Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Shugborough Hall & Baddesley Clinton

Having recently joined National Trust Hubby and I visited two of the Trust's properties fairly local to us. Shrugborough Hall is in neighbouring Staffordshire whilst Baddesley Clinton is in our own county of Warwickshire.

It is return visits to both properties: I clearly remember visiting Shrugborough when in Primary School, I have a vivid memory of a huge kitchen with copper pots and a lady dressed in Victorian costume baking cakes for us to try. Baddesley Clinton is a place we visited when our children were young, probably about 20 years ago!

The road into Shrugborough takes you along a sweeping drive through its beautiful parkland with many added stately trees. It's a large estate with a plant crntre, a farm, bridges and structures in the grounds, as well as the house and Lord Lichfield's appartment.

Park Farm
Park Farm Courtyard
Sleeping in the sun
Livestock freely roaming
After enjoying a coffee at the Park Farm Cafe it was a peaceful stroll through the parkland passing grazing livestock to the House. Previously owned by the Bishop's of Lichfield it became a stately home in the 1600's and was laterly owned by the Anson family; George Anson was an avid navigator collecting artifacts from around the world whilst Thomas Anson is responsible for the art and landscaping of Shugborough.

Shugborough Hall's impressive frontage
 Shugborough Hall from the gardens
Inside is full of art, beautiful furniture and a large collection of navigational maps and instruments.

Beautiful interiors
The Library
The kitchen I remember with the copper pots 
Lord Lichfield, a distant relative and great friend of the Royal Family especially Princess Margaret, lived in a large apartment at Shugborough. Born Thoms Partick John Anson he was the 5th Earl of Litchfield. His apartment has been left as it was when he died in 2005 and is full of his famous photographs.

It was amazing to see photos of celebrities we knew from our childhood, usually history is long before we were born.

Outside the formal gardens lead to the river, beautifully kept with trees cut to precise shaping and flower borders full of colourful blooms.

Beautiful formal gardens
There was so much to see, too much for one day especially to walk the estate paths so we do plan to return sometime soon.

Baddesley Clinton is nearer to us than Shugborough; it's a moated manor house with plenty of history. As such it has had many add ons and extensions over time resulting in quite a collection of building styles as you can see.

Baddesley Clinton bridge over the moat
Building changes can be seen on the walls
Quite a large dwelling
Baddesley Clinton has outer buildings and an inner courtyard garden. I'm quite taken with moated buildings and passing over the bridge, through the archway, I was delighted to discover it also had a wine cellar.
I'd love a wine cellar like this 
The wine cellar wasn't the only underground room; inside the house was a Priest's Hole! Being a Roman Catholic dwelling it became a hiding place for Catholics after the Reformation. in 1591 8 priests hid for four hours in this hole, accessible by going down the latrine and along a very small passage. An account of their ordeal can be found here; The Raid on Baddesley.

The nursery rhyme Goosey Goosey Gander is all about priest hunting:

Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander  
(the priest hunters looked all over the house, goose stepping one foot in front of the other so as to make no noise walking)

Upstairs, downstairs in my Lady's chamber
(a priest may hide in a Lady's room, possibly in a Priest hole) 

There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers
(Catholic Priests would not say the new English pray but recite the Latin)

So I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs
(the left refers to the Devil, throwing down the stairs refers to getting rid of the Priests, they were executed if caught) 

The Priest's Hole 
Not somewhere I would want to go
Baddesley Clinton house had many furnished rooms with furniture of great age and origin. I was particularly taken with a large wooden chest, it was full of carvings, even the cupboard door knobs were carved faces.
Stunning carved chest
Tapestry fire screen 
Upstairs as well as bedroom was a small Chapel and Sacristy which has access to the Priest's Hole. It is thought it was used in the 1590 but hidden as a bedroom so those visiting did not suspect Priests were there.
Baddesley Clinton's Chapel 
There was so much to see, so many rooms and varied history included two couples who lived here together, when two died the remaining two wedded and remained at the house.

A walled garden, a vegetable garden with a superb grape vine and a large lake are just part of the beautiful grounds. There are many walk ways, plenty of benches on which to sit and enjoy the peacefulness and parkland perfect for picnics.

The stable block now houses the cafe and plant sales
Great vine in the vegetable garden greenhouse
Another superb property we enjoyed visiting and will return to if only to enjoy a summer picnic in the parkland.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Dedham Vale Vineyard

Essex is an area of England we have not visited so when our daughter gave Hubby a vineyard trip for his retirement gift Dedham Vale Vineyard was a perfect choice ...  in North Essex this English vineyard nestles in the Stour Valley, Constable Country, on the Essex Way.

Driving down the high hedged roads, which seemed to get narrower and narrower, we discovered the vineyard in its beautiful setting; a pool, huge weeping willows and of course vines.

Dedham Vale is set in 40 acres and has been producing wine for over 25 years, their Tasting Barn serving tea and coffee was very welcome after our 140 plus mile journey. A fabulous area for hosting wine tasting, lunches, private functions it had the added bonus of opening out onto a large grassy area and the pool.
Weeping willow by the pool
Dedham Vale's beautiful setting
Ben, the owner, started the tour with a bit of history about how it became a vineyard, it is so interesting to learn how ideas grow and develop. The visit is described as a Grand Tour and it really was. A glorious sunny day we, a group of around 26, set off across the grass to walk the vines.

Dedham grow mainly Germanic grapes, some on this site and more recently other fields in local areas, something they are expanding. Dunklefelder, with its red juice and skin, is the only true red grape grown here and Dornfelder is used to produce the pink colour in their Sparkling Rosé. They grow Bacchus, Pheonix, Rhondo, Reichensteiner and Chardonnay are also grown here, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are grown in their other fields for producing their English Sparkling Wine.

Where it all begins 
Vines stretching across the vineyard
Perfect view on a summer's day 
After walking amongst the vines Ben took us into the oldest building on the vineyard - where the magic happens. The age of the barn noticeable from the herringbone brickwork outside .... inside was very different with shiny stainless steel wine making equipment including a cylindrical press and a spikey corking machine.
Ancient brickwork
Pressing machine - a bag inflates inside to press the grapes against
the walls which have tiny slits that allows the juice to flow out
Ben explaining how the process works 
A few of the stainless steel vats
It's a corker !!
After our superb tour of both vineyard and the winemaking barn we returned to the Tasting Room which had been laid ready for lunch. Before enjoying our tasty ploughman's we enjoyed tasting Dedham Vale wines, five in all, two white, a rose, their red and finally their Brut Sparkling.

Dedham Vale wines - photos are from their website

Colchester Oyster 2016 - 12%
A sparkly clear white with a hint of green hue this Reichensteiner wine had a slight nose of fruit. An off dry wine with a flavour of apple and slight citrus.

Bacchus 2016 - 12%
Ben recommended this with food, especially fish and seafood; lemon and elderflower with a hint of minerality this had a slightly longer finish.

Rosé 2017 - 12% 
A lovely salmon colour this dry rosé was light, fruity with good acidity

Reserve 2016 - 11.5%
Debham Vale's only red this was lighter in body which as expected at 11.5%. A blend of Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Dunklefelder and Rhonda with light tannin from being in French oak this was a deep red in the glass, fruity in flavour with a medium length finish.

Sparkling Brut 2015 - 12%
Produced using the Traditional Method this sparkling wine had fine bubbles, a citrusy flavour with a touch of yeastiness. My favourite wine of our tasting.

A glass of Bacchus 
Thank you Dedham Vale for a very informative tour and tasting of your superb wines in a super setting, we had a lovely afternoon. Thank you too to our daughter, it was a great gift we both enjoyed.
Summer sun in the vines 

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Anniversary celebrations in Birmingham

Last weekend we celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary - some say we don't look very different but personally I'm glad the perm has gone!!

24th June 1989
This year our celebrations were in Birmingham, two nights away, although just 26 miles from home. To our delight we had discovered that the London Concert Orchestra was at The Symphony Hall on our actual anniversary. A concert of Hans Zimmer and John Williams movie themes conducted by Anthony Inglis - it couldn't be more perfect and we enjoyed every note !

Arriving at Hampton by Hilton on Broad Street at midday Saturday the city was relatively quiet. After checking in we took a stroll to the Library of Birmingham. I have visited before but Hubby hadn't; it's an amazing building with two roof gardens, a superb skyline view and the Shakespeare Room. This room is at the very top of the Library and was moved here piece by piece, when you see the intricate wood and glass you can see it was an amazing achievement.

Library of Birmingham - intricate modern styling
It looks more like a theatre inside
Superb skyline views 
The Shakespeare Room
On our walk through the City we passed by the Town Hall, outside which was the Chelsea Flower Show garden made in recognition of the Windrush - a floral display that had so much meaning, I'm so pleased we were able to see it.
The Windrush Chelsea Flower Show Garden
Steamboat and train 
Iconic London bus
Last year at Love Wine Birmingham we discovered many local producers and suppliers, one being Loki. They are located in the Great Western Arcade which wasn't far from the Library or Town Hall .... and so a visit was a must !

It's a superb wine and spirit shop, over two rooms downstairs filled with wine, champagne and spirits with a larger seating area upstairs with comfy sofas and coffee tables. Loki have around 40 wines in special wine machines that will serve tastings in three different measures. We have seen, and used, these in Calais Wine too in their Tasting Room, it's a great way to sample wine before buying. At Loki you load up a tasting card, each time you sample a wine the card takes that payment, you have the choice of the size of tasting, each wine clearly shows the prices ranging from 99p upwards. We had a very enjoyable time trying new wines - had we had time to stay we could have settled in upstairs and purchased a bottle of our favourite to enjoy (Loki charge £5 corkage). We will be calling by again when in the city and I do hope we meet again at this year's Love Wine Birmingham.

What a super entrance
A few of the tastings on offer
The tastings upstairs 
I tried a few white wines and a couple of reds, whilst Hubby focused on just red wine - these are the wines we tasted, the descriptions are Loki's own from in front of each bottle at the machine:

Pegasus Reisling 2015 New Zealand - honeyed rich and elegant with classic acidity with a bit of sweetness 

Domaine de Vissoux Beaujolais Blanc 2015 France - from a small hamlet near Fleurie, well presented fragrance of white flowers, rich and round with flavours of grapefruit, white peach, pear and apricot

Mahi Sauvignon Blanc 2016 New Zealand - unique aspect is the proportion of wild ferment which adds the most amazing texture and weight without being too overpowering

Bodega Norton 'Lote Negro' Malbec Blend 2013 Argentina - powerful but compact showing dense inky bramble fruit, plums and wood spice from 16 months in new French oak barrels

Domaine Viranel Aromes Sauvages 2015 France - a funky wine with big full tannins and rich bold fruit from the Languedoc 

Bodega Izadi Rioja Reserva 2013 Spain - 16 months in both French and American oak barrels to soften the tannins and add a dash of spice 

Altano Duro Vinho Branco Symington 2016 Portugal - really rounded texture with a lovely floral lift, produced using a blend of indigenous Portuguese grape varieties

After a lovely afternoon at Loki we ventured to Brindley Place, a lively area by the Worcester and Birmingham Canal with plenty of bars and restaurants. A great meal in All Bar One accompanied by a good bottle of wine -  Fico Grande Sangiovese, with all the partying around us, it certainly made Saturday night lively.

Perfect sitting on the terrace
There were plenty of hen and stag groups enjoying a warm summer evening; after dinner we strolled back to our hotel but Broad Street carried on partying until past 3am ..... resulting in a quiet Sunday for some hee hee

Not a quiet Sunday for us, after enjoying a great breakfast at the hotel we wandered around the canal area. There were quite a few narrow boats, plenty of original steep footbridges, old warehouses converted into bars and new builds blending in with the surroundings. Although in the centre of the City it feels fresh and relaxing even with all the people and activities going on.

Old warehouses and new skyscrapers
A mixture of time blending in together
The happy couple of 29 years 
Those old bridges were very steep 
One such activity on Sunday was the football - England played Panama in the World Cup. I'm not a football watcher normally but I don't mind if there is a big event on, and it doesn't get much bigger than the World Cup. As our concert was mid afternoon and the match was on at 1pm we seated ourselves in Wetherspoons The Soloman Cutler to watch the big screen, the first time I have been in a pub to watch any game be it rugby or football - quite and experience; my gin and tonic very much needed!

As I mentioned before the concert was amazing. The Symphony Hall is the perfect venue for live music, I was transfixed with the Da Vinci Code in particular. The fireworks, lasers and Anthony Inglis' variety of disguises made the whole event superb, a perfect way to celebrate.

A stroll back along the canal to the Mailbox and dinner at Cote Brasserie; and a stroll back along the canal to Brindley Place for pud at the Slug and Lettuce where I discovered a new drink that is available in the supermarkets.
Trio of puds - they were all delicious 
Bailey's Iced Coffee Mocha - fabulous 
As the evening sky turned red we took our final stroll back to our hotel, the end to our anniversary in Birmingham - what a superb day, thank you Mr H! I wonder what next year's celebrations will be ;-) 

Perfect sunset to end our perfect day