Tracing Suffolk Roots - Our Journey

This is the day by day story of our journey through Great Britain as we search for information about our various ancestors. We invite you to come with us on our adventure.

To navigate through the pages of this book, first click on the heading 'Tracing Suffolk Roots', then just click on an individual chapter in the menu and follow the story through.

To see our photos, click on the 'Gallery' and then the relevant Chapter. In the Chapter 2 Gallery we have included a few old photos taken around Benhall for comparison. To see the full size photo just click on the thumbnail.

Chapter 1 - Our Journey Begins

Come and join us while we are tracing our Suffolk roots.

The first part of our story takes us through Suffolk & Norfolk where we meet some of our living relatives, visit Benhall, the birthplace of Geoff's Dad and become familiar with places we have known only through photographs and letters.

Suffolk is the English County where our ancestors have lived for generations. Come with us while we explore the County of Suffolk and other parts of Britain, searching for information about our illusive ancestors. We, that is Jane and Geoff Aslett, haven't booked itineraries or planned our trip in great detail. We are setting off not knowing where our search might take us or what we might find along the way. Like the explorers of old, we think we know what we are looking for, but we are not too sure what we will find. Certainly there will be surprises along the way, but we know there will be lots of fun too.

One of the first people we are going to meet is Geoff's cousin Joyce. We will be with Joyce to help her celebrate her 97th birthday! Joyce, who still lives in her own home, by herself, remarked when I told her about our plans "I'm so looking forward to your visit, it'll be fun!" So certainly it will be fun.

Our plan is that we will fly out of Brisbane with Qantas bound for Hong Kong. After about six hours at Hong Kong we will leave on British Airways for Heathrow, arriving at the new and much talked about Terminal 5. Promoted as the latest most modern and up to date airport facility in the world, it was opened by Her Majesty, the Queen. The Queen was lucky she did not arrive on a BA flight or she might have lost her baggage, as apparently countless people have been doing. We were warned "Terminal 5, huh? Make sure you take a couple of spare sets of clothing in your hand luggage, as your bags could take a few days to come back from Finland, or Malta or anywhere." The reputation of Terminal 5 is not good - let's hope it will be a trouble free experience for us.

After our passage through Customs, hopefully with our baggage intact, we will find our way by train into Liverpool Street Station, London and from there on to Ipswich, at the southern end of Suffolk, where we have accommodation booked for the first night. After a good sleep (we hope) and a leisurely start to the day, we will pick up our hire car and head to Felixstowe on the coast, to meet Chris and Julie Garrard. Chris is the custodian of much Garrard Family information in Suffolk, and I am hoping he will be able to point me in the right direction for research into my Mother's family. Chris' Gt. Gt. Grandfather, Robert Garrard, and my Gt. Gt. Grandfather Hatsell were brothers.

From Felixstowe we will make our way north to meet Joyce at Caister-on-sea which is quite near to Gt Yarmouth.

So here we go!

Saturday, June 14th 2008
Up early, all organised and ready to go and after farewells to Akiko, Andy & Shiina, Anthony drove us to the airport where we joined the lengthy queue at Check-in. Through customs and proceeded to the departure lounge where we collected our pre-ordered British currency from Travelex. This, by the way, was a great way to handle the money exchange. Travelex (formerly Thomas Cook) make it possible to pre-order over the internet (48 hours ahead), charge no commission and better than bank rates. After a cup of coffee and a bit of a wander, we boarded the Qantas Airbus and were 'up, up and away'. We had a good trip and were able to pick out lots of landmarks from our window seat, as we passed over Queensland and Indonesia. We arrived at Hong Kong airport just after 6pm (8pm Aussie time).

Spent a rather tiring 6 1/2 hours in the airport. Hong Kong airport is nothing if not huge and all changed since we'd been there previously. As we weren't wanting to shop, we wandered aimlessly about, had something to eat and mainly just sat and watched the passing parade. Met a friendly sole from Adelaide, Charlotte, and her Grade 12 son Charles, who was on his way to Scotland to compete in some golfing tournaments. Coincidentally when we boarded our flight they were on the seats immediately in front of us.

Unfortunately the seat configuration (3-4-3) meant we had to climb over the young man in the aisle to get out for a stretch or toilet so didn't do that too often. It was a very long flight but we managed to snooze for some of the time and arrived feeling OK just after 6am on Sunday morning, 15 June.

Terminal 5 is very extensive but was not terribly busy early on Sunday morning. We walked (with the aid of people movers for some of the distance) for what seemed like miles, then down three escalators, into a train and then up 2 more escalators to immigration check point. From there we were directed (down another set of stairs) to the luggage collection area. We were doing well so diverted to the toilet. When we reached the baggage carousel there were only a few bags left of which two were ours, and no one else much around except a man with a clipboard who made sure we had the right bags - he then pointed way down the end of the building to the exit and then, changing his mind, said "You can go through that one if you like", which we did, and found ourselves out in the reception area having completely missed the customs inspection!! No one blew whistles or paid any attention to us so we carried on regardless to catch the train in to London.

After being directed to the right platform by a helpful Airport staffer, we swiped our Oyster cards and were soon rattling our way to Kings Cross Station. Not many people on the train early on Sunday but a couple of young Aussies sat opposite us and chatted.

It was not easy negotiating the many steps up and down at the Station with our luggage - escalators seem to be few and far between at most stations. Fortunately, one young lad, part of a noisy crowd, stopped to help and carried Jane's bag down one large flight of stairs which was very kind of him. Changed trains at Kings Cross Station and headed to Liverpool Street Station, a charming old restored building. As we had a couple of hours to spare before catching the 12.30 train to Ipswich we arranged to leave our luggage - at great expense - while we took a bus ride around London.

It was a typical Brisbane winter's day, sunny and warm, and sitting right up front at the top we had a great view. There were very few people on the bus but lots got on and off along the way. A very friendly lady with her young son, who had come down to London to see the Queens tennis tournament (son is a champion under 12 player and a very nice lad - reminded us of Andy), sat next to us and gave us a running commentary which was very helpful. She gave us her phone number saying to be sure to phone her if we needed anything when we were in her area. They got off at Chelsea and we stayed on till the bus reached it's destination, wherever that was.

An interesting little incident took place there, when the driver tried to do a U-turn at a narrow crossing and didn't quite make it. Sitting up at the top we could see that he was going to smash his rear-vision mirror on a post, as he crunched into the barricade on the corner. When he got out to inspect the damage, he looked up and saw that we were still there, so told us that we'd reached the end of the line. We got off and asked could we go back with him, so he said he would be leaving again in 10 minutes. We climbed back up top and the next minute he came up too and spent his 10 min break chatting to us about his trip to Australia with his Dad and how Brisbane was 'the only place he had had any trouble' - someone at the Gabba apparently took exception to his father's accent!

We had a quick cup of coffee, a 30p toilet break, and hopped on the train to Colchester where we were transferred on to a bus to Ipswich (work being done on the rail line) arriving about 2pm. Caught a taxi to the Carlton Hotel where our room was small, but at least it was clean and we were able to get a good sleep.

We went out to see what we could see in Ipswich, a fascinating city with many attractive old buildings. A subway to cross the main streets and very limited car access in the shopping area. Not many eating places that we could find open on Sunday, so had a drink & fish & chips at "The Cock & Pye" - served by a friendly Aussie chef from Newcastle! Later, taking photos of some of the buildings, a passer by started talking to us giving all sorts of good advice about 'looking up' to see the buildings - he was pleased to see we were doing that - and suggesting places to visit. All in all people have been very friendly and helpful.

Monday 16th June 2008
We were able to connect to the wireless connection at the Hotel so could read our emails and then after a good English breakfast, the car hire people (1Car1) picked us up and we took delivery of our brand new Vauxhall Corsa. It was an ideal car for us and having the tom tom has made navigating so easy - thank you Graham. Our first stop was to get some petrol and a small supply of food from the Supermarket. Interesting to see the different array of food and drinks available. There is a huge variety of packaged food and meals of all kinds.

We drove the short trip to Felixstowe where we were very warmly greeted by Chris & Julie Garrard. Chris & Geoff have been corresponding and sharing family history information for many years but had never met. We all got on very well and chatted all day. They have a beautiful garden and a very comfortable home full of all sorts of interesting collections, including over 80 cats (not live) of all descriptions and sizes, and a beautiful two story wooden dolls' house built by Chris and completely furnished and lit. We all went to dinner at the 'Ferry Boat Inn' which was quite close to where they live, and, as it remains light for so long, we were then taken on a little tour along the promenade and docks area.

Chapter 2 - Our First Look at Benhall and meeting Joyce

Tuesday 17th June

Today we headed north from Felixstowe, calling in at Benhall, the birthplace of Geoff's Father, George. We had been led to believe that 'Ivy Cottage' where George grew up, had been demolished some years ago to make way for new housing, so were amazed and delighted to find it still standing.

Geoff recognised it immediately from old photos we had. It is very well cared for and has a beautiful garden - it is actually divided into two homes. We were very fortunate to see someone in the yard that we could talk to. Mike Peters called to his wife, Sharon, and we were invited in for a cuppa. They had not long purchased one side of the house and were in the process of renovating. Sharon's parents had lived in the other side when she was born (in 1958), and her Dad was still there - a hearty seventy-something year old. He had been a farmer in the area for many years and remembered Granny Aslett so was able to fill us in on a few details.

We showed Mike and Sharon a few photos that we had on the computer and Sharon was very excited when she saw her Mum holding her as a baby, in one photo. The photo was a group of people waiting at Benhall for Princess Margaret to arrive. She then said that her Dad still had a copy of another photo with Princess Margaret in it, being presented with the flowers by Granny.
The photo was found after much searching and she has promised to get a copy for us. We will go back to see them again.

We wandered about Benhall for awhile and then called at the School where Granny Aslett taught for 34 years. When we introduced ourselves to a teacher on playground duty, we were taken to meet the Headmaster and taken on a tour of what was the old school and an old record book was brought out showing several entries about Granny - she apparently was a well loved and respected teacher.

We continued on towards Gt Yarmouth via Lowestoft, where we had hoped to catch up with Mike King. He was not at home so we continued on to Caister-on-Sea just North of Gt Yarmouth to see Cousin Joyce. She was surprised to see us so soon and welcomed us very warmly. We had wondered if we should book in to accommodation somewhere nearby but she was obviously expecting us to stay and had our bed ready. Joyce, at 97, is an absolute marvel. She is getting a bit frail, but she is as sharp as a tack and still cooks for herself every night. She loves to go out to dinner, knows and appreciates her wines (and chocolates) and all the good things of life. She has very good taste and likes nothing but the best.

She was all set to go out to dinner with her friend Pat so we joined them at Monet's Restaurant at Gt Yarmouth. Pat, a very kind friend and former neighbour, calls every day to see that Joyce is OK and takes her shopping and to appointments, out to dinner or whatever. As Gt Yarmouth is on the Sea and is well-known for its fishing industry, we thought we couldn't go wrong ordering seafood. Geoff ordered Chilli Crayfish Tails, expecting a couple of nice big juicy fresh crays as we know them - what arrived was a great mound of tiny little tails smaller than the little prawns we would get out of a tin, heaped on to four big slices of french bread. Joyce had ordered the Prawn Cocktail from the 'Starters' menu, as she had soup first, and it was a great pile on her plate too - she certainly wasn't expecting such a big meal.

We all had a great laugh and after I queried the 'crayfish tails', the Chef sent out the container full of 'tails' to prove that's what they were. I saw them the next day at the Supermarket, along with a great variety of tiny prawns and all sorts of other 'packaged' imported seafoods. Joyce bemoaned the fact that Monet's used to be the best Restaurant in town but had changed hands and wasn't now up to her standard!

Wednesday 18th
We were very comfortable in the upstairs bedroom of Joyce's cottage, with wide windows overlooking her lovely garden and the Golf Course beyond.

Joyce pottered about setting everything up for breakfast and we chatted the morning away. As Joyce doesn't have a washing machine I set off to find a Laundromat, with no luck, and buy in a few provisions. Washed the clothes by hand and then took them to a Dry-Cleaner/Laundry Service who agreed to 'dry' them for me.

As Joyce thought the Gardener was not coming, she asked us to re-pot a few geraniums for her so we did that and then I got to with the secateurs and trimmed some of the roses and pulled a few weeds. Joyce has a lovely garden - it must have been quite spectacular in its hey day, but, of course, she is no longer able to do any gardening. She has a gardener who comes in to mow and keep things tidy, but it is difficult to do everything that should be done. We were pleased to be able to do a few things for her.

We took Joyce for a drive to the village of Filby where there is a great view of one of 'The Norfolk Broads'. One of Joyce's former pupils, Jennifer (now a widow) owns the Filby Bridge Restaurant so we called in there for a cup of tea. Joyce was greeted with great hugs and kisses and Jennifer was obviously very excited to see her. We asked her what Joyce was like as a teacher and she assured us that she was the most popular teacher ever, and like a film star - always beautifully dressed and glamorous - everybody loved her.
The restaurant is in a lovely spot on the water's edge, (see photo in the gallery) with swans (we saw a Mother swan with four little cygnets) and ducks swimming on the water. We had a most enjoyable hour there and Jennifer would not allow us to pay for the afternoon tea.

We drove Joyce home and then went on to Lingwood to visit Tony & Barbara Grosvenor (Grosvenor being one of the lines from Jane's family). Tony had all sorts of information and maps for us to act on when we get to the Shropshire district. They, like all those we have met, were very friendly and made us feel very welcome.

Back again to Caister where Jane cooked dinner for us all - Joyce had all the ingredients out ready for her - gammon steaks, something Jane had never cooked before, and a wine and raisin sauce - and was obviously pleased to have someone else do the cooking.

Thursday 19th June

Joyce's birthday today - 97! not too many people make it to that age.
After several visitors arrived with flowers and gifts, and phone calls to wish Joyce a 'Happy Birthday', we set off to Overstrand, near Cromer (about an hour away) to visit Libby and Peter.

Libby is another cousin and since Peter has Parkinson's and hasn't been able to drive for some time, they had not been able to visit Joyce for several years.

Libby and Peter have a large house with a beautiful garden and were excited to meet us and to see Joyce again. We talked and looked at photos and then were taken for an enjoyable lunch at a nearby Garden Centre before driving back to Caister down the coast road.

It was a lovely day and Joyce was delighted to receive a beautiful flowering orchid from Libby, for her birthday.

It was a very pleasant drive. Joyce thought our 'Navigating Lady' was hilarious on our way to Libby's as it led us in a direction that she didn't know, and down an obscure lane. We actually emerged at our destination, but because we had come in a different way, Joyce didn't recognise where we were so we did a nice little tour around the headland and finally had to ask at the Post Office to find the house. We had driven past it but it was on the wrong side of the road for Joyce to recognise!

Friday 20th June

After breakfast and some gardening, we drove to Bungay to see where Aunt Win had lived. Bungay is a very pretty little village, as, indeed are all the villages in the area. Winding narrow lanes bordered by high hedges meander through the countryside from village to village. Wildflowers and poppies grow profusely along the roads. It is mindboggling as you drive past all these old buildings and realise just how old most of them are. The buildings mostly are right to the road edge, with sometimes a very narrow footpath, and old rose bushes, hanging baskets of bright geraniums and flowering creepers are everywhere, which makes for a very pretty picture.

We stopped to take photos of No 7 Flixton Road which was where Aunt Win had lived for many years but, as parking was difficult and Joyce can't walk far, we continued on our winding way to Beccles.

Joyce said as we were driving along "Oh, this is where my friend Barbara lives - I can see her gate from here." So, of course, we asked if she'd like to visit, to which she very enthusiastically answered yes. Luckily she had a driveway where we could park. Jane went in to find Barbara - through a delightful garden with ducks waddling around and the house sitting right on the riverbank. Barbara who hadn't seen Joyce for many years, was delighted so we settled Joyce in with her and we set off for a wander around the village.

Beccles is a delightful and quite busy little village and we found a nice coffee spot and bought some strawberries at the market and then got caught in the first rain since we'd been here. Only light, but enough to wet us - umbrella left in the car! Sheltered for a little while at the bus stop where we found it interesting listening to the various locals.

We drove back to Caister via Lowestoft where we were hoping to catch up with Mike King but unfortunately he was not at home.

Saturday 21st June

Slightly overcast and not such a good day weatherwise. We did a few jobs for Joyce and then, as Joyce was expecting a visit from a friend, we took off for Norwich. We were hoping to catch up with Ian & Alice Francis (son of Jane's cousin Stephen) but unfortunately they had moved from the address we had for them. It wasn't much fun driving around Norwich on a wet day, parking almost impossible, so we kept moving thinking we'd try again for Mike at Lowestoft.

On the way we called in to a huge garden centre - they were opening a new deli and restaurant and were having a food and wine tasting so we sampled lots of goodies and then had a coffee and scone - not the best we have had while here. They had an amazing array of gifts and homewares etc on show - we bought a bottle of jam and a very bright potted geranium for Joyce.

Still no luck with Mike King so we called at the next door house and left a message for him.

Joyce had the dinner all ready for us - well, she thought she had, but she had forgotten to turn on the oven! No worries - the days last so long here that you don't feel like eating as early as we do at home. Doesn't start to get dark here till well after 9pm.

Sunday 22nd June

Time for us to move on - Joyce was quite sad to see us go and we have promised to get back to see her again before returning home. This time we did manage to catch up with Mike King at Lowestoft - he had rung us as soon as he got our message from his neighbour. Spent an hour talking with Mike who had been taught by both Joyce and Alan and obviously thought the world of them both. Such a nice guy and we were very pleased that we called on him. He has been very good to Joyce since he caught up with her in recent years.

Chapter 3 - Leaving Norfolk

We left Lowestoft, driving south via Southwold where we sat looking out to sea and ate our sandwiches. Southwold has a great array of brightly painted traditional little beach huts lined up along the beach and these apparently sell for huge amounts of money. There were lots of pale people parading and playing on the beach and enjoying the summer sunshine. We were glad to be wearing our jackets to keep out the wind, although the sun was warm.

We carried on winding our way through Dunwich, the ancient capital of Suffolk which has mostly fallen in to the sea. Not much of it remains and it is said that on a windy night at low tide you can hear the church bells ringing under the sea - maybe a few drinks help! We stopped to take a photo (034) at a closed gate to a paddock containing the 13th Century Friary Ruins of the Dunwich Greyfriars - not a soul in site but as Geoff got out of the car to take the photo the wooden gate suddenly swung open! Eerie?

On to Leiston, stopping on the way to look at the old Abbey ruins. The Abbey was occupied during the 14th century by the White Canons, an order of Augustinian Canons and the remains include the transept and cloisters and a restored Lady Chapel.

After a quick wander through an Antique Fair at Snape we continued on to re-visit Benhall.

Benhall Green is just a small cluster of houses on the eastern side of the A12 with the Benhall Church, Lodge and farms on the western side. We called at the Church, wandered around the Gravestones and took some photos. The churches in Suffolk are amazing - every little village has one and they are all so old with their own particular characteristics.

We called back at Ivy Cottage to pick up the photo that Sharon had copied for us and promised to call again to see her father, Bill Ling.

Continued on to Framlingham where we booked into the Crown Hotel. Framlingham is quite a bustling little place and the Crown Hotel, over 300 years old, is a fascinating place with its low ceilings, heavy wood beams and creaky wooden floors. We had a very well appointed room with a comfortable four-poster bed, creaking floor and very modern bathroom.

We wandered up the street to see the Castle ruins having a quick look at the Church on the way. Many members of the Garrard family attended the still highly regarded Framlingham College. Enjoyed a drink and a nice meal in the bar of the Crown, before retiring for a good nights sleep.

Monday 23rd June

Good to have internet access again so we were able to access our emails and make a few phone calls via Skype. After a hearty breakfast of Suffolk Ham & Eggs we set off again to Benhall for a cuppa and a chat with Bill Ling and his brother Ron, retired Benhall farmers with a great sense of humour. We called also to see Katie Carr-Tansey who lives further down the street in Benhall past the school. She is the history recorder for the district - unfortunately she was at work but we had a chat to her husband Chris, and exchanged contact details.

While driving around Benhall we saw hares frolicking in one yard and a deer (Monkjack) crossed the road in front of us. We had seen several signs on the roads warning of deer but this was the only one we saw.

The Ling brothers had told us that Benhall Lodge had been damaged by fire some years previously so the grand appearance of the place had been altered. Benhall Lodge is across the motorway closer to the church so we drove across to find it and take some photos. It still looks rather grand! Caught sight of a very pretty pheasant on the road nearby.

Drove on then to the seaside town of Aldeburgh where Geoff's grandmother Emma Sophia was born. Had lunch on the seafront overlooking the pebble beach and a walk along the High Street, where Emma'a Mother, Emma Symington had been a dressmaker.

Set off in the general direction of Lavenham, calling for a drink on the way at The Ship Inn at Blaxhall where Sharon Peters from Benhall works as a Chef. Found ourselves at Charsfield where Gt. Grandma Emma Symington was born. She was the daughter of Charsfield butcher, Robert Taylor and his wife Harriet, (nee Keer) so had a look around the Church and graveyard, and drove down Church Road where the Taylor Family had lived.

Abandoned the idea of Lavenham and went South instead to Woodbridge where we booked in to the Grove House Hotel (www.grovehousehotel.ltd.uk). It was friendly and comfortable and we were able to get wireless internet connection which was a plus.

After having another good English breakfast at the Grove House, it was back today to Felixstowe where we were warmly welcomed again by Chris & Julie, who wanted to know all about our adventures so far. We spent a quiet day just chatting and making plans for the rest of the week.

Wednesday 25th June

Chris said he would take us on a tour of 'Garrard Country' today, so the four of us set off to Framlingham where many Garrard ancestors had lived. Chris had gone to school at Framlingham College and had spent much time at Framlingham Hall with his grandparents, so was very familiar with the area. We visited the cemetery and found the grave of Great Great Grandfather Hatsell Garrard who died at the Countess Wells Farm, Framlingham on 22nd November 1868 aged 72. This was just one of a group of Garrard graves that are here at the Framlingham cemetery.

Chris drove us then past Framlingham College and on to the Countess Wells Farm where old Hatsell had been living with his niece Jane Elizabeth and her husband William Gobbitt. Jane was the daughter of Hatsell's brother Robert. The farm house is just visible from the road down the end of a long driveway.

Drove on then to Saxtead where we took photos of the church and the graves of Thomas and Mary Garrard, 5 times Great Grandparents of Geoff. Thomas died in 1788, aged 76 and Mary, nee Everson died in 1773 aged 67. The grave is also there of Robert Garrard who died on Christmas Day 1815 aged 76 years.

Had lunch next at a very old Inn, The Queens Head, at the delightful little village of Dennington. We were all delighted with our meal, home cooked to perfection and served with beautifully prepared fresh vegetables. Service and atmosphere was great and altogether it was a 'meal to remember'. Highly recommended.

Next we wandered into the Church next door where generations of Chris's family from nearby Framlingham Hall had attended.

We then went on to visit William Knox at 'Blue House Farm' at Laxfield. We had been in touch with Bill previously when we learnt that Hatsell had farmed there in the 1820s and '30s, before hard times forced Gt Gt Grandfather Hatsell off the farm. No doubt this led to his decision to move to Australia. Bill had made a special trip to the Bank at Ipswich to recover papers and documents referring to the ownership of the farm throughout its 400 year history. He made us very welcome and took us on a tour of his beautiful home and farm, showing us the original construction and explaining how extensions and alterations had been made over the years.

He and his wife Penny, who unfortunately could not be at home when we called (she was helping her Dad with his Bees at the Norfolk Show), are presently renovating the home to reveal its old character and history. A stroll around their beautiful garden which includes an artificial moat stocked with fish from Framlingham Hall was followed by a cup of tea and freshly baked cake in the kitchen. Bill had difficulty finding the teapot, but no doubt had been given strict instructions by Penny.

Lastly Bill took us to see the old Barn where Hatsell must have spent many hours when he farmed on Blue House Farm. The red brick barn would have been very modern in Hatsell's time, and Chris thought it might have instigated the comment referring to Hatsell's modern buildings in Garrard records. Bill Knox said his daughters referred to the barn as "Hatsell's Barn".

After we had said our farewells to Bill, Chris and Julie took us to Laxfield churchyard where they showed us the graves of Robert Garrard and his wife Elizabeth, who both died in 1839. They were the parents of Hatsell, so are Geoff's Gt. Gt. Gt. Grandparents, and also of Chris, who is descended from Hatsell's elder brother, Robert and his wife Celia.

On the way home, after this extremely interesting and rewarding day, we passed by Heveningham Hall, once the home of Lord Huntingfield who was married to a niece of Octavious & Jessie Armstrong (Jane's ancestors).

Chapter 4 - Searching Suffolk

Thursday 26th

Today Chris drove us to visit 'Constable Country'. We called in at the local church at East Bergholt, a very beautiful building, several hundred years old, yet seemingly unfinished as the bell tower was never completed. The bells are in a separate building beside the church, facing upwards. Trenches below the bells allow them to swing in a downward arch to be rung. Most unusual.
You can see a brief rendition of the ringing of these bells at www.eastberholt-bells.org.uk

The church is quite beautiful and has so many visitors that there is a tearoom and a souvenir shop inside the church, run by parishioners for the upkeep of the church. After studying various items of religious and historical interest, Geoff photographed the stained glass windows dedicated to the Constable family, we had tea and scones in the tearoom and bought a few little handmade souvenirs. The friendly lady who served our tea assured us that the walk from Flatford Mill to Dedham was very easy and well worth doing, so we parked the car and set off at a leisurely pace on what turned out to be a quite challenging walk for us all. However it was very enjoyable, walking past the Flatford Mill and Willy Lotts Cottage, crossing the bridge over the River Stour and following the river through the lush green fields in a long circular walk through the deligthfully pretty town of Dedham and then back again to the Flatford Mill.

It is easy to understand why John Constable and painters to this day find this beautifully calm and peaceful part of Britain so attractive. Much of this area is protected by the National Trust for the benefit of future generations.

Friday 27th June

Chris and Julie had other commitments today, so we drove over to Little Waldingfield to visit Pat and John Bridges, with whom Geoff had been in contact for several years. We had morning tea with them in their sunroom and met their daughter Suzanne and grandson Henry. John very kindly gave Geoff an autographed copy of his award winning book, "The Commercial Life of a Suffolk Town", which describes Framlingham around 1900. We bought a copy of the book for Chris Garrard as we know he is interested in all things to do with Framlingham.

After spending a pleasant hour with the Bridges we continued our journey to Lavenham; surely the most photographed town in Suffolk. Entering Lavenham is like stepping into ancient times, as the town is unspoilt and the buildings appear to have changed very little in 400 years. We parked the car and walked the length of the amazing main street, where every shop, cafe and hotel is crammed with the interesting and unusual.

From the inviting Butchers Shop & Deli, with it's attached tearoom to the Antique Shop and the modern Homewares Shop with the sign that announced, "This Shop is Larger Than It Looks" (and it was), we made our way up the street. At the top of the hill we were feeling a bit hungry when we arrived at Munnings, and this looked like the place for us. The building which dates back to 1550 has a charming restaurant downstairs and a B & B upstairs for one or two couples. Hungry though we were the triple decker sandwiches and large pot of tea, served in old English china was more than enough for us. The restaurant draws it's name from the artist Munnings, renowned for his paintings of horses and several of his prints adorn the walls.

Feeling very satisfied and rested we walked back down the street and turned into the National Trust's Guildhall to explore the fascinating old building which houses farming, household and cloth making implements that give an insight into life in medieval Lavenham, in the 1500's, at the height of it's prosperous cloth making period.

Driving to any village in Suffolk is a delightful experience but the village at Lavenham is a very interesting and special place.

Saturday 28th June

Chris took us today to the Suffolk Records Office at Ipswich to search official records for family information.

While Geoff searched the Aldeburgh Parish Transcripts for Symington information, without success, Jane was looking up old newspapers on film for information about the Benhall Lodge Fire, which Julie had discovered had occurred about 1981. Jane did not find an account of the fire, but did find the obituary of Uncle Tom Haslett's wife, Elizabeth, in 1960, which recorded the address of the house where they lived at Felixstowe. We took a photo of the house on our way home. Chris looked for Laxfield records of Blue House Farm and others. He discovered that while Hatsell was farming Blue House Farm, his brother Robert had likely been farming adjoining land.

When we tired of digging through records we went to Christchurch Gardens for lunch of tea and sandwiches (very ordinary after the delicious treats served to us at 'Munnings'), then walked through the impressive museum and art gallery at Christchurch Mansion.

Sunday 29th June

Drove with Chris and Julie up to Parham where we admired yet another pretty church and, after a short search, found several Keer family graves, including Timothy and Rose, Jonothan and Ann, William and Ann and others.

Next we went to Laxfield and took photographs at the beautiful old Church of All Saints, where Geoff's Gt. Grandfather, Hatsell Mellersh Garrard was baptised. We had an excellent lunch at The Royal Oak, opposite the church. A choice of roast meats with garden fresh vegetables, cooked to perfection - hope to go back to both the Royal Oak and the Queens Head at Dennington - the food was so good.

After lunch we went to the Laxfield Museum where we spent an hour or more looking at the well presented and interesting exhibits. We next drove around to Blue House Farm to return the information about the farm's history that Bill Knox had given us to copy. Geoff dropped off the information to Bill and met his wife, Penny, who had been away when we first called.

On the way back to Felixstowe we called to see the church at Wilby, where the older Hatsell was baptised in 1795. We drove home via Dennington and Earl Soham.

Willy Lott's Cottage at Flatford

Chapter 5 - London to Birmingham

Monday 30th June

We said farewell to our generous hosts, Chris and Julie, who gave us goodies to take with us to London. Our first stop was at Trimley St.Martin, just up the road from Felixstowe, where we picked strawberries and raspberries to take with us on our journey. Later hopped off the A12 just past Chelmsford, at Stenfield, and had a bite of lunch at the Rose Pub.

Thanks to Tom Tom we reached our London destination, London Cottage, Lennard Road, Beckenham, without too much anxiety. Our self-contained flat was very neat, clean and tidy and we were very pleased with it. Ann, the owner, whose home was attached to the flat, had put in just about everything we needed, including tea, coffee, milk etc.

After moving in, as it was yet early in the afternoon, we drove a couple of blocks to the end of the road and caught a train to Charing Cross Station, right near Trafalgar Square. From there we walked down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. It was a beautiful, sunny day with lots of people taking advantage of the sun sitting on the grass or on deck chairs, playing ball games etc.

The walk to Buckingham Palace and back tired our legs, so, as it was after six o'clock, though still bright daylight, we decided to catch the train back to New Beckenham. The trains were delayed because of an accident on the line, so we popped into Marks and Spencers at the station and bought something to have for our tea when we got home. M & S have a marvellous range of ready to eat or cook, packaged foods of all descriptions. All sorts of chicken and meat dishes prepared and ready to cook and a multitude of different salads all ready to eat. They do a roaring trade at the train stations.

We were pretty tired after our long day and very pleased to reach our comfortable little flat.

Tuesday 1st July 2008

Went to the other end of Lennard Road today and caught the train to Cannon Street rather than Charing Cross. Hopped on a bus and found our way to the British Museum and spent an enjoyable couple of hours there - could spend all day and then some, there is just so much to see.

Had a look through the National Gallery also - likewise could spend heaps more time there. Saw the originals of the Constable paintings we had seen at Flatford and many other beautiful paintings by famous artists.

We took a photo of St Martin in the Fields, the church where Henry Francis married Elizabeth Lucas in 1766. Also popped in for a quick look at Westminster Cathedral before hopping on a double decker bus for a long, slow trip back to Beckenham.

Wednesday 2nd July

We had planned to go to Wimbledon today but the weather was not so good, we were rather tired and there were huge crowds lining up to see Andy Murray play Nadal so we decided instead to have a late start and go into London again.

Train to Charing Cross, bus to Sloane Square and then window shopped our way along King's Road, Chelsea which is a very pretty area with great shopping and very affluent looking apartments lining the streets.

We walked as far as Cheyne Row near the River to visit Thomas Carlyle's house now owned by the National Trust. We talked to the resident custodians about the house and the possibility that Henry and Mary Ann Francis lived in this street in the 1840's, possibly next door. They were very interested and suggested we check at the Chelsea Library for records that might reveal the residents of the street at that time. We went to the Library to find that the records had been transferred to the Kensington Library - too late to go there so headed back to Picadilly Circus to see if we could pick up tickets for the Theatre.

We had high tea at Fortnum & Mason - service and atmosphere was great but not very impressed with the scones - not up to Flo's standard! We had a good look around the store but resisted buying anything. We then went down Piccadilly where we had dinner at a very nice Lebanese restaurant before heading to the Theatre.

We went to the Criterion Theatre where we saw an hilarious version of 'The 39 Steps' by John Buchan. The Criterion is a wonderful old theatre built in the basement of what was originally the large Criterion Restaurant, the first show being held in 1874. Being underground and lit by gas, fresh air had to be pumped into the auditorium to prevent the audience from being asphyxiated, making the theatre one of the earliest air conditioned environments in London. During World War 11 The Criterion was requistioned by the BBC - as an underground theatre it made an ideal studio safe from the London blitz.

John Buchan's 1915 spy thriller was produced as a movie classic by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935. Later, Kenneth Moore starred as the hero, Richard Hannay, in a 1959 version of the story, and in 1978 the story was retold with Robert Powell as the hero.

This stage version is hilarious, with just four actors playing the numerous parts of heroes and villians, cops and casual bystanders, with lightning fast costume changes so that the show flows at the exciting pace that was created in the original story, but with a comedy twist that had the audience roaring with laughter.

We had excellent seats. We were lucky to get two cancellations in the front row of the dress circle, so we were able to enjoy the show and the whole atmosphere of the theatre from the best seats in the house. We had a great night.

Walked up to Charing Cross and caught the train home after the show.

Thursday 3rd July

We slept in to recover from our long day yesterday. Still a bit tired and footsore, we caught a train into the city after lunch and a bus to Kensington. Found the Library which holds the records for that part of London, including Chelsea.

Thomas Carlyle's house is now number 24 Cheyne Row, but prior to 1877, when re-numbering took place, it was number 5. The librarian in charge of that section was most helpful, and brought up old rate books and London directories for us to search. We found that Henry and Mary Ann Francis lived at number 6 Cheyne Row, next door to the Carlyles at number 5, from about 1847 to about 1850. After that the Francis' moved to 37 Princes Road, Rotherhithe, Surrey.

Henry and Mary Ann Francis' second son, Grosvenor Griffin Francis was born at Chelsea in 1847. The London Post Office Directory for 1849, page 1615, records Thomas Carlyle at number 5 Cheyne Row, and on page 1637, Henry Francis at number 6 Cheyne Row.

Friday 4th July

We left our unit at Beckenham about 10.30a.m. after thanking and saying farewell to Ann. Set the TomTom to the address of Winston Churchill's home, 'Chartwell' and in no time at all were driving through narrow tree-lined lanes which led us to Churchill's much loved home in Kent.

The National Trust has done a magnificent job in maintaining the home and garden and presenting a complete picture of the lives of Winston and his wife Clementine. The gardens are a delight and the rooms full of natural light with expansive views of the beautiful Kent countryside. We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours and found it to be a very moving experience. After a picnic lunch in the grounds we drove on to Winchester, a very pretty place but rather busy and we weren't able to find somewhere to park, so we kept driving. Made our way to Salisbury where we booked in to the Clovelly Hotel.

We walked around the town and past the impressive Salisbury Cathedral. Unfortunately the hotel where we were staying was not serving dinner so we selected the old water mill, which had been converted into a bar and restaurant, as the place to have our meal. We were somewhat disappointed with our choice.

Salisbury is a beautiful city, with the River Avon, one of several in Britain, running through it, wide parkland, flowers everywhere, and fascinating ancient buildings spread around the magnificant ancient Cathedral.

Saturday 5th July

Our room at the Clovelly Hotel was clean and comfortable, and we had a very enjoyable cooked English breakfast of fruit juce, cereal, eggs, bacon and tomatoes, tea, toast and local jam. Just the thing to start the day.

Salisbury is the Wiltshire town where one of Dilys' ancestors, James Jenkins and his brother William faced the Assizes in 1789 and were found guilty of sheep stealing. Their death sentence was commuted to 7 years transportation. Since we know quite a lot about their lives after they were convicted, but little about them beforehand, we decided to visit the local library to see if they had any appropriate records.

We left our car at the hotel and walked into town. On the way we met a couple on bikes when we were crossing the bridge to the park. We asked them what was beyond the park and started a conversation. They recognised us as Australians and told us they often visited their daughter who lives now in Canberra. We walked with them to the Market which is held in town every Saturday. On the way we recognised the unmistakable face of Phil, who appears on the TV programme 'Time Team'. We were too slow to register that it really was him so didn't say hello.

We left our new friends to do their shopping and went to the library where the helpful librarian told us that the records were held at the new County History Centre at Chippenham.

We walked up to the Cathedral which, apart from the magnificant architecture, houses some interesting artifacts including the Magna Carter. After touring the Cathedral we visited the near-by National Trust Property, 'Mompesson House' and garden, before collecting our car for the drive to Chippenham.

We drove via Stonehenge and Salisbury plains. We didn't stop at Stonehenge - the car park was overflowing, it was a long walk and since visitors can no longer get close to the stones and have to walk around a perimeter path, we decided to give it a miss.

Chippenham is not as attractive as Salisbury, probably a more recent development, but still with the parking problems. We started to walk to the History Centre but realised it was a lot further than we thought so went back to the car and drove around until we found the place.

The History Centre is a modern, purpose built facility which opened only last year. The staff were very helpful. We looked at court records and the Salisbury Gazette for 1797, which confirmed the information we already have about the Jenkins Brothers, but no new information that might lead us to their parents or other family, except the mention that James was brought from Gloustershire. Looks like we will have to go to the archives at Kew to find any further information.

We drove over to Bath, intending to stay the night there but found the city very crowded, could not find anywhere to park, and it was beginning to rain, so we went on our way, deciding to go to the smaller town of Wells. Tried several places, but could not find accommodation in Wells, so we moved on again, confident that just the right place for us was near by. Sure enough, we found a very comfortable B&B with all we required and a very pleasant rural view to boot. Henley Hill Farm, Haybridge, near Wells (www.henleyhillfarm.co.uk) was our home for the night. On their recommendation we went to a popular near-by pub, the Burcott Inn, for dinner.

Sunday 6th July

After a very fine English breakfast at Henley Hill Farm, shared with friendly fellow guests, we decided to drive down to Castle Cary, where Jane's Dunkerton ancestors lived in the 19th century. Georgiana Dunkerton who married Arundel Everett from near-by Bruton was born in Castle Cary in 1815. The Everetts emigrated to Australia, and their daughter, Emilie Jane Everett married Christopher Francis in Brisbane in 1870. We visited the Church, and as it was shortly after morning service, we met the Vicar who told us the old church records were no longer held there.

We drove over to Bruton where the Everett family lived, but as it was raining we did not stop. Instead we decided to drive up to the Cheddar Caves and Gorge, where we stopped to buy some cheese and pickles at the tourist shops and information centre at the entrance to the gorge. Cheddar is famous for its Cheese Factory and is the home of the original Cheddar Cheese.

The gorge was quite spectacular with the road winding through very high cliffs before opening up again on to high rolling plains. We continued on to the Bristol Channel seaside resort of Weston Super Mere, where we thought we might stop for lunch. Not a very attractive place with the usual parking problems, so we decided to continue our journey on the A5 to Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, where we had arranged to stay with Doug and Val Griffiths.

Managed to negotiate a very confusing exit round-about with the help of TomTom and found our way to Val and Doug's home. They were pleased to see us and welcomed us warmly with a beautifully prepared dinner. Much talking ensued.

Week starting Monday 7th July

This has been a rather quiet week of catching up and finding our way around the area of Sutton Coldfield where Doug & Val live. We rather sadly returned our hire car to 1car1 and are very grateful to Val for letting us have the use of her car while we are here.

Doug and Val have taken us to Lichfield to see the Cathedral, the only one in Britain with three spires, and on a few shopping expeditions to nearby Sutton and Walsall.

The weather this week has been typically English - cloudy and showers one minute and then the sun for a little while. It's not the summer the locals have been waiting for but hasn't worried us too much.

We all went to a smorgasbord lunch at the highly regarded restaurant Jimmy Spicers - as much as you can eat of a variety of Asian, Italian and European freshly prepared foods.

Have spent time sorting photos and generally catching up with the website diary.

Buckingham Palace

Chapter 6 - Our Canal Trip & Peak District

Saturday 12th July to Friday 18th

Doug & Val drove us to the Swanley Bridge Marina at Nantwich (about an hour along the motorway) to meet up with Will & Pamela Aslett and their narrowboat "Charlton". After unloading our gear we all went into the town of Nantwich for some lunch. Nantwich a pretty little place, found a nice little pub but unfortunately the hamburger I had was worse than Macdonalds!

Swanley Bridge Marina is very large and it was strange to see a marina in the middle of nowhere and just leading out into a narrow little canal. Over two hundred narrowboats tied up but not much else there.

We set off along the Llangollen canal with Captain Will at the tiller and Pamela and us as the willing crew. We soon learnt how to operate the locks and gates and I think Pamela was rather pleased to be able to hand over some of the task to us.

Life on the canal is certainly very relaxing as you travel along so slowly and apart from the occasional lock to negotiate, or bridge to lift, there is little to do except enjoy the scenery as you pass by.

The canal locks are designed to raise or lower the level of the water in an enclosed section of the canal, the lock, to allow boats to go to another level of water. Lock gates have to be swung open at one end of the lock to allow the boat to come in. There is just enough room for one narrowboat at a time to enter the locks on this canal. The gates are then closed behind the boat and valves are opened, by manually winding them, at the other end of the lock to allow water to flow in and raise the water in the lock, to the level at the other end. As soon as the water level inside the lock and outside in the canal, are equal, the gates at the forward end can be opened and the boat can proceed on its way.

At one point in the Llangollen Canal, called the Grindley Brook Locks, there is a staircase of three locks in succession that enable boats to raise some 40 feet, or about ten meters, to reach a higher level of the canal.

All together we encountered about 16 locks and quite a few bridges that had to be raised by hand to allow "Charlton" to pass through the canal, in each direction. As well as this there were a large number of overhead bridges and three tunnels, one of which, the Chirk tunnel, was 420 meters long. However the highlight of our journey on the Llangollen Canal was crossing the two aqueducts that carry the canal high above the surrounding countryside.

The larger of the aqueducts, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, carries the canal 1007 feet (307 meters) across the River Dee valley. It is 126 feet (38 meters) above the river Dee at it's highest point. A cast iron trough, just wide enough for one boat, holds the water on the aqueduct and there is a narrow walkway beside it. Most amazing is that construction of the aqueduct started in 1795, and completed in 1805. All the work would have to have been carried out by hand - an amazing accomplishment..

The narrowboats travel at about four knots so there is plenty of time to see and enjoy the passing scenery and wonder about the people who live in the occasional canal-side houses or surrounding farms. Wildflowers grow profusely along the banks and birds flit by among the trees and hedges. Hungry ducks and graceful swans are always looking for something to eat, and we saw herons, kingfishers, robins, yellow wagtails and heard many others about the canal.

When it was time for lunch or to stop for the night, there was usually a nearby pub where we could enjoy a drink or a hearty meal, and interesting towns or villages to visit, like the very pretty Wrenbury, with it's ingenious and amusing scarecrow competition. It was here too that we enjoyed our last night's dinner at the Cotton Arms Hotel. Excellent food and service. Other memorable meals were had at the canal side Jack Mytton Inn and the Black Lyon Hotel at Ellesmere, another very interesting town.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our relaxing week on the beautiful Llangollen canal with Will and Pamela. We couldn't help thinking how pleasant it would be to spend a few months travelling the network of canals which connect so much of this country.

Will and Pamela have been great companions. Pamela, a former teacher, is very interested in the theatre and art and appreciates Shakespeare. Will is one of the few Asletts I have met outside our immediate family, and as yet we have not discovered a link between our branches of Asletts. However, as Will pointed out, there are similarities in our natures, and as our trip progressed I could not help comparing Will with brother George, not in appearance, but in the careful way they do things. There must be a link somewhere.

Week beginning Saturday 19th July

We had such a relaxing and enjoyable week on the canal that we are happy to just catch up with the laundry and not do too much of anything for a couple of days. Of course, just downloading, sorting and adjusting the myriad of photos that we have taken is quite a task in itself, but it does need to be done as we go along or we would never remember where we've taken them all.

Have been on a couple of shopping expeditions with Val and checked out the local Mark & Spencer's, Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Next and others that will remain nameless. Lots of Sales happening but we have mostly resisted any urge to spend unnecessarily.

We set off on Sunday in Val's Toyota Camry, which she has very kindly lent us, to visit the Shugborough Estate. This magnificent and historic estate is owned by the National Trust but is maintained and administered by the Staffordshire County Council. It has been the home of the Earls of Lichfield since the 1700s. The present Earl of Lichfield is the son of the well-known Royal Photographer Patrick Lichfield who died in 2005. There was so much of interest to see that we had no trouble spending a few hours wandering through the magnificent home and estate grounds.

It is still a working farm with lots of sheep and cattle, an extensive vegetable garden, a working Blacksmith, a Wood turner and a few other Craft shops set up in what used to be the Gardener's living quarters.

While we were having our lunch in the tea-room we met a very friendly couple who live at Ashbourne, not far away, in the Peak District. They suggested that we really needed to visit that area and that we should visit Kedleston Hall where she, Maureen, works as a volunteer. She told us that she would be on duty on Wednesday, and could maybe show us around, so we decided to put that on our agenda.

Monday 21st July

Went for a short drive to Dudley and Kingswinford where the Grosvenor branch of our family had lived and in the evening took Doug & Val to dinner at the Plough and Harrow. What was once a pub has become a very upmarket restaurant - we enjoyed our meal but didn't think it quite came up to the standard of a couple of the pub meals we had enjoyed in Suffolk.

Wednesday 23rd July

Set off to visit the Peak District and Kedleston Hall. We were a little early to visit the Hall so looked first at the All Saints' Church in the grounds. The main entrance and the adjoining wall are from the earliest church recorded on the site in 1198-99 - amazing!

Kedleston was designed for lavish entertaining and houses great collections of paintings, sculpture and original furniture and little has changed since it was designed and built by the architect Robert Adam in the 1760s for the Curzon family.

It is interesting to note that the chief carpenter and supervisor responsible for the production of much of the intricate wood carving and furniture, including a magnificent mapping desk, the great bed in the state bedchamber, tables and mirrors etc was James Gravenor - a possible relative. We need to find out more about this renowned craftsman!

The museum downstairs is full of fascinating objects collected by Lord Curzon from his travels in Asia and from his time as Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.

From Kedleston we drove on to Ashbourne where we had a cuppa and a wander and then managed to track down our old friends Niall & Snookie who now live at Ellastone, just near Ashbourne. We had not seen them since they spent a couple of years in Townsville during the 1970s and efforts to contact them before we came to the UK had failed. They gave us a very warm welcome, dinner and a bed for the night. We had a lovely time catching up and seeing the magnificent home that they have created from a derelict barn. We hope we can see them again before we return to Australia.

The next morning, the 24th of July, Snookie escorted us through some of the byways that we would never have discovered by ourselves. Up over hills and down dales and through the tiny village of Tissington where she stopped to pick up some meat from the local Butcher. In the early morning mist (in that area they call it mizzle - a cross between mist and drizzle) the village at Ilam looked rather like a scene from a fairy story. Geoff suggested to Snookie that it reminded him of the legend of Brigadoon. She replied that there are some people who have lived their entire lives in this area, and that recently she had met an old woman who still used the words thee and thou in normal conversation. Shades of times long gone.

We even passed a couple of girls out exercising with a pack of hounds. Just one more unforgettable experience in this beautiful part of Britain.

As we said farewell to Snookie, she pointed us in the direction of Haddon Hall, which was to be our next destination. Haddon is not as opulent as some of the stately homes we have visited, but it's ancient battlements and time worn surfaces are immensely interesting, and it's gardens are very beautiful. Haddon Hall has been the setting for many TV dramas and movies, the most recent one being "The Other Boleyn Girl".

Haddon Hall has belonged to the Manners family for over 800 years and Lord and Lady Edward Manners still reside in part of the house.

After spending quite some time soaking up the atmosphere of Haddon Hall, we set off for Chatsworth House which is a magnificent home with extensive water features cascading down the hillside in a beautiful park setting. Chatsworth would need a full day to do it justice and as we didn't think we could cope with anymore that day, we decided to leave it for another time.

Drove on to Buxton, had a look around the shops and called at the Information centre to try to book accommodation for the night further along the track. The assistant there had no idea what she was doing so we gave up and just drove on. With our luck we knew we would find somewhere suitable - and we did. A great little pub at Little Hayfield on the way to Glossop called the Lantern Pike - very friendly and cosy - a couple of pints, a good meal and we were ready to sleep.

After a hearty English breakfast and a chat with a couple who had just walked the length of Hadrian's Wall we set off to drive through the beautiful Peak District and the Snake Pass - absolutely stunning scenery as the road snakes its way around the hills. One minute you are looking across rolling paddocks bordered by miles and miles of dry stone walls and the next minute you are looking over at a babbling brook running at the bottom of pine tree covered hills.

The road diverts to the Derwent Reservoir which is interesting because it was here that the RAF617 Squadron practised dropping the Barnes Wallis bouncing bomb prior to the Dambusters attack on the Ruhr Valley dams in WWII. We did the short walk around through the forest before continuing on our way to Castleton, another beautiful little village overlooked by a ruined castle and caves where Blue Johnstone is mined for jewellery making. The walk up the hill to the castle looked a bit challenging for us so we just explored the quaint little shops in the village and had tea and cake before setting off again.

We criss crossed our way back through laneways avoiding the main roads wherever possible.

A slight detour to view the Arbor Low Stone Circle, an ancient religious site and burial ground and then it was time to head back to Sutton.

Another most enjoyable week.

Reflections at Platt Lane Bridge

Chapter 7 - Lake District to Edinburgh

Monday 28th July - Tuesday 29th July

After rather a late start, waiting for our hire car to be delivered, we set off towards the Lake District in Cumbria via Shrewsbury, Bishops Castle and Llangollen where we took photos of the Aqueduct, (which we had travelled over previously in the narrowboat), from below and had a wander through the village that we had missed when doing the canal trip.

We drove on up the A6 to the Lake District where we found a nice little B & B, The Meadowcroft Country Guesthouse, at the tiny village of Ings. We walked down a lane to a nearby pub for dinner and back to the guesthouse for a good night's sleep.

Next morning at breakfast we discovered that the waitress at the B & B was from the Gold Coast - she had booked in to the B & B some months earlier as a guest, was offered a job, and stayed on.

It must be hard to beat B & B's for top presentation of breakfast, hospitality and comfort. They all seem to specialize in cosy breakfast rooms, friendly service and nicely prepared and presented food. The 'English Breakfast' is renowned as a really great start to the day. The Meadowcroft Country Guesthouse was no exception. A 'full English breakfast' consists ot bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomato, beans, and egg - and of course, toast, as well as a variety of cereals, fruit, yogurt etc.. In Scotland, the beans were replaced by 'black pudding', neither of which we tackled.

After breakfast we drove to Windermere, a delightful town with some excellent little shops. We then drove right around Lake Windermere before stopping at Hawkeshead for directions to Hill Top Farm, and of course did some more shopping while we were there. This is the heart of the Lakes District, and certainly lives up to it's reputation as one of the prettiest parts of Britain.

Hill Top Farm, once the home of Beatrix Potter, is where she wrote the stories of Peter Rabbit and all the other little characters that have delighted generations of children, young and old. For some odd reason the National Trust which now manages the property, is not allowed to have road signs showing the way to the property so it took a bit of finding. It seems the local authority believes everyone knows where it is! Everyone except wandering Australians, that is.

The farm has something like 600 visitors a day, so even after finding the place we had to wait an hour and a half for our turn to visit the house. We spent the time enjoying a light lunch at Mrs Tiggywinkle's Tearoom, which overlooks the lake, served by a busy but charming waitress, who might have been Mrs Tiggywinkle herself in another life.

We enjoyed our visit to Hill Top Farm very much and found some more gifts to buy at the National Trust Giftshop.

A delightful drive through the sometimes breathtaking scenery of the Lakes countryside took us to Cockermouth, where we were just too late to visit Wordsworth House, the birthplace of the poet William Wordsworth. We were able, however, to wander through the pretty gardens for a few minutes.

We finished our day at Carlisle, where we soon found a suitable B & B Guest House for our night's accommodation. We had dinner at an Indian restaurant, The Stanwick Tandori, just around the corner from our guesthouse. Very good food and service.

Wednesday 30th July

We left the 'No.1 Guest House' at Carlisle after getting instructions from our obliging hosts on how to find 'Hadrian's Wall' and the best route to take for Edinburgh. We like to avoid the Motorway and main highways where possible so have been along some interesting little byways.

We had no difficulty finding a part of the ancient Roman wall, separating England from Scotland, which was built by the Emperor Hadrian in the days of the Roman Empire. The wall, stretching from coast to coast, must have been very impressive as it was 73 miles (117km) long and 15 ft (4.3m) high. Hadrian visited Britain in AD122 - apparently powerful leaders believed that Romans had the right to conquer neighbouring countries because they were bringing civilisation to the barbarians. The beliefs of powerful leaders don't seem to have changed much over the years.

We took some photos of sections of the wall and the nearby Lanercost Priory which was built, along with the Parish Church, in the 12th century with sandstone pillaged from Hadrian's Wall.

We next visited Gretna Green, just over the border in Scotland, where the blacksmith used to perform marriages for eloping couples. Gretna Green has become very commercialised with many shops, tourist and otherwise, catering for the many visitors. We drove on to Moffat, where we left the main A74 to take the scenic route to Edinburgh. We stopped for a cup of tea at 'The Laurel Bank Tea Room' at the pretty little village of Broughton on the way, then set Tom Tom to find our hotel in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is very interesting and steeped in history but it is also the dirtiest city we've seen. (Mind you, we do tend to avoid the cities). There are so many very beautiful old buildings with the skyline dominated by the marvellous castle and lots of modern buildings and shops also and it is such a shame to see the streets littered with cigarette butts, the pavements dotted with chewing gum and empty food containers, paper scraps etc scattered everywhere. It quite spoilt our impression of this exciting city. We did, however, meet some very friendly and helpful people, especially when we deviated from the beaten track a little.

We had prebooked our accommodation via wotif.com at The Royal Terrace Hotel. We didn't fancy heading in to Edinburgh at such a busy time - the big Festival is just starting and everything is very busy- without having accommodation organised. The Royal Terrace is quite close to the city but, we thought, overpriced and not our usual style. The hotel did not have parking available which was a nuisance. We were able to park in the street outside during the night but had to plug the meter or go to a parking station for the day (cost us £17 pounds for the day, about $37).
Our room was very comfortable even though it was below ground level. It was rather strange to get in the lift and press floor No. -1.

As it was getting quite late, we walked in to the city and bought a 24 hour bus tour ticket (on and off as often as you like during the day) and did the round 55 min trip to get a general idea of Edinburgh before having a very nice meal at an Italian Restaurant.

We did not eat at the Royal Terrace Hotel at all. Its meals were very much overpriced. Breakfast for example, free with accommodation at every other place we stayed, and advertised at less than £4 for a 'Full Scottish' at a nearby restaurant, cost £14 at the hotel. They also charged to view any of the movie channels and for Internet access which, when available, was free elsewhere. We were not impressed.

Aqueduct over the River Dee

Chapter 8 - Highlands of Scotland

31 July 2008

Parked our car for the day and walked in to the city to Princes Street, doing a little shopping on the way. Hopped on to our Mac's Tour open topped bus, which wound it's way through the city past various points of interest. We got off at Edinburgh Castle and joined the many tourists who were making their way up to the castle.

The castle is huge and completely dominates the skyline of the city, while providing great views in every direction. The seating for the Edinburgh Tattoo was erected in preparation for the big event and Festival Fringe entertainment was being performed in the Royal Mile, the street that leads up to the castle. The National War Museum and the Scottish Crown Jewells are among the impressive displays in the castle. We spent a couple of hours looking at the displays and even saw the 1 o'clock cannon fired from the battlements.

Eventually we made our way out of the castle and walked down the Royal Mile which was bustling with activity, street entertainment and tourists everywhere. After our Mac's tour yesterday we had decided that we wanted to get some photos of the George Heriot's School, which was founded in 1628 and where scenes for some of the Harry Potter movies had been played, so we walked till we found it, then hopped on Mac's bus again, and off again when we reached the Georgian house in Charlotte Square that is managed by the National Trust. Once again, the National Trust's presentation was excellent and full of interest for us.

Luckily for us the tour buses just keep going around the same circuit, and you can get on and off where you like, so we were able to limp on to another bus and finish the circuit back to Princes Street, pretty leg weary by that time. We walked back to the parking station where we had left the car and drove the few blocks back to the hotel before heading back towards the city for a light meal.

Friday 1st August

Made our way out of Edinburgh and over the Firth of Forth Bridge. Heavy rain forecast but only a mist and drizzle happening. The road and rail bridges over the Forth looked eery in the mist. We took a wrong turn on the other side, but soon got back on track and headed for St. Andrews along the East coast.

St Andrews, famous for its Golf origins, is a pretty town with lots of shops selling golfing stuff. We photographed the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral near the centre of the town and visited St Andrews Links where we had a nice lunch at the Links Club House, just around the point past the Royal and Ancient Club. Had thought we would pick up some golfing souvenirs but they were all a bit too expensive for us. Visit www.standrews.org.uk for more information.

After lunch we crossed the firth of Tay to Dundee and carried on across the fertile valley of Strathmore towards Glamis. We were not expecting to be able to visit Glamis Castle, which was the childhood home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, so were delighted when we found it was open to visitors.

The Castle is magnificent and looks like something from a fairy tale as you drive through a great long avenue of trees - we had a very interesting tour with an excellent guide. Loved the whole experience.

We drove on then to Blairgowrie in the county of Perthshire, where we booked in to the Altamount Country House Hotel, (www.altamounthouse.co.uk) a grand Georgian mansion built around 1802 and set in seven acres of garden and woods. A really great place to stay. We even saw rare red squirrels scampering around the garden, and peacocks.

Saturday 2nd August

Chatted with fellow guests Colin and Hilary Smith over breakfast, who suggested that we should go to Balmoral since we were so close. We would not be able to go to the Castle because the Queen was in residence, but we could go to the little village church at Crathie, (Crathie Kirk) which the Queen attends on Sunday morning, when she is at Balmoral. Jane's eyes lit up, and she made up our minds on the spot. She really liked the idea of going to church with the Queen, so, after taking some photos of Altamount and the red squirrels we set off for Balmoral Castle.

As the day was yet young we had lunch at the village of Ballater, near Balmoral, and set off to tour the hills of the Cairngorms National Park to the north, which would be covered with white snow in Winter, but now heather colours the hills with purple hues.

Back to the Dee Valley at Crathie where we booked in to the Inver Hotel (www.inverhotel.com), which dates from 1760. Family owned and managed, this is another delightful place to stay, with wonderful old furniture and paintings to admire, great food and very friendly hosts.

Sunday 3rd August

We made our way to Crathie Kirk in plenty of time for the 11.30am service. Since no photographs were allowed in or near the church, and we weren't sure if we'd even be able to see the Queen in the Church, Geoff waited near the lane that leads from Balmoral Castle to try to catch a photo.

I joined the small group of visitors - among them Hilary whom we'd met the previous day - and others who wished to attend the service and spent a pleasant time chatting while waiting for the Queen to arrive. The Queen with her Lady-in-Waiting slipped quietly in through the side door and sat in the alcove to the side away from the general congregation. I was lucky to have a great view of the Queen throughout the service. It was a very simple service, in a very beautiful little Church and I found it to be an extremely moving experience to be singing "God Save the Queen" at the end of the service, while standing and looking at her.

After the service we drove to Loch Ness via Inverness. We stopped at Drumnadrocht, near the ruins of Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness for some lunch, then continued to Gairlochy and Achnacarry where we were wanting to visit The Cameron Museum. We were just too late for the museum so drove along a little way beside Loch Lochy and found accommodation at Springburn Farm House B & B at Stronaba, near Spean Bridge (www.stronaba.co.uk).

We have been so lucky with our accommodation. This was another B & B with a very high standard of accommodation at a reasonable price. On the other hand, we had dinner at the pub at Spean Bridge, which was very ordinary, and Geoff had to correct the waiters calculation of our bill. We wondered if the mistake was deliberate.

Monday 4th August

We wanted to visit the Cameron Museum at Achnacarry to see if we could find a reference to Jane's ancestor, Catherine Stirling Cameron, who was the daughter of Euan Cameron of Glen Nevis and his wife Catherine Fortescue. We had some time to kill before the Museum was due to open so we made our way past the Cameron Clan's headquarters and followed the shore of Loch Arkaig for several miles before returning to the museum. (I might add that the museum is miles from anywhere!)

The country around Loch Arkaig is particularly beautiful and it was a delightful drive along a very quiet and narrow road beside the Loch. There were many great photo opportunities along the way, some of which we took advantage of. The reflections on the lake were particularly beautiful, as were the moss covered stone walls and delightful little streams and waterfalls.

Back at the Cameron Museum a helpful attandant showed us genealogical records of the Cameron Clan and we were able to identify Jane's line. We spent some time reading about and looking at the many exhibits that document the history of the Cameron Clan.

After leaving Achnacarry we took the back road, avoiding Fort William, to Loch Eil and on past Glenfinnan and Kinlochnanuagh and along the coast road to Mallaig. Mallaig is the terminal for a vehicular ferry service to the Isle of Skye. It is also the terminus for a steam train that runs the scenic route from Fort William - the train that was used in the Harry Potter movies.

We debated whether to make the trip across to the Isle of Skye, but decided not to as time and weather seemed against it. We enjoyed lunch of very nice fresh haddock and chips at Mallaig, and took the return journey past Fort William, down beside Loch Linnhe, and eventually, after passing a number of guesthouses with 'no vacancy' signs, found another excellent B & B off the main road at Taynuilt, Argyl.

We were both pretty tired by this time and didn't feel like venturing out again for a meal so asked if we could just have a couple of pieces of toast. Marie, our very kind hostess, rustled up some toasted cheese and pickle sandwiches and a pot of tea - just the very thing we needed after a long day. As we were the only guests that night we had the use of the upstairs lounge to ourselves so we could sit back, enjoy our sandwiches and watch the TV.

Tuesday 5th August

The drive South from Taynuilt took us past Loch Awe where we stopped to take photos of the reflections in the still morning air. Another beautiful sight to remember. We continued on past Loch Lomond in drizzling rain. Like Loch Ness, Loch Lomond was difficult to see because it was screened by the excessive growth beside the road; fine for walkers maybe, but disappointing for drivers not to be able to see the water clearly.

We made our way past Glasgow and on the A76 to Dumfries (quite a long drive), where we stopped for a light snack, then around the Solway Firth. Through Carlisle again, and then we left the main roads to snoop through the farm lanes and villages north of the Lakes District of England, Lamonby, Skelton, Blencow, Motherby. So many amazing stone buildings, we would like to have been able to spend more time exploring around there.

Time to stop once more, but we had to continue on to Glenridding, on Lake Ullswater before we found a guesthouse with a vacancy sign out. The Beech House (www.beechhouse.com) proved to be another comfortable and friendly B & B, just a short stroll from the lake and with a very good restaurant nearby, Fellbites (www.fellbites.co.uk), where we had dinner.

Chapter 9 - Yorkshire, Staffordshire & Shropshire

Wednesday 6th August

We had planned to spend some more time around the Lakes District today, but the weather forecast was for heavy rain in Western areas, so we changed our plans and decided to head Eastwards. Before leaving Ullswater, we went down to see the lake and found a plaque to commemorate the fact that this was where Donald Campbell had launched the 'Bluebird' back in 1955 to set a new water speed record. Saw also the old steam launches that still take passengers for trips on the lake.

We drove down to Kendal, via Windermere, then headed off through the Yorkshire Dales to Bedale, quite a bustling town, where we had lunch. The Yorkshire Dales area lives up to its reputation for being a place of great natural beauty and the drive was a very pleasant one. On the way we took a detour to see Bolton Castle, still occupied but mostly in ruin following the civil war in England.
(www.boltoncastle.co.uk) Unfortunately we didn't have time to fully explore the Castle but it looked like it would be a great place to take the kids.

We drove on to York, via Northallerton, and stopped for a while to see something of this famous city. York was busy with tourists and holidaymakers, so after a short stroll, and since it was still early, and our car hire expired the next day, we decided to continue our journey to Sutton Coldfield, which we reached about 7pm.

Spent the next couple of days quietly catching up and then on Saturday we drove to Stafford to meet with Sylvia and Stephen and their little Stephen junior. We enjoyed getting to know them and catching up with news of the Fijian branch of the Francis family.

On Monday we dropped Doug & Val at the Airport for the start of their trip to Australia and we continued on to Coventry where we spent a few hours wandering around the very well presented and interesting Transport Museum. (www.transport-museum.com).

Coventry is regarded as the birthplace of the British cycle and motor industry, and the Museum displays the world’s largest collection of British road transport vehicles.

The next couple of days were rather wet so we stayed close to home (our temporary home that is). On Wednesday we caught the bus in to Birmingham, visited the Museum/Art Gallery, (out of the rain) and walked around the City Centre enjoying the window-shopping - lots of very smart shops to look at.

Thursday 14 August

Good to see the sun today so we drove to Claverley, a very pretty little village not far from Wolverhampton where generations of the Grosvenor/Gravenor families lived during the 17th and 18th centuries. Of course we visited the beautiful old 'All Saints Church', built on a site which has probably been a place of worship since before Christianity. A magnificent old yew tree beside the Church is reputed to be 2,500 years old!

The oldest part of the building as seen today dates back to the Norman period, probably the first half of the 12th Century. The Church has been extended and expanded through the ages and has some wonderful stained glass windows and a magnificent painted wall frieze dating from around 1220. We found a couple of Gravenor headstones that were still readable.

We were put in touch with Mrs. Burns, a local historian, whom we visited before having lunch at one of the local pubs. 'The Crown' is typical of the friendly English village pubs where you are treated more like a guest in a private home, than a customer. We were thrilled to be directed to 'High Grosvenor' a farm that was apparently at one time connected to the Grosvenor family. Tony Grosvenor had also listed this as a place to visit. The farm, as the name suggests, sits on the highest ground in the area and commands a great view over the whole parish. We spoke with Steve who now leases the old barn as a workshop for his business, specialising in the repair, restoration and sale of parts for MG vehicles, particularly V8's (www.mgv8parts.com). He took us up into the loft to show us some of the original old oak beams and wall construction.

We drove back to Birmingham through the Ironbridge Gorge, where we stopped only briefly to photograph the famous Iron Bridge. Some beautiful scenery and lots of interesting looking museums and attractions which we didn't have time to explore. Perhaps we'll go back again.
You can see more at http://www.ironbridgeguide.info/

Friday 15 August

Today we decided to pay a visit to the Shropshire Archives in Shrewsbury to see if we could unearth any new info about the Fulcher family who lived during the 19th century at Shrewsbury, Bishop's Castle, and Oswestry in Shropshire, or the Grosvenor/Gravenor families who lived in various parts of Shropshire as far back as the 16th century.

We did find some interesting information - enough to want to go back to search some more, which we hope to do next week.

Shrewsbury is a very old and interesting city with its castle dominating the skyline. The Archives are situated at Castle Gates which strangely enough is the address where Jane's Gt Gt Grandfather George Fulcher was living when his first child Sarah Charlotte was born in 1852.

Sunday 17 August

Drove to Stafford and picked up Sylvia & little Stevie and took them with us to visit the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley. The Black Country is the industrial region to the west of Birmingham and the museum brings to life the industrial past with its rebuilt village, complete with houses, shops, a pub, chapel and ironworks, complete with a stretch of canal with barges and narrowboats. Little Stephen who is just 2 1/2 and is mad about cars, enjoyed seeing all the old cars on display and the big steam engine that was hissing out great gushes of steam.

Chapter 10 - Shrewsbury, Oswestry & North Wales

Monday 18 August
Sutton Coldfield, where we are making our base, is so central and ideal for making day trips. Today we drove to Stratford-on-Avon via Warwick. Decided not to 'do' the Warwick Castle as we would need a full day for that, but had a stroll down the very old cobblestone street leading up to the castle, and a walk through a very pretty garden on the river Avon beside the castle. Had lunch in the park and then drove on to Stratford.

It wasn't a great day for wandering as it was very grey and showery. We used the 'park-and-ride' service which was very useful - no parking fee and just a small fee for the bus which travelled frequently in to the town. Lots of interesting old buildings and many touristy shops to look at. We loved Ann Hathaway's cottage with it's very worn stone floors, ancient paneling, low ceilings and very pretty cottage garden.

Wednesday 20 August

After a quiet day on Tuesday, we drove again to Shrewsbury to revisit the Archives where we found some interesting details of George Fulcher's life. Jane's Gt Gt Grandfather George was the Master of the Union Workhouse at Oswestry for 39 years and died while still in that position, when he was 69 years old. His wife, Mary, was Matron during that time.

It was amazing to be able to read the original old Minute Book of the Board, and find there details about his appointment to the position and then later the news of his death. After our eyes started to glaze over from so much reading we set off again and headed for Bishops Castle, the village where Jane's Great Grandfather James Thomas Fulcher (son of George) was born.

A beautiful drive through tree canopied lanes and narrow streets that may have remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Bishops Castle is a quaint little village perched on the side of a hill. It was rather late in the day and raining but we found the entrance to the old National School where George Fulcher once taught and explored some of the quaint little shops, including one where hand crafted furniture is still made.

We drove home through quite heavy rain after having remarked that 'it doesn't seem to ever rain heavily here!' It mostly just seems to drizzle and there are often frequent weather changes throughout the day.

Thursday 21 August

Today we have been to Oswestry where George & Mary Fulcher had spent so many years in the employ of the Oswestry Union, as Master and Matron of the Morda Workhouse. We were hoping that we might find some evidence of the Workhouse Building.

After driving through the town, not too sure what we were looking for, we called in to an Information Centre just off the Motorway where we found a couple of very helpful ladies. We couldn't believe it when these ladies from the Tourist Information Centre were able to produce photos, which they photocopied for us, of the original building and were able to tell us that the building had been destroyed by fire about 20 years ago and that one small part of the building was still standing. Of course, we then returned to Morda via Oswestry to find what remained of the building and to take a photo. Before the fire the building spent many years as a hospital.

We called back to the Mile End Tourist Info Centre to thank Lynn & Sue for the great help they had been to us, and to enlist their help to book us into a B & B for the night.

They booked us in to the most scenic B & B we have yet visited, high on a hill overlooking the beautiful Ceiriog Valley in North Wales. Riv Carter, a retired Bank Manager and very gracious host of the 'Fron Frys' B & B (www.fronfrys.co.uk) made us feel very welcome and comfortable. The other couple staying there were Aussies from Sydney, Geoff & Mary, who were staying for two nights. They had stayed a couple of years previously and enjoyed the location so much they decided to return. The four us went to the local village pub 'The Oak' at Glyn Ceiriog where we enjoyed a meal of Welsh lamb.

Friday 22 August

Said good-bye to our new friends and set off to the town of Chirk, where we had a quick look at the Chirk Castle. Unfortunately it didn't open till lunch time so we kept going as we had lots of Wales still to see.

We drove through the Snowdonia National Park and down to Portmeirion but decided not to stop. Portmeirion village is on a private peninsula off the Snowdonia coast and was built between 1925 and 1972 by a Welsh architect. There are shops, restaurants, gardens and beaches and 70 acres of woodland so I'm sure it would be very interesting to visit but we decided we didn't want to pay to go in when there are so many 'real' villages to explore throughout the countryside of Great Britain.

We made our way a little further down the coast to Harlech, where we stopped for lunch. Harlech is another hillside town with an imposing castle and has extensive views over the coast of Wales.

As it is still holiday time there are lots of holiday makers about and the holiday parks that stretch along the coast must be enjoying full occupancy. The weather wasn't good so I guess they were deserting the beaches for the near-by towns. There were several holiday camps each with rows and rows of holiday vans lined up along the beaches - didn't look very inviting to us but no doubt people like to come to the beach for summer holidays.

We continued south for a while but tired of the dreary weather and decided to visit Powis Castle, near Welshpool, on our way home. Had some trouble finding the Castle as the National Trust sineage to the castle was not clear from the direction we were coming. Eventually found it but unfortunately too late to gain entry to the castle. The gardens were still open so we wandered in to take a look at the beautiful terraced gardens which stretch down to the bottom of the hill.

Sunday 24th August

Before we left Australia we decided it would be a good idea to join The National Trust(http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk) as there are so many interesting and beautiful homes and gardens managed by the Trust. We are pleased with that decision as we have been able to visit a variety of homes, castles and gardens that we might otherwise have missed. It would be impossible to see them all, of course, but we have certainly enjoyed those we have managed to visit.

Calke Abbey is in Derbyshire not very far from Birmingham so that was our target for today. On the way we noticed a sign advertising a 'Rolf Harris' Exhibition so stopped to have a look. The collection of his latest paintings was very impressive -if we'd had a spare £20,000 or £30,000, there were a couple that we could easily have bought. £400 would have bought a limited edition signed print which was a bit closer to the mark, but we resisted the temptation.

On to Calke Abbey which was acquired by the National Trust in the 1980's and has been preserved in the condition in which it was found, somewhat worn and faded from it's former glory, but what a magnificent estate it must have been.

Originally set on the site of an Augustinian priory, Calke Abbey was never actually an Abbey, but the name was given to the house in 1808 - nearly 300 years after it stopped being used for religious purposes!

The house passed through many different hands, until it landed with the Harpur family, who held on to the house until the 1980s, by which time it had fallen into a state of disrepair, the family finding it difficult to maintain and soaring debts saw the house donated to the National Trust.

Several members of the Harpur-Crewe family were ardent collectors of stuffed birds, shells, cartoons etc, and their huge collections are still on display in Calke, along with a great number of paintings and fine pieces of furniture, including a great four poster bed with magnificent drapes and bedspread.

The extensive walled gardens and orchard can be approached through a tunnel from the deer park. The tunnel ensured that guests at the home would not have their view of the landscape disturbed by gardeners walking past.

There is another tunnel from the house to the stable area which passes through the cellar and the Abbey's brewery, where large quantities of beer were brewed for the benefit of the estates thirsty workers.

Tuesday 26th August

As it was a Bank Holiday in the UK, with expected heavy traffic everywhere, we stayed home for the day on Monday and on Tuesday drove down through the Cotswolds, a beautiful area of England with distinctive honey coloured sandstone cottages.

As is our usual custom, we avoided the highways in favour of the more quiet country roads and lanes. Quite by accident came across the Cotswold Farm Park where there were many families unloading picnic baskets from their cars and wandering across the park. We wondered why, so investigated further. Apparently, what began as a hobby has now become a 'survival' area for many rare breeds of farm animals that are facing extinction through the fads of 'improvers' over the years. Unfortunately we didn't have time to spend at the Farm Park but it looked like a great place for families and one we would take the time to visit if ever we had the chance again. (www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk)

We stopped also to see the remains of the Chedworth Roman Villa, another National Trust property which includes the remains of a bath house and other Roman buildings, including wonderful examples of original mosaic floors, all of which were uncovered after being discovered quite by accident back in 1864. You can see more at www.chedworthromanvilla.com

We continued down to Bath where we met Jane's cousin Helen's daughter Julia and two of her children. After a cup of coffee with Julia we then went into the city centre for a look around the beautiful and interesting old city. Bath is famous, of course, for the Roman Baths that were built around Britain's only hot spring. The city is centred around the spring and the beautiful Avon River winds through the city. The houses, all in traditional honey coloured sandstone, cling to the hills fanning out from the river valley below.

Friday 29 August

After a couple of quiet days which included a visit to the shops at Sutton Coldfield we decided to visit the Ironbridge area again and to have a look at the Coalport China Museum where fine English chinaware was manufactured between 1795 and 1926. Old buildings, including kilns used to fire the pottery, are still standing and original examples of historic china are on display. There are usually several demonstrations of traditional ceramic techniques happening at the museum, but since it was the end of the school holidays, it was rather quiet and there were only a couple of demos to see.

Also housed at the Coalport Museum is the shop and glassmaking viewing gallery of Jonathan Harris. His contemporary and classical designs are unique, each piece being signed and dated, (www.jhstudioglass.com) and examples of his work can be found in The British Museum, The National Gallery and specialist retailers and galleries.

We intended going back to the village at Ironbridge which we had seen only briefly previously, but took a wrong turning and instead found ourselves at the delightful market town of Much Wenlock. We were fascinated by the name so stopped for a stroll through the town. What a delightful place with a splendid local museum and some great shops including the gallery 'twentytwenty' (www.twenty-twenty.co.uk) displaying some stunning pieces of woodwork, ceramics, jewellery and paintings.

Chapter 11 - We leave Sutton Coldfield and head back to Norfolk

Saturday 30 August 2008

Today we leave Sutton Coldfield where we have been very comfortable for the last few weeks.
Thank you so much Doug & Val for your very generous hospitality. Back to 1Car1 in Birmingham to collect our car for the final couple of weeks of our fantastic journey of discovery. After a few slight hiccups (washing machine decided not to work, car couldn't be delivered - we had to pick it up) we set off heading south east through the beautiful Cotswolds.

We stopped to visit Upton House which became the country home of the Shell oil magnate, Walter Samuel in 1927 and was adapted over the next 21 years to accommodate his growing art collection. The house is chock-full of magnificent paintings, porcelain and tapestries and was well worth the visit.

On then through Banbury where we photographed 'the fine lady on a white horse' at Banbury Cross.

Our aim for the day was to reach Oxford where we hoped to find a B & B for the night. Our prospects were not looking good on the outskirts of Oxford so we turned in to the little village of Wootton, very small with very narrow lanes. We stopped to ask a gentleman who was out walking his dogs if he knew of any pubs or B & B's in the area - he assured us 'there was a pub once, but it's gone', you'd best go to Woodstock.

Woodstock proved to be a beautiful and busy market town with many very attractive pubs and shops and is most famous for its close proximity to the ancestral home of the Churchill family, Blenheim Palace.

Quite an amazing chain of events eventually led us to a very comfortable bed for the night. After trying unsuccessfully at several pubs we popped in to a small convenience store to make a small purchase. Long queue, Geoff asked the man in front of him if he knew of a good pub where we could stay. He turned out to be the owner of the Vickers Hotel, just down the road. He informed us that everywhere was booked out but if we went back to the pub with him, he would phone his Mum who had a B & B not far away. Too bad, Mum was booked out also, but he then checked with his friend Pat, across the road - she wasn't intending to take any guests that night because she was leaving early in the morning to go on a bus trip! However, she agreed that we could have a bed, and we'd go across the road to the Vickers pub for dinner and breakfast. Turned out to be a great arrangement!

Sunday 31 August 2008

After a very comfortable night at Pat's B & B "Wishaw House", we let ourselves out and went for a wander through the very pretty town of Woodstock before having breakfast at the Vickers Hotel. Blenheim Castle, right in the village, was a beautiful sight in the morning mist. We were sorry that, once again, we didn't have time to take a tour of the Castle but as we were still wanting to see something of Oxford and had arranged to meet Wendi Momem at Northill near Bedford that afternoon, we pushed on.

Wendi's Grandfather and Jane's Grandfather, Charlie Morris, were cousins which makes Jane & Wendi third cousins. Wendi is married to Moojan Momen, who was born in Iran (or Persia as it was then known). They lead very busy lives, Moojan is a partly-retired doctor and Wendi is involved with many community activities, local government and is a part-time Magistrate.

She writes a very interesting blog (www.wendimomen.com) and we were fascinated to learn from them about the Baha'i faith of which they are very ardent members. We spent a very pleasant afternoon sharing a picnic with them and many of their friends and other family members in their large backyard. They all made us feel very welcome.

Monday 1 September

After sitting up chatting with Wendi until very late in the night and catching a few hours sleep we set off again in the morning to make our way to Crowland, in Lincolnshire, where we had arranged to spend the night with Anne & Rob Weyers. Anne is another of Geoff's long-time email contacts - very distant relationship through the Grosvenor family.

As we hadn't seen very much of Oxford we planned to stop for lunch and see something of Cambridge on our way there. Cambridge is a very bustling and beautiful city - bikes everywhere. A very smart modern shopping complex in the centre of the city but with lots of interesting little shops and a market in the square.

It didn't take long to drive up to Crowland, a small town on the low-lying fens near the busy city of Peterborough, where Anne and Rob welcomed us warmly.

Tuesday 2 September

After breakfast we went walking with Anne to see the town. Crowland, like Much Wenlock, is very small but officially a town because it is a market centre. It seems that if a village obtained Crown permission to set up a Marketplace it was deemed to be a 'town'.

In the centre of the town stands the very old and unusual stone 'bridge to nowhere', Trinity Bridge, so called because it has three arches that once spanned a river junction. Before it was left high and dry the bridge was a vital crossing point in South Lincolnshire dating back to Anglo-Saxon times.

The first bridge was probably made of timber, and the structure as it stands today was built in the late 1300s. The bridge looks down over the junction of North, South, East and West streets in the centre of the town.

Crowland is famous also for its Abbey, Croyland Abbey, which dates back to the middle ages. Now partly in ruins but still with the main building operating as a Church and place of worship, the Abbey stands on high land and dominates the flat landscape for miles around, a landmark that has stood for more than a thousand years.

After lunch we drove back to Northill to spend another night with Wendi, before proceeding to Norfolk.

Wednesday 3 September

Heading back to Norfolk today on the last stage of our trip. By-passed Cambridge and headed to the small town of Walsham-le-Willows, in Suffolk, where we had lunch at a friendly pub and visited the local St Mary's Church. We had hoped we might be able to come across some more info about Ralph Margery who is another of Geoff's ancestors, and came from that area. He had been made a Captain in Cromwell's Ironsides and fought in the battle of Naseby and other engagements.

We didn't spend much time looking at graves, as we knew that Margery was a non-conformist so not likely to be buried at the Church and, anyway, the graves were all so very old the inscriptions were almost impossible to decipher.

We then drove on through Bungay where Aunt Win had taught for many years and had a walk around the town. A cup of tea near the old Bungay Castle ruins before driving on to Beccles, one of our favourite little towns. Had a little walk around the town square before continuing on to Caister-on-Sea to stay with cousin Joyce again.

Joyce was pleased to see us again and had made a list (as requested) of a few little jobs that needed doing. She enjoyed hearing all about our travels and chatting about family and friends.

Chapter 12 - Revisiting Norfolk & Suffolk

Thursday/Friday 4/5 September

Apart from taking Joyce for a drive to a very nice Garden Centre near Acle (about 12 miles) where we had a nice late morning tea that sufficed for lunch, we spent these couple of days working around the house and getting lots of the little (and some big) jobs done for Joyce. Joyce has a gardener that comes for and hour or two each fortnight and a cleaning lady that comes just to do the basics but there are lots of things that of course at 97 she just can't do, so it was very nice to be able to help with those things.

Saturday 6 September

Drove Joyce to Overstrand on the North coast of Norfolk to see cousin Libby and husband Peter. It was good to catch up with them again and we all had lunch at the Garden centre just nearby. Peter has been suffering for some time now with Parkinson's disease so finds walking and getting around very difficult and frustrating but is otherwise in good spirits.

The drive up the coast is full of interest and Joyce thoroughly enjoyed seeing her old haunts again and noting all the changes that have taken place. She and Alan had spent many happy times at the various seaside villages along the way so she was able to dig up many memories. We stopped briefly at the Horsey Drainage WindPump - now managed by The National Trust - and resolved to go back again to climb to the top to see the view.

Also called in at another seaside town (can't remember the name now) to photograph a Lighthouse which dominates the landscape.

Sunday 7 September

Made arrangements to meet up with Jane's second cousin Ian Francis and his wife Alice and toddler Reuben. They live at Norwich, not far away, and were coming to the Maritime Festival being held at Great Yarmouth so it was a good opportunity for us to meet with them. Spent an hour or so at the Festival with them and also met Alice's Mum & Dad. More very friendly people.

Monday 8 September

Rang Katie Carr-Tansey, the local history recorder at Benhall, and arranged to call on her later in the morning. She was able to give us lots of information about Benhall and was interested to see some of the old photos that we had of the Village. Katie escorted us on a walking tour around the village with a commentary about some of the houses and the people living in them. She introduced us to Mary Watson and George Saunders both of whom have lived in the village for many years and could remember Grandma Aslett.

After a quick visit to the Butcher at Saxmundham (very near Benhall) and photographing The
White Hart (mentioned in letters from home to George) we set off back to Caister via Bungay, to the Church where it was thought that Grandma's funeral was held. The gravestones at the Church were all far too old so we did not pursue the search for long.

Katie had also put us in touch with Church Warden, Peter Sampson, who arranged to meet us at St Marys Church at Benhall to show us the small table that Aunt Win had presented to the Church in memory of Grandma Aslett. It was kept in a locked room at the Church.

Tuesday 9 September

Joyce went off to the Hairdresser and we had a visit from Mike King, who rode his bike from Lowestoft (about 15 miles). It was great that he took the trouble to see us again, and we chatted the morning away.

After Mike left we set off again to Horsey to make the promised climb to the top of the Windpump tower. Very steep narrow stairs but worth the climb for the view. When we came down we were told there was a strong possibility that we would see seals at the beach nearby so we walked the mile across the fields - but to no avail.

We collected some pretty pebbles - there was some sand on the beach but it was mostly pebbles - and picked blackberries on the way back.

Took Joyce for a drive to Wroxham which has been called the capital of the Norfolk Broads because it is such a popular spot for boating holidays. It was rather late in the afternoon and the traffic in the town was quite congested so we didn't stop but Joyce enjoyed the drive and was pleased to see some of the developments that have taken place.

At Joyce's suggestion, we opened a bottle of wine for dinner as it would be our last night with her.

Wednesday 10 September

After sad farewells to Joyce we set off again calling at the Gt Yarmouth Markets to sample their famous 'chips'. They came very highly recommended and certainly were the best chips we'd ever eaten.

On to Benhall to meet with Peter Sampson, as arranged, and his Mother at the Benhall Church. He brought 'Granny's table' out of hiding for us so that we could photograph it and he had photocopies of a couple of other photos to give us. His family has been farming at Benhall for many years and his Mother remembered Granny.

After leaving the Sampsons we drove back in to Benhall to have a cup of tea and a chat with Mary Watson who also remembered members of the Aslett family, and then, a quick visit to Blaxhall to check for any Keer graves, and on to Felixstowe where Chris and Julie once again gave us a very warm welcome.

Thursday 11 September

Chris drove us in to the centre of Felixstowe - a very nice looking city with adequate shopping and very attractive seafront. We then went on to Dennington where we had enjoyed an excellent lunch on a previous occasion at the 'Queens Head' Hotel. Enjoyed this second occasion also. After lunch we went to Framlingham Church, one of the most impressive in Suffolk, and then for a walk around the delightful Framlingham shops. On the way back to Felixstowe we called briefly at Parham to check some details from the Keer gravestones there.

Friday 12 September

A wet day on this our last day in Suffolk so we sat around for the morning and chatted about Garrards and other families of old. Delivered our hire car back to Ipswich and Chris and Julie then dropped us at the bus station where we caught the National Express to the Holiday Inn at Heathrow. The sun came out again soon after leaving Ipswich and it was a very pleasant journey to Victoria Bus Station, but we were exhausted by the time we reached our Hotel after waiting an hour to join the Heathrow connection and then another wait at Heathrow to pick up the Hopper Bus to the Hotel.

The Holiday Inn was comfortable but like most of the big chains, meals are expensive and all but the very basic TV viewing comes at a cost, as does Internet connection. We decided we could do without the Internet for a couple of days although we had wanted to use it to help plan our movements over the next couple of days in London.

Chapter 13 - Farewell to Britain

Saturday 13 September

We caught a taxi over to the Heathrow terminal and then the Underground to Knightsbridge where we paid a vist to Harrods. It certainly lives up to its reputation and is an amazing shopping experience. All very, very upmarket. The huge Christmas department was like an Aladdin's cave with every possible shape, colour and size of glittering Christmas decorations and gifts. We looked through several different departments till we became quite boggled by it all.

Caught a bus then to Oxford Circus, walked along Oxford Street and then bus back to Marble Arch where we joined the crowds starting to gather in Hyde Park for the BBC Proms in the Park. People were coming in droves with their folding chairs, blankets and eskys. We thought we would just sit outside the enclosure as the ticket price of 25pounds was a bit more than we were prepared to pay. However, in the usual way that things have been working out so well for us, we were offered a ticket for 20pounds and another for free - couldn't resist that so joined the queue and headed in, with 40,000 other people, to see a most wonderful concert.

This was to be our last night in Britain and what a fitting end to a very memorable and enjoyable 'trip of a lifetime' for us. We had often watched 'The Proms' on TV but to be there in such an enthusiastic crowd was a wonderful experience. The program included Teatro with great songs from Phantom and Les Mis, Bjorn Again with all the old famous Abba Hits, Jose Carreras, Lesley Garret and the amazing violinist David Garrett, and of course the BBC Concert Orchestra who entertained us with the themes from all the James Bond movies and much more.

People were dancing, singing and waving flags (mainly the Union Jack but we also noticed some from Aus & NZ and others) and the atmosphere left us with a much better impression of London than we had gained previously. We did not stay right to the end as we didn't fancy coping with the crowds as we headed for the tube.

Sunday 14 September 2008

We stored our luggage at the Holiday Inn and hopped on the Underground for our last journey in to London. Found a bus to take us over the Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. Joined the long queue to purchase our tickets, then queued again to join 'the flight'.

Luckily it was a bright sunny day though still rather hazy but the 130ft high wheel did give us a good view over London and The Thames.

Walked back over the Westminster Bridge and on past Big Ben and Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Gate where we found The Albert Hotel, a popular spot for our last lunch at a British pub. We walked on to Buckingham Palace and, sadly, we were just too late to go in for a tour.

It was a beautiful sunny Sunday in London and as we walked back through Green Park there were many happy people to be seen just enjoying the sunshine - even the sqirrels were scampering across the grass. Caught the underground back to Heathrow, hopper bus to Holiday Inn, picked up our luggage and back to Terminal 5 in good time for our 9.10pm flight home via Hong Kong.

Good-bye to London and the UK and many many thanks to all those wonderful people who have made our trip so very memorable and enjoyable - we'll be back!

Queuing for 'Proms in the Park'