Monday 31 October 2016

Beautiful Britain - The Needles, The Isle of Wight

During our recent stay in The New Forest, we were staying just down the road from Lymington, and the Isle of Wight Ferries, so a day trip across The Solent was always on the cards. All we were waiting for was some sunshine!

The ferries are pretty regular and we caught one at about 10.15am on the Sunday, with plans to catch the 5.20pm back. As it turns out we both wished we'd planned for a later return as a bit more time would have been lovely.

It was a lovely day and we spent the whole of the crossing, which takes about 40 minutes, up on the deck taking in the view.

In no time at all we were docking and disembarking in Yarmouth. We were soon on our way to our first stop ... The Needles.

We had read somewhere on line that there could possibly be discounted parking costs for National Trust members, though it isn't advertised and you have to ask. We did ask and found that it was actually free, result!!

We decided we'd have a look round the craziness of The Needles Landmark Attraction before finding out the best way to visit the Batteries, which boast the best view of The Needles, though seemed just a little bit far for walking and it wasn't somewhere you could drive.
The 'Attraction' itself is a bit bonkers and full of fair ground rides and lots of people, it's a bit like Land's End in some respects. There is a cable car which takes you down to Alum Bay, but we decided against this for today.
There is a good viewing point of The Needles, which was great for some decent photos.
Before long we'd have enough of the commercialism of 'The Attraction' and had sussed out that we could catch the open top bus both to and from the Batteries, we even managed to get a 50% reduction for being National Trust members.

The bus takes you right up to the New Battery, giving some really good views of Alum Bay and the coloured cliffs along the way.
The story behind The New Battery is really interesting and came as a complete surprise to both of us. You can visit the underground rooms of the Battery and see an exhibition about the secret rocket testing which was carried out here in the 1950s and 60s. It is fascinating.

For us, this part of our visit really was all about the view and they weren't lying when they said that you could get the best view of The Needles from up here. It was just lovely.

And, of course, it was a great spot for a selfie ...
Having had a good wander around The New Battery, which is free to enter for everyone, whether a National Trust member or not, we made our way along the cliffs to The New Battery, passing more fabulous views of the chalk cliffs along the way.
There is plenty of exploring to be had here, finding out more about the Battery's history and taking a walk down the underground tunnel for more spectacular views of The Needles. And there's a National Trust tea room - that, and sunshine, heaven on Earth.

Having availed ourselves of the delights of the tea room, which we enjoyed sat in the courtyard in the sunshine, it was time to make our way back to the car.

We wandered back up to the bus stop, where it wasn't long before our ride arrived,
It was then but a short ride, past more amazing views, I'm sorry if it's getting boring, and back to car for us to continue on our adventure.
We had spent far longer at The Batteries than we had expected and, by the time we got back to the car, we only had a couple of hours before we needed to catch the ferry back to Lymington.

We decided we'd spend this time having a drive to Freshwater Bay and perhaps trying to have a very quick look at Mottistone Gardens, another National Trust property.

Freshwater Bay was beautiful, but we didn't linger, just stopping long enough to be able to take a few photos.
It was a short drive on to Mottistone Gardens, where we just had about half an hour before closing for a very swift walk. Considering we were only there a short while, I did manage to take lots of photos, so I think I'm going to have to share these in a separate post, but here's a teaser ...
Well before we were ready, it was time to make our way back to Yarmouth to catch the 5.20pm back to Lymington.

We just had time to have a walk along the old wooden pier, where we watched our ferry come in, before it was time to make our way back to Lymington.
We were soon back on board watching a huge cruise liner making its way from Southampton in the distance. Knowing that mum and dad were sailing from Southampton at around this time on their cruise I wondered, could it possibly be them? A quick phone call to dad confirmed that indeed it was. What a coincidence. Don't think they could spot us though.
Before long we were back where we'd started ...
We'd had the loveliest of days and, though we were both pretty tired, we just weren't quite ready to settle back in at Border Cottage just yet ..... so we didn't. We ended up calling into the Hare & Hounds in Sway for tea, and very nice it was too.

Monday 24 October 2016

Beautiful Britain - Mottisfont, Hampshire

The first real 'day out' we had during our recent holiday in The New Forest, actually took us out of the boundary of the national park to Mottisfont, which is a National Trust property near Romsey in Hampshire.
Having pretty much had a week of rotten weather and being limited to either chilling in Border Cottage or exploring by car, we were really looking forward to getting out and about for a bit of exploring on foot.

The National Trust website describes Mottisfont as ... A romantic house and gallery set in beautiful riverside gardens.

As well as the house, which is converted from an old priory church, there is a walled garden, the requisite tea room and, what looked like, a crazy piece of outdoor sculpture. It sounded just the job and right up our street.

From the minute we arrived we knew we were going to enjoy our visit. The sun was shining, it was pretty warm for this time of year and the information board really made us want to explore further ...

To enter the property we made our way through the reception area, past the shop and along a wooden walkway through the trees, which gave no indication whatsoever as to what we would find on the other side.
Once over the walkway on our left was the 'babbling brook' ...
... and to our right was a spectacular view of the house itself ...
We couldn't wait to explore.

We decided we'd take advantage of the weather and have a wander about outside first and headed, past The Font, where an endless spring of pure water has been found for over a 1000 years, towards the walled rose garden.

We were stopped in our tracks along the way as we came across David Breuer-Weil's 'Alien' sculpture, which was previously installed in Grosvenor Gardens outside Victoria Station in London. Mottisfont was chosen as the next place to land because of its history - the last owner, Maud Russell, was from a German Jewish family and welcomed both artists and refugees here - and its wide open landscape and huge trees really do show the sculpture at its best.
We had a quick look at the Shepherds Hut and the Planetarium before continuing on our way to the walled garden.
The walled garden is a real treat, it's like a garden within a garden within a garden. There wasn't masses of flowering going on today, but there were still a few splashes of colour and it was easy to sea how amazing it would look at the height of the flowering season.

It was now time for the obligatory National Trust refreshment so we sat in the sunshine in the courtyard of the old stable block where I had yet another National Trust flapjack, which has definitely become a firm favourite.

Refreshed and ready to continue exploring we headed over to the house, which does look lovely from every angle.
The interior of the house is interesting and some of the old priory church has been retained and preserved. You can see the old sacristy and explore the cellarium.

Having been blessed with such a lovely day it wasn't long before we were back outside to look at the rest of the grounds.

Round the front of the house we found the mosaic angel, a hidden portrait of Maud Russell by Boris Anrep, her lover and great friend, one of the many artists who came to stay at Mottisfont over the years.
From there we had a short walk around the back of the house and along the river.
Then it was a quick look at what we assumed were 'pet graves' before making our way back, via The Font, along the main drive.
We really enjoyed out time here and would definitely recommend a visit if you are in the area. We would love to go back when the rose garden is at its best. Definitely the best day of our holiday so far. Thank you National Trust!

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Beautiful Britain - The New Forest

We are not long back from a two week break in The New Forest.

It is somewhere that neither of us have ever visited before and came very highly recommended by everyone we spoke to who has ever been. We had high expectations and were looking forward to ticking off another national park from our list.

We were staying in Border Cottage in a small village called Sway, between Brockenhurst and Lymington, which was ideally situated for plenty of exploring.

Sway's main claim to fame, much to Martin's excitement, is Sway Tower, which is 66 metres tall and a Grade II listed building. It is also known as 'Peterson's Folly'.

It was built by Andrew Thomas Turton Peterson on his private estate from 1879-1885, both the design and use of concrete (no steel reinforcing apparently) were influenced by the follies he had seen during his time in India.

It is constructed entirely of concrete made with Portland cement, with only the windows having iron supports. It is the tallest non-reinforced concrete structure in the World.

The tower is visible from much of The New Forest and most of the Western Solent, and we can vouch for this, as you can see in the 4th photo, on a very long zoom!
At first glance Border Cottage looked very pretty ...

The interior was nice enough too, it had a lovely back garden still showing a nice bit of Autumn colour, which Martin found very photogenic ...

... and we were definitely going to be making new friends ...
The only real problem was that the place was in need of a serious Spring clean. We were quite disappointed with the standard of cleanliness of the cottage and consequently I didn't feel inspired enough to write a full review.

This, coupled with fairly bad weather and seemingly, to us anyway, nothing of much note to inspire or excite us, whilst the weather was as it was, we did start to feel a little despondent.

We'd arrived on Friday and by the following Wednesday, other than my initial shots of Border Cottage, I hadn't taken a single photo, which is seriously not like me at all.

Maybe it was the weather, I don't know. Normally we find something to love and wonder at everywhere we go. Everyone said The New Forest is beautiful and that we would love it but, for whatever reason we just weren't feeling it.

At least on that first Wednesday the weather picked up a bit and we decided to head into Christchurch for a mooch about.

It was good to get out and about and enjoy our first bit of sunshine. Christchurch was ok and we did have a nice wander, finding an old ducking stool along our way.

It didn't have the wow factor of lots of other places that we've visited on our travels, but we spent a pleasant afternoon exploring.

From the ducking stool we had a wander along the river, which took us past the old castle and around the back of the abbey.
We ended up at the very luxurious looking apartments on the quay, which was a lovely spot, where we took our first holiday selfie and just imagined ...
We finished off our walk with a look round the abbey, which is just huge and definitely worth a look before chilling out with a quick pub lunch.
Though we would say that yes we had a nice day, it had been lovely to have a break from the rain and be able to get out and about, Christchurch isn't somewhere that either of us felt we would be rushing back to visit again.

I am so sorry everyone, for the tone of this post, especially to all those of you that absolutely love this part of the country. If you follow my blog regularly you will know that Martin and I just love our home turf and all it is has to offer. I don't know why our first impressions of the New Forest were not of our normal excitement and wonder at exploring somewhere new, it does get better I promise, so please keep reading!