering the names of new plans and shrubs. Every part of the Garden is meticulously maintained. A wonderful place in which to spend time.

The Pitt Rivers museum is a staggering collection of over 55,000 artefacts from around the world telling the story of life on earth. It also houses over 600, 000 objects, photographs and manuscripts from almost every country in the world. The information boards around the museum are expertly organised and provide lucid information. Impossible to take in everything in one day and is best approached by choosing segments to study in one visit. One of our members went there first thing in the morning for a couple of hours. After a lunch there and a guided tour in the afternoon he spent the whole day in the museum. His plan to visit the special exhibition in the Ashmolean museum had to be aborted! A similar tale came from a member who so enjoyed the Botanic Garden that she spent almost all of her time there.

Others spent their day in different ways, for instance taking guided walking tours, an open top bus tour, the Museum of the History of Science, the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments etc. Others spent a happy day at leisure meeting friends in Oxford.

Little wonder that many of those on this trip requested that we include another trip to Oxford in our future plans. Those who enjoyed the Botanic Garden specifically asked that a future visit might be organised for a summer month to catch a different aspect of the Garden.

David Beniston

Heale House and Salisbury – 16 February

Heale House

We left Bradford on Avon with a full coach on a slightly dull morning. How many members on the coach had heard of Heale House I wondered?  It lies 4 miles north of Salisbury near Upper Woodford on a tributary of the Hampshire/Salisbury Avon.  It is private house and is not open to the public.  However, the history is interesting.  It was built in the latter half of the 16th century by Sir William Greene and had many owners until it was purchased by Hon. Louis Greville in l894, a great Uncle of the present owners, the Rasch family.

In 1651 Charles II secretly took refuge there for six nights after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester while waiting for a ship to carry him to France.

We had two hours to walk around the garden and have a coffee in the small restaurant.

There are eight acres and it was designed in 1910 by Harold Peto and  planted to provide colour throughout the year.  Our visit, of course, was arranged to see the carpets of snowdrops which covered the grounds and the banks of the river, and they were absolutely spectacular.  A vision of white spread before us wherever we went.

Louis Greville was in the diplomatic service and acquired a bridge and authentic tea house on his travels to Japan to form the basis of his new Arts and Crafts style garden.

Then it was onwards to Salisbury for the afternoon.   So much to see there, it was difficult to choose what to do in a few hours, from the mine of information provided by our organiser. I knew I wanted to visit one of the music shops, having lost our two in Bath, and I had been to the Cathedral a few times and seen the magnificent Magna Carta in the Chapter House (The Chapter House is, or was, used for the administration of the monastery or cathedral).

The Museum had an “Celebration of Art” exhibition and these were pieces of art purchased by a Heritage Lottery Fund project to celebrate the work of Wiltshire’s creative people. They consisted of paintings, sculptures, pottery and printing. All very varied and with lots of great talent displayed.

Walking through the Cathedral Close is seeing history unfold, and there is a small book in the museum shop which explains the history of all the houses, and what caught my eye was a memorial to three Protestant martyrs who were burnt at the stake in 1556.

On the way home an appeal was made for “Guest organisers” for a one off event.    This could also be couple of friends, partners, etc.  If we are to continue to have these wonderful outings, and they are certainly popular, there has to be an organiser, so do think about volunteering so that we can continue to enjoy these events to wonderful places.

Joyce Shaw

Cardiff – 31 July

Cardiff Bay - Millennium Centre, the Pierhead building and 'The Senedd' Photo -- Kate Bee)

42 people joined the visit to Cardiff, to enjoy this wonderful city, in glorious weather. Most people chose to start at Cardiff Bay, the site of an incredible regeneration from a run down, dilapidated area that was once one of the busiest ports in Europe to a modern area of culture, politics and entertainment.

On one level the beauty of the buildings was somewhat spoilt by the temporary transformation taking place in readiness for the forthcoming Eisteddfod. On the other hand, it gave a lively buzz to the area reinforcing the feel of regeneration and sense of purpose. One of our members chose to focus on the Arts Gallery, where there were two special exhibitions.

David Beniston

Inro & netsuke, Edo period, 18th-19th century, National Museum of Japanese History

The National Museum Cardiff is an amazing place, with something to please everyone.

On this visit I started with the special exhibition “Kizuna Japan-Wales-Design”. Kizuna means the bonds of friendship and this exhibition explores the distinctive relationship between Wales and Japan and how each culture influenced and contributed to each other’s history. The exhibition includes objects dating back from 400 years right up to contemporary design and technology.  We all know how Japanese art influenced European art, but Japanese artists and craftsmen were fascinated by Western inventions and adapted them in their own unique style (as seen in their unique interpretation of a clockwork mechanism). There is a distinctive 17th century lacquered coffer (a box or chest for valuables) that is the first known Japanese piece to have come to Wales.  Other highlights include a 400 year old hand scroll painted with monsters that was a forerunner of modern animation. There are exquisite ceramics, beautifully embroidered robes and other stunning objects to look at.

The exhibition also explores the relationship of Wales and Japan through technology and how Wales played a decisive part in Japan’s rapid industrialization. Did you know that Welsh steel was used to build Japan’s first railways? Wales is still home to many Japanese manufacturing firms, maintaining the close relationship to this day.

After the special exhibition I visited the permanent collection with excellent pieces of fine art, sculpture and decorative art.  The gallery has one of the finest collections of Impressionist art with works by Monet, Manet, Renoir, van Gogh, Cezanne and my favourite, a painting by Berthe Morisot.  The modern painting collection includes works by Hockney and Bacon. This is one of the best art collections in the UK and I can guarantee that you will be surprised to see famous works of art that you had no idea were here.  If you can tear yourself away from the art there is also the rest of the museum to see. Best thing of all, it is entirely free of charge, including the special exhibitions.

Dalyce Binley

 

Barrington Court & Dillington House – 17 May

Dillington House, photographed by Claire Osgood

What a delight it was driving through Somerset with trees in fresh new leaf and cow parsley lining the roads. Claire had it all well organised to include the weather – a perfect sunny day.

Barrington Court

On arrival at Barrington Court we had to go on foot through the garden rooms, originally set out to Gertrude Jekyll’s designs and still planted in harmonic colours. The lily garden was particularly striking with rusty shades of azaleas and more than usual brilliance for early summer. The White Garden, inspired by Sissinghurst, was particularly pretty with unusual white forget-me-nots providing a froth between white tulips. The kitchen garden was exemplary.

Refreshments were served in Strode House where the Lyle family lived – a combination of a 1550s house with a stable block of 1674. Sitting in the sunshine overlooking parkland stretching away into the distance beyond the ha-ha was very relaxing. Then indoors to Court House to admire endless salvaged antique woodwork refitted by Colonel Lyle. Many rooms had a ghostly banner hanging, showing their use in the 16th century, e.g. storing barrels of cider – but the 1920s bathrooms with huge baths made me wonder if they ever ran out of hot water.

Dillington

Neil, our guide, greeted us at the handsome front door surrounded by fragrant wisteria, shown off to good effect by the ham stone.

After earlier mentions of Dillington in an Anglo Saxon charter, and after the Norman conquest, Dillington passed through various hands before it came to the Bonville family. We saw more oak panelling dating back to the 1580s and a memorable Ice House. Sir George Speke increased the house to an E-shaped plan typical of Tudor architecture. The most notable alterations were by Sir James Pennethorne (designer of the ballroom at Buckingham Palace) and are what we see today.

In the Second World War, Dillington was a temporary HQ of the U.S. Army’s Airborne Division and casualties from Normandy recuperated there.

We saw portraits of the Malet family on loan to Somerset County Council. The present owner, Lord Ewen Cameron, has never lived in the house but his mother was born there. In 1949 a long lease was taken by Somerset County Council and it became Somerset’s residential centre for adult education with 40 en suite bedrooms. It now hosts civil ceremonies, and weddings too.

In 2009 The Hyde was built – a contemporary building which won a RIBA award in 2016.

Before leaving some of us explored the Wilderness, with over 40 species of trees, some of which are over 100 years old. Indeed, a few of us went home with cider from the orchard, planted in 2009.

Elizabeth Barnes

Southampton – 18 April

The Tudor House, Southampton

The Tudor House, SouthamptonSouthampton is a vibrant city with a rich and varied history. Members made their own decisions about what to choose to do from the wide range on offer, from art galleries, historical sights, the quayside and very modern shopping complexes. Something for everyone.

Perhaps the three most popular venues were the City Art Gallery, the Sea City Museum and the Tudor House Museum.

The City Art gallery has an impressive range of paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography in both its extensive permanent collection and its special exhibitions. The works on display in the permanent exhibition range from the Renaissance to the present day. A current exhibition of photography “Roger Mayne and St Ives: A Defining Moment” was particularly interesting, showing early work by this world renowned photographer including previously unseen images of St Ives. Mayne’s work was influenced by his encounter with the St Ives group of artists. A fascinating experience was available to those able to download an app when visiting the Burne Jones’ Perseus Series exhibition. By opening the app and pointing the mobile phone at a painting a description of the painting together with some background information was available. Next time I use this facility I must remember to take along headphones so as not to distract other visitors!

The Sea Life Museum proved to be very interesting and well-presented. Personally, I ran out of time to view other sections as I was taken by the Titanic exhibition. A really excellent presentation providing historical facts, technical information and, importantly for this city, an insight into social aspects and how the tragedy affected so many people in Southampton who lost loved ones who were working on the ship. A story of real human tragedy.

The Tudor House, and its interesting knot garden, is a gem. It is cleverly arranged to show how the use of the house and the surrounding environment have changed over the centuries. Seeing evidence of the changes was like a mini account of Southampton’s story through the history of this one house.

After an interesting trip the journey home was an added delight. The lovely evening light, and the clear signs of spring in the landscape, viewed from the elevated seating on the coach, rounded off a really enjoyable day.

David Beniston

‘Charles I, King & Collector’, at The Royal Academy, London – 27 March

Charles I in the Hunting Field

Charles I in the Hunting FieldThe ‘Charles I, King & Collector’ show, with its myriad treasures, primarily from the Northern and Italian Renaissance, will certainly prove to be one of the exhibitions of the year. What a collection, all notionally in the ownership of one man! Work by Titian, Mantegna, The Younger Holbein, Brueghel the Elder, Tintoretto, Gentileschi, Giovane, Bernini and, of course, those ‘twin giants’ Peter Paul Rubens and Court Painter, Anthony Van Dyck, taken together, formed an impressive archive by anybody’s standards. Its acquisition, dissolution and reassembly, for the purpose of this, unique exhibition is a remarkable story in itself.

Charles I was nothing if not a vain man, as underlined by the number of (invariably enormous) portraits of him that feature in this show, almost all by the hand of Van Dyck. Also, Charles’ reputation for being notoriously reluctant to pay his debts regarding the copious number of works purchased – and never the full price agreed – does little to enhance his standing as the foremost connoisseur-collector of his time. However, as we know, a series of fatal, political moves cost him both his throne and his head, condemning this country to eleven years as a Republic, from which the relatively newly ‘United Kingdom’ was fortunate (or not, depending upon your royalist or republican leanings!) to ‘reverse’.

Favourite work on show?… So many candidates! Possibly one of Van Dyck’s imposing equestrian portraits of Charles in the Hunting Field, hung together, to great effect, in the Central Hall? Or maybe the well-known ‘Charles I in three positions’ painting, again by Van Dyck and now restored to the Royal Collection? Others may favour the enormous Mortlake Tapestries, woven from designs by Raphael or Giovane’s ‘The Conversion of St. Paul’ and its companion piece, ‘The Triumph of David over Goliath’, from the Prado. For me, possibly a dead heat between Hans Holbein the Younger’s ‘Noli me tangere’ and Titian’s ‘Supper at Emmaus’, loaned from the Louvre.

Bob Williams

Swindon Art Gallery & ‘Steam’ Museum – 30 January

Commemorative Bell

It is pleasing to report that our mid-winter half day visit to Swindon proved remarkably popular. An introductory talk by the Museum Curator gave us some insight into the history of the Swindon Collection since its inception, back in 1921, when Jimmy Bomford set the ball rolling with the donation of 21 paintings. The Curator also shared with us useful background information on the key artists represented within the Collection. Works by Alfred Wallace, John & Paul Nash, William Roberts, Frank Brangwyn, George Clausen, and Henry Moore all caught the eye. However, for me, the ‘gold medal’ surely had to be shared between Gwen John (her 1910 Portrait of a Lady in pencil and wash), and John Skeaping (Barbara Hepworth’s first husband) for his drawing ‘Study of Roe Deer’. Oh, that we were all capable of capturing such a sense of movement!

In the 1970s the Gallery started to acquire, again initially via a benefactor, what has since become a fine collection of studio ceramics. Bernard and David Leach, Hans Coper, Lucie Rie, Ray Finch, Edmund de Waal and Grayson Perry all feature.

There is every prospect of the Swindon Collection being given a new home, on a prime site in the centre of the town, should the anticipated Lottery Funding come to fruition.

For me, the opportunity to re-visit Swindon’s iconic Steam Museum (for the first time in over 50 years!) proved a nostalgic experience. A fair number of our travelling members and friends obviously felt the same way!

Preserved number and nameplates, from legendary Castle, Hall, City and King Class locomotives, brass all beautifully polished, the original eight ft diameter driving wheels of Brunel’s broad gauge Lord of the Isles and a small section of surviving pipeline from his Atmospheric Railway (one of his very few failures!) all feature among the artifacts on display. A reconstruction of the Foundry, Boiler Shop, etc., gave some insight into how tough the working conditions would have been, the majority of the work force being deaf, from the pervading noise, by the time they were thirty.

The prime exhibits, without a doubt, were the fully restored Caerphilly Castle, City of Truro, and the flagship of the GWR fleet, No.6000, George V. 160 Castle Class locos were built, all in the Swindon works, between 1923-50. In 1927 George V (135 tons,

including the tender) was shipped to the USA to spend 22 days, as star of the show, at the ‘Fair of the Iron Horse’, Baltimore, Ohio. Finally retired in 1962, it covered nearly two million miles during its years of service with the Great Western.

A different era, but the Museum still stands testimony to a golden age of British engineering and man’s capacity to design essential, functional objects of enduring beauty.

Bob Williams

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