Visit to Broughton Castle near Banbury. 

This was an exclusive visit enjoyed by about 30 members.  On arrival, we walked up the path to pass through an impressive gatehouse and then we were welcomed in the old converted stables, with coffee or tea, before we strolled across the lawn to be received outside the main entrance to go on a tour of the house.

We heard about the history of the building and the personalities who made up the ancestors of the present day Lord and Lady Saye and Sele.  The house has been at the centre of political events for centuries, particularly at the time of Charles 1, when Banbury was at the centre of the battles between Parliamentarians and Royalists.

Beautiful furniture and artefacts are on display in a relaxed setting which is the result of the fact that a family is still at the heart of the castle.  Lady Saye and Sele came and chatted to us and took one of our party (who had read the book) to see the music room which was the inspiration for her son's story about growing up in this house with a brother who suffered from epilepsy.

We were taken up onto the roof to admire the view and several photographs were taken.

On our return to the ground, we were free to wander round the gardens which we had observed through various windows as we had toured the house.  There was a formal walled garden with parterres of roses and lavender plus perennial favourites, a long border with a profusion of colour and scents and all was surrounded by a wide moat.  There was also the opportunity to visit the church which had been specially opened for us and which we could see houses many impressive memorials and hatchments of the family.  There are very few gardeners now compared to 15 in the early 20th century.

As usual in these houses, we appreciated the amount of maintainance which is needed to keep them in good shape.  Tours like ours help but films like Wolf Hall, Shakespeare in Love and many others make the task a bit easier. 

After all this we were welcomed again in the tea-room, for tea and delicious cake, before returning to Bedford and home.

Visit to Delapre Abbey

We've had a good day at Delapre Abbey in Northampton, with the weather co-operating (mostly).  On arrival we registered at the new shop then went to have a coffee or tea before being taken around the house in two smaller groups.

The guides were clear and explained the background and history of the Abbey – a place where Cluniac nuns lived from 1154.  The house and grounds have an interesting history being sited on the battlefield of the Battle of Northampton between Yorkists and Lancastrians.  The modern golf course is thought to be where the battle raged – maybe they continue to the present!

We were told of the restorations and how they will continue into the future to bring the Abbey back to life.  New displays are planned, and the public will be able to enjoy wandering through the rooms, sitting on the seats and even reading the books in the library, plus playing card and board games.  An unusual pleasure.

We have decided to return in a couple of years time to see the other rooms which weren't open today.  It is hoped that the gardens will have more attention, too, because they are extensive and popular.

Diane Bell