Sunday, 9 April 2017


I was booked on an afternoon train back to London so we had the morning to do something more in the locality. as Lorna had to act as unpaid uber to her daughter and friends for a university open day, Tim and I planned to head down to the two art galleries in town to see the Bruegel exhibition in one and an exhibition of major 20th century news photographs in the other.

However, I awoke to find a little note pinned to the upstairs loo saying not to use as it there had been a leak. It seems Tim had come down to the downstairs loo and found the floor covered in water which he assumed had come from the upstairs one. A plumber was hastily called.

Having found nothing amiss there seemed no alternative but to flush and see what happened. Tim stood with bucket at ceiling to catch the cascade and....nothing. At all. Tim said he was sure he hadn't dreamt it. I told him if that was his idea of a wet dream he was doing it wrong. However, repeated flushings eventually proved Tim right and there was a satisfying drip out of the light fitting. Something had to be done.

So while Tim and the plumber got to work, I duly went into town to see the exhibition now with eldest son, Ben, as my companion. No hardship this. Always an interesting chap to talk to, and now 21 and graduated he is a far cry from the bouncing baby I once recall bottle-feeding! So we enjoyed the excellent (but for £10 very small) Bruegel exhibition, then pottered around the rest of the Museum, had a stroll around the gardens

 and then settled in for lunch at the Horniman Museum's very decent restaurant. This soon became a family gathering as Lorna miraculously found a parking spot after her taxi services and Tim walked down after plumbing exploits (what people will do escape me for a morning).

After lunch Tim and I headed for the Victoria galleries which have a nice art collection of their own, although one that fits into a single gallery.

And we enjoyed the photographic exhibition too - many familiar shots of war scenes, and some unfamiliar ones, from Spanish Civil War, WW2, Vietnam, Middle-East. Lots of conflicts to see, sadly.

Chalfield Manor

While Montacute may be the grander, Great Chalfield Manor possibly wins on charm. Its supposed to be one of the country's finest half dozen manor houses.I could see why it might make such a list.

But first off lunch in the nearby Pear Tree gastropub. This was a perfect choice for lunch, although just a bit too chilly to take advantage of the tables outside.

The Manor itself is approached by a country lane. No real parking spot either - cars just back down the verge in front. 

The gardens/grounds are especially attractive this time of year with the Spring bulbs.Although evidently there are riches later in the year too, notably the rose garden. But we liked this very much, and impressed that they only have one full-time gardener to keep it looking so pristine.

The little church has charm of its own, although it predates the house. Its difficult to believe that its congregation wasn't primarily workers from the big house.

 The remnants of the moat just add to its appeal as a garden. And make it particularly photogenic.

Unfortunately, one wasn't allowed to take photos of the interior, although having said that, since the interior could only be entered a start of a (very good) guided tour, and the tours were very well subscribed, any photos would inevitably have been largely of other tourists gawping.

the house had an interesting history. It was built as  proper fortified manor. At the time one might expect trouble as a well-off land owner. But it ended up in a pretty ruinous state as it descended from the home of landed gentry to lodgings for local farmers. But Pugin took a shine to it and interested one Victorian enough for him to renovate the semi-derelict buildings to form a comfortable, if rather cold, house, with its main hall and "squints" - stone masks which hid peep=hols from which the goings on   the hall could be monitored from adjoining rooms upstairs.