Out and About Visit Reports 2016

An elite number of 6 members went to the Oxford Christmas market a little disappointing but a good day out catching up with Christmas shopping in town.
5th November - Queen's Dresses, Windsor Castle

Members met at Windsor to view the Exhibition of the Queens Dress'

November - Ghost Walk in London

Ghost walk in London Imagining that it was after dark and the fog was swirling around us, 23 of us met Sally Botwright, our Blue Badge Tourist Guide, and embarked upon a highly interesting and entertaining Ghost Walk within the City of London. Sally led us down narrow alleys, back streets and along busy roads where ghastly deeds such as murders, hangings, drawing and quarterings had taken place and into church graveyards containing mass graves where the victims of the annual London plagues were buried. We heard about the Grey Man who haunts a chapel within St Paul’s Cathedral, the portly gentleman devoured by his starving Newgate Prison cellmates whose large, black, fearsome dog avenged his master’s death by killing them all and which can be sometimes be seen in the darkness slithering along what had been the Prison wall. Amongst other spooky stories, Sally related the tales of ‘Scratching Fanny of Cock Lane’ and the church bell that tolled by itself all night from the exact time that the vicar of the Herts. parish church it had been transported from had died. The window from where ‘Bloody Mary’ eagerly watched Protestants being burnt at the stake was pointed out and, as we passed the Cockpit pub, glimpsed the gallery inside from where the public had watched and bet on cock fights. We now know how to identify an original telephone box, distinguish City of London police from their Metropolitan counterparts and learnt that medieval cannons have been recycled into street bollards plus numerous other fascinating facts that we didn’t know before. Helen Tonks, Group member

Visit to Reading Goal 26th October 2016

On the 26th October 10 members of the Out and About Group experienced the prison and the responses of world famous artists and writers to Reading Prison. We didn't know what to expect and we all came out bemused, amazed, very thoughtful at the experience and glad to be out in the autumn sunshine. You can wander over three levels via metal stairs and landings, into three wings of cells with art and writing in some. Oscar Wilde became Prisoner C.3.3. his cell is located on C Wing. The brutal regime in Reading Goal broke Wilde, yet he became known throughout the world for his poem The Ballad of Reading Goal and his letter De Profundis ( Out of the Depths). He felt compelled to write and his words on the separation from loved ones still resonates today. A sobering visit that raises many questions.

Visit to Watts Gallery & Studio 20th September 2016

Watts Gallery is very close to Guildford, so not too far away.   The site is where George and Mary Watts lived and work. I must admit that although both George and his wife were very famous in their day, I had never heard of them before. 

George did many portrait paintings of the rich and famous at the start of the 19th century, so was very well known back then. At one time he lived next door to Frederick Leighton in Kensington.  George and his wife were also part of the Arts and Crafts movement.   

Mary built a pottery on site and was very interested in designing in terracotta.  Their is a small chapel in a graveyard that they built and designed for the local community; most of the designs are in terracotta.

George also did sculpture; one of Lord Tennyson sits outside  Lincoln Cathedral. Their house, called Limmerlease,  is also open for the public to visit.  Plenty to see.

Out and About Summer Activities 2016

Over the summer months members have enjoyed a number of interesting and informative visits. Over this period the group has joined with members of other groups including Moto and Times Out.

With thanks to Diane Jones who facilitated 40 members travelling  by coach to Westminster for a conducted tour of both houses of Parliament unfortunately there are no photos but members have their own memories.

Members split up after the tour and after lunch individuals chose to follow their own interests a small number of whom went to St Thomas' Hospital where there was an exhibition of Peter Pan in the Florence Nightingale museum.

 Both of the next visits were arranged by Val Richards; in July members travelling by car share had a very interesting visit to Dorney Manor one of England's finest Tudor Manor Houses little changed in 600 years.

This was followed by a very successful visit by rail to Eltham Palace Val worked out an easy journey changing at Waterloo to waterloo east. Entry to the property, managed by English Heritage, was included in 2 for 1 making it a very reasonably priced day out for 17 members.

The 2 properties were a complete contrast although both starting life as medieval buildings Eltham Palace now managed by English Heritage was the Art Deco home of the Millionaire Courtaulds.

The1930 home a mansion built alongside the medieval palace. Members were presented with a multimedia recorder so that individuals could take as much or as little as they wanted from the tour. This was followed by a tour of the beautiful gardens.
Click here for reports April - June
Bombay Sapphire - March

18 of us went on an outing to visit the Bombay Sapphire distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire. We car-shared, as it is approx. 100 mile round trip.

The history of Laverstoke Mill is recorded as far back as the 1086 Doomsday Book, in which a mill is noted on the site. Laverstoke Mill has been under the ownership of William the Conqueror, Henry VIII and enjoyed four royal visits – most recently Queen Elizabeth in 1962. In 1719, having acquired the lease for the mill, printer Henry Portal expanded the site enabling him to begin manufacturing bank notes for the British Empire in 1724. In the mid-18th century Laverstoke Mill saw increasing prosperity; manufacturing the bank notes during Queen Victoria’s long reign, the site was expanded by the Portal family in 1842 and again in 1881, introducing further elegant architecture to allow for increased production. The bank note business was sold during the 1960s, and after that the site became derelict.

Bombay Sapphire bought the site in 2008, and spent 5 years converting the mill buildings so that they could become a distillery and it also serve as a showcase for their products.

The distillery opened in 2014. The makeover was designed by Thomas Heatherwick (he of Olympic torch fame) the project is a first of its kind in both scale and complexity completed in the UK. Although hard to believe given Heatherwick's fame – it is the Studios’ first conservation project, as well as their first design for a production facility. It’s the only processing plant in Britain that has a BREEAM rating of “outstanding” for building sustainability.

Some of the recovery systems feeds heat into the two spectacular greenhouses. These two giant structures extrude out of the gin house and sit in the river and act as part of the visitor experience to showcase the botanicals in both their Tropical and Mediterranean climates. They are composed from 793 unique pieces of glass and were developed in collaboration with Kew Gardens. The taller structure offers dry, almost harsh Mediterranean conditions ideal for growing almonds, lemons, angelicas, coriander, juniper and orris root.. The shorter house is warmer and creates a humid tropical environment in which to grow cassia bark, grains of paradise, liquorice and cubeb berries.

The design for the restoration and modernisation of the site – which began as a collection of more than 40 buildings congested together over shadowing the original banknote mill – included a biomass boiler, electricity-generating water wheel, and a sophisticated heat-recovery system for the five stills.

They have made a magnificent job restoring the site and a tour round is very interesting. We finished off by having a drink in their bar-room (not many of us had gin!!).

Windsor - February 2016

Our February trip to the local Historic Windsor Castle was enjoyed by 10 members many of whom had not visited for many years.

Visiting at this time of year enabled us to avoid the usual tourist crowds Thanks to Diane Jones for facilitating
We were escorted round the outside area of the castle by a well informed and amusing guide and once inside eventually got to grips with the audio guides.

Particularly stunning were the rooms that had been damaged in the fire on 20th November 1992 The restoration particularly St George’s Hall and the Grand Reception Room, is a testament to the extraordinary skills of some of the finest craftsmen in Europe. Our entry fee provides a year’2016.02s admission and Joan informed us that the moat gardens are open during the year and she is a warden so will inform us of the dates once known.
V & A Museum - January 2016
V & A Museum - January 2016
Our first outing of 2016 saw Diane arrange a visit to the V&A to look at an exhibition of the Bejewelled Treasures of The Al Thani Collection
Travelling by 702 bus involves a lengthy journey on the new route between Bracknell and Kensington but as it is comfortable and free,utilizing our bus passes, it gives us no cause for complaint.
First stop coffee in the Garden cafe that is a stunning environment.

A number of members had checked out the web site to find that there was a second exhibition sponsored by Clarks entitled Shoes Pleasure and Pain so there was a decision for the group to split according to their interests.

Meeting up for lunch both sections had enjoyed their individual choices.
The Shoe exhibition was very informative and well laid out presenting around 200 pairs from around the globe ranging from a sandle originating from ancient egypt and decorated with pure gold leaf to the most elaborate designs  by contempory makers.
An enjoyable winter tour Thank you Diane