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Short Breaks from London

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Ever needed to just get away, but you can't go for too long? Please tell us about your short breaks away (e.g. day trips, road trips or weekend breaks), whether it be for ultimate relaxation, or to be active and practice hobbies you may have (fishing,

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      16.07.2004 16:11
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      If you?re tired of the big smoke and all that the city has to offer (and who could blame you if you are) then you?re probably desperate for some peace and tranquillity, far from the sounds of car engines, nightclubs, drunkards, all night supermarkets? Need I say more? Thought not. Personally, when I want to soothe my soul, I head for the sea. From London you?re within very easy reach of Brighton, but if you fancy somewhere a little less cosmopolitan (and a lot more sandy) then Southend is also only an hours drive, depending on traffic, from the centre of London. At Southend you?ll find the longest pier in the world? But don?t worry, you don?t have to trek all of the way to the end of it on foot if you don?t want to! There?s a train on the pier which takes passengers to the end, and back again if you wish, and leaves every few minutes. Tickets for the train are very cheap, though I can?t remember exactly how much they cost. It?s well worth getting the train at least one way, especially if you have kids with you, as they?ll absolutely love the experience of chugging along above the waves. To be honest, there isn?t really too much in the way of entertainment at the end of the pier ? a small arcade, a few stalls, a café, the all-important lifeboat station and the theatre (which never seems to be open when I visit!) But for the fishermen amongst you, I?ve seen guys fishing off the end of the pier struggling with remarkably large fish (and not just the ones they?ve bought in batter from the chip shop!) Still, in Southend you can also sample the delights of fish and chips, play some bingo, spend all of your money in the arcades or an exciting few hours in the adventure park at the entrance to the pier. There is ample car parking, with car parks right along the sea front, and the parking charges are reasonable for a seaside resort? Just don
      ?t forget to buy a ticket, as the car park attendants in Southend are extremely vigilant and they?ll certainly catch you if you forget! If you like your day at the seaside to be a little more organised, then you could always spend a day at Butlins in Minehead from only £9 a day for kids and senior citizens, £12 for adults or £34 for a family. Not all of the attractions are available to day visitors, and day visitors are not allowed into the park every day, so it?s best to check the website for availability first. Whilst at Butlins, however, you can have a game of pool, bowls or ten pin bowling, take a spin around the go kart track, eat at a selection of cafés and restaurants or swim away the calories in Splash Waterworld amongst many, many other attractions available to you. Of course, if you drive out of London in almost any direction and just keep driving, you?ll eventually find yourself in some beautiful countryside. Living in the capital you?re within ridiculously easy reach of the home counties and all that they have to offer. Kent isn?t called the ?Garden of England? for nothing and is full of perfect places for a picnic, if that?s your thing. And whilst you?re in Kent anyway, why not take a trip out to Dover and spend some time at the famous White Cliffs. Of course, as you?re in Dover already it would be a shame not to hop on a ferry across to France for a little bit of culture, and to stock up the drinks cabinet on the way back, perhaps! Two people in an average sized car can make a one-day return trip to Calais for under £30, if they were to travel today ? that?s a bargain in my book! Of course, if you?re a non-driver, or just without a car at the moment, you can catch the Eurostar to Paris from London ? however, in my opinion the price (at approx £300 return per person, when I checked on the website) i
      s absolutely extortionate, and you?d probably be better off financially hiring a car and taking the ferry! Still, the Eurostar does give you the opportunity to relax and watch the scenery go by in comfort as you travel, and at six hours from London to Paris, you?ll be there in less time than it would?ve taken you to get to Scotland! If you travel north a few miles up the A1, or jump on a WAGN train out of King?s Cross, you?ll soon find yourself at Hatfield, where you can spend a lovely day wandering around Hatfield House, home of the Marquess of Salisbury. The entrance to the house is located directly opposite the train station, so it should be difficult to miss. Both the beautiful house itself and the wonderful gardens are open to the public. Whilst it?s free to wander the grounds, there is a small entrance fee for the house. Regular events are held at Hatfield House including Craft Fayres, Country Living Fayres, Book Sales and very soon they?re having Shakespeare in the park (I only hope the weather picks up before then!) And if Shakespeare is your thing, then you could always make the trip up to Stratford Upon Avon, the home of Shakespeare. However, this is quite a distance to travel for a very short break? You could, of course, remain in the Hatfield area if Hatfield House has given you a taste for all things grandiose. Brocket Hall, one time family home of the infamous Lord Brocket of ?I?m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here? is also located just outside Hatfield, and can be booked for private events such as themed weekends, weddings and parties, though I dread to think how much this would cost! Brocket Hall boasts not just one, but two 18 hole golf courses! They also have the Faldo Golf Institut
      e and their much acclaimed lakeside restaurant, Novelli at Auberge du Lac. If you?re desperate to run away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but don?t have the time, energy or money to actually get out of London, then there are plenty of places you can ?escape to? even in the heart of the city. For example, London Zoo or any one of the gorgeous London Parks would give you a feeling of freedom and getting back to nature without actually leaving the big smoke. The parks are ideal for a picnic, reading a book in the open air or just lazing on a blanket so long as the weather is nice, and a short break here needn?t cost you a penny! But if money is no object, then you?re really spoilt for choice as there are several wonderful health spas located within easy reach of London where you can allow yourself to be pampered to within an inch of your life! Champneys Health Resort in Tring, Hertfordshire, or Henlow Grange in Henlow, Bedfordshire are only a short drive North, either could be reached in a little over an hour, driving conditions permitting. A little further away to the South West, close to Liphook in Hampshire, is Champneys Forest Mere. Here you can experience a healing circle, and therapies from Reiki to Graphology, amongst many other pampering delights. And whilst you?re out in the South West anyway, a trip to Stone Henge on Salisbury Plain is highly recommended. There?s something eerie; a mystical feeling emanating from the stones - stark as they are against the openness of the plain. This isn?t spoilt by the coach loads of tourists snapping pictures of each other in front of the stones, the Henge is so mesmerising that it blocks out all interruptions as you gaze up at it in wonder. Believe me, if you haven?t seen Stone Henge it is much more awe
      inspiring than you can imagine. Even just driving past on the A303 you can feel a resonance from the stones that usually wakes me up if I?ve fallen asleep (that?s in the passenger seat, not behind the wheel!) Visiting Stone Henge is not cheap, with prices from £2.60 for children between 5 and 15 years old, up to a whopping £5.20 for an adult ticket. However, it is definitely one of those places that must be visited at least once in your life, if only so that you can say that you?ve been there. Stone Henge is open every day of the year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day, until 16:00 every afternoon during the winter, though it stays open as late as 19:00 in summer. During the Summer months the South of England is home to more music festivals than you can shake a stick at, the vast majority of which are within easy reach of London. The Reading festival is probably one of the most well known, and it takes place in late August (27th to 29th August 2004). The V Festival in Chelmsford can be reached very quickly from London too, and this year takes place the weekend before Reading, on 21st and 22nd August 2004. Unfortunately you?ve missed the Isle of Wight Festival for this year, along with what is probably the most well known British Festival of them all, the fantastic Glastonbury Festival ? but there?s always next year! However, if you?re cheesed off with this Country in its entirety and just need to get away, you?re in absolutely the best place to do that from. Fast trains with comfortable seats and dining cars leave from London stations for Wales and Scotland many times a day, at a price. But if that isn?t far enough for you, then you can always escape to practically anywhere in the world from the London airp
      orts. That is as long as the baggage handlers don?t go on strike! Short break to New York, anyone?

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        18.11.2003 04:32
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        I finally got round to writing this! I lived in Ingatestone for fifteen years, from the age of eight. Although I doubt you have ever heard of it (or will ever visit it), I thought I would join in for the fun of it. I would not be offended if you skim read this! Ingatestone sits within an area of green belt land, 20 miles North East of London, in Essex. Situated between the A12 road and Great Eastern railway, it has rapidly become a commuter village, with a population of around 5,000. Due to its rural yet well-serviced setting, the demographic is a good mixture of young and old, skilled and unskilled, with a lure for the commercial and agricultural worker. It started life as a halfway house between Colchester and London, during Roman times. For those not familiar with Essex, Colchester is the oldest recorded town in Britain. The road linking the two acted as a supply route from London. I believe the name Ingatestone is derived from an expression "Meadow (Ing) at the (atte) Milestone (stone)". There are four Roman milestones, which still stand in the High Street; two of them are on the entrance to my old road. I believe this is where a small market originated, marking the gathering point, and gave rise to a permanent settlement. Eventually the village was established, and the land put to agricultural use. Over time, Inns and pubs appeared; there are five along one side of the High Street alone, no more than a hundred meters apart! The rest, as they say..... PLACES OF INTEREST God, this is tricky. The main one has to be Ingatestone Hall, a sprawling sixteenth century mansion, inhabited by Lord Petre, (that is supposed to be Petre not Peter.) Inside is a range of antique furniture, paintings, and other historical artefacts. Occupied by the Petre family since its inception, Ingatestone Hall is the only real tourist attraction in the village, and once hosted the Antiques Roadshow - hold on to your hats ever
        yone! Oh, Queens Elizabeth I & Mary also briefly stayed there. The only other place of interest in the white-knuckle ride that is Ingatestone would have to be Brandiston House. Daniel Sutton, who was instrumental in the Smallpox inoculations of the 18/19th century held residence there, carrying out much of his work. There are also two churches, both dating back to the 11th century, one of which you could practically see from my old home. The other is in the high street and also has Norman roots, but was enlarged in three stages, the last and largest in the 17th century, to serve as a memorial to the 2nd Lord Petre following his death. It is listed in England's thousand greatest churches. If you like a bit of beard stroking architectural appreciation, this will be right up your alley. NIGHTLIFE/RESTAURANTS I bet you wish you hadn?t started this. If you haven't fallen asleep already, it's time to whip out the amphetamines and slap yourself a few times. It's not that bad really, but it's hardly Las Vegas. Ingatestone offers a handful of restaurants and takeaways, along with a ridiculous amount of old style pubs, given the size of the village. I believe the Star Inn is the oldest, and dates back to the 15th or 16th century. It is tiny in size, with low-beamed ceilings and a huge open log fire. Attached to the beams are berets, helmets and ceremonial hats from various military divisions, alongside other old novelty headwear. You will occasionally hear the sound of accordions/banjos, clapping and navy style singing emanating from the windows. It's slightly surreal, has an eccentric owner; and is definitely a pub for the old locals. If you want something a bit livelier, visit Stocks Bar. Formerly the Anchor, I worked the bar there as a 15 year old (this place is a bit backward). Sitting on the corner of Stock Lane, it serves good food, has more of a wine bar appearance, and has a younge
        r cli entele. The other pubs (The Bell and the Crown) are again old fashioned, but not in the quirky, cut off way the Star is. Little Hammonds is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the area, and has the added distinction of being among the most haunted places in Britain. You may have seen a program on Sky that covered this. Formally named The Haunt, there has been a culinary tradition there since Elizabeth I's reign. Apparently, former employees and owners frequently haunt the tiny stairwells and narrow passageways. Of course, I would never suggest this was a publicity stunt. RETAIL/SERVICES Ingatestone has an eclectic range of boutiques and other strange outlets. It has the dubious honour of hosting the only exclusively traditional Scottish clothing shop in the entire South of England, so if you're after a kilt and sporran... There are many more traditional shops; most of them were/are family run. Gregor Steel is a great jeweller, with real quality hand-made items. There are only a handful of High Street names, such as Budgens, Co-Op, and the Wine Rack (they really like their drink in Ingatestone). Otherwise, think charity shops and knitting emporiums. A great place to find that elusive 'BROS. On Tour - 1988' Video, or Bill Oddie autobiography. There used to be a local bank but we all know what's happened to them. There are the usual traditional services such as solicitors, accountants (yawn) and surveyors. The local school is focused towards students with European origins, and has a good record of results. RECREATIONAL FACILITIES If you're into sport, Ingatestone has several active teams. The Redstones play football at Seymour field, there's a cricket and tennis club, and of course, a crown green bowls team. There are parks, but to be honest if you're a walker you've got miles of countryside to stretch your legs in. THE MOMENT
        YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR As much as I ridicule the blue-rinse culture in Ingatestone, it really is a place for everyone. Ideal for young families that need to commute, or older couples looking to settle down, I can't really fault it as a place to live. It?s a pretty expensive place to live now (where isn't), but I think I appreciate it more now I know I may never have the money to go back. I've tried to make this as painless as possible; if you've got this far well done and thanks for sticking with it. This review is part of the HOMETOWN challenge where members are asked to write about any aspect of their hometown - or a town they'd like/not like to be their hometown. You can find all the participants by going to: http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/internet/internet_sites/dooyoo_co_uk_in_general/_r eview/426988/_____

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          05.02.2001 02:56

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          If you live in London and fancy a change for the weekend here are a few places for one day trips. Go to Victoria station, and go to brighton for the day. It takes about 50 minutes and when you can there you can explore trillions of second hand book shops, unusual shops, go the aquariam, or stroll along the beach. I know the trains are bad at the second(specially around here), but Hatfield House is a must see. You can get the train from Kings Cross to Hatfield, and the house is located opposite the station, but please check the days when it is open. It is a marvelous gigantic house, which was a favourite with a lot of royalty through out time. (40 minutes by train) Maybe try out Southend on sea, it is most accesible from Livepool Street. Build sandcastles, walk along the long pier, Peter Pans playground, candyfloss, fish and chips and lots of tacky bits and bobs. (50 mimutes by train) Be happy Charlie V

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