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arnoldhenryrufus

arnoldhenryrufus
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      18.10.2011 00:13
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      Very Family friendly , something for everyone of every age

      Leeds Castle

      August 2011 after doing our annual trip to Belgium for hubby's tobacco, we decided to stay over night at a Premier Inn and visit Leeds Castle the following day before heading home. Anyone that reads my reviews will know I love historical buildings and the UK has these in abundance; every year we pass signs for Leeds Castle and I have finally got to visit it.

      ~~ A little spot of history ~~

      The records of Leeds Castle dates back as far as 855 when it was known as the 'manor of Esledes' and was owned by a Saxon Royal family. Before the Norman Conquest, King Edward the confessor granted the manor to the house of Godwin, whose son (King) Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It is also mentioned in the doomsday book dated 1086.

      It was in 1090 when William II gave the manor to his cousin Hamo De Crevecoeur and it was his grandson Robert who began with building the first stone fortication in 1119 where the castle stands today. The castle went on to have six Royal Queens live inside it over the years, it went through many years of Royal residency and between 1517-1523 on the orders of Henry VIII the castle was transformed from a fortified stronghold into a magnificent Royal Palace, which he used with his first wife Catherine of Aragon. After 300yrs of Royal ownership it was leased out to Sir Anthony St Legar for the vast sum of £10.00 per annum in 1552.

      In 1632 it went through further changes when part of it was demolished and replaced with a large house in the Jacobean style. Then next major changes came in the early 19th century, when architect William Basket surveyed the castle and found that the mill and barbican were in ruins, the gatehouses were in disrepair, the Jacobean house was also in a state of decay; it was decided to demolish the main house and replace it with a Tudor style one, this was completed in 1823 and still stands today.

      The last major owner of the castle was Lady Baille and she arranged for a lot of the Art Deco design inside the castle, which during the war was used as a military hospital and it is believed that weapon research was secretly carried out here. It passed from Lady Baillie's estate to The Leeds Castle Charitable Trust in 1974, where it has been open to the public ever since.

      ~~ Our Visit ~~

      The castle opens at 1030am and we arrived about 15 minutes early and it was already filling up and there was a queue to book in and pay. It was a bit like the shops and banks where there is a line of desks with numbers above them, you know the ones when you hear a voice saying 'cashier no 5 please' etc.
      Staff were friendly and we paid our entrance fee and purchased an English guide book for £5.00, they did sell guide books in various languages. We decided not to us a wheelchair on this visit, as they only had manual ones to hire and it would have made my husband's already bad back even worse if he had to push me. The man on the till advised us we could catch the train for 50p each up and down from the castle, or we could walk one way or both ways if we wished, if we needed assistance at any time then to just ask a member of staff and they will arrange transport for us or anything else we needed. He also advised us that our ticket lasts for one year should we wish to return.

      We decided to walk to the castle as we were sure he said it was downhill, we soon realised our misunderstanding as it was definitely an uphill walk, but we took it steady and enjoyed the spectacular grounds and scenery. We walked post some very large plants and I was snapping away with my camera; the path took us past a wonderful vast lake and some luscious green gardens where families were already sitting with children who were running around and playing. The walk to the castle was very pleasant indeed and it really wasn't that far and with stopping to take photos and just going at a steady pace, I coped with it very well.

      We arrived at the Norman gatehouse which was very impressive especially as it was part of the original 12th century stronghold. We went through the Norman arch and were asked by staff if I could manage the old stairs that led to the dungeons, my husband instantly declined thinking that the old stairs would be too difficult for me to manage, so we were directed to the entrance hall which the others would eventually get to start the tour of the house. It was so crowded in the hall we turned around and sat on a bench outside for 10-15mins before trying again, apparently they has 2-3 coaches all arrive at the same time which had caused a bit of a gridlock.

      We only waited a few minutes as we were told more coaches were coming through very soon, so we joined the queue and a very kind usher let us through between groups as I am a lot slower, and this proved to be very useful as the next group soon caught me up and overtook me. One of the first things I noticed was the stone flooring and the thick stone walls, typical of a medieval castle. Some of the rooms have wall hangings, which act like a wallpaper, and some of the rooms were really fascinating to look at, but due to the horrendous amount of people going through it was hard to stop and look for long periods and some of the upstairs rooms you could only look at from the doorways. I won't go over every room with you, but there are a few that impressed me more than others, so I will mention a few things you will see on your visit.

      The Queen's room is one of the rooms that I said had damask wall hangings, these being green and a four poster bed with red drapery and a very large bed spread for the oversized state bed. The wall hangings and the draperies have the matching monograms HC which is entwined in a lovers knot to celebrate the marriage of Henry V and the French princess Catherine de Valois in 1420. The Queen's bathroom which is just off the bedroom has a semi circular chimney piece and fire, it also has a very unusual circular bath tub which is surrounded by a white curtain which is hung from a canopy, even the tub itself is covered by material, apparently according to the guide book this is to denote the rank and importance of the user. According to the book both the bed and the bath and other furnishings were designed to be easily dismantled so they could be kept safe when the Queen was not in residence.
      There is a magnificent portrait of Henry VIII above the fireplace in the Banqueting Hall; I was really impressed by this as I have a particular interest in the Tudor period.

      Lady Baillie's rooms were fairly impressive also and they were very much laid out as if she had just popped out for a few minutes. You had to see some of the rooms via mirrors as they were cordoned off by rope. I did like the display of her shoes and I did like the colours in her dressing room, cream and white. Her bedroom was done in style of French Regency from the 18th century; it was in a lovely blue colour with tiny little gold shelves each holding a crane (bird). Another thing I absolutely loved about the inside was the fact you could freely take as many photos as you liked, some people were even videoing it. I was in my element and I took hundreds of photos.

      After the castle we walked alongside the lake towards the courtyard where the restaurants were. There were lots of tables and seats dotted around the courtyard which we noticed as we walked through to the restaurant. We popped inside to see what was on offer and a main meal of a couple of small pieces of lamb; about 4 small potatoes and 1/2 dozen baby carrots cost £10.00. We were both disappointed with the menu choices and also with the cost, so we decided to back track and go to the little shop which offered refreshments like sandwiches and drinks, actually apart from sweets and ice-cream that's all it sold and a sandwich like the ones you get at petrol stations and not served with little extras was £4.00 which I thought was extremely over the top.

      Feeling a little peckish we took a look at the card with the map on which was given to us with our tickets and we noticed a place called Maze Market Grill which was by the children's play area and the maze, so we walked a little further and made our way there. We discovered that they only did burgers or sweets and ices, again the burgers were £4.00 each (a popular price it seems), a cup of tea or coffee was £2.00 ea. We decided against a burger and settled for a drink and we shared a Twix which although was lovely was not worth the 7 syns on my diet. As we were close to the end of our visit we thought we would look for a country pub in the village of Leeds at the end of our visit (we did find one and enjoyed a lovely lunch).

      Hubby took some more pictures for me whilst I had a rest, as the children's play area was here, with a knight's realm playground which is a small wooden scale model of the castle. After resting hubby asked if I wanted to take the boat over the lake to the far side (which costs 1.00 ea person for each way), but I fancied walking that short distance to have another look at the black swans and have a look at the aviary and the gardens again (more photo opportunities).

      I really enjoyed the lovely leisurely stroll around both as we made our way back towards the courtyard and then the castle, where we took a few moments to rest on one of the benches looking over the moat at the castle where we could still see people queuing to get in. We then continued our walk over to the train shelter and waited for around 5 minutes for the train to arrive, we paid 50p each and it took us around the far side of the lake giving me the chance to take more pictures and see both the castle and the lakes from a different angle, it then dropped us off by the entrance/exit.

      I did nearly forget to mention that we saw a sign for the 'Dog Collar Museum' in the courtyard and we did wonder which kind of dog collar it meant, whether it be the ones vicars wore or the ones dogs wore, so we popped inside to find out. It was only a small exhibition, but I did find it very interesting; it was a display of animal dog collars which the owners have used over the years, some of them were very large with spikes and looked dead uncomfortable and horrific to be honest; they also had some black and white photos of some of the collars being worn by their pets.

      As we are a pair of old gits we didn't experience some of the family areas, but from what I could see the families all around us were having a fantastic time. They also supply activity sheets for your children to look out for things as they walk around; I did notice a couple of parents/grandparents helping the siblings as they walked around.

      The maze looked a good size and we saw a large group of young people sitting on whatever was in the middle of it. There is also a mythical grotto you can walk through too.

      There is a large gift shop by the entrance/exit which sells all the usual stuff plus a selection of scarves and jewellery, and a couple of little shops around the grounds to encourage you to part with your well earned cash. They are all as usual a tad on the expensive side, and I noted one little shop was selling outdoor toys and games for children, as there are a lot of places where they could play to their hearts content; but it may be a lot cheaper if you went to pound stretcher or another store and bought stuff with you.

      ~~Other items~~

      Disabilities - I have already mentioned about the transport available for people with mobility problems, and they do have parking for blue badge holders and specially adapted toilet facilities which are for people with disabilities and they double up as a baby changing room as well. People with disabilities get in on a concession rate and their carers can visit for free.

      You can also get a family audio guide if you want.

      They have a 9 hole golf course; bed and breakfast facilities if you wish to stay over; as well as this they also let out holiday cottages, pls take a look at their website for further info www.leeds-castle.com where you can also take a look at other things they offer like hot air balloon rides or even a high wire forest adventure.

      They hold various events throughout the year like practising archery, a jousting tournament, concerts, fireworks, Christmas etc. So it is worth having a look to see if you want to tie your visit in to match one of these events.

      No dogs are allowed on the grounds, unless it is a guide dog.

      You can also host your wedding here, or any kind of celebration or conference, just contact their hospitality team on 01622 767813,

      ~~ Prices and Opening Times 2011 ~~

      Adults - £18.50 ea

      OAP/Students/Disabled - £16.00 ea
      (Remember carers go in free)

      Children age 4-15 years - £11.00 ea

      Grounds are open from 1000hrs daily

      The castle opens from 1030hrs to 1800hrs from April to Sept; with the last admission being @1630hrs and between Oct - Mar last admission being at 1500hrs with it closing at 1700hrs.

      ~~ Where is it ~~

      Well it's not in Leeds, although the village is in Kent where it is set is also called Leeds. The address is Leeds Castle, Maidstone, Kent, ME17 1PL.

      It is sign posted from Junction 8 of the M20 between London and the channel ports. If you live in the London area there are companies that offer tours, the website will have the details. By train you can plan your journey by looking at www.leedscastlebytrain.com and they offer a shuttle service from the station to the castle at a price of £5.00 per adult and £3.00 for children; to tie this up with your train schedule take a look at the web site for www.spothire.co.uk.

      It is approx 25 miles from the Euro tunnel and 38 miles from Dover.

      ~~ Overall ~~

      We really enjoyed our visit and the castle has a lot to offer for every member of the family. I do feel that a lot of effort has been given to entertaining people and meeting their needs, although I do feel that they exploit the captive audience when it comes to their food prices and I would recommend that you take your own picnic.

      I think that everyone will take a pleasant memory away with them after visiting here, it is a wonderful place to visit and well presented, steeped with history to feed the enquiring mind. A historic building that we should be proud of and I would highly recommend a visit here.


      Thanks for reading
      Arnoldhenryrufus (Lyn x )

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        26.09.2011 20:52
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        An Historic Castle steeped in history and a lovely walled town

        Conwy Castle

        On a weekend break in November 2010 we decided to have a drive out to Conwy to see if the castle would be open and to my delight it was. The castle itself looks very impressive as you drive along the road; on our first attempt we missed the entrance and started to drive out of the town. It is a walled town so this in itself gave me plenty to get excited about as we drove around the wall, before turning back to find the car park and entrance to the castle.

        ~~A Touch of History~~

        The castle was commissioned by King Edward I as part of his plan to encircle the area of Snowdonia with English fortresses. The new site for Conwy Castle was established in 1283, it was to be a new castle and town which was to take its name from Aberconwy Abbey; yet it has been known as Conwy right from the beginning. It was the start of May when they started work on the building of the castle in the high rock facing the river estuary. King Edward I hoped that after the long battles with the Welsh were finally over that Aberconwy would become the administrative centre of the new country, but the Statute of Wales issued at Rhuddlan on March 19th 1284 that the North Wales Territories which had been conquered during the recent war, were now to become three counties known as Anglesey, Merioneth and Caernarfon, the latter being the one to be the administrative centre, which also had a new castle and town under construction.

        Pulling resources and master builders from all over Wales and England the castle and the town walls went up in just a few years and was completed by 1287 the total cost came to a staggering £15,000 which is the equivalent to £45 million in today's money; probably still cheaper than the silly money spent on some buildings today. Would you believe it, after spending all this money King Edward I only ever stayed at the completed castle once and that was not by choice, he was forced to spend Christmas here in 1294 due to local flooding.

        During the reign of Edward II the castle started to slip into decline and by the time of the reign of King Edward III it was like many other Royal Castles in North and South Wales it was showing lots of decay both in the building and its supplies of weaponry and food storage; by the early 1330's it was actually declared unfit for the King to stay should he wish to visit. Although mid century repairs were made and by the end of the century it had started to decay once again; yet this did not stop Richard II and his courtiers seeking refuge here back in 1399. It took another attempt of restoration around 1520's - 30's under the rule of Henry VIII, again this was not inhabited by royalty although there were plans to use it. It was used for a time as a prison for petty felons and debtors and also an armament store.

        Although the castle seems to lack the warmth of being regularly habituated the town seemed to attract well to do families as its residents. Sadly the castle continued to decay and by 1627 it had lost a lot of its lead roofing and a lot of its wooden flooring was deemed unsafe. On June 26th of this year it finally left Royal ownership and was sold to Edward, first Baron Conwy, who was Secretary of State to the King for £100. He then adopted the title of Viscount Conwy of Conwy Castle.

        During the reign of Charles I some repair work started again, but by 1645 conflict began, starting with soldiers storming the castle. The conflict between royalists and parliamentarians went on until its conclusion during November 1646 when Charles I permitted its garrison to surrender, Conwy was one of the last three castles which were taken.

        It was 1665 when Conwy Castle faced even more ruin, when it came into the hands of the third Lord Conwy who did not want it, so he set about getting its valuable materials like its lead roof removed; after a few months everything was removed and just the shell was left.

        Over the centuries since new bridges have been built to join the town walls, the first one of these was the Thomas Telford suspension bridge built in 1826, which holds the main Chester to Bangor road through the town. New roads were developed taking you through the town and in 1953 the castle and town walls came under the care of the Ministry of Works with a 99yr lease.

        Reading about the history of this castle I felt quite sad for it, such a majestic building that has stood for centuries, but has never truly been loved especially during its first few centuries. From what I read now it appears that its historic value and the building itself are finally getting the love and attention it should have got from the beginning. I do feel that some historic royals built for the sake of building and sadly leaving them to rot; which is such a shame.

        ~~Our Visit~~

        I do love old buildings whether it is a small house or a large stately home or castle; so I was really looking forward to our visit. The road was a duel carriageway and there were no problems reaching Conwy, I was so interested in looking around at the lovely views and seeing the castle in front of us that I missed seeing the turning for the entrance and we ended up continuing along the road following the town walls. It is quite a majestic sight, very beautiful as you approach it, I love the way the bridge actually becomes part of it.

        The castle itself dominates the entrance into Conwy and once we turned around we made our way back to the car park and the entrance to this lovely castle. The car park is not that big and although it was very much outside the tourist season it was still full, we managed to find a space and made our way to the gift shop, which doubles as the entrance and exit to the castle grounds. Once we had purchased our tickets we went through the glass doors onto a pathway which led you up the steep incline taking you to the castle entrance. Hubby, bless him always worries about me being able to walk and the incline here did concern him, but my shear bloodymindness and the adrenaline rush from seeing an old building got me to the top albeit a little breathless when I got there. The pathway was quite smooth going up the incline was quite smooth, unlike the pathways on the actual castle grounds which were very uneven, large cobblestones and could be quite dangerous for someone with walking problems. I did trip once or twice, but I tend to shuffle when my legs and back get tired and sore.

        The North West tower is a great example of some of the architecture of the time, you can see how each room had a large airy window where you could sit, and these were to allow light and air into the rooms. These would have had iron bars on them as well to keep unwanted visitors out. There are also very small narrow slits which were barred and known as 'loops', again these were here for added security and sadly they didn't let in much light. On this side of the castle is a very good example of the masonry cover to one of the 'latrines' which they would have used in their day.

        'Put holes' can be seen where the builders would have secured the wooden beams. It is totally amazing to look for these as you go around the castle ruins, letting yourself imagine what it must have been like to have built this. I mentioned loops before; there are bigger ones as well which they call 'arrow loops' so you can imagine what these were used for, obviously the defence of the castle.

        It is quite impressive as you walk around the ruins, and look around the rooms letting your imagination try to see how they would have looked in its day. There are plaques around and pictures to help you see what it would have been like, you also have your guide book to help you. I loved the beautiful arches you saw, they always make me think of the skills that went into constructing them.

        There were parts of the castle that I couldn't physically get to as for one reason, my hubby won't let me risk trying to climb naturally uneven and worn staircases and a lot of these were extremely narrow as well. So for the majority of our visit we stayed on the one level, only occasionally going down wide and few stairs to some sections because hubby could help me and stop me from falling. I noticed that the prison tower was very narrow and there were large ledges leading to the window, you could get a few bums side by side on the ledges.

        I am always amazed by the kitchens in old buildings and here was no exception where you can see holes in the walls, which would have been for storing food. The guide book informs me that the kitchen and kitchen tower would have also included a brew house and bake house all under the same roof.

        I am like a child let loose in a sweet shop looking in every room and reading any boards that are available feeding my mind with information as I drag my poor husband around with me. He would prefer to see a stately home which is furnished rather than the ruins of a castle. I love to see how such an old building is still standing, even though it is just a shell now, with the help of guides and the information at hand I can see and sense what it would have been like.

        The chapel was lovely and to me it still had a regal and spiritual feel to it with its large lancet windows, the roof above these windows was amazing. The castle and the wall contain a massive 22 towers, I know you can go up some of these, I am not sure if you can climb all 22 or even it you would want to. Sadly I didn't go up the towers, but as the castle is on a hill you still got some spectacular views without going up a tower.
        We only spent a few hours walking round the castle grounds, but I enjoyed looking out for the little signs of how it had once looked and enjoyed the ruins; the walks back to the gift shop was down hill so wasn't too bad for a tired body.

        The gift shop was just like most gift shops selling over priced gifts and memorabilia to encourage you to part with your pennies. It was very warm in the shop which was nice on a cool November day.

        After our visit we both needed to use the toilets before heading back to our hotel, the toilets were down a long set of stairs and there was no lift, so I used the disabled toilet which was outside the main entrance. Personally I was extremely disappointed in the toilet facilities, it was as bad as a lot of public toilets with the metal bowl and I think (if I remember correctly) it had no seat on it. I know I was very uncomfortable and if I could have waited I would not used it. My husband wasn't that impressed with the gents toilets either.

        There was a little cafe next door to the castle as you came out onto the car park, I cannot comment on it though as we didn't stay to try it.

        ~~Opening Times ~~

        1st April - 30th June - 0930 - 1700 daily
        1st July - 31st Aug - 0930 - 1800 daily
        1st Sep - 31st Oct - 09.30 - 1700 daily
        1st Nov - 28th Feb - 10.00 - 1600 Mon - Sat

        11.00 - 16.00 on Sundays
        1st Mar - 31st Mar - 09.30 - 17.00 daily
        It is closed on 24th, 25th and 26th December, also closed on Jan 1st.

        ~~ How much? ~~

        Adults - £4.80
        Concessions - £4.30
        Child - £4.30
        Family Ticket - £13.90 admits 2 adults and up to 3 children under 16yrs.

        ~~ Directions ~~

        You can get to Conwy via the A55 and the B5106; it also has its own railway station which is next to the castle grounds if you prefer to go by train; which maybe an idea as someone actually reversed into our car on the car park knocking our bumper out.
        For your Sat nav the address is
        5 Rose Hill St
        Conwy
        LL32 8LD

        ~~ Overall ~~

        I am glad I didn't read up on the castles history prior to going, as I mentioned earlier this castle had quite a sad history and that would have spoilt the fairy tale image I had of the wonderful medieval castle. It is in ruins and has been for many hundreds of years, but it still contains many years of history and can you imagine the stories it would tell and the things it has seen in its life time, if only it could talk. In a way it can talk, the ruins of the castle and the little bits of wood and the holes where the beams would have fitted all tell a story of the work and craftsmanship that went into making this building, that with the help of the boards and the guidebook telling you about its history you soon build a picture of how it once was. So as you look around the grounds remember the castle is speaking to you and sharing with you its history and how people would have lived all those years ago.

        If you like history and architecture then this ruined castle is a must visit.

        Everything true as of May 2011

        Thank you for reading

        Lyn (Arnoldhenryrufus) xx

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          29.08.2011 12:10
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          Wonderrul Historic Elegance, Half Board and Entertainment included .

          Nidd Hall

          Over many years we have enjoyed the occasional break with Warner Leisure Hotels; we were introduced to them by my parents who often visited two maybe three times a year during their retirement. As anyone that has read some of my reviews will know I love historical buildings and Warner's own a total of seven Grade I and II listed hotels and Nidd Hall was the only one I had not visited before now. My parents are sadly no longer with us and my husband and I decided that in their memory we would treat ourselves to the 'Royal Room' at Nidd Hall, which was my mother's favourite of all the breaks, we really pushed the boat out and for what we spent I am sure we could have had a holiday abroad, but this break had to be special as it was in my parents memory and the last one to visit, we also don't go on the breaks now as we have tightened our belts with the recession and save visits like this for very special events.

          Once we had made our decision on the dates, we chose the weekend of 20th-22nd November 2009 as I wanted to see the house decorated for Christmas. I went online and started the booking process, but as I was unsure what the Royal rooms were like I decided to phone the main booking number instead. The lady on the end of the phone was extremely helpful and explained all the choices with rooms, where I could a larger room with a view which had a bath and a shower, or another room with a suite (separate room with a sofa chairs etc) and a shower only. She described all the different choices of Royal rooms/suites that were available and situated within the main house; yes you actually get to stay in this wonderful Grade I listed building and not in an annexe as you would if you had taken one of the smaller rooms.

          The Royal rooms do cost between £50 - £100 a night extra on the price of a normal room, for this you get the luxury of staying in the main building, you get a TV with free view and DVD player, fridge and mini bar (which is very expensive), luxury choice of coffees as well as tea and coffee making facilities, bathrobes and slippers to use for the duration of your stay and a welcome pack of fruit, chocolates and wine. You also get to take occupancy of your room from 1300hrs where the other rooms cannot be taken up until 1500hrs.

          She relayed all this information to me making sure I understood everything before making our choice of room; we explained our needs and choose our room, we also still got the online discount as if we had; we were very excited and started looking forward to our visit. It might be prudent to say here that where you make the booking you will need to pay a deposit or the money in full depending on the time scale between booking and your visit. Our receipt arrived prior to our visit complete with a booklet informing us what leisure facilities were available during our stay and a little map on how to get there.

          ~~A Little Bit of History~~

          Nidd Hall got its name from the village of the same name which was originally the 'capital' of Nidderdale. The name itself is the English form of the Celtic 'Nith' or the 'Shining River'. It was the site of an Anglo Saxon settlement approx six miles out of Ripon.

          There was a small manor house on the site which dated back to the 16th century, but this was pulled down in 1825 and there are only the cellars left from the original building. A much larger house was built in a Georgian style; it does have some Victorian characteristics as well. The house went on to be passed down the Rawson family line and was extended in 1890, taking a sideward's inheritance it now belongs to the family of Viscount Furness who owned the property until the end of the Great War. His youngest son who retained the title added electricity in 1924. During the 2nd World War it was occupied by Skellfield School for Girls, but the family moved back in during 1946, land and property were sold and resold until 1996 when Warner Holidays purchased the hall.

          ~~Our Visit~~

          We arrived around 1pm and managed to find a parking space right outside reception, first impressions were wow, and we felt like royalty it looked so grand. As we were early visitors booking in did not take long, the receptionist took our details and we filled in a registration form and were given our keys and a small welcome pack telling us what was on during our stay. The reception area was massive with lovely alcoves containing white statues looking down on you; they stood out really well against the yellow walls. My excitement was growing as I wanted to get moving and explore this wonderful building.

          After being directed to the lift we made our way to our room, we walked across a balcony which looked over the reception area and then onto our room. It was lovely walking to our room as all the doors were left wide open so we could have a peep in at the other rooms on route to ours; they were really lovely looking rooms. We got to our room and wow was I impressed, we had a really large bed, covered in a lovely royal blue and white throw, there was a little alcove with two comfortable chairs, free view television, DVD player, and mini bar/fridge. There was a wooden box on the dressing table when I opened it; I discovered an assortment of pretty foiled containers of flavoured coffee; on opening the draws I discovered the kettle and tea making facilities were tucked away inside the draw. Inside the wardrobe were our white slippers and bathrobes as well as an Iron and ironing board for our use; I was really pleased that the bathrobes and slippers fit as neither myself or my husband are slim.

          Under the window which faced over the front of the hotel so you got a view of the car park and some of the grounds which displayed a wonderful big tree which was lit up for Christmas; on the coffee table was our welcome pack which consisted of a small bottle of red and a small bottle of white wine, a small box of chocolates, a bowl of fruit and two glasses. The bathroom was clean and had a white bath with a shower over it, there were sash windows, I did try to open it but it wouldn't open, thankfully the window in the bedroom did open because we like to sleep with a window open all year round.

          I started to unpack whilst my husband slipped out to make a complaint, he was very unhappy as he had ordered me a special gift pack of flowers, sparkling wine, a larger box of chocs, a larger basket of flowers etc, which were not there on our arrival and they were meant to be, he was very upset about his surprise going wrong.

          Our room was very comfortable and clean, although I did find storage a little limited, as being a lady I did bring everything except the kitchen sink, the bed was bigger than our king-size one at home, we could lose each other in it and believe me that's not an easy thing to do, lol. The room was warm and the fridge was great for keeping my water and my hubby's beer cold. We were a little disappointed with the bathroom however, I did try to have a bath, but the water temperature was less than luke warm, so I tried a shower and it really wasn't much better. We did complain to reception about the lack of hot water and was instructed to let it run for 10 minutes, but that didn't work either. We also had a knocking coming from the pipe work which was caused by an air lock in the pipe work, the manager did say he would take a look, but to be honest I don't know if he did.

          It was a bit strange using the kettle whilst it was stuck in a draw, but we got used to it; there was a hairdryer provided for our use, which was fine, but you had to keep your finger on the on button to get it to work, which was ok for me, but not for someone who suffered with arthritis having to hold the button in all the time.

          Unpacking completed it was time to explore these wonderful large rooms and the history they contain. I have to say the rooms simply take my breath away they were beautiful with their high ceilings, sash windows and wonderful period features. The rooms were decorated tastefully in keeping with the grandeur of the building itself. There was the drawing room and the library where you could a quiet moment, sit and read or play a board game, a small tea room which is part of the Terrace Restaurant where you could enjoy a light lunch or an afternoon tea. As it was the festive season we were given a free glass of warm Mulled Wine and a piece of shortbread on our first day.

          There is a small gift shop inside the house (there is one at all the Warner hotels), this sells essentials in case you forgot your toothbrush and other items; they do have some gift toiletries in your rooms, such as soap, shampoo, shower gel etc. The shop also offers sweets, papers, little gift trinkets to take home with you.
          The historic features of the hotel were extremely impressive and I really did enjoy the aesthetic beauty of the place, but I was a tad disappointed as they have seemed to have 'toned' down the Christmas decorations, one of the beauty's of the past Christmas's was the extravagant Christmas decorations and loads of wonderful Christmas about the place, it now looks quite sparse.

          On the Sunday of our visit the lift to our room stopped short and as I have trouble walking and the fact that I didn't notice the shortfall straight away, I managed to trip up and ended up jarring my back; I didn't make a complaint, but I was concerned that someone could get hurt, so I did ask reception to request maintenance take a look at it. A short while later, there was a knock on our bedroom door and it was the duty manager coming to make sure that I was ok after my little trip, which I thought was a nice touch.

          ~~ Entertainment ~~

          This being a Warner break they do put on a lot of entertainment for your enjoyment and it is all optional, it is totally your choice if you wish to part take.

          They offer things like quizzes, archery instruction, bingo at some of the hotels, competitions in the games rooms; afternoon movies, aqua fit in the pool, afternoon dancing and not to forget the evening entertainment, which some nights is provided by the entertainment staff and other nights they have guest stars, check their website or brochure to see who's on during the time you want to visit.

          There was a day trip on offer during our visit and this was to Harrogate, we took up the trip and really enjoyed a bit of Christmas shopping and sampling some of the delights it had to offer, like some lovely cakes from Betty's (which is my mother in law's favourite cake shop).

          I talked my husband into taking a dip in the swimming pool with me as our room still had no hot water, we enjoyed the lovely warm pool and the Jacuzzi; there was a sauna and steam room available but we did not indulge, but we did take the opportunity to use the showers down here as they were hot and we could get refreshed ready for our evening meal.

          Most Warner hotels offer a beauty salon which give you a choice of Massages, facials, hand and nail treatments, tanning etc. I did enquire about having one of the treatments, but I left it a bit late and they were fully booked up; so if you want to try one for yourself I would recommend that you book in advance before you go.

          We visited the games room on the Sunday having a couple of games of snooker on the full size table they have. Also we could have played skittles for a small charge; there was a dart board and a couple of table tennis tables as well.

          In the evenings after our meal we retired to the entertainment lounge where we watched the dancing (sadly we couldn't join in as we don't know how to ballroom dance), the main shows start around 9pm. We enjoyed the evening shows whilst we were there, but as my friends son was doing really well at darts on the TV I kept nipping out to the bar area where they had the live darts showing on a large flat screen TV. The entertainment goes on until around midnight I believe, but we like to retire to our room after the main show and enjoy a bit of television and a nightcap before bed.

          Other facilities are available like air rifle shooting, outdoor bowls, fishing, tennis, a nine hole putting green, boules, croquet and they also offer cycles for hire, we didn't partake in any of these activities as it was late November and a bit damp and cold outside.

          ~~ Eating here ~~

          I have already mentioned about afternoon, tea, this can be taken in the Terrace Restaurant which is new to Nidd Hall. You can enjoy light lunches and afternoon tea during the day and in the evening you can try their menu at an extra surcharge of £7.95 each if you wish to try something different. We did book for the Saturday night, but after looking at the menu there was nothing that appealed to both of us, so we cancelled our table and ate at the Rawson Restaurant instead.

          The Terrace is open for evening meals between 6.30 and 9.00 pm and you get a choice of 6 starters, main meals and desserts. Here is a small sample to give you an idea what was on offer.

          Starters: Croustade of crottin goat's cheese, tomato confit, basil pesto or Terrine of leaping duck, Yorkshire cured duck; Yorkshire cured ham, and Armagnac prunes, apple chutney, toasted sour dough.

          Main Courses: Seared fillet of sea beam, risotto of tiger prawns and chorizo lemon and chive butter sauce or Rump of Nidderdale lamb, braised lamb hotpot, and roasted root vegetables, creamed celeriac.

          Desserts: Warm flourless chocolate cake, fudge sauce, orange crème anglaise or Lemon curd cheese cake, blackberry compote, almond tuille.

          Now I have looked at the menu again I do wonder why I didn't try it out, we must have preferred what was on offer in the other restaurant more.

          Rawson Restaurant - as your stay here is half board, this is the restaurant where you have the same table for the duration of your visit for both your breakfast and evening meals. It is advised that once you have settled in you take a walk down to the restaurant and a member of staff will show you to your table and make sure it is ok with you. We walked down on our visit and when they realised I needed a stick for walking they moved us to a more accessible table not too far from the food to enable me to carry it easily back to my seat.

          Let's get down to the important bit, the food; all the meals are done in a buffet/carvery style with a small menu for those that want to try something different. We will start with the breakfasts, these are served between 0800 and 1000hrs and once you are settled at your table the waiter/waitress comes to ask if you will be attending the buffet bar or if you would like something from the kitchen (as detailed on your menu), also offering tea/coffee and toast. My husband and I stayed with the buffet bar for the breakfasts, but things like omelettes or kippers etc can be ordered if they are on the menu for that day (it is changed daily). You have loads to choose from, there is the cereal bar, the breads and the hot counter; hubby and I grabbed a couple of fruit juices and went straight for the hot counter which gave us a choice of poached eggs, bacon, pork sausage, scrambled egg, baked beans, fresh tomato, hash brown, mushrooms and black pudding. We enjoyed our breakfast, some of the bacon was a little dry, but you get that when it's left out.

          Our evening meals were different each night, but there was always a salad bar available, which could be used for starters and main courses; you were given a choice of two meats on the carvery and a couple of other dishes like pasta or chilli etc. There is a menu which offers a couple of other dishes from the kitchen which you can choose from if you don't fancy what is on offer, my husband has a tendency of choosing from the menu quite often during our visits. The evening meals are three courses and were very pleasant.

          I usually go for a light salad from the salad bar for my starter, which also has slight variations each night, and I went for a carvery on my three nights which was lamb, pork and beef for me, a different one each night of course, I do remember chicken portions being an alternative one night and tuna steaks on another evening.
          My husband had French onion soup for a starter one night, but was a little disappointed as it was tepid, he had potted crab with bread and butter on another night which he really enjoyed, and he had a light salad starter on the final night. One of the evenings he had a main meal from the kitchen and this was Beef Bourignon which he really enjoyed but would have liked a bigger portion of it.

          The desserts were lovely, we had a chocolate truffle with orange cream which was light and fluffy and not too sweet or sickly, another night it was vanilla cheese cake, this wasn't so nice, as it was thick and got a little sickly after a couple of mouthfuls. Hubby not being a big pudding fan (disgusting I know, but it means more for me, yum). He went for the cheese and biscuits for two of the evenings, he was a little disappointed as the choices of cheeses and biscuits were limited and the same on both nights.

          Overall though even with the little niggles the overall experience was lovely, staff was very polite and we both enjoyed the majority of the food. We were lucky and got to enjoy the company of some nice couples that were sitting on our table which also added to the dining experience.

          ~~ Rooms ~~

          I have already mentioned that we paid extra and had a Royal room, so I won't go into them again; there are two other types of rooms available.

          Signature room - according to the brochure these rooms offer you a combination of elegance and comfort offering you larger beds, ensuite bathroom, mini bar, flat screen TV/DVD player and digital radio, freebie toiletries, chairs, tea and coffee making facilities, hair dryer, iron and ironing board (The Royal rooms have all this and a little bit more).

          Ambassador room - the only difference from the above that I can see is the bed is smaller or you have the option of taking twin beds, there is only a TV and there is no mini bar, all the rest is the same.
          Obviously prices vary depending on the room of your choice.

          ~~ How to get to Nidd Hall ~~

          Address is
          Nidd Hall Hotel
          Nidd
          Harrogate
          North Yorkshire
          HG3 3BN

          01423 771598

          EMAIL ADDRESS - www.warnerleisurehotels.co.uk/niddhall

          Directions from the A1(M)
          Leave the A1(M) at junction 47 which is signposted Harrogate, Knaresborough and York, you then take the A59 towards Knaresborough and follow the signs into Knaresborough. Go straight through the town centre and when you reach the Bond End traffic lights turn left then take an immediate right onto the B6165 signposted Ripley and Pateley Bridge. Nidd Hall is on the right hand side approximately 4 miles along this road.

          Alternatively cheat and like me let the sat nav direct you there.

          ~~ Prices ~~

          Prices vary greatly depending when you visit and what the entertainment is during your stay, but there is usually some kind of offer on to give you a small discount so it is worth looking it up on the internet to see what is available for when you want to stay. You can pick up a brochure from your local travel agents, or you can give them a ring on 0800 1 388 399 or you could request one online at the link listed above.

          ~~ Disability ~~

          The hotel caters exceptionally well for the disabled, my father was using a wheelchair for many years and visited Warner breaks on numerous occasions. There are lifts to all floors and they do have rooms to cater for wheelchair users.

          ~~ Other Info ~~

          A little piece of trivia for you, it is rumoured that King Edward VIII was introduced to Mrs Simpson at one of the functions held in this grand mansion during its hay day.

          ~~ Overall ~~

          I love staying at Warner Leisure Hotels especially the historic and grand ones, it is that touch of luxury that I really love especially being that close to all that history and beauty, even better if the place was haunted.
          Nidd Hall had loads of character but we did have a few niggles during our visit, although staff were very pleasant and helpful, when it came to sorting these problems they seemed slightly dismissive. At the end of the visit you are given a questionnaire for your feedback, on this occasion I wrote them a letter to accompany the feedback form, I was completely fair mentioning good points as well as bad points, to this day we have never received a reply from this letter.

          I mentioned in it little observations I had because I felt it wouldn't take much to rectify and make it look good again, for example in the ladies toilets by the main entertainment room, the handle to the toilet door was broken, the ceiling had brown stains on it, the paint had bubbled on the top of the door and the paint was chipping off the pipe work. I know these sound trivial, but when you pay nearly £600 for a weekend of luxury you expect the attention to detail. Even with these little niggles I would still visit again for a special occasion one day and if I have a wonderful big win on the lottery then I would definitely visit a little more often as I would love to go for the ballroom dance lesson weeks.


          Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review

          Lyn x (arnoldhenryrufus)

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            01.08.2011 23:33
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            Very worn, bad food, dirty in places and a very lumpy bed

            Grand Burstin Hotel


            My hubby had started smoking again so we decided to take the Euro tunnel over to France and drive through to Belgium, but as this is a long journey for us as we live in Shropshire we like to stay over somewhere and make a little break of it. Originally we were only looking for one night, which I had booked online after reading a little info. I didn't do my normal checks as I was getting a bit stressed, so I just booked here after reading the short description and price, which we got for £47.00 for the one night. The night before we were due to go hubby said lets make it a longer break and stop for 2 nights, so I got on the phone and booked the extra night and this time for some reason they charged me £49.00.

            If I had been my normal self (not the stressed out maniac I was at the time) then I would have normally checked out reviews first, it's a shame that I didn't as I missed information that would have definitely made us change our minds and not go here; reviews titled 'This place has got to be the worst hotel in the uk' another one being 'hotel from hell' would have got me searching for another choice. I did read these reviews after our visit and I agreed with a lot they said, I will go on to explain our visit and let you make your own mind up.

            ~~The Hotel~~

            The hotel is very large and has 12 floors and over 1300 rooms, but it advertises 481 en-suite rooms available, some of these rooms are smoking rooms even since the government ban.
            It is part of the Britannia Hotel group which was started in 1976 when they purchased a hotel in Manchester; in November 2004 the group purchased four hotels from the Grand Leisure group, the Grand Burstin being one of these hotels bringing the hotels owned to 28 now. The Britannia Hotel group has a total of 35 hotels at its last acquisition in August 2009 of a hotel in Blackpool. I really do hope that the other hotels are in better shape than this one is.

            There is a small over packed gym and a swimming pool which you can use at a small extra charge; it costs £2.50 per adult and £1.00 per child; we did not use these facilities, but I did take a quick look. The gym had a fair amount of equipment but it all looked very close together and very cramped in my opinion. Some internet sites say the pool was 12 meters and other say 10 meters, it just looked small and oblong to me.

            ~~Our Visit~~

            The lobby area was very large with the reception desk on the right as you come in; our first impression was not a favourable one, as it did look very hi di hi, like something out of a bad sitcom. Whilst waiting to book in, a couple in front of me were asking for a refund saying they did not like the place and did not want to stay here (we should have run off there and then). I looked at my hubby and we decided to stay anyway, as we were both very tired. The staff here were polite and efficient, but I wouldn't say they were friendly. Even though we had booked for two nights the receptionist said as we had booked them separately then we would have to pay for the first night now and come back down in the morning to book in for our second night. This worked out in our favour for the second night as there was a £5.00 voucher in the bedroom to take off your next booking, so the next morning I went to reception filled out the voucher and paid only £44.00 instead of the £49.00.


            We had booked a smoking room, but the receptionist informed us that they had none left and we took a no smoking room instead, this upset hubby especially as he read a sing in the lobby saying that all rooms were smoking. I challenged this on his behalf and was informed that all floors above the 5th floor were smoking and there are 12 floors in this hotel.

            We took the lift to the third floor where we were staying; the lift sounds very cranky and didn't install confidence as it creaked up to our floor. On a couple of occasions over our 2 days it stopped short (an accident waiting to happen), fortunately for me my hubby noticed so I did not trip.

            The bedroom was 'L' shaped, with the wardrobe (a single with shelves inside) and dressing table on the right as you walked in. They have put a mirror over the dressing table, but no accessible plug socket near to it for using a hair dryer. There was a half moon unit in pine next to the dressing table with the portable TV on it, the unit had two shelves you could use for storage, I put our toiletries on it as the shelf in the bathroom was very tiny. There was an iron mark on the carpet and the walls were a caramac colour with a white dado rail and cream flock wall paper.

            There was no welcome book telling you about the facilities, but there was some headed paper and a pen, which I used to the full making notes for my review.

            There was a small window that only opened a little way and our view was not very nice, it looked like a derelict building which had squatters in (sorry if they are not squatting but that's how it looked to me).
            The bed was hard and very lumpy, you could feel the springs digging into your back; we did try sleeping on the top of the quilt but that didn't help either. I did not like that there was a stain on the quilt, but we didn't make a fuss about it. There was a spare pillow in the wardrobe and I rang to get another one for my hubby as the pillows on the bed were flat and lifeless, it took the staff about 1 hr to get one up to us.

            The bathroom was really small and had no shower, only a bath, toilet and sink. You needed to be very flexible to use the loo and get to the toilet roll; the toilet was right between a wall and the bath, with no space at the sides of it. The toilet roll was round the side of the wall, so you had to bend your right arm back to get to it or twist yourself slightly and use your left hand to reach it, alternatively be prepared pull some off then use the loo. There was 2 plastic glasses, an all in one, shampoo, bath and shower gel and soap for you to use. The side panel on the bath was painted chipboard and was very warped and the extractor fan did not work.

            The bath had a bath mat in so there was no need to ask for one, the water pressure was very good on the hot tap, but for some reason not very good on the cold tap and the hot water did get very hot. The handle on the toilet was extremely dirty and had grime all around it, looking like it had never been cleaned.
            Back in the bedroom they had a pencil print of a naked woman on the wall, they had a small kettle on the dressing table with a couple of cups and saucers (no teapot) and tea and coffee. There were water marks on the ceiling tiles.

            The soundproofing in the rooms was not brilliant as you could hear the TV's in the other rooms and people returning to their rooms.

            Heating wise there was a convector heater in the bedroom and a heated towel rail in the bathroom.

            Our first night we popped downstairs to have a look around and that's when I noticed it had lots of seating areas, bars, restaurants and a ballroom. It looked like a holiday camp all put into one floor of the hotel. We did buy a drink on one of the nights and sit on one of the sofas in the bar area, the sofa was very low down but fairly comfortable although I did have to get help to get off it. A double Jack Daniels with lemonade and a single Bacardi and Coke cost us £7.00, hubby went back up and got me a bottle of water for our room and that cost only 60p which was very cheap for hotel prices.

            We took a look at the restaurants to see what they had on offer, but we were not tempted. They have two restaurants and a burger/snack bar. The burger type one was in the main lounge bar area it was a little section at the one end of the bar, (I think it was in the Maritime Lounge), from what I could see you could have simple bar meals, like burger and chips, fish and chips etc.

            The Harbour restaurant is where we ate our breakfast and they offered a buffet style self service evening meal, for I think around £10.00 per head, the menu didn't impress us, with its choice of Roast pork, curry or Cumberland sausage as the main courses (it is a 3 course meal, but to be honest I didn't bother looking after seeing the options on the main menu). We went to look around a bit more and found the Victoria restaurant which costs £12.99 for a 3 course meal, for the extra couple of pounds you get a nicer looking restaurant with high ceilings and crystal chandeliers and a tea light candle on the table.

            We enquired about the menu and was told it was the same as the Harbour restaurant with a couple of little extra's, which on our first night was chicken in mediterean sauce or haddock in white wine sauce; this still didn't appeal so we carried on exploring the hotel.

            I did discover some beautiful period features, as I noted a lovely old fireplace just leaning against a blank wall, and a beautiful wooden stair case in an area of the hotel that looked Victorian and appeared to be under renovation. When we looked outside later we could see the workmen and a rubbish Shute.

            We also found a ballroom, which must be where they hold the entertainment which they advertise; I also noted that they did a bingo session as well. As nothing was really inspiring us to stay here and eat for the evening we decided to go into town, it is advertised that it is a 10 minute walk up a very steep hill, hubby knew I wouldn't make the hill so we booked a taxi using the free phone in the lobby, the taxi cost us around £3.00.

            The next morning we got up early as we didn't sleep very well with the lumpy bed and went downstairs to the Harbour restaurant for breakfast. My first impression of the restaurant was of an out of date school canteen, it looked very cheap and tacky; there was no-one on the door to check our 'meal ticket' (this was given to us when we booked in). There were a few members of staff hovering around but they were just there to clean tables and were not that friendly or helpful.

            We grabbed a couple of glasses of grapefruit juice and put them at our table. The buffet breakfast was completely self service; you even had to make your own toast, teas and coffee. So what delights did they have for us; a choice of orange or grapefruit juice on both days, cereals were rice krispies, wheetabix or cornflakes. Fruit was tinned prunes or tinned fruit salad on the first day and the next day it was prunes or grapefruit segments both tinned. The toast you made yourself on a rolling grill, the cooked breakfast really did look extremely unappetising and I love a good cooked English breakfast. The bacon looked like it had been boiled and it was all stuck together, the sausage was those cheap cereal based ones you can get from the supermarket, fried bread looked hard (I don't eat this anyway), the fried eggs were broken and in bits all over the tray, you were also offered baked beans, tinned tomatoes and scrambled egg. In all the years I have stayed in hotels I have never left a breakfast, but I did here on both mornings, it was awful the worst breakfast I have ever had. I was gob smacked when it came to getting our tea and coffee, we had to go to a table and pour it out from flasks, and there was a white pot for hot water, a blue pot for tea and a red pot for the coffee.

            We weren't the only ones that were disgruntled as I sat there listening to other families around us complaining to each other.

            We had already booked our evening meal on the second night at a lovely local pub, but even if we hadn't there was no way after this breakfast that we would of considered eating here, but for the sake of this review I did pop in to have a quick look to see what it looked like. Remember both the restaurants served the same food, just the dearer one offered better surroundings a couple more choices and a tiny candle. I took a look in both and believe me there was no finesse or fine dining here, both restaurants had bad canteen type presentations of food, making it look totally yuk if I am to be honest.

            Starters - seafood cocktail/ barbecue chicken/ soup of the day.

            Mains - Chicken meal/ curried meat balls/ salad bar

            Vegetarian - vegetable loaf.

            Victoria restaurant extras - Honey roast gammon or fillet of fish

            Dessert - Fruit crumble or Peach fruit flan

            Victoria restaurant - pear in red wine.

            ~~Other Items~~

            Cats and dogs are allowed to stay with you in the hotel; according to the internet they charge £10.00 per pet per night.

            There is a very large car park and underground parking available; it was very full on both the days we stayed.
            They advertise a sauna, solarium, luggage storage, games room, internet services etc which we didn't use. I did notice a group of young people crowding around a lap top in the foyer so I assume they must have been taking advantage of the wi fi service.

            They also advise that they have cable TV for the rooms, but we only got four channels on our television, it is also advertised on the internet that hairdryers are provided in the rooms, I didn't find one in our room.
            There are conference facilities and wedding bookings available, but personally I wouldn't even consider this place as a venue for either, especially the wedding.

            There were flyers all over the foyer and sitting areas on display advertising up and coming events and they surprisingly do get booked up a lot, I overheard the receptionist telling a man that they were booked up all through November for when he wanted to come back and they were fully booked the two nights we were there, so some people must like it.

            Disabilities - As mentioned they do have lifts; they ask you to notify them if you have mobility issues, I wish I had done this because I didn't expect a bath, I thought they would have showers as I have difficulty with baths getting in and out of them, so if you do decide to go here and you have mobility problems please remember to mention it. The main entrance is also on level ground, as are all the areas like the ballroom, restaurants and bars etc.

            ~~Directions~~

            Coming from the motorway follow the M20 Southbound, come off at junction 13 and follow the signs for Folkestone Harbour and Pleasure Beach. You can't miss the Grand Burstin Hotel is an extremely large white building right on the harbour front.

            If you take the train to Folkestone Central Station you can either grab a cab or walk to the bottom of the road and turn right towards Cheriton Place and then left towards Road of Remembrance, the hotel is at the bottom of this road. Taxi will only cost you a couple of quid and will save you lugging your luggage about.

            ~~Opinion~~

            I am pleased that during my research I read some of the negative reviews on this hotel; there was a moment that I thought maybe I have been spoilt by good hotels and good service that I was giving this hotel a raw deal. After reading those reviews I now realise that I was not over-reacting it is as bad as I thought it was and 59% out of 291 reviewers agree with me.

            Historically the building had some nice features, I did ask the receptionist if she knew anything about the history of the hotel and she said she didn't which was a tad disappointing, it would be nice if they staff had an interest in their place of work as tourists like me ask questions.

            If I was going to say anything to The Britannia Group about this hotel, it would be to come here as a customer and see for themselves. It is in need of redecoration and they need to fix the problems in the rooms and take some pride in their hotel, this will then cascade down and hopefully instil pride into their staff as well making a happy workforce. Just changing the way they deliver the food and the quality of the food would make an instant big improvement.

            When we spoke to some local people, they informed us that the Grand Burstin Hotel had quite a reputation which was not very favourable. We will not be using this hotel again and we certainly don't recommend it in its current condition, to us it was not worth the 2 stars it has been given. Before I leave you my husband has informed me that I was much too soft on this hotel, he would have had a lot more stronger words to say, like the state of this hotel was 'beep beep awful' he wouldn't even take the dogs here it was that bad.


            Thank you for reading

            Arnoldhenryrufus (Lyn x)

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              19.07.2011 13:43
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              It is local to use and the lunches aren't bad, but it is touch and go with the quality of the food.

              MEADOW INN

              Over the years I have eaten at the Meadow Inn on many occasions; it all started with a day out with my husband and he took me there and I enjoyed a ploughman's lunch. We enjoyed our meal so much we tried the evening menu and visited on several occasions with family and friends that came over to visit us, we even celebrated my daughters 18th birthday there five years ago now. Since then I started going there for lunch with my darling mother who passed away October 2008; this became a monthly visit, and even weekly at times after my father passed away four years previously. My mom loved to have a steak, onion and mushroom baguette, with chips and side salad; she used to phone me up and ask if we could go, she never managed to eat it all up, and would take some home for her tea in a doggy bag.


              It was during these visits that the Meadow went under a transformation from a rustic feel to a very contemporary design; sadly with this the menu had a face lift too and the prices went up and the portion sized appear to have gone 'designer' and down in size. I actually hadn't been since mom had passed away, but during our time off work when we looked at the local attractions I took my hubby with me for lunch and had a little drink to my moms' memory. Although they don't do the meals the same as before you can now get steak in either fresh brown or crusty white bread, or on an open ciabatta served with chips and side salad; you now only get approx 8 chips but they are cut big and chunky. Although it wasn't the same as before, it was really lovely; hubby on this occasion loved his prawn sandwich which was quite heavily filled with prawns, in a marie rose sauce. Before the prices went up mom and I could get our baguettes for less that £5.00 each, the prices are now around £6.25 per sandwich.

              Still impressed by the food though I wanted to come back and try the new evening meal. I had read an article in our local Shropshire Star which raved about how good the food was, so when my sister and her husband came over for a visit, we decided it would be nice to take them there for a meal. It had been a long day for our husbands as my brother-in-law had built us an arbour, which he and my husband had to carry to the top of the garden and put back together again. My sister and I got equally tired after some serious retail therapy so a lovely meal out seemed a great way to relax and say thank you for the work my brother-in-law had done. It became a bit of a special event for me as well as my lovely daughter took a few hours from her studies and joined us for the shopping and the meal.

              We arrived at the Inn around 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, I was a little concerned at first as the car park was full, but we did manage to find a couple of spaces and went inside. The car park is very steep and does have room for quite a lot of cars with a couple of disabled parking spaces by the main door, which also has a slope going into the lobby where the toilets are.

              On entering the building you have the toilets to your right, which incidentally are very spacious, contemporary in design, clean and fresh looking. On your left are two rooms and the stairs leading to the function room and straight ahead is the bar and further eating areas. On previous occasions we have eaten in the restaurant part to the left of the entrance, which is very cosy, but has more subdued lighting and few windows as well as its own bar. Today we headed for the much lighter and cooler area straight ahead. This is the area I used to use with my mom as she used to like looking out of the patio door towards the gardens and the trees, Ironbridge gorge is very pretty to look at even with the couple of cooling towers from the power station near by.

              We found a large rustic looking wooden table against the back wall, where the five of us would fit quite comfortably. The women sat on the bench against the wall and the men sat opposite on high backed very modern leather chairs.

              After we had settled ourselves down we paused to take a look at the menu, which like most menus is split into little dishes (starters), main courses, and steak dishes. We didn't go for a little dish, but they had a choice of 9 dishes ranging from £3.95 for the soup of the day with crusty bread to £5.95 for Moules mariniere - which is mussels cooked in white wine, garlic butter and lemon, served with chunky bread.

              For the main courses you could choose from the menu or some specials off the black boards dotted around the restaurant. If these are not for you then you can opt for a larger portion on two items from the 'little dishes' menu, the mussels or the barbecue chicken wings with the meadows own dipping sauce; or you could take a look at their sandwich menu. As a family of five we choose 2 dishes from the main menu, 2 form the blackboards and 1 from the sandwich section.

              My sister and I both went for the Barnsley Lamb off the blackboard, these worked out at £11.75 each, we choose this as my sister had recently had Barnsley lamb at a restaurant near her so our expectations were quite high. The meal arrived on a large white plate with a large lamb chop sitting on a bed of mashed potato, some diced carrots and diced courgettes on the side, and mint gravy. My sisters first reaction was disappointment as the lamb looked very fatty and it was smaller than the lamb she had eaten on the previous occasion in her home town the week before; the second disappointment was no mint sauce; apart from this the lamb tasted lovely apart from the large amount of fat on it and so did the mash and gravy. The vegetables were slightly al dente which is good; but I'm not a fan of the veg they choose to put with it. Our final disappointment with the meal was the size of it as it wasn't that big and wasn't very filling.

              My brother-in-law was very tempted by the steak selection and went for a 'flintstone' rib of beef for £11.50; this is a whole rib of beef which is slow roasted and served with horseradish and mustard mash potato, red wine beef gravy and vegetables. This was a massive piece of meat, it was about one inch thick and very tender, there was so much of it, he gave us all a chunk of it to try, reluctantly I think as he really was enjoying it, his only gripe was the mash as he didn't like it; I did try this myself to get an idea of what it was like and although it was a little spicy from the horseradish and mustard it wasn't over powering.

              My hubby decided to play safe and went for the gourmet beef burger (he has problems with his tummy at the moment), this was homemade and served with melted cheese and chunky chips. He tells me that he was a little disappointed in this, saying that the pimento tomato had a stronger taste than the beef and it completely overpowered the flavours; this was one of the cheaper meals on the menu at £7.95.

              My daughters' sandwich was the biggest disaster of the day, she ordered a bacon, lettuce and tomato on ciabatta; when this came the bacon had gone past being well done it was actually black, and so burnt in places that the black bits just crumbled away; this sat proud on the top of a bed of lettuce and tomato, even the ciabatta was too burnt to eat, my poor daughter didn't want to complain as it upsets her, so she just ate the chips, her meal was totally inedible if I am to be honest.

              When a waitress finally came to our table I did complain about the meal being inedible and they offered us one of our deserts free of charge, but at no time did they say that they would not charge us for the meal my daughter could not eat.

              Being girlies and abandoned by our hubbies as they went outside for their cigarettes, we had a dessert each at £4.50 per head. The dessert menu was on a board by the bar and my hubby hat to fetch it as there was no one around to ask. My sister had the cheese cake with cream, I had an upside down pineapple sponge with custard and my daughter went for chocolate fudge cake with strawberry ice-cream. My sister and I both enjoyed ours, even through it was a very small portion, (please note size does matter, especially when it comes to puddings). My daughter was sadly disappointing as the chocolate fudge cake was cold and is usually served hot.

              So did we think that the meal and drinks were worth the £72.85 we paid, well to be honest no we didn't, even the service from the staff was a little hap-hazard and not up to the standard I would expect from an establishment such as this; we had high expectations as we had been coming here for years, so we had hoped it would be really good, I feel that this only made our disappointment harder to swallow.

              Being the forever optimist that I am, I even talked my hubby around to trying again in the future, but I have changed my mind after discussing this with my work colleagues who have had similar complaints about the service. So if anyone from the Meadow Inn reads this review please, please take note.

              ~~Other Items~~

              The meadow is also a guest house and you can stay overnight, you will find a list of rooms they have as well as pictures on their website www.meadowinn.net. The rooms are located in the Georgian House right next door to the Inn; they advertise that the rooms have flat screen TV's and DVD players with a small library of DVD's to choose from and a machine to make freshly brewed coffee. I can't comment on the rooms as I only live a couple of minutes away so not had a reason to use one.

              ~~How to get there~~

              For your Sat Nav -

              Meadow Inn
              Buildwas Road
              Ironbridge
              Telford
              Shropshire
              TF8 7BJ

              Phone - 01952 433193

              Email - info@meadowinn.net

              Directions -

              From M54 leave at Junction 4 and head for the A442 towards Madeley and Ironbridge (follow the brown tourist signs for Ironbridge)

              As you drive through Ironbridge past the teddy bear factory on your left, go over the mini roundabout and follow the Buildwas Road and the Meadow Inn is about 200yrds on your left.

              ~~ Conclusion~~

              I am left with mixed feelings about the Meadow Inn as I have enjoyed many lovely lunches here with my mother, but this last occasion where we went to enjoy a family meal was extremely disappointing. I may give it a go one day, but not for a long while as I have other places to visit that offer better quality of food and service. At this time I cannot really recommend this restaurant for an evening out, but I can recommend it for a cream tea or light lunch, the décor is very clean and pleasant to look at, the ambiance is very relaxing with lighting that is really modern and in places a little funky but not intrusive.

              Thanks for reading

              Arnoldhenryrufus

              Lyn x

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                13.05.2011 16:30
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                Local to where I live and a lovely Historic property

                Dudmaston Hall

                It was a wet summer's day, but that didn't stop us from going out on our day trips, but it did stop us from enjoying the grounds of Dudmaston Hall. We spent the duration of our visit looking at the house and then enjoying a cream tea before heading back home.

                For years I have driven past the entrance to Dudmaston Hall and often wondered what it was like and I have said on many occasion that I would find the time to visit one day, well this summer that day arrived as my hubby took me to visit it during our two week vacation at home as a tourist.

                ~~A Little History~~

                Dudmaston Hall is a beautiful red brick stately home which has remained in the same family since 1403. The Wolryche family used the Oak Tree as a symbol on their family crest, which over the generations became very profound as their care of the forest became prominent.

                The house as it stands today was started in the 17th century by Sir Thomas Wolryche, but sadly he didn't get to complete his dream home as he died before it was finished, after several years of family problems it wasn't until 1775 when William Whitmore inherited the estate and started modernising it; this progression carried on when his son William Wolryche-Whitmore took over the reigns.

                It went through its next major change when in 1908 Geoffrey Wolryche-Whitmore took over the running of the estate, where he bought Dudmaston up-to-date making it a pioneer in modern forestry methods. It was in the 1960's when the Laboucheres completed the estate to what it is today making it the family home where they retired to in 1966; they also helped with the successful and handover to the National Trust in 1978.

                ~~Our Visit~~

                As I mentioned earlier it was a very wet and rainy day, we parked up after driving up the long and picturesque driveway. There was a small marquee with two attendants inside where you purchased your tickets, guide books etc; you could even sign up for membership with the National Trust if you wanted. There was no big gift shop or anything here, just this little tent with National Trust items for sale and your tickets.

                After purchasing our tickets we walked through an archway in the perimeter wall around the house, to some out buildings attached to the side of the main house, here we looked at the weird and wonderful contraptions and gadgets exhibition; they even gave you a leaflet for a family quiz asking you questions about the displays so you have to look at them more closely and expand your knowledge. I found this very interesting much to my hubby's annoyance as I kept him hanging around.

                We went onto the next room which contained a few modern art displays and I made friends with the estates cat that enjoyed a bit of a fuss. After spending much too long here in my hubby's opinion we moved onto the main house.

                Where else would you start, but in the Entrance Hall which still has the wonderful oak panelling dating from the 18th century. It is typically grand with its large family portraits hanging on the panels around the room; gosh how the other half lived. It does have a wonderful Oak and Elm table, dating from the 17th century which to me it had a lovely rustic feel about it.

                The house is wonderful to walk around with some fantastic things to look at including the brilliant sweeping staircase taking you to the next floor, also note the crystal chandeliers and the artwork as you go around. Look out for the large bronze bell which was moved for health and safety reasons from over the door and is now on display in a specially designed holder; the bell is inscribed 'I Wolrythe De Dudmaston 1680'.

                The Library was one of the rooms that I really enjoyed with some lovely portraits, but it also held a few lovely floral paintings dating back to the 18th century. I just love the way that these old houses display and preserve many treasures including all those lovely books which are now centuries old.

                I won't bore you by taking you through room to room; I will mention some of the things that stood out for us. Like most stately homes this one did not disappoint, its rooms were dressed to period and for your enjoyment and to help you see the styles of furniture that the families have enjoyed over the generations. You not only got to see portraits of ancestors around the house, but you got some fine examples of modern art in one of the galleries. There was more than one gallery for your perusal they had a couple where you could view items of period art and costume and old family artefacts.

                ~~What more does it have to offer~~

                Dudmaston does lay host to some beautiful grounds and wonderful country walks, for both pleasure and education. It is nestled in around 3,500 acres of land, which has beautiful lakes, forests and parkland, which can be wonderful to walk through during any season, as you can imagine seeing all the spring buds and light colours, to the brightness and colour of the summer on to the autumn orange and golds. Due to it being a very rainy day and neither of us being healthy enough to risk such dampness we did not explore the vast gardens and walks, although we did enjoy the beauty of the grounds and views on the drive up to the house.

                From the tea room you can purchase a map of all the walks for about £1.00, this is ideal for the ardent and experienced walker, for those like me you may wish to take the short walk which is printed on the free leaflet and is only about 3/4 mile round trip but still covers some spectacular views of the house and gardens.

                What I have researched the walks are worth doing if you enjoy nature and the countryside, you will spot old and new sculptures and buildings around the estate once again showing you the old and the modern working alongside, which seems to be the ethos of Dudmaston Hall.

                ~~Other Info~~

                Dudmaston try to bring an interest to people of all ages, offering quiz sheets for children of different age groups, making it interesting for them as they have to search for things around the house or on the walks. My grand-daughter who is 7yrs old loves these fact sheets and discovering the answers as she looks around places. I do think they are a simple yet effective and enjoyable idea.

                The teashop was very quaint and had a few walking maps available on a little table by the entrance/exit. They had light lunches and cakes for sale as well as drinks, we thoroughly enjoyed our cream tea during our visit, the atmosphere and service were impeccable giving us nothing to complain about.

                Toilets - these are provided of course, be we did not use them during our visit, so sadly on this occasion I cannot comment truthfully on their condition. They also have disabled toilets and baby changing facilities.
                They do mention that they sell plants to the public (I am seeing this a lot lately in stately homes and on the estates). I didn't notice any for sale on our visit, but maybe I was looking in the wrong place and it was a very wet and grey day.

                You are allowed to take your dogs for walks on the estate, but they are not allowed on the cultured gardens around the house or obviously inside the house.

                Parking is free and not too far to walk to the main house; there is also wheelchair access on the grounds and to the ground floor only on the main house.

                They are really family friendly and offer lots for the young family, such as baby-food heating arrangements, baby slings or hip-carrying child seats and even small buggies for hire. As mentioned earlier they offer quizzes and trails for the slightly older children, also a picnic area and an activity room within the house for the children to enjoy themselves and maybe even dress up for a little role play.

                Group bookings - they do cater for coach parties and school parties, offering a light lunch if you pre book. It is advisable to book as the tea room only seats up to 60 persons, so you may need to reserve some tables.
                They also offer holiday accommodation for let, for those of you who wish to visit Shropshire for your holiday (I will highly recommend a holiday over here as we really enjoyed our stay at home tourist holiday). There are three cottages which are located in the estates grounds which they let out throughout the year; they all date from the 19th century, although the buildings are beautiful and old from what I could see on the internet, the insides are all tastefully decorated with modern furniture, including a television, washing machine and a tumble dryer. Once again they keep the family in mind and offer a cot and highchair if required.

                Disability - I have briefly mentioned the accessibility earlier, but just too quickly reflect and tie this up, I will recap here. There are ramps at all the entrances like the shop and the main house; they also offer a limited number of wheelchairs for hire should you need to use one for the grounds.

                Only the ground floor is accessible for wheelchair access and some of the grounds, they do provide you with a map of the wheelchair friendly routes for you to enjoy. I did notice when reading the literature on the holiday cottages that they have steep staircases, so I don't feel that these are wheelchair friendly. Toilet facilities and disabled parking is available but you do park very close to the house anyway, unlike some stately homes where you have to park a long way from the house.

                ~~How to get there~~

                There is a bus service from Kidderminster available,

                There are some cycling routes available to get you onto the grounds; you can find these by checking the National Cycle Network website.

                It is not too far from Hampton Loade and the Severn Valley railway in Kidderminster if you wanted to incorporate that into your visit.

                The main entrance is located off the A442 between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster in a small village called Quatt.

                For your Sat Nav the address is

                Dudmaston Estate
                Quatt
                Nr Bridgnorth
                Shropshire
                WV15 6QN

                If you need to contact them for any reason

                Their phone number is 01746 780866

                Fax - 01746 780744

                their email is dudmaston@nationaltrust.org.uk

                ~~Opening times and Prices~~

                They are open between from the beginning of April to the end of September, the house being open between 1400hrs and 1730hrs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sundays. The gardens are open on a further day which is a Monday and this is available between 1200 and 1800hrs. The shop opens at 12.30 on all the four days closing at the same time as the house, again the tea room is open on the four days, but opens at 1130hrs and closes at 1730hrs.

                Prices for the house, gardens and the grounds
                Adults is £7.35 (6.65 with gift aid)
                Child is £3.70 (3.35 with gift aid)
                Family £18.40 (16.70 with gift aid)

                If you want the grounds and gardens only the prices for 2010 are

                Adults £5.80 (5.25 with gift aid)
                Child £2.90 (2.60 with gift aid)
                Family £14.50 (13.15 with gift aid)

                ~~Conclusion~~

                What more can I say, if you enjoy country estates and beautiful houses as much as I do then you will love it here, but I would recommend going on a dryer day so that you can appreciate all that it has to offer. I like the way that all National Trust properties try to make sure that there is something for everyone of all ages, making it more family friendly and encouraging younger generations to learn to love and teach them about the wonderful British Heritage we have in our lovely country. I hope as a nation we continue to visit and preserve our nations treasured buildings and grounds, if you ever get to visit the area then please pay this lovely home a visit.

                Many thanks for taking the time to read my review
                Lyn x (Arnoldhenryrufus).

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                  22.04.2011 17:12
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                  A great afternoon out for both parents and children

                  Coalport China Museum

                  After cancelling our holiday at the last minute my hubby said he would take me to see all our local attractions. As we live on the edge of a tourist attraction we bought a passport ticket to the Ironbridge Gorge Museums which gave us access to 10 historic attractions around Ironbridge and the neighbouring villages. I do feel a little bit of a fraud visiting the Coalport China Museum as I have always been an avid collector of Royal Doulton, and only have a small amount of Coalport in my own personal collection; but also as a lover of fine bone china I was really looking forward to the visit. This wasn't my first visit here though I had been over a decade earlier, but I couldn't remember too much about it apart from the gift shops having lots of figurines on sale.

                  I will mention that if you have bought the passport ticket, then tar tunnel is just a short walk from the museum and will only add approximately 30 minutes onto your visit for that day.

                  ~~ A little History~~

                  The factory was started in 1796 by John Rose who was aged 24 years, he had served an apprenticeship at Caughley Porcelain factory, but wanted to start up on his own; the coalport factory became an instant success and gained a reputation for its delicate design; it was so successful that Rose took over his previous employers factory at Coughley in 1799.

                  His work took a different turn in 1820 when he started the now famous flower designs; he also won a gold award from the Society of Arts in that same year. John Rose passed over in 1841 and he died a very successful porcelain maker.

                  Coaport itself seemed a good location to set up the porcelain business as during the late 1700's in the rise of the Industrial Revolution they had built the Shropshire Union Canal (part of which is still there next to the museum for you to see), and a railway system, both used to transport the wears. The canals' main use was to take goods down to the River Severn for delivery; the area of Coalport itself became famous in its day for its brick making, rope works and boat building it was the hive of a very busy industry.

                  After Rose's death his work continued under the management of his nephew William Rose, who took a partnership up with William Pugh. Together they developed a highly polished design which was influenced by the famous Sevres factory in France, this style was very evident in Coalports Rococo range with its colours like the turquoise of its Bleu Celeste or the pinks called Rose du Barry named after Louise XV's mistress; these were shown in the Great Exhibition in 1851.

                  After the introduction of the Severn Valley Railway system production picked up with William Cook being famous for his naturalistic flower painting and John Randall being famous for his images of exotic birds; around this time Coalport also became famous in America.

                  At the time of Pugh's death Coalport went through some difficult times financially and even went into receivership at one point. A new art director named Thomas Bott was appointed in 1890 and the company started to move forward again; sadly this was really enough and during the 1st World War and followed by the economic crash of the 1920's it was forced to sell to Cauldron Potteries Ltd of Stoke on Trent. Today Coalport China is still running but now it is under the ownership of Waterford-Wedgwood.

                  ~~Our Visit~~

                  Although it was the start of the summer holidays when we visited here, it was not overly busy and we managed to get a car parking space very easy. The car park is very big, so plenty of room for lots of visitors, which is really handy as the lane this is off is very narrow and no room for cars to park on it.

                  To get in and out of the museum you have to enter and exit through the gift shop, which is full of wonderful Coalport wears, as well as other Ironbridge Gorge memorabilia. The bargain here is the Guide Book, as it covers both the China Museum and the Jackfield Tile Museum. There is a ramp for wheelchair use and steps for the able bodied visitors.

                  Once you have either showed your ticket or purchased your ticket you go to the museum which is situated behind the reception desk. The first part of this is wonderful displays of Coalport china throughout the ages, you get to see the different designs and shapes relating to different periods of history. You even get to see some pieces from the period I mentioned earlier in the history. Alongside all the amazing display cabinets, you will find information sheets and boards telling you about the history of the items you are viewing. I was a little surprised of the lack of figurines on display, I expected to see some, but the displays all centred around their plates, vases and tea sets etc.

                  When you have finished here there is a staircase that leads you to the next area of your visit. For those that cannot manage the stairs there is a lift available.

                  It was quite easy at first to think 'this is it', but when you follow the route out of this display you are led through to so much more. As you walk through the buildings lower down, the first thing I noticed was the age of the buildings themselves where the workshops were, as anyone that has read my previous reviews will know, I do love old buildings and even these held their own distinct character.

                  As you work your way around the grounds you will go through various work stations where at different times there will be someone there to give a little demonstration, or you can simply read the information boards at each stop. You can see various sections like throwing, mould making, casting, flowers, transfer printing etc, etc.

                  One section called Gilding and Burnishing describes what it is, for example; Gilding is where gold is added to the porcelain, they use sheets of gold leaf, powdered gold and liquid gold, which is applied and then fired, this was done by the Gilders and they had five working for them in 1841.

                  The Firing caused the gilding to go dull and so they employed around 45 ladies to be burnishers and it was their job to polish over the gilding to make it shine again.

                  Glaze dipping was another area in here; this is where the pieces of china were dipped in glaze by 'a glaze dipper' after its first firing (called biscuit firing) and after the transfer painting. The glaze starts off as a milky liquid which when fired it forms a clear, waterproof and glassy type finish.

                  During our visit there were not many of the sections manned so we had to rely on the samples and info boards at each point to tell us more about the section. There was one lady doing plate painting and you could order specific plates which were embossed with names from her.
                  There was also a large area where your children could spend time designing their own plates or painting small ceramic flowers.

                  When you leave the workshops you find yourself back on the courtyard, from here you can pop into other buildings each giving you something to look at; these include a lovely children's gallery. Although we didn't have our grandchildren with us I had to explore it for this review and the lift is in there as well to get me back upstairs to go out later. I thought this area was great being both fun and educational, near to the entrance you were facing a glass cabinet with a Disney style ceramic jug called Jolly the Jug with a little bubble message saying look out for him as you go around the room, next to Jolley was a ceramic plate showing your children other things as well to look out for. There was a wall with large wooden pieces of ceramics which you fit into the corresponding shaped holes; you could spin a story with the old spinning machine that makes the photographs come to life, there were books, soft furnishings, dressing up and loads more activities for your children to explore and enjoy.

                  Round the back of this area is another adult museum display showing you the life and times of Coalport china with posters and artefacts from its history. I always find it interesting when you look at these, as they show you a little insight on what life would have been like, some displays were really simple like an old table with a small china tea service displayed, to the display of a workers cottage kitchen with its tin plates and the laundry hanging up to dry (sounds like my living room on a washing day drying the washing if front of the fire).

                  One of the other areas I enjoyed looking at was the old Smugglers Kiln which they believe was built with the bricks from the Coughley Porcelain works in Broseley around the 1820's. It was called 'smugglers kiln' because the workers were known to sneak out to the pub and smuggle beer back in. Workers thought that drinking beer was better for them than the unpurified water of the time; they also thought that it would protect them from lead poisoning. They took a big risk smuggling beer into the kiln because if they got caught they would be fined half a crown which was the equivalent of a week's rent on the workers cottages.

                  Inside one of the kilns they lit it up in sections so you could see what it would have looked like working. We continued to look around and there were a couple more craft units where you could buy small items which were made here. There was another small exhibit called Chinese Whisper which displayed the influences of the orient on Caughley Porcelain.

                  After viewing as much as I would without driving my hubby mad as he patiently waited for me to click away with my camera a look at everything, we decided to have a cream tea in the café next to the main car park before heading home. It was late afternoon when we arrived and there was not much left, but I did manage to get my fresh cream scone and a lovely cup of tea. The inside of the building (which looks like a converted barn) was modelled to a contemporary design, with the brick laid floor painted black and the brickwork walls painted white. It was very comfortable and the small snack we had was very pleasant, you had a great feeling of space with the very high ceilings as well; plus the fact there was only one other couple in there at the time of our visit.

                  ~~ How to get there ~~

                  Take junction 4 from the M54 and follow the brown signs for the Ironbridge Gorge, all ten attractions are sign posted around the area. If you are using a sat nav, I have the postcodes for each of the attractions to get you there.

                  Coalport China Museum - TF8 7HT


                  ~~ Opening times and prices ~~

                  It is open 7 days a week between 1000hrs and 1700hrs

                  Adult Passport Ticket - £22.50 all 10 sites passport ticket (This museum only - £7.60)
                  Over 60's passport ticket - £18.25 all 10 sites passport (This museum only - £7.10)
                  Child and Student ticket - £14.75 all 10 sites passport (This museum only - £5.10)
                  Family Ticket (2 adults and 3 children) - £61.50
                  All these tickets last you for 12 months and let you return as many times as you like and allow you access to all 10 Ironbridge Gorge Trust attractions, I could not find individual prices to see it as a one and only.


                  ~~Conclusion~~

                  We really enjoyed our visit and we were very surprised how they made it enjoyable for children as well; although we didn't take any children with us we could see other families enjoying the facilities. It is definitely worth a visit and has a little something for all age groups. We are really glad that we went to see here.

                  Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review

                  Lyn x (Arnoldhenryrufus)

                  2009

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                    17.03.2011 14:44
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                    Educational, family friendly and wheelchair friendly, its also interesting and historic

                    Jackfield Tile Museum

                    I saved this one until near the end of our passport visits to the 10 Ironbridge Gorge attractions; if I am totally honest I was not really that enthusiastic about going, as again I had done no research and just expected to look at tiles. We did actually look at lots of tiles but the presentation made a large difference and it turned out to be a really exciting visit that both my husband and I really enjoyed.

                    ~~A Little History~~

                    According to old maps the site where the museum now stands was once a place where local pottery was made, as it was in 1728. A few years later in 1793 it was used to make porcelain, by John Rose and Edward Blakeway, but they eventually moved there business to nearby Coalport. From around the 1870's right through to the 1930's Jackfield and Broseley were well known for making bricks and roof tiles and build up an excellent reputation world wide, at first they were made by hand and later by machinery. It was during this time that encaustic tiles were starting to get made and experiments with new designs were about. In the 1870's Henry Dunhill inspired by what he had seen and bought the Jackfield factory and totally rebuilt it. His encaustic and decorative tile works officially opened on 25th February 1874, the new Benthall works for Maw and Co's was just feet away from it down the road; with the railway and the River Severn close by it had ideal transport links to take it across the country.

                    Work thrived through the Victorian era as tiles were very popular, especially the extravagant and decorative ones (which are becoming very popular again today). Their popularity started to dwindle around the time of Queen Victoria's death in 1901 and times started to change, by the time of the first World War the encaustic tiles were no longer fashionable, but the tiled fireplaces stayed around until the 1960's, but that wasn't enough to keep the factory open and the Jackfield factory closed in 1952 followed by the Maws factory 17yrs later in 1969.

                    The site was bought by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in 1983, it was a bit run down when they purchased it and it had been used as an iron and bronze foundry for a number of years after the tile factory closed down, so it was in need of some restoration work. The restoration was on ongoing project and they opened the doors to the public at the start, so if you visited here prior to 2007 when they finally completed everything, you may like to visit again and see the lovely finished result.

                    I will point out here that I visited the Maws Centre which is the old Benthal works next door a few years ago (definitely before 2007) and my daughter who loves art went up the stone stairs to an art gallery (the Maws Centre is now full of craft shops). Whilst there she had a nasty fall down the stairs and we had to take her to the hospital where we were told she had tore a ligament. We visited here on the same day and those stairs have now been made a lot safer.

                    ~~Our Visit~~

                    We live on the Ironbridge side of the River Severn and the Jackfield Tile Museum is on the Broseley side of the river, so we had to cross over the river at the New Jackfield Free Bridge; this is a fairly modern bridge which replaced the original 'free bridge' in 1994 (for those that want to know the original toll free bridge {as you had to pay to cross the Ironbridge further up the river} was sponsored by donations and built of concrete in 1909). The new bridge still has some of the old bridge incorporated into it and displays a plaque on the side with a little history. It is a good start to the visit as it brings your journey into your whole experience. After coming over the bridge and turning left we drove past a lovely pub called the Black Swan with tables outside looking over the River Severn, I made a mental note to come back here and try their fare one day soon on a sunny day so I can enjoy watching the river.

                    We drove down the road that leads to the tile museum and the Maws & Co Benthall Works, this road in itself is an experience, the old tram lines or rail lines are still in the road, but are covered over with wooden slats, the road is extremely uneven as this area is terribly unstable and known for its subsidence. You will also notice large pipes going along the roadside in the wooded area, which would normally be found underground, these are on top. I will point out that apart from this road, the other roads each side of the river here have recently been redone and pinned making them more secure as with the flooding the other year they had subsided quite a lot and the uneven road even sliced through the exhaust on my car one year; but that problem has now be rectified.


                    Gosh so much to share with you and we haven't reached the tile museum as yet. We decided to have a quick look again at the Maws Benthall works first, but were very disappointed as it appeared that it was all closed, we had a short walk round and noted the stops I mentioned earlier, and took a few photos. There are lots of small craft and gift shops in the units, but like I said sadly the majority of them were closed today.

                    We went back up the road approx 20yds to the entrance of the Jackfield Tile Museum; the first thing I noticed was the really small entrance door way that is in a giant door which is open. Obviously the giant door opens to let carriages etc to come in and out for deliveries with the little door for the workers; were people really that short in the Victorian times. It always amazes me that not only has technology, architecture and other things changed in the world over the centuries, but people have evolved too change in shape and size; just look how tall children are these days to see what I mean.

                    Anyway, I have digressed again, we walked through the big red door and noticed that on our right was an extremely modern looking glass building with 'Fusion' written on it and to our left was the modern entrance with stairs and a ramp to the Tile Museum. We decided to see the tile museum first and then move onto Fusion when we had finished.

                    As this wasn't our first visit of the day we decided to take a short break first so we walked through the gift shop to the café, this was found in the far corner of the gift shop and reception area. We stopped here and had a tea and coffee, plus a lovely cream scone and hubby had a Cornish pasty. I loved the way they used decorative encaustic tiles to display the special offers. We both enjoyed our little rest and my husband said it was the best pasty he had eaten in a long while and would happily pop back here again. The café and gift shop were very much done in an art deco design with V shape lights and blue and white clean looking design.


                    After finishing our drinks we went to reception, which like all the Ironbridge Gorge Museums is also where you pay for any memorabilia you may wish to purchase. I may as well mention here that the gift shop focused mainly on different tiles you could buy as well as some of the cast iron gifts and general nik naks you would expect from an Ironbridge attraction. The lady behind the counter noticed my walking stick and mentioned the lift system, which was a little strange itself, but we had a our passport punched and went around the back to watch a short video before coming over to the other side of reception to take the lift up one floor.

                    The video I found rather fascinating and rather sad, as it showed an old news real footage where some properties fell in to the river and people lost their homes. I always find these disasters extremely sad, but it was also part of the history so it needed to be seen. After moving on from here we went over to the lift to get to the first floor only; it bought us out to some beautiful rooms all set out with some of the most beautiful decorative tiles. Let me tell you about a couple of the displays as there were many and I am sure it would spoil it if I told you about them all, but I do have a few favourites I would like to share with you.

                    One of the first rooms that they restored was the Tile Museums Drawing Office (as the first one I feel it needs a mention), it has two lovely large Georgian windows bringing in loads of light and it was used once as a design studio where many were trained in the Coalbrookdale School of Art; today it has display cabinets showing information and tile designs.

                    They have a replica of the Covent Garden underground station with displays the tiles which were originally fitted in 1907. There is a wonderful butchers shop display which shows hand painted tiles, one is a picture of a cow and some sheep which came from a butchers in Rochdale, the other part of it which is a freeze with pigs heads displayed came from a butchers shop in Ripon.

                    One of our favourites was the bar area it really was truly pretty; it is actually a replica of the one that was in the Mountain Daisy public house in Sunderland (I wonder if the original is still there); this replica was made for the museum in 2004. Another lovely display which I thought was fantastic in the hospital tiles for the children's wards. The two displays were both saved by the museum from the Bernard Baron Children's Ward at Middlesex Hospital in 1988. So if any of you were in there before that date you may remember 'All the fun of the fair' and 'the Maypole' tiles which were also winning designs back in 1929.

                    Other displays were bathrooms, showers, a church, doorways, halls, fireplaces, even a living room set up with a mural after the window showing sunshine during the wartimes, fantastic displays of such wonderful designs, we really enjoyed everything we saw on this floor.

                    When we got to the other side of this floor there was another lift for me to use, to take us to the next level, this is one of those open lifts that take you up a few feet you hold the button in until you reach the spot to smoothly walk out onto the floor. This took you to a very modern display of Maw and Co tiles, there were tile pictures on the walls, tall displays showing you tiles and information for you to read. Also on this level there were puzzles for you and the children to enjoy, several ones involving logic and tiles, there was even a computer with a puzzle for you to have a go at. Whilst I am touching the subject of children, you can pick up a leaflet when you get your ticket or your passport stamped. It is an easy to read booklet comprising of 4 A4 size sheets of cards; it has information about the Jackfield Tile Museum and the tiles with some activities on it as well for you to do. It is centred around the children and will cost you £1.00 if you want your children to have their own info sheet.

                    You would think it would end here but it didn't, you were led out of this floor past a room full to the brim with tiles and past some workshops where people were working, you were not allowed to take photos here. The museum does rent space out to other craft persons to work here; you can watch through the window, but not go in. From here we went into the courtyard and had a look around.

                    You could see a sign saying Robert Harrup Collectors Club Shop and workshop, but sadly this was closed. We also noticed a play centre for children where they can design their own tiles (this is charged for and I think it comes at around £7.00). They hold various classes throughout the year, but as there was only the two of us we didn't investigate this further, we did mention it to our daughter in case she wanted to take the children over the holidays. You could also wonder around the old buildings where you could see the remnants of the old kilns and some old machinery still in situ. They did have plaques about so you would know what you were looking at.

                    To finish off our visit we had a look round Fusion which is free to enter, this is a very modern building with all glass frontage; the staircase is metal with big blue triangular shaped pieces of 'macarno'; there was also a lot of chrome about as well. It is over two floors and the design of the building goes well with the shops they have inside, it is full of units with modern artists at work, as well as some traditional ones. There is a modern glass studio showing work by David Keenan, Nikki Williams has a 'Kinki Glass Studio', there is also Malcolm Sier who is a sculptor and letter carver, his is the footprint gallery. The cat on the wall (which sell various items to cover many interests), a bike shop and a tandum shop, I have never seen so many tandums.

                    There is a big car park at the back of fusion so there is plenty of parking available. We had a lovely visit and this was maybe my second favourite of all the museums.

                    ~~ How to get there ~~

                    Take junction 4 from the M54 and follow the brown signs for the Ironbridge Gorge, it is sign posted from Ironbridge.

                    For your sat nav - the post code is TF8 7LJ

                    ~~ Prices~~

                    2010- 2011 prices

                    Your best option is the PASSPORT which allows repeat daytime admission for 12 months to all the 10 Ironbridge Gorge attractions.

                    Adult £21.95

                    Age 60 plus £17.60

                    Child or Student £14.25

                    Family ticket (2 adults and 3 Children) £59.95

                    These prices are valid from 20th March 2010 right up to 8th April 2011.

                    ~~ Opening times ~~

                    It is open 7 days a week between 10am and 5pm

                    ~~ Did You Know ~~

                    In 1883 Jackfield Tile Factory was in fact the largest decorative tile works in the world. This meant that it well and truly rivalled Stoke on Trent as the centre for global tile production during the Victorian era.
                    It is also the only museum in the country that has totally dedicated itself to the decorative tile industry and it hosts a marvellous display of tiles which are very unique..

                    ~~Overall Opinion~~

                    As mentioned earlier we both really enjoyed this, we enjoyed the interesting information we had at the beginning of our tour, loved seeing the display of old equipment which was used. Absolutely loved all the tile displays, it was worth visiting just for these, everything else was simply an added bonus.

                    It is really quite exciting to discover all this on our doorstep; what makes it even more exciting was that I have recently found out that my fathers ancestors actually come from this area, so they would have lived around here during this revolutionary time. Isn't it strange that I am the only family member (in my immediate family) that seems to have returned to their roots, thanks must go to my sister who discovered this information for me after my mother passed away.

                    I do recommend a visit here, but please take advantage of the passport ticket and enjoy the whole Ironbridge experience.
                    Many thanks for reading

                    Arnoldhenryrufus (Lyn x)

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                      09.03.2011 17:57
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                      Local for me, Educational, fun and suitable for all ages

                      ~~Coalbrookdale and the Museum of Iron~~

                      We had to cancel our main two week holiday at the last minute and so my husband decided to please me by taking me to visit our local attractions; we purchased an Ironbridge Passport ticket which allowed us entry to 10 museums around Ironbridge. The Coalbrookdale and Museum of Iron was on 2 minutes drive out of Ironbridge right behind the Aga Rayburn factory. It is quite easy to get to and has two large car parks, with disabled parking facilities as well. It is a pay and display car park, blue badge holders park for free. We had no idea what to expect when we came here as in all the 23yrs I have in this area I have never once visited.

                      ~~ A Little History~~

                      Before the world's first Iron bridge was built in 1779 the area of Coalbrookdale was a deep river chasm, running through the Shropshire Valley which is now known as the Ironbrige Gorge; today Coalbrookdale is the dense wooded valley which runs north of the River Severn. Coalbrookdale is rich in natural resources and it has been mined here and iron work produced since the Tudor times and the reign of Henry VIII.
                      It was in the late 17th century that Abraham Derby discovered a new and cheaper way of fuelling the iron industry by using coked coal instead of the more expensive wood. His success led to the Industrial revolution and Coalbrookdale became a very busy and productive area.

                      Darby moved to the area with John Thomas (his young apprentice) in 1708 and started their experiments using coked coal as fuel, 12 months later they were successful in smelting the iron with coke made from the local low-sulphur supply of coal. The revolution is in its early stages but it has started and followed on by generations of the Darby family after including the building of the worlds first Ironbridge.

                      ~~ Our Visit ~~

                      As I mentioned earlier we had no idea what to expect and I was a little concerned as I thought I may only get to see loads of greasy machinery (I really didn't do any homework before this visit).
                      We parked the car up and made our way towards the entrance, it was a good day to visit as it was raining outside and the whole visit is conducted inside the building. As with all of the Ironbridge attractions the entrance and the exit are positioned inside the gift shop, you actually queue here to get in alongside people that are buying the odd trinket to remember their visit. I should imagine it could get very busy at the height of the tourist season, or at weekends and bank holidays, but it was quiet on the day of our visit as the school holidays had only just started.

                      We asked the lady what we needed to do about the use of the lift, she advised us to look around the museum first which is on the ground floor, then go over to the café area to enter the lift which will take us to a further two floors to look at. She stamped our Ironbridge passports (this is a ticket that allows you to visit all 10 of the attractions), and we were on our way.
                      My hubby gently steered me away from all the expensive memorabilia and into the first part of the museum. We watched a short film telling you about the history of Coalbrookdale, Abraham Darby and the Industrial Revolution (although the majority of the attractions in Ironbridge showed a film, they were all slightly different and you got to learn more by seeing it demonstrated). Whilst I watched this my hubby had a wonder around the museum without me, which was a bit silly really as he still had to wait for me to go around it as well.

                      After we finished in here we walked across to the other end of the shop and through the café, we didn't stop for a drink here as we had a busy day planned, but I did note how clean the café looked and the beautiful design of it with a couple of cast iron figures holding lamps in the middle, really effective and pretty. We went through a door at the side of the café to get in the lift.
                      When we got to the first floor we decided to walk across to the other side and walk around as if we had taken the stairs, so we followed the pattern of the exhibits. Here was set out with pieces of machinery and scaled down working models demonstrating how things were done. Now I can honestly say that these models would interest both young and old, you see I am old and I enjoyed watching them working and there was this lad aged around 9 yrs old turning the handles and making them go, so that I or anyone else could see how they worked. He seemed to really be enjoying this and kindly showed me a couple of pieces of equipment and then continued to show other people until I heard his dad calling him to stop and move on.

                      There was also a scale model of how Coalbrookdale would have looked as well as a shop dummy dressed as Abraham Darby. I thought that this floor was very interesting and had a lovely interactive way for you to see and learn. I was like a kid in a sweet shop and had to try everything much to my husband's annoyance.
                      After my husband finally prised me away we got back into the lift and went up to the second floor, to both of us this was worth waiting for, it was the cherry on the top of the cake. This was called the Great Exhibition and the whole design had a Victorian feel about it, there were wonderful displays of cast ironwork from over the centuries, including ornate chairs, cast iron Great Danes, tables, Aga cookers, statues, fire places and many more, there was even one section that was set out like you was in a park sitting on a bench to have a rest. It was very impressive and beautiful to look at.

                      After spending some time at the great exhibition and taking lots of photos we took the lift back down to the ground floor; we spoke again to the lady at the desk and bought a little gift for my daughter; the lady kindly gave us the directions and parking instructions for the next two places on our agenda for the day, and with that we set off for the next one.

                      ~~How to get there ~~

                      Directions M54 Junction 6, coming from Shrewsbury you need to go round the island and take the 3rd exit towards Dawley. If you come from Wolverhampton side then it is the first exit off Junction 6 sign posted Dawley.

                      Follow the road A5223 Lawley Dr right through the lights and over a couple of roundabouts until you come to the last roundabout sign posted Buidlwas and Much Wenlock? You take the 2nd exit down Jiggers Bank and following that road until you see a brown sign telling you to turn right; if you come to the traffic lights you have missed it by about 20yrds. It is a one way system that operates here as you go in one end and come out further down the road due to the narrow lane to it.

                      ~~Other Info~~

                      There are very good disabled facilities available and there are toilets for you to use, I can't comment on them though as I did not use them during my visit.

                      On display in the museum you will see a chair which was made for William Ball who was an iron-puddler fondly known as 'the Shropshire Giant' due to his rather large frame as he weighed over 40 stone. In 1850 he led a very large procession with over 4,000 people to celebrate the birth of Abraham Darby II, he had to be lifted on to his horse by a crane.

                      ~~Opening Times~~

                      It is open 7 days a week between 1000hrs and 1700hrs

                      ~~Prices~~

                      Adult Passport Ticket - £21.95
                      Over 60's passport ticket - £17.60

                      Child and Student ticket - £14.25
                      Family Ticket (2 adults and 2 children I believe) - £59.95

                      Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron ONLY

                      Adult £7.40

                      Over 60 £6.90

                      Child/Student £4.95

                      All these tickets last you for 12 months and let you return as many times as you like and allow you access to all 10 Ironbridge Gorge Trust attractions, I could not find individual prices to see it as a one and only.

                      ~~Opinion~~

                      This was one of the better museums of the 10 we visited around Ironbridge, it was very interesting, educational and fun. Although it is not one I would keep going back to like the Blists Hill Victorian Town, it is one I am pleased that I have seen. I would most definitely recommend a visit, and I would most certainly get the passport and have this as one of the must see ones. There were a couple on the passport which I'm glad I've seen, but wouldn't ever want to go back to; I would visit here again, but only to refresh my memory in a couple of years time.

                      It is worth a visit for all ages, especially if you get the passport ticket and visit it as part of all the Ironbridge attractions.
                      Thank you for taking the time to read my review

                      Arnoldhenryrufus
                      (Lyn x )Open 7 days a week!

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                        25.01.2011 01:25
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                        A wonderful family day out with something for all ages

                        Hoo Farm

                        It is not often that I stop writing one review to start writing another one, but I was so excited about our lovely day out with two of our grand-children that I had to put pen to paper and share it with you all.
                        Hoo Farm is a family run business and is run by Carolyn and Edwards Dorrell who have lived there since 1988. The farm itself is over 100yrs old and the Dorrell family have made it into an award winning family attraction. I remember when it was Hoo Farm Country Park and there selling Christmas trees, I admit I did take my children down when it first opened its doors to show some of the animals, but I wasn't impressed in those early days, but it has come a long way since then and has gone from strength to strength introducing lovely walks and many different animals that all appear happy and well cared for. It is now a place you can visit time and time again with your children/grandchildren who will not only enjoy the wonderful array of animals, insects, reptiles and birds, but there is an adventure playground where your children can enjoy.

                        ~~Our Visit~~

                        We arrived not long after it had opened at 10am, so we were one of the first families to arrive that day. The first thing our 3 year old grandson noticed was the bouncy castle situated in the play area by the entrance; for the rest of our visit he must of said can we go on the bouncy castle now Nanny every 5 minutes; believe me that was a lot of times during the day.

                        Our first surprise was when we came to buy our tickets, because I had looked it up online to check and I told my hubby the family ticket would be £31.00. The lovely lady behind the counter kindly told us that it would be cheaper for us to purchase them separately at the moment and we got them for £26.00 saving us £5.00. I was very impressed with her honesty as I would have just paid and would have been no the wiser.

                        Although Hoo Farm is settled within 32 acres of woodland and paddocks, we didn't have to walk around all of it, although by the end of the visit my feet, legs and back felt like they had. We were given a little map of the Animal Kingdom, which had some instructions on the back and a colourful leaflet letting you know what's on offer here. It is wise to look at the chalk boards around the farm as it tells you what is going on and the times etc.

                        We looked at the boards and saw that at 11am they did the bottle feeding for the baby animals; they also do events like sheep racing or goat racing, but these were not on during our visit, maybe next time. Whilst we waited for the bottle feeding we had a little walk round, as we were early some of the doors were still locked, so we just wandered about. The grandchildren loved this big plastic cow which was life size complete with an udder filled with milky water, a bucket underneath and a milking stool. They had loads of fun milking the cow, so much fun that our grand-daughter asked to go again later on.

                        In between our grandson asking for the bouncy castle we managed to get him to see the calves and the sheep. Still having a bit of time to kill before the feeding we took hubby for a quick coffee in the tea room and we took five minutes for the children to have a little drink and a fairy cake which they bought with them. Hubby was extremely pleased with the prices saying that for his coffee, sausage roll and my coke it was very reasonably prices and not over priced like many tourist attractions. The ethos here is very family orientated meeting everyone's expectations and not breaking the bank.

                        Rushing hubby to finish his coffee so we could get to see the lambs and the baby goats being fed, we set off to their pens. There were three pens and we stood watching them all starting to make noises to show it was time for feeding, we were about 5 minutes early even after rushing, so we watched all the baby animals of different ages and sizes clambering over each other in their eagerness. Just gone 11am three lads appeared carry buckets of baby bottles ready for the feeds, they asked us to all move around a fenced area, which we did; they then opened the gates which we were leaning against a few minutes earlier to sort out the little ones.

                        As there were a few of us they gave one bottle to every two children so our two shared, then they opened the first pen of baby goats, there was a mini stampede as they rushed to the fences guided by the keepers to get to a bottle. Our grandchildren loved this and so did I to be honest, next was the slightly older lambs which were still bottle fed, they were funny and the children laughed at their antics as they wanted to be greedy; the final pen was very young lambs and goats, our grandchildren were very lucky as they managed to feed three animals on this visit, as there were not too many visitors today I think due to heavy rain last night and the threat of it today.

                        After all that excitement we trotted off to the shop to buy some animal feed, so we could feed some more; there are notices around the farm letting you know what you can and can't feed. I did buy three bags of food, but as we tried to give some to the chickens who were totally not interested whatsoever, there was a little girl whose mummy wanted her to have some, so I gave them our spare bag. We moved on and saw the Llama, the alpacas, the ostriches and then loads of hungry goats, the children and I loved feeding them, they were very greedy and the kids were laughing so hard as when I wasn't looking properly one of them grabbed the whole bag of food from my hand eating it all and the bag as well. All the food gone we washed our hands and looked at some more animals before moving onto another area. Be careful of the water pressure on these taps, it came out so fast splashing everywhere, but this only added to the excitement for the grandchildren so I really didn't mind, we just laughed it off.

                        Our grandson impatience for the bouncy castle was still very loud, but he just had to wait as there was more to explore and I was leaving the play area to last. We spotted some motorised cars on a little track which were £1.00 per go, so we put the grandchildren in one each, but our grandsons little legs were not quite long enough to reach the pedal comfortably (well he is only 3yrs old), so grandpa had to push him around the track. He soon got bored, because he wasn't able to control it himself so we popped into a couple of rooms to see the insects, tortoises, snakes, iguana's etc, then went to where they hens were and the baby chicks, which just so happened to be next to another little track with 3 wheel bikes on and go carts. The children both loved these bikes as they pedalled around the track and the bales of hay but there for obstacles. I did smile at our grandsons ingenuity when he got off one bike ran forward and jumped on around as it got hard to pedal.

                        We moved on and followed the Fairy Trail, this is a beautiful woodland walk, where they had set up little areas, to show you what a Badger Set would look like, a rabbit warren etc, they had a little fairy station with gnomes and fairies, it was very cute, mole homes and lots more; mainly you were fairy hunting and you would find them hiding everywhere. Our grand-daughter really enjoyed looking for the fairies. There was a sign as you entered the walk saying turn around three times when you see a fairy, but we missed the sign for some reason so we didn't do this; my friend at work told me about it after our visit, she mentioned how it made it even more fun for her daughter, who is a little older than my grand-daughter.

                        After this lovely walk we looked at parrots, owls, ducks, and foxes and more; they even have wallaby's. It was feeding time so you could see the foxes and the owls with small animals hanging out of their mouths, this didn't seem to bother the children one bit, I think it just added to the excitement of them seeing the animals up close.

                        After a quick visit to the toilets, which were clean and adequate, our grandson finally got his wish and we headed for the bouncy castle. Sadly when we got there it was still very wet from last night's heavy rain and it was closed, the sign said it would be open later in the afternoon and there is a small charge of 50p per turn (which lasts around 5mins I believe). There were other play things so he soon got distracted and went tearing around all the play area, on the swings, see-saw, the small merry-go-round thing; there were three large trampolines available and as one was empty they both had a go on this and loved every minute. In busy times you are limited to 5 mins at a time on these.

                        The play area like the rest of the animal kingdom catered for all ages, from babies right up to the older child, our two loved every minute and tried most of the items; we ended our visit with a lovely pony ride with we paid £3.00 for each child, they were kitted out with a riding hat and one of the staff walked around the circuit with a parent and the child on the pony. Our grandson especially enjoyed this and wanted to go round again.

                        The children were given some pocket money by their mom so we popped into the gift shop which was full of all the usual gift ideas relating to the animals and more children based gifts. They picked one item each a furry rabbit and a toy quad bike, their £2.50 each did not cover it, but nanny came to the rescue and made up the rest.

                        Another of the kid's favourites which I nearly forgot to mention was the chipmunks, which ran around the activities in their cage entertaining the children, who were positive that Alvin was in there with them, even naming some of them from the film.

                        It is well worth visiting here and taking your children/grand-children for a lovely day out; I know we will go again. Watch out of the events boards as they also do all kinds of races with some of the animals, you can even dig for gems. There is a play room for the older children which has a pool table, table tennis and air hockey etc. Santa also comes here at Christmas time along with his reindeer so we may be back later this year with the grand-children.

                        A fantastic day out and highly recommended.

                        ~~2010 Prices ~~

                        Adults £6.95
                        Children £6.50
                        OAP's £6.50
                        Children under the age of 2 are Free

                        Family Ticket (which is 2 adults and 3 children) £31.00 (I can see where I went wrong now).
                        They do offer season tickets so that you can come as often as you want over the calendar year. They also cater for school trips and group visits if you want to make contact please take a look at their web site for these offers - www.hoofarm.com

                        ~~Forthcoming events in 2010~~

                        Halloween - between 23rd October - 31st October they are open between 10am and 5pm and they feature the Haunted Manor, Forgotten Child, Deserted Bride and more. They have a Devils Derby Sheep Race and a fancy dress competition, a witch hunt and more to get the kids excited with some scary fun.

                        Christmas at Hoo Farm runs from Sat 27th November through to Christmas Eve - I have heard lots of wonderful things about Christmas here and I am really looking forward to visiting, they put on nativity plays with the animals as well, Santa has his own log cabin, you can see the bears in the factory and see the Santa school and walk through the enchanted forest, visit Santa ice castle, a very exciting visit for all.

                        They do advise to make advance bookings to see Father Christmas so that your children don't get disappointed.

                        ~~Opening times~~

                        March 20th - 12th September 2010

                        It is open every except for Mondays (apart from the Bank Holidays) from 10am to 6pm, last entry being at 5pm. They do not hold sheep racing on a Friday, something to note if you wish to see the event.
                        Autumn opening runs from Sept 16th - Oct 22nd 2010 and it is only open from Thurs to Sun from 10am - 5pm last entry being at 4pm, the sheep racing at this time of year is only on the weekends.

                        It is closed from the 1st - 26th November as it gets ready for Santa's arrival.

                        ~~Directions~~

                        The address is

                        Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom and Christmas Tree Farm
                        Preston-on-the-Weald Moors
                        Telford
                        Shropshire
                        TF6 6DJ

                        Put HUMBER LANE for your Sat Nav reference.

                        Phone number is - 01952 677917

                        Fax - 01952 677944

                        Web site - www.hoofarm.com

                        Email - info@hoofarm.com

                        Directions from M54 motorway, get off at junction 6 and head toward the Princess Royal Hospital, you should pass Tesco's and the retail park which is clearly visible from the motorway island. Follow the hospital signs and then go straight over at the island for the hospital taking you the Shawbirch Island which has a petrol station on your left. Turn right here and Hoo Farm is signposted from here.

                        ~~Other Info~~

                        It still sells 1000's of Christmas trees every year which are all freshly dug and cut.
                        The Animal Kingdom is wheelchair and pushchair friendly; there are also disabled toilet facilities and baby changing station available.

                        There are specially designated areas for picnics; they do ask you not to eat around the animals and not to feed the animal's human food as it could make them ill.

                        There are hand washing stations dotted all over the farm reminding you to wash your hands after touching or feeding the animals (with specially provided animal feed, which you can buy from the shop at 50p a bag).
                        You see staff moving around all the time and they are only too happy to answer any questions you may have.
                        Disabled and coaches are parked near to the main entrance and there are a couple of large car parks a short walk away. These are quite rustic, as they have no tarmac.

                        ~~Overall~~

                        There is not much more that I can say, other than this place is a must to visit and is great value for money. It cost me well over £70.00 to take us all to Sea World last month and this visit cost us just £26.00 and we had loads more fun and spent more time here. I really do highly recommend a visit if you live near, you certainly won't regret it. Our grandson enjoyed it so much he finally gave up on the bouncy castle (which didn't open before 2.30pm) and he fell asleep in the car very connected on the way home.
                        Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.


                        Lyn x
                        Arnoldhenryrufus

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                          16.01.2011 01:11
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                          A brilliant family day out something for all ages and very enjoyable

                          Shugborough Hall

                          In December 2008 we visited Shrugborough Hall for a Christmas fair and had a wonderful evening. We walked around the stalls listening to carol singers and savouring the aroma of the hot chestnuts, burgers, hot potatoes etc. The house was open and lit up by candlelight and the Christmas trees were on display. I really wanted to go in, but the queue was much to long and I didn't have a chair with me; as I can't stand for too long it was not for me to wait in that queue, so my husband promised to take me back for a visit in the summer. We also went back last Christmas 2009 arriving really early this time, but still didn't beat the rush and the queue for the candlelit house was still too long, forever the optimist I will have to try and get there even earlier next year.

                          With us visiting local sights for our main two week holiday last summer, the visit came much earlier that we expected, and we set off towards Staffordshire for our day trip; we also picked one of the few really nice days of our two week break to go.

                          ~~Our Visit~~

                          As this was our second visit we were wise to our sat nav and this time we followed it and it got us there really easy with no problems. On our first visit we forced it to take us the way my husband thought it would be quicker and we ended up coming in from the other side and the post code sent us to an industrial estate it took us quite a while in the dark to actually locate the entrance (lesson learnt).

                          We arrived early in the morning and parked fairly close to the entrance in the disabled parking section. (I have to point out that this is a different area it seems to where we parked for the Christmas evening, possibly because you see more with your day ticket and are restricted with the Christmas event one).

                          We went to the admission desk, which is located in the gift shop and advised the lady that we had reserved a motorised scooter to get me about on our trip. She kindly went on to inform me that I would not be able to take in into the house, but if I had difficulty when I got there, wheelchairs are provided inside to help you and see if you cannot manage the stairs; it may be prudent to mention that you have to enter the Manor House via a staircase as well. After purchasing our tickets and buying the guide book she took us outside and explained my electric wheelchair to me, and left us to it after explaining we have to bring it back to the same spot on our return. With me seated we set off towards the walled gardens and had a little drive around, fortunately it doesn't go that fast so my hubby didn't need to run to keep up with me.

                          The walled garden was built around 1805/06 and had revolutionary brick walls which were actually hollow inside and they had intermittent furnaces, these sent hot air all around the gardens to produce a mild micro-climate for the more tender plants, fruits and vegetables. They had staff in costume working the plots and you could even buy some of the fruit and vegetables, oh and plants which they produce.

                          There was a head gardener's house and other buildings next to the walled garden, some are used for craft rooms, there was only one open at the time of our visit which was one for making candles; they were only too happy to give you a demonstration and sell you some of their wares.

                          After leaving the gardens we came out onto the road which runs through the estate, it was only a short walk to entrance that leads you to the working farm. There you see a sign that says 'All the persons you meet in costume today think they lived in the 1800s they believe that eight pints of beer a day and £21.00 a year is a good wage. Please ask them about their lives, but remember they do not know anything about the 21st century, so please spare them any questions that assume such knowledge'. I looked at this sign and my excitement grew; I do enjoy it when the properties are not only dressed for the time period but the staff are too, and here they interact as well, much more fun.

                          We looked around the farm house first, which has fully 'dressed' rooms for the period, with some of the furniture being on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum. When you entered the kitchen the 'cook' was there in her period costume baking bread and biscuits, there was even a plate of recently cooked biscuits for you to try. The range she was using is actually a replica of the original one which would have been there; she went on to tell you how they cooked during the 1800s and she kindly offered us one of the biscuits she had baked.

                          On the way out of the kitchen was a photocopy selection (on A4 paper) of Shugborough Park Farm favourite recipes for 50p or £1 I can't remember exactly, but I did buy one to remember my visit and maybe even try the odd recipe; there are 17 recipes in all including one for my favourite hot cross buns. We both really enjoyed looking around the building, although I think I found it more interesting than my poor hubby.

                          After looking around the farm house I got back onto my electric wheelchair and off we went around the farm yard; this is great for both young and old, if you like architecture look out for the decorative brickwork in the eaves of the building. You can see displays of farm machinery and some farm animals, it was here that a young calf opened its eyes ready for me to take it's photo, she looked so cute.

                          There is also a working Mill here, I didn't get to see all over it as my legs ached a bit and I still had the Mansion to do, so hubby did the gentlemanly thing and looked for me taking pictures so I could see what I had missed. We took our time and enjoyed it very much and then went on our way across the meadow towards the servants' quarters and the Mansion, in doing so we passed the 'tower of winds' which is a replica water clock which was once used as a dairy on the ground floor and a gambling den upstairs, this was built in 1765; it was not open to go inside, so we could only look in wonder at the outside of the building.

                          It is quite a hike from here to the Mansion, but they do offer a mini bus or train ride around the estate, the stop for this is just before the entrance to Palmers farm, so you would have had to double back on yourself after visiting the farm to catch one of them. As I am in this chair today, my husband stayed with me and we made our way across the field, which was very peaceful and picturesque; it appears that more people take the free transport option than enjoying the walk in the sunshine, but it is a very big place and we are only half way through our visit.

                          We finally arrived at the Mansion House, the Servant Quarters and County Museum; we decided to do the Mansion House first and work backwards. The entrance was down the drive and around the corner; the house looked very majestic and beautiful with a large staircase leading you up to the front door. We parked the wheelchair at the bottom of the steps and my husband helped me up to the main door. The staff watched us and opened the door for us to enter, they offered me the virtual tour, but I declined as I had been conserving my energy specifically for this moment to see the Mansion in all its entirety. I must say at this point although you only get to see part of it as the other part is still lived in, you do get to see a lot of the house. The staff even offered me the use of a manual indoor wheelchair for the downstairs only (as there are no lifts), this too I declined as hubby suffers terrible with his back and at 6ft 2in tall it is a lot of bending to push me in one. So they pointed us in the right direction for us to start our tour and also advised us that the use of cameras was not allowed (surprise, surprise).

                          The Mansion House was originally built in 1694, but it was extended on a couple of occasions in later years with a new wing in 1748 and again further improvements including a ten columned portico and steps between 1790 and 1806. The hall where you enter has an oval effect with marble columns and curved plasterwork; you will see some lovely sculptures displayed as well.

                          The state dining room was spectacular with the dining table set ready for the big event; it has been described (from the guidebook) as the finest Rococo interior in England. All I can say is that I was extremely impressed and just wished I could have taken photos of it as the ones in the guide book were a little disappointing. The rooms were everything I would expect from a house of this stature and were all well presented and displayed wonderful period furniture and artwork. Each room having a member of staff at hand to tell you about the history if you want to hear more; the library was amazing so many books and the room next to it was full of wonderful family photos. I did notice a book by Lord Litchfield which I have a copy of at home was on the side 'The World's Most Beautiful Women' I got my copy from Avon when I worked for them as a gift because their make-up was used on some of the models in the book photographed by Lord Litchfield.

                          Part of the upstairs rooms have been changed to display items like a museum, one of these rooms is showing a display of some of the photographs which Lord Litchfield had taken. Another display here was a model of the Centurion, which was completed in 1747 this has been loaded to the house by the National Maritime Museum; this was a handsome ship.

                          The house was brilliant but my review would go on forever and I still have more to see yet on our visit; I must mention before we leave the Mansion House that whilst we were inside the house there was a rain shower and one of the members of staff came out with me and wiped the seat of the wheelchair dry for me before I got back on it and continued our visit, I did think that this was a very thoughtful act on his part.

                          After leaving the house we moved onto look at the Servants' Quarters and the County Museum. The Servants' Quarters is situated next door to the main house and has two large courtyards, the one has a large stone circle in the centre where the household wastes is held and the second one is found under the clock tower and this is the stable yard.

                          We walked through the coach house and saw a lovely display of coaches which the family have used over the centuries, they were magnificent and in excellent condition, best of all I could take photos for my memory album. Walking through here was like going through another house in its own rights. You go through the kitchen and into the laundry room where there was a member of staff in period costume, who was ironing some cotton gowns with an old fashioned metal iron. It was quite interesting to watch her work and she was happy to answer any questions about her work.

                          There were a few members of staff in and around this section as you moved from one room to the other; the servants hall with its large wooden table in the centre was actually quite sparsely decorated (as it would be really for the servants), they had tin plates on the table to show you what they would have eaten off, very different from the lavish wares that the main family used.

                          We got to sample a little beer when we visited the brew house, something for my husband to enjoy; the Anson family at Shugborough took brewing beer very seriously and their cellars were crammed full of barrels of beer. The tour is just never ending after walking around the servants quarters it leads straight into a museum full of displays like an extremely large puppet collection, which is a vast collection of marionettes, shadow puppets and glove puppets which have been on display since their arrival in 1993 (The Abbots Bromley Puppet Museum, the collection is owned by Douglas Hayward). There was also a tailor shop which was once a family run business in a village close by, a pharmacy which is a reconstruction but is filled with items from the Stafford and Leek areas, and a general store.

                          The museums continue up the stairs with further displays such as a Victorian classroom and a display of fashion and the undergarments that made the ladies dresses expand out. My mind was buzzing taking everything in that we had seen and there was so much to see; after our tour we decided to take a stroll (well a ride in my case) around some of the beautiful gardens and grounds. You could quite easily spend an hour or so strolling peacefully around here, it was quite simply beautiful.

                          There is a large lake which gave you a peaceful and tranquil feeling, also various monuments which you could look at as you go round. When you buy your ticket you get a map of the halls and gardens and all these monuments are marked on the map with little pictures and descriptions down the side telling you what they are. I have to say we were a little worn out by this time so we just enjoyed the peaceful surroundings before heading back.

                          Another nice thing about the walk was that you got to see the rear of the house (the lived in part), there was a lovely fountain here which I enjoyed getting a picture of.

                          ~~Prices~~

                          As of 2010

                          You can buy tickets here that last you for 12 months

                          Adults cost £20.00 for one ticket, but if you buy 2 Adult tickets you get it for £35.00

                          Children's tickets cost you £11.00 each,

                          A family ticket will knock you back £45.00 ( this is normally two adults and up to 3 children).

                          OAP tickets cost £15.00 ea,

                          They do offer an Adult and Child ticket together for £22.50

                          All pass holders have to be named so you can't swap them around.

                          You can buy these over the phone if you have a credit/debit card by ringing 0845 459 8900. These tickets last you for 12 months from the time you purchase them and allow you unlimited access throughout the season; you can book on line as well.

                          There are more offers and details if you take a look at their web site, I have only given a sample here. www.shugborough.org.uk

                          You can just buy normal tickets as well and these cost for 2010

                          Adults - £12.00 (you can get a small discount if you book in advance)

                          Concession prices - £9.50

                          Children - £7.00 each child

                          Family - £30.00

                          Small family (1 adult and 1 child) - £15.00.

                          Looking at these prices the season ticket sounds really reasonable because you will definitely enjoy going more than once.

                          There are different offers on the web site for example if you collect Tesco vouchers or a member of the National Trust etc.


                          ~~Opening Times~~

                          It is open daily between March 19th and 28th October between 1100hrs and 1700hrs.

                          They also hold special events throughout the year so it is always worth looking at the web site to see what is on offer.

                          Don't forget to take a look at the website for special events, like the one we attended at Christmas.

                          ~~Directions~~

                          Shrugborough hall is to be found in Stafford, it is signposted from Junction 13 of the M6 and you will find the main entrance on Milford Common on the A513 Stafford to Litchfield road, there is a link to a street map on the site if you wish to follow that route.

                          ST17 0XB is the post code for your sat nav, and on some sat nav's you can even search under attraction.

                          If you come by train your nearest stations are either Rugeley or Stafford.

                          There is a bus service available from both the above towns, you catch the 825 which drops you near the hall and you can then enter the estate on foot via the exit road.

                          Their website is wonderful for useful information about travelling it even gives you travel times from certain parts of the country, for example it is only 2hrs 40mins from London.

                          ~~Other Info~~

                          I have mentioned that they do cater for disabilities throughout the review, I found it very easy to get around on the motorised scooter(wheelchair), but these are limited, so I would recommend that you book one in advance so they can keep one aside for you.

                          We did get to use the toilets and they were very clean and accessible. We didn't stop to use the café or restaurant as we were heading to the Golden Orient for a Chinese buffet (I just had to go back after our last visit).

                          Would you like to know where the word 'Loo' came from, well according to the guide book Lady Louisa Anson, who was the eldest daughter of the 1st Earl, was said to be a surly woman and prone to being very unkind with her words. Her husband Edward King Tenison had a rather large nose and became quite deaf in later life, so Lady Anson would speak on his behalf and spoke quite a lot out of turn and often her comments would be hurtful and cause offence; anyway this led to certain young Dukes referring to her as having a 'potty mouth' and they took her name plate and put it on the door of the W.C. It is believed that there after it was always referred to as the Lady Loo.

                          ~~Overall~~

                          I would highly recommend a visit to Shugborough Hall, I really enjoyed it and there is so much to see and do; most definitely excellent value for money. You could easily spend an afternoon here, but it wouldn't take much to stretch that out into a whole day. There was not one part of the visit that we didn't enjoy, even my husband thought it was lovely and has promised to take me back again.


                          Thank you for reading

                          Arnoldhenryrufus

                          Lyn x

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                            06.01.2011 23:50
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                            Brilliant if you love churches like me

                            Holy Trinity Church

                            We spent a lovely couple of days in the picturesque town of Stratford-upon-Avon, sampling some wonderful eating places and enjoying the wonderful history and buildings it had to offer. We viewed all the five houses which were part of the Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust and also a couple of churches as well; one of them being the Holy Trinity which is also the last resting place of William Shakespeare.

                            If you have read my Stratford Bus Tour review you will know that we used this as our mode of transport to get around Stratford and visit all these beautiful locations; it was whilst visiting the houses that we discovered this church and I just had to visit. If my memory serves me right we went to see the church just before seeing Hall's Croft, we departed off the bus at the stop for the doctor's house and took a pleasant walk down the road to the church. It was a beautiful day and the area had a wonderful peaceful and serene feel about it, the church looked lovely and the grounds surrounding it were lush with trees; sadly the only thing that spoilt the view was the scaffolding they had surrounding the church at the time of our visit. It was a very majestic building sitting on the river bank of the Avon with a wonderful air of tranquillity about it.

                            ~~ A Little History ~~

                            The earliest records for this church date back to 1210, but it is believed that there was a Saxon Monastery on the site dating back to 713 previously. The Guild of the Holy cross which was founded in 1269 owned many local properties and were the first to start to extend the church, it became responsible for the building of the nave, aisles and the tower. Over the years the church expanded and a 'stone house' was build for the College of Stratford for the chantry priests, this was confirmed in its privileges by Henry V in 1415, changes continued until the college was closed by Henry VIII in 1547. All the colleges' assets were given to the town and today there are no traces of the building left just the records of its existence.

                            A wooden spire was erected on the tower in 1675 and was replaced by the very pretty spire made of stone in 1763 that you can still see today. Many changes came and went throughout the Victorian era, then came along new flooring etc and in 1998 it was given a new altar which is made of American Oak.

                            ~~ The Church ~~

                            As you walk into the church you will notice how bright and big it is, I have to say it is like a small cathedral and my initial thoughts were wow, how lovely it looked, apart from the scaffolding and the posters they had up, but that is a sign of modern times and the work that needs doing.

                            The Nave is built of limestone with the pillars dating back to 1280; the arches were apparently added approximately 100 years later. A lot of stained glass windows, which are one of my favourite features were fitted during the Victorian era as the earlier medieval ones didn't survive the tests of time.
                            It is in this area that you see a pretty font with a highly polished brass cover, this is a copy of the one which Shakespeare was baptised; there is another font in the church, which is believed to be the original one from the 15th Century which was used for Shakespeare's baptism, this can be found in the Chancel.

                            As you look at the walls of the Nave you see some lovely statues and plaques in memoriam, also some funeral hatchments which display the armorial bearings of rank and substance of the person they refer to. The view of these was slightly marred by the many large posters asking you to pay £50.00 to sponsor one of the window panels (if you are interested you can take a look at their website www.shakespeareschurch.org).
                            There are a couple of well preserved tombs around the church for prominent figures of the church and society. Before I leave the Nave and go onto mention the Chancel, I want to mention a couple more things that I appreciated like the lovely plaque with cherubs around it, which held a dedication. I also noted that the church has been bought into the 21st century as it had a modern microphone attached to the brass eagle lectern. They have a small section which is the Junior Church which had small ornate chairs and desks; these were replicas of the larger adult ones, very quaint.

                            The Chancel is quite a special section of the church it was built in 1480 using local Warwick stone and has some beautiful large stained glass windows, the dominating one being the east window which depicts the 'Adoration of the Crucified'.

                            I have already mentioned that it plays host to the original yet broken font that was used for the baptism of William Shakespeare on 26th April 1564, but it also holds his and some members of his family who are buried here. William was a 'lay rector' of this church which meant he was entitled to be buried here, he purchased a lease of moiety which is a half share of the tithes (taxes) due to local churches, this cost £440 back in 1605, one of the conditions held to this was that he had to help with the up keep of the chancel during his life time.
                            The graves are lined up next to each other behind a barrier, as you face them from left to right you have Anne Hathaway (his wife), Shakespeare (this one usually has fresh flowers on it), Thomas Nash (who was the first husband of Williams' grand-daughter Elizabeth), John Hall (his son-in- law) and Susannah (Shakespeare's eldest daughter). All the graves have a blue plaque on them telling you which grave belong to who as you cannot get close enough to actually read the inscriptions of the stones).

                            On the wall you will see papers relating to Shakespeare's baptism and his burial; these are displayed behind glass for protection. There is also a memorial sculpture of Shakespeare which was made by Gerald Johnson shortly after the playwright's death. At this point I would like to mention that during our visit to Stratford-upon-Avon we had the pleasure to see a painting which was discovered hidden and has been authenticated as being a genuine painting of William Shakespeare, he does look completely different to the various paintings and statues that have been made since his death.

                            Another wonderful item in this area is the image of 'Christ', this was recently discovered in the chancel Sedalia canopy, it is a 15th century carving which is very rare; they have it lit up and a mirror there, so you can only view it from the mirror, it is quite amazing to look at.

                            The roof in the chancel is wooden and has figures carved on it, the craftsmanship here is magnificent with carvings of misericord (figures depicting life in the 15th century, with dancers, clowns, fish, animals etc). There were a couple of beautiful chairs, so big they could have been thrones, they were dark oak with red velvet seats and some wonderful carvings; I even liked the solid wooden priest door to the side as well. The pulpit was in stone and it had a grey pewter look about it, with some white (marble looking) figurines around it.

                            ~~ Opening Times ~~

                            The church is open to the public, but please be aware it still operates as a church as well and holds services. I thought I would add the service times to this to help you with your timings for your visits.

                            Sunday -
                            0800 is Holy Communion
                            1030 is Parish Communion
                            1800 is Evening Worship

                            Weekdays
                            0930 is Morning Prayer on Monday
                            0915 is Morning Prayer Tuesday - Friday
                            1000 is Holy Communion on Tuesdays.

                            All these times were correct from a leaflet I picked up from our visit in the summer of 2009.

                            ~~ Location ~~

                            Holy Trinity C of E Church
                            Old Town
                            Stratford-upon-Avon
                            Warwickshire
                            CV37 6BG

                            It is only just a short walk from Hall's Croft which is on the tour bus route.

                            ~~ Conclusion ~~


                            I really like this church, I admit that the scaffolding did not do much for the presentation, but the church itself had a wonderful peaceful and calming atmosphere about it. One walked inside and it welcomed you, making you want to stay and absorb some of the energy which it emitted. It was quite a large church and apart from its links to Shakespeare it contained a lot of history inside its doors. Like all churches its nooks and crannies, its artwork and monuments told you a story of its life and that of the town.
                            I would most definitely recommend a visit here if you are in Stratford, as it is on the river edge you could even enjoy a riverside walk either side of your visit and it's not to far from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre either.

                            I hope I have managed to put across how idyllic this church and the village are, if you are like me and love historic buildings and churches then you will really enjoy visiting here.

                            Thank you for reading
                            Lyn x (Arnoldhenryrufus)

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                              25.10.2010 22:39
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                              A wonderful historic building and well preserved .

                              ~~Nash House and New Place~~

                              I love old historic buildings and I drag my poor husband around with me at every opportunity; he deserves a medal as I know he does not hold the same love for history and buildings as I do. On our two day stay in Stratford we decided to visit the five houses belonging to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Nash House and New Place is one of them.

                              ~~History~~

                              Let us start with a little bit of information about the building itself; like all the five houses it was built from locally quarried stone at Wilmcote and it was the grey-blue variety of lias stone. The oak timber frame was taken from the woodlands in the ancient Forest of Arden. The houses were early prefabricated buildings, as carpenters would carve out the wooden frames which would then be put together on site. The craftsmanship from these times were magnificent considering the knowledge they had then and they still stand proud today 500 years later, I wonder if some of our modern buildings will stand the same test of time.

                              The earliest reference to Nash House I could find was dated 1540, so I know it was built before then, the Tudor style residence is remarkable to look at and it always amazes me how it has stood up to all the elements and wars that this country has seen in its lifetime.

                              Shakespeare bought the property as a retreat to get away from the hustle and bustle of London and the stresses of the theatre work there. He lived here for the last 18 years of his life in New Place which joined Nash House. Looking at an artist's impression the two homes would have stood side by side and shared the lovely gardens. Shakespeare passed away here on his 52nd birthday in April 1616 at New Place; it is also believed that a few years later his wife Anne spent her last days there too.

                              His grand-daughter Elizabeth Hall lived here with her first husband Thomas Nash and after his death she remarried her second husband John Barnard. After Elizabeth's death in 1670 the house returned to the ownership of the Clopton family; they made some considerable alterations and opened the house up to the public for viewing. Sadly nearly a century later and it is now owned by the rather eccentric Reverend Francis Gastrell, who took an axe to the Mulberry Tree, which was believed to have been planted by Shakespeare himself; this caused unrest amongst the locals. Gastrell was sick and tired of all the tourists, but the town's folk were so incensed by what he did they smashed all the windows in the house. After this and the high tax bills he received for the house, he decided to pull New Place down to the ground; this incensed the local people of Stratford even more and they drove him out of the town banning him and his namesakes from ever returning to Stratford again.

                              The house is now owned by the trust and has been decorated to show how it would have looked in the Jacobean times; it does house some beautiful carved furniture and paintings.

                              The original New Place foundations are still there, but they now have a beautiful garden planted around them, they even have some Mulberry trees, one being a direct descendent of the original Mulberry Tree which Shakespeare planted, or so they say.

                              ~~Our Visit~~

                              Our tour bus dropped us off right outside the house and straight away I was taking pictures. Firstly I took on e of the large Tudor style building which was the Falcon pub, then the church (The Guild Chapel) and finally as we went round the corner it was posing for pictures at the front of the house. I was really excited and looking forward to going inside with my camera ready to build up memories for my holiday album.

                              The outside of the house has colourful hanging baskets and tubs all in full bloom, making the Tudor style building with its black and white beamed frontage and leaded windows stand out.

                              I entered the building full of excitement and whilst my darling husband showed them our tickets I got my camera out to take a photo of a lovely fireplace; before I got the chance to press the button I was told that I could not take photo's; so very disappointed I put my camera away and we moved on in to the next room. This room had a large oak table with two benches either side, it looked very heavy and typical of the period which they have dressed the house in. There is a guide there who gives you a brief history of Nash house, New Place and the gardens; this takes around 10-15 minutes to complete and you are then left on your own to explore the house and gardens. At the end of the parlour there was a small room, the estate used this room for children to sit at a small table and draw etc.

                              Upstairs in the house was not dressed, but it was used to display an exhibition which showed some display cabinets with antiques displayed, these included some boxes and trinkets allegedly made from the original Mulberry Tree that Shakespeare had planted. I don't know if it was because I was disappointed in not being allowed to take photo's (even with my flash off), but I didn't seem to enjoy this house as much as the others. I do wish they would allow photographs, even if they made you pay a small charge, I would still be happy to pay for the privilege; I also purchase a guide book whenever I visit a period house, the one here cost £3.95 but it did cover all five homes so you only needed to buy one.

                              We left the house and explored the gardens, the first one we came to was straight outside the door, it was the garden that was planted around the foundations of the demolished house New Place, there were signs where bits of the old foundations are left exposed; from here you are lead into another garden called the Knot Garden, which was created around 1919-1920 and it is set into four sections which are referred to as knots; they grow herbs and flowers in each knot. At the centre is a small water feature; it all looks very colourful and pretty. You can go forward from here through a trellis-work tunnel which leads you through a turnstile and into the Great Garden. This is a very large garden like a small park really and this is open to the public and free to enter. It is said that it has the daughter and grand-daughter Mulberry trees descended from the original one which Shakespeare planted. Each of the trees has a plaque telling you about them; also as you walk around this garden you come across some modern artwork depicting Shakespeare's plays. Although I am not always a great fan of modern artwork I did find these fascinating and rather attractive in a strange kind of way. This is where we ended our visit; there was a little tea-room next to the gift shop, but we didn't partake in either, we just enjoyed the gardens and went outside to take a quick look at the lovely church I noticed on the way in.

                              ~~How To Get There~~

                              We used the City-sightseeing bus to get us here as this took away the worry of parking and also the long walking from the town, as I am not as fit as I was. If you do decide to go by car then you will have to use one of the few car parks that Stratford offer, then you either catch the tour bus like we did, or walk through the town and over to Chapel Street for Nash House; there is disabled parking close by in Sheep Street. Wheelchair use is limited within the house, and you have to go out of the house and around the street, to get to the Great Garden. The nearest car park is the multi story car park off Rother Street.

                              ~~Opening times for 2009~~

                              November to March - it is open 1100hrs to 1600hrs daily.
                              Summer months and Half term in February - open between 1000hrs and 1700hrs daily.

                              ~~Prices for 2010~~
                              For the Town houses tickets (these allow you entry to the 3 houses inside the town, Shakespeare's birthplace, Nash House and New place and Halls Croft.

                              Adult - £12.50

                              Children (ages 5-16yrs) - £8.00

                              Family Ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) - £33.50

                              Concession -£11.50

                              A multi ticket for all five houses is

                              Adult - £19.00

                              Children - £12.00

                              Family - £49.00

                              Concession - £17.00


                              This is really worthwhile but you may wish to consider the bus tour as the ticket will only cost you £5.50 more on the adult price and you will get driven to all of the houses, so no hassle trying to park etc.

                              You can buy the guide book at any of the houses in one of four languages, English, French, German or Japanese all are prices at £3.95, you can even buy these on line prior to your visit and you can get your tickets as well.

                              The Shakespeare multi tickets also give you free entry into the Shakespeare Found exhibition where you will get to see a true image of William Shakespeare which has been discovered and has been proven authentic.


                              ~~Overall~~

                              Although I didn't enjoy it as much as some of the other properties I am glad I have seen it, but the highlight of the visit for me had to be the beautiful gardens, if we had a longer visit here I would of happily taken a picnic and sat and enjoyed the beauty and the atmosphere of these gardens. The Great Garden especially, you can imagine the peace and tranquillity such a garden would have bought to Shakespeare after the busy life he led as a playwright in the City of London. I would most definitely recommend it for a visit, but if I do return I will have to plan my stay a little better, giving myself a little more time to savour the moment. If you decide to visit the houses I would make this one the first that you visit, leaving the better ones to the end; I feel that you will appreciate it more if you do it that way.

                              Thank you for reading

                              Lyn x
                              Arnoldhenryrufus.

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                                07.10.2010 18:24
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                                A brilliant family day out something for all ages and very enjoyable

                                Mary Arden's Farm

                                This was the second of the Shakespeare's houses that we visited on our first day in Stratford. We went straight here from Anne Hathaway's cottage on the tour bus. We had no idea what to expect and I was a little apprehensive after my disappointment with the visit to the cottage we had only just left. I wondered if we would be allowed to take photos and wondered how crowded it would be, would we be herded round or would we be able to enjoy the house at our leisure.

                                Who is Mary Arden? I hear you ask, she was William Shakespeare's mother and this is where she grew up before she married William's father John. The two 16th century farmhouses, the outbuildings and Palmers farm all once belonged to her father Robert Arden who was a farmer by trade. The house can be found located on the outskirts of the Forest of Arden in a small village called Wilmcote which is approximately three miles outside Stratford-upon-Avon.

                                ~~Our Visit~~

                                We stepped of the bus and made our way to the entrance and show our tickets to the man at reception (which is also the gift shop); he pointed out to us that there was a falconry display starting in 20mins if we wished to go and see it. They do have a variety of birds of prey including owls, we did not get to see these on our visit as we chose to enjoy the farm and houses instead as it was getting rather late in the day.

                                I started to get excited as I could use our camera here and there was so much to see and do, (I am a big kid really); our tour started by us walking through a stone archway into a square where you could see small barns showing displays of old farming equipment. One of the items here that really stood out for me was an old fire cart, which was vital for the farmers to carry water to any fire that had. The nice thing about the displays was that they put a large easy to read information board with pictures and descriptions of the equipment on show to help you understand how they worked and were used.

                                There was a fairly modern looking building in the corner which holds the café and toilets are available in that part as well. There is no rush and you can walk about at your leisure and take the time to enjoy what you are looking at, you even have the time to read all about them as well. As you walk around Palmers farm you will see a cider mill and a dove cote which contains an amazing amount of nesting holes, 650 to be precise. You will see free range chickens, geese, pigs, goats and we did see a young calf which opened it eyes for a photo to be taken. I was like a child in a sweet factory looking at everything and making sure that I did not miss anything.

                                As we walked to Palmers Farm House we saw a lady in period costume tending to the chickens and feeding them; I think it adds something to the visit when you see these re-enactments. They do these to show how the farm would have been run during the 1570's Elizabethan era; you may be lucky enough to see them washing, gardening, shoe making, woodwork, housework or gardening, whatever activity they are doing at the time of your visit. We saw 2 men working on the gardens and a lady working with the chickens.

                                The farm house was lovely with its black and white timber framed frontage; inside was simply dressed for the time period and you will see the uneven walls and ceilings. The doorways are very low especially upstairs where even I had to duck and I am only 5ft 4in. There was no work going on inside the house today when we visited, we could see the embers in the fire so it looked like we had just missed out on the cooking demonstration. There was a table set out with leather and a pair of shoes, where someone had taken a break from the shoe making; if you time it right you can also watch someone making butter and cheese. When you look around the room take a close look at the carvings on the wooden features as you will be pleasantly surprised on how detailed they are.

                                Upstairs is staged as bedrooms (obviously) the beds are fairly small as they mainly slept sitting up for both superstitious reasons and for health ones; they felt that if you lay flat the 'devil' would think you were dead and steal your soul. The health side of it was, these houses had little ventilation and often smoke would move around the house from the open fires which made breathing difficult. Children stayed in their parents' room until they reached around 5 yrs old, they had a smaller bed which would fit under the parents' bed and be pulled out at right angles to the bed for the child to sleep.

                                At the far end of the upstairs was a dorm bedroom with six beds on the floor, it looked like just small mattresses on the wooden floors; there was an extremely low beam going across the room, it must have been a nightmare using this room with the beam being that low, it was only around 3ft off floor level.

                                After leaving the house we moved across the gardens and saw the 'men in costume' tending the vegetable patch, we also went past where the owls were kept, but they were obviously out with the other birds of pray for the display which was being shown in the next field. We looked into more barns displaying more items and I had my picture taken with a large ornament cow, you can imagine the caption my hubby gave it, lol and then onto Mary Arden's house.

                                It was only recently discovered that this house is the original Mary Arden house; previously it was always believed that the house, which was re-named Palmers Farm after the neighbouring farmer and friend of the family Adam Palmer in the year 2000. The true Mary Arden house has been in the hands of the trust for preservation since 1968. The house is dressed a lot more 'richer' style than the Palmers Farm House, I can only say this one was dressed as if the family were well off and the other one was more like a working family house. It was presented really well with some lovely period furniture and even had hares and partridges hanging up in the larder.


                                There was a guide (in modern clothing) here to tell us all about the house and answer any of our questions and he did not object to me taking loads of photos either. We were limited on time for our visit as it was coming to the end of the day so we did not get to cover all of the attractions they had to offer. We missed out on the adventure playground, but we may have looked a little odd being that we are both old and didn't have the grandkids with us. There were nature trails too which you could take a walk around and get to enjoy the beautiful farm and countryside.

                                ~~Other Items~~


                                Gift Shop - sells various memorabilia of your visit and of Shakespeare giving you a lovely selection of books, postcards, tea towels etc, ranging from a couple of pound to loads of money.


                                ~~ How to get here ~~

                                Address for your sat nav

                                Station Road
                                Stratford-upon-Avon
                                Warwickshire
                                CV37 9UN

                                phone number 01789 293 455


                                You could stay in Stratford itself and catch the citybustour bus to see this, which is what we did.



                                ~~ Opening Times ~~

                                It is open from March through to October, Monday - Sunday from 1000hrs - 1700hrs. It is closed the other months of the year.

                                ~~ Prices ~~


                                For the Town houses tickets (these allow you entry to the 3 houses inside the town, Shakespeare's birthplace, Nash House and New place and Halls Croft.
                                Adult - £12.50
                                Children (ages 5-16yrs) - £8.00
                                Family Ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) - £33.50
                                Concession -£11.50

                                A multi ticket for all five houses is
                                Adult - £19.00
                                Children - £12.00
                                Family - £49.00
                                Concession - £17.00

                                Prices just for Mary Arden's cottage and farm
                                Adults - £9.50
                                Children - £5.50
                                Concession/OAP - £7.50
                                Family - £24.50


                                All these prices include the new 'Dig for Shakespeare' which has been bought out for 2010 it is where they are doing archaeological digs at the 3 of the historic locations, Hall's Croft, Shakepeare's Birthplace and New Place.
                                It is good to remember that you can gift aid your admission costs as well and if you book on line you save 10% on the ticket prices.
                                This is really worthwhile but you may wish to consider the bus tour as the ticket will only cost you around £5.50 more on the adult price and you will get driven to all of the houses, so no hassle trying to park etc.

                                You can buy the guide book at any of the houses in one of four languages, English, French, German or Japanese all are prices at £3.95, you can even buy these on line prior to your visit and you can get your tickets as well



                                ~~ Opinion ~~

                                This was one of my favourite of the Shakespeare houses, there was so much to see and enjoy. The way that they presented the houses and the farm can only be praised, they were brilliant and with the re-enactments as well it was really bought to life, like stepping back in time. History is fascinating, but actually seeing people living it helps you understand it a lot more and you realise how much we have today compared to what they had then. Could you imagine having to make your own shoes, make your own cheese or butter and sleep on a hard bed sitting up? These two houses didn't have bathrooms inside, so no luxurious hot baths or showers to start your day. No wardrobes as they only changed their clothes at the end of each season.

                                I am really please we took the time to visit here, part of me wishes we had allowed a bit longer, as you could quite easy spend a morning or afternoon visiting with the children if you take the time to explore and watch people at work. My hubby enjoyed this one nearly as much as me, which was pretty good going as this was near the end of two weeks looking at historic buildings.

                                We both highly recommend here for a visit for all of the family as there is something that will suit people of all ages and interests.

                                Thank you so much for reading

                                Lyn x
                                Arnoldhenryrufus

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                                  20.09.2010 21:10
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                                  A wonderful historic building and well preserved .

                                  Hall's Croft
                                  This house was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1949 and was opened to the public a couple of years later after some repair work and refurbishment was completed. It is believed that the house was built for the physician John Hall and his wife Susanna (who happened to be Shakespeare's' daughter). They lived here for a few years before William's death in 1616 when they took over the residence in New Place.

                                  ~~Our Visit~~

                                  Our tour bus dropped us off virtually outside the house, which is very wide and although it doesn't have the quaint cottage appeal of Ann Hathaway's Cottage it is quite attractive in its own way. What was possibly once a white wall with black beans is now weather worn and dirty beige colour, with greyish black beams; but in saying this it did have a certain appeal to it.

                                  After locating the entrance we entered the building, but this time I am wise and I keep my camera in my pocket. As nothing has been mentioned to my hubby about the taking of photos, and I did see another lady snapping away, I took my camera back out in the first room, but I did take the flash off to protect the furniture. Happy as Larry now as I have space to move around and I have my camera with me, I start to enjoy the experience clicking away giving me lovely pictures to go along with my memories of the visit. I do feel a little guilty through as if I am being a naughty girl, maybe that's because of the previous properties we had visited having a no photo policy.

                                  According to the guide book the first rooms we visited were the entrance hall and parlour; I do remember a couple of things that really stood out for me in this room, one was a very decorative high chair, made of ash dating from the early 17th century; just behind the high chair was a large oil painting of a family sitting saying grace before their meal, this was painted by Anthonius Claeissins around 1585. There was also a very large brick fireplace in this room which really stood out for me.

                                  Moving from here we went through a small passageway that led to the consulting room display where you could see some of the items used to store and make the medicines used around Hall's time as a doctor. As you move through to the kitchen you saw a wonderful large table which looked very thick and sturdy and dates back to the 17th century; they had a couple of platters displayed on it which they filled with very modern potpourri, this along with the flowers and herbs which you could see hanging from the ceiling were used not only for their normal uses in cooking but also for their fragrance as remember people didn't wash much in these days. Along the lovely fireplace was a pulley system which was used to help moving pots and cooking over the open fire.

                                  As you reach the stairway there was a large portrait of a Mother and Child at the bottom dating from 1627 it is believed to have been painted by the Dutch artist Nicholoes Eliasz Pickenoy. I found the banister fairly chunky and plain, I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn't' more ornate to go with some of the other items displayed.

                                  Upstairs you got to see the principal bedroom, which has been dressed a little like a museum piece; there was a laminated diagram of the room, with all 23 items which were displayed listed with a description of each item. There were a couple of items that stood out for us, one was a 'close stool' which was English and dated back to around the 17th century; it is a small chest with a lid and a removable stool pan (a very early toilet); we both thought how it looked like a record player the way it was displayed. The carved cradle looked very pretty, but this was a 17th century reproduction.

                                  The 'tester bed' were very common place during this period of history and this one dates back to the 16th century and is English, a tester bed is a four poster bed with a ceiling (or tester). Also on this floor was an exhibition of Dr Hall's work where you saw items of torture, oops sorry I meant medical implements used during this time.

                                  I do also like the way they put red glowing lights under the fires to make them look like they were working and this only went to build on the atmosphere. There was one section of the upstairs that was under renovation so we could not enter to take a look in there. After we finished looking around the upstairs we went back down the stairs with the intention of looking at the gardens, but we took the wrong turn and ended up going through the gift shop which was well stocked with Shakespearean memorabilia. As you leave the shop you enter the café and then out to the front of the building. We didn't use the café, as we realised that we had take a wrong turn and could not get back into the shop from there, so we had to walk back around to the main entrance again to get the gardens. This was ok as we still had our tickets which entitles you to visit the house and gardens as many times as you like over the next 12 months.

                                  Going back in we found the correct door and went outside to look at the beautiful garden. It was very large with lovely mowed lawns, modern art sculptures and beautiful flowers and hedges; there was also a large Mulberry Tree which seems to be very popular in the homes connected with William Shakespeare. As you can expect as this was a doctors house, there were many herbs planted as they would have been used to create his medicines and potions.

                                  There was seating around the garden and a large patio area around the rear of the house. At the time of our visit a lot of the patio area was taken up with scaffolding for the renovation work that was underway.

                                  ~~Other items~~

                                  If you look closely at the beams around the house you will see the carpenters numbers written on them, this shows that it was an early pre-fabricated building and the beams would have been numbered and put together like a jigsaw or an MFI piece of furniture.

                                  Disabilities - during our visit we only noticed that wheelchair access was available on the lower level and there did not appear to be any access to top floor.

                                  ~~Directions~~

                                  Hall's Croft is one of the three town houses which can be visited and is to be found in the centre of Stratford on Old Town. You can use any of the main car parks and then walk through to it or you can go on the tour bus at a small cost.

                                  Looking at the map the nearest Disabled parking is at Sheep Street

                                  Address for Sat Nav is
                                  Halls Croft
                                  Old Town
                                  Stratford-upon-Avon
                                  Warks
                                  CV37 6BG

                                  ~~Opening Times~~

                                  Throughout June and August it is open between 0930hrs and 1700hrs, except for Sundays when it opens at 1000hrs.
                                  During April to May and Sept to October it is open between 1100hrs to 1700hrs and finally between November and March it opens 1100hrs to 1600hrs daily.

                                  ~~Prices~~

                                  You can buy tickets just for this house, but your best value is when you buy the 5 house tickets or the complete bus tour along with the houses.
                                  Hall's Croft only ticket prices

                                  Adult - £3.75
                                  Child - £1.75 (ages between 5 and 16yrs)
                                  Concession prices are £3.00
                                  Family Tickets - £10.00 (which is for 2 adults and up to 3 children)
                                  Shakespeares Birthplace Trust tickets for the 5 houses

                                  Adult - £19.00
                                  Child - £12.00
                                  Concession - £17.00
                                  Family Ticket- £49.00

                                  ~~Overall~~

                                  Although I am glad that I have seen this house, it is not one of my favourites, I much prefer Mary Arden's Farm and Shakespeare's Birthplace for things to see and do. I wouldn't go out of my way to see this again, but as we bought the bus tour tickets with the houses included it was worth a visit and like I said I am glad we did, as I do love old houses and I love to look out for bits of architecture and the little things like the beams being numbered etc, it tells you so much of our wonderful history. If you do go to visit here then I recommend that you do it as part of the 5 houses ticket and not just the one on its own.
                                  Many thanks for reading

                                  Arnoldhenryrufus
                                  Lyn x

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