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.